16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
It often takes a gifted narrator to bring history alive. Case is point is Boyden's commemorative study of the dynamic duo of Riel and Dumont during the early days of the Canadian West. In "Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont", Boyden, one of Canada's finest young writers, retells the story of the Metis people and their fight with Ottawa as seen through the eyes and actions of its two greatest heroes: Dumont, head of the buffalo hunt and the Metis militia, and Riel, the visionary leader of the Metis Council. Both men complemented each other in their efforts to defend their people against the onslaught of the white man and history: one was the general who knew how to deploy his sharpshooters in tricky field maneuvers while the other was the political spokesperson who had the command of words and the understanding of the law working for him. During the course of two Metis rebellions in Red River and Saskatchewan, separated by a fifteen-year hiatus, during which thousands of new settlers poured into the West, Riel and his brother-in-law were able to secure a place for them in history that has not been relinquished to this day, regardless of how their respective lives ended in tragedy. While Riel saw his people in the largest context possible - living in harmony with the white man and the Indian - Dumont saw the Metis as needing to stand up for what they believed. Both were very passionate in their beliefs, which sometimes got them in trouble when trying to enforce their will in tight situations. Many of Riel's moments of weakness, including extended periods of mental instability, weird trances, violent rages and unexpected moves such as his decision to defend himself at trial, are covered in an easy-to-follow narrative style. During these troubling times we can hear Riel's voice - and sometimes Dumont's - coming through in ringing defence of the Metis cause. Though there might be some of us who question Riel's ability to offer effective leadership to a group of downtrodden and desperate people, we cannot question the courage he gave them to struggle against some incredible odds. How strong was their campaign for justice and equality? Enough to shake the corridors of power in Sir John A. MacDonald's government and force them into a three-month battle for the control of the Canadian Northwest. Without the contribution of Dumont, Riel's ideas would never have got off the ground. As a student of Canadian history, I like this book for the following reasons: 1) it allows the readers to form their own judgment of events; 2) it defines the Metis culture of the day as it applied to the rules of the buffalo hunt and family life; 3) readers should have no problem developing an appreciation for life of the open Prairie; 4) Boyden provides ample and accurate detail on which to form a truthful narrative; 5) the battle scenes in the second uprising are especially poignant when it comes to describing the tactics used by both sides to counter-attack; and 6) the family and political ties between the two men are well researched, developed, and presented as the backbone of the story. Overall, a memorable read that helped me be more objective in assessing the outcomes of the Metis fight for nationhood.