History of Manitoba

History of Manitoba

Manitoba is one of Canada's 10 provinces. It was officially recognized by the Federal Government in 1870 as separate from the Northwest Territories, and became the first province created from the Territories.

Early history

The geographical area now named Manitoba was originally inhabited as soon as the last ice age glaciers retreated in the southwest. The first exposed land was the Turtle Mountain area, where large numbers of petroforms and medicine wheels can be found. The first humans in southern Manitoba left behind pottery shards, spear and arrow heads, copper, petroforms, pictographs, fish and animal bones, and signs of agriculture along the Red River of the North|Red River near Lockport, Manitoba. Eventually there were the aboriginal settlements of Ojibwa, Cree, Dene, Sioux, Mandan, and Assiniboine peoples, along with other tribes that entered the area to trade. There were many land trails made as a part of a larger native trading network on both land and water. The Whiteshell Provincial Park region along the Winnipeg River has many old petroforms and may have been a trading centre, or even a place of learning and sharing of knowledge for over 2000 years. The cowry shells and copper are proof of what was traded as a part of a large trading network to the oceans, and to the larger southern native civilizations along the Mississippi and in the south and southwest. In Northern Manitoba there are areas that were mined for quartz to make arrow heads. For thousands of years there have been humans living in this region, and there are many clues about their ways of life. Ongoing research will be needed to uncover many more artifacts for a more detailed understanding of past peoples and cultures in the Province.


Henry Hudson, in 1611, was one of the first Europeans to sail into what is now known as Hudson Bay. The Nonsuch ship that sailed into Hudson Bay in 1668-1669 was the first trading voyage that led to the formation of the Hudson's Bay Company. The Hudson's Bay Company was given the fur trading rights to the entire Hudson Bay watershed, that covers land in what is now known as Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Minnesota, North Dakota, and more. This watershed was named Rupert's Land, after Prince Rupert who helped to form the Hudson's Bay Company. Other traders and explorers from Europe [ [http://www.travelmanitoba.com/default.asp?page=135&node=590 Quick Fact - Manitoba History ] ] eventually came to the Hudson Bay shores and went south along many northern Manitoba rivers. The first European to reach present-day central and southern Manitoba was Sir Thomas Button, who travelled upstream along the Nelson River and Lake Winnipeg in 1612 and may have reached somewhere along the edge of the prairies where he reported of seeing a bison. Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Vérendrye, visited the Red River Valley in the 1730s as part of opening the area for French exploration and exploitation. Many other French and Metis explorers came from the east and the south by going down the Winnipeg River and down the Red River. An important French-Canadian population ("Franco-Manitobains") still lives in Manitoba, especially in the Saint-Boniface district of eastern Winnipeg. Fur trading forts were built by both the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company along the many rivers and lakes, and there was often fierce competition with each other in more southern areas.

There are a few possible sources for the name "Manitoba". The more likely is that it comes from Cree or Ojibwe and means "strait of the Manitou (spirit)". It may also be from the Assiniboine for "Lake of the Prairie". [ [http://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/hrb/events/origins.html The Origin of the Name Manitoba] . Province of Manitoba. Retrieved on 2007-04-15] [ [http://geonames.nrcan.gc.ca/education/prov_e.php#mb Geonames] – Manitoba name]

British territory

The territory was won by the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1763 as part of the French and Indian War, and this was a part of Rupert's Land, the immense trading monopoly territory of the Hudson's Bay Company that was the entire watershed that flows into Hudson Bay. Most rivers and water in Manitoba eventually flow north, not south or east as is commonly assumed, and empty into Hudson Bay. The Hudson's Bay Archives is located within Winnipeg, Manitoba, and preserves the rich history of the fur trading era that occurred along the major water routes of the Rupert's Land area.

The founding of the first agricultural community and settlements in 1812 by Lord Selkirk, north of the area which is now downtown Winnipeg, resulted in conflict between the British colonists and the Métis who lived and traded near there. Twenty colonists, including the governor, were killed by the Métis in the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816 in which the settlers fired the first shots. There was also one Metis man killed as well. Many fur trading forts were also attacked by each side over the many years.

Province of Manitoba

When Rupert's Land was ceded to Canada in 1869 and incorporated into the Northwest Territories, a lack of attention to Métis concerns led their elected leader Louis Riel to establish a provisional government as part of The Red River Rebellion. Negotiations between the provisional government and the Canadian government resulted in the creation of the Province of Manitoba and its entry into Confederation in 1870. However, Louis Riel was pursued by Garnet Wolseley because of the rebellion, and he fled into exile. The Métis were blocked by the Canadian government in their attempts to obtain land promised to them as part of Manitoba's entry into confederation. Facing bigotry from the new flood of white settlers from Ontario, the Métis moved in large numbers to what would become Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Originally, the province of Manitoba was only one-eighteenth of its current size and square in shape – it was known as the "postage stamp province." It grew progressively, absorbing land from the Northwest Territories until it attained its current size by reaching 60° north in 1912.

In 1875 Icelandic emigrants settled in Manitoba around Lake Winnipeg, around Gimli and what was called New Iceland. This was the largest settlement of Icelanders outside of the country.

Numbered Treaties were signed in the late 1800s with the chiefs of various First Nations that lived in the area now known as Manitoba. These treaties made quite specific promises of land for every family, medicine chests, yearly payments, etc. This led to a reserve system under the jurisdicion of the Federal Government. Presently, there are still land claim issues because the proper amount of land that was promised to the native peoples was not given in all cases.

The Manitoba Schools Question showed the deep divergence of cultural values in the territory. The French had been guaranteed a state supported separate school system in the original constitution of Manitoba, but a grass roots political movement among Protestants in 1888-90 demanded the end of French schools. In 1890 the Manitoba legislature passed a law abolishing French as an official language of the province, and removing funding for Catholic schools. The French Catholic minority asked the federal Government for support; however the Orange Order and other anti-Catholic forces mobilized nationwide. The Conservatives proposed remedial legislation to over-ride Manitoba's legislation but they in turn were blocked by Liberals, led by Wilfrid Laurier who opposed the remedial legislation on the basis of provincial rights. Once appointed Prime Minister in 1896, Laurier proposed a compromise stating that Catholics in Manitoba could have a Catholic education for 30 minutes at the end of the day if there were enough students to warrant it, on a school-by-school basis. Tensions over language remained high in Manitoba (and nationwide) for decades to come.


Winnipeg was the fourth largest city in Canada in the early 1900s. This boom town grew quickly from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. There was a lot of outside investors, immigration, railways, trains, and business was booming. Even today, one can see the many old mansions and estates that belonged to Winnipeg's ever growing wealthy class. When the Manitoba Legislature was built, it was expected that Manitoba would have a population of 3 million quite soon. Just around the time of World War I, the quickly growing city began to cool down as the large amounts of money were no longer invested to the same degree as before the war. Winnipeg eventually fell behind in growth when other major cities in Canada began to boom ahead, such as Calgary today.

In the 1917 election in the midst of the conscription crisis, the Liberals were split in half and the new Union party carried all but one seat. As the war ended severe discontent among farmers (over wheat prices) and union members (over wage rates) resulted in an upseurge of radicalism. With Bolshevism coming to power in Russia, conservatives were anxious and radicals were energized. The most dramatic episode was the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 which shut down most activity for six weeks, starting May 15 until the strike collapsed on June 25 1919 as the workers were gradually returning to their jobs and the Central Strike Committee decided to end the strike. As historian William Morton has explained:

The strike, then, began with two immediate aims and two subsidiary but increasingly important aspects. One aim was the redress of legitimate grievances with respect to wages and collective bargaining; the other was the trial of a new instrument of economic action, the general strike, the purpose of which was to put pressure on the employers involved in the dispute through the general public. The first subsidiary aspect was that the general strike, however, might be a prelude to the seizure of power in the community by Labour, and both the utterances and the policies of the O.B.U. leaders pointed in that direction. The second subsidiary aspect was that, as a struggle for leadership in the Labour movement was being waged as the strike began, it was not made clear which object, the legitimate and limited one, or the revolutionary and general one, was the true purpose of the strike. It is now apparent that the majority of both strikers and strike leaders were concerned only to win the strike. The general public at large, however, subjected to the sudden coercion of the general strike, was only too likely to decide that a revolutionary seizure of power was in view. [Morton 365-6]

Many more recent historians disagree with Morton's interpretation of the strike and have written considerably better histories of it.

In the aftermath eight leaders went on trial, and most were convicted on charges of seditious conspiracy, illegal combinations, and seditious libel; four were aliens who were deported under the Immigration Act. Labor was weakened and divided as a result. Famers, meanwhile, were patiently organizing the United Farmers of Manitoba, with plans to contest the 1920 provincial elections. The result was no party had a majority. The Farmers, running against politics as usual, won in 1922, with 30 seats, against 7 Liberals were returned, 6 Conservatives, 6 Labour, and 8 Independents.

ee also

*Natural Resources Transfer Acts


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