And thus we have seen the Mounted Police come upon the stage and take their positions at the end of extraordinary marches. It will be our place and privilege to follow them as they play their large and serious part in nation-building in Western Canada.
BUSINESS IN THE LAND OF INDIANS
Orders from Ottawa had disposed the Mounted Police into four different locations, although, as we have seen, the fourth had become only necessary at Dufferin, because there was neither shelter nor adequate provision for headquarters at Fort Pelly. But, when we look back into the situation, we can readily see that the Assistant Commissioner, Colonel MacLeod, had the most difficult and dangerous situation of all. They had all reached their destination after tremendous hardships, the Edmonton detachment perhaps most of all. But the three detachments, namely those at Edmonton under Jarvis, Fort Pelly under Garvell, and Dufferin under the Commissioner, had shelter and reasonable provision. But MacLeod was out in the open with the winter coming on and no shelter from the blizzards that blow at times even across that foothill country. He was hundreds of miles away from any possibility of help in men or substance from Canadian sources, and he had only three troops of fifty men each in the midst of a turbulent gang of outlaw whisky-peddlers and horse-thieves. He was completely surrounded by thousands of the most warlike of Western Indians, with some thousands still more warlike just over the line. Perhaps it was well that he hailed from the land where they say, "A stout heart to a stey brae," because, if a figure of speech from the sea is permissible on the prairie, he and his men knew that they had "burned their ship behind them," and that they must hold their ground or perish. They proved equal to their task, but a sketch or two from the reports of that period reveal the situation even to those who do not know the country. Colonel MacLeod decided that he could not hope to pull the horses and cattle through the winter in the locality where he was making his headquarters, so he dispatched Inspector Walsh and the weakest of the horses and cattle to Sun River, some 200 miles to the south. Walsh was evidently on the look out for service, for MacLeod says, "Walsh was anxious to be sent, and he deserves great credit for the way in which he is performing this service." In another place MacLeod says about November 1: "We had a severe snowstorm, with high wind and extreme cold, the thermometer going to 10 degrees below zero. When the storm broke I had all the horses driven into the shelter of the woods near by; every one blanketed and fed with oats and corn. Then I was extremely anxious about them, and glad they got through so well." The righteous man is merciful to his beast, even though the beast is Government property. And then we come across this fine human touch in which the emotional nature of the Highlander breaks through: "I hope soon to have ample accommodation for all if another storm breaks out. I have made up my mind that not a single log of men's quarters shall be laid until the horses are provided for, as well as a few sick men." If the dumb animals cannot speak for themselves, the Colonel speaks for them. If the men who are laid aside cannot plead their own cause they will not suffer, for the Colonel does not forget them. And MacLeod is early teaching his officers that he will have no "carpet knights," who claim immunity from hardship because of their rank, for he goes on to say, "Then the men's quarters will be proceeded with, and after that the officers'." We think the officers would all say amen to this, and that is why they always had the confidence of their men. By the time it was 20 degrees below zero they had got the men inside buildings with enough chimney to allow a fire to be kindled. But officers were still on the waiting list, for the report says in December, "Winder, Jackson and the doctor are in a tent in the woods."
With officers and men of that stamp we hear no whining about being unable to enforce the laws of the country. And it was no easy place to enforce laws of certain kinds. The whole region around Fort MacLeod, as the necessarily crude outpost was called, being conveniently near the boundary line, had been for years the favourite stamping ground of the whisky-peddler. There had been no one to interfere with his activities. The Hudson's Bay Company regime, never very active in that locality, had been out of commission for four years, and nothing had taken its place. For Canadian authority, governing in a long-distance fashion, had not yet impressed itself visibly on the vast plains. Hence the outlaw trader had gone his riotous way, and as a result the poor Indian, who had an insatiable thirst for stimulant, had lived riotously to his own great detriment.
And so, busy as the Police were in trying to build some shelter for their horses and themselves, Colonel MacLeod lost no time striking a body blow at the liquor traffic. Hearing from an Indian named Three Bulls that a coloured man was doing business in fire-water about 50 miles away, MacLeod sent Inspector Crozier and ten men, accompanied by the inimitable interpreter, Jerry Potts, to gather in the outfit. Two days afterwards Crozier returned, bringing in the coloured gentleman and four others with some wagon-loads of whisky, a small arsenal of rifles and revolvers, as well as many bales of buffalo robes, which the whisky-sellers had taken from the poor Indians in exchange for the drink that was so fatal to these children of the wild. The whisky was poured out in the snow, the robes were confiscated for the good of the country, and the culprits given the option of a fine or jail. This process revealed the headquarters of the traffic, for a sporting man, rejoicing in the sobriquet of "Wavey," came up from Fort Benton, in Montana, and paid the fines of the white men. There was an extra charge against the coloured man, whose name was Bond, and as "Wavey" would not intervene Mr. Bond had to go to jail. MacLeod would stand no nonsense. On one occasion, a gentleman from the same country as Bond, who was sent to jail without option, and who had in his own locality contracted the bad habit of talking back to judges, said to Colonel MacLeod, "When I get out of here, if you put me in, I will make them wires to Washington hum." "Let them hum," sad the Colonel; "in the meantime you go to jail, and if you say more you may have your sentence doubled."
This was a Daniel come to judgment with a vengeance. To be more modern, it reminds one of Begbie, the great frontier judge on the west coast, who tamed the outlaw miners who tried to start rough-house in the gold-rush days. The dishonest extortioners on the prairie could do nothing to frighten or flatter or tamper with men like Colonel MacLeod and his red-coated patrols. Hence, we read the sequel in the Colonel's report in December, 1874: "I am happy to be able to report" (happy is a choice word—there are some things that make a good man happy)—"to be able to report the complete stoppage of the whisky trade throughout the whole of this section of the country, and that the drunken riots, which in former years were almost a daily occurrence, are now entirely at an end; in fact, a more peaceable community than this, with a very large number of Indians camped along the river, could not be found anywhere. Every one united in saying how wonderful the change is. People never lock their doors at night and have no fear of anything being stolen which is left lying about outside; whereas, just before our arrival, gates and doors were all fastened at night, and nothing could be left out of one's sight." And then Colonel MacLeod adds a testimony from the Rev. John McDougall, of Morley, at the edge of the mountains. He and his father, the Rev. George McDougall, who had been frozen to death on the plains, were widely known old-time missionaries. In later years I knew John McDougall well, missionary, scout and frontiersman, tall, full-bearded, handsome and keenly alive to everything that affected the welfare of the West land. And this competent witness said, "I am delighted with the change that has been effected. It is like a miracle wrought before our eyes." The Police were fulfilling their high, benevolent and patriotic mission.
Colonel MacLeod felt that the first business of the Police was to thus protect the Indians who were the wards of the nation, and so it was that he had struck a decisive blow at the drink traffic, which was bidding fair to exterminate these children of the plains. Once that was done the Colonel set himself to get into touch with the various native tribes, which from the earliest days of the explorers and fur-traders had been looked upon as the most warlike and dangerous. It is well known that even the Hudson's Bay Company, despite the experience and the remarkable tact of their employees, had always found it difficult to establish satisfactory relations with the tribes, amongst which at this period Colonel MacLeod and his men were seeking a sphere of service for the good of all concerned.
Accordingly, we find MacLeod reporting before the end of 1874 that he had interviewed the chiefs of the practically confederated tribes of the Bloods, Piegans and Blackfeet. He found them very intelligent men, and he described in some detail the stately ceremony with which these chiefs had conducted themselves in these interviews. They shake hands with Colonel MacLeod, and then, receiving the pipe of peace from the interpreter, Jerry Potts, they each smoke a few seconds and pass it around. MacLeod then explains to them the friendly attitude of the Canadian Government towards them, that the Police had come not to take the country from the Indians, but to protect these Indians against men who would despoil them and destroy them by sowing amongst them evil practices. And he adds that the Government would send soon some of the great men of the country to deal with the Indians and make treaty agreements with them.
At these early interviews the chiefs gave unstinted praise to the Police, before whose coming there had been constant trouble. The Indians said they used to be robbed and ruined by the whisky-traders, that their horses, robes and women had been taken from them, that their young men were constantly engaged in drunken riots and many were killed, that their horses were stolen, so that they had no means of travelling or hunting. All this, the chiefs said, had been changed by the coming of the Police. One chief, in the graphic way by which they gesture in accord with what they are saying, crouched down and moved along with difficulty, and then stood up and walked. "Before you came," said this chief to the Colonel, "the Indian had to creep along, not knowing what would attack him, but now he is not afraid to walk erect."
And so that first winter wore on with steady work on the part of the Police, who, while seeing that the Indians had every protection afforded them, also helped them to understand that they also had to observe the laws of the land. In view of the general situation amongst the Indians and the proximity of part of the North-West Territory to the boundary line, on the other side of which there was almost continuous warfare between the Government and the Indians there, posts were established now at several points all over the vast area that the Mounted Police had to control and guide. In some respects perhaps the most notable event in the spring of 1875, was the sending of Inspector Walsh with "B" Division to the Cypress Hills country, where a fort was built, named after this active and venturous Inspector. And this Fort Walsh became the centre around which for several years the Indian problem, in its various phases, surged backwards and forwards in varying force, but sometimes within dangerous possibility of becoming a tidal wave of destruction and death. There is no finer chapter in Canadian history than the one in which a mere handful of officers and men of the Mounted Police, with endless patience, unflinching courage and consummate skill in open diplomacy, kept the peace in an area larger than several European kingdoms, and within whose precincts thousands of warlike and well-armed Indians composed the reckless, restless and roving population. Years afterwards, when the first Canadian railway had crossed the continent away to the north, and conditions were entirely changed after treaties had been made with the Indians and reserves allotted to them, Fort Walsh was abandoned and dismantled, as it had served its purpose. A peaceful ranch now occupies the site, but though the debris of the old fort is strewed on the plain, the record of the men who made their headquarters there and in similar places is an imperishable bulwark and citadel in the life of our Dominion. Other posts were established about this period, such as Fort Calgary, Fort Saskatchewan, Battleford, Carlton, in what is now Northern Saskatchewan, Qu'Appelle in Saskatchewan and Swan River, an early post, Shoal Lake and Beautiful Plains in the northern section of Manitoba. All of these had their influence on the progress of the West, but none had in the pathfinding days the halo of romance that centred around Fort Walsh.
In the year 1875 Major-General Sir E. Selby Smith, who commanded the Militia in Canada, made a tour of inspection throughout the Dominion and spent some months under escort of the Mounted Police travelling from Swan River to the far West. He was most favourably impressed by the physique and initiative of the men, commended the work that had been done, suggested the increase of the Force and the opening of some new posts, but there were many items in the report which revealed that a man cannot know the life and the needs of a country by making a trip through it. Perhaps the best thing in his report was where he said: "Too much value cannot be attached to the North-West Police, too much attention cannot be paid to their efficiency." The men on the ground knew the value of the Force and were taking good care that it would be efficient to the last degree.
It was at the time of this tour that a fort projected by Colonel MacLeod to be erected somewhere midway between Fort MacLeod and the Red Deer River was built by "F" troop of the Mounted Police. It was erected near the Bow River and for a time was known as Fort Brisebois, after the officer commanding the division at the time. The name got into orders once or twice but without authority, and Colonel MacLeod put an end to any controversy over it by calling it Calgarry, after his birthplace in Scotland. Our Western mania for shortening names and thereby sometimes breaking with the historical past led to the cutting out of a letter and leaving the name in its present form. But the present city of Calgary, with its great buildings and its distinctive place within sight of the Rockies, has a definite background of early police history which has done much to shape her destiny.
In the seventies changes were taking place in the system of government in the North-West Territories that had pronounced influence on the future of the country in ways closely associated with police history. Heretofore the vast territory over which the Police had oversight had been governed from Manitoba by the Lieutenant-Governor of that Province, assisted by a small body of men called the North-West Council. But government at long range is not more successful than diplomacy of the same variety, and it was becoming evident that some visibility should be given to control in the North-West Territories that stretched from Manitoba to the Mountains and from the boundary to the Pole. Accordingly, in 1876 the Hon. David Laird was appointed Lieutenant-Governor, with a small Council to assist him consisting of Colonel MacLeod of the Police and Matthew Ryan and Hugh Richardson, Stipendiary Magistrates. Ryan was a man of considerable literary power, and Richardson became prominent as one of the trial judges in the cases of Riel and the other rebel leaders some years later.
David Laird was a Prince Edward Islander of great stature and gentlemanly bearing. He was of imposing appearance, and had the grace of easy speech with a good voice. Fearless in his general attitude, he had withal a fine genius for diplomacy, and came to have a remarkable insight into the Indian mind. The Indians, who prefer giving men names that describe some outstanding characteristic, christened Laird as "the man who talks straight," or, in other words, the man who tells the truth and sticks to it. Few people, perhaps, nowadays know the obligation this country owes to men like Governor Alexander Morris, of Manitoba, and Governor David Laird, of the Territories, for the extraordinary success with which they and their faithful native interpreters, backed and flanked by the fair-minded Mounted Police, dealt with the Indians. The impressive scarlet uniform of the Police somehow or other came to be recognized by the Indians as a sign royal of friendship. Once when Inspector Walsh with several men was riding into a camp of American Indians who had crossed to this side in the winter time, with his dark blue overcoat lightly buttoned and the men in their great coats, the Indians, thinking they were American cavalry, met them with levelled rifles and angry faces. Walsh was not the kind of man to halt for that, and would probably have paid the penalty for his devotion to duty, had not one of the troopers, catching the situation, thrown his overcoat open and disclosed the scarlet tunic. In a flash the Indians lowered their rifles—they recognized their friends. Little wonder that Morris and Laird and the other treaty-makers were grateful for the high standing of these stalwart riders of the plains.
This matter of the Indian treaties deserved some special notice, because it is not well understood by people outside this country and because it is closely connected, as already intimated with the story of the Mounted Police. It is inevitable in the progress of human history that higher civilizations should supersede the lower. Wherever the contrary has been the case and a lower civilization overran the higher the movement of humanity was retrograde. Hence, if the Indian type of civilization in Western Canada was to be superseded by the British type and this change effected without injustice and hardship for the original dwellers in the country, the Government of the Dominion must proceed by process of treaty. By this we mean that the Government had at the same time to conserve the rights of the Indian and secure to them both a place of residence and means of subsistence by a system of reserves and money payments, and also had to so extinguish the Indian title to all lands outside their reserves as to enable incoming settlers to enter upon these lands and possess them on fulfilling certain conditions. That the Government of Canada, without regard to political party, has through all the years been more successful in these undertakings than the Government of any other country is generally conceded. This success has been due in part to the wise leadership of governors and commissioners and native interpreters. But we reiterate what every one knows who has studied the real history of this country at first hand, namely that this success was due in a very large degree to the presence of the Mounted Police who became from the first in the eyes of the Indians the embodiment of genuine friendship and British fair play.
The earliest Indian treaty in what is now Western Canada was made by Lord Selkirk, whom the Salteaux Indians in the Red River Country called "The Silver Chief," because for sterling gifts he obtained from the Indians for his colonists a strip of land extending back as far as one could see a white horse on the prairie in a clear day. That was a primitive method of measurement and depended somewhat on the individual's power of vision, but with a vast unpeopled land stretching a thousand miles to the setting sun no one raised questions about a few acres more or less. Later, when the country was beginning to fill up, greater care had to be exercised. Indians, though apparently stoical and unemotional, are in reality very sensitive and keenly susceptible to anything that looks like oversight or slight of them and their rights.
The year 1876 witnessed the retirement of Colonel French from the Commissionership of the Mounted Police. He had wrought hard in the critical tasks that fall to the lot of the foundation builder, but desired to return to his duty in the regular artillery service in England, where his eminent contributions to the Empire have been duly recognized. Colonel French, who retained to the end a warm interest in the Police, was succeeded in the Commissionership by Colonel James Farquharson MacLeod, who had already done such outstanding work during the long trek to the West and in getting to definite police duty at the key-position of the whole work in the foothill country. It was a tribute to MacLeod's work that he was appointed also to aid Governor Laird in the delicate work of making the treaty with the most difficult tribes in the North-West to handle. Treaties had been made with the Indians who had been most in contact with civilization in the more easterly districts of the Lake of the Woods, Lake Winnipeg and the Qu'Appelle Lakes. But the most imposing spectacles and the most difficult situation began to arise when the Governors, flanked by the brilliant scarlet of the Mounted Police, came to the farther North-West where the Indians retained much of their native dignity and barbaric splendour.
This point was reached when Commissioners Governor Morris, Hon. W. J. Christie and the Hon. James McKay came to Fort Carlton to negotiate with Mistawasis, the great chief of the Crees, and his friend Ahtukahcoop. An interesting preface to this treaty was a threat made by a rascally Indian, Chief Beardy, of Duck Lake, who said that he would not allow the Commissioners to cross the south branch of the Saskatchewan River to come to Carlton. This information was imparted by Lawrence Clark, Hudson's Bay Factor at Carlton, to Inspector James Walker, who had arrived from Battleford with fifty Mounted Police the day before that on which the Commissioners were to arrive. Walker (now Colonel Walker, of Calgary), a man of commanding stature and strong determination, at once decided to take a hand in the proceedings. Initiative has always been characteristic of the Police. They were often miles away in distance from and worlds away in chance of communication with, any superior officer, and so they early developed the powers of resource which had to come into play in emergencies. Hence Walker, seeing the situation, swung out with his troop, in the small hours of next morning and hit the trail for Batoche. On the way he overtook the band of Indians with Chief Beardy. Walker paid no attention to them, but simply passed them and continued on the way. These Indians rarely indicate surprise, but this was the surprise of their lives, and they showed it in spite of themselves. They evidently did not calculate on the presence of the force in that part of the world, and to have these stalwart red-coated riders come up from the unexpected direction was too much even for their impassiveness. When Walker met the Commissioners farther on, he told Governor Morris of the situation and then, wheeling his men, formed a scarlet escort around the carriage. When they met Beardy he was in a repentant mood and shook hands with the Governor. But this disorderly Chief would only sign the treaty in his own camp. Not long afterwards Inspector Walker with two constables had to go to Duck Lake and face this same chief and a band of his insolent warriors and prevent them from looting a store at that point. Still later we shall find the incorrigible Beardy on the war-path with the rebels Riel and Gabriel Dumont.
The treaty, known generally as "Number Six," was duly made at Carlton by Governor Morris and the other Commissioners, with a noted half-breed, Peter Erasmus, as the capable interpreter. Those present who had not been accustomed to the plains witnessed a spectacle of wild splendour, as preceding the treaty, over a thousand Indians, brilliantly and fantastically painted, chanting a weird song, firing rifles, exhibiting marvellous horsemanship, beating drums and giving strange yells, advanced in a semi-circle near to the Commissioner's tent. All this was preparatory to the famous dance of the stem, where the chiefs, councillors and medicine men seated themselves on buffalo robes and a beautifully decorated pipe with a long stem was produced. This was carried around the semi-circle, then raised towards the heavens and the stem pointed in turn north, south, east and west. With more stately motion the Indians moved towards the Council tent, where they were met by the Commissioners who took the pipe and one after the other stroked it gently to indicate that they reciprocated the peaceful approach of the Indians.
The Commissioners present with Governor Morris at this treaty and others deserve special notice. The Hon. W. J. Christie was a famous Hudson's Bay Company Factor. When in January, 1873, the Ottawa Government appointed a North-West Council to act with Governor Morris in governing the far hinterland towards the mountains, Mr. Christie, who had a very wide knowledge of conditions and who had education and judgment, was one of the men chosen. An interesting fact in that connection was that when the first meeting of that Council was held, on March 8 in that year, Mr. Christie travelled 2,000 miles by dog-train from Fort Simpson to Winnipeg to attend it. It was a good opportunity for collecting mileage and perquisites, but the probability is that this public-spirited man and the great Company he served made the contribution to the country. His usefulness was so apparent at the meeting that he was asked to help the Government in the great task of treaty-making which had baffled so many other countries.
The other Commissioner whose name is found to nearly all the treaties was the Hon. James McKay, one of the most picturesque figures the western plains, amid all their unique characters, ever saw. I remember him in his later years. His father was a Scot, who had been on one of the Arctic expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin and had married in the Saskatchewan country one of the tall, stately and handsome daughters of the land. Their sons were all of distinguished appearance. The following description given by the Earl of Southesk, who had come on a hunting tour and a search for health in the great out-of-doors of the North-West years ago, is true to the subject. He says: "James McKay met me in St. Paul. His appearance greatly interested me, both from his own personal advantages and because he was the first Red River man I had seen. Immensely broad-chested and muscular, though not tall, he weighed 18 stone: yet in spite of his stoutness, he was exceedingly hardy and active, and a wonderful horseman. His face is very handsome—short, aquiline, delicate nose; piercing dark grey eyes; skin tanned to red bronze by exposure to the weather. He was dressed in Red River style, a blue cloth capote (hooded frock coat) with brass buttons; red and black flannel shirt, which served for waistcoat; black belt around the waist; trousers of brown and white striped home-made stuff, buff leather moccasins on his feet. I had never come across a wearer of moccasins before, and it amused me to see this grand and massive man pacing the hotel corridors with noiseless footfall, while excitable little men in shiny boots creaked and stamped about like so many busy steam engines." It was this splendid man who was present to assist Governor Laird and Mr. Christie in making treaties with the Cree Indians at Carlton on August 23 and at Fort Pitt on September 9. The last time I saw James McKay was when a number of us schoolboys rode up to Silver Heights to see some western sports and buffalo running in honour of the Governor-General, Lord Dufferin. And as the magnificent frontiersman drove about with his famous cream horse and buckboard, the great Irish diplomat realized what such men had done to make the great North-West peacefully into being a part of Canada.
Soon after these treaties, the headquarters of the Mounted Police were moved from Swan River, which had never been satisfactory, to Fort MacLeod, where they arrived on October 22. Apart from Swan River being unsuitable, it was evident that the centre of interest was gravitating towards that part of the territories where the names of Forts MacLeod and Walsh, Wood Mountain and Cypress Hills and other points were being printed indelibly on the map of Western history. This portion of the territory was close up against the international boundary line across which might be heard the roar of fighting between the Sioux Indians and the United States soldiery. To discuss that is not part of our story, but the Indians there vehemently declared that they had been for years robbed by swindling government agents and driven off their land by unscrupulous gold-hunters and lawless speculators. And, as in many other cases, soldiers who were themselves innocent of these things had to be called on to fight the Indians who had grown savage under a sense of wrong and who, savage-like, had taken revenge by killing whenever they could. That very year, only a few months before the headquarters of the Police were moved to Fort MacLeod, occurred the tragedy of the "Custer Massacre," when that gallant soldier and his no less gallant men, attempting the impossible, were wiped out completely by superior numbers of Sioux under the redoubtable chiefs Sitting Bull and Spotted Eagle. "The Long Hair," as General Custer was called by the Indians who always admired his dash and courage, fought desperately to the end, and was said to be the last man to fall. Only the arrival later of General Terry, with whom Custer was to have co-operated, prevented still greater disaster to the balance of the American force.
All this had its effect on our side of the border. It made our Indians, Blackfeet, Bloods, Piegans and others, restless, and it became known that the Sioux on the south of the line were making overtures to the Indians on the Canadian side either to go over and fight the Americans or to join with the Indians in the United States to drive all the whites out of the country on both sides. Inspector Denny, who did much valuable work in those early days and who made an arrest in a Blackfoot camp, reported in August of 1876 that he had been consulted by the Blackfeet Council and told of the efforts made by the Sioux to get the Indians on this side with them. However, the Blackfeet remained loyal mainly because they had learned to trust the Mounted Police. But shortly afterwards, matters were complicated by bands of Sioux crossing over the line into Canadian territory. We shall deal with this Sioux invasion in the next chapter, but in the meantime, as this is a chapter on treaties, shall record how the Canadian Government, being fully aware of all these events, took special steps at once to make treaties with the warlike tribes which inhabited that vast area from the North Saskatchewan River towards the boundary line. For this purpose the Commissioners appointed were Governor David Laird and Colonel MacLeod, of the Mounted Police. No better men could be chosen to make this famous Treaty Number Seven with the Indians at a very critical hour.
Accordingly, on September 19, 1877, at the Blackfeet Crossing of the Bow River, less than a 100 miles from Fort MacLeod, the Chiefs of the Blackfeet, Blood, Piegan, Stony and Sarcee tribes and some 5,000 of their men, women and children met to hear the Great Mother's chiefs. Mr. Laird's address was full of dignity and impressiveness, and couched in the picturesque language which, interpreted by the inimitable Jerry Potts, found its way to the hearts of his audience. Mr. Laird opened by saying, "The Great Spirit has made all things, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the forests and the swift-running rivers. It is by the Great Spirit that the Queen rules over this great country and other great countries. The Great Spirit has made the white man and the red man brothers, and we should take each other by the hand. The Great Mother loves all her children, white men and red men alike. She wishes to do them all good." Then Mr. Laird made special reference to the Police which was good diplomacy, for the Indians had known the Police for three years and the wise Governor saw the advantage of linking up the Police with the Queen's government. He said, "When bad white men brought you whisky, robbed you and made you poor, and through whisky made you quarrel amongst yourselves, she sent the Mounted Police to put an end to it. You know how they stopped this and punished the offenders, and how much good this has done. I have to tell you how much pleased the Queen is that you have taken the Mounted Police by the hand and helped them and obeyed her laws since their arrival. She hopes you will continue to do so and you will always find the Mounted Police on your side if you keep the Queen's laws." Then Mr. Laird explained the terms of the treaty and asked the Indians to go to their Council tents if they wished to consider the matter.
Next day the Commissioners again met the chiefs and made all the points clear, and on the third day the treaty was concluded amid great satisfaction on all sides. There were some remarkable tributes to the Police by the Chiefs. Crowfoot, the head chief, said, "The advice given to me and my people has proved to be good. If the Police had not come to this country where would we all be now? Bad men and whisky were indeed killing us so fast that very few of us indeed would have been left to-day. The Mounted Police have protected us as the feathers of the bird protect it from the frosts of winter. I wish them all good and trust that all our hearts will increase in goodness from this time forward. I am satisfied, I will sign the treaty." Red Crow, head chief of the Bloods, the most powerful tribe of the Blackfeet Confederacy, said, "Three years ago, when the Mounted Police came to this country, I met and shook hands with Stamix-oto-kan (Colonel MacLeod) at Belly River. Since that time he made me many promises, he kept them all; not one of them was broken. Everything that the Mounted Police have done has been good. I entirely trust Stamix-oto-kan (Colonel MacLeod) and will leave everything to him. I will sign with Crowfoot." Many others spoke in the same strain, and after this great treaty was signed, on September 21, 1877, there was a salute of guns and general jubilation. The point to be specially recalled in connection with this treaty is that it was practically accomplished upon the splendid record that Colonel MacLeod and his men had made amongst these powerful tribes in the most difficult part of the West.
The annual money payment to the Indians under the treaties required careful and honest handling. And at the conclusion of his report to the Government in regard to this most famous of all the treaties, Governor Laird made this remarkable witness-bearing recommendation: "I would urge that the officers of the Mounted Police be entrusted to make the annual payments to the Indians under this treaty. The chiefs themselves requested this, and I said I believed the Government would gladly consent to the arrangement. The Indians have confidence in the Police, and it might be some time before they would acquire the same respect for strangers." That this suggestion was carried out, is attested the next year by that well-known officer, Superintendent Winder, who in his report says: "Inspector Macdonnell and party arrived from Fort Walsh with money for the Indian payments. Inspector McIllree paid the Bloods at MacLeod, Inspector Dickens the Piegans on their reserve, Inspector Frechette the Stoneys at Morley-ville, and I accompanied the agent to the Blackfeet Crossing to assist in paying the Indians there." All this requires no comment further than to say that when the fighting Sioux across the line tried to inveigle these warlike tribes into a war of extermination against the whites, and later when the fiercely magnetic Louis Riel sought to get them to join his revolt, the great work in the consummation of Treaty Number Seven stood Canada in good stead.
One more great treaty had still to be made, and though it is anticipating a date twenty years after the famous Number Seven Treaty, we record it here before closing the chapter of treaties with the Indians of the North-West. A vast region away northward from Edmonton, known generally as the Athabasca, Peace River and Mackenzie River region, had so far not been brought under treaty conditions. This was mainly due to the fact that settlement had not been making its way into that region. It was considered the home of the fur-trader and the hunter more than that of the farmer or the stock-raiser. But the investigations brought about by the Senate Committee at Ottawa on the motion and under the leadership of Senator (Sir John) Schultz, had called so much attention to the great agricultural possibilities of the country that, despite the total absence of railways, settlers were percolating slowly into that great northern area. Then the gold-rush to the Klondike began midway in the nineties, and as some of this rush was either going through the Peace River country to the Yukon or scattering down the northern rivers, it became necessary, in the view of the Mounted Police, who made recommendations to the Government, to make a treaty as early as possible, in order to prevent trouble. Accordingly, the Hon. Clifford Sifton, then Superintendent-General of Indian affairs in the Laurier Government, began arrangements in 1898 which led to the appointment of a Commission and the making of Treaty Number Eight in 1899. Strangely enough, the Hon. David Laird, "the man who talked straight," who had as Governor of the Territories made the famous treaties with the Indians of the plains twenty years before, was called to head the new commission and make this final treaty with the Crees, Beavers, Chippewyans and other Indians of the far North. Mr. Laird, after the term of his office as Governor had expired, had retired to his home in Prince Edward Island, but later on was appointed to take charge of Indian affairs in the West, with headquarters in Winnipeg. Along with this Indian Treaty Commission was a half-breed commission, of which the frontiersman author, Mr. Charles Mair, was secretary. The expedition took months, and involved hard if picturesque travelling, all of which is graphically described in Mr. Mair's narrative Through the Mackenzie Basin. The treaty was made beginning first at Lesser Slave Lake, and continuing at other points. Mr. Mair, in his book, gives us the names of the party, describes the camp equipment and then makes the following fine reference to the Mounted Police: "Not the least important and effective constituent of the party was the detachment of the Royal North-West Mounted Police which joined us at Edmonton, minus their horses of course; picked men from a picked force; sterling fellows whose tenacity and hard work in the tracking harness did yeoman service in many a serious emergency. This detachment consisted of Inspector Snyder, Sergeant Anderson, Corporals Fitzgerald and McClelland, and Constables McLaren, Lett, Burman, Lelonde, Burke, Vernon and Kerr. The conduct of these men, it is needless to say, was the admiration of all, and assisted materially in the successful progress of the expedition."
Thus did these nation-building Police set their seal to the great treaties which provided for the future of the Indian tribes and at the same time extinguished the title of the tribes in order to open up a new empire for higher civilization.
HANDLING AMERICAN INDIANS
Nothing in the history of Western Canada was more charged with dynamitic possibilities of serious trouble than the unexpected influx into our country of thousands of battle-scarred Indians from the other side of the boundary line. The whole period for five years, from 1876 onward, bristled with difficulties. These Indians themselves had to be more or less provided for while upon our soil—they had to be controlled according to British law, they had to be kept from interfering with the loyalty as well as the rights and reserves of our own Indians, and they had to be restrained from making this country the base of any operations against our friendly neighbour country south of the line. The whole situation was filled with dramatic incidents and dangerous possibilities of international complications. The honour of handling it with masterly, firm and yet conciliatory methods must be given not to Ottawa, which was too far away and which often misunderstood, but to the officers and men of the Mounted Police whose consummate skill, courage and initiative are the leading features of that serious period. And the amazing thing about it all is that in the midst of seething thousands of American and Canadian Indians on the wide and lonely frontier, we had a mere handful of these gallant red-coated guardians of the peace.
The influx of American Indians began in December, 1876, when some 3,000 Indians, with large droves of horses and mules, crossed over and camped at Wood Mountain. They told the officers of the Mounted Police who visited them at once that "they had been driven out by the American and had come to look for peace; that they had been told by their grandfathers that they would find peace in the land of the British; that their brothers, the Santees, had found it years ago and they had now followed them; that they had not slept sound for years and were anxious to find a place where they could lie down and feel safe." It was not the British way to turn a deaf ear to that pathetic appeal, and so Inspector Walsh, then in charge at Fort Walsh, took charge of the situation, began at once to regulate the possession of arms and ammunition to what was necessary for hunting for subsistence and generally to keep in close touch with the Indian encampments.
In the following May the famous and redoubtable Sitting Bull with quite a large force came over and joined the American Indian colony. They also were interviewed at once by the Mounted Police and promised to observe the laws of the Great Mother. In the following months bands of Nez Perces and others arrived in flight from the American soldiers. And so the situation became more involved. Efforts were made to persuade these Indians to return to their own country, but they declined to do so and of course no one would compel them. The Indians said they had been robbed and cheated by agents, and so they had lost faith in the American Government, for they assumed that the Government knew or ought to know of these things. It was matter of common knowledge throughout the Western country that some agents who were receiving a salary of $1500.00 a year retired with fortunes after a few years in office, and even the most unsuspecting and docile Indian would baulk at that after a while.
Colonel McLeod, a very cautious man, in a report to the Hon. David Mills at Ottawa, said, "I think the principal cause of the difficulties which are continually embroiling the American Government in trouble with the Indians, is the manner in which these Indians are treated by the swarms of adventurers who have scattered themselves all over the Indian country in search of minerals before any treaty is made giving up the title. These men always look upon the Indians as their natural enemies, and it is their rule to shoot at them if they approach after being warned off. I was actually asked the other day by an American who has settled here, if we had the same law here as on the other side, and if he was justified in shooting any Indian who approached his camp after being warned not to advance. I am satisfied that such a rule is not necessary in dealing with the worst of Indians, and that any necessity there might be for its adoption arose from the illegal intrusion and wrongdoings of the Whites." Happy country was ours to have a MacLeod on the spot through these troublous years!
Meanwhile the Police had occasional problems with our own Indians, not in relation to the Government, but in connection with ancient or modern feuds or ordinary quarrels between tribes. The Police generally got things early under control. Here is a case. On May 25, 1877, Little Child, a Salteaux Treaty Chief, came to Fort Walsh and reported that his people and a large number of Assiniboines under Chief Crow's Dance had been camped together. The Salteaux desired to leave, and so notified Crow's Dance. This individual for some reason refused permission to the Salteaux to leave camp. But Little Child, feeling that he and his people had a right to go where they pleased "so long as they kept the laws of the White Mother," ordered his people to move. Whereupon Crow's Dance, who had 250 warriors, set upon the Salteaux, killing not any of the people, but shooting nineteen valuable sled-dogs, cutting lodges, upsetting travois, knocking down men, and frightening the women and children by firing off guns and giving war-whoops. When warned by Little Child, who did not retaliate, that he would report the matter to the Police, Crow's Dance struck him and said, "When the Police come we will do the same." Crow's Dance, backed by several hundred warriors, talked boastfully, knowing that there was only a handful of Police at Fort Walsh.
But the Police came, all told fifteen constables and a guide, under Inspector Walsh. They had also the surgeon, Dr. Kittson, along, because it looked as if his services would be required badly. Walsh and his handful of men struck that camp at three o'clock in the morning, after getting the report. He halted his men and inspected their arms and had all pistols ready. Then they rode swiftly into camp, and before anyone knew how it happened, he had "Crow's Dance" and "Rolling Thunder" and "Spider" and "The one who bends the wood" and the other leaders under arrest and out of camp to a butte near by. There Walsh ordered his men to breakfast, and sent word to the Assiniboine Chiefs still in camp that he would talk to them after breakfast. And so he did, making it very clear that no one had any right to interfere with others who desired to leave camp peaceably, and that he intended to take "Crow's Dance" and the others to Fort Walsh for trial. And they were taken accordingly. Some were sentenced to short terms, others were allowed to go, as they were not specially involved. In reporting this incident to Ottawa, Assistant-Commissioner A. G. Irvine said: "In conclusion I cannot too highly write of Inspector Walsh's prompt conduct in this matter, and it must be a matter of congratulation to feel that fifteen of our men can ride into an enormous camp of Indians and take out of it as prisoners thirteen of their head men. The action of this detachment will have great effect on all the Indians throughout the country." Right loyally spoken, Major Irvine!
And Walsh in his report speaks of his men: "In conclusion I wish to say a few words for the men of my detachment. Before entering the camp I explained to them there were 200 warriors in the camp who had set the Police at defiance; that I intended to arrest the leaders; to do so perhaps would put them in a dangerous position, but that they would have to pay strict attention to all orders given by me, no matter how severe they might appear. From the replies and the way they acted during the whole time, I am of opinion that every man of this detachment would have boldly stood his ground if the Indians had made any resistance." A good testimony this from a keen leader of gallant men. And because a note of appreciation is always an encouragement, we quote the able Comptroller Fred White, who wrote Major Irvine on behalf of the Secretary of State, then the governmental head of the department: "The Secretary of State desires that you will convey to Inspector Walsh his appreciation of the courage and determination shown by him and the officers and men under his command in carrying out their duty."
This incident occurred while the Sitting Bull invasion was still an unsolved problem, and so we take it up again. Inspector Walsh, as already recorded, met him on his arrival on Canadian soil, and Sitting Bull promised to obey the Queen's laws and report to the Police anything that happened. Not long afterwards three Americans, one a priest, the second General Miles' head scout, and an interpreter, arrived in Sitting Bull's camp to persuade him to go back south of the line. "The black-robe" would have been safe, but the other two would have been shot on sight but for Sitting Bull's promise to Walsh. The Chief sent word to the Police that three Americans were in his camp, and Assistant Commissioner Irvine, Inspector Walsh, Sub-Inspectors Clark and Allen went out to hold inquiry regarding the situation. Including the Yanktons, a branch of the Sioux, there were some 205 lodges. This was Irvine's first meeting with the famous Sioux Chief, and he gives us this pen picture: "I was particularly struck with Sitting Bull. He is a man of somewhat short stature, but with a pleasant face, a mouth showing great determination and a fine high forehead. When he smiled, which he often did, his face brightened up wonderfully. I should say he is a man of about forty-five years of age. The warriors who came with him were all of immense height and very muscular. When talking at the conference he spoke as a man who understands his subject well and who had thoroughly weighed it before speaking. He believes no one from the other side and said so. His speech showed him to be a man of wonderful capability."
The conference referred to was between the police officers above mentioned and Sitting Bull and other chiefs of the Sioux, Pretty Bear, Bear's Cap, The Eagle Sitting Down, Spotted Eagle and others. Later on the three Americans were present. But the Sioux flatly refused to return to the South, Sitting Bull closing the conference with the words, "Once I was rich, plenty of money, but the Americans stole it all in the Black Hills. What should I return for? To have my horse and my arms taken away? I have come to remain with the White Mother's children."
The next step taken by the American Government which seemed anxious to have the Indians return South and settle down on certain conditions, was to send special Commissioners in the persons of General Terry and General O'Neill, replaced by Lawrence, to visit Canada, hold conference with Sitting Bull and the other chiefs to that end. The Canadian Government adhered to its position of being willing to protect the Indians so long as they were on British soil. Hence no undue pressure to leave would be brought on those who had sought asylum under the British flag, but at the same time both the Ottawa authorities and the Police would have been glad to see them go voluntarily. Those who had knowledge of the situation and the outlook knew that Canada would not set aside land as reserves for American Indians, and they knew also that with the early disappearance of buffalo and other game in the presence of advancing civilization, the burden of feeding and caring for these aliens would be very heavy.
Word was wired from Ottawa to Colonel MacLeod to meet the American Commissioners with an escort at the boundary and if possible to get the Sioux leaders to come to Fort Walsh to meet them and thus save the Commissioners the necessity for a long journey. Accordingly, MacLeod met the Americans at the line and escorted them to Fort Walsh, to which point Inspector Walsh brought Sitting Bull and the other chiefs in due course. Walsh had great difficulty in getting the Indians to come, as they said they did not trust the Americans and feared that the latter might bring soldiers across to attack them. The fact that the day Walsh was in the camp on his errand of persuasion a band of Nez Perces men, women and children, wounded and bleeding, after a fight across the line, had come there for refuge, did not make the Inspector's task any easier. But because they had received the assurance of both MacLeod and Walsh that no one could cross the line after them, the chiefs came—Sitting Bull, Bear's Cap, Spotted Eagle, Flying Bird, Whirlwind Bear, Iron Dog, The Crow, Bear that Scatters, Little Knife, Yellow Dog and some others of less importance. The conference was held on October 17, 1877. It is customary for all parties to shake hands before beginning these "talks," but on this occasion Sitting Bull, representing the Chiefs, entered and shook hands warmly with Colonel MacLeod, but passed the American Commissioners with the utmost disdain.
General Terry delivered the message from the President of the United States. Terry was a distinguished soldier, hero of Fort Fisher in the Civil War, a man of magnificent appearance, standing some 6 ft. 6 in., built in proportion, a very gentlemanly officer with a kindly face and gracious manner. He made known the wishes of the President, told the Sioux that they were the only hostile band remaining out, offered them reserves and stock with farm implements and instructors, the only condition being that they would settle down on their reserves and surrender their arms and their horses. The General made appeal to them that, because too much blood had already been spilled, they should all henceforth live in peace, and the whole bearing and appearance of the distinguished speaker indicated his personal genuineness.
But Sitting Bull and his friends would not be appeased. They were embittered by a long course of harsh and unfair treatment by unscrupulous agents and frontier exploiters. One after the other the chiefs rose and declined the offer because, as they said, they had no confidence that these fair promises would be carried out. Sitting Bull said, "For sixty-four years you have treated my people bad. Over there we could go nowhere, so we have taken refuge here. I shake hands with these people (the Police), you can go back home, that part of the country we came from belonged to us and you took it from us, now we live here." Some of the other chiefs spoke even more bitterly and even a squaw, though it was a most unusual thing for a woman to take part in a conference, added her hot protest against accepting the proposals of the Commissioners from the States. The burden of the Indian speeches was all to the effect that they had been given no rest on the other side of the line, but had been driven about from place to place.
So the United States officers returned to their own country, having failed in their mission, to their own disappointment, and it may be added to the disappointment of the Canadian authorities who would have been glad to be relieved of the responsibility for the care of alien Indians, but who would not attempt in any way to drive out any who had sought refuge on our soil.
But as the time passed the position of the Sioux became more and more difficult. They were kept under strict surveillance by the Police. On account of their warlike disposition, and their association with the massacres south of the line, their presence was prejudicial to settlement by white people. Superintendent James Walker, who was in charge at Battleford and who, having jurisdiction over a large area, showed marked judgment as well as firmness in dealing with Indians, has some very accurate forecasts in a report written at the end of 1879. He suggests that Police be stationed at Duck Lake and Fort Pitt as well as Prince Albert. Duck Lake was the home of Chief Beardy, with whom Walker had already taken some firm measures and who joined with the Riel-Dumont rebellion later. Fort Pitt was the home of Chief Big Bear, concerning whom Walker writes in that report: "I look upon Big Bear as one of the most troublesome Cree Indians we have in the territories." And this same Big Bear also became a rebel in Riel's day and, after the Frog Lake massacre, burned Fort Pitt as an extra in his exploits, as I witnessed with my own eyes.
These items are quoted to show Walker's foresight as well as insight, for these give special weight to another sentence in that report concerning Indians of the Sitting Bull tribe. "The very name of Sioux," wrote Walker, "strikes terror into the hearts of many of the settlers." On this account the wanderings of Sitting Bull from Fort Walsh to Qu'Appelle and generally round about, was an unsettling influence. In a year or two, however, with the buffalo growing fewer and no land reserve in sight on the Canadian side, a good many of Sitting Bull's following began to drop away from him and go back over the line. One day, with about 1,200 or so of his people, he turned up at Fort Qu'Appelle and applied to Superintendent Sam B. Steele, who had come to that point from Fort Walsh, and asked that a reserve be given him and his band in Canada. Steele told him there was no chance, but sent a wire to Indian Commissioner (afterwards Governor) Dewdney that Sitting Bull was there. Mr. Dewdney came to Qu'Appelle and told Sitting Bull that the Canadian Government would not give him a reserve, as he had a reserve on the other side of the line which the United States would give him to occupy in peace if he would go there. Mr. Dewdney offered to ration Sitting Bull and his band as far as Wood Mountain, and Steele sent an escort with the Indians to ration them to that point. When they arrived there Sitting Bull was in a rather vicious temper and went to Inspector A. R. Macdonnell, the Mounted Police officer in charge there, with a few men. Sitting Bull asked for food and was refused by Macdonnell, who was widely known as a somewhat erratic but absolutely fearless and fair-minded man. The Sioux Chief then said he would take food by force, but he had mistaken his man. Macdonnell replied that he would ration the band with bullets if they tried that game. Then said Sitting Bull, "I am cast away." "No," said Macdonnell. "You are not cast away. I am speaking for your own good and the good of your people and giving you good advice. You have been promised pardon and food and land if you return to your own reservation in the United States. I advise you to go and I will help you and your people to travel if you accept the terms that have been offered you." Sitting Bull knew that Macdonnell would keep his word in either case, and so he concluded to take the Inspector's kindly meant advice.
Accordingly, the next day Macdonnell personally accompanied Sitting Bull to Poplar River, where the Chief handed over his rifle to Major Brotherton of the United States Army in token of submission. Macdonnell then arranged that the Sitting Bull band should be supplied with transportation and food by Mr. Louis Legarre, a trader, at the expense of the American Government, and thus they all crossed over the line. A few years later there was some row on Sitting Bull's reserve over there in connection with arrests, and in the confusion the famous old chief was shot, it is claimed by mistake and unnecessarily. Thus ended the stormy career of a man who seems to have been honest according to his light in fighting for the rights of his people as he understood them. His methods in war were no doubt barbaric and cruel enough, but some civilized nations cannot throw stones at pagans in that regard.
I have written Sitting Bull's story as far as it affected Canada in some detail, because it was in reality a series of events full of dangerous possibilities. Papers and persons in Eastern Canada were demanding that regiments should be raised and sent out to the West to cope with the situation that foreboded war with the Americans, who had thousands of picked soldiers on the border to keep the Indians down. But to the utter amazement of Eastern Canadians and to the more profound surprise of the Americans our handful of Mounted Police, with masterly diplomacy, endless patience and steady, cool courage were able to handle the whole situation and solve it without the loss of a single life on either side. There are few such chapters anywhere in the records of history.
It is in keeping with the general attitude of the Police towards the Indians, whom they considered the wards of the nation which the men in the scarlet tunic represented, that we find many fine incidents scattered up and down throughout the years. At Qu'Appelle, about the time above noted, an epidemic of smallpox threatened in the winter time, when its deadly effects are most in evidence in the Indian camps. The Police never proceeded on the wretched maxim of some that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian," and so, when these children of the wild were attacked by plague or pestilence or other destroyer, the Police fought for the lives of the afflicted people with all the tenacity and the courage of their corps. On the occasion mentioned in this paragraph there was no doctor, but Acting Hospital Steward Holmes, who had studied medicine, though he had no graduation standing, threw himself into the struggle against this dread disease. He vaccinated the Indians on all the reserves, many white people and all the half-breeds in the district. This meant travelling incessantly in the dead of winter and sleeping without tent in the snow-drifts with the thermometer down to 30 degrees below zero and more. He was only drawing the usual constable pay of 75 cents a day, and Steele, who was in command, recommended him for a small bonus allowance and a promotion. For it was not only vaccination and treatment of smallpox that had engaged Holmes' efforts, but constant attendance upon hundreds of Indians who had been so worn down that it was only by his devoted efforts that they were pulled through that hard winter. To Steele's amazement neither of his recommendations as to this toiler for others was acted upon. But I do not suppose Holmes cared. He had done his duty and was not working for reward. But the ways of men who could pigeon-hole a recommendation like that are difficult to understand.
A somewhat similar case was away in another direction, where one Corporal D. B. Smith held the post all alone at the famous old Hudson's Bay Fort at Norway House on Lake Winnipeg. Scarlet fever and diphtheria in the most deadly form broke out amongst the Indians and half-breeds, who were being mowed down like corn before the scythe. Corporal Smith, though stationed there for ordinary duty, did not hesitate a moment in facing the situation and going into a fight against these violent twin epidemics. He looked after the sick with the tenderness of a nurse, he comforted the dying, he buried the dead when even relatives shrank from the duty, and by strong disinfectants he sought to clean the huts and tents of the poisonous germs. There was no glamour of war to lure him on, no crashing of music, no cheers of comrades, for he was alone. It was just a grim, determined, silent fight, in which he knew he might fall at any moment himself, and there was no one to tell of deeds that were worthy of the Victoria Cross. But he fought the plagues to a finish. And it is good to know that when the story of it all leaked out and got to the ears of the authorities the Corporal got an additional stripe in recognition of his valorous work.
Or take a later case, where one Sergeant Field away in the bitter North at Fort Chippewyan received word that an Indian had gone insane and dangerous some 300 miles away at another post. Field had just returned from a hard patrol and his dogs were fagged. Field was an experienced man and knew the danger, as he was tired out himself. But he hired a fresh team of dogs and started out. The Indian madman was hard to handle, for he was violent and strong. Field had to tie him on the sleigh, but of course had to release him at times for fear he would freeze. On these occasions the lunatic would fight like a wolf and make attempts to get away. It would have been easy to let him get away and be lost in some night blizzard in the wilderness. But that was not the Police way, and in due course the unfortunate creature was landed safely at Fort Saskatchewan and given a chance to recover under new conditions.
When occasion required, the red-coated men could be firm enough, as all law-breakers found to their sorrow, but there is something amazing in the way in which these policemen risked and lost their lives at times in making arrests rather than shoot the Indians they were sent to bring in. In a most marked degree the police kept to the faith that they were come to save human lives rather than destroy them. In this connection and throwing in some incidents as above to illustrate our points, we think of the case of Sergeant Wilde, of Pincher Creek, who trailed a murderous Indian generally known as Charcoal into the foothills. When the murderer was sighted, Wilde, whose horse was one of the best, spurred away ahead of his men. Charcoal was riding deliberately along with a rifle slung across in front of him in plain sight of Wilde, who, however, would not fire upon him, but pressed on to make the arrest and leave the disposal of him to the law of the land. When Wilde rode up to him, the Indian wheeled in his saddle and shot him, following this up a few minutes after by putting another bullet in the body of the policeman as he lay on the ground. Wilde was one of the finest men who had ever worn the uniform—one of the men who had built up the great tradition of the Force. He was greatly beloved at Pincher Creek, where the citizens erected a monument to his memory. A pathetic incident took place on the day of his funeral, when a faithful and favourite hound that had always kept guard over Wilde refused to allow the pallbearers to remove the body and had to be shot before the funeral cortege could proceed. It was a pity to have to do this drastic thing, but the loyal and devoted dog would no doubt have died in any case of a broken heart.
And then there was the case of that other gallant young man, Sergeant Colebrook, up in the Prince Albert district, who was killed while proceeding to arrest a notorious Indian called Almighty Voice. Colebrook knew the character of the Indian because he had arrested him once before for cattle-stealing. This time Colebrook was trailing him for killing cattle and for breaking jail, and in company with an interpreter guide caught up to him on the open prairie. The Indian unslung his gun and called to the guide to tell the policeman to halt or he would shoot. But halting was not the Police way, and Colebrook, with the warrant to arrest, not to kill, as he said to the guide, went steadily forward and received a fatal bullet through the heart. It was the price he paid for his devotion to orders, but it maintained the Police tradition. Almighty Voice, of course, was not allowed to escape. He and two other Indians took up a stand in a clump of bushes, where they fought like rats in a hole against the Police and civilians, of whom they killed several before the bush was shelled and the Indians found dead when Assistant Commissioner McIllree with several men rushed the position from the open plain.
It was the willingness of the Police, even at great risk to themselves, to allow the alleged wrong-doer to get the benefit of a fair British trial after his arrest, that gradually gave the Indians a new sense of obligation to the men of the scarlet tunic. This splendid part of the Police tradition won its way steadily till great war camps came to realize that the Police stood for the square deal, and that if men the Police wished to arrest were innocent, they would not be punished. And with that lesson came also into the heart of the Indian the conviction that if any of their number did wrong they should, as westerners used to say, take their medicine and reap the due reward of their deeds. In either case the Police approved themselves to the Indians as their friends, not their enemies, and thus the famous corps became a very great asset to Canada in the interests of law and order.
THE IRON HORSES
For some ten stirring and formative years the Mounted Police had been riding their gallant steeds over the virgin sod of the untracked prairie before the iron horses, crossing the Red River, hit the steel trail for the mountains and the Western Sea. It is quite certain that the presence of the men in scarlet and gold on western plains was an element in the situation which encouraged the promoters of the Canadian Pacific Railway, our first transcontinental, to undertake their tremendous project with more assured confidence. For these shrewd students of human nature knew quite well that people would look in various ways upon the coming of the railway.
There would be some who, like Thoreau, the hermit sage of Walden, would resent, though perhaps for a less aesthetic reason, the intrusion of this noisy and energetic sign of a new era. It was he who cried, "We do not ride on the railway, it rides on us." For, while there were some in our West who actually did feel regret at the passing of the quiet day of their pioneer life, most of those who had the aggressive spirit of the white race in them, were glad to see the vision of the earliest colonists being fulfilled by the opening up of the country. But there were others who had lived on the frontiers, and had been a law unto themselves, who said, like a trader who saw three wooden shacks built where Calgary now stands, "I am going to move back—this is getting too civilized for me," and the man who said that represented a class that had to be made to realize the presence of government.
Then there were the Indians, who saw in the advent of the railway the necessary disappearance of big game from the plains, which would become the habitat of the settler. More than once there were Indians who would have blocked the way of the railway builders or would even have swooped down in the night and torn up the rails, but for the restraining presence of authority. And besides all these, there were some amongst the huge gangs of navvies and general track-makers who had alien tastes and habits, who required to be, on occasion, reminded that, while in a British country no law-abiding man should be coerced into working against his will if he was not satisfied with conditions, he must respect the rights of human life and must not destroy the property of others. All these cases and conditions became actualities in the West, and with all these the Mounted Police dealt as occasions arose, in such a way as to enable the march of civilization to proceed unchecked and unafraid.
For the settlers who made the continuance of the railway possible, the Mounted Policeman was a sort of guardian angel, and the well-known painting by Paul Wickson which hangs in the Premier's office at Ottawa shows how the patrol went about asking the homesteader if he had any complaints. Only those perhaps who have lived on these far-sundered homesteads know how much this meant to these lonely men and their isolated families. Fighting prairie fires, when the mad battalions of flame wheeled with the gale and charged at the humble dwelling or the precious hay or wheat-stacks of the settler, was the willingly assumed duty of many a rider of the plains. One recalls the case of Constable Conradi, who, while on patrol one fall day when the dry grass was as inflammable as tinder, asked a settler if there was any homesteader living in the direction where a fire was rushing. The settler said yes, that there was a man named Young, his wife and children, that way, but it would be impossible to reach them through the fiery wall that was so plainly visible. "Impossible or not," says the constable, "I am going to try," and putting spurs to his horse he was soon lost to sight in the rolling smoke. The horse was so badly burned that he had to be shot, but Conradi saved the family. He found Mr. Young, the settler, exhausted. They both fought the fierce blaze, and when hope of saving the home was gone, the constable, plunging through the fire, found Mrs. Young and the children standing in the water of a slough. He saw that they would be suffocated when the fire encircled it, and so he plunged and carried the children to the burnt ground, the mother following. From the settler's grateful letter to headquarters we make this extract: "His pluck and endurance I cannot praise too highly, fighting till he was nearly suffocated, his hat burned off his head, hair singed and vest on fire. My wife and family owe their lives to him, and I feel with them we shall never be able to repay him for his brave conduct." Thus did the Police make the settlers' work possible, that they in turn might make the railway a reasonably safe investment. Then, when the Indians became awkward and threatened to stop the progress of the transcontinental railway across the prairie, it was the Mounted Police that stepped in to see that the road was not blocked. Eastern contractors and workmen, who had not been used to seeing war-paint, were somewhat alarmed when a band of Indians would swoop down with the air of people who owned the earth, and in all such cases the Police were quickly called by wire or otherwise. Superintendent Shurtcliffe tells of a rather odd case in which an Indian chief with the appropriate name of "Front Man" stopped a railway contractor from getting out ties and caused the whole outfit to leave the bush in a good deal of panic. Shurtcliffe, a capable officer, immediately sent for "Front Man" and told him how dangerous a thing it was to interfere with the progress of work authorized by Canada. "Front Man" realized that he had rushed in where he had no business, and on his promising Shurtcliffe that he would behave himself, the contractor and his men went back to their peaceable but very important tie business.
Then there was the case of Pie-a-Pot, who from the earliest days of treaty-making was crochety and rather defiantly opposed to the incoming of anything or anybody that would interfere with his nomadic habits and general inclination to please himself. He showed a disagreeable tendency to leave his reserve and wander with his camp following and general entourage, much to the discomfort of others who were not desirous of his presence. One day this chief took it into his head that he would wander on to the right-of-way being mapped out for the Canadian Pacific, and by spreading his camp across it put a damper on the enterprise. And he succeeded up to a certain point. The engineers worked up to his camp and politely asked him to move, but he laughed at them, enjoyed their discomfiture, while his braves circled around with their ponies and kept up a rifle fire to indicate what they could do to the engineers in case of emergency. Of course, the engineers were glad to retire as gracefully as possible, but they wired the Lieutenant-Governor that they were at a standstill. The Governor sent word to Police headquarters, whence a telegram went to the nearest Police post: "Trouble on railway. Tell Indians to move on." There were only two men there, a sergeant and a constable. They rode off at once, and when they arrived at the camp of the Indians and delivered the order, Pie-a-Pot and his chief men, who had not been much in contact with the Police, only laughed, while the braves performed their usual firearm feats and the squaws jeered. Then the sergeant indicated by showing his watch that he would give fifteen minutes for them to start moving. At this the braves on signal circled closer, backed their ponies against the troop-horses and made every effort to get the Police to start trouble, the idea being to let them take the offensive and be wiped out. But the Police were never to be drawn that way. In this case the two scarlet tuniced men sat coolly on their horses, which stood at the door of Pie-a-Pot's tent. And when the time was up the sergeant, throwing the lines to the constable, sprang off his horse, leaped past the surly Chief, entered the tepee and kicked out the centre pole, thus bringing the wigwam down nearly on the head of the defiant Indian. Without waiting, the sergeant moved to the next tent and repeated the operation with great precision, and then said to the chief and his men, "Now move and move quick." The chief was very angry, but he was no fool, and so in a very short time he and his whole outfit were on the trek to their reserve. The engineers went on with the transcontinental, and the two athletes in scarlet and gold, whose names were not even given out, rode back to their post, having made one more unadvertised contribution from the Police to the making of the West.
Now let us instance a case in which the Police had to deal with turbulent navvies on the railway who went on strike and threatened to destroy the company's property. The Police have never acted in any sense as strike-breakers, nor have they interfered between the parties. They simply saw fair play, took care that the country's lawful business was carried on and provided against destruction of human life and property. This was the position for instance at the Beaver in the mountains while the Canadian Pacific was under construction. For the time being it was a terminus, and all manner of lawless, desperate and disorderly characters were there to prey upon the navvies, many of whom were foreigners and a good many of whom were just as reckless and offensive as could be imagined. To keep these rough men in order, and there were several hundreds of them mostly armed, there were only eight Mounted Police, but they were under the leadership of the redoubtable Superintendent, Sam B. Steele, who had as his non-commissioned assistant Sergeant Fury, a short, heavy set, bull-dog type of a man, whom I remember well, quiet, determined and undemonstrative, but who could, while keeping cool, at the same time be everything his name suggested if occasion required. When the strike was starting, Steele did not interfere, but warned the strikers that they must keep the peace and not commit any acts of violence or he would punish them to the full extent of the law. When the strike did start, Steele was in bed with mountain fever and Sergeant Fury had only six men. One of them, Constable Kerr, who had gone for a bottle of medicine for the Inspector, found on his way back a riotous crowd with a desperate character, well known to the Police, inciting the mob to violence and especially to an attack on the barracks. Kerr, who was not a man to stand nonsense, promptly arrested the man, but a score of men overpowered him and released the prisoner. Sergeant Fury at once reported to Steele, who said, "It will never do to let the gang think they can play with us." Then Fury and another man tried to make the arrest without resorting to using weapons, but in a little while returned, with their uniforms torn, to report that once again the rioters had taken the prisoner from them by force. Steele said, "This is too bad. Go back armed and shoot any man who interferes with the arrest." He started off again with Constables Fane, Craig and Walters, while the other four constables with their Winchesters stood ready to guard the barracks, which were slated for attack by the mob. Johnston, a magistrate, was there to read the Riot Act if necessary. In a few minutes there was a shot. Steele got up and went to the window. Craig and Walters were dragging the prisoner across the bridge, the desperado fighting like a demon, and a scarlet woman following them with cries and curses. Fury and Fane were in the rear trying to hold back the gang of some three hundred men. Steele called on Johnston to come with him to read the Riot Act and then rushed out, got a rifle from one of the guard, and ignoring his fevered condition ran across the bridge, covering the crowd with the rifle and saying he would shoot the first man who dared to cross. The crowd could hardly believe their eyes when they saw Steele and shouted, "Even his death-bed does not scare him." In the meantime the desperate prisoner was struggling fiercely with the men who had him, but when on the bridge Walters raised his powerful fist and struck him over the temple, and with Craig trailed him like a rag into the barracks. As the woman passed screaming, "You red-coated devil," Steele shouted, "Take her along too." Then Johnston read the Riot Act and Steele made a straight statement that the Police, though few, would not flinch and that if he saw more than twelve rioters together he would open fire and mow them down. And the eight Mounted Police stood there under Sergeant Fury with magazines charged, ready to act when ordered. The riot collapsed right there, the ringleaders were sentenced next day and there was no more trouble. The roughs at the Beaver had tried the game of rioting with the wrong men.
And in order to show that the Police took no sides, but sought to hold the balance level in these matters, we might recall an instance related by Superintendent J. H. McIlree, where men had been hired by contractors on the understanding that when a section of the railway was finished to Calgary, these men would be paid off and sent back to their homes in the East. However, the contractors, when they came to that point, would not provide transportation to the East, but wished to send them farther West. The men refused, and after a few days took possession of a train of empty cars going eastward. The Police could not allow this commandeering of the property of the railway company for the failure of certain contractors, and so they caused the men to leave the train, but these same Police, once they discovered the real situation, made it so hot for those contractors that they were glad to yield and give the men what they had agreed. So all along the line, from the time it crossed the Red River in 1881 till it reached the Pacific five years later, the Mounted Police stood guard over the railway which was the first to link together with steel the scattered Provinces of the new Confederation and the construction of which within a given time was required to get British Columbia to become part of Canada. Thus were these red-coated men nation-builders, in that it was under their protection that the vast enterprise was carried forward to completion.
It is not unexpectedly then that we come across two special letters from the builders of the great railway expressing their warm appreciation of the work of the Police. The first is from that remarkable man, Mr. W. C. Van Horne, who was afterwards President of the Railway, and who was knighted for his distinguished services to the Empire as a builder of railways. Van Horne was a somewhat extraordinary composite. I recall having the privilege of being under his guidance around the fine art gallery of Lord Strathcona in Montreal, and had evidence not only of his genial companionship, but of his being an art connoisseur as well as a skilled user of the brush himself. Socially and in his home he was full of comradeship and bright joviality, but as a railroader he was as inflexible and apparently unemotional as the material with which he worked. He was not given to gushing letters, so that the following from him from his office as General Manager of date January 1, 1883, is noteworthy:
"DEAR SIR,—Our work of construction for the year 1882 has just closed, and I cannot permit the occasion to pass without acknowledging the obligations of the company to the North-West Mounted Police, whose zeal and industry in preventing traffic in liquor and preserving order along the line of construction have contributed so much to the successful prosecution of the work. Indeed, without the assistance of the officers and men of the splendid Force under your command it would have been impossible to have accomplished as much as we did. On no great work within my knowledge, where so many men have been employed, has such perfect order prevailed. On behalf of the company and of all their officers, I wish to return thanks and to acknowledge particularly our obligations to yourself and Major Walsh.
"I am, sir, "Yours very truly, "W. C. VAN HORNE, "General Manager."
"Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. IRVINE, "Commissioner, "North-West Mounted Police, "Regina."
And at the close of the year 1884 the General Superintendent of the Western Line, Mr. John M. Egan, who was even less than Van Horne given to incursions into the sentimental, wrote the following:
"MY DEAR COLONEL,—Gratitude would be wanting did the present year close without my conveying, on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Railway, to you and those under your charge most sincere thanks for the manner in which their several duties in connection with the railway have been attended to during the past season.
"Prompt obedience to your orders, faithful carrying out of your instructions, contribute in no small degree to the rapid construction of the line. The services of your men during recent troubles among a certain class of our employees prevented destruction to property and preserved obedience to law and order in a manner highly commendable. Justice has been meted out to them without fear or favour, and I have yet to hear any person, who respects same, say aught against your command.