Batoche Historic Site lands to be transferred back to Métis people of Saskatchewan
690 hectares of land at Batoche to be returned to Métis people: federal government
Land at the Batoche National Historic Site, an area significant and close to Métis people's hearts in Saskatchewan, will be transferred back to Métis control, the federal government announced Friday.
A federal news release said the transfer will include 690 hectares of land at Batoche, located 78 kilometres north of Saskatoon.
No fixed date for the transfer has yet been announced.
"The Batoche grounds have always been important to our Métis citizens, our history and the resistance," Métis Nation-Saskatchewan president Glen McCallum said in a news release.
"The repatriation of Batoche lands is tangible and starts the path to reconciliation."
McCallum said Métis people will determine what the best use of the repatriated lands is and that their ancestors' ultimate sacrifices will be honoured.
The Métis Nation-Saskatchewan will specifically be responsible for lands on the western part of the National Historic Site.
McCallum said discussions to take over more land at Batoche started roughly five years ago and he's pleased with how quickly they progressed.
"It's been really aggressive conversations around land and the government has been very [co-operative] and accommodating," he said after Friday's announcement.
"Five years, it's not a long time."
Batoche was founded in 1872 by Xavier Letendre, a Métis merchant who established a ferry service on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River at a village he nicknamed Batoche.
Batoche was where, in May 1885, Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and a Métis provisional government made their last stand against armed federal government forces. They were overrun by federal forces, effectively ending the 1885 Northwest Resistance. The last engagement of the resistance came a few weeks later, with a battle at Steele Narrows in Saskatchewan.
"These lands hold deep cultural, spiritual and historic significance for the citizens of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan," the federal government's statement said.
"Parks Canada has long worked with Métis at Batoche National Historic Site, and this transfer of land and commitment to collaborative management marks a significant step in the ongoing relationship"
In 1996 the federal government transferred the Back to Batoche festival grounds to Métis ownership. That land is now managed by the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan. In 1998 Parks Canada and the Métis Nation-Saskatchewn entered into a shared management partnership agreement to maintain the historic site.
Minister of Northern Affairs and Prairies Economic Development Canada Dan Vandal said Parks Canada will continue to hold up its end of the shared management partnership agreement, while acting under the guidance of the Métis people.
Vandal and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Parks Canada Steven Guilbeault, as well as representatives from the provincial government, attended the 50th annual Back to Batoche event Friday at the national historic site, where the announcement was made.
Vandal, a Red River Métis man and the MP for the Winnipeg riding to Saint Boniface-Saint Vital — an area with strong ties to Métis history — called the trek to Batoche a pilgrimage and said he was happy to be at the historic site for Friday's announcement.
"A lot of my ancestors … they fought at Batoche, they were part of that historical resistance against the Canadian government," Vandal said.
"Today, as a minister with the Canadian government, of course our values have changed tremendously over those 137 years, we've realized there's a great opportunity to make amends, to move ahead in partnership."
- An earlier version of this story indicated that the Battle of Batoche marked the end of the Northwest Resistance. In fact, the last engagement of the resistance came a few weeks later, with a battle at Steele Narrows.Jul 23, 2022 8:38 AM CT