The Last Stand of Almighty Voice
A thrilling description of one of the most poignantly dramatic episodes in the history of the Canadian Northwest
CHIEF BUFFALO CHILD LONG LANCE
Editor’s note: This thrilling description of the last stand of Almighty Voice is a chapter from Chief Long Lance’s own life story. As the narrative opens, Long Lance’s tribe has come out of winter camp in the foot-hills of the Rockies to find the white man dominating the Northwest.
SOMETHING had happened north of us which brought great excitement among the Indians and caused considerable alarm among the white settlers of this region.
Indian runners came into our camp and told us the Indian outlaw Almighty Voice had come out of his two years of hiding in the northern wilderness, and that he was now going to “fight it out” with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, who for twenty-four months had been scouring every nook and cranny of the Northwest for his whereabouts.
Scarcely did we think, on that bright day in 1897 when this news reached our camp, that this young Indian was destined soon to make the greatest singlehanded stand in all the history of the North American West.
ALMIGHTY VOICE, giant young son of Sounding Sky and Spotted Calf, two years before had been arrested for killing a range steer that belonged to the government of the Northwest Territories. He had thought that it was one of a small herd that had been given to his father. This occurred on the One Arrow Indian Reserve, fourteen miles from Duck Lake, Assiniboia, now Saskatchewan, where there was a large settlement of half-breeds and a mounted-police post.
Almighty Voice had been taken to Duck Lake and placed in the mounted-police guard-house. One of the mounted police in charge of the Duck Lake Post, Corporal Casimar Dickson, jokingly told Almighty Voice, through an interpreter, that they were “going to hang him for killing that steer.” The corporal did this “to scare him,” he said. Hardly did he realize the terrible effect which this innocent little joke was going to have on this untutored young Indian.
Almighty Voice was the grandson of Chief One Arrow, who led the Duck Lake Indians in the Northwest Rebellion of a few years before, and the son of Sounding Sky, one of the most redoubtable fighters in this last rebellion against the whites, who was still looked upon by the mounted police as the most dangerous Indian of that part of the Northwest.
Reared in the primitive adventurous environment of
the Indian of that day, Almighty Voice had become famed throughout the region as a runner, a hunter, and a man of indomitable courage and independence. Altogether, he was a dauntless, resourceful, physically powerful, and enduring young warrior, who could well justify the alarm which his reappearance had now aroused throughout the white settlements of that vast open territory.
It was in the afternoon when Corporal Dickson told Almighty Voice that “he was going to be hanged.” That night in the little mounted-police guard-house, which still stands at Duck Lake, Saskatchewan, the mounted police chained Almighty Voice to a heavy iron ball and left him to roll up in his Indian blanket and go to sleep on the floor of the guardroom. Corporal Dickson was on duty to guard him until midnight; then he was to be relieved by another “mountie” who was sleeping upstairs.
Shortly before eleven that night Corporal Dickson decided that he wanted to go off duty a little early, so he got up from the dimly-lighted table at which he was sitting in the guardroom and took the butt of his rifle and banged the ceiling with it to awake his relief man.
“Come on down!” he shouted up. “I want to go a little early to-night. Want to get over to Mac’s before he closes.”
“All right,” answered the other Mountie. But instead of coming down he went back to sleep again.
After waiting impatiently for a few minutes, Corporal Dickson got up again and banged the ceiling, shouting to his companion to make haste. Presently the other Mountie came down the stairs and sleepily took over the midnight vigil. The relief policeman walked over to a dark corner of the guardroom and looked carefully at the long blanketed form of Almighty Voice. He was lying there with his blanket wrapped around him from head to foot, apparently sound asleep.
The Mountie went back to the table with the oil lamp on it and sat down. Neither of the policemen knew this, but all during these proceedings Almighty Voice had been lying there with his blanket wrapped half around his head, with the exposed eye shut and the other peering out at them from beneath the fold of the blanket. He had seen everything that they had done; he was watching their every movement.
When the relief Mountie went back to the table, he sat there sleepily for a while, and then his head started to droop. Down, down, down it sank, until finally his face keeled gently forward to the top of his folded hands — and he was fast asleep, face-down on the table.
This was the opportunity that Almighty Voice had been waiting for.
He picked up the heavy ball to which he was chained, and slowly tiptoed over
to the table. Stopping just behind the sleeping Mountie, he reached over his shoulders and picked up the bunch of keys lying beside his hands, and stooped forward and unlocked the heavy manacle around his ankle. With short, quick steps he made for the door.
Once outside of that door, he knew that he was safe; for no one, white or red, had ever beaten him in a foot-race.
He sprang across the back yard of the guard-house, and with a mighty leap cleared the high fence without, touching it. He sped like a doe toward the Saskatchewan River. Six miles of incredible running brought him to. the western bank of this broad, swift-flowing stream. Without stopping to get his breath, he broke off several heavy saplings and lashed them into a three-cornered raft. He stripped and threw his blanket and clothing on to this raft, and pushing it ahead of him, he swam a half-mile to the other side of the river. He resumed his long, fourteen-mile run, and before it was yet daybreak he arrived panting and sweating at the door of his mother’s lodge.
His mother, Spotted Calf, is also my adopted mother, and that is why I am able to record the inside story of this famous man-hunt, which to-day is so amply dealt with in history and in all books on the Northwest Mounted Police. Spotted Calf and her husband, Sounding Sky, are still living on the One Arrow Indian Reserve, at Duck Lake, Saskatchewan— mother and father of Almighty Voice.
When Almighty Voice threw back the door of his mother’s lodge his first words were these:
“The mounted police told me to-day that they were going to hang me for killing that steer. They will never hang me—I will die fighting.”
Then he asked his mother for his father, Sounding Sky; he wanted to ask his father’s advice before taking his stand against the Mounties. His mother told him that the mounted police had arrested his father and taken him to Prince Albert, where he was being kept under guard. Knowing his warlike history and the power which he held over his people, the mounted police thought that Sounding Sky might start an Indian uprising if he were allowed to remain among his people.
“Stop or I’ll Shoot”
pARLY the next morning ' the mounted police came galloping in from Duck Lake, to search the camp for Almighty Voice. They went into Spotted Calf’s lodge and searched every inch of the place—but one—for their escaped prisoner. In a corner of the lodge was a pile of provisions covered over with blankets and buffalo robes. Almighty Voice wras lying concealed beneath these robes with his eye beaded down the barrel of a rifle that barely pointed from one of the folds of the blankets. Not once did the mounted police go near this pile of blankets, which was fortunate.
After the mounted police had departed Almighty Voice left the One Arrow camp with his fifteen-year-old wife and
made for the Kenistino Reserve in the North. He took with him a muzzle-loader and two horses.
The mounted police, world-famous for their unrelenting efficiency as man-hunters, immediately dispatched Sergeant C. C. Colebrook and a half-breed scout to retake their prisoner, cost what it might.
North they went, along a fresh trail which they presumed Almighty Voice and his young wife had taken.
One morning, as they were riding through a lonely stretch of the North Country, they heard a gunshot. Spurring their horses forward and rounding a bush into a little clearing, they suddenly came upon Almighty Voice in the act of picking up a prairie-chicken that he had just shot. His girl-wife was holding their horses a few feet away. When Almighty Voice looked up and saw the policeman approaching he quickly reloaded his gun and stood,waiting. At twenty yards he ordered a halt.
“Stop, or I’ll shoot,” he hissed in Cree.
This was interpreted to the sergeant by the half-breed scout.
“No,” said Sergeant Colebrook, “I’m going to do my duty.”
Again Almighty Voice sent forward a command to halt. “Another step forward, and I’ll shoot!” he warned. The sergeant rode on.
“Crack!”—a bullet came tearing into his neck; and he fell forward in his saddle, dead.
Turning his gun on the half-breed scout, Almighty Voice said: “I’m not going to kill you, but I am going to mark you.”
“Crack!” barked his gun again—and a bullet shattered the half-breed’s elbow.
The half-breed turned his horse, and as he dashed off, Almighty Voice shouted after him: “And if I ever see you again I’ll kill you!”
The half-breed stopped at the mounted police at Duck Lake barely long enough to acquaint Inspector Allen with what had happened, and then he spurred his horse forward. No one in this country has ever seen him since.
The killing of Sergeant Colebrook marked the real commencement of this, the greatest man-hunt in all the history of the West. Almighty Voice was now outlawed with a big price on his head, dead or alive.
An Outlaw of the Silent Places
UROM this time on, until May 24, 1897—nearly two V years later—he is dropped into mysterious oblivion by all books dealing with his career. The mounted police force scoured the northern wilderness for him in vain. Not once, during this time, were they able to pick up a sign of his trail.
“The Riders of the Plains,” the official history of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, says:
“During this period Almighty Voice never showed himself among his people, nor did he apparently hold any communication with them.”
But the inside story of these two mysterious years is well-known by his father and mother, who are still living at Duck Lake. And here, for the first time in any book touching upon this notorious episode, I shall give this story.
As a matter of truth, Almighty Voice hid out in the wilds of the northern wilderness and made many secret visits to his parents during these two years. For months at a time he would disappear from all human habitation and merge himself with the trackless wastes of the northern wilds; then on some dark night, like a ghost from another world, he would appear silently at the door of his mother’s teepee. He would peer cautiously through the flap of the door and then enter without a word, his silent young wife always entering behind him. After enquiring for his father, who was still being held by the mounted police, he would drop off into a deep sleep. Tired and worn by the ceaseless, evermoving vigil of the hunted wolf, he would remain in slumber for perhaps two days under the constant watch of his faithful mother. Then he would awake, eat a lot, talk a little—and then vanish again.
Once when he came in from the depths of the wilds, his wife carried a little moss bag strapped over her back, and in it was a tiny brown baby.
Almighty Voice, Jr., had been born to them in the wilderness. He is to-day an upstanding young Indian more than six feet tall, and the photograph reproduced here is of him and his twin babies, born to his young wife during my last visit with him on the One Arrow Reserve, at Duck Lake, Saskatchewan.
Finally, in the early spring of 1897, the mounted police suddenly changed their tactics.
In some way they sensed that there was a strong tie between Almighty Voice and his father.
Sounding Sky; and so they decided to send Sounding Sky back to the One Arrow Reserve and see if they could not use him as a decoy to catch their quarry.
When, a short time later,
Almighty Voice returned to the camp on one of his periodic visits and found his father there, the two of them went into secret conference.
His father told me that when this conference was over,
“Almighty Voice did not want to hide any more.” He went out and said to his mother:
‘‘The next time the mounted police come into this camp, I am going to show myself and fight it out with them.”
The mounted police had been right in their supposition; for a week had not passed when one of their halfbreed informers saw Sounding Sky crossing a certain corner of the reserve at an unusual time of the day, and he knew that Almighty Voice was in the vicinity. He went back and tipped off the police.
The next morning Inspector James Wilson, in charge of the Duck Lake Post, dispatched two mounted police constables and a half-breed scout, named Napoleon Venne, to ride out to the reserve and take their man.
Venne, the half-breed scout, told me that they rode up to the big Indian camp in
the Minnechinas Hills, and stopped in the trail in front of it and got off their horses. They made believe that they got off to roll a cigarette, but in reality they were scouting their eyes through the Indian camp for some clue of Almighty Voice.
While Venne was rolling his cigarette, with his bridlereins thrown over his arm, his horse started to jerk excitedly. He pulled him up with a sharp command, and started to roll his cigarette again. Again the horse jumped and snorted uneasily, and as he was about to
give him another welt over the head, he heard a slight rustling in the bush beside the trail. But just as he turned to see what it was, a shot split the air, and Venne fell to the ground with a bullet in his chest.
Constable Beaudridge and the other mountie picked Venne up and rushed him back to Duck Lake.
When they had gone, Almighty Voice and two Indian boys who had joined him in his last stand against the Mounties crawled out of the bush and walked across the trail into the camp. He was angry because Venne had not been killed. He told his father and mother all about it. He said:
“We were lying there when they rode up and stoppèd. When they got off their horses I crawled a little closer to the trail and had my gun leveled at Venne’s heart, when my cousin here, GoingUp-to-Sky, said: “Let me shoot him.” I wanted to try him out because he was so young (he was only fifteen), and I lowered my gun and said: ‘Go ahead, but take your time and aim well.’ I wanted to get Venné because he is a half-breed and has no business mixing himself up in this fight. I shall get him yet.”
Venne, who lived in a little half-breed settlement on the edge of Almighty Voice’s reserve, heard this, and he fled the country and remained in exile in the Yukon for fourteen years. But he is back now, living in his old home, with his wife, son, and daughter. And he still carries the large round bullet embedded deep into his chest.
By a strange trick of fate, Venne now lives less than a mile and a half from the camp of Almighty Voice’s father and mother. One day I was sitting in front of their teepee eating with them, when Mr. Venne’s son rode by on a horse, driving some of his father’s cattle. Almighty Voice’s mother said simply and without any feeling or animosity: “It is a good thing for that boy that my son did not fire the bullet that struck his father, or he would not be living now.” That is a well-known fact; for it is recorded in the records of the mounted police that Almighty Voice himself never wasted a shot. Until his final stand, he never fired a shot without killing.
The First Skirmish
I 'HE shooting of Venne aroused genuine -1alarm throughout the country; for everyone knew now that Almighty Voice was in the neighborhood again, and they knew that he was on the war-path in deadly earnest. In addition to his boy cousin, Going-Up-to-Sky, he now was also accompanied by his brother-in-law, Topean. He had assumed the offensive and become a killer, and these two boys, according to an Indian tradition of loyalty, had chosen to make the stand and die with him. With an Indian, this means that he intends to get as many as he can before he is killed.
The news of Almighty Voice’s sudden reappearance after two years of baffling evasion was received with grave concern at Prince Albert, forty miles away. At midnight that same day twelve mounted policemen under Captain Allan (who died in Vancouver, August, 1927) set out on horseback for the Minnechinas Hills. At the same time another mounted police force under Inspector Wilson was dispatched from Duck Lake.
Captain Allan’s party, riding past Bellevue Hill the next morning, noticed in the distance three objects moving toward a small thicket of trees. “I see three antelope over there,” one of the constables reported. But when they approached closer they were surprised to discern the naked forms of three young Indians, stripped for battle, with their bare, slick bodies glistening in the sun like the smooth brown coat of the
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Captain Allan knew instantly that he had located his quarry, and he gave quick orders to charge.
The three Indian boys stopped dead in their tracks. Almighty Voice stood and waited until the charging Mounties had advanced to firing range; then he opened up. The first burst of Indian fire brought down the two officers commanding the detachment. Captain Allan’s right arm was smashed with a bullet, and Sergeant Raven sagged forward in his saddle with his thigh crushed and dangling uselessly over the side of his horse. Corporal C. H. Hockin now assumed command of the detachment.
Almighty Voice had now counted his fifth “coo”—one killed and four wounded. As the mounted police halted to take care of their wounded and reorganize their forces, Almighty Voice and his two companions disappeared into a small thicket, a clump of bush about a half-mile through, now famous as the “Almighty Voice Bluff.” His people knew that he had selected this bluff in which to make his last, desperate stand against the Mounties, and that he had no thought of ever coming out of it alive.
Corporal Hockin’s detachment, which stood guard awaiting the reinforcements that had been summoned, was soon joined by the detachment from Duck Lake. That afternoon this combined force was further reinforced by a command consisting of every spare man from the Prince Albert barracks of the North West Mounted Police.
At six o’clock that evening, Corporal Hockin called for volunteers to charge the thicket. Nine mounted policemen and civilian volunteers answered this call.
This was the most disastrous movement of the day. The Indians, perceiving their intention, were on the edge of the thicket awaiting their onslaught. Scarcely had the fringe of the bush been reached when Corporal Hockin received his death wound, a bullet in the chest.
The rush continued, both Indians and raiders firing as fast as their guns would shoot. Ernest Grundy, postmaster of Duck Lake, was the next to fall dead, with a bullet through his heart. An instant later Constable J. R. Kerr went down to his death with a ball in the chest.
One of the Indian boys, Topean, had been killed on the edge of the brush, and Almighty Voice had received a bullet which shattered his right leg.
Almighty Voice had now counted his eighth “coo”—four killed and four wounded. Five of the Royal Northwest Mounted Policemen had answered the call to duty; two mounted police scouts and one civilian volunteer. All of these fine fellows of the North West Mounted Police had gone to their Maker through an idle joke which a thoughtless fellow who had crept into their force had care-
lessly perpetrated on a young Indian, who, according to some of the mounted policemen themselves, had in him the makings of a good red citizen of the early West. In justice to the mounted police, it must be said that the man responsible for this, Corporal Dickson, was immediately stripped of his uniform, dismissed from the force, and under guard was made to dig the grave of Almighty Voice’s first victim, Sergeant C. C. Colebrook.
But the real battle of this famous episode had not yet begun.
With Machine Gun and Field Gun
THE tragic consequences of these two disastrous charges brought about a retreat of the attacking party, without time to remove their dead. That night, however, the besiegers tried to burn the Indians out of the bush by setting fire to it. But the attempt was a failure.
Not until then did the mounted police realize the size of the job they had undertaken. A third call for reinforcements was sent out. A cordon of pickets was thrown completely around the thicket, to prevent the escape of the Indians in the darkness.
That night in the Regina Mounted Police Headquarters, two hundred miles to the south, a big mounted-police ball, celebrating the sending to England of the Queen’s Jubilee contingent of mounted policemen, was at its height when suddenly the band struck up, “God Save the Queen.” Men and women looked at one another in amazement. When the national anthem ceased, Colonel Herchimer, the commanding officer of all the mounted police, announced that the sending of the Jubilee Contingent to England had been cancelled; that grave news had just been received from the North Country. Whereupon, he issued orders that every available mounted policeman was to start north at once.
This force consisted of twenty-five men, a nine-pounder field gun and a Maxim gun under Assistant-Commissioner Mcllree and Inspector McDonnell —now* General Sir Archibald McDonnell, of Calgary, Alberta, Commissioner of Boy Scouts for Western Canada. Another detachment of reinforcements left Prince Albert the next day under Inspector Gagnon. This brought to the field practically the entire mounted police force of Assiniboia.
Added to this, hundreds of volunteers had been recruited and rushed to the scene. A transport was recruited at Duck Lake, equipped with picks and shovels and sént out to dig trenches and throw up earthworks, to enable the troops to advance on the bluff under cover— and this, in case they should not be able to exterminate the Indians by shell-fire. So disastrous had been the first two
attacks on the thicket, that orders were issued from mounted police headquarters forbidding the mounties from making any further raids. Enough lives had been lost, and it was realized that field operations must now be adopted.
As the stillness of night crept over the field on that fatal Friday evening, Almighty Voice shouted out of the bluff to the troops:
“We have had a good fight to-day. I have worked hard and I am hungry. You have plenty of food; send me some, and to-morrow we’ll finish the fight.”
When this message was interpreted to the mounted police they were amazed. But it expressed the Indian’s code; fair fight, fair game, no bad feeling in the heart. It may be hard to believe, but Almighty Voice admired the dashing courage of the mounted police fully as much as he did that of his two boy companions. The Indian loves the brave, strong-fighting opponent and hates the weak, cowardly adversary.
Early the next morning a crow flew over the thicket in which the Indians were hiding . . . “Tang!” went Almighty Voice’s gun, and the crow dashed headlong into the bush, to be devoured raw by the hungry Indians. One of the mounties remarked: “Isn’t it queer? That fellow never wastes a bullet—something falls every time he fires.”
Almighty Voice’s old mother, Spotted Calf, had stood on top of the rise just back of the thicket all night, shouting encouragement to her son. Through the chilly darkness she stood on her little pinnacle and recounted to him the brave exploits of his father, Sounding Sky, and his famous grandfather, Chief One Arrow; and she urged him to die the brave that he had shown himself to be.
“Don’t weaken, my son,” she shouted. “You must die fighting them!” From time to time the mounted police would search and find her in the darkness, and gently try to get her to go home.
“They said to me:” she told me, “ ‘You must not stay here; you will get hurt!’ And they would try to lead me off the field. But I could not go home and sleep when I knew my boy was in there.”
Now and then Almighty Voice would answer his mother through the darkness, informing her how he was faring.
The Last Stand
AFTER the two attacks on Friday, he said, he and his remaining boy relative had dug a hole and’ got into it and covered it over with brush. They were lying under this brush with their deadly rifles poking out to kill anyone who attempted to come into the thicket after them. Two mounted police lay dead ten feet from his pit, he said ; and he had taken their rifles and ammunition and thrown away his clumsy old muzzle-loader.
“I am almost starving,” he said. “I am eating the bark off the trees. I have dug into the ground as far as my arm will reach, but can get no water. But have no fear—I’ll hold out to the end.”
Excitement had become intense in the surrounding countryside, as all day Saturday fresh troops were arriving on the field from Regina, Prince Albert, and Duck Lake. The whole population of Assiniboia seemed to have flocked there overnight.
My friend, Dr. Stewart, who still practises at Duck Lake, and who owns the last gun used by Almighty Voice, was one of the two men who rescued the dying body of the gallant Corporal Hockin from the very edge of the deadly bluff. Constable O’Kelly, the “Fighting Irishman,” discovered the body with his field-glasses, and he believed that he had seen it move. He called for a volunteer to make a dash with him down the hill and across the lowland to attempt a rescue. Jumping into a buckboard, Dr. Stewart, the volunteer, and Constable O’Kelly tore down the hill as fast as their horses could pull them.
They stopped right on the edge of the thicket, and Constable O’Kelly piled the limp form of Hockin in the back of the buckboard while Dr. Stewart jumped out and held the horses. Then they whirled around and beat a galloping retreat. Constable O’Kelly had kept jumping to avoid the rain of bullets that were directed at him, and was hit only in the shoe. But not a bullet was fired at Dr. Stewart as he stood still holding the horses, in easy range of Almighty Voice’s deadly weapon. The doctor attributes this to the fact that Almighty Voice knew him very well.
*;“He could have made quick work of me if he had wanted to,” Dr. Stewart said to me, “but he knew I was there only as a medical attendant, and he was sport enough not to take a pot at me.”
By Saturday evening the field guns were well in place—a nine-pounder and a seven-pounder—and at six o’clock the first) shells were sent thundering into the thicket.
The second shot got the range, and the next landed plump into the spot where the fugitives were known to be ensconced.
The heavy barrage of bursting shells lasted for some time. When it finally ceased and every one of the one thousand Mounties and volunteers stood breathless, wondering what had happened to the fugitives, a voice came out of the brush. It was the voice of Almighty Voice. It said:
“You have done well, but you will have to do better.”
Darkness settled quickly over the landscape, and a silence as sickening as the whining, thundering shells of a few moments before bored itself into the very souls of the besieging troops. “Men heard one another breathing,” one of them once remarked to me. Creeping in behind the thoughts of their own dead comrades, came the half-sad realization that to-morrow would spell the eternal end of the two creatures in the bush below, who had partaken of neither food, water, nor sleep during the last three days. Right or wrong, they had displayed a quality which all brave men admire.
One of them also confided to me that he secretly hoped that the Indians would escape during the night and never be heard from again.
No one will ever know what was in the heart and mind of Almighty Voice during that gruesome, black stillness.
The night wore on, interrupted only by one mysterious rifle shot, which clipped the hat off the head of one of the pickets while he was lighting his pipe. The queer part of it was that the shot did not come from the direction of the thickets, but from behind the picket line, which will be explained later by a most unusual happening.
Along in the midnight a group of coyotes, attracted to the vicinity by the odor of the dead bodies, set up a dolorous chorus of baying; and their “yip, yip, yip, hoo-h” only added to the uncanniness of the situation.
Then another sound floated from the opposite hill—the hill just back of the place in which the Indians lay. “Hi-heh, hi-heh, heh-yo, heh-yo.” It was Almighty Voice’s wrinkled old mother chanting her son’s death song.
“I wanted to go in that bluff and take my son in my arms and protect him,” she told) me, sweeping her arms through the motion of a motherly embrace. Again and again she had tried to slip into the brush all during the four day’s vigil, but each time she was intercepted by the mounted police.
“They told me,” she said, “You must not go in there, it would not be nice for us to have to kill a woman.”
“I was very weak that night,” she continued. “I had had nothing to eat for three days and no sleep. I did not want to eat while my son was starving.”
Presently a deep-toned echo of the old woman’s song came thundering out of the thicket. It was Almighty Voice answering
his mother’s death song to him. That was the last time his voice was ever heard . ..
The Final Barrage
AT SIX O’CLOCK the next morning the big guns began belching forth their devastating storm of lead and iron in deadly earnestness. It was obvious that no living thing could long endure their steady beat.
At noon the pelting ceased. At one o’clock, volunteers, led by James McKay —now Justice of the Supreme Court of Saskatchewan—and William Drain, decided to make another raid on the bluff. The Mounties themselves had been refused permission to make another raid, owing to their heavy casualties.
On the first rush the volunteers were not able to locate the hiding-place of the Indians. Well, indeed, had they concealed themselves beneath their covering of brush. A second charge, however, brought them upon the gun-pit.
Here, lying in the brush-covered hole, was the dead body of Almighty Voice.
His boy cousin, Going-Up-to-Sky, was lying in the hole wounded and alive.
According to old Henry Smith, the halfbreed who removed Almighty Voice’s body to his mother’s teepee, as he had promised her he would, one of the mounted policemen walked up to the hole and put a finishing bullet through the wounded lad’s head. Perhaps it was for safety, but some of the other Mounties grew angry at this hasty act, and one of them said aloud: “A man who could do that has no heart in him at all, and should be shot himself.”
Almighty Voice was shot in seven places, but his death missive was a piece of shrapnel which had split open his forehead. In the bottom of the gun-pit there were two holes, the depth of a man’s arm, which had been dug by the fugitive in an effort to reach water. The bark on the surrounding trees had been stripped off and eaten.
The bodies of Constable Kerr and Postmaster Ernest Grundy were lying about ten feet from the hole. The dead body of Almighty Voice’s brother-in-law, Topean, who had been killed in the first day’s fighting, was lying on the fringe of the thicket, about twenty yards from the pit.
The startling revelation that Almighty Voice had got completely out of the bluff on Saturday night, and succeeded in working his way clear through the pickets to a point some one hundred yards beyond the mounted-police lines, was brought to light by the finding of one of his bloodsoaked moccasins at this outlying point. A crude crutch which he had made to support his shattered ankle was also found where he abandoned it on his return trip. How he got away and why he returned, no one will ever know.
But this surprising discovery explained that mysterious shot which had clipped the hat off the head of one of the volunteers during the uncanny lull on Saturday night.
On a tree near the spot where the bodies of three Mounties had fallen, there were some peculiar characters which had been cut into it with a knife. When an interpreter was called to examine it, it was found to be a sentence written in Cree syllables. It said:
“Here have died three braves.”
Almighty Voice, before he was killed, had crawled out of his hole and carved his tombstone to his three last victims. It was a noble tribute to the courage of the three dead mounted policemen.
To-day this tree marks the spot where the North American Indian made his last stand against the white man.
A Tragic Rendezvous
ALMIGHTY VOICE was named b
A his grandfather, Chief One Arrow When he was a little boy, Chief One Arrow called him Gitchie-Manito-Wayo— Almighty Voice—because his voice was so
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loud and deep, sounding, as Chief One Arrow said, like the voice of the Great Spirit.
Not so long ago I took my adopted mother, Spotted Calf, out to the Almighty Voice Bluff, to let her look at the hole in which her son was killed. Though she was right on the edge of the thicket when he was killed and had spent all of her life just six miles from it, yet she had never in her life seen that hole before. She said just before we started:
“I have never wanted to see that hole, but I think I will let you take me out to-day.” We walked the whole distance from her camp, six miles.
With us was the old half-breed, Henry Smith, who had taken Almighty Voice’s body back to his mother’s teepee. With us also was Almighty Voice, Jr., son of the outlawed Indian who was born in the wilderness during the two years of refuge. Now he was a tall, powerful young man of twenty-eight. And walking along beside him was his girl-mother, who still looked young and pretty, though her husband had been killed nearly twenty-eight years before. Then there was Prosper, Almighty Voice’s brother, a giant Indian standing six feet six inches in his moccasins—one of the highest types of the present-day Indian in the Northwest.
When we reached the bluff, a half-mile clump of bush lying on a rolling, open
prairie-land, we had some difficulty in finding the hole. And though she had never seen it herself, Almighty Voice’s mother seemed to know more about it than any of the rest of us. It was she who finally got the bearings by standing on a low hill behind the bluff, and then directing us to where to enter the bush. She came on in behind us, but when we found the hole she never came up to it; she stood some distance away.
There the old hole was, about the size of a bathtub—trees around half torn off by shell fire—bark which Almighty Voice had eaten still missing from some of the trunks—a short undergrowth starting to grow inside the hole—and the famous tree still uttering its mute sentence: “Here have died three braves.”
We hardly spoke; we just went around from place to place, examining this and that, and thinking.
It was a beautiful, bright north-western summer day. Under its peaceful quietness, broken only by the occasional short, gruff cough of a wolf-dog somewhere in the distance, it was hard for us to realize that this fine, picturesque stretch of bush and prairie-land once echoed the thunder of the Northwest Rebellion and the cannon which wiped out Almighty Voice.
I stood at the pit and gazed thoughtfully across the broad stretch of lowland at the rising hill beyond, where the field guns were put in position. Then I turned in
the opposite direction and looked up the abrupt west slope of the rise on which the bluff is situated. I could see the spot about a hundred yards above, where the old mother stood shouting and singing to her son during the four long days and nights of the siege.
This reminded me to look toward this wonderful old woman, to see how she was reacting to her first visit to the scene since she was carried away exhausted on the tragic morning of May 28, 1897.
I shall never forget the pathetic figure which met my eyes. With a sleeping grandchild strapped over her back she was standing a little way back from the hole, soaking her tears in the corner of a crimson-and-yellow blanket. She never once looked toward the hole, nor did she approach it nearer than ten feet. She just stood there with her face turned slightly to the side and toward the ground, with one hand quietly mopping her eyes and the other picking aimlessly at the little twigs of red willow which crept up to her waist-line. Her head was bent as if she were ashamed of the emotions which she could not control. Wonderful woman — I am proud to bear the name of this lovable character who long ago adopted me as her son. And my highest hope in the new life that I have adopted from the white man is that I shall never do anything to bring shame upon that name —Spotted Calf.