Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

POTTS, JERRY (ca. 1840-1896)

Jerry Potts was a frontiersman who is generally credited with guiding the North-West Mounted Police to a safe haven when they were completing their trek to the Canadian West in 1874 and with having a long and colorful career as their interpreter and guide.

Potts was born at Fort McKenzie on the Missouri River about 1840, the son of Andrew R. Potts, an American Fur Company clerk, and Namopi'si, or Crooked Back, a Blood Indian. His father was killed shortly after the boy's birth, and young Potts was adopted by Alexander Harvey and later by Andrew Dawson. At the age of twenty-three he killed Antoine Primeau at Fort Galpin and then began to spend more time with his mother's people. During this time he was given the Blackfoot name of Kyiyokosi, or Bear Child.

During the 1860s he took part in several Indian skirmishes, including a major battle between Blackfoot and Crees in which almost 300 of the enemy were killed. Potts took sixteen scalps during the battle. When the North-West Mounted Police marched west in 1874 to bring law and order to the Canadian territory, they became lost and took refuge near the Sweetgrass Hills. Potts was engaged as guide and led them to a site where they built Fort Macleod.

Potts remained with the police until his death at Fort Macleod on July 14, 1896. He was famous for his unerring ability to find his way on the Prairies, even during blizzards, and for his help in maintaining friendly relations between the Mounted Police and Indians of the Blackfoot confederacy.

See also LAW: North-West Mounted Police.

Hugh A. Dempsey Calgary, Alberta

Dempsey, Hugh A. Jerry Potts, Plainsman. Calgary: Glenbow Museum, 1966.

Steele, Samuel B. Forty Years in Canada. London: Herbert Jenkins, 1915.

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