The Chiefs and head men came to pay their respects to the Commissioners in the morning, at Fort Pitt.
SWEET GRASS–”We are all glad to see you here, and we have come to say good-bye before you leave.”
THE BIG BEAR–”I find it difficult to express myself, because some of the bands are not represented. I have come off to speak for the different bands that are out on the plains. It is no small matter we were to consult about. I expected the Chiefs here would have waited until I arrived. The different bands that are out on the plains told me that I should speak in their stead; the Stony Indians as well. The people who have not come, stand as a barrier before what I would have had to say; my mode of living is hard.”
SWEET GRASS, to Big Bear–”My friend, you see the representative of the Queen here, who do you suppose is the maker of it. I think the Great Spirit put it into their hearts to come to our help; I feel as if I saw life when I see the representative of the Queen; let nothing be a barrier between you and him; it is through great difficulty this has been brought to us. Think of our children and those to come after, there is life and succor for them, say yes and take his hand.”
The White Fish Lake Chief said, “We have all taken it, and we think it is for our good.”
BIG BEAR–”Stop, stop, my friends, I have never seen the Governor before; I have seen Mr. Christie many times. I heard the Governor was to come and I said I shall see him; when I see him I will make a request that he will save me from what I most dread, that is: the rope to be about my neck (hanging), it was not given to us by the Great Spirit that the red man or white man should shed each other’s blood.”
GOVERNOR–”It was given us by the Great Spirit, man should not shed his brother’s blood, and it was spoken to us that he who shed his brother’s blood, should have his own spilt.
“No good Indian has the rope about his neck. If a white man killed an Indian, not in self defence, the rope would be put around his neck. He saw red-coats, they were here to protect Indians and whites.
“If a man tried to kill you, you have a right to defend; but no man has a right to kill another in cold blood, and we will do all we can to punish such. The good Indian need never be afraid; their lives will be safer than ever before. Look at the condition of the Blackfeet. Before the red-coats went, the Americans were taking their furs and robes and giving them whiskey–we stopped it, they have been able to buy back two thousand horses–before that, robes would have gone to Americans for whiskey.”
BIG BEAR–”What we want is that we should hear what will make our hearts glad, and all good peoples’ hearts glad. There were plenty things left undone, and it does not look well to leave them so.”
GOVERNOR–”I do not know what has been left undone!”
BIG BEAR said he would like to see his people before he acted. “I have told you what I wish, that there be no hanging.”
GOVERNOR–”What you ask will not be granted, why are you so anxious about bad men?
“The Queen’s law punishes murder with death, and your request cannot be granted.”
BIG BEAR–”Then these Chiefs will help us to protect the buffalo, that there may be enough for all. I have heard what has been said, and I am glad we are to be helped; but why do these men not speak?”
The Chief of the Chippewayans said, “We do not speak, because Sweet Grass has spoken for us all. What he says, we all say.”
GOVERNOR–”I wish the Bear to tell Short Tail and See-yah-kee-maht, the other Chiefs, what has been done, and that it is for them, as if they had been here. Next year they and their people can join the treaty and they will lose nothing. I wish you to understand fully about two questions, and tell the others. The North-West Council is considering the framing of a law to protect the buffaloes, and when they make it, they will expect the Indians to obey it. The Government will not interfere with the Indian’s daily life, they will not bind him. They will only help him to make a living on the reserves, by giving him the means of growing from the soil, his food. The only occasion when help would be given, would be if Providence should send a great famine or pestilence upon the whole Indian people included in the treaty. We only looked at something unforseen and not at hard winters or the hardships of single bands, and this, both you and I, fully understood.
“And now I have done, I am going away. The country is large, another Governor will be sent in my place; I trust you will receive him as you have done me, and give him your confidence. He will live amongst you. Indians of the plains, I bid you farewell. I never expect to see you again, face to face. I rejoice that you listened to me, and when I go back to my home beyond the great lakes, I will often think of you and will rejoice to hear of your prosperity. I ask God to bless you and your children. Farewell.”
The Indians responded by loud ejaculations of satisfaction, and the Chiefs and Councilor, commencing with Sweet Grass, each shook hands with the Governor, and addressed him in words of parting, elevating his hand, as they grasped it, to heaven, and invoking the blessings of the Great Spirit.
The Bear remained sitting until all had said good-bye to the Governor, and then he rose and taking his hand, said, “I am glad to meet you, I am alone; but if I had known the time, I would have been here with all my people. I am not an undutiful child, I do not throw back your hand; but as my people are not here, I do not sign. I will tell them what I have heard, and next year I will come.” About an hour afterwards the Big Bear came to the Fort Pitt House to see the Governor, and again repeated that he accepted the treaty as if he had signed it, and would come next year, with all his people, to meet the Commissioners and accept it.
The Governor and party left Fort Pitt for Battle River, on the 13th at one o’clock, and arrived there on the 15th. There were no Indians there, except the Red Pheasant’s band, who had been treated with at Battle River.
On the 16th the Red Pheasant and his Councilor came to see the Governor and the Commissioners, with the following result:
THE RED PHEASANT–”I am a Battle River Indian, and I have chosen this place before, and I am glad to see the Government here too, as I know there is a chance of living. I want the Half-breed claims at Battle River to be respected, and I do not wish to turn out any white man; but I wish to return to my former mode of life.
“Ever since my grandfather lived at Battle River, it has been my home. Our houses were swept off by a flood two years ago, and after that we repaired some old houses that were built by outsiders (other Indians), and we had fenced in the buildings; but a short time ago some Canadians arrived, knocked down the fences, and built inside the enclosure.”
WAH-TAH-NEE–”We had chosen a point about a mile from the spot where we are now speaking, and got out logs for fences and houses, and when we returned from the plains we found they had all been taken away. There are now twenty families, and ten more to come in from the plains.
“We wish to be remembered to the Queen, and we are thankful to see the Queen’s soldiers coming to make their homes on the land that we have been brought up on. I hope that the Queen will look upon our poverty when she hears that we are poor Indians and have welcomed her people to live amongst us. This is my country where I have lived. I want to make way for the Queen’s men, and I ask her in return to keep me from want. Next spring I want to plant here, wherever I can get a piece of ground. By that time I may have selected a spot for my reserve. The reason I want to select my reserve is, that I do not want to be cramped up by settlers. In the meantime I do not want any white men to settle on the Eagle Hills.
“When I see that we are numerous, it will be the Eagle Hills I will select as our reserve, although I am very reluctant to leave the place I have been brought up on. If I see that we are not likely to be numerous, I may select some other place across the Saskatchewan River. This man, Peter Ballendine, knows that it is not because settlers are coming here that we speak of this place, Battle River, but because we were here from of old. I wish that the Governor should give us some advice to think over during the winter.”
GOVERNOR–”I am glad to give you a word of advice. Next summer, Commissioners will come to make payments here, so that you may not have so far to go, and also that other Indians we have not seen, should come here also, to whom it may be convenient, and I hope that then you will be able to talk with them where you want your reserve. I will speak to you frankly, as if I was talking to my own children; the sooner you select a place for your reserve the better, so that you can have the animals and agricultural implements promised to you, and so that you may have the increase from the animals, and the tools to help you build houses, &c. When you are away hunting and fishing, the heat of the sun and the rain is making your crops to grow. I think you are showing wisdom in taking a place away from here, although it has been your home. It is better for the Indian to be away a little piece from the white man. You will be near enough to bring your furs to a good market, and by and by I hope you will have more potatoes than you require, and have some to dispose of. I am very anxious that you should think over this, and be able to tell the Commissioner next year where you want your reserve.
“I have asked Mr. Fuller to let you have three acres of land to plant your potatoes next spring, and he has replied that he will be very happy to let you do so, and to plough it for you as well, in the field he has enclosed.
“I am much pleased with the conduct of the Battle River Cree, and will report it to the Queen’s Councilor. I hope you will be prosperous and happy.”
This closed the interview.
The Commissioners left Battle River on the 19th of September. The Lieutenant Governor arrived at Fort Garry on the 6th of October.