Battle of Seven Oaks

The Battle of Seven Oaks[2] 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.[3] The Métis people fought for the North West Company, and they called it "the Victory of Frog Plain" (la Victoire de la Grenouillère).[4]

Battle of Seven Oaks
Part of The Pemmican War
The Fight at Seven Oaks.jpg
The Fight at Seven Oaks, 19 June 1816
Date19 June 1816
Location
Seven Oaks (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Result Decisive Métis/North West Company victory
Belligerents
Métis of the North West Company Hudson's Bay Company
Commanders and leaders
Cuthbert Grant Robert Semple 
Strength
65[1] 28[1]
Casualties and losses
1[1]

21[1]

Official nameBattle of Seven Oaks National Historic Site of Canada
Designated1920

BackgroundEdit

Miles MacDonell was the governor of the Red River Colony in 1814, the area around Winnipeg, Manitoba. He issued the Pemmican Proclamation[5] 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.[6][7] 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."[8] He was replaced by Robert Semple, an American businessman with no previous experience in the fur trade.[9]

BattleEdit

 
In 1816, Cuthbert Grant led a band of North West Company employees to seize a supply of pemmican from the Hudson's Bay Company.

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.[10] They were travelling to meet traders of the North West Company to whom they intended to sell it.[citation needed]

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.[11][12] 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.[4][13] 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.[1]

AftermathEdit

 
An obelisk monument to commemorate the battle was erected in 1891 at West Kildonan, Winnipeg.

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.[14] 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".[15][16]

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.[17][18] 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.[19]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Hargrave, Joseph James (1871). Red River. author-published. p. 487.
  2. ^ Also known as the Seven Oaks Massacre and the Seven Oaks Incident
  3. ^ Rea, J.E. (4 March 2015). "Seven Oaks Incident". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 16 June 2012.
  4. ^ a b Barkwell, Lawrence. "Battle of Seven Oaks". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 24 July 2018, Historica Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/seven-oaks-incident. Accessed 08 October 2018.
  5. ^ Foster, John E. (24 July 2015). "Pemmican Proclamation". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012.
  6. ^ Bumsted, J.M. (2008). Lord Selkirk: a life. University of Manitoba Press. p. 236. ISBN 9780887553370.
  7. ^ Mays, Herbert (1987). "MacDonell, Miles". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval.
  8. ^ Bumsted, J.M. (17 November 2014). "Miles MacDonnell". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012.
  9. ^ Rea, J.E. (17 November 2014). "Robert Semple". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012.
  10. ^ Report of the proceedings connected with the disputes between the Earl of Selkirk and the North West Company: at the assizes, held at York, in Upper Canada, October 1818. Montreal, Quebec: James Lane and Nahum Mower. 1819.
  11. ^ Narratives of John Pritchard, Pierre Chrysologue Pambrun, and Frederick Damien Heurter, respecting the aggressions of the North West Company, against the Earl of Selkirk's settlement upon Red River. London, England: John Murray. 1819.
  12. ^ Boucher, François-Firmin (c. 1819). François-Firmin Boucher à ses Concitoyens [François-Firmin Boucher to his Countrymen]. author-published.
  13. ^ Goulet, George; Goulet, Terry (2006). The Metis: Memorable Events and Memorable Personalities. ISBN 978-1-894638-98-2.
  14. ^ Friesen, Gerald (1987). "Maintaining the Old Order 1805-1844". The Canadian Prairies a History (Student ed.). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. p. 80.
  15. ^ Grant, Cuthbert National Historic Person. Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  16. ^ Woodcock, George (1985). "Grant, Cuthbert". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. VIII (1851–1860) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  17. ^ Battle of Seven Oaks. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  18. ^ Battle of Seven Oaks National Historic Site of Canada. Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  19. ^ https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/seven-oaks-incident

Further readingEdit

  • Barkwell, Lawrence J. (2010). The Battle of Seven Oaks: a Métis perspective. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Louis Riel Institute. ISBN 978-0-9809912-9-1.
  • Dick, Lyle. "The Seven Oaks Incident and the Construction of a Historical Tradition, 1816 to 1970." Journal of the Canadian Historical Association/Revue de la Société historique du Canada 2.1 (1991): 91-113. online
  • "Battle of Seven Oaks". News Letter Excerpts. Metis Culture & Heritage Resource Centre, Inc. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008.

Coordinates: 49°55′55″N 97°07′16″W / 49.93194°N 97.12111°W / 49.93194; -97.12111