The transfer of Rupert's Land to the government of Canada caused considerable unease at Red River. Louis Riel Jr. emerged as the leader of the Métis people who wished to maintain the established language, land, and religious rights of the New Nation and who formed a strong opposition to the "Canada Firsters" among the settlers. William McDougall, who had negotiated the agreement between the HBC and Canada and who was also responsible for the Manitoulin Island land surrender of 1862, was appointed the first lieutenant-governor of the North-West Territories. He proceeded west via the U.S. railroad route to Minnesota. On 31 October 1869, however, McDougall's party was turned back on the Pembina Trail by the Comité National des Métis, led by Riel. This was the first act of the New Nation serving notice to the government of Canada that the Métis people of the territory expected to be included in negotiations regarding the future of their land.

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