gee meeyo pimawtshinawnm ( It was a Good Life)

Year 2 students at the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) worked with Kristen Catherwood from Heritage Regina to research and publish gee meeyo pimawtshinawnm ( It was a Good Life) – A Living Heritage Project.

The introduction, by Russel Fayant, explains:

“The Métis are sometimes called, “the Road Allowance People.” A road allowance, in the strictest sense, is a piece of crown-owned property that is used to build or extend roads, railways, or bridges. Sometimes a road allowance is a flat field. Sometimes it is literally a ditch. Generally, they are narrow pieces of land that are ignored until they are needed….

Road allowance communities no longer exist in tangible form. However, they cast long shadows. Some road allowance communities such as Katepwa and Dogtown slowly shrank and disappeared as younger generations left for schooling and better work opportunities. Others like the Lestock road allowance, or Park Valley, were literally destroyed by governments to make way for farms, town expansions, or resorts. Some physical reminders, such as sunken cellars or humble Red River style constructed homes made from recycled lumber and mud chinking, still remain on the landscape. The best reminders, however, are the stories that are told by those who survived the era.

Remarkably, despite the crushing poverty, back-breaking labour, and humble living conditions, many of the Old Ones who we interviewed have very fond memories of road allowance communities. They talk about songs and dances and feasts. They reminisce about made-up games, and wide open spaces. They reflect on the freedom to speak one’s language (Michif), and to practice one’s customs without fear of discrimination or derision. The stories speak of contentment, resilience, adaptability, and community. For lii vyeu pi lii vyay Michif (the Old Ones), they are proof to the younger generations that the road allowance life truly “was a good life.”

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