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The push by Canada to acquire more arable land had the government looking West. From the South came the threat of annexation by the United States. The threat eased in 1869, when the Hudson's Bay Company agreed to sell its territory to Canada.
The settlement has changed significantly in Louis¡¯s absence. An influx of Canadian settlers from Ontario had turned Fort Garry into an active commercial centre. For economic and political reasons, these Canadians favoured the annexation of the Red River settlement to Canada. The M¨¦tis were resentful. They saw the future of the area being decided without them, in spite of their large numbers. The Government. The French speaking, Catholic M¨¦tis feared an invasion of English Speaking Protestants from Ontario. In addition to the problems of language and religion, the M¨¦tis who were squatters or settlers without title were afraid of losing their lands.
During the summer of 1869, the Canadian Government sent John Stoughton Dennis to Red River to survey the land. A less than warm welcome by the M¨¦tis prompted Dennis to begin his survey work at Oak Point rather than Fort Garry. That the land was surveyed Ontario style, in squares, rather than with the system of long, narrow lots with river frontage used by the M¨¦tis only added to their anxiety. The Ontario system cut across existing properties and moreover, surveying had begun before the land had been officially transferred to Canada. When Dennis and his crew arrived in Fort Garry on October 11, 1869, eighteen M¨¦tis led by Louis Riel stopped the crew of surveyors on the property of Louis' cousin, Andre Nault, and proclaimed the Canadian Government had no right to act without their permission. This act was significant for two reasons. One ¨C it was the first act of resistance to the transfer of the settlement to Canada and two, it established Louis Riel as a champion of the M¨¦tis and M¨¦tis rights.
Also in October, William McDougall, who had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Rupert's Land, set out for Red River to take possession of what would come to be known as the Northwest Territory for Canada. He was accompanied by a ready-made government and armed with 300 rifles. When news of McDougall¡¯s impending arrival reached the M¨¦tis, they decided to organize a resistance. On October 16, Riel was elected Secretary of the M¨¦tis "National Committee" and John Bruce was elected President.
Five days later, the Committee sent a warning to McDougall advising him not to enter the country without special permission from them. To strengthen their position, the M¨¦tis erected a barricade where the trail from Pembina crossed the La Salle River¨Ca place McDougall had to pass. Riel's initiative was opposed by the conservative wing in the settlement and those in administrative positions. Riel was summoned to appear before the Council of Assiniboia. He let it be known that while he remained faithful to the Bristish Crown, he was opposed to McDougall's arrival and invited the English group to join him. Riel objected to the unlawful entry of the Canandian Government into the west, saying he believed the west had the right to negotiate its own terms of entry into Confederation.