Métis Children of Red River

family 1826 Rindisbacher

Peter Rindisbacher, watercolour, “Métis family,” 1826.

Métis Children of Red River

Little information that relates specifically to Red River Métis children has been compiled by historians — even though indications are that at any given time the children were “Pretty Numerious” [sic], and, by 1870, greater than 60% of the settlement’s population was under the age of 21.[1] The following is a general overview of Métis childhood at Red River that traces changes to 1870, with hypotheses as to family dynamics.[2]

Nellie Isbister and daughter

Mother and daughter of the Isbister family, Red River, c. 1860.

Children and Influences

In Métis families at Red River, to at least 1860, Aboriginal women were the primary caretakers of children during the most important time in terms of the transmission of cultural norms — the period during which the learning of language, and its embedded philosophies, structure the neural pathways of the brain.[3] The mothers’ first and reportedly preferred languages were Aboriginal. Depending on a mother’s heritage, children might, therefore, begin learning about the world in Cree, Anishinaabemowin, Siouian, or Salish, or possibly in Iroquoian or Inuktitut.[4] By 1860 as well, the vast majority of marriages in the settlement were contracted between Métis individuals, so that both parents in a family spoke Aboriginal languages, including Michif and/or Bungee.[5] Through language learning, children of Métis parents were exposed to belief systems and core values that had developed over millennia in response to the realities of living in Turtle Island/ North America.[6]

Aboriginal belief systems contained explanations of the natural and spiritual world that offered ways to interpret and cope with circumstances. The explanations served as sets of instructions learned by children, underpinning their understanding of the world and shaping their experience in it. Aboriginal values common to First Nations peoples and related to family life were carried forward by Métis parents into Red River society.[7] As various points made in the discussion that follows indicate, Aboriginal family precepts may well have reinforced, among the Métis, a sense of freedom to pursue individual self-determination. It is clear, for example, that Métis children were granted a fair degree of freedom from restraint. For much of the settlement’s existence, formal schooling was not particularly popular, so, over the course of Red River’s sixty years as a predominantly Métis community (1810–1870), the majority of children were not subject to classroom regimes.[8]

Kane metis summer hunt

Paul Kane, lithograph copy of painting, showing Métis travelling on the prairies of Dakota for the summer hunt in June 1846. The original painting is held by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Children and Learning

Given the strength of Aboriginal influences at the settlement, it is reasonable to assume that Métis children of Red River were treated as full participants in society. Aboriginal attitudes towards children reflected spiritual belief systems in which every component of the biosphere — whether animal, vegetable, mineral, vaporous, liquid or other — was respected. Respect given to children at Red River would have seen their inclusion in social, economic, and ritual activities. This would have ensured that, as in First Nations societies, Métis children learned primarily through observation, at home and in community.[9]

leaving for fall hunt

William Armstrong, pen and ink sketch, apparently based on a piece by Paul Kane (see comments by Lynn below), meant to show Métis leaving on the fall hunt.

It is known, for example, that women and children participated in the buffalo harvests. Their labour was particularly critical to the success of the annual summer hunt, during which the focus was on setting up open air factories for processing bison — principally to manufacture pemmican and preserve marrow fat that was “as sweet as butter.”[10]

On returning to the Red River Settlement from a plains hunt, women and children would continue the processing work: Cuts of meat that had not been converted to pemmican had to be smoked, boiled, or dried to be stored for future use. Sinews that they had collected needed to be cleaned, sorted, and bundled to be used as sewing thread. Hides that were to be used for winter clothing, bedding, and tents, for door and window coverings, or for carioles, had to be cured, tanned, or scraped.

Heated water was central to these processes, in considerable amounts. A home location close to water was therefore essential, as was a sufficient accumulation of firewood. Children would help with the work of hauling extra water up the banks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, gathering additional fuel, and tending fires — all part of learning the self-sufficiency that marked life in the North-West.[11]

Women and children also participated in the annual fall hunt, though in fewer numbers, as the group that departed Red River in October was itself smaller. The hunt was mainly undertaken by harvesting families who overwintered away from the settlement. These families concentrated on obtaining the superior grade buffalo robes that resulted from the animals having grown their winter coats. The families would return from the plains with these and other relatively luxurious winter pelts to trade at the settlement in the spring.[12]

Young child with cart brigade

Illustration, “Pembinese at Supper,” showing child with cart brigade. Source: “People of Red River,” Harper’s Magazine 18, no. 104 (January 1859), 170.

Métis women and children were also needed on the cart brigades that transported products and goods, to and from the settlement, on routes hundreds of miles long. By the early 1860s, the overland transportation system featured “upwards of 2,500 carts.”[13] Métis families were the principal organizers of the brigades, manufacturing and driving the carts (only about 250 carts were managed by the Hudson’s Bay Company [HBC]). For a profitable venture, brigade carts had to be dedicated to carrying trade goods. The brigades were therefore only lightly supplied with provisions. The men, equipped as armed guards, hunted en route. The women and children tended animals — oxen, horses, and dogs — set up and broke down campsites, hauled water, gathered food and fuel, and prepared meals.[14]

home and mill near upper fort garry

Photo-lithograph, showing homes, outbuildings, and Logan’s mill to the east and north of Upper Fort Garry, taken from a sketch by Paul Kane in 1846.

In addition, Métis families of Red River ran extensive farms [for a general description of Red River Métis farmsteads see Norma J. Hall, “A Child’s World,” in Chapter 1 of the free online, illustrated e-book A Casualty of Colonialism]. They operated salt works, worked as fishers, harvested sugar bushes, cut wood for building and fuel, built boats, quarried limestone, and tended businesses — from mills, to ferries, to post offices, newspaper presses, and stores. Children raised in the settlement would have worked alongside adults, as soon as they were able and at tasks that matched their abilities.

Winter fishing on ice of Assynoibain & Red River.

Peter Rindisbacher, watercolour, “Winter fishing on ice of Assynoibain & Red River,” dated 1821, showing children among those present. Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1988-250-31. Copyright: Expired.

Throughout childhood, Red River Métis children had opportunities to gain knowledge, which had been refined over thousands of years, on everything from hunting, butchering, fishing, and horticulture to medical care and ways to foster emotional well being through social and spiritual practices. At the same time, the children were exposed to relatively recently introduced practices relating to commerce, to maintaining a permanent and expanding settlement, and to engaging in production for profit.[15]

Boys fishing through ice

Illustration captioned, “Fishing through ice.” Source: Egerton Ryerson Young, By Canoe and Dog-Train: Among the Cree and Saulteaux (London: Charles H. Kelly, 1890), 207.

By about fourteen years of age Métis children were knowledgeable persons — ready to serve an ‘apprenticeship’ in a chosen occupation (or several occupations). From that age onward, the strength of family ties to people of influence in specific occupations could determine the likelihood of a child securing a position or advancing a career. For instance, a Métis youth with familial connections to buffalo hunt captains stood a better chance of working on hunts and cart brigades to learn about conducting trade than could a Selkirk Settler youth without Métis relatives. Likewise, sons of families with longstanding connections to the HBC managerial ranks — chief factors and chief traders — were more likely to secure postmaster positions than sons of families that from the beginning had worked as pemmican producers and continued to live and work as plains hunters.[16]

Children and Formal Schooling

The Métis of Red River had a long history with respect to exposure to formal schooling — a history that included French and Catholic as well as British and Protestant approaches to educating children.

The beginnings of French Catholic education of Aboriginal children traced back to the first decades of the seventeenth century in Nouvelle-France/ New France, which included the provinces of Canada and Acadie/ Acadia (principally portions of modern day Quebec and all of Nova Scotia, but also territory in what is now New Brunswick, northern Maine, and Prince Edward Island). To the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, few children of parents with separate continents of origin were subjected to prolonged bouts of formal Catholic education.[17] There were missions, with boarding schools and convents, established to teach Aboriginal children how to become “civilized” (meaning how to become taxable subjects of the monarchical state).[18] These were not popular with Aboriginal parents, families, and communities in either Acadia or Canada. If children with a trans-oceanic heritage were housed at a mission, they were likely suffering an extraordinary, perhaps temporary, episode of abandonment — even orphans and the ‘illegitimate’ offspring of French Canadiennes were normally placed instead with First Nations communities to be raised — well into the eighteenth century.[19]

Formal British efforts to oversee the education of children, whose parents had separate continents of origin, date back to the mid 1700s in Rupert’s Land. A sufficient number of children of Aboriginal mothers and European fathers were reported to be growing up at the bayside posts built at the ports that serviced HBC ships, for the Company to draft policies that would ensure the youngsters would be prepared to enter the HBC workforce.[20] Schooling arrangements were left up to the chief factors at the posts — usually fathers themselves. The education imparted to children who lived in and around the post was rudimentary, consisting of an introduction to literacy and accounting. Additional skills — such as boat building and sailing — were developed through formal and informal apprenticeships.[21] Work for the Company was gendered, so that while the apprenticeship of boys was often recorded in detail, the work of girls under the tutelage of women was not (though they were described as “virtually your honor’s servants”).[22] Any advanced formal education for children of Hudson Bay required a trans-Atlantic crossing to Europe — often to a boarding school, though some children might have stayed at the homes of relatives.[23] Children sometimes, though not always, sailed with their parents. The cost of relocation across the Atlantic could be expensive, so it is not surprising that the earliest children known to have sailed were sons and daughters of HBC chief factors.[24]

Tomison's Academy

Tomison’s Academy, St. Margaret’s Hope, on South Ronaldshay, Orkney, begun by retired HBC Chief Factor William Tomison “for the sons of his fellows.”

Although undertaking an ocean crossing to receive an education might appear uncharacteristic in terms of standard histories of North American Aboriginal peoples, the experience was shared world-wide by colonial-era children with trans-oceanic, intercultural family ties and whose fathers were regarded as ‘nabobs’ in international trading concerns. In the context of eighteenth-century British colonialism, having mixed heritage children educated away from native lands, in the ‘Home Country’ of England, was not unusual.[25] Although fur trade families continued to send offspring to Britain after the British conquest of New France in 1763, from that time onward educational facilities in north eastern North America became an increasingly accessible option for children with combined British and Aboriginal heritage.

After 1763, parents who were associated with the fur trade and who ranged between Montreal, the Great Lakes area, and lands farther west, had the option of sending children who were born in the North-West to schools in the East. As of 1820, these were increasing in number, mainly due to the efforts of European-based religious organizations intent on a world-wide ‘Civilizing Mission.’[26] Roman Catholic seminaries and convent schools, where children could live in residence, existed at Quebec, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Nicolet, and Saint-Hyacinthe.[27] Children of fathers who were bourgeois (gentlemen/ managers) in the North West Company [NWC] could also be boarded at Terrebonne (Quebec).


Terrebonne, Quebec, c. 1810. Click image to embiggen.

There, they could attend the local day school, or they could be forwarded to the institutions in nearby Montreal.[28] The NWC was combined with the HBC in 1821. Within seven years of that date, non-Catholic, non-French speaking fur-trade children could attend an Anglican seminary at Chambly, as well as schools in Upper Canada.[29]

During this period, Red River fell under HBC jurisdiction, but the Company had largely neglected instituting formal schooling until 1818. In that year the first Catholic missionaries arrived at the settlement “on the advice of Lord Selkirk,” in response to a petition, “signed by some twenty-three French inhabitants of the district” who were former NWC affiliates.[30] The missionaries shortly instituted two day schools: one at St. Boniface, which was a land grant made by Selkirk to the Church; the other at the HBC post at Pembina. They also began the practice of teaching among Métis families with whom they travelled.[31]

The Catholic program was gendered. The first efforts were directed at recruiting boys, who were taught Latin and studied classical texts such as the works of Cicero, Sallust, and Quintus Curtius in preparation for entering the priesthood. The program was not particularly successful.[32] In 1821, the British Parliament passed “An Act for Regulating the Fur Trade, and Establishing a Criminal and Civil Jurisdiction Within Certain Parts of North America.” From that point onwards, the Company was legally bound “to support both permanent settlement outside the fur trade and missionary work among the inhabitants of the territory.”[33] Options available for the education of children subsequently increased.

st. John's church

Child observing horticultural methods at the St. John’s Church garden plot in the 1820s.

The first Protestant missionary to arrive at the settlement was also intent on training “promising native youths … to become teachers or evangelists among their own countrymen.”[34] A different course of study was instituted however.  Boys did not receive classical learning in order to grasp complex points of theology. Instead they were subject to labour intensive, practical training, geared to teaching farming techniques that the boys could then pass on to others.[35]

Beginning in 1829, two Métis sisters, Angelique and Marguerite Nolin, opened “the first formal Catholic school for Aboriginal girls” under the supervision of the Catholic bishop at St. Boniface. In 1834, the Nolins relocated to the parish of Baie St. Paul to begin a school “that would integrate the Aboriginal [First Nations] and Metis way of life with a Catholic education.”[36]

By 1837, the HBC boasted that due to measures taken to “civilize” Red River, some 200 to 300 children were being taught in settlement schools.[37] That figure is less impressive when the total number of children at the settlement is considered — possibly as many as 1,900 were not attending school at the time.[38] By 1849 there were twelve schools in the settlement; by 1856 there were seventeen. By 1870 most of the parish churches included a school room or had a separate, small schoolhouse nearby, meaning there were at least 26 schools in the settlement, as well as the larger collegiates, Taché Academy at St. Boniface Parish and St. John’s College, St. John’s Parish. At the same time, there were perhaps 7,000 or more children at the settlement. Obviously, a large proportion of children did not attend a settlement school on a daily basis.[39]

Louis Riel, student at the Petit Séminaire of Montreal,  age 14. Source: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:YoungLouisRiel.gif.

As a settlement, Red River spread for many miles along the banks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. An individual parish might be ten miles long or more from end to end. Factors such as the distance a child lived from a settlement school could determine whether or not they attended. Depending on how a family earned its livelihood, not all Métis children lived in the settlement year-round or even most of the time. For different families, therefore, “the quality of education was as disparate as their socio-economic situations were.”[40]

high school quebec

Advertisement in the local Red River newspaper, The Nor’-Wester (15 March 1861), 4.

Some children were educated by their family and within their community of origin. Some continued to be sent to the Canadas, some to Europe, and some were sent to schools in the United States. Others would be sent to mission boarding schools and day schools as these became available at various other settlements that Red River families visited, or to which they relocated, throughout the North-West.[41]


Advertisement in the local Red River newspaper, Nor’-Wester(15 July 1863), 3. (Click image to link to ad.)

Children and Religious Observances

Well before the establishment of the settlement at Red River, the fact that spirituality and religious observances were part of everyday First Nations’ life would have helped to ease, first the inclusion of, and later the complete transition to, non-Aboriginal religions. The compatibility of baptism with the First Nations practice of conferring special names to give children guidance and power would go some ways to explaining its popularity among the Métis. Likewise, the tradition of marking passages into new stages of development with public ceremonies would explain the ebullient, prolonged celebrations (including carriage/sleigh races — which the bride and groom always won — and three days of dancing), that occurred when Métis children were married.[42]


Illustration, “Ball at Pembina,” showing Métis dancers, c. 1860. Source: Manton Marble, “Red River and Beyond,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine Volume 21, no. 125 (October 1860): 585.

Children and Community

Orality — spoken communication — was a pronounced characteristic of Red River.[43] Relaying news, storytelling, and gossiping (by which is meant relaying an intimate report shared among kinsfolk[44]), would have served to provide children with an understanding of the world, relationships, and responsibilities.[45] As in First Nations families, it was common for children to be raised in the homes of relatives, some of whom resided in distant locations.[46] All would have been exposed to the diverse range of experiences recounted by extended family, friends, and neighbours coming and going from the Settlement.

to boys

Advice to boys of the settlement printed in the New Nation (29 April 1870).

Undoubtedly, this information was augmented by the tales and teachings of literate members of the population, who had access to imported reading materials ranging from bibles and science texts, popular novels and magazines, to letters and newspapers generated locally and obtained from abroad.[47]

books at red riverBooks advertised for sale at Red River, 1864. [link to larger image].

Métis children were, therefore, aware of concepts and possibilities far beyond what Red River’s relatively isolated geographic location would suggest. From the perspective of the Métis children of Red River, however, the settlement was the normative standard against which all other communities were measured for signs of the harmonious, the curious, and the deviant.

Metis boys

Illustration, “Bois-Bruilé Boys,”  indicating boys had access to ponies, which suggests they had freedom of mobility. In addition, the illustration suggests they were placed in charge of other livestock. The proud stance of the youth in the cart, with an ox that from its size appears to be a yearling, suggests boys were given animals to raise. Source: “People of Red River,” Harper’s Magazine 18, no. 104 (January 1859), 172.

Children and Responsibility

Despite not having been disciplined into respecting their elders by the formal regimentation or corporal punishment common to other Victorian-era societies that depended on schools, workhouses, and prisons to train children, Métis youngsters at Red River were apparently capable of doing as they were told when the situation demanded — as their work in the tightly organized buffalo harvests suggests. When children were seen to be behaving in an unconstructive manner at the settlement, practices of group discipline and consensual decision-making were evident features of child care. For instance, Métis trader George William Sanderson (1846–1936) recounted an episode from his childhood at Red River. He described how parents responded to the restlessness of sons who had formed a ‘gang’ that engaged in acts of mischief and petty vandalism.[48] By acting in council and in concert, the parents devised a solution — arranging work opportunities away from the settlement for the boys. The youths’ desire for activity was addressed and community concerns regarding behaviour that had strayed beyond the bounds of the acceptable were allayed.

tripmen at portage

Illustration depicting york boat brigade tripmen at a portage. Source:  http://www.gutenberg.org/files/21244/21244-h/21244-h.htm.

See also John Macbeth, “Social customs and amusements of the early days in Red River Settlement and Rupert’s Land: a paper read before the Society on January 24th, 1893″ (Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1893), for a description of tripmen of the boat brigade to Hudson Bay.

The age of legal majority — for coming into an inheritance or for leaving an indentured apprenticeship with the HBC, for example — typically was considered to be twenty-one years. Young men and women could be counted as responsible adults at an earlier age, however, if they had demonstrated their maturity. Competent men as young as eighteen years were employed by the HBC as tripmen on york boat brigades. It was not unusual for young women of the settlement to have married, begun a family, and set up a new farmstead or family business while in their mid- to late teens.[49]

girls canoeing

Photo lithograph, showing three girls canoeing, one armed with a rifle, captioned “many a duck was shot by these Indian maidens.” The photo was apparently taken between 1868 and 1890, and given the state of photography at the time was probably posed, which may or may not account for the fancy head gear. The models are as likely to be Métis as they are to be ‘Indian.’ Source: Egerton Ryerson Young, By Canoe and Dog-Train: Among the Cree and Saulteaux (London: Charles H. Kelly, 1890), 66.

Opportunity and Choice

Children had a wide variety of paths available when it came to career choices — ranging from full participation in Aboriginal societies (whether First Nations, Inuit, or Métis), to full participation in non-Aboriginal societies (in Europe, North America, and around the world).[50] Both opportunity, and inclination on the part of the child, had roles to play in making those choices. The offspring of Nahoway (a Cree/ Métis woman) and William Sinclair (of Orkney, Scotland), for example, appear to have taken maximum advantage of opportunities to diversify without direct paternal governance — their father having died in 1818 when the children were all under the age of twenty-one.[51]

Of the ten children, Phoebe, Mary, Catherine, and Thomas grew up to become permanent settlers at Red River, farming in three separate parishes — St. Andrew’s, St. John’s, and St. Paul’s. William worked as a chief factor for the HBC at Churchill, Fort Edmonton, Norway House, and Rainy Lake before settling in Brockville, Ontario. His sister Anne/ ‘Nancy’ lived at HBC trade posts from Lac la Ronge (in present day Saskatchewan) and Lac Nichiquon (Labrador), to Fort George (on James Bay, present day Quebec), before retiring to Goderich, Ontario. John, after marrying into a ‘French’ and Chippewa family worked as a buffalo hunter, travelling from Turtle Mountain to Montana and finally to Utah. Jane migrated to the Orkney Islands of Scotland, then to England, as a member of a seafaring community. Of her two brothers educated in Scotland, James returned to Red River where he competed with the HBC as an independent merchant, then acted as a colonizer, leading Red River Métis families to establish settlements in Oregon. The youngest brother, Colin, became a captain on sealing vessels out of Newfoundland, sailed his own ship in the China and East India trade, and served as a harbour master at San Francisco before retiring to Red River.[52]

Children and Diversity

Those who left written descriptions of Red River thought the heterogeneity (differences) of Métis appearance worthy of remark. The Métis were found to show great “diversity of their figures,” and “various hues of their complexion,” including a full range of eye and hair colour.  Anglican parson, Rev. William Cockran, writing in 1845, remarked that the hair of one of his parishioners indicated African American descent “by his father’s side.”[53]

From the time of the earliest generations of children born to First Nations and Inuit mothers and non-Aboriginal fathers, the Métis may be suspected of having harboured a sense of direct connection to a world that extended far beyond the shores of Turtle Island. Their fur-trading fathers might be “long gone,” but awareness of the children’s distinct patrilineage was maintained in Aboriginal families. One of the earliest distinguishing characteristics of an emerging Métis culture has been identified as the phenomena of first-generation children’s consciousness of their paternity through remembrance of their father’s name.[54] Even though Aboriginal influences predominated in Métis families at Red River, an originally paternally derived non-Aboriginal orientation appears to have significantly influenced key areas of Métis life. The introduction to, and acceptance of, some European cultural attributes (languages and religions for example), and political-economic practices (such as farming on individually owned river lots and trade for profit), brought changes to the earlier Aboriginal systems.

The Métis community at Red River reflected a diversity of cultural influences and demonstrated that, among Aboriginal peoples, diversity did not automatically signal divisiveness.

Parish Divisions

The division of the settlement into Catholic and Protestant, French and English parishes is sometimes interpreted to mean the settlement was not socially cohesive. While there were religious distinctions between parishes, these arose principally because the various religious representatives contented themselves with limiting competitive church construction — likely due to cost as much as any other factor — to one church, of one denomination, per parish.[55] For the most part, a parish was designated ‘French’ if the first church built there was instituted by Catholic religious orders from Quebec, and as ‘English’ if the first church built there was instituted by a Protestant religious order out of Britain (which included the ‘Scotch’ parish of Kildonan, so designated because the first church built there was Presbyterian).

That a parish was nominally ‘French’ or ‘English’ did not mean that everyone living there necessarily spoke only one of those languages. Nor did it mean that they spoke either language particularly well, or at all. The majority of Métis settlers and their children spoke Aboriginal languages first and foremost, and, in these languages people were often multilingual.

Additionally, parishes were not populated exclusively by congregants of the predominant religious sect. St. Andrew’s Parish had a mix of Anglican and Presbyterian religionists. In addition to Anglicans and Methodists, the parishes of St. James and St. John’s (with the Town of Winnipeg included in its boundary up until March 1870), were also home to adherents of the Roman Catholic faith. ‘Anglican’ St. Peter’s Parish had Roman Catholic parishioners as did St. Paul’s Parish. In addition to Roman Catholic, St. Boniface Parish was a centre for Anglican, Methodist, and Presbyterian congregants.[56] Children might live in one parish, but attend church in another, or, perhaps not attend religious services at all.[57]

For the Métis settled in Red River, parishes functioned as neighbourhoods within the settlement, each one apportioned with institutional amenities and conveniences. Parish church buildings provided space for central meetings, as well as religious services.

Regardless of any competitive ambitions or prejudiced attitudes of clergy, parishes did not operate as sealed social units which maintained religious, linguistic or ‘racial’ identities that superseded current or potential kinship ties. As one commentator observed: “The very isolation of Red River itself kept the families from being isolated.”[58]

Humphrey Lloyd Hime, photograph, “Ojibwa woman with child in carrier basket,” Red River Settlement, 1858. Credit: Humphrey Lloyd Hime/Library and Archives Canada/C-000728. Restrictions on use: Nil. Copyright: Expired.

Children and Kinship

A fundamental acceptance of diversity by the Red River community can be traced to the fact that a minimal number of intermarriages ensured that it appeared that “Everybody was related.”[59] For everyone, the classification of cousin was a commonality.[60] Either one was a cousin, or was constantly associating with people who were.

Genealogies compiled by descendants of the Sinclair family mentioned above illustrate that this circumstance was mathematically inescapable:

  • The marriages of the ten children of William and Nahoway linked their family to equally large families: Birds, Bunns, Campbells, Cooks, Cummings, Delormes, Inksters, Kirknesses, McKays, Prudens and Spencers. As roughly representative of a generation with birthdates falling between the years 1800 and 1820, the ten Sinclair children generated 78 known offspring (excluding those born to spouses in previous marriages).
  • As first cousins, representing a generation born from approximately 1820 to 1840, those 78 children were entitled to refer in Cree to their father’s brother’s children and their mother’s sister’s children as ni-chisan, or brothers and sisters.[61] Marriages contracted by individuals of this 1820–1840 generation extended the family network to include at least 60 links to additional families. Not only were the approximately 311 known offspring from this generation of marriages entitled to call themselves cousins, in Cree they were also designated as the cousins of their parents’ first cousins.[62]
  • At least 185 of the ‘cousins’/ ni-chiwan in the generation born from about 1840 to 1860 are known to have married, adding about 180 additional families to the network.

The spouses of Nahoway and William Sinclair’s children belonged to families undergoing identical processes of expansion at a time when natural increase of the population far outstripped in-migration by newcomers. Thus, the degree of network overlap that occurred within the Red River Settlement between 1810 and 1870 would have ensured that virtually everyone was indeed related, one way or another, within a few generations.[63]

By 1870, the sense of relatedness was seen to be a powerful bond in the Settlement. John Fraser[64] was moved to remark, during the debates of the Convention of Forty, that:

“Go through the length and breadth of the Settlement and you will find the people forming a long link of family connection. In this state of affairs, should any disturbance arise in any part of the Settlement, how could I feel disposed, if a military man, to fight cousins or other relatives to the right or left of me? How could I answer a call which might compel me to fight my own father, brother or son? I could not do it.”

Louis Riel responded to that observation by saying,

“Mr. Fraser tells us that the Settlement is related from end to end. That very fact, I say, strengthens our present position. Had it not been for the relationship existing between the people of this Settlement there would, in all probability, have been very serious trouble within the last few months. The very relationship of which Mr. Fraser speaks, was then our safeguard, and it will be our safeguard in the future.”[65]

As members of conventions and councils held in 1869–1870 made clear, any introduction, perpetuation, or exaggeration of divisions within the Métis community, for which the clergy, or any other ‘outsider’ interests might be held responsible, was ameliorated by inter-group connection.

Tenets of the Judaeo-Christian belief system and the call for homogeneity (sameness) that accompanied the nineteenth-century European enthusiasm for nationalism held diversity to be unworkable, giving rise to the assumption (common in conventional histories about Red River peoples) that the Métis must have been inherently — dangerously — conflicted.[66] However, close investigation of Red River, prior to the creation of the province of Manitoba, reveals that the representation of the Métis as ‘divided’ selves does not hold. There was nothing psychotic about the way that children and other Aboriginal inhabitants of Red River fully engaged in a “shared world” as it was — not as it was ‘supposed’ to be — and thereby experienced heterogeneity as the norm. Having created and populated their own community, they were comfortably acculturated to pluralism. Multiple languages, different lifestyles, and varied occupations were available from which to choose routes to realize personal destinies. Red River Métis children were not confined by ‘either or’ choices that were limiting or final.[67] The children were raised in a community marked by diversity and were further informed of its extent world-wide by family members. Children experienced diversity as normal, and witnessed adults confirm that despite differences, Métis families of Red River were united in community. The observation of parental activities was one way in which acculturation into the life at the settlement allowed the norms of Métis culture to be replicated in successive generations.

annie and family3

The Bannatyne children — Andrew Robert James ‘A.R.J.’, William Mactavish, Laurenda ‘Laura’, Elizabeth ‘Eliza’, and Roderick ‘Ralf’ — photographed, c. 1868, with their parents, Anne ‘Annie’ McDermot Bannatyne, and Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne.


Remembering Red River Childhood

Sacred to the memory of my mother Margaret Nahovway Sinclair
This last token of affection is erected by her wandering boy

Eyes of my childhood days shall meet me
Lips of a mother’s love shall greet me
On the day I follow,
Oh what a host of memories rise;
Sadness dims an old man’s eyes.

Colin Robertson Sinclair[68]


mmmmWhat Was and Is an Old Settler’s Idea

Oh! for the time that some despise,
At least I liked them, me whatever.
Before the transfer made us wise,
Or politics had made us clever

Then faith and friendship, hand in hand,
A kindly tale to all were telling.
From east to west, throughout the land,
Contentment reigned in every dwelling.

‘Twas then we all in corduroys
Would travel to the church on Sunday
And listen to the good man’s voice,
And do as he had said on Monday.

Our women too, both wife and maid,
Had lovely tresses for a bonnet,
A goodly shawl upon the head
Was all she ever put upon it.

Then gold was scarce, ’tis very true,
But then it was not much we wanted,
Our artificial wants were few,
And we were happy and contented.

But now alas the times are changed,
At least I think so, “me whatever,”
And artificial wants are ranged,
and piled in heaps along the river.

Our women’s thrown away the shawl,
And got instead a showy bonnet
With many a costly falderall
Of feathers, silk and lace upon it.

Our men despising corduroys
In broadcloth grace the church on Sunday,
And then go home to criticize
And do as they’ve a mind on Monday.

Our good old faith’s supplied with doubt
And friendships killed by speculation;
And sweet content is driven out
And grumbling envy fills her station.

Oh for the time that some despise,
At least I liked them, “me whatever.”
Before the transfer made us wise
And politics had made us clever.

William Garrioch[69]

Charles and Joseph RielCharles (left) and Joseph Riel, brothers of Louis Riel.” LAC, MIKAN no. 3191523.

See also the reminincences of childhood given by Harriet Goldsmith Sinclair Cowan, this site.

And Norma J. Hall, A Casualty of Colonialism: Red River Métis Farming, 1810–1870 (2015).

Cover Page Capture


[1] James Isham, James Isham’s observations on Hudson’s Bay, 1743, and Notes and observations on a book entitled A voyage to Hudson’s Bay in the Dobbs Galley, 1749, ed. E.E. Rich, with A.M. Johnson (London: Champlain Society, 1949), 145. The population percentage is based on the Archibald Census of 1870. The precise number of Métis children is unclear. Gerhard J. Ens, Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 140, notes that “over 62 percent of the population was under twenty-one years of age.” Statistics Canada, “1870 Man. Table I – Population, Sexes, and Conjugal Condition, Manitoba,” http://estat.statcan.gc.ca/cgi-win/cnsmcgi.pgm (accessed 6 February 2012), suggests 65% of the total population (7,999 individuals), were “children and unmarried.”

[2] See Norma Jean Hall, “‘A Perfect Freedom’: Red River as a Settler Society, 1810-1870,” M.A. thesis (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 2001), particularly Chapter 4, “Integration of Aboriginal and European Values in Red River Settlement.”

[3] See Jay Miller, “Families,” Encyclopedia of North American Indians, ed. Frederick E. Hoxie (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996), 192; George William Sanderson, “The Ethnic Voice: The ‘Memories’ of George William Sanderson, 1846–1936,” ed. Irene M. Spry, Canadian Ethnic Studies 17 (1985): 116–118; Guillaume Charette, L’espace de Louis Goulet, ed. Elizabeth Maquet (1976; reprint in English as Vanishing Spaces (Memoirs of a Prairie Métis), trans. Ray Ellenwood, Winnipeg: Editions Bois-Brulés, 1980), 7 (page citations are to the English reprint edition); Joseph F. Dion, My Tribe the Crees, ed. Hugh A. Dempsey (Calgary: Glenbow–Alberta Institute, 1979), 6. Douglas Sprague, and Ronald Frye, “Manitoba’s Red River Settlement: Manuscript Sources for Economic and Demographic History,” Archiavaria 9 (winter 1979–1980): 184, note, “sources suggest that in the event of the death of a female head of household, children below the age of puberty customarily left the home of their natural father to be raised by maternal aunts or grandparents.” See also Alexander Kennedy Isbister, quoted in W.L. Morton, Manitoba – A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957), 91, on the predominance of Aboriginal mothers.

[4] See Sylvia Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties”: Women in Fur-Trade Society ín Western Canada, 1670–1870 (Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer Publishing, 1980), 3, for comment on the cultural diversity of Aboriginal women. John D. Nichols, “Ojibwa Language,” Encyclopedia of North American Indians, 440, presents the conventional Canadian spelling as Anishinaabe, which Hornbeck Tanner “Ojibwa,” Encyclopedia of North American Indians, 439, translates as “First (or Original) People.”

[5] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 61–63.

[6] It has been both asserted and hypothesized that at the time of contact the name by which First Nations knew the continent of North America was ‘Turtle Island.’ Harriet Maxwell Converse, Herman Le Roy Fairchild, William John Miller, and Arthur Caswell Parker, Myths and legends of the New York State Iroquois (New York: University of New York, 1908), 33, aver that in the Seneca language, the mythical turtle was known as Hah-nu-nah (the word for an ordinary turtle being ha-no-wa). J. Watts de Peyster, Miscellanies: By an Officer vol. 1 (Dumfries [England: C. Munro, 1888]), cii, avers that in Western Algic [Algonkian/ Algonquian] languages the name of the continent might, in some previous era, have been Mishi-nimikina. On the possibility that the name ‘America’ is rooted in an Indigenous language, see Jonathan Cohen, “The Naming of America: Fragments We’ve Shored Against Ourselves,” http://www.uhmc.sunysb.edu/surgery/america.html (accessed 13 July 2012), who reports that, in the 1970s, writer Jan Carew revived 19th-century arguments that “the name America was brought back to Europe from the New World” and asserted 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.”

[7] Robert Coutts, The Road to the Rapids: Nineteenth-Century Church and Society at St. Andrew’s Parish, Red River (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2000), 98, in describing clergy reactions to family practices encountered in Red River, concludes that “Family practices in Rupert’s Land represented the antithesis of Victorian custom.” Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” argues, “Children raised in Red River Métis families had parents with similar expectations regarding childrearing. The majority of mothers and fathers in Red River had not been raised within the walls of a trading post where European notions of hierarchy and gender were, to some degree, enforceable. There is no reason to expect that the Otipaymsoowuk [meaning ᐊᐱᐦᑕᐃᐧᑯᓯᓴᐣ/ ‘Halfbreed’/ Métis] would have given up a system of social organization that had proven eminently workable for generations of First Nations peoples simply to mimic European styles of living, especially when those who were stolidly European — or brought up in that manner — were not demonstrably adept at surviving in a free environment. More recently Brenda Macdougall, One of the Family: Metis Culture in Nineteenth-Century Northwestern Saskatchewan (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010), 7–11, 242, has affirmed “wahkootowin, itself a worldview linking land, family, and identity in one interconnected web of being,” was “ubiquitous” in Métis communities.

[8] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 77–78 and n. 120; see also Jonathan Anuik, “Forming Civilization at Red River: 19th-century Missionary Education of Métis and First Nations Children,” Prairie Forum 31, no. 1 (2006): 1–2. Across North America, there were perennial complaints voiced by would-be instructors at mission schools that parents did not enforce attendance, or support the memorization of lessons. There may well have been parents at Red River with a definite antipathy towards any ‘civilized instruction’ of their children at all, but they are not visible in histories that describe ‘settlement progress.’

[9] See Sanderson, “Ethnic Voice,” 229, 122; Hornbeck Tanner, “Ojibwa,” 438; Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 78; Charette, Vanishing Spaces, 4–7. See also Diane Payment, ‘The Free People — Otipimisiwak’: Batoche, Saskatchewan, 1870-1930, Studies in Archaeology, Architecture, and History, National Parks and Sites, Parks Service, Environment Canada (Ottawa: Environment Canada, 1990), 11, 61–62, 73, 108, 242; and Jonathan Anuik, “Metis Families and Schools: The Decline and Reclamation of Metis Identities in Saskatchewan, 1885-1980,” Ph.D. Dissertation (Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan, 2009), 45.

[10] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 97–102, supplies an extended description of women’s production of bison product, to argue that the buffalo harvest was not merely “the male dominated paramilitary sporting event that Alexander Ross in his ‘classic’ account — one written expressly to entertain a non-Northwestern audience — emphasized.”

[11] W.J. Healy, Women of Red River, Being a Book Written from the Recollections of Women Surviving from the Red River Era, A Tribute to the Women of an Earlier Day by the Women’s Canadian Club (Winnipeg: Women’s Canadian Club, 1923), 6, 23, 71, 146, 149, 156, 201; Alexander Ross, The Red River Settlement, Its Rise Progress, and Present State: With some account of the native races and its general history to the present day (1856; reprint, Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1972), 391 (page citation is to the reprint edition); Isaac Cowie, The Company of Adventurers: A Narrative of Seven Years in the Service of the Hudson’s Bay Company during 1867-1874 on the Great Buffalo Plains (Toronto: William Briggs, 1913), 283; Irene Spry, cited in Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 73, see also nn. 43, 48; Edward Ahenakew, “Tanning Hides,” ed. Ruth Matheson Buck, The Beaver: Magazine of the North 52, no. 1 (summer 1972): 47–48. Barbara Rogers, The Domestication of Women: Discrimination in Developing Societies (New York: Tavistock Publications, 1980), 152–155, notes that “the average user burns a ton of firewood a year” for cooking purposes alone. In areas such as Red River, where wood might become scarce, “the labour involved in this [gathering] task adds up to a considerable expenditure of time and energy.” See also, Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 48, who notes that a cord of wood per day was used to heat homes in cold weather.

[12] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 98, notes that the fall hunt produced about one third of the summer volume in buffalo product. Primarily ‘green meat’ — meat considered to be in a “more natural state than dried” — was procured at this time. It was butchered, loaded onto carts, and frozen as a winter subsistence supply. A greater effort was made to gather buffalo hides during this hunt, not only because the animals’ winter coats were heavier, but because frozen hides gave better tanning results than those that were sun dried in summer. One reason the early hunt was larger than that of the fall was that pemmican production, dependent on summer sun, required a much larger labour force. See also Ahenakew, “Tanning Hides,” 47; Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 39, 15, 77, 96, 88; and G. Herman Sprenger, “An analysis of selective aspects of Métis society, 1810–1870,” M.A. thesis (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1972), 68. For an account of the fall hunt (meant to impress the reader with the ‘need’ of the ‘struggling’ Métis for the author’s presence as a clergyman), see G.A. Belcourt, trans. J.A. Burgesse, “Buffalo Hunt,” Beaver 24, no. 3 (December 1944): 13–17.

[13] J.M. Bumsted, “Another Look at the Buffalo Hunt,” Thomas Scott’s Body And Other Essays on Early Manitoba History (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2000), 126. See also, Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 88–89, 44: Frits Pannekoek, A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance, 1869-70 (Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer Publishing, 1991), 31;  and “The People of the Red River,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 18, no. 104 (January 1859): 172.

[14] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 107. Donald Gunn and Charles B. Tuttle, History of Manitoba from the Earliest Settlement, And from 1835 to the Admission of the Province into the Dominion (Ottawa: MacLean, Roger and Co., 1880), 240; D.N. Sprague and R.P. Frye, The Genealogy of the First Metis Nation: the development and dispersal of the Red River Settlement, 1820–1900 (Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1983), 19 n. 15; Pannekoek, Snug Little Flock, 31; Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 55, 72: “People of the Red River,” 175; Manton Marble, “To Red River and Beyond (First Paper),” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 21, no. 123 (August 1860): 295, 305: E.S. Russenholt, The Heart of the Continent: Being a History of Assiniboia — the truly typical Canadian community (Winnipeg: MacFarlane Communications Services, 1968), 68.

[15] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” passim.

[16] Hall “Perfect Freedom,” 109–110, notes, “In as much as family networks were weighted to reflect particularly pronounced occupational leanings and loyalties, they could either help or hinder a younger member’s attempt to secure employment in any given field. In this way distinctions between settlers and resident merchants, based on their status as either procurers or providers of staple commodities, can be seen to have influenced approaches to, and conceptions of, group membership.” See also D.N. Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 1869–1885 (Waterloo: Press, 1988), 22; Glyndwr Williams, “The Simpson Era,” The Beaver: Magazine of the North, Special Issue 63, no. 2 (Autumn 1983): 55; Edith I. Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company: Work, Discipline, and Conflict in the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1770-1879 (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997), 49, 54.

[17] Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, “Chapter 10 – Residential Schools,” Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, vol. 1, Looking Forward, Looking Back, Part 2, False Assumptions and a Failed Relationship (1996) [1.0 Introduction], http://caid.ca/RRCAP1.10.pdf (accessed 15 July 2012).

[18] In the language of international law of the time — Latin — missionary orders appointed by the Majesty of France were charged with educating children of North America in civilitas, meaning children were to learn how to fulfil the role of civis/citizens of the Christian monarch’s state. The religious mission was in good part dedicated to civil-izing’ new subjects of the realm because European kings, who wanted overseas domains to be recognized as legitimate, were required by contemporary tenets of international law (jus gentium/ the law of nations) to demonstrate that populations in distant territories were paying tribute/ taxes. A claim to dominion over a territory was not considered legitimate if its population maintained political and economic independence from a would-be monarch. Such a non-tributary peoples were termed ‘wild men’ (whether residing in the Americas or Europe) in English-language documents, and were termed ‘les sauvages’ in French-language documents. See Edward J. Dudley, and Maximillian E. Novak eds., The wild man within: an image in Western thought from the Renaissance to romanticism (Pittsburgh PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972); and Richard Bonney, ed., “Introduction,” The rise of the fiscal state in Europe, c. 12001815 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 1–17.

[19] See Antonio Buti, “Responding to the Legacy of Canadian Residential Schools,” Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law 8, no. 4 (December 2001), http://www.murdoch.edu.au/elaw/issues/v8n4/buti84_text.html#Notes_C, (accessed 15 July 2012); Catharine Randall, Black Robes and Buckskin: A Selection from the Jesuit Relations (Bronx NY: Fordham University Press, 2011), 37; Robert Carney, “Aboriginal Residential Schools Before Confederation: The Early Experience,” Canadian Catholic Historical Association [CCHA] Historical Studies 61 (1995): 13, 16–17, notes an ordinance in 1722 forbade “the practice of giving children to the Amerindians,” with only limited success; Sylvie Marceau-Kozicki, “Onion Lake Residential Schools, 1893-1943,” M.A. thesis (Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan, 1993), 4, 5; Matthew Dennis, Cultivating a landscape of peace: Iroquois-European Encounters in Seventeenth-Century America (Berkeley: University of California, 1986), 196–197. 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, notes that in the opinion of missionaries, the earliest dual-culture families in Acadia were outwardly First Nations in aspect — in particular, they followed ‘unsettled’ traditional patterns of seasonal migration; a practice that continued to 1632.

[20] Carney, “Aboriginal Residential Schools Before Confederation,” 29.

[21] On the subject of apprenticeships at sea see Alice M. Johnson, “Norton Richard,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography online [DCB], http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=1563 (accessed 13 July 2012); and Norma J. Hall, “Joseph Adams/Adems/Adames”, “Moses Norton,” and “Charles ‘the slave’,” doing canadianhistory n.0, WordPress.com, http://hallnjean.wordpress.com/seafarers/joseph-adamsademsadames/http://hallnjean.wordpress.com/seafarers/moses-norton/, and http://hallnjean.wordpress.com/seafarers/charles-the-slave/ (accessed 13 July 2012). A few pupils might have qualified as ‘boarders’ as bayside posts, as apparently some First Nations children were recruited for schooling and at least one Inuit child was purchased as a ‘slave.’ See Norma J. Hall, “Charles ‘the slave’,” http://hallnjean.wordpress.com/seafarers/charles-the-slave/ (accessed 13 July 2012), who notes “While according to its commercial records the Company did not officially engage directly in slave trading, comments in journals refer to other Aboriginal individuals ‘entertained’ in that capacity from as early as 1712,” and cites “Anthony Beale, letter, Albany Fort, 10 Sept 1712, Letters from Hudson Bay, 25, who refers to ‘the slave’ named Poet, in conjunction with London Committee ‘orders for to entertain two young Indians,’ about which he responded, ‘I shall be sure for to keep two [sic]’,” and “Anthony Beale, letter, Albany Fort, 2 Aug. 1714, for additional comments on the same.”

[22] The Council at York Factory, quoted in Daniel Francis, “Traders and Indians,” The Prairie West: Historical Readings, ed. R. Douglas Francis and Howard Palmer (Edmonton: Pica Pica Press, 1992), 79, in a letter to the London Committee, dated 1802, observed that women associated with the posts “clean and put into a state of preservation all Beaver and Otter skins brought by the Indians undried and in bad Condition … They prepare Line for Snow shoes and knit them also without which your Honors servants could not give efficient opposition to the Canadian traders [and] they make Leather shoes for the men who are obliged to travel about … and are useful in a variety of other instances”; see also Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, 54. Sherry Farrell Racette, “Métis Women,” Encylopedia of Saskatchewan online, gives a general heritage description of the educating of girls by women that applies as well to Red River.

[23] See Carney, “Aboriginal Residential Schools Before Confederation,” 29. Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 125, observes, “As in First Nations families, it was common for [Métis] children to be raised in the homes of relatives, some of whom resided in distant locations.”  See also Sprague and Frye, Genealogy of the First Metis Nation, 30; and Sprague and Frye “Manitoba’s Red River Settlement,” 184; Sanderson, “Ethnic Voice,” 121; Norbert Welsh, The Last Buffalo Hunter, ed. Mary Weekes (New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1939; reprint, Saskatoon: Fifth House Publishers, 1994), 7–8; and Norma Hall, “Captain Colin Robertson Sinclair,” doing canadianhistory n.0, http://hallnjean.wordpress.com/seafarers/lecture-transcript-an-introduction-to-the-history-of-aboriginal-sailors-of-hudson-bay/captain-colin-robertson-sinclair/ (accessed 18 February 2012).

[24] Mary Adams was transported by ship with her father, Joseph Adams, in 1737. In 1750 Thu a higon/Ruehegan and husband Charles Pilgrim accompanied their child. In 1756 Chief Factor Joseph Isbister sailed with at least three of his children. In 1763, at the London Committee’s behest, Charles Isham, son of the recently deceased factor, James Isham, sailed to England for an education. John America Martin, son of Chief Factor Humphrey Martin and Pawpitch, sailed in 1780 to be schooled “at great expense” to his father (his “maintenance and education” amounting to £50). See Jennifer S.H. Brown, Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980), 57.

[25] See Glenn D’Cruz, Midnight’s Orphans: Anglo-Indians in post-colonial literature (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), 82–83; Coralie Younger, Anglo-Indians, Neglected Children of the Raj (Darya Ganj, India: B.R. Publishing, 1987), 11. Sheila Pais James, “Anglo-Indians: the Dilemma of Identity,” Anglo Indian Association, Danapur, http://www.aiadanapur.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=70&Itemid=84 (accessed 13 July 2012); “Anglo-Indians,” Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh http://www.banglapedia.org/httpdocs/HT/A_0243.HTM (accessed 13 July 2012). On West Indian children educated in England see Peter A. Roberts, From Oral to Literate Culture: Colonial experience in the English West Indies (Press of University of the West Indies, 1997), 102, 199–200; and “West Indians in Britain,” Tracing Caribbean Roots, http://www.movinghere.org.uk/galleries/roots/caribbean/onepeople/onepeople.htm (accessed 13 July 2012).

[26] See “The Civilizing Mission,” The Victorian Age: Topics, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Norton Topics online, http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/victorian/topic_4/civilizing.htm (accessed 16 July 2012). Stephen Mennell, The American civilizing process (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007), 5.

[27] On the Petit Séminaire de Québec/Lower Seminary/Minor Seminary at Quebec, see Robert Montgomery Martin, Statistics of the Colonies of the British Empire in the West Indies, South America, North America, Asia, Austral-Asia, Africa, and Europe…From the Official Records of the Colonial Office (London: Wm. H. Allen and Company, 1838), 156; Hélène Plouffe, “Séminaire de Québec,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Institute Historica/Dominion Institute, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=U1ARTU0003161 (accessed 16 July 2012); Marceau-Kozicki, “Onion Lake Residential Schools,” 5; “The Jesuits of Canada,” L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec/The Quebec History Encyclopedia, Quebec History, Marianopolis College, http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/encyclopedia/CanadianJesuits-JesuitsofCanada.htm (accessed 16 July 2012); “Archdiocese of Quebec,” New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12593c.htm (accessed 16 July 2012). For the Petit Séminaire of Montreal, attended from 1858–1864 by Louis Riel, see Lewis H. Thomas, “Riel, Louis,” DCB, http://www.biographi.ca/EN/ShowBio.asp?BioId=39918 (accessed 16 July 2012), who avers Louis Schmidt also attended, though other sources have him at St. Hyacinthe; Martin, Statistics of the Colonies of the British Empire, 157; Marceau-Kozicki, “Onion Lake Residential Schools,” 6; and Marcel Cadotte and Michel Thérault, “Hôtel-Dieu,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Institute Historica/Dominion Institute, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0003856 (accessed 16 July 2012). For Trois-Rivières, see Spencer C. Tucker, ed., The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Ward, 1607-1890: A Political, Social, and Military History vol. 1 (Santa Barbara CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011), 802; Martin, Statistics of the Colonies of the British Empire, 156, who notes that in 1837 in many of  Lower Canada’s counties, as few as one in twelve children attended any kind of school, although the overall average was one in three; and “Québec’s Religious Houses Open Their Doors!” http://www.colloquepatrimoinereligieux.qc.ca/en/open-house.php (accessed 16 July 2012). For Nicolet Seminary School, which was attended by Acadian and First Nations children, as well as North-West Métis such as Daniel McDougall (in 1858), see Martin, Statistics of the Colonies of the British Empire, 157; obituary, “Stephen Laurent Passes On,” The Cowasuck Band of the Pennacock Abenaki People, http://www.cowasuck.org/obits/laurent_s.cfm (accessed 16 July 2012); For Saint-Hyacinthe see  Martin, Statistics of the Colonies of the British Empire, 157.

[28] See Fernand Ouellet, “McTavish, Simon,” DCB http://biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=2551 (accessed 16 July 2012); Peter Deslauriers, “McKenzie, Roderick.” DCB http://biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=3521 (accessed 16 July 2012); Gratien Allaire, “Chaboillez, Charles,” DCB, http://biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2320 (accessed 16 July 2012); John Nicks, “Thompson, David,” DCB, http://www.biographi.ca/EN/ShowBio.asp?BioId=38340 (accessed 16 July 2012); Augustin Grignon, “Seventy-two years’ recollections of Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Historical Collections, vol. 3 (Madison WI: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1857), 199; Francis A. Evans, The Emigrant’s Directory and Guide to Obtain Lands and Effect a Settlement in the Canadas (Dublin: William Curry, Jun, and Company, 1833), 178; Canada. Dept. of Education, The Journal of Education for Lower Canada, vol. 10 (Toronto: Eusèbe Senécal, 1866), 47; Lucille H. Campey, Les Écossais: The Pioneer Scots of Lower Canada, 17631855 (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2006), 57–58; Lucille H. Campey, An Unstoppable Force: The Scottish Exodus to Canada (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2008), 56; Roderick MacLeod, Mary Anne Poutanen, A meeting of the people: school boards and Protestant communities in Quebec, 18011998 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2004), 83; and Brown, Strangers in Blood, 181.

[29] On the Anglican seminary at Chambly see Martin, Statistics of the Colonies of the British Empire, 157; Jean-Pierre Kesteman, “Galt, Sir Alexander Tilloch,” DCB, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=6112 (accessed 16 July 2012); Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons, Reports from the Commissioners, Lower Canada, Session 21 January – 17 July 1837, vol. 24, House of Commons Papers (1837), 150. Keith R. Widder, Battle for the Soul: Métis Children Encounter Evangelical Protestants at Mackinaw Mission, 1823–1837 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1990), 24, notes that, at Mackinaw, families of fur trade heritage and culturally mixed antecedents enrolled their children at Amanda and William Ferry’s mission school.

[30] C.J. Jaenen, “Foundations of Dual Education at Red River, 1811–34,” Manitoba Historical Society [MHS] Transactions, ser. 3 (1964–1965 season), MHS, http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/transactions/3/dualeducation.shtml (accessed 13 July 2012), observes, “The Hudson’s Bay Company did not neglect its servants entirely: in 1808, it sent out James Clouston, Peter Sinclair and George Geddes to act as teachers at some of the posts, paying each of these schoolmasters an annual salary of £30.” He notes in addition that Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk wrote one pamphlet entitled On the Civilization of the Indians in British America and another called Observation on a Proposal for forming a Society for the Civilization and Improvement of the North American Indians within the British Boundary, in which Selkirk “made a plea for schools, especially industrial schools, and for the sedentary settlement of the aborigines. He wanted the parliament ‘to authorize the governor of Canada to fix by proclamation the limits for the use of the Indian nations.’” See also Adam Shortt and Arthur George Doughty, eds., “History of Education in Manitoba,” Canada and its Provinces; A History of the Canadian People and their Institutions vol. 20, section 10: The Prairie Provinces, Part 2 (Toronto: Publishers’ Association of Canada, 1914), 418. The clerics to arrive were: Mgr. Joseph-Norbert Provencher, Father Sévère-Joseph-Nicolas Dumoulin (who stayed to 1823), and catechist Guillaume-Étienne Edge (who stayed to 1820).

[31] Jaenen, “Foundations of Dual Education at Red River.” Joseph Nicolas Sévère, Notice sur les missions de la Rivière Rouge et du Sault Ste. Marie (Saint-Pierre de-la-Rivière-du-Sud QC, 1824), 6. Jacinthe Duval, “The Catholic Church and the Formation of Métis Identity,” Past Imperfect 9 (2001–2003): 70, notes that despite distinguishing Métis from First Nations, “The writings of missionaries, subsequently informing the work of historians, often described the Metis in almost identical fashion to [First Nations] Aboriginals.”

[32] The first Catholic children recruited for intensive schooling were Victor Chénier “a half-breed son of a man from Lachine who had settled at Pembina,” and Antoine Senécal, “a French-Canadian,” apparently “of mixed descent.”  By 1823 they were boarding at St. Boniface. By 1825 both boys had departed the facility. Chérnier left despite having been offered a position teaching a half a dozen other boys. It wasn’t until 1858 that four boys had stayed in school long enough to qualify to complete religious training in Lower Canada — Joseph Nolin, Louis Laferté/ Schmidt, Daniel McDougall, and Louis Riel. Nolin’s parents refused to send him once they learned they would have to bear the expense of transporting him home for holidays. The other three youths were placed in Catholic institutions of Lower Canada: Louis Schmidt at St. Hyacinthe; Daniel McDougall at Nicolet; and Louis Riel at Montreal. Apparently none found the experience to their liking — all three returned to the Settlement without completing their studies. Diane Michelle Boyd, “The Rise and Development of Female Catholic Education in the Nineteenth-Century Red River Region: The Case of Catherine Mulaire,” M.A. thesis (Winnipeg: Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, 1999), 41, nn. 36–37, notes as well that François Bruneau (born 1810 at Lac Vert; married Marguerite Harrison 1831; died 1856), also studied at the school and taught there for a few years but left when he decided “he did not possess the religious vocation.” Maurice Prud’homme. “The Life and Times of Archbishop Taché,” MHS Transactions, ser. 3 (1954 – 1955 season), MHS, http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/transactions/3/tache.shtml (accessed 13 July 2012), refers to another boy, the son of “a poor woman whose nose was eaten away by cancer,” whom Taché looked after. Apparently the boy attended “St. Hyacinthe College, at the expense of very strict economy on his [Taché’s] part.” G. Dugas, Monseigneur Provencher et les missions de la Rivière-Rouge (Montreal: O. Beauchemin & Fils, 1889), 131. Jaenen, “Foundations for Dual Education at Red River,” describes Chérnier as “a Métis who lived with Dumoulin.” Shortt and Doughty, “History of Education in Manitoba,” 418. Maggie Siggins, Riel: A Life of Revolution (Harper Collins e-book, 2010), Part I, -3- [sic]. Lesley Erickson, “Repositioning the Missionary: Sara Riel, the Grey Nuns, and Aboriginal Women in Catholic Missions of the Northwest,” in Recollecting: Lives of Aboriginal Women of the Canadian Northwest and Borderlands, ed. Sarah Carter and Patricia McCormack (Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2010), 120, writes, “In 1853, Louis began his schooling at the Grey Nuns’ day school. Bishop Taché, however, was displeased with the arrangement. In 1851 he had written to Bishop Bourget in Montreal, ‘The education of boys has been badly neglected among our Catholics at Red River … The Metis do not like to be governed by women, and this probably explains why their children do not go to school.’ The Christian Brothers, an order dedicated to teaching young men, arrived in December 1854, and Louis transferred to their school. Under the brothers’ tutelage, Louis received the foundations of a classical education, and Taché hoped their curriculum and example would encourage Aboriginal and mixed-race men to pursue the priesthood.”

[33] Coutts, Road to the Rapids, 26.

[34] Bertal Heeney, ed., “Henry Budd,” Leaders of the Canadian Church, Project Canterbury, http://anglicanhistory.org/canada/bheeney/2/3.html (accessed 13 January 2012). Fritz Pannekoek, “Protestant Agricultural Zions for the Western Indians,” Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society 14, no. 3 (September 1972): 55, 58, notes “Three evangelical Protestant denominations, the Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians established missions in the Canadian West from 1820 to 1870.” His argument suggests that simplifying Protestant programs into general terms as I have done here might be misleading — there were disagreements on what the focus of learning should be. Not all were based on instituting settlement, but “all denominations believed” Aboriginal lifeways to be “inferior” and Aboriginal peoples to be in need of “the missionary’s protection and leadership.”

[35] Notable among the first children selected to undergo the Protestant program were: Sakachuwescam/ Henry Budd; James Settee; Pemuteuithinew/ Pemutewithinew/ ‘Walking Indian’/ James Hope; and Askenootow/ ‘Worker of the Earth’/ Charles Pratt. All four completed their training and decide to become missionaries and educators. All four were also described as ‘Indians,’ although they appear to be of fur trade family descent and Métis affiliation. See Stevenson, “Church Missionary Society Red River Mission,” 41, who includes a table showing “Indian Mission Students Recruited by the HBC, 1824 – 1825,” with their “Nationality” as follows: James Settee, Swampy Cree; David Jones, Swampy Cree; John Spence, Swampy Cree; William Garrioch, Swampy Cree; Colin Leslie, Inuit; William Cochran, Cree; Edwin Bickersteth, Saulteaux; Spokan Garry, Spokan; Kootaney Pelly, Kootaney.

[36] Claire Levin, “Angélique Nolin and Marguerite Nolin: The Earliest Female Métis Educators in a Formal School Setting,” The Unheard Majority: A History of Women Educators in Manitoba (Winnipeg: Manitoba Women’s Directorate, 2002), 2–3. Angela Graham, “Memorable Manitobans: Angelique Nolin (? – 1869),” MHS, http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/nolin_a.shtml (accessed 13 July 2012). Angelique and Marguerite Nolin’s parents were Jean-Baptiste Nolin and Marie Angelique Couvret (a Métis woman). During the 1790s, the family had resided at Sault Ste. Marie. At that time, time the two girls had been sent to Montreal to be educated under the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame for several years. The Nolin family then moved to Pembina, in 1819, and relocated to Red River after the HBC and NWC merger of 1821. Angelique and Margeurite were reputedly fluent in French, English, Ojibwa, and Cree. It has been conjectured that they had a disagreement with Bishop Provencher about his insistence on inserting anti-Aboriginal aspects into the program at the girls’ school. The presumed disagreement, it is argued, accounts for their shifting their teaching efforts to Baie St. Paul with Father George-Antoine Bellecourt/ George Anthony Belcourt. The sisters retired from teaching sometime “in the 1840s.” See also Donald Chaput, “Nolin, Jean-Baptiste,” DCB, http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=3048&&PHPSESSID=ychzfqkvzape (accessed 13 July 2012); James M. Reardon, “George Anthony Belcourt Pioneer Missionary of the Northwest,” CCHA Report 18 (1951): 75-89; and Lucien Lemieux, “Provencher, Joseph-Norbert,” DCB http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?BioId=38265 (accessed 13 July 2012).

[37] Mark Stevenson, “Section 91 (24) and Canada’s Legislative Jurisdiction with Respect to the Métis,” Indigenous Law Journal (1 Oct 2002): 248, quoting figures given by John Henry Pelly to the Select Committee on the Aborigines (British Settlements), held c.1837 to enquire into conditions “throughout the British Empire.”

[38] The number of children is an estimate based on the total population of the 1835 Red River census — 3,646 — and assuming that, as in 1870, approximately 60% (a low estimate) of the population was under the age of 21.

[39] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 131, 133. See James Ross, letter to the editor, “Education in Red River,” Nor’-Wester (28 January 1860), 3, for a discussion of Protestant schools at Red River in 1860. Ross suggests that the number of children attending Protestant schools had dropped by that year due to parent dissatisfaction. See also Anonymous, letter to the editor, “The Roman Catholic Schools,” Nor’-Wester (28 January 1860), 4, for a description of Catholic schooling at Red River in 1860, which suggests day schools were unpopular enough that boarding schools were regarded as the best means of ensuring attendance on a regular basis. The number of schools in 1870 is a best guess estimate. For an example of a church with schoolhouse see “Consecration,” Nor’-Wester (18 January 1864), 3.

[40] Winona L. Stevenson, “The Church Missionary Society Red River Mission and the Emergence of a Native Ministry 1820 – 1860, with a Case Study of Charles Pratt of Touchwood Hills,” M.A. thesis (Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1988), 43.

[41] After the creation of Manitoba in 1870, Métis children would be subject to being separated from their families and communities and confined in residential schools.

[42] See John Macbeth, “Social customs and amusements of the early days in Red River Settlement and Rupert’s Land: a paper read before the Society on January 24th, 1893″ (Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1893); Spry, “Ethnic Voice,” 123; G.F.G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada: A History of the RieI Rebellions (London: Longmans Green and Company, 1936; reprint, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1978), 8; Healy, Women of Red River, 206–208, 210–212; Coutts, Road to the Rapids, 100.

[43] See James Hunter, cited in Coutts, Road to the Rapids, 167–68, a clergyman, who asserted, “All who know Red River and have lived in it … know how addicted it is to gossip and scandal.” The settlement was “alas! all too famous” for the practice of circulating information “mouth to mouth.”

[44] “gossip,” Langenscheidt‘s New College Merriam-Webster English Dictionary, ed. Frederick C. Mish (New York: Langenscheidt, 1996; reprint, 1998), 504 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

[45] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 38, 78–79, 146–147, argues, “As ‘a process whereby messages are transmitted and distributed in space for the control of distance and people,’ communication is instrumental to creating and confirming community — by which is meant ‘an ordered, meaningful cultural world that can serve as a control and container for human action.’ For Red River to function smoothly without top-down control, a high level of interpersonal, intra-community communication was required. An appearance of heightened orality is not therefore indicative of a necessarily ‘backward’ population perversely disinclined to pursue literacy. Likewise, the fact that Red River was ‘rife’ with ‘gossip’ need not imply the existence of a terminal flaw in a ‘brittle’ society. Rather, it would support an opposite contention. Oral communication served to transfer norms among the population as part of a supple consensual decision making process by which social ‘reality’ was constantly ‘produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed.’ In community, settlers exerted force, through ‘traditional mechanisms of social control,’ to realign any ‘mutually antagonistic parts.’ Diversity was accommodated while adversity was kept within acceptable bounds.” Further, by 1869–1870, “differences were articulated then circulated in the form of ‘general rumour’ throughout the community,” which Hall regards as having been “ultimately enabling not divisive.” She avers, “For Red River people, resort to rumour was not a conscious tactic so much as a habitual trait — a distinctive community behaviour. The political economic structure in concert with sociocultural dispositions specific to the settlement had at all times provided all individuals with ‘an adequate share of the benefits of expansion [and] with the possibility of influencing [their] fate in a world of flux and change.’ What has been decried as rampant gossip was actually a communications practice that allowed democratic consensus building to work. The sharing of information within a community gives everyone the opportunity to weigh individual assessments of issues against other perspectives, and so avoid ‘pluralistic ignorance.’ Awareness of the tone and emphasis that neighbours use in expressing opinions helps to clarify purpose. The likelihood of exacerbating divisions through jumping to mistaken conclusions regarding the intentions of various factions is decreased. Intra-community discussion encourages cohesion in that perceptions of membership in an active group with a distinctive identity is strengthened. A heightened sense of the existence of a ‘communal conscience,’ arises out of the ‘profound sharing of the latent value positions which give each group its special character and integrity.’”

[46] See Sprague and Frye, Genealogy, 30; Sprague and Frye, “Manitoba’s Red River Settlement,” 184; Spry, “Ethnic Voice,” 121; Welsh, Last Buffalo Hunter, 7–8.

[47] See E.H. Oliver, The Canadian North-West: Its Early Development and Legislative Records, vol. 2 (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1915), 1291–1292, 1320,1345; Healy, Women of Red River, 20–21; Henry John Moberly with William Bleasdell Cameron, When Fur was King (London and Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons, l929), 15; Roy St. George Stubbs, Four Recorders of Rupert’s Land: A Brief Survey of the Hudson’s Bay Company Courts of Rupert’s Land (Winnipeg: Peguis Publishers, 1967), 93, 96–97; Leslie Castling, “Peter Fidler’s Books: A Preliminary List,” Manitoba Library Association Bulletin 10, no. 3 (1981): 47–48; Norman Beattie, “The Red River Library,” Manitoba Library Association Bulletin 11, no. 2 (1981): Leslie D. Castling, “The Red River Library: A Search for Knowledge and Refinement,” in Readings in Canadian Library History, ed. Peter F. McNally (Ottawa: Canadian Library Association, 1996), 153–156, Debra Lindsay, “Peter Fidler’s Library: Philosophy and Science in Rupert’s Land,” in Readings in Canadian Library History, 209–229; Donna G. Strike, ed., Directions: A Guide to Libraries in Manitoba (Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1998), 11. It is possible to counter an argument that the majority of the Métis remained illiterate to 1860 and therefore would have no way of knowing what was printed in the local Nor’-Wester newspaper. John Richardson, quoted in, Arthur S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870–71, Being a History of Rupert’s Land (The Hudson’s Bay Company Territory) and of the North-West Territory (Including the Pacific Slope) (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1939), 822, asserted that in his experience, Aboriginal populations “were mostly able to read and write” after a generation of contact with missionaries; J.H. Pelly (quoted on page 811), asserted that by 1846 there were “500 scholars” at Red River. Obviously, those who could read were available to supply information orally to those who could not. Robert Darton, “History of Reading,” in History and Social Theory, ed. Peter Burke (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992), 150, 154, argues that, “for most people throughout history, [written or printed texts] … had audiences rather than readers.” He notes as well, that in the past, reading was learned independently of learning to write. As a consequence, “literacy estimates based on the ability to write may be much too low, and the reading public may have included a great many people who could not sign their names.”

[48] Sanderson, “Ethnic Voice,” 115–134.

[49] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 105. See also Burley, Servants of the Honourable Company, 94, who notes, “the company’s terms [for labourers in general] seemed to attract mostly men who might ‘be considered Boys’”; and Sylvia Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, 109, on the custom of women at trading posts marrying young. “Fast Facts,” Metis Culture and Heritage Resource Centre Inc., http://www.metisresourcecentre.mb.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=65:fast-facts&catid=3:fast-facts&Itemid=2 (accessed 18 February 2013), suggests that, on average, women at the settlement married in their early twenties.

[50] See Margaret Arnett MacLeod, The Letters of Letitia Hargrave (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1947), 84. Letitia Hargrave, a migrant from Europe, arrived from England as an HBC officer’s wife. She discovered on arrival in Rupert’s Land in 1840 that at Red River, “Some people educate and make gentlemen of part of their family and leave the other savages.”

[51] Nahoway moved to Red River Settlement after her husband’s death. He had been among the first HBC officers allowed to reserve a lot in 1811. See Donna G. Sutherland, Nahoway: A Distant Voice (Petersfield MB: White Buffalo Books, 2008); and Archer Martin, “Appendix B. Page 7.— Grant of the District of Assiniboia by the Hudson’s Bay Company to Lord Selkirk,” The Hudson’s Bay Company Land Tenures and the Occupation of Assiniboia by Lord Selkirk’s Settlers, with a List of Grantees under the Earl and the Company (London UK: William Clowes and Sons, 1898), 175–176.

[52] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 73, 74. See also Norma Hall, doing canadianhistory n.0, http://hallnjean.wordpress.com/ for pages on Nahoway, William Sinclair Sr., and their children.

[53] Marble, “To Red River and Beyond (First Paper),” 294. Ross, Red River Settlement, 191, 200. William Cockran quoted in John E. Foster, “The Country-Born in the Red River Settlement: 1820–1850,” Ph.D. diss. (Edmonton: University of Alberta, 1973), 197. See also, Charette, Vanishing Spaces, 108; Welsh, Last Buffalo Hunter, 7.

[54] Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, 97.

[55] Marble, “To Red River and Beyond (Third Paper),” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 22, no. 129 (February 1861): 316. Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 50, asserts that the parishes constituted separate, sealed, self-perpetuating “ethnic and religious” communities.

[56] [Alexandre-Antonin] Taché, trans. D.R. Cameron, Sketch of the North-West of America (Montreal: John Lovell, 1870), 89–90.

[57] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 77, notes, “although a high proportion of settlers apparently attended church on a regular basis, an equally large proportion did not. Nor were all clergymen equally esteemed.”

[58] Healy, Women of Red River, 208, see also, 212–215; and Coutts, Road to the Rapids, 23, 56, 62, l04; Ens, Homeland to HinterlandI, 177; Mailhot and Sprague, 2; also Spry, “‘Memories,’ of George William Sanderson,” 17.

[59] Sanderson, “‘Memories’ of George William Sanderson,” 125, see also, 117. See Sprague and Frye, Genealogy, 22 n. 43, for a description of the pattern of those marriages that were recorded (a clergy mediated decision) between Protestants and Roman Catholics. See also P.R. Mailhot and D.N. Sprague, “Persistent Settlers: The Dispersal and Resettlement of the Red River Métis, 1870–1885,” Canadian Ethnic Studies 17, no. 2 (1985): 27 n. 1.

[60] See Spry, “‘Memories’ of George William Sanderson,” 123.

[61] Gérard Beaudet, Cree-English, English-Cree Dictionary: Nehiyawe Mina Akayasimo-Mina Nehiyawe-Ayamiwinì-Masinahigan (Winnipeg: Wurez Publishing, 1995), 251, 275. This might partly explain how Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Sinclair (and others) came to be counted as siblings to the ten children listed in William Sinclair’s will in some historiography that references the Sinclair family. See also Brian Martin Gallagher, “The Whig Interpretation of History at Red River,” M.A. thesis (University of British Columbia, 1986), 24.

[62] Ibid., 275. Spry, “‘Memories’ of George William Sanderson,”  123–124, indicates that terms of kinship, such as “Nechiva” for brother, were applied in a broad sense when addressing fellow members of the community. See, for example, “16 November 1869,” Provisional Government of Assiniboia weblog, https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/chronology-during-1869/the-convention-of-twenty-four/16-november-1869/ (accessed 20 February 2013), and Louis Riel’s responses to James Ross during the Convention of Twenty-four, saying, for example “Moreover, we are faithful to our native land. We shall protect it against the dangers which menace it. We wish that the people of Red River be a free people. We are all brothers and kindred, says Mr. Ross, and it is true”; see also “17 November 1869,” Provisional Government of Assiniboia weblog, https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/chronology-during-1869/the-convention-of-twenty-four/wednesday-17-november-1869/ (accessed 20 February 2013).

[63] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 75–76.

[64] Lawrence Barkwell, “Manitoba’s Provisional Government of 1870, The Convention of Forty: January 25, 1870 to February10, 1870,” http://www.metismuseum.ca/media/db/10005 (accessed 20 February 2013), 4, describes John Fraser as “a Protestant Half-Breed who was an English-speaking delegate from Kildonan to the 1870 Convention of Forty. Fraser ran in the provincial election of December 23, 1874 and tied with John Sutherland. The seat was declared vacant and Sutherland won the run-off By-Election of April 1875. Fraser lived on River Lot 16 in Kildonan.” Barkwell would appear to be referring to John Fraser born 1845 to Colin Fraser (of Scotland) and Nancy Gaudry (Métis), and married to Sarah Vincent with whom John Fraser farmed at lot 114 St. Paul’s Parish. However, there was another John Fraser who might have been the delegate at the Convention of Forty — given that his brother, William Fraser, was elected for Kildonan Parish to the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia. The scrip application for this John Fraser, born 1819, and who farmed at or between lots 19–25 in St. John’s Parish, shows both of his parents to be Selkirk Settlers from Scotland (as was his wife). Nevertheless, by marriages of his relatives, this John Fraser was a member of the Moar, Campbell, Swanston, and Inkster Métis kinship networks. See Norma Hall, “Hon. William Fraser, Kildonan,” doing canadianhistory n.0, for family ties.

[65] John Fraser and Louis Riel, quoted in “7th Day,” Debates of the Convention of Forty, Provisional Government of Assiniboia weblog, https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/chronology-the-resistance-during-1870/convention-of-forty-seventh-day/ (accessed 20 February 2013); available also as “Convention at Fort Garry,” New Nation (4 February 1870), 2, 6; and Hudson’s Bay Company Archives [HBCA], E.9/1, 10–12.

[66] Hall, “Perfect Freedom,” 74–75. See also Genesis 11: 1-9, Matthew 12: 25, Mark 3: 23, Luke 11: 17; Umut Özkirimli, Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000), 12, 17, 19, 23; Thomas Flanagan, Riel and the Rebellion: 1885 Reconsidered (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1983), vii, ix; and Lawrence Hill, “Black + White … equals black,” Maclean’s: Canada’s Weekly Newsmagazine 114, no. 35 (27 August 2001):16–17, who “discovered, very early, that some people had strange ideas about the children of interracial unions.”

[67] See Coutts, Road to the Rapids, l04; Pannekoek, Snug Little Flock, 11, offers a contrasting opinion.

[68] Gravestone inscription, St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery (1897).

[69] John Macbeth, “Social customs and amusements of the early days in Red River Settlement and Rupert’s Land: a paper read before the Society on January 24th, 1893″ (Winnipeg: Manitoba Free Press, 1893), 6, includes Garrioch’s reminiscences in verse that contrast the conditions of his childhood with those of adulthood, with the explanation that “there are perhaps some … who will not understand the words ‘me whatever,’ which occur three times in the poem was, and is yet, a very common expression amongst the natives [Métis, when speaking Bungee] of this country and they really mean ‘for my part.’ For instance instead of saying ‘For my part, I’m going to the fort,’ he would say ‘Me whatever, I’m going to the fort.'”


Published: 10 July 2012



  1. Amazing post. Amazing….

  2. The best.

  3. The artist credited in a few of the paintings should be Peter Rindlisbacher, not Peter Rindisbacher (note the “L” in the last name). He was a neighbour of ours…

    • Probably a different artist? This Peter was born 1806. Or, the spelling of his name got standardized?

  4. Artist William Armstrong sketch of Metis travelling to the last big Buffalo hunt. This is a copy of a Paul Kane sketch and was taken from his, Kane’s. book Wonderings of an artist amongst the Indians of North America. This scene is described in the book. Further, Armstrong was not part of the Wolsey Expedition. For further info on this see the Thunder bay Museum, They have a publication on William Armstrong by Prof. Thronrud, he is adamant that Armstrong did not travel outside of Ontario.

    • Thanks Lynn, I was piecing together info from other sources, such as Library and Archives Canada, which noted “Armstrong was an artist, civil engineer, photographer, and draughtsman. He accompanied Colonel Garnet Wolseley during the Red River Expedition as its chief engineer. Many of his views of the Red River Expedition were published in the Canadian Illustrated News.” But obviously this needs to be sorted, and I will do asap.

  5. Thank you, its so refreshing to actually have someone respond to our research. We have been researching this particular sketch for approx. 10 years. We think the sketch we have was committed by Paul Kane. On the back of the matt board is its title” Buffalo hunting a sport of the past crossing white horse plains,” During our research we viewed several similar sketches by William Armstrong. We started looking into this and it led to the Thunder Bay Museum, and Prof. Thronrud. Prof. Thronud, was adamant that Armstrong did not leave Ontario and indicated to us that he would be more than willing to debate his opinion regarding Armstrong’s travels.

    We learned that Armstrong was approached by the Grand Trunk Railroad and hired to commit sketches of the west, however, he did not want to travel out west because of the Sioux uprising and subsequent travel into Canada. We learned that he would purchase sketches from local artists that had traveled to the west and would plagiarize (apparently a common practice of the time) these sketches for the Grand Trunk.

    One of the articles I recall was that Armstrong did not travel on the Wolseley expedition but his partner Beeres (sp?) was, and supplied Armstrong with photos and descriptions of the expedition.

    Thank you for your response and research information. If you would like to see the picture or any research I have done please contact me via my email. Kindest regards.

  6. Thank you for your fine research. I am writing a screenplay with a Metis character; this article has been invaluable! Lina Downes

  7. Colin robertson .. my ancestor…good article!

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