June 1884 Incident:
In June, Chief Big Bear was able to get 2,000 Natives to gather at Poundmaker's reserve for a thirst dance. Big Bear and Poundmaker wanted to unite the Natives in the West, to get agreement that they would all act with one voice in an effort to get proper treatment from the Canadian government.
But while the thirst dance was in progress, back at a storehouse, a Farm Instructor refused to give food to a hungry Native and his brother. The Farm Instructor then pushed them out of the storehouse. In response, the Native became angry and hit the Instructor on the arm with an axe handle. The police were called.
The law had to be maintained, so about 90 police assembled and then went out to the reserve to arrest the Native.
Two hundred armed Natives brought the accused to the police, but then stayed in the distance and would not turn him over. The police advanced and were soon surrounded by a lot of extremely excited Natives. In all the noise and confusion, Big Bear shouted: "Peace, Peace."
The accused came forward and claimed he needed the food because he and his child had been sick. The Superintendent grabbed for him and missed. The accused retreated into the crowd with four police after him. In all the commotion, some Natives cried out, "Now is the time to shoot," while others yelled, "Don't fire the first shot."
The four police got both the accused and his brother, and while the Natives continued to shout and threaten, the police were able to drag them back to their makeshift fort. At this point, it was decided to break government policy and hand out bacon and flour. The Natives settled down and quickly lined up for food.
Luckily, in spite of all that had happened, nobody had fired a shot. It is believed that one shot would have started a war in which all the unhappy, hungry Natives in the Northwest would have joined in.
But the incident had distracted the Natives from the purpose of their gathering. Big Bear and Poundmaker failed in their efforts to unite the Natives. So the Natives were not able to act together in their efforts to gain proper treatment.
Unfortunately, the government maintained a hard line policy, because they believed the voters in Ontario and Quebec did not want them to spend more money in the Northwest. So nothing much changed until March of the following year when the Mounties and some volunteers fought against the Metis in the Battle of Duck Lake. This was the beginning of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.
The experiences of the Metis are included here in
"Riel, Dumont, and the 1885 Rebellion."
The Native experiences are in this file:
"Poundmaker, Big Bear, and the 1885 Rebellion."
to Part 10: Bibliography.