Manitoba Historical Society
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Manitoba History: “Your Great Mother Across the Salt Sea”: Prairie First Nations, the British Monarchy and the Vice Regal Connection to 1900

by Sarah Carter
History Department, University of Calgary

Number 48, Autumn/Winter 2004-2005

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson is presented with flowers by Jasmine Fontaine at a ceremony at Lower Fort Garry in August of 2000 marking the anniversary of the making of Treaty One at the fort in 1871. Clarkson’s visit followed a long tradition of vice-regal visits to the West that have underscored the special relationship between First Nations and the British Crown.
Source: Parks Canada

In the summer of 2000, at Lower Fort Garry, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson attended a ceremony commemorating Treaty One, made in 1871 between Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and the Cree and Saulteaux. “This treaty,”Clarkson has written, “established a relationship to last ‘as long as the sun shines, grass grows and rivers flow.” [1] At this, and at other ceremonies with First Nations people she was addressed as “Mother.” Clarkson was following in a lengthy tradition of vice-regal visits to the West during which firm assurances were given First Nations of the sanctity of their treaties, and of their special, familial relationship with the British Crown. While this relationship was codified in the treaties, knowledge of, and an association with the British Crown began much earlier than the “numbered” treaties of the 1870s with prairie First Nations. Fur traders introduced the concept of a just, paternal monarch to “guide and animate their exertions,” to inspire loyalty and promote peaceful relations. [2] Aboriginal spokespersons developed an oratorical tradition that incorporated references to the British monarchy in kinship terms that confirmed themselves as the equals of the Europeans, and called on the monarch’s representatives to act with honour and integrity. Treaty commissioners of the 1870s were well aware of the First Nations’ knowledge of the monarchy; in their negotiating tactics they drew on what lieutenant-governor and treaty commissioner Alexander Morris described as their “abiding confidence in the Government of the Queen, or the Great Mother as they style her.” [3]

The partnership of First Nations and the British Crown was firmly affixed in the 1870s treaties and it was confirmed and ratified in the years that followed through the audiences and ceremonies held with the Queen’s representatives, the governors-general of Canada. With particular focus on the 1881 vice-regal tour of the Marquis of Lorne, this article demonstrates how First Nations used these visits to restate and recommit the equal parties to the treaties, and to remind their treaty partner of their commitments and obligations. From a First Nations perspective these visits ratified and confirmed their relationship with the Crown, and served as tangible recognitions of their status as sovereign nations who had entered into nation to nation treaties. Aboriginal protocol and ceremonies attended the vice-regal visits, including pipe ceremonies, an exchange of gifts, oratory and displays of dancing.

The purpose of vice-regal visits from the perspective of the governors-general of the nineteenth century was to promote settlement of the West and establish a sense of imperial rule. But while the addresses that successive governors-general delivered to First Nations, replete with references to the Great Mother (Queen Victoria) and her “red children,” spoke of inequality rather than equality from the perspective of the vice-regal visitor, this was not how they were received by First Nations who heard powerful affirmations of their familial relationship. And while as members of the colonial elite, governors-general did not see themselves as the equals of Aboriginal Canadians, many displayed concern about their welfare and a fascination with their cultures. They continually promised that government obligations would be met, that assistance would continue and even be enhanced, and they sometimes acted as advocates for First Nations. By the beginning of the twentieth century there was little concrete evidence of substance to the rhetoric of the Crown’s representatives as promises remained unfulfilled. Yet because the treaties were the foundation for their rights and their future, First Nations continued to welcome and honour vice-regal and royal visitors and each visit further served to confirm their long partnership.

An English royal interest and presence was established in Western Canada with the founding in 1670 through royal charter, of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). The HBC charter purported to assert jurisdiction over a virtual subcontinent of all the land that drained into Hudson Bay, 1.5 million square miles, or the equivalent of 40% of modern Canada. [4] The vast territory that the HBC purported to claim was named after Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles I and cousin of Charles II, who was the Company’s first governor. The royal connection continued after Rupert’s death with the appointment in 1683 of the second governor of the Company, H.R.H. James, Duke of York. He resigned this post on accession to the throne as King of England, James II, in 1685.

As in other realms of English involvement the HBC set about naming many places in Western Canada for kings, queens, princes, and aristocratic shareholders, conveying a sense of the royal presence throughout their empire. Places such as Fort Prince of Wales, York Factory, and Rupert House appeared in a tradition that would continue and gain momentum in the nineteenth century with settlements called Regina, Victoria and Prince Albert. It is unlikely that this royal presence made much of an impact on the majority of the Aboriginal residents of Western Canada who retained their own names for fur trade posts and settlements.

The use of a medal to introduce the concept of the British monarch to their Aboriginal business partners dates from the late eighteenth century. In 1776, Thomas Hutchins, chief factor at Albany suggested to the Governor and Committee in London that a medal bearing Charles III’s head on one side, and the Company coat-of-arms on the other, would be desirable for presentation to chiefs, as marks of distinction and to bind them to the Company in the face of competition. Aboriginal trading partners at this time were clearly already aware of the concept of a British monarch as opposed to the French, or such a medal would have had no effect. Hutchins wrote that:

... medals also are much esteemed amongst them if large, and if presented with ceremony when the Calimut is smoaked, will be not only deemed a mark of of distinction but perhaps be a means of binding the Leaders more securely in your Interest. These medals may have the Kings Portrait on one side (I saw a French one at York Fort) and on the reverse the Company’s Coat of Arms, or Deer, Bears, Buffalo, Beaver, or the like, I have specified the size, I imagine most agreeable to the Indians, in the Indent, In order to render both Medals and Pipes more valuable and acceptable, perhaps Your Honours will judge it necessary not to put them upon Trade; for whilst any common Indian can obtain them for his Furrs, they cease to be an incitement to emulation, or regarded as a Token of Approbation, and Badge of Eminence. [5]

Taking up Hutchins’ suggestion, medals were shipped to Hudson Bay beginning in 1777. [6] The chiefs who wore these received particular honour and recognition at HBC posts. In 1793 the post master at the Company’s Escabitchewan post recorded in his journal that a great “war” chief, wearing a huge silver medal had arrived in a flotilla of eight canoes. He wrote that “It is customary among the Traders when ever they see one of these meadels to honour his Majesty’s armes with a new Silk Ribband by good luck I had as much my own propperty as did this to my satisfaction.” [7]

While George Simpson was in charge of the HBC Athabasca District, medals were shipped to posts with the instructions that they were to be presented to the principal chief “with an appropriate speech in full state.” [8] At Fort St. Mary in April 1821 Simpson himself presented a medal to a chief “...with a great deal of Formality and the medal deliverd with a suitable harangue on the occasion.” [9] The Fort Chipewyan journal entry for 4 September, 1823, kept by post master James Keith, indicates how medals were distributed or earned at one post, and how the concept of the British monarch was conveyed and manipulated by the HBC. At a meeting with the Chipewyan Keith told them that:

... a mark or Prize will be set before you to guide & animate your exertions, & the distinction between good & bad Hunters will only be made in spring after the Hunts are closed, when Presents will be awarded to the deserving also a distinctive Badge to the best Hunter, bearing the likeness of our Soveriegn (exhibited on a new H.B. medal) whose handwriting (producing one of our Commissions & the Companys common Seal) attends the Identity of the Representation & grant of the Country, would be suspended & worn about his neck during his stay at the Fort in spring, Sr be left on his departure as the distinctive Badge for similar exertions another year ... [10]

The practice of distributing silver medals to prominent Aboriginal males as signs of friendship, allegiance and loyalty was established early on in the colonial encounter by the British, French and Spanish, and it was a practice that the United States inherited. [11] Medals played a significant role in the efforts of imperial powers to gain, maintain and express gratitude for the military support of First Nations. A chief would signify a change of allegiance by formally turning in a medal and accepting that of another nation. According to historian Francis Paul Prucha “As the years passed, these medals flooded the frontier, especially after the War of 1812, when they played a significant part in the campaign to gain the loyalty of the Indians in the Great Lakes region and on the upper Mississippi and Missouri.” [12] These medals are clearly visible in many portraits both painted and later photographs of prominent First Nations men. The display of these medals was not a phenomenon that was at all unique to First Nations. As historian David Cannadine has written, the soldiers and proconsuls of the British Empire were “... veritable walking Christmas trees of stars and collars, medals and sashes, ermine robes and coronets.” [13]

These medals were handed down through generations of Aboriginal recipients, with oral history records maintained of who distributed them and why, and what reciprocal commitments and promises were made. The Dakota provide a vivid example of this. They were allies of the British in the Seven Years War, in the American Revolution, and the War of 1812. In 1844 English artist George Catlin found that many Dakota who lived entirely in the U.S. and several hundred miles south of British territory cherished the memory of this alliance. Catlin was shown many large silver medals with the portrait of George III in bold relief. Catlin told one chief with such a medal that George III had died, and that the present chief of the English was “a young and very beautiful woman.” The man expressed incredulity, and after consultation with others told Catlin to ‘Tell my Great Mother, that you saw our Great Father and that we keep his face bright!’” [14] In 1860 the Dakota displayed George III medals during talks with the Saulteaux in the Red River settlement, and they wore them to greet the Marquis of Lorne in 1881. [15] But the Dakota were not alone. In 1870 British soldier and adventurer William Butler, commissioned by Canada to investigate conditions in Western Canada recommended that “medals, such as those given to the Indian chiefs of Canada and Lake Superior many years ago, be distributed among the leading men of the Plain Tribes.” Butler continued that “It is astonishing with what religious veneration these large silver medals have been preserved by their owners through all the vicissitudes of war and time, and with what pride the well-polished effigy is still pointed out, and the words ‘King George’ shouted by the Indian, who has yet a firm belief in the present existence of that monarch.” [16]

During the era of intense and sometimes violent competition between the North West Company (NWC) and the HBC (that ended with the amalgamation of the two firms in 1821), the HBC entered into diplomatic talks with the chiefs of the Red River settlement area and invoked the concept of the British Sovereign to inspire loyalty and to promote peaceful relations. Speaking to an assembly led by Saulteaux chiefs Peguis and Yellow Legs in June 1815, HBC surveyor Peter Fidler referred to the King as the “Great Father of us all,” encouraging them to believe that the British monarch had a special interest in their welfare. [17] Fidler told them that the Governor of the HBC had gone overseas, and had taken the Cree and Saulteaux’s pipe stems with him “... in order that he may talk to our Great Father, that he may be charitable to you and your Friends—and we expect that when you see your Pipe stems again, you will be proud from having been the Friend to his Children in his Absence...”

A welcome for Governor-General Lord Lorne, Rat Portage, 30 July 1881. Sketch by Sidney Hall, London Graphic, 22 October 1881, page 428.

Chief Peguis, who was on good terms with the HBC and had assisted the Scottish (Selkirk) settlers who arrived in 1812, is the first Aboriginal spokesperson in Western Canada whose words have been translated and recorded, to incorporate and manipulate the imagery of the Great Father. But while he used the term “Great Father,” it is clear that at times he referred, not to the British sovereign, but to the Creator, Great Spirit, or “our Great Father” as the true owner of all of their lands. In this way he pointed out the presumption of any person, including the British Great Father, to claim to own the land, and the presumption of any living person to claim to be the “Father of us all.” In his speech Peguis laid out a belief system distinct from Fidler’s, putting the British King into perspective under the power of the Great Spirit. He contested and challenged British claims of superiority. He also made it clear he was aware that the British Great Father was not just the ally of the HBC, but was sovereign over both warring factions of the HBC and the NWC. In this speech in reply to Peter Fidler, Peguis promised to work toward procuring peace between the two Houses or companies:

... It seems our Great Father has two children, and perhaps he loves one better than the other—he certainly did not tell one Brother to make war upon the other—for my part I have always loved the white people, and have always taught my young men to be kind to them The people of the other House are always breaking my Ears with complaints and telling stories about my Lands; but these are not my Lands - they belong to our Great Father for it is he only that gives us the means of existence, for what would become of us if he left us to ourselves -we would wither like the Grass in Plains was the Sun to withdraw his animating beams ... [18]

This invocation of the authority and concern of the British monarch continued with the 1817 Selkirk Treaty, concluded between the Saulteaux and Cree of Red River with Thomas Douglas, the fifth earl of Selkirk, which provided for the establishment of the first European agricultural colony in western Canada on lands adjacent to the Red and Assiniboine rivers. First Nations were told that Selkirk had been “... encouraged by the great Father to send out the Settlers” and the written terms of the treaty specified that the chiefs had granted and confirmed “... unto our Sovereign Lord the King all that tract of land...” adjacent to the Red and Assiniboine. [19] The chiefs also received medals. [20]

Wanduta (Red Arrow), a Dakota man from the Oak Lake area in Manitoba wearing his treaty medal, circa 1913. Photographed by N. C. Gould, Brandon, Man.
Source: National Archives of Canada.

Peguis has been popularly celebrated as the staunch friend of the Selkirk settlers, the HBC and the English, yet his positions were much more complex and he often used his eloquent oratorical skills to protest the changes brought by the British, including the destruction of the beaver and the buffalo. [21] In 1838 Peguis was baptized into the Anglican church and at that time he took the name William King. The name King possibly signified his sense of equality with the monarchy. His wife took the name Victoria and thereafter their descendants came to be known by the surname “Prince.” [22] Throughout his long life Peguis continued to convey his understanding of the importance of the connection with the British Crown. On 6 August 1821, Nicholas Garry, deputy-governor of the HBC, mentioned in his diary that they arrived at the encampment of Chief Peguis and added, “The Chief had his Flag hoisted, an English Jack, with the Hudson Bay Arms, given to him by Lord Selkirk ...” [23] Acting for his father in 1845, Henry Prince addressed the Bishop of Montreal, who was visiting Red River, and concluded with the words “We pray every day for our Great Mother, The Lady Chief, Victoria, and for her relations.” [24] In the 1860s Chief Peguis protested that Aboriginal title had not been extinguished properly in the Selkirk Treaty. In a letter to the Aborigines Protection Society, London in 1863, Peguis explained that they took this agreement as a “preliminary to a final bargain about our lands.” [25] He did say in the same letter however, that he had a “British flag and valuable metal [sic] from our Great Mother (the Queen), which I treasure above all earthly things.”

Peguis had moved to the Red River settlement in the 1790s with his family and followers from present-day Ontario and he may have been drawing on an eastern North American tradition of Aboriginal oratory that drew on references to the British monarchy, detailing the military contribution of First Nations and calling on the honour of the Crown to keep their promises. [26] A tradition began in eastern Canada of appealing to the representatives of the sovereign, the governors-general, for redress of grievances. Some Aboriginal people of eastern Canada had even visited royalty, such as the Ojibway woman Nahnebahweeequay who secured an audience with Queen Victoria in 1860. [27] When the Prince of Wales toured North America in the summer and fall of 1860, Aboriginal people were “on display” in many ceremonies, but they took advantage of these opportunities to profess their loyalty and to present their concerns about the misconduct of the Indian Department and the illegal sale of their lands. [28]

By the time of the “March West” of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1874, Aboriginal people of Western Canada were well-acquainted with Great Mother invocations and were prepared with responses of their own that challenged or poked fun at pompous claims. NWMP trumpeter Fred Bagley recorded one such incident in his diary entry from a camp on Old Wives Creek in August 1874: “During the Pow Wow Col. French, in order to impress them with the wide power of Queen Victoria said ‘The Great White Mother has Red Children, white children and black children.’ Whereupon one of the back row braves remarked in a loud stage aside ‘Well, it seems to me that the Great White Mother must be a woman of very easy virtue’—or words to that effect.” [29]

The British monarchy underwent significant transformation in the nineteenth century, becoming more imperial, and the British Empire more royal, presided over by a “semi-divine” Queen. The monarchy was “refurbished and reinvented as an imperial crown of unprecedented reach, importance and grandeur.” [30] In the colonies including Canada by the last decades of the nineteenth century, new and elaborate ceremonies marked openings of parliament, royal birthdays, and royal visits, presided over by governors-general and lieutenant-governors bedecked in plumes, feather and medals. These were the personal representatives of the sovereign, linking the colonies directly and personally to the monarch and the mother country. [31] And in the colonies, in dialogues with Indigenous people, the monarch was now at times referred to as the “Great White Mother,” as in Colonel French’s address at Old Wives Creek. A clearer dimension of racial difference and hierarchy was implied with this addition.

By the 1870s much had changed also for the Plains people of the West as the foundation of their existence, the buffalo, was almost extinguished. They were in need of a strong ally in a transition to a new economic future, and this was why they initiated treaties. But the treaty ceremonies, and those that attended the vice-regal and royal visits that followed, were not all British-imposed plumes and feathers. The ceremonies and displays of oratory that characterized these were not inventions imposed by the colonizers but rich hybrids of traditions, most of which were embedded in Aboriginal practice, and had developed through two centuries of fur trading with Europeans. [32] Pipe ceremonies, welcoming salutes and escorts, parades, dances, enactments of bravery and oratory, all figured prominently in Plains diplomacy and celebrations and these were found in treaty ceremonies and vice-regal visits.”

In the written texts of the Western Canadian treaties, First Nations agreed to “cede, release, surrender, and yield up to the Government of Canada for Her Majesty the Queen,” large tracts of land. They were promised however, that they could continue to hunt throughout these surrendered tracts, except areas taken up “from time to time for settlement.” Annual payments were promised each man, woman and child (ranging from five to twelve dollars). Reserves of land were to be set aside where they would live and establish economies of farming or ranching. They were promised implements, oxen, seed and other supplies necessary to the establishment of agriculture. These agricultural clauses were the result of the effective negotiating skills of Aboriginal leaders who were concerned about the future livelihood for their people in the light of the disappearance of the buffalo. Treaty commissioners were not initially prepared to provide direct assistance in the transition to agriculture, although they promoted the idea that agriculture was the future hope for First Nations, that this was in fact the Queen’s plan for them.

The treaty commissioners continually emphasized that they were the representatives of the Queen, and were speaking for her. They were keenly aware that there was a well-established knowledge of the Queen by the time of the treaties among prairie First Nations. Family metaphors were used extensively by both sides. Treaty Commissioners stated that they were acting under the detailed instructions of the Great Mother, that First Nations were entering into treaties with the Great Mother, that they were her “red children,” and that she was personally concerned about their welfare and their future. [34] At Treaty One for example, lieutenant-governor Adams Archibald’s said: “Your Great Mother wishes the good of all races under her sway. She wishes her red children to be happy and contented. She wishes them to live in comfort. She would like them to adopt the habits of the whites, to till the land and raise food and store it up against a time of want. She thinks this would be the best thing for her red children to do, that it would make them safer from famine and distress, and make their homes more comfortable.” [35] Although he made continual references to the Queen’s “red children, “ lieutenant-governor Alexander Morris made it clear that this did not denote an inequality, saying at Treaty Six “You are, like me and my friends who are with me, children of the Queen. We are of the same blood, the same God made us and the same Queen rules over us.” [36]

In seeking ways to guarantee their sovereignty, a future livelihood, and protection against economic hardship Aboriginal leaders also made extensive references to the Great Mother and other kinship terms. As Raymond DeMallie and John Tobias have written in important articles on treaty talks, kinship terms are significant symbols that functioned as diplomatic devices. [37] They were not a mere token, or subservient designations. According to DeMallie, kinship is the foundation of Native American society, it is “a central part of the culture and provides a rich field of meanings and metaphors, symbols that create cognitive worlds. Many American Indian peoples conceptualise kinship in terms of sharing, generosity, and nurturance.” [38] The ideal symbol of the concept of kinship was the relationship of an individual with his or her mother with whom the strongest bond exists. The treaty commissioners at Treaty Six were addressed as brothers, emphasizing their equality, and in Plains societies one could not refuse anything to a brother without giving offence. [39] DeMallie, “Touching the Pen,” 50; Morris, 190 -1. A tactic was also used of establishing a common humanity and equivalence with the Whites. Chief Sweet Grass said, according to Morris “I am thankful that the white man and red man can stand together. When I hold your hand and touch your heart, let us be as one; use your utmost to help me and help my children so that they may prosper.” [40]

According to oral histories of the treaties in the province of Saskatchewan, the treaties were understood to have created an irrevocable, perpetual familial relationship with the British Crown, based on concepts, principles and laws defined in Cree as wahkohtowin (good relationships). [41] The commissioners came as relatives, and the Queen adopted the First Nations as her children. Elder Danny Musqua said “We believed that the treaties and the Crown were going to do us good. That they were going to bring the heart [the goodness and wealth] of the Great White Mother...” [42] Conduct between a mother and child according to Cree concepts is characterized by mutual respect and reciprocal duties of nurturing, caring, loyalty and fidelity. Brothers and sisters are equal, separate and independent.

Treaty medals, which featured the Queen’s and the First Nations’ representatives of equal height shaking hands, symbolized the equality between the partners to the agreement. The treaty suits of clothing that were distributed to each chief and headman once every three years conveyed symbols of the enduring relationship with the Crown and the promises made at the time of the treaty. The Crown was featured on each of the buttons of these suits. In the post- treaty years reminders of the relationship with the Crown appeared on the ration tickets that were a feature of life on many reserves, permitting families or individuals to supplies of food.

The relationship between the Crown and First Nations was reaffirmed in the years following the treaties through the visits of governors-general. The visits celebrated and renewed the treaty relationship, and confirmed the treaties as vital, living instruments of that relationship. Aboriginal diplomacy and protocols required such ceremonies of renewal through which parties to a treaty declared their determination to sustain their shared agreement. [43] These visits were also opportunities to remind their treaty partner of obligations and commitments. From the perspective of the vice-regal party, such tours served to reaffirm that the monarch continued to watch over her or his realm with parental care. Vice-regal tours, staged throughout the British Empire, were also referred to as progresses, a term from the time of Elizabeth I describing when the “sovereign, or a near relative, symbolically marked out, took possession and beat the bounds of this greater royal realm.” [44] While viceroy of India in the 1890s, Lord Elgin explained that the prime purpose of going on large tours was to permit opportunities to Her Majesty’s subjects in the presence of Her Majesty’s representative, “ for manifestations of loyalty and affection for her throne and person.” [45]

In 1877 Lord Dufferin (governor-general between 1872 and 1878) and Lady Dufferin made the first vice-regal visit to the West when they came to Manitoba. Their visit established a pattern that was to prevail in subsequent tours. Governors-general were honoured and welcomed with Aboriginal ceremonies, presents were exchanged, mutual expressions of loyalty were made, and Aboriginal leaders pointed to obligations and promises yet to be observed, or their treaty partner was called on to advocate on their behalf. In August of 1877, Lord and Lady Dufferin attended a ceremony at St. Peter’s Reserve, the settlement established by Chief Peguis and where his descendants lived. [46] They were honoured with displays of Cree and Saulteaux music, dancing, and oratory and the Dufferins distributed gifts. In his address to the Dufferins, Chief Joseph Prince spoke of the “unalterable attachment of our race to the Great Mother.” Dufferin was presented with a pipe and Chief Prince said that “As we present the stem and pipe of peace to your Lordship, we point also to the rising sun—towards the throne of our Great Mother, as the emblem of our devotedness to the Queen’s sacred person.” In his reply Dufferin addressed the “Indian children of the Queen,” and said that “your Great Mother and the Government at home across the sea are well aware that you have always been the friends and allies of the British power” and that the Great Mother “has often written to me to inquire about you, and before I took this journey expressly commanded me to tell you that she loves you.” Chief Prince then spoke about some of their concerns and needs, especially their want of agricultural implements. Dufferin promised to put these complaints before his government.

According to Lady Dufferin, there were many occasions during the visit to Manitoba when the vice-regal couple met Aboriginal people, including just after they crossed the border into Canadian territory at Emerson, where they were greeted with two speeches from Aboriginal orators.. “The first described them as very happy and prosperous,” Lady Dufferin wrote, and “the second named some grievance to be redressed.” [47] Dufferin made special mention of his concerns for Aboriginal people in his farewell speech in Winnipeg late in September, 1877. Although Dufferin focused on the great future destiny of Manitoba, he noted that “in contemplating the vistas thus opened to our imagination we must not forget that there ensues a corresponding expansion of our obligations.” [48] It was “our most urgent and imperative duty to take timely precautions by enabling the red man ... by precept, example and suasion, by gifts of cattle, and other encouragements, to exchange the precarious life of a hunter for that of a pastoral and eventually that of an agricultural people.”

Queen Victoria did not herself venture out to the empire but she began a tradition of exporting close relatives as governors-general. The first such appointment was the Marquis of Lorne, the husband of Princess Louise, the son- in-law of the Queen, as governor-general of Canada from 1878-1883. He was also a Scottish Highlander, the son of and later himself the Duke of Argyll and head of the Campbell clan in Scotland. In the summer of 1881 the Marquis of Lorne embarked on a tour of the West as far as Fort Macleod, that took several months, covered over 8,000 miles, and involved many meetings, audiences, or “pow-wows” with First Nations who dominated the population of most of the places he visited and who turned out in great numbers to meet and speak with the Queen’s son-in-law. The visit served a royal purpose of reminding the inhabitants who reigned over this corner of the empire. It asserted Canadian sovereignty over the newly-acquired western territories. The tour was also launched in an effort to promote the resources and settlement of the West at a critical moment in time. The Canadian Pacific Railway was set to begin construction across the prairies from Portage La Prairie, and it was essential to entice settlers from Great Britain and eastern Canada. Lorne was devoted to the idea that the prairies were the logical home for Britain’s “surplus” population. The tour permitted Lorne to provide selected information about conditions that awaited emigrants in his 1885 book Canadian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil, and his 1891 book Canadian Life and Scenery with Hints to Intending Emigrants and Settlers. [49]

The extensive coverage of the 1881 vice-regal tour in the British and Canadian press featured glowing descriptions of the prospects for settlement. These included tributes to the richness of the soil, the scenery, the prosperous farm homes, horse and cattle ranching, and the capital game hunting prospects. In the press reports and in Lorne’s books there is no mention of the destitution that prevailed at that time among Plains people. There was widespread starvation, disease and death following the disappearance of the buffalo. Earliest efforts to establish agriculture on the reserves were unsuccessful due to environmental factors but also because what was promised in the treaties, the implements, oxen and provisions, proved insufficient and even these commitments were not met. [50] Indian Commissioner Edgar Dewdney, (and lieutenant-governor of the North West from the fall of 1881), who accompanied the vice-regal party for much of the journey, reported in 1881 that the “want of more teams and implements is felt by the Indians from one end of the territory to another.” [51] Treaty Four for example, promised only one yoke of oxen to each band (of several hundred people) and one plough to every ten families. Since the disappearance of the buffalo, Plains people were in a deplorable state with regard to clothing, footwear and housing as they had relied on this animal for all of these. Aboriginal people then had compelling reasons to use the opportunity of the visit to remind their treaty partner of their promises and obligations.

Initially Princess Louise was to accompany her husband, but by mid-July it was announced that due to an injury, her physicians had ordered her not to undertake the voyage to Canada and journey to the North-West. The viceregal party, of seventy-seven men included Lome’s aides-de-camp, servants, personal chef, chaplain, a NWMP escort, correspondents, artist Sydney Hall of the London Graphic and a changing entourage of local guides, and officials of the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA). [52] Lorne was equipped with gifts and supplies for feasts that were an essential part of meetings with First Nations. Among the gifts were medals, featuring Lord Lorne and Princess Louise, to be given to the chiefs who showed the greatest disposition to carry out the treaties. [53] They set out in on 21 July and travelled by railway, steamer, canoe, York boat, horse and wagon until the tour ended with Lome’s speech in Winnipeg on 11 October.

All along the route they were met by assemblies of First Nations people, generally separate from the assemblies of White people. In some cases they travelled great distances to meet Lorne, and they had well-prepared spokespersons who expressed both their loyalty to the Queen and the problems they believed the Queen should address. Many of the prominent chiefs proudly displayed their treaty, George III and other medals. As the special correspondent to the London Times wrote, describing a chief near Georgian Bay, “The only article worth noting was a large George III medal hanging from his neck by a long red riband. It was probably given to some ancestor for services rendered in our old wars against the French or the revolted colonies. The Indians are very proud of these medals, and still speak of themselves and their English friends as “King George’s men’ in contradistinction to the ‘Long Knives,’ the Americans.” [54]

A reminder of First Nations’ relationship with the Crown even appeared on ration tickets.
Source: John Maclean Collection, United Church Archives, Toronto.

The audience Lorne held with Chief Shingwauk and the people of Garden River on 25 July set the tone for much of the trip. Lorne was welcomed and honoured as the relative and representative of the Queen, but also as their relative, as he was addressed as “brother”, “brother-in-law” and by a few orators as “father.” (This initially surprised Lorne, who noted in his journal following one Ontario audience that “a grand old man perpetually in his speech addressed me, who might have been his grandson, as ‘father’) [55] At every stop Lorne was presented with detailed reminders of promises and obligations not met. Lorne, on almost every occasion, provided acknowledgement of the Queen’s commitment, stated that the Queen kept her promises and that their concerns would be looked into.

Shingwauk indicated that he had been granted an interview through correspondence with the governor-general’s secretary one year earlier. Then, according to Globe reporter W. H. Williams, the chief gave “a somewhat lengthy though fairly concise review of the relations of the Algoma Indians with the white men, recounting the grievances, including the destruction of fish and game and the alleged non-fulfilment of a certain treaty.” [56] Lorne replied that “I rejoice I am able to keep my promise made to you to come to see you. It is a promise I have fulfilled You will always find that any promises given by the Government or any servant of the Great Mother are always kept. The breaking of the Treaty made with Her Indian subjects is unknown to the Great Mother ... I shall take care to enquire into everything than has been said to me to-day.” Some days later the chief of the Lake Wabigon Ojibway, who displayed a Queen Victoria medal, addressed Lorne saying that they were honoured to meet “our great mother’s son-in-law and her speaker for this country. We all shake hands with you through me as their chief.” He continued with his concerns about issues including their rights to cut timber on their own reserves. [57] Five hundred Ojibway were camped at the narrows near Rat Portage, a gateway to Western Canada, and to meet the governor-general they had crossed the Winnipeg river in a large fleet of canoes, dressed, according to W.H. Williams, in the most picturesque of costumes. Their chief Mawedopenais, a prominent spokesperson at the protracted negotiations over Treaty Three, wore his treaty medal and gave an address on behalf of the people of Lake-of-the-Woods.

On 1 August, Lord Lorne was given a cordial welcome at Winnipeg. The two welcoming arches that had been constructed had escaped damage in a thunderstorm and “little cyclone” that swept through the city two days earlier. [58] During his first address in Winnipeg at City Hall Lorne stated that peaceful settlement “is guaranteed by the just, generous and faithful treatment of the Indians, by scrupulous respect of all treaties made with them ...” [59] West of Portage la Prairie at the HBC’s Fort Ellice a large gathering of Cree, Saulteaux and Dakota awaited the Marquis of Lome. According to Globe correspondent Williams here “the Indians engaged in a right royal pow-wow, which His Excellency seemed to enjoy,” and dances and speeches alternated for some time. [60] The Dakota, who were granted reserves but were not permitted to enter into treaties because they were presumed to be “American” Indians, once again displayed their British medals and the Union Jack, and their chief Wabadiska gave an address to Lome who acknowledged their ancient affiance, saying “I look upon it as a sign of our alliance of old days that you have brought the flag with you. I see the medals on some of your breasts, tokens of service rendered the Great Mother.”

Lorne attended speeches and dancing at Fort Ellice for four hours but Chief Sounding Quill was disappointed that he could not stay for three or four days “... to give them time to fully address him upon their grievances, but they were informed that his Excellency could not stay.” By this time the correspondent Williams was summing up and dismissing these grievances with the words “They made the usual complaints of want of food etc.” They had to be content with Lorne’s parting address, which again invoked the personal interest, concern and largesse of the Queen. He also promised to address their concerns:

I am glad that you have come and spoken your mind so freely to me. Have seen that the chiefs were good to do as Government told them. The Queen took pity for your hunger and sent her servants to enter a treaty with you. Now you have land for farming and I am glad to see that you are doing so well ... Glad to see that you want implements. Shall see that you get them and are instructed well. Seed will also be given you. Hope to hear of more Indians working. The Queen wishes you to remain on the land and be good friends of hers ... [61]

Lorne then presented Chief Gabriel Cote, one of the Treaty Four chief negotiators and signators, with a large silver medal, to show appreciation for his efforts to live by farming. [62]

The reception for Lorne at Fort Qu’Appelle was described by Williams as “one of the grandest Indian shows of the whole trip.” [63] One thousand four hundred Saulteaux, Cree and Assiniboine were assembled, and the speeches and dancing lasted five or six hours. The main speaker at Fort Qu’Appelle was Saulteaux headman Louis O’Soup. [64] An eloquent orator, O’Soup was highly critical of much that had happened since the treaty. O’Soup stressed that they found the original agreement was not enough to keep them alive:

While prairie was open I could clothe myself but now that the buffalo are driven away I can not do so. The clothing you see on the people round all comes from $5 [annuity] and in 2 or 3 months it will all be gone—Your heart would melt if you saw these people in the winter. I have got no shoes nor mittens ... Take this to your heart and think it over. And how do you think these people can live on 1½ pound of flour a day ... According to treaty a yoke of oxen going to keep 100 people alive. Will they break up land enough to keep them alive? Now the Indian knows more ... [65]

The major message delivered by O’Soup and other speakers was that they could not make a living by the treaty, that they were starving, unable to farm with the lack of assistance and implements, and they wanted what was translated as a “reformation” of the treaty. [66] There was frequent mention of the Queen. O’Soup said that the Queen would be sorry to hear that they had all died. [67] “Let us see the kindness of the Queen,’ said Day Bird. Several expressed disappointment that the Queen’s daughter had not accompanied Lorne as expected. Lorne was addressed as “brother-in-law.” Loud Voice, a principal and elder chief of the Cree said “I shake hands with the Almighty. I shake hands with the Queen. Let us live.” [68]

Lorne replied at some length to the assembly at Fort Qu’Appelle, stressing the Queen’s love for them, her direct role in the making of treaties, and the personal interest she continued to take in their welfare:

I want them to know for certain that having made so long a journey it shows the Queen’s love who always loves her red children and was very sorry seven years ago to learn that they were hungry. She heard in her Grandfather and Great Grand-father’s time that many of them were hungry that they were sick and suffered from small pox ... therefore the Queen was very sorry and wished they should be made happier in her life time. [69]

He promised that implements would be given to the young men who worked and those who worked would receive food. Lorne stated that he considered the chiefs the officers of the Queen and that he expected them to keep the treaty that “the Queen gave her officers to prevent her Indian children from starving.” He said he was there to hear what they had to say and to see if both white and red men were keeping their promises, although he was “not to make any change in treaties.” Here and in other localities he said “The Great Mother will always keep her promises and the Canadian Government will keep their promises.” He also lectured them about the necessity of applying themselves to agriculture and not just to eloquent speeches. “Hands were not given by Manitou to fill pipes only but to work.” At the end of the Fort Qu’Appelle assembly, which included the elaborate and animated buffalo dance, O’Soup gave Lorne what the Globe correspondent described as “a handsome present in the shape of a complete and elaborately ornamented Indian dress,” and in exchange O’Soup was presented with a “handsome Waltham watch.” [70]

Saulteaux orator Louis O’Soup addressed Governor-General Lord Lorne at Fort Qu’Appelle on 19 August 1881. O’Soup signed the drawing by Sidney Hall with his mark at bottom right.
Source: National Archives of Canada, C12947.

At the HBC post Fort Carlton, there was an assembly of chiefs and headmen only, as the others had been encouraged to remain at their harvesting on the reserves. The distinguished chief Mistawasis spoke at length, beginning by drawing attention to the familial relationship between his people and the Queen: “We are the children of the Great Mother, and we wish that through her representative, our brother-in-law, she would listen for a little while to our complaints and sympathise with our sufferings.” [71] Mistawasis made many of the same points made at Fort Qu’Appelle: that the treaties were inadequate or unfulfilled, and that his people were starving. “Often I have been sorely perplexed and miserable at seeing my people starving and shrunken in flesh till they were so weak that with the first cold striking them they would fall off their feet, and then nothing would save them.” Mistawasis and Chief Ahtakakoop were presented with Louise and Lorne medals.

After stops at Prince Albert and Battleford the vice-regal tour struck off in a south-westerly direction toward Blackfoot Crossing and Fort Calgary. Plains Cree Chief Poundmaker, of the Battleford district and an important negotiator of Treaty Six, guided the entourage on this leg of the journey and he made a great impression on all. Poundmaker had a close association with the Blackfoot, having assisted to negotiate peaceful relations between the Cree and the Blackfoot in the mid 1870s, and he was an adopted son of the Siksika Chief Crowfoot. One evening Poundmaker told Cree were mesmerized by his words and performance. [72] One Blackfoot legend left a deep impression on Lorne. This was about the time when men and women lived in different camps, how the two worlds came together in marriage, and the lesson that the chief of the women taught the chief of the men about decisions based on superficial appearance.

The grandest reception yet of all was held at Blackfoot Crossing, on the Siksika reserve and scene of Treaty Seven. There were 2,000 Blackfoot awaiting the vice-regal party, and about 500 T’suu Tina. The Blackfoot named Lorne the “Son of Love.” [73] Lorne described the occasion in some detail in his book Canadian Pictures. [74] The event began with a mock battle on horseback, followed by dancing. Crowfoot and Bull Head of the Tsuu T’ina each bore the Union Jack as a banner which they placed before Lorne. Crowfoot’s eloquent address stressed their need for more assistance. But as described and dismissed in the Graphic, Crowfoot’s speech “... was like the rest of them—a begging one—but he illustrated it by holding up a tin cup to show how much flour was doled out to each of his people—poor flour too, and he compared himself and the tribe to that empty pannikin, for so they had been since the buffalo left them.” [75]

The vice-regal party crossed the 49th parallel near Chief Mountain, travelled east to Minnesota, and then returned across the border by railway to Winnipeg where on 11 October Lorne gave an address to the Manitoba Club. From his words on that occasion, one might think that he had not encountered any First Nations people at all, as the focus was on glowing descriptions of the agricultural, mineral, lumbering and other resources of the West including the beauty of forests, lakes and open plains. [76] He declared only that the Canadian government had inherited the “policy of kindness and justices which was inaugurated by the Hudson’s Bay Company in their treatment of the Indians.” [77] In Lorne’s conclusion to his speech he completely disregarded the presence of the vast majority of the people he had met on his tour, saying that Western Canada was a “territory favourable for the maintenance of a numerous and homogenous white population.”

The Crown appeared on the buttons of the suits provided triennially to Chiefs and Headmen under terms of the treaties.
Source: Glenbow Museum.

Yet there is clear evidence that Lorne was fascinated with his First Nations hosts. His 1883 book Memories of Canada and Scotland: Speeches and Verses, contained his Winnipeg speech above, but also his poetry which included a number of romantic verses on Aboriginal history and legends with titles such as “The Guide of the Mohawks,” “The Strong Hunter,” “The Origin of the Indian Corn,” “Cree Fairies,” “The ‘Qu’Appelle Valley,’“ and “The Blackfeet.” The latter poem was dearly drawn from the legend that was told to him by Poundmaker that night camped on the open prairie. [78] He admired their bravery, hunting and equestrian skills. (Another poem was called “On the New Province of ‘Alberta— which Lorne named in honour of his wife.) An entire chapter in his book Canadian Pictures is devoted to “The Indians of the North-West,” and contains an eclectic mixture of topics: the NWMP, the liquor traffic, horse stealing, evils of whisky drinking, Sitting Bull’s victory over General Custer, the Sioux, the Blackfeet, the pow-wow in 1881, Indian eloquence, the sun dance, “squaw” doctors, Canadian policy with the Indians, and the Christian Indian. Lorne also sketched scenes of Western Canada, some of which were featured in his book. He collected artefacts, and gifts, including the O’Soup outfit. Lorne also lived up to his end of the bargain in immediately placing the grievances and concerns that he had heard before prime minister John A. Macdonald. In a memorandum of 28 October, Lorne made specific recommendations including greater assistance with farming instruction and equipment, the establishment of industrial schools, and the settlement of Metis land issues.”

In 1895 Governor-General Lord Aberdeen presided over the inauguration of the Regina Territorial Exhibition. At the event he was presented to a distinguished delegation of First Nations leaders.
Source: Saskatchewan Archives Board, R-B1138.

Lorne’s interest in the Aboriginal people of the West may have arisen in part because he found so many who were descended from Highland Scots. Lorne was surprised, early in his journey, to see the extent of intermarriage, and according to his biographer, Lorne “later liked to tell the story of how he had addressed a request to see a full- blooded Indian to the Hudson’s Bay Company factor, who turned around and shouted: ‘Come here, Macdonald.’ [80] He found that many of the mixed-ancestry wives of HBC factors talked “very Highland,” learned from their Scottish fathers. [81] Lorne had noted certain similarities such as the travois, harnessed behind Blackfoot women’s horses, which was “almost exactly the rude machine used in the Highlands for hay carrying.” [82] Globe reporter Williams thought that Lorne’s general popularity during his 1881 tour had much to do with his Highland Scots identity as there were so many Westerners with Scottish ancestry. “He may be Governor- General and Marquis of Lome for infidels and outer barbarians... but for themselves, the faithful few, he is still the young chief of a clan ...” [83]

Yet Lorne’s private correspondence and diary entries indicate that he by no means regarded Aboriginal people as his equals and had little appreciation for or patience with the ceremonies and speeches, which he also distilled to requests for food. In Canadian Pictures he described the dancing as “strange, weird and uncouth.” “Usually, amid much flowery rhetoric, the speech resolves itself into a demand for more favours, and is, in short, nothing but an exclamatory beggar’s oration,” Lorne wrote. [84] Lorne repeated one of the most well-worn “jokes” in the Canadian West that mocked Aboriginal orators, relating how interpreters reduced lengthy speeches to one line, in this case, “Oh! He say grub!.” [85] In a letter to his brother, Lord Archibald Cameron, Lorne wrote from the town of Prince Albert that, “The Indians are horrible savages but are beginning to understand farming. We are giving them presents everywhere as we pass and go through hideous dances ‘like Hell’ ...” [86] At Fort Qu’Appelle Lorne wrote that “I have a great Indian Council to-morrow. The wretches have been having a sun-dance... all seem very friendly, but all ask for impossible things.” [87] He did not it seems, think much of treaties despite all of the assurances he gave that treaty promises would be observed.. Lorne preferred the situation in B.C., where there were virtually no treaties. During an 1882 address in Victoria Lorne complemented the “tractability and good conduct of the Indian population” of British Columbia. [88] They were in his view, independent, trustworthy, and “Where elsewhere constant demands are met for assistance; your Indians have never asked for any ...”

There was never again a vice-regal tour on the scale of Lorne’s 1881 epic journey. First Nations were also never again permitted the receptions and addresses of the scale and length that had greeted Lorne. A pattern had been established and each successive governor-general made trips West, sometimes several, and all had audiences with First Nations. Although these became more abbreviated, and sometimes, staged and scripted, these visits none-theless affirmed the treaty relationship. The vast majority of these meetings took place on the reserves. Subsequent governors-general varied in their degree of interest and knowledge. Lord Landsdowne, who served in Canada 1883-1888, (and later went on to become Viceroy of India) visited the West in 1885, after the North-West Resistance, and he was disdainful and dismissive of First Nations. [89]

In 1889 Lord Stanley (governor general from 1888-93) and Lady Stanley made an extensive tour of the West. Stanley participated in the ceremonies and protocol of Plains diplomacy, and gave firm assurances of the sanctity of the treaty relationship. The vice-regal party was escorted during the last few miles to the Blackfoot reserve by about one hundred mounted men on horseback, firing their guns. The meeting between Lord Stanley and Crowfoot, Old Sun and other Blackfoot chiefs, began with a pipe ceremony and Crowfoot then presented his tobacco pouch and pipe to the governor-general. Stanley spoke first, saying “Your Great Mother across the salt sea, although unable to come and see you herself, is always glad to hear of your welfare and prosperity, and your loyalty to her throne...The Queen has no other wish than to see all her people happy and prosperous.” “The treaty,” Stanley said “ would be observed as long as the waters ran and the sun shone.” [90] Crowfoot replied by expressing his loyalty and that of his people to the Queen, and he said “they looked upon His Excellency as one of a great family who had been their friends so long, and they would give him the name they gave their first Governor, the Son of Love, as being sent from their Great Mother, the Queen.”

Lord and Lady Minto visiting the Blackfoot, circa 1900.
Source: Glenbow Archives

Lord Aberdeen, the seventh governor-general (1893-98) presided in 1895 over the inauguration of Regina’s Territorial Exhibition. A large gathering of First Nations was convened, including many distinguished treaty chiefs such as Piapot and Red Crow. There were also displays of the work of reserve farmers and industrial school children. This was a carefully planned and staged display of contrast between the “civilized” the “primitive,” with the overall goal of showing how the hardy White pioneers had transformed the West while doing much to also transform the First Nations. But like other vice-regal visits the occasion confirmed the treaty relationship. In “His Excellency’s speech to Her Majesty’s Indian Subjects,” Aberdeen called them friends and brothers and stated that “... when I write to the Queen, the Great Mother, I will tell her how well her Indian subjects have done. It will give great pleasure to the Queen to hear of their success.” [91] He announced that medals were to be awarded to those who had the best cultivated land, and that Lady Aberdeen would give a prize to the Indian woman whose house is best kept. Lord Aberdeen was made an honourary Blackfoot chief. [92]

The Earl of Minto, governor-general from 1898-1904 took particular interest in Aboriginal people. He had previous experience in Western Canada as in 1884, as Lord Melgund, he assisted in recruiting the Saulteaux Nile Voyageurs, and in 1885 he had served as aide-de-camp to General Middleton during the North-West Resistance. According to Carmen Miller, Minto never forgave Landsdowne for his “sneering reception of Poundmaker” whom he met at Stony Mountain Penitentiary in the autumn of 1885. Minto, then Melgund, wrote that “Poundmaker appeared ‘all dignity, saying through the interpreter that he was so honoured in meeting the representative of the Queen and so regretted the circumstances under which he met him.’“ Carmen Miller writes that “Much to Melgund’s horror, Landsdowne smiled sarcastically throughout, unable to appreciate the tragic situation,” and that he treated the chief as “ludicrous spectacle.” [93]

Minto, by contrast, solicited opinions and complaints of First Nations during his numerous meetings with them on “a variety of subjects: civil liberties, education, supplies or undue interference in Indian affairs.” Minto conveyed these to Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. In 1903 for example, he wrote Laurier to object, among other things, to the treatment of Piapot, who had been deposed as chief a year earlier for not conforming to government policy abolishing Aboriginal ceremonies and dances. “As you know,” Minto wrote Laurier, “he has long been a celebrated old character in the North West, rather a fire-brand perhaps, not over well behaved, but a chief for a great many years & whose faults, unless very heinous, one might perhaps have hoped would be dealt lightly with.” [94] Minto objected to the policy that prohibited Aboriginal dances and festivities, writing to Laurier in February, 1903 that “...there is a want of sympathy with the Indians, a want of appreciation of the fact that like all other human beings they require some opportunities for the enjoyments & relaxations of life, and a rather narrow inclination to stigmatize all the customs & traditions handed down to them as heathen & barbaric & therefore to be stamped out without mercy.” [95] He described their dances as “sober beyond words in comparison to a Scottish reel.” At the Tsuu T’ina reserve in September, 1900, Minto had been treated to a great variety including “war dances, ghost dances, scalp dances, horse dances...” [96]

In a letter he wrote to Queen Victoria in August 1900 Minto wrote that “I confess the wild red man has charms for me.” [97] Perhaps this affinity had something to do with Minto’s wife’s claim to have Aboriginal ancestry. Mary, Countess of Minto, told the Kainai during a visit in 1899 that she was descended from an Indian “princess,” Pocahontas. According to a policeman who accompanied the vice-regal party “They were not at all impressed by the circumstances, and as a matter of fact, did not believe the story.” [98] Minto himself, according to a newspaper report, told the Tsuu T’ina in 1900 that “he took all the more interest in them because Lady Minto was descended from an Indian chief.” [99]

The special bond between the British monarchy and First Nations has endured because of the central importance of treaties to First Nations, despite the fact that the continued promises and assurances of assistance produced few concrete results. As evidence of this special bond, and the Crown’s acknowledgement of obligations and commitments, First Nations can look not just to the treaties and the promises made at the time of the negotiations, but to over 125 years of reaffirmation during vice-regal and royal visits. These visits are still used as opportunities to reconfirm the treaty relationship. In July of 1973 Harold Cardinal of the Indian Association of Alberta met with Queen Elizabeth II. Cardinal welcomed the Queen as “our Treaty partner,” and began by saying that “...we take this moment to restate and recommit ourselves to the spirit and philosophy contained in the Treaties entered into by our forefathers with Your Majesty’s distinguished and beloved Great Grandmother—Queen Victoria.” [100] Queen Elizabeth accepted the gift of a pipe and in her reply stated that “You may be assured that my government recognizes the importance of full compliance with the spirit and terms of your treaties.” As Adrienne Clarkson has written, “The good faith that was the foundation of these Treaties at the time of signing continues to this day through the ‘Honour of the Crown.’ [101]


An earlier version of this paper was given as a keynote address at the British World Conference II, held at the University of Calgary, July 2003. Special thanks to Harold Cardinal for interpretations of First Nations perspectives. I am also grateful for the assistance of Donald Smith, Anne Morton, Gerry Conaty, Florentine Strzelczyk, Chris Kindrasky, Brenda Oskawsky, and everyone at the Calgary Institute for the Humanities. The two assessors for Manitoba History provided valuable comments.

1. “Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson Address at the University of Toronto Faculty Association’s C. B. Macpherson Lecture. Governor General of Canada Home Page. /media/doc.asp?lang=e&DocID+-4158

2. Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (HBC), “Medals” Search File. Extract from James Keith, Fort Chipewyan Journal, 4 September 1823: (HBC Arch. B. /39 / a /22,fo.33).

3. Alexander Morris, The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories, (1880: rpt.: Toronto: Coles Publishing Col, 1971): 285. Studies of First Nations of Canada and the British Monarchy include Wade Henry, “Imaging the Great White Mother and the Great King: Aboriginal Tradition and Royal Representation in the ‘Great Pow-wow’ of 1901,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association II (2000): 87 -108; Ian Radforth, “Performance, Politics and Representation: Aboriginal People and the 1860 Royal Tour of Canada,” Canadian Historical Review, 84, no. 1 (March 2003): 1-32; Phillip Buckner, “Casting Daylight Upon Magic: Deconstructing the Royal Tour of 1901 to Canada,” The British World: Diaspora, Culture and Identity, eds. Carl Bridge and Kent Fedorowich, (London: Frank Cass, 2003): 158-189; Danielle Kinsey “Inventing the ‘Great Mother,’“ paper for History 607, University of Calgary, December 2000.

4. Kent McNeil, “Sovereignty on the Northern Plains: Indian, European, American and Canadian Claims,” Journal of the West, 39, no. 3 (Summer, 2000), p. 14; Arthur J. Ray, I Have Lived Here Since the World Began: An Illustrated History of Canada’s Native People, (Toronto: Lester Publishing Ltd. and Key Porter Books, 1996), 70.

5. Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (HBC), Thomas Hutchins to Governor-in-Council, London, 24 June, 1776. Albany Inward Letters, 1776. Thomas Hutchins Private Journal. “Medals” Search File.

6. Ibid., “Medals” Search File.

7. Quoted in The Beaver, (June 1930), p. 9 - 10. See also HBC Archives “Medals” Search File, “Notes on Indian Chief Medals,” 1 and 4. (HBC Arch.B.64 /a/1)

8. HBC Archives, “Medals” Search File. “Notes on Indian Chief Medals,” 2.

9. Ibid. (HBC Arch. B.190 /a /3)

10. Ibid. Extract from James Keith, Fort Chipewyan Journal, 4 Sept., 1823 (HBC Arch. B./39 /a/22,fo. 33). 46

11. Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians, vol. 2, (Lincoln and London, University of Nebraska Press, 1984), 173.

12. Ibid., 175.

13. David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 95.

14. George Catlin, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of North American Indians, vol. 2, (1844 rpt., New York: Dover Publications, 1973), 173-4.

15. The Nor’Wester (Red River Settlement), 14 March 1860. The Globe (Toronto), 13 September 1881.

16. Willliam Butler, The Great Lone Land: A Narrative of Travel and Adventure in the North-West of America, (1872 rpt., Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1968), 385.

17. HBC Archives, “Peguis” Search File. (B.235/a /3 fos. 28 - 28d)

18. Ibid.

19. Arthur J. Ray, J. R. Miller and Frank Tough, Bounty and Benevolence: A History of Saskatchewan Treaties, (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2000): 25.

20. HBC Archives, “Medals” Search File. “Notes on Indian Medals,” 1. (HBC Arch. A.1/66, p. 57).

21. Quoted in S. Tucker, The Rainbow in the North: A Short Account of the First Establishment of Christianity in Rupert’s Land, (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1854), 87-8.

22. In 1885 a descendant of Chief Peguis, Chief William Prince, led a group of skilled Manitoba Saulteaux boatmen who helped guide British soldiers up the Nile River to relieve General Gordon during the Battle of Khartoum in the Sudan. The Nile Voyageurs received medals in recognition of their contribution and these were proudly displayed by the Prince family each year on Treaty day. Another descendant, Tommy Prince was one of Canada’s most decorated soldiers during World War II. See C. P. Stacey, ed., Records of the Nile Voyageurs, 18845: The Canadian Contingent in the Gordon Relief Expedition, (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1959).

23. HBC Archives, “Flag” Search File. “Red Ensign with the letters HBC in white in the bottom corner of the fly.” (“Diary of Nicholas Garry, Deputy-Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1822-35,” in Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Section II, 1900).

24. George J. Mountain, The Journal of the Bishop of Montreal During a Visit to the Church Missionary Society’s North-West America Mission, (London: Seeley, Burnside and Seeley; Hatchard and Son; Nisbet and Co., 1845), 180.

25. HBC Archives, “Peguis” Search File. “Letter from Peguis, chief of the Saulteaux tribe at the Red River settlement, to the Aborigines Protection Society, London.”

26. See for example the speeches in Penny Petrone, First People, First Voices, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983), chapter 1.

27. Donald Smith, “Nahnebahwequay (1824-1865): ‘Upright Woman,’“ In Neil Semple, ed., Canadian Methodist Historical Society Papers, vol. 13 (Toronto: 2001), 74-105.

28. Ian Radforth, “Performance, Politics, and Representation: Aboriginal People and the 1860 Royal Tour of Canada,” Canadian Historical Review, 84, no. 1 (March, 2003): 1-32.

29. Glenbow Archives, “Copy of the Diary of Regimental no. 247, Trumpeter Frederick Augustus Bagley, North West Mounted Police.” Entry for 13 August 1874, Transcript copy, p. 20.

30. Cannadine, 101.

31. Ibid., 32.

32. Ray, Miller and Tough, 5-10.

33. Frederick E. Hoxie, Parading Through History: The Making of the Crow Nation in America, 1805-1935, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 5-6.

34. Morris, 27.

35. Ibid., 28.

36. Ibid, 199.

37. Raymond J. DeMallie, “Touching the Pen: Plains Indian Treaty Councils in Ethnohistorical Perspective,” in Frederick C. Luebke, ed., Ethnicity on the Great Plains, (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1980), 38-53; John Tobias, “The Origins of the Treaty Rights Movement in Saskatchewan,” in F. L. Barron and James B. Waldram, eds., 1885 and After: Native Society in Transition, (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1986), 241-252.

38. Raymond J. DeMallie, “Kinship: The Foundation for Native American Society,” in Russell Thornton, ed., Studying Native America: Problems and Prospects, (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), 329.

39. DeMallie, “Touching the Pen,” 50; Morris, 190-1.

40. Morris, 191.

41. Harold Cardinal and Walter Hildebrandt, Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan: Our Dream is That Our People Will One Day Be Clearly Recognized as Nations, (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2000), 34.

42. Ibid., 47.

43. Robert A. Williams, Jr., Linking Arms Together: American Indian Treaty Visions of Law and Peace, 1600-1800, (New York and London: Routledge, 1999), 47.

44. Cannadine, 118.

45. Ibid., 105.

46. The Daily Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba), 20 August 1877.

47. Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, My Canadian Journal 1872-8: Extracts From My Letters Home Written While Lord Dufferin was Governor-General, (1891: rpt.: Toronto: Coles Publishing Co., 1971): 318.

48. Ibid., 1 October 1877.

49. The Marquis of Lorne, K.T., Canadian Pictures Drawn With Pen and Pencil, (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1885); The Marquis of Lorne, K.T., Canadian Life and Scenery With Hints to Intending Emigrants and Settlers, (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1891). The Marquis of Lorne began his publishing career in 1867 when, according to one appreciative account “he published a volume of much promise, with the title of “A Trip to the Tropics, and Home through America,” which is a pleasant and observant record of travel in Jamaica, Cuba, St. Domingo, and in the United States. These ‘Notes from Negro Lands’ - as the volume is alternatively called - are extracts from letters written by the author when travelling in 1866...” See Charles R. Tuttle, Royalty in Canada: Embracing Sketches of the House of Argyll...”, (Montreal: Tuttle and Simpson Publishers, 1878), 77. For more on the Marquis of Lorne and Princess Louise see Sandra Gwyn, The Private Capital: Ambition and Love in the Age of Macdonald and Laurier, (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1984), and Robert M. Stamp, Royal Rebels: Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne, (Toronto: Dundum Press, 1988).

50. Sarah Carter, Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy, (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990).

51. Ibid., 97.

52. Stamp, 171.

53. The Globe, 1 October 1881 and National Archives of Canada (NA), Record Group 10 (RG 10), records of the Department of Indian Affairs, Black Series, vol. 3768, file 33642, transcript of the meetings with the Marquis of Lorne, 5.

54. The London Times article was reprinted in The Globe, 26 August 1881.

55. The Duke of Argyll, Passages From the Past, vol. II, (London: Hutchinson and Co., 1907), 464-5.

56. The Globe, 30 July 1881. W. H. “Buckboard” Williams published his Globe articles describing the tour of 1881, with some editing, as Manitoba and the North-West: Journal of a Trip From Toronto to the Rocky Mountains (Toronto: Hunter, Rose and Co., 1882).

57. Ibid., 8 August 1881.

58. Ibid., 6 August 1881.

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid., 13 September 1881.

61. Ibid.

62. Ibid., 31 August 1881.

63. Ibid., 24 September 1881.

64. Sarah Carter, “Louis O’Soup,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography vol.14, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), 804-7.

65. NA, RG 10, vol. 3768, file 33642, 6.

66. Ibid., 4.

67. Ibid., 3. 47

68. Ibid.

69. Ibid., 3-4.

70. The Globe, 24 September 1881.

71. Ibid., 1 October 1881.

72. Ibid., 7 October 1881.

73. This I have surmised from a newspaper account of the 1889 visit of Lord Stanley, when Crowfoot was reported as having said “they would give him [Stanley] the name they gave their first Governor, the Son of Love, as being sent from their Great Mother, the Queen.” The Calgary Tribune, 23 October 1889.

74. The Marquis of Lorne, Canadian Pictures, 162-3.

75. The Graphic, (London), 5 November 1881.

76. Marquis of Lorne, K.T., Memories of Canada and Scotland: Speeches and Verses, (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1883), 288.

77. Ibid., 290.

78. Ibid., 50-2. A sample verse from “The Blackfeet” by The Marquis of Lorne

Southward, nearer to the gorges
Whence the sudden warm winds blow,
Shaking all the pine’s huge branches,
Melting all the fallen snow,
Dwelt the Selcsika, the Blackfeet;
They whose ancestor, endured,
With the dark salve’s magic fleetness,
First on foot the deer pursued.
Gallantly the Braves bore torture
While their Sun-dance fasts were held
While the drums beat, and the virgins
Saw the pains by manhood quelled.
“Come with us and share our hunting
Ere the autumn leaves are shed.

79. Stamp, 180.

80. MacNutt, 86.

81. Argyll, 470.

82. Lorne, Canadian Pictures, 169.

83. The Globe, 2 September 1881.

84. Lorne, Canadian Pictures, 162-3.

85. Ibid., 163.

86. MacNutt, 255.

87. Argyll, 466.

88. Lorne, Memories of Canada and Scotland, 318.

89. Quoted in John Cowan, Canada’s Governors-General: Lord Manck to General Vanier, (Toronto: York Publishing Co. Ltd., 1965), 46.

90. The Calgary Tribune, 23 October 1889.

91. The Regina Standard, 8 August 1895.

92. Cowan, 68.

93. Carmen Miller, The Canadian Career of the Fourth Earl of Minto: The Education of a Viceroy, (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1980), 37, 176.

94. Paul Stevens and John T. Saywell, eds., and introd., Lord Minto’s Canadian Papers: A Selection of The Public and Private Papers of the Fourth Earl of Minto, 1898-1904. (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1983), 245.

95. Ibid., 253.

96. The Calgary Herald, 18 September 1900.

97. John Buchan, Lord Minto: A Memoir, (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1924), 176.

98. R. Burton Deane, Mounted Police Life in Canada: A Record of Thirty-one Years’ Service, (London: Cassell and Co., 1916), 89.

99. The Calgary Herald, 18 September 1900.

100. Quoted in Richard T. Price, Legacy: Indian Treaty Relationships, (Edmonton: Plains Publishing Inc., 1991), 84.

101. Clarkson, “Address at the University of Toronto.” 48.

Page revised: 4 December 2011

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