Previous Index Next

 

CHAPTER IX

RED RIVER REBELLION, 1869-70

 

P W spots in Canada have had a more dramatic history than that where the very modern and practical city of Winnipeg stands to-day. La Verendrye, the intrepid Canadian explorer, reached this spot in 1738, in his romantic search for the Western Sea. Here he built Fort Rouge, first of many trading posts about the forks of the Assiniboine and the Red. Up these waters came the enterprising fur-traders of the North-West Company, and their rivals of the Hudson's Bay Company, bartering trinkets for furs with Cree and Assiniboine. Here Selkirk established his famous settlement; and here, also, in 1816, the bad blood between the two companies culminated in the tragic incident of Seven Oaks. In the village of St. Boniface, across the river from Winnipeg, was born in 1844 one Louis Riel, destined to emulate Papineau and Mackenzie in an even more futile attempt at insurrection.

Riel was a Metis, or French half-breed. He was educated for the priesthood at St. Boniface and the Seminary of Montreal, but his restlessness and ill-balanced mind made such a career impossible. His father had been a popular leader of the half-breeds in the Red River Colony, and the son aspired to follow in his footsteps. Such an ambition was readily gratified. His education, while it could not transform a mind essentially narrow, gave him a distinct advantage over his fellow-countrymen. The cheap arts and eloquence of a demagogue, which were his principal assets, carried him far with the simple-minded Metis of the Red River. The times also were propitious; for the West was on the threshold of a new era, and the regime of the fur-trader was drawing to its close. The Metis was losing his grip on the life

246


Previous Index Next