BOUNDARY TRAIL ARCHIVES

WEST BEFORE THE RAILROAD

Jottings from a Buckboard
Four Hundred Miles and Three Weeks
on the Trail in May 1881

J.F. Tennant
1881

Ten articles from the West Lynne Southern Manitoba Times, 10 June 1881 to 20 September 1881, narrating a trip across southern Manitoba with a buckboard; a journey of 440 miles in three weeks, 8 May 1881 to 28 May 1881

Felix G. Kuehn
Founding president
of the
Boundary Commission NWMP Trail Association

May
1992

The illustration on the front cover entitled
SIOUX BURIAL

is based on a photograph
from the
International Boundary Commission Collection
of the
Public Archives of Manitoba

Thursday, 12 May 1881
… In the morning with Mr. Gauvreau we took a ramble around inspecting some of the fine sections of land in the neighbourhood bordering on the timber of the Turtle. Here, on one of the highest mounds of the Whitewater Coulee, we came across a Solitary Indian Grave.

On four crotches about seven feet high in the air, a rude coffin was elevated and covered with a bright scarlet cloth indicating that he was the son of the Chief of the Mountain. This mode of burial was viewed by my companion with great wonder and astonishment.

Jottings from a Buckboard
Section VII

The footnotes to this section suggests that Mr. Gauvreau had taken his guest, Mr. J.F. Tennant of West Lynne, to view the grave of a son of H’damani, Sioux chief of the Turtle Mountains. Early settlers recalled that three of the chief’s five children died of TB before they were thirty. One of these was a son who passed away early in 1881 and whose body was hoisted “up on some poles in the cemetery” where it remained “a long time”. A considerable number of these Sioux tree burials could be see in various locations in the Turtle Mountains until they were destroyed in the great fire of 1896.

The site of this Sioux cemetery southwest of Deloraine is well known to local residents. One large oak still growing on the site is said to have been used for platform burial during the first decades of this century. In contrast to the practise of most of the other Indians of Manitoba, who buried their dead in the ground and then erecting small houses over them, the custom of the Sioux was to wrap the deceased members of their tribe in buffalo robes and lay then on a platform either built in the branches of a large tree or erected on log supports. When the platform eventually collapsed, the bones were reverently gathered up and buried in a leather pouch where they had fallen. During the summer of 1991 the use of modern technology, which enables researchers to locate graves without disturbing the ground in any way, definitely established the presence of these so-called “bundle burials” among these trees “on one of the highest mounds of the Whitewater Coulee”. One of these bundle burials may be that of this son of Chief H’damani visited by Messrs. Gauvreau and Tennant as they made their way “west before the railroad.”

Boundary Commission NWMP Trail Association publications:

1989 – “Guide to the Historic Sites along the Trail”
1990 – “The Church of England in the Pembina Mountain Country (1880s)”
1991 – “The Turtle Mountain Country & Southern Manitoba (1880)”
1992 – “Jottings From A Buckboard (1881)”
1992 – “The Life & Times of Rev. Andrew Gordon (1882-87)”
19?? – “‘Twas Once a Teeming Highway”
1993 – “Drawing The Line” edited by Ben Kroeker

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