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Anticipation - Expectations for the New Land


Following several years of negotiations, the Hudson's Bay Company finally agreed to relinquish its monopoly on Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada. In return, the company received financial compensation amounting to £300,000 in cash, five percent of the land in the fertile belt as defined by Hind and Palliser (about 7,000,000 acres), and a certain amount of land around each of its trading posts (about another 50,000 acres). The transfer was set for December 1, 1869. Unfortunately, no one had thought to include the residents of Red River in the negotiations. The Canadian government, the British government, and the Hudson's Bay Company had behaved as if the transfer was inevitable.

When news of the impending transfer reached Red River, in the summer of 1869, the Métis residents were furious. They immediately called a halt to the Canadian government's construction of the Dawson Road and to the surveying of homestead lands. A small group of supporters of annexation were arrested (one of whom, Thomas Scott, would be executed), and a Métis provisional government elected. What followed was initially a paper war. The Red River Métis and Canada's representative, William McDougall, proceeded to issue separate statements, proclamations, and declarations in an effort to gain public support for their side in the dispute.

After Louis Riel and his provisional government showed little signs of relinquishing their lands, the Canadian government was forced to negotiate a second set of transfer terms, but this time with the people of Red River. The terms would secure the creation of the province of Manitoba, the recognition of Métis land titles, the reservation of 1.4 million acres for land grants to future Métis generations, and the granting of a full pardon to the participants in the rebellion. The English-speaking minority of Red River were also to be compensated for their losses.

The transfer of Rupert's Land and the creation of the small, "postage-stamp province" of Manitoba (which was about half the size of the land grant Lord Selkirk received from the Hudson's Bay Company half a century earlier) took effect on July 15, 1870. A military force of 400 British regulars and 800 Ontario and Quebec militia, under the command of Colonel Garnet Wolseley, arrived in the province about five weeks later to see that the transition to provincial status occurred without further incident. It was the first time that the young Dominion of Canada had assembled its military and it was an event that was widely celebrated at the time in the popular press.

Further Readings

See also
< Previous Theme: Scientific Expeditions



The Red River Expedition at Kakabeka Falls, Ontario, 1877, by Frances Anne Hopkins
The Red River Expedition at
Kakabeka Falls, Ontario,
1877, by Frances Anne Hopkins

Red River Expedition, Colonel Wolseley's camp, Prince Arthur's Landing, Lake Superior, 1870, by William Armstrong
Red River Expedition,
Colonel Wolseley's camp,
Prince Arthur's Landing,
Lake Superior, 1870,
by William Armstrong

North-West  Territories, proclamation, 1869
North-West Territories,
proclamation, 1869


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