At Red River, songs played a role in proclaiming identity –– meaning expressing solidarity. On 5 November 1869, William McDougall, the Lieutenant-governor designated by Canada for the temporary governance of Red River, but who was turned away from entering the settlement, wrote that one of the Métis involved in turning him back, as “evidence of the earnestness and patriotic spirit of the insurgents,” had “showed me a song in French, copied partly on the Marseillaise, and which was being circulated among the half-breeds of the neighbourhood.”[i]

The adapted lyrics to that anthem are no longer known. A number of other songs, however, were composed by various inhabitants of Red River. Three of these were shared with the community through the pages of the local newspaper:

  • On 8 April 1870, the New Nation printed the lyrics to “The Political Death and Dying Words of Recreant Willie,” a song of resistance composed in English by “Cousin Sandy.”
  • On 29 April 1870 a lyrical composition in French, entitled “Les tribulations d’un Roi malheureux,” was printed. Authorship has been attributed to Pierre Falcon.
  • ‘Cousin Sandy’ then made a final contribution, printed on 6 May 1870, entitled “The Statesman of the Period.”

Louis Riel also composed a satirical ditty. The existing copy is not titled, though it has been dated to 1869.[ii] The cadence is rhythmical enough to suggest it was meant to be sung.

Sources available online:

Primary Sources:

Transcriptions:

[i] Source: Great Britain, Colonial Office, Canada, Governor General, Correspondence Relative to the Recent Disturbances13.

[ii] AM, MG3 D2, file 28, “Riel family correspondence and poetry, 1869-1923.” See Glen Campbell, ed., The Collected Writings of Louis Riel, vol. 4 (Edmonton: 1985), 85.

[iv] New Nation (29 April 1870), 4, http://manitobia.ca/content/en/newspapers/NNT/1870/04/29/4/Ar00402.html/Olive. Some of the punctuation is hard to determine and some words are nearly illegible. The transcription is a best guess on my part. Margaret Arnett MacLeod, Songs of Old Manitoba (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1969), 38, attributes the song to Pierre Falcon, “As taken down from Pierre Falcon’s grandchildren by Henry Caron.” McLeod’s version has verses that are not identical to those printed in the New Nation.