Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

An Indian Chief, an English Tourist, a Doctor, a Reverend, and a Member of Parliament: The Journeys of Pasqua's Pictographs and the Meaning of Treaty Four

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

An Indian Chief, an English Tourist, a Doctor, a Reverend, and a Member of Parliament: The Journeys of Pasqua's Pictographs and the Meaning of Treaty Four

Article excerpt

Abstract / Résumé

Indian treaties of western Canada are contentious among historians, First Nations, governments, and courts. The contemporary written documentation about them has come from one side of the treaty process. Historians add information from such disciplines as First Nations Traditional Knowledge and Oral History to draw as complete a picture as possible. Now, we have an additional source of written contemporary information, Chief Pasqua's recently rediscovered pictographs showing the nature of Treaty Four and its initial implementation. Pasqua's account, as contextualized here, adds significantly to our knowledge of the western numbered treaty process. The pictographs give voice to Chief Pasqua's knowledge.

Les traités conclus avec les Indiens de l'Ouest canadien demeurent litigieux pour les historiens, les Premières nations, les gouvernements et les tribunaux. Les documents contemporains qui discutent des traités ne proviennent que d'une seule vision du processus des traités. Les historiens ajoutent des renseignements provenant de disciplines telles que les connaissances traditionnelles et l'histoire orale des Autochtones. Ils bénéficient désormais d'une nouvelle source écrite contemporaine, les pictogrammes récemment redécouverts du chef Pasqua, qui illustrent la nature du Traité n° 4 et les débuts de son application. Le compte rendu du chef, tel que replacé dans son contexte, est un ajout important à notre connaissance du processus des traités numérotés dans l'Ouest canadien. Les pictogrammes donnent une voix à la connaissance du chef Pasqua.


In October, 2000, a remarkable historical document of an extremely rare type surfaced at auction in London, U.K. It is a western Canadian Indian Chief's representation, in pictographic form, of his understanding of the treaty he entered into with Queen Victoria and the provisions he received under the treaty in some of years following its negotiation.1

This document is unique. No other contemporary written representation exists from the First Nations side of the negotiations and implementation of the numbered treaties of western Canada.2 All other archival material relating to First Nations understandings of the agreements and events has gone through the filters of the White man's mind and hand.

The document has come home to Saskatchewan. A ceremony on June, 21, 2007, at the Pasqua First Nation southwest of Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan, honored its repatriation. It is now housed at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina.3

The Pasqua First Nation raised $ 197,500 to buy the document.4 It had sold at the London auction in 2000 to a private collector for $ 84,000 (not including commissions). That was almost eight times the pre-sale estimate. A group of Alberta Crée, led by lawyer and former Member of Parliament, WiINe Littlechild, bid on the document at that auction but had not raised enough money.5

The document is in two sections, or panels, totaling about 33 cm deep and 42 cm wide. The panels contain a large number of pencil drawings of situations and items. The left-hand panel shows the Chief's general understanding of the treaty. The right-hand panel contains an accounting of the treaty provisions he received during several years. It is quite obvious what many of the drawings represent; others are difficult to understand. There are also some English-language notations on the panel, done by someone as a "translation." Most of these notations are very badly faded and unreadable. This is most unfortunate with regard to the provisions panel, where those notes might have made understanding easier of what treaty items the Chief was attempting to represent.6

A descendant of William Henry Barneby, an English gentleman and world traveler, put the document up for auction in 2000.7 Barneby collected the document during a visit to the Canadian West in 1883. On the back of the framed pictographs is Henry Barneby's printed description of the history of the document, dated 1885, here in full:

This interesting paper represents the method adopted by some of the Indian Chiefs of North America for keeping a record of the supplies granted them by Government at treaty times, during a successive series of years. …

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