Published on February 22, 2011 by John
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Pitikwahanapiwiyin (c. 1842 – 4 July 1886), commonly known as Poundmaker, was a Plains Cree chief known as a peacemaker and defender of his people.
According to Cree oral history, Pitikwahanapiwiyin, known to English speakers as Chief Poundmaker, inherited his name from his grandfather who had a special ability to attract buffalo into pounds. A buffalo pound resembled a huge corral with walls covered by the leaves of thick bushes. Usually herds of buffalo were stampeded into this trap, or on other occasions, the buffalo were drawn in by a person like Pitikwahanapiwiyin, who was gifted by spirit helpers to use a special song to lure in the buffalo. As he sang, he used a drum. The song enticed the lead Buffalo Cow to bring her herd in. One time, it is said that he lured 500 buffalo into a pound using this very method grasping the name Pihtokahanapiwiyin, ‘The One Who Sits at the Pound’. So this name was carried onto Chief Poundmaker.
Poundmaker was born in the Battleford region, the child of Sikakwayan, an Assiniboine medicine man, and a mixed-blood Cree woman, the sister of Chief Mistawasis. Following the death of his parents, Poundmaker, his brother Yellow Mud Blanket, and his younger sister, were all raised by their mother’s Cree community, led by Chief Wuttunee, but later known as the Red Pheasant Band. In his adult life, Poundmaker gained prominence during the 1876 negotiations of Treaty 6 and split off to form his own band. In 1881, the band settled on a reserve about 40 km northwest of Fort Battleford. Poundmaker was not opposed of the idea of a treaty, but became critical of the Canadian government’s failures to live up to its promises.
In 1873, Crowfoot, chief of the Blackfoot First Nation, had adopted Poundmaker thereby increasing the latter’s influence. This move also cemented the ties between the Blackfoot and the Cree, which successfully stopped the struggling over the now very scarce buffalo.