The 17th being Sunday we remained at our camp, and on Monday morning, the 18th, we commenced our long return journey, with the incidents of which I will not trouble you further than to state that, on arriving on the 4th of October at an encampment about thirty miles from Portage la Prairie, we found it necessary to leave our tents and carts to follow us leisurely (many of the horses having become completely exhausted with the long journey of sixteen hundred miles) and push on to the Portage; on the 5th we reached the Portage, where Mr. Christie and Dr. Jackes remained, their horses being unable to go farther, and I went on to Poplar Point, forty-five miles from Fort Garry, where I found accommodation for the night from Mr. Chisholm, of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Post there.
I arrived at Fort Garry on the afternoon of the 6th of October having been absent for over two months and a half. Mr. McKay, having taken another road, had arrived before me; Mr. Christie and Dr. Jackes reached here subsequently. Having thus closed the narrative of our proceedings, I proceed to deal with the results of our mission, and to submit for your consideration some reflections and to make some practical suggestions.
1st. The Indians inhabiting the ceded territory are chiefly Cree, but there are a few Assiniboines on the plains and also at the slope of the mountains. There are also a small number of Saulteaux and one band of Chippewayans.
2nd. I was agreeably surprised to find so great a willingness on the part of the Cree to commence to cultivate the soil, and so great a desire to have their children instructed. I requested Mr. Christie to confer with the Chief while the payments were going on, as to the localities where they would desire to have reserves assigned to them, and with few exceptions they indicated the places, in fact most of them have already commenced to settle.
It is, therefore important that the cattle and agricultural implements should be given them without delay.
I would, therefore, recommend that provision should be made for forwarding these as soon as the spring opens. I think it probable that cattle and some implements could be purchased at Prince Albert and thus avoid transportation.
3rd. I would further represent that, though I did not grant the request, I thought the desire of the Indians, to be instructed in farming and building, most reasonable, and I would therefore recommend that measures be adopted to provide such instruction for them. Their present mode of living is passing away; the Indians are tractable, docile and willing to learn. I think that advantage should be taken of this disposition to teach them to become self-supporting, which can best be accomplished with the aid of a few practical farmers and carpenters to instruct them in farming and house building.
The universal demand for teachers, and by some of the Indians for missionaries, is also encouraging. The former, the Government can supply; for the latter they must rely on the churches, and I trust that these will continue and extend their operations amongst them. The field is wide enough for all, and the cry of the Indian for help is a clamant one.
4th. In connection with the aiding of the Indians to settle, I have to call attention to the necessity of regulations being made for the preservation of the buffalo. These animals are fast decreasing in numbers, but I am satisfied that a few simple regulations would preserve the herds for many years. The subject was constantly pressed on my attention by the Indians, and I promised that the matter would be considered by the North-West Council. The council that has governed the territories for the last four years was engaged in maturing a law for this purpose, and had our regime continued we would have passed a statute for their preservation. I commend the matter to the attention of our successors as one of urgent importance.
5th. There is another class of the population in the North-West whose position I desire to bring under the notice of the Privy Council. I refer to the wandering Half-breeds of the plains, who are chiefly of French descent and live the life of the Indians. There are a few who are identified with the Indians, but there is a large class of Metis who live by the hunt of the buffalo, and have no settled homes. I think that a census of the numbers of these should be procured, and while I would not be disposed to recommend their being brought under the treaties, I would suggest that land should be assigned to them, and that on their settling down, if after an examination into their circumstances, it should be found necessary and expedient, some assistance should be given them to enable them to enter upon agricultural operations.
If the measures suggested by me are adopted, viz., effective regulations with regard to the buffalo, the Indians taught to cultivate the soil, and the erratic Half-breeds encouraged to settle down, I believe that the solution of all social questions of any present importance in the North-West Territories will have been arrived at.
In conclusion, I have to call your attention to the report made to me by the Hon. Mr. Christie, which I forward herewith; that gentleman took the entire charge of the payments and administration of matters connected with the treaty, and I have to speak in the highest terms of the value of his services.
Accompanying his report will be found the pay sheets, statements of distribution of provisions and clothing, memoranda as to the localities of the reserves, suggestions as to the times and places of payment next year, and a general balance sheet.
A credit of $60,000 was given to me, and I have placed as a refund to the credit of the Receiver-General, $12,730.55. This arises from the fact that owing to the proximity of the buffalo, many of the Indians did not come into the treaty.
I have to acknowledge the benefit I derived from the services of the Hon. James McKay, camping as he did near the Indian encampment. He had the opportunity of meeting them constantly, and learning their views which his familarity with the Indian dialects enabled him to do. Dr. Jackes took a warm interest in the progress of our work, and kept a record of the negotiations, a copy of which I enclose and which I think ought to be published, as it will be of great value to those who will be called on to administer the treaty, showing as it does what was said by the negotiators and by the Indians, and preventing misrepresentations in the future. The Commissioners are under obligations to Lieut.-Colonel McLeod, and the other officers and men of the police force for their escort.
The conduct of the men was excellent, and the presence of the force as an emblem and evidence of the establishment of authority in the North-West was of great value.
I have to record my appreciation of the kindness of Messrs. Clarke, of Fort Carlton, and McKay of Fort Pitt, and of the other officials of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and of the hearty assistance they extended towards the accomplishment of our mission. I have also to mention the interest taken in the negotiations by His Lordship Bishop Grandin, and by the various missionaries, Protestant and Catholic.
On this occasion, as on others, I found the Half-breed population whether French or English generally using the influence of their relationship to the Indians in support of our efforts to come to a satisfactory arrangement with them.
We also had the advantage of good interpreters, having secured the services of Messrs. Peter Ballendine and John McKay, while the Indians had engaged Mr. Peter Erasmus to discharge the same duty. The latter acted as chief interpreter, being assisted by the others, and is a most efficient interpreter.
I transmit herewith a copy of the treaty, and have only in conclusion to express my hope that this further step in the progress of the work of the Dominion amongst the Indian tribes will prove beneficial to them, and of advantage to the realm.
I have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, Alexander Morris, Lieut. Governor.