After the 1869 purchase of Rupert's Land by the Canadian government, the Métis community, led by Louis Riel, staged a series of protests, blockades, and occupations. The Métis formed a provisional government in December, eventually led by Riel; for funding, they seized some assets of the Hudson's Bay Company, the dominant economic entity in the region.

The success of the rebellion led to recognition from Ottawa in the spring of 1870, at least for the purposes of negotiating a final settlement, but the Manitoba Act was passed anyway, creating a new province and the Northwest Territories; Riel's consolation prize was that he got to name the province ("Manitoba" is based on a phrase in the Cree language). The army then came in to pursue Riel, who would eventually flee to North Dakota the next year. He would return.

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