Manitoba Historical Society
     Keeping history alive for over 140 years


Pay & Donate in the MHS Online Shop

Endangered Top 10
Top 10

Manitoba History No. 89

No. 89

Summer Field Trip 2019
Field Trip

Fall Field Trip 2019
Field Trip

War Memorials in Manitoba
in Manitoba

This Old Elevator
This Old

Abandoned Manitoba

Memorable Manitobans

Historic Sites of Manitoba
Historic Sites
of Manitoba

The Ojibwa, Red River and the Forks, 1770-1870

by Laura Peers

The Forks and the Battle of Seven Oaks in Manitoba History
Edited by Robert Coutts and Richard Stuart
Manitoba Historical Society, 1994. ISBN 0-921950-12-8

The Forks is both the juncture of two major rivers and the point at which they diverge, and it has played a parallel role in the human geography of the Canadian west. As a major crossroads of transportation routes, the Forks has been a meeting place for Native people as well as for European and Canadian settlers, and a point at which the histories of Native and non-Native peoples have intersected. In the history of the Ojibwa, the geographical role of the Forks brought them together with Europeans at the site, while later events there alienated each group from the other. There were also other Native peoples, particularly Cree and Assiniboine, who used resources at and around the Forks, and later dealt with European traders, settlers, and officials there. In focusing on the history of the Ojibwa at the Forks, though, we can see in microcosm much of the history of Native-White relations across the west. This paper traces the history of Ojibwa-European relations at the Forks. This was just one aspect of Ojibwa history there; we still have much to learn about the roles this cross­roads played in Aboriginal histories.


An Ojibwa family travelling near Lake Winnipeg, circa 1825 by Peter Rindisbacher.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Ojibwa people, also known as Saulteaux and sometimes as Bungi, first moved into the Red River valley from their homes in the western Great Lakes and Boundary Waters region especially Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake in what is now Ontario, and Red Lake in present-day Minnesota in the late 1700s. They came west with the expansion of the fur trade, and began trap­ping in the western parklands. What the Ojibwa found when they first arrived at the Forks were the graves of “many hundreds of men, women and children” [1], victims of the smallpox epidemic of 1780-82. The devastating effects of this epidemic combined with the incentives offered by the fur trade to induce the Great Lakes Ojibwa to move west. With the total Aboriginal people thinned so dramatically by the epidemic, the Ojibwa were made especially welcome by Cree and Assiniboine people who were already resident in the region. According to one story told by Donald Gunn, an old inhabitant of Red River, the Ojibwa were “formally invited” by their Cree and Assiniboine allies to enter the Red River valley after the smallpox epidemic, “to eat out of the same dish, to warm themselves at the same fire, and to make common cause with them against their enemies the Sioux.” And there was a personal element to the invitation: “Your presence,” they said, “will remove the cloud of sorrow that is in our minds ...” [2].

This story, reported second-hand after three-quarters of a century, is certainly not the exact language used by the Crees. Still, Gunn’s account is true at least to Native ideas about intergroup relations and alliances, and this is something we need to understand when we look at relations between Ojibwa and Europe­ans at the Forks. Posi­tive relations between peoples, in Native terms, involved several specific things: giving military aid to one’s allies; the sharing of food; reciprocity, which we might express simply as “you help me when you can and I’ll help you when I can,” and the use of kinship terms (and the expectations of behaviour these imply) in referring to allies. John Tanner, a white captive whose adoptive father was an Ojibwa “of Red River,” was supported by a Cree family for a winter about 1800, and he later said that if he ever met any of these Cree, “he would call him “brother” and treat him as such.” [3] It is important to bear these ideas in mind in considering what happened in the next century of Ojibwa history. For the next two decades, the Forks was a temporary camp for Ojibwa bands as they explored the west. John Tanner mentioned finding “great numbers of Ojibbeways and Ottawaws encamped” at the Forks in the late 1790s. [4]

Some bands stayed there all summer, fishing and waiting for the arrival of traders; in 1806, nine “long cabins” of Ojibwa—over a hundred people in all—spent June and July at the Forks, and waited for trader Alexander Henry to arrive.” [5] By 1800 there were several bands which spent most of their time in the region. These were based in the Interlake; at Netley Creek near the mouth of the Red River; and in the region between Portage la Prairie and Lake Manitoba. The Netley Creek band was led by Peguis, who had come from the Red Lake region to trade on Red River in the 1790s. All of these bands took advantage of the many food resources in the region surrounding the Forks: large game in the river valley and plains; good stocks of beaver; productive fisheries in the river and lakes; and the considerable wetland resources—waterfowl, beaver, muskrat and plant foods of the marshes at the mouth of the river.


Ojibwa family in southern Manitoba, 1820s drawn by Peter Rindisbacher.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Despite this wealth around it, the Forks itself never became a permanent Ojibwa habitation. The very accessibility of the site made it a natural destination for enemies as well as friends, and Red River itself was a “war road” for feud­ing Ojibwa and Sioux. John Tanner recalled that the Forks was “a place much frequented by the Sioux war parties” in the late 1790s, and Henry noted that the Ojibwa he encountered there in August of 1800 had dug defensive trenches and were “in a great state of alarm” for fear of the Sioux. [6] There was no trading post on the site until about 1809, so they were not drawn there for that reason. And just when Ojibwa were becoming numerous enough in the region to have secured the Forks against enemies, by about 1800, the fur trade in the Red River valley began to decline sharply. The abundance of fur and game animals did not last long under the intense pressure of competition in the 1790s. This decline caused the “Red River” Ojibwa to intensify use of more productive areas such as Netley Creek and the Interlake area. And before they might have had any other reason to establish a permanent camp at the Forks, yet another people converged on the site and claimed it for their own: the Selkirk settlers.

At least some of the Ojibwa saw the arrival of the settlers in the summer of 1812 as a hopeful sign. They were quite conscious of the decline of the fur trade over the previous decade, and saw the settlers as a new source of trade goods and prestige. They also expressed hope that the Europeans would act as military allies against the Sioux. [7] Again, such hopes were typical expectations of Native people for allies. The establishment of the Hudson Bay Company’s Fort Douglas near the Forks in 1812 also helped to raise the Ojibwas’ hopes. For the first years of the colony, it seemed in many ways as if the Europeans were conforming to at least some of the expectations of the Ojibwa. Peguis’s band shared food with the settlers; in return, he became “Colony Chief”—in fact, Miles MacDonell referred to him as “Chief of the Forks.” [8] Local Ojibwa bands also carried on a profitable trade with the settlers, who offered better terms of trade than the companies did, and received symbols of prestige and status, such as presents and ceremonial welcomes, from the Company officials at Fort Douglas.

For these first few years, the relationship conformed to Ojibwa patterns. Ojibwa and settler were each providing something to the other, or reciprocating; the Ojibwa were considered allies by the settlers and Company officials; and there was an element of respect, if not exactly kinship, in the relationship. From an Ojibwa perspective, they had formed an alliance with the newcomers and with their traders.

Unfortunately, this was an alliance which was based at the Forks. The North West Company’s objections to the Red River Settlement’s position at the juncture of major transportation routes used by both companies are well known. So are the NWC’s attacks on the colony and on Fort Douglas in 1815 and 1816, a series of crises which became known as the “Pemmican War”. [9] The Ojibwa played an important role in these crises. They refused the NWC’s bribes and pleas, and refused to attack the colony. This must have created some tensions within the Native com­munity, for many of them were related to the Metis and Canadian traders. By refusing to support the Metis and Canadian cause, the Ojibwa broke ranks with their own kin. And they were keenly aware of the role of kinship in this dispute; John Tanner, in fact, called the whole affair “these quarrels between relatives.” [10]

Despite tensions and misgivings, the Ojibwa took their new alliance with the settlers seriously. As “Colony Chief”, Peguis was called to Fort Douglas and asked for assistance during the first crisis in 1815. During that conference, HBC trader Peter Fidler told Peguis that since the land around the Forks belonged to the Ojibwa, only the Ojibwa could demand that the settlers leave: this was an attempt to deny NWC demands that the settlers pack up at once.


Text of 1817 Selkirk treaty with the Cree and Ojibwa peoples of southern Manitoba.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Fidler also reminded Peguis of their alliance, noticing that the Ojibwas’ pipe stems had been sent to the “Great Father” in Britain “that he may be charitable to you” [11]—a reference to that reciprocity and kindness expected within such a relationship. Peguis agreed to help his allies, and went to the NWC’s Fort Gibraltar at the Forks and attempted to negotiate a settlement. He was unsuccessful, however, and returned to Fort Douglas “with shame”, but was able to offer some protection to the settlers as they fled the settlement.

In an incident which reveals the high hopes the Ojibwa placed on the colony and its links with traders, one Ojibwa leader went to Fort Douglas after the NWC had burnt it “and wept bitterly over it, vowing vengeance against the Canadians...” [12] The Ojibwa were reassured when the settlers were persuaded to return a few weeks later. Another attack was made on the settlement and Fort Douglas the following summer, which led to the famous Battle of Seven Oaks. Once again the Ojibwa assisted their new allies; just before the attack, Governor Semple was visited by two Ojibwa who told him of the NWC forces gathering at Portage la Prairie and their plan to attack the settlement. [13] In both instances the Ojibwa were generously rewarded for their deeds, this reinforcing, from the Ojibwa perspective, that this was a functional relationship between themselves and the HBC and colonists and one which conformed to Ojibwa expectations.

Like the Forks over which it was fought, however, the Pemmican War marked a parting of the ways. Even though HBC and Colony officials appealed to the Ojibwa for help and argued that the Ojibwa owned the area, they did so as a last resort. In truth, the Pemmican War was fought over European control of the Forks. Once the HBC and the settlers had won, and once the need for defense of the colony ended, they ceased to see the Ojibwa as anything like equal partners in their relationship. [14] The new gulf between them was made plain by one HBC official who remarked in 1817 that “Many of the Indians offer us their assistance but I hesitate to employ as allies savages whom it would be impossible to restrain within the bounds prescribed by humanity.” [15] This was a far cry from the words of praise spoken of the Ojibwa just a few years earlier. For their part, the Ojibwa did not see that anything had changed in their relationship with the Europeans at the Forks: they had done nothing wrong, and may have felt that they deserved special treatment. Unknown to them, though, the Pemmican War was the beginning of the era of inequality in Ojibwa-European relations.

The changed control of the Forks was formalized by the signing of the Selkirk Treaty in 1817, when Ojibwa and Cree chiefs transferred the rights to the occupation of a two­mile-wide strip of land on either side of Red River and for some distance up the Assiniboine in exchange for an annual payment. Peguis ceded the strip from the Forks north to Lake Winnipeg; the Premier (also known as Grands Oreilles) ceded the strip from Fort Douglas south to Pembina. The treaty by no means barred the Ojibwa from these lands. They continued to pass through the settlement and came there to trade, and considered themselves owners of the lands beyond the two-mile boundary. On the other hand, the treaty did give the Europeans confidence in their possession of the ceded area, and this, combined with the stabilization of the colony and the consolidation of the fur trade, had a dramatic effect on the relationship between the Ojibwa and Europeans at the Forks over the next few years.

That their relationship was deteriorating was made quite clear by the effects of the merger of the two trading companies in 1821. Along with other groups across the west, the Ojibwa took “mortal offence” at changes in trading practices which were introduced after the merger, and one group of Indians, probably Ojibwa, arrived at the Company’s new fort at the Forks “with their faces painted black, in order to indicate their grief” at the changes. [16] These included strict limitations on credit and the drastic reduction of ceremonial presents. At Fort Garry, located after 1821 at the Forks, the Ojibwa were also infuriated that they were not allowed to trade until after the settlers, and then found that crucial trade goods had run out. Even worse, when a group of Sioux arrived at the fort in August of 1821 , the Europeans, far from holding up their end of the alliance and aiding the Ojibwa to defeat these enemies, instead prevented a battle and debated calling out the Des Meurons troops to drive away the Ojibwa. [17] From the Ojibwa perspective, all of these things served as a warning that the HBC and colony officials were not acting as the allies they had hoped for.

In an effort to strengthen their alliance, Peguis expressed hope in 1821 that the son of the chief trader at Fort Garry would marry his daughter. [18] This was a long-standing and honoured manner of creating relationships between traders and Native people as well as among Native peoples: remember John Tanner, who would treat his Cree friends as “brother”, and the importance of kinship in alliances. If Peguis had been successful, the Company might have been obliged to be kinder to its kin. Instead, the trader refused the offer, and in so doing signalled a transi­tion at the Forks not only to a new economic era, but to a new social era as well.

The Forks, and the fur trade elite of Fort Garry, was the centre of this new social order. Prominent Company officers such as George Simpson who did not share in the norms of fur trade society introduced the cultural institutions and values—as well as the racist sentiments—of the wider European and Canadian society of the Victorian era. These attitudes created a strong barrier between peoples at the Forks. By 1821, when Peguis sought to use traditional ways to forge new bonds between his band and the Europeans by offering his daughter in marriage to the trader’s son, it was no longer fashionable for traders to marry Indian women; Metis wives (educated ones at that) were the norm. And, increasingly, as this change in fur trade society hardened, as white women arrived in the settlement, and as missionaries arrived to “reclaim [Native peoples] from barbarism and the disorders that result from it,” [19] the Ojibwa were expected to conform to European values. Trader Bird’s refusal of Peguis’ offer of his daughter’s hand symbolized the gulf which had quickly opened between Ojibwa and Europeans at the Forks.


Ojibwa mother and child, photographed by H. L. Hime in 1858.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

With this advent of a world in which the Ojibwa were unappreciated and essentially unwanted, Peguis and his band spent less and less time in Red River, although he maintained an official relationship with Company and colony there. Other developments in 1820s and 1830s contributed to the widening of this gulf. By the late 1830s the Ojibwa were even further separated from the community at the Forks: physically, as a result of the establishment of the Indian Settlement some distance from the rest of the colony and the building of Lower Fort Garry twenty miles downstream from the Forks (and closer to Netley Creek); religiously, because many Ojibwa “stubbornly” retained their own beliefs and scorned the work of missionaries; and economically and socially, as they were displaced from occasional labour by northern Cree families who migrated into the Red River area and who were more responsive to missionization and thus gained favour in European eyes.

Despite these changes, the Forks continued to be the centre of the annual cycle of Peguis’ band and an important point in the seasonal movements of several more distant Ojibwa bands, totalling about 1500 persons. [20] During the 1820s Peguis’ band arrived at Fort Douglas in ceremony when the new goods arrived each autumn; after the build­ing of Lower Fort Garry, they probably traded there. While at the Forks they also received their treaty payments of tobacco and other small presents. After trading they returned to their encampment at Netley Creek to fish, hunt game for the coming winter, and trap muskrats. They returned to the settlement briefly at Christmas and New Year’s, and made their rounds among the houses and to the fort, as one trader noted, “to share in the good things of this life, during the Holidays.” On New Year’s Day Peguis and his men fired a salute at the fort and were treated to a dram and some tobacco. [21] Not all settlers understood the Ojibwa point of view regarding these visits; some, such as Alexander Ross and the missionaries, assumed that the Indians were either begging—with all of the negative connotations which begging had for “respectable” Europeans—or called them ”insolent and overbearing.” [22] In fact, the Ojibwa were simply participating in the ethic of sharing and reciprocity which governed their relations with all peoples.

After the New Year, some of the band set off to hunt bison. In late spring Peguis’ band and the Lake Manitoba bands came to trade for summer supplies. The women, children, and elders then returned to their homes to plant their gardens, while the men might gather at Fort Douglas en route to war expeditions in the summer. These seasonal visits to the Forks, with additional visits to Metis kin in the settlement, to settlers to sell country produce, to bury their dead in the burial ground on Point Douglas, and to the fort to request gifts of tobacco, continued even after the building of Lower Fort Garry, much closer to the Indian Settlement, in the early 1830s. [23]

While their way of life was fairly stable, the position of the Ojibwa in their relationship with European around the Forks continued to deteriorate. This was demonstrated by an incident which occurred at Upper Fort Garry in 1845. During the bison hunt the year before this incident, a battle had occurred between the Sioux and the Red River Metis. The conflict was settled by gift-exchanges and by a peace treaty which was also said to involve the Ojibwa. Afterwards, several parties of Sioux visited Company officials at the Forks. During these visits, a number of Ojibwa gathered at Upper Fort Garry, “as is usual on the arrival of strangers,” according to Alexander Ross. [24] Unfortunately for the Sioux visitors, one of these Ojibwa onlookers was a man whose brother had been murdered by the Sioux. In accordance with the custom of both tribes, he retaliated for his brother’s death by shooting one of the Sioux just outside the gates of the fort. The incident radically departed from tribal custom at this point, however. Residents of the settlement were greatly alarmed by the incident, fearing that the Forks and vicinity would become the scene of the prolonged and escalating conflict between the two tribes. The Ojibwa was imprisoned in the jail at the Forks, tried, and publicly hanged. [25]

The hanging was yet another message to the Ojibwa that although life in and around Red River continued in some ways as it had for the past fifty years, the balance of power had shifted. The Europeans genuinely feared an Indian war in their midst; in that sense, the Ojibwa were still a force to be contended with. Still, the hanging was an assertion of European standards of justice over tribal standards. Among his own people and even among his enemies, the Ojibwa had done no wrong in killing the Sioux. On the contrary, he would have been regarded as having set a serious matter to rights. Alexander Ross expressed the European perception of the incident in his statement that, “... few acts more daring in its nature, or more insulting to the whites, had ever been committed in this quarter, and the universal voice cried aloud for justice.” [26] The cry of this “universal voice”, one hardly need mention, was most certainly not in the Ojibwa language.

The gap between the Ojibwa and Europeans at the Forks continued to widen in the 1850s. Ross’s comment that crowds of Ojibwa continued to gather at Upper Fort Garry when strangers arrived indicates the continuing role of the Forks as a meeting place. It, more so than Lower Fort Garry, was the magnet for Ojibwa, settler, and stranger alike. Strangers became far more common during the 1850s, visible symbols of the impinging of the outside world on Red River. Artist Paul Kane, the Hind and Palliser exploring expeditions, and crews on the steamers which began to arrive in Red River during this decade would all have seen Ojibwa at the Forks. What was different about the Ojibwa watching the newcomers at the Forks was that by the late 1850s, the Ojibwa were out of place there. They had become outsiders in the changed human reality at and around the Forks, and the strangers—the real outsiders saw them as exotic, something to be painted or photographed or pitied: certainly not as kin or as allies.

In the 1850s and 60s, the Ojibwa watching these strangers from the gates of Upper Fort Garry were both curious and afraid. Like their Metis kin, they stood to lose their lands to the rising tide of incoming settlers. As the question of whether the HBC’s charter should be renewed was de­batedin1857, as the Hind and Palliser expeditions assessed the agricultural potential of the west in 1857 and 1859, and as the bison herds visibly declined in that decade, Ojibwa anxiety levels rose. In response, Peguis wrote to the British Aborigines’ Protection Society in 1859 that even Ojibwa title to the river fronts had not been properly extinguished in 1817 and that his people expected proper compensation for the anticipated humanflood onto their lands; Peguis also wrote articles outlining his position which appeared in the Red River newspaper, the Nor’Wester. [27] These statements culminated in the “Indian Manifesto” of 1861, in which Peguis and other Ojibwa leaders demanded fees from settlers who used land beyond the two-mile strip ceded in 1817. [28] The uproar these claims caused had scarcely died down when negotiations began in earnest for the transfer of the Northwest to Canada. Peguis continually pressed the issue of Native land rights until his death in 1864. His determination reveals that he was perhaps the first Native leader in western Canada fully to grasp the implications of coming change and mass white settlement for his people.

Fears of change and of the future were interrupted briefly in the early 1860s by tensions over a remarkably familiar scene at the Forks: a conflict between Ojibwa and the Dakota Sioux. This confrontation was considerably different from earlier ones, however, for this time the Sioux sought neither revenge nor trade. Instead, they sought a place where they could live in peace after the “Minnesota Massacre” of 1862, when they had risen up in frustration and anger against the degrading treatment they had received from the U.S. government and settlers in the fledgling state of Minnesota. Hounded by the U.S. army after the uprising and facing the spectre of hanging and imprison­ment in retaliation for their actions, the Dakota Sioux looked northwards along the old war road to the Forks, and hoped fervently that it might now be a trail to shelter.

After trial visits to the Forks by Dakota leaders in late 1862 and early 1863, and an attack on the refugee camp by American troops which left many dead and wounded, 445 Dakota arrived at Upper Fort Garry in December 1863, “in a state of absolute starvation”. [29] Pathetic as they were when they arrived at the Forks in the cold of a Manitoba winter, the Dakota caused panic among Europeans at Red River. Settlers feared another Minnesota Massacre or, just as bad, an intertribal war between Dakota and Ojibwa in their midst. This was a harsh and inaccurate judgement born out of fear and ignorance on the part of the settlers. In fact, these were not the same Sioux bands with whom the Ojibwa had generally fought. [30] They were related, true, and the Ojibwa were certainly not friendly to them because of that. A crucial factor which ensured relative peace was that when the Dakota arrived at the Forks, they knew they were making their last bid for freedom. Provoking conflicts with the Ojibwa would have ended their slim chances of being allowed to stay on British soil.


A romanticized sketch of St. Peter’s Church at the Cree/Ojibwa settlement in Red River, 1844.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

The strength of their determination is evident in the remarkably peaceful history of their relations with the Ojibwa after their arrival in Red River. This is not to say that it was an uneventful relationship. The presence of Dakota and their horses proved to be a great temptation to Ojibwa men who sought war honours in the traditional way. [31] There was, however, only one serious intertribal incident at Red River; it occurred in 1866, when a visiting Red Lake Ojibwa attacked a Dakota, but this was apparently not in response to a crime which these Dakota had committed, and there was no Dakota retaliation for it. Other than this, relations between the two groups were tense but peaceful, and the Dakota took care to keep them that way. When the Dakota dispersed from Red River, they went to other locations which had Ojibwa populations: Turtle Mountain, the Interlake, and Portage la Prairie. In these places they made formal requests to occupy land and sealed the bargains with gifts of sacred pipes and horses. [32]

There is little documentary evidence of what the Ojibwa thought of the arrival of the Dakota. It must have been ironic to them, though, that the Forks had brought them together with the relatives of their enemies. They may also have remembered the hanging of 1845, and have feared that hostilities would bring similar European justice. The death of Peguis in 1864, just after the Dakotas’ arrival, probably also complicated relations with this new people.

The calm reaction of the Ojibwa may also have been calculated. The arrival of the Dakota simply added to the whites’ fear in Red River. The Ojibwa were aware from kin to the east and south, as well as from the Dakotas’ plight, that with the transfer of the region to Canada and the flood of settlers already flowing along the Red and Assiniboine, there would probably have to be a treaty settlement. Astute strategist as they had always been, they may have been unwilling to arouse the ire of Europeans at the Forks in order that they might be treated well when the coming storm of change finally broke on them.

The Ojibwa may also have been remembering their hoped-for alliance with Europeans at the Forks. Their longstanding ties to the HBC and the settlement must surely have been a factor when, during the 1869 Metis uprising, the Ojibwa refused to support the actions of their Metis kin, just as they had done in the Pemmican War long ago. After the Metis took Upper Fort Garry at the Forks, Peguis’ son, Henry Prince, led nearly 100 warriors to the Lower Fort and offered their assistance to officials. Their offer was gratefully declined, but a dozen remained as guards. Henry Prince also met with Riel and other Metis leaders, but failed to sway them, as his father had failed with the North West Company in 1814. He did prevent his men from participating in the uproar, though, and the following summer, when the long-awaited treaty was finally being negotiated, he reminded the officials: “all last winter I worked for the Queen ... My people had nothing to do with [the uprising].” [33] But as the history of the St. Peter’s land scandal shows, upholding the remnants of their alliance ultimately did the Ojibwa little good in their relations with Europeans. And with the transfer of political control of the Forks and of the rest of Manitoba to Ottawa, even farther away from Ojibwa influence, they were now more alienated from the Forks.

The story of these events may seem to stray some distance from the Forks, but since it was the centre of transportation routes and, for most of this period, a centre for company and colony administration, they were all linked in some way to the site. Ojibwa history as manifested by these events at the Forks was a microcosm of Native history all across the prairies. Every historical force, every human and economic and political change which affected Native peoples, seemed to radiate outward from the Forks. Changes such as the rise and decline of the fur trade, the emergence of new attitudes and norms in fur trade society, the arrival of white settlers, the imposition of European values and laws over their own, and the beginning of the reservation era, were all experienced by the Ojibwa through their history at the Forks. Now that the Forks is again a public site, a place where many different peoples come together, it is fitting that this history will be commemorated at the site and remembered by the people who meet there.


1. Elliot Coues, ed., New Light on the History of the Greater Northwest: the Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry [Minneapolis, 1965], p. 46, 19 August 1800. Hereafter cited as “Henry.” See also other references in Robert Coutts, “The Forks of the Red and the Assiniboine: A Thematic History 1734-1850”, Parks Canada, Microfiche Report Series, No. 383, 1988, p. 71.

2. Donald Gunn, “Peguis Vindicated,” Nor’Wester, 28 April 1860.

3. Edwin James, A Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner (Minneapolis, 1956), p. 24. Hereafter cited as “Tanner.”

4. Tanner, p. 30-31.

5. Henry, p. 286, 7 July 1806; see also his entry for 8 August 1808. See also HBCA B.22/a/16, Brandon House Journal 1808-09, 28 August 1808.

6. Tanner, p. 39; Henry, p. 55, 21 August 1800.

7. HBCA B.235/a/3, Winnipeg Post Journal 1814-15, 18 October 1814.

8. AM Selkirk Papers vol. IV, p. 1225, MacDonell to Selkirk, 9 September 1814.

9. Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History [Toronto, 1984], p. 75.

10. Tanner, p. 209.

11. AM MG1 D3, Peter Fidler, “Journal at the Red River Settlement 1814-15,” 16 July 1815.

12. Ibid.

13. This is according to James Jackson, Centennial History of Manitoba [McClelland and Stewart, 1970] p. 49, and supposedly occurred 16 June 1816. Other sources say these men were Cree.

14. See Rodger Guinn, “The Red-Assiniboine Junction: a Land Use and Structural History” Parks Canada Manuscript Report Series, No. 355, 1980, p. 25, in which he implies this occurred even earlier.

15. AM Selkirk Papers v. 10, p. 3314, Bird to McDonell, 29 March 1817.

16. AM Church Missionary Society papers, reel M60, Reverend David Jones Journal, 6 September 1825.

17. AM SP v. 23, p. 7365,4 September 1821, Allez to Colvile; SP v. 23 p. 7355, 30August1821, Dickson to Pritchard; SPv.23p.7359,31 August 1821, Pritchard to Colvile; John West, Substance of a Journal During a Residence at the Red River Colony (New York, reprinted 1966), p. 82.

18. “Diary of Nicolas Garry, Deputy-Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company for 1822-23,” Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, sec. II, 1900, p. 135, entry for 3 August 1821.

19. Joseph o. Plessis, Bishop of Quebec, “Announcement of the Appointment of the Missionaries to Red River, April 20, 1818,” in Grace Nute, ed., Documents Relating to Northwest Missions (St. Paul, 1942), p. 57-58.

20. According to Peter Fidler’s 1815 census, there were approximately 1200 Saulteaux in the Red and Assiniboine River region; to these we should add several bands in the Interlake, totalling perhaps 1500. See HBCA B. 235I a/3, Winnipeg Post Journal 1814-15 by Peter Fidler, fo. 32, July 1815; George Nelson’s Interlake Journals [Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library]; HBCA B.122/a, Manitoba Lake journals; HBCA B.221ell, Red River District Report 1819.

21. HBCA B.235.a/6, Winnipeg Post Journal 1824-25 through HBCA B.235 I a/12, 1828-1829; HBCA B.235 I a/13, Winnipeg Journal 1829­30,1 January 1830; HBCA B.235/a/9, Winnipeg Journal 1827-28, 5, 20,31 December 1827.

22. Alexander Ross, The Red River Settlement: Its Rise, Progress and Present State [Winnipeg, 1984 (1856)], p. 332.

23. With reference to the burials on Point Douglas, see Andrew McDermott, “Peguis Refuted,” Nor’Wester, 28 February 1860, in which he claims that “Grands Oreilles wished to have [this point, where his] relatives were buried...” as his river access after the Selkirk Treaty. John West, cited in Guinn, “The Red-Assiniboine Junction,” p. 25, noted in August 1821 that Ojibwa were burying their dead at the Forks with grave goods. Whether this was also the site of the earlier smallpox graves mentioned by Henry is unknown, but it may well have been.

24. Ross, Red River Settlement, p. 330.

25. Ross, The Red River Settlement, p. 331-332; see also AM MG2 C38, Peter Garrioch journal, and Paul Kane, Wanderings of an Artist [Edmonton, 1968], p. 49.

26. Ross, The Red River Settlement, p. 331.

27. “Native Title to Indian Lands,” Nor’Wester, 4 February 1860; see also “Chief Peguis” (Winnipeg; Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Recreation, Historic Resources Branch, 1984), p. 10-11.

28. “Chief Peguis,” p. 11.

29. Douglas Elias, The Dakota of the Canadian Northwest: Lessons for Survival (Winnipeg, 1988), p. 21-22.

30. Elias, p. 27.

31. See Alanson Skinner, “Political andCeremonial Organizations of the Plains Ojibway,” Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History vol. XI part6 (1914), p A85, for an account of an Ojibwa man stealing horses from the Dakota refugee camp at Portage la Prairie.

32. Elias, p. 29.

33. Quoted in Jean Friesen, “Grant Me Wherewith to Make my Living,” unpublished research report for TARR Manitoba (1985), p. 65.

Page revised: 18 December 2011

Back to top of page


To report an error on the above page, please contact the MHS Webmaster.

Home  |  Terms & Conditions  |  FAQ  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy  |  Donations Policy

© 1998-2019 Manitoba Historical Society. All rights reserved.