North-West Rebellion (1885 and after)
The events of 1885 have been studied repeatedly and in great depth.
The dominant society tends to ask, "How did this happen?" while the
Métis people ask "How do we go on from here?" The following chronology
is based on a presentation from the University of Saskatchewan, which
archives hold many of the primary records of the events. Remember that
St. Laurent had been a community with a priest for 18 years, with an
organized community government for twelve years, and had, along with
surrounding communities of First Nations, Métis and settlers, sent many
petitions to Ottawa for action on the issues of land title and hunger.
Most of the Métis petitions had been sent through the agency of the
In 1884, only swift action by members of the fur trade community and
the NWMP prevented a full scale uprising by the First Nations. Bands
from north-eastern Alberta and north-western Saskatchewan had gathered
for a Sun-Dance, and their chiefs had met together with Louis Riel. They
decided not to join with him at that time. What the chiefs wanted was a
simple recognition by the Chief Commissioner of Indian Affairs that they
were living in a state of famine, which would have facilitated the
application of the "famine clause". Events came to a head when the NWMP
interrupted a ceremony to arrest a man who had stolen food.
Riel had sent tobacco to all the bands in Saskatchewan and Alberta,
asking for their support for the Metis grievances. Although some of the
bands did take action at the same time as the St. Laurent people, only
the bands directly connected, geographically, with St. Laurent were
directly allied with them.
Formal action began 24 March 1884, when the South Branch Métis held a
meeting in Batoche to discuss grievances. The thirty representatives
voted to invite Louis Riel back to act as political advisor and leader.
On 6 May 1884, at a joint meeting, the South Branch Métis and English
half-breeds passed several resolutions specifying grievances and adopted
a motion to seek Louis Riel's assistance. They followed their motion up
on 18 May 1884, when the Métis delegation left Batoche for Montana to
solicit Louis Riel's aid. The Métis delegation arrived in St. Peter's
Mission, in Montana on the 4-5 June 1884. Riel agreed to return with
them to Saskatchewan. By 5 July 1884, the delegation with Riel arrived
back at Tourond's Coulee (Fish Creek), North-West Territories. They
began meeting and formulating policy. On 28 July 1884, William H.
Jackson acting as secretary, issued a manifesto of the grievances and
objectives of the Settlers' Union. By 16 December 1884, Louis Riel had
prepared and sent a petition to the Secretary of State outlining Métis
grievances and demands.
On 28 January 1885, John A. Macdonald's cabinet authorized the
creation of a three-person commission to review and settle Métis and
Half-breed claims in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, but
apparently did not notify the federal people out west. On 5 March 1885,
Louis Riel and a group of prominent Métis held a secret meeting. They
signed an oath to "save our country from a wicked government by taking
up arms if necessary." They were prepared to take whatever action was
necessary. On18 March 1885, the Métis seized control of St. Anthony's
Church, took hostages and cut the telegraph lines at Clarke's Crossing.
By 19 March 1885, they had formed the ministry and the army of the
Provisional Government of Saskatchewan. On 21 March 1885, the
Provisional Government formally demanded the North-West Mounted Police
surrender Fort Carlton.
In response, on 22 March 1885, the English Half-Breeds of St.
Catherine's and the Ridge voted to remain neutral in the event of armed
conflict. Farther afield, on 22 March 1885, the Winnipeg Militia was
ordered to a state of readiness and Major-General Frederick Dobson
Middleton was given command of the troops.
When a provisional government was declared in 1885, Dumont was named
"adjutant general of the Metis people." He proved himself an able
commander and his tiny army experienced some success against government
forces at Duck Lake and Fish Creek. On 26 March 1885, responding to a
rumour that the Mounted Police were moving out, the Métis force under
Gabriel Dumont engaged in an unplanned skirmish with Superintendent L.F.
Crozier's Mounted Police and volunteers at Duck Lake. The Police were
taken unawares and completely routed.
Rivalry and Union(1821)/Seven Oaks
Trade at Red River
Provisional Government (1869-1870)
Manitoba Act and Scrip
Post 1886: Rupture and Drift
Political Agitation (1870s and 1880s)
North-West Rebellion (1885 and after)