While not a national holiday, November 16 is recognized annually in Canada as Louis Riel Day. On that date in 1885, Riel was executed for leading the Northwest Resistance in defence of Metis rights.
On Saturday, a small contingent of people attended a ceremony outside of Nelson City Hall to commemorate the day and raise the Infinity flag.
“The white infinity on blue is a mixture of two cultures, the European and First Nations cultures,” explained Bruce Dumont, president of the Metis Nation BC who came from Victoria to take part in the ceremony.
The flag was first flown in 1816 at the Battle of Seven Oaks.
Dumont explained that November 16 is an important day for the Metis Nation.
“We honour Louis Riel on this day for the sacrifices he made for us and we continue with the fight.
“He never did stop fighting for the Metis. He was the father of Confederation for the Manitoba Act in 1870 and he was elected to parliament. He wasn’t allowed to sit in parliament though,” said Dumont.
Considered one of the most controversial figures in Canadian history, Riel was called a traitor in his time and was eventually found guilty of, and executed for treason.
In Manitoba, Louis Riel Day is a provincial holiday. However it falls on the third monday of February.
Dumont said he came to Nelson on the invitee of Coun. Bob Adams who was also at the ceremony.
Adams said they have been holding the flag raising for the past 20 years.
“I think people recognize the name Louis Riel but they don’t recognize that there was an 1870 rebellion and an 1885 rebellion … he is considered, as far as we’re concerned, the father of Manitoba,” said Adams.
He said its important to honour and remember the work he did “trying to do good of the mixed blood people of Canada.”
The Kootenays is one of the bigger areas for the Metis Nation BC, which has seven regions in the province. The Kootenays have about 12 per cent of BC’s Metis population.
According to the last Census, there are 235 Metis in Nelson.