Louis Riel - The Return

On June 4, as Mass was ending in St. Peter’s Mission on the Sun River (Montana), Riel received a visit from four Métis, Gabriel Dumont, Moïse Ouellette, Michel Dumas and James Isbister, who had come to ask Louis to lead the Métis once again. They had traveled from northern Saskatchewan where several Métis families had settled after 1869. There the Métis had resumed their traditional way of life, now threatened by the influx of settlers and immigrants. Their borders were again disappearing, their rights were no longer being respected, their lands were being taken and the government was not listening.

Louis made up his mind quickly. The dream he had cherished for so long was coming true: his people needed him. After an absence of fifteen years, he was returning to Canada. These years had strongly marked him, for, exiled from his native land and pursued by bounty hunters, he had suffered a nervous breakdown. Now he saw the opportunity to claim his rights and those of his breathren from the Canadian government.

Louis set out for Batoche with his wife and two children, arriving there around the beginning of July 1884. On July 8, about six days after his arrival, he addressed the Métis. His programme was a moderate one, directed as much towards the Indians and the white settlers as to the Métis.

All three groups responded warmly to his presence. Each group was to retain its independence, but a central committee was to be set up to formulate specific demands to be sent to Ottawa. A decision had been made to send petitions to Ottawa on behalf of the people, in the hope that the government would listen. Several of Riel's supporters would have preferred bolder action, for the Indians and the Métis were dying of hunger and the European settlers were anxious to have the land issue resolved.


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