1870 Baker Massacre commemorated by survivor’s relative at Cardston Elementary

Students at Cardston Elementary School got a history lesson that’s been seldom taught. It’s one with a personal connection. The school’s vice-principal, Ramona Big Head, is the great-granddaughter of one of the survivors of the 1870 Baker Massacre.

It was on this day, January 23, 153 years ago – that 217 Blackfeet people (mostly children and elderly) were killed in an attack by the U.S. Calvary on the banks of the Marias River (then known as the Bear River), in Montana.

An order was given by General Phil Sheridan to “strike them hard”, in retaliation for the murder of an American fur trader named Malcolm Clarke at the hands of a young Piegan warrior named Owl Child. Following the murder, Owl Child fled to Mountain Chief’s Piegan band.

In search of  Mountain Chief’s band, Major Eugene M. Baker and his troops came upon the peaceful Chief Heavy Runner’s Blackfeet camp. Although Baker was informed this was the wrong camp, he attacked them anyway.

Survivors, mostly children, escaped on foot to different camps in minus 30 degree weather, many ending up in Alberta, including Natohkyiaaki (Holy Bear Woman).

Today, many of her descendants are members of the Kainai or Blood Tribe. Her grandchildren are present day leaders, educators, physicians, justice advocates, athletes, artists, scholars, criminologists, knowledge keepers, historians, etc.
Her great-granddaughter, Ramona Big Head, wrote a play about the massacre and plans for the ceremony at Cardston Elemetary School to become an annual commemorative event.

Jeannette Rocher

Born in Puerto Rico, raised in Minnesota and Manitoba, Jeannette has had the opportunity to live in a variety of places including New York, Arizona, and Nevada. After completing college and a paid internship with CBC Winnipeg, Jeannette embarked on her journalism career by moving overseas to take a job on the island of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. While overseas she covered stories in Fiji, Guam and Japan including the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan and its surrounding islands. She covered a mass shooting, an Earth quake, murder cases and other substantial court cases. In 2013 she moved to Alberta where she covered the devastating floods of High River and Medicine Hat for CTV News. She then went on to produce and host Go! Southern Alberta for Shaw TV. She now calls Miracle Channel home. In addition to reporting in the field, you can catch her anchoring daily weather reports, as well as longer interview segments on BCN, and the week-in-review show on BCN Weekends. 

Related post