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Gabriel Dumont, resistance fighter
Gabriel Dumont was a man of great chivalry and military skill, superbly adapted to the presettlement prairie life (courtesy Glenbow Archives). (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

We do not require a long post on Gabriel Dumont (1837 – 1906), not at this point. A synopsis will suffice.

Dumont, the Bison Hunter

What we need to know is that Dumont was famous as a bison hunter. “In the 1860s, Gabriel was the chief of the Métis bison hunters and commanded approximately 200 hunters.” (Virtual Museum of Canada). As noted in the caption above, below his photograph, he was “superbly adapted to the presettlement prairie life.” His life gives us an insight into the life of Métis before the bison disappeared. The bison/buffalo fed the Métis, prairie Amerindians (North-American Indians), and voyageurs.

I should also point out that Dumont was among the Métis who left the former Red River Colony at the time of the Red River Rebellion, hoping Métis could settle on river lots further west, in Saskatchewan or Alberta. They did, briefly. Gabriel Dumont operated a ferry service, “Gabriel’s Crossing,” and opened a General Store with a billiard table, on the South Saskatchewan River.

Father Alexis André

Once Métis arrived, so did a priest. Father Alexis André (1832 – 1893), an Oblate born in France, would minister to the Métis who had left the Red River. He helped Gabriel Dumont form a Provisional Government for the community he was founding, Saint-Laurent de Grandin. As you know, Gabriel Dumont, a linguist, could not write.

At times, Father André was a spokesman for Métis. For instance, he feared for their well-being as he saw the bison disappear. Father André and North-West Mounted Police commissioner George Arthur French  “urged the federal government to exercise tighter control over these hunts so as to prevent the extermination of the bison.” (See Alexis André, Dictionary of Canadian Biography.) But the federal government had turned its back on petitions, which is why Gabriel Dumont sought Louis Riel’s assistance. Louis Riel was well educated and possessed charisma.

Louis Riel returns

Dumont is, in fact, best remembered for going to Montana to ask for Louis Riel’s help. Therefore, the two figures are inextricably linked. Riel was to be the political leader of the North-West Rebellion and Gabriel Dumont, its military leader.

But the Canadian government was pushing its way west not realizing that Métis and Amerindians could remain on their rectangular lots abutting a river. Petitions went unanswered. So, blood was shed. At the Battle of Batoche (9 – 12 May 1885), 250 Métis fought Major-General Frederick Middleton’s superior force of 916 regulars and militia. Dumont escaped, but, on 15 May 1885, Louis Riel surrendered. (See The Battle of Batoche, Wikipedia.)

Father André also tended to the spiritual needs of Louis Riel during the period Riel awaited his execution. Father André believed Riel was insane, but Riel left a good impression on Father André.

The priest spent hours in conversation with the Métis leader and was impressed with Riel’s sincerity, yet convinced of his insanity.

(See Alexis André, The Dictionary of Canadian Biography.)

Joseph Boyden on Riel and Dumont

Writer Joseph Boyden published Extraordinary Canadians, Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, a fine book on Riel and Dumont. The video below (click on the link) is short, but very informative.

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http://nationtalk.ca/story/featured-video-of-the-day-joseph-boyden-on-louis-riel-and-gabriel-dumont.

A Mari usque ad Mare

As we know, moving west was a mere respite for Métis and the indigenous people of the Prairie Provinces. On 20 July 1871, a year after Manitoba entered Confederation, British Columbia also joined. A dream came true. Canada stretched from sea to sea: A Mari usque ad Mare. The people of British Columbia wanted a wagon road built between Lake Superior and the Pacific Ocean, but Cartier offered a railway instead. Construction would begin within two years and be completed in ten years. Cartier/Canada also agreed to take over the colony’s considerable debt of almost $1.5 million and provide an annual subsidy of $216,000. 

(See British Columbia Entering Confederation, A People’s History, CBC.ca.)

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Hoping to attract white settlers to B.C., land commissioner Joseph Trutch refused to recognize Indian land rights in the 1860s. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada) (Photo credit: CBC.ca)

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During the 1860s, B.C. refused to recognize Indian land titles and often usurped Indian land and gave it to speculators and settlers. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress) (Photo credit: CBC.ca)

Conclusion, later…

I will not conclude at this point, because my computer no longer works properly.  It has to be repaired. Something went wrong.

© Micheline Walker
10 May 2018
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