MHS Short Features: My Love Affair with Louis Riel

by Lillian Gibbons

The following stories were originally published in the Winnipeg Tribune on the dates indicated, and in December 1969 was collected in a pamphlet entitled My Love Affair With Louis Riel.

It started when I stood in his coffin. I went to visit his home, found his coffin that brought him from Regina standing upended in a cupboard. I stood in it for a picture, because nephew Honore Riel ran out of doors, horrified.

I felt squeamish too my mother was to die Oct. 22. Later I discovered this was Louis’ birthday. I felt akin.

One day a plumber phoned up : “I’ve got to tell somebody.” E. C. Matthews had a ghost story. A farmer from Ochre River, Alfred Bowles, came to recite verse after verse of a poem he gave in 1902 as a; child when an Orange Hall was opened. The Lagimodiere family told me the story of Jean Baptiste’s trek on snowshoes to Montreal to warn Lord Selkirk his colony was being wiped out. At a Metis picnic I was thrilled to hear the chairman snatch up a mike, call, “Louis Riel, calling Louis Riel.” And he came, like Hotspur : “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.” More relatives and namesakes gathered under the fleur de lis Metis flag for a shadow cabinet picture. I found the four mill stones on Bruce Road that had belonged to Louis, pere, miller of the Seine. Now they’re rescued from the grass, set up on a stand at the Grey Nuns museum … And the coffin I stood in, first saved by museum directors and stored in the crypt, then transferred to city hall, then back to the crypt, burned when the Basilica fell in flames.

Now two men from the St. Boniface side have made a statute of Louis for the coming centenary, but Louis has already made it to the Winnipeg side of the Red: Place Louis Riel is the name of a Smith St. skyscraper. He has come home to the street where I live, work and go to church. My affair is complete.

Coffin in which Louis Riel was brought from Regina is located in ancient closet (23 July 1937)

‘Miller of Seine’s’ millstones recalls days of Louis Riel (19 July 1949)

He saw men cry at Riel’s funeral (14 August 1958)

Metis hero “appears” in log cabin, in Manitoba house, in Ottawa role (13 March 1955)

Kin relive historic Riel days (4 March 1959)

Scott’s cries: The night wind? (29 February 1964)

Nonsense now, but not back in 1870 (20 March 1965)

July 15, two stars began to wane (15 July 1966)

The day Louis Riel was hanged (16 November 1965)

A fateful day back in 1870 (4 March 1963)

Riel and second Tom Scott (7 September 1960)

Does he know where Riel buried Scott? (9 January 1952)

His old homestead now Louis Riel wouldn’t recognize (21 February 1963)

Historical Society wants Riel house (12 April 1968)

Stories houses tell (22 December 1958)

He broke jail with a smuggled knife (30 November 1957)

Relics at museum (19 August 1954)

Curtsy to Royalty buries hatchet (29 June 1959)

Louis Riel’s relative off on trip (11 April 1968)

80 years ago, city crowd celebrated Riel’s defeat (16 July 1965)

Writer advocates Riel home purchase as historical site (17 July 1958)

Riel house to display Louis’ own writings? (23 April 1969)

Page revised: 10 June 2021