The Blackfeet Treaty – Monday, 17th October
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This was the day appointed for the opening of the Treaty, but as a number of the Indian Chiefs, who had a long distance to come, were absent, it was deferred until the following Wednesday. The Governor, however, addressed a number of the Chiefs who were assembled at the Council House. He said, “Last year a message was sent to you by the Councilors of the Great Mother that they would meet you at an early date, and as her Councilors always keep their promises, they have appointed Col. McLeod and myself to meet you here now. We appointed this day, and I have come a very long distance to keep my promise, and have called you together to discover if you all have responded to my summons, and if any Chiefs are now absent, to learn when they shall arrive. You say that some of the Blood Chiefs are absent, and as it is our wish to speak to them as well as to you, and as they have a very long way to come to reach this place, we shall give them until next Wednesday to come in. On that day, I will deliver to you the Queen’s message, but if any of the Chiefs would desire to speak now, we will be glad to listen to them. I would tell you now, that while you remain, provisions will be issued for the use of those who wish to accept them.”
CROWFOOT–“I am glad to see the Queen’s Chief and Stamixotokon (Col McLeod), who is a great Chief and our friend. I will wait and hold a council with my own children (the Blackfeet), and be ready on Wednesday to hear the Great Mother’s message.”
PIEGAN CHIEF–“My children (the North Piegan) have looked long for the arrival of the Great Mother’s Chief; one day, we did not look for him, and he passed us; we have traveled after him for fourteen nights, and now are glad to see and shake hands with the Great Chief.”
BEAR’S PAW (Stony Chief)–“We have been watching for you for many moons now, and a long time has gone by since I and my children first heard of your coming. Our hearts are now glad to see the Chief of the Great Mother, and to receive flour and meat and anything you may give us. We are all of one mind, and will say what we think on Wednesday.”
On Wednesday the Commissioners met the Chiefs at the great Council House. A guard of honor of fifty mounted men accompanied them, commanded by Major Irvine. The Police band received them, and at one o’clock the guns fired a salute as the Governor and Col. McLeod took their seats. There were present at the opening of the treaty, a number of ladies and gentlemen who had come long distances to witness this novel spectacle. Mrs. McLeod, Mrs. Winder, Mrs. Shurtleff, and a number of other ladies from Morleyville and Edmonton, also the Rev. Messrs. Scollen and McDougall, Mr. De L’Hereux, Mr. Conrad, Mr. Bogy, and the whole white population of Fort McLeod. Nearly all of the Chiefs and minor Chiefs of the Blackfeet, Blood, Piegan, Stony, and Sarcee tribes were seated directly in front of the Council House; and forming a semicircle of about one-third of a mile beyond the Chiefs, about four thousand men, women, and children were squatted on the grass, watching with keen interest the commencement of the proceedings. Lieut.-Gov. Laird delivered the following speech:
“The Great Spirit has made all things–the sun, the moon, and the stars, the earth, the forests, and the swift running rivers. It is by the Great Spirit that the Queen rules over this great country and other great countries. The Great Spirit has made the white man and the red man brothers, and we should take each other by the hand. The Great Mother loves all her children, white man and red man alike; she wishes to do them all good. The bad white man and the bad Indian she alone does not love, and them she punishes for their wickedness. The good Indian has nothing to fear from the Queen or her officers. You Indians know this to be true. When bad white men brought you whiskey, robbed you, and made you poor, and, through whiskey, quarrel amongst yourselves, she sent the Police to put an end to it. You know how they stopped this and punished the offenders, and how much good this has done. I have to tell you how much pleased the Queen is that you have taken the Police by the hands and helped them, and obeyed her laws since the arrival of the Police. She hopes that you will continue to do so, and you will always find the Police on your side if you keep the Queen’s laws. The Great Mother heard that the buffalo were being killed very fast, and to prevent them from being destroyed her Councilors have made a law to protect them. This law is for your good. It says that the calves are not to be killed, so that they may grow up and increase; that the cows are not to be killed in winter or spring, excepting by the Indians when they are in need of them as food. This will save the buffalo, and provide you with food for many years yet, and it shows you that the Queen and her Councilors wish you well.
“Many years ago our Great Mother made a treaty with the Indians far away by the great waters in the east. A few years ago she made a treaty with those beyond the Touchwood Hills and the Woody Mountains. Last year a treaty was made with the Cree along the Saskatchewan, and now the Queen has sent Col. McLeod and myself to ask you to make a treaty. But in a very few years the buffalo will probably be all destroyed, and for this reason the Queen wishes to help you to live in the future in some other way. She wishes you to allow her white children to come and live on your land and raise cattle, and should you agree to this she will assist you to raise cattle and grain, and thus give you the means of living when the buffalo are no more. She will also pay you and your children money every year, which you can spend as you please. By being paid in money you cannot be cheated, as with it you can buy what you may think proper.
“The Queen wishes us to offer you the same as was accepted by the Cree. I do not mean exactly the same terms, but equivalent terms, that will cost the Queen the same amount of money. Some of the other Indians wanted farming implements, but these you do not require, as your lands are more adapted to raising cattle, and cattle, perhaps, would be better for you. The Commissioners will give you your choice, whether cattle or farming implements. I have already said we will give you money, I will now tell you how much. If you sign the treaty every man, woman and child will get twelve dollars each; the money will be paid to the head of each family for himself, women and children; every year, for ever, you, your women and your children will get five dollars each. This year Chiefs and Councilors will be paid a larger sum than this; Chiefs will get a suit of clothes, a silver medal, and flag, and every third year will get another suit. A reserve of land will be set apart for yourselves and your cattle, upon which none others will be permitted to encroach; for every five persons one square mile will be allotted on this reserve, on which they can cut the trees and brush for firewood and other purposes. The Queen’s officers will permit no white man or Half-breed to build or cut the timber on your reserves. If required roads will be cut through them. Cattle will be given to you, and potatoes, the same as are grown at Fort McLeod. The Commissioners would strongly advise the Indians to take cattle, as you understand cattle better than you will farming for some time, at least as long as you continue to move about in lodges.
“Ammunition will be issued to you each year, and as soon as you sign the treaty one thousand five hundred dollars’ worth will be distributed amongst the tribes, and as soon as you settle, teachers will be sent to you to instruct your children to read books like this one (the Governor referred to a Bible), which is impossible so long as you continue to move from place to place. I have now spoken. I have made you acquainted with the principal terms contained in the treaty which you are asked to sign.
“You may wish time to talk it over in your council lodges; you may not know what to do before you speak your thoughts in council. Go, therefore, to your councils, and I hope that you may be able to give me an answer to-morrow. Before you leave I will hear your questions and explain any matter that may not appear clear to you.”
A few questions by the Chiefs were answered, and the council was closed for the day.