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“November 27th marks a dark day in the history of the Battlefords. It is the anniversary of the executions which took place at Battleford in 1885, which were also the largest mass execution in Canadian history.

Six nêhiyawak (Plains Cree) and two Assiniboine men were hung at Battleford and their bodies dumped into an unmarked grave that remained undiscovered until the 1970s when erosion on the riverbank exposed some of the remains.

The men were named:

Kah – Paypamahchukways (Wandering Spirit)
Pah Pah-Me-Kee-Sick (Walking the Sky)
Manchoose (Bad Arrow)
Kit-Ahwah-Ke-Ni (Miserable Man)
Nahpase (Iron Body)
A-Pis-Chas-Koos (Little Bear)
Itka (Crooked Leg)
Waywahnitch (Man Without Blood)

Some facts about the hangings at Battleford:

1. Judge Rouleau, the man who sentenced the eight men to die at Battleford, had his house in Battleford burned during the Resistance: The local newspaper at the time reported that Judge Rouleau: “is reported to have threatened that every Indian and Half-breed and rebel brought before him after the insurrection was suppressed, would be sent to the gallows if possible. In view of all the circumstances, and particularly as Judge Rouleau was a heavy loser pecuniarily by the Indian outbreak at Battleford, it is contended that he should not have been allowed to preside at the trial of the prisoners. A memorial has been received by the Department of Justice asking that the matter be investigated.”

2. Although the men spoke Cree – not English, none were provided with a translator at their trials.

3. Almost all of the historical writings about the hangings were written from the perspective of settlers. Blood Red the Sun and other narrative accounts paint the men as criminals. Barry Degenstein, local author of In Pursuit of Riel, as one relatively recent example, has continued to assert the men were “cold blooded murderers of innocent civilians.” (See: https://www.newsoptimist.ca/…/grave-not-that-of-heroes-and-…) It is important to remember that the North West Mounted Police (now Royal Canadian Mounted Police) played a major role in colonizing the region around the Battlefords and committed serious violent acts against Indigenous people here. The history of the Battle of Cut Knife Hill and other major events are primarily told in history books and other accounts from the perspective of the colonizers and settlers. (See also: Views from Fort Battleford: Constructed Visions of an Anglo-Canadian West https://archive.org/details/ViewsFromFtBattleford)

4. Hayter Reed, the Assistant Indian Commissioner in 1885, wanted a public execution. He asked the Lieutenant Governor to send any Indians who were sentenced to death during the second series of Regina trials so they could be executed with those sentenced to die in Battleford. He insisted that “the punishment be public as I am desirous of having the Indians witness it – no sound thrashing having been given them, I think a sight of this sort will cause them to meditate for many a day and besides have ocular demonstration of the fact.” This was echoed in the local newspaper. The Saskatchewan Herald’s P.G. Laurie understood the importance to the government of making the hangings a public spectacle. “We are not in favor of public executions as a rule,” wrote Laurie, “but we believe that in this instance it would have a wholesome influence on the Indians at large to have the extreme penalty of the law so carried out on those whom the court may find guilty.” Laurie viewed the hangings as a type of deterrence to further violence, arguing that the calm administration of punishment would impress the Native population more than further battlefield bloodshed. Laurie also agreed with the government that the executions should happen at the place of the capital trials, in Battleford. Laurie argued, “[I]f the Department of Justice will.. .permit the executions to be public, the sight will have such an effect upon the native beholders as will make them think twice before they again take up arms.” (See “A Lesson They Would Not Soon Forget” Chapter 3: https://drive.google.com/…/1yvqkd4LfbfO4YC5mWcQS0QfCPVEWNo_k)

5. The biography of Senator John Tootoosis notes at page 77 that among the witnesses at the hangings were “the Indian children from the Battleford Industrial School who had also been brought to see the eight men die. It was a part of their education that none of them would soon forget!”

6. One week prior to the hangings, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald wrote in a confidential letter to the Indian Commissioner: “The executions… ought to convince the Red Man that the White Man governs.”

7. Little Bear continued to assert that he was innocent until his death.

8. Loyal Til Death (a thoughtful account of the true history of this period by Blair Stonechild and Bill Waiser – https://www.amazon.ca/Loyal-Till-Death-North-West-Rebell…/…/) discusses the terrorizing effect the hangings had on Indigenous people in the region: “As for the Indians assembled in front of the gallows, they watched in quiet horror as the men dropped to their doom and then silently moved off once the bodies had been placed in the coffins. Nothing was said or done. They simply returned to their reserves, trying to put behind them the shock of the executions. But to this day, the executions have remained a numbing event, comparable to an old scar on the soul of a people. Elder Paul Chicken of the Sweetgrass reserve recalled how the Indians of the area lived in morbid fear of being picked up and tried before "Hanging Judge Rouleau.” Dressyman’s grandson, meanwhile, related how his reprieved grandfather and several other men were forced to watch the executions and threatened with a similar fate if there was any more trouble. “My grandfather was there, he saw them hung, he watched it all,” he recounted. “They didn’t like the hanging… the law overdone it.” Don Chastis, a descendent of one of the Cut Knife warriors, said that he often heard the Elders speak of the bravery of the condemned men, how they all sang on the platform in the face of death. He also speculated that the police refused to release the bodies for a traditional burial because the government did not want the men glorified as braves. “So they were forbidden to have anything to do with them. That’s why they buried them right there in a mass grave,” Chastis said. “It would have defeated the whole purpose of the hanging if they let these people [bodies] go.” The Battleford trials and executions accelerated the exodus of Indians to the relative safety of the United States.“ (At page 226-227 of Loyal Til Death.)

9. There are almost no artistic works or photographs that depict the hangings other than the attached illustration from "Loyal Til Death” by Blair Stonechild and Bill Waiser – https://www.amazon.ca/Loyal-Till-Death-North-West-Rebell…/…/

We remember the eight men who were executed at Battleford, and encourage people to consider the perspective of the historical accounts and begin working to decolonize the accounts of this history.

Is it time to consider exonerating or posthumously pardoning the eight warriors executed at Battleford?

(See: https://www.cbc.ca/…/pm-trudeau-exonerate-tsilhqotin-chiefs…)”

– from the Battleford Residential School Facebook page

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1974 Occupation of Anicinabe Park.

The year 1974 was seen by some as the turning point in the Red Power movement in Canada. One of the key events was the occupation of Anicinabe municipal Park in Kenora, Ontario, in July 1974. Louis Cameron from the nearby White Dog reserve organized a conference in the park, participants decided they needed to do more to assert their rights and make their demands heard. They were demanding better living conditions, education and access to land.
The July conference created an atmosphere to articulate other objectives including an end to police harassment in Kenora, better medical and dental services, cultural training for white police, creation of a local human rights committee, and appointment of First Nations justices of the peace. Ojibway Warrior Society Including dozens of young First Nations people from across the continent joined the protest in 1974.

One of the original protestors, Lorraine Major, said the people who were there with her should be remembered and honoured. “They had the guts to stand up for their rights. They had the guts to speak out against leadership.“

The occupation lasted 39 days, involving a stand-off between 100 First Nations participants and police. There were dozens of arrests but subsequent acquittals.

– Anthony Melting Tallow, November 18, 2018.

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“The Giant Ke’-lok hurling hot Rocks at Wek’-Wek,” from an original painting by C. J. Hittell, 1909. From The dawn of the world: myths and weird tales told by the Mewan Indians of California. Collected and edited by C. Hart Merriam. Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1910. pg.77.

Then his grandfather told him that Ke-lok was his elder brother.

“All right,” said Wek-wek, “I’m going to play al’-leh with my brother.”

Nowadays al’-leh is a guessing game, played with two small bones, one wrapped or dressed to distinguish it from the other. But in those days it was different, for al’-leh was played by hurling rocks with intent to kill.

After a while Wek-wek arrived at Ke-lok’s han-na-boo, and when Ke-lok came out, said to him, “Brother, I have come to play hand-game with you.”

“All right,” answered Ke-lok, and he at once built a fire and put eight round rocks in it and heated them until they were red hot. Then he said, “ My young brother, you begin first.”

“No,” replied Wek-wek, “I want to see you play first; you begin.”

“All right,” said Ke -lok, and he immediately sprang up and darted up into the sky, for he was great and powerful and could do all things. As he went up he made a loud noise. Then he came down in a zig-zag course, and as he came, sang a song.

Then Wek-wek began to throw hot rocks at him but purposely missed him, for he did not want to kill his brother. His grandfather O-let-te the Coyote-man, called out to him from the south that if he hit Ke-lok in his body it would not kill him, but that his heart (wus-ke) was in his arm, under a white spot on the underside of the arm, and that if he hit that spot it would kill him ; that was the only place on his body where a blow would kill him.

Wek-wek answered, “I can easily hit that, but I don’t want to kill him.”

So he threw all the hot stones but took care not to hit the white spot under the arm. When he had fired all the rocks he picked them up and put them back in the fire to heat again.

Then it was Ke-lok’s turn.

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“Iroquois Hear Chiefs Preach From Wampum,” The Globe and Mail. October 25, 1938. Page 03.

Teachings of Their Prophet, Handsome Lake, Proclaimed in Native Tongue; to Stage Great Feather Dance Today

150 Tribesmen Met

Ohawekan, Ont., Oct. 24 (CP). – Braves and squaws of the Iroquois Tribe that once ruled North America gathered today around long tables to hear tribal chieftains preach in native tongue from the ‘wampum,’ Indian bible based on teachings of the prophet, ‘Handsome Lake.’

The ceremony was part of the opening rites of the three-day convention at the Six Nations Reserve, conducted by Chief Fred Bonsberry and Chief C. Williams of the Senecas.

The convention has attracted Iroquois chiefs from parts of Canada and New York State, Chief Rodeye of Syracuse, noted Indian preacher, is expected tomorrow.

Following exhortations that sometimes last three yours, ceremonial dances are held. The daily powows end with distribution of corn cake and berry wine.

A highlight of tomorrow’s festivities will be the ‘great feather dance,’ one of the most sacred of Indian dances. Individual chants will be the feature of Wednesday’s program.

The convention closes with a peach stone betting game in which all kinds of articles, clothing and blankets are polled and ‘winner takes all.’

About 150 tribesmen are gathered for the festival, near Altkins Corners, three miles from here. The reserve is twenty miles from Brantford.

The main object of the festival is to give thanks to the Manitou or Great Spirit for plentiful crops.

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“Seventy kilometers north of Kenora, in Ontario’s Lake of the Woods region, among a series of rolling, densely forested hills between two lakes, is the Ojibway community of Grassy Narrows, or the Asubpeechoseewagong First Nation. It is home to about 1,000 people.

As you travel north towards it, the lakes and rivers are crowded with pleasure craft, tourists and sportsmen. The closer you get, however, the sparser the pleasure-seekers get – until eventually you find a Chernobyl stillness heavy among the trees.

Nobody wants to touch the waters around Grassy Narrows.

Between 1962 and 1970, the Reed Paper company dumped more than 9,000kg of mercury into the Wabigoon and English river systems here. Slowly, that mercury poisoned the waters, and made the walleye – the cornerstone of the local fishing-based economy and the staple food of the local First Nations people – unsafe to eat.

On 6 April 1970, shortly after detecting the spill, by then nearly a decade old, the Ontario provincial government closed the region’s fisheries and moved to cut off the source of mercury.

That date, 6 April, serves as a dividing line for the few surviving elders of Grassy Narrows today: a line between a growing, employed and prosperous traditional community, and an era of disease, government inaction, and Ojibway resistance.”

– Robert Jago, “The Warrior Society rises: how a mercury spill in Canada inspired a movement.” The Guardian, October 16, 2018.

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“Campers have for years parked their RVs at the Turtle Crossing campground along the Assiniboine River in Manitoba, without knowing that it’s situated on the site of unmarked graves of more than 50 Indigenous children who died at the Brandon Residential School.

But Anne Lindsay, a researcher and former archivist with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, has spent nearly 10 years looking for and trying to identify the bodies. So far, she has identified children ranging in age from 7 to 16, dating back to the early 1900s.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that more than 3,200 children in total died at residential schools, where more than 150,000 Indigenous children were sent from 1883 to 1998 as part of a program of forced assimilation.

According to the Commission’s report, child abuse was “institutionalized” at residential schools and the entire system represented an attempt at “cultural genocide.”

Among its 94 calls to action was one to determine how — and how many — children died at residential schools and to determine where they are buried.

But some say that, so far, all they’ve seen is apathy.

“We hear from residential school survivors who tell you of these things happening, of mass graves existing, and everybody always denies that those stories are true,” said Arlen Dumas, the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. “Well, here’s one example…there will be more.”

Lindsay found the unmarked graves by using an old, hand drawn map made by a former student of the Brandon Residential School.

Current campground proprietor Mark Kovatch, who is the third owner of Turtle Crossing, told CTV News that he had no idea his property held a burial ground. He said that he is co-operating with the City of Brandon and a local First Nation to uncover the grave site.

“Their preference was to repatriate the bodies up to the site of the old residential school and to try and have a memorial up there,” he said.

Harshly disciplined and poorly nourished, children at residential schools often died from illnesses such as tuberculosis, pneumonia or influenza. But others died from the hard labour they were forced to endure or died by suicide. Twelve children died after the Cross Lake school in Manitoba burned down in 1930.

“They operated equipment, which in the early 1900s was far less safe than farm equipment we know today,” Lindsay said. “They were also just physically run down from the amount of labour they were doing.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report said that “the failure to establish and enforce adequate standards, coupled with the failure to adequately fund the schools, resulted in unnecessarily high death rates at residential schools.”

The work of Lindsay and others in trying to identify the thousands of children who died at the schools is a difficult one, in part because governments and churches have not always been forthcoming with relevant documents or have provided documents in poor quality.

Compounding the problem is that school officials routinely failed to report the deaths to authorities, choosing instead to bury the children in unidentified cemeteries on school grounds rather than to send them home to their families. For nearly one-third of the deaths, no effort was made to record the name of the student who died. In even more cases, they did not record the cause of death.

A meeting is scheduled in September to discuss next steps. Dumas hopes that Indigenous families — long excluded from conversations surrounding the deaths of Indigenous children at residential schools — will be invited.”

– Zig Zag, “Unmarked graves of children from residential school found beneath Manitoba RV park.” Warrior Publications, September 1, 2018.

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“A 70-year-old grandmother has been ordered to serve seven days in
jail for blocking Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby, B.C. gates in opposition to
the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Laurie Embree, a resident of 108 Mile Ranch located more than 400
kilometres north of Burnaby, learned of her sentencing Tuesday. She’s
the first of nine activists facing jail time following their arrests in
June.

In her statement to the court before sentencing, Embree said there
have been “many times when our laws have supported injustices,”
including slavery, child labour and the apprehension of Indigenous
children.

“I truly believe that when we have laws that support injustices, it
is the duty of all good men and women to stand up and challenge those
laws,” she said, according to a press release.

Jean Swanson, an Order of Canada recipient and Vancouver City Council
candidate, was also arrested for blocking the gates of Kinder Morgan’s
Westridge Marine Terminal on June 30. She’s also facing up to seven days
in custody and $5,000 in fines.

“I think it’s an unjust project – not only unjust, but a dangerous project – that we’re trying to stop,” she told APTN News.
“It’s also a ridiculous expenditure of tax money to keep people who
aren’t violent or doing anything bad – who are actually doing something
good – in jail.”

Following opposition by the B.C. government and anti-pipeline
activists, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal
government would purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project
for $4.5 billion, a transaction due to be finalized this fall. That
doesn’t include the estimated $7.4 billion cost to twin the pipeline
from Edmonton to Burnaby.

Swanson said she would rather see the Trudeau government spend that
money on clean drinking water for reserves or invested in solar and wind
energy projects.”

– “Grandmother sentenced to seven days in jail for protesting Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.” APTN News,

July 31, 2018.

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