In the year 1871 the Privy Council of Canada issued a joint commission to Messrs. W. M. Simpson, S. J. Dawson and W. J. Pether, authorizing them to treat with the Ojibway Indians for the surrender to the Crown of the lands they inhabited–covering the area from the watershed of Lake Superior to the north-west angle of the Lake of the Woods, and from the American border to the height of land from which the streams flow towards the Hudson’s Bay. This step had become necessary in order to make the route known as “the Dawson route,” extending from Prince Arthur’s Landing on Lake Superior to the north-west angle of the Lake of the Woods, which was then being opened up, “secure for the passage of emigrants and of the people of the Dominion generally,” and also to enable the Government to throw open for settlement any portion of the land which might be susceptible of improvement and profitable occupation. The Commissioners accepted the appointment, and in July 1871, met the Indians at Fort Francis.
The tribes preferred claims for right of way through their country. The Commissioners reported “that they had admitted these to a limited extent and had made them presents in provisions and clothing and were also to pay them a small amount in money, it being fully and distinctly understood by the Indians that these presents and clothing were accepted by them as an equivalent for all past claims whatever.” The Commissioners having explained to them fully the intentions of the Government as to obtaining a surrender of their territorial rights, and giving in return therefor reserves of land and annual payments, asked them to consider the proposals calmly* and meet the Commissioners the succeeding summer to come to an arrangement. In 1872, the Indians were found not to be ready for the making of a treaty and the subject was postponed. In the year 1873 a commission was issued to the Hon. Alexander Morris, then Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba and the North-West Territories, Lieut. -Col. Provencher, who had in the interval been appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the place of Mr. Simpson, who had resigned, and Lindsay Russell Esq., but the latter being unable to act, Mr. Dawson, now M.P. for Algoma, was appointed Commissioner in his stead. These Commissioners having accepted the duty confided to them, met the Indians at the north-west angle of the Lake of the Woods in the end of September, 1873, and, after protracted and difficult negotiations, succeeded in effecting a treaty with them. A copy of the treaty will be found in the Appendix, and a brief record of the utterances of the Indians and of the Commissioners, which was taken down in short hand by one of the soldiers of the militia force, is hereto subjoined. This treaty was one of great importance, as it not only tranquilized the large Indian population affected by it, but eventually shaped the terms of all the treaties, four, five, six and seven, which have since been made with the Indians of the North-West Territories–who speedily became apprised of the concessions which had been granted to the Ojibway nation. The closing scenes were striking and impressive. The chief speaker, Mawe-do-pe-nais, thus winding up the conference on the part of the Indians, in his final address to the Lieutenant-Governor and his fellow Commissioners:
“Now you see me stand before you all: what has been done here to day has been done openly before the Great Spirit and before the nation, and I hope I may never hear any one say that this treaty has been done secretly: and now in closing this council, I take off my glove, and in giving you my hand I deliver over my birthright and lands: and in taking your hand I hold fast all the promises you have made, and I hope they will last as long as the sun rises and the water flows, as you have said.”
The conference then adjourned, and on re-assembling, after the treaty had been read and explained, the Commissioners signed it and the Lieutenant-Governor called on an aged hereditary Chief, Kee-ta-kay-pi-nais, to sign next. The Chief came forward, but declined to touch the pen, saying, “I must first have the money in my hand.” The Lieutenant Governor immediately held out his hand and directed the interpreter to say to the chief, “Take my hand and feel the money in it. If you cannot trust me for half an hour do not trust me forever.” When this was repeated by the interpreter, the Chief smiled, took the out-stretched hand, and at once touched the pen, while his mark was being made, his last lingering distrust having been effectively dispelled by this prompt action and reply. The other Chiefs followed, and then the interpreter was directed to tell Kee-ta-kay-pi-nais, the Chief, that he would be paid forthwith, but the Chief at once replied, “Oh no, it is evening now, and I will wait till to-morrow.” The payments were duly made next day, and so was closed, a treaty, whereby a territory was enabled to be opened up, of great importance to Canada, embracing as it does the Pacific Railway route to the North-West Territories–a wide extent of fertile lands, and, as is believed, great mineral resources. I now quote the official dispatch of the Lieutenant-Governor, dated the 14th October, 1873, in which will be found, a full narrative of the proceedings, connected with the treaty, and a statement of the results thereby effected. I also submit a shorthand report of the negotiations connected with the treaty.
Treaty Number Three, Or The North-West Angle Treaty