Battle of Seven Oaks
The Battle of Seven Oaks was a violent confrontation in the Pemmican War between the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) and the North West Company (NWC), rivals in the fur trade, that took place on 19 June 1816, the climax of a long dispute in western Canada. The Métis people fought for the North West Company, and they called it "the Victory of Frog Plain" (la Victoire de la Grenouillère).
|Battle of Seven Oaks|
|Part of The Pemmican War|
The Fight at Seven Oaks, 19 June 1816
|Métis of the North West Company||Hudson's Bay Company|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Cuthbert Grant||Robert Semple †|
|Casualties and losses|
|Official name||Battle of Seven Oaks National Historic Site of Canada|
Miles MacDonell was the governor of the Red River Colony in 1814, the area around Winnipeg, Manitoba. He issued the Pemmican Proclamation which prohibited export of pemmican from the colony for the next year. It was meant to guarantee adequate supplies for the Hudson's Bay Colony, but the North West Company viewed it as a ploy by the Earl of Selkirk to monopolize the commodity, which was important to the North West Company. The Métis tribe did not acknowledge the authority of the Red River Settlement, and 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.
MacDonnell resigned as governor of the Red River Colony in 1815, after several conflicts and suffering from "severe emotional instability." He was replaced by Robert Semple, an American businessman with no previous experience in the fur trade.
Cuthbert Grant led a group of North West Company employees in 1816 to seize a supply of pemmican from the Hudson's Bay Company that had been stolen from the Métis. They were travelling to meet traders of the North West Company to whom they intended to sell it.
Grant's group encountered Semple and a group of HBC men and settlers north of Fort Douglas along the Red River at a location known as Seven Oaks, which the Métis called la Grenouillière (Frog Plain). The North West Company sent François-Firmin Boucher to speak to Semple's men. He and Semple argued, and a gunfight ensued when the English tried to arrest Boucher and seize his horse. Early reports said that the Métis fired the first shot and began the fray, but Royal Commissioner W.B. Coltman determined with "next to certainty" that it was one of Semple's men who fired first. The Métis were skilled sharpshooters and outnumbered Semple's forces by nearly 3 to 1 and they repulsed the attack, killing 21 men, including Governor Semple, while suffering only one fatality.
The settlers were demoralized from the losses, so they gathered their belongings the day after the battle and sailed north, leaving the Métis in command of the settlement. Royal Commissioner W.B. Coltman was appointed[by whom?] to investigate the incident, and he exonerated the Métis. Lord Selkirk attempted to prosecute several members of the North West Company for murder and kept Boucher in prison for nearly two years without specific charges. All trials ended in acquittals, and the remaining charges were dropped. Members of the North West Company counter-sued Selkirk, whose health and influence subsequently declined. Selkirk died in 1820, and the two companies merged in 1821. The Hudson's Bay Company gave Cuthbert Grant an annual salary in 1828 and the position of "warden of the plains of Red River".
The Manitoba Historical Society erected an obelisk monument in 1891 commemorating the battle at the intersection of Main Street and Rupertsland Boulevard in the Winnipeg district of West Kildonan, the approximate centre of the battle site. The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1920. New interpretive plaques were installed[by whom?] as part of Parks Canada reconciliation with the Métis, and the Seven Oaks Park was re-landscaped. The site was officially reopened on 19 June 2016 to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle.
- Hargrave, Joseph James (1871). Red River. author-published. p. 487.
- Also known as the Seven Oaks Massacre and the Seven Oaks Incident
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- Battle of Seven Oaks. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
- Battle of Seven Oaks National Historic Site of Canada. Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
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- "Battle of Seven Oaks". News Letter Excerpts. Metis Culture & Heritage Resource Centre, Inc. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008.