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St. Vital’s Riels — Joseph and Louis the Miller

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While everyone is familiar with Louis Riel and what he did to form the Province of Manitoba, very few people are aware of the accomplishments of his father, Louis Riel the Miller, and his younger brother, Joseph, both of who played key roles in the history of Manitoba and St. Vital.

For starters, few people know that The Miller was partially responsible for breaking the Hudson Bay Company’s monopoly on the fur trade and having the first bilingual judge appointed in what was known as Rupertsland. And it turns out Joseph outshone both his father and brother when it came to local politics.

Riel House, on River Road in St. Vital, was built by Joseph in 1881, and it was his base of operations as a St. Vital politician, either as councillor or reeve, for 32 years. In 1899, Joseph was certified as a postmaster and operated the post office from his home until his death of a heart attack on May 25, 1921.

Riel the Miller supported a free fur trade and also insisted that French be used in the courts at Red River. On May 17, 1849 when Pierre Guillaume Sayer was found guilty of selling furs, the eldest Riel led 300 armed men who surrounded the court demanding a free fur trade. Sayer was released without penalty and the Hudson Bay Company’s monopoly was broken.

Later that year, Riel the Miller was one of the petitioners who successfully petitioned for the removal of Adam Thorn, the Recorder of Rupert’s Land, in favour of a bilingual judge.

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The St. Vital Museum — now open only on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. — is on course to surpass last year’s attendance of 817 visitors. Special tours may be arranged by emailing info@svhs.ca or by calling 204-255-2864.

Directors are busy putting together a 2014 calendar, which will be sold, for the bargain price of $5 as well as a colouring book for kids.

The annual general meeting is set for 2 p.m., Nov. 9, in the vestibule of 604 St. Mary’s Road.

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