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Government House, Fort Garry, Manitoba, 4th. December, 1876.
Sir,–I beg to inform you that in compliance with the request of the Privy Council that I should proceed to the west to negotiate the treaties which I had last year, through the agency of the late Rev. George McDougall, promised the Plain Cree, would be undertaken, I left Fort Garry on the afternoon of the 27th of July last, with the view of prosecuting my mission. I was accompanied by one of my associates, the Hon. J. W. Christie, and by A. G. Jackes, Esq., M.D., who was to act as secretary. I selected as my guide Mr. Pierre Levailler. The Hon. James McKay, who had also been associated in the commission, it was arranged, would follow me and meet me at Fort Carlton.
On the morning of the 4th of August, I forded the Assiniboine about five miles from Fort Ellice, having accomplished what is usually regarded as the first stage of the journey to Fort Carlton, about two hundred and twenty miles. After crossing the river, I was overtaken by a party of the Sioux who have settled on the reserve assigned to them at Bird Tail Creek, and was detained the greater part of the day.
I am sanguine that this settlement will prove a success, as these Sioux are displaying a laudable industry in cutting hay for their own use and for sale, and in breaking up ground for cultivation. I resumed my journey in the afternoon, but a storm coming on, I was obliged to encamp at the Springs, having only travelled eight miles in all during the day.
On the 5th I left the Springs, and after traversing much fine country, with excellent prairie, good soil, clumps of wood, lakelets, and hay swamps, in the Little and Great Touchwood Hills and File Mountain region, I arrived at the South Saskatchewan, at Dumont’s crossing, twenty miles from Fort Carlton, on the afternoon of the 14th of August.
Here I found over one hundred carts of traders and freighters, waiting to be ferried across the river. The scow was occupied in crossing the carts and effects of Kis-so-wais, an enterprising Chippewa trader, belonging to the Portage la Prairie band, who at once came forward and gave up to me his right of crossing.
I met, also, a young Cree who had been sent by the Cree to hand me a letter of welcome in the name of their nation.
The reason of this step being taken was, that a few wandering Saulteaux or Chippewa, from Quill Lake, in Treaty Number Four, had come to the Cree and proposed to them to unite with them and prevent me from crossing the river and entering the Indian country. The Cree promptly refused to entertain the proposal, and sent a messenger, as above stated, to welcome me.
I also received from their messenger a letter from Lawrence Clarke, Esq., Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Carlton, offering the Commissioners the hospitalities of the fort.
I sent replies in advance, thanking the Cree for their action, and accepting the kind offer of Mr. Clarke, to the extent of the use of rooms in the fort.
It was late in the evening before our party crossed the river, so that we encamped on the heights near it.
On the morning of the 15th we left for Fort Carlton, Mr. Christie preceding me to announce my approaching arrival at Duck Lake. About twelve miles from Carlton I found the Hon. James McKay awaiting me, having travelled by way of Fort Pelly.
Here also a Chief, Beardy of the Willow Cree, came to see me.
He said that his people were encamped near the lake, and that as there were fine meadows for their horses they wished the treaty to be made there.
I was at once on my guard, and replied to him, that after I reached Carlton, which was the place appointed, I would meet the Indians wherever the great body of them desired it.
He then asked me to stop as I passed his encampment, and see his people. This I agreed to do, as I was leaving Duck Lake I met Captain Walker with his troop of mounted police, coming to escort me to Carlton which they did.
When I arrived at Beardy’s encampment, the men came to my carriage and holding up their right hands to the skies, all joined in an invocation to the deity for a blessing on the bright day which had brought the Queen’s messenger to see them, and on the messenger and themselves; one of them shook hands with me for the others.
The scene was a very impressive and striking one, but as will be seen hereafter, this band gave me great trouble and were very difficult to deal with.
Leaving the Indian encampment I arrived at Fort Carlton, where Mr. Christie, Dr. Jackes and myself were assigned most comfortable rooms, Mr. McKay preferring to encamp about four miles from the fort.
In the evening, Mist-ow-as-is and Ah-tuk-uk-koop, the two head Chiefs of the Carlton Cree, called to pay their respects to me, and welcomed me most cordially.
On the 16th the Cree sent me word that they wished the day to confer amongst themselves.
I acceded to their request, learning that they desired to bring the Duck Lake Indians into the negotiations.
I sent a messenger, Mr. Peter Ballenden, to Duck Lake to inform the Indians that I would meet them at the encampment of the Carlton Cree, about two miles from the fort.