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 is...by 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,
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
(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
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
Referring to former confidential communications concerning Riel
and Half Breeds I urge immediate action in matter and settlement
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
15th March 1885, Ottawa
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.
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.
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.
19th March, 1885
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.
21st March, 1885
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.
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
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,
1st April, 1885.
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
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
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'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
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.