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History of Saskatchewan and The Old North West
By Norman Fergus Black


The outstanding fact impressed upon the author at every turn, in connection with the monumental task of collecting information for the following work, is that of the crying need in Saskatchewan of the services of a Provincial archivist. Week by week Old Timers are passing away, and with them is being lost information of incalculable historical value which no future expenditure, no matter how lavish, can possibly make good. Not only is there no provision yet made tu reduce to permanent form the unwritten reminiscences of those whose courage, enterprise and endurance laid the foundation of Saskatchewan's greatness; no systematic effort is being made even to collect, and preserve the actual documents now available. Many such papers have already been mislaid or destroyed through accidents or through ignorance of their value. For example, an account of the rebellion of 18S5, written by an Indian in Cree syllabic characters, has passed from hand to hand, apparently to become a children's plaything, at last, and but a short time ago, to be destroyed. Other valuable Ricl papers were burned by someone engaged in "tidying up" an old desk. Three or four thousand dollars per annum would suffice to make an invaluable beginning in the creation of a Department of Archives, and it is not to be believed that public opinion would not heartily endorse the necessary expenditure. The activity of some of the Western American States should arouse healthy emulation in this connection.

The author is conscious that in this, the first History of Saskatchewan, many matters have been given a relative prominence that some readers will think undue, and that other topics have been ignored or given but passing notice, which perhaps should have been treated of at length. The problem of selection is one of the most perplexing that has confronted the writer, and in so far as his decision is faulty, he can offer but the poor extenuation of mingled good intentions and inexperience.

The work has grown 011 the author's hands to a bulk far exceeding that originally projected, and it has proved necessary to eliminate whole Chapter
s for which materials had been gathered, and seriously to curtail many others. This elimination has occasioned the author the greater regret in that scores of obliging helpers have aided in collecting the materials he has at length felt compelled to reject. He hopes that these kind friends will accept his apologies, and not interpret the omission of their contributions as a failure to appreciate their value.

To liis hundreds of correspondents and other helpers, the writer desires to express his deep gratitude. He hopes that they may feel rewarded for their cooperation by a sense of valuable public service ungrudgingly performed. Special mention must be made of help rendered by ex-Lieutenant-Governors Laird, Dewdney, Mackintosh and Forget, and with their names must be coupled that of His Honor, Lieutenant-Governor Brown. The most generous assistance has also been afforded by many other distinguished public men, prominent among them being Chief Justice Haultain, Commissioner Perry, Colonel Steele, Lieutenant-Governor Bulyea, Bishop Pinkhain, Bishop Matthieu, Hon. Hillyard Mitchell and Rev. Dr. John MacLean.

Most intimately associated with the task of launching the present History have been the members of what may be called an informal Advisory Board, including Hon. James H. Ross, Arch. J. McDonald, M.L.A., lion. Thos. McKay, John.A. Reid, Fsq., William Trant, Esq., Sheriff L. B. Murphy, J. H. C. Willougbby, Esq., and Dr. J. M. Shaw. The importance of the aid rendered by several of these gentlemen it would be hard to exaggerate.

Acknowledgment is gratefully made of many services received at the •hands of Mr. John Hawkes, of the Saskatchewan Legislative Library, and Assistant Librarian Munro, who have spent many toilsome hours in unearthing historical data: and at the Parliamentary Library, Ottawa, the Ontario Legislative Library, the Public Reference Library, Toronto, the Manitoba Legislative Library, the Regina Public Library, and in other kindred institutions every aid and facility was placed at the author's disposal.

Space forbids any detailed list of the many others whose aid has rendered the writer's task a possible one; and it does not seem necessary to load these pages with the names of the hundreds of books to which he is more or less indebted. Many of the most important of these will be named when material borrowed therefrom is used. To one writer in particular, however, it has not always been practicable to express the author's indebtedness; this is Dr. Castell Hopkins, whose Annual Rcz'iczv has provided the ground-work of more than one Chapter

Acknowledgments are made to those authors and publishers by whose permission use has been made of a considerable number of the most valuable illustrations to be found in the succeeding pages. Such thanks are due to Mr. Lawrence Burpee, author of Scarch for the Western Sea, and to his publishers, the Alston Rivers Company, for permission to use portraits of Harmon and Henry, and pictures of Fort Saskatchewan and an Indian Encampment ; to Dr. Bryce, author of The Remarkable History of the Hudson's Bay Company, for permission to reproduce portraits of D'Iberville, Simpson and Selkirk; to Mr. Deckles Willson and Messrs. Copp, Clark & Co. for permission to borrow from his The Great Company the portraits of Prince Rupert and Radisson and a picture of a trader in an Indian camp; to Mr. Belden fur permission to borrow from the beautiful pages of Picturesque Canada pictures of Trappers on the March. A Prairie Caravan, Scene at a Portage, and Rapids Near the Mouth of the Saskatchewan; and to Mr. R. G. MacBeth and Messrs. Briggs and Company for the use of pictures of the Northwest Assembly of 1886 and the Interior of Fort Pitt, and of portraits of Archibald, Morris, Otter, Strange, Middleton, Williams and Crowfoot. Some other pictures have been used that have appeared elsewhere before, but which have been reproduced here from the same originals; others again either did not seem to be copyrighted or for the copyright of them the author was unable to find the owners. Xo one's rights have been consciously violated, and if any person find his rightful authority in this connection ignored the writer hopes that his profound apologies will be accepted.

A word as to accuracy: To secure it no labor or expense has been avoided. However, it has been said with truth that the only way to avoid misstatement is to maintain silence, and, unfortunately, this policy is not available to the historian. Consequently it cannot but be that errors will be found in the succeeding pages. These the author hopes will be reported to him to be rectified in possible future editions.

As Appendices to this History of Saskatchewan a large number of interesting and valuable biographical sketches have been prepared. In the preparation of these, however, the author of the History itself has had no share, and for this portion of the work he therefore disclaims both responsibility and credit. He knows, however, that the publishers have left 110 stone unturned to render these sketches trustworthy.

The writer has habitually endeavored to eliminate any undue personal element from his work, even to the extent, he fears, of rendering his account of the political history of the first decade of the present century a mere colorless chronicle. At all times he has earnestly endeavored to be fair. If his personal point of view, in cases in which he has revealed it, prove obnoxious to bigots and extremists of every party and sect, he will feel that he has succeeded; for the approval he covets is that of those who in religion and politics obey the ancient injunction to respect and study moderation in all things.

Norman Fergus Black.
April 30, 1913, Regina, Sask.


The original subscription edition of the author's History of Saskatchewan and the Old North-West was necessarily somewhat expensive; otherwise it could never have been published. With a view to reducing the expense of the second edition, the appendices, consisting of biographical sketches of prominent citizens of Saskatchewan of the present and past, have been omitted and certain changes have been introduced in connection with the binding. The main body of ibis popular edition is, however, identical with that of the history as it first appeared, being printed from the same plates.

In one connection the author owes to both the reader and himself a word of explanation and good-humored expostulation. The printers and publishers have upon the whole performed their duties most creditably, and it would be unreasonable to look for complete immunity from typographical blunders in the first plates of a book of over 250,000 words. Such slips would have been fewer, however, had not circumstances precluded the author from personal superintendence of the progress of his manuscript through its final stages in the hands of copyist and printer. In a few cases a word is inexplicably omitted or intruded, and in other passages, familiar but irrelevant words have been substituted for those intended by the author; as. "fired" for "prayed" (p. 365. 1. 12), "tribute" for "tribune" (p. 366. 1. 23), "Duck Lake" for "Frog Lake" (p. 349, I.12). In most or all cases the charity and ingenuity of the reader would lead him to recognize how the passage was intended to stand. Except in two instances probably no error occurs that could really prove misleading as to important matters of fact: on ]). 245 "the rising of i860 and 1879" should, of course, read "the rising of 1869 and'1870"; and in transcribing the manuscript for p. 268 the copyist has read 300 as 3c. in the passage treating of the number of Halfbreeds and Indians present at Duck Lake. Further errata of carrigenda seem uncalled for, as doubtless such lapses on the part of printer or copyist are more exasperating to the author than perplexing to the reader. lf genuine historical errors the author himself has doubtless been guilty, and he will welcome their being brought to his attention: but if he be held accountable for manifest nonsense, and syntactical or orthographical blunders, he will reply with a disclaimer framed upon that addressed by Macbeth to the accusing ghost of Banquo!

N. F. B.

Regina. 2067 Retallack St.,
November 1, 1913


Chapter I
Purpose and Plan of the Following Work

Chapter II
The Founding of British Interests in North Western America

Chapter III
Early Explorations and International Rivalry For Control of the West

Chapter IV
The Rival Fur Companies and Further Explorations in the West—1759-1821

Chapter V
Life and Customs of Prairie Traders and Hunters

Chapter VI
Saskatchewan Indians: Origin. Tribes and Modes of Life

Chapter VII
Indian Religion and Folklore

Chapter VIII
The First Settlement Colony in the Canadian West

Chapter IX
The Forgotten Commonwealth of "Manitoba," and Other Provisional Governments

Chapter X
The Surrender of the North West Territories by the Hudson's Day Company

Chapter XI
A Lesson Lost: The Troubles of 1870

Chapter XII
The First Settlements in Saskatchewan; Preliminary Outline of the Period 1870-1876

Chapter XIII
Political History of the Territories, 1870-1876

Chapter XIV
Unrest of Canadian Indians and Incursion of the Sioux

Chapter XV
Laird's Administration and Councils, 1876-1881

Chapter XVI
The Surrender of Saskatchewan by the Indians

Chapter XVII
The Building of the Canadian Pacific Railway

Chapter XVIII
Dewdney's Administration and Councils, 1881-1888

Chapter XIX
Discontent in the West and Premonitions of Rebellion

Chapter XX
The Outbreak of the Rebellion: Battle of Duck Lake

Chapter XXI
Frog Lake Massacre

Chapter XXII
Middleton's Plans: the Advance to the Seat of Insurrection

Chapter XXIII
The Battle of Fish Creek

Chapter XXIV
The Battle of Cut Knife Creek

Chapter XXV
The Capture of Batoche

Chapter XXVI
Middleton's Advance via Prince Albert to Battleford, and the Surrender of Poundmaker

Chapter XXVII
The Work of the Alberta Field Force, and the Close of the Campaign

Chapter XXVIII
Racial Aspects of the Rebellion of 1885

Chapter XXIX
Religious Aspects of the Rebellion of 1885

Chapter XXX
Life, Character and Fate of Riel

Chapter XXXI
Miscellaneous Rebellion Anecdotes

Chapter XXXII
Royal's Administration: Political History, 1888-1893

Chapter XXXIII
Royal's Administration: Social and Industrial Development

Chapter XXXIV
Mackintosh's Administration: Political History, 1893-1898

Chapter XXXV
Mackintosh's Administration: Social and Industrial Development

Chapter XXXVI
Cameron's Administration

Chapter XXXVII
Forget's Administration: Political History, 1898-1905

Forget's Administration: Social and Industrial Progress

Chapter XXXIX
The Agitation for Provincial Status

Chapter XL
The New Provincial Constitution

Chapter XLI
Forget's Administration: Political History, 1905-1910

Chapter XLII
Forget's Administration: Social and Industrial Development

Chapter XLIII
Colonization Companies and Analogous Enterprises: Anglo-Saxon Immigration

Chapter XLIV
Continental Immigration : North Western Europe

Chapter XLV
Immigration from South Eastern Europe

Chapter XLVI
The Catholic Church in Saskatchewan

Chapter XLVII
The Methodist Church in Saskatchewan

Chapter XLVIII
The English Church in Saskatchewan

Chapter XLIX
The Presbyterian Church in Saskatchewan

Chapter L
The Educational System of Saskatchewan

Chapter LI
The Royal North West Mounted Police

Chapter LII
Fraternal Societies in Saskatchewan

North-West Territory
Together with a preliminary and general report on the Assiniboine and Saskatchewan exploring expedition made under instructions from the provincial secretary of Canada by Henry Youle Hind, M. A., Professor of chemistry and geology in the university OF Trinity College, Toronto, in charge of the expedition (1859) (pdf)

The Great North-West
And the Great Lake Region of North America by Paul Fountain (1904) (pdf)

Return to our History of Saskatchewan Page

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