Métis Language Play

The Winnipeg Free Press reviewed a new play called “Li Rvinant” by Rhéal Cenerini that is entirely in the Mitchif language at le Cercle Molière until April 2. Tickets are $26 dollars or $13-$24 for students.

Mitchif is essentially a French-Cree creole formerly spoken by the Métis Nation, with smatterings of words from neighboring tongues like Ojibwa and Nakoda). Interestingly, almost all of its verbs are from Cree, and almost all of its nouns from French, yet, somehow the dialogue is reportedly easy to follow.

Li Rvinant (The Returning One) is the story of James Coutu, a man, perhaps a ghost or spirit, who returns to the fishing villages of Manitoba in the 1960s. He walks in the steps of his ancestor Riel, equally committed to not tolerating the prejudices, discrimination and poverty inflicted upon his people.

Another article warns the play has already inspired some controversy for its religious themes:

On the one hand, James is a dreamy visionary, someone who does not fit in to the community since he has no job, sleeps in the forest and makes others uncomfortable by his questions and his very presence.

On the other, he seemingly works miracles, raising the dead and re-enacting Jesus’ miraculous catch of fish for his disciples. His claim that Jesus was himself Métis, being both human and God, inevitably raises eye-brows and opposition.

Cenerini is neither a Michif speaker nor Métis, but he explains:

“I hope to show how lovely a language it is. I tried to accurately portray the pronunciation and sentence structure. What you can’t do in the written form of French Michif is give its lilting tone. It’s a far more musical language.”

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One Response to “Métis Language Play”

  1. You have brought up a very wonderful details, thank you for the post.

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