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The Peoples, Their Places

The Beaver Nation: The Fur Trade and Treaty 8

[Beaver First Nation Profile]
[Horse Lake First Nation Profile]

   

beaver tipiThe fur trade had a strong impact upon the Beaver just as it did with other tribes.  They were considered to be very honest in their dealings with traders.  Little is known about how the Beaver dressed before their contact with fur traders.  They pretty much had adopted European dress by the time sojourners and homesteaders had arrived in the Peace River by the mid 19th century.  During the Klondike gold rush, the Beaver were particularly victimized by the increased pressure on their game reserves and the poisoning methods used by the Klondikers often killed their dogs.

st. charles mission, dunveganThe Dunne-za, perhaps more than any other tribe in the area, suffered from the encroachment of white settlement.  In 1838, Tranquille, a respected warrior and hunter, worked for the Hudson Bay Company (HBC) as a hunter at Fort Dunvegan.  He was chief of a band of roughly 30 to 40 and their main territory by the middle 1800s was the grande prairie.  In his declining years he was totally blind and had to live off the charity of the HBC at Dunvegan.  In 1893, he passed away at nearly 100 years of age and was buried at St. Charles Mission.

At first the Dunne-za were reluctant to take treaty, and stayed away during the initial negotiations in 1899.  They finally signed in 1900, but because they were widely scattered, the Beaver required several adhesions to get many family groups signed onto the treaty.  Following the signing of Treaty 8, the Beaver did not move immediately to their assigned reserves but continued for some years their nomadic lifestyle.  One of their small reserves near the town of Peace River was exchanged for land closer to their hunting territory.

Reprinted from "A Sense of the Peace," by Roberta Hursey with permission of the Spirit of the Peace Museums Association and the author.