Many residents and citizens of Manitoba Canada are currently celebrating a provincial holiday "Louis Riel Day" - a day off of work in the Canadian province of Manitoba in the months of February without fully appreciating who this local Manitoban authority was and what was his import and his importance to the history of this geographical and community area.
To begin with as with most controversy and controversial personalities it all depends on which side of the Canadian historical fence or side you are reside on and which historical view and viewpoints you partake of.
It can be said, that in the Canadian historical and political landscape, of which many in the world would point out are rather apolitical, and that Louis Riel's role in history is disputed even today. To some, he is the defender of Canadian - especially Manitoba and Saskatchewan aboriginal Native First Canadian Nations (Indian) peoples against unfair treatments by the then Canadian governments. To others he was a rank traitor. With the passage of time and passions, since the last century, Louis Riel as now seen in the historical record overall a the founder of the Canadian Province of Manitoba and as a defender of Western Canadian interests during the formation, in the last century, of the early nation state of the Dominion of Canada.
In the year of 1868, when the Western Canadian geographic land area was being acquired by the leaders of Eastern Canada, from the Hudson's Bay Company, as the great land mass then known as the Hudson's Bay Companies '"Rupert's Land", Louis Riel and his band of followers prevented the entry of the then assigned Canadian representatives from physically entering the Winnipeg and Manitoba "Red River Settlement "areas. Mr. Riel and his agents then a local governmental authority, termed a "provisional government" to negotiate successfully terms with the then Canadian governmental authorities. This set of events, the first of Louis Riel's historical legacy actions, for which he is well known, has been termed in the Canadian historical record as the "Red River Rebellion". Although this was accomplished overall, without apparent bloodshed to attain its political aims, there was one noted expression of violence done under and via Louis Riel's command. A contrary and unruly (at least in the eyes of the Red River Provisional governmental authorities", prisoner named "Thomas Scott", was executed. This execution or what was termed in the rival political areas of Eastern Canada (primarily English Canadian Ontario regions), as an illegal act of simple murder, caused major consternation and controversy in "English Canada". Louis Riel was considered culpable and directly responsible for this heinous act, himself.
After fleeing the regions in the 1870's to the Montana regions in the United States, Louis returned for yet another historical conflict of what was termed on his side great injustice to the local Aboriginal First Nations and the Canadian Metis communities in the present day Canadian Provinces of Saskatchewan & Manitoba a second revolt was organized. In the eyes of the local North American Indians and of the Metis nation (descendants of the French Canadian Coureur des bois adventurous fur traders and the local Canadian First Nations), it was a replay yet again of settlers from Eastern Canada displacing them, their properties as well as the dominant culture and languages. Add to the mix that Louis Riel imagined himself and became convinced (at least in his mind and that of many of his followers), that he indeed was none other than a direct prophet of God, and on top of that adopted the name and personage of Mordechai of Jewish decent and origins.
At this point in time, the Canadian government of the first Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald felt they had little choice but to show action and authority and put down this rebellion and revolt. The government of that day was much better prepared to take action, along with the partially finished Canadian Pacific Railway.
The "North West Rebellion" was quickly quashed and put down by the representatives of the eastern Canada order - the North West Mounted Police (precursor of the R.C.M.P Royal Canadian Mounted Police". Mr. Riel turned himself in to the local legal police authorities.
After being held for some time as an inmate at the Stony Mountain facility nearby Winnipeg Manitoba, Louis Riel was prosecuted in a well publicized trial. Even though no less a personage than the queen of the British realm, Queen Victoria herself as for mercy and clemency for Louis Riel, this controversial figure was found guilty of "high treason" against "the Crown". Ultimately Louis Riel was hanged in Regina Saskatchewan on November 16, 1885.
This execution, of a local hero and political celebrity caused a furor between the essentially Protestant English community of Ontario Canada and the fundamentally French Roman Catholic Province of Quebec. It is only now after more than a century that the historical record and legacies of Louis Riel are finally coming clean and being appreciated in a more balanced as well as historically relevant perspective and perspectives.