Put History Right! Chief Poundmaker Was Innocent and Deserves To Have His Name Cleared.
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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Poundmaker Cree Nation seeks to clear Chief Poundmaker's name and exonerate him from his treason conviction of 1885.
Chief Poundmaker was faced with his people’s starvation, the disappearance of their traditional ways of life, and a Canadian Government that refused to honour the spirit and intent of the Treaties, and refused to offer any aid or discussion to the starving Indigenous nations. Chief Poundmaker, along with other Plains leaders and their communities, sought a meeting with the Indian Agent in Battleford to discuss their need for food and aid.
Upon arriving at Battleford, the Indian Agent refused to meet them or hear their petitions. The townspeople of Battleford had abandoned their homes, and barricaded themselves within the military fort, in fear of the gathered petitioners. Chief Poundmaker and his people were kept waiting for over two days without food, and without opportunity to discuss their grievances peacefully.
Oral history holds that Chief Poundmaker tried to stop any looting from occurring, but as their hunger and frustration grew, some of his people went into the empty town in search of food. The next day, Chief Poundmaker and his people left Battleford. They returned peacefully to their reserve.
The Canadian government sent soldiers to Battleford. Upon arriving at Fort Battleford, Colonel Otter disobeyed his orders from General Middleton to hold the fort. He struck out to Poundmaker to attack and punish for the “looting” of the town of Battleford.
Otter drew close to Chief Poundmaker’s camp, but chose to wait until dawn to attack, hoping to catch the community undefended. In a collective act of self-defence, the encamped Indigenous community rose up to repel the attackers. Despite being as few as fifty warriors against seven times that number, the Cree warriors were successful in repulsing the attack, in saving their families, and in preventing a massacre.
Chief Poundmaker intervened as Otter and his men fled the battle in disarray, preventing the Indigenous warriors from running down the fleeing soldiers and causing high casualties.
After weeks of bracing for another attack, Chief Poundmaker returned to Battleford of his own accord, and sought peace. Poundmaker was charged with treason, and sentenced to three years in Stoney Mountain Penitentiary.
For over one-hundred years, Chief Poundmaker’s legacy as a peacemaker, leader, and diplomat has been tarnished by his unjust treason conviction. Despite his peaceful intentions, despite his restraint, and despite his insistence on providing for and protecting his people, Chief Poundmaker was branded a traitor.
This campaign calls upon the Federal Government to grant Chief Poundmaker a full legal exoneration for his treason conviction to clear his name.
This campaign has been launched in partnership with the Chief and Council of Poundmaker Cree Nation, the community which descends from Chief Poundmaker’s people who defended themselves, and on whose territory Lieutenant Colonel Otter ordered the attack. For the people of Poundmaker Cree Nation, and for Indigenous people across Turtle Island, the pardon of Chief Poundmaker is symbolically and culturally significant, as it allows all parties involved to right a historical wrong, and to honour our Chief.
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