North-West Angle, October 1, 1873 – Third Day
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Proceedings were opened at eleven o’clock by the Governor announcing that he was ready to hear what the Chiefs had to say. The Fort Francis Chief acted as spokesman, assisted by another Chief, Powhassan.
MA-WE-DO-PE-NAIS–“I now lay down before you the opinions of those you have seen before. We think it a great thing to meet you here. What we have heard yesterday, and as you represented yourself, you said the Queen sent you here, the way we understood you as a representative of the Queen. All this is our property where you have come. We have understood you yesterday that Her Majesty has given you the same power and authority as she has, to act in this business; you said the Queen gave you her goodness, her charitableness in your hands. This is what we think, that the Great Spirit has planted us on this ground where we are, as you were where you came from. We think where we are is our property. I will tell you what he said to us when he planted us here; the rules that we should follow–us Indians–He has given us rules that we should follow to govern us rightly. We have understood you that you have opened your charitable heart to us like a person taking off his garments and throwing them to all of us here. Now, first of all, I have a few words to address to this gentleman (Mr. Dawson). When he understood rightly what was my meaning yesterday, he threw himself on your help. I think I have a right to follow him to where he flew when I spoke to him on the subject yesterday. We will follow up the subject from the point we took it up. I want to answer what we heard from you yesterday, in regard to the money that you have promised us yesterday to each individual. I want to talk about the rules that we had laid down before. It is four years back since we have made these rules. The rules laid down are the rules that they wish to follow–a council that has been agreed upon by all the Indians. I do not wish that I should be required to say twice what I am now going to lay down. We ask fifteen dollars for all that you see, and for the children that are to be born in future. This year only we ask for fifteen dollars; years after ten dollars; our Chiefs fifty dollars per year for every year, and other demands of large amounts in writing, say $125,000 yearly.”
ANOTHER CHIEF–“I take my standing point from here. Our councilors have in council come to this conclusion, that they should have twenty dollars each; our warriors, fifteen dollars; our population, fifteen dollars. We have now laid down the conclusion of our councils by our decisions. We tell you our wishes are not divided. We are all of one mind.” (Paper put in before the Governor for these demands.)
CHIEF–“I now let you know the opinions of us here. We would not wish that anyone should smile at our affairs, as we think our country is a large matter to us. If you grant us what is written on that paper, then we will talk about the reserves; we have decided in council for the benefit of those that will be born hereafter. If you do so the treaty will be finished, I believe.”
GOVERNOR–“I quite agree that this is no matter to smile at. I think that the decision of today is one that affects yourselves and your children after, but you must recollect that this is the third time of negotiating. If we do not shake hands and make our Treaty today, I do not know when it will be done, as the Queen’s Government will think you do not wish to treat with her. You told me that you understood that I represented the Queen’s Government to you and that I opened my heart to you, but you must recollect that if you are a council there is another great council that governs a great Dominion, and they hold their councils the same as you hold yours. I wish to tell you that I am a servant of the Queen. I cannot do my own will; I must do hers. I can only give you what she tells me to give you. I am sorry to see that your hands were very wide open when you gave me this paper. I thought what I promised you was just, kind and fair between the Queen and you. It is now three years we have been trying to settle this matter. If we do not succeed today I shall go away feeling sorry for you and for your children that you could not see what was good for you and for them. I am ready to do what I promised you yesterday. My hand is open and you ought to take me by the hand and say, “yes, we accept of your offer.” I have not the power to do what you ask of me. I ask you once more to think what you are doing, and of those you have left at home, and also of those that may be born yet, and I ask you not to turn your backs on what is offered to you, and you ought to see by what the Queen is offering you that she loves her red subjects as much as her white. I think you are forgetting one thing, that what I offer you is to be while the water flows and the sun rises. You know that in the United States they only pay the Indian for twenty years, and you come here today and ask forever more than they get for twenty years. Is that just? I think you ought to accept my offer, and make a treaty with me as I ask you to do. I only ask you to think for yourselves, and for your families, and for your children and children’s children, and I know that if you do that you will shake hands with me to-day.”
CHIEF–“I lay before you our opinions. Our hands are poor but our heads are rich, and it is riches that we ask so that we may be able to support our families as long as the sun rises and the water runs.”
GOVERNOR–“I am very sorry; you know it takes two to make a bargain; you are agreed on the one side, and I for the Queen’s Government on the other. I have to go away and report that I have to go without making terms with you. I doubt if the Commissioners will be sent again to assemble this nation. I have only one word more to say; I speak to the Chief and to the head men to recollect those behind them, and those they have left at home, and not to go away without accepting such liberal terms and without some clothing.”
CHIEF–“My terms I am going to lay down before you; the decision of our Chiefs; ever since we came to a decision you push it back. The sound of the rustling of the gold is under my feet where I stand; we have a rich country; it is the Great Spirit who gave us this; where we stand upon is the Indians’ property, and belongs to them. If you grant us our requests you will not go back without making the treaty.”
ANOTHER CHIEF–“We understood yesterday that the Queen had given you the power to act upon, that you could do what you pleased, and that the riches of the Queen she had filled your head and body with, and you had only to throw them round about; but it seems it is not so, but that you have only half the power that she has, and that she has only half filled your head.”
GOVERNOR–“I do not like to be misunderstood. I did not say yesterday that the Queen had given me all the power; what I told you was that I was sent here to represent the Queen’s Government, and to tell you what the Queen was willing to do for you. You can understand very well; for instance, one of your great chiefs asks a brave to deliver a message, he represents you, and that is how I stand with the Queen’s Government.”
CHIEF–“It is your charitableness that you spoke of yesterday–Her Majesty’s charitableness that was given you. It is our chiefs, our young men, our children and great grandchildren, and those that are to be born, that I represent here, and it is for them I ask for terms. The white man has robbed us of our riches, and we don’t wish to give them up again without getting something in their place.”
GOVERNOR–“For your children, grand-children, and children unborn, I am sorry that you will not accept of my terms. I shall go home sorry, but it is your own doing; I must simply go back and report the fact that you refuse to make a treaty with me.”
CHIEF–“You see all our chiefs before you here as one mind; we have one mind and one mouth. It is the decision of all of us; if you grant us our demands you will not go back sorrowful; we would not refuse to make a treaty if you would grant us our demands.”
GOVERNOR–“I have told you already that I cannot grant your demands, I have not the power to do so. I have made you a liberal offer, and it is for you to accept or refuse it as you please.”
CHIEF–“Our chiefs have the same opinion; they will not change their decision.”
GOVERNOR–“Then the Council is at an end.”
CHIEF (of Lac Seule)–“I understand the matter that he asks; if he puts a question to me as well as to others, I say so as well as the rest. We are the first that were planted here; we would ask you to assist us with every kind of implement to use for our benefit, to enable us to perform our work; a little of everything and money. We would borrow your cattle; we ask you this for our support; I will find whereon to feed them. The waters out of which you sometimes take food for yourselves, we will lend you in return. If I should try to stop you–it is not in my power to do so; even the Hudson’s Bay Company–that is a small power–I cannot gain my point with it. If you give what I ask, the time may come when I will ask you to lend me one of your daughters and one of your sons to live with us; and in return I will lend you one of my daughters and one of my sons for you to teach what is good, and after they have learned, to teach us. If you grant us what I ask, although I do not know you, I will shake hands with you. This is all I have to say.”
GOVERNOR–“I have heard and I have learned something. I have learned that you are not all of one mind. I know that your interests are not the same–that some of you live in the north far away from the river, and some live on the river, and that you have got large sums of money for wood that you have cut and sold to the steamboats; but the men in the north have not this advantage. What the Chief has said is reasonable; and should you want goods I mean to ask you what amount you would have in goods, so that you would not have to pay the traders’ prices for them. I wish you were all of the same mind as the Chief who has just spoken. He wants his children to be taught. He is right. He wants to get cattle to help him to raise grain for his children. It would be a good thing for you all to be of his mind, and then you would not go away without making this treaty with me.”
BLACKSTONE (Shebandowan)–“I am going to lay down before you the minds of those who are here. I do not wish to interfere with the decisions of those who are before you, or yet with your decisions. The people at the height of land where the waters came down from Shebandowan to Fort Frances, are those who have appointed me to lay before you our decision. We are going back to hold a Council.”
MR. DAWSON–“I would ask the Chief who has just spoken, did the band at Shebandowan–did Rat McKay, authorize him to speak for them? Ke-ha-ke-ge-nen is Blackstone’s own Chief; and I am perfectly willing to think that he authorized him. What I have to say is that the Indians may not be deceived by representations made to them, and that the two bands met me at Shebandowan and said they were perfectly willing to enter into a treaty.”
GOVERNOR–“I think the nation will do well to do what the Chief has said. I think he has spoken sincerely, and it is right for them to withdraw and hold a Council among themselves.”
Blackstone here handed in a paper which he alleged gave him authority as Chief, but which proved to be an official acknowledgement of the receipt of a letter by the Indian Department at Ottawa.
The Governor here agreed with the Council that it would be well for the Chiefs to have another meeting amongst themselves. It was a most important day for them and for their children, and His Excellency would be glad to meet them again.
The Council broke up at this point, and it was extremely doubtful whether an agreement could be come to or not. The Rainy River Indians were careless about the treaty, because they could get plenty of money for cutting wood for the boats, but the northern and eastern bands were anxious for one. The Governor decided that he would make a treaty with those bands that were willing to accept his terms, leaving out the few disaffected ones. A Council was held by the Indians in the evening, at which Hon. James McKay, Pierre Leveillee, Charles Nolin, and Mr. Genton were present by invitation of the Chiefs. After a very lengthy and exhaustive discussion, it was decided to accept the Governor’s terms, and the final meeting was announced for Friday morning. Punctually at the appointed time proceedings were opened by the Fort Francis Chiefs announcing to His Excellency that they were all of one mind, and would accept his terms, with a few modifications. The discussion of these terms occupied five hours, and met every possible contingency so fully that it would be impossible to do justice to the negotiators otherwise than by giving a full report of the speeches on both sides; but want of space compels us to lay it over until next week.