On the 17th, on his return, he informed me that the Chief said “He had not given me leave to meet the Indians anywhere except at Duck Lake, and that they would only meet me there.” The Carlton Indians, however, sent me word, that they would be ready next morning at ten o’clock.
On the 18th, as I was leaving for the Indian encampment, a messenger came to me from the Duck Lake Indians, asking for provisions. I replied, that Mr. Christie was in charge of the distribution of provisions, but that I would not give any to the Duck Lake Indians, in consequence of the unreasonableness of their conduct, and that provisions would only be given to the large encampment.
I then proceeded to the Indian camp, together with my fellow Commissioners, and was escorted by Captain Walker and his troop.
On my arrival I found that the ground had been most judiciously chosen, being elevated, with abundance of trees, hay marshes and small lakes. The spot which the Indians had left for my council tent overlooked the whole.
The view was very beautiful: the hills and the trees in the distance, and in the foreground, the meadow land being dotted with clumps of wood, with the Indian tents clustered here and there to the number of two hundred.
On my arrival, the Union Jack was hoisted, and the Indians at once began to assemble, beating drums, discharging fire-arms, singing and dancing. In about half an hour they were ready to advance and meet me. This they did in a semicircle, having men on horseback galloping in circles, shouting, singing and discharging fire-arms.
They then performed the dance of the “pipe stem,” the stem was elevated to the north, south, west and east, a ceremonial dance was then performed by the Chiefs and head men, the Indian men and women shouting the while.
They then slowly advanced, the horsemen again preceding them on their approach to my tent. I advanced to meet them, accompanied by Messrs. Christie and McKay, when the pipe was presented to us and stroked by our hands.
After the stroking had been completed, the Indians sat down in front of the council tent, satisfied that in accordance with their custom we had accepted the friendship of the Cree nation.
I then addressed the Indians in suitable terms, explaining that I had been sent by the Queen, in compliance with their own wishes and the written promise I had given them last year, that a messenger would be sent to them.
I had ascertained that the Indian mind was oppressed with vague fears; they dreaded the treaty; they had been made to believe that they would be compelled to live on the reserves wholly, and abandon their hunting and that in time of war, they would be placed in the front and made to fight.
I accordingly shaped my address, so as to give them confidence in the intentions of the Government, and to quiet their apprehensions. I impressed strongly on them the necessity of changing their present mode of life, and commencing to make homes and gardens for themselves, so as to be prepared for the diminution of the buffalo and other large animals, which is going on so rapidly.
The Indians listened with great attention to my address, and at its close asked an adjournment that they might meet in council to consider my words, which was of course granted.
The Rev. C. Scollen, a Roman Catholic Missionary amongst the Blackfeet, arrived soon after from Bow River, and informed me that on the way he had learned that Sweet Grass, the principal Chief of the Plain Cree, was out hunting and would not be at Fort Pitt, and that he was of opinion that his absence would be a great obstruction to a treaty.
After consulting with my colleagues, I decided on sending a messenger to him, requesting his presence, and succeeded in obtaining, for the occasion, the services of Mr. John McKay, of Prince Albert, who had accompanied the Rev. George McDougall on his mission last year.
In the evening, Lieut.-Col. Jarvis arrived with a reinforcement of the Mounted Police, and an excellent band, which has been established at the private cost of one of the troops.
On the 19th, the Commissioners, escorted by the Mounted Police, headed by the band, proceeded to the Indian encampment.
The Indians again assembled, following Mist-ow-as-is and Ah-tuk-uk-koop, the recognised leading Chiefs.
I asked them to present their Chiefs; they then presented the two head Chiefs, and the minor ones.
At this juncture, a messenger arrived from the Duck Lake Indians, asking that I should tell them the terms of the Treaty. I replied that if the Chiefs and people had joined the others they would have heard what I had to say, and that I would not tell the terms in advance, but that the messenger could remain and hear what I had to say. He expressed himself satisfied and took his seat with the others. I then fully explained to them the proposals I had to make, that we did not wish to interfere with their present mode of living, but would assign them reserves and assist them as was being done elsewhere, in commencing to farm, and that what was done would hold good for those that were away.
The Indians listened most attentively, and on the close of my remarks Mist-ow-as-is arose, took me by the hand, and said that “when a thing was thought of quietly, it was the best way,” and asked “this much, that we go and think of his words.”
I acquiesced at once, and expressed my hope that the Chiefs would act wisely, and thus closed the second day.
The 20th being Sunday, the Rev. Mr. John McKay, of the Church of England, conducted divine service at the fort, which was largely attended; the Rev. Mr. Scollen also conducted service.
At noon a messenger came from the Indian camp, asking that there should be a service held at their camp, which Mr. McKay agreed to do; this service was attended by about two hundred adult Cree.
On Monday, 21st, the head Chiefs sent word that, as the previous day was Sunday, they had not met in council, and wished to have the day for consultation, and if ready would meet me on Tuesday morning. I cheerfully granted the delay from the reasonableness of the request; but I was also aware that the head Chiefs were in a position of great difficulty.
The attitude of the Duck Lake Indians and of the few discontented Saulteaux embarrassed them, while a section of their own people were either averse to make a treaty or desirous of making extravagant demands. The head Chiefs were men of intelligence, and anxious that the people should act unitedly and reasonably.
We, therefore, decided to give them all the time they might ask, a policy which they fully appreciated.