Thursday, September 18, 2008

Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace - Duncan Tustawits

The "Aboriginal Pioneers of the Peace" is a feature written by Beth Wilkins, Curatorial Assistant and Researcher, in conjunction with the Museum's Treaty 8 Exhibit on display until the end of August. The articles have also been published on the Community Page of the Peace River Record-Gazette.

Duncan Tustawits, Tastatoots, Testawich

PRMA 76.689.39 - Photograph taken 100 miles north of Peace River Crossing (no date available): Duncan Testawits on dog sled with Dr. Bayfield in foreground.

Duncan Tustawits, first Headman of the Duncan’s Band was one of the signatories of the second signing of Treaty 8, witnessed by North West Mounted Police Sgt. K.F. Anderson. Duncan signed on behalf of the Cree population of the Peace River Crossing district, July 1, 1899. He was a capable ambassador of his people, speaking Cree, Beaver, French, English and Chippewa.

The Duncan’s Band in 1899 had 46 members. By 1900, it had grown to 67 members. Today the Duncan’s Reserve population is 101

The 1918 flu epidemic took many lives, though no figures are known, including all but two sons and one daughter of the 18 children of he and his wife. Duncan also succumbed to influenza in 1918 at the approximate age of 70.

The well-respected band Headman farmed on River Lot 1 at the western end of the Shaftesbury Trail and was a familiar figure in the White Swan and Griffith Creek Districts. He was reputed to have been a good farmer and a supporter of education. To the latter end, his children attended school the Anglican Christ Church Mission on Shaftesbury Trail.

His farming enterprise included a large herd of horses, which is said to have supplied the equine needs of many area settlers.

The Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre invites readers to provide it with any more information or photographs you may have of Duncan Testawits and his family. The Museum may be reached at (780) 624-4261 and e-mail:

Source: Brick’s Hill, Berwyn and Beyond, a history of Berwyn and District; On the North Trail, the Treaty 8 Diary of O.C. Edwards

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