People & Culture

Louis Riel: Hero, heretic, nation builder

A celebration of the real Louis Riel, Métis leader and Manitoba founder, on the 150th anniversary of the Red River Resistance and the 175th of his birth
  • Oct 22, 2019
  • 226 words
  • 1 minutes
  • By
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Louis Riel (seated, centre) and members of his Provisional Government in 1870. (Photo: Library and Archives Canada)
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Louis Riel (seated, centre) and members of his Provisional Government in 1870. (Photo: Library and Archives Canada)
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Louis Riel (seated, centre) and members of his Provisional Government in 1870. (Photo: Library and Archives Canada)
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Map: Chris Brackley/Can Geo 
Marcien Lemay’s tortured Riel at the Universite? de Saint-Boniface. (Rubens Abboud/Alamy Stock Photo)
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Marcien Lemay’s tortured Riel at the Universite? de Saint-Boniface. (Rubens Abboud/Alamy Stock Photo)
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It is Lemay’s Riel of whom I hesitate to write, as if to leave the man his dignity by sparing him the shame of witnessing his humiliation at the hands of the Canadian State again. But the act of exhibiting Riel as an exposed, tortured man represents something profound about the Me?tis people. For it is also we as a people who have been stripped of our dignity — stripped of our lands, of our homes, of our history, of our culture and languages and sometimes our mental health. And yet, the walls that surround Riel’s tortured figure — the institutional walls of a prison or an asylum — put the Canadian State on public display. For this is what Canada did to Riel; this is what Canada has done to us as a people. And it must not be forgotten, hidden or denied.

Related:

• Toward a Métis homeland

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