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Riel, Sara (1848-83)

Sara Riel was one of the first Métis women in the Red River region to join the Grey Nuns (Sisters of Charity); she did missionary work for over a decade at Ile-à-la-Crosse in what is now Saskatchewan. Born on October 11, 1848, in St. Boniface, she was the daughter of Jean-Louis Riel and Julie Lagimodière, and the sister of Métis leader Louis Riel; she and her brother were known to have a close relationship and to share religious beliefs. Sara Riel joined the Grey Nuns in the latter 1860s; she relocated in June 1871 to Ile-à-la-Crosse, her father's birthplace and the family's ancestral home, and the site of a major missionary effort. She served in the community's mission, including its school and hospital. Between 1876 and 1880 she became godmother to several of the community's children. Earlier, in 1872, Sara Riel had suffered from a severe case of pneumonia and was believed to be dying. After being given the Last Sacrament, she experienced a seemingly miraculous full recovery, and later obtained permission to change her name to Sister Marguerite-Marie, in honour of the saint who had been invoked in prayers. Throughout her life, Sara Riel and her brother corresponded; letters remain which speak of their relationship and of her time spent at Ile-à-la-Crosse. She died of tuberculosis on December 27, 1883.

Cheryl Troupe

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Further Reading

Jordan, M. 1974. To Louis-From Your Sister Who Loves You-Sara Riel. Toronto: Griffin House; Siggins, Maggie.1994. Riel: A Life of Revolution. Toronto: Harper Collins.
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