It's been 120 years since a six-man jury in Regina found Métis leader Louis Riel guilty of treason, but the anniversary is stirring up calls to re-open the case of the Bell of Batoche.

The bell originally hung in a church in Batoche, Sask., the site of the last battle of the Northwest Rebellion.

When Riel's fighters surrendered, Canadian soldiers claimed the Bell of Batoche as a trophy of war. The bell hung in a legion hall in Ontario for more than a century.


In 1991, it disappeared, under mysterious circumstances, and the rumours have been swirling ever since.

That's when then-Manitoba Métis Federation President Yvon Dumont, his assistant, and several other Manitoba Métis visited the Ontario legion and had their photo taken with the bell. One week later, it was gone.

Over the years, people say they've seen it at Métis events and at the home of a former MMF leader. Two Manitobans say they've given sworn statements to police after seeing the bell.

"I've heard it's in Winnipeg, I've heard it's in a garage, in the North End," says Gabriel Dufault, head of a francophone Métis group that originated in Batoche. "I have a pretty good idea who the people that know ... are."

Yvon Dumont, who's also a former Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, has always maintained he doesn't know where the bell is, or who has it.

"I hope it's in a garage here some place in the North End on its way to Batoche, but I don't know. I don't know where it is. I really couldn't tell you. And if a Métis person has it, I would consider that person a hero, not a criminal. It was removed from someone who was not rightful owner, from a place where it shouldn't have been."

Dufault agrees the bell should be returned to Batoche.

He says it might be time to have Manitoba Justice Minister Gord MacIntosh re-open the case and follow the missing bell's trail before it gets too cold.

"He should be doing something, negotiating with the people in Ontario, such an agreement," Dumont suggests.

Dumont says he's worried any threat of prosecution will drive whomever has the artifact, further underground, and that it will take many more years before the Batoche bell is returned to public view.