Extraordinary Canadians: Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont

Extraordinary Canadians: Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont

by Joseph Boyden

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Louis Riel is regarded by some as a hero and visionary, by others as a madman and misguided religious zealot. The Métis leader who fought for the rights of his people against an encroaching tide of white settlers helped establish the province of Manitoba before escaping to the United States. Gabriel Dumont was a successful hunter and Métis chief, a man tested by warfare, a pragmatist who differed from the devout Riel. Giller Prize—winning novelist Joseph Boyden argues that Dumont, part of a delegation that had sought out Riel in exile, may not have foreseen the impact on the Métis cause of bringing Riel home. While making rational demands of Sir John A. Macdonald's government, Riel seemed increasingly overtaken by a messianic mission. His execution in 1885 by the Canadian government still reverberates today. Boyden provides fresh, controversial insight into these two seminal Canadian figures and how they shaped the country.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143178750
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Publication date: 10/05/2010
Series: Extraordinary Canadians
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 202 KB

About the Author

JOSEPH BOYDEN's first novel, Three Day Road, was selected for the Today Show Book Club, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, and the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize and named the Canadian Booksellers Association Fiction Book of the Year; it also earned him the CBA’s Author of the Year Award. His most recent novel, The Orenda, won Canada Reads and was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Boyden divides his time between Northern Ontario and Louisiana.

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Extraordinary Canadians Louis Riel And Gabriel Dumont 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the third book from the Extraordinary Canadian series that I¿ve read, and the best so far. The series seeks to make the story of Canadian historical figures more accessible by producing short texts, written by excellent authors. Joseph Boyden was an inspired choice to write this biography of Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont. He is an award-winning author with Metis roots. Mr. Boyden is a great writer ¿ I¿ve enjoyed both his novels immensely (Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce). And his writing made this short biography come alive for me. I felt as if I was with Gabriel Dumont as he set out in June, 1884, to ask Louis Riel to return to Canada. However, this book does assume a certain amount of knowledge about Canadian history and the context in which the events portrayed take place. Without that context, or the background those of us who do read more serious studies bring to the book, we may have increased accessibility, but only up to a point. At best, the book may entice people to learn more about Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and the events they helped to shape. At a minimum, people know a little more than they did before. But the book doesn¿t explain the significance of the French and English working together in the West even as ¿The Two Solitudes¿ was the norm in Central Canada. It doesn¿t explain the Catholic-Protestant divide and how that affected politics. Today, a Christian is a Christian and young people think of religious debates as between Christians and those of other faiths ¿ not within the Christian family. The railroad ¿ a major nation-building initiative ¿ was used to subdue a nation, from the Metis perspective. The author doesn¿t talk about the significance of the railroad from either of these perspectives. On the other hand, the book does a good job of showing the role of religion and the strong influence of the priests in the Saskatchewan uprising. But, perhaps I¿m not being fair as this is a biography ¿ not a history. What does this book tell us about Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont? Mr. Riel has been viewed, over time, and by different people as a visionary hero; by others as a misguided religious zealot, if not simply a madman. Mr. Dumont was a successful Metis Chief. They each made brave political decisions which carried them away from a relatively safe life to one filled with danger and unpredictability. They stood up for what they believed in and in so doing, they changed not only their own lives, but also the shape of Canada. Mr. Boyden suggests that the Metis would have been better off had Dumont not brought Riel back to lead them. Dumont was a strong leader and an excellent battlefield tactician. Louis Riel was inspirational, but his religious fervour made him far from pragmatic. I think this book illustrates exceptionally well two truths. One, that history could have been very different but for single decisions of individuals, such as Gabriel Dumont¿s decision to engage Louis Riel in Saskatchewan¿s struggle. Second, that history depends very much on perspective. Of all Canada¿s historic figures, Louis Riel remains one of the most controversial and enigmatic. Was he a father of confederation or a traitor? A mystic seer or a madman? The website of the Metis National Council notes that ¿Every November 16th, the Métis Nation gathers in communities across the Homeland to remember our fearless leader, Louis Riel. This day marks the death of this dedicated leader who sacrificed his life in pursuit of recognition and acceptance of our people.¿ Yet, with one exception, psychiatrists from 1885 to the present have generally agreed that Riel suffered from megalomania. History as perception is clearly evident in any discussion of Louis Riel, even today.Gabriel Dumont has a much cleaner legacy. Batoche, where the Métis Provisional Government had been formed, has been declared a National Historic Site, including Gabriel Dumont's grave marker. The Gabriel Dumont Institu