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No. 385: Peace for a Thousand Miles: Part One

Peace Point, on the Peace River in northeastern Alberta, is the place where a great truce was made between the Cree and Beaver First Nations.

This peace was actually the culmination of a farsighted business strategy by Captain James Knight of the Hudson's Bay Company.

As historian Jack Ives explains, Captain Knight took control of York Factory and its fur trade in 1714.

Well, he had a grand scheme. He was aware there were some tensions between some Cree people and other people in this vast area that we're referring to, and he wanted to "create a peace for a thousand miles around." This is literally how he wrote this down.

And he intended to do this with a "two-pronged" strategy. One involving the far north and one involving a southerly route.

Captain Knight was in his seventies, vigorous and keen to explore the remote regions west and north of his post on Hudson Bay.

Well, Knight falls into that tradition of European interest in getting almost past the Americas and having access to the Asian world. He was undoubtedly thinking of Cathay and India in terms of his desires to do this exploration.

In modern day terms, I think we'd likely refer to him as a micro manager; it was very common for the very senior figures in the Hudson's Bay Company to reside in England - in London - and set out dictates for what ought to happen far away in the New World.

Knight came himself, and was captain and governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, residing in York Factory, and he must have had his own kind of iron will because, as I was saying earlier, he was quite advanced in age. He was in his 70s.

He wanted to create the peace so that it would be possible to explore for precious minerals.

He undoubtedly had heard the stories about the copper of the Coppermine River. He was, of course, interested in silver and gold. So, he needed this peace to facilitate further exploration.

It was on an expedition to Marble Island that Captain Knight and his explorers perished. But not before he gave orders that brought about his dream of a great peace for a thousand miles.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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