Louis Riel Jr and the Northwest Rebellion of 1885

June 14, 2012

The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 began with Louis Riel, Jr. returning with his wife, two small children and a few supporters to seize the church at Batoche, Saskatchewan, declaring “Rome has fallen.” Riel formed the “Provisional Government of the Saskatchewan” and sent 400 men into action under the leadership of Gabriel Dumont, a great Métis buffalo hunter and master of guerrilla strategy. Among the Métis’ demands were local control of lands, responsible government, parliamentary representation, and confirmation of their land title in accordance with the river lot system survey. While the rebels won a few legendary guerrilla battles (i.e. at Duck Lake and Fish Creek,), in the end Riel and Dumont lacked the resources needed to prevail.

In the end, Riel saw at least one of his visions fulfilled. Just before crossing into Canada from the United States on his way to Batoche, he confided to a priest: “I see a gallows on top of that hill, and I am swinging from it.” He was convicted of treason and hanged on November 16, 1885.

Riel’s vision and determination influences Métis people of today to continue to thrive and grow in Canada. With the passage of the British North America Act,[1] Métis people are recognized as one of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.

On 26 September 2007, Manitoba legislature passed a bill establishing a statutory holiday on the third Monday in February as Louis Riel Day, the same day some other provinces celebrate Family Day, beginning in 2008. The first Louis Riel Day was celebrated on 18 February 2008. This new statutory holiday coincides with the annual celebration of the Festival Du Voyageur in Winnipeg.

Louis Riel Jr and the Northwest Rebellion has been reproduced from our book, Working Effectively with Aboriginal Peoples®.

[1] Now The Constitution Act, 1867 (U.K.), 30 & 31 Vict., c. 3 (formerly British North America Act, 1867)

Here is another article on Louis Riel Sr and Jr and their roles in the Metis Nation.

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