Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Royal North-West Mounted Police
Chapter IV


COLONEL MACLEOD, COMMISSIONER

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.

Lieut.-Colonel James 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 Macleod.

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 Assistant Commissioner.

"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 Indians,


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 themselves.

" 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 against theni.

"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 in 1874-75.

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 illicit traders.

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 past season.

"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 settle there.

Considerable diplomacy 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 prowess.

"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 capita.

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.

Lieut.-Governor Laird, 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 horseback.

"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.

"Hereupon, 'Crowfoot' 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 advice.'

"'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 in 1874.


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus