Chapter 8, Note 41 (pages 173 and 262)

When word spread in Montana of Little Bear’s intentions to leave the country by the end of October, various newspapers expressed elation. (p. 173)

Chapter 8, Note 41 . . . The Havre Plaindealer included the text of what they claimed to be the letter Little Bear sent out to his followers, but the language was so derogatory to Montana Crees that one has to wonder if the editors took liberties in what they printed . . . for discussion of these sources and reactions. (262)

 

The Havre Plaindealer‘s supposed text from Little Bear read as follows:

“Brother: I have been watching you with patient solicitude for a long time. I had hoped that you might be weaned from your worthless careers by the example of your chief and his pale face friends, but hope has been so often interred in the grave of disappointment that she is too weak to ever again break the bands of death in which she lies buried. You seem to have no other ambition than to preserve your hides in alcohol and, romping with the seductive tomato can to the liquid emporium when you have succeeded in begging, borrowing or stealing the price. You have retrograded. No longer do you take pride in the ancient achievements of your sires and it takes a physical examination to tell whether you are a buck or a miserable squaw. You are heap no good. You stand and abuse the kindness the pale face of the states has exercised in your behalf and in your return for his charity you give him harassing diseases and the fretful louse. I will take you back to your native country and give you a home. There you must be industrious and instead of stealing a calico pony to trade for red liquor you must harness him to irritate the earth with the plow that the maize may grow. The great father in Canada whose heart has been bad toward you, his renegade children, has softened. He will take you back but you must be good and eschew raising the government troops. It is well for you that his heart has relented. Paris Gibson and J. 0. Darst are about to occupy this range, you once trod in indolence, with the vine less potato and wheat fields. There will be so much doing that it will ‘make you tired’ and the music of the coyote will go out of the land. Saddle your ponies and come to me that we may take council and embrace our opportunity before it curls like the winter leaf and blows away.”

The extreme nature of the text strongly suggests it was a fabrication of the Plaindealer‘s own doing. “Little Bear has surrendered. His heart is broken,” relayed the Choteau Acantha. “Ever since Little Bear was forced to realize that his people could no longer exist in Montana he has been cowed. He has put away his bad heart . . . [he] realizes that his people can no longer exist as nomads,” explained the Anaconda Standard. “The sound of their tom toms will never again startle the pale face,” cried the Havre Plaindealer. “Neither arms nor diplomacy could conquer them, but they have succumbed to drought,” stated a correspondent from Butte. Showing possible dismay with the actions of his peoples, Little Bear sent word for them to congregate near Havre, expecting some three hundred to arrive in a short time.

 

Sources:

  • “The Cree Indians Will Leave Montana,” Choteau Acantha, October 5, 1905.
  • “Back to Canada the Crees Will Go,” Anaconda Standard, October 2, 1905.
  • “Crees will Hit the Trail,” Havre Plaindealer, September 30, 1905.

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