Red River Ancestry
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(Last Updated: December 07, 2016)


William SINCLAIR was born around 1856. His true origins are very difficult to determine and there is much debate in that regard at present. The confusion is caused by the fact that there were several different men by the name of William SINCLAIR, all born in the mid to late 1850’s and all lived in the vicinity of the Parishes of St Andrews and St Peters. There were countless SINCLAIR and THOMAS families in the area during this period, most with Scottish and English ancestry, but it has been suggested that some may have actually been pure-blooded Indians that merely acquired the SINCLAIR and/or THOMAS name upon baptism. Clergymen often assigned European surnames to Indians when they were baptized.


This narrative is about the William SINCLAIR who married Elizabeth “Betsy” THOMAS.** Note that nowhere do I find ‘Ann’ as part of his wife’s name. All of the census records simply refer to her as Elizabeth. Because of the similarity of their wives’ first names, the other William who causes the most consternation and debate is the William SINCLAIR who married Ann Elizabeth FAVEL.** MORE ABOUT ANN ELIZABETH FAVEL & WILLIAM SINCLAIR


St Andrews Parish from HInd's map of 1857

St Andrews Parish from Hind’s Map of 1857


The above map shows how the Parishes of St Andrews and St Peters were defined around the time William SINCLAIR was born. There was no clearly defined Indian Reserve at this early date.


Canadian Confederation
A Métis Rebellion
Manitoba becomes a Province


On July 1, 1867 the British colonies in North America were united under the British North American Act to become the Dominion of Canada. Sir John A MacDONALD (1815-1891) was appointed as Canada’s first Prime Minister.William McDOUGALL (1822-1905) became the Minister of Public Works, and he began negotiations to acquire Rupert’s Land from the HBC.


In August of 1869, as the transfer of the region drew near, a surveying crew under Colonel John Stoughton DENNIS (1820-1885) was dispatched by McDOUGALL to survey the settlement in anticipation of an influx of settlers.On Oct 11, 1869, Louis RIEL (1844-1885) placed his foot on the surveyors’ chain to tell them their work was finished! He began to organize resistance to the transfer of the North-West to the Dominion of Canada without prearranged terms. This marked the beginning of another Red River Métis Rebellion.


On July 15,1870 Manitoba became the fifth province of Canada, the Canadian Government having acquired the territory previously governed by the HBC. In December of 1870 a Census of Red River was completed. The results recorded 5, 757 French-speaking Métis; 4, 803 white settlers and 558 Indians in the census region. This information would be later used to determine who would be eligible for Land Grants and Scrip.


Treaty Number One


St Peters Reserve Boundaries 1871

Boundaries of the St Peters Reserve after 1871


In 1871, Treaty Number One, also known as the ‘Stone Fort Treaty’ or the ‘Selkirk Treaty’, was signed by Chief Henry PRINCE or RED EAGLE (1819-1902) on behalf of the Indians of St Peters Parish.


When Treaty Number One was signed, William SINCLAIR would have been in his mid-teens.


In December of 1872 the newly appointed Lieutenant-Governor Alexander MORRIS (1826-1889)wrote to Ottawa urging that the terms of the treaties be fulfilled. MORRIS was soon busy travelling throughout the region dealing with Indian treaties under his jurisdiction. Accompanying him as an assistant was Alexander MUCKLE (1844-1908) who also provided a military escort.


Treaty Time in St Peters 1872

First treaty payment being made in 1872 at St Peters Reserve north of Selkirk
Courtesy Public Archives of Canada


William SINCLAIR, Interpreter for Governor Alexander MORRIS


From the Library of Archives Canada: General correspondence regarding the use of Mr William SINCLAIR as Special Interpreter to Lieutenant Governor Alexander MORRIS. Govt House Fort Garry; May 26, 1874: “I (Governor MORRIS) find myself frequently subjected to great inconvenience in dealing with the Indians who call on me owing to their want of an Interpreter and am obliged to employ the service of such a person as I can , at the time, find capable of conversing with them. On two recent occasions I have sent for Mr SINCLAIR, an employee of the Land Office who is a reliable man and speaks several dialects. I would be obliged if you would instruct Mr CODD to place the services of SINCLAIR at my disposal when required. In the event of doing so, it might be judicious to allow SINCLAIR a small sum, in addition to his present salary, for his services as Interpreter to the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the NWT.”
Further correspondence regarding William SINCLAIR:
On June 10, 1874 the Governor was informed that SINCLAIR’s services would be placed at his disposal 
Sep 30, 1875: Letter from Deputy Minister of Interior  - - Mr LAIRD fixed SINCLAIR’s salary as Interpreter at $100 per annum - - SINCLAIR rendered frequent and efficient services as an Interpreter.
Nov 9, 1877: $100 for services rendered by SINCLAIR for interpreting.
Nov 16, 1877: Letter eporting that Mr Wm SINCLAIR had applied for payment of his salary of $100 for his services as an Interpreter. - - he refers to a letter of Jun 10, 1874 wherein SINCLAIR would be allowed such extra salary after the first half year - - requests to be informed about the actual services that he had rendered.
Feb 12, 1878: On May 26, 1874 the late Governor of Manitoba applied that the services of SINCLAIR, an employee of the Lands Office Winnipeg, will be placed at his disposal when he required an Indian Interpreter, and acknowledged that his honor recommended that a small sum should be allowed SINCLAR, in addition to his salary in the Lands Office for his service as Interpreter.


In 1878 John NORQUAY (1841-1889), a half-breed, became the first Premier of Manitoba.


William SINCLAIR & Elizabeth “Betsy” THOMAS


Around 1880 William SINCLAIR married Elizabeth “Betsy” THOMAS. Various documented record present us with conflicting birth dates for Betsy ranging from 1862 to 1868. Who were her parents? My guess is that this is Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Sophie CADOTTE & Philip THOMAS (1841-1936). If anyone can bring some good evidence to the contrary, please let us know via the Forum link provided below.

It was around 1880 that daughter Mary Elizabeth “Mope” was born (named after her mother?).




In the New Year of 1882 Alexander MUCKLE (1844-1908) became Indian Agent for the St Peters Band. That year William PRINCE replaced Henry PRINCE as Chief. On June 15, 1882 the Town of Selkirk was incorporated. The first Mayor was James COCLEUGH (1841-1918).


In 1883 the Rural Municipality of St Clements was formed. Without going to a lot of detail, essentially the RM of St Clements now referred to the East side of the Red River and Lake Winnipeg all the way from Winnipeg to Grand Beach, extending eastward as far as Garson. Hereafter, St Andrews only referred to the west side of the river.


William as a Councillor for the St Peters Indian Band


St Peters Chiefs & Councillors 1892:  Chief:  William ASHAM. Councillors: John PRINCE; Alexander FIDLER; William HARPER; and William SINCLAIR
Peguis Chiefs & Councillors 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896:  Chief:  William ASHAM.  Councillors:  John PRINCE; William HARPER; William SINCLAIR  and William GREYEYES
St Peters Chiefs & Councillors 1897, 1898, 1899:  Chief: Henry PRINCE. Councillors: John PRINCE; William HARPER; William SINCLAIR; and John FLETT


On June 9, 1898 daughter Mary Elizabeth married Ralph CLEMONS, son of Margaret BEAR & John CLEMONS (1831-1917).


St Peters Chiefs & Councillors 1900, 1901:  Chief:  Henry W PRINCE.  Councillors:  John PRINCE; William SINCLAIR; William COOK; and David "King" PRINCE.


In the Census of 1906 we find William SINCLAIR (age 50) in the St Peters Indian Reserve; wife Elizabeth (age 38); children as Colin (age 21), George (17), Esther (12) and Horace (age 9).


Surrender of the St Peters Reserve


In 1907 the St Peter's Indian Reserve was surrendered in 1907, and most of the native residents moved to present day Peguis Reserve (Fisher River/ Hodgson) by 1909.


** Note that after the Surrender, St Peters as an Indian Reserve ceased to exist as such, although the area it occupied  was still known as the Parish of St Peters, now part of the Rural Municipality of St Andrews.


In the Census of 1911 we find the Cree family of William SINCLAIR (age 55) in St Peters Parish; wife Elizabeth (age 48); children as Colin (age 26), George (21), Esther (18) and Horace (age 12).


At some time after 1911 daughter Esther married Alfred BRUYERE, son of Maria CALDER & Alexander BRUYER (b-c1850). ** MORE ABOUT ALEXANDER BRUYERE


World War I


On Aug 4, 1914Great Britain (Canada on Aug 5) declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary to uphold treaties with France and Belgium which were under German attack. This marked the beginning of World War I.


St Peters & Peguis Chiefs & Councillors 1915:  Chief:  Albert ROSE.  Councillors:  Miles COCHRANE; Isaac ASHAM; William SINCLAIR; and George HUDSON.


William moves to Fisher River


Betsy Sinclair

Betsy Sinclair
(This precious Photo courtesy of Great-Great Granddaughter Bonnie)


In 1915, when sons Colin, George, and Horace enlisted, Elizabeth & William were in the Hodgson-Fisher River area. Also with them is Nephew William BLACK, age 15 (b-1901).


Census of 1916 in the New Peguis Indian Reserve (Fisher River): William SINCLAIR (age 58), wife Elizabeth (age 52; children: Colin (age 30), George (23) and Horace (age 20). By this time, sons Colin, George and Horace were enlisted soldiers (World War I).


Peguis Chiefs & Councillors 1916:  Chief: Albert ROSE. Councillors: William SINCLAIR; Isaac ASHAM; Miles COCHRANE and George HUDSON.


In 1918 son Horace married Mary Jane BAILEY in the Peguis Reserve.


November 11, 1919, Armistice Day (Remembrance Day) marked the end of the First World War.


In 1924 son Colin married Jemima ANDERSON at York Factory.


If the following death information from Vital Statistics is referring to our William & Elizabeth, it seems that they had moved back to Selkirk in their old age.


On Oct 21, 1924 William SINCLAIR died in St Andrews Parish, age 68.
On Sep 10, 1935 Elizabeth SINCLAIR died in Selkirk, age 73


Please post comments & Queries at this link: FORUM DISCUSSING this WILLIAM SINCLAIR FAMILY


========================= Family Details =========================


4. Apr 5, 1891 ALFRED JAMES SINCLAIR (Died in infancy, age 2)
5. Feb 10, 1893 ESTHER SINCLAIR (m. Alfred BRUYERE)
6. Sep 7, 1896 HORACE SCOVIL SINCLAIR (m. Mary Jane BAILEY)