||The North-West Rebellion
This lesson corresponds to material found in:
Episode 10 Taking the West
In 1884 to 1885, tension was mounting in the Canadian northwest. Métis in Saskatchewan opposed the government's new land divisions. The Natives of the prairies, including the Cree and the Blackfoot, faced certain starvation following the virtual extermination of the buffalo. White settlers saw their concerns ignored by Ottawa. Métis and white settlers invited Louis Riel, in exile with his family in Montana, return to Canada to assist with these problems. Upon his return, he convinced the peoples of Saskatchewan to send a collective petition to Ottawa. Months passed without reply from the Macdonald government. Patience wore thin, and in March 1885, the Revolutionary Bill of Rights was passed outlining ten demands including the Métis land grievances. The Métis organized a provisional government and named Riel as president. On March 26, 1885, a group of Métis under the leadership of Gabriel Dumont encountered a detachment of Northwest Mounted Police at Duck Lake where an exchange of fire left 12 police, five Métis and one Native dead.
The Canadian government responded swiftly by dispatching close to 8,000 men to Alberta and Saskatchewan to bring the revolt to an end. 900 Canadian militiamen, under the command of General Frederick Middleton, arrived at Batoche towards the end of April. On May 12, while Middleton stalled for reinforcements, two of his colonels led their detachments in an assault on Batoche. Riel and his contingent of barely 200 Métis were quickly overrun, and many fled into the woods. Riel surrendered to General Middleton on May 15. His arrest set the stage for one of the most controversial trials in Canadian history.