The Trial of Louis Riel

7 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2007

See all articles by Douglas Linder

Douglas Linder

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law

Date Written: 2007


By modern standards, the North-West Rebellion seems no big deal. Canadian forces easily quelled the uprising of a couple of hundred Metis settlers along the South Saskatchewan River. A majority of Metis in the region sat out the fighting, and only about one hundred persons died in the conflict. (Although that figure of one hundred deaths was significant in this sparsely populated region.) The importance of the North-West Rebellion, apart from establishing the ability of Canadian government to successfully carry out a military action far from its center of power, is symbolic. As has been often noted by historians, the debate over the North-West Rebellion and the subsequent trial of Louis Riel reveals the tensions that continue to distinguish Canada: east versus west, native versus non-native, French-speaking versus English-speaking, American versus Canadian. Over time, Louis Riel has been seen as a demagogic madman, as an innocent victim of Prime Minister John Macdonald's fanaticism, or as a martyred national-liberation leader. None of these characterizations is entirely accurate; each contains some measure of truth. The North-West Rebellion and the trial of Louis Riel is best understood as the product of a particular place and time: the Canadian frontier, in a time when civilization and its institutions confronted the traditions of a more primitive people.

Keywords: Famous Trials, Trial, Louis Riel, Canada, Canadian, North-West Rebellion, John Macdonald, Saskatchewan River, Metis, Hudson Bay Company, Regina

JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41, K42

Suggested Citation

Linder, Douglas, The Trial of Louis Riel (2007). Available at SSRN: or

Douglas Linder (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

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