KIWISĀNCE (Cowessess, Ka-we-zauce, Little Child, literally boy), chief of a mixed band of Plains Cree and Saulteaux; d. probably in April 1886.
Kiwisānce was the leader of a mixed band of Plains Cree and Saulteaux which was said to have camped regularly in the vicinity of Leech Lake (Sask.) and followed the way of life based upon the buffalo hunt. He signed Treaty no.4 at Fort Qu’Appelle in September 1874, but does not seem to have taken any active part in the negotiations. Neither he nor his band was anxious to select a reserve and commence farming as contemplated by the terms of the treaty. They were determined to cling to their traditional means of livelihood for as long as possible.
The diminishing herds of buffalo led Kiwisānce and his band to the Cypress Hills (Sask.) in 1876. Other Indians from all parts of the Canadian prairies congregated in the same district in a desperate quest for the last of the buffalo to be found north of the 49th parallel. By 1878 Chief Kiwisānce had come to realize that he and his followers would soon be faced with starvation. Through Major James Morrow Walsh* of the North-West Mounted Police, he pleaded with the Canadian government to send someone who could instruct his band in farming. Before this request was met, the Kiwisānce band was reduced to selling its horses, eating its dogs, and begging for food from the NWMP.
Edgar Dewdney*, newly appointed as Indian commissioner, visited the Cypress Hills in June of 1879, bringing agricultural instructors with him. He assisted Kiwisānce in selecting a reserve site at Maple Creek (Sask.) beside the followers of Chief Piapot [Payipwat*]. By 1881 the two groups were reported to be making excellent progress in agriculture, and Kiwisānce had asked the government to send a school teacher for his band.
Instructions had been issued as early as 1879 to have Kiwisānce’s reserve surveyed, but this work was never completed and the chief was much concerned about the insecurity of his band’s title to the land on which his followers were residing. On one occasion he demanded a deed for the reserve from the Indian agent at Fort Walsh. When he failed to get it, Kiwisānce resigned his chieftainship to emphasize his anxiety, though he resumed his position shortly thereafter. His concern was apparently in response to a dissident movement within his band, led by one of his headmen, Louis O’Soup*, who was well known for his oratory and intrigues. In 1877 O’Soup had persuaded a faction of the band to abandon the Cypress Hills and return to the Qu’Appelle River valley in the hope of having himself recognized as chief in Kiwisānce’s place. O’Soup then attempted to lure other band members away from the Cypress Hills, and in 1880 succeeded in having a reserve for the entire band surveyed at Crooked Lake (Sask.), 300 miles east of Maple Creek where the majority of the band were still settled with Kiwisānce. The chief’s apprehensions about the land which had been promised to him were confirmed in the winter of 1881–82. Fearing a conflict between the Plains Indians in the Cypress Hills and the American Indians or authorities, the Canadian government concluded that all the Cree and Saulteaux Indians in the Cypress Hills area should be prevailed upon to move north or east. The food rations distributed by the Department of Indian Affairs, upon which these Indians depended for survival, were ordered discontinued to effect the removal. The bitter pill was sweetened considerably by Indian agent Allan McDonald*, who confronted O’Soup and persuaded him to resign as headman, cease his intrigues, and welcome Kiwisānce to the reserve at Crooked Lake. The chief came east with a portion of his band in the summer of 1882, and then returned with McDonald to the Cypress Hills in an attempt to persuade the more obstinate of his followers – and those of other bands – to accompany him. Although a number refused, Kiwisānce did bring another 100 persons out of the district in the spring of 1883, increasing the population on his reserve at Crooked Lake to 345. His cooperation with government officials was of significant assistance in enabling the authorities to remove the great majority of the Plains Indians from the vicinity of the Cypress Hills.
Once settled on his reserve in the Qu’Appelle valley, Kiwisānce worked energetically on his farm and encouraged other members of his band to do likewise. In 1883 McDonald declared that these Indians were the most advanced of all in Treaty no.4, and, in 1884, Kiwisānce was awarded a yoke of oxen as the chief of the band that had progressed most in agriculture. The Department of Indian Affairs was also pleased with Kiwisānce because of his unwavering support of the NWMP. He had met Colonel James Farquharson Macleod* in 1874 and believed that the law enforcement officials would assist his people in times of trouble. In 1877 a group of Assiniboin attacked his camp, but he went to the police instead of retaliating. When starving Indians from the adjacent Sakimay Reserve looted a government ration house in 1884 and defied the police force dispatched to arrest them, Kiwisānce condemned the looters and offered his son as a guide for the authorities.
Later in 1884, Chief Piapot called a meeting of all Treaty no.4 Indians to promote his allegations that the written text of the treaty did not contain all of the promises made at the treaty negotiations. Kiwisānce refused to participate, and personally retrieved a few members of his band who attended surreptitiously. Moreover, while O’Soup and a few others sympathized with the actions of Louis Riel and the Métis and Indians who rose in rebellion in 1885, Kiwisānce was able to counteract the influence of Riel’s runners and keep his band loyal to the Canadian government. The exact date and circumstances of his death soon after were not recorded, but it probably occurred in April 1886 when he was succeeded as chief by his perennial rival, O’Soup.
Kiwisānce was a prominent Plains chief who, once he had come to realize that the nomadic life style of the buffalo hunters was no longer viable, did his utmost to cooperate with Canadian government officials in adapting his band to an agricultural base. His efforts and example were doubtless a great contribution to the transformation of the Kiwisānce band into one of the most successful agricultural communities on the Prairies.
Can., Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Central Registry files (Ottawa), file 73/30-2-73; Treaty annuity paysheets for treaties 4, 6, and 7, 1874–86. PAC, MG 26, A, 213; RG 10, B3, 3573, file 154/2; 3577, file 444; 3584, file 1130/3; 3585, file 1130/3B; 3625, files 5470, 5489; 3637, file 7088; 3640, file 7452; 3649, file 8280; 3666, file 10181; 3668, file 10490; 3671, file 10836/2; 3682, file 12662; 3686, file 13168; 3716, file 22541; 3730, file 26219; 3745, file 29506/4; 3751, file 30034; 3768, file 33642; 4103, file 29188. Can., Parl., Sessional papers, 1875–80 (Dept. of the Interior, Annual reports of the Indian Branch, 1874–79); 1880–87 (Annual reports of the Dept. of Indian Affairs, 1880–86). R. B. Deane, Mounted Police life in Canada: a record of thirty-one years’ service (London and Toronto, 1916; repr. Toronto, 1973). Morris, Treaties of Canada with the Indians. Opening up the west; being the official reports to parliament of the activities of the Royal North-West Mounted Police force from 1874–1881 (Toronto, 1973). Settlers and rebels: being the official reports to parliament of the activities of the Royal North-West Mounted Police force from 1882–1885 (Toronto, 1973). I. A. Andrews, “The Crooked Lakes reserves: a study of Indian policy in practice from the Qu’Appelle treaty to 1900” (ma thesis, Univ. of Saskatchewan, Regina, 1972). K. J. Tyler, “A history of the Cowessess band” (unpublished paper prepared for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, 1975).