The Audacity of His Enterprise
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Louis Riel (1844-1885) was an iconic figure in Canadian history best known for his roles in the Red River Resistance of 1869 and the Northwest Resistance of 1885. A political leader of the Métis people of the Canadian Prairies, Riel is often portrayed as a rebel. Reconstructing his experiences in the Northwest, Quebec, and the worlds in between, Max Hamon revisits Riel's life through his own eyes, illuminating how he and the Métis were much more involved in state-making than historians have previously acknowledged. Questioning the drama of resistance, The Audacity of His Enterprise highlights Riel's part in the negotiations, petition claims, and legal battles that led to the formation of the state from the bottom up. Hamon examines Riel's early successes and his participation in the crafting of a new political environment in the Northwest and Canada. Arguing that Riel viewed the Métis as a distinct people, not caught between worlds, the book demonstrates Riel's attempts to integrate multiple perspectives - Indigenous, French-Canadian, American, and British - into a new political environment. Choosing to end the book in 1875, at the pinnacle of Riel's successful career as a political leader, rather than at his death in 1885, Hamon sets out to recover Riel's agency, intentions, and imagination, all of which have until now been displaced by colonial narratives and the shadow of his execution. Revisiting the Red River Resistance on its 150th anniversary, The Audacity of His Enterprise offers a new view of Riel's life and a rethinking of the history of colonialism.