Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
Above is a picture of Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Mr Adam claims he was the victim of police brutality, which is unacceptable. However, although they may be the very devil, I would hesitate to put The Royal Canadian Mounted Police on trial. In my life, they have done what the police is supposed to do: to protect and to serve.
In fact, the killing of George Floyd has led to accusations, resignations, dismissals, or a form of revisionism. Some of these are convincingly justifiable, others, less so. There can be no doubt that there are rotten apples in nearly every basket, but although racism is a serious problem in the United States, I could not extend the term “racist” to every American. Too many Americans oppose racism for me to generalize. Moreover, Barack Obama, an African-American, was elected to the Presidency of the United States and proved one of its finest presidents.
I nevertheless researched the topic of Aboriginals in Canada and Blacks in Canada. However, this post is about the indigenous people of Canada. It cannot go further. It is about Amerindians after Confederation and the “purchase” of Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered in 1670. In Wikipedia’s relevant entry, by virtue of the Royal Charter, Rupert’s Land, which was bought by the first four confederated provinces of the future Canada, could not include territory already settled and inhabited by the indigenous people of North America.
Therefore, it appears that, by virtue of the Royal Charter of 1670, the “purchase” of Rupert’s Land by the first confederated provinces precluded settling land that was settled by the indigenous people of North America.
For that matter, could the first four provinces of the Canadian Confederation resettle the Red River Colony? The Red River Colony was established by the Earl of Selkirk who purchased and settled the Colony to give a home to dispossessed Scottish crofters (See Crofting, Wikipedia). However, the Red River Colony was soon home to retired voyageurs, and to several members of the disbanded Régiment de Meuron and De Watteville Régiment. These were Swiss mercenaries and veterans of the War of 1812. The Red River Colony was multicultural and bilingual. It was also home to English-speaking Métis and French-speaking Métis. It was Louis Riel’s Canada, officially bilingual and bicultural, and eventually described as multicultural. But it wasn’t so until the Official Languages’ Act was passed, in 1969. The Red River Colony was bought and settled land.
There are times when “officials” act too quickly, but under the Royal Charter, could the Red River Colony be part of Rupert’s Land? This is questionable. Yet, after the purchase of Rupert’s Land, descendants of United Empire Loyalists rushed west to get land. But it was not a Wild West.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police was established in 1873 and was first named the North West Mounted Rifles and renamed the North-West Mounted Police. Although Quebec and Ontario have their own provincial police corps, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is Canada’s national police force, so, as soon as it was appointed, settling west in Canada was policed. But, in a policed Canada Amerindians were nevertheless sent to reservations and French-speaking Canadians had to live in the Province of Quebec because of the Orange Order. Sir John A. MacDonald and three other Prime Ministers of Canada were members of the Orange Order.
In an earlier article, I quoted the Canadian Encyclopedia:
Its members generally viewed Roman Catholics and French Canadians as politically disloyal or culturally inferior.
(See Orange Order in Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
I will close by stating, once again, that the purchase of Rupert’s Land was not consistent with the Royal Charter. Officials may not have read the details or may have reached an agreement that ignored the Royal Charter. Land was taken that belonged to Amerindians. They were not given a word to say, nor were the Métis. As for the use of French outside Quebec, the Orange Order (Wikipedia), Orange order (The Canadian Encyclopedia) would not allow it. They had no tolerance for the French and despised Catholics. Four Prime Ministers of Canada were Orangemen. Louis Riel’s Canada was born in 1969, when the Official Languages Act was passed, but Amerindians have lived on reservations, and I wonder whether this arrangement was the best. Confederation was followed by sending children to Residential Schools. Canada’s aboriginals were compensated for the harm inflicted on children who attended these schools.
During the years I taught at Saint Francis Xavier University, a young woman came to talk to me. She was taking a course I taught. She told me she was Amerindian and that she would therefore pass the course. I could not understand what she wanted. In the end, I had to tell her that I did not base grades on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc., but on the quality of one’s performance. She could, however, come to see me, if she experienced difficulties with the subject matter. She could also phone me at the office or at home. I would help.
Before closing, I should note that there is confusion concerning the word “race.” In French, race means “breed” and “race.” In l’abbé Lionel Groulx’s L’Appel de la race(The Call of the Race) race is breed or roots. I never included L’Appel de la race as necessary reading in my classes on French-Canadian literature. However, it is central to what is called “la question des écoles,” French-language schools outside Quebec, an issue one cannot remove from the discussion.
A discussion of the War of 1812, is relevant to both the Amerindian and Métis populations. Individual Amerindian chiefs negotiated treaties with the White. The famous Tecumseh opposed these treaties. He favored a centralized body of indigenous people. Tecumseh was killed on 5 October 1813, at the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812.
There is/was racism in Canada and there were racial wrongs. Many Chinese died building a rail road across ranges of mountains. Moreover, the Japanese were sent to camps. As for the Indigenous people of Canada, they had a right to their land, and French-speaking Canadians should have been allowed to move west. They faced the school question, la question des écoles, which takes us back to Louis Riel. It is possible that the Royal Charter was amended officially, but I doubt it.
I must read further, but for the time being, I would urge demonstrators to be extremely careful. Covid-19 could kill millions. Demonstrations are very dangerous.
Buffalo at Sunset by Paul Kane, c. 1851 – 1856 (National Gallery of Canada)
“I have done three good things since I have commenced: I have spared Boulton‘s life at your instance, I pardoned Gaddy, and now I shall shoot Scott.” (Louis Riel, Wikipedia)
Riel, Louis and theFirst Provisional government, 1869 (courtesy Glenbow Archives/NA-1039-1) (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
March 4, 1870. Protestant Orangeman Thomas Scott is executed on orders from Louis Riel (from the Illustrated Canadian News, April 23, 1870/Glenbow Collection) (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Executing Thomas Scott is in fact the worst thing Riel ever did. “Some historians say this was one of Riel’s most fatal errors.” (See Execution of Thomas Scott, A Country by Consent.) It was.
Irish-born Thomas Scott, an Orangeman from present-day Ontario, was captured when he and his party tried to break into Fort Garry, the former Red River Colony and future Winnipeg. He could have been freed on the condition that he leave the valley, but he wouldn’t leave the valley. He was a member of the Orange Order, named after Dutch-born Protestant king William of Orange, anti-Catholics Protestants who looked upon French Canadians as “morally inferior:”
Its [the Orange Order’s] members generally viewed Roman Catholics and French Canadians as politically disloyal or culturally inferior. Some Orange members argued that their association was the only one capable of resisting Catholics who, they believed, were subservient to the Pope’s spiritual and political authority and who were therefore disreputable crown subjects.
As an Orangeman and very anti-Catholic, Thomas Scott repeatedly taunted his captors and threatened to kill Riel.” (See Execution of Thomas Scott, A Country by Consent.) Moreover, Orangemen had a “penchant for violence and secrecy.”
Colonial administrators in Upper Canada/ Canada West were at times thankful for their loyalty and service, and other times disparaged their penchant for violence and secrecy.
One can understand that after Canadian Confederation, Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, and his government might wish to expand westward. In 1867, the United States had bought Alaska from Russia. Moreover, the United States had developed an ideology, Manifest Destiny (c. 1850), which suggested that Americans “were destined to expand across North America the special virtues of the American people and their institutions, etc.” (See Manifest Destiny, Wikipedia.)
Therefore, John A. Macdonald and his government purchased Rupert’s Land, a vast territory, named after Prince Rupert of the Rhine, who supplied Pierre-Esprit Radisson with a ship, the Nonsuch, that took him near the center of the continent. For men employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company, chartered in 1670, portages were minimized. The HBC’s trading post was York Factory, built in 1684. However, in 1774, the Hudson’s Bay Company built Cumberland House, on the Saskatchewan River, its first western inland post. “Brigades” of canoes would go down waterways to acquire beaver pelts used to make top hats or chapeaux haut-de-forme. At this point, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North-West Company became fierce competitorsuntil the merger of the two companies in 1821.
However, although one can understand Prime Minister John A. Macdonald‘s wish to expand the new Canadian Confederation westward, but he did so without consulting the inhabitants of the Red River Colony, depicted above in Peter Rindisbacher‘s art, many of whom were Métis. The Earl of Selkirk had settled the Red River Colony in the early decades of the 19th century. So, the Colony’s citizens were alarmed because of the influx of immigrants that followed Confederation. New Canadians were moving West in a manner that did not reflect the way the Earl of Selkirk’s had settled the community. (See The Red River Settlement, Canada’s First Peoples and Lord Selkirk’s Grant, CBC.ca) It was located at the juncture of the Red River and the Assiniboine, in modern-day Winnipeg.
When he returned from studying in Montreal, Louis Riel, the grandson of Jean-Baptiste Lagimonière, or Lagimodière, and Marie-Anne Gaboury, noticed that life was changing in the Red River Colony and that it was not changing to the benefit of the Métis, who numbered 10,000. For instance, “[t]he Métis did not possess title to their land, which was, in any case, laid out according to the seigneurial system rather than in English-style square lots.” (See Louis Riel, Wikipedia.) French seigneuries were narrow strips of land on the shores of the St. Lawrence. Given that they were narrow, several seigneuries could be built on each side of the St. Lawrence River. Such a configuration facilitated transportation.
In short, entry of the Red River Colony into Confederation seemed a takeover.
On 20 August 1869, a survey party arrived. On 11 October, the survey’s work was interrupted so, on 16 October, a “Métis National Committee” was formed at which point Louis Riel was summoned by the HBC-controlled Council of Assiniboia and “declared that any attempt by Canada to assume authority would be contested unless Ottawa had first negotiated terms with the Métis.” (See Louis Riel, Wikipedia.) On 2 November, unilingual William McDougall, who had just been appointed Lieutenant Governor of Rupert’s Land and the North-Western Territory, attempted to enter the settlement. McDougall had participated in the purchase of Rupert’s Land. He and George-Étienne Cartier had gone to London seeking funds to purchase Rupert’s Land. Métis “led by Riel seized Fort Garry [present-day Winnipeg].” (See Louis Riel, Wikipedia.) The Métis formed a Provisional Government, the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, on 6 December and on 27 December 1869, Louis Riel became its President. On 4 March 1870, 28 year-old Irish- born Thomas Scott was executed by firing squad, but he may have been left to die of his wounds. (See Louis Riel, Library and Archives Canada.)
The execution of Thomas Scott: a mistake
The execution of Irish-born Ontario Orangeman Thomas Scott, on 4 March 1870, is central to an account of the Red River Rebellion and to the fate of French-speaking Canadians in western Canada. Thomas Scott was violent. “He took part in a strike in 1869, for which he was fired and convicted of aggravated assault.” Therefore, he may have attempted to kill Louis Riel. Moreover, “Scott backed the annexation of the Red River Settlement to Canada, and the rest of his life revolved around this conflict. Scott had persecuted many metis, or “Half Breeds” in Winnipeg, and his first town, Ottawa, with a mysterious man named Gnez Noel.” Members of the Orange Order “generally viewed Roman Catholics and French Canadians as politically disloyal or culturally inferior.” (See Orange Order, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)
In fact, colonial administrators were of two minds with respect to members of the Orange Order.
Colonial administrators in Upper Canada/ Canada West were at times thankful for their loyalty and service, and other times disparaged their penchant for violence and secrecy.
In short, Thomas Scott was not a model citizen. On the contrary. Yet, would that, however “violent and boisterous” he was, 28-year-old Thomas Scott had been spared a death sentence, if only out of compassion. I should think a pardon would have prevented Riel’s own demise and, perhaps, allowed French Canadians to settle west. Thomas Scott was a very young man whom almost everyone would have forgotten, but who would, henceforth, be considered a martyr taken into captivity at Fort Garry, and murdered by a so-called government of ‘Half Breeds.’
Besides, was the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia a government? In their own eyes, they were. Yet, if French Canadians were “morally inferior,” one would surmise that French Métis, a blend of French Canadians and Aboriginals, at first, were morally inferior to French Canadians. I doubt that the Métis Provisional Government, or the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia, could be taken seriously and I believe it could not anticipate the impact of the execution of Thomas Scott(The Canadian Encyclopedia). I suspect that for many Canadians, Métis could not form a government.
In fact, it would be my opinion that Riel was very angry, which is the reason he would be committed to an asylum in the mid-seventies. After the Red River Rebellion of 1870, he was elected to Parliament three times, but he was never allowed to take his seat in the House of Commons. It has been suggested that Riel suffered from megalomania, which could be the case, but, first and foremost, he was very angry and had reason to be.
His [Riel’s] mental state deteriorated, and following a violent outburst he was taken to Montreal, where he was under the care of his uncle, John Lee, for a few months. But after Riel disrupted a religious service, Lee arranged to have him committed in an asylum in Longue Pointe on 6 March 1876 under the assumed name “Louis R. David[.]” Fearing discovery, his doctors soon transferred him to the Beauport Asylum near Quebec City under the name “Louis Larochelle.”
The inhabitants of the Red River Colony, the Métis and Aboriginals especially, had a right to their land. It had belonged to the Hudson’s Company Bay since 1670, but colonial powers usurped the land they occupied. As for the Red River Colony, it had also been settled. The Earl of Selkirk‘s family had bought sufficient shares in the Hudson’s Bay Company to acquire the land he settled, but that land have been claimed by the Hudson’s Bay Company, not purchased.
However, the notion that land in North America had been claimed, not bought, was probably lost on John A. Macdonald and his fledgling government. It had been lost on all colonial powers and colonists. By modern standards, it seems legitimate on the part of the European citizens of the Red River to determine their relationship with Canada.
The Red River Colony occupied land that had been bought by Lord Selkirk. One could say that it was not Rupert’s Land. One could argue that William McDougall and his surveyors were trespassing on land bought by the Earl of Selkirk, that now belonged to the citizens of the Red River Colony, the future Winnipeg, which means that the inhabitants of the Red River Colony had rights. Although Bishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché and Hudson’s Bay Company governor William MacTavish, advised caution on the part of John A. Macdonald’s government, the Canadian minister of public works, William McDougall, ordered a survey of the area, he and his men arrived on 20 August 1869. (See Louis Riel, Wikipedia.)
As for John A. Macdonald, at this stage, he was still inexperienced. He therefore purchased Rupert’s Land, part of which belonged to the Red River Colony (Upper Fort Garry) was located, without consulting its inhabitants, which led to the Red River Rebellion. Following the Red River Rebellion, there was little room in Western Canada for Catholics, French Canadians, and Métis. A committee of three travelled to Ottawa:
Riel’s Provisional Government sent Father Noël-Joseph Ritchot a close adviser of Riel’s, Alfred Scott, a Winnipeg bartender, and Judge John Black, to Ottawa to negotiate with the Canadian government.
The news of Scott’s execution arrived ahead of them. John Schultz and Charles Mair, who had both been imprisoned by the Provisional Government for a period of time, were now in Ontario and determined to turn public opinion against Riel.
However, no sooner was the Manitoba Act of 1870 signed than John A. Macdonald, fearing the United States would annex Manitoba, dispatched the Wolseley Expedition (or Red River Expedition) to “restore order.” The Expedition left Toronto in May 1870 reaching Fort Garry, or the Red River in late August 1870.
After a journey lasting three months of arduous conditions, the Expedition arrived at, and captured, Fort Garry, extinguished Riel’s Provisional Government and eradicated the threat of the U.S. being able to easily wrest western Canada from Confederation.
Riel fled the Red River upon the conclusion of the Wolseley Expedition (Wikipedia). During the 1879s, he was elected into office three times, but was never allowed to sit in the House of Commons. After his illness, a nervous breakdown, he went to the United States, worked as a teacher and married, Marguerite Monet,à la façon du pays, and fathered two children. He returned to Canada in 1885, summoned by Gabriel Dumont, he was taken prisoner when Métis were defeated at the Battle of Batoche, Saskatchewan, (in May 1885).
How does one conclude?
Louis Riel attempted to protect land the white man, Europeans, had taken from North-American Indians, Amérindiens. However, Riel made the mistake of condemning Thomas Scott to death, giving a martyr to the Orange Order and pursuing Riel for fifteen years and executing him? The Métis were not recognized as an aboriginal people until the Patriation of the Constitution (The Canadian Encyclopedia), in 1982.
As for the Métis List of Rights(A Country by Consent), recognized in the Manitoba Act of 1870, they were short-lived rights. In 1890, Manitoba passed An Act to Provide that the English Language shall be the Official Language of the Province of Manitoba (See Manitoba Act, The Canadian Encyclopedia). In March 1890, the government of Manitoba “passed two bills amending the province’s laws on education: An Act respecting the Department of Education and An Act respecting Public Schools.” These bills abolished the province’s dual school system: Catholic and Protestant. French-speaking children attended English language schools.
Orangemen disparaged the Jesuits’ Estates Act of 1888 and resented the influx of French Canadian Catholics into Eastern Ontario at the turn of the 20th century. Finally, in the debates surrounding the Manitoba Schools Question and the Ontario Schools Question, Orangemen vigorously agitated against Catholic education because of its ties to the French language.
As for Riel, he was neither a hero or a rebel, but a victim, a victim of colonialism. Amerindians were nomadic, which they could not be after the purchase of Rupert’s Land. Colonial powers gave themselves rights they did not have. Riel was executed for High Treason, after the Battle of Batoche, following the North-West Rebellion(1885).