The Third Riel Conspiracy by Stephen Legault, which I reviewed in my last post, is focused on the major battle of the Riel Rebellion at Batoche in 1885. Batoche was at the heart of the Metis community in the Northwest Territories of that time. (In 1905 the province of Saskatchewan was created out of territory that included Batoche.)
The Metis settlement around Batoche had grown up in the 1860’s and 1870’s. The settlers created long narrow farms moving away from the Saskatchewan River in the style of early Quebec farms. The Metis of that era were great hunters and annually went south for buffalo until the buffalo were almost exterminated.
The Metis people were the descendants of intermarriage between French fur traders and the Indian inhabitants of the prairies.
A variety of grievances, including the fear their farms would not be recognized by the Government of Canada because they did not conform with the grid being surveyed, caused the Metis, led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont to rise in revolt.
The Rebellion did not last long mainly because the Metis political leader, Riel, would not allow their military leader, Dumont, to fight when and how Dumont wanted to take on Canada.
The founder of Melfort, Reginald Beatty, had just homesteaded in 1884 in the area that would become Melfort. During the Rebellion he was a scout for the Canadian forces and a negotiator persuading Indian communities not to join in the Rebellion.
The Third Riel Conspiracy is excellent at describing Batoche and the surrounding area. It is a beautiful spot on a bend in the South Saskatchewan River.
The site is almost unchanged in the past 128 years. There is no development around the site. To travel there is to go back in time.
The church and rectory have remained intact with some bullet holes in the rectory to mark its role in the battle.
The photograph above shows the view from the cemetery on the riverbank looking towards the church and rectory.
I first visited the site 45 years ago. My father had a keen interest in
Western Canadian history and knew men who had participated in the
|An aerial view showing the Saskatchewan River in the background|
Over the years I have made many visits to Batoche with my family and visitors to our area. Each visitor has said going to Batoche made history come alive for them.
In 1985 my Dad and I attended the centennial celebration of the battle. At the official event the Red Cross donated the flag flown by that organization during the battle. It was the first time the Red Cross had raised their iconic flag on a battleground.
I am glad that Legault set his second book in the Durrant Wallace series at Batoche. Every NWMP of that time had some participation in the Rebellion.
For any reader crossing central Saskatchewan in the summer a trip to the National Historic Site of Batoche will be a worthwhile stop.
While a place of battle and death it is now a serene site. I feel a sense of peace whenever I visit Batoche.