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On October 13, 1972, Walter Gordon, the Treaty Rights Research worker, held a workshop on Cote Reserve at the Badgerville band office. He received some reaction from some elderly people who made statements of the methods used to force the Indians to give up some of their lands.
Roy Musqua from Keeseekoose, a retired chief from his band, remembered the time old Kakakaway came back from Fort Qu'Appelle after the treaties were drawn up. Old Kakakaway was a councilor at the time. He went down as a delegate for the Keeseekoose band.
For one instance, Mr. Musqua quoted Kakakaway as saying that an Indian was going to be looked after by the Crown without having no worries. The Crown promised to keep all wild game for the sole purpose of Indians only. To this day, the Crown kept her word that she was going to take care of the wild game; but now, they are only there for the Indians to look at and not for his use on the table. Today, we need papers to kill one moose at a certain time of the season. What chance do we have when the white man has far more superior weapons and ways of convenience to kill our wild game. There again, the white man broke a treaty by letting the white sportsman abuse our food resources. The government now have guards in the form of Forest Rangers who impose fines and jail terms to Indians who were only hunting to feed their children.
The Crown also promised an Indian can trap for furs anywhere without interference. To this very day that promise is not lived up to. An Indian is allotted a certain small trap line. The trap lines that are given to some bands are only adequate for two Indians, in order to make a decent living from it.
Roy Musqua went on to say that the Crown proposed the treaties. The Crown made the records. So the Crown must have all the records in Ottawa as the Indians of that time had no need of paper because of illiteracy. The Indians took it for granted that the white man was going to live up to his word. As at that time, and still to this day, an Indian's word is more solid than the white man's paper which can be easily destroyed by fire or can be discarded in the wayside.
Mr. Musqua stressed on the fact that the Queen promised to have her ears open from time to time like a mother looking after her children. She must be deaf by now, or she just doesn't care about her prodigal child.
Louis Quewezance, who was the last of the hereditary chiefs from Keeseekoose, who succeeded his father, Chief William Quewezance, remembers some tactics used in forcing the Indians to give up huge tracts of land. He recalls old Graham, who was the Indian agent at that time, gathering the band leaders together. He then showed them a pile of money with a fancy forty dollar bill on top. He quoted Mr. Graham as saying, "You see all this nice money?" "It's all yours if you just pick this pen up." When Mr. Graham did not have his way, he blew his top by ranting and raving threats to the Indians. He centered out each individual and accused each one for being drunk, chasing women, etc. He threatened to throw some in jail for being drunk when the incident of being intoxicated occurred months before. When he still did not succeed he told the leaders he was going to observe each and everyone of them real close from now on. He left them sitting there telling them to decide their future.
After he left, the food rations did not come. The Indians were watched so that they stayed within their boundaries. Old Graham intimidated the leaders. He paid some people so as liquor could be supplied to the Indian.
The pressure started to build up to boiling point around the Indian leaders. The leaders witnessed their people starving. The close unity of the Indian people began to disrupt. Mistrust for the chief became evident. The Indian agent began a propaganda in the reserve that the chief was a no good son of a --------. So in the end, the chief with his pride all crumpled up, succumbed to the triumphant agent's demand.
We heard Dr. Barber, the land claims commissioner, making a public statement, that there was no laws broken when Indian lands were being sold. Sure, there were no laws broken, because the Indian agent was the one who was the law on the reserve. He had the authority to throw Indians in jail whenever he darn well felt like it. He was like a king in an autocratic state. The Indian's word was useless in the eyes of the white man. All this originated from the Indian agent's propaganda which is very much alive today. The Indians had no taste of democracy. We are just beginning to see daylight within our Indian nation.
All people who have a knowledge of previous incidents such as these mentioned, are urged to bring it out to the limelight. Ask your elderly people questions while they are still alive. If you are interested in the future of your reserves, let's get some action in the big fight for the rights that were badly disfigured. Walter Gordon will certainly appreciate any evidence that can be used in our land claims. You can contact Mr. Gordon through any Federation of Saskatchewan Indians worker.