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Memorable Manitobans: Charles Nolin (1823-1907)

Click to enlargeMétis leader, MLA (1875-1878), MLA (1878-79).

Born at Cavanagh, North Dakota, the son of Augustin Nolin and Hélène-Anne Cameron, in 1823. The family came to Red River in 1825 and Charles was educated by Bishop Provencher. He worked as merchant and trader until the outbreak of the resistance in 1869. He was sent by Riel, on 4 December 1869, to William McDougall with a list of rights demanded by Riel’s Provisional Government.

In early 1870, he was elected a delegate from Ste. Anne des Chênes to the Convention of Forty, at which he opposed Louis Riel on several occasions, ultimately voting against the establishment of Red River as a separate province. He was subsequently elected to the Assembly that was to govern provisionally, but was soon arrested by Riel. Nolin attempted to gain the leadership of the Métis after Riel’s exile.

During the Fenian scare of October 1871, he commanded a loyal group of Métis from Pointe-de-Chênes. In1873 he assisted Bishop Provencher in helping the Saulteaux Indians obtain their land. He contested the riding of Ste. Anne in the provincial election of December 1874, and defeated A. A. C. La Rivière. He was Minister of Agriculture in Premier John Norquay’s cabinet from March to December 1875, when he resigned to sit as an independent, in which capacity he was highly critical of the treatment of the Métis. He retreated to Saskatchewan in 1879, after losing out in a power struggle in the legislature and being reprimanded for election irregularities. He became a leader of the Métis in the South Saskatchewan River district, and was a supporter of Riel upon his return as leader. Arrested in 1885, he was freed in return for his testimony against Riel. He later received patronage support from the Tory government, but was never again politically successful.

Nolin died in November 1907 near Battleford, Saskatchewan.

More information:

Charles Nolin, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XIII, 770-72.

Sources:

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Page revised: 16 October 2008

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