The Canadians and the Metis : the re-creation of Manitoba, 1858-1872

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Shore, Frederick John
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The modern history of the Canadian West began prior to 1860 when local peoples created a political, economic and social framework for themselves within the old Hudson's Bay Company territory. The early 1870s saw the re-creation of the North-West into the image of Ontario. The problem for the new Canadians arriving in what they perceived as an extension of Ontario was that the Metis had previously laid claim to the territory as their national homeland. The actions of the first arrivals from Ontario in the 1860s politicized the nascent Metis bourgeoisie who organized to form their own local government. The Metis then forced the negotiation of the Manitoba Act containing terms favourable to themselves and the other Half-Breed peoples living around the Forks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. Metis success subseguently caused the politicizers to resort to violent methods after 1870 to regain Ontario's control over the area with the execution of Thomas Scott providing the motivation for such actions. The Red River Expeditionary Force (RREF) of 1870, the Canadian Party's answer to Metis political acumen, was nothing more or less than armed settlers invading "their" colony to wrest control of the land and its politics from the Metis. The actions of the RREF represented a will to violence not unlike that which had created the "Bleeding Kansas" scenario earlier in the United States of America. The ensuing history of Winnipeg in the early 1870s, shows how the West was won for Ontario by these early Canadian immigrants and their counterparts, the Red River Expeditionary Force. It also demonstrates how the political unity of the Metis was destroyed. Inadvertent politicization failed and the continuation of the informal process was the subseguent intimidation of the Metis in Red River using the Ontario volunteers as the tool to remove Metis influence and to allow the Canadians to establish their empire in Rupert's Land.