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Big Bear
(1825-1888)
Names Mistihui'muskwa
Band Plains Cree
Highlights Chief of mixed Odjibwe/Cree band
Initially refused to sign Treaty #6
Convicted of treason-felony

Biography
Big Bear was born near Jackfish, Saskatchewan. At 40 years old he became chief of a mixed Odjibwe/Cree band.
Some say McDougall "forgot" chiefs like Big Bear because they refused to convert to Christianity.
In 1876, the Canadian government sent Methodist missionary George McDougall to invite chiefs from various Cree bands to treaty negotiations. While Big Bear led the largest band, he was not invited. Some say McDougall "forgot" chiefs like Big Bear because they refused to convert to Christianity. Big Bear went to the negotiations anyway. By the time he arrived the other chiefs had signed the treaty with the Canadian government. Big Bear left without adding his name. Things worsened for Big Bear and his people. Facing destitution and starvation, he eventually conceded and signed the treaty.
By 1885, the situation for Big Bear and his people did not improve. The Canadian government failed to provide the band with adequate famine relief and there was still no Big Bear reserve. The people lost patience and erected a warrior's lodge. This signaled a change in band leadership. Wandering Spirit, the war chief, was now in control of Big Bear's Band.
On April 2, 1885, Wandering Spirit and his warriors went into Frog Lake and demanded food from the Indian Agent. The agent refused. Wandering Spirit shot him. The warriors then pillaged the place, killing eight more non-natives and a Métis in the process. Big Bear was powerless to stop them.
Three months later Big Bear surrendered. He was tried in a Canadian court and found guilty of treason-felony. He received a sentence of three years' hard labour. He served half his sentence before being released due to poor health. He died in the following year.
After Big Bear gave himself up, his son Imasees led the rest of the Big Bear band into Montana. Here Imasees changed his name to Little Bear. In 1896, the U.S. government spent $5000 to deport Little Bear and his "Canadian Indians" back to Canada. Within weeks, Little Bear and his followers drifted back into Montana. They joined a small band of reservation-less Chippewa who followed chief Rocky Boy. In 1916, the U.S. Congress designated a tract of abandoned military land as a reservation for the Little Bear/Rocky Boy band. The Rocky Boy reservation is located near the Canadian border, approximately 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Havre, Montana. It is the smallest and last reservation established in Montana.
"I am old and ugly, but I have tried to do good. Pity the children of my tribe. Pity the old and helpless of my people. I speak with a single tongue; and because Big Bear has always been the friend of the white man, send out and pardon and give them help. I have spoken."
Big Bear at his 1885 trial
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 Did you know? 

When Big Bear led his people into Fort Pitt on April 15, 1885, the mounted police were stationed there under the command of Inspector Francis Dickens, the son of Charles Dickens, the famous British novelist.