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The statue of Louis Riel, adorned with a sash by the Métis University Students Association

Remembering the legacy of Louis Riel and the Métis he fought for

February 10, 2016 — 

Louis Riel was once called a traitor, rebel, and criminal but that view is evolving. In fact, his polarizing influence is now being recognized as having a lasting, positive effect on Canadian history.

Far from the days when Riel was known for being a traitor and the murderer of Thomas Scott, Riel has been increasingly recognized as someone who played a key role in Confederation.

Though Riel’s execution remains a contentious issue and numerous demands for his retroactive pardon have been made — especially in Manitoba — today, it’s much more accepted, even outside of Manitoba, that Riel was a visionary whose principles resonate with many Métis and Canadians. It’s taken decades for this shift to occur and now, Manitoba celebrates Riel with a holiday in his honour.

Brad Boudreau is the president of the Métis University Students Association (MUSA) and says it’s important for all Manitobans to understand the significance of Louis Riel Day. He says the holiday not only celebrates the history and events that occurred during Riel’s lifetime, but the holiday is also meant to honour the people Riel defended — the Métis — who effectively disappeared from written history for 50 years after the Battle of Batoche.

“It took almost 100 years for Riel to finally be recognized for what he is, the founding father of Manitoba and the President of the Legislative Assembly of Assinniboia and in effect, the first Premier of Manitoba,” says Boudreau.

“The significance of Riel Day is much more than appreciating Louis Riel himself, a hero and negotiating partner in Confederation during the Red River Resistance. The other half is understanding the Métis, our people’s story of resiliency and re-emergence. We see the past wrongdoings being recognized and with a new generation of Métis youth eager to continue the work of our elders, the future looks bright not only for our student group, but for the Métis Nation as a whole,” he adds.

On Friday, February 12, the 2nd annual UM Louis Riel Day celebration will take place at Migizii Agamik beginning at 11:30. The celebration will include an adorning of the sash ceremony of Riel’s statue, live fiddle music by Oliver Boullette & Darren Malcolm, a soup and bannock lunch, and guest speakers that include UM student leaders Brad Boudreau and Kristin Richard who are presidents of the Métis University Students Association (MUSA) and UM Aboriginal Student Association (UMASA) respectively. The Métis flag will also be flown in front of University Centre.

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Wear your sash, win a prize

MUSA encourages the entire community to celebrate Louis Riel Day and the spirit of the Métis by wearing a Métis sash on campus from February 8-12. They’re also organizing a social media contest in which participants are encouraged to take photos of themselves wearing a sash and share them on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtags, #Riel2016 and #umanitoba. Prizes will be given to the most creative entries.


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