The Town of Golden and Metis Nation Columbia River Society (MNCRS) celebrated Louis Riel Day on Friday, November 16, and proclaimed November 16-22 Metis week in Golden.
MNCRS began the day with a celebratory ceremony at Golden Secondary School, where students were invited outside to listen to the history and importance of Louis Riel, participate in a flag smudging ceremony, and to raise the Metis flag on the flagpole next to the Canadian and British Columbian flags. Elders prayed and smudged the flag, MLA Doug Clovechok gave a speech, students explained about Louis Riel, and two students sang the Metis anthem.
Later in the afternoon, the community and other schools were invited to town hall for another ceremony and flag raising on the front steps. Caren Nagao spoke on behalf of MNCRS and introduced speakers Clovechok, student speakers, and Mayor Ron Oszust.
Riel is regarded as a Metis leader of rebellion, and the founder of Manitoba. Louis Riel Day is celebrated on the day of Riel’s execution on November 16, 1885.
He was a Canadian politician, and lead two major resistance movements, the first being the negotiations of the modern province of Manitoba entering the Canadian Confederation, named the Red River Rebellion from 1869 to 1870.
Riel ordered that Thomas Scott be executed, and then fled to the U.S. to avoid prosecution.
Later, he was called on by Metis leaders in 1884 in Saskatchewan to speak about issues there to the Canadian government.
He organized a military resistance that lead to military confrontation, the Northwest Rebellion in 1885.
He was arrested and convicted of high treason, and subsequently executed.
As the leader of the Metis people of the Canadian prairies, Louis Riel Day is celebrated across the country to honour Metis people’s culture, language, heritage, and ancestral homeland.
“The Metis people are a distinct fabric of the Canadian identity,” said Clovechok.
Metis history in the Columbia Valley dates back hundreds of years, and also had an impact on the naming of Golden from The Cache, as it was formerly known, explained Paul Ricard, whose Metis family history runs deep in the Valley.
“Metis have lived in the upper Columbia for more than 200 years,” he said, adding that his direct ancestors used to be merchants in the area. “They would sell to trappers, prospectors, and miners.”
The celebration on the town hall front steps for Louis Riel Day was approved by town council earlier in the month.
Councillors and staff agreed that it was important to celebrate the heritage of Metis people in Golden alongside with the rest of the country. Many towns and cities also honour Louis Riel day on the day of his execution on November 16.
In Manitoba it is celebrated on the third Monday in February, when many provinces in Canada celebrate Family Day.