Born in 1833, Peter Erasmus was a colourful and important character in the events that marked western Canada's transformation from the open buffalo plains of Rupert's Land into townsites and farmstead
Born in 1833, Peter Erasmus was a colourful and important character in the events that marked western Canada's transformation from the open buffalo plains of Rupert's Land into townsites and farmsteads. He was a remarkable and highly educated man, fluent in six Native languages as well as English, Latin and Greek, and respected by Native peoples, white settlers and explorers.
Trained by the church for missionary work, Erasmus instead became one of the "mixed-blood" guides and interpreters who helped shape the Canadian west. His long career as a celebrated buffalo hunter, mission worker, teacher, trader and interpreter made him a legend in his own time. His involvement in such events as the Palliser expedition, the smallpox epidemic of the 1870's, the signing of Treaty No. Six, and the last big buffalo hunt has ensured his place in history long after his death at the age of ninety-seven.
Buffalo Days and Nights is a lively and fascinating account of his experiences, first assembled with the help of Henry Thompson, an Edmonton reporter, in the 1920's. It is a classic in western Canadian history that offers an insider's view into the events that surrounded the start of a new era.
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"This remarkable story was told by one remarkable man to another remarkable man. It is a fascinating and revealing account of life on the unsettled prairies and parklands in the old days, vividly imprinted on the memory of one of the great men of the pre-settlement West."
— Irene Spry
View Biographical note
Peter Erasmus was a Metis traveller, guide, buffalo hunter, translator, farmer, Indian Agent, and mission worker. He was born in 1833, and died in 1931. Erasmus was instrumental as the translator at the Treaty Six negotiations, and witnessed the change from buffalo hunting, to settlements and Reserves. At the age of 87, Erasmus told his life story to Henry Thompson (also a Metis person, and a journalist at the time) who wrote it down. The manuscript found its way to the Glenbow Museum and Archives and was published as Buffalo Days and Nights in 1976.
Erasmus' Buffalo Days and Nights contains one of the few documentations of Treaty negotiations with his reminiscences of Treaty Six. Erasmus highlighted the authority of Mistawasis and Atahkakoop as Treaty Six Chiefs, and the resistance to treaty by Poundmaker and The Badger. Erasmus also revealed that he was in favor of treaty and the transition to farming, and was very critical of the Hudson's Bay Company.