Having just done an essay on why he was a traitor and villain, I could be biased, but here are the facts. He was admitted to the Beauport Asylum in Quebec for a period of time, and had religious delusions, claiming he was the “Prophet of the New World”. Although it can be argued that he was a Metis nationalist, they were being unfairly persecuted at the time he lived.
He would stand for hours in a praying position, having servants hold his arms up for him, and he would claim that he was the divinely chosen leader of the Metis. At the end of his life, he was called upon to voice grievances to the government, which culminated in the 1885 rebellion. He would work tirelessly to achieve his goals, and believed in compromise when necessary, forming Manitoba.
Riel was raised a devout Catholic, and had considered becoming a priest before, but turned it down.
An example of his dedication was the tragic Battle of Batoche, where Riel was convinced it was instrumental to defend.
So much a part of Riels self-image was this sense of being a rejected outsider ("interdit") that arguably it should be reflected in any representation of him that aims for historical and social verisimilitude: to depict him as other than "Other," is, almost paradoxically, to deny him his place in Canadian history and culture.
In the years immediately following Confederation, the political situation in Red River (now Winnipeg and what would soon be Manitoba) was extremely uncertain.Boniface in Winnipegsome biographical and historical information is necessary for readers who are unfamiliar with Riels life and its contexts.The written history of what would become Manitoba began in 1670 when King Charles II of England, acting on information provided by two renegade French fur traders, Radisson and Grosseilliers, chartered the Hudsons Bay Company to trade in "Ruperts Land"that is, all the lands draining into Hudsons Bay.Despite the letter, Mc Dougall decided to push on towards Red River, and was forced to turn back by a Mtis barricade.In an act of great national importance to the Mtis, Riel assumed control of Fort Garry on November 2, 1869.Prior to the arrival of Europeans who came to participate in the fur trade, the Native population in Ruperts Land was primarily made up of Cree, Saulteaux, and Assinniboine.As Grant Mac Ewan wittily observes in Mtis Makers of History (1981), "the Mtis nation, if such it could be called, was born exactly nine months after the first white man arrived" (3).None of these charges could be met with execution after statutes were revised in 1867, and it could very well be considered a murder, giving the Dominion justification to hang him for high treason.Riel poisoned relations between the federal government and the Natives and Metis.One reason for this is that, as Ramon Hathorn and Patrick Holland point out in Images of Louis Riel in Canadian Culture (1992), Riels "image is so radically overdetermined, his figure so contradictory" that it inevitably provokes diverse and contradictory interpretations (i).Another reason for the controversial nature of Riel and his image is the liminal position that he occupies between oppositions that are endemic to Canadian culture: "East/West, Quebec/Ontario, Catholic/Protestant, French/English, Mtis/white, Indian/white" (Hathorn and Holland v).