May 12


Métis defeat at Batoche

In 1885, the Métis settlers of the South Saskatchewan River valley and a number of western native tribes arose in rebellion against the Canadian state, motivated by fears of loss of land, dwindling natural food resources, and government mismanagement. They were led by the mad visionary Louis Riel, and chiefs Poundmaker and Big Bear. After a number of rebel successes against white settlers, militia and police, a Canadian army led by General Frederick Middleton advanced against the centre of resistance, the village of Batoche.

After two days of shelling and outflanking maneuvers had failed to dislodge the Métis from their rifle pits, the army tried another unsuccessful attack on May 12, which failed because of miscommunication between units. Finally, frustrated Canadian regulars belonging to the Winnipeg Rifles, the Royal Grenadiers and the Midland regiment staged a mass frontal charge that overwhelmed the outnumbered and outgunned rebels. The surrender of Louis Riel hastened the end of the uprising, which would end in July when the last of the native warriors gave themselves up.

The rebellion was ill-advised and resulted in hard times for the Métis, though Riel remains a hero in the eyes of many.

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