Turtle Mountain tribal members pray at Metis cemetery

Pembina, North Dakota (AP) 5-08

Members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa held an early Memorial Day celebration.

They traveled May 20 to the Metis cemetery in northeastern Pembina County to pray and honor their ancestors.

The site once was home to the Catholic Dumoulin Church, mission and cemetery. In the 1800s, it was a gathering place and religious center for Metis people, a “mixed-blood” people of Chippewa, Cree and French descent.

Metis descendants can be found in North Dakota, Minnesota and Manitoba, including members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. The tribe gained custody of the cemetery site in 2001.

Leslie Peltier, who teaches at the Turtle Mountain Community College, visited the site with two of her students, Symone Morin and Alexis Zaste. A drum group from Turtle Mountain sang and prayed there as well.

“Since these are our ancestors, we decided to look into it. We didn’t know the history of it; I didn’t even know this was here,” Zaste said. Her class put together a presentation about the site, titled “Plowed Over,” and presented it to other students from tribal colleges in the state.

About 50 markers are at the site on about two acres of land, with eight more acres covered by tall grass, possibly hiding the remains of many more unidentified Metis.