Louis Riel, Metis Revolutionary

The “Métis” are people of mixed blood: the children of European (usually French or Scottish) fur traders and Indians (usually Cree). Their very heritage is the result of early European exploration, trade and cultural encounters, and exchanges.  In 1869-1870 Louis Riel embarked on a crusade--leading the Red River Métis in a revolt to protest the Canadian Confederation government’s treatment. The revolt resulted in the creation of the province of Manitoba and ground-breaking recognition of Métis civil and property rights--and also to Riel's exile to Montana. Riel’s fight for indigenous people’s rights led to a second rebellion against the Canadian government in 1885 in the territory that would become Saskatchewan. The rebellion began after the Canadian government ignored Métis requests for representation. As with the first Rebellion, the Métis fought for legal recognition and privileges.  This time Riel was captured, tried, and hung for treason.  Weigh the good and the harmful outcomes of the Metis embracing conflict to gain recognition. Evaluate the price they paid to do so.  Was there any true compromise in this process?  What vocabulary do we use often to describe a dominant culture's firm position and what vocabulary accompanies a minority's attempts to preserve their culture?


Secondary Sources


Bumstead, J.M., Louis Riel V. Canada: The Making of a Rebel, Great Plains Publications, 2001.


Jones, Gwynneth, The Historic Metis in Sounthern Alberta, Vancouver, B.C., 2009


Howard, Joseph Kinsey, Strange Empire: a Narrative of the Northwest, Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1994.


Reid, Jennifer, Louis Riel and the Creation of Modern Canada: Mythic Discourse and the Postcolonial State, University of New Mexico Press, 2008


Walter, Dave, “The Hundred Year Controversy of Louis Riel,” Montana Magazine, Nov-Dec 1984, 22-26.


Walter, Dave, “Gariel Dumont Metis Prince of the Prairie,” Montana Magazine, Feb. 1995, 26-29.


Primary Sources at the Montana Historical Society (Unavailable October 15, 2013-April 15, 2014)


SC 1367 Gabriel Dumont papers, 1886


SC 473 John F. Forgey reminiscence, ca. 1915


SC 729 Louis Shambow reminiscence, 1916


MF 77 Montana Territory vs. Louis Riel records 1883-1884 


See MHS Research Center Catalog for entire list of available Oral Histories 


Primary and Secondary Sources on the Internet


Montana: Stories of the Land (Helena, MT, 2008), 143-144 (good brief background)


Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture http://www.metismuseum.com/main.php, especially "Our Proud Heritage, Historical Resistance," http://www.metismuseum.ca/browse/index.php/700?id=948



Vertical Files at the Montana Historical Society


Dumont, Gabriel  folders 1 and two


Métis, folders 1 and 2


Riel, Louis, folders 1 and 2


Also see files on Cree Tribe, Chippewa tribe, Hill 57, Rocky Boy Reservation