2 Hero or Villain?Métis spokesman, regarded as the founder of Manitoba, a teacher, and a leader of the North-West rebellionLouis Riel is one of the most controversial figures in Canadian history.To the Métis he is a hero, an eloquent spokesman for their aspirations.In the Canadian West in 1885 the majority of the settlers regarded him as a villain
3 “His Story”Riel was born at the Red River Colony in what is now Manitoba on October 22, 1844.He was originally educated to be a priest, but he stopped going to school when his father died so he could get a job and help his family.When the Government of Canada bought the land of the Red River Colony from the Hudson's Bay Company the Métis were worried about their future and about keeping their rights and their way of life.They needed a leader, and they chose Riel to be that leader.
4 Northwest RebellionRiel ran away to the USA until 1884 (and had a nervous breakdown during his time away …)In 1884 a group of Métis in Batoche, Saskatchewan (which was not a province yet), asked Riel to help them get their legal rights from the federal government. Riel agreed.On 8 March, 1885 the Métis passed a 10-point "Revolutionary Bill of Rights" asserting Métis rights of possession to their farms, and made other demands of “their” landAt first Riel and the Métis protested peacefully to the federal government, but after some time a rebellion broke out under Riel’s strong leadership.ON 26 MARCH 1885, THE NORTH-WEST REBELLION BEGAN WEST OF THE SETTLEMENT OF DUCK LAKE ON THE OLD CARLTON TRAIL, NORTH OF MODERN ROSTHERN, SASK.
5 Red River RebellionTo show that he wanted to talk directly to Ottawa, Riel formed a Métis government.He then stopped the Canadian representative from entering the colony, took control of Upper Fort Garry and held several people there as prisoners.(This angered the Canadian Government!!)The federal government negotiated with the Métis to end what became known as the Red River Rebellion.As part of the agreement the Province of Manitoba was formed, which included the Red River Colony.When Ottawa sent troops to the new province, Riel became afraid for his life.Many of the soldiers that went to Manitoba (to make peace with the Metis) did not like francophones and Catholics. Riel was both.He fled to the United States to protect himself.
7 The North-West Rebellion (or North-West Resistance) was a violent, five-month insurgency against the Canadian government, fought mainly by Métis militants and their Aboriginal allies in what is now Saskatchewan and Alberta.It was caused by rising fear and insecurity among the Métis and Aboriginal peoples as well as the white settlers of the rapidly changing West.A series of battles and other outbreaks of violence in 1885 left hundreds of people dead, but the rebels were eventually defeated by federal troops.The result was the permanent enforcement of Canadian law in the West, the subjugation of the Métis and the Plains tribes, and the conviction and hanging of rebel leader Louis Riel.
12 Battle of Batoche (May 9 to May 12, 1885) LITHOGRAPH BY SERGEANT GRUNDY (COURTESY LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA/C-2424)
13 The TrialThe trial was moved from Winnipeg to Regina when the government discovered that a Manitoba jury could be half Métis. Of the six men on the Regina jury - only one spoke French.Prime Minister John A. Macdonald decided to charge Riel with high treason, based on an obscure British law dating to the year This law carried the death the penalty whereas Canadas treason law did not.The trial lasted four days. Riel addressed the court, listing the undemocratic treatment of Métis on the prairies and outlining his vision for a diverse society.Riel’s own lawyers argued that their client was insane. Riel insisted that he was NOT insaneDespite his pronouncements, Riel impressed the jury as being respectful, entertaining and perfectly sane.On August 3, 1885, the judge ignored the pleas from the jury to forego the death penalty and sentenced Riel to death.Despite several appeals and continuing questions about his sanity, Riel was hanged on November 16, 1885 in Regina.
14 While some people felt that Riel was a hero for all the work that he did for the Métis, others felt that he was a traitor to Canada.Riel was charged with treason, and hanged on November 16, 1885 by order of the Government of Canada."I was not taken prisoner. I surrendered on purpose. I want to be judged on the merits of my actions. ... From the time of my arrival in Saskatchewan, I worked peacefully ... We didn't make any aggressive military moves. ... In Batoche we defended ourselves."
15 Louis Riel, 1885“I am more convinced everyday that without a single exception I did right. And I have always believed that, as I have acted honestly, the time will come when the people of Canada will see and acknowledge it … In a little while it will be over. We may fail. But the rights for which we contend will not die.”