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The man after whom Chief Peguis trail is named

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How did Chief Peguis Trail get its name?  It is in recognition of the renowned actions of a Saulteaux Indian, Chief Peguis, who became known as the ‘cut-nosed chief’ after having part of his nose bitten off during a tribal quarrel in 1802.   

Chief Peguis was born in approximately 1774 near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.. By 1792, he was recognized as chief amongst his people. Along with about 200 others, Chief Peguis and his band migrated west with the fur trade, establishing their village at Netley Creek, Man.

In September 1811, Chief Peguis welcomed the first group of Lord Selkirk’s Red River settlers to the area. The settlers experienced a difficult time, finding themselves in dire straits for lack of food and shelter during their first winter. Chief Peguis is given credit for aiding and defending them. On numerous occasions, Peguis and his band came to the settlers’ rescue. He guided them to Fort Daer (Pembina, N.D.) and showed the settlers how to hunt buffalo.
Chief Peguis sided with the Hudson’s Bay Company during its bitter rivalry with the North West Company. In June 1816, the Selkirk settlers were attacked at Seven Oaks.  Chief Peguis warned Gov. Semple, the second governor of the settlement, of the plans to destroy the Red River Settlement.

Semple failed to heed the warning and he and 20 of his men lost their lives. Chief Peguis offered assistance to the survivors. The future grandmother of Louis Riel, Marie-Anne Gaboury, was rescued by Peguis and she and her children were kept safely in his camp for several weeks. They were befriended and fed by Peguis, before they and the other settlers fled north to Norway House.

On July 18th, 1817, Chief Peguis was one of five Saulteaux and Cree chiefs who signed a treaty with Lord Selkirk to provide land for settlement purposes. This included a strip of land two miles wide on each side of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, beginning at the city of Winnipeg and extending up the Red to what is now Grand Forks (N.D.) and up the Assiniboine River to Rat Creek. Plots of land reaching six miles in each direction from Fort Douglas, Fort Daer, and Grand Forks were also included. In exchange, each tribe was to receive annual payments of 100 lbs of tobacco. This land treaty was the first to be signed in Western Canada.

Colin Inkster, a Manitoba politician, recalled Chief Peguis as "short in stature, with a strong, well-knit frame, and the voice of an orator." He was "clad in a cotton shirt, breech clout, red cloth leggings and over all a blanket wrapped loosely about him, his hair hung in two long plaits studded with brass ornaments, his breast decorated with medals." The medal was presented to him by Lord Selkirk as a confirmation of the agreement of 1817.

Chief Peguis was recognized and honoured by the HBC throughout his life for being a steady friend of the Selkirk settlement, never deserting its cause. For 30 years, Chief Peguis was a spokesman for his people against the misuse of Indian lands and was an ardent defender of Native rights. Peguis lived to his 90th year, dying in 1864. A monument to his memory stands in Kildonan Park.

Charlene Kroll is a community correspondent for North Kildonan. She can be contacted at krollcharlene@gmail.com.

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