Battle_of_Seven_Oaks_(1816)

Battle of Seven Oaks (1816)

The Battle of Seven Oaks (known to the Métis as la Victoire de la Grenouillière, or the Victory of Frog Plain) took place on June 19 1816 during the long dispute between the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company, rival fur-trading companies in western Canada. Because of a shortage of food in 1814, Miles Macdonell had issued a proclamation prohibiting the export of food called the Pemmican Proclamation. Macdonell was the governor of the Red River Colony (the area around present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba), which had been established by the majority shareholder of the Hudson's Bay Company, Thomas Douglas. The local Métis, however, did not acknowledge the authority of the Red River Settlement, and this stand was probably consistent with the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The pemmican proclamation was a blow to both the Métis and North West Company. The North West Company accused the HBC of unfairly monopolizing the fur trade with this edict. As the North West Company foundered under these and other restrictions, the HBC attempted to take over the NWC, but with no success.

In 1815 after several nervous breakdowns and conflicts, Macdonell resigned as governor of the Red River Colony. He was replaced by Robert Semple, an American businessman with no previous experience in the fur trade.

In 1816 a band of Métis, led by Cuthbert Grant, seized a supply of Hudson's Bay Company pemmican (that was stolen from the Métis) and were travelling to a meeting with traders of the North West Company to whom they intended to sell it. They were met south of Fort Douglas along the Red River at a location called Seven Oaks by Semple and a group of HBC men and settlers. Semple argued with several of the Métis and a gunfight ensued. Although early reports state that it was the Métis who fired the first shot, it may have been one of Semple's men who fired first. Semple and his men did not have a chance against the Métis, who were skilled sharpshooters and outnumbered Semple's forces by nearly 3 to 1. The Métis repulsed the attack, killing 22 men, including Governor Semple, while the Métis themselves suffered only one fatality. They were later exonerated by a Royal Commissioner appointed to investigate the incident. Grant later became an important figure in the Hudson's Bay Company after its merger with the North West Company.

A plaque commemorating the battle was erected at the intersection of Main Street and Rupertsland Boulevard in the Winnipeg district of West Kildonan, the approximate centre of the battle site. The surrounding neighbourhood is named Seven Oaks after the battle.

References

  • Red River, by Joseph James Hargrave, published 1871
  • Histoire de la natione métisse dans l'ouest canadien, by Auguste Henri De Trémaudan, published 1935
  • The genealogy of the first Metis nation : the development and dispersal of the Red River Settlement, 1820-1900, by Douglas Sprague, published 1983
  • French-Canadians of the West, by Peter J. Gagné, 3 volumes, published by Quintin Publications
  • Metis Resource Centre article on Battle of Seven Oaks

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