Red Sun. Book cover photo courtesy gdins.org
Plenty of books have been written on Gabriel Dumont, but the institute named after him says none have been written like “Red Sun: Gabriel Dumont, The Folk Hero.”
The new book on Dumont has been released this week, many decades after writer Charles Thompson first wrote it. Dumont was a Metis leader who died in the early 1900s, best known for his role in the Riel Resistance and in bringing Louis Riel back to Canada.
Editor Darren Prefontaine, who works at the Gabriel Dumont Institute, has never met the now-aged Thompson in person but said Thompson – a non-Indigenous journalist – led an interesting life before taking on the work of researching Dumont.
“He (Thompson) knew John Diefenbaker, the former prime minister, and it was Mr. Diefenbaker who put him on the trail of doing a biography of Gabriel Dumont. Now, Mr. Diefenbaker was quite enamored with Gabriel Dumont,” Prefontaine said.
It was through Diefenbaker that Thompson met a number of Dumont’s family members, built longstanding relationships with them, and dug deep into the oral history on Dumont before putting pen to paper. He actually wrote the book decades ago, but Prefontaine said it’s possible publishers at that time were more into biographies written by academics, and not as interested in Indigenous stories as they are now.
Thompson’s storytelling style is what appealed most to Prefontaine, who says it “restored Gabriel Dumont’s indigeneity.”
“I think a lot of times we forget that Indigenous culture is very different than mainstream culture and the ways of telling it and the ways of looking at are different.”
He said this means the book weaves together Dumont’s story in a less linear, “western” way and incorporates traditional storytelling techniques. By doing this, in Prefontaine’s view, the book shows the historical figure as a multi-dimensional man who looked after orphans, led his people, and forged ties between the deeply divided Cree, Metis and Dakota people.
The book was released this week by the Gabriel Dumont Institute Press, and is available on shopmetis.ca