“The law is a hard, queer thing. I do not understand it.” — Poundmaker, at his trial, 1885
Louis Riel surrendered to General Middleton on May 15, 1885, and the Northwest Rebellion was over, although the Indian Chiefs Poundmaker and Big Bear were still at large. Poundmaker was in the bag first, but Big Bear did not give up until July 2. He scattered his men, eluded dozens of military scouts, and reached Fort Carlton, where he surrendered personally to Sergeant Smart of the Northwest Mounted Police.
Poundmaker and captured a supply train and twenty-two prisoners on May 14, but realized the game was up when he heard the news of Riel’s capture. He released Indian agent Jefferson, who had been one of his prisoners, and sent him with a message to Middleton on May 24. He asked for surrender terms in writing so there would be no misunderstandings.
Middleton adopted a stern attitude. He sent a message back to Poundmaker saying that he had completely defeated the half-breeds and Indians at Batoche. Nor terms had been made with them, and he would make no terms with Poundmaker. He must surrender unconditionally. The date was set for May 26.
When Poundmaker arrived, General Middleton was sitting on a chair, with his officers in a semi-circle behind him. The proud chief came forward all ready to shake hands. The general brushed him off. Some observers said later that Poundmaker impressed them as the greater man. He had risked his own place more than once to prevent his braves from massacring white people. He was fighting for the right to get food for his hungry people, and to assure them of their share of the lands they had lost.
Middleton told Poundmaker that he was charged with high treason, but Poundmaker did not understand the expression. The interpreter finally got the message across by saying, “You are accused of throwing sticks at the Queen and trying to knock her bonnet off.” Poundmaker was arrested with four of his braves, taken to Regina and charged with treason and murder.
Big Bear was also put in prison after he surrendered. Public opinion caused the sentences of both chiefs to be shortened. The confinement was too much for both men and they died soon after being released.
If you want to read more about Poundmaker, and a bit more about his surrender, I have a few sites to recommend. There’s Poundmaker’s Surrender (I’m not sure whose site this is, but it has very interesting articles about the Northwest Rebellions. Another place is Pitikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker) by the University of Saskatchewan Libraries. Another good place to go is Poundmaker’s Surrender by Stan Cuthand, I think. You’ll also enjoy We were not savages by Daniel N. Paul, and a new fantastic site is Trails of 1885.
My other related posts
- Poundmaker Wins Battle (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
- “I Don’t Like War” (tkmorin.wordpress.com)
Love your site…this is what the Internet is about. Lots of great information. As an educator I will send this link to our teachers as some great information for them to share with their students.
I didn’t realize how extensive your knowledge of Canadian History was. I like your dense content and the way you write. This story is amazing, and also sad forhe real Americans that died.
Times were way harsher in those days, eh? Thanks for dropping by! 🙂
That was not fair to treat the Riel and Chiefs when they are only protecting their Motherland from these invaders. 😦
I totally agree, P! I forgot to send you a head’s up warning that Riel was going to be mentioned isn’t today’s post … I’m hoping I’ll remember next time. 😉
I can wait and I like surprises. 😛
Reblogged this on kapa kulture and commented:
Misunderstandings and cultural differences are still no excuse for land grabbing and greed…
That is a very interesting interpretation of treason. It reminds of how I have to interpret difficult terms for kids, but need to think on their level.
It does sound like Middleton was “dumbing it down” for Poundmaker or his translator … Still, were I Poundmakker, I’d certainly say I don’t understand it either … 🙂
I don’t think I would have understood what Poundmakker did. Throwing sticks to knock off a bonnet? Naw, I wouldn’t get that.