Back to Batoche: From resistance to revitalization

Métis Nation–Saskatchewan’s annual festival celebrates Métis culture, history and cuisine

On the grounds of a national historic site, more than 10,000 people will celebrate Métis art, food, language, and history at the yearly Back to Batoche festival, this July 21 to 24.

Set among rolling hills in the historic town of Batoche, in south-central Saskatchewan, the event immerses visitors in the sounds, sights, scents and spirit of Métis culture.

On the mainstage, fast-fingered fiddlers perform Métis songs. Elsewhere, dancers of all ages perform the Red River jig, a fast-stepping polka-type dance. South of the artisan market, competitors perform voyageur skills—log sawing, fire making and trap setting—in a timed competition, inspired by the historic tasks essential to voyageurs’ survival in the wild as they travelled great distances to transport furs and goods to market.

And then there’s the scent of food, wafting over the grounds: buffalo burgers, fried fish and bannock.

“Because this year is the 50th anniversary, there are a few surprises in store,” says Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) Tourism Minister Brent Digness.

One such treat is the reduced admission rates. As the event host, MN–S has lowered the cost of admission to ensure everyone can enjoy the celebration. Additionally, veterans, seniors and children under 5 receive free admission.

Enbridge is a proud sponsor of Batoche this year, with a Fueling Futures grant of $15,000 to help organizers make the 50th anniversary event one to remember.

Sharing culture is a vital element of keeping communities near our operations vibrant. We’re honored to support Métis Nation–Saskatchewan as they share their rich and resilient history and traditions with the world.

Back to Batoche was founded to mark the 1885 Battle of Batoche, the last major event in the Northwest Resistance, itself one of the most iconic campaigns in North American history. Métis leader Louis Riel had been established as president of a provisional government, with Batoche as the capital. Within a few weeks, the federal government of Canada mobilized thousands of soldiers to march on Batoche. After the battle, Riel surrendered, ending the provisional government and leading to the founding of the province of Saskatchewan.

“Some of our culture was lost,” explains Minister Digness. “We’re regaining what our culture means. I invite everyone to Batoche to celebrate the rejuvenation.”

Back to Batoche will follow closely on the heels of June’s National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples’ Day, on June 21, in Canada.

Digness recalls watching his grandmother dance the Red River jig well into her late 80s, accompanied by his uncle on the fiddle. He describes the beauty of beadwork on traditional Métis dress, the smell of Métis stew cooking in the air.

“We often speak of reconciliation in today’s world,” he continues. “I think guests of the festival will have that feeling of reconciliation. They’ll be immersed in the experience of what it is to be Métis.”

(TOP PHOTO: more than 10,000 people will celebrate Métis art, food, language, and history at this year's 50th anniversary edition of the Back to Batoche festival from July 21 to 24.)