Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hat to GPK Virtual Trip

Hi Marston report

Well here we are in the twilight zone of Fort Carlton. Almost makes you want to whisper.

This is what it looked like in the Good old days.

Back in 1670, King Charles the twice of England granted the Hudson's Bay Company ( HBC) all fir trading rights a swath of land that included and extended from northern Quebec all the way over through the North West Territories down to Southern Alberta. Mighty generous of him considering it wasn't his to give. But in those days, you wouldn't be king if you stopped to consider the trivial things. Needless to say, the French who were already here and doing a great business with out old Charlie`s help thank you very much, didn't accept this any more than they accepted anything else he had to say. The competition between the two became so intense that HBC was forced to go Northwest overland to the source if they were going to survive. They set up more than 100 trading posts across the northern territories one of which was called Carlton House before it was named Fort Carlton. . This post was built further West but abandoned in 1804 then re established in 1810 about 150 miles to where it sits today That's where I am now.

If you were a fir hunter, and just about everyone by now was, you could get all your supplies for the hunting season plus anything else you wanted and then pay for them with fur pelts line the spring The rate of exchange was based on the value of one beaver pelt call an MB from the words " MADE BEAVER' That's like saying " In American currency" . For instance a good knife would be 2 MB while a rifle would cost 20 - 25 MB ( In beaver pelt currency)

Over time, the natives became more and more reliant on the Forts for equipment to hunt, there fore the ability to get firs, which equaled dependency for food clothing and shelter. With the signing of the later treaties, the beginning of a trend away from self sufficiency to dependency on the white man had quietly and stealthily begun to ensnare the hunters themselves.

All this is important to know if you want to have any fair understanding of the Riel problem.

These people up here, the French, English, HBC, Traders, Natives and their shared offspring called Metis, were co dependent and cosy with the loose but totally understood arrangement because it worked in everyone`s favour.

When the trains suddenly brought thousands of settlers then dumped them on the traditional hunting grounds where they began to clear the forests, and plant crops. You can only imagine how this upset everything. Farmers didn't give a hoot for the fir trade. All they wanted was the land so they could build huge one crop farms, a custom totally outside the experience of the locals.. The more they settled, the less could be hunted. The Metis were shoved off their property and ignored. Their livelihood vanished. They wrote, they appealed, they threatened but no one was listening. Ottawa was going to do Diddley-squat, because they wanted to fill the place up with warm bodies, remember? They had a different agenda. They were afraid the Americans would expand up into the empty country ( like the Canadians were trying to do first) and then there wouldn't be any country left to for them to govern.

So everyone was on a collision course with the old ways, the new ways and a government with an " Our way or the Highway" policy

It never needed to have happened but with the given conditions there could only have been but one out come.

When the firs stopped coming, the food and the supplies no longer on credit, the government unwilling to listen or provide food or help, the starving Metis looked around for help else where. That's when they remembered the man that had wrung concessions from the government down at the Red River 20 years earlier and was banished for his efforts, .. Gabriel Dumont, a cunning, popular, frontiersman was dispatched to the States to bring back Louis Riel to save them. If only it had been that simple..At the first sniff of serious troubles from the locals, the government suddenly awoke and moved swiftly. Not to help or solve the problem, but to put down or eliminate those who were threatening their agenda.

It was here at Fort Carlton where the first fireworks began

More on this in the next report.


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