In 1811, Lord Selkirk bought a controlling interest in the Hudson’s Bay Company so that he could set up a settlement at Red River, now Manitoba. At that time there was great rivalry between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Company of Montreal. the Nor’Westers, as they were called, were bitterly opposed to agricultural settlers going into the West because it might spoil the hunting and trapping for furs.
The first Selkirk settlers arrived at Fort Douglas, now Winnipeg, in August 1812. The Nor’Westers disputed the legality of the sale of the area to Lord Selkirk and trouble began when they saw the new arrivals ploughing the land and building a storehouse for wheat. When Miles Macdonnell, the leader of the settlers, ordered the Nor’Westers to give up their posts on the Red River, they reacted by destroying the houses and crops of the new settlers and driving many of them out of the country. Others were induced to go to Upper Canada where the Northwest Company offered them land.
There were many skirmishes between the Selkirk settlers and the Nor’Westers. The worst took place on June 19, 1816, after Governor Semple of the Hudson”s Bay Company had sent a fearless officer, Colin Robertson, to arrest Nor’Wester Duncan Cameron for having burned a Selkirk village.
On June 19, a force of 70 armed Nor’Westers and Métis approached Fort Douglas. Governor Semple went out with thirty men and demanded to know what they planned to do. Angry words led to shots being fired, and in a few minutes Semple and most of his followers had been killed. Six managed to get aback to Fort Douglas to tell the story. The encounter took place near a group of seven oak trees, and is known in history as “The Battle of Seven Oaks.”
Once more the Selkirk settlers were driven from their homes and lands. When Lord Selkirk heard the news he seized the Northwest Company’s trading post at Fort William, and a number of its more important officers. For this action Lord Selkirk was compelled to go on trial in Upper Canada, and fined £2,000 (pounds)! By this time, he was in poor health, and went to the south of France where he died.
Okay, so those are the basic details. Want to learn more about the Battle (or incident) of Seven Oaks? I can start your journey with a few places to go to. There’s Canada in the Making from Canadiana.ca; then there’s the Canadian Encyclopedia, and the CBC Learning site. Another good place to go to is The Kid’s Site of Canadian Settlement (it’s written for kids, but I enjoy such passages). Then go on to Red River Selkirk Settlement (it’s written for teachers), and then the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains.
- It’s A Little Like Napoleon …. (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- A Touch of History (selkirksnewnation.wordpress.com)