‘It’s like going home’
MLA returns to Batoche for weekend of history and Métis culture
Thousands of people flocked to Batoche, Sask. over the weekend, including a few from Moose Jaw.
“It’s like going home,” said MLA Greg Lawrence on Monday. “It’s going back to your culture. It’s a celebration of where you came from.”
Batoche, a historical Métis settlement northeast of Saskatoon, was the site of the final battle of the Northwest Rebellion in 1885 and the capital of Louis Riel’s Provisional Government of Saskatchewan.
Every year, Métis from across Canada and even the United States return to the site for a celebration of their history and culture.
“It was amazing to be there,” recalled Angela Blondeau, who hasn’t been to Batoche in years but has fond memories of doing so. “The dancing, the music, just everything. It’s very special for Métis people and I regret that I haven’t been able to go.”
Blondeau, originally from Moose Jaw but now living in Regina and working on her Masters’ degree, said she has plans to go to the festival next year when her program is finished.
“I’m not a very good traditional dancer, but I do it anyway,” she said. “I look forward to just seeing the Métis people I know and meeting new people from all across the country.”
Lawrence missed last year due to a knee surgery, but said it was the first in almost a decade.
“This year because my legs were good enough, we actually walked down to where the East Village was, down where the original ferry crossing was,” he said. ”It was a viable community until the early 1900s, and then the railway bypassed them, and like many small towns in Saskatchewan, it slowly died off.”
He noted that people often think the community wound down right after the battle, but it lasted for another 20 or so years.
Now, for one weekend a year, the site is taken over by people returning to their homeland. Lawrence said there is jigging, square-dancing, and fiddle competitions, as well as people showing participants how to bead and play the spoons, among many other activities.
“All the stuff that the Métis used to do as just part of our regular life,” he said. “We go back to celebrate our culture. We go home.”