Louis Riel became the elected Member of Parliament for Manitoba after it was joined to Canada as a province in 1870.
|Louis, Is that you?
Louis Real or Louis Fake? On the left are three certified and traditionally accepted photos of Louis Riel. The "newly discovered" view, by someone who has slept only a stone's throw from Louis' grave for 30 years, is below. Though it is hard to overcome provenance that powerful, we will try.
Would you elect this man to Parliament?
It is quite possible that the man, above, has native ancestry. He may even be Métis. But there was more to Louis than that.
Louis was a Gentleman: At the very least, Louis saw himself as a gentleman, on those very rare occasions when he went to have his picture taken.
Every single time, Louis wore a white shirt and tie and a nicely fitted suit coat, befitting his position in the upper echelons of frontier society. Louis did not want to appear to be a casual, frumpy frontiersman...
The other man - probably a farmer - looks markedly different. He has no tie in evidence but presents, rather, the look of a rough-hewn settler come in to get his picture taken. His coat is thick and meant more for holding out the weather than making a show. His vest, too, is thick and warm, not a type favoured by an urban dandy. And with a button missing, or left open on purpose, it creates a slovenly look that Louis just would not have allowed. Clearly this was a man who came from a part of society which did not know the difference or did not care...
Hair Today - Gone Tomorrow: Louis is of two - or three - minds about his whiskers. Sometimes he has them neatly trimmed - either as "Burnsides" free of his chin, or in a decidedly well-trimmed full beard. Or shaved away to a moustache only. Louis clearly cared about his facial hair and how he presented himself; he just couldn't figure out which was the real Riel he wanted to project. So his whiskers, like the prairie grass of his homeland, seemed to flourish or change with the seasons, or his mercurial nature. So it is not true at all, as the huckster says, that Louis "carried a full beard most of his life." In fact there is no known photo of Riel sporting such a wildly luxuriant growth of beard, until his final days on the run from the British army in 1885. So the huckster's comments seem designed to promote his picture rather than describe the real Louis Riel.
The farmer has no ambivalence, at all, about his magnificent bush of whiskers. They have been growing for decades to a large and almost unkempt growth that few men sported, even in the 19th century. Who knows what wild and sundry creatures lurk therein. Clearly this man does not move in circles where a wild beard is an impediment to social advancement. Very much like a frontier farmer who rarely makes trips to civilization. Is this really a man ready to be the first Member of Parliament to represent the people of the Red River Colony in Ottawa as their spokesman in the newly named province of Manitoba?
... the photos I am selling are of a younger Riel
This creates problems because in Louis' earliest photos he sports only a moustache. His full beard sprouts late in life, when he is on the run, and far from a barber, a washstand, and commode.
|City Slicker: Louis' hair has a fashionable and pronounced wave worked into the top of his forelock. Or maybe it's just genetic. It is also nicely pomaded with the reflected light suggesting he oiled it up nicely for the camera too.
Not the farmer who has dull hair and no endearing wave, just a quick straight back comb for the camera. And certainly no sign of pomading. No farmer would stand for the prettifying - let alone the accompanying smell of cologne - that city dandies like Riel took for granted to show off their station in life.
The Hair: A final look at the hair shows that Louis' locks were piled high and favoured his left side. The farmer's hair, if anything, favour his right side. This kind of a shift makes it hard to figure out between which two pictures above the new picture must be placed if it really is Riel.
The Eyes have it!
... his eyes are a dead give away in the photo
This argument, of all the ones oddballron makes, is extremely persuasive. Upon close examination it is indeed possible to make out two eyes, one on each side of the nose, in both pictures... Is this a coincidence or a confirmation that this indeed is Louis?
Do the eyes have it? Have a look; I think he's right. To us Louis always demonstrates a "squinty" look, effecting sort of a quizzical disposition, and resulting in shadowy corners, almost giving his eyes a deep set look. This squint, betraying the questioning mien of a man "looking for truth" or at least "questioning its possibility" bring his eyebrows down and flat. It gives Louis the air of a thinking and even a somewhat retiring human being.
On the other hand, the old farmer has highly arched eyebrows. He has the open face of a man who knows it all, and to whom there are not mysteries out there to explore or question. Sort of a "meat and potatoes" look. The photos seem to betray a clear class divide between the genuine Louis Riels on the left, and the pretender.
The Family Told Me So:
Photo was handed down from there grandfather to the grandchildren..
The huckster says he bought the picture from the family of Louis Riel and they certified it is him! What family would do such a thing!!
... was told from the family indeed it is him.
There is another problem; Louis Riel left no descendants. Not one. There were no grandsons or great-grandsons or grandfathers for that matter.
Both Louis' children were prematurely dead by 1907 and so his family tree died out. Only his in-laws carried on; so by that measure are not many Métis part of a huge extended family? Who among them would not love to profess kinship of one kind or another to Louis Riel, who is almost a patron saint among them.
"Here, I have a nice picture of Louis Riel for you, Cheap! And his children too... Interested?"