The Blackfeet Treaty – Saturday, 22nd September 1876
On Saturday, 22nd September, we met the Indians to conclude the treaty. Mekasto, or Red Crow the great Chief of the South Bloods, had arrived the previous evening, or morning, on the ground, and being present, came forward to be introduced to the Commissioners.
The assemblage of Indians was large. All the head Chiefs of the several tribes were now present; only two Blackfeet and two Blood minor Chiefs were absent. The representation was all that could be expected.
The Commissioners had previously informed the Indians that they would accept the Chiefs whom they acknowledged, and now close in front of the tent sat those who had been presented to the Commissioners as the recognized Chiefs of the respective bands.
The conditions of the treaty having been interpreted to the Indians, some of the Blood Chiefs, who bad said very little on the previous day, owing to Red Crow’s absence, now spoke, he himself in a few kind words agreeing to accept the treaty. Crowfoot then came forward and requested his name to be written to the treaty. The Commissioners having first signed it, Mr. L’Heureux, being familiar with the Blackfoot language, attached the Chiefs’ names to the document at their request and witnessed to their marks.
While the signing was being proceeded with, a salute was fired from the field guns in honor of the successful conclusion of the negotiations.
I may mention, in this connection, that on Saturday also I was waited upon by a deputation of Half-breeds, who presented me with a petition, expressing the hope that the buffalo law might not be stringently enforced during the approaching winter, and praying that they might receive some assistance to commence farming. With respect to the buffalo ordinance, I told them that the notice having been short, the law would not be very strictly enforced for the first winter, and in regard to their prayer for assistance to farm, I said I would make it known at Ottawa.
On Monday, the 24th, the Commissioners met the Indians at ten a.m. Some minor Chiefs who had not remained until the close of the proceedings on Saturday signed the treaty this morning. The Chiefs were then asked to stand up in a body, their names were read over and the Indians once more asked to say whether they were their recognized Chiefs. Heavy Shield, a brother of Old Sun, at the request of the latter, took the place of head Chief of his band. It was, however, ascertained that this arrangement caused dissatisfaction, and Old Sun was restored to his position, and the band adhering to his brother, was called the “Middle Blackfoot Band.”
After their names were called over, I gave the head Chiefs of the Blackfeet, Blood, Piegans, and Sarcees their flags and uniforms, and invested them with their medals.
While I was shaking hands with them, acknowledging their Chiefs in the name of the Great Mother, the band played “God Save the Queen.” The payments were then immediately begun by the officers of the Mounted Police, one party taking the Blackfeet, and another the Bloods, while a third was detailed to pay the Assiniboines, or Stonies, near their encampment some two miles up the river.
The Commissioners went in the afternoon with the latter party, and before the payments were commenced, presented the Chiefs with their medals, flags and uniforms. The Stonies received us with quite a demonstration. They are a well-behaved body of Indians. The influence of the Christian missionary in their midst is apparent, polygamy being now almost wholly a thing of the past.
On Tuesday I took the adhesion of Bobtail, the Cree Chief, and his band, to Treaty Number Six, and they were paid out of the funds which I had brought with me from Swan River.
On the invitation of the Blackfeet, Blood, and kindred Chiefs, the Commissioners went on Wednesday to the Council tent to receive an address of thanks. A large number of Indians were present. Mr. L’Heureux spoke on their behalf, and expressed their gratitude to the Commissioners generally for the kind manner in which they conducted the negotiations, to me personally for having come so far to meet them, and to Lieut.-Col. McLeod for all that he and the Mounted Police had done for them since their arrival in the country.
To this address the Commissioners feelingly replied, and expressed their confidence that the Indians before them would not regret having agreed to the treaty.
The Cree Chief and his band also waited upon us in the evening at my tent, and through Father Scollen, as interpreter, thanked us for the manner in which we had treated them. The presents sent for the Indians were distributed to each band, after payment. On Wednesday also the Commissioners drove to see the coal seam about five miles east of the Blackfoot crossing. Under the guidance of Mr. French, they found an outcrop of the seam at a coulee some three miles south of the river. The seam there is from three to ten feet in thickness, and the coal, some of which was burned every day in the officers’ mess tent at the treaty, is of a very fair quality.