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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.

Norway HouseIn 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 weHenry Steinhauer 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 Steinhauer, 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.

Jessie JoyfulAfter-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.


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