Riel's Second Intervention

The Canadian Government went beyond the point of moderation. It sold an entire Metis parish to a colonization society. The priest was there. It sold the parish of St. Louis de Langevin with the church land on which a chapel was being built. It sold the school land and the property of thirty-five families. Is it surprising that the Metis rose up? What people, in their place, would not have done the same?

Human patience has its limits and when tyranny is unrestrained the knuckles of the hand that exercises it should be rapped.

What is more, Ottawa had foreseen the inevitable results of its despotism and in order to hold the people in a vice, it had passed a law forbidding the human beings of the North-West to hold meetings of more than two persons, to discuss matters concerning the agents and the Indians; a law full of ambiguity, whose punctuation was even cunning and mischievous; a law subject to as many varied interpretations as the plumage of the wild dove is to changes of hue. This law, directed mainly against the Metis, came into force in January, 1885. Not knowing what to do, they sent for me.

I crossed the line, unarmed and without ammunition, bringing with me my wife and children. I had no thought of war. I came to draft petitions.

The Ottawa Government had made with me, in 1870, an agreement not a single clause of which it ever honoured. I came to plead for my people and for myself, to ask the Government for what belonged to us, in the hope of obtaining, if not total satisfaction, at least something.

It was said that from one hundered to one hundered and fifty Metis families from Manitoba who settled on the South Branch had been given their rights at Red River; that, consequently, nothing was owing to them and it was wrong for them to get involved in the movement of their Saskatchewan brethren.

I reply that it is always in order to help the oppressed, especially when these are relatives, friends or people joined by consanguinity. It is right to offer a helping hand to a kind and welcoming host. And since the Saskatchewan Metis were being trampled by a shameless usurper, it was a good gesture that those who had come to join their hospitable colony should embrace their cause and support them as they did, despite the dangers risked.

But the Government had not properly fulfilled its obligations in the treaty with the Manitoba Metis. One of their grievances against it was, that after Parliament, banished me several times, and through envy and hatred persisted in refusing to recognize the constitutional choice that the Metis people made when they chose me as their first member.

The Ottawa Government was pledged not to set itself up in the North-West before the proclamation of an Imperial amnesty to settle the disturbances which it, itself, had caused. This amnesty was as good as granted. It simply had to be requested. But the Government, despite its pledge, set itself up in the North-West.

The memoir written here was taken from the following source.
Hold Your Head High: History of the Metis Nation in Western Canada. Written by A.H. deTremandam. 1936

Translated by Elizabeth Maquet. 1982

Part 6

Return toThe Metis Man
Copyright Michael J. Durocher, 1997