The Blackfeet Treaty – Payments were Completed
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About noon on Friday the payments were completed, and the Commissioners proceeded to close the accounts. They found that the number of Indians paid, who had accepted the terms of the new treaty was as follows:–
Head Chiefs, 10 at $25 = $250 Minor
Chiefs and Councilors, 40 at 15 = $600
Men, women and children, 4,342 at 12 = $52,104
Total, 4,392 = $52,954
The Cree who gave in their adhesion to Treaty Number Six were only paid the gratuity, this year’s annuity being still due them. These were paid from the funds of Treaty Number Six as follows:–
Chief, 1 at $25 = $25
Councilors, 2 at 15 = $30
Men, women and children, 429 at 12 = $5,148
Total, 432 = $5,203
The officers of the Police Force, who conducted the payments, discharged this duty in a most efficient manner. Not in regard to the payments alone were the services of the officers most valuable. With respect to the whole arrangements, Lieut. Col. McLeod, my associate Commissioner, both in that capacity and as Commander of the Police, was indefatigable in his exertions to bring the negotiations to a successful termination. The same laudable efforts were put forth by Major Irvine and the other officers of the Force, and their kindness to me, personally I shall never fail to remember. The volunteer band of the Police at Fort McLeod deserve more than a passing notice, as they did much to enliven the whole proceedings.
The Commissioners at first had not a good interpreter of the Blackfoot language, but on Wednesday they secured the services of Mr. Bird, a brother of the late Dr. Bird, of Winnipeg. He has been many years among the Piegans and Blackfeet and is a very intelligent interpreter. Mr. L’Heureux also rendered good service in this respect.
The accounts being closed and certified to by the Commissioners, I commenced my return journey on the evening of the 28th September. I came by a crossing of the Red Deer River some fifteen miles east of the Hand Hills, traveled across the prairies further west than my former route, and arrived at Battleford on the evening of Saturday the 6th of October.
I transmit herewith the treaty as signed by the Commissioners and Chiefs, and also the adhesion of the Cree Chief to Treaty Number Six.
In conclusion I beg to offer a few observations on the treaty, and subjects connected therewith.
1. With respect to the reserves, the Commissioners thought it expedient to settle at once their location subject to the approval of the Privy Council. By this course it is hoped that a great deal of subsequent trouble in selecting reserves will be avoided. The object of the ten years’ reserve on the south side of Bow River is to keep hunters from building winter shanties on the river bottom. This practice has a tendency to alarm the buffalo, and keep them from their feeding grounds on the lower part of the river. After ten years it is feared the buffalo will have become nearly extinct, and that further protection will be needless. At any rate by that time the Indians hope to have herds of domestic cattle. The country on the upper part of the Bow River is better adapted for settlement than most of that included in the Blackfeet reserve, consequently the Commissioners deemed it advisable to agree that a belt on the south side of the river should be exempt from general occupation for ten years, particularly as the Indians set great value on the concession.
2. The articles promised in addition to the money payments may to some appear excessive. The Stonie are the only Indians adhering to this treaty who desired agricultural implements and seed. The promises, therefore, respecting these things may be understood as merely applicable to that tribe. The Blackfeet and Bloods asked for nothing of this kind; they preferred cattle, and the Commissioners being fully of opinion that such were likely to be much more serviceable to them than seed and implements, encouraged them in their request. The number of cattle promised may appear large; but when it is considered that cows can be readily purchased at Fort McLeod for twenty or twenty-five dollars per head, and their delivery to the Indians will cost an inconsiderable sum, the total expense of supplying the articles promised by this treaty will, I am convinced, cost less than those under either Treaty number Four or Number Six.
3. I would urge that the officers of the Mounted Police be entrusted to make the annual payments to the Indians under this treaty. The Chiefs themselves requested this, and I said I believed the Government would gladly consent to the arrangement. The Indians have confidence in the Police, and it might be some time before they would acquire the same respect for strangers.
4. The organization of the Blackfeet bands is somewhat different from that of the Saulteaux and Cree. They have large bands with head and minor Chiefs, and as they preferred that this arrangement should remain unchanged, the Commissioners gladly acceded to their desire, as expense would be saved to the Government in clothing, were Councilors and head men not named. The Stonies, however asked to be allowed Councilors, and their request was granted to the extent of two to each Chief.
5. Copies of the treaty printed on parchment should be forwarded to Fort McLeod in good time to be delivered to each head and minor Chief at next year’s payment of annuities.
I have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, David Laird, Lieut.-Gov., and Special Indian Commissioner.