The Battle of Seven Oaks took place more than 200 years ago, when a party of Métis employees of the North West Company, led by Cuthbert Grant, was confronted by a group of Selkirk Settlers and Hudson’s Bay Company employees, led by Robert Semple.
Semple, Governor of the Red River Colony, was trying to enforce a proclamation forbidding the removal of pemmican from the district.
In the bloody confrontation, 22 men from the Hudson’s Bay side and one from the North West side were killed.
The tragic events that day have been called many things: a battle, a massacre, an incident. Regardless of which term is used, both the site and the monument are places of reflection for Canadians, helping us understand the sometimes difficult and painful process of building a nation.
The battle is remembered as a key step in the development of Métis national identity but there is still debate about many aspects.
“The Battle of Seven Oaks is known as such by others, but not by us. We didn’t write that history,” Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand says. “This is the Victory of the Frog Plain according to the history of our people, and it will be known as that by our people, forever.”
Today the corner of Rupertsland Boulevard and Main Street, the centre of the incident at Seven Oaks, is recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada. The Manitoba Historical Society erected the first monument there in 1891 and it still stands today. Additional signage was recently added to show the Métis perspective.
On June 19, 2016 – the 200th anniversary of the events at Seven Oaks – a celebration highlighted how people living around the area at the time, led by legendary Chief Peguis, quickly moved beyond the ordeal and succeeded in establishing a peaceful, inclusive community – an example of reconciliation that is relevant today.
The anniversary celebration was organized by the Manitoba Historical Society, the Seven Oaks Historical Society and the Manitoba Métis Federation, and included a re-dedication of the monument and an entire day of activities and entertainment. A prayer service for healing and reconciliation was also held at nearby St. John’s Cathedral with the Archbishop of St. Boniface and the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Rupert’s Land officiating.
Manitoba Métis Federation’s David Chartrand emphasized the importance of a thorough understanding of the full story of the incident at Seven Oaks.
“The Métis have always defended our homeland and our families. Our ancestors stood strong together for the preservation of our people and our identity.” Mr. Chartrand says.
This story is featured in Spring/Summer edition of The Winnipeg Foundation’s Working Together magazine.