The Story of Louis Riel: The Rebel Chief

Joseph Edmund Collins
The Story of Louis Riel: The
Rebel Chief

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Title: The Story of Louis Riel: The Rebel Chief
Author: Joseph Edmond Collins
Release Date: December 7, 2003 [EBook #10399]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

This etext was produced by Gardner Buchanan.

The Story of Louis Riel The Rebel Chief
by Joseph Edmond Collins
Toronto, 1885


Along the banks of the Red River, over those fruitful plains brightened
with wild flowers in summer, and swept with fierce storms in the
winter-time, is written the life story of Louis Riel. Chance was not
blind when she gave as a field to this man's ambition the plains
whereon vengeful Chippewas and ferocious Sioux had waged their
battles for so many centuries; a country dyed so often with blood that at
last Red River came to be its name. But while our task is to present the
career of this apostle of insurrection and unrest; stirred as we may be to
feelings of horror for the misery, the tumult, the terror and the blood of
which he has been the author, we must not neglect to do him, even him,
the justice which is his right.
He is not, as so many suppose, a half-breed, moved by the vengeful,
irresponsible, savage blood in his veins. Mr. Edward Jack, [Footnote: I
cannot make out what Mr. Jack's views are respecting Riel. When I
asked him, he simply turned his face toward the sky and made some
remark about the weather, I know that he has strong French proclivities,
though the blood of a Scottish bailie is in his veins.] of New Brunswick,
who is well informed on all Canadian matters, hands me some passages
which he has translated from M. Tasse's book on Canadians in the
North West; and from these I learn that Riel's father, whose name also
was Louis, was born at the island of La Crosse, in the North-West
Territories. This parent was the son of Jean Baptiste Riel, who was a
French Canadian and a native of Berthier (_en haut_). His mother, that
is the rebel's grandmother, was a Franco-Montagnaise Metis. From this
it will be seen that instead of being a "half breed," Louis Riel is only
one-eighth Indian, or is, if we might use the phrase employed in
describing a mixture of Ethiopian and Caucasian blood, an Octoroon.
Nay, more than this, we have it shown that our rebel can lay claim to
no small share of respectability, as that word goes. During the summer
of 1822, Riel's father, then in his fifth year, was brought to Canada by
his parents, who caused the ceremony of baptism to be performed with
much show at Berthier. In 1838 M. Riel pere entered the service of the
Hudson Bay Company, and left Lower Canada, where he had been
attending school, for the North-West. He was stationed at Rainy Lake,
but did not care for his occupation. He returned, therefore, to

civilization and entered as a novice in the community of the Oblat
Fathers, where he remained for two years. There was a strong yearning
for the free, wild life of the boundless prairies in this man, and Red
River, with its herds of roaming buffalo, its myriads of duck, and geese
and prairie hens, began to beckon him home again. He followed his
impulse and departed; joining the Metis hunters in their great biennial
campaigns against the herds, over the rolling prairie. Many a buffalo
fell upon the plain with Louis Riel's arrow quivering in his flank; many
a feast was held around the giant pot at which no hunter received
honours so marked as stolid male, and olive-skinned, bright-eyed,
supple female, accorded him. Surfeited for the time of the luxury of the
limitless plain, Riel took rest; and then a girl with the lustrous eyes of
Normandy began to smile upon him, and to besiege his heart with all
her mysterious force of coquetry. He was not proof; and the hunter
soon lay entangled in the meshes of the brown girl of the plains. In the
autumn of 1843 he married her. Her name was Julie de Lagimodiere, a
daughter of Jean Baptiste de Lagimodiere.
Louis pere was now engaged as a carder of wool; and having much
ability in contrivance he constructed a little model of a carding mill
which, with
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