NICHOLAS FLOOD DAVIN AND THE LEADER - JEAN LOUIS LEGARE AND THE WAR CHIEF, SITTING BULL - HISTORIC WOOD MOUNTAIN - SANCTUARY CLAIMED FROM THE QUEEN - MAJOR WALSH AND THE SIOUX - A TENSE MOMENT - THE AUTHORITY OF THE "MOUNTIES" - FATHER HUGONARD AND SITTING BULL - THE FINAL SURRENDER OF THE SIOUX - GENERAL CUSTER'S HAIR - THE MURDER OF JOHN McCARTHY - A SPLENDID PRIEST.
With the coming of spring in 1883 Regina, although still new and stark, began to take on some semblance of permanency. Superintendent "Sam" Steele of the North West Mounted Police had selected a site for the headquarters of the Force on rising ground just west of the townsite and contractors were busy erecting the necessary buildings. A very modest Government House was being built on the street now known as Dewdney Avenue about a mile west of the Railway Station and, in the same district but not so far away from the downtown area, premises were being prepared to house the employees of the Indian Department.
Mr. Dewdney apparently wished to feature the long street now known as Dewdney Avenue and it was stated that the Railway authorities, nursing a grudge against him for his choice of the Capital site, had placed the Railway Station at the east end of the townsite as far away as possible from the Government Buildings.
March, 1883, saw the establishment of The Regina Leader, a weekly newspaper owned and edited by Nicholas Flood Davin, a young Irishman who was becoming one of the most brilliant journalists and orators of the Dominion.
As spring advanced my father completed the erection of considerable store premises and put the finishing touches to a fairly commodious dwelling on Broad Street not far from the Railway Station. Looking back it seems to me we were quite comfortable.
My father was a hospitable man and liked to have people about him. As accommodation was difficult to obtain, we frequently had visitors. One of the earliest was Jean Louis Legare, a "free-trader" from Wood Mountain. French-Canadian like ourselves, he had much in common with us and the intimacy with our family begun then lasted till his death in 1918.
Jean Louis Legare, the friend of Sitting Bull. had recently been much in the public eye on account of his connection with the Sioux War Chief Sitting Bull. He was one of the finest men I have ever known, gentle and courteous in all his relations, and enjoying the confidence of the native people to a greater degree than was ever accorded to any other white man. He was tall and stately and, as I first remember him, had a sweeping black beard that gave him an air of unconscious dignity. He was a native of Quebec, deeply imbued with the traditions of his race and religion. As a lad he had gone to St. Paul in Minnesota, then a frontier outpost that was the outfitting place for many a wilderness caravan. To St. Paul came "free-traders" from the Red River to market furs and obtain supplies, and Legare learned from them something of the life north of the British Line. Like most of his compatriots he was a staunch Canadian at heart and, in 1870, when the western region became a part of the Dominion, he came back to what was now his own country. After some desultory employment at Pembina he went to Wood Mountain to manage a post for a native trader named Ouilette. He eventually acquired the ownership of the establishment. From the first he had a remarkable reputation among the natives for square dealing, and his business grew and expanded.
Wood Mountain was regarded as an oasis in a grassy prairie sea by the Metis hunters who came each summer in long trailing caravans from the Red River to hunt the buffalo on the Plains of the Saskatchewan. It is situated about one hundred and thirty miles southwest of Regina close to the American Boundary and consists of a range of low hills surmounting a considerable elevation that is cut and slashed by deep and wooded ravines and intersected by clear little streams of sweet water. Geologists declare that it was one of the few places in the prairie region that had withstood the onslaughts of the glaciers which in prehistoric ages slid across the country from northeast to southwest. Fossils found there indicate that at one stage of the development of the earth the climate had been of a tropical nature.
Fossilized remains of awesome creatures have been dug up by archaeologists and, in some cases, reconstructed and placed in the Canadian National Museum in Ottawa.
Wood Mountain was the Assiniboine country, but was also frequented by Canadian Crees and Saulteaux and, on occasion, by parties of Sioux from the American side. The nearest post of the Hudson's Bay Company was at Fort Qu'Appelle, nearly two hundred miles away; so Legare had little competition. The Hudson's Bay Company regarded "free-traders" almost as outlaws, and no supplies were to be obtained from that quarter. Accordingly Legare had to send brigades of creaking Red River carts over the long trail to St. Paul to carry out his furs and hides and bring in merchandise.
It was to Wood Mountain that Sitting Bull and his Sioux warriors came in the spring of 1877, seeking refuge beneath the British Flag from the American soldiers after the defeat and destruction of General Custer and his command at the Little Big Horn in Montana the previous summer.
While living on their reservations in the Dakota country these Indians became exasperated by broken treaties and the exactions of those entrusted with the administration of their estate. Under the leadership of the Executive Chief, Sitting Bull, they retreated to a region among the wild Montana hills that they believed had been secured to them as tribal hunting grounds by a solemn treaty with the Government of the United States. Their numbers were constantly augmented by the discontented and discouraged of the Sioux nation. When attacked there, with their women and children about them, by American soldiers under Custer, whose avowed object was to exterminate them root and branch, they utterly defeated and destroyed the Force sent against them.
Sioux Chiefs - Courtesy F. J. Clark.
Sitting Bull had no illusions as to the retribution that would follow the defeat of the American soldiers on the battlefield and, gathering his people about him, he began a slow retreat towards Canada where he hoped to find sanctuary.
The story of the Sioux campaigns of the period is American history, but the tale of the Sioux sojourn in Canada is not so well known. Some straggling parties of Sioux, including Black Moon, their hereditary Head Chief, reached Wood Mountain late in 1876, and the following spring Sitting Bull arrived with the main body of his followers. He was a man of common sense and policy and, before establishing a permanent camp, sent messengers to Assistant Commissioner Irvine of the North West Mounted Police, then at Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, nearly two hundred miles away, reporting his arrival and asking for an interview. Irvine, with two of his officers and a small escort, at once left for Wood Mountain where he met the Sioux War Chief.
The meeting took place in an Indian council lodge erected by the Sioux for the occasion. The Saskatchewan Historical Society has in its possession copies of Colonel Irvine's official report on the incident, and a letter written by him to his sister, detailing in a much more intimate way than in the cold formality of the official report, his impression of the Indians and their War Chief.
In addressing the Mounted Police officer, Sitting Bull wasted no time in formalities. He produced from beneath his blanket a large silver medal and displaying it so that all might see, said: "My grandfather got this for fighting for George III during the Revolution, and now, in our time of danger, I have brought my people here to claim sanctuary from his granddaughter."
Colonel Irvine declared in his letter that the Sioux had captured his sympathy from his first contact with them. He wrote that some of them still carried unhealed wounds, that their clothes were in rags and they were noticeably suffering from want of food. He told them they would be accorded sanctuary, but they were sternly warned that if they did not obey the laws of the Queen they would be held to a strict accounting.
The Canadian authorities were seriously perturbed by their presence. The Canadian Indians, who were the hereditary enemies of the Sioux, resented so many aliens on their hunting grounds. Already the buffalo were diminishing in numbers. The winter had been a hard one, and the herds had drifted far south of the Line before the northwesterly gales. They were halted in the spring on their slow return by American soldiers and stampeded to the southward. This seems to have been done as a matter of deliberate military policy with the object of starving out the Sioux taking refuge in British territory'.
The problem of feeding the refugees was a serious one. Legare gave them supplies from his trading-post, often without prospect of payment. There were still a number of buffalo in the country, although it was the last year of the big Canadian herds, and enough of them were killed to prevent famine conditions from occurring among the Sioux; but their hunting was rendered difficult by shortage of ammunition, and most of the animals were run down on horseback and killed by bow and arrow and even spears made by attaching hunting knives to long slim shafts. This method of hunting, however, was hard upon Indians insufficiently nourished, and ran their ponies "ragged".
From his first arrival in Canada, Sitting Bull seems to have been attracted to Legare and to have trusted him
Legare repeatedly asserted that the American soldiers had patrols established from the Souris to the Milk River just south of the Boundary with the purpose of preventing the northward movement of the buffalo crossing the Canadian Line and relieving the famine conditions that were beginning to prevail among the refugee Sioux at Wood Mountain.
implicitly. The Sioux Chief apparently was anxious to do everything possible to abide by the laws of the Dominion as interpreted by Major Walsh, the Mounted Police officer in command of the Wood Mountain detachment, but he never made any move without consulting the Canadian trader.
Walsh was a capable officer, an original of the Force, who had served his apprenticeship to the West in the Blackfoot country and was familiar with Plains Indians. He had something of General Custer's habit of fixing himself up in picturesque western fashion, but there was no other likeness between the two. He was inclined to be dominant, but strictly just. The Indians admired him and named him "Long Lance", although he was by no means a tall man.
There was one tense moment, but the Major was equal to the occasion. Some ponies belonging to the Sioux were missing and the Indians, under the impression that they might have been stolen, reported the matter to the Mounted Police, who apparently were unable to find any trace of the missing animals. Eventually, the Sioux themselves found the horses running with the herd of a French-Canadian named Gaspard Beaupre near Willow Bunch. Beaupre and his Metis herder were taken prisoners by the Sioux and held in their camp.
News of this was brought to Major Walsh. He at once sent a detail to demand their release. The Indians were in belligerent mood, and assumed such a threatening attitude that the "Mounties" returned without accomplishing their mission.
Major Walsh was in fine rage. "You are a lot of cowards!" he said, and forthwith strode off to the Sioux encampment accompanied only by his Interpreter, a Metis named Morin. He demanded to see Sitting Bull and when the Chief rode up armed and in full war panoply, ordered him peremptorily to give up the prisoners.
For once, Sitting Bull appears to have lost the steady moderation that characterized his dealing with the Canadian authorities. He intimated that he was at the head of a formidable force, and not to be ordered about even by a red-coated officer of the Queen. The Police had failed to find their missing horses, he said, and now that the Sioux had those whom they believed had stolen them they could not understand why Indian justice should not be done. They surged about the Police officer with threatening gestures. Walsh stood erect and unafraid, the very personification of the authority of the uniform he wore. Then, pushing aside the Indians in his path, he strode to Sitting
Bull and pulled the astonished Chief from his horse, saying: "You are my prisoner until you order the release of these men."
For a moment Sitting Bull stood facing the intrepid officer with black and menacing air, while the Indians about them handled their hunting knives and brandished rifles. Walsh threw him back a look of confidence and authority. Slowly, the scowl faded from Sitting Bull's brow, and he smiled. Then extending his hand, said: "Redcoat, you are a brave man; you are my brother. Take your people and go.
Walsh went back to his detachment and the honours were with him. Thus the dignity of the laws of Canada were upheld among semi - savage tribes throughout the vast spaces of the "Great Lone Land".
During the last two years of the Sioux sojourn in Canada the condition of these Indians was miserable in the extreme. The Canadian authorities were at a loss to know what to do about their inconvenient guests. It was not only that many of the Sioux were starving, but their presence had seriously depleted the game of the region, and as a consequence, hardship was caused to the Canadian Indians.
Sitting Bull and the Sioux chiefs with him nurtured an implacable hatred against the American authorities and all their works. After the Custer battle the American Government had sent commissioners to Canada to offer the Sioux amnesty if they would return to the States. Sitting Bull was contemptuous of the offer and, at first, refused even to meet the American officials. Eventually at the solicitation of Colonel MacLeod, Commissioner of the North West Mounted Police, for whom Sitting Bull had a high regard, he agreed to meet the United States representatives.
The meeting took place at the Mounted Police headquarters at Fort Walsh. General Terry, on behalf of the American delegation, made the offer of amnesty. When he had finished, Sitting Bull said : "Go back and tell those people at Washington who sent you that you saw Sitting Bull shaking hands with the red-coated soldiers of the Queen who protect Indians instead of shooting them."
As he turned away he called out to Terry: "What are you doing here anyway? This is not your country." 'This incident appears in the succinct formality of the Mounted Police reports, but the details were supplied to me by Morin, Major Walsh's Interpreter who lived at Willow Bunch and who was present on the occasion.
The United States Government realized the danger of a large body of warlike Indians safe from attack in Canada where they could launch raids on the American side and, of course, the Canadian authorities were anxious to disembarrass themselves of their unwelcome guests.
During the last years of the sojourn of the Sioux in Canada, the buffalo herds, their chief means of sustenance, dwindled away until they almost reached the vanishing point. Famine rode the prairies; sickness and disease decimated the Indian camps and there was dreadful suffering.
During the winter of 1880-81, when the Sioux were practically starving, the men of the Mounted Police detachment at Wood Mountain made a practice of saving a portion of their rations which they conveyed to the Indian Camp. The chiefs and warriors refused to partake of the food thus generously given, but assigned it all to the suffering women and children.
Legare, often at considerable personal sacrifice, did everything in his power to aid the famishing Sioux. He could not bear to see them suffering and often gave them supplies when he knew there was little chance of ever receiving payment. At the last they were trading their weapons for flour and bacon. I remember seeing, in Legare's house at Willow Bunch, a room almost full of firearms he had received in barter from the Sioux and I do not think he ever expected to realize anything from them. I believe he was encouraged in this trade by the Mounted Police officers who felt that the more the Indians disposed of their weapons, the less likely they would be to cause trouble. Mr. Legare had a remarkable arsenal of these Sioux guns. There were Winchester rifles, then coming into general use on the frontier; Springfield single shot carbines taken from Custer's men at the Little Big Horn; heavy Sharpe's buffalo rifles, the earliest breach-loaders used on the plains, and many smooth bore muzzle - loaders. In side arms there was everything from cap and ball pistols to the Colts frontier model 45 revolvers.
Sitting Bull did everything in his power to have the Sioux recognized as Canadian Indians and allotted reserves. He stoutly maintained that they had never accepted American sovereignty and that their ancient allegiance to the British Crown had never been broken. The Government, however, proved adamant and refused the Sioux requests. Sanctuary was accorded under the unwritten laws of nations, but little else.
In the early summer of 1881 Sitting Bull, accompanied by a band of his warriors, went to Fort Qu'Appelle where there was an establishement of the Hudson's Bay Company and an official of the Indian Department, in the hope of being able to obtain some supplies. The Hudson's Bay Factor had barely enough goods for his own trade, and Colonel Allan Macdonald, the Indian Agent, was having sufficient trouble to feed his own indigent Indians without assuming further responsibility.
The Sioux were about to return to Wood Mountain when they learned that a large shipment of flour consigned to Father Hugonard, in charge of the Oblate Mission in the Qu'Appelle Valley, had been brought up the Assiniboine River to Fort Ellice, about a hundred miles away, the previous autumn. The Priest had recently sent a brigade of carts to bring it to the Mission. I often heard Father Hugonard speak of the incident, and later he related it to my husband one cold winter's day, sitting in his comfortable little office in the Industrial School, the windows of which looked out upon the very hills that had resounded to the shouts of the Indians so many years before.
The evening the freighters returned with their loads, the Sioux, camped among the Valley hills, were observed to be excited. Parties of mounted Indians were constantly on the move and sentries posted on the buttes were calling one to the other. The Priest would have been more than human had he not felt apprehensive.
Dusk was coming on when a cavalcade of Sioux horsemen, painted, feathered and armed, rode to the Mission. All dismounted with the exception of the Chief, and an Indian in a war bonnet with a Winchester held in the folds of his blanket entered and informed Father Hugonard that the War Chief, Sitting Bull, was outside and wished to speak to the "Black Robe".
Nothing daunted, the brave Priest replied that if the Chief desired to see him, he would be received. Sitting Bull at once dismounted from his horse, which had been led by two warriors and, formidable in his warlike accoutrements, stalked into the Mission.
Father Hugonard had provided himself with an interpreter and, after the usual greetings, the Sioux Chief came to the point of his visit. He wanted the flour and must have it. His people were starving: the buffaloes were gone and there was no other food to be had. Then he relapsed into the impenetrable Indian silence.
Father Hugonard, sitting behind a table in his black soutane, presented an austere contrast to the painted Indians who had crowded into the place behind their leader. He replied firmly that they could not have the flour.
When his answer had been rendered into the Sioux tongue the Indians showed signs of resentment. They muttered sullenly; rifles were produced from beneath belted blankets and hands furtively sought knife handles in beaded scabbards.
The situation was a critical one. These Indians were perhaps the most formidable of all the Plains tribes. They had defied the Government of the United States, and when attacked by regular soldiers, had won a complete and bloody victory. It was apparent they were in belligerent mood. Sitting Bull threw them an authoritative word in a deep gutteral, and they were instantly stilled. Then he addressed the Priest. He was sorry, he said, but his people were starving, and if the "Black Robe" persisted in his refusal, he was afraid his young men would take the food by force.
The Priest felt that if he yielded to threats he would lose influence with his own Indians. Then an idea struck him. He turned to the Interpreter and said: "Tell him I cannot give him the flour, because it belongs to the Indians of the Mission. They depend upon it for food, but if we can agree upon a price he can pay, I will sell it to him and give my people the proceeds."
This being interpreted, Sitting Bull gave no sign for a moment, remaining silent and inscrutable. The Priest tried to assume an indifferent air, but he was far from being indifferent. Then the Chief rose slowly to his feet and unbelting a magnificent Navajo blanket that he wore, let it fall to the ground, saying : "How much will this buy?"
The tension was broken and trading became general. Father Hugonard obtained good value for his flour in the shape of ponies and other things. Among the articles offered for barter were a number of watches that the Sioux had taken from the bodies of the soldiers killed at the Little Big Horn.
Colonel MacLeod, who had been Commissioner of the North West Mounted Police and was then acting in a judicial capacity, was greatly respected by all the Indian tribes, and the Canadian Government appointed him a special commissioner to deal with the Sioux, and endeavour to induce them to accept the amnesty offered and return to the United States. He summoned Sitting Bull and his chiefs to a conference. The stern old warrior was far more friendly than he had been with the American Emissaries, but was firm in his determination to remain in Canada. At last Colonel MacLeod said: "Sitting Bull, is there no one whose word you will take that if you return to your own country you will receive fair and just treatment ?"
The Chief smoked thoughtfully, then replied: "Yes ! if Jean Louis says it is safe, I will go. He speaks only the words of truth."
Mr. Legare was consulted. He looked carefully into the situation to satisfy himself of the bona fides of the proffered amnesty. He then told Sitting Bull that he believed it would be safe for the Sioux to return to the United States.
The Indian Chief was as good as his word, and in the summer of 1881 he and his people were escorted by Legare and a party of Metis buffalo hunters to the American Army Post at Fort Buford, where he surrendered to the Officer in Command.
The last member of Legare's party that took Sitting Bull and his followers to Fort Buford, in the person of "Johnnie" Chartrand, only passed from the scene in 1949. Shortly before his death my husband, through the courtesy of Assistant Commissioner Gagnon of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Regina, had him brought from his camp at Big Beaver to the little town of Bengough in southern Saskatchewan. My husband and the local "Mountie" sat up with the old man all night and listened while he told every detail of that historic journey. As his mind went back across the years and the old scenes once more rose before his vision, he became excited and graphic.
He spoke a curious mixture of English, French and Cree that made his speech extraordinarily flexible to anyone with a knowledge of these languages. When a word bothered him in one tongue he would relapse into another without hesitation.
The "Mountie" was a shorthand writer and he took down "Johnnie's" story as fast as my husband could interpret it; and it was indeed an absorbing one. The record was turned over to the late Mr. Peter Turner, the official historian of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and it remains among the archives of the Force in Ottawa.
It was winter time and, when my husband left Regina for the south country to meet "Johnnie" he was wearing a handsome hand-woven silk muffler. When he returned I noticed that he did not have it and, although he has never admitted it, I am inclined to think that, carried away by the graphic recital, he made a gift of it to the old narrator.
The Canadian Government offered Mr. Legare a township of land for his services, in addition to a small sum of money. He declined the land. "Of what value is land to me," he said. "The prairie all around is free to anyone who desires to use it. It has little value."
Several years later the American Government made Legare a payment on account of the services he had rendered in connection with the Sioux, but apparently the full sum appropriated by Congress never reached his hands'.
Sitting Bull's absolute trust in Legare's good faith was a fine tribute. The formidable Indian Chief, who had refused to take the word of the Government of Canada and that of the President of the United States, placed the lives of himself and his people unreservedly in the hands of the quiet French - Canadian trader.
In 1901 Mr. Legare who, in company with Gaspard Beaupre of Willow Bunch, had been visiting relatives in Quebec, stopped at the Buffalo Exposition to see Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. There was the usual representation of the "Pony Express" and the "Overland Mail". The old Concord coach, drawn by four galloping horses was swinging around the arena followed by a yelling crowd of mounted Indians, firing their guns and discharging their arrows in mimic attack upon the occupants of the vehicle, who were keeping up a brisk fire in response.
Legare, with his black beard and wide Stetson, was a noticeable figure in the grandstand. "These Indians know you," said Beaupre. "See ! they are making signs in this direction." "Oh no!" replied Mr. Legare, "you must be mistaken."
But there was no mistake. When they circled the arena again, they were interspersing their war cries with shouts of "Jean Louis! Jean Louis !" the name by which he was known to all the native people of the Plains. They were Hunkpapa Sioux who had been at Wood Mountain with Sitting Bull.
Settlement increased in the south country and Willow Bunch, where later Mr. Legare made his headquarters, developed from a few scattered Metis cabins to a thriving little town of which he became the Postmaster. A number of his relatives from Quebec settled on land nearby, and at last he was surrounded by his own people. When he died in 1918, seldom was a pioneer more sincerely mourned.
When Sitting Bull had surrendered at Fort Buford in the summer of 1881, he left behind him in Canada a small band of Sioux who refused to return to the States. They were suspicious of the good faith of the American amnesty. For a number of years they wandered about the country, sometimes at Wood Mountain and sometimes at Moose Jaw. The Sioux women at one time furnished the only domestic help available in Moose Jaw. They were clean and trustworthy and dry - nursed many of the children of the pioneers. As a result quite a few of the second generation of the Moose Jaw pioneers can still speak the Dakota tongue. They were like the native women of India who nursed the children of British officials, to whom Kipling called a toast when he wrote:
"To our dear, dark foster mothers
And the heathen songs they sung,
And the heathen speech we babbled
Ere we came to the white man's tongue".
Eventually these Sioux were allotted a small reserve at Wood Mountain where they settled permanently. Several of them had been in the battle of the Little Big Horn and often spoke of it. One of the Sioux girls, a daughter of Black Moon the hereditary Head Chief of the Hunkpapas, married T. W. Aspden, a Sergeant of the Mounted Police who was afterwards in the Indian Department. When my husband asked her if she had been present at the battle of the Little Big Horn, she replied:
"Yes, I was only a young girl then, but I remember it well. The Indians knew that morning that the soldiers were coming. They had scouts on every butte. When we saw Custer and his men coming over the hills, maybe six miles away, the horse herd was driven in for the men to ride to war, and the women and children were sent up on the plains to be away from the bullets. My father had given me a fine sorrel pony. It had a white star on the brow and four white feet. Oh! I did love my pony. But he was a little wild and hard to catch and, as we had to hurry, I got another horse to ride when I went with the women and children. One of my brothers roped my pony and rode him to battle.
"The fight did not last long; maybe an hour, maybe a little more, but it was not long until we were called back, when all the white soldiers were dead. Sitting Bull, my father and the other chiefs were riding among the dead people looking for the body of the white chief with the long hair. I rode with them, and where the fighting had been the worst, I saw my pony. He had been shot in the back and when he saw me he tried to get up, but could not rise on his hind feet. He had to be killed. Oh! it was a sad day for me when my pony died."
A few years ago, my husband went down to the Standing Rock Agency in South Dakota, the home of the Sitting Bull Sioux, and talked to several of the old men who had been in the Little Big Horn battle. All the Indians who took part in it seemed to tell the same story, whether they lived at Pine Ridge, Cherry Creek, Wood Mountain in Saskatchewan or Standing Rock in South Dakota. He talked a great deal with White Bull, the nephew of Sitting Bull, who had acted as "galloper" for his uncle in the battle. He said that Custer was not personally known to any of the Indians except that he was reputed to wear his fair hair long. Sitting Bull gave instructions that the white officer with the long hair was to be taken alive, probably to be held as a hostage. He said, however, that all the dead men had short hair.
While my husband was at Standing Rock, Father Bernard, an old priest who had been there in Sitting Bull's time, showed him a photograph of Custer standing beside a piano singing to his wife's accompaniment in his quarters at Fort Abraham Lincoln a few days before he left on the Sioux campaign, and it showed him with a close-cropped head. Father Bernard said that Custer's wife objected to his long hair and made him go to the Post barber to have it shorn. That tonsorial operation probably cost him his life.
Father Hugonard of the Qu'Appelle Roman Catholic Mission was a frequent visitor at our house in Regina during the first years. My father had a number of French - Canadians working for him on the Railway construction. When the grade reached the Pile o' Bones he arranged with Father Hugonard to come from his mission and celebrate mass for the benefit of his workmen. This was unquestionably the first religious service to be held on the Regina Townsite.
'There is a record of this service in the archives of the Archdiocese of St. Boniface.'
Father Hugonard was a dark, burly man, a native of Normandy in France, who had come to the Valley as a young priest in 1874. The mission over which he presided was situated on the shores of a large lake in a beautiful tree - shaded spot some five or six miles east of the Hudson's Bay Post of Fort Qu'Appelle. Even in the early days there was a little village inhabited by some of the Metis families clustering about the Mission buildings. Subsequently the place took the name "Lebret" in honour of one of the early missionary priests.
Monument to Father Hugonard at the Indian Industrial School in the Qu'Apelle Valley.
In 1884, a large Indian Industrial School was erected there of which Father Hugonard became the Principal and, under his direction, it soon began to exert an important influence on the native life of a wide region.
I remember one week in April, 1884, when Father Hugonard was constantly at our house. He was usually in good spirits and playful with us children. On that occasion he was absorbed and melancholy, and one evening his dejection was so profound that we instinctively stilled our play. He and my father spoke low to each other and later they were joined by Father L'Arche, then acting Parish Priest of Regina.
The next morning I was awakened early, and saw from the upstairs window a Mounted Police conveyance stop at our door and two priests drive away in it.
We were at breakfast when Father Hugonard returned. He was a big, hearty man, but he came in with faltering footsteps and his face was pale beneath his outdoor tan. He was wiping the moisture from his brow, although the morning was cold. My father offered him a glass of brandy which he accepted with evident appreciation. Poor Father Hugonard ! He had that day steeled himself to undergo a dreadful ordeal. Of course I did not know about it then, but when older I learned the circumstances. This is the story:
When the Railway reached Qu'Appelle, or Troy as it was then called, in 1882, an old man named John McCarthy was one of the earliest arrivals. He worked for a time about the place and afterwards took up a homestead in the bush country a few miles away. He built a shack and lived there alone. He was a bachelor, sullen and morose and reputed a miser.
Some of the settlers who had to pass his shack when hauling firewood, remarked that there was no sign of human tenancy. At last one of them went to the door and, obtaining no response to his knock, entered. The field mice that drifted across the floor indicated the place must have been abandoned for some time. There were, however, evidences of something grim and sinister. Dark patches of dried blood lay on floor and hearthstone, and the crude home made furniture was scattered in disorder.
The Mounted Police were notified, and a search revealed the body of the old man, hidden in a thicket some little distance from the shack. Indications were that McCarthy had been brutally assailed and killed. An axe had apparently been the weapon and from the wounds, and the great quantity of blood, it must have been wielded with maniacal ferocity. At first it was thought robbery was the motive, and suspicion was directed towards some of the members of a Halfbreed camp near Troy; but quite a sum of money was found in the inside pocket of the coat the dead man was wearing, and that theory was discarded for the time. A search was made for someone with a homicidal mania; but the Mounted Police could find no clue.
A Scout of the mixed blood, named Lavallee, attached to the Police headquarters at Regina, had an idea that some Halfbreeds in the vicinity knew more than they were telling. He sought and obtained permission to visit Troy. He frequented the native camp and, knowing most of the occupants, was soon on friendy terms with them.
Lavallee concentrated on two brothers named Stevenson who had bad reputations. One of them professed himself able to read fortunes by cards. The Scout pretended to be impressed, and asked if the cards could tell anything about the McCarthy murder. Flattered, Stevenson proceeded to do some conjuring, and then declared he could reconstruct the crime. He said that McCarthy had been sitting in his shack reading by the firelight when two men entered. The old man spoke to them roughly and bade them begone about their business. One of them picked up an axe, and attacked him. Although Stevenson doubtless had never heard of Lady MacBeth, like her, he expressed astonishment that an old man's veins should have contained so much blood.
After he was dead, he said, the murderers were frightened, and dragged the body to a place in the thickest bush. The Halfbreed remarked, parenthetically, he supposed the flies had led to its discovery. They searched for money, but found only a few dollars. In their hurry and panic they had failed to find the larger sum.
Lavalee concluded that the Stevensons, cards or no cards, knew too much about the affair, and the brothers were promptly taken into custody. They were tried in Regina and although they strenuously protested their innocence, were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.
After their conviction they made a statement, declaring that, although they themselves were innocent, they knew the person who had committed the murder, and named a white man of the neighbourhood who, they said, had a grudge against McCarthy. As the evidence at the trial had been purely circumstantial, a postponement of the execution was ordered until the new angle could be investigated.
Strangely enough the man they accused had disappeared, and still more strange, it was disclosed that he had been on bad terms with the murdered man. Eventually, however, he was found, and was able to furnish an unimpeachable alibi. The Stevensons were informed they must prepare for death.
But still they protested their innocence. A strong web had been woven about them, and there was small doubt of their guilt. It was the first time that the sentence of death had been passed upon any of the native people, who had an utter abhorrence of hanging. Indeed, at the time of the Treaty, the Indians had endeavoured to make it a condition that no member of their race should suffer death in this manner. It was felt that if the Stevensons went to the scaffold with their crime unconfessed, it might have a serious effect upon the Halfbreed and Indian population.
Until a week before the date set for the execution the condemned men conducted themselves with callous ribaldry, and seemed to have small realization of the dreadful position in which they were placed. When a guard remarked upon the dilapidated condition of the boots worn by one of them, the Halfbreed said: "Oh! Well, I won't need boots where I am going."
When they finally knew all hope was at an end, they sent for Father Hugonard and told him they would confess on one condition. They said they were more afraid of the hands of the hangman than of death itself. Accordingly, they declared that if Father Hugonard would agree to adjust the ropes about their necks, they would tell the truth.
The poor Priest was in a dreadful predicament. He was a humane and kindly man, and was horrified at the suggestion. However, he told Lieutenant Governor Dewdney about the situation, and when the importance of obtaining a confession was explained to him, he consented to meet the request of the condemned men.
Father Hugonard was the spiritual adviser of the prisoners and therefore felt precluded from taking their official confessions. This was done by Father L'Arche, and many details, which had hitherto puzzled the authorities, were explained.
On the scaffold when Father Hugonard, with trembling hands, endeavoured to adjust the noose, John Stevenson said: "Pull it tight, Father; I don't want any mistake." Little wonder Father Hugonard was pale and shaken that morning.
Father Hugonard related this incident to my husband not long before he died, and a full account of it may be found in the issue of The Regina Leader of the date of the execution, in an article written by Nicholas Flood Davin. There is also an affidavit extant, taken by Father Hugonard, detailing his experience with the condemned men.
Father Hugonard is credited with having prevented Star Blanket, the troublesome Chief of the File Hills Indians, from taking the warpath during the 1885 Rebellion. Little Black Bear, the loyal Head Chief was dead and the leadership had fallen to Star Blanket, who brought his braves down to the Valley where they held war dances. The sound of their drums and the gleam: of their camp fires spread alarm among the settlers. Father Hugonard had been absent from the Mission but when he returned he girded up his soutane, and strode down the Valley to the teepee of the Chief. Star Blanket was insolent and defiant and, when reprimanded, had the temerity to place his hand on his knife and half draw it from the scabbard. Instantly the burly Priest seized the Indian by the throat, and choking him into submission, threw him among his wives, telling them to take the valiant warrior back to the Reserve. Indians apparently concluded that if the Chief had been vanquished by a "Black Robe", he was not the person to lead them to war, and dispersed to their homes.
Not long before he died, Father Hugonard was at the office of the late D. H. McDonald at Fort Qu'Appelle. After he had dispatched his business, Mr. McDonald said to him: "Father, you are not your usual cheery self today. Is there anything bothering you?" "Well," he replied, "you know my heart is here with my people." "What!" said Mr. McDonald, "you do not mean to tell me you are going away? Life in the Valley would not be right without you." "Yes," said Father Hugonard, rather sadly; and then straightening himself up, added: "I have got my marching orders and like a good soldier must obey."
Mr. McDonald was the son of the old Hudson's Bay Factor and his life had been spent in the Valley. He knew, none better, of the noble and self sacrificing work of the devoted priest. Most of the splendid old missionaries had passed on and out of the scene. Archbishop Tache and Monseigneur Langevin were gathered to their fathers and the destinies of the Church to which Father Hugonard belonged were controlled by a generation that "knew not Joseph".
'This incident was related to me by the late E. C. Stewart who was an official of the Indian Department at File Hills during the Rebellion. He had spent a lifetime in association with the Indians and was one of the best informed white men on their affairs in all the North West. They named him "Toto-sapwe" which in the Cree language means "milk" and the designation was meant to convey the impression of kindness.
Mr. McDonald said very earnestly: "Father, you do not wish to leave, do you?" "Well," replied the old man, "I am not complaining, but I had hoped to end my days in the Valley among the people who, I think, love me." Not long afterwards Mr. McDonald had as his guest Sir Clifford Sifton, who was there to enjoy some of the shooting for which the Qu'Appelle is famous. Before he left Mr. McDonald said to him: "Sir Clifford, I suppose you have some influence at Ottawa still." Sir Clifford replied: "Well, you know I have done with politics, but some members of the Government may be induced to pay a little attention to what I might say."
Mr. McDonald thereupon told him about Father Hugonard and his proposed removal. Sir Clifford made a note in his famous little black book, but there was no further discussion at the time. When certain matters connected with the Industrial School came up, the Dominion Government intimated its desire that Father Hugonard should be retained in charge.
And so at the last he was laid away among the people he had served so well, and in the lovely Valley that had been the scene of his labours for nearly half a century. When he fell ill, news of him was eagerly sought by the Indians from Muscowpetungs, Crooked Lakes, Touchwood, Moose Mountain and even as far away as Fort Pelly, and there were constant visitors. Chiefs and Head Men came to make ceremonial calls; former pupils, who had learned their religion and the ways of the white men at his hands, arrived for a last word of advice and encouragement; poor Indian women came with their tears to bespeak his parting benediction; high placed officials from the Prime Minister down sent messages of sympathy, and there was universal sorrow and regret at his death which took place in February, 1918.
In 1924, there was an Indian pageant and celebration at the Mission to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of Father Hugonard in the Valley, and to do honour to his memory. It was a beautiful day. Indians from the adjacent reserves in all their old time panoply were camped about the flats, and there was a large assemblage of white visitors. Amongst others the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Regina had arrived the previous evening, and passed the night at the Mission.
My husband and I were in the teepee of Pekutch, an old time Indian of the File Hills. The previous evening there had been a threat of rain. Pekutch, with the rather sardonic touch so characteristic of the Indians, said: "Last night some of our people went to the Mission and asked the Archbishop to pray for fine weather today. They think that is how they got it. But I fixed it. I knew that wherever Father Hugonard had gone, he was sure to have influence with those who control the weather, and if he knew about it, would arrange things so that we would have a fine day for our celebration. So, I just beat my drum to wake him up in the graveyard down by the little Church, and right away the rain clouds began to roll back from the edge of the Valley."