Louis Riel poem a favourite at CCMA awards

The University of Saskatchewan was on display at the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA) awards Sept. 8-9.

The university's colourful display featured exhibits from the Museum of Antiquities, Library Special Collections and the University Art Collection; memorabilia from the College of Dentistry (including a silver crown designed for a lion); an interactive living lung display from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine; haskap ice cream from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources; and a selection of recordings from the Department of Music. The College of Arts and Science also helped with items for the display.

Student ambassadors and U of S staff were on hand to give out gift bags that included items from Huskie Athletics, the U of S Bookstore, Student Enrolment Services Division and the U of S Communications Department.

One of the most popular items was a poem written by Louis Riel – a personal favourite of hockey legend and CCMA award presenter Theo Fleury. On Campus News was on hand to interview Theo about his family's relationship to Louis Riel.

Video by Mark Ferguson. View photos of the U of S at the CCMA awards in the U of S Flickr gallery

An original copy of Métis leader Louis Riel's poem arrived at the U of S in 2006 thanks to a Hamilton-based philanthropist and was taken to the CCMA awards to show musicians and other VIPs backstage.

Dated October 27, 1885 – just two weeks before Riel was hanged in Regina – the poem is prefaced with a dedication to Robert Gordon, one of Riel's jailers. Riel begins by apologizing to Gordon for keeping him waiting for the poem which deals with themes of spiritual redemption and virtue.

The complete text follows:

Robert Gordon!
I beg your pardon
For so having
Kept you waiting
After some poor verses of mine.
You know, my English is not fine.
I speak it; but only
Very imperfectly.


The snow,
Which renders the ground all white,
From heaven, comes here below:
Its pine frozen drops invite
Us all
To white-keep your thoughts and our acts,
So that when our bodies do fall,
Our merits, before God, be facts.

How many who, with good desires,
Have died and lost their souls to fires?
Good desires kept unpractic'd
Stand, before God, unnotic'd

O, Robert, Let us be fond
Of Virtue! Virtues abound
In every sort of good,
Let virtue be our soul's food.

Louis "David" Riel.
October 27, 1885
Regina Jail

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