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Bell of Batoche to appear in Winnipeg Monday

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The famous Bell of Batoche will appear again in Winnipeg on Louis Riel Day.

The event is part of the 2014 Festival du Voyageur, festival organizers confirmed today. This year’s program includes a reference to the presentation, to be held at the St. Boniface Museum.

The museum will be open that day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. but so far organizers have not said exactly what time the bell will be on display.

The St. Boniface Museum has for some months been the relic’s new home and museum directors had promised to make a more formal presentation for it, but had yet to chose the time or the place.

Now the time and place are fixed, said festival director of marketing Irina Ivanov Bissonnette.

"The Bell of Batoche has been at the museum for a while now but they wanted to bring it back (before the public)," the festival spokeswoman said. "The museum wanted to collaborate with us and Louis Riel Day is an important day for us," she said.

The history of the bell is a long and complicated one and it is bound up with Louis Riel’s life and his last stand for Métis rights.

Installed in the steeple of the church in 1884, the bell was removed and taken as a trophy of war by Canadian troops following the Battle of Batoche -- the final battle of the Northwest Rebellion -- in 1885.

After decades of being unaccounted for, the bell resurfaced in a fire station in Millbrook, Ont., in 1930, only to sustain serious damage in a fire a year later.

The Royal Canadian Legion in Millbrook took over ownership of the bell after the fire and it remained in a display case until 1991, the year it vanished from the public eye.

In the last few years, various Métis leaders including Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand have begun to speak publicly about the bell and the stories that have swirled around it since it’s last disappearance.

Bragging rights for who really returned the bell to the Métis has become an cottage industry itself, with contradictory accounts surfacing from several sources. Most agree that the bell has been safely in Manitoba, where it was quietly given to the Union Nationale Metisse Saint-Joseph du Manitoba (UNMSJM).

The province declared the third Monday in February Louis Riel Day to pay tribute to the political and spiritual leader of the Métis, one of three aboriginal peoples in Canada. Many consider Riel the founding father of Manitoba. This year, Louis Riel Day falls on Feb. 17.

History

Updated on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 5:04 PM CST: Tweaks headline, details about appearance.

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