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Louis Riel was a Canadian politician, a Metis leader, and founder of the province of Manitoba. He led two resistance movements against the Canadian government, fighting for his people’s rights and identity as Northwest Territories and preserving its culture, religion, and language.
See the fact file below for more information on the Louis Riel or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Louis Riel worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
RIEL’S EARLY YEARS
- Louis Riel was born on October 23, 1844, in St. Boniface, Assiniboia. He grew up in the Red River Settlement, Rupert’s Land territory administered by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC).
- He was the eldest of eleven children from a well-respected local family.
- His father, Louis Riel Sr. was a businessman and a political leader in the Metis community. He organized a significant Metis resistance against the HBC’s fur trading monopoly.
- Riel began his schooling in the bishop’s library and St. Boniface Catholic School. A bishop named Alexandre Taché got him into the Petit Séminaire of the Collège de Montréal to become a priest, but Riel lost interest in it after his father died.
- He withdrew from college in March 1885. There are reports, however, how he excelled in languages, science, and philosophy.
- Riel took employment as a law clerk while staying in Montreal. During this time, he got engaged with a woman named Marie-Julie Guernon. However, her family opposed being involved with a Metis and called off their engagement. Riel returned to Red River on July 26, 1868.
THE RETURN TO RED RIVER
- Upon his return, Red River, which was populated mainly by Metis and First Nation people before he left, was having an influx of English-speaking Protestant settlers from Ontario causing religious, nationalistic, and racial tensions.
- Additionally, the negotiations about the transfer of Rupert’s Land from the HBC to the Dominion of Canada were being made without consultations and consideration of the Metis’s views.
- The Metis’s anxiety further increased when the Canadian minister of public works, William Mcdougall, ordered a survey of the area and was carried out as a grid system of townships that cut across existing Metis’s river lots.
- In late August, Riel spoke against the survey. On October 11, 1869, a group of Metis, including Riel, protested to stop the survey.
- Five days later, this group organized itself, with John Bruce as president and Riel as secretary, and called themselves the National Committee of the Metis.
- Riel also became the group’s spokesman. The group seized Fort Garry, the headquarters of HBC, and with Riel as president, established a provisional government on December 27, 1869, to negotiate acceptable terms of union with Canada.
- On March 4, Riel’s government court-martialed and executed Thomas Scott, an English Canadian openly opposing the insurgency.
- Riel justified his action as necessary because he wanted the Metis to be taken seriously. However, it became a symbol to raise hostility in Ontario toward the the Metis.
- As a result, they set up the “Canada First” movement to mobilize their resentment. Scott’s execution was considered Riel’s greatest political blunder.
- Despite this controversial event, the talks proceeded. The provisional government representative and the Ottawa delegation headed by George Etienne Cartier agreed on several demands in the list of rights, including land rights, language, and religion.
- It became the basis of the Manitoba Act, which formally included Manitoba in the Canadian confederation. It received royal assent on May 12, 1870. However, the negotiators failed to secure general amnesty for the provisional government.
- In an act to dissuade future insurgents and exercise Canadian Authority, Colonel Garnet Wolseley and his men were dispatched to Red River under the guise of an “errand of peace,” Riel later learned that this expedition was meant to lynch him.
- Without an amnesty, Riel had no choice but to flee to safety. He joined St. Joseph’s mission across the Canada-US border in the Dakota Territory. A provincial election in December 1870 was held, with many of Riel’s supporters rising in power, which meant Riel could safely return to Manitoba. However, illnesses and, eventually, financial troubles delayed his return until May 1871.
THE BATTLE OF BATOCHE
- In 1873, Riel was elected a member of the Dominion Parliament for Provencher. Two years later, Riel claimed to have a holy vision calling the Metis people favored by God and their prophet.
- This proclamation concerned some of his followers and sent him to a mental institution in Quebec in 1876. He was released after a year. He moved to Montana in 1879, got married, and started a family.
- In 1884, the Metis from the Northwest Territories asked Riel to represent their land claims and other grievances to the Canadian government. He tried to approach the government legally and peacefully but was later forced to establish a provisional government.
- He then led the Metis people in a brief uprising at Batoche but was quickly defeated by the Canadian military. Riel surrendered, was put on trial, convicted of treason, and was executed on November 16, 1885.
- The Metis people were labeled as traitors because they felt the need to hide their culture and heritage. Yet, despite this oppression, they still managed to preserve their culture and pass it on to current generations. A Louis Riel Day is held every year on November 16 to recognize his contribution in negotiating Manitoba into the Confederation and protecting minority language rights.
- Louis Riel married a young Metis, Marguerite Monet dit Bellehumeur, on April 28. It was solemnized on March 9, 1882. They had three children, two girls, and one boy. Unfortunately, the boy was born and died on October 21, 1885, a month before Riel was hanged.
- Riel applied for US citizenship and was naturalized on March 16, 1883. By 1884, he had settled down by teaching at the St.Peter’s Jesuit mission in the Sun River district of Montana.
Louis Riel Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Louis Riel across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Louis Riel worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Louis Riel who was a Canadian politician, a Metis leader, and founder of the province of Manitoba. He led two resistance movements against the Canadian government, fighting for his people’s rights and identity as Northwest Territories and preserving its culture, religion, and language.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Louis Riel Facts
- Riel’s Profile
- Riel’s Questions
- Fact or Bluff
- Characteristics of a Leader
- Injustice Against the Metis
- Riel’s End
- The Manitoba Act
- Words in Riel’s Life
- The Rise of the Metis
- The Wisdom of the Leader
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