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At half-past ten His Honor Lieut.-Gov. Morris, the Hon. W. J. Christie and Hon. Jas. McKay, accompanied by an escort of North-West Mounted Police, left the Fort for the camp of the Cree Indians, who had selected a site about a mile and a half from the Hudson’s Bay Fort. There were about two hundred and fifty lodges, containing over two thousand souls. The Governor’s tent was pitched on a piece of rising ground about four hundred yards from the Indian camp, and immediately facing it.
As soon as the Governor and party arrived, the Indians who were to take part in the treaty, commenced to assemble near the Chief’s tents, to the sound of beating drums and the discharge of small arms, singing, dancing and loud speaking, going on at the same time.
In about half an hour they were ready to advance and meet the Governor; this they did in a large semi-circle; in their front were about twenty braves on horseback, galloping about in circles, shouting, singing and going through various picturesque performances. The semi-circle steadily advanced until within fifty yards of the Governor’s tent, when a halt was made and further peculiar ceremonies commenced, the most remarkable of which was the “dance of the stem.” This was commenced by the Chiefs, medicine men, Councilor, singers and drum-beaters, coming a little to the front and seating themselves on blankets and robes spread for them. The bearer of the stem, Wah-wee-kah-nich-kah-oh-tah-mah-hote (the man you strike on the back), carrying in his hand a large and gorgeously adorned pipe stem, walked slowly along the semi-circle, and advancing to the front, raised the stem to the heavens, then slowly turned to the north, south, east and west, presenting the stem at each point; returning to the seated group he handed the stem to one of the young men, who commenced a low chant, at the same time performing a ceremonial dance accompanied by the drums and singing of the men and women in the background.
This was all repeated by another of the young men, after which the horsemen again commenced galloping in circles, the whole body slowly advancing. As they approached his tent, the Governor, accompanied by the Hon. W. J. Christie and Hon. Jas. McKay, Commissioners, went forward to meet them and to receive the stem carried by its bearer. It was presented first to the Governor, who in accordance with their customs, stroked it several times, then passed it to the Commissioners who repeated the ceremony.
The significance of this ceremony is that the Governor and Commissioners accepted the friendship of the tribe.
The interpreter then introduced the Chiefs and principal men; the Indians slowly seating themselves in regular order in front of the tent. In a few minutes there was perfect quiet and order, when His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor addressed them as follows:
“My Indian brothers, Indians of the plains, I have shaken hands with a few of you, I shake hands with all of you in my heart. God has given us a good day, I trust his eye is upon us, and that what we do will be for the benefit of his children.
“What I say and what you say, and what we do, is done openly before the whole people. You are, like me and my friends who are with me, children of the Queen. We are of the same blood, the same God made us and the same Queen rules over us.
“I am a Queen’s Councilor, I am her Governor of all these territories, and I am here to speak from her to you. I am here now because for many days the Cree nation have been sending word that they wished to see a Queen’s messenger face to face. I told the Queen’s Councilor your wishes. I sent you word last year by a man who has gone where we will all go by and by, that a Queen’s messenger would meet you this year. I named Forts Carlton and Pitt as the places of meeting, I sent a letter to you saying so, and my heart grew warm when I heard how well you received it.
“As the Queen’s chief servant here, I always keep my promises; the winter came and went but I did not forget my word, and I sent a messenger to tell you that I would meet you at Carlton on the 15th of August, and at Fort Pitt on the 5th of September.
“During the winter I went to Ottawa to consult with the other Queen’s Councilor about you amongst other matters, and they said to me, ‘you promised a Queen’s messenger to the Cree, you have been so much with the Indians, that we wish you to go yourself;’ I said ‘the journey is long and I am not a strong man, but when a duty is laid upon me I will do it, but,’ I said, ‘you must give with me two friends and Councilor whom I can trust, to help me in the duty;’ and now I have with me two friends whom you and I have known long; one of them is of your own blood, the other has been many years amongst you.
“I will, in a short time, give you a message from the Queen, and my Councilor will tell you that the words are true. Before I do so, there are so many things I want to say to you that I scarcely know where to begin. I have been nearly four years Governor of Manitoba and these territories, and from the day I was sworn, I took the Indian by the hand, and those who took it have never let it go.
“Three years ago I went to the north-west angle of Lake of the Woods, and there I met the Chippewa nation, I gave them a message and they talked with me and when they understood they took my hand. Some were away, next year I sent messengers to them and I made a treaty between the Queen and them; there are numbered of those altogether four thousand. I then went to Lake Qu’Appelle the year after, and met the Cree and Chippewas there, gave them my message, and they took my hand. Last summer I went to Lake Winnipeg and gave the Queen’s message to the Swampy Cree and they and I, acting for the Queen, came together heart to heart; and now that the Indians of the east understand the Queen and her Councilor, I come to you. And why is all this done? I will tell you; it is because you are the subjects of the Queen as I am. She cares as much for one of you as she does for one of her white subjects. The other day a party of Iroquois Indians were taken to England across the ocean; the Queen heard of it and sent to them, saying, ‘I want to see my red children,’ took their hands and gave each of them her picture, and sent them away happy with her goodness.
“Before I came here I was one of the Queen’s Councilor at Ottawa. We have many Indians there as here, but for many years there has been friendship between the British, and the Indians. We respect the Indians as brothers and as men. Let me give you a proof it. Years ago there was war between the British and the Americans; there was a great battle; there were two brave Chief warriors on the British side, one wore the red coat, the other dressed as you do, but they fought side by side as brothers; the one was Brock and the other was Tecumseth whose memory will never die; the blood of both watered the ground; the bones of Tecumseth were hid by his friends; the remains of Brock by his, and now a great pile of stone stands up toward heaven in his memory. And now the white man is searching for the remains of Tecumseth, and when found they will build another monument in honour of the Indian. “I hope the days of fighting are over, but notwithstanding the whites are as much your friends in these days of peace, as in war. “The many Indians in the place that I have left are happy, prosperous, contented and growing in numbers. A meeting of the Grand Council of the Six Nation Indians was held a month ago; they now number six thousand souls. They met to thank the Queen and to say that they were content, and why are they content? Because many years ago the Queen’s Councilor saw that the Indians that would come after, must be cared for, they saw that the means of living were passing away from the Indians, they knew that women and children were sometimes without food; they sent men to speak to the Indians, they said your children must be educated, they must be taught to raise food for themselves. The Indians heard them, the Councilor gave them seed, land, food, taught their children and let them feel that they were of one blood with the whites. Now, what we have found to work so well where I came from we want to have here in our territories, and I am happy to say that my heart is gladdened by the way the Indians have met me.
“We are not here as traders, I do not come as to buy or sell horses or goods, I come to you, children of the Queen, to try to help you; when I say yes, I mean it, and when I say no, I mean it too.
“I want you to think of my words, I want to tell you that what we talk about is very important. What I trust and hope we will do is not for to-day or to-morrow only; what I will promise, and what I believe and hope you will take, is to last as long as that sun shines and yonder river flows.
“You have to think of those who will come after you, and it will be a remembrance for me as long as I live, if I can go away feeling that I have done well for you. I believe we can understand each other, if not it will be the first occasion on which the Indians have not done so. If you are as anxious for your own welfare as I am, I am certain of what will happen.
“The day is passing. I thank you for the respectful reception you have given me. I will do here as I have done on former occasions. I hope you will speak your minds as fully and as plainly as if I was one of yourselves.
“I wish you to think of what I have said. I wish you to present your Chiefs to me to-day if you are ready, if not then we will wait until to-morrow.”
Here the Indians requested an adjournment until next day in order that they might meet in council; this was granted, and the first day’s proceedings terminated.
Late in the evening the escort of Mounted Police was reinforced by a detachment, accompanied by their band, under command of Col. Jarvis, making a force of nearly one hundred men and officers.