The story of Louis Riel’s accordion

Submitted by: MNO Peterborough and District Wapiti Métis Council Chair Christa Lemelin

The Story Of Louis Riel 's Accordion(Left-right back): Museum Curator Kim Reid, Museum
Director Susan Neal and Museum Curatorial Assistant
Allison Hayes. (Front-right): MNO Peterborough and 
District Wapiti Métis Council Chair Christa Lemelin posing
with Louis Riel's accordion. Click here for larger picture.
On October 5, 2017, Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Peterborough and District Wapiti Métis Council (PDWMC) Chair Christa Lemelin was invited to the Peterborough Museum and Archives to learn about a very important artifact in their collection. The artifact was an accordion that once belonged to Louis Riel.

Museum staff gave her a behind-the-scenes tour and explained where the artifact was from and how it came to be a part of their collection.

A close examination of the accordion reveals that Louis Riel's initials "L.D.R" inscribed on it.

According to the information on file, the accordion was found in the belongings of Louis Riel in Batoche and was taken by Canadian soldier Walter Stewart after the 1885 Resistance in which many Peterborough men served.

Walter Stewart was the first person into the Batoche and the accordion was taken as a trophy of souvenir (this is reportedly the same group that brought the Bell of Batoche to Peterborough). Stewart then sent the accordion to George Stewart, who's family donated it to the original Peterborough Museum over 100 years ago.

In 2002, the Peterborough Museum contacted the Saint-Boniface Museum suggesting that the accordion should be repatriated back to the Métis people so that it could be placed where it belonged.  At that time, Saint-Boniface said they would be happy to discuss this option, but told the Peterborough Museum to keep it safe in the meantime.

Posted: October 26, 2017

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