Fidler, Peter (1769–1822)

Peter Fidler, a lifetime employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), has yet to be fully recognized for his skills as an explorer, cartographer and naturalist. In large part this is because so little of his material has been published, although much survives in the HBC archives; unlike David Thompson he never wrote an account of his experiences, and his large map of the North-West appears to be unfinished. Fidler kept detailed notes of the surveys he made along all the major waterways of present-day Saskatchewan from Lake Athabasca south to the Assiniboine River. Ironically, except for the South Saskatchewan, these same water routes were also surveyed by David Thompson. Fidler recorded his wintering with a Peigan group in southern Alberta and, later, with a Denesuline group north of Lake Athabasca. Of the few surviving Aboriginal maps of the west, most are in Fidler’s papers. He established Chesterfield House in 1800, the only post on the upper South Saskatchewan River, where he collected much information on plains groups. His later posts were undermanned, and he often suffered extreme hardships at the hands of his North West Company rivals. In 1812 he was transferred to the Red River Colony, and died in 1822 at Dauphin Lake House. Fidler formally married Mary, his Muskeko wife, with whom he had eleven surviving children.

Dale Russell


Further Reading

MacGregor, J.G. 1966. Peter Fidler, Canada’s Forgotten Surveyor, 1769–1822. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.