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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 our trail.


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