‘It’s like go­ing home’

MLA re­turns to Ba­toche for weekend of his­tory and Métis cul­ture

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - FRONT PAGE - SARAH LADIK

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.”

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