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Introduction to the Northwest

April 1, 2013

Meet Louis Riel

Greetings from these precious few last hours of Spring Break ’13! I hope you’ve had an adventurous and restorative two weeks, and join me in looking ahead at our next socials unit.

When we last last our study of the young Canadian nation, we saw the various forces and factors that led to the coalition government that passed the British North America Act of 1867. But the creation of the new government did not ensure lasting stability by any means, as the threat of American Annexation, unrest in the prairies, and ongoing conflict between French and English Canadians in the House of Commons all sought to undermine the young nation.

In the coming weeks, we will be heading west to the Red River Colony, in what was to become Manitoba, and find the broad expanse of the Northwest Territory – all of non-Confederation Canada except British Columbia – as the canvas upon which our country would write its next collection of introductory chapters.

Here, two trading companies will compete for one of Canada’s first resource booms: fur. Settlers will come into armed conflict with First Nations residents. And the initial agreements regarding land claims and what would evolve as a complicated relationship between colonized and colony through to today.

Keys to understanding many of the conversations about our Canadian present, as well as our future, lie in questions we can ask about these first forays west. Whether it is the debate to transport Alberta bitumen to the BC coast, aboriginal treaties being discussed in the local news, or the advent of resistance movements in Canada, such as Idle No More, British Columbians have a lot to gain in learning the history of our prairie neighbours.

I hope that over the next few weeks, we will each carve out explorations of our own questions about this period of Canada’s past, and in sharing our findings with one another, create a diverse understanding of our shared history.

To get you started, here is a brief introduction to materials you will find on the Northwest to 1870 page on the TALONS Socials wiki:

I highly recommend checking out excerpts of Chester Brown‘s graphic novel, “Biography of Louis Riel” (which you can find in the Gleneagle Library):

TALONS alum Macquire, Alvin and Steph’s Choose Your Own Adventure offers a personalized encounter with the Red River Rebellion:

On November 19, 1869 the Hudson’s Bay Company sold its chartered territory, Rupert’s Land, to the Crown and the governments of Great Britain and Canada. No doubt, the American interest of the the Canadian lands led Britain’s concern about securing the area. Though Britain and Canada were ecstatic over their gain of more land, the Metis that live on the Red River did not seem to share the same feelings… Let the adventures begin. You are Louis Riel, the ambitious, well educated and bilingual fellow, who quickly emerged as a leader among the Métis of the Red River. Click here to start!

Sara, Michelle, Lexi and Louise’s Red River podcast:

Liam’s description of his quad’s Red River Rebellion video:

You can find the rest of the class’ quad synthesis projects on this page, as well as a succinct notes package on the unit here.

I hope you find the above useful, and am looking forward to our upcoming study of one of the keystone periods in the evolution of Canada.

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