The Development of the
North-West Territories under Proper Protection—Dealings with the
Indians—The Sun Dance—The Big Treaty with the Blackfeet.
THE year 1876 brought
two important changes for the North-West Mounted Police. By Order in
Council of the 20th April, 1876, the control and management of the force
was transferred from the Department of Justice, then presided over by
the Hon. R. Laflamme, to the Department of the Secretary of State, the
Hon. R. W. Scott.
By Order in Council of
20th July, 1876, Lieut,-Col. James Farquharson Macleod, C.M.G., was
appointed to succeed Lieut.-Col. French, as Commissioner.
Farquharson Macleod, C.M.G., was one of the first officers appointed to
the Mounted Police. He had been for some years identified with the
Ontario Militia, and at the time of taking up his first appointment in
the Police, was major of the 45th Battalion, with the brevet rank of
Lieutenant Colonel. He took part in Colonel Wolseley's expedition to the
Red River in 1870 as Assistant Brigade Major of Militia, and in
recognition of his meritorious services, was awarded the brevet rank of
Lieutenant Colonel and the decoration of C.M.G.
Lieutenant Colonel G.
A. French, now Major General Sir George A. French, immediately after
giving up the appointment of Commissioner, returned to service in the
British Army and performed distinguished service in various parts of the
world, being particularly identified with the organization and
development of the defensive forces of Australia. He visited Canada with
Lady French in the summer of 1906, and visited, with much interest, the
head-quarters of the R.N.W.M.P. at Regina, as well as some other posts.
In July 1876, an escort
of eighty-two men was detailed to accompany the Lieutenant Governor of
the NorthWest Territories on his mission to Forts Carlton and Pitt, in
connection with the making of a treaty with the Cree Indians.
In consequence of the
Indians in the adjoining Territory of Montana being engaged during the
summer in conflict with the United States troops, it was considered
necessary, as a precautionary measure, to increase the force at Fort
Macleod, and also at Fort Walsh, a new post established in the Cypress
Hills. A hundred men were accordingly ordered there from the northern
posts. Four seven-pounder guns wTere also purchased from the Militia
Department and forwarded, together with a supply of ammunition, to Fort
Walsh. Two nine-pounder field guns had previously been supplied to Fort
The massing of the
force at these posts near the frontier no doubt secured tranquility in
that section of the Territory and prevented the United States Indians
from using Canadian soil as a base of operations for prosecuting the war
with the United States troops.
On the 22nd of August
the following report of Sub-Inspector Denny was received from the
"According to orders
received on July 8th to proceed to the Blackfoot camp for the prisoner 'Nataya',
I loft How River on the above mentioned date and found the Rlackfeet
camped about 30 miles above the mouth of Red Deer River, that being
about 200 miles northeast of Elbow River.
"After having secured
the prisoner I was detained in camp by a council called by the principal
Blackfeet chiefs, who invited me to their meeting.
"Thev told me that they
were very glad we had arrived, as at that time they were in a very
unsettled state, owing to communications that had passed between the
Blackfoot nation, including Blood Indians and Piegans, and the Sioux
from across the line.
"About a month ago the
Siou\ sent a message to the Blackfoot Camp with a piece of tobacco,
which the Blackfoot chief showed me. The messenger told the Blackfeet,
from the Sioux,that the tobacco was sent them to smoke if they were
willing to come across the line and join the Sioux in fighting the Crow
Fort Walsh in its Palmy Days.
and other tribes with
whom they were at war, and also the Americans whom they were fighting at
the same tune.
"They also told the
Blackfeet that if they would come to help them against the Americans,
that after they had killed all the whites they would come over and join
the Blackfeet to exterminate the whites on this side.
"They also told him
that the soldiers on this side were weak, and that it would take them
but a short time to take any forts that they had Built here, as they had
taken many strong stone forts from the Americans, at small loss to
" The Blackfeet had
sent an answer to the Sioux a short tune before I arr/ved, to the effect
that thev could not smoke their tobacco on such terms, and that they
were not willing to make peace with the understanding of helping them to
fight the whites, as they were their friends and they would not fight
"They said as they
would not come and help them against the Americans, that they would come
over to this side and show the Blackfeet that white soldiers were
nothing before them, and that after they had exterminated the soldiers
and taken their forts they would come against the Blackfeet,
" In consequence of
this message the Blackfeet nation, when I reached their camp, were in a
state of uncertainty, not knowing how to act, 'Crowfoot,' the head chief
of the Blackfeet was authorized by the nation, all of whom were present,
to ask me whether in case they were attacked by the Sioux without
themselves being the aggressors, and called upon us, the Mounted Police,
to help them, wre would do so. I told them that in case the Sioux
crossed the line and attacked the Blackfeet, without the Blackfeet
giving them any cause to do so, that we were bound to help them, they
being subjects of this country, and having the right of protection as
well as any other subjects.
"The Chief told me that
the Blackfeet had told him to tell me that as we were willing to help
them, in the event of the Sioux attacking them, that they would, in case
of being attacked, send two thousand warriors against the Sioux
" I thanked them for
their offer, and told them that I would inform you of all they had told
me, and that as long as they were quiet and peaceable they would always
find us their friends and willing to do anything for their good.
"They expressed great
satisfaction at all I had told them, and promised to do nothing without
letting us first know, and asking our advice.
" I distributed some
tobacco among them, and told them to let us know of any movements of the
Sioux to the north.
"I left them 011 Friday
last, camped together about 30 miles above the mouth of the Red Deer
River. I brought the prisoner with me without any trouble, and arrived
here this day."
A copy of this report
was forwarded by Ilil Honour the Deputy Governor, to the Right
Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, from whom a suitable
acknowledgment was received by His Excellency the Governor General.
During this same year.
1876, representations having been made that iwiug to the destruction of
crops by hail-stones, the inhabitants of the parish of St. Albert, near
Edmonton, were likely to suffer great distress during the winter, it
became necessary, in order to avert the threatened famine, to consider
what steps should be taken to afford relief, and also to prevent the
breaking up of the settlement and dispersion of the inhabitants.
Instructions were accordingly given to the officer commanding the Police
at Edmonton to invite the clergy of the several denominations to assist
him as a committee for relieving distress, to such extent as the surplus
supplies of the Mounted Police would permit, payment at cost price and
expense of transport to be obtained where possible. Where payment not
possible, the best available security was to be taken for ultimate pai |uent
in furs or money.
The strength and
distribution of the force at the end of the year 1876 was as
follows:—Fort Macleod, 1 Commissioner, 1 Assistant Commissioner, 1
Surgeon, 1 Quartermaster, 1 Inspector, 5 Sub-Inspectors, 103 Constables
and Sub-Constables, and 105 horses; Fort Walsh (Cypress Hills), 1
Quartermaster, 1 Inspector, 4 sub-inspectors, 95 constables and
sub-constables, 90 horses; Fort Calgary, (1) 1 Quartermaster,
I Inspector, 33
Constables and Sub-Constables, 37 horses; Fort Saskatchewan, 1
Inspector, 1 Sub-Inspector, 20 Constables and Sub-Constables, 18 horses;
Battleford and Carlton, 1 Inspector,
II Constables and
Sub-Constables, 18 horses; Swan River, 1 Surgeon, 1 Veterinary Surgeon,
1 Inspector, 1 Sub-Inspector, 29 Constables and Sub-Constables, 10
horses; Shoal Lake, 7 Constables and Sub-Constables, 4 horses;
Qu'Appelle 5 Constables and Sub-Constables, 4 horses; Beautiful Plains,
4 Constables and Sub-Constables and 3 horses.
The expenditure during
the fiscal year ended 30th June 1876, for Mounted Police service was
$369,518.39 but that amount included $41,184.47 arrears of the years
1873-74 and 1874-75, also a charge of $19,762.95 for miscellaneous
stores taken over from Her Majesty's North American Boundary Commission
If the Mounted Police
was costing the country money, it was rendering good value for the:
expenditure. Prior to the arrival of the Police at Fort
(1) The firm of I. G.
Baker and Company of Fort Benton, Mont., a reputable firm, had a fur
trading post at the junction of the Bow and Elbow Rivers, close to the
site of Fort Calgary when the Mounted Police entered the country, and
the year after the establishment of Fort Macleod, a detachment of the
Police under Inspector Brisebois, was sent there. A contract was entered
into by I. G. Baker and Company to erect the necessary buildings or
fort, very much after the style of the old Hudson Bay log huts and
stockade. The first police fort was built on the site of the new
barracks, and was the first permanent structure erected on the present
town site. Calgary was at first known by a variety of names such as "The
Mouth", "Elbow River" and "The Junction". When a detachment was first
stationed there it was known in the force as Brisebois'; and when the
fort was built Inspector Brisebois dated his reports from "Fort
Brisebois". Finally Colonel Macleod, the Commissioner, was deputed by
Sir John A. Macdonald to confer a name on the fort, and he called it by
the name of his paternal home in Scotland, "Calgarry", which is the
Gaelic for "Clear Running Water". The double "r" does not appear to have
been popular and so we have the name with the single "r." In 1881 the
Hudson Bay Company established a post at Calgary.
Macleod, that section
of the Territories, as already stated, was in possession of outlaws and
In his report for 1876,
the Comptroller, Mr. Frederick White, was able to report:
" The liquor traffic is
now suppressed, and a number of Americans have crossed the border and
engaged in stock raising and other pursuits in Canadian territory. A
village has sprung up around Fort Macleod, and trade is rapidly
increasing. The customs duties collected at this port by the officers of
the Police during the two months ended 31st October last, amounted to
$16,324.69, and over 20,000 robes were shipped from there during the
"At Cypress Hills, the
scene of the massacre of 1873, there is also a settlement. The customs
collections made there by the Mounted Police during the nine months
ended 30th September last, amounted to $5,584.22."
It will be recalled
that in 1872 an Act was passed at Ottawa providing for the unorganized
territory of the North-West by the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and a
council appointed by the federal authorities. The members of this
council, gazetted in January 1873 were the Honourables M. A. Girard,
Donald A. Smith, Henry J. Clarke, Patrice Breland, Alfred Boyd, John
Schultz, Joseph Dubuc, A. G. B. Bannatyne, William Fraser, Robert
Hamilton and William Christie. There were afterwards added the
Honourables James McKay. Joseph Royal, Pierre Delorme, W. R. Bown, W. N.
Kennedy, John H. McTarvish and William Tait.
This Act remained in
force until 1875 when a bill providing for the further organization and
government of the North-West Territories was introduced in parliament by
the Honourable Alexander Mackenzie, being passed and coming into force
in October 1876 with the Hon. David Laird as Lieutenant Governor. To
assist the Governor there was a small council consisting of Col. Macleod
and Messrs Matthew Ryan and Hugh Richardson, Stipendary Magistrates.
Immediately after the
establishment of the Territories, as a separate Government, the
Honourable Mr. Laird, Lieut,-Governor, proceeded to Winnipeg en route
for Livingstone, or Swan River Barracks, the headquarters of the Mounted
Police, which had been selected as the Provisional Seat of Government.
His Honour reached Livingstone on the 11th of November, and took the
oaths of office and entered upon his duties as Lieutenant Governor on
the 27th of that month.
Just at this time
various problems of the vexed, and always very delicate, Indian problem
pressed upon the police and territorial authorities for settlement.
The Sioux resident in
Canada (not including, of course, "Sitting Hull" and his followers)
occupied a somewhat exceptional and anomalous position in the country.
They were a fragment of the large tribe of United States Indians of that
name who took refuge n British Territory in 1862. immediately after the
Indian massacre in Minnesota. The bulk of these refugees settled near
Portage La Prairie, in the Province of Manitoba; but a small number of
them took up their residence at Qu'Appelle, others in the neighborhood
of Fort Ellice, and others near Turtle Mountain, close to the Boundary
line, and about 100 miles from the western limits of that Province.
These refugees and their children in 1872 numbered altogether about
1,500 or 2,000. In 1S75 two large Reserves on the Assiniboine River were
assigned to the Manitoba Sioux, but it was difficult to induce them to
and great patience had to be exercised to induce even some of the better
disposed Canadian tribes to abandon their savage habits, including
tribal wars, horse and cattle stealing, self-torture, such as that
practiced at the sun dance, etc.
Outskirts of an Indian Encampment during' a Pow-Wow.
The sun dance was a
sort of religious ceremony in which the young braves, graduated from
youth, as it were, testing their fortitude and stoicism in resisting
pain and torture. For this ceremony a large lodge, built in the shape of
an amphitheatre and decorated with bits of coloured stuff, was erected,
an outer circle being divided off by a low barricade for the women, the
medicine men and chiefs being admitted to the centre space. The sides
and roof were covered with boughs. The performances began with low
chants and weird incantations. The neophytes were then brought hi and
partially stripped, their mothers usually taking an active and keenly
interested part in the ceremony. A spectator at one of these revolting
ceremonies penned the follow.ng description:
"Then the medicine man
began his part by cutting slits in the flesh of the young men, taking up
the muscles with pincers. The older squaws assisted in lascer-ating the
flesh of the boys w th sharp knives. The women would at the same time
keep up a howling, accompanied with a backward and forward movement.
When the muscles were lifted out on the breast by the pincers, one end
of a lariat (a rope or thong of rawhide used for lasooing and picketing
ponies) was tied to the bleeding flesh, while the other end was fastened
to the top of the pole in the centre of the lodge. The first young man.
when thus prepared, commenced dancing around the circle in a most
frantic manner, pulling with all his might, so as to stretch out the
rope, and by his jerking movements, loosening himself by tearing out the
flesh. The young man's dance was accompanied by a chant by those who
were standing and sitting around, assisted by the thumping of a hideous
drum, to keep time. The young brave who was undergoing this self-torture
finally succeeded in tearing himself loose, and the lariat, relaxed from
its tightness, fell back towards the centre pole with a piece of the
flesh to wdiieh it was tied. The victim, who, up to this time, did not
move a muscle of the face, fell down on the ground, exhausted from the
pain, which human weakness could no longer conceal. A scpiaw, probably
his mother, rushed in and bore the young brave away. He had undergone
the terrible ordeal, and amid the congratulations of the old men, would
be complimented as a warrior of undoubted pluck and acknowledged
"Another of the young
men was cut in two places under the shoulder blades; the flesh was
raised with pincers, and thongs tied around the loops of flesh and
muscle thus raised. The thongs reached down below the knees and were
tied to buffalo skulls. With these heavy weights dangling at the ends of
the thongs, the young man was required to dance around the circle to the
sound of the bystanders' chants and the accompanying drum until the
thongs became detached by the tearing away of the flesh. The young brave
continued the performance until one of the thongs and its attached skull
broke loose, but the other remained. The mother of the young man,
prompted by an impulse of savage affection or maternal pride, then
rushed into the ring leading a pony w ith a lariat around his neck.
Rapidly attaching the free end of the lariat on the pony to the skull,
which was still attached to the quivering flesh of her son, she led the
pony around the ring, the young brave being dragged around after it, but
still making a brave attempt to sustain the chant, and to break himself
free from the. skull. Finally, nearly exhausted, and unable to keep up
with the pony, he fell forward on his face, the pony of course keeping
on, and the thong holding the skull being torn out of the tlesh. Still
the sufferer, his voice ghastly husky, tried to join .n the chant as he
grovelled on the ground in wolent contortions for a few moments before
being removed to the outside of the lodge.
" A third of the
candidates was by the lariat hitched to the pony by raised loops of
flesh and muscle in his back, and was dragged in this way several times
round the ring; but the steady force not being sufficient to tear the
noose free from the flesh, the pony was backed up, and a slack being
thus taken on the lariat, the pony was urged swiftly forward, and the
sudden jerk tore the lariat out of the flesh."
Naturally the Mounted
Police were desirous of putting a stop to such debasing and cruel
practices, but the traditions and susceptibilities of the savages had to
be considered, and it has taken years of coaxing and example by the
police, the missionaries and the officials of the Indian Department to
secure the practical abolition of these scenes.
The negotiating of the
more recent Indian treaties with various tribes imposed considerable
duty in the way of escorts, guards, etc., upon the Police. These
treaties, it should be explained, were entered into for the purpose of
obtaining the formal consent of the Indians to the settlement of the
lands over which particular tribes were accustomed to roam and hunt, and
which the Canadian Government honourably hesitated to regard as other
than the property of the Indians until they had relinquished their
natural rights to its possession by formal treaty.
In the year 1871,
Treaty No. 1 was negotiated at the Stone fort or Lower Fort Garry with
the Objibbe-ways and Swampy Crees, the only two tribes in the original
province of Manitoba, by Governor Archibald, and in the same year a
treaty with the Indians farther north, as far as Lake Winnipegosis and
Behren's River, and to the west as far as Fort Ellice. This second
treaty comprises a tract of country two or three times the size of
Manitoba. About four thousand Indians assembled on these occasions, the
Indians agreeing to the extinguishment of the Indian title to the land
on conditions satisfactory to the Indians. These first two treaties in
Canada's great west were negotiated on principles which-experience in
the older provinces of Canada had proved to be mutually fair and just,
and which principles have been observed in all subsequent treaties made
by the Dominion with the Indians. In brief, the principles in question
were that the Indians should have allotted to them reserves of land that
no white men could invade and that they themselves could not dispose of.
Schools were to be established and maintained among them, missionary
effort encouraged, and regular rations of food, besides other
necessaries supplied by the Government up to certain fixed values per
In October 1873, Treaty
No. 3 was made at the north-west angle of the Lake of the Woods with the
Salteaux tribe of the
Objibbaways, by which the country between Ontario and the limits of the
old province of Manitoba was ceded. In September 1874, Treaty No. 4 was
made at Qu'Appelle Lakes with the Crees, Salteaux, and mixed breeds, by
which 75,000 square miles were ceded. In September 1875, Treaty No. 5
was made at Behren's River ami at Norway House with the Salteaux and
Swampy Crees, extinguishing their title to the territory all around,
Lake Winnipeg. In 1870, treaty No. 6 was negotiated at Forts Carlton and
Pitt, by which the Indian titles to the lands along the Saskatchewan and
north thereof were extinguished.
in August 1877. received notification that he and Lieut.-Colonel Macleod
had been appointed Commissioners to negotiate a treaty with the
Blackfeet and other Indians of the unsurrendered parts of the North-West
Territories adjoining the International boundary.
Previous to this time
Battleford, on the North Saskatchewan, had been selected as the seat of
government for the North-West Territories, and as the new Government
House, then being erected, was about completed, Governor Laird removed
his furniture and other properties to Battleford before proceeding to
Macleod for the negotiation of the treaty.
Some extracts from the
official report of Lieutenant Governor Laird are interesting, not only
at giving an idea of the procedure at these treaty negotiations, but as
indicating the various, and important duties in connection therewith
devolving upon the Mounted Police. The Governor wrote, in part:
"On our journey, while
within the limits of Treaty No. 6, we met scarcely any Indians, but
after we crossed Red Deer River we met a few Crees and Half-breeds, and
several hunting parties of Blackfeet. The former generally use carts in
travelling, but the Blackfeet and their associates are always on
"The Crees appeared
friendly, but were not so demonstrative as the Blackfeet, who always
rode up at once with a smile on their countenance and shook hands with
us. They knew the uniform of the Mounted Police at a distance, and at
once recognized and approached them as their friends.
"We resumed our journey
on Monday, and arrived at Fort Macleod on the Old Man's River, on
Tuesday, the 4th of September. The distance between the Blackfoot
Crossing of the Bow River and the Fort is about 79 miles, thus making
the length of our journey from Battleford 305 miles, as measured by
Major Irvine's odometer.
" A few miles from Fort
Macleod I was met by the
Commissioner of the
Mounted Police and a large party of the force, who escorted me into the
fort, while a salute was fired by the Artillen Company from one of the
hills overlooking the fine of march. The men. whose horses were in
excellent condilion, looked exceedingly well, and the oflicers performed
their duties in a most efficient mariner.
" Lieut .-Col. Macleod
having attended to forwarding the supplies to Bow River, which had been
previously delivered at the fort, left for the Blackfoot Crossing with
some eighty officers and men of the Police Force, on Wednesday, the 12th
September. I followed on Friday and reached Bow River 011 Sunday
.morning. The police having arrived on Saturday, the Commissioners were
fully prepared for business on Monday, the 17th, the day which I had
from the first appointed for the opening of the treaty negotiations.
"The Commissioners were
visited by 'Crowfoot', the principal Chief of the Blackfeet, shortly
after their arrival. He desired to know when he and his people might
meet us. We ascertained that most of the Indians on the ground were
Blackfeet and Assiniboines or Stonies, from the upper part of How River.
During Tuesday several
parties of Indians came in, but the principal Blood ehiefs had not yet
arrived. According to appointment, however, the Commissioners met the
Indians at two o'clock 011 Wednesday.
"An outline was given
of the terms proposed for their acceptance. We also informed them we did
not expect an answer that day, but we hoped to hear from them to-morrow.
That day we again intimated to the Indians that rations would be
delivered to such as applied for them. We told them that the provisions
were a present., and their acceptance would not be regarded as
committing the chiefs to the terms proposed by the Commissioners.
" We then invited the
chiefs to express their opinions. One of the minor Blood chiefs made a
long speech. He told us that the Mounted Police had been in the country
for four years, and had been destroying a quantitv of wood. For th.s
wood he asked that the Commissioners should make the Indians a present
payment of $50 a head to each chief, and $30 a head to all others. He
said the Blackfeet, Bloods, Sarcees ami P'egan.s were all one. The
police made it safe for Indians to sleep at night, and he hoped the
Great Motlur would not soon take these men away.
"'Crowfoot' said he
would not speak unt i to-morrow 'Old Sun,' another influential
Blackfoot. chief, said the same. ' Kngle Tail, 'the head chief of the
Piegans, remarked that he had always followed the advice the officers of
the Mounted Police gave I 'm. He toped the promise which the
Connms.-(oners made would be secured to them as long as the sun shone
and water ran.
"The S^ony chiefs
unreservedly expressed their willingness to accept the terms offered.
" Fearing that some of
the Indians might regard the demands of the Blood Chief who had spoken,
if not promptly refused, as agreed to, I told them that he had asked too
much. He had admitted the great benefit the Police had been to the
Indians, and yet he was so unreasonable as to ask that the Government
should pay a large gratuity to each Indian for the little wood their
benefactors had used. On the contrary, I said, if there should be any
pay in the matter it ought to come from the Indians to the Queen for
sending them the Police.
and the other chiefs laughed heartily at the Blood orator of the day.
"When the Commissioners
(the follow ng day) intimated that they were ready to hear what the
chiefs had to say, 'Crowfoot' was the first to speak. His remarks were
few, but he expressed his gratitude for the Mounted Police being sent to
ihem and signified his intention to accept the treaty.
"The Blood chief who
made the large demands on the previous day said he would agree with the
other ehiefs. 'Old Sun' head chief of the North Blackfeet. said
'Crowfoot' spoke well. 'We are not going to disappoint the
Commissioners.' He was glad they were all agreed to the same terms. I
hey wante I cattle, guns, ammunition, tobacco, axes and money.
'" Bull's Head,' the
principal chief of the Sareees.saul ' We are all going to take your
"'Fagle Head,' the
Piegan head chief, remarked '1 give von my hand. \\ e all agree to w hat
Crow foot says.'
"'Rainy Chief,'head of
the North Bloods, saitl lie never went against the white man's advice.
Some of the imnor chiefs spoke to the same effect.
"The officers of the
Police Force who conducted the pavments, discharged this duty in a most,
efficient manner. Not in regard to the payments alone were the services
of the of heel's most valuable.
"With respect to the
whole arrangements, LmmiL-Col. McLeod, mv associate Conim s>.oner. both
in that capacitv and as Commander of the Police, was nde-fatigable. in
his exertions to bring the negotiat ons to a successful termination. The
same laudable efforts were put forth by Major Irvine, (the Assistant
Commissioner) and the other officers of the force, and their kindness to
me, pcrsonnllv, I shall never fail to remember.
"The volunteer band of
the force at fort Macleod deserve more than a passing not'ee, as they
did much to enliven the whole proceedings
In concluding his
report, the lieutenant .Governor made the following highly flattering
recommendation with regard to the Mounted Police:
"I would urge that the
officers of the Mounted Police be entrusted to make the annual payments
to the Indians under this treaty. The Chiefs themselves requested this,
and I said 1 believed the Government would gladly consent to the
arrangement. The Indians have confidence in the Police, and it might be
some time before they would acquire the same respect for strangers."
And it was only four
years since the force had marched into this then unknown country.
A Lancer of the N.W.M.P. A sketch by H. Julien during French's March