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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 383: Ateesh-Ka-Sees: Autochtone, négociant en fourrures

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Ateesh-ka-sees was a Woodland Cree whose people lived between the two branches of the Saskatchewan River.

His name means Little Elk, although he was sometimes referred to as Little Deer in the fur trade records of the Hudson's Bay Company.

According to ethnologist and historian Susan Berry, Ateesh-ka-sees was famous as a trading captain who made expeditions to York Factory in the mid-1700s.

"Trading Captain" was a title of European creation. The fur traders created that status, it did not exist, it's not an indigenous Cree title or status. Leadership among the Woodland Cree was really more situational. There was no permanent figures of authority or power. But the fur traders preferred to deal with particular, key individuals who could speak for and represent others, and so they created this category of Trading Captain.

Generally, the men whom they designated as Trading Captain were people who were quite competent, who had good knowledge of trade routes, and also of trade protocol; Who are articulate, could negotiate well, who could speak for their people, and who would be respected and trusted, both by their own people and the European fur traders.

Ateesh-ka-sees spoke several languages and had a good knowledge of trade routes.

He also spent several winters with a group known in fur trade records as the Archithinue, who were probably members of the Blackfoot Confederacy.

Blackfoot and Cree, for much of the 19th century, were not generally on very friendly terms. But earlier, that was not the case.

And Ateesh-ka-sees had good relationships, at least with this band of Archithinue. He clearly felt quite comfortable travelling in their territory, and, as I said, spent some winters with them, hunted buffalo with them, went with them on raids, would consider them allies.

And it was not the only Cree who lived this way - not the only Cree who had these kinds of relationships with the Blackfoot.

Ateesh-ka-see's reputation was known far and wide. So, when the Hudson's Bay Company wanted Anthony Henday to go inland and meet with the Archithinue, they naturally asked Ateesh-ka-sees to be his guide.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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