Contemporary lithograph of the Battle of Fish Creek.
|Dominion of Canada||Provisional Government of Saskatchewan
William Dillon Otter
Thomas Bland Strange
|5,000 volunteers and militia
|Casualties and losses|
26 captured
9-12 wounded
The North-West Rebellion (or the North-West Resistance or Saskatchewan Rebellion) of 1885 was a brief and unsuccessful uprising by the Mtis people of the District of Saskatchewan under Louis Riel against the Dominion of Canada, which they believed had failed to address their concerns for the survival of their people. Despite some early victories at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, the rebellion resulted in the destruction of numerous Mtis and allied Aboriginal forces, and the hanging of Louis Riel. Tensions between French Canada and English Canada increased for some time. Due to the role that the Canadian Pacific Railway played in transporting troops, political support increased and the legislature authorized funds to complete the nation's first transcontinental railway.
After the Red River Rebellion of 1869-1870, many of the Mtis moved from Manitoba to Saskatchewan, then part of the Northwest Territories, where they founded a settlement at Batoche on the South Saskatchewan River. However,in Manitoba settlers from Ontario began to arrive. They pushed for land to be allotted in the square concession system of English Canada, rather than the seigneurial system of strips reaching back from a river which the Mtis were familiar with in their French-Canadian culture. In addition, the Mtis and First Nations were alarmed that the buffalo were being hunted to extinction by the Hudson's Bay Company and other hunters, as for generations the Mtis had depended on them as a chief source of food.
In 1884 the Mtis (including the Anglo-Mtis) 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. The government gave a vague response. In March 1885, Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Honor 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 Mtis 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) 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. Thus, widespread dissatisfaction with the treaties and rampant poverty spurred Big Bear, Chief of the Plains Cree First Nation, 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 Mtis). When Cree initiated violence broke out in the spring of 1885, it was almost certainly unrelated to the revolt of Riel and the Mtis (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. Although he quietly signaled 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 territory, publicly claimed that the Cree and the Mtis had joined forces.
For Riel and the Mtis, 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-Mtis 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.
|First Nations– Inuit– Mtis
This article is part of a series
On March 26, 1885, 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. In response, the federal government sent Major General Frederick Middleton in command of 3,000 troops to the area, where Middleton incorporated the mostly 2,000 English-Canadian volunteers and NWMP.
On March 30, 1885, a raiding party of Cree people, short of food due to declining bison populations, approached Battleford. The white inhabitants fled to the nearby Northwest Mounted Police post, Fort Battleford. The Crees then took food and supplies from the abandoned stores and houses. In an argument, an Indian Agent named Rae was shot and killed.
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 by the Canadian government and by the dwindling buffalo population, their main source of food, Big Bear and his Cree decided to rebel after the successful Mtis 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 nine and taking three captive.
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.
On 24 April 1885 at Fish Creek, Saskatchewan, there was a major Mtis victory over government forces attempting to quell the rebellion. The reversal, though not decisive enough to alter the outcome of the war, halted Major General Frederick Middleton's advance on Batoche. That was where the Mtis would later make their final stand.
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.
On May 9, 1885, Middleton attacked Batoche itself. The greatly outnumbered Mtis ran out of ammunition after three days of battle and siege. In the end, the Mtis 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 region of the United States.
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.
Demoralized, defenceless, and with no hope of relief after the surrender of the Mtis and Poundmaker, most of the Cree surrendered over the next few weeks. Big Bear surrendered after a chase by the Mounties and after running out of food. 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. Riel was tried and hanged as well, sparking a national controversy between French and British Canada.
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 Territory. 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 Northwest Territories election of 1885. The Scrip Commission was dispatched to the Saskatchewan Valley to address the issue of Mtis land claims.
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 Resistance is an excellent opportunity to tell the story of the prairie Mtis and First Nations peoples' struggle with Government forces and how it has shaped Canada today."
Batoche, where a Mtis 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, Garipy's crossing, Batoche crossing, St. Antoine de Padoue Church, Mtis rifle pits, and RNWMP battle camp.
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. The Prince Albert blockhouse was employed by the Royal Northwest Mounted Police on evacuating from Fort Carlton after the first fire. 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. 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 coule des Tourond , Madame Tourond–s home, early Red River cart Fish Creek Trail and the site of Middleton–s camp and graveyard.
The Marr Residence is a municipal heritage property of Saskatoon which served as a field hospital for wounded soldiers of the rebellion. 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. 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. 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. Frenchman Butte is a National Historic Site of Canada, which locates the theatre of the 1885 battle staged between Cree and Canadian troops.
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. 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. 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 hung November 16, 1885. The RCMP Heritage Centre, in Regina, opened in May 2007. The Mtis brought his body to Saint-Vital,his mother's home, now the Riel House National Historic Site, and then interred at the Saint-Boniface Basillica in Manitoba, his birthplace, for burial. 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.
This article is based on one or more articles in Wikipedia, with modifications and additional content contributed by
Connexions editors. This article, and any information from Wikipedia, is covered by a
Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA) and the
GNU Free Documentation
We welcome your help in improving and expanding the content of Connexipedia articles, and in correcting errors. Connexipedia is not a wiki: please contact Connexions by email if you wish to contribute. We are also looking for contributors interested in writing articles on topics, persons, events and organizations related to social justice and the history of social change movements.
For more information contact Connexions