The frog lake massacre
The Killings That Set the West Afire

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Frog Lake Massacre 1885
Orig. lithograph - Size - 8 x 9.25
Found - Cooksville, ON
Hand-coloured, Canadian Pictorial & Illustrated War News Souvenir Number, Pub. Toronto Lithographing Co. 1885
The litho shows Father Fafard being shot in the back, his cross flipping up with the violence of the blast. Two priests were killed.

In the foreground Mrs. Gowanlock (left) is holding her dying husband, who was shot from behind at they were walking arm in arm to the Indian camp. Around her lie the other victims of the massacre.

Pictures like this inflamed the passions of white people in the East, and hardened their hearts against showing any quarter to anyone - including Riel - who could be tied to such outrages against innocent people.

The Frog Lake Massacre: With the Mounted Police in seeming retreat, young Indians became emboldened as festering anger boiled over against the symbols of a white government continually betraying its treaty promises and obligations.

At the settlement of Frog Lake, the Police force of six men departed, hoping to lessen tension between the Crees of Big Bear's band and the handful of remaining local whites.

On April 2 a band of Cree warriors from Big Bear's band raided the Hudson's Bay Company store at Frog Lake in search of food.

A young war chief, probably interpreting the police departure as a sign of weakness, ordered the remaining whites to give up all their guns and come to his camp.

Amid the move an altercation broke out, and nine white men, all civilians including two priests and the Indian agent, were killed.  The only survivors were two young women (whose husbands were killed ), the company's agent -a young man hidden by Indian women - and a Métis married to a local woman.

News of the event encouraged other disgruntled Indians in the Battleford area. Starving Indians now raided HBC stores at Fort Pitt, Lac La Biche, Cold Lake, Green Lake, and Battleford.

Go to Graves

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
John Pritchard Guarding the Captive Ladies Mrs. Gowanlock & Mrs. Delaney, at Frog Lake 1885
Orig. lithograph - Size - 7 x 9.5"
Found - Cooksville, ON
Hand-coloured, Canadian Pictorial & Illustrated War News Souvenir Number, Pub. Toronto Lithographing Co. 1885
Two women - whose husbands were killed as they walked beside them - were spared from the same fate but were dragged, for two months, as prisoners by the band as it sought to escape the approaching army. Trudging miles in the winter snow without adequate food or clothes, and threatened almost daily with death took a terrible toll on the women.

(Theresa Gowanlock above) They would never really recover mentally from their terrifying experiences.

John Pritchard (18-- -1925), a Métis in the camp, worked tirelessly, for weeks, to safeguard the women in his tent, and on the road, as the band moved from place to place.

Many times it was a "near thing," till he finally led them to escape into police custody.

His personal heroism, by interceding and putting himself in harm's way, in a very volatile situation was celebrated in the litho produced above.

Theresa Gowanlock, worn out by her ordeal, died at 36 in 1899.

Below the graves of those who were killed.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Escape of the McKay Family Through the Ice to Prince Albert, 1885
Orig. lithograph - Size - 7 x 10.5"
Found - Cooksville, ON
Hand-coloured, Canadian Pictorial & Illustrated War News Souvenir Number, Pub. Toronto Lithographing Co. 1885
After the massacre at Frog Lake the few whites who were scattered across the west feared it was only a matter of days - in some case hours - before they would be killed by the "rebels," as they were called. For years farm instructor Joe McKay and his family had lived in harmony on the Poundmaker Reserve. But the young men of the tribe were so thirsty for blood that even chiefs like Poundmaker could not prevent them from taking revenge.

When his family was accosted at night in their home by a group of angry tribesmen Joe McKay asked them why his family was being threatened after all he and his wife had done for the people over the years. He softened their hearts but was told that the only way his family could be safe was to flee before the young men of the tribe caught up with him. He was given a bark canoe and told to flee down the ice-choked Battle River.

The 12 day flight of the McKay family, in a small boat down the ice-filled Battle and Saskatchewan Rivers is one of the epic journeys in Canadian history. They had only the clothes on their back for warmth, and only a few pieces of corn bread for food. They were reduced to eating the caulking from their boat to survive. As young Ann Flora McKay was to write, they were too frightened most of the time to be hungry. When their boat wasn't being crunched by ice floes they were threatened by Indians chasing them across the ice pans or shooting at them from the shore.

On one occasion they had to stop for five days, in the freezing cold, huddled under the willows on shore waiting for the ice to clear. They finally made a desperate gamble in their boat only to escape certain death when shouts along the shore told them their hiding place was discovered.

After life-threatening adventures from nature and rebels the family drifted into Prince Albert and the first meal in 12 days.

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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007