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The Blackfeet Treaty – On Tuesday
Posted By Dennis On In Canada,Native American | No Comments
On Tuesday, at two o’clock, the Cree Chief and his band assembled according to appointment. The Commissioners ascertained from him that he had frequented for some time the Upper Bow River country, and might fairly be taken into the present treaty, but he expressed a wish to have his reserve near Pigeon Lake, within the limits of Treaty Number Six, and from what we could learn of the feelings of the Blackfeet toward the Cree, we considered it advisable to keep them separate as much as possible. We therefore informed the Chief that it would be most expedient for him to give in his adhesion to the treaty of last year, and be paid annually, on the north of Red Deer River, with the other Cree Chiefs. He consented. We then told him that we could not pay him until after the Blackfeet had been dealt with, as it might create jealousy among them, but that in the meantime his band could receive rations. He said it was right that he should wait until we had settled with the Blackfeet, and agreed to come and sign his adhesion to Treaty Number Six at any time I was prepared to receive him.
During Tuesday, several parties of Indians came in, but the principal Blood Chiefs had not yet arrived. According to appointment, however, the Commissioners met the Indians at two o’clock on Wednesday. An outline was given of the terms proposed for their acceptance. We also informed them we did not expect an answer that day, but we hoped to hear from them to-morrow.
That day we again intimated to the Indians that rations would be delivered to such as applied for them. We told them the provisions were a present, and their acceptance would not be regarded as committing the Chiefs to the terms proposed by the Commissioners. Most of the Chiefs at once applied for flour, tea, sugar and tobacco, and in a day or two they also asked for meat. Even Crowfoot, at last thankfully accepted his share of the rations, and the beef cattle began to decrease rapidly.
On Tuesday we met the Indians at the usual hour. We further explained the terms outlined to them yesterday, dwelling especially upon the fact that by the Canadian Law their reserves could not be taken from them, occupied or sold, without their consent. They were also assured that their liberty of hunting over the open prairie would not be interfered with, so long as they did not molest settlers and others in the country.
We then invited the Chiefs to express their opinions. One of the minor Blood Chiefs made a long speech. He told us the Mounted Police had been in the country for four years, and had been destroying a quantity of wood. For this wood he asked the Commissioners should make the Indians a present payment of fifty dollars a head to each Chief, and thirty dollars a head to all others. He said the Blackfeet, Bloods, Sarcee and Piegan were all one; but he asked that the Cree and Half-breeds should be sent back to their own country. The Queen, he remarked, had sent the police to protect them; they had made it safe for Indians to sleep at night, and he hoped she would not soon take these men away.
Crowfoot said he would not speak until to-morrow. Old Sun, another influential Blackfoot Chief, said the same. Eagle Tail, the head Chief of the Piegan, remarked that he had always followed the advice the officers of the Mounted Police gave him. He hoped the promise which the Commissioners made would be secured to them as long as the sun shone and water ran. The Stony Chiefs unreservedly expressed their willingness to accept the terms offered.
Fearing that some of the Indians might regard the demands of the Blood Chief who had spoken, if not promptly refused, as agreed to, I told them he had asked too much. He had admitted the great benefit the Police had been to the Indians, and yet he was so unreasonable as to ask that the Government should pay a large gratuity to each Indian for the little wood their benefactors had used. On the contrary, I said, if there should be any pay in the matter it ought to come from the Indians to the Queen for sending them the Police. Hereupon, Crowfoot and the other Chiefs laughed heartily at the Blood orator of the day.
I also said the Commissioners could not agree to exclude the Cree and Half-breeds from the Blackfoot country; that they were the Great Mother’s children as much as the Blackfeet and Bloods, and she did not wish to see any of them starve. Of course the Cree and Half-breeds could be prosecuted for trespassing on their reserves. In this the Indian Act secured them. The Local Government had passed a law to protect the buffalo. It would have a tendency to prevent numbers from visiting their country in the close season. But to altogether exclude any class of the Queen’s subjects, as long as they obeyed the laws, from coming into any part of the country, was contrary to the freedom which she allowed her people, and the Commissioners would make no promise of the kind.
On the following morning there was a rumor that the Indians in their own Councils could not agree, that a small party was opposed to making a treaty. The opposition, however, could not have been very formidable. The principal Chiefs seemed fully to understand the importance of accepting some terms. About noon, Crowfoot, with Mr. L’Heureux, as interpreter, came to my tent and asked for explanations on some points, which I cheerfully gave him. During the forenoon a large party of Bloods came in, among whom was Bad Head, an aged minor Blood Chief, of considerable influence, who attended the meeting in the afternoon.
When the Commissioners intimated that they were ready to hear what the Chiefs had to say, Crowfoot was the first to speak. His remarks were few, but he expressed his gratitude for the Mounted Police being sent to them, and signified his intention to accept the treaty. The Blood Chief who made the large demands on the previous day said he would agree with the other Chiefs. Old Sun, head Chief of the North Blackfeet, said Crowfoot spoke well. We are not going to disappoint the Commissioners. He was glad they were all agreed to the same terms. They wanted cattle, guns, ammunition, tobacco, axes and money. Bull’s Head, the principal Chief of the Sarcee, said, we are all going to take your advice. Eagle Head, the Piegan head Chief remarked, “I give you my hand. We all agree to what Crowfoot says.” Rainy Chief, head of the North Bloods, said he never went against the white man’s advice. Some of the minor Chiefs spoke to the same effect.
The Commissioners expressed their satisfaction at the unanimity among the Indians, and said they would prepare the treaty and bring it to-morrow for signature. The only difficult matter then to be arranged was the reserves. The Commissioners thought it would take unnecessary time to discuss this question in open meeting, and resolved that one of them should visit the head Chiefs at their camps, and consult them separately as to the localities they might desire to select. Lieut. Col. McLeod undertook this duty, while I attended to the preparation of the draft treaty. He succeeded so well in his mission that we were able to name the places chosen in the treaty.
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