Louis Riel

A Slightly Insane Hero

Who is Louis Riel?

Louis Riel is the former prime minister of Manitoba (see below), and the founder of the same province. He was a political and spiritual leader of the Metis people, and is most famous for the controversy surrounding him originating from the execution of Thomas Scott.

What's his deal?

Louis Riel was sent to Montreal to study for priesthood, but never graduated. He then attempted to train as a lawyer, which ended similarly. By 1868 he was back in the Red River settlement. Ambitious, well educated and bilingual, Louis Riel was quickly established as a leader amongst the Metis. In 1869 he was the head of a provisional government, and eventually negotiated the Manitoba act with the federal government.

To Quebec

At the age of fourteen Louis Riel travelled to Quebec to study for priesthood. Riel proved himself a serious and gifted student, and Archbishop Tache of St. Boniface found a generous patron willing to fund his education in Quebec.

... and Back to Red River!

Ten years after coming to Montreal, Riel, without having finished his religious education, answered the call of his widowed mother and returned to the North-West.

Louis Riel and the Red River Settlement

The Transfer

On Riel's way back from Montreal, he stayed in Saint Paul for several months, and learnt about the unrest amongst the settlers north of the border along Red River. He also learnt that Hudson's Bay were planning to sell Rupert's Land to the Government. No one seemed particularly interested in how the Metis felt about the transfer. When Riel finally reached his mother's small cottage in St. Vital, he began to understand--and then to champion--the cause of the uneasy Metis.
Reil rallied the Metis by stressing their common grievances with the interests of the East. He urged the creation of an army and the creation of a provisional government. They then ensured that the Canadian government did not take possession of the Hudson's Bay Company headquarters known as Fort Gary. On the second of November, 1869, Riel's army took the fort without bloodshed.

The Provisional Government

On November 23, Riel proposed the formation of a provisional government to replace the Council of Assiniboia. This surprised the Metis who asked for a few days adjournment for consultation, not believing that their mandate empowered them to make such a decision. The official transfer of the land to Canada had been set for December 1, 1869. During this period, Sir John A. Macdonald had postponed payment to the Company because of the disturbances in the Settlement.

The Resistance

In the region, Riel's efforts were widely, but not universally appreciated. Canadian settlers that live in the Red River area, under the leadership of John Shultz, didn't mind the Canadian acquisition of the Settlement. Riel's government quickly arrested Shultz, as well as his followers. One of those arrested were Thomas Scott.

The Exectution

Thomas Scott was hot-headed settler who had recently migrated from Ontario. After Scott's re-arrest, he continued to taunt his captors until the decision was made--and approved by Riel--to court-martial, and then to execute him by firing squad. Scott's killing was known as the defining event of the Red River Resistance. There was an outrage in Ontario, so mush that Prime Minister Macdonald organized Canadian forces to regain control of the region.
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The Manitoba Act

In 1870, the Canadian Government passed the Manitoba act, making Manitoba the fifth Canadian province. The act came into effect on July 15, 1870 and included the following terms:

- 39 000 km² of land would be given to the provincial government around the Red river area. The rest of the surrounding land would remain in the hands of the Federal government.

- Both English and French were to be the official languages of the new province.

- There would be separate Protestant and Catholic schools funded by the government.

- Only religious education was guaranteed (not language based education).

- The Federal government would retain control over the lands and resources, giving it power in the development of the province


Riel's army proved to be no match for the troops controlled by the British colonel Garnet Wolseley. Riel faced the prospect of having a $5000 bounty (the equivalent of about $100 000 today) on his head placed there by the Ontario government, he fled to the United States, which eventually led to his undoing (see Turning Point)

Turning Point

December 8, 1875 became a turning point in Riel's life. On that day, after attending a mass in Washington D.C., Riel had a vision that God had anointed him as "the prophet of the new world." He no longer looked at himself as a failed politician, but the leader of the people favored by god, the Metis. This raised some eyebrows, and some questions on his mental health. His actions didn't help. By actions I mean he cried and screamed in public, gave $1000 (the equivalent of about $21 000 today) to a blind beggar, interrupting masses of people to contradict a priest, and stripping in public on multiple occasions, presumably having something to do with Adam and Eve.

Why I think Louis Riel is a Hero

His actions as the leader of the provisional government ultimately led to the establishment of Manitoba. He efficiently led the provisional government to moderate the surrounding land, and safely halted any plots of overthrowing the government.

Why I called him Insane

While I think that he is a hero for basically founding Manitoba, I find that his means of stopping the provisional government from being overthrown were not something I agree with, especially the execution of Thomas Scott. Instead, he should have punished Scott in a less harsh method, like isolating him from the rest of his allies. The second reason I have for calling him insane, is that he carried out his divine orders in the most extreme ways, i.e. stripping in public.


Me, the Dark Overlord

I have slain hundreds of sheep, earing me the title of the Evil Sheep Killer, aka the Dark Overlord.