In 1869, the Métis stopped the surveyors who had been sent from Canada to mark out the land that was being taken over from the Hudson’s Bay Company (see my October 11 post: You Go No Further!). The next act of the drama followed on October 31.
William McDougall, Minister of Public Works in the Macdonald government, had been appointed the first lieutenant-governor of the territory. Although Canada was not entitled to take over the territory until December 1, McDougall left Ottawa by train early in October. On the day that Riel stopped the survey party, McDougall was at St. Cloud, in Minnesota, preparing to complete the journey to Fort Garry by Red River cart. He was traveling like a king with his family, four assistants, and enough goods and chattels to fill sixty carts.
McDougall’s progress towards the border was being reported to Riel by agents along the way. He reached Pembina on October 30 and was in the United States’ Customs house when a Métis handed him a note. it was written in French and said that the National committee of Métis of Red River ordered him not to enter the Northwest Territories without special permission of the committee.
McDougall was furious! Who were these upstarts ordering him not to enter the territory of which he had been appointed governor! The next day he sent his secretary, J. A. N. Provencher, into the territory to investigate. Provencher was traveling just ahead of Captain D. R. Cameron, who had recently married a daughter of Sir Charles Tupper. He found that the Métis had erected a barrier at the Rivière Sale. However, he made an effort to be friendly and attended mass. Then Captain Cameron came long with his bride and two servants. On reaching the barrier, he put a monocle in one eye, gazed coldly at the Métis, and roared, “remove that blawsted fence!”
Provencher and Cameron were escorted back to Pembina, and Sir Charles Tupper himself had to intervene to regain his son-in-law’s baggage. McDougall had to stay at Pembina until December 1, when he crossed the border and read a proclamation that he had forged, announcing that Canada had taken over the territory.
For more about today’s post, I suggest the Manitoba Historical Society.