This topic relates to many of my prior interests and what I have been learning and exploring in Socials so far this year.
Firstly, it relates to my previous inquiry (which you can find here) which also explored aboriginals relationships with western society.
A major connection is to the person I am role playing for Confederation: Louis Riel. He was an important Aboriginal Metis leader in Manitoba and was central in the Red River and North-West resistances. To furthur tie back to Louis Riel, I want to specifically explore First Nations reactions in the Rupert’s Land area.
Finally, this topic ties back to a theme I am currently exploring in socials about what Confederation means to different people. When I thought about what Confederation means to me, the word I chose was unifying. This is because creating Canada was essentially a set of conferences, contrasting from other more violent processes. Confederation unified the colonies peacefully to create a country. However, when I thought about what Confederation meant from the perspective of my character, Louis Riel, the word I came up with was exclusive. This is because the current leading people’s definition of “unifying Canada” did not include First Nations. Confederation was decided without the input or consideration of Aboriginals.
In the modern day Canada is viewed as an accepting country. Canada is seen as a mosaic of distinct cultures and people. Alternatively, when I view it from my character’s perspective, a better way to describe it is a melting pot of other cultures into the ‘white western norm’. This inquiry further explores the relationship between Aboriginal peoples in North America and Confederation.
- How did First Nations feel about Confederation?
- What were First Nations reactions to Confederation and its after effects?
- How did First Nations react to Canada taking over Rupert’s Land? What action did they take?
Below I have summarized the research I did. Sources are at the bottom.
- at the time of Confederation, all the western lands from Ontario to the Rocky Mountains were under the control of the Hudson’s Bay Company
- In 1670, the Hudson’s Bay had been granted a Royal Charter by the King of England, giving it rights to all the lands that were now Rupert’s Land
- European countries “claimed” territory, even though there were already people living there.
- In 1869, two years after Confederation, the Hudson’s Bay Company agreed to sell its territory of Rupert’s Land, from Manitoba to the Rockies, to the new Government of Canada in Ottawa. This would open the way for settlement of the west.
- Plans were made to send immigrants and eastern Canadians to settle in the west.
“First Nations people were amazed and alarmed, since they believed, and insisted, that the land belonged to them, not to the Hudson’s Bay Company.”
Red River Rebellion (1869 and 1870):
- Surveyors appeared in the Red River settlement area and began to divide up the land into square lots, ignoring the fact that Métis people already lived on that land.
- The Métis, led by Louis Riel, protested, and refused to allow the surveyors onto their land.
- Riel and his Métis followers drew up a list of demands to present to the government.
- Ottawa sent troops west to put down the rebellion.
- Negotiations eventually resulted in the Manitoba Act that created the new Province of Manitoba in 1870.
- The Métis of the Red River settlement, led by Louis Riel, formed a provisional government to negotiate with the Canadian government, although these negotiations quickly fell apart.
North-West Rebellion (1885):
- After Confederation, Canada sought to extend its reach, and the vast North-West Territories were added to the country.
- The five-month revolt led by the Metis Cree, Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan and Saulteaux began as Canadian expansion into their western lands pushed the First Nations toward starvation.
- In 1884, Louis Riel a Métis leader of the earlier Red River Rebellion sought to unite the peoples of the North-West to stand against the Canadian government.
- The Canadian government sent 3,000 soldiers to join the 2,000 already stationed in the West. They ran into reistence who objected to Canada’s plans to move native people onto a reserve.
Aboriginal opposition to Confederation has continued into modern times. The Oka Crisis in 1990 was sparked by Mohawk activists pressing Canada to recognize their pre-Confederation land rights.
What are your findings?
To briefly summarize, after Confederation the new Dominion of Canada bought Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company and made plans to move people to settle in the west. This created some clear problems, as in reality, the land belonged to the First Nations who lived there. In 1869 the Metis people led what is known as the Red River Rebellion to protest surveyors into their land. Later, in the 1880s the First Nations people living in the North-West Territories had an uprising in what is known as the North-West Rebellion as Canada pushed to extend its borders.
My findings about the various rebellions, most notably the Red River Rebellion, were quite surprising. This shows how serious the problem was and how much the Aboriginals felt the need to protect their land and culture.
Personal opinions? What have you learned?
Before this unit I had no idea First Nations even had rebellions over their land. My findings are much more troubling and forceful then I expected. I am glad that I now have more context about not just Confederation but the after effects of it and how it affected First Nations people. I also learned more about my character, Louis Riel, as he played a central role in the Red River Rebellion.
To conclude, First Nations had strong reactions to Confederation and the new Dominion of Canada, and for good reasons. They had a couple notable rebellions to protect their land and heritage. I think this inquiry showed how important it is to consider all peoples stories, not just the one that is told the loudest. It was very interesting and eye-opening to learn about the other, perhaps darker, side of events.