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On the 22nd the Commissioners met the Indians, when I told them that we had not hurried them, but wished now to hear their Chiefs.
A spokesman, The Pond Maker, then addressed me, and asked assistance when they settled on the land, and further help as they advanced in civilization.
I replied that they had their own means of living, and that we could not feed the Indians, but only assist them to settle down. The Badger, Soh-ah-moos, and several other Indians all asked help when they settled, and also in case of troubles unforeseen in the future. I explained that we could not assume the charge of their every-day life, but in a time of a great national calamity they could trust to the generosity of the Queen.
The Honourable James McKay also addressed them, saying that their demands would be understood by a white man as asking for daily food, and could not be granted, and explained our objects, speaking with effect in the Cree tongue.
At length the Indians informed me that they did not wish to be fed every day, but to be helped when they commenced to settle, because of their ignorance how to commence, and also in case of general famine; Ah-tuk-uk-koop winding up the debate by stating that they wanted food in the spring when they commenced to farm, and proportionate help as they advanced in civilization, and then asking for a further adjournment to consider our offers.
The Commissioners granted this, but I warned them not to be unreasonable, and to be ready next day with their decision, while we on our part would consider what they had said.
The whole day was occupied with this discussion on the food question, and it was the turning point with regard to the treaty.
The Indians were, as they had been for some time past, full of uneasiness.
They saw the buffalo, the only means of their support, passing away. They were anxious to learn to support themselves by agriculture, but felt too ignorant to do so, and they dreaded that during the transition period they would be swept off by disease or famine–already they have suffered terribly from the ravages of measles, scarlet fever and small-pox.
It was impossible to listen to them without interest, they were not exacting, but they were very apprehensive of their future, and thankful, as one of them put it, “a new life was dawning upon them.”
On the 23rd the conference was resumed, an Indian addressed the people, telling them to listen and the interpreter, Peter Erasmus, would read what changes they desired in the terms of our offer. They asked for an ox and a cow each family; an increase in the agricultural implements; provisions for the poor, unfortunate, blind and lame; to be provided with missionaries and school teachers; the exclusion of fire water in the whole Saskatchewan; a further increase in agricultural implements as the band advanced in civilization; freedom to cut timber on Crown lands; liberty to change the site of the reserves before the survey; free passages over Government bridges or scows; other animals, a horse, harness and waggon, and cooking stove for each chief; a free supply of medicines; a hand mill to each band; and lastly, that in case of war they should not be liable to serve.
Two spokesmen then addressed us in support of these modifications of the terms of the Treaty.
I replied to them that they had asked many things some of which had been promised, and that the Commissioners would consult together about what they had asked that day and the day before, and would reply, but before doing so wished to know if that was the voice of the whole people, to which the Indians all assented.
After an interval we again met them, and I replied, going over their demands and reiterating my statements as to our inability to grant food, and again explaining that only in a national famine did the Crown ever intervene, and agreeing to make some additions to the number of cattle and implements, as we felt it would be desirable to encourage their desire to settle.
I closed by stating that, after they settled on the reserves, we would give them provisions to aid them while cultivating, to the extent of one thousand dollars per annum, but for three years only, as after that time they should be able to support themselves.
I told them that we could not give them missionaries, though I was pleased with their request, but that they must look to the churches, and that they saw Catholic and Protestant missionaries present at the conference. We told them that they must help their own poor, and that if they prospered they could do so. With regard to war, they would not be asked to fight unless they desired to do so, but if the Queen did call on them to protect their wives and children I believed they would not be backward.
I then asked if they were willing to accept our modified proposals.
Ah-tuk-uk-koop then addressed me, and concluded by calling on the people, if they were in favour of our offers, to say so. This they all did by shouting assent and holding up their hands.
The Pond Maker then rose and said he did not differ from his people, but he did not see how they could feed and clothe their children with what was promised. He expected to have received that; he did not know how to build a house nor to cultivate the ground.
Joseph Toma, a Saulteaux, said he spoke for the Red Pheasant, Chief of the Battle River Cree, and made demands as follows: Men to build houses for them, increased salaries to the Chiefs and head men, etc. He said what was offered was too little; he wanted enough to cover the skin of the people, guns, and also ten miles of land round the reserves in a belt.
I asked the Red Pheasant how it was that he was party to the requests of his people and how, when I asked if that was their unanimous voice he had assented, and yet had now put forward new and large demands.
I said it was not good faith, and that I would not accede to the requests now made; that what was offered was a gift as they had still their old mode of living.
The principal Chiefs then rose and said that they accepted our offers, and the Red Pheasant repudiated the demands and remarks of Toma, and stated that he had not authorized him to speak for him.
Mist-ow-as-is then asked to speak for the Half-breeds, who wish to live on the reserves.
I explained the distinction between the Half-breed people and the Indian Half-breeds who lived amongst the Indians as Indians, and said the Commissioners would consider the case of each of these last on its merits.
The treaty was then signed by myself, Messrs. Christie and McKay, Mist-ow-as-is and Ah-tuk-uk-koop, the head Chiefs, and by the other Chiefs and Councilor, those signing, though many Indians were absent, yet representing all the bands of any importance in the Carlton regions, except the Willow Indians.
The Governor and Commissioners having proceeded as usual to the camp, the Indians soon assembled in order, when the Lieutenant-Governor said:
“Indian children of the Queen, it is now a week to-day since I came here on the day I said I would; I have to go still further after I leave here, and then a long journey home to Red River.
“I have not hurried you, you have had two days to think; I have spoken much to you and now I wish to hear you, my ears are open and I wish to hear the voices of your principal Chiefs or of those chosen to speak for them. Now I am waiting.”
OO-PEE-TOO-KERAH-HAN-AP-EE-WEE-YIN (the Pond-maker) came forward and said:–“We have heard your words that you had to say to us as the representative of the Queen. We were glad to hear what you had to say and have gathered together in council and thought the words over amongst us, we were glad to hear you tell us how we might live by our own work. When I commence to settle on the lands to make a living for myself and my children, I beg of you to assist me in every way possible–when I am at a loss how to proceed I want the advice and assistance of the Government; the children yet unborn, I wish you to treat them in like manner as they advance in civilization like the white man. This is all I have been told to say now, if I have not said anything in a right manner I wish to be excused; this is the voice of the people.”
GOVERNOR:–“I have heard the voice of the people; I am glad to learn that they are looking forward to having their children civilized, that is the great object of the Government, as is proved by what I have offered. Those that come after us in the Government will think of your children as we think of you. The Queen’s Councilor intend to send a man to look after the Indians, to be chief superintendent of Indian affairs, and under him there will be two or three others to live in the country, that the Queen’s Councilor may know how the Indians are prospering.
“I cannot promise however, that the Government will feed and support all the Indians; you are many, and if we were to try to do it, it would take a great deal of money, and some of you would never do anything for yourselves. What I have offered does not take away your living, you will have it then as you have now, and what I offer now is put on top of it. This I can tell you, the Queen’s Government will always take a deep interest in your living.”
THE BADGER–“We want to think of our children; we do not want to be too greedy; when we commence to settle down on the reserves that we select, it is there we want your aid, when we cannot help ourselves and in case of troubles seen and unforeseen in the future.”
Sak-ah-moos and several other Indians in order repeated what The Badger had said.
GOVERNOR–“I have told you that the money I have offered you would be paid to you and to your children’s children. I know that the sympathy of the Queen, and her assistance, would be given you in any unforeseen circumstances. You must trust to her generosity. Last winter when some of the Indians wanted food because the crops had been destroyed by grasshoppers, although it was not promised in the treaty, nevertheless the Government sent money to buy them food, and in the spring when many of them were sick a man was sent to try and help them. We cannot foresee these things, and all I can promise is that you will be treated kindly, and in that extraordinary circumstances you must trust to the generosity of the Queen. My brother Commissioner, Mr. McKay, will speak to you in your own language.”
MR. McKAY–“My friends, I wish to make you a clear explanation of some things that it appears you do not understand. It has been said to you by your Governor that we did not come here to barter or trade with you for the land. You have made demands on the Governor, and from the way you have put them a white man would understand that you asked for daily provisions, also supplies for your hunt and for your pleasure excursions. Now my reasons for explaining to you are based on my past experience of treaties, for no sooner will the Governor and Commissioners turn their backs on you than some of you will say this thing and that thing was promised and the promise not fulfilled; that you cannot rely on the Queen’s representative, that even he will not tell the truth, whilst among yourselves are the falsifiers. Now before we rise from here it must be understood, and it must be in writing, all that you are promised by the Governor and Commissioners, and I hope you will not leave until you have thoroughly understood the meaning of every word that comes from us. We have not come here to deceive you, we have not come here to rob you, we have not come here to take away anything that belongs to you, and we are not here to make peace as we would to hostile Indians, because you are the children of the Great Queen as we are, and there has never been anything but peace between us. What you have not understood clearly we will do our utmost to make perfectly plain to you.”
GOVERNOR–“I have another word to say to the Indians on this matter: last year an unforeseen calamity came upon the people of Red River, the grasshoppers came and ate all their crops. There is no treaty between the people of Red River and the Queen except that they are her subjects. There was no promise to help them, but I sent down and said that unless help came some of the people would die from want of food, and that they had nothing wherewith to plant. The Queen’s Councilor at once gave money to feed the people, and seed that they might plant the ground; but that was something out of and beyond every-day life, and therefore I say that some great sickness or famine stands as a special case. You may rest assured that when you go to your reserves you will be followed by the watchful eye and sympathetic hand of the Queen’s Councilor.”
THE BADGER–“I do not want you to feed me every day; you must not understand that from what I have said. When we commence to settle down on the ground to make there our own living, it is then we want your help, and that is the only way that I can see how the poor can get along.”
GOVERNOR–“You will remember the promises which I have already made; I said you would get seed; you need not concern yourselves so much about what your grand-children are going to eat; your children will be taught, and then they will be as well able to take care of themselves as the whites around them.”
MIS-TAH-WAH-SIS (one of the leading Chiefs)–“It is well known that if we had plenty to live on from our gardens we would not still insist on getting more provision, but it is in case of any extremity, and from the ignorance of the Indian in commencing to settle that we thus speak; we are as yet in the dark; this is not a trivial matter for us.
“We were glad to hear what the Governor was saying to us and we understood it, but we are not understood, we do not mean to ask for food for every day but only when we commence and in case of famine or calamity. What we speak of and do now will last as long as the sun shines and the river runs, we are looking forward to our children’s children, for we are old and have but few days to live.”
AH-TAHK-AH-COOP (the other leading Chief)–“The things we have been talking about in our councils I believe are for our good. I think of the good Councilor of the Queen and of her Commissioners; I was told the Governor was a good man, and now that I see him I believe he is; in coming to see us, and what he has spoken, he has removed almost all obstacles and misunderstandings, and I hope he may remove them all. I have heard the good things you promise us, you have told us of the white man’s way of living and mentioned some of the animals by which he gets his living, others you did not. We want food in the spring when we commence to farm; according as the Indian settles down on his reserves, and in proportion as he advances, his wants will increase.”
The Indians here asked for the afternoon to hold further council. To this the Governor said, “I grant the request of the Indians but I give them a word of warning, do not listen to every voice in your camp, listen to your wise men who know something of life, and do not come asking what is unreasonable, it pains me to have to say no, and I tell you again I cannot treat you with more favor than the other Indians. To-morrow, when we meet, speak out your minds openly, and I will answer, holding nothing back. Be ready to meet me to-morrow, as soon as my flag is raised, for remember I have a long journey before me and we ought to come to a speedy understanding. I trust the God who made you will give you wisdom in considering what you have to deal with.”