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Published by Bev Weber
Star Phoenix Special Section on the Rebellion, published summer 2010
Star Phoenix Special Section on the Rebellion, published summer 2010

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Bev Weber on Oct 03, 2010
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Thursday, May 13, 2010 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan TheStarPhoenix.com
A StarPhoenix Special Section
Louis RielChief PoundmakerChief Big Bear
Glenbow Museum Archives — Dumont: PA-2218-1Saskatchewan Archives Board — Dumont: PA-2218-1Riel: S-B8573 Poundmaker: R-A2872-1Militia: R-A446 
Camp life for militia in 1885 during the Northwest Resistance
Northwest Resistance
Province commemorates 125th anniversary
Maj-Gen. Middleton
Thursday, May 13, 2010 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan TheStarPhoenix.com
It was history in the making
By Jason Warick
Senior ReporterThe StarPhoenix
ATOCHE — Jackie Gaudet walksacross the eld once armed by hergreat-great grandparents, Margueriteand Jean Caron, as she discusses their centralrole in the Northwest Resistance 125 yearsago.Gaudet, a 42-year-old Metis mother o three who lives in the Batoche area 70kilometres northeast o Saskatoon, is hopeulthe events taking place across Saskatchewanthis year will serve as a “turning point” orrelations among First Nations, Metis and theprovince’s more recent arrivals.“What does the 125th anniversary mean tome?” she said. “It means reedom — reedomrom the negative eelings I’ve had or years.”In May o 1885, Canadian governmentorces, led by Maj.-Gen. Frederick Middle-ton, arrived in the Batoche area to conrontLouis Riel and his supporters. Middletonsought an open, elevated section o land toestablish a base.The Caron homestead, located just outsidethe village o Batoche on river lot No. 52,was commandeered.The Caron house was leveled and their live-stock butchered to eed the 900 governmentsoldiers. Caron, Dumas and their children fedbehind Metis lines.“Our amily lost everything,” said Gaudet.Caron and his three eldest sons ought inthe Battle o Batoche, a bloody, desperateand eventually losing attempt to assert Metisrights in the area.“It is our region’s Plains o Abraham,” saidDarren Preontaine o the Saskatoon-basedGabriel Dumont Institute, reerring to theamous 1759 British victory over the Frenchnear Quebec City.While the Battle o Batoche remains a keyevent o 1885, there’s much more to the story.It was a year o child starvation, guerillawarare and the largest mass execution inCanadian history — all on the soil o pres-ent-day Saskatchewan. From Duck Lake toBattleord to Cut Knie Hill, 1885 shaped theCanadian prairies.“It is a painul story to tell,” said Saskatche-wan Premier Brad Wall. “But it must be told.”
q q q
 Until recent years, the 1885 narrativeseemed straightorward.A rebellion led by Louis Riel and abettedby chies such as Poundmaker was deeatedby the government orces o Maj.-Gen.Middleton. The story was written by thevictors. Metis and First Nations voices werelargely absent.Today, or many reasons, a more nuancedview is possible. New perspectives have beenrevealed as aboriginal leaders, academicsand the descendants o the combatants, asserttheir versions.For example, the events o 1885 weretraditionally described as a rebellion. Thatterm has rapidly been overtaken by the word“resistance.”“The change has come rom a re-evaluationo history,” said Preontaine, the curriculumdevelopment ocer or the Gabiel DumontInstitute.“Canadian history is maturing.”The Canadian government webpage o theBatoche national historic site now includesboth terms — rebellion and resistance.Premier Brad Wall said last month theSaskatchewan government uses the wordsinterchangably, but he preers “resistance.”A plaque on the Gabriel Dumont statue indowntown Saskatoon describes the “resis-tance.”“We were not rebels,” said Jackie Gaudet.Also, the events o 1885 — while momen-tous — were erroneously depicted as a uni-ed, mass uprising o Metis and First Nationspeople. In reality, the issues raised and battlesought by First Nations at Cut Knie Hill andother locations were largely seperate romthose o the Metis.And the decision to ght was ar romunanimous. Even at Batoche, only 200 Metisand a ew dozen First Nations people withamily ties agreed to ght with Riel. Themajority o First Nations, as well as Metis inother parts o the region, declined.
q q q
The armed conficts o 1885 were years inthe making.In 1870, Riel successully pressured theederal government to recognize Metis claimsin the Red River region, leading to the cre-ation o the province o Manitoba.However, with the arrival o hundreds o Canadian government troops and Europeansettlers, aspirations or a true Metis homelandwould not be realized.Many o these “Red River” Metis movedwest and in 1872 established a settlement onthe bank o the South Saskatchewan River. Itwas named Batoche, ater prominent residentXavier Letendre dit Batoche.Riel was orced into exile in the U.S.During Riel’s time in Red River, he’d over-seen the execution o a prominent opponentin Manitoba, Irish-Canadian Thomas Scott.Riel also had two stays in asylums.Around this time, tens o millions o bualohad been wiped rom the prairie landscape,eliminating the main source o ood or FirstNations and many Metis.First Nations chies entered into treatieswith the Crown. But by the early 1880s, thechies saw the ederal government had nointention o honouring the terms.Federal Indian agents acting under govern-ment orders decreased the promised oodrations to reserves, resulting in mass hungerand starvation. Discontent threatened to eruptin violence across the region.In 1884, in present-day southeast Saskatch-ewan near the town o Grenell, 30 armedwarriors rom the Sakimay band, led by chie Yellow Cal, occupied a ederal warehousein an attempt to secure ood. Violence wasaverted ater extensive negotiation by Chie Louis O’Soup.In the Battleord region, chies petitionedederal ocials at the decrease in ood rationsand the ailure o the government to providethe promised medicine, agricultural tools andother items.
q q q
The Batoche Metis were angry.Upon arriving rom Manitoba, they estab-lished arms along the South Saskatchewanusing the Quebec-style river-lot system.Long, narrow plots ensured riverbank access.However, Metis attempts to obtain landtitles proved unsuccessul. Federal workerssoon arrived and began surveying accordingto the English-Canadian square townshipsystem. The Metis eared loss o their land.White armers in the area were angry at thelack o assistance rom the ederal govern-ment and the decision to build the trans-con-tinental railroad several hundred kilometressouth o them.When peaceul protests and petitionsaccomplished nothing, a council o Metisand disgruntled European armers decided itneeded Riel’s help.In 1884, Gabriel Dumont and three othermen travelled to Montana. They convincedRiel, now a ather o two and a U.S. citizen,to come to Batoche.At rst, Riel enjoyed broad support as hepetitioned the ederal government on behal o area residents. The ederal governmento John A. Macdonald appointed a commis-sion to study the issue, but declined to makeimmediate decisions.On March 19, the Batoche Metis estab-lished a provisional government, with Riel asthe political leader and Dumont its militaryhead. Riel lost most o his European allies ashe took several hostages and began preparingor war.
q q q
 The rst conrontation occurred one week later — on March 26 — in a eld near Duck Lake. A Dumont and Riel-led party clashedwith dozens o North West Mounted Policeand volunteers.An apparent misunderstanding led to therst shot red by “Gentelman” Joe McKay,a railroad engineer working as an interpreteror the North West Mounted Police, said ama-teur historian and area native Dennis Fisher.The dead included 12 police and volunteers,ve Metis and one First Nations man.In the Battleords region, First Nationspeople aced rampant starvation and disease.On March 30, Chie Poundmaker led adelegation to Battleord to ask or assistance.To his surprise, the town was deserted.Hundreds o residents had heard aboutthe Duck Lake battle, as well as the murdero another white man, and eared a generaluprising. They sought reuge in nearby FortBattleord.Poundmaker requested a meeting with ed-eral ocials, but none came out or severaldays. In the interim, some in the party raidedBattleord homes, stealing ood and otheritems.Negotiators eventually emerged andater discussions Poundmaker and his menreturned to their reserve several kilometres tothe west. Although no one was injured andno ghting occurred, it earned the historicdesignation o the “Siege o Battleord.Poundmaker’s intentions and actions havebeen widely misrepresented, said his great-great grand-nephew, Tyrone Tootoosis. Therewas no “siege” o the town o Battleord, hesaid.“I there was a ‘seige mentality’ amongstthe 500 rightened occupants o Fort Bat-tleord, it was due to an irrational distrust andear o the Cree,” said Tootoosis, who servedas researcher and played the lead role in theNational FIlm Board documentary, The Trialo Poundmaker.“Poundmaker had absolutely no interestin joining the Metis Rebellion. He went toBattleord to rearm his loyalty to the Queenand in so doing hoped that his people wouldbe rewarded with extra rations. Upon arrivingthe Cree did not surround Fort Battleord nordid they cut o supplies.”Not all First Nations people were content tonegotiate.On April 2, just across the present dayborder o Saskatchewan and Alberta, ninepeople, including an Indian agent and twopriests, were murdered in the Frog Lakemassacre. Chie Big Bear apparently tried invain to stop his starving and embittered bandmembers, but was later jailed or treason.Tensions rose across Canada as word o thekillings spread. But even beore the incidentsat Frog Lake and even Duck Lake, Middle-ton and his troops had begun the trek romOntario out west.
q q q
 On April 6, Middleton and his 900-strongorce got o the train at Qu’Appelle andbegan the 300-kilometre march north toconront Riel.There were hundreds o other soldiers aswell, but Middleton was orced to send themurther down the rail line to Swit Currentand Calgary, where they walked north toquell what they eared to be a ull-scale warwith Big Bear, Poundmaker and others.From Qu’Appelle, Middleton and his mencovered more than 30 kilometres a day, arriv-ing at Clark’s Crossing 50 kilometres south o Batoche.Ater several days o rest and planning,Middleton began what he likely believedwould be an uneventul advance on Batoche,positioning hal o his orces on each side o the river.One o the scouts or Middleton wasJerome Henry, recalled Henry’s great-grand-son Bob McLeod. But Henry, who McLeoddescribed as a light-skinned Metis, was work-ing as a double agent. Henry secretly spiedor Dumont. He drew maps o Middleton’scamp at Clark’s Crossing and Middleton’sexpected marching route and had it smuggledback behind Metis lines, said McLeod, aSaskatoon man who serves as a director orthe Metis Nation-Saskatchewan.On the morning o April 24, Middleton andhis troops marched along a trail 20 kilometressouth o Batoche at Tourond’s Coulee, alsoknown as Fish Creek.As government troops approached, theywere ambushed by Dumont’s men, whoopened re rom the cover o brush and deepravines.Henry “led Middleton right into FishCreek,” McLeod said.The Metis inficted heavy damage beoreboth sides retreated later that day.The other hal o Middleton’s orceremained helpless on the river’s west bank,getting across on a makeshit erry only aterghting ceased.At least six government soldiers were killedand dozens wounded, while our Metis died.Henry fed Middleton’s camp around thistime. He took reuge behind Metis lines, joining his aher, Joseph Vermette. Bothather and son were wounded in the FishCreek battle. While Henry survived, his atherdied o his injuries several days later, saidMcLeod.The Metis dug rife pits and trenchesaround the town o Batoche, preparing orMiddleton’s inevitable assault.
Many events in 1885 led to this momentous event
Please see History/ 
Page D3
 —SP Photo by Peter Wilson
The largest mass hanging in Canadian history took place in Novem-ber, 1885 when eight First Nations men were tried for murder duringthe Northwest Resistance. They were executed within the wall of thestockade at Battleford. The bodies were buried in a common grave site(above) close to the fort.
 —SP Photo by Gord Waldner
FSIN Vice-Chief Morley Watson signs an elk skin at the Trails 1885 historicalproclamation occasion signing last month
Thursday, May 13, 2010 Saskatoon, Saskatchewan TheStarPhoenix.com
All sides of story told
q q q
Middleton waited more than two weeksbeore moving on Batoche. In the interim,on May 2 just west o Battleord, Lieut.-Col. William Otter attacked members o Poundmaker’s band at Cut Knie Hill.The band’s leader in time o war, Chie Fine Day, routed Otter, who retreated.According to various accounts, Pound-maker stopped the warriors rom pursuingthe eeing troops. Six band members werekilled, compared with eight o Otter’s men.“Poundmaker did everything in hispower as a Peace Chie to prevent blood-shed and in so doing, saved many lives,”Tootoosis said.
q q q
On May 9, Middleton’s orces arrivedat the homestead o skilled carpenter andarmer Jean Caron Sr. and his wie, Mar-guerite, the local midwie. Fearing theMetis would use the now-abandoned Caronhome or cover, ederal troops burned itdown.Middleton established his camp on theirland, constructing a “zareba.” The 12-acreenclosure, a combination o trenches andortifcation o North Arican origin, shel-tered the soldiers, 600 horses, 50 cattle andall the supplies.“It must have been one crowded littlecamp,” Batoche-area resident Ron Jobinsaid recently as he stood on a viewingplatorm.Jobin’s great-great grandather,Joseph, and brother Ambroise oughtor the Metis side.Middleton planned to attack on tworonts during the frst day o fghting.One group would make a direct attack.Another would attempt to travel onthe ortifed steamship Northcote andattack the Metis rom the side andrear.However, when the Metis saw theNorthcote coming, they raced downto the river and lowered a erry cable,decapitating the ship’s smoke stacks. Theboat oated helplessly downshore and outo the battle zone.Middleton’s ground orce was slow toco-ordinate its assault. The Metis had timeto regroup beore engaging Middleton.The day ended in a stalemate, but Metisfghters harassed the government orcesinside the Zareba, fring guns every 10minutes until the ollowing morning.The next two days also saw heavy fght-ing, with neither side gaining signifcantadvantage.According to accounts, some o the Metisfghters were in their 70s and older, whilea number o Middleton’s troops were asyoung as 15.
q q q
 Many o Dumont’s fghters were skilledmarksmen with extensive hunting back-grounds. Many o Middleton’s men werevolunteers or part-time militia memberswith limited training.However, Middleton had an overwhelm-ing advantage o numbers.His orce outnumbered the Metis by aratio o more than three to one. He also hadsuperior frepower and loads o ammuni-tion.Middleton also had A.L. (Gat) Howard onhis side. Howard was an American soldier-o-ortune and arms dealer.Howard’s ancestry in North America canbe traced to 1620, when his relatives arrivedwith other English separatists by sea on theMayower, according to Howard’s great-great grandaughter Gina Sammis.Sammis, who lives in Caliornia, saidHoward got his frst taste o battle as anunderage recruit in the U.S. Civil War.He then spent fve years in the U.S.Cavalry’s “Indian wars.”A machinist by trade, Howard manuac-tured shells and other munitions, owningseveral businesses.In 1885, he oered his services to theCanadian government in the hopes o mar-keting the now-amous Gatling gun.Howard was part-owner o the companymanuacturing the guns — the world’s frstautomatic weapon capable o fring manybullets a second.He travelled with Middleton to Batocheand fred on the Metis orces throughout theBattle o Batoche.“He was a pretty toughguy,” Sammis said.“He was fghtingwars all over theworld, mar-keting theGatlinggun.Heprob-ablyenjoyedbeing a sol-dier.”Howard survivedBatoche unharmed. Hewas killed ater enlisting tofght or Canada in South Arica’s BoerWar in 1901. “He was earless,” she said.
q q q
 By the ourth day o fghting, the Metishad nearly exhausted their ammunition.Howard was to play a key role.Middleton and some o his men were sup-posed to ush the Metis rom their rie pitsand into an open area where the Gatlinggun was positioned to open fre.When the rest o the ederal governmentorces heard the shots, they were supposedto attack rom another side.However, the wind was strong and thesecond group couldn’t hear the shots. Theirattack did not come at the time Middletonhad ordered. Middleton, apparently urious,went back to the Zareba or lunch.However, the Metis had indeed beendrawn out into another area, and the secondgroup easily charged them.By this time, Abroise Jobin and the otherremaining Metis fghters were shootingnails, stones, orks — anything they coulddesperately fnd.“You’ve got to be proud o them,” saidRon Jobin. “They had something to do andthey did it.”Joseph Jobin, Riel, Dumont and othersand others escaped. Ambroise Jobin waswounded on the battlefeld and could notee.Ron Jobin said some o the Metis werebayonetted by government troops in thefnal moments o battle.Hethinkshisgreat-greatuncle mayhave been sparedbecause he spokeEnglish.Ambroise Jobin was takento the Marr residence in Saskatoon, wherehe was one o only two Metis patients inthe a makeshit feld hospital flled withgovernment troops. He died o an inectionbeore the end o the month.He was one o eight resistance fghterskilled.About 22 were injured. More than doublethat number o government fghters died orwere wounded.The Metis resistance had been crushed.Minor incidents took place in the ollow-ing weeks involving First Nations people atplaces such as Frenchman’s Butte and LoonLake, but were o little consequence.Dumont ed to the United States, work-ing in a travelling carnival beore returningto Batoche under a general amnesty.Riel surrendered three days ater theBattle o Batoche and was taken to Reginaor trial. He was ound guilty o treason.Macdonald rejected appeals or mercyand Riel was executed Nov. 16, just daysater Prime Minister John A. Macdonald’snational dream — the transcontinentalrailroad — was completed.On Nov. 27, the six Cree convicted in theFrog Lake Massacre, as well as two FirstNations men convicted o an earlier murder,were hanged at Fort Battleord.It is the largest mass execution in Cana-dian history.Poundmaker and Big Bear also turnedthemselves in and were jailed.For 90 per cent o the Metis who hadproperty destroyed or confscated duringthe battle, such as the Caron amily, nocompensation was awarded, said Gaudet.Many let the Batoche area, attempting tomake yet a resh start in Alberta and otherlocations.For other Metis who did not participate,such as those in other regions, the merchantclass, or those with ties to the ederal Con-servative party — lie went on as beore,Preontaine said.As or First Nations people, they acedcontinued deprivations and harsh rule, suchas the pass system which orced them toobtain permission rom the Indian agent toleave the reserve.“I you were aboriginal, you had to beput in your place — that’s what 1885 wasall about,” said Darren Preontaine o theGabriel Dumont Institute.With the west pacifed and the railroadcomplete, European settlers streamedinto the region which became the prov-ince o Saskatchewan in 1905.
q q q
 For years, the Batoche battlefeldand surrounding areas were treated asany other armland.Dennis Fisher, who lives in Saska-toon, has spent hours combing throughthe dirt and dust and brush.He has amassed more than 1,000artiacts rom the area, includingGatling gun shells, a nine-pound can-non projectile, jacket buttons, wrappersrom some o the government’s 267pounds o tobacco and even pieces o doorknobs rom both Gabriel Dumont’sand Xavier Letendre dit Batoche.Fisher’s basement is a museum, an hom-age to the last war ought on Canadian soil.The retired dratsman has documented thedate and precise location o every fnd.“The kids don’t like it so much,” Fishersaid with a laugh.Today, the battlefeld is part o a nationalhistoric site.The house which was rebuilt by the Caronamily in 1890 and occupied by descen-dants until 1970, has been restored througha partnership between the Gabiel DumontInstitute and the ederal government.The bodies o Ambroise Jobin andanother fghter, Joseph Ouelette, wererecently discovered to have been in theBatoche cemetery.Following a successul undraising cam-paign, a ormal ceremony takes place thisweekend to mark the installation o newheadstones or the men.This summer, events are planned orBatoche, the Poundmaker Cree Nation andother location to commemorate the 125thanniversary o the resistance.Most agree it’s time to tell the story romall sides and to use the knowledge to ormbonds among groups once pitted againsteach other.“It was a tragic period. All sides lostsomebody or something,” said MetisNation-Saskatchewan president RobertDoucette.“We can’t undo the past, but we can charta better uture where we all beneft.”
Continued from Page D2
 —SP File Photo by Greg Pender
The exhumed remains of Chief OneArrow were re-buried (above) on thereserve named after him in August,2007. One Arrow fought with Louis Rieland died at age 76 after being convictedof treason and serving a three-yearsentence. He was originally buried nextto Riel in St. Boniface, Man.
 —SP Photo by Jason Warick
Jean Caron and Marguerite (Dumais)Caron, whose land and animals were com-mandeered during the Battle of Batoche in1885, are buried in the Batoche cemetery(right). It’s unclear why the headstonespells their surname as “Carron,” saidgreat-great granddaughter Jackie Gaudet

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