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Remembering Louis Riel – The Founding Father of the Métis Nation

Nov 21, 2023 | Ishmael Van Der Rassel, Student Storyteller

Louis Riel Day

Last week on November 16th, Métis communities across the Métis Nation homeland celebrated Louis Riel Day.  A day to reflect on Riel’s legacy of his fight for Métis rights and self-determination against the encroachment by the Canadian government on Métis way of life.

Louis Riel led the North-West Resistance of 1885, which was a five-month rebellion against Canada by the Métis people who has rising fears as they saw increased presence of colonial settlers invading the Métis homeland.

In 1884, the province of Saskatchewan brought Louis Riel, who was called the Red River Resistance Leader, back over to Canada after being in exile in the United States from the Canadian government.

Riel highlighted the importance of all people in the North-West unite and present the case to the John A. McDonald government to address the land grievances of the Métis Nation homeland.

Riel created a petition and asked all Métis and non-Métis settlers to sign onto it. This created a 10-point Revolutionary Bill of Rights asserting Metis rights on the possession of their farmland, and listed out other demands to the Crown government, including return of land from the Dominion government’s land department.

By March of 1885, despite continued opposition by federal government, Riel merged the Metis National Committee, which was called the provisional government and was based on the Declaration of the People of Rupert’s Land and North-West; which rejected Canada’s authority to govern the North-West and Red River, and presented a negotiated settlement between Canada and the new provisional government.

On July 6, 1885, Canada unlawfully captured Louis Riel and charged him with high treason because of his resistance against Canada’s encroachment on the Métis homeland.

After being found guilty by Canada, on November 16th, Louis Riel was wrongfully executed on the orders of the Sir John A. MacDonald government and was listed as traitor to Canada.  

“My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.”- Louis Riel