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Great Possibility, The: Louis Riel & the Metis Resistance

Country Available: Canada, USA

It has been over a century since Louis Riel was executed for treason, yet the debate over this charismatic, contradictory, complex man still simmers. The metis share a special bond with the land and this man their leader who dreamed of a new nation that would harmonize and bridge the conflicted worlds of Indian and White, Catholic and Protestant, English and French.

Through archival stills and dramatic recreations, this film tells the story of Riel, from a young boy sent to Montreal for a classical education, to his return to the Red River where he became inextricably entangled in the political scene of Manitoba then a territory in the wide open West of Canada.

As the leader of the Provisional Government of Manitoba, his life became forever altered and his political fate sealed when he ordered the execution of Thomas Scott, an Orangeman, in 1870. Scott, a member of the Canadian Party, was agitating to overthrow Riel and the Provisional Government.

Riel s execution of Scott made him a wanted man and he was forced to flee the country to the United States, a sentence commuted on the condition of a five-year banishment.

Religious mania, a sense of persecution, the Thomas Scott execution, and his banishment despite having been elected to parliament twice in abstentia, took its toll on Riel, culminating in his suffering the effects of a total breakdown physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Riel eventually found some peace in his life. He moved to the United States where he met his wife, had two children and lived the life of an ordinary man, a school teacher.

But back in his homeland the Metis were battling against an influx of settlers, land speculators and whiskey traders, and the indiscriminate slaughter of the buffalo that sustained their way of life.

Now quickly loosing their land base, the Metis went across the border to implore Riel to return to Canada to help them regain their rights within the province of Manitoba.

Reil s return to Canada set in motion the first and last civil war that the country has ever known. In 1885 the fight over land and rights became a military showdown a showdown that the Metis eventually lost at Batoche, Saskatchewan. Riel was captured by canadian troops, and as leader of the resistance, tried for treason and sentenced to death by hanging. That sentence became the tragic outcome of Canada s deep divisions: Catholic-Protestant, French-English, Indian-White the very same divisions Riel s Great Possibility of the mixing of the blood sought to bridge.

This is the great, untold story of the West the forgotten history of the Metis people of the western plains. By exploring their ill-fated attempts to create their own country, we can better understand the fundamental problems of race that have haunted Canada ever since.

View a printer friendly version of this page...Copyright Date: 1996 Formats Available:
  • DVD