The Execution of Thomas Scott
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The Execution of Thomas Scott

By early 1870, Louis Riel seemed to have the upper hand in a prairie uprising known as the Red River Resistance.
Louis Riel (centre) with advisors during the 1869-70 Red River uprising.(Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Louis Riel (centre) with his advisors during the 1869-70 Red River uprising. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

Riel and his mostly Métis supporters had seized Fort Garry, which served as the administrative centre for the prairie region known as Red River. He had formed a provisional government and had won the Canadian government's attention. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald seemed prepared to negotiate with Riel over the transfer of the prairie territory to Canada.

To date, the uprising had been a relatively peaceful affair despite attempts by some opponents of Riel to stir up trouble.

In late 1869, a man named John Christian Schultz had mustered a group of Ontario settlers to oppose Riel's uprising. Schultz was a Red River physician and belonged to a group called Canada First, a nationalistic political movement that offered little place in Confederation for natives and French Canadians.
Dr. John Christian Schultz moved to the prairies in 1861 and years later helped stir up opposition to the Red River Resistance. (Courtesy of the Glenbow Archives/Museum)
Dr. John Christian Schultz moved to the prairies in 1861 and years later helped stir up opposition to the Red River Resistance. (Courtesy of the Glenbow Archives/Museum)

Schultz and his men prepared to attack Fort Garry. But Riel took the offensive and seized 45 of the men and kept them prisoner inside the fort. Schultz eventually escaped and the other prisoners were released in early February 1870 without incident.

Later that month, some of Schultz's men regrouped and again they were captured by Riel and held at Fort Garry. But this time, events would unfold differently. Within a month, Riel's uprising would turn bloody and the tide would turn against Red River Resistance.
Thomas Scott's execution was a turning point in the Red River Resistance. It eventually forced Louis Riel into exile. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Thomas Scott's execution was a turning point in the Red River Resistance. It eventually forced Louis Riel into exile. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

Among Schultz's men was a big, aggressive man from Ontario named Thomas Scott. While held at Fort Garry, Scott continually insulted the guards and threatened to shoot Riel if he was ever freed.

Riel's actions to date had been moderate, but with Scott he overreacted and appointed a military tribunal to try the prisoner for treason. On March 4, 1870, Scott was convicted, sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad in the courtyard of Fort Garry.

It was Riel's greatest miscalculation and an act that would cost him the moral high ground. Protestants in Canada's largest province, Ontario, reacted with anger. There were calls for Riel to be hanged and the Ontario government offered a bounty for his capture.

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Louis Riel
Louis Riel
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The Capture of Fort Garry
The Capture of Fort Garry
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John A. Macdonald's Response
John A. Macdonald's Response
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Manitoba is Created
Manitoba is Created
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Riel in Exile
Riel in Exile
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