IN THE DAYS OF THE RED RIVER REBELLION
Volume 12 Number 1
Insurrection. Manitoba in 1880 or Quebec in 1970? The two situations had much in common. Consequently, the Manitoba Act of 1870 is currently a popular topic of discussion in Quebec and the Red River Rebellion exerts its influence a century after the hanging of Louis Riel.
Perhaps this accounts for recent editions of McDougall's work by Coles, University of Toronto Press, Longman, and University of Alberta Press. Straight reprints of historical sources sometimes disappoint readers on account of archaic literary style or nauseating prejudice. John McDougall's turn-of-the-century writing has maintained its popular appeal because it is sufficiently free of these defects.
In style his work somewhat resembles Paul Kane's Wanderings of an Artist. Both men were sensitive writers who held the respect of volatile Indians and rugged settlers by a display of personal strength and courage.
However, Kane was a traveller and McDougall a resident, if one could so describe a travelling Methodist missionary. McDougall married an Indian and brought up his children in the West. He spoke several native languages and could write sensitively of both Indians and whites.
A concise biography of this remarkable leader is given in Susan Jacket's introduction. His writing and missionary work are both put in perspective. Her notes are welcome, as is her bibliography.
McDougall's title is apt to be misleading. For a balanced, factual account of Louis Riel, one should consult standard sources such as Winstanley. McDougall's account has surprisingly little directly concerning the Riel Rebellion. It describes the tension of the time from an English viewpoint. It gives an excellent account of violent Indian conflicts and shows the influence of white men on them. The accounts of missionary work are excellent, as is the account of the appalling smallpox scourge. For those already knowledgeable about the rebellion, the book will fill in some often neglected background material. For those looking for light reading with Canadian content, the book can be treated as a good tale of adventure set in an area that considered separatism before Confederation.
Robin Lewis, Riverdale H. S., Pierrefonds, QB.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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