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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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The BeginningsThe People and Their CommunitiesCulture and Lifeways
Battle of River Coteau - The Days Before

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The Battle of Grand Coteau occurred halfway between the Battle of Seven Oaks and the Riel Rebellion of 1885. In 1813 –1818, the Métis Nation was in its infancy. After their defeat at Batoche in 1885, the dream of a political Métis Nation was dead. The events of 1851 demonstrated the Métis Nation at its military finest.

The Métis people of Red River were largely descended from Ojibwa and Cree mothers. These First Nations had been in a state of warfare with the Sioux since the French fur trade. Pierre La Verendrye had lost a son, Jean Baptiste, in a battle between the Ojibwa and Sioux, in 1736, and the fur traders on the Assiniboine complained about their hunters and trappers deserting them to go to war against the "Sues."1 In the middle of the 19th century, the issues that fed the war between the Sioux and the Red River Métis were territory and buffalo. They were in direct competition for the same resources.

There had been previous battles between the Sioux and the Métis. From 1840 to 1844, the Sioux had been hurting the Métis. Finally in 1844, they had struck back and killed eight Sioux. The Sioux sent a letter demanding compensation. The Métis had Cuthbert Grant answer it. The Sioux sent back a reply that they were ready to make peace by taking the warriors who had killed their young men as replacement. This was the way the Sioux made peace— by fictive adoptions.

The events of 1851 began with the departure of the Red River people on the spring buffalo hunt.

In June of that year, the Saint Boniface, or "main river" party accompanied by Father Albert Lacombe going for the first time to the plains where he was to serve out his ministry, travelled south to a rendezvous with the Pembina party. From Pembina the combined parties set out west on June 16 to a rendezvous with the buffalo hunters of Saint Francois-Xavier. The parties numbered three hundred and eighteen hunters. With them were the able-bodied women, with children too small to be left in the settlement, for it was the women who cut up and dried the meat, made the buffalo hide sacks and prepared the pemmican.2The total number of persons was thirteen hundred with eleven hundred carts.3

On June 15, the White Horse Plain party had left Saint Francois-Xavier, accompanied by its missionary, Rev. Louis Francois Richer Lafleche, grand vicar of Bishop Provencher and himself later to be famous as Bishop of Three Rivers. The party was small, numbering only two hundred carts and sixty-seven hunters, with an unknown number of women.4 It was led, not by the chief of the White Horse Plain settlement, Cuthbert Grant, but by a nephew of his, Jean Baptiste Falcon, a son of the bard of the Métis.5

The two hunts rendezvoused on June 19 near Pembina. As well as the usual election of officers, they also agreed to the route the two camps would follow – parallel and about twenty-five miles apart. They further agreed to a plan for mutual support in the event of attack by the Sioux.

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Liens Rapides

The Battle

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