Written by Debbie Holinaty
‘Unity in Our Community – Breaking Bread in Reconciliation’ began as an idea to bring people together to share in each others’ culture as a potluck. This idea evolved and became a mini ‘Folkfest’ with Metis, Filipino, Ukrainian, and Norwegian heritages presenting cultural foods, art, history, song and dance.
This event took an entire community coming together to make happen, with Metis Nation Saskatchewan Eastern Region II leading the way. Eastern Region II, ER II Elders’ Branch and Porcupine Plain Metis Local hosted the event and represented Metis culture. The Metis display started at the entrance with a 10×15 foot canvas tent and wood stove; once inside, it included tables full of traditional clothing brought by Ethel Lee-Colby. Elder Margaret Harrison shared her fry bread (including her recipe) and craft display, as well as demonstrated chokecherry crushing and frying saskatoons. Regional Director Brent Digness prepared Moose Stew and Leona Kwiatkowski had fresh bannock coming out of the kitchen throughout the day.
Creeland Dancers and The Dean Smith Band were invited to showcase Metis song and dance. Amy Seesequasis of the Creeland Dancers took the time to speak to the audience about the importance of creating safe spaces for people to share their culture and identity. She said, “This event is a beautiful event because it is based on reconciliation and we often hear that word ‘reconciliation’. And what reconciliation is, is when we recognize that we all have a shared history here; whether we are a settler, newcomer or First Nations and Metis descent, we all have a shared history here and we should all make sure that we all honor that shared history, and honor the cultures that came here and helped to form these territories. And that we make authentic relationships with each other based on that understanding that we have a shared history and that we all have cultures that matter. And that way, we make safe and inclusive societies where people are able to thrive and be able to speak the languages and do the cultural practices that are important to them and their identity. Because it’s important we do that together, beautiful celebration in here today.” Regional Director Brent Digness agrees wholeheartedly with Amy’s words, as he shares this same vision. Amy went on to speak many more messages throughout their performance. The Dean Smith Band accompanied Creeland Dancers for their dances and also played throughout the day in between cultural displays; they even had the dance floor full of audience members waltzing a couple of times.
Julie Hall and Trinidad Francisco, representatives for the Filipino community within Porcupine Plain, organized an incredible performance of the Philippines’ national anthem, several beautiful dances, and professional singer Nino Hernandez serenaded his wife Raquel. The Filipino community shared Adobo chicken and pork, spring rolls, rice noodle dish and desserts, and had beautiful displays of artwork.
After the fantastic performance showcasing the Philippines, representatives from all 4 cultures present gathered together to cut the beautiful cake graciously created and donated by Koral Kriger. Although she couldn’t be present for this event, she “wanted to show her support by donating a cake with a design that embodied the spirit of the event itself. Inspired by Metis beadwork, the flowers in the design are the national flowers of Ukraine, Norway and the Philippines; all the flowers are connected, much as we are within our community.”
Ukraine representatives, Evelyn Polowski and Sheena Thorpe, had a beautiful display of tablecloths and Psanky (Easter eggs) on their table, as well as other items including mannequins in traditional clothing brought in by the Porcupine Plain & District Museum. They also had, in true Ukrainian fashion, an incredible amount of food to share! Perogies, buckwheat and rice cabbage rolls, garlic sausage, Borscht and Sauerkraut Soup, and Kutia (Wheat Berry Pudding).
Myrna Smith and her daughter Debbie-Lori Stuart represented Norway with a beautiful display and delicious foods! Lefse (a soft flatbread), moose meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, and krumkake were a huge hit! Myrna put together a slideshow presentation of Norwegian song and dance.
Doors opened to the public at 2 pm with people already sneaking in 10 minutes early! By 2:15, the Community Hall had a good size crowd. We asked that people sign our guestbook and enter their name into a draw for the doorprize of a beautiful knitted blanket made by Debora Dmytriw. At the entrance table, Laurie Althouse sold bucket raffle tickets with proceeds going towards Porcupine Air Cadets and to Larwood-Shaw Memorial Swimming Pool. The Porcupine Air Cadets played a huge role in the success of this event with them setting up tables the night before, being present to assist throughout the event, and cleaning up when it was over.
At approximately 2:30 pm, Regional Director Brent Digness introduced Julie Hall to open with a prayer followed by Heidi Leach singing ‘O Canada’. Hugh Nerlien, MLA for Kelvington-Wadena, thanked Brent for his work ‘building community as part of the reconciliation efforts we are collectively committed to in Saskatchewan.’ Mayor Nick Wood followed by saying, “The future of this community can only prosper through growth, the other option is stagnation. The Town of Porcupine Plain is grateful to be a partner in both reconciliation and unity. It is not our place to dictate the terms or conditions of that, but to listen and learn and find out where we can help provide a space to build that. Anything else would be a continuation of the process that has caused so much damage already.”
Regional Director Brent Digness thanked Hugh Nerlien and Nick Wood for “communication that has opened up the doors for great opportunities for all citizens who live in this great province of Saskatchewan. And it’s this growth, this communication, that’s going to continue building the Metis Nation, our province, our country as strong as it has been and what it can be forever.”
As Brent Digness also said, reconciliation is ongoing. “This is only the beginning and, when your community is open to learning and engaged in the cultures, I encourage our citizens to continue to be involved.”
The major sponsor for this event was BHP Jansen. As well, the Town of Porcupine Plain, MN-S Eastern Region II, ER II Elders’ Branch, and Porcupine Plain Metis Local made contributions.