Monday, 16 November 2015

Nolin Brothers and the Northwest Rebellion

Charles, Joseph and Duncan Nolin, 3 of the 11 children of Augustin Nolin and Hélène-Anne Cameron of Manitoba, were farmers and fur traders in Pointe-de-Chêne (Ste-Anne-des-Chênes) in the 1850s. Speaking French, Michif, Cree and English, some of the Nolin brothers, including Augustin Jr, were often called upon by the authorities as translators. By the late 1860s the prosperous Nolin brothers were siding with the more conservative or “loyalist” Métis who supported the Council of Assiniboia and the proposed transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada. Charles became involved in the provisional government that Louis Riel had set up to replace the Council of Assiniboia. Representing Ste-Anne-des-Chênes, Charles was one of 20 French-speaking delegates elected to a convention called by Louis Riel which first met on 26 Jan. 1870, and he was appointed to its executive committee. Charles and Louis Riel (first cousins by marriage) didn’t see eye to eye and Riel even attempted to have him arrested. Charles reluctantly agreed to support the provisional government and its leader. He was elected later in February to the 24-member assembly that had been established by the convention, but he was soon removed from it and jailed for a short time. After the adoption of the Manitoba Act in May 1870, Riel visited Ste-Anne-des-Chênes in hope of reconciliation. The animosity between the two factions was so great, however, that the Nolin family threatened him.  In March 1871 Charles wrote a letter of apology to Riel and there was renewed solidarity among the Métis.

Louis Riel’s actions in the following years angered English Canada, which, not willing to understand the validity of the Métis' and First Nations' claims, called on the Macdonald government to act. It sent the Canadian militia to Batoche, Calgary and Battleford, Saskatchewan. The Indian and Métis resistance could not survive against the strength of the Canadian militia.  After the battle of Duck Lake on 26 March Charles Nolin was promptly arrested and jailed by the NWMP. His wife and young children sought refuge with the priests at Batoche. In exchange for his freedom at the end of the hostilities Charles Nolin agreed to become one of the crown’s chief witnesses against Riel.

On 2 April 1885, Big Bear’s band of Cree went to Frog Lake and massacred some of the inhabitants and took some captive.  Two ladies, Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney, whose husbands were slain, were rescued by Adolphus Nolin (son of Charles) and another interpreter, John Pritchard.  Adolphus bought Mrs. Delaney for 2 ponies, and Pritchard bought Mrs. Gowanlock for 1 pony.  

 On May 12, 1885, the rebellion ended. Riel gave himself up to the North West Mounted Police. Louis Riel was tried in Regina where he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Louis Riel was hanged on November 16, 1885, in the North West Mounted Police quarters in Regina.  Many of the Métis were tried for treason, including some of the Nolin men.  Most were acquitted.

Charles Nolin was a Métis leader who, along with Riel, Lépine, and Dumont, was genuinely interested in the promotion of his people’s rights and interests.

Note:  One of my Seale ancestors fought with the NWMP during the Rebellion against my husband's Métis ancestors.

Related Posts:  Métis

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