Treaty Negotiations, 1862 to 1878, Between Canada and First Nations of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.

276 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians.


MUCH interest has been awakened with regard to this warlike race, owing to recent events ; namely, the war between them and the United States, the destruction by them of Captain Custer's command, and their subsequent flight into British territory, and now prolonged sojourn therein.
Prior, however, to this irruption, a portion of the Sioux tribe of American Indians, took refuge in the Red River settlement, after the massacre of the whites by the Indians in Minnesota, in the year 1862. Their arrival caused great consternation in the settlement. The main body took up a position at Sturgeon Creek, about six miles from Fort Garry, now the City of Winnipeg, and others, at Poplar Point, and the Turtle Mountain. The Governor and Council of Assiniboia then governed the Province of Assiniboia, under the Hudson's Bay Company, and was composed of representative men. Their deliberations were grave and anxious. In December, 1863, the Governor- in-Chief, Mr. Dallas, reported to the Council, that he had visited the principal camp of the Sioux at Sturgeon Creek, and found there about five hundred men, women and children, and more had since arrived ; that he had found them in great destitution and suffering, from want of food and clothing, and that after consultation with Governor Mactavish, of the Province of Assiniboia, he had offered sufficient provisions to enable them to remove to such a distance from the settlement as would place it beyond all danger and apprehension, and also offered to have the provisions conveyed for them, and ammunition supplied them to procure game, but they had positively The Sioux in the North-West Territories. 277 refused to go away—giving as a reason the inability of the old men, women and children, to travel in the winter. The Governor was in consequence authorized by the Council, to offer them the means of transport, for those who were unable to walk. The Indians then removed to White Horse Plains, a distance of twenty miles only from Fort Garry, and camped there. A supply of food was given them, but no ammunition. The United States military authorities in December, 1863, sent an envoy to see the Governor-in-Chief of Rupert's Land, and the North-West Territories, with a view to ordering the Sioux to return to United States territory. The Governor was assured, that, though the American authorities would punish such of the Sioux as had actually been engaged in the massacre, they would furnish the innocent with all needful supplies of food and clothing for the winter, in the event of giving themselves up peaceably. The Council, on hearing this statement, authorized the granting permission to the American authorities to enter into negotiations with the Sioux in the territories, on condition that they adopted no aggressive measures against them, and that in the event of the Americans accepting the proposed permission, they should protect themselves by a sufficient guard to preclude the danger of attack from the Indians, and to ensure the preservation of peace.
In January, 1864, the Council considered a despatch from Major Hatch, in command of the American forces, representing that on the approach of spring, he apprehended a renewal of the barbarous scenes of 1862 and 1863, and asked authority to cross the national boundaries and pursue and capture the murderers, wherever they might be found. The Council accorded the permission asked, but it was never acted on. It is not likely that a permission to cross our borders in pursuit of a flying enemy would ever again be granted. It was conceded in exceptional circumstances by an irresponsible Government, but the growth of the Dominion of Canada has been such, and its relations to the empire have become so intimate, that it 278 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians. would not in my judgment be granted, if at all, except in concert with the Imperal Government. The Governor also reported to the Council, that the main body of the Sioux on the Missouri in the United States, had sent him a message asking his advice as to making peace with the Americans, and expressing a desire to visit Red River in spring, and that he had advised the Sioux to make peace with the Americans, as otherwise, the war would be renewed with increased vigor next summer. He had also counselled them not to visit the Red River country. The Council warned the Sioux not to visit the settlement, but in the summer of 1866, the advice was disregarded. A band of Sioux came to Fort Garry and were leaving quietly, with a number of Saulteaux, but when about a mile from the Fort, they were attacked by a band of Red Lake Saulteaux Indians, who had just come into the settlement from the United States, and five of them were shot. The remainder fled for their lives.
The Council apprehended that the Sioux might congregate in force, and a collision take place between the Sioux and the Saulteaux, and therefore authorized the formation of a body of from fifty to one hundred mounted armed men from among the settlers, to prevent the Sioux from coming into the settlement. Fortunately they did not return and a collision was avoided.
In 1866, the American authorities again opened up communications with the Governor and Council of Assiniboia, through Colonel Adams, who intimated that he had been authorized by Brevet Major-General Corse, commanding the District of Minnesota, "to use every possible means to induce the hostile Sioux to surrender themselves at Fort Abercrombie, and to grant them protection and entire absolution for all past offences in the event of giving themselves up," and asking the aid of the Council, to endeavor to influence the Sioux to accede to the proposals he made. The Council accordingly authorized Judge Black and Mr. McClure to communicate to the Chiefs of the Sioux, the letter of Colonel Adams, and endeavor to induce The Sioux in the North-West Territories. 279 them to accept of it, and to supply them with what provisions might be necessary to carry the Sioux to Fort Abercrombie.
All efforts having that end in view failed, and the Sioux remained, some in the Province of Assiniboia, and others in the territories beyond, As time went on, in 1870, the country passed under the rule of Canada, and when the Government of Canada was established in the Province of Manitoba, which included the district of Assiniboia, the Sioux were found living quietly in tents, in the parishes of Poplar Point, High Bluff, and Portage la Prairie, in what became the new Province of Manitoba. Immigrants from Ontario, had begun to settle in that section of the Province, and the settlement rapidly increased.
The Sioux were found very useful, and were employed as labourers, cutting grain, making fence-rails, and ploughing for the settlers. They also endeavored to gain a subsistence, by killing game and fur-bearing animals, and by fishing. They frequently applied to Lieut.-Gov. Archibald, to be allowed to settle on a reserve, where they might support themselves by farming, a step which that officer favored. In 1873, they renewed the application to his successor, Lieut.-Gov. Morris, who having obtained authority to do so, promised to give them a reserve; upwards of one hundred of these Sioux, resident within Manitoba, having waited upon him, and represented "that they had no homes or means of living," and asked for land and agricultural implements.
They were informed, that the case was exceptional, and that what would be done, would be as a matter of grace and not of right, which they admitted. They were also told that the reserve would be for themselves alone, and that the Sioux now in the States must remain there. A reserve was proposed to them on Lake Manitoba, but they were unwilling to go there, being afraid of the Saulteaux, and especially the Red Lake Saulteaux.
280 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians.
It is satisfactory to state, that after the treaty at the North- West Angle, the Saulteaux having become bound to live at peace with all people under Canadian authority, sent the aged Chief Kou-croche to see the Lieutenant-Governor at Fort Garry, to acquaint him of their desire to make peace with the Sioux The Chief said the words he had heard at the Angle were good, he had promised to live at peace with all men, and he now wished to make friends with the Sioux. The distrust between the two tribes had been great, owing to past events. At the Angle, but for the presence of the troops, the Chippewas would have fled, it having been circulated among them, that the Sioux were coming to attack them. Permission was given to the Chief to pay his visit to the Sioux, and messengers were sent to them, in advance, to explain the object of his visit.
The result of the interview was satisfactory, and the ancient feud was buried. In 1874, two reserves were allotted the Sioux, one on the Assiniboine River, at Oak River, and another still further west, at Bird Tail Creek. These reserves were surveyed, the former containing eight thousand and the latter seven thousand acres.
Settlements, were commenced, on both reserves, and cattle, seed and agricultural implements were supplied to them. In 1875, the Lieutentant-Governor finding that a large number still continued their nomadic life, in the vicinity of Poplar Point and Portage la Prairie, visited them, and obtained their promise to remove to the reserves—which the majority eventually did. Kenneth Mackenzie, Esq., M.P.P., a very successful farmer from Ontario, who had largely employed Sioux laborers, kindly agreed to visit the Assiniboine reserve and direct them from time to time as to the agricultural operations. The Church of England undertook the establishment of a mission and erected buildings there, while the Presbyterians opened a mission at Bird Tail Creek, and obtained the services of a native ordained Sioux miinster, from the Presbytery of Dakotah. The number of these Sioux is estimated at about The Sioux in the North-West Territories. 281 fifteen hundred. Both settlements give promise of becoming self-sustaining, and in view of the rapid settlement of the country, some disposition of them had become necessary.
During their sojourn of thirteen years on British territory, these Indians have on the whole, been orderly, and there was only one grave crime committed among them, under peculiar circumstances—the putting to death of one of their number, which was done under their tribal laws. An indictment was laid before the Grand Jury of Manitoba. and a true bill found against those concerned in this affair, but the chief actors in the tragedy fled. Had they been tried, their defence would probably have been that the act was committed in self-defence. The slain man having, as the Chief represented, killed one of the tribe, cruelly assaulted another, and threatened the lives of others. When the war broke out between the Sioux and the American Government, the American Sioux, endeavored to induce those in Canadian territory to join them, but they refused. Precautionary measures were however taken and messengers sent to them, by the Lieutenant-Governor, to warn them against taking any part. They disclaimed all intention to do so, and said they meant to live peacefully, being grateful for the kindness with which they had been treated. Besides these Manitoban Sioux, there were two other bands in the North-West Territories—one at Turtle Mountains, and another large party in the bounds of the Qu'Appelle Treaty. In 1876 the latter sent their Chiefs to see Lieut.-Gov. Morris and the Hon. Mr. Laird, at Qu'Appelle, and asked to be assigned a home. They were told that their case would be represented to the Canadian authorities. In 1877, the Sioux at the Turtle Mountains, sent two deputations to the Lieutenant-Governor, to ask for a reserve in that region. They said they had lived for fifteen years in British territory they wanted land to be given them and implements to cultivate the soil, and seed to sow, and scythes and sickles to reap their grain, and some cattle.
282 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians.
They were told that they had no claim on the Queen, as they were not British Indians, unless she chose to help them out of her benevolence. This they cheerfully admitted, but hoped that they would be helped. They were further informed that if a reserve was granted them, it could not be near the boundary line as they wished, and that they must avoid all interference with the American trouble with their nation. This they willingly promised, and said "they had already taken care to have nothing to do with the matter." These Sioux were very intelligent and superior Indians, and were well dressed. A reserve was subsequently allotted to them in the year 1876, in the vicinity of Oak Lake, about fifty miles due north of Turtle Mountains, allowing them the' same quantity of land, which had been given the Manitoba Sioux, viz., 80 acres to each band of five persons, and they will doubtless follow the example of their brethren on the other two reserves. With regard to the Sioux to whom reserves have been assigned, the then Minister of the Interior, the Hon. David Mills, thus reported in 1877 : "The report of the Deputy Superintendent-General in 1877 gives some details respecting the operations of the Manitoba Sioux on their reserves, during the past year. He says: 'Upon the whole, they appear to have made fair progress in cultivating the land, and their prospects for the future, had they the advice and assistance of some good farmers, for a few years, would be encouraging. Indeed, the Sioux generally, who are resident in Canada, appear to be more intelligent, industrious, and self-reliant, than the other Indian bands in the North-West.' "
While the authorities were thus successfully dealing with the problem of how to provide a future for these wandering Sioux, a grave difficulty presented itself by the incursion into the North-West Territories of a large body of American Sioux (supposed to be under the lead of what is now an historic name, the Sitting Bull), who had fled from the American troops. The The Sioux in the North-West Territories. 283 Minister of the Interior, the Hon. David Mills, in 1877, thus alluded to this difficult subject :
" The presence of Sitting Bull and his warriors in Canada is a source of anxiety both to the Government of Canada and the United States. These Indians harbor feelings of fierce hostility towards, and thorough distrust of, the United States people and Government. These feelings may be traced to two principal causes, the dishonesty of Indian agents and the failure of the Federal authorities to protect the Indian reservations from being taken possession of by an adventurous and somewhat lawless white population. The officers of the North-West Mounted Police have been instructed to impress upon Sitting Bull and his warriors the necessity of keeping the peace towards the people of the United States, and there is no reason for supposing they will not heed the warnings which have been given them. It is not, however, desirable to encourage them to remain on Canadian territory, and Col. McLeod has been accordingly instructed to impress them with their probable future hardships after the failure of the buffalo, should they elect to remain in Canada ; that the President of the United States and his Cabinet are upright men, willing and anxious to do justice to the Indians ; and should they return peacefully they will be properly cared for, and any treaty made with them will be honestly fulfilled. It is desirable that as wards of the United States they should return to that country, upon the Government of which morally devolves the burden and the responsibility of their civilization."
The Sioux have since continued within the borders of Canada, and the Minister of the Interior, Sir John Macdonald, reported in 1878, " That it is only just to them to say, that they have behaved remarkably well ever since they crossed into Canada." Their presence in the North-West Territories has, however, been attended and will be followed, in any event, by serious consequences. The natural food supply of our Canadian 284 The Treaties of Canada with the Indians. Indians, the Crees, Chippewas, Assiniboines and Blackfeet, of the Plain Country, viz., the buffalo, was rapidly diminishing, and the advent of so large a body of foreign Indians has precipitated its diminution, so that the final extinction of the buffalo is fast drawing near. Already the Government of Canada, in the discharge of a national obligation, which has ever been recognized by all civilized authorities, has been obliged to come to the aid of the Blackfeet and other Indians to avert the danger and suffering from famine. The Sioux are already feeling the hardships of their position, and it will tax the skill and energies of the Government of Canada to provide a remedy. Already, at the instance of the Hon. David Mills, then Minister of the Interior (who visited Washington for the purpose), an effort was made by the American Government to induce the Sioux to return to their homes. Envoys were sent to them from the United States, but they declined to accept the overtures made to them. On the previous occasion of the flight into our territories of the Sioux, the American Government, as has been before recited, after an interval of nearly four years, offered them protection on their return journey from British territory to their homes in the United States and " entire absolution for all past offences." This forms a precedent which should be invoked and would doubtless be accepted by the Sioux if they can be induced to believe in the good faith of the American Government towards them. Every effort should be made to bring about so desirable a result, and the subject will doubtless engage in the future, as it has done in the past, the anxious consideration and wise action of the Canadian Government, who have a right to appeal to the President of the United States and his advisers, to relieve them from the incubus of the presence in our territories of so many of the wards of that Government, and who are without the means or opportunities of obtaining a livelihood for themselves.


Morris, Alexander. The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories Including the Negotiations on Which They Are Based, and Other Information Relating Thereto.. Toronto: Willing & Williamson, 1880. Digitized by University of Alberta Libraries.



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Personnes participantes: