June 14th, 2024

Galt Museum art event pays homage to Louis Riel

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 22, 2023.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Rochelle Neville and her 9-year-old daughter Sophie make a traditional Metis dot artwork to commemorate Louis Riel Day, Tuesday at the Galt Museum.

The Galt Museum and Archives hosted a special programming event on Tuesday to celebrate Louis Riel Day, inviting guests to come down to the museum and learn about the political leader of the Metis people, while also creating a piece of dot art, which the Metis are known for.

Teaching understanding through hands on experience, the museum looked to show audience members about Riel’s history and what it is to be Metis.

“Louis Riel Day is a Canadian holiday observed on the third Monday of February every year. The day is named in honour of the founder of Manitoba, commemorating the eventful life and contributions of Canadian politician Louis Riel. The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the heritage of the Manitoban people in many provinces,” said Kristin Krein, Galt Museum community programmer.

“Riel was a passionate defender of the Metis, advocating guarantees for their land, language and political rights. His leadership inspired the creation of Manitoba as Canada’s fifth province on July 15, 1870.

After a polarizing trial, he was hanged in Regina, Saskatchewan, for high treason and his participation in the resistance to Canadian encroachment on Metis land.”

Krein notes the importance towards giving Indigenous voices a platform.

“The stories that were told about Indigenous people can be very sad so it is important to celebrate their accomplishments, celebrating their job and culture. Riel spent his life fighting for the rights and recognition of the Metis. He led major rebellions against white settlers and the federal government to protect the Red River area, which is home to the Metis community,” said Krein.

“The Metis are one of three distinct Indigenous peoples of Canada, recognized under the 1982 Canadian Constitution during the fur trade, and instrumental in the development of western Canada.”

Looking to share the culture with guests, the Galt invited those in attendance to make dot art. The Metis became well known for this artwork, because of their floral designs that combine First Nations beadwork with the floral embroidered patterns introduced by European settlers.

“There is often a colour dot that is unique in the pattern, that stands out to viewers. This dot can also be called a spirit dot, and it represents that we all make mistakes, we are all human, and we learn through our experiences,” said Krein.

Honouring culture and history, the Galt celebrated Louis Riel Day while also educating about the Metis people he fought for. “A lot of his political movements helped secure who the Metis are as a group, as well as the lands, languages, and parts of the maintained entity that we see to this day,” said Krein.

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