LEARN THE STORIES OF THIS LAND

Treaty 6 Monument

The buffalo were all but gone and the Willow Cree people were living in famine. Because of this, Chief Beardy agreed to sign Treaty 6 in 1876 with an optimistic hope for the future. But this sacred document signified the end of a nomadic way of life for the Cree people and many other First Nations. In the end, Chief Beardy signed in a spot halfway between Fort Carlton and the reserve, in a place now known as Titanic, Saskatchewan.

Battle of Duck Lake National Historic Site

Stand in the spot where the Battle of Duck Lake took place in 1885 between Louis Riel’s Métis and the North-West Mounted Police. This battle marked the beginning of the Northwest Resistance – the end of which ushered in the form of Canadian law we are familiar with today and the end of a time-honoured way of life for Indigenous peoples in the West.

Located off of Highway 212 when entering Beardy’s and Okemasis’ Cree Nation.

THE NORTHWEST RESISTANCE:
É-MÂYIHKAMIKAHK (“WHEN IT WENT WRONG”)

An old, unarmed and almost blind nêhiyawak (Cree) Headman of Chief Beardy unintentionally set in motion the first of a series of events known to many as the Northwest Resistance.

On March 26, 1885, Assiyiwin was on his way home from Duck Lake when he arrived back onto his reserve land and came upon a tense stand-off between Louis Riel’s Métis, the North-West Mounted Police and a handful of Cree. 

Joe McKay, a Métis guide for the North-West Mounted Police, told Assiyiwin not to get involved and to “…turn back where you came from.” Otherwise, if he took one step further, he would shoot.

But Assiyiwin was known for being brave and unafraid, even in his old age, and didn’t want people fighting on his land (Chief Beardy had made known his stance of neutrality in regards to the two groups).

He said to McKay:

“I cannot turn back. I’m going home. This is my reserve land. If you are going to have a battle, if you are going to spill blood, you cannot do it on our reserve land.”

Assiyiwin began to walk, taking a step toward home. McKay shot, hitting him in the stomach. Gunfire and chaos of battle ensued and left many dead or injured.

Assiyiwin died the next morning.

This was the moment “when it went wrong” for many Indigenous Nations and the Northwest Resistance began. The Battle of Duck Lake lasted hardly more than 30 minutes. 

Two other battles took place following this one; the Battle of Fish Creek and the Battle of Batoche. The Resistance finally ended with the last gunshot fired in a skirmish near Loon Lake, Saskatchewan on June 3, 1885.

é-mâyihkamikahk changed the course of history from 1885 onward, bringing forth the implementation of Canadian law as we know it in the West, and the beginning of the end of an Indigenous way of life.

The Battle of Duck Lake Monument was erected in 1953 to honor lives lost and can be found off of Highway 212 when you enter Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation.

AMONG THE WILLOW CREE

Chief Beardy and Chief Okemasis settled in this area, between the floodplains of two rivers. And so the Willow Cree name was born. Eventually, the two chiefs agreed to join their bands together. And they did so with a single handshake.

Our story, both before and after that handshake, is one of resiliency. The agreement between Chief Beardy and Chief Okemasis has shaped the future of our people. And like the rivers that continue to flow beside us, we have continued to adapt to an ever-changing world while preserving our culture and traditions.

Today, we emerge from a tumultuous past. A past wrought with treaty negotiations, accusations of “rebellion”, stolen freedoms, loss of culture, and loss of our children. Despite this, the Willow Cree people continue to persevere and move onwards toward a path of reconciliation.

Journey to the place between the two rivers, where the story is still unfolding. Do you want to take part in the conversation?

As an original signatory to Treaty 6, the Beardy’s & Okemasis First Nation is situated near the national historic sites of Fort Carlton and Batoche – home of the Riel Resistance. We are proud of our heritage and our Cree language, and of the educational opportunities, economic successes and social development work made possible by many years of strong leadership.
Learn more about our Cree Nation