Piapot Arrested


Cree Chief Piapot was arrested and stripped of his chieftanship because of his participation in a Giveaway Dance. This was his second arrest for this offense, having been arrested in 1895 for performing a Sun Dance, at which point he refused to promise not to participate in the future.---------------------------- A Department of Indian Affairs memorandum written by the deputy superintendent general reveals that officials had hoped to strip him of his chieftainship in 1884: “It might also be well should Piapot, who has given the Department a great deal of trouble, again leave his Reserve with his Indians, that he should, as suggested by Mr. Dewdney, be deprived of the carts and horses that were given him in consideration of his remaining on the Reserve, and it would also in the opinion of the undersigned be advisable to deprive him, should he leave, of the Chiefship. This could be done on the ground of incompetency, as he is setting his Band a bad example instead of showing them the opposite by working on the Reserve and inducing his followers to be industrious...It is always found that where the Chief of an Indian Band behaves well, his Band is beneficially affected by such conduct, and on the other hand where the Chief is careless or idle, the Band will be tainted with a like spirit.” Chief Piapot and members of his band had an ongoing grievance with the government in desiring to change the location of their reserve land. In May of 1884 Hayter Reed wrote to the superintendent general of the department: “Piapots Indians before leaving his section of country in which their reserve lies set fire to the prairies and it was with difficulty the Farm property was saved...Although the fact of having sickness among them, and a desire to change their Reserve to a section of the country, where running water and fish may be found, may weight with them, I am strongly of the opinion that the real reason is a strong desire to get away from work on the Reserves and enjoy themselves in a Sun dance, now that they can travel about without a fear of starving or freezing.” Another letter from May of 1884 from Indian Agent MacDonald to the Indian Commissioner Dewdney encouraged the Commissioner to crush any political opposition arising from Piapot: "Piapot must be made to feel that his power in this Country is nothing. The sooner this is done the better for the Country. If allowed to go when he pleases with the following he now has, all the disaffected Indians will join him. To do this a strong force must be in readyness to seize him and principle Indians on the first act."

This was an attempt by government officials to make an example of their policy relating to the performance of ceremonies. Section 75 of the Indian Act read that chiefs “shall continue to hold the rank of chief until death or resignation, or until their removal, by the Governor in Council, for dishonesty, intemperance, immorality or incompetency..." These grounds for deposition were vaguely defined to enable the government to manufacture legally unassailable arguments to remove band officials in the case that said leaders engaged in behavior that ran contrary to federal objectives, resisted the agenda of the Department of Indian Affairs or otherwise proved to be problematic to the government's goal of assimilation. Following the deposition of Piapot, his band refused to cooperate with Indian Affairs and did not succumb to their attempts to force them to elect a new chief. They continued to recognize Piapot as their chief, despite his removal by Indian Affairs, and refused to elect a new chief until after Piapot's death in 1908. This demonstrates the strength of Indigenous resistance, resilience and autonomy in light of intense government oppression.

Watetch, Abel. Payepot and His People. Saskatoon: Modern Press, 1959. Report of Inspector Wilson (Canada, Sessional Papers, no. 12, 1902), 91.

Sub Event
Piapot Stripped of Chieftanship