Buffalo slaughter left Indians in dire straits

Pg 13 A Peep into the Past Short Stories by Gordon and Bell Hall Vol II

After the last of the buffalo were slaughtered on the plains, the Indians (sic) were in dire straits for meat and hides – their main sustenance. In 1880 Chief Bullshead (sic) with his band descended upon the little outpost of Calgary. The natives were starving and had come to the village from Blackfoot Crossing to demand what they believed to be their rights. They argued that the white man not only had killed all the buffalo but had taken their country as well and left them to starve on their reservations. About 400 strong, they pitched camp in front of the I.G. Baker Trading Store and threatened to burn the place down if the food was not produced immediately. 

In the treaty of 1877, the Sarcees were granted land at the west end of the Blackfoot nation, they got along like cat and dog, due to the fact that they hated one another. Having notified the mounted police of their intention to quit their reserve in October 1880, they proceeded to strike camp and headed for the Little Fort on the Bow. Inspector Cropier of the mounted police in charge at Macleod, offered to feed them during the winter, explaining that there were no cattle available at Calgary. Bullshead responded that the Elbow district was their hunting ground and that they must have a reserve in that district to be happy. At the time of the Indians arriving in Calgary there were only two policemen occupying the fort, two traders, G.C. King, manager of the I.G. Baker store and Angus Fraser, manager of the Hudson’s Bay Co. Three ranchers lived in the district. John Glen on the Fish Creek, Sam Livingstone, and Mr. Votier up the Elbow. 

The Sarcees took advantage of the traders, they shot off their guns in the stores and threatened to burn down the buildings. G.C. King loaded on his wagon two sacks of flour to appease the Indians, but Bullshead took his knife and cut the sacks, letting the flour run on the ground. Of course, he was right as how could two sacks of flour appease the appetites of 400 Indians who were accustomed to eating 10 pounds of buffalo meat per day, per man. A messenger was sent to Fort Macleod police headquarters. No time was lost in sending relief and a Capt. Denny with a sergeant, eight men and two wagons loaded with supplies made the trip back in two days. The natives still declined to go to Fort Macleod for the winter and after three days of parleying, Capt. Denny decided to put on a bold front. Denny told Bullshead that if his tents were not down at a certain time they would be pulled down. The order was not obeyed, so Denny with 13 men, who with loaded rifles, commenced pulling down tents. The natives swarmed out like bees but when confronted by armed police, proceeded to leave. 

During the winter of 1880 and 1881, they were fed at Fort Macleod. They got their reserve on the Elbow in 1883. By this date, the Cochrane Ranche had a large herd of cattle at Cochrane and supplied the reserve with beef through a government contract. 

Deep Dive

Leave a comment

want more details?

Fill in your details and we'll be in touch