The Town of Indian Head

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To celebrate Canada’s 150 Birthday, the Indian Head Community Development Committee has teamed up with the Museum to dive into the depths of their archives, searching through forgotten boxes and dusty shelves, to find the most interesting and unique artifacts from Indian Head’s past! Join the adventure by reading and make sure to visit the Museum to see the real thing! 

A small but elegant brown chair has been in Indian Head for 132 years, brought here in 1885 by resident Joseph Glenn. Glenn had arrived in 1882 and started a feed and livery stable, hauling goods and delivering mail to local settlers.

In 1885, 25-year-old Glenn, like many young men of the Indian Head area, volunteered to assist General Middleton’s forces by freighting, scouting or other jobs. Joseph Glenn was a dispatch rider and escorted reporters that accompanied Middleton’s troops.

After battling Gabriel Dumont and his Métis forces at Fish Creek, General Middleton moved his army north toward Batoche. Arriving at Gabriel’s Crossing, Middleton ordered his troops to burn Dumont’s house and buildings. While doing this, some men took souvenirs. Joseph Glenn got this chair which, many years later, his daughter-in-law donated to the museum.

Gabriel Dumont, born in 1837, was a skilled buffalo hunter with a forceful personality. He was a great horseman with deadly aim, able to load and fire his gun at a full gallop. He had learned well from his father, Isidore, and his father-in-law, Jean-Baptiste Wilkie, the “great war chief” of the Métis buffalo hunt in the mid-1800s. Gabriel Dumont later became the general of the hunt.

In 1872, as the bison herds dwindled, Gabriel and his wife, Madeleine, built a log house beside the South Saskatchewan River, where Gabriel operated a ferry. Gabriel’s Crossing was near the present highway bridge east of Rosthern – now called Gabriel’s Bridge. The Dumonts soon added a store and other buildings. They also farmed there, while Gabriel Dumont continued to lead periodic buffalo hunts. When people said “Gabriel”, everyone knew who they meant.

In 1884, the Métis community felt threatened by the influx of white settlers. Their petitions to Ottawa, asking clarification of their property rights, went unanswered. Gabriel and three companions  went to Montana to fetch Louis Riel. As their petitions finally turned into armed confrontation, Gabriel stood by Riel, and led the Métis volunteers in battle at Duck Lake, Fish Creek and Batoche. Afterwards, Gabriel and Madeleine fled to Montana, where Madeleine contracted tuberculosis and died in early 1886.  Soon after, Gabriel joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and spent three months in Philadelphia, New York and other eastern US venues.

In 1893, Gabriel returned to the South Saskatchewan and built a small cabin near Batoche. He died suddenly of a heart attack on May 19, 1906. His gravestone overlooks the South Saskatchewan River in the Batoche cemetery.

The chair at the museum evokes the everyday life of the Dumonts and their neighbours.  The Dumonts’ house was the social hub of the Métis community at Gabriel’s Crossing. We can imagine a young woman sitting on it, as she waits for the next jig; or Madeleine Dumont dozing on it by the fire while Gabriel ferries a late traveller across the river; or Gabriel playing cards with neighbours on a winter evening. The chair helps us to understand something of the history of the Métis people of Saskatchewan.

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