Gateway to the West

Settling Canada’s West:

Assiniboine River

The Assiniboine River

Two rivers, the Assiniboine and the Red River meet at the spot presently known as Winnipeg in Manitoba.  In the early 1800’s, British aristocrat Thomas Selkirk tried to create a new colony in Canada’s harsh mid-west. He bought land from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1811 to begin settlement.


There were many factors that caused its’ demise. Harsh winters and settlers, ill-equipped to handle the cold caused starvation to become a reality. The Hudson’s Bay Company was still fighting with the Northwest Fur Trading Company for dominance. The Métis and various native tribes also felt this colony would lead to losing their hunting and fishing grounds.

There was much fighting including the Seven Oaks Massacre of 1816 when a group of Métis killed 21 men when both parties intercepted each other accidentally. It was the first time Canadians heard of Louis Riel. At that time he was a young man. This was a massacre that was the result of rivalry between the British-owned Hudson’s Bay Company and Canada’s North West Company. The settlers abandoned the site and the land was sold back to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In 1869 the Federal Government of Canada bought the lands. They started settling Canada’s vast western land.  Once the Canadian Pacific Railroad was built it opened the doors to mass migration to Canada’s west.  Winnipeg was born. In 1870 Manitoba became a province.


Winnipeg 1893

Winnipeg in 1893

Finding Friday – Louis Riel

A little history of the Canadian West

Louis Riel

Louis Riel is considered the head of the Riel Rebellion – western Canada’s civil war.  My research shows Gabriel Dumont was the actual leader – with Gabriel getting Louis Riel to come help him send letters and requests to the government. Gabriel could neither read nor write.  Louis Riel was a very educated man, but no longer a gunfighter.  From the accounts I can see Riel was completely immersed into religion and considered himself a prophet of the Lord.  It is said he wouldn’t even touch a gun.

And Gabriel Dumont had no intentions of fighting either.  He just wanted the government to fulfill some of its’ promises.  Of course the government made no attempt to even reply, let alone carry through on any promises.  So, it’s probably true the whole Rebellion could have been prevented, had the government had the decency to even answer the letters.

But Louis Riel was hung in Regina as the ‘ringleader’ of the Riel Rebellion.  Possibly because Gabriel Dumont had escaped the noose and couldn’t be found to punish?

Hawk's Gift by Mary M. Forbes

Roberta is a heroine I love and Damien, well, he’s dangerous but oh, so addicting.…. I envy your ability to write unforgettable characters ….Rachelle Ayala – author of  Michal’s Window, Historical Romance.

Finding Friday – Gabriel Dumont

A little history of Canada – the main characters in the Riel Rebellion of 1885

Many people think Louis Riel as the head figure of the Riel Rebellion.   By the time troubles started in the west Louis Riel had changed drastically.  He was a peace-loving, religious man who wouldn’t even carry a gun anymore.

Gabriel Dumont, Mayor and Saloon owner in the Metis village of Batoche, was the true head of the Riel Rebellion. In 1873 Dumont was elected President of the short-lived Republic of St. Laurent. After frustrating years of fighting the eastern government and getting nowhere he was determined they were better off without eastern intervention.

Gabriel went to MontaGabriel Dumontna and brought his good friend (Louis Riel) back to Canada to write the eloquent,  letters to McDonald.  He was adjutant general in the provisional Métis government declared in the District of Saskatchewan in 1885.  He commanded the Métis forces in the North-West Rebellion.  Gabriel could not read or write.  But his skill with a gun or rifle was known throughout the west.

Oddly, Gabriel Dumont is the only leading figure of the rebellion who managed to escape and fled to the USA.  He was hired by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show – as a sharp-shooter of course.

Hawk’s Gift

A story that takes place around the time of the Riel Rebellion.  But ultimately Hawk’s Gift is a romance first.

Hawks's Gift by Mary M. Forbes

Setting of Hawk’s Gift

On an isolated farm in middle Saskatchewan, I grew up surrounded by four reservations,  prairie sloughs and near the North Saskatchewan river. I visited my cousins in the Eagle Hills, which I found beautiful with cliffs, forests and high hills. I wondered why Battleford was called Battleford and what battle had occurred there. I learned that one reservation, led by Chief Poundmaker during the Riel Rebellion of 1885 attacked and took over a fort situated there.

My favorite occupation growing up was riding my horse, herding cows and imagining I was living in the wild west.  I was more than willing to absorb the research and reading involved as I loved reading and I had a passion for accuracy.  I was fascinated.  A civil war – nearby.  This was little known civil war, overwhelmed by the American Civil war. It stimulated my interest because I never wanted to be the same.  I love reading about the American Civil war – both fiction and documentary.  But I didn’t want to write another story that has been written so many times and everyone in North America knows about. I wanted something new and different.

The settlers of the Northwest Territories (now Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan  – predominately Metis (people of French and Native blood) were unhappy with the eastern Government of Canada. The natives were all confined to reservations, often abused by Agents and very rarely investigated.  Most settlers were established along the rolling hills and valleys of the North Saskatchewan River.  When Prime Minister McDonald decided to build the Canadian railroad in the hostile south lands where no one lived it was the final straw.  The Natives didn’t want a railroad because the spewing smoke stacks of the locomotives caused endless prairie fires and they were tired of starving.  Some left their reservations to fight.  The settlers in the north were furious as they had no way to get their produce to the railroad without travelling endless miles of nothing but hostile lands.  Gabriel Dumont of Batoche called on his good friend Louis Riel to help.  The settlers of Batoche declared themselves separated from Canada and their own nation. Riel wrote McDonald continually requesting schools, hospitals and especially that the train would come further north.  It was to no avail.  McDonald and the east ignored the west.  Sometimes that still happens in modern times.

The settlers and natives were charged with treason and McDonald organized an army to suppress them.  The Riel Rebellion of 1885 began.