Riel Rebellions

Riel Rebellions
(1869–1870, 1885)
   Two revolts, led by the brilliant, charismatic, and delusional Louis Riel, of the Métis - a mixed French-Indian people of the Red River Valley in presentday Manitoba - against the encroachment of the Dominion of Canada on their territory. The first rebellion, better known as the Red River Rebellion, was a byproduct of the creation by the British North America Act of the Canadian confederation and its westward expansion into territory also coveted by the United States. The Canadian government purchased the enormous territory of Rupert’s Land, of which the Red River Settlement was on a tiny portion, from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1869 and appointed a governor who immediately set about surveying land occupied by Métis and not yet officially transferred to Canada. Riel set up a provisional government, arrested leaders of the local pro-Canada movement, and negotiated a settlement making the Red River settlement part of the new Canadian province of Manitoba. An expeditionary force of British regulars and Canadian militia led by Colonel Garnet Wolseley was sent on a 1,000-mile march, initially to occupy the new territory but later to arrest Riel after it was learned that he tried and executed one of the pro-Canada leaders. When the force arrived Riel had fled to the United States.
   The second rebellion came about after Riel’s return to Canada and the attempt to replicate the Red River Settlement and its government at village of Batoche. This time the Canadian government of John A. Macdonald was in a position to launch an immediate military response and to supply it by way of the newly constructed railway. The rebellion was crushed and Riel tried and convicted for treason. Despite pleas for clemency in Canada and from the United States and Britain, he was hanged in November 1885.
   See also <>.
    Stanley, George. Louis Riel. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1963.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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