Yesterday (June 19th) marked the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Seven Oaks, the boiling point of years of conflict (not always violent) between the Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company in the Red River settlement region.
Like any historic event, isolating the details of June 19th, 1816 is a disservice to both parties involved, so I strongly encourage readers to take a look at the resources listed at the end of this post to get the context, and garner multiple perspectives on what happened.
Many scholars have debated what to call this event: battle; massacre; incident; skirmish. Joe Martin’s article on the Manitoba Historical Society’s website weighs in on this semantic discussion here. I noticed that popular media, like recent CBC articles, seem to use ‘battle’ so that’s what I’ve stuck with here.
I searched through the HBC Museum Collection to find an artifact connected to this event. The only thing related to it is this calendar print, produced by the HBC as a marketing tool to promote their retail activities and highlight the Company’s history. You can read up on the history of the HBC calendars on the HBC Heritage Services website.
This painting, like all calendar paintings, was commissioned by the HBC. What’s depicted here is likely not how things played out at the time, but is a representation of how people (specifically the HBC) felt about the event nearly 100 years later. It’s interesting to compare this image to how we think about it today, 200 years later.
Canadian Encyclopedia: The Battle of Seven Oaks
Canada’s History: Selkirk Settlers, Cuthbert Grant & the Battle of Seven Oaks
Coutts, Robert and Stuart, Richard (eds.) The Forks and the Battle of Seven Oaks in Manitoba History, Manitoba Historical Society (1994).
Dick, Lyle (1991) “The Seven Oaks Incident and the Construction of a Historical Tradition, 1816 to 1970”, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 2(1):91-113. PDF available here.
Barkwell, Lawrence J. (2010) The Battle of Seven Oaks : a Métis perspective. Winnipeg : Louis Riel Institute.
Bumsted, J.M. (2008) Lord Selkirk: a life. University of Manitoba Press.
Bumstead, J.M. (2003) Fur Trade Wars: The Founding of Western Canada. Great Plains Publications.