Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The chain of events leading to the Seven Oaks Massacre began in the spring of 1816, when the Hudson's Bay Company destroyed the North West Company's Fort Gibraltar at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The attack was a part of the companies' intense struggle for the control of the Northern Plains fur and meat trade; its immediate goal was to expel the Nor'westers from the Red River Settlement by cutting off their supply lines from the Plains. As a counterstrike, the North West Company sent Cuthbert Grant and about sixty Métis provisioners to open and secure the road to the Red River.

On June 19, 1816, Grant's force encountered a Hudson's Bay Company party at an oak hill near the destroyed Fort Gibraltar. The group, about twenty-five strong, was led by Robert Semple, the governor of the Red River Settlement, who was determined to get rid of the Nor'westers. The Semple party opened fire, and a fierce fight broke out. The morenumerous Métis caught their opponents in a deadly crossfire and killed Sample and twenty of his followers while suffering only one casualty themselves.

The Seven Oaks Massacre was the bloodiest incident in the forty-year struggle between the Hudson's Bay and North West Companies. It initiated a period of extremely tense relations and provoked the Hudson's Bay Company to attack Fort William in August 1816. The violent cycle continued until 1821, when the companies merged under the name of the Hudson's Bay Company.

See also IMAGES AND ICONS: Grant, Cuthbert / NATIVE AMERICANS: Métis.

Pekka Hämäläinen Texas A&M University

Previous: San Saba Mission, Destruction of | Contents | Next: Sheridan, Philip

XML: egp.war.041.xml