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The Treaty Makers - Father Constantine Scollen

Father Constantine Scollen

Father Constantine Scollen is an important figure in Treaty 7 history because of the role he played prior to the signing of the Treaty, and for his efforts in encouraging First Nations leaders to petition for a treaty with the British Crown. He was also present at the Treaty 7 signing, acting as an interpreter for the Cree First Nations leaders who were present at the proceedings.

Constantine Scollen was born in Ireland in 1841. He studied for the Oblate priesthood and was ordained. He taught in Ireland for a time before coming to Canada in 1862, and he later joined the St. Albert Mission where he worked with Father Albert Lacombe. Scollen learned the Cree language and assisted Father Lacombe in the creation of a Cree dictionary and grammar book.

Scollen moved to the land that was to become southern Alberta, establishing a mission among the Kainai Nation in 1873. Because of his knowledge of Cree, Scollen acted as a translator and information gatherer when the Canadian government engaged the Cree in the signing of Treaty 6 in 1876. At that time, Scollen had also acted as the messenger for the Blackfoot, passing along a nine-point document outlining their concerns to the treaty commission. He also urged the government to seek treaty with the Blackfoot as soon as possible, citing the potential of war with the Blackfoot if talks did not commence as soon as possible.

Scollen was present at the Treaty 7 talks in 1877, acting as a Cree translator for a band of Cree that had come to sign an adhesion to Treaty 6 with the Treaty commission. In the years following the Treaty 7 signing, Scollen returned to his mission work among the Kainai, remaining there until 1882. Around 1879, alarmed by the deteriorating living conditions the Kainai were facing at the time, Scollen helped the Kainai to lobby the Canadian government to live up to its end of the treaty bargain. For the remainder of his ministry, Father Scollen worked to bridge the uneasy gap between the First Nations People and the European settlers who were pressing into the west. He died in 1902. 

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