To The Hon. Alexander Morris, Lieutenant Governor, Fort Garry.
Sir,–Under instructions received from you, dated 14th July last, we were directed to proceed to the Dog Head Point and Berens River, on Lake Winnipeg, and there obtain the adhesion of certain Indians to the treaty that was made and concluded at Norway House last year, and we have now the honor to report….
With a fair wind and fine weather we reached the Narrows on Monday afternoon, the 24th, at half-past four. Mr. Howard called at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post to see about the provisions stored there, where he found Thickfoot and the Jack-Fish Head Indians encamped, about twenty-five families in all, and learned from them that they were desirous to meet and speak to us where they were, and not across the Narrows at the Dog Head; but as the place of meeting was distinctly fixed, Mr. Howard informed them that they would have to move their camps.
Mr. Reid having, in the meantime, gone to the Dog Head Point, was received with a salute from the Indians there encamped, viz.: the Blood Vein River, Big Island and Sandy Bar bands, and, almost simultaneously with Mr. Howard’s arrival there, the Indians belonging to Thickfoot and the Jack-Fish Head arrived also.
We hardly had time to make our camp before being waited upon by a representative from all the bands except Thickfoot’s, and they desired to know when we would be prepared to have a conference; and, having told them that the following day, the 25th, was the day appointed, and that we would meet them at eleven o’clock in the morning, we gave them some provisions and they withdrew. Thickfoot subsequently called upon us and stated that he was prepared at any time to meet us and sign the treaty, that he had learned that it was our intention to make only one Chief for all the Indians gathered there; that he had felt when the paper was placed in his hands last year by the Governor, that he was making him the Chief; that he had notified all the Indians that were there as he had agreed, and that they had threatened him with violence for saying he was to be Chief, and that he was afraid now to join them in any way, and that he and his band wished to be spoken to by themselves. Upon hearing this, we informed him that he need not be afraid of violence, that the paper the Governor gave him merely stated that he was a principal Indian, and we would certainly recognize him as such, and if the Indians desired him to be their Chief it would be a great pleasure to us.
The following morning the Indians sent word by a representative from each band, except Thickfoot’s, that they desired another day to meet in council before having a conference; but, feeling they had sufficient time already, yet not wishing to hurry them too much, we extended the hour of meeting to four o’clock on the same day, which satisfied them, and when they promised to be ready.
About three o’clock, we were informed that the Indians had gathered, so we at once proceeded to meet them. The place we had chosen for the conference was on a granite plateau, and at one end our crews had erected a covering with boughs; a more suitable spot for the meeting could not be found.
After inquiring if they had all gathered, and, being assured that they had, we began to explain the object of our mission, but immediately saw that the bands were determined to be considered distinct and wished to be treated with separately, when we informed them that only one Chief would be allowed, and that before we could proceed any further we would require them all to meet together in council and there select one Chief and three Councilors, and be prepared to present them to us on the following day. This evidently gave great satisfaction to the Island Band, of which Ka-tuk-e-pin-ais was head man, but they all withdrew; before doing so, agreeing to be ready the next day at noon to meet us.
Before the hour appointed for the meeting the next day, another delegation came over and informed us that the Indians were not yet prepared, that they could not come to any decision as to who should be Chief, and again asked to have the hour of meeting extended to three o’clock, which we did upon the understanding that if they were not then prepared we would return and report the facts to you.
Shortly after, we noticed Thickfoot and his Indians sitting near our tents, and evidently taking no part in the selection of a Chief, so we called him over and found him still disinclined to join the other Indians. He stated that they would not have him as Chief, and that he would therefore remain away. We then explained that he could be head man of his band by being elected a Councilor to whoever would be appointed Chief, and at last prevailing upon him to go with his Indians to the Council tent, we requested the Rev. Mr. Cochrane to proceed to the Indian encampment and state to them that from each band other than the one from which the chief was chosen, a Councilor would have to be taken. By this means we saw our way to satisfy all the bands, and Mr. Cochrane having notified the Indians accordingly, we felt confident the choice of a chief would soon be made; but in this we were disappointed, as a messenger shortly after arrived and said no choice could be made, as Ka-tuk-e-pin-ais would do nothing unless he was chosen Chief. On hearing this Mr. Cochrane decided to visit the Indians in Council, and, having done so, proposed to them that they should elect a Chief by ballot, and having got them all to agree to this proposition, they proceeded to the election. Several ballots had to be taken, and at last resulted in favor of the chief Indian of the Blood Vein River band, Sa-ha-cha-way-ass, and the Councilors elected were the head men from the Big Island, Doghead and Jack-Fish Head bands.
At three o’clock p.m., we were notified that the Indians had again gathered, when we proceeded to the place of meeting, and were presented to the Chief and two of his Councilors. Ka-tuk-e-pin-ais, the third Councilor, coming forward, said his band did not want him to act as Councilor; that he had seen the Governor the other day, and had been told by him that he would be the Chief of the Island Indians. Whereupon we informed him that no such promise had been made by you, and that we could only recognize the choice of the majority. He then desired to withdraw from the negotiations, and wait until he saw you, before signing the treaty; but as we had learned that out of the twenty-two families that were in his band, all, with one or two exceptions, had received the annuity since 1870, with the St. Peter’s Band, we made them sit by themselves, and then explained that by receiving the annuity as a large number of them had done, they had really agreed to the treaty and that we were there only to deal with those of the band that had at no time received money from the Queen. Ka-tuk-e-pin-ais then said that there were very few of his Indians that had not received money from the Queen, but that he never had; that he was quite prepared to sign the treaty now, only some of his people did not want him to do so, unless we agreed to give them the Big Island for a reserve. This we at once refused, and at the same time told them that unless he and all his band agreed to the terms we offered them without further delay, they might return to their homes. Hearing this, they all withdrew, but soon returned, when Ka-tuk-e-pin-ais said one or two of his people did not want him to sign any treaty, but most of them did, and that he was going to do so. He then took his seat along with the Chiefs and other Councilors, and we proceeded to explain the terms of the treaty. When we came to the clause referring to the reserves, each band was anxious that the places where they are in the habit of living should be granted them as reserves, and the locations of the same mentioned in the treaty; but as our instructions were positive on this point, we refused but assured them that the names of the places they asked for, we would certainly forward with our report to you, and we stated that with the exception of the location asked for by the Sandy Bar Indians, we felt sure the Government would grant their request, and give them their reserves where they desired. The following were the localities mentioned: —
Dog Head Band.–. –The point opposite the Dog Head. Blood Vein River Band.–At mouth of Blood Vein River. Big Island Band.–At mouth of Badthroat River. Jack-Fish Head Band.–The north side of Jack Head Point, at the Lobstick, and the Sandy Bar Band.–White Mud River, west side of Lake Winnipeg.
It must be remembered that four bands out of the above named, viz.: –Big Island, Jack-Fish Head, Dog Head and Blood Vein River, are distinct bands, those at Sandy Bar really belonging to the St. Peter’s Band of Indians and that they have always lived at the different points upon the lake from which they take their names, and they therefore look upon these points as their homes. We would, therefore, beg to recommend that the request of all, with the exception of the Sandy Bar Indians, be granted, although in doing so we are aware of the desire of the Government that Indians should not be encouraged to break up into small bands, yet we feel sure in this instance it would be impossible to get them all upon any one reserve.
The adhesion we had signed on Wednesday evening, July 26th, and we then arranged to begin the payments of annuities the following morning at nine o’clock, which was done, and the payments completed by four o’clock on the same day. We then distributed the implements, ammunition, twine, and balance of provisions.
As already stated, the Indians at Sandy Bar, were formerly paid with the St. Peter’s band. They are now included in the limits of Treaty Five, and desire to receive their annuity with the Island band.
Having distributed the presents, we immediately moved our camp to an island about a quarter of a mile from the Point, and there remained until Saturday morning, the 29th, when, having a favorable wind, we set sail and arrived off the mouth of Berens River, and camped on Lobstick Island the following morning, Sunday, at half-past nine o’clock.
We remained there until Tuesday, and then moved our camp to the Methodist Mission. The next day we went over in one of our boats to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post, where we met Mr. Flett, the officer in charge and received from him the provisions that had been previously forwarded and which he had in store, and then returned to our camp.
Mr. Flett informed us that the Indians from the Narrows of Berens River, he expected would arrive that evening, and on Thursday, visited us to say that they had arrived and were then holding a council. The same afternoon the Chief and Councilors called upon us and desired to know when we would be prepared to meet them, and though the 5th was the day appointed, we thought it advisable, as all the Indians were then gathered there, and were anxious to return to their homes, to appoint the following day, the 4th August.
The next morning the Indians came over from where they were encamped near the Hudson’s Bay post, in York boats; and when we learned that they were all in the school-house we proceeded there, and met, in addition to the Berens River band, about thirty Indians from the Grand Rapids of Berens River. We explained the object of our mission, and found the Indians from the Rapids most anxious to accept the Queen’s bounty and benevolence, some of them had already accepted the annuity with the Lac Seule Indians we found, so we immediately told them that it was only to those that had not previously received money or presents from the Queen, that the first part of our mission extended, and with whom it was necessary we should first speak. The head man, Num-ak-ow-ah-nuk-wape, then said that he was fully prepared, on behalf of all his Indians, to accept the same terms as given to the Berens River band, only be wanted his reserve where he then lived, at the Grand Rapids; upon which we told him that before we could speak further, we must be assured by the band that he was their head man, and this the band at once did. We then thought it advisable to recommend that they should make the Chief of the Berens River band their Chief, and make their head man a Councilor to him, and although our proposition was not at once received satisfactorily, we ultimately prevailed upon them to accept it, and the Chief was at once elected. By this means we saved the expenses necessarily incurred in maintaining one Chief and two Councilors. We then stated that we were prepared to grant them their reserve where they asked for it; and having explained the treaty to them, clause by clause, and mentioned in the adhesion where the reserve should be, the adhesion was duly signed by the Chief and Councilors. The payment of the annuity was then gone on with and finished that afternoon at four o’clock.
We then distributed the implements, ammunition, twine and provisions. When we had finished, the Chief and Councilors came forward, and thanked us for all that had been done for them; they said they were well pleased with what they had received and desired us to inform you of the fact, which we accordingly promised. They then returned in the same boats they had come over in: before leaving the bank, giving three cheers for the Queen and three for the Governor.
We are very much pleased to inform you that the best possible feeling appears to exist between the Indians in this region. They all appeared anxious to farm and settle down, and we heard that a number of houses had been built at Poplar River, and considerable clearing done there since the treaty was made with them last year; the implements and tools we brought them were therefore most acceptable. As these bands live at a considerable distance from each other, we would recommend that an extra supply of tools be allowed them. We also feel satisfied that the animals promised by the treaty might be furnished, as we certainly consider them in a position to take care of the same.
As you directed, we informed them that their application for hay lands had been forwarded to the Government, and this gave them great satisfaction. The following morning, Saturday, August 5th, Mr. Reid left for Norway House, and during the afternoon of the same day, Mr. Howard sailed for the Stone Fort on the Red River.
Having obtained the adhesion of the Indians at the Dog Head, and at Berens River, our duties as Joint Commissioners under your instructions ceased….
We were fortunate enough to secure the services of the Rev. Henry Cochrane, who kindly acted as interpreter. Being in the Province on a visit from his mission at the Pas, and desirous of returning, Mr. Howard gave him a passage in his boat, and he rendered us the most valuable assistance throughout.
Having thus referred to the different matters connected with our mission while acting together, and assuring you that our aim and desire was to fulfill it to your entire satisfaction, which we trust we have done,
We have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servants, Thos. Howard, J. Lestock Reid, Commissioners.