26 April

A Red River Expedition, 1871

Speculators Grab Land

Danny Kaye has a story about four kittens named Un, Deux, Trois and Quatre who went sailing on a block of ice. The story has a sad ending because Un, Deux, Trois and Quatre cinq! There's a happier ending to a true story about eight men who sailed down the Red River on a raft and arrived at Fort Garry on April 26, 1871. They were land speculators from Ontario, and their arrival heralded a flood of people who rushed to grab up land being made available to the Indians, Métis, and new settlers. Even so, the story had an unhappy ending for many of them: they were conned into giving up their holdings.

When the federal government took over the Northwest Territories from the Hudson's Bay Company, the land was surveyed so that it could be divided among the original settlers. First, treaties were made with the Indians to encourage them to live on reservations. Generally speaking, each family of five received 640 acres. Every Indian was given a present of $12, and an annuity of $5, plus an extra $15 to every head man. They were given new suits of clothes every three years, and provided with farm implements, cattle and grain.

Similar arrangements were made with the Métis although they did not live on reservations.

The first treaty was made in 1871 in Manitoba, and then others covered New Ontario (now Saskatchewan) and southern Alberta. Commissioner Laird made the treaties with the Blackfoot Indians and the Piegans in 1877. They required very careful negotiating as the Indians were waging war south of the border. Commissioner Laird was helped a great deal by Blackfoot Chief Crowfoot, who he said was the shrewdest Indian he ever met. It was remarkable that the treaties were negotiated without a drop of blood being shed, although there were many anxious moments.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous speculators obtained a great deal of land from the Métis. Until the area was surveyed and the Métis were allocated their holdings, they were given a scrip proving their claim to ownership. The land speculators often bought this scrip for $15, or even for a few bottles of whisky.


26 April

-1610    Champlain arrived at Tadoussac on his fourth voyage to Canada.

-1695    Jesuit Fathers, Brébeuf and others, sailed from Dieppe.

-1792    Captain Vancouver sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.