The Back to Batoche festival has drawn thousands annually to celebrate Métis identity, culture, values, and language. Photo by David Stobbe / StobbePhoto / Métis Nation – Saskatchewan

By: Nicole Goldsworthy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal

A celebration of Métis culture, identity and language will be held in the heart of the nation’s homelands.

Back to Batoche is set for July 20 to 23, with this year’s theme honouring the youth and the next generation of Métis leaders and knowledge keepers.

Since its inception in 1970, the Back to Batoche Days festival has drawn thousands annually to celebrate Métis identity, culture, values, and language. This year the theme is The Year of the Youth, in honour of the next generation of Métis leaders and knowledge keepers.

Batoche is the site of the final battlefield of the Northwest Resistance of 1885.

“Batoche, Sask. is a significant and sacred place to Canada’s Métis people – the land where Métis leaders Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont proclaimed a provisional government in 1885 and where many Métis warriors stood together to resist government forces,” said a statement from Métis Nation – Saskatchewan. “In 2019, these lands were rightfully returned to the Métis people of Saskatchewan – a monumental move toward reconciliation and an opportunity for education, economic development, and enlightenment for Métis residents.

Back to Batoche will have two kitchens and several food trucks to choose from, two stages and four days of live entertainment, including music/bands, dancers and artisans.

“The festival is important because it preserves and promotes Métis culture and heritage, providing an opportunity to pass down knowledge to the next generation, make memories with family and friends, form new connections, and strengthen community,” Métis Nation – Saskatchewan said. “It is also a lot of fun.”

New this year at Back to Batoche during the Sunday Showcase is: jigging contests, dance demonstrations, fiddle tribute to John Arcand.

It will also have their usual slate of activities including: voyager games, family dance, youth activities / Lii Jiggers’ Village, rodeo (chuckwagon and chariot races), traditional teachings/storytelling, slo-pitch, volleyball, and horseshoe tournaments, Elders’ lodge and the Wandering Métis.

Anyone is welcome to join the festivities who are interested in celebrating, sharing, reconnecting with, or learning about Métis culture.

There are opening ceremonies, which will be held Friday, July 21 starting at 10 a.m. There is also a procession on Sunday, July 23 to the grave site of Gabriel Dumont and his warriors.

Advance passes to the event are available for purchase online. They can also be purchased at the gate the day of the event.

Shuttles will be available for free with proof of pass purchase to and from the Market Mall in Saskatoon and South Hill Place Mall in Prince Albert. This will be a first come first serve basis and will run all day.

Camping is almost totally sold out for this year with only a few overflow sites available (all non-electric) and can be booked by calling in.