On an isolated farm in middle Saskatchewan, I grew up surrounded by four reservations, prairie sloughs and near the North Saskatchewan river. I visited my cousins in the Eagle Hills, which I found beautiful with cliffs, forests and high hills. I wondered why Battleford was called Battleford and what battle had occurred there. I learned that one reservation, led by Chief Poundmaker during the Riel Rebellion of 1885 attacked and took over a fort situated there.
My favorite occupation growing up was riding my horse, herding cows and imagining I was living in the wild west. I was more than willing to absorb the research and reading involved as I loved reading and I had a passion for accuracy. I was fascinated. A civil war – nearby. This was little known civil war, overwhelmed by the American Civil war. It stimulated my interest because I never wanted to be the same. I love reading about the American Civil war – both fiction and documentary. But I didn’t want to write another story that has been written so many times and everyone in North America knows about. I wanted something new and different.
The settlers of the Northwest Territories (now Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan – predominately Metis (people of French and Native blood) were unhappy with the eastern Government of Canada. The natives were all confined to reservations, often abused by Agents and very rarely investigated. Most settlers were established along the rolling hills and valleys of the North Saskatchewan River. When Prime Minister McDonald decided to build the Canadian railroad in the hostile south lands where no one lived it was the final straw. The Natives didn’t want a railroad because the spewing smoke stacks of the locomotives caused endless prairie fires and they were tired of starving. Some left their reservations to fight. The settlers in the north were furious as they had no way to get their produce to the railroad without travelling endless miles of nothing but hostile lands. Gabriel Dumont of Batoche called on his good friend Louis Riel to help. The settlers of Batoche declared themselves separated from Canada and their own nation. Riel wrote McDonald continually requesting schools, hospitals and especially that the train would come further north. It was to no avail. McDonald and the east ignored the west. Sometimes that still happens in modern times.
The settlers and natives were charged with treason and McDonald organized an army to suppress them. The Riel Rebellion of 1885 began.