George Sutherland, probably born in Wick, Scotland, was one of many residents of the Orkney Islands off northern Scotland to serve with the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in the Canadian Fur Trade. Accustomed to isolation and a harsh environment, the Orcadians were also noted for their boat-building skills and their capacity for hard work. George Sutherland arrived in Fort Albany in 1793, and in 1800 he was appointed inland officer at Carlton House. On his arrival, he was accompanied by his first Cree-Métis wife, Papamikewis (Jenny), a remarkably well-educated woman who was fluent in English, Cree and Nahkwewin. Sutherland fathered four children with Papamikewis and subsequently established a liaison with a second Cree woman named Pasikus (Anising). He had nine children with her, and another ten with his third wife, Neototosim (Four-Breasted).

According to family history, George Sutherland spent the latter part of his life living a traditional Indigenous lifestyle with his Cree children and grandchildren. Fluent in the Cree language, he taught his family how to hunt deer by constructing pounds, a traditional buffalo-hunting technique he improvised for hunting smaller game. He also continued to trade at Fort Carlton, occasionally supplying pemmican to the HBC. Sutherland died suddenly while hunting near present-day Hague, and his family buried him with all his possessions, which reportedly weighed close to 1,000 pounds. Over the next two generations, Sutherland’s descendants constituted themselves into a distinct group of nipisihkopawiyiniw (Willow Cree). Two of the prominent leaders of this community, Kapeyakwaskunam (One Arrow) and Kahmeeyestoowaegs (Beardy), were signatories of Treaty 6 in 1876, and both took reserves in the Duck Lake area. The Sutherland name is still common in the area today.

Michael Cottrell