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Taking the West
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Taking the West
1873-1896




Shortly after Confederation, Canada turns its eyes to its western frontier. Faced with a vast territory and a weak pocketbook, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald tries to settle the Prairie without bloodshed. For a while, peace, order prevail and Plains Indians watch their way of life change forever. But frustration grows on the land. Métis leader Louis Riel returns from exile and sparks a bloody chapter in Canadian history: The North West Rebellion.
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Building A Nation
Prime Minister John A. Macdonald implemented The National Policy to help draw Canada out of an economic depression during the 1870s. Shortly after Confederation, an economic crisis forces Canada to adopt a new national vision and turn its attention to its vast, sparsely settled west.
A Native Tragedy
Settling the Canadian West marks the end of an era for the Plains Indians. Weakened by the whiskey trade and facing starvation after the slaughter of the buffalo herds, natives see little choice but to sign treaties with the white man. A Blackfoot chief named Crowfoot had fought many battles. But alcoholism among his people in the late 1800s was an enemy he said he could not defeat. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Pioneers Head West
The North West Mounted Police was formed in 1873 to bring Canadian law and order to the immense Northwest Territory - present-day Alberta and Saskatchewan. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada) Canada brings peace and order to the West before a flood of pioneers journey to the frontier. But settlers still face a harsh, lonely life on the Canadian Prairie.
The North West Rebellion
In the early 1880s, dissent grows on the Canadian Prairie. When Louis Riel returns from exile, he sparks a bloody chapter in Canadian history: The North West Rebellion. In June 1884, Chief Big Bear organized what was probably the largest gathering of Cree in history to try to force Ottawa to live up to its treaty promises. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
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