The story of Riel: Captured into a multi paragraph response.

During this project, I was tasked with discovering the historical accounts of Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion. My research was guided by our driving question, “How has the portrayal of Riel changed over time?”, and the overview of it was documented in a timeline I created. Our first topic in our journey to answer the driving question was “Who are the Metis and what is their story?” I began to delve into the important figures who deeply impacted the events of the rebellion. People such as Louis Riel, Thomas Scott, John A. MacDonald, Gabriel Dumont, and William McDougall. The Hudson Bay Company (HBC) and the Canadian government also played an important role. I enjoyed learning all about this important event in Canada’s history and about the people directly involved. Overall, I found I was missing some key details in the beginning and it wasn’t until I went back to review that I had a better understanding. Next time I do research I will try to be more efficient. I found many parts of my research took a lot of time and I felt my focus could have been better when reading material the first time. 

The second part of my research journey was guided by the question, “How was Riel portrayed in various texts?”.  The different Louis Riel statues that have been erected over time were very telling. Some statues portrayed Riel as a hero while others portrayed him in a negative light. This part of my research was easier for me to understand because it involved less reading and had great visuals of the statues. It was easier to put the details in context. 

The final piece of my research included a video produced by Historica Canada, a Heritage Minute called Louis Riel. Like the statues, this was very easy to understand because it was very visual. I found it a good summary and validation of everything I learned in my previous stages of research. I wondered how much bias the producers had when making this film, it appealed to the viewers emotions but definitely left an impression that Riel was treated unfairly. 

In the exploration of Louis Riel and the Red River Rebellion, my research began with understanding the Metis and key figures like Riel, Thomas Scott, John A. MacDonald, Gabriel Dumont, and William McDougall, along with the roles of the Hudson Bay Company and the Canadian government. Despite initial challenges, a comprehensive timeline was created to track changes in Riel’s portrayal over time. The second phase focused on how Riel was depicted in various texts, including statues that portrayed him as both a hero and a controversial figure. Visual elements aided comprehension in this part of the research. The final piece was a Historica Canada video, “Louis Riel,” which served as a visual summary, prompting consideration of potential bias in its emotional appeal and portrayal of Riel’s unfair treatment. Overall, the research journey revealed evolving perspectives on Riel and the importance of efficient information processing in future projects. Overall this was a great and informative project. Here is the final product, my multi – paragraph. 

Louis Riel: From Controversial Figure to Founder of Manitoba – A Transformative Historical Journey

The portrayals of Louis Riel over time reflect a transformative shift in perspective, changing him from a once-deemed Canadian criminal into an important historical figure and recognized founder of Manitoba. The Hudson Bay Company sold southern Manitoba to the Dominion of Canada in 1869 without consulting the Mètis who lived there. Conflicts arose when the Canadian government sent surveyors to the region. This resulted in the Mètis, led by Louis Riel, establishing the Mètis National Committee so they could negotiate with the Canadian government. However, tensions escalated when Riel ordered the execution of Thomas Scott, a labourer who acted against the Committee. Despite these conflicts, the Manitoba Act still passed in 1870  This act guaranteed Mètis religious and language rights. Yet the Mètis still faced a lot of  challenges so, many left their land claims and moved to Saskatchewan. Riel, who was considered a criminal for Scott’s execution, lived in exile in America. He returned in 1884 to fight once again for Mètis and indigenous rights which led to the North-West rebellion. Riel was captured, charged with high treason, and executed in 1885. Riel’s portrayal has evolved from a criminal to a significant figure in Canadian history and the founder of Manitoba. Despite controversies, his commitment to Mètis rights and the negotiation for the Manitoba Act underscore portrayals of his that show him as a rebel.

In more recent history three statues were made depicting different aspects or opinions of Louis Riel. These statues provide a more modern and distinct perspective on this pivotal Métis leader. In John Nugent’s 1971 statue, Riel is depicted with despair, symbolizing the challenges he faced in historical events and inviting reflection on the intricate aspects of his life. Lemay’s and Gaboury’s 1973 statue emphasized Riel’s suffering during captivity but was not very popular. Joyal’s 1996 sculpture replaced the previous one, presenting a more honourable perspective. He was shown standing upright with proper clothes as well as a scroll. This emphasizes Riel’s strength of character and prompts viewers to recognize his significant person in the history of Canada. Together, these statues offer a diverse and thought-provoking exploration of Louis Riel’s legacy.

Historica Canada produced a Heritage Minute video portraying Louis Riel’s story. The video depicts Riel as calm and resolute, demonstrating his commitment to the Métis cause. He speaks through the video showing his internal struggle with his efforts and journey. His use of “we” emphasizes his leadership role and collective identity with the Mètis. The video leads towards a positive portrayal and acknowledges Riel’s importance and historical impact. Background voices are heard while Riel is talking`. This provides context and underscores Riel’s significance. Additionally, the video’s focus on Riel’s face focusing on his emotions, conveying his internal struggles and acceptance of his death sentence. The Heritage Minute depicts how perspectives of Riel have changed over time from someone who was villainized as a criminal to an important figure in Canadian history, a Mètis leader, a protector of minority rights, and Manitoba’s founder. In 2007, Manitoba remembered him by making February 19th a public holiday. However, the Mètis recognize him on November 16th, the day that he was executed. Further, in 2016, Manitoba acknowledged Riel as the first leader of Manitoba and in 2023 they named it the honorary “First Premier of Manitoba”. Riel is a modern day hero.

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