PAYIPWAT (ca. 1816-1908)
Payipwat was one of five major chiefs of the Plains Cree (Nehiyawak) after 1860. He was born around 1816, probably in what is now southwestern Manitoba or eastern Saskatchewan, and named Kisikawasan Awasis, or "Flash in the Sky Boy." As a child he and his grandmother were captured and adopted by the Sioux. At age fourteen he was rescued by his own people, and he grew up to be a highly respected spiritual leader among the Young Dogs, a notable Cree-Assiniboine band of the Qu'Appelle Valley region. Because he learned Sioux medicine, his people named him Payipwat (or Piapot), "Hole in the Sioux," sometimes translated as "One Who Knows the Secrets of the Sioux."
An independent and assertive leader, Payipwat agreed to Treaty Number 4 in 1875, after making it clear that it was a "preliminary negotiation." He insisted that the treaty contain a number of additional provisions, and while Treaty 4 was never altered, many of these provisions were written into Treaty Number 6 (1876).
With the disappearance of the bison, Payipwat and other Plains Cree and Assiniboine leaders argued for the establishment of a large Indian territory in the Cypress Hills. However, the plan was thwarted when the federal government coerced their removal to smaller reserves by withholding rations from the starving Indians. The Plains Native coalition for an Indian territory collapsed when the government took advantage of the Métis resistance (1885) to crush it.
Once settled on his reserve near Fort Qu'Appelle, Payipwat continued pressing the federal government to live up to its treaty promises and continued resisting government regulations prohibiting ceremonial practices. Until the end of his life Payipwat resisted Christian conversion and challenged Canadian infringements on Cree sovereignty. A federal order deposing him as chief of his band was issued the day he died, in late April of 1908, on the Piapot Reserve in Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan Indian Federated CollegeSaskatoon, Saskatchewan
Tobias, John L. "Payipwat." In Dictionary of Canadian Biography, edited by Ramsay Cook, 13: 815–18. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994.
Watetsch, Able. Payepot and His People, as Told to Bloodwen Davies. Regina: Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, 1959.