A Graphic Louis Riel

On February 24th when we celebrated Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, I realized I had done any number of blog posts that involved Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba.  When I visited the Grey Nuns’ Convent I found out Louis Riel was a student at a school run by the nuns and one of the sisters traveled to Montreal with him so he could attend college there. I have since learned as well that Louis Riel’s sister Sara joined the order of Grey Nuns in the 1860’s and remained a serving sister till her death of tuberculosis in 1883.

When I wrote a post about James Ashdown who built the warehouse which houses my condo in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, I noted that Louis Riel had imprisoned Mr. Ashdown for 59 days because he voiced resistance to Louis’ take over of the Red River Settlement. 

I did a post about Joseph Royal and the park named after him at the foot of the Provencher Bridge.  I wrote about how Joseph had argued for Louis Riel’s amnesty and had defended two of Louis’ compatriots who were accused of the murder of Thomas Scott. 

I explored the life of A. G. Bannatyne in  a post since I live on Bannatyne Avenue. Mr. Bannatyne acted as a mediator between Louis Riel’s provisional government and the Canadian government. I noted that Louis Riel even wrote a poem about Annie Bannatyne, A.G’s wife. 

In my post about the Provencher Bridge I said that the pedestrian walkway on the structure was called Esplanade Riel in honor of Louis Riel. 

I realized I had written quite a bit about Louis Riel, but how much did I actually know about him? My last Canadian history course was in high school and I had never read a book about Louis Riel. I decided it was time to remedy that. I didn’t have time however to read some thick tome about the founder of my province so I decided to get Chester Brown’s Louis Riel- A Comic Strip Biography from the library. I had introduced my high school students to a couple graphic novels and I knew they were a good way to tell a story. 

Although I was a little disappointed that the book didn’t deal with Louis’ childhood it did provide a good overview of his life from the time just before the Riel Rebellion/ Resistance till Louis’ execution. The book was easy to read and I finished it in a day. I learned that Louis Riel was  elected to Canada’s Parliament three times while he was a wanted criminal and in exile in the United States. 

I learned quite a bit more about the role Canadian prime minister Sir John A McDonald had in the resistance movements in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan that Louis was involved in.  Brown depicts Sir John A as mean-spirited, self -serving and willing to sacrifice anything to get his railway built across Canada. 

I learned quite a bit more about the relationship between Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was more of a pragmatist than Riel and more interested in violent resistance. If you want to know more about Riel and Dumont listen to this excellent interview with Joseph Boyden who has written a book about the two men. 

I also learned what a deeply religious person Louis was and how that influenced his decisions. 

Chester Brown’s graphic comic gave a good overview of Louis’ life. Since Riel plays such a prominent role in the history of the province of Manitoba and in the history of Winnipeg it is good for me to know more about him.

What next? I am currently reading Louis Riel-Firebrand by Sharon Stewart to learn more about Riel’s childhood and personality. 

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4 Comments

Filed under Books, Winnipeg

4 responses to “A Graphic Louis Riel

  1. Elfrieda Neufeld

    Louis Riel was a sixth cousin to my son Jordan’s mother-in-law.

  2. Thanks for sharing that Elfrieda. Where is Jordan now and what is he doing? He was such a great student!

  3. Have you read Robert Freynet’s graphic novel ‘Louis Riel, Patriot’? I’d say a must-read to get all the facts surrounding Riel’s story and his eventual demise. Also, the book is artistically-done and well-researched. Riel is depicted as a real human being, expressing all the anguish and hope of a youthful leader.

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