Metis in the Margins?: Louis Riel, Montreal and Colonial Education

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Friday, September 22, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Prince George
Global Friday Presents
Dr. Max Hamon
Assistant Professor, History
University of Northern British Columbia
Abstract: Louis Riel is one of Canada’s most famous political figures. Many know him as a leader of the Metis Resistance at Red River in 1869 and again at Batoche in 1885. He was eventually executed for treason by the Canadian government. However, Riel’s reputation as a “rebel” obscures his more complex role in the project of building the Canadian nation-state. This talk presents a fine-grained study of Riel’s education at the Sulpician College in Montreal from 1856-1864 to illustrate some of that complexity. Archival traces show that Riel integrated well into the student body, that he was a leader, and had literary ambitions. My research in the archives of the Sulpicians revealed a manuscript of Riel’s graduation speech, given as an upper-level philosophy student, that provides an opportunity to examine how this young Metis man managed colonial education. Through Riel’s education in Montreal this essay illustrates some of the tensions of empire in nineteenth-century colonial British North America.
Speaker's Bio: Dr. M. Max Hamon received his PhD from McGill University in 2017. He has also taught at Carleton, Brandon and Queen’s. Broadly, he is interested in socio-cultural and political history of the nation state and the Indigenous-newcomer relations with a particular focus on the Métis. His first book, The Audacity of His Enterprise: Louis Riel and the Métis Nation that Canada Never was, 1840-1875, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, won the Wilson Institute Prize in 2019 and the Prix de l’Assemblée nationale du Québec in 2020.
Max is currently writing a history of borderland policing in Canada and the United States. He is particularly interested in the early forms of community policing that pre-date the federal police. He has also created a podcast series titled “Police and the Border”.
He teaches courses on pre- and post-confederation Canadian history, Indigenous history in North America, as well as the history of crime and policing in North America.
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Global Fridays gratefully acknowledges funding from the Faculties of Indigenous Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities.

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