After 1885 during the uprising at Battleford,
when the white people were going to take over this land,
they wounded the People (Indians) first. They simply broke
his legs, in every way. They practically eliminated us.
They gave us diseases. We all know that. They tried to
exterminate us. They were unable to do it. During the
Rebellion, there was a battle on my reserve, May 2.1885.
The people were very much oppressed. All their houses
were taken away, all their guns, their traps, knives and
everything they had, were taken away from them. They were
given rations, bacon, salt pork, and canned beef.
That killed a lot of them. There is a
saying that change of food kills people quicker than poison.
But the people survived it. They went away. They didn't
stay there. All the reserves who took part in the Rebellion
were treated like that.
No Indian could visit any reserve without
a permit. On it was written the dates of the visit. I
have a copy of this permit; I thought perhaps some day
other people would see it. The two helped each other -the
churches and the government -to suppress the Indians.
The religious festivals were not allowed without permission.
Naturally they were not allowed to visit other reserves
without a permit. When I traveled I had only a certain
time to visit. That is the way it was.
Under the treaties, the Indian was promised
that he would be looked after. And when the Indian negotiated
the first treaty he was, as it were, accepting a new way
of life, a new way of thinking, of doing things, and to
a new economic way. He was told he would follow two life
styles: a hunting economy and this new economy that was
introduced. But they had already destroyed his hunting
economy. It was as if the Indian was moved to a new planet.
It was exactly that way. The protection that he was to
have received, he received a lot more. The Indian was
to be helped survive. They went to the extreme. For instance,
if you went to a town, you were not allowed to wear Indian
clothing; you could be imprisoned for it. It is not so
today. It was different then. If he wore a feather or
put on make up, the missionary got after him; he was considered
dressed for his own religion.
Before the white man came, he depended
on his own faith and his own religion. It was quite different
on the reserve. When the Indian Act was amended the first
time, over 70 sections of the Act were deleted. The Indian
Act was not so large. In the future perhaps it will become
still smaller and perhaps only the sections related to
the land rights will remain.
During the First World War, many Indians
went to fight. They volunteered; they were not conscripted.
In spite of it they wanted to fight for this country.
They were very poor, they were oppressed. No Indian allowed
anyone to hit him suddenly on his head; he had to defend
himself. That is why warriors of old (and those who fought
in World War I are their descendants) remember when a
man said to his son, "Son, don't be hit on your back.
If you are, I will think that I have not raised a man,
but if you are hit on the chest then I will be glad that
I raised a warrior." As a man was raised he was taught
not to run away. Many people went on "war parties."
They thought of their land and the land set aside for
People from the eastern provinces also
went to war. A man from the Six Nations went; L.O. Loft
was his name. He tried to speak for the Indians in England
and he was told to go home and organize his people. "You
alone cannot be heard," he was told by the Privy
Council. He started a movement. He organized a meeting
in Ontario. The fourth meeting was at Elphinstone in Manitoba.
I saw it; this was in 1920.
He wanted to organize the Indians across
Canada. The next meeting was in 1921 at Thunderchild's
Reserve. People held that at their own expense, they were
so anxious to stand up for themselves and to be seen to
speak with one voice. Those seeds that were placed in
their heads by Mr. Loft were beginning to ripen. They
saw that the only method was to sit together and talk
in order to achieve anything. So they had a meeting in
1921; the next year, 1922, Loft went to Thompson Reserve
in Hobbema many of our elders attended. That was the last
try he made. We never heard of him again. Some wrote letters
to him. In 1929 Chief Joe Taylor of Onion Lake never forgot
what Loft had told them. They sponsored a conference at
their own expense. In 1931 and 32 meetings were held in
Saddle Lake Alberta.
In 1931, I attended that conference as
a delegate. But back in 1927, I locked horns with the
Department of Indian Affairs. I was on my own, working
for myself. I did not get along with the officials at
Battleford because I didn't want them to tell me what
to do, while trying to become independent. Then it was
that I studied the Treaty; I studied the Indian Act; I
studied the administration of Indian Affairs. I went across
the country. I knew what was going on in Alberta. I wrote
and many things were told me. When I attended that meeting
in 1931, I left my books, and by 1932 I became part of
the leadership. I was a leader then until nine years ago
when I gave up the leadership in Saskatchewan. And we
(Joe Taylor and I) called it the League of Indians of
Western Canada. Under this organization I was the leader.
Joe Taylor gave me all his papers. He had a lot of confidence
in me. The Elders depended on me. I worked for it. I have
not given it up yet. I attend meetings where discussions
take place. Experience as we call it, helps the members
they think. In 1940 Alberta helped us; we were all in
All of a sudden they left the organization
because of a chief by the name of Joe Calahoo, from Calahoo
Reserve as it was called. When this chief spoke, he spoke
half in English and half in Cree. The people did not like
it, at a meeting at Battleford as they didn't speak English.
They were lost when he spoke English; they didn't know
what he talked about. So we took a vote on this question.
I was a chairman then. They said he should speak Cree
all the way through, or be interpreted if he spoke English.
He didn't like it and it was too bad. That's when the
Alberta Association came into being. That's when he took
away his fellow Albertans. That year they had a good crop;
Saskatchewan people didn't have good crops. The Saskatchewan
Indians received assistance but Alberta Indians didn't
because they had good crops. He blamed us, saying that
they only spoke for themselves in Saskatchewan. And for
other reasons, he persuaded them to depart. However, the
people supported the League in the northwest, which had
the largest Indian population in Saskatchewan. After the
2nd World War, the Protective Association was started
here at Fort Qu'Appelle. The Association of Saskatchewan
Indians was started by Joe Dreaver. There were three organizations.
After a few years they found out they could not accomplish
anything; because they were few in numbers. They wanted
unity. When I called a meeting in 1946, they arrived.
"We will help you," I said, "but we will
rely on the chiefs." The chiefs agreed with it. On
the 24th of February, 1946, we had a big meeting at Barry
Hotel in Saskatoon and the three organizations amalgamated,
under the name of the Union of Saskatchewan Indians. We
continued to hold meetings and the delegates came at their
own expense or were supported by their own people. Not
one cent was given by the government. The people understood
what they wanted and I used to go around explaining it
to them. I did all that by myself. I didn't stay in one
place. And when they understood it, they collected money
Today a person is paid to attend a meeting.
If he is not paid he does not attend for he is not fed
information that would give him enthusiasm to attend in
order to help himself and his people. I saw this happening;
they were enthusiastic under my leadership. And this Union
of Saskatchewan Indians - all of a sudden the provincial
government wanted to water the Indians (give them liquor)
and to have the provincial vote.
They invited the people to a meeting here
at Fort Qu'Appelle in 1958. We didn't accept it right
away, because these chiefs, I told them, should not vote
on the liquor and vote without the people knowing about
it. We tabled this question for another year. The people
were to be asked and their desires were to be upheld at
the conference. There, we tried to amalgamate. There were
two or three bands not represented at the 1958 Conference.
It was time to strengthen unity. I asked that we be given
a new name. They agreed and we called it "The Federation
of Saskatchewan Indians." This happened at Valley
Centre here at Fort Qu'Appelle and that is what it has
been called since. That became a provincial conference.
That is what I was asked to talk about when arriving here.
I didn't want to leave this conference without giving
this contribution of my knowledge and experience before
going home. That is what I am telling you. Many people
do not know how this has happened in the past. But I have
been involved in it even to this day. That is why I am
telling you this.
There are many other things discussed
here -the songs, the rituals - that I should comment on.
But time is too short and there is much to tell. Thank