Métis Nation-Saskatchewan remembers Louis Riel as a great, visionary leader

Louis Riel. Manitoba Archives via CP

Each year, Nov. 16 marks Louis Riel Day, a day to commemorate the legacy of the Métis leader.

The regional director and Métis Nation—Saskatchewan (MN–S) Associate Education Minister Wendy Gervais said as Métis citizens, they sash up and gather on this day to reflect on a man who is known as a hero to the Métis people.

“Today, we look at commemorating our former leader who gave up his life for the rights of Métis people,” Gervais said. “When we look back on our history 138 years ago, I like to look at it as the birth of our nation even though we have been here for the last two to three hundred years.”

In 1885, Louis Riel was hanged in Regina for his involvement in the Northwest Rebellions and he was found guilty of treason. The Métis community across the nation gather on this day to reflect on the legacy the leader left behind.

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When it comes to learning about Riel’s legacy, Gervais encourages people to take part in understanding the true history of the Métis nation.

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“I believe from my lens, we have been the forgotten people. We were forgotten during the past 138 years and even prior to that. I think there’s an educational gap within Canada to understand truly who we are,” Gervais said.

“I think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done on. And from an educational perspective, I believe it’s not important (but) I believe it is vital and I believe it should be mandatory…. It goes deeper to understanding who we are but not only as people, but as a nation and what makes us a nation of people.”

A gathering will be held in Regina on Thursday evening with a walk starting at Optimist Park and heading to the RCMP Depot. Attendees will go right into the grounds where Riel was hanged, and a prayer and smudge will occur, followed by a traditional feast. Gervais encourages people to attend and to learn more about the significance of this day.

“Throughout Saskatchewan, at the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, you will see at the grassroots level, many events going on,” she said. “Bring an open mind, bring your heart and bring an empty stomach. If you have a sash, bring a sash, put it on (and) wear it with pride. If you have a flag, bring that too. Just bring yourself, come join us and celebrate and honor our leader.”

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In a prepared statement, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Riel’s contributions to the country cannot be overstated and described his leadership as “visionary and incredible resilience.”

“The Government of Canada recognizes the historic injustices suffered by Métis and all Indigenous peoples. Today, we recommit ourselves to addressing these wrongdoings through meaningful dialogue and collaboration,” the statement read.

“On Louis Riel Day, I encourage all Canadians to learn from our history, and to strive for a brighter and more inclusive tomorrow. As we continue to walk the path of reconciliation, let us take a moment to reflect on and celebrate the diversity that makes Canada stronger.”

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