This Week in Western Canadian History
May 30 - June 5
June
3
1789

While based at Fort Chipewyan, Alexander Mackenzie, a fur trader for the Northwest Company, was told of a giant river that flowed northwest from Great Slave Lake. On June 3, 1789, in an attempt to establish whether the river flowed west to the Pacific Ocean or north to the Arctic, Mackenzie and a party of French-Canadian voyageurs travelled down the Slave River to the lake, which was still frozen. By the end of the month they were able to continue their voyage down the Mackenzie River. When the expedition reached the marshes of the Arctic Delta on July 10, it proved that the Mackenzie, Canada's longest river, did indeed flow north into the Arctic Ocean, and also opened up Canada's vast northland to fur trading and eventual settlement.

May
30
1811

For over a century after receiving its Charter, (see This Week in Western Canadian History, May 2, 1670) The Hudson's Bay Company resisted the efforts of rival traders and others to open up the huge western territory. After 1800, when faced with financial problems, the Company realized the need to become more self-sufficient on the frontier. On May 30, 1811, the shareholders of the Hudson's Bay Company granted Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, more than 70 million acres (300 000 km2) along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in present-day Manitoba and North Dakota. For this land, which he called Assiniboia, Selkirk paid 10 shillings. More importantly, he agreed to supply 200 able-bodied men each year for 10 years. These immigrants to the Red River Colony -- mostly displaced crofters from the Scottish Highlands -- struggled with natural disasters and against the indigenous populations until 1836, when Assiniboia again came under the control of the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1869 the territory was transferred to Canada.

May
31
1868

In the little settlement of Portage La Prairie (today located in Manitoba, but then an independent community outside the borders of Assiniboia), Thomas Spence declared The Republic of Manitoba with himself as President. The Republic had vague boundaries, stretching from Assiniboia in the east to somewhere close to the Rocky Mountains in the west, and from the border with the United States to an unspecified location in the north. It did have an oath of allegiance, and, in what turned out to be the downfall of both the Republic and Thomas Spence, a plan for taxation of its citizens. When Spence attempted to collect the taxes he had assessed, he met with resistance from subjects who claimed that the taxes were actually being used to purchase beer and whisky for the President and his friends. When Spence attempted to arrest and try these individuals for treason to the Republic, a brawl ensued, shots were fired, and Spence was physically ejected from the makeshift courthouse. Shortly thereafter, both President Spence and the short-lived Republic of Manitoba faded away.

June
5
1869

In 1859, the Fenian Brotherhood was organised in New York to secure Ireland's independence from Great Britain. One radical Fenian branch advocated the invasion of Canada, proposing to use it as a base of operations against Britain. In the spring of 1869, George Francis Train arrived in San Francisco, California, to recruit a force for an Irish-American invasion of Vancouver Island -- then a British colony. The Islanders were steadfast in their loyalty to Great Britain, and despite Train's astonishing knowledge of the Island, and his detailed plans for its conquest, his invasion never materialised.

June
1
1873

In the middle of May in 1873, a group of American wolfers (men described as "persons of the worst class in the country" who hunted wolves that followed bison) were enraged when a band of Cree stole 40 of their horses. They were unable to follow the Cree who disappeared with the horses across the border. Two weeks later on June 1, the wolfers encountered a group of Assiniboin camped in the Cypress Hills in the southeastern corner of today's Alberta. Although the Assiniboin had no connection with the theft, and didn't have the stolen horses, the drunk and enraged wolfers attacked. The Assiniboin fired back, and by the end of the massacre, over 20 Assiniboin and one wolfer were dead. As word of the massacre spread, Canada's government responded by speeding up the timetable for the organization and deployment of the North West Mounted Police.

June
3
1885

Big Bear In the last battle of the Riel Rebellion, a troop of scouts, under the command of Major Sam Steele, fired on a band of Cree at Loon Lake in northwest Saskatchewan. Under the command of Big Bear, the Cree had taken prisoners, and were fleeing with them from the police and military forces. Although the police tried to convince the Cree that the Rebellion was over, shots were fired and three of the Cree were killed. The Indians continued their retreat but surrendered several days later.

June
1
1888

Banff Springs Hotel PamphletAs part of his campaign to encourage tourists to visit the beautiful mountain scenery of the Canadian Rockies (and to travel there via the Canadian Pacific Railway), CPR President William Van Horne proposed the establishment of a series of luxury hotels along the railway line through the Rocky and Selkirk Mountains. In 1886, he commissioned American Bruce Price, one of the foremost architects of the day, to draw up plans for a hotel to be built above the confluence of the Bow and the Spray Rivers overlooking the beautiful Bow Valley. Construction started in the spring of 1887. Later that summer, Van Horne stopped in Banff to check on the construction. He was appalled to find that the plans had been turned 180 so that the kitchen overlooked the view and the guest quarters faced the slope of Sulphur Mountain. The plans were quickly revised and, on June 1, 1888, the Banff Springs Hotel officially opened to the public.

May
30
1907

Coat of Arms of AlbertaBy Royal Warrant, King Edward VII granted Alberta's Coat of Arms described as: "Azure in front of a Range of Snow Mountains proper, a Range of Hills Vert, in base a Wheat Field surmounted by a Prairie both also proper, on a Chief Argent, a St. George's Cross."

June
5
1913

An outbreak of smallpox in Calgary was traced to a 13-year old girl who, according to the city medical inspector, had one of the worst cases of smallpox ever seen in the city. The child had served customers in her parents food store and was believed to be the source of contamination at the public school she attended. The city's medical health officer informed the school superintendent that all pupils would have to be vaccinated or the school would have to be closed.

May
30
1927

A Lethbridge man was arrested when it was discovered that his "travel church" was actually a small, but efficient distillery -- complete with a still and bottling facilities. The purported evangelist was caught when police noticed that whenever the small trailer left a community, a whole lot of tipsy folks were left behind.

June
5
1926

Born in Ingersoll, Ontario, Aimee Semple McPherson was one of the most popular evangelists of her time. She began her career conducting revival meetings in tents throughout the eastern United States, and by 1924 was so successful that she built a 5,000 seat temple in Los Angeles, California. In May of 1926, McPherson suddenly disappeared. Newspapers reported every rumour: some people believed she had drowned, others suggested she had disappeared voluntarily with funds from her evangelical enterprises. On June 5, 1926, detectives in Edmonton, Alberta, reported that McPherson was in the city. This followed a sighting of McPherson in Calgary, seen driving her Studebaker. The reports turned out to be false, but several weeks later McPherson reappeared, claiming she had been kidnapped and held hostage. An investigation suggested she concocted the story to cover an affair with her manager. McPherson's name continued to be associated with scandal -- both moral and financial -- and her once-loyal believers abandoned her. She died in 1944 of an apparently accidental drug overdose.

June
3
1935

Relief Camp Strikers, 1

In April of 1935, resentful of the conditions in the federal unemployment relief camps and frustrated by the government's inability to provide work programmes, 1500 camp residents in British Columbia went on strike. When the political leaders did not respond, the leaders of the strike movement took the strike to Ottawa. On June 3, over 1,000 strikers commandeered railway freight cars in Vancouver and began the trek to Ottawa. After picking up protestors in Calgary, Medicine Hat, Swift Current and Moose Jaw, the contingent (now numbering over 2,000) reached Regina, where the railways refused to allow them to proceed. A small delegation of eight continued to Ottawa for a meeting with Prime Minister R.B. Bennett, while the remainder waited in the Regina Exhibition Grounds. Relief Camp Strikers, 2 When the leaders of the Trek returned from their unsuccessful meeting with the Prime Minister they decided to call off the strike and organised a final rally for July 1. Regina city police and the RCMP waded into the crowds at the rally to arrest the leaders and, in the course of the ensuing riot, one policeman was killed and several other police and protestors were injured. Four days later the marchers were given rail transportation home.

June
3
1947

Members of the federal opposition blamed loopholes in the law which allowed private immigration agents to "exploit human misery to make money for themselves." The charges arose from a plan to bring 100 Polish girls to work in factories across Canada. The agent charged each girl $300 to act as an advisor on the immigration process, plus an additional amount for the new clothes he supplied, and required that they sign a contract agreeing not to marry for a two-year period. The leader of the opposition claimed this was little more than a form of slavery. Other agents were conducting similar programmes in war-ravaged East European countries and the opposition leader challenged all Canadians to stand up against this exploitation.

June
4
1979

Joe Clark, who was born and raised in High River, Alberta, took office as Canada's 16th Prime Minister, the country's youngest and the first native westerner to hold the office. The minority Progressive Conservative government fell in December on a vote of nonconfidence on the budget. In the February, 1980 election, Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal Party were returned to power.



Back to Calendar

www.glenbow.org

Copyright © Glenbow Museum