Metis 1860 - 1861


1860 - 1861


Sault Ste Marie, as a fur trade supply point, began to decline and was closed before the decade is finished.

American whalers out of New Bedford, Massachusetts are wintering in Hudson Bay at Roes Welcome Sound, Repulse Bay, and Depot and Southampton Island. MarbleIsland has been a wintering spot for many years. The Eskimo helped in the taking of whales, caribou, walrus and polar bears. The Eskimo women made garments and footwear for the Americans.

During this decade the American Government attempted to ban Metis hunters along the Milk River region and forced many of them, including those born on American soil, north into Canada. Others went south to join relatives in the Judith Basin of central Montana.

During this decade a small but increasing trickle of Ontario Protestant Orangemen moved to the Red River region. These new comers are classified as brutal, bigoted, overbearing and greedy. They used whiskey to swindle land from the Indians. They called themselves the Canadian Firsters or the Canadian Party. They were contemptuous of all half-breeds and boasted openly that they were going to take over. There leader was John Christian Schultz, who believed in white supremacy. This did not sit well with the Metis who were classified as easygoing, honest and sharing by nature.

During this decade the Whoop Up trail is in operation between Fort Benton, Montana and Alberta. The trade route is via the Missouri River to Fort Benton, then onward to southern Alberta.

Buckingham of the Nor'wester newspaper quit the North West, and James Ross joined the partnership of the paper. James Ross, a bigot, would use the paper to his own ends.

On March 1860, a meeting of the Metis Nation, at the request of their Native brothers, drafted the following resolution:

1. That the Cree Chief Senna, who has the best claim to the country (Red River), never dispose of it to the Earl of Selkirk or the Hudson Bay Company.

2. That the Hudson Bay Company does not, as alleged, pay any money to each of the five Chiefs, as mentioned in Mr. McDermott's letter.

3. That the paltry presents given to some or all of these Chiefs for many years after 1816, were not given in the way of payment for lands, but merely to keep them friendly towards the Company. The friendship of these Chiefs was important, not only because their hostility might have been dangerous, but also because they could, by using their influence with their people, bring a large quantity of furs to the Company.

4. That presents similar to those given after the year 1816 were given for thirty or forty years before that date (since 1776) for the purpose of 'keeping in with the Indians' and given, not only to the Chiefs of this district, but to every influential Indian throughout the country.

5. That no proper arrangement has been made with the native tribes regarding their land. "The half-breeds" who are now on the soil and who, besides being natives, are the immediate representatives of these tribes.


As a result of this proclamation and the Indian proclamation not to recognize the Hudson Bay Company authority, the Metis began to negotiate treaties independent from the self proclaimed Governor and his boys. A Frenchman named George Racette claimed that Governor Johnson, on behalf of the Hudson Bay Company, some years ago, to keep the Cree, Saulteaux (Ojibwa) and Assiniboine from marching on Fort Garry, had promised yearly gifts for them to stay away. Racette, being a party to the dealings on behalf of the Hudson Bay Company, is found guilty of fraud by the Indians. He is relieved, on the Missouri river, of all his merchandise which included fourteen horses, for this breach of faith. Chief Peguis's son Senna is claimed to have been in the group that took his goods.

Hamilton Canada's first oil well opened at Petrolia. James Miller Williams stakes his future in oil to recover, refine and transport this new resource. He acquired the gum beads used to produce asphalt near Oil Springs from the Tripp Brothers in 1857, and he opened a refinery in Hamilton.

St. Boniface Roman Catholic Cathedral burned, destroying many parish records. The Roman Catholic community divided into four parishes, two of which St. Boniface and St. Norbert are on the Red River and two, St. Francois Xavier and St. Charles, on the Assiniboine River.

The repeating rifle, introduced to the prairies this decade, contributed to the elimination of the buffalo. The Fort Garry Cricket Club formed but could not replace the Indian game Baggataway. The Metis called it Lacrosse because the sticks resembled a bishop's crosier or cross. The teams of seventy five to two hundred aside endeavored to score goals with roughly shaped balls of animal skins filled with hair. Medicine men were the referees and often the goal posts. When they moved, the game moved, sometimes shifting five or ten miles over the three days of playing. Red River imposed a license fee for the sale of spirituous liquor in quantities under five gallons, excluding wine. The price of liquor was whiskey at twenty shillings a gallon; Jamaica rum twenty two shillings; brandy twenty five; and wine, twenty four shillings per gallon. Some women in Red River are writing back to the old country for fashionable bonnet shapes as there are none here and head coverings are growing in importance.

The Chinese came to British Columbia, and many would drift into the prairies after the placer gold and jade deposits declined.


This drawing represents a typical Metis buffalo hunt out of Red River in the late 1800's.

The White Horse Plains hunters are on their annual buffalo hunt. One thousand Dakota Sioux, near Devil's Lake, followed the Metis party for several days. At night, the camp was pitched in a circle, being formed with the carts, within which the tents and then the horses, oxen and cattle were placed to prevent them being stolen by the Dakota Sioux. There must have also been a thousand dogs in the camp. The Dakota Sioux wanted to ratify the peace treaty of last winter. This significant Native Canadian American treaty established a lasting peace between the participants. The inclusion to the treaty at this time is the understanding that, should either side make sly approaches to each other's camp at night, those molested are at liberty to shoot the culprits. The Dakota Sioux said they had obtained from the United States officials, a large quantity of goods that they believed contained the elements of the destructive disease that is killing about fifty of their number a month. They have long believed the Yankees are trying to thin out their numbers through biological warfare.


This is a typical Metis camp used during the annual buffalo hunt out of Red River.

Some confusion exists in that, when the annual buffalo hunt is mentioned in Red River, there are two different groups involved.

The Main Red River Band, made up almost exclusively of hunters and their families, live on the Red River between Fort Garry and Pembina. This group normally hunts south into the Dakota's and Minnesota. The other expedition is the White Horse Plain Hunters from the White Horse Plains, but including many others living on the Assiniboine from its mouth to Portage la Prairie.

This group normally hunted to the west but sometimes to the south West into the Dakotas and Montana.

The White Horse Plains expedition included five hundred men, six hundred women, six hundred and eighty children, seven hundred thirty horses, three hundred oxen and nine hundred and fifty carts. The buffalo is first sighted at Bad Hills about sixty miles from the boundary, and two hundred and twenty hunters killed one thousand, three hundred buffaloes. The expedition then moved southward by the Sand Hills to within five miles of the Little Souris River in north west Dakota where they killed one thousand buffaloes. A few days later, a herd of two hundred and fifty chanced by and is brought down. About one hundred and thirty five buffaloes are killed on the return trip to Devil's Lake where more serious shooting is relieved by bear, beaver and deer hunting. The Metis Council decided to travel to the Couteau de la Prairie to finish the hunt and are joined by Mr. Chapin from Philadelphia who killed ten buffaloes, and Lieutenant Whyte who killed seven or eight buffaloes.

The final total count of the hunt is over three thousand buffaloes. One reported casualty, Alexander Swain, had put powder too soon into a hot gun and, when blowing it home, it ignited and severely burnt his mouth and throat. His wife, upon hearing the news, miscarried. The father and newly born infant are enclosed in the same grave.

A caravan of one hundred and ninety nine vehicles of all descriptions left St. Paul, Minnesota on July 8, 1860, arriving at Red River in the first week of August, having been joined by several French settlers, some being old inhabitants of Red River and now returning. Another expedition of forty Metis families from White Horse Plains, left on their annual fur trading trip with the Assiniboine and Cree. The expedition went beyond the forks of the Belly and Paul Rivers, near the head waters of the Saskatchewan; a few miles north of the 49th parallel. At this location they run no risk of conflict with the Hudson Bay Company. The expedition intends to winter at Belly River. Richard Hardisty left Fort Garry on August 26, 1860, with forty seven Red-River Carts, for Fort Carlton. Charles Eaton arrived with thirty horses which were traded from the Blackfoot heading for St. Paul, Minnesota to trade. Red River is becoming a major cross roads.

(I)- George Simpson (1787-1860), who claimed the position of Governor in Chief of the North West Territories, died this September, and Alexander Grant Dallas assumed the position until 1864.

The Red River Settlement reported wedding mania this year. Many Metis weddings lasted for two to three days with continuous dancing and visiting taking place. This western custom was assumed by some, in later years, to have originated with the Ukrainian. Louis Goulet reported that the arrival of the English brought the sowing of racial and religious conflict.

The first Federal census of the Dakota Territories is conducted this year. Chouteau's American Fur Company, as well as Father DesMet, struggled for control of the upper Missouri Indian Affairs.


This picture depicts a European settler's haying operation near Lower Fort Gary on the Red River. The cart is four wheeled. The Metis used two wheeled carts for their haying operations. The hats are also not Metis. They could, however, be American settlers.

The American Homestead Act offered land to men and women for no other coin than the courage to farm it. This made good press, but the land offered was the very poorest of land - most not fit for farming.

April 3: The Pony Express operated between Saint Joseph, a.k.a. St. Joe, Missouri and Sacramento, California, until October 1861. May historians point to this as an example of American ingenuity. Not so. Genghis Khan (1167-1227) first employed the Pony Express to rapidly communicate throughout his vast empire.

August: Gold is discovered at Orofino Creek (Pierce, Idaho).


The American Civil War (1861-1865) settled the conflict between the North and Southern Americans.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) violated the Constitution by shutting down the New York News for anti-administration editorials.

The non-representative Council of the Assiniboia that was to governed Red River and District included Bishop Tache, Francois Bruneau and Henry Fisher. The agitation for change in the Red River Settlement appears to have had no effect on the councilors from 1862 to 1869. They were, basically, an ineffective group, dealing only with minor mundane issues. The Royal Canadian Rifles withdrew from Red River causing some concern for the safety of the inhabitants. The Council recommended that the Home Government of Great Britain be approached to render military assistance.

A major flood occurred in Red River but there was little damage, as settlers had removed most property to higher ground. This, however, was a period of starvation in Red River for those folks who totally depended on farming. Many Scottish settlers asked for food relief and wheat seed for planting.

Andrew McDermott defied the Hudson Bay Company by sending two boats upriver to free trade, and three others also sent boats out this year. On May 18, Alexander Grant Dallas arrived at Fort Garry to replace (I)- George Simpson (1787-1860) as Governor of the Hudson Bay Company. Red River flooded this year. St. Paul, Minnesota reported $198,000 in fur sales from the Red River Metis. Business is so good that St. Paul merchants established trading posts at Red River beside Fort Garry.

The preferred route to Red River from Montreal was by rail to St. Paul, Minnesota, then north by Red River Cart on the Kittson Trail to Fort Garry. A ferry at the junction of Red River and the Assiniboine was operated by Duncan MacDougall who could speak English, French, Cree and Gaelic. In Red River the Metis held nearly all important and intellectual offices: sheriff, medical officer, post master, all teachers but one, a fair portion of the magistrates, and one of the electors and proprietors of the only newspaper in the North West Territories. These Metis are proud of their Native heritage.

The summer buffalo hunt took place some two and a half day march beyond the Pembina Mountain at Badger Hill. Nine hundred buffaloes were taken in the first race. Two days later another nine hundred were taken, and yet the buffalo stayed within range. In all, more than twelve runs are made from this one location and that, to the Metis, is an unusual event. Five or six hundred Assiniboine, Cree and Chippewa had joined the Metis to enjoy the hunt. The feasting by the Indians was to prepare themselves, by religious ceremonies, for their anticipated fight with the Dakota Sioux against the Yankees. To keep the bands in practice they would occasionally steal horses from the Metis.

The Metis would demand restitution. With an astonishing degree of innocence on the part of the thieves, this of course was followed by the return of the horses. Another expedition was at Beaver Creek and reported similar results to the Badger Hill camp.

Family tradition suggests that after numerous encounters, including near starvation, the Lawrence Garneau (1840-1921) party is picked up on the prairies in the north east corner of North Dakota, near Pembina, by Metis buffalo hunters from the White Horse Plains. In the census of 1901 Lawrence claimed to have arrived at Red River in 1861.

There is a high probability that he arrived at Red River in 1862 or 1863 during the Dakota Sioux Resistance movement. Before 1901 he had acknowledged his involvement in the 1869-70 Metis Resistance Movement at Red River and, as a result, in 1884 he is barred from running for the Assembly of the North West Territories. He is imprisoned in 1885 and threatened with execution for the same admission. It is understandable that he didn't want to be associated with the 1862-1863 incident in Minnesota and Dakota.

The Royal Canadian Riflemen stationed in Red River, North West Territories for the past four years returned east, and no troops would be station in Red River until 1870. A law was passed in Red River, not allowing hay cutting beyond two miles from the river, as this is considered community pasture.

James Wicks Taylor told Washington that Minnesota alone was able to hold, occupy and possess the Valley of the Red River to Lake Winnipeg. Dakota became a territory this year. Dakota Territory included Montana and a portion of Idaho, and this large territory only contained about two thousand inhabitants.

January 16: At Red River, Chief's: Peguis, Mannamio, Mooscooee, Eskfpacakoose, Accupas and Henry Prince signed and published an Indian manifesto warning "several persons who have extended their cultivation onto Indian Lands to pay rent. Rent of one bushel of wheat for every five bushels of seed sown, and for barley and potatoes the same rate."

February 13: N. I. Quebec Gazette, " Mme Garneau, the wife of a trader named Garneau, at a dance at St. Sauveuron on Wednesday evening, suddenly dropped down and expired almost immediately".