I watched as the smoke danced and swirled towards the ceiling. He replied, “Well my girl, I know all about the bell of Batoche I even know where it is!” Grandpa took a sip of his hot coffee and his gaze was lost somewhere deep in the past of when he was a young boy asking his grandmother about the bell of Batoche, and he began his story…Lisez l’histoire de Lindsay Halcro
I chose to write a short story on the bell of Batoche because I know the story very well. I also have plenty of resources to research the facts. My grandpa told my mom plenty of times about the bell of Batoche, she knew the story by heart. I also have personal articles documenting our ancestors from Jean Baptiste Boucher Sr. My great-great-grandfather whom was one of Louis Riel’s captains of ten. The articles are written on a type writer and contain much more information than I could find on the internet. The history books are also a more reliable source. Batoche is also close to home for me. It was a piece of history that was taught to us a lot throughout school because it is rich in history and has important political value. I chose to write about my grandpa telling me the story of the missing bell of Batoche because my grandpa was a National Métis Senator, John B. Boucher C.M. enjoyed sharing his Métis knowledge and heritage with anyone who was interested. I do remember a few times he has told me the story of the bell of Batoche. My grandpa always shared stories with me while I was growing up. It only seemed fitting to have him telling the story as he had told the story many times to anybody that was interested, it was his passion.
I took a sip from my tall glass of cold milk as I washed down the last bit of a maple cookie. Grandpa was still eating his maple cookie as he asked me, “What kind of story would you like to hear about today, Mia?” I smiled as I remembered how many times Grandpa had told me the story of how I got my nickname Mia. I remembered one story I heard only a few times when I was younger, a story about a missing bell of Batoche, I never understood the importance of this story when I was younger. “Grandpa, what is the missing bell of Batoche?” Grandpa took out a cigarette and held his lighter to it until the flame burnt the end, causing it to glow a strong orange as he inhaled the cigarette. I watched as the smoke danced and swirled towards the ceiling. He replied, “Well my girl, I know all about the bell of Batoche I even know where it is!” Grandpa took a sip of his hot coffee and his gaze was lost somewhere deep in the past of when he was a young boy asking his grandmother about the bell of Batoche, and he began his story…
“Marie-Antoinette, rumoured to be as beautiful as the stars on a cloudy night, she stands 30 centimeters in height, and weighs 20 pounds. The silver church bell was made in Spain, it was purchased in 1884 to hang on the church of Batoche. The bell could not be hung in a church without being baptized first. Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin baptized the bell September 2, 1884. The Marie-Antoinette was hung high in the St.Antoinede Padoue Parish Church. The bell rang clear as day to announce masses, funerals and weddings. The parishioners enjoyed the addition of the bell.
The government of Canada was not responding to the Métis’ land claims. The Métis were afraid they would have to leave their land to make room for the new settlers again. The Métis were angered, as the government had already lured them out of Manitoba for the same reasons, to make room for the settlers. Louis Riel held that the Métis should stand their ground and protect what is theirs. Riel and the Métis disobeyed the government and stayed on their land. A group of soldiers from Millbrook, Ontario lead by General Frederick Middleton came to Saskatchewan to chase the Métis off their land, as ordered by Sir John A. Macdonald.
The Métis wanted to stand up to the government and keep their land. The Métis chose Louis Riel to lead them into their endeavors. Louis Riel gathered a group of men to fight their government to protect their land. The Métis fought against the Millbrook soldiers. Gabriel Dumont was named commander of the military strategy. Dumont had knowledge of military strategy of war on the plains. He possessed characteristics of being brave and courageous. Dumont also had many previous occasions of handling fire arms. Dumont was aggressive and wanted to attack Fort Carlton and Prince Albert to seize ammunition. Riel’s strategy was to wait to be attacked first, instead of making the first move. Many lives were saved because of Riel’s strategy
The armed resistance against the Canadian government began May 9, 1885. Middleton and his men were supplied with the best arms, ammunition, and food by the government. Gabriel Dumont knew his men could not hold out much longer, as they were running low on food and ammunition . Once the Métis women realized the Millbrook soldiers were winning they began to grow more worried for their lives, as well as their kid’s lives. The families in the longhouses ran out of food but they feared going outside and being shot at as soon as they went outside. The women devised a plan to send the least aboriginal looking women outside to ask General Middleton if the woman and children could flee without being attacked. They sent out my grandmother Marya Boucher to speak to Middleton. Middleton gave Boucher his word that the women and children would not be fired upon. Boucher brought word back to the longhouses, and without delay the women and children fled Batoche.
As the battle continued the men became tired and weak, they had no more ammunition, or food. Dumont’s men were forced to retreat and run for their lives. Middleton had 8 dead and 46 wounded, while Dumont had 12 dead, and 3 wounded men. The armed resistance against the Canadian government was unsuccessful. The battle of Batoche lasted 4 days, until May 12, 1885.
During the night of May 12, 1885 one of Batoche’s most prized pieces had disappeared. The bell that rang so clearly to announce the church’s events had been stolen. Marya Boucher saw the Millbrook soldiers hide the bell in the river They went back and grabbed it later that night from the hiding spot. The soldiers from Millbrook, Ontario took the silver bell back home as a trophy of victory. The bell was hung in the Millbrook fire hall for about 70 years, then it was placed on display at the Royal Canadian Legion during the 1980′s. The Métis people were extremely angered as the bell rightfully belonged to the Métis, not to some thieves. The Métis tried to reason with the people of Millbrook but the descendants of the 1885 veterans refused to compromise. In October 1991, at the hall of Millbrook branch of the Royal Canadian Legion there was a break and enter, the bell was stolen. The bell of Batoche that stands 30 centimeters tall has not been seen by the public since. The Métis who stole it are considered to be anonymous heroes to us. They stole back our iconic silver bell.”
Grandpa stopped and took a sip of his coffee. I stared into his brown eyes to see his gaze leave from the past. I asked him, “Where is the bell now?” Grandpa smiled mischievously and let out a chuckle under his breathe, “I made a promise to a friend of mine to take the secret of where the bell is hidden to the grave. It is not right for a National Métis Senator to betray my people.” My grandfather never did reveal to me the whereabouts of the bell of Batoche, but he did claim to know where it was. He kept his promise to his friend and took it to the grave, without telling a single soul.