Louis Riel was born in the Red River Settlement in 1844. He was a promising student. He was sent to Montreal to train for the priesthood when he was 13. Because of his father's premature death in 1864, Riel lost interest in the priesthood and he withdrew from the college. An attempt at training as a lawyer ended similarly, and by 1868 Riel was back in the Red River area.
Ambitious, well educated and bilingual, Riel quickly emerged as a leader among the Metis of the Red River. In 1869-1870 he headed a provisional government, which would ultimately negotiate the Manitoba Act with the Canadian government. The Act established Manitoba as a province and provided some protection for French language rights.
Riel's leadership in the agitation, especially his decision to execute Thomas Scott, enraged anti-Catholic and anti-French sentiment in Ontario. Although he was chosen for a seat in the House of Commons on three occasions, he couldn't take his seat in the house. In 1875, Riel's role in the death of Scott resulted in his banishment from Canada. These years in banishment would include stays in two Quebec asylums and the growing belief in Riel that he had a religious mission to lead the Métis people of the Canadian northwest.
In 1884, while teaching in Montana at a Jesuit mission, Riel was asked by a delegation from the community of Métis from the south branch of the Saskatchewan river to present their complaint to the Canadian government. Despite Riel's assistance, the federal government ignored Métis concerns. By March of 1885, Métis patience was no longer there and a provisional government was declared.
Riel was the undisputed spiritual and political head of the short-lived 1885 Rebellion. He never carried arms and hindered the work of his military head, Gabriel Dumont. Riel was increasingly influenced by his belief that he was chosen to lead the Métis people. On May 15, shortly after the fall of Batoche, Riel surrendered to Canadian forces and was...
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