Chief Poundmaker, a Cree chief of the 1800s, has been exonerated by the Canadian Prime minister Justin Troudeau more than a century after he was accused of treason.
On the historic site of the Cut Knife battle in Saskatchewan, and in front of hundreds of people gathered on this occasion, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a declaration of innocence of Cree leader Poundmaker.
The leader saved the lives of hundreds of Canadian soldiers during a battle in 1885.
It is here that he built his reputation as a diplomat and peaceful leader. It was here that he stood up for his people and showed compassion against persecution.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that Chief Poundmaker was not treated fairly in his lifetime and did not have the respect he deserved as leader of his nation. “We know that the colonial perspectives that prevailed at the time did not allow an open and collaborative dialogue,” said Justin Trudeau.
A handshake took place between the Canadian prime minister and the current head of the Poundmaker First Nation, Duane Antoine. A gesture that the Canadian government refused to do for 134 years.
The treacherous conviction of the aboriginal chief dates back to the resistance of 1885. Inspired by the success of Louis Riel, Chief Poundmaker had taken his troops to Fort Battleford, now located in Saskatchewan, to negotiate with the Indian agent in place.
In response, Colonel William Otter sent his troops to hunt down the Crees on their reserve, but government forces had to retreat.
However, Chief Poundmaker, who had asked his soldiers not to prosecute Canadian government soldiers, was jailed for treason along with two other native leaders.
Canadian authorities have carried out a smear campaign against Poundmaker, according to Professor of Aboriginal Studies at First Nations University of Canada Blair Stonechild.
The government felt that to weaken aboriginal nations, it was necessary to attack their leaders. That’s why it was so important for them to behead the aboriginal leadership.
According to Blair Stonechild, Poundmaker was a great Scream, a leader in the making, known to many Cree leaders who had managed to create alliances among nations. Poundmaker was also known for his great intelligence. He was a charismatic, peaceful leader, and a diplomat.
“He was very talented and he was a charismatic leader. The government absolutely wanted to suppress it. John A. Macdonald saw him as a troublemaker. He was afraid of him because he knew he was going to defend the interests of his people. He was dismissed despite all the evidence showing that he was peaceful, “says Blair Stonechild.
Pauline Favel and her sisters, all descendants of Chief Poundmaker, were waiting for the Prime Minister’s arrival to clear Chief Poundmaker. “With these apologies, we are moving forward. It is a question of truth and reconciliation. Today is a day of celebration,” says Pauline Favel, descendant of Chief Poundmaker.
Many believe that Poundmaker’s declaration of innocence will turn a page in Canadian history. “It’s a big relief because, ultimately, we hear the story from the perspective of the First Nations, which has been lacking for more than a century,” says Milton Tootoosis, a member of the Cree community band council.
“The innocence of Poundmaker is extremely important and has been waiting for a very long time. His conviction was an extremely damaging situation for people in the North Battleford area. This has created a climate of mistrust, racism and misunderstanding that remains visible in the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people,” says Blair Stonechild who co-authored with the Saskatchewan historian Bill Waiser the book Loyal till Death,.