17 of January 2014 Hist 261
The Great North West
The main impetus for Confederation in Ontario had been so that they would be able to acquire
the NWT for land development. Even since the mid 1600’s the NWT had pretty much been
governed by the HBC and they didn’t want people settling there because it would interfere with
the fur trade. So to discourage settlers, they told people that it was a barren wasteland of ice.
Unfortunately for them, the government of CND and Britain sent out separate surveyors (who
incidentally never ran into each other) with whole teams of geologists, and testers etc., to
determine if the land was good for farming. Both teams reported back a couple years later that it
was pretty fantastic land for farming with an exception of a triangle of land in what is now
southern Alberta (Palliser’s Triangle). And so Britain strong armed the HBC into giving up the
NWT to CND. But they sort of forgot to include the Métis Nation into these negotiations. The
land transfer, called The Transfer, occurred in 1870. There was also a miss communication
about the land; the aboriginals had leased the land to the HBC so that they could build their forts
while the HBC was under the impression that they had bought the land.
The Métis people lived in the Red River area and lived by a mixture of farming in the French
style, the bison hunt and by selling Pemican (bison meat with the liquids tamped out mixed with
berries and flour) to traders. The Métis as a group can be sub-divided into Métis and the
Country-born, where the Métis are the children of French Catholic men and Cree women and
the Country-born are children of Scottish Protestant men and Cree women.
A problem arose when the surveyors were sent out again from CND to divide up the land for
sale and started dividing the land that the Métis Nation (Métis and Country-born) were
cultivating had had lived on for their whole lives. The Métis people prompted kicked out the
The Uprising, 1869-70
Because of how British / English common law works, there can never be a power vacuum. So
when the HBC relinquished administrative authority over the Northwest, the CND’s didn’t jump
up and immediately claim the land, which allowed Louis Riel, who had studied law in Montréal,
to set up a provisional government to protect the Métis. Living in the area, so some time, had
been some white people out of Ontario who set themselves up as the Canada/Canadian Party
(hereafter the CNDP) who saw this provisional government as obstructing progress and
civilization, amongst whom was a man named Thomas Scott. The CNDP decided to raid the
near by fort and arm themselves, for which they were arrested by the Métis Government and
held in prison.
This did not help the negotiations that Riel was trying to conduct with the CND’s, though he did
have a lot of support from the people of QC. Scott however was tried and executed by the Métis
Government which made the negotiations even harder. In the end the Métis got 1.4 million acres
of land and a new province entered confederation based around the Red River Area known as
Manitoba. It was however significantly smaller than they had thought it would be, and it was derogatively called the “postage stamp state/province”. PM Macdonald also issued scripts
(papers proving ownership) to the people of the Métis. However, because how scripts worked
wasn’t well understood, many unscrupulous dealers bought them at very low prices from the
In the end the transfer happened though it passed from the hands of the HBS to the Métis
government to the CNDS, and Manitoba was created.
The Situation at 1870
Some 35,000 aboriginals lived in the NWT and posed a potent military force.
The aboriginal Fur Trade started about the 1770-90’s and though the HBC had a monopoly on
the region enforcing said monopoly was very difficult to do. A number of local fur companies
traded in the area which allowed the aboriginal people to play the companies off each other to