William Henry Jackson (1861–1952), who later adopted the name Honoré Joseph Jaxon, left behind what is perhaps one of the most evocative representations of Louis Riel.
Jackson, a prominent labour organizer and best known for being Riel’s secretary during the 1885 resistance, saw himself as a “peacemaker between the Aboriginal and immigrant population of the North West.” Both Jackson and Riel were imprisoned following the Battle of Batoche in May 1885.
At trial, Jackson had hoped to defend Riel’s actions. However, the trial lasted a mere hour, as both the Crown and defence declared Jackson insane. He was sent to the insane asylum at Lower Fort Garry, located just north of Winnipeg. Riel was held in Regina, where he was publically executed on November 16, 1885.
During his time at the asylum, Jackson carved a small wooden bust of Riel. Measuring some 21 centimetres in height, the bearded face depicts a gaunt-looking Riel — reminiscent of a Christ figure — with the letters DAVID (Riel’s middle name) carved below.
Jackson presented the bust to Dr. David Young at the hospital on October 17, 1885, and fled shortly after. Lieutenant Colonel R.H. Young, the son of David Young, donated the bust to Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site in 1964, where it can still be seen today.