This Week in History
"Commerce is free! Hurrah for freedom!"
For the week of Monday May 17, 1999
On May 17, 1849, the trial of Métis trader Pierre-Guillaume Sayer took place in the General Quarterly Court of Assiniboia, Red River Colony. This trial ended the Hudson's Bay Company's monopoly and brought free trade to the area.
The Métis felt that the HBC had used unfair tactics and they continued to trade with other companies as they had done before the monopoly. Upset about the challenge to their control, the HBC arrested four Métis traders, including Sayer, in 1849. They were accused of selling furs to American companies. Sayer's trial date fell on Ascension Day, an important religious holiday for the Métis. After mass at St. Boniface Cathedral, Louis Riel Sr., father of the famous Métis leader of the same name, invited the congregation to liberate Sayer. Three hundred Métis, many armed, assembled outside the court.
Fort Garry, where this trial took place, as well as Forts Rouge and Gibraltar, are commemorated with a plaque in Winnipeg for their importance as trading posts. Furthermore, many commemorated sites tell the story of the Métis. Two of the most prominent are Riel House in Winnipeg and Batoche in Saskatchewan.
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