Cameron William B.
A WHITEMAN LIVES TO TELL THE TALE
William B. Cameron, in his book "The War Trail of Big Bear," described the Frog Lake settlement as being six miles north of the "swift running" or Saskatchewan River. This settlement, he said, went back into the wilderness after 1885, and that the Indians had really killed "the intruder upon his heritage." The treaty made had disregarded the gods, the customs, and the traditions of the Crees, and they, as people, were not treated as equals.
For months after the incident of April 2, 1885, Cameron was upset by the sound of gunshots; he dreamed of men in war paint and of flying bullets. His account was not based on memory alone, but also on lengthy notes he had made.
The reservation land, set aside for three bands of Woods Cree, had many natural advantages and rich soil. The Plains Cree were more active and warlike. A few years before the Rebellion, Poundmaker had been elected their chief. Big Bear was their hereditary chief, reputed to be one of the bravest of his people when young. These Plains Cree were the hereditary enemies of the Blackfeet, whose territory lay between the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers. The Woods Cree, as solitary hunters and trappers, were the backbone of the fur trade, and for years had lived at peace with missionaries and traders. The, Chippewyans and Athabaskans to the north showed some skill in agriculture.
In October, 1884, Big Bear's band was near the North Saskatchewan at Fort Pitt. Annuities were to be paid on October 20 - twenty-five dollars for chiefs, fifteen dollars for councillors, and five dollars for all others "while grass grew and water ran.”
George Dill and Cameron went to the places where annuities were being paid to compete for the trade afterwards. Little Poplar had come from Fort Pitt to Frog Lake and presented an order to Delaney for provisions. Apparently he had met the government inspector of Indian agencies on the trail, and secured the order from him.
On the day of the payment Little Poplar made a long speech. Big Bear spoke harshly, and for two days his band refused payment. He was told by T.T. Quinn to settle, or Quinn would return to Frog Lake. A Hudson Bay Company officer, worried about repayment of advances already made, sent a steer to the band. A compromise was made. The money would be accepted - at the camp - not at the fort. Quinn left with the seven thousand dollars.
Cameron and Dill sold to the people for two days. Dill then took the cash to Battleford, while Cameron left for Frog Lake. After Dill's return, the two dissolved their partnership, and Cameron took a clerking position with the Hudson Bay Company.
Three months before, at the Reserves of Poundmaker and Little Pine, one of Big Bear's men had gone to John Craig, the farming instructor, for supplies for a sick child. Because he didn't belong to Poundmaker's Reserve, he didn't get any. Kahweechetwaymot came back with his brother and an axe handle, and got the supplies. When Craig reported the matter to the N.W.M.P., Superintendent Crozier, head man at Battleford, sent Corporal Sleigh to bring Kahweechetwaymot in. He explained that the Queen was angry with him for taking things into his own hands.
Little Pine was holding a yearly Thirst Dance. Kahweechetwaymot faced Sleigh, then sent him back to Crozier. Crozier and twenty-five men (including Major Fred A. Bagley, who related details to Cameron) went to Poundmaker with a half-breed interpreter, Louis Laronde. Crozier and one or two men went to the Thirst Dance Camp, three miles from where the police tents were set up. It was agreed that the trial would not be held in court, but at a plateau about four hundred yards from the police camp.
A dispatch was sent to Inspector Antrobus to send all available men quickly to Poundmaker's Reserve. It was feared that storehouse supplies for the two reserves might fall into the wrong hands, so four ox-team loads were sent on their way to the camp at Poundmaker. The Thirst Dance site, with its four to five hundred lodges, straddled the trail. As the teams attempted to detour to the north, about a hundred young men rode out to encircle them, but allowed them to go on. Once at their destination, old log buildings were torn down and used to build two bastions. The supplies were deposited behind log walls. A deep slough to the rear protected the site from that direction.
Inspector Antrobus, Sergeant Kirk, and about sixty men, including civilians, met to try Kahweechetwaymot. Sometime before, in Battleford, Imasees and Okemow Peeaysis, Big Bear's sons, had scared Antrobus' horse. Big Bear was ordered to return to the Reserve, but when Poundmaker interfered, the Inspector left. This matter had not been forgotten by either side.
Kahweechetwaymot, with a group of young men, felt it would be a blow to his pride to be taken prisoner with Indians from other reserves witnessing the act. Big Bear and Poundmaker offered to surrender in the wanted man's place. Crozier would not accept this. Poundmaker immediately stood up to Inspector Antrobus with a pukamakin (a club with three knife blades in the end of it.) Constable Prior pulled a gun on Poundmaker, and it was a stand-off. Little Pine tried to tell them not to defy the police. Wandering Spirit raised his gun, but for some reason he did not fire.
William McKay said to Kahweechetwaymot, "Surrender. They can't hang you, or the police will be in trouble." Laronde grabbed him. As McKay walked between the two armed lines, the Indians asked, "Do you want to kill Little Bearskin?" (meaning McKay). The police were reluctant to fire the first shot, and so were the Indians. When the prisoner was taken back to the police fort, McKay said to give out the bacon and flour. Laronde was seized, but after McKay's intervention, he was freed. The Indians were told not to blame Laronde, since he was only doing the job he was paid to do - interpret. He also told Poundmaker to give back the gun taken from the police, as it wasn't the police's but the Queen's. Poundmaker had acted as guide three hundred miles across the plains for the Marquis of Lorne, Governor-General, and he had respect for the Queen.
In 1875, Big Bear had refused treaty proposals because, he said, the white man's law allowed hanging. In Montana, as the buffalo decreased, his band became a threat to ranchers, and they were driven out. In 1883, he made his mark on the treaty at Fort Walsh, but said there were so many good locations that he couldn't choose one for a reserve. In the winter of 1883-84, his men received supplies only for work done.
The summer of '84 was spent at Poundmaker's. January and February of 1885 they camped in the timber along Frog Creek, near the mill, cutting wood for the police, and freighting for the Hudson Bay. Quinn gave them some help. Big Bear was then about sixty years old.
On March 1, rumors of trouble at Duck Lake were heard. Andrê Nault, a cousin of Louis Riel, was arrested at Fort Pitt, on his way from Duck Lake to Frog Lake. He was charged with carrying "incendiary" messages from Riel to Big Bear.
On the evening of March 28, Cameron planned to skate down the creek to Gowanlock's. He was soon very wet, so continued walking. At Big Bear's camp, council was being held. Wandering Spirit pulled his shirt over his head and gave it to Longfellow, the brother of a Woods Cree chief. Longfellow handed his shirt to Wandering Spirit, and the peace pipe was passed. Big Bear's band was making proposals to the Woods Cree. Big Bear and his sons were hunting in the hills to the north, and Little Poplar was at Battleford. Cameron felt unwelcome and left.
Three days later, Constable Billy Anderson, who had ridden thirty-five miles in less than three hours, arrived about eleven o'clock at night at Frog Lake. He carried a dispatch from Captain Dickens to Corporal R.B. Sleigh. The police had taken a loss at Fort Carleton, and they wanted the agent and all whites to go to Fort Pitt, where there were twenty men stationed.
Cameron told Quinn that he had no orders to leave from his company supervisor, and that he wouldn't go. Father Fafard said they would show confidence in the Indians at Frog Lake. Quinn decided to stay. It was agreed that all but the police would remain. Six men would afford little protection in the advent of trouble. And Big Bear already held a grudge against the force.
Cameron believed that two kegs of powder and eighty pounds of balls should be taken away. A little was left behind, so that, if he was asked, he wouldn't have to say a definite "No." The police left with the ammunition at daybreak.
April 1 was called Big-Lie Day. Wandering Spirit was at Delaney's. They wanted to see Cameron. Imasees said the half-breeds had said they'd spill much blood in the spring, but that they (the Indians) didn't want to join in with the rebels. They asked Cameron to speak to their chief if the police (soldiers) came.
Cameron's description of Wandering Spirit was "a copper Jekyll and Hyde" with curly hair, and a soft, intriguing, velvety voice. Four Sky Thunder said Kahpaypamahchakwayo (Wandering Spirit) wasn't much for stealing horses, but had taken the most Blackfoot scalps.
The jokes about Simpson of the Hudson Bay being afraid to come to Frog Lake upset Cameron. Walking home from Delaney's, he'd stumbled over an Indian in the dark guarding Quinn's house. Big Bear had told of a dream he'd had in the Long Knives' (American's) country. A spring was shooting from the ground, and when he put his hand over it to stop it, it shot between his fingers and over the back of his hand. It was a spring of blood!
Quinn had escaped the Minnesota Massacre of the 1860's. His father had been an Irish scout for the U.S. troops ambushed and killed. Quinn hid in an empty barrel in a store where he traded, and days later reached the safety of a military post. One Man and Sitting Horse, uncle and brother to his Cree wife, offered him horses in the night to go to Fort Pitt, but he wouldn't. While Big Bear slept, Wandering Spirit and other leaders held a secret council.
Isadore Mondion, a minor Woods Cree chief, with Iroquois blood, was a friend of the whites. After midnight four warriors went to his house, among them Little Bear and Bare Neck. They said they were sent by Wandering Spirit because he did not trust Mondion. He was taken prisoner but released near daylight.
At four o'clock Imasees and Chaquapocase headed for Quinn's room, but Lone Man, Big Bear's son-in-law, intervened. At daylight Wandering Spirit took Quinn prisoner. At the Hudson Bay post Walking Horse, a Woods Cree, expressed the thought that it would be a bad day. The horses were gone, supposedly taken by half-breeds, but he believed Big Bear's men responsible.
When Imasees and twenty men came for ammunition, they were asked for the agent's order paper. As an answer Yellow Bear was told to hand over the keg. The men took butcher knives, bullets and files. Big Bear, coming in, said they should ask Cameron for things and not just take them. Big Bear then asked the men to leave. Cameron hid two cases of Perry Davis Painkiller, which contained alcohol and opium. Wandering Spirit's messenger came and took Cameron to Quinn's house, where the other whites were.
Wandering Spirit, in questioning Cameron, asked who was head of the country - the Governor, the Hudson Bay Company, or who? Quinn replied that Sir John A. MacDonald was chief of all the white men who dealt with the Indians. When a demand was made for beef, Delaney asked a boy to go and point out an ox too old to work. Some Indians wanted Cameron to go to the shop for tobacco, and William Gladieu, a Woods Cree leader and good friend, suggested they leave him there, as they would be wanting other things. Cameron asked Yellow Bear to have the men leave the shop as soon as they got what they wanted, but the Indian stated that they had a strong hand that day.
Father Marchand had arrived from Onion Lake the day before. The two priests, Henry Quinn, Yellow Bear, and Cameron had breakfast together. After the priests left, excited Indian women ran in, saying that Little Bear had struck Father Fafard in the eye with a riding whip butt. Cameron returned to the shop. Dill's store on the hill near the Hudson Bay post had already been looted. Wandering Spirit, painted, told them to go to the church. Their friends were already there. Cameron was not a Roman Catholic, but he dared not disobey.
Big Bear and Miserable Man were inside at the back to prevent bloodshed, Big Bear said, Cameron sat opposite the door. The congregation was kneeling. Wandering Spirit came in wearing a war bonnet, and carrying a Winchester. He went down on one knee, the rifle butt resting on the floor. After the priests warned of excesses, the whites, except for Cameron, went to the Agency. Cameron, along with King Bird, Big Bear's second son, went to the shop. When asked if he was on the police's side or Riel's Cameron answered that they were all friends, the half-breed war was far from them, and to let them fight it out between themselves. When Quinn stopped in on his way to the agency, he commented that if they lived through that day, they would have something to talk about for the rest of their lives.
Wandering Spirit gave the order to go to Delaney's, and, at ten in the morning, Indians were sacking the police barracks. King Bird warned not to stop around there. Yellow Bear had asked about a hat the day before, so he and Cameron went to get it. When Wandering Spirit stopped them and heard of their mission, he told them to hurry back. At the Hudson Bay house, Big Bear was talking to Mrs. Simpson. As Cameron was locking up, Miserable Man came with a Quinn order. It read.
Please give Miserable Man one blanket.
When Cameron said he had no blanket, Yellow Bear added that even the blanket from Cameron's bed had been taken. Miserable Man asked for something for five dollars - a shawl, a carrot of tobacco, maybe. As Cameron was tying tea in the shawl, a shot rang out, followed immediately by two more. Miserable Man ran out, Cameron locked up and put the key in his pocket. Two months to the day after the escape, he left the key hanging in a bluff of poplar trees near Frenchman's Butte in a pair of trousers left behind. It was the only reminder of the Hudson Bay business at Frog Lake. He could imagine that some day an archaeologist would discover it and write the find up as proof of civilization there years before.
On the hill before the police barracks lay Quinn's body. Through the war chants Big Bear shouted "Tesqua! Stop!" Louis Goulet ran past with two Indians after him. Yellow Bear's advice to Cameron was to follow the women to camp, since they wouldn't be shot at. He would not accompany Cameron, as he feared for his own life. An Indian riding after Goulet said he wouldn't hurt him. Mrs. Simpson told of the priest falling, and said, in Cree, to run. Instead, Cameron walked on, his eyes fixed on the ground. He felt ashamed to be living when his friends were dead. Finally he reached the camp and was given tea.
Wandering Spirit came into the camp boasting that he'd killed the Sioux speaker, meaning Quinn. Papamakeesik, Fafard's killer, asked Cameron to tell him the time from the victim's watch. It was eleven o'clock. As Cameron went out, William Gladieu said they'd walk over his dead body before Cameron would be killed. A council was held at the tent of Oneepahayo, head chief of the Woods Cree. Yellow Bear, Little Bear, and Gladieu all told of Cameron's kindnesses, which had seemed like trifles to Cameron at the time. They agreed he should live, but it was up to Wandering Spirit. At the Plains Cree council, Chief Onee asked for Cameron's life. He told of favors Cameron had done for
him, too. His advice to Cameron was to walk in daylight, not dark, as the young men might shoot him.
H.R. Halpin, the Hudson Bay man at Cold Lake, was to be brought to Frog Lake. Cameron spoke on Halpin's behalf, and sent a note telling that all the white men were dead but him. He added that they'd promised not to harm Halpin, and that he should offer no resistance. Beverley Robertson, the Indians' lawyer at later trials, had that note.
J.K. Simpson, an old Hudson Bay officer, supervised the posts, and had his headquarters at Frog Lake. When he returned from Fort Pitt, his team was taken. He was an old friend of Big Bear, and his half-breed wife had two sons members of the Woods Cree band. Simpson never thought he'd live to see such a thing happen. He was taken to Big Bear's tent, Cameron to that of one of his stepsons, Louis Patenaude.
No Hudson Bay employee was killed in those troubled times. When the Indians were sick, they got medicine from the post, supplies and ammunition for hunting and trapping, and goods in advance, for which the company awaited payment nearly a year. After each trade they received a small gift, and there was always a meal when they were hungry.
Henry Quinn, warned fifteen minutes before the trouble by Mondion, had escaped to Fort Pitt. Cameron doubted that Mrs. Gowanlock and Mrs. Delaney would last two weeks under the circumstances. Among the dead was Charles Gouin, a Columbia River half-breed, who had been erecting agency buildings.
Wandering Spirit had shot Father Fafard in the neck. Papamaheesik, brought up by the priest, fired the second shot at the priest's head. Little Bear, Maymayquaysoo, Kahweechetwaymot, and Iron Body had killed Dill and Gilchrist. Gowanlock and Delaney were buried in a cellar under the church, Quinn and Gouin in the cellar of Pritchard's house. A day or two later, the buildings were burned. Four Sky Thunder later received a sentence for burning the church.
Some critics blamed the deaths on Quinn; for his stubborness in refusing to leave, and for defying Wandering Spirit. Cameron had been told that Imasees was the chief instigator. He felt that the massacre was planned the night before. Goulet, Nolin and Nault were at Frog Lake the night of April 1. Before sunrise they had met at Gowan- lock's, on their way back from Moose Creek camp. Gilchrist was alone. After breakfast, Imasees and his men came in, telling Goulet to bring Gilchrist to the camp. Imasees said he liked to see the sun get up "red - like blood." He believed it was always a sure sign of Indian victory. Gilchrist, who claimed he was on the government's side, not the half-breeds, was taken away. Goulet, protected by Waychun, was taken to camp.
On April 3, John Fitzpatrick, the farm instructor from Cold Lake, was brought back by Big Bear's men. King Bird was sent by Wandering Spirit to Patenaude's lodge to summon Cameron to a council supper. The council was held on the grass. A triple row of men sat around in a circle. Wandering Spirit wore five feathers, two of which were tipped with black, for whites killed.
John Pritchard was in the center with Mr. Simpson. Fitzpatrick, Nault, Goulet, Abram Montour, Louis Patenaude, and Alexis Crossarms were there, also William Gladieu. Wandering Spirit asked Cameron why the company sold land to the Big Chief Woman, when it was not theirs. He stated that the Company got rich, while the Indians were poor, and that they'd sell the land to the Long Knives and be rich, not the Company.
Cameron needed to answer carefully. He was the only living white man to witness the massacre. The company, he said, did not sell. The Great Mother thought they had some rights, since they had been here two hundred years. The Queen made a treaty with the Indians, and the company gave up most of the land. The company was not driven out, or else there would be no place for the Indians to trade. The company had been good to the Indians, so the Great Mother sent money chiefs to make the treaty. The company was paid three hundred thousand pounds.
Then Wandering Spirit wanted to known why Cameron didn't tell them of the news from Duck Lake, if he was a friend of the Cree. Cameron explained that he had overheard the Indians talking but they knew more about Duck Lake than he did. He offered to get the paper Simpson brought from Fort Pitt, and to read it to them. He was asked to tell, from memory, what it said. He couldn't remember the details, but knew that the half-breeds would go later and read it. So, he said he wasn't nearly as clever as they gave him credit for, but would tell all he could remember.
Wandering Spirit didn't like hearing what Cameron repeated about reinforcements coming to Fort Carleton. He asked whether Cameron wanted the whites or Riel to win. Cameron replied that since nine of ten men were dead, he was glad to be alive, that now he had no life of his own. His life was theirs - how could he side with anyone? The group chorused approval, but Wandering Spirit was not satisfied.
Oseewoosqwan, Bald Head, a very old man, asked why the whites were being kept there. To Wandering Spirit he implied that instead of getting on with what he'd started, he was just talking. Wandering Spirit raised his gun somewhat, but Patenaude and Crossarms held on to it. Patenaude took the Indian's knife and held it to the man's heart. Gladieu's gun was aimed at Wandering Spirit's head. Imasees pulled the knife through Patenaude's hand, and said it was the wrong way to do things, making trouble between men. They should all be friends. With these words he provided a way out of the situation, and saved face for Wandering Spirit.
Gladieu distrusted Wandering Spirit and feared an about face. When the Indian sat down, he shook from the emotional impact of the situation. Minutes later he left, and the council was over. Big Bear told Cameron he had been foolish to stand up, and was much safer sitting. Johnny Pritchard said he couldn't have got up. Big Bear had pulled Fitzpatrick down.
There was feasting and dancing, and warriors wearing the priests' vestments. Trouble began when cattle belonging to some individual men were killed and eaten. Big Bear reminded the warriors that once they had listened to all he said, and obeyed, but now they did other than what he said.
The Indians were planning an attack on Fort Pitt. In the council the pipe was smoked and passed in the direction of the sun's course. The whites pleaded for the sparing of the lives of the people at Fort Pitt. They were asked to write letters to decoy the police from the fort. Louis and Ben Patenaude and Halpin were taken with the braves.
On April 15, about twenty-five Hudson Bay employees at Fort Pitt surrendered to Big Bear. The police went down- river with scows. Among the Frog Lake prisoners were Rev. Pere Legoff, Rev. Charles Quinney and his wife, J.B. Poirier, and Malcolm McDonald.
Three scouts had gone out from Fort Pitt before Big Bear appeared. They were Cowan, Loasby and Henry Quinn, who had been appointed by the police. As they tried to make a desperate rush through the Indian camp which they had come upon, suddenly Cowan's horse threw him, and he was soon killed. His heart was later seen skewered on a stick stuck in the sod.
Loasby was wounded, as was his horse. He managed to stagger back to the fort where he collapsed in the arms of two men. Quinn managed to escape. He was cold and hungry, so he ran back toward the fort later, and called to be let in. Wandering Spirit's head came into view, and Quinn realized that the fort was in the hands of the Indians. He again ran off, and Mondion followed him. He was saved from Wandering Spirit's wrath by Mondion's insistence that the prisoner belonged to him. Quinn had escaped several times, and many Indians thought he had such strong medicine that bullets would not pierce him.
Big Bear told the group, "I pity every white we have saved." and Little Poplar spoke on the prisoners' behalf. The situation became very tense when the sight of the white survivors stirred great emotion in the heart of Wandering Spirit. He had made a vow at Frog Lake never to look on a white but to kill him! It irked him to see white faces as he looked upon the council.
One day five Cree runners from Poundmaker Reserve came with messages from Riel. He praised Big Bear for his help at Frog Lake and asked him to join Poundmaker in helping to capture Battleford. Wandering Spirit believed the messengers were working for the whites and that it was a trap. He wanted to go to Duck Lake to join Riel. One event of camp life was "counting coup" by the warriors, in which they told of their daring feats. Wandering Spirit took credit for taking the lives of eleven Blackfeet, Thomas Quinn and Father Fafard.
Stanley Simpson had been placed in the charge of Lone Man. The Indians sought to provide wives for him and for Cameron. Simpson said he already had a wife and didn't believe it was right to have two. Cameron simply pleaded poverty and, at that point in his life, he did have very little except his life.
An old "cannibal woman", as she was called, was put to death. An elderly half-breed, Charlebois, struck her on the head. Then, an Indian boy, Bright Eyes, shot her in the head. After her head was severed, the body was placed in a well and the head burned on a brushpile. There was to be no resurrection for the "Weetigo". Cameron had not witnessed this event but was told that Henry Quinn was forced to bind the old woman and carry her to the place of the slaying.
When the Indians returned from Fort Pitt, the camp was moved two miles into spruce on the commanding hills near Frog Lake. Cameron, Stanley Simpson, and Louis Patenaude were given permission to go fishing, and in doing so, they passed by the ruins of the Frog Lake settlement with its burned buildings. A number of times previously the men had been given permission to go on short hunting expeditions.
The next camp move was to Pipestone Creek. One day, as Cameron returned from hunting, he saw an Indian riding fast toward the North Saskatchewan River. Henry Quinn and Blondin were missing. The prisoners had been told that if one escaped, all would be killed. The two men were caught and returned to Pritchard's tent. Big Bear's men wanted to kill them, but when Kahweechetwaymot came to the tent, two Woods Cree from Saddle Lake intervened and said, "If you harm Quinn, it means war between the Woods Cree and the Plains Cree." After about a week camp was again moved. Mrs. Delaney and Mrs. Gowanlock travelled in Pritchard's wagon with Hodson, the McLean's cook at Fort Pitt, accompanying them. On May 15 they reached the Saskatchewan River near Pipestone Creek, two miles east of Fort Pitt. Big Bear had been unsuccessful in his attempts to get the Woods Cree to move against Battleford. Cameron and Fitzpatrick thought the only solution to their predicament was to get the Woods Cree to rebel against the Plains Cree. Their words to the Woods Cree seemed to take root.
When Big Bear set fire to Fort Pitt and destroyed needed food, the Woods Cree were angered. Cut Arm was most discontented with their horses being taken and their cattle killed. Oskatask wanted Gladieu's mare. When Gladieu refused, the angry Oskatask was told by Wandering Spirit, "Don't start a war." But the mare was taken. A young man went after Oskatask. The Woods Cree said that if he returned and said, "I have killed him" that would be a sign to rush the Plains Cree lodges. The orders were to shoot them or drive them into the river. The mare was brought back, but nothing was said of Oskatask.
When the main camp was moved northeast, Patenaude, some Woods Cree, Reverend Quinney and his wife, Henry Quinn, and Cameron had a separate camp. The Woods Cree decided now was the time to break away. They told the others to walk abreast and some distance apart, so that there would be no clear trail to follow if Big Bear missed them.
The troops were advancing on Frenchman's Butte, and General Strange's nine-pound field gun could be heard. Big Bear's men did come looking for them. Imasees was put off the trail when Longfellow told him they weren't trying to escape, but would join the main band in the morning. The next day a group including Louis Patenaude, Halpin, Francois Dufresne, some Indians and half-breeds appeared. Patenaude had not succeeded in freeing Stanley Simpson from Big Bear's group. At 6:30 p.m. the big gun sounded the beginning of the Frenchman's Butte battle. Cameron's group moved northeast, and consequently into the line of fire. They continued making their way east, cutting poplars with an axe. Louis Patenaude and Sitting Horse overtook them. They reported a number of troops killed and that the force had retreated. Cameron later heard that only three of Strange's men were wounded. Five Indians had also been wounded in the confrontation.
That night the prisoners camped eight miles from the battlefield. In reality Strange had retired toward Fort Pitt, but the Indians struck camp and moved in the opposite direction. They had no spare ammunition and disliked the gun that "shot twice." Kahweechetwaymot died of a shell wound, and Oskatask later sustained a rifle ball through the wrist.
On May 28 General Strange moved on Frenchman's Butte. Major Steele's police scouts preceded the three hundred men of the Winnipeg Light Infantry under Major Thibadeau and the Quebec Voltigeurs led by Colonel Hughes and Major Prevost. They reached the Sun Dance site. In the valley was a creek leading to the North Saskatchewan River five miles to the south. On the wooded hill crest were long lines of rifle pits camouflaged with branches. In the valley bottom was muskeg in which horses could easily get mired. The Indians hoped to lure the troops into it.
Hughes and Prevost advanced along the creek, while Thibadeau moved along the edge of the swamp. Two companies of a Winnipeg battalion, under Colonel Osborne Smith, were stationed on the hill for support. Major Horton's Alberta Mounted Rifles (cavalry) were on the right flank in the thickest woods. The troops were fired on from the opposite summit, from a four-hundred-yard range. There was no cover for the field gun, and it lost its advantageous position. Some of the infantry were trying to cross waist-deep swamp. Constable McRae of the N.W.M.P. received a bullet in the left leg. Their enemy had the advantage. They were up higher, and a continued advance would mean heavy losses. The decision was then made to attack on the right.
Steele's men were ordered to mount and detour, under the cover of bush, to the left to seek a crossing and turn the enemy's position while they were occupied in front. The Indians were reported to be in a line one and a half miles long and circling to the rear of the troops (like forcing horses into a corral). The troops could not abandon nor move the wagons, and they had had no food since 3:30 a.m. The horses had been in harness eight hours. There were rations enough for one day but the outcome was doubtful with so few men. Another Indian attack was expected. Privates Le Mai and Marcotte were seriously wounded and laying out in plain sight. They were successfully rescued on stretchers carried by Dr. Pare of the 65th, Father Prevost, the Chaplain, Major-General Strange, and his son, Lieutenant Strange, who had been in charge of the field gun. The force retired to Fort Pitt to await provisions, and that battle was ended.
Cameron's group travelled east for two days living on wild carrots, ducklings, and flour. The Woods Cree wouldn't let them go in case Big Bear's men arrived and held them responsible. On Sunday, May 31 Reverend Quinney held a service. After a council of their guards was held, they agreed to let the prisoners go. Early the next morning the freed group set out westward. One dozen people and one bannock! Late one afternoon, after making forty miles, they were again near Frenchman's Butte. Cameron, Quinney, and Dufresne left the women and the others in a bluff on the Little Red Deer and continued on. It was in that bluff that Cameron left the trousers containing the Hudson Bay store key.
As they left the bluff they heard a steamboat whistle on the North Saskatchewan three or four miles away. Night was coming when they reached the top of the butte, hoping to see the camp of the troops. What they saw was a Thirst Dance lodge, and two mounted men circling it. Quinney, believing they were white troops, and that they were saved, rushed out waving a white handkerchief. A third man was coming along the base of the slope. Quinney had given their position away! Dufresne went to the center of the open space with his gun. Quinney called out and an Indian voice answered.
The men were scouts under Major Dale, Strange's brigade officer, on his way from the Alberta Field Force to the steamboat landing. General Middleton was on board with troops from Battleford to reinforce Strange's men. "Gunner Jingo" (Strange) had marched five hundred miles from Calgary via Edmonton to free them. He promptly organized his column and proceeded from the landing. Also aboard were Canon George McKay and Reverend McKenzie of Macleod, Alberta. Before daylight, during the night of June 1, a detail brought in Mrs. Quinney, Halpin and the rest.
Cameron was allowed to act as guide and scout to Major Steele's column moving from Frenchman's Butte to the Beaver River, seventy miles north. At 2:00 a.m. June 2, a courier arrived from Major Steele to report that the troops had engaged Big Bear at Loon Lake, fifty miles northeast. Two days later Middleton decided to follow Steele with cavalry. He ordered Strange north to Beaver River to cut off the possible retreat of Big Bear. On June 6 Strange moved out to Onion Lake with Cameron acting as guide. The second night they were on the banks of Frog Lake and next day they were nearing the Chippewyan reserve at Beaver River. Cameron and the scouts were some fifteen miles head of the column. They dismounted, as their horses would be unable to cross the muskeg. Ropes had to be used to drag the nine-pound gun over the corduroys. By 3:00 p.m. they were approaching the Hudson Bay Company post on the Chippewyan reserve through the timber. When they were four hundred yards away, an Indian came out carrying flour and wearing a red tunic. The party moved back a mile to watch the trail and sent a scout back.
At sundown Major Harton and approximately forty men arrived. No Indians were at the post. In the night General Strange and his men arrived and in the morning Cameron and eight scouts rode to the Beaver River eight miles north. At the Roman Catholic Mission, two miles from the river, they confiscated the furs of the half-breed rebel, Montour, who was in Big Bear's camp. It was hard to get the horses to accept the packs of furs. On the bank of the river, a mile or two east of the Mission, they found the remains of a camp. When they followed the creek they found a birchbark canoe and a cache of furs. While they were inspecting the furs the canoe was taken from under their noses.
The Chippewyans had left Big Bear after the battle of Frenchman's Butte. On June 9, with Father Legoff, they crossed the Beaver River from Cold Lake, six miles north, and surrendered to General Strange. Cameron and Major Butler went to the lodges and ordered the men to march to the General's camp. They were disarmed and the ringleaders arrested.
On June 24, with the rest of Middleton's men, the former prisoners returned to Fort Pitt. Mrs. Gowanlock and Mrs. Delaney were brought in by William McKay and a party of scouts. The half-breeds with them were said to be loyal, but this was not true of Pierre Blondin. He had been heard bragging of his exploits so when a man named Poirier told of it the scouts stripped and beat Blondin. He was rescued by the steamboat captain.
Back on June 2, Steele and seventy-five men left the Little Red Deer River on Big Bear's trail. Ten miles out they found a note from McLean, saying all was well and that they were moving northeast. At noon, some twenty- five miles out, Canon McKay fired at the Indian scouts, but they escaped, and later ambushed Scout J. Fisk, breaking his arm. At 9:00 a.m. the next day the scouts sighted an Indian camp beside a lake. There were three teepees. Most of the Indians had forded an aim of the lake to get to the peninsula. Shots were exchanged, and two nearly killed the McLean children. Kitty was carrying her baby brother when one shot passed between her head and the child's, and the second cut her shawl.
Steele moved his forces back twelve miles. General Middleton, with three hundred cavalry, went to his aid. On June 7 they pursued their enemy to the muskeg, then returned to Fort Pitt. The Indians move from Loon Lake north to Lac des Isles was hard on their prisoners. The Woods Cree feared they would fall in with Big Bear's stragglers. They crossed the Beaver River on logs. Stanley Simpson swam back and forth helping the others. It was one day north of there that the prisoners were released. They started out for Fort Pitt. Simpson had a gun, but there were thirty people to feed and no provisions. They lived on rabbits and a thin ox they happened upon. At Loon Lake they were met by Middleton's party with food and wagons.
Cameron had left Fort Pitt a day or so before the Woods Cree came from Lac des Isles to surrender. Wandering Spirit had left Big Bear's band and joined them. He stabbed himself, missing his heart but producing a wound through which the lobe of one lung protruded. Had his motive been to make atonement for his band?
Cameron was soon ready to become a trader again for there was money to be made from Indian trade and from troops spending their pay. With Poirier hauling by team and wagon, and Henry Quinn to help, he returned to Fort Pitt. The Indian camp there was guarded, and for a week another trader had had no dealings with them. Later, a few Indians at a time were allowed from the camp and trade started.
On the third morning Colonel Osborne Smith called the Indians to assemble. The Great White Mother, he said, had ordered him to take those guilty of serious offenses to Battleford, but most would be forgiven. As he read Cameron's deposition, he called out, "Walking the Sky - Manichoos - Napaise and Apischiskoos", who had struck the priest in the eye. While they were marched to the boat the others were sent back to the reserve but were allowed no arms. Cameron was given a pass into their camp to trade with them. All the guilty except Wandering Spirit were gone by the next day. When Cameron went in to see him he thought the trader had come to gloat, but instead Cameron asked him if he had anything to trade. Wandering Spirit said he had given his daughter all he had - ten cents. Cameron said he would send decent food with the daughter and he took as a souvenir the bloody "suicide" knife. The Indian was taken on board the boat on a stretcher.
Cameron was to go to Battleford a few days later on a boat from Edmonton. Poirier went ahead by trail. Cameron and Quinn went to the Indian camp where they traded a fancy blanket for Kahneepotatayo's dancing dress of silver fox, brass buttons, plumes, ribbons, and bells. Cameron then took a boat from Fort Pitt.
Stanley Simpson, who had been ill, recovered enough to go by wagon to Regina to testify against Big Bear's band. Four Sky Thunder, Miserable Man and others surrendered to Colonel Otter at Battleford. Miserable Man was later hanged for Charles Gouin's murder. Cameron was a witness against nine men charged with treason-felony. They were given penitentiary terms. Big Bear was taken near Fort Carleton on an island in the Saskatchewan River, about July 1, by Sergeant Graham of the N.W.M.P. Cameron was also a defence witness for Big Bear. He related how the chief had shouted "Tesqua", that he had sympathy for Simpson, had urged his followers to let the police leave Fort Pitt, held the band back when Dickins did abandon it, spoke up to Wandering Spirit when he suggested a second massacre, and had taken Chaquapocase's gun before he could kill McLean. In spite of all this Big Bear was found guilty of treason-felony. The chief spoke on his own behalf. He said his policy had been to try to stop trouble at its beginning. He had been away from Frog Lake and had never ordered anyone's death. He had never encouraged his people to take part - in fact, he had advised against it. But, the band had ignored his authority after receiving the news from Duck Lake. They despised him for not siding with the half-breeds. He had not taken so much as a white man's horse and believed that by being the white man's friend he could be helped by those with wealth. It paid to do all the good he could. "Now", he said, "my heart is on the ground."
He asked if the court could send his people, who were still in hiding, a pardon. If there was no government help before winter his band would perish. The time was coming when the Indians of the Northwest would be of much service to the Great Grandmother. In the past he had spoken stiffly to Indian agents to gain his rights. The Northwest belonged to him but maybe he wouldn't live to see it again. He asked that the court publish his speech and scatter it among the whites as his defence. His plea was not for himself but for his people. Judge Richardson sentenced him to three years in Stony Mountain Penitentiary.
On September 22 Wandering Spirit faced criminal court in Battleford for Quinn's death. When asked if he pleaded guilty or not guilty he admitted the charge was true. Judge Roleau said that if the whites had done as he had they would have killed all, not just the guilty ones. Even if he had killed all the whites he would have starved. He had listened to bad advice from men as poor as himself. The government wished to help, not destroy the Indians but it could have no mercy on murderers. Wandering Spirit was confined until November 27, then hung.
Dressy Man and Charlebois were to hang for the death of the old "weetigo" but their sentence was commuted. Miserable Man's trial was held at Battleford where he tried to present an alibi. He stated that when Gouin was shot he was in the shop with Cameron. He was sentenced to hang, as was Manichoos. Four Sky Thunder was sentenced to fourteen years for burning the church. He acted as a witness against the other two and his sentence was commuted at the end of six years.
Nokipawchass would have been hung for Cowan's murder but there was doubt as to the testimony against him and he was freed. Nepaise (Iron Body) was tried for Dill's murder. Little Bear testified that Nepaise had fired and knocked Dill down. Nepaise said that Kaweechetwaymot had shot Williscroft, then Gilchrist. He told that Apischiskoos and he both fired and missed Dill. Maymayquasoo knocked Dill down.
Paypamakeesik (Walking the Sky), who had lived with Father Fafard as a boy, was charged with the priest's murder. Wandering Spirit had killed Quinn, then shot the priest for the first time, but did not kill him. Walking the Sky then put the fatal bullet through the priest's head. The two who had killed Delaney and Father Marchand were fugitives with Little Poplar. Imasees and others escaped into Montana. The convicted men were to hang November 27.
Between the trials and the executions Cameron took tobacco to the prisoners. He had permission from Major Crozier to talk to the murderers. Wandering Spirit had a ball and chain attached to his leg. Cameron told him he would write down what he said of the massacre. That way he would only get his share of the blame and perhaps his family would be glad. Wandering Spirit would rather speak to Cameron than anyone. Now he could see the roles played by everyone in the massacre. Four years before, Big Bear, Imasees, Four Sky Thunder, and other chiefs were on the Mississippi River in Long Knives' Country. Riel was there trading whiskey and promising that in the spring the half-breeds would rise and kill all whites. The Long Knives would come, pay plenty to buy their land, and then trade with the Indians. Anyone wishing to benefit would have to rise, too. Nault said Riel told him in a letter to stay with Big Bear's band, because the Canadians could not beat them and they would never be tried.
Imasees had said at a dance that he was depending upon Wandering Spirit. The Winter of 188485 Wandering Spirit wanted to leave Big Bear's band and go to his relatives at Duck Lake. Imasees and others would not allow that and, in addition, Thomas Quinn would give him no provisions.
When asked the reason for his suicide attempt the warrior said he felt there was no hope for him, and that perhaps after sacrificing his own life the government would not be so hard on the rest. He asked Cameron to say goodbye for him and to tell/the Crees never again to do as they had done that spring. His message to his daughter was that he died in the white man's religion and he wanted her and the cousins to have that , too. Cameron's next question was, "What if I had been with the other whites during the shooting? What then, Kahpaypanahchakwaya?" The Indian's reply was, "We were singing. We were not looking to save life."
Miserable Man called Cameron "my brother." He said he was not afraid yet, but when he was on the gallows it might be different. He inquired as to whether he would get breakfast before he was hanged. Apischiskoos claimed Manito said to tell the soldier chief not to hang him, since he had not killed anyone. Wandering Spirit spoke to his guards, saying they had been better to him than he had deserved. Years before the redcoats came the Treaty was signed and war was no more. But, he had received bad advice and now he was sorry when it was too late. He was not afraid to die. His heart again beat with badness when he thought of being buried with the hated ball and chain on his ankle. When told it would be removed he said, "Then I will die satisfied."
It was 8:00 a.m. of the fateful day. Hodson, the executioner, stood by, and P.G. Laurie, publisher of the Saskatchewan Herald, was to act as coroner. The death chant of the Indians began. Few people would be allowed to witness the hangings. A N.W.M.P. squad in black military cloaks formed a cordon at the foot of the scaffold. Major Crozier paced back and forth. McKay was to act as interpreter. Sheriff Forget, dressed in black, read the warrants. Roman Catholic and Anglican clergymen were also present. At the end of the prisoner line were the two Assiniboines guilty of the murders of two men, Payne and Freemont, at Battleford. The condemned men were given ten minutes in which to speak.
Payne's killer showed contempt for the government, and Little Bear told his people to make no peace with the whites. The pause each time before the trap door was sprung was a time never to be forgotten. Cameron went with the rest to view the bodies. They were placed in rough wooden boxes and buried in a common grave on the hillside below the police barracks. Soon after the executions Cameron was shot at twice by an Assiniboine Indian outside his Battleford residence.
Riel was hanged in Regina in November. On his way east to see his mother Cameron was given permission to visit Big Bear and Poundmaker. Big Bear was freed at the end of two years. He returned to Battleford and died on the Poundmaker Reserve in the winter of 1887 - 88. Pound- maker had been released earlier. While visiting Crowfoot at Blackfoot Crossing, near Calgary, he died of a burst blood vessel.
Imasees, Little Poplar, King Bird, and Lucky Man fled to Montana. They killed a man in a skiff on the North Saskatchewan River and took the boat. One year later Little Poplar was shot by a half-breed. Imasees and the other refugees departed for Montana in 1896. They were met at the border by the Mounties and were taken to Battleford. Imasees went to Ottawa and spoke many times about the Indian situation back home. He died in the 1930s in Montana.
Four Sky Thunder was released in 1891. Lone Man was in Edmonton in 1886 trying to sell horses. When an ex- scout for Steele recognized Loasby's white racer Lone Man was imprisoned. He escaped but was again arrested and sent to the Manitoba Penitentiary. Loasby was living in British Columbia wearing a ring made from one of the two bullets that had wounded him.
Henry Quinn lived among the Sioux, while Louis Patenaude resided near Onion Lake. Kahnepotaytayo also lived at Onion Lake, near Pipestone Creek. Francois Dufresne was interpreter for the Indian Department there. Louis Goulet became blind and spent twenty years in a Home for Incurables at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Adolphus Nolin ranched near Onion Lake. John Pritchard died in 1925 at the age of 86.
Father Legoff served at the Roman Catholic Mission at Lac la Biche and was later taken prisoner while serving in World War I. McLean went to Winnipeg. Stanley Simpson died in October 1891 in the Nelson River, attempting to save the life of Chief Factor Belanger of Norway House, Manitoba. Their canoe had capsized and both men drowned.
At the conclusion of his book Cameron stated, "The railroad (planned from Edmonton to Battleford on the north side of the Saskatchewan River) will reach Frog Lake this year of 1926. Its isolation and wild loneliness are things of the past."