Had I not complied with the demands of the Indians–giving them some little presents–and otherwise satisfied them, I have no doubt that they would have proceeded to acts of violence, and once that had commenced, there would have been the beginning of an Indian war, which it is difficult to say when it would have ended.
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The buffalo will soon be exterminated, and when starvation comes, these Plain Indian tribes will fall back on the Hudson’s Bay Forts and settlements for relief and assistance. If not complied with, or no steps taken to make some provision for them, they will most assuredly help themselves; and there being no force or any law up there to protect the settlers, they must either quietly submit to be pillaged, or lose their lives in the defence of their families and property, against such fearful odds that will leave no hope for their side.
Gold may be discovered in paying quantities, any day, on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. We have, in Montana, and in the mining settlements close to our boundary line, a large mixed frontier population, who are now only waiting and watching to hear of gold discoveries to rush into the Saskatchewan, and, without any form of Government or established laws up there, or force to protect whites or Indians, it is very plain what will be the result.
I think that the establishment of law and order in the Saskatchewan District, as early as possible, is of most vital importance to the future of the country and the interest of Canada, and also the making of some treaty or settlement with the Indians who inhabit the Saskatchewan District.
W. J. Christie, Chief Factor, In charge of Saskatchewan District, Hudson’s Bay Company.
The Treaties At Forts Carlton And Pitt – Messages from the Cree Chiefs
Messages from the Cree Chiefs of the Plains, Saskatchewan, to His Excellency Governor Archibald, our Great Mother’s representative at Fort Garry, Red River Settlement.
1. The Chief Sweet Grass, The Chief of the country.
GREAT FATHER,–I shake hands with you, and bid you welcome. We heard our lands were sold and we did not like it; we don’t want to sell our lands; it is our property, and no one has a right to sell them.
Our country is getting ruined of fur-bearing animals, hitherto our sole support, and now we are poor and want help–we want you to pity us. We want cattle, tools, agricultural implements, and assistance in everything when we come to settle–our country is no longer able to support us.
Make provision for us against years of starvation. We have had great starvation the past winter, and the small-pox took away many of our people, the old, young, and children.
We want you to stop the Americans from coming to trade on our lands, and giving firewater, ammunition and arms to our enemies the Blackfeet.
We made a peace this winter with the Blackfeet. Our young men are foolish, it may not last long.
We invite you to come and see us and to speak with us. If you can’t come yourself, send some one in your place.
We send these words by our Master, Mr. Christie, in whom we have every confidence.–That is all.
2. Ki-he-win, The Eagle.
GREAT FATHER,–Let us be friendly. We never shed any white man’s blood, and have always been friendly with the whites, and want workmen, carpenters and farmers to assist us when we settle. I want all my brother, Sweet Grass, asks. That is all.
3. The Little Hunter.
You, my brother, the Great Chief in Red River, treat me as a brother, that is, as a Great Chief.
4. Kis-ki-on, or Short Tail.
My brother, that is coming close, I look upon you, as if I saw you; I want you to pity me, and I want help to cultivate the ground for myself and descendants. Come and see us.
The North-West Council, as already elsewhere stated, had urged the making of treaties with these Indians, and the necessity of doing so, was also impressed upon the Privy Council, by the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories, and Col. French, then in command of the Mounted Police therein. The Minister of the Interior, the Hon. David Mills, in his Report for the year 1876, thus alluded to this subject:
“Official reports received last year from His Honor Governor Morris and Colonel French, the officer then in command of the Mounted Police Force, and from other parties, showed that a feeling of discontent and uneasiness prevailed very generally amongst the Assiniboin and Cree lying in the unceded territory between the Saskatchewan and the Rocky Mountains. This state of feeling, which had prevailed amongst these Indians for some years past, had been increased by the presence, last summer, in their territory of the parties engaged in the construction of the telegraph line, and in the survey of the Pacific Railway line, and also of a party belonging to the Geological Survey. To allay this state of feeling, and to prevent the threatened hostility of the Indian tribes to the parties then employed by the Government, His Honor Governor Morris requested and obtained authority to dispatch a messenger to convey to these Indians the assurance that Commissioners would be sent this summer, to negotiate a treaty with them, as had already been done with their brethren further east.
“The Rev. George McDougall, who had been resident as a missionary amongst these Indians for upwards of fourteen years, and who possessed great influence over them, was selected by His Honor to convey this intelligence to the Indians, a task which he performed with great fidelity and success: being able to report on his return that although he found the feeling of discontent had been very general among the Indian tribes, he had been enabled entirely to remove it by his assurance of the proposed negotiations during the coming year.
“For the purpose of negotiating this treaty with the Indians, Your Excellency availed yourself of the services of His Honor Governor Morris, who had been formerly employed in negotiating Treaties Numbers Three, Four and Five. With him were associated the Hon. James McKay and W. J. Christie, Esq., both of whom had had considerable experience in such work, and possessed moreover an intimate acquaintance with the Indians of the Saskatchewan, their wants, habits and dialects.”
With reference to the Rev. George McDougall, [Footnote: This faithful missionary came to an untimely death on the plains during the succeeding winter. Having missed his way to his camp, he was found lying dead on the snow, and there in the lonely wilds was closed a most useful career.] I may here state, that when the application was made to him, to visit the Indians of the Plains, in the Saskatchewan Valley, he was on his way, with his family, to his distant mission, among the Assiniboin, near the Rocky Mountains, after a brief sojourn in the Province of Ontario, but on the request being made to him, to explain to the Indians the intentions of the Government, he at once undertook the duty, and leaving his family to follow him, went upon the long journey, which his mission involved, carrying with him a letter missive from the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories, promising the Indians, that Commissioners would visit them during the ensuing summer, to confer with them as to a treaty. The result of his tour, and of the tidings which he bore was very gratifying, as the Indians were at once tranquilized, and awaited in full confidence, the coming of the Commissioners. The way in which he discharged his important duties and the success which followed his exertions, will be best set forth by giving place to his Report, addressed to the Lieutenant-Governor, of the results of his arduous mission: