Louis RIEL

Family tree of Louis RIEL

Canadian politician

CanadianBorn Louis David RIEL

Canadian politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba

Born on October 22, 1844 in Colonie De La Rivière Rouge, Terre De Rupert

Died on November 16, 1885 in Regina, Territoires Du Nord-Ouest, Canada

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The Red River Settlement was a community in Rupert's Land nominally administered by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), and largely inhabited by First Nations tribes and the Métis, an ethnic group of mixed Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux, French Canadian, Scottish, and English descent. Louis Riel was born there in 1844, near modern Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Louis Riel, Sr. and Julie Lagimodière.

Riel was the eldest of eleven children in a locally well-respected French Canadian-Métis family. His father had gained prominence in this community by organizing a group that supported Guillaume Sayer, a Métis imprisoned for challenging the HBC's historical trade monopoly. Sayer's eventual release as a result of agitations by Louis Sr.'s group effectively ended the monopoly, and the name Riel was therefore well known in the Red River area. His mother was the daughter of Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière and Marie-Anne Gaboury, one of the earliest white families to settle in the Red River Settlement in 1812. The Riels were noted for their devout Catholicism and strong family ties.


Riel was first educated by Roman Catholic priests at St. Boniface. At age 13 he came to the attention of Alexandre Taché, the Suffragan Bishop of St. Boniface, who was eagerly promoting the priesthood for talented young Métis. In 1858 Taché arranged for Riel to attend the Petit Séminaire of the Collège de Montréal, under the direction of the Sulpician order. Descriptions of him at the time indicate that he was a fine scholar of languages, science, and philosophy, but exhibited a frequent and unpredictable moodiness.

Following news of his father's premature death in 1864, Riel lost interest in the priesthood and he withdrew from the college in March 1865. For a time he continued his studies as a day student in the convent of the Grey Nuns, but was soon asked to leave following breaches of discipline. He remained in Montreal over a year, living at the home of his aunt, Lucie Riel. Impoverished by the death of his father, Riel took employment as a law clerk in the Montreal office of Rodolphe Laflamme. During this time he was involved in a failed romance with a young woman named Marie-Julie Guernon. This progressed to the point of Riel having signed a contract of marriage, but his fiancée's family opposed her involvement with a Métis, and the engagement was soon broken. Compounding this disappointment, Riel found legal work unpleasant, and by early 1866 he had resolved to leave Canada East. Some of his friends said later that he worked odd jobs in Chicago, Illinois while staying with poet Louis-Honoré Fréchette, and wrote poems himself in the manner of Lamartine; also that he was then for a time employed as a clerk in St. Paul, Minnesota prior to returning to the Red River Settlement on 26 July 1868.

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Geographical origins

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