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About this book
- Finalist for the Wildrid Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction at the 2017 Alberta Literary Awards!
The long rivalry between the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company for control of the fur trade in Canada's northwest came to an explosive climax on June 19th, 1816, at the so-called Battle of Seven Oaks. Armed buffalo hunters—Indigenous allies of the Nor-Westers—confronted armed colonists of the HBC's Selkirk settlement near the forks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers in today's Winnipeg. This "battle" would prove to be a formative event for Métis self-determination as well as laying down a legacy for settlers to come.
The Seven Oaks Reader offers a comprehensive retelling of one of Canada’s most interesting historical periods, the Fur Trade Wars. As in the companion volume, The Frog Lake Reader, Kostash incorporates period accounts and journals, histories, memoirs, songs and fictional retellings, from a wide range of sources, offering readers an engaging and exciting way back into still-controversial historical events.
- interview with Michael Hingston (Edmonton Journal).
- Myrna Kostash at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (Scottish Review of Books).
- NeWest Press Audio interview with General Manager Matt Bowes
Excerpt from "One: In the Beginning"
MK:In Spring of 1816, rumours swirl through Assiniboia—in today’s southern Manitoba—that the Nor’Westers, men of the North West Company of fur traders, Métis hunters, Canadian engagés [contract employees], and clerks, are preparing for war against their commercial rivals, the Hudson’s Bay Company. They face each other from their respective posts, Fort Gibraltar and Fort Douglas, near the juncture of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers known as the Forks. There are settlers a kilometre north in a loop of the Red, named Point Douglas.1.
June 19, 1816: a group of Métis and Nor’Westers disembark from a canoe at the mouth of Catfish Creek, where it empties, swift and muddy, into the Assiniboine. They have with them large bundles of pemmican that they transfer to oxcarts for transport overland north-east across the plain. At this point, the horsemen are still well away from the Selkirk settlers on the Red, and from Fort Douglas, downstream on the Red. In fact, they are deliberately avoiding fort and settlers. Or so they will claim.
But that evening of June 19, a watchman in Fort Douglas spots a group of the horsemen, some thirty-five of them, armed and riding in the direction of La Grenouillière or Frog Plain. They seem to be riding toward the settlement itself. The alarm is raised, Governor Robert Semple calls for volunteers, hands them muskets and ammunition, and marches out with them, some twenty-five-strong, to intercept and confront the horsemen. They meet at a bend in the river, in a grove of trees known as Seven Oaks.
What happened next has been called a battle, a skirmish, a massacre. It was over in fifteen minutes but it was long in the making, starting as early as the charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
1. Point Douglas AKA 1813, Colony Gardens; 1817, 1826, Red River; 1858, Fort Garry—or Garry for short; 1873, Winnipeg.
"Myrna Kostash provides a robust history of the Battle of Seven Oaks from a diverse range of perspectives, relying on primary and secondary sources, as well as original interviews with contemporary scholars. The Seven Oaks Reader includes all of the most relevant details about the events, accounts, and controversies that stem from Seven Oaks, and is accessible to scholars, students, and the public in general."
"In 1816 the Metis poet Pierre Falcon memorialized the Battle of Seven Oaks in a provocative Michif ballad. Two hundred years later Myrna Kostash offers us this beautifully detailed reader of facts and varied, often contradictory, opinions about the tragic event."