Riel, Louis

Portrait
Born: Oct 22, 1844 AD
Died: 1885 AD, at 41 years of age.

Nationality: Canadian
Categories: Politician


1844 – He was born on the 22nd day of October of this year. Although of seven-eighths white ancestry, Riel always described himself as a Metis (a person of mixed European and Aboriginal ancestry, who generally hunted buffalo and traded furs).  His complexion was sallow, his eyes, and hair brown.  His most striking feature were his deep-set brown eyes that often appeared intensely focused.

 

1858 - Riel left home for the first time at age fourteen when he traveled to Montreal to study for the 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.

 

1868 - 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.  On his way  back in this year, Riel stayed for several months in St. Paul, where Metis traders told stories of growing unrest in the settlements north of the border along the Red River.

 

1869 - Riel rallied the French-speaking Metis and the English-speaking half breeds by stressing their common grievances with Eastern interests.  He urged the creation of an army, the establishment of a provisional government, and immediate steps to ensure that Canadians not take possession of Fort Garry, the Hudson's Bay Company headquarters.  On the 2nd day of  November of this year, Riel's forces took the fort without bloodshed.

 

1870 - Riel's provisional governmental army was no match for the troops controlled by British colonel Garnet Wolseley.  Riel, facing the prospect of a $5,000 bounty on his head offered by the Ontario government, fled to the United States in August of this year.

 

1873 - Riel's absence from Canada did not prevent him from winning in this year’s election to the new Manitoba seat in Parliament.  Riel showed up in Ottawa only to be immediately expelled by his fellow members of Parliament.  In

 

1875 – On the 8th day of December of this year, 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."  His vision of himself changed: no longer did he see himself as an exiled and failed political leader, but rather the voice for a people favored by God, the Metis.

 

1876 – His concerned friends secretly took Riel to Quebec.  Within a few months, Riel's uncle decided to place him in a mental institution near Montreal, under the name of Louis R. David.  Riel's mental condition continued to deteriorate.  He frequently removed all his clothes, citing the example of Adam and Eve.  On one occasion, he smashed ornaments and candles in the asylum's chapel.  Several times orderlies were forced to place Riel in a straitjacket.

 

1877 - Riel's health improved sufficiently that he was discharged from the Beauport asylum.  Riel traveled to New York, St. Paul, and Pembina, North Dakota in search of employment.  Unable to find a satisfying job, he moved on to the Metis community of St. Joseph.

 

1879 - Riel left St. Joseph in late this year and for the next two-plus years worked as a trader, selling goods to Indians and Metis at Fort Benton in the Missouri River country of Montana.  The experience made Riel worry for the future of his race.  His letters expressed bitter disappointment with the "halfbreed" who "spends most of his earnings on whiskey" and, as a result, finds "poverty drives him away from his little farm."  

 

1882 - Riel launched an effort to prevent the sale of alcohol to Metis, but too many people benefited economically from the trade, and the effort failed.  In March of this year, Riel married Marguerite Monet. Two children soon followed a son, Jean, and a daughter, Marie Angelique.

 

1883 - In the spring of this year, weeks after becoming an American citizen, Riel accepted a teaching position at the Catholic mission of St. Peter's on Montana's Sun River.

 

1884 - He enjoyed teaching, but the job paid poorly and the hours too long to allow him time to pursue his true interests in religion, poetry, and politics.  Therefore, it is not surprising that, when a delegation of Metis from Saskatchewan arrived at St. Peter's on the 4th day of June of this year, imploring Riel to return to Canada to advocate for better treatment of halfbreed, Riel answered the call.  Upon his arrival in St. Laurent, Riel busied himself drafting a petition of grievances for both white and Metis residents.  He sent the petition off to Ottawa in December of the same year, but the minor concessions made by the government in response did little to reduce agitation.  He also attempted to persuade the government to grant him compensation for past-alleged injustices, but the effort proved futile.

 

1885 - Riel, having fled the scene of the final battle near Batoche, surrendered on the 15th day of May of this year. He passed away on the 16th of November of this year.

Page last updated: 12:11pm, 08th Jun '07
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