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Powwow Country: Old Fort Trail, Saskatchewan

Fort Battleford from the gate. (Photo: provided)
Author: 
Windspeaker Staff
Volume: 
29
Issue: 
3
Year: 
2011

Old Fort Trail, Saskatchewan

Many historic Aboriginal leaders are recognized along the Old Fort Trail in Saskatchewan. The route used by chiefs, traders, and North West Mounted Police is today marked by historic sites that honour some of the significant events that took place during the formation of Canada.
For instance, Fort Battleford, established in 1876, was a NWMP post. Officers there were instrumental in the signing of Treaty Six between the government and First Nations people. However, when the needs of First Nations people weren’t being met, Chief Poundmaker led discussions with the Canadian government on behalf of his people. “Poundmaker, who was chief of the closest settlement, found himself in conflict with police,” said Scott Whiting, site manager of Fort Battleford. Big Bear joined forces with Poundmaker to peacefully negotiate with the government, however, violence ensued. Following the Northwest Resistance of 1885, Poundmaker and Big Bear were both tried for treason and spent time at the Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba. Both were released after falling ill. “These stories are very important,” said Whiting. “The events of 1885 continue to have an impact on Canada today. They set the stage for everything that came after.”
Wood Mountain Post was another NWMP detachment along the Old Fort Trail that operated between 1874 and 1918.There, Chief Sitting Bull negotiated with Major James Welsh and peace was maintained in the area. But just as Big Bear and Poundmaker were dissatisfied with the Canadian government’s treatment of First Nations people, Sitting Bull was concerned about the famine and illness facing his people. Sitting Bull, who fled the US was seeking refuge in the Wood Mountain area, but because of the famine, Sitting Bull returned to the US where he was killed by Indian Agency Police. Melody Nagel-Hisey, a park area naturalist with Wood Mountain Post, said the site recognizes the contributions of Sitting Bull and other First Nations people in the area. “First Nations people were very good scouts and guides for some of the people that came up. They helped guide them through the area,” she said. Wood Mountain Post also shares stories on the history of ranching in the area and the trading that took place between First Nations people and newcomers.

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