It’s Louis Riel Day! Make History Relevant for Your Students Using “Red River Resistance”
A graphic novel for ages 12+
Louis Riel Day offers a terrific opportunity to introduce your students to Indigenous authors and books that commemorate the life of Louis Riel and offer an own voice account to historical events. Red River Resistance from the A Girl Called Echo series written by local author and educator Katherena Vermette, presents a Métis perspective of the events leading up to the Red River Resistance. Readers follow Echo as she travels back and forth through time and learns about her Métis history firsthand. In Red River Resistance, Echo witnesses Métis families, who have lived along the Red River for centuries, protest against the Canadian surveyors who are selling their land out from under them. As the protests go from peaceful to violent, Echo finds herself fearing for her friends and for the future of her people in the Red River Valley.
Here are some ideas for using the graphic novel with your students for Louis Riel Day and beyond.
Louis Riel and the Red River Resistance played a significant role in the creation of Manitoba as a province – so much so, Louis Riel is often referred to as the Father of Manitoba. After reading the book, Red River Resistance, have students review the timeline in the back. Students could then do their own research, write opinion pieces, or hold a debate about the factors leading up to the Resistance and the creation of Manitoba.
Contemporary Issues in Canada
In their research for the above activity, students are also likely to come across “Red River Rebellion,” an older term for the Red River Resistance. This presents an opportunity for discussion with students about the difference between the two terms, and the connotations of each. Discuss the legacy of the Red River Resistance, and why we take time off to reflect on Louis Riel Day.
Another topic for research and discussion in Red River Resistance is that of child welfare. Echo is a foster kid who is disconnected from her Métis heritage. Students can research the statistics and issues surrounding foster care and child welfare in Canada, and use this as a starting place for opinion writing, discussions, or debate.
Creative Expression and Graphic Storytelling
Graphic storytelling is an art form that has been used for thousands of years. This recent article, “Graphic examples of the art of storytelling” by Niigaan Sinclair, can be used as a starting place for a discussion with your students. Students can explore other styles of graphic novels and compare them to Red River Resistance, then write and illustrate their own graphic novels. Blambot is a resource with articles on topics such as writing graphic novel and comic scripts or comic book grammar and lettering styles that students can use as a reference when creating their own books.
Exploration of Identity and Heritage
Throughout A Girl Called Echo, Echo learns about the history of the Métis people. Echo is a girl who lives in a foster home and doesn’t know very much about her roots. Like all kids, she expresses herself through her clothes, hobbies, and the music she listens to. As she discovers more about her Métis heritage and settles into her new school, Echo becomes more confident and involved with her fellow students. Pemmican Wars and Red River Resistance can be used as a starting place for students to explore their own identities, heritage, or experiences in unfamiliar environments, such as when they started a new school themselves.
Connection with Local History
If your students attend school in or near Winnipeg, help them connect with the local history of the Red River Resistance with a visit to where the events took place. Fort Gibraltar, Upper Fort Garry Park, Lower Fort Garry, and Riel House all provide rich learning opportunities, particularly during Festival du Voyageur.
How have you used A Girl Called Echo with your students? Let us know in the comments!