18 March

Battle at Duck Lake, 1885

Riel Arrests Hostages

Had I been born on the banks of the Saskatchewan, I would myself have shouldered a musket to fight against the neglect of governments and the shameless greed of speculators.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     -Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 1885

By March 18, 1885, there was no hope of turning back the forces of rebellion in the Northwest. At Mass, the previous Sunday, Father Fourmand had announced that anyone taking part in a revolt would be deprived of the sacraments. Riel, in one of his Hitler like rages, told his armed Métis that the spirit of God had left the church of Rome and the Pope. He said that he had appointed Bishop Bourget as Pope, and he (Riel) would be their priest.

This caused a division among the Métis, many of whom were devoted to the church and on March 18, Riel and Dumont arrested a number of men as hostages. To regain support, Riel shouted that Inspector Crozier was leading a force of the Northwest Mounted Police from Fort Carlton to attack them.

The first bloodshed came when Crozier sent his interpreter, Thomas McKay, to Duck Lake to bring back rifles and ammunition from Mitchell's trading establishment. McKay and his police escort were suddenly surrounded by a force of Métis led by Riel and Dumont who demanded surrender. They refused and returned to Fort Carlton.

Crozier then took action. Instead of waiting for reinforcements, he and fifty-seven police and forty-one members of the militia set out for Duck Lake.

Dumont set up an ambush for Crozier's approaching force. When it was stopped, Durnont's brother Isadore, and an Indian approached Crozier waving a white blanket. Crozier went forward with McKay to meet him. The Indian tried to snatch McKay's rifle and a struggle began.

Meanwhile, Dumont had his men begin a flanking movement to encircle Crozier's men. Dumont said later that he only intended to force the police to surrender and hold them as hostages. This would make it necessary for the government at Ottawa to negotiate.

Crozier dashed back to his men and both sides opened fire. Isadore Dumont and the Indian were killed. The police had twelve men killed and eleven wounded before Crozier ordered them to retreat to Fort Carlton. The Northwest Rebellion had begun in earnest.


18 March

-1836    The Hudson's Bay Company steamer Beaver, the first on the Pacific coast, arrived at Fort Vancouver, near present Portland, Oregon.

-1886    The first stone of the Lachine Bridge over the St. Lawrence was laid by the C.P.R.

-1907    Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk Railways were ordered to reduce fares to three cents a mile.

-1957    Canada took part in a Disarmament Conference in London with Britain, the United States, Russia and France.