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By Tim Leeds 

Display features Canadian rebel with Hi-Line ties

Clack Museum exhibit shows Metis leader artifacts


January 15, 2014

Lindsay Brown

This June 1885 photo of Gabriel Dumont stands on display at the H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum.

A new display in the rotating Gramma's Attic section of the H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum features a Canadian rebel with ties to Hi-Line's history.

Gramma's Attic is a new feature at the museum started last year, with new displays rotated in each month or so.

Museum Board Chair Judi Dritshulas said Monday at the board's monthly meeting that the latest display features Gabriel Dumont, who is featured in local historian Gary Wilson's newest book, "Adventure Tales of Montana's Last Frontier." She asked Wilson to talk about Dumont.

Wilson said Dumont was a Metis, a man of mixed Indian and European heritage, who fought for the rights of Metis in Canada. Wilson likened Dumont's efforts to the work of Sitting Bull in the United States, fighting to achieve recognition and rights of American Indians.

He said Dumont was negotiating with the Canadian government to confirm the rights of Metis people in Canada, and was getting nowhere and brought Louis Riel in to help with the effort.

According to online documents including Wikipedia and "Riel, Dumont and the 1885 Rebellion," Riel had led the Metis resistance in the Red River region in Canada in 1869 that led to the creation of Manitoba and the acceptance by the Canadian government of the rights of Metis in that region - but also led to Riel being exiled from Canada for five years.

He returned to Canada to help Dumont lead resistance in what would become Saskatchewan, and he and Dumont lead the Northwest Rebellion of 1865. That failed rebellion led to the trial and execution of Riel.

It also is credited with leading Cree Chief Little Bear, whose band was part of the group placed in 1916 on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation that became the Chippewa Cree Tribe, into Montana. Little Bear allegedly participated in the Frog Lake Massacre in 1885 in which Cree warriors killed nine white Canadians. Little Bear and others fled the region into Montana, wandering for decades, often traveling with Rocky Boy, also known as Stone Child, and his band of Chippewa.

Little Bear's band also was regularly rounded up by the U.S. Cavalry and taken back to Canada, but they would then return to Montana.

Wilson said that, after the rebellion, Dumont came to the United States to receive medical care for injuries. He made his way through the Canadian troops and entered Montana - and sat out in the open.

"Waiting for the troops to come take him to the fort so the surgeon could fix him," Wilson said. "And he sat in the jail for three days at Fort Assinniboine - no locks, wide open - while the Canadian and British and Americans debated what to do with him.

Wilson said the British decided they did not need another martyr - the execution of Riel had already created a major uproar,

The U.S. government declared Dumont a political refugee and released him.

Dumont later joined the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, billed as a rebel leader and sharpshooter, and eventually returned to Saskatchewan and to hunting, trapping and farming. He died in 1906.


Reader Comments

Readthehistory writes:

It is debatable if the Riel Rebellion had anything to do with The Frog Lake incident. It was more like the man in charge of rations (food for the Cree Indians) was not distributing them and causing starvation, and all hell blew-out. Both incidents happened at the same time though, and both groups were frustrated with the Canadian government.


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