Manitoba History: The Confrontations at Rivière aux Ilets-de-Bois 
by Alan B. McCullough
On 14 June 1871, Duncan Urquhart Campbell, formerly of Chatham, Ontario, and a number of companions, staked out land claims on a river which they called the Boyne in south-central Manitoba. Over the next few days they began to build houses and to plant potatoes.
On 18 June 1871, Campbell wrote in his diary “Very fine day. The Horses went away this morning could not find them all day. Did not spend Sabbath so well as we ought. Warned to leave that section of country by three French Half Breeds to which we paid no attention.” 
Campbell’s diary entry recorded the first in a series of incidents known as the confrontations at the Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois. The Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois (RIB) was known to the Metis before 1871; they had used the area on a seasonal basis for many years and they hoped to have it reserved as part of their land allotment after Manitoba joined Confederation. In the spring of 1871 settlers from Ontario claimed land along the river which they renamed the Boyne. The Metis protested and there were several confrontations between them and the new settlers. The dispute exacerbated the already tense relations between the Metis and the new settlers in Manitoba and threatened to boil over into violence. In the end, the Metis abandoned their claims along the river and settled in a parish, known first as Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois and subsequently as St. Daniel, to the north of the river. The Boyne Settlement continued to attract settlers from Ontario and by 1881 the settlement was an overwhelmingly Protestant, Englishspeaking, agricultural community.
The confrontations have been referred to briefly by numerous historians, but only Allen Ronaghan has studied them in detail. Ronaghan attributed the confrontations to the federal government’s “duplicitous policy” and credited Lieutenant-Governor Archibald with defusing a dangerous situation. He praised the Metis for their discipline in avoiding bloodshed while being “… dispossessed of land they rightly owned.”  The confrontations also played a part in the larger history of Metis land grants under the Manitoba Act. The history of the land grants has been the focus of extensive historical research leading to a major court challenge by the Manitoba Metis Federation in 2007. Douglas Sprague, who provided research support for the Metis Federation, argued that “… through a process of formal and informal discouragement, the Metis were the victims of a deliberate conspiracy in which John A. Macdonald and the Canadian government successfully kept them from obtaining title to the land they were to receive under the terms of the Manitoba Act of 1870.” Thomas Flanagan, a consultant for the Department of Justice, found that “… the federal government fulfilled the land provision of the Manitoba Act.”  He admitted that there was considerable confusion and delay in making the grants and that this “… allowed some potential reserve land to be claimed by immigrants to Manitoba under the order-in-council of 26 May …”; this remark may well have been a reference to the lands at RIB. Referring specifically to the confrontations at RIB, Flanagan commented that they “made the Metis suspicious of the government’s good faith.”  In this re-examination of the confrontations I will suggest that all participants in the events—the federal government, Lieutenant-Governor Archibald, the incoming settlers, and the Metis—had some responsibility for the way they played out.
The RIB flowed east from the Pembina Hills into the Red River Valley until it lost itself in the Great Marsh to the northeast of the future Carman, Manitoba. The river was known to the inhabitants of Red River from at least 1800; there are several mentions of it in Alexander Henry’s journals.  The Hunters’ Trail crossed the river about two miles east of present-day Carman. The oak, elm, poplar, and basswood at the crossing provided shelter, fuel, and building materials and the Metis used the crossing as a campsite and a place to repair carts. Some came to the woods in the spring to make maple sugar.  The parish register for St. François Xavier records a baptism at RIB in 1837 and the oral tradition of the community of St. Daniel suggests that some Metis established homes along the river or at St. Daniel as early as the 1830s. A history of the St. Daniel District indicates that a school was established in 1866 about seven miles northwest of the present town of Carman and that, about 1869–1870, Father F.-X. Kavanagh of the parish of St. François Xavier established a mission chapel, Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois, later St. Daniel, about seven miles northwest of Carman. 
John F. Grant was the first identifiable settler on the river. Born at Edmonton in 1831, he became a successful trader and rancher in Montana. He was a nephew of Pascal Breland and in 1867 he moved to Manitoba where he built at home and store in St. Charles Parish. He and his family were enumerated in St. Charles in 1870 but he also had property at RIB. He and three of his followers had taken up land along the river in 1867. Over the next decade he built a large house and a sawmill on his land and broke and cultivated 65 acres of land; in his memoirs he referred to this property as “the Ranch.” 
Although local tradition holds that some Metis had settled in the area by 1860 or earlier,  the 1870 census of Manitoba made no mention of a settlement at the RIB and there is limited contemporary evidence that there were permanent residents at the river in 1870 other than some of Grant’s extended family. Lieutenant-Governor Archibald, in a memorandum dealing with the Fenian invasion of October 1871, noted that a body of French Metis had “… made a selection of a tract of land at Rivière aux Îlets-de-Bois; some of them had made farms, or at all events enclosures, at that place.”  Archibald was not clear when these claims had been made, or who had made the enclosures but some of them may have been made in 1870. In 1872 Pierre Falcon published a claim, dated to 15 July 1870, to two lots of 12 chains each, located three miles apart on the RIB.  An account by Ontario settlers of the founding of the Boyne Settlement in 1871 acknowledges that the Metis had “… staked out the land along the Boyne in lots of twelve chains frontage in the name of St. Charles parish …” but they made no mention of actual settlement except that associated with John F. Grant.  When two townships along the river were surveyed in 1871 the surveyors identified only one claim by a Metis, John F. Grant, although there were several by recent immigrants from Ontario.  When the township in which the RIB or St. Daniel school and chapel were built, reportedly in 1866 and 1869–1870, was surveyed in 1872, the surveyor made no mention of settlers, land claims, a school, or of a chapel. 
In 1869 Canada bought the Hudson’s Bay Company’s interest in Rupertsland and arranged to have the entire area transferred to Canada. The population was not consulted and, at Red River, the majority of the population viewed the transfer with apprehension. In particular, the French-speaking, Roman Catholic, Metis feared that annexation would jeopardize their political position in the settlement, threaten their title to land, and undermine their culture. When, before the transfer had been completed, Canada sent a party to begin surveying lands in Red River, the Metis under Louis Riel stopped the survey, denied entry to Manitoba’s representative, and then formed a provisional government. Over the winter of 1869–1870 representatives of the provisional government negotiated better terms for the entry into Confederation including provincial status for Manitoba, bilingual status for the new province, denominational schools, guarantees of existing land titles, and a promise that 1,400,000 acres of land would be set aside for the children of Metis inhabitants of Manitoba.
The Canadian party in Red River and some of the population of Ontario were enraged by the provisional government’s execution of Thomas Scott in March of 1870. They resented the terms which the provisional government negotiated for Manitoba’s entry into Confederation. Their position was most clearly expressed in the columns of the Toronto Globe which viewed the agreement, especially the plan to reserve 1,400,000 acres for the Metis, as a conspiracy to forestall immigration from Ontario and to make Manitoba a French province. In March of 1871 the Globe editorialized: “The people of Ontario don’t mean to be so snubbed and so put off by any Government. They have a right to look to that land as a home for their sons and daughters, and they don’t mean to stand quietly by and see it made a Lower Canadian preserve.” The paper called for a large and speedy immigration to “… counteract the objectionable arrangements of the constitution …” given Manitoba and to secure access to Manitoba for Ontario settlers.  The paranoia and animosity which the Globe columns both expressed and fomented was carried westward by some members of the Red River Expeditionary Force (RREF) which arrived in Manitoba in 1870. The tensions between the new settlers and the Metis inhabitants of Manitoba formed the background of the confrontations at RIB in 1871.
The Manitoba Act promised 1,400,000 acres of land for the children of Metis families in Manitoba. The land grant was intended to smooth the transfer and to satisfy Metis claims to aboriginal title. The Metis leadership hoped that the land would be granted in large blocks which would provide a permanent land base for cohesive Metis communities. The Metis also hoped that the land would be allocated before a large influx of new settlers complicated the selection. The government view was that no action could be taken until the population entitled to the grant had been identified and the land had been surveyed. A census of the Metis was completed in December 1870 but detailed surveys were not begun until the late summer of 1871 by which time new settlers were arriving from Ontario. Moreover, the government did not formally establish its policy on land grants until April and May of 1871, after settlers had begun to arrive in Manitoba.
In December 1870, Lieutenant-Governor Archibald prepared two long despatches on land policy and surveys. In the first he argued for 160 acres as the basic homestead grant with a low price charged for pre-empted lands. He wrote approvingly of the American practice of allowing squatters to obtain title to land which they had improved and occupied for five years. He wrote that the government should have a policy in place and be ready to begin surveys in the spring; however, he recognized that detailed surveys should not begin until the Indian title had been surrendered. In his second despatch Archibald dealt with the question of the land reserved for the Metis. His recommendation for a rectangular survey system did not apply to the land along the Red and Assiniboine rivers for which the aboriginal title had already been ceded. He argued that aboriginal title in Manitoba was held either by the Cree or Saulteaux; the Metis, in his view, had settled in the area at the beginning of the 19th century and their Indian ancestors were mostly from groups with no links to Manitoba. If the feelings of the Metis were to be met, he believed that the grant should be made as two blocks of land, one for the French Metis and one for the English, as there was a strong “disposition” to keep the French and Catholic communities and the English and Protestant communities separate. He believed that granting the land in a block would lower its commercial value but accepted that such a course was the desire of the French Metis and of their leaders. He recognized that the “… French, or their leaders …” wished the land to be inalienable for at least a generation but recommended against granting this wish because it would “lock up” a large portion of the grant for many years and might prove a hindrance to the development of the country. 
Early in 1871, M. St. John sent Archibald a report on the nature of land titles in Manitoba. His report highlighted a growing concern among both new and old settlers as to how land was to be allocated. Many would-be settlers were awaiting the promulgation of regulations and the selection of the Metis grant of 1,400,000 acres prior to making their own selections. Much of the best farm land in the province was already taken up or claimed either by old settlers or new settlers. Some riverfront land on the southern portion of the Red River remained unclaimed, but it was alleged that existing settlers objected to English-speaking settlers taking any of it up. It was asserted that if any buildings were put up in the area, they were “… in danger of being burnt by the French Half Breeds in the vicinity.” St. John questioned the existence of such a danger but believed that it would disappear once regulations were published. He also suggested that if the boundaries of Manitoba were extended it would enlarge the amount of available land. 
On 1 March 1871, Le Nouveau Monde (Montréal) reported that the Metis were waiting “… non sans quelque appréhension …” for news as to how the reserved land would be allocated. The paper’s Red River correspondent reported that Manitoba was without wood except for the fringes along the rivers. Given the need for winter fuel, this source of wood would be soon exhausted and the Metis were anxious to know if their reserved lands would be on the wooded river land or on the prairie where there was neither water nor wood.  The column raised an important issue; much of the open prairie land in the Red River Valley was not suitable for settlement given the agricultural technology and attitudes prevalent in both Manitoba and Ontario in 1870. It was not until the arrival of Mennonites from southern Russia in 1874 that serious attempts were made to settle the open land in the Red River Valley.
The allocation of the reserve lands became more urgent in April and May of 1871 as volunteers from the RREF were discharged in Manitoba and began to claim lands and as potential settlers from Ontario arrived in the Province. Early in April the Legislative Assembly urged Archibald to press the Dominion government to “define the limits of the land occupied” by a great number of settlers on the Red and Assiniboine rivers who were outside the area already surveyed. The Assembly urged that, in the meantime, measures be taken to secure these settlers in the “peaceable possession” of their claims. Archibald referred the address to Ottawa. On 31 May the Secretary of State for Canada replied that an order-in-council which would “meet the case of squatters who intend to become settlers” had been approved on 26 May. He enclosed an extract from the order-in-council (which is discussed below) and suggested that it be published in Manitoba. 
On 25 April 1871, the federal government approved an order-in-council authorizing a procedure for allocating the lands for the Metis reserves. All Metis, resident in Manitoba as of 15 July 1870, were to be eligible for an equal portion of the grant of 1,400,000 acres. No conditions of settlement were imposed. The Lieutenant-Governor was authorized to reserve townships or parts of townships for distribution, and individual allocations would be decided by lot. The order-in-council did not require that land be surveyed before it was selected for Metis reserves although this might have been implicit in the reference to townships and parts of townships. The order-in-council also provided for the settlement of other crown lands once they had been surveyed. Any head of family, or male over 21 years of age, who had made or “… shall hereafter make in person a settlement on the public lands …” and who resided on and improved his claim, could make an entry for up to 160 acres of the land which he occupied. Officers and men of the first Ontario and second Quebec battalions “now serving” in Manitoba who chose to settle in Manitoba were entitled to a “free grant without actual residence thereon, of one quarter section.” When two or more persons settled the same land, the right of pre-emption went to the first settler. The order-in-council included a list of lands which were reserved from settlement—Hudson’s Bay Company land, certain woodlands, mill sites, town sites, school lands, mineral lands and lands to be designated as railway lands. It did not identify the 1,400,000-acre Metis reserve lands as being reserved from settlement. 
It soon became clear that the surveys would not be completed in time to accommodate settlement by immigrants who were already arriving in Manitoba. On 26 May an order-in-council was approved providing that “… parties found upon the land at the time of survey …” who had settled and made improvements in good faith would be protected in the enjoyment of the land they had claimed. As would become clear, there was a potential for conflict between the right of pre-emption prior to survey, and the right of the Metis to block grants set out in the order-in-council of 25 April. However, the order-in-council of 26 May was not published in Manitoba until about the third week of June by which time the crisis over the lands at RIB was well underway. 
The text of the order-in-council of 25 April 1871 was published in The Manitoban of 13 May 1871 and within a week the Metis of the French-speaking parishes, acting on the approval of block grants of land, met to establish claims to the areas they hoped to occupy. Descriptions of the various claims were published in Le Métis of 8 June 1871.  The parishes to the east of St. Charles on the Assiniboine and on the Red River claimed a broad strip of land on either side of Red River between St. Boniface and the International Boundary as well as a two-mile strip on either side of the Rivière Sale. The French-speaking parishes to the west of St. Charles claimed a strip of land running southerly from the Assiniboine River along the Pembina Hills to the International Boundary. The claim extended east from the Hills to include the wooded lands along the various streams with the exception of the land claimed by St. Charles Parish on the RIB. At a meeting chaired by John Grant on 14 May 1871, the residents of St. Charles Parish claimed two miles on either side of the RIB from the eastern extremity of wooded land on the river to a point 18 miles west; they also claimed a similar strip of land on the upper reaches of the Rivière Sale. The St. Laurent community on Lake Manitoba claimed a 100-square-mile block between Lake Manitoba and Shoal Lake.
Le Nouveau Monde estimated that the French Metis had claimed 1,300,000 acres, “presque toute la meilleure terre à bois et la meillure prairie dans celle partie.” Given that the English-speaking Metis of Manitoba were entitled to about 40 per cent of the 1,400,000-acre grant, the claims were excessive and the cause of “beaucoup de mécontment.” The Metis claims were apparently made to forestall occupation by immigrants from eastern Canada and to some extent they were successful, for Le Nouveau Monde wrote that some Canadian immigrants, on learning of the claims, had left Manitoba and settled in the Dakota Territory. 
Some of the immigrants had abandoned Manitoba but not all. On Easter Sunday (9 April) 1871 Samuel Kennedy and a small party of men with links to the RREF arrived at the RIB.  Kennedy, born in Ireland, had emigrated as a child to Ontario where his family settled in Hastings County. An Orangeman, he married in the 1840s and by 1871 had eight children; in 1870 he came to Manitoba as a “volunteer” with the RREF. Kennedy, and at least one other man in his party, Ryer Olsen, took up land claims along the river, building houses and clearing land. Kennedy’s family joined him later in the summer.  Kennedy and his little party were soon joined by other Ontario immigrants. The Globe reported that before the confrontation broke out there had been 80 families at RIB; in early July Le Métis reported that about 100 settlers had gone to the RIB. 
Most of the settlers’ names have been lost but among those who can be identified there was a mix of long-term settlers and speculators. Samuel Kennedy, his half-brother George Sexsmith, and the Campbell brothers, were among the first settlers to claim land on the Boyne (the name which they gave to the RIB) and became long-term residents of the area.  In July and August of 1871, twenty-seven individuals published claims to land on the Boyne in the Manitoba Liberal; most of the claimants were serving or former members of the RREF and made their claims on the basis of the military bounty.  Some had links to the Canadian Party and to John Christian Schultz, one of the leaders of the Canadian Party.  One of the claimants, Stewart Mulvey, was the editor of the Manitoba Liberal and a master of the first Orange Lodge in Manitoba. He was notorious for his opposition to Riel and Lieutenant-Governor Archibald.  When the RIB area was surveyed in 1872, none of the 27 was identified as having claims on the river although two did eventually take out a patent on land along the Boyne. Most of the 27 might reasonably be described as speculators. 
Why Kennedy and the other settlers chose to settle on the Boyne, rather than join the existing Ontario settlement in the Portage la Prairie-Lake Manitoba area, is not known. Perhaps the choice was made simply on the merits of the land as an area for settlement. It was as close to Fort Garry as the Portage Settlement; the land was as good as any in the province, and it had the first good wood and water on the trail southwest from Fort Garry. At the time of Kennedy’s arrival it was well beyond the established Metis settlements and with the exception of John F. Grant’s holdings there is room for doubt that the Metis had permanent settlements in the area. There is evidence that the area was promoted by Schultz’s Manitoba News-Letter as early as April of 1871. In a letter dated 17 June 1871, J. Allard informed Bishop Taché that many immigrants were being directed to RIB and it may have been identified as a settlement site by the Northwest Emigration Aid Society.  As settlers arrived they encouraged others to come; in June of 1871 an immigrant wrote to the London Advertiser, describing his trip west and stating that members of his party, who had visited the RIB area the previous fall, had been favourably impressed with it.  Given their background with the RREF and their links to Schultz, it is possible that some of speculative settlers took up their claims as a way of supporting their fellow Ontario settlers in defying the Metis; by the time they published notices of their claims in July and August, they should have known that the Metis of St. Charles also claimed the land. As well, by the time the 27 published their claims, many of the Ontario settlers at RIB had already abandoned their claims.
On 24 May, Joseph Royal and five other members of the Manitoba Legislature asked Lieutenant-Governor Archibald, “… with a view to tranquillize the public mind …,” to indicate how he intended to proceed in assuring the Metis of the possession of the land guaranteed them under the Manitoba Act. The petitioners noted that the arrival of immigrants made the matter more pressing than ever.  Archibald replied at length on 30 May 1871. He began by reminding them that the matter did not come within his jurisdiction and that “… the disposal of public lands is reserved to Dominion Government.” He assured them that the policy intended by the government, as declared “on the floor of Parliament” would be “liberal and generous.” He noted that both Metis and volunteers had an unconditional right to land grants for which they need not pay and on which they need not settle. He also identified a third class of settlers which might acquire land by taking possession of it and improving it; the rights of this third class of land claimants were not absolute. He suggested that applicants for land were entitled to their claims on the basis of priority of application. A claimant should “take care of course that his selection does not interfere with any person who has a previous right.” He suggested that applicants who were entitled to land without condition, the Metis and the volunteers, should make their selection known through some form of public notification. He saw no objection to the Metis or the volunteers making their initial selection in a block. He believed that, for the third class of claimant, the cultivation and improvement of lands and the erection of buildings served as a notification of their intent to claim lands. He accepted that claims might be made in advance of surveying and that once surveys were completed the claims would have to be adjusted. He noted that all selections were subject to the need to allocate school lands, other lands for public purposes, and Hudson’s Bay Company lands. As well, it was desirable to prevent a monopoly of the forested areas. He concluded by writing that “all of this is my private opinion only” but that the government would do the “people justice.” 
Archibald’s initial response does not appear to have been made public although Bishop Taché, the senior defender of Metis interests in Manitoba, was aware of it; the only known copy is in his papers. Taché’s views on Archibald’s response may have been the occasion of several cryptic letters from Archibald to Bishop Taché. In the first, dated 2 June, Archibald wrote:
In a letter of 5 June, Archibald wrote that he had done “what I had no right to do—to meet wishes and allay the anxieties of yourself and your friends.” He asked that Taché return the letter and he would refer the matter to the Governor General. Finally, in an undated letter, Archibald wrote that he had written an answer to the question about lands and had told Mr. Coldwell to print a copy in his paper, The Manitoban. He suggested that Royal publish a copy of the reply in Le Métis. 
On 9 June, Archibald prepared a second response to the letter from Royal et al. which was published in Le Métis of 15 June and The Manitoban of 17 June. This response was briefer than the letter of 30 May and limited itself to the question of the selection of the Metis reserve. It noted that the order-in-council of 25 April 1871 had established rules for the disposal of crown lands in Manitoba:
Archibald’s reply narrowed what he had written on 30 May by omitting reference to the rights of parties other than the Metis. The wording of the reply was conditional—”Should I be called upon to act under this rule …”—and omitted his earlier interpretation that both volunteers and Metis had unconditional rights to land grants. Despite its cautious wording, Archibald’s letter was taken by the Metis as a confirmation of their right to select blocks of land. The opinion was reinforced by a leading column in The Manitoban (inserted at Archibald’s direction) which editorialized, “Once the Half-breeds have chosen their lands, and notified publicly their choice, there can be no excuse for intruding within their lines, and any immigrant who does so, acts at his own risk.”  The column went on to assure settlers who claimed and improved land, outside the areas claimed by the Metis, that they would have their claims recognized when the survey was made.
The Metis published descriptions of their claims on 8 June; the settlers were “warned off” verbally as early as 12 June and by 20 June it was reported that John F. Grant had put up notices at RIB stating the Métis claims.  Many of the potential settlers abandoned the RIB; the Globe’s correspondent reported that, by 24 June, only 20 of 80 immigrant families remained at RIB. However, the Globe’s correspondent wrote, those who remained were “… determined to hold their ground against all such intruders.” Le Métis reported that after the Metis had warned the settlers off their claim, “… tous les gens honnêtes …” had left immediately but that 40 or 50 had declared that they would remain. The Metis then appealed to the Lieutenant-Governor to remove the settlers.  Some Metis considered direct action. A correspondent of Le Métis wrote of the “… mécontentement générale de ce qu’un très grand nombre d’émigrés se dirigeaient vers la rivière aux Ilets de Bois, au coeur de la réserve au Métis ….” He blamed the problem in part on the delay in conducting the surveys but also on “… des personnes peu amies des Métis …” who directed the immigrants to the lands claimed by the Metis while feigning ignorance of Metis claims and of the Lieutenant-Governor’s letter. He concluded, “On parle déjá d’aller chasser ces audacieux si les autorités ne veulent ou ne peuvent le fair.” 
James Scott, an intending settler who had abandoned his plans to settle in Manitoba, told how a group of about 70 families who had been travelling to “the Assiniboine” had turned back after they met Metis “… scouring the country armed, demanding the destination of travellers, and informing them that they (the half-breeds) had first to be satisfied.”  The settlers were equally belligerent—a correspondent of the Montreal Daily Witness reported that “… many of the newcomers are dissatisfied and threaten to go on parts of the half-breed claims and take armed possession, if necessary.” 
When representatives of the immigrants, including at least one settler from the RIB, met with the Lieutenant-Governor, he told them that it was probable that settlers within the limits of the Metis claims would be expelled. The Globe’s correspondent took the view that the Lieutenant-Governor’s support of the Metis position was injudicious, unwarrantable, and “contrary to the spirit of the law.” Moreover, “Supported by the Lieut.-Governor, the innovations of the half-breeds already made upon the legal rights of the settlers have excited the indignation of the Canadians to a point but one remove from a state that would plunge the entire country into troubles with which those of the days of Riel would not be comparable.” 
On 17 June 1871, Lieutenant-Governor Archibald wrote a long despatch setting out his view of the dispute. He noted that since the arrival of the immigrants there had been much uneasiness, particularly among the French Metis over the land reserve provided for under the Manitoba Act. The Metis took the view that their claims, being based on statute, were superior to those of the immigrants. They cited a letter, dated 23 June 1870, from Sir George Cartier stating that the rules “… concernant cette réserve seront de nature à rencontrer les désires des métis résidents.” Archibald went on to say that the immigrants did not accept this position and instead took the view that “… the right to a preference is with them [the immigrants] …” At the moment when the excitement over land had reached a stage where Archibald “had reason to dread some outbreak …”, he had received a letter from representatives of five Metis parishes asking for information on how the land question was to be settled. Given the situation, he felt he had no choice but to give some answer although he realized that he might not be “sustained” by the government. He took the view that the Metis “were to be regarded …” in the same category “… as purchasers who had paid their money into the Crown Land Office, and were asking their grants.” In such cases “… priority of application gave priority of right …” and the Metis “… from the time of their application, would be entitled to the lands they selected, if there were no prior rights existing.” In Archibald’s view, whether they chose as individuals or as a group made no difference. Using this rationale, Archibald wrote the reply to the Metis representatives, dated 9 June, which is quoted above. (Archibald made no mention of his reply of 30 May.) In seeking the government’s approval of his action Archibald wrote that he was “… convinced that it is the only course that would not have led to serious trouble.” It was, he wrote, in the interests of both the Metis and the immigrants, it avoided the problems caused by the delays in the surveys, and “… it prevents (which is the most important result of it), dangerous collisions, which would have arisen, from throwing suddenly among the French Half breeds, a body of newcomers differing from them so widely as they do in language and race, in habits and Faith.” 
In a private letter to Sir John A. Macdonald, dated 7 October 1871, Archibald wrote that the crisis over land had been a “matter of life and death” and he had felt it absolutely necessary to reassure the Metis about their land in order to ensure their continued support of the government. He noted that, when on 9 June he had agreed to be guided by the Metis in selecting their reserved land, he had not received the order-in-council of 26 May which recognized pre-emption rights. He remarked that this order “might have crippled the freedom of my action, it certainly would not have changed my conviction of its policy.” 
Although there does not appear to have been an official reply to Archibald’s despatch, J. C. Aikin, the Secretary of State for Canada, expressed regret, in a private note, that Archibald had not received the order-in-council of 26 May at the time he made his reply.  Two letters to Archibald from Joseph Howe, the Secretary of State for the Provinces, both marked “Private”, expressed regret over his course of action. On 4 November 1871, Howe wrote “As I understand the matter, all the lands not in actual occupation are open to everybody, Halfbreeds, Volunteers and Emigrants.  In a subsequent letter, dated 26 December 1871, Howe set out his, and J. C. Aikin’s, understanding of government policy. One-point-five million (sic) acres of land were to be set aside for the Metis but until the Metis land had been surveyed and set apart, “… Emigrants and Volunteers, going into the country, had a right to occupy and pre-empt vacant lands anywhere.” Men already in the country had the same rights but no class of persons had a right to stake off and claim land en bloc. The policy had been established by order-in-council and, in Howe’s opinion, Archibald had no authority to change it without authorization from the Secretary of State. 
Howe’s interpretation does not differ substantially from Archibald’s initial interpretation of government policy as expressed in his letter to Royal et al. on 30 May. It is possible that Howe’s understanding of government policy was influenced by hindsight and the events of the summer of 1871. When he wrote to Archibald, the government was under heavy criticism as a result Archibald’s action in supporting Metis land claims over the claims of immigrant settlers and even heavier criticism for his meeting with Riel following the Fenian raid in October of 1871.  Archibald’s policy was portrayed in the Ontario opposition press as pro-Metis, designed to discourage immigration from Ontario and to maintain Manitoba as a French province.  It had stirred up a wave of outrage which threatened to topple the government. Although the government did not publicly repudiate Archibald’s policy statement, it delayed giving him instructions to select Metis lands until 1872 by which time the surveys were well advanced.
The dispute reached its climax in June and July of 1871 and, although there was at least one more incident at RIB at about the time of the Fenian raid,  the settlers remained in effective control of the Boyne Settlement. John F. Grant retained most of the land he had occupied along the river but the Metis, as a group, established their settlement to the north of the river at St. Daniel.
Early in November 1871, Archibald wrote a memorandum which summarized his views on the confrontations at RIB:
As Archibald wrote, the Metis and the newcomers differed “… in language and race, in habits and Faith.”  These differences certainly contributed to the confrontations. John F. Grant wrote of the settlers on RIB that “… most of them were orangemen for they did not like the Catholics.” Lieutenant-Governor Archibald believed that some of the settlers at RIB shared the violent anti-French, anti-Catholic, sentiments expressed by some of the militia volunteers and that their behaviour at RIB had contributed to the Metis’ disaffection during the Fenian raid.  Following the Fenian raid in October of 1871, Gilbert McMicken wrote, “I cannot go far in blaming the half breeds for they have been made the objects of some contumely & contempt and many of our Canadians are most unreasonable, exacting and disagreeable”, and “Orange and other extreme people inveigh violently against the Governor. Are most troublesome element—turbulent and unreasonable.” 
Although differences in race, language and religion were important factors in the conflict in Manitoba, the Metis fared badly even where they shared religion and language with the new settlers. In her study of the established Metis community of Pointe à Grouette (now Ste. Agathe), Nicole St. Onge found that between 1870 and 1900 the Metis were almost entirely displaced by French-speaking, Roman Catholic immigrants from Québec. She writes that the Metis “… sold, abandoned or were swindled out of their claims for very small amounts of money. Very few of the claim buyers were farmers: the majority seem to have been speculators, both Metis and French.” She attributes the community’s dispersal primarily to changes in the Manitoba Act which made it more difficult to obtain title to their lands and to the activity of speculators. In a study of the communities of St. Claude and Notre Dame de Lourdes, Audrey Pyée found that the pre-existing Metis community near St. Claude was largely marginalized by Catholic immigrants from France. 
Differing views on the ownership of the land and on property rights also played a role in the confrontations. Some Metis believed that they collectively possessed the land in Manitoba by virtue of aboriginal rights. There is disagreement as to how strongly Louis Riel and Father Ritchot pressed this concept in their negotiations with the Canadian government but the Metis land grant of 1,400,000 acres which was described as a provision “… towards the extinguishment of the Indian Title to the Lands in the Province …”  indicates that the Canadian government considered it at least possible that the Metis shared in aboriginal title. This sense of their sharing in aboriginal title dated to the early 19th century and was linked to the Battle of Seven Oaks and to subsequent defence of Metis interests against interests as varied as the Sioux, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Canadian government.  A column in Le Métis on 15 June 1871 expressed the Metis claim largely in terms of occupation—”Le droit des Metis au sol de ce pays qu’ils ont habité, défendu et gardé depuis cinquante ans contre toute espèce d’ennemis, ce droit, disons-nous, est antérieur à tout autre et est aussi sacré qu’il peut l’être.  In his memoir, John F. Grant wrote that while he opposed Riel, he agreed that the country “belonged” to the Metis “… for was it not their forefathers although they had come in the country as employees of the H.B.Co. but were they not the ones who settled the country with their children, protected it from the savages and made it what it was, they and the missionaries.“  After 1870 the Metis believed that their claims had a priority over all other claims because they had been negotiated by the provisional government and embodied in the Manitoba Act. 
The Metis also recognized individual ownership of river lots along the Red and Assiniboine. Some of these lots were held under titles from the Hudson’s Bay Company and others were held by simple occupation; both sorts of title were recognized by the Manitoba Act. There is evidence that the Metis had staked claims, probably in 1870 or 1871, to river lots on the RIB; there is less evidence that they had settled on these claims. It is less clear how the Metis regarded specific locations or resources—hivernant camps, sugar bushes or hay lands—which were used on a seasonal basis. In the case of hay, it seems that choice locations were secured on an annual basis. Generally the population respected these claims to hay lands, but inordinately large claims might be ignored. 
There is little record of the views of the incoming new settlers on property ownership but they would have been familiar with the private property law of Ontario and of Britain. Those who came from Ontario may have had an awareness of the concept of aboriginal title but it seems equally likely that they viewed Canada’s acquisition of Rupertsland as clearing the way for their settlement. In his letter of 30 May, Archibald had given, as his understanding of government policy, the opinion that both Metis and volunteers had an equal and unconditional right to land grants while settlers had a conditional right. This interpretation of government policy was confirmed by Joseph Howe. If this was Archibald’s and Howe’s understanding it is reasonable to assume that some of the volunteers and settlers had the same understanding. As was noted earlier, the Toronto Globe was a vociferous and intemperate supporter of the settlers in Manitoba and of those at RIB and may have expressed and moulded their views. For more than 20 years the Globe had advocated the acquisition of Rupertsland as an outlet for Ontario’s products and as a source of land for Ontario’s farmers.  It seems probable that some of the settlers shared these views and felt that they were fulfilling Ontario’s destiny.
The confrontations at RIB were not the only instance in which Metis and immigrants claimed the same or overlapping lands. The Metis population of Poplar Point and of High Bluff published a claim in August of 1871 to a block of land, comprising about four townships, lying between the Assiniboine River and Lake Manitoba. They were granted only about one township in the area, primarily because incoming settlers had made claims in the area and because Archibald believed that the railway would be built through the district.  In another instance the Metis were apparently successful in holding a claim to land east of the Red River which they had used although they did not live on it. 
Through its delay in establishing land regulations and carrying out surveys, the federal government set the scene for disagreements between incoming settlers and the Metis. In an attempt to defuse a volatile situation, Lieutenant-Governor Archibald abandoned his own understanding of government land policy and supported the Metis claim to priority. This outraged the incoming settlers and, when Archibald was unable to fulfill the expectations he had raised, the Metis were also alienated. Some of the incoming settlers insisted on what they considered to be their rights to the point of being “… exacting and disagreeable …” but their claims were not unreasonable under the existing land policy. The French-speaking Metis, in pressing for their legitimate claim under the Manitoba Act, claimed more than their share of the 1,400,000 acre grant. In the end the Metis, with the exception of John F. Grant, abandoned their claims to land along the RIB. The river, renamed the Boyne, became the centre of a Protestant, English-speaking community. The Metis occupied a small parish, subsequently named St. Daniel, a few miles north of the river.
1. In 1871 the spelling was “Islets de Bois” was commonly used; today the accepted usage is “Îlets-de-Bois.” On the monument at the old St. Daniel cemetery, the name is given as “Isles de Bois.”
2. Public Archives of Manitoba (PAM), MG3, B28, Vol. 4, Duncan Urquhart Campbell Diary, 14 to 18 June 1871.
3. Allen Ronaghan, “Confrontation at Rivière aux Ilets de Bois,” Prairie Forum, Spring 1989, Vol. 14, No. 1, p. 1. The confrontations are mentioned in Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984, p. 203; George F. G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada: A History of the Riel Rebellions, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963, pp. 165-166; W. L. Morton, Manitoba: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967, pp. 153-154; and J. E. Rea, “The Roots of Prairie Society,” in David P. Gagan, ed., Prairie Perspectives. Toronto: Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston, 1970, p. 48.
4. Brad Milne, “The Historiography of Métis Land Dispersal, 1870–1890,” Manitoba History, No. 30, Autumn 1995, p. 30.
5. Thomas Flanagan, Metis Lands in Manitoba. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1991, pp. 225-226, 269.
6. Alexander Henry, New light on the early history of the greater Northwest: the manuscript journals of Alexander Henry, fur trader of the Northwest Company and of David Thompson, official geographer of the same company 1799–1814: exploration and adventure among the Indians on the Red, Saskatchewan, Missouri and Columbia Rivers, ed. Elliott Coues. New York: F.P. Harper, 1897, pp. 66, 211, 213.
7. R. Louis Gentilcore, ed. Historical Atlas of Canada. Vol. II, The Land Transformed, 1800–1891, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993, Plate 18, “Seasonal Activities of the Red River Métis, 1870.
8. Société Historique de Saint-Boniface (SHSB), Parish Register, Saint François Xavier, Vol. 1834–1844; Carman Centennial Book Committee, Up to Now: A Story of Dufferin and Carman. Altona, Manitoba: Carman Centennial Book Committee, 1967, p. 6; St. Daniel Book Committee, St. Daniel (np: np, 1992), p. 1; Antoine Gaborieau, Ilets-de-Bois (St. Daniel) (Np: np, June 2002).
9. June Watson, The Rural Municipality of Dufferin, 1880–1980. Carman, Manitoba: The Rural Municipality of Dufferin, 1982, pp. 477-484; John F. Grant, A Son of The Fur Trade: The Memoirs of John Francis Grant, ed. Gerhard J. Ens. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2008, p. 181; LAC, RG15, Vol. 143, File 493, Affidavit, John F. Grant, 3 May 1881; LAC, RG31, C-1, Manitoba Census, 1870, p. 300, Reel C-2170.
10. SHSB, L’abbé J.-M. Gagné, “Conférences Données à la Radio D.K.S.B., mars 1947 - La Paroisse de Saint-Daniel de Haywood, Manitoba”; p. 2.
11. Canada. House of Commons. Journals of the House of Commons, 1874, App. 6, “Report of the Select Committee on the Causes of the Difficulties in the North-West Territory in 1869–70,” p. 140.
12. Le Métis, 10 February 1872, p. 3, “Réserve des Metis”.
13. Watson, The Rural Municipality of Dufferin, 1880–1980, p. 32.
14. PAM, Township 6, Ranges 4 and 5, Surveyor’s Notebook, No. 157 and No. 95. The “Manual of Instructions for the Survey of Dominion Lands, 1871” stated that the Field Notes were to give “The distances at which the line intersects, and also where it leaves settlers’ claims or improvements, lakes and ponds, rivers…”. (p. 25).
15. PAM, Surveyor’s Notebook No. 84.
16. Globe (Toronto), 20 July 1870, p. 2, “Red River Country”; Globe, 10 March 1871, p. 2, “The Future of Canada and the Present Elections”; Globe, 7 August 1871, p. 2, “Lands in Manitoba”.
17. LAC, RG15, Vol. 228, File 787, Archibald to the Secretary of State for the Provinces, 20 December 1870; Ibid., File 796, Archibald to the Secretary of State for the Provinces, 27 December 1870.
18. LAC, MG27-IC10, Reel M5537, number 164a, M. St. John to Archibald, 3 January 1871.
19. Le Nouveau Monde (Montréal), 1 March 1871, p. 1, “Nouvelles de la Rivière-Rouge”.
20. LAC, RG6, A-1, Vol. 10, File 742, Archibald to Secretary of State, 5 April 1871; Ibid., Aikin to Archibald, 31 May 1871.
21. The Canada Gazette, 29 April 1871, pp. 1009-1013.
22. LAC, RG2, Series, 1, Vol. 47, Order in Council No. 1036, 26 May 1871, C-3297. The order-in-council of 26 May was referred to in Le Métis, 22 June 1871, p.2 “Les émigrés” and The Manitoban, 24 June 1871, p. 2, “Crown Lands”.
23. Le Métis, 8 June 1871, p. 3.
24. Le Métis, 8 June 1871; Le Nouveau Monde, 24 July 1871, p. 3, “Nouvelles de Manitoba”. My calculation of the total area, based on the descriptions published in Le Métis, agrees with the estimate published in Le Nouveau Monde. The Metis of St. Charles, with about 4% of the Metis population in Manitoba, claimed about 71,000 acres, 5% of the 1,400,000-acre allotment.
25. The Dufferin Leader (Carman), 28 April 1898, “The Town of Carman”.
26. Watson, The Rural Municipality of Dufferin, pp. 2, 532-533. Kennedy was not a member of the militia force.
27. Le Métis, 6 July 1871, p.2; Globe, 14 July 1871, p. 2, “Manitoba Affairs”.
28. Fred J. Shore, The Canadians and the Métis: The Re-Creation of Manitoba, 1858–1872. PhD Thesis, University of Manitoba, 1991, p. 256; Watson, The Rural Municipality of Dufferin, pp. 367, 532, 762.
29. Manitoba Liberal, 19 July to 30 August 1871, Notices; Shore, The Canadians and the Métis, p. 256.
30. George Miller, Walter F. Hyman, and Duncan U. Campbell had been among those besieged in Schultz’s house in 1869 and subsequently imprisoned by the provisional government. Campbell, the diarist quoted at the beginning of this paper was an employee of Schultz. Alexander Begg, The Creation of Manitoba or a History of the Red River Troubles, pp. 164-165. PAM, MG3, B28, Vol. 4, Duncan U. Campbell Diary, 8 to 20 June 1871.
31. R. Cook and J. Hamelin, eds., Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume XIII, 1901 to 1910 . Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994, “Mulvey, Stewart”, pp. 746-747.
32. PAM, GR126, Twp. Plan T6, R5, p. 69; Ibid., Twp. Plan T6, R4, p. 53; Ibid., Twp. Plan T5, R4, p. 54. Surveyors identified 13 claims including that of John F. Grant. Information on patents received is from the website at the National Archives of Canada, Western Land Grants (1870–1930), http://www.archives.ca/02/020111_e.html.
33. Manitoba Liberal, 19 January 1872, “Hints to Immigrants”; SHSB, Fonds Archiépiscopale Catholique Romaine de Saint-Boniface, Série Alexandre Taché, (Taché Papers), pp. T-8973-75, Allard to Taché, 17 June 1871; Neil E. Allen Ronaghan, The Archibald Administration in Manitoba, 1870–1872. PhD Thesis, University of Manitoba, 1987, pp. 620-621.
34. London Advertiser, 14 July 1871, “On to Fort Garry;” Ibid., 4 August 1871, “Manitoba. Our Correspondent has a chat with Governor Archibald”; Globe, 15 July 1871, p. 4, “Manitoba Matters”.
35. The Manitoban, 17 June 1871, p. 2; Le Métis, 15 June 1871, p. 2.
36. SHSB, Taché papers, pp. T8888-8901, Archibald to Royal et al., 30 May 1871.
37. Ibid., pp. T8908-8910. Archibald to Bishop of St. Boniface, 2 June 1871.
38. Ibid., pp. T8919-8931, Archibald to Bishop of Saint Boniface, 5 June 1871; Ibid., pp. T9029-9031, Archibald to Bishop of Saint Boniface, 5 June 1871.
39. The Manitoban, 17 June 1871, p. 2; Le Métis, 15 June 1871, p. 2.
40. The Manitoban, 17 June 1871, p. 2, “Crown Lands”; LAC, MG26A, Vol. 187, pp. 77972-77976, Archibald to Macdonald, 7 October 1871, C-1587.
41. Le Métis, 8 June 1871, p. 3. The claims were published before Archibald’s response of 9 June was published; they may have been based on his letter of 30 May. Ronaghan, The Archibald Administration in Manitoba, 1870–1872, p. 628, citing Charles Napier Bell’s diary entry for 20 June.
42. Globe, 14 July 1871, p. 2, “Manitoba Affairs”; Le Métis, 6 July 1871, p. 2. There is a first-hand account by Peter Campbell of one of these “warnings” in Watson, The Rural Municipality of Dufferin, 1880-1980, p. 2.
43. Le Métis, 29 June 1871, p. 2, “Correspondence”, dated St. Boniface, 21 June 1871.
44. Sarnia Observer, 28 July 1871, p. 1, “A Returned Emigrant”.
45. Montreal Daily Witness, 3 July 1871, p. 4. “Manitoba….Land Grab”
46. Globe, 14 July 1871, p. 2, “Manitoba Affairs”; London Advertiser, 4 August 1871, p. 1, “Manitoba: Our Correspondent has a chat with Governor Archibald”; PAM, MG3, B28, Vol. 4, Duncan Urquhart Campbell Diary, 23 June 1871.
47. LAC, RG15, D-II-1, Vol.230, File 167(1873), Archibald to the Secretary of State for Canada, 17 June 1871.
48. LAC, MG26A, Vol.187, pp. 77972-77976, Archibald to Macdonald, 7 October 1871, C-1587.
49. The receipt of the despatch was acknowledged without comment on 7 August. LAC, MG27, IC-10, No.427, Under Secretary of State to Archibald, 7 August 1871. Aikin’s comment is referred to in LAC, MG26A, Vol. 187, pp. 77972-77976, Archibald to Macdonald, 7 October 1871, C-1587.
50. LAC, MG24, B29, Vol. 9, Howe to Archibald, 4 November 1871, pp. 729-745.
51. LAC, MG24, B29, Vol.9, Howe to Archibald, 26 December 1871, pp. 746-766.
52. Ibid., pp.746-766.
53. See for example The Globe, 10 March 1871, p. 2, “The Future of Canada and the Present Elections”; Globe, 27 July 1871, p. 2, “The Manitoba Land Commissioner”; Globe, 2 August 1871, p. 2, “Manitoba”; Globe, 7 August 1871, p. 2, “Lands in Manitoba”.
54. Watson, The Rural Municipality of Dufferin, pp. 2, 32; George Young, Manitoba Memories, Leaves from my life in the Prairie Province, 1868–1884, Toronto: W. Briggs, 1897, p. 225.
55. Canada. Journals of the House of Commons, 1874. No. 8, App.6, p.140.
56. LAC, RG15, D-II-1, Vol.230, File 167(1873), Archibald to the Secretary of State for Canada, 17 June 1871.
57. Grant, A Son of The Fur Trade, p. 264; LAC, MG26-A, Vol. 61, pp. 24960‑24967, Archibald to Macdonald, 9 Oct. 1871; Ibid., pp. 25021-25038, Archibald to Macdonald, 13 October 1871; Canada. Journals of the House of Commons, 1874, p.140.
58. LAC, MG26-A, Vol. 61, pp. 24934-24941, McMicken to Macdonald, 5 Oct. 1871; Ibid., pp. 24982-24985.
59. N. J. M. St. Onge, “The Dissolution of a Metis Community: Pointe à Grouette, 1860–1885,” Studies in Political Economy, No. 18, Autumn 1985, pp. 149-150,162; Audrey Pyée, La terre promise: migration de France vers Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes et Saint-Claude, Manitoba, 1890–1914. Toronto: PhD. Thesis, York University, 2005, pp. 310-314.
60. Gerhard J. Ens, “Prologue to the Red River Resistance: Pre-liminal Politics and the Triumph of Riel,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, 1994, pp. 111-124; Darren O’Toole, “Métis Claims to Indian Title in Manitoba, 1860–1870”, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Vol. 28, No. 2, 2008, pp. 241-271; Manitoba Act, 1870, 33 Vic., Cap. 3, Section 31.
61. O’Toole, “Metis Claims to ‘Indian’ Title…”, pp. 246-247.
62. Le Métis, 15 June 1871, p. 2, “La Réserve de Metis”.
63. Grant, A Son of the Fur Trade…, pp. 211-212.
64. LAC, RG15, D-11-1, Vol. 230, File 167, Archibald to Secretary of State, 17 June 1871.
65. Shannon Stunden Bower, “The Great Transformation? Wetlands and Land Use in Manitoba During the Late Nineteenth Century, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, Vol. 15, No.1, 2004, pp. 33-34. In the settlement of Metis claims under Section 32 of the Manitoba Act, hay lots were linked to adjoining river lots.
66. Douglas Owram, Promise of Eden: the Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West, 1856–1900. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.
67. Manitoban and Northwest Herald, 26 August 1871; LAC, MG27, IC10, M5539, Desp. Bk. No. 4, Archibald to Secretary of State, 12 August 1872; Ibid., No.740, Aikin to Archibald, 6 September 1872.
68. LAC, RG15, Vol. 228, File 940, McMicken to Aikins, 6 July 1872.
Page revised: 24 February 2019