Louis Riel and the dispersion of the American Métis

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Native Americans/First Nation on 2012-01-16 00:16Z by Steven

Louis Riel and the dispersion of the American Métis

Minnesota History Magazine
Volume 49, Issue 5 (1985)
Pages 179-190

Thomas Flanagan, Professor of Political Science
University of Calgary, Alberta

THE MÉTIS leader Louis Riel is perhaps best known to readers of Minnesota History in connection with the Red River insurrection of 1869-70. When Canada agreed to purchase Rupert’s Land, the immense fur trading preserve of the Hudson’s Bay Company, no one bothered to consult the mixed-blood inhabitants of the country. Riel led the métis who lived at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in a movement of resistance, insisting that Canada meet certain metis demands before taking possession of Rupert’s Land. The métis were clamoring for local self-government, recognition of their French language and Catholic religion, and protection of their traditional land holdings and other customary rights, such as free trade with the United States.

In one sense the metis resistance was a success. It forced the Canadian government into negotiations in which many of the métis demands were conceded and legally entrenched in the Manitoba Act which gave birth to the province of that name. Howvever, the victory was tainted by the debacle of Thomas Scott’s execution. Scott, an Ulster Orangeman who had also lived in Ontario, belonged to the small Canadian faction in Red River Settlement that tried to overthrow Riel s government. The métis imprisoned Scott for “counter-revolutionary” activities and, when he proved difficult to control in captivity’, executed him by firing squad on March 4, 1870. Riel wanted to make his provisional government respected, but this gratuitous act of brutality was a terrible mistake. It so inflamed opinion in Canada against Riel that he was forced to flee Manitoba when Canadian troops arrived in the new province in August, 1870.

Riel took refuge in St. Joseph, Dakota Territory. In fact, he spent about half his adult life in the United States. He was south of the Canadian border episodically in 1866-68 and 1870-75 and lived continuously in the United States from January, 1878, to June, 1884,
becoming an American citizen on March 16, 1883…

Read the entire article here.

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