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Whi[l]e the rebellion was on, all eyes in Canada were turned on the
scenes of fighting, but now through the summer and onto the fall
public attention has been focused on the trials. The story of these
has often been printed and aroused bittersweet feelings in eastern
Canada, but their chief significance was their effect on
establishment of local peace and security. The eight Indians47
tried for murder at Battleford were all executed there.
At Regina Big Bear48
both received penitentiary sentences, but both soon had these
commuted. Both died within a tear of their release.50
Although the condemned men confessed Christianity the old superstitions still clung to them. One young Indian was known to ask for a pair of English shoes as he would have a long way to walk before reaching the happy hunting ground. This is vouched for by the sergeant of the guard on duty the night before the execution. He said the mien of the condemned was stoi[c]al but towards morning the courage of the youngster was failing. Through the interpreter, he was asked if he wished to say anything. He replied that it had always been his ambition to own a pair of shining shoes like those the white men wore. On being told this the sergeant sent to his room for his patent leather dancing pumps. The young buck put them on smiling at their glossiness, and late[r] walked erect to the scaffold with the same unfaltering step as his elders.51
The trial of Louis Riel52 was a protracted one and gave rise to much controversy, both locally and in the east. Some attempt was made to show that he was of unsound mind in the ground that after the failure of the Red River Rebellion he was confined in a lunatic asylum for a time. Two appeals, one to the Higher Court of Manitoba and later to the Privy Council, failed to support the plea. He was held to be sufficiently in possession of his faculties to know the responsibilities he was incurring.53 He was convicted of treason and sentenced to death on September 16. Execution was delayed pending the appeals until November 16, 1885 when he was hanged in Regina54...
In many of the stories by writers in Canada the “Rebellion of 185” because of its dramatic character, has been given a conspicuous place--too conspicuous perhaps.… [original ellipsis] Emphasis on the fighting has tended to over-emphasise the antipathies between the white and red in the West. While it is undoubtedly true that during the uprising emotions were deeply stirred on both sides, and while it can hardly be said that the fire quickly burned itself out, leaving no trace behind, none the less our cordial attitude toward the Indian before the Rebellion and the Indian’s friendly attitude to us was not essentially altered. This restoration of good feelings was the easier because second thought had recalled the most useful aid given by the Indians in warning the whites, and the obvious fact that the fighting had been done by relatively small numbers of youthful hot-heads whom the elders were perhaps unable to keep in check. The Indians on his side was able to dis-associate his attitude to Dominion Policy55 toward him from his attitude to white personal. Ev[e]n at the height of the struggle the Indian had not harmed any of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s servants, and with the exception of the Frog Lake massacre they had not harmed the Clergy. They were fighting against Dominion Policy and were most incensed against those on the spot who had the duty of implementing it. Perhaps most significant of all was the fact that throughout the struggle—even when women prisoners were marched about for weeks through the bush—not one woman was molested …
White and Red had of course, differences of race and culture that were profound. But there was always a mutual respect and some understanding, if not always affection. The breeds,56 on the other hand, were neither white or red and it was harder to establish good relations with those because of the amorphous character of their way of life, as of their chromatistic. Having neither the traditions of the whites, nor the prowess of the Indian they were on a plane particularly their own, and the position was therefore, spiritually insecure...
The strain of the rebellion made it necessary for me to accompany my mother57 to the East for a few months. We returned in October. In the railway coach coming from Winnipeg was a cousin of Constable Cowan who was killed at Fort Pitt and they talked about the uprising. The only other occupant of the coach was a little woman belonging to the Metis of Manitoba, with her baby of less than a year and a toddler of possibly four. As the evening wore on the children grew restless and the little French woman looked very weary. My mother took the baby on her knee and hushed him to sleep. The other lady amused the toddler and the tired mother slept. When we reached Regina we parted. My mother and I to return to our reclaimed home, and the other mother58 to visit for the last time her doomed husband, Louis Riel.
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University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. 2006. E-mail me