The Red River Rebellion

by

Tamara Erdahl

 

In 1869 - 1870, the Red River Valley of Manitoba revoltedagainst the Canadian Government. This was called "The Red River Rebellion." The rebels were mostly metis-children that were raised by the French trappersand voyagers. Cree and Chippewa who opposed the extension of the Britishrule in a region that had been almost independent.

Until 1869, the Hudson Bay Company had ruled the Red RiverValley. It allowed people to live as they pleased. The Company turnedthe rights to Rupert's Land in Canada between the province of Ontario andBritish Columbia over to the British government. The plans were drawn upfor developing the region. In 1870, Great Britain gave the district tothe Canadian government.

The only people who lived in the Great Canadian Northwestwere Indians, a few traders, and about 12,000 Red River Valley settlers. They farmed lands for which they had no titles.

Under the leadership of Louis Riel, they set up their owngovernment at Fort Garry, where the city of Winnipeg now stands.

Surveyors, road builders, and officials of all kinds suddenlydescended upon the settlers. The areas of land had been arranged on theOld French plan of strips reaching back from the river fronts.

The decision to rearrange into townships and sections wasmade by the new officials. The settlers were alarmed and angered. Thiscaused great excitement.

Among the metis rose a leader named Louis Riel, a settlerof French, Indian, and Irish blood. The first governor of the new territorywas William McDougal. Determined to keep him from organizing the new government,Riel led the metis in an attack on Fort Garry. After they captured FortGarry, Riel set up a "provisional government." On the borderof Rupert's land, the metis met McDougal and forced him to turn back.

When McDougal saw the metis had a real grievance, he obeyedRiel in order only, to keep peace. Riel lost his head at the point anddoomed the Rebellion. An attack on Fort Garry was made by a group of loyalists. Some of them were captured, the rest of the rebels were driven off. Thecaptives were imprisoned as "enemies of the provisional government." One of those imprisoned was a young English Canadian named Thomas Scott. The metis picked Scott as an example for some reason. They shot him forbeing a traitor of the "provisional government."

A British force of 700 men was under the command of ColonelGarnet Wosely, who was ordered into the Red River Valley. A long difficultjourney by way of Lake Superior was made. When they approached Fort Garry,Riel put up the Union Jack flag and fled to America where there were rumorsthat the Americans were for the rebels and were helping them. His flightto Pembina, Walhalla, and St. Joseph in what is now North Dakota, endedthe Rebellion. Later he returned and led another revolt but was capturedand hung for treason in 1885.

Louis Riel fought for and set up a "provisional government"and ended his life dying for what he felt was right. At first, he had alot of power, but just like people who are getting old, his power startedto grow old and weak, and finally it died.

Bibliography

Kittson County Enterprise 1881

World Book, Volume 16 QR81

World Book, Volume 16 QR