Although they won’t meet in person, Métis people from across Western Canada are still showing their pride at Back to Batoche.
The annual celebration of Métis culture returned virtually on July 22, with events continuing through the weekend until July 25. The celebration is streaming live at www.backtobatochedays.ca.
Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) Minister of Culture and Heritage Sherry McLennan said the virtual shows have widened the appeal even more.
“More and more people get to experience the culture and get to know what the event, but never really got to come to Saskatchewan and come to Batoche. They get to get a little bit of an idea watching it virtually,” McLennan explained.
McLennan said they received comments from across Canada, some of which expressed amazement at what Batoche was. Many virtual guests wanted to come and see it in person someday.
“Métis people like to visit and to eat and play their music and play the fiddle and jig and square dance and just gather together,” she said. “Back to Batoche has been a wonderful experience to have all of the Metis people from across the homeland.”
McLennan said the event is well-known across the country. People from British Columbia, the Maritimes, Ontario, the United States and the Yukon have been known to attend the event in person.
McLennan explained that in her case, she didn’t learn to be proud of her heritage until she began to learn about it as a teenager. Back to Batoche is an important part of showing that pride.
“Métis people are once again proud of their culture and their heritage,” she said. “We were called the forgotten people before, but I think as we go through life now, things are a little different.”
McLennan explained that people have learned more about their heritage and are proud to be Metis people.
“It’s amazing people are proud to be Metis again, so that’s a wonderful thing.”
Back to Batoche Days has become an annual event that brings together Métis from across North America, in person or online, to the sacred grounds where the Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont stood tall with their allies for Métis rights.
McLennan said there have been some struggles to get hesitant people involved. However, organizers are doing their best to make everyone feel welcome.
“I think people are timid and shy and they don’t want to go online and make themselves public out there, but for the people that do, it’s amazing the response we get from people across the nation,” she explained. “It is not just Metis people that watch it. It is everybody from all walks of life, and we enjoy that.”
New events this year include a Métis fashion show and the Food Truck Alley with a twist. Everyone can watch home cooks from across the nation preparing traditional Métis dishes from a ‘mystery ingredient’ list they received ahead of time.
Also, new to the children’s programming at Little Jiggers Village with special guest emcee’s Mooshum and Kookum. The pair will entertain children with stories, songs and dance.
“We are very close to being able to gather in-person at Back to Batoche, but the health and safety of all citizens still must be our priority,” MN-S President Glen McCallum said in a release. “It’s for that reason, Métis Nation–Saskatchewan decided to continue with a virtual celebration in 2021. The team has been working hard to enhance the online experience, and we are sure there will be something for everyone.”
All of the event that traditionally make up the Back to Batoche celebration are back including fiddle, square dance and jig competitions. Mainstays of Back to Batoche will be highlighted, like the Elders Lodge and the Music Stages.
The Music Main Stage will showcase some of the best Métis talent this province and country have to offer. Respected artist Andrea Menard will open Saturday evening and the Ivan Flett Memorial Dancers will help round out the night.
“We were very lucky to actually get Andrea Menard, a Métis artist, to actually help us to emcee and to also be one of the main highlights at our entertainment stage,” McLennan said. “That is going to be great to watch, and we have artists and bands from Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and of course from Saskatchewan. We have a lot of our Metis entertainers from Saskatchewan.”
The Métis Nation of Alberta, Métis Nation of Ontario and Métis Nation British Columbia also provided content for this year’s show. A schedule of events is available at https://backtobatochedays.ca.
“Tune in and watch what the Métis people can do,” McLennan said. “Learn about our culture, learn about our food and our dance, and we look forward to seeing people in person at Batoche (in the future).”