Manitoba Historical Society
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My Love Affair with Louis Riel: Relics at museum

by Lillian Gibbons

Winnipeg Tribune, 19 August 1954

The pistol that shot Thomas Scott and the rope that hanged Louis Riel are attracting attention in the new museum of St. Boniface Historical Society, third floor, City Hall.

It was Andre Nault’s pistol used to end the life of Scott that March day, 1870. He was given a trial by jury, condemned on the grounds of taking up arms against the provisional government. It was Nault who disposed of the body, taking an oath never to tell where “except it was on sacred ground.”

A piece of the rope that went round Riers neck and the blue and black woven stocking cap he wore are now in the museum.

The little tin trunk with rounded top and bands of oak that Riel took to Montreal when he was a student —Bishop A. A. Tache educated him as a promising lad —is on the floor underneath the propped up wooden casket in which the body was brought from Regina.

It is a shaped coffin, with six sides. Some say it never held Riel but was taken as a blind to meet that gloomy box car that stopped on the prairie. In case an attempt was made to snatch the body, two coffins would provide a ruse. He is buried in St. Boniface cathedral yard with only the name Riel, and the date, Nov. 16, 1885, on the red granite shaft.

The sword given by Lord Selkirk to Jean Baptiste Lagimodiere, who ‘ran’ all the way from Red River to Montreal to tell him his settlement here had been burned, is on display.

Also a HBC calendar depicting the scene when the mocassined, buckskinned coureur de bois burst in on the dance of silver buckled shoes and Empire gowns.

The remains of Fr. Aulneau and his party, who met death on what is now called Massacre Island, Lake of the Woods, are to be seen in a square glass case. The bones were found, brought to old St. Boniface college for safe keeping, were destroyed in the fire of 1922. Only the calcified remains were saved.

Pictures of the tombs of Bishop Provencher and Archbishop Tache are displayed in the museum, also photos of Tache’s body as it looked when viewed twice when the tomb was open. It has petrified, preserving its shape.

“We have no money but still we buy a few things,” said the curator, Mrs. Henry Lane. She showed a signature of Lord Selkirk with a few lines from a letter he wrote.

Two American school teachers were fascinated by “all we’ve learned of early history.” Winona J. Haney teaches at Sparta, Wis., and her sister Gladys Haney at Ishpening, Mich.

Page revised: 10 June 2021

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