By APARNA SANYAL
In 1882, Cree chief Big Bear, his people starving, adhered to Treaty 6 in exchange for food from the Dominion of Canada. He had argued for fairer treaty provisions, but rations had been deliberately withheld by the government of Sir John A. Macdonald, whose plan was to “starve unco-operative Indians onto reserves and into submission.” Big Bear began negotiating with other Cree communities to take reserve lands next to each other. Macdonald’s government rejected the chief’s proposal, reneging on an earlier promise. Big Bear later tried to dissuade members of his band from violence against white settlers, helping instead with the release of hostages. Amid widespread indigenous famine, Sir John A. Macdonald focused on his National Dream, his Indian commissioner declaring of rancid rations: “The Indians should eat the bacon or die.”
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