Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa members are getting ready to celebrate the first International MetisFest at the International Peace Garden, Aug. 28-30.
Les Thomas, one of the organizers, said the three-day event will include cultural workshops, craft booths, performers by fiddlers, dancers and singers from Canada and from the Turtle Mountain area, fiddling and jigging contests, a singing contest patterned after "American Idol," a trading post, craft booths and vendors, among other events.
"It's going to be a yearly thing we do," said Thomas. "It's honoring the veterans." One of the events will include a drum group honoring veterans from both Canada and the United States. People can get into the Peace Garden with two forms of ID such as a drivers license or tribal ID and a birth certificate. Children under 16 need a birth certificate to get in. They need passports if they're planning to go into Canada. The cost of attending the regular events during MetisFest is the price of admission to the Peace Garden. Special performances might have a separate, additional charge.
Belcourt teenager Taylor Dayne Falcon and the Midnight Special Band, including Kyle DeCoteau, Kyle LeBeau, Terry LaVallie, and Clayton Gourneau, will also perform during the festival. Other performers include the Winnipeg Metis Infinity Dancers, the Wolf Creek Band, Jennilee Martineau, Erin Aubichon and Country Town, the Pure Metis Band, Krista Rey, Melissa St. Goddard, Jason Lepine, Half Pints Dance Group, Gaudry Boys, Mark Morrisseau, Garry Lepine, Darren Lavallee and Friends, Jerry Sereda Band, Norman Chief Memorial Dancers, Riel Reelers, Turtle Mountain Four.
Falcon, who will also perform this year at Minot's Norsk Hstfest in October, said she likes to perform and wants to sing professionally.
"I feel like I'm slowly making my way to the top," she said. Earlier this year she competed at an international contest in Las Vegas and finished in the top seven. She'd like to try out for shows like America's Got Talent or American Idol. Thomas said the performers are among the best and people should have a great time seeing them.
Thomas said people should also enjoy cultural presentations about the history of the Metis and Michif and demonstrations such as how to make a Red River cart, like the vehicles that were used by the group to transport goods. Thomas explained that there's a difference between the two terms. Metis, used mainly in Canada, describes a "mixed blood" group of Cree and French, while the Michif, used to describe a lot of people on the Turtle Mountain reservation, are mainly people who are descended from French and Chippewa ancestors, sometimes with other ancestry from other Europeans or Indian tribes as well. The groups have a distinct language and culture that is a mixture of the Indian and European cultures.
Some of those traditions include fiddle music and jigging.
"It's more French," said Yvette Falcon, Taylor's mom, while Thomas said the drum group that will honor the veterans comes more from the Indian heritage.
All of the traditions are part of being Metis or Mitchif. Yvette Falcon said the traditions like fiddle music and jigging are some of the things that make people of the Turtle Mountains stand out a bit. Falcon likes the theme of the event "Where the Fiddle and the Mountains Unite."
Thomas said the festival is part of the tribe's continuing master tourism plan, funded in part with a Northwest Area Foundation poverty reduction grant. The plan is called "Pathways to Prosperity." Sponsors include area communities and tribal organizations.