Sunday, November 21, 2010

Riel - The Red River Rebellion and the Northwest Rebellion

Notes on Louis Riel: Hero, Traitor, Father of Confederation, Prophet, Mad Man.
Using highlighters, highlight the parts of the notes that are evidence for each of the above and make a note in the left margin which one it is.
These notes come from The Canadian Encyclopedia

Louis Riel

Gabriel Dumont

The Shooting of Thomas Scott.

Big Bear


  • ·       Métis leader and founder of Manitoba
  • ·       born at Red River Settlement [Man] 22 Oct 1844 - died at Regina 16 Nov 1885.
  • ·       Riel was educated at St Boniface and studied for the priesthood at the Collège de Montréal.
  • ·       1865 he studied law with Rodolphe Laflamme
  • ·       The Red River and the North-West was to be transferred from the Hudsons Bay Company(HBC) to the Canadian government.
  • ·       1869, the federal government, anticipating the transfer appointed William McDougall as lieutenant-governor of the new territory.
  • ·       John A. Macdonald sent survey crews to Red River even though the land was not yet part of Canada.
  • ·       The Métis were fearful of what would happen because of the transfer.
  • ·       They were also wary of the aggressive Anglo-Protestant immigrants from Ontario.
  • ·       There had been a grasshopper plague in 1867-8 and they were suffering
  • ·       They organized a "National Committee" of which Riel was secretary.
  • ·       Riel's education and his father's history marked him out as an obvious leader.
  • ·       The committee halted the surveys and prevented McDougall from entering Red River.
  • ·       On Nov 2 the Metis seized Fort Garry (HBC trading post) and the HBC officials offering no resistance.
  • ·       The committee invited the people of Red River, both English and French speaking, to send delegates to Fort Garry.
  • ·       Riel created a "List of Rights" for the people of Red River
  • ·       A Canadian armed resistance tried to take Fort Garry but failed and surrendered to the Metis.
  • ·       They were imprisoned in Ft Garry and Riel issued a "Declaration of the People of Rupert's Land and the Northwest"
  • ·       On Dec 23 Riel became head of the "provisional government" of Red River.
  • ·       The Canadian government sent special commissioners "of goodwill" to Red River including Donald A. Smith, chief representative of the HBC in Canada.
  • ·       The provisional government included 20 French and 20 English members.
  • ·       New government created a "List of Rights" and endorsed Riel's provisional government.
  • ·       The Canadian prisoners taken in Dec were released and plans were made to send 3 delegates to Ottawa to negotiate the entry of Red River into Confederation.
  • ·       Meanwhile a force of Canadians including surveyor Thomas Scott gathered hoping to enlist support in the Scottish parishes of Red River.
  • ·       The appearance of this armed force alarmed the Métis who promptly rounded them up and imprisoned them in Ft Garry.
  • ·       The Métis convened a court-martial at which Thomas Scott was sentenced to death.
  • ·       Scott was executed by firing squad on 4 Mar 1870.
  • ·       Bishop A.A. Taché of St Boniface in Montreal reached Red River 4 days after Scott's death.
  • ·       He brought a copy of the Canadian federal proclamation of amnesty which he believed included any actions by the Metis up to that date.
  • ·       Taché persuaded Riel's council to free all prisoners and send the delegates to Ottawa.
  • ·       In spite of opposition from the Orange Lodges of Ontario, of which Thomas Scott had been a member, the Canadian government and Riel's delegates came to an agreement.
  • ·       This lead to the Manitoba Act passed 12 May 1870, and the transfer was set for July 15.
  • ·       Also, the federal government agreed to give 1 400 000 acres (566 580 ha) to the Métis and to make bilingual services for the new province.
  • ·       Other than verbal assurances, there was no specific mention of the amnesty, however.
  • ·       The federal government sent a military force to Red River in the summer of 1870.
  • ·       The Red River Expedition was supposed to be "a mission of peace" however Riel had good reason to fear its arrival.
  • ·       Riel fled to the US.
  • ·       Later he returned quietly to his home at St-Vital
  • ·       When Manitoba was threatened with a Fenian raid from the US in the autumn of 1871, Riel offered a force of Métis cavalry.
  • ·       In Ontario Riel was widely denounced as Thomas Scott's "murderer" and a reward of $5000 was offered for his arrest.
  • ·       In Québec he was regarded as a hero, a defender of the Roman Catholic faith and French culture in Manitoba.
  • ·       Because he didn’t want a political confrontation between Ontario and Quebec, Sir John A. Macdonald tried to persuade Riel to remain in voluntary exile in the US, even providing him with funds.
  • ·       Instead Riel entered federal politics.
  • ·       Riel was successful in a by-election in 1873 and in the general election of 1874.
  • ·       Riel went to Ottawa and signed the register but was expelled from the House of Parliament.
  • ·       Although re-elected, Riel did not attempt to take his seat again.
  • ·       In Feb 1875 the federal government finally adopted a motion granting amnesty to Riel conditional on 5 years' banishment from "Her Majesty's dominions."
  • ·       Shortly after, Riel suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to hospital at Longue Pointe (Montréal) as "Louis R. David,"
  • ·       Later he was transferred to the mental asylum at Beauport, Qué, as "Louis La Rochelle."
  • ·       Riel was always introspective by nature and strongly religious.
  • ·       Riel became obsessed with the idea that he had a religious mission - to establish a new North American Catholicism with Bishop Bourget of Montréal as Pope of the New World.
  • ·       Riel was released in Jan 1878 and he went to the US, eventually settling in Montana, married and began teaching.
  • ·        June 1884 Riel was asked by a group of Canadian Métis to help them obtain their legal rights in the Saskatchewan valley.
  • ·       July 1884 Riel and his family reached Batoche, the main centre of Métis settlement in Saskatchewan.
  • ·       He conducted a peaceful agitation, speaking throughout the district and preparing a petition.
  • ·       Sent to Ottawa in Dec, Riel's petition was acknowledged and the federal government promised to appoint a commission to investigate and report on western problems.
  • ·       1885, Riel encountered opposition in Saskatchewan because of his unorthodox religious views, old memories of Thomas Scott's execution.
  • ·       Riel had made personal claims against the federal government (which he estimated at $35 000).
  • ·       Some suggested these claims suggested self-interest as the motive behind his political activity.
  • ·       Riel became frustrated and began to contemplate direct action.
  • ·       March 19 Riel seized the parish church at Batoche, armed his men, formed a provisional government and demanded the surrender of Fort Carlton.

  • ·       By 1885 the North-West Mounted Police had been established and a railway to the West almost completed.
  • ·       This meant the Canadian government was able to supply troops and munitions quickly.  This was very different than during the Red River Rebellion.

  • ·       During the fighting Riel led the Metis along with his military commander Gabriel Dumont to win a number of battles despite smaller numbers and inferior weapons.
    ·       The Metis were joined by the Plains people led by Big Bear and Crowfoot.
  • ·       Riel was convinced that God was directing him and saw himself as the "Prophet of the New World."
  • ·       Riel himself rarely fought, instead would raise his arms in prayer as the fighting went on around him.
  • ·       After 2 months of fighting Riel surrendered – this was called the North-West Rebellion.

  • ·       On 6 July 1885, a formal charge of treason was laid against Riel and on 20 July his trial began at Regina.
  • ·       His counsel proposed to defend him on the grounds of insanity.
  • ·       Riel denied his insanity.
  • ·       His cousin, Charles Nolin gave damning testimony.
  • ·       The jury found him guilty however they recommended a light sentence.
  • ·       3 examining physicians found Riel excitable, but only one considered him insane.
  • ·       The federal government decided in favour of hanging.
  • ·       Riel was executed at Regina 16 Nov 1885.
  • ·       His body was sent to St Boniface and interred in the cemetery in front of the cathedral.
  • ·       Politically and philosophically, Riel's execution has had a lasting effect on Canadian history.
  • ·       In the West, the immediate result was to depress the lot of the Métis. In central Canada, French Canadian Nationalism was strengthened and came to power in Québec in 1886.
  • ·       In the longer term Québec voters moved from their traditional support of the Conservative Party to the Liberal Party.
  • ·       Even after a century, Riel and his fate excite political debate, particularly in Québec and Manitoba.
  • ·       Riel's execution has remained a contentious issue even today and demands have been made for a retroactive pardon.

1 comment:


    Kane O'Brien