Red River Colony, settlement on the Red and Assiniboine rivers in what is now Manitoba and North Dakota, founded 1812 by the earl of SELKIRK. From 1801 Selkirk had sought British support for settlement in the region occupied by the HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY, but not until he and his family had gained control of the company in 1810 did his scheme become practical. In 1811 the company granted Selkirk some 300 000 km2 of the land it had claimed in the Winnipeg Basin, which he called ASSINIBOIA.
Under Miles MACDONELL, Selkirk's choice as governor, an advance party was sent from Scotland to Hudson Bay in July 1811 and finally arrived on the Red River on 29 August 1812. A second group joined them in October. Macdonell established his base near the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers (now downtown WINNIPEG) with a subsidiary centre 130 km south at Pembina (North Dakota).
The settlers had difficulty becoming self-sufficient, and only the assistance of resident NORTH WEST COMPANY traders and local freemen enabled them to survive. Naturally bellicose and fearing that new settlers would strip the area of food supplies, Macdonell attempted to monopolize the region's provision trade through the PEMMICAN PROCLAMATION of 8 January 1814, by which he prohibited the export of provisions from the region. This threat to the NWC's transcontinental transportation system, which took provisions, especially PEMMICAN, from the area to supply its canoe brigades, led the NOR'WESTERS and their MÉTIS allies to retaliate.
In early 1815 the Nor'Westers seduced many colonists back to Canada by promising better land. Macdonell was arrested, the remaining inhabitants withdrew, and the settlement was burned. Later that year the colony was reoccupied under Colin Robertson, and Robert SEMPLE replaced Macdonell as governor. Continual complaint with the NWC led in 1816 to the SEVEN OAKS INCIDENT, after which the Nor'Westers again evacuated the colony. Meanwhile, Selkirk had recruited new settlers among the DE MEURONS, discharged mercenary soldiers, and was leading this group to Red River when he learned of Seven Oaks.
On August 13 he seized the NWC's FORT WILLIAM, which lay on his route, and on 10 January 1817 sent a force to retake Fort Douglas. When Selkirk finally arrived that July, he distributed land and restored the settlers' confidence, promising them schools and clergymen. Roman Catholic priests arrived in 1818, but not until 1820 did a Protestant missionary come, and John West was Anglican rather than Gaelic-speaking Presbyterian, a source of grievance to the Scots settlers for years.