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1885 Batoche

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History of the 1885 Northwest Resistance

The Battle of Duck Lake

The Battle of Duck Lake (March 26, 1885) was the opening battle of the 1885 Resistance. The battle itself happened by accident. On March 25, 1885, Gabriel Dumont asked Louis Riel to let him take thirty men to gather supplies from the stores of those merchants who opposed the Métis’ resistance against the federal government. They rode to Hillyard Mitchell’s store and appropriated its contents. Riel then told Mitchell to keep track of everything that the Métis took.

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The Battle of Fish Creek

The Battle at Fish Creek was General Middleton’s first encounter with the Métis. On April 23, 1885, he moved his newly divided forces from Clarke’s Crossing, which was only a few days march away from Batoche. That night Gabriel Dumont’s scouts told him that the Canadian troops were camped at the McIntosh Farm, which was about ten kilometres south of Fish Creek. After hearing this, Dumont sent couriers to Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker) and Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear) to ask for military assistance. The two chiefs rebuffed Dumont’s overture because they felt that the Crees’ best interests were to remain neutral.

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The Battle of Batoche

The Battle of Batoche, which occurred from May 9 to May 12, 1885, was a cataclysmic event. After the previous battles of Duck Lake (March 26) and Fish Creek (April 24), the Métis decided to make their stand against General Middleton’s forces at the village of Batoche. They dug a series of defensive rifle pits or trenches around Batoche’s perimeter. Therefore, the battle itself was a siege. It was also a battle of attrition, which only ended after the Métis became exhausted from fighting and ran out of ammunition. General Middleton was determined to break the Métis resistance at Batoche and end the 1885 Resistance. He used a combination of defensive and offensive tactics to achieve this end.

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Life After 1885

After the 1885 Resistance, the vast influx of non-Aboriginal settlers and the failure of the Scrip system resulted in disruption of the Métis’ traditional lifestyles. From 1885 to 1930, the Métis had difficulty adapting to the rapidly changing way of life in the Prairie West. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Métis used a mixed economy that included harvesting seasonal flora (plant) and fauna (animal) resources, supplemented with farming and wage labour. After 1885, however, the Métis began to rely heavily on low paying seasonal jobs to support themselves. Many ended up living in poverty.

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