Anne Amelia (McLEAN) PAGET (1867-1922)
Born in Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River on 15 July 1867, she was the eldest daughter of William J. McLean (1841-1929) and Helen Hunter Murray (1847-1899). She spent her earliest years at Fort Liard, Northwest Territory and then the family moved to Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.
Amelia and her siblings became friends with the Plains Cree and Saulteaux and attended special ceremonies. Amelia was particularly gifted at languages and would often translate popular songs into Cree and Saulteaux. She was educated at St. John’s College Ladies’ School in Winnipeg.
In 1884, Amelia and her family moved to Fort Pitt on the Saskatchewan River, where her father had been assigned. In 1886, the family moved to Lower Fort Garry where her father was in charge. During her time here, she did some work for the federal Department of Indian Affairs and it was noted that “she was gifted with a language-sense which made possible a knowledge of the subtlest peculiarities of two languages, the Cree and Ojibwa, both highly expressive, but the last eminently flexible and poetic.
Linguist and Author
On 31 July 1899 at Winnipeg, she married Frederick Henry Paget (1862-1944) of the Department of Indian Affairs and they moved to Ottawa. They had one daughter: Helen Charlotte Paget (1900-1988, wife of Ronald Joseph Holmes).
In 1906, she was commissioned by the Canadian Government to travel among the Plains Indians and obtain folklore of Northwest Cree Indians, and subsequently published People of the Plains, in 1909. The project was motivated by a belief that ancient customs and manners were disappearing and her descriptions of the Plains Indians challenged conventional assumptions and stereotypes.
She died at her Ottawa residence, after a prolonged illness, on 10 July 1922 and was buried in the St. John’s Cemetery.
- Reprinted with permission from Manitoba Historical Society and updated.
- Marriage and Death Registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
- “Amelia Anne McLean [Paget], Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
- Obituary [Helen (Paget) Holmes], Ottawa Citizen, 25 February 1988, page 26.
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