Louis Riel

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Louis David Riel (22 October 1844 – 16 November 1885, pronounced /ˈluːiː riːˈɛl/ in English) was a Canadian politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba, and leader of the Métis people of the Canadian prairies.[1] He led two resistance movements against the Canadian government and its first post-Confederation Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Riel sought to preserve Métis rights and culture as their homelands in the Northwest came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence. He is regarded by many as a Canadian folk hero today.[2]

The first resistance was the Red River Rebellion of 1869–1870.[3] The provisional government established by Riel ultimately negotiated the terms under which the modern province of Manitoba entered the Canadian Confederation.[4] Riel was forced into exile in the United States as a result of the controversial execution of Thomas Scott during the rebellion.[5] Despite this, he is frequently referred to as the "Father of Manitoba".[6] While a fugitive, he was elected three times to the Canadian House of Commons, although he never assumed his seat. During these years, he was frustrated by having to remain in exile despite his growing belief that he was a divinely chosen leader and prophet, a belief which would later resurface and influence his actions. He married in 1881 while in exile in Montana, and fathered three children.

Riel returned to what is now the province of Saskatchewan to represent Métis grievances to the Canadian government. This resistance escalated into a military confrontation known as the North-West Rebellion of 1885. It ended in his arrest, trial, and execution on a charge of high treason. Riel was viewed sympathetically in Francophone regions of Canada, and his execution had a lasting influence on relations between the province of Quebec and English-speaking Canada. Whether seen as a Father of Confederation or a traitor, he remains one of the most complex, controversial, and ultimately tragic figures in the history of Canada.[7]


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