The wife of the enigmatic missionary Benjamin
Sinclair, Margaret Collins Sinclair was a Swampy Cree who, like many
pioneering women, experienced great change during her life.
In 1847, at the request of Robert Rundle, the Sinclairs
moved from Manitoba to Pigeon Lake to help Rundle
establish his new mission. The wide open spaces around Pigeon Lake were strange territory for
Margaret, whose ancestors had inhabited the boreal forests north of
Lake Winnipeg. The languages and food were different, and tribal warfare
was occurring. One can imagine that her new home was a strange and, at times, frightening place.
There are essentially no records of Margaret's years at the
Pigeon Lake Mission. What we do know, however, is that her life was a
challenging one. She raised three sons, two of them born there. The
nearest supplies were at Edmonton, a journey of at least three days, one
way, and her husband's work was frustrated by the delay of new
missionary support. Conditions improved, however, after the couple left
Pigeon Lake and, after a brief sojourn in Norway House, settled in
Lac La Biche. In 1858, they joined Henry
whose wife, Jessie
Joyful, was a Swampy Cree like Margaret, and both families relocated to Whitefish
Lake to establish a new mission among the Cree community.
After-and one can perhaps surmise because of-Benjamin's death in 1884, Margaret changed her name and the birth
dates of her sons, erasing any record of her life prior to 1852. Although
the precise reason for this is not certain, henceforth Margaret was known as Marguerite, her birth date was changed
from 1829 to 1837, her marriage date was accordingly moved back eight
years and the birth dates of her sons moved to a period after her time at
Pigeon Lake. As far as the records show, Marguerite Collins Sinclair never
lived at Pigeon Lake.