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Big Bear

(c. 1825—1889) leader of the Plains Cree


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(c. 1825–89), Cree chief. Born to a prominent Cree-Ojibwa family, Big Bear became a chief by the early 1870s. He refused to sign Treaty 6 in 1876 because of its poor terms and a feared loss of freedom. As a result of his firm stance, government agents branded him a troublemaker. In 1882, starvation forced him to sign the treaty but he refused to take a reserve. Instead, he settled near Frog Lake and was there in 1885 when the North-West Rebellion occurred. In April, his son Imasees and war chief Wandering Spirit precipitated the Frog Lake massacre in which nine inhabitants, including two priests, were slain. At this point, Wandering Spirit took control of the band and led it during the siege of Fort Pitt, and the battles of Frenchman's Butte and Loon Lake. Although Big Bear had not taken part in the fighting, he was convicted of treason-felony and sentenced to three years in prison. He was released in 1888 and died on the Little Pine Reserve a year later.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.


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