Louis in Canadian history, that of which

Louis
Riel played a vital role in the creation of the province of Manitoba. He was a
major figurehead during the Red River and Northwest resistance. He helped lead
the Metis people to fight for their rights. Compensation that the government
had the responsibility to deliver on, as well as land that they have the right
to own and live on. Being such an important part of history, controversy
follows. At first, many people referred to him as a rebellious lunatic. On the
other side of things, he is thought of as a bringer of justice for his people,
the Metis.  Nonetheless of people’s
opinions, he certainly left his mark in Canadian history, that of which can be
see even today. The biggest of this obviously having the province of Manitoba
established. You will find an erected statue of him at the Winnipeg legislative
building, there are streets and schools named after him, and more. In addition,
many of the rights fought for in the rebellion still stand for the benefit of
Metis people today. In his own time he was considered by the government to be
faulty of treason, a traitor to his own country. They put him to death as
penalty for his actions. This is another bit of controversy wrapped around
Louis Riels story. That is where Louis Riel’s story ends. It begins, on the 22nd
of October, 1844 in Saint-Boniface, Red River Settlement (present day
Manitoba).

 

Not
much of Riel’s early life is documented. It is known that his father, Louis
Riel Senior, was a part of a rebellion of his own involving the Metis. Louie
Riel’s dad in fact was the organizer of a Metis resistance to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

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Historians believe his father’s own political story against the government more
likely then not influenced the beliefs and actions of Louis Riel Junior. As for
his education, Louis Riel was a bright guy, through and through, and his
teachers recognized it from early on in his life. He received a scholarship to
study at a school in Montreal in the goal of him becoming a priest. Riel was a
leader in academics here as well, quickly becoming a top student. It is here
that he also acquired a passion for poetry, which he would carry from this
point on.  After a brief engagement to a
French Canadian women named Marie-Julie Guernon, he returned home after her
parents forbade their marriage. This was supposedly because of his identity as
a Metis man.  

 

Fast
forward to the year of 1869. The Hudson’s Bay Company is talking about selling
its land rights to the Dominion of Canada.  The government of Canada at the time gave the
job of surveying and assessing these lands to William McDougall. They also gave
him the title of Lieutenant Governor of this new land. McDougall set out with
survey crews to the Red River community. The Metis people caught wind of this
land transaction. Created out of a fear that Metis culture could be lost by the
introduction of immigrants to the Red River settlement, the Metis National
Committee is born.  Louis Riel, at 25
years old is a very well educated individual and the son of a Metis resistance
leader. As such, he is elected to be the secretary of the committee, and later
graduates to being its president. At the time of being president Riel puts a
stop to the land surveys being conducted. After this, Louis Riel and the rest
of the committee set up a blockade to keep McDougall out of the Red River
settlement. They then proceeded to take over the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Upper
Fort Gary and called themselves the new government of the Red River settlement.

The newly formed Metis government put out the offer to negotiate terms with the
Dominion of Canada on what needs to be done, before they let in this William
McDougall and associates.  With Riel
leading the Metis people, the committee rejects the government of Canada having
the power to govern the Red River settlement or even North West Canada. The
Canadian government responded by sending three people to the settlement. There
was a Reverend, Jean-Baptiste Thibault. There was a Colonel, Charles de
Salaberry. Last but not least there was Donald Smith, a higher up
representative of the company of Hudson’s Bay. Donald Smith manages to convince
Riel to propose a meeting involving 40 representatives from the Red River
settlement, with an equal French or English speaking population.  It is here at this meeting that they talk out
the possibility of unionizing with Canada. Louis Riel and these 40
representatives come together to create a whole new list of rights that they
felt were a requirement for confederation to happen.  Only a few months later, the representatives
become the “Provisional Government of Assiniboia.” It contained three branches
of government, just like many other governments, an elected legislature, an
appointed executive responsible to the legislature, and a judicial branch. This
newly formed governments first order of business was to send three delegates to
Ottawa. It would be in Ottawa they would attempt to negotiate Assiniboia’s
entry into confederation. Not everyone agreed with this decision.

 

While
Louis Riel and the provisional government were talking out confederation plans,
a small force of Canadian protestors was meeting at Portage la Prairie. Theses
protestors are armed, and are looking for support in disbanding the new
government. This took the Metis government by surprise. So they proceeded to
arrest them and imprison them in Upper Fort Garry.  They held a court meeting, and one of Riel’s
associates decided to put to death one of the pro disbanders. Thomas Scott was
executed by firing squad of the 4th of March 1870.  “Most historians agree with George F.G.

Stanley’s verdict: ‘By one unfortunate error of judgement – this is what the
execution of Scott amounted to – and by one unnecessary deed of bloodshed – for
the Provisional Government was an accomplished fact – Louis Riel set his foot
upon the path which led not to glory but to the gibbet.'” (T.Flanagan pg 8) The
Government of Canada, nor the Canadian leaders who were dealing with
negotiations at the time, did not care much for the murder of Thomas Scott. It
did spark a call for revenge from the protestant community living in Ontario
however. With most of the anger being focused on Riel, since he was a major
figurehead of the resistance. Despite this drawback, on the 12th of
May in the year 1870, the province of Manitoba entered into confederation
companioned with the Manitoba Act. The three representatives were successful in
their negotiations. The act included the federal government reserving 1.4
million acres of land for any Metis offspring of Manitoba and guaranteed a
bilingual French and English province. Louis Riel had planned to get all of
Rupert’s Land. Instead, they wound up with the “postal stamp” province of
Manitoba that is known by many today.  After
this, the federal government sought to appease Ontario, concerning the death of
Thomas Scott. In the same year of 1870, the federal government of Canada sent
out the Red River Expedition. Although it was supposed to be a peaceful act, it
was a military force and the provisional government had not agreed to the
expeditions arrival nor was it a part of the negotiations.  Once Riel realized they were coming to hang
him, he fled to the United States.

 

In
1871, however he discreetly returned to the Red River community. Louis Riel was
a fugitive at this point. Even back then there were divided views on Louis
Riel.  In Ontario, the death of Thomas
Scott is still a sensitive topic, and there was a $5,000 reward if you his
capture alive. Quebec was the opposite in this regard. They thought of him as a
hero to both the Roman Catholic church and French culture in Manitoba. The first
Prime Minister of Canada, John A. Macdonald, recognized the divided views of
Canada’s two biggest provinces.  So he
made a proposition to Louis Riel.  He
offered Louis Riel a cash reward if he would leave Canada. Louis Riel needed
the cash for supplying his family’s needs, so he took the offer. Riel fled to
the United States, with his family. Him and his family stayed there for a whole
4 months. Louis Riel’s associates and fans convinced him to enter federal
politics. In February 1875, the Canadian federal government ends up banishing
Riel again for five years. After this second exile, Riel starts his descent
into what many view as insanity. His peers decided it would be best for him if
he were submitted to a mental hospital, that of which was located in Montreal.

In 1878, he leaves for New York and stays there briefly before he moves to
Midwest United States. From the years 1878-1883, Louis Riel has become an
American citizen, met up with the Metis people in the state of Montana, has
married a Metis woman, and has become a teacher at a catholic school. Riel has
become really busy with his life, and his days as a resistance leader appear to
be over. However, in the June of 1884, Gabriel Dumont and a population of Metis
people from Saskatchewan, request he come back to Canada to deal with the
government. He agreed to go, as long as his family could come. Louis Riel ends
up creating a provisional government in Saskatchewan, which he was the head of.

They hear word that the government is sending 500 soldiers to put down any
resistance.  They overwhelmed the
resistance, and Riel surrendered. In 1885, Louis Riel is charged with treason. This
charge of high treason was made by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, and it was
based off of an unheard of British law as old as 1342. (CBC) The difference
being that this law carried the death penalty. The Canadian charge for treason
did not. His representatives claimed insanity in his defense in the courtroom.

Louis Riel, then proceeded to make a finishing speech that went against
everything his defenders said, strongly feeling that his peoples rights would
not be taken seriously with a leader pleading insanity.  On the 16th of November 1885, Louis
Riel is hanged publicly in Regina. He is buried in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba.

People still visit his gravesite today.

 

Louis
Riel has a very interesting life story. He was born into a community of people
who he felt were facing injustice. He took his gifted intellect and used it as
a tool to gain the Metis people many benefits and compensation. His personal
beliefs were odd as well. Riel believed that he was backed by a higher being,
and that it was his destiny to serve his people. In his trial, he claimed he
was a prophet sent from God, and had the idea of moving the Catholic Church
from the Vatican to here in Canada (CBC). 
It is easy to see why he was thought of as a raving lunatic in the past,
and why some still think that today.  His
mental state is not nearly as important, as his effect on Canada however.

Insane or not, Louis Riel effected a great many lives in his time, and he still
does today.