PARISIEN, NORBERT, Métis labourer involved in the 1869–70 rebellion; b. probably in the Red River Settlement; d. there 4 March 1870.
Norbert Parisien, whom Alexandre-Antonin Taché* identified as a “young French Métis,” appears briefly in the history of the northwest in 1870. At this time he was employed at Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg) chopping wood; his contemporaries describe him as simple-minded.
By early February 1870 the Red River Settlement appeared to be released from the months of tension following the Métis resistance to the transfer of the northwest to Canada. A provisional government had been organized by Louis Riel*, a bill of rights had been approved, and delegates to negotiate the transfer with Canada had been appointed. “Everyone appeared relieved that peace seemed once more certain,” wrote Alexander Begg* in his diary. However, rumours began to circulate that a party of armed Canadians was preparing to force the release of prisoners taken by Riel on 7 Dec. 1869 and overthrow his government. The prospect of an armed conflict revived tensions “and, at one sweep,” wrote Begg, “the Settlement was thrown back in a worse position.”
On 15 February the Canadian party seized Parisien believing him to be a spy of Riel. Riel, however, claimed he was a partisan of the Canadian party. According to the account by Charles Arkoll Boulton*, who, along with Charles Mair* and John Christian Schultz*, was a leader of the Canadian party, Parisien escaped his guard, seized a gun, and while fleeing shot Hugh John Sutherland, son of John (later Senator) Sutherland*, who died soon after. Parisien was recaptured and in Boulton’s words was handled “severely.” The following day, while he was being taken to Lower Fort Garry, he attempted to escape again, was shot by his guard, and later died of his wounds.
The incident, the first bloodshed in the rebellion of 1869–70, had a restraining effect on the Canadian party. The plan to release the prisoners and overthrow Riel was abandoned. However, a gulf had opened between the two sides, and on 17 February as members of the Canadian party were returning home nearly 50 were taken prisoner by Riel’s men. Boulton was threatened with execution but was spared, it is said, partly by the pleas of Sutherland’s parents. Another prisoner taken at this time was Thomas Scott, who was executed on 4 March.
Alexander Begg, The creation of Manitoba; or, a history of the Red River troubles (Toronto, 1871), 276–90; Red River journal (Morton), 104–9, 307–16. Can., chambre des Communes, Rapport du comité spécial sur les causes des troubles du Territoire du Nord-Ouest en 1869–70 (Ottawa, 1874), 21–23. “Letter of Louis Riel and Ambroise Lépine to Lieutenant-Governor Morris, January 3, 1873,” trans. and ed. A. H. Trémaudan, CHR, VII (1926), 137–60. Morice, Dict. historique des Canadiens et Métis, 221–22. C. A. Boulton, Reminiscences of the North-West rebellions, with a record of the raising of her majesty’s 100th Regiment in Canada, and a chapter on Canadian social and political life (Toronto, 1886), 100–23. Morice, Critical history of the Red River insurrection, 251–71.