The Trails of 1885

Today’s guest blog post ticks a couple of boxes. It hits two National Historic Sites in Saskatchewan and it tells an important story that is due to be shared and reflected on.

It is written by Cyndi whose Instagram name is cyndiwanderer and she does like to travel. She’s also a fellow history buff who volunteers for several causes. I’m very pleased to post her first of two posts in the Canada 150 series.

The Trails of 1885

My husband and I decided that Canada’s 150th was a great opportunity to check out parts of Saskatchewan that we had never visited before. I grew up in the central and northwest part of the province, and he grew up in the south. Neither of us had explored each other’s “turf” so we decided we would be each other’s tour guides.

Our northwest tour took us to St Walburg to visit the Imhoff Museum, then to Frenchman’s Butte, Fort Pitt, and on to Lloydminster for the night. My husband was blown away by how lush, green and hilly the area was.


The North Saskathewan River near Fort Pitt



Frenchman’s Butte – this is the trail that leads through the woods to the rifle pits


Sadly run down for a federal historic site. The interpretive signs have all been defaced, perhaps by the same sort that left dozens of empty beer bottles strewn around the site.


Fort Pitt, you can see the river valley beyond
Fort Pitt – it’s really just a big empty field with paths and the river below. But there are excellent interpretive signs throughout that really give you a feel of what it looked like.

The next day we visited Fort Battleford, the Crooked Bush near Hafford, and Redberry Lake before returning home to Saskatoon.



I’ll feature Frenchman’s Butte and Fort Battleford in this blog, being the National Historic Sites, but Fort Pitt is definitely part of the story, so I’ll take you along there, as well. These sites, along with another dozen or so in the province, are collectively known as the Trails of 1885. The Batoche Rebellion is well-known to all, but another rebellion was developing near the Battlefords. First Nations peoples, starved and deprived of their treaty promises, moved towards Fort Battleford and Fort Pitt seeking aid and justice. The townspeople of Battleford abandoned the town and fled to the fort. The bands, seeing the town deserted, helped themselves to provisions. Near the same time, a group of starving warriors attacked the town of Frog Lake, killing 9 people and taking 3 hostage. They went on to Fort Pitt, besieging it. The British military responded by sending troops to several places in Saskatchewan. That spring, besides the battle at Batoche, skirmishes took place at Cut Knife Hill, Fort Battleford, and Frenchman’s Butte, near Fort Pitt. The Frenchman’s Butte battle was the last of the resistance.


The Commanding Officer’s Residence was built in 1876.



Fort Battleford – Barracks # 5



Officer’s Quarters
Red River Cart
The sick horse stables




Beautiful old stove in the Commanding Officer’s Residence (note the instructions on the door)


Jeff in one of the guard house cells
Guard House – cast iron burning stove
Inside Barracks #5 – a very informative film to watch about the history of the Fort
Typical kit for a NWMP 




Not your average staircase


Main entrance of the house. Since Battleford was the capital of the North West Territories, the house was built to impress.
Cyndi finally found some red chairs! Well done!!
Not your typical prairie staircase.
Provisions request form

The loss of life on both sides was a tragedy, as was the systematic starvation of an entire race of peoples. Saskatchewan’s history and culture has been shaped by the cruel policies of a greedy empire. Let’s hope we can all reconcile and move forward to a future of better understanding by learning about our past.





Cyndi and I had a brief discussion about the last paragraph and how it would “read”.  I have been doing some listening and reading on Reconciliation and feel that this is a timely topic for here on the blog. It may turn out that I do a few blogs about this important Canadian issue.

This post demonstrates the line we walk and live in here in Canada. Cyndi and Jeff walked the rebellion trail and learnt a small piece of the history of the Indigenous of this area. They explored the natural beauty and bounty of the area that had been home to them.

They then toured the forts and appreciated the architecture and the history. It was a harsh environment 150+ years ago and these men and women brought European standards to an outpost. They changed the landscape of the prairies and with it the history of all.

Complex and compelling that we all understand what occurred and try to understand that all sides of our countries past.


2 thoughts on “The Trails of 1885

  1. Brenda Bacon September 10, 2017 / 6:44 am

    Great story; FANTASTIC photos. Interesting that the national park at Fort Walsh in SW Sask had exactly the same display of a NWMP officer’s kit. They must use the same researcher to tell them what will appeal to people, and what will be educational.


    • bernielynne September 10, 2017 / 2:22 pm

      I am very pleased to have included the story Cyndi wrote and her photos. I will be sure to pass on your comments to her.


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