In the 1880s native Indian unrest in Canada’s west swelled as the subjugation imposed by the Federal Government in Ottawa continued to cause extreme hardship amongst the Cree in western Saskatchewan and eastern Alberta. The dissention reached a boiling point on April 2, 1885 in the small community of Frog Lake when warriors of Chief Big Bear’s Band erupted in a killing spree which resulted in 9 white males of the community being murdered.
The Federal Government in Ottawa was already in a state of shock over the Metis from the Batoche area of Saskatchewan, led by Louis Riel. Riel’s rebel force had soundly defeated a column of North West Mounted Police and Prince Albert Militia volunteers near Duck Lake a week earlier. Prime Minister, Sir John A. McDonald hastily assembled a militia in the ensuing days, sending them west with the intent of suppressing this uprising quickly and decisively. To accomplish this task a three pronged attack was planned; General Frederick Middleton in overall command, would confront the Metis at Batoche, Col. William Otter would simultaneously march his force to support Fort Battleford, and a retired general, Thomas B. Strange would command a force at Calgary to march for Edmonton and then eastward to confront the Cree. They would thus trap all of the “rebels” in one gigantic pocket after which the three forces would converge, achieving the ultimate capitulation of all rebel forces.