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The Sacking of Fort Battleford

Given the government’s refusal to negotiate with its disaffected citizens, the people of the northwest plains experienced a period of growing unrest in the late 1870s and early 1880s. Then, on March 26, 1885, the Métis, under the leadership of Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, defeated a group of North West Mounted Police and volunteers at the Battle of Duck Lake, initiating a series of events known as the Northwest Resistance.

Support for Riel and his cause was strong among the First Nations people. Once the Resistance began, many people across the plains became even more dissatisfied and restless, and some were anxious to join Riel and his forces.

Encouraged by the victory at Duck Lake, Nakoda (Assiniboine or Stoney) men south of Battleford killed their farming instructor and a settler on March 30, 1885. They then joined members of Poundmaker (Pitikwahanapiwiyin)’s and Little Pine (Minahikosis)’s bands, traveling to Battleford in the hope of receiving food from the Indian agent there. The residents of the town of Battleford and surrounding area feared the worst, and decided to move into nearby Fort Battleford for protection.

When the Cree and Nakoda arrived, the town was deserted and the fort was overflowing with more than four hundred people. Indian Agent John M. Rae refused to come out of the fort and grant the people’s request for food. Poundmaker and Little Pine could not stop the young warriors from pillaging the deserted town and loading provisions into carts.

The following day, the Cree and Nakoda moved west to Poundmaker’s reserve east of Cutknife Creek, where they established a large camp. Terrified, the settlers remained in self-imposed exile in Fort Battleford for nearly a month.

Christensen, Deanna. Ahtahkakoop: The Epic Account of a Plains Cree Head Chief, His People, and Their Struggle for Survival, 1816-1896. Shell Lake: Ahtahkakoop Publishing, 2000.
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