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Pond, Peter (1739–1807)

Despite Peter Pond’s questionable reputation, Buffalo Lake, in northwestern Saskatchewan, was renamed after him. He was associated with several killings, yet he opened the far North-West to the Fur Trade and, although untrained, made the first detailed maps of northwestern Canada. Indirectly, he helped establish the North West Company.

Pond’s memoirs cover only his early years as a soldier and trader in his native United States. However, his maps show that from1775 to 1788 he occupied posts near Dauphin (Manitoba), Prince Albert, Lac la Ronge, Ile-à-la-Crosse, and, most famously, Lake Athabasca. By 1776, traders had moved up the Churchill River to Ile-à-la-Crosse. In 1778, a coalition of traders sent Pond to evaluate the rumoured wealth in furs further north in the Athabasca district. When Pond made his historic crossing of Portage la Loche, it was already a long-established route used by Cree and Denesuline travelling to Hudson Bay. Pond believed a river from Athabasca led directly to the Pacific Ocean; his enthusiasm led a fellow trader, Alexander Mackenzie, to make his famous journey to the Arctic Ocean in 1789. Pond, however, had left the west the previous year—his partners may have forced him out after the murder of John Ross in 1787. Pond had already been involved with the death of Jean-Etienne Waddens at Lac la Ronge in 1782. Impoverished, Pond died, back home in Connecticut, a puzzling and controversial man.

Dale Russell

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Further Reading

Duckworth, H.W. (ed.). 1990. The English River Book: A North West Company Journal and Account Book of 1786. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press; Gough, B.M. 1983. “Pond, Peter.” Pp. 681–86 in F.G. Halpenny (ed.), Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume 5. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
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