Red River Colony


Red River Colony

The Red River Colony (or Selkirk Settlement) was a colonization project set up by Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk in 1811 on 300,000 km² of land granted to him by the Hudson's Bay Company under what is referred to as the Selkirk Concession. The colony was never very successful, but changes during the development of Canada in the 1800s led to the colony forming the basis of what is today Manitoba.

Selkirk had become interested in the concept of settling the area after reading Alexander Mackenzie's 1801 book on his adventures in exploring what is today the west of Canada. At the time, social upheaval in Scotland due to the introduction of sheep farming and the ensuing brutal Highland and Lowland Clearances had left a number of Scots destitute. Selkirk was interested in giving them a chance at a better life in a new colony he called Assiniboia.

He then purchased a controlling interest in the Hudson's Bay Company and set up the land grant. His idea (apparently) was to gain firm control of the area in order to take control of the West from the company's bitter rivals, the Montreal-based North West Company. With a colony in place the Métis trappers supplying the North West's fur traders, the Nor'Westers, would be displaced, cutting them off from areas further west.

The land grant included the portions of Rupert's Land or the watershed of Hudson Bay bounded to the north-east by the Rainy River, Lake of the Woods, Winnipeg River and Lake Winnipeg, to the north between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Winnipegosis by a line of 52°30′N latitude, to the north west by the 52°N parallel between Lake Winnipegosis and the Assiniboine River, and to the west by a line from the intersection of the Assiniboine River and the 52°N parallel running south to southern boundary of Rupert's Land. This covered portions of present day southern Manitoba, north-eastern North Dakota, north-western Minnesota, in addition to small parts of eastern Saskatchewan, north-western Ontario, and north-eastern South Dakota [ [http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0006725 The Canadian Encyclopedia] ] [ [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/7126 Morris, Alexander (1880) The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories Including the Negotiations on Which They Were Based, and Other Information Relating Thereto, Chapter I] ] .

He sent out a small group of Scots in 1811 to the area, but they were forced to pause for the winter in York Factory. When they finally arrived in 1812 they built a fort, Fort Douglas, but by the time it was done the growing season was over and they hastily set about hunting buffalo for food.

When farming started the next spring, the results were less than expected and Selkirk had to ban anyone from taking food out of the colony. It is not clear if this was simply a way to ensure food for the colony, or a business move intended to cut off the Nor'Westers. Either way, the move touched off the Pemmican War. The Nor'Westers, who relied on pemmican supplied to them by local Métis, were so upset that they destroyed Fort Douglas and burned down all the buildings around it. The fort was later rebuilt and things settled down for a time. [R. Douglas Francis, Richard Jones, and Donald B. Smith. "Origins: Canadian History to Confederation", 4th ed. (Toronto:Harcourt Canada ltd., 2000), at p. 434-5.]

Selkirk heard of the problems and sent out a new governor, Robert Semple, to take over. When he read a proclamation ordering the fighting to stop, the Battle of Seven Oaks broke out, Fort Douglas was destroyed for a second time, and the settlers were forced off their land. Selkirk then sent in a force of about 100 soldiers from the British Regiment de Meuron to enforce the peace and eventually become settlers themselves, while also capturing the North West outpost at Fort William, Ontario. This attempt worked, and peace was maintained. However it also left Selkirk almost bankrupt, and was one of the reasons the two companies were forced to merge in 1821, thus ending the problems for good.

The colony was never particularly successful agriculturally, but the lure of free land added new settlers every year. However the Hudson's Bay Company lost interest in paying for the settlement by the 1850s, and by the 1860s the Métis outnumbered the Scots. This led to a second period of unrest in 1869 and 1870 called the Red River Rebellion which led to the creation of Manitoba. [cite book | last =Hargrave| first = Joseph James | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Red River| publisher = Printed for the author by John Lovell | date = 1871| location = Montreal| pages = 506| url =http://books.google.com/books?id=p3yHV0tF9REC&dq=red+river+hargrave&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=Mf4Q2NcEyu&sig=tE1Rt8nfMCoGZp5Hd2fUmAoDH90 | doi = | id = | isbn = ]

Notes

ee also

*Métis people (Canada)
*Red River Academy
*Red River Rebellion
*Red River Trails
*Louis Riel
*Joseph James Hargrave
*Pembina, North Dakota

External links

* [http://anglicanhistory.org/canada/gjmountain/journal1849/ The Journal of the Bishop of Montreal, during a Visit to the Church Missionary Society's North-West America Mission] , by George Jehoshaphat Mountain, an early account of religious life in the Red River Colony.


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