Is this Riel Life? Or is this Just Fantasy

In the short time before the semester changed, my PLP 9 class dove into the study of an important individual in Canadian history; Louis Riel. Now, I’m somewhat of a history hater, so when the project was first announced, I was disappointed. I have never felt any interest in historical events such as World Wars or ancient civilizations like my peers, so I was counting on this particular assignment to bore me. Yet, at this moment in time, reflecting on “Let’s Get Riel”, I feel more connected to my country’s past. However, if you aren’t familiar with this Métis legend, let me indulge you in his story, so sit down, get comfortable, and enjoy as I share with you a retelling of Louis Riel and his portrayal in history through my eyes.


For this assignment, we had to create a multi-paragraph composition based on our driving question, “How has the portrayal of Louis Riel changed over time?”. He was portrayed as many different things, but the evolution in itself reminded me of the power of perspective. History is not a fixed entity; it is subjective, shaped by the viewpoints and biases of those who record it. What we believe to be true today may be challenged and reevaluated in the future. It made me realize that our understanding of the past can never be fully comprehensive or objective. Growing up, I was taught a simplified version of history, where the heroes and villains were clearly defined. But as I delved deeper into Riel’s story, I realized that reality is far more complex. The struggles faced by the Métis people were not black and white; they were multifaceted and intertwined with issues of identity, land rights, and cultural preservation. In a way, studying the life of Louis Riel challenged me to question my own assumptions and preconceived notions. It made me realize that history is not just a static collection of dates and events; it is a living, breathing entity that continues to shape the present. 

While I’ve discussed a lot about his story and my thoughts on it, I haven’t talked much about the actual composition. This project was very challenging for me, as I couldn’t put my opinion into it. I’m usually a very opinionated person, you could ask anyone I know, so having to write a piece of literature while staying completely impartial was hard. I wrote drafts and drafts, each one different yet not meeting my personal expectations. Then something clicked, and I knew how I had to write. I wrote like someone who just knew the facts, the evidence given to them, like I knew nothing other than the impartial truth. And after revisions from myself and the teaches, I had a finished product that I was proud of.

So, is this real life, or is it just fantasy? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. The study of Louis Riel allowed me to step out of my historical apathy and explore the vibrant and often untold stories that shaped our nation. It reminded me that history is not just a subject to be endured; it is a lens through which we can better understand ourselves and our country.

How Do Ideas Drive Change? A Winter Exhibition ❄️

Exhibition day is supposed to be the day when you proudly present your finished product to the world, showing it off and reminiscing on the last few months of building, painting, planning, and overall design. But when you have 8 unassembled pieces of a Rube Goldberg machine, a documentary to finish, and 7 hours before people show up, exhibition day is one of the most stressful parts of PLP. Now, before we begin, let me take you back a 2 months, when our project, “Metaphor Machines” was announced.

I was assigned to the Haitian Revolution group as part of a project. Before diving into our specific revolution, we read ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell to understand how power can corrupt people and lead to conflict. We analyzed the characters and their actions, relating them to real-life historical events. We had passionate discussions about the characters’ intentions and the manipulation of power. Once we finished the novel, we were given our revolution groups. My group was tasked with researching and analyzing the Haitian revolution. My first job was to create an infographic educating our classmates about the causes, events, and impacts of the revolution. I wasted no time and started working on it immediately. After revising it myself and getting feedback from peers, I handed it in and moved on to the next step, planning.

The planning was probably the easiest part of it all. We first made individual plans, with connections and the metaphorical message behind them. For some, the metaphors proved to be challenging, but I found them easy because we already had the background information for our machines to help guide us. And after completing our ones, we gathered as a group to turn our 7 blueprints into 1 collaborative one.  Once we had a fine design, and it was approved by the teachers, we moved on to the hardest step of it all, the building. 

The building process was hands down the hardest part of the entire project. We all decided to work on our connections, but we also had to work on the design for our room, the supplies and the documentary, so things got out of hand fast. Some people did a lot, some people did nothing, and at points, there were times when I wanted to give up. But as a group, we pushed through and started working together. We made ramps, designed switchbacks, overcame obstacles and did a lot of painting, and in the blink of an eye, it was the day we were all waiting for exhibition day.

This day, on December 21st, the day of the exhibition, was the day that everything went south. While all of our connections worked on their own, which was a miracle, to begin with, when we put them together, nothing seemed to work. We tried moving parts, repositioning them and even scrapping some, but nothing seemed to work. When we took a break for lunch, I wanted nothing more for the day to be over, but by some blessing, we made the 2nd half of the machine work. Our next challenge was the documentary, and because the person in charge of it became ill at the last second, we had to finish it day of. But that didn’t stop us, and when the exhibition was in full swing, we had something to show people, and with our solid presentation, half a documentary and witty charm, which all worked out for the best.

And lastly, to touch on our driving question: How do ideas drive change? Ideas have the remarkable power to ignite change by acting as the fuel that propels revolutions. They are like the metaphoric sparks that set in motion a Rube Goldberg machine, the simple yet effective series of cause and effect. As we collaboratively built our own Goldberg machine, we learned the importance of working together to overcome obstacles in our path. Similarly, when ideas are shared and combined, they become a force that can triumph over any hindrance, driving transformative change in the world. And even though we’ve faced challenges, we learned many valuable lessons, and that I wouldn’t trade for the world.