CHASING HISTORY (Chapter 7 of 10)

BATOCHE TODAY

The Battle of Batoche

What happened here, at the National Historic Site of Batoche in May of 1885, has influenced the course of Canadian history for a century and a quarter. 

In my novel-in-progress, The Batoche Crossing, it is my goal to immerse readers in the events of that time.  The readers will travel from the comfortable milieus of small-town Canada and late-Victorian Toronto to a region that teeters on the brink of savagery and civilization. 

The mass grave of the Metis dead.

I am not going to give you a tour of this historic site.  I will say that, if you visit, and if you have already researched the events between May 9th and May 12th, 1885, you will have a rich experience.

And when you visit, you will be astonished by the scope of the battlefield, the key points of interest (such as the graveyard that embraces both the Métis families of that era and the soldiers who fell on those four days), the breathtaking landscape, and the remains of the genteel village once called Batoche.

The caretakers of this site still have a great deal to do to enchance the visitor’s experience.  However, the few interpreters available are superb, and the movie screened every hour in the visitor reception centre never fails to move the audience.

Grave marker on the mass grave.

If you are a first-time visitor, and you come unprepared, the self-guided battlefield tour may be a yawn.

The rectory and R.C. church on Mission Ridge.

Now might be the time to discuss terminology.  For decades the violent events involving the Métis and aboriginals of the North-West Territories have been termed the North-West Rebellion.  Nowadays it is fashionable to call them the North-West Resistance.  Why?  Beats me.

In 1885, the Territories, still to be organized into the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, were governed by the Government of Canada.  The Métis and aboriginals, being marginalized and disenfranchised, despite repeated efforts, failed to get their grievances and fears addressed.  So they rebelled – against a recognized government.  Hence, the term North-West Rebellion.

In 1869-70, in the Red River settlement in the North-West Territory (in the region now organized as Manitoba), there was no recognized government.  The Hudson’s Bay Company had just “sold” its rights to Rupert’s Land to the Government of Canada.  There was no suggestion that perhaps the inhabitants (white, Indian, Métis) should be consulted and be party to the new arrangements.  So the Métis, along with many whites, resisted – against a foreign power.  Some professional historians recognize that those events are properly termed the Red River Resistance.  Some professional historians do know whereof they speak.

Others who know even less than amateur historians, call those events the Riel Rebellion.

So, Red River Resistance, and North-West Rebellion.  Try to keep them straight.

I do respect the work and minds of professional historians.  But . . . so often they practice tunnel vision and subscribe to conventional thinking.  If I get a chance in this series of posts, I will explain how the so-called North-West Rebellion encompassed both rebellious acts by the Métis and desperation moves by the aboriginals, and that both series of events were unrelated.  Two terms are required: the North-West Rebellion (regarding the Métis), and perhaps something like the North-West Punitive Expedition (regarding the aboriginals).  The Métis and the aboriginals did not act in any concerted fashion.

John and I sped northward and eastward, arriving in Prince Albert just after 6:00 p.m.

An artist's conception of the village of Batoche in 1885.

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About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
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