Manitoba Historical Society
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My Love Affair with Louis Riel: Kin relive historic Riel days

by Lillian Gibbons

Winnipeg Tribune, 4 March 1959

In the quiet of an Elmwood home the men and women sat and relived the stormy chapter of Manitoba history in which their famous forebears had figured so prominently.

Reil was there—Nault, Lepine, Bruce—names of the men who defied an empire to build a new and short-lived nation in the West.

Eighty-nine years ago today, a handkerchief fell to the ground and rifles cracked to end the life of Thomas Scott, the Orangeman from Ontario who interfered too often with the affairs of Louis Riel’s provisional government.

Descendants of Riel and cabinet ministers of his provisional government discussed Scott’s death in observing the 85th birthday of Alexandre Nault, son of Andre Nault, member of the court martial which condemned Scott to death.

Meeting at 1044 Talbot Ave., Louis Riel nodded his head in approval as Nault gestured towards Lepine.

Louis Riel is the 27-year-old grandnephew of the illustrious leader. Emil Lepine is the grandson of Ambroise Didyme Lepine, cabinet minister.

It was on March 4, 1870, that Andre Nault dropped the signal kerchief on the snow-covered ground outside Fort Garry.

“Scott did not live in agony 10 hours after he was shot,” said Mr. Nault. “That story is quite untrue.”

“Scott had two holes through his chest. My father told me this many, many times.”

“My father lived to be 95 but he would not tell where the body was buried,” said Mr. Nault.

Mr. Lepine, whose grandfather was the adjutant general of the court martial which passed the death sentence on Scott, said neither his father nor grandfather ever told him what happened to the body.

Another young man joined in Mr. Nault’s birthday party—Donald Francis, a Winnipeg actuary and a descendant of Riel’s chief justice, James Ross.

With the clock turned back, Mr. Nault told the younger men about the Riel government’s flag—a banner no one living has seen.

The flag was white with French fleur-de-lis and Irish shamrocks entwined.

“Some people wanted to tramp on the Union Jack,” said Camille Teillet, whose wife, Sarah Riel, was a daughter of Louis Riel’s brother Joseph. “Riel got sore. Both flags were used. The Union Jack was flying when the soldiers of Gen. Wolseley arrived.”

Another connection with the past was provided by Azarie Bruce. His grandfather Herman Bruce was a cousin of John Bruce, president of the Metis before the Riel government was named.

He became secretary when the 40 elected delegates from the English and French parishes confirmed Louis Riel as president. That was the first time the people of the Red River Valley ever voted.

Page revised: 10 June 2021

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