The Woodland Aboriginal people welcomed trade with the French and English traders. The traders brought with them iron manufactured goods, axes, knives, spears, kettles, etc., which made hunting, cooking and warfare easier and more efficient than earlier stone, wood and bone implements.
One important consequence of the fur traders' arrival was the rise of a mixed blood, or Metis population--the result of white fur traders' marriage with Aboriginal women.
The Metis grew and thrived on the needs of an expanding trade network. They were at times, used as pawns in trade rivalry and were indeed, a major factor in the development of the west.
The Metis were not only of mixed blood, but of mixed culture. Their lifestyle depended upon the river, the hunt (buffalo), the fur trade and, eventually, agriculture. They were a strong new people that prospered and multiplied and, in so doing, established a unique culture.
The Metis used Pemmican (a compact nutritious source of food made from meat fat and berries) and built it into a major business. Pemmican could be kept for years and one pound of it was considered equivalent to four pounds of fresh meat. This food source was the basis of major development of the west. It allowed a long line of fur trading posts to exist and thousands of voyageurs in canoes or carts to transport trade goods and furs across the country.
The Red River Valley is where the unique lifestyle of the Metis saw significant development. It is also where the Metis came together as a nation to fight for survival of their way of life. They started to demand recognition. By the time of Canada's Confederation, there was a strong movement that had already resulted in armed clashes with government forces.
The Red River Uprising was, in many ways, an effort to halt encroachment of an advancing agriculturally oriented way of life. The Metis were interested in the survival of their way of life and feared progress as it tended to further marginalize them.
The Metis had their traditional form of local government and they were angry that they had not been consulted during negotiations for the transfer of the Northwest from the Hudson's Bay Company to Canada, nor had they been consulted about the form of government to be granted them upon union with Canada.
The Metis turned to Louis Riel for leadership in their fight for survival. Riel was educated, he understood politics, had knowledge of law, and he was fluent in French, Cree and English. Riel presented the Metis demands to the government. They wanted their land rights guaranteed and representation in parliament. The government ignored this petition.
The Metis were prepared to defend their rights by force if
necessary. In July, 1885, after declaring a provisional government in
Saskatchewan, they were defeated in a decisive battle with government
forces at Batoche. The rebellion was over and the Metis dream of self-
determination was shattered. Riel was charged with treason and hanged
on November 16, 1885. This effectively ended the
Source: Boiteau, Denise, et. al, Origins: A History of
Canada, Fitzhenry and Whiteside
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