Jigging, fiddling and plenty of toe tapping highlighted the Louis Riel dance held by the Prince Rupert and District Métis Society on Nov. 23.
The dance was held to both honour the Métis hero, Louis Riel, and to mark the end of Métis Awareness Week in Prince Rupert, which took place earlier in November. The Moose Hall was the site of the fun, where food, drinks and dancing were on tap for all members of the public in a celebration that went well into the night.
“There’s a whole room full of people having a wonderful time, and enjoying the fiddling by Andrew Goulet,” Joy Sundin, president of the Prince Rupert and District Métis Society, said.
Goulet, a local Métis fiddler, led the night’s entertaiment. He was joined on stage by music mates Danny Sklapsky, Glen Edwards, Bev Musselman, Tom Rystad and Dan Wong. Goulet spoke about the origins of Métis music.
“Métis music, fiddle music specifically, was an instrument that the voyageur traders could carry, as they couldn’t carry larger instruments when they were out fur trading. So they all carried a fiddle,” Goulet explained.
|Andrew Goulet led the way on fiddle at the Louis Riel Dance. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Métis and non-Métis alike gathered at the Moose Hall for fiddling and jigging during the Louis Riel Dance. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
The style of the music itself is rooted deep in Métis history.
“The Métis people weren’t allowed in the Native settlements, and they weren’t allowed in the non-Native settlements,” Goulet explained. “So they lived on the shores, on the outskirts, and developed their own music based on what they heard on the other side of the river when the Scottish bagpipes were playing or the French were playing some tunes.”
|Many traditional Métis songs were played throughout the evening, as well as a sampling of more modern tunes. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
|Andrew Goulet and Joy Sundin announce the door prize winners at the Louis Riel Dance. (Alex Kurial / The Northern View)|
“They’d hear what it sounded like and try to imitate it on the violin. It soon became their culture from there, and they started playing it at all their dances,” Goulet added. “There’s one famous tune, the Red River Jig out of Manitoba, and it’s a tune that has two distinct parts to it. When it goes to the second part, that’s where a dancer or person can do their own unique jig.”
“It’s music that can be enjoyed by everybody,” Goulet said, adding that his personal favourite tune is the Big John McNeil.
Sundin was excited to see such an interest in the Métis people of Prince Rupert. “It was really good to have recognition by our city council so the community of Prince Rupert knows that we have a vibrant Métis society,” Sundin said. “We’re happy to have people celebrate our culture and our heritage.”
Alex Kurial | Journalist
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