On Nov. 16, 1885 Louis Riel was martyred by the Canadian government for his leadership role in defending the rights and aspirations of the Northwest Métis. To remember and honour Riel’s place in Canadian history the Boundary Métis Community Association hosted a Louis Riel Day gathering recently at the Midway Community Hall on the anniversary of his death to coincide with events across the country. A short movie about Riel was shown followed by lessons in how to play the spoons and a simple dinner. Everyone was made to feel welcome.
The film that was shown was done as a school project by Myim Bakin Kline and is available on YouTube (http://tinyurl.com/qemskln). “Louis Riel is not just a hero, but a martyr,” said Kline in her documentary production. Her film included an interview with Jean Teillet, a lawyer who has represented the Métis in numerous cases, including the recent Manitoba Métis Federation case, and who is herself not only a Métis person, but a descendant of Louis Riel. The film also presented a number of photographs from Louis Riel’s time.
Before the film, Boundary Métis Community Association vicepresident Myrna Logan read a short history of Riel written by Brodie Douglas who works for the Métis Nation British Columbia.
Louis Riel was born in 1844, the son of a Métis father and French Canadian mother. He was elected president of the provisional government formed during the Red River Resistance of 1869-70, and negotiated Manitoba’s entry into Canada in 1871. He was exiled to the United States in 1875, and returned to the Northwest at the request of the Métis during the initial stages of the Northwest Resistance in 1884. Following the defeat of the Métis at Batoche, Riel was convicted of high treason and was sentenced to hang.
During his own life, Riel was recognized
as the father of Manitoba and is currently acknowledged to be a founding father of Confederation in Canada. In addition to advocating for Métis rights, Riel also fought for greater religious freedom, French language rights, First Nations rights, and greater gender equality throughout the northwest. Riel died as a staunch advocate for the Métis and as a defender of minority rights in general.
It is Riel’s legacy that continues to attract Métis to remember the ideals and values that he died defending. For that reason, Métis across the homeland commemorate the anniversary of his death, as
opposed to the day he was born. The gathering in Midway included music, jigging and a “turkey shoot” overseen by Community Association President Greg Sterling.
Each Friday a group sponsored by the Boundary Family and Individual Services Society meets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Boundary Family Centre Group Room 1200 Central Avenue in Grand Forks). It is open to all Aboriginal people, First Nation, Métis and Inuit, from Infants to Elders, as well as non-aboriginal people interested in learning about, embracing, and respecting the culture and various traditions. For more information about the Boundary Métis Community Association phone 250-442-5513.