Sarah Riel.

By Leah M. Dorion. Sarah, sister and soul mate of Louis Riel, joined the Order of the Grey Nuns, The Sisters of Charity in 1866 and made her vows in 1868. She was the first Metis to enter this branch of the order. She was the daughter of Jean Louis Riel and Julie Lagimodière. Her father, usually referenced as “Louis Riel Sr.” was born at Ile-a-la-Crosse. Her paternal grandfather Jean Baptiste Riel was a French-Canadian voyageur working for the NWC in the Ile-a-la-Crosse trade system in the early 1800s. Sara’s brother was Louis Riel Jr. the famous Metis leader of bothe the Red River Resistance in 1869-70 and the 1885 Resistance at Batoche. Louis and Sarah were very close as siblings and confidants. They often wrote letters to each other about matters of the heart and shared perspectives about spiritual, philosophical and religious concepts. Like many other Metis women of Red River, Sarah was educated by the Grey Nuns in her youth. She became the first Metis Grey Nun when she took her vows as Sister Marguerite Marie in 1868. After teaching school in St. Norbert she began her mission work teaching and working in the hospital at Ile a la Crosse from 1871 until her death there in 1883. According to oral history, Sarah became the godmother to many of the community’s children. She had almost died of tuberculosis in November of 1872 when her lungs hemorrhaged while teaching singing to some children. The last Sacrament was given to her. However, her pastor, Father Legeard, sought to have his patron saint intercede and affect a cure. Her subsequent miraculous recovery was attributed to the intervention of the Blessed Marguerite-Marie Alacoque. Subsequently she changed her religious name to Marguerite-Marie. She wrote of the miracle to her mother: “Beloved Mama, how glad you would have been to see your child rise up from the dead. The good Lord has been generous…Let us requite love with His love for our family, for having chosen me as the first Metis missionary,” Through the years Sarah and Louis continued to correspond, she often talked of her wish that Louis would take the priesthood. Her letters after his marriage in April of 1881, tell of her deteriorating health and her premonition of approaching death. Then, on December 27, 1883, she died at age 34.

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