Letters & Diary Entries of Louis Riel Testimony

Letters Introduced as Exhibits for the Crown in the 1885 Trial


Batoche, 12th May 1885

If you massacre our familes we are going to massacre the Indian agent and others, prisoners.


Per J.W. Astley, bearer


12th May 1885

Mr. Riel: I am anxious to avoid killing women and children, and have done my best to avoid doing so. Put your women and children in one place, and let us know where it is and no shot shall be fired on them. I trust to your honor not to put men with them.

FRED MIDDLETON, Comdg. N.W. Field Forces


Batoche, 12th May 1885

Sir: If you massacre our families we will begin by Indian Lash and other prisoners.


Per F.E. Jackson, bearer


Batoche, 12th May 1885

Major General Middleton: General, your prompt answer to my note shows that I was right in mentioning to you the cause of humanity. We will gather our families in one place, and as soon as it is done we will let you know.

I have the honor to be, General, your humble servant,



I do not like war, and if you do not retreat and refuse an interview, the question remaining the same the prisoners.


St Anthony, 21st March 1885

To Major Crozier, Commandant of the Police Force at Carlton and Battleford

Major: The councillors of the provisional government of the Saskatchewan have the honor to communicate to you the following conditions of surrender: You will be required to give up completely the situation which the Canadian Government have placed you in, at Carlton and Battleford, together with all government properties.

In case of acceptance, you and your men will be set free, on your parole of honor to keep the peace. And those who will choose to leave the country will be furnished with teams and provisions to reach Qu' Appelle.

In case of non-acceptance, we intend to attack you, when tomorrow, the Lord's Day, is over; and to commence without delay a war of extermination upon all those who have shown themselves hostile to our rights.

Messrs. Charles and Maxime Lepine are the gentlemen with whom you will have to treat.

Major, we respect you. Let the cause of humanity be a consolation to you for the reverses which the governmental misconduct has brought upon you.


Rene Parenteau, chairman                                  Jean-Baptiste Parenteau
Chas. Nolin                                                           Pierre Henry
Gab. Dumont                                                         Albert Delorme
Morse Ouellette                                                   Dum. Carriere
Albert Monkman                                                  Maxime Lepine
Bte. Boyer                                                             Bte. Boucher
Donald Ross                                                         David Tourond
Amb. Jobin                                                            Ph. Garnot, secretary

St Anthony, 21st March 1885

To Messrs. Charles Nolin and Maxime Lepine

Gentlemen: If Major Crozier accedes to the conditions of surrender, let him use the following formula, and no other:  'Because I love my neighbor as myself, for the sake of God, and to prevent bloodshed, and principally the war of extermination which threatens the country, I agree to the above conditions of surrender.'

If the Major uses this formula and signs it, inform him that we will receive him and his men, Monday.




A calamity has fallen upon the country yesterday. You are responsible for it before God and man.

Your men cannot claim that their intentions were peaceable since they were bringing along cannons. And they fired many shots first.

God has pleased to grant us the victory, and as our movement is to say our rights our victory is good; and we offer it to the Almighty.

Major, we are Christians in war as in peace. We write you in the name of God and of humanity to come and take away your dead, whom we respect. Come and take them tomorrow before noon.

We enclose herein copy of a resolution adopted today by the representatives of the French half-breeds.
True copy, Ph. G.


Aux Metis du Lac Qu'Appelle

Dear Relatives: We have the pleasure to let you know that on the 26th of last month, God has given us a victory over the mounted police. Thirty half-breeds and five Cree Indians have met 130 policemen and volunteers. Thanks to God, we have defeated them. Yourselves, dear relatives, be courageous; do what you can. If it is not done yet, take the stores, the provisions, the ammunitions.
(Then follow two or three lines not intelligible.)

EXHIBIT NO. 8 (translation)

God has always taken care of the half-breeds. He fed them for many days in the desert. Providence enriched our prairie with the buffalo. The plenty in which our fathers lived was as wonderful as the heavenly manna. But we were not sufficiently grateful to God, our good Father, hence it is that we have allowed ourselves to fall into the hands of a Government which only thinks of us to pillage us. Had he only understood what God did for us before Confederation, we should have been sorry to see it coming. And the half-breeds of the North-West would have made conditions of a nature to preserve  for our children that liberty, that possession of the soil, without which there is no happiness for anyone; but fifteen years of suffering, impoverishment and underhand, malignant persecution have opened our eyes; and the sight of the abyss of demoralization into which the Dominion is daily plunging us deeper and deeper every day, has suddenly, by God's mercy as it were, stricken us with horror. And the half-breed people are more afraid of the hell into which the Mounted Police and their Government are openly seeking to drive us, than of their firearms, which, after all, can only kill our bodies. Our alarmed conscience have shouted out to us: Justice commands us take up arms. Dear relatives and friends, we advise you to pay attention. Be ready for everything. Take the Indians with you. Gather them from every side. Take all the ammunition you can, whatsoever storehouses it may be in. Murmur, growl, and threaten. Stir up the Indians. Render the police of Fort Pitt and Battleford powerless. We pray God to open to us a way to go up. And when we get there, as we hope, we shall help you to take Battleford and Fort Pitt. Have confidence in Jesus Christ. Place yourselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin. Implore St. Joseph, for he is powerful with God. Commend yourselves to the powerful intercession of St. John the Baptist, the glorious patron of the Canadians and half-breeds. Be at peace with God. Keep His commandments. We pray Him to be with you all and to make you succeed.

Try and give to the half-breeds and Indians of Fort Pitt, as quickly as possible, the news we send you.

EXHIBIT NO. 9 (translation)

To the Indians; to the half-breeds

The half-breeds and Indians of Battleford, and environs Dear Brothers and Relatives: Since we wrote to you, important events have taken place. The police have attacked us; we met them and God gave us the victory; 30 half-breeds and 5 Indians fought against 120 men, and after 35 or 40 minutes, they took to flight. Bless God with us for the success he has kindly granted us. Rise; face the enemy, and if you can do so, take Battleford - destroy it - save all the goods and provisions, and come to us. With your numbers, you can perhaps send us a detachment of 40 or 50 men. All you do, do it for the love of God, and in the protection of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin, St Joseph and St John the Baptist, and be certain
that faith does wonders.


(in pencil) signed by the members of council

EXHIBIT NO. 10 (translation)

To our brothers, the English and French half-breeds of Lake Qu'Appelle and environs

Dear Relatives and Friends: If you do not know it already, we shall tell you the reasons that induced us to take up arms. You know that time out of mind our fathers have defended, at peril of their lives, this land which was theirs and is ours. The Ottawa Government took possession of our country. For 15 years they have made sport of our rights, and offended God by overwhelming us with acts of injustice of every kind. The officials commit every species of crime. The men of the Mounted Police are the scandal of the whole country, by their bad language and their bad actions. They are so corrupt that our wives and daughters are no longer safe in their neighborhood. The laws of decency are to them a subject for pleasantry. Oh, my brothers and friends, we should at all times have confidence in God; but now that evil is at its height, we specially require to commend ourselves to our Lord. Perhaps you will see things as we see them. They steal our country from us, and then they govern it so badly, that if we let things go on it would soon be impossible for us to be saved. The English half-breeds of the Saskatchewan are with us heart and soul. The Indians are coming in and joining us from all sides. Buy all the ammunition you can; go and get it, if necessary, on the other side of the line. Be ready. Do not listen to the offers the Ottawa Government make you. Those offers are robbers' offers. Sign no papers or petitions. Let your trust be in God.

(translation) St Anthony, 25th March 1885

To Our Relatives: Thanks for the good news you have taken the trouble to send us. Since you are willing to help us, may God bless you. Justice commands us to take up arms. And if you see the police passing, attack them, destroy them (and written across the first part of this letter, in English, afterwards:) 'Notify the Wood Indians not to be taken.'

EXHIBIT NO. 11 (translation)

I will not begin to work before twelve hours.

Our Relatives: Thanks for the good news you have taken the trouble to send us. Since you are willing to help, God bless you. And if you see the police passing, stop them, disarm them. Justice commands us to take up arms. Then warn the Wood Indians not to let themselves be surprised, but rather to be on their guard; to take ammunition from all the posts of the company, at Lac des Noisettes and Fish Lake.

Mr F. X., Batoche

The French half-breeds have taken up arms to a man. Not one of our people is against us. Tell our relatives, the Indians, to be ready to come and help us, if needed. Take all the ammunition of the company.

EXHIBIT NO. 12 (translation)

Trust in God and the circumstances which Providence is now producing in the Saskatchewan. We shall not forget you. If promises are made to you, you will say that the time for promises is past. A time has come when we must have proof for everything. Pray. Be good, keep the commandments of God and you shall want for nothing.


Dear Relative: We thank you for the good news that you took the trouble to send us. Since you are willing to help us, may God bless you in all what is to be done for our common salvation.

Justice commands to take- up arms. And if you see the police passing by, stop it and take away their arms.

Afterwards notify the Wood Indians that they might be surprised; let them be ready to all events, in being calm and courageous, to take all the powder, the shot, the lead, the posts and the cartridges from the Hudson's Bay store, at Nut Lake and Fishing Lake. Do not kill anybody. No, not molest nor ill-treat anybody. Fear not, but take away the arms.



Gentlemen: The councillors of the half-breeds now under arms at St Anthony have received your message of the 22nd of March 1885.

They thank you for the sympathy with which you honor them even in this crisis, and of which you have given ample proof before.

Situated as you are it is difficult for you to approve (immediately) of our bold but just uprising, and you have been wise in your course.

Canada (Ottawa) has followed with us neither the principles of right nor constitutional methods of government. They have been arbitrary in their doings. They have usurped the title of the aboriginal half-breeds to the soil. And they dispose of it at condition opposed to honesty. Their administration of our lands, is which are already weighing altogether false - and which are already weighing very hard on all classes of the North-West people. They deprive their own immigrants of their franchises, of their liberties, not only political but even civil, and as they respect no right, we are justified before God and man to arm ourselves to try and defend our existence, rather than to see it crushed.

As to the Indians, you know, gentlemen, that the half-breeds have great influence over them. If the bad management of Indian affairs by the Canadian Government has been fifteen years without resulting in an outbreak, it is due only to the half-breeds who have up to this time persuaded to keep quiet. But now that the Indians, now that we ourselves are compelled to resort to arms, how can we tell them to keep quiet? We are sure that if the English and French half-breeds unite well in this time of crisis, not only can we control the Indians, but we will also have their weight on our side in the balance.

Gentlemen, please do not remain neutral. For the love of God help us to save the Saskatchewan. We sent to.day a number of men with Mr Monkman to help and support (under as it is just) the cause of the aboriginal half.breeds. Public necessity means no offence. Let us join willingly. The aboriginal half-breeds will understand that if we do we do so much for their intCTests we are entitled to their most hearty response.

You have acted admirably in sending copy of your resolutions to Carlton as well as to St Anthony. We consider that we have only two enemies in The French half-breeds believe that they are only two enemies.

Coshen and Carlton. Dear brethren in Jesus Christ, let us avoid the mistakes of the past.

We consider it an admirable act of it has been an admirable act of prudence that you should have sent copies of your resolutions to the police in Carlton and to the men of St Anthony.

We dear brothers in Jesus Christ, let us avoid the mistakes of the past, let us work for us and our children, as true Christians.


If we are well united the police will surrender and come out of Carl. ton as the hen's heat causes the chicken to come out of the shell. A strong union between the French and English half-breeds is the only guarantee that there will be no bloodshed.


Resolved first that, when England gave that country to the Hudson Bay Company two hundred years ago, the North-West belonged to France as history shows it.

And when the Treaty of Paris ceded Canada to England no mention of any kind was made of the North-West.

As the American English colonies helped England to conquer Canada they ought to have a share of conquest, and that share ought to be the North-West, since commercially and politically the United States Government have done more for the North-West than ever England did, we ought to have.

Resolved, first, that our union is, and always will be most respectuous towards the American Government, their policy, their interest and towards the territorial Government of Montana as well.

2nd That our union will carefully avoid causing any difficulty whatever to the United States and will not conflict in any way with the constitution and laws of the Government. It is doubtful whether England really owns the North-West, because the first act of government that England ever accomplished over that North-West was to give it as a prey to the sordid monopoly of the Hudson Bay Company, two hundred years ago.

Her second act of government of any importance over that country was to give it in 1870 as a prey to the Canadians.

Our union is, and always will be most respectful towards the American annexation, against England and Rome, Manitoba French-Canadians.


The French half-breed, members of the provisional government of the Saskatchewan, have separated from Rome and the great mass of the people have done the same.

If our priests were willing to help us, and up to this time our priests have shown themselves unwilling to leave Rome. They wish to govern us in a manner opposed to our interest and they wish to
continue and govern us according to the dictates of Leo XIII.

Dear brothers in Jesus Christ, for the sake of God come and help us so that the enterprise against Rome may be a success and in return we will do all in our power to secure our political rights.


Dear Relatives: We have the pleasure to let you know that on the 26th of last month God has given us a victory over the Mounted Police.

Thirty-five half-breeds and some five and six Cree Indians have met hundred and twenty policemen and volunteers.

Thank God, we have defeated them. Yourselves, dear relatives, be courageous. Do what you can. If it is not done, take the stores, the provisions and the munitions. And without delay come this way, as many as it is possible. Send us news.


Morse Ouellette                                   Damas Carriere
J. Baptiste Boucher                              Emmanuel Champagne
Donald Ross                                         Pierre Henry
Baptiste Parenteau                               Pierre Garriepy
Maxime Lepine                                     Albert Monkman
Charles Trottier                                    Ambrose Jobin

The Mounted Police are making preparations for an attack; they are gathering themselves in one force, and no delay should exercise; come and reinforce us.

EXHIBIT NO. 18 (translation)

To the Half-breeds and Indians of Battleford and environs

Since we wrote you, important matters have occurred. The police came and attacked us. We met them. God gave us the victory. Thirty half-breeds and five Crees fought against one hundred and twenty men. After a fight of thirty-five or forty minutes, the enemy took to flight.

Bless God with us for the success He has kindly granted us. Rise. Face the police. If you possibly can, if the thing is not already done, take Fort Battleford. Destroy it. Save all the goods and provisions and come to us. With your numbers you can send us a detachment of forty to fifty men.

All that you do, do it for the love of God under the protection of Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Virgin of St Joseph, and of St John the Baptist.

Be certain that faith works wonders.


Pierre Parenteau                                   Donald Ross
Charles Trottier                                    Pierre Garriepy
Bte. Boucher                                         Damas Carriere
Pierre Henry                                          Antoine Jobin

15th May 1885
Major General Fred. Middleton

General: I have received only to-day yours of the 13th instant. My council are dispersed. I wish you would let them go quiet and free. I hear that presently you are absent. Would I go to Batoche, who is going to receive me? I will go to fulfil God's will.



Duck Lake, 27th March 1885

To Major Crozier, Commanding Officer, Fort Carleton

Sir: A calamity has fallen upon the country yesterday, you are responsible for it before God and man.

Your men cannot claim that their intentions were peaceable, since they were bringing along cannons. And they fired many shots first.

God has been pleased to grant us the victory, and as our movement is to save our lives, our victory is good, and we offer it to the Almighty.

Major, we are Christians in war as in peace. We write in the name of God and of humanity to come and take away your dead, whom we respect. Come and take them to-morrow before noon.

We enclose herein a copy of a resolution adopted to-day by the representatives of the French half-breeds.


Albert Monkman                                  J. Bte. Boucher
Gabriel Dumont                                    Damos Carriere
Norbert Delorme                                   Bte. Parenteau
Pierre Garriepy                                      Pierre Parenteau
Donald Ross                                         Amt. Jobin
Moise Ouellete                                     David Tourond
Maxime Lepine                                     P. Garnot, secretary

(copy of minute)

That a prisoner be liberated and given a letter to the commanding officer at Carlton, inviting him in the name of God and of humanity to come and take away the bodies of the unfortunate who fell yesterday on his side in the combat; that far from being molested he will be accompanied by our condolences in the fulfilment of that sorrowful duty, that we will wait till to-morrow noon. Moved by Mr. Monkman, seconded by Mr Jean Baptiste Boucher, and unanimously carried.

Dated 27th March 1885

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