Chronology: Before (c. 1390 – 1763)

[Note: developments in governance that affected Red River Settlement — or rather might have inspired the political stance of the people in the settlement who undertook the Resistance during 1869 – 1870 — are highlighted in blue.]

c. 1390 – 1450

On Turtle Island*:

Dekanawida/ Dekanahwideh/ Deganawidah / Great Peace Maker/ ‘Heavenly Messenger’/ Skennenrahawi/ ‘Two River Currents Flowing Together’ founds the Haudenosaunee/ Confederacy of the Five Nations/ ‘Iroquois League,’ which confederates the Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Seneca.

(In 1720 the Tuscarora will join the confederation, which will become known as the Six Nations.)

The Confederacy’s system of governance is democratic, with the government directly responsible to the people (not a headman/ chief). “Women were highly honoured in Iroquois life, their status being in no way inferior to that of men. Not only was descent reckoned in the female line, but matrons of those lineages holding chiefly titles had power both to appoint the civil chiefs and, if these failed in their duty, to recall them – always, however, after consultation with the incumbent chiefs as well as with the ‘warriors and women,’ that is, the general public.”

(The Gayanashagowa/ Great Law of Peace/ formal Haudenosaunee constitution is closely paralleled by the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the U.S. Constitution written three centuries later, in 1787, at Philedelphia. In turn, the U.S. constitution is considered by the framers of the constitution of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia in 1870. The influence of the Haudenosaunee constitution is recognized by the U.S. Congress in 1988.)

[See “‘The Great Law’ – Injunuity,” ]

[* The name by which the continent of North America was known by First Nations at the time of contact has been hypothesized to have been Turtle Island. In the Seneca language, the mythical turtle was known as Hah-nu-nah (the word for an ordinary turtle being ha-no-wa). In Western Algic [Algonkian/Algonquian] languages the name of the continent might have been Mishi-nimikina. Since the 19th century, some writers have insisted that the name ‘America’ is rooted in an Indigenous language and that “the name America was brought back to Europe from the New World.” Jan Carew has argued that “To rob people or countries of their names is to set in motion a psychic disturbance which can in turn create a permanent crisis of identity. As if to underline this fact, the theft of an important place-name from the heartland of the Americas and the claim that it was a dilettante’s [Amerigo Vespucci’s] Christian name robs the original name of its elemental meaning.”

See Harriet Maxwell Converse, Herman Le Roy Fairchild, William John Miller, Arthur Caswell Parker, Myths and legends of the New York Iroquois (New York: University of New York, 1908), 33; J. Watts de Peyster, Miscellanies: By an Officer vol. 1 (Dumfries [England: C. Munro, 1888]), cii;   Jonathan Cohen, “The Naming of America: Fragments We’ve Shored Against Ourselves,”  (accessed 12 October 2011). See also “The naming of America,” The Renaissance Mathematicus blog (accessed 14 September 2014).]


In the French province of Acadia:

Children of parents with separate continents of origin were growing up in families and communities that, to varying degrees, blended First Nations and European social and cultural practices.

[See N.E.S. Griffiths, From Migrants to Acadians: A North American Border People, 16041755 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill – Queen’s Press, 2005), 34, 47-48, who notes that to missionaries, the earliest dual-culture families in Acadia appeared outwardly First Nations in aspect — in particular, they followed ‘unsettled’ traditional patterns of seasonal migration. Griffiths also describes migration as a marked aspect of life in Acadia to 1632. Olive P. Dickason, “Aboriginals: Metis,” Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples, ed. Paul R. Magocsi (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 71, suggests that as settled communities (small farms near fisheries) were established by people of dual heritage (whom she designates Métis), the inhabitants “generally considered themselves to be French, even as they recognized their blood ties with Amerindians.”]


In Spain:

The word ‘mestizaje’ has been coined to describe the fusing of transatlantic cultures in blended families at colonial outposts. (In France, however, the term is not readily adopted. The operative assumption remains that if non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal peoples in Nouvelle-France are mixing, then eventually everyone will be French. Children born into blended families in Acadia are designated Acadiens, those born in the province of Canada are designated Canadiens.)

[See Devrim Karahasan, “Métissage in New France: Frenchification, Mixed Marriages and Métis as Shaped by Social and Political Agents and Institutions 1508 – 1886,” Ph.D. diss. (Florence: Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute, July 2006), 142; Robert Carney, “Aboriginal Residential Schools Before Confederation: The Early Experience,” Canadian Catholic Historical Association [CCHA] Historical Studies 61 (1995): 29; and Dickason, “Aboriginals: Metis,” 71-72.]


In France:

King Louis XIII of France claims the interior of the American continent, with the Charte de la Compagnie des Cent-Associès/ Compagnie de la Nouvelle France.

1646 – 1666

In the province of Canada, New France:

Continual and violent French – Iroquois hostility

As of 1653, Garakonité/ Daniel (Onandaga), pursues a pro-French policy (often in the face of opposition among his own people). He “played a leading role in bringing about a new truce between the western Iroquois and the French in 1661.”

As of 1662, trade was seen to depend on a resource that was rare in North America — liquor: to the one with the best liquor went the trade. Bishop Laval, whose religious order is losing in the trade competition, declares the trading of brandy to First Nations to be a mortal sin and denies the sacraments of the church to those known to have engaged in the practice.

In France:

Laval argues to Louis XIV that liquor must be banned as a trade item. Louis agrees.

[Note: Europeans were heavy drinkers of alcohol and did not necessarily handle it well. Denigrating ‘others’ as drunks was a clear instance of psychological and social denial, with the projection of the faults of ‘civilized’ human society onto the ‘wild’ peoples encountered. See]


In the province of Canada, New France:

A French – Iroquois Peace is achieved, which makes it possible for Canadian fur-traders to voyage into the West to obtain furs from First Nations of the Great Lakes area.


In England:

A Royal Charter confers rights and privileges of governance to the ‘Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay’ [CAE/HBC]. These rights and privileges stem directly from the Crown, or the executive branch of the State, not from Parliament. The territory claimed overlaps that claimed by France.

In the province of Canada, New France:

Plans have been put forward to expand the political and economic reach of New France.

(Collision with the CAE/ HBC is inevitable if the plans are pursued.)


Louis de Buade de Frontenac et de Palluau arrives as newly appointed governor-general. He approves of expanding trade westward and approves of brandy as a trade item — accusing the bishop of interfering in civil affairs and the Jesuits of desiring to gain control of the fur trade for themselves.


In France:

Louis XIV tries to broker a compromise between Frontenac and the clergy.

In the province of Canada, New France:

The clergy and Frontenac do not cooperate.

Frontenac enters the fur trade, establishing the Fort Frontenac post on Lake Ontario, at the mouth of the Cataracoui River (present-day Kingston). Merchant fur-traders and habitants of Montreal are unhappy: merchants fear the post will intercept their portion of the western fur trade; habitants resent having been obliged by Frontenac’s corvée to spend a good part of the summer constructing and transporting supplies to his fort.

Frontenac’s fur trade associates subsequently are charged, by the clergy-affiliated Conseil Souverain, with infringing on Royal edicts governing the fur trade.


Frontenac’s fur trade associates also come into conflict with Iroquois who are determined to add the Ohio valley area to their territory.

During the decade prior to 1675 the Iroquois could not oppose the establishment of French posts on lands they regarded as their own, or desired to control, because diverted by warfare to their east and south with Mahicans and Andastes. By 1675, however, the Iroquois have imposed terms for peace and can concentrate on undoing the French advance. They therefore seek to divert trade from Montreal to Albany (New York) — in which case they will act as ‘middlemen’ in the trade.

Iroquois attack First Nations allied to and protected by the French. When these Nations seek military aid from Frontenac he instead attempts to appease the Iroquois. The strategy fails. French trade canoes and posts in the West are attacked.

In Hudson Bay:

The HBC encourages First Nations that had traded for French goods to instead patronize Company posts on the Bay.


In England and France:

Charles II (England) and Louis XIV (France) are attempting to reach agreement on the extent of their claims in North America, and, in the meantime, are trying to keep their respective subjects from attacking one another.

Frontenac is recalled to France.

In the province of Canada, New France:

Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye founds the Compagnie du Nord. Officials and leading merchants of New France (including Charles Le Moyne) are set on forcefully expelling the English from Hudson Bay.


Influenza sweeps through New France, decimating its population. Charles Le Moyne meets with Iroquois at Anse de la Famine/ Famine Cove and accepts their terms for “a humiliating peace.”


François-Christophe Dufrost de Las Gemerais arrives as a midshipman at Canada, with Pierre de Troyes/ Chevallier de Troyes, along with the new Governor General of New France, Jacques-René de Brisay de Denonville, Marquis de Denonville.

[François-Christophe Dufrost  marries  (18 Jan. 1701) Marie-Renée Gaultier de Varennes (daughter of the governor of Trois-Rivières, and sister of  Pierre Gaultier de Varnnes et de La Vérendrye, and two other “prominent Montreal merchants), one of their sons is Christophe de La Jemerais, one of their daughters is Marie-Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais/ Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, a trader (c. 1731 – 1737 or later), and  foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Hôpital Général in Montreal/ Grey Nuns.]

Denonville alienates influential families when he issues only 25 fur-trade licences, and at that only to families who had been previously denied the privilege. He further regulates the trade, requiring: licence holders declare the names of the 3 voyageurs allowed per canoe and the goods shipped; voyageurs register departure and return at Montreal or Trois-Rivières; voyageurs submit a certificate of good conduct obtained from missionaries at posts in the West.


Pierre de Troyes heads out from Montreal, in March, for James Bay — by way of the Ottawa River to Lake Temiscaming, and from there canoeing and portaging a chain of lakes and streams to the Moose River. He is intent on ending the English Hudson Bay trade, especially that of Radisson. The Chevalier de Troyes has, as guide, Pierre Allemand, who, like the accompanying Jesuit chaplain, Silvy, has travelled the route twice before. There are 30 soldiers and 70 militiamen. Their officers include Canadien brothers: Jacques Le Moyne, Sieur de Sainte-Hélène, as first lieutenant; Pierre  Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville et d’Ardillières, as second lieutenant; Paul  Le Moynes, Sieur de Maricourt, as adjutant.

In Hudson Bay, ‘the bottom of the Bay’

The expedition reaches James Bay on 20 June. They seize Fort Monsipi (Moose Factory or Saint-Louis), Fort Rupert (Charles Fort), and Fort Quichicouanne (Fort Albany).

Sr. d’Iberville remains behind, in command of the captured forts (though he will eventually leave for France to seek additional support).

In the province of Canada, New France:

The Chevalier de Troyes arrives back from the James Bay expedition in early October.


 Denonville goes to war against Iroquois (Seneca) and traders out of New York/ Albany as well as ‘renegade’ Canadian traders. Pierre de Troyes is among those sent out – he destroys Seneca villages then sends 58 male captives to France as galley slaves (13 eventually return).


Disease is devastating New France. Pierre de Troyes dies. A peace treaty is sought with Iroquois who are exacting revenge for previous attacks.

In England:

The ‘Glorious Revolution’ marks the victory of Parliament over the King. In addition, James II of England (aka James VII of Scotland and James II of Ireland), a Catholic, is replaced by the Dutch Protestant William of Orange and his wife Mary (the Protestant daughter of King James).

In New England:

Sir Edmund Andros, governor of New England and New York, is trying to prevent direct negotiations between the Iroquois and the French. He claims the Five Nations are subjects of the British crown, and that the French must therefore negotiate directly with him. The French, and particularly the Iroquois, disagree with Andros. The Iroquois nevertheless accept Andros’ plea that they leave off attacking settlements in New France, in favour of concentrating on eliminating French posts in the West.

In England and France:

War is declared (War of the Grand Alliance/ War of the Palatine Succession/ War of the League of Augsburg/ The Nine Years’ War (1688–1697).

In New England:

The Iroquois receive word of an outbreak of hostilities between England and France.

In New France:

Ratification of a peace treaty with the Iroquois fails when word is received in New England that England and France are at war.

The Five Nations strike at Lachine: destroying 36 of 77 homes, killing 24 and taking some 70 to 90 prisoners. The French retaliate by burning alive three Iroquois prisoners.

Sr. d’Iberville, who has secured ships from France, sails them from New France for Hudson Bay, attacking English settlements at Newfoundland en route.


Sr. d’Iberville returns. James Bay is securely French.


In the North-West (later Canadian territory):

“an Englishman” arrives “by way of York River” at ‘the Forks,’ the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers


In the West (later U.S. territory):

Fort Beauharnois des Sioux is built by René Boucher de La Perrière with Christophe de La Jemerais (nephew of Pierre Gaultier de Varnnes et de La Vérendrye). Maintaining forts in Sioux territory will prove difficult.


In New France:

The Treaty of Utrecht allows British occupation of Acadia/ Nova Scotia.


In the fur trade hinterland of New France:

Auchagah/ Ochagachs/ Otchaga, “an intelligent Indian,” meets Pierre Gaultier de Varnnes et de La Vérendrye at Lake Nepigon and tells him that it is possible to travel west of Lake Superior, largely by water,  to the great sea or Pacific Ocean. Ochagachs draws a map, which is sent to France (“and is still preserved. … in the Depot Marine.”)



In the West (later Canadian territory)

Christophe de La Jemerais, nephew and second in command to Pierre Gaultier de Varnnes et de La Vérendrye, is on a 1st expedition to the western sea. Their party advances from the Grand Portage, Lake Superior, to the western end of Lac la Pluie/Rainy Lake, where they build Fort Saint-Pierre.



Pierre Gaultier de Varnnes et de La Vérendrye and La Jeremais build Fort Saint-Charles on Lac des Bois/ Lake of the Woods. Son to the former and cousin to the latter, Jean-Baptiste Gaultier de La Vérendrye, arrives in November with a trade outfit.


La Jeremais goes “to within a few leagues” of Lac Ouinipigon/ Lake Winnipeg with his cousin, Jean-Baptiste Gaultier de La Vérendrye, to find a site for a fort.

La Jeremais draws  a map, dated 1 Oct. 1733. (A final drawing done by Gaspard-Joseph Chassegros de Léry, reputedly shows Fort Rouge on the south bank of the Assiniboine at The Forks.)


Meetings with Cree and Assiniboine encourage Pierre Gaultier de Varnnes et de La Vérendrye to send trading partner Sr. Cartier, followed by son Pierre, to establish Fort Maurepas near the mouth of the Red River (about six miles north of present day Selkirk).


La Jeremais falls ill at Fort Maurepas and dies 10 May 1736, “while his two La Vérendrye cousins, who had been sent to his aid, were trying to bring him back to Fort Saint-Charles, using a route that no other Frenchman was to follow before the conquest of Canada.” He is buried ‘at the Fourche des Roseaux’ (near what is now Letellier MB).

News of La Jeremais‘s death reaches Fort St. Charles, where Sr. Le Gras arrives with a trade outfit. The traders decide against pushing farther west, opting to concentrate efforts at localities that are easier to reach, such as Fort Vermilion.

The introduction of direct trade between the French and Cree and Assiniboine First Nations of the Lake Winnipeg region angers Sioux whose territory was crossed without permission (and who realize that French trade through their territory to the south, on the upper Mississippi, might be scaled back or abandoned). They attack the French interlopers, killing Jean-Baptiste Gaultier de La Vérendrye, Father Aulneau, and 19 voyageurs at the battle of ‘Massacre Island,’ Lake of the Woods.


La Vérendrye returns to The Forks, where he is expected by 2 Cree “war chiefs” and a group waiting in 10 “huts” with “a quantity of meat” to trade. He is under the impression that they trade yearly with the English, but is told they “have not been to the English for more than six years.” They have, however, sent word to the English that trade was wanted, since “the French abandoned us, and it was necessary to have our wants supplied.”

On the advice of the Cree, Fort La Reine is established on the Assiniboine River, nine miles by a portage from Swan Lake, “at the portage which goes to Lake of the Prairies.” This is the route used by Assiniboine to reach English traders. At the location, the French will intercept the English trade.

M. de la Marque with his brother, Sr. Nolan, pass by the Forks on the way to Fort La Reine. M. de Louvière leaves Fort Maurepas (which is being re-located to the mouth of the Winnipeg River), to rebuild a fort at the Forks “for the people of Red River.”

The Assiniboine and Sioux are in conflict.


Pierre de la Vérendrye reports Fort La Reine is in ruins and Fort Maurepas is  burned to the ground.


Le Gardeur de Saint-Pierre reports Fort La Reine has burned and he must winter at Red River.

In the Ohio Valley:

First Nations attack the British (one of the attackers possibly being Obawandiyag/Pontiac). The acts will lead to the ‘French and Indian War’/Seven Years’ War.


In France and England:

The century-long struggle for dominance in North America and world supremacy sees declaration of a “first global war,” and the Seven Years’ War begins.

In New France:

Canada is a colony along the St. Lawrence River populated by 60,000 to 70,000 French-speaking Canadiens/Canadians and an unknown number of Aboriginal people. Additional French colonies include Acadia, Louisiana, and the “French Shore” of Newfoundland. Canada, the most developed colony, has of three, separately governed districts: Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Montréal. The governor of the district of Québec acts as the governor general of all of New France.

In the Western and North-Western hinterlands of New France:

Posts established in the Lake Winnipeg district block Cree and Assiniboine trade with the English on Hudson Bay. The French have improved portages and trails so that the posts receive regular provisioning with trade goods, fish, game, and wild rice. Large depots exist at Michilimackinac and Kaministiquia (and possibly Grand Portage), which house goods from Montreal. Financing of trade relies on a system whereby goods are advanced on the expectation of later returns to settle the debt (as opposed to immediate payment).

The French route (via the Winnipeg River) has largely circumvented ‘uncertainties’ associated with the southerly Fox portage, by which the French encountered Sioux of the upper Mississippi, before they could conduct trade with the Assiniboine beyond. There had been problems of access and of maintaining forts in Sioux territory whenever the Fox were at war (particularly 1727 to 1737).


In New France:

Quebec and Montreal surrender to British forces, signing “Articles of Capitulation (18 September 1759).” The British occupy Canada, declaring “Martial Law.”


In France:

New France is ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris, 1763 (excepting the fisheries, the Saint-Pierre and Miquelon islands, off Newfoundland).

In England:

King George III, issues The Royal Proclamation, 1763.

[Note: The acquisition of New France by Britain is often referred to as “The Conquest” in Canadian historiography.]



  1. The reference to York River in 1692 is likely an inaccurate reference to coming by way of the Hayes River route, following the establishment of York Factory at the mouth of the Hayes in 1684. York River is in Ontario. But Williams could easily have made that error in 1881. I am curious what his source was, though….

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