Let Me See Your Fancy Steps: Story of a Métis Dance Caller: The Story of Jeanne Pelletier as Told to Sylvie Sara Roy and Wilfred Burton – A Book Review

“Let Me See Your Fancy Steps: Story of a Métis Dance Caller: The Story of Jeanne Pelletier as Told to Slyvie Sara Roy and Wilfred Burton”

by Jeanne Pelletier, Sylvie Sara Roy, and Wilfred Burton

Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute Press

Reviewed by B.D. Charles

C$25.00 ISBN: 9781926795898

“Let Me See Your Fancy Steps: Story of a Métis Dance Caller: The Story of Jeanne Pelletier as Told to Sylvie Sara Roy and Wilfred Burton”, is the story of Jeanne Pelletier as told by Sylvie Sara Roy and Wilfred Burton, published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute Press. Throughout the course of this book, the reader learns that Jeanne Pelletier is an accomplished Métis woman and a revered member of the Métis community in southern Saskatchewan. Roy and Burton begin Jeanne’s story by highlighting the fact that she began her career as the first female Métis Jig dance caller in the 1970s, a time in which the dance callers were exclusively men and the community was difficult for women to traverse. Roy brilliantly showcases the life experiences and work of Jeanne’s career and rise as a prominent dance caller and Métis educator in Saskatchewan. The book recounts Jeanne’s experiences of reviving the Métis dance to the children in her community and by extension other Métis values such as community, culture, and respect. The book also acts as a vehicle for Jeanne to tell her story and pass on some of the knowledge that she has gained through her career.

The recounting of Jeanne’s work is supplemented throughout the book by testimonials of her former dance students and community members, all of whom praise the dance caller for the substantial impact that she’s had both on their personal lives, as well as the academic and social climates of the Métis community in Saskatchewan. As a Métis myself, I feel lost at times, as if my culture is fuzzy or foreign to me. Reading the life experiences, knowledge, and not to mention the wealth of Métis Jig steps found in this book gave me an overwhelming sense of peace to see research of this caliber and this level of care being invested in my culture. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Métis culture and the significance that the jig has to the culture. Anyone who has seen the Métis Jig performed live knows that it is a beautiful and awe-inspiring dance, but after reading Jeanne’s explanations of the cultural significance of the dances, I will now appreciate the dance that much more as a story and celebration of my culture. It is also worth mentioning that entire dance sequences are written out to follow with Jeanne’s notes, and the book includes an instructional DVD.

I had heard recently from an older Métis gentleman that the Métis community in Saskatchewan is somewhat dormant but works as recent as this and of this quality are direct evidence of the contrary. The Métis community is alive and well, this opportunity to learn more about my culture filled me with an abundance of belonging and pride.  I am not sure of all the ways that I can thank the incredibly talented team that went into the creation of this cultural gem, but I can start with, “Miigwetch et merci”.

 

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

The Weight of The World

When a man chooses to stop learning

Is the day that he truly dies.

 

The herd of the mundane

Ridicules the fires of passion as insane.

 

And so the man suffocates it.
The embers smolder, crackle, and hiss.
He has destroyed comfort and direction.
He is now cold and blind.

“You did the right thing.”
The herd offers its petty assurance,
“At least now you’ll have health insurance.”

But it is still so dark,
The man lays to rest
He’s toiled and troubled today
for someone who doesn’t know his name.

With eyes closed, he smiles.
He sees
That roaring flame that used to be.

OWED.

OWED.

By Ben Charles

    I am owed happiness.

Says who?

                                                                 I am owed love. 

Says who?

                                                                                    I am owed sex. 

Says who?

                                                                          I am owed L I F E.

Says who?

The rolling rock gathers moss,
mankind resentfully collects and counts her cost,
while mothers weep and mourn her loss.
Divine demiurge or celestial chance,
depending on who you ask,
gathered us all here to today.
Either impossible odds or omniscient god
They gave us everything and nothing.
Gave us the night, gave us the day.
Odds of fractions to the trillions
Gave us bare feet on the grass,
gave us love shortlived, lifelong and past.

Is this owed to the simians?

Perhaps,
Every existence per hapless sap,
Spits in the face of reason,
We’re God’s Laws’ treason
searching El Dorado without a map.

So here we are.
What’s left to do?
We demand more, we demand respect.
We need a better nose, we’re owed a newer car.
I am owed an expensive vacation if not 2 or 3 on a yearly basis
I am owed paper featuring dead men’s faces.
I am owed all this, plus a wife and a bigger house than you.

I am owed.

 

I am owned.

Poetry Belongs

Poetry.
What is that? It is all, it is nothing,
it is deep, it is trite, it is to be cherished and preserved like a precious wedding ring,
it is an archaic, irrelevant, dainty art
it is shite, it is smart.
Poetry is a dead dream.
Poetry is alive and well, if you’d only care to see.

Poetry is the shit, poetry is ass. It depends on who you ask.
Who does poetry belong to? To whom does poetry belong?
It depends on whom you ask.
Poetry belongs to the teenage girl.
Barely older than fourteen, Heartbroken, destroyed and broken by the love of her life. She pens her tears, her fear, and her petty smears.
She is certain that she will never find love again.
The poet has had love and lost, Her voice is found in loose leaf despite rolling eyes.
They do not understand, they cannot critique,
What this boy meant to her that she dated for two weeks.
Is poetry pretentious? Does the best work only work for the best of us?
It depends on who you ask.
Poetry belongs to the spoken word poet in Vancouver or Seattle,
the mumble-rapper, the modern beatnik.
Armed with stones and sticks, legends of their own minds, ready for battle.
They provide the fuel this world needs in the energy crisis.
Refraction of self-satisfaction.
Perpetual motion of the ego drives to resolve the plagues of the earth, to be the scourge of evil.
The perpetual engine exhausts a smog of smug, echo chambers power the poet’s societal upheaval.
Is this all there is to see in poetry?
In 14-year-olds and $14 cups of coffee?
It depends on who you ask.
Poetry belongs to those who need it most.
To those who have no voice or to those who need to boast.
It belongs to the farmer, the working man, the average Joe.
It belongs to jealous, the sad, the glad and the mad.
Any poetry written is serendipitous- even if it is lame, limp, self-righteous and insipid. Any poetry written is within the collective soul, whether it is hidden or for show.
It belongs to those who are always talked over, interrupted, and never given speech. Silenced by family or by government, countless stories are never given release.
It belongs to the pure and the corrupt alike, it belongs to the straight, the gays, and it even belongs to the …
Sike!
But there is a place for that too, in this oddity that is poetry.
As is with all, poetry must end,
That is the only fact certain to be true.
Please do not jeer, please do not boo.
For I am a poet, my psyche is much too fragile to defend
this laughable cliché I pass off as insightful thoughts, my friends,
that poetry belongs to you.

The RCMP

A proclaimed hunger for justice,
A silent thirst to kill.
I have the right;
Just give me a reason or two.
Both of those hands in your pockets will do.
You’ve got to be an addict and a thug.
I must assume that you’re a murderer, or at least on drugs.
I smile.
You’re too powerless to fight, too poor to sue.

The public eye scorns, the journalists cry,
“Why does another innocent person have to die!?”
We huff and we sigh.
Charade lazily,
“Our Thoughts and Prayers are with the family.”

Open tears.
Closed laughter.

This man again? What is he after!?
He’ll never learn his lesson,
I’ll fuckin’ learn him.
His drunken stumbles have stumbled on my nerves…

THE LAST FUCKING TIME!

He’ll learn his lesson.

I think a long walk home will sober him up,
Them Indians walk or ride stolen bikes,
When they’re not stealing cars,
Or stabbing each other in dykes or in bars

He’ll learn his lesson.

The Cold.
The Cold bites with the fury of one thousand suns
A thousand suns I wish for in the dark, the complete unknown.

Where am I?

Wet feet trudge towards nothing, towards a thought and a prayer
I cry.
The wind laughs at my misery and lashes my skin, my lips and my heart are sealed
I know that this it. I am condemned to die.

Dead feet trudge a dead man,
I am afraid.
Will I ever see my family again? My heart bleeds.
For I know I will not see them, they will only see me.

Dead feet trudge a dead man,
I fall.
Violent shaking, dead calmness of night.
Vivid visions of spectacular colours dance
Ancestors perform on this virgin stage of snow, ice and wind.
I watch the dance. No strength left to trudge.
The ice embraces me; I feel warmth for the last time.
I am afraid.
I don’t want to go,
But must be brave,
I accept my doom.
The RCMP
Chose this field as my tomb,
The ice as my grave.

 

 

CREATOR!

 

GOD!

Whoever is there,
Whoever can hear.
Why am I not dead yet?
Why have you forsaken
A Red Man
To turn Blue?

I repent,
I was once lost, but now am found
I was blind, but now I see
If only someone knew I was here
If only shards have ice have not blinded me
I only I wasn’t just an inconvenience in the eyes of the RCMP.

I am free.

 

“He learnt his lesson”,
Say the Children of God.
“He got what he deserved”,
Say the Children of God.

“That’s what happens when you get drunk”,
Say the Children of God.

“It was all his fault, really”,
Say the Children of God.

“His peaceful death was a blessing; he was saved from being lost. He was a drunk and a sinner, doomed for the flames of Hell. Now he’s with Jesus, Death saved him from himself.”
Say the Children of God.

 

Whatever happened to that ol’ drunk?
The one that we taught?
How come he is not here to thank us?
That’s just like them.

So entitled,

So victimized.
Just get over it, already. It’s been a long time now
since you were left childless, tongue-less and sodomized.

We are here to make you feel safe,
We are here to turn the Red to Pink,
We are here with a secret lust for blood,
We are here to bury language in the mud,
We are here to rape life, destroy peace,
We are here to keep The Problem policed,
We are here dutifully,
We are the RCMP.