Louis Riel   the  Métis
dramatic story poem by   keith  o'connor
faces: by  keith o'connor ...  
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I am making changes 
to this poem 
it's a bit slow 
and confusing  
in places 
to those native peoples  settlers  canadians and others in this land "Canada" who have had their rights  trampled upon by government 
this poem is humbly dedicated
While other fathers of Canada's confederation came to symbolize law and order peace and good government Louis Riel the Métis became Canada's silenced soul of liberty fraternity and equality. 
this dramatic story poem is no. two in a series of seven  
Drama 2 of 7 previous next
Louis Riel   the  Métis 

Part one: land of the Métis  

Rupert's Land 
start in northern Quebec 
go across northern Ontario 
then slide down diagonally 
 to southern Alberta 
five million square kilometers 

Rupert's Land 
ruled by England's 
Hudson's Bay Company 
for two hundred years 
land to be given by England 
to the new 
Dominion of Canada 
which has been created 
by the British North America Act 
of July 1st 1867 
a new nation 
of three million people 

before the Rupert's Land transfer of 1870 
the Métis 
had settled the Red River area of Rupert's Land 
Canadian government bureaucrats of the day 
unofficially referred to them as 
those fucking french half-breed bastards 
we'll get rid of them 
they are in the majority now 
but not for long 
we'll drown them in new settlers from Ontario 
we'll start now 
to send in the surveyors to map their land 
that way we'll be ready for the day 
when Canada is officially given Rupert's Land 
then in come the settlers 
out go those bastard french half-breed Métis 

Part two: a peoples first struggle 

the advance teams of surveyors 
meet strong resistance from the Métis 
they know the survey of their land 
is the first planned step 
of their destruction 
the Métis responded 
as an intelligent organized group 
and this took Canada's bureaucrats by surprise 
as government officials 
were heard to say 
what do you mean 
those fucking Métis 
have formed a provisional government 
Louis Riel talked them into it 
  they want to negotiate directly with London 
they have published a list of rights 
and believe 
they will have more say 
over how they are governed 
  they become a province of Canada 
our Prime Minister 
wants a peaceful solution 

the new provisional government 
lead by the well educated 
Louis Riel 
acting in its legal law making capacity 
preceded to bring to trial by judge and jury 
one  Thomas Scott: rabble rouser 
a vociferous  ant-french  anti-Métis bigot 
spends his time promoting hatred and suspicion 
between French and English settlers 
and constantly plots to overthrow 
 the provisional government 
he is also a devoted member of  
the  Irish Orange Lodge of Ontario 
known for their ultra-conservative attitude 
towards the french and native peoples 

In spite of strong pressure from his blood lusting 
 Irish Orange Lodge  supporters 
the jury found him guilty as charged 
and the judge imposed 
 the normal death sentence of the period. 
Under normal judicial conditions 
the provisional government 
would have been receptive 
to the well thought out appeals 
submitted by the moderate 
thinking settlers 
and provisional government advisors 
because of Thomas Scott's 
vociferous antagonization of his jailers 
pleas from the moderates, 
for the repeal of his death sentence 
fell upon ears that he had insulted 
 and made into enemies by his evil disposition 
which in the end precipitated his execution   

The passage of time 
would prove this execution to be 
of disastrous consequence  
for the Métis people and members 
of their provisional government. 
For they had inadvertently 
activated the fanatical Ontario hatred 
of the french 
of the Métis 
 of the Indians 
they could now focus their hatred 
through the execution of Thomas Scott 
and they would  from their dark hearts 
pursue their need for blood lust revenge 
 into the decades to come 

history  records  the peaceful creation 
of the new province of Manitoba 
carved after the Rupert's Land transfer 
at the suggestion 
of the Métis provisional government 
by  the government of Canada 
who having granted to the Métis 
many of their  requested rights 
as  negotiated 
by their  provisional government 
which upon joining Canada 
was peacefully dissolved 
with a promise of amnesty 
and a further promise 
that on their agreement 
not to participate in governing 
the new Provence of Manitoba  
the Canadian government 
agreed to provide the necessary 
protection against the blood lust revenge 
festering in the dark hearts 
of many Ontario voters still expressing 
anger over the execution of the rabble rouser   
Thomas Scott    
over the next fifteen years 
the Métis learned 
how Canada kept its word 
Louis Riel and members of the dissolved 
 provisional government 
were driven from  their new province 
by blood lusting Ontario voters 
to live  in political exile in the United States 
in the new province of Manitoba 
the Canadian Military 
threatened  beat and killed the Métis 
their promised land was taken  
with the help 
of government bureaucrats 
and given to land speculators 
and profiteers who then 
starved the Métis into poverty 
drove them from their homes 
destroyed their family structure 
until:  as promised 
they became a beaten minority 
drowned in starvation and hated by the new  
English speaking immigrants 
from Ontario 
the Canadian government 
stood idly by: frozen with fear 
that the anti-Métis sentiment in Ontario 
coupled with the Irish Fenian 
threat of invasion would lead to 
an uncontrollable insurrection 

all this occurred  
during that period in Canada's history 
when human rights were unknown 
and equal treatment under the law 
was also unknown 

Part three: a peoples second struggle 

fifteen years 
after their joining Canada 
many of the Métis 
had been pushed into a corner of 
the north west territories 
there they stood  
to face another losing battle 
to be once more beaten and lied to 
by the Canadian government 
Louis Riel was asked to end 
 his political exile in the United States 
come north and speak to his people 
he came and he spoke 
he spoke: a non violent message 
for he was aware that force 
would result in the Canadian government 
completely destroying his people 
in compliance with the  desire 
of so many Ontario voters 
but:  he was now back  in Canada 
Ontario fanatical supporters 
of Thomas Scott 
vowing blood revenge for his death 
knowing they had intimidated  
 the Canadian government 
into not issuing the official pardon for Louis Riel 
and knowing the Canadian government 
would not stop them 
and with evil in their hearts 
 they obsessively plotted and conspired 
to capture and publically execute  Louis Riel 
that hated french half-breed upstart 

the Métis people 
feeling helpless isolated and alone 
wanting to live in peace 
joined with white settlers and petitioned 
the Canadian government 
requesting settlement 
of neglected land and economic issues 
in their corner of the North West Territories 

after months of inaction 
on the part of the Canadian government 
 and eighteen years after confederation 
fifteen years after reforms promised 
by the government of Canada 
were never realized 
the Métis 
formed their second provisional government 
in the year 1885 
but this time declared themselves independent 
from Canada 

they were quickly joined by Indians 
who had themselves suffered neglect 
and starvation on the new reserves 
into which they had been herded 
through treaties of rights 
that were subsequently ignored 
by the government of Canada 
they immediately joined into  
the new provisional government army 
gaining their first victory 
over the Canadian Forces 
at Duck Lake 

the Canadian government promised 
immediate support for many of the 
provisional government's 
list of rights 
an action that both legitimizes 
and recognizes the integrity of their grievances 
but an action that came too long after a history of inaction 
the inaction that escalated the struggle for rights 
into the confrontational stage 

but  years of  neglect 
at the hands of the Canadian government 
a government that spoke with a forked tongue 
of promises that concealed an uncontrolled 
and  growing  
anti-Métis anti-Indian sentiment 
expressed through treaty rights neglect 
finally resulted  in bands of starving 
embittered Cree Indians attacking settlements 
at Frog Lake and Battleford 
the provisional forces 
were quickly drawn into the conflict 

 the Canadian Forces 
sent to eradicate this 
second provisional government  
continued to suffer defeat after defeat 

it was only a matter of time 
before the Canadian government 
with its resources and population 
could mobilize an army 
that would defeat 
the provisional government 
and their Cree supporters 
the hangman's noose 
will eliminate the leaders 
effectively ending  all future complaints 

part four: victory in defeat 

Louis Riel 
you have been tried and found guilty 
of treason 
and shall  hang by the neck 
until dead 

it is the strong recommendation 
of this jury 
that Louis Riel 
in recognition of his moral stand 
against the deplorable treatment 
by the Canadian government 
on the Métis people 
and their supporters 
be shown mercy 
through the traditional 
right of the government 
to repeal his death sentence 


history records that  
no mercy was shown 
by the Canadian government 
too frozen with fear of the anti-Riel 
 blood seeking Ontario faction 
on November 16th 1885 
in the city of Regina 
after fifteen years of 
ignored promises 
ignored treaties 
threats  - beatings - starvation 
and murder of my people 
I Louis Riel 
calmly walk up the steps 
of the Canadian government's scaffold 
and stand with the hangman's noose  
round my neck 
say good-by to friends 
pray that God 
forgive my enemies 
and give my people 
liberty - fraternity - and equality 
the trap door upon which I stand 
"may now open" 
I drop 
into momentary pain 
that seems an eternity 

part five: birth of the dark side 

the young Canada 
shamefully catering 
 to evil blood lust 
has killed a noble son 

the young nation of Canada 
try to erase 
try to hide 
try to forget 
try to escape 
the act that bore its dark side 
but in the end 
and at some future time 
will recognize 
Louis Riel 
as a Father of Confederation 
unlike other Fathers of Canada's Confederation 
known for their allegiance 
 to law and order 
peace and good government 
with compromise 
contrast them with 
Louis Riel 
Canada's first freedom fighter 
and Canada's father 
liberty - fraternity - equality 

in the 20th century 
father to those powerless 
starving Canadians 
peacefully marching for their rights 
and on orders 
from a subsequent Canadian government 
gunned down in the streets of Regina 
their blood 
joined with the long dried 
19th century 
blood of Louis Real the Métis 
runs down streets 
and into the sewers 
of Regina 
on Canada day 

Louis Riel the Métis 
pushed  into a neglected corner 
of Canadian history 
returns from his historical exile 
to inspire Canadians 
as they march 
into the new millennium 

Keith O'Connor 
Ottawa Canada 
2002  Jan 8 
Copyright © 


this dramatic story poem is no. two in a series of seven  
Drama 2 of 7 previous next
 source material:  Chronicle of Canada  
chronicle publications Monteral Quebec  1990 
poet's note 
thanks to my wife Sharon for her editing 

Louis Riel and many of the Indians 
who supported him 
were condemned and hanged for treason 
in an age that had no universal vote 
no charter of rights 
no legal political mechanism 
to enforce Canadian government treaties 
and promises  
  Louis Riel 
died fighting for human rights 
and he 
continues to this day to be condemned 
by the modern day heirs of the 
blood lust citizens of the political right 
who themselves enjoy more 
personal freedom and rights 
than Louis Riel and the provisional government 
 ever dreamt of 
 yet they continued to unsuccessfully oppose 
Louis Riel's  posthumous recognition 
by the government of Canada 
as a Father of Confederation 
one hundred plus years after his death 
It is this poet's contention 
that Louis Riel 
is the only symbolic 
of the silent Canadian soul 
Canada without Louis Riel 
has no great cultural myth 
end of poet's note 

 historical note 
between the time 
when the Hudson's Bay Company 
stopped policing Rupert's Land 
and before Canada acquired 
Rupert's Land 
in 1870 
the Métis set up 
their provisional government 
under international law of the period 
such an act was reasonable 
end of historical note
link to the list of rights published by the 
Métis first provisional government 
(not yet active) 
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