(1844–85), Canadian leader of two rebellions in Canada. Louis Riel was
born on Oct. 23, 1844, in St. Boniface, Assiniboia. He became a leader
of the métis, who were people of European and Indian descent. He
studied law in Montreal, but left to join the struggle of the
Métis against Hudson's Bay Company when the company planned to
expand and bring in many English-speaking settlers.
Riel led a rebellion over land rights and freedom
of trade. In 1870 Riel was elected president of the government of the
Métis and they seized Fort Garry, which is now Winnipeg, as the
government's seat. In 1875 Riel was outlawed, and he lived in the
United States for several years. The 1882 extension of the Canadian
Pacific Railway brought new European settlers, and the Métis
asked Riel to return and lead them in establishing their rights to
The ensuing uprising became known as the
Northwest Rebellion, and western Indians joined Riel's forces. In 1885
the Royal North West Mounted Police put down the rebellion and arrested
Riel. He was tried and convicted of treason and sentenced to death. The
execution in Regina on Nov. 16, 1885, created an outcry. Sir Wilfrid
Laurier had spoken out in his favor but could not save Riel.
The outbreaks of racial and ethnic tension
after the execution were thought to mark the beginning of Canada's
nationalist movement. After Riel's death, Métis traditions were
Britannica Student Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 30, 2004, from
Encyclopædia Britannica Online.