Leah Dorion is standing outside in the snow holding up a colourful blue scarf behind her.
USask graduate Leah Marie Dorion (BEd’94, BA’99) is an interdisciplinary Métis artist based in Prince Albert, Sask. (Photo: Louis Lafferty Photography)

Sharing Métis stories

USask graduate Leah Marie Dorion (BEd’94, BA’99), an interdisciplinary artist, teacher, and author, celebrates her Métis heritage through a variety of literary and artistic projects


Each February, during Indigenous Storytelling Month, University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduate Leah Marie Dorion (BEd’94, BA’99) shares aspects of her Métis identity and culture with community members across the province.

In 2023, for example, Dorion participated in a kick-off event for the month—also known as Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month—by giving a talk alongside an Elder in Prince Albert. This year, on Feb. 14, Dorion explored Métis oral storytelling with high school students through a program presented by the Regina Public Library.

Leah Marie Dorion designs and sews Métis-style ribbon skirts. (Photo: Louis Lafferty Photography)

Dorion is passionate about Métis oral storytelling—something she saw modelled through her father, aunties, and uncles when she was growing up—and she aspires to share her stories with children, family members, and others.

“As a child, hearing Métis storytelling changed my world and put me on this path today,” Dorion said.

“To have a month dedicated to really honouring that and showcasing everything related to storytelling is just so absolutely amazing. It gives us that chance to share our worldview,” she said.

Dorion, a published author, painter, teacher, and interdisciplinary artist based in Prince Albert, holds two degrees from USask: A Bachelor of Education, which she earned through the College of Education in 1994, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Indigenous studies, which she earned through the College of Arts and Science in 1999.

Through her paintings and her writing, Dorion aims to honour Métis culture, the land, and the strength and resilience of Indigenous women. She believes women play a key role in passing on vital knowledge to all of humanity—a belief that is reflected and celebrated through her artistic and literary practices. One of Dorion’s recent books, for example, is sînapân kîskasâkâs : A Guide to Making Contemporary-Style Métis Ribbon Skirts, which she co-authored with her friend and colleague Bonny Johnson. Published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI), the book guides readers through the process of Métis-style ribbon-skirt making through detailed instructions, photographs, and a companion DVD.

“I was concerned about a Métis style of ribbon skirt not being worn anymore, so I approached the Gabriel Dumont Institute to help me bring back the pattern,” said Dorion. “So, my co-author Bonny Johnson and I, we reverse-engineered from historical photos the pattern, and Gabriel Dumont published the book.”

Leah Marie Dorion works on her painting, Goose Moon, in 2021. (Photo: Louis Lafferty Photography)

Dorion describes the book as “a gift to the community,” noting it has sparked art shows and workshops. In 2022, following the release of the book, the Mann Art Gallery in Prince Albert showcased ribbon skirts created by Métis women living in Kistapinanihk (the Prince Albert region). The exhibition, which was made possible through the support and mentorship of Dorion and Johnson, was titled Love in Every Stitch: Métis Ribbon Skirts From Kistapinanihk.

Currently, at the Saskatchewan Craft Council (SCC) in Saskatoon, Métis ribbon skirts are on display through the exhibition Gishchi-iteeyihteenaanee-kishkamaahk: We Wear Them with Pride, which runs until March 9, 2024. Some of the women from Prince Albert who were involved with Dorion and Johnson’s project at the Mann Art Gallery now have their work on display at the SCC—a point of pride for Dorion.

“I really feel that telling our story in a contemporary way through wearable art, it’s one of the best ways to initiate relationships and storytelling,” she said.

In addition to her work as a visual artist, Dorion is also the author and illustrator of numerous books showcasing Métis culture and history, including about 30 books and levelled readers in the children’s literature genre. Through her storytelling, Dorion aims to share the knowledge she has been gifted by Métis Elders and to preserve Métis history. One of her books published by GDI, for example, is My First Métis Lobstick, which takes young readers back to Canada’s fur-trade era by focusing on a Métis family’s preparations and feast in the boreal forest.

As a child growing up in Saskatchewan, Dorion noticed there was a scarcity of Métis-specific children’s literature. When she became an adult and a parent, she decided to change that—and she received encouragement from her son.

“He knew I was painting, and he knew I told the stories. He was like, ‘Mom, make kid’s books.’ From that day forward, 20-some years ago, I just haven’t stopped,” said Dorion. “I’m really putting in that intentional work around children’s literature, with the Métis characters, with Métis art, with Métis stories.”

Leah Marie Dorion’s artwork, such as her piece Bison Birthing Moon, honours Métis culture, the land, and the strength and resilience of Indigenous women. (Photo: Louis Lafferty Photography)

Dorion is a self-taught artist who continues to take on new projects and evolve her practice. For example, one of her latest projects is designing patterned fabrics, which are being sold as part of the Strong Earth Woman fabric collection and are available for purchase at some Fabricland stores in Canada. A new book for small children, My Little Métis Sleepy Horse, explores the connection of Métis people to horses through horse-themed stories. And, starting on March 1, Dorion’s artwork will be on view at the Wanuskewin Collective boutique on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon as part of a small exhibition. Reproductions of her work are also available at the SCC.

With many projects on the go, Dorion is always excited to explore new ideas and different ways of sharing Métis stories and culture.

“I’m not an art student; I never went to art school,” she said. “I just play with whatever I’ve got and do community-based stuff. I kind of learn as I go.”

Leah Marie Dorion is the author and illustrator of books for children, including My Little Métis Sleepy Horse. (Photo: Louis Lafferty Photography)