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Nomadic Cultures

Type: Document

Various nomadic cultures developed in what is modern-day Canada. Prior to European contact, there were hundreds of Amerindian peoples with histories stretching back thousands of years.

Site: National Defence

First Nations: True Masters of the Plains

Type: Document

The Plains Amerindians ruled the Prairies during the first half of the 19th century. These nomadic nations, fierce fighters and skilled riders, fought the advance of American settlement. Their relations with the traders of the Hudson's Bay Company were relatively smooth.

Site: National Defence

Otter’s Column

Type: Document

Colonel William Otter led a column of militia from Swift Current to Battleford, seeking to punish local Cree Indians under Poundmaker. Otter was ambushed at Cut Knife Hill and retreated to Battleford. The defeat of the Metis resulted in the Cree scattering in the face of Otter’s pursuit and Poundmaker later surrendered.

Site: National Defence

Battle of Cut Knife Hill, 2 May 1885

Type: Image

Three hundred and fifty Canadian militia led by Lieutenant-Colonel Otter attacked a Plains Cree war camp at dawn on 2 May 1885. The Cree, although surprised, put up a stiff fight under war chief Fine Day. When the Canadians retreated late in the day, it was the persuasive influence of chief Poundmaker that stopped the Cree warriors from pursuing their foes. Some historians believe that this saved Otter's inexperienced men from being massacred. This rather idealized view of the battle is one of a series from the 'The Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News.'

Site: National Defence

The March and Pursuit of Big Bear

Type: Document

A third column of militia commanded by General Thomas Strange left Calgary en route to Battleford. His column surprised the Cree under Big Bear at Frenchman’s Butte, but a stalemate ensued and he retreated. Strange returned to Frenchman’s Butte in June 1885, but the Cree had dispersed. He later lead a pursuit of Big Bear who fought the last battle of the rebellion with Colonel Sam Steele at Duck Lake.

Site: National Defence

Map of La Vérendrye’s western explorations

Type: Image

Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye (1685-1749) charted large areas of the Prairies during the 1730s and 1740s, unsuccessfully searching for the fabled Northwest Passage that linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Site: National Defence

Fort Pitt, a North-West Mounted Police post

Type: Image

Fort Pitt was built as a trade and supply post for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1829. It was taken over by the North-West Mounted Police, and in 1885 was home to a detachment of 25 policemen led by Inspector Francis Dickens (son of author Charles Dickens). When hostilities broke out between the Cree and the Canadian government in April, Fort Pitt was soon besieged. The police garrison abandoned the post, fleeing to Fort Battleford. This contemporary engraving is taken from the 'Illustrated London News'.

Site: National Defence

The La Vérendrye Expeditions

Type: Document

Inspired by Amerindian tales of a western sea, Canadian officer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye led a series of expeditions during the 1730s, exploring the western interior and looking for the Northwest Passage connecting Atlantic to Pacific.

Site: National Defence

Provisional Government Rule

Type: Document

The defeat of a North West Mounted Police force at Duck Lake by the Metis under Gabriel Dumont, led to the whites in the region to withdraw to fortified posts. Some of the Indian communities rebelled against white rule and there was a massacre of white settlers at Frog Lake.

Site: National Defence