Back to Batoche: Honouring Métis culture on historical land

A dancer competes in the jigging contest at Back to Batoche 2018. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The four-day Back to Batoche festival is returning this weekend to celebrate Canada’s rich Métis culture and history.

It takes place this Thursday to Sunday and is put on by the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan.

The event features a wide variety of activities for people of all ages—in fact, Batoche Minister Sherry McLennan said they’re hoping to show the value of one age group.

Anyone over the age of 65 can attend the festival for free, as well as veterans.

“One of our things that we really, really promote is to help out our elders,” she said. “They are the people that have got us this far. They’re the ones that showed us the way, taught us everything, so now as they’re getting older we need to be there for them.”

McLennan explained they’ll have an elders tent where they can enjoy free meals consisting of wild game and bannock.

This year, Back to Batoche has two stages instead of one, providing even more activities and entertainment.

On Thursday, guests are invited to watch Métis Family Feud at 6 p.m. Sixteen teams of five will compete to win cash prizes: first place wins $1500, second wins $1000 and third wins $500.

The acts on Thursday are primarily brought to Batoche by the Métis Nation of British Columbia.

Friday, on the other hand, is mostly sponsored by the Métis Nation of Alberta. This day, as McLennan explained, is filled with entertainment.

A couple of the highlights are the first day of Back to Batoche Idol, a singing competition, from 1 to 4 p.m. and voyageur games such as axe throwing and nail pounding starting at 1 p.m.

A new element for Back to Batoche is a fashion show on Saturday from 1 to 2 p.m., showcasing the work of Métis clothing designers.

After the mass on Sunday, guests are invited to participate in an approximately two-mile walk from the site of Batoche to the cemetery and honour those who fought in the rebellion. The walk is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

Throughout the weekend, you can also enjoy plenty of food trucks, jigging, fiddling, square dancing and chuckwagon races and a slo pitch tournament.

“This event is a gathering of the Metis people across the homeland, across Canada,” said McLennan.

“They come and just share each other’s laughter. A lot of Métis (people) are known for being very close with family. Family is very important to them, so this is a chance to come together, to get out on the land where the Batoche rebellion was, actually on those grounds, and we come here and we take pride in our culture.”

Batoche is located about an hour south of Prince Albert. It’s where Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont led an army of about 300 Métis people, fighting for their rights in the Battle of Batoche and the North-West Rebellion in 1885. About six months later, Riel was hanged in Regina for the execution of Thomas Scott.

Four-day adult passes (age 18-65) cost $40 and student passes (age 6-18) cost $20. Daily rates for an adult are $10 and for students are $5.

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