Manitoba club marks 1870 rebellion on medal

The Manitoba Coin Club (MCC) has marked the 150th anniversary of the Red River Rebellion with a double-dated medal.

In March 1869, the Hudson’s Bay Company – under pressure from the British Empire – sold to the young Dominion of Canada an area known as Rupert’s Land, which comprises a quarter of the continent and served as the company’s exclusive commercial domain since 1670. The area included modern Manitoba, where Indigenous communities like the Métis feared the loss of land and cultural rights.

An August 1869 land survey by the Canadian government eventually pushed Louis Riel, who emerged as the Métis leader only two months later, into action. He formed a militia, turned back surveyors and took possession of Upper Fort Garry to begin the rebellion.

Under the leadership of their 25-year-old leader, the majority Métis population of the Red River Settlement established a provisional government in December 1869 to negotiate with the Canadian government.

But while his provisional government was negotiating with the feds, Riel was vilified in other parts of Canada for allowing Thomas Scott, an active “Orangeman” – a member of Northern Ireland’s Protestant fraternal order – to be killed.

Scott was among nearly 50 armed Canadian troops who gathered at Portage la Prairie to enlist support for disbanding the provisional government. His March 1870 execution by firing squad “led to outrage among many in the Protestant community,” wrote Dimitry Anastakis in his 2015 book, Death in the Peaceable Kingdom.

“Scott himself became a martyr—and Riel a target for revenge. In the early 1870s, the province witnessed protests, ‘indignation meetings,’ and newspapers such as The Nation declaring their hatred for Riel as Scott’s ‘murdered,’ vowing vengeance. Out of this rage emerged a ‘Canada First’ movement that pushed a white, English and Protestant form of nationalism, one based on a thinly disguised racism.”

Despite the setbacks, the ongoing negotiations between the Métis’ provisional government and the feds resulted in a “list of rights,” which eventually became the Manitoba Act, bringing the first western province into Confederation in May 1870.

“Central to this agreement, the federal government agreed to reserve 1.4 million acres (566,560 hectares) for the children of Métis residents of Manitoba and ensured that the province would be officially bilingual,” noted the Canadian Encyclopedia.

That summer, when the feds sent a military force to Red River as a so-called “errand of peace,” Riel fled to the United States and wouldn’t return until the following May (and often in hiding).

In the years that followed, Riel was elected to Canadian Parliament three times but was expelled from his seat.

Convicted of Scott’s murder and sentenced to death, Riel eventually received amnesty on the condition he remained exiled from “Her Majesty’s Dominions” for five years.

Riel was involved in another rebellion in the mid-1880s, and after surrendering during the Battle of Batoche in May 1885, he was found guilty of high treason and hanged in Regina on Nov. 16, 1885.

The MCC medal will be engraved and struck by the Winnipeg-based company Awards Canada with a mintage of 200. With nickel plating, it will weigh 65 grams with a 50-millimetre diameter and 3.5-millimetre thickness.

One side will feature the double dates “1870-2020” above the word “MANITOBA.” Below, a design depicting the outline of the province of Manitoba is shown alongside Upper Fort Garry and a person driving an ox cart.

The other side features a bison – the MCC mascot – surrounded by the words “MANITOBA COIN CLUB INC.” The phrase “FOUNDED 1954” is shown below the design.

MEDALS FOR MEMBERS

The MCC recently handed out several of its newly struck medals to two members for their hard work on several fronts.

MCC President Bill Stefiuk presented a pair of medals plus a card to Mike Zacharias, the club’s webmaster and owner of Bison Software, for his “extraordinary job” on developing the new MCC website, including its members-only “My MCC” section.

Zacharias updates the website “several times a week, particularly with the auction bids, and setting up the voting system,” according to a notice in the club’s newsletter, Bison Tales.

Stefiuk also presented two medals and a card to member Judy Blackman, who assisted Zacharias with creating the new website launched earlier this summer.

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