This Week in History
The Battle of Duck Lake: A Struggle for Land and a Way of Life
|For the week of Monday March 22, 2010 |
On March 26, 1885, the Battle of Duck Lake took place at Duck Lake, Saskatchewan. This was the first in a string of battles now known as the Northwest Rebellion/Resistance of 1885. Fronted by Métis leaders Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, the battle began after many attempts to resolve outstanding issues of Métis and First Nations’ rights to property, government representation, schooling, and language with the Canadian government.
On March 25, the day before the battle, a group of Métis, accompanied by a small number of Cree and led by Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, captured Hillyard Mitchell’s store in Duck Lake and all of its supplies. The North-West Mounted Police (NWMP), led by Superintendent Lief Crozier, and accompanied by the locally recruited Prince Albert Volunteers, arrived too late to prevent the capture. They retreated to Fort Carlton when they realized how serious and dangerous the situation had become.When the NWMP returned the next day, reinforced in number, they were surprised to find themselves ambushed. Dumont and his men, who had set up camp a short distance away from the store, approached Crozier’s men and tried to force the authorities to negotiate. There are a number of different versions of how the battle actually started, but once a shot had been fired, neither the NWMP nor the Métis continued to hold back.
After a brief but bloody exchange, the Métis took cover in a nearby cabin, and the Prince Albert Volunteers tried to attack it. The NWMP were pushed back, and although Dumont wanted to pursue the fleeing police, Riel intervened and allowed the NWMP to retreat. The Métis were the victors of this first encounter.
For stories on subsequent battles, see A Second Last Stance and Batoche: Sacred Grounds of the Métis. For more information on the Northwest Resistance/Rebellion of 1885, visit Batoche National Historic Site of Canada and Fort Battleford National Historic Site of Canada.
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