Wednesday, May 11, 2011

North West Rebellions Medal - 1885

While we have a deep and rich history in Annapolis Royal, we have some artifacts in our community that relate to historic events from other parts of Canada. The artifact featured in today's post is just such an artifact. From May 9 - 12, 1885 a battle was fought between the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan under their Metis leader Louis Riel and the Dominion of Canada. Riel and Gabriel Dumont and fewer than 300 Metis and First Nations warriors faced a force some 800 strong led by Major General Frederick Middleton. Middleton's overall force included one battalion from Nova Scotia.

In general terms, dissatisfaction had been brewing for some time between the Native and Metis populations and the Dominion of Canada. The Battle of Batouche is really part of a larger series of events known as the North West Rebellions. The North West Rebellions, in turn, are really the second part of the Red River Rebellions of 1869 -70. Tensions had not abated from this time. Among the issues were the expansion of agricultural settlements across the prairies, unrepresentative government, disappearance of the buffalo. White settlers who had purchased land along the proposed Canadian Pacific Railway route between Winnipeg and Edmonton were also upset when Prime Minister John A. Macdonald changed the route to run through Regina and Calgary. In an attempt to influence the Canadian government, Riel, Dumont and others established the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan.

Despite some early victories by the Native, Metis forces at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Cut Knife, Batoche was the decisive battle for the Dominion of Canada. Riel surrendered after Batoche and was eventually (and controversially) hanged for treason. At the end of the conflict medals were awarded for those serving for Canada. The front of the medal bears the likeness of Queen Victoria while the back reads "North West 1885 Canada). This particular medal has recently been transferred to the Annapolis Heritage Society as part of a large military collection. It was awarded to a Corporal Brown of the Nova Scotia battalion to serve under Major General Middleton.

All for now,
RGS

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