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Métis land use study seeking oral histories from southeast Sask.

Seeking to expand its knowledge base and build a virtual map of the province’s southeast, leaders with Métis Nation – Saskatchewan (MN – S) are putting out the call for stories from its members and their families, part of a region-wide traditional land use study.

MN – S Eastern Region III members are organizing the study. It covers an expansive area from the Qu’Appelle Valley northeast of Regina all the way south through Moose Mountain and Weyburn to the United States border.

“We’re excited to … identify our own Métis footprint in the southern part of the province,” region director Marg Friesen said. She’s also the MN – S health minister.

The study’s organizers are looking for histories and stories from Métis knowledge keepers — often referred to as old ones — and from their descendants, no matter where they’re living now.

Friesen said she recently spoke with a woman in Campbell River, B.C., whose family has roots in the Métis farm community that settled near Lebret.

It’s the same community where Friesen grew up.

The communal, shared-type structure of the farm settlements is one example of the stories her region is looking to compile through the study.

The farms, Friesen said, “provided sustenance for Métis families, (and) also employment for those Métis families to ensure their needs were being met.”

They contributed to a good chunk of Métis economic growth in the Qu’Appelle area, she added. “(Farm settlements) provided meat and produce and farmed the land. They produced wheat and grains and other crops to sustain the community and outer-lying communities including non-Indigenous communities.”

Friesen said there are approximately 80,000 Métis people in Saskatchewan, estimating about half of them live in southern areas.

The study’s organizers have so far finished 10 interviews with people about their family histories. Organizers expect to finish 90 more, once the study wraps up.

It’s jointly funded by MN – S and by Parks Canada — $750,000 and $130,000 respectively. The region includes eight Métis locals, located in Estevan, Fort Qu’Appelle, Lebret, Lestock, Moose Mountain, Rocanville, Sintaluta, and Weyburn.

When the virtual map of the area is finished, organizers are to make it available for educational purposes, Friesen said.

MN – S lands and consultation director Mark Calette also said the information and the virtual map would likely be used for “industry development” and in supporting “land claims.”

Calette said he has been working with MN – S for two years. As a Métis nation member, he can recall only one other such study, conducted in 2011 in Pinehouse, he estimated.
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