Rupert's Land
Rupert's Land was a vast expanse of land granted to the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) in 1670 by Charles II, King of England (1630-85), who chose the name in homage to Prince Rupert, his cousin and first governor of the HBC.1 The charter was geographically, economically, and politically sweeping, with its heart in the Hudson Bay and its arteries extending throughout the Bay's various drainages: Rupert's Land covered an area equivalent to roughly one third of present-day Canada.2 The territory included what is now Northern Quebec and Labrador, Northern and Western Ontario, all of Manitoba, most of Saskatchewan, South and Central Alberta, a portion of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and parts of the United States.3 This territory held great commercial importance to the HBC, as it provided access to the Northern “Frozen Sea,” and routes into the heart of the continent's best fur country.4 The charter gave HBC merchants exclusive rights to trade and colonize all the lands containing rivers flowing into the Hudson's Bay.5 Over 200 years, the HBC built trading posts on most major waterways.6 By 1870, Rupert's Land had 97 posts within its borders.7 The HBC held title to Rupert's Land for two years after the British North America Act, and Canadian Confederation, to 1869, when they signed a deed drafted to transfer its chartered territories to the Crown and governments of Great Britain and Canada.8 The vast territory was sold to the Canadian government for $1.5 million.9 The Canadian government and Indigenous nations within the territory negotiated seven treaties in 1869.10 The HBC charter and the transfer of the land to the Crown from the HBC, represents a key moment in both Canadian history and Indigenous-settler relations. Scholar Kent McNeil disputes the legality of the claims of sovereignty made by the charter. He states that Britain did not have the sovereignty to grant HBC the charter.11 McNeil argues that Britain had to have title over the lands prior to granting them to the HBC, which they claimed to have through settlement; however, in 1670, there was little to no settlement on Rupert's Land which was largely unexplored.12 The charter granted only areas of land within the Hudson's Bay watershed.13 Effectively, the Crown used the HBC to settle the area and gain land title of all those Seas, Streights [sic], Bays, Rivers, Lakes, Creeks, and Sounds, in whatsoever Latitude they shall be, that lie within the entrance of the Streights commonly called Hudson's Streights, together with all the Lands, Countries and Territories, upon the Coasts and Confines of the Seas, Streights, Bays, Lakes, Rivers, Creeks and Sounds, aforesaid, which are not now actually possessed by any of our Subjects, or by the Subjects of any other Christian Prince or State.14 At the time of the land transfer to the Crown in 1870, Indigenous Nations made up the larger portion of the population and had considerable influence over the activity in the region.15 The HBC claimed to hold no political or physical control over the local Indigenous Peoples, who governed themselves and the territory, as seen in testimony given by Simpson at the House of Commons, in which he states the following in conversation with Mr. Grogan and Lord Stanley: They are at perfect liberty to do what they please; we never restrain Indians, to which Lord Stanley asks what authority is exercised over Indigenous Peoples, and Simpson replies, None at all.16 However, as Canada's colonization scheme progressed through the end of the nineteenth into the twentieth century, prairie Indigenous groups found themselves marginalized from centres of power and influence and dispossessed from their traditional lands through the treaty process.
Mentions of this place in the documents