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No accident in the whole history of the present rebellion so ill bears to be written about as does this of the sacking of Battleford. This is a town of considerable importance, and it has a strongly-built fort, garrisoned by mounted police. It stands close to a large Cree reserve, and the prairie around it being very fertile, the population latterly had been growing rapidly. When first the disturbance broke out, it was feared that there would be trouble with the Stoney Crees in this region; for Poundmaker, a great brawling Indian chief, is always ready, like his boastful brother, Big Bear, to join in any revolt against authority, Poundmaker, for many a year, has done little save to smoke, drink tea among the squaws, and tell lies, as long as the Saskatchewan river, about all the battles he fought when he was a young man, and how terrible was his name over all the plains. Poundmaker has always been successful as a boaster, and there is hardly a squaw on the whole reserve who does not think him to be one of the most illustrious and mighty men alive. Therefore he has never sued in vain for the hand of a pretty maiden without success; and he has now no fewer than a score of wives, whom he is not able to support, and who are therefore compelled to go on their bare brown feet among the marshes in the summer, killing frogs and muskrats. The lazy rascal never works, but sits at home drinking strong tea, smoking and telling lies, while his wives, young ones and old ones, and his brawling papooses go abroad looking for something to eat.

Now besides Poundmaker, there were among those Stoney Crees two other mischief-loving half-and-half Chiefs. One delighted in the name of Lucky Man, and the other of Little Pine. These two vagabonds leagued themselves with Poundmaker, when the first tidings of the the outbreak reached them, and painting their faces, went abroad among the young men, inciting them to revolt. They reminded them, that if they arose they would have plenty of big feasts, for the prairie was full of the white men's cattle. And Little Pine glanced with snaky eyes toward the town of Battleford.

"May be by-em-by, get fine things out of stores. Go in and frighten away 'em people, then take heaps o' nice things; get squaws, may be, to help 'em to carry 'em away." This was just the sort of incentive that the young men wanted; and the Indian girls screamed with delight at the prospect of red shawls, and heaps of ribbons, and boxes of brass rings, and pretty red and white stockings, and boots with buttons on them.

Presently Big Bear, and Little Pine, and Lucky Man began to get their forces in motion. Armed with bows and arrows, spears, and tomahawks, shot-guns and flint-muskets, and followed by gew-gaw-loving girls, squalling pappooses, and half starved yellow dogs, the Crees, with the three beauties just mentioned at their head, marched toward the town. The people, apprised of the intended attack, had fled to the police barracks; so that when the savages entered the town, the streets were deserted. Then commenced the work of pillage. According to a correspondent of the _Montreal Star_, "house after house was visited in quick succession, the squaws loudly acclaiming and shouting as the bucks smashed in the doors with axes. Firearms were the first things sought for by the braves, while the females ransacked each dwelling from top to bottom, in search of such articles as delighted the feminine eye, Soon the hitherto quiet and peaceful town of Battleford was transformed into a veritable place of destruction. Torn carpets, chairs, bedsteads and empty trunks were thrown into the streets, which were thronged by at least 500 Indians, who, made hideous with war paint, shouted and discharged their rifles simultaneously, creating a perfect pandemonium. When the pillagers had accomplished their work, they commenced the attack on the barracks, but were repulsed with a trifling loss. Some young bucks got rolls of carpet, which they extended along the street, and then mounting their ponies rode up and down over the aesthetic patterns. The squaws got fineries enough to deck themselves in for the next year; and the amount of brass rings that they carried away was enough to make glad the heart of all Indian-dom. After having surfeited themselves with destruction, they returned, each one laden to his and her utmost capacity with booty. Several places were gutted and demolished; in other cases property was destroyed, and some establishments were set on fire."

All this while Major Morris and his police, and nearly two hundred able bodied men, with 200 rifles and plenty of ammunition were cooped up in the Fort, peeping out at the squaws pillaging the town. It seems a little illogical that we should call out our young men from Halifax, from Quebec, from Montreal, from Kingston, from Ottawa, and from the other cities that put forces into the field, to go out into the far wilderness to protect property, when able-bodied men with arms in their hands stood by and watched unmoved a body of savages and squaws pillage their town, and give their property to the flames. It was to relieve this town that Colonel Otter made the brilliant march, upon which writers and orators have not been able to bestow enough of eulogy. . -The Story of Louis Riel: the Rebel Chief


(Primary source documents / Timeline)



Métis Nation History

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