Another Account - Regina, N.W.T. , Nov. 16
Louis David Riel was executed on the scaffold at the barracks of the Mounted Police, for high treason against the Queen of Great Britain, at 8:23 0 clock. The same extraordinary precaution against the possible escape of Riel or intrusion into the barracks by unauthorized persons, was observed again this morning. At a mile from the barracks mounted patrols challenged all persons and compelled them to disclose written passes. Two other lines of guards were stationed at points nearer the posts. Here the same precautions were observed. No one was permitted to enter the guard room until 8:12 O clock. The scene presented there was Riel on the scaffold with Pere Andre and Father McWilliam with him celebrating mass, Riel on bended knees, wearing a loose woollen surtout, gray trousers and woollen shirt. On his feet were moccasins, the only feature of his dress that partook of the Indian that was in him. He received the notice to proceed to the scaffold in the same composed manner shown the preceding night on receiving warning of his fate. His face was full of color, and he appeared to have complete self-possession, responding to the service in a clear tone. The prisoner decided only a moment before starting to the scaffold not to make a speech. This owing to the earnest solicitation of both priests attending him. He displayed an inclination at the last moment to make an address, but Pere Andre reminded him of his promise, and he then arose and walked toward the executioner, repeating prayers to the last moment. The final words escaping him being Mercie Jesus. He died without a struggle. Not to exceed twenty persons were admitted within the confines of the barracks to witness the execution.
Before the Execution - Regina Nov.16
Riel has been confined in the guard room of the Mounted Police barracks, whose headquarters post is located on the open prairie, three miles west of the city, ever since the conclusion of his trial here in the month of July. The leader of the Metis in their second revolt against the authority of the Canadian Government has been kept under the closest surveillance by the force stationed here. Ever since the denial of the Imperial Council of Great Britain to overturn the verdict rendered against him, capionage has been more strict than before, both to guard against the escape of their state prisoner and to prevent any attempt at rescue which might be made by his countrymen in Canada or over the American border. Ninety men were told off for this duty, on Saturday might and last night even this number was increased, videttas occupying commanding points a mile from the barracks and a double cordon about the camp proper.
The prison of Riel is a long wooden structure, one story in height, with long slanting roof and small windows under the eaves, grated with iron. The two reliefs of the guard occupied the rooms in the front portion of the building, while six sentinels paced up and down continuously outside the structure. Another sentinel paced in front of the cell of the condemned half-breed and the precautions extended as far that the officer of the guard was compelled to visit and certify that he had visited his prisoner each quarter hour. Never was a captive more zealously guarded, and possibly never was a captive during the full period of his imprisonment less in need of watchmen in his outward department. Whatever his character may have been in the field as a martial leader of his countrymen, in prison he has fallen little short of a religieux. His time has been devoted assiduously to prayer. Even when given his constitutional on the open ground adjoining the guard-room for an hour each morning, he has paced back and forth with his hands clasped together in front, his head bowed with prayers issuing from his lips, voiced in either the French or Indian Cree tongue. Soon after his capture by the Canadian troops he professed to throw off his allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church and took the guise of a prophet, claiming to see various and foretelling events. latterly, as his fate seemed more surely sealed, he has sought comfort again of his original faith, and his constant and almost only companion for the past two weeks has been Pere Andre, from Prince Albert, close to the scene of the recent rebellion. The churchman’s visits have been paid twice daily, and in his absence Riel was frequently kneeling at his couch in prayer.
The remainder of his time has been spent in writing out predictions of the future and a defence of his conduct in leading the half-breeds twice to war. These papers have all bee entrusted to Pere Andre, and will doubtless be produced at some time in the future, although the prelate refuses what his credentials, was permitted to surrender them now. No one, no matter what his credentials, were permitted to passed through the guard room to see the prisoner in his cell, and the immediate friends of the condemned man even did not see him, though no restriction was placed upon them. He received a few days ago a letter from his aged mother which affected him visibly, but at no other time during his confinement did he show any signs of the weakness which was imputed to him after his capture by the Canadian scouts.
The strict privacy of the prisoner was broken down for the first time yesterday when the representative of the associated press was permitted to visit the prisoner in company of the sheriff and the commandant of the mounted police. This was on the occasion of the formal announcement that his death warrant had arrived, The charm of the rebels manner was undeniable. He anticipated what the sheriff would say in his own greeting: Well, you have come with the great announcement. I am glad. He spoke slowly, but very distinctly, looking at the Sheriff with resolute eye and without a tinge of braggadocio. He rallied the Sheriff when the latter suggested that he should not speak too long. You think I will speak too long; that I will be unnerved. Oh, no At the last moment I will be firm, There was a trace of the French patois in his accent which did not lessen the charm of his speech. His beard was dark brown, neatly trimmed, and his hair was brushed back from his high forehead with a tendency to curl in contrast to the straight hair of his Indian progenitors. His nose was slightly Roman, and his skin dark but not swarthy. Looking at him and witnessing his manner it was easy to discern the influence he had with his people.
His address was that of a skilled courtier, and his college training had never deserted him in the perfection and grace of his speech, all the more remarkable in contrast with that of his followers. While it has been charged that he showed a lack of spirit on the battle field or in the presence of danger, no one would urge it against him in witnessing the non-chalance in his bearing and the suavity of his speech in acknowledging the fiat of his doom. The stoicism lent by the savage strain in his blood, it would be conceded stood him in good stead as he made his final plea, that he was urged on in his career by the motive of a patriot. I have only the, (striking his breast) to leave: and this I tendered to my country fifteen years ago, am willing to give now.” Beyond the prelate who wisited him it was the fate of Riel that there were none of his former companions, either from political or personal fear, that found their way to his cell, and beyond the announcement of the results of the various stages of his trial he had no knowledge of passing events or criticism passed upon his career. His concluding hours were passed in the sole company of his spiritual adviser, who performed masses for hime during the early portion of the night. Riel then lay down and appeared to sleep soundly, awaking at an early hour, and again resuming his devotions.
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Copyright Michael J. Durocher, 1997