By Judith Fitzgerald
From Manitoba Métis Federation President David Chartrand:
"During his captivity by Canada, Louis Riel befriended one of the guards in the jail at Regina, who gave him two small booklets and a pen to write. The written word was always a mighty weapon in the hands of Riel; but, in this time before his [hanging] he chose to write comforting words, indeed, very courageous words."
Now, thanks to donations from the community and parties interested in preserving these extraordinary words contained within the yellowing and frayed pages of that pair of notebooks, they are on display in Winnipeg for all to view, no small feat considering they were obtained at auction by the Manitoba Métis Federation for a whopping $32,000.
Nothing, but nothing, notes Bertrand, would stand between the auctioneers and his organization acquiring the artifacts belonging to Riel (who was jailed for treason and hung mere weeks later):
Speak of God in whom
In him I have room
Threatens my life; but
Thank God, I fear not."
Chartrand further observes, "I am amazed at the smallest details of these poems. If you look at the immaculate penmanship, you will see a flow and a precision. These are not the words of a mad man. These are the words of a Leader who knew that he was a part of something bigger than himself but with his story, he could achieve so many more greater things because the Metis people would survive and take on the mantle of his leadership."