Riel Rebellion Starts

Land of Red and White 1975The summer of 1884 Riel was invited to return and lead the protest movement. It was said that at times he had suffered from rages, delu­sions of grandeur, messianic claims, and dictatorial im­pulses. In November of 1874 he reported a vision in which he was told he was "God's instrument for the regeneration of the Metis." In 1876 he was in an asylum in Montreal. Two years later he was released and lived with the help of the Church and friends. He moved west and joined the Metis near Fort Benton, Montana. In 1879 he tried to per­suade Crowfoot, Blackfoot leader, to join the Sioux and Crees to retain the West for Indians and Metis. He had mar­ried in 1881, and by 1883 had become an American citizen.

On June 4, 1884, Gabriel Dumont, two other Metis, and an English half-breed rode into the Sun River Mission School, southeast of Fort Benton, where Riel was teaching. They had made a seven-hundred-mile ride from Saskatche­wan to ask his leadership again. The Riel family arrived at Batoche in July to live with a cousin, Charles Nolin. Al­though support came from English half-breeds and whites at Prince Albert, it was not forthcoming from the church. Riel said that if Metis claims were met, some appointments made, and he was given a seat on the North-West Council, the half-breeds would be satisfied. Instead of giving up American citizenship he would settle for $5,000. By Jan­uary, 1885, the sum was up to $35,000.

In December 1884, a petition in French and English, complete with signatures, was sent to Chapleau, Secretary of State. It dealt with Indian, White, and Half-breed matters. Prime Minister Macdonald felt the only important claim was the Metis demand for financial compensation for their share in the Indian title to the land. Early in Feb­ruary, 1885, the Cabinet agreed to investigate the claims. A telegram was sent to St. Anthony's Church at Batoche, saying a special commission would be appointed to enume­rate the half-breeds in the Northwest and make settlement. By mid-March Riel had plans to take Fort Carlton, a Hud­son Bay post with a police garrison, as he had taken Fort Garry. He had forced the Dominion of Canada to accept Metis terms in Manitoba, and he felt he could do it again.