Posts Tagged With: Louis Riel

Louis Riel- Are Two Statues Better Than One?

louis rielLouis Riel’s important role in the history of our city and province is recognized in a new music video by Winnipeg’s own Royal Canoe featuring Exodus of the Year- my favorite song by the band. exodus of the year video royal canoeThe video shows Riel’s statue on Broadway Avenue, his statue in St. Boniface and his grave.

LRpb.tifRiel’s contributions have been recognized in many ways- in an opera, in a terrific graphic novel by Chester Brown, in the name of a Winnipeg school division, and in the February provincial holiday named after him. Two statues of Louis Riel in Winnipeg- one in St. Boniface and one on the Manitoba Legislature grounds reflect the two sides of the man who is widely known as the Father of Manitoba but was hanged as a traitor. louis riel st. boniface statueI’ve blogged about one of the Riel statues already and thought it was time to write about the other. So I stopped at 450 Broadway on a bicycle trip last week to snap some photos of the Riel statue there by artist Miguel Joyal.

louis riel statue broadway winnipegIn this statue Riel isn’t naked as he is in the St. Boniface one. louis riel boat tripHe is  dressed in a suit and vest and bowtie -although he is wearing moccasins and a sash in recognition of his Metis heritage. 

louis riel statue

He is holding the Manitoba Act in his hand which was based on a List of Rights Louis Riel wrote that included among many other things recognition of this area of Canada as a province by the federal government, the right to representatives in the House of Commons and Senate and the use of both French and English in all government communication. 

louis riel st. boniface collegeThe statue of Riel in St. Boniface (which by the way used to stand on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature) does a better job of showing the tortured soul Riel was in many ways, and what a price he paid for his political activism, exiled for years to the United States as a wanted criminal and struggling with mental illness. 

louis riel legislatureThe statue on Broadway shows him as the great statesman, forward thinker and founder of the province of Manitoba.  It is probably good that we have both statues in our city. 

Other posts about Louis Riel…..

A Graphic Louis Riel

A Controversial Statue

The Provencher Bridge

Could I Have Been A Grey Nun?

We’re Living in a Piece of History

The Street Where I Live

 The Park At the End of the Bridge

Categories: Downtown, Politics, St. Boniface, Statues | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A Graphic Louis Riel

On February 24th when we celebrated Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, I realized I had done any number of blog posts that involved Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba.  When I visited the Grey Nuns’ Convent I found out Louis Riel was a student at a school run by the nuns and one of the sisters traveled to Montreal with him so he could attend college there. I have since learned as well that Louis Riel’s sister Sara joined the order of Grey Nuns in the 1860’s and remained a serving sister till her death of tuberculosis in 1883.

When I wrote a post about James Ashdown who built the warehouse which houses my condo in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, I noted that Louis Riel had imprisoned Mr. Ashdown for 59 days because he voiced resistance to Louis’ take over of the Red River Settlement. 

I did a post about Joseph Royal and the park named after him at the foot of the Provencher Bridge.  I wrote about how Joseph had argued for Louis Riel’s amnesty and had defended two of Louis’ compatriots who were accused of the murder of Thomas Scott. 

I explored the life of A. G. Bannatyne in  a post since I live on Bannatyne Avenue. Mr. Bannatyne acted as a mediator between Louis Riel’s provisional government and the Canadian government. I noted that Louis Riel even wrote a poem about Annie Bannatyne, A.G’s wife. 

In my post about the Provencher Bridge I said that the pedestrian walkway on the structure was called Esplanade Riel in honor of Louis Riel. 

I realized I had written quite a bit about Louis Riel, but how much did I actually know about him? My last Canadian history course was in high school and I had never read a book about Louis Riel. I decided it was time to remedy that. I didn’t have time however to read some thick tome about the founder of my province so I decided to get Chester Brown’s Louis Riel- A Comic Strip Biography from the library. I had introduced my high school students to a couple graphic novels and I knew they were a good way to tell a story. 

Although I was a little disappointed that the book didn’t deal with Louis’ childhood it did provide a good overview of his life from the time just before the Riel Rebellion/ Resistance till Louis’ execution. The book was easy to read and I finished it in a day. I learned that Louis Riel was  elected to Canada’s Parliament three times while he was a wanted criminal and in exile in the United States. 

I learned quite a bit more about the role Canadian prime minister Sir John A McDonald had in the resistance movements in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan that Louis was involved in.  Brown depicts Sir John A as mean-spirited, self -serving and willing to sacrifice anything to get his railway built across Canada. 

I learned quite a bit more about the relationship between Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was more of a pragmatist than Riel and more interested in violent resistance. If you want to know more about Riel and Dumont listen to this excellent interview with Joseph Boyden who has written a book about the two men. 

I also learned what a deeply religious person Louis was and how that influenced his decisions. 

Chester Brown’s graphic comic gave a good overview of Louis’ life. Since Riel plays such a prominent role in the history of the province of Manitoba and in the history of Winnipeg it is good for me to know more about him.

I am currently reading Louis Riel-Firebrand by Sharon Stewart to learn more about Riel’s childhood and personality. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like…………..

A Controversial Statue

Categories: Famous Citizens, Literature | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Could I Have Been A Grey Nun?

The Grey Nuns are a Canadian order of  Catholic sisters founded in 1738 in Montreal. Four women from this order came to Manitoba in 1844 to provide educational and medical services to the fledgling Red River Settlement, which would later become the city of Winnipeg. Could I have been one of them? I don’t think so. They were brave and courageous women, compassionate and daring, overcoming extreme hardship to carry out their divine mission of caring for those in need.
On Sunday I was out for a walk and went by the St. Boniface Museum. I noticed it was open and decided to go in and pay a visit. St. Boniface is a French suburb of Winnipeg.

The museum which tells the story of the Grey Nuns is located in their former convent, built in 1847. It is the oldest building in the city of Winnipeg. 

You might wonder why they were called Grey Nuns when their habits are clearly brown and black. Apparently originally the sisters did wear grey habits but their name comes from another association. The order was founded by this woman Marguerite d’Youville. She was a young widow. Her deceased husband, an abusive liar, who left his wife and two young children in debt when he died, had sold bootleg liquor for a living. Because of this, Marguerite and the three other women who helped start the order were called “les grises” – a phrase meaning both “the grey women” and “the drunken women”. The first description came from the color of their cloth habits, but the second, because Marguerite d’ Youville, the order’s founder, had been married to a man who sold illegal alcohol. 

 Sisters Valade, Lagrave, Coutlee and Lafrance were the four nuns who volunteered to come to Manitoba  from Montreal.  They left on April 24 in a canoe and their trip was no picnic. In their journals they talk about walking through endless bush as they portaged from one body of water to another. They describe the snakes in their camps, which scared them so much they could hardly sleep. They had to climb steep hills and it rained almost everyday. Sister Emily Lafrance twisted her foot and the voyageurs who were paddling the canoes wanted to leave her behind. She soldiered on and walked with a limp the rest of her life. 

Sister Emily was very artistic. I took a photo of this paper mache’ Virgin Mary she made for the Grey Nuns’ first chapel. She also painted frescoes on the chapel ceiling and spun and wove beautiful altar cloths. 

The nuns traveled around to Indian and Metis settlements providing medical care and teaching the children. Metis are a cultural group in Manitoba. They are the children of First Nations women and French voyageur men. 

This statue of Louis Riel, Manitoba’s most famous Metis stands outside the Grey Nun’s convent. Many people say he was the founder of our province. Louis was one of the Grey Nuns’ students. When Sister Valade made a trip back to the order’s convent in Montreal she took Louis along and enrolled him in a college where he studied for seven years.

Sister Teresa McDonnell was a Grey Nun who came to Manitoba in 1855 and won the hearts of the Metis, because her herbal remedies cured many of their illnesses. She traveled anywhere, in any kind of weather if someone needed her help. She was affectionately called ‘Sister Doctor’. In 1859 she was to go back east to the central convent but the Metis actually kidnapped her and kept her in Manitoba.  An article on the Manitoba Historical Society website says Sister Teresa was the founder of Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital, and St. Mary’s Academy, a well-known girls’ school. 

I have several personal connections with the St. Boniface Hospital. I lived on the hospital campus for a year when I was six years old, because my father was a medical resident there. There was a special apartment building near the hospital for residents and their families. My sister Kaaren was the chief nursing officer at the St. Boniface Hospital from 1997-2007.  Now I visit the hospital regularly because it is where my mother has received dialysis three mornings a week for the last four years. 

I asked the attendant at the museum if the Grey Nuns’ order was still active. She said there are a few Grey Nuns left but the youngest is 65.  The government has taken over most of the hospitals and care homes that were founded by the Grey Nuns. There is a plan underway to bring in young nuns from an African order to carry on the Grey Nuns’ legacy. Apparently there just aren’t enough North American women willing to dedicate themselves to a nun’s life anymore. 

Could I have been a Grey Nun? I’m not sure I could have lived the isolated, selfless life they did, ignoring physical discomfort to bring hope, literacy and healing to so many people. 

I am glad however that I visited the St. Boniface Museum and learned all about the Grey Nuns and the important contribution they made to Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba. 

Categories: Churches, Famous Citizens, Museums, St. Boniface | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.