Previous Index Next

 

266   MILITARY HISTORY OF CANADA

those of 1885 gave a very good account of themselves, when all the conditions are taken into consideration.

Another point of difference that cannot be overlooked is the fact that, while the serious menace of an Indian up-rising was always present in 1869-70, in 1885 some of the tribes actually took part in the conflict. It was, indeed, this feature of the Rebellion of 1885 that caused most apprehension. So far as the Metis were concerned, they could at the most do nothing more than create a temporary disturbance. But when Poundmaker and Big Bear joined the rebels a very different situation was created. If a general uprising of the Western tribes should follow, as seemed at one time probable enough, it would almost certainly result in the massacre of hundreds of white settlers, men, women, and children; and set back development of Western Canada perhaps fifty years. Fortunately, the Indian trouble did not spread beyond a few isolated bands. But this is anticipating.

The summer of 1884 found the half-breeds of the Saskatchewan country in a state of dangerous unrest. For months past the mutterings of discontent had been growing ever more ominous. Time and again the North-West Council, the western missionaries, and influential settlers familiar with the situation had urged the Dominion Government to meet the demands of the Metis before it was too late. Substantially all that the latter asked was that they be given a legal title to the lands they occupied on the Saskatchewan. The Government admitted that the request was reasonable; that it was only asking what had some years before been granted to the Metis of Manitoba; that it would be politic as well as just to extend the same privilege to the people of the Saskatchewan country; that loyal and contented Metis there would do much to safeguard the country against the possibility of an Indian uprising. Yet, with that curious spirit of procrastination that seems inevitable in governments, the administration was prodigal of promises, but niggardly in performance.

The Metis finally sent four of their number—James


Previous Index Next