JANUARY 17, 1888

CREE CHIEF MISTAHIMASKWA (BIG BEAR) DIED

Born circa 1825, near Jackfish Lake, Saskatchewan (SK), Big Bear participated in fights with the Blackfeet including the Battle at Belly River in 1870. By 1874, he led a band of over 500 people. Opposing other Cree leaders, he refused to sign Treaty No. 6 with Canada in 1876. After moving to Montana in 1880 to hunt the last of the buffalo, his band returned in 1882. In need of food, he finally had to sign the treaty. In July 1883, in North SK, Big bear tried to form a united Cree council to work for one large reserve. When his efforts failed, his leadership ended. After the Métis routed Canadian forces at Duck Lake in March of 1885, his son, Āyimisīs, & war chief Wandering Spirit attacked a church and forced the surrender of Fort Pitt. Big Bear surrendered in July 1885 and was tried for treason. Despite having taken no part in the fight, he was found guilty and given 3 years’ imprisonment. In ill health, he was released on March 4, 1887, and went to the Poundmaker Reserve where he died.  

Source: Rudy Wiebe, “Mistahimaskwa,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography.  Retrieved 2/23/2021, Biography – MISTAHIMASKWA – Volume XI (1881-1890) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography (biographi.ca)
“Misrahimaskwa,” University of Saskatchewan Library.  Retrieved 2/23/2021, Mistahimaskwa (Big Bear) (usask.ca)
Photo: O.B. Buell, 1885.  Public Domain. Source: Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number C-001873 and under the MIKAN ID number 3629644

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