Bill Waiser

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Opinion: Reconciliation a work in progress on Beardy’s & Okemasis

Reconciliation work, made necessary by the fallout from the 1885 North-West Resistance, is not over.

By: Angus Esperance and Bill Waiser.

A ceremony on Aug. 28, 2020 saw treaty medals restored to the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation. Mary Culbertson, the Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan (left), Chief Edwin Ananas, Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation, and Saskatchewan Lt.-Gov. Russ Mirasty. (Photo courtesy Angela Merasty, Office of the Treaty Commissioner.) 

Saskatchewan’s Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation and the Crown are actively engaged in reconciliation.

It wasn’t always that way.

Willow Cree Chiefs Beardy and Saswaypew (succeeded by Okemasis) signed an adhesion to Treaty 6 in August 1876. Alarmed by the disappearance of the bison, they accepted the Queen’s offer of assistance to make the transition to farming.

The Beardy’s & Okemasis people settled near Duck Lake, just west of the South Saskatchewan River. The first few years of reserve life were marked by hardship and privation. Promised agricultural assistance was not only late in arriving, but often inadequate.

Then, in the spring of 1885, the Willow Cree people were helplessly drawn into the vortex of the North-West Resistance. The Willow Cree leaders counselled their followers to remain on the sidelines during the Metis resistance. But some band members were forcibly coerced into joining Metis ranks — a fact willfully ignored by government officials. The historical record suggests they were not allies.

Canada moved quickly to punish First Nations for their alleged involvement in the resistance. Then-prime minister John A. Macdonald told Gov.-Gen. Lansdowne, “We have certainly made (the resistance) assume large proportions in the public eye. This has been done … for our own purposes.”

Those bands found off-reserve were accused of violating Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney’s early May 1885 order that Indians remain peacefully in place. It did not matter that the Beardy’s & Okemasis people, like the white settler community, had feared for their safety and fled from their homes because the Battle of Duck Lake took place on the edge of their reserve.

They were now considered a “rebel” band.

Canada suspended annuity payments to the Beardy’s & Okemasis people for four years — from 1885-1888 inclusive­ — even though this unilateral action violated the Treaty 6 agreement. General Frederick Middleton, the commander of the North-West Field Force, also confiscated the treaty medals of Beardy and Okemasis and deposed them as chiefs of their bands.

The Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation have lived with the shame of being “disloyal” for 130 years.

Finally, in 2015, the Specific Claims Tribunal ruled that the Crown had wrongly accused the Beardy’s & Okemasis bands of insurrection and breached its treaty obligation to pay annuities to band members at a time of suffering and starvation. Canada was required to pay $4.6 million to the Beardy’s & Okemasis people in compensation. The tribunal decision also applied to 12 other bands who had their treaty payments withheld.

Another step on the road to reconciliation was taken this past August. Mary Culbertson, the Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan and a member of the Keeseekoose First Nation, arranged to have two replacement treaty medals presented to the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation. The event, purposely held on Aug.28, marked the 144th anniversary of the Willow Cree’s entry into treaty. It was also significant that His Honour Russ Mirasty, the lieutenant-governor of Saskatchewan and a member of the Lac La Ronge First Nation, participated in the ceremony.

That’s the good news.

But the reconciliation work, made necessary by the fallout from the 1885 North-West Resistance, is far from over.

Three Cree chiefs­ Poundmaker, Big Bear, and One Arrow­ were found guilty of treason-felony in the aftermath of the resistance and sentenced to time in Stony Mountain penitentiary. In May 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pardoned Poundmaker. That same consideration should also apply to Big Bear and One Arrow who were reluctant participants in the troubles­ and convicted for what Prime Minister Macdonald called, “our own purposes.”

General Middleton also took One Arrow’s treaty medal after the fall of Batoche. No one knows what became of the medal, but a replacement should be presented to the One Arrow band.

Canada also refused to recognize the chief and headmen of the Beardy & Okemasis First Nation from 1889 until 1936. Twenty-seven other bands were similarly treated. Canada must make amends for this heavy-handed action.

Perhaps the most painful consequence of the resistance was Canada’s declaration that 28 Indigenous bands had been disloyal in 1885. This “rebel” label was arbitrarily applied in many instances.

Until these outstanding issues are resolved and Canada formally apologizes for its actions, reconciliation remains a work in progress.

Angus Esperance is an Elder with the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation.

This article originally appeared as an opinion piece in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Sask. Party earns a place in history

A fourth consecutive majority mandate is also history-making. It’s something that has been accomplished only twice in the past. | File photos

Now that the Sask Party has secured its fourth consecutive majority mandate, it’s time to look at other powerhouse parties from Saskatchewan’s electoral past. 

The Sask Party’s re-election is a significant achievement, one that will ensure that it continues to be the longest serving provincial government in Canada today. There’s even talk of the Sask Party being the province’s “natural governing party.” 

A fourth consecutive majority mandate is also history-making. It’s something that has been accomplished only twice in the past. 

The last time was from 1944-64 when the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation Party won five consecutive elections (1944, 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960) during its 20-year reign. 

Tommy Douglas was the CCF leader for those majority victories. He also enjoys the distinction of serving 17 years as premier. 

No other Saskatchewan premier has matched the Douglas record. Liberal leader Walter Scott (1905-1916), New Democratic Party leader Allan Blakeney (1971-1982), and Sask Party leader Brad Wall (2007-2018) all served 11 years as premier. 

Tommy Douglas also book-ended his years as Saskatchewan premier as an MP. 

He represented Weyburn (1935-44) in the House of Commons before the 1944 Saskatchewan provincial election and then stepped down as premier in 1961 to head the fledgling New Democratic Party. 

He was defeated in Regina in the 1962 federal election and had to find a safe seat in British Columbia later that same year. Douglas never tried to run in Saskatchewan again, despite his long association with the province. 

Douglas would serve the next 17 years in Parliament. When his past service as Weyburn MP is included, he spent 26 years in federal politics — much longer than his term as premier. 

Douglas was not the only Saskatchewan premier with Ottawa experience, nor does his CCF party hold the record for the most consecutive majority election victories. 

The Liberal party was a Saskatchewan dynasty in the early 20th century, enjoying power for almost a quarter century (1905-29). It won a string of six consecutive majority elections (1905, 1908, 1912, 1917, 1921, and 1925), even though it faced several challenges, including the First World War and the farmers’ progressive movement. 

Saskatchewan’s first and second premiers, Walter Scott (1905-16) and William Martin (1916-22), respectively, both sat in the House of Commons as Liberal backbenchers for Saskatchewan ridings before entering provincial politics. 

Charles Dunning (1922-26) and Jimmy Gardiner (1926-29 and 1934-35), on the other hand, went from the Saskatchewan premiership to the Liberal cabinet table in Ottawa. 

Dunning was finance minister in the William Lyon Mackenzie King government. Gardiner served both King and Louis St. Laurent as minister of agriculture for a remarkable 22 years.

Before Gardiner entered the federal cabinet in 1935, he had to overcome a political embarrassment. In the 1929 general election, Gardiner was the first Saskatchewan premier to lead his party to defeat. He did not like it. It was only after Gardiner had brought the Liberal party back to power in 1934 that he resigned as premier a year later to go to Ottawa.

It was on the floor of the House of Commons that Gardiner, a former premier of Saskatchewan, did verbal battle with Douglas, a future premier of Saskatchewan. Both men were famously short. One day during a steady barrage of heckling led by Gardiner, Douglas retorted, “I don’t want any more interruptions. If the minister of agriculture will sit up in his chair and dangle his feet, I’ll go on with what I have to say.” Gardiner never forgave him. 

What’s often forgotten about this Regina-Ottawa Liberal connection was that King represented a Saskatchewan riding for 19 of his 27 years as federal Liberal party leader (1919-48). He was the MP for Prince Albert from 1926-45. He was prime minister for 14 of those years. 

So, what’s next for Premier Scott Moe and his Sask Party government? If they want to continue to make Saskatchewan electoral history: 

  • Moe needs to remain premier until 2035 (Douglas served 17 years).
  • The Sask Party needs to govern until 2031 (the Liberals governed for 24 years). 
  • The Sask Party needs to win two more majority victories (equalling the Liberal record). 

Given the Sask Party’s decisive victory in the 2020 Saskatchewan election, especially its capture of three-fifths of the popular vote, two more majority victories seem possible. 

But as British Liberal politician Joseph Chamberlain warned, “in politics, there is no use in looking beyond the next fortnight.”

Just look at the fate of the other two “natural governing parties” in the October 2020 provincial election. The Liberals secured only a few hundred votes (less than one percent of popular vote), while the NDP (the successor to the CCF) still struggles to expand its electoral appeal.

One thing is certain, though. The Saskatchewan Roughriders have only won the Grey Cup (1966, 1989, 2007, and 2013) when the NDP has not been in power.

This article originally appeared in the Western Producer.

A case for commemorating Chief Big Bear: an early advocate for Indigenous rights

As we re-examine who’s reflected in statues around Canada, we should aim to honour more Indigenous leaders

Big Bear was a respected chief who rose to prominence in the late nineteenth century as a spokesperson for Indigenous rights. He was a member of a mounted hunting society that thrived on the great bison herds of the northern plains of what is now called Saskatchewan. (Library and Archives Canada C1873)

When the statue of John A. Macdonald was recently toppled in Montreal, Sen. Murray Sinclair, the chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, didn’t applaud.

Instead, he was “more interested in asking why there are not more statues of Indigenous people who have contributed to Canada,” according to an article in the Globe and Mail.

It’s a message that Murray has repeated since the 2015 release of the TRC calls to action that “the contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canada’s history” must be recognized.

I’ve thought deeply about Sinclair’s comments on reconciliation and commemoration through the lens of my years of teaching at university, my writing and especially my work with several Saskatchewan Indigenous communities. Over the past four decades, I’ve come across many Indigenous historical figures worthy of commemoration. 

One person, though, stands out: the Plains Cree Chief Big Bear (Mistahimaskwa). He resolutely stood up to Canada and demanded a meaningful, reciprocal treaty relationship with the Crown that would be constantly renewed.

A leader of hundreds

Big Bear was a respected chief who rose to prominence in the late nineteenth century as a spokesperson for Indigenous rights.

Born in 1825 near Jackfish Lake in present-day west-central Saskatchewan, Big Bear was a member of a mounted hunting society that thrived on the great bison herds of the northern plains. He drew his spiritual strength from the bear and carried a bear paw with claws in his power bundle.

Chief Poundmaker and Chief Big Bear (left) were convicted of treason-felony in 1885. The two were incarcerated in Stony Mountain penitentiary. Both died shortly after their release. (Manitoba Archives/ Big Bear collection/ 3/ N16092)

By the early 1860s, Big Bear was the leader of his own band that may have had as many as 500 members.

In October 1870, Big Bear was one of several leaders of a large Cree war party that was defeated in the last great battle against the Blackfoot at Belly River (near Lethbridge, Alta). Thereafter, the Cree, weakened by disease and hunger, prepared to deal with a new challenge: an expansive Dominion of Canada.

Big Bear avoided entering treaty for years

In September 1876, the second of two major meetings was held to bring the Cree of central Saskatchewan and Alberta into Treaty Six.

Even though Big Bear was away hunting on the plains, Indian Commissioner Alexander Morris concluded an agreement with Sweetgrass, the leading chief in the Pitt district.

Canada expected Big Bear to settle on a reserve that had been selected for him near Fort Pitt, where he is pictured here in 1884 (far right), deliberately away from other Cree bands. The chief refused to be isolated and launched a peaceful treaty rights initiative. (Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan S-B134)

When Morris asked Big Bear to enter the treaty, he refused. Big Bear not only believed that Canada was offering too little, he also wanted to see if Canada would live up to its promises.

He tried to tell Morris that he did not want to be an animal with a rope around his neck, but the translator misinterpreted the remarks, and Morris concluded that Big Bear feared hanging.

Big Bear remained out of treaty for six years, gathering around him other families who had become disillusioned with Canada’s Indigenous policies.

Indian Affairs officials considered him a troublemaker.

Treaty rights initiative launched

In December 1882, facing acute starvation because of the disappearance of the bison, Big Bear reluctantly brought his band into treaty at Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills.

Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney provided rations only to bands who had taken treaty and then used the withholding of food to force bands to move to reserves.

Canada expected Big Bear to settle on a reserve that had been selected for him near Fort Pitt, deliberately away from other Cree bands, but the chief refused to be isolated and launched a peaceful treaty rights initiative. 

Big Bear met with other Cree chiefs about the need to get Canada to honour the treaty agreement and provide more assistance to bands struggling to make the transition to farming. He even sent messengers to their traditional enemy, the Blackfoot, to bring them on side.

Canada was deeply worried about the growing treaty rights movement and made tentative plans over the winter of 1884-85 to arrest Indigenous leaders, including Big Bear.

Imprisoned for treason-felony

Then, in the spring of 1885, the North-West Resistance erupted along the North Saskatchewan country.

At Frog Lake, where Big Bear’s band was camped, Wandering Spirit and several other warriors decided to settle personal scores and murdered nine men.

Big Bear took no part in the killings; he knew that violence would undermine his treaty rights movement.

A few days later, Big Bear intervened when warriors wanted to capture nearby Fort Pitt.

Big Bear intervened when warriors wanted to capture Fort Pitt. His band remained peacefully in the area, waiting to see how events would unfold elsewhere, until it was attacked by a Canadian military column near Frenchman’s Butte. (James Smith, ‘Loyal till Death’)

The North-West Mounted Police detachment was allowed leave to go down the North Saskatchewan River to Fort Battleford.

Big Bear’s band remained peacefully in the area, waiting to see how events would unfold elsewhere, until it was attacked by a Canadian military column near Frenchman’s Butte in late May. Big Bear survived the skirmishing and for the next month he was a fugitive, largely abandoned by his followers.

When he was accidentally discovered near Fort Carlton in early July, he was a shell of his former self and his diplomatic initiative lay in ruin.

Canada put Big Bear on trial for treason-felony for what happened in the Frog Lake-Fort Pitt region. He was found guilty and sentenced to three years in Stony Mountain penitentiary.

Chief Big Bear (bottom, second from left) and Chief Poundmaker (bottom, far right) at the North-West Mounted Police Barracks in Regina in 1885. (Library and Archives Canada)

Because Indian Commissioner Dewdney blamed Big Bear for spearheading First Nations resistance to his policies, he allowed the old chief’s hair to be cut upon entering prison.

Big Bear was released early, over Dewdney’s objections, because of failing health.

He died in 1888. 

To this day, he remains a convicted “rebel.”

Commemorating Big Bear could be part of the ongoing reconciliation process, something that Sinclair has been calling for. 

He is deserving of some kind of public recognition: a reminder that there was, and is, a better way forward.

This article originally appeared as an Opinion Piece on cbc.ca.

Small Pox 1781-1782

Disorder flying through the country: the forgotten 1781-82 smallpox epidemic

In the summer of 1781, a joint Cree-Piegan war party attacked a Snake village in the Red Deer River area.

The warriors found “no one to fight with,” according to one of the participants, “but the dead and the dying.”

It was smallpox, carried north from New Spain, infecting Indigenous bands along the way.

Not knowing what they had stumbled upon, the men returned to their home communities, with devastating consequences.

The ensuing epidemic would literally remake the map of what became Saskatchewan.

Smallpox first appeared on the North Saskatchewan River in the early fall of 1781.

Hudson’s Bay Company servant Mitchell Oman, who had been sent to winter among the Indians of the Eagle Hills region, came across a camp of Assiniboine decimated by the disease.

A few weak survivors bore the tell-tale pox marks on their bodies and faces.

Soon stricken Indians — suffering from debilitating headache, painful backache, intense fever, and violent vomiting — began straggling into the HBC’s two inland posts in search of relief.

A thoroughly shaken William Walker, master at Hudson House, was so taken aback by the “disorder flying though the Country” that he predicted “that in a short time I do not suppose that they will be a staid Indian Living.”

William Tomison at Cumberland House was astounded by how quickly the Indians succumbed to the disease, many of them dying within only a few days, before the blister-like rash developed.

“There is something very malignant,” he pondered, “either in the Constitution of the Natives or in the Disorder.”

Inoculation against smallpox was still in the experimental stage in the late 18th century.

But because European populations had developed a general resistance to smallpox from past exposure, only one inland trader evidently contracted and died from the disease.

The Indians, on the other hand, took the full brunt of the epidemic.

They had no immunity against the virus and did not realize how contagious it could be — that the disease was easily transmitted from person to person.

Those stricken seemed at first to have flu-like symptoms, but after about 10 days to two weeks, small reddish spots broke out, first inside the mouth and throat, and then all over the body.

The rash then erupted into pus-filled lesions (macules) that left the face permanently scarred — if the infected person survived.

Tragically, HBC operations helped spread the disease.

As the Cumberland House brigade paddled to the Bay, the reach of the epidemic could be seen in the sick Indians encountered along the way.

But it was not until the inland traders arrived at the coast that smallpox first made its appearance among the Indians there.

From there, the disease jumped to Fort Churchill up the western coast of Hudson Bay and soon spread to the Cree and Dene who patronized that post.

Smallpox, one historian has argued, “had unwittingly become an article of trade.”

The 1781-82 pandemic was one of the most horrific episodes in Indigenous history.

But it was overshadowed at the time by the American Revolutionary War and remains relatively unknown to this day.

Nor is it possible to state with any certainty exactly how many Indigenous people perished, especially given where the deaths took place.

Based on information that the Cumberland House brigade brought to York Factory, Matthew Cocking concluded that “the many different Tribes … are all almost wholly extinct … not one in fifty of those Tribes are now living.”

Samuel Hearne, meanwhile, suspected that the disease “carried off nine-tenths” of the northern Indians, a catastrophe remembered in the name Portage des Morts along the Churchill River trade route.

These mind-boggling mortality rates have since been adjusted downward to a range between one-half to two-thirds of the Indian population.

It is still an unbelievable measure of human loss — possibly more than the Black Death in Europe in the mid-14th century, which has been estimated to have carried away from one-third to half the affected population.

Not a single Indigenous group in the western interior — except for small, isolated hunting camps — escaped the scourge, and those who were left came together to form new societies.

Some of the hardest hit were the Assiniboine, rarely mentioned thereafter in HBC journals, and the Basquia and Pegogamaw Cree, who ceased to be identified as a distinct people.

What newcomers later described as an empty land was actually an “emptied” land.

PHOTO: Smallpox had a devastating impact on the Indigenous population of the western interior. LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA PA-181599.

This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix as part of the “Say It Ain’t So” series.

Historian Bill Waiser is author of In Search of Almighty Voice, available in May 2020.

Henry Kelsey Stamp 1960

Henry Kelsey was a passenger, not a pathfinder

The minister was on “a crusade” — not for God, but for a fur trader.

In the early 1950s, Reverend J.W. Whillans began championing the exploratory feats of Hudson’s Bay Company employee Henry Kelsey, the first known European to walk the northern prairies and see the great bison herds in 1690-92.

Whillans said that the forgotten Englishman was “the first of our western explorers … the greatest of them all.”

In fact, the minister claimed that Kelsey had traveled across the future province of Saskatchewan as far west as the Battle River.

Whillans’s campaign to revive the memory of Kelsey culminated in his 1955 book, First in the West.

Not only did Willans argue that the HBC man was the “discoverer of the Canadian prairies,” but from the title, it seemed that Indigenous people were just part of the flora and fauna.

There’s no question that Kelsey did travel inland from York Factory on the southwest coast of Hudson Bay and spend the better part of two years in the interior in the early 1690s.

But where exactly did he go?

One researcher claimed that the “problem” of his route is “like … a jigsaw puzzle.”

Others in the search for clues to his whereabouts have politely called his travel descriptions “vague.”

The mystery is further compounded by the fact that Kelsey’s original journal did not surface until 1926.

These documents confirmed that the HBC had officially sanctioned Kelsey’s two-year trip inland, but there are large gaps in his journal entries, stretching over several months.

That did not stop Reverend Whillans, who once preached in the Carrot River district, from taking Kelsey’s infrequent location references and trying to match them to places on the ground in Saskatchewan.

What gets overlooked, though, is that Kelsey was entirely dependent on the goodwill and cooperation of the Indigenous peoples of the region.

Indeed, it was impossible for Kelsey to make the trip on his own because he did not know where he was going, let alone how he was going to get there.

Simply put, the HBC servant was a passenger, not a pathfinder.

Kelsey left for the interior on June 12, 1690 with a group of Assiniboine and Cree people who were headed back up the Hayes River after their annual trade session at the fort.

He carried with him a sampling of trade goods and instructions to encourage the interior Indians to come to the bay to trade.

By July 10, a month after departing from York Factory, Kelsey had traveled southwest some 600 miles, including some 33 portages, before stopping at a meeting place at a bend in the Saskatchewan River.

It is now generally accepted that it was probably at The Pas, near the junction of the Carrot River, just on the eastern side of the Manitoba/Saskatchewan interprovincial boundary. It was the Assiniboine and Cree who chose the places to stop and camp on the way inland, in effect leading Kelsey in his so-called “discovery” of the interior by serving as guides and sharing their knowledge about the land.

Kelsey spent his first inland Canadian winter probably in the Upper Assiniboine River area on the edge of the northern parklands.

The following summer, around mid-July 1691, a Cree party took him up the Saskatchewan River through the maze of channels and marshlands that make up the river delta, west to the Carrot River where they left their canoes and set off overland on foot.

Kelsey’s escorts would naturally have followed the extensive system of trails that crossed Indigenous territories and had been used for generations.

Based on what is known about these travel ways from archaeological research, Kelsey must have walked along the Greenbush Trail.

This historic north-south travel way ran from the Shoal Lake area (south of the Saskatchewan delta/Carrot River) through the Pasquia Hills to the Red Deer Forks (where the Fir and Etomani rivers meet).

In fact, some trail features nicely match his journal descriptions, especially his comments about going from wet to drier ground.

These trail ways eventually led to the aspen parklands near Sturgis, Saskatchewan.

He was nowhere near — as Whillans later maintained — the junction of the North Saskatchewan and Battle rivers.

In retrospect, where Kelsey went and what he saw are certainly significant, but who he went with and how he got there are just as important to the story.

The Cree and Assiniboine accepted the European newcomer as their guest and allowed him to enter an Indigenous world, but on their terms.

This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix as part of the “Say It Ain’t So” series.

PHOTO: In 1970, on the 280th anniversary of Kelsey’s inland trip, Canada Post honoured “the first explorer on the plains” with a six-cent stamp. LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA POS-000573.

Historian Bill Waiser is author of In Search of Almighty Voice, available in May 2020.

Ginger Catherwood Ladies Hockey 1920

Ginger Catherwood was more than chaperone to famous sister

In August 1928, at the ninth Olympic games in Amsterdam, Saskatoon’s Ethel Catherwood scissor-kicked her way to the gold medal in the high jump.

She remains the only Canadian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in any individual track and field event.

Ethel returned to Canada an international sensation.

In October 1928, Winnipeg held a civic reception in her honour at the Fort Garry Hotel.

The following April, she appeared at an Ottawa indoor meet as one of Canada’s “Track Wonders.”

At these and other events, Ethel was accompanied by her sister Ginger.

In fact, the pair were always listed together in newspaper reports about Ethel’s travels.

It’s understandable.

Ginger, six years older, served as her sister’s chaperone.

But what was never mentioned in the stories — probably not known by the press at the time — was that Ginger Catherwood was also a phenomenal athlete.

She was the best female hockey player in the country.

Ginevra or Ginger was the oldest of seven children of Ethel and Joseph Catherwood.

Born in Hannah, North Dakota in 1902, Ginger and her family moved to a homestead just outside Scott, Saskatchewan four years later.

Her father soon opened a real estate business in town.

Ginger likely learned to skate and play hockey on frozen sloughs.

She also played baseball.

Ethel said her older sister had a reputation as a fireball pitcher.

Ginger entered the University of Saskatchewan on a scholarship in 1919.

But it was on the ice, as captain of the Varsity women’s hockey team, that Ginger excelled.

“When she (Ginger) came down the ice, everyone stayed out of the way,” a teammate recalled decades later. “She skated just like a man.”

Ginger’s arrival at the U of S coincided with the beginning of inter-varsity competition in women’s hockey.

During the 1920-21 season, she was a scoring machine.

In a game against the University of Manitoba, she scored five goals in the first period and finished the game with three more in a 9-1 romp.

Then, she netted four goals in the first 11 minutes in a match against the University of Alberta.

The final score was Saskatchewan 7 (Catherwood 6) and Alberta 1.

“Her stick handling … was marvellous,” one report rhapsodized, “and her shots had the necessary punch and elevation.”

The Saskatoon Phoenix declared the U of S team the unofficial champion of university women’s hockey that season (there was no formal league at the time.)

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Opposing teams quickly learned that Catherwood was a scoring threat every time she had the puck, and tried to rough her up.

During the 1921-22 season, Ginger was hurt in the first period in a game in Edmonton and had to leave the ice and didn’t return.

U of S squeaked out a 2-1 win.

She was still nursing her injury in the next game against Manitoba and played defence in a 2-2 tie.

Ginger graduated with a three-year Arts degree in 1922.

“She is an incorrigible tease, but we love her for it,” read her yearbook entry.

“Her three years’ brilliant playing and captaincy,” it continued, “have made the team well nigh invincible.”

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After attending Normal School, Ginger found work as a teacher.

According to the 1926 census, she was living at the teacherage in the Plenty district.

Then in 1928, her sister Ethel won Olympic gold and Ginger was called upon by their family to chaperone her during her Canadian travels.

Ginger was rumoured to have accompanied Ethel when she left Canada for the United States sometime around 1932.

But on the Vancouver Sun society page for Sept. 19, 1933, Ginger’s photo appears below the headline, “Prairie Bride-Elect.”

She married English-born Charles Mitchell in Toronto later that fall.

That’s where Ginger was living in 1942 when her widowed mother moved there that spring.

It’s tempting to think that Ginger might have watched the Toronto Maple Leafs play in the old Gardens.

The 1942 playoffs were the year of the miracle Leaf comeback.

Down 3-0 to the Detroit Red Wings in the final, they won the next four games to claim the Stanley Cup.

Today’s Maple Leafs could use a player like Ginger Catherwood.

This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix as part of the “Say It Ain’t So” series.

PHOTO: Ginger Catherwood, third from left, was a scoring sensation for the University of Saskatchewan women’s hockey team (UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN ARCHIVES AND SPECIAL COLLECTIONS).

Historian Bill Waiser is author of In Search of Almighty Voice, available in May 2020.

A Saskatchewan editorial cartoon predicted that British values would triumph over Germany in the Great War (REGINA LEADER JUNE 8, 1918) /Saskatoon

Trading one identity for another after Great War

The Canadian census is one of the most reliable, and sometimes only, sources of historical information about everyday Canadians.

Collected every five years, the name-specific data provide a wealth of personal information — from age and marital status to religion and ethnicity

In fact, an individual can be followed over time and place through the census.

But there’s something amiss in the 1921 Saskatchewan census data.

In the “place of birth” column, 68,202 people were born in Germany.

That’s a slight decline from the 68,288 for 1911 and a whopping decline from the 77,109 for 1916.

Somehow, the province lost 8,907 German-born people between 1916 and 1921, a five-year period of limited immigration.

The numbers for other ethnic groups, on the other hand, are all significantly higher in 1921 than they were 10 years earlier.

The French-born population, for example, climbed from 23,251 to 42,152; the Scandinavian from 33,991 to 58,382; and the Russian/Ukrainian from 18,413 to 73,440.

Only the German-born population declined over the 10-year period.

What happened?

In early 20th century Saskatchewan, Germans were welcome, even valued, immigrants to the new province.

By 1911, they were the second largest ethnic group in Saskatchewan, making up almost 14 percent of the foreign-born population.

In fact, Regina had a large German population, as evidenced by the name Germantown for the neighbourhood east of the downtown business district.

As one of Europe’s northern groups, Germans were said to share the same sterling qualities as Britons.

Queen Victoria’s oldest daughter Victoria had even married Prince William of Prussia; their son was Kaiser Wilhelm, the German emperor.

But with the outbreak of war against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire in August 1914, German immigrants became enemy aliens overnight.

At first, political and community leaders called for public calm and restraint—let the German-born population go quietly about their lives and continue to work at their jobs.

Canada’s quarrel was with the German leadership, not the German people.

But that was before the stories of so-called German atrocities in Belgium became front-page news.

Then, there was the German torpedoing of the ocean liner Lusitania in May 1915.

The Swift Current Sun claimed that the sinking of the ship was “the act of blood-crazed madmen, seemingly bent on the devastation of mankind. Germany has proven herself an outlaw.”

This anti-German sentiment hardened as the Great War’s death toll mounted and more and more Saskatchewan families were scarred by the loss of loved ones.

As part of a national boycott campaign, the Saskatchewan chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire vowed, “From this day until my death, I pledge myself never willingly nor knowingly to buy an article made by the bloody hands that killed our boys.”

By attacking things German, IODE women could feel that they were participating directly in the war.

In a December 1916 provincial plebiscite, meanwhile, temperance supporters made the prohibition referendum a loyalty test — a vote for liquor was equated with a vote for the Kaiser.

Eighty percent, four of every five respondents, voted to shut down the new government dispensaries.

“As the war against Germany became longer and more bitter,” one historian noted, “the war against booze enlisted more and more recruits.”

A year later, the Wartime Elections Act disenfranchised any enemy alien who had been eligible to vote since 1902.

It was widely believed that Germans should not be allowed to participate in the December 1917 general election.

The foreign-language press was also restricted.

English translations had to appear in parallel columns in “enemy alien” language newspapers published in Canada.

The next step was an outright publication ban.

Hostile gangs twice attacked the offices of Der Courier, Regina’s German newspaper, before it suspended operations.

Several Saskatchewan communities changed their names in response to the war.

Prussia, for example, was dropped in favour of Leader, while Kaiser became Peebles and Schultz was renamed Prelate.

By war’s end, the harassment and condemnation proved too much for many Germans and they deliberately abandoned one nationality for another.

The most popular new identity was Scandinavian.

According to census data for the years 1911 and 1921, the number of people in the three prairie provinces who gave their birth place as Germany fell from 18,696 to 13,343 during the 10-year period.

Those born in Sweden, Norway and Holland, on the other hand, increased from 33,826 to 38,925 over the same period.

The increase in the number of Scandinavians almost equalled the decrease in Germans.

It was no coincidence.

This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix as part of the “Say It Ain’t So” series.

Photo: A Saskatchewan editorial cartoon predicted that British values would triumph over Germany in the Great War (REGINA LEADER JUNE 8, 1918) /Saskatoon

Historian Bill Waiser is author of the forthcoming book, In Search of Almighty Voice. Questions or comments can be sent to bill.waiser@usask.ca.

A 1953 Saskatchewan licence plate bearing the WHEAT PROVINCE slogan, which ran on the province’s plates between 1951 and 1959. (GOOGLE IMAGES)

Place and year of first Sask. wheat crop in dispute

Wheat and Saskatchewan are synonymous.

Wheat sheaves grace the Saskatchewan great seal, the coat of arms, the shield of arms, and the provincial flag.

A stylized wheat sheaf has been used in provincial branding since the late 1970s.

The words WHEAT PROVINCE once appeared on Saskatchewan licence plates (1951-59). Today, three shafts of wheat adorn the centre of the plates.

The University of Saskatchewan even accepted wheat as partial tuition payment when there was a grain glut in 1969-1970.

And when the conviction of David Milgaard was overturned in 1992, the Tragically Hip wrote the song, “Wheat Kings,” about the Saskatchewan case.

Wheat, then, is a defining feature of the provincial identity.

But when was wheat first cultivated in the region that would become Saskatchewan?

The most widely-repeated claim is that the Chevalier de La Corne, a French colonial officer and commander of the western posts, grew wheat at Fort Saint-Louis (later Fort-à-la-Corne), just below the forks of the Saskatchewan River, in 1754.

It’s a story that’s been called a myth, if not a hoax.

And the perpetrator was Saskatchewan booster Arthur S. Bennett, who wrote a small booklet (The Chevalier de la Corne and the Carrot River Valley of Saskatchewan) in 1914 to promote the agricultural potential of the Melfort district.

Bennett recounted how La Corne had treated visiting Hudson’s Bay Company employee Anthony Henday to “crushed cereal … at the meal … grown from a patch he had put in seed the spring previous.”

La Corne also told Henday that “a share of the grain grown was given to (the Indians) in exchange for furs.”

Nor did the story end there.

La Corne apparently created quite a stir when he returned to Canada with samples of grain.

“There was a great amount of almost incredible interest (among) Frenchmen,” Bennett reported, “who had never before dreamed of anything but valuable furs coming out of the vast unknown.”

Bennett’s claim — that La Corne was “the first agriculturalist of the Canadian West” — found traction in a number of publications.

A 1976 article in the Western Producer newspaper declared, for example, that Fort Saint-Louis was the site of the “First Western Wheatfield.”

The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, on the other hand, has wheat being grown in the Carrot River Valley sometime between 1753 and 1756.

Each re-telling of the story suggested that it was true.

Bennett, though, provided not a single documentary reference.

The only original source that might have supported the idea that wheat was grown at the French post in 1754 was Anthony Henday’s journal.

But the HBC trader makes no mention of any farming activity at Fort Saint-Louis — let alone provide an account of his discussions with La Corne.

Talk of wheat and agriculture — as quoted by Bennett in his booklet — had been imagined.

The mystery is further compounded by the fact that not much is known about the French posts in the Saskatchewan River valley.

French traders in the North-West, unlike the English along Hudson and James bay, were not obsessed with record-keeping.

One scholar has characterized the French push into the western interior in the 1750s as “a fur-trade presence only.”

Fort Saint-Louis was built in 1753, only to be abandoned in 1756.

During its brief existence, it was probably an outpost of Fort Paskoya (The Pas) with a small complement of men.

These men would have been absorbed with their fur trade duties.

Indeed, the busy time of year — spring and fall — conflicted with planting and harvesting.

That’s not to suggest that agriculture was not practised at fur trade posts.

As Canadian and English traders moved inland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the rich prairie soils encouraged the planting of extensive vegetable gardens at the Saskatchewan forts.

The list of cold-climate root crops was quite impressive: radishes, carrots, beets, onion, parsnip, turnips, and potatoes.

Traders and their Indigenous partners and children grew vegetables to add some variety to their otherwise steady, monotonous diet of meat and fish.

And some of the harvests could be quite bountiful, both in volume and size, especially once newcomers became familiar with the local growing conditions.

But climatic variability, such as an early frost or prolonged drought, and insect pests played havoc with crop production.

More often than not, posts had to turn to country provisions when gardens failed.

And what about the growing of wheat?

The first documented cultivation was 1815, when the Carlton House diary entry for May 3 simply noted: “This day sowed … 3 ½ pints of wheat.”

Two centuries later, Saskatchewan produces almost half the wheat grown in Canada.

Photo: A 1953 Saskatchewan licence plate bearing the WHEAT PROVINCE slogan, which ran on the province’s plates between 1951 and 1959. (GOOGLE IMAGES)

This article originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix as part of the “Say it Ain’t So” series.

Historian Bill Waiser is author of the forthcoming book, In Search of Almighty Voice. Questions or comments can be sent to bill.waiser@usask.ca.

In the 18th century, Hudson's Bay Company ships would stop at Stromness in Orkney for supplies before their trip across the Atlantic to present-day Canada and into Hudson Bay. (hoyorkney.com)

Saskatoon Northern Scottish isles workers played important role in Hudson’s Bay Company expansion in Sask.

University of Edinburgh research team looking for Orcadian descendants on the Prairies

News that a University of Edinburgh research team is recruiting participants for an Orkney islands study in Saskatchewan might cause some head scratching.

The VIKING II project is looking for people of Orkney descent for a health and lifestyle study.

But even though the prairie province is a long way from Orkney, there is a strong historical tie between the two places because of the Canadian fur trade. Many men from the Orkney islands found a career in the Hudson’s Bay Company in the latter half of the 1700s.

The location of the Orkney islands, in yellow, off the northern coast of Scotland. (Google Maps)

Opportunity overseas

In the 18th century, Hudson’s Bay Company ships would stop at Stromness in Orkney for supplies before their trip across the Atlantic to present-day Canada and into Hudson Bay.

The arrival of the ships was a boon for the local economy.

Hudson’s Bay Company ships arriving at York Factory. (Library and Archives Canada, Rindisbacher, acc.1988-250-15)

But they also offered something more: a way for young, single, men to escape poverty and a dead-end future by signing on as servants for the HBC.

The Orcadians’ ability to eke out a living from the harsh, maritime environment of their homeland – something they proudly ascribed to their Norse heritage – made them valued servants. Indeed, there were striking parallels between the Orkney landscape and the Hudson Bay subarctic lowlands where company posts were first located.  

The HBC consequently came to rely on Orkney men to fill its labour ranks, especially after it moved inland from its bayside posts in the 1770s.

By the end of the century, they made up 80 per cent of a workforce that numbered over 500 men.

One scholar has even suggested that the HBC posts were “expatriate Orkney communities.”

Climbing the ranks

The Orkney servants proved a versatile and adaptable lot, who quickly developed the skills demanded by their new fur trade lives, especially in the western interior.

They were more than simple labourers.

James Gaddy and Magnus Twatt, for example, became conversant in Indigenous languages. William Flett was reputed to be a master canoe-builder, while Malcolm Ross was adept at shooting rapids in a canoe.

It’s been estimated that one-quarter of the Orcadians worked at least 20 years for the company, some even becoming outpost masters.

William Tomison’s career with the HBC, for example, spanned 40 years. Entering the trade in 1760 as a poor 20-year-old labourer with little schooling, Tomison eventually became master at York Factory on the southwestern edge of Hudson Bay.

Later as inland chief, based at Cumberland House, Sask., he oversaw the expansion of the HBC up the Saskatchewan River and helped consolidate the inland trade against its Montreal competition.

Cumberland House was the first inland HBC post. (Prince Albert Historical Society 30125)

The Orcadians also brought their gardening experience to the western interior. It was no coincidence that the large vegetable plots at Saskatchewan forts featured cold-climate root crops typically grown in the poor soils of the Orkney islands: radishes, carrots, beets, onion, parsnip, turnips and potatoes.

Indigenous wives play important role

Several Orkney servants took Indigenous partners (“country wives”) and fathered children.

William Annal, for example, lived with his Assiniboine spouse and two children at South Branch House, southwest of Prince Albert, Sask.

Others travelled with their partners as they performed their inland duties.

These relationships were much more than a matter of living together.

When Orkney men entered a “country marriage,” they became part of a kin relationship that might have included connections across several bands over a wide region.

Having a female companion was also an absolute must if HBC men were going to survive a winter inland. Women performed any number of everyday domestic duties and generally kept the HBC traders fed, clothed and sheltered.

The importance of an Indigenous partner was driven home when the Orkney-born Malcolm Ross was accompanied by his wife and children during a HBC expedition to the Athabasca country in 1790-91. His wife’s presence was greatly appreciated by fellow traveller Peter Fidler because of her skill in making moccasins and snowshoes and performing other chores “that the Europeans are not acquainted with.”

Ironically, despite being “particularly useful,” she was never identified by name.

What became of the Orcadians who stayed behind

Employment opportunities for Orkney men ended when the HBC merged with the North-West Company in 1821 to become the new Hudson’s Bay Company. Thereafter, in the interests of economy, the Company closed duplicate posts and released excess personnel.

It was expected that Orkney men would return home, as had been the tradition, using the wages they had saved for a new life. Many did, leaving behind in some cases their Indigenous families, many of whom were taken in by the mother’s band.

But close to 25 per cent, especially those who had lived in the region for several decades, chose to stay in the North-West with their families.

Several retired to the new Red River Colony.

Among them were Willam Flett and his Cree wife named Saskatchewan (baptized Isabella) and Oman Norquay, the grandfather of the first premier of Manitoba, John Norquay.

Interpreter Benjamin Bruce settled at Île-à-la-Crosse, Sask., with his wife Matilda and their six children.

One Saskatchewan First Nation has a special Orkney connection. Willock and Mansack Twatt, the part-Indigenous sons of Orkney man Magnus Twatt, formed  what was known as the Twatt band (later Sturgeon Lake First Nation) and enjoyed special trading privileges with the HBC because of their father.

Magnus’s grandson, William, signed Treaty Six on behalf of the Twatt band in 1876.

The Saskatchewan influence in Scotland

Despite this historical connection between Saskatchewan and Orkney, none of the Canadian descendants today would be eligible to take part in the VIKING II project because of the passage of time. It’s been almost two centuries since Orcadians were employed in the fur trade, and the study is restricted to people with two grandparents from Orkney.

There’s another side to the story, though, that’s worth noting.

A few (very few) Orcadian fathers took their families back to Scotland. Their children and their children’s children became part of the community, and their descendants today carry that Indigenous marker in their genetic make-up.

The widower John Spence, for example, returned to Orkney with three mixed-descent children: Eliza, Mary, and Andrew.

The widower John Spence returned to Harray, Orkney, with three mixed-descent children. (Bill Waiser)

One of Eliza’s descendants was Bella Wood (nee Johnston), the keeper of one of the family’s prized possessions: a pair of moccasins from the Canadian North-West.

If two of your parents’ parents were from Orkney, you can visit this website (external link) for more information and to volunteer for the study.

This article originally appeared on CBC’s website.

Feature Photo: In the 18th century, Hudson’s Bay Company ships would stop at Stromness in Orkney for supplies before their trip across the Atlantic to present-day Canada and into Hudson Bay. (hoyorkney.com)

LISTEN to Bill Waiser interviewed on this topic by BBC Radio Orkney here. (Start at the 8:00 minute mark)

Historian Bill Waiser is author of the forthcoming book, In Search of Almighty Voice. Questions or comments can be sent to bill.waiser@usask.ca.

The case for the exoneration of Chief One Arrow

Canada needs to exonerate Chief One Arrow and apologize to the One Arrow community. It’s not a question of why, but when?

By: Tricia Sutherland and Bill Waiser

This past May, on a glorious spring day, the Poundmaker exoneration ceremony was held atop a hill at the Poundmaker First Nation.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered a heartfelt apology for the wrongful conviction of Cree Chief Poundmaker for treason-felony in the aftermath of the 1885 North-West Rebellion.

It was a deeply moving event, an important step on the road to reconciliation.

But there need to be other public ceremonies to correct the historical record and, more importantly, absolve other bands and their chiefs of disloyalty in 1885.

One Arrow, a Willow Cree leader, is certainly deserving of an apology.

*****

In the months leading up to the 1885 North-West Rebellion, Indian Affairs officials were carefully monitoring the mood on Cree reserves in the Saskatchewan country.

The Canadian government was worried that Cree bands, disillusioned with their treatment under treaty, might join with Metis leader Louis Riel in a grand Indian-Metis alliance.

But Cree chiefs steadfastly resisted Riel’s entreaties because they had their own strategy of dealing with a distant and unresponsive Ottawa.

Chief One Arrow of the Willow Cree, for example, told the Indian agent for the Carlton agency that he wanted nothing to do with any Métis resistance and “spoke in glowing terms of the loyalty of himself and his band.”

Then, on March 19, 1885, the day Riel declared his provisional government at Batoche, the chief was taken hostage.

Michel Dumas, the Metis farm instructor at the One Arrow reserve and ironically a member of Riel’s governing council (Exovedate), ordered the Willow Cree band to slaughter their cattle and join the Métis camp at Batoche.

Gabriel Dumont, Riel’s general, and a contingent of armed horsemen ensured that the Indians complied.

“Surrounded by rebels and influenced by their own Instructor,” a government official later concluded, “it was almost impossible to expect Indians to act differently to ‘One Arrow’s’ Band.”

*****

Exactly how many One Arrow men, including the chief, actively participated in the four-day battle of Batoche is not known.

It did not matter.

General Frederick Middleton, the commander of the North-West Field Force, considered anyone appearing to assist Riel to be the enemy and took One Arrow into custody after the fall of Batoche on May 12.

The general also confiscated his treaty medal.

“Think it will be a good thing for the country,” Middleton informed the minister of Militia, “if I can chastise a body of rebel Indians.”

Up until the rebellion, the territorial court had demonstrated leniency toward Indian defendants.

But that changed in the late summer and fall of 1885 when 81 men would be prosecuted for rebellion-related crimes, no matter how minor or circumstantial.

The image of a wild, lawless West was one of the last things Canada needed as it struggled to attract settlers to the region in the 1880s, and the Conservative government was determined to undo the damage by bringing the Indian population to heel.

The docket consequently included four leaders — One Arrow, Poundmaker, Big Bear, and Whitecap — for treason-felony.

Their sentencing and imprisonment would send a clear message that chiefs would be held responsible for the actions of their followers and be removed from their bands.

Indians who had committed murder and other alleged crimes, on the other hand, were not to be treated so leniently.

That these prosecutions have been largely forgotten prompted one writer to claim that “a great amnesia descended on Canadians.”

That they had the blessing of contemporary Canadian political leaders was confirmed by Conservative Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.

In a confidential letter to Lieutenant Governor and Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney just days before the public hanging of eight men at Battleford in late November 1885, the prime minister mused, “The executions … ought to convince the Red Man that the White Man governs.”

*****

One Arrow was the first Indian to appear in court on Aug. 13, 1885, probably because he was considered the first Indian leader to join Riel at Batoche.

The trial started badly for the elderly chief.

He found the proceedings bewildering, even more so when the treason-felony indictment was translated as “knocking off the Queen’s bonnet and stabbing her in the behind with the sword.”

There was no Cree equivalent for words such as conspiracy, traitor, or rebellion.

“Are you drunk?” a perplexed One Arrow reportedly asked the court interpreter.

The case against One Arrow rested on the contention that he had openly associated with the Métis at Batoche and thereby breached his treaty “allegiance to the Government, the country, and the Queen.”

Not one prosecution witnesses was able to say, however, that the Willow Cree leader had actually fired a shot or was even directing his band at Batoche — because most had been imprisoned before the fighting and held inside different buildings.

At the conclusion of the Crown’s evidence, defence attorney Beverly Robertson tried to have the charge withdrawn, maintaining “not a tittle of evidence” had been produced to link One Arrow directly to the uprising.

But whether the chief had actively participated or not was irrelevant.

Armed with Judge Richardson’s suggestion that the Willow Cree chief should be found culpable if he was caught up in the troubles in any way, the six-man jury required only a few minutes to return with a verdict of guilty.

One Arrow was remanded for sentencing late the next afternoon.

At this point, the real story behind the band’s presence at Batoche emerged.

When asked by Richardson whether he had anything to say, an overwrought One Arrow tried to explain through the court interpreter that he could not have taken up arms or painted his face because he had just lost a grandchild.

He also claimed that his fighting days were long past and that he would never break his treaty pledge.

“All that was said against me was thrown upon me falsely,” he asserted. “I was taken to the place, Batoche’s, to join Riel by Gabriel. I did not take myself to the place. They took me there … I know that I have done nothing wrong, I can’t see where I have done anything wrong against anybody so I beg of you to let me go, to let me go free.”

Because there was no one to corroborate his account, One Arrow’s plea sounded like a last-minute fabrication to save himself.

Certainly, the judge was unmoved and sentenced One Arrow to three years in Manitoba’s Stony Mountain penitentiary.

He might as well have been condemned him to death.

*****

One Arrow was taken to Stony Mountain in mid-August 1885.

He was assigned prisoner number 29.

The admission ledger also listed his vital statistics: he stood 5′ 8″ tall, was a hunter by occupation, and had no religion.

Stony Mountain was designed to house only 100, and with the arrival of those convicted of rebellion crimes, the prison population ballooned.

The severe overcrowding was exacerbated by the wretched sanitary conditions, especially the lack of a sewage system for human waste.

Respiratory and intestinal ailments pervaded the prison population, but the mortality rate was particularly high among the Indians, including the relatively young.

In April 1886, after eight months of incarceration, One Arrow was released early and immediately let it be known that he wanted to return to his reserve in the Saskatchewan country.

But the elderly chief, likely battling pneumonia, was too ill to make the 500-mile trip and taken instead to St. Boniface hospital in Winnipeg.

He was soon transferred to the nearby archbishop’s residence to spend his final days with the Roman Catholic priests.

It was here on April 19 that One Arrow received a visit from Indian Commissioner Dewdney.

The senior Indian Affairs official wanted the One Arrow people to abandon their reserve and move across the South Saskatchewan River to join the Beardy-Okemasis band.

With Archbishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché serving as translator, Dewdney asked the dying chief to send word to his band that it should relocate.

One Arrow countered with his own request — that his people be protected “from mistreatment by the White race.”

As One Arrow lingered near death, he was baptized — something he had resisted in the penitentiary.

He died Easter Sunday morning, at 8 a.m. on April 25, 1886, and was buried two days later in the St. Boniface cathedral cemetery grounds.

“There is no doubt,” argued the newspaper Le Manitoba, “that his detention was fatal to his health and that had he been released sooner it would have been possible to heal him.”

*****

In August 2007, One Arrow’s body was exhumed from the cathedral cemetery and returned to Saskatchewan for a traditional burial on the reserve.

He had finally come home, and the healing process could begin.

But the One Arrow people still carry the stigma of having their chief sent to prison for treason-felony and being declared a rebel band in 1885.

Canada needs to exonerate Chief One Arrow and apologize to the One Arrow community.

It’s not a question of why, but when?

This Op-Ed originally appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.