8th July 1876
To The Honorable The Minister Of The Interior.
Sir,–I have the honor to inform you that, in compliance with your request, I left this on the 14th ult. with the view of proceeding to the Long Plain on the Assiniboine, in order to meet the Indians of the Portage Band, to arrange the dispute with regard to the reserve, and to settle the outside promises. Mr. Graham, of the Indian Department, and Mr. Reid, P.L.S., also went there at my request, the one to act as paymaster, and the other, as you wished, to survey the reserve. Owing to the prevalence of heavy rain the roads were in so bad a condition that I was four days in reaching the Long Plain, while we were also subjected to inconvenience and expense by the detention of the provisions, owing to the same cause. Added to my other discomforts was the presence of mosquitoes in incredible numbers, so that the journey and the sojourn at the Plain were anything but pleasurable. I had taken the precaution to request Mr. Cummings, the interpreter, to summon the White Mud Indians as well as Yellow Quill’s band, and those who adhered to the Short Bear.
On my arrival at the Long Plains, which I accomplished on the 17th, I found about five hundred Indians assembled, but camped in three separate encampments. On arriving, I was saluted by a feu de joie. At the Portage, Mr. Graham had obtained some provisions, which he had sent forward in carts.
On our way we met some carts sent by the Indians to relieve my waggons of the tents and baggage, the Indian trail being almost impracticable; but instead of so using them I sent them on toward the Portage to meet the loaded carts, and was thus enabled to get the temporary supply of provisions to the Plain, which was fortunate, as the Indians were without food. The evening of my arrival the Councilors of Yellow Quill came to talk with me, but I declined to do so, telling them that the Chief had not come, and I would only speak with him. I acted thus, in consequence of the conduct of their head men, last year, when they controlled the Chief and coerced the whole band. In a short time Yellow Quill came with them to see me, and finding that they had come about provisions, I referred them to Mr. Graham, who, I informed them, had charge of the provisions and payments. The incident had a marked effect in giving tone to the following negotiations.
On Monday I met the Indians, who ranged themselves in three parties. I explained to them the proposed arrangement of the outside promises very fully, and told them that as they were willing to accept of the settlement last year, I did so for their information only. I then took up the question of the reserve, read the terms in which it was referred to in the Stone Fort Treaty, explained to them that they were getting double the land any other Indians in Treaties Numbers One and Two were doing, but told them the reserve belonged to all of them, and not to Yellow Quill’s band alone. I then called on them to speak to me, asking Yellow Quill first. He said he did not understand the extent of the reserve. I then asked Mr. Reid to shew them a diagram of it, and to explain to them its length in ordinary miles, and otherwise, which he did very satisfactorily, and at length they comprehended it. I then called on Short Bear’s band to express their views. They said they wanted a reserve at the Long Plain, if it was only a little piece of land; that they liked the place, that they had built houses and planted gardens, had cut oak to build more houses, and wished to farm there. I then called on the White Mud Indians. They said that they were Christians and had always lived at the White Mud River; that they did not wish to join either Yellow Quill’s or Short Bear’s reserve, but desired a reserve at the Big Point. I told them they could not have it there, as there were settlers, and the Government wished them to join one of the other bands, and explained to them that their holdings would be respected, except where inadvertently sold. I took this course, as I had ascertained that the plan of Yellow Quill’s head men was to make no settlement this year, and that they had induced the other Indians to agree to act in that way. I accordingly so shaped my opening speech and my dealings with the Indians as to defeat this project, by securing the support of Short Bear’s and the White Mud Indians, which I succeeded in doing, though Yellow Quill’s spokesman taunted the others with having broken their agreement. As the conference proceeded, Yellow Quill’s Councilors said they did not want the band broken up, as they wished all to live together. I told Yellow Quill he would have his reserve on both sides of the river, reserving the navigation, and that if they could agree to go to one reserve, I would be pleased; but if not, that I would settle the matter. Yellow Quill said his Councilors were willing that the other Indians should have a separate reserve provided they retained the belt of twenty-five miles, in addition to their proportion of the reserve. I informed them this could not be done; the reserve belonged to all. They then asked for an adjournment, in order that they might meet together and have a smoke over it, to assemble again when I hoisted my flag. After a couple of hours interval I again convened them. The Short Bears and White Mud Indians adhered to what they stated to me, but Yellow Quill’s band insisted on one reserve for all, but admitted that the objections of Short Bear’s band to the place asked by them were well founded, and that it was sandy and unfit for farming, and that they would like to select a reserve higher up the River Assiniboine. I then adjourned the conference until morning, and asked them to meet together and be prepared for settlement.
On Tuesday, the 20th June, the Indians again responded to the hoisting of my flag, and met at 9 o’clock. Yellow Quill told me that his band were now willing to separate from the others, and wished to select a reserve higher up the river. I informed them that I would accede to their request, but that they must do it at once, and on the approval thereof by the Privy Council it would be laid off. Short Bear’s band still desired a reserve at the Long Plain, to which I assented. The White Mud River Indians asked for a separate reserve where they could farm, and I informed them that under the discretionary powers I possessed I would have a reserve selected for them, giving them their proportion of the original reserve. The Indians then asked that the two dollars per head, which had, as they said, slipped through their fingers last year, should be paid to them, and I told them that I had been authorized to do so, which gave them much satisfaction. In anticipation of a settlement I had prepared a draft agreement, which was being copied for me by Mr. Graham. I informed them of this, and stated that I would sign it, and that the Chiefs and Councilors must do so likewise, so that there could be no misunderstanding. When the agreement was completed, I asked Mr. Cummings, the Interpreter, to read it to them, which he did. Three Indians, who understood English, and who had at an early period been selected by the Indians to check the interpretation of what was said, standing by, and Mr. Cummings being assisted by Mr. Cook, of St. James, who, at Mr. Cummings’ request, I had associated with him, on the Indians choosing their interpreters. I then signed the agreement, and called upon Yellow Quill to do so. He came forward cheerfully and said he would sign it, because he now understood what he never did before, viz., what was agreed to at the Stone Fort. I then called on his Councilors to sign, but they refused, saying they had agreed by the mouth. I then told the Indians that unless the Councilors signed nothing could be done, and that the Councilors who refused would be responsible for the failure of the negotiations. One of them then signed, but the other persistently refused. I repeated my warning, and at length he reluctantly came forward and said he wished to ask me a question, “Would the head men be paid?” I told him I had no authority to do so, but would report his request. He said he did not expect it this year, but hoped for it next. Eventually he signed the agreement. I then said I would recognize Short Bear as a Chief, and asked him to select his Councilors and braves. He did so at once, making a judicious choice, and came forward to touch the pen, saying “I thank you for my people.” His Councilors promptly followed, one of them asking for a part of the reserve on the other side of the river, which I refused. I then called on the White Mud River Indians to select a Chief and one Councillor, being under the impression at the time that they were the least numerous band, which, however, has turned out not to be the case, which they did at once, and on their being presented to me they signed the agreement. I then gave a medal to Yellow Quill, and promised to send the other two Chiefs medals when procured from Ottawa, the supply here being exhausted. To the Chiefs and Councilors suits of clothing were then distributed, Yellow Quill and his head men having hitherto refused to accept either medals or coats, but now taking them. Yellow Quill then presented me with a skin coat, and said that he parted with the other Indians as friends, and that there would be no hard feelings. The conference then broke up, and thus terminated a difficulty which has existed for several years, and the influence of which was felt as an obstacle, as you are aware, at Qu’Appelle when the treaty was made there. Mr. Graham at once commenced the payments, and during the evening the three Chiefs and their Councilors called on me, evidently being on the most friendly terms with each other, a state of things which had not existed for a considerable period. In the morning, as I was leaving for the Portage, the Indians assembled near my waggon and gave three cheers for the Queen and three for the Governor, and I then drove off amid a salute of firearms from all sections of the encampment. I left Mr. Graham to complete the payments, and here record my sense of the efficient services he rendered me. He understands the Indian character, and gets on well with them. I requested Mr. Reid to visit the White Mud region and ascertain what persons are entitled to holdings under the terms of your instructions, and also to survey Short Bear’s reserve.
Yellow Quill is to go without delay to look up a reserve, and as there are no settlers in the region in question, I propose that if Mr. Reid sees no objection to the locality he should at once lay it off, so as to effectually terminate the chronic difficulty with this band. I shall be glad to receive by telegram your approval of his doing so. The interpreters, Mr. Cummings, Mr. Cook, of St. James, a trader, and Kissoway, an Indian trader belonging to the band, rendered me much service; the latter trades in the west, and was passing the Portage on his way to Fort Garry, and as he belonged to Yellow Quill’s band, and is a relative of his, being a son of the deceased Pecheto, (another of whose sons was the spokesman at Qu’Appelle, as you will recollect) he came to the Long Plains to advise the band to come to terms. He remained at my request until the negotiations were concluded, and exerted a most beneficial influence over Yellow Quill’s band. I call your attention to the request of Yellow Quill’s Councilors, that they should be paid. As in Treaties Three, Four and Five, they are paid, and as the expense would not be large, I am of opinion that before the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Superintendency of Manitoba proceeds to make the payments in Treaties One and Two, he should be authorized to pay the head men. It will be difficult to explain why the difference is made, and it will secure in every band, men who will feel that they are officers of the Crown and remunerated as such. I returned to Fort Garry on the 23rd inst., encountering on the way a very severe thunder storm, which compelled me to take advantage of the very acceptable shelter of the kindly proffered residence of the Hon. Mr. Breland, at White Horse Plains, instead of a tent on the thoroughly-drenched prairie. I congratulate you that with the successful issue of this negotiation is closed, in Treaties One and Two, the vexed question of the open promises. I forward by this mail a copy of the agreement I have above alluded to, retaining the original for the present, and will be pleased to hear of its speedy approval by the Privy Council.
I have the honor to be, etc., Alexander Morris, Lieut. Governor