Canada History

Canada History   timelines 
AskAHistorian    blog 




Prehistory | 2 Worlds Meet | New France | England Arrives | Clash of Empires | Revolution | British America | Reform/Revolt | Responsible Government | Confederation | Nation Building | Laurier | The Great War | Roaring 20's | Great Depression | WWII | The Peace | Cold War | Trudeau | PC's in Power | Modern Canada

  Constitution Act 1791 | Guy Carleton | Jay's Treaty | Black Loyalists | Alexander Mackenzie | Simon Fraser | David Thompson | John Graves Simcoe | Captain George Vancouver | The Northwest Company | Prevost's Conciliation | Tecumseh | The War of 1812 | Lord Selkirk | Newfoundland

In 1801, Thomas Douglas the Earl of Selkirk read a book about the adventures and exploits in western Canada, of a fur trader and explorer named Alexander Mackenzie. Selkirk was  thrilled by the potential opportunities and options this vast land seemed to offer and decided that he would organize and back a program which would recruit and send his fellow Scotsmen to this land to settle it and start a new civilization. He felt that Scottish farms who had no land , or had  lost their land would be perfect candidates for this venture.

In order to initiate this process Selkirk bought shares of the Hudson Bay Company which he felt held the rights to vast tracts of the Canadian North and would provide a homestead for his settlers. The Hudson Bay Charter granted it all of the lands which had waters that ran into the Hudson Bay. In 1811 Selkirk choose some property along the Red River in Manitoba. This land was about 300,000 Square kilometres and was good farm land. Problems arose however when the Northwest Company claimed that the land actually belonged to them  and they believed that Selkirk was actually trying to cut off their trade routes between the west and the Great Lakes. The other group which was upset by these plans was the Métis who believed that farming the land would destroy the Buffalo habitat and drive them and the Métis away.

The Settlers arrived in North America  at York Factory on the Hudson's Bay in 1811 during the winter and prepared to travel up the Churchill River to Lake Winnipeg and then up the Red River. Upon arriving at their destination on August 29, 1812  they built Fort Douglas,  near the current site of downtown Winnipeg, and the second group arrived in October. They had no crops to harvest and were forced to survive on the supplies that they had brought with them and the limited amount of game they were able to kill.

Selkirk's first choice as governor of Fort Douglas was Miles Macdonnell who sent a group to form a second settlement about 100 miles to the south near Pembina, North Dakota. Food production remained the over riding issue and on January 8, 1814 Macdonell issued the "Pemmican Proclamation which forbad the export of provisions from the area. This directly threatened the administration and support of the Northwest Company system. In 1815 the North-westerners convinced many of the settlers that land  in Canada was better were assisted in leaving the Red River area to travel to Canada. Macdonell was arrested and the settlement disbanded by the Métis and the Northwest Company but was re-occupied that same year by new settlers under Robert Semple. By 1816 matters came to a head and the Seven Oaks Incident occurred in which many were killed. Selkirk arrived on August 16th with mercenary soldiers and took the NWC Fort William. By July he had arrived at the Red River settlement and re-established the colony yet again. The settlement began to grow and the HBC eventually absorbed the NWC which pacified affairs until many of the same issues re-emerged in 1870 with Louis Riel.