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"The History of the North West Rebellion. A Brief History of its Origin and Causes. The Government's Culpability Proved"

The Globe (Toronto)
Q.-What is meant by the recent North-west rebellion?
A.-The armed uprising of Halfbreeds and Indians which occurred in the spring of 1885 in the District of Saskatchewan, Canadian North-west Territories.
Q.-When did the rebellion break out?
A. About the 20th of March, 1885. The Duck Lake fight occurred on the 26th.
Q.-Who was the leader of the Halfbreeds and Indians
A.-Louis Riel, a Metis, who had previously acted as leader of a movement against the authority of the Canadian Government in Manitoba in 1869.
Q.-What led the Halfbreeds to take up arms in 1885?
A.-The refusal of the Ottawa Government to give them patents for the lands upon which they had been settled for years: the granting away of settled lands to Colonization Companies, and the resurveying of Halfbreed settlements into square sections, instead of recognizing the long narrow farms which were being cultivated.
Q.-Had the Halfbreeds other grievances?
A.-Yes. They were neglected and subjected to humiliation by the Government, who paid no attention to their petitions and sent up a swarm of insolent political partisans to harass them.
Q.-What was the immediate cause of the outbreak?
A.-So far as can be ascertained, the Halfbreeds resolved to take up arms when they found that the township upon which one of their most important settlements had been founded had been transferred by the Government to a Colonization Company composed of political speculators. It is also alleged that one Lawrence Clark, an ex-member of the North-west Council, informed a Metis gathering at Batoche, that the Government intended to answer their petitions with bullets.
Q.-What was the name of the settlement transferred, and who composed the Colonization Company?
A.-The settlement was the parish of St. Louis de Langevin, on the South Saskatchewan. The colonization Company was composed of Messrs. John White, M.P. : J.C. Jamieson, son-in-law of Mackenzie Bowell, Minister of Customs; William Sharples, brother-in-law of Sir A.P. Caron, Minister of Militia; Thomas McGreevy, M.P.; J.A.M. Aikins, son-in-law of A.W. McLean, Finance Minister; D. C. Plumb, son of Senator Plumb; A.F. Gault, brother of M.H. Gault, M.P.; William Jeffs, Hugh Sutherland. P.R. Palmer, and one or two others. Messrs. White and Jamieson held blind shares.
Q.-What is meant by blind shares?
A.-Paid up shares in a company, for which no appreciable value is given. In this case the parties obtained each a twelfth interest in the Company upon condition that they should exert political influence to obtained favours from the Government. (See testimony of David Gilmour, before Belleville Chancery Master.)
Q.-What special favours were granted to this Company?
A.-The lands first granted to the Company in 1882 were found difficult to settle, and in 1883 White and Jamieson procured the passage of an Order in Council whereby they got township 45, range 7, west of second meridian, in exchange for township 43 in the same range.
Q.-How did this exchange affect the Halfbreed settlers?
A.-Township 45, transferred to the Company, included the settlement of St. Louis de Langevin, already referred to.
Q.-Were there many settlers on township 45?
A.-Mr. Rufus Stephenson, Inspector of Colonization Companies reported 29 settlers on it in 1884, and also a church site. A large number of these settlers took part in the rebellion under Riel, some being killed, others wounded and taken prisoners.
Q.-Did the Company threaten to evict the Halfbreeds?
A.-The Company asked the Government during the session of 1884 to evict the settlers and put the Company in possession of Township 45, or to refund the money paid for it, but the Minister refused, saying that the matter was in the Company's hands and as they had the right and title to the land, they could eject the Halfbreeds. Later on the Company again applied for relief; they wanted their money back, but the Minister of the Interior (the Sir David Macpherson) refused, telling them they had the right and title to eject. Finding that they were liable to be driven from their homes by the Colonization company, the Metis settlers on Township 45 rose in rebellion, as the Company anticipated they would do if an attempt was made to evict them.
Q.-Was there no provision for the protection of settlers' rights when grants were made to Colonization Companies?
A.-The Minister who is the official exponent of the law on the subject, evidently thinks not, for he informed the colonization Company that they had the right to evict all settlers.
Q.-Was township 45 specially valuable?
A.-According to Mr. Rufus Stephenson's report it is a very fine property indeed, the soil is choice, and its proximity to the river gives it peculiar advantages. Such fine lands would probably never have been granted to any company but for the powerful political influences which the Prince Albert company were able to exert.
Q.-Were the farms of the Metis at St. Louis De Langevin improved?
A.-Rufus Stepheson's report shows that there were 29 Halfbreed families settled upon the lands at the time according to the Government reports; and among them were the following persons, interesting details about whom are given:-
Joseph Dufresne, house, 4 acres broken.
John Toogood, house, 5 acres broken.
Geo. Alex. McLeod, house, stable, 32 acres in crop, 120 acres fenced.
St. George, house, 4 acres cultivated.
Maxime Lepine, extent of improvements not stated
Norbert Turcotte, extend of improvements not stated.
Norman Mackenzie, 20 acres in crop.
Andre Letendre, 30 acres cultivated.
Michael Dumas, 5 acres cultivated.
Alex. McDougall, 5 acres cultivated.
Charles and Solomon Boucher, 12 acres in crop.
Baptist Boucher, 35 acres in crop, resided on it three years.
These men had petitioned the Government for year after year to issue their patents, but the Government, however, not only neglected to do so, but it actually transferred their improved lands to a Colonization Company.
Q.-Had the Minister of Customs any interest in the Prince Albert Company?
A.-He had an interest in his son-in-law Jamieson who was the secretary of the company, and the holder of a blind share, obtained as a reward for using his influence with the Government on the Company's behalf. (See Jamieson's evidence before Chancery Master at Belleville).
Q.-Is this the only instance in which settled lands have been granted to Colonization Companies?
A. No. The case of the Shell River Colonization Company, in which some of the same parties were interested is almost parallel.
Q.-Did the settlers of St. Louis De Langevin petition for their patents and for river lot surveys?
A.-On November 19, 1883, they sent a petition signed by 31 persons, sixteen of whom were settlers on lands claimed by the Colonization Company. The petitioners urged the Government to fulfil a promise made to Father Leduc, that their settlement should be surveyed into river lots, that is lots or farms with narrow frontages on the river, and depths of one and two miles. They stated that a similar petition had been sent in 1880, and that it was unanswered.
Q.-Why did they desire lots of that description?
A.-That is the customary way of laying out farms in all the old settlements of the North-west and in some of the older Provinces. The settlers build their houses close together along the river bank, and each cultivates a lot generally with ten chains frontage and two miles in depth. The settlements along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in Manitoba, and also at Prince Albert and St. Laurent, on the Saskatchewan, were laid out in this manner by the Dominion Government. The petitioners asked for nothing more than had been already granted to the settlers at Prince Albert.
Q.-Had the St. Louis settlers been on their lands a long time?
A.-As the buffalo disappeared the Metis had to take to agriculture for a living. The petition referred to reminded the Government that not a few of the signers had occupied their farms since 1873, 1874, and 1875, that many of them were entitled to patents but had not received them. On the 9th Dec., 1883, Mr. Duck, the land agent at Prince Albert, received letters from Baptiste Boucher and Louis Schmidt, again urging the Government to make river lot surveys, and pointing out that the Halfbreed lands had already been granted away from their rightful owners, showing that the Metis were well aware that they were liable to eviction by the Colonization Company.
Q.-Did the Government pay attention to the request?
A.-No. The prayer of the petition was denied. The Prince Albert Colonization Company were told by the Government that they had a right to eject the Halfbreeds from their lands, and rebellion followed.
Q.-Is it known that the men who signed these petitions took up arms?
A.-Among the signers of the petition from St. Louis De Langevin were Isadore Dumas, who was killed at Batoche; Maxime Lepine, now a prisoner; and Baptiste Boucher, Charles Lavalle, and Wm. Swain, who were wounded.
Q.-Had the settlers of other places grievances also?
A.-Yes. On 4th September, 1882, a petition was forwarded from Batoche, or St. Antoine de Padoue, another settlement on the South Saskatchewan praying Sir John Macdonald to confirm them in their claims to holdings, and representing that as they had occupied their lands so long undisturbed, and defended their homes against Indians at the cost of their blood, they should be allowed to retain them in peace and free of charge.
Q.-By what right did the Halfbreeds claim free land?
A.-In virtue of their share in the Indian title which the Canadian Government undertook to extinguish when the North-west was purchased from the Hudson Bay Company. The rights of the Halfbreeds of Manitoba had been recognized and lands allotted to them. The Halfbreeds on the Saskatchewan claimed similar rights.
Q.-Was the petition of the St. Antoine settlers listened to?
A.-No. Their request was likewise refused, and the people, feeling that they had nothing to hope for from the Dominion Government, began to talk of rebellion as the only means of securing their rights.
Q.-Did the St. Antoine settlers take part in the rebellion?
A.-They did. Of those who signed the petition of September 4th, 1882, Joseph Vandale and Joseph Delorme were killed at Fish Creek, and Baptiste Rochlot, Patrice Touron, Francois Tourond, Galixte Tourond, Baptiste Vandale, Adolphe Nolin, Ignace Poitras, Maxime Poitras, and Emmanuel Champagne were taken prisoners.
Q.-Have the Government admitted that the Halfbreeds had grievances and that the rebellion was provoked?
A.-They have. As soon as the news of the Duck Lake fight reached Ottawa, Commissioners were sent to the North-west with authority to grant patents and land scrip to every Halfbreed in the Territories, though up to that time every demand of the Halfbreeds had been neglected or ignored. These Commissioners settled about 2,000 claims, proving conclusively that the Government had been guilty of gross neglect and cruelty in refusing just demands and withholding patents.
Q.-Would the Metis have obtained their rights had they not rebelled?
A.-Their petitions and the representations of the delegates they sent to Ottawa were treated with contempt, and the policy of the Government was to give the Halfbreeds nothing. Moreover Sir John Macdonald declared in Parliament that he only yielded when an armed uprising was imminent.
Q.-When did Sir John make such a damaging admission?
A.-In the course of his reply to Mr. Blake's speech on the North-west question. The Premier then said: We, at the last moment, made concessions, and we did it for the sake of peace. The Government knew they were not acting in the interest of the Halfbreeds in granting them scrip, in granting them the land. I do not hesitate to say that I did it with the greatest reluctance, I do not easily yield, but at the last moment I yielded and said: Well for God's sake let them have the scrip; they will either drink it, or waste it, or sell it, but let us have peace!' (See Hansard of 1885, pages 3,116 and 3,118.)
Q.-Is that such a course as a Government composed of statesmen would have adopted?
A.-Certainly not. No other Government probably in the world would have yielded to demands which they regarded as unjust, because those making the demands resorted to arms.
Q.-Had the claims of the Metis been granted in 1884 would there have been any revolt?
A.-Bishop Grandin has stated that had the Commissioners been sent out three months before the Duck Lake fight, there would have been no rebellion. If the people had not been ill-treated and provoked to insurrection, Riel would never have induced them to follow him.
Q.-Is there other evidence that the grievances of the Metis were genuine?
A.-Such evidence is found on all hands. It is found in the recent and former resolutions of the North-west Council, in the letters of Protestant and Catholic Missionaries, in the petitions of the Halfbreeds, and the reports of Government officials in the Territories, in the meagre returns reluctantly laid before Parliament by the Government, and even in the editorial columns of the official organs of the Government.
Q.-Where is there a notable instance where a Government organ has been obliged to confess that the Halfbreeds had good grounds of complaint?
A.-The Toronto Mail, the personal organ of Sir John Macdonald, in its issue of July 8th,1885, said:-
It has never been denied that the Metis had good ground for grievances. By the passage of the Manitoba Act of 1870 old Canada formally and frankly recognized the right of the Halfbreeds of the province to share in the Indian title, and it follows as a matter of course that if they had rights in the soil of Manitoba, those of them dwelling in the regions beyond had rights in the soil there. In spite of this recognition, however, and of the manifest and unanswerable logic of the Halfbreed case, the Department for years and years steadily refused to move in the matter. It was a tangled question; it would involve the appointment of a commission and no end of trouble; St. Albert and St. Laurent were far distant dependencies without political influence; it was a claim that would be none the worse for blue-moulding in the pigeon-holes. This was the way in which the officials treated the just demands of the Metis, and we agree with Mr. Blake, that their negligence was gross and inexcusable, and contributed to bring about the insurrection.
Q.-What excuse did The Mail give for this neglect?
A.-It pleaded that the Metis were without votes, and without influence. In the course of the article already quoted from it, it remarked that had they had votes, like white men, or if like Indians they had been numerous enough to command respect, and overawe red tape, without doubt, the wheels of the office would have revolved for them; but being only Halfbreeds, they were put off with an eternal promise until patience ceased to be a virtue. We repeat again that the departmental system under which such callous and cruel neglect of the rights of a portion of the community was possible, was wrong and should be censured.î
The Globe (Toronto)
A Brief History of its Origin and Causes. The Government's Culpability Proved
Q.-It appears then that the sole cause of the rebellion and bloodshed was the Government's neglect of duty, and their incompetency?
A.-The proofs in support of that view are overwhelming, although the Government have sought by every possible means to suppress information, and prevent the public from ascertaining the real facts of the case.
Question.-Where was Riel when sent for by the North-west settlers?
Answer.-Riel was living quietly in Montana, apparently taking no interest in Canadian affairs.
Q.-Who sent for him?
A.-Sir John Macdonald answered that question when, in his place in Parliament, he said:-An agitation arose, and Riel was brought into the country. Who brought him into the country? Not the Indians. Not the Halfbreeds. The white speculators of Prince Albert gave their money to Gabriel Dumont, and gave it to Lepine, and gave it to others, and sent down to to bring Riel in as an agent to be the means of attaining their unhallowed ends. It is to the white men, the men of our own race and lineage, and not to the Halfbreeds nor yet to the Indians that we attribute the war, the loss of life, the loss of money, and the discredit that this country would have suffered had it not been for the conduct of our gallant Volunteers. Such is Sir John's statement. Whether he spoke truthfully or not is another question.
Q.-Did the Government try to punish any of those white speculators whom the Premier charged with causing all the trouble?
A.-No effort was made to bring any of them to trial, indicating either that Sir John Macdonald's statement was untrue, or else he has been guilty of a shameful neglect of duty.
Q.-Who composed the deputation that went for Riel?
A.-Four Halfbreed settlers named respectively Gabriel, Dumont, James Isbister, Michael Dumas, and Moise Ouilette.
Q.-Did the Government arrest any of these men?
A.-Instead of arresting them, the Government offered a public position to each. James Isbister has published a letter stating that Dumas and Ouilette were appointed Indian instructors. Gabriel Dumont was given a ferry license, and he (Isbister) was offered a position which he declined. Dumont and Dumas took part in the rebellion, and afterwards fled to Montana.
Q.-Why did the Halfbreeds sent for Riel?
A.-Archbishop Tache, probably the best living authority on matters concerning the Metis, says in his recent manifesto, "They (the Metis) went for him to a strange land, owing to the uselessness of the efforts made by themselves and their friends to have their rights acknowledged. The Metis could not understand why they were so obstinately overlooked. They came to the conclusion that they were played upon by those in whom they had so far placed confidence, and they believed that Riel, being one of themselves, who had suffered with and for them, would embrace their cause with greater zeal and thus be successful." In other words the Metis found it useless to send petitions to the Government, and so invoked Riel's aid.
Q.-What does the Archbishop say as to the causes of the outbreak?
A.-He says:-"The troubles could and should have been prevented. It is sad to think that nothing short of bloodshed and the expenditure of millions could bring those who have the management of public affairs in one or another capacity to understand the state of affairs in the North-west." He denies that Riel was the cause of the trouble, and states that those who say that his removal ensures the safety of the country, do not know what they are talking about.
Q.-Does the Archbishop attribute the blame to the Government?
A.-He certainly does. In his manifesto he says he finds it "impossible to free the Dominion authorities of responsibility." He charges that much of the trouble has been occasioned by the attempts made to govern the North-west without consulting the wishes and interests of the people thereof, by distrusting the people, and by casting aside as useless the advice and information rendered from that quarter, and says:-"Men distinguished by their character, their position, and their experience, have time and again given suggestions and useful advice, but almost invariably every attempt to enlighten was disregarded; nothing was accepted save documents prepared in the Government offices, many of which, I am sorry to say, should have been considered the sole unreliable exponents."
Q.-Did the Dominion authorities know that Riel had been sent for by the Halfbreeds?
A.-They were kept fully informed of all that was going on in the Territories. All through 1884 meetings of white and Halfbreed settlers were held in the various parts of the North-west, and the reports of these meetings appeared in the different newspapers. The Mounted Police and other officials also gave information to the Government as the movement proceeded. In fact, Mr. Peter Mitchell, a leading Conservative, puts the case very correctly when in his newspaper he says:-"This rising in the North-west that has cost so much in blood and money was no sudden freak, was not without warning, but on the contrary, it was the climax of a gradually growing discontent, that at every step was brought before the notice of the Government, reported upon by the officers, and told them, with damnable iteration by bishops, priests, lieutenant governors, surveyors, and apparently everyone who had a right to hold communication with them."
Q.-At what time did the delegates go after Riel?
A.-In June 1884. They went 700 miles into Montana, and found him. In answer to their request to go with them to the Saskatchewan, Riel said that he was at liberty to refuse, but that "he would go, and spend some months with you, in the hope that by petitioning the Government, we will obtain the redress of all our grievances. I go with you, but I come back in September." He accordingly accompanied the delegates to the Saskatchewan.
Q.-Did Riel's coming cause excitement among the Metis?
A.-They were certainly delighted to see him. About the time of his arrival in St. Laurent, a letter appeared in Le Manitoba, a Conservative paper published in Winnipeg saying:-"It is said that Riel is coming with his family. Oh, if he would only have the happy idea to dwell irrevocably amongst us! That man can do only good to his fellow-countrymen and he is the only one who can unite them all on any question. His name is great among the Metis, English and French. Yesterday the people were to assemble in crowds to meet him."
Q.-Were the Government notified of Riel's arrival?
A.-On the 8th July, 1884. Major Crozier, of North-west Mounted Police, sent the following telegram to the Government:-"Louis Riel arrived at Duck Lake with his family brought in by Halfbreeds.
Q.-Were there no volunteer corps in the Territories at the time to preserve the peace?
A.-Five volunteer militia companies had been organized some time before, but they had been allowed to disband, owing to the neglect or refusal of the Government to provide them with clothing and equipment. But if the Mounted Police force had been kept in a reasonably good condition and properly managed it would have been able to preserve the peace under any circumstances.
Q.-Why were the local militia companies allowed to break up?
A.-The Government have never explained that matter. They seem to have doubted the loyalty of the North-west volunteers, and in the summer of 1884 sent Lieut. Col. Houghton to take the arms away from them. Probably the Government knew that among the members of the volunteer companies were many men who had been badly treated in regard to their land claims.
Q.-When were the local militia corps organized?
A.-In 1879, Lieut.Col. Osborne Smith went through the Territories and organized two companies of infantry and two companies of mounted riflemen. One company at Battleford, one at Duck Lake, and three at Prince Albert. A Prince Albert paper of the 15th December, 1879, announces the formation of the three companies at that place, gives the names of the officers of each, and states. "The volunteers mean business. Captain Moore's and Captain McKay's companies have put in their annual drill during the evenings."
Q.-For what purpose were these volunteer companies formed?
A.-Colonel Smith, in his address at Battleford, at the meeting called to organize a company, said he had been sent to "organize companies of volunteers on the plan which had been found so effective in the older Provinces." The main object was, of course, to keep the Indians in check and relieve the Mounted Police as much as possible. Had the formation of local corps been encouraged the recent large and expensive addition to the mounted police force would have been unnecessary and any attempt at an uprising would have been crushed at its incipient stage without calling upon the militia force of the older Provinces.
Q.-Were any volunteer corps formed subsequently to 1879?
A.-The proposal to organize militia companies from among the settlers of the plains was well received by the whole population of the Territories. At Edmonton in February, 1880, a proposition to form a volunteer rifle company was coincided in by a public meeting as a measure of protection against expected Blackfeet and Sioux hostilities during the winter, and over 30 names were put down at once. The reports of the commanding officers showed that the extension of the militia organization to the Territories tended to give confidence to settlers, to overawe lawless Indians, and to aid in filling up the country.
Q.-What tended to discourage the formation of volunteer companies in the Territories?
A.-Chiefly the refusal or neglect of the Militia Department at Ottawa to provide them with proper uniforms. In 1880 the Deputy Adjutant-General reported that "They (the companies in the Territories) have been discouraged in consequence of the non-receipt of uniforms, but they are maintaining their organization, and in some cases performing voluntary drill." He urged that uniforms be forwarded, and stated that applications for permission to raise corps had been received from twelve different localities, "thus showing that the willingness to bear arms exists in these more recently settled portions of the Dominion as generally as in the older Provinces."
Q.-What was the strength of the five companies organized in 1879?
A.-There was a total of 225 officers and men, and although refused permission to drill in 1881, and not being provided with uniforms, Col. Houghton reported that they continued to drill.
Q.-Was any protest made against the Government's ill-treatment of the North-west militia?
A.-Repeated protests were made by the Government's own officers. After urging again and again that the volunteers be provided with uniforms, Col. Houghton, D.A.G., in his report of 1883 said:-"surely this western district has a right to expect that the Government of Canada will deal liberally with it, and afford young men the opportunity of carrying out their most praise-worthy wishes in this direction." He reported that though they had not performed drill, and no uniforms had been sent them, the corps were still in existence, and could readily be resuscitated by their original commanding officers were they to receive encouragement to do so.
Q.-Why did not the Government furnish the volunteers with uniforms?
A.-The Ministers at Ottawa must answer that question. The refusal to provide uniforms and the final taking away of the arms from the volunteers no doubt tended to cause much discontent in the Territories. The volunteers felt that their loyalty had been impugned, that they had been insulted, and treated with contempt by the Government.
Q.-Was not answer made to the repeated requests for uniforms?
A.-The only answer that came was an order relieving the companies from drill and in the end they were taken out of the militia list altogether and their arms taken from them.
Q.-What did the Prince Albert people think of the disbanding of the companies?
A.-They protested against it, repelled the offensive and unjust reflections which had been cast upon their loyalty, and also denied the charge of inefficiency on the part of the companies. After reviewing the efforts and sacrifices made by the volunteers in attending drill, and the Governments refusal to provide uniforms. The Prince Albert Times on 23rd January last said:-"Instead of attributing our inefficiency to want of loyalty, and offering it as an excuse for removing Government arms from the settlement we wish the people below (in the older Provinces) to understand that nothing but neglect on the part of the Militia Department prevents the existence of efficient and loyal companies of volunteers in the Territories to-day."
Q.-Did not the Prince Albert volunteers show their loyalty during the rebellion?
A.-The majority of those killed on the loyal side in the Duck Lake fight were volunteers, from Prince Albert, who accompanied Crozier's Mounted Police force.
Q.-Has the Minister of Militia or the Government offered any excuse for discouraging or neglecting the territorial corps?
A.-When the question of increasing the Mounted Police force to 1,100 came up in Parliament Mr. Blake showed that this increase and the enormous expense it involved would have been unnecessary had the militia companies in the Territories been encouraged and made efficient. He also pointed out that in all probability the rebellion and all its consequences would have been avoided and hundreds of lives and millions of dollars saved had the Government attended to their duty. The Minister of Militia gave as an excuse for not pushing the formation of militia organizations in the Territories, that he was afraid to ask Parliament for money to do it with, but at the same time the Government were granting millions of dollars to the Pacific Railway company, and for the purpose of buying political support in various parts of the Dominion.
Q.-What had the Minister to say of the disarming of the volunteers?
A.-He refused to produce the report of Colonel Houghton who took up the arms, and denied that there was any such report. Mr. Blake convicted the Minister of prevarication by proving that Colonel Houghton had made a report on the subject. The Minister then pleaded that the men who formed the five companies had disappeared and could not be found.
Q.-Was that statement correct?
A.-No, it was the very reverse of the truth, as Mr. Blake showed at the time it was made, because the report of the Deputy Adjutant-General for the Territories advised the immediate reorganization of the five long neglected companies, and said; "These corps are still in existence, and could readily be resuscitated by their original commanding officers were they to receive encouragement to do so." The report of this officer formed part of the Minister's own report.
Q.-Why did the Minister refuse to produce Col. Houghton's report?
A.-In order, no doubt, to prevent the information contained in it from being made public. Col. Houghton, in a subsequent letter, said that in his report of 28th July (the one suppressed) he had "reported fully with regard to the impressions formed by him in travelling through the Territories." and said he still adhered to his views. Had the report been produced it would probably have been found that the Government had been warned of the danger of an outbreak, and that the disarming of the militia companies was a piece of criminal folly, which led to terrible results. In short the report was suppressed in order to cover up the Government's guilt.

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