MINAHIKOSIS (Little Pine, literally little pine tree, known in French as Petit Pin), chief of a band of Plains Cree; b. c. 1830 probably in the vicinity of Fort Pitt (Sask.); d. in April 1885 on the Poundmaker Reserve (Sask.).
Little Pine, the son of a Blackfoot woman and a Plains Cree warrior, lived most of his life near Fort Pitt and Battleford (Sask.). In the 1860s he won a reputation as a warrior while participating in the armed migration of Plains Crees into Blackfoot territory which contained the last of the buffalo ranges. He was in the forefront of the Cree effort to wrest control of the Cypress Hills from the Blackfeet and was one of the leaders at the battle of Belly River (near Lethbridge, Alta) in 1870 where they checked the Cree migration. By the end of the decade, Little Pine led his own band of about 300 persons.
Determined to follow the life of the buffalo hunt and to preserve the culture based upon it, Little Pine refused to take treaty with the Canadian government in 1876 along with other Cree leaders of the Saskatchewan River district. He continued his resistance to Treaty no.6 in 1877 and 1878. Little Pine and Big Bear [Mistahimaskwa], who also refused to sign, found the treaty inadequate because it contained no guarantees against the imposition of an alien culture. They were especially concerned about the application of the white man’s laws, a concern made more pressing by the recent arrival of the North-West Mounted Police. Not until July 1879 did Little Pine adhere to the treaty, and then only as a means of obtaining assistance for his people who faced starvation because of the disappearance of the buffalo from the Canadian ranges.
Even after taking treaty, Little Pine wanted to follow the life of the hunt and moved to the Cypress Hills area to be close to the last buffalo ranges in the United States. From 1879 to 1883 he made friends with the traditional enemy of the Crees, the Blackfeet, and especially with their leader Crowfoot [Isapo-muxika], who had also come to the Cypress Hills in search of buffalo. Along with other plains chiefs who were dissatisfied with the treaties, Little Pine began efforts to establish one huge reserve for all the Plains Indians. They asked the Canadian government to establish adjoining reserves for the various plains tribes and thereby create an Indian territory of almost 1,000 square miles. The government refused the request, accusing Little Pine of trying to establish an Indian confederacy. Instead, wishing to break up the concentration of Indians in the Cypress Hills, the government insisted that the bands disperse and return to the districts where they had lived before taking treaty; because all the bands were suffering from hunger, the government was able to force them to leave by refusing assistance until they complied.
In 1883 Little Pine and his band moved to the Battleford area and camped next to the reserve of Poundmaker [Pītikwahanapiwīyin]. With Poundmaker he organized a council of Cree chiefs of the Battleford and Fort Pitt area to be held in June 1884 near Battleford to discuss the idea of one large reserve for all Plains Crees. In the mean time, the government was pressing Little Pine to allow them to survey a small reserve for his band, but he declined.
At the Sun Dance (Thirst Dance) which preceded the council at Battleford, a NWMP unit under the command of Leif Newry Fitzroy Crozier* came into the camp to arrest an Indian for assaulting a government official. The Indians resented this intrusion, and a crisis developed that could have resulted in the annihilation of the police unit had Little Pine and Big Bear not prevented bloodshed by appealing for peace. To avert further trouble, the council was disbanded before the plan for the creation of one large reserve could be discussed. Nevertheless, Little Pine and Big Bear persisted in their efforts to create a large Indian territory. On two occasions between June and August 1884 they requested reserves adjacent to existing ones near Battleford, but were refused. Undaunted, Little Pine and Big Bear continued their efforts. At a council of the Plains Crees of the Saskatchewan River area, held at Duck Lake in August 1884, plans were made for a meeting during the summer of 1885 of all Plains Crees [see Kamīyistowesit]. In addition, Little Pine invited the Blackfeet to meet with him in the late spring of 1885 to enlist their support for the proposal.
Little Pine’s activities in late 1884 and early 1885 were severely curtailed by eye problems and general ill health. Reports did, however, continue to reach government officials of Little Pine’s leadership in the agitation and of his alleged call to arms if all else failed. By March 1885 Little Pine’s followers were again suffering from hunger and he led them to Battleford to appeal for aid. When they found the town deserted they began to loot it for food, despite Little Pine’s efforts to prevent this action. On 31 March he and his band went to the Poundmaker Reserve, and several days later Little Pine succumbed to his illnesses. Following Little Pine’s death the band remained at the Poundmaker Reserve; they participated in the battle of Cut Knife Hill in May 1885, and as a group were regarded as rebels.
Little Pine’s efforts on behalf of his people were an integral part of the unrest on the prairies in the two decades preceding the rebellion of 1885. He attempted to avert the calamity his people faced with the disappearance of the buffalo and to maintain their political and cultural integrity against the threat from alien values. That his efforts failed does not detract from his importance.
PAC, RG 10, B3, 3576, file 309; 3582, file 949; 3604, file 2589; 3655, file 9000; 3668, file 10644; 3672, file 10853; 3697, file 15423; 3701, file 17169; 3703, file 17728; 3705, file 17936; 3745, file 29506/4. PAM, HBCA, B.60/a/34. H. A. Dempsey, Crowfoot, chief of the Blackfeet (Edmonton, 1972). W. B. Fraser, “Big Bear, Indian patriot,” Historical essays on the prairie provinces, ed. Donald Swainson (Toronto, 1970), 71–88. Desmond Morton, The last war drum: the North West campaign of 1885 (Toronto, 1972). F. G. Roe, The North American buffalo: a critical study of the species in its wild state (Toronto, 1951). Stanley, Birth of western Canada.