A Métis dance for the Cherokee people will be a featured cultural exchange July 24 when Folkmoot 2018 takes our international dancers to visit our Western Carolina First Nation residents.
At least 10 members of our visiting Le Ragazze Italiane dance troupe of Canada, as it turns out, are also members of the Canadian Métis (pronounced, “maytee”) First Nation people.
To honor their visit to Cherokee the Métis members of Le Ragazze will dance a, “thank you,” for Cherokee Principal Chief Richard Sneed and Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley. The dance, one of the most famous Métis dances is, “La Gigue de la Rivière-Rouge,” or as it is known in Michif, “oayache mannin,” or in English, “The Red River Jig.”
Its accompanying fiddle tune is considered an unofficial Métis anthem. The dance is a combination of Plains First Nations footwork with Scottish, Irish and French-Canadian dance forms. The basic jig step is danced in most Métis communities. Dancers often add their own solo dance steps during certain segments of the tune. Some dancers even use solo steps to identify their home community.
The dance and exchange between our Canadian Métis friends and our Cherokee friends is sure to be a highlight of Cultural Ambassador Day in Cherokee, July 24.
Folkmoot 2018 opens July 19 and runs through July 29 and will feature performing dance troupes from Ghana, Italy, Czech Republic, Mexico, Thailland and Northern Cyprus and Venezuela as well as Anglo Appalachian and, as always, Cherokee dancers and musicians.
The Red River Jig finds its origins in the Red River Settlement (Winnipeg). One dance origin story explains how the Scottish lived on one side of the river, and the French Canadians and Métis lived on the other. The Scots played bagpipes on the one side of the river, while the people on the other side listened. Then one night a man decided to imitate the bagpipes with his fiddle, turning what was a lament into a rollicking jig that made everyone want to dance.
A short history of the Métis
The advent of the fur trade in west central North America during the 18th century was accompanied by a growing number of mixed offspring of Aboriginal women and European fur traders.
As this population established distinct communities separate from those of First Nations and Europeans and married among themselves, a new Aboriginal people emerged – the Métis people – with their own unique culture, traditions, language (Michif – a derivative of French and Oji-Cree), way of life, collective consciousness and nationhood.
Distinct Métis communities developed along the routes of the fur trade and across the Northwest within the Métis Nation homeland. This homeland includes the three Prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta), as well as parts of the Northern United States.
Today, many of these historic Métis communities continue to exist along rivers and lakes where forts and posts were hubs of fur trade activity from Ontario westward. As well, large numbers of Métis citizens now live in urban centres within the Métis Nation Homeland; however, even within these larger populations, well-defined Métis communities exist.
Consistently throughout history, the Métis people have acted collectively to protect and fight for their rights, lands and ongoing existence as a distinct Aboriginal people and nation within the Canadian federation –from the Métis provisional governments of Riel in Manitoba (1869-70) and Saskatchewan (1885) to contemporary Métis governing bodies. This dedication continues to exist as citizens and communities throughout the Métis Nation Homeland keep the nation’s distinct culture, traditions, language and lifestyle alive and pursue their own social and economic development. 40,000 people in the city of Winnipeg identify as Métis. For the most part, their first language is French.
The Red River Jig: