Riel, Louis (1844-1885), a Canadian rebel leader. He was the leader of the métis (persons of mixed French and Indian ancestry) in the territory that became the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and was the central figure in the Red River Rebellion of 1870 and the Saskatchewan Rebellion of 1885.
Riel was born in St. Boniface, Assiniboia (later, Manitoba), and studied briefly for the priesthood. In the late 1860's, he became leader of the métis in the Red River Valley. They resisted the Canadian government when it sought to make their territory part of the new province of Manitoba. In 1869 he was elected president of a provisional government formed by the rebels. When Canadian troops were sent to put down the rebellion, he fled to the United States.
While in the United States, Riel was twice elected to the Canadian parliament from Manitoba. When he returned to Canada and attempted to take his seat in 1874, he was expelled from the House of Commons and then ordered banished for five years. After suffering a complete mental breakdown, Riel was allowed to seek medical aid in Canada and spent much of 1876-78 confined to an asylum in Quebec. (For the rest of his life, he had periods of mental instability.) After his release, he went to Montana, became an American citizen, and taught school.
In 1884 métis in the Saskatchewan Valley asked Riel to lead a protest against what they considered the Canadian government's indifference to their grievances. After returning, he soon formed a provisional government, with himself as president, and arranged an alliance with the Cree Indians. In 1885 armed revolt broke out. A Canadian army expedition defeated the rebels, and Riel was captured. He was tried for treason and hanged. His death marked the end of the métis' struggle for self-government, but caused hostile feelings for years between French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians.