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Virtual Museum of Canada The Making of Treaty #8 in Canada's Northwest
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The Peoples, Their Places

Moostoos "The Buffalo"

Moostoosc. 1850-1918

Woodland Cree headman, hunter, trapper, and spokesman for Cree nation at Lesser Slave Lake during Treaty 8 negotiations.

Born in or around 1850 at the western end of Lesser Slave Lake, Moostoos was the eldest of ten children born to Masinigoneb and Marie Kowikkiu. He would become a expert trapper, fisherman, orator and Woods Cree headman.

Cree campIn 1899, with an eye to opening the Canadian west to settlement, the federal government undertook negotiating Treaty 8 with the Indians of the northwest. The treaty was immensely important for both the federal government and the native peoples of the region. A tremendous amount of land was at stake - the rich farmland that could be cultivated and bring great economic advantages to the new county was also the ancestral home to many Woods Cree, Beaver, Dene, Chipewyan and other peoples. As the recognized Chief of the people who lived in the region Keenooshayoo (Kinosew, Kinoosayo) and his older brother Moostoos, recognized as the most prominent headman, were appointed as the key spokesmen for their people, the Cree, at talks in June 1899 at Willow Point, on lesser Slave Lake. Although their countenances may have differed, they both held fast to their desire to maintain their peoples traditional way of life and were hopeful that they could secure guarantees for the protection of future generations.

Negotiations at Willow Point lasted only two days. Once Commissioner David Laird had outlined the terms and conditions of the treaty, stressing that their traditional ways of hunting, fishing and trapping would be preserved, KeeNooShayoo pressed the Commissioners to negotiate additional terms in his people's favour. Moostoos supported his brother, but was clearly more mollifying. When he rose to address the Commissioners and his people he spoke clearly and earnestly of his belief in the importance of maintaining a peaceful and productive relationship between his people and the European settlers. As a result the Woods Cree of Willow Point entered into treaty with the federal government on 22nd of June 1899. In the years to follow both Keenooshayoo and Moostoos worked hard to ensure their people received what was promised them. By 1900 they and other headmen approached the government to secure for their people a reserve east of the Driftpile River on Lesser Slave Lake, but by 1910 it was clear that the one reserve was not sufficient as both Moostoos and KeeNooShayoo had their own, separate followings. Separate reserves were therefore established for them - one at Driftpile for Keenooshayoo and one at Sucker Creek for Moostoos.

Although Moostoos was referred to as a headman, the people of Suckermoostoos Creek regarded him as their Chief. They revered him as a wise medicine man and healer and he served as their leader for the remainder of his life. Perhaps his most important quality was the strength and wisdom he showed in his ability to anticipate and accept change while never compromising the rights and way of life of his people.