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Border City Metis builds kinship

By August 31, 2022No Comments
Charlene Lavallee, left, president of the Association of Metis Non-Status and Status of Saskatchewan, sponsored the grand opening of the John William Ross building on Saturday. The building is named after the grandfather of Crystal Miller, vice president of Border City Metis Society. Geoff Lee Meridian Source

 

The Border City Métis Society is now on course to provide services and advocacy for all Indigenous people in Lloydminster from their new building.

Inclusivity was the theme during the official grand opening of the John William Ross building at 5009- 48 Ave. on Saturday, led by the organization’s vice president, Crystal Miller.

“Our hopes and dreams are to create programs and groups in safe spaces for our people to gather in,” said Miller at the ribbon cutting.

She went on state, “…to learn, to teach, to stand together in support of one another, to belong, to represent and to keep our cultural practices alive.”

The new building also houses the Border City Aboriginal Head Start Program for pre-schoolers and a new subsidiary called Border City Indigenous Society.

“It’s about kinship and keeping families together so we’ll be working with First Nations and Inuit as well,” said Miller.

Her group’s current priority is to plan an elders’ group and is looking to create a committee to come up with other ideas as well.

“This is inclusive to any elder, so we’re thinking of doing things like bingo nights and things where we can provide transportation for them,” said Miller.

The grand opening was a personal one for Miller with the naming of the building in recognition of her grandfather, who was a pillar in the Métis community.

“He was a fiddler and a trapper and kept all of the native ways,” said Miller.

“He was the best grandpa anyone could ever ask for. I’m so proud but more so, I hope he’s proud of me.”

Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers said to be able to name it after a long-time supporter and someone who is deeply involved and tied to the Métis is tremendous.

Ross formed the first Métis Society in Lloydminster in 1977 and he and his wife Helen raised funds to buy the same building in 1979 to launch Métis Housing.

The Métis Society bought the building back a few years ago, but the pandemic delayed the grand opening and full operations until recently.

Miller is pleased to have a seat on the board of the Association of Métis Non-Status and Status of Saskatchewan (AMNSIS) representing all Indigenous people.

“I will bring provincial issues to the table and provincial support within my region to get my programs going, more support systems,” she said.

The grand opening was sponsored by AMNSIS headed by president Charlene Lavalle and vice-president Robert Doucette who were both in attendance.

Lavallee said AMNSIS was around in the ‘70s and ‘80s and was the precursor to the Métis Society of Saskatchewan.

“We feel that our Indigenous ties go beyond what the government labels are,” said Lavallee who thinks the federal Indian Act separates Indigenous people.

“I have grandchildren who are Treaty and I’m Métis, but it doesn’t stop us from being family. It’s all Indigenous people under Section 35.”

Lavallee says non-status Indigenous people are being totally left out, but they have the same rights as Métis people do and questions why they are not getting the services.

“There are many outstanding issues but for non-status currently, the outstanding issue is recognition,” she said.

Lavallee says Border City Métis Society can help with that.

“For years they’ve been a Métis-specific group, but they are coming over to AMNIS and Crystal is really excited because she knows there are so many more people they can help and work with,” she said.

AMNIS is based in Saskatoon and recently received COVID relief funding for Indigenous people from the federal Coalition of Aboriginal People.

Program coordinator, Dakota Speidel with AMNIS, says they have had more than 1,000 applicants seeking help for things like rental arrears because of job loss in the pandemic.

“So we’re helping everyone get back on their feet and provide assistance for families all over Saskatchewan,” said Speidel.

“There is always a need and right now, you are seeing a lot of struggles financially because of things like financial assistance programs being cut.”