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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
Chapter XIII - Political History of the Territories, 1870-1876


Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba Given the Administration of the Territory—Butler's Report—Archibald's Successors—Superintendents General of Indian Affairs—Ignorance of Canadian Statesmen Regarding the West—North West Council, 1873— First Speech from the Throne—First Legislation and Recommendations of North West Council—Remonstrances Regarding Inefficient Administration of Justice and Delay in Ratification of Indian Treaties—Cypress Hills Massacre—Lieutenant-Governor Morris' Review of the Work of the Old North West Council—North West Territories Act of 1S75—Provision-Relating to Separate Schools—Failure to Provide for Representation 1st Parliament—Proclamation of October 7, 1876.

On the 30th day of July, 1870, there was transmitted from the Governor-General to the Honorable Adams G. Archibald, Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Manitoba, a commission appointing him also Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories. Five days later, detailed instructions were issued informing Mr. Archibald of the duties he was expected to perform. These were to include, among other things, the perfecting of plans for the establishment for the friendliest possible relations between the Dominion Government and the Indian tribes, and reports upon such lands in the Territories as it might be desirable to open up at once for settlement. The Lieutenant-Governor presently issued to Captain W. F. Butler, F. R. G. S., the well-known soldier, traveller, explorer and author to whom references were made in the preceding chapter, a commission instructing him to make an extended tour of the North West with a view to collecting information of value to the authorities. On returning from this journey of 2,700 miles, Captain Butler submitted a lengthy report which now constitutes an historical document of the very greatest value. To it the present writer is indebted for much of his information regarding conditions at this time.

Archibald's regime ended in 1872. For a few months the position of Lieutenant-Governor was held by Mr. Francis G. Johnson. On December 2nd of the same year, Lieutenant-Governor Morris assumed the reins, which he held until the inauguration of the North West Council, with the Honorable David Laird as resident Lieutenant-Governor of the Territories, October, 1876.

In view of the importance of Indian affairs during this epoch, it may be well to mention the Superintendents General of this department. The Honorable Mr. Howe held the office from 1872 to 1873. Mr. Gibbs succeeded him in June of that year, but on the first of the following month he gave place to Air. Campbell, and he. four months later, to Mr. Laird. The services performed by the last named gentleman were of the highest value to the people of Canada and to the Indians and western settlers in particular. The office of Indian Commissioner for the North West was for a time held by Mr. Wemyss Simpson, who was succeeded in 1872 by Mr. J. A. N. Provencher.

During the session of the Dominion House in 1871, the Government was interpolated by Donald A. Smith, member for Selkirk (now more familiarly known as Lord Strathcona), as to the steps it intended to take for the regulation of trade in the Territories and for the control of the traffic in intoxicating liquors. However, very few Canadian statesmen really knew anything about western conditions and it was not until the following year that any provision was made for the establishment of a real government in the far West.

A curious illustration of the extraordinary uncertainty regarding the West and how it was to be governed occurred a couple of months after the arrival of Air. Archibald and upon his assumption of duties as Lieutenant-Governor of the North West Territories. The Act of June 22, 1869, entitled "An Act for the temporary Government of Rupert's Land, and the North Western Territory when united with Canada" authorized the Governor-General in Council to appoint a North West Council of seven to fifteen members. This arrangement, as regards the Territories proper, was left undisturbed by the Act defining the provincial constitution of Manitoba. When confronted by a smallpox epidemic in his distant territories, the new Lieutenant-Governor felt the necessity of the immediate creation of a. North West Council to deal with Territorial interests. Astonishing to relate, he had no copy of the Rupert's Land Act of 1869 in his possession, and indeed there was none in the Colony! Now, As Archibald's memory played him the scurvy trick of deluding him into the belief that the appointment of the Council lay in his own hands. Consequently, on October 21, 1870, he appointed the Honorable Francis G. Johnson. Ex-Governor of Assiniboia; Donald A. Smith, Chief resident Executive Officer of the Hudson's Cay Company; and Pascal Breland. a leading French Halfbreed. They were sworn in the following day and promptly entered upon their supposed duties. The most urgent of these had to do with the passing of Ordinances for the suppression of smallpox and of illicit sale of intoxicants in the Territories. Whether valid or not from a legal standpoint this pseudo-legislation had all the force and effect of law in the Territories. Air. Archibald promptly reported these transactions to the Secretary of State for the Provinces, who in reply called his attention to the provisions of the Act of 1869 bearing on the constitution of the Council. Air. Archibald's explanation of the part he had played in this amusing political burlesque reads in part as follows:

"Unfortunately, though I had been in the province from September 3rd, nearly eight weeks, my books and paper despatched from Ottawa on August 6th bad never reached this place, and in all Alanitoba not a single copy of the Acts of 1869 to be found.

"I had but a vague recollection of the terms of the Rupert's Land Act, but I assumed that substantially it would be the same as the Alanitoba Act so far as my power of appointment was concerned. Judge Johnson, with whom I conferred, could not add to my information. Air. Donald A. Smith, who was the Commissioner of the Government of Canada during the time the Act was applicable to the whole North West, could give 110 particulars. Accordingly, I did the best I could in the emergency."

A long time elapsed before any properly constituted Council was created. On December 9, 1870, Air. Archibald submitted to tbe Federal Government the names of ten gentlemen suitable for appointment, and on November 23. 1871, he sent in additional names. On December 28th of the following year the Canada Gazette announced at last the appointment of the North West Council to which eleven members were named. In the meantime Lieutenant-Governor Archibald had retired from office, so the first legally constituted North West Council was organized under the presidency of Lieutenant-Governor Morris.

At the first meeting of this body, March 8, 1S73, the Honorable Messrs. Girard. H. J. Clark, D. A. Smith, Pascal Breland. Alfred Boyd, Jos. Dubuc. and A. G. B. Bannatyne assembled. Other members of the Council were Messrs. John Schultz, William Fraser, Robert Hamilton and William J. Christie. The last named gentleman was the Hudson Bay Company's chief factor from Fort Simpson. To attend the Council a journey of two thousand miles by dog train was necessary, requiring almost two months of actual travel.

The special feature of the first meeting was the following interesting address to the Council delivered by Lieutenant-Governor Morris:

"Honourable gentlemen of the Council of the North West, I have much pleasure in calling you around me to assist me in the administration of the affairs of the North West Territories. The duties which devolve upon you are of a highly important character. A country of vast extent which is in possession of abundant resources is entrusted to your keeping; a country, which though as yet but sparsely settled, is destined. I believe, to become the home of thousands of persons, by means of whose industry and energy that which is now almost a wilderness will he quickly transformed into a fruitful land, where civilization and the arts ol peace will flourish. It is for us to labour to the utmost of our power, in order to bring- about, as speedily as possible, the settlement of the North West Territories and the development and maintenance of peace and order, and the welfare and happiness of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects resident in the Territories. The scope and nature of your authority are set forth in the Act of the Dominion Parliament where the formation of this Council is authorised, and in the Order of the Governor General in Council, copies of which will be laid before you.

"Among other matters which should claim your immediate attention will be the taking of means for ascertaining in what portions of the North West Territories settlements have been formed, and suggesting to the Dominion Government the propriety of surveying and dealing with the lands in those districts. It will also be advisable to ascertain the numbers of the various native tribes, with the localities in which they reside, and to suggest measures for concluding satisfactory treaties with them. Means must be devised for the proper administration of Justice, the prevention of trade in intoxicating liquors, and the vigorous assertion of the law in all eases of crime and disorder.

"I will also take your counsel as to the most appropriate locality in which the band of Sioux now resident in Manitoba should be placed for permanent residence.

"1 now invite you to enter upon the duties of your office, well assured, as I am, of your sincere desire to assist me loyally and faithfully in the administration of the affairs of the North West and in the development of that mighty region whose future I believe to be so full of promise."

The powers of this Council were narrowly circumscribed, but it passed much important legislation and made many valuable recommendations to the Dominion authorities. An invitation was extended to the new Governor-General to visit the West. The appointment of Stipendary Magistrates, Justices of the Peace, and a resident Judge, was recommended. The use of poison by the settlers was prohibited, and attempts were made to prevent the traffic in intoxicating liquors, the ordinance of Lieutenant-Governor Archibald and his still-born Council of 1870 being re-enacted. A resolution looking to the establishment of the North West Mounted Police was also carried.

When the Council met again in September, the Dominion Government had passed acts dealing with the creation of a police force and administration of justice in the North West, but, to the chagrin of the Council it had not given effect to its act with reference to the appointment of Justices of the Peace. The Council again, therefore, directed the attention of the Government to this matter, and petitioned for a still larger military force. They commented upon gross outrages committed upon the native population and Her Majesty's subjects generally by American desperadoes in the Territories,

and upon murders committed by Indians and halfbreeds, which had been allowed to go unpunished because there were no means at band to enforce the law.

Much of the time of the Council was devoted to debates and resolutions upon the urgent necessity of the consummation of treaties with the Indians. Repeated representations in this connection were necessary before the wise advice of the Western officials was acted upon by the Dominion authorities. Indeed in this and other connections the Council found it necessary time and again to protest in the most vigorous language against the dilatory proceedings of the Ottawa authorities. A typical resolution in this regard closes as follows:

"Sensible as they are of the great importance of the duties which they are called upon to perform, and earnestly desirous as they arc to discharge those duties loyally and efficiently, the Council feel that they will be unable to do so if matters which they believe to be of urgent importance, and which they have taken occasion to represent as such, be permitted to remain altogether unnoticed for a period of months. They therefore deem it their duty most respectfully to call the attention of His Excellency in Council to this important subject."

Such protests occur continually throughout the minutes of the Council. Still another may be quoted:

"That this Council deeply regret that the Envy Council has not been pleased to communicate their approval or disapproval of the legislation and many resolutions adopted by Council at their meetings held on the 4th, 8th, nth and 13th September, 1873, March 11th. 12th, 14th, 16th, 1874. and June 1st and 2nd, 1874, and they respectfully represent that such long delay has paralyzed the action of the Council."

The Council was also seriously hampered by entire lack of funds, a circumstance which it is hard to recall without mingled amusement and indignation.

Among the important resolutions in 1873 was one calling attention to the fact that there was at present no public provision for postal communication in the North West Territories. In another interesting and suggestive resolution the thanks of the Council were voted to the Rev. Mr. McKay of Stanley Mission for translating, printing and publishing in the Cree language certain Manitoba Ordinances, the provisions of which had been extended to the North West Territories.

[In introducing the North West Territories Act of 1875 Premier Mackenzie stated that the Government had ascertained from the most authentic sources that within the preceding year and a half there had been nearly one hundred and fifty murders committed in the North West Territories, chiefly in lights between Indians and American traders—for which no person had been brought to trial.]

On May 3. 1873, provision was made for raising the maximum number of Councillors from fifteen lo twenty-two and on October 22, 1873, the names of the Honorable Messrs. Joseph Royal, Pierre Delorme, Walter R. Brown, James McKay and William X. Kenney were added to the roll of the North West Council. Serious attention was given during Ibis session to the Cypress Hills massacre and "the danger of an Indian war and of international complications which might embroil at any moment the British and American people."

It is of course impossible to report here in any detail the various proceedings of this industrious and intelligent group of Western Councillors. Perhaps the best way to review their work will be by reproducing an address delivered by the Lieutenant-Governor in the Council's last session, 1875.

The Lieutenant-Governor referred to his speech when Council first met after its formation (March 8, 1873), and continued as follows:

"I think this is a fitting occasion to review the work the Council has accomplished, and to place on record the result of its legislation and of its suggestions. The present Council are now only acting provisionally and a new Council is to be organized, partly nominated by the Crown, and partly elected by the people, with a view to exercising its functions under the presidency of a resident Governor within the Territories themselves. I am confident the Council will take up the work you began and have so zealously endeavoured to carry out, and I trust that they will prove successful in their efforts to develop the Territories and attract to them a large population.

"Though yon had many difficulties to contend with, yon surmounted most of them, and will have the gratification of knowing that you in a large measure contributed to shape the policy which will prevail in the Government of the Territories and the administration of its affairs.

"At your first meeting you passed an Act to prohibit, under certain restrictions, the importation of spirituous liquors into the Territories, and the Parliament of the Dominion has since adopted your views, and given effect to them by the passing of a law of similar import to that you framed. 1 am glad to say this measure has proved effective and will, I believe, contribute largely to the promotion of the well-being of the population of the Territories, and to the prevention of disorder and crime.

"You also made provision for the appointment of Justices of the Peace, and in connection therewith you represented to the Government of the Dominion that certain legislation, effective elsewhere, should be extended to the Territories, and that a Mounted Police force under military discipline should be established in the Territories for the maintenance of order therein, and the enforcement of the laws. You have had the satisfaction of seeing these suggestions adopted, and of knowing that the Police Force which yon proposed has proved, and is proving, of the greatest service in the Territories.

"Such were some of the results of your first meeting, and your subsequent sessions were not unproductive of good. I will only mention generally some of the more important subjects you dealt with.

"You were and are of opinion that the Militia battalion should be maintained and should be so increased that an effective force should be available in the Territories.

"You proposed that treaties should be made with the Indians of the plains, at Forts Carlton, Pitt and Qu'Appelle. and you suggested that schools should be provided for, that agricultural implements and cattle should be given to the Indians, and that teachers should be furnished to teach them the arts of agriculture.

"You have seen a treaty concluded at Qu'Appelle, and I am glad to inform you that treaties will be made next year at the other (joints indicated.

"You urged that Stipendiary Magistrates should be appointed, resident in various portions of the territory, clothed with powers to deal with certain classes of criminal offences, and also with a limited jurisdiction as regards civil cases, and that a resident Judge, with Queen's Pench powers, should be appointed to deal with graver matters, with an appeal to the Court of Queen's Pench in the Province of Manitoba, in certain cases.

"Your recommendation as to Magistrates has been adopted by the Dominion, and though power has been given to Judges of the Manitoba Courts in the Territories, this can only be regarded as a provisional measure, so that I doubt not your proposal will be eventually carried into effect.

"You called attention to the necessity of steps being taken to punish the actors in the Cypress Hills tragedy and your recommendation has been acted upon by the Privy Council with the best effect as regards the Indian population.

"You proposed that a monthly mail should be established between Fort Garry and Fort Edmonton for the convenience of the public, and it is to be hoped that the private mail now carried for the use of the police and the Pacific Railway service may prove the precursor of a much-needed boon to the people of the North West.

"You urged that measures should be adopted to collect duties in the region of the West known as the Belly and Bow River country, and your representations were complied with.

"You passed laws for the appointment of Coroners, for caring for orphan children, for regulating the relations of Masters and Servants, for the prohibition of the importation of poisons in the territories, and of their use in hunting game.

"You asked that the existing highways, portages and watering places in the Territories should be set apart for public use. and that as soon as treaties with the Indians were completed surveys should be taken, and some of these subjects have been dealt with by the Privy Council, but others still remain for their action.

"Such then is a brief review of the work yon have accomplished, and I need scarcely tell you that you have reason to be well satisfied with the results of your executive and legislative action, for during your regime, most important steps have been taken towards the establishment of law and order in the Territories, and towards the creation of respect among the people for the authority of the Crown.

"The foundation has now been laid for peace, security and the advancement of the settlement of the vast region you have ruled over, and for the securing of the good-will of the Indian tribes, and I can only express my confident trust that those who follow you will rear wisely and well a noble superstructure on the basis that you have established.

"1 will now, in conclusion, ask you to enter upon the ordinary work of the session, and will suggest that you should, before you separately down some mode of dealing with a subject which is of the utmost importance, as respects the relation of the Government of the Queen with the Indian tribes and as regards their means of livelihood, while they are passing through the transition process of being prepared to earn a living from the soil. I mean the regulation of the buffalo hunt in such a way as to prolong the subsistence afforded to the native tribes by the wild cattle of the North West, and thus to give time for their gradual civilization and accustomment to practise the arts of agriculture. 1 would also suggest that you should adopt measures to prevent the spread of prairie and forest fires.

"You will now proceed to the discharge of your duties, and I am confident that harmony will prevail amongst you, and that you will exhibit the same desire to advance the best interests of the Dominion which has hitherto actuated you."

The hopes and plans of the Governor with regard to this last session were amply fulfilled.

In 1875 the Honorable Alexander Mackenzie introduced in live Parliament of Canada, and passed, his North West Territories Act under which the affairs of the Territories were conducted for the next thirteen years. This Act separated the office of Lieutenant-Governor of the Territories from that of Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba and provided for an appointed Council to consist at first of five members. The Governor-General in Council was given authority to authorize the Lieutenant-Governor by and with the consent of his own Council to make provisions for the administration of justice, and the framing of ordinances on many matters of local concern. When any portion of the Territories not exceeding one thousand square miles in area should contain at least a thousand adult white British subjects, the Lieutenant-Governor was by proclamation to erect such a district into an electoral division, and should the population of the district increase to two thousand, it would be entitled to elect a second representative to the North West Council. At such time as the elective members would be twenty-one in number the then existing Council would cease and determine, and the elected members would constitute the first Legislative Assembly of the North West Territories. Elective members were to hold office for two years.

Clause ii of the Act related to schools, and as its provisions subsequently proved the cause of much debate and agitation, the reader will be interested in examining it:

"When and so soon as any system of taxation shall be adopted in any district or portion of the North West Territories, the Lieutenant-Governor, by and with the consent of the Council or Assembly, as the case may be. shall pass all necessary ordinances in respect to education; but it shall therein be always provided that a majority of the rate-payers of any district or portion of the North West Territories, and any lesser portion or subdivision thereof, by whatever name the same may be known, may establish such schools therein as they may think fit, and make the necessary assessment and collection of rates therefor; and further, that the minority of the rate-payers herein, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, may establish separate schools therein, and that, in such latter case, the rate-payers establishing such Protestant or Roman Catholic separate schools shall be liable only to assessments of such rates as they may impose upon themselves in respect thereto."

An important omission from the new Territorial Constitution was that of any provision for representation in the Dominion Parliament.

On the 7th of October, 1876, the North West Territories Act was brought into force by proclamation. With this event the era to which Part II of our History is devoted came to an end. Before leaving it, however, it will be our duty to discuss in some detail the Indian situation and certain important events associated therewith.


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