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A Warrior And Leader, Big Bear A Spokesman

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1973      v03 n06 p16  
Big Bear, a Plains Cree Indian, leader of the, last century, was honoured in a plaque unveiling ceremony at Fort. Pitt, Sask., July 25, 1973.

Senator Herbert Sparrow, representing Mr. Chretien and Four Souls, grandson of Big Bear, did the unveiling ceremony with various dignitaries attending the historical occasion.

Big Bear

A noted leader and great warrior, Big Bear, was born about 1825 near Fort Carlton in one of, the many Plains Cree hands scattered along the North Saskatchewan River.

Eventually becoming a Cree leader, and spokesman for discontented Indians, Big Bear refused to sign Treaty No. 6, 1876, linking it as bait meant to trap the Indians.

By 1884, he was convinced that any form of overt resistance to the white man was futile. He then co-operated with another Cree leader, Poundmaker, and urged united Indian action, in an attempt to get a better deal from the Canadian Government.

Big Bear's peaceful ambitions caused dissent within his band and he lost influence and authority to more aggressive followers, who were prepared to fight to accomplish a restitution of Indian grievances.
During the spring and summer of 1885 be was unable to restrain his band and on two occasions his followers resorted to violence, killing nine white settlers at Frog Lake and burning Fort Pitt.

There and other Indian and Metis uprisings in the northwest constituted the rebellion of 1885.

Big Bear, although showing personal restraint throughout, was nevertheless considered by the authorities the leader of his band. He spent the two years following the rebellion in prison, convicted of treason-felony.

He was released in the winter of 1887-88, moving to the Little Pine reservation, where he was reported to be ill and also refusing all medical aid.

Big Bear, visibly crushed at the loss of a traditional life style and disillusioned by his failure to unite his people, lost the will to live Chief Big Bear died quietly the following spring.