Louis Riel, memorialized here by a statue in Winnipeg, wrote a series of poems in jail before his execution. They will be auctioned in Toronto.

Handwritten poems by Métis leader Louis Riel, given to a jail guard before Riel's 1885 execution in Regina, will soon go up for auction.

The four English-language poems, written in a folio given to Riel by one of his jailers, are expected to fetch $5,000 next week when they go on the auction block in Toronto.

The poems came to light after being held by descendants of North West Mounted Police Const. Robert Hobbs, who gave the Métis leader the writing pad in his jail cell shortly before his execution for treason.

In return, Riel gave the poems to Hobbs as a gift.


Four handwritten poems by Metis leader Louis Riel are to be auctioned next week.

"I must speak of God in Whom I trust; In Him I have room to hope," reads one of the poems. "The rope threatens my life; But thank God I fear not."

Several of the religious poems are signed "Louis 'David' Riel."

The Toronto sale is organized by Dirk Heinze, an expert with the CBC's Canadian Antiques Roadshow. Two vintage portraits of Riel are also to be auctioned.

As a Métis leader, Riel commanded two rebellions in Western Canada and was hanged for treason in 1885. Until well into the 20th century, Riel was regarded as misguided at best and a psychotic traitor at worst.

But in the 1960s Riel's reputation began to turn around.

Today most Canadians, particularly the Métis, have reclaimed him as a heroic patriot, founder of Manitoba and a father of Confederation.