Métis Nation History

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END OF THE RULE OF FUR-TRADERS—ACQUISITION OF THE NORTHWEST—FORMATION OF MANITOBA—RIEL'S REBELLIONS—THE INDIANS. (1670-1885.) In 1867 the Dominion of Canada comprised only the four provinces, formerly contained in the ancient historical divisions of Acadia and Canada, and it became the immediate duty of its public men to complete the union by the admission of Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, and by the acquisition of the vast region which had been so long under the rule of a company of fur-traders. In the language of the eloquent Irishman, Lord Dufferin, when governor-general, "the historical territories of the Canadas—the eastern sea-boards of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Labrador—the Laurentian lakes and valleys, corn lands and pastures, though themselves more extensive than half a dozen European kingdoms, were but the vestibules and antechambers to that, till then, undreamt of dominion whose illimitable dimensions alike confound the arithmetic of the surveyor and the verification of the explorer." The history of this northwest, whose rolling prairies now constitute so large a proportion of the wealth of Canada was, until 1867, entirely the history of the fur trade. Two centuries and a half ago a company of traders, known as the "honourable company of adventurers from England trading into Hudson's Bay," received from Charles II. a royal licence in what was long known as Rupert's Land, and first raised its forts on the inhospitable shores of the great bay, only accessible to European vessels during the summer months. Among the prominent members of this company was the cousin of the King, Prince Rupert, that gallant cavalier. The French in the valley of the St. Lawrence looked with jealousy on these efforts of the English to establish themselves at the north, and Le Moyne d'Iberville, that daring Canadian, had destroyed their trading-posts. Still the Hudson's Bay Company persevered in their enterprise, and rebuilt their forts where they carried on a very lucrative trade with the Indians who came from all parts of that northern region to barter their rich furs for the excellent goods which the company always supplied to the natives. In the meantime, while the English were established at the north, French adventurers, the Sieur de La Vérendrye, a native of Three Rivers, and his two sons, reached the interior of the northwest by the way of Lake Superior and that chain of lakes and rivers which extends from Thunder Bay {382} to Lake Winnipeg. These adventurous Frenchmen raised rude posts by the lakes and rivers of this region, and Vérendrye's sons are said to have extended their explorations in January, 1743, to what was probably the Bighorn Range, an outlying buttress of the Rocky Mountains, running athwart the sources of the Yellowstone. The wars between France and England, however, stopped French trade in that northwestern region, and the Hudson's Bay Company's posts at the north were the only signs of European occupation when Wolfe and Montcalm fell on the Plains of Abraham, and the fleur-de-lis was struck on the old fort of the Canadian capital.

Towards the latter part of the eighteenth century, the merchants of Canada, who were individually dealing in furs, formed an association which, under the title of the Northwest Company, was long the rival of the Hudson's Bay adventurers. Both these companies were composed of Englishmen and Scotchmen, but they were nevertheless bitter enemies, engaged as they were in the same business in the wilderness. The employés of the Hudson's Bay Company were chiefly Scotch, while the Canadian Company found in the French Canadian population that class of men whom it believed to be most suitable to a forest life. The differences in the nationality and religion of the servants of the companies only tended to intensify the bitterness of the competition, and at last led to scenes of tumult and bloodshed. The Northwest Company found their way to the interior of Rupert's Land by the Ottawa River and the Great Lakes. -- Canada under British Rule 1760-1900, by John G. Bourinot (Primary source documents / Timeline)



Métis Nation History

Commemorating 2010 Year of the Métis Nation Anniversary

Related 1885 Métis Nation Newspaper links

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