Thematic Guide - Louis Riel, the Red River Rebellion and the North West Campaign

  1. Louis Riel
  2. Red River Rebellion (or Red River Resistance), 1870
  3. The North-West Campaign, (or the North-West Resistance, Saskatchewan Rebellion, North-West Uprising, or Second Riel Rebellion) 1885
  4. Other Sources of Information

This research guide consists of specific archival references and other sources of information which relate to Louis Riel and the Métis uprisings in 1869–70 and 1885.

Various names have been used to refer to these two series of events. Their usage often indicated the loyalties, opinions and biases of the user. These terms include:“Riel Rebellions,” the “Red River Rebellion,” the “Manitoba Rebellion,” the “Red River Insurgency,” the “Red River Resistance,” the “1885 Rebellion,” the North-west Rebellion,” the “Saskatchewan Rebellion,” the “1885 Resistance,” the “Resistance of 1885,” and the “North-west Resistance.”

This guide, while not comprehensive, provides a listing of the more significant and relevant materials available in this subject area.

Section 1 includes records relating to Louis Riel, such as case files, correspondence and records on his mental health and his trial.

Section 2 consists of records dealing with the Red River Rebellion, such as military orders and instructions and records concerning military personnel.

Section 3 contains records on the federal government’s 1885 North-West Campaign, such as letters of the Minister of Militia and War Claims Commission records.

This guide was revised in September, 2014.

Note: Documents written at an earlier point in history may use terms such as “Indian,” “Half-breed,” “rebellion,” “resistance,” and “campaign” in ways that may not be acceptable to those being referred to, and which have since been replaced by other terms. It is important therefore to recognize that languages have contexts and histories. As cultures change, so do the meanings of words and their usage for a given period, place and culture.

[a]
1. Louis Riel

Selected Government Records

Privy Council Office fonds (1867–1997) (RG2) (R165-0-5-E)

Orders in Council, Privy Council Office (R165-82-0-E)

Department of the Secretary of State of Canada fonds (RG6) (R169-0-4-E)

Office of the Governor General of Canada fonds (RG7) (R178-0-5-E)

Miscellaneous Government Documents Linked to Riel

Department of Justice fonds (1796-2001) (RG13) (R188-0-3-E)

Series B1, Capital Case Files for Louis Riel, 1941 and 1959

  • Louis Riel, 1885
    RG13-B–1, vol. 1421, file 202A, parts 1-2, 1885, finding aid 13-54 (R188-53-2-E)
    Correspondence, petitions, transcript of evidence (trial and appeal), scrapbook of newspaper clippings, surgeon's reports and other information.
  • Louis Riel, 1885
    RG13-B–1, vol. 1422, file 202A, part 3, 1885, finding aid 13-54 (R188-53-2-E)
    Correspondence, petitions, transcript of evidence (trial and appeal), scrapbook of newspaper clippings, surgeon's reports and other information.

Series F2, records relating to Louis Riel and the North-West Uprising, 1873–1886 (R188-61–1-E)

  • Records relating to Louis Riel and the North-West Uprising
    RG13-F-2, series F2, vols. 804-825 and 2132, microfilm reels C–1228 to C–1231 for vols. 804 and 805, 2132 is original only and is not on microfilm, finding aid 13-22 (R188-61–1-E)
    Material consists of correspondence, memoranda, notes, various drafts of poems, prayers and other Riel papers; also notes, warrants, charges, statements and briefs of evidence, magistrate's reports, and an account book of witness expenditures (1885). Many of the documents in this series were among Riel's private papers seized at Batoche on May 11, 1885.
    Other documents and Riel documents in vol. 2132 were part of the Department of Justice records containing Riel material for the period May 1885-December 1886.

Series A2: Central Registry, 1845–1959 (R188-39-8-E)

Correspondence Directly Linked to Riel (letters to or from Louis Riel)

  • Riel letter
    RG13-F-2, vol. 814, finding aid 13-22 (R188-61–1-E)

Riel's Mental Health

Department of the Interior fonds (1632–1936) (RGs 15, 48M 912031, and 92M 90132) (R190-0-3-E)

The Department of the Interior (1873–1936) was the federal agency responsible for the administration of western land settlement.

Miscellaneous Government Documents Linked to Riel

Selected Private Records

Governors-General

  • John Young, Baron Lisgar fonds (1868–1871)
    MG27–IB2, finding aid 127 (R4679-0-8-E)
    Papers include materials referring to Rupert's Land, 1869–1870, Red River Expedition, 1870 and the Red River Rebellion, 1869–1870.

Prime Ministers

Military and Government Officials

  • Hudson's Bay Company Archives (Red River Settlement—Rebellion and miscellaneous papers)
    MG20-E9, microfilm reel HBC 4M17 (R13977-0–1-E)
    Papers relating to the Red River Rebellion of 1869–1870, including a letter to Governor William Mactavish from Louis Riel concerning the establishment of a provisional government, dated 28 March 1870; an outline for the establishment of the provisional government; minutes of a convention which drew up a bill of rights, 27 January to 9 February 1870; documents relating to rebellion losses and the status of the Hudson's Bay Company in relation to Canada; and a copy of the report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons inquiring into the Riel Rebellion, 1874.
  • Edgar Dewdney fonds (1884–1885)
    MG27-IC4, vols. 1-7, finding aid 56 (R4505-0-2E)
    As Lieutenant-Governor and Indian Commissioner, Dewdney was kept informed of the activities from 1884 which led to the rebellion and military operations. He was responsible for the custody of Riel until his execution.
    Includes correspondence of Louis Riel, including English translations of letters to and from Riel, reports of scouts and minutes of Riel's council.
  • William McDougall fonds (1844–1892)
    MG27-IC6, vol. 1, finding aid 197 (R4506-0-X-E)
    Documents related to his activities as one of the leaders of the purchase of Rupert's Land and the Northwest Territories. It contains documents regarding his nomination as first Lieutenant Governor of Rupert's Land and the Northwest Territories and the difficulties he faced during the Red River Rebellion.
  • Correspondance sur la Rébellion du Nord-Ouest (1885–1886) Telegrams by Minister A.-P. Caron concerning Riel (French fonds)
    MG27-ID3, vol. 199, pp. 421-432 and 460, microfilm reel C–1654
    The series consists of a typewritten copy of correspondence relating to the North-West Rebellion, arranged chronologically because of a House of Commons order in 1886.
  • François-Xavier Valade fonds (1885)
    MG27-IJ8, vol. 1 (R7047-0-4-E)
    These papers include the report on the mental health of Riel based on an examination while he was in prison in Regina.
  • William Francis Butler fonds
    MG29-B13, vol. 1 (R12209-0-5-E)
    An account submitted to the Canadian Government by the Hudson's Bay Company for provisioning Lieut. Butler's northwest journey, together with a description of the trip's objectives and an endorsement authorizing payment.
  • Wolseley family fonds (1861–1902)
    MG29-E53, microfilm reel A-672
    Sir Garnet Joseph Wolseley became deputy quartermaster general in 1865, and in 1870 organized and commanded the Red River Expedition.
  • Augustus Jukes fonds [ca. 1878–1889]
    MG29-E66, microfilm reel M–1614
    Notes and letters by Riel and Jukes 1878–1885, medical reports regarding Riel’s sanity and execution, narratives of Riel’s vision and letters from Jukes to Sir John A. Macdonald.

Individuals

  • Collection Louis Riel (French fonds) [ca. 1860–1970]
    MG27-IF3, microfilm reels C-4596, M-2170 and M-2171, finding aid 535 (R5768-0–1-F)
    Letters written or received by Riel; drafts of poems, prayers and handwritten instructions by Riel; printed copies of proclamations, minutes and bills concerning the political events in the Red River Settlement in 1869–1870 and in the Northwest Territories in 1885.
  • James Wickes Taylor fonds (1842–1916)
    MG27-IH2, microfilm reels M–115 to M–117, M–120 to M–122 and M-273 (R4559-0-2-E)
    Correspondence, 1859–1893, letterbooks, 1869–1892, diary, 1842–1844 and newspaper clippings, 1856–1870, reports received by the State Department from Taylor as special agent of the Red River Settlement, 1867–1870, and miscellaneous material in transcript form, 1869–1916. Subjects include annexation, Red River Rebellion, Fenian Raids and North-West Rebellion.
  • John McIntyre fonds (1855–1896)
    MG29-A21, vol. 1 (R7406-0-0-E)
    Correspondence with Colonel Garnet Wolseley, George Stephen, Donald Smith, Sir George Simpson, Sandford Fleming, and Edward Hopkins, subjects covered include Hudson's Bay Company affairs in the Fort William District and the assistance given by the company to the Red River expedition of 1870.
  • Fonds Jean Riel (1858–1911)
    MG29-C124 (R5839-0-3-E) (French fonds)
    The fonds includes newspaper clippings, a pamphlet and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings relating to Jean and Louis Riel. Also included is a Minister of Justice Report on the trial of Louis Riel, who was found guilty of high treason and was executed on this ground.
  • Thomas Spence fonds (1866–1868, 1890)
    MG29-E2, vol. 1, microfilm reel C–1343 (R7770-01-0–1-E)
    Sixteen pages of correspondence, memorials and petitions from the inhabitants of Portage La Prairie in New Caledonia, or “Manitobah.” These documents address local, Dominion, and Imperial officials on the subject of union between Rupert's Land and Canada, 1866–1868. Also contains an account by Thomas Spence entitled, “The True story of the Red River troubles of 1869–1879,” 1890.
  • William Dease fonds (1870)
    MG29–E118, vol. 1 (R6651-0-3-E)
    The fonds consists of two letters from Louis Riel at Fort Garry to William Dease inviting him to join Riel and his forces, January to February 1870.

Miscellaneous Documents Linked to Riel

  • Correspondence, Colonial Office, 1867–1872 and 1884–1886
  • CO 42. Canada, formerly British North America, Original Correspondence
    MG11-CO42, vols. 662-714 and 777-789, microfilm reels B-481 to B-525 and B-612 to B-622, finding aid MSS0090
    CO 42 consists of correspondence and enclosures from the governors, lieutenant-governors, and administrators of Quebec, Lower Canada, Upper Canada, the Province of Canada and the Dominion of Canada, 1700–1922.
  • Canada, Registers of Correspondence
    MG11-CO335, vols. 7-9, microfilm reels B–1629, B–1630, B–1633 and B–1634, finding aid MSS0090
    Colonial Office 335 consists of colony registers for correspondence kept in the Colonial Office registry system.
  • Supplementary, Original Correspondence
    MG11-CO537, vols. 7, 43 and 44, microfilm reels B–1561 and B–1562, finding aid MSS0090
    Information relating to colonial defence, including memoranda on the distribution of troops, military matters connected with Louis Riel and the Red River and North-West disturbances.
  • Colonial Office confidential prints
    MG11-CO880, vols. 7, 43 and 44, microfilm reels B–1561 and B–1562, finding aid MSS0090
    Colonial Office 880 series consists of despatches and other correspondence, reports of various Royal Commissions and other investigative bodies, minutes and memoranda, maps, sketches, various statistics, copies of treaties and conventions, and other documents. They include the surrender of Hudson's Bay Company territories, Confederation, and the Red River and North-West disturbances.

Riel's Mental Health

  • Medical report of Dr. François-Xavier Valade, 1885
    MG27-IJ8, vol. 1 (R7047-0-4-E)
    A report on the mental condition of Louis Riel based on an examination while he was in prison at Regina; a letter from Sir John A. Macdonald requesting the report's preparation and transmission in a cypher, dated 31 October 1885.

Riel's Trial

[b]
2. Red River Rebellion (or Red River Resistance), 1870

Selected Government Records

There are some documents pertaining to the Red River Rebellion and the North-West Campaign in the records of the Deputy Minister of Militia and Defence Office and the Adjutant-General's Office.

Department of the Secretary of State of Canada fonds (RG6) (R169-0-4-E)

General Correspondence (1867–1873)(RG6-C–1) (R176-3-6-E)

The subjects include the practical and constitutional adjustments following confederation, the creation of the province of Manitoba, and the Riel Rebellion.

General Correspondence (1867–1952) (RG6-C–1) (R174-26-2-E)

Department of Militia and Defence fonds (RG9) (R180-0-5-E)

Military Orders and Instructions

  • Military Secretary, Montreal, 1870
    RG9-II-B–1, vol. 6, file 7–1578, docket 444, finding aid 9-22 (R180-68-6-E)
    Includes an extract from a general order to be communicated to all officers of volunteers taking part in the Red River Expedition.

Various Documents Linked to Army Personnel

Department of Justice fonds (1796-2001) (RG13) (R188-0-3-E)

Records relating to Louis Riel and the North-West Uprising (RG13-F-2) (R188-61–1-E)

Department of the Interior fonds (1632–1936) (RGs 15, 48M 912031 and 92M 90132) (R190-0-3-E)

Half-Breed files (1884–1887) (RG15-D-II-3) (R190-38-6-E)

Manitoba Act files (1873–1881) (RG15-D-II-2) (R190-37-4-E)

Northwest Territories Métis scrip applications (1885–1906) (RG15-D-II-8-b, RG15-D-II-8-c) (R190-44–1-E)

Selected Private Records

  • John Louis Hubert Neilson fonds (1870–1871)
    MG29-E37 (R7849-0–1-E)
    Neilson served as a surgeon with the 2nd Quebec Battalion of Riflemen. Personal and official correspondence, medical reports, and a journal relating to Wolseley's expedition in Manitoba, 1870–1871.
  • Diary of Adam Wilson Graham (1908)
    MG29-C112, vols. 1-2 (R7543-0-0-E)
    A diary which describes Graham's settlement in Rat Creek, Rupert's Land, the Red River Rebellion and his capture by Louis Riel's forces. Although the diary refers to events taking place in 1869–1870, it was drawn up in 1908.
  • Letter to J. McDonald from Robert Hamilton (1870)
    MG29-A20, vol. 1 (R6906-0-6-E)
    Letter dated Cumberland, 3 April 1870, reporting on Louis Riel's Provisional Government at Red River, its prospects, the execution of Thomas Scott and the prospects of the fur trade.

[c]
3. The North-West Campaign, (or the North-West Resistance, Saskatchewan Rebellion, North-West Uprising, or Second Riel Rebellion) 1885

Selected Government Records

Records of the Post Office Department fonds (RG3) (R174-0-6-E)

Department of the Secretary of State of Canada fonds (RG6) (R169-0-4-E)

Office of the Governor General of Canada fonds (RG7) (R178-0-5-E)

Department of Militia and Defence fonds (RG9) (R180-0-5-E)

Letters of the Minister of Militia

  • Deputy Minister of Militia and Defence's Office; correspondence, 1867–1903
    RG9-II-A–1, vols. 1-495, finding aid 9-72 (R180–138–1-E)
    There is a complete set of registers for the correspondence, on reels T-4172 to T-4181 and indexes to these registers on reels T-4170 to T-4172. The registers are organized by docket number (file number) and list the correspondent and the subject. Finding aid 9–11 contains a list allowing the researcher to link docket numbers to volume numbers. It contains a list of all missing docket numbers.
  • Deputy Minister of Militia and Defence's Office; reports and memoranda, 1867–1920
    RG9-II-A-2, vols. 1–18, finding aid 9–12 (R180-48-0-E)
    Reports prepared for submission by the Minister of Militia to the Privy Council, as well as memoranda from the Deputy Minister to the Adjutant General and other officers of the Department, 1867–1907. Most volumes to 1897 contain indexes. Microfilm reels for years 1870 and 1885 are T-268 and T-272.

Documents Linked to High Ranking Officers

  • Unnumbered correspondence and memoranda of the headquarters staff, 1868–1909
    RG9-II-B–1, vol. 496, finding aids 9-12 and 9-22 (R180-68-6-E)
    Includes the Adjutant General, Quartermaster General, Director of Artillery and Master General of the Ordnance. In addition, there are a few letters addressed to the Military Secretary, the Minister of Militia and Deputy Adjutants General in the Military Districts.
    Principal medical officer, Montreal, regarding cases of surgical instruments intended for medical officers in Red River, 1870
    RG9-II-B–1, vol. 6, file 7–1578, docket 466

Military Personnel

  • Records relating to the North-West Field Force, 1885
    RG9-II-A-3, vol. 3, finding aid 9–16 (R180-55-8-E)
    Telegrams to and from A.-P. Caron, Minister of Militia and Defence, regarding the despatch of troops and the situation in the North-West (April 1-3, 1885).
  • Letterbooks, 1872–1908; included are the letterbooks for "B" Battery, North-West Field Force
    RG9-II-J-2, vols. 29-48, microfilm reels T-454 to T-469, finding aid 9-28 (R180–116-2-E)

Surgeon General's Office

  • Correspondence of the Surgeon General, Dr. Darby Bergin
    RG9-II-A-3, vol. 13, finding aid 9–16 (R180–106-X-E)
    Copies of letters and telegrams sent by the Surgeon General, Dr. Darby Bergin, telegrams received by him, accounts, correspondence regarding pensions and payment of accounts, returns showing the disposition of medical stores, report by Bergin on the formation of a medical branch, report by George T. Orton, Brigade Surgeon of Middleton's Column, nominal rolls of the Field Hospital and Ambulance Corps, register of accounts received, certified and sent to the Department of Militia for payment, and index to telegrams received in the Medical Branch in April 1885.

War Claims Commission (Pension and Grant Records of Veterans)

Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development fonds (1677–1995) (RGs 10, 22, 85, 91, and 126) (R216-0-0-E)

Department of Justice fonds (1796-2001) (RG13) (R188-0-3-E)

  • Riel, Louis
    RG13-B–1, vol. 1421, file part 1-2, file no. 202 A (in records related to capital cases) (R188-54-4-E)
  • Riel, Louis
    RG13-B–1, vol. 1422, file part 3, file no. 202 A (in records related to capital cases) (R188-54-4-E)

Legal opinions and material of precedential value (RG13) (R188-43-X-E)

Records relating to Louis Riel and the North-West Uprising (RG13-F-2) (R188-61–1-E)

Series consists of correspondence, memoranda, notes, various drafts of poems, prayers and other Riel papers; also, notes, warrants, charges, statements and briefs of evidence, magistrate’s reports and an account book of witness expenditures (1885). Many of the documents in this series were among Riel’s private papers seized at Batoche on 11 May 1885.

Other documents and Riel documents in volume 2132 were part of the Department of Justice records containing Riel papers and other unencumbered papers for the period May 1885 to December 1886.

Department of External Affairs fonds (1803–1995) (RG25) (R219-0-2-E)

Correspondence with Canadian and British Government Departments (RG25-B–1-a) (R219-29-4-E)

Parliament of the Province of Canada (1841–1874, predominant 1859–1867) (RG14)

Department of the Interior fonds (1632–1936) (RGs 15, 48M 912031 and 92M 90132) (R190-0-3-E)

Royal Canadian Mounted Police fonds (1868–1999) (RG18) (R196-0-7-E)

Unfiled crime reports (RG15, formerly RG18-B-5)(R196-71-8-E)

Department of National Defence fonds (1870–1989) (RG24) (R112-0-2-E)

Natural Resources Canada fonds (1874–1988) (RGs 21, 39, 88M) (R214-0-6-E)

Selected Private Records

  • Justin Edwin Porter fonds (1885)
    MG29-E115, vol. 1 (R4214-0-6-E)
    The fonds consists of a letter written 1885 by Justin Edwin Porter from Fish Creek describing the battle of the previous day, and the pamphlet, "The 90th on Active Service", 1885.
  • Edward Harrison fonds (1836–1910)
    MG29-E4 (R7772-0-6-E)
    First Volunteer Militia Rifle Company muster roll, affidavit, printed by-laws, and printed militia report for 1863, 1836–1878; Thomas Scott memoranda and clippings relating to his death, correspondence and pamphlets concerning the Red River and North-West rebellions; Red River Expedition printed report by Assistant Controller Irvine, and printed correspondence and journal of operations, 1871 and order books concerning mostly activities of "H" Company, Midland Battalion, 1885.
  • Thomas Bland Strange fonds (1885–1887)
    MG29-E40, vol. 1 (R7718-0-0-E)
    The fonds consists of telegrams received by Thomas Bland Strange while on service in the northwest, from military and political figures, April-May 1885; a letter from the Reverend John McDougall to Lieutenant Coryell, Edmonton, 25 April 1885; and a draft letter from Strange to General Middleton, 17 June 1887.
  • Diary of Lewis Wallbridge's service (1885)
    MG29-E119, vols. 1-2
    Lewis Wallbridge served with "A" Company of the Midland Battalion during the North-West Rebellion. He describes the train journey west, the forced march from Swift Current to Saskatchewan Landing, the voyage down the South Saskatchewan River by the steamer NORTHCOTE and the battle of Batoche as well as the marches to Prince Albert, Battleford and Frog Lake.
  • James Wickes Taylor fonds 1842–1916
    MG27-IH2 (R4559-0-2-E) (The finding aid, Guide to a Microfilm Edition of The James Wickes Taylor Papers [PDF 5.88 MB], was prepared by the Minnesota Historical Society of St. Paul, Minnesota. MSS0763 90
    Correspondence, 1859–1893, letterbooks, 1869–1892, diary, 1842–1844 and newspaper clippings, 1856–1870, reports received by the State Department from Taylor as special agent of the Red River Settlement, 1867–1870, and miscellaneous material in transcript form, 1869–1916. Subjects include annexation, Red River Rebellion, Fenian Raids and North-West Rebellion.
  • North-West Field Force fonds (1885)
    MG29-E75, vol. 1 (R6625-0-8-E)
    List of wounded in the fighting before Batoche, dated 13 May 1885; three receipt books for supplies received from the commissary officers for delivery to supply offices at Battleford and Clark's Crossing; and brigade orders dated 29 March to 29 April 1885.
  • William Thomas Wrighton fonds (1885)
    MG29-E82, vol. 1 (R9260-0-8-E)
    Letters describing the march across Lake Superior to Battleford, the ensuing battle at Batoche, the wounding of Wrighton, and his subsequent recuperation at the Moose Jaw Hospital, 13 April, 12 June 1885.
  • Jarvis family fonds (1885)
    MG29-E27, vol. 1, box A286-02 (R7662-0-9-E)
    Letters: Private Herbert Murray Jarvis went to the northwest in 1885 with the Ottawa Sharpshooters, volunteers picked mainly from the ranks of the Governor General's Foot Guards.
  • James Rea fonds (1885)
    MG29-E110, vol. 1.
    Letter from James Rea to James Grant discussing his trip from Toronto to Saskatoon to serve as a "dresser" during the 1885 Riel Rebellion.
  • Alfred Hamlyn Todd fonds (1885)
    MG29-E41, vols. 1-3 (R7720-0-0-E)
    Recollections based upon Todd's diary for the period from 28 March to 19 July, 1885 and addresses to Captain Todd and the Sharpshooters from the City of Ottawa, County of Carleton, and the Soldier's Aid Association, 1885.
  • Charles Salyer Clapp fonds (1893)
    MG29-E103, vols. 1-2 (R11264-0-8-E)
    Clapp's service with "A" Company of the Midland Battalion during the North-West Rebellion in 1885, recounting incidents during the train journey west, including his passage of the gaps in the railway around Lake Superior.

[d]
4. Other Sources of Information

Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada holds a large number of Canadian newspapers from all time periods and from all regions, several of which relate to Louis Riel and the North-West uprisings.

Also found on Library and Archives Canada’s Web site is Amicus, a comprehensive search tool to find secondary sources pertaining to Louis Riel.

Date modified: