Famous Bell Gets Riel Day Showing

By Paul, Alexandra | Winnipeg Free Press, February 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

Famous Bell Gets Riel Day Showing


Paul, Alexandra, Winnipeg Free Press


THE Bell of Batoche will be on public display at the St. Boniface Museum on Louis Riel Day as part of the 2014 Festival du Voyageur.

The museum is open on the Monday holiday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and executive director Philippe Mailhot said he'll be there to tell the bell's story.

"For some people, it's like the Stanley Cup," he said. "They'll take their selfies with the bell in the background. It's an interesting phenomenon."

The museum plans a variety of Metis-related events Monday, and it's no big deal for the bell to be on display, Mailhot said.

Secrecy has been a big part of the bell's history since it was taken as a trophy by Canadian soldiers after the Battle at Batoche in 1885.

The St. Boniface Museum has been the bell's home since last summer after it was unveiled publicly for the first time in decades at a special parish mass in Batoche, Sask.

The province declared the third Monday in February Louis Riel Day to pay tribute to the political and spiritual leader of the Metis. Many consider Riel the founding father of Manitoba.

The history of the bell is long and complicated and is bound up with Riel's life and his last stand for Metis rights. Installed in the steeple of the Batoche church in 1884, the bell was removed and taken as a trophy by Canadian troops following the final battle of the Northwest Rebellion in 1885. After disappearing for decades, the bell resurfaced in a fire station in Millbrook, Ont., in 1930 but was badly damaged in a fire a year later.

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

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