For most Manitoba workers, Louis Riel Day is a holiday — a day off that breaks up the stretch of time between New Year's and Easter and allows people to spend time with family.
At the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, though, they're working hard to make sure Riel's legacy gets its due.
Ivan Spence and his 13-year-old grandson Ryan performed Métis fiddle music at the museum on Monday, part of a showcase of Métis culture and history. The museum hosted musicians, beadworkers, poets and gave exhibit tours.
"It's very special to be a Métis on a day where they honour Louis Riel, and it's been a long time coming," said Spence.
"Louis Riel defended Métis culture and tried to preserve it and I like sharing my Métis culture and going around and performing," Ryan said.
"He's a really important part of our history. He fought for Métis rights and he deserves to be almost a household name."
Award-winning poet Marilyn Dumont was also at the museum on Monday. She is a descendant of Gabriel Dumont, who was a Métis resistance leader with Riel. She travelled from her home in Alberta to showcase some of her traditional beadwork and read poetry about the Métis people. Dumont said Louis Riel Day celebrates a brilliant man who played an important role in Canadian history.
"I think it's wonderful. I think for a lot of years Canada wanted to hide this history, and now that it's being celebrated I think it's a really wonderful thing. Let's face it, if Louis didn't, sort of take a stand on things, we may be American today, which is a scary thought," said Dumont.
Amber Parker, an interpretive program developer with CMHR, said the museum has an important role to play in engaging the public and sharing Métis history.
"I think people in Manitoba have always been very aware of Louis Riel but I think he is starting to get an increasing amount of cross Canada awareness. He's really the founder of Manitoba, the postage-stamp province as it was known at the time. He basically did that through fighting for the rights on the Métis people," said Parker.
This is the third year the museum has hosted events celebrating Louis Riel Day. Today's showcase also included a talk and tour through the Rebellion & Confederation exhibit which is on loan until May from the Canadian Museum of History.