An infamous anniversary: 130 years since Canada’s Largest Mass Hanging 27 November 1885

YellowMudblanket

Photo from Tyrone Tootsis – Taken at Fort Battleford. First, second and third men from left , and first and second from right were among those hanged November 27, 1885. Yellow Mud Blanket and Poundmaker (fourth and fifth from the left) lived to be tried later.

A day the Cree Nation should never forget

Paraphrasing Tyrone Tootoosis from Facebook:

The eight Cree warriors that were hanged knew nothing of the legal system, and had no legal counsel or other advice. No defense was mounted. No reference was made to their victimization via Sir John A. MacDonald’s publicly stated policy of keeping the Indians as close as possible to starvation – and the hardline engraveforcement of that position by Indian Agent T.T. Quinn (the first to be killed at Frog Lake). Sir John A., knowing that Treason-Felony was a non-capital offence, personally ordered that the eight should be tried on charges of murder. The hanging was as good as done before the trial even began.

The eight Cree warriors hanged that day were buried in a mass grave at Fort Battleford, where this marker was placed many years later. Their names were Wandering Spirit, Round the Sky, Bad Arrow, Miserable Man, Iron Body, Little Bear, Itka, Charles Ducharme. [quoting Tootoosis – not the gravestone]

Students from the Battleford Industrial School were brought out to watch, according to another version of the story from a 1972 edition of Saskatchewan Indian: http://www.sicc.sk.ca/archive/saskindian/a72jul05.htm Photo (below) from the Facebook collection of Paul Seesequasis.

Reading through several newspapers that were reporting on the trial and hangings right there at the time, it seems unlikely that children were in school at the time to be taken to the hanging. Since their school had been taken over as a barracks for all of the prisoners and NWMP officers, it seems mostly likely that they had been sent home.

Battleford Industrial School 1885 - Students assembled to watch hanging

Battleford Industrial School 1885 – Students assembled to watch hanging

The wife and child of Kitahwahken (Miserable Man) were also photographed at Battleford in 1885. (From the Facebook collection of Paul Seesequasis) Battleford85

Read more about the events at Frog Lake at http://creeliteracy.org/2012/11/23/battlefords-agency-tribal-chiefs-hosts-wandering-spirit-commemoration/

 

About Arden Ogg

Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, launched in 2010 with the goal of creating Cree language literacy materials suitable for use by learners of all ages.

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