Genesis of the Project

by Jean Marc Dalpé, Alexis Martin and Yvette Nolan

The idea for this play was born on a quiet winter night five years ago, as Jean Marc and Alexis were having a conversation about how the history of Francophones in America, particularly those outside Quebec, is often overlooked …

What do our children know, what will our grandchildren know about the fabulous adventure of the Francophones who scattered across this immense continent, or about their amazing encounters with Canada’s First Nations people and their rich traditions? How will they perceive the creation of Canada as we “celebrate” a 150th anniversary fraught with uncertainty?

That this country was built without conflict? That the various peoples who lived here blended seamlessly into the Canadian melting pot, a symbol of “modernity” and “progress”?

In the last quarter of the 19th century, as Montreal and Toronto financiers were drawing up the plans for a nation dominated by an economic elite “of European heritage,” a population born of the intermingling of French Canadians (Scottish, Irish) and the various Indigenous peoples—namely, the Métis of the Northwest—were reclaiming their rights to a territory that was literally slipping out from under them, as the transcontinental railway pushed its way across the land.

To tell the story of the Métis of Western Canada! To recount the amazing adventure of Gabriel Dumont, commander of Louis Riel! To tell the people of Eastern Canada what happened out West, and by comparing then and now, to gain a better understanding of who we are and what we have unfortunately lost along the way. So that those who come after us will remember a story that is always with us, that will never grow old, that deserves to be told over and over again.

But how do you tell a story when you’ve lost the thread, when for far too long the narrative has been filtered by institutions oblivious to the descendants of the communities involved in the Métis uprisings of 1870 and 1885?

At this point, our two guys from Eastern Canada, in a burst of necessary humility, turned to the West and reached out to writers from the Métis, Indigenous, Franco-Saskatchewan and Franco-Manitoban communities (and from northern Ontario) in order to form a collective that, through their descendants, would give a voice to all the parties involved in the conflict! Together with Yvette Nolan, Maureen Labonté, Ken T. Williams and Geneviève Pelletier, they put together what they hope is a representative group.

That’s the gamble the collective took: to write this epic about Gabriel Dumont, leader of the bison hunt, together, to revive the languages and cadences of peoples who roamed this untamed land long before Canadian Confederation. May their words, swept away by the Prairie wind, come back to haunt us! May they remind us that for so many women and men, resistance is much more than just a word … And to quote from Riel’s speech before his execution, “An insane and irresponsible government has transformed us into wolves. And like wolves, we will defend our children tooth and nail.”