Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Okay. I Freely Admit....

...I've been ignoring this blog. I've been over at SNN's website shooting my mouth off on stories about Theresa Spence and the Idle No More movement. I've been presenting facts, which, quite naturally have been countered with the usual accusations that I am iiiiiiignorant and raaaaaacist, but no facts of their own.

In any case, I've been reading portions of a local history book which includes histories of many families in the area where I grew up, including my own. But this time, I was reading some general pieces from that book, which I had never read before.

Below is one of those pieces. It deals with Chief Sitting Bull and his brief foray across the Medicine Line into the Great White Mother's land, known as Canada.

I grew up in the Qu'Appelle Valley and went to school with several Metis kids.  One of the Metis (half-breed) families I went to school with were descendants of Cuthbert grant and within a 50 mile radius of where I grew up there are roughly 50 Indian reserves. These snippets, taken from this book, describe some things I did not know, most specifically about the presence of Chief Sitting Bull in the area. I will deal with the bits about Cuthbert Grant in a second instalment:

Two Visits of 1881
"The end of one era, and the beginning of another, are well illustrated by the contrasting stories of the separate visits of two famous people to our area in 1881. Sitting Bull, the noted Sioux leader, arrived in May, and stayed until late in June.  The Marquis of Lorne, Governor General of Canada, came by one day in mid-August.

Sitting Bull, with a pitiful remnant of fewer than a hundred of his followers, came to the Mounted Police establishment at Fort Qu'Appelle to make a final appeal for a reservation in Canada. As is well known, he had fled to Canada to escape  the wrath of the United States Army after the Indian victory over General Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn of 1876.  By 1877, an estimated four to five thousand Sioux refugees were congregated in and about the Wood Mountain area of present-day Saskatchewan. They were accepted on this side of the border as legitimate refugees, although with strict rules for their behavior. They claimed the protection of the British crown.  They claimed the protection of the British crown on the basis of allegiance of their forefathers to the British in conflicts with the U.S.A., generations before.  Also, they claimed that much of the plains country north of the border was  part of their ancestral hunting territory, and that some of them had been born here.

Under the watchful eyes of the NWMP their hunting parties ranged widely across the south country with an occasional forbidden foray across the 49th  parallel.  However, the hunt became progressively less productive year by year.  In separate  groups, large and small, most of the refugees returned to the United States, accepting the promise of amnesty of the American authorities.

By the end of the very cold, hard winter of 1881, only about 300 remained in Canada.  Sitting Bull chose the fittest of those to make the trek to Fort Qu'Appelle, travelling overland more than two hundred miles. The splendor of their previous proud position as masters of the plains had gone. This small group was described as "haggard, lean and unkempt",  with inadequate numbers of worn out horses.

They were disappointed to find that Superintendent James Walsh, their special friend and advocate in the Police, has left Fort Qu'Appelle and was not expected back.  Hoping against hope, they stayed on for over a month camping on the prairie above the police barracks.  From there they ranged far up and down the valley, hunting and digging roots of the wild Indian turnip.  Land surveyor Mr. W. T. Thompson reported meeting two of them near present day Sintaluta that summer. This would place them about 15 miles southeast of Katepwa.

Their distant relatives, the Sisseton Sioux of the Standing Buffalo  reserve at the northwest end of Echo Lake shared some of their food with them.  Later it was reported that a few of the men of Sitting Bull's group stayed on at that reserve, after the main party left.   Simon Blondeau, a well-to-do Metis, helped relieve their situation with a large supply of white fish he had on hand.  Father Joseph Hugonard of the Lebret Mission gave them flour and garden produce in exchange for a few horses and some other almost useless possessions.

But clearly they  were not welcome.  Most local Indians and the Metis, although perhaps sympathetic, resented their presence here.  White settlers feared them. The Hudson's Bay Company post at the Fort had an insufficient stock of provisions to supply them. The Police and Indian Department officials were charged with the responsibility of carrying out the policy determined by Ottawa, and urged them to return to the United States.

Eventually, late in June, they returned to Wood Mountain with a police escort, and soon after that crossed the border to surrender and accept their assignment to previously allotted reservations.  A handful remained at Wood Mountain, where their descendants live to this day, on a small reservation which was granted to them by the Canadian Government many years later (1913).

When he surrendered to the U.S. Army on July 9, 1881, Sitting Bull asked that it be recorded that he was the last of the Sioux to lay down his rifle. "
In 1881, as Sitting Bull was laying down his rifle, my ancestors took up homesteading in the Qu'Appelle Valley, about 30 miles east of Fort Qu'Appelle, most likely on land where Sitting Bull and his "haggard, lean and unkempt" followers had desperately tried to make a living. Shit happens in history.

This same local history book records the building of a little school and a small Anglican church, both with the help of some of my great-great uncles. Some of my ancestors are buried in that little churchyard.

A short few years later, two of my uncles headed north to help put down the second Riel Rebellion. At the foot of the valley, near the original homestead, stand two tall fir trees that those two had brought back with them from Batosh.

Now for the other 1881 visitor:
"In contrast, the Marquis of Lorne arrived in splendor. This English nobleman, scion of a distinguished family, was married to the Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria [Ed: no relation]. As Governor General of Canada, he travelled to the West to see at first hand this frontier country, in order to assess the conditions for immigration and settlement.  Leaving the railway at the end of construction, a few miles west of Portage la Prairie, he travelled by steamboat on the Assiniboine River, reaching Fort Ellis five days later. The viceregal party then proceeded overland following the well travelled south trail that brought them down into the valley  just east of present day Ellisboro.  Following this, they came along our north shore on August 17 on the way to Lebret.  They were welcomed there by Father Hugonard and his parishioners, after passing under an archway of green boughs, erected for the occasion. An even larger welcome awaited them at Fort Qu'Appelle.  There the police and settlers were augmented by many hundreds of Indians.  After a two-day stay, they pressed on with their trip, which took them to the northwest to visit Fort Carlton, Prince Albert and Battleford, then to present day southern Alberta.

The Governor General's entourage which passed along our shore included some 40 members of the NWMP and a number of horse drawn wagons, including three army ambulances.  His Excellency's personal staff included a chaplain, a surgeon, a military secretary, three aides-de-camp, an artist to record the trip, a French chef and six servants.  As well, there were correspondents along from the London Times and the Toronto Globe."
What a difference!  Definitely the passing of an era. I think this is where my interest in history is rooted. It was all around me, as I was growing up.

Tomorrow, the Metis history and the connection to Cuthbert Grant.

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