Amants, heureux amants, voulez-vous voyager ?
Que ce soit aux rives prochaines ;
Soyez-vous l’un à l’autre un monde toujours beau,
Toujours divers, toujours nouveau ;
Tenez-vous lieu de tout, comptez pour rien le reste [.]
These works feature a story teller (Pilpay or Bidpai). They are frame stories. The characters are animals and the stories are told by a story teller, not the author. Such a structure serves two purposes. First, it engages the reader by leading him or her to a storyteller: Pilpay. It is as though the author stepped aside spelling a cast. Second, Pilpay’s characters are animals, whose eloquence is based on silence. Animals do not speak. They may say nearly everything. This literary device is often called obliqueness.
Interestingly, Montesquieu’s Persian Letters, 1721, Les Lettres persanes, feature Usbek and Rica, Persian noblemen visiting France. Their comments are the comments of strangers. As such, they may be dismissed, freeing the author to be critical of the land he inhabits, but in a discreet manner and with impunity.
Whatever the origin of Les Deux Pigeons, the lines I have quoted have no source other than the poet’s soul. La Fontaine gives his two pigeons/doves fine advice: be everything unto one another. There’s always a person who makes all the difference and whom we must always cherish.
Roses in a Bowl by Henri Fantin-Latour, 1883 (courtesy Britannica)
A few hours from now, Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markle. She’s a lovely woman, and I am certain she will be good wife to Harry and Harry, a good husband to her.
They will live at Nottingham Cottage, which is a little house and could be called a starter home. I am certain they have already made it inviting and very much theirs.
I’m glad Prince Charles will walk Meghan down the second half of the aisle. He will therefore play a meaningful role in Harry and Meghan’s wedding ceremony. He may well become a second father to Meghan.
Boat Encampment, Sketch Paul Kane, circa 1846, watercolour. Sketch made by Kane on the Columbia River, BC (courtesy Stark Foundation, Orange, Texas). (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
North-West Rebellion: Events
Much took place during the North-West Rebellion. There were skirmishes, battles, and a massacre. For a complete list of events, one should read the University of Saskatchewan‘s North-West Resistance: Chronology of Events. Missing from this list is a battle between Amerindians. It is Gabriel Dumont’s first experience as a “warrior” and, therefore, marginal information.
In 1851, at the young age of 13, Dumont was introduced to plains warfare when he fought at the Battle of Grand Coteau, defending a Métis encampment against a large Dakota war party.
Frog Lake Massacre 2 April 1885 –Cree success
Members of Mistahimaskwa’s (Big Bear) Cree Nation led by Ayimisis (Little Bear) and Kapapamahchakwew (Wandering Spirit) kill Indian Agent Quinn and eight other whites.
Battle of Fort Pitt17 April 1885 –Cree victory
Fort Pitt is taken by warriors of Mistahimaskwa‘s (Big Bear) band. Mistahimaskwa negotiates the evacuation of the fort by the North-West Mounted Police.
Gabriel Dumont ambushes Middleton‘s column at Fish Creek.
Pitikwahanapiwiyin Cree Chief (Poundmaker) (COURTESY GLENBOW ARCHIVES) (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Everything that is bad has been laid against me this summer, there is nothing of it true… Had I wanted war, I would not be here now. I should be on the prairie. You did not catch me. I gave myself up. You have got me because I wanted justice. Pîtikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker)
Amerindians (North-American “Indians”) participated in the North-West Rebellion. Pîtikwahanapiwiyin is Poundmaker and Mistahimaskwa, Big Bear (Gros Ours). Pîtikwahanapiwiyn surrendered to General Middleton at Fort Battleford. Mistahimaskwa surrendered at Fort Pitt. Kapapamahchakwew is Wandering Spirit (Esprit Errant).
Sources disagree on whether the Amerindians I have mentioned served a prison sentence or were hanged. I have read that many were hanged.
Moreover, although Amerindians had been conquered, they had been free to roam their land since Jacques Cartier claimed Canada for France, in 1534 until 1763. French settlers had married Amerindian women when the number of European women in Nouvelle-France was much lower than the number of European men. (See King’s Daughters, Wikipedia.) The King’s Daughters, 800 women, arrived between 1663 and 1670. Sixty years are a long time.
The Iroquois often attacked the French settlers. They also tortured and killed missionaries (see Canadian Martyrs, Wikipedia), but other tribes, the Algonquian tribes, the Abenakis especially, were friendly tribes. Many Quebecers have Amerindian ancestry. However, it is difficult for Québécois-es to be recognized as Métis. Métis are the descendants of persons involved in the fur trade.
To a certain extent, Confederation was a mixed blessing. It created a Canada that would stretch from coast to coast, which all Canadians enjoy, but Confederation happened at a cost, as did colonialism in general.
Amerindians would be sent to Indian Reserves and their children were forced to enter Residential Schools,
Métis who had no title to their lots, lost their land and they had no status,
the execution of Louis Riel alienated the French-speaking citizens of Québec. Quebec was one of the four provinces that joined Confederation in 1867. They believed they would be able to live and maintain their culture in Quebec and outside Quebec. However, William McDougall and Orangemen were anti-Catholic, anti-French, and racist.
I will not discuss what I would call the “Amerindian question.” It is an extremely complex issue.
I reset my computer successfully. As for my diagnostic, it cannot be established with certainty. Mild cognitive impairment is a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which has bedevilled me for decades. In other words, all is well.
Gabriel Dumont, resistance fighter Gabriel Dumont was a man of great chivalry and military skill, superbly adapted to the presettlement prairie life (courtesy Glenbow Archives). (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
What we need to know is that Dumont was famous as a bison hunter. “In the 1860s, Gabriel was the chief of the Métis bison hunters and commanded approximately 200 hunters.” (Virtual Museum of Canada). As noted in the caption above, below his photograph, he was “superbly adapted to the presettlement prairie life.” His life gives us an insight into the life of Métis before the bison disappeared. The bison/buffalo fed the Métis, prairie Amerindians (North-American Indians), and voyageurs.
I should also point out that Dumont was among the Métis who left the former Red River Colony at the time of the Red River Rebellion, hoping Métis could settle on river lots further west, in Saskatchewan or Alberta. They did, briefly. Gabriel Dumont operated a ferry service, “Gabriel’s Crossing,” and opened a General Store with a billiard table, on the South Saskatchewan River.
Father Alexis André
Once Métis arrived, so did a priest. Father Alexis André (1832 – 1893), an Oblate born in France,would minister to the Métis who had left the Red River. He helped Gabriel Dumont form a Provisional Government for the community he was founding, Saint-Laurent de Grandin. As you know, Gabriel Dumont, a linguist, could not write.
At times, Father André was a spokesman for Métis. For instance, he feared for their well-being as he saw the bison disappear. Father André and North-West Mounted Police commissioner George Arthur French “urged the federal government to exercise tighter control over these hunts so as to prevent the extermination of the bison.” (See Alexis André, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.) But the federal government had turned its back on petitions, which is why Gabriel Dumont sought Louis Riel’s assistance. Louis Riel was well educated and possessed charisma.
Louis Riel returns
Dumont is, in fact, best remembered for going to Montana to ask for Louis Riel’s help. Therefore, the two figures are inextricably linked. Riel was to be the political leader of the North-West Rebellion and Gabriel Dumont, its military leader.
But the Canadian government was pushing its way west not realizing that Métis and Amerindians could remain on their rectangular lots abutting a river. Petitions went unanswered. So, blood was shed. At the Battle of Batoche (9 – 12 May 1885), 250 Métis fought Major-General Frederick Middleton’s superior force of 916 regulars and militia. Dumont escaped, but, on 15 May 1885, Louis Riel surrendered. (See The Battle of Batoche, Wikipedia.)
Father André also tended to the spiritual needs of Louis Riel during the period Riel awaited his execution. Father André believed Riel was insane, but Riel left a good impression on Father André.
The priest spent hours in conversation with the Métis leader and was impressed with Riel’s sincerity, yet convinced of his insanity.
As we know, moving west was a mere respite for Métis and the indigenous people of the Prairie Provinces. On 20 July 1871, a year after Manitoba entered Confederation, British Columbia also joined. A dream came true. Canada stretched from sea to sea: A Mari usque ad Mare. The people of British Columbia wanted a wagon road built between Lake Superior and the Pacific Ocean, but Cartier offered a railway instead. Construction would begin within two years and be completed in ten years. Cartier/Canada also agreed to take over the colony’s considerable debt of almost $1.5 million and provide an annual subsidy of $216,000.
William McDougall, June 1872 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada, PA-033505). (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
This post is a continuation of Louis Riel, Hero or Rebel, published on 18 March 2018. The main subject matter of my earlier post was the Red River Rebellion, and résistance remains our subject matter. However, we will be focussing on William McDougall. William McDougall was the lieutenant-governor designate of Rupert’s and the North-West Territories. He and his party were prevented from entering the Red River by Métis, led by Louis Riel.
I will also introduce Gabriel Dumont, a Métis who left the Red River in 1869-1870 and settled in Saskatchewan. Dumont spoke six first nation languages and Michif-French, but did not speak English and could not write. (See Gabriel Dumont, The Virtual Museum.ca.) He went to Montana where Louis Riel taught school and asked for his assistance in petitioning the Canadian government to ensure that Métis did not lose their river lots and Amerindians, their land. In 1873, three years after the Wolseley Expedition, an emboldened Dominion of Canada had established the North-West Mounted Police and a railroad that would ensure Canada stretched from sea to sea, a Mari usque ad Mare, was under construction. The railway was a promise to British Columbia.
To some extent, we are revisiting the Red River Rebellion because there are gaps to fill. First, Riel’s story begins in the Red River Rebellion and ends in the North-West Rebellion. Métis leader Gabriel Dumont was born in the Red River settlement and he is the person who asked Louis Riel to come to Saskatchewan to help him appeal to John A Macdonald’s deafened Canadian government. Louis Riel would be hanged a few months after the Battle of Batoche which was not only the end of Riel’s story but also that of the North-West Rebellion.
Moreover, Riel had dreamed of a bilingual and multicultural Canada West, which was could not happen. Canada West would be, in its initial years, William McDougall’s Canada: English and Protestant. French Canadians were prevented from settling west of Quebec, as if there had not been a Quebec Act of 1774. As for Amerindians, they were sent to “Indian Reserves” and their children were educated in Residential Schools, despite the Royal Proclamation of 1763. (See A History of Residential Schools, CBC.ca.)
The Canadian Party
In the Red River, William McDougall, a Clear Grit, met members of the Canadian Party, two of whom were Doctor John Christian Schultz and Charles Mair. The Canadian Party supported Canada’s expansion westward, a noble cause, were it not for William McDougall who was anti-Catholic and anti-French. His world was white, English and Protestant. It was Thomas Scott’s world, who was and sentenced to death by a Métis court and then turned into a martyr in a 19th-century Orangist Ontario.
The growing threat, in his view, was ultramontane interference from Lower Canada in the civil affairs of the united province, a fear that would increasingly distort his political perception.
In April 1861, for example, McDougall indicated in a fit of pique that he would ‘look to Washington’ to rescue Canada West from ‘the control of a foreign race, and of a religion which is not the religion of the Empire.’
Therefore, one wonders why he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Rupert’s Land and the North West territories.
No poorer choice for the post could have been made, in view of the necessity for diplomatic caution in dealing with the officials of the HBC and with the lay and clerical spokesmen of the various groups at Red River. The transfer was to take place on 1 Dec. 1869.
(See Louis Riel, The Dictionary of Canadian Biography.)
Louis Riel was a Métis, one-eight Amerindian. Métis and Amerindians stood to lose their land, unless the future Manitoba’s entry into Canadian Confederation were carefully negotiated. Riel and his government advocated a bilingual and multicultural expansion westward. Moreover, the citizens of the Red River were Catholics and Anglicans. As for the descendants of Scottish crofters and other Scots, fur traders and their descendants, they were Presbyterians. All had lived at Red River harmoniously. Its Anglican bishop and archbishop was Robert Machray and Alexandre-Antonin Taché, its Catholic bishop and then archbishop. Under the leadership of William McDougall, who was anti-Catholic, Manitoba could have become a state and faith society, other religions not being “the religion of the Empire.”
Interestingly, both bishops and William Mactavish, the governor of Assiniboia and Rupert’s Land, warned against a premature arrival of Canadians at Red River. According to William Mactavish “as soon as the survey commences the Half breeds and Indians will at once come forward and assert their right to the land and possibly stop the work till their claim is satisfied.” Ironically, Mactavish was imprisoned by Riel, yet his wife was a countryborn, a Métis. He died of tuberculosis, in Liverpool, a few weeks after his release. (See Louis Riel, The Dictionary of Canadian Biography.)
Ukrainian Christmas Eve by William Kurelek, 1973
The Section Foreman’s House by William Kurelek, 1966
In July 1869, William McDougall, then minister of public works, sent a survey party to the Red River under Colonel John Stoughton Dennis. In fact, a team, including Thomas Scott, was already building a road linking Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg) to Lake of the Woods. It would be called “the Dawson Road,” after Simon James Dawson, a surveyor exploring the country between Lake Superior and the Red River settlement, in 1857. Yet, the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada was to occur on 1st December 1869.
The Red River Rebellion
Under such circumstances, Métis and Amerindians had cause to fear a takeover of Red River. As well, one can understand that its inhabitants felt alarmed when “strangers” attempted to settle in the former Red River Colony. Since the arrival of tens of thousands United Empire Loyalists, including 3,000 Black Loyalists, the English-speaking population of Britain’s still new colony to the north of the United States had increased significantly.
But as noted above, on 2nd November 1869, Métis under Riel, prevented William McDougall, his family, and his entourage from entering the Red River. They were pushed back to Pembina, North Dakota. The Métis then seized Fort Garry and, beginning in December, Louis Riel was forming a Provisional Government. This story was told in Louis Riel, Hero or Rebel (20 March 2018). We also know that the Provisional Government’s “List of Rights” would be deemed acceptable. Louis Riel and his provisional government did succeed in negotiating Manitoba’s entry into Confederation
On 15 March 1870, Taché read a telegram in which Joseph Howe, the secretary of state for the provinces, stated that the “List of Rights” was “in the main satisfactory.” Delegates could go to Ottawa. On 23 and 24 March, a three-man delegation left for Ottawa. These were Abbé Ritchot, representing the Métis, Judge Black, representing the English settlers, and Henry Scott, representing the Americans.
However, Schultz and Mair arrived in Toronto before the three-man delegation and described the execution of Thomas Scott as a murder. Thomas Scott, Schultz, and Mair had plotted to overthrow Riel’s Provisional Government, but a death sentence was too cruel a punishment. Thomas Scott’s execution was turned into a murder and he was depicted as a victim and a hero. Thomas Scott was a violent man, but Riel blundered. Consequently, upon their arrival in Toronto, Noël-Joseph Ritchot and Henry Scott were detained for “abetting murder,” but released because the judge ruled that the warrant was not legal. (See Louis Riel, The Dictionary of Canadian Biography.)
Negotiations were successful. On 12 May 1870, the Manitoba Act received royal assent.
“My mission is finished,” Louis Riel
On 24 August 1870, the day the Wolseley Expedition reached Fort Garry, Louis Riel learned that the soldiers planned to lynch him. So, he left Fort Garry. Before leaving, he told Bishop Taché that his mission was finished. His mission had been a negotiated entry of Manitoba into the Canadian Confederation, but, in 1890, French ceased to be one of the two official languages of Manitoba under Premier Thomas Greenway. Bilingualism would not be revived until the Official Languages Act of 1969 and the Manitoba Act would not be recognized until the Constitution Act of 1982.
The Northwest Rebellion, A Country by Consent (CBC.ca) summarizes the North-West rebellion. Riel surrendered on 15 May, after the Battle of Batoche. He was tried, convicted of treason, and hanged, on 16 November 1885. Montreal journalist Joseph Israel Tarte, editor of Le Canadien, had this to say:
At the moment when the corpse of Riel falls through the trap and twists in convulsions of agony, at that moment an abyss will be dug that will separate Quebec from English-speaking Canada, especially Ontario.
I am publishing a page entitled Canadiana 1. It should be revised taking into account a group called Canada First and a figure: William McDougall. McDougall and his party were pushed back to North Dakota by Métis led by Louis Riel, in 1869, when they attempted to enter the Red River Colony. They wanted to build a White and Protestant Canada West and spread hatred as a means to achieve their goal. French Canadians were not wanted west of the province of Québec.
Music video of ‘À la claire fontaine‚’ (By the clear fountain/spring) performed by Vancouver choir musica intima, arrangement by Stephen Smith. My [huntn] own urban re-interpretation of the traditional French folk song.
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine (1)
Et nos amours Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine
Under Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine and our love. Need Iremember ? Joy always came after the pain.
Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure Les jours s’en vont je demeure
Let night come and the hour ring. Days go away, I remain.
Les mains dans les mainsrestons face à face (2) Tandis que sous
Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l’onde si lasse
Hand in hand, let us stay face to face. While, beneath (sous) the bridge of our arms, Tired of being stared at eternally, flow waves,so weary.
Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure
Let night come and the hour ring. Days go away, I remain.
L’amour s’en va comme cette eau courante (3)
L’amour s’en va
Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l’Espérance est violente
Love goes away as this water runs. Love goes away. How slow life is, and Hope, so pressing (violent).
Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure
Let night come and the hour ring. Days go away, I remain.
Passent les jours et passent les semaines (4) Ni temps passé Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Days pass and weeks pass. Neither the past Nor love returns Under Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine.
Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure
Let night come and the hour ring. Days go away, I remain.
My translation is mostly literal. The following is more poetical:
Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away And lovers Must I be reminded Joy came always after pain The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I We’re face to face and hand in hand While under the bridges Of embrace expire Eternal tired tidal eyes The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I Love elapses like the river Love goes by Poor life is indolent And expectation always violent The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I The days and equally the weeks elapse The past remains the past Love remains lost Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I…
Guillaume Apollinaire (Wilhelm Albert Włodzimierz Apolinary Kostrowicki), 26 August 1880 – 9 November 1918, is a French writer, born in Rome. He is of Polish descent on his mother’s side. His father is unknown, but he may have been Francesco Costantino Camillo Flugi d’Aspermont (born 1835). Apollinaire learned French as a child, in Rome. His grandfather served in the Russian army and was killed during the Crimean War.
Apollinaire knew everyone, le Tout-Paris, including Gertrude Stein, a patron of the arts. She is pictured to his right in the painting featured at the top of this post. (See The Cubist Painters, Aesthetic Meditations, Wikipedia.) Apollinaire wrote poetry, plays, short stories, and he was an art critic. His poem, in the shape of a cat, is a collection of French expressions referring to cats, such as « La nuit tous les chats sont gris. » (At night, all cats are grey.) « Avoir d’autres chats à fouetter [to whip] » means: to have other fish to fry.
Apollinaire was in love with artist Marie Laurencin (« Marie » and, I believe, his amour in « Le pont Mirabeau »). He sustained a brain injury during World War I, and died, two year later, in 1918, of the Spanish Flu, a pandemic.
The late Kenojuak Ashevak , considered one of the pioneers of Inuit art, saw her first-ever print, Rabbit Eating Seaweed, included in the 1959 Cape Dorset collection. The early work points to the distinctive style for which the famed artist would become renown. (Historymuseum.ca) (Photo credit: CBC.ca)
I apologize for not posting for a long time. There has been a change in my life, but it is not a serious change.
Here is my story. A few weeks ago, I told my doctor that my memory was playing tricks on me. Test confirmed mild cognitive impairment. I will lose my driver’s license and my precious little red Toyota.
Do not be alarmed. I was not diagnosed until the early 1990s, but I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME since 1976. Victims get lost in mid-sentence and don’t remember words and names. I continued working and had a successful but shorter career than I would have liked. The only difference between the old and the new diagnostic is age. I am now older. But it could simply be that moving tired me out and that taking a mortgage, at my age, was stressful. Life is not always easy.
In short, I could not work on posts for several days because I was making various arrangements that would allow me to stay home for many long years, despite mild cognitive deficiency. Ironically, destiny led me to purchase a lovely apartment in the appropriate building. It has elevators, a heated interior swimming pool, and, as I have told you in an earlier post, it is located very near a small market place that includes a post office and most of the facilities I require.
My next post is on Métis leader Gabriel Dumont and the North-West Rebellion. Métis and Amerindians were losing their land, so surveyors can cut it up into little squares while a railroad was being built that woul take citizens from sea to sea: A Mari usque ad Mare, the Canadian motto.
As a leader, Gabriel Dumont was second only to Louis Riel. They resisted losses brought by Canadian expansion westward. The video inserted below is a fine account of events that took Canada from sea to sea, but a post is necessary.
Gabriel Dumont(Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
the Hudson’s Bay Company ‘have for eighty years slept at the edge of a frozen sea; they have shewn no curiosity to penetrate farther themselves, and have exerted all their art and power to crush that spirit in others to take pelts to fur traders.’
Therefore, the HBC built trading posts inland and started to use riverways and employ voyageurs. Wikipedia has a complete list of HBC trading posts.
Winter Fishing on the Ice by Peter Rindisbacher, 1821 (Photocredit: Wikipedia)
Summer View in the environs of the Company Fort Douglas on the Red River by Peter Ridinsbacher, 1822 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Riverways were the highways of the day, which I noted in an earlier post, hence the lots of the Red River Colony being narrow and deep. Inhabitants had their boat, a canoe, “at the ready” at the river end of their lot. Swiss-born Artist Peter Ridinsbacher left a visual testimonial of this juxtaposition of lots. In the images above, one can see the canoes at the river end of narrow lots and adjoining houses. The ice was also used in winter. Peter Rindisbacher lived in the Red River Settlement at the time the fur companies, Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company were merged, in 1821.
This story has a happy beginning, despite glitches and the disastrous Battle of Seven Oaks.
The Earl of Selkirk, a philanthropist, set about finding land for the Scottish crofters who had lost their home. Many settled in Nova Scotia, i. e. New Scotland. My neighbours, Dr Cecil MacLean, professor of French at St. Francis Xavier, and the Honourable Allan J. MacEachen, one of the finest politicians in the history of Canada, were both descendants of crofters. Mr MacEachen spoke Gaelic. The video inserted at the bottom of this post tells the story of crofters Lord Selkirk helped relocate to the Red River Colony. The crofters would live in the Canadian great plains which was fine territory for farmers. They were excellent recruits.
In order to acquire the land he needed to found the Red River Colony, the Earl of Selkirk and his family bought a large number of shares in the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). In fact, the Earl of Selkirk became the majority shareholder.
The fur trade was drawing to a close for want of beavers, which meant a complete change of lifestyle for voyageurs. Retired voyageurs, such as Louis Riel’s grandparents, Jean-Baptiste Lagimonière or Lagimodière and Marie-Anne Gaboury, settled in the future Winnipeg, However, many young voyageurs did not prove suited to farming. So, as the fur trade declined, they became guides to explorers in search of the Northwest Passage and a way to the Pacific Ocean, north of the South Pass (Wyoming). Truth be told, voyageurs and Amerindians opened up the continent, but as employees rather than employers. They were employed by explorers.
Settling the Red River Colony was extremely difficult. Allow me to quote Wikipedia:
In July 1811 Miles Macdonell sailed from Yarmouth, England to the Hudson’s Bay post at York Factory with 36 primarily Irish and Scottish settlers. Due to persuasive efforts of the North West Company only 18 settlers actually arrived at Red River in August 1812. As the planting season had ended before the settlers could complete the construction of Fort Douglas, they were forced to hunt bison for food and were completely unprepared for the arrival of 120 additional settlers in October.
In short, although crofters —farmers, were excellent recruits to the great plains, they had to face hunger. They needed pemmican from the nearly extinct “buffalo.” Pemmican was the food of the fur trade and it would also be the food of explorers. Amerindians and Métis prepared pemmican for voyageurs. Voyageurs were customers.
However, newcomers faced not only hunger, but also the coldest and harshest winters in Canada, south of the Arctic. I lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, for a year and loved it, but it was cold. However, the worst our new Canadians had to cope with, other than memories of a lost land, were warring factions: the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), chartered in May 1670 (at first, a fur-trading company), and its rival, the North West Company (NWC), founded in 1789 and headquartered in Montreal.
The Red River and the Assiniboine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Among recruits to the Red River Colony was the family of Swiss artist Peter Ridinsbacher, whose lovely watercolours depicting Aboriginals, Métis, and the Red River Colony are a precious legacy. The Ridinsbachers lived in Assiniboina or the Red River Colony. Their home was flooded in 1826, which was calamitous. Peter’s family decided to leave Assiniboina, or the Red River Colony, for the United States. (See 1826 Red River Flood, Wikipedia). They therefore moved to Wisconsin, but ended up settling in St. Louis, Missouri, where Peter died, “possibly of cholera,” (Wikipedia) at the age of 28.
Another inhabitant of Assiniboina was Swiss musician Edward Ermatinger, a Hudson’s Bay Company employee who ended up settling in St. Thomas, Ontario. His collection of the words and music of French Canadian folksongs, the voyageurs répertoire, as well as a “Red River March” he composed, may be the only connection to have come down to us.
Our fur trading companies competed not only for the best and the most pelts, but they also needed pemmican.
On 8 January 1814, fearing famine, Miles Macdonell, who was appointed first governor of Assiniboia, the Red River Colony, in 1811, issued the Pemmican Proclamation. The Pemmican Proclamation forbade the exportation of food from the Red River Colony (HBC territory), which angered both the Métis and employees of the North West Company. They believed it was a ploy on the part of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Six months later, Miles Macdonnell also issued a proclamation banning the “running” of buffalo with horses.
Hostilities culminated in the Battle of Seven Oaks (The Canadian Encyclopedia). A group of Métis had retrieved pemmican from the Hudson’s Bay Company, claiming it had been stolen. The canoes came down the Assiniboine escorted by Cuthbert Grant, an Anglo-Métis, who was the son of Cuthbert Grant père, a Nor’Wester from Scotland, and a Métis mother. Young Cuthbert was educated in Scotland.
On 19 June 1816, a band of Nor’Westers, Métis mainly, led by Cuthbert Grant (NWC) was returning from retrieving pemmican allegedly stolen by the Hudson’s Bay Company. They were to meet Nor’Westers at Fort William, but were intercepted by Robert Semple who had replaced Miles Macdonell. Semple was the governor of Rupert’s Land. A Nor’Wester, François-Firmin Boucher, was dispatched to speak to Robert Semple’s men. Someone fired a gun. Reports suggest the shot was fired by one of Semple’s men. A battle ensued which took 21 lives, including the life of Robert Semple. Only one of Cuthbert Grant’s men was killed, a 16-year-old. Discouraged, many settlers left the Red River Colony the very next day. François-Firmin Boucher spent two years in prison, but the Métis were exonerated by W. B. Coltman, a Royal Commissioner. (See The Battle of Seven Oaks, Wikipedia, Coltman’s Report, and Transcribing the Coltman Report – Crowdsourcing at Library and Archives Canada, posted on .)
The animal that roamed the great plains was often called a buffalo, which was a misnomer i.e. the wrong name. To tell the difference between the bison and the buffalo, Britannica suggests focusing on the three H’s: “home, hump, and horns.” Bison have a hump and their horns are shorter. Bison, not buffaloes, therefore lived in the great plains of North America. Interestingly, French Canadians call(ed) the buffalo a bison, which happens to be the correct name. For a very long time, I thought bison was the French translation of buffalo. It isn’t. The buffalo is un buffle in French and bison is both a French and an English word. Bison does not have a plural in English.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 empowered Amerindians and Métis. We do not know whether or not Métis residents of the Red River took the Pemmican Proclamation seriously. But it could be they didn’t. As I suggested in Louis Riel, Hero or Rebel, it is altogether possible Louis Riel looked upon his government as genuine and the execution of Thomas Scott as legitimate. But he was blamed. He could not take his seat in the House of Commons and he hid for fifteen years. Rupert’s Land belonged to North-American Indians, but colonists felt entitled to land that did not belong to them but which they claimed and then sold. John A. Macdonald’s government bought Rupert’s Land.
As for the settlers who left the Red River after the The Battle of Seven Oaks, they made the right decision, but thousands of United Empire Loyalists, those who would not live in an independent United States, took refuge in the British colony immediately north of the fledgling United States.
Despite difficult beginnings, The Red River Settlement would be a permanent settlement. We have a Winnipeg and a Saint Boniface. In the late 1860s, when Canada or William MacDougall and surveyors entered their community, the varied inhabitants of the future Winnipeg lived peacably. The Earl of Selkirk died in 1820. His death allowed a merger of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company (1821), and ended a merciless conflict.