Louis Riel: His background, His life, His History
Throughout the mid-eighteen hundreds, the Metis and First Nations people saw a lot of changes due to the increased numbers of White settlements. Throughout their struggles, one Metis man stood up in defense of his people and land. This is a story of the life of Louis Riel, the man who changed it all. His background, his roots, his history.
Louis Riel was born on October 22, 1884 in the area of the Red River Settlement, St. Boniface, Manitoba and was the first of eleven children born to Louis Riel and Julie Lagimodiere. Riel’s father, Louis Riel Sr., was born to Jean Baptiste Riel L’Irlande and Marguerite Boucher (Guilbeault, 2007). ...view middle of the document...
Riel Sr. passed away in 1864, which caused young Riel to quickly lose interest in his studies. Soon after his father’s passing, he withdrew from the College. In March of 1865, Riel became a student of Grey Nun’s convent, which was a French-Canadian religious order that came to the Red River Settlement to provide education for the people there. While living with the Nuns, Riel often broke rules and skipped classes. Guilbeault (2007), stated that “Although he continued his studies, his instructors found that his attitude had changed. They began to question whether Riel really had a religious vocation” (para. 3). His behavior was indicative of a rebellious young man who did not know how to cope with losing his father. Riel was later removed from the Grey Nun’s convent.
After leaving the convent, Riel continued to live in Montreal where he resided with his Aunt, Lucie Riel, for a little over a year. Although still distressed and barren over the loss of his father, he soon took a job as a law clerk in a Montreal Law office. He also began a relationship with a young lady by the name of Marie-Julie Guernon, whom he planned to marry, but was denied permission due to her family’s disapproval of their daughter marrying a Metis. In 1866, Riel set off to Chicago, Illinois, where he became interested in writing poetry and lived with poet Riel-Honore Frechette for some time.
On July 26, 1868, Louis Riel returned to the Red River Valley. During his 10 year absence, the settlement saw many changes. Not only were there changes in the physical aspect, but in the economy and political attitudes as well. Many Canadians had come to settle in the Assiniboia area, and unlike the Americans who came to sell and trade goods, the Canadians came to stay. There was talk that the Hudson’s Bay Company was going to sell the territorial rights of Rupert’s Land, which included the Red River Valley, to the dominion of Canada (HowStuffWorks, 2013).
On March 20, 1869, under the pressure from Great Britain, the Hudson’s Bay Company sold the territorial rights, including the Red River Valley, to the Government of Canada (CBC, 2001). The agreement did not take into consideration the rights of the approximately 12,000 settlers who were residing along the Red River Valley at this time. The settlers recognized this area as their home, and used it for hunting, fur trade, and the transportations of goods (HowStuffWorks, 2013). Since the Metis did not have the legal title or papers for these lands, they feared they would lose their homes and have no say in the governments’ decisions regarding the settlement (HowStuffWorks, 2013). Riel understood that he needed to unify the widespread displeasure of the Métis. He went door-to-door campaigning, and in less than a week he was the face of the Métis resistance (Asfar & Chodan, 2003). Confident in his support, Riel called the parishes to meet. Each parish sent two representatives to the St. Norbert Church, where the...