November 16: Louis Riel Day
Born in St. Boniface in 1844, the French-speaking Métis boy was sent to Montreal to be educated and subsequently became an apprentice to a Quebec based lawyer. Shortly after, Louis left the city to return to the Red River settlement and his destiny. After the Hudson’s Bay Company surrendered Rupert’s Land to the Government of Canada, the Métis were left without representation. Louis Riel stepped in and co-founded the Provisional Government of Red River, which was used as a guiding body to usher the west into the Dominion peacefully and to assure that the concerns of the Métis were heard.Through his leadership, the province of Manitoba was founded. In 1884, answering a desperate call sent out from his people, Riel returned to Canada and, once again, demanded equal treatment for the Métis. His plea was answered with a military response and the Northwest Resistance ensued. Riel surrendered on May 15, 1885 and was condemned to death and hung for High Treason by the very country he helped to build. Every year on November 16th, the anniversary of the death of their most honoured leader, Métis people from across the homeland band together to remember the man, his cause and his legacy. (Métis Nation of Ontario)
Riel Day Information Pages
Excerpt of a Letter from the Métis Nation of Ontario:
An important part of reconciliation with Métis people in Ontario is a shift away from the Eurocentric version of the Louis Riel story to a version that helps learners to understand the Métis perspective. Riel fought for the rights of all landowners in Western Canada, including First Nation people, Métis people, and European settlers; he fought for the protection of language rights for both French and English speaking people, even though he himself spoke French, and French was the dominant language in Red River; and he dreamed of the day when the religious prejudices of Europe would not impact people in what is now Canada. Yet, ironically, after his death Riel became a symbol of racial, lingual, and religious divisions in Canada.
Visit the Louis Riel Day webpage for ideas and resources connected to curriculum along with ideas for school awareness building.