"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

6 Degrees of Separation?

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As I continue in my search for family history, one of the questions I was seeking to answer is what side of the North West Rebellion my ancestors happened to support. I’ve been reading about the quite nuanced character known as Louis “David” Riel. It is a rare event in Canadian history to see a historic figure, tried and executed for treason, to later end up as a national hero – but that’s Riel.

In his book, A Fair Country, John Ralston Saul talks about Riel – and points out that it is Riel’s statue that stands outside the Manitoba legislature. Riel is considered the founder of Manitoba. Saul makes some startling comments I’m still processing – one is that we are more a nation of metis, than a nation of European colonials. He asserts that the Canadian values of the middle way, fairness and equity are in no way derived from European values, but rather from First Nations values, hence the nation of metis comment.

While reading my latest Riel book, I came across the point where Riel, in exile in Montana (because every time he tried to take his seat in parliment, the police tried to arrest him) is approached by four leaders from the communities in the north. One of those men was James Isbister. I recalled that there is a line of Isbisters in my family tree, so off I went to look.

So, my great-great-grandfather’s niece, married George Isbister. George Isbister, I discovered today, was the brother of that James Isbister who went to see Riel in Montana. According to Ancestry.ca’s relationship algorithm, he was the brother-in-law of my 1st cousin 3x removed. That was a bit of a surprise.

This is continuing the theme of ‘coming out of the closet’ as a Metis, and discovering a lost heritage (as I wrote before). What strikes me now is all of my school learning about the great hero Sir John A, and the generals that suppressed the rebellion led by the evil Riel…or at least that was how I recall it all presented in social studies all those decades ago. I also recall there was an anti-french air about the whole thing.

It’s funny how lost heritage has a way of challenging long-held ideas.

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Written by sameo416

March 6, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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