November 2nd, 1869

On his day in 1869, Louis Riel and 120 armed men took over the Hudson Bay Company HQ at Ft Garry, to prevent transfer to Canada.  Read about it in  my book Manitoba: Ancestors Book 15.


Louis Riel, my 5th cousin, was a Metis leader, born in a log cabin near St-Boniface, Manitoba, October 22, 1844, the eldest of eleven children; died on the gallows at Regina, Saskatchewan November 16, 1885. Riel’s grandmother, Marie-Anne Gaboury Lagimodière, was the first woman of European extraction to settle in the West. His father, Louis Riel Sr., had built a grist mill on the Seine River, and in 1839, helped break the Hudson’s Bay Company trading monopoly through an organized resistance.

In 1858, young Riel was sent by Bishop Alexandre Taché to Montreal to study for the priesthood, but he left the seminary in the final years of his studies and for clerked in a Montreal law office, where he met such luminaries as George-Étienne Cartier and a young Wilfrid Laurier.

After a disastrous love affair, he drifted to Chicago, then returned to the Red River settlement. On October 11, 1869, he and 17 others forced a group of Canadian surveyors off the farm of his cousin André Nault; 1869 November 2 took over Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters in Fort Garry with a force of 120 armed men; during the insurrection that followed, Riel and his fellow rebels ordered an Ontario Orangeman, Thomas Scott, shot.

In 1872 Riel ran for Parliament, but gave up his riding in favour of George-Étienne Cartier, then in trouble with ill health and the Pacific Scandal. He won the seat by acclamation after Cartier’s death, but did not take his seat in Ottawa because of an Ontario warrant for his arrest for the death of Scott. Again in 1874, Riel ran for Parliament and won. He journeyed to Ottawa and even registered with the clerk in the House of Commons, but followed his friends’ advice and moved to Montreal. In 1875, Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie granted him amnesty on the condition that he stay out of the country for five years.

During his exile, Riel became depressed and was later hospitalized in a mental institution in Beauport, Québec, under the assumed name of La Rochelle. On his release in January 1878, Riel settled in Montana, took a teaching position at a church school and married Marguerite Bellehumeur. In 1884, Gabriel Dumont and three members of the Batoche Métis community implored him to come back to Saskatchewan and help them fight for their rights; 1885 March 19 seized hostages and proclaimed the Provisional Government of Saskatchewan; 1885 July 6 found guilty of high treason by six English-speaking Protestant jurors. Even though they recommended mercy, Stipendary Magistrate Hugh Richardson refused their appeal, as did the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and a medical commission was divided on the question of Riel’s sanity, so the Cabinet decided to proceed, and Louis Riel was hanged in Regina on November 16, 1885.

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