Treaty of 3 October 1873

Sir, –I have the honor to enclose copy of a treaty made by myself, Lieut. -Col. Provencher, Indian agent and S. J. Dawson, Esq., Commissioner, acting on behalf of Her Majesty, of the one part, and the Saulteaux tribe of Ojibway Indians on the other, at the North-West Angle of the Lake of the Woods, on the 3rd of October, for the relinquishment of the Indian title to the tract of land therein described and embracing 55,000 square miles. In the first place, the holding of the negotiation of the treaty had been appointed by you to take place at the North-West Angle before you requested me to take part therein, and Mr. Dawson had obtained the consent of the Indians to meet there on the 10th of September, but they afterwards changed their minds, and refused to meet me unless I came to Fort Francis. I refused to do this, as I felt that the yielding to the demand of the Indians in this respect would operate injuriously to the success of the treaty, and the results proved the correctness of the opinion I had formed. I therefore sent a special agent (Mr. Pierre Levaillier) to warn them that I would meet them as arranged at the North-West Angle on the 25th, or not at all this year, to which they eventually agreed.

I left here for the Angle on the 23rd September and arrived there on the 25th, when I was joined by Messrs. Provencher and Dawson the last named of whom I was glad to find had been associated with the Commissioners in consequence of the resignation of Mr. Lindsey Russell, thereby giving us the benefit as well of his knowledge of the country to be dealt with, as of the several bands of Indians therein. Mr. Pether, of Fort Francis, was also in attendance, and Mr. Provencher was accompanied by Mr. St. John, of his department.

On arriving, the Indians, who were already there, came up to the house I occupied, in procession, headed by braves bearing a banner and a Union Jack, and accompanied by others beating drums. They asked leave to perform a dance in my honor, after which they presented to me the pipe of peace. They were then supplied with provisions and returned to their camp. As the Indians had not all arrived, and for other reasons, the 26th, 27th and 28th were passed without any progress but on the 29th I sent them word that they must meet the Commissioners next morning. Accordingly, on the 30th, they met us in a tent, the use of which I had obtained from the military authorities. I explained to them the object of the meeting, but as they informed me that they were not ready to confer with us, I adjourned the meeting until next day. On the 1st October they again assembled. The principal cause of the delay was divisions and jealousies among themselves. The nation had not met for many years, and some of them had never before been assembled together. They were very jealous of each other, and dreaded any of the Chiefs having individual communications with me, to prevent which they had guards on the approaches to my house and Mr. Dawson’s tent. On the 2nd October they again assembled, when I again explained the object of the meeting, through Mr. McPherson, an intelligent half-breed trader, whose services I secured. M. Chatelan, the Government interpreter, was also present. They had selected three spokesmen, and had also an Indian reporter, whose duty was to commit to memory all that was said. They had also secured the services of M. Joseph Nolin, of Point du Chene, to take notes in French of the negotiations, a copy of which notes I obtained from him and herewith enclose. The spokesmen informed me they would not treat as to the land until we settled with them as to the Dawson route, with regard to which they alleged Mr. Dawson had made promises which had not been kept, and that they had not been paid for the wood used in building the steamers, nor for the use of the route itself. Mr. Dawson explained that he had paid them for cutting wood, but had always asserted a common right to the use of wood and the waterway. He asked them what promise had not been kept, and pointed out that the Government had twice before endeavored to treat with them for a settlement of all matters. He referred them to me as to the general question of the use of the route. They were unable to name any promises which had not been kept. Thereupon I told them I came on behalf of the Queen and the Government of the Dominion of Canada to treat with them with regard to the lands and all other matters, but that they refused to hear what I had to say; they had closed my mouth; and as we would not treat except for the settlement of all matters past and future I could not speak unless they asked me to do so. They conferred among themselves, and seeing that we were quite firm, the spokesman came forward and said that they would not close my mouth, after which they would make their demands. The Commissioners had had a conference and agreed, as they found there was no hope of a treaty for a less sum, to offer five dollars per head, a present of ten dollars, and reserves of farming and other lands not exceeding one square mile per family of five, or in that proportion, sums within the limits of our instructions, though I had private advices if possible not to give the maximum sum named, as the Government had been under a misapprehension as to amounts given to the bands in the United States. The Chiefs heard my proposal, and the meeting adjourned until next day. On the 3rd October the Chiefs again assembled and made a counter proposition, of which I enclose a copy, being the demand they have urged since 1869. I also enclose an estimate I had made of the money value of the demand, amounting to $125,000 per annum. On behalf of the Commissioners I at once peremptorily refused the demand. The spokesmen returned to the Chiefs, who were arranged on benches, the people sitting on the ground behind them, and on their return they informed me that the Chiefs, warriors and braves were of one mind, that they would make a treaty only if we acceded to their demand. I told them if so the conference was over, that I would return and report that they had refused to make a reasonable treaty, that hereafter I would treat with those bands who were willing to treat, but that I would advise them to return to the council and reconsider their determination before next morning, when, if not, I should certainly leave. This brought matters to a crisis. The Chief of the Lac Seul band came forward to speak. The others tried to prevent him, but he was secured a hearing. He stated that he represented four hundred people in the north, that they wished a treaty, that they wished a school-master to be sent them to teach their children the knowledge of the white man; that they had begun to cultivate the soil and were growing potatoes and Indian corn, but wished other grain for seed and some agricultural implements and cattle. This Chief spoke under evident apprehension as to the course he was taking in resisting the other Indians, and displayed much good sense and moral courage. He was followed by the Chief “Blackstone,” who urged the other Chiefs to return to the council and consider my proposals, stating that he was ready to treat, though he did not agree to my proposals nor to those made to me. I then told them that I had known all along they were not united as they had said; that they ought not to allow a few Chiefs to prevent a treaty, and that I wished to treat with them as a nation and not with separate bands, as they would otherwise compel me to do, and therefore urged them to return to their council, promising to remain another day to give them time for consideration. They spent the night in council, and next morning having received a message from M. Charles Nolin, a French half-breed, that they were becoming more amenable to reason, I requested the Hon. James McKay (who went to the Angle three times to promote this treaty), Charles Nolin and Pierre Levaillier to go down to the Indian Council, and as men of their own blood, give them friendly advice. They accordingly did so, and were received by the Indians, and in about half an hour afterwards were followed by Messrs. Provencher and St. John, who also took part in the interview with the Council of Chiefs. The Chiefs were summoned to the conference by the sound of a bugle and again met us, when they told me that the determination to adhere to their demands had been so strong a bond that they did not think it could be broken, but they had now determined to see if I would give them anything more.

Commissioners

The Commissioners had had a conference, and agreed previously to offer a small sum for ammunition and twine for nets, yearly–a few agricultural implements and seeds, for any band actually farming or commencing to farm, and to increase the money payment by two dollars per head if it should be found necessary in order to secure a treaty, maintaining a permanent annuities at the sum fixed. The Indians on the other hand had determined on asking fifteen dollars, with some other demands. In fixing the ten dollars the Commissioners had done so as a sum likely to be accepted in view of three dollars per head having been paid the Indians the first year the Dawson route was used, and that they had received nothing since. In reply to the Indians, I told them I was glad that they had reconsidered their decision, and that as they had done so, being desirous of inducing them to practice agriculture and to have the means of getting food if their fishing and hunting failed, we would give them certain implements, cattle and grain, once for all, and the extra two dollars per head of a money payment. This proposal was received favorably, but the spokesmen again came forward and said they had some questions to ask before accepting my proposal. They wanted suits of clothing every year for all the bands, and fifty dollars for every Chief annually. This I declined, but told them that there were some presents of clothing and food which would be given them this year at the close of treaty. They then asked free passes forever over the Canada Pacific Railway, which I refused. They then asked that no “fire-water” should be sold on their reserves, and I promised that a regulation to this effect should be introduced into the treaty. They then asked that they should not be sent to war, and I told them the Queen was not in the habit of employing the Indians in warfare. They asked that they should have power to put turbulent men off their reserves, and I told them the law would be enforced against such men. They asked what reserves would be given them, and were informed by Mr. Provencher that reserves of farming and other lands would be given them as previously stated, and that any land actually in cultivation by them would be respected. They asked if the mines would be theirs; I said if they were found on their reserves it would be to their benefit, but not otherwise. They asked if an Indian found a mine would he be paid for it, I told them he could sell his information if he could find a purchaser like any other person. They explained that some of their children had married in the States, and they wished them to return and live among them, and wanted them included in the treaty. I told them the treaty was not for American Indians, but any bona fide British Indians of the class they mentioned who should within two years be found resident on British soil would be recognized.

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They said there were some ten to twenty families of half-breeds who were recognized as Indians and lived with them, and they wished them included. I said the treaty was not for whites, but I would recommend that those families should be permitted the option of taking either status as Indians or whites, but that they could not take both. They asked that Mr. Charles Nolin should be employed as an Indian Agent, and I stated that I would submit his name to the Government with favorable mention of his services on that occasion. They asked that the Chiefs and head men, as in other treaties, should get an official suit of clothing, a nag, and a medal, which I promised. Mawedopenais produced one of the medals given to the Red River Chiefs, said it was not silver, and they were ashamed to wear it, as it turned black, and then, with an air of great contempt, struck it with his knife. I stated that I would mention what he had said, and the manner in which he had spoken. They also stated the Hudson Bay Company had staked out ground at Fort Francis, on part of the land they claimed to have used, and to be entitled to, and I promised that enquiry would be made into the matter. They apologized for the number of questions put me, which occupied a space of some hours, and then the principal spokesman, Mawedopenais, came forward and drew off his gloves, and spoke as follows: “Now you see me stand before you all. What has been done here to-day, has been done openly before the Great Spirit, and before the nation, and I hope that I may never hear any one say that this treaty has been done secretly. And now in closing this council, I take off my glove, and in taking your hand, I deliver over my birthright, and lands, and in taking your hand I hold fast all the promises you have made, and I hope they will last as long as the sun goes round, and the water flows, as you have said.” To which I replied as follows: “I accept your hand, and with it the lands and will keep all my promises, in the firm belief that the treaty now to be signed will bind the red man and the white man together as friends forever.” The conference then adjourned for an hour to enable the text of the treaty to be completed in accordance with the understanding arrived at. At the expiration of that period the conference was resumed, and after the reading of the treaty, and an explanation of it in Indian by the Hon. James McKay it was signed by the Commissioners and by the several Chiefs, the first signature being that of a very aged hereditary Chief. The next day the Indians were paid by Messrs. Pether and Graham, of the Department of Public Works; the latter of whom kindly offered his services as Mr. Provencher had to leave to keep another appointment. The negotiation was a very difficult and trying one, and required on the part of the Commissioners great patience and firmness. On the whole I am of opinion that the issue is a happy one. With the exception of two bands in the Shebandowan District, whose adhesion was secured in advance and the signatures of whose Chiefs Mr. Dawson left to secure, the Indian title has been extinguished over the vast tract of country comprising 55,000 square miles lying between the upper boundary of the Lake Superior treaty, and that of the treaty made by Mr. Commissioner Simpson at Manitoba Post, and embracing within its bounds the Dawson route, the route of the Canada Pacific Railway and an extensive lumber and mineral region. It is fortunate, too that the arrangement has been effected, as the Indians along the lakes and rivers were dissatisfied at the use of the waters, which they considered theirs, having been taken without compensation, so much so indeed that I believe if the treaty had not been made, the Government would have been compelled to place a force on the line next year.

Closing

Before closing this dispatch, I have much pleasure in bearing testimony to the hearty co-operation and efficient aid the Commissioners received from the Metis who were present at the Angle, and who, with one accord, whether of French or English origin, used the influence which their relationships to the Indians gave them to impress them with the necessity of their entering into the treaty. I must also express my obligations to the detachment of troops under the command of Captain Macdonald, assigned me as an escort, for their soldierly bearing and excellent conduct while at the Angle. Their presence was of great value, and had the effect of deterring traders from bringing articles of illicit trade for sale to the Indians; and moreover exercised a moral influence which contributed most materially to the success of the negotiations. I have further to add, that it was found impossible, owing to the extent of the country treated for, and the want of knowledge of the circumstances of each band, to define the reserves to be granted to the Indians. It was therefore agreed that the reserves should be hereafter selected by officers of the Government, who should confer with the several bands, and pay due respect to lands actually cultivated by them. A provision was also introduced to the effect that any of the reserves, or any interest in them, might hereafter be sold for the benefit of the Indians by the Government with their consent. I would suggest that instructions should be given to Mr. Dawson to select the reserves with all convenient speed; and, to prevent complication I would further suggest that no patents should be issued, or licenses granted, for mineral or timber lands, or other lands, until the question of the reserves has been first adjusted.

I have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, Alexander Morris Lieut. Governor.

Note: Mr. Dawson succeeded in obtaining the adhesion to the treaty of the Chiefs in question.


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