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Section title: Plains Cree
Introduction | History | Daily Life | Culture | References


History

The Métis Resistance: 1885

In Saskatchewan during the early 1880s, many Plains Cree people were starving. The buffalo had disappeared. Those Cree who had signed treaties got food and other supplies from the Canadian government for a few years. Then the government decided to cut the food rations sent to reserves, to force the people to become farmers. The Cree were hungry, angry and becoming desperate.

 
  Lieutenant-Colonel W.E. O'Brien, Commanding Officer, with the York and Simcoe Rangers, 1885

When Louis Riel and many Saskatchewan Métis resisted the Canadian government, an army was sent to the prairies to stop them. Some young Cree warriors joined the resistance. A few warriors seized a store in a village called Frog Lake, and several white settlers were killed. Now the Métis, along with some Plains Cree, were at war against Canada. Near Battleford, the army attacked Poundmaker's people. Cree warriors surrounded the troops, and could have defeated them, but Poundmaker called them off. The Canadian troops escaped.

 
The surrender of Poundmaker to Major-General Middleton at Battleford, Saskatchewan, May 26, 1885  

Poundmaker and Big Bear later surrendered to the Canadian forces, and were sentenced to hard labour at Stony Mountain Prison, in Manitoba. Both leaders died soon after leaving prison. Eight other Plains Cree warriors were hanged. The Cree bands that participated in the Métis resistance were broken up and their members forced to move in with other bands.

 

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