LÉPINE, JEAN-BAPTISTE, Métis leader, fl. 1869–71.
Jean-Baptiste Lépine was probably the son of Jean-Baptiste Lépine (1792–1876) and Julie Henry. In July 1869 he was appointed by a group of Métis in the Red River Settlement to organize with Baptiste Tourond a patrol whose duty was to scrutinize the movements of Canadians in the settlement and to warn of strangers suspected of designs on Métis lands. In March 1870 he was a member of the military council presided over by his brother Ambroise-Dydime*, which condemned Thomas Scott* to death for insubordination to Louis Riel*’s provisional government. Lépine was one of two members of the council of seven who opposed the death penalty.
At the time of the threatened Fenian invasion of the province of Manitoba in the autumn of 1871, the Métis leaders held a number of meetings at which Lépine was present. The purpose of these was to determine what action the Métis should take if the invasion materialized. At a meeting of 4 October Louis Riel reported that a messenger had come from William Bernard O’Donoghue, an associate of Riel in 1869–70, asking the Métis leaders to meet him at Pembina on the American side of the border. All of the leaders, Riel stated later, had refused to go with the exception of Lépine and André Nault*. These two, he said, had “gone in their own right” to determine what O’Donoghue wanted. On 6 October Lépine and Nault reported that O’Donoghue planned to seize the Hudson’s Bay Company post at the border and wanted the Métis to join him in the invasion. The Métis leaders decided to hold meetings in all the French parishes of the settlement in order to decide what attitude to take. Lépine presided at a meeting at Pointe-Coupée (near present-day Sainte-Agathe) on 7 October at which it was resolved that the Métis would respond to the call to arms of the lieutenant governor, Adams George Archibald*, to repel the invaders. The same day Riel offered the lieutenant governor the services of his Métis followers, The Fenians were easily rounded up and returned to the United States without any force from the province, English or French, being required. Nothing is known of Lépine after 1871.
Jean-Baptiste Lépine had been closely associated with the Métis supporters of Riel, but in this role he was obviously overshadowed by his brother, Ambroise-Dydime.
Morice, Dict. Hist. Can. et Métis, 183. Begg, Hist. of North-West, II, 68–71. Stanley, Louis Riel, 55, 173. J. P. Pritchett, “The origin of the so-called Fenian Raid on Manitoba in 1871,” CHR, X (1929), 23–42. A.-H. de Trémaudan, “Louis Riel and the Fenian Raid of 1871,” CHR, IV (1923), 132–44.