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In March of 1885, a party of Plains Cree arrived in the Prairie town of Battleford to see about making the local Indian Agent live up to broken treaty promises, including the provision of badly needed food.

The agent refused to meet, townsfolk fled to the local Mountie garrison, and here the account gets messy: A store and some houses were pillaged, aboriginals were blamed, and a battle with government forces ensued a few weeks later at Cut Knife Hill. The charismatic Cree leader Pîhtokahanapiwiyin, also known by his anglicized name Poundmaker, was convicted of treason in a summary trial and jailed. Several others were hanged.

Except it turns out Chief Poundmaker sought a peaceful resolution to his community's legitimate grievances, and several historians now believe the looting probably involved settlers or militiamen. So the federal government is moving to formally clear his name.

Members of the Saskatchewan First Nation that bears Poundmaker's name have been asking for this from Ottawa for decades. It's past time they were heard.

They also hope a retrospective pardon might lead to reparations. In the short term, they're seeking federal funds to help with the upkeep of a memorial they erected to their forebear. It's the least Ottawa can do.

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