List Of Contents | Contents of The Patrol of the Sun Dance Trail
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

young braves dug up their rifles from their bedding, gathered
together their ammunition, sharpened their knives and tomahawks in
eager anticipation of the call that would set them on the war-path
against the white man who had robbed them of their ancient
patrimony and who held them in such close leash.  The great day had
come, the day they had been dreaming of in their hearts, talking
over at their council-fires and singing about in their sun dances
during the past year, the day promised by the many runners from
their brother Crees of the North, the day foretold by the great
Sioux orator and leader, Onawata.  The war of extermination had
begun and the first blood had gone to the Indian and to his brother

Two days after Duck Lake came the word that Fort Carlton had been
abandoned and Battleford sacked.  Five days later the news of the
bloody massacre of Frog Lake cast over every English settlement the
shadow of a horrible fear.  From the Crow's Nest to the Blackfoot
Crossing bands of braves broke loose from the reserves and began to
"drive cattle" for the making of pemmican in preparation for the
coming campaign.

It was a day of testing for all Canadians, but especially a day of
testing for the gallant little force of six or seven hundred riders
who, distributed in small groups over a vast area of over two
hundred and fifty thousand square miles, were entrusted with the
responsibility of guarding the lives and property of Her Majesty's
subjects scattered in lonely and distant settlements over these
wide plains.

And the testing found them ready.  For while the Ottawa authorities
with late but frantic haste were hustling their regiments from all
parts of Canada to the scene of war, the Mounted Police had gripped
the situation with a grip so stern that the Indian allies of the
half-breed rebels paused in their leap, took a second thought and
decided to wait till events should indicate the path of discretion.

And, to the blood-lusting Riel, Irvine's swift thrust Northward to
Prince Albert suggested caution, while his resolute stand at that
distant fort drove hard down in the North country a post of Empire
that stuck fast and sure while all else seemed to be sliding to

Inspector Dickens, too, another of that fearless band of Police
officers, holding with his heroic little company of twenty-two
constables Fort Pitt in the far North, stayed the panic consequent
upon the Frog Lake massacre and furnished food for serious thought
to the cunning Chief, Little Pine, and his four hundred and fifty
Crees, as well as to the sullen Salteaux, Big Bear, with his three
hundred braves.  And to the lasting credit of Inspector Dickens it
stands that he brought his little company of twenty-two safe
through a hostile country overrun with excited Indians and half-
breeds to the post of Battleford, ninety-eight miles away.

At Battleford, also, after the sacking of the town, Inspector
Morris with two hundred constables behind his hastily-constructed
barricade kept guard over four hundred women and children and held
at bay a horde of savages yelling for loot and blood.

Griesbach, in like manner, with his little handful, at Fort
Saskatchewan, held the trail to Edmonton, and materially helped to
bar the way against Big Bear and his marauding band.

And similarly at other points the promptness, resource, wisdom and
dauntless resolution of the gallant officers of the Mounted Police
and of the men they commanded saved Western Canada from the
complete subversion of law and order in the whole Northern part of
the territories and from the unspeakable horrors of a general
Indian uprising.

But while in the Northern and Eastern part of the Territories the
Police officers rendered such signal service in the face of open
rebellion, it was in the foothill country in the far West that
perhaps even greater service was rendered to Canada and the Empire
in this time of peril by the officers and men of the Mounted

It was due to the influence of such men as the Superintendents and
Inspectors of the Police in charge of the various posts throughout
the foothill country more than to anything else that the Chiefs of
the "great, warlike, intelligent and untractable tribes" of
Blackfeet, Blood, Piegan, Sarcee and Stony Indians were prevented
from breaking their treaties and joining with the rebel Crees,
Salteaux and Assiniboines of the North and East.  For fifteen years
the Chiefs of these tribes had lived under the firm and just rule
of the Police, had been protected from the rapacity of unscrupulous
traders and saved from the ravages of whisky-runners.  It was the
proud boast of a Blood Chief that the Police never broke a promise
to the Indian and never failed to exact justice either for his
punishment or for his protection.

Hence when the reserves were being overrun by emissaries from the
turbulent Crees and from the plotting half-breeds, in the face of
the impetuous demands of their own young men and of their minor
Chiefs to join in the Great Adventure, the great Chiefs, Red Crow
and Rainy Chief of the Bloods, Bull's Head of the Sarcees, Trotting
Wolf of the Piegans, and more than all, Crowfoot, the able, astute,
wise old head of the entire Blackfeet confederacy, held these young
braves back from rebellion and thus gave time and opportunity to
Her Majesty's Forces operating in the East and North to deal with
the rebels.

And during those days of strain, strain beyond the estimate of all
not immediately involved, it was the record of such men as the
Superintendents and Inspectors in charge at Fort Macleod, at Fort
Calgary and on the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway construction
in the mountains, and their steady bearing that more than anything
else weighed with the great Chiefs and determined for them their
attitude.  For with calm, cool courage the Police patrols rode in
and out of the reserves, quietly reasoning with the big Chiefs,
smiling indulgently upon the turbulent minor Chiefs, checking up
with swift, firm, but tactful justice the many outbreaks against law
and order, presenting even in their most desperate moments such a
front of resolute self-confidence to the Indians, and refusing to
give any sign by look or word or act of the terrific anxiety they
carried beneath their gay scarlet coats.  And the big Chiefs, reading
the faces of these cool, careless, resolute, smiling men who had a
trick of appearing at unexpected times in their camps and refused to
be hurried or worried, finally decided to wait a little longer.  And
they waited till the fatal moment of danger was past and the time
for striking--and in the heart of every Chief of them the desire to
strike for larger freedom and independence lay deep--was gone.  To
these guardians of Empire who fought no fight, who endured no siege,
who witnessed no massacre, the Dominion and the Empire owe more than
none but the most observing will ever know.

Paralleling these prompt measures of the North West Mounted Police,
the Government dispatched from both East and West of Canada
regiments of militia to relieve the beleaguered posts held by the
Police, to prevent the spread of rebellion and to hold the great
tribes of the Indians of the far West true to their allegiance.

Already on the 27th of March, before Irvine had decided to abandon
Fort Carlton and to make his stand at Prince Albert, General
Middleton had passed through Winnipeg on his way to take command of
the Canadian Forces operating in the West; and before two weeks
more had gone the General was in command of a considerable body of
troops at Qu'Appelle, his temporary headquarters.  From all parts
of Canada these men gathered, from Quebec and Montreal, from the
midland counties of Ontario, from the city of Toronto and from the
city of Winnipeg, till some five or six thousand citizen-soldiers
were under arms.  They were needed, too, every man, not so much
because of the possible weight of numbers of the enemy opposing
them, nor because of the tactical skill of those leading the
hostile forces, but because of the enemy's advantage of position,
owing to the nature of the country which formed the scene of the
Rebellion, and because of the character of the warfare adopted by
their cunning foe.

The record of the brief six weeks' campaign constitutes a creditable
page in Canadian history, a page which no Canadian need blush to
read aloud in the presence of any company of men who know how to
estimate at their highest value those qualities of courage and
endurance that are the characteristics of the British soldier the
world over.



Superintendent Strong was in a pleasant mood, and the reason was
not far to seek.  The distracting period of inaction, of doubt, of
hesitation was past, and now at last something would be done.  His
term of service along the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway
construction had been far from congenial to him.  There had been
too much of the work of the ordinary patrol-officer about it.
True, he did his duty faithfully and thoroughly, so faithfully,
indeed, as to move the great men of the railway company to
outspoken praise, a somewhat unusual circumstance.  But now he was
called back to the work that more properly belonged to an officer
of Her Majesty's North West Mounted Police and his soul glowed with
the satisfaction of those who, having been found faithful in
uncongenial duty, are rewarded with an opportunity to do a bit of
work which they particularly delight to do.

With his twenty-five men, whom for the past year he had been
polishing to a high state of efficiency in the trying work of
police-duty in the railway construction-camp, he arrived in Calgary
on the evening of the tenth of April, to find that post throbbing
with military ardor and thrilling with rumors of massacres and
sieges, of marching columns and contending forces.  Small wonder
that Superintendent Strong's face took on an appearance of grim
pleasure.  Straight to the Police headquarters he went, but there
was no Superintendent there to welcome him.  That gentleman had
gone East to meet the troops and was by now under appointment as
Chief of Staff to that dashing soldier, Colonel Otter.

But meantime, though the Calgary Police Post was bare of men, there
were other men as keen and as daring, if not so thoroughly
disciplined for war, thronging the streets of the little town and
asking only a leader whom they could follow.

It was late evening, but Calgary was an "all night" town, and every
minute was precious, for minutes might mean lives of women and
children.  So down the street rode Superintendent Strong toward the
Royal Hotel.  At the hitching post of that hostelry a sad-looking
broncho was tied, whose calm, absorbed and detached appearance
struck a note of discord with his environment; for everywhere about
him men and horses seemed to be in a turmoil of excitement.
Everywhere men in cow-boy garb were careering about the streets or
grouped in small crowds about the saloon doors.  There were few
loud voices, but the words of those who were doing the speaking
came more rapidly than usual.

Such a group was gathered in the rear of the sad-looking broncho
before the door of the Royal Hotel.  As the Superintendent loped up
upon his big brown horse the group broke apart and, like birds
disturbed at their feeding, circled about and closed again.

"Hello, here's Superintendent Strong," said a voice.  "He'll know."

"Know what?" inquired the Superintendent.

"Why, what's doing?"

"Where are the troops?"

"Is Prince Albert down?"

"Where's Middleton?"

"What's to be done here?"

There were many voices, all eager, and in them just a touch of

"Not a thing do I know," said Superintendent Strong somewhat
gravely.  "I have been up in the mountains and have heard little.
I know that the Commissioner has gone north to Prince Albert."

"Have you heard about Duck Lake?" inquired a voice.

"Yes, I heard we had a reverse there, and I know that General
Middleton has arrived at Qu'Appelle and has either set out for the
north or is about to set out."

"Heard about Frog Lake?"

"Frog Lake?  No.  That is up near Fort Pitt.  What about it?"

For a moment there was silence, then a deep voice replied:

"A ghastly massacre, women and children and priests."

Then another period of silence.

"Indians?" murmured the Superintendent in a low voice.

"Yes, half-breeds and Indians," replied the deep voice.  And again
there was silence.  The men waited for Superintendent Strong to

The Superintendent sat on his big horse looking at them quietly,
then he said sharply:

"Men, there are some five or six thousand Indians in this
district."  They were all thinking the same thing.  "I have twenty-
five men with me.  Superintendent Cotton at Macleod has less than a

The men sat their horses in silence looking at him.  One could hear
their deep breathing and see the quiver of the horses under the
gripping knees of their riders.  Their minds were working swiftly.
Ever since the news of the Frog Lake massacre had spread like a
fire across the country these men had been carrying in their minds--
rather, in their hearts--pictures that started them up in their
beds at night broad awake and all in a cold sweat.

The Superintendent lowered his voice.  The men leaned forward to
listen.  He had only a single word to say, a short sharp word it

"Who will join me?"

It was as if his question had released a spring drawn to its limit.
From twenty different throats in twenty different tones, but with a
single throbbing impulse, came the response, swift, full-throated,
savage, "Me!"  "I!"  "Here you are!"  "You bet!"  "Count me!"
"Rather!" and in three minutes Superintendent Strong had secured
the nucleus of his famous scouts.

"To-morrow at nine at the Barracks!" said this grim and laconic
Superintendent, and was about turning away when a man came out from
the door of the Royal Hotel, drawn forth by that sudden savage

"Hello, Cameron!" said the Superintendent, as the man moved toward
the sad-appearing broncho, "I want you."

"All right, sir.  I am with you," was the reply as Cameron swung on
to his horse.  "Wake up, Ginger!" he said to his horse, touching
him with his heel.  Ginger woke up with an indignant snort and
forthwith fell into line with the Superintendent's big brown horse.

The Superintendent was silent till the Barracks were gained, then,
giving the horses into the care of an orderly, he led Cameron into
the office and after they had settled themselves before the fire he
began without preliminaries.

"Cameron, I am more anxious than I can say about the situation here
in this part of the country.  I have been away from the center of
things for some months and I have lost touch.  I want you to let me
know just what is doing from our side."

"I do not know much, sir," replied Cameron.  "I, too, have just
come in from a long parley with Crowfoot and his Chiefs."

"Ah, by the way, how is the old boy?" inquired the Superintendent.
"Will he stick by us?"

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: