Métis Nation History

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FishCreek-Battle-M0580115copy





This second rebellion of the half-breeds lasted about three months, and cost the country upwards of five million dollars. Including the persons murdered at Frog Lake, the loyal population of Canada lost thirty-six valuable lives, among whom was Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, a gallant officer, and a member of the house of commons, who succumbed to a serious illness brought on by his exposure on the prairie. The casualties among the half-breeds were at least as large, if not greater. Five Indian chiefs suffered the extreme penalty of the law, while Poundmaker, Big Bear, and a number of others were imprisoned in the territories for life or for a term of years, according to the gravity of their complicity in the rebellion. Any hopes that Riel might have placed in the active sympathy of the French Canadian people of Quebec were soon dispelled. He was tried at Regina in July and sentenced to death, although the able counsel allotted to him by the government exhausted every available argument in his defence, even to the extent of setting up a plea of insanity, which the prisoner himself deeply resented. The most strenuous efforts were made by the French Canadians to force the government to reprieve him, but Sir John Macdonald was satisfied that the loyal sentiment of the great majority of the people of Canada demanded imperatively that the law should be vindicated. The French Canadian representatives in the cabinet, Langevin, Chapleau, and Caron, resisted courageously the storm of obloquy which their determination to support the prime minister raised against them; and Riel was duly executed on the 16th November. For some time after his death attempts were made to keep up the excitement which had so long existed in the province of Quebec on the question. The Dominion government was certainly weakened for a time in Quebec by its action in this matter, while Mr. Honore Mercier skilfully used the Riel agitation to obtain control of the provincial government at the general election of 1886, but only to fall five years later, under circumstances which must always throw a shadow over the fame of a brilliant, but unsafe, political leader (see p. 247). The attempt to make political capital out of the matter in the Dominion parliament had no other result than to weaken the influence in Ontario of Mr. Edward Blake, the leader of the opposition since the resignation of Mr. Mackenzie in 1880. He was left without the support of the majority of the Liberal representatives of the province in the house of commons when he condemned the execution of Riel, principally on the ground that he was insane--a conclusion not at all justified by the report of the medical experts who had been chosen by the government to examine the condemned man previous to the execution. The energy with which this rebellion was repressed showed both the half-breeds and the Indians of the west the power of the Ottawa government. From that day to this order has prevailed in the western country, and grievances have been redressed as far as possible. The readiness with which the militia force of Canada rallied to the support of the government was conclusive evidence of the deep national sentiment that existed throughout the Dominion. In Ottawa, Port Hope, and Toronto monuments have been raised in memory of the brave men who gave up their lives for the Dominion, but probably the most touching memorial of this unfortunate episode in Canadian history is the rude cairn of stone which still stands among the wild flowers of the prairie in memory of the gallant fellows who were mown down by the unerring rifle shots of the half-breeds hidden in the ravines of Fish Creek. -- Canada under British Rule 1760-1900, by John G. Bourinot (Primary source documents / Timeline)



Métis Nation History

Commemorating 2010 Year of the Métis Nation Anniversary

Related 1885 Métis Nation Newspaper links

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