Robert McCutcheon



In March of 1877, word reached Superintendent James Walsh that Sitting Bull and his people were crossing the border from the US to escape the American Army. Walsh had previously dealt with other Sioux and determined that they no longer wanted war, but wasted no time in arranging an interview with Sitting Bull to assure that the Chief and his people kept the Queen's peace. Walsh headed out for Sitting Bull's camp and took with him 3 constables, 2 scouts and Sgt. Robert McCutcheon.

After arriving at the camp, the detail dismounted and approached Sitting Bull and his advisors in a group. McCutcheon happened to be slightly ahead of the rest of the detail. Sitting Bull walked forward and greeted first McCutcheon and then Walsh. Robert McCutcheon thus became the first Canadian official to greet Sitting Bull on Canadian soil.

Walsh explained the Queen's Law to Sitting Bull and asked if he was willing to keep the Queen's peace. Sitting Bull replied that his people were tired of fighting. Sitting Bull had another reason for coming to Canada; during the American Revolution, his ancestors had fought on the side of King George. The King had presented his people with medals honouring their loyalty to the crown. Sitting Bull thus considered himself and his people British subjects as they had never supported the Americans following the revolution.

According to another constable who was stationed at Fort Walsh at the time, Walsh asked if Sitting Bull (as a gesture of good faith) would turn over any items taken in battle from the soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry who had been defeated at Little Big Horn. Sitting Bull complied and Walsh eventually saw that the items were returned to the soldier's families.

The detail stayed in camp with the Sioux that night, but in the morning, when three riders came into camp trailing 5 extra horses, McCutcheon recognised three of these horses as belonging to a priest who had recently been in the Cypress Hills. Walsh issued orders to Sgt. McCutcheon to make arrests accordingly. After some tense moments, McCutcheon disarmed the three suspects and had them in custody. Walsh questioned them, ascertained that the horses had been found wandering, and released the men from custody; all in front of the watchful eyes of Sitting Bull and his advisors. Sitting Bull not only saw that Walsh was a man of his word and could be trusted but also that the Mounties were not afraid, even though they were small in number. This was also the beginning of strong, but often rocky, friendship between Walsh and Sitting Bull.

McCutcheon was born in Cornwall Ontario and was one of the original members of the force and was stationed first at Ft. Macleod. He was transferred to, and helped build, Fort Walsh. He was always proud that he was one of the few "Canadians" in the Force (most of the men being from Britain).

He also had a couple of other singular achievements; He was in the party that went searching for Constable Graburn (the first Mountie murdered in the line of duty), the last person to shoot a buffalo in the Cypress Hills and, after leaving the force, one of the first white settlers in the Medicine Hat area (so the story goes at any rate).

McCutcheon died in 1943 at the age of 90. In a picture taken at Col. Walker's funeral, in 1936, he is shown walking with a cane. This was due to the fact that the previous summer his leg had been broken when a horse kicked him at the Calgary Stampede.

McCutcheon always credited his longevity and good health to what he had learned from the Indians. In 1940 he told a story to a reporter about a man at Fort Walsh whose leg had become badly infected. The Surgeon wanted to amputate, but the man visited an old native woman at a nearby camp. McCutcheon ends the story by saying, "...and he's still walking on it today!" .

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