WIKASKOKISEYIN (also written Wee-kas-kookee-sey-yin, called Sweet Grass), ABRAHAM, chief of the Plains Cree Indians of the Saskatchewan country; place and date of birth unrecorded; d.c. 11 Jan. 1877 in a shooting accident on the plains, presumably at Saint-Paul-des-Cris (Alberta).
Wikaskokiseyin’s mother, a member of the Crow tribe of the Missouri area, had been kidnapped during a war with the Crees, and Wikaskokiseyin was born in the Cree camp. As a young man, he was called Apistchi-koimas (Le Petit Chef). It was in his youth that he undertook the daring exploit which accounted for his later name and recognition as a brave. Alone he penetrated into Blackfoot territory where he killed one of his enemies and captured over 40 horses. Upon his return, amidst shouts of triumph, he held up a tuft of grass dipped in the blood of his victim; the whole camp took up the cry, “Sweet Grass!” By 1870 he was the principal chief in a large area of the central part of the Prairies (Alberta and Saskatchewan), and in that year he was converted to Roman Catholicism and baptized with the Christian name, Abraham, by Father Albert Lacombe*, who had founded the mission of Saint-Paul-des-Cris in 1865.
After the acquisition of the Hudson’s Bay Company territory by Canada in 1870, Wikaskokiseyin communicated his concern for the condition of his people to Governor Adams George Archibald* at Upper Fort Garry (Winnipeg). “Our country is getting ruined of fur-bearing animals, hitherto our sole support,” he said in 1871. “We have had great starvation the past winter, and the small-pox took away many of our people, the old, young, and children. We want you to stop the Americans from coming to trade on our lands, and giving fire water, ammunition and arms to our enemies, the Blackfeet.” He requested that representatives be sent to treat with the Crees and that they receive assistance from the government.
Wikaskokiseyin was the leading spokesman for the Indians in the negotiation of Treaty No. 6 at Fort Pitt (near present-day Lloydminster), and was the treaty’s first signatory at that place, 9 Sept. 1876. Although he died a few months later, his name is perpetuated in the Sweet Grass reserve established for his band near present-day Battleford, Saskatchewan.
Annales de la propagation de la foi pour la province de Quebec, no.2 (juin 1877), 115–19. Canada, Sessional papers, V (1872), pt.7, no.22; X (1877), pt.7, no.11. Morris, Treaties of Canada with Indians, 168–245. Le Métis (Saint-Boniface), 11 janv. 1877. P. E. Breton, The big chief of the Prairies; the life of Father Lacombe ([Montreal, 1956]). Katherine Hughes, Father Lacombe; the black-robe voyageur (3rd ed., Toronto, 1920).