RCMP to hand over Riel artifacts to Métis

The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG–Three items, including a crucifix, that belonged to North-West Rebellion leader Louis Riel, which have been held by the RCMP for decades, soon will return to Métis possession.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau and Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand signed a memorandum of understanding Saturday that will see the items transferred to a Métis heritage centre in Winnipeg, once it is built.
The items, which also include knife and a book of poetry Riel wrote, currently are on display at the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina.
Riel was convicted of treason in 1885 for his role in the rebellion and was hanged.
Brosseau, who is of Métis heritage himself, said Riel is believed to have handed the crucifix to a member of the North-West Mounted Police prior to his execution.
He added the RCMP have had it since 1959.
“It’s important to me, certainly on a number of levels but absolutely being a person of Métis descent, that those items be returned,” Brosseau said Saturday.
Chartrand said the items belong with the Métis, not the Mounties.
“They’re not trophies,” he stressed. “They’re actually very important artifacts that have a direct connection to our great leader.”
Brosseau said the agreement to return the items follows news stories about them earlier this year.
Discussions then were launched between the RCMP and Métis groups over what to do with them, he noted, and it was determined there was an interest by Métis groups to have them.
Chartrand said Métis groups have asked RCMP to hang on to the items until the planned Métis centre is finished.
He noted construction is hoped to begin next year.
Brosseau said the poetry book was donated to RCMP in 1943. The hunting knife was given to RCMP in 1947.

While the items can be viewed by the public at the RCMP museum in Regina, Brosseau said it’s not the same.
“People have seen them and been exposed to them, but in the context of an RCMP heritage museum as opposed to, in this case, a museum which will ultimately be built by the Métis nation,” he noted.