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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 381: Tronquil: Beaver Trader

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When the fur trade expanded into the northwest, the posts depended on native hunters to supply them with meat and other provisions.

One of those fort hunters was a Tsadunne, or Beaver Indian, by the name of Tronquil.

According to ethnologist Susan Berry, Tronquil was born in the 1790s. He was known by the name given to him by French-speaking Métis traders.

As a fort hunter, he and his family and other members of his band - several of his brothers, for example, also were fort hunters - would spend the winter hunting and trapping. They would get fresh meat to feed the personnel who were over wintering at the post at Dunvegan. And also dried meat, that basically would be provisions for the fur trade brigades when they were travelling in the spring and summer, and also help to supply some of the more northern posts along the Mackenzie River. They also brought in furs, beaver and marten. The women were probably the ones who tanned them and prepared them for the traders.

When the hunters made a kill, Tronquil would send his son Atsolay, as a courier, back to the fort.

He would go back to the fort and let the factor there know that the hunters had killed an animal, and the factor would send some men out with a dog team. And Atsolay would lead them back to the camp, and they would pack up the meat and bring it back. Then in later years, the hunters had horses, and they would pack the meat back with the horses.

Things would pretty much wrap in the spring, in March or April, they would then bring the rest of the pelts and the dried meat back to the fort, and then the brigade would take off. The brigade would return in October with the trade goods and the supplies that the hunters would need for the upcoming winter.

During the summer, Tronquil and his family would meet with other bands, pick berries, and live away from the post.

It was a welcome break from the endless hunting required to supply the fort with meat.

Well, a single post like Dunvegan would need 30 to 40 thousand pounds of fresh meat in one year. Then you'd have to add onto that the dried meat, so there really were just tremendous demands that the provisioning of the fur trade put upon the Peace River Country and upon the game population.

Bison were plentiful when Tronquil first started working as a fort hunter. But by the 1830s, they'd all but disappeared. And starvation soon followed.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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