23616: Red River Settlement, Manitoba

The Red River Settlement was founded in 1812 at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in Manitoba by Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk on a large tract of land granted by the Hudson’s Bay Company, in which Selkirk held a controlling interest. Some 250 dispossessed Scottish and Irish settlers joined the colony between 1812 and 1815. The colony was named Kildonan after the Strath in Sutherland from which many of the first inhabitants came and was the first Canadian settlement west of the Great Lakes. From the beginning it was beset with difficulty: harsh winters and crop failure threatened the survival of the homesteaders and, caught up in fur trade rivalry between the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company, they suffered attacks by the Métis, including the massacre of 20 settlers at Seven Oaks in 1816.

The colony survived however, began to thrive from the 1830s onward, and formed the beginnings of the city of Winnipeg. The population had reached 25,000 by 1869, a tense mix of Métis and settlers. With the influx of more settlers and attempts by Canadian officials to reorganise land distribution, the Métis leader and rebel Louis Riel established a provisional government which in 1870 negotiated the terms of the Manitoba Act, by which the Red River Settlement entered the Confederation of Canada as the province of Manitoba.

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