Red River Rebellion
 The Red River Rebellion is the name given to the events of 1869-70, in which the Métis of Red River took up arms against the Canadian government. The crisis arose because the Hudson's Bay Company had agreed to sell Rupert's Land, which included Red River, to Canada. This pleased the Canadian settlers who had already moved to Red River. The Métis, however, feared and resented the change. They were descendants of mixed marriages, mostly between French fur traders and Plains Indians. They had been the largest group of people in Red River for generations. They believed that they had inherited their land. Now their fate was in the hands of a country that hardly knew they existed.

In the summer of 1869, surveyors from Canada arrived in Red River to mark off the land for settlers. In October, the survey crews moved onto Métis land. In protest, Louis Riel and other Métis stopped the surveyors. Then they formed a National Committee, which decided to prevent the governor sent by Canada from entering Red River. Governor William McDougall was turned back at the border by a group of armed Métis. Finally, in a bold move, the Métis seized Upper Fort Garry, the main base in Red River. Angry Canadian settlers prepared to attack the fort, but the Métis surrounded them and took them prisoner.

On December 8, Riel proclaimed a "provisional government," to negotiate with Canada. The Métis did not object to becoming part of Canada, but they felt they must have protection for their land, their French language, and their Roman Catholic religion. They wanted Red River to become a province of Canada, not just a territory. The Canadian government sent men to negotiate with Riel, and during the winter an agreement seemed near.

The peace was destroyed in February 1870 when the Canadian settlers took up arms and marched on the Métis at Upper Fort Garry. One man was killed on either side, and several Canadians were taken prisoner. One of the prisoners was Thomas Scott, who had been captured in December but had escaped. Scott was an obnoxious man who hated the Métis. He taunted his captors, who held a council and sentenced him to death. The Métis executed Scott on March 4. "We must make Canada respect us," Riel said.

To many Canadians, Scott's death was cold-blooded murder. English-speaking Protestants in Ontario called the Métis rebels and demanded revenge. French Canadians, however, felt a common bond with the French-speaking Métis. Thus, the events at Red River caused a deep and emotional split in Canada itself.

Because of the outcry in Ontario, the Canadian government sent troops to Red River (the Red River Expedition). At the same time, the government was making arrangements to meet some of the demands of the Métis. The result was the Manitoba Act, which created the province of Manitoba.

Riel, Louis and the Provisional Government

On July 15, 1870, Manitoba became Canada's fifth province. It was much smaller than the people of Red River had hoped. Unlike the other provinces, Manitoba did not control its own resources. However, the Métis did receive guarantees for their land and language, and for the right to educate their children in Catholic schools.

The Canadian troops arrived at Red River in August; they seemed like an invading army. Riel and other Métis leaders fled. In 1875, the government banished Riel and one other from Canada for five years.

The Métis had played an important role in the life of Red River, but this did not continue in the new province. As English-speaking settlers poured into Manitoba, the Métis felt like outcasts in their own land. The buffalo, on which their livelihood depended, were almost gone; and although land was allotted to the Métis, many of them lost it to the newcomers.

In 1870 about one-half of the population at Red River had been Métis. Only 15 years later, the Métis made up less than one-tenth. Many of them moved farther west. There some of them took up the struggle again, in the North-West Rebellion of 1885.


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