HUNKAJUKA (Little Soldier, sometimes cited as Little Chief), chief of a nomadic band of Assiniboine Indians of the North-West Territories; killed at Cypress Hills (Saskatchewan), May 1873.
Virtually nothing is known of Little Soldier prior to the significant event in which he lost his life. The incident has an explanation in social problems in the North-West Territories when the area was acquired by Canada in 1870: horse stealing was rife among the Indians and the southwestern region was demoralized by American whiskey traders infiltrating from posts on the Missouri River. The episode began with a band of “wolfers,” traders and hunters who followed the buffalo hunt and poisoned carcasses to kill the scavenger wolves whose furs they sought. A mixed party of Canadian and American “wolfers” had their horses stolen while en route to Fort Benton, Montana Territory, in early spring 1873. Organizing an expedition to recover them, they rode into Canadian territory, and arrived at the whiskey-trading outpost of the Fort Benton merchants, operated by Abel Farwell and Moses Solomon in the Cypress Hills. There they found Little Soldier’s band, whom they mistakenly suspected of the thefts. Little Soldier attempted to appease the “wolfers” but drunkenness on both sides contributed to the violence which ensued on a Sunday in early May (probably 4 May). Little Soldier and between 15 and 35 of his followers were wantonly slain.
The Canadian government had already introduced legislation to provide for policing the territories, but news of this massacre hastened the organization of the North-West Mounted Police. Dispatched to the area in 1874, the subsequent persistence of the nwmp in bringing the “wolfers” to trial demonstrated their resolve to administer justice in the North-West Territories without racial distinction and won them the respect of the native people.
SAB, Dan (Ochankugahe) Kennedy, Cypress Hill’s massacre, 1873; Dan Kennedy, Easchappie’s version of the massacre; Saskatchewan Historical Society, 100. P. F. Sharp, “Massacre at Cypress Hills,” Saskatchewan History (Saskatoon), VII (1954), 81–99. J. P. Turner, “Massacre in the Hills,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Quarterly [Ottawa], VIII (1940), 302–9.