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Beardy (Kamdyistowesit)

“I am glad to see something that will help us. I hope this will benefit all of us. May all the things promised continue to be kept for our benefit. It is in our power to help each other."
- Beardy, Plains Cree Chief

Chief Beardy Beardy (Kamdyistowesit) was born near Duck Lake in 1828 and became chief of the Willow Cree around 1870. Among the members of his band were the mixed blood descendants of Hudson’s Bay Company employee George Sutherland.

Known as a deeply spiritual person, Beardy welcomed news of Treaty 6 as it was reported to him by Reverend George McDougall, a Methodist missionary. Beardy had a vision that the treaty should be negotiated at Duck Lake, but Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris and the Treaty Commission proceeded as planned, holding the negotiations at Fort Carlton. Beardy sent a messenger to Fort Carlton asking for the treaty terms to be relayed back to him at Duck Lake, but Morris refused.

Finally, a separate meeting was held at Duck Lake to bring the Willow Cree into the treaty. Beardy’s band pressed for more assistance than what had been offered, which they considered inadequate in view of the crisis of the depleting bison herds. Morris refused to change the terms, but promised that the Governor-General and the Council of the Northwest Territories would examine the possibility of a law to help preserve the bison. Having received these assurances, Beardy along with One Arrow and Cut Nose (Saswaypew) saw no other choice but to sign a treaty adhesion on 28 August 1876.

Beardy and his people settled on a reserve near Duck Lake. When, in 1877, the promised agricultural equipment and animals had still not arrived, Beardy protested to both Lieutenant-Governor David Laird and the Governor General of Canada, Lord Dufferin. Officials did come with some provisions and annuities but Beardy, holding out for the promised food and gifts, would not accept them.

Beardy’s persistent efforts to modify the treaty terms made him a source of anxiety to government officials. By December of 1878 his people were so destitute that Beardy announced his band’s simply their intention of taking provisions from the merchants at Duck Lake. North West Mounted Police were sent to avert the crisis, and Beardy’s people were given money to purchase much needed goods.

Beardy’s belief that the government was not honouring the treaty terms was further reinforced when his reserve was surveyed. Rather than allotting Beardy’s band all the land they had requested, the government excluded those parcels claimed by the local Métis. Beardy was threatened with the loss of his treaty rights if he did not accept their land exclusions.

Hunger continued to be the band’s main problem into the early 1880s. At on time, Beardy, Cut Nose and One Arrow were arrested for a short time for killing cattle intended for stock raising to feed their bands. When the Marquess of Lorne, the Governor General of Canada, visited the area in 1881, Beardy spoke to him about the need for the government to follow through on its treaty promises. His appeal yielded no results.

In 1884, Beardy met with Poundmaker, Little Pine, Big Bear, and Lucky Man (Papewes) at Duck Lake to discuss the unfair delivery of Treaty 6 by the government. The chiefs made plans for future action if their demands continued to be ignored. A meeting of all Plains Cree chiefs was to be held in 1885, but this meeting never came to fruition.

When the Northwest Resistance broke out in 1885, Beardy remained neutral, though promises of food and aid did lead a few of his band members to join in the fighting. At Batoche, Beardy explained to Major-General Frederick Dobson Middleton that he was unable to restrain some of the young men in his band. However, during the Resistance, he and some of his band members left their reserve in spite of a government proclamation forbidding such movement. As a result, the entire band was suspended from treaty. Beardy was stripped of his leadership, his treaty medal and treaty money, but his people continued to regard him as their chief until his death in 1899.

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