Featured Pioneer Profile

Jerry Potts
(circa 1840 - 14 July, 1896).

métis hunter, interpreter, and scout. Potts proved an invaluable addition to the NWMP who were unfamiliar with both the territory they were to police and the inhabitants living there. In 1874, he led the NWMP to an island in the Oldman River on which to establish a fort.

Excerpt from D.B. Sealey, "POTTS, JERRY," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 4, 2017, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/potts_jerry_12E.html.

Born on the Site of Old Fort Macleod in 1847

The stated objective of The Southern Alberta Pioneers and Their Descendants (SAPD) is to rescue from oblivion the memory of the early pioneers of Southern Alberta and to obtain and preserve narratives of their exploits, perils and adventures.

With June being National Aboriginal History month, we dive into the past articles from the SAPD Newsletter to pull out this story.

Biographical Background

Louis Watson who also went by the names Norwest or Northwest was born to Louis Watson and Ursule Gendron around 1847. Though he was said to be of English and French Heritage, he was most likely métis (according to his son's Scrip applications and a Jack Dempsey article in Canadian Biography). He married Geneviève Batoche on July 29th, 1880 at St. Vital, Battleford, Saskatchewan and they had five children. One of his sons, Henry Louis Norwest was a famous Canadian sniper in the First World War, earning the Military Medal and Bar before being felled by an enemy sniper himself. Louis Norwest Watson passed away on August 10th, 1933 at Stavely, Alberta (Obituary - "The Stavely Advertiser, August 17, 1933").

This modified extract was taken from the "Lethbridge Daily Herald, June 21, 1924". First appearing in the January 2006 (Volume 38, No. 2) issue of the SAPD Newsletter. The exact language of the original newsletter article has been retained.

Watson was born in 1847, on the Island which years later became the home of western civilization – old Fort Macleod. He was born to a life of adventure and hazard in the heart of a land teeming with herds of wild life and hostile Indians.

"My earliest recollections are of vast herds of buffalo, elk, deer and antelope roaming over the country. There were terrible Indian wars in those early days and our lives were in constant danger. We lived among the Indians, subsisting on buffalo meat chiefly. For butter we used to grind up the buffalo bones, boil them until the grease came to the top. We would skim this grease and place it in a buffalo's bladder and use it for butter. It was mighty good," said Louis. "We used to eat a great deal of pemmican. This is buffalo meat ground very fine and fried. We used to pound it with rocks and axes. We raised a sort of barley, which we ground between rocks. This barley flour made a sort of black bread, which we washed down with water, the hulls sticking in our throats.

"The first white traders came from Montana. They brought with them old flintlock guns that we secured in exchange for our furs.

"I also remember the coming of the early Hudson's Bay traders. The Hudson's Bay traders gave the Indians their first taste of whiskey and tobacco. They were afraid of this at first, thinking it was poison, but after a while they learned to like it. Yes, they would even kill for firewater. Whiskey did much to degrade the Indian.

"I remember seeing Louis Riel in the Yellowstone Country across the line. He was a tall man with a heavy beard. His daughter, Bouteas, was cooking for him. He was associated with a band of half-breeds at the time.

"I met Capt. Walsh at Fort Walsh and remember outwitting the Sioux there. The Sioux were camped five miles from the fort. One night they stole my best buffalo horses. I was determined to get revenge and planned a visit to their camp. I set out across the prairie, the fires of the Indian Camp lighting up the sky. As I drew near, I could hear the hideous war songs of the braves as the celebrated a victory over the Blood Indians and the capture of my horses. Bent on getting full revenge, I crept into their camp and secured a couple of good-looking animals. Daybreak found me back at Fort Walsh with two splendid horses. The officers were amazed that I came back at all to tell the tale.

"I was in Macleod when Col. Macleod and the police arrived in 1874. The Indians began to get more peaceful, the wild life began to disappear in the mountains or to the far north or south and white settlers started to come in.

"This marked the beginning of a new period in the history of this country."