Battle of Seven Oaks

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Battle of Seven Oaks
Part of The Pemmican War
The Fight at Seven Oaks.jpg
The Fight at Seven Oaks, 19 June 1816
Date 19 June 1816
Seven Oaks (present day Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Result Decisive Métis/North West Company victory
Métis of the North West Company Hudson's Bay Company
Commanders and leaders
Cuthbert Grant Robert Semple 
65[1] 28[1]
Casualties and losses


Official name Battle of Seven Oaks National Historic Site of Canada
Designated 1920

The Battle of Seven Oaks[2] was a violent confrontation in what was known as the Pemmican War between the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) and the North West Company (NWC), rivals in the fur trade, that took place on 19 June 1816. It was the climax of a long dispute in western Canada.[3] The Métis people, who fought for the North West Company, called it "the Victory of Frog Plain" (la Victoire de la Grenouillère).[4]


In 1814, Miles MacDonell, Governor of the Red River Colony (the area around present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba), issued the Pemmican Proclamation,[5] which prohibited the export of pemmican from the colony for the next year. It was meant to guarantee adequate supplies for the Hudson's Bay Colony, but it was viewed by the North West Company as a ploy by employees of the Earl of Selkirk (majority shareholder of the Hudson's Bay Company) to monopolize the foodstuff, which was important to the North West Company.[6][7]

The local Métis did not acknowledge the authority of the Red River Settlement, and this stand was probably consistent with the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Pemmican Proclamation was a blow to both the Métis and North West Company. The North West Company accused the HBC of unfairly monopolizing the fur trade by this edict. As the North West Company floundered under these and other restrictions, the HBC attempted to take it over, but was not successful.[citation needed]

Later in 1815, after several conflicts and suffering from "severe emotional instability",[8] MacDonnell resigned as governor of the Red River Colony. He was replaced by Robert Semple, an American businessman with no previous experience in the fur trade.[9]


In 1816, Cuthbert Grant led a band of North West Company employees to seize a supply of pemmican from the Hudson's Bay Company.

In 1816 a band of mostly Métis which included some French-Canadians, English, and Indigenous employees working for the North West Company, led by Cuthbert Grant, seized a supply of pemmican from the Hudson's Bay Company, which previously had been stolen from the Métis.[10] They were travelling to meet traders of the North West Company, to whom they intended to sell it.

They encountered Semple and a group of HBC men and settlers north of Fort Douglas along the Red River at a location known to the English as Seven Oaks, and called la Grenouillière (Frog Plain) by the Métis. The North West Company sent a French-Canadian, François-Firmin Boucher, to speak to Semple's men. He and Semple argued, and a gunfight ensued when the English tried to arrest Boucher and seize his horse.[11][12] Although early reports said that the Métis fired the first shot and began the fray, the Royal Commissioner W.B. Coltman determined with "next to certainty" that it was one of Semple's men who fired first.[13][4] The Métis were skilled sharpshooters and outnumbered Semple's forces by nearly 3 to 1. They repulsed the attack, killing 21 men, including Governor Semple, while suffering only one fatality, Joseph Letendre dit Battosh the 16 year-old son of Jean Baptiste Letendre.[1] Pierre Falcon, a Métis poet, later celebrated the victory of the Métis in his song "La Chanson de la Grenouillère".[1][14]


An obelisk monument to commemorate the battle was erected in 1891 at West Kildonan, a suburban neighbourhood of Winnipeg.

On the day after the battle, the settlers, demoralized from the losses, quickly gathered their belongings and prepared to leave the colony. On the next day, they set sail northward, leaving the Métis in command of the settlement.[15]

The Métis were exonerated by W.B. Coltman, a Royal Commissioner appointed to investigate the incident, but Lord Selkirk attempted to prosecute several members of the North West Company for murder and kept Boucher in prison for nearly two years without specific charges. All trials ended in acquittals, and the remaining charges were dropped. Members of the North West Company counter-sued Selkirk, whose health and influence subsequently declined. Following Selkirk's death in 1820, the two companies merged in 1821. In 1828, Cuthbert Grant was given an annual salary and the position of "warden of the plains of Red River" by the Hudson's Bay Company.[16][17]

In 1891, the Manitoba Historical Society erected an obelisk monument commemorating the battle at the intersection of Main Street and Rupertsland Boulevard in the Winnipeg district of West Kildonan, the approximate centre of the battle site. The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1920.[18][19] The surrounding neighbourhood was named "Seven Oaks" after the battle.[citation needed] As part of Parks Canada reconciliation with the Métis, new interpretive plaques were installed and the Seven Oaks Park was re-landscaped. The site was officially reopened on 19 June 2016, to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle. [20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hargrave, Joseph James (1871). Red River. author-published. p. 487.
  2. ^ Also known as the Seven Oaks Massacre and the Seven Oaks Incident.
  3. ^ Rea, J.E. (4 March 2015). "Seven Oaks Incident". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 16 June 2012.
  4. ^ a b Barkwell, Lawrence. "Battle of Seven Oaks". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 24 July 2018, Historica Canada. Accessed 08 October 2018.
  5. ^ Foster, John E. (24 July 2015). "Pemmican Proclamation". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 30 April 2012.
  6. ^ Bumsted, J.M. (2008). Lord Selkirk: a life. University of Manitoba Press. p. 236. ISBN 9780887553370.
  7. ^ Mays, Herbert (1987). "MacDonell, Miles". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval.
  8. ^ Bumsted, J.M. (17 November 2014). "Miles MacDonnell". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012.
  9. ^ Rea, J.E. (17 November 2014). "Robert Semple". The Canadian Encyclopedia (online ed.). Historica Canada. Archived from the original on 20 September 2012.
  10. ^ Report of the proceedings connected with the disputes between the Earl of Selkirk and the North West Company: at the assizes, held at York, in Upper Canada, October 1818. Montreal, Quebec: James Lane and Nahum Mower. 1819.
  11. ^ Narratives of John Pritchard, Pierre Chrysologue Pambrun, and Frederick Damien Heurter, respecting the aggressions of the North West Company, against the Earl of Selkirk's settlement upon Red River. London, England: John Murray. 1819.
  12. ^ Boucher, François-Firmin (c. 1819). François-Firmin Boucher à ses Concitoyens [François-Firmin Boucher to his Countrymen]. author-published.
  13. ^ Goulet, George; Goulet, Terry (2006). The Metis: Memorable Events and Memorable Personalities. ISBN 978-1-894638-98-2.
  14. ^ "La chanson des Bois-Brûlés". S.H.S.B. Saint-Boniface, Manitoba: Centre du patrimoine. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
  15. ^ Friesen, Gerald (1987). "Maintaining the Old Order 1805-1844". The Canadian Prairies a History (Student ed.). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. p. 80.
  16. ^ Grant, Cuthbert National Historic Person. Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  17. ^ Woodcock, George (1985). "Grant, Cuthbert". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. VIII (1851–1860) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  18. ^ Battle of Seven Oaks. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  19. ^ Battle of Seven Oaks National Historic Site of Canada. Directory of Federal Heritage Designations. Parks Canada. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  20. ^

Further reading

  • Barkwell, Lawrence J. (2010). The Battle of Seven Oaks: a Métis perspective. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Louis Riel Institute. ISBN 978-0-9809912-9-1.
  • "Battle of Seven Oaks". News Letter Excerpts. Metis Culture & Heritage Resource Centre, Inc. Archived from the original on 11 June 2008.

Coordinates: 49°55′55″N 97°07′16″W / 49.93194°N 97.12111°W / 49.93194; -97.12111

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