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
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.
Feature Article: "Indian Fall: The Fall of Fort Pitt"
In this excerpt from D’Arcy Jenish’s Indian Fall: The Last Great Days of the Plains Cree and the
Blackfoot Confederacy by Viking Publishers, the author describes the fall of Fort Pitt at the hands
of Big Bear’s warriors under Wandering Spirit. READ MORE…