The Red River Rebellion (2023)

There was the button that always cranked these hills beyond reason – the hint of anything Fenian.

The Red River Rebellion (1869-70) was over a thousand miles away and rather tame as rebellions go, but it stirred the citizens of our hills to hold “indignation meetings,” a uniquely 19th-century style of protest.

A dent in Canada’s story

Canadians revel in the claim that this nation was born without a shot being fired. Well, not quite. Our fifth province, Manitoba, joined Confederation in 1870 amid armed conflict and gunfire. The situation flared up in 1869 in the Red River Colony, an area settled by Métis, the descendants of Scottish and (mostly) French-Canadian voyageurs who had married Aboriginal women.

Although it was a British colony, Red River was administered by the Hudson’s Bay Company because it lay in Rupert’s Land, the vast territory controlled by the giant fur trader. What got things going was the biggest land transaction in world history. In late 1869 Canada acquired Rupert’s Land, one-quarter of the entire North American continent, for $1.5 million.

During the negotiations, neither the Canadian government nor Hudson’s Bay paid the slightest heed to the Métis and whether they owned the farms they had been working for half a century.

(Video) The Red River Rebellion | Historical Content

To force the Canadian government to recognize them and negotiate, the Métis seized Fort Garry (site of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s headquarters in what is now downtown Winnipeg), and set up a provisional government led by Louis Riel. They then promptly raised the bar by refusing to let Canada’s newly appointed lieutenant-governor enter the territory. By January 1870 the situation had become an armed standoff.

Why the fuss here in the hills?

At first glance, the Red River Rebellion seemed utterly irrelevant to, say, a farmer in Mono or a storekeeper in Erin, but Louis Riel and the Métis had pushed some hot buttons. To begin with, Ontario in 1870 was British, Protestant and Orange, and these hills were solidly ensconced in that spectrum. Riel was French-Canadian and profoundly, even mystically, Roman Catholic. And it didn’t help that his statements regularly referenced the authority of Quebec bishops. This at a time when at least one MP in these hills, T. R. Ferguson of the Cardwell riding, was known to drop the derogatory term “papist” into his speeches with impunity.

Religious tension was not the only button. The Orangeville Sun, in a January 1870 editorial, summed up a widespread Canadian anxiety with an editorial beginning, “The ruling passion of the United States is thirst for Empire.” It went on to articulate what many Canadians feared – that Riel’s rebellion was an opportunity for the U.S. to seize the great northwest.

As the Brampton Conservator pointed out, Canada needed only to reflect on how the U.S. treated Mexico to see what might happen here. The threat was real, for the British army had been almost entirely withdrawn from Canada following Confederation in 1867, and although militia regiments like the 36th Peel were being trained and strengthened, they were no match for the huge army south of the border.

Finally, there was the button that always cranked these hills beyond reason – the hint of anything Fenian. Riel was actually opposed to the Irish nationalists and their objectives, but there were Fenians in Red River, and when rumours reached Ontario that a contingent was organizing in Minnesota for a push north, it inflamed the situation even more.

(Video) Tongafa History - Louis Riel Pt. 1, The Red River Rebellion

Riel lights the fuse

Thomas Scott (1842-1870) apparently did himself no favours with his obstreperous behaviour and foul mouth. In jail at Fort Garry even his fellow prisoners petitioned to have him moved elsewhere. Speakers at indignation meetings, on the other hand, called him “intrepid, determined, and outspoken.”

On March 4, 1870, Louis Riel authorized the execution by firing squad of Thomas Scott, who had been captured in a failed opposition attack on Fort Garry. To the Métis, Scott was a symbol of the Canadian government’s messy takeover of Rupert’s Land for he was a surveyor, one of the men laying out plots on farms the Métis believed they owned.

Scott was also a loud voice in the local opposition to the rebellion, a force made up mostly of former Ontarians who had gone west because Crown land in areas like these hills had been pretty much taken up. Though small in number, they added a civil war component to the rebellion, mild in comparison to more famous conflicts, but enough to generate several armed confrontations.

(Video) The Mixed-Race Indigenous Nation Who Led The Red River Rebellion | Nations At War | Absolute History

Although Scott’s was not the first death in the struggle, he was from Ontario and he was British, Protestant and Orange. And so, what had been for several months a disturbing but far-off situation was now a full-blown crisis.

Taking out the frustration

How indignation meetings developed as a form of peaceful protest is uncertain, but they were a well established practice by 1870. Remarkably democratic – anybody could organize one – they were also quite structured. The meeting on April 19 at Orangeville’s Middleton Hall was typical. A secretary (W.R. Raines) took notes while chairman F.C. Stewart kept order as speakers in turn denounced Riel, decried the government’s slipshod handling of the crisis, and otherwise expressed outrage. At the end of the meeting a unanimous vote called on the government to crush the rebellion.

The meeting secretary was instructed to transmit the results of this vote to J. Ross, MP for Centre Wellington, and then everyone, depending on their attitude toward temperance, went to a tavern or home, warmed by the satisfaction that they had made their point – the very reason for holding an indignation meeting.

Such meetings varied from nearly a hundred people in Orangeville’s gathering, to a rowdy 10,000 at an open air affair in Toronto, to the average dozen or so in the Orange Lodges of the hills. A meeting in tiny Sandhill prepared for over 300 participants in expectation of a delegation from Brampton where, curiously, there is no record a meeting was ever held, despite the high-tension editorials in the Conservator. Even more interesting, there is no record of a meeting in Bolton where, according to James Bolton’s history of the town (published in 1931), Thomas Scott’s brother Hugh was a bookkeeper at the mill owned by J. Gardhouse. But it could be the momentum for indignation meetings was sidelined by rapid government action.

No more need for indignation

Maybe the indignation meetings did the job or maybe it was smart politics, but after dithering for months, the government in Ottawa acted in days. By the end of April 1870 an armed expedition of 800 militia and 400 British regulars was organized to put down the rebellion. (They reached Fort Garry in August, long after the dust had settled.)

(Video) Red River Rebellion

In May, the new province of Manitoba was created, effectively ending the rebellion, even though the Métis were still not satisfied. And early in June – a fortuitous gift perhaps – the Fenians were solidly defeated by Canadian militia (in Vermont) in what would be their last ever attempt to invade Canada.

Only two months after the hills got indignant, the Sun was waxing eloquent about a bumper wheat crop while the Conservator found space for a half page on a ball game between the Brampton Mechanics and the Acton Pastimers. Red River had disappeared from the news and indignation had melted away. Summer in the hills, it seemed, was going to be warm and peaceful.

Ontario’s indignation was fired by this woodcut, “The Tragedy at Fort Garry, March 4, 1870,” an artist’s conception of the Scott execution at Fort Garry. The anger was made even worse by rumours that Scott was buried alive and was heard screaming in the coffin at his burial. Library and Archives Canada, C-048776

(Video) Red River Rebellion

FAQs

What was the result of the Red River rebellion? ›

The uprising led to the creation of the province of Manitoba, and the emergence of Métis leader Louis Riel — a hero to his people and many in Quebec, but an outlaw in the eyes of the Canadian government. Riel's (centre) first provisional government, 1869.

What was the Red River rebellion simple? ›

Red River Rebellion, uprising in 1869–70 in the Red River Colony against the Canadian government that was sparked by the transfer of the vast territory of Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company to the new country of Canada.

What events occurred during the Red River Rebellion? ›

  • Jan 1, 1869. Hudson's Bay Company Withdraws. ...
  • Period: Jun 1, 1869 to Oct 11, 1869. Canadian Surveyors Come. ...
  • Oct 11, 1869. Riel's Forces Interrupt Surveyors. ...
  • Oct 15, 1869. National Committee of the Metis is formed. ...
  • Oct 30, 1869. Metis Turn Back McDougall's Party. ...
  • Nov 2, 1869. Capture of Fort Garry. ...
  • Nov 23, 1869. ...
  • Dec 6, 1869.

Why was the Red River Settlement important? ›

After his death, Lord Selkirk's executors took over administration of the Red River Colony. Agreement was reached to merge the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company as of June 1, effectively ending the fur trade out of Montréal and creating a near monopoly of the fur trade in British North America.

What caused the Red River rebellion for kids? ›

It was an uprising which started after the sale of Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) to the Dominion of Canada. The Métis community of Red River were worried they would lose their culture and rights under the Dominion of Canada.

Who were the people of Red River? ›

In 1872, the population of Red River Settlement totaled about 15,000 people. Most residents were of First Nations and/or Métis/half-breed heritage. Other residents were of European heritage from the countries of Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, eastern Canada, and the United States.

When did the Red River rebellion end? ›

What is the difference between a rebellion and a resistance? ›

How is rebellion different from resistance? If resistance is daily acts of opposition to oppression and injustice, rebellion is something more extraordinary: It is embodied in specific events, protests, and moments that upset the order of daily life.

Who were the Métis people? ›

The Métis people originated in the 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Aboriginal women, such as the Cree, and Anishinabe (Ojibway). Their descendants formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the Northwest. Distinct Métis communities developed along the fur trade routes.

How did the system affect the Métis? ›

The federal government placed restrictions on which lands Métis people could homestead, primarily offering only lands in the southern and western parts of Manitoba. Some families living in the north were therefore forced to relocate hundreds of kilometres from their homes and communities.

What makes the Red River Red? ›

The Red River is in the Mississippi drainage basin and is one of two Red Rivers in the nation. It is the second longest river associated with Texas. Its name comes from its color, which in turn comes from the fact that the river carries large quantities of red soil in flood periods.

What year did Quebec join Canada? ›

​Québec became one of the founding members of the Dominion of Canada on 1 July 1867 when it joined New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario in Confederation.

Why did the Red River settlement fail? ›

Locusts devastated the crops in 1818 and 1819, and the greatest known flood of the Red River virtually destroyed the settlement in 1826.

What is the Red River settlement today? ›

Our Homeland is West Central North America which is the historic North-West and part of Rupert's Land brought into Confederation under the leadership of Louis Riel and others. Red River Settlement - now Winnipeg - is the birthplace of the Métis Nation and the heart of the Métis Nation Homeland.

Who started the Red River Colony? ›

The colony was founded in 1811–12 by Thomas Douglas, 5th earl of Selkirk, a Scottish philanthropist, who obtained from the Hudson's Bay Company a grant of 116,000 square miles (300,000 square km) in the Red and Assiniboine river valleys. The official name of the settlement was Assiniboia (q.v.).

Where is the Red River? ›

Red River, also called Red River of the South, navigable river rising in the high plains of eastern New Mexico, U.S., and flowing southeast across Texas and Louisiana to a point northwest of Baton Rouge, where it enters the Atchafalaya River, which flows south to Atchafalaya Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

What language do the Métis speak? ›

Michif is the language spoken by the Métis, who are the descendants of French fur traders and First Nations women, dating back to days of the Red River Settlement in Manitoba.

Where was Red River Canada? ›

The Red River begins at the southern border between Minnesota and North Dakota and flows north through Manitoba and into Lake Winnipeg. The Red River begins at the southern border between Minnesota and North Dakota and flows north through Manitoba and into Lake Winnipeg.

Why was Manitoba created? ›

The new province of Manitoba thus entered Confederation as a province unlike the original four. Its creation revealed Ottawa's desire to control western development and access to resources. Sir John Alexander Macdonald, lawyer, businessman and the first prime minister of Canada.

How do you stop a rebellion? ›

We must encourage a style of authority that leads them to develop positive values.
  1. Choose the right moment.
  2. Look for circumstances that do not humble.
  3. Try to speak alone and in a good mood (this sometimes means waiting).
May 14, 2020

What are the causes of rebellion? ›

A rebellion originates from a sentiment of indignation and disapproval of a situation and then manifests itself by the refusal to submit or to obey the authority responsible for this situation.

What does rebellion mean in the Bible? ›

1 Samuel 15:23, God said rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. Rebellion is an attitude displayed to contradict authority. Rebellion started from the beginning of Creation. When God created Adam and Eve, He put them in the Garden of Eden and gave them instructions on what to do and what not to do.

What race is Métis? ›

Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

What food did the Métis eat? ›

Traditionally, the Métis diet consisted of products from hunting, gathering and farming. Wild game, such as bison, moose, deer, bear, rabbit, ducks, goose, grouse and whitefish, was common fare, and extra meat was always shared within the community.

How do I know if I am Métis? ›

A genealogy is proof of Métis ancestry because it can show that your ancestors received scrip as Métis people or that they were baptized as Métis people in the late 1800s. You need to provide the genealogist with as much information as you know about you, your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents.

How were the Métis treated unfairly? ›

Loss of culture and identity

After creating the Province of Manitoba, Métis people were left without recognition, without belonging and without the land that they once called home. This, and many other challenges faced by Métis people, puts them at a risk for facing mental health issues.

Why did the Métis lose their land? ›

Losing the Land, 1870-1880

The Manitoba Act was the result of negotiations between the Peoples of Red River and the Canadian Government. The Act itself was created by the Métis Provisional Government from a 'List of Rights' developed after widespread discussion among the Métis residents of the Settlement Belt.

What did the Métis believe in? ›

Traditionally, the Métis were very spiritual: most practiced a folk Catholicism that was rooted in veneration of the Virgin and based on pilgrimages such as those to St. Laurent de Grandin (near present-day Duck Lake).

Which country has red water? ›

According to local reports, officials in the Kemerovo region said the red-coloured water was from a blocked drain. A river in Russia has turned red. A river in Russia has turned beetroot red, horrifying locals.

What is the hottest river in the world? ›

The Shanay-Timpishka, also known as La Bomba, is a tributary of the Amazon River, called the "only boiling river in the world". It is 6.4 km (4.0 mi) long. It is known for the very high temperature of its waters—from 45 °C (113 °F) to nearly 100 °C (212 °F).

How many red rivers are there? ›

There are actually two Red Rivers in the United States. The Red River of the South flows through Texas, becoming a proper river just below where the... See full answer below.

Who named Canada Why? ›

The name “Canada” likely comes from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata,” meaning “village” or “settlement.” In 1535, two Aboriginal youths told French explorer Jacques Cartier about the route to kanata; they were actually referring to the village of Stadacona, the site of the present-day City of Québec.

What was Canada called before Canada? ›

Prior to 1870, it was known as the North-Western Territory. The name has always been a description of the location of the territory.

Who came to Canada first? ›

In 1604, the first European settlement north of Florida was established by French explorers Pierre de Monts and Samuel de Champlain, first on St. Croix Island (in present-day Maine), then at Port-Royal, in Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia).

When did the Red River rebellion end? ›

What did Louis Riel accomplish? ›

Louis Riel (/ˈluːi riˈɛl/; French: [lwi ʁjɛl]; 22 October 1844 – 16 November 1885) was a Canadian politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba, and a political leader of the Métis people. He led two resistance movements against the Government of Canada and its first prime minister John A. Macdonald.

Why was Scott executed? ›

Scott was convicted of treason and executed by the provisional government, led by Louis Riel, on 4 March 1870. His execution led to the Red River Expedition, a military force sent to Manitoba by Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to confront the Métis at Red River.

What caused the second Métis uprising? ›

The North-West Rebellion was triggered by rising concern and insecurity among the Métis about their land rights and survival following an influx of white settlers and a decline in bison—a major food source for the Métis and indigenous peoples in west-central Canada.

What year did Quebec join Canada? ›

​Québec became one of the founding members of the Dominion of Canada on 1 July 1867 when it joined New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario in Confederation.

Who were the Métis people? ›

The Métis people originated in the 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Aboriginal women, such as the Cree, and Anishinabe (Ojibway). Their descendants formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the Northwest. Distinct Métis communities developed along the fur trade routes.

Why was Manitoba created? ›

The new province of Manitoba thus entered Confederation as a province unlike the original four. Its creation revealed Ottawa's desire to control western development and access to resources. Sir John Alexander Macdonald, lawyer, businessman and the first prime minister of Canada.

What does the infinity flag mean? ›

The horizontal figure or infinity symbol featured on the Métis flag was originally carried by French 'half-breeds' with pride. The symbol, which represents the immortality of the nation, in the centre of a blue field represents the joining of two cultures.

Who found Manitoba? ›

"I know that through the grace of God I am the founder of Manitoba." Louis Riel, July, 1885. A Métis leader, Louis Riel was born in the Red River Settlement and educated at St. Boniface and Montreal. Riel, a passionate defender of the Métis, advocated guarantees for their land, language and political rights.

How did the Manitoba Act affect the Métis? ›

It gave the Métis most of what they asked for, notably responsible government, the status of province, bilingual institutions, confessional schools, and guaranteed property rights with respect to Indian lands. Manitoba became the fifth Canadian province.

Did Louis Riel commit treason? ›

Known as the North-West Rebellion, this resistance was suppressed by the Canadian military, which led to Riel's surrender and trial for treason. The trial, which took place in July 1885 and lasted five days, resulted in a guilty verdict. He was also given a choice to plead guilty or insanity.

Where is Thomas Scott buried? ›

He died on May 21, 1881, and was buried at Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Why did the Métis leave Manitoba? ›

The Act contained protections for the region's Métis. However, these protections were not fully realized. As a result, many Métis left the province for the North-West Territories. The Manitoba Act provided for the admission of Manitoba as Canada's fifth province.

Videos

1. Part 2- Who was Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion?
(Steven Clark)
2. Did You Know? - The History of Louis Riel
(cpac)
3. The Red River Rebellion of Louis Riel || Winnipeg Stamps
(StampCat Stamps)
4. Episode 10: Canada - A Peoples History - Taking the West - 1873 - 1896
(Act of Knowledge)
5. Remembering the 1869 Resistance
(MNCinfo)
6. The Red River Expedition of 1870: A logistics masterpiece in the Canadian wilderness
(Redcoat: British military history)
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