The president of Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) says a new deal signed between the organization and Parks Canada over the future management of the Batoche National Historical Site this month is "a really good, historic moment."
MN-S President Glen McCallum said the agreement signed Dec. 18 will explore "a full of range options" for the future of the site, which is about 90 kilometres north of Saskatoon. He said the deal falls under a broader framework the federal government and MN-S signed in 2018.
The agreement also comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Back to Batoche Festival, though McCallum noted COVID-19 precautions prevented in-person gatherings from taking place there.
"To be able to sign an agreement, ... that's a great move because we've been celebrating in Batoche for many years," he said.
He said Batoche "is a very sacred place" for the province's Metis people; it was the site of the 1885 Battle of Batoche, which led to Louis Riel's surrender during the North-West Rebellion. Riel was eventually captured and hanged.
"Riel took a stand at the last resistance in Batoche, truly believing that we are self-determining people and we have the right to self-govern," McCallum said.
"A lot of people died there and represented the Métis (goals for self-government)."
McCallum said part of the agreement's discussions aim to look at Batoche's history and "why we do have the right to call it our land."
Further discussions could help the MN-S press forward with demonstrating Métis presence in other regions, he said. To assist that work, he hopes to build on existing research to gain a better understanding of Métis land, including around Cumberland House, Yorkton, Fort Qu'Appelle, Regina, Moose Jaw, North Battleford and Round Prairie Métis in Saskatoon.
Researching those areas could act as a step toward further outlining Métis lands in the province, McCallum said. He added there's already been "significant steps ... identifying the Métis footprint" in Saskatchewan, but "it was just a matter of putting the pieces together."
In a prepared statement, Parks Canada President Ron Hallman said the agreement is an "important step forward" that will build off transferring the Back to Batoche Festival grounds in 1996, and signing the Batoche Management Agreement in 1998.
The MN-S leadership is headed into an election next year, but McCallum said he is confident the work will continue regardless of who's in office and that last week's deal is nonetheless a positive.
Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix