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No. 382: Tronquil, Fort Hunter: Part Two

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In the early 1800s, Tronquil of the Tsadunne, or Beaver nation, served as a fort hunter for the Hudson's Bay Company at Dunvegan for many years.

According to historian Susan Berry, supplying the fur trade post with thousands of pounds of meat each winter wiped out bison populations in the Peace River Country.

Other game animals such as moose and elk became harder to find. Before 1820, it would take maybe six to eight days to pack back the meat to the post. Later, it would take twice as long, 10 to 15 days, because the hunters had to travel further afield in order to find game.

The fur trade records do periodically report on periods of hunger and starvation.

One winter that was particularly difficult was the winter of 1843-1844. People were reported to be eating tanned hides and bear skins, and entire families were said to die of hunger. Tronquil and his band survived by eating horses that they had with them.

Along with starvation, Tronquil and his people suffered from recurring epidemics of measles, smallpox, whooping cough and influenza.

In 1822, fur trade records show a raging sickness killed a quarter of the Tsadunne people who traded at Dunvegan. And in the 1830s, many more died of influenza.

The Athabasca boat brigade, when it left Norway House in July, included several crew who had influenza. They brought that with them all the way to Fort Chipewyan and Lake Athabasca, and everyone was waiting for the boats to arrive, and it spread amongst the people. And as they dispersed back to their camps, they carried the disease with them and infected others. Then the brigade left for Fort Vermilion and Dunvegan, and by January there were many deaths had been reported in the records.

The thing that made theses diseases, also, these epidemics, so devastating, was that when so many people were ill at once, you'd have situations where no one was healthy enough to hunt and to bring in food, where no one was healthy enough to take care of those who were sick. And when you combine that with the hunger that many people were experiencing, it just was really devastating.

Tronquil survived, but in the years that followed, he lost most of his family.

The Hudson's Bay Company gave Tronquil a small pension in recognition of his many years of service as a fort hunter.

Tronquil died in 1893, almost a hundred years old.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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