Trudeau exonerates Saskatchewan chief of historic treason conviction


CUT KNIFE, Sask. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has exonerated a Saskatchewan chief of treason more than 130 years after his conviction and apologized to his people for the hardship their leader’s unjust imprisonment caused.

The exoneration of Chief Poundmaker was announced at the reserve that bears his name — Poundmaker Cree Nation — about 200 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.

“Today, our government acknowledges that Chief Poundmaker was peacemaker who never stopped fighting for peace. A leader who, time and time again, sought to prevent further loss of life in the growing conflict in the Prairies,” Trudeau said.

“The government of Canada recognizes that Chief Poundmaker was not a criminal, but someone who work tirelessly to ensure the survival of his people and hold the Crown accountable to its obligations as laid out in Treaty 6,” the prime minister continued.

“We recognize that the unjust conviction and imprisonment of Chief Poundmaker had and continues to have a profound impact on the Poundmaker Cree Nation.

“I am here today, on behalf of the government of Canada, to confirm without reservation that Chief Poundmaker is fully exonerated of any crime or wrongdoing.”

Poundmaker is considered an important political leader who spoke out against unfulfilled Treaty 6 promises and stood up for his people at the time of the 1885 Northwest Rebellion.

He was labelled a traitor by the Canadian government even though he was known as a peacemaker and stopped First Nations fighters from going after retreating federal forces that had attacked them.

Poundmaker was tried for treason in Regina and imprisoned at Stony Mountain penitentiary in Manitoba before he was released because of poor health.

He died in 1886.

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