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The Red River Colony (or Selkirk Settlement) was a colonization project set up by Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk in 1811 on of land granted to him by the Hudson's Bay Company under what is referred to as the Selkirk Concession. The colony along the Red River of the Northmarker was never very successful, but changes during the development of Canadamarker in the 1800s led to the colony forming the basis of what is today Manitobamarker.


Selkirk had become interested in the concept of settling the area after reading Alexander Mackenzie's 1801 book on his adventures in exploring what is today the west of Canadamarker. At the time, social upheaval in Scotlandmarker due to the introduction of sheep farming and the ensuing Highland and Lowland Clearances had left a number of Scots destitute. Selkirk was interested in giving them a chance at a better life in a new colony he called Assiniboia.

He then purchased a controlling interest in the Hudson's Bay Company and set up the land grant. His idea (apparently) was to gain firm control of the area in order to take control of the West from the company's bitter rivals, the Montrealmarker-based North West Company. With a colony in place the Métis trappers supplying the North West's fur traders, the Nor'Westers, would be displaced, cutting them off from areas further west.

The land grant, known as the Selkirk Concession, included the portions of Rupert's Land or the watershed of Hudson Baymarker bounded to the north-east by the Rainy River, Lake of the Woodsmarker, Winnipeg River and Lake Winnipegmarker, to the north between Lake Winnipegmarker and Lake Winnipegosismarker by a line of 52°30′N latitude, to the north west by the 52°N parallel between Lake Winnipegosismarker and the Assiniboine River, and to the west by a line from the intersection of the Assiniboine River and the 52°N parallel running south to southern boundary of Rupert's Land. This covered portions of present day southern Manitobamarker, north-eastern North Dakotamarker, north-western Minnesotamarker, in addition to small parts of eastern Saskatchewanmarker, north-western Ontariomarker, and north-eastern South Dakotamarker .

He sent out a small group of Scots in 1811 to the area, but they were forced to pause for the winter in York Factorymarker. When they finally arrived in 1812 they built a fort, Fort Douglas, but by the time it was done the growing season was over and they hastily set about hunting buffalo for food.

When farming started the next spring, the results were less than expected and Selkirk had to ban anyone from taking food out of the colony. It is not clear if this was simply a way to ensure food for the colony, or a business move intended to cut off the Nor'Westers. Either way, the move touched off the Pemmican War. The Nor'Westers, who relied on pemmican supplied to them by local Métis, were so upset that they destroyed Fort Douglas and burned down all the buildings around it. The fort was later rebuilt and things settled down for a time.

Selkirk heard of the problems and sent out a new governor, Robert Semple, to take over. When he read a proclamation ordering the fighting to stop, the Battle of Seven Oaksmarker broke out, Fort Douglas was destroyed for a second time, and the settlers were forced off their land. Selkirk then sent in a force of about 100 soldiers from the British Regiment de Meuron to enforce the peace and eventually become settlers themselves, while also capturing the Northwest outpost at Fort William. There, Selkirk arrested numerous significant managers of the North West Company including NWCo. Chief Director, William McGillvary. However it also left Selkirk almost bankrupt, and was one of the reasons the two companies were forced to merge in 1821, thus ending the problems for good.

The Treaty of 1818 set the boundary between the United States and British North America along the 49th parallel of north latitude from Minnesota to the "Stony Mountains" (now known as the Rocky Mountains).{{fact]}

The colony was never particularly successful agriculturally, but the lure of free land added new settlers every year.

In 1841 James Sinclair guided 200 settlers from the Red River Colony west in an attempt to retain the Columbia District for Britain. The party crossed the Rockies into the Columbia Valley, near present day Radium Hot Springsmarker, British Columbiamarker; then traveled south. Despite such efforts Britain eventually ceded all claim to land south of the 49th parallel of latitude west of the Rockies to the United States as resolution to the Oregon boundary dispute.

Red River cart train

The Hudson's Bay Company eventually lost interest in paying for the settlement by the 1850s, and by the 1860s the Métis outnumbered the Scots. This led to a second period of unrest in 1869 and 1870 called the Red River Rebellion which led to the creation of Manitoba.

Governors of the Red River Colony

Term Governor
August 1812 - June 1815 Miles MacDonell
August 1815 - June 1822 Alexander MacDonell
June 1822 - June 1823 Andrew Bulger
June 1823 - June 1825 Robert Parker Pelly
June 1825 - June 1833 Donald McKenzie
June 1833 - June 1839 Alexander Christie
June 1839 - June 1844 Duncan Finlayson
June 1844 - June 1846 Alexander Christie
June 1846 - June 1847 John Folliott Crofton
June 1847 - June 1848 J. Griffiths
June 1848 - June 1855 William Bletterman Caldwell
June 1855 - September 1859 Francis Godschall Johnson
September 1859 - July 1870 William Mactavish


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