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The Siege of Fort Pitt

“I want you all to get off without bloodshed… the young men are wild and hard to keep in hand.”
- Big Bear, Plains Cree Chief

Sketch of the attack on Fort Pitt, Saskatchewan As with the Sacking of Fort Battleford and the Frog Lake Massacre, the Siege of Fort Pitt was instigated by the Métis revolt at Duck Lake that began the Northwest Resistance. Fort Pitt was the closest fort to Frog Lake, in the heart of a volatile region where both the First Nations and Métis were in a state of unrest. Cree warriors had been pillaging towns since April 2, 1885, and it was only a matter of time before they captured Fort Pitt. The fort — having been built primarily for trade — offered very little protection against attack, leaving the traders and North West Mounted Police extremely vulnerable.

On April 15, the Cree warriors led by Wandering Spirit (Kapapamahchakwew) travelled to Fort Pitt. There they set up camp and were soon joined by Big Bear and the rest of their band. The warriors intercepted a North West Mounted Police scouting party, killing a constable, wounding another, and capturing a third. Surrounded and outnumbered 200 to 20, garrison commander Francis Jeffrey Dickens agreed to negotiate with the warriors.

Big Bear argued that they should spare the traders and families from any harm. Wandering Spirit threatened to kill the men in the fort, but also told them that "we want you to get your wife and children out of the way of danger."

Big Bear helped them come to an agreement letting the forty-four Fort Pitt civilians go. The civilians were then taken to the camp and kept safely as prisoners by the Cree families. Big Bear then gave the Mounted Police time to abandon the fort before it was sacked and burned.

Over at Fort Battleford, scouts gave a false report that everyone at Fort Pitt had been massacred. After six days travel on the river Inspector Dickens and his men arrived at Battleford where they were greeted with a hero’s welcome.

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