1988 The Story of Paspasces, SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN; April; posted
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1988 The Story of Paspasces, SASKATCHEWAN
INDIAN; April; posted on Internet
This article purports to be written by Stan Cuthand and
Ken J. Tyler as a Graduate Thesis (i.e., Master of Arts
Thesis). Though it does not say at what school of
Graduate Studies, this would have hat to be Saskatchewan
Indian Federated Colleges.
The article - and Thesis - are due some serious well-
Firstly, let's look at the technical issues.
1. It is neither a Thesis, nor does it state a thesis
nor antithesis, nor propose an issue or point of
view to be examined. Hence it does not qualify as
a thesis in any school of graduate studies that has
any standards. As a thesis, this man's Graduate
Supervisor should have tossed it out the first time
he saw it (i.e., the first week of writing), and
should probably have straightened it out when it was
first proposed. The quality of work is depressing
even coming from a first year undergraduate - and
the fault lies with the Thesis/Graduate Supervisor.
Comparatively speaking here is how I would have
graded it when I was still doing stuff like that:
Adult Education Essay - Excellent
Grade 12 Essay - Good/Very Good
1st. Year Undergraduate - C+
3rd. Year Undergraduate - D-
4th. Year Undergraduate - F
On the positive side, this "thesis" does show the presence of some as-yet
poorly organized and formulated thoughts and questions. There is some
definate potential here that was never properly chaneled and directed.
That is to say, the question was never properly formulated (by the
Advisor, ultimately). The essay does skirt on some issues that do have
the potential for developing at least one obvious thesis.
2. Research: Marginal. This "thesis" does not show much original research.
It is basically a recounting of anecdoatal material that have been picked
up somewhere along the way, but never further investiaged or even properly
organized. Again, a failure on the part of the supervisor.
Paspasche's history and the history is very well known. We have his
geneology in detail, and that of his mother and father and grandparents
and aunts and uncles and cousins and so on. None of this was summarized or
even glossed over in the "thesis" as background material.
3. Stylistically - The style of presentation is nothing more than a garbled
anectotal recounting of some historical points. It is not presented in
and logical squence. For example, it jumps back and forth in the
historical sequencing, which badly garbles the sequence involved in the
surrendering of Treaty. In one paragraph the bands surrender treaty, in
following paragraphs they have not, then Bobtail Band surrenders, then
Paspasche's is the first to surrender.
Nor is there clarification on some issues that would significantly add to
the importance and impact of some of the issues.
4. Accreditation and References - Basically nonexistent. It does not meet the
minimum standard for an undergraduate term paper. There are a number of
statements given as fact, though no source is given to indicate where
such information comes from. Was it something dreamt up in an outhouse?
There are some statements that are open to question and dispute; who
claims that they are true? If they are not true, did the author make them
Likewise the Bibliography is inadequate. It is by no means a bibliography
(i.e., it never mentions one specific book). It is not even a Refernce to
Further Study, as it does not mention any other specific sources of
information. It is essentially a guide to sources for further field
research. Basically what it says is that if you want to check out my
information or find out more, go search through the National Archives,
or the O.M.I. Archives, etc.
In short, it is not Thesis quality work by any stretch of the imagination,
and any school that accepts this as Thesis material must be the laughing
stock of any academic institution - including the College of Ritual Hand-
washing at Ulan Bator. You expect a better conference presentation from a
first year undergraduate student with a hangover from an all-nighter on
his first public presentation. Tyler, if they told you that this qualifies
you as an M.A., then you have been badly misled. Demand your money back and
buy one of the On-Line degrees from Bermuda or Nigeria - they have more
credibility that whatever school accepted this. I really am sorry; I have
been in education for 35 years, have a Ph.D. and my kids are all on degree
programs (yes, we are native and Treaty from a small backwards reserve).
If this is any reflection on what Thesis material is at your schoo, it is
nothing more than patronizing the "poor Indian" and giving him a feelgood
certificate, rather than a truly qualitative and competitive Degree so that
the good-hearted liberal do-gooders can pat themselves on the back and say
"See not all Indians are stupid" to go along with their "And you know,
natives are just natural artists" and that other claptrap.
There are some excellent premises in this essay which, unfortunately, were
not encouraged or brought out. The potential is certainly there, and the
impression is that the writer could have really developed it, had he had
So let's look at some of this.
1. "Before the days of starvation..." Which were when? Dates ?
2. Manitou Lake. You assume the lake in Saskatchewan. Remember there are two
lakes in Saskatchewan and two in Alberta by that name; one of them only
a few miles from the Paspasche reserve.
3. Paspasces. There are many variations given on this name and much
disagreement on which is right. The form used here is a dialectic variant
of the spelling used locally in the Battleford area. The proper transcrip-
tion from Cree syllabics is PASPASCHE. According to my father-in-law, who
knew Paspasche, Paspasche used the name PASPASCHE, in that form, through
most of his life, but after the sale of the reserve took the form
PAPASTEW, which is also a woodpecker, but of a lesser size. He took it as
a self-admonishment for having failed as a chief in his decision to sell
3. Misatimwas (MISTAHI ATIM AWAS ASIS in proper High Cree). No explanation of
who he is.
4. "wounded on Cutknife Hill" this was of course the Battle of Cutknife Hill,
Otter's attempt to massacre the sleeping Cree camp, one of many war
crimes committed by the government forces.
5. "They became Medicine Men in their later years." Havn't met any old men
yet that are not said to have become Medicine Men in their later years.
6. Tahkohc (TAKOCH); brother to Paspasche.
7. "Paspasces and his headman Tahkohc (On Top) signed an adhesion to Treaty
Number six on August 21,1897"; Takoch did not sign treaty as Headman to
Paspasche. Paspasche signed Treaty as Headman to Chief Kichi Kachistawe-
skam. Paspasche's was not an independent band at this time but a sub-band
to Kichi Kachistaweskam. They signed in 1877, not 1897.
8. John Maskwasis (MASKWA ASIS) Kwenis from Lesser Slave Lake. The family
were Gladues, from Lesser Slave Lake, on their mother's side. Lizette's
father and mother had moved west to Lesser Slave Lake from Red River in
the 1790's. The family comes from Brittay, France.
9. "This family had moved to Edmonton...in the late 1850's". They arrived
around 1843 from Lesser Slave Lake and continued to move back and forth
between the two places.
10. "they worked for the Hudson's Bay Company". I have found no such
indication, but they probably did take out some small contracts, though
they do not seem to have been part of the pemmican and meat contractors.
Nontheless, they would have traded both furs and meat to the HBC.
11. "Tahkohc Outfit". Takoch's reputation as a warrior rests on the accounts
of a single source and can not be associated with any other accounts or
incidences. Takoch (not Paspasche) appears to have been the "War Chief",
head of the O KICHITA, of the band.
12. "The year following our acceptance of the Queen's promises, we were
starving and many of us went south hunting for buffalo." From 1876 on
many of the Cree and Metis from Edmonton began to join Bobtail's people
on their hunts down to the Missouri. Contrary to records for Bobtail's
and Lapatak's Bands (also with Bobtail) for whom hundreds of names can
be identified, NO records have surfaced to date to indicate that
Paspasche Band families were in the south over the next decade.
Paspasche's Band members apparently rarely went further south than the
Hand Hills-Three Hills area.
13. "The surveyors came and ran a line southward." This was in 1884, we have
skipped a decade here. Note that in the following paragraph, after "a
very hard winter" we are back into 1883.
14. "not going to be forty-eight square miles as promised." The promise was
for a certain acerage for all who were in the band when it settled. A
number had by now left the band to join others, hence the acerage was
adjusted for that. In future years adjustments continually had to be
made to reserves because of families moving out or leaving. Such
adjustments are still being made, but are now in the form of cash
transfers between the reserves involved.
15. "he did not want to feed them away from their province." There were no
Provinces at this time, only Territories. Paspasche's band was an
Edmonton band, not from some distant area, and rarely ventured far from
16. "Paspasces, a great military leader". There is no documentation to show
that Paspasche was ever a military leader.
17. "he hurried back to Poundmaker's band". Paspasche in fact had remained
at Edmonton, where he worked to maintain the peace. Some band members
had joined the Edmonton Home Guard, some had signed on as Army scouts
or as teamsters for the army. The brothers of one band member had
volunteered to serve on the Alberta Field Force, and later received
land grants for their service. Some went off to join the rebel forces.
A number of chiefs including Bobtail, Head Chief of the West People,
which included Paspasche's Band, went to Poundmaker's band to see for
himself what was going on. Paspasche was not involved in the rebellion
because NO West People chiefs were involved. Bobtail had refused to
endorse participation in the rebellion, but neither would prevent
individuals from taking part.
18. "the Indian affairs agent had given the band oxen, to plough more land,
and they were quite successful." Paspasche's people were culturally
Metis, rather than "Indian". They had long had small subsistence-farming
homesteads all around Edmonton, leaving only seasonally for their Annual
19. "Chief Bobtail and most of his band had declared themselves Metis".
Genealogical records show that most, if not all, of the Cree in Alberta
are of European ancestry on the male side.
20. "Most of Enoch's band" took Metis Scrip. No. Only a few families who had
joined Bobtail's people took Metis Scrip, most of them having settled in
Montana or southern Alberta.
21. "We argued that we did not understand what the written language meant,"
Many of the adults in the band could read and write, having gone to
school beginning in the 1860's. All adult males ran charge accounts at
the Hudson's Bay Company. Virtually all youths had learned to read and
write. There were many kinsmen working in the fur trade in positions
that needed reading and writing - some of these kinsmen were running
their own businesses and major operations. Fr. Scollen and Lacombe tried
to explain to them what would happen, etc., etc., etc. In fact, it was
precisely these kinsmen and more educated band members who were against
surrender and did not surrender their own Treaty status. But the fact
remains that in spite of all the advice and counselling, they chose to
ignore it and CORRECTLY followed the proceedure laid out by which they
could surrender their Treaty status and rights. It was not something
they were misled or duped into. It was the promise of substantial amounts
of cash (or equivalent) that had overwhelming appeal - the same thing
that had worked against Big Bear's plans, against the Calihoo Band and
would also work on Sharphead's Band, Samson's Band and most other bands
at one time or another.
22. "A hasty meeting was called without consulting the adult male membership
so a small fraction of the population voted on the surrender." No. No-
one but the adult males were elegible to vote. They did so by a majority
vote, and endorsed the sale. Paspasche and all his brothers and their
adult children voted to surrender, which virtually made up the bulk of
the band living on the reserve (non-resident members do not have a vote
on Band issues by Band laws; there were may families who had a
legitimate claim to being members of the band but were living elsewhere
- many had earlier moved back to Lesser Slave Lake. Many would later
take Treaty again elsewhere).
In the final sentence of the essay the author finally states a thesis - which
is however not addressed thoughout the essay.
"It casts great doubt on the validity of the entire procedure."
This, of course, is the main possible theme that comes to mind in this essay,
and is worthy of further investigation and development. Given that the author
conceeds that reasonable attempts were made to disuade Paspasche's people
from surrender, that there was no undue policy or pressure was being put to
bear, that the pressure to surrender was from the band members themselves,
and bearing in mind my statements above that proper voting was done, and that
the band members could not have unintentionally been ignorant of the terms
and duties, why then does it cast a "great doubt on the validity of the
entire procedure." And please don't give me the old song and dance that
Paspasche and Takoch and the others were too stupid to understand; as leaders
of their communities they were no doubt quite sharp - probably moreso than
the average person today.
What then went wrong? Or was it the same old story that money is easier spent
than possession, with less benefit and fewer results and that when it is gone
it is gone - a hard lesson that was also to be learned by the suddenly "rich"
Calihoo band and Siksika Nation after selling off massive chunks or all of
their reserves. Perhaps here lies the makinds of a masterful thesis.