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The Northwest Rebellion – An Excerpt from Cecil Denny’s 1905 ‘Riders of the Plains’

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXIX – Treaty Indians Making Progress.


Chapter XXX


IT IS NOT MY INTENTION to write a history of the outbreak among the halfbreeds and Indians in the Northwest during the year 1885, the subject has been written on hundreds of times already, and little is left to record. I will only give a short outline of the beginning of the trouble in the vicinity of Battleford in the spring of that year, and the part taken in it by the Mounted Police. Much was said derogatory to this force after the rebellion was put down, not one word of which was true, as their efficiency and conduct during the time of this uprising, (in which they took the most active and arduous part) was exemplary.

As I have shown in previous chapters, for some years past matters had been going on badly among the Indians. What with cutting down the rations and settlers coming into the country, and bad advice given them by the hundreds of dissatisfied halfbreeds who principally lived near and in the Crees residing on, or off, their reservations in that section, to come sooner or later, and did arrive in 1885. Many halfbreeds who were in the Red River rebellion under Riel, lived in the north, and their old leader who had only a year or two previously been pardoned and allowed to return to Canada by the Dominion government, had rejoined them and was again the leader in a revolt, comprising nearly all the Crees residing on, or off, their reservations in that section. The Blackfeet and other plain Indian tribes, who heretofore had always been at war with the Crees, and had more than held their own against them, keeping them from the plains altogether, had at the instance of the whites made peace with their old enemies and perfectly well knew what was about to take place in the north, but although much pressed by the Crees had not yet made up their minds to join them, having still a deep rooted enmity towards those northern tribes.

The Blackfeet in the spring of 1885 were far from being settled, and a very little would have caused them also to break out, in which case a clean sweep would have been made of the thousands of head of stock on the plains, and the unprotected settlements would have been wiped out. The expense and loss of life to subdue the plain Indians had they followed those of the north, would have far exceeded that incurred (great as it was) to suppress the rebellion that did occur, and great anxiety was shown by the Canadian government and also in all western settlements as to the action the plain Indians would take.

In the north during the previous year many meetings were held by Riel, his audiences being half breeds and Indians who had, or fancied they had, grievances. These meetings were reported by Superintendent Crozier in command of the police at Battleford, who states, “I have already reported that I believe the Indians sympathise with the half breeds, nor could anything else be expected, being close blood relations and speaking the same language, what may be the result of this half breed agitation, or what result it may have on the Indians, of course I cannot foretell.” In August 1884, Sergeant Brooks at Prince Albert, reported a meeting held by Riel together with Big Bear, and again a meeting held by Indians at Duck Lake. Sergeant Keenan at Duck Lake, again reported in August and September, meetings held by Riel and other dissatisfied half breeds and Indians, and Sergeant Keenan stated that at a meeting held September 1st, at which Riel, Jackson, Scott, and Isbister, three of Riel’s strongest supporters, were present, speeches were made condemning the government, and Jackson stated that the country belonged to the Indians and not to the Dominion of Canada. These reports were all forwarded by the Commissioner to Ottawa, together with many from the superintendent in command in the north, showing that he looked upon matters as serious, but still the government until an actual outbreak took place, seemed to give no credence to them, either through ignorance or incapacity of their officials, such as was shown the year previous in dealing with the Indians in the west.

The number of police stationed in the north, and divided up between Battleford, Carleton, Prince Albert and Fort Pitt, in the spring of 1885, was only 200 of all ranks, and they were continually on the watch for what was going on, reporting the same. Superintendent Gagnon reported in December 1884 that the half breeds had held a large meeting at Batoche, and forwarded petitions to Ottawa, and that they were trying to induce Riel to remain among them, offering him a well furnished house to live in.

Superintendent Crozier reported in January 1885 that Little Pine, the Cree chief, had held a large meeting at Duck Lake, and that this chief had tried to induce a number of Blackfeet to join him and move northward in the spring. Matters went on about the same until towards the end of February (in fact quieting down if anything) when Riel caused a report to be circulated that he had been required by the government to leave the country, at the same time getting up a meeting himself to discuss the question, at which meeting he was pressed to remain.

Reports then came thick and fast of the uneasiness of both Indians and half breeds, of their intention to prevent supplies coming into the country, and March 13, Superintendent Crozier telegraphed the commissioner at Regina:

         “Half breed rebellion liable to break out any moment. Troops must be largely reinforced. If half breeds rise, Indians will join them.”

This message was sent to Ottawa at once, together with the recommendation of an increase of force being sent at once.

The commissioner left Regina Mar. 18th with all the men he could muster, consisting of four officers and eighty-six N.C. officers and men. Word was received by him March 19th that the half breeds had seized the Indian department stories at the South branch of the Saskatchewan, and held the Indian agent, Mr. Lash, prisoner, also committing other depredations.

No time was lost by the commissioner and party on the road, forty-three miles being the first day’s journey and the rest of the days in proportion. The time taken to reach Prince Albert was seven days from Regina, the distance being about 290 miles, and this in the coldest weather, through deep snow, so the hardships were very great.

On the road a second telegram was received form Superintendent Crozier, as follows:

         “Beardy’s Indians joined the rebels this afternoon. The wire is cut, the rebels are assembled on south side of river. Prisoners are held in Roman Catholic church about a quarter of a mile up stream from crossing. All of One Arrow’s band of Crees joined them this afternoon. Many of Beardy’s also joined them. The remainder of Beardy’s will probably follow tomorrow. The number of rebels assembled this afternoon is estimated at from 200 to 400 men. They rapidly increase in numbers. My impression is that many Indian bands will rise. The plan at present is to seize any troops coming into the country at the South Branch, then march on Carleton, then on Prince Albert.”

At Prince Albert the commissioner raised volunteers and with his additional force of twenty five men proceeded towards Carelton, the scene of operations, where Superintendent Crozier had his head quarters.

March 26, when within nine mines of Carleton, the following despatch was received from Superintendent Gagnon:

“Superintendent Crozier with 100 men started on Duck Lake road to help one of our Sergeants and a small party in difficulties at Mitchell’s store. I have seventy men and can hold out against odds. Do not expect Crozier to push on further than Duck lake. All is quiet here.”

When the commissioner’s party were close to Carleton another despatch was received to the effect that Major Crozier had come into collision with the rebels, and had lost some men killed, and was retreating on Carleton.

And when the commissioner and party arrived Superintendent Crozier and party, with the killed and wounded, had just got in, together with the party of volunteers he had with him.

Superintendent Crozier had that morning despatched Sergeant Stewart and seventeen men with P. McKay of Prince Albert as guide, to bring in some police provisions and ammunition that were at the store of a trader named Mitchell at Duck Lake. They were met near that place by a large number of armed half breeds and Indians, who behaved in a very overbearing manner, demanding the surrender of the party or they would fire into the. This was refused, and Mr. McKay informed the rebels that their fire would be returned should they commence. The police pluckily held them off, retiring towards Carleton, to which place a man had been sent to notify Sergeant Crozier, who with all the men he could spare, about 100 civilians and volunteers included, at once went out to the scene of action, meeting the other party on their way in. He then proceeded towards Duck Lake to get the stores that the first party failed to secure. They met the half breeds and Indians at about the same place that they were first seen, but their force was much augmented, and they had sheltered themselves behind strong natural cover. Superintendent Crozier posted his men to the best advantage but was much outnumbered. The principal cover being the sleighs, and the snow being deep and crusted, quick movements were impossible. Superintendent Crozier states as follows: “I consider that the line extended to our right prevented the revels surrounding us. There we sustained the heaviest loss, because concealed from view to the right of the road, on which we approached, were two houses in which were posted a large number of rebels, and from whence they poured upon us a fierce fire. From this point they tried to gain and were working upon our right rear, the deep crusted snow however impeded their movements, thereby preventing them from accomplishing their purpose before the termination of the engagement.

         “The engagement last about thirty minutes, and though the rebels were on their own ground, entrenched in ambush with the advantage of a commanding position, ready and waiting for us, we drove back their right, and had we been opposed by them on our right on anything like an equality, we could have done the same on their left, but there we had to contend against the enemy in houses and in ambush. The right of my line did prevent the enemy gaining our rear’ they attempted it at the cost of their lives, and they could do no more. Both the police and volunteers who composed by little escort behaved superbly. Their bravery and coolness under a murderous fire was simply astonishing.

         “The enemy were in ambush, behind splendid cover, while we were exposed, yet not a man shirked or even faltered until the order was given to retire, and then they moved off quietly.”

Nine of the Prince Albert volunteers were killed in this first engagement, and five badly wounded, while three police were killed and six wounded. Superintendent Crozier states of the loss to the volunteers, as follows: “The Prince Albert volunteers lost more heavily than the police, because several of them happened to be extended on the right of our line where they were more exposed to the fire of the enemy in ambush and in the houses.

         “The gun did good service and no men could have worked better than the gunners did that day under conditions that would have tried soldiers, however well disciplined. I did not think when the line extended, there was a house on our right, and that the enemy were ambushed about it in large numbers, so that I did not purposely expose one part of the line to fire more than another. The sleighs I threw out for no other purpose than for cover, and they were taken advantage of as such, by the volunteers and police indiscriminately, and if unkind or unfeeling remarks have been made, it was not by any of those who fought so gallantly together and received, without flinching, as hot a fire as men were ever exposed to. The strongest feeling of friendship exists between the Prince Albert volunteers and the Mounted Police, because all who were present that day, knew that no man shirked his duty, or shrank from danger, but that each unflinchingly and bravely took his chances and did his work. Though unsuccessful in getting possession of the stores, I considered that one consequence of my action was to force the rebels to give up for the time the attack on Ft. Carleton, which they had meditated and would otherwise have made on the night of March 26, and prevented the bloodshed that must have occurred.

         “Before concluding the report, I may repeat that it was the rebels who attacked me and began the action. They had their disposition most skillfully made and nearly succeeded in cutting off my command, which they would have done but for the steady valour and good discipline of the men under me, on which I justly relied before setting out.”

I have mentioned this engagement with different extracts from police reports, as it was the first that occurred in the rebellion of 1885, it was also as far as severity goes, much the hottest engagement that occurred through the whole summer, taking into consideration the few engagements and the great odds to contend with. The police, in whatever action they were in, either acting alone or in conjunction with the militia, showed the same courage throughout, doing in fact most of the hard work, such as scouting, etc. As I have before mentioned, jealously was shown towards them, but not for one moment could a word be said against their efficiency and pluck. The commissioner mentioned the work done by the scouts as follows in one of his reports: “The importance of the work done by my scouts could not, I think, have been surpassed. These men, all perfectly familiar with the country, were kept constantly employed form the outset under the direction of a man (Mr. McKay) well qualified for such work. My scouts at all times labored incessantly, cheerfully and efficiently. Perhaps the most important part of the work done by the scouts was the driving back of the men employed on similar duty by Riel who, on various occasions, tried to scout right into Prince Albert. Ditch and Armstrong, two of the three men who captured Riel, were police scouts who had been sent by me with despatches to General Middleton. The whole country around Prince Albert was thoroughly scouted.”

Previous to March 26, Riel and his followers had robbed, plundered, and terrorized the settlers and the country. They had robbed many government and other stories, captured government agents and others, and had armed parties patrolling the country with orders to kill all who would not surrender. They had also encouraged the Indians to rise, and in spite of all proclamations and warnings had at last begun the threatened outbreak by attacking a government party under Superintendent Crozier, and killing and wounding a large number.

The force of half breeds and Indians at Duck Lake were about 400 armed men, the odds being too great for such a small force as were with Superintendent Crozier, to resist, and had not exceptional bravery been displayed they must surely have been annihilated. The total strength of the force at Carleton, both police and volunteers, was only 225 officers, non commissioned officers and men, and of these many were wounded. On the militia arriving in the Northwest in the following April under command of Major General Middleton, the police were put under his orders, and by that time the rebellion had assumed serious proportions, having extended to all the different Cree tribes in the north, and nearly all the half breeds were in rebellion. Strictures were passed on the police commissioner for not attacking the combined force of half breeds and Indians at Batoche (where General Middleton’s forces had an encounter with them) conjointly with that officer, but it was by a direct order from General Middleton that he did not do so, although both he and the police under him were only too anxious to try conclusions with the rebels.

General Middleton had under him at this Batoche fight about 1,200 men, while the whole police force with volunteers in that district, as before stated, was only 225 men all told, and as Lieutenant Colonel Irvine, the police commissioner, stated in his report after many unjust reflections had been thrown upon himself and those under him, it was indeed fortunate for us (the Northwest Mounted Police) that the development of these great territories is so closely and honorably interwoven with the history of the corps.

Continued in Chapter 31: Indians of the South Kept Quiet.

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Treaty Indians Making Progress

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXVIII – Western Indians Become Restless.


Chapter XXIX


THE LIQUOR TRAFFIC, which in the first five or six years after the police arrived had been nearly stamped out, in fact none being sold to Indians, again began to grow into serious proportions as the country became settled. It was about as disagreeable a duty as the police had on their hands. By the temperance portion of the community they were condemned as being too lax, while on the other hand, the non-temperance portion found them too severe.

Information against these law-breakers was almost impossible to obtain, as no settler, however much he was against the sale of liquor, would turn informer, and none of the traders themselves would do so for the half of the fine to be derived from giving such information. The profits on the whisky itself was immense, as much as a hundred dollars often being realized from the sale of a 5-gallon keg. It was necessary that police detachments should be stationed near the boundary line as most of the liquor was brought from Montana. The trains on the Canadian Pacific had also to be watched, as much liquor was brought in that way. The mails on that road from Moose Jaw westward were also under the charge of members of the force. These men were sworn in as special officials of the postal department, and carried out their duties greatly to the satisfaction of that department. It will therefore be seen how varied were the duties of the police. In 1883-84 many new police buildings were erected at different points along the railroad, also in the vicinity of many Indian reservations, and patrols were constantly on the move through the country. A new town had been started at Macleod and Lethbridge was just coming into existence, although the town was not really built until ’85. The Galt company in ’84 opened their coal mines at that place on a large scale. Calgary had the beginning of a large town, Edmonton was beginning to grow; ranches were now to be found scattered through the country from that place to Calgary, and from there on to Macleod, and south to the boundary line. Regina, Battleford and Prince Albert were fast growing, and innumerable small places springing up along the line of railroad.

It is therefore seen what great strides the country had taken since the first advent of the police in 1874, or in ten years from that time. Then the buffalo roamed the plains in countless thousands, and the Indians were given the pick of the country as reservations. It never was at that time for a minute contemplated that a great transcontinental railroad would be built through the midst of it. This influx of settlers had, however, demoralized the Indians, and was also causing their decrease at the same time. They themselves saw this, and were becoming more reckless in consequence. The cutting down of rations on Indian reserves both north and south, all at once, had a disastrous effect, culminating in rebellion, of which it was one of the causes. The many millions spent by the Canadian government to quell that disturbance would have provided enough for all the Northwest Indians for many years. Even in the year 1882 up to which year the Indians received a fair ration, they were making good progress on their reserves. I quote a portion of my report of that year to the Indian commissioners to bear out this fact, and it was not until 1885, in which year I again, having charge of the western Indians, increased their rations, that they again began to show any signs of progress.

         My report for 1882 records as follows: “The Stoney Indians’ cattle are doing as well as can be expected, a few having mixed with the large herds of the Cochrane ranche company, but as that company’s cattle are moving south, there will be no further trouble on that point. I have made a contract to have all the lumber bought from the Stonies taken in rafts down the Bow River to the Crossing, to be used for flooring and roofing our buildings on that reserve.

         “The Stonies have a good quantity of timber on their reserve, which will last them for years if carefully used, and they might be allowed to sell small quantities now and then in the shape of lumber. A few more wagons are required on the reserve, which it would be well to give them, with a few sets of harness. They do well by hunting and trapping, and I think that before long they will be able to support and look after themselves. The Sarcees have about 175 acres under cultivation and I have great hopes of a good crop on the reserve. They have not been as quiet as I should have wished, and a few of the worst characters among them have caused trouble during the summer, but have been arrested and punished. The head chief, Bull’s Head, is an obstinate man, and it would be better for his tribe if some other held that position. The tribe is a small one and on the decrease. Many among them are good workers, and they all have good houses and are anxious to work, but on account of the close proximity of Fort Calgary to their reserve, there is great inducement for them to go there. The farm instructor has instructions to stop the rations of those who leave, and I hope this will help to keep them more permanently on their reserve. I think it will not be many years before this tribe will scatter through the country, getting work where they can find it, as all the country around them is now becoming more settled.

         “We have to be constantly on the watch to prevent people encroaching on this reserve, cutting timber, etc., as timber in other sections is scarce. Now the railroad is passing so close to the northern reserves, and the country getting so thickly settled, the interests of the Indians must be closely watched, and they must be encouraged and kindly dealt with, as this change has come upon them so suddenly that they scarcely understand it. I must say that, so far, the settlers who have come in contact with the Indians have treated them well and kindly, but as they get more used to them this will likely change, and unless the interests of the Indians are well looked after they will go to the wall altogether, and many petty depredations will take place. It is also all-important that the men in charge of reserves should be well acquainted with the Indians under their charge.

         “At the Blackfoot crossing all has been going on quietly with a few exceptions. None of the Blackfeet have been off horse stealing, but have remained quietly on their reserves. They have increased the number of houses in all their villages, and fenced good large fields as well. In the early spring I spoke to them in council, on the approach of the railroad, and pointed out the advantages which would accrue to them. They expressed their willingness that the road should pass through their reserve, and since that time no change has come over them in this respect. Grading parties have been working close to their village, and the Indians have mixed with the men and have always been well-treated. The road is now running past the Crossing, and they are all satisfied so far. Instances have occurred where some trouble was caused by men from working parties cutting firewood on the reserve, but as it could not be prevented, the Indians allowed dried wood to be cut on receiving a small remuneration for the same. Many people passed through the reserve, while the road was being built, but I think that this will now cease. Some of the chiefs are anxious to go down to Regina, and even to Ottawa, by rail, and it might be well for some of them to go, as they would see and learn much of the white men that now they only hear of. Next summer much of the freighting, if not all, for the south, will come from the railway via the Crossing. I have a ferry boat already built, and I am waiting instructions as to how it is to be run. It would be well to keep it in the hands of the department, letting it on shares, the rent to go to the Indians. The instructor now at the Crossing has long experience with the Blackfeet, and under his management they are progressing.

         “Mr. Pocklington, sub-agent, has spent a great portion of his time on the reserve, and by his good judgement has kept things in order, and prevented much trouble while the road was being built.

        “The crops at the Crossing look well, and there are over 200 acres under cultivation in different fields on the reserve. I sowed wheat on some portions of the land, and so far it has turned out well. I think there is little doubt that the land at the Crossing is well adapted for wheat, and should this crop turn out well, I should recommend that some kind of mill be sent, so that the wheat can be ground. A small portable steel mill would be best, so that the Indians could get flour made from their own grain. Some new buildings have to be erected on this reserve, both at the lower and upper camp. This will be done this summer. The lumber purchased from the Stonies will be used.

         “There is a prospect of a good crop, particularly of potatoes, and I have instructed Mr. Wheatley to take in all the potatoes he can get from Indians and keep them for seed. We shall build new root houses, and be able to store a large quantity. I should not advise the sowing of barley in the agency; although it is a sure crop, no use can be made of it, there being no means of grinding it for flour, and it does not sell well, as oats can now be brought in much cheaper.

         “Mr. Wheatley has instructions to keep the Indians away from the railroad as much as possible, particularly on account of accidents, one of which happened a few days ago, an Indian having his foot nearly cut off by a passing train. Much sickness has occurred amongst the Blackfeet this summer, many dying of a dangerous fever which has prevailed against them. Dr. Gerard has visited the reserve twice and gives his best attention to the sick. His presence in this Treaty is a great help, and although his work is very hard and not agreeable, he takes the greatest interest in the welfare of the Indians. The passage of this railroad through the Blackfeet reserve in such close proximity to the villages, can have but one result, which will be the final extinction or scattering of the tribe. I have shown the Indians fully that their future prosperity depends on their own exertions; that if they follow the advice of those in charge of them, and steadily work on their reserves with the intention of loving by their farms, and if they send their children to the schools the government open for them, they will do well and prosper, but if their habit of wandering over the country and troubling themselves little about the future, and doing as little work as possible, goes on, they will in the end be lost.

         “The Indians along the line of railroad are in more danger of this than the tribes in the south, as the Bloods for many years yet will enjoy what, to Indians, is freedom. The advancement of the Blackfeet altogether depends on their management, and the help they may receive from the government during the next few years. The young people growing up among these Indians, and in all the other tribes, are bright and intelligent, and have not had the teaching of their fathers in stealing and going to war. If earnest missionaries go among them now, with means at their disposal, not only to teach, but to make it interesting for the young, and if schools are erected where the children can be taught trades, and be kindly and indulgently dealt with, their future will be a prosperous one, as they are inclined to learn, but great kindness will be required at first. At present, however, they are totally ignorant. A Catholic missionary, Father Lacombe, has worked among them during the last three years, and could his idea be adopted, what I have stated would result. Other missionaries are also working on the Indian reserves, in many cases with fairly good results; but the field requires not only teachers, but the expenditure of money.

         “The late visit of the lieutenant governor was looked forward to by the Indians, as an opportunity for them to state their grievances: and on nearly every reserve they asked for tools and help to farm, which shows their wish to work, and that they see the necessity of it.

         “When it is remembered that, not many years ago, the Blackfeet tribe were considered the wildest and most untameable Indians on the continent, it is thus shown that they are possessed of great intelligence, which could be turned into useful channels.

         “My reason for writing so fully on this subject is, that I can see that it is not by the receipt of rations or annuities they will be made self-supporting, but by the encouragement they get in farming and being taught useful trades. The older Indians will die out without ever learning, or doing much, as their old habits and prejudices are too deeply-rooted: but there are several thousand children growing up, who can and will learn easily, and these are the material to work on.

         “The Blackfeet will doubtless raise good crops this year which will, I hope, settle and encourage them, but they will still visit the Bloods or Piegans with whom they are related.

        “I can understand that this treaty was to be divied, in which case the Blackfeet, Bloods and Piegans should be in one division, and the Sarcees and Stonies in the other. Mr. Nelson, D.L.S., is this summer definitely fixing the limits of the reserves, and also laying out the timber limits for the Indians. Mr. Nelson has taken great pains to take the chiefs with him, and has pointed out to them where the lines of the reserves run.

         “The Indian department’s herd of cattle did not do so well as might have been expected, and the sale of that herd not long ago at a good price takes away another source of expense and anxiety. Fifteen cows from this herd were sent by me, under instructions received, to Mr. Lucas, in charge of a government farm in the Edmonton district. I also sent cows to some of the reserves, for the use of the men employed. This herd of cattle has been kept up for the use of the Indians when they should require them, but as they could not keep them, and did not want them, it was thought best to get rid of the herd and the expense. As it is, the Indians have received many things from the government not promised in the treaty, and I do not think that they are entitled to anything in lieu of these cattle.

        “The most central point for the headquarters of this treaty is certainly Fort Macleod, being close to more than half the Indians in the treaty (the Bloods and Piegans) and the next largest tribe, the Blackfeet, are within only a day and a half’s drive. As a new site is chosen for the town of Fort Macleod, good buildings should be erected for the agency storehouse; Indians’ waiting room and stables, also room for men who come in from the reserves, on duty, which will save much expense in the way of horse feed and board for the men. I am having a good supply of hay put in for the agency, so I hope that next winter livery bills will cease. A room will be put up for the medicines, and a room in which the doctor can see and attend to sick Indians. I am keeping down the blacksmithing expenses as much as possible, and since I have been allowed to have our work done by outside blacksmiths, and the salaried blacksmith has been dismissed, I think the work will be done cheaper than formerly. I have made many visits to the reserves in the treaty during the summer, and my time has been fully occupied in keeping matters running smoothly and in travelling among the Indians. The Commissioner’s late visit to all the reserves was a most satisfactory one, and in all the reserves the Indians were very glad to see him, and many matters that needed arranging were settled.

         “I received instructions during the summer to have a trail cut through the Crow’s Nest Pass, in the Rocky mountains, to join the trail being cut from Kootenay. We are supposed to cut a good trail for cattle and horses, as many parties were waiting for the completion of the road to come over with stock. I sent a party of five men up in charge of Mr. McCord, instructor of the Blood reserve, and in two months the trail was finished at an expense of $1,500; the road cut is a ten foot trail, and a good one for a mountain road; bridges were built, and a few miles on the other side of the summit were also finished. Many parties have come through since, and all say the road is a good one. Some work will have to be done every year, as the timber which falls across the track must be cut out. This I understand has already occurred on the west end of the trail, as heavy timber fires have been raging for some time past. Our party did their work well, and Mr. McCord, as manager, deserves credit. It is a good thing for the Kootenay country to have a good trail cut through this pass, as stock can be driven over and goods packed in from this side. My report of last year is up to so recent a date, that it is not necessary to go back many months. I have, however, endeavored to touch on all matters of importance and interest in this treaty, and to show what has been done, and what improvements the Indians have made and are making.”

The above report was written in December, 1882, and requires no comment, as much of the subject has been touched upon in other chapters.

Continued in Chapter 30: The Northwest Rebellion.

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Western Indians Become Restless

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXVII – Trouble with the Southern Indians.


Chapter XXVIII



THE GENERAL WORK of the police from 1883 until 1994 was most severe, as the field of the operations was much greater, and as in all parts of the country the influx of settlers was great, and in consequence, crime of all sorts was more prevalent. In the year 1884 five cases of murder are recorded; two by Indians, two by white men, and one by a negro. Calgary had by this year become quite a thriving village, and had moved from the first townsite on the east side of the Elbow river, which was owned by Major Stewart and Col. Irvine, to the west side. These gentlemen had taken up the land originally owned by me as a ranche and laid it out in town lots, making at first many sales of land. As this company held their land at a high rate, and would give the railroad company little or no inducement to build their station and other buildings there, the railroad company decided to erect their station on their own land on the west of the said river, where the present town now stands, and were shortly followed by all those who had erected buildings on the east side. The policy of the owners of this land was disastrous, in a financial sense, for had they held their lots at a reasonable figure, not only would the town have been located on their land, but they would have realized a tidy fortune from the sale of it.

The first murder case at Calgary in February, 1884, is about as follows: A report was made to Major Steele, commanding the police at that point that a man named Adams had committed suicide in the town. Inspector Dowling and Dr. Kennedy were dispatched to the place to examine the body, and they reported that murder had been committed. A negro named Williams, had been seen in conversation with Adams shortly before the deed must apparently have been committed. Sergt.-Major Lake visited the tent occupied by the negro, and found him with traces of blood on his hands and clothing. He explained this by stating it was caused by beef he had been carrying, but it was found on inquiry that the beef he had bought was frozen hard.

A razor was found in his tent covered with blood, and his tracks were followed in the snow leading to the back door of the murdered man’s house; a glove and some bills were also discovered near the same house and identified as the property of Williams, and the negro shortly afterwards confessed his guilt. He was tried before Judge MacLeod and a jury of six at Calgary, and sentenced to death, being executed at Calgary on the 29th March.

Up to January, 1884, I had remained in charge of Treaty No. 7, having charge of five reserves already mentioned, together with the two Indian supply farms. I was naturally kept on the road from one reserve to another most of each month, and being allowed a clerk stationed at the head quarters of the treaty, Fort Macleod, he had the returns etc., ready for me when I arrived at the end of each month, when after being signed by me they were forwarded to the Indian Commissioner. A teamster was also necessary, together with a man to look after and issue Indian and farm stores at Macleod, where scarcely a day passed without something being needed, and this was not surprising when it is remembered at what long distances some of the reserves were from the point of supply.

This staff, together with an interpreter, certainly was not a great one, when the amount of continual work the one agent had on his hands day by day, is remembered. However, the government, or at least its representative, the Deputy Superintendent-General of Indian affairs, thought it too large and about the end of January I received a letter from that official, part of which I quote:

        “I have to inform you that the superintendent general is of the opinion that there exists no necessity for employing a clerk in your office, consequently you will, after giving him a month’s warning, discharge him, as it is considered that you ought to be capable of performing all the office work in your agency, as well as supervising the issue of supplies from the store. The store-keeper should therefore be dismissed and you are consequently required to act as store-keeper, and to restrict yourself to one visit each month to each of the reserves within your district, and on making your visits, you are to lock your office and storehouse, and take the interpreter with you to act as servant and interpreter.”

This letter goes on further to say: “The superintendent general is of the opinion that no assistant instructors are necessary, and that the employment of officials has a bad effect. The instructors ought to be able to supervise all the Indians in their respective districts.”

         When it is known that on my leaving the treaty in the summer of 1884, treaty No. 7 was divided up into three separate agencies with each agent at the same salary that I received while in charge of the whole, and that each agent had not only a clerk, but farm instructor and assistant, with many other subordinates, such as issuer of rations etc., the short-sightedness and absurdity of the above order becomes apparent, and this short-sightedness, or want of knowledge of the northern and western Indian reservations, was one of the causes that led to the outbreak among the northern Indians in the year following.

I resigned the agency in the summer of 1884 in the following letter:

“Macleod, 1884

        “Sir, – I have the honor, in reply to your letter No. 5989, to state that I have notified my clerk, and also the storekeeper, of the instructions contained therein. This is most hard on the clerk, who has only just arrived here after a long journey. I beg to inform you I cannot undertake to do this work, and I therefore think it best to notify you of the same, as I have always, and shall always, do my work thoroughly, and I do not see my way to do so in this instance. The work of a clerk in my office takes all his time from one month’s end to the other, and I cannot do this and look after my treaty. My work has been difficult since I came here, but I am glad to say that I have everything in this treaty now in perfect order, and do not wish, while I am here, to see it upset; I therefore beg that I be allowed to resign my position as agent of this treaty, as soon as convenient to the department. I have applied for leave from the 1st March, and if my place is filled up before that time I shall be glad while I am here to assist the new agent all in my power, and will turn over the treaty in good order.

         “To the Honorable The Superintendent General of Indian affairs. Ottawa.”

I therefore gave up the agency this year, and it was during the summer divided up as I have stated, and I took up a ranche after turning everything over, on Willow creek about three miles from Ft. Macleod.

The commissioner of police this spring forwarded a report to Ottawa, which was called for by a suggestion made by the deputy-superintendent general of Indian affairs to the effect that Indians should not be allowed to leave their reserves without a permit from the agent. This showed a total want of knowledge on his part of the treaties made with the western Indians, in which it was distinctly stipulated that they might travel anywhere through the country subject to the law of the land, and as the police commissioner states in his report, I pointed out that the introduction of such a system would be tantamount to a breach of confidence with the Indians generally, inasmuch as from the outset the Indians had been led to believe that compulsory residence on reservations would not be required of them, and that they would be permitted to travel about for legitimate hunting and trading purposes. This concession largely contributed to the satisfactory conclusion of the treaty with the Blackfeet.

The Indians nearly all over the country began to give a good deal of trouble this summer. Sergeant Fury of the Police, with one constable and the interpreter, arrested a Blackfoot, by name Whitecap, at the Blackfoot crossing, for horse-stealing. They were surrounded by about eighty Indians who threatened to take the man away from them, and also demanded more rations. I might mention that their rations had been much reduced. The sergeant got away with his men by showing a bold front, and next day Superintendent Steele, who was in command at Calgary, visited the camp with a party of thirty men, with the view of arresting the leaders in the obstruction the previous day. But the leaders had gone to Calgary, where they were afterwards arrested, and being reprimanded by the judge, were eventually released.

Trouble also occurred this summer with a camp of Crees at Crooked lakes, near Broadview, where a number had collected in a house to hold a medicine dance. After dancing for a week and getting into a great state of excitement, a large party went to the reserve and broke into the agency store-house, stealing a large quantity of provisions; police were sent and a party of ten under Inspector Dean proceeded to Broadview. They could, however, make no impression on the Indians, or arrest the culprits, and had to send to headquarters for reinforcements, which arrived the following day under Superintendent W. Herchmer; the whole party then proceeded to where the Indians were camped and were waved off by a large band of armed Indians. A parley took place in which the ringleaders of the robbery were demanded without success, and a determined show of resistance took place, the house bristling with muzzles of rifles, and as most of the party were covered at short distance, it would have been foolhardy to fight under the circumstances. After a good deal of talk the police drew off and camped for the night at a house near by. After two days’ talk and persistence on the part of the police, four of the Indians were given up, the Chief, Yellow Calf, being released, as he had given help to the police during the disturbance. The other three were also afterwards tried and discharged by Judge Richardson at Regina being, as the commissioner stated in his report, probably the most satisfactory conclusion to a troublesome affair.

Other Indians were becoming very troublesome, leaving their reserves and going north. A man named Pollock was shot at Maple Creek, presumably by Indians, whose trail was followed by Sergeant Patterson and a party of police as far as the boundary line, but without coming up to them, though they travelled over a hundred miles. This party was supposed to be Blood Indians, and no doubt were, as the agent on that reserve reported parties of Bloods of the reserve at the time. At the same time that Pollock was shot a band of horses was stolen from the same vicinity, but not recovered.

The Indians near Battleford were also very unruly, particularly on the Cree chief Poundmaker’s reservation, where the farm instructor, Craig, was assaulted by an Indian, and the Indians refused to give up the offender. Superintendent Crozier with twenty-five men then proceeded to the camp to take him, and as they found a sun dance in progress, concluded to wait until its conclusion, and at the same time send for reinforcements- moving into the old agency buildings some three miles from the camp and taking the Indian department stores and cattle with them. As they passed the camp on their way to the buildings it was at one time feared that an attack would have been made on their small party, as the Indians made a great demonstration, firing off their guns in the air over the heads of the police, and some of the bullets coming unpleasantly close.

The buildings were put into as good a state of defense as possible, and reinforcements having arrived, and the sun dance being finished, negotiations were opened, with the final result of the capture of the Indian, but nor without at one time very nearly coming into hostile contact with the Indians, who were very loath to give him up. In this camp were Poundmaker, Big Bear, Lucky Man, and other old chiefs who took a leading part in the rebellion of ’85. Superintendent Crozier gives the greatest praise to the detachment under his command, stating that their coolness and steadiness were most praiseworthy.

Twenty-five horses were stolen from Maple Creek this summer, and twenty-two of them recovered from the Bloods and Piegans near Macleod. At the time these horses were stolen, a half-breed, who was herding them, was found dead, having been shot; but it was never possible to identify the murderer. Two of this war party were subsequently arrested and sent to the penitentiary for two years respectively.

The police commissioner found it necessary to again recommend that an increase of 500 should be added to the force, and a great portion stationed at Macleod. Every possible assistance was given to the Indian department by the police, and it would have been impossible for that department to have done its work without them. In many cases the Indian payments were made by the police, such as at Fort a la Corne by Sergeant Brooks, and at Green Lake by Sergeant Keenan. Inspector Steele with a detachment was stationed in the mountains along the line of the Canadian Pacific railway west of Calgary, and on to the end of the track, having about 150 miles of road on which work was being done under his supervision, extending about twenty miles west of the Columbia river. This officer reported no injury done to the road whatever, and all the contractors were satisfied that this was mainly due to the work performed by him and those under his command.

       The police commissioner states in his report regarding horsestealing that the prevalence of horsestealing by white men, half-breeds and Indians indiscriminately throughout the Territories is a marked feature of this year’s annals of crime. There is no doubt that the commissioner was right in this, case after case continually being referred to the police, and the settlers seemed to think they had only to report the loss of stock to have it immediately recovered. An instance of this occurred in June, ’84, when a telegram was received at a police post as follows: “Pieapot’s Indians stole team of horses from me last night. Will you please find them.”

Numbers of horses were this year stolen by American Indians, and white men from the other side, and little nor no help could be got from the American military officers at the posts along the line to aid in putting down this practice. The commissioner instructed Superintendent McIllree in July to proceed to the American post nearest the C.P.R., (Fort Assiniboine,) to enquire whether the military authorities on the other side would be willing, and at liberty to co-operate with us in the suppression of horse-stealing. Colonel Coppinger replied that the United States troops would be glad to aid us in every way to put an end to this crime, but he would first have to get authority from his superior officer. He communicated with General Ruger at Helena, who referred the matter to Washington.

On September 1 Col. Coppinger telegraphed to Superintendent McIllree his regret that he was not permitted by the authorities to enter into any negotiations on the subject. Colonel Coppinger explained to Superintendent McIllree that his powers were limited to recovering government horses and putting intruders off Indian reserves. While Superintendent McIllree was at Assiniboine he saw a member of a gang of horse-thieves- which included a fugitive from justice on this side- and considered that many horsethieves and whisky smugglers fitted out there. It is therefore obvious that many cases occurred in which it was impossible to recover stock stolen from settlers, because they had been driven over the line and out of reach.

Continued in Chapter 29: Treaty Indians Making Progress.

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 7: Things That Go Bump-Out

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 7: Things That Go Bump-Out

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 7 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Fellowship of the Dig meets at Smith’s Cove with Mike Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd., who has come to construct the “bump-out”, or extension, to the Smith’s Cove cofferdam first discussed in the Season 7 premiere. Jardine and members of his crew begin their operation by removing sections of the metal cofferdam with a crane, allowing seawater to flow back into Smith’s Cove.

While the work continues at Smith’s Cove, Rick Lagina meets with Doug Crowell and Steve Guptill in the Oak Island Research Centre. Guptill shows the treasure hunters a diagram of his own making which shows the location of the searcher Shaft 9 (discovered the previous episode) in relation to other shafts and landmarks on the Island. As Shaft 9 was said to lie 100 feet southwest of the Money Pit area, the diagram includes a semi-circle with a radius of 100 feet extending northeast of Shaft 9, its circumference representing all the possible locations at which the original Money Pit might have lain.

Doug Crowell then shows Rick a photo taken in 1931, when Chappells Ltd. was hunting for treasure on the Island. In the photo, a depression in the earth is clearly visible at what now appears to be the location of Shaft 9. Crowell points out another depression in the earth, and suggests that it might mark the location of Shaft 2, built by the Onslow Company in 1804. Crowell reminds Rick that Shaft 2 was said to have been built 14 feet southeast of the Money Pit. If they manage to ascertain the location of Shaft 2, then they will be able to determine the exact location of the original Money Pit; the Money Pit would lie at the northwestern intersection of circles drawn around Shaft 9 and Shaft 2, with radii of 100 and 14 feet, respectively. ­­­As Steve Guptill succinctly summarizes, “if we can find [Shaft] 2, we have an X-marks-the-spot.” Doug suggests that they attempt to locate Shaft 2 through exploration drilling, and Rick concurs.

That afternoon, various members of the Oak Island team meet at the Money Pit area, where the search for Shaft 2 is about to commence. Using old aerial photographs of the Money Pit site in conjunction with the GPS coordinates of the newly-discovered Shaft 9, the team has estimated the location of Shaft 2, and has tasked Choice Drilling with retrieving core samples from the area. The Fellowship stands by as Choice Drilling sinks a hole at the prescribed location.

While the drilling operation is underway, Rick Lagina, Peter Fornetti, Doug Crowell, and Billy Gerhardt drive to the Dartmouth Heritage Museum (which the narrator refers to as the “Helen Creighton Heritage Museum”) in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. During the drive, Rick explains that a man named Kevin Rideout approached him at Dan Blankenship’s funeral and told him an interesting story. More than forty years ago, while visiting the museum, Rideout was made aware of a rock in the museum’s yard which a tour guide claimed was the Money Pit’s legendary 90-foot stone. In a later interview, Rick Lagina states his belief that the supposed 90-foot stone found beneath the old Halifax bookbindery in Season 6, Episode 7 was an unfinished replica of the original stone, and expresses his hope that the real 90-foot stone is the artifact which Rideout described.

The treasure hunters arrive at the so-called “Evergreen House”, in which the Dartmouth Heritage Museum is housed, and meet with Kevin Rideout and the museum’s curator, Terry Eyland. After Rideout recounts the experience which Rick related in the car, Eyland takes the treasure hunters to the museum’s backyard. Using his memory as a guide, Rideout estimates that the stone he was showed forty years prior was embedded in the grass in an area overtop of which a rhododendron bush now stands. Eyland then informs the crew that the stone was likely interred in the yard prior to the museum’s foundation, prompting the narrator to explain that the Evergreen House was purchased by Nova Scotian folklorist Dr. Helen Creighton in 1919. The narrator points out that 1919 is the same year in which the bookbindery of Helen’s distant relative, A.O. Creighton, at which the 90-foot stone was last seen, went out of business. In a later interview, Rick Lagina infers that the Creighton family may have transported the 90-foot stone from the Halifax bookbindery to the Dartmouth estate in 1919.

Without further ado, the treasure hunters walk over to the rhododendron bush in the yard of the Evergreen House, under which Kevin Rideout suspects the stone might be located. Rick Lagina and Peter Fornetti crawl beneath the bush and make an unsuccessful preliminary search for the stone. The treasure hunters suggest that they ought to apply for a permit to excavate the area in an archaeological manner, and Terry Eyland gives them his blessing to do so.

Later, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley do some metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 6, on the northwestern side of the Island, where Drayton discovered an iron chain and an old coin back in Season 4, Episode 6. A shovel-wielding Begley explains that he has a particular interest in Lot 6, attributable in part to the relatively little amount of metal detecting to which the area has been subjected. The treasure hunters head to the beach, where Drayton discovers a modern nail. Shortly thereafter, the metal detecting expert comes across two old square-headed iron pins lying side by side, which Drayton suggests might be the remains of an 18th Century shipwreck. The treasure hunters then find another larger pin closer to the water, which Drayton calls a “crib spike”. In a later interview, Drayton outlines his belief that the iron objects he discovered on the shores of Lot 6 are evidence that the beach “was a place where boats came into, and there was activity in the area. Whether this was a place where ships were repaired or a place where treasure was unloaded, we’ve got the finds to back those theories up now.”

The next day, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Dave Blankenship meet with Mike Jardine at Smith’s Cove, where construction of the bump-out is well underway. “We got all the frames in, all in location” says Jardine of his crew’s progress, before pointing out a new structure that his team discovered outside the boundary of the old cofferdam consisting of both horizontal and vertical timbers. Jardine remarks that the structure bears some resemblance to the top of a vertical shaft. The team agrees to examine the structure once the cofferdam bump-out is complete.

Later, various members of the Oak Island team meet at the Money Pit area, where Choice Drilling’s search for Shaft 2 is underway. A core sample taken from a depth of 12-15 feet contains nothing but disturbed earth. A second sample, taken from an undisclosed depth, contains a few pieces of wood. A third sample, taken from a depth of about 30 feet, contains significant quantities of wood- perhaps cribbing from Shaft 2. The crew members agree that they ought to search for the other walls of the suspected shaft in order to determine the structure’s orientation.

The next day, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Gary Drayton head to Smith’s Cove, where the cofferdam’s bump-out has been completed. Mike Jardine takes the treasure hunters to the new wooden structure that he and his crew discovered, the most prominent part of which is a vertical timber sticking out of the ground. Although it is not mentioned in this episode, this vertical timber strongly evokes an object which Rick Lagina spied at Smith’s Cove during low tide back in Season 1, Episode 1, which he likened to “an elephant tusk coming out of the water”. In that episode, both Dan Henskee and Charles Barkhouse declared that they had never noticed the tusk-like object before.

In the next scene, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, archaeologist Laird Niven, and heavy equipment operator Billy Gerhardt conduct their own inspection of the new structure discovered at Smith’s Cove. Niven gives the crew the green light to excavate the sides of the structure, which Gerhardt proceeds to do with his backhoe. Gerhardt removes a load of material immediately adjacent to the structure, exposing a wall of horizontal logs covered by sheets of what appears to be 19th or 20th Century tar paper. Immediately beside the wall is a pile of rocks, which some of the treasure hunter suspect might be the remains of the legendary finger drains believed to feed the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. This supposition is bolstered by the large volume of water which quickly rushes in to fill the hole. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to uncover more of the structure so that they might better ascertain its nature.



Shaft 2

In the previous episode, the boys discovered Shaft 9- an old searcher shaft which was connected with the original Money Pit by a 100-foot-long tunnel. Rather than attempt to locate this tunnel via exploration drilling, the crew decides in this episode to take a different course of action prescribed by Doug Crowell. In an aerial photograph of the Money Pit area taken in 1931 by a former treasure-hunting syndicate called Chappells Ltd., Crowell noticed two depressions in the earth. One of these appears to be in the same location as the recently-discovered Shaft 9. Crowell theorized that the other depression might be the backfilled remains of Shaft 2, a searcher shaft constructed by the Onslow Company in 1804 fourteen feet southeast of the Money Pit. Crowell observed that, if the crew manages to ascertain the location of Shaft 2, then they will be able to determine the exact location of the original Money Pit; the Money Pit would lie at the northwestern intersection of circles drawn around shaft 9 and Shaft 2, with radii of 100 and 14 feet, respectively.

Using Chappell Ltd.’s aerial photograph of the Money Pit site in conjunction with the GPS coordinates of the newly-discovered Shaft 9, the team estimated the location of Shaft 2 and tasked Choice Drilling with retrieving core samples from the area. A core sample taken from a depth of 12-15 feet contained nothing but disturbed earth. A second sample, taken from an undisclosed depth, contained a few pieces of wood. A third sample, taken from a depth of about 30 feet, contained significant quantities of wood- perhaps cribbing from Shaft 2. The crew members agreed that they ought to search for the other walls of the suspected shaft in order to determine the structure’s orientation, which will, in turn, enable to them to ascertain the precise location of the original Money Pit.

The Stone at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum

In the middle of this episode, Rick Lagina, Peter Fornetti, Doug Crowell, and Billy Gerhardt drove to the Dartmouth Heritage Museum in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. There, they met with Terry Eyland, the museum’s curator, and a man named Kevin Rideout, whom Rick had met previously at the funeral of Dan Blankenship. During their first meeting, Rideout told Rick that, more than forty years prior, while visiting the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, a tour guide pointed out a rock embedded in the grass in the museum’s backyard and told him that it was the Money Pit’s legendary 90-foot stone.

In an interview showcased in this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick Lagina stated his belief that the supposed 90-foot stone found beneath the old Halifax bookbindery back in Season 6, Episode 7 was an unfinished replica of the original stone, and expressed his hope that the real 90-foot stone is the artifact which Kevin Rideout claimed to have been made aware of during his visit to the Dartmouth Heritage Museum more than forty years ago.

Interestingly, the narrator informs us in this episode that the building which now houses the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, called the Evergreen House, was once the residence of Dr. Mary Helen Creighton, a celebrated Nova Scotian folklorist and a distant relative of A.O. Creighton, owner of the old Halifax bookbindery. Helen Creighton purchased the Evergreen House in 1919, the same year in which the Halifax bookbindery went out of business. Rick Lagina, in this episode, infers that the Creighton family may have transported the 90-foot stone from the Halifax bookbindery to the Dartmouth estate in 1919. It is interesting to note that, in her 1957 book Bluenose Ghosts, a collection of Nova Scotian ghost stories, Creighton includes a number of tales set on Oak Island yet fails to mention the 90-foot stone.

In this episode, Terry Eyland takes Kevin Rideout and the visiting treasure hunters to the museum’s backyard. Using his memory as a guide, Rideout estimates that the stone he was showed forty years prior was embedded in the grass in an area overtop of which a beautiful rhododendron bush now stands. After an unsuccessful preliminary search for the stone beneath the bush, suggest that they ought to apply for a permit to excavate the area in an archaeological manner, and Terry Eyland gives them his blessing to do so.

The New Structure at Smith’s Cove

Throughout this episode, Mike Jardine and the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. constructed the bump-out, or extension, to the Smith’s Cove cofferdam, first discussed in the Season 7 premiere. During the process, they discovered a new wooden structure at Smith’s Cove which lay outside the original cofferdam. This structure consists of horizontal and vertically-aligned logs, and Mike Jardine suggested that it bore some resemblance to the top of a vertical shaft.

While examining the structure, Marty Lagina made a brief reference to its most prominent section, namely a vertical timber sticking out of the ground. Although it is not mentioned in this episode, this vertical timber strongly evokes an object which Rick Lagina spied at Smith’s Cove during low tide back in Season 1, Episode 1, which he likened to “an ancient tusk coming out of the water”. In that episode, both Dan Henskee and Charles Barkhouse declared that they had never noticed the tusk-like object before.

Near the end of this episode, Laird Niven gave the crew the green light to excavate the sides of the structure, which Gerhardt proceeded to do with his backhoe. Gerhardt removed a load of material immediately adjacent to the structure, exposing a wall of horizontal logs covered by sheets of what appeared to be 19th or 20th Century tar paper. Immediately beside the wall was a pile of rocks, which some of the treasure hunters suspected might be the remains of the legendary finger drains believed to feed the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. The treasure hunters agreed that they ought to uncover more of the structure so that they might better understand its nature.


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Trouble with the Southern Indians

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXVI – Trouble with Blackfeet.


Chapter XXVII



A GOOD DEAL OF TROUBLE was caused during the years 1882 and 1883 by southern Indians, particularly the South Piegans, coming over to our side and camping with our Indians, to whom they were related, being an off shoot of the Blackfeet who had settled in Montana, and had taken the treaty from the United States government. The American authorities had been having a good deal of trouble with them during the year 1882, and at one time had to send troops on to their reserve, thereby causing many of them to cross over on to our side. They were a source of unrest to the Blackfeet and the police had trouble returning them to their own country.

A detachment of police under Inspector French had been left at the crossing, but it was found better to withdraw them. They therefore went to Ft. Calgary, being the first force of police since 1879, who had been stationed at that place, and from this time on the force was year by year increased as the town sprang into existence. The Canadian Pacific railway was this year surveyed into and past Calgary. During the building of the Canadian Pacific only one case is known of any obstruction caused by Indians, and that occurred near Maple Creek, a tomahawk being driven in between the ends of two rails, and a few yards further on a rail was laid across the line. Sergt. Blight and three men were despatched from the police detachment at Swift Current, and arrested three Assiniboine Indians on suspicion, who, after some questioning, gave the name of the Indian, also an Assiniboine, named Buffalo Calf, who committed the offence. This man was sent to the penitentiary for two years for the crime.

As Lt.-Col. Irvine states in his report, it is fortunate that the Indians, generally, have not developed this terrible method of redressing their grievances, whether fanciful or not.

Much trouble has been caused at the annual Indian payments in the west, and in the fall of 1882, owing to the large number of Indians who had been overpaid at the previous year’s payments, I had great difficulty in making anywhere near the necessary reduction. I found that the Indians had begun to ascertain the value of money, and to use it more sensibly than heretofore, buying principally blankets and clothing, of which they were much in need, having now no buffalo robes as substitutes. The issue of government ammunition to the Indians I recommended should cease, and that some clothing should be sent instead, and common cotton print for the women, who suffered most, being literally in rags; indeed the women would fight over old cotton flour sacks, of which they made dresses.

This years’ payments showed that the Blackfeet and Blood Indians had begun to decrease, a natural consequence of their coming in contact with the whites, and this decrease has been steadily going on to the present day, when these tribes are now about half what they were when the first treaty was made with them. It will be but a few more generations before they will be nearly extinct, as happens with all Indian tribes, sooner or later.

        The police found it difficult to eradicate the old customs among the tribes, many of which were crimes according to the white man’s law, but an article of faith and teaching among the Indians. I think that too much was expected when it was thought that these old customs of generations could be eliminated in a year or two. It must be remembered that the western Indians, through their forefathers, had been brought up to believe that stealing, lying and killing were virtues to be cultivated, and could not understand why they should be punished- the greatest chiefs among them were those in whom these qualities were most prominent, and to be a chief was the aim of all young men in the camp. I think that the first few years the sentences of the Indians who had committed crimes against white man’s law were most severe. However, as the country was now beginning to settle it was no doubt necessary. A great deal of trouble was taken to put a stop to a punishment the Indians had among themselves for infidelity among their women, which was the cutting off of the nose of the offender. They were loath to give this up, and severe punishments had to be meted out to them.

The missionaries and teachers on the reserves were not very successful, although indefatigable in their labors, and I still think, as I represented at that time, that the only way to teach the children and to bring them up as useful members of society, is to separate them altogether from the tribes, as their parents will never force the children to attend school if they wish to shirk. I recommended the same plan as now adopted in the United States with success, to establish industrial schools some hundreds of miles away from the reserves, which would effectually prevent all intercourse between the children and their parents, and at intervals the parents might be taken to see them, in order that they might, by their reports of the advancement made, induce others to send their children.

In Sept. 1882 Inspector Steele in command of B. troop, who had the previous year been stationed at Ft. Qu’Appelle, was moved to the Pile of Bones creek, and erected the first buildings

in what is now the town of Regina, the capital of the Northwest Territories. The buildings put up were portable houses, and were erected for the use of the police. The government buildings were shortly afterwards built, and the town of Regina came into existence. Inspector Steele was engaged for the next year in looking after the construction parties on the Canadian Pacific railway as that road was building west, and the quietness and absence of disturbances among the thousands of workmen engaged in building that road were largely due to the watchfulness and energy displayed by him, and the non-commissioned officers and men under him. Inspector McIlree, who had remained at Ft. Walsh after I left in the spring of 1882, and who had a difficult job in looking after the Indians assembled there, was this summer promoted to the rank of superintendent, and was the next spring stationed at Ft. Calgary, where he had his hands full of work, the Canadian Pacific railway being built through that place during this year. In 1883 Ft. Walsh was finally abandoned and the men and officers stationed there moved to the west, and to Regina, which was this year made the headquarters of the force.

The old fort at Walsh did not long remain standing, as it was shortly afterwards burnt down by Indians, and the old village also soon disappeared much in the same manner; although a good deal of material from the old houses was moved when the railroad passed Maple Creek, at which point many of the old inhabitants of Ft. Walsh took up their residence.

In the north, around Battleford and Fort Pitt, the Cree Indians and halfbreeds were giving the police no end of trouble during the years 1882-3, and the seeds were growing that sprang into rebellion in 1885. There is no doubt that the Crees in the north were insufficiently fed.

At Ft. Macleod there was plenty of work for the increased force of police and that work was ably performed. The village of Macleod had slightly increased in population, and many ranches had been started in that section and also from High River to Calgary. The first newspaper was established in 1882 at Ft. Macleod, the Macleod Gazette, which is still in existence and was edited by C. Wood, formerly in the Mounted Police. This was the second newspaper started in the Territories, the first being the Battleford Herald, which started a year or two previously.


Many thousand head of cattle now grazed on the plains in the west, the first few years’ success of this industry inducing many others to embark in the business. It was however a new thing to most of the large companies, and for the first year or so the want of knowledge caused, during the hard winter that prevailed in 1882-3, some serious losses, particularly to the Cochrane Ranche Co., which had some 7,000 or 8,000 head ranging on the north side of the Bow river in the vicinity of Calgary. Many of these cattle were driven in from a long distance south, in the fall of 1882, and came in thin. It seemed to be thought by the management that it was necessary to close herd the cattle, and the result was that, the winter of ’82 and ’83 being an unusually severe one, many thousands of their cattle died before spring, and the country round Calgary was fairly poisoned by the stench of the carcasses. After this year the Cochrane Co. decided to move their cattle from Calgary and obtained a large grazing lease between the Belly and Kootenay rivers, some twenty-five miles south of Ft. Macleod where they have remained ever since, with great success in stock raising. They have lost no cattle during the winters, of any account, the only loss they have really sustained being by Indians, the Bloods having their reserve just across the Belly river and in close proximity to the Cochrane ranche. This however was to be expected as hundreds of head of cattle would cross over and graze close to the Indian villages, which was a temptation almost impossible for the young men to resist. A police detachment was always kept near the reserve, and good service was done by them in hunting up and arresting the offenders, and many an Indian was sent to the penitentiary for numbers of years for this offence. Strange as it may appear, when the Indians were practically wild, and only recently on their reserves, cattle killing was not nearly as prevalent as it has been in the years from 1890 until today.

In 1883 a new town site for Ft. Macleod was surveyed, where the town now stands, about two miles west of the old fort, and a more unsuitable situation could hardly have been chosen- high up on the bench land, above the river, on a bed of loose stones, with little or no soil fit for cultivation in the whole plot. A new fort was also built west of the town, and very respectable buildings erected. The contract was taken and the work done by the Galt Co., who had built a saw mill in the Porcupine hills, to the west, where most of the lumber was manufactured.

It was found necessary to abandon the old fort and town, as the river had broken through its banks and carried away some buildings, and had formed a new channel on the south, converting what had been the mainland into an island. The Indian Department also put up buildings, those put up by me being the first built in the present town of Macleod. Most of the buildings in the town were erected in the following year, in which year the fort was finished and occupied by the police, with Superintendent Cotton in command. Major Crozier having been appointed Assistant Police Commissioner, was stationed at Battleford, that point causing more anxiety to the government than any other place in the Territories.

         The game that existed in plenty apart from the buffalo when we first arrived, had nearly altogether disappeared. Where deer used to be found in numbers, none were now to be seen. We used to kill many in the wooded bottom near the old fort, but for some years there had been scarcely any there, and save in the foot hills and mountains, no game, with the exception of a few bands of antelope, geese, and ducks, in the spring and fall, now existed in the country. Most of the hunting in the mountains was done by the Stoney Indians, who went far back in the range, and managed to kill a good many deer of all kinds, including elk now and then, and also a good many sheep and a few bears.

Geese, ducks and grouse, were still plentiful on the plains, and the game laws that now came into force helped towards the increase of the latter, although, each fall, the flight of geese to the south was less in numbers, no doubt caused by the great slaughter that was always going on in the north, and particularly by the destruction of the eggs during the laying season by halfbreeds and Indians. The geese were not protected by law as it was supposed that the damage done by them to the crops necessitated their destruction. However this might be, flights were not nearly as numerous in 1882-3 as in previous years, unless the waveys be excepted. These geese, white in color with black tips to the wings, were, and still are, as numerous as ever, and strange as it may appear, neither I nor any other resident or Indian in the north, ever saw or heard of a nest of one of these birds having been seen. Indians in the north have often told me that they had heard that the wavey nested very far in the north, in a marshy spot of many miles in diameter, and this swamp was impassable. The truth of this story is hard to substantiate, but no doubt these birds do nest far inside the Arctic circle.

Rabbits, both the cotton tail and the jack rabbit, the latter being a species of hare, turning white in the winter were still numerous; in fact the genuine rabbits, or cotton tails, are fast increasing in the north, and if steps are not taken in time, will eventually prove as great a pest as in Australia. In 1877 none of these rabbits were to be found south of the Red Deer river, 100 miles north of Calgary, but they have year by year crept south till they are now quite numerous in the vicinity of Ft. Macleod. As the wolves are killed off, which animals live principally on these rodents, they increase enormously in numbers. The wolves, since the buffalo had gone, were most destructive to stock, both horses and cattle, and although nothing like as numerous as in the buffalo days, when parties of “wolfers” who had been out all winter poisoning wolves, would return in the spring with many hundred pelts, they killed and maimed many animals annually among the cattle herds. In late years a bounty has been offered by the Territorial government and cattle companies of $5 per head killed, but still the damage goes on and comparatively few are killed. They will not ear the poisoned baits as in the old days, no doubt growing wiser with experience, and riding down and shooting them is about the only successful method yet discovered, and this thins them but slowly. Hounds were for some time used, but a couple of large prairie wolves would stand off a whole pack, and the dogs soon become afraid to tackle them. Therefore as a game country unless long trips are made into the mountains, which necessitates a good outfit for camping, the western portion of the Territories is a failure, and whoever comes out with the intention of shooting will be disappointed. However, a journey to the far north, about 150 miles north of Edmonton, on the Lesser Slave lake, or Peace river, would well repay the journey, as much game, such as elk, many kinds of deer, caribou, and now and then a wood buffalo are still to be found, and a party prepared for the rough work in the mountains, would still find many sheep, goats and bears to reward their labors.

Continued in Chapter 28: Western Indians Become Restless.

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Trouble With Blackfeet

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXV – Governor General Visits Northwest.


Chapter XXVI

Trouble With Blackfeet

MATTERS AT THE Blackfoot Crossing had not been going on well during the winter of 1881, and early in the spring of ’82, I was instructed to proceed via Ft. Macleod to the Crossing and take charge of the Blackfeet, also the Sarcees, who had their reserve near Calgary, and the Stonies, who were located at Morleyville, some forty miles west of Calgary.

A good deal of trouble had been caused at the Blackfoot agency owing to a flaw in the beef contract, which gave the contractors the right to dispose of all heads and offal of animals killed; these parts they sold to the highest bidder among the Indians, and in many instances exorbitant prices were charged.

The Blackfeet had only the previous year returned from a long sojourn across the line and had done little or nothing in the way of building, but were mostly congregated around the agency. Flour had on some occasions run out during the winter, and, remembering the starving conditions they had been in previous to crossing the line, they were afraid of a recurrence. They were therefore dissatisfied; after spending nearly two years in Montana stealing horses and trading for whiskey, the young men among the Blackfeet were a pretty wild lot, and under the control of the soldier lodge which they had organized while on the other side. This band of soldiers was the cause of the greatest trouble to the Indian department of employes on the reserve, and things had come to such a pass that on several occasions shots had been fired in close proximity to men working on the reserve, and finally a shot was fired at one of the men employed by the butchers, who, the Indian stated, had sold him a beefhead, and then had delivered it to some other Indian. A party of police from Ft. Macleod, under Inspector Dickens, was sent to arrest the Indian, Bull Elk, who had fired the shot. But the Blackfeet resisted the arrest, this being the first serious resistance shown towards the police since they had been in the country. Although the party of police was small, vigorous efforts were made to take him, and it was not until the prisoner had been forcibly taken away from Sergt. Howe and Constable Ash, who showed a brave front, and Inspector Dickens even knocked down, and many shots fired by the Indians pretty close to the police, that they had to desist, and send in word to Ft. Macleod for reinforcements.

Major Crozier immediately started for the Crossing with all the available men he could muster, and these only amounted to 20. He found the Indians in a most excited state, and they positively refused to give up the Indian, Bull Elk. The situation was a most serious one, and required prompt action, as it would have ruined the prestige of the police with the Indians, had this man not been taken.

Major Crozier informed Crowfoot, the head chief, that if the Indian was not given up by the following day, he would take him by force. At the same time a temporary fort was made out of one of the Indian department buildings, and sacks of flour were used as a barricade. A very good fortification was made in a short time, and every precaution taken in the event of the Indians showing fight.

This prompt action overawed the Indians, who although in large numbers, did not dare to go to extremities. The Indian was taken the next day without resistance, and sent into Fort Macleod, where he was tried by Judge Macleod and imprisoned. This was about as close a shave of coming into actual conflict with the Indians as had yet occurred; and only the coolness and courage shown by the officers and men averted an Indian war, which would most certainly have followed, had an Indian or white man been killed.

This happened only a week or so before my arrival to take charge of the Blackfeet, and I found them in a most excited and unsettled state; and it would have taken very little to have made them leave their reserve, and go south again, in which event they would have made a slaughter of settlers’ cattle before they left. A small detachment of police under Inspector French had been left at the Crossing, and their work was far from being safe or pleasant.

I found that the Indians were anxious to go to work, but as yet had no tools. These I shortly supplied the, and I also took over the heads and offal of all animals killed, and issued them as rations, thus removing one of the chief causes of trouble.

I also made arrangements for seed for the Blackfeet, Sarcees and Stoney Indians, and started the Blackfeet in building houses, the villages being scattered along the Bow river, some distance from each other. It was necessary to break up the large numbers congregating together.

Mr. Norman Macleod, who was Indian agent at Ft. Macleod, shortly afterwards resigned, and I was appointed agent over the whole of Treaty No. 7, which comprised the five tribes: Blood, Blackfeet, Piegans, Sarcees, and Stonies.

The headquarters of the agency was at Ft. Macleod, but I had to be constantly journeying from one reserve to another, having to visit each at least once a month, and sometimes oftener, and when it is remembered that the reserve farthest south- the Blood- was at least a hundred and fifty miles from that to the Stonies, and the other reserves, at distances proportionately great, the amount of travel was indeed large. There were also two experimental farms, west of Ft. Macleod, and the other on Fish Creek, seven miles from Calgary. These also had to be visited. I had the assistance of a sub-agent, Mr. Pocklington, who was, however, stationed permanently at the Blackfoot Crossing, but he saved me much work; also valuable assistance was always given by the police, particularly among the Bloods, on which reserve a detachment was placed.

I found the Piegan and Stoney Indians getting on much better than any of the other tribes, they having quite a large tract of land under cultivation. However, I managed this summer to get quite a large acreage under crop on all the reserves, principally potatoes, barley and turnips, and got the Bloods and Blackfeet to make a good start in the way of house-building, which they had done little of previous to my arrival.

The Stoney and Piegan Indians took the cattle promised them at the treaty, and did well with them, but the rest of the tribes in the treaty refused them, and it was just as well they did, as what with the hundreds of dogs in these camps and the unfitness of these Indians to take care of cattle, they would either have soon been all killed or else lost past recovery.

The two supply farms were given up and sold the following year. This was just as well, as they were a great expense and of little use for the purpose they were originally intended.

The police in the west had their hands full this summer, as continual raids were made by the Crees and Southern Indians on the Bloods and Blackfeet, after horses, many of which they ran off. Of course these Indians retaliated, but a check was put to this after a while, as many Indians were captured red-handed, and sent down to the penitentiary.

One instance of this horse-stealing that occurred, I well remember. One of the Blood Chiefs, White Calf, came and reported to me at Macleod that forty of their horses had been stolen by Crees on the night previous, and he was anxious to take a war party and go after them. This I would not allow, but gave him a letter to Col. Irvine, the Police Commissioner at Ft. Walsh, in which I asked him to try and recover the stolen horses, and I stipulated that only three Bloods should go; however, without my knowledge, quite a party started, in fact about ninety, and after they were well on the road they sent me word that this large party had gone, as they were afraid of being attacked by the Crees at Cypress Hills; I much doubted this explanation, and the sequel showed I was right. They gave Col. Irvine and the police at Ft. Walsh endless trouble to keep them from coming into hostile contact with the Indians congregated round Cypress, and did in fact kill a Cree as they were leaving. Of course they had endless excuses. They had seen their horses among the Crees, who refused to give them up. The Chief, Pie-a-pot, had thrown the tobacco they had offered him to make peace into the fire. With the exception of this band I had no trouble with the Indians during the summer, they remaining quietly at work on their reserves, but I had to be constantly among them, and the talk was without end. By this time it was known that the C.P.R. railroad would be built through the Blackfoot reserve, and indeed the survey had been made, and it was to be expected that the Blackfeet would cause trouble over it, but such was not the case. They showed no signs of displeasure, but only curiosity, which was to be expected, as they were totally ignorant of what a railroad was.

I, on many occasions, spoke to the Blackfeet on the subject, and was asked a thousand questions, I pointed out to them the advantage they would derive from the road running near them, and they appeared satisfied; I however recommended that when the road was actually building through the reserve, it would be well to have police detachments near or on the reservation. This was afterwards carried out, and no trouble whatever was caused by the Blackfeet to the working parties. The road was built without a single hitch, much to the credit of the Indians.

The Blackfeet asked me on many occasions the meaning of the surveyors’ mounds and stakes, stating that they had been told that wherever a mound was erected, a house would be built. I over and over again took pains to fully explain the nature of the surveyors’ work, but the Indians were so superstitious that they more easily listened to false than true reports.

Although the country was fast filling up with cattle, but few cases of cattle-killing occurred this year, and although cattle belonging to the Cochrane Ranche company were running on the Blackfoot reserve in close proximity to the Indian villages, none were killed, a vast difference to what now exists after ten years, when the same company are complaining every year of the number of cattle belonging to them that are killed by the Blood Indians near their reservation. In fact the whole time I was in charge of treaty No. 1 very few cases of this kind occurred.

As the year 1882 might be said to be the first year in which the plain Indians undertook to farm, the result was most surprising, and in fact the crops raised from ’82 until ’84 have never since been equaled. In fact from 1892 until the present time it was seldom if ever, that enough vegetables were grown on the different reserves to even furnish seed for the following year.

An extract from my annual report to the Indian Commissioner for 1882 reads as follows:

“The summer has been a good and fine one, and large crops have been raised on all the reserves, with the exception of the Stonies, where as usual early frosts destroyed what crops there were. The Bloods raised as much, I should think, as two hundred thousand pounds of potatoes, and a large quantity of turnips, also some oats and barley, but principally potatoes. The Piegan crop of potatoes, oats and barley, is even greater than this. The Blackfeet have, I should think, about one hundred thousand pounds of potatoes, some turnips, and some goods fields of barley for the first year’s crop. The Sarcee crop is not very large owing to the land being bad, and the potatoes being hurt by the frost in the early part of the summer. Previous to the harvest I visited the reserve and advised the Indians to turn in as much seed for the next year as possible, telling them that the government would not furnish them with seed another year.

         “I also had large root houses built on the different reserves to hold the seed. The result is that the Indians have turned us over an abundance of potatoes, more than we can use for seed; the rest will be issued instead of flour. On the Blood Reserve we have three root-houses full of potatoes, about seventy thousand pounds, received in various quantities from different Indians, from one bag up as high as fifteen from individual Indians.

         “The Bloods have besides this a large amount of seed, many thousand pounds, in their own root-houses. We have in the last month allowed the Indians to use their potatoes, and have cut the rations one-half. It has saved many hundred sacks of flour already, and I hope to keep to this ration for the winter. We should be able to double the amount of land in crop next year.”

The report further goes on to state:

         “The result of the work done on this reserve is most satisfactory. On the Piegan reserve the potato crop is very large. The Indians have turned over for next year’s seed about fifty thousand pounds of potatoes and I have purchased fifty thousand pounds from them at 2½ cents per lb., to issue as rations at the same rate as flour, which will effect a saving of nearly 4 cents on every pound issued, as flour is $8.75 per 100 lbs., on that reserve, and it is also a great encouragement to the Indians to sell some of their produce. I have allowed some of the Piegans who had more potatoes than they could use, to sell to people in the country by giving them permits. They have, I should think, sold $1,000 worth, and have still large quantities on hand.

         “We are making also on this reserve a great reduction in the rations, letting them use their potatoes in lieu. The Indians are all fond of potatoes and it is about the best crop they can raise. At the Blackfoot Crossing we have taken in from Indians for seed, between twenty and thirty thousand pounds of potatoes, and they have a good many on hand to use. Here we are also making a reduction in the rations of flour.”

It will be seen from the above that wonderful progress had been made by these Indians this year, and it is all the more astonishing, as up to this time they were rightly considered the wildest and most warlike Indians on the plains. They have never since those first two or three years done anything near so well, from what cause it would be difficult to say. There is, however, no doubt that the seasons have been getting drier for the last six or seven years, the three or four weeks of heavy rains that always came in June of every year do not now put in an appearance, and in consequence crops are a failure nearly every year, the grass also being less luxuriant. Therefore, the only way in which this country will ever be fit for farming will be by the aid of irrigation, and even then the great expense will stand in the way, without assistance from the Canadian government.

Continued in Chapter 27: Trouble with the Southern Indians.

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 6: Closing In

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 6: Closing In

The following is a plot summary of Season 7, Episode 6 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

Rick Lagina, Dan Henskee, and other members of the Oak Island team head to the South Shore Cove, where the terminus of an old searcher tunnel (called the Shaft 9 sluiceway) was discovered at the end of the previous episode. Doug Crowell, Billy Gerhardt, and contractor Scott Barlow, using shovels and a backhoe, uncover enough of the structure to determine the sluiceway’s orientation. The crew then decides to dig a hole 25 feet along the supposed line of the sluiceway in order to verify that they have correctly estimated the structure’s subterranean route.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Steve Guptill head to the Cave-In Pit, where they meet with Alex Gauthier and other members of Eagle Canada. We learn that the seismic exploration company has laid crisscrossing lines of geophones and dynamite charges across Smith’s Cove and the Cave-In Pit area, and will be detonating around 1,000 (out of a total of 18,000) charges in the Cave-In Pit area that evening. The seismic crew proceeds with the operation as the sun sets.

The next morning, the Eagle Canada crew begins laying out geophones in the section of island between the swamp and the Money Pit area, which the narrator refers to as the “Highlands”. While the jughounds go about their work, Gary Drayton and Peter Fornetti do some metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 32, not far from the swamp. First, the pair uncovers what Drayton identifies as an 18th Century decking spike at the edge of the beach. After that, the treasure hunters unearth a curved, hand-forged, wrought-iron rod which Drayton likens to the crib spikes discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 26 back in Season 6, Episode 3. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to have the artifact analyzed by blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge.

Meanwhile, Billy Gerhardt, Scott Barlow, and other members of the Oak Island team dig a hole about 25 feet uphill from the terminus of the Shaft 9 sluiceway in the hopes of intersecting the searcher tunnel. Gerhardt digs the hole as deep as his backhoe will allow and finally uncovers the very top of the sluiceway.

Later, various members of the Oak Island team meet in the War Room with Canadian journalist and writer D’Arcy O’Connor, author of the excellent book The Secret Treasure of Oak Island: The Amazing Story of a Centuries-Old Treasure Hunt, and his daughter, Miranda. O’Connor presents his theory that the Oak Island treasure constitutes the contents of a Spanish treasure galleon bound for Spain, which foundered off the island’s coast during a storm. When prompted by Marty Lagina, the writer states that, throughout the course of his research, he read about approximately 200 Spanish treasure galleons which disappeared on the route from Havana, Cuba, to Europe. “They carried large crews,” O’Connor continues, “as well as engineers who’d been opening up the new silver mines in Bolivia and other places. So they had intelligent people aboard, and so I came up with a theory that maybe one of these ships got caught in a storm as they were following the Gulf Stream and was driven all the way north to a little island in Nova Scotia- maybe Oak Island.” Rather than attempt to sail their precious cargo through waters patrolled by the French and English- their colonial rivals- the Spaniards decided to bury the contents of their ship on Oak Island and protect it with flood tunnels. The narrator then recites several pieces of evidence which bolsters O’Connor’s theory.

The next day, Alex Lagina and Gary Drayton drive to the Ross Farm Museum in New Ross, Nova Scotia, where they show blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge some of their recent Lot 32 finds. Legge verifies that the decking spike is indeed what Drayton initially suspected it to be. Alex then concludes the meeting by saying, “So, we’ve got a deck spike, and then a mystery item that we need to do a little bit more work on,” implying that he and Gary, in a scene which failed to make this episode’s final cut, showed Legge another item- perhaps the supposed crib spike- which the blacksmithing expert was unable to identify.

Later, Gary Drayton meets with Charles Barkhouse, Billy Gerhardt, and Scott Barlow at the Money Pit area, at a location at which the treasure hunters believe Shaft 9 once lay. Gerhardt begins excavating the area with a backhoe, and Drayton proceeds to sift through the spoils he removes with a metal detector. About six feet below the surface, Gerhardt discovers cribbing from what must be Shaft 9. That accomplished, the contractor- assisted by shovel-wielding Rick Lagina and Scott Barlow, who have since joined the operation- proceeds to uncover all four corners of the 6’x12’ shaft. Shortly thereafter, the team discovers the beginning of the sluiceway connecting Shaft 9 with the South Shore cove, whereupon water seeps in to fill the hole they dug. The treasure hunters, all of whom appear visibly pleased with their discovery, agree that they ought to have Steve Guptill plot the coordinates of Shaft 9 so that they might be able to estimate the location of the original Money Pit.

Later, Rick Lagina, Jack Begley, and Doug Crowell meet with Alex Gauthier of Eagle Canada, whose team has completed the massive seismic scan of the eastern half of Oak Island. The narrator informs us that it will take several weeks for the data from the seismic survey to be analyzed and prepared.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 5: Tunnel Visions

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 5: Tunnel Visions

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 5 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

This episode begins just north of the Cave-In Pit, at one of the anomalies discovered during the ground penetrating radar scan conducted in Season 7, Episode 2. We learn through Terry Matheson’s conversation with Doug Crowell that Choice Drilling is in the process of sinking a hole in this location. While core samples are retrieved from the hole, the narrator reminds us that the Oak Island Treasure Company, back in 1897, discovered the junction of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel and the Money Pit at a depth of 111 feet.

Matheson, Crowell, Jack Begley, and Paul Troutman examine a core sample from Cave-In Pit 2, taken from a depth of 99-109 feet. The sample contains four feet of sand which stands out from the surrounding till, which the treasure hunters- including an especially enthusiastic Doug Crowell- speculate might be remnants of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. The four men call over Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Dave Blankenship and inform them of the potential discovery. Rick observes that the core sample contains no wood, unlike the sample discovered on Smith’s Cove’s Upper Beach in the previous episode. Marty responds by remarking that, if he had been tasked with constructing a flood tunnel that was to last a thousand years, he might have packed it with sand rather than support it with cribbing. The treasure hunters agree to sink another hole west of Cave-In Pit 2, on a line connecting the U-shaped structure with the Money Pit area, in order to determine whether or not the sand continues in that direction.

Later, Gary Drayton, Jack Begley, and Peter Fornetti go metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 27, first owned by Daniel McGinnis. After passing over some unknown metallic object which Drayton dismisses as “modern junk”, the metal detecting expert discovers a rusted iron chisel. When prompted by Jack Begley, Drayton speculates that the object might be as old as the swage blocks which he discovered on Lot 21 in Season 7, Episode 2, and that it might have been used for tunneling through rock.

That afternoon, the Oak Island crew returns to the Cave-In Pit area, where a hole 5 feet west of the so-called “Cave-In Pit 2” is being drilled. A core sample taken from a depth of 99-109 feet contains some sand mixed with clay, but nothing resembling the four feet of pure sand found in “Cave-In Pit 2”. In light of this setback, the crew decides to abandon the drilling operation and later conduct a seismic scan in the area.

The next day, members of the Oak Island team meet with Alex Gauthier and Scott Graychick of Eagle Canada. During their subsequent conversation, we learn that Eagle Canada has been tasked with conducting a massive seismic survey of the entire eastern end of Oak Island.

That afternoon, Craig Tester, Alex Lagina, and Laird Niven meet with GPR experts Steve Watson and Don Johnston at the foundations of the old McGinnis family cabin. We learn that the Oak Island team has decided to conduct an archaeological investigation of the foundations, and that the first step in this process is to perform a Ground Penetrating Radar scan of the area. “We’re going to have you guys come in and do your work,” Niven explains to the GPR experts, “and identify anomalies that could be significant, and based on that data, we’re going to write a new permit application for some subsurface testing- some excavation.”

Later, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room with naval historian Chipp Reid, who has come to share his theory regarding the nature of the structures discovered at Smith’s Cove. Reid shows the boys a diagram depicting a ‘water battery’, which he describes as “an artillery position that’s constructed as close to the shoreline as possible” (although it is not mentioned in this episode, this diagram is from a map of Cartagena, Colombia, drawn by English engineer John Thomas the Elder in 1741). He claims that the particular water battery depicted in the diagram was common from roughly 1600-1850. He then points out structures on the diagram which closely resemble the U-shaped structure, the L-shaped structure, and the slipway, respectively, implying that the mysterious workings at Smith’s Cove constitute the remains of a water battery. Reid then suggests that, if the structures discovered at Smith’s Cove indeed comprise a water battery, and if the structures indeed date to the mid-18th Century (as the dendrochronological dating carried out in Season 6, Episode 21 indicate), then the battery was probably constructed by members of the French military. The narrator proceeds to lecture us on the history of the Fortress of Louisbourg, an enormous French fortress constructed on Cape Breton Island from 1713-1740. Reid concludes his presentation by theorizing that the French military used Oak Island as a water battery in the early 1700s, and that they hid the treasury of Louisbourg on the island prior to the First Siege of Louisbourg in 1745.

Following Reid’s presentation, Craig Tester, Alex Lagina, and Laird Niven meet at the foundations of the McGinnis family cabin. There, Steve Watson and Don Johnston, who have already carried out their GPR scan of the foundations and surrounding area, point out some of the anomalies they came across. The strongest of these is a four-foot-wide anomaly located four feet below the surface. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to excavate these anomalies, for which they will need to acquire a permit from the provincial government.

Later, the Lagina brothers and Doug Crowell drive to Oak Island’s Southern Shore. During the drive, Crowell explains that, according to Dan Henskee, Triton Alliance went through the papers of former Oak Island treasure hunter Mel Chappell and learned an interesting piece of Oak Island history. Back in 1863, the Oak Island Association dug a 120-foot deep shaft, called ‘Shaft 9’, about 100 feet southeast of the Money Pit. In order to prevent this tunnel from flooding, they constructed a sluiceway which directed any water which might collect in the tunnel towards the South Shore Cove. That accomplished, the Association built another 108-foot-deep tunnel from Shaft 9 towards the Money Pit. Unfortunately, the Oak Island Association went under before the workers were able to complete this tunnel. Doug Crowell hopes that, if the Fellowship of the Dig manages to locate the sluiceway beneath the South Shore Cove, they may be able to trace it back to Shaft 9 and the tunnel connected to it, which extends in the direction of the Money Pit.

Doug Crowell directs the Lagina brothers to the site at which the mouth of the sluiceway is believed to lie, whereupon Marty Lagina begins excavating the area with a backhoe. At first, Marty unearths nothing besides a rusted length of pipe. When he reaches a depth of about ten feet, water begins flooding into the hole. The younger Lagina brother proceeds to dig in the direction of the water source and discovers a wooden tunnel which appears to be the mouth of the sluiceway. The treasure hunters watch with pleasure and surprise as water gushes from the opening, marveling that sluiceway still works after 156 years. They agree that they ought to follow the sluiceway to Shaft 9, and hopefully to the Money Pit beyond.



The Composition of the Smith’s Cove Flood Tunnel

In this episode, the Oak Island team drilled into one of the anomalies near the Cave-In Pit discovered during a GPR scan carried out in Season 7, Episode 2. Although nothing of interest appeared at the depth of interested indicated by the GPR scan (either 82 feet or 91 feet, depending on which anomaly was investigated), a core sample taken from 99-109 feet contained four feet of pure sand. Some members of the crew believed that this sand might be remains of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Indeed, Marty Lagina, who is an engineer by profession, remarked that if he had been tasked with constructing a flood tunnel that was to last a thousand years, he might have packed it with sand rather than support it with cribbing.

The notion that the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel might have been packed with sand is a new idea that has not previously been suggested on the show. This notion appears to conflict with the generally accepted purpose of the coconut-eelgrass filter discovered at Smith’s Cove by the Truro Company in 1850, namely that the filter was designed to prevent the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel from becoming clogged with sand and debris. It also runs contrary to the idea that the tunnel is supported by wooden cribbing, as suggested by members of the Oak Island team following the discovery of hand-cut beams in OITC-6 the previous episode. Perhaps most importantly, however, it conflicts with a discovery made by the Oak Island Treasure Company, which was mentioned in this episode. In the spring of 1897, the men of the Oak Island Treasure Company cleared out the Money Pit to a depth of 111 feet. There, they got a good look at the entrance of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel before floodwater overcame their pumps. According to the workers, the flood tunnel was 4 feet high, 2.5 feet wide, and constructed from rock.

Whatever the case, a second hole sunk five feet west of the sand anomaly, on a line connecting the U-shaped structure with the Money Pit area, yielded nothing of interest, prompting the crew to abandon their drilling operation.

Upcoming Seismic Survey of the Eastern Drumlin

In this episode, we learned that the seismic exploration company Eagle Canada has been tasked with conducting an enormous seismic scan of the entire eastern end of Oak Island. This operation will be the third seismic scan conducted on Oak Island. Throughout Season 6, Eagle Canada carried out seismic scans in the Money Pit area, the Swamp, and a place northwest of the swamp dubbed the ‘Mega Bin’ area. Although these scans revealed several tantalizing anomalies, further investigation of these anomalies failed to yield anything of interest.

Chipp Reid’s Theory

In this episode, naval historian Chipp Reid presented his own theory regarding the nature of the mysterious workings discovered at Smith’s Cove the previous season. Using a map of Cartagena, Colombia, drawn by English engineer John Thomas the Elder in 1741, he demonstrated that some of the structures discovered at Smith’s Cove- including the U-Shaped structure, the L-shaped structure, and the slipway- bear remarkable resemblance to components of a ‘water battery’, or a beachside artillery station. He went on to suggest that the battery was constructed by members of the French military, who had a major presence in Nova Scotia throughout much of the 17th and 18th Centuries. He also suggested that the battery was constructed in the early 1700s, and expressed partiality towards the theory that the Oak Island treasure consists of the treasury of the Fortress of Louisbourg, buried by members of the French military prior to the First Siege of Louisbourg in 1745.

One major problem with Reid’s theory, of which the naval historian is doubtless aware, is the dendrochronological dating of the various Smith’s Cove structures carried out in Season 6, Episode 21. Specifically, wood from the slipway was dated to 1771, and wood from the U-shaped structure was dated to 1769. If the dendrochronological dating is accurate, then it is unlikely that the French had a hand in the structures’ construction. The French lost peninsular Nova Scotia to the British during Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), the North American theatre of the War of Spanish Succession, only retaining the large island that lies north of the peninsula, known today as Cape Breton Island. Although the French made several attempts to retake peninsular Nova Scotia, including the disastrous Duc d’Anville Expedition of 1746, they never succeeded in their endeavors. The French lost their Nova Scotian holdings to the British for good in 1758, following the second Siege of Louisbourg. By 1769, when the trees of which the U-shaped structure is comprised were felled, all of Nova Scotia was firmly in British hands.

Shaft 9 and the Sluiceway

Near the end of this episode, we learn about a lost Oak Island landmark discovered years prior by Dan Henskee and members of Triton Alliance, who made the discovery while looking through the papers of former Oak Island treasure hunter Mel Chappell. Back in 1863, the Oak Island Association dug a 120-foot deep shaft, called ‘Shaft 9’, about 100 feet southeast of the Money Pit and 20 feet south of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. In order to prevent this tunnel from flooding, they constructed a sluiceway which directed any water which might collect in the tunnel towards the South Shore Cove (it must be mentioned that, in his 1958 book The Oak Island Mystery, Oak Island lawyer R.V. Harris stated that this tunnel connecting Shaft 9 with the South Shore Cove was intended to intercept the South Shore Cove flood tunnel). That accomplished, the Association built another 108-foot-deep tunnel from Shaft 9 towards the Money Pit. Although the narrator informed us in this episode that the workers were unable to complete this tunnel, R.V. Harris, in his book, stated that this tunnel “entered the [Money] Pit at a point 100 feet down and there they found the hard bottom of the Pit on the west side.”

Whatever the case, Doug Crowell, in this episode, directed Rick and Marty Lagina to a place on the South Shore Cove where the mouth of the Shaft 9 sluiceway was believed to be located. Marty Lagina excavated this area with a backhoe and unearthed a wooden tunnel from which water gushed forth. The crewmembers then agreed that they ought to follow this tunnel to Shaft 9, and to the Money Pit beyond.


Thanks for Reading

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Nakani: The Wildman of the North

Deep in the wilderness of Northern Canada lies a mysterious region around which strange tales have swirled for more than 100 years. Located near the junction of British Columbia, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, the Nahanni Valley is region replete with stories of headless prospectors, hidden gold mines, tropical oases, lost tribes, evil spirits, Indian curses, prehistoric monsters, and a mysterious “White Queen”. For about a year now, the legends of the Nahanni have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. They have been mentioned in many different YouTube videos and podcasts. A group of filmmakers from Calgary, Alberta, are currently in the process of making a brilliant documentary on them called Secrets of Nahanni. Quite a few people have seen my video Interview with a Cryptid Hunter, in which I interviewed Frank Graves, and adventurer who made an expedition to the Nahanni region in 1965. By the way, if you enjoyed that video, I have a feeling that you’ll love another of my videos entitled Legends of the Nahanni Valley: Northern Canada’s Greatest Mysteries, which also features and is narrated entirely by the actress Kelsea Crowe. To find that video, just type the word “Nahanni” into the YouTube search bar.

The popularity of the Nahanni legends seems to wax and wane over time, and to change with every generation. Back in the early 1900s, the most popular of the Nahanni stories was the tale of the Lost McLeod mine- a golden bonanza in the Mackenzie Mountains discovered and lost by two brothers who were found headless on the banks of the South Nahanni River. In the 1940s, newspaper readers across Canada and the United States were captivated by tales of a tropical oasis hidden away somewhere in the Nahanni region, where snow never fell and ice never formed. In the 1970s, the stories of all the trappers and prospectors who have disappeared or turned up headless in the Nahanni region turned the heads of magazine readers across the North American continent. Today, however, the most popular of the Nahanni tales are undoubtedly the stories of the many strange animals which are said to inhabit this secluded vale in the Canadian subarctic. In this video, we’re going to focus on one of those creatures, namely a mysterious figure said to haunt the frozen forests of Northern Canada. Very little known outside of the Canadian Territories and Alaska, this figure most closely resembles the Sasquatch said to roam the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. To the Dene people who have inhabited the Athabascan wilderness since time immemorial, however, these creatures are known as Nakani.

The following article is essentially made of up excerpts from my book Legends of the Nahanni Valley, edited slightly for the sake of context and continuity. If you haven’t done so already, please consider getting yourself a copy of this book. It consists of thirteen chapters detailing various stories and legends endemic to the Nahanni region, and is the first and only book to deal exclusively with the topic. It would make a great Christmas gift for anyone with an interest in history, folklore, mysteries, cryptozoology, or the far-flung corners of the globe. To get yourself a copy of this book, please click the following link:



Nakani: The Wildman of the North


“That he had nowhere seen the slightest Indian sign bore out the redskin reports that the country was taboo and recalled their superstitions that it was haunted by a race of prehistoric Troglodytes, or Nakanies, as they called them, with repulsive gargoyle-like faces who lived in caves cut from the living rock; creatures reported to be twice the size of ordinary humans, who never missed a chance to carry off unwary hunters or stray squaws in their powerful, gorilla-like arms.”

– Philip H. Godsell, The Curse of Dead Man’s Valley, 1950

FROM THE YOWIE OF AUSTRALIA to the Yeren of China to the Yeti of the Himalayas, huge hairy wildmen feature in folklore around the world, and Canada is no exception. Undoubtedly, the Great White North’s most famous wildman is the Sasquatch, the shy, reclusive giant said to roam the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest; often colloquially referred to as Bigfoot. Less well-known are the Sasquatch’s coastal counterparts: the emaciated, long-haired Bukwus, or “Wild Man of the Woods”, said to haunt the rivers and streams of Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Sound; and the huge, dimwitted Dzunukwa of Kwakiutl and Nootka legend- an old, black-skinned, red-lipped ogress purported to snatch up mischievous children and carry them off in a basket to her forest lair. More obscure wildmen have been reported in other parts of the country, from the Rocky Mountains of Western Alberta to the rocky highlands of Labrador. Perhaps most mysterious of all, however, are the various subhuman hominoids said to inhabit the taiga, tundra, and alpine areas of the Canadian North. Among the most prominent of these are the Nakani.

Long before Alexander Mackenzie dipped his paddle into the Deh Cho, Dene tribes from all over the North, from the eastern shores of the Mackenzie River to the forests of Alaska, spoke of mysterious wildmen who harassed them at night, often lurking in the shadows just beyond the light of the campfire. The Dene were terrified of these elusive creatures, who were as vividly real to them as the wolf and the raven, and went to great lengths to avoid crossing paths with them.

One of the first frontiersmen to write about these wildmen was Father Emile Petitot, a 19th Century Oblate missionary who lived among the Slavey and the Sahtu Dene of the North Country’s two great lakes. In 1876, Petitot wrote of a fear that spread among the Indians each summer like an epidemic: “They live at times in continual terror… of an imaginary enemy who pursues them without rest and who they believe to see everywhere even though he doesn’t exist at all.”

According to ethnographer Cornelius B. Osgood, belief in the Nakani was strong among the Slavey, Dogrib, and Sahtu Dene as late as 1929. When they suspected that a Nakani was lurking nearby, entire Dene bands would often abandon their camps and seek shelter on a nearby lake island, secure in the belief that their pursuer, for one reason or another, was unable to cross over to their new campsite from the shore. On other occasions, according to a Hudson’s Bay Company trader named John Firth, entire encampments would instead stand their ground and fire their muskets “into the forest at suppositious wanderers in the night.”

According to HBC trader B.R. Ross in his 1879 report entitled Notes on the Tinneh or Chipewyan Indians of British and Russian America:

          “A strange footprint, or any unusual sound in the forest, is quite sufficient to cause great excitement in the camp. At Fort Resolution I have on several occasions caused all the natives encamped around to flock for protection into the fort during the night simply by whistling, hidden in the bushes. My train of hauling dogs also, of a large breed of great hunters, would, in crashing through the branches in pursuit of an unfortunate hare, frighten some women out gathering berries, who would rush in frantic haste to the tents and fearfully relate a horrific account of some strange painted Indians whom they had seen. It was my custom in the spring, during the wild fowl season, to sleep outside at some distance from the fort. Numerous were the cautions that I received from the natives of my foolhardiness in doing so…”

The names that the Indians applied to their mysterious unseen enemies varied from place to place and from tribe to tribe. To the Slavey, Kaska, and Mountain Indians of Mackenzie Country, they were the “Nakani”. The Gwich’in who lived further to the north, in the frozen forests that skirt the Arctic Circle, referred to them as “Mahoni.” The Koyukon Indians of the Yukon River Valley called these creatures “Nakentlia,” or “Sneakers,” while the Tanaina of Southwest Alaska referred to them as “Nant’ina,” or “Hairy Men”. Other appellatives included “Bad Indian,” “Bellowing Man,” and “Bushman.” Although the labels attached to these wildmen were numerous, Indian descriptions of them were eerily consistent across the Northland.



Physical Appearance

Most 19th and 20th Century frontiersmen who wrote about the Nakani in their books and journals were under the impression that the Dene regarded them as hairy cannibalistic giants, vaguely human in appearance, with red eyes and long, muscular arms.

According to English adventurer Michael H. Mason in his 1924 book The Arctic Forests, the Gwich’in of Peel River Country in Northern Yukon described the Nakani (or “Mahoni,” as they called them) as “terrible wild men, with red eyes, and of enormous height, completely covered with long hair.” Their tremendous size was attested to by the three-foot-long, human-like footprints that they left in their wake, as well as their alleged ability to tear entire birch trees from the earth with their bare hands, roots and all. Similarly, Philip Godsell, who spent much time around the campfires of the Slavey and Kaska during his years as an inspector for the Hudson’s Bay Company, described the Nakani as “troglodytes, twice the size of ordinary humans, who went about naked save for a coating of evil-smelling hair…” In some articles, he likened them to gorillas and gargoyles, and commented upon the superhuman strength and speed they were said to possess.

Many frontiersmen wrote about the incredible size of this creature’s footprints, which they left behind in the snow and muskeg. Their tracks were purportedly manlike in appearance, yet much longer and narrower. In some accounts, their big toe stood out from the remaining four. Although their footprints never bore any nail marks, some said that the Nakani’s fingers were tipped with long, nail-like claws.

By the mid-20th Century, the image of the Nakani as an enormous hairy monster was making its way into books and popular magazines, often in dramatic fashion. For example, an article entitled “Cursed Treasure of Deadman’s Valley,” published in the June 1968 issue of the magazine Saga, maintained that the Nakani (or “Naconni,” as the author called them), were “hairy demons who stand as high as a Kodiak bear, are as swift as a bird in flight, and… kill all things they can reach by cutting off their heads… Their skin is so tough that a bullet will not penetrate it, and cutting it with a knife is more difficult than cutting stone.”


The Kaska, Slavey, and Mountain Indians of Mackenzie Country long maintained that the Nahanni Valley was the domain of the Nakani, and that these fearsome monsters resided within its foreboding caves and canyons. This belief is attested to by the region’s toponymy; according to Dene language expert Allan Adam, “Na’aahdee”, an old native word for the South Nahanni River, means “River of Giants.”

The Nakani were by no means confined to these remote mountain hideaways. Many of these monsters tirelessly traversed the subarctic forests in search of prey, often travelling extraordinarily long distances without stopping for food or rest, usually alone. Natives all over the Northland, from the coastal regions of Alaska to the forests of the Yukon, lived in almost perpetual fear of them.

Nakani attacks occurred almost exclusively during the spring, summer, and early autumn. The subarctic winter, on the other hand, though dark, miserable, and bitterly cold, was mercifully devoid of these dreaded encounters. Where the Nakani retreated to during the winter months was a mystery to the Dene. Some said that they retired to carefully-concealed burrows that they dug from the permafrost, where they spent the winter hibernating like bears. Others claimed that they migrated south to a place where their kind were more numerous.


Like the Nahanni Indians, the Nakani have been blamed for the unusual number of mysterious deaths and disappearances that have plagued Nahanni Country since the days of Willie and Frank McLeod. Legend has it that these monsters did their grisly work at night, prowling about the river valley in the dark and quietly dispatching any campers they happened to encounter, perhaps tearing, twisting, or hacking their victims’ heads from their shoulders.

Outside the Mackenzie Mountains, the Nakani hunted travelling Indians, stalking them from concealment in the brush. Oftentimes, a Nakani’s intended victims only became aware of its presence when one of their number- perhaps a scout on reconnaissance duty- stumbled upon its strange tracks in the forest, or caught a glimpse of its dark figure out of the corner of his eye, darting noiselessly into the bush. In other instances, the uncanny feeling of being watched might serve as sufficient proof that a Nakani was somewhere nearby.

When a Nakani targeted a particular camp, it took up residence in the trees just beyond the light of the campfire and waited. Sometimes it taunted its intended victims by throwing rocks or sticks at them. It also, on occasion, emitted strange whistling sounds or noises resembling human laughter. Often, it would slip into camp in the middle of the night and steal food- typically fish, either from drying racks or smokehouses- or destroy fish nets and other equipment.

Legend has it that the purpose of the Nakani’s visits were twofold. Its primary objective was stealing women; girls who strayed too far from the camp, especially at dawn or dusk, were in serious danger of being abducted and dragged away into the woods, never to be seen again. The other motivation that drew these monsters to Dene camps was sustenance. If afforded the opportunity, Nakani would snatch children and lone hunters and carry them off into the woods, where it would devour them.

On rare occasions, intended victims- most often young women- narrowly escaped the Nakani’s clutches and returned to tell the tale. Those who survived such encounters often described a powerful, nauseating odor which preceded the attack. Others reported being beset by an overwhelming, almost petrifying sense of dread, as if the Nakani had exercised some sort of hypnotic power over them.



Wild Indians

Frontiersmen weren’t the only white men to document the Nakani phenomena; another category of Caucasian to write about these subarctic wildmen were ethnologists and anthropologists- professional academics who included the tale in their peer-reviewed articles on Dene culture and beliefs. Interestingly, the majority of these scholars extracted an entirely different version of the Nakani legend from the Indians whom they interviewed. In this version, the Nakani are not huge, hairy hominoids, but rather strange-looking bedraggled Indians.

Most academics who wrote on the subject agreed that the Nakani, according to their Dene informants, were Indians who became wild after engaging in murder or cannibalism. As a result of their hard life in the bush and their separation from society, they acquired a frightening, grotesque appearance. Their faces were gaunt and their bodies emaciated on account of malnutrition. Their skin was often caked with filth and grease, their hair unkempt, and their clothing worn and ragged. Oftentimes, their outfits were strange or incomplete. One knife-wielding Nakani, for example, was said to have been seen wearing nothing more than hard-soled shoes made from untanned hide and a headscarf. Others were purported to wear strange boots which could not be purchased at any trading post in the region.

Although the Nakani described by academics were literally wild men bereft of civilization, some of the attributes with which they were ascribed were distinctly inhuman. For example, although Osgood described the Nakani as “a human being, generally an Indian… dressed either in the fashion of an Indian or a white man…” he also maintained that it wore “tremendously large boots which are noted by the tracks he leaves in the mud”- tracks evocative of the long, narrow footprints left by the hairy giant of frontier legend. In a similar vein, anthropologist Richard K. Nelson wrote that the Koyukon Indians of the Yukon River Valley described the Nakani as being among the “large mammals”- a creature that was neither Man nor Beast, but something in between.

Most academics dismissed these inhuman qualities as inevitable distortions added by Dene storytellers who hoped to make their tales more interesting to the listener.  The Nakani, they firmly maintained, was nothing more than a man (or, in rare occasions, a woman) who became separated from society, either having been banished for some crime he committed, or isolated through some tragedy such as starvation or revenge warfare which claimed the lives of everyone else in his band. The Dene were afraid of these wild Indians because they considered them crazy and unpredictable, well aware of the deleterious effect of extreme isolation on one’s mental state.

A Dene Fairytale

Many of those who have written on the subject have concluded that the Nakani was a boogeyman who served to dissuade women, children, and lone hunters from wandering too far from the safety of the camp. These people maintain that the Nakani legend is probably a relic of bygone times, when the Dene tribes of the Canadian North were in a state of total warfare with one another. During those days, Dene raiding parties would stealthily approach their enemies’ camps during the night and, hiding in the brush, would steal any women and children they found alone on the outskirts. As Poole Field put it on one of his letters:

“In trying to run the stories down and by careful investigation I have finally come to the conclusion that it originated from the old days, when practically all the Indians at one time or another used to make raids on each other and would take anything of value found in the camp conquered, killing the men and taking any women or young girls or boys back to their own camp. After Dawson was struck and the civilized portion of the country became policed, it was given up, but still some of the younger men and also some of the older ones would take hunting trips into the country that was claimed by other tribes, and while doing this they would hang around any Indian camp at night in some case they would capture a young girl that some of them had taken a fancy to and take her back to their own tribe. Each tribe if the occasion just came right would give a foreign tribe a good scare any way even if they didn’t do any worse. In the tribe that I was travelling with, there was a grandmother that had been stolen as a girl from the Pelly’s and another from the Loose Shoe tribe at Peel River and I know several on the Pelly at the time of which I write.”

Some believed that the Nakani legend specifically derived from warfare between Dene tribes and the more southerly Cree, who, equipped with HBC muskets that were far superior to traditional Dene weapons, invaded the North Country in the late 1700’s, pressured by their fur trading rivals to the south.

The Cryptozoological Explanation

One of the most intriguing theories regarding the nature of the Nakani is that this figure is a cryptid, or “hidden animal”- specifically a species of great ape endemic to North America. Some cryptozoologists, as experts in the study of hidden animals are known, suggest that the Nakani might be the same species as the Sasquatch, another suspected North American hominid. Some have theorized that it is a remnant Neanderthal or Denisovan- archaic humans generally believed to have gone extinct about 40,000 years ago. Others believe that it might be a relative of Gigantopithecus, an enormous, possibly bipedal ape that disappeared from the jungles of Southeast Asia around 100,000 years ago. Others still hypothesize that the Nakani is an entirely new species of hominid which has yet to be accepted by the scientific community.

Homo sapiens, or modern humans, are the only species of great ape widely believed to have migrated to the Americas in ancient times, although the ancestors of New World monkeys, as improbable as it sounds, are suspected to have voyaged from Africa to the eastern shores of South America via vegetation rafts sometime during the Paleogene Epoch, preceding Christopher Columbus’ first trans-Atlantic voyage by about 50 million years. If archaic humans or some other variety of great ape really travelled to the Americas in prehistoric times, how did they do it?

Most anthropologists believe that the first humans to arrive in the Americas travelled from Siberia to Alaska via an ancient bridge of land and ice, formally referred to as Beringia. The first of these nomads are believed to have followed large game herds across the Bering Strait around 13,000 year ago, near the end of the last ice age. At that time, North America was dominated by two great glaciers: the western Cordilleran ice sheet, and the easterly Laurentian ice sheet, which met at a point just east of the Rocky Mountains. During an event known as the Wisconsin Glacial Episode, these glaciers began to melt, opening up a longitudinal passage that ran down the length of the continent. Seeking greener pastures, many of the nomads followed this passage south. Their descendants multiplied and scattered across North and South America, forming the various nations whose members are collectively known today as Amerindians.


Is it possible that other less-advanced hominids- perhaps the ancestors of the Sasquatch and the Nakani- also crossed from Siberia to the Americas via Beringia? Fossil evidence clearly indicates that both Neanderthals and Denisovans inhabited Northeast Asia around the same time as Homo sapiens. And intriguingly, Russian folklore contends that the Altai Mountains of Central Asia and the boreal forests of Siberia are home to hairy subhumans eerily evocative of North American wildmen, known respectively as the Almas and the Chuchunya.

Although most scientists believe that human beings were the only hominids to make their way to the New World prior to the Age of Exploration, a tantalizing archaeological discovery made near the Gwich’in village of Old Crow, Yukon, in the late 1970’s indicates that the Canadian North was occupied by intelligent, tool-wielding animals at least twelve thousand years before the first Paleo-Indian set foot on Alaskan soil. In the Bluefish Caves, located about 110 miles from the shores of the Arctic Ocean, anthropologist Jacques Cinc-Mars discovered a mammoth bone which appeared to have been fashioned into a caribou fleshing tool around 23,000 B.C.

More recently, some archaeologists have argued that a mastodon bone unearthed near San Diego, U.S.A., during a routine highway excavation in the early 1990’s- coupled with a handful of primitive stone tools discovered nearby- constitutes proof that some sort of intelligent hominid lived in the Americas as early as 130,000 B.C. The bone in question bore spiral fractures which indicated that someone or something had smashed it with a rock when it was still fresh, presumably in an attempt to gain access to the nutritional marrow within. Flat cobblestones and round stones discovered nearby bore markings which implied their employment as primitive hammers and anvils.

One of the most intriguing pieces of evidence supporting the notion that the Nakani are real, flesh-and-blood cryptids is that the fact that they share a number of peculiar attributes with other supposed wildmen from all over the world. For example, 19th Century Slavey trappers, whose only connection with the Outside was through a handful of missionaries and the HBC traders with whom they haggled, claimed that the Nakani made whistling calls, left behind huge footprints, had a penchant for stone-throwing, and emitted a putrid odour somewhat akin to the smell of rotten flesh- characteristics which the Coast Salish of the Fraser Delta ascribed to the Sasquatch, and Aborigines of the Australian Outback to their own wildman, the Yowie.



The Nakani of Old Crow, Yukon

Harrowing stories of encounters with the Nakani have been a staple of Dene campfire conversation for countless generations. Unfortunately, most of these tales have long been lost to history, as is so often the case with oral lore.

One old Dene story which survived to the present day, recorded as it was in 1964 by Northern folklorist Charles J. Keim, tells of Nakani which haunted the woods surrounding Old Crow, Yukon, not far from the Bluefish Caves. According to this narrative, a young girl tasked with gathering spruce branches for her bed wandered a little too far from the camp. The Nakani, who had been watching her from concealment in the trees, “snatched the girl and took her back to his cave.” There, he bound her hands with babiche and tethered her to a tree stump situated just outside the cave’s mouth so that she could not escape.

After spending several days outside the Nakani’s lair, the girl asked the wildman to give her some privacy. The monster obliged and turned his back while she moved behind the tree stump, contenting himself with holding one end her tether in his hand. Somehow, the girl managed to free herself from her bonds when the Nakani was not looking. She stripped naked, dressed the stump with her clothes and bonnet, tied her tether to the stump, and stealthily slipped away into the woods, homeward-bound.

When some time had elapsed, the Nakani, oblivious, called out to the girl to see if she still required privacy. When she failed to answer him, he tugged on her tether and was surprised to find that he could not move her. The wildman began to sing a love song and moved towards what he thought was his prisoner, dancing as he went. “What a surprise he had,” wrote Keith, “when he leaped and hugged a stump.”

Eliza Andre’s Tale

In the 2007 book The History and Stories of the Gwichya Gwich’in, Eliza Andre, a Gwich’in elder from the settlement of Tsiigehtchic, NWT, located at the confluence of the Mackenzie and Arctic Red Rivers, related an old local story involving a Nakani:

Once, an old woman and her grandson went out into the bush to snare rabbits. One day, when they were inspecting their traps, the grandson stopped dead in his tracks. “Grandmother,” he said, “I hear something.”

“What do you hear?” the old woman asked.

“Back past our trail, someone is making noise.”

The old woman listened very carefully until she, too, heard the sound. Immediately, she stuffed the rabbits she had snared into a bundle, threw the bundle over her shoulder, and set out for camp as fast as she could, urging her grandson to follow quickly.

When the pair finally reached their tent, the old woman promptly built a fire, hastily skinned the rabbits, and threw their intestines onto the burning wood. Slowly, the intestines began to sizzle.

“By this time,” wrote Andre, “they could both hear someone making noise outside their camp; someone was approaching their camp, drawing nearer and nearer.” In preparation for their encounter with what could only be a Nakani, the old woman gathered the hot intestines and crouched by the door of the tent, waiting. Sure enough, the intruder, who was indeed a Nakani, poked his head through the tent opening. His ravenous eyes fell upon the old woman and her grandson.

Immediately, the old woman slapped the creature in the face with the hot intestines. The Nakani howled in pain and surprise and reeled back from the tent, clutching his scalded face. With a heavy thump, he landed on the ground and lay still.

“The following morning,” Andre continued, “they went out to investigate the incident of the previous night. They found a big bushman stretched outside their camp. They did not bother to do anything to him but instead retired to their tent, never to be bothered again for a long, long time.”

John McLeod’s Experience

It is possible that the first white men to have a brush with the Nakani were HBC engage John McLeod and his crew, during their expedition up the ‘West Branch’ of the Liard River in the summer of 1831. One night, while resting by the fire after a long day of tracking and portaging, the voyageurs were harassed by an unseen assailant, who hurled stones at them from the shadows. Although McLeod speculated that this marauder was probably a Nahanni Indian, native legend suggests that this stone-throwing provocateur, considering his behavior, may have been a Nakani.

Paul Peters’ Sighting

In his 2002 book Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, author George M. Eberhart related a Nakani encounter had by a native named Paul Peters in August, 1960. While at his fishing camp, located ten miles down the Yukon River from Ruby, Alaska, Peters watched a Nakani make its way along a rocky beach towards his dogs, “which were whining and acting strange.” The creature was broad-shouldered and very muscular, and walked on two legs like a man. It was covered in black hair, and was about 6’6’’ tall. Suddenly, perhaps frightened by the dogs, the Nakani altered its course, climbed a steep hill overlooking the river, and disappeared into the bush.

Recent Eyewitness Accounts

Far from being obsolete phenomena relegated to the 19th and 20th Centuries, Nakani sightings still occur with casual frequency in the wilderness of Northern Canada and Alaska. On July 28, 2016, for example, the CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; a major Canadian media company) published an article describing a Nakani encounter reported by Tony Williah, a Dogrib native from the settlement of Whati, NWT.

Earlier that month, while boating from his hometown to the northern tip of Lac La Martre (the third largest lake in the Northwest Territories, situated roughly halfway between the Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes), Williah spied a plastic bag bobbing in the water. Hoping to retrieve the object, he pulled his boat alongside it. While he reached down to grab the bag, a rogue wave tipped his boat over, and Williah found himself immersed in freezing water. After struggling in vain to right his vessel and climb back inside, he decided to swim for the nearest island. Hampered though he was by his waterlogged clothing, he managed to reach the island and crawl onto its rocky shore, exhausted and chilled to the bone.

“All of a sudden,” Williah told the CBC, “there was a big man standing beside me. He must have walked away, because I heard some branches break throughout the bushes. I packed up my clothes in a white bag and readied myself to leave.”

And leave he did, though not before spending a terrifying 48-hours alone on the beach, certain that the isle’s mysterious resident was watching him from concealment. On July 19, 2016, Williah was rescued by an RCMP and Canadian military search party and taken to the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife, NWT, where he made a full recovery. He later claimed that he never slept a wink throughout the entire ordeal.

One blogger who commented upon Williard’s experience suggested that the Dogrib’s Nakani sighting may have been a case of what has been called “Third Man Syndrome”- a phenomenon reported by explorers, outdoor athletes, and disaster survivors in which a mysterious, guardian angel-like figure appears in times of extreme difficulty to offer comfort and assistance. Intriguing though it may be, this explanation cannot account for another potential Nakani sighting reported in the fall of 2012 by two Inuit women from Quebec’s northern Nunavik region.

While picking berries near the village of Akulivik, Maggie Cruikshank Qingalik and her friend spotted a strange creature out on the tundra. Initially, the two ladies thought that that the figure was another berry picker. As it got closer, however, they realized that it was covered in long, dark hair.

“We weren’t sure what it was at first,” said Qingalik in an interview. “It is not a human being, it was really tall, and kept coming towards our direction and we could tell it was not a human.” Qingalik estimated that the creature was around three metres tall (9’10’’). Its footprints were later found to be 40 centimetres (15.7 inches) long.


Other Northern Wildmen

Over the years, hundreds of wildman sightings have been reported on the Pacific Coast of Alaska, the historic homeland of the Tlingit Indians. Although many witnesses referred to the figure they encountered as a “bushman”, evoking the Nakani of Dene lore, some of the descriptions they furnished correspond more closely with the classic portrait of a Sasquatch- a supposed ape-man whose coastal range, some believe, extends from California to as far north as St. Michael, Alaska.

Indeed, the Nakani is not the only wildman said to inhabit the North Country. As Pierre Berton put it in his 1956 book The Mysterious North:

“The Mohoni, who flit through the Peel River country in the northern Yukon, are enormous hairy giants with red eyes, who eat human flesh and devour entire birch trees at a gulp. The predatory Sasquatches of British Columbia’s mountain caves are eight feet tall and covered with black woolly hair from head to foot. There are others, all akin to these: the terrible Brush Man of the Loucheaux in the upper Mackenzie, with his black face and yellow eyes, preying on women and children; the Weetigo of the Barrens, that horrible, naked cannibal, his face black with frostbite, his lips eaten away to expose his fanglike teeth; the eight-foot head-hunting ‘Mountain Men’ of the Nahanni; and those imaginary beings of Great Slave Lake whom the Dogrib Indians simply call ‘the Enemy’ and fear so greatly that they must always build their homes on islands safe from the shoreline where the Enemy roam.”

In my book Legends of the Nahanni Valley, I talk about eight more wildman legends endemic to Northern Canada and Alaska, including the Wendigo of Cree and Algonquin folklore and the Kushtaka, or Land Otter Men, that the Tlingit say haunt the Alaskan Coastline. I also offer a more thorough description of the various ethnological theories regarding the nature of the Nakani, and include a few more Nakani sightings that require more context than I was prepared to give in this video, including a fascinating encounter that took place right inside the Nahanni Valley itself. If you’d like to get yourself or a special someone a copy of this book, please check out the link below:

Governor General Visits Northwest

Back to The Riders of the Plains.

The following is an excerpt from The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Cecil Edward Denny. This work is in the public domain.

Continued from Chapter XXIV – Indian Farm Started.


Chapter XXV

Governor General Visits Northwest

THE COMMISSIONER of the Police was notified from Ottawa during the summer of 1881, by the Comptroller of the force, Mr. F. White, that it was the intention of the Marquis of Lorne, the Governor General of Canada, to visit the North-west Territories during that summer, and to have escorts of police in readiness to accompany his party in their journey through the country. In July an escort left Fort Walsh in charge of Sergeant-Major Lake for Qu’Appelle, it being arranged that Superintendent Herchmer should meet them at that place. I might mention that, as heretofore the ranks in the force had been constables, acting constables and sub-constables, they had this year been changed to sergeants, corporals and constables, and the commissioned ranks, being previously inspectors and sub-inspectors, were now superintendents and inspectors. The uniform had also been materially changed. The party from Fort Walsh consisted of sixteen constables, three corporals and three staff sergeants, with thirty one horses and three wagons. The party under Superintendent W. Herchmer’s command was to meet the Governor General at Fort Ellice, which was situated about 400 miles from Fort Walsh, so they had a nice little journey before their actual work began. Relays of horses were sent to Battleford and Calgary, together with forage and other supplies.


The Commissioner met the Governor General and party at the Blackfoot crossing on the 11th of Sept., where a grand war dance of the Blackfeet had been held, in honor of the visit, and proceeded with the party to Ft. Macleod via Calgary, at which latter place they rested a day or two.

At Ft. Macleod the escort was changed, and Superintendent Crozier took command for the journey south into Montana, the Governor General intending to return east by the United States.

The officer in command of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Colonel Kent, at Fort Shaw, Montana, situated something over 200 miles south of Ft. Macleod, was notified by Col. Irvine of the Governor General’s intended visit, and the notice was received by him and the officers under his command with the greatest satisfaction. Lt. Col. Irvine and Col. Kent, with an escort of United States cavalry met the Governor General with the escort of mounted police, at the South Piegan Agency, Montana, and the two escorts proceeded together to Ft. Shaw, where the Governor General and the Canadian police were most cordially received and all honors shown them. From this point the Governor General travelled under the escort of United States troops, Superintendent Crozier returning with his party to Ft. Macleod. Altogether the journey from the beginning to the end was most satisfactory, and the behavior of the different police escorts beyond all praise, as the following copy of a letter written on the old escort from Winnipeg to Macleod, will show.

Ft Macleod, 18, Sept., 81


I am commanded by His Excellency the Governor General to desire you to express to Superintendent Herchmer his entire satisfaction with the admirable manner that officer has performed his duty while in command of the force of mounted police which has escorted his Excellency from Winnipeg to Ft. Macleod. I am further to request you to convey to the non-commissioned officers and men who formed the escort, his Excellency’s thanks for the services rendered by them while on the march, and the pleasure it has afforded him to witness the discipline and efficiency of the corps.

I have the honor to be, Sir

Your obedient servant,

(Sgd.) F. De Winton, Lt. Col.


The same thanks were also given to Supt. Crozier and the escort under his command before they returned north from Fort Shaw.

The whole of the Northwest Territories were now beginning to settle, not it is true, with great rapidity, but slowly and surely, and it was becoming evident that the strength of the police force, about 300, was not sufficient for the work they were called upon to do, more particularly as nearly all the Indians had now settled on their reserves. The force was stationed and divided up between thirteen posts, as follows; Fort Walsh, Qu’Appelle, Shoal Lake, Swan River, Ft. Macleod, Blackfoot crossing, Calgary, Macleod Farm, Blood Reserve, Battleford, Saskatchewan, Prince Alberta and Wood Mountain. These different stations were in most cases at long distances from each other, and being so numerous, their strength was very small. The commissioner therefore recommend this fall to the government the necessity of increasing the force by at least 200 men, giving many good reasons for doing so, the most particular being the necessity of protection for the settlers now entering the country against the Indians, and vice versa. I quote a portion of the recommendation as follows:

“Since the beginning of Treaty 7 in 1877, the Blackfeet, Bloods and Piegans have never been even temporarily assembled in Canadian territory up to their full strength. In 1877 it must be remembered that large quantities of buffalo were to be found in the country. The Indians were then self supporting, in fact almost rich, and certainly contented. Thus notwithstanding the fact of these three tribes being nothing less than savages, they were not dangerous. Now matters have completely changed; the savage nature alone remains, and they are purely dependent on the government for a living. The yoke of dependence weighs somewhat heavily upon them. It is true that the policy of settling the Indians on reserves, and instructing them in agricultural pursuits has been adopted; small bands have from time to time straggled in, food homes on the reserves and adopted the new mode of life, but the majority are fresh from the south of the international boundary line, where they have been employed in hunting buffalo. It must be remembered that these Indians have led a lawless and roving life, that they have been accustomed from infancy to regard other men’s cattle and horses as fair plunder, and that the habits of a life time are not easy to unlearn. It is not natural to suppose that they will at once settle down to a quiet, humdrum life, and devote themselves heart and soul to farming. Discontent may, in fact more than probably will, break out, and the spirit of unrest show itself, particularly among the young men, which, if not suppressed in time, will result in periodical raids on the cattle and horses of settlers. This would in a short time lead to acts of retaliation and a serious outbreak would follow as a natural consequence.

“The number of Indians in the Northwest Territories, all under the jurisdiction of the police, may be taken as 27,000. The area of territory is some 375,000 square miles, almost equal to the area of France and Germany combined, or nearly twice that of Spain and Portugal.”


It was also recommended that the fort at Macleod should be rebuilt on another site, as the river bottom on which the old fort stood was fast being washed away by the Old Man’s river. Ft. Walsh was also recommended to be abandoned, as the site was far from being a good one, and the Cypress Hills would never be a farming country, as summer frosts were too prevalent. No settlers whatever had come into that district in the six years the police had been there, and I doubt if in 1881 there was a single settler within a hundred miles of that place. The Canadian Pacific was now creeping towards the Northwest and it would soon become necessary that the headquarters of the force should be on the line of railway as soon as it was built to a suitable point, which would soon occur. During the summer of this year, 1881 the coal mines at the present town of Lethbridge were first opened by Capt. Bryant, working for the Galt company, who had leased the coal seams in that locality from the Canadian government. Capt. Bryant also visited the coal seams on the Blackfoot reserve on the Bow river, and started men cutting timber on the Company’s timber limit in the Porcupine Hills, west of Ft. Macleod, where a saw mill was afterwards erected and timber cut and hauled to the Old Man’s river, at Ft. Macleod, where barges were built and sent down the river to the coal mines, where they were, until the advent of the C.P. Railway, loaded and towed down the south Saskatchewan river.

During the stay of the Marquis of Lorne at Calgary I was offered by Mr. Dewdney, the Indian Commissioner who was with the party, the agency of the Cree and Assiniboine Indians at Fort Walsh, which I accepted, together with Mr. Dewdney, proceeded from Ft. Macleod across country to Ft. Walsh after the Marquis had gone south.

There were about 700 Assiniboine and about 1,000 Crees camped at Ft. Walsh and in the neighborhood, and these were in a very destitute condition. An experimental farm had been started for them on Maple Creek, on the north side of the mountains, but owing to the summer frosts, had not proved much of a success; although some wheat had been raised it had not fully ripened. No beef cattle had been contracted for these Indians, and as there were no buffalo now in that section, it was difficult for them to get a living, which they managed to gain principally by fishing. Some of the lakes in the Cypress Hills were full of fish, principally suckers, and on these they had to live. A great many of the Cree Indians were non treaty, and it was the aim of the government to get them all, both Crees and Assiniboines, away from Cypress, and on to reservations east of the present Regina. They had, however, shown great unwillingness to go, and as the season was far advanced, it was necessary that some provision should be made for them at Ft. Walsh, and with the scanty supply on hand, I and Inspector McIllree, who was in charge of the police at that place, had our hands full. The winter was a very hard one, and the Indians suffered greatly, bacon, a little pemmican, wheat and fish, being altogether their food during the winter, and our work was of the hardest to keep them quiet on these short rations. Too much credit cannot be given the commanding officer and those under him for the manner in which they handled the Indians this winter and kept them quiet. There were many bad characters among the Crees assembled there, such as Lone Man, Little Pine, and many others who took an active part in the rebellion of 1885.

Mr. Dewdney the Indian Commissioner was this winter appointed Lt. Governor of the N.W. Territories, Lt. Governor Laird’s time having expired. Mr. Dewdney at the same time was Lt. Governor and Indian Commissioner, and Mr. E. Galt Asst. Indian Commissioner. It was not until late in the summer that the Assiniboines and most of the Crees left Ft. Walsh, and then they went south along the Missouri river, as they had received word that buffalo were to be found in that direction, and it was with great difficulty that most of them were induced to go on their reserves near Qu’Appelle, but after the payments they again went south after returning all tools etc., that they had received from the government.

Big Bear and a large following of Crees, all non-treaty Indians, who refused to sign the treaty, as they said they objected to hanging as the punishment for murder, had for years off and on, been hanging round Ft. Walsh, sometimes going south to the Missouri river after buffalo, but always returning to Cypress; these Indians had given endless trouble but in December, 1882, they took the treaty at that place, and went north in 1883, only, however, to foment discord and to join the rebellion in 1885.

Regarding these Indians, the Indian Commissioner in his report of November 1882, remarks:

“The wish of the government that all Indians south, should go north, as, I am sorry to report, been only partially successful, but had Ft. Walsh been abandoned as determined on last winter, I have no doubt the bulk of them now south would have been on their reserves, and some of the restless ones who went north would not have risked returning south as they did. The knowledge that if the buffalo failed, they could fall back on Ft. Walsh, made them visit what would otherwise have been starvation. At one time during the summer it looked as if we should have had a return of the buffalo in large numbers, as several bands were north of the Missouri River, on the Milk River, but the United States troops stationed south of the boundary to prevent the return of the Indians, coupled with the burning of the grass along the boundary line by the American Indians, drove them back, and they are still south of the Missouri river.

“Our Indians who expected to meet buffalo this fall, remained south, and when starvation actually stared them in the face, they congregated round Ft. Walsh. They were in a most deplorable condition and begged to be paid their annuities at that place.”

The Indian Commissioner goes on to report Big Bear being admitted to treaty No. 6, and states that: “Big Bear, who has, I think, borne unjustly a bad character, will make one of the best of chiefs.” This prediction of the Commissioner was far from being realized, as Big Bear was one of the most mischievous and stubborn Indians of the Rebellion.

During the summer of 1882, the Northwest police, which up to this time had been only three hundred strong, was increased to 500 in number and the western posts greatly strengthened thereby. It was time this increase was made, as the Indians were all through the south and west giving a great deal of trouble in getting them to remain on their reserves, and to put a stop to horse stealing in the south, which was becoming very prevalent and giving rise to complaints from the American government. The small force of police had more than they could do, and it was high time that an increase in the strength of the force should be made.

Continued in Chapter 26: Trouble with Blackfeet.