The Battle of Batoche
This page provides a survey of the events at Batoche and context for the video interviews below. A links section is included at the bottom of the page. Readers are encouraged to further probe and examine the historical accounts of the event.
Photo: Batoche Burning. Source
The Battle of Batoche is a critical moment in Métis history. Here, the Métis people made their last stand against heavily armed Dominion forces under the leadership of General Fredrick Middleton.
For three days between May 9th and May 12th 1885, 250 Métis battled 916 Canadian Forces. 51 Métis were left dead, wounded or captured. 6 months later, the battle claimed one final victim – Louis Riel – who was hung after being convicted for High Treason.
Without a doubt, much of today’s social and political landscape is influenced by the aftermath of those three days in May.
The battle was part of a far larger question that arose across the Canadian Prairie in the later part of the century. The Métis and many first nations bands questioned the rights of the ever-encroaching dominion government over the land. Traditional forms of life were disappearing, the buffalo were gone and with it, famine and starvation were constant at the door.
For many Métis, the move west towards Batoche, Touround’s Coulie and Duck Lake represented a move away from the persecution and suffering endured at the Red River settlement. Times were hard for many Métis after the Red River Resistance and political tensions and animosity ran deep.
Farming had also been very difficult in the years preceding the Battle of Batoche with grasshopper infestations destroying a number of year’s crops.
Through all of this turmoil, Batoche became the center of the new home for Métis people as they made an effort to leave the Red River Resistance behind them.
Photo: Batoche, the opening shots Source
When Dominion officials began to appear in the lands surrounding Batoche, many Métis grew uneasy. This was the same process that had occurred prior to the incident at Red River and many were wary of this government encroachment. Independence was fundamental to the identity of the Métis and the idea of Dominion officials resurveying their land made most feel very uncomfortable.
It soon became apparent that the desires of the dominion Government were far from benign. Steps were taken to dispossess the Métis from their lands and few had tolerance for this; surrendering their land at Batoche was not an option.
In many ways, the Battle of Batoche was the proverbial line in the sand against the ongoing efforts of the Government to dominate them.
When the battle was over, so too was an era of Metis freedoms and rights. The times following the Battle would be especially hard for the Metis with their leader hung, their houses burned and an intolerant government ensuring they did not regain the freedom they once knew.
In many ways, Batoche marked the beginning of the underground era for many Métis.
Olivier's Story of Batoche
Please visit our video series of comments with Samuel Olivier Boyer. Olivier presents a sobering and thought-provoking oral account of his families’ involvement in the Battle. His families history ties many of the aspects discussed in this short writing together. Watch Videos
Links for Further Reading
The Duck Lake Regional Interpretive Center
The Gabriel Dumont Institute - Batoche
Batoche National Historic Site of Canada
General Middleton's Report of the Battle in the NY Times
The Northwest Resistance - University of Saskatchewan Libraries and Archives