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McMurray Metis celebrate culture and resiliency

By Shelly Makrugin/Photos courtesy: Calli Forbes

A celebration of resiliency and togetherness brought together Fort McMurray’s Metis community at its annual Metis Festival on July 25thMetis FestivalThe event was delayed a couple of months because of the wildfire in May.

McMurray Metis’ office, storage and entire site was destroyed by the wildfire that swept through the community, forcing thousands of people to evacuate. While fortunately the group was able to save many of its archives, all of its data and documentation was lost.

The General Manager of McMurray Metis, Dan Stuckless, says many of its members “were hardest hit” as lived in the neighborhoods and areas decimated by the fire such as Beacon Hill.

The General Manager of McMurray Metis, Dan Stuckless, at the festival with Red Cross membersStuckless (pictured right at the festival) says their office, even though it had seen better days, was a “symbol of togetherness”. It was a place where members gathered regularly and connected over music and conversation. It provided a sense of community.

The Red Cross has been assisting the Metis community as it copes and starts the recovery from the fire. Stuckless says the Red Cross was “a lifeline ... it was critical,” as the community began to access the damage. Stuckless says without an office or resources, they “didn’t have the capacity” to assist its members at the time. The group was able to establish a satellite office in Edmonton to start support from a distance.

This year’s festival is the first time some of the McMurray Metis have seen each other since the fire. It was a time to share stories and start the mental healing. Stuckless says for the time being they are operating out of the Friendship Centre and hope to have a more permanent location in the fall until they can rebuild.

Many community members remain displaced outside of the area. The festival provided an opportunity for residents to gather once again. It also highlighted the Metis culture and music and this year, its resiliency and determination to build back even stronger.
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