June 19th marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Seven Oaks and is a crucial moment in the formation of the Metis nation. The Battle was a defining moment in the Pemmican War and was the climax of a long dispute between Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and the North West Company (NWC) which began in 1812 with the settling of the Selkirk Colony and the Pemmican Proclamation of 1814.
The NWC felt the Pemmican Proclamation, which banned the export of Pemmican, unjustly targeted their far away traders as well as the Metis. On June 19th 1816, after the Metis and NWC reclaimed a supply of their pemmican that had been seized, they encountered HBC men and settlers led by Governor Semple in the area we now call West Kildonan. A gun fight ensued after the settlers and HBC men fired on the Metis. Twenty-one men including Governor Semple were killed; the Metis and NWC suffered only one casualty.
Although brief, the Battle helped set the stage for future cooperation between the settlers and the Metis. In 1817, Lord Selkirk and Chief Peguis signed the Selkirk Treaty and following Lord Selkirk’s death the HBC and NWC merged in 1821.
The Battle of Seven Oaks represents a defining moment in the history of our nation. Many argue that the Battle and the treaty that followed gave rise to the creation of the Metis Nation. It is with an eye to our history that we can move forward along a path to reconciliation and lead our country into the future. It gives me great pride to live in and represent an area with such rich history.