Last week, a Saskatchewan RCMP twitter account posted a “never forget” memorial to three officers killed at Duck Lake in 1885. Let’s help them remember what happened when the police attacked the Métis at Duck Lake, since they are so eager for remembrance. (1/22)

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There is no separating Duck Lake from the broader campaign of genocide that Canada had launched in the west following Confederation. Canadian leaders were explicit about their intention to starve out Indigenous people, conquer their territory, and erase them from the plains. (2)

Canada had unleashed an horrific assault against the Métis at the Red River settlement (near Winnipeg) in 1870, in which the British soldiers and Ontario militiamen - fuelled by rage and alcohol - inflicted violence, sexual violence and murder upon the Métis. (3)

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Métis & Indigenous people were pushed west into what is now Saskatchewan but the future of the plains was still unclear. To ensure victory, Canada cut off Indigenous ppl from their primary food source and used their starvation as a weapon against them. (4) https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/when-canada-used-hunger-to-clear-the-west/article13316877/

As Indigenous people starved, Canada pressed its advantage, signing treaties that gave Canada most of the territory and consigned Indigenous people to reserves, often in exchange for guarantees of food, medicine, and resources for a conversion to agriculture. (5)

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But Canada broke the treaties and provided “only enough [food] to keep them alive.” That food was often rotten and inedible, and the reserves became prisons guarded by cruel colonial agents who ruled like petty tyrants, extracting wealth and sex from desperate people. (6)

It was a conscious, genocidal project. Some white ranchers, concerned about growing animosity (and the prospect of starving Indigenous people poaching their herds) offered to sell cattle to the Canadian govt to give to Indigenous people so they wouldn’t starve. Canada refused.(7)

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It wasn’t for lack of food. When Cree people went to the police fort at Battleford demanding food they could actually eat, Canadian authorities turned them away. Instead, they gave food as payment to white settlers who built a large stockade wall around the fort. (8)

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The early 1880s were to see a major effort by Indigenous and Métis people on the plains to defend their dignity and independence against the conquering force. One example was the 1885 Cree resistance at Frog Lake (not Duck Lake, which came later). (9)

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The Frog Lake reserve had been dominated by John Delaney, hated for his sexual abuse of young Cree girls, and Thomas Quinn, who took pleasure in withholding food aid, once assembling the community to receive rations only to declare it an April Fool’s joke. (10)

Both men were killed, in what Canadians called the “Frog Lake Massacre,” to whip up settler fear and anger. Several Cree people were given show trials at Battleford, and executed in the largest public hanging in Canadian history. NWMP account here: http://www.rcmpveteransvancouver.com/a-day-in-battleford-in-1885/ (11)

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That same year, the Canadian police provoked a conflict with the Métis, who had settled at Batoche after the colonial assault at Red River. The Métis - with some support from local white settlers - had declared an independent government. (12)

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The Métis, like the Cree, were facing a food crisis. The Canadian govt had refused to provide agreed-upon seeds, tools and land-titles around Batoche. Métis farmers were thus regularly harassed by police, and food was scarce. Now we come to Duck Lake. (13)

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Canada would tolerate nothing less than full conquest of the west. It needed to provoke the Métis into full and open conflict, and did so at Duck Lake. The police were dispatched to Duck Lake to obtain horses and weapons, but Métis forces had blocked the road in numbers. (14)

The Métis could have killed the police then and there, but instead let them retreat unharmed. The police returned that night with reinforcements and a cannon to attack the Métis blockade. This is how those officers from the RCMP tweet were killed. (15)

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Though outnumbered, Gabriel Dumont’s Métis force prevailed and the police were forced to retreat. This time Dumont wanted to rout the invaders, but again they were allowed to retreat, at the insistence of Louis Riel, who still hoped Canada would negotiate in good faith. (16)

It was a foolish hope. The defeated police returned to their Fort Carlton, which they promptly set ablaze, claiming that the Métis had done it. This false allegation was used to justify Canada’s sending a force of over 8000 soldiers to ransack the Métis settlement of Batoche.(17)

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The assault on Batoche would easily qualify as a war crime. Indiscriminate violence against civilians, wanton theft and destruction of the village itself, and a gloating John A Macdonald demanding executions to “convince the Red Man that the White Man governs.” (18)

Following this massacre, Macdonald’s government gave the land - the very land it had refused the Métis farmers - to the soldiers who had destroyed Batoche. So if the RCMP really wants us to remember Duck Lake, let’s get the story, and the role of the police, right. (19)


It’s hard not to read the RCMP tweet - memorializing officers killed in a colonial war against the Métis - as response to the report from just a day earlier that their mishandling of the murder of Colton Boushie was a product of their ongoing racism. (20) https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-rcmp-discriminated-against-colten-boushies-family-and-fuelled-racial/

The racist policing file in SK is far too wide to capture here, punctuated by heinous incidents like the murder of Neil Stonechild & other Indigenous youths by driving them to remote outdoor locations in winter, leaving them to freeze. #RCMPNeverforget (21)https://theconversation.com/remembering-neil-stonechild-and-exposing-systemic-racism-in-policing-128436

All details and citations available in Canada in the World (https://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/canada-in-the-world discounted prices by DM to this account) and sources like Howard Adams’ Prison of Grass and James Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains, among many others. (22)