I will perhaps be one day acknowledged as more than a leader of the Half-breeds, and if I am, I will have an opportunity of being acknowledged as a leader of good in this great country. Louis Riel
A pivotal figure in the Metis and First Nations resistance against colonialism in Canada, Louis Riel was an active leader of the 1869 and 1885 resistance efforts in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
After the failure of the first resistance, Riel went into exile in the United States among his relatives, first at Turtle Mountain and later among the Metis community in Montana where he taught school. During his exile he was naturalized as an American citizen.
During the troubles leading up to the resistance in 1885, a delegation was sent to ask Riel to return to lead the Metis and First Nations people against further incursions by settler colonialists into Saskatchewan. He was eventually captured and a trial was held whereby he was found guilty of treason against the Canadian government.
As both and Indigenous person and as a United States citizen, it was impossible for him to be found guilty of treason towards a government and country that was not his, and to whom he had never sworn allegiance to. Nonetheless, on November 16, 1885, Riel was hanged for treason at the North-West Mounted Police barracks in Regina, despite letters from powerful supporters and an investigation by the United States congress and President.
Just before he was hanged, Riel was asked by a guard for a souvenir. Riel looked at the man and said:
I have nothing but my heart and I have given it long ago to my country." Louis Riel