By Kim Twatt
The Link is Discovered
Magnus Twatt had worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company for 30 years until his death in Saskatchewan in 1801. The master of Cumberland House had made the following entry in his journal reporting Magnus’s death,
at eleven p.m. by the arrival of Magnus Twatt’s two sons and their mother I received the melancholy news . . .
With no records of a family of his own in Orkney and with all the information from Hudson’s Bay Company records and Mr Thistle’s paper I realised that Magnus had made Canada his home and the Crees were his family. Persistently, thoughts of this family came to mind. I drove Robert, my husband, mad with my futile questions. I was almost pacing the floor at times. On the Web I came across the fax number of Sturgeon Lake First Nation band office. The name Sturgeon River had cropped up in the journals in association with Magnus’s travels. This was a stab in the dark and the fax was fairly brief.
Has anyone ever heard of Magnus Twatt?
(One other similar fax was sent to Cumberland House.)
The reply from Sturgeon Lake First Nation early in 2001 was a stunning and wonderful surprise. You have found your relations! Mr Jack Long, representing the band, explained that Sturgeon Lake First Nation was, until the 1940s, named the William Twatt Cree Band after Magnus’s grandson, William, founder of the band. Sturgeon Lake Reserve is situated in the heart of Saskatchewan, north of Saskatoon, hundreds of miles from Sturgeon Landing, where I thought my fax had been sent!
William Twatt was one of nine chiefs who met the Queen’s Commissioner at Fort Carlton in August, 1876 to negotiate Treaty Six in order to preserve their way of life and culture while facing starvation and possible massacre at the hands of the settlers. Once the terms of Treaty Six had been agreed between representatives of the British Crown and the Cree and Saulteaux nations at Fort Pitt and Fort Carlton, Saskatchewan the Treaty was signed on 23rd and 28th August, 1876.
The treaty was a solemn agreement between signatories who agreed to be bound by the terms set out in the treaty. The chiefs signed the treaties to ensure survival as distinct nations with their own heritage, culture and way of life for themselves and their descendants. Today, the treaties are regarded by the First Nations people as sacred. To achieve these aims for this survival, in the days when buffalo herds were becoming scarce and settlers were making more and more demands on the land, the chiefs signed over 121,000 square miles of land in exchange for a promise of one square mile for each family of five people. They received treaty money of five dollars per capita per year, some farming implements, medicines and an assortment of benefits. Obviously a very one-sided arrangement and, it would now appear that, at every opportunity the British and Canadian Governments have undermined First Nations people’s lifestyles. Today the people are regaining their self esteem. They are 21st century people who, just like people everywhere, are a mixture of traditional believers, Christians, students, lawyers, doctors, teachers, unemployed, etc.
August 1876, Fort Carlton by the North Saskatchewan River. The signing of Treaty Six between the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, Alexander Morris and the Ruling Chiefs. Artist, Gus Froese has superimposed upon this mural three Indian chiefs who tower over the proceedings, but are not actually a part of it. To the left is Chief Beardy, who signed the Treaty ten days later on his own turf, then Chief Big Bear and Chief Poundmaker, who also were not part of the original signing. The whole event takes place under a foreboding sky, which hints of conflict yet to come. Chief William Twatt was a signatory of Treaty Six. Kim Twatt (author of Full Circle) stands in front of the mural.
To be continued….Part 7 Journey