On Western Trails in the Early
Seventies Chapter XXI
Ran buffalo herd—Meet "Old
Sun"—Become acquainted with "Big Plume "- Harassed by Blackfeet—First
news of the Mounted Police—Government decides to establish law and
order—Break news to Indians.
We moved out the next day,
and in the afternoon ran a good-sized herd and killed many buffalo; but,
greatly to our disappointment, we ran right into a large party of Blackfeet,
who were leisurely moving up-country. They had, a few days previously, slain
a small party of Crees. The Crees had entrenched themselves, and were ready
to stand off the Blackfeet, but Old Sun had cajoled them into coming out of
their trench, and had invited them into his camp.
The wily old chief was
reported to me as saying to them, "What is the matter with you? Why do you
thus act as if we were still your enemies? Only a few days since, we were in
the Cree lodges, and we ate and drank out of the same dish, and smoked the
same pipe, and we have not changed in our hearts. Come out, and come into
our lodges, and we will be your friends." The foolish fellows did come out,
and were all killed. This was the same Old Sun who caused the massacre of
some immigrants, who were coming to Edmonton from Montana, and who were
encamped near Pincher Creek, while Old Sun and his camp were down on the Old
Man's, near where the present Piegan Agency is now placed. It is said, "They
killed all the men, and took the women and children into camp." This was the
camp we now had to do with, and as they outnumbered us by four to one, or
more, we felt their presence as a menace, and also knew that our chances for
a good hunt were now almost cut off. There would be no buffalo on their
trail. We hurried in our meat, and I issued ammunition to all who had little
or none, and we watched these people, whose camp that night might be about
three miles from ours.
Here I became acquainted with
a minor chief, Big Plume, who became my staunch friend from that time on,
even to the day of his death.
We moved camp westward the
next day, even as the Blackfeet did, and picked up some more buffalo, but
were harassed all day by having to constantly watch our near neighbors, who
came around us in droves. If they had not been afraid of the Stoneys we
would have fared badly, and they would have gone on into our fort, and at
this time had things all their own way. It was because of their heading
westward that we also had so soon moved that way. We virtually at this time
had two positions to defend—our own camp and the fort in the hills. Oh, how
I hoped for my brother to return from Edmonton.
We now had to camp for a day
or two in order to dry up and cure the meat we had killed, and the Blackfeet
also camped within sight of us, for which we were thankful. To keep them in
check was now our strong desire. While Jacob and Kenny were watching camp,
and our people were making provision, it was my lot to interview and be
constantly interviewed by the forever coming and going of the Blackfeet.
While this was our anxious experience, a courier arrived, bringing in
despatches from Edmonton. It seemed that two men had posted through with
these to out fort, and Mrs. McDougall had at once sent this courier on our
trail with these despatches. The message was that the Government had at last
determined to take action, and was now sending a force of police into the
North-West for the establishing of law and order. I was to come into
Edmonton and receive my commission and outfit, and then travel from camp to
camp and inform the mountain and wood and plains tribes of this action of
the Government, and also to explain the full purpose thereof.
We had for years told the
Indians this was coming, and had, around many a campfire, exalted law and
government, and in many a proud chief's lodge foretold the wonderful change
that would take place. Now the change was near, and I, personally, was to be
as the "John the Baptist" of the new regime of law and order and government.
I sent for Old Sun and his minor chiefs, and told them that I was called in
to Edmonton, and would presently come to their camp with a message from the
"Queen Mother" and the Government of Canada. I noticed that they were much
interested. I told them I would start on the morrow, and exhorted them to
maintain the peace. At the evening service with the Stoneys I went into this
more fully, and found that these more intelligent people were delighted with
the prospective change. On the morrow I left Jacob and Kenny to watch the
Blackfeet and finish the curing of the provisions, and move on into our
fort, and then, with the courier, I made my way in as fast as I could.
Arriving, I found my people
in good spirits. I also found the two men from Edmonton, who had been sent
out to bring me in, waiting and ready for return. Hurriedly making ready,
and having some fresh horses brought in, I once more said good-bye, and we
were off for the North country. I did not take anyone with me, depending on
finding men at Edmonton.
One of the men who had come
out was an old travelling companion of mine, Johnny Roland. I introduced him
to my readers in a former book, "In the Days of the Red River Rebellion." I
had him with me then on what we might call our Hand Hill trip. There was no
better, all-round voyageur than Johnny. He was as to the manner born. With
the rivers, and some of these very high, thrown in, we made a record trip,
three and a half days to Edmonton, two hundred and twenty-five miles of
rough and tumble through the wilderness.
On the way in we met a noted
traveller, one John Glenn. "Yes, gentlemen, from the Rio Grande to the Peace
River of the North I have roamed." John had with him a couple of Old
Countrymen who were spying out the land. These were slowly moving south on
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