The Batoche Diary

The Batoche Diary is one of four journals kept by Louis Riel between June 1884 and October 1885. The Batoche Diary focuses on the six weeks leading up to the Battle of Batoche from 9 to 12 May 1885.

View an English Translation of Excerpts from the Batoche Diary (2 to 8 May 1885)

Physical Description of the Batoche Diary

In the weeks before the Battle of Batoche, Louis Riel kept his diary in an account ledger book measuring 33 X 22 cm. Entries were made with red and black ink or pencil. The journal's first entry relates Bishop Grandin's visit to St. Laurent on 1 September 1884. The second entry, separated from the earlier item by several horizontal lines, discusses the Battle of Duck Lake on 26 March 1885. The first 57 pages of the account ledger contain consecutive entries. Entries for 9 and 10 May 1885 were made in the back of the ledger, separated from the rest of the text by over two hundred pages. Riel's journals were all kept in French with occassional passages in English or Latin.

History of the Batoche Diary

Following the defeat of the Métis at Batoche in May 1885, Riel's diary was taken by Major George Holmes Young of the Winnipeg Field Battery. Young packaged the journal with papers found in the Métis council chamber and passed them on to his immediate commander, Major Edward Jarvis. Jarvis sent the papers and the journal to Prince Albert from where they were to go on to Ottawa. In Prince Albert, however, the diary was separated from the rest of the papers. It was temporarily held by Joseph Dudley Hanafin (formerly of the NWMP) and Alexander Stewart (a local merchant). Stewart translated parts of the diary into English and in July 1885 excerpts began to appear in English and French newspapers. When he left Prince Albert for Winnipeg, Jarvis took the Batoche Diary with him. From the time of Jarvis' death in 1895 to 1970, the location of the Batoche Diary is unknown.

After being 'lost' for over three-quarters of a century, the Batoche reappeared in 1970 in the possession of Eric Wells, a former editor of the Winnipeg Tribune. Stating that he was acting on behalf of the owner (whose identity he refused to divulge), Wells offered to sell the diary to the Provincial Archives of Manitoba (PAM) on 6 April. Afraid that their title might not be legally secure because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the diary, PAM declined Wells' offer. Wells then placed the diary in the Montreal Book Auctions. On 22 April 1971, after 2 minutes of bidding, the Batoche Diary sold for $26,500. It was bought by a group of private individuals led by two prominent Metis -- Gene Rhéaume and Gordon Hornby.

Between 1971 and 1984, Louis Riel's diary was stored in a bank vault in Edmonton as collateral against the loan used to purchase it. Then following two years of negotiations, the journal was sold to the Saskatchewan government for $75,000 in winter of 1984. It is now housed by the Saskatchewan Archives in Regina.

Update January 2016: According to the book Through an Unknown Country: The Jarvis - Hanington Winter Expedition Through the Northern Rockies, 1874 – 1875 the Riel diary had ended up in the possession of Edward Jarvis and not forwarded on to Ottawa for the trial. The Diary then ended up at the Alloway and Champion Bank in Winnipeg, along with Jarvis’s diaries, “possibly in a safety deposit box or in the personal care of the two bankers, who were Jarvis’s executors. Following Jarvis’s death, Henry Champion wound up his estate but did not forward the diaries to his family” (p.195). Years later a young accountant was permitted to keep an old roll top desk from the basement of the bank and the diary was found behind one of its drawers.

Murtha, Mike and Charles Helm. Through an Unknown Country: The Jarvis - Hanington Winter Expedition Through the Northern Rockies, 1874 – 1875. Victoria, BC.: Rocky Mountain Books, 2015.

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