By: Allan Crow
Our mama, Kathleen Crow, use to tell us the story of how her father, our grandfather Peter White, went to the Hudson’s Bay store when he was a young man. I can relate to the story of my grandfather. Possibly many youth today can also relate as they leave home to attend universities for a better life.
He was still single at the time, just before the 1900s. The store from where we are today known as Whitefish Bay was located far into the north in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, nearly 1,000 kilometers away. In that time, there were no roads anywhere in the land. The railways had appeared at that time, but nowhere near our area.
My mother had many sisters and brothers; she remembered well the story their father told them. It was in the summer their father told them that he told his parents he was going to that store way up in the north. He knew his parents were worried but they did not say anything; they told him to be careful. The store was so far away and it would take a long time to reach it.
He had left alone that summer from the small community, taking only his small rifle and a knife to hunt for food as he went. Peter said he was lucky he met another young man on the way, and that he too was heading to up north to go see that store they had heard so much about. They knew it was a company that bought beaver pelts from the natives, and other wild animal furs. Peter and the other youth agreed they would split whatever money they made from the trip.
They collected many pelts along the way. Although it was cold when the winter came and the terrain was harsh, the young men did not encounter any hardships for they were young, strong men. They were adept in making shelters, and setting up camp a few days at a time, hunting beavers to sell. The young men took time to prepare the pelts; drying the skins and making pemmican from the meat. The tools they made along the way were snowshoes, sleds, and bows and arrows.
Still winter, the young men bought horses to carry the food and tools they bought from the Hudson’s Bay Store. My grandfather, Peter White, returned back home in the summer. He had been away all winter. His parents and the community members were so happy to see him coming home. He had brought lots of food for the people, salt, pepper, sugar, flour, tea, and coffee. He had also brought hunting tools for the men.
His parents cooked and had a feast that evening with the whole community. Everyone was so happy.