The Winnipeg Treaty, Number Five
The Treaties with The Indians of Manitoba, The North-West Territories,
and Kee-Wa-Tin, in The Dominion of Canada.
This treaty, covers an area of approximately about 100,000 square
miles. The region is inhabited by Chippewa and Swampy Cree. The
necessity for it had become urgent. The lake is a large and valuable
sheet of water, being some three hundred miles long. The Red River
flows into it and the Nelson River flows from it into Hudson's Bay.
Steam navigation had been successfully established by the Hudson's
Bay Company on Lake Winnipeg. A tramway of five miles in length
was being built by them to avoid the Grand Rapids and connect that
navigation with steamers on the River Saskatchewan. On the west
side of the lake, a settlement of Icelandic immigrants had been
founded, and some other localities were admirably adapted for settlement.
Moreover, until the construction of the Pacific Railway west of
the city of Winnipeg, the lake and Saskatchewan River are destined
to become the principal thoroughfare of communication between Manitoba
and the fertile prairies in the west. A band of Indians residing
at Norway House, who had supported themselves by serving the Hudson's
Bay Company as boatmen on the route from Lake Winnipeg to the Hudson
Bay, by way of the Nelson River, but whose occupation was gone,
owing to supplies being brought in by way of the Red River, desired
to migrate to the western shore of Lake Winnipeg, and support themselves
there by farming.
For these and other reasons, the Minister of the Interior reported
"that it was essential that the Indian title to all the territory
in the vicinity of the lake should be extinguished so that settlers
and traders might have undisturbed access to its waters, shores,
islands, inlets and tributary streams." The mouth of the Saskatchewan
River especially seemed to be of importance, as presenting an eligible
site for a future town. For these reasons the Privy Council of Canada,
in the year 1875, appointed Lieut.-Gov. Morris, and the Hon. James
McKay, to treat with these Indians. It may be here stated that this
remarkable man, the son of an Orkneyman by an Indian mother, has
recently died at a comparatively early age. Originally in the service
of the Hudson's Bay Company, he became a trader on his own account.
Thoroughly understanding the Indian character, he possessed large
influence over the Indian tribes, which he always used for the benefit
and the advantage of the Government.
The Hudson's Bay Company, to resume this narrative, kindly placed
their propeller steamer, the Colville, at the service of the Commissioners,
and the Board in London, in view of the public service rendered
by its use by the Commissioners, eventually declined to make any
charge for its employment. A full report of the voyage of the Commissioners,
and of the results of their mission, will be found in the despatch
of the Lieutenant Governor, which will be found at the end of this
chapter. Suffice it to say, that the Commissioners proceeded first
to Berens River, on the east side of the lake, and made a treaty
with the Indians of that side of the lake, thence they sailed to
the head of Lake Winnipeg, descended the Nelson River to Norway
House, where no steamer had ever before been, and concluded a treaty
with the Indians there.
They also promised the Indians to give those of them who chose
to remove, a reserve on the west side of Lake Winnipeg, at Fisher's
River, about forty miles from the Icelandic settlement.
A considerable number of families have since removed there, and
have formed a very promising settlement.
From Nelson River the Commissioners proceeded to the mouth of the
Great Saskatchewan River, and met the Indians who live there. Their
houses were built at the foot of the Grand Rapids, and in the immediate
vicinity of the Hudson's Bay, Tramway, some seven miles from the
mouth of the river. The river is here deep to the very shore, so
that the steamer ran long aside the bank, and was moored by ropes
attached to the Chief's house. The Commissioners met the Indians
and informed them of the desire of the Government to control the
land where they had settled, and to give them a reserve, instead,
on the opposite side of the river. They said, they would surrender
the locality in question, and go to the south side of the river,
if a small sum was given them, to aid them in removing their houses
or building others. To this the Commissioners willingly acceded,
and promised that the next year a sum of five hundred dollars would
be paid them for that purpose. The treaty was then signed, the Commissioners
having extended the boundaries of the treaty limits, so as to include
the Swampy Cree Indians at the Pas or Wahpahpuha, a settlement on
the Saskatchewan River, and recommended that Commissioners should
be sent in the ensuing summer to complete the work. The Commissioners
then returned to Winnipeg, after a voyage, on and around the lake,
of about one thousand miles. The terms of the treaty were identical
with those of Treaties Numbers Three and Four, except that a smaller
quantity of land was granted to each family, being one hundred and
sixty, or in some cases one hundred acres to each family of five,
while under Treaties Numbers Three and Four the quantity of land
allowed was six hundred and forty acres to each such family. The
gratuity paid each Indian in recognition of the treaty was also
five dollars per head, instead of twelve dollars the circumstances
under which the treaty was made being different. The area covered
by these treaties was approximately about 100,000 square miles and
has been described as lying north of the territory covered by Treaties
Numbers Two and Three, extending west to Cumberland House (on the
Saskatchewan River) and including the country east and west of Lake
Winnipeg, and of Nelson River as far north as Split Lake.
In 1876, Lieut.-Gov. Morris, in accordance with his suggestions
to that effect, was requested by the Minister of the Interior, to
take steps for completing the treaty, and entrusted the duty to
the Hon. Thomas Howard, and J. Lestock Reid, Esq., Dominion Land
Surveyor. He gave them formal instructions, and directed them to
meet the Indians together at Dog Head Point, on the lake, to treat
with the Island Indians there and thence to proceed to Berens River
to meet the Indians of the rapids of that river who had not been
able to be present the previous year, and thereafter directed Mr.
Howard to proceed to the mouth of the Saskatchewan and pay the Indians
the five hundred dollars for removal of the houses, and thence to
go up the Saskatchewan to the Pas and deal with the Indians there,
while Mr. Reid was to proceed from Berens River to Norway House,
and arrange with the Indians for the removal of such of them as
desired it, to Fisher's River, on Lake Winnipeg.
These gentlemen accordingly in July, 1876, proceeded in York boats
(large sail boats) to their respective destinations, and were very
successful in accomplishing the work confided to them.
I now append the official dispatch of Lieut.-Gov. Morris, dated
11th October, 1875, giving an account of the making of the treaty
and of the journey, and his dispatch of the 17th November, 1876,
relating to the completion of the treaty, together with extracts
from the reports of Messrs. Howard and Reid.
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