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As events in Canada and the Maritimes evolved towards Confederation the inhabitants of the Red River settlement area and the lands along the Red River were virtually ignored as the Hudson Bay Company negotiated with International Finance Companies, the British Government and the new Canadian Government. In mid-1860 the Métis, the offspring of the French Fur traders and Buffalo hunters and the local native people, had proclaimed that the Indian Chief Peguis had not ceded any rights to the lands to anyone and hence they were stilled owned by the natives and he Métis. These claims and this situation festered for the next 10 years while both Canada and the United States turned their eyes to the vast, open area of the Northwest.

The arrival of settlers, traders and other businessmen form Ontario grew quickly and they quickly asserted their voice in the affairs of the area. In January of 1868 Thomas Spence, who had earlier, with companions,  proclaimed that the Northwest was ready to join Confederation, declared the Republic of Manitoba which was to he held in readiness for acceptance into the Canadian Confederation. His moves were accepted by a few and rejected by many, especially when he tried to collect taxes for the new Republic.

Another group declared that they were ready to apply to Queen Victoria for annexation to the United States. All of these activities began to wear on the Métis who were not ready to accept the authority of any outside government and becoming increasing agitated at the accelerating activities. In March of 1869 word arrived that the HBC had transferred the Northwest to Canada with any assurances of the Métis land titles or rights. The Canadian Government jumped the gun when in July of 1869 they dispatched surveyors to the Red River area to begin laying out new land jurisdictions which ignored the traditional land organization of the Métis, which like those along the St Lawrence were set out as long strips from the river back into the prairies.

On October 11 one of the surveyors, Web began laying his survey chains out on the land of Andre Nault, the cousin of Louis Riel. As Nault complained in French and was ignored by Web, Riel arrived on the scene and stepping on the chain said, "You go no further".  Between the 16th and 20th the Comite National Des Métis was formed and claimed that in order for Canada to assert it's authority in thee lands, the claims of the Métis would have to be recognised and these were

  • Payment to the natives for their lands

  • recognition of the land claims of the Métis

  • 300 additional acres for each of their children

  • tax exempt status fro them and their descendants

  • lands for the Roman Catholic Church

  • An elective council

  • The expulsion of various unfriendly people including Dr, Schultz

The head of this organization was John Bruce with Louis Riel as Secretary. They sent a messenger to Pembina to intercept McDougall who was on his was from Canada, via the U.S., to fill his position of Governor. He was given a note which told him not to enter the Red River area without permission from the Comite.

Confrontation between the Métis and the Canadian authorities had exploded. Canada did not officially take possession of the Northwest until December 1st so until that day, MacDougall had no authority to exercise. He did however proceed to the HBC post and spent the night there and in the morning sent a party on ahead to determine the state of affairs. His scouting party was confronted by the Métis and turned back. On December 3rd a party of Métis arrived at the HBC fort and informed MacDougall that he was to turn back and not return and they then proceeded to escort him to the frontier where he was forced to start back towards Pembina to await the unfolding of events.

Riel in the meantime had latched onto events and called for Métis volunteers. On November 1st he reviewed over 400 men with arms with another 100 quickly joining. Approaches to the settlement were staked out and any new arrivals were screened. On November 2nd Riel occupied Upper Fort Garry which was the main fortification in the area and with that action established control over the settlement. On November 6th he invited the English settlers to elect 12 representatives to match his 12 representatives so that they could meet together and define the terms that would be required for them to enter Confederation. They met on November 16th but disagreements forced an adjournment until November 22. The meeting resumed and an agreement was hammered out but Riel retracted his assent when it was discovered that the English and Scottish settlers were taking up arms.

On December 1st McDougall once again entered the territory and proclaimed himself the legal governor and  then returned to Pembina while directing Colonel Dennis to continue on and establish his authority in the settlement area. which he proceeded to do. He began to raise men and prepare them to take over. The problem was that McDougall had forged the proclamation and the British Government, the Governor General of Canada and the Queen had all agreed that a transfer of the territory would not take place until the issues were resolved.

On December 6th Riel and the other settlers had come to agreement that they would demand an elected legislature, that a railroad be built form Canada within 5 years, that both English and French would be recognized as official languages in the territory and that the settlement be received into Confederation in a respectful, proper process. This process occurred in conjunction with a confrontation between the takeover that Colonel Dennis had planned and the Métis taking action to re-establish their authority. In the process 45 Canadians were arrested and jailed, among them was a violent Thomas Scott. On December 8th Riel announced a provisional Government and on the 9th Dennis ordered his followers to stand down.

During this entire time, the supports of manifest destiny in Minnesota were waiting for an opportunity to strike and claim the Northwest fro the United States. McDougall finally decided to give up and headed south to return to Canada via the US. On the way he passed Donald Smith who had been sent out by John A Macdonald to settle the matter. He carried with him a document promising amnesty for  Riel and his followers. He arrived in Fort Garry on December 27th and met with Riel and some of his followers to start negotiations. Smith's biggest fear was that the settlement would decide to join the US and the entire Northwest would be lost.

On January 9th Scott escaped from jail but was recaptured and Smith was held in confinement as the Métis debated about what to do. On February 10th Governor Mactavish finally agreed to accept the legitimacy of the provisional government with Riel as it's head. On February 9th Thomas Scott joined a party in Portage la Prairie and headed fro Winnipeg. They arrived on the 14th and because of their actions a young Métis named Parisien and a Canadian named Sutherland both died, all after a political settlement between Riel and Smith had been achieved. As a result of this and the capture of Scott and his party by the Métis, Riel decided that and example was to be made and Scott was shot dead.

The final act of this story was not to be played out until many years later in Saskatchewan but on April 20th Manitoba entered Confederation under the leadership of Riel and became a province in Canada.