After the ice age glaciers retreated, Manitoba was inhabited by the First Nations people (Ojibwe, Cree, Dene, Sioux, Mandan and Assiniboine). They founded settlements, traded with other tribes and engaged in farming.
During 1668 and 1669, the trading vessel, Nonsuch, arrived in Hudson Bay leading to the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC). HBC was given fur trading rights by King Charles I of England to a vast area named Rupert's Land, after Prince Rupert, nephew of King Charles.
Fur trading forts were built by HBC and North West Company, resulting in fierce competition until 1821, when HBC absorbed the North West Company, granting HBC a monopoly of the fur trade.
HBC ceded Rupert's Land to Canada in 1869 and it was incorporated into the Northwest Territories. Surveyors were sent in to plot the land, but were opposed by the French-speaking, mostly Métis population, due to major concerns about the loss of their land. In 1870, the Métis, led by Louis Reil, established a provisional government following the Red River Rebellion.
Provincehood and Growing Pains
In the spring of 1870, the Manitoba Act was passed by the Canadian Parliament, creating the province of Manitoba. An agreement with the Métis assured that the province maintained a bilingual government, Catholic and Protestant schools and protection for Métis and First Nations lands.
When Manitoba was established, it was called the "postage-stamp province" due to its small size (1/18 of today's area). It grew over the years by absorbing land from the Northwest Territories and in 1912, reached its current size.
In 1872, the Dominion Lands Act passed, encouraging settlement of the Prairie Provinces by granting land rights to farmers.
After the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, the Canadian provinces were linked sea-to-sea, resulting in major growth in Manitoba as new cities and towns were created. The railway also made it easier for exporting wheat, which had become Manitoba's cash crop.
One of the major crises the province faced in its early years was the Manitoba School Question. In 1890, legislation was passed creating a single public school system and funding ceased for both the Protestant and Catholic schools. The language of education in the new public schools was to be English. The opposition claimed this was in direct violation of the Manitoba Act.
In 1896, the Liberal Party leader won the election and negotiated a compromise allowing limited religious education in the public schools and providing for education in languages other than English under certain conditions.
Controversy again arose 1985 when The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that all of Manitoba's laws, written only in English, were to be translated to French within three years.
Manitoba faces a few major issues in the 21st century. Debate over offering services in the French language continues. The Province's debt has risen due to increased public services created by the government, without raising taxes significantly.
Not to be missed are the cities of Churchill, the polar bear capital of the world, and Winnipeg, the largest city and capital is well known for cultural events, museums and natural beauty.