Chief Poundmaker finally exonerated
- NC Raine | May 24, 2019
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was met with enthusiastic cheers and applause as he delivered his statement of exoneration for Chief Poundmaker.
“I am here on behalf of the Government of Canada to confirm without reservation that Chief Poundmaker is fully exonerated of any crime or wrongdoing,” said Trudeau at Poundmaker Cree Nation on Thursday afternoon.
“It is my hope that these words can mark a new beginning. And that this day will lead us to a brighter future as we continue to walk together on the path of reconciliation – the path that Chief Poundmaker chartered for us all so many years ago,” Trudeau continued.
The Prime Minister was joined by delegates and officials, First Nations leadership from across the province, descendents of Chief Poundmaker, and thousands of other attendees to witness an exoneration that is 134 years in the making.
“In 1885, Chief Poundmaker was treated as a criminal and traitor. In 2019, we recognize the truth in his words, that he as a leader, a statesmen, and a peacemaker, did everything he could to ensure lives were not needlessly lost,” said Trudeau.
Chief Poundmaker was wrongfully convicted of treason and imprisoned in 1885. He served three years in prison, and died just four months after his release.
Prime Minister Trudeau also extended an apology to all members of Poundmaker Cree Nation, past and present, for the hardships they endured due to this injustice. Poundmaker Cree Nation has long sought exoneration for Chief Poundmaker.
Trudeau also took time to share the history of Chief Poundmaker, as well as a famous quote from the Chief:
“We all know the story of the man who sat by the trail too long. Then it grew over and he could never find his way again. We could never forget what has happened, but we could never go back nor can we just sit beside the trail.”
“Well, the Government of Canada has been sitting by the trail for far too long,” said Trudeau. “It is my sincere hope that by coming together today and taking this important step together as equal partners, we can continue the important work of reconciling the past and renewing our relationships.”
Several of the leaders in attendance shared their thoughts on the historic day:
“All Canadians must know that Chief Poundmaker was a leader and a peacemaker who wanted a better future for his people. He fought for peace, not for war. He used his pipe, not a gun,” said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
“We say that the last 150 years weren’t very good for First Nations people,” Bellegarde continued. “But now it’s the next 150 years that we’re going to build upon.”
Chief of Poundmaker Cree Nation Duane Antoine also spoke, after a historic handshake and trading gifts with Prime Minister Trudeau, on the impact Poundmaker has had on his people.
“Poundmaker was a diplomat, a peacemaker, and was practicing reconciliation already in the 19th Century. The truth is now known, and he will be remembered in history as a national hero,” said Antoine. “What happened today here, we will never forget. The youth will never forget this.”