Basic stats for Red River 1869-1870

Based on the results of the 1870 census, the permanent population of the Red River Settlement during the Resistance 1869–1870 is generally estimated at about 12,000 persons.[i] Of these, about 6,240 were reported to be Catholic and 5,720 were reported to be Protestant.

Almost 10,000 people in the settlement were recorded to be ‘Half Breed’/ Métis.[ii]

According to the ‘French Report’ of Archibald’s census, 5,757 people were Métis Français and 4,083 were Métis Anglais.

The ‘English Report’ indicated there were 5,696 ‘French Half Breeds’ and 4,082 ‘English Half Breeds.’[iii]

Among the neighbours and family members of the ‘Halfbreed’/ Métis population there were approximately 560 ‘settled Indians,’ with homes and farms. Relatives who belonged to First Nations and were “living in tents, or wandering from place to place without a settled home” were not counted in the census.[iv] (Nevertheless, a report by the Indian Branch, Department of the Secretary of State for the Provinces of Canada, indicated there were over 18,357 First Nations people estimated to be in the Province of Manitoba between 1870 and 1871.[v])

Likewise, there was no separate category for counting people of Inuit descent — though some individuals at Red River may well have had Inuit ancestry — for example, members of families of Hudson’s Bay Company employees who had migrated to Red River from posts in Labrador, or from along the Eastmain (the eastern shore of Hudson Bay and James Bay). The census enumerators would have had to make decisions on a case-by-case basis on how to record individuals whose ancestry was not specifically mentioned as a census category.

The ‘White’ population, according to the census, numbered 1,563, of whom “slightly less than one-half had been born in the North-West.” There were:

  • 412 people from Great Britain or Ireland;
  • 294 Canadians;
  • 69 who had come from the United States;
  • 15 who had come from France;
  • 38 from other countries.[vi]

Incidentally, there was no ‘Black’ category. It is possible, therefore, that in some cases people of African ancestry, who had come to Red River Settlement from a colony such as British Guiana, or from the United States, might have been counted as ‘White.’[vii]

Related Media

Researching The 1870 Census And Red River Demographics Online

[i] There are discrepancies among texts that discuss population numbers: the total given as anywhere from 11, 903, or 11,960 (Archibald’s figure), or 11,963 to 12,228. Depending on the source consulted, this included about 9, 480, or 9,800 or 9,840 to 10,000 Métis and 558 to 560 ‘Indians.’

[ii] See also Kemp, “Land Grants Under the Manitoba Act,”, who notes “10,000 for the total number of halfbreeds” was an estimate; and Hereward Senior, The Last Invasion of Canada: The Fenian Raids, 1866–1870 (Dundurn, 1991), 177. Thomas Flanagan and Gerhard Ens, “Metis Land Grants in Manitoba, A Statistical Study,” Social History/ Histoire Sociale 27, no. 53 (1994): 70, give the total as 11,960. John Welsted, John Everitt, and Christoph Stadel, eds., The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1996), 127, gives the total as 11,963. The latter number was also quoted in 1878 — see Thomas S. Fernon, No Dynasty in North America. The West Between Salt Waters ... (Philadelphia: Henry B. Ashmead, 1878), 6. Gerhard J. Ens, Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 140, gives the total as 12,228. See also Statistics Canada, “The 1800s (1806 to 1871),” Government of Canada website, (accessed 6 February 2012), which agrees with the latter figure.

[iii] Sprague, Canada and the Métis, 75.

[v] The estimate was perhaps high because the boundary between Manitoba and Ontario appears to have been shifted further to the east than the actual bounds of the new province. See Parliament, “Return K.— Comparative Statement of the population of the Indian Tribes and Bands throughout Canada, between the years 1870 and 1871,” [submitted by the Indian Branch, Department of the Secretary of State for the Provinces, Ottawa, 25 April 1872] Sessional Papers, vol. 7, Fifth Session, First Parliament (Ottawa: I.B. Taylour, 1872),  5960, which lists:

Province of Manitoba                Population in 1871

Indians of Rainy Lake                               386

     “       Lake of the Woods                     346

     “                    “                                       115

Indians of Shoal Lake                               111

     “       of Fort Francis                               49

Saulteaux Indians                             not giv’n

Cree Indians estimated at                     7,000

Blackfoot “             “                                4,000

Blood        “            “                                2,000

Peagin      “            “                                3,000 [sic: Piegan]

Lurcees    “            “                                   200 [sic: Sarcees]

Assiniboine “         “                                  500

Wood Crees “       “                                   425

R.M. Assiniboine Indians estimated at 225

[vi] John Elwood Ridd, "The Red River Insurrection, 1869-1870," M.A. thesis (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1934), 2.

[vii] See, for instance, the Governors (and First Ladies) of Assiniboia 1812 – 1869  page of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia site, and the discussion of Governor of Assiniboia William Bletterman Caldwell’s African and Indian (from  India) ancestry.