To The Honorable Alexander Morris, Lieutenant Governor, Fort Garry.
Sir, –I have the honor to inform you that in compliance with your instructions, a copy of which I hereunto annex, I proceeded, accompanied by Mr. Reid, to the Dog Head and Berens River on Lake Winnipeg, and there successfully secured the adhesion of the Island and Grand Rapids of Berens River Bands of Indians to Treaty Number Five, and, having paid the annuities to the Berens River Indians, returned to the Stone Fort. As mentioned in the joint report submitted to you by Mr. Reid and myself, I had the greatest difficulty in procuring a boat to take me on my mission, and only through the kindness of Mr. Flett, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, at the Stone Fort, was I able to obtain even the loan of one as far as Berens River, from where I had to return it….
I left the Stone Fort for the Grand Rapids, on the morning of the 17th of August, and after a very fast, though rough and dangerous passage, reached the mouth of the Saskatchewan River, early on the morning of the 26th. I found, on entering the river, that the Indians were encamped near its mouth, on the south bank, where I landed, and arranged to meet them at noon that day. As the provisions were stored at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post, about a mile and a half up the river, I decided to camp at the foot of the road leading across the four-mile Portage, and having done so, and in the meantime sent the provisions to the Indian camp, I returned there at the time agreed upon.
The band having assembled, I stated to them the object of my mission–that I had been directed to pay them the annuity and deliver some of the tools and implements granted them by the treaty, and also to distribute amongst those that formerly had houses and gardens on the north bank of the river, and had moved to where they were then living, as stipulated in the treaty, the sum of five hundred dollars.
To my surprise, the Chief at once expressed his astonishment at my saying that the treaty had been made last year, and said he had only a talk then with the Governor preliminary to making the treaty this year, and that they were only then prepared to be treated with. I explained to the band how I had been present myself when it was made, and that I would have it read to them. I accordingly requested Mr. Cochrane to do so, explaining it thoroughly; yet, it was only after a great deal of talking on their part, during which they made most unreasonable demands, and many explanations on my part, that the Indians were satisfied that a treaty had been made, when they requested me to go on with the payments; at the same time a number of them stated that they had been misled by one of the counselors, Joseph Atkinson by name. I then paid the annuity, distributed the provisions, tools, implements, etc., and gave the Chief a copy of the treaty, and, arranging to meet them again on Monday the 28th, I returned to my camp at midnight.
On Monday, I met them as agreed, and at once began and made inquiries as to who had houses and gardens on the north bank and had moved their houses to the south bank, and I found that all those that had formerly lived on the north bank had removed from there. I noticed that great feeling existed amongst them all as to the division of the five hundred dollars granted. All the band congregated round me and the large majority desired that the amount should be divided equally between them all, and claimed that every one belonging to the band was entitled to participate in the division; so I thought it best to leave it to themselves to decide how the amount should be distributed, and they only succeeded in doing so after a great deal of talking, and, I regret to say, quarrelling; but they at last arranged it, and I was requested by the Chief and Councilors to divide it amongst the whole band in such proportions as I thought right, so I proceeded at once to what turned out to be a long and troublesome undertaking; but having as I considered made a fair and equitable distribution of the amount, I paid the same, had the document witnessed by the Chief and Councilors, and only got back to my camp again at midnight. As I before said, all the Indians had removed to the south bank of the river, but had made no preparations to build, and were merely living in tents. Close to the encampment, at the mouth of the river, the Church Missionary Society have put up a large building to answer the purposes of a church and school-house. Care must be taken and strict watch kept over this band. Living as they do on the bank of a navigable river, where people are constantly passing, they can give great trouble and annoyance, and, I am sorry to say, are inclined to do so. Several complaints were made to me while there, and I spoke to the Indians regarding them. They promised me to abide faithfully by the terms of the treaty henceforth and not give any further annoyance.
While occupied paying the Indians there, my crew were engaged in taking my boat and supplies across the Portage. They left the camp early on Monday morning, and with the assistance kindly rendered them by Mr. Matheson, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, succeeded in reaching the north end of the Portage on Tuesday evening. That same afternoon I walked over the four-mile Portage and found there a number of buildings belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company. To this point the Saskatchewan River steamer Northcote descends and receives the supplies for the different posts belonging to the Company to the West and North-West.
On Wednesday morning, the 30th, I left for the Pas. From the Grand Rapids to the Narrows, before entering Cedar Lake, a distance of eighteen or twenty miles, a continuous rapid extends, and it is only by tracking and poling simultaneously that you are at all able to ascend the river. The first day I made only nine miles on my way and camped at the Demi Charge, and it was late in the evening on the second day when I reached Cedar Lake. This lake is about thirty-five miles in length and is very shallow and dangerous in stormy weather. I was fortunate enough to have very calm weather, and, therefore, crossed it without any delay and entered the Saskatchewan again at the Che-ma-wa-win or “Seining place,” early on Saturday morning, September 2nd. Noticing a large encampment of Indians there, I landed and found they were part of the Moose Lake band. They desired that I should treat with them where they were, and not bring them to the Pas, but upon my telling them that I could only treat with them at the appointed place of meeting, they readily assented to follow me up, and having given them some provisions to take them there, and secured the services of one of them to act as guide, I again started on my journey.
I was then three days and two nights ascending the river, and on Tuesday morning, the 5th September, the day appointed for me to meet the Indians, I arrived at the Pas or Devon Mission, on my way up having been passed by the Indians from the Che-ma-wa-win.
On entering the river after leaving Cedar Lake the whole aspect of the country changes, and from there to the Pas, and, I understand, for fully one hundred miles above it, nothing but marsh can be seen; so much so that it was difficult along the bank of the river to find a spot dry enough to camp upon, and I was, consequently, obliged to eat and sleep in my boat. The dreariness of this voyage can hardly be realized, and it was with feelings of delight that I landed at the Mission at the Pas where the Rev. Mr. Cochrane received me.
Mr. Cochrane had accompanied me from the Stone Fort and had been in my boat up to the night before I arrived, when, meeting some Indians that were on the look-out for us, he returned with them in their canoe and reached his home shortly before I arrived.
The Pas or Devon Mission is situated on the south bank of the Saskatchewan, distant, I should say, one hundred and forty miles from Grand Rapids. The Church Missionary Society have a very nice church, school-house and parsonage there; and the Hudson’s Bay Company one of their posts. There are also a large number of houses belonging to the Indians of the place; and on the other bank the firm of Kew, Stobart & Co., have erected a store for trading purposes. There are also several dwelling-houses on the north bank. Altogether, the appearance of the place, on my arrival, was most prepossessing. The banks were covered with Indians with their canoes, and immediately the boat rounded the point below the Mission and came in view a salute was fired, the like of which, I was subsequently told, had never been heard in the “Ratty Country”.
Having landed at the Mission, Mr. Cochrane informed me that he had, as I requested, summoned the Indians to meet in the schoolhouse at three o’clock that afternoon, and when the hour arrived I proceeded there and found upwards of five hundred Indians gathered. I stated the object of my mission to them, and was at once assured of their desire to accept of, and their gratitude for, the Queen’s bounty and benevolence.
I found that the Pas and Cumberland bands of Indians had acknowledged Chiefs, but that the Moose Lake band had none, owing to a division amongst them. It appeared that the Indians from the Che-ma-wa-win desired to be a distinct band and have their reserves where I had seen them at the entrance of the river from Cedar Lake; but noticing, on my way up, the unfitness of the locality for a reserve, and having learned that at Moose Lake, where part of the band desired to live, a most suitable locality could be had, I had decided before meeting them upon the course I should take, which was, not to encourage the division in the band, and allow only one Chief; and this I did, and succeeded, without much trouble, in getting the band to unite. I then requested all the Indians to meet in council and select their Chief and head men, and be prepared the following morning to present them to me, when I would be ready to speak to them.
The next morning at eleven o’clock I met them and found they had done as I requested, and having been presented to the Chiefs and Councilors I proceeded to explain the terms of the treaty that I desired to receive their adhesion to. The Chiefs immediately stated that they wanted to make a treaty of their own, and it was only after great difficulty that I could make them understand that in reality it was not a new treaty they were about to make.
They had heard of the terms granted the Indians at Carlton, and this acted most prejudicially at one time against the successful carrying out of my mission; but I at last made them understand the difference between their position and the Plain Indians, by pointing out that the land they would surrender would be useless to the Queen, while what the Plain Indians gave up would be of value to her for homes for her white children. They then agreed to accept the terms offered if I would agree to give them reserves where they desired; and to their demands I patiently listened, and having at last come to a satisfactory understanding I adjourned the meeting to the following day.
Before proceeding further, I would draw your attention to the localities I granted for reserves, subject to the approval of the Government, and beg to inform you that I made every inquiry as to the extent of farming land in each locality mentioned.
At the Narrows, at Moose Lake, there is considerable good land, and a suitable place for a reserve can be had for the Moose Lake band.
For the Pas and Cumberland Indians I had to mention several localities. At the Pas all the land obtainable is now cultivated, and consists of a vegetable garden and one field attached to the Mission, and a few patches of potatoes here and there. A short distance from the river the marsh begins, and extends to the south for miles; and the same thing occurs to the north. In fact, on both banks of the river at this point, and from the Che-ma-wa-win up to it, one hundred and fifty acres of land fit for cultivation cannot be found; and about Cumberland the country in every respect is similar.
The following day, Thursday the 7th, I met the Indians at three p.m., and had the adhesion read to them and signed. I then presented the medals and clothing to the Chiefs and Councilors, with which they were greatly pleased, and having congratulated them upon wearing the Queen’s uniform, and having in return been heartily thanked by them for what had been done, I proceeded to pay them, and continued to do so up to seven o’clock, when the funds at my disposal being exhausted, I directed them to meet me again the following morning at nine o’clock, which they did, and I completed the payments the same evening at five o’clock. I then distributed the balance of provisions and the ammunition and twine. The implements and tools I had been unable to bring from Grand Rapids, my boat being very heavily laden; but Mr. Belanger, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, kindly promised to have them brought up free of charge in a boat that was going to the Grand Rapids in a few days; I therefore gave the Chief of the Pas band an order for the chest of tools and the implements.
The following day, Saturday, having again seen all the Chiefs and Councilors and received their thanks, and after many expressions of gratitude from the Indians gathered, I left the Pas at half-past two o’clock p.m., and with rowing and floating alternately during the afternoon and night, reached the Che-ma-wa-win on Sunday evening; crossed Cedar Lake on Monday, and landed at the head of Grand Rapids on Tuesday morning. I then ran the rapids and hoisted the sail at the mouth of the river at two p.m., having called upon Mr. Matheson and seen the Chief of the Indians there on my way down. I then made all haste to return here, but, owing to contrary winds, only succeeded in reaching the Stone Fort on the 20th September, yet, having made a very quick trip, unprecedented in fact, and in carrying out the mission entrusted to me, traveled in an open boat, thirteen hundred miles.
I would now inform you that three out of the four bands of Indians I met on the Saskatchewan, viz., the Grand Rapids, Pas and Cumberland, are in a position to receive at once from the Government the grant allowed for the maintenance of schools of instruction; at the Grand Rapids a huge school-house is by this time entirely completed; and at the Pas and Cumberland, schools, under the charge of the Church Missionary Society, have been in existence some years. The Indians belonging to the bands I have named desired that the assistance promised should be given as soon as possible.
I would now mention the very valuable services rendered the Government by the Rev. Mr. Cochrane, who acted as interpreter at the Dog Head, Berens River, Grand Rapids and the Pas, and who was at all times ready to give his advice and assistance; as well as by Mr. A. M. Muckle, who accompanied me and assisted in making the payments; and by Mr. Nursey, who took charge of the boat with supplies for the Pas. To Mr. Matheson, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Grand Rapids, and Mr. Belanger, of Cumberland House, I am deeply indebted, and take this opportunity of tendering these gentlemen my sincere thanks for the assistance rendered me and the many kindnesses I received from them. I enclose herewith the pay-sheet of the different bands I paid, a statement of the cash expenditure, and statements showing quantities of provisions, implements, etc., received and how distributed, with a statement of clothing, medals, etc., given to the Chiefs and Councilors, and a report I received from Mr. Bedson.
And, trusting that the manner in which I have carried out the mission entrusted to my care, may meet with your approval,
I have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, Thomas Howard, Commissioner.