Red River Rebellion
Red River Rebellion (also known as Red River Resistance), a movement of national self-determination by the MÉTIS of the RED RIVER COLONY in what is now Manitoba, 1869-70.
Red River Rebellion (also known as Red River Resistance), a movement of national self-determination by the MÉTIS of the RED RIVER COLONY in what is now Manitoba, 1869-70. The settlement was after 1836 administered by the HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY and populated mainly by people of mixed European and Indian blood. Slightly over half were francophone (Métis), slightly under half anglophone ("country-born"). The inhabitants were continually in conflict with the HBC, particularly over trading privileges. By the 1850s the company's rule was under attack from Britain, Canada and the US, and by the 1860s it had agreed to surrender its monopoly over the North-West, including the settlement. Arrangements were negotiated to transfer sovereignty to Canada. During the lengthy bargaining period, Canadian and American settlers moved in, and their pretensions led the mixed bloods to fear for the preservation of their land rights and culture. Neither the British nor the Canadian government made serious efforts to assuage these fears, negotiating the transfer of RUPERT'S LAND as if no population existed there.
Mixed-blood concerns were exacerbated by Canadian attempts to resurvey the settlement in defiance of existing occupancy, and by the appointment of Canadian annexationist William MCDOUGALL as the territory's first lieutenant-governor. In late 1869 Louis RIEL emerged as the Métis spokesman. He recognized that his people must work with the more reticent anglophone mixed-bloods to satisfy their grievances. While local HBC officials maintained a studied neutrality, Métis opposition late in 1869 caused the Canadian government to refuse to take over the territory on 1 Dec 1869 as had been agreed. This encouraged Riel's insurgents, who had already prevented McDougall from entering the settlement; they seized Upper Ft Garry and fought against supporters of Canada. Representatives of the settlers were summoned to an elected convention, which in Dec proclaimed a provisional government, soon headed by Riel. In Jan 1870 Riel gained the support of most of the country-born in a second convention, which agreed to form a representative provisional government to negotiate with Canada the terms of entry into CONFEDERATION.
Armed conflict persisted over the winter, but Riel seemed in control until he made the colossal blunder of court-martialling and executing a prisoner, Ontario Orangeman Thomas SCOTT. Although the Canadian authorities were still willing to deal with Riel, they later seized upon the Scott case as a reason for refusing to grant an unconditional amnesty.
The legislative assembly of the provisional government organized the territory of ASSINIBOIA in Mar 1870 and enacted a law code in Apr. Although the Canadian government recognized the "rights" of the people of Red River in negotiations in Ottawa that spring, the victory was limited. A new province called Manitoba was created by the MANITOBA ACT, its territory severely limited to the old boundaries of the settlement, whereas the vast North-West remained firmly in Canadian hands. Even within Manitoba, public lands were controlled by the federal government. Mixed-blood land titles were guaranteed and 607,000 ha were reserved for the children of mixed-blood families, but these arrangements were mismanaged by subsequent federal governments. The Métis nation did not flourish after 1870 in Manitoba. There was no amnesty for Louis Riel and his lieutenants, who fled just before the arrival of British and Canadian troops in Aug 1870. Although the insurrection had ostensibly won its major objectives - a distinct province with land and cultural rights guaranteed - the victory was hollow. The Métis soon found themselves so disadvantaged in Manitoba that they moved farther W, where they would again attempt to assert their nationality under Riel in the NORTH-WEST REBELLION of 1885.
W.L. Morton, "Introduction," Alexander Begg's Red River Journal (1956); G.F.G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada (1936).