Louis Riel is one of the greatest leaders of the Metis- descendants of the indigenous Indian population, mostly French immigrants. He is commonly referred to as the father of Manitoba as he founded the Canadian province referred to as Manitoba. Essentially, it took dedication and a lot of struggle from this selfless leader. His era was faced with a lot of opposition from the Canadian government which was much more endowed than the Metis settlers (Stewart18).
Being the first born in a family of eleven children naturally made him a leader. Hudson’s Bay Company owned the Red Settlement where he was born. His intellectual ability coupled with his spirituality made Bishop Alexandra Tache sponsor him for higher studies. He also hoped that this would eventually culminate into his ordainment as a priest. He had a particularly close relationship with his father; after his death he briefly terminated his studies. After much soul-searching, however, he went back to school to continue with his law degree. His “big break” came two years later when his fiancée passed on. Owing to this tragedy, he left school and went to the US in search of greener pastures (Osborne 321).
After his return, the Canadian government was making an attempt to purchase the settlement he (and the Metis people) had known as “home” since birth. Judging from the English mentality, he knew that meant that they would be displaced. Invasion of their homeland would in turn make them a minority and they would have a rough time carrying on with their day-to-day lives. The area was highly fertile and agriculture contributed to most of their incomes. At that time, they represented 89% of the population implying that they had control over most resources (Duffy 446).
Given Riel’s educational background, and also his high intellect capabilities, he was appointed their spokesman. They hoped that he would redeem them from the invasion of property, linguistic and religious rights. It had happened to the Indians before; the Metis did not desire history to repeat itself. Given the fact he was a born leader, he accomplished to the capture of Fort Garry (in 1869), which was principally the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company. He managed to do this with around 400 men and, of course, his unquestionable skills (Stewart 64).
The rebellion has been commonly referred to as the “Red River Rebellion”; this compelled Riel to take over military administration as they needed to be prepared for whatever the Canadians would throw at them. The move, unsurprisingly, culminated into a provisional government, with Riel as the president. By this time, the Canadian government was well aware of the threat he posed as the leader of Manitoba. The suspicion was majorly cemented by the fact that almost all the Red River settlers and even some whites endorsed his leadership. He garnered a lot of support by listening to the grievances brought forward by the citizens (Osborne 312).
One of the major suggestions that were brought forth is having the Canadian government recognise their settlement as a separate province (principally what climaxed as the Manitoba province). The move came as a surprise to the English men who had hoped to get quick and large profits from the sale of the settlement; just like they had done with the Indian land. The Canadians also viewed the Metis as inferior people who did not deserve that much. Lack of means to send in their troops into the settlements caused the Canadian government to reluctantly agree to meet the leaders in Ottawa (Duffy 447).
According to the faux contract, the Canadian government recognised the settlement (and 600,000 hectares around it) as the Manitoba province. As it is, they had already devised means through which they would go back on their promises. The interim Metis government realised this and had the leaders who were behind the entire scheme tried and later executed. Again, this was a move the Canadian government did not see coming. They were now convinced beyond all doubt that they needed to act, in haste. Top on their list was to eliminate Riel who was fundamentally the pillar of the Metis. They knew he was behind most ideas and without him the Metis would not sustain the momentum (Stewart 78)
Around three months later, Riel was branded a traitor and this led him to run away to the US. At the same time, most of the Metis had been displaced from the settlement. Surprisingly, he was elected into parliament after he returned from exile. The Canadian government was now at loss on what to do as Riel seemed to have a great impact on “his” people. They then devised a way to drive him away for good by capitalising on the fact that he was emotionally weak. He was later termed to be insane and that hence marked the end of his rule (Osborne 309).
In conclusion, he may not have had the best of endings, but he led the people of Manitoba well while it lasted. To some, he was referred to as a martyr and to others, a selfless leader. On the other hand, the Canadian government referred to him as a traitor. All in all, Louis Riel was definitely the father of Manitoba given that he led to its founding.
Duffy, Dennis. "The False Traitor: Louis Riel in Canadian Culture, and: Louis Riel: A
Comic-Strip Biography (review)." University of Toronto Quarterly 74.1 (2004): 446-
Osborne, Brian S.. "Corporeal Politics And The Body Politic: The Re-presentation Of Louis
Riel In Canadian Identity." International Journal of Heritage Studies 8.4 (2002): 303-
Stewart, Sharon. Louis Riel Firebrand.. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2007. Print.