Ahtahkakoop: (“Starblanket”) Chief of the House Cree division of the Nehiyaw who signed Treaty Six along with his ally Chief Mistawasis, who cemented their alliance through family intermarriage. Raised traditionally on the plains, as the buffalo disappeared, he turned to encouraging his community to embrace agriculture more centrally as the bison declined, and bargained for the medicine chest clause of Treaty Six ensuring federal funding of medical care for Indigenous people. Despite entreaties to join the 1885 resistance of Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, Ahtahkakoop and Mistawasis remained neutral in that conflict.
band: A term used by the Canadian government to refer to First Nations communities managed according to the Indian Act whose members are status Indians under that Act. The definition in the Indian Register, 1997, is a “group of First Nation people for whom lands have been set apart and money is held by the Crown. Each band has its own governing band council, usually consisting of one or more chiefs and several councillors. Community members choose the chief and councillors by election, or sometimes through traditional custom. The members of a band generally share common values, traditions, and practices rooted in their ancestral heritage.”
compulsory enfranchisement: Department of Indian Affairs policy, dating from 1880 to 1961, whereby the superintendent-general had the power to enfranchise Indigenous people he considered qualified, whether they wanted it or not. This meant that the individuals concerned had the rights of other Canadian citizens, including the right to vote, but no longer had status under the Indian Act.
Cypress Hills: Indigenous sacred place where people could peacefully gather even if usually engaging in hostilities to engage in trade and diplomacy in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. It became the site of the murders of 20–30 Nakoda people at the hands of American “wolfers” in 1873.
enfranchisement: Under the Indian Act, the act of granting a status Indian the rights of full Canadian citizens at the expense of their status and treaty rights.
Ghost Dance: (Spirit Dance) Religious circle dance of numerous western US Indigenous groups, derived from the 1889 prophecy and subsequent teaching of the Paiute pacifist prophet Wovoka (Jack Wilson) foretelling a peaceful end to European expansion by dancing a new world into being. As it spread to other nations, different parts of the theology and practice were synthesized with their own beliefs, some of which were more militant. Newcomer fears of Indigenous activism related to the Ghost Dance contributed to the 1890 massacre of Lakhóta people by the US Army at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, but this did not end the practice, which in the 1890s spread to Lakhóta reserves in Canada.
Indian Act: Canadian legislation enacted in 1876 that, while periodically amended, remains in force to the present day which defines the relationship between registered status Indians and the federal government. The Inuit and Métis nations, who became federally recognized as Indigenous people in 1982 when the constitution was repatriated, do not explicitly fall under this act, nor do enfranchised non-status Indians.
Indian Advancement Act: (1884) Intended to allow, with the approval of Indian Affairs, bands considered “advanced” to transform to become more like municipalities, giving them authority over public health, local taxation, and the power to enforce local bylaws. Only nine bands adopted the system, with most considering it another attempt to force Indigenous Peoples to change their preferred systems of governance. By 1906 the provisions of this Act were incorporated into the Indian Act through amendments.
Isapo-Muxika: (Crowfoot, c. 1830–90) Siksika chief of the Moccasin band who established relationships with many western plains First Nations as well as with the Métis, fur traders, missionaries, and the NWMP in what is now southern Alberta, a chief negotiator for Treaty Seven, and adoptive father of Pītikwahanapiwīyin. When Sitting Bull requested to come into Canada with some of his Lakhóta people after the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1877, Ipaso-Muxika gave them permission to live on Siksika territory.
Mawedopenais: Ojibwe chief from Fort Francis band and leading participant in Treaty Three negotiations at Fort Francis in 1873 which retained hunting and fishing rights for the community. He asserted that theirs was a rich country and that his community should also be compensated for subsurface minerals.
“medicine chest”: Phrase included in Treaty Six, negotiated between First Nations of central Saskatchewan and Alberta and the federal government in 1876, that became the legal basis for free health care for status First Nations and some Inuit.
Mistahimaskwa: (Big Bear, c. 1825–88) Anishinini chief who refused to sign Treaty Six, working instead to unite the Nehiyaw and create an Indigenous territory. His band participated in the 1885 Northwest Resistance, and Big Bear was convicted of treason-felony.
North-West Mounted Police: (NWMP) Police force created by 1873 legislation and sent to what is now western Canada in 1874 to maintain order, primarily by curtailing the whisky trade and the disruption of American wolfers along the border as well as encouraging newcomer settlement. In 1904, the force was given the prefix “Royal,” and in 1920 it was merged with the Dominion Police to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
numbered treaties: Series of 11 treaties signed between First Nations and the Canadian government following the Hudson’s Bay Company transfer of Rupert’s Land to the Canadian government. These treaties, signed between 1871 and 1921, resulted in the cession of much of present-day Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Mackenzie District of the North-West Territories to the Canadian government.
Pītikwahanapiwīyin: (Poundmaker, c. 1842–86) Siksika leader who was the adopted son of Isapo-Muxika and a leader in Treaty Six negotiations. His insistence on consultation and consensus-building made him a widely influential leader in the region. He was later convicted of treason felony following the 1885 Northwest Resistance though he sought to be a peacemaker during the hostilities. He was released early, but due to the difficult conditions of imprisonment, died within the year.
St Catharines Milling and Lumber Co. v. The Queen: (1885–9) Ontario court case in which the question of federal and provincial jurisdiction was central and which led to a ruling of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that the Proclamation of 1763 only recognized a right of occupancy for Indigenous Peoples,. Therefore, land once ceded to the Dominion would revert to the control of the province with the exception of lands reserved for Indigenous Peoples, which per the Proclamation remained under federal jurisdiction. However, the ruling also recognized the sui generis retention of a “personal and usufructuary right” which has led to subsequent court cases asserting the duty to consult when planned changes to the land would impair this right. See duty to consult and usufructuary right.
Tatanka Iyotake: (Sitting Bull) Hunkpapa Lakhóta leader who united his people to expand westward into the hunting territories of the Shoshone, Apsáalooke, and Nakoda and, beginning in 1863, in opposition to the United States government. In about 1867 he became principal chief of the Dakhóta Oyapé and was able to negotiate a large reserve that included the Black Hills at the second Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868. However, discovery of gold led to swift settlement of the region despite its reserve status so that by 1875, the Lakhóta were ready to ally with their southern neighbours, the Cheyenne and the Arapaho, and with them defeat the Americans at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. The Americans responded with increased military actions and withheld rations and treaty payments, resulting in widespread hunger. Sitting Bull then led his followers to Canada in 1877, where they were welcomed by their Lakhóta relatives who resided there, but were not provisioned by the Canadian government. This led many to return to the US, where he settled at the Standing Rock agency after 1883. In 1889 he was one of the leaders who embraced the Ghost Dance, leading to his arrest. He died during an 1890 Lakhóta attempt to rescue him from custody.
thirst dances: (sun dances) Rituals practiced primarily in the Plains area involving fasting and dancing in the hot sun of the Plains for prolonged periods of time as well as other physical offerings. The Canadian government banned them in 1895 because they brought large numbers of Indigenous people together which they believed fuelled Indigenous resistance of assimilation as well as the Canadian state. The ban was lifted in 1951.
wolfers: A term used for American hunters/trappers who used strychnine to poison bison meat as a means to acquire pelts, which also often killed dogs belonging to Indigenous people and allowed strychnine into the ecosystem generally. Often accompanied by whisky peddlers, they had little respect for Indigenous people and blamed thefts on the nearest community rather than considering whether the perpetrator could be another wolfer. Their lawlessness increased tensions between settlers and Indigenous communities, leading to 100 Indigenous deaths in 1873 including the massacre of 30–40 individuals at a Nakota encampment by drunken wolfers.