Strategies of divide and conquer…

Red River Settlement, 1870

Red River Settlement, 1870

It seems fair to think that the decision makers who orchestrated the Red River Expedition had more than balancing the needs of French and English speaking constituents by presenting a unified military force to parliament in 1870. I’m learning how the government encouraged especially English Canadians to join the expeditionary force as a strategy to settle the Red River valley. The Dominion even offered great financial prices on surveyed land to the members who volunteered. The execution of Thomas Scott provided the perfect spark to mobilize English sentiments against the Metis people of the frontier area. Had anyone anticipated that the soldiers who endured the gruelling portage from Thunder Bay to Ft. Garry would express their vengeance by persecuting the Metis in public mobs? After all, the government’s intention was to prevent any sign of resistance or rebellion and pacify the land and the wild, lazy, and unmodern Indians that roamed about as they pleased…

Enter William and Charles Alloway, brothers who served with Wolseley and later were drafted into the Manitoba Constabulary Force. Many others of the expedition also served on the local police force. How impartial could their dedication to law and order be? William was quiet and scholarly and Charles was adventurous and sporting. They last lived in Montreal before serving with W. William landed at Ft. Garry at 18 years old.

Through their eyes we’ll learn not only about settlers’ perception of the Metis and other native peoples, but about beginning life in the so-called wild western plains involved the civilizing process: establishing institutions, creating ever-expanding industrialized economies, and furthering the gospel, all aimed at creating the modern self-image of public Canadian life as opposite to everything that typifies native culture.

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