Monday, February 21, 2011

Louis Riel Day

While in most of Canada February 21st is a holiday called Family Day and in the U.S. it is President's Day in the province of Manitoba it is Louis Riel Day. Louis Riel negotiated the Manitoba Act that brought Manitoba into Confederation on the 12th of May 1870. The holiday celebrating Riel is celebrated on the third Monday of February.

Actually it should be celebrated across Western Canada because Manitoba was the official capital for Alberta, Saskatchewan and the NWT until 1905.

And just to piss off my Tory MP Peter Goldring who denounced Riel as an Anarchist and murderer. Must have confused him with Gabriel Dumont, whom George Woodcock, the Canadian Anarchist author, wrote a biography of.

Ironically my neigbourhood which Goldring represents has a large Metis community....hope they remember his stupid racist colonialist comments come election time.

In the late 1870s, Gabriel realized that with the dwindling numbers of
the Métis would need government assistance for their survival. He
chaired meetings, in 1877-78, to draw-up petitions asking for representation
on the North-West Territories Council, to confirm Métis ownership of alreadyoccupied
lands and to ask for farming assistance, schools and new land
grants. In 1880, he led a successful protest against paying a fee on wood cut
on crown land. The following year, he petitioned for land grants and Scrip.
However, the Métis’ grievances were being ignored in Ottawa.
In 1884, frustrated with the federal government’s inaction, Gabriel
called a meeting to suggest bringing Louis Riel to Batoche from the Montana
Territory to help the Métis with their grievances against the federal
government. The other Métis leaders agreed: therefore, on May 19, Gabriel,
Michel Dumas, Moise Ouellette and James Isbister left for St. Peter’s Mission,
Montana Territory in order to bring Riel to Canada. By July 5, they were
back on Gabriel’s farm along with Louis Riel and his family.
During the early winter of 1885, Gabriel and Louis Riel concluded that
negotiations with the government had failed. Therefore in a secret meeting
on March 5, it was decided that Métis would resort to taking up arms, if
necessary. At this meeting, Gabriel was appointed the “Adjutant-General of
the Métis Nation”. He soon organized, along the lines of the bison hunt,
approximately 300 men for potential military action.
On April 24, the next Métis battle during the 1885 Resistance occurred
at Fish Creek, or as the Métis knew it “coulée des Tourond”. The Canadian
militia, commanded by General Middleton, outnumbered the Métis by a ratio
of five-to-one. However, under Gabriel’s leadership the Métis still managed
to drive-off the inexperienced Canadian soldiers. However, the victory was
costly for the Métis: they lost many horses and used much of their
ammunition. Once the battle was over, the Métis headed back to Batoche to
set up a defensive position.
The Battle of Batoche (May 9-12, 1885) followed two weeks later.
After four days of fighting, the Métis, who ran out of ammunition, could no
longer fend off the much larger and better-equipped Canadian militia. A few
days after the battle, Louis Riel surrendered. At this point, Gabriel and
Michel Dumas went into political exile in the United States – arriving across
the border on May 27. The American authorities arrested them
immediately; however, they were released two days later on orders from
Washington. Gabriel had relatives in the Montana Territory with whom he
stayed until he decided upon his future. Madeleine arrived that fall at Fort
Benton, Montana Territory. Unfortunately, she died in the spring of 1886
from tuberculosis – a disease that killed many Aboriginal people.
In June 1886, Gabriel joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show as a trickshot
artist with Annie Oakley and others. After that, he discovered a large
community of French Canadians living in New York and in New England and
spoke to them of the Resistance, which led to contacts with French-Canadian
nationalists in Québec. He was asked to begin a lecture tour by Laurent
Olivier David, president of the Société Saint-Jean Baptiste de Montréal. The
first speech went badly because Gabriel was highly critical of the clergy’s lack
of support for the Métis during the Resistance. The rest of the tour was
cancelled because Gabriel’s anticlerical outbursts upset French Canadians
who at the time were strongly Roman Catholic.
In 1893, after he was granted an amnesty for his role in the 1885
Resistance, Gabriel returned to his homestead at Batoche. He let his
relatives farm his land and moved into a small cabin on his nephew, Alexis
Dumont’s farm. It was here, on May 19, 1906, that Gabriel Dumont died
suddenly while visiting Alexis.
See my posts on Riel:

Why Isn't Today A Holiday?

Remember Riel

Rebel Yell

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