Find your place in history

Fri, Apr 1 2016


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Historian. Truth seeker. Time traveller.

Nestled on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, Batoche—a national historic site— is the place Chantal Roy Denis calls home.

“I have such a powerful connection to that place, that when I’m there—everything just fits and my heart feels so full,” she says. But Chantal didn’t actually grow up in Batoche.

“After fighting in the Northwest Resistance of 1885, some of my family members were imprisoned, many scattered, and the ones who stayed had to rebuild. They just didn’t want to be Métis anymore, so they hid within a francophone community on the fringes of Batoche. That’s where I grew up, but it never quite felt like I belonged there.”

“ I wanted to know more, so I used every class as a lens to look at the Métis experience in a different way.” 

Fascinated that she still feels the impact of being displaced from the land more than 100 years later, Chantal essentially designed her own history degree at MacEwan to study the Métis cause, its people and their struggle.

“Batoche is in all the history books, but I grew up hearing all these little stories that weren’t published—stories beyond Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont—about the Métis men and women who fought in the Resistance and what life was like for them. I wanted to know more, so I used every class as a lens to look at the Métis experience in a different way. A course in British Empire history helped me understand how colonialism impacted Métis people, and a course about prairie history let me explore settlement and its impacts.”

Today Chantal has moved on to work on her master’s degree, studying the effects of displacement on four Métis Settlements that were disbanded by the Alberta government in the 1940s and 1960s.

“These people were literally loaded onto trucks, and scattered in different locations. I want to know how being disconnected from their traditional territories impacted them, but I also want to know what these communities were like, how people connected and how they used the land.”

Chantal says that the responsibility that comes with this research isn’t lost on her.

“I’m very sensitive about protecting the knowledge they share and about giving that back to the community. At the end of the day, displacement is the experience of Métis people and my hope is that this research will help us understand that experience so we can rebuild and strengthen our communities.”

Chantal Roy Denis is an alumna of the Bachelor of Arts program. Learn more at MacEwan.ca/BA



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