New photo at Manitoba museum shows Louis Riel on the lam from bounty hunters

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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WINNIPEG - An unknown photograph of Louis Riel - taken when he was a fugitive from bounty hunters in the wake of the Red River Rebellion - has surfaced.
Philippe Mailhot, director of the Saint-Boniface Museum, said a copy of the photograph will go on temporary display at the museum Monday, Louis Riel Day, along with copies of Riel's school report card and letters he wrote.
Mailhot said the latest photo and letters are among several that have popped up through the decades since Riel's death.
"You look at all of this in context," he said Thursday. "It's pieces of a large puzzle."
Riel, known as the Father of Manitoba, was executed in 1885. He was born in 1844.
But in 1872, he was in St. Paul, Minn., hiding from bounty hunters looking to snag the $5,000 offered for his arrest issued by the province of Ontario.
For whatever reason, Riel went into a photo studio there and had his picture taken.
Mailhot said that photo, along with the letters and report card recently donated to the St. Boniface Historical Society, is the only one known to have been taken while Riel was in exile.
"He was on the lam," Mailhot said. "He has a thousand dollars, and he is lying low from bounty hunters. It's of historical value."
As for the report card from the College de Montreal when Riel was 14 or 15 years old, it notes Riel "accomplished himself very well" and "his conduct is satisfactory."
The new letters that will be on display at the museum include one that is the earliest surviving copy of one written by the teenage Riel.
In a Dec. 30, 1858, letter to the woman who paid his way to go to the College de Montreal, Riel was effusive in his thanks.
Mailhot said Riel called her a "noble woman who in your great soul has done so many kind things for me" and was "the object of my tender love."
"It is very flowery language," Mailhot said.
The museum director said it is also interesting to see how Riel signed the letter - Louis Riel-Fils - showing that he was Riel Jr., named after his father.
In another letter written about the time the exile photo was taken, Riel was responding to a request for more information about the meetings held during the Red River Rebellion.
"It is difficult to come across my notes," he wrote.
Mailhot said for many in Manitoba, Louis Riel Day is an opportunity to go skating at The Forks or enjoy family time, "but for people who want to learn about Louis Riel and get in touch with him, they can come here."

Organizations: College de Montreal, Manitoba museum, Saint-Boniface Museum Boniface Historical Society

Geographic location: Manitoba, WINNIPEG, St. Paul, Minn. Ontario

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