APOL appeared in the historic village of Batoche, Saskatchewan, this week to commemorate Louis Riel Day, which honours the nineteenth century Métis leader as well as the contributions of the Métis people to Canada.
Louis Riel has long been a controversial figure, a champion of his people who sought to preserve their rights and homeland, a one-time member of Canada’s parliament who led two rebellions. He is known as the “Father of Manitoba,” yet he was ultimately executed for treason by the Canadian government, an event which shook national unity at the time and reverberates to the present day.
Batoche, on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, was the seat, in 1885, of a provisional government proclaimed by the Métis to negotiate with the federal government. Louis Riel was its president, with the capable plainsman and buffalo hunter Gabriel Dumont its military leader. The provisional government aligned with Cree and Assiniboine First Nations unhappy with the failure of the Canadian government to meet its treaty obligations. After a series of battles and skirmishes with a Canadian force led by a British general, the decisive battle of the North-West Rebellion was fought at Batoche from May 9 to 12, 1885. The federal army was too strong for the forces led by Dumont. Resistance collapsed, and Dumont escaped across the border into the Montana Territory, where he surrendered to the U.S. Cavalry. Riel surrendered to Canadian forces on May 15. He was tried in Regina, found guilty of treason, and executed on November 16, 1885.
Normally, I try to find something light in the week’s APOL tour stop—a joke, a pun, something funny. This week . . . I got nothing. Canada’s history with its indigenous peoples leaves much to be desired. I can say, though, that Poplar Lake, the prequel to A Person of Letters, is set in the west, and touches on the sorry history of Canada’s relationship with its first inhabitants. Reconciliation begins with acknowledgement of past wrongs. I’m trying to do my part.
Note: “APOL” is the anthropomorphic version of my satirical novel A Person of Letters, which has gone on tour without me (with a post-modernist wink and nod to magical realism). Follow APOL’s quixotic world tour here or on my Facebook Author Page, and read about all of APOL’s (mis)adventures in sequence on this tour archive. For information about the book, go to Martin Scribler Media.