The Treaties At Forts Carlton And Pitt

The treaties made at Forts Carlton and Pitt in the year 1876, were of a very important character.

The great region covered by them, abutting on the areas included in Treaties Numbers Three and Four, embracing an area of approximately 120,000 square miles, contains a vast extent of fertile territory and is the home of the Cree nation. The Cree had, very early after the annexation of the North-West Territories to Canada, desired a treaty of alliance with the Government. So far back as the year 1871, Mr. Simpson, the Indian Commissioner, addressing the Secretary of State in a dispatch of date, the 3rd November 1871, used the following language:

“I desire also to call the attention of His Excellency to the state of affairs in the Indian country on the Saskatchewan. The intelligence that Her Majesty is treating with the Chippewa Indians has already reached the ears of the Cree and Blackfeet tribes. In the neighborhood of Fort Edmonton, on the Saskatchewan, there is a rapidly increasing population of miners and other white people, and it is the opinion of Mr. W. J. Christie, the officer in charge of the Saskatchewan District, that a treaty with the Indians of that country, or at least an assurance during the coming year that a treaty will shortly be made, is essential to the peace, if not the actual retention, of the country. I would refer His Excellency, on this subject, to the report of Lieut. Butler, and to the enclosed memoranda of Mr. W. J. Christie, the officer above alluded to.”

He also enclosed an extract of a letter from Mr. Christie, then Chief Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and subsequently one of the Treaty Commissioners, in which, he forwarded the messages of the Cree Chiefs to Lieut.-Gov. Archibald, “our Great Mother’s representative at Fort Garry, Red River Settlement.” This extract and messages are as follows.

The Treaties At Forts Carlton And Pitt – Edmonton House, 13th April, 1871

On the 13th instant (April) I had a visit from the Cree Chiefs, representing the Plain Cree from this to Carlton, accompanied by a few followers.

The object of their visit was to ascertain whether their lands had been sold or not, and what was the intention of the Canadian Government in relation to them. They referred to the epidemic that had raged throughout the past summer, and the subsequent starvation, the poverty of their country, the visible diminution of the buffalo, their sole support, ending by requesting certain presents at once, and that I should lay their case before Her Majesty’s representative at Fort Garry. Many stories have reached these Indians through various channels, ever since the transfer of the North-West Territories to the Dominion of Canada, and they were most anxious to hear from myself what had taken place.

I told them that the Canadian Government had as yet made no application for their lands or hunting grounds, and when anything was required of them, most likely Commissioners would be sent beforehand to treat with them, and that until then they should remain quiet and live at peace with all men. I further stated that Canada, in her treaties with Indians, heretofore, had dealt most liberally with them, and that they were now in settled houses and well off, and that I had no doubt in settling with them the same liberal policy would be followed.

As I was aware that they had heard many exaggerated stories about the troops in Red River, I took the opportunity of telling them why troops had been sent, and if Her Majesty sent troops to the Saskatchewan, it was as much for the protection of the red as the white man, and that they would be for the maintenance of law and order.

They were highly satisfied with the explanations offered, and said they would welcome civilization. As their demands were complied with, and presents given to them, their immediate followers, and for the young men left in camp, they departed well pleased for the present tune, with fair promises for the future. At a subsequent interview with the Chiefs alone, they requested that I should write down their words, or messages to their Great Master in Red River. I accordingly did so, and have transmitted the messages as delivered. Copies of the proclamation issued, prohibiting the traffic in spirituous liquors to Indians or others, and the use of strychnine in the destruction of animal life, have been received, and due publicity given to them. But without any power to enforce these laws, it is almost useless to publish them here; and I take this opportunity of most earnestly soliciting, on behalf of the Company’s servants, and settlers in this district, that protection be afforded to life and property here as soon as possible, and that Commissioners be sent to speak with the Indians on behalf of the Canadian Government.

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