An Aboriginal Presence

An Aboriginal Presence

Louis Riel (1844-1885)

In 1869, the Métis of Red River formed a provisional government. After negotiating unsuccessfully with the Government of Canada for its recognition, Louis Riel led a resistance in 1870, confronting a British military expedition requested by Prime Minister John A. MacDonald. Branded a traitor, Riel fled to the United States. After the Métis resistance of 1885, Riel was arrested and hanged for high treason.

In 1982, the Canadian Constitution recognized the Métis as one of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada. In 2001, the Ontario Court of Appeal [R v. Powley] recognized the Métis as a "distinct people" with constitutional rights comparable to those of First Nations.

"My people will sleep for 100 years, and when they awake, it will be the artists who give them back their spirit."

Louis Riel

Louis Riel - Glenbow Museum - NA-1039-1 Coat - E-111 - CD2001-140-006
(left) Louis Riel (detail)
Courtesy of the Glenbow Museum, NA-1039-1

(right) Coat
About 1885
Animal hide, glass beads, fur and metal
Canadian Museum of Civilization, E-111, CD2001-140-006

This coat is said to have belonged to Louis Riel.

Autograph book - 996.2.2 - CD98-85-034 and 041
Autograph book
About 1885
Canadian Museum of Civilization, 996.2.2, CD98-85-034 and CD98-85-041

This autograph book includes the signature of Louis David Riel, as well as those of the men who were imprisoned with him. They are Métis, First Nations and non-Aboriginal people arrested during the 1885 rebellion. The Métis were not the only people involved in the rebellion. Cree, Dakota, Assiniboine, Ojibwa, Irish, Scots and French also supported Riel's cause. This book also includes the signatures of Big Bear and Poundmaker.

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