No. 386: Peace for a Thousand Miles: Part Two
At the beginning of the 18th century, the Hudson's Bay Company operated on the expectation that First Nations people from the remote northwest would travel all the way to York Factory to trade their furs.
But tensions and mistrust between the different First Nations people was a major impediment to the fur trade.
According to historian Jack Ives, in 1714 Captain James Knight at York Factory set about to establish a great peace for a thousand miles around. And so he sent emissaries to the north and to the south.
The far northern route, he asked one of his employees, William Stewart, and a woman who had come into York Factory, known as Thanadalthur to make a probe far, far through the barren lands, getting over towards Great Slave Lake.
The idea there was to go with a Cree party and establish a truce, or a peace, with Chipewyan people in that area. And that's a strategy that must have succeeded, because thereafter the Chipewyan came down in some numbers to trade at Churchill, the post created to the north of York Factory that was more convenient for them.
Achieving the truce was not an easy task. The first time, William Stewart went out on his own, but his Cree guides abandoned him in the barren lands. So, the second time around, Captain Knight sent him out with Thanadalthur.
You could tell that this must have been an extraordinary woman. She had facility in languages, and she must have had great strength of character, because she was set a daunting task to travel all this way inland and bring two peoples who were quite suspicious of each other together in a truce. And everything that you hear from Knight and from the man who went in, William Stewart, suggest that she just had a unique knack and strength of character to cause these things to happen.
And these events are preserved in oral tradition amongst Chipewyan communities.
As a native, Thanadalthur fared much better on the mission than William Stewart.
For many of the explorers it must have been a frightening experience. Their First Nations guides were all they had to keep them going. They didn't really know where they were in many cases, and they were in a very strange and hostile land. And travelling at times hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away from anything that was familiar to them, such as York Factory.
There are accounts that Stewart was mad later in his life, and for a number of these explorers, they had nightmares about these experiences because they were in such a strange and hostile land for them.
With peace secured to the north, by Stewart and Thanadalthur, Captain Knight was still waiting for the results of his campaign to the south.
On the Heritage Trail,
I'm Cheryl Croucher.