248 MILITARY HISTORY OF CANADA
the Canadian Government, without waiting for the Imperial Order-in-Council transferring the territory to the Dominion, sent out surveying parties early in 1869 to build a highway between the Lake of the Woods and the Red River, and to survey the country. The settlers, who held their land from the Hudson's Bay Company, had been given farms laid out in narrow strips, each with a frontage on the Red or Assiniboine Rivers, on much the same system as that which prevails in the province of Quebec. The Dominion surveyors proceeded to run their lines through these farms, with the object of dividing the country into square blocks of 640 acres. A little patience and common-sense would have paved the way to a satisfactory arrangement, but, unfortunately, both were lacking. The half-breeds became alarmed, feeling that they were to be despoiled of their farms. Riel saw his opportunity, mustered his followers, intercepted the surveyors, and ordered them out of the country. This was the first act in the drama. The Canadian Government had accomplished nothing. Its authority had been weakened. And Riel had scored his first triumph.
The leader of the Metis now turned his attention to bigger game. William McDougall had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the new Territory, and had been sent out to organize the Government. He reached Pembina, by way of St. Paul, late in October, 1869, and was there handed the following communication:
"A Monsieur W. McDougall,
"Monsieur,—Le comite national des Metis de la "Riviere Rouge intime a Monsieur W. McDougall l'ordre "de ne pas entrer sur le territoire du nordouest, sans une "permission speciale de ce comite.
"Par l'ordre du President, John Bruce, "Louis Riel, Secretary.
"Date a St. Norbert, Riviere Rouge "ce 21e jour d'Octobre, 1869."