History of the Metis

The Metis’ history is a vital part in the making of Canada. Metis are the offspring of the early British and French-Canadian fur traders and First Nations and Inuit women.

Around the 18th century, The Hudson Bay Company assigned European settlers (Scottish farmers) to move into the Red River Valley, which is a part of  Rupert’s Land in which they owned. This caused a conflict with the Metis who were living there at the time and the North West Company whose trade routes had been cut in half. Many Metis were working as fur traders for both the North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company.

Around that time, John A. MacDonald, Canada’s First Prime Minister wants all of Canada to be united. He used tariffs, trade and the railroad to accomplish this goal. He taxed goods from America so that people would by Canadian goods rather than American goods. MacDonald also held trades with people in Europe and the Caribbean, this was to expand trade all across Canada. Building the railroad (Canadian Pacific Railway) that will run across Canada would  improve transportation. The Canadian Government was also signing treaties, known as the “Numbered Treaties” with some First Nations. These treaties allowed  the Government of Canada to claim almost the entire western plains. In return, the government promised food, education, medical help, and other kinds of support for signing over their lands. Though, the Metis did not like how the Canadian Government was exercising its power over them because exchanging for land would be losing their culture. So they stood up for their rights and to protect their old way of life, by elected Louis Riel as the spokesperson for the Metis society. After the problem was over, Riel was was charged with the murder of Thomas Scott and exiled to America.

The North West Rebellion
This event is referred to in different fashions such as, “The Northwest Uprising”, “The Metis Resistance” , “Riel Rebellions” etc. Many facts are unclear do to the many versions of the event. During 1884, the Metis felt that the Canadian Government failed to address their rights and wanted legal title to the land they occupied. The Metis sent in petitions but the Government was busy building the Canadian Pacific Railway and did not listen to the Metis.  Soon the Metis heard that 500 NWMP officers were heading towards them, so they oragnized a new association called The Metis Provisional Government. The president,Pierre Parenteau, and their adjutant-general, Gabriel Dumont, with the help of the  First Nations chiefs, Poundmaker and Big Bear were able to bring back Louis Riel to help the Metis. They tried to negotiate with the Canadian Government but was unsuccessful. So battle struck, a battle between the Metis and the Canadian Government. It is accepted that the Metis lost the battle at Batoche, Saskatchewan. Gabriel and Louis fled to the States, and Poundmaker and Big Bear surrendered to the government. Poundmaker and Big Bear were sentenced for 3 years. On July 6, 1885, Riel was charged with high treason and was sentenced to hang. His appeals were short and on November 16, 1885 , he was executed.

Louis Riel (1844-1885) Carte-de-visite studio portrait taken in Ottawa after Riel was elected the Member of Parliament for Provencher, Manitoba, 1873

BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives, . “Louis Riel (1844-1885) Carte-de-visite studio portrait aaaaaaaataken in Ottawa after Riel was elected the Member of Parliament for Provencher, aaaaaaaaManitoba, 1873 / Carte de visite de Louis Riel (1844-1885), portrait fait en studio aaaaaaaaà Ottawa après son élection comme dé.” Flickr. N.p., 29/06/2011. Web. 1 Apr 2012. aaaaaaaa<http://www.flickr.com/photos/lac-bac/6461178381/&gt;.

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