Journals tell region's history

Have you ever found yourself in Europe and amazed at how ancient history is celebrated and the events seemingly in the recent past?

I have had a few opportunities to stand where the great battles of history - Crecy, Agincourt, Vimy Ridge - were fought and breathed the air and tried to hear and feel those events. I have touched the lighthouse (or Pharos) built by the Romans at Dover in 2 AD. I entertained the thought these same soldiers possibly being present at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

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Mind-tingling stuff.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to hear Jo Chrona, curriculum coordinator for the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) ask something like: "of you go to Europe to learn about and see the historic places of the Romans and Greeks, and if you are of European descent, your own ancestry; where would the first peoples of Canada go to learn about their own history?"

That single question made me hope that the stories of our area's history, both pre-European and early-European contact, would be told and made more available to the wider population. Then, only a few months later, I heard Ted Binnema, history chair at UNBC, talk and he asked if anyone would be interested in helping transcribe official Hudson Bay journals from our area.

Well, count me in!

It may not be an archeological dig, but it is a way I can contribute to our knowledge of our history.

Among the jewels I have unearthed:

In the official Hudson Bay Journals from Fraser Lake, February 1889

"Wednesday 27th Cloudy. Thermr at Freezing. John Sutherlands Wife, Annie, died at 4 am.

Thursday 28th Weather same as yesterday. Light frost during the light. Several Indians from Stella arrived. Come to the funeral of the late Mrs. Sutherland. Adam and Thomas taking down the rafters from the Old Store."

March 1889

"Friday 1st Fine bright warm morning. Thermr 26 A light frost during night. Several Stony Creek Indians arrived. Colin & Peters arrived from St. Creek.Saturday 2nd Cloudy. Thermr 25 Adam and Thomas off after hay. Sunday 3rd Cloudy Thermr 13 above 0. Heavy frost on the ground this morning. About noon, the remains of the late Mrs. Sutherland were taken to the Cemetery and buried attending by all the Indians of the place and many from a distance. Messrs Peters and McKenzie also attended."

My question is why did so many Indigenous from near and far come to this Mrs. Sutherland's funeral? How had she gained their respect?

There are many, many, journals to transcribe because Hudson Bay employees were very consistent with their journals. So many stories and books to be written, using these journals as sources.

For example, the author saw a huge flock of gulls in May but I thought gulls were a recent thing up north. Bush fires were burning in June already. Fur bearing animals were in short supply, but fish plentiful, weirs were being built. I could go on and I have only transcribed February to August.

If you can read cursive handwriting, have a computer, and are interested in helping, please send me an email to me at and I can put you in touch with Prof. Binnema, or you could contact him at UNBC, and be a part of this wonderful opportunity.

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