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Poundmaker Monument Unveiled

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN       JULY 1993      v22 n06 p11  
Blaine Favel, Ovide Mercredi, Rodney Gopher
Left to Right: Chief Blaine Favel,
AFN Chief Ovide Mercredi, CTN Chief Rodney Gopher
Big Bear monument, Poundmaker Reserve
Big Bear Monument in Poundmaker Reserve

On July 16, 1993 the Poundmaker First Nations unveiled a monument of Big Bear, a Cree leader in the 1880's. A number of Aboriginal leaders attended the ceremonies. The Master of Ceremonies, Eric Tootoosis, introduced Ovide Mercredi, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Rod Gopher, Chief of the Confederation of Tribal Nations was also at the Unveiling Ceremony. Poundmaker Chief Blaine Favel was also on hand to make a statement at this unveiling.

The monument read "Mista Muskwa - Big Bear. The great Cree leader, Chief Big Bear, has entered the history books as one of Canada's most feared, yet profoundly misunderstood, First Nations leader. Born about 1825 to the Cree/Ojibwa Chief Black Powder, Chief Big Bear assumed power while still a young man after demonstrating his spiritual power and leadership qualities.

Poundmaker Monument Unveiled When Treaty Six was signed in 1876 between the Cree Nation and the Dominion of Canada on behalf of the British crown,Big Bear was not summoned and arrived after the treaty was concluded. Big Bear refused to accept treaty, arguing the terms were insufficient and that forcing the Cree Nations onto reserves was like tying a rope around a person's neck, denying them freedom on their own land.

Following 1876, Big Bear became principal Chief of the Crees on the western plains as many disillusioned Crees joined his expanding tribe. However, Big Bear was forced by starvation to adhere to Treaty Six in 1882 and settled into the Frog Lake area.

When the North West Uprising broke out in 1885 Wandering Spirit, A War Chief took over at Frog Lake and most of the White inhabitants were killed. Wandering Spirit stayed in power for the duration of the Uprising while Big Bear counselled for peace and protected the White prisoners. The Government of Canada held Big Bear responsible. He was convicted of treason and felony, and sentenced to three years in Stony Mountain Penitentiary. Released early due to a health breakdown, Big Bear sought sanctuary amongst the remnants of his tribe in the Poundmaker and Little Pine reserves. He died January 17, 1888 and is buried in the Poundmaker cemetery.

Big Bear stands tall in the memory of the Cree Nation a proud and truly visionary leader who fought against the forces of Canadian colonialism and ultimately suffered for his Nation. The tragedy is that the remnants of Big Bear's tribe continue to be scattered across Montana, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Dedicated this 16th day of July 1993 by the Cree Nation.