Many Beavers and Crees were camped all over the flats where Hudson’s Hope now stands. The Hudson’s Bay post was the centre of the community. The trader at the time, a Mr. George Drew, may have known that Department of Indian Affairs Inspector, Henry A. Conroy, was going to recommend that the next year he be allowed to pay treaty to “the 100 to 125 Indians who have not taken treaty but are entitled to do so.” The trader had stocked his shelves with all sorts of attractive goods to catch the Indians’ fancy, and their cash. Things such as bright ribbons and lace by the bolt, flowered hats, high-heeled shoes and gaudy scarves supplemented the usual beads, calico dress goods, blankets, shirting, felt boots, socks and work pants.
There was other merchandise not originally intended for sale. A great deal of traffic passed up and down the river in those days, all of it funneled through the famous portage. Hudson’s Hope was a logical stopping and shopping place, at the eastern end of the trail. A hotel would be a profitable venture. Either Mr. Drew did not know about, or chose to ignore, the old rule that a Hudson’s Bay trader could not operate a business without prior consent of the Company.
He had logs cut to build a hotel on Hudson’s Bay property, and had ordered all the beds, bedding and other fittings before the inspector arrived. He was not pleased to find the Hudson’s Bay about to be involved in a business other than trade and Mr. Drew was replaced.. The non-trade goods were eventually sold to the “Diamond P” post on adjacent property, but on Treaty Day, according to Mrs. Beattie, they were all in and about the post.
“Before Treaty Day the Indians had come into Hudson’s Hope with all their possessions,” related Mrs. Beattie. “After they got their money they bought the chenille bedspreads, trimmed them with yards and yards of ribbon, and put them on their horses for saddle blankets. It was funny to see big men galloping all over the place, all that baby-ribbon streaming behind them. When the bedspreads got torn up, the bought the sheets and decorated them. The women were wearing high-heeled shoes, or fancy hats with felt boots and such.”
She went on: “On the young fellows you could see dollar bills sticking out of their pockets as they galloped around. I’ll bet they just lost half of it. They didn’t know what it was for or what to do with it.”
In answer to a question about whether the usual treaty payment was made – $25 to the chief, $15 to a headman, $5 per person for everyone else, she replied, “No. They got a large lump sum. Because they had not collected treaty [in 1900 and after], they got back pay – quite a lot. After that they got regular payments.” The Treaty occasion was a great holiday for the Indians.
“For three weeks they had camped on the flats [apparently waiting for the Commission]. Day and night the drums and chanting were going on for the gambling. You could hardly hear yourself think!”
Asked whether she thought the gambling was a bad thing for the Indians – any worse than our “Bingos” or bridge games, – she answered emphatically, “No!”
“In the summer there was hardly any darkness. The Indians sat around all night and played. There was no gambling away of wives or anything like that at that time – not around Hudson’s Hope at least. That was long ago.
“Even if they lost all their money, that wasn’t so bad. They had always got along without money before. They got tickets [of credit known as “jawbone”] from the Bay. They could bring in furs for which the Bay would stake them in the [next] fall. Then in the spring they’d come and pay it off.”
Remembering that she had been a very young bride when she witnessed the noisy event, we asked if she were afraid of them. She said, “No! A lot of people are scared of them even now, but they were decent people. They were very honest. I always say”, observed Mrs. Beattie, “that it was the white man who spoiled the Indian. The half-breeds are not so good any more.”
Mrs. Beattie afterwards related that a Catholic priest had accompanied Mr. Laird on the first Treaty-payment day. There was a little Catholic church in Hudson’s Hope at the time, which Father Joussard had come previously to help build for the large number of French Canadians who lived there.
“The Indians knew nothing about churches. The priest accompanying Mr. Laird got around them, and was right there for a handout. Every year and every year he would come with the agent on Treaty Day and collect every cent he could get around here. Then he walked all the way to Moberly Lake to collect from there. I’ve seen it many and many a time.”
It is reported that later on, on Treaty Day, the priest collected one crisp dollar bill from each Indian to save his soul.
The interviewer asked if the Indians in the early days were unfriendly to the priests. “Oh, they were! They were!”
When first treaty day was over, whatever money had not been lost, ended up in the hands of the traders [either Hudson’s Bay or Revillon Freres], the white gamblers or the priest. Then, after the sports day or rodeo, and the “moochigan” or dances, the Indians bargained for supplies in the traditional way – “How many skins for that?”
In all, one hundred and sixteen people were duly paid that day.
For some reason all direct mention of the incident seems to be lacking in the Sessional Papers or the Reports of the Department of Indian Affairs.
We do not know why so many Indians were fourteen years late in taking Treaty, or why they eventually were willing to do so. In 1899 the Treaty Commission, “after meeting with the Crees at Lesser Slave Lake, proceeded to meet the Beavers at Fort St. John. However, because the date conflicted with the annual hunt, the independent Beavers decided not to wait for them.” The commissioner went back to Dunvegan and signed up thirty-four Beavers under Natooses. The regular July Treaty Day was a poor time to meet the Western Beavers for they would naturally be away up the Halfway making dry-meat for winter.
The Saulteaux and Crees from Moberly Lake had their own reasons for staying away from authorities. The first are reported to be refugees from the Red River Rebellion and many of the latter from the Northwest Rebellion in the prairies in 1885. By 1913 “they now express a desire to come under Treaty.”
An attempt to bring the Beavers under Treaty seems to have been made previously to 1905. In the book The Peacemakers of the North Peace mention is made of a trail slashed before 1905 by Assistant Commissioner McIlroy from Peace River Crossing to Fort St. John “to accommodate a party which came to try to induce the Beaver Indians to take treaty.” Since Fort St. John Indians had been signed up in 1900, we may wonder whether the reluctant Indians Com. McIlroy encountered were the Hudson’s Hope band, and wonder, also, why the Commission apparently failed in this earlier attempt.
In the same book is the only record we have found of another party in 1907. It is reported by Reginald “Uncle Dudley” Shaw, whose memory was most reliable, but the report suggests a mystery.
Early in the spring, thirty miles upstream from Dunvegan, his party was “overtaken by the Hudson’s Bay boat, SS Peace River . . . On board they met the first treaty party to come to the Peace River. They were going to pay treaty at Fort St. John and the Blueberry. It was composed of K. A. Conroy, Inspector Constantine and his wife and Jack Mooney, a clerk.”
Did this mean that the overland trail of McIlroy never reached Fort St. John, and that this was the first party to come up-river? Or to come on the SS Peace River?
In the Annual Report, Department of Indian Affairs for 1913-14, Henry A. Conroy, Inspector for Treaty No. 8 cites, “the necessity for . . . the Delineation of a Reserve to accommodate the Stony [sic] Indians settled at present at Moberly Lake.” He also suggests that “during the next year the government authorized me to inspect this territory and arrange for the establishment of the Hudson’s Hope and St. John Indians on the reserve that has already been staked out . . . There are from 100 to 125 Indians who have not taken treaty but are entitled to do so . . .”
He goes on, “Another small band of Stony Indians of a nomadic character who have been constantly traveling the western country until the last three or four years in order to avoid treaty have now settled at Moberly Lake, a few miles south of St. John on the Dominion Lands’ reservation. They have built themselves good houses and now express a desire to come under treaty.”
We have been able to find no record or any verbal confirmation that a band of Stoneys ever settled in the B.C. Peace area.
In the same Sessional Paper, W.B. Donald, M.D., Indian Agent for Lesser Slave Lake Agency, says that it comprises bands including “Beaver at St. John and Dunvegan,” but does not mention any at Hudson’s Hope.
Donald F. Robertson reports in the Indian Affairs Annual Report for 1914-15: “In accordance with instructions I left Ottawa on June 1, 1914 and proceeded to the Peace River Block, arriving at Moberly Lake on July 9, and under the conditions of Treaty No. 8, surveyed one block of the reserve for the Hudson’s Hope Band of Beaver Indians at the west end of Moberly Lake, laying out an area of 5 025 acres at this point.
At the east end of Moberly Lake an area of 7 656 acres was chosen and surveyed for the Saulteaux Indians and a number of Beaver Indians of St. John Band who wished to have their land there . . . On the completion of these reserves I proceeded to Halfway River . . . where Assistant Agent Laird had arranged with the Hudson’s Hope Indians to locate the remainder of their reserve . . . At Halfway River a reserve of 9 893 acres was laid out, being the remainder of the land to which the Hudson’s Hope band was entitled.”
The Hudson’s Hope Indians were not reported on the census of 1913-14, but in the Annual Report Harold Laird enumerated “Beavers at Fort St. John, Dunvegan and Hudson’s Hope” in his report.
In the Annual Report for 1914-15 “Hudson’s Hope (Beaver) 116” appears in the census.
Mrs. Beattie’s memory of the time, place, and the agent involved seems to be vindicated, and indicates how short a time ago the Beaver Indians signed away their heritage in the land.