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NWMP Correspondence

This excerpt was an example of the NWMP's warnings about Metis and Indian unrest. (Handwritten document in Dewdney Papers, National Archives of Canada, M.G. 27, I C 4, Vol. 1, pp. 318-319.)

Letter from Supt. Crozier to Lt.-Gov. Dewdney
October 2, 1884
I quite agree with Sergeant Keenan that the state of affairs in that vicinity no means satisfactory - prompt measures should be take to allay if possible the existing dissatisfaction and at the same time precautionary measures should be taken to ensure against the Indians or Halfbreeds becoming unmanageable. If matters go on as they are or if some such course as suggested is not acted upon in my opinion everything points to an overt act or more probably acts being committed during the winter, I think in different parts of the district at the same time.
P.S. You will observe that Sergeant Keenan says that the crops are almost a total failure and that the Half-Breeds will be very hungry unless they are able to procure food by some means. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, Edward Blake, used this telegram in a long speech on July 6, 1885, denouncing Sir John A. Macdonald for not paying attention to the warnings about Metis grievances his government was receiving.December 23, 1884
Excerpt from letter Inspector Gagnon to Compt. White,
" ...The half-breeds are pressing Riel to settle amongst them, and have him, as a token of their gratitude for services rendered, a house well furnished, and will further, on 2nd January next, present him with a purse.
These testimonials of the good will of the majority would go towards denying certain rumors, which say that several are lacking confidence in their leader; that his way of acting and speaking denotes a very hot head, and that he does not now agree with their priest. There is no doubt that a great number are still led by him, and would act upon his dictates. Some time ago I sent several men to the south branch to have horses shod. The river being full of floating ice, they could not cross. Some way or other, the report was brought to the east side of the river that these men were sent to arrest Riel, who was then at the crossing. Within half an hour over 100 men had collected to protect him. There is a certain amount of suffering among the half-breeds, but not to the extent it was expected to reach. Large quantities of supplies are required for this part of the country, and all who have horses can make a living by freighting. As far as I can see, the chief grievance of the half-breeds is, that they are afraid that the Government will not sanction the way they, amongst themselves, have agree to take their homesteads--ten chains frontage on the river, by two miles back." This letter from Supt. Crozier to Lt.-Gov. Dewdney alludes to Riel's "personal claims". In December, 1884, Father Alexis Andre and D.H. Macdowall, member of the North West Council, had met with Riel to see if he would return to Montana in exchange for a large sum of money which the government would provide. Prime Minister Macdonald would not assent to the plan, writing that Riel "has a right to remain in Canada and if he conspires, we must punish him."
(Source of Macdonald's quote: handwritten letter from Macdonald to Dewdney, p.545, Dewdney Papers, Glenbow Institute) (Crozier's letter is reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 52, 1886)
Carlton, 7th January, 1885
Sir-I have the honour to forward herewith a confidential report from Mr. Howe, from Prince Albert. It relates to the matter upon which I telegraphed you in cypher from here a few days ago. I had personal interviews with those mentioned in Inspector Howe's report, and they feel confident that Riel is sincere in saying he wishes to leave the country, and will do so as soon as he has the means. I quite agree with Pere Andre, with whom I had a talk relating to this matter at Prince Albert a few days ago, that if this man Riel was out of the country the normal quiet would be restored. For, granting that his power to make serious trouble may be but problematical, yet his very presence here causes a feeling of uneasiness among the half breeds and Indians, which, as you know, is taken advantage of by others who are neither half breeds nor Indians, to further their own schemes and ends. Riel, certainly, has great influence with the half breeds, and that being admitted, means influence with the Indians as well. They regard him as a man who has suffered for them and their cause, and that he is here to work in their interest. He knows full well how to play upon their superstitious natures,and though to white men some of his sayings and doings and proposed reforms seem absurd, even ridiculous, to the simple-minded natives the very absurdity of his expressions and ideas make him appear to them so much the greater man and benefactor to their people. Of late he has has appeared in the role of a religious reformer, and I am informed by one who certainly knows, that he has influenced even in that direction people proverbial for their regard for the teachings of their church and clergy, proving his influence, which he might use with embarrassing results. The man says he has personal claims, the amount mentioned would cover those claims.
The matter of the claims of the half breeds for scrip, and as to the manner of dividing and sub-dividing the land upon which they have already settled, imperatively requires the immediate attention of the Government, and that decisions at once be given for or against the wishes of those interested.
In the interest of his country I strongly urge a settlement of those important matters.
I need not enter into particulars as to the claims for scrip nor as to the changing of shape of the lots settled upon from ten chains front and two miles long to the regular block lots. You have heard and understand what is wanted, no doubt, quite well.
Some of the half breeds report that the Indians are quite in accord with them, even the Sioux, and will act at any time and manner they wish. I do not, however, believe that here is universally with the Indians such an understanding, though there are undoubtedly bands and individuals among other bands who look to Riel and the half breeds as their champions, and who, I think, hve promised to join or act with them as they bid, and the greater the chances may be of the half breeds and Indians proportionately would join them, and if any movement or agitation is the least successful it would be very apt to attract the whole Indian population either as strong sympathizer or active participants.
I have, &etc.,
Hon. Edgar Dewdney, Governor N.W.T., Regina.
This originally coded telegram from Supt. Crozier to Lt.-Gov. Dewdney reflects the Metis' concern that the petition of Dec. 16, 1884 had not produced results from the federal government. (Document in National Archives of Canada, Dewdney Papers, M.G. 27 I C 4, Vol. 1, p.340.)
February 2, 1885
Lt.-Gov. Dewdney
Referring to former confidential communications concerning Riel and Half Breeds I urge immediate action in matter and settlement if possible.
Supt. Crozier Settling Metis concerns seemed to Supt. Crozier a preferable alternative to risking a Metis and Indian uprising in the North West. (Document in National Archives of Canada, Dewdney Papers M.G. 27 I C 4, Vol. 1, pp. 348-351)

Feb. 27, 1885
Lt.-Gov. Edgar Dewdney
Regina, NWT
I have the honour to request that matters concerning the half-breeds be settled without delay--could not a surveyor be sent out now, if it is intended to allow the
Half-breeds their land as they wish to have it laid out in place of the regular blocks as surveyed throughout the country.
Then there is the question of the Half-breeds being allowed scrip as granted in Manitoba. I must strongly urge that these and other matters already reported upon be attended to at once. Delay causes uneasiness and discontent, which spreads not only among the Half-breeds but the Indians. There are, as you well know, among the latter those who are only waiting for any opportunity, no matter how unimportant or unreasonable, they can get to do all in their power to unsettle the working of affairs and bring a repetition of the unpleasantness of last summer or even a condition of things worse, with its attendant evil consequences in the country.
It would only be wise then in the face of former experience to have all causes that may predispose to discontent or agitation removed from among the Half Breeds, if at all possible...if an effort is not soon made and settlement come to one way or the other, that is, either as they wish or the contrary, then it would not be surprising if the whole country were kept ina continual commotion, if not worse, during the coming spring and summer. What is required is a settlement so that there my be no misunderstanding as to the intention of the Government.
Sup't. Crozier
Battleford NWMP Commissioner Irvine passed on Inspector Gagnon's concerns to NWMP Comptroller Fred White in Ottawa. (Reprinted in the Sessional papers No. 116, 1885)
10th March, 1885
Comptroller White
Just received the following telegram from Gagnon, dated today, from Carlton; have shown it to Lieutenant-Governor. Half-breeds excited; move about more than usual preparing arms. Do not know cause or object of these preparations.
Comm. Irvine Rumours swirled around as tensions escalated in the Metis communities along the South Branch of the Saskatchewan. (Reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 116, 1885)
11th March, 1885
Comptroller White,
Half-breeds greatly excited; reported they threaten attack on Carlton before 16th. Half-breeds refuse to take freight or employment for Government; will stop all freight coming into country after 16th of this month; getting arms ready; leader will not allow people to leave home, as they may be required. Origin of trouble I think because letter received stating Riel not recognized British subject; they expect arms from States. Have ordered 25 men from Battleford and one gun to come here at once.
Supterintendent CrozierRegina, 14th March, 1885.
Compt. White,
Lieutenant-Governor received telegram dated Carlton, today from Crozier, saying half-breed rebellion may break out any moment and joined by Indians, and asking that his division be largely increased.
Would recommend that at least one hundred men be sent at once, before roads break up. Please instruct.
Lieut-Col. Irvine.On March 18, 1885, Irvine and c.100 men started for Fort Carlton from Regina, but fearing a large Metis attack, diverted to Prince Albert. (Reprinted in the Sess.Papers No. 116, 1885)
15th March 1885, Ottawa
Col. Irvine
Start for the north quickly as possible, with all available men up to one hundred. Telegraph marching out state and report when passing telegraph station.
Comptroller White

Irvine and his force eventually reached Fort Carlton on the afternoon of March 26, after Superintendent Crozier had been defeated by the Metis at Duck Lake. (Reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 116, 1885)
17th March, 1885.
Duck Lake
Comptroller White,
Our movements and preparations have quieted matters; no cause for alarm now. Prince Albert people did splendidly.
Superintendent Crozier(Reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 116, 1885)
19th March, 1885
Compt. White,
The following received from Superintendent Crozier: Rumour tonight Indians being tampered with; large force should be sent without delay, that arrest may be made necessary, to prevent further and continuous trouble from Riel and followers. Militia arms from Battleford will be here in a day or two.
Superintendent Deane(Reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 116, 1885)
21st March, 1885
Fort Carlton
Comptroller White
Rebels seized storehouse South Branch. Lash, Indian agent, and other prisoners. Threatened attack on Carlton tonight or tomorrow. Rebels by last report assembled at Batoche's Crossing.
Supt. Crozier
Crozier was soon to refuse Riel's demand to surrender Fort Carlton to the Metis. (Reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 116, 1885)Gabriel Dumont recollected that his brother Isidore was the first person killed at the battle of Duck Lake, by an English Metis called Mackay (known as Gentleman Joe Mackay) who was with Crozier.(Source: Gabriel Dumont Speaks, translated by Michael Barnholden, p. 56.) Crozier's telegram to Col. Irvine is reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 8, 1886.
March 26, 1885
Colonel Irvine
SIR- I have the honour to inform you that I proceeded this morning with an escort of 100 men to get possession of a large quantity of provisions and ammunition at Duck Lake, in the store of Hillyard Mitchell. When within about a mile and a half f Duck Lake I was attacked by over 200 half-breed rebels.
I threw a line of skirmishers to the right of the road, under cover of a wood, to prevent the rebels surrounding us, which they were attempting to do, the remainder, excepting men in charge of horses, formed under cover of the sleighs, extended to the left, at right angles to the road.
We prevented the rebels surrounding us, and then quietly returned to Carlton. The police and noble volunteers from Prince Albert behaved superbly. Our loss is 11 killed and 11 wounded.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Not even NWMP Commissioner Irvin could disguise what he thought had been an unwise decision of Superintendent Crozier in setting out for Duck Lake on March 26, 1885--the first armed encounter of the North West Rebellion. This report only reached Ottawa on May 29, 1885. (Reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 8, 1886)
1st April, 1885.
Prince Albert,
The Right Honourable Sir John A MacDonald, G.C.B.&c., &c.,
SIR-Referring to my telegram of the 26th ult., I have the honour to report that I arrived at Prince Albert on the evening of the 24th, and intended starting the next day for Carlton, but found, owing to the forced march which I had made between Regina and this point, it was actually necessary that both men and horses should have a rest, in order to be in a better state for action on my arrival at Carlton. I left Prince Albert at 2:30 a.m. of the 26th, taking with me, besides eighty-three non-commissioned officers and men of the North West Mounted Police brought from Regina, twenty-five volunteers from this point.
On reaching Fort Carlton about three o'clock in the afternoon of the 26th I found that Superintendent Crozier had early that morning dispatched a party, consisting of Sergeant Stewart and seventeen constables with eight sleighs, and accompanied by and under the direction of Mr. Thomas McKay, of Prince Albert, to secure a quantity of provisions and ammunition, which were in the store of a trader named Mitchell, at Duck Lake. When within three miles of Duck Lake Mr. McKay, who was riding in front, saw four of the North West Mounted Police scouts, who had been sent in advance, riding towards him, being closely pursued by a large number of half-breeds and Indians. On perceiving this, Mr. McKay turned and rode back to the sleighs, halted them, and told the men to load their rifles and get ready. He then went forward and met the rebels, who were all armed and mounted, in large number, which were being rapidly increased from the rear.
The rebels behaved in a very overbearing and excited manner, and demanded a surrender of the party or they would fire. This was refused, and a reply given by Mr. McKay in their own language (the Cree) that two could play at that game. One Gabriel Dumont and others kept prodding loaded and cocked rifles in Mr. McKay's ribs,and declaring they would blow out his brains. Two of the rebels jumped into a sleigh belonging to Mr. McKay's party and endeavored to take possession of the team, but Mr. McKay told the driver not to give it up, but hold on to it, which was done. The Indians kept jeering at Mr. McKay's small party, and calling out: "If you are men, now come out." The party then returned in the direction of Carlton and Mr. McKay told the rebels not to follow, as he would not be responsible for what his men might do.
During the parlaying Dumont fired a rifle between Mr. McKay and the teamster above referred to, which Mr. McKay feared was intended as a signal for the large number of Indians assembled in the rear.
A scout was ordered in advance to report the circumstances to Superintendent Crozier, and on Mr. McKay's arrival at the fort another party, under command of Superintendent Crozier, started for Duck Lake, for the purpose of securing the stores Mr. McKay's men failed in getting.
The command consisted of the following:-Superintendent Crozier, Inspector Howe, Surgeon Miller, 53 non-commissioned officers and men (N.W.M.P.) with one 7-pr. gun, Captains Moore and Morton and 41 Prince Albert volunteers. Total 99. We were met by the rebels at the same place from which Mr. McKay's party was to retire.
The rebels were hidden in extended order, awaiting Superintendent Crozier's approach behind a rise of ground, which crossed the road much in the form of a distended horse shoe, flanked on either side by a small bush.
Superintendent Crozier reports to me that on being confronted by this party of rebels he immediately ordered his sleighs to extend at right angles across the road, unhitched his horses and sent them to the rear. The rebels appeared to desire a parley, as several of them advanced a short distance to the front with a white flag, which he took to be one of truce. During the parleying the Indians rapidly extended out, and shortly after this the firing began- Superintendent Crozier stating that the first shot was from the rebel side, when the firing became general, with the result of ten killed and thirteen wounded on our side. The number of rebels killed is not known.
Owing to the disadvantage at which Superintendent Crozier's command was taken, both as regards numbers and position, he considered it prudent to retire back to Carlton, and it was just after his force had returned that I marched in.
It appears to me a matter of regret that with the knowledge that both myself and command were within a few miles of and en route to Carlton, Superintendent Crozier should have marched out as he did, in face of what had transpired earlier in the day; but I am led to the belief that this officer's better judgment was overruled by the impetuousness displayed both by the police and volunteers to go and take the store and, if necessary, fight for them....
...I would beg to bring to your notice the reports that have reached me of the plucky manner in which Superintendent Crozier and all under his command behaved under the most trying circumstances. The fire from the rebels was very heavy, and the coolness displayed when attaching the horses to the sleigh, preparatory to retiring as apparently remarkable.....

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
A.G. Irvine,

A.G. Irvine's report of April 1t had been delayed in transmission and did not reach Fred White, N.W.M.P. Comptroller, in Ottawa until May 29, 1885. From Ottawa's point of view, Crozier and Irvine had not lived up to their responsibilities at a critical time. (Reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 8, 1886)
23rd May, 1885.
Lt.-Col. Irvine, Prince Albert,
Minister considers Crozier's report of engagement at Duck Lake very incomplete and wishes detailed particulars; also explanation why he went to Duck Lake, knowing you were about to join him. From yourself he wishes full report from time you left Regina til arrival of General Middleton at Prince Albert. Why you abandoned Carlton and why you did not go to Duck Lake; why you did not scour the country around Prince Albert, and why you did not join General Middleton; also any further particulars you can furnish.

Fred White NWMP Commissioner Irvine was perceived to have been ineffective during the Rebellion, but as he makes clear in this communication, his superior officer General Middleton did not keep in touch with him. Afterwards, Irvine resigned from the North West Mounted Police. (Source: George F. G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada, p. 372.) Irvine's communication is reprinted in the Sessional Papers No. 8, 1886.
5th June, 1885
Prince Albert,
To F. White, Ottawa.
Will send another and full report from the time I left Regina till arrival of General Middleton at Prince Albert.
The country around Prince Albert was thoroughly scoured; result, no houses pillaged or burnt. Received no order to join General Middleton, which rather surprised me, as I am sure, from my long service in the country, and my knowledge of Indian and half-breed ways, would have been of great service to him. Full report from Crozier forwarded by last mail.

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