Saskatoon

Back to Batoche Days to be held online this year

The one-of-a-kind celebration of the Métis Nation's culture, traditions and heritage at Batoche usually brings people together from all across North America for a weekend of dancing, music, competitions and great food.

50th anniversary celebrations are being postponed until next summer

Jiggers dance in the jigging competition at Batoche, Sask. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

This summer was supposed to be the big 50th anniversary celebrations of Back To Batoche Days.

The one-of-a-kind celebration of the Métis Nation's culture, traditions and heritage at Batoche, about an hour north of Saskatoon, brings people together from all across North America for a weekend of dancing, music, competitions and great food.

But the pandemic has altered those plans.

Instead, this year's Métis Nation – Saskatchewan's Back to Batoche is going to be a virtual event online from July 23-26.

"We're doing this virtually so we can stay connected to Back to Batoche Days and actually reach out across the land to all of our Métis citizens from B.C. to Ontario to some people in the United States who come and partake," Sherry McLennan, the Minister of Batoche, told Saskatchewan Weekend host Peter Mills.

Canadian Geographic is helping put together the virtual Back to Batoche event.

McLennan said the online experience will still include music, dance and education.

There are also competitions in jigging, fiddling and square dancing, where competitors can upload videos and compete.

Since 1970, the festival has been held annually at the national historic site commemorating the 1885 North-West Resistance and location of The Battle of Batoche.

McLennan said Batoche is very special.

"I have family that was originally raised on the Batoche land and I remember as a child going there and visiting all my family," she said.

"Now for me as a Métis leader, I did this for my grandparents because they taught me the Métis culture and they were a part of the Batoche."

The annual Back to Batoche Days will be held online this year. (Peter Mills/CBC)

She said when you visit the site it is like going back in time.

"You have these big hills and it's like you can even imagine our people, our leaders and our Métis people fighting for us back in the day," she said.

She said today's celebrations are all about keeping Métis traditions, heroes and culture alive.

"It just brings back the feeling of respect and honouring of our elders who were a part of Batoche way back then," McLennan said.

"When you step on that Batoche land ... it's like you can feel the music, you can feel the people, you know stomping their feet and clapping their hands and you know everybody's is just having fun and being a part of a family, a big huge family of Métis people."

McLennan said areas like the veterans war memorial site is very important for the Métis people.

"It has a list of all the people who fought in the rebellion and who were in the war and who gave up their life for us," she said. "We have people that come there to visit and they look and see their family name and they see who fought in the rebellion and in the war."

The horseshoes competition. is a staple event at the celebrations. (Peter Mills/CBC)

While there is no major celebration at the site this year, McLennan said the 50th anniversary celebrations will be held next summer.

"Next year is going to be great and it's going to be huge," she said. "So we would invite everybody to make plans for Batoche for the third weekend of July, to have Back to Batoche Days next year."

You can find more on how to take part in all the events by heading to their website — BackToBatocheDays.ca.

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