Acclaimed writer Joseph Boyden to discuss Louis Riel

close up view of Joseph Boyden

Was Louis Riel a madman or a hero, a misguided religious zealot or a champion for the Métis people? This is what renowned author and York alumnus Joseph Boyden will discuss this Friday as part of the Canada: Like You’ve Never Heard It Before speakers’ series.

Boyden’s talk will take place on Friday, March 9 at 4pm at 135 Vanier College, Keele campus. A reception will follow at 5:30pm in the Renaissance Room, 001 Vanier College.

Louis Riel and Gabriel dumont book coverBoyden will discuss his acclaimed 2010 biography, Louis Riel & Gabriel Dumont, written as part of Penguin Canada’s Extraordinary Canadians series. He will examine the lives of the 19th-century Canadian political figures and how their shared vision and leadership brought them together, as well as their effects on the Métis people and their history. Boyden will also provide fresh insight into the historical significance of Riel and Dumont.

Boyden’s biography “reflects on the meaning and the significance of ‘place’ for the Métis Nation,” says York equity studies Professor David McNab, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Boyden suggests, “I’m grounded in history, and I am inspired by legend,” so listeners can expect new awareness of both contexts. He will also examine the contributions of First Nations peoples to the Canadian military. His inaugural novel, Three Day Road, centres on the experience of Cree soldiers serving in the Canadian military during the First World War. Of Scottish, Irish and Métis heritage, Boyden is well placed to discuss the unique aspects of First Nations culture in Canadian Joseph Boydensociety. In addition, his maternal grandfather served as a soldier during the First World War, which provides Boyden with a wealth of family narratives to draw from.

Left: Joseph Boyden

Three Day Road won the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the inaugural McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award. Boyden’s second novel, Through Black Spruce, won the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize. In addition, he has written a short story collection and two nonfiction works, including Louis Riel & Gabriel Dumont. An alumnus of York University’s Creative Writing Program, Boyden now teaches writing at the University of New Orleans and is the 2011/2012 Writer-in-Residence at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Canada: Like You’ve Never Heard It Before is a 2011-2012 speakers’ series featuring public lectures by prominent York Canadianists. Co-sponsored by the Canadian Studies Program and the Canadian Studies Club, this interdisciplinary series demonstrates the breadth and depth of both Canadianist research at York and the work of outside authors.

The event is sponsored by Aboriginal Services, Founders College, Vanier College and the departments of humanities, English and history.

Submitted by Samantha Peterson, a fourth-year professional writing student in York’s Department of English