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Dolorès Gosselin was 40 when she found out that she was Métis. She went on to fully embrace her new-found identity, sharing it through stories and traditional ceremonies. To have a greater impact, she created her own business: Drumming for Healing.
When she was growing up, St. Malo native Dolorès Gosselin had no idea about her Métis roots. She only found out when she was close to 40, when her sister’s genealogical research revealed there were several Cree women in the family. “My mother, Emma Perreault, wanted to protect us,” she says. At that time, Métis children were abused at school.”
She was immediately intrigued by this new aspect of her identity. “I started doing research, studying Métis traditions, and I discovered that I was a storyteller. I also learned to make a drum with a First Nations’ Elder, and then learned how to play it.”
For the Métis woman, passing on the Métis teachings is very important. “They are excellent traditions for finding peace. For example, the drum helps people manage their emotions. The drumming starts out loud to bring out negative energy such as anger and frustration. The subsequently softer drumming lets in positive emotions such as peace and love. It feels really good inside.”
She also says that the unique experience of group drumming together on the same big drum is also very popular with people of all ages.
The drum is a key medium of instruction for the Francophone Métis woman. She admits that “shortly after receiving the drumming teaching, the ancestors asked me in a dream to have one big drum and to bring women and children to it.”
“Since then, I’ve been going into the schools or to the St. Boniface Museum, giving drumming workshops with another woman. She makes the drums, as my hands are giving me trouble, but I do the teaching, in French. One should never just “make” a drum. It’s not a mere object. It’s important to understand that we become custodians of our drums.”
In addition to drumming, Dolorès Gosselin uses storytelling to pass on Métis traditions. “The First Nations’ Elders told stories to teach the youngsters. That tradition was lost with the residential schools and reserves, but we’re trying to revive it.”
Dolorès Gosselin has written seven stories on the seven sacred Indigenous teachings. The animal or bird representing the sacred teaching is the main protagonist of each story. She also built two stories around a birch bark canoe.
“My stories come to me at night, in my dreams. It’s as if they were there in my heart. I’ve been a storyteller for ten years, but I never tell the same story the same way twice. I play with the details and I include recent life experiences. I speak from the heart.”
To ensure that her stories survive, Dolorès Gosselin recently decided to publish them in English, French and Michif. They are now in the process of being published. An audio CD of her stories in Michif will also be available.
“To facilitate the publication process, I created my own company, Drumming for Healing, at the end of May, with help from CDEM’s Joel Lemoine. CDEM will also help me prepare my budget so I can apply for grants.”
The French-speaking Métis woman often leads reconciliation workshops, including the blanket exercise, for Cjp (Conseil jeunesse provincial) and Development and Peace.
Today, Dolorès Gosselin has several ideas for her business. For example, she plans to look into the possibility of turning her property on the shores of the Roseau River in the RM of Stuartburn, south of St. Malo, into a centre where she can receive groups.
“People could come here to find peace, reconnect with nature, slow down and experience traditional Métis ceremonies around the fire, water or drum.” The Drumming for Healing beats have only just begun to be heard.