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Across the Canadian Prairies
The Regina District

To simply rush through the North-West Territories in a railway carriage, as the train speeds on its way to the Rocky Mountains, not only becomes monotonous after a time, but is unsatisfactory to the inquiring mind in more ways than one. If a traveller wishes to form any accurate idea of the progress of the country, and of the people settled there, it is absolutely necessary to get a team and drive away from the railway. This enables one to see both the farms and the farmers, and to gain reliable information of the manner in which the country is being developed. At many places two or three days can be profitably spent in that fashion, and it is a charming variety to railway travelling, comfortable and convenient though the latter may be. This letter and the following ono will describe briefly a three days’ trip from Regina.

Starting from Regina one afternoon in September, we made, in the first place, for the Indian Reserve known as “Muscow-petungs,” situated in the Qu’Appello Valley, about 30 miles north-east of the capital. For the first half of the journey the country, which slopes gradually to the north, is slightly undulating prairie, and is fairly settled, farmhouses being always in sight from the trail. The settlers consist chiefly of persons from the Old Country, with a sprinkling of Germans and Scandinavians. For the rest of the journey, the land is covered with small bush, from 10 to 15 feet high, consisting chiefly of scrub oak and poplar, the undergrowth being composed largely of wild flowers and fruits. This portion of the district of Assiniboia is much more undulating than that nearer Regina, and we came across a few farms in very picturesque locations. The land is fairly good, there is an abundance of wood, and plenty of shelter, the last-named being no unimportant matter in view of the winds that are common on the prairie. Most of the settlers were complaining of the drought, in consequence of which their crops were not so good as they might have been. Still, a Canadian farmer is not easily discouraged, and always looks forward to the next year as likely to be more prosperous than the previous one. Of course, his expenses, in any case, are not very great. He has no rent to pay; taxes are light, even if any have to be paid at all in out-of-the-way districts; he can raise almost all his requirements on his farm; and, if he is careful, there is no need for him to run seriously into debt, even in a bad year.

We arrived late in the evening at the Reserve, and, although quite unexpected, were hospitably received, entertained, and put up for the night, by the Agent, who has passed many years in the service of the Indian Department, and is thoroughly acquainted with everything pertaining to the red man. After supper we had a long and interesting talk with our friend in regard to Indian affairs, as to the advance the red man is making in the ways of civilisation, and the future of the race. This problem will, however, more properly form the subject of a special letter later on. There are three tribes attached to the Agency we visited—Muscow-petung’s, already mentioned, “Pie-a-Pot’s,” and “Pasquah’s.” The names given are those of the head chiefs of the tribes. All the reserves are located in the Qu’Appelle Valley, and on some of the finest land in the country. We visited all the tribes, but very few of the Indians were “at home,” nearly all of them, as well as the women and children, being away gathering hay, having contracted for the supply required by the North-West Mounted Police. We met several of them taking the hay into Regina as we drove out, and it is interesting to know, on the authority of the Commandant of the Police, that the best hay they get is that obtained from the Indians. In the reserve of which we aro writing, the Indians are nearly self-supporting, and earn almost enough money to keep themselves, requiring very little assistance from the Government either in the way of food or clothing. It is needless to say that this is the object of the policy of the Government, but it follows necessarily that its success depends a good deal upon the tact and judgment of the Agents placed in charge of the Indians, who are in many cases like a lot of children. Many of the Indians have purchased agricultural machinery, chiefly mowers, rakes and carts, on their own account, and also own the ponies and cattle they use in their work.

In the summer the Indians much prefer to live in their tents, which are now made of canvas, instead of hide, as was the case when the buffalo was plentiful. In winter most of them take up their quarters in small wooden huts which they have erected. The buildings are primitive, both in their structure and accommodation, but in some of them attempts at decoration have been made in the way of wall-papers of florid designs. The furniture is also exceedingly rough, even in eases where it is found at all, but in every one of the huts useful stoves are placed, for heating and cooking purposes. In the summer all the huts are fastened up and deserted for the tents: indeed, many of the Indians prefer the latter in winter, although the cold is sometimes intense. While it may be stated generally that the Indians have progressed in many ways, they certainly do not seem to appreciate the merits of cleanliness, and it may be that this circumstance has much to do with their preference for the tent over other forms of residences. The tent can be readily moved when the small live stock becomes too abundant, which is not the case with a more substantial structure!

After leaving the Reserve, we drove along the valley in the direction of Fort Qu’Appelle, an old Hudson Bay post, but now a small settlement, in which stores of various kinds may be found, as well as two or three hotels, livery stables, flour mills, and other industrial establishments. The scenery on this drive of about 20 miles is of a very picturesque description. The valley is about 200 feet below the level of the prairie, and varies from one mile to two miles in width. The cliffs, if they may be so termed, on either side of the valley, take very curious forms and shapes, and it is rather odd that the side with the northern exposure is covered with small bush, while the northern side of the valley, with a southern exposure, is quite bare of trees of any kind. Settlers’ houses are seen all along the road, and cattle grazing is the principal vocation of the farmers. In addition, however, to their work, they are able to obtain any amount of shooting and fishing, and they seem to indulge largely in sport—no doubt chiefly for the purpose of food. The Qu’Appello Valley was formerly a very favourable district with immigrants, and most of the free-grant land is probably now appropriated. We stayed tho night at the Indian Industrial School, about two miles cast from Fort Qu’Appello—thanks to the kindness of the Rev. Father Hugonnard, who has charge of the institution.

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