The purpose of this module is to develop an understanding of the cultural make-up of the Red River Settlement, 1869–1870. Research reveals that during this period, the permanent residents of the settlement were primarily Métis people — in other words, they made up a predominant demographic at Red River.
Censuses are primary sources used to research the demographic make-up of the settlement.[i] Analysing demographics is one way to study of the lives of ‘ordinary people’ of the past — individuals for whom little in the way of written descriptions of their lives exist.[ii] Censuses that record such characteristics as country of origin, nationality, and religion are useful in tracing the cultural influences at work in a population. Censuses taken at Red River Settlement are revealing in this respect, but they also have limitations. Censuses were designed for specific purposes and therefore did not record everything. In some instances, details about people were recorded as falling under ambiguous categories such as ‘other’ and ‘unknown.’[iii]