Cover: Unsettled: Lord Selkirk’s Scottish Colonists and the Battle for Canada’s West, 1813–1816 by Robert Lower

Unsettled: Lord Selkirk’s Scottish Colonists and the Battle for Canada’s West, 1813–1816

Lower, Robert

  • The fascinating story of the Red River Settlement, now Winnipeg, in the years 1813 to 1816, told with archival journals, reports, and letters

    Unsettled tells the story of two hundred Highlanders who flee the Scottish Clearances in 1813 to establish a settlement on the Red River in what eventually became Winnipeg. They are sponsored by the Earl of Selkirk, a man who has never been west of Montreal. Families who have never left their Highland crofts take an epic journey over ocean, up wild rivers, and through boundless wilderness, surviving disease and brutal winter only to face the determined opposition of fur barons who want no sodbusters threatening their trade and are prepared to stop at nothing to destroy their dream.

    The “empty” land they’ve been promised is also anything but, already occupied by First Nations bands and the beginnings of that proud nation soon to be called Métis, whom they must befriend or fight.

    Unsettled takes you inside the experience, relying on journals, reports, and letters to bring these days of soaring hope, crushing despair, and heroic determination to life — to bring their present into ours.


    Price may vary by retailer

    Check availability at your local Canadian independent bookstore:

    Remember that most stores can easily order books they don’t currently have in stock.


  • Robert Lower is a native of Winnipeg, where he wrote, edited, and directed films for over 40 years. Always fascinated by history, he was led to this book by his personal connection to the Red River Settlers. He and his wife, Elise, now divide their time between Winnipeg and Victoria, B.C.

  • Published: June 2023

    ISBN: 9781770417182

    Dimensions: 5.75 x 8.75 in.

    Pages: 352


“Drawing on the rich documentary record and his decades-long career in filmmaking, Lower tells the tragic story of the beginnings of the Red River Settlement (Winnipeg) and how bitter fur trade rivalries, short-sighted leadership, and mistrust and misunderstanding left an ‘unsettled’ legacy that continues to inform Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations to this day.” — Bill Waiser, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction

“Bob Lower has given us an unvarnished account of three years of real-life experienced by hapless, flawed, ordinary and extraordinary Scottish settlers. His prose is lively, his story moves quickly and his use of first-hand accounts makes for compelling and utterly believable drama. The tale ends with tragic deaths at Seven Oaks, the dramatic details of which are recorded here with clarity and wisdom. I enjoyed this book very much, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.” — Gerald Friesen, professor of history (retired), St. John’s College, University of Manitoba

“It is history as it should be written, with minimal footnoting, clear language, impeccable research, and an uncanny talent for putting readers at the scene.” — The British Columbia Review

“Witty, thorough, and thoughtful, this informal history explains the political machinations and misinformation that led to Seven Oaks.” — Library Journal

“Lower immerses you in his powerful descriptions of life during those years. His vivid imagery is enough to place you within the shoes of the settlers and it invites us to truly grasp the struggle against the elements that these survivors face. The author breathes life into these historical events rather than simply reciting them through factual accounts.” — White Wall Review

“It’s a lively, entertaining account, and it conveys very well the atmosphere of constant stress under which everyone lived from 1812 to 1816...He tells his story well, and his readers will find much to think about, not just about the history but about human nature.” — Prairie History Magazine