On Friday December 18th, the Métis Nation- Saskatchewan (MN-S) signed a terms of reference agreement with Parks Canada on the future management of the Batoche National Historic Site. The virtual signing ceremony involved MN-S president Glen McCallum and president and CEO of Parks Canada Ron Hallman. The original Batoche National Historic Site Management Agreement was signed by the MN-S and the federal government in 1998. Further discussions on the management of the site will include a full range of options and will be done as part of the Framework Agreement for Advancing Reconciliation signed in 2018 by the federal government and MN-S.
The framework agreement signed in 2018, was the first concrete step in recognizing and implementing Métis rights to land, resources, education, self-governance and preservation of culture under the Canadian constitution. "All the years that the Métis have been left on the sidelines, for the first time in many years, the federal government, and ourselves, and the team that we have, have come to the point in the Métis nation where real progress is being made," said its president, Glen McCallum after the 2018 signing. Prior to the signing of the agreement, the federal government left the affairs of the Métis people in the hands of the provincial governments, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said that the agreement sought to redress that. “It really is about us saying no, they have Section 35 rights and therefore we at the federal government must be working hard to recognize and implement those rights.”
The side table established with the government will focus on the lands of the Batoche National Historic Site, but McCallum asserted that other Métis land claims will be discussed as well. “There’s a bigger discussion yet to happen. Now we have the capacity to be able to do that.” A side table is an agreement that is not part of the underlying or primary contract or agreement, in this case the Framework Agreement for Advancing Reconciliation signed in 2018, but which is used to reach agreement on issues the primary contract/agreement does not cover. The newly established side table will be the forum for ongoing discussion about the traditional lifestyle of the Métis and their distribution around the province. McCallum stated that Louis Riel’s last stand against the government in Batoche was done in the belief that Métis people were self-determining people who had the right to self-govern themselves, therefore Batoche being the starting point for land discussions is significant. Batoche, he said, “is a very sacred place” and “I’m very happy today with the agreement that we signed and on continuing conversations around land, I so look forward to that and we are ready.”
According to McCallum part of the aim of the agreement is to look at Batoche’s history and why the Métis have the right to call it their land. In 1996 Parks Canada transferred the Back to Batoche Festival grounds to the MN-S. Métis Nations from across Canada have been celebrating at Batoche for over 50 years now, with the Back to Batoche festivities feeling like a large family reunion.
Further discussions through the side table agreement could help with demonstrating Métis presence in other regions like Cumberland House, Pinehouse Lake, Ile-a-la-Crosse, Yorkton, Fort Qu’Appelle, Regina, Moose Jaw, North Battleford, and the Round Prairie Métis from Saskatoon. The MN-S has already been researching the Métis footprint and conducting interviews with elders throughout the province and by putting all the pieces together, it is hoped a clearer picture will emerge of their traditional lands and where they resided in the province.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder