NEWS & EVENTS | September 26, 2022

Reconciliation: Drawing on the wisdom of the Elders

Métis Elders.

A network of Métis Elders is officially launched during the week of truth and reconciliation.

In its quest to foster a welcoming and healthy environment geared to fulfilment and reconciliation, Université de Saint-Boniface (USB) is proud to launch an initiative that will offer students personal access to the wisdom of a network of Métis Elders.

In Indigenous communities, the title of Elder is reserved for those who have acquired over time in-depth knowledge of ceremonies, traditional teachings and cultural practices – and the wisdom to share this knowledge with others.

USB now has five Métis Elders who are generously willing to give of their time on campus throughout the academic year. All are eager to make their unique contribution to the project.

Proudly displaying her Métis identity

A lively woman with a big heart, Paulette Duguay is happy to be part of this project because she feels she has a lot to share. “It's great that USB has invited Elders who are also grandparents,” she says. “We have a lot of experience and can offer students a different perspective and another dimension to all kinds of issues.”  

A native of Saint-Boniface, Paulette has been involved with the Union nationale métisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba (UNMSJM) since 2008. Unlike her mother, she has never suffered because of her Métis heritage. “We claim our place and our pride because we're entitled to be proud of who we are, just like everyone else.”

Paulette seeks to mentor anyone who self-identifies as Métis, and be attentive to what they have to say. “It's important for me not to judge students, but to listen to them. They are going through an overwhelming time of their lives. They have big decisions to make and I hope to help them as best as I can.”

A Métis grandmother from the Red River

According to Dolorès Gosselin, the term Elder does not truly apply to her, though the purpose of the Elders' network certainly does. Dolorès self-identifies more as a grandmother, a title that has a special meaning for her. “It's not necessarily because of your grandchildren that you're a grandmother,” she says with a smile. “Being a grandmother means you have a certain wisdom and talent.”

A Métis woman and a citizen of the Métis Nation of Turtle Island, Dolorès is both a storyteller and drummer. She presides over ceremonies for people looking for peace and serenity. With a master's degree in education from Collège de Saint-Boniface, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and her story because “these life lessons help us interact with the environment and become better human beings.”   

Dolorès hopes to pass on her Métis heritage to the next generation. “I want to transmit the beauty of Indigenous culture. It's a culture that respects nature and the Earth.”

USB as a time machine

For Paul Desrosiers, participating in the Elders' network is also an opportunity to recall his time as a student at Collège de Saint-Boniface. In fact, following his return to the campus, he has shared a photo from 1950 – a trip back in time that produced wonderful nostalgic memories of his years at the Collège.

As a retired teacher with over 30 years of experience, Paul is keen to pass on what he knows. Coming from a family of hunters, Paul has practised falconry for more than 20 years, “Falconry is the art of using a trained bird of prey to catch wild animals in their natural environment.” He spends his free time pursuing his love of birds of prey. “You have to be physically skilled and very quick to catch a bird of prey in the wild. However, once you've caught one, then the training begins before you can eventually hunt with your new companion!” A born teacher, Paul naturally wants to bequeath this magnificent passion to his descendants.

Paul particularly appreciates how keen to learn students can be. Indeed, throughout his career, he made himself available to students by offering weekly after-school tutoring sessions – an exchange of his precious time for treasured memories. “You should never abandon those who want to learn. You have to take the time needed to help students…”

Discovering a rich legacy

David Dandeneau earned his BA and his education certificate at USB before returning to set up the Development Office and the Alumni Association (Réseau des diplômés) and run both for 20 years. “Much of my professional life was spent here…  I was fortunate to experience the university's culture and witness how USB has blossomed.”

Originally from Fisher Branch, Manitoba, David attended Collège de Saint-Boniface when he knew little French and was still unaware of his Francophone ancestry. Despite the discrimination experienced by Francophones at the time, David willingly assimilated and learned French. When David's father told him that he had Métis as well as French ancestry, it did not mean much to him at the time.

Today, David is confident that he can ably transmit his knowledge of Indigeneity to USB's students and staff, and support them as they discover their origins. “There are things that can be put in place here to help people discover their family heritage.”  

Towards reconciliation

In a respectful and genuine way, USB continues to favour dialogue and learning to help foster reconciliation between Francophone and Indigenous peoples. To learn more about USB's reconciliation efforts, visit

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