Thousands of people were back in Batoche for a summer celebration of Metis culture, languages, music and art. The four day Back to Batoche celebration, held July 17 – 21 in Batoche, Saskatchewan (about 100 km north of Saskatoon), included jigging, fiddling, square dancing, old time dances, cultural workshops, chuck wagon and chariot races, and the traditional Voyageur Games. Artisans showcased their talents, and visitors enjoyed a wide array of traditional Metis cuisine.
This year’s Back to Batoche was a particularly memorable event as it marked the return of the Bell of Batoche.
Following the 1885 Northwest Resistance, the Batoche church bell was taken by Canadian troops as a war prize. It ended up on display at the Legion hall in Millbrook, Ontario. In 1991, the bell went missing from the hall. After years of searching and rumours, the liberators of the Bell of Batoche finally revealed its whereabouts earlier this month, and returned it to the Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert during the Back to Batoche celebrations.
The Bell of Batoche has become an icon for the Metis people, symbolizing the displacement of the Metis from their traditional homeland following the Louis Riel-led Northwest Resistance. The Metis people have waited decades to hear the bell ring again in Batoche – that wish was fullfilled.
CUPE once again was well represented at Batoche. CUPE was a major sponsor of the event, and had a table with water bottles, flashlights, posters, and other CUPE materials to share with Batoche visitors. Carmel Mitchell, Alison Smith, Tony Head, Valerie Bilinski, National Aboriginal Council Senator Dale White, and Don Moran assisted in organizing the CUPE table.
In addition, CUPE members in attendance got to meet with Robert Doucette, president of the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan, the provincial Metis government that hosts Back to Batoche. They also met Andrea Menard, an accomplished Metis singer and actress, best known for her work on the television series’ Moccasin Flats and Rabbit Falls. She is currently the voice of characters Sarah Merasty and Kohkum on the APTN animated program Wapos Bay.
More than 20,000 people attended this year’s Back to Batoche gathering.