Wandering Spirit (Cree leader)

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Wandering Spirit (a.k.a. Kapapamahchakwew, Papamahchakwayo, Esprit Errant; b.1845 – d.1885) was a Cree war chief of a band of Plains Cree.

Frog Lake Massacre[edit]

The Frog Lake Massacre was a Cree uprising during the North-West Resistance. Led by Wandering Spirit, young Cree men attacked officials in a small settlement near Frog Lake, Alberta on April 2, 1885. Big Bear, the titular head of the band, was against the attacks but later served time in jail for the incident.

Angered by the Canadian government's lack of fulfilment of its treaty obligations, and the overbearing attitude of the local official and driven by starvation, due to the dwindling of the bison, their main source of food, the people rebelled after the Métis victory in the Battle of Duck Lake. They gathered the white settlers in the settlement into the local church. Thomas Quinn, the town's Indian Agent, was killed after a disagreement broke out. The Cree then shot most of the settlers. Nine people were killed, and three settlers (two widows, Teresa Delaney and Teresa Gowanlock, and a young man, William Cameron) were taken as captives as well as several Metis, such as John Pritchard, who "purchased" the two widows and put them under his protection. [1]

The two Teresa's later wrote a book on their experience - Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear. William Cameron's book Blood Red the Sun was also a popular piece of first-hand history writing.

The incident, along with the Metis rebellion at the same time, prompted the Canadian government to send troops and police to the area. The rebellion was eventually put down, and Wandering Spirit, the war chief responsible for the Frog Lake incident, was captured.

Wandering Spirit, (Kapapamahchakwew) a Plains Cree war chief, Little Bear (Apaschiskoos), Walking the Sky (AKA Round the Sky), Bad Arrow, Miserable Man, Iron Body, Ika (AKA Crooked Leg) and Man Without Blood were put on trial for murders committed during the Frog Lake Massacre and at Battleford (the murders of Farm instructor Payne and Battleford farmer Barney Tremont). None of the accused natives were allowed legal counsel, and Judge Charles Rouleau sentenced each of them to death by hanging. He sentenced three others to hang as well, but their death sentences were commuted.[2]

Minister of Justice John Sparrow David Thompson reviewed the cases but mitigating circumstances were not taken into account, and in retrospect, justice seems to have been arbitrarily dispensed.[3]

Eight Natives, including Wandering Spirit, were hanged on Nov. 27, 1885, in the largest mass hanging in Canada's history.


For his involvement in the Frog Lake Massacre, Wandering Spirit was hanged on November 27, 1885 at Battleford, Saskatchewan. He sang a love song to his wife before he was hung.


  1. ^ Kostash (editor), The Frog Lake Reader, p.72
  2. ^ Beal and Macleod, Prairie Fire, p. 337-338
  3. ^ "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online". Retrieved 2013-02-15. 

External links[edit]