Nov. 15, 2022

Elder introduces Métis traditions to new generations, encouraging connection through discovering their own gifts

Elder’s Teaching Series welcomes Doreen Bergum of Métis Nation Region 3 on Nov. 16
Elder Doreen Bergum
Photo by Terry Reith, CBC

Despite having to celebrate her culture in secret, Métis Elder Doreen Bergum fondly recalls the kitchen socials where her parents and their friends would gather to dance and unwind.

“Because it was against the law for us to practise our language and practise our culture, we always had to have blankets over the window even when we danced,” says Bergum, who will be sharing her knowledge and love of Métis culture during the Nov. 16 Elder’s Teaching Series webinar.

She says jigging — a traditional, fast-footed Métis dance — was a stress-reliever for her community. “All these people worked hard at logging or ranching, or whatever jobs they had during the week. They would gather at someone's house and bring in food, the fiddles, spoons, guitars, and they would dance. And that was their calm, that was their culture.”

Daughter to a championship jigger, Bergum soon found she, too, had a gift in her feet. Having grown up in a time when it was illegal to practice her family’s traditions, Bergum says she wasn’t able to freely share her gift until she was 55 years old.

Now she is proudly teaching her history to a new generation of Canadians. To be sharing her culture during Métis Week celebrations holds immense significance to Bergum, she says, “because we have been hiding in plain sight for 150 years! It's so nice to be out in the open and to share our history in our culture, and to finally get recognized in Canada as an Indigenous, Métis woman.”

Raised with a family of 10, Bergum says not one of them had the same gift. With talents such as art, writing, singing, spirituality and even engineering, she says they were all encouraged by her mother. Bergum brings that same encouragement when she is teaching young people about the Metis culture:

I leave them with these words of my mother. She said, you are good enough and don't let anyone tell you any different.

She urges Métis youth to share their gifts, saying she has seen how learning to jig can be a boost to their self-confidence. “I'm sure they go to school and get called names, derogatory names, and that's hard on your self-worth,” she says. “To get out there and dance, you forget about everything and it's such a healer for anyone just let your body to be free.”

Bergum says she is incredibly proud of her parents, Mary and Ambrose Dumont, and feels blessed to have been raised with their Métis teachings. “We were basically taught how to survive in this world through our culture,” she says. Through all the hardships endured, she says she thanks God every day for the encouragement and respect she learned from her parents and the Métis culture. 

And when the world gets too hectic, Bergum has one more piece of advice for young people: “When you get overloaded with your studies and your mind is going 100 miles an hour, just Google the Red River Jig and just enjoy — let your body and your mind and your heart, and just enjoy the dance.”

Register now:

Elder’s Teaching Series: Doreen Bergum

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022
noon - 1:30 p.m.