By: Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Métis Nation citizens and guests are holding their annual festival in person at Batoche.

Back to Batoche Days, which runs from Thursday to Sunday this year, are held on the national historic site of the Battle of Batoche during the 1885 Northwest Resistance.

The four days feature music, athletic competitions, theatre, traditional food, dancing and teaching on the land.

Attendees can show off their axe throwing, log sawing and rope winding skills in the Voyageur Games, attend bison harvesting demonstrations, learn how to make buttons, attend a play by Savage Society and dance to Métis music old and new.

Returning to the festival site after two years of virtual events is a moving moment for many Métis Nation citizens.

“The past two years have been a testament to the resiliency and courage of our citizens, but it has not been without sacrifice,” said Métis Nation-Saskatchewan president Glen McCallum. “Back to Batoche is always an opportunity to reconnect with friends and family and enjoy food, entertainment and dance while visiting and hearing stories.

“This year’s festivities have special significance for us all because it marks 50 years of the festival coming back to Batoche.”

For people who can’t make it to Batoche in person, events on the main stage will also be live-streamed.

And this year, to honour loved ones lost during the pandemic, Métis Nation-Saskatchewan will be hosting a memorial ceremony at the historic graveyard in Batoche on Sunday, July 24.

People will be able to place the names of their loved ones in a special urn to be buried in the graveyard.

“With restrictions on gatherings over the past two years, many of us have not had the opportunity to come together to grieve for our loved ones and celebrate their lives as we would have traditionally done,” said McCallum. “This memorial will hopefully serve as an opportunity for people to properly say goodbye to those we lost during the pandemic.”

(Photo supplied by Metis Nation-Saskatchewan)