The dances actually come from all three different cultures: French, the Scottish, also some Irish stepping in there, as well as some First Nations.
The funny thing about Metis dancing is back in the 1800’s until about 1900, close to 1950 the Europeans that took on the government there would not allow First Nations to do their own cultural dancing. They always thought there was ghost dancing and something would happen to them and stuff like that. So they were trying to abolish the First Nations heritage and a lot of it was kept underground which was good but they couldn’t do it out in the forefront.
So because the Metis and First Nations were interrelated a lot of the First Nations groups used to do Metis dancing, because they enjoyed the fiddle. You go through look at places like Moose Factory and Ontario, a lot of reserves in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and here in Alberta. If you looked at Alexander reserve right now the former Chief Stan Arcand, all of his family play fiddle, guitars and that kind of stuff and now it’s a part of their heritage. I think they are third generation and it was because they were kept from practicing their own First Nations culture back then.
So they really took on our heritage and they were the best jiggers around. Also, I mean you should have seen those guys go, and the nice thing about the jigging part is when you see them, see the jigs, the steps that happen - there’s a lot of cross over from First Nations dancing to Metis dancing or European. The crossover steps that we have are actually used in the grass dance if you watch all our dancers and they crossover, there is a lot of similar steps but it’s at a faster pace with the fiddle.
So a lot of the fancier steps come from First Nations because it was a part of their traditional dances also so there’s a way of also practicing their steps to a different kind of beat so the jig and all the of dances were kept on the reserve and that's why a lot of again, a lot of our First Nations people like the country music because it all fits together. Country music, the fiddle, it was part of our upbringing also.
The following stories are by Lyle Donald.
This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections Initiative, Industry Canada.