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Peter Erasmus was a mediator and interpreter and his work with Thomas Woolsey was crucial in paving the way for other Methodist ministries. His practical knowledge of land, languages and people aided the introduction of many Plains communities to the message of the missionaries, and the missionaries to the ways of the Plains people. Erasmus' recollections reveal that much of this occurred behind the backs of both the missionary and the Hudson's Bay Company and in violation of strict rules against any trade with Aboriginal peoples. In his words, "The gentleman [Woolsey] was too inclined to accept his daily prayer for food in much the same way as the Israelites did with the manna from heaven, whereas I knew from bitter experience that material provision for your future needs was an important law of survival regardless of the missionary concept of these things."

As an interpreter, Erasmus worked for the Cree people and the government. He participated in Treaty 6 negotiations in 1876, and later was present at the North-West Rebellion, working to maintain peace. 

By being able to translate, negotiate, guide and trade, Erasmus was part of many events that shaped Alberta. He recounted his life story in his later years and the resulting memoirs, Buffalo Days and Nights, are a unique perspective in western Canadian history.

Palliser Expedition MapServing as an interpreter and guide during the Palliser Expedition, Peter Erasmus provided invaluable knowledge. The three-year-long scientific expedition that began in 1857 was crucial in opening the West for British North America, as the resulting maps and reports report were, for some time, the key source of information about much of the area that spanned from Lake Superior to the west side of the Rocky Mountains.

Heritage Trails - Presented by CKUA  Place Names of the Palliser Expedition: Part 1
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Citation Sources
Erasmus, Peter. Buffalo Days and Nights. Calgary: Glenbow Institute, 1999.


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