We’re In This Together - The McMurray Métis
The McMurray Métis have been committed to its’ members since incorporation in 1987, and that did not change during the fires that have devastated all of Fort McMurray. The staff and board evacuated just like everyone else, but even though we were separated by geography and circumstance, we came together as a team within the first two days to begin reaching out and ensuring our members were safe. Almost immediately, help and resources were made available through the Métis Nation of Alberta, the Government of Alberta and the Canadian Red Cross. We needed to make sure all of our members – especially the Elders – knew how and where to access those resources. We will continue to work closely with the Canadian Red Cross to make sure, despite all the losses, our members are able to return to Fort McMurray and rebuild a life and community.
By the third day of the fire, we had a command centre running out of the Métis Nation of Alberta’s offices with resource workers, doctors, nurses and therapists ready to help with physical and mental health. We had donated food, clothing, toiletries and items for children distributed to those members in need. Staff and volunteers were helping members find relatives they’d lost contact with, as well as helping Elders, without access to online banking, receive their Canadian Red Cross funding. We also helped our members by matching individuals and families needing housing with those offering. Before the end of the first week we had met with top officials from the provincial and federal governments in charge of evacuation, recovery, and reentry to ensure none of our members fell through the cracks, and the unique needs of the Metis membership would be taken into consideration.
The members of the board and staff have been saddened by the loss of our buildings and many of our artefacts, and by the devastation of our beautiful property and surrounding area. We were able to evacuate some of the museum items but the impact of the losses haven’t begun to be absorbed. However with all of that, we still have a strong and engaged membership and we are committed to rebuilding and providing even more exciting programming for all Métis people and the community of Fort McMurray. Our weekly Cree Coffee Chat and Beading Network projects, Culture Club expeditions and ‘ground-truthing’ projects will continue as soon as possible once many of our Elders and members have returned. While in Edmonton, we have invited members to continue to drop in and visit whenever possible. While we don’t have an office in Fort McMurray at the moment, our programming will now be planned as well as ran out of the Friendship Centre. Jenny, Carmen and Kristin are eager to have coffee and bannock, and practice Cree and beading with those members who had been attending.
We are excited to get together for a barbecue with members on July 9th at the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre. Our staff has grown accustomed to spending time every day with our Elders and other active members of the local, and it has been far too long. We are all anxious for our Elders Teas and regular events to continue.
We are proud to announce that we will host our Métis Festival this summer on July 25th (location TBD) to showcase Métis entertainers and culture, not only for our members but for the whole Wood Buffalo Region. We will have food (including bannock!), activities and games, arts and crafts, cultural exhibits and music and entertainment from Jerry Sereda, Nicely Put Together Band, The Boostrom Family and Bev Lambert (Métis Bev). This year, the Métis Festival will be a fundraiser.
These fires have been devastating, but the team at McMurray Métis are hopeful we can continue with our programming to lift everyone’s spirits, as well as continue to make sure our members have access to the resources they need. We are eager to be a part of the rebuilding process for each one of them.
Members of the community gather to participate in the Beading Network. Inset: Poster advertising Save the Date for Métis Festival.
Staff, board and volunteers meet at MNA headquarters to plan disaster response for members; some of the items donated to the MNA for disaster victims.
Staff and board members meet with Kent Hehr, Chair of Federal Task Force on Recovery.
Vice President Bill Loutitt meets with Carolyn Bennett, Federal Minister for Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
Staff and board members meet with Ralph Goodale, Federal Minister for Public Safety.
Staff welcome Elder Almer Waniandy visiting the office.