After the Red River Rebellion of 1869 - 1870, many of the Metis moved from Manitoba to Saskatchewan, then part of the Northwest Territories, founding a settlement at Batoche on the South Saskatchewan River. However, as in Manitoba, settlers from Ontario began to arrive, and land began to be arranged in the square concession system of English Canada, rather than the seigneurial system of strips along a river that the Metis learned from their French-Canadian ancestors.
In 1884 the Metis asked Louis Riel to return from the United States, where he had fled after the Red River Rebellion, to appeal to the government on their behalf. The government gave a vague response. In March of 1885, Riel, Gabriel Dumont, Honoré Jackson (also known as Will Jackson), and others set up a provisional government, believing that he could influence the federal government the same way he had in 1869. However, there was now a railway line across Canada, and the North West Mounted Police had been created. He lacked support from both the English settlers of the area and many of the non-Metis natives, and due to his belief that God had sent him back to Canada as a prophet, the Catholic Church no longer supported him either.
On March 26, 1885, Dumont defeated a small group of North-West Mounted Police and English setters at Duck Lake, outside Batoche. In response, the federal government sent 3000 troops under Major General Frederick Middleton to the area, where Middleton incorporated the 2000 English volunteers and NWMP who had organized themselves since Duck Lake.
On April 24 Middleton was attacked by the Metis at Fish Creek, and despite being heavily outnumbered and outgunned the Metis fought to a stalemate. On May 2 Lieutenant Colonel William Otter was defeated by native chief Poundmaker at near Battleford. Meanwhile, Major General Thomas Bland Strange brought a NWMP detachment from Calgary, Alberta, but they were unable to defeat a native force under Big Bear at Frenchman's Butte at the end of May.
On May 9 Middleton attacked Batoche itself. The Metis quickly ran out of ammunition and resorted to firing pebbles from their guns, until they were forced to retreat. Riel was captured on May 15, while Dumont, Jackson, and the other leaders fled across the border to the United States. Poundmaker and Big Bear also later surrendered. The government was able to pacify the natives by sending them food and other supplies; Poundmaker and Big Bear were sentenced to prison, and eight other native leaders were hanged. Riel was tried and hanged as well, sparking a national controversy between French and English Canada.
The Canadian Pacific Railway played a key role in the Rebellion, transporting federal troops to the area in a fraction of the time that it took to send troops in response Riel's previous rebellion. The successful operation gave the foundering and incomplete railway enough political support to receive sufficient funds to finish the line completely.
See also History of Canada