Metis interpreter Peter Erasmus lived a full and adventurous life. He travelled thousands of kilometres across the interior of the North American continent, acting as a guide and interpreter for a variety of now-famous people. He never went to Europe. At one point, Erasmus was offered the opportunity to travel to England for an education, expenses paid by Captain Palliser and Doctor Hector of the Palliser expedition, for whom Erasmus had worked as a guide. After much internal debate, Erasmus declined the offer. I found the reasoning for deciding not to go to England both tongue in cheek but also telling of the attitudes of settlers.
Perhaps I had missed an opportunity of bettering my condition. At any rate my pride soon established itself. Reading the captain’s letter of recommendation I became convinced that I had made the proper decision I would hold the respect and friendship of these two men, the better in their memories than would otherwise have been. I knew it would have been difficult to adjust myself to the attitude of a million Englishmen when, in my own environment, it took a lot of self-restraint to ignore the supercilious mannerisms of the few who found their way into my country.
- Peter Erasmus, Buffalo Days and Nights, 113.
Further reading on the life and times of Peter Erasmus, interpreter extraordinaire:
- Previous blog post all about the use of Cree as a lingua franca in what is now Western Canada: Scenes From the Life of Peter Erasmus, “Prince of Interpreters”
- Previous blog post: A Visit from a Cree-speaking Santa Claus in 1862
- Erasmus, Peter. Buffalo Days and Nights. Calgary: Glebow-Alberta Institute, 1976.