[Marxism] Canada: The Riel Rebellion and the Continuing Travail of the Métis

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 8 11:24:06 MDT 2004


This is an expanded excerpt from a longer post I made a few years ago.  The
Fourth has led to some discussions on a couple of lists about George III,
England, the historical and contemporary US, and Canada.

I like Canada -- and have as many relatives from both sides of my family in
that country as I do in the 'States.  It certainly isn't, of course, Utopia.
This is a short excerpt from a longer piece I did a few years ago.  Things
have improved just a little for some Métis since then -- but the necessary,
projected social justice trail, still in the future, is a very long one
indeed.  And, of course, the Indians and the Innu still have a tough trail
as well.

"Half breed horsemen knocking at the back door. . ."  Spreading the word
about the fast developing Métis Rebellion of early 1885.  From the song,
"Louis Riel," as sung by Willie Dunn [Micmac/Métis] -- a great favorite of
mine since I first heard it at the beginning of the '70s.

Louis Riel, his struggle for Métis and Indians, and his martyrdom must
always be remembered.

Hunter Bear

Among the tribes in
the North Dakota / South Dakota / western Minnesota / Manitoba / Montana
region where I have a really vast number of former students, is the Turtle
Mountain Chippewa nation headquartered at Belcourt, ND.  And, although my
spouse, Eldri  [Saami/Finnish/Norwegian],  was born at Moose Lake, Minnesota
[just south of Duluth], her father grew up on a homestead in the
Bisbee/Agate setting of northern N.D., very close to Turtle Mountain where
she has a number of cousins in the Tribe.

Many of the Turtle Mountain Indian people -- like those in lesser known  but
very viable bands at Trenton, ND and Great Falls, Montana -- are descendants
of  Métis [Native mixed with Scottish and French] refugees who fled into the
United States following Canada's suppression of the Riel Rebellion.  Louis
Riel, a great patriot of the destitute and landless Métis and other Native
people, was an extraordinarily courageous and charismatic activist.  Among
other things, he was a freedom seeking leader in the  Red River Rebellion of
1870 -- and the very famous North West uprising of 1885 which has carried
his name forward through History.  The latter was brutally suppressed by
Anglo Canada.  Riel's associate, Gabriel Dumont, escaped to Montana -- where
many of his descendants currently live [in the Assiniboine Nation, among
other regional tribes.] Riel surrendered and was tried and convicted at
Regina -- in a witch-burning atmosphere -- for sedition and murder.  [He had
originally been scheduled for trial at Winnipeg, but authorities feared
Métis might wind up on the 12 person jury in that setting. At Regina, the
predictable jury was six  local white men.]

Louis Riel, remaining completely true to his commitment and mission,
retracted absolutely nothing.  He was hanged at Regina in 1885 -- loyal to
his people, the Métis, right to the  very end.  And he was loyal to Canada
as well.  His final written words:  "I have devoted my life to my country.
If it is necessary for the happiness of my country that I should now cease
to live, I leave it to the Providence of my God."

He was simply one more in a vast flow of human martyrs to the cause of
social justice -- many before, many since, and many many more to be. And,
like Joe Hill, Louis Riel has never really died.

Seven Native persons were also executed by Canada.  Two  major Cree chiefs
and Riel colleagues, Big Bear and Poundmaker, were sentenced to long prison

The honour of all of these martyrs, and all those who fought with them, has
long outlived, and always will, the hideous nature and murdering motivations
of --  officialdom.

About ninety years later, Canada issued a postage stamp honoring Louis Riel.
The Métis -- numbering at least a couple of million in the distinctive
Native blood and socio-cultural identity sense -- are almost as poor now as
they were in the Riel era.  Canadian policy moves on their behalf always
proceed at a glacial pace and are frequently roadblocked.  Many of the Métis
have long been very vigorous socialists -- and the predecessor of the New
Democratic Party [ 1961], the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, which
took shape in Saskatchewan in 1933  with roots reaching back to the Winnipeg
General Strike of 1919 --  had many  key Métis activists in its founding

The Métis struggle continues -- as does the Native struggle generally in
Canada, the 'States, Mexico and everywhere else in the Hemisphere.

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR]   Micmac/St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]

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