Essay on Louis Riel

Submitted By missaugusta
Words: 991
Pages: 4

Louis Riel possessed many personas, throughout his life; whether a rebel, reformer, martyr, or madman, Riel managed to unite a people and divide a nation. Louis Riel was born October. 22, 1844 on a farmstead (present day Winnipeg.) He was hanged as a traitor on November 16, 1885. In those years Riel would help found two Canadian provinces, find identity for the Métis people and shake up the status of 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.
Louis Riel was branded a traitor to Canada but it can be shown that he was no traitor. He was a patriot who stood up for his people and his beliefs. In November of 1869 Riel, led the Métis people and the territory of Red River in the writing of a List of Rights preceding the entry of Manitoba into confederation. The lists of rights included: That the people have the right to elect their own legislature. That all sheriffs, magistrates, constable, school commissioners, etc. be elected by the people. That English and French were to be commonly used by the government. That all documents and Acts of the legislature be published in English and French. That (the Territory) have a fair and full representation in the Canadian Parliament. That all privileges, customs and usage existing at the time of the transfer be respected. The Government prolonged on accepting the List of Rights.
In frustration at the lack of action from Canada and in response to an unfair transfer of the territory from The Hudson's Bay Company, Riel established a provisional government. Part of the reason for the establishment of the provisional government was a response in pressures from the United States for the territory to become part of the Union. Riel fought against the Americans and helped bring, what was to be later called, Manitoba into confederation with Canada.
As good and well-intentioned as the Provisional Government may have been, it was seen as a revolution by the Government of Canada. A group of these men took their revenge on Riel and his Provisional Government by trying to overthrow it. Thomas Scott, a violent and racist man and one of the persons attempting the overthrow, was caught and charged with treason. After a lengthy trial Scott was found guilty and executed by a firing squad. His part in the creation of the Provisional Government (and partially for the death of Scott), Riel was branded a traitor himself. This was the worst event to alter the opinion on Riel in his life and death. He was promised an amnesty by the Prime Minister of Canada but it never came. In 1875 Riel was banished to the US for five years.
Banishment was not easy on Riel. Cut off from his country and his people he lapsed into deep states of depression mixed with states of utter madness. He began to talk about encounters with the "Divine Spirit" and believed himself to be a prophet of the New World. Some say that Riel was acting crazy for his own purposes. Whatever the truth, Louis was treated as insane for almost two years and was finally released January 29, 1878.
In June 1883, Riel returned to Manitoba, and soon after uprooted his family and moved to Battoche, Saskatchewan. In Battoche he was greeted as a hero by the Métis people. Prime Minister John A. MacDonald was not considered a good friend of the people of the prairies. There was even secession talk and the idea of the West forming a new country with Manitoba, North West Territories and British Columbia. The widespread starvation and scurvy epidemic that affected the West in 1883-1884, combined with the prior unrest led to an uprising. John A. MacDonald didn't help matters when, in