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By the end of evening, we had all thoroughly enjoyed our meals and the company of the other attendees, and headed home with open hearts and satisfied minds about our experience.

On the 28th of September 2013, myself, Laura Forsythe and Loryn Blower all attended the Metis Nation of British Columbia Annual General Meeting in Richmond BC, at the Hilton Hotel. It was a beautiful venue, small and intimate for the important proceedings and cultural connections that were taking place within. This was the second of the AGM’s that the Metis Nation of British Columbia has had that I have attended, and it was just as memorable as I remember from the last time I went, when I was a sponsored delegate attending from the Tri-River Metis Nation (an extension of MNBC from Northern BC, in a little area called the Bulkley Valley, north of Prince George, for those of you who know it). With a wide array of attendees, many of whom I did not recognize, there were few people that I did know, and lots of fresh faces in attendance. Seeing the wide array of opinions, with a few opinions that were way out in left field, the AGM was one of both excitement and pride in the way that our community has handled itself and the many goals that have started to become a reality in the past year. The MNBC has begun construction of a Metis school, and while this construction and creation of this cultural learning area has created a lot of concern and financial difficulties for the Metis Nation, this project is looking towards the future with high hopes and expectations.

As the business part of the AGM settled to a close, of which we had only been able to attend the later part of due to transit delays and school obligations, everyone was pleased with the proceedings and looking eagerly towards the rest of the evening, when we would all be attending a dinner and able to talk with other attendees. I was excited to see the different vendors and performers in attendance, as there were always beautiful Indigenous carvings, art and jewellery for sale. As well, networking during this part of the evening was a big part of the AGM, and meeting other young people who were either already involved in the Metis Nation or who were trying to integrate themselves into the Metis Youth community (like myself) was what I was most looking forward to. As I had been so involved in the Metis Nation events and community during high school in the north, I was eager to get involved in the community again as a university student who now was able to make contributions both culturally and academically.

The first connection that I made, during the AGM at one of the breaks in the discussions and voting, was Brad Snell, the Metis Regional Youth representative for the Victoria region. He was extremely helpful and friendly, and filled me in on several things that I didn’t know about, including the Metis Youth AGM that will be coming up in November that I will also hopefully be able to attend! Brad also introduced me to Colette, the Director of the Metis Youth of BC, later on in the evening. The friendliness and welcoming atmosphere of the entire AGM, save for a few disruptive attendees who came with intentions of causing conflict (there always has to be one, right?) made me and my colleagues, who had never attended a function of this type before, feel very at home and comfortable.

Throughout the rest of the evening, we laughed, ate, and talked with various other members of the Metis community, who were all equally as friendly and inviting as those that we met in the afternoon. For me, it was great because I got to see some of the inspirational women from my hometown of Smithers that had worked with me when I was in high school on Indigenous sponsored cultural events, and had been a big part of sending me south to attend the MNBC AGM of 2010.

One of the highlights of the evening for sure was the unveiling of the Bell of Batoche, an iconic cultural symbol of the Metis resistance and rebellion from the days of Louis Riel and the battles that had been fought in Batoche, when Metis identity was still being contested. For me, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about these cultural symbols or events, but by attending the dinner after the AGM I was exposed to a piece of history that is directly part of my past. This was also equally as moving for my colleague in attendance Laura, as she has been doing extensive research on this area. We were each provided with a small replica of the Bell during dinner, as well as a small fact sheet on the Bell to take home with us. Some of the facts on the fact sheet include:

  • On Sept 2, 1884 the Bell of Batoche is blessed and baptized by Bishop Grandin at the St. Anthony of Padua Church in Batoche, Saskatchewan.

  • On May 18, 1885 the Bell of Batoche is stolen from the church in Batoche by Canadian soldiers from Millbrook, Ontario.

  • The Bell is declared a trophy of war and disappears until 1930 when it is put on display in a fire hall to ring out fire alarms in Millbrook, Ontario.

  • In 1931, the Millbrook fire hall catches fire and the Bell falls into the fire, is cracked as the blaze is sprayed with cold water. After this, the bell is hidden within Millbrook, Ontario and is missing until the 1960s.

  • In the 1960s, the Bell of Batoche resurfaces and is put on display at the Millbrook Legion.

  • In 1967, the Canadian government requests that the RCMP retrieve the Bell from Millbrook and return it to Batoche. The Millbrook Legion declares the Bell a trophy of war and refuses to release it.

  • The Western Metis leaders request the Bell be released again in 1989, and once again the Bell is declared a trophy of war again by the Millbrook Legion and the request is refused.

  • In September 1991, the Western Metis leaders go to Millbrook itself and see the Bell in its glass prison, and on October 22nd, 1991 the Bell disappears without a trace (not coincidentally) which is the 147th anniversary of Louis Riel’s birthday. 

  • Throughout the years 1990 - 2013, the Bell of Batoche makes several public appearances (unbeknownst to media outlets and travel companions, including former Prime Minister Joe Clark) now known by her given name Marie Antoinette. These appearances are revealed at a later date.

  • July 20th 2013 Marie Antoinette, the Bell of Batoche returns to public life at the Back to Batoche Days. She is presented to Monseigneur Albert Thevenot during a historical mass.

  • After a 23 year journey, BillyJo DeLaRonde proudly identifies himself as the Keeper of the Bell.

This epic story was presented to us by the Keeper of the Bell at the Metis AGM, and was one of the first interactive experiences that I’ve ever really had with my own history. It was moving for the entire crowd of people to have a physical representation of our heritage in the same room with us, and there was a lot of emotion in the room as the veterans first approached the bell to ring it, and the elders as well.  Laura, Loryn and I were fortunate enough to find ourselves with an opportunity to also ring the bell and take a photo with it, with the addition to our party of William Lindsey, the director of the SFU Office of Aboriginal Peoples.

By the end of evening, we had all thoroughly enjoyed our meals and the company of the other attendees, and headed home with open hearts and satisfied minds about our experience. It was another excellent year for the Metis Nation of BC, and despite opposition as any organization ever will, we head into another year of strength, determination, and resilience. The Metis people are a proud and successful people, and I feel proud to be a member.

SFU Alumni
visibility  90
Nov 12, 2013

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