In 1876 he refused to sign Treaty No 6 and maintained that position until 8 December 1882, when with the last buffalo gone, starvation was a reality. He wanted to take a reservation near Fort Pitt, but when he saw the poverty of his friends there, he worked to wring further concessions from the federal government.
In an attempt to unite the Northern Cree, several meetings were held at Battleford, the largest in 1884 when over 2000 Natives joined in Big Bear's thirst dance at Poundmaker's reserve. The event nearly erupted into violence but, through the efforts of the North-West Mounted Police and Big Bear, peace was maintained.
As a result of the federal government's refusal to negotiate with Big Bear, he lost the support of his more extreme followers. By 1885 they had become dominant and, led by Little Bad Man (Ayimisis) and Wandering Spirit (Kapapamahchakwew), they killed 9 whites at Frog Lake, burned Fort Pitt, and were defeated at Loon Lake.
Big Bear, in the background at these events and always counselling peace, surrendered at Fort Carlton on 2 July 1885. He was tried for treason-felony, found guilty and sentenced to a 3-year sentence at the Stony Mountain Penitentiary. A broken, sick man, Big Bear only served 2 years of the term and was released on 4 March 1887.
See also NORTH-WEST REBELLION.
Author FRITS PANNEKOEK
Links to Other Sites
Fort Battleford National Historic Site
This Parks Canada site commemorates the 1876 North West Mounted Police headquarters in Battleford, Saskatchewan. Includes detailed notes about Big Bear, Poundmaker, the Cree, Sir Frederick Dobson Middleton, North-West Rebellion, the Battle of Cut Knife, and related topics.
An extensive biography of Edgar Dewdney, civil engineer, contractor, politician, office holder, and lieutenant governor. Provides details about his involvement with Indian and Métis communities in the North-West Territories, the settlement of the West, the construction of the transcontinental railway, and related events. From the “Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.”
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
Click on the brief profiles of "extraordinary Canadians" and the authors who wrote about them in this Penguin Group (Canada) series. Also includes bios of artists who created the cover art for each book.
View brief videos from a television series profiling some of Canada's most distinguished Canadians. Click on "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page to see additional videos.