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On the morning of the 31st, the previous day having been wet, Mr. Christie and I left for Fort Pitt, Mr. McKay having preceded us by the other road–that by way of Battle River.
We arrived on the 5th September, the day appointed, having rested, as was our custom throughout the whole journey, on Sunday, the 3rd.
About six miles from the fort we were met by Col. Jarvis and the police, with their band, as an escort, and also by Mr. McKay, the Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who informed us that he had rooms ready for our occupation.
We found over one hundred lodges of Indians already there, and received a message from them, that as their friends were constantly arriving, they wished delay until the 7th.
On the morning of the 6th, Sweet Grass, who had come in, in consequence of my message, accompanied by about thirty of the principal men, called to see me and express their gratification at my arrival.
Their greeting was cordial, but novel in my experience, as they embraced me in their arms, and kissed me on both cheeks, a reception which they extended also to Mr. Christie and Dr. Jackes.
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The Hon. James McKay arrived from Battle River in the evening, and reported that he had met there a number of Indians, principally Saulteaux, who had been camped there for some time. There had been about seventy lodges in all, but as the buffalo had come near, the poorer Indians had gone after them.
They expressed good feeling, and said they would like to have waited until the 15th, the day named for my arrival there, to see me and accept the treaty, but that the buffalo hunt was of so much consequence to them that they could not wait so long.
This band is a mixed one, composed of Cree and Saulteaux from Jack Fish Lake, their Chief being the Yellow Sky.
On the 7th the Commissioners proceeded to the council tent, which was pitched on the high plateau above the fort, commanding a very fine view, and facing the Indian encampment.
They were accompanied by the escort of the police, with their band.
The Indians approached with much pomp and ceremony, following the lead of Sweet Grass.
The stem dance was performed as at Fort Carlton, but with much more ceremony, there being four pipes instead of one, and the number of riders, singers and dancers being more numerous. After the pipes were stroked by the Commissioners, they were presented to each of them to be smoked, and then laid upon the table to be covered with calico and cloth, and returned to their bearers.
After the conclusion of these proceedings I addressed them, telling them we had come at their own request, and that there was now a trail leading from Lake Superior to Red River, that I saw it stretching on thence to Fort Ellice, and there branching off, the one track going to Qu’Appelle and Cypress Hills, and the other by Fort Pelly to Carlton, and thence I expected to see it extended, by way of Fort Pitt to the Rocky Mountains; on that road I saw all the Chippewas and Cree walking, and I saw along it gardens being planted and houses built.
I invited them to join their brother Indians and walk with the white men on this road. I told them what we had done at Carlton, and offered them the same terms, which I would explain fully if they wished it.
On closing Sweet Grass rose, and taking me by the hand, asked me to explain the terms of the treaty, after which they would all shake hands with me and then go to meet in council.
I complied with this request, and stated the terms fully to them, both addresses having occupied me for three hours. On concluding they expressed satisfaction, and retired to their council.
On the 8th the Indians asked for more time to deliberate, which was granted, as we learned that some of them desired to make exorbitant demands, and we wished to let them understand through the avenues by which we had access to them that these would be fruitless.
On the 9th, the Commissioners proceeded to the council tent, but the Indians were slow of gathering, being still in council, endeavoring to agree amongst themselves.
At length they approached and seated themselves in front of the tent, I then asked them to speak to me. The Eagle addressed the Indians, telling them not to be afraid, and that I was to them as a brother, and what the Queen wished to establish was for their good.
After some time had passed, I again called on them to tell me their minds and not to be afraid. Sweet Grass then rose and addressed me in a very sensible manner. He thanked the Queen for sending me; he was glad to have a brother and a friend who would help to lift them up above their present condition. He thanked me for the offer and saw nothing to be afraid of. He therefore accepted gladly, and took my hand to his heart. He said God was looking down on us that day, and had opened a new world to them. Sweet Grass further said, he pitied those who had to live by the buffalo, but that if spared until this time next year, he wanted, this my brother (i.e. the Governor), to commence to act for him in protecting the buffalo; for himself he would commence at once to prepare a small piece of land, and his kinsmen would do the same.
Placing one hand over my heart, and the other over his own, he said: “May the white man’s blood never be spilt on this earth. I am thankful that the white man and red man can stand together. When I hold your hand and touch your heart, let us be as one; use your utmost to help me and help my children so that they may prosper.”
The Chief’s speech, of which the foregoing gives a brief outline in his own words, was assented to by the people with a peculiar guttural sound which takes with them the place of the British cheer.
I replied, expressing my satisfaction that they had so unanimously approved of the arrangement I had made with the nation at Carlton, and promised that I would send them next year, as I had said to the Cree of Carlton, copies of the treaty printed on parchment.
I said that I knew that some of the Chiefs were absent, but next year they would receive the present of money as they had done.
The Commissioners then signed the treaty, as did Sweet Grass, eight other Chiefs and those of their Councilor who were present, the Chiefs addressing me before signing. James Senum, Chief of the Cree at White Fish Lake, said that he commenced to cultivate the soil some years ago.
Mr. Christie, then chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, gave him a plough, but it was now broken. He had no cattle when he commenced, but he and his people drew the plough themselves, and made hoes of roots of trees. Mr. Christie also gave him a pit-saw and a grind-stone, and he was still using them. His heart was sore in spring when his children wanted to plough and had no implements. He asked for these as soon as possible, and referring to the Wesleyan mission at that place, he said by following what I have been taught it helps me a great deal.
The Little Hunter, a leading Chief of the Plain Cree, said he was glad from his very heart; he felt in taking the Governor’s hand as if it was the Queen’s. When I hear her words that she is going to put this country to rights, it is the help of God that put it into her heart. He wished an everlasting grasp of her hand; he was thankful for the children who would prosper. All the children who were settling there, hoped that the Great Spirit would look down upon us as one. Other Chiefs expressed themselves similarly.
Ken-oo-say-oo, or The Fish, was a Chippewayan or mountaineer, a small band of whom are in this region.
They had no Chief, but at my request they had selected a Chief and presented the Fish to me. He said, speaking in Cree, that he thanked the Queen, and shook hands with me, he was glad for what had been done, and if he could have used his own tongue he would have said more.
I then presented Sweet Grass his medal, uniform, and flag, the band playing “God Save the Queen” and all the Indians rising to their feet.
The rest of the medals, flags, and uniforms, were distributed, as soon as possible, and Mr. Christie commenced to make the payments.