Part 6

One June day, Riel received a visit from four Métis, Gabriel Dumont, Moïse Ouellette, Michel Dumas, and James Isbister. They had come to ask Louis to once again lead the Métis. They had travelled from northern Saskatchewan where most of the Métis had settled after 1869. They had had resumed their traditional way of life, but it was once again threatened by an influx of settlers and immigrants. Their rights were no longer being respected; their lands were being taken; and, the government was not listening to them. Louis made up his mind quickly. The dream he had cherished for so long was coming true: his people needed him. After an absence of 15 years, he returned to Canada. The years of exile had left their mark  and he now had an opportunity to reclaim his rights and those of his brethren from the Canadian Government.

Louis set out for Batoche with his wife and two children, arriving around the beginning of July 1884. On July 8, he addressed the Métis. His program was a moderate one, directed as much toward the Indians and the white setters as the Métis. All three groups responded warmly to his presence. Each group was to retain its independence, but a central committee would formulate specific demands to be sent to Ottawa.  A decision  to send petitions to Ottawa on behalf of the people was made. Several of Riel's supporters would have preferred bolder action. The Indian and the Métis were dying of hunger and the European settlers were anxious to have the land issue resolved.

On December 16, 1884, after several public meetings, a petition was dispatched to Ottawa demanding that the settlers be given title to the land they occupied; that the districts of Saskatchewan, Assiniboia and Alberta be granted provincial status; that laws be passed to encourage the nomadic Indians and Métis to settle on the land; and, that the Indians be better treated.

In spite of the support Riel received from the Métis, anti-Riel feeling prevailed among the Catholic clergy who feared his power and were suspicious of his religious beliefs. Their opposition caused the breach between Riel and his church to grow even wider. Led by Father Andre, the clergy tried to oust Riel as Métis leader, but were unsuccessful.

On February 11, 1885, the federal government answered the petition, promising to appoint a commission to investigate the Métis claims. The first step would be a census of the Métis in the Northwest Territories. This proposals angered the Métis who were hoping for a quicker solution to their problems. Seeing that nothing had been accomplished, Riel asked the Métis if they wanted him to continue as their leader. Forsaken by their priests, the Métis reaffirmed their vision of Riel as leader and prophet.