Peter Erasmus was born on June 27, 1833
the son of Danish-Cree parentage. Shortly after the death of his father in
1849, Erasmus went to work with his uncle, the Reverend Henry Budd,
at Christ Church Anglican Mission at The Pas. There, he continued his
education while teaching and translating religious texts into Cree.
did well as a teacher and his aptitude convinced his uncle and the
Anglican Bishop Anderson that he
would be a good candidate for the ministry. Consequently, he was sent
(albeit reluctantly) to Red River
to study at St. John's School. After only two
terms, however, convinced that he was not meant to be a minister, Erasmus left
his training to be an interpreter for the Methodist missionary Thomas
Woolsey. The two men worked together until Erasmus joined the
three-year-long Palliser expedition that had begun in 1857 to explore and
map much of the area that spanned from Lake Superior to the west side of
the Rocky Mountains.
Following the Palliser Expedition, Erasmus had a brief and successful time as a gold miner
before he rejoined Woolsey, at which time he was enlisted by George McDougall
as an interpreter, guide and assistant. This partnership
lasted three years until 1865, by which time Erasmus had married Charlotte Jackson, a young
The couple made a home in Whitefish
Lake, Erasmus working as a trapper and
independent trader. They would have six children before Charlotte's death in 1880.
In 1876 Erasmus was asked by the Plains Cree
to interpret during Treaty 6 negotiations. He was subsequently hired by the Canadian government to act as an
interpreter and continued to work intermittently for the
government in various capacities until his retirement in 1912. He
remarried in 1882, and with his second wife, Mary Stanley, had three more
children. He spent his last years living with one or another of his
children, passing away at age 97 in May, 1931.