As the offspring of Aboriginal women and white fur traders, the Métis were for centuries Canada’s most marginalized group. Recognized neither as Canadians nor Aboriginals, they were denied rights and often forced to wander the country in poverty with nowhere to settle. The 1869–70 Red River rebellion in Manitoba, led by Louis Riel, won significant concessions from the Canadian government but failed to protect the Métis’ way of life against the effects of increasing white settlement. Consequently, many Métis moved west to farm the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, where the men acted as intermediaries between aboriginals and the whites. Yet when government surveyors arrived in 1878 the Métis realized – as they had on the Red River twenty years before – their claim to the land they farmed was far from secure.

Beginning with the Métis, a general sense of instability spread across the region in the early 1880s, fuelled by the increasingly restless and hungry Cree peoples, as well as by the discontent of white settlers angry at the high freight charges levied on their produce. The leaders of the Métis decided to act and in June 1884 they sent a delegation to Montana, where Riel was in exile. Convinced the Métis were chosen by God to purify the human race – and he their Messiah – Riel was easily persuaded to return.

In March 1885, Riel declared a provisional government at Batoche and demanded the surrender of Fort Carlton, the nearest Mountie outpost, 35km to their west on the North Saskatchewan River. The police superintendent refused and the force he dispatched to re-establish order was badly mauled at Duck Lake. When news of the uprising reached the Cree, some 300km away, they attacked the local Hudson’s Bay Company store, killing its nine occupants in the so-called Frog Lake Massacre. Within two weeks, three columns of militia were converging on Big Bear’s Cree and the meagre Métis forces at Batoche. The total number of casualties – about fifty – does not indicate the full significance of the engagement, which marked the end of brief Métis independence. Riel’s execution in Regina on November 16, 1885, was bitterly denounced in Québec and remains a symbol of the divide between English- and French-speaking Canada.

For more information on the events and sights relating to 1885, look at the excellent website w trailsof1885.com.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Canada features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Ottawa: top things to do in the capital of Canada

Ottawa: top things to do in the capital of Canada

Move over Toronto and Montréal: there's a quiet revolution happening in Ottawa. Not so long ago, the city was lambasted as the dullest place in Canada, dubbed …

14 Aug 2018 • Edward Aves insert_drive_file Article
Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Road trip Canada: 5 of the best routes

Rugged and vast, Canada is a road-tripper's dream. Driving gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace – pull over and take in the scenery along the w…

09 Mar 2018 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
Why Halifax is Canada’s friendliest city

Why Halifax is Canada’s friendliest city

Canadians are a friendly bunch; in fact according to Twitter analysis (so it must be true) Canucks are the nicest people in the world. And Canada’s friendlies…

05 Mar 2018 • Edward Aves insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs