North-West Rebellion

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North-West Rebellion
Battle of Batoche Print by Seargent Grundy.jpg
Contemporary lithograph of the Battle of Batoche
Date March 26 – May 12, 1885
Location Present-day Saskatchewan, Canada
Result Canadian victory;
Belligerents
Canadian Red Ensign 1868-1921.svg Canada Flag of the provisional government of saskatchewan.jpg Provisional Government of Saskatchewan (Métis)
CreeAssiniboine
Commanders and leaders
Leif Crozier
Frederick Middleton
John Wimburn Laurie
William Dillon Otter
Thomas Bland Strange
Sam Steele
Francis Dickens (son of novelist Charles Dickens)
Big Bear
Fine Day
Gabriel Dumont
Louis Riel
Wandering Spirit
Strength
5,000 volunteers and militia[1]
500 NWMP[1][2]
280 Métis[3]
250 Cree–Assiniboine
Casualties and losses
38 dead[4]
141 wounded[4]
11 civilians killed[5]
33 Métis dead[4][6]
48 Métis wounded[4][6]
10–17 Cree dead
78–103 Cree wounded
Total (Military):
43–50 dead
126–151 wounded
The District of Saskatchewan in 1885 (within the black diamonds) included the central section of Saskatchewan and extended into Alberta and Manitoba.
The Métis conflict area is circled in black.

The North-West Rebellion (or the North-West Resistance, Saskatchewan Rebellion, Northwest Uprising, or Second Riel Rebellion) of 1885 was a brief and unsuccessful uprising by the Métis people of the District of Saskatchewan under Louis Riel against the government of Canada. During a time of great social change in Western Canada, the Métis believed that the Canadians had failed to address the protection of their rights, their land and their survival as a distinct people. Despite some notable early victories at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, the rebellion ended when the Métis were defeated at the siege of Batoche, Saskatchewan, the eventual scattering of their allied Aboriginal forces and the trial and hanging of Louis Riel. Tensions between French Canada and English Canada increased for some time.[7][8] Due to the role that the Canadian Pacific Railway played in transporting troops, political support for it increased and Parliament authorized funds to complete the country's first transcontinental railway.

Background[edit]

After the Red River Rebellion of 1869–1870, many of the Métis moved from Manitoba to the Fort Carlton region of the Northwest Territories, where they founded the Southbranch settlements of Fish Creek, Batoche, St. Laurent, St. Louis, and Duck Lake on or near the South Saskatchewan River.[9][10] In 1882, surveyors began dividing the land of the newly formed District of Saskatchewan in the square concession system. The Métis lands were laid out in the seigneurial system of strips reaching back from a river which the Métis were familiar with in their French-Canadian culture.[7] A year after the survey the 36 families of the parish of St. Louis found that their land and village site that included a church and a school (in Tsp 45 Rge 7 W2 of the Dominion Land Survey) had been sold by the Government of Canada to the Prince Albert Colonization Company.[11][12] Not having clear title the Métis feared losing their land which, now that the buffalo herds were gone,[13] was their primary source of sustenance.[8]

In 1884, the Métis (including the Anglo-Métis) asked Louis Riel to return from the United States, where he had fled after the Red River Rebellion, to appeal to the government on their behalf.[7] The government gave a vague response. In March 1885, Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Honoré Jackson (a.k.a. Will Jackson), and others set up the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan, believing that they could influence the federal government in the same way as they had in 1869.

The role of aboriginal peoples prior to — and during — the outbreak of the rebellion is often misunderstood. A number of factors have created the misconception that the Cree and Métis were acting in unison. By the end of the 1870s, the stage was set for discontent among the aboriginal people of the prairies: the bison population was in serious decline (creating enormous economic difficulties)[14] and, in an attempt to assert control over aboriginal settlement, the federal government often violated the terms of the treaties it had signed during the latter part of the decade.[15] Thus, widespread dissatisfaction with the treaties and rampant poverty spurred Big Bear, a Cree chief, to embark on a diplomatic campaign to renegotiate the terms of the treaties (the timing of this campaign happened to coincide with an increased sense of frustration among the Métis).[16] When the Cree initiated violence in the spring of 1885, it was almost certainly unrelated to the revolt of Riel and the Métis (which was already underway). In both the Frog Lake Massacre and the Siege of Fort Battleford, small dissident groups of Cree men revolted against the authority of Big Bear and Poundmaker.[17] Although he quietly signalled to Ottawa that these two incidents were the result of desperate and starving people and were, as such, unrelated to the rebellion, Edgar Dewdney, the lieutenant-governor of the territories, publicly claimed that the Cree and the Métis had joined forces.[18]

For Riel and the Métis, several factors had changed since the Red River Rebellion. The railway had been completed across the prairies in 1883, though sections were still under construction north of Lake Superior, making it easier for the government to get troops into the area. In addition, the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) had been created, developing an armed local force. Riel lacked support from English settlers of the area as well as many of the non-Métis natives. Riel's belief that God had sent him back to Canada as a prophet caused the Catholic Church to withdraw its support for his actions. The Catholic priest, Albert Lacombe, worked to obtain assurances from Crowfoot that his Blackfoot warriors would not participate in a rebellion.[19]

Demographics[edit]

The District of Saskatchewan, part of the Northwest Territories in 1885, was divided into three sub-districts and had a population of 10,595. To the east, the Carrot River sub-district with 1,770 people remained quiet. The Prince Albert sub-district located in the centre of the district had a population of 5,373 which included the Southbranch settlements with about 1,300. The Southbranch settlement was the centre of Louis Riel's Provisional Government of Saskatchewan during the Rebellion. To the west, where the Cree uprising led by Poundmaker and Big Bear occurred, was the Battleford sub-district with 3,603 people.[10][20]

The largest settlement and the capital of the district was Prince Albert with about 800 people[21] followed by Battleford with about 500 people who were "divided about equally between French, Métis and English".[22]

Conflicts[edit]

Battle of Duck Lake[edit]

Main article: Battle of Duck Lake

On March 26, 1885, the 150 to 200 Métis and Aboriginal warriors under the command of Gabriel Dumont defeated a combined group of 90 Prince Albert Volunteers and North-West Mounted Police led by their superintendent Leif Newry Fitzroy Crozier at Duck Lake, outside Batoche.[23]

In response, the federal government sent Major General Frederick Middleton in command of 3,000 troops to the area, where Middleton incorporated another 2,000, mostly English-Canadian volunteers and 500 North-West Mounted Police into his force.[1]

Looting of Battleford[edit]

Main article: Looting of Battleford

On March 30, 1885, a raiding party of Cree people, short of food due to declining bison populations, approached Battleford. The inhabitants fled to the nearby North-West Mounted Police post, Fort Battleford. The Cree then took food and supplies from the empty stores and houses.[24]

Frog Lake Massacre[edit]

Main article: Frog Lake Massacre

On April 2, 1885, near Frog Lake, Saskatchewan (now in Alberta) a Cree raiding party led by Wandering Spirit attacked a small town. Angered by what seemed to be unfair treaties and the withholding of vital provisions by the Canadian government, and also by the dwindling buffalo population, their main source of food, Big Bear and his Cree decided to rebel after the successful Métis victory at Duck Lake. They gathered all the white settlers in the area into the local church. They killed Thomas Quinn, the town's Indian Agent, after a disagreement broke out. The Cree then attacked the settlers, killing eight more and taking three captive.[5][25][26]

The massacre prompted the Canadian government to take notice of the growing unrest in the North-West Territories. When the rebellion was put down, the government hanged Wandering Spirit, the war chief responsible for the Frog Lake Massacre.

The Battle of Fish Creek
Troops on the march, North West Rebellion, Qu'Appelle Valley, 1885
Batoche battlefield map
The Battle of Batoche begins

Battle of Fort Pitt[edit]

Main article: Battle of Fort Pitt

On April 15, 1885, 200 Cree warriors descended on Fort Pitt. They intercepted a police scouting party, killing a constable, wounding another, and captured a third. Surrounded and outnumbered, garrison commander Francis Dickens (son of novelist Charles Dickens) capitulated and agreed to negotiate with the attackers. Big Bear released the remaining police officers but kept the townspeople as hostages and destroyed the fort. Six days later, Inspector Dickens and his men reached safety at Battleford.[27]

Battle of Fish Creek[edit]

Main article: Battle of Fish Creek

On April 24, 1885, at Fish Creek, Saskatchewan, 200 Métis achieved a remarkable victory over a superior government force numbering 900 soldiers who were sent to quell the rebellion. The reversal, though not decisive enough to alter the outcome of the war, temporarily halted Major General Frederick Middleton's column's advance on Batoche. That was where the Métis would later make their final stand.[28]

Battle of Cut Knife[edit]

Main article: Battle of Cut Knife

On May 2, 1885, the Cree war chief Fine-Day defeated Lieutenant Colonel William Otter at the Battle of Cut Knife near Battleford. Despite their use of a Gatling gun, a flying column of Canadian militia and army regulars, government forces were defeated. Fine-Day was affiliated with the chief Poundmaker. Big Bear would not get involved.[29][30]

Battle of Batoche[edit]

Main article: Battle of Batoche

On May 9, 1885, Middleton attacked Batoche itself. The greatly outnumbered Métis ran out of ammunition after three days of battle and siege. In the end, the Métis resorted to firing sharp objects and small rocks from their guns, until they were forced to retreat when Middleton's soldiers advanced in force. Riel surrendered on May 15. Gabriel Dumont and other participants escaped across the border to the Montana Territory of the United States.[31]

Battle of Frenchman's Butte[edit]

On May 28, 1885, Major General Thomas Bland Strange brought an NWMP detachment from Calgary, Alberta, but they were unable to defeat a Cree force under Big Bear who carried the day at Frenchman's Butte at the end of May.[32]

Battle of Loon Lake[edit]

Main article: Battle of Loon Lake

On June 3, 1885, a small detachment of North-West Mounted Police under the command of Major Sam Steele caught up to a band of Cree led by Big Bear who were moving northward after their victory at Frenchman's Butte. The Cree were almost out of ammunition, and were forced to flee after a short exchange of fire and the release of their hostages.[33]

Aftermath[edit]

Métis and First Nation prisoners following the rebellion, August 1885.

Demoralized, defenceless, and with no hope of relief after the surrender of the Métis and Poundmaker, most of the Cree surrendered over the next few weeks. Big Bear was captured near Fort Carlton on an island in the Saskatchewan River about July 1 by the North-West Mounted Police. The government was able to pacify the Cree and Assiniboine by sending them food and other supplies. Poundmaker and Big Bear were sentenced to prison, and eight other Aboriginal leaders were hanged.[34] Riel was tried and hanged as well, sparking a national controversy between French and British Canada.[8]

Riel speaks at his trial, which took place in July 1885 and lasted only five days

The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) played a key role in the government's response to the Rebellion, as it was able to transport federal troops to the area quickly. While it had taken three months to get troops to the Red River Rebellion, the government was able to move forces in nine days by train in response to events in the North-West Territories. The successful operation increased political support for the floundering and incomplete railway, which had been close to financial collapse. The government authorized enough funds to finish the line. Thus, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald was able to realize his National Dream of linking Canada across the continent.

In what is now Saskatchewan, shortly after the fighting, the first modern-style election took place in the North-West Territories election of 1885. The Scrip Commission was dispatched to the District of Saskatchewan to address the issue of Métis land claims.[35][36]

Legacy[edit]

In the spring of 2008, Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Christine Tell proclaimed in Duck Lake, that "the 125th commemoration, in 2010, of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion is an excellent opportunity to tell the story of the prairie Métis and First Nations peoples' struggle with Government forces and how it has shaped Canada today."[37]

Batoche, where a Métis Provisional Government had been formed, has been declared a National Historic Site. Batoche marks the site of Gabriel Dumont's grave site, Albert Caron’s House, Batoche school, Batoche cemetery, Letendre store, Dumont's river crossing, Gariépy's crossing, Batoche crossing, St. Antoine de Padoue Church, Métis rifle pits, and RNWMP battle camp.[38][39]

BATOCHE. In 1872, Xavier Letendre dit Batoche founded a village at this site where Métis freighters crossed the South Saskatchewan River. About 50 families had claimed the river lots in the area by 1884. Widespread anxiety regarding land claims and a changing economy provoked a resistance against the Canadian Government. Here, 300 Métis and Indians led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont fought a force of 800 men commanded by Major-General Middleton between May 9 and 12, 1885. The resistance failed but the battle did not mean the end of the community of Batoche.

Historic Sites and Monuments board of Canada. Government of Canada [40]

Fort Carlton Provincial Historic site has been rebuilt as it had been ravaged by three separate fires. Big Bear (Mistahimaskwa) had used the site in his initial negotiations for Treaty Six in about 1884, and finally, the following year he surrendered here after his engagement at Steele Narrows.[41][42] The Prince Albert blockhouse was employed by the North-West Mounted Police on evacuating from Fort Carlton after the first fire.[43] Duck Lake is home to the Duck Lake Historical Museum and the Duck Lake Regional Interpretive Centre, and murals which reflect the history of the Rebellion in the area. The Battle of Duck Lake, the Duck Lake Massacre, and a buffalo jump are all located here. The "First Shots Cairn" was erected on Saskatchewan Highway 212 as a landmark commemorating the scene of the first shots in the Battle of Duck Lake. The Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine at St. Laurent north of Duck Lake is a local pilgrimage site.[44][45][46][47] The Battle of Fish Creek National Historic Site, the name has been changed to Tourond's Coulee / Fish Creek National Historic Site to preserve the battlefield of April 24, 1885, at la coulée des Tourond , Madame Tourond’s home, early Red River cart Fish Creek Trail and the site of Middleton’s camp and graveyard.[48]

"North West Rebellion - Fish Creek - While General Middleton was moving to capture Batoche his forces were attacked on the 24th April 1885, by the Half-breeds under Gabriel Dumont from concealed rifle pits near the mouth of Fish Creek. The rebels were defeated and driven from the field. Erected 1933."

National Historic Sites and Monuments Board[49]

The Marr Residence is a municipal heritage property of Saskatoon which served as a field hospital for wounded soldiers of the rebellion.[50][51][52] Fort Otter was constructed at Battleford's government house located at the capital of the North-West Territories. Poundmaker was arrested at Fort Battleford and eight first nation men were hung in the aftermath of the Frog Lake Massacre. Fort Battleford has been declared a National Historic site of Canada to commemorate its role as military base of operations for Cut Knife Hill, Fort Pitt, as a refuge for 500 area settlers and its role in the Siege of Battleford.[43][53][54][55] Fort Pitt, the scene of the Battle of Fort Pitt, is a Provincial Park and National Historic site where a National Historic Sites and Monuments plaque designates where Treaty six was signed.[56][57][58] Frog Lake Massacre National Historic Site of Canada, at Frog Lake, Alberta, is the location of the Cree uprising which occurred in the District of Saskatchewan North-west Territories.[59] Frenchman Butte is a National Historic Site of Canada, which locates the theatre of the 1885 battle staged between Cree and Canadian troops.[60][61]

"Cut Knife Battlefield. Named after Chief Cut Knife of the Sarcee in an historic battle with the Cree. On 2nd May 1885, Lt. Col. W. D. Otter led 325 troops composed of North-West Mounted Police, "B" Battery, "C" Company, Foot Guards, Queen's Own and Battleford Rifles, against the Cree and Assiniboine under Poundmaker and Fine Day. After an engagement of six hours, the troops retreated to Battleford."

National Historic Sites and Monuments Board[62]

At Cutknife is the world's largest tomahawk, the Poundmaker Historical Centre and Big Bear monument erected by cairn erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. There is also now, correctly located, a cairn erected upon Cut Knife Hill the look site of the Poundmaker Battle site and Battle River valley.[63][64][65][66] The Narrows between Makwa Lake and

Sanderson Bay, in the Makwa Lake Provincial Park, was the site of the last engagement of the rebellion. Steele Narrows Provincial Historic Park conserves the lookout point of a Cree burial ground.[67][68] The Royal Canadian Mounted Police training depot was established in 1874, and still survives. The RCMP chapel frame building was built in 1885 is still standing which was used to jail Indian prisoners. One of three Territorial Government Buildings remains on Dewdney Avenue in the provincial capital city of Regina which was the site of the Trial of Louis Riel, where the drama the Trial of Louis Riel is still performed. Following the May trial, Louis Riel was hang November 16, 1885. The RCMP Heritage Centre, in Regina, opened in May 2007.[69][70][71] The Métis brought his body to Saint-Vital, his mother's home, now the Riel House National Historic Site, and then interred at the Saint-Boniface Basilica in Manitoba, his birthplace, for burial.[72][73] Highway 11, stretching from Regina to just south of Prince Albert, has been named Louis Riel Trail by the province; the roadway passes near locations of the 1885 rebellion.[74]

In fiction[edit]

  • The novel for young adults called Battle Cry at Batoche, by B. J. Bayle, portrays the events of the North-West Resistance from a Métis person point of view.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Panet, Charles Eugène (1886), Report upon the suppression of the rebellion in the North-West Territories and matters in connection therewith, in 1885: Presented to Parliament., Ottawa: Department of Militia and Defence, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  2. ^ Mulvaney, Charles Pelham (1885), The history of the North-West Rebellion of 1885 (The Troops in the Field), Toronto: A.H. Hovey & Co, p. 422, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  3. ^ Panet, Charles Eugène (1886), Report upon the suppression of the rebellion in the North-West Territories and matters in connection therewith, in 1885: Presented to Parliament.(p.20), Ottawa: Department of Militia and Defence, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  4. ^ a b c d Panet, Charles Eugène (1886), Report upon the suppression of the rebellion in the North-West Territories and matters in connection therewith, in 1885: Presented to Parliament., Ottawa: Department of Militia and Defence, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  5. ^ a b John Chaput (2007). "Frog Lake Massacre". The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. University of Regina and Canadian Plains Research Center. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Mulvaney, Charles Pelham (1885), The history of the North-West Rebellion of 1885 p.327, Toronto: A.H. Hovey & Co, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  7. ^ a b c "North-west resistance". Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina. 2006. Retrieved 2013-09-17. 
  8. ^ a b c "The Quebec History Encyclopedia (North-West Rebellion)". The Quebec History Encyclopedia. Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College. 2007. Retrieved 2013-11-19. 
  9. ^ Henry Thomas McPhillips (1888), McPhillips' alphabetical and business directory of the district of Saskatchewan, N.W.T.: Together with brief historical sketches of Prince Albert, Battleford and the other settlements in the district, 1888 (pages 93-97), Prince Albert, NWT: Henry Thomas McPhillips, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  10. ^ a b "FRENCH AND MÉTIS SETTLEMENTS". Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina. 2006. Retrieved 2013-09-17. 
  11. ^ "North West Rebellion". The Globe (Toronto). 1885-12-26. Retrieved 2013-12-11. 
  12. ^ Richard Cole Harris; Geoffrey J. Matthews; R. Louis Gentilcore (1987). Historical Atlas of Canada: The land transformed, 1800-1891. University of Toronto Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-8020-3447-2. Retrieved 2014-04-10. 
  13. ^ John Elgin Foster; Dick Harrison; I. S. MacLaren (1 January 1992). Buffalo. University of Alberta. pp. 73–74. ISBN 978-0-88864-237-0. 
  14. ^ James Rodger Miller (2000). Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens: A History of Indian-white Relations in Canada. University of Toronto Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-8020-8153-7. 
  15. ^ Miller, J. R. Skyscrapers Hide The Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989. 174.
  16. ^ Friesen, Gerald. The Canadian Prairies: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984. 226.
  17. ^ Miller, J. R. Skyscrapers Hide The Heavens: A History of Indian-White Relations in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989. 182.
  18. ^ Ray, Arthur J. I Have Lived Here Since The World Began: An Illustrated History of Canada's Native People. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2005. 221.
  19. ^ Dempsey, Hugh A. (1957). The Early West. Edmonton: Historical Society of Alberta. p. 21. 
  20. ^ Henry Thomas McPhillips (1888), McPhillips' alphabetical and business directory of the district of Saskatchewan, N.W.T.: Together with brief historical sketches of Prince Albert, Battleford and the other settlements in the district, 1888 (page 23), Prince Albert, NWT: Henry Thomas McPhillips, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  21. ^ Henry Thomas McPhillips (1888), McPhillips' alphabetical and business directory of the district of Saskatchewan, N.W.T.: Together with brief historical sketches of Prince Albert, Battleford and the other settlements in the district, 1888 (p. 65), Prince Albert, NWT: Henry Thomas McPhillips, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  22. ^ Henry Thomas McPhillips (1888), McPhillips' alphabetical and business directory of the district of Saskatchewan, N.W.T.: Together with brief historical sketches of Prince Albert, Battleford and the other settlements in the district, 1888 (p. 53), Prince Albert, NWT: Henry Thomas McPhillips, retrieved 2014-04-10 
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  24. ^ Mulvaney, Charles Pelham (1885), The history of the North-West Rebellion of 1885 (The War Cloud Bursts on Battleford) p.76, Toronto: A.H. Hovey & Co, retrieved 2014-04-10 
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  27. ^ William Bleasdell Cameron (1888), The war trail of Big Bear (The Fall of Fort Pitt), Toronto: Ryerson Press (published 1926) 
  28. ^ Mulvaney, Charles Pelham (1885), The history of the North-West Rebellion of 1885 (The Battle of Fish Creek) p.127, Toronto: A.H. Hovey & Co, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  29. ^ Mulvaney, Charles Pelham (1885), The history of the North-West Rebellion of 1885 (The Battle of Cut Knife Creek) p.156, Toronto: A.H. Hovey & Co, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  30. ^ Panet, Charles Eugène (1886), Report upon the suppression of the rebellion in the North-West Territories and matters in connection therewith, in 1885: Presented to Parliament., Ottawa: Department of Militia and Defence, retrieved 2014-04-10 
  31. ^ Mulvaney, Charles Pelham (1885), The history of the North-West Rebellion of 1885 (The Battle at Batoche's Ferry) p.197, Toronto: A.H. Hovey & Co 
  32. ^ William Bleasdell Cameron (1888), The war trail of Big Bear (The Battle of Frenchman's Butte), Toronto: Ryerson Press (published 1926) 
  33. ^ William Bleasdell Cameron (1888), The war trail of Big Bear (Battle of Loon Lake), Toronto: Ryerson Press (published 1926) 
  34. ^ William Bleasdell Cameron (1888), The war trail of Big Bear (The Indian Trials), Toronto: Ryerson Press (published 1926) 
  35. ^ "Northwest "Half-breed" Scrip". Métis National Council Historical Database. Retrieved 20013-11-212. 
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  75. ^ See http://web.archive.org/web/20091027131214/http://www.geocities.com/jjnevins/pulpsl.html

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]