different cultures . . . prairie neighbours
Cultures, political systems, religious persuasions and individual personalities have influenced the degree of peace that existed, here, between neighbours. Our museum would like to understand these events so that we may learn from the mistakes, celebrate the successes and promote understanding and acceptance. Just north of the Cut Knife town site, two historic battles took place:
Battle of Cut Knife Hill
This battle was fought at the highest hill in the area, in the 1840s, between the Cree and the Sarcee from the Blackfoot Confederacy. The invading Sarcee chief, Cut Knife (loosely translated), was soundly defeated. But, the Cree had greatly appreciated his fighting ability and so named the hill after him to honour his skill. One of the Sarcee warriors escaped and returned to his home to tell the story.
When the town forefathers were looking to name the settlement, they decided to use the name of the hill as it was a significant landmark to the north.
Battle at Cut Knife Creek
The 1885 Battle at Cut Knife Creek was one of a series of violent outbreaks which came to be known as the Northwest Resistance. Federal troops, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Otter, marched west from Fort Battleford to attack Chief Poundmaker’s camp at Cut Knife Creek. The militia was defeated by the Cree’s guerrilla tactics under the leadership of war chief Fine Day. The troops withdrew and were only saved from slaughter due to the intervention of Poundmaker.
This was the last defeat of government forces in the 1885 Resistance.
[For an overview of the Northwest Resistance, see Shifting Riel-ity: The 1885 North-West Rebellion: Was it a bang-up job or a bungle? A fresh look at the response to the 1885 North-West Rebellion.]
[To view video filmed on location at Poundmaker Cree Nation, see 2010 Re-enactment of the Battle of Cut Knife Creek.]
In the early 1900s, life on the prairies was harsh for all who lived here.
European settlers often came to their homesteads with very little material goods. Neighbours would band together to help one another with large projects, to socialize with each other to make life less lonely, and to work together to establish a community. Immigrants came from all across Europe, the United States and eastern Canada and many chose to settle near people of their own culture, such as the Italians who put down roots in the Baldwinton area.
The Cree, trying to adapt to reserve life in the post-1885 years, were also having a very difficult time. Restrictions placed upon the residents were harsh. Travel off the reserves and between the reserves was controlled by a government representative. Ensuring that everyone had enough to eat was a constant struggle. But, in this community, as well, neighbours helped one another, socialized together, and worked together to build their community.
Cultural differences, language barriers and government rules were felt by everyone living in the Cut Knife area.