A biography of the Plains Cree chief who challenged colonial Canadian authorities and became a warrior of legend
When Big Bear was young in the first half of the nineteenth century, he survived smallpox and other hardships and eventually followed in the footsteps of his father, Black Powder, engaging in warfare against the Blackfoot. Soon enough, he would be compelled to draw on these experiences and step into a leadership role, just as the buffalo began to disappear and his people started to suffer.
This rich historical biography explores Big Bear’s role as chief of a Plains Cree community in western Canada in the late nineteenth century, at a time of rapid transition. During the 1870s and early 1880s, Big Bear became the focal point of opposition for the Cree and Saulteaux bands that opposed treaties with Canada. During the early 1880s, he spearheaded a Plains diplomatic movement to renegotiate the treaties in favor of the Indigenous groups whose way of life had been devastated by colonialism.
Although Big Bear personally favored peaceful dissent, violent acts by others during the North-West Resistance of 1885 provided the federal government with an excuse to prosecute him for treason. His story — both political and personal — provides fascinating insight into this era of North American history.
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J.R. (Jim) Miller teaches Canadian history at the University of Saskatchewan. He is a specialist in the history of relations between Native peoples and Euro-Canadians in Canada.
Published: March 1996
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.