A world of cultures
From left, St. Mary Catholic School principal Karen Carriere welcomed Métis dancer Ginny Gonneau and TD Bank Chesterville branch representative Cheryl Sutherland to the school for Indigenous Day during Catholic Education Week. Sawyer Helmer photo
Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
CHESTERVILLE – During Catholic Education week, the students at St. Mary Catholic School spent Wed., May 9, learning about Indigenous culture. To top off the day, Ginny Gonneau, a Métis dancer associated with the Ottawa based organization MASC (Multicultural Arts for Schools and Communities), was welcomed to the school to perform traditional Métis Jigging.
Métis Jigging, the MASC website explains is, “A unique dance developed by the Métis people that combines the intricate footwork of Native dancing with the instruments and form of European music.”
Gonneau, who is a citizen of the Métis Nation from her mother’s side, spoke to the students about the history and symbols found in the culture. Gonneau explained the Métis people trace their descendants back to the First Nations people who married European settlers. Their culture combines traditions of both the European and First Nations side.
Of particular interest were the woven sashes Gonneau brought to display. The sash comes from the French settlers and was used for various practical applications along with its decorative quality. Gonneau told her audience that the sash is traditionally given as a gift by someone special or is passed down through a family.
Gonneau also said in her performances she speaks to her audience about her own appearance. Despite being half Métis, Gonneau pointed out that she does not have the features traditionally associated with Aboriginal people. Her message to the students was that people cannot be judged by their appearance.
Gonneau performed three dances, the Red River Jig – the unofficial Métis Anthem, Heel-Toe Polka – a traditional wedding dance, and the Orange Blossom Special. Students were invited to dance for a portion of the performance and the excitement was palpable.
After the dances were done, Gonneau answered questions and joined principal Karen Carriere in thanking TD Bank, represented by Cheryl Sutherland of the Chesterville branch, for sponsoring the performance.