This factual account of the 1885 Rebellion is full of carefully selected high interest facts which have been edited into the form of a story.
Riel, Dumont, and the 1885 Rebellion
by Brian M. Brown
Table of Contents
Riel Works To Create the Province of Manitoba
The Events That Led to War
The Battle of Duck Lake
Dealing with the Dead
The Metis Lifestyle Compared to That of the White People
The Troops Journey to the North-West
The Battle of Fish Creek
The Battle of Batoche
Opinions of the British and Foreign Press
Bibliography and Notes
copyright©1993 Brian M. Brown
The Metis are a unique people who had their beginnings about 200 years ago. Some of the White fur traders married Indian women and they had children who grew up learning the ways of both the White man and the Indian. Over time, their descendants developed their own culture and became known as Metis.
This factual story is about the Metis and two of their leaders: Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. Riel and Dumont were two different kinds of men. They were an odd pair with contrasting backgrounds.
Gabriel Dumont was raised in a family that traveled across the plains and hunted buffalo. As Dumont got older, he become the best at shooting, racing horses, hunting buffalo, and providing leadership. At the age of 25, he was elected to lead the buffalo hunt.
Later on, when the Metis formed a government, Dumont became their president. It was when Dumont was president that Louis Riel joined him and together they led the Metis in battles against the Canadian Government.
Louis Riel was not like Dumont. Riel was raised in the Red River settlement in a Catholic family that was deeply religious. As Riel grew up, he was sent to religious schools. He did well, so at the age of 14, he was selected to go to Montreal to become a priest.
However after years of study he fell in love. Riel, left his studies and found work in a law office. But then, his girl friend's parents refused to give permission for them to marry. Riel returned to his home in the Red River settlement in the North-West.
Riel Works To Create a New Province:
At home, there had been many changes. The Indian, White man, and Metis had all been hunting the highly valued buffalo. Most of the buffalo herds had disappeared, so the Metis were forced to find other ways to make a living. Many of them turned to farming.
In 1869, the government of the North-West was being handed over from the Hudson's Bay Company to the Canadian government in Eastern Canada. The French Metis were not happy with this because the Canadian government was far away and tended to make decisions to suit their own needs. Louis Riel, at 25 years of age, became the main leader of the Metis.
The Battle of Duck Lake:
Later, when the police returned, there were 56 police and 43 volunteers. They faced a similar number of Metis and Indians. As both sides sent two men forward to talk, more Metis and Indians were arriving. There was a struggle over a gun, and a shot was fired. The battle had begun.
About four years later, Dumont dictated his account of the events of 1885 to an official recorder. At that time, Dumont gave the following description of the Battle of Duck Lake:
As soon as the shooting started, we fired as much as we could. A shot came and gashed the top of my head. I fell down on the ground.
While we were fighting, Riel was on horseback, exposed to the gunfire, and with no weapon but the crucifix which he held in his hand.
The enemy was then beginning to retire, and my brother, who had taken command after my fall, shouted to our men to follow. Riel then asked, in the name of God, not to kill any more, saying that there had already been too much bloodshed.
Dealing with the Dead:
The Battle of Batoche:
Towards the end of the trial, Riel was allowed to address the jury. He made a long and rambling speech.
Next, the judge made his statement and asked, "Can such things be permitted?"
Now, the judge allowed Riel to speak. Riel stated:
One-seventh of the land was granted to the people, to the half-breeds of Manitoba. Bring to the half-breeds of the North-West the guarantee that a seventh of the lands will also be given to them. I said, 'What belongs to us ought to be ours.'
Riel then added:
It is difficult for a small population, as the half-breed population, to have their voices heard.
The Judge sentenced Riel to be hung by the neck till dead.
The Prime Minister refused to show mercy.
On November 16, 1885, the sentence was carried out.