8. si learning Experience#8: Fur, Farms, and the Metis

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Learning Experience#8: Fur, Farms, and the Metis

Student Inquiry Choices (Essential Questions, Inquiry Idea(s), Parent Involvement)

Essential Question A

Why do you think your community exists where it does? Who can you ask that might know? Does the name of your community tell you anything about why it developed in the first place? Why isn’t it somewhere else? Look at a map of the NWT. By their names or by where communities are located, can you guess why some communities developed where they did?

Most communities exist – or at least started to exist – because there was something special about that place. Sometimes the reason a place began can change over time. Québec City might have grown because it had a great place to build a fort, but that’s not the reason it still exists today. Does Yellowknife continue to exist for the same special reason that it originally started? How about Hay River, Fort Good Hope or Norman Wells?
In Canada the fur trade was one of the big reasons that communities grew where they did. In Essential Question A you learn about the fur trade and how it worked and where people travelled to collect or to trade furs. How did the major ‘highways’ (rivers) of the fur trade shape the way Canada developed? You will also explore how the fur trade has shaped the Canada we know today, and make maps that show some of these connections.
Inquiry Ideas:

1. Pretend you have been given $100 000 to spend on making at least five old fur trade routes in Canada fun for drivers to drive to and tourists to learn about. The government is asking three things from you:

  • Find five historic trading posts sites that are close to the TransCanada Highway across the country (be sure to ask yourself, “I wonder why the TransCanada Highway was built here...?).

  • Next, decide what a tourist (who knew ahead of time) could bring to trade for something nice that grows or is found in that area (part of the fun is to “trade something” at this site).

  • Finally, take your thoughts and actually send them in an email (or posted letter) to either Heritage Canada, Parks Canada, or to transcanadahighway.com.

2. Decide that you are going to adopt three major rivers of the fur trade. Adoption will mean you need to know what the river’s name was and where the river started and ended. This is easy if you can get a big Canadian atlas from your library or go to http://canadiangeographic.ca . Follow the links from “English”, “Atlas” to “Explore by Themes” to “Natural Resources” to “Fur trade” to zoom in on maps and hear descriptions of the fur trade read aloud. Start your research at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_rivers_of_Canada for each of your rivers. Get more specific with using web resources such as www.greatcanadianrivers.com and http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/learningresources/facts/rivers.html. Finally, voice your opinion about these fur trade rivers by signing a petition, joining a letter writing campaign, or taking a photo and submitting it see www.ispeakforcanadianrivers.com

Essential Question B

What would a beaver do if it bumped into a wooden fence? What would a buffalo do? The contact between European and Aboriginal peoples in the fur trade lead to the creation of a new people – the Métis. In the area that is near Winnipeg today, the French-speaking Métis had developed a very important role in the fur trade. They hunted buffalo to make pemmican – a kind of dry meat that was a very important source of food to the voyageurs who paddled canoes to and from the fur trading areas of the NorthWest all the way to Montreal. The buffalo and the beaver were very important to their way of life.

The way of life of the Métis of Red River developed over almost two hundred years (from the early 1700’s on) while the fur trade was growing. Then farmers began to move into the Red River area. First it was the ‘Selkirk Settlers’. Later, when Canada was created in 1867, lots of farmers began to move from Ontario and other places into the area that the Métis had lived and hunted and trapped. In lots of cases, the farmers didn’t ask permission to start planting crops and fencing off areas – even if the lands they were on had been used for many years as part of the buffalo hunting and beaver trapping grounds the Métis used. This led to conflict, and even some armed fights where people were killed. Could the Métis way of life continue if farmers moved into Red River and started putting up fences and growing crops?
In this Essential Question B you decide what could farmers or fur traders in the 1800’s have done differently to solve their differences in the Red River region?
Inquiry Ideas:

1. Interview a trapper in your neighbourhood. Try to prepare an expert description of what it means to be a trapper for the class audience, parents and the principal. Produce some primary source data by using a digital recorder to record the interview and a few digital stills showing a piece of good trapping land that the trapper might point out. Specialize in understanding what landscape is required for trapping; how much land is required for a trapline; and how often it must be checked. Ask the trapper what would happen to his trapline if several fences were put up and the land was cleared of trees and bushes and made into fields. Report your findings to the class either orally or with a digital presentation.

2. Using and creating maps and agreements that are fair to both groups (farmers, Métis) draw up a treaty that would have allowed both sides to pursue their way of life. Show on the maps where each group could have lived? What things do you have to keep in mind for this to be fair? Show your findings to the class either orally or in a multimedia presentation. Be sure to explain about “all the neighbors’ problems” in this context and how the two of you have come to a solution that could benefit the whole settlement.

Essential Question C

Can the same person be both a hero and a traitor?

In the Red River settlement in 1869 there was a lot of anger and hope at the same time: the Dominion of Canada had been created in 1867, and for some people there was great hope that all the land West of Ontario might be opened up for farming. For the people who were already living in those prairie lands, there was a lot of fear and even anger –‘what was going to happen to them?’; ‘will we be able to keep our way of life, our religion, our language?’. These questions were very important to the Métis who lived in the Red River area (part of Manitoba today). Different people had very different opinions, and wanted answers. For the French-speaking Métis, they wanted their buffalo-hunting way of life to continue, and chose Louis Riel to help them talk to the government in Ottawa about how to do this.
In Ottawa, John A Macdonald, the Prime Minister, wanted to allow lots of farmers to move into the rich farming lands of the prairies. Macdonald chose a friend of his to take charge of this area, and William McDougall travelled all the way from Ottawa to the Red River to do this. McDougall tried to force the Métis to give up their land, and started drawing new maps which declared all the land in the area ‘unoccupied’.
Soon a fight broke out. During the Red River Rebellion (sometimes called the Red River Resistance), Riel formed a government that was against just giving the Red River area to Canada, and took prisoners when people tried to fight them. One of those prisoners was even shot.
Prime Minister Macdonald negotiated with the Métis, and eventually agreed to form a new province – Manitoba. He also sent an army to take control of the settlement. Riel escaped to the United States because he thought he was going to be put in prison or shot. Different people had very different opinions of what Riel had done. Essential Question C explores the fact that Louis Riel is described as a hero for the Métis and a traitor by others in 1870. How would you describe him?
Inquiry Ideas:

1. Pretend there is a hearing for Riel. A hearing would be a bit like a student telling the principal “their side” of something that had happened. In this hearing Riel needs to tell what has happened and what should happen in the Red River Settlement area. He should talk about his hopes and dreams for the area which is around Winnipeg (and south of it) today. He should talk about Canada and use the word “country” as he talks (he might use it differently than we do today). Have the class write up their decision about the future of the land we now call Manitoba. Also, have the class decide whether punishments and rewards should be given to him. Use your class reference book as one place to help you make these decisions.

2. Inquiry #1 could be modified to include McDonald, or to have the two men debating the same questions. Compare Mcdonald and Riel. Is one the hero and the other the traitor?


What one Essential Question above would you like to study for this Learning Experience?

Essential Question ___ Parents Signature: ________________________________________

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