By Cam Martin
2010 is turning out to be an important year to showcase First Nation cultures. The significant Aboriginal presence during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver is cause for celebration, and Native British Columbians should be very proud. This year is also particularly special for the Métis culture, and the province of Saskatchewan has proclaimed 2010 the year of the Métis.
2010 marks the 125th anniversary of the 1885 Northwest Resistance and the battle of Batoche, making it a fine year to demonstrate the freedom and independence of the Métis people. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said, “Long before we were a province, there were Métis here. They have formed a significant, vibrant, and distinct culture across Western Canada. The coming year will be a chance to celebrate that past, as well as being an opportunity to look towards the future.”
Throughout the year, celebrations will recognize the Métis contribution to the uniquely multicultural Canadian tapestry. The celebrations started with the Métis involvement in the 2010 games. Nineteen members of the Métis Nation British Columbia formed a torch relay team called “Keeping it Riel” and ran through Quesnel on January 29th. The First Nations Pavilion in Vancouver will also showcase a series of Métis performers, including Summer Sage (a traditional Métis folk duo entertaining with music and storytelling) and the Asham Stompers (a dance group preserving Métis history in the Red River Jig and other traditional dances).
In addition to involvement in the 2010 Olympics, Saskatchewan is having a “Back To Batoche” celebration in July. The final stand off between Louis Riel and General Frederick Middleton took place in Batoche in 1885. The eight-day festival will be held July 18-25 in Batoche, about 90km southwest of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. For a unique “settler style” experience, visitors can camp in traditional tipis or opt for a campsite with electricity. The festival week begins with a Sunday procession on July 18th to the mass gravesite of fallen Métis fighters who gave their lives during the Riel resistance. This traditional march allows visitors and members of the Métis Nation to retrace the steps of the famous battle—an emotional and educational journey for all.
The Back To Batoche festival is a chance to for the Saskatchewan Métis to show off their culture, and it promises to be a really good time. Of course, there will be Red River Jog music, fiddling and jigging contests, and sizzling bannock baking, as well as a slow pitch baseball tournament, chuck wagon and chariot races, and educational events for kids. Don’t miss the “Métis Idol” singing contest with a final presentation on the main stage.
Saskatchewan Métis Nation President Robert Doucette called the announcement of the Year of the Métis an historic proclamation. “Never before has there been recognition like this given to the Métis citizens of Saskatchewan,” he said. “I am deeply honoured and proud to be a part of [this] celebration, as it marks another chapter in the future of this great province.” This year, take the opportunity to explore the rich culture of our Métis brothers and sisters, and support the recognition and preservation of Aboriginal cultures throughout Canada.