In Voices from Hudson Bay Cree elders recall the daily lives and experiences of the men and women who lived and worked at the Hudson’s Bay Company post at York Factory in Manitoba. Their stories, their memories of family, community, and daily life, define their past and provide insights into a way of life that has largely disappeared in northern Canada.
The era the elders describe, from the end of World War I to the closing of York Factory in 1957, saw dramatic changes – both positive and negative – to Indigenous life in the North. The extension of Treaty 5 in 1910 to include members of the York Factory band, the arrival of police and government agents, and the shifting economy of the fur trade are all discussed. Despite these upheavals, the elders’ accounts demonstrate the continuity of northern life in the twentieth century, from the persistence of traditional ways to the ongoing role of community and kinship ties.
Perceptions of Cree life have been shaped largely by non-Native accounts that offered limited views of Indigenous history and recorded little beyond the social and economic interaction that was part of life in the fur trade. The stories in this collection provide Cree perspectives on northern life and history, and represent a legacy bequeathed to a younger generation of Indigenous people. This second edition includes updates to the original text and a new preface.
About the authors
Flora Beardy is retired from Parks Canada and lives in York Landing, Manitoba. She continues to collect oral histories from today’s elders and encourages youth to learn about their heritage.
Robert Coutts worked as a historian with Parks Canada for over thirty years, researching historic sites throughout western and northern Canada. He is the author of The Road to the Rapids: Nineteenth Century Church and Society at St. Andrew’s Parish, Red River and is the editor of the journal Prairie History.