Hands-On Canadian History: Louis Riel and the Metis

Louis Riel was the leader of the Metis people – descendants of families with one European parent and one Native one. Worried that their land and rights were being taken away, Louis Riel led them through a rebellion. He escaped capture by fleeing the to States.  He returned to Canada, where a few years later he joined another rebellion in the prairies. He eventually was captured and, after a trial, was hanged for treason. (Here is the Heritage Minute about Mr. Riel.) Find out more about his life.

The Metis people are the founding people of Manitoba, and their culture is a fascinating mix of European and Native traditions. One of their most iconic symbols is their arrowed sash.

Hands-on Canadian History: The Metis

Metis Dances

Fiddle music and jigging is a key part of the Metis culture. Let’s give it a try!

Here are the basic steps:

For the most part, it seems very similar to the good ol’ fashioned square dance. See the belts around the men’s waists? Those are arrow sashes – les ceinture flechee. These are very traditional Metis belts that are very similar to those that the voyageurs wore during the fur trade. They aren’t just decoration, but can be used to help with various activities, like carrying heavy loads.

Here is some awesome fiddle music to practice your new dance moves to. Sierra Noble is an artist from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and she recorded this album when she was only 14 years old!

Happy Jigging!

See all 31 Days of  Hands-on Canadian History.

My Canadian Time Capsule

2 thoughts on “Hands-On Canadian History: Louis Riel and the Metis”

  1. George and Terry

    It’s good to educate Canadians about Louis Riel. However, the lead-in above has a few errors. Louis Riel was not “captured” as stated above. He voluntarily “surrendered”, expecting a state trial on the merit of his actions. It never happened. Instead he was unfairly, unjustly and illegally tried, convicted and executed under a 534 year old British Statute which had no application to the charges against Riel. The term “rebellion, used above, is problematic. Riel did not lead a Rebellion in Red River against Canada in 1869/1870- he led a Resistance. At the time Canada consisted of only four provinces, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Western Canada was not part of Canada. When Canada sent survey crews into Red River in 1869; they were foreign intruders. One does not “rebel” against foreign interlopers; rather one “resists” them. Riel led the Red River Resistance, not a Rebellion. George and Terry Goulet.

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