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Poundmaker Centennial Celebrations

Brian Tootoosis

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1981      v11 n08 p10  
Cree chiefs, Big Bear and Poundmaker
Cree chiefs, Big Bear and Poundmaker.
Big Bear died on Poundmaker Reserve and has a monument erected on the spot where he died.

(photo credit: Manitoba Archives)

The legendary Chief Poundmaker died 150 years ago at Blackfoot crossing near Gleichen, Alberta. Chief Poundmaker was a Cree Indian and the adopted son of Chief Crowfoot of the Blackfoot confederacy. In his memory the people of the Poundmaker Reserve thought it would be most appropriate to hold the first annual pow-wow in remembrance of the late Cree leader.

Chief Poundmaker was involved in the signing of treaty number #6 at Fort Carlton, Saskatchewan, along with other Indian leaders. As leader of his tribe, he took the advise of his elders and established a reserve northwest of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, which is presently called the Poundmaker Band.

The Chief had good leadership qualities and was admired by his people as a wise and sound communicator. Non-Indian people recognized him as a great orator. He also had other abilities in dealing with different situations that effected his tribe. For instance, he preferred talking peace instead of violence with other tribes or non-Indians, to avoid war and the disruption of community life.

The Poundmaker Centennial Celebrations started July 9, 1981, with a Treaty Day. Other ceremonies took place as the Band acknowledged and presented diplomas to the Grade 12 graduating class.

Roger Carter of the University of Saskatchewan, presented the first Poundmaker memorial scholarship to Jerry Okanee of the Thunderchild Reserve. This scholarship was initiated by Eileen Bell, a former educator and resident of Cutknife, Saskatchewan, whose husband practised law in that community. The scholarship is open to any Treaty Indian student born in Saskatchewan. The student must complete the second year of a university education, within the province. Jerry, who has worked for the Thunderchild Reserve, is currently involved with the student body of the Indian Teacher Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan.

The award was handed over to Jerry Okanee by a direct descendant of Chief Poundmaker, Alma Favel. The struggle for social, economic, resource and political rights for his people is still being carried out by the people of Saskatchewan, says FSI Chief Sol Sanderson.

The centennial celebration also had other dignitaries including the regional director-general of Indian


Poundmaker Centennial Celebrations

Brian Tootoosis

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1981      v11 n08 p11  
A female dancer
A female dancer . . .
performing in the
semi-finals.

Affairs, Owen Anderson; and Cutknife MLA and highways minister, Bob Long; who brought greetings.

FSI Senator John Tootoosis of Poundmaker emphasized to the audience that this is not Saskatchewan or Canada, but Poundmaker Indian land. The treaty, which was signed by Poundmaker and other Indian leaders, is a binding contract and the two parties must abide by the commitments that were made. The repatriation of the British North American Act would mean the loss of rights for the Indians.

The unveiling of the new plaque for the historic site was postponed due to the plaque not being ready on time.

Chief Poundmaker's remains were brought back to the reserve in 1967 from Alberta, at the request of the Band council and the people of the Poundmaker Reserve. There he lays in his final resting place on Cutknife Hill.

"Chief Poundmaker was a man of vision", says John Tootoosis. "He grew up to be a leader with the required qualifications. After he died there was no chosen leader for the Reserve for about 30 years, until 1920 ... those days, people chose their leader with no opposition ... In todays society, you have opposition parties in governments and that is why they are having strikes and labour disputes. In the old days you had respect for the elected leader of the tribe", concluded Tootoosis.

The federal and provincial funding agencies contributed to the reality of this special event and the people of the band also had fund-raising activities to offset the costs. Visitors and dancers came from Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and from across Canada to attend the celebration.

The Poundmaker Band had an official opening of the new RCMP subdetachment to serve Little Pine and Poundmaker Reserves on a pilot project basis for one year.

FSI Chief Sol Sanderson, Chief Lawrence Weenie of Poundmaker, and Chief Casey Kennedy of Little Pine, were on hand to cut the ribbon. Superintendent Bob Head, in charge of the subdetachment, and assistant commissioner Bob Mills from the Regina Head Office, were also on hand representing the RCMP. This detachment will be manned by two special RCMP Indian constables.

"I think the people of my reserve will adjust to the new addition and these two reserves do need law and order", says Poundmaker Band Chief Lawrence Weenie. The people of the Poundmaker Reserve have some special thanks to give to the organizers of this celebration. The people who had the opportunity to attend had an enjoyable time.

Senator John Tootoosis
Senator John Tootoosis.
Gavin Tootoosis with daughter Corrine
Gavin Tootoosis with his daughter Corrine.