Rising Concerns (1872 - 1875)
Chief Sweetgrass and Ki-he-win sent this letter to Lieutenant-Governor Archibald:
“Great Father, I shake hands with you, and bid you welcome. We heard our lands were sold and we did not like it; we don’t want to sell our lands; it is our property, and no one has the right to sell them.
Our country is getting ruined of fur-bearing animals, hitherto or sole support, and now we are poor and want help – we want you to pity us. We want cattle, tools, agricultural implements, and assistance in everything when we come to settle- our country is no longer able to support us.
Make provision for us against years of starvation. We had a great starvation the past winter, and the smallpox took away many of our people, the old, young, and children. We want you to stop the Americans from coming to trade on our lands, and giving firewater, ammunition, and arms to our enemies the Blackfeet. Our young men are foolish, it may not last long.
We invite you to come and see us and to speak with us. If you can’t come yourself, send someone in your place. We Send these words by our Master Mr.Christie, in whom we have every confidence – that is all.”
- Chief Sweetgrass
"Great Father, Let us be friendly. We never shed any white man’s blood, and we have always been friendly with the whites, and want workmen, carpenters and farmers to assist us when we settle. I want all my brother Sweetgrass asks. That is all.”
In the years of 1872 to 1875 there was pressure on the Canadian government from the First Nations in the prairies to address treaties. First Nations were alarmed at the various newcomers coming onto their lands and conducting geological surveys for telegraph lines, the railway, and lands for settlement (Tobias 191). This made the Plains Cree very nervous and they confronted the surveyors and warned them to stop what they were doing because the government had not met with them to discuss their concerns.
"Big Bear, Ahtahkakoop, and Mistawasis were the most vocal leaders to stop the developments on their lands. In the summer of 1875, messengers from the Canadian government came to Cree territory to inform them that the government would be coming to negotiate a Treaty with them the following summer of 1876. The two messengers, Rev. George McDougall and North West Mounted Police (NWMP) Inspector Crozier brought presents to give to the Cree, but Big Bear refused them, telling them they did not want presents until the treaties were finalized. Big Bear and others seen the presents as traps, something to soften them up before negotiations." (Dodson 19)