Kawechetwemot’s Trial


As the Cree prepared for a Thirst Dance two delegates met with John Craig, the farm instructor on Little Pine’s reserve to ask for rations. Craig declined and pushed the men out, when Kawechetwemot took an axe and struck Craig on the arm with its handle. Craig called in the NWMP to deal with the situation. On 19 June after the Thirst Dance ended NWMP Superintendent Leif Crozier met with Cree leaders asking them to give up Kawechetwemot. On 20 June Crozier—not wanting to leave without a prisoner—attempted to forcibly seize Kawechetwemot. This incited a hectic scene, but no shots were fired. The Saskatchewan Herald wrote: “firing would undoubtedly have become general and war to the knife [would] have been declared.” Crozier, going against the “work for rations” program, provided food to the Indigenous people as a temporary solution. This was successful and after discussions between Indian Department representatives and First Nations leaders, Kawechetwemot appeared before Crozier at a preliminary hearing on 4 July. He was sentenced to one week in prison. This event shook the confidence of the government employees tasked with carrying out Indian policy in the North West. For example Indian Agent John Rae outlined that the government must either alter their policy or use military strength to enforce the current regulations harshly. Crozier warned that the Indigenous people were angry, and was concerned about the potential for physical violence in the future. This event contributed to anticipation of such violence, and, because Indigenous concerns were left unaddressed, materialized in the North-West/Riel Resistance the following year.


Saskatchewan Herald, 12 July 1884. Saskatchewan Herald, 25 June 1884