The Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled and launched (22nd October) new coins which commemorate Louis Riel’s place in Canadian history on the 175th anniversary of his birth, as well as being a celebration of the cultural legacy of the Métis Nation and its resilience. The 2019-dated special edition Proof dollar highlights the contributions of Louis Riel (1844-1885) and the Métis Nation to the story of Canada. A defender of Métis rights and a catalyst for change, Louis Riel was born 175 years ago in Saint-Boniface, in the province he later founded. In fact, it was 150 years ago that the National Committee led by Riel drafted an initial list of rights for the Métis Nation — the groundwork (or declaration) in which land claims and language rights were preconditions to Manitoba’s entry into the Canadian Confederation.
Born on the 22nd October 1844 in Saint-Boniface, in present-day Manitoba, Louis Riel was the eldest of 11 children born into a locally well-respected family of Franco-Ojibwa Métis descent. Roman Catholic priests first educated the young Riel at St. Boniface and descriptions of him at the time indicate that he was an excellent scholar of languages, science, and philosophy. Impoverished by the death of his father in 1864, Riel at the age of 20 took employment as a law clerk in the Montreal law office of Rodolphe Laflamme — a one-time member of parliament in the House of Commons of Canada. Riel had found legal work unpleasant, and by early 1866, he had resolved to leave what was the part of Canada then known as Canada East, consisting of the southern portion of the modern-day Canadian province of Quebec.
For a time, he was briefly employed as a clerk in Saint Paul, Minnesota, before returning to the Red River settlement — which was located on the Red and Assiniboine rivers — in July 1868. During the Red River Resistance of 1869-1870, the Provisional Government of Assiniboia, under Riel’s leadership, negotiated Manitoba’s entry into the Canadian Confederation and was contingent on the recognition of Métis rights and land claims. While the Manitoba Act became law in 1870, the execution that same year of Thomas Scott, who was employed by the Canadian government as a surveyor during the Red River Rebellion, cast a pall over the provisional government and Riel was forced into exile. He returned to Batoche in Saskatchewan to lead a second armed resistance movement, the 1885 Northwest Resistance, which ended in defeat against federal troops. He was charged with high treason and hanged on the 16th November 1885. Today, Riel is remembered as a champion of Métis nationhood and rights, and, since 1992, the founding father of Manitoba. In the province of Manitoba, the third Monday of every February is a provincial holiday known as “Louis Riel Day.”
Designed by Métis artist David Garneau, the reverse side of the silver Proof quality dollar coin features a front-facing portrait of Louis Riel, who is wearing his fur-trimmed buckskin jacket, which is adorned with traditional floral beadwork. His Conventry sash forms one looped half of the emblem of the Métis Nation — an infinity sign that represents the unification of two cultures, both European and indigenous, and the immortality of the Métis Nation. The sash bears Riel’s title in three languages: Michif (NIIKAANIIW POOR LA NAASYOON LII MICHIF), English (MÉTIS NATION LEADER), and French (CHEF DE LA NATION DES MÉTIS). An engraved reproduction of Louis Riel’s signature appears below the word CANADA, the year 2019, and the face value, DOLLAR.
The obverse features the effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II designed by artist Susanna Blunt and has been seen on all circulation and many commemorative Canadian coins since 2003.
|Dollar||.999 Silver||23.1 g||36 mm||Proof||15,000|
Each coin is encapsulated and presented in a Royal Canadian Mint-branded presentation case, accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, complete with a black outer protective box. For additional information about this coin and others offered by the Royal Canadian Mint, please visit their website.