Treaty 6 Adhesion: Big Bear


Mistahimusqua (Big Bear) initially opposed adhering to Treaty 6 out of concern that his people would lose their freedom and identified insufficient terms as insufficient to ensure his people's well being. In 1882, Mistahimusqua signed an adhesion to the treaty when his community was faced with starvation due to the disappearance of the bison among other factors. He did this reluctantly, continuing to demand alterations to the treaty terms.



In 1884, two years after signing Treaty 6, Mistahimusqua along with other chiefs from the Carlton and Battleford agencies such as Piapot, Mistawasis, Ahtakakup, and James Smith from Fort a la Corne brought forth a number of concerns that had not been fulfilled form Treaty 6. Ray, Miller, and Tough write in Bounty and Benevolence: a history of Saskatchewan quote the list of concerns brought to J. Ansdell Macrae by the Treaty 6 chiefs:

"1. Work The cattle given them are insufficient for them to gain their livelihood with. That wild oxen have been given to them, and in some instances have died, or been killed, because they were so intractable that they could not be cared for. These should be replaced.

2. Cows Many of the cows supplied were wild, and as they could not be stabled, died of cold and exposure. These should also be replaced.

3. Horses Some of the horses given them were too wild for them to use. This was bad faith on the part of the government, as the Commissioners who made the treaty promised them well broken beasts. These therefore should be replaced.

4. Waggons The waggons supplied were of poor make, and now the Chief had to travel on foot, as they [sic] are old men, means of conveyance should be given them

5. Conveyance for Chiefs For the same reason (just quoted) horses as well as vehicle should be given to all the Chiefs, not excepting those who got good gifts under the treaty.

6. Eleemosynary [Charitable] Aid The promise made to them at the time of their treaty was that when they were destitute, liberal assistance would be given to them. That the crops are now poor, rats are scarce and other game likely to be so, and they look forward with the greatest fear to the approaching winter. In view of the above mentioned promise they claim that the Government should give them liberal treatment during that season, for having disposed of all the property that they owned before the treaty in order to tide overtimes of distress since, they are now reduced to absolute and complete dependence upon what relief is extended to them. With the present amount of assistance they cannot work effectively on their reserves, and it should be increased.

7. Clothing It was promised by Mr. Commissioner Morris that they should not be short of clothing, yet they never received any, and it is feared that this winter some of them will be unable to leave their houses without freezing to death.

8. Schools That schools were promised to them, but have not been established on all the re-serves. They want these and desire the government to fulfil its promise entirely by put-ting up school houses and maintaining them in repair.

9. Machinery That they were told that they would see how the white man lived, and would be taught to live like him. It is seen that he has threshing mills, mowers, reapers, and rakes. As the Government pledged itself to put them in the same position as the white man, it should give them these things.

10. Request That requests for redress of these grievances have been again & again made without effect. They are glad that the young men have not resorted to violent measures to gain it. That it is almost too hard for them to bear the treatment received at the hands of the Government after its "sweet promises," made in order to get their country from them. They now fear that they are going to be cheated. They will wait until next summer to see if this council has the desired effect, failing which they will take measures to get what they desire. (The proposed "measures" could not be elicited, but a suggestion of the idea of war was repudiated.)

11. Renewals That all bad things, implements and tools, as well as stock etc. should be re-placed by gifts of better articles.

12. Insufficiency of government assistance That many are forced to wander from the re-serves, who desires [sic] to settle, as there is not enough of any thing supplied to them to enable all to farm. Although a living by agriculture was promised to them.

13. Lack of confidence in the Government That at the time of making the treaty they were comparatively well off, they were deceived by the sweet promises of the Commissioners, and now are "full of fear" for they believe that the government which pretended to be friendly is going to cheat them. They blame not the Queen, but the government at Ottawa.

14. Medicines That they were promised medicine chests for each reserve, but have never received them. Many live among them, or near them who could administer drugs beneficially but as they have not them, they suffer from complaints that might be cured.

15. Beef That they want to have beef at all payments.

16. Effect of not fulfilling promises That had the Treaty promises been carried out "all would have been well," instead of the present feeling existing.

17. Maps of Reserves That every Chief should be given a map of his reserve in order he may not be robbed of it.

18. Harness That harness should be given them for all their cattle, and that when oxen are given to them, the harness should be on them. Joseph Badger, an Indian of the South Branch, spoke very plainly on the alleged grievances, and warns the Government that it must redress them, to escape the Measures that may be taken." (pp. 198-199).