Introduction to Louis Riel and His Philosophical Theology

[Update: For those who may be interested in following this I have included a link to these posts in the ‘Translation Projects’ tab.]

Louis Riel was a Metis Canadian born in 1884 near Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada.  He was the leader of two resistance movements that attempted to preserve Metis rights in the face of the expanding Canadian government in the East.  I do not pretend to be a Riel expert nor do I consider myself particularly knowledgeable of the political context for the expansion of Canada.  However, I do know the following;

Louis Riel is a controversial figure.  He has been described as a hero, revolutionary, lunatic, self-proclaimed messiah and traitor.  Louis Riel was a deeply religious man.  Louis Riel attempted to promote an alternative politics in the face of the monopolizing government and Hudson’s Bay Trading Company.  In the process he established a provisional government in Manitoba in opposition to the Canadian government in the East.  Riel continued this pursuit in the face of extreme resistance.  Riel received capital punishment for his actions.  Riel is part of my local history.

This scant information has provided enough motivation to seek out his writings to find if there are any explicitly theological tracts.  In his Collected Works I have come across a short section that includes fragments he called a ‘philosophical theology’ in French.  So far as I know these are untranslated.

While there is a book on Riel as a religious man, Louis ‘David’ Riel: Prophet of the New World, there is no substantial study of his theology in relation to his politics in English.  There is one work in French that I hope to eventually give some attention.  This is Gilles Martel’s, Le messianisme de Louis Riel.

My intention is to slowly offer his Système philosophico-théologique in translation (it is only 12 pages of fragments).  I have no idea what this pursuit might offer but it seems helpful to at least render more of Riel’s French writing into English.  It also seems helpful to look over these writings (in addition to his occasional writing relevant to his theology) with a more thoroughgoing theological attention than has been given.


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