Title: 1885
Creator: Don Freed
Subject: Lyrics
Description: 1885

Let me tell you it started in 1884
Lee Métis de St. Laurent wouldn’t take no more
Anger and frustration had festered in the land
To get the rights
To own the farms they made by their own hands
The farms they made by their own hands.

At the home of Abraham Montour on April 24th
Was a meeting of the council to decided upon a course
“Isbister take your pony! Dumas and Gabriel!
Journey to Montana and bring back Monsieur Riel…
Go get Louis Riel!”

Meanwhile back in Ottawa Sir John was really stewin’
“What the hell that bunch of bloody half-breeds think their doin’?”
He lifted his decanter to make sure his glass was filled
Made a fist and said he had a railroad to build.
He said he had a railroad to build.

But he need more financing and he soon devised a plan
To come up with the money and emerge an honored man
He knew the might of empire and broke into a grin
“I’ll create a little battle that I know that I can win!”
a fight that he’d be sure to win.

He already hated Louis and ignored the Métis’ calls
When they sent him down petitions but his ears had walls
In league with Lawrence Clarke who wrote to let him know
That if he’d stall a little more the situation soon would blow..
He knew that it was bound to blow.

Then he sent out for recruits from Old York and Peterborough
And he sent them to the valley of the river-lot furrow
They trekked across the country, an ordeal and a fight
When they reached Batoche they wondered if the Métis might be right…
They began to think the Métis were right!

Then the Métis went to Duck Lake and they busted down a door
And they armed themselves with anything they found in Mitchell’s store
Soldiers came from Carleton ready to attack
When Isidore Dumont was slain there was no going back!

Métis in the rifle pits, soldiers in the dell
Middleton said, “draw a bead and blow ‘em all to hell”
And though they numbered ten to one their foes they could not see
By the time the sun went down the Métis had the victory
At Fish Creek they had the victory!

But when the tide was turned Métis blood upon the trails
Out of ammunition shooting rocks and shooting nails
And old Warrior lay dying, for this world he wasn’t long
And as his spirit left his body he was singing out his song
As it slipped away he sang his song.

And the women and the children hid in damp and dingy caves
Breathing in contagion that would put them in their graves
Giving up their rations so the men could battle on
They shivered there in the darkness terrified and woebegone
Terrified and woebegone.

The inevitable came on the 12th day of May
Those who were not killed were gathered up or got away
Louis soon surrendered hungry, cold and tired
And he offered up a pistol that he hadn’t even fired.

Was he a profit or a madman? Fool? Or was he wise?
Someone to admire or someone to despise?
But in the halls of honour was justice really seen
When a jury’s plea for mercy brought a hanging for the Queen?
It brought a hanging for the Queen.

Then the people went in exile to Montana for a time
Were later given amnesty – came back across the line
Returning to their homes under pressure to give in
To a world that forced them to deny their blood, deny their kin.
Deny their blood! Deny their kin!

And when the Great Depression came the country said to the Métis
“Taking care of ‘breeds was never our responsibility.
Though you flourished in the fur trade that made this country rich
You can take your squaw and go and make your living in a ditch.”
And when our patriotic hunters volunteered to go to war
Never dreaming what inequity would lie in store
While others received benefits, would they ever get the same
From a hard and distant government with no honour and no shame?
To this very day it has no shame!

So the Métis became outcasts, their usefulness all done
The Empire’s dirty laundry cast aside by everyone
Looked upon as mongrels, suspicious in a crowd
Although we have a heritage of which we should be proud.

And now you’ve heard this tale and I hope I’ve made it clear
Bonds of blood don’t alter with the changing of a year
This story had its climax in 1885
And though it all is history it’s very much alive
Becoming even more alive.

©Don Freed

Type: Collection

Related Categories

Category The Valley of Green and Blue, Don Freed