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Click here for a definition of the Metis people

The Land Survey

In 1867, the Maritimes and Upper and Lower Canada joined together in a confederation. This whole area was now called Canada.

By 1868, the new government wanted to buy all of the land which was owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company. They also wanted British Columbia and the prairie land in between. They promised to build a railway across the country if these regions would join confederation.

At that time, the Red River Settlement was a fairly small community. Without consulting with the people in the community, the Canadian Government sent out surveyors to start measuring the land into square townships like they had in Ontario.

From Module 3, you know that the land in the Red River Settlement was measured in long narrow lots like the Seigneurial System used in Quebec. The local people were worried that their land system would be changed and they would lose their land.

Further Tension

The great majority of the people who lived at the Red River Settlement had Aboriginal ancestors. In fact, the 1870 census showed that 10,000 of the 11,000 people who lived there were of mixed ancestry.

There were two groups of people of mixed ancestry at Red River.

The Protestants were mostly descendants of the Hudson's Bay Company (English) traders and their Cree wives. They spoke a language called Bungee, a mixture of Cree and English.

The Catholics were mostly related to the French Canadians and Scottish men who worked for the North West Company and other Canadian companies out of Montreal who married Ojibwe women. They spoke Michif which was part French and part Cree. They usually called themselves Michif rather than Metis.

The English group did not use the word “Metis” either, but they did not like other words like half-breed, half-caste or British Indian or other insulting terms. Some people called them “mixed bloods” or “country-born”, but they referred to themselves as British, English or Scotch.

In addition to being the majority in the settlement, the Metis held nearly all the important offices, such as Sheriff, the medical officer, the Post Master, all the teachers but one, a fair proportion of the magistrates and one of the electors and proprietors of the only newspaper, The Nor-Wester.

In spite of this, some people from the east who lived at Red River and some newcomers looked down on the Aboriginal People(s) and made fun of them. They thought the Aboriginal People(s) and people of mixed ancestry were inferior to them. This is called racism. Racism is treating people badly because of their ethnic background or the way they look or talk or dress. The Metis did not like to be treated this way. They did not like it when people from Britain or Canada made fun of them.


Confrontation with the Canadian Surveyors

The Return of Louis Riel

Stopping the Survey Party