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Peter Ballendine

“…I am sorry to say that the whole Band are relly [sic] starving. As far as I can see I think they are justified to complain.”
- Peter Ballendine, Treaty 6 interpreter

Peter Ballendine was a Métis man born in Cumberland House to a Scottish Hudson's Bay Company employee and an Aboriginal mother in 1837. Ballendine was educated at St. John's School in Manitoba and entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1859. He worked as a clerk, postmaster and interpreter at: Cumberland House, Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Fort Battleford. In 1863 he married Caroline Rowland, with whom he had a son.

In 1875, as part of a Hudson’s Bay Company hunting party of First Nations and Métis people, Ballendine was accosted by Gabriel Dumont and a group St. Laurence Métis. Dumont claimed that they were hunting in country that belonged to the Métis. When Ballendine’s party refused to abide by Dumont’s rules, forty of Dumont’s men seized their carts, horses, provisions, and game. Ballendine and the hunters stood their ground, asserting their right to hunt independently, and eventually Dumont and his men backed down. This incident led the Hudson’s Bay Company to complain to Lieutenant-Governor Alexander Morris that the situation in the Northwest required urgent government action.

Ballendine retired from the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1876 and took up homesteading in the Battleford area, where he became a free trader. Ballendine was one of the Treaty 6 interpreters in 1876, and was present at the Battleford adhesion in 1878. According to the interpreter Peter Erasmus, Ballendine “was a good man to interpret personal talks” but his voice was not loud enough to carry properly in such a large crowd. Erasmus claimed that Ballendine “had not the education or practice to interpret.” As the negotiations proceeded, the Treaty Commission added Erasmus to their payroll as the chief interpreter, making Ballendine and Reverend John McKay assistant interpreters.

During the Northwest Resistance, Ballendine served as a member of the Battleford Home Guards, along with his brother and cousin. Although his adopted son was a member of Poundmaker's band, Ballendine served as a scout for Colonel William Otter at the Battle of Cut Knife Hill. In the troubled years after Treaty 6, Ballendine was hired by the government to circulate amongst the bands, to collect information on the activities of the Aboriginal people, and use his influence with the chiefs to help maintain peace.

Along with many First Nations people, Star Blanket and Big Child were unhappy with the way the government was treating them, and they expressed their grievances to their long-time acquaintance – Peter Ballendine. They were extremely dissatisfied with their Indian agent and farm instructor, their crops had failed, and they were under the impression that the Queen would provide for them in such a situation. Ballendine told them that he believed the government would help them once it saw that they really were “in great want.” After this meeting, Ballendine reported to the government that the Aboriginal people were not receiving adequate food or aid. In spite of his efforts, Star Blanket, Big Child and the other chiefs did not see any of the government help they had been promised.

Upon his death in 1885, Peter Ballendine was considered one of the leading men in the Battleford community.

Christensen, Deanna. Ahtahkakoop: The Epic Account of a Plains Cree Head Chief, His People, and Their Struggle for Survival, 1816-1896. Shell Lake: Ahtahkakoop Publishing, 2000.
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