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Heritage

A complicated incident

July 12, 2017 | Working Together - Spring/Summer 2017

Seven Oaks monument
Monument at the site of the Battle of Seven Oaks.

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.