When Poundmaker Defied the Mounties
Wandering Spirit raised his rifle. The screeching horde of maddened Indians closed about the thin scarlet and gold line. Had Sergeant-Major Kirk blinked in the presence of death, hideous tragedy would have followed. But amazing coolness saved the day.
WILLIAM BLEASDELL CAMERON
MOST people have read of the Custer Massacre in Montana in 1876, when General George Custer and his command of three or four hundred cavalry were wiped out by the Sioux under Sitting Bull. But how many know how near to a repetition of that ghastly sacrifice Canada came just eight years later, when Superintendent L. N. F. Crozier, commanding the North-West Mounted Police at Battleford, the capital of the old Canadian North-West Territories, one hot July day went out with his troop of one hundred men to the reserve of the Cree chief Poundmaker to make an arrest?
At the crisis which ended the nerve-racking three days of evasion, procrastination and talk, the fate of that grimly-determined handful hung by so slight a hair as the crook of a single finger about a carbine trigger. Hundreds of Indians, armed, painted, defiant, their passions fanned to white heat, whooping, jeering, shouting taunts and imprecations, milled about them. In a hollow to the left of the mounted line, the squaws and boys of the camp, knives and axes in their hands, waited for the shot that would mark the beginning of the slaughter—the signal for them to swarm on to the field and play their part by dealing with the wounded as they fell from their horses or dropped where they stood. For years afterward the Indians referred to it as “The Time We Nearly Fought the Police.” It is a stirring story.
Among the veterans of that old force who were present at the Half-Century Jubilee and Stampede in Calgary last July, when these pioneers were the honored guests of the city they put on the map, was Major Fred A. Bagley, for many years a Calgary resident but now living a still active business life at Banff. The major has the distinction of being the youngest recruit ever taken on the roll of the famous force. His enlistment came about in this
Bagley’s father was a retired artillery officer living in Toronto. Fred was then thirteen. Holding chief place among his text-books in those days were the classic productions of Professor James Fenimore Cooper. Fred devoted to them many days, and nights, of careful study, and they inspired in him a burning desire to meet the noble redman at close range. A year passed. Then, one never-to-be-forgotten morning, Fred awoke to the thrill of discovery. The Canadian Government had commissioned Colonel George A. French to organize a body of mounted men and lead them a thousand miles across the Great Plans to the foot of the Rockies to put down the illicit liquor traffic being carried on by a lawless white element, armed with poisonous stuff imported from Montana, a poison which was demoralizing the savages. Destiny, Fred plainly saw, was beckoning. He decided to go.
Colonel French smiled at the boy who presented himself an hour later with a demand that he be taken on his force. “What’s your name, youngster?” he asked.
Fred told him. The colonel’s eyes lighted. “What’s your father’s name?” Fred told him.
“H-m. This needs looking into.” The colonel pondered.
“I know yourfather. Weweretogetherinthe Westlndies.”
That Colonel French knew his father did not please Fred at all. His disgust grew when he learned that the colonel intended calling on Bagley Senior. What had his father to do with it, anyway? Wasn’t he a grown-up man? Wasn’t he fourteen? Bagley Senior was quite in the dark regarding his small son’s soldierly aspirations. It was not unlikely, Fred thought, that his father might prejudice his case with Colonel French. Which, of course, was exactly what he did.
But was Fred discouraged? If you think so, you don’t know Fred. Fred went. As a trumpeter with Colonel French on that arduous thousand-mile plunge into the unknown—a boy of fourteen, the youngest man ever to enlist or be accepted on the force which was to make history for Canada and become famous. A compromise had been effected. Fred’s ardor and persistence had won the day. In the end,
Bagley Senior had said: “Oh, well,
take him. I’ll have no peace if he stays.
For six months.He’ll have learned something. His interest in redskins and buffalo will be away below par long before that. Fe’ll be glad to come home.”
So Fred went, with his father’s consent —for six months. It was fourteen years before Fred again saw the East. And in the meantime he had not only learned something, but he had seen several things as well.
Among them the affair at Poundmaker’s.
Kahweechetwaymot went to John Craig, farm instructor on the reserves of Chiefs Poundmaker and Little Pine, and asked for provisions for a sick child. The government furnished supplies to be issued when the need was evident to sick and destitute Indians, but E'ahweechetwaymot didn’t get any. Hardly surprising to anyone knowing Craig and the Indian. The one was a phlegmatic easterner; the other a pestiferous and not particularly in-
telligent savage. Anyway, Craig was doubtless following instructions, though some of the more politic of the government’s agents were wise enough on occasion to forget them. Kahweechetwaymot, however, did not belong on the Battle River reserves. He was one of Big
Bear’s band of nomads, which was roving in the district.
Kahweechetwaymot went off, but we was back in no time. With two aides. One was his particular crony, Little Horse. The other was a well-seasoned hickory axehelve.
With these reinforcements, Kahweechetwaymot had no difficulty in obtaining all the provisions he required, which was considerably more than he would have been satisfied with in the first place. Craig arrived at the police barracks in Battleford some hours later. He was sore from the top down, inside and out, and gave Kahweechetwaymot a very bad name. Superintendent Crozier sent Corporal Sleigh with a couple of men out to Poundmaker’s to bring in Kahweechetwaymot, so that he might explain to him that the Great Mother felt much grieved because of his course in instituting a self-administered code of rewards and punishments.
The Indians were holding their annual Thirst Dance on Little Pine’s reserve, making braves. They were there in hundreds, manyfrom distant points. It was a big fete. Kahweechetwaymot was taking a prominent part. His prestige was high. On the strength of his recent disciplining of a white farming instructor, he was by way of being regarded with admiration by the young men at the dance as a sample of the real thing in braves.
Kahweechetwaymot would not come. He told Sleigh. In fact, backed by public opinion in the form of the assembled tribesmen, he manifested considerable annoyance. How, he wanted to know, was it that a policeman had the nerve to come to him with such a request?
“Go back,” said he to Sleigh, “and tell the Big Police Chief what I said.” Sleigh sent a man to town to report, and Crozier realized that the situation was one demanding the personal attention of the Big Police Chief. It was beneath the dignity
of Poundmaker and his fellow chiefs, he opined, at such a time to discuss matters of any moment with his subordinates.
So at an early hour next day, Crozier appeared at Poundmaker's with twenty-five menof whom Bagley, then a sergeant, was one. They brought with them an Indian, met on the trail, who appeared entirely too ingenuous, to be at large. Once they were safely in camp on the reserve, he was liberated. As a matter of fact he was a spy, sent out by Poundmaker to learn what the police were doing, as Crozier had guessed.
The tents up, Crozier took the police halfbreed interpreter, Louis Laronde, and one or two troopers, and went to the Thirst Dance camp three miles away, asking to know why Poundmaker and the other chiefs had refused to deliver up to his men their unruly follower who had offended the Great White Mother by smiting one of her servants with an axe-helve.
Poundmaker temporized. He was a most stately, dignified and deliberate as well as politic personage, with a high though not ostentatious conception of his importance and station in life and what was due to it and to him. He told the police chief not to be hasty. The sun would not go out; it was still high. Better that matters of this sort be dealt with in calm discussion.
So all day long, while the big drum boomed and ambitious young braves, skewered through loops cut in their chests to rawhide thongs reaching to the top of the big centre-pole of the Thirst Dance lodge, flung themselves frenziedly backward in efforts to break their fleshly bonds and prove worthy to be counted warriors, and while other young men capered round a-horseback, singing and shouting war-cries to show that they were not troubled in the least by the presence of the Big Police Okemow and his men, Poundmaker and his brother chiefs gravely discussed the offence and the offender, while the police chief, dropping the prefix, simply cussed —in English and not too loudly. The outcome of the deliberations was a compromise, the chiefs agreeing that at about noon next day they would produce Kahweechetwaymot for trial provided court were held not at Battleford but at a plateau some four hundred yards from the position in which the police had made their camp. The selection of this site was a manoeuvre engineered by the police officer to bring the negotiations under the guns of the improvised fort he intended throwing up
Call for Reinforcements
FOLLOWING the parley, Crozier dispatched a courier to Battleford, 35 miles away, with instructions to Inspector Antrobus to come to Poundmaker’s with speed and all available men remaining in barracks. A little
later Crozier and his force departed for the government warehouses on Little Pine’s reserve, adjoining Poundmaker’s six or seven miles to the west.
These warehouses contained all the stores, bacon and flour chiefly, on the two reserves. Crozier was decidedly against these stores falling by any chance into the hands of the Indians in their present mood. With four loaded ox-teams he started back to his camp at Poundmaker’s.
The Thirst Dance Camp straddled the trail, part of the four or five hundred lodges being pitched on either side of it. To avoid the Indians, Crozier detoured to the north of the trail with the wagons.
The Indians were watching him When opposite the camp, a hundred young bucks, mounted and singing, burst suddenly upon him, circling the wagons and fil ing their guns over the heads of the little force. The idea of the police marching off with the provisions did not please them. Doubtless they had had these in mind themselves. The position was an uncomfortable one, but the police ignored the warlike demonstration staged for their benefit and marched on.
At dusk they reached the camp at Found maker’s with their loads. Here were some old log buildings. The men were tired, the night was suffocating, the mosquitoes a plague and the commissary had fallen down on its job— they would have had little to eat but for the wagonsbut there was to be no rest for the little company. Crozier ordered all buildings but one to be torn down. Cf the logs so obtained he directed the construction of two rough bastions, abutting on the remaining building. The night dragged, but toward morning the job was finished, the sacks of bacon and flour had been piled in tiers behind the log walls to serve as breastworks, and the weary men stretched themselves on the ground for a few minutes’ sleep. The completed fort was in this form:
A deep slough behind the fort afforded protection from that quarter.
Inspector Antrobus and Sergeant-Major Kirk, with the reinforcements totalling some sixty men, among them a number of Battleford civilians, reached Poundmaker’s about eleven o’clock next morning, and shortly after noon Poundmaker and his fellow chiefs arrived at the plateau in accordance with their agreement. Crozier assigned ten men to each of the bastions. Leaving the others to await orders, covered by the twenty rifles and taking with him the police halfbreed interpreter, Louis Laronde, Constable Campbell Young and another man, he went out to meet the chiefs and try Kahweechetwaymot.
Just a month previous the Crees had held a begging dance in the town of Battleford. Poundmaker, wearing a breechclout and a vest studded with brass nails, his long legs streaked with white mud, on his head a small cap formed from the dried skin of a bird, was there. Big Bear was there, mounted on a white horse, a rusty black coat on his back and a battered black soft felt hat on his head. The old chief rode up and down before the stores, proclaiming loudly to the world at large that it was “good” here, at Battle River; that it was not “hard” here, when the traders brought out sacks of flour, sides of bacon, packages of tea and sugar and thick plugs of tobacco and piled the gifts on the ground beside the dancing warriors.
Inspector Antrobus came past, riding a tall police horse. Imasees and Okemow Peeaysis, sons of Big Bear, bursting suddenly out of the crowd of dancers, galloped furiously across the prairie directly at the inspector. They carried in their hands folded umbrellas. As they reached Antrobus they jerked their horses to a dead halt and the umbrellas flashed wide open. The police horse swerved violently, the officer’s pith helmet rose in the air and sailed away over the grass, while the big horse with a startled snort fled wildly for the barracks.
The Indians, looking on, grinned delightedly. Evidently they regarded the incident as a corking good joke. The inspector, on the contrary, could not see anything at all humorous in it.
The Tension Tightens
AN HOUR later the dance was over Tv and the Indians had gone to their camp on the hill south of the Battle River, when Antrobus, accompanied by William McKay, manager for the Hudson’s Bay Company at Battleford, appeared among the lodges asking for the head chief. Poundmaker indicated Big Bear.
The inspector W'as furiously angry; he trembled with rage.
“I have not much to say,” he stated gruffly, “and my message is for the head chief alone. Let no one else speak.” He turned to Big Bear. “What are you doing here? You have no business in town. Lfnless you are packed and on the trail back to your reserves in half an hour, I will put your chiefs under arrest and lock you up.”
Amazement for the moment held the Indians; then Poundmaker, his dark face flushing, jumped to his feet.
“There will be a bullet here,” he declared in a ringing voice, a hand on his throat, “before you arrest one of us! When we are ready we will leave; not sooner.”
An old man got up. “He says no one must speak but Big Bear!” he cried. “Well, I am speaking. Let him stop me! Look at him,” he went on, pointing at the officer’s legs. Their unsoldierly shaking must have been extremely mortifying to Antrobus, but he couldn’t stop it. Anger exacts its price. “And he tells us this!” He snorted contemptuously. “ Wusl"
The Indians looked and once more they laughed at the inspector. Antrobus was beside himself; he could not trust his tongue to further words. He climbed into his buckboard and clattered off.
Two hours passed. The Cree camp was still on the hill south of the Battle, but no arrest had been made.
When Crozier went out to meet the chiefs, he found there was still some difficulty about Kahweechetwaymot’s trial. The Indian, backed by the young men, declined to give himself up. They were all wild, said Poundmaker, and it was hard to do anything with them. At another time it might be done, but, Poundmaker pointed out, their pride revolted against a surrender in the face of such a great gathering of their people, many from distant reserves. So the unending talk went on. The police seemed to be getting nowhere. The prestige of the scarlet-coated upholders of the law was at stake. If they gave way it would be many a day before it could be completely regained. The last would never be heard of it. So long as an Indian present remained alive he would boast amid the acclaim of his listeners about the campfire
at night of the time they bluffed the police.
Crozier’s patience was exhausted. He quitted the council abruptly and returned to the fort.
William McKay had arrived from Battleford about noon. The McKays had been Hudson’s Bay Company officers for generations. They had been given by the Indians the family name of Little Bear. They were known to every Indian along the Saskatchewan. A Little Bear to these Indians was a man to be trusted. The McKays possessed their confidence.
Poundmaker rose. “I am going to the fort,” he said. “If I can prevent it there will be no bloodshed. Since this man will not give himself up, I will offer to take his place.”
Big Bear ran after Poundmaker. “ N'chawamis," he cried, “you will not be left to face the danger alone. If Poundmaker goes, Big Bear goes with him!”
Together the chiefs entered the fort, but came out a moment later. Crozier would not accept a substitute, they told McKay; he would take only Kahweechetwaymot. The three seated themselves on the grass before the fort, to smoke and try to find a way out of the difficulty. Crozier sent a messenger to McKay, asking him to detain the chiefs. The Hudson’s Bay Company man was not pleased. He said to the courier:
“Tell Major Crozier for me that I’m no policeman. If he wants the chiefs, let him hold them himself.”
Big Bear was taking little part in the discussion. He watched the fort. Suddenly he exclaimed: “Something is going to happen. Look!”
McKay glanced up. The police had emerged. They were buckling on their sidearms and saddling their horses. Poundmaker rose hurriedly.
“If there is to be trouble, my place is with my men,” he declared, and followed by Big Bear he ran back up the slope.
The Scarlet Line Advances
THE policfe advanced slowly, the sun flashing on their polished carbines, their scarlet coats aglow. They lined up before the Indians, a soldierly and formidable-looking company. That they would give a good account of themselves could not be doubted.
Sergeant Bagley had been assigned to one of the bastions. He glanced over and saw left in the corrall a single horse—his trooper, “ ’Andsome ’Arry.”
“I’m turning the command over to you,” he said to the corporal beside him, and disregarding orders he slipped over to the corral, mounted and joined the line out in front.
Crozier confronted the tall chief, to whom the Indians were looking as their spokesman. At the officer’s request, McKay acted as interpreter.
“Poundmaker,” he announced, “I came out for this man and I am going to take him.”
The Indian thrust out his long face. His black eyes kindled, passion shook him and Bagley, watching, saw him, seemingly unconscious of what he did, strike at his right leg with the sharp points of the knife blades in his pukamakin. Blood welled out and flowed down the legging. His cloak of friendliness, if it was a cloak, fell away and he stood revealed, a hostile among the hostiles.
“He won’t be given up!” he declared vehemently, stamping his foot. “You say you are going to take him?” He lifted a tapering forefinger and tapped his chest. “Take me first—if you dare!”
Antrobus stood near. He glanced at the chief and passed a slighting remark. It was not understood by Poundmaker but he recognized its import. He was infuriated. He lost for the moment his accustomed restraint. Raising his pukamakin he rushed upon Antrobus. The three knife-blades in the end glittered above the officer’s head.
“Redcoat dog!” he hissed.
But Constable Prior poked his carbine in the tall chief’s face and the deadly pukamakin dropped slowly to his side.
Suspense gripped the Indians. A tense silence had fallen. Now the reaction came. The excitement rose to an uproar.
“Plenty blood will be spilled on the banks of the Cut Knife to-day!” shouted Imasees.
Some of the minor chiefs, peaceably disposed and appalled by the impending explosion, rode among the mob, waving green branches, imploring the aggressors to be reasonable, to consider before it was too late. Their example had some effect; ; the storm sank to a murmurous under¡ current. But in a moment it rose again, ! more violently than ever. The hostiles ! surged round, jeering, whooping, raising their guns threateningly, goading the police with taunts and epithets.
Wandering Spirit, war chief of Big Bear’s band, who in the war-dances counted thirteen Blackfoot scalps, rushed out and seized McKay by the wrist, endeavoring to drag him over to the Indians’ side.
“Come!” he urged frenziedly. “You are crazy. You will be killed!”
McKay pulled away.
On the Verge of Tragedy
T ITTLE PINE, amiable and friendly al-L' ways, sitting his horse, addressed the mob. They were wrong, he told his people, to defy the police. He was a notable chief, a warrior as well as an orator of parts, and he spoke forcibly and at some length. But they heard him with impatience. They had reached the stage ! where pacific words were almost an offence. Little Pine died shortly after the trouble. Rumor had it that poison was responsible; that he paid with his life for the stand he took that day in opposing the more turbulent among the bands.
Sergeant-Major Kirk sat like a statue on his horse in front of the line, gazing stonily ahead. At his horse’s muzzle stood ' Wandering Spirit, muscles tense, dark eyes agleam, thin lips working, his lean claw-like hands gripping a Winchester. When the din was at its peak Bagley saw the Indian strain and lift as though struggling under some ponderous weight. The rifle came up. Bagley held his breath.
“Now it’s coming! Now old John’s going to get it!”
The words said themselves over and over in the sergeant’s mind.
The blood-lust burned in the war chief’s eyes, dull red pools glowing murkily in their sultry sockets. The seconds passed. What was restraining him?
The sullen tide beating against the tough barrier that had so far contained it —the counsel of leaders able and tried accustomed to being deferred to—might at any moment burst through. The pressure of a finger, red or white, against a trigger and a flood would descend that would sweep that sunlit slope in waves of crimson death. It was as if the war chief were stretched on a rack of conflicting emotions—the hunger to kill that was his consuming passion and a foreboding that made him pause. Should he be the one? Dare he take upon himself that sinister responsibility? Did he see confronting him the vision of a day of reckoning sometime to come, a day when the white man would exact the ultimate price?
The old police warrior never flicked an eyelash. And when the lull came the rifle was lowered again. Bagley breathed once more. Then came the renewed uproar and again the menacing rifle lifted.
Miserable Man rode round behind Kirk.
“I will fight with the police!” he declared loudly. But he had no intention of fighting on the side of the police. Miserable Man was a dissembler. LIis purpose was to make sure that, between himself and Wandering Spirit, the sergeant-major should not escape. To take the scalp of an officer would be greater glory than to tuck» under his belt that of an ordinary policeman.
An Indian rode over to the depression on the left of the police line. “Keep quiet, there!” Bagley heard him say. And it came to the sergeant then that all along he had been conscious of a droning murmur of women’s and youthful voices and he sensed the grim menace that lurked in the wooded hollow.
The clamor fell and rose once more, and once more the threatening rifle of the war chief came up. But again it came down unfired. Why, is an eternal riddle. Less than a year later, on the 2nd of April, 1885, in the midst of a dispute designedly provoked with Tom Quinn, he had suddenly raised the same rifle and fired the shot that began the Frog Lake Massacre and stretched the Indian agent dead at his feet. And sixteen months after he had threatened Kirk, I stood before a scaffold inside the barrack-square at Battleford and saw him hanging by the neck beneath it, with Miserable Man swinging alongside. Also, earlier in that same year these same Indians, with Poundmaker at their head, were at open war, almost on this identical spot, with forces of the Canadian Government.
Crozier turned to Laronde. “Which is him—the man we want?” he asked.
A tall Indian, a sneer on his evil face, Cree words of contempt on his lips, danced and cavorted in the van of the mob. The interpreter pointed.
“That’s him.” And as the Indian, noticing, dived suddenly among the others, he added:—“There he goes!”
McKay called to him and the Indian came out. Said the Hudson’s Bay Company officer:
“Tell the police okemow you will surrender. Y ou will get a fair trial and may be punished, but you will not be hanged. If trouble starts, the police will not be the only ones to suffer. Many of you will die also. Do you want to see that? Give yourself up. Be a man!”
“I won’t!” responded Kahweechetwaymot surlily.
Twin Wolverine, Big Bear’s eldest son, I pushed his horse into the police line beside Constable Campbell Young. “I am going to fight against you!” he | shouted to his fellow tribesmen. Unlike Miserable Man, the Twin Wolverine meant what he said.
Arrest Your Man1
McKAY turned to Crozier. “Arrest your man,” he counselled.
“Think we’d better do it now?” queried the officer.
“Yes. There has been too much talk already. The longer it is put off, the greater the danger.”
Crozier gave the command: “The two men afoot on the right, fall out and grab that fellow!”
Kahweechetwaymot wheeled to run. “Nab him!” McKay prompted Laronde. The interpreter seized Kahweechetwaymot. The two policemen followed. Before the Indian knew what was happening Constable Warren Kerr—(“Sligo” to the force)—had Kahweechetwaymot by the long plaits of his black hair and had landed him, with a swing that had nothing gentle about it, among the policemen on foot. They closed about the prisoner and his captors. The horsemen quickly encircled them and the whole body began to move off, the men in the rear facing backward with carbines ready for instant action.
McKay paced evenly up and down between the two rows of levelled rifles.
Bedlam broke loose. The Indians went wild. “Shoot them, shoot the redcoat dogs!” they howled. “Why do we wait? Now was when we agreed upon—the time we were to wipe out the chemotinusukl" But the cooler men among the redskins frantically fought the outcries of the hotheads.
“No, no! Be careful! Wait! Let the j redcoats shoot first!” And, referring to McKay, walking coolly up and down between the opposed forces“Shame! I Would you kill a Little Bear?”
They brushed past the Hudson’s Bay I official and charged the retreating ranks, ¡ jostling the men, snatching at their clothing, stabbing their horses with the points I of their knives, hoping to stampede them. One man, cut off from the others, was stripped, his tunic and sidearms forcibly ¡ appropriated. Poundmaker himself wrested away his carbine.
But the horses, like their riders, held firm. And no Indian fired. Neither did a policeman. Because the police, disciplined and obedient to orders, could not and would not, no matter under how aggravated provocation, be first to breach the peace. But if, even by accident under the tension, a single shot had sped, no man present during those pregnant moments cares to contemplate what would have followed.
Maddened over the successful coup of the police, a dozen of the most truculent braves seized Laronde, and, powerful though he was, rushed him off through the poplar bluffs. That he, a halfbreed, with their own blood in his veins, should have aided the enemy—especially that he should have pointed out to the police okemow, and later stopped, Kahweechetwaymot - incensed them above anything else. Laronde’s chances of continuing to live seemed exceedingly slim.
The police flung their horses against the ring of passion-distorted faces and at length pushed through and reached the fort. The Indians crowded them, with jeers and epithets, to the walls. Kahweechetwaymot was shoved through an opening into the waiting hands of the men inside, and the police followed. The Indians stormed about outside.
McKay drew Major Crozier aside and spoke to him in an undertone.
“Throw out the bacon and the flour!”
The men doubted whether they had heard aright. Pull down their defences, their breastworks? He could not mean it!
“Throw out the bacon and flour!” There could be no doubt about the command this time. “Look alive, men!” the commandant added.
The heavy sacks went over.
Food Silences Clamor
THE effect was magical. The angry clamor died. The camp was a huge one, its food supply limited. The Indians were hungry. In the surprise of sudden abundance they forgot their quarrel with the redcoats. They pounced upon the sacks, each struggling to secure a share before he was too late. The women and boys came from their place of concealment and joined their men in the raid. They lugged the stuff off through the bluffs to their lodges. The suggestion had been McKay’s, and his strategy was a winner. He knew Indian character. But he was satisfied that to Crozier went the credit. The men stood regarding their chief officer admiringly. Some commander, “Paddy!” That’s what they affectionately called him.
And while the Indians, unheeding, fought ovpr the spoil, the police bundled a most subdued and crestfallen brave into a wagon and in half an hour were on their road with him to Battleford.
After all an Indian, take him by and large, is nothing but a grown-up child.
Laronde turned up as they were leaving. Again McKay had intervened. “Let him go!” he said to the Indians. “Don’t blame him. He’s paid to do this work. That’s how he makes his living. If you want a prisoner, why don’t you take the police okemow?”
McKay knew that he was safe in making what at this stage was a perfectly impractical suggestion. Laronde later said to Bagley:
“Boy, da’s de closes’ shave I’m never have ma life! Dose Injun dey’re boun’ to killed me. I’m never talk an’ beg so hard before. Mais, I t’ink it’s be no good. Dey
bang ma mout’, shut me up. Dey say: ‘You goin’ die, you dog!’ An’ at las’ I t’ink I am, sure, an’ I try t’ink of li’ll prayer ma mudder he’s teach me w’en I’m kid. But, boy—well, w’at you t’ink? I’m damn’ if I can remember dat so-good li’ll’ prayer!”
Poor Louis Laronde! Another good man long since gone over the Divide. I hope he succeeded in remembering the so-good little prayer his mother taught him before his laughing, careless lips were sealed forever in this world.
Before the police left, McKay hunted up Poundmaker. “You must surrender the rifle you took from the policeman,” he told him.
“I will not!” declared the chief wrathfully. “He was going to use it against us.”
“You must not look at this thing in that way. See here.” McKay talked patiently to the handsome redman as he might have done had he been explaining some puzzling matter to a small child. “The gun did not belong to the policeman. It does not belong to the police at all. It belongs to the Queen.”
Poundmaker pondered this. Three years before he had guided the Marquis of Lome, Governor General of Canada, three hundred miles across the plains from Battleford to the Blackfoot Crossing. Poundmaker was an unusual Indian. He was the typical chief as one has been accustomed to picture him from the literature of one’s youth—tall, dignified, deliberate in speech and manner, his striking face framed in a setting of raven-black hair hanging in two immense plaits far below his waist, and possessing a certain native air of courtliness and distinction that impressed all who met him. No wonder that he had interested Lord Lome or that the marquis had made much of the stately redman. Perhaps that was why Poundmaker held the Governor General in some respect. He did not wish to displease the noble lord’s mother-in-law, the Queen. So in the end the gun was surrendered.
Half a dozen of us, civilians, were on our way from Battleford to Poundmaker’s reserve. The parley out there had lasted for three days. We had heard in Battleford thesituation wascritical. Theaddition of a few rifles might be acceptable to the police chief, we thought. The afternoon was intensely hot. We had off-saddled half way out to breathe our laboring horses and enjoy the poplared shade and clear cold water of Medicine Drum Creek. A horseman hove in sight, coming from the direction of Poundmaker’s.
“The fun’s all over, boys,” he told us. “They’re on their way in with their man. You might as well go home.”