September 12, 1874.
In the morning four Indians, two Cree and two Saulteaux, waited on the Commissioners and asked that they should meet the Indians half way, and off the Company’s reserve, and that the soldiers should remove their camps beside the Indian encampment, that they would meet the Commissioners then and confer with them; that there was something in the way of their speaking openly where the marquee had been pitched. Their request was complied with as regarded the place of meeting only, and the spot for the conference selected by Col. Smith and the Indians.
The meeting was opened by the Lieut.-Governor, who said, “Cree and Saulteaux,–I have asked you to meet us here to-day. We have been asking you for many days to meet us and this is the first time you have all met us. If it was not my duty and if the Queen did not wish it, I would not have taken so much trouble to speak to you. We are sent a long way to give you her message. Yesterday I told the Cree her message, and I know that the Saulteaux know what it was, but that there may be no mistake, I will tell it to you again and I will tell you more. When I have given my message understand that you will have to answer it, as I and my friends will have to leave you. You are the subjects of the Queen, you are her children, and you are only a little band to all her other children. She has children all over the world, and she does right with them all. She cares as much for you as she cares for her white children, and the proof of it is that wherever her name is spoken her people whether they be red or white, love her name and are ready to die for it, because she is always just and true. What she promises never changes. She knows the condition of her people here; you are not her only red children; where I come from, in Ontario and in Quebec, she has many red children, and away beyond the mountains she has other red children, and she wants to care for them all. Last year I was among the Saulteaux; we have the Saulteaux where I came from. They were my friends. I was the son of a white Chief who had a high place among them, they told him they would do his work, they called him Shekeisheik. I learned from him to love the red man, and it was a pleasant duty and good to my heart when the Queen told me to come among her Saulteaux children and I expect the Cree and the Saulteaux to take my hand as they did last year. In our hands they feel the Queen’s, and if they take them the hands of the white and red man will never unclasp. In other lands the white and red man are not such friends as we have always been, and why? Because the Queen always keeps her word, always protects her red men. She learned last winter that bad men from the United States had come into her country and had killed some of her red children, What did she say? This must not be, I will send my men and will not suffer these bad men to hurt my red children, their lives are very dear to me. And now I will tell you our message. The Queen knows that her red children often find it hard to live. She knows that her red children, their wives and children, are often hungry, and that the buffalo will not last for ever and she desires to do something for them. More than a hundred years ago, the Queen’s father said to the red men living in Quebec and Ontario, I will give you land and cattle and set apart Reserves for you, and will teach you. What has been the result? There the red men are happy; instead of getting fewer in number by sickness they are growing in number; their children have plenty. The Queen wishes you to enjoy the same blessings, and so I am here to tell you all the Queen’s mind, but recollect this, the Queen’s High Councilor here from Ottawa, and I, her Governor, are not traders; we do not come here in the spirit of traders; we come here to tell you openly, without hiding anything, just what the Queen will do for you, just what she thinks is good for you, and I want you to look me in the face, eye to eye, and open your hearts to me as children would to a father, as children ought to do to a father, and as you ought to the servants of the great mother of us all. I told my friends yesterday that things changed here, that we are here today and that in a few years it may be we will not be here, but after us will come our children. The Queen thinks of the children yet unborn. I know that there are some red men as well as white men who think only of today and never think of to-morrow. The Queen has to think of what will come long after today. Therefore, the promises we have to make to you are not for to-day only but for to-morrow, not only for you but for your children born and unborn, and the promises we make will be carried out as long as the sun shines above and the water flows in the ocean. When you are ready to plant seed the Queen’s men will lay off Reserves so as to give a square mile to every family of five persons, and on commencing to farm the Queen will give to every family cultivating the soil two hoes, one spade, one scythe for cutting the grain, one axe and plough, enough of seed wheat, barley, oats and potatoes to plant the land they get ready. The Queen wishes her red children to learn the cunning of the white man and when they are ready for it she will send schoolmasters on every Reserve and pay them. We have come through the country for many days and we have seen hills and but little wood and in many places little water, and it may be a long time before there are many white men settled upon this land, and you will have the right of hunting and fishing just as you have now until the land is actually taken up. (His Honor repeated the offers which had been given to the Saulteaux on the previous day.) I think I have told you all that the Queen is willing to do for you. It ought to show you that she has thought more about you than you have about her. I will be glad now to have those whom you have selected speak for you and I again ask you to keep nothing back. This is the first time you have had white chiefs, officers of the Queen, so high in her Councils, so trusted by her among you. We have no object but your good at heart, and therefore we ask you to speak out to us, to open your minds to us, and believe that we are your true and best friends, who will never advise you badly, who will never whisper bad words in your ears, who only care for your good and that of your children. I have told you the truth, the whole truth, and now we expect to hear from the two nations and any other tribe who may be represented here. My friend Mr. Laird reminds me that he has come from an Island in the far off sea, that he has go back to Ottawa and then go to his own home, that he was asked specially to help me in speaking to you and advising me. He is obliged to go away as I am, and therefore we want you to answer us.”
COTE, or MEE-MAY (Saulteaux Chief)–“I cannot say anything to you. It is that man (pointing to Loud Voice) will speak.”
LOUD VOICE (Cree Chief)–“If I could speak, if I could manage to utter my feelings there is reason why I should answer you back; but there is something in my way, and that is all I can tell you. This man (the Gambler) will tell you.”
O-TA-KA-O-NAN, OR THE GAMBLER.–“This morning I saw the chief of the soldiers, who asked me what is in your way that you cannot come and meet the Queen’s messengers; then I told him what was in the way. And now that I am come in, what do I see? You were rather slow in giving your hand. You said that the Queen spoke through you and spoke very plainly, but I cannot speak about what you said at present; the thing that is in the way that is what I am working at.”
LIEUT.-GOV. MORRIS–“We have come here for the purpose of knowing what is in your mind. I held out my hand but you did not do as your nation did at the Angle. When I arrived there the Chief and his men came and gave me the pipe of peace and paid me every honor. Why? Because I was the servant of the queen. I was not slow in offering my hand, I gave it freely and from my heart, and whenever we found I could please you by coming here, we sent the chief of the soldiers to select a suitable place to meet you. You tell me there is something in your mind. If there is anything standing between us, how can we take it away or answer you unless we know what it is?”
THE GAMBLER–“I told the soldier master you did not set your camp in order, you came and staid beyond over there, that is the reason I did not run in over there. Now when you have come here, you see sitting out there a mixture of Half-breeds, Cree, Saulteaux and Stonies, all are one, and you were slow in taking the hand of a Half-breed. All these things are many things that are in my way. I cannot speak about them.”
LIEUT.-GOV. MORRIS–“Why are you here to-day? because we asked you to come, because it was a good place to speak with them the reason we wished to see them. I am now quite willing to tell you all about Fort Pelly. The Queen heard that Americans had come into the country and were treating her Indian children badly. I myself sent her word that twenty-five of her Indian children, men, women and children, had been shot down by the American traders, then she resolved to protect her red children, for that reason she has determined to have a body of men on horses as policemen to keep all bad people, white or red, in order. She will not allow her red children to be made drunk and shot down again as some of them were a few months ago. Now you ought to be glad that you have a Queen who takes such an interest in you. What are they doing now up at Fort Pelly? The men must have some place to live in this winter, they cannot live out of doors, and some men have gone to Fort Pelly to build houses for them, and the Queen expects that you will do all you can to help them because they are your friends. There was a treaty before and Indians are paid under it, but we were told as we passed Fort Ellice that there were a few Indians there who were not included in that treaty, and had never been paid, and they agreed to meet us when we go back, I do not quite understand another point. We have here Cree, Saulteaux, Assiniboines and other Indians, they are all one, and we have another people, the Half-breeds, they are of your blood and my blood. The Queen cares for them, one of them is here an officer with a Queen’s coat on his back. At the Lake of the Woods last winter every Half-Breed who was there with me was helping me, and I was proud of it, and glad to take the word back to the Queen, and her servants, and you may rest easy, you may leave the Half-breeds in the hands of the Queen who will deal generously and justly with them. There was a Half-breed came forward to the table. He was only one of many here. I simply wanted to know whether he was authorized by you to take any part in the Council, as it is the Indians alone we are here to meet. He told me you wanted him here as a witness. We have plenty of witnesses here, but when I heard that, I welcomed him as I had done you, and shook hands with him, and he ought to have told you that. I have given our answer and I have always found this that it is good for men to try to understand each other, and to speak openly, if they do that and both are earnest, if their hearts are pure, they will and can understand each other.”