That your Honor’s message was most timely, these are ample proofs.
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A report will have reached you before this time that parties have been turned back by the Indians, and that a train containing supplies for the telegraph contractors, when west of Fort Pitt, were met by three Indians and ordered to return. Now after carefully investigating the matter and listening to the statements of all parties concerned, my opinion is, that an old traveler amongst Indians would have regarded the whole affair as too trivial to be noticed. I have not met with a Chief who would bear with the responsibility of the act….
Personally I am indebted both to the missionaries, and the Hudson’s Bay Company’s officials for their assistance at the Indian councils.
Believing it would be satisfactory to your Honor and of service to the Commissioners, I have kept the number of all the tents visited and the names of the places where I met the Indians.
By reckoning eight persons to each tent, we will have a very close approximate to the number of Indians to be treated with at Carlton, and Fort Pitt. There may have been a few tents in the forest, and I have heard there are a few Cree at Lesser Slave Lake and Lac la Biche, but the number cannot exceed twenty tents.
All of which is respectfully submitted. G. Mcdougall.
The Commissioners, in the discharge of their task, had to travel through the prairie district in going to their destination and returning to Winnipeg, a distance of over 1,800 miles. They first met the Indians in the vicinity of Fort Carlton, on the Saskatchewan, in the month of August 1876, and eventually succeeded on the 23rd day of that month, in effecting a treaty with the Plain and Wood Cree, and on the 28th of the same month with the tribe of Willow Cree. The negotiations were difficult and protracted. The Hon. David Mills, then Minister of the Interior, in his Annual Report thus characterizes them:–“In view of the temper of the Indians of the Saskatchewan, during the past year, and of the extravagant demands which they were induced to prefer on certain points, it needed all the temper, tact, judgment and discretion, of which the Commissioners were possessed, to bring the negotiations to a satisfactory issue.” The difficulties were encountered chiefly at Carlton: The main body of the Cree were honestly disposed to treat, and their head Chiefs, Mistowasis and Ah-tuk-uh-koop, shewed sound judgment, and an earnest desire to come to an understanding.
They were embarrassed, however, by the action of the Willow Cree, who, under the guidance of one of their Chiefs, Beardy, interposed every obstacle to the progress of the treaty, and refused to attend the Council, unless it was held at the top of a hill some miles off, where the Chief pretended it had been revealed to him in a vision that the treaty was to be made. The Willow Cree were, moreover, under the influence of a wandering band of Saulteaux, the chief portion of whom resided within the limits of the other treaties, and who were disposed to be troublesome. Before the arrival of the Commissioners, the Saulteaux conceived the idea of forming a combination of the French Half-breeds, the Cree, and themselves, to prevent the crossing of the Saskatchewan by the Lieutenant-Governor, and his entrance into the Indian territories. They made the proposal first to the French Half-breeds, who declined to undertake it, and then to the Cree, who listened to it in silence. One of them at length arose, and pointing to the River Saskatchewan, said, “Can you stop the flow of that river?” The answer was, “No,” and the rejoinder was “No more can you stop the progress of the Queen’s Chief.” When the Commissioners arrived at the Saskatchewan, a messenger from the Cree met them, proffering a safe convoy, but it was not needed. About a hundred traders’ carts were assembled at the crossing, and Kissowayis, a native Indian trader, had the right of passage, which he at once waived, in favor of Messrs. Christie and Morris, the Commissioners. The other Commissioner, Mr. McKay, met them at Duck Lake next day, having proceeded by another route, and there they encountered Chief Beardy, who at once asked the Lieutenant-Governor to make the treaty at the hill, near the lake. On his guard, however, he replied, that he would meet the Cree nation wherever they desired, but must first go on and see them at Carlton, as he had appointed. An escort of Mounted Police also met the Commissioners at Duck Lake, having been sent from Carlton, in consequence of the information given by the Cree of the threatened interference with their progress. After several days’ delay the Commissioners were obliged to meet the Cree without the Willow Cree. But after the conference had opened, the Beardy sent a message asking to be informed of the terms the Commissioners intended to offer in advance. The reply was that the messenger could sit with the other Indians, and report to his Chief what he heard, as it was his own fault that the Chief was not there to take part in the proceedings. The negotiations then went on quietly and deliberately, the Commissioners giving the Indians all the time they desired. The Indians were apprehensive of their future. They saw the food supply, the buffalo, passing away, and they were anxious and distressed. They knew the large terms granted to their Indians by the United States, but they had confidence in their Great Mother, the Queen, and her benevolence.
They desired to be fed. Small-pox had destroyed them by hundreds a few years before, and they dreaded pestilence and famine.
Eventually the Commissioners made them an offer. They asked this to be reduced to writing, which was done, and they asked time to consider it, which was of course granted. When the conference resumed, they presented a written counter-proposal. This the Commissioners considered, and gave full and definite answers of acceptance or refusal to each demand, which replies were carefully interpreted, two of the Commissioners, Messrs. Christie and McKay, being familiar with the Cree tongue, watching how the answers were rendered, and correcting when necessary. The food question, was disposed of by a promise, that in the event of a National famine or pestilence such aid as the Crown saw fit would be extended to them, and that for three years after they settled on their reserves, provisions to the extent of $1,000 per annum would be granted them during seed-time.
The other terms were analogous to those of the previous treaties. The Cree accepted the revised proposals. The treaty was interpreted to them carefully, and was then signed, and the payment made in accordance therewith. After the conclusion of the treaty, the Commissioners were unwilling that the Willow Cree should remain out of the treaty, and sent a letter to them by a messenger, Pierre Levailler, that they would meet them half way, at the camp of the Hon. James McKay, and give them the opportunity of accepting the terms of the treaty already concluded. The letter was translated to the Indians by the Rev. Pere Andre, a Catholic missionary, who, as well as M. Levailler, urged the Indians to accede to the proposal made to them, which they agreed to do. The Commissioners met the Indians accordingly, at the place proposed, and received, after a full discussion, the adhesion of the three Chiefs and head men of the Willow Cree to the treaty, and the payments were then made to them.
The Commissioners then prepared to leave for Fort Pitt, but having been apprised by the Rev. Mr. Scollan, a Catholic missionary, who had been sent by Bishop Grandin, to be present at the making of the treaty, that Sweet Grass, the principal Chief of the Plain Cree, at Fort Pitt, was unaware of the place and time of meeting, they dispatched a messenger to apprise him of them, and request him to be present.
The number of Indians, as estimated by Mr. McDougall, as being visited by him, was 3,976.