Description of Historic Place
The Battle of Tourond’s Coulee / Fish Creek National Historic Site of Canada is located along the banks of Fish Creek, a tributary of the South Saskatchewan River, 25 kilometres south of Batoche, Saskatchewan. The site consists of a parcel of land totalling 36 hectares, including the main battleground, Tourond’s Coulee as well as archaeological remains and landscape features associated with the battle. This location was the site of a battle between the Métis and their allies the Cree and Dakota from the Beardy and One Arrow First Nations, and the North West Field Force during the 1885 North West Rebellion / Métis Resistance. Official recognition refers to the 36-hectare (90-acre) site encompassing the battleground.
The Battle of Tourond’s Coulee / Fish Creek was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1923 because:
- at this place occurred a military engagement of the North West Rebellion / Métis Resistance between Middleton’s North West Field Force and Gabriel Dumont’s Métis and First Nations forces.
The North West Rebellion / Métis Resistance of 1885 grew out of the political and territorial tension that developed between the Métis people, Aboriginal peoples, settlers, and the Canadian federal government. The defeat of government troops by the Métis at the Battle of Duck Lake on 26 March 1885, prompted the creation of a new army called the North West Field Force under the command of Major-General F.D. Middleton. On 24 April 1885, this new group encountered the Métis and their Cree and Dakota allies at Fish Creek, beginning the first major military engagement between these two forces.
On April 24, Gabriel Dumont led the Métis and their First Nations allies across Fish Creek into Tourond’s Coulee, with the hopes of ambushing Middleton’s troops While Dumont was outnumbered, Middleton’s forces lacked experience and training as Fish Creek was the first combat experience for the 800 Canadian troops involved. Lacking reinforcements, Middleton sent his troops north on both banks of the Saskatchewan River. The Métis and their allies had planned to attack under cover of darkness, but they were unable to locate Middleton’s troops, and instead stationed themselves in Tourond’s Coulee, hidden in the ravine just off the main trail. At approximately 9:00 a.m., the battle began with shellfire from the North West Field Force. Though the Métis were sheltered from the attack, the Tourond homestead was destroyed. When the North West Field Force tried to move to a better position, they exposed themselves to the Métis, resulting in heavy casualties. By evening, the Métis had retreated to the east side of the coulee; many Métis had fled, but 70 reinforcements arrived from Batoche that evening. Dumont, acknowledging the lack of ammunition and arms, set fire to the prairie in hopes of pushing back the militia.
Middleton withdrew his troops to a camp approximately one kilometre from the battlefield to regroup. With 10 soldiers dead and almost 45 wounded, his confidence was shaken. The militia remained at the camp for two weeks, recuperating, training, and waiting for supplies and reinforcements. Métis casualties, of which there were 6, were relatively few. The Battle of Tourond’s Coulee / Fish Creek provided a psychological victory for the Métis; they had suffered fewer losses, prevented Middleton from moving into the coulee, and delayed his advance.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 1923; 2007.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location, near Batoche on the banks of Fish Creek, a tributary of the South Saskatchewan River;
- the natural topography and vegetation of its setting, including the creek bed, high banks, coulee depression (Tourond’s Coulee), open fields and poplar bluffs;
- the footprints, forms and materials of archaeological remains associated with the battle including the cellar and foundations of Mme Josephte Tourond’s homestead;
- the vestiges of the historic trail leading to the river crossing and the route of the trail from the community of Batoche through open fields and poplar bluffs to the battlefield;
- the integrity of any surviving or as yet unidentified archaeological remains relating to the battle which may be found within the site in their original placement and extent.
- the viewscapes relevant to the battle, such as the view across Fish Creek Valley (Tourond’s Coulee) from the Tourond homestead on the east bank to the position of Canadian troops on the west bank, the view from the Tourond homestead to the Métis position at the bottom of Tourond’s Coulee, and the view from the Métis position up the ravine to the position of the Canadian troops.