Métis are the children of a Native (often, the wife and mother) and a person of European (French, Scottish, English) descent (often, the father and husband). In Canadian history, especially in the West of Canada, Métis were people of the fur trade, who represented the alliances that European traders and labourers formed with Native groups who supplied furs.
Born at Red River (the area of Winnipeg MB today), Gabriel Dumont was the son of a Métis hunter, and grandson of a French-Canadian voyageur with the Hudson's Bay Company and a Sarsi Native woman. He did not read or write but spoke six languages and was an excellent hunter, horseman, and canoeist. These skills led to his being elected permanent chief of the Métis buffalo hunters when he was only 25 years old.
Dumont was a strong leader of his people, who numbered less than 10,000. He led them to resist the takeover of land in the West by surveyors sent out by the Canadian government. The West had become a part of Canada in 1870, and little thought had been given to the Métis ownership of the land before Canada's takeover. Suddenly what had been an open country for hunter-gatherers who lived off the buffalo hunt, was becoming a regulated, surveyed prairie that people from other parts of the world were coming to farm.
After several years of negotiation with the Canadian government failed, Dumont sought the non-military leadership of Louis Riel, while he organized a military campaign that came to a head in the Second Riel Rebellion, which occurred in central Saskatchewan in 1885.
The federal government in Ottawa had sent an army, the North West Mounted Police, to the West on the newly completed railway. With only 300 men, Dumont organized an effective resistance at Duck Lake SK and later at Fish Creek SK. However, Riel opposed Dumont's plan to continue his effective campaign of guerilla warfare, and so the Métis were defeated at Batoche, Saskatchewan (100 km north of the modern city of Saskatoon SK).
Dumont fled to the USA, while Riel was captured and later hanged. After the amnesty granted to Métis rebels, Dumont returned to Canada in 1888 and to Batoche in 1893. He dictated two oral memoirs of the rebellion, which capture some of the qualities that made him famous: his chivalry, his intelligence, and his dynamic energy and skills. A modern painted portrait of Dumont is shown on on this website.