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Title: Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, in the Years 1819-20-21-22, Volume 1
Author: Franklin, John, 1786-1847
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, in the Years 1819-20-21-22, Volume 1" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions

Transcriber's notes:

There are several inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation in the
original. Some corrections have been made for obvious typographical
errors; they have been noted individually in the text. All changes made
by the transcriber are enumerated in braces, for example {1}; details of
corrections and comments are listed at the end of the text. Note that
many of the errors were introduced in the third edition, as
cross-referencing the second edition has shown.

In the original, the "Mc" in Scottish names is given as "M" followed by
what looks like a left single quotation mark (Unicode 2018). This has
been changed to "Mc" throughout the text; note that the original also
contains a few apparently inconsistent uses of "Mac", which have been

Specific spellings that differ from their modern versions and have been
retained in this text are "Saskatchawan" (modern "Saskatchewan"),
"Winipeg" (modern "Winnipeg"), "Esquimaux" (modern "Eskimo") and
"musquito" (with one instance of "moscheto", modern "mosquito").

Text in italics in the original is shown between _underlines_. For this
text version, the oe-ligature (Unicode 0153) has been rendered as "oe".
Footnote 14 in chapter IV contains two transliterations, where [=a]
represents Latin small letter a with macron (Unicode 0101) and [=o]
stands for Latin small letter o with macron (Unicode 014D).

       *       *       *       *       *





THE YEARS 1819-20-21-22.









[Illustration: The Connected Discoveries of Captains
Ross, Parry, and Franklin in the years 1818, 19, 20, 21, 22 & 23.]




&c.  &c.  &c.










INTRODUCTION                                                          ix


     Departure from England--Transactions at Stromness--Enter
     Davis' Straits--Perilous situation on the shore of Resolution
     Island--Land on the coast of Labrador--Esquimaux of Savage
     Islands--York Factory--Preparations for the Journey into the
     Interior                                                          1


     Passage up Hayes', Steel, and Hill Rivers--Cross Swampy
     Lake--Jack River--Knee Lake, and Magnetic Islet--Trout
     River--Holy Lake{2}--Weepinapannis River--Windy Lake--White
     Fall Lake and River--Echemamis and Sea Rivers--Play-Green
     Lakes--Lake Winipeg--River Saskatchawan--Cross, Cedar, and
     Pine Island Lakes--Cumberland House                              41


     Dr. Richardson's residence at Cumberland-House--His account
     of the Cree Indians                                              91


     Leave Cumberland House--Mode of Travelling in Winter--Arrival
     at Carlton House--Stone Indians--Visit to a Buffalo
     Pound--Goitres--Departure from Carlton House--Isle à{3} la
     Crosse--Arrival at Fort Chipewyan                               146


     Transactions at Fort Chipewyan--Arrival of Dr. Richardson
     and Mr. Hood--Preparations for our Journey to the Northward     221


     Mr. Hood's Journey to the Basquiau Hill--Sojourns with an
     Indian Party--His Journey to Chipewyan                          260


     Departure from Chipewyan--Difficulties of the various
     Navigation of the Rivers and Lakes, and of the
     Portages--Slave Lake and Fort Providence--Scarcity of
     Provisions, and Discontent of the Canadian
     Voyagers--Difficulties with regard to the Indian
     Guides--Refusal to proceed--Visit of Observation to the
     upper part of Copper-Mine River--Return to the
     Winter-Quarters of Fort Enterprise                              301

       *       *       *       *       *

_Directions to the Binder._


I. The CHART shewing the Connected Discoveries of Captains Ross, Parry,
and Franklin, to face the _Title-Page_.


II. Route from York Factory     }
III.           Isle à la Crosse } To be placed at the end.
IV.            Slave Lake       }


His Majesty's Government having determined upon sending an Expedition
from the Shores of Hudson's Bay by land, to explore the Northern Coast
of America, from the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River to the eastward, I
had the honour to be appointed to this service by Earl Bathurst, on the
recommendation of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; who, at the
same time, nominated Doctor John Richardson, a Surgeon in the Royal
Navy, Mr. George Back, and Mr. Robert Hood, two Admiralty Midshipmen, to
be joined with me in the enterprize. My instructions, in substance,
informed me that the main object of the Expedition was that of
determining the latitudes and longitudes of the Northern Coast of North
America, and the trending of that Coast from the Mouth of the
Copper-Mine River to the eastern extremity of that Continent; that it
was left for me to determine according to circumstances, whether it
might be most advisable to proceed, at once, directly to the northward
till I arrived at the sea-coast, and thence westerly towards the
Copper-Mine River; or advance, in the first instance, by the usual route
to the mouth of the Copper-Mine River, and from thence easterly till I
should arrive at the eastern extremity of that Continent; that, in the
adoption of either of these plans, I was to be guided by the advice and
information which I should receive from the wintering servants of the
Hudson's Bay Company, who would be instructed by their employers to
co-operate cordially in the prosecution of the objects of the
Expedition, and who would provide me with the necessary escort of
Indians to act as guides, interpreters, game-killers, &c.; and also with
such articles of clothing, ammunition, snow-shoes, presents, &c., as
should be deemed expedient for me to take. That as another principal
object of the Expedition was to amend the very defective geography of
the northern part of North America, I was to be very careful to
ascertain correctly the latitude and longitude of every remarkable spot
upon our route, and of all the bays, harbours, rivers, headlands, &c.,
that might occur along the Northern Shore of North America. That in
proceeding along the coast, I should erect conspicuous marks at places
where ships might enter, or to which a boat could be sent; and to
deposit information as to the nature of the coast for the use of
Lieutenant Parry. That in the journal of our route, I should register
the temperature of the air at least three times in every twenty-four
hours; together with the state of the wind and weather, and any other
meteorological phenomena. That I should not neglect any opportunity of
observing and noting down the dip and variation of the magnetic needle,
and the intensity of the magnetic force; and should take particular
notice whether any, and what kind or degree of, influence the Aurora
Borealis might appear to exert on the magnetic needle; and to notice
whether that phenomenon were attended with any noise; and to make any
other observations that might be likely to tend to the further
development of its cause, and the laws by which it is governed.

Mr. Back and Mr. Hood were to assist me in all the observations
above-mentioned, and to make drawings of the land, of the natives, and
of the various objects of natural history; and, particularly, of such as
Dr. Richardson, who, to his professional duties, was to add that of
naturalist, might consider to be most curious and interesting.

I was instructed, on my arrival at, or near, the Mouth of the
Copper-Mine River, to make every inquiry as to the situation of the spot
whence native copper had been brought down by the Indians to the
Hudson's Bay establishment, and to visit and explore the place in
question; in order that Dr. Richardson might be enabled to make such
observations as might be useful in a commercial point of view, or
interesting to the science of mineralogy.

From Joseph Berens, Esq., the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and
the gentlemen of the Committee, I received all kinds of assistance and
information, communicated in the most friendly manner previous to my
leaving England; and I had the gratification of perusing the orders to
their agents and servants in North America, containing the fullest
directions to promote, by every means, the progress of the Expedition. I
most cheerfully avail myself of this opportunity of expressing my
gratitude to these Gentlemen for their personal kindness to myself and
the other officers, as well as for the benefits rendered by them to the
Expedition; and the same sentiment is due towards the Gentlemen of the
North-West Company, both in England and America, more particularly to
Simon McGillivray, Esq., of London, from whom I received much useful
information, and cordial letters of recommendation to the partners and
agents of that Company, resident on our line of route.

A short time before I left London I had the pleasure and advantage of an
interview with the late Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who was one of the two
persons who had visited the coast we were to explore. He afforded me, in
the most open and kind manner, much valuable information and advice.

The provisions, instruments, and other articles, of which I had
furnished a list, by direction of the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty, were embarked on board the Hudson's Bay Company's ship Prince
of Wales, appointed by the committee to convey the Expedition to York
Factory, their principal establishment in Hudson's Bay.

It will be seen, in the course of the Narrative how much reason I had to
be satisfied with, and how great my obligations are to, all the
Gentlemen who were associated with me in the Expedition, whose kindness,
good conduct, and cordial co-operation, have made an impression which
can never be effaced from my mind. The unfortunate death of Mr. Hood is
the only drawback which I feel from the otherwise unalloyed pleasure of
reflecting on that cordial unanimity which at all times prevailed among
us in the days of sunshine, and in those of "sickness and sorrow."

To Dr. Richardson, in particular, the exclusive merit is due of whatever
collections and observations have been made in the department of Natural
History; and I am indebted to him in no small degree for his friendly
advice and assistance in the preparation of the present narrative.

The charts and drawings were made by Lieutenant Back, and the late
Lieutenant Hood. Both these gentlemen cheerfully and ably assisted me in
making the observations and in the daily conduct of the Expedition. The
observations made by Mr. Hood, on the various phenomena presented by the
Aurora Borealis[1], will, it is presumed, present to the reader some new
facts connected with this meteor. Mr. Back was mostly prevented from
turning his attention to objects of science by the many severe duties
which were required of him, and which obliged him to travel almost
constantly every winter that we passed in America; to his personal
exertions, indeed, our final safety is mainly to be attributed. And here
I must be permitted to pay the tribute, due to the fidelity, exertion
and uniform good conduct in the most trying situations, of John Hepburn,
an English seaman, and our only attendant, to whom in the latter part of
our journey we owe, under Divine Providence, the preservation of the
lives of some of the party.

  [1] Given in the Appendix to the Quarto Edition.

I ought, perhaps, to crave the reader's indulgence towards the defective
style of this work, which I trust will not be refused when it is
considered that mine has been a life of constant employment in my
profession from a very early age. I have been prompted to venture upon
the task solely by an imperious sense of duty, when called upon to
undertake it.

In the ensuing Narrative the notices of the moral condition of the
Indians as influenced by the conduct of the traders towards them, refer
entirely to the state in which it existed during our progress through
the country; but lest I should have been mistaken respecting the views
of the Hudson's Bay Company on these points, I gladly embrace the
opportunity which a Second Edition affords me of stating that the
junction of the two Companies has enabled the Directors to put in
practice the improvements which I have reason to believe they had long
contemplated. They have provided for religious instruction by the
appointment of two Clergymen of the established church, under whose
direction school-masters and mistresses are to be placed at such
stations as afford the means of support for the establishment of
schools. The offspring of the voyagers and labourers are to be educated
chiefly at the expense of the Company; and such of the Indian children
as their parents may wish to send to these schools, are to be
instructed, clothed, and maintained at the expense of the Church
Missionary Society, which has already allotted a considerable sum for
these purposes, and has also sent out teachers who are to act under the
superintendence of the Rev. Mr. West, the principal chaplain of the

We had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman at York Factory, and
witnessed with peculiar delight the great benefit which already marked
his zealous and judicious conduct. Many of the traders, and of the
servants of the Company, had been induced to marry the women with whom
they had cohabited; a material step towards the improvement of the
females in that country.

Mr. West, under the sanction of the Directors, has also promoted a
subscription for the distribution of the Bible in every part of the
country where the Company's Fur Trade has extended, and which has met
with very general support from the resident chief factors, traders, and
clerks. The Directors of the Company are continuing to reduce the
distribution of spirits gradually among the Indians, as well as towards
their own servants, with a view to the entire disuse of them as soon as
this most desirable object can be accomplished. They have likewise
issued orders for the cultivation of the ground at each of the posts, by
which means the residents will be far less exposed to famine whenever
through the scarcity of animals, the sickness of the Indians, or any
other cause, their supply of meat may fail.

It is to be hoped that intentions, so dear to every humane and pious
mind, will, through the blessing of God, meet with the utmost success.


       *       *       *       *       *


     Departure from England--Transactions at Stromness--Enter Davis'
     Straits--Perilous Situation on the Shore of Resolution Island--Land
     on the Coast of Labrador--Esquimaux of Savage Islands--York
     Factory--Preparations for the Journey into the Interior.

1819. May.

On Sunday, the 23d of May, the whole of our party embarked at Gravesend
on board the ship Prince of Wales, belonging to the Hudson's Bay
Company, just as she was in the act of getting under weigh, with her
consorts the Eddystone and Wear. The wind being unfavourable, on the ebb
tide being finished, the vessels were again anchored; but they weighed
in the night and beat down as far as the Warp, where they were detained
two days by a strong easterly wind.

Having learned from some of the passengers, who were the trading
Officers of the Company, that the arrival of the ships at either of the
establishments in Hudson's Bay, gives full occupation to all the
boatmen in their service, who are required to convey the necessary
stores to the different posts in the interior; that it was very probable
a sufficient number of men might not be procured from this indispensable
duty; and, considering that any delay at York Factory would materially
retard our future operations, I wrote to the Under Secretary of State,
requesting his permission to provide a few well-qualified steersmen and
bowmen, at Stromness, to assist our proceedings in the former part of
our journey into the interior.

_May 30_.--The easterly wind, which had retarded the ship's progress so
much, that we had only reached Hollesley Bay after a week's beating
about, changed to W.S.W. soon after that anchorage had been gained. The
vessels instantly weighed, and, by carrying all sail, arrived in
Yarmouth Roads at seven P.M.; the pilots were landed, and our course was
continued through the anchorage. At midnight, the wind became light and
variable, and gradually drew round to the N.W.; and, as the sky
indicated unsettled weather, and the wind blew from an unfavourable
quarter for ships upon that coast, the commander bore up again for
Yarmouth, and anchored at eight A.M.

This return afforded us, at least, the opportunity of comparing the
longitude of Yarmouth church, as shewn by our chronometers, with its
position as laid down by the Ordnance Trigonometrical Survey; and, it
was satisfactory to find, from the small difference in their results,
that the chronometers had not experienced any alteration in their rates,
in consequence of their being changed from an horizontal position in a
room, to that of being carried in the pocket.

An untoward circumstance, while at this anchorage, cast a damp on our
party at this early period of the voyage. Emboldened by the decided
appearance of the N.W. sky, several of our officers and passengers
ventured on shore for a few hours; but, we had not been long in the town
before the wind changed suddenly to S.E., which caused instant motion in
the large fleet collected at this anchorage. The commander of our ship
intimated his intention of proceeding to sea, by firing guns; and the
passengers hastened to embark. Mr. Back, however, had unfortunately gone
upon some business to a house two or three miles distant from Yarmouth,
along the line of the coast; from whence he expected to be able to
observe the first symptoms of moving, which the vessels might make. By
some accident, however, he did not make his appearance before the
captain was obliged to make sail, that he might get the ships through
the intricate passage of the Cockle Gat before it was dark. Fortunately,
through the kindness of Lieutenant Hewit, of the Protector, I was
enabled to convey a note to our missing companion, desiring him to
proceed immediately by the coach to the Pentland Firth, and from thence
across the passage to Stromness, which appeared to be the only way of
proceeding by which he could rejoin the party.

_June 3_.--The wind continuing favourable after leaving Yarmouth, about
nine this morning we passed the rugged and bold projecting rock, termed
Johnny Groat's house, and soon afterwards Duncansby Head, and then
entered the Pentland Firth. A pilot came from the main shore of
Scotland, and steered the ship in safety between the different islands,
to the outer anchorage at Stromness, though the atmosphere was too dense
for distinguishing any of the objects on the land. Almost immediately
after the ship had anchored, the wind changed to N.W., the rain ceased,
and a sight was then first obtained of the neighbouring islands, and of
the town of Stromness, the latter of which, from this point of view, and
at this distance, presented a pleasing appearance.

Mr. Geddes, the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at this place,
undertook to communicate my wish for volunteer boatmen to the different
parishes, by a notice on the church-door, which he said was the surest
and most direct channel for the conveyance of information to the lower
classes in these islands, as they invariably attend divine service there
every Sunday. He informed me that the kind of men we were in want of
would be difficult to procure, on account of the very increased demand
for boatmen for the herring fishery, which had recently been established
on the shores of these islands; that last year, sixty boats and four
hundred men only were employed in this service, whereas now there were
three hundred boats and twelve hundred men engaged; and that owing to
this unexpected addition to the fishery, he had been unable to provide
the number of persons required for the service of the Hudson's Bay
Company. This was unpleasant information, as it increased the
apprehension of our being detained at York Factory the whole winter, if
boatmen were not taken from hence. I could not therefore hesitate in
requesting Mr. Geddes to engage eight or ten men well adapted for our
service, on such terms as he could procure them, though the Secretary of
State's permission had not yet reached me.

Next to a supply of boatmen, our attention was directed towards the
procuring of a house conveniently situated for trying the instruments,
and examining the rates of the chronometers. Mr. Geddes kindly offered
one of his, which, though in an unfinished state, was readily accepted,
being well situated for our purpose, as it was placed on an eminence,
had a southern aspect, and was at a sufficient distance from the town to
secure us from frequent interruption. Another advantage was its
proximity to the Manse, the residence of the Rev. Mr. Clouston, the
worthy and highly respected minister of Stromness; whose kind
hospitality and the polite attention of his family, the party
experienced almost daily during their stay.

For three days the weather was unsettled, and few observations could be
made, except for the dip of the needle, which was ascertained to be 74°
37' 48", on which occasion a difference of eight degrees and a half was
perceived between the observations, when the face of the instrument was
changed from the east to the west, the amount being the greatest when it
was placed with the face to the west. But, on the 8th, a westerly wind
caused a cloudless sky, which enabled us to place the transit instrument
in the meridian, and to ascertain the variation of the compass, to be
27° 50' west. The sky becoming cloudy in the afternoon, prevented our
obtaining the corresponding observations to those gained in the morning;
and the next day an impervious fog obscured the sky until noon. On the
evening of this day, we had the gratification of welcoming our absent
companion, Mr. Back. His return to our society was hailed with sincere
pleasure by every one, and removed a weight of anxiety from my mind. It
appears that he had come down to the beach at Caistor, just as the ships
were passing by, and had applied to some boatmen to convey him on board,
which might have been soon accomplished, but they, discovering the
emergency of his case, demanded an exorbitant reward which he was not at
the instant prepared to satisfy; and, in consequence, they positively
refused to assist him. Though he had travelled nine successive days,
almost without rest, he could not be prevailed upon to withdraw from the
agreeable scene of a ball-room, in which he joined us, until a late

On the 10th, the rain having ceased, the observations for ascertaining
the dip of the needle were repeated; and the results, compared with the
former ones, gave a mean of 74° 33' 20". Nearly the same differences
were remarked in reversing the face of the instrument as before. An
attempt was also made to ascertain the magnetic force, but the wind
blew too strong for procuring the observation to any degree of accuracy.

The fineness of the following day induced us to set up the different
instruments for examination, and to try how nearly the observations made
by each of them would agree; but a squall passed over just before noon,
accompanied by heavy rain, and the hoped-for favourable opportunity was
entirely lost. In the intervals between the observations, and at every
opportunity, my companions were occupied in those pursuits to which
their attention had been more particularly directed in my instructions.
Whilst Dr. Richardson was collecting and examining the various specimens
of marine plants, of which these islands furnish an abundant and
diversified supply, Mr. Back and Mr. Hood took views and sketches of the
surrounding scenery, which is extremely picturesque in many parts, and
wants only the addition of trees to make it beautiful. The hills present
the bold character of rugged sterility, whilst the valleys, at this
season, are clothed with luxuriant verdure.

It was not till the 14th, that, by appointment, the boatmen were to
assemble at the house of Mr. Geddes, to engage to accompany the
Expedition. Several persons collected, but to my great mortification, I
found they were all so strongly possessed with the fearful apprehension,
either that great danger would attend the service, or that we should
carry them further than they would agree to go, that not a single man
would engage with us; some of them, however, said they would consider
the subject, and give me an answer on the following day. This indecisive
conduct was extremely annoying to me, especially as the next evening was
fixed for the departure of the ships.

At the appointed time on the following morning, four men only presented
themselves, and these, after much hesitation, engaged to accompany the
Expedition to Fort Chipewyan, if they should be required so far. The
bowmen and steersmen were to receive forty pounds' wages annually, and
the middle men thirty-five pounds. They stipulated to be sent back to
the Orkney Islands, free of expense, and to receive their pay until the
time of arrival. Only these few men could be procured, although our
requisition had been sent to almost every island, even as far as the
northernmost point of Ronaldsha. I was much amused with the extreme
caution these men used before they would sign the agreement; they
minutely scanned all our intentions, weighed every circumstance, looked
narrowly into the plan of our route, and still more circumspectly to
the prospect of return. Such caution on the part of the northern
mariners forms a singular contrast with the ready and thoughtless manner
in which an English seaman enters upon any enterprise, however
hazardous, without inquiring, or desiring to know where he is going, or
what he is going about.

The brig Harmony, belonging to the Moravian Missionary Society, and
bound to their settlement at Nain, on the coast of Labrador, was lying
at anchor. With the view of collecting some Esquimaux words and
sentences, or gaining any information respecting the manners and habits
of that people, Doctor Richardson and myself paid her a visit. We found
the passengers, who were going out as Missionaries, extremely disposed
to communicate; but as they only spoke the German and Esquimaux
languages, of which we were ignorant, our conversation was necessarily
much confined: by the aid, however, of an Esquimaux and German
Dictionary, some few words were collected, which we considered might be
useful. There were on board a very interesting girl, and a young man,
who were natives of Disco, in Old Greenland; both of them had fair
complexions, rather handsome features, and a lively manner; the former
was going to be married to a resident Missionary, and the latter to
officiate in that character. The commander of the vessel gave me a
translation of the Gospel of St. John in the Esquimaux language, printed
by the Moravian Society in London.

_June 16_.--The wind being unfavourable for sailing I went on shore with
Dr. Richardson, and took several lunar observations at the place of our
former residence. The result obtained was latitude 58° 56' 56"{4} N.;
longitude 3° 17' 55" W.; variation 27° 50' W.; dip of the magnetic
needle, 74° 33' 20". In the afternoon the wind changed in a squall some
points towards the north, and the Prince of Wales made the preparatory
signal for sea. At three P.M. the ships weighed, an hour too early for
the tide; as soon as this served we entered into the passage between Hoy
and Pomona, and had to beat through against a very heavy swell, which
the meeting of a weather tide and a strong breeze had occasioned.

Some dangerous rocks lie near the Pomona shore, and on this side also
the tide appeared to run with the greatest strength. On clearing the
outward projecting points of Hoy and Pomona, we entered at once into the
Atlantic, and commenced our voyage to Hudson's Bay--having the
Eddystone, Wear, and Harmony, Missionary brig, in company.

The comparisons of the chronometers this day indicated that Arnold's
Nos. 2148 and 2147, had slightly changed their rates since they had been
brought on board; fortunately the rate of the former seems to have
increased nearly in the same ratio as the other has lost, and the mean
longitude will not be materially affected.

Being now fairly launched into the Atlantic, I issued a general
memorandum for the guidance of the officers during the prosecution of
the service on which we were engaged, and communicated to them the
several points of information that were expected from us by my
instructions. I also furnished them with copies of the signals which had
been agreed upon between Lieutenant Parry and myself, to be used in the
event of our reaching the northern coast of America, and falling in with
each other.

At the end of the month of June, our progress was found to have been
extremely slow, owing to a determined N.W. wind and much sea. We had
numerous birds hovering round the ship; principally fulmars
(_procellaria glacialis_,) and shearwaters, (_procellaria puffinus_,)
and not unfrequently saw shoals of grampusses sporting about, which the
Greenland seamen term finners from their large dorsal fin. Some
porpoises occasionally appeared, and whenever they did, the crew were
sanguine in their expectation of having a speedy change in the wind,
which had been so vexatiously contrary, but they were disappointed in
every instance.

_Thursday, July 1_.--The month of July set in more favourably; and,
aided by fresh breezes, we advanced rapidly to the westward, attended
daily by numerous fulmars and shearwaters. The Missionary brig had
parted company on the 22d of June. We passed directly over that part of
the ocean where the "Sunken Land of Buss" is laid down in the old, and
continued in the Admiralty charts. Mr. Bell, the commander of the
Eddystone, informed me, that the pilot who brought his ship down the
Thames told him that he had gained soundings in twelve feet somewhere
hereabout; and I am rather inclined to attribute the very unusual and
cross sea we had in this neighbourhood to the existence of a bank, than
to the effect of a gale of wind which we had just before experienced;
and I cannot but regret that the commander of the ship did not try for
soundings at frequent intervals.

By the 25th July we had opened the entrance of Davis' Straits, and in
the afternoon spoke the Andrew Marvell, bound to England with a cargo of
fourteen fish. The master informed us that the ice had been heavier this
season in Davis' Straits than he had ever recollected, and that it lay
particularly close to the westward, being connected with the shore to
the northward of Resolution Island, and extending from thence within a
short distance of the Greenland coast; that whales had been abundant,
but the ice so extremely cross, that few could be killed. His ship, as
well as several others, had suffered material injury, and two vessels
had been entirely crushed between vast masses of ice in latitude 74° 40'
N., but the crews were saved. We inquired anxiously, but in vain, for
intelligence respecting Lieutenant Parry, and the ships under his
command; but as he mentioned that the wind had been blowing strong from
the northward for some time, which would, probably, have cleared
Baffin's Bay of ice, we were disposed to hope favourably of his

The clouds assumed so much the appearance of icebergs this evening, as
to deceive most of the passengers and crew; but their imaginations had
been excited by the intelligence we had received from the Andrew
Marvell, that she had only parted from a cluster of them two days
previous to our meetings.

On the 27th, being in latitude 57° 44' 21" N., longitude 47° 31' 14" W.,
and the weather calm we tried for soundings, but did not reach the
bottom. The register thermometer was attached to the line just above
the lead, and is supposed to have descended six hundred and fifty
fathoms. A well-corked bottle was also fastened to the line, two hundred
fathoms above the lead, and went down four hundred and fifty fathoms.
The change in temperature, shewn by the register thermometer during the
descent, was from 52° to 40.5; and it stood at the latter point, when
taken out of the tin case. The temperature of the water brought up in
the bottle was 41°, being half a degree higher at four hundred and fifty
than at six hundred and fifty fathoms, and four degrees colder than the
water at the surface, which was then at 45°, whilst that of the air was
46°. This experiment in shewing the water to be colder at a great depth
than at the surface, and in proportion to the increase of the descent,
coincides with the observations of Captain Ross and Lieutenant Parry, on
their late voyage to these seas, but is contrary to the results obtained
by Captain Buchan and myself, on our recent voyage to the north, between
Spitzbergen and Greenland, in which sea we invariably found the water
brought from any great depth to be warmer than that at the surface.

On the 28th we tacked, to avoid an extensive stream of sailing ice. The
temperature of the water fell to 39.5°{5}, when we were near it, but was
at 41°, when at the distance of half a mile. The thermometer in the air
remained steadily at 40°. Thus the proximity of this ice was not so
decidedly indicated by the decrease of the temperature of either the air
or water, as I have before witnessed, which was probably owing to the
recent arrival of the stream at this point, and its passing at too quick
a rate for the effectual diffusion of its chilling influence beyond a
short distance. Still the decrease in both cases was sufficient to have
given timely warning for a ship's performing any evolution that would
have prevented the coming in contact with it, had the thickness of the
weather precluded a distant view of the danger.

The approach to ice would be more evidently pointed out in the Atlantic,
or wherever the surface is not so continually chilled by the passing and
the melting of ice as in this sea; and I should strongly recommend a
strict hourly attention to the thermometrical state of the water at the
surface, in all parts where ships are exposed to the dangerous
concussion of sailing icebergs, as a principal means of security.

The following day our ship came near another stream of ice, and the
approach to it was indicated by a decrease of the temperature of the
water at the surface from 44° to 42°. A small pine-tree was picked up
much shattered by the ice. In the afternoon of the 30th, a very dense
fog came on; and, about six P.M., when sailing before a fresh breeze, we
were suddenly involved in a heavy stream of ice. Considerable difficulty
was experienced in steering through the narrow channels between the
different masses in this foggy weather, and the ship received several
severe blows.

The water, as usual in the centre of the stream, was quite smooth, but
we heard the waves beating violently against the outer edge of the ice.
There was some earthy matter on several of the pieces, and the whole
body bore the appearance of recent separation from the land. In the
space of two hours we again got into the open sea, but had left our two
consorts far behind; they followed our track by the guns we discharged.
The temperature of the surface water was 35° when amongst the ice, 38°
when just clear of it, and 41.5° at two miles distant.

On the 4th of August, when in latitude 59° 58' N., longitude 59° 53' W.,
we first fell in with large icebergs; and in the evening were
encompassed by several of considerable magnitude, which obliged us to
tack the ship in order to prevent our getting entangled amongst them.
The estimated distance from the nearest part of the Labrador coast was
then eighty-eight miles; here we tried for soundings, without gaining
the bottom. The ship passed through some strong riplings, which
evidently indicated a current, but its direction was not ascertained. We
found, however, by the recent observations, that the ship had been set
daily to the southward, since we had opened Davis' Straits. The
variation of the compass was observed to be 52° 41' W.

At nine P.M., brilliant coruscations of the Aurora Borealis appeared, of
a pale ochre colour, with a slight tinge of red, in an arched form,
crossing the zenith from N.W. to S.E., but afterwards they assumed
various shapes, and had a rapid motion.

On the 5th of August, a party of the officers endeavoured to get on one
of the larger icebergs, but ineffectually, owing to the steepness and
smoothness of its sides, and the swell produced by its undulating
motion. This was one of the largest we saw, and Mr. Hood ascertained its
height to be one hundred and forty-nine feet; but these masses of ice
are frequently magnified to an immense size, through the illusive medium
of a hazy atmosphere, and on this account their dimensions have often
been exaggerated by voyagers.

In the morning of the 7th, the Island of Resolution was indistinctly
seen through the haze, but was soon afterwards entirely hidden by a very
dense fog. The favourable breeze subsided into a perfect calm, and left
the ship surrounded by loose ice. At this time the Eddystone was
perceived to be driving with rapidity towards some of the larger masses;
the stern-boats of this ship and of the Wear were despatched to assist
in towing her clear of them. At ten, a momentary clearness presented the
land distinctly at the distance of two miles; the ship was quite
unmanageable, and under the sole governance of the currents, which ran
in strong eddies between the masses of ice. Our consorts were also seen,
the Wear being within hail, and the Eddystone at a short distance from
us. Two attempts were ineffectually made to gain soundings, and the
extreme density of the fog precluded us from any other means of
ascertaining the direction in which we were driving until half past
twelve, when we had the alarming view of a barren rugged shore within a
few yards, towering over the mast heads. Almost instantly afterwards the
ship struck violently on a point of rocks, projecting from the island;
and the ship's side was brought so near to the shore, that poles were
prepared to push her off. This blow displaced the rudder, and raised it
several inches, but it fortunately had been previously confined by
tackles. A gentle swell freed the ship from this perilous situation, but
the current hurried us along in contact with the rocky shore, and the
prospect was most alarming. On the outward bow was perceived a rugged
and precipitous cliff, whose summit was hid in the fog, and the Vessel's
head was pointed towards the bottom of a small bay, into which we were
rapidly driving. There now seemed to be no probability of escaping
shipwreck, being without wind, and having the rudder in its present
useless state; the only assistance was that of a boat employed in
towing, which had been placed in the water between the ship and the
shore, at the imminent risk of its being crushed. The ship again struck
in passing over a ledge of rocks, and happily the blow replaced the
rudder, which enabled us to take advantage of a light breeze, and to
direct the ship's head without the projecting cliff. But the breeze was
only momentary, and the ship was a third time driven on shore on the
rocky termination of the cliff. Here we remained stationary for some
seconds, and with little prospect of being removed from this perilous
situation; but we were once more extricated by the swell from this ledge
also, and carried still farther along the shore. The coast became now
more rugged, and our view of it was terminated by another high
projecting point on the starboard bow. Happily, before we had reached
it, a light breeze enabled us to turn the ship's head to seaward, and we
had the gratification to find, when the sails were trimmed, that she
drew off the shore. We had made but little progress, however, when she
was violently forced by the current against a large iceberg lying

Our prospect was now more alarming than at any preceding period; and it
would be difficult for me to portray the anxiety and dismay depicted on
the countenances of the female passengers and children, who were rushing
on deck in spite of the endeavours of the officers to keep them below,
out of the danger which was apprehended if the masts should be carried
away. After the first concussion, the ship was driven along the steep
and rugged side of this iceberg with such amazing rapidity, that the
destruction of the masts seemed inevitable, and every one expected we
should again be forced on the rocks in the most disabled state; but we
providentially escaped this perilous result, which must have been

The dense fog now cleared away for a short time, and we discovered the
Eddystone close to some rocks, having three boats employed in towing;
but the Wear was not visible.

Our ship received water very fast; the pumps were instantly manned and
kept in continual use, and signals of distress were made to the
Eddystone, whose commander promptly came on board, and then ordered to
our assistance his carpenter and all the men he could spare, together
with the carpenter and boat's crew of the Wear, who had gone on board
the Eddystone in the morning, and were prevented from returning to their
own vessel by the fog. As the wind was increasing, and the sky appeared
very unsettled, it was determined the Eddystone should take the ship in
tow, that the undivided attention of the passengers and crew might be
directed to pumping, and clearing the holds to examine whether there was
a possibility of stopping the leak. We soon had reason to suppose the
principal injury had been received from a blow near the stern-post, and,
after cutting away part of the ceiling, the carpenters endeavoured to
stop the rushing in of the water, by forcing oakum between the timbers;
but this had not the desired effect, and the leak, in spite of all our
efforts at the pumps, increased so much, that parties of the officers
and passengers were stationed to bail out the water in buckets at
different parts of the hold. A heavy gale came on, blowing from the
land, as the night advanced; the sails were split, the ship was
encompassed by heavy ice, and, in forcing through a closely connected
stream, the tow-rope broke, and obliged us to take a portion of the
seamen from the pumps, and appoint them to the management of the ship.

Fatigue, indeed, had caused us to relax in our exertions at the pumps
during a part of the night of the 8th, and on the following morning
upwards of five feet water was found in the well. Renewed exertions were
now put forth by every person, and before eight A.M. the water was so
much reduced as to enable the carpenters to get at other defective
places; but the remedies they could apply were insufficient to repress
the water from rushing in, and our labours could but just keep the ship
in the same state throughout the day, until six P.M.; when the strength
of every one began to fail, the expedient of thrusting in felt, as well
as oakum, was resorted to, and a plank nailed over all. After this
operation a perceptible diminution in the water was made, and being
encouraged by the change, we put forth our utmost exertion in bailing
and pumping; and before night, to our infinite joy, the leak was so
overpowered that the pumps were only required to be used at intervals
of ten minutes. A sail, covered with every substance that could be
carried into the leaks by the pressure of the water, was drawn under the
quarter of the ship, and secured by ropes on each side.

As a matter of precaution in the event of having to abandon the ship,
which was for some time doubtful, the elderly women and children were
removed to the Eddystone when the wind was moderate this afternoon, but
the young women remained to assist at the pumps, and their services were
highly valuable, both for their personal labour, and for the
encouragement their example and perseverance gave to the men.

At day-light, on the 9th, every eye was anxiously cast around the
horizon in search of the Wear, but in vain; and the recollection of our
own recent peril caused us to entertain considerable apprehensions for
her safety. This anxiety quickened our efforts to exchange our shattered
sails for new ones, that the ship might be got, as speedily as possible,
near to the land, which was but just in sight, and a careful search be
made for her along the coast. We were rejoiced to find that our leak did
not increase by carrying sail, and we ventured in the evening to remove
the sail which had been placed under the part where the injury had been
received, as it greatly impeded our advance.

We passed many icebergs on the 10th, and in the evening we tacked from a
level field of ice, which extended northward as far as the eye could
reach. Our leak remained in the same state; the pumps discharged in
three minutes the quantity of water which had been received in fifteen.

The ship could not be got near to the land before the afternoon of the
11th. At four P.M. we hove to, opposite to, and about five miles distant
from, the spot on which we had first struck on Saturday. Every glass was
directed along the shore (as they had been throughout the day,) to
discover any trace of our absent consort; but, as none was seen, our
solicitude respecting her was much increased, and we feared the crew
might be wrecked on this inhospitable shore. Guns were frequently fired
to apprize any who might be near of our approach; but, as no one
appeared, and no signal was returned, and the loose ice was setting down
towards the ship, we bore up to proceed to the next appointed
rendezvous. At eight P.M. we were abreast of the S.W. end of the island
called Cape Resolution, which is a low point, but indicated at a
distance by a lofty round backed hill that rises above it. We entered
Hudson's Straits soon afterwards.

The coast of Resolution Island should be approached with caution, as the
tides appear to be strong and uncertain in their course. Some dangerous
rocks lie above and below the water's edge, at the distance of five or
six miles from East Bluff, bearing S. 32° E.

_August 12_.--Having had a fresh gale through the night, we reached
Saddleback Island by noon--the place of rendezvous; and looked
anxiously, but in vain, for the Wear. Several guns were fired, supposing
she might be hid from our view by the land; but, as she did not appear,
Captain Davidson, having remained two hours, deemed further delay
inexpedient, and bore up to keep the advantage of the fair wind. The
outline of this island is rugged; the hummock on its northern extremity
appeared to me to resemble a decayed martello tower more than a saddle.

Azimuths were obtained this evening that gave the variation 58° 45' W.,
which is greater than is laid down in the charts, or than the officers
of the Hudson's Bay ships have been accustomed to allow. We arrived
abreast of the Upper Savage Island early in the morning, and as the
breeze was moderate, the ship was steered as near to the shore as the
wind would permit, to give the Esquimaux inhabitants an opportunity of
coming off to barter, which they soon embraced.

Their shouts at a distance intimated their approach sometime before we
descried the canoes paddling towards us; the headmost of them reached us
at eleven; these were quickly followed by others, and before noon about
forty canoes, each holding one man, were assembled around the two ships.
In the afternoon, when we approached nearer to the shore, five or six
larger ones, containing the women and children, came up.

The Esquimaux immediately evinced their desire to barter, and displayed
no small cunning in making their bargains, taking care not to exhibit
too many articles at first. Their principal commodities were, oil,
sea-horse teeth, whale-bone, seal-skin dresses, caps and boots,
deer-skins and horns, and models of their canoes; and they received in
exchange small saws, knives, nails, tin-kettles, and needles. It was
pleasing to behold the exultation, and to hear the shouts of the whole
party, when an acquisition was made by any one; and not a little
ludicrous to behold the eagerness with which the fortunate person licked
each article with his tongue, on receiving it, as a finish to the
bargain, and an act of appropriation. They in no instance omitted this
strange practice, however small the article; the needles even passed
individually through the ceremony. The women brought imitations of men,
women, animals, and birds, carved with labour and ingenuity out of
sea-horse teeth. The dresses and the figures of the animals, were not
badly executed, but there was no attempt at the delineation of the
countenances; and most of the figures were without eyes, ears, and
fingers, the execution of which would, perhaps, have required more
delicate instruments than they possess. The men set most value on saws;
_kuttee-swa-bak_, the name by which they distinguish them, was a
constant cry. Knives were held next in estimation. An old sword was
bartered from the Eddystone, and I shall long remember the universal
burst of joy on the happy man's receiving it. It was delightful to
witness the general interest excited by individual acquisitions. There
was no desire shewn by any one to over-reach his neighbour, or to press
towards any part of the ship where{6} a bargain was making, until the
person in possession of the place had completed his exchange and
removed; and, if any article happened to be demanded from the outer
canoes, the men nearest assisted willingly in passing the thing across.
Supposing the party to belong to one tribe, the total number of the
tribe must exceed two hundred persons, as there were, probably, one
hundred and fifty around the ships, and few of these were
elderly persons, or male children.

Their faces were broad and flat, the eyes small. The men were in general
stout. Some of the younger women and the children had rather pleasing
countenances, but the difference between these and the more aged of that
sex, bore strong testimony to the effects which a few years produce in
this ungenial climate. Most of the party had sore eyes, all of them
appeared of a plethoric habit of body; several were observed bleeding at
the nose during their stay near the ship. The men's dresses consisted of
a jacket of seal-skin, the trowsers of bear-skin, and several had caps
of the white fox-skin. The female dresses were made of the same
materials, but differently shaped, having a hood in which the infants
were carried. We thought their manner very lively and agreeable. They
were fond of mimicking our speech and gestures; but nothing afforded
them greater amusement than when we attempted to retaliate by
pronouncing any of their words.

The canoes were of seal-skin, and similar in every respect to those used
by the Esquimaux in Greenland; they were generally new and very complete
in their appointments. Those appropriated to the women are of ruder
construction, and only calculated for fine weather; they are, however,
useful vessels, being capable of containing twenty persons with their
luggage. An elderly man officiates as steersman, and the women paddle,
but they have also a mast which carries a sail, made of dressed

When the women had disposed of all their articles of trade they resorted
to entreaty; and the putting in practice many enticing gestures was
managed with so much address, as to procure them presents of a variety
of beads, needles, and other articles in great demand among females.

It is probable these Esquimaux go from this shore to some part of
Labrador to pass the winter, as parties of them have been frequently
seen by the homeward-bound Hudson's Bay ships in the act of crossing the

They appear to speak the same language as the tribe of Esquimaux, who
reside near to the Moravian settlements in Labrador: for we perceived
they used several of the words which had been given to us by the
Missionaries at Stromness.

Towards evening, the Captain, being desirous to get rid of his visitors,
took an effectual method by tacking from the shore; our friends then
departed apparently in high glee at the harvest they had reaped. They
paddled away very swiftly, and would, doubtless, soon reach the shore
though it was distant ten or twelve miles.

Not having encountered any of the ice, which usually arrests the
progress of ships in their outward passage through the Straits, and
being consequently deprived of the usual means of replenishing our stock
of water, which had become short, the Captain resolved on going to the
coast of Labrador for a supply. Dr. Richardson and I gladly embraced
this opportunity to land, and examine this part of the coast. I was also
desirous to observe the variation on shore, as the azimuths, which had
been taken on board both ships since our entrance into the Straits, had
shewn a greater amount than we had been led to expect; but, unluckily
the sun became obscured. The beach consisted of large rolled stones of
gneiss and syenite{7}, amongst which many pieces of ice had grounded,
and it was with difficulty that we effected a landing in a small cove
under a steep cliff. These stones were worn perfectly smooth; neither in
the interstices, nor at the bottom of the water, which was very clear,
were there any vestiges of sea-weed.

The cliff was from forty to fifty feet high and quite perpendicular, and
had at its base a small slip of soil formed of the debris of a bed of
clay-slate. From this narrow spot Dr. Richardson collected specimens of
thirty different species of plants; and we were about to scramble up a
shelving part of the rock, and go into the interior, when we perceived
the signal of recall, which the master had caused to be made, in
consequence of a sudden change in the appearance of the weather.

On the evening of the 19th, we passed Digge's Islands, the termination
of Hudson's Strait. Here the Eddystone parted company, being bound to
Moose Factory at the bottom of the Bay. A strong north wind came on,
which prevented our getting round the north end of Mansfield, and, as it
continued to blow with equal strength for the next five days, we were
most vexatiously detained in beating along the Labrador coast, and near
the dangerous chain of islands, the Sleepers, which are said to extend
from the latitude of 60° 10' to 57° 00' N. The press of sail, which of
necessity we carried caused the leak to increase and the pumps were kept
in constant use.

A favouring wind at length enabled us, on the 25th, to shape our course
across Hudson's Bay. Nothing worthy of remark occurred during this
passage, except the rapid decrease in the variation of the magnetic
needle. The few remarks respecting the appearance of the land, which we
were able to make in our quick passage through these Straits, were
transmitted to the Admiralty; but as they will not be interesting to the
general reader, and may not be sufficiently accurate for the guidance
of the Navigator, they are omitted in this narrative.

On the 28th we discovered the land to the southward of Cape Tatnam,
which is so extremely low, that the tops of the trees were first
discerned; the soundings at the time were seventeen fathoms, which
gradually decreased to five as the shore was approached. Cape Tatnam is
not otherwise remarkable than as being the point from which the coast
inclines rather more to the westward towards York Factory.

The opening of the morning of the 30th presented to our view the
anchorage at York Flats, and the gratifying sight of a vessel at anchor,
which we recognised, after an anxious examination, to be the Wear. A
strong breeze blowing from the direction of the Flats, caused the water
to be more shallow than usual on the sandy bar, which lies on the
seaward side of the anchorage, and we could not get over it before two
P.M., when the tide was nearly at its height.

Immediately after our arrival, Mr. Williams, the Governor of the
Hudson's Bay Company's posts, came{8} on board, accompanied by the
Commander of the Wear. The pleasure we felt in welcoming the latter
gentleman can easily be imagined, when it is considered what reason we
had to apprehend that he and his crew had been numbered with the dead.
We learned that one of the larger masses of ice had providentially
drifted between the vessel's side and the rocks just at the time he
expected to strike, to which he secured it until a breeze sprang up, and
enabled him to pursue his voyage.

The Governor acquainted me that he had received information from the
Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company of the equipment of the
Expedition, and that the officers would come out in their first ship. In
the evening Dr. Richardson, Mr. Hood, and I, accompanied him to York
Factory, which we reached after dark; it is distant from the Flats seven
miles. Early next morning the honour of a salute was conferred on the
members of the Expedition.

Having communicated to the Governor the objects of the Expedition, and
that I had been directed to consult with him and the senior servants of
the Company as to the best mode of proceeding towards the execution of
the service, I was gratified by his assurance that his instructions from
the Committee directed that every possible assistance should be given to
forward our progress, and that he should feel peculiar pleasure in
performing this part of his duty. He introduced me at once to Messrs.
Charles, Swaine, and Snodie, masters of districts, who, from long
residence in the country, were perfectly acquainted with the different
modes of travelling, and the obstructions which might be anticipated. At
the desire of these gentlemen, I drew up a series of questions
respecting the points on which we required information; to which, two
days afterwards they had the kindness to return very explicit and
satisfactory answers; and on receiving them I requested the Governor to
favour me with his sentiments on the same subject in writing, which he
delivered to me on the following day.

Having learned that Messrs. Shaw, McTavish, and several other partners
of the N.W. Company, were under detention at this place, we took the
earliest opportunity of visiting them; when having presented the general
circular, and other introductory letters, with which I had been
furnished by their agent Mr. Simon McGillivray, we received from them
the most friendly and full assurance of the cordial endeavours of the
wintering partners of their company to promote the interests of the
Expedition. The knowledge we had now gained of the state of the violent
commercial opposition existing in the country, rendered this assurance
highly gratifying; and these gentlemen added to the obligation by freely
communicating that information respecting the interior of the country,
which their intelligence and long residence so fully qualified them to

I deemed it expedient to issue a memorandum to the officers of the
Expedition, strictly prohibiting any interference whatever in the
existing quarrels, or any that might arise, between the two Companies;
and on presenting it to the principals of both the parties, they
expressed their satisfaction at the step I had taken.

The opinions of all the gentlemen were so decidedly in favour of the
route by Cumberland House, and through the chain of posts to the Great
Slave Lake, that I determined on pursuing it, and immediately
communicated my intention to the Governor, with a request that he would
furnish me with the means of conveyance for the party as speedily as

It was suggested in my instructions that we might probably procure a
schooner at this place, to proceed north as far as Wager Bay; but the
vessel alluded to was lying at Moose Factory, completely out of repair;
independently of which, the route directly to the northward was rendered
impracticable by the impossibility of procuring hunters and guides on
the coast.

I found that as the Esquimaux inhabitants had left Churchill a month
previous to our arrival, no interpreter from that quarter could be
procured before their return in the following spring. The Governor,
however, undertook to forward to us, next season, the only one amongst
them who understood English, if he could be induced to go.

The governor selected one of the largest of the Company's boats for our
use on the journey, and directed the carpenters to commence refitting it
immediately; but he was only able to furnish us with a steersman; and we
were obliged to make up the rest of the crew with the boatmen brought
from Stromness, and our two attendants.

York Factory, the principal depôt of the Hudson's Bay Company, stands on
the west bank of Hayes' River, about five miles above its mouth, on the
marshy peninsula which separates the Hayes and Nelson Rivers. The
surrounding country is flat and swampy, and covered with willows,
poplars, larch, spruce, and birch-trees; but the requisition for fuel
has expended all the wood in the vicinity of the fort, and the residents
have now to send for it to a considerable distance. The soil is alluvial
clay, and contains imbedded rolled stones. Though the bank of the river
is elevated about twenty feet, it is frequently overflown by the
spring-floods, and large portions are annually carried away by the
disruption of the ice, which grounding in the stream, have formed
several muddy islands. These interruptions, together with the various
collection of stones that are hid at high water, render the navigation
of the river difficult; but vessels of two hundred tons burthen may be
brought through the proper channels as high as the Factory.

The principal buildings are placed in the form of a square, having an
octagonal court in the centre; they are two stories in height, and have
flat roofs covered with lead. The officers dwell in one portion of this
square, and in the other parts the articles of merchandise are kept: the
workshops, storehouses for the furs, and the servants' houses are ranged
on the outside of the square, and the whole is surrounded by a stockade
twenty feet high. A platform is laid from the house to the pier on the
bank for the convenience of transporting the stores and furs, which is
the only promenade the residents have on this marshy spot during the
summer season. The few Indians who now frequent this establishment,
belong to the _Swampy Crees_. There were several of them encamped on the
outside of the stockade. Their tents were rudely constructed by tying
twenty or thirty poles together at the top, and spreading them out at
the base so as to form a cone; these were covered with dressed
moose-skins. The fire is placed in the centre, and a hole is left for
the escape of the smoke. The inmates had a squalid look, and were
suffering under the combined afflictions of hooping-cough and measles;
but even these miseries did not keep them from an excessive indulgence
in spirits, which they unhappily can procure from the traders with too
much facility; and they nightly serenaded us with their monotonous
drunken songs. Their sickness at this time, was particularly felt by the
traders, this being the season of the year when the exertion of every
hunter is required to procure their winter's stock of geese, which
resort in immense flocks to the extensive flats in this neighbourhood.
These birds, during the summer, retire far to the north, and breed in
security; but, when the approach of winter compels them to seek a more
southern climate, they generally alight on the marshes of this bay, and
fatten there for three weeks or a month, before they take their final
departure from the country. They also make a short halt at the same
spots in their progress northwards in the spring. Their arrival is
welcomed with joy, and the _goose hunt_ is one of the most plentiful
seasons of the year. The ducks frequent the swamps all the summer.

The weather was extremely unfavourable for celestial observations during
our stay, and it was only by watching the momentary appearances of the
sun, that we were enabled to obtain fresh rates for the chronometers,
and allow for their errors from Greenwich time. The dip of the needle
was observed to be 79° 29' 07", and the difference produced by reversing
the face of the instrument was 11° 3' 40". A succession of fresh breezes
prevented our ascertaining the intensity of the magnetic force. The
position of York Factory, by our observations, is in latitude 57° 00'
03" N., longitude 92° 26' W. The variation of the compass 6° 00' 21" E.


     Passage up Hayes', Steel, and Hill Rivers--Cross Swampy Lake--Jack
     River--Knee Lake and Magnetic Islet--Trout River--Holy
     Lake--Weepinapannis River--Windy Lake--White-Fall Lake and
     River--Echemamis and Sea Rivers--Play-Green Lakes--Lake
     Winipeg--River Saskatchawan--Cross, Cedar, and Pine-Island
     Lakes--Cumberland House.

1819. September.

On the 9th of September, our boat being completed, arrangements were
made for our departure as soon as the tide should serve. But, when the
stores were brought down to the beach, it was found that the boat would
not contain them all. The whole, therefore, of the bacon, and part of
the flour, rice, tobacco, and ammunition, were returned into the store.
The bacon was too bulky an article to be forwarded under any
circumstances; but the Governor undertook to forward the rest next
season. In making the selection of articles to carry with us, I was
guided by the judgment of Governor Williams, who assured me that
tobacco, ammunition, and spirits, could be procured in the interior,
otherwise I should have been very unwilling to have left these
essential articles behind. We embarked at noon, and were honoured with a
salute of eight guns and three cheers from the Governor and all the
inmates of the fort, who had assembled to witness our departure. We
gratefully returned their cheers, and then made sail, much delighted at
having now commenced our voyage into the interior of America. The wind
and tide failing us at the distance of six miles above the Factory, and
the current being too rapid for using oars to advantage, the crew had to
commence tracking, or dragging the boat by a line, to which they were
harnessed. This operation is extremely laborious in these rivers. Our
men were obliged to walk along the steep declivity of a high bank,
rendered at this season soft and slippery by frequent rains, and their
progress was often further impeded by fallen trees, which, having
slipped from the verge of the thick wood above, hung on the face of the
bank in a great variety of directions. Notwithstanding these obstacles,
we advanced at the rate of two miles an hour, one-half of the crew
relieving the other at intervals of an hour and a half. The banks of the
river, and its islands, composed of alluvial soil, are well covered with
pines, larches, poplars, and willows. The breadth of the stream, some
distance above the Factory, is about half a mile, and its depth, during
this day's voyage, varied from three to nine feet.

At sunset we landed, and pitched the tent for the night, having made a
progress of twelve miles. A large fire was quickly kindled, supper
speedily prepared, and as readily despatched, when we retired with our
buffalo robes on, and enjoyed a night of sound repose.

It may here be stated, that the survey of the river was made by taking
the bearings of every point with a pocket compass, estimating the
distances, and making a connected eye-sketch of the whole. This part of
the survey was allotted to Messrs. Back and Hood conjointly: Mr. Hood
also protracted the route every evening on a ruled map, after the
courses and distances had been corrected by observations for latitude
and longitude, taken by myself as often as the weather would allow. The
extraordinary talent of this young officer in this line of service
proved of the greatest advantage to the Expedition, and he continued to
perform that duty until his lamented death, with a degree of zeal and
accuracy that characterized all his pursuits.

The next morning our camp was in motion at five A.M., and we soon
afterwards embarked with the flattering accompaniment of a fair wind: it
proved, however, too light to enable us to stem the stream, and we were
obliged to resume the fatiguing operation of tracking; sometimes under
cliffs so steep that the men could scarcely find a footing, and not
unfrequently over spots rendered so miry by the small streams that
trickled from above, as to be almost impassable. In the course of the
day we passed the scene of a very melancholy accident. Some years ago,
two families of Indians, induced by the flatness of a small beach, which
lay betwixt the cliff and the river, chose it as the site of their
encampment. They retired quietly to rest, not aware that the precipice,
detached from the bank, and urged by an accumulation of water in the
crevice behind, was tottering to its base. It fell during the night, and
the whole party was buried under its ruins.

The length of our voyage to-day was, in a direct line, sixteen miles and
a quarter, on a S.S.W. course. We encamped soon after sunset, and the
tent was scarcely pitched when a heavy rain began, which continued all

Sixteen miles on the 11th, and five on the following morning, brought us
to the commencement of Hayes' River, which is formed by the confluence
of the Shamattawa and Steel Rivers. Our observations place this spot in
latitude 56° 22' 32" N., longitude 93° 1' 37" W. It is forty-eight miles
and a half from York Factory including the windings of the river. Steel
River, through which our course lay, is about three hundred yards wide
at its mouth; its banks have more elevation than those of Hayes' River,
but they shelve more gradually down to the stream, and afford a
tolerably good towing path, which compensates, in some degree, for the
rapids and frequent shoals that impede its navigation. We succeeded in
getting about ten miles above the mouth of the river, before the close
of day compelled us to disembark.

We made an effort, on the morning of the 13th, to stem the current under
sail, but as the course of the river was very serpentine, we found that
greater progress could be made by tracking. Steel River presents much
beautiful scenery; it winds through a narrow, but well wooded, valley,
which at every turn disclosed to us an agreeable variety of prospect,
rendered more picturesque by the effect of the season on the foliage,
now ready to drop from the trees. The light yellow of the fading poplars
formed a fine contrast to the dark evergreen of the spruce, whilst the
willows of an intermediate hue, served to shade the two principal masses
of colour into each other. The scene was occasionally enlivened by the
bright purple tints of the dogwood, blended with the browner shades of
the dwarf birch, and frequently intermixed with the gay yellow flowers
of the shrubby cinquefoil. With all these charms, the scene appeared
desolate from the want of the human species. The stillness was so great,
that even the twittering of the _whiskey-johneesh_, or cinereous crow,
caused us to start. Our voyage to-day was sixteen miles on a S.W.

_Sept. 14_.--We had much rain during the night, and also in the morning,
which detained us in our encampment later than usual. We set out as soon
as the weather cleared up; and in a short time arrived at the head of
Steel River, where it is formed by the junction of Fox and Hill Rivers.
These two rivers are nearly of equal width, but the latter is the most
rapid. Mr. McDonald, on his way to Red River, in a small canoe, manned
by two Indians, overtook us at this place. It may be mentioned as a
proof of the dexterity of the Indians, and the skill with which they
steal upon their game, that they had on the preceding day, with no other
arms than a hatchet, killed two deer, a hawk, a curlew, and a sturgeon.
Three of the Company's boats joined us in the course of the morning, and
we pursued our course up Hill River in company. The water in this river
was so low, and the rapids so bad, that we were obliged several times,
in the course of the day, to jump into the water, and assist in lifting
the boat over the large stones which impeded the navigation. The length
of our voyage to-day was only six miles and three quarters.

The four boats commenced operations together at five o'clock the
following morning; but our boat being overladen, we soon found that we
were unable to keep pace with the others; and, therefore, proposed to
the gentlemen in charge of the Company's boats, that they should relieve
us of part of our cargo. This they declined doing, under the plea of not
having received orders to that effect, notwithstanding that the
circular, with which I was furnished by Governor Williams, strictly
enjoined all the Company's servants to afford us every assistance. In
consequence of this refusal we dropt behind, and our steersman, who was
inexperienced, being thus deprived of the advantage of observing the
route followed by the guide, who was in the foremost boat, frequently
took a wrong channel. The tow-line broke twice, and the boat was only
prevented from going broadside down the stream, and breaking to pieces
against the stones, by the officers and men leaping into the water, and
holding her head to the current until the line could be carried again to
the shore. It is but justice to say, that in these trying situations, we
received much assistance from Mr. Thomas Swaine, who with great
kindness waited for us with the boat under his charge at such places as
he apprehended would be most difficult to pass. We encamped at sunset,
completely jaded with toil. Our distance made good this day was twelve
miles and a quarter.

The labours of the 16th commenced at half past five, and for some time
the difficulty of getting the boats over the rapids was equal to what we
experienced the day before. Having passed a small brook, however, termed
_Half-way Creek_, the river became deeper, and although rapid, it was
smooth enough to be named by our Orkney boatmen _Still-water_. We were
further relieved by the Company's clerks consenting to take a few boxes
of our stores into their boats. Still we made only eleven miles in the
course of the day.

The banks of Hill River are higher, and have a more broken outline, than
those of Steel or Hayes' Rivers. The cliffs of alluvial clay rose in
some places to the height of eighty or ninety feet above the stream, and
were surmounted by hills about two hundred feet high, but the thickness
of the wood prevented us from seeing far beyond the mere banks of the

_September 17_.--About half past five in the morning we commenced
tracking, and soon came to a ridge of rock which extended across the
stream. From this place the boat was dragged up several narrow rocky
channels, until we came to the Rock Portage, where the stream, pent in
by a range of small islands, forms several cascades. In ascending the
river, the boats with their cargoes are carried over one of the islands,
but in the descent they are shot down the most shelving of the cascades.
Having performed the operations of carrying, launching, and restowing
the cargo, we plied the oars for a short distance, and landed at a depôt
called Rock House. Here we were informed that the rapids in the upper
parts of Hill River were much worse and more numerous than those we had
passed, particularly in the present season, owing to the unusual lowness
of the water. This intelligence was very mortifying, especially as the
gentlemen in charge of the Company's boats declared that they were
unable to carry any part of our stores beyond this place; and the
traders, guides, and most experienced of the boatmen, were of opinion,
that unless our boat was still further lightened, the winter would put a
stop to our progress before we could reach Cumberland House, or any
eligible post. Sixteen pieces were therefore necessarily left with Mr.
Bunn, the gentleman in charge of the post, to be forwarded by the
Athabasca canoes next season, this being their place of rendezvous.

After this we recommenced our voyage, and having pulled nearly a mile,
arrived at Borrowick's Fall, where the boat was dragged up with a line,
after part of the cargo had been carried over a small portage. From this
place to the Mud Portage, a distance of a mile and three quarters, the
boats were pushed on with poles against a very rapid stream. Here we
encamped, having come seven miles during the day on a S.W. course. We
had several snow showers in the course of the day, and the thermometer
at bed-time stood at 30°.

On the morning of the 18th, the country was clothed in the livery of
winter, a heavy fall of snow having taken place during the night. We
embarked at the usual hour, and in the course of the day, crossed the
Point of Rocks and Brassa Portages, and dragged the boats through
several minor rapids. In this tedious way we only made good about nine

On Sunday the 19th we hauled the boats up several short rapids, or, as
the boatmen term them, expressively enough, _spouts_, and carried them
over the Portages of Lower Burntwood and Morgan's Rocks; on the latter
of which we encamped, having proceeded, during the whole day only one
mile and three quarters.

The upper part of Hill River swells out considerably, and at Morgan's
Rocks, where it is three quarters of a mile wide, we were gratified with
a more extensive prospect of the country than any we had enjoyed since
leaving York Factory. The banks of the river here, consisting of low
flat rocks with intermediate swamps, permitted us to obtain views of the
interior, the surface of which is broken into a multitude of cone-shaped
hills. The highest of these hills, which gives a name to the river, has
an elevation not exceeding six hundred feet. From its summit, thirty-six
lakes are said to be visible. The beauty of the scenery, dressed in the
tints of autumn called forth our admiration, and was the subject of Mr.
Hood's accurate pencil. On the 20th we passed Upper Burntwood and Rocky
Ledge Portages, besides several strong _spouts_; and in the evening
arrived at Smooth Rock Portage, where we encamped, having come three
miles and a half. It is not easy for any but an eye-witness to form an
adequate idea of the exertions of the Orkney boatmen in the navigation
of this river. The necessity they are under of frequently jumping into
the water to lift the boats over the rocks, compels them to remain the
whole day in wet clothes, at a season when the temperature is far below
the freezing point. The immense loads too, which they carry over the
portages, is not more a matter of surprise than the alacrity with which
they perform these laborious duties.

At six on the morning of the 21st, we left our encampment, and soon
after arrived at the Mossy Portage, where the cargoes were carried
through a deep bog for a quarter of a mile. The river swells out, above
this portage, to the breadth of several miles, and as the islands are
numerous there are a great variety of channels. Night overtook us before
we arrived at the _Second Portage_, so named from its being the second
in the passage down the river. Our whole distance this day was one mile
and a quarter.

On the 22d our route led us amongst many wooded islands, which, lying in
long vistas, produced scenes of much beauty. In the course of the day we
crossed the Upper Portage, surmounted the Devil's Landing Place, and
urged the boat with poles through Groundwater Creek. At the upper end of
this creek, our bowman having given the boat too great a sheer, to avoid
the rock, it was caught on the broadside by the current, and, in
defiance of our utmost exertions, hurried down the rapid. Fortunately,
however, it grounded against a rock high enough to prevent the current
from oversetting it, and the crews of the other boats having come to our
assistance, we succeeded, after several trials, in throwing a rope to
them, with which they dragged our almost sinking vessel stern foremost
up the stream, and rescued us from our perilous situation. We encamped
in the dusk of the evening amidst a heavy thunder-storm, having advanced
two miles and three quarters.

About ten in the morning of the 23d we arrived at the _Dramstone_, which
is hailed with pleasure by the boats' crews, as marking the termination
of the laborious ascent of Hill River. We complied with the custom from
whence it derives its name, and soon after landing upon Sail Island
prepared breakfast. In the mean time our boatmen cut down and rigged a
new mast, the old one having been thrown overboard at the mouth of Steel
River, where it ceased to be useful. We left Sail Island with a fair
wind, and soon afterwards arrived at a depôt situated on Swampy Lake,
where we received a supply of mouldy _pemmican_[2]. Mr. Calder and his
attendant were the only tenants of this cheerless abode, and their only
food was the wretched stuff with which they supplied us, the lake not
yielding fish at this season. After a short delay at this post, we
sailed through the remainder of Swampy Lake, and slept at the Lower
Portage in Jack River; the distance sailed to-day being sixteen miles
and a half.

  [2] Buffalo-meat, dried and pounded, and mixed with melted fat.

Jack River is only eight miles long; but being full of bad rapids, it
detained us considerably. At seven in the morning of the 24th, we
crossed the Long Portage, where the woods, having caught fire in the
summer, were still smoking. This is a common accident, owing to the
neglect of the Indians and voyagers in not putting out their fires, and
in a dry season the woods may be seen blazing to the extent of many
miles. We afterwards crossed the Second, or Swampy Portage, and in the
evening encamped on the Upper Portage, where we were overtaken by an
Indian bringing an answer from Governor Williams to a letter I had
written to him on the 15th, in which he renewed his injunctions to the
gentlemen of the boats accompanying us, to afford us every assistance in
their power. The Aurora Borealis appeared this evening in form of a
bright arch, extending across the zenith in a N.W. and S.E. direction.
The extent of our voyage to-day was two miles.

About noon, on the 25th, we entered Knee Lake, which has a very
irregular form, and near its middle takes a sudden turn, from whence it
derives its name. It is thickly studded with islands, and its shores are
low and well-wooded. The surrounding country, as far as we could see, is
flat, being destitute even of the moderate elevations which occur near
the upper part of Hill River. The weather was remarkably fine, and the
setting sun threw the richest tints over the scene that I remember ever
to have witnessed.

About half a mile from the bend or _knee_ of the lake, there is a small
rocky islet, composed of magnetic iron ore, which affects the magnetic
needle at a considerable distance. Having received previous information
respecting this circumstance, we watched our compasses carefully, and
perceived that they were affected at the distance of three hundred
yards, both on the approach to and departure from the rock: on
decreasing the distance, they became gradually more and more unsteady,
and on landing they were rendered quite useless; and it was evident that
the general magnetic influence was totally overpowered by the local
attraction of the ore. When Kater's compass was held near to the ground
on the N.W. side of the island, the needle dipped so much that the card
could not be made to traverse by any adjustment of the hand; but on
moving the same compass about thirty yards to the west part of the
islet, the needle became horizontal, traversed freely, and pointed to
the magnetic north. The dipping needle being landed on the S.W. point of
the islet, was adjusted as nearly as possible on the magnetic meridian
by the sun's bearings, and found to vibrate freely, when the face of the
instrument was directed to the east or west. The mean dip it gave was
80° 37' 50". When the instrument was removed from the N.W. to the S.E.
point, about twenty yards distant, and placed on the meridian, the
needle ceased to traverse, but remained steady at an angle of 60°. On
changing the face of the instrument, so as to give a S.E. and N.W.
direction to the needle, it hung vertically. The position of the slaty
strata of the magnetic ore is also vertical. Their direction is
extremely irregular, being much contorted.

Knee Lake towards its upper end becomes narrower, and its rocky shores
are broken into conical and rounded eminences, destitute of soil, and of
course devoid of trees. We slept at the western extremity of the lake,
having come during the day nineteen miles and a half on a S.W. course.

We began the ascent of Trout River early in the morning of the 27th, and
in the course of the day passed three portages and several rapids. At
the first of these portages the river falls between two rocks about
sixteen feet, and it is necessary to launch the boat over a precipitous
rocky bank. This cascade is named the _Trout-Fall_, and the beauty of
the scenery afforded a subject for Mr. Hood's pencil. The rocks which
form the bed of this river are slaty, and present sharp fragments, by
which the feet of the boatmen are much lacerated. The Second Portage, in
particular, obtains the expressive name of _Knife Portage_. The length
of our voyage to-day was three miles.

On the 28th we passed through the remainder of Trout River; and, at
noon, arrived at Oxford House, on Holey Lake. This was formerly a post
of some consequence to the Hudson's Bay Company, but at present it
exhibits unequivocal signs of decay. The Indians have of late years been
gradually deserting the low or swampy country, and ascending the
Saskatchawan, where animals are more abundant. A few Crees were at this
time encamped in front of the fort. They were suffering under
hooping-cough and measles, and looked miserably dejected. We endeavoured
in vain to prevail on one of them to accompany us for the purpose of
killing ducks, which were numerous, but too shy for our sportsmen. We
had the satisfaction, however, of exchanging the mouldy pemmican,
obtained at Swampy Lake, for a better kind, and received, moreover, a
small, but very acceptable, supply of fish. Holey Lake, viewed from an
eminence behind Oxford House, exhibits a pleasing prospect; and its
numerous islands, varying much in shape and elevation, contribute to
break that uniformity of scenery which proves so palling to a traveller
in this country. Trout of a great size, frequently exceeding forty
pounds' weight, abound in this lake. We left Oxford House in the
afternoon, and encamped on an island about eight miles' distant, having
come, during the day, nine miles and a quarter.

At noon, on the 29th, after passing through the remainder of Holey Lake,
we entered the Weepinapannis, a narrow grassy river, which runs parallel
to the lake for a considerable distance, and forms its south bank into a
narrow peninsula. In the morning we arrived at the Swampy Portage, where
two of the boats were broken against the rocks. The length of the day's
voyage was nineteen miles and a half.

In consequence of the accident yesterday evening, we were detained a
considerable time this morning, until the boats were repaired, when we
set out, and, after ascending a strong rapid, arrived at the portage by
John Moore's Island. Here the river rushes with irresistible force
through the channels formed by two rocky islands; and we learned, that
last year a poor man, in hauling a boat up one of these channels, was,
by the breaking of the line, precipitated into the stream and hurried
down the cascade with such rapidity, that all efforts to save him were
ineffectual. His body was afterwards found, and interred near the spot.

The Weepinapannis is composed of several branches which separate and
unite, again and again, intersecting the country in a great variety of
directions. We pursued the principal channel, and having passed the
Crooked Spout, with several inferior rapids, and crossed a small piece
of water, named Windy Lake, we entered a smooth deep stream about three
hundred yards wide, which has got the absurd appellation of the Rabbit
Ground. The marshy banks of this river are skirted by low barren rocks,
behind which there are some groups of stunted trees{9}. As we advanced,
the country becoming flatter, gradually opened to our view, and we at
length arrived at a shallow, reedy lake, the direct course through which
leads to the Hill Portage. This route has, however, of late years been
disused, and we therefore turned towards the north, and crossing a small
arm of the lake, arrived at Hill Gates by sunset; having come this day
eleven miles.

_October 1_.--Hill gates is the name imposed on a romantic defile, whose
rocky walls, rising perpendicularly to the height of sixty or eighty
feet, hem in the stream for three quarters of a mile, in many places so
narrowly, that there is a want of room to ply the oars. In passing
through this chasm we were naturally led to contemplate the mighty but,
probably, slow and gradual effects of the water in wearing down such
vast masses of rock; but in the midst of our speculations, the attention
was excited anew to a grand and picturesque rapid, which, surrounded by
the most wild and majestic scenery, terminated the defile. The brown
fishing-eagle had built its nest on one of the projecting cliffs. In the
course of the day we surmounted this and another dangerous portage,
called, the Upper and Lower Hill Gate Portages, crossed a small sheet of
water, termed the White Fall Lake, and entering the river of the same
name, arrived at the White Fall about an hour after sunset, having come
fourteen miles on a S.W. course.

The whole of the 2d of October was spent in carrying the cargoes over a
portage of thirteen hundred yards in length, and in launching the empty
boats over three several ridges of rock which obstruct the channel and
produce as many cascades. I shall long remember the rude and
characteristic wildness of the scenery which surrounded these falls;
rocks piled on rocks hung in rude and shapeless masses over the agitated
torrents which swept their bases, whilst the bright and variegated tints
of the mosses and lichens, that covered the face of the cliffs,
contrasting with the dark green of the pines which crowned their
summits, added both beauty and grandeur to the scene. Our two
companions, Back and Hood, made accurate sketches of these falls. At
this place we observed a conspicuous _lop-stick_, a kind of land-mark,
which I have not hitherto noticed, notwithstanding its great use in
pointing out the frequented routes. It is a pine-tree divested of its
lower branches, and having only a small tuft at the top remaining. This
operation is usually performed at the instance of some individual
emulous of fame. He treats his companions with rum, and they in return
strip the tree of its branches, and ever after designate it by his name.

In the afternoon, whilst on my way to superintend the operations of the
men, a stratum of loose moss gave way under my feet, and I had the
misfortune to slip from the summit of a rock into the river betwixt two
of the falls. My attempts to regain the bank were, for a time
ineffectual, owing to the rocks within my reach having been worn smooth
by the action of the water; but, after I had been carried a considerable
distance down the stream, I caught hold of a willow, by which I held
until two gentlemen of the Hudson's Bay Company came in a boat to my
assistance. The only bad consequence{10} of this accident was an injury
sustained by a very valuable chronometer, (No. 1733,) belonging to
Daniel Moore, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn. One of the gentlemen to whom I
delivered it immediately on landing, in his agitation let it fall,
whereby the minute-hand was broken, but the works were not in the
smallest degree injured, and the loss of the hand was afterwards

During the night the frost was severe; and at sunrise, on the 3d, the
thermometer stood at 25°. After leaving our encampment at the White
Fall, we passed through several small lakes connected with each other by
narrow deep, grassy streams, and at noon arrived at the Painted Stone.
Numbers of musk-rats frequent these streams; and we observed, in the
course of the morning, many of{11} their mud-houses rising in a conical
form to the height of two or three feet above the grass of the swamps in
which they were built.

The Painted Stone is a low rock, ten or twelve yards across, remarkable
for the marshy streams which arise on each side of it, taking different
courses. On the one side, the water-course which we had navigated from
York Factory commences. This spot may therefore be considered as one of
the smaller sources of Hayes' River. On the other side of the stone the
Echemamis rises, and taking a westerly direction falls into Nelson
River. It is said that there was formerly a stone placed near the centre
of this portage on which figures were annually traced, and offerings
deposited, by the Indians; but the stone has been removed many years,
and the spot has ceased to be held in veneration. Here we were overtaken
by Governor Williams, who left York Factory on the 20th of last month in
an Indian canoe. He expressed much regret at our having been obliged to
leave part of our stores at the Rock depôt, and would have brought them
up with him had he been able to procure and man a boat, or a canoe of
sufficient size.

Having launched the boats over the rock, we commenced the descent of the
Echemamis. This small stream has its course through a morass, and in dry
seasons its channel contains, instead of water, merely a foot or two of
thin mud. On these occasions it is customary to build dams that it may
be rendered navigable by the accumulation of its waters. As the beavers
perform this operation very effectually, endeavours have been made to
encourage them to breed in this place, but it has not hitherto been
possible to restrain the Indians from killing that useful animal
whenever they discover its retreats. On the present occasion there was
no want of water, the principal impediment we experienced being from the
narrowness of the channel, which permitted the willows of each bank to
meet over our heads, and obstruct the men at the oars. After proceeding
down the stream for some time, we came to a recently-constructed
beaver-dam through which an opening was made sufficient to admit the
boat to pass. We were assured that the breach would be closed by the
industrious creature in a single night. We encamped about eight miles
from the source of the river, having come during the day seventeen miles
and a half.

On the 4th we embarked amidst a heavy rain, and pursued our route down
the Echemamis. In many parts the morass, by which the river is
nourished, and through which it flows, is intersected by ridges of rock
which cross the channel, and require the boat to be lifted over them. In
the afternoon we passed through a shallow piece of water overgrown with
bulrushes, and hence named Hairy Lake; and, in the evening, encamped on
the banks of Blackwater Creek, by which this lake empties itself into
Sea River; having come during the day twenty miles and three quarters.

On the morning of the 5th, we entered Sea River, one of the many
branches of Nelson River. It is about four hundred yards wide, and its
waters are of a muddy white colour. After ascending the stream for an
hour or two, and passing through Carpenter's Lake, which is merely an
expansion of the river to about a mile in breadth, we came to the Sea
River Portage, where the boat was launched across a smooth rock, to
avoid a fall of four or five feet. Re-embarking at the upper end of the
portage, we ran before a fresh gale through the remainder of Sea River,
the lower part of Play Green Lake, and entering Little Jack River,
landed and pitched our tents. Here there is a small log-hut, the
residence of a fisherman, who supplies Norway House with trout and
sturgeon. He gave us a few of these fish, which afforded an acceptable
supper. Our voyage this day was thirty-four miles.

_October 6_.--Little Jack River is the name given to a channel that
winds among several large islands which separate Upper and Lower Play
Green Lakes. At the lower end of this channel, Big Jack River, a stream
of considerable magnitude, falls into the lake. Play Green is a
translation of the appellation given to that lake by two bands of
Indians, who met and held a festival on an island situated near its
centre. After leaving our encampment we sailed through Upper Play Green
Lake, and arrived at Norway Point in the forenoon.

The waters of Lake Winipeg, and of the rivers that run into it, the
Saskatchawan in particular, are rendered turbid by the suspension of a
large quantity of white clay. Play Green Lake and Nelson River, being
the discharges of the Winipeg, are equally opaque, a circumstance that
renders the sunken rocks, so frequent in these waters, very dangerous to
boats in a fresh breeze. Owing to this, one of the boats that
accompanied us, sailing at the rate of seven miles an hour, struck upon
one of these rocks. Its mast was carried away by the shock, but
fortunately no other damage sustained. The Indians ascribe the muddiness
of these lakes to an adventure of one of their deities, a mischievous
fellow, a sort of Robin Puck, whom they hold in very little esteem. This
deity, who is named Weesakootchaht, possesses considerable power, but
makes a capricious use of it, and delights in tormenting the poor
Indians. He is not, however, invincible, and was soiled in one of his
attempts by the artifice of an old woman, who succeeded in taking him
captive. She called in all the women of the tribe to aid in his
punishment, and he escaped from their hands in a condition so filthy
that it required all the waters of the Great Lake to wash him clean; and
ever since that period it has been entitled to the appellation of
Winipeg, or Muddy water.

Norway Point forms the extremity of a narrow peninsula which separates
Play Green and Winipeg Lakes. Buildings were first erected here by a
party of Norwegians, who were driven away from the colony at Red River
by the commotions which took place some time ago. It is now a trading
post belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company. On landing at Norway House
we met with Lord Selkirk's colonists, who had started from York Factory
the day before us.--These poor people were exceedingly pleased at
meeting with us again in this wild country; having accompanied them
across the Atlantic, they viewed us in the light of old acquaintances.
This post was under the charge of Mr. James Sutherland, to whom I am
indebted for replacing a minute-hand on the chronometer, which was
broken at the White Fall, and I had afterwards the satisfaction of
finding that it went with extraordinary regularity.

The morning of the 7th October was beautifully clear, and the
observations we obtained place Norway House in latitude 53° 41' 38" N.,
and longitude 98° 1' 24" W.; the variation of the magnetic needle 14°
12' 41" E., and its dip 83° 40' 10". Though our route from York Factory
has rather inclined to the S.W., the dip, it will be perceived, has
gradually increased. The difference produced by reversing the face of
the instrument was 7° 39'. There was too much wind to admit of our
observing, with any degree of accuracy, the quantity of the magnetic

We left Norway House soon after noon, and the wind being favourable,
sailed along the northern shore of Lake Winipeg the whole of the ensuing
night; and on the morning of the 8th landed on a narrow ridge of sand,
which, running out twenty miles to the westward, separates Limestone Bay
from the body of the Lake. When the wind blows hard from the southward,
it is customary to carry boats across this isthmus, and to pull up under
its lee. From Norwegian Point to Limestone Bay the shore consists of
high clay cliffs, against which the waves beat with violence during
strong southerly winds. When the wind blows from the land, and the
waters of the lake are low, a narrow sandy beach is uncovered, and
affords a landing-place for boats. The shores of Limestone Bay are
covered with small fragments of calcareous stones. During the night the
Aurora Borealis was quick in its motions, and various and vivid in its
colours. After breakfasting we re-embarked, and continued our voyage
until three P.M., when a strong westerly wind arising, we were obliged
to shelter ourselves on a small island, which lies near the extremity of
the above-mentioned peninsula. This island is formed of a collection of
small rolled pieces of limestone, and was remembered by some of our
boatmen to have been formerly covered with water. For the last ten or
twelve years the waters of the lake have been low, but our information
did not enable us to judge whether the decrease was merely casual, or
going on continually, or periodical. The distance of this island from
Norway House is thirty-eight miles and a half.

The westerly winds detained us all the morning of the 9th, but, at two
P.M., the wind chopped round to the eastward; we immediately embarked,
and the breeze afterwards freshening, we reached the mouth of the
Saskatchawan at midnight, having run thirty-two miles.

_Sunday, October 10_.--The whole of this day was occupied in getting the
boats from the mouth of the river to the foot of the grand rapid, a
distance of two miles. There are several rapids in this short distance,
during which the river varies its breadth from five hundred yards to
half a mile. Its channel is stony. At the grand rapid, the Saskatchawan
forms a sudden bend, from south to east, and works its way through a
narrow channel, deeply worn into the limestone strata. The stream,
rushing with impetuous force over a rocky and uneven bottom, presents a
sheet of foam, and seems to bear with impatience the straitened
confinement of its lofty banks. A flock of pelicans, and two or three
brown fishing eagles, were fishing in its agitated waters, seemingly
with great success. There is a good sturgeon fishery at the foot of the
rapid. Several golden plovers, Canadian grosbeaks, cross-bills,
wood-peckers, and pin-tailed grouse, were shot to-day; and Mr. Back
killed a small striped marmot. This beautiful little animal was busily
employed in carrying in its distended pouches the seeds of the American
vetch to its winter hoards.

The portage is eighteen hundred yards long, and its western extremity
was found to be in 53° 08' 25" North latitude, and 99° 28' 02" West
longitude. The route from Canada to the Athabasca joins that from York
Factory at the mouth of the Saskatchawan, and we saw traces of a recent
encampment of the Canadian voyagers. Our companions in the Hudson's Bay
boats, dreading an attack from their rivals in trade, were on the alert
at this place. They examined minutely the spot of encampment, to form a
judgment of the number of canoes that had preceded them; and they
advanced, armed, and with great caution, through the woods. Their fears,
however, on this occasion, were fortunately groundless.

By noon, on the 12th, the boats and their cargoes having been conveyed
across the portage, we embarked, and pursued our course. The
Saskatchawan becomes wider above the Grand Rapid, and the scenery
improves. The banks are high, composed of white clay and limestone, and
their summits are richly clothed with a variety of firs, poplars,
birches, and willows. The current runs with great rapidity, and the
channel is in many places intricate and dangerous, from broken ridges of
rock jutting into the stream. We pitched our tents at the entrance of
Cross Lake, having advanced only five miles and a half.

Cross Lake is extensive, running towards the N.E. it is said, for forty
miles. We crossed it at a narrow part, and pulling through several
winding channels, formed by a group of islands, entered Cedar Lake,
which, next to Lake Winipeg, is the largest sheet of fresh water we had
hitherto seen. Ducks and geese resort hither in immense flocks in the
spring and autumn. These birds were now beginning to go off, owing to
its muddy shores having become quite hard through the nightly frosts. At
this place the Aurora Borealis was extremely brilliant in the night, its
coruscations darting, at times, over the whole sky, and assuming various
prismatic tints, of which the violet and yellow were predominant.

After pulling, on the 14th, seven miles and a quarter on the lake, a
violent wind drove us for shelter to a small island, or rather a ridge
of rolled stones, thrown up by the frequent storms which agitate this
lake. The weather did not moderate the whole day, and we were obliged to
pass the night on this exposed spot. The delay, however, enabled us to
obtain some lunar observations. The wind having subsided, we left our
resting-place the following morning, crossed the remainder of the lake,
and in the afternoon, arrived at Muddy Lake, which is very
appropriately named, as it consists merely of a few channels, winding
amongst extensive mud banks, which are overflowed during the spring
floods. We landed at an Indian tent, which contained two numerous
families, amounting to thirty souls. These poor creatures were badly
clothed, and reduced to a miserable condition by the hooping-cough and
measles. At the time of our arrival they were busy in preparing a
sweating-house for the sick. This is a remedy which they consider, with
the addition of singing and drumming, to be the grand specific for all
diseases. Our companions having obtained some geese, in exchange for rum
and tobacco, we proceeded a few more miles, and encamped on Devil's Drum
Island, having come, during the day, twenty miles and a half. A second
party of Indians were encamped on an adjoining island, a situation
chosen for the purpose of killing geese and ducks.

On the 16th we proceeded eighteen miles up the Saskatchawan. Its banks
are low, covered with willows, and lined with drift timber. The
surrounding country is swampy and intersected by the numerous arms of
the river. After passing for twenty or thirty yards through the willow
thicket on the banks of the stream, we entered an extensive marsh,
varied only by a distant line of willows, which marks the course of a
creek or branch of the river. The branch we navigated to-day, is almost
five hundred yards wide. The exhalations from the marshy soil produced a
low fog, although the sky above was perfectly clear. In the course of
the day we passed an Indian encampment of three tents, whose inmates
appeared to be in a still more miserable condition than those we saw
yesterday. They had just finished the ceremony of conjuration over some
of their sick companions; and a dog, which had been recently killed as a
sacrifice to some deity, was hanging to a tree where it would be left (I
was told) when they moved their encampment.

We continued our voyage up the river to the 20th with little variation
of scenery or incident, travelling in that time about thirty miles. The
near approach of winter was marked by severe frosts, which continued all
day unless when the sun chanced to be unusually bright, and the geese
and ducks were observed to take a southerly course in large flocks. On
the morning of the 20th we came to a party of Indians, encamped behind
the bank of the river on the borders of a small marshy lake, for the
purpose of killing water-fowl. Here we were gratified with the view of
a very large tent. Its length was about forty feet, its breadth
eighteen, and its covering was moose deer leather, with apertures for
the escape of the smoke from the fires which are placed at each end; a
ledge of wood was placed on the ground on both sides the whole length of
the tent, within which were the sleeping-places, arranged probably
according to families; and the drums and other instruments of
enchantment were piled up in the centre. Amongst the Indians there were
a great many half-breeds, who led an Indian life. Governor Williams gave
a dram and a piece of tobacco to each of the males of the party.

On the morning of the 21st a heavy fall of snow took place, which lasted
until two in the afternoon. In the evening we left the Saskatchawan, and
entered the Little River, one of the two streams by which Pine Island
Lake discharges its waters. We advanced to-day fourteen miles and a
quarter. On the 22d the weather was extremely cold and stormy, and we
had to contend against a strong head wind. The spray froze as it fell,
and the oars were so loaded with ice as to be almost unmanageable. The
length of our voyage this day was eleven miles.

The following morning was very cold; we embarked at day-light, and
pulled across a part of Pine Island Lake, about three miles and a half
to Cumberland House. The margin of the lake was so incrusted with ice,
that we had to break through a considerable space of it to approach the
landing-place. When we considered that this was the effect of only a few
days' frost at the commencement of winter, we were convinced of the
impractibility of advancing further by water this season, and therefore
resolved on accepting Governor Williams's kind invitation to remain with
him at this post. We immediately visited Mr. Connolly, the resident
partner of the North-West Company, and presented to him Mr. Mac
Gillivray's circular letter. He assured us that he should be most
desirous to forward our progress by every means in his power, and we
subsequently had ample proofs of his sincerity and kindness. The
unexpected addition of our party to the winter residents at this post,
rendered an increase of apartments necessary; and our men were
immediately appointed to complete and arrange an unfinished building as
speedily as possible.

_November 8_.--Some mild weather succeeded to the severe frosts we had
at our arrival; and the lake had not been entirely frozen before the
6th; but this morning the ice was sufficiently firm to admit of sledges
crossing it. The dogs were harnessed at a very early hour, and the
winter operations commenced by sending for a supply of fish from Swampy
River, where men had been stationed to collect it, just before the frost
set in. Both men and dogs appeared to enjoy the change; they started in
full glee, and drove rapidly along. An Indian, who had come to the house
on the preceding evening to request some provision for his family, whom
he represented to be in a state of starvation, accompanied them. His
party had been suffering greatly under the epidemic diseases of
hooping-cough and measles; and the hunters were still in too debilitated
a state to go out and provide them with meat. A supply was given to him,
and the men were directed to bring his father, an old and faithful
hunter, to the house, that he might have the comforts of nourishment and
warmth. He was brought accordingly, but these attentions were unavailing
as he died a few days afterwards. Two days before his death I was
surprised to observe him sitting for nearly three hours, in a piercingly
sharp day, in the saw-pit, employed in gathering the dust, and throwing
it by handfuls over his body, which was naked to the waist. As the man
was in possession of his mental faculties, I conceived he was performing
some devotional act preparatory to his departure, which he felt to be
approaching, and induced by the novelty of the incident, I went twice
to observe him more closely; but when he perceived that he was noticed,
he immediately ceased his operation, hung down his head, and by his
demeanour, intimated that he considered my appearance an intrusion. The
residents at the fort could give me no information on the subject, and I
could not learn that the Indians in general observe any particular
ceremony on the approach of death.

_November 15_.--The sky had been overcast during the last week; the sun
shone forth once only, and then not sufficiently for the purpose of
obtaining observations. Faint coruscations of the Aurora Borealis
appeared one evening, but their presence did not in the least affect the
electrometer or the compass. The ice daily became thicker in the lake,
and the frost had now nearly overpowered the rapid current of the
Saskatchawan River; indeed, parties of men who were sent from both the
forts to search for the Indians, and procure whatever skins and
provisions they might have collected, crossed that stream this day on
the ice. The white partridges made their first appearance near the
house, which birds are considered as the infallible harbingers of severe

_Monday, November 22_.--The Saskatchawan, and every other river, were
now completely covered with ice, except a small stream not far from the
fort through which the current ran very powerfully. In the course of the
week we removed into the house our men had prepared since our arrival.
We found it at first extremely cold notwithstanding that a good fire was
kept in each apartment, and we frequently experienced the extremes of
heat and cold on opposite sides of the body.

_November 24_.--We obtained observations for the dip of the needle and
intensity of the magnetic force in a spare room. The dip was 83° 9' 45",
and the difference produced by reversing the face of the instrument 13°
3' 6". When the needle was faced to the west it hung nearly
perpendicular. The Aurora Borealis had been faintly visible for a short
time the preceding evening. Some Indians arrived in search of provision,
having been totally incapacitated from hunting by sickness; the poor
creatures looked miserably ill, and they represented their distress to
have been extreme. Few recitals are more affecting than those of their
sufferings during unfavourable seasons, and in bad situations for
hunting and fishing. Many assurances have been given me that men and
women are yet living who have been reduced to feed upon the bodies of
their own family, to prevent actual starvation; and a shocking case was
cited to us of a woman who had been principal agent in the destruction
of several persons, and amongst the number her husband and nearest
relatives, in order to support life.

_November 28_.--The atmosphere had been clear every day during the last
week, about the end of which snow fell, when the thermometer rose from
20° below to 16° above zero. The Aurora Borealis was twice visible, but
faint on both occasions. Its appearance did not affect the electrometer,
nor could we perceive the compass to be disturbed.

The men brought supplies of moose meat from the hunter's tent, which is
pitched near the Basquiau Hill, forty or fifty miles from the house, and
whence the greatest part of the meat is procured. The residents have to
send nearly the same distance for their fish, and on this service
horse-sledges are used. Nets are daily set in Pine Island Lake which
occasionally procure some fine sturgeon, tittameg, and trout, but not
more than sufficient to supply the officers' table.

_December 1_.--This day was so remarkably fine, that we procured another
set of observations for the dip of the needle in the open air; the
instrument being placed firmly on a rock, the results gave 83° 14'
22".{12} The change produced by reversing the face of the instrument,
was 12° 50' 55".

There had been a determined thaw during the last three days. The ice on
the Saskatchawan River and some parts of the lake, broke up, and the
travelling across either became dangerous. On this account the absence
of Wilks, one of our men, caused no small anxiety. He had incautiously
undertaken the conduct of a sledge and dogs, in company with a person,
going to Swampy River for fish. On their return, being unaccustomed to
driving, he became fatigued, and seated himself on his sledge, where his
companion left him, presuming that he would soon rise and hasten to
follow his track. He however returned safe in the morning, and reported
that, foreseeing night would set in before he could get across the lake,
he prudently retired into the woods before dark, where he remained until
day-light; when the men, who had been despatched to look for him, met
him returning to the house, shivering with cold, he having been
unprovided with the materials for lighting a fire; which an experienced
voyager never neglects to carry.

We had mild weather until the 20th of December. On the 13th there had
been a decided thaw, that caused the Saskatchawan, which had again
frozen, to re-open, and the passage across it was interrupted for two
days. We now received more agreeable accounts from the Indians, who were
recovering strength, and beginning to hunt a little; but it was
generally feared that their spirits had been so much depressed by the
loss of their children and relatives, that the season would be far
advanced before they could be roused to any exertion in searching for
animals beyond what might be necessary for their own support. It is much
to be regretted that these poor men, during their long intercourse with
Europeans, have not been taught how pernicious is the grief which
produces total inactivity, and that they have not been furnished with
any of the consolations which the Christian religion never fails to
afford. This, however, could hardly have been expected from persons who
have permitted their own offspring, the half-casts, to remain in
lamentable ignorance on a subject of such vital importance. It is
probable, however, that an improvement will soon take place among the
latter class, as Governor Williams proposes to make the children attend
a Sunday school, and has already begun to have divine service performed
at his post.

The conversations which I had with the gentlemen in charge of these
posts, convinced me of the necessity of proceeding during the winter
into the Athabasca department, the residents of which are best
acquainted with the nature and resources of the country to the north of
the Great Slave Lake; and whence only guides, hunters, and interpreters
can be procured. I had previously written to the partners of the
North-West Company in that quarter, requesting their assistance in
forwarding the Expedition, and stating what we should require. But, on
reflecting upon the accidents that might delay these letters on the
road, I determined on proceeding to the Athabasca as soon as I possibly
could, and communicated my intention to Governor Williams and Mr.
Connolly, with a request that I might be furnished, by the middle of
January, with the means of conveyance for three persons, intending that
Mr. Back and Hepburn should accompany me, whilst Dr. Richardson and Mr.
Hood remained till the spring at Cumberland House.

After the 20th of December the weather{13} became cold, the thermometer
constantly below zero. Christmas-day was particularly stormy; but the
gale did not prevent the full enjoyment of the festivities which are
annually given at Cumberland House on this day. All the men who had been
despatched to different parts in search of provision or furs returned to
the fort on the occasion, and were regaled with a substantial dinner and
a dance in the evening.

1820. Jan. 1.

The new year was ushered in by repeated discharges of musketry; a
ceremony which has been observed by the men of both the trading
Companies for many years. Our party dined with Mr. Connolly, and were
treated with a beaver, which we found extremely delicate. In the evening
his voyagers were entertained with a dance, in which the Canadians
exhibited some grace and much agility; and they contrived to infuse some
portion of their activity and spirits into the steps of their female
companions. The half-breed women are passionately fond of this
amusement, but a stranger would imagine the contrary on witnessing their
apparent want of animation. On such occasions they affect a sobriety of
demeanour which I understand to be very opposite to their general

_January 10_.--This day I wrote to Governor Williams and Mr. Connolly,
requesting them to prepare two canoes, with crews and appointments, for
the conveyance of Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood, with our stores to
Chipewyan as soon as the navigation should open and had the
satisfaction of receiving from both these gentlemen renewed assurances
of their desire to promote the objects of the Expedition. I conceived it
to be necessary, previous to my departure, to make some arrangement
respecting the men who were engaged at Stromness. Only one of them was
disposed to extend his engagement, and proceed beyond the Athabasca
Lake; and, as there was much uncertainty whether the remaining three
could get from the Athabasca to York Factory sufficiently early to
secure them a passage in the next Hudson's Bay ship, I resolved not to
take them forward, unless Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood should fail in
procuring other men from these establishments next spring, but to
despatch them down to York to bring up our stores to this place: after
which they might return to the coast in time to secure their passage in
the first ship.

I delivered to Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood a memorandum, containing the
arrangements which had been made with the two Companies, respecting
their being forwarded in the spring, and some other points of
instruction for their guidance in my absence; together with directions
to forward the map of our route which had been finished, since our
arrival, by Mr. Hood, the drawings and the collections of natural
history, by the first opportunity to York Factory, for conveyance to

  [3] As Samuel Wilks, who had accompanied the Expedition from England,
      proved to be quite unequal to the fatigue of the journey, I
      directed him to be discharged in the spring, and sent to England
      by the next ship.

The houses of the two Companies, at this post are situated close to each
other, at the upper extremity of a narrow island, which separates Pine
Island Lake from the Saskatchawan River, and are about two miles and
three quarters from the latter in a northern direction. They are
log-houses, built without much regard to comfort, surrounded by lofty
stockades, and flanked with wooden bastions. The difficulty of conveying
glass into the interior has precluded its use in the windows, where its
place is poorly supplied by parchment, imperfectly made by the native
women from the skin of the rein-deer. Should this post, however,
continue to be the residence of Governor Williams, it will be much
improved in a few years, as he is devoting his attention to that point.
The land around Cumberland House is low, but the soil, from having a
considerable intermixture of limestone, is good, and capable of
producing abundance of corn, and vegetables of every description. Many
kinds of pot-herbs have already been brought to some perfection, and
the potatoes bid fair to equal those of England. The spontaneous
productions of nature would afford ample nourishment for all the
European animals. Horses feed extremely well even during the winter, and
so would oxen if provided with hay, which might be easily done[4]. Pigs
also improve, but require to be kept warm in the winter. Hence it
appears, that the residents might easily render themselves far less
dependent{14} on the Indians for support, and be relieved from the great
anxiety which they too often suffer when the hunters are unsuccessful.
The neighbourhood of the houses has been much cleared of wood, from the
great demand for fuel; there is, therefore, little to admire in the
surrounding scenery, especially in its winter garb; few animated objects
occur to enliven the scene; an occasional fox, marten, rabbit, or wolf,
and a few birds, contribute the only variety. The birds which remained
were ravens, magpies, partridges, cross bills, and woodpeckers. In this
universal stillness, the residents at a post feel little disposed to
wander abroad, except when called forth by their occupations; and as
ours were of a kind best performed in a warm room, we imperceptibly
acquired a sedentary habit. In going out, however, we never suffered the
slightest inconvenience from the change of temperature, though the
thermometer, in the open air, stood occasionally thirty degrees below

  [4] "The wild buffalo scrapes away the snow with its feet to get at
      the herbage beneath, and the horse, which was introduced by the
      Spanish invaders of Mexico, and may be said to have become
      naturalized, does the same; but it is worthy of remark, that the
      ox more lately brought from Europe, has not yet acquired an art so
      necessary for procuring its food."--(Extract from Dr. Richardson's

The tribe of Indians, who reside in the vicinity, and frequent these
establishments, is that of the Crees, or Knisteneaux. They were formerly
a powerful and numerous nation, which ranged over a very extensive
country, and were very successful in their predatory excursions against
their neighbours, particularly the northern Indians, and some tribes on
the Saskatchawan and Beaver Rivers; but they have long ceased to be held
in any fear, and are now perhaps, the most harmless and inoffensive of
the whole Indian race. This change is entirely to be attributed to their
intercourse with Europeans; and the vast reduction in their numbers
occasioned, I fear, principally, by the injudicious introduction of
ardent spirits. They are so passionately fond of this poison, that they
will make any sacrifice to obtain it. They are good hunters, and in
general active. Having laid the bow and arrow altogether aside, and the
use of snares, except for rabbits and partridges, they depend entirely
on the Europeans for the means of gaining subsistence, as they require
guns, and a constant supply of powder and shot; so that these Indians
are probably more completely under the power of the trader than any of
the other tribes. As I only saw a few straggling parties of them during
short intervals, and under unfavourable circumstances of sickness and
famine, I am unable to give, from personal observation, any detail of
their manners and customs; and must refer the reader, to Dr.
Richardson's account of them, in the following chapter. That gentleman,
during his longer residence at the post, had many opportunities of
seeing them, and acquiring their language.

_January 17_.--This morning the sporting part of our society had rather
a novel diversion: intelligence having been brought that a wolf had
borne away a steel trap, in which he had been caught, a party went in
search of the marauder, and took two English bull dogs and a terrier,
which had been brought into the country this season. On the first sight
of the animal the dogs became alarmed, and stood barking at a distance,
and probably would not have ventured to advance, had they not seen the
wolf fall by a shot from one of the gentlemen; they then, however, went
up, and behaved courageously, and were enraged by the bites they
received. The wolf soon died of its wounds, and the body was brought to
the house, where a drawing of it was taken by Mr. Hood, and the skin
preserved by Dr. Richardson. Its general features bore a strong
resemblance to many of the dogs about the fort, but it was larger and
had a more ferocious aspect. Mr. Back and I were too much occupied in
preparing for our departure on the following day to join this excursion.

The position of Cumberland House, by our observations, is, latitude 53°
56' 40" N.; longitude 102° 16' 41" W., by the chronometers; variations
17° 17' 29" E.; dip of the needle, 83° 12' 50". The whole of the
travelling distance between York Factory and Cumberland House is about
six hundred and ninety miles.


     Dr. Richardson's Residence at Cumberland House--His Account of the
     Cree Indians.

1820. January 19.

From the departure of Messrs. Franklin and Back, on the 19th of January,
for Chipewyan, until the opening of the navigation in the spring, the
occurrences connected with the Expedition were so much in the ordinary
routine of a winter's residence at Fort Cumberland, that they may be,
perhaps, appropriately blended with the following general but brief
account of that district and its inhabitants.

Cumberland House was originally built by Hearne, a year or two after his
return from the Copper-Mine{15} River, and has ever since been
considered by the Hudson's Bay Company as a post of considerable
importance. Previous to that time, the natives carried their furs down
to the shores of Hudson's Bay, or disposed of them nearer home to the
French Canadian traders, who visited this part of the country as early
as the year 1697.

The Cumberland House district, extending about one hundred and fifty
miles from east to west along the banks of the Saskatchawan, and about
as far from north to south, comprehends, on a rough calculation, upwards
of twenty thousand square miles, and is frequented at present by about
one hundred and twenty Indian hunters. Of these a few have several
wives, but the majority only one; and, as some are unmarried, we shall
not err greatly in considering the number of married women as only
slightly exceeding that of the hunters. The women marry very young, have
a custom of suckling their children for several years, and are besides
exposed constantly to fatigue and often to famine; hence they are not
prolific, bearing upon an average not more than four children, of whom
two may attain the age of puberty. Upon these data, the amount of each
family may be stated at five, and the whole Indian population in the
district at five hundred.

This is but a small population for such an extent of country, yet their
mode of life occasionally subjects them to great privations. The winter
of our residence at Cumberland House proved extremely severe to the
Indians. The hooping-cough made its appearance amongst them in the
autumn, and was followed by the measles, which in the course of the
winter spread through the tribe. Many died, and most of the survivors
were so enfeebled as to be unable to pursue the necessary avocations of
hunting and fishing. Even those who experienced only a slight attack, or
escaped the sickness altogether, dispirited by the scenes of misery
which environed them, were rendered incapable of affording relief to
their distressed relations, and spent their time in conjuring and
drumming to avert the pestilence. Those who were able came to the fort
and received relief, but many who had retired with their families to
distant corners, to pursue their winter hunts, experienced all the
horrors of famine. One evening, early in the month of January, a poor
Indian entered the North-West Company's House, carrying his only child
in his arms, and followed by his starving wife. They had been hunting
apart from the other bands, had been unsuccessful, and whilst in want
were seized with the epidemical disease. An Indian is accustomed to
starve, and it is not easy to elicit from him an account of his
sufferings. This poor man's story was very brief; as soon as the fever
abated, he set out with his wife for Cumberland House, having been
previously reduced to feed on the bits of skin and offal, which remained
about their encampment. Even this miserable fare was exhausted, and they
walked several days without eating, yet exerting themselves far beyond
their strength that they might save the life of the infant. It died
almost within sight of the house. Mr. Connolly, who was then in charge
of the post, received them with the utmost humanity, and instantly
placed food before them; but no language can describe the manner in
which the miserable father dashed the morsel from his lips and deplored
the loss of his child. Misery may harden a disposition naturally bad,
but it never fails to soften the heart of a good man.

The _origin_ of the Crees, to which nation the Cumberland House Indians
belong, is, like that of the other Aborigines of America, involved in
obscurity; but the researches now making into the nature and affinities
of the languages spoken by the different Indian tribes, may eventually
throw some light on the subject. Indeed, the American philologists seem
to have succeeded already in classing the known dialects into three
languages:--1st. The Floridean, spoken by the Creeks, Chickesaws,
Choctaws, Cherokees, Pascagoulas, and some other tribes, who inhabit the
southern parts of the United States. 2d. The Iroquois, spoken by the
Mengwe, or Six Nations, the Wyandots, the Nadowessies, and
Asseeneepoytuck. 3d. The Lenni-lenapè, spoken by a great family more
widely spread than the other two, and from which, together with a vast
number of other tribes, are sprung our Crees. Mr. Heckewelder, a
missionary, who resided long amongst these people, and from whose paper,
(published in the _Transactions of the American Philosophical Society_,)
the above classification is taken, states that the Lenapè have a
tradition amongst them, of their ancestors having come from the
westward, and taken possession of the whole country from the Missouri to
the Atlantic, after driving away or destroying the original inhabitants
of the land, whom they termed Alligewi. In this migration and contest,
which endured for a series of years, the Mengwe, or Iroquois, kept pace
with them, moving in a parallel but more northerly line, and finally
settling on the banks of the St. Lawrence, and the great lakes from
whence it flows. The Lenapè, being more numerous, peopled not only the
greater part of the country at present occupied by the United States,
but also sent detachments to the northward as far as the banks of the
River Mississippi{16} and the shores of Hudson's Bay. The principal of
their northern tribes are now known under the names of Saulteurs or
Chippeways, and Crees; the former inhabiting the country betwixt Lakes
Winipeg and Superior, the latter frequenting the shores of Hudson's Bay,
from Moose to Churchill, and the country from thence as far to the
westward as the plains which lie betwixt the forks of the Saskatchawan.

These Crees, formerly known by the French Canadian traders under the
appellation of Knisteneaux, generally designate themselves as
Eithinyoowuc (_men_), or, when they wish to discriminate themselves from
the other Indian nations, as Nathehwy-withinyoowuc (_Southern-men_)[5].

  [5] Much confusion has arisen from the great variety of names, applied
      without discrimination to the various tribes of Saulteurs and
      Crees. Heckewelder considers the Crees of Moose Factory to be a
      branch of that tribe of the Lenapè, which is named Minsi, or Wolf
      Tribe. He has been led to form this opinion, from the similarity
      of the name given to these people by Monsieur Jeremie, namely,
      Monsonies; but the truth is, that their real name is
      Mongsoa-eythinyoowuc, or Moose-deer Indians; hence the name of the
      factory and river on which it is built. The name Knisteneaux,
      Kristeneaux, or Killisteneaux, was anciently applied to a tribe of
      Crees, now termed Maskegons, who inhabit the river Winipeg. This
      small tribe still retains the peculiarities of customs and dress,
      for which it was remarkable many years ago, as mentioned by Mr.
      Henry, in the interesting account of his journeys in these
      countries. They are said to be great rascals. The great body of
      the Crees were at that time named Opimmitish Ininiwuc, or Men of
      the Woods. It would, however, be an endless task to attempt to
      determine the precise people designated by the early French
      writers. Every small band, naming itself from its hunting-grounds,
      was described as a different nation. The Chippeways who frequented
      the Lake of the Woods were named from a particular act of
      pillage--Pilliers, or Robbers: and the name Saulteurs, applied to
      a principal band that frequented the Sault St. Marie, has been by
      degrees extended to the whole tribe. It is frequently pronounced
      and written _Sotoos_.

The original character of the Crees must have been much modified by
their long intercourse with Europeans; hence it is to be understood,
that we confine ourselves in the following sketch to their present
condition, and more particularly to the Crees of Cumberland House. The
moral character of a hunter is acted upon by the nature of the land he
inhabits, the abundance or scarcity of food, and we may add, in the
present case, his means of access to spirituous liquors. In a country so
various in these respects as that inhabited by the Crees, the causes
alluded to must operate strongly in producing a considerable difference
of character amongst the various hordes. It may be proper to bear in
mind also, that we are about to draw the character of a people whose
only rule of conduct is public opinion, and to try them by a morality
founded on divine revelation, the only standard that can be referred to
by those who have been educated in a land to which the blessings of the
Gospel have extended.

Bearing these considerations in mind then, we may state the Crees to be
a vain, fickle, improvident, and indolent race, and not very strict in
their adherence to truth, being great boasters; but, on the other hand,
they strictly regard the rights of property[6], are susceptible of the
kinder affections, capable of friendship, very hospitable, tolerably
kind to their women, and withal inclined to peace.

  [6] This is, perhaps, true of the Cumberland House Crees alone: many
      of the other tribes of Crees are stated by the traders to be

Much of the faulty part of their character, no doubt, originates in
their mode of life; accustomed as a hunter to depend greatly on chance
for his subsistence, the Cree takes little thought of to-morrow; and the
most offensive part of his behaviour--the habit of boasting--has been
probably assumed as a necessary part of his armour, which operates upon
the fears of his enemies. They are countenanced, however, in this
failing, by the practice of the ancient Greeks, and perhaps by that of
every other nation in its ruder state. Every Cree fears the medical or
conjuring powers of his neighbour; but at the same time exalts his own
attainments to the skies. "I am God-like," is a common expression
amongst them, and they prove their divinity-ship by eating live coals,
and by various tricks of a similar nature. A medicine bag is an
indispensable part of a hunter's equipment. It is generally furnished
with a little bit of indigo, blue vitriol, vermilion, or some other
showy article; and is, when in the hands of a noted conjurer, such an
object of terror to the rest of the tribe, that its possessor is
enabled to fatten at his ease upon the labours of his deluded

A fellow of this description came to Cumberland House in the winter of
1819. Notwithstanding the then miserable state of the Indians, the
rapacity of this wretch had been preying upon their necessities, and a
poor hunter was actually at the moment pining away under the influence
of his threats. The mighty conjurer, immediately on his arrival at the
House, began to trumpet forth his powers, boasting, among other things,
that although his hands and feet were tied as securely as possible, yet
when placed in a conjuring-house, he would speedily disengage himself by
the aid of two or three familiar spirits, who were attendant on his
call. He was instantly taken at his word; and that his exertions might
not be without an aim, a _capot_ or great coat was promised as the
reward of his success. A conjuring-house having been erected in the
usual form, that is, by sticking four willows in the ground and tying
their tops to a hoop at the height of six or eight feet, he was fettered
completely by winding several fathoms of rope round his body and
extremities, and placed in its narrow apartment, not exceeding two feet
in diameter. A moose-skin being then thrown over the frame, secluded him
from our view. He forthwith began to chant a kind of hymn in a very
monotonous tone. The rest of the Indians, who seemed in some doubt
respecting the powers of a devil when put in competition with those of a
white man, ranged themselves around and watched the result with anxiety.
Nothing remarkable occurred for a long time. The conjurer continued his
song at intervals, and it was occasionally taken up by those without. In
this manner an hour and a half elapsed; but at length our attention,
which had begun to flag, was roused by the violent shaking of the
conjuring-house. It was instantly whispered round the circle, that at
least one devil had crept under the moose-skin. But it proved to be only
the "God-like man" trembling with cold. He had entered the lists, stript
to the skin, and the thermometer stood very low that evening. His
attempts were continued, however, with considerable resolution for half
an hour longer, when he reluctantly gave in. He had found no difficulty
in slipping through the noose when it was formed by his countrymen; but,
in the present instance, the knot was tied by Governor Williams, who is
an expert sailor. After this unsuccessful exhibition his credit sunk
amazingly, and he took the earliest opportunity of sneaking away from
the fort.

About two years ago a conjurer paid more dearly for his temerity. In a
quarrel with an Indian he threw out some obscure threats of vengeance
which passed unnoticed at the time, but were afterwards remembered. They
met in the spring at Carlton House, after passing the winter in
different parts of the country, during which the Indian's child died.
The conjurer had the folly to boast that he had caused its death, and
the enraged father shot him dead on the spot. It may be remarked,
however, that both these Indians were inhabitants of the plains, and had
been taught, by their intercourse with the turbulent Stone Indians, to
set but comparatively little value on the life of a man.

It might be thought that the Crees have benefited by their long
intercourse with civilized nations. That this is not so much the case as
it ought to be, is not entirely their own fault. They are capable of
being, and I believe willing to be, taught; but no pains have hitherto
been taken to inform their minds[7], and their white acquaintances seem
in general to find it easier to descend to the Indian customs, and
modes of thinking, particularly with respect to women, than to attempt
to raise the Indians to theirs. Indeed such a lamentable want of
morality has been displayed by the white traders in their contests for
the interests of their respective companies, that it would require a
long series of good conduct to efface from the minds of the native
population the ideas they have formed of the white character.
Notwithstanding the frequent violations of the rights of property they
have witnessed, and but too often experienced, in their own persons,
these savages, as they are termed, remain strictly honest. During their
visits to a post, they are suffered to enter every apartment in the
house, without the least restraint, and although articles of value to
them are scattered about, nothing is ever missed. They scrupulously
avoid moving any thing from its place, although they are often prompted
by curiosity to examine it. In some cases, indeed, they carry this
principle to a degree of self-denial which would hardly be expected. It
often happens that meat, which has been paid for, (if the poisonous
draught it procures them can be considered as payment,) is left at their
lodges until a convenient opportunity occurs of carrying it away. They
will rather pass several days without eating than touch the meat thus
intrusted to their charge, even when there exists a prospect of
replacing it.

  [7] Since these remarks were written the union of the rival companies
      has enabled the gentlemen, who have now the management of the fur
      trade, to take some decided steps for the religious instruction
      and improvement of the natives and half-breed Indians, which have
      been more particularly referred to in the introduction.

The hospitality of the Crees is unbounded. They afford a certain asylum
to the half-breed children when deserted by their unnatural white
fathers; and the infirm, and indeed every individual in an encampment,
share the provisions of a successful hunter as long as they last. Fond
too as a Cree is of spirituous liquors, he is not happy unless all his
neighbours partake with him. It is not easy, however, to say what share
ostentation may have in the apparent munificence in the latter article;
for when an Indian, by a good hunt, is enabled to treat the others with
a keg of rum, he becomes the chief of a night, assumes no little
stateliness of manner, and is treated with deference by those who regale
at his expense. Prompted also by the desire of gaining a _name_, they
lavish away the articles they purchase at the trading posts, and are
well satisfied if repaid in praise.

Gaming is not uncommon amongst the Crees of all the different districts,
but it is pursued to greater lengths by those bands who frequent the
plains, and who, from the ease with which they obtain food, have
abundant leisure. The game most in use amongst them, termed _puckesann_,
is played with the stones of a species of _prunus_ which, from this
circumstance, they term _puckesann-meena_. The difficulty lies in
guessing the number of stones which are tossed out of a small wooden
dish, and the hunters will spend whole nights at the destructive sport,
staking their most valuable articles, powder and shot.

It has been remarked by some writers that the aboriginal inhabitants of
America are deficient in passion for the fair sex. This is by no means
the case with the Crees; on the contrary, their practice of seducing
each other's wives, proves the most fertile source of their quarrels.
When the guilty pair are detected, the woman generally receives a severe
beating, but the husband is, for the most part, afraid to reproach the
male culprit until they get drunk together at the fort; then the
remembrance of the offence is revived, a struggle ensues, and the affair
is terminated by the loss of a few handfuls of hair. Some husbands,
however, feel more deeply the injury done to their honour, and seek
revenge even in their sober moments. In such cases it is not uncommon
for the offended party to walk with great gravity up to the other, and
deliberately seizing his gun, or some other article of value to break it
before his face. The adulterer looks on in silence, afraid to make any
attempt to save his property. In this respect, indeed, the Indian
character seems to differ from the European, that an Indian, instead of
letting his anger increase with that of his antagonist, assumes the
utmost coolness, lest he should push him to extremities.

Although adultery is sometimes punished amongst the Crees in the manner
above described, yet it is no crime, provided the husband receives a
valuable consideration for his wife's prostitution. Neither is chastity
considered as a virtue in a female before marriage, that is, before she
becomes the exclusive property of one hunter.

The Cree women are not in general treated harshly by their husbands, and
possess considerable influence over them. They often eat, and even get
drunk, in consort with the men; a considerable portion of the labour,
however, falls to the lot of the wife. She makes the hut, cooks, dresses
the skins, and for the most part, carries the heaviest load: but, when
she is unable to perform her task, the husband does not consider it
beneath his dignity to assist her. In illustration of this remark, I may
quote the case of an Indian who visited the fort in winter. This poor
man's wife had lost her feet by the frost, and he was compelled, not
only to hunt, and do all the menial offices himself, but in winter to
drag his wife with their stock of furniture from one encampment to
another. In the performance of this duty, as he could not keep pace with
the rest of the tribe in their movements, he more than once nearly
perished of hunger.

These Indians, however, capable as they are of behaving thus kindly,
affect in their discourse to despise the softer sex, and on solemn
occasions, will not suffer them to eat before them, or even come into
their presence. In this they are countenanced by the white residents,
most of whom have Indian or half-breed wives, but seem afraid of
treating them with the tenderness or attention due to every female, lest
they should themselves be despised by the Indians. At least, this is the
only reason they assign for their neglect of those whom they make
partners of their beds and mothers of their children.

Both sexes are fond of, and excessively indulgent to, their children.
The father never punishes them, and if the mother, more hasty in her
temper, sometimes bestows a blow or two on a troublesome child, her
heart is instantly softened by the roar which follows, and she mingles
her tears with those that streak the smoky face of her darling. It may
be fairly said, then, that restraint or punishment forms no part of the
education of an Indian child, nor are they early trained to that
command over their temper which they exhibit in after years.

The discourse of the parents is never restrained by the presence of
their children, every transaction between the sexes being openly talked
of before them.

The Crees having early obtained arms from the European traders, were
enabled to make harassing inroads on the lands of their neighbours, and
are known to have made war excursions as far to the westward as the
Rocky Mountains, and to the northward as far as Mackenzie's{17} River;
but their enemies being now as well armed as themselves, the case is
much altered.

They shew great fortitude in the endurance of hunger, and the other
evils incident to a hunter's life; but any unusual accident dispirits
them at once, and they seldom venture to meet their enemies in open
warfare, or to attack them even by surprise, unless with the advantage
of superiority of numbers. Perhaps they are much deteriorated in this
respect by their intercourse with Europeans. Their existence at present
hangs upon the supplies of ammunition and clothing they receive from the
traders, and they deeply feel their dependent{18} situation. But their
character has been still more debased by the passion for spirituous
liquors, so assiduously fostered among them. To obtain the noxious
beverage, they descend to the most humiliating entreaties, and assume an
abjectness of behaviour which does not seem natural to them, and of
which not a vestige is to be seen in their intercourse with each other.
Their character has sunk among the neighbouring nations. They are no
longer the warriors who drove before them the inhabitants of the
Saskatchawan, and Missinippi. The Cumberland House Crees, in particular,
have been long disused to war. Betwixt them and their ancient enemies,
the Slave nations, lie the extensive plains of Saskatchawan, inhabited
by the powerful Asseeneepoytuck, or Stone Indians, who having whilst yet
a small tribe, entered the country under the patronage of the Crees, now
render back the protection they received.

The manners and customs of the Crees have, probably since their
acquaintance with Europeans, undergone a change, at least, equal to that
which has taken place in their moral character; and, although we heard
of many practices peculiar to them, yet they appeared to be nearly as
much honoured in the breach as the observance. We shall however briefly
notice a few of the most remarkable customs.

When a hunter marries his first wife, he usually takes up his abode in
the tent of his father-in-law, and of course hunts for the family; but
when he becomes a father, the families are at liberty to separate, or
remain together, as their inclinations prompt them. His second wife is
for the most part the sister of the first, but not necessarily so, for
an Indian of another family often presses his daughter upon a hunter
whom he knows to be capable of maintaining her well. The first wife
always remains the mistress of the tent, and assumes an authority over
the others, which is not in every case quietly submitted to. It may be
remarked, that whilst an Indian resides with his wife's family, it is
extremely improper for his mother-in-law to speak, or even look at him;
and when she has a communication to make, it is the etiquette that she
should turn her back upon him, and address him only through the medium
of a third person. This singular custom is not very creditable to the
Indians, if it really had its origin in the cause which they at present
assign for it, namely, that a woman's speaking to her son-in-law is a
sure indication of her having conceived a criminal affection for him.

It appears also to have been an ancient practice for an Indian to avoid
eating or sitting down in the presence of the father-in-law. We received
no account of the origin of this custom, and it is now almost obsolete
amongst the Cumberland House Crees, though still partially observed by
those who frequent Carlton.

Tattooing is almost universal with the Crees. The women are in general
content with having one or two lines drawn from the corners of the mouth
towards the angles of the lower jaw; but some of the men have their
bodies covered with a great variety of lines and figures. It seems to be
considered by most rather as a proof of courage than an ornament, the
operation being very painful, and, if the figures are numerous and
intricate, lasting several days. The lines on the face are formed by
dexterously running an awl under the cuticle, and then drawing a cord,
dipt in charcoal and water, through the canal thus formed. The punctures
on the body are formed by needles of various sizes set in a frame. A
number of hawk bells attached to this frame serve by their noise to
cover the suppressed groans of the sufferer, and, probably for the same
reason, the process is accompanied with singing. An indelible stain is
produced by rubbing a little finely-powdered willow-charcoal into the
punctures. A half-breed, whose arm I amputated, declared, that tattooing
was not only the most painful operation of the two, but rendered
infinitely more difficult to bear by its tediousness, having lasted in
his case three days.

A Cree woman, at certain periods, is laid under considerable restraint.
They are far, however, from carrying matters to the extremities
mentioned by Hearne in his description of the Chipewyans, or Northern
Indians. She lives apart from her husband also for two months if she has
borne a boy, and for three if she has given birth to a girl.

Many of the Cree hunters are careful to prevent a woman from partaking
of the head of a moose-deer, lest it should spoil their future hunts;
and for the same reason they avoid bringing it to a fort, fearing lest
the white people should give the bones to the dogs.

The games or sports of the Crees are various. One termed the game of the
mitten, is played with four balls, three of which are plain, and one
marked. These being hid under as many mittens, the opposite party is
required to fix on that which is marked. He gives or receives a feather
according as he guesses right or wrong. When the feathers which are ten
in number, have all passed into one hand, a new division is made; but
when one of the parties obtains possession of them thrice, he seizes on
the stakes.

The game of Platter is more intricate, and is played with the claws of a
bear, or some other animal, marked with various lines and characters.
These dice, which are eight in number, and cut flat at their large end,
are shook together in a wooden dish, tossed into the air and caught
again. The lines traced on such claws as happen to alight on the platter
in an erect position, indicate what number of counters the caster is to
receive from his opponent.

They have, however, a much more manly amusement termed the _Cross_,
although they do not engage even in it without depositing considerable
stakes. An extensive meadow is chosen for this sport, and the articles
staked are tied to a post, or deposited in the custody of two old men.
The combatants being stript and painted, and each provided with a kind
of battledore or racket, in shape resembling the letter P, with a handle
about two feet long and a head loosely wrought with net-work, so as to
form a shallow bag, range themselves on different sides. A ball being
now tossed up in the middle, each party endeavours to drive it to their
respective goals, and much dexterity and agility is displayed in the
contest. When a nimble runner gets the ball in his cross, he sets off
towards the goal with the utmost speed, and is followed by the rest, who
endeavour to jostle him and shake it out; but, if hard pressed, he
discharges it with a jerk, to be forwarded by his own party, or bandied
back by their opponents, until the victory is decided by its passing the

Of the religious opinions of the Crees, it is difficult to give a
correct account, not only because they shew a disinclination to enter
upon the subject, but because their ancient traditions are mingled with
the information they have more recently obtained, by their intercourse
with Europeans.

None of them ventured to describe the original formation of the world,
but they all spoke of an universal deluge, caused by an attempt of the
fish to drown Woesack-ootchacht, a kind of demigod, with whom they had
quarrelled. Having constructed a raft, he embarked with his family and
all kinds of birds and beasts. After the flood had continued for some
time, he ordered several water-fowl to dive to the bottom; they were all
drowned: but a musk-rat having been despatched on the same errand, was
more successful, and returned with a mouthful of mud, out of which
Woesack-ootchacht, imitating the mode in which the rats construct
their houses, formed a new earth. First, a small conical hill of mud
appeared above the water; by-and-by its base gradually spreading out,
it became an extensive bank, which the rays of the sun at length
hardened into firm land. Notwithstanding the power that
Woesack-ootchacht here displayed, his person is held in very little
reverence by the Indians; and, in return, he seizes every opportunity of
tormenting them. His conduct is far from being moral, and his amours,
and the disguises he assumes in the prosecution of them, are more
various and extraordinary than those of the Grecian Jupiter himself; but
as his adventures are more remarkable for their eccentricity than their
delicacy, it is better to pass them over in silence. Before we quit him,
however, we may remark, that he converses with all kinds of birds and
beasts in their own languages, constantly addressing them by the title
of brother, but through an inherent suspicion of his intentions, they
are seldom willing to admit of his claims of relationship. The Indians
make no sacrifices to him, not even to avert his wrath. They pay a kind
of worship, however, and make offerings to a being, whom they term

This deity is represented sometimes by rude images of the human figure,
but more commonly merely by tying the tops of a few willow bushes
together; and the offerings to him consist of every thing that is
valuable to an Indian; yet they treat him with considerable familiarity,
interlarding their most solemn speeches with expostulations and threats
of neglect, if he fails in complying with their requests. As most of
their petitions are for plenty of food, they do not trust entirely to
the favour of Kepoochikawn, but endeavour, at the same time, to
propitiate the _animal_, an imaginary representative of the whole race
of larger quadrupeds that are objects of the chase.

In the month of May, whilst I was at Carlton House, the Cree hunter
engaged to attend that post, resolved upon dedicating several articles
to Kepoochikawn, and as I had made some inquiries of him respecting
their modes of worship, he gave me an invitation to be present. The
ceremony took place in a sweating-house, or as it may be designated from
its more important use, a _temple_, which was erected for the occasion
by the worshipper's two wives. It was framed of arched willows,
interlaced so as to form a vault capable of containing ten or twelve
men, ranged closely side by side, and high enough to admit of their
sitting erect. It was very similar in shape to an oven or the kraal of a
Hottentot, and was closely covered with moose skins, except at the east
end, which was left open for a door. Near the centre of the building
there was a hole in the ground, which contained ten or twelve red-hot
stones, having a few leaves of the _taccokay-menan_, a species of
_prunus_, strewed around them. When the women had completed the
preparations, the hunter made his appearance, perfectly naked, carrying
in his hand an image of Kepoochikawn, rudely carved, and about two feet
long. He placed his god at the upper end of the sweating-house, with his
face towards the door, and proceeded to tie round its neck his
offerings, consisting of a cotton handkerchief, a looking-glass, a tin
pan, a piece of riband, and a bit of tobacco, which he had procured the
same day, at the expense of fifteen or twenty skins. Whilst he was thus
occupied, several other Crees, who were encamped in the neighbourhood,
having been informed of what was going on, arrived, and stripping at the
door of the temple, entered, and ranged themselves on each side; the
hunter himself squatted down at the right hand of Kepoochikawn. The
atmosphere of the temple having become so hot that none but zealous
worshippers would venture in, the interpreter and myself sat down on the
threshold, and the two women remained on the outside as attendants.

The hunter, who throughout officiated as high priest, commenced by
making a speech to Kepoochikawn, in which he requested him to be
propitious, told him of the value of the things now presented, and
cautioned him against ingratitude. This oration was delivered in a
monotonous tone, and with great rapidity of utterance, and the speaker
retained his squatting posture, but turned his face to his god. At its
conclusion, the priest began a hymn, of which the burthen was, "I will
walk with God, I will go with the animal;" and, at the end of each
stanza, the rest joined in an insignificant chorus. He next took up a
calumet, filled with a mixture of tobacco and bear-berry leaves, and
holding its stem by the middle, in a horizontal position, over the hot
stones, turned it slowly in a circular manner, following the course of
the sun. Its mouth-piece being then with much formality, held for a few
seconds to the face of Kepoochikawn, it was next presented to the earth,
having been previously turned a second time over the hot stones; and
afterwards, with equal ceremony, pointed in succession to the four
quarters of the sky; then drawing a few whiffs from the calumet himself,
he handed it to his left-hand neighbour, by whom it was gravely passed
round the circle; the interpreter and myself, who were seated at the
door, were asked to partake in our turn, but requested to keep the head
of the calumet within the threshold of the sweating-house. When the
tobacco was exhausted by passing several times round, the hunter made
another speech, similar to the former; but was, if possible, still more
urgent in his requests. A second hymn followed, and a quantity of water
being sprinkled on the hot stones, the attendants were ordered to close
the temple, which they did, by very carefully covering it up with moose
skins. We had no means of ascertaining the temperature of the
sweating-house; but before it was closed, not only those within, but
also the spectators without, were perspiring freely. They continued in
the vapour bath for thirty-five minutes, during which time a third
speech was made, and a hymn was sung, and water occasionally sprinkled
on the stones, which still retained much heat, as was evident from the
hissing noise they made. The coverings were then thrown off, and the
poor half-stewed worshippers exposed freely to the air; but they kept
their squatting postures until a fourth speech was made, in which the
deity was strongly reminded of the value of the gifts, and exhorted to
take an early opportunity of shewing his gratitude. The ceremony
concluded by the sweaters scampering down to the river, and plunging
into the stream. It may be remarked, that the door of the temple, and,
of course, the face of the god, was turned to the rising sun; and the
spectators were desired not to block up entirely the front of the
building, but to leave a lane for the entrance or exit of some influence
of which they could not give me a correct description. Several Indians,
who lay on the outside of the sweating-house as spectators, seemed to
regard the proceedings with very little awe, and were extremely free in
the remarks and jokes they passed upon the condition of the sweaters,
and even of Kepoochikawn himself. One of them made a remark, that the
shawl would have been much better bestowed upon himself than upon
Kepoochikawn, but the same fellow afterwards stripped and joined in the

I did not learn that the Indians worship any other god by a specific
name. They often refer, however, to the Keetchee-Maneeto, or Great
Master of Life; and to an evil spirit, or Maatche-Maneeto. They also
speak of Weettako, a kind of vampyre or devil, into which those who have
fed on human flesh are transformed.

Whilst at Carlton, I took an opportunity of asking a communicative old
Indian, of the Blackfoot nation, his opinion of a future state; he
replied, that they had heard from their fathers, that the souls of the
departed have to scramble with great labour up the sides of a steep
mountain, upon attaining the summit of which they are rewarded with the
prospect of an extensive plain, abounding in all sorts of game, and
interspersed here and there with new tents, pitched in agreeable{19}
situations. Whilst they are absorbed in the contemplation of this
delightful scene, they are descried by the inhabitants of the happy
land, who, clothed in new skin-dresses, approach and welcome with every
demonstration of kindness those Indians who have led good lives; but the
bad Indians, who have imbrued their hands in the blood of their
countrymen, are told to return from whence they came, and without more
ceremony precipitated down the steep sides of the mountain.

Women, who have been guilty of infanticide, never reach the mountain at
all, but are compelled to hover round the seats of their crimes, with
branches of trees tied to their legs. The melancholy sounds, which are
heard in the still summer evenings, and which the ignorance of the white
people considers as the screams of the goat-sucker, are really,
according to my informant, the moanings of these unhappy beings.

The Crees have somewhat similar notions, but as they inhabit a country
widely different from the mountainous lands of the Blackfoot Indians,
the difficulty of their journey lies in walking along a slender and
slippery tree, laid as a bridge across a rapid stream of stinking and
muddy water. The night owl is regarded by the Crees with the same dread
that it has been viewed by other nations. One small species, which is,
known to them by its melancholy nocturnal hootings, (for as it never
appears in the day, few even of the hunters have ever seen it,) is
particularly ominous. They call it the _cheepai-peethees_, or death
bird, and never fail to whistle when they hear its note. If it does not
reply to the whistle by its hootings, the speedy death of the inquirer
is augured.

When a Cree dies, that part of his property which he has not given away
before his death, is burned with him, and his relations take care to
place near the grave little heaps of fire-wood, food, pieces of tobacco,
and such things as he is likely to need in his journey. Similar
offerings are made when they revisit the grave, and as kettles, and
other articles of value, are sometimes offered, they are frequently
carried off by passengers, yet the relations are not displeased,
provided sufficient respect has been shewn to the dead, by putting some
other article, although of inferior value, in the place of that which
has been taken away.

The Crees are wont to celebrate the returns of the seasons by religious
festivals, but we are unable to describe the ceremonial in use on these
joyous occasions from personal observation. The following brief notice
of a feast, which was given by an old Cree chief, according to his
annual custom, on the first croaking of the frogs, is drawn up from the
information of one of the guests. A large oblong tent, or lodge, was
prepared for the important occasion, by the men of the party, none of
the women being suffered to interfere. It faced the setting sun, and
great care was taken that every thing about it should be as neat and
clean as possible. Three fire-places were raised within it, at equal
distances, and little holes were dug in the corners to contain the ashes
of their pipes. In a recess, at its upper end, one large image of
Kepoochikawn, and many smaller ones, were ranged with their faces
towards the door. The food was prepared by the chief's wife, and
consisted of _marrow_ pemmican, berries boiled with fat, and various
other delicacies that had been preserved for the occasion.

The preparations being completed, and a slave, whom the chief had taken
in war, having warned the guests to the feast by the mysterious word
_peenasheway_, they came, dressed out in their best garments, and ranged
themselves according to their seniority, the elders seating themselves
next the chief at the upper end, and the young men near the door.

The chief commenced by addressing his deities in an appropriate speech,
in which he told them, that he had hastened as soon as summer was
indicated by the croaking of the frogs to solicit their favour for
himself and his young men, and hoped that they would send him a pleasant
and plentiful season. His oration was concluded by an invocation to all
the animals in the land, and a signal being given to the slave at the
door, he invited them severally by their names to come and partake of
the feast.

The Cree chief having by this very general invitation displayed his
unbounded hospitality, next ordered one of the young men to distribute a
mess to each of the guests. This was done in new dishes of birch bark,
and the utmost diligence was displayed in emptying them, it being
considered extremely improper in a man to leave any part of that which
is placed before him on such occasions. It is not inconsistent with good
manners, however, but rather considered as a piece of politeness, that a
guest who has been too liberally supplied, should hand the surplus to
his neighbour. When the viands had disappeared, each filled his calumet
and began to smoke with great assiduity, and in the course of the
evening several songs were sung to the responsive sounds of the drum,
and seeseequay, their usual accompaniments.

The Cree drum is double-headed, but possessing very little depth, it
strongly resembles a tambourine in shape. Its want of depth is
compensated, however, by its diameter, which frequently exceeds three
feet. It is covered with moose-skin parchment, painted with rude figures
of men and beasts, having various fantastic additions, and is beat with
a stick. The seeseequay is merely a rattle, formed by enclosing a few
grains of shot in a piece of dried hide. These two instruments are used
in all their religious ceremonies, except those which take place in a

A Cree places great reliance on his drum, and I cannot adduce a stronger
instance than that of the poor man who is mentioned in a preceding page,
as having lost his only child by famine, almost within sight of the
fort. Notwithstanding his exhausted state, he travelled with an enormous
drum tied to his back.

Many of the Crees make vows to abstain from particular kinds of food,
either for a specific time, or for the remainder of their life,
esteeming such abstinence to be a certain means of acquiring some
supernatural powers, or at least of entailing upon themselves a
succession of good fortune.

One of the wives of the Carlton hunter, of whom we have already spoken
as the worshipper of Kepoochikawn, made a determination not to eat of
the flesh of the Wawaskeesh, or American stag; but during our abode at
that place, she was induced to feed heartily upon it, through the
intentional deceit of her husband, who told her that it was buffalo
meat. When she had finished her meal, her husband told her of the trick,
and seemed to enjoy the terror with which she contemplated the
consequences of the involuntary breach of her vow. Vows of this nature
are often made by a Cree before he joins a war party, and they
sometimes, like the eastern bonzes, walk for a certain number of days on
all fours, or impose upon themselves some other penance, equally
ridiculous. By such means the Cree warrior becomes _godlike_; but unless
he kills an enemy before his return, his newly-acquired powers are
estimated to be productive in future of some direful consequence to

As we did not witness any of the Cree dances ourselves, we shall merely
mention, that like the other North American nations, they are accustomed
to practise that amusement on meeting with strange tribes, before going
to war, and on other solemn occasions.

The habitual intoxication of the Cumberland House Crees has induced such
a disregard of personal appearance, that they are squalid and dirty in
the extreme; hence a minute description of their clothing would be by no
means interesting. We shall, therefore, only remark in a general manner
that the dress of the male consists of a blanket thrown over the
shoulders, a leathern shirt or jacket, and a piece of cloth tied round
the middle. The women have in addition a long petticoat; and both sexes
wear a kind of wide hose, which reaching from the ankle to the middle of
the thigh, are suspended by strings to the girdle. These hose, or as
they are termed, _Indian stockings_, are commonly ornamented with beads
or ribands, and from their convenience, have been universally adopted by
the white residents, as an essential part of their winter clothing.
Their shoes, or rather short boots, for they tie round the ankle, are
made of soft dressed moose-skins, and during the winter they wrap
several pieces of blanket round their feet.

They are fond of European articles of dress, considering it as mean to
be dressed entirely in leather, and the hunters are generally furnished
annually with a _capot_ or great coat, and the women with shawls,
printed calicoes, and other things very unsuitable to their mode of
life, but which they wear in imitation of the wives of the traders; all
these articles, however showy they may be at first, are soon reduced to
a very filthy condition by the Indian custom of greasing the face and
hair with soft fat or marrow, instead of washing them with water. This
practice they say preserves the skin soft, and protects it from cold in
the winter, and the moschetoes in summer, but it renders their presence
disagreeable to the olfactory organs of an European, particularly when
they are seated in a close tent and near a hot fire.

The only peculiarity which we observed, in their mode of rearing
children consists in the use of a sort of cradle, extremely well adapted
to their mode of life. The infant is placed in the bag having its lower
extremities wrapt up in soft sphagnum or bog-moss, and may be hung up in
the tent, or to the branch of a tree, without the least danger of
tumbling out; or in a journey suspended on the mother's back, by a band
which crosses the forehead, so as to leave her hands perfectly free. It
is one of the neatest articles of furniture they possess, being
generally ornamented with beads, and bits of scarlet cloth, but it
bears a very strong resemblance in its form to a mummy case.

The sphagnum in which the child is laid, forms a soft elastic bed, which
absorbs moisture very readily, and affords such a protection from the
cold of a rigorous winter, that its place would be ill supplied by

The mothers are careful to collect a sufficient quantity in autumn for
winter use; but when through accident their stock fails, they have
recourse to the soft down of the typha, or reed mace, the dust of rotten
wood, or even feathers, although none of these articles are so cleanly,
or so easily changed as the sphagnum.

The above is a brief sketch of such parts of the manners, character and
customs of the Crees, as we could collect from personal observation, or
from the information of the most intelligent half-breeds we met with;
and we shall merely add a few remarks on the manner in which the trade
is conducted at the different inland posts of the Fur Companies.

The standard of Exchange in all mercantile transactions with the natives
is a beaver skin, the relative value of which, as originally established
by the traders, differs considerably from the present worth of the
articles it represents; but the Indians are averse to change. Three
marten, eight musk-rat, or a single lynx, or wolverene skin, are
equivalent to one beaver; a silver fox, white fox, or otter, are
reckoned two beavers, and a black fox, or large black bear, are equal to
four; a mode of reckoning which has very little connexion with the real
value of these different furs in the European market. Neither has any
attention been paid to the original cost of European articles, in fixing
the tariff by which they are sold to the Indians. A coarse butcher's
knife is one skin, a woollen blanket or a fathom of coarse cloth, eight,
and a fowling-piece fifteen. The Indians receive their principal outfit
of clothing and ammunition on credit in the autumn, to be repaid by
their winter hunts; the amount intrusted to each of the hunters, varying
with their reputations for industry and skill, from twenty to one
hundred and fifty skins. The Indians are generally anxious to pay off
the debt thus incurred, but their good intentions are often frustrated
by the arts of the rival traders. Each of the Companies keeps men
constantly employed travelling over the country during the winter, to
collect the furs from the different bands of hunters as fast as they are
procured. The poor Indian endeavours to behave honestly, and when he has
gathered a few skins sends notice to the post from whence he procured
his supplies, but if discovered in the mean time by the opposite party,
he is seldom proof against the temptation to which he is exposed.
However firm he may be in his denials at first, his resolutions are
enfeebled by the sight of a little rum, and when he has tasted the
intoxicating beverage, they vanish like smoke, and he brings forth his
store of furs, which he has carefully concealed from the scrutinizing
eyes of his visitors. This mode of carrying on the trade not only causes
the amount of furs, collected by either of the two Companies, to depend
more upon the activity of their agents, the knowledge they possess of
the motions of the Indians, and the quantity of rum they carry, than
upon the liberality of the credits they give, but is also productive of
an increasing deterioration of the character of the Indians, and will
probably, ultimately prove destructive to the fur trade itself. Indeed
the evil has already, in part, recoiled upon the traders; for the
Indians, long deceived, have become deceivers in their turn, and not
unfrequently after having incurred a heavy debt at one post, move off to
another, to play the same game. In some cases the rival posts have
entered into a mutual agreement, to trade only with the Indians they
have respectively fitted out; but such treaties, being seldom rigidly
adhered to, prove a fertile subject for disputes, and the differences
have been more than once decided by force of arms. To carry on the
contest, the two Companies are obliged to employ a great many servants,
whom they maintain often with much difficulty, and always at a
considerable expense[8].

  [8] As the contending parties have united, the evils mentioned in this
      and the two preceding pages, are now, in all probability, at an

There are thirty men belonging to the Hudson's Bay Fort at Cumberland,
and nearly as many women and children.

The inhabitants of the North West Company's House are still more
numerous. These large families are fed during the greatest part of the
year on fish, which are principally procured at Beaver Lake, about fifty
miles distant. The fishery commencing with the first frosts in autumn,
continues abundant, till January, and the produce is dragged over the
snow on sledges, each drawn by three dogs, and carrying about two
hundred and fifty pounds. The journey to and from the lake occupies five
days, and every sledge requires a driver. About three thousand fish,
averaging three pounds a piece, were caught by the Hudson's Bay
fishermen last season; in addition to which a few sturgeon were
occasionally caught in Pine Island Lake; and towards the spring a
considerable quantity of moose meat was procured from the Basquiau Hill,
sixty or seventy miles distant. The rest of our winter's provision
consisted of geese, salted in the autumn, and of dried meats and
pemmican, obtained from the provision posts on the plains of the
Saskatchawan. A good many potatoes are also raised at this post, and a
small supply of tea and sugar is brought from the depôt at York Factory.
The provisions obtained from these various sources were amply sufficient
in the winter of 1819-20; but through improvidence this post has in
former seasons been reduced to great straits.

Many of the labourers, and a great majority of the agents and clerks
employed by the two Companies, have Indian or half-breed wives, and the
mixed offspring thus produced has become extremely numerous.

These métifs, or as the Canadians term them, _bois brulés_, are upon the
whole a good looking people, and where the experiment has been made,
have shewn much aptness in learning, and willingness to be taught; they
have, however, been sadly neglected. The example of their fathers has
released them from the restraint imposed by the Indian opinions of good
and bad behaviour; and generally speaking, no pains have been taken to
fill the void with better principles. Hence it is not surprising that
the males, trained up in a high opinion of the authority and rights of
the Company to which their fathers belonged, and unacquainted with the
laws of the civilized world, should be ready to engage in any measure
whatever, that they are prompted to believe will forward the interests
of the cause they espouse. Nor that the girls, taught a certain degree
of refinement by the acquisition of an European language, should be
inflamed by the unrestrained discourse of their Indian relations, and
very early give up all pretensions to chastity. It is, however, but
justice to remark, that there is a very decided difference in the
conduct of the children of the Orkney men employed by the Hudson's Bay
Company and those of the Canadian voyagers. Some trouble is occasionally
bestowed in teaching the former, and it is not thrown away; but all the
good that can be said of the latter is, that they are not quite so
licentious as their fathers are.

Many of the half-breeds, both male and female, are brought up amongst,
and intermarry with, the Indians; and there are few tents wherein the
paler children of such marriages are not to be seen. It has been
remarked, I do not know with what truth, that half-breeds shew more
personal courage than the pure Crees[9].

  [9] A singular change takes place in the physical constitution of the
      Indian females who become inmates of a fort; namely, they bear
      children more frequently and longer, but, at the same time, are
      rendered liable to indurations of the mammæ and prolapsus of the
      uterus; evils from which they are, in a great measure, exempt
      whilst they lead a wandering and laborious life.

The girls at the forts, particularly the daughters of Canadians, are
given in marriage very young; they are very frequently wives at twelve
years of age, and mothers at fourteen. Nay, more than once instance came
under our observation of the master of a post having permitted a voyager
to take to wife a poor child that had scarcely attained the age of ten
years. The masters of posts and wintering partners of the Companies
deemed this criminal indulgence to the vices of their servants,
necessary to stimulate them to exertion for the interest of their
respective concerns. Another practice may also be noticed, as shewing
the state of moral feeling on these subjects amongst the white residents
of the fur countries. It was not very uncommon, amongst the Canadian
voyagers, for one woman to be common to, and maintained at the joint
expense of, two men; nor for a voyager to sell his wife, either for a
season or altogether, for a sum of money, proportioned to her beauty and
good qualities, but always inferior to the price of a team of dogs.

The country around Cumberland House is flat and swampy, and is much
intersected by small lakes. Limestone is found every where under a thin
stratum of soil, and it not unfrequently shows itself above the surface.
It lies in strata generally horizontal, but in one spot near the fort,
dipping to the northward at an angle of 40°. Some portions of this rock
contain very perfect shells. With respect to the vegetable productions
of the district the _populus trepida_, or aspen, which thrives in moist
situations, is perhaps the most abundant tree on the banks of the
Saskatchawan, and is much prized as fire-wood, burning well when cut
green. The _populus balsamifera_, or taccamahac, called by the Crees
_matheh meteos_, or ugly poplar, in allusion to its rough bark and naked
stem, crowned in an aged state with a few distorted branches, is
scarcely less plentiful. It is an inferior fire-wood, and does not burn
well, unless when cut in the spring, and dried during the summer; but it
affords a great quantity of potash. A decoction of its resinous buds has
been sometimes used by the Indians with success in cases of
_snow-blindness_, but its application to the inflamed eye produces much
pain. Of pines, the white spruce is the most common here: the red and
black spruce, the balsam of Gilead fir, and Banksian pine, also occur
frequently. The larch is found only in swampy spots, and is stunted and
unhealthy. The canoe birch attains a considerable size in this latitude,
but from the great demand for its wood to make sledges, it has become
rare. The alder abounds on the margin of the little grassy lakes, so
common in the neighbourhood. A decoction of its inner bark is used as
an emetic by the Indians, who also extract from it a yellow dye. A great
variety of willows occur on the banks of the streams; and the hazel is
met with sparingly in the woods. The sugar maple, elm, ash, and the
_arbor vitæ_[10], termed by the Canadian voyagers _cedar_, grow on
various parts of the Saskatchawan; but that river seems to form their
northern boundary. Two kinds of prunus also grow here, one of which[11],
a handsome small tree, produces a black fruit, having a very astringent
taste, whence the term _choke-cherry_ applied to it. The Crees call it
_tawquoy-meena_, and esteemed it to be when dried and bruised a good
addition to pemmican. The other species[12] is a less elegant shrub, but
is said to bear a bright red cherry, of a pleasant sweet taste. Its Cree
name is _passee-awey-meenan_, and it is known to occur as far north as
Great Slave Lake.

  [10] Thuya occidentalis.

  [11] Prunus Virginiana.

  [12] Prunus Pensylvanica.

The most esteemed fruit of the country, however, is the produce of the
_aronia ovalis_. Under the name of _meesasscootoomeena_ it is a
favourite dish at most of the Indian feasts, and mixed with pemmican, it
renders that greasy food actually palatable. A great variety of currants
and gooseberries are also mentioned by the natives, under the name of
_sappoom-meena_, but we only found three species in the neighbourhood of
Cumberland House. The strawberry, called by the Crees _otei-meena_, or
heart-berry, is found in abundance, and rasps are common on the sandy
banks of the rivers. The fruits hitherto mentioned fall in the autumn,
but the following berries remained hanging on the bushes in the spring,
and are considered as much mellowed by exposure to the colds in winter.
The red whortleberry (_vaccinium vitis idea_) is found every where, but
is most abundant in rocky places. It is aptly termed by the Crees
_weesawgum-meena_, sour berry. The common cranberry (_oxycoccos
palustris_,) is distinguished from the preceding by its growing on moist
sphagnous spots, and is hence called _maskoego-meena_ swamp-berry. The
American guelder rose, whose fruit so strongly resembles the cranberry,
is also common. There are two kinds of it, (_viburnum oxycoccos_{20},
and _edule_,) one termed by the natives _peepoon-meena_, winter-berry,
and the other _mongsoa-meena_, moose-berry. There is also a berry of a
bluish white colour, the produce of the white cornel tree, which is
named _musqua-meena_, bear-berry, because these animals are said to
fatten on it. The dwarf Canadian cornel, bears a corymb of red berries,
which are highly ornamental to the woods throughout the country, but are
not otherwise worthy of notice, for they have an insipid farinaceous
taste, and are seldom gathered.

The Crees extract some beautiful colours from several of their native
vegetables. They dye their porcupine quills a beautiful scarlet, with
the roots of two species of bed-straw (galium tinctorium, and boreale)
which they indiscriminately term _sawoyan_. The roots, after being
carefully washed are boiled gently in a clean copper kettle, and a
quantity of the juice of the moose-berry, strawberry, cranberry, or
arctic raspberry, is added together with a few red tufts of pistils of
the larch. The porcupine quills are plunged into the liquor before it
becomes quite cold, and are soon tinged of a beautiful scarlet. The
process sometimes fails, and produces only a dirty brown, a circumstance
which ought probably to be ascribed to the use of an undue quantity of
acid. They dye black with an ink made of elder bark, and a little
bog-iron-ore, dried and pounded, and they have various modes of
producing yellow. The deepest colour is obtained from the dried root of
a plant, which from their description appears to be the cow-bane
(_cicuta virosa_.) An inferior colour is obtained from the bruised buds
of the Dutch myrtle, and they have discovered methods of dyeing with
various lichens.

The quadrupeds that are hunted for food in this part of the country,
are the moose and the rein-deer, the former termed by the Crees,
_mongsoa_, or _moosoa_; the latter _attekh_. The buffalo or bison,
(_moostoosh_,) the red-deer or American-stag, (_wawaskeeshoo_,) the
_apeesee-mongsoos_, or jumping deer, the _kinwaithoos_, or long-tailed
deer, and the _apistatchækoos_, a species of antelope; animals that
frequent the plains above the forks of the Saskatchawan, are not found
in the neighbourhood of Cumberland House.

Of fur-bearing animals, various kinds of foxes (_makkeeshewuc_,) are
found in the district, distinguished by the traders under the names of
_black_, _silver_, _cross_, _red_, and _blue_ foxes. The two former are
considered by the Indians to be the same kind, varying accidentally in
the colour of the pelt. The black foxes are very rare, and fetch a high
price. The cross and red foxes differ from each other only in colour,
being of the same shape and size. Their shades of colour are not
disposed in any determinate manner, some individuals approaching in that
respect very nearly to the silver fox, others exhibiting every link of
the chain down to a nearly uniform deep or orange-yellow, the
distinguishing colour of a pure red fox. It is reported both by Indians
and traders, that all the varieties have been found in the same litter.
The blue fox is seldom seen here, and is supposed to come from the
southward. The gray wolf (_mahaygan_) is common here. In the month of
March the females frequently entice the domestic dog from the forts,
although at other seasons a strong antipathy seemed to subsist between
them. Some black wolves are occasionally seen. The black and red
varieties of the American bear (_musquah_) are also found near
Cumberland House, though not frequently; a black bear often has red
cubs, and _vice versâ_. The grizzly bear, so much dreaded by the Indians
for its strength and ferocity, inhabits a track of country nearer the
Rocky Mountains. It is extraordinary that although I made inquiries
extensively amongst the Indians, I met with but one who said that he had
killed a she-bear with young in the womb.

The wolverene, in Cree _okeekoohawgees_, or _ommeethatsees_, is an
animal of great strength and cunning, and is much hated by the hunters,
on account of the mischief it does to their marten-traps. The Canadian
lynx (_peeshew_) is a timid but well-armed animal, which preys upon the
American hare. Its fur is esteemed. The marten (_wapeestan_,) is one of
the most common furred animals in the country. The fisher,
notwithstanding its name, is an inhabitant of the land, living like the
common marten principally on mice. It is the _otchoek_ of the Crees,
and the _pekan_ of the Canadians. The mink, (_atjackash_,) has been
often confounded by writers with the fisher. It is a much smaller
animal, inhabits the banks of rivers, and swims well; its prey is fish.
The otter, (_neekeek_,) is larger than the English species, and produces
a much more valuable fur.

The musk rat (_watsuss_, or _musquash_,) is very abundant in all the
small grassy lakes. They build small conical houses with a mixture of
hay and earth; those which build early raising their houses on the mud
of the marshes, and those which build later in the season founding their
habitations upon the surface of the ice itself. The house covers a hole
in the ice, which permits them to go into the water in search of the
roots on which they feed. In severe winters when the small lakes are
frozen to the bottom, and these animals cannot procure their usual food,
they prey upon each other. In this way great numbers are destroyed.

The beaver (_ammisk_) furnish the staple fur of the country. Many
surprising stories have been told of the sagacity with which this animal
suits the form of its habitation, retreats, and dam, to local
circumstances; and I compared the account of its manners, given by
Cuvier, in his _Régne Animal_, with the reports of the Indians, and
found them to agree exactly. They have been often seen in the act of
constructing their houses in the moon-light nights, and the observers
agree, that the stones, wood, or other materials, are carried in their
teeth, and generally leaning against the shoulder. When they have placed
it to their mind, they turn round and give it a smart blow with their
flat tail. In the act of diving they give a similar stroke to the
surface of the water. They keep their provision of wood under water in
front of the house. Their favourite food is the bark of the aspen,
birch, and willow; they also eat the alder, but seldom touch any of the
pine tribe unless from necessity; they are fond of the large roots of
the _nuphar lutea_, and grow fat upon it, but it gives their flesh a
strong rancid taste. In the season of love their call resembles a groan,
that of the male being the hoarsest, but the voice of the young is
exactly like the cry of a child. They are very playful, as the following
anecdote will shew:--One day a gentleman, long resident in this country,
espied five young beavers sporting in the water, leaping upon the trunk
of a tree, pushing one another off, and playing a thousand interesting
tricks. He approached softly under cover of the bushes, and prepared to
fire on the unsuspecting creatures, but a nearer approach discovered to
him such a similitude betwixt their gestures and the infantile caresses
of his own children, that he threw aside his gun. This gentleman's
feelings are to be envied, but few traders in fur would have acted so
feelingly. The musk-rat frequently inhabits the same lodge with the
beaver, and the otter also thrusts himself in occasionally; the latter,
however, is not always a civil guest, as he sometimes devours his host.

These are the animals most interesting in an economical point of
view. The American hare, and several kinds of grouse and ptarmigan,
also contribute towards the support of the natives; and the geese,
in their periodical flights in the spring and autumn, likewise prove
a valuable resource both to the Indians and white residents; but the
principal article of food, after the moose-deer, is fish; indeed, it
forms almost the sole support of the traders at some of the posts.
The most esteemed fish is the Coregonus albus, the _attihhawmeg_ of
the Crees, and the _white-fish_ of the Americans. Its usual weight
is between three and four pounds, but it has been known to reach
sixteen or eighteen pounds. Three fish of the ordinary size is the
daily allowance to each man at the fort, and is considered as
equivalent to two geese, or eight pounds of solid moose-meat. The
fishery for the attihhawmeg lasts the whole year, but is most
productive in the spawning season, from the middle of September to
the middle of October. The _ottonneebees_, (Coregonus Artedi,)
closely resembles the last. Three species of carp, (Catastomus
Hudsonius, C. Forsterianus, and C. Lesueurii,) are also found
abundantly in all the lakes, their Cree names are _namaypeeth_,
_meethquawmaypeeth_, and _wapawhawkeeshew_. The _occow_, or river
perch, termed also horn-fish, piccarel, or doré, is common, but is
not so much esteemed as the attihhawmeg. It attains the length of
twenty inches in these lakes. The methy is another common fish; it
is the _gadus lota_, or burbot, of Europe. Its length is about two
feet, its gullet is capacious, and it preys upon fish large enough
to distend its body to nearly twice its proper size. It is never
eaten, not even by the dogs unless through necessity, but its liver
and roe are considered as delicacies.

The pike is also plentiful, and being readily caught in the winter-time
with the hook, is so much prized on that account by the natives, as to
receive from them the name of _eithinyoo-cannooshoeoo_, or Indian
fish. The common trout, or _nammoecous_, grows here to an enormous
size, being caught in particular lakes, weighing upwards of sixty
pounds; thirty pounds is no uncommon size at Beaver Lake, from whence
Cumberland House is supplied. The Hioden clodalis, _oweepeetcheesees_,
or gold-eye is a beautiful small fish, which resembles the trout, in its

One of the largest fish is the _mathemegh_, catfish, or _barbue_. It
belongs to the genus _silurus_. It is rare but is highly prized as food.

The sturgeon (Accipenser ruthenus) is also taken in the Saskatchawan,
and lakes communicating with it, and furnishes an excellent, but rather
rich, article of food.


     Leave Cumberland House--Mode of Travelling in Winter--Arrival at
     Carlton House--Stone Indians--Visit to a Buffalo
     Pound--Goitres--Departure from Carlton House--Isle à la
     Crosse--Arrival at Fort Chipewyan.

1820. January 18.

This day we set out from Cumberland House for Carlton House; but
previously to detailing the events of the journey, it may be proper to
describe the necessary equipments of a winter traveller in this region,
which I cannot do better than by extracting the following brief, but
accurate, account of it from Mr. Hood's journal:--

"A snow-shoe is made of two light bars of wood, fastened together at
their extremities, and projected into curves by transverse bars. The
side bars have been so shaped by a frame, and dried before a fire, that
the front part of the shoe turns up, like the prow of a boat, and the
part behind terminates in an acute angle; the spaces between the bars
are filled up with a fine netting of leathern thongs, except that part
behind the main bar, which is occupied by the feet; the netting is
there close and strong, and the foot is attached to the main bar by
straps passing round the heel but only fixing the toes, so that the heel
rises after each step, and the tail of the shoe is dragged on the snow.
Between the main bar and another in front of it, a small space is left,
permitting the toes to descend a little in the act of raising the heel
to make the step forward, which prevents their extremities from chafing.
The length of a snow-shoe is from four to six feet and the breadth one
foot and a half, or one foot and three quarters, being adapted to the
size of the wearer. The motion of walking in them is perfectly natural,
for one shoe is level with the snow, when the edge of the other is
passing over it. It is not easy to use them among bushes, without
frequent overthrows, nor to rise afterwards without help. Each shoe
weighs about two pounds when unclogged with snow. The northern Indian
snow-shoes differ a little from those of the southern Indians, having a
greater curvature on the outside of each shoe; one advantage of which
is, that when the foot rises the over-balanced side descends and throws
off the snow. All the superiority of European art has been unable to
improve the native contrivance of this useful machine.

"Sledges are made of two or three flat boards, curving upwards in front,
and fastened together by transverse pieces of wood above. They are so
thin that, if heavily laden, they bend with the inequalities of the
surface over which they pass. The ordinary dog-sledges are eight or ten
feet long and very narrow, but the lading is secured to a lacing round
the edges. The cariole used by the traders is merely a covering of
leather for the lower part of the body, affixed to the common sledge,
which is painted and ornamented according to the taste of the
proprietor. Besides snow-shoes, each individual carries his blanket,
hatchet, steel, flint, and tinder, and generally fire arms."

The general dress of the winter traveller, is a _capot_, having a hood
to put up under the fur cap in windy weather, or in the woods, to keep
the snow from his neck; leathern trowsers and Indian stockings which are
closed at the ankles, round the upper part of his _mocassins_, or Indian
shoes, to prevent the snow from getting into them. Over these he wears a
blanket, or leathern coat, which is secured by a belt round his waist,
to which his fire-bag, knife, and hatchet are suspended.

Mr. Back and I were accompanied by the seaman, John Hepburn; we were
provided with two carioles and two sledges; their drivers and dogs
being furnished in equal proportions by the two Companies. Fifteen days'
provision so completely filled the sledges, that it was with difficulty
we found room for a small sextant, one suit of clothes, and three
changes of linen, together with our bedding. Notwithstanding we thus
restricted ourselves, and even loaded the carioles with part of the
luggage, instead of embarking in them ourselves, we did not set out
without considerable grumbling from the voyagers of both Companies,
respecting the overlading of their dogs. However, we left the matter to
be settled by our friends at the fort, who were more conversant with
winter travelling than ourselves. Indeed the loads appeared to us so
great that we should have been inclined to listen to the complaints of
the drivers. The weight usually placed upon a sledge, drawn by three
dogs, cannot, at the commencement of a journey, be estimated at less
than three hundred pounds, which, however, suffers a daily diminution
from the consumption of provisions. The sledge itself weighs about
thirty pounds. When the snow is hard frozen, or the track well trodden,
the rate of travelling is about two miles and a half an hour, including
rests, or about fifteen miles a day. If the snow be loose the speed is
necessarily much less and the fatigue greater.

At eight in the morning of the 18th, we quitted the fort, and took leave
of our hospitable friend, Governor Williams, whose kindness and
attention I shall ever remember with gratitude. Dr. Richardson, Mr.
Hood, and Mr. Connolly, accompanied us along the Saskatchawan until the
snow became too deep for their walking without snow-shoes. We then
parted from our associates, with sincere regret at the prospect of a
long separation. Being accompanied by Mr. Mackenzie, of the Hudson's Bay
Company, who was going to Isle à la Crosse, with four sledges under his
charge, we formed quite a procession, keeping in an Indian file, on the
track of the man who preceded the foremost dogs; but, as the snow was
deep, we proceeded slowly on the surface of the river, which is about
three hundred and fifty yards wide, for the distance of six miles, which
we went this day. Its alluvial banks and islands are clothed with
willows. At the place of our encampment we could scarcely{21} find
sufficient{22} pine branches to floor "the hut," as the Orkney men term
the place where travellers rest. Its preparation, however, consists only
in clearing away the snow to the ground, and covering that space with
pine branches, over which the party spread their blankets and coats, and
sleep in warmth and comfort, by keeping a good fire at their feet,
without any other canopy than the heaven, even though the thermometer
should be far below zero.

The arrival at the place of encampment gives immediate occupation to
every one of the party; and it is not until the sleeping-place has been
arranged, and a sufficiency of wood collected as fuel for the night,
that the fire is allowed to be kindled. The dogs alone remain inactive
during this busy scene, being kept harnessed to their burdens until the
men have leisure to unstow the sledges, and hang upon the trees every
species of provision out of their reach. We had ample experience, before
morning, of the necessity of this precaution, as they contrived to steal
a considerable part of our stores, almost from underneath Hepburn's
head, notwithstanding{23} their having been well fed at supper.

This evening we found the mercury of our thermometer had sunk into the
bulb, and was frozen. It rose again into the tube on being held to the
fire, but quickly re-descended into the bulb on being removed into the
air; we could not, therefore, ascertain by it the temperature of the
atmosphere, either then or during our journey. The weather was perfectly

_January 19_.--We arose this morning after the enjoyment of a sound and
comfortable repose, and recommenced our journey at sunrise, but made
slow progress through the deep snow. The task of beating the track for
the dogs was so very fatiguing, that each of the men took the lead in
turn, for an hour and a half. The scenery of the banks of the river
improved as we advanced to-day; some firs and poplars were intermixed
with the willows. We passed through two creeks, formed by islands, and
encamped on a pleasant spot on the north shore, having only made six
miles and three quarters actual distance.

The next day we pursued our course along the river; the dogs had the
greatest difficulty in dragging their heavy burdens through the snow. We
halted to refresh them at the foot of Sturgeon River, and obtained the
latitude 53° 51' 41" N. This is a small stream, which issues from a
neighbouring lake. We encamped near to Musquito Point, having walked
about nine miles. The termination of the day's journey was a great
relief to me, who had been suffering during the greater part of it, in
consequence of my feet having been galled by the snow-shoes; this,
however, is an evil which few escape on their initiation to winter
travelling. It excites no pity from the more experienced companions of
the journey, who travel on as fast as they can, regardless of your pain.

Mr. Isbester, and an Orkney man, joined us from Cumberland House, and
brought some pemmican that we had left behind; a supply which was very
seasonable after our recent loss. The general occupation of Mr. Isbester
during the winter, is to follow or find out the Indians, and collect
their furs, and his present journey will appear adventurous to persons
accustomed to the certainty of travelling on a well-known road. He was
going in search of a band of Indians, of whom no information had been
received since last October, and his only guide for finding them was
their promise to hunt in a certain quarter; but he looked at the jaunt
with indifference, and calculated on meeting them in six or seven days,
for which time only he had provision. Few persons in this country suffer
more from want of food than those occasionally do who are employed on
this service. They are furnished with a sufficiency of provision to
serve until they reach the part where the Indians are expected to be;
but it frequently occurs that, on their arrival at the spot, they have
gone elsewhere, and that a recent fall of snow has hidden their track,
in which case, the voyagers have to wander about in search of them; and
it often happens, when they succeed in finding the Indians, that they
are unprovided with meat. Mr. Isbester had been placed in this
distressing situation only a few weeks ago, and passed four days
without either himself or his dogs tasting food. At length, when he had
determined on killing one of the dogs to satisfy his hunger, he happily
met with a beaten track, which led him to some Indian lodges, where he
obtained food.

The morning of the 21st was cold, but pleasant for travelling. We left
Mr. Isbester and his companion, and crossed the peninsula of Musquito
Point, to avoid a detour of several miles which the river makes. Though
we put up at an early hour, we gained eleven miles this day. Our
encampment was at the lower extremity of Tobin's Falls. The snow being
less deep on the rough ice which enclosed this rapid, we proceeded, on
the 22d, at a quicker pace than usual, but at the expense of great
suffering to Mr. Back, myself, and Hepburn, whose feet were much galled.
After passing Tobin's Falls, the river expands to the breadth of five
hundred yards, and its banks are well wooded with pines, poplars, birch,
and willows. Many tracks of moose-deer and wolves were observed near the

On the 23d the sky was generally overcast, and there were several snow
showers.{24} We saw two wolves and some foxes cross the river in the
course of the day, and passed many tracks of the moose and red-deer.
Soon after we had encamped the snow fell heavily, which was an advantage
to us after we had retired to rest, by its affording an additional
covering to our blankets. The next morning, at breakfast time, two men
arrived from Carlton on their way to Cumberland. Having the benefit of
their track, we were enabled, to our great joy, to march at a quick pace
without snow-shoes. My only regret was, that the party proceeded too
fast to allow of Mr. Back's halting occasionally, to note the bearings
of the points, and delineate the course of the river[13], without being
left behind. As the provisions were getting short, I could not,
therefore, with propriety, check the progress of the party; and, indeed,
it appeared to me less necessary, as I understood the river had been
carefully surveyed. In the afternoon, we had to resume the incumbrance
of the snow-shoes, and to pass over a rugged part where the ice had been
piled over a collection of stones. The tracks of animals were very
abundant on the river, particularly near the remains of an old
establishment, called the Lower Nippéween.

  [13] This was afterwards done by Dr. Richardson during a voyage to
       Carlton in the spring.

So much snow had fallen on the night of the 24th, that the track we
intended to follow was completely covered, and our march to-day was very
fatiguing. We passed the remains of two red-deer, lying at the bases of
perpendicular cliffs, from the summits of which they had, probably, been
forced by the wolves. These voracious animals who are inferior in speed
to the moose or red-deer are said frequently to have recourse to this
expedient in places where extensive plains are bounded by precipitous
cliffs. Whilst the deer are quietly grazing, the wolves assemble in
great numbers, and, forming a crescent, creep slowly towards the herd so
as not to alarm them much at first, but when they perceive that they
have fairly hemmed in the unsuspecting creatures, and cut off their
retreat across the plain, they move more quickly and with hideous yells
terrify their prey and urge them to flight by the only open way, which
is that towards the precipice; appearing to know that when the herd is
once at full speed, it is easily driven over the cliff, the rearmost
urging on those that are before. The wolves then descend at their
leisure, and feast on the mangled carcasses. One of these animals passed
close to the person who was beating the track, but did not offer any
violence. We encamped at sunset, after walking thirteen miles.

On the 26th, we were rejoiced at passing the half-way point, between
Cumberland and Carlton. The scenery of the river is less pleasing
beyond this point, as there is a scarcity of wood. One of our men was
despatched after a red-deer that appeared on the bank. He contrived to
approach near enough to fire twice, though without success, before the
animal moved away. After a fatiguing march of seventeen miles we put up
at the upper Nippéween, a deserted establishment; and performed the
comfortable operations of shaving and washing for the first time since
our departure from Cumberland, the weather having been hitherto too
severe. We passed an uncomfortable and sleepless night, and agreed next
morning to encamp in future, in the open air, as preferable to the
imperfect shelter of a deserted house without doors or windows.

The morning was extremely cold, but fortunately the wind was light,
which prevented our feeling it severely; experience indeed had taught us
that the sensation of cold depends less upon the state of temperature,
than the force of the wind. An attempt was made to obtain the latitude,
which failed, in consequence of the screw, that adjusts the telescope of
the sextant, being immoveably fixed, from the moisture upon it having
frozen. The instrument could not be replaced in its case before the ice
was thawed by the fire in the evening.

In the course of the day we passed the confluence of the south branch of
the Saskatchawan, which rises from the Rocky Mountains near the sources
of the northern branch of the Missouri. At Coles Falls, which commence a
short distance from the branch, we found the surface of the ice very
uneven, and many spots of open water.

We passed the ruins of an establishment, which the traders had been
compelled to abandon, in consequence of the intractable{25} conduct and
pilfering habits of the Assinéboine{26} or Stone Indians; and we learned
that all the residents at a post on the south branch, had been cut
off{27} by the same tribe some years ago. We travelled twelve miles
to-day. The wolves serenaded us through the night with a chorus of their
agreeable howling, but none of them ventured near the encampment. But
Mr. Back's repose was disturbed by a more serious evil: his buffalo robe
caught fire, and the shoes on his feet, being contracted by the heat,
gave him such pain, that he jumped up in the cold, and ran into the snow
as the only means of obtaining relief.

On the 28th we had a strong and piercing wind from N.W. in our faces,
and much snow-drift; we were compelled to walk as quick as we could, and
to keep constantly rubbing the exposed parts of the skin, to prevent
their being frozen, but some of the party suffered in spite of every
precaution. We descried three red-deer on the banks of the river, and
were about to send the best marksmen after them, when they espied the
party, and ran away. A supply of meat would have been very seasonable,
as the men's provision had become scanty, and the dogs were without
food, except a little burnt leather. Owing to the scarcity of wood, we
had to walk until a late hour, before a good spot for an encampment
could be found, and had then attained only eleven miles. The night was
miserably cold; our tea froze in the tin pots before we could drink it,
and even a mixture of spirits and water became quite thick by
congelation; yet, after we lay down to rest, we felt no inconvenience,
and heeded not the wolves, though they were howling within view.

The 29th was also very cold, until the sun burst forth, when the
travelling became pleasant. The banks of the river are very scantily
supplied with wood through the part we passed to-day. A long track on
the south shore, called Holms Plains, is destitute of any thing like a
tree, and the opposite bank has only stunted willows; but, after walking
sixteen miles, we came to a spot better wooded, and encamped opposite to
a remarkable place, called by the voyagers "The Neck of Land."

A short distance below our encampment, on the peninsula formed by the
confluence of the Net-setting river with the Saskatchawan, there stands
a representation of Kepoochikawn, which was formerly held in high
veneration by the Indians, and is still looked upon with some respect.
It is merely a large willow bush, having its tops bound into a bunch.
Many offerings of value such as handsome dresses, hatchets, and kettles,
used to be made to it, but of late its votaries have been less liberal.
It was mentioned to us as a signal instance of its power, that a
sacrilegious moose-deer having ventured to crop a few of its tender
twigs was found dead at the distance of a few yards. The bush having now
grown old and stunted is exempted from similar violations.

On the thirtieth we directed our course round The Neck of Land, which is
well clothed with pines and firs; though the opposite or western bank is
nearly destitute of wood. This contrast between the two banks continued
until we reached the commencement of what our companions called the
Barren Grounds, when both the banks were alike bare. Vast plains extend
behind the southern bank, which afford excellent pasturage for the
buffalo, and other grazing animals. In the evening we saw a herd of the
former, but could not get near to them. After walking fifteen miles we
encamped. The men's provision having been entirely expended last night,
we shared our small stock with them. The poor dogs had been toiling some
days on the most scanty fare; their rapacity, in consequence, was
unbounded; they forced open a deal box, containing tea, _&c._, to get at
a small piece of meat which had been incautiously placed in it.

As soon as daylight permitted, the party commenced their march in
expectation of reaching Carlton House to breakfast, but we did not
arrive before noon, although the track was good. We were received by Mr.
Prudens, the gentleman in charge of the post, with that friendly
attention which Governor Williams's circular was calculated to ensure at
every station; and were soon afterwards regaled with a substantial dish
of buffalo steaks, which would have been excellent under any
circumstances, but were particularly relished by us, after our
travelling fare of dried meat and pemmican, though eaten without either
bread or vegetables. After this repast, we had the comfort of changing
our travelling dresses, which had been worn for fourteen days; a
gratification which can only be truly estimated by those who have been
placed under similar circumstances. I was still in too great pain from
swellings in the ankles to proceed to La Montée, the North-West
Company's establishment, distant about three miles; but Mr. Hallet, the
gentleman in charge, came the following morning, and I presented to him
the circular from Mr. S. Mac Gillivray. He had already been furnished,
however, with a copy of it from Mr. Connolly, and was quite prepared to
assist us in our advance to the Athabasca.

Mr. Back and I having been very desirous to see some of the Stone
Indians, who reside on the plains in this vicinity, learned with regret
that a large band of them had left the house on the preceding day; but
our curiosity was amply gratified by the appearance of some individuals,
on the following and every subsequent day during our stay.

The looks of these people would have prepossessed me in their favour,
but for the assurances I had received from the gentlemen of the posts,
of their gross and habitual treachery. Their countenances are affable
and pleasing, their eyes large and expressive, nose aquiline, teeth
white and regular, the forehead bold, the cheek-bones rather high. Their
figure is usually good, above the middle size, with slender, but well
proportioned, limbs. Their colour is a light copper, and they have a
profusion of very black hair, which hangs over the ears, and shades the
face. Their dress, which I think extremely neat and convenient, consists
of a vest and trowsers of leather fitted to the body; over these a
buffalo robe is thrown gracefully. These dresses are in general cleaned
with _white-mud_, a sort of marl, though some use _red earth_, a kind of
bog-iron-ore; but this colour neither looks so light, nor forms such an
agreeable contrast as the white with the black hair of the robe. Their
quiver hangs behind them, and in the hand is carried the bow, with an
arrow always ready for attack or defence, and sometimes they have a gun;
they also carry a bag containing materials for making a fire, some
tobacco, the calumet or pipe, and whatever valuables they possess. This
bag is neatly ornamented with porcupine quills. Thus equipped, the Stone
Indian bears himself with an air of perfect independence.

The only articles of European commerce they require in exchange for the
meat they furnish to the trading post, are tobacco, knives, ammunition,
and spirits, and occasionally some beads, but more frequently buttons,
which they string in their hair as ornaments. A successful hunter will
probably have two or three dozen of them hanging at equal distances on
locks of hair, from each side of the forehead. At the end of these
locks, small coral bells are sometimes attached, which tingle at every
motion of the head, a noise which seems greatly to delight the wearer;
sometimes strings of buttons are bound round the head like a tiara; and
a bunch of feathers gracefully crowns the head.

The Stone Indians steal whatever they can, particularly horses; these
animals they maintain are common property, sent by the Almighty for the
general use of man, and therefore may be taken wherever met with; still
they admit the right of the owners to watch them, and to prevent theft
if possible. This avowed disposition on their part calls forth the
strictest vigilance at the different posts; notwithstanding which the
most daring attacks are often made with success, sometimes on parties of
three or four, but oftener on individuals. About two years ago a band of
them had the audacity to attempt to take away some horses which were
grazing before the gate of the N.W. Company's fort; and, after braving
the fire from the few people then at the establishment through the whole
day, and returning their shots occasionally, they actually succeeded in
their enterprise. One man was killed on each side. They usually strip
defenceless persons whom they meet of all their garments, but
particularly of those which have buttons, and leave them to travel home
in that state, however severe the weather. If resistance be expected,
they not unfrequently murder before they attempt to rob. The traders,
when they travel, invariably keep some men on guard to prevent surprise,
whilst the others sleep; and often practise the stratagem of lighting a
fire at sunset, which they leave burning, and move on after dark to a
more distant encampment--yet these precautions do not always baffle the
depredators. Such is the description of men whom the traders of this
river have constantly to guard against. It must require a long residence
among them, and much experience of their manners, to overcome the
apprehensions their hostility and threats are calculated to excite.
Through fear of having their provision and supplies entirely cut off,
the traders are often obliged to overlook the grossest offences, even
murder, though{28} the delinquents present themselves with unblushing
effrontery{29} almost immediately after the fact, and perhaps boast of
it. They do not, on detection, consider themselves under any obligation
to deliver up what they have stolen without receiving an equivalent.

The Stone Indians keep in amity with their neighbours the Crees from
motives of interest; and the two tribes unite in determined hostility
against the nations dwelling to the westward, which are generally called
Slave Indians--a term of reproach applied by the Crees to those tribes
against whom they have waged successful wars. The Slave Indians are said
greatly to resemble the Stone Indians, being equally desperate and
daring in their acts of aggression and dishonesty towards the traders.

These parties go to war almost every summer, and sometimes muster three
or four hundred horsemen on each side. Their leaders, in approaching the
foe, exercise all the caution of the most skilful generals; and whenever
either party considers that it has gained the best ground, or finds it
can surprise the other, the attack is made. They advance at once to
close quarters, and the slaughter is consequently great, though the
battle may be short. The prisoners of either sex are seldom spared, but
slain on the spot with wanton cruelty. The dead are scalped, and he is
considered the bravest person who bears the greatest number of scalps
from the field. These are afterwards attached to his war dress, and worn
as proofs of his prowess. The victorious party, during a certain time,
blacken their faces and every part of their dress in token of joy, and
in that state they often come to the establishment, if near, to testify
their delight by dancing and singing, bearing all the horrid insignia of
war, to display their individual feats. When in mourning, they
completely cover their dress and hair with white mud.

The Crees in the vicinity of Carlton House have the same cast of
countenance as those about Cumberland, but are much superior to them in
appearance, living in a more abundant country. These men are more
docile, tractable, and industrious, than the Stone Indians, and bring
greater supplies of provision and furs to the posts. Their general mode
of dress resembles that of the Stone Indians; but sometimes they wear
cloth leggins, blankets, and other useful articles, when they can afford
to purchase them. They also decorate their hair with buttons.

The Crees procure guns from the traders, and use them in preference to
the bow and arrow; and from them the Stone Indians often get supplied,
either by stealth, gaming, or traffic. Like the rest of their nation,
these Crees are remarkably fond of spirits, and would make any sacrifice
to obtain them. I regretted to find the demand for this pernicious
article had greatly increased within the few last years. The following
notice of these Indians is extracted from Dr. Richardson's journal:

"The Asseenaboine, termed by the Crees Asseeneepoytuck, or Stone
Indians, are a tribe of Sioux, who speak a dialect of the Iroquois, one
of the great divisions under which the American philologists have
classed the known dialects of the Aborigines of North America. The Stone
Indians, or, as they name themselves, _Eascab_, originally entered this
part of the country under the protection of the Crees, and in concert
with them attacked and drove to the westward the former inhabitants of
the banks of the Saskatchawan. They are still the allies of the Crees,
but have now become more numerous than their former protectors. They
exhibit all the bad qualities ascribed to the Mengwe or Iroquois, the
stock whence they are sprung. Of their actual number I could obtain no
precise information, but it is very great. The Crees who inhabit the
plains, being fur hunters, are better known to the traders.

"They are divided into two distinct bands, the Ammisk-watcheéthinyoowuc
or Beaver Hill Crees, who have about forty tents, and the
Sackaweé-thinyoowuc, or Thick Wood Crees, who have thirty-five. The
tents average nearly ten inmates each, which gives a population of
seven hundred and fifty to the whole.

"The nations who were driven to the westward by the Eascab and Crees are
termed, in general, by the latter, Yatcheé-thinyoowuc, which has been
translated Slave Indians, but more properly signifies Strangers.

"They now inhabit the country around Fort Augustus, and towards the foot
of the Rocky Mountains, and have increased in strength until they have
become an object of terror to the Eascab themselves. They rear a great
number of horses, make use of fire-arms, and are fond of European
articles; in order to purchase which they hunt the beaver and other
furred animals, but they depend principally on the buffalo for

"They are divided into five nations:--First, the
Pawäustic-eythin-yoowuc, or Fall Indians, so named from their former
residence on the falls of the Saskatchawan. They are the Minetarres,
with whom Captain Lewis's party had a conflict on their return from the
Missouri. They have about four hundred and fifty or five hundred tents;
their language is very guttural and difficult.

"Second, the Peganoo-eythinyoowuc Pegans, or Muddy River Indians, named
in their own language Peganoe`-koon, have four hundred tents.

"Third, the Meethco-thinyoowuc, or Blood Indians, named by themselves
Kainoe`-koon, have three hundred tents.

"Fourth, the Cuskoeteh-waw-thésseetuck, or Blackfoot Indians, in their
own language Saxoekoe-koon, have three hundred and fifty tents.

"The last three nations, or tribes, the Pegans, Blood Indians, and
Black-feet speak the same language. It is pronounced in a slow and
distinct tone, has much softness, and is easily acquired by their
neighbours. I am assured by the best interpreters in the country, that
it bears no affinity to the Cree, Sioux, or Chipewyan languages.

"Lastly, the Sassees, or Circees, have one hundred and fifty tents; they
speak the same language with their neighbours, the Snare Indians, who
are a tribe of the extensive family of the Chipewyans[14]."

  [14] "As the subjects may be interesting to philologists, I subjoin a
       few words of the Blackfoot language:--

       Peestâh kan,        tobacco.
       Moohksee,           an awl.
       Nappoe-oòhkee,      rum.
       Cook keet,          give me.
       Eeninee,            buffalo.
       Poox[=a]poot,       come here.
       Kat oetsits,        none, I have none.
       Keet st[=a] kee,    a beaver.
       Naum`,              a bow.
       Stoo-an,            a knife.
       Sassoopats,         ammunition.
       Meenee,             beads.
       Poommees,           fat.
       Miss ta poot,       keep off.
       Saw,                no.
       Stwee,              cold; it is cold.
       Penn[=a]k[=o]mit,   a horse.
       Ahseeu,             good."

On the 6th of February, we accompanied Mr. Prudens on a visit to a Cree
encampment and a buffalo pound, about six miles from the house; we
found seven tents pitched within a small cluster of pines, which
adjoined the pound. The largest, which we entered, belonged to the
Chief, who was absent, but came in on learning our arrival. The old man
(about sixty) welcomed us with a hearty shake of the hand, and the
customary salutation of "What cheer!" an expression which they have
gained from the traders. As we had been expected, they had caused the
tent to be neatly arranged, fresh grass was spread on the ground,
buffalo robes were placed on the side opposite the door for us to sit
on, and a kettle was on the fire to boil meat for us.

After a few minutes' conversation, an invitation was given to the Chief
and his hunters to smoke the calumet with us, as a token of our
friendship: this was loudly announced through the camp, and ten men from
the other tents immediately joined our party. On their entrance the
women and children withdrew, their presence on such occasions being
contrary to etiquette. The calumet having been prepared and lighted by
Mr. Prudens's clerk, was presented to the Chief, who performed the
following ceremony before he commenced smoking:--He first pointed the
stem to the south, then to the west, north, and east, and afterwards to
the heavens, the earth, and the fire, as an offering to the presiding
spirits:--he took three whiffs only, and then passed the pipe to his
next companion, who took the same number of whiffs, and so did each
person as it went round. After the calumet had been replenished, the
person who then commenced repeated only the latter part of the ceremony,
pointing the stem to the heaven, the earth, and the fire. Some spirits,
mixed with water, were presented to the old man, who, before he drank,
demanded a feather, which he dipped into the cup several times, and
sprinkled the moisture on the ground, pronouncing each time a prayer.
His first address to the Keetchee Manitou, or Great Spirit, was, that
buffalo might be abundant every where, and that plenty might come into
their pound. He next prayed, that the other animals might be numerous,
and particularly those which were valuable for their furs, and then
implored that the party present might escape the sickness which was at
that time prevalent, and be blessed with constant health. Some other
supplications followed, which we could not get interpreted without
interrupting the whole proceeding; but at every close, the whole Indian
party assented by exclaiming Aha; and when he had finished, the old man
drank a little and passed the cup round. After these ceremonies each
person smoked at his leisure, and they engaged in a general
conversation, which I regretted not understanding, as it seemed to be
very humorous, exciting frequent bursts of laughter. The younger men, in
particular, appeared to ridicule the abstinence of one of the party, who
neither drank{30} nor smoked. He bore their jeering with perfect
composure, and assured them, as I was told, they would be better if they
would follow his example. I was happy to learn from Mr. Prudens, that
this man was not only one of the best hunters, but the most cheerful and
contented of the tribe.

Four Stone Indians arrived at this time and were invited into the tent,
but one only accepted the invitation and partook of the fare. When Mr.
Prudens heard the others refuse, he gave immediate directions that our
horses should be narrowly watched, as he suspected these fellows wished
to carry them off. Having learned that these Crees considered Mr. Back
and myself to be war chiefs, possessing great power, and that they
expected we should make some address to them, I desired them to be kind
to the traders, to be industrious in procuring them provision and furs,
and to refrain from stealing their stores and horses; and I assured
them, that if I heard of their continuing to behave kindly, I would
mention their good conduct in the strongest terms to their Great Father
across the sea, (by which appellation they designate the King,) whose
favourable consideration they had been taught by the traders to value
most highly.

They all promised to follow my advice, and assured me it was not they,
but the Stone Indians, who robbed and annoyed the traders. The Stone
Indian who was present, heard this accusation against his tribe quite
unmoved, but he probably did not understand the whole of the
communication. We left them to finish their rum, and went to look round
the lodges, and examine the pound.

The greatest proportion of labour, in savage life, falls to the women;
we now saw them employed in dressing skins, and conveying wood, water,
and provision. As they have often to fetch the meat from some distance,
they are assisted in this duty by their dogs, which are not harnessed in
sledges, but carry their burthens in a manner peculiarly adapted to this
level country. Two long poles are fastened by a collar to the dog's
neck; their ends trail on the ground, and are kept at a proper distance
by a hoop, which is lashed between them, immediately behind the dog's
tail; the hoop is covered with network, upon which the load is placed.

The boys were amusing themselves by shooting arrows at a mark, and thus
training to become hunters. The Stone Indians are so expert with the bow
and arrow, that they can strike a very small object at a considerable
distance, and will shoot with sufficient force to pierce through the
body of a buffalo when near.

The buffalo pound was a fenced circular space of about a hundred yards
in diameter; the entrance was banked up with snow, to a sufficient
height to prevent the retreat of the animals that once have entered. For
about a mile on each side of the road leading to the pound, stakes were
driven into the ground at nearly equal distances of about twenty yards;
these were intended to represent men, and to deter the animals from
attempting to break out on either side. Within fifty or sixty yards from
the pound, branches of trees were placed between these stakes to screen
the Indians, who lie down behind them to await the approach of the

The principal dexterity in this species of chase is shewn by the
horsemen, who have to manoeuvre round the herd in the plains so as to
urge them to enter the roadway, which is about a quarter of a mile
broad. When this has been accomplished, they raise loud shouts, and,
pressing close upon the animals, so terrify them that they rush
heedlessly forward towards the snare. When they have advanced as far as
the men who are lying in ambush, they also rise, and increase the
consternation by violent shouting and firing guns. The affrighted beasts
having no alternative, run directly to the pound, where they are quickly
despatched, either with an arrow or gun.

There was a tree in the centre of the pound, on which the Indians had
hung strips of buffalo flesh and pieces of cloth as tributary or
grateful offerings to the Great Master of Life; and we were told that
they occasionally place a man in the tree to sing to the presiding
spirit as the buffaloes are advancing, who must keep his station until
the whole that have entered are killed. This species of hunting is very
similar to that of taking elephants on the Island of Ceylon, but upon a
smaller scale.

The Crees complained to us of the audacity of a party of Stone Indians,
who, two nights before, had stripped their revered tree of many of its
offerings, and had injured their pound by setting their stakes out of
the proper places.

Other modes of killing the buffalo are practised by the Indians with
success; of these the hunting them on horseback requires most dexterity.
An expert hunter, when well mounted, dashes at the herd, and chooses an
individual which he endeavours to separate from the rest. If he
succeeds, he contrives to keep him apart by the proper management of his
horse, though going at full speed. Whenever he can get sufficiently near
for a ball to penetrate the beast's hide, he fires, and seldom fails of
bringing the animal down; though of course he cannot rest the piece
against the shoulder, nor take a deliberate aim. On this service the
hunter is often exposed to considerable danger, from the fall of his
horse in the numerous holes which the badgers make in these plains, and
also from the rage of the buffalo, which, when closely pressed, often
turns suddenly, and, rushing furiously on the horse, frequently succeeds
in wounding it, or dismounting the rider. Whenever the animal shews this
disposition, which the experienced hunter will readily perceive, he
immediately pulls up his horse, and goes off in another direction.

When the buffaloes are on their guard, horses cannot be used in
approaching them; but the hunter dismounts at some distance, and crawls
in the snow towards the herd, pushing his gun before him. If the
buffaloes happen to look towards him, he stops, and keeps quite
motionless, until their eyes are turned in another direction; by this
cautious proceeding a skilful person will get so near as to be able to
kill two or three out of the herd. It will easily be imagined this
service cannot be very agreeable when the thermometer stands 30° or 40°
below zero, as sometimes happens in this country.

As we were returning from the tents, the dogs that were harnessed to
three sledges, in one of which Mr. Back was seated, set off in pursuit
of a buffalo-calf. Mr. Back was speedily thrown from his vehicle, and
had to join me in my horse-cariole. Mr. Heriot, having gone to recover
the dogs, found them lying exhausted beside the calf, which they had
baited until it was as exhausted as themselves. Mr. Heriot, to shew us
the mode of hunting on horseback, or, as the traders term it, running of
the buffalo, went in chase of a cow, and killed it after firing three

The buffalo is a huge and shapeless animal, quite devoid of grace or
beauty; particularly awkward in running, but by no means slow; when put
to his speed, he plunges through the deep snow very expeditiously; the
hair is dark brown, very shaggy, curling about the head, neck, and hump,
and almost covering the eye, particularly in the bull, which is larger
and more unsightly than the cow. The most esteemed part of the animal is
the hump, called by the Canadians _bos_, by the Hudson's Bay people the
_wig_; it is merely a strong muscle, on which nature at certain seasons
forms a considerable quantity of fat. It is attached to the long spinous
processes of the first dorsal vertebræ, and seems to be destined to
support the enormous head of the animal. The meat which covers the
spinal processes themselves, after the wig is removed, is next in esteem
for its flavour and juiciness, and is more exclusively termed the hump
by the hunters.

The party was prevented from visiting a Stone Indian encampment by a
heavy fall of snow, which made it impracticable to go and return the
same day. We were dissuaded from sleeping at their tents by the
interpreter at the N.W. post, who told us they considered the
hooping-cough and measles, under which they were now suffering, to have
been introduced by some white people recently arrived in the country,
and that he feared those who had lost relatives, imagining we were the
persons, might vent their revenge on us. We regretted to learn that
these diseases had been so very destructive among the tribes along the
Saskatchawan, as to have carried off about three hundred persons, Crees
and Asseenaboines, within the trading circle of these establishments.
The interpreter also informed us of another bad trait peculiar to the
Stone Indians. Though they receive a visitor kindly at their tents, and
treat him very hospitably during his stay, yet it is very probable they
will despatch some young men to way-lay and rob him in going towards the
post: indeed, all the traders assured us it was more necessary to be
vigilantly on our guard on the occasion of a visit to them, than at any
other time.

Carlton House, (which our observations place in latitude 52° 50' 47" N.,
longitude, 106° 12' 42" W., variation 20° 44' 47" E.) is pleasantly
situated about a quarter of a mile from the river's side on the flat
ground under the shelter of the high banks that bound the plains. The
land is fertile, and produces, with little trouble, ample returns of
wheat, barley, oats, and potatoes. The ground is prepared for the
reception of these vegetables, about the middle of April, and when Dr.
Richardson visited this place on May 10th, the blade of wheat looked
strong and healthy. There were only five acres in cultivation at the
period of my visit. The prospect from the fort must be pretty in summer,
owing to the luxuriant verdure of this fertile soil; but in the uniform
and cheerless garb of winter, it has little to gratify the eye.

Beyond the steep bank behind the house, commences the vast plain, whose
boundaries are but imperfectly known; it extends along the south branch
of the Saskatchawan, and towards the sources of the Missouri, and
Asseenaboine Rivers, being scarcely interrupted through the whole of
this great space by hills, or even rising grounds. The excellent
pasturage furnishes food in abundance, to a variety of grazing animals,
of which the buffalo, red-deer, and a species of antelope, are the most
important. Their presence naturally attracts great hordes of wolves,
which are of two kinds, the large, and the small. Many bears prowl about
the banks of this river in summer; of these the grizzle bear is the most
ferocious, and is held in dread both by Indians and Europeans. The
traveller, in crossing these plains, not only suffers from the want of
food and water, but is also exposed to hazard from his horse stumbling
in the numerous badger-holes. In many large districts, the only fuel is
the dried dung of the buffalo; and when a thirsty traveller reaches a
spring, he has not unfrequently the mortification to find the water

Carlton House, and La Montée, are provision-posts, only an
inconsiderable quantity of furs being obtained at either of them. The
provisions are procured in the winter season from the Indians, in the
form of dried meat and fat, and when converted by mixture into pemmican,
furnish the principal support of the voyagers, in their passages to and
from the depôts in summer. A considerable quantity of it is also kept
for winter use, at most of the fur-posts, as the least bulky article
that can be taken on a winter journey. The mode of making pemmican is
very simple, the meat is dried by the Indians in the sun, or over a
fire, and pounded by beating it with stones when spread on a skin. In
this state it is brought to the forts, where the admixture of hair is
partially sifted out, and a third part of melted fat incorporated with
it, partly by turning the two over with a wooden shovel, partly by
kneading them together with the hands. The pemmican is then firmly
pressed into leathern bags, each capable of containing eighty-five
pounds, and being placed in an airy place to cool, is fit for use. It
keeps in this state, if not allowed to get wet, very well for one year,
and with great care it may be preserved good for two. Between three and
four hundred bags were made here by each of the Companies this year.

There were eight men, besides Mr. Prudens and his clerk, belonging to
Carlton House. At La Montée there were seventy Canadians and
half-breeds, and sixty women and children, who consumed upwards of seven
hundred pounds of{31} buffalo meat daily, the allowance per diem for
each man being eight pounds: a portion not so extravagant as may at
first appear, when allowance is made for bone, and the entire want of
farinaceous food or vegetables.

There are other provision posts, Fort Augustus and Edmonton farther up
the river, from whence some furs are also procured. The Stone Indians
have threatened to cut off the supplies in going up to these
establishments, to prevent their enemies from obtaining ammunition, and
other European articles; but as these menaces have been frequently made
without being put in execution{32}, the traders now hear them without
any great alarm, though they take every precaution to prevent being
surprised. Mr. Back and I were present when an old Cree communicated to
Mr. Prudens, that the Indians spoke of killing all the white people in
that vicinity this year, which information he received with perfect
composure, and was amused, as well as ourselves, with the man's
judicious remark which immediately followed, "A pretty state we shall
then be in without the goods you bring us."

The following remarks on a well-known disease are extracted from Dr.
Richardson's Journal:--

"Bronchocele, or Goitre, is a common disorder at Edmonton. I examined
several of the individuals afflicted with it, and endeavoured to obtain
every information on the subject from the most authentic sources. The
following facts may be depended upon. The disorder attacks those only
who drink the water of the river. It is indeed in its worst state
confined almost entirely to the half-breed women and children, who
reside constantly at the fort, and make use of river water, drawn in the
winter through a hole cut in the ice. The men, being often from home on
journeys through the plain, when their drink is melted snow, are less
affected; and, if any of them exhibit during the winter, some incipient
symptoms of the complaint, the annual summer voyage to the sea-coast
generally effects a cure. The natives who confine themselves to snow
water in the winter, and drink of the small rivulets which flow through
the plains in the summer, are exempt from the attacks of this disease.

"These facts are curious, inasmuch as they militate against the
generally-received opinion that the disease is caused by drinking
snow-water; an opinion which seems to have originated from bronchocele
being endemial to sub-alpine districts.

"The Saskatchawan, at Edmonton, is clear in the winter, and also in the
summer, except during the May and July floods. The distance from the
Rocky Mountains (which I suppose to be of primitive formation,) is
upwards of one hundred and thirty miles. The neighbouring plains are
alluvial, the soil is calcareous, and contains numerous travelled
fragments of limestone. At a considerable distance below Edmonton, the
river, continuing its course through the plains, becomes turbid, and
acquires a white colour. In this state it is drunk by the inmates of
Carlton House, where the disease is known only by name. It is said that
the inhabitants of Rocky Mountain House, sixty miles nearer the source
of the river are more severely affected than those at Edmonton. The same
disease occurs near the sources of the Elk and Peace Rivers; but, in
those parts of the country which are distant from the Rocky Mountain
Chain, it is unknown, although melted snow forms the only drink of the
natives for nine months of the year.

"A residence of a single year at Edmonton is sufficient to render a
family bronchocelous. Many of the goitres acquire great size. Burnt
sponge has been tried, and found to remove the disease, but an exposure
to the same cause immediately reproduces it.

"A great proportion of the children of women who have goitres, are born
idiots, with large heads, and the other distinguishing marks of
_cretins_. I could not learn whether it was necessary that both parents
should have goitres, to produce cretin children: indeed the want of
chastity in the half-breed women would be a bar to the deduction of any
inference on this head."

_February 8_.--Having recovered from the swellings and pains which our
late march from Cumberland had occasioned, we prepared for the
commencement of our journey to Isle à la Crosse, and requisitions were
made on both the establishments for the means of conveyance, and the
necessary supply of provisions for the party, which were readily
furnished. On the 9th the carioles and sledges were loaded, and sent off
after breakfast; but Mr. Back and I remained till the afternoon, as Mr.
Prudens had offered that his horses should convey us to the encampment.
At 3 P.M. we parted from our kind host, and in passing through the gate
were honoured with a salute of musketry. After riding six miles, we
joined the men at their encampment, which was made under the shelter of
a few poplars. The dogs had been so much fatigued in wading through the
very deep snow with their heavy burdens, having to drag upwards of
ninety pounds' weight each, that they could get no farther. Soon after
our arrival, the snow began to fall heavily, and it continued through
the greater part of the night.

Our next day's march was therefore particularly tedious, the snow being
deep, and the route lying across an unvarying level, destitute of wood,
except one small cluster of willows. In the afternoon we reached the end
of the plain, and came to an elevation, on which poplars, willows, and
some pines grew, where we encamped; having travelled ten miles. We
crossed three small lakes, two of fresh water and one of salt, near the
latter of which we encamped, and were, in consequence, obliged to use
for our tea, water made from snow, which has always a disagreeable

We had scarcely ascended the hill on the following morning, when a large
herd of red-deer was perceived grazing at a little distance; and, though
we were amply supplied with provision, our Canadian companions could not
resist the temptation of endeavouring to add to our stock. A half-breed
hunter was therefore sent after them. He succeeded in wounding one, but
not so as to prevent its running off with the herd in a direction wide
of our course. A couple of rabbits and a brace of wood partridges were
shot in the afternoon. There was an agreeable variety of hill and dale
in the scenery we passed through to-day; and sufficient wood for
ornament, but not enough to crowd the picture. The valleys were
intersected by several small lakes and pools, whose snowy covering was
happily contrasted with the dark green of the pine-trees which
surrounded them. After ascending a moderately high hill by a winding
path through a close wood, we opened suddenly upon Lake Iroquois, and
had a full view of its picturesque shores. We crossed it and encamped.

Though the sky was cloudless, yet the weather was warm. We had the
gratification of finding a beaten track soon after we started on the
morning of the 12th, and were thus enabled to walk briskly. We crossed
at least twenty hills, and found a small lake or pool at the foot of
each. The destructive ravages of fire were visible during the greater
part of the day. The only wood we saw for miles together consisted of
pine-trees stript of their branches and bark by this element: in other
parts poplars alone were growing, which we have remarked invariably to
succeed the pine after a conflagration. We walked twenty miles to-day,
but the direct distance was only sixteen.

The remains of an Indian hut were found in a deep glen, and close to it
was placed a pile of wood, which our companions supposed to cover a
deposit of provision. Our Canadian voyagers, induced by their insatiable
desire of procuring food, proceeded to remove the upper pieces, and
examine its contents; when, to their surprise{33}, they found the body
of a female, clothed in leather, which appeared to have been recently
placed there. Her former garments, the materials for making a fire, a
fishing-line, a hatchet, and a bark dish, were laid beside the corpse.
The wood was carefully replaced. A small owl, perched on a tree near the
spot, called forth many singular remarks from our companions, as to its
being a good or bad omen.

We walked the whole of the 13th over flat meadow-land, which is much
resorted to by the buffalo at all seasons. Some herds of them were seen,
which our hunters were too unskilful to approach. In the afternoon we
reached the Stinking Lake, which is nearly of an oval form. Its shores
are very low and swampy, to which circumstances, and not to the bad
quality of the waters, it owes its Indian name. Our observations place
its western part in latitude 53° 25' 24" N., longitude 107° 18' 58" W.,
variation 20° 32' 10" E.

After a march of fifteen miles and a half, we encamped among a few
pines, at the only spot where we saw sufficient wood for making our fire
during the day. The next morning, about an hour after we had commenced
our march, we came upon a beaten track, and perceived recent marks of
snow-shoes. In a short time an Iroquois joined us, who was residing with
a party of Cree-Indians, to secure the meat and furs they should
collect, for the North-West Company. He accompanied us as far as the
stage on which his meat was placed, and then gave us a very pressing
invitation to halt for the day and partake of his fare; which, as the
hour was too early, we declined, much to the annoyance of our Canadian
companions, who had been cherishing the prospect of indulging their
amazing appetites at this well-furnished store, ever since the man had
been with us. He gave them, however, a small supply previous to our
parting. The route now crossed some ranges of hills, on which fir,
birch, and poplar, grew so thickly, that we had much difficulty in
getting the sledges through the narrow pathway between them. In the
evening we descended from the elevated ground, crossed three swampy
meadows, and encamped at their northern extremity, within a cluster of
large pine-trees, the branches of which were elegantly decorated with
abundance of a greenish yellow lichen. Our march was ten miles. The
weather was very mild, almost too warm for the exercise we were taking.

We had a strong gale from the N.W. during the night, which subsided as
the morning opened. One of the sledges had been so much broken the day
before in the woods, that we had to divide its cargo among the others.
We started after this had been arranged, and finding almost immediately
a firm track, soon arrived at some Indian lodges to which it led. The
inhabitants were Crees, belonging to the posts on the Saskatchawan, from
whence they had come to hunt beaver. We made but a short stay, and
proceeded through a Swamp to Pelican Lake. Our view to the right was
bounded by a range of lofty hills, which extended for several miles in a
north and south direction, which, it may be remarked, was that of all
the hilly land we had passed since quitting the plain.

Pelican Lake is of an irregular form, about six miles from east to west,
and eight from north to south; it decreases to the breadth of a mile
towards the northern extremity, and is there terminated by a creek. We
went up this creek for a short distance, and then struck into the woods,
and encamped among a cluster of the firs, which the Canadians term
cyprès{34} (_pinus Banksiana_,) having come fourteen miles and a half.

_February 16_.--Shortly after commencing the journey to-day, we met an
Indian and his family, who had come from the houses at Green Lake; they
informed us the track was well beaten the whole way. We therefore, put
forth our utmost speed in the hope of reaching them by night; but were
disappointed, and had to halt at dark, about twelve miles from them, in
a fisherman's hut, which was unoccupied. Frequent showers of snow fell
during the day, and the atmosphere was thick and gloomy.

We started at an early hour the following morning, and reached the
Hudson's Bay Company's post to breakfast, and were received very kindly
by Mr. Mac Farlane, the gentleman in charge. The other establishment,
situated on the opposite side of the river, was under the direction of
Mr. Dugald Cameron, one of the partners of the North-West Company, on
whom Mr. Back and I called soon after our arrival, and were honoured
with a salute of musquetry.

These establishments are small, but said to be well situated for
procuring furs; as the numerous creeks in their vicinity are much
resorted to by the beaver, otter, and musquash. The residents usually
obtain a superabundant supply of provision. This season, however, they
barely had sufficient for their own support, owing to the epidemic which
has incapacitated the Indians for hunting. The Green Lake lies nearly
north and south, is eighteen miles in length, and does not exceed one
mile and a half of breadth in any part. The water is deep, and it is in
consequence one of the last lakes in the country that is frozen.
Excellent tittameg and trout are caught in it from March to December,
but after that time most of the fish remove to some larger lake.

We remained two days, awaiting the return of some men who had been sent
to the Indian lodges for meat, and who were to go on with us. Mr. Back
and I did not need this rest, having completely surmounted the pain
occasioned by the snow-shoes. We dined twice with Mr. Cameron, and
received from him many useful suggestions respecting our future
operations. This gentleman having informed us that provisions would,
probably, be very scarce next spring in the Athabasca department, in
consequence of the sickness of the Indians during the hunting season,
undertook at my request to cause a supply of pemmican to be conveyed
from the Saskatchawan to Isle à la Crosse for our use during the winter,
and I wrote to apprize Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood, that they would find
it at the latter post when they passed; and also to desire them to bring
as much as the canoes would stow from Cumberland.

The atmosphere was clear and cold during our stay; observations were
obtained at the Hudson Bay Fort, lat. 54° 16' 10" N., long. 107° 29' 52"
W., var. 22° 6' 35" E.

_February 20_.--Having been equipped with carioles, sledges, and
provisions, from the two posts, we this day recommenced our journey,
and were much amused by the novelty of the salute given at our
departure, the guns being principally fired by the women in the absence
of the men. Our course was directed to the end of the lake, and for a
short distance along a small river; we then crossed the woods to the
Beaver River, which we found to be narrow and very serpentine, having
moderately high banks. We encamped about one mile and a half further up
among poplars. The next day we proceeded along the river; it was
winding, and about two hundred yards broad. We passed the mouths of two
rivers whose waters it receives; the latter one, we were informed, is a
channel by which the Indians go to the Lesser Slave Lake. The banks of
the river became higher as we advanced, and were adorned with pines,
poplars, and willows.

Though the weather was very cold, we travelled more comfortably than at
any preceding time since our departure from Cumberland, as we had light
carioles, which enabled us to ride nearly the whole day, warmly covered
up with a buffalo robe. We were joined by Mr. McLeod, of the North-West
Company, who had kindly brought some things from Green Lake, which our
sledges could not carry. Pursuing our route along the river, we reached
at an early hour the upper extremity of the "Grand Rapid," where the ice
was so rough that the carioles and sledges had to be conveyed across a
point of land. Soon after noon we left the river, inclining N.E., and
directed our course N.W., until we reached Long Lake, and encamped at
its northern extremity, having come twenty-three miles. This lake is
about fourteen miles long, and from three quarters to one mile and a
half broad; its shores and islands low, but well wooded. There were
frequent snow-showers during the day.

_February 23_.--The night was very stormy, but the wind became more
moderate in the morning. We passed to-day through several nameless lakes
and swamps before we came to Train Lake, which received its name from
being the place where the traders procured the birch to make their
sledges, or traineaux; but this wood has been all used, and there only
remain pines and a few poplars. We met some sledges laden with fish,
kindly sent to meet us by Mr. Clark, of the Hudson's Bay Company, on
hearing of our approach. Towards the evening the weather became much
more unpleasant, and we were exposed to a piercingly cold wind, and much
snow-drift, in traversing the Isle à la Crosse Lake; we were, therefore,
highly pleased at reaching the Hudson's Bay House by six P.M. We were
received in the most friendly manner by Mr. Clark, and honoured by
volleys of musketry. Similar marks of attention were shewn to us on the
following day by Mr. Bethune, the partner in charge of the North-West
Company's Fort. I found here the letters which I had addressed from
Cumberland, in November last, to the partners of the North-West Company,
in the Athabasca, which circumstance convinced me of the necessity of
our present journey.

These establishments are situated on the southern side of the lake, and
close to each other. They are forts of considerable importance, being
placed at a point of communication with the English River, the
Athabasca, and Columbia Districts. The country around them is low, and
intersected with water, and was formerly much frequented by beavers and
otters, which, however, have been so much hunted by the Indians, that
their number is greatly decreased. The Indians frequenting these forts
are the Crees and some Chipewyans; they scarcely ever come except in the
spring and autumn; in the former season to bring their winter's
collection of furs, and in the latter to get the stores they require.

Three Chipewyan lads came in during our stay, to report what furs the
band to which they belonged had collected, and to desire they might be
sent for; the Indians having declined bringing either furs or meat
themselves, since the opposition between the Companies commenced. Mr.
Back drew the portrait of one of the boys.

Isle à la Crosse Lake receives its name from an island situated near the
forts, on which the Indians formerly assembled annually to amuse
themselves at the game of the Cross. It is justly celebrated for
abundance of the finest tittameg, which weigh from five to fifteen
pounds. The residents live principally upon this most delicious fish,
which fortunately can be eaten a long time without disrelish. It is
plentifully caught with nets throughout the year, except for two or
three months.

_March 4_.--We witnessed the Aurora Borealis very brilliant for the
second time since our departure from Cumberland. A winter encampment is
not a favourable situation for viewing this phenomenon, as the trees in
general hide the sky. Arrangements had been made for recommencing our
journey to-day, but the wind was stormy, and the snow had drifted too
much for travelling with comfort; we therefore stayed and dined with Mr.
Bethune, who promised to render every assistance in getting pemmican
conveyed to us from the Saskatchawan, to be in readiness for our
canoes, when they might arrive in the spring; Mr. Clark also engaged to
procure six bags for us, and to furnish our canoes with any other
supplies which might be wanted, and could be spared from his post, and
to contribute his aid in forwarding the pemmican to the Athabasca, if
our canoes could not carry it all.

I feel greatly indebted to this gentleman for much valuable information
respecting the country and the Indians residing to the north of Slave
Lake, and for furnishing me with a list of stores he supposed we should
require. He had resided some years on Mackenzie's River, and had been
once so far towards its mouth as to meet the Esquimaux in great numbers.
But they assumed such a hostile attitude, that he deemed it unadvisable
to attempt opening any communication with them, and retreated as
speedily as he could.

The observations we obtained here shewed that the chronometers had
varied their rates a little in consequence of the jolting of the
carioles, but their errors and rates were ascertained previous to our
departure. We observed the position of this fort to be latitude 55° 25'
35" N., longitude 107° 51' 00" W., by lunars reduced back from Fort
Chipewyan, variation 22° 15' 48" W.,{35} dip 84° 13' 35".

_March 5_.--We recommenced our journey this morning, having been
supplied with the means of conveyance by both the Companies in equal
proportions. Mr. Clark accompanied us with the intention of going as far
as the boundary of his district. This gentleman was an experienced
winter traveller, and we derived much benefit from his suggestions; he
caused the men to arrange the encampment with more attention to comfort
and shelter than our former companions had done. After marching eighteen
miles we put up on Gravel Point, in the Deep River.

At nine the next morning, we came to the commencement of Clear Lake. We
crossed its southern extremes, and then went over a point of land to
Buffalo Lake, and encamped after travelling{36} twenty-six miles. After
supper we were entertained till midnight with paddling songs, by our
Canadians, who required very little stimulus beyond their natural
vivacity, to afford us this diversion. The next morning we arrived at
the establishments which are situated on the western side of the lake,
near a small stream, called the Beaver River. They were small log
buildings, hastily erected last October, for the convenience of the
Indians who hunt in the vicinity. Mr. Mac Murray, a partner in the N.W.
Company, having sent to Isle à la Crosse an invitation to Mr. Back and
I, our carioles were driven to his post, and we experienced the kindest
reception. These posts are frequented by only a few Indians, Crees, and
Chipewyans. The country round is not sufficiently stocked with animals
to afford support to many families, and the traders subsist almost
entirely on fish caught in the autumn, prior to the lake being frozen;
but the water being shallow, they remove to a deeper part, as soon as
the lake is covered with ice. The Aurora Borealis was brilliantly
displayed on both the nights we remained here, but particularly on the
7th, when its appearances were most diversified, and the motion
extremely rapid. Its coruscations occasionally concealed from sight
stars of the first magnitude in passing over them, at other times these
were faintly discerned through them; once I perceived a stream of light
to illumine the under surface of some clouds as it passed along. There
was no perceptible noise.

Mr. Mac Murray gave a dance to his voyagers and the women; this is a
treat which they expect on the arrival of any stranger at the post.

We were presented by this gentleman with the valuable skin of a black
fox, which he had entrapped some days before our arrival; it was
forwarded to England with other specimens.

Our observations place the North-West Company's House in latitude 55°
53' 00" N., longitude 108° 51' 10" W., variation 22° 33' 22" E.

The shores of Buffalo Lake are of moderate height, and well wooded, but
immediately beyond the bank the country is very swampy and intersected
with water in every direction. At some distance from the western side
there is a conspicuous hill, which we hailed with much pleasure, as
being the first interruption to the tediously uniform scene we had for
some time passed through.

On the 10th we recommenced our journey after breakfast, and travelled
quickly, as we had the advantage of a well-beaten track. At the end of
eighteen miles we entered upon the river "Loche," which has a serpentine
course, and is confined between alluvial banks that support stunted
willows and a few pines; we encamped about three miles further on; and
in the course of the next day's march perceived several holes on the
ice, and many unsafe places for the sledges. Our companions said the ice
of this river is always in the same insecure state, even during the most
severe winter, which they attributed to warm springs. Quitting the
river, we crossed a portage and came upon the Methye Lake, and soon
afterwards arrived at the trading posts on its western side. These were
perfect huts, which had been hastily built after the commencement of
the last winter. We here saw two hunters who were Chipewyan half-breeds,
and made many inquiries of them respecting the countries we expected to
visit, but we found them quite ignorant of every part beyond the
Athabasca Lake. They spoke of Mr. Hearne and of his companion
Matonnabee, but did not add to our stock of information respecting that
journey. It had happened before their birth, but they remembered the
expedition of Sir Alexander Mackenzie towards the sea.

This is a picturesque lake, about ten miles long and six broad, and
receives its name from a species of fish caught in it, but not much
esteemed; the residents never eat any part but the liver except through
necessity, the dogs dislike even that. The tittameg and trout are also
caught in the fall of the year. The position of the houses by our
observations is latitude 56° 24' 20" N., longitude 109° 23' 06" W.,
variation 22° 50' 28" E.

On the 13th we renewed our journey and parted from Mr. Clark, to whom we
were much obliged for his hospitality and kindness. We soon reached the
Methye Portage, and had a very pleasant ride across it in our carioles.
The track was good and led through groups of pines, so happily placed
that it would not have required a great stretch of imagination to fancy
ourselves in a well-arranged park. We had now to cross a small lake, and
then gradually ascended hills beyond it, until we arrived at the summit
of a lofty chain of mountains commanding the most picturesque and
romantic prospect we had yet seen in this country. Two ranges of high
hills run parallel to each other for several miles, until the faint blue
haze hides their particular characters, when they slightly change their
course, and are lost to the view. The space between them is occupied by
nearly a level plain, through which a river pursues a meandering course,
and receives supplies from the creeks and rills issuing from the
mountains on each side. The prospect was delightful even amid the snow,
and though marked with all the cheerless characters of winter; how much
more charming must it be when the trees are in leaf, and the ground is
arrayed in summer verdure! Some faint idea of the difference was
conveyed to my mind by witnessing the effect of the departing rays of a
brilliant sun. The distant prospect, however, is surpassed in grandeur
by the wild scenery which appeared immediately below our feet. There the
eye penetrates into vast ravines two or three hundred feet in depth,
that are clothed with trees, and lie on either side of the narrow
pathway descending to the river over eight successive ridges of hills.
At one spot termed the Cockscomb, the traveller stands insulated as it
were on a small slip, where a false step might precipitate him into the
glen. From this place Mr. Back took an interesting and accurate sketch,
to allow time for which, we encamped early, having come twenty-one

The Methye Portage is about twelve miles in extent, and over this space
the canoes and all their cargoes are carried, both in going to and from
the Athabasca department. It is part of the range of mountains which
separates the waters flowing south from those flowing north. According
to Sir Alexander Mackenzie, "this range of hills continues in a S.W.
direction until its local height is lost between the Saskatchawan and
Elk Rivers, close on the banks of the former, in latitude 53° 36' N.,
longitude 113° 45' W., when it appears to take its course due north."
Observations, taken in the spring by Mr. Hood, place the northside of
the portage in latitude 56° 41' 40" N., longitude 109° 52' 15" W.,
variation 25° 2' 30" E., dip 85° 7' 27".

At daylight on the 14th we began to descend the range of hills leading
towards the river, and no small care was required to prevent the
sledges from being broken in going down these almost perpendicular
heights, or being precipitated into the glens on each side. As a
precautionary measure the dogs were taken off, and the sledges guided by
the men, notwithstanding which they descended with amazing rapidity, and
the men were thrown into the most ridiculous attitudes in endeavouring
to stop them. When we had arrived at the bottom I could not but feel
astonished at the laborious task which the voyagers have twice in the
year to encounter at this place, in conveying their stores backwards and
forwards. We went across the Clear Water River, which runs at the bases
of these hills, and followed an Indian track along its northern bank, by
which we avoided the White Mud and Good Portages. We afterwards followed
the river as far as the Pine Portage, when we passed through a very
romantic defile of rocks, which presented the appearance of Gothic
ruins, and their rude characters were happily contrasted with the
softness of the snow, and the darker foliage of the pines which crowned
their summits. We next crossed the Cascade Portage, which is the last on
the way to the Athabasca Lake, and soon afterwards came to some Indian
tents, containing five families, belonging to the Chipewyan tribe. We
smoked the calumet in the Chiefs tent, whose name was the Thumb, and
distributed some tobacco and a weak mixture of spirits and water among
the men. They received this civility with much less grace than the
Crees, and seemed to consider it a matter of course. There was an utter
neglect of cleanliness, and a total want of comfort in their tents; and
the poor creatures were miserably clothed. Mr. Frazer, who accompanied
us from the Methye Lake, accounted for their being in this forlorn
condition by explaining, that this band of Indians had recently
destroyed every thing they possessed, as a token of their great grief
for the loss of their relatives in the prevailing sickness. It appears
that no article is spared by these unhappy men when a near relative
dies; their clothes and tents are cut to pieces, their guns broken, and
every other weapon rendered useless, if some person do not remove these
articles from their sight, which is seldom done.--Mr. Back sketched one
of the children, which delighted the father very much, who charged the
boy to be very good, since his picture had been drawn by a great chief.
We learned that they prize pictures very highly, and esteem any they can
get, however badly executed, as efficient charms. They were unable to
give us any information respecting the country beyond the Athabasca
Lake, which is the boundary of their peregrinations to the northward.
Having been apprized of our coming, they had prepared an encampment for
us; but we had witnessed too many proofs of their importunity to expect
that we could pass the night near them in any comfort, whilst either
spirits, tobacco, or sugar remained in our possession; and therefore
preferred to go about two miles further along the river, and to encamp
among a cluster of fine pine-trees, after a journey of sixteen miles.

On the morning of the 15th, in proceeding along the river we perceived a
strong smell of sulphur, and on the north shore found a quantity of it
scattered, which seemed to have been deposited by some spring in the
neighbourhood: it appeared very pure and good. We continued our course
the whole day along the river, which is about four hundred yards wide,
has some islands, and is confined between low land, extending from the
bases of the mountains on each side. We put up at the end of thirteen
miles, and were then joined by a Chipewyan, who came, as we supposed, to
serve as our guide to Pierre au Calumet, but as none of the party could
communicate with our new friend, otherwise than by signs, we waited
patiently until the morning to see what he intended to do. The wind blew
a gale during the night, and the snow fell heavily. The next day our
guide led us to the Pembina River, which comes from the southward, where
we found traces of Indians, who appeared to have quitted this station
the day before; we had, therefore, the benefit of a good track, which
our dogs much required, as they were greatly fatigued, having dragged
their loads through very deep snow for the last two days. A moose-deer
crossed the river just before the party: this animal is plentiful in the
vicinity. We encamped in a pleasant well-sheltered place, having
travelled fourteen miles.

A short distance on the following morning, brought us to some Indian
lodges, which belonged to an old Chipewyan chief, named the Sun, and his
family, consisting of five hunters, their wives, and children. They were
delighted to see us, and when the object of our expedition had been
explained to them, expressed themselves much interested in our progress;
but they could not give a particle of information respecting the
countries beyond the Athabasca Lake. We smoked with them, and gave each
person a glass of mixed spirits and some tobacco. A Canadian servant of
the North-West Company, who was residing with them, informed us that
this family had lost numerous relatives, and that the destruction of
property, which had been made after their deaths, was the only cause
for the pitiable condition in which we saw them, as the whole family
were industrious hunters, and, therefore, were usually better provided
with clothes, and other useful articles, than most of the Indians. We
purchased from them a pair of snow-shoes, in exchange for some
ammunition. The Chipewyans are celebrated for making them good and easy
to walk in; we saw some here upwards of six feet long, and three broad.
With these unwieldy clogs an active hunter, in the spring, when there is
a crust on the surface of the snow, will run down a moose or red deer.

We made very slow progress after leaving this party, on account of the
deep snow, but continued along the river until we reached its junction
with the Athabasca or Elk River. We obtained observations on an island,
a little below the Forks, which gave, longitude 111° 8' 42" W.,
variation 24° 18' 20" E. Very little wood was seen during this day's
march. The western shore, near the Forks, is destitute of trees; it is
composed of lofty perpendicular cliffs, which were now covered with
snow. The eastern shore supports a few pines.

_March 18_.--Soon after our departure from the encampment, we met two
men from the establishment at Pierre au Calumet, who gave us correct
information of its situation and distance. Having the benefit of their
track, we marched at a tolerably quick pace, and made twenty-two miles
in the course of the day, though the weather was very disagreeable for
travelling, being stormy, with constant snow. We kept along the river
the whole time: its breadth is about two miles. The islands appear
better furnished with wood than its banks, the summits of which are
almost bare. Soon after we had encamped our Indian guide rejoined us; he
had remained behind the day before, without consulting us, to accompany
a friend on a hunting excursion. On his return he made no endeavour to
explain the reason of his absence, but sat down coolly, and began to
prepare his supper. This behaviour made us sensible that little
dependence is to be placed on the continuance of an Indian guide, when
his inclination leads him away.

Early the next morning we sent forward the Indian and a Canadian, to
apprize the gentleman in charge of Pierre au Calumet of our approach;
and, after breakfast, the rest of the party proceeded along the river
for that station, which we reached in the afternoon. The senior partner
of the North-West Company in the Athabasca department, Mr. John Stuart,
was in charge of the post. Though he was quite ignorant until this
morning of our being in the country, we found him prepared to receive us
with great kindness, and ready to afford every information and
assistance, agreeably to the desire conveyed in Mr. Simon McGillivray's
circular letter. This gentleman had twice traversed this continent, and
reached the Pacific by the Columbia River; he was therefore, fully
conversant with the different modes of travelling, and with the
obstacles that may be expected in passing through unfrequented
countries. His suggestions and advice were consequently very valuable to
us, but not having been to the northward of the Great Slave Lake, he had
no knowledge of that line of country, except what he had gained from the
reports of Indians. He was of opinion, however, that positive
information, on which our course of proceedings might safely be
determined, could be procured from the Indians that frequent the north
side of the lake, when they came to the forts in the Spring. He
recommended my writing to the partner in charge of that department,
requesting him to collect all the intelligence he could, and to provide
guides and hunters from the tribe best acquainted with the country
through which we proposed to travel.

To our great regret, Mr. Stuart expressed much doubt as to our
prevailing upon any experienced Canadian voyagers to accompany us to
the sea, in consequence of their dread of the Esquimaux; who, he
informed us, had already destroyed the crew of one canoe, which had been
sent under Mr. Livingstone, to open a trading communication with those
who reside near the mouth of the Mackenzie River; and he also mentioned,
that the same tribe had driven away the canoes under Mr. Clark's
direction, going to them on a similar object, to which circumstance I
have alluded in my remarks at Isle à la Crosse.

This was unpleasant information; but we were comforted by Mr. Stuart's
assurance that himself and his partners would use every endeavour to
remove their fears, as well as to promote our views in every other way;
and he undertook, as a necessary part of our equipment in the spring, to
prepare the bark and other materials for constructing two canoes at this

Mr. Stuart informed us that the residents at Fort Chipewyan, from the
recent sickness of their Indian hunters, had been reduced to subsist
entirely on the produce of their fishing-nets, which did not then yield
more than a bare sufficiency for their support; and he kindly proposed
to us to remain with him until the spring: but, as we were most desirous
to gain all the information we could as early as possible, and Mr.
Stuart assured us that the addition of three persons would not be
materially felt in their large family at Chipewyan, we determined on
proceeding thither, and fixed on the 22d for our departure.

Pierre au Calumet receives its name from the place where the stone is
procured, of which many of the pipes used by the Canadians and Indians
are made. It is a clayey limestone, impregnated with various shells. The
house, which is built on the summit of a steep bank, rising almost
perpendicular to the height of one hundred and eighty feet, commands an
extensive prospect along this fine river, and over the plains which
stretch out several miles at the back of it, bounded by hills of
considerable height, and apparently better furnished with wood than the
neighbourhood of the fort, where the trees grow very scantily. There had
been an establishment belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company on the
opposite bank of the river, but it was abandoned in December last, the
residents not being able to procure provision, from their hunters having
been disabled by the epidemic sickness, which has carried off one-third
of the Indians in these parts. They belong to the Northern Crees, a name
given them from their residing in the Athabasca department. There are
now but few families of these men, who, formerly, by their numbers and
predatory habits, spread terror among the natives of this part of the

There are springs of bituminous matter on several of the islands near
these houses; and the stones on the river-bank are much impregnated with
this useful substance. There is also another place remarkable for the
production of a sulphureous salt, which is deposited on the surface of a
round-backed hill about half a mile from the beach, and on the marshy
ground underneath it. We visited these places at a subsequent period of
the journey, and descriptions of them will appear in Dr. Richardson's
Mineralogical Notices.

The latitude of the North-West Company's House is 57° 24' 06" N., but
this was the only observation we could obtain, the atmosphere being
cloudy. Mr. Stuart had an excellent thermometer, which indicated the
lowest state of temperature to be 43° below zero. He told me 45° was the
lowest temperature he had ever witnessed at the Athabasca or Great Slave
Lake, after many years' residence. On the 21st it rose above zero, and
at noon attained the height of 43°; the atmosphere was sultry, snow fell
constantly, and there was quite an appearance of a change in the season.
On the 22d we parted from our hospitable friend, and recommenced our
journey, but under the expectation of seeing him again in May; at which
time the partners of the Company usually assemble at Fort Chipewyan,
where we hoped the necessary arrangements for our future proceedings
would be completed. We encamped at sunset at the end of fourteen miles,
having walked the whole way along the river, which preserves nearly a
true north course, and is from four hundred to six hundred yards broad.
The banks are high, and well clothed with the liard, spruce, fir, alder,
birch-tree, and willows. Having come nineteen miles and a half, on the
23d, we encamped among pines of a great height and girth.

Showers of snow fell until noon on the following day, but we continued
our journey along the river, whose banks and islands became gradually
lower as we advanced, and less abundantly supplied with wood, except
willows. We passed an old Canadian, who was resting his wearied dogs
during the heat of the sun. He was carrying meat from some Indian lodges
to Fort Chipewyan, having a burden exceeding two hundred and fifty
pounds on his sledge, which was dragged by two miserable dogs. He came
up to our encampment after dark. We were much amused by the altercation
that took place between him and our Canadian companions as to the
qualifications of their respective dogs. This, however, is such a
general topic of conversation among the voyagers in the encampment, that
we should not probably have remarked it, had not the old man frequently
offered to bet the whole of his wages that his two dogs, poor and lean
as they were, would drag their load to the Athabasca Lake in less time
than any three of theirs. Having expressed our surprise at his apparent
temerity, he coolly said the men from the lower countries did not
understand the management of their dogs, and that he depended on his
superior skill in driving; and we soon gathered from his remarks, that
the voyagers of the Athabasca department consider themselves very
superior to any other. The only reasons which he could assign were, that
they had borne their burdens across the terrible Methye Portage, and
that they were accustomed to live harder and more precariously.

_March 25_.--Having now the guidance of the old Canadian, we sent
forward the Indian, and one of our men, with letters to the gentleman at
the Athabasca Lake. The rest of the party set off afterwards, and kept
along the river until ten, when we branched off by portages into the
Embarras River, the usual channel of communication in canoes with the
lake. It is a narrow and serpentine stream, confined between alluvial
banks which support pines, poplars, and willows. We had not advanced far
before we overtook the two men despatched by us this morning. The stormy
weather had compelled them to encamp, as there was too much drifting of
the snow for any attempt to cross the lake. We were obliged, though most
reluctantly, to follow their example; but comforted ourselves with the
reflection that this was the first time we had been stopped by the
weather during our long journey, which was so near at an end. The gale
afterwards increased, the squalls at night became very violent,
disburthened the trees of the snow, and gave us the benefit of a
continual fall of patches from them, in addition to the constant shower.
We therefore quickly finished our suppers, and retired under the shelter
of our blankets.

_March 26_.--The boisterous weather continued through the night, and it
was not before six this morning that the wind became apparently
moderate, and the snow ceased. Two of the Canadians were immediately
sent off with letters to the gentlemen at Fort Chipewyan. After
breakfast we also started, but our Indian friend, having a great
indisposition to move in such weather, remained by the fire. We soon
quitted the river, and after crossing a portage, a small lake, and a
point of land, came to the borders of the Mamma-wee Lake. We then found
our error as to the strength of the wind; and that the gale still blew
violently, and there was so much drifting of the snow as to cover the
distant objects by which our course could be directed. We fortunately
got a glimpse through this cloud of a cluster of islands in the
direction of the houses, and decided on walking towards them; but in
doing this we suffered very much from the cold, and were obliged to halt
under the shelter of them, and await the arrival of our Indian guide. He
conducted us between these islands, over a small lake and by a swampy
river, into the Athabasca Lake, from whence the establishments were
visible. At four P.M. we had the pleasure of arriving at Fort Chipewyan,
and of being received by Messrs. Keith and Black, the partners of the
North-West Company in charge, in the most kind and hospitable manner.
Thus terminated a winter's journey of eight hundred and fifty-seven
miles, in the progress of which there was a great intermixture of
agreeable and disagreeable circumstances. Could the amount of each be
balanced, I suspect the latter would much preponderate; and amongst
these the initiation into walking in snow-shoes must be considered as
prominent. The suffering it occasions can be but faintly imagined by a
person who thinks upon the inconvenience of marching with a weight of
between two and three pounds constantly attached to galled feet, and
swelled ankles. Perseverance and practice only will enable the novice to
surmount this pain.

The next evil is the being constantly exposed to witness the wanton and
unnecessary cruelty of the men to their dogs, especially those of the
Canadians, who beat them unmercifully, and habitually vent on them the
most dreadful and disgusting imprecations. There are other
inconveniences which though keenly felt during the day's journey, are
speedily forgotten when stretched out in the encampment before a large
fire, you enjoy the social mirth of your companions, who usually pass
the evening in recounting their former feats in travelling. At this time
the Canadians are always cheerful and merry, and the only bar to their
comfort arises from the frequent interruption occasioned by the dogs,
who are constantly prowling about the circle, and snatching at every
kind of food that happens to be within their reach. These useful animals
are a comfort to them afterwards, by the warmth they impart when lying
down by their side or feet, as they usually do. But the greatest
gratifications a traveller in these regions enjoys, are derived from the
hospitable welcome he receives at every trading post, however poor the
means of the host may be; and from being disrobed even for a short time
of the trappings of a voyager, and experiencing the pleasures of

The following are the estimated distances, in statute miles, which Mr.
Back and I had travelled since our departure from Cumberland:

From Cumberland House to Carlton House                        263
From Carlton to Isle à la Crosse                              230
From Isle à la Crosse to north side of the Methye Portage     124
From the Methye Portage to Fort Chipewyan                     240
                                                              857 Miles.


     Transactions at Fort Chipewyan--Arrival of Dr. Richardson and Mr.
     Hood--Preparations for our journey to the Northward.

1820. March 26.

On the day after our arrival at Fort Chipewyan we called upon Mr. Mac
Donald, the gentleman in charge of the Hudson's Bay Establishment called
Fort Wedderburne, and delivered to him Governor Williams's circular
Letter, which desired that every assistance should be given to further
our progress, and a statement of the requisitions which we should have
to make on his post.

Our first object was to obtain some certain information respecting our
future route; and accordingly we received from one of the North-West
Company's interpreters, named Beaulieu, a half-breed, who had been
brought up amongst the Dog-ribbed and Copper Indians, some satisfactory
information which we afterwards found tolerably correct, respecting the
mode of reaching the Copper-Mine{37} River, which he had descended a
considerable way, as well as of the course of that river to its mouth.
The Copper Indians, however, he said, would be able to give us more
accurate information as to the latter part of its course, as they
occasionally pursue it to the sea. He sketched on the floor a
representation of the river, and a line of coast according to his idea
of it. Just as he had finished, an old Chipewyan Indian named Black
Meat, unexpectedly came in, and instantly recognised the plan. He then
took the charcoal from Beaulieu, and inserted a track along the
sea-coast, which he had followed in returning from a war excursion, made
by his tribe against the Esquimaux. He detailed several particulars of
the coast and the sea, which he represented as studded with well-wooded
islands, and free from ice, close to the shore, in the month of July,
but not to a great distance. He described two other rivers to the
eastward of the Copper-Mine{38} River, which also fall into the Northern
Ocean. The Anatessy, which issues from the Contway-to or Rum Lake, and
the Thloueea-tessy or Fish River, which rises near the eastern boundary
of the Great Slave Lake; but he represented both of them as being
shallow, and too much interrupted by barriers for being navigated in any
other than small Indian canoes.

Having received this satisfactory intelligence, I wrote immediately to
Mr. Smith, of the North-West Company, and Mr. McVicar, of the Hudson's
Bay Company, the gentlemen in charge of the posts at the Great Slave
Lake, to communicate the object of the Expedition, and our proposed
route; and to solicit any information they possessed, or could collect,
from the Indians, relative to the countries we had to pass through, and
the best manner of proceeding. As the Copper Indians frequent the
establishment on the north side of the lake, I particularly requested
them to explain to that tribe the object of our visit, and to endeavour
to procure from them some guides and hunters to accompany our party. Two
Canadians were sent by Mr. Keith with these letters.

The month of April commenced with fine and clear but extremely cold
weather; unfortunately we were still without a thermometer, and could
not ascertain the degrees of temperature. The coruscations of the Aurora
were very brilliant almost every evening of the first week, and were
generally of the most variable kind. On the 3d they were particularly
changeable. The first appearance exhibited three illuminated beams
issuing from the horizon in the north, east, and west points, and
directed towards the zenith; in a few seconds these disappeared, and a
complete circle was displayed, bounding the horizon at an elevation of
fifteen degrees. There was a quick lateral motion in the attenuated
beams of which this zone was composed. Its colour was a pale yellow,
with an occasional tinge of red.

On the 8th of April the Indians saw some geese in the vicinity of this
lake, but none of the migratory birds appeared near the houses before
the 15th, when some swans flew over. These are generally the first that
arrive; the weather had been very stormy for the four preceding days,
and this in all probability kept the birds from venturing farther north
than where the Indians had first seen them.

In the middle of the month the snow began to waste daily, and by degrees
it disappeared from the hills and the surface of the lake. On the 17th
and 19th the Aurora appeared very brilliant in patches of light, bearing
N.W. An old Cree Indian having found a beaver-lodge near to the fort,
Mr. Keith, Back, and I, accompanied him to see the method of breaking
into it, and their mode of taking those interesting animals. The lodge
was constructed on the side of a rock in a small lake, having the
entrance into it beneath the ice. The frames were formed of layers of
sticks, the interstices being filled with mud, and the outside was
plastered with earth and stones, which the frost had so completely
consolidated, that to break through required great labour, with the aid
of the ice chisel, and the other iron instruments which the beaver
hunters use. The chase however, was unsuccessful, as the beaver had
previously vacated the lodge.

On the 21st we observed the first geese that flew near the fort, and
some were brought to the house on the 30th, but they were very lean. On
the 25th flies were seen sporting in the sun, and on the 26th the
Athabasca River having broken up, overflowed the lake along its channel;
but except where this water spread, there was no appearance of decay in
the ice.

_May_.--During the first part of this month, the wind blew from the
N.W., and the sky was cloudy. It generally thawed during the day, but
froze at night. On the 2nd the Aurora faintly gleamed through very dense

We had a long conversation with Mr. Dease of the North-West Company, who
had recently arrived from his station at the bottom of the Athabasca
Lake. This gentleman, having passed several winters on the Mackenzie's
River, and at the posts to the northward of Slave Lake, possessed
considerable information respecting the Indians, and those parts of the
country to which our inquiries were directed, which he very promptly and
kindly communicated. During our conversation, an old Chipewyan Indian,
named the Rabbit's Head, entered the room, to whom Mr. Dease referred
for information on some point. We found from his answer that he was a
step-son of the late Chief Matonnabee, who had accompanied Mr. Hearne on
his journey to the sea, and that he had himself been of the party, but
being then a mere boy, he had forgotten many of the circumstances. He
confirmed however, the leading incidents related by Hearne, and was
positive he reached the sea, though he admitted that none of the party
had tasted the water. He represented himself to be the only survivor of
that party. As he was esteemed a good Indian, I presented him with a
medal, which he received gratefully, and concluded a long speech upon
the occasion, by assuring me he should preserve it carefully all his
life. The old man afterwards became more communicative, and unsolicited
began to relate the tradition of his tribe, respecting the discovery of
the Copper Mine, which we thought amusing: and as the subject is
somewhat connected with our future researches, I will insert the
translation of it which was given at the time by Mr. Dease, though a
slight mention of it has been made by Hearne.

"The Chipewyans suppose the Esquimaux originally inhabited some land to
the northward which is separated by the sea from this country; and that
in the earliest ages of the world a party of these men came over and
stole a woman from their tribe, whom they carried to this distant
country and kept in a state of slavery. She was very unhappy in her
situation, and effected her escape after many years residence among
them. The forlorn creature wandered about, for some days, in a state of
uncertainty what direction to take, when she chanced to fall upon a
beaten path, which she followed and was led to the sea. At the sight of
the ocean her hope of being able to return to her native country
vanished, and she sat herself down in despair, and wept. A wolf now
advanced to caress her, and having licked the tears from her eyes,
walked into the water, and she perceived with joy that it did not reach
up to the body of the animal; emboldened by this appearance, she
instantly arose, provided two sticks to support herself, and determined
on following the wolf. The first and second nights she proceeded on,
without finding any increase in the depth of the water, and when
fatigued, rested herself on the sticks, whose upper ends she fastened
together for the purpose. She was alarmed on the third morning, by
arriving at a deeper part, but resolved on going forward at any risk,
rather than return; and her daring perseverance was crowned with
success, by her attaining her native shore on the fifth day. She
fortunately came to a part where there was a beaten path, which she knew
to be the track made by the rein-deer in their migrations. Here she
halted and prepared some sort of weapon for killing them; as soon as
this was completed, she had the gratification to behold several herds
advancing along the road, and had the happiness of killing a sufficient
number for her winter's subsistence, which she determined to pass at
that place, and therefore formed a house for herself, after the manner
she had learned from the Esquimaux. When spring came, and she emerged
from her subterraneous dwelling, (for such the Chipewyans suppose it to
have been,) she was astonished by observing a glittering appearance on a
distant hill, which she knew was not produced by the reflection of the
sun, and being at a loss to assign any other cause for it she resolved
on going up to the shining object, and then found the hill was entirely
composed of copper. She broke off several pieces, and finding it yielded
so readily to her beating, it occurred to her that this metal would be
very serviceable to her countrymen, if she could find them again. While
she was meditating on what was to be done, the thought struck her that
it would be advisable to attach as many pieces of copper to her dress
as she could, and then proceed into the interior, in search of some
inhabitants, who, she supposed, would give her a favourable reception,
on account of the treasure she had brought.

"It happened that she met her own relations, and the young men, elated
with the account she had given of the hill, made her instantly return
with them; which she was enabled to do, having taken the precaution of
putting up marks to indicate the path. The party reached the spot in
safety, but the story had a melancholy catastrophe. These youths
overcome by excess of joy, gave loose to their passions, and offered the
grossest insults to their benefactress. She powerfully resisted them for
some time, and when her strength was failing, fled to the point of the
mountain, as the only place of security. The moment she had gained the
summit, the earth opened and ingulphed both herself and the mountain, to
the utter dismay of the men, who were not more astonished at its sudden
disappearance, than sorrowful for this just punishment of their
wickedness. Ever since this event, the copper has only been found in
small detached pieces on the surface of the earth."

On the 10th of May we were gratified by the appearance of spring,
though the ice remained firm on the lake. The anemone (pulsatilla,
pasque flower,) appeared this day in flower, the trees began to put
forth their leaves, and the musquitoes visited the warm rooms. On the
17th and 18th there were frequent showers of rain, and much thunder and
lightning. This moist weather caused the ice to waste so rapidly, that
by the 24th it had entirely disappeared from the lake. The gentlemen
belonging to both the Companies quickly arrived from the different posts
in this department, bringing their winter's collection of furs, which
are forwarded from these establishments to the depôts.

I immediately waited on Mr. Colin Robertson, the agent of the Hudson's
Company, and communicated to him, as I had done before to the several
partners of the North-West Company, our plan, and the requisitions we
should have to make on each Company, and I requested of all the
gentlemen the favour of their advice and suggestions. As I perceived
that the arrangement of their winter accounts, and other business, fully
occupied them, I forbore further pressing the subject of our concerns
for some days, until there was an appearance of despatching the first
brigade of canoes. It then became necessary to urge their attention to
them; but it was evident, from the determined commercial opposition,
and the total want of intercourse between the two Companies, that we
could not expect to receive any cordial advice, or the assurance of the
aid of both, without devising some expedient to bring the parties
together. I therefore caused a tent to be pitched at a distance from
both establishments, and solicited the gentlemen of both Companies to
meet Mr. Back and myself there, for the purpose of affording us their
combined assistance.

With this request they immediately complied; and on May 25th we were
joined at the tent by Mr. Stuart and Mr. Grant, of the North-West
Company, and Mr. Colin Robertson, of the Hudson's Bay Company, all of
whom kindly gave very satisfactory answers to a series of questions
which we had drawn up for the occasion, and promised all the aid in
their power.

Furnished with the information thus obtained, we proceeded to make some
arrangements respecting the obtaining of men, and the stores we should
require for their equipment, as well as for presents to the Indians; and
on the following day a requisition was made on the Companies for eight
men each, and whatever useful stores they could supply. We learned with
regret, that, in consequence of the recent lavish expenditure of their
goods in support of the opposition, their supply to us would, of
necessity, be very limited. The men, too, were backward in offering
their services, especially those of the Hudson's Bay Company, who
demanded a much higher rate of wages than I considered it proper to

_June 3_.--Mr. Smith, a partner of the North-West Company, arrived from
the Great Slave Lake, bearing the welcome news that the principal Chief
of the Copper Indians had received the communication of our arrival with
joy, and given all the intelligence he possessed respecting the route to
the sea-coast by the Copper-Mine River; and that he and a party of his
men, at the instance of Mr. Wentzel, a clerk of the North-West Company,
whom they wished might go along with them, had engaged to accompany the
Expedition as guides and hunters. They were to wait our arrival at Fort
Providence, on the north side of the Slave Lake. Their information
coincided with that given by Beaulieu. They had no doubt of our being
able to obtain the means of subsistence in travelling to the coast. This
agreeable intelligence had a happy effect upon the Canadian voyagers,
many of their fears being removed: several of them seemed now disposed
to volunteer; and indeed, on the same evening, two men from the
North-West Company offered themselves and were accepted.

_June 5_.--This day Mr. Back and I went over to Fort Wedderburne, to see
Mr. Robertson respecting his quota of men. We learned from him that,
notwithstanding his endeavours to persuade them, his most experienced
voyagers still declined engaging without very exorbitant wages. After
some hesitation, however, six men engaged with us, who were represented
to be active and steady; and I also got Mr. Robertson's permission for
St. Germain, an interpreter belonging to this Company, to accompany us
from Slave Lake if he should choose. The bowmen and steersmen{39} were
to receive one thousand six hundred livres Halifax per annum, and the
middle men one thousand two hundred, exclusive of their necessary
equipments; and they stipulated that their wages should be continued
until their arrival in Montreal, or their rejoining the service of their
present employers.

I delivered to Mr. Robertson an official request, that the stores we had
left at York Factory and the Rock Depôt, with some other supplies, might
be forwarded to Slave Lake by the first brigade of canoes which should
come in. He also took charge of my letters addressed to the Admiralty.
Five men were afterwards engaged from the North-West Company for the
same wages, and under the same stipulations as the others, besides an
interpreter for the Copper Indians; but this man required three thousand
livres Halifax currency, which we were obliged to give him, as his
services were indispensable.

The extreme scarcity of provision at the posts rendered it necessary to
despatch all our men to the Mamma-wee{40} Lake, where they might procure
their own subsistence by fishing. The women and children resident at the
fort were also sent away for the same purpose; and no other families
were permitted to remain at the houses after the departure of the
canoes, than those belonging to the men who were required to carry on
the daily duty.

The large party of officers and men, which had assembled here from the
different posts in the department, was again quickly dispersed. The
first brigade of canoes, laden with furs, was despatched to the depôt on
May 30th, and the others followed in two or three days afterwards. Mr.
Stuart, the senior partner of the North-West Company, quitted us for the
same destination, on June 4th; Mr. Robertson, for his depôt, on the next
day; and on the 9th we parted with our friend Mr. Keith, to whose
unremitting kindness we felt much indebted. I intrusted to his care a
box containing some drawings by Mr. Back, the map of our route from
Cumberland House, and the skin of a black beaver, (presented to the
Expedition by Mr. Smith,) with my official letters, addressed to the
Under Secretary of State. I wrote by each of these gentlemen to inform
Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood of the scarcity of stores at these posts,
and to request them to procure all they possibly could on their route.
Mr. Smith was left in charge of this post during the summer; this
gentleman soon evinced his desire to further our progress, by directing
a new canoe to be built for our use, which was commenced immediately.

_June 21_.--This day an opportunity offered of sending letters to the
Great Slave Lake; and I profited by it, to request Mr. Wentzel would
accompany the Expedition agreeably to the desire of the Copper Indians,
communicating to him that I had received permission for him to do so
from the partners of the North-West Company. Should he be disposed to
comply with my invitation, I desired that he would go over to Fort
Providence, and remain near the Indians whom he had engaged for our
service. I feared lest they should become impatient at our unexpected
delay, and, with the usual fickleness of the Indian character, remove
from the establishment before we could arrive. It had been my intention
to go to them myself, could the articles, with which they expected to be
presented on my arrival, have been provided at these establishments; but
as they could not be procured, I was compelled to defer my visit until
our canoes should arrive. Mr. Smith supposed that my appearance amongst
them, without the means of satisfying any of their desires, would give
them an unfavourable impression respecting the Expedition, which would
make them indifferent to exertion, if it did not even cause them to
withdraw from their engagements.

The establishments at this place, Forts Chipewyan and Wedderburne, the
chief posts of the Companies in this department, are conveniently
situated for communicating with the Slave and Peace Rivers, from whence
the canoes assemble in the spring and autumn; on the first occasion they
bring the collection of furs which has been made at the different
out-posts during the winter; and at the latter season they receive a
supply of stores for the equipment of the Indians in their vicinity.
Fort Wedderburne is a small house, which was constructed on Coal Island
about five years ago, when the Hudson's Bay Company recommenced trading
in this part of the country. Fort Chipewyan has been built many years,
and is an establishment of very considerable extent, conspicuously
situated on a rocky point of the northern shore; it has a tower which
can be seen at a considerable distance. This addition was made about
eight years ago, to watch the motions of the Indians, who intended, as
it was then reported, to destroy the house and all its inhabitants. They
had been instigated to this rash design by the delusive stories of one
among them, who had acquired great influence over his companions by his
supposed skill in necromancy. This fellow had prophesied that there
would soon be a complete change in the face of their country; that
fertility and plenty would succeed to the present sterility; and that
the present race of white inhabitants, unless they became subservient to
the Indians, would be removed, and their place be filled by other
traders, who would supply their wants in every possible manner. The poor
deluded wretches, imagining they would hasten this happy change by
destroying their present traders, of whose submission there was no
prospect, threatened to extirpate them. None of these menaces, however,
were put in execution. They were probably deterred from the attempt by
perceiving that a most vigilant guard was kept against them.

The portion of this extensive lake which is near the establishments, is
called "The Lake of the Hills," not improperly, as the northern shore
and the islands are high and rocky. The south side, however, is quite
level, consisting of alluvial land, subject to be flooded, lying betwixt
the different mouths of the Elk River, and much intersected by water.
The rocks of the northern shore are composed of syenite over which the
soil is thinly spread; it is, however, sufficient to support a variety
of firs and poplars, and many shrubs, lichens and mosses. The trees were
now in full foliage, the plants generally in flower, and the whole scene
quite enlivening. There can scarcely be a higher gratification than that
which is enjoyed in this country in witnessing the rapid change which
takes place in the course of a few days in the spring; scarcely does the
snow disappear from the ground, before the trees are clothed with thick
foliage, the shrubs open their leaves, and put forth their variegated
flowers, and the whole prospect becomes animating. The spaces between
the rocky hills, being for the most part swampy, support willows and a
few poplars. These spots are the favourite resort of the musquitoes,
which incessantly torment the unfortunate persons who have to pass
through them.

Some of the hills attain an elevation of five or six hundred feet, at
the distance of a mile from the house; and from their summits a very
picturesque view is commanded of the lake, and of the surrounding
country. The land above the Great Point at the confluence of the main
stream of the Elk River is six or seven hundred feet high, and stretches
in a southern direction behind Pierre au Calumet. Opposite to that
establishment, on the west side of the river, at some distance in the
interior, the Bark Mountain rises and ranges to the N.W., until it
reaches Clear Lake, about thirty miles to the southward of these forts,
and then goes to the south-westward. The Cree Indians generally procure
from this range their provision, as well as the bark for making their
canoes. There is another range of hills on the south shore, which runs
towards the Peace River.

The residents of these establishments depend for subsistence almost
entirely on the fish which this lake affords; they are usually caught in
sufficient abundance throughout the winter, though at the distance of
eighteen miles from the houses; on the thawing of the ice, the fish
remove into some smaller lakes, and the rivers on the south shore.
Though they are nearer to the forts than in winter, it frequently
happens that high winds prevent the canoes from transporting them
thither, and the residents are kept in consequence without a supply of
food for two or three days together. The fish caught in the net are the
attihhawmegh{41}, trout, carp, methye, and pike[15].

  [15] See page 143-4{42}.

The traders also get supplied by the hunters with buffalo and moose deer
meat, (which animals are found at some distance from the forts,) but the
greater part of it is either in a dried state, or pounded ready for
making pemmican; and is required for the men whom they keep travelling
during the winter to collect the furs from the Indians, and for the
crews of the canoes on their outward passage to the depôts in spring.
There was a great want of provision this season, and both the Companies
had much difficulty to provide a bare sufficiency, for their different
brigades of canoes. Mr. Smith assured me that after the canoes had been
despatched he had only five hundred pounds of meat remaining for the use
of the men who might travel from the post during the summer, and that
five years preceding, there had been thirty thousand pounds in store
under similar circumstances. He ascribed this amazing difference more to
the indolent habits which the Indians had acquired since the commercial
struggle commenced, than to their recent sickness, mentioning in
confirmation of his opinion that they could now, by the produce of
little exertion, obtain whatever they demanded from either

At the opening of the water in spring, the Indians resort to the
establishments to settle their accounts with the traders, and to procure
the necessaries they require for the summer. This meeting is generally a
scene of much riot and confusion, as the hunters receive such quantities
of spirits as to keep them in a state of intoxication for several days.
This spring, however, owing to the great deficiency of spirits, we had
the gratification of seeing them generally sober. They belong to the
great family of the Chipewyan, or Northern, Indians; dialects of their
language being spoken in the Peace, and Mackenzie's Rivers, and by the
populous tribes in New Caledonia, as ascertained by Sir Alexander
Mackenzie in his journey to the Pacific. They style themselves generally
_Dinneh_ men, or Indians, but each tribe, or horde, adds some
distinctive epithet taken from the name of the river, or lake, on which
they hunt, or the district from which they last migrated. Those who come
to Fort Chipewyan term themselves Saw-eessaw-dinneh, (Indians from the
rising sun, or Eastern Indians,) their original hunting grounds being
between the Athabasca, and Great Slave Lakes, and Churchill River. This
district, more particularly termed the Chipewyan lands, or _barren
country_, is frequented by numerous herds of rein-deer, which furnish
easy subsistence, and clothing to the Indians; but the traders endeavour
to keep them in the parts to the westward where the beavers resort.
There are about one hundred and sixty hunters who carry their furs to
the Great Slave Lake, forty to Hay River, and two hundred and forty to
Fort Chipewyan. A few Northern Indians also resort to the posts at the
bottom of the Lake of the Hills, on Red Deer Lake, and to Churchill. The
distance, however, of the latter post from their hunting grounds, and
the sufferings to which they are exposed in going thither from want of
food, have induced those who were formerly accustomed to visit it, to
convey their furs to some nearer station.

These people are so minutely described by Hearne and Mackenzie, that
little can be added by a passing stranger, whose observations were made
during short interviews, and when they were at the forts, where they lay
aside many of their distinguishing characteristics, and strive to
imitate the manners of the voyagers and traders.

The Chipewyans are by no means prepossessing in appearance: they have
broad faces, projecting cheek-bones and wide nostrils; but they have
generally good teeth, and fine eyes. When at the fort they imitate the
dress of the Canadians, except that, instead of trowsers, they prefer
the Indian stockings, which only reach from the thigh to the ancle, and
in place of the waistband they have a piece of cloth round the middle
which hangs down loosely before and behind. Their hunting dress consists
of a leathern shirt and stockings, over which a blanket is thrown, the
head being covered with a fur cap or band. Their manner is reserved, and
their habits are selfish; they beg with unceasing importunity for every
thing they see. I never saw men who either received or bestowed a gift
with such bad grace; they almost snatch the thing from you in the one
instance, and throw it at you in the other. It could not be expected
that such men should display in their tents, the amiable hospitality
which prevails generally amongst the Indians of this country. A stranger
may go away hungry from their lodges, unless he possess sufficient
impudence to thrust, uninvited, his knife into the kettle, and help
himself. The owner, indeed, never deigns to take any notice of such an
act of rudeness, except by a frown, it being beneath the dignity of a
hunter, to make disturbance about a piece of meat.

As some relief to the darker shades of their character it should be
stated that instances of theft are extremely rare amongst them. They
profess strong affection for their children, and some regard for their
relations, who are often numerous, as they trace very far the ties of
consanguinity. A curious instance of the former was mentioned to us, and
so well authenticated, that I shall venture to give it in the words of
Dr. Richardson's Journal.

"A young Chipewyan had separated from the rest of his band for the
purpose of trenching beaver, when his wife, who was his sole companion,
and in her first pregnancy, was seized with the pains of labour. She
died on the third day after she had given birth to a boy. The husband
was inconsolable, and vowed in his anguish never to take another woman
to wife, but his grief was soon in some degree absorbed in anxiety for
the fate of his infant son. To preserve its life he descended to the
office of nurse, so degrading in the eyes of a Chipewyan, as partaking
of the duties of a woman. He swaddled it in soft moss, fed it with broth
made from the flesh of the deer, and to still its cries applied it to
his breast, praying earnestly to the great Master of Life, to assist his
endeavours. The force of the powerful passion by which he was actuated
produced the same effect in his case, as it has done in some others
which are recorded: a flow of milk actually took place from his breast.
He succeeded in rearing his child, taught him to be a hunter, and when
he attained the age of manhood, chose him a wife from the tribe. The old
man kept his vow in never taking a second wife himself, but he delighted
in tending his son's children, and when his daughter-in-law used to
interfere, saying, that it was not the occupation of a man, he was wont
to reply, that he had promised to the great Master of Life, if his child
were spared, never to be proud, like the other Indians. He used to
mention, too, as a certain proof of the approbation of Providence, that
although he was always obliged to carry his child on his back while
hunting, yet that it never roused a moose by its cries, being always
particularly still at those times. Our informant[16] added that he had
often seen this Indian in his old age, and that his left breast, even
then, retained the unusual size it had acquired in his occupation of

  [16] Mr. Wentzel.

We had proof of their sensibility towards their relations, in their
declining to pitch their tents where they had been accustomed for many
years, alleging a fear of being reminded of the happy hours they had
formerly spent there, in the society of the affectionate relatives whom
the sickness had recently carried off. The change of situation, however,
had not the effect of relieving them from sorrowful impressions, and
they occasionally{43} indulged in very loud lamentations, as they sat in
groups, within and without their tents. Unfortunately, the spreading of
a severe dysentery amongst them, at this time, gave occasion for the
renewal of their grief. The medicinal charms of drumming and singing
were plentifully applied, and once they had recourse to conjuring over a
sick person. I was informed, however, that the Northern Indians do not
make this expedient for the cure of a patient so often as the Crees; but
when they do, the conjuror is most assiduous, and suffers great personal
fatigue. Particular persons only, are trained in the mysteries of the
art of conjuring, to procure the recovery of the sick, or to disclose
future events.

On extraordinary occasions the man remains in his narrow conjuring tent,
for days without eating, before he can determine the matter to his
satisfaction. When he is consulted about the sick, the patient is shut
up with him; but on other occasions he is alone, and the poor creature
often works his mind up to a pitch of illusion that can scarcely be
imagined by one who has not witnessed it. His deluded companions seat
themselves round his tent, and await his communication with earnest
anxiety, yet during the progress of his manoeuvres, they often venture
to question him, as to the disposition of the Great Spirit.

These artful fellows usually gain complete ascendancy over the minds of
their companions. They are supported by voluntary contributions of
provision, that their minds may not be diverted by the labour of
hunting, from the peculiar duties of their profession.

The chiefs among the Chipewyans are now totally without power. The
presents of a flag, and a gaudy dress, still bestowed upon them by the
traders, do not procure for them any respect or obedience, except from
the youths of their own families. This is to be attributed mainly to
their living at peace with their neighbours, and to the facility which
the young men find in{44} getting their wants supplied independent of
the recommendation of the chiefs, which was formerly required. In war
excursions, boldness and intrepidity would still command respect and
procure authority; but the influence thus acquired would, probably,
cease with the occasion that called it forth. The traders, however,
endeavour to support their authority by continuing towards them the
accustomed marks of respect, hoisting the flag and firing a salute of
musketry on their entering the fort.

The chief halts at a distance from the house, and despatches one of his
young men to announce his approach, and to bring his flag, which is
carried before him when he arrives. The messenger carries back to him
some vermilion to ornament the faces of his party, together with a
looking-glass and comb, some tobacco, and a few rounds of ammunition,
that they may return the salute. These men paint round the eyes, the
forehead, and the cheek-bones.

The Northern Indians evince no little vanity, by assuming to themselves
the comprehensive title of "The People," whilst they designate all other
nations by the name of their particular country. If men were seen at a
distance, and a Chipewyan was asked who those persons were, he would
answer, The People, if he recognised them to belong to his tribe, and
never Chipewyans; but he would give them their respective names, if they
were Europeans, Canadians, or Cree Indians.

As they suppose their ancestors to come originally from the east, those
who happen to be born in the eastern part of their territory, are
considered to be of the purest race. I have been informed, that all the
Indians who trade at the different posts in the north-west parts of
America, imagine that their forefathers came from the east, except the
Dog-ribs, who reside between the Copper Indian Islands and the
Mackenzie's River, and who deduce their origin from the west, which is
the more remarkable, as they speak a dialect of the Chipewyan language.
I could gather no information respecting their religious opinions,
except that they have a tradition of the deluge.

The Chipewyans are considered to be less expert hunters than the Crees,
which probably arises from their residing much on the barren lands,
where the rein-deer are so numerous that little skill is requisite. A
good hunter, however, is highly esteemed among them. The facility of
procuring goods, since the commercial opposition commenced, has given
great encouragement to their native indolence of disposition, as is
manifested by the difference in the amount of their collections of furs
and provision between the late and former years. From six to eight
hundred packs of furs used formerly to be sent from this department, now
the return seldom exceeds half that amount. The decrease in the
provision has been already mentioned.

The Northern Indians suppose that they originally sprang from a dog; and
about five years ago, a superstitious fanatic so strongly pressed upon
their minds the impropriety of employing these animals, to which they
were related, for purposes of labour, that they universally resolved
against using them any more, and, strange as it may seem, destroyed
them. They now have to drag every thing themselves on sledges. This
laborious task falls most heavily on the women; nothing can more shock
the feelings of a person accustomed to civilized life, than to witness
the state of their degradation. When a party is on a march the women
have to drag the tent, the meat, and whatever the hunter possesses,
whilst he only carries his gun and medicine case. In the evening they
form the encampment, cut wood, fetch water, and prepare the supper; and
then, perhaps, are not permitted to partake of the fare until the men
have finished. A successful hunter sometimes has two or three wives;
whoever happens to be the favourite, assumes authority over the others,
and has the management of the tent. These men usually treat their wives
unkindly, and even with harshness; except, indeed, when they are about
to increase the family, and then they shew them much indulgence.

Hearne charges the Chipewyans with the dreadful practice of abandoning,
in extremity, their aged and sick people. The only instance that came
under our personal notice was attended with some palliating
circumstances:--An old woman arrived at Fort Chipewyan, during our
residence, with her son, a little boy, about ten years old, both of whom
had been deserted by their relations, and left in an encampment, when
much reduced by sickness: two or three days after their departure the
woman gained a little strength, and with the assistance of the boy, was
enabled to paddle a canoe to the fishing station of this post, where
they were supported for some days, until they were enabled to proceed in
search of some other relations, who, they expected, would treat them
with more kindness. I learned, that the woman bore an extremely bad
character, having even been guilty of infanticide, and that her
companions considered her offences merited the desertion.

This tribe, since its present intimate connexion with the traders, has
discontinued its war excursions against the Esquimaux, but they still
speak of that nation in terms of the most inveterate hatred. We have
only conversed with four men who have been engaged in any of those
expeditions; all these confirm the statements of Black-meat respecting
the sea-coast. Our observations concerning the half-breed population in
this vicinity, coincided so exactly with those which have been given of
similar persons in Dr. Richardson's account of the Crees, that any
statement respecting them at this place is unnecessary. Both the
Companies have wisely prohibited their servants from intermarrying with
pure Indian women, which was formerly the cause of many quarrels with
the tribes.

The weather was extremely variable during the month of June; we scarcely
had two clear days in succession, and the showers of rain were frequent;
the winds were often strong, and generally blowing from the north-east
quarter. On the evening of the 16th the Aurora Borealis was visible, but
after that date the nights were too light for our discerning it.

The musquitoes swarmed in great numbers about the house, and tormented
us so incessantly by their irritating stings, that we were compelled to
keep our rooms constantly filled with smoke, which is the only means of
driving them away: the weather indeed was now warm. Having received one
of Dollond's eighteen-inch spirit thermometers from Mr. Stuart, which he
had the kindness to send us from his post at Pierre au Calumet, after he
had learned that ours had been rendered useless, I observed the
temperature, at noon, on the 25th of June, to be 63°.

On the following morning we made an excursion, accompanied by Mr. Smith,
round the fishing stations on the south side of the lake, for the
purpose of visiting our men; we passed several groups of women and
children belonging to both the forts, posted wherever they could find a
sufficiently dry spot for an encampment. At length we came to our men,
pitched upon a narrow strip of land, situated between two rivers. Though
the portion of dry ground did not exceed fifty yards, yet they appeared
to be living very comfortably, having formed huts with the canoe's sail
and covering, and were amply supported by the fish their nets daily
furnished. They sometimes had a change in their fare, by procuring a few
ducks and other water-fowl, which resort in great abundance to the
marshes, by which they were surrounded.

_July 2_.--The canoe, which was ordered to be built for our use, was
finished. As it was constructed after the manner, described by Hearne,
and several of the American travellers, a detail of the process will be
unnecessary. Its extreme length was thirty two feet six inches,
including the bow and stern pieces, its greatest breadth was four feet
ten inches, but it was only two feet nine inches forward where the
bowman sat, and two feet four inches behind where the steersman was
placed; and its depth was one foot eleven and a quarter inches. There
were seventy-three hoops of thin cedar, and a layer of slender laths of
the same wood within the frame. These feeble vessels of bark will carry
twenty-five pieces of goods, each weighing ninety pounds, exclusive of
the necessary provision and baggage for the crew of five or six men,
amounting in the whole to about three thousand three hundred pounds'
weight. This great lading they annually carry between the depôts and the
posts, in the interior; and it rarely happens that any accidents occur,
if they be managed by experienced bowmen and steersmen, on whose skill
the safety of the canoe entirely depends in the rapids and difficult
places. When a total portage is made, these two men carry the canoe, and
they often run with it, though its weight is estimated at about three
hundred pounds, exclusive of the poles and oars, which are occasionally
left in where the distance is short.

On the 5th, we made an excursion for the purpose of trying our canoe. A
heavy gale came on in the evening, which caused a great swell in the
lake, and in crossing the waves we had the satisfaction to find that our
birchen vessel proved an excellent sea-boat.

_July 7_.--This morning some men, and their families, who had been sent
off to search for Indians with whom they intended to pass the summer,
returned to the fort in consequence of a serious accident having
befallen their canoe in the Red Deer River; when they were in the act of
hauling up a strong rapid, the line broke, the canoe was overturned, and
two of the party narrowly escaped drowning; fortunately the women and
children happened to be on shore, or, in all probability, they would
have perished in the confusion of the scene. Nearly all their stores,
their guns and fishing nets, were lost, and they could not procure any
other food for the last four days than some unripe berries.

Some gentlemen arrived in the evening with a party of Chipewyan Indians,
from Hay River, a post between the Peace River, and the Great Slave
Lake. These men gave distressing accounts of sickness among their
relatives, and the Indians in general along the Peace River, and they
said many of them have died. The disease was described as dysentery. On
the 10th and 11th we had very sultry weather, and were dreadfully
tormented by musquitoes. The highest temperature was 73°.

_July 13_.--This morning Mr. Back and I had the sincere gratification of
welcoming our long-separated friends, Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood, who
arrived in perfect health with two canoes, having made a very
expeditious journey from Cumberland, notwithstanding they were detained
near three days in consequence of the melancholy loss of one of their
bowmen, by the upsetting of a canoe in a strong rapid; but, as the
occurrences of this journey, together with the mention of some other
circumstances that happened previous to their departure from Cumberland,
which have been extracted from Mr. Hood's narrative, will appear in the
following chapter, it will be unnecessary to enter farther into these
points now.

The zeal and talent displayed by Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood, in the
discharge of their several duties since my separation from them, drew
forth my highest approbation. These gentlemen had brought all the stores
they could procure from the establishments at Cumberland and Isle à la
Crosse; and at the latter place they had received ten bags of pemmican
from the North-West Company, which proved to be mouldy, and so totally
unfit for use, that it was left at the Methye Portage. They got none
from the Hudson's Bay Post. The Voyagers belonging to that Company,
being destitute of provision, had eaten what was intended for us. In
consequence of these untoward circumstances, the canoes arrived with
only one day's supply of this most essential article. The prospect of
having to commence our journey from hence, almost destitute of
provision, and scantily supplied with stores, was distressing to us, and
very discouraging to the men. It was evident, however, that any
unnecessary delay here would have been very imprudent, as Fort Chipewyan
did not, at the present time, furnish the means of subsistence for so
large a party, much less was there a prospect of our receiving any
supply to carry us forward. We, therefore, hastened to make the
necessary arrangements for our speedy departure. All the stores were
demanded that could possibly be spared from both the establishments; and
we rejoiced to find, that when this collection was added to the articles
that had been brought up by the canoes, we had a sufficient quantity of
clothing for the equipment of the men who had been engaged here, as well
as to furnish a present to the Indians, besides some few goods for the
winter's consumption; but we could not procure any ammunition, which was
the most essential article, or spirits, and but little tobacco.

We then made a final arrangement respecting the voyagers, who were to
accompany the party; and, fortunately, there was no difficulty in doing
this, as Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood had taken the very judicious
precaution of bringing up ten men from Cumberland, who were engaged to
proceed forward if their services were required. The Canadians, whom
they brought, were most desirous of being continued, and we felt sincere
pleasure in being able to keep men who were so zealous in the cause, and
who had given proofs of their activity on their recent passage to this
place, by discharging those men who were less willing to undertake the
journey; of these, three were Englishmen, one American, and three
Canadians. When the numbers were completed, which we had been
recommended by the traders to take as a protection against the
Esquimaux, we had sixteen Canadian-voyagers, and our worthy and only
English attendant John Hepburn, besides the two interpreters whom we
were to receive at the Great Slave Lake; we were also accompanied by a
Chipewyan woman. An equipment of goods was given to each of the men who
had been engaged at this place, similar to what had been furnished to
the others at Cumberland; and when this distribution had been made, the
remainder were made up into bales, preparatory to our departure, on the
following day. We were cheerfully assisted in these and all our
occupations by Mr. Smith, who evinced an anxious desire to supply our
wants as far as his means permitted.

Mr. Hood having brought up the dipping needle from Cumberland House, we
ascertained the dip to be 85° 23' 42", and the difference produced by
reversing the face of the instrument was 6° 2' 10". The intensity of the
magnetic force was also observed. Several observations had been procured
on both sides of the moon during our residence at Fort Chipewyan, the
result of which gave for its longitude 111° 18' 20" W., its latitude was
observed to be 58° 42' 38" N., and the variation of the compass 22° 49'
32" E. Fresh rates were procured for the chronometers and their errors
determined for Greenwich time, by which the survey to the northward was
carried on.


     Mr. Hood's journey to the Basquiau Hill--Sojourns with an Indian
     Party--His Journey to Chipewyan.

1820. March.

Being desirous of obtaining a drawing of a moose-deer, and also of
making some observation on the height of the Aurora, I set out on the
23d, to pass a few days at the Basquiau Hill. Two men accompanied me,
with dogs and sledges, who were going to the hill for meat. We found the
Saskatchawan open and were obliged to follow it several miles to the
eastward. We did not, then, cross it without wading in water, which had
overflowed the ice; and our snow-shoes were encumbered with a heavy
weight for the remainder of the day. On the south bank of the
Saskatchawan were some poplars ten or twelve feet in circumference at
the root. Beyond the river, we traversed an extensive swamp, bounded by
woods. In the evening we crossed the Swan Lake, about six miles in
breadth, and eight in length, and halted on its south side for the
night, twenty-four miles S.S.W. of Cumberland House.

At four in the morning of the 24th we continued the journey, and crossed
some creeks in the woods, and another large swamp. These swamps are
covered with water in summer, to the depth of several feet, which arises
from the melted snow from the higher grounds. The tracks of foxes,
wolves, wolverenes, and martens, were very numerous. The people employed
in carrying meat, set traps on their way out, and take possession of
their captures at their return, for which they receive a sum from the
Company, proportioned to the value of the fur.

In the evening we crossed the Goose Lake, which is a little longer than
Swan Lake, and afterwards the River Sepanach, a branch of the
Saskatchawan, forming an island extending thirty miles above, and forty
below Cumberland House. We turned to the westward on the Root River,
which enters the Sepanach, and halted on its banks having made in direct
distance not more than twenty miles since the 23rd.

We passed the Shoal Lake on the 25th, and then marched twelve miles
through woods and swamps to a hunting tent of the Indians. It was
situated in a grove of large poplars, and would have been no unpleasant
residence if we could have avoided the smoke. A heavy gale from the
westward, with snow, confined us for several days to this tent. On the
30th two Indians arrived, one of whom named the Warrior, was well known
at the house. We endeavoured to prevail upon them to set out in quest of
moose, which they agreed to do on receiving some rum. Promises were of
no avail; the smallest present gratification is preferred to the
certainty of ample reward at another period; an unfailing indication of
strong animal passions, and a weak understanding. On our compliance with
their demand they departed.

The next day, I went to the Warrior's tent, distant about eleven miles.
The country was materially changed: the pine had disappeared, and gentle
slopes, with clumps of large poplars, formed some pleasing groups:
willows were scattered over the swamps. When I entered the tent, the
Indians spread a buffalo robe before the fire, and desired me to sit
down. Some were eating, others sleeping, many of them without any
covering except the breech cloth and a blanket over the shoulders; a
state in which they love to indulge themselves till hunger drives them
forth to the chase. Besides the Warrior's family, there was that of
another hunter named _Long-legs_, whose bad success in hunting had
reduced him to the necessity of feeding on moose leather for three weeks
when he was compassionately relieved by the Warrior. I was an unwilling
witness of the preparation of my dinner by the Indian women. They cut
into pieces a portion of fat meat, using for that purpose a knife and
their teeth. It was boiled in a kettle, and served in a platter made of
birch bark, from which, being dirty, they had peeled the surface.
However, the flavour of good moose meat will survive any process that it
undergoes in their hands, except smoking.

Having provided myself with some drawing materials, I amused the Indians
with a sketch of the interior of the tent and its inhabitants. An old
woman, who was relating with great volubility an account of some quarrel
with the traders at Cumberland House, broke off from her narration when
she perceived my design; supposing, perhaps, that I was employing some
charm against her; for the Indians have been taught a supernatural dread
of particular pictures. One of the young men drew, with a piece of
charcoal, a figure resembling a frog, on the side of the tent, and by
significantly pointing at me, excited peals of merriment from his
companions. The caricature was comic; but I soon fixed their attention,
by producing my pocket compass, and affecting it with a knife. They have
great curiosity, which might easily be directed to the attainment of
useful knowledge. As the dirt accumulated about these people was
visibly of a communicative nature, I removed at night into the open air,
where the thermometer fell to 15° below zero, although it was the next
day 60° above it.

In the morning the Warrior and his companion arrived; I found that,
instead of hunting, they had passed the whole time in a drunken fit, at
a short distance from the tent. In reply to our angry questions, the
Warrior held out an empty vessel, as if to demand the payment of a debt,
before he entered into any new negotiation. Not being inclined to starve
his family, we set out for another Indian tent, ten miles to the
southward, but we found only the frame, or tent poles, standing, when we
reached the spot. The men, by digging where the fire-place had been,
ascertained that the Indians had quitted it the day before; and as their
marches are short, when encumbered with the women and baggage, we sought
out their track, and followed it. At an abrupt angle of it, which was
obscured by trees, the men suddenly disappeared; and hastening forward
to discover the cause, I perceived them both still rolling at the foot
of a steep cliff, over which they had been dragged while endeavouring to
stop the descent of their sledges. The dogs were gazing silently, with
the wreck of their harness about them, and the sledges deeply buried in
the snow. The effects of this accident did not detain us long, and we
proceeded afterwards with greater caution.

The air was warm at noon, and the solitary but sweet notes of the jay,
the earliest spring bird, were in every wood. Late in the evening we
descried the ravens wheeling in circles round a small grove of poplars,
and, according to our expectations, found the Indians encamped there.

The men were absent hunting, and returned unsuccessful. They had been
several days without provisions, and thinking that I could depend upon
the continuance of their exertions, I gave them a little rum; the next
day they set out, and at midnight they swept by us with their dogs in
close pursuit.

In the morning we found that a moose had eaten the bark of a tree near
our fire. The hunters, however, again failed; and they attributed the
extreme difficulty of approaching the chase, to the calmness of the
weather, which enabled it to hear them at a great distance.

They concluded, as usual, when labouring under any affliction, that they
were tormented by the evil spirit; and assembled to beat a large
tambourine, and sing an address to the Manito, or deity, praying for
relief, according to the explanation which I received; but their prayer
consisted of only three words, constantly repeated. One of the hunters
yet remained abroad; and as the wind rose at noon, we had hopes that he
was successful. In the evening he made his appearance, and announcing
that he had killed a large moose, immediately secured the reward which
had been promised.

The tidings were received with apparent indifference, by people whose
lives are alternate changes from the extremity of want to abundance. But
as their countenances seldom betray their emotions, it cannot be
determined whether their apathy is real or affected. However, the women
prepared their sledges and dogs, with the design of dismembering, and
bringing home, the carcass: a proceeding to which, in their necessitous
condition, I could have had neither reasonable nor available objections,
without giving them a substitute. By much solicitation I obtained an
audience, and offered them our own provisions, on condition of their
suspending the work of destruction till the next day. They agreed to the
proposition, and we set out with some Indians for the place where the
animal was lying. The night advancing, we were separated by a
snow-storm, and not being skilful enough to follow tracks which were so
speedily filled up, I was bewildered for several hours in the woods,
when I met with an Indian, who led me back at such a pace that I was
always in the rear, to his infinite diversion. The Indians are vain of
their local knowledge, which is certainly very wonderful. Our companions
had taken out the entrails and young of the moose, which they buried in
the snow.

The Indians then returned to the tents, and one of my men accompanied
them; he was the person charged with the management of the trade at the
hunting tent; and he observed, that the opportunity of making a bargain
with the Indians, while they were drinking, was too advantageous to be

It remained for us to prevent the wolves from mangling the moose; for
which purpose we wrapped ourselves in blankets between its feet, and
placed the hatchets within our reach. The night was stormy, and
apprehension kept me long awake; but finding my companion in so deep a
sleep, that nothing could have roused him, except the actual gripe of a
wolf, I thought it advisable to imitate his example, as much as was in
my power, rather than bear the burthen of anxiety alone. At day-light we
shook off the snow, which was heaped upon us, and endeavoured to kindle
a fire; but the violence of the storm defeated all our attempts. At
length two Indians arrived, with whose assistance we succeeded, and they
took possession of it, to show their sense of our obligations to them.
We were ashamed of the scene before us; the entrails of the moose and
its young, which had been buried at our feet, bore testimony to the
nocturnal revel of the wolves, during the time we had slept. This was a
fresh subject of derision for the Indians, whose appetites, however,
would not suffer them to waste long upon us a time so precious. They
soon finished what the wolves had begun, and with as little aid from the
art of cookery, eating both the young moose, and the contents of the
paunch, raw.

I had scarcely secured myself by a lodge of branches from the snow, and
placed the moose in a position for my sketch, when we were stormed by a
troop of women and children, with their sledges and dogs. We obtained
another short respite from the Indians, but our blows could not drive,
nor their caresses entice, the hungry dogs from the tempting feast
before them.

I had not finished my sketch, before the impatient crowd tore the moose
to pieces, and loaded their sledges with meat. On our way to the tent, a
black wolf rushed out upon an Indian, who happened to pass near its den.
It was shot; and the Indians carried away three black whelps, to
improve the breed of their dogs. I purchased one of them, intending to
send it to England, but it perished for want of proper nourishment.

The latitude of these tents, was 53° 12' 46" N., and longitude by
chronometers 103° 13' 10" W. On the 5th of April we set out for the
hunting tent by our former track, and arrived there in the evening.

As the increasing warmth of the weather had threatened to interrupt
communication by removing the ice, orders had been sent from Cumberland
House to the people at the tent, to quit it without delay; which we did
on the 7th. Some altitudes of the Aurora were obtained.

We had a fine view, at sunrise, of the Basquiau Hill, skirting half the
horizon with its white sides, chequered by forests of pine. It is seen
from Pine Island Lake, at the distance of fifty miles; and cannot,
therefore, be less than three-fourths of a mile in perpendicular height;
probably the greatest elevation between the Atlantic Ocean, and the
Rocky Mountains.

A small stream runs near the hunting tent, strongly impregnated with
salt. There are several salt springs about it, which are not frozen
during the winter.{45}

The surface of the snow, thawing in the sun, and freezing at night, had
become a strong crust, which sometimes gave way in a circle round our
feet, immersing us in the soft snow beneath. The people were afflicted
with snow blindness; a kind of ophthalmia occasioned by the reflection
of the sun's rays in the spring.

The miseries endured during the first journey of this nature, are so
great, that nothing could induce the sufferer to undertake a second,
while under the influence of present pain. He feels his frame crushed by
unaccountable pressure, he drags a galling and stubborn weight at his
feet, and his track is marked with blood. The dazzling scene around him
affords no rest to his eye, no object to divert his attention from his
own agonizing sensations. When he arises from sleep, half his body seems
dead, till quickened into feeling by the irritation of his sores. But
fortunately for him, no evil makes an impression so evanescent as pain.
It cannot be wholly banished, nor recalled with the force of reality, by
any act of the mind, either to affect our determinations, or to
sympathize with another. The traveller soon forgets his sufferings, and
at every future journey their recurrence is attended with diminished

It was not before the 10th or 12th of April, that the return of the
swans, geese, and ducks, gave certain indications of the advance of
spring. The juice of the maple-tree began to flow, and the women
repaired to the woods for the purpose of collecting it. This tree which
abounds to the southward, is not, I believe found to the northward of
the Saskatchawan. The Indians obtain the sap by making incisions into
the tree. They boil it down, and evaporate the water, skimming off the
impurities. They are so fond of sweets that after this simple process,
they set an extravagant price upon it.

On the 15th fell the first shower of rain we had seen for six months,
and on the 17th the thermometer rose to 77° in the shade. The whole face
of the country was deluged by the melted snow. All the nameless heaps of
dirt, accumulated in the winter, now floated over the very thresholds,
and the long-imprisoned scents dilated into vapours so penetrating, that
no retreat was any security from them. The flood descended into the
cellar below our house, and destroyed a quantity of powder and tea; a
loss irreparable in our situation.

The noise made by the frogs which this inundation produced, is almost
incredible. There is strong reason to believe that they outlive the
severity of winter. They have often been found frozen and revived by
warmth, nor is it possible that the multitude which incessantly filled
our ears with its discordant notes could have been matured in two or
three days.

The fishermen at Beaver Lake, and the other detached parties were
ordered to return to the post. The expedients to which the poor people
were reduced, to cross a country so beset with waters, presented many
uncouth spectacles. The inexperienced were glad to compromise, with the
loss of property, for the safety of their persons, and astride upon
ill-balanced rafts with which they struggled to be uppermost, exhibited
a ludicrous picture of distress. Happy were they who could patch up an
old canoe, though obliged to bear it half the way on their shoulders,
through miry bogs and interwoven willows. But the veteran trader, wedged
in a box of skin, with his wife, children, dogs, and furs, wheeled
triumphantly through the current, and deposited his heterogeneous cargo
safely on the shore. The woods re-echoed with the return of their exiled
tenants. An hundred tribes, as gaily dressed as any burnished natives of
the south, greeted our eyes in our accustomed walks, and their voices,
though unmusical, were the sweetest that ever saluted our ears.

From the 19th to the 26th the snow once more blighted the resuscitating
verdure, but a single day was sufficient to remove it. On the 28th the
Saskatchawan swept away the ice which had adhered to its banks, and on
the morrow a boat came down from Carlton House with provisions. We
received such accounts of the state of vegetation at that place, that
Dr. Richardson determined to visit it, in order to collect botanical
specimens, as the period at which the ice was expected to admit of the
continuation of our journey was still distant. Accordingly he embarked
on the 1st of May.

In the course of the month the ice gradually wore away from the south
side of the lake, but the great mass of it still hung to the north side
with some snow visible on its surface. By the 21st the elevated grounds
were perfectly dry, and teeming with the fragrant offspring of the
season. When the snow melted, the earth was covered with the fallen
leaves of the last year, and already it was green with the strawberry
plant, and the bursting buds of the gooseberry, raspberry, and rose
bushes, soon variegated by the rose and the blossoms of the choke
cherry. The gifts of nature are disregarded and undervalued till they
are withdrawn, and in the hideous regions of the Arctic Zone, she would
make a convert of him for whom the gardens of Europe had no charms, or
the mild beauties of a southern climate had bloomed in vain.

Mr. Williams found a delightful occupation in his agricultural pursuits.
The horses were brought to the plough, and fields of wheat, barley, and
Indian corn, promised to reward his labours. His dairy furnished us with
all the luxuries of an English farm.

On the 25th the ice departed from Pine Island Lake. We were, however,
informed that Beaver Lake, which was likewise in our route, would not
afford a passage before the 4th of June. According to directions left by
Mr. Franklin, applications were made to the Chiefs of the Hudson's Bay
and North-West Companies' Posts, for two canoes, with their crews, and a
supply of stores, for the use of the Expedition. They were not in a
condition to comply with this request till the arrival of their
respective returns from Isle à la Crosse and the Saskatchawan
Departments. Of the six men whom we brought from England, the most
serviceable, John Hepburn, had accompanied Mr. Franklin, and only one
other desired to prosecute the journey with us. Mr. Franklin had made
arrangements with Mr. Williams for the employment of the remaining five
men in bringing to Cumberland House the ammunition, tobacco, &c., left
at York Fort, which stores were, if possible, to be sent after us in
the summer. On the 30th Dr. Richardson returned from Carlton House, and
on the 31st the boats arrived belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company's
Saskatchawan Department. We obtained a canoe and two more volunteers. On
the 1st of June the Saskatchawan, swelled by the melting of the snow
near the Rocky Mountains, rose twelve feet, and the current of the
little rivers bounding Pine Island ran back into the lake, which it
filled with mud.

On the 5th the North-West Company's people arrived, and Mr. Conolly{46}
furnished us with a canoe and five Canadians. They were engaged to
attend us till Mr. Franklin should think fit to discharge them, and
bound under the usual penalties in case of disobedience, or other
improper conduct. These poor people entertained such dread of a ship of
war, that they stipulated not to be embarked in Lieutenant Parry's
vessels, if we should find them on the coast; a condition with which
they would gladly have dispensed had that desirable event taken place.
As we required a Canadian foreman and steersman for the other canoe, we
were compelled to wait for the appearance of the Isle à la Crosse canoes
under Mr. Clark.

On the 8th Mr. Williams embarked for York Fort. He gave us a circular
letter addressed to the Chiefs of the Hudson's Bay Company's Posts,
directing them to afford us all possible assistance on our route, and he
promised to exert every endeavour to forward the Esquimaux interpreter,
upon whom the success of our journey so much depended. He was
accompanied by eight boats. With him we sent our collections of plants,
minerals, charts, and drawings, to be transmitted to England by the
Hudson's Bay ships. After this period, our detention, though short, cost
us more vexation than the whole time we had passed at Cumberland House,
because every hour of the short summer was invaluable to us. On the 11th
Mr. Clark arrived, and completed our crews.--He brought letters from Mr.
Franklin, dated March 28th, at Fort Chipewyan, where he was engaged
procuring hunters and interpreters. A heavy storm of wind and rain from
the north-east again delayed us till the morning of the 13th. The
account we had received at York Factory of the numerous stores at
Cumberland House proved to be very erroneous. The most material stores
we received did not amount, in addition to our own, to more than two
barrels of powder, a keg of spirits, and two pieces of tobacco, with
pemmican for sixteen days.

The crew of Dr. Richardson's canoe consisted of three Englishmen and
three Canadians, and the other carried five Canadians; both were deeply
laden and the waves ran high on the lake. No person in our party being
well acquainted with the rivers to the northward, Mr. Conolly{47} gave
us a pilot, on condition that we should exchange him when we met with
the Athabasca brigade of canoes. At four A.M. we embarked.

We soon found that birchen-bark canoes were not calculated to brave
rough weather on a large lake, for we were compelled to land on the
opposite border, to free them from the water which had already saturated
their cargoes. The wind became more moderate, and we were enabled, after
traversing a chain of smaller lakes, to enter the mouth of the Sturgeon
River, at sunset, where we encamped.

The lading of the canoes is always, if possible carried on shore at
night, and the canoes taken out of the water. The following evening we
reached Beaver Lake, and landed to repair some damages sustained by the
canoes. A round stone will displace the lading of a canoe, without doing
any injury, but a slight blow against a sharp corner penetrates the
bark. For the purpose of repairing it, a small quantity of gum or pitch,
bark and pine roots, are embarked, and the business is so expeditiously
performed, that the speed of the canoe amply compensates for every
delay. The Sturgeon River is justly called by the Canadians La
Rivière{48} Maligne, from its numerous and dangerous rapids. Against the
strength of a rapid it is impossible to effect any progress by paddling,
and the canoes are tracked, or if the bank will not admit of it,
propelled with poles, in the management of which the Canadians shew
great dexterity. Their simultaneous motions were strongly contrasted
with the awkward confusion of the inexperienced Englishmen, deafened by
the torrent, who sustained the blame of every accident which occurred.

At sunset we encamped on an island in Beaver Lake, and at four A.M., the
next morning, passed the first portage in the Ridge River. Beaver Lake
is twelve miles in length, and six in breadth. The flat limestone
country rises into bold rocks on its banks, and at the mouth of the
Ridge River, the limestone discontinues. The lake is very deep, and has
already been noticed for the number and excellence of its fish.{49} The
Ridge River is rapid and shallow. We had emerged from the muddy channels
through an alluvial soil, and the primitive rocks interrupted our way
with frequent portages, through the whole route to Isle à la Crosse
Lake. At two P.M. we passed the mouth of the Hay river, running from the
westward; and the ridge above its confluence takes the name of the Great
River, which rises at the height of land called the Frog Portage.

The thermometer was this day 100° in the sun, and the heat was extremely
oppressive, from our constant exposure to it. We crossed three portages
in the Great River, and encamped at the last; here we met the director
of the North-West Company's affairs in the north, Mr. Stuart, on his way
to Fort William, in a light canoe. He had left the Athabasca Lake only
thirteen days, and brought letters from Mr. Franklin, who desired that
we would endeavour to collect stores of every kind at Isle à la Crosse,
and added a favourable account of the country, to the northward of the
Slave Lake.

On the 16th, at three A.M., we continued our course, the river
increasing to the breadth of half a mile, with many rapids between the
rocky islands. The banks were luxuriantly clothed with pines, poplars,
and birch trees, of the largest size: but the different shades of green
were undistinguishable at a distance, and the glow of autumnal colours
was wanting to render the variety beautiful.

Having crossed two portages at the different extremities of the Island
Lake, we ran under sail through two extensive sheets of water, called
the Heron and Pelican Lakes; the former of which is fifteen miles in
length, and the latter five; but its extent to the southward has not
been explored. An intricate channel, with four small portages,
conducted us to the Woody Lake. Its borders were, indeed, walls of
pines, hiding the face of steep and high rocks; and we wandered in
search of a landing-place till ten P.M., when we were forced to take
shelter from an impending storm, on a small island where we wedged
ourselves between the trees. But though we secured the canoes, we
incurred a personal evil of much greater magnitude, in the torments
inflicted by the musquitoes, a plague which had grown upon us since our
departure from Cumberland House, and which infested us during the whole
summer; we found no relief from their attacks by exposing ourselves to
the utmost violence of the wind and rain. Our last resource was to
plunge ourselves in the water, and from this uncomfortable situation we
gladly escaped at day-light, and hoisted our sails.

The Woody Lake is thirteen miles in length, and a small grassy channel
at its north-western extremity, leads to the Frog Portage, the source of
the waters descending by Beaver Lake to the Saskatchawan. The distance
to the Missinippi, or Churchill River, is only three hundred and eighty
yards; and as its course crosses the height nearly at right angles to
the direction of the Great River, it would be superfluous to compute
the elevation at this place. The portage is in latitude 55° 26' 0" N.,
and longitude 103° 34' 50" W. Its name, according to Sir Alexander
Mackenzie, is derived from the Crees having left suspended a stretched
frog's skin, in derision of the Northern Indian mode of dressing the

The part of the Missinippi, in which we embarked, we should have
mistaken for a lake, had it not been for the rapidity of the current
against which we made our way. At four P.M. we passed a long portage
occasioned by a ledge of rocks, three hundred yards in length, over
which the river falls seven or eight feet. After crossing another
portage we encamped.

On the 18th we had rain, wind, and thunder, the whole day; but this
weather was much preferable to the heat we had borne hitherto. We passed
three portages, and, at six P.M., encamped on the north bank. Below the
third portage is the mouth of the Rapid River, flowing from a large lake
to the southward, on which a post was formerly maintained by the
North-West Company. Next morning we found ourselves involved in a
confused mass of islands, through the openings of which we could not
discern the shore. The guide's knowledge of the river did not extend
beyond the last portage, and our perplexity continued, till we observed
some foam floating on the water, and took the direction from which it
came. The noise of a heavy fall, at the Mountain Portage, reached our
ears, at the distance of four miles, and we arrived there at eight A.M.
The portage was a difficult ascent over a rocky island, between which
and the main shore were two cataracts and a third in sight above them,
making another portage. We surprised a large brown bear which
immediately retreated into the woods. To the northward of the second
portage we again found the channels intricate, but the shores being
sometimes visible, we ventured to proceed. The character of the country
was new and more interesting than before. The mountainous and strong
elevations receded from the banks, and the woods crept through their
openings to the valleys behind; the adventurous pine alone ascending
their bases, and braving storms unfelt below.

At noon we landed at the Otter Portage, where the river ran with great
velocity for half a mile, among large stones. Having carried across the
principal part of the cargo, the people attempted to track the canoes
along the edge of the rapid. With the first they succeeded, but the
other, in which were the foreman and steersman, was overset and swept
away by the current. An account of this misfortune was speedily
conveyed to the upper end of the portage, and the men launched the
remaining canoe into the rapid, though wholly unacquainted with the
dangers of it. The descent was quickly accomplished, and they perceived
the bottom of the lost canoe above water in a little bay, whither it had
been whirled by the eddy. One man had reached the bank, but no traces
could be found of the foreman, Louis Saint Jean. We saved the canoe, out
of which two guns and a case of preserved meats had been thrown into the
rapid[17]. So early a disaster deeply affected the spirits of the
Canadians, and their natural vivacity gave way to melancholy
forebodings, while they erected a wooden cross in the rocks near the
spot where their companion perished.

  [17] Mr. Hood himself was the first to leap into the canoe and incite
       the men to follow him, and shoot the rapid to save the lives of
       their companions.--DR. RICHARDSON'S _Journal_.

The loss of this man's services, and the necessity of procuring a guide,
determined us to wait for the arrival of the North-West Company's people
from Fort Chipewyan, and we encamped accordingly. The canoe was much
shattered, but as the gunwales were not broken, we easily repaired it.
In the evening a N.W. canoe arrived, with two of the partners. They gave
us an account of Mr. Franklin's proceedings and referred us to the
brigade following them for a guide.

During the 20th it rained heavily, and we passed the day in anxious
suspense confined to our tents. A black bear came to the bank on the
opposite side of the river, and on seeing us glided behind the trees.

Late on the 21st, Mr. Robertson, of the Hudson's Bay Company arrived,
and furnished us with a guide, but desired that he might be exchanged
when we met the northern canoes. We took advantage of the remainder of
the day, to cross the next portage, which was three-fourths of a mile in

On the 22nd we crossed three small portages, and encamped at the fourth.
At one of them we passed some of the Hudson's Bay Company's canoes, and
our application to them was unsuccessful. We began to suspect that Isle
à la Crosse was the nearest place at which we might hope for assistance.
However, on the morning of the 23rd, as we were about to embark, we
encountered the last brigades of canoes belonging to both the Companies,
and obtained a guide and foreman from them. Thus completely equipped, we
entered the Black Bear Island Lake, the navigation of which requires a
very experienced pilot. Its length is twenty-two miles, and its breadth
varies from three to five, yet it is so choked with islands, that no
channel is to be found through it, exceeding a mile in breadth. At
sunset we landed, and encamped on an island, and at six A.M. on the
24th, left the lake and crossed three portages into another, which has,
probably, several communications with the last, as that by which we
passed is too narrow to convey the whole body of the Missinippi. At one
of these portages called the Pin Portage is a rapid, about ten yards in
length, with a descent of ten or twelve feet, and beset with rocks.
Light canoes sometimes venture down this fatal gulf, to avoid the
portage, unappalled by the warning crosses which overhang the brink, the
mournful records of former failures.

The Hudson's Bay Company's people whom we passed on the 23rd, going to
the rock house with their furs, were badly provided with food, of which
we saw distressing proofs at every portage behind them. They had
stripped the birch trees of their rind to procure the soft pulpy vessels
in contact with the wood, which are sweet, but very insufficient to
satisfy a craving appetite.

The lake to the westward of the Pin Portage, is called Sandfly Lake; it
is seven miles long; and a wide channel connects it with the Serpent
Lake, the extent of which to the southward we could not discern. There
is nothing remarkable in this chain of lakes, except their shapes, being
rocky basins filled by the waters of the Missinippi, insulating the
massy eminences, and meandering with almost imperceptible current
between them. From the Serpent to the Sandy Lake, it is again confined
in a narrow space by the approach of its winding banks, and on the 26th
we were some hours employed in traversing a series of shallow rapids,
where it was necessary to lighten the canoes. Having missed the path
through the woods, we walked two miles in the water upon sharp stones,
from which some of us were incessantly slipping into deep holes, and
floundering in vain for footing at the bottom; a scene highly diverting,
notwithstanding our fatigue. We were detained in Sandy Lake, till one
P.M., by a strong gale, when the wind becoming moderate we crossed five
miles to the mouth of the river, and at four P.M. left the main branch
of it, and entered a little rivulet called the Grassy River, running
through an extensive reedy swamp. It is the nest of innumerable ducks,
which rear their young, among the long rushes, in security from beasts
of prey. At sunset we encamped on the banks of the main branch.

At three A.M. June 28th, we embarked in a thick fog occasioned by a fall
of the temperature of the air ten degrees below that of the water.
Having crossed Knee Lake, which is nine miles in length, and a portage
at its western extremity, we entered Primeau Lake, with a strong and
favourable wind, by the aid of which we ran nineteen miles through it,
and encamped at the river's mouth. It is shaped like the barb of an
arrow, with the point towards the north, and its greatest breadth is
about four miles.

During the night, a torrent of rain washed us from our beds, accompanied
with the loudest thunder I ever heard. This weather continued during the
29th, and often compelled us to land, and turn the canoes up, to prevent
them from filling. We passed one portage, and the confluence of a river,
said to afford, by other rivers beyond a height of land, a shorter but
more difficult route to the Athabasca Lake than that which is generally

On the 28th we crossed the last portage, and at ten A.M. entered the
Isle à la Crosse Lake. Its long succession of woody points, both banks
stretching towards the south, till their forms were lost in the haze of
the horizon, was a grateful prospect to us, after our bewildered and
interrupted voyage in the Missinippi. The gale wafted us with unusual
speed, and as the lake increased in breadth, the waves swelled to a
dangerous height. A canoe running before the wind is very liable to
burst asunder, when on the top of a wave, so that part of the bottom is
out of the water; for there is nothing to support the weight of its
heavy cargo but the bark, and the slight gunwales attached to it.

On making known our exigencies to the gentlemen in charge of the
Hudson's Bay and North-West Companies' Forts, they made up an assortment
of stores, amounting to five bales; for four of which we were indebted
to Mr. Mac Leod of the North West Company, who shared with us the
ammunition absolutely required for the support of his post; receiving in
exchange an order for the same quantity upon the cargo which we expected
to follow us from York Factory. We had heard from Mr. Stuart that Fort
Chipewyan was too much impoverished to supply the wants of the
Expedition, and we found Isle à la Crosse in the same condition; which,
indeed, we might have foreseen, from the exhausted state of Cumberland
House, but could not have provided against. We never had heard before
our departure from York, that the posts in the interior only received
annually the stores necessary for the consumption of a single year. It
was fortunate for us that Mr. Franklin had desired ten bags of pemmican
to be sent from the Saskatchawan across the plains to Isle à la Crosse
for our use. This resource was untouched, but we could not embark more
than five pieces in our own canoes. However, Mr. Mac Leod agreed to send
a canoe after us to the Methye Portage, with the pemmican, and we
calculated that the diminution of our provision would there enable us to
receive it.

The Beaver River enters this lake on the S.E. side, and another river
which has not been named, on the S.W. Both these rivers are branches of
the Missinippi, as it is the only outlet from the lake. The banks
appeared to be rocky, and the beach in many places sandy, but its waters
are yellow and muddy. It produces a variety of fish, among which its
white-fish are esteemed the best in the country. The only birds visible
at this season, are common to every part of the Missinippi; gulls,
ducks, pigeons, goatsuckers, and the raven; and geese and swans pay a
momentary visit in passing to the north and returning.

There was little in the forts differing from the establishments that we
had before seen. The ground on which they are erected is sandy, and
favourable to cultivation. Curiosity, however, was satisfied by the
first experiment, and utility alone has been unable to extend it. Isle
à la Crosse is frequented by the Crees and the Chipewyans. It is not the
dread of the Indians, but of one another, that has brought the rival
Companies so close together at every trading post; each party seeking to
prevent the other from engaging the affections of the natives, and
monopolizing the trade. Whenever a settlement is made by the one, the
other immediately follows, without considering the eligibility of the
place; for it may injure its opponent, though it cannot benefit itself,
and that advantage which is the first object of all other commercial
bodies, becomes but the second with the fur traders.

On the evening of the 30th we embarked, and entered a wide channel to
the northward of the forts, and extending towards the north-west. It
gradually decreased in breadth till it became a river, which is the
third fork of the Missinippi, and its current being almost insensible,
we entered the Clear Lake at ten A.M. on the 1st of July. Of this lake,
which is very large, no part is known except the south border, but its
extent would lead us to conclude, that its evaporation must be supplied
by another river to the northward, especially as the small channel that
communicates with Buffalo Lake is motionless. The existence of such a
river is asserted by the Indians, and a shorter passage might be found
by it across the height of land to Clear Water River, than the portage
from the Methye Lake.

In Buffalo Lake, the wind was too strong for us to proceed, and we
therefore encamped upon a gravel beach thrown up by the waves. We
embarked at three A.M. July 2d, and at four P.M. entered the mouth of
the Methye River. The lake is thirty-four miles in length, and fourteen
in breadth. It is probably very deep, for we saw no islands on this wide
expanse, except at the borders. On the south-west side were two forts,
belonging to the Companies, and near them a solitary hill seven or eight
hundred feet high. At eight P.M. we encamped in the Methye River, at the
confluence of the river Pembina. A route has been explored by it to the
Red Willow River, across the height of land, but the difficulties of it
were so great, that the ordinary route is preferred.

On the 3d we passed through the Methye River, and encamped on the
borders of the Methye Lake. The soil from Isle à la Crosse to this place
is sandy, with some portion of clay, and the trees numerous; but the
Methye River is stony, and so shallow, that to lighten the canoes, we
made two portages of five and two miles. The paths were overflowed with
cold spring water, and barricadoed by fallen trees; we should have been
contented to immerse ourselves wholly had the puddle been sufficiently
deep, for the musquitoes devoured every part that was exposed to them.

On the 4th we crossed the Methye Lake, and landed at the portage on the
north-west side, in one of the sources of the Missinippi. The lake is
seventeen miles in length, with a large island in the middle. We
proceeded to the north side of the portage with two men, carrying a tent
and some instruments, leaving the canoes and cargoes to be transported
by daily journeys of two or three miles. The distance is fourteen
statute miles, and there are two small lakes about five miles from the
north side. Several species of fish were found in them, though they have
no known communication with any other body of water, being situated on
the elevation of the height. The road was a gentle ascent, miry from the
late rainy weather, and shaded by pines, poplars, birches, and
cypresses, which terminated our view. On the north side we discovered
through an opening in the trees, that we were on a hill eight or nine
hundred feet high, and at the edge of a steep descent. We were prepared
to expect an extensive prospect, but the magnificent scene before us was
so superior to what the nature of the country had promised, that it
banished even our sense of suffering from the musquitoes, which hovered
in clouds about our heads. Two parallel chains of hills extended towards
the setting sun, their various projecting outlines exhibiting the
several gradations of distance, and the opposite bases closing at the
horizon. On the nearest eminence, the objects were clearly defined by
their dark shadows; the yellow rays blended their softening hues with
brilliant green on the next, and beyond it all distinction melted into
gray and purple. In the long valley between, the smooth and colourless
Clear Water River wound its spiral course, broken and shattered by
encroaching woods. An exuberance of rich herbage covered the soil, and
lofty trees climbed the precipice at our feet, hiding its brink with
their summits. Impatient as we were, and blinded with pain, we paid a
tribute of admiration, which this beautiful landscape is capable of
exciting, unaided by the borrowed charms of a calm atmosphere, glowing
with the vivid tints of evening.

We descended to the banks of the Clear Water River, and having encamped,
the two men returned to assist their companions. We had sometimes before
procured a little rest, by closing the tent, and burning wood, or
flashing gunpowder within, the smoke driving the musquitoes into the
crannies of the ground. But this remedy was now ineffectual, though we
employed it so perseveringly, as to hazard suffocation: they swarmed
under our blankets, goring us with their envenomed trunks, and steeping
our clothes in blood. We rose at daylight in a fever, and our misery was
unmitigated during our whole stay.

The musquitoes of America resemble, in shape, those of Africa and
Europe, but differ essentially in size and other particulars. There are
two distinct species, the largest of which is brown, and the smallest
black. Where they are bred cannot easily be determined, for they are
numerous in every soil. They make their first appearance in May, and the
cold destroys them in September; in July they are most voracious; and
fortunately for the traders, the journeys from the trading posts to the
factories are generally concluded at that period. The food of the
musquito is blood, which it can extract by penetrating the hide of a
buffalo; and if it is not disturbed, it gorges itself so as to swell its
body into a transparent globe. The wound does not swell, like that of
the African musquito, but it is infinitely more painful; and when
multiplied an hundred fold, and continued for so many successive days,
it becomes an evil of such magnitude, that cold, famine, and every
other concomitant of an inhospitable climate, must yield the
pre-eminence to it. It chases the buffalo to the plains, irritating him
to madness; and the rein-deer to the sea-shore, from which they do not
return till the scourge has ceased.

On the 6th the thermometer was 106° in the sun, and on the 7th 110°. The
musquitoes sought the shade in the heat of the day. It was some
satisfaction to us to see the havoc made among them by a large and
beautiful species of dragon-fly, called the musquito hawk, which wheeled
through their retreats, swallowing its prey without a momentary
diminution of its speed. But the temporary relief that we had hoped for
was only an exchange of tormentors: our new assailant, the horse-fly, or
bull-dog, ranged in the hottest glare of the sun, and carried off a
portion of flesh at each attack. Another noxious insect, the smallest,
but not the least formidable, was the sand-fly known in Canada by the
name of the _brulot_. To such annoyance all travellers must submit, and
it would be unworthy to complain of that grievance in the pursuit of
knowledge, which is endured for the sake of profit. This detail of it
has only been as an excuse for the scantiness of our observations on
the most interesting part of the country through which we passed.

The north side of the Methye Portage is in latitude 56° 41' 40" N. and
longitude 109° 52' 0" W. It is, by our course, one hundred and
twenty-four miles from Isle à la Crosse, and considered as a branch of
the Missinippi, five hundred and ninety-two miles from the Frog Portage.
The Clear Water River passing through the valley, described above,
evidently rises not far to the eastward. The height, computed by the
same mode as that of the Echiamamis{50}, by allowing a foot for each
mile of distance, and six feet on an average, for each fall and rapid,
is two thousand four hundred and sixty-seven feet above the level of the
sea, admitting it to be nine hundred feet above the Clear Water River.
The country, in a line between it and the mouth of Mackenzie's River, is
a continual descent, although to the eastward of that line, there may be
several heights between it and the Arctic Sea. To the eastward, the
lands descend to Hudson's Bay; and to the westward also, till the
Athabasca River cuts through it, from whence it ascends to the Rocky
Mountains. Daring was the spirit of enterprise that first led Commerce,
with her cumbrous train, from the waters of Hudson's Bay to those of the
Arctic Sea, across an obstacle to navigation so stupendous as this; and
persevering has been the industry which drew riches from a source so

On the 8th two men arrived, and informed us, that they had brought us
our ten bags of pemmican, from Isle à la Crosse, but that they were
found to be rotten. Thus were we unexpectedly deprived of the most
essential of our stores, for we knew Fort Chipewyan to be destitute of
provisions, and that Mr. Franklin depended upon us for a supply,
whereas, enough did not remain for our own use. On the 9th, the canoes
and cargoes reached the north side of the portage. Our people had
selected two bags of pemmican less mouldy than the rest, which they left
on the beach. Its decay was caused by some defect in the mode of mixing

On the 10th, we embarked in the Clear Water River, and proceeded down
the current. The hills, the banks, and bed of the river, were composed
of fine yellow sand, with some limestone rocks. The surface soil was
alluvial. At eight A.M. we passed a portage on which the limestone rocks
were singularly scattered through the woods, bearing the appearance of
houses and turrets overgrown with moss. The earth emitted a hollow
sound, and the river was divided by rocks, into narrow crooked
channels, every object indicating that some convulsion had disturbed the
general order of nature at this place. We had passed a portage above it,
and after two long portages below it we encamped. Near the last was a
small stream so strongly impregnated with sulphur, as to taint the air
to a great distance around it. We saw two brown bears on the hills in
the course of the day.

At daylight, on the 11th, we embarked. The hills continued on both sides
to the mouth of the river, varying from eight hundred to one thousand
feet in height. They declined to the banks in long green slopes,
diversified by woody mounds and copses. The pines were not here in thick
impenetrable masses, but perched aloft in single groups on the heights,
or shrouded by the livelier hues of the poplar and willow.

We passed the mouth of the Red Willow River on the south bank, flowing
through a deep ravine. It is the continuation of the route by the
Pembina, before mentioned. At noon we entered the majestic Athabasca or
Elk River. Its junction with the Clear Water River is called the Forks.
Its banks were in accessible cliffs, apparently of clay and stones,
about two hundred feet high, and its windings in the south were
encircled by high mountains. Its breadth exceeded half a mile and was
swelled to a mile in many places by long muddy islands in the middle
covered with trees. No more portages interrupted our course, but a swift
current hurried us towards the quarter in which our anticipated
discoveries were to commence. The passing cliffs returned a loud
confusion of echoes to the sprightly canoe song, and the dashing
paddles; and the eagles, watching with half-closed eyes on the
pine-tops, started from their airy rest, and prepared their drowsy
pinions for the flight.

About twenty miles from the Forks are some salt pits and plains, said to
be very extensive. The height of the banks was reduced to twenty or
thirty feet, and the hills ranged themselves at an increased distance
from the banks in the same variety as those of the Clear Water River. At
sunset we encamped on a small sandy island, but the next morning made a
speedy retreat to the canoes, the water having nearly overflown our
encampment. We passed two deserted settlements of the fur traders on
opposite banks, at a place called Pierre au Calumet. Beyond it the hills
disappeared, and the banks were no longer visible above the trees. The
river carries away yearly large portions of soil, which increases its
breadth, and diminishes its depth, rendering the water so muddy as to be
scarcely drinkable. Whole forests of timber are drifted down the
stream, and choke up the channels between the islands at its mouth. We
observed the traces of herds of buffaloes, where they had crossed the
river, the trees being trodden down and strewed, as if by a whirlwind.

At four P.M. we left the main branch of the Athabasca, entering a small
river, called the Embarras. It is narrow and muddy, with pines of an
enormous size on its banks. Some of them are two hundred feet high, and
three or four feet in diameter. At nine P.M. we landed and encamped; but
finding ourselves in a nest of musquitoes, we continued our journey
before day-break; and at eight A.M., emerged into the Athabasca Lake. A
strong wind agitated this sea of fresh water, which, however, we crossed
without any accident, and landed on the north side of it, at Fort
Chipewyan; where we had the satisfaction of finding our companions in
good health, and of experiencing that sympathy in our anxiety on the
state of affairs, which was only to be expected from those who were to
share our future fortunes.


     Departure from Chipewyan--Difficulties of the various Navigations
     of the Rivers and Lakes, and of the Portages--Slave Lake and Fort
     Providence--Scarcity of Provisions, and discontent of the Canadian
     Voyagers--Difficulties with regard to the Indian Guides--Refusal to
     proceed--Visit of Observation to the Upper part of Copper-Mine
     River--Return to the Winter-Quarters of Fort Enterprise.

1820. July 18.

Early this morning the stores were distributed to the three canoes. Our
stock of provision unfortunately did not amount to more than sufficient
for one day's consumption, exclusive of two barrels of flour, three
cases of preserved meats, some chocolate, arrow-root, and portable soup,
which we had brought from England, and intended to reserve for our
journey to the coast the next season. Seventy pounds of moose meat and a
little barley were all that Mr. Smith was enabled to give us. It was
gratifying, however, to perceive that this scarcity of food did not
depress the spirits of our Canadian companions, who cheerfully loaded
their canoes, and embarked in high glee after they had received the
customary dram. At noon we bade farewell to our kind friend Mr. Smith.
The crews commenced a lively paddling song on quitting the shore, which
was continued until we had lost sight of the houses. We soon reached the
western boundary of the lake, and at two entered the Stony River, one of
the discharges of the Athabasca Lake into the Slave River, and having a
favouring current passed swiftly along. This narrow stream is confined
between low swampy banks, which support willows, dwarf birch, and alder.
At five we passed its conflux with the Peace River. The Slave River,
formed by the union of these streams, is about three quarters of a mile
wide. We descended this magnificent river, with much rapidity, and after
passing through several narrow channels, formed by an assemblage of
islands, crossed a spot where the waters had a violent whirling motion,
which, when the river is low, is said to subside into a dangerous rapid;
on the present occasion no other inconvenience was felt than the
inability of steering the canoes, which were whirled about in every
direction by the eddies, until the current carried them beyond their
influence. We encamped at seven, on the swampy bank of the river, but
had scarcely pitched the tents before we were visited by a terrible
thunder-storm; the rain fell in torrents, and the violence of the wind
caused the river to overflow its banks, so that we were completely
flooded. Swarms of musquitoes succeeded the storm, and their tormenting
stings, superadded to other inconveniences, induced us to embark, and,
after taking a hasty supper to pursue our voyage down the stream during
the night.

At six on the following morning we passed the Rein-Deer Islands, and at
ten reached the entrance of the Dog River, where we halted to set the
fishing nets. These were examined in the evening, but to our
mortification we obtained only four small trout, and were compelled to
issue part of our preserved meats for supper. The latitude of the mouth
of Dog River, was observed 59° 52' 16" N.

The nets were taken up at daylight, but they furnished only a solitary
pike. We lost no time in embarking, and crossed the crooked channel of
the Dog Rapid, when two of the canoes came in such violent contact with
each other, that the sternmost had its bow broken off. We were
fortunately near the shore or the disabled canoe would have sunk. The
injury being repaired in two hours, we again embarked, and having
descended another rapid, arrived at the Cassette Portage of four hundred
and sixty paces, over which the cargoes and canoes were carried in about
twenty-six minutes. We next passed through a narrow channel full of
rapids, crossed the Portage d'Embarras of seventy yards; and the portage
of the Little Rock, of three hundred yards, at which another accident
happened to one of the canoes, by the bowman slipping and letting it
fall upon a rock, and breaking it in two. Two hours were occupied in
sewing the detached pieces together, and covering the seam with pitch;
but this being done it was as effective as before. After leaving this
place we soon came to the next portage, of two hundred and seventy-three
paces; and shortly afterwards to the Mountain Portage, of one hundred
and twenty: which is appropriately named, as the path leads over the
summit of a high hill. This elevated situation commands a very grand and
picturesque view, for some miles along the river, which at this part is
about a mile wide.

We next crossed a portage of one hundred and twenty yards; and then the
Pelican Portage, of eight hundred paces. Mr. Back took an accurate
sketch of the interesting scenery which the river presents at this
place. After descending six miles further we came to the last portage on
the route to Slave Lake which we crossed, and encamped in its lower end.
It is called "_The Portage of the Drowned_," and it received that name
from a melancholy accident which took place many years ago. Two canoes
arrived at the upper end of the portage, in one of which there was an
experienced guide. This man judging from the height of the river, deemed
it practicable to shoot the rapid, and determined upon trying it. He
accordingly placed himself in the bow of his canoe, having previously
agreed, that if the passage was found easy, he should, on reaching the
bottom of the rapid, fire a musket, as a signal for the other canoe to
follow. The rapid proved dangerous, and called forth all the skill of
the guide, and the utmost exertion of his crew, and they narrowly
escaped destruction. Just as they were landing, an unfortunate fellow
seizing the loaded fowling-piece, fired at a duck which rose at the
instant. The guide anticipating the consequences, ran with the utmost
haste to the other end of the portage, but he was too late: the other
canoe had pushed off, and he arrived only to witness the fate of his
comrades. They got alarmed in the middle of the rapid, the canoe was
upset, and every man perished.

The various rapids we passed this day, are produced by an assemblage of
islands and rocky ledges, which obstruct the river, and divide it into
many narrow channels. Two of these channels are rendered still more
difficult by accumulations of drift timber; a circumstance which has
given a name to one of the portages. The rocks which compose the bed of
the river, and the numerous islands, belong to the granite formation.
The distance made to-day was thirteen miles.

_July 21_.--We embarked at four A.M. and pursued our course down the
river. The rocks cease at the last portage; and below it the banks are
composed of alluvial soil, which is held together by the roots of trees
and shrubs that crown their summits. The river is about a mile wide, and
the current is greatly diminished. At eight we landed at the mouth of
the Salt River, and pitched our tents, intending to remain there that
and the next day for the purpose of fishing. After breakfast, which made
another inroad on our preserved meats, we proceeded up the river in a
light canoe, to visit the salt springs, leaving a party behind to attend
the nets. This river is about one hundred yards wide at its mouth. Its
waters did not become brackish until we had ascended it seven or eight
miles; but when we had passed several rivulets of fresh water which
flowed in, the main stream became very salt, at the same time
contracting its width to fifteen or twenty yards. At a distance of
twenty-two miles, including the windings of the river, the plains
commence. Having pitched the tent at this spot, we set out to visit the
principal springs, and had walked about three miles when the musquitoes
compelled us to give up our project. We did not see the termination of
the plains toward the east, but on the north and west they are bounded
by an even ridge, about six or seven hundred feet in height. Several
salt springs issue from the foot of this ridge, and spread their waters
over the plain, which consists of tenacious clay. During the summer much
evaporation takes place, and large heaps of salt are left behind
crystallized in the form of cubes. Some beds of grayish compact gypsum
were exposed on the sides of the hills.

The next morning after filling some casks with salt for our use during
winter, we embarked to return, and had descended the river a few miles,
when turning round a point, we perceived a buffalo plunge into the river
before us. Eager to secure so valuable a prize, we instantly opened a
fire upon him from four muskets, and in a few minutes he fell, but not
before he had received fourteen balls. The carcass was towed to the
bank, and the canoe speedily laden with meat. After this piece of good
fortune, we descended the stream merrily, our voyagers chanting their
liveliest songs. On arrival at the mouth of the river, we found that our
nets had not produced more than enough to supply a scanty meal to the
men whom we had left behind, but this was now of little importance, as
the acquisition of meat we had made would enable us to proceed without
more delay to Slave Lake. The _poisson inconnu_ mentioned by Mackenzie,
is found here. It is a species of the Genus Salmo, and is said by the
Indians to ascend from the Arctic Sea, but being unable to pass the
cascade of the Slave River, is not found higher than this place. In the
evening a violent thunder-storm came on with heavy rain, thermometer

At a very early hour on the following morning we embarked, and continued
to paddle against a very strong wind and high waves, under the shelter
of the bank of the rivers, until two P.M., when having arrived at a more
exposed part of the stream, the canoes took in so much water that we
were obliged to disembark on a small island. The river here is from one
mile and a quarter to one mile and three quarters wide. Its banks are of
moderate height, sandy, and well wooded.

_July 24_.--We made more progress notwithstanding the continuance of the
wind. The course of the river is very winding, making in one place a
circuit of seven or eight miles round a peninsula, which is joined to
the west bank by a narrow isthmus. Near the foot of this elbow, a long
island occupies the centre of the river, which it divides into two
channels. The longitude was obtained near to it 113° 25' 36", and
variation 27° 25' 14" N.,{51} and the latitude 60° 54' 52" N., about
four miles farther down. We passed the mouth of a broad channel leading
to the north-east, termed La Grande Rivière de Jean, one of the two
large branches by which the river pours its waters into the Great Slave
Lake; the flooded _delta_ at the mouth of the river is intersected by
several smaller channels, through one of which, called the Channel of
the Scaffold, we pursued our voyage on the following morning, and by
eight A.M. reached the establishment of the North-West Company on
Moose-Deer Island. We found letters from Mr. Wentzel, dated Fort
Providence, a station on the north side of the lake, which communicated
to us, that there was an Indian guide waiting for us at that post; but,
that the chief and the hunters, who were to accompany the party, had
gone to a short distance to hunt, having become impatient at our delay.

Soon after landing, I visited the Hudson's Bay Post on the same island,
and engaged Pierre St. Germain, an interpreter for the Copper Indians.
We regretted to find the posts of both the Companies extremely bare of
provision; but as the gentlemen in charge had despatched men on the
preceding evening, to a band of Indians, in search of meat, and they
promised to furnish us with whatever should be brought, it was deemed
advisable to wait for their return, as the smallest supply was now of
importance to us. Advantage was taken of the delay to repair effectually
the canoe, which had been broken in the Dog Rapid. On the next evening
the men arrived with the meat, and enabled Mr. McCleod{52}, of the
North-West Company, to furnish us with four hundred pounds of dried
provisions. Mr. McVicar, of the Hudson's Bay Company, also supplied one
hundred and fifty pounds. This quantity we considered would be
sufficient, until we could join the hunters. We also obtained three
fishing-nets, a gun, and a pair of pistols, which were all the stores
these posts could furnish, although the gentlemen in charge were much
disposed to assist us.

Moose-Deer Island is about a mile in diameter, and rises towards the
centre about three hundred feet above the lake. Its soil is in general
sandy, in some parts swampy. The varieties of the northern berries grow
abundantly on it. The North-West Company's Fort is in latitude 61° 11'
8" N.; longitude 113° 51' 37" W., being two hundred and sixty statute
miles distant from Fort Chipewyan, by the river course. The variation
of the compass is 25° 40' 47" E. The houses of the two Companies are
small, and have a bleak northern aspect. There are vast accumulations of
drift wood on the shores of the lake, brought down by the river, which
afford plenty of fuel. The inhabitants live principally on the fish,
which the lake at certain seasons furnishes in great abundance; of
these, the white fish, trout, and _poisson inconnu_ are considered the
best. They also procure moose, buffalo, and rein-deer meat occasionally
from their hunters; but these animals are generally found at the
distance of several days' walk from the forts. The Indians who trade
here are Chipewyans. Beavers, martens, foxes, and musk-rats, are caught
in numbers in the vicinity of this great body of water. The musquitoes
here were still a serious annoyance to us, but less numerous than
before. They were in some degree replaced by a small sandfly, whose bite
is succeeded by a copious flow of blood, and considerable swelling, but
is attended with incomparably less irritation, than the puncture of the

On the 27th of July we embarked at four A.M., and proceeded along the
south shore of the lake, through a narrow channel, formed by some
islands, beyond the confluence of the principal branch of the Slave
River; and as far as Stony Island, where we breakfasted. This island is
merely a rock of gneiss, that rises forty or fifty feet above the lake,
and is precipitous on the north side. As the day was fine, and the lake
smooth, we ventured upon paddling across to the Rein-Deer Islands, which
were distant about thirteen miles in a northern direction, instead of
pursuing the usual track by keeping further along the south shore which
inclines to the eastward from this point. These islands are numerous,
and consist of granite, rising from one hundred to two hundred feet
above the water. They are for the most part naked; but towards the
centres of the larger ones, there is a little soil, and a few groves of
pines. At seven in the evening we landed upon one of them, and encamped.
On the following morning we ran before a strong breeze, and a heavy
swell, for some hours, but at length were obliged to seek shelter on a
large island adjoining to Isle à la Cache of Mackenzie, where the
following observations were obtained: latitude 61° 50' 18" N., longitude
113° 21' 40" W., and variation 31° 2' 06" E.

The wind and swell having subsided in the afternoon, we re-embarked and
steered towards the western point of the Big-Island of Mackenzie, and
when four miles distant from it, had forty-two fathoms soundings.
Passing between this island and a promontory of the main shore, termed
Big Cape, we entered into a deep bay, which receives the waters from
several rivers that come from the northward; and we immediately
perceived a decrease in the temperature of the waters from 59° to 48°.
We coasted along the eastern side of the bay, its western shore being
always visible, but the canoes were exposed to the hazard of being
broken by the numerous sunken rocks, which were scattered in our track.
We encamped for the night on a rocky island, and by eight A.M. on the
following morning, arrived at Fort Providence, which is situated
twenty-one miles from the entrance of the bay. The post is exclusively
occupied by the North-West Company, the Hudson's Bay Company having no
settlement to the northward of Great Slave Lake. We found Mr. Wentzel
and our interpreter Jean Baptiste Adam here, with one of the Indian
guides: but the chief of the tribe and his hunters were encamped with
their families, some miles from the fort, in a good situation for
fishing. Our arrival was announced to him by a fire on the top of a
hill, and before night a messenger came to communicate his intention of
seeing us next morning. The customary present, of tobacco and some other
articles, was immediately sent to him.

Mr. Wentzel prepared me for the first conference with the Indians by
mentioning all the information they had already given to him. The duties
allotted to this gentleman were, the management of the Indians, the
superintendence of the Canadian voyagers, the obtaining, and the general
distribution, of the provision, and the issue of the other stores. These
services he was well qualified to perform, having been accustomed to
execute similar duties, during a residence of upwards of twenty years in
this country. We also deemed Mr. Wentzel to be a great acquisition to
our party, as a check on the interpreters, he being one of the few
traders who speak the Chipewyan language.

As we were informed that external appearances made lasting impressions
on the Indians, we prepared for the interview by decorating ourselves in
uniform, and suspending a medal round each of our necks. Our tents had
been previously pitched and over one them a silken union flag was
hoisted. Soon after noon, on July 30th, several Indian canoes were seen
advancing in a regular line, and on their approach, the chief was
discovered in the headmost, which was paddled by two men. On landing at
the fort, the chief assumed a very grave aspect, and walked up to Mr.
Wentzel with a measured and dignified step, looking neither to the
right nor to the left, at the persons who had assembled on the beach to
witness his debarkation, but preserving the same immoveability of
countenance until he reached the hall, and was introduced to the
officers. When he had smoked his pipe, drank a small portion of spirits
and water himself, and issued a glass to each of his companions, who had
seated themselves on the floor, he commenced his harangue, by mentioning
the circumstances that led to his agreeing to accompany the Expedition,
an engagement which he was quite prepared to fulfil. He was rejoiced, he
said, to see such great chiefs on his lands; his tribe were poor, but
they loved white men who had been their benefactors; and he hoped that
our visit would be productive of much good to them. The report which
preceded our arrival, he said, had caused much grief to him. It was at
first rumoured that a great medicine chief accompanied us, who was able
to restore the dead to life; at this he rejoiced; the prospect of again
seeing his departed relatives had enlivened his spirits, but his first
communication with Mr. Wentzel had removed these vain hopes, and he felt
as if his friends had a second time been torn from him. He now wished to
be informed exactly of the nature of our expedition.

In reply to this speech, which I understood had been prepared for many
days, I endeavoured to explain the objects of our mission in a manner
best calculated to ensure his exertions in our service. With this view,
I told him that we were sent out by the greatest chief in the world, who
was the sovereign also of the trading companies in the country; that he
was the friend of peace, and had the interest of every nation at heart.
Having learned that his children in the north, were much in want of
articles of merchandize, in consequence of the extreme length and
difficulty of the present route; he had sent us to search for a passage
by the sea, which if found, would enable large vessels to transport
great quantities of goods more easily to their lands. That we had not
come for the purpose of traffic, but solely to make discoveries for
their benefit, as well as that of every other people. That we had been
directed to inquire into the nature of all the productions of the
countries we might pass through, and particularly respecting their
inhabitants. That we desired the assistance of the Indians in guiding
us, and providing us with food; finally, that we were most positively
enjoined by the great chief to recommend that hostilities should cease
throughout this country; and especially between the Indians and the
Esquimaux, whom he considered his children, in common with other
natives; and by way of enforcing the latter point more strongly, I
assured him that a forfeiture of all the advantages which might be
anticipated from the Expedition would be a certain consequence if any
quarrel arose between his party and the Esquimaux. I also communicated
to him that owing to the distance we had travelled, we had now few more
stores than was necessary for the use of our own party, a part of{53}
these, however, should be forthwith presented to him; on his return he
and his party, should be remunerated with cloth, ammunition, tobacco,
and some useful iron materials, besides having their debts to the
North-West Company discharged.

The chief, whose name is Akaitcho or Big-foot, replied by a renewal of
his assurances, that he and his party would attend us to the end of our
journey, and that they would do their utmost to provide us with the
means of subsistence. He admitted that his tribe had made war upon the
Esquimaux, but said they were now desirous of peace, and unanimous in
their opinion as to the necessity of all who accompanied us abstaining
from every act of enmity against that nation. He added, however, that
the Esquimaux were very treacherous, and therefore recommended that we
should advance towards them with caution.

The communications which the chief and the guides then gave respecting
the route to the Copper-Mine River, and its course to the sea, coincided
in every material point with the statements which were made by Boileau
and Black-meat at Chipewyan, but they differed in their descriptions
of the coast. The information, however, collected from both sources was
very vague and unsatisfactory. None of his tribe had been more than
three days' march along the sea-coast to the eastward of the river's

As the water was unusually high this season, the Indian guides
recommended our going by a shorter route to the Copper-Mine River than
that they had first proposed to Mr. Wentzel, and they assigned as a
reason for the change, that the rein-deer would be sooner found upon
this track. They then drew a chart of the proposed route on the floor
with charcoal, exhibiting a chain of twenty-five small lakes extending
towards the north, about one half of them connected by a river which
flows into Slave Lake, near Fort Providence. One of the guides, named
Keskarrah, drew the Copper-Mine River, running through the Upper Lake,
in a westerly direction towards the Great Bear Lake, and then northerly
to the sea. The other guide drew the river in a straight line to the sea
from the above-mentioned place, but, after some dispute, admitted the
correctness of the first delineation. The latter was elder brother to
Akaitcho, and he said that he had accompanied Mr. Hearne on his journey,
and though very young at the time, still remembered many of the
circumstances, and particularly the massacre committed by the Indians on
the Esquimaux.

They pointed out another lake to the southward of the river, about three
days' journey distant from it, on which the chief proposed the next
winter's establishment should be formed, as the rein-deer would pass
there in the autumn and spring. Its waters contained fish, and there was
a sufficiency of wood for building as well as for the winter's
consumption. These were important considerations, and determined me in
pursuing the route they now proposed. They could not inform us what time
we should take in reaching the lake, until they saw our manner of
travelling in the large canoes, but they supposed we might be about
twenty days, in which case I entertained the hope that if we could then
procure provision we should have time to descend the Copper-Mine River
for a considerable distance if not to the sea itself, and return to the
lake before the winter set in.

It may here be proper to mention that it had been my original plan to
descend the Mackenzie's River, and to cross the Great Bear Lake from
the eastern side of which, Boileau informed me, there is a communication
with the Copper-Mine River by four small lakes and portages, but, under
our present circumstances, this course could not be followed, because it
would remove us too far from the establishments at the Great Slave Lake,
to receive the supplies of ammunition and some other stores in the
winter which were absolutely necessary for the prosecution of our
journey, or to get the Esquimaux interpreter, whom we expected. If I had
not deemed these circumstances paramount I should have preferred the
route by Bear Lake.

Akaitcho and the guides having communicated all the information they
possessed on the different points to which our questions had been
directed, I placed my medal round the neck of the chief, and the
officers presented theirs to an elder brother of his and the two guides,
communicating to them that these marks of distinction were given as
tokens of our friendship and as pledges of the sincerity of our
professions. Being conferred in the presence of all the hunters their
acquisition was highly gratifying to them, but they studiously avoided
any great expression of joy, because such an exposure would have been
unbecoming the dignity which the senior Indians assume during a
conference. They assured us, however, of their being duly sensible of
these tokens of our regard, and that they should be preserved during
their lives with the utmost care. The chief evinced much penetration and
intelligence during the whole of this conversation, which gave us a
favourable opinion of his intellectual powers. He made many inquiries
respecting the Discovery ships, under the command of Captain Parry,
which had been mentioned to him, and asked why a passage had not been
discovered long ago, if one existed. It may be stated that we gave a
faithful explanation to all his inquiries, which policy would have
prompted us to do if a love of truth had not; for whenever these
northern nations detect a falsehood in the dealings of the traders, they
make it an unceasing subject of reproach, and their confidence is
irrecoverably lost.

We presented to the chief, the two guides, and the seven hunters, who
had engaged to accompany us, some cloth, blankets, tobacco, knives,
daggers, besides other useful iron materials, and a gun to each; also a
keg of very weak spirits and water, which they kept until the evening,
as they had to try their guns before dark, and make the necessary
preparations for commencing the journey on the morrow. They, however,
did not leave us so soon, as the chief was desirous of being present,
with his party, at the dance, which was given in the evening to our
Canadian voyagers. They were highly entertained by the vivacity and
agility displayed by our companions in their singing and dancing: and
especially by their imitating the gestures of a Canadian, who placed
himself in the most ludicrous postures; and, whenever this was done, the
gravity of the chief gave way to violent bursts of laughter. In return
for the gratification Akaitcho had enjoyed, he desired his young men to
exhibit the Dog-Rib Indian dance; and immediately they ranged themselves
in a circle, and, keeping their legs widely separated, began to jump
simultaneously sideways; their bodies were bent, their hands placed on
their hips, and they uttered forcibly the interjection _tsa_ at each
jump. Devoid as were their attitudes of grace, and their music of
harmony, we were much amused by the novelty of the exhibition.

In the midst of this scene an untoward accident occurred, which for a
time interrupted our amusements. The tent in which Dr. Richardson and I
lodged, having caught fire from some embers that had been placed in it
to expel the musquitoes, was entirely burnt. Hepburn, who was sleeping
within it, close to some powder, most providentially awoke in time to
throw it clear of the flame, and rescue the baggage, before any material
injury had been received. We dreaded the consequences of this disaster
upon the fickle minds of the Indians, and wished it not to be
communicated to them. The chief, however, was soon informed of it by one
of his people, and expressed his desire that no future misfortune should
be concealed from him. We found he was most concerned to hear that the
flag had been burnt, but we removed his anxiety on that point, by the
assurance that it could easily be repaired. We were advised by Mr.
Wentzel to recommence the dancing after this event, lest the Indians
should imagine, by our putting a stop to it, that we considered the
circumstance as an unfavourable commencement of our undertaking. We
were, however deeply impressed with a grateful sense of the Divine
Providence, in averting the threatened destruction of our stores, which
would have been fatal to every prospect of proceeding forward this

_August 1_.--This morning the Indians set out, intending to wait for us
at the mouth of the Yellow-Knife River. We remained behind to pack our
stores, in bales of eighty pounds each, an operation which could not be
done in the presence of these Indians, as they are in the habit of
begging for every thing they see. Our stores consisted of two barrels of
gunpowder, one hundred and forty pounds of ball and small shot, four
fowling-pieces, a few old trading guns, eight pistols, twenty-four
Indian daggers, some packages of knives, chisels, axes, nails, and
fastenings for a boat; a few yards of cloth, some blankets, needles,
looking-glasses, and beads; together with nine fishing-nets, having
meshes of different sizes. Our provision was two casks of flour, two
hundred dried rein-deer tongues, some dried moose-meat, portable soup,
and arrow-root, sufficient in the whole for ten days' consumption,
besides two cases of chocolate, and two canisters of tea. We engaged
another Canadian voyager at this place, and the Expedition then
consisted of twenty-eight persons, including the officers, and the wives
of three of our voyagers, who were brought for the purpose of making
shoes and clothes for the men at the winter establishment; there were
also three children, belonging to two of these women[18].

  [18] The following is the list of the officers and men who composed
       the Expedition on its departure from Fort Providence:

       John Franklin, Lieutenant of the Royal Navy and Commander.
       John Richardson, M.D., Surgeon of the Royal Navy.
       Mr. George Back, of the Royal Navy, Admiralty Midshipman.
       Mr. Robert Hood, of the Royal Navy, Admiralty Midshipman.
       Mr. Frederick Wentzel, Clerk to the North-West Company.
       John Hepburn, English seaman.


       Joseph Peltier,
       Matthew Pelonquin, dit Crèdit,
       Solomon Belanger,
       Joseph Benoit,
       Joseph Gagné,
       Pierre Dumas,
       Joseph Forcier,
       Ignace Perrault,
       Francois Samandré,
       Gabriel Beauparlant,
       Vincenza Fontano,
       Registe Vaillant,
       Jean Baptiste Parent,
       Jean Baptiste Belanger,
       Jean Baptiste Belleau,
       Emanuel Cournoyée,
       Michel Teroahauté, an Iroquois.


       Pierre St. Germain,
       Jean Baptiste Adam,
       Chipewyan Bois Brulés.

Our observations place Fort Providence in latitude 62° 17' 19" N.,
longitude 114° 9' 28" W.; the variation of the compass is 33° 35' 55"
E., and dip of the needle 86° 38' 02". It is distant from Moose-Deer
Island sixty-six geographic miles. This is the last establishment of the
traders in this direction, but the North-West Company have two to the
northward of it, on the Mackenzie River. It has been erected for the
convenience of the Copper and Dog-Rib Indians, who generally bring such
a quantity of rein-deer meat that the residents are enabled, out of
their superabundance, to send annually some provision to the fort at
Moose-Deer Island. They also occasionally procure moose and buffalo
meat, but these animals are not numerous on this side of the lake. Few
furs are collected. _Les poissons inconnus_, trout, pike, carp, and
white-fish are very plentiful, and on these the residents principally
subsist. Their great supply of fish is procured in the latter part of
September and the beginning of October, but there are a few taken daily
in the nets during the winter. The surrounding country consists almost
entirely of coarse grained granite, frequently enclosing large masses of
reddish felspar. These rocks form hills which attain an elevation of
three hundred or four hundred feet, about a mile behind the house; their
surface is generally naked, but in the valleys between them grow a few
spruce, aspen, and birch trees, together with a variety of shrubs and
berry-bearing plants.

On the afternoon of the 2d of August we commenced our journey, having,
in addition to our three canoes, a smaller one to convey the women; we
were all in high spirits, being heartily glad that the time had at
length arrived when our course was to be directed towards the
Copper-Mine River, and through a line of country which had not been
previously visited by any European. We proceeded to the northward, along
the eastern side of a deep bay of the lake, passing through various
channels, formed by an assemblage of rocky islands; and, at sunset,
encamped on a projecting point of the north main shore, eight miles
from Fort Providence. To the westward of this arm, or bay, of the lake,
there is another deep bay, that receives the waters of a river, which
communicates with Great Marten Lake, where the North-West Company had
once a post established. The eastern shores of the Great Slave Lake are
very imperfectly known: none of the traders have visited them, and the
Indians give such loose and unsatisfactory accounts, that no estimation
can be formed of its extent in that direction. These men say there is a
communication from its eastern extremity by a chain of lakes, with a
shallow river, which discharges its waters into the sea. This stream
they call the Thlouee-tessy{54}, and report it to be navigable for
Indian canoes only. The forms of the south and western shores are better
known from the survey of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and in consequence of
the canoes having to pass and repass along these borders annually,
between Moose-Deer Island and Mackenzie's River. Our observations made
the breadth of the lake, between Stony Island, and the north main shore,
sixty miles less than it is laid down in Arrowsmith's map; and there is
also a considerable difference in the longitude of the eastern side of
the bay, which we entered.

This lake, owing to its great depth, is seldom completely frozen over
before the last week in November, and the ice, which is generally seven
feet thick, breaks up about the middle of June, three weeks later than
that of the Slave River. The only known outlet to this vast body of
water, which receives so many streams on its north and south shores, is
the Mackenzie's River.

_August 3_.--We embarked at three A.M. and proceeded to the entrance of
the Yellow-Knife River of the traders, which is called by the natives
Beg-ho-lo-dessy; or, River of the Toothless Fish. We found Akaitcho, and
the hunters with their families, encamped here. There were also several
other Indians of his tribe, who intended to accompany us some distance
into the interior. This party was quickly in motion after our arrival,
and we were soon surrounded by a fleet of seventeen Indian canoes. In
company with them we paddled up the river, which is one hundred and
fifty yards wide, and, in an hour, came to a cascade of five feet, where
we were compelled to make a portage of one hundred and fifty-eight
yards. We next crossed a dilatation of the river, about six miles in
length, upon which the name of Lake Prosperous was bestowed. Its shores,
though scantily supplied with wood, are very picturesque.

Akaitcho caused himself to be paddled by his slave, a young man, of the
Dog-Rib nation, whom he had taken by force from his friends; when he
thought himself, however, out of reach of our observation, he laid aside
a good deal of his state, and assisted in the labour; and after a few
days further acquaintance with us, he did not hesitate to paddle in our
presence, or even carry his canoe on the portages. Several of the canoes
were managed by women, who proved to be noisy companions, for they
quarrelled frequently, and the weakest was generally profuse in her
lamentations, which were not at all diminished, when the husband
attempted to settle the difference by a few blows with his paddle.

An observation, near the centre of the lake, gave 114° 13' 39" W., and
33° 8' 06" E., variation.

Leaving the lake, we ascended a very strong rapid, and arrived at a
range of three steep cascades, situated in the bend of the river. Here
we made a portage of one thousand three hundred yards over a rocky hill,
which received the name of the Bowstring Portage, from its shape. We
found that the Indians had greatly the advantage of us in this
operation; the men carried their small canoes, the women and children
the clothes and provisions, and at the end of the portage they were
ready to embark; whilst it was necessary for our people to return four
times, before they could transport the weighty cargo with which we were
burdened. After passing through another expansion of the river, and over
the Steep Portage of one hundred and fifteen yards, we encamped on a
small rocky isle, just large enough to hold our party, and the Indians
took possession of an adjoining rock. We were now thirty miles from Fort

As soon as the tents were pitched, the officers and men were divided
into watches for the night; a precaution intended to be taken throughout
the journey, not merely to prevent our being surprised by strangers, but
also to shew our companions that we were constantly on our guard. The
chief who suffered nothing to escape his observation, remarked, "that he
should sleep without anxiety among the Esquimaux, for he perceived no
enemy could surprise us."

After supper we retired to rest, but our sleep was soon interrupted by
the Indians joining in loud lamentations over a sick child, whom they
supposed to be dying. Dr. Richardson, however, immediately went to the
boy, and administered some medicine which relieved his pain, and put a
stop to their mourning. The temperatures, this day, were at four A.M.,
54°, three P.M. 72°, at seven P.M. 65°.

On the 4th we crossed a small lake, and passed in succession over the
Blue Berry Cascade, and Double Fall Portages, where the river falls over
ridges of rocks that completely obstruct the passage for canoes. We came
to three strong rapids beyond these barriers, which were surmounted by
the aid of the poles and lines, and then to a bend of the river in which
the cascades were so frequent, that to avoid them we carried the canoes
into a chain of small lakes. We entered them by a portage of nine
hundred and fifty paces, and during the afternoon traversed three other
grassy lakes and encamped on the banks of the river, at the end of the
Yellow-Knife Portage, of three hundred and fifty paces. This day's work
was very laborious to our men. Akaitcho, however, had directed his party
to assist them in carrying their burdens on the portages, which they did
cheerfully. This morning Mr. Back caught several fish with a fly, a
method of fishing entirely new to the Indians; and they were not more
delighted than astonished at his skill and success. The extremes of
temperature to-day{55} were 54° and 65°.

On August 5th we continued the ascent of the river which varied much in
breadth as did the current in rapidity. It flows between high rocky
banks on which there is sufficient soil to support pines, birch, and
poplars. Five portages were crossed, then the Rocky Lake, and we
finished our labours at the end of the sixth portage. The issue of dried
meat for breakfast this morning had exhausted all our stock; and no
other provision remained but the portable soups, and a few pounds of
preserved meat. At the recommendation of Akaitcho, the hunters were
furnished with ammunition, and desired to go forward as speedily as
possible, to the part where the rein-deer were expected to be found; and
to return to us with any provision they could procure. He also assured
us that in our advance towards them we should come to lakes abounding in
fish. Many of the Indians being likewise in distress for food, decided
on separating from us, and going on at a quicker pace than we could

Akaitcho himself was always furnished with a portion at our meals, as a
token of regard which the traders have taught the chiefs to expect, and
which we willingly paid.

The next morning we crossed a small lake and a portage, before we
entered the river; shortly afterwards, the canoes and cargoes were
carried a mile along its banks, to avoid three very strong rapids, and
over another portage into a narrow lake; we encamped on an island in the
middle of it, to set the nets; but they only yielded a few fish, and we
had a very scanty supper, as it was necessary to deal out our provision
sparingly. The longitude 114° 27' 03" W. and variation{56} 33° 04" E.,
were observed.

We had the mortification of finding the nets entirely empty next
morning, an untoward circumstance that discouraged our voyagers very
much; and they complained of being unable to support the fatigue to
which they were daily exposed, on their present scanty fare. We had seen
with regret that the portages were more frequent as we advanced to the
northward, and feared that their strength would fail, if provision were
not soon obtained. We embarked at six, proceeded to the head of the
lake, and crossed a portage of two thousand five hundred paces, leading
over ridges of sand-hills, which nourished pines of a larger size than
we had lately seen. This conducted us to Mossy Lake, whence we regained
the river, after traversing another portage. The Birch and Poplar
Portages next followed, and beyond these we came to a part where the
river takes a great circuit, and its course is interrupted by several
heavy falls. The guide, therefore, advised us to quit it, and proceed
through a chain of nine lakes extending to the north-east, which we
did, and encamped on Icy Portage, where the nets were set. The bottom of
the valley, through which the track across this portage led, was covered
with ice four or five feet thick, the remains of a large iceberg, which
is annually formed there, by the snow drifting into the valley, and
becoming consolidated into ice by the overflowing of some springs that
are warm enough to resist the winter's cold. The latitude is 63° 22' 15"
N., longitude 114° 15' 30" W.

We were alarmed in the night by our fire communicating to the dry moss,
which, spreading by the force of a strong wind, encircled the encampment
and threatened destruction to our canoes and baggage. The watch
immediately aroused all the men, who quickly removed whatever could be
injured to a distant part, and afterwards succeeded in extinguishing the

_August 8_.--During this day we crossed five portages, passing over a
very bad road. The men were quite exhausted with fatigue by five P.M.,
when we were obliged to encamp on the borders of the fifth lake, in
which the fishing nets were set. We began this evening to issue some
portable soup and arrow-root, which our companions relished very much;
but this food is too unsubstantial to support their vigour under their
daily exhausting labour, and we could not furnish them with a sufficient
quantity even of this to satisfy their desires. We commenced our labours
on the next day in a very wet uncomfortable state, as it had rained
through the night until four A.M. The fifth grassy lake was crossed, and
four others, with their intervening portages, and we returned to the
river by a portage of one thousand four hundred and fifteen paces. The
width of the stream here is about one hundred yards, its banks are
moderately high and scantily covered with wood. We afterwards twice
carried the cargoes along its banks to avoid a very stony rapid, and
then crossed the first Carp Portage in longitude 114° 2' 01" W.,
variation of the compass 32° 30' 40" E., and encamped on the borders of
Lower Carp Lake.

The chief having told us that this was a good lake for fishing, we
determined on halting for a day or two to recruit our men, of whom three
were lame, and several others had swelled legs. The chief himself went
forward to look after the hunters, and promised to make a fire as a
signal if they had killed any rein-deer. All the Indians had left us in
the course of yesterday and to-day to seek these animals, except the
guide Keskarrah.

_August 10_.--The nets furnishing only four carp, we embarked for the
purpose of searching for a better spot, and encamped again on the shores
of the same lake. The spirits of the men were much revived by seeing
some recent traces of rein-deer at this place, which circumstance caused
them to cherish the hope of soon getting a supply of meat from the
hunters. They were also gratified by finding abundance of blue berries
near the encampment, which made an agreeable and substantial addition to
their otherwise scanty fare. We were teased by sand-flies this evening,
although the thermometer did not rise above 45°. The country through
which we had travelled for some days consists principally of granite,
intermixed in some spots with mica-slate, often passing into clay-slate.
But the borders of Lower Carp Lake, where the gneiss formation prevails,
are composed of hills, having less altitude, fewer precipices, and more
rounded summits. The valleys are less fertile, containing a gravelly
soil and fewer trees; so that the country has throughout a more barren

_August 11_.--Having caught sufficient trout, white-fish, and carp,
yesterday and this morning, to afford the party two hearty meals, and
the men having recovered their fatigue, we proceeded on our journey,
crossed the Upper Carp Portage, and embarked on the lake of that name,
where we had the gratification of paddling for ten miles. We put up at
its termination to fish, by the advice of our guide, and the following
observations were then taken: longitude 113° 46' 35" W., variation of
the compass 36° 45' 30" E., dip 87° 11' 48". At this place we first
perceived the north end of our dipping-needle to pass the perpendicular
line when the instrument was faced to the west.

We had scarcely quitted the encampment next day before an Indian met us,
with the agreeable communication, that the hunters had made several
fires, which were certain indications of their having killed rein-deer.
This intelligence inspired our companions with fresh energy, and they
quickly traversed the next portage, and paddled through the Rein-Deer
Lake; at the north side of it we found the canoes of our hunters, and
learned from our guide, that the Indians usually leave their canoes
here, as the water communication on their hunting grounds is bad. The
Yellow-Knife River had now dwindled into an insignificant rivulet, and
we could not trace it beyond the next lake, except as a mere brook. The
latitude of its source 64° 1' 30" N., longitude 113° 36' W., and its
length is one hundred and fifty-six statute miles. Though this river is
of sufficient breadth and depth for navigating in canoes, yet I
conceive its course is too much interrupted by cascades and rapids for
its ever being used as a channel for the conveyance of merchandise.
Whilst the crews were employed in making a portage over the foot of
Prospect Hill, we ascended to the top of it, and as it is the highest
ground in the neighbourhood, its summit, which is about five hundred
feet above the water, commands an extensive view.

Akaitcho, who was here with his family, pointed out to us the smoke of
the distant fires which the hunters had made. The prospect is agreeably
diversified by an intermixture of hill and valley, and the appearance of
twelve lakes in different directions. On the borders of these lakes a
few thin pine groves occur, but the country in general is destitute of
almost every vegetable, except a few berry-bearing shrubs and lichens,
and has a very barren aspect. The hills are composed of gneiss, but
their acclivities are covered with a coarse gravelly soil. There are
many large loose stones both on their sides and summits composed of the
same materials as the solid rock.

We crossed another lake in the evening, encamped, and set the nets. The
chief made a large fire to announce our situation to the hunters.

_August 13_.--We caught twenty fish this morning, but they were small,
and furnished but a scanty breakfast for the party. Whilst this meal was
preparing, our Canadian voyagers, who had been for some days past
murmuring at their meagre diet, and striving to get the whole of our
little provision to consume at once, broke out into open discontent, and
several of them threatened they would not proceed forward unless more
food was given to them. This conduct was the more unpardonable, as they
saw we were rapidly approaching the fires of the hunters, and that
provision might soon be expected. I, therefore, felt the duty incumbent
on me to address them in the strongest manner on the danger of
insubordination, and to assure them of my determination to inflict the
heaviest punishment on any that should persist in their refusal to go
on, or in any other way attempt to retard the Expedition. I considered
this decisive step necessary, having learned from the gentlemen, most
intimately acquainted with the character of the Canadian voyagers, that
they invariably try how far they can impose upon every new master, and
that they will continue to be disobedient and intractable if they once
gain any ascendency over him. I must admit, however, that the present
hardships of our companions were of a kind which few could support
without murmuring, and no one could witness without a sincere pity for
their sufferings.

After this discussion we went forward until sunset. In the course of the
day we crossed seven lakes and as many portages. Just as we had encamped
we were delighted to see four of the hunters arrive with the flesh of
two rein-deer. This seasonable supply, though only sufficient for this
evening's and the next day's consumption, instantly revived the spirits
of our companions, and they immediately forgot all their cares. As we
did not, after this period, experience any deficiency of food during
this journey, they worked extremely well, and never again reflected upon
us as they had done before, for rashly bringing them into an
inhospitable country, where the means of subsistence could not be

Several blue fish, resembling the grayling, were caught in a stream
which flows out of Hunter's Lake. It is remarkable for the largeness of
the dorsal fin and the beauty of its colours.

_August 14_.--Having crossed the Hunter's Portage, we entered the Lake
of the same name, in latitude 64° 6' 47" N., longitude 113° 25' 00" W;
but soon quitted it by desire of the Indian guide, and diverged more to
the eastward that we might get into the line upon which our hunters had
gone. This was the only consideration that could have induced us to
remove to a chain of small lakes connected by long portages. We crossed
three of these, and then were obliged to encamp to rest the men. The
country is bare of wood except a few dwarf birch bushes, which grow near
the borders of the lakes, and here and there a few stunted pines; and
our fuel principally consisted of the roots of decayed pines, which we
had some difficulty to collect in sufficient quantity for cooking. When
this material is wanting, the rein-deer lichen and other mosses that
grow in profusion on the gravelly acclivities of the hills are used as
substitutes. Three more of the hunters arrived with meat this evening,
which supply came very opportunely as our nets were unproductive. At
eight P.M., a faint Aurora Borealis appeared to the southward, the night
was cold, the wind strong from N.W.

We were detained some time in the following morning before the
fishing-nets, which had sunk in the night, could be recovered.

After starting we first crossed the Orkney Lake, then a portage which
brought us to Sandy Lake, and here we missed one of our barrels of
powder, which the steersman of the canoe then recollected had been left
the day before. He and two other men were sent back to search for it, in
the small canoe. The rest of the party proceeded to the portage on the
north side of the Grizzle-Bear Lake, where the hunters had made a
deposit of meat, and there encamped to await their return, which
happened at nine P.M., with the powder. We perceived from the direction
of this lake, that considerable labour would have been spared if we had
continued our course yesterday instead of striking off at the guide's
suggestion, as the bottom of this lake cannot be far separated from
either Hunter's Lake or the one to the westward of it. The chief and all
the Indians went off to hunt, accompanied by Pierre St. Germain, the
interpreter. They returned at night, bringing some meat, and reported
that they had put the carcases of several rein-deer _en cache_. These
were sent for early next morning, and as the weather was unusually warm,
the thermometer, at noon, being 77°, we remained stationary all day,
that the women might prepare the meat for keeping, by stripping the
flesh from the bones and drying it in the sun over a slow fire. The
hunters were again successful, and by the evening we had collected the
carcases of seventeen deer. As this was a sufficient store to serve us
until we arrived at Winter Lake, the chief proposed that he and his
hunters should proceed to that place and collect some provision against
our arrival. He also requested that we would allow him to be absent ten
days to provide his family with clothing, as the skin of the rein-deer
is unfit for that purpose after the month of September. We could not
refuse to grant such a reasonable request, but caused St. Germain to
accompany him, that his absence might not exceed the appointed time.
Previous to his departure the chief warned us to be constantly on our
guard against the grizzly bears, which he described as being numerous in
this vicinity, and very ferocious; one had been seen this day by an
Indian, to which circumstance the lake owes its appellation. We
afterwards learned that the only bear in this part of the country is the
brown bear, and that this by no means possesses the ferocity which the
Indians, with their usual love of exaggeration, ascribe to it. The
fierce grizzly bear, which frequents the sources of the Missouri, is not
found on the barren grounds.

The shores of this lake and the neighbouring hills are principally
composed of sand and gravel; they are much varied in their outline and
present some picturesque scenery.

The following observations were taken here: latitude 64° 15' 17" N.,
longitude 113° 2' 39" W.; variation of the compass 36° 50' 47" E.; and
dip of the needle 87° 20' 35".

On August the 17th, having finished drying the meat, which had been
retarded by the heavy showers of rain that fell in the morning, we
embarked at one P.M. and crossed two lakes and two portages. The last of
these was two thousand and sixty-six paces long, and very rugged, so
that the men were much fatigued. On the next day we received the flesh
of four rein-deer by the small canoe which had been sent for it, and
heard that the hunters had killed several more deer on our route. We saw
many of these animals as we passed along; and our companions, delighted
with the prospect of having food in abundance, now began to accompany
their paddling with singing, which they had discontinued ever since our
provisions became scarce. We passed from one small lake to another over
four portages, then crossed a lake about six miles in diameter, and
encamped on its border, where, finding pines, we enjoyed the luxury of a
good fire, which we had not done for some days. At ten P.M. the Aurora
Borealis appeared very brilliant in an arch across the zenith, from
north-west to south-east, which afterwards gave place to a beautiful
corona borealis.

_August 19_.--After crossing a portage of five hundred and ninety-five
paces, a small lake and another portage of two thousand paces, which
occupied the crews seven hours, we embarked on a small stream, running
towards the north-west, which carried us to the lake, where Akaitcho
proposed that we should pass the winter. The officers ascended several
of the loftiest hills in the course of the day, prompted by a natural
anxiety to examine the spot which was to be their residence for many
months. The prospect, however, was not then the most agreeable, as the
borders of the lake seemed to be scantily furnished with wood, and that
of a kind too small for the purposes of building.

We perceived the smoke of a distant fire which the Indians suppose had
been made by some of the Dog-ribbed tribe, who occasionally visit this
part of the country.

Embarking at seven next morning, we paddled to the western extremity of
the lake, and there found a small river, which flows out of it to the
S.W. To avoid a strong rapid at its commencement, we made a portage, and
then crossed to the north bank of the river, where the Indians
recommended that the winter establishment should be erected, and we soon
found that the situation they had chosen possessed all the advantages we
could desire. The trees were numerous, and of a far greater size than we
had supposed them to be in a distant view, some of the pines being
thirty or forty feet high, and two feet in diameter at the root. We
determined on placing the house on the summit of the bank, which
commands a beautiful prospect of the surrounding country. The view in
the front is bounded at the distance of three miles, by round-backed
hills; to the eastward and westward lie the Winter and Round-rock Lakes,
which are connected by the Winter River, whose banks are well clothed
with pines, and ornamented with a profusion of mosses, lichens, and

In the afternoon we read divine service, and offered our thanksgiving to
the Almighty for his goodness in having brought us thus far on our
journey; a duty which we never neglected, when stationary on the

The united length of the portages we had crossed, since leaving Fort
Providence, is twenty-one statute miles and a half; and as our men had
to traverse each portage four times, with a load of one hundred and
eighty pounds, and return three times light, they walked in the whole
upwards of one hundred and fifty miles. The total length of our voyage
from Chipewyan is five hundred and fifty-three miles[19].

  [19]                                          Statute Miles.
       Stony and Slave Rivers                       260
       Slave Lake                                   107
       Yellow-Knife River                           156.5
       Barren country between the source of the
         Yellow-Knife River and Fort Enterprise      29.5

A fire was made on the south side of the river to inform the chief of
our arrival, which spreading before a strong wind, caught the whole
wood, and we were completely enveloped in a cloud of smoke for the three
following days.

On the next morning our voyagers were divided into two parties, the one
to cut the wood for the building of a store-house, and the other to
fetch the meat as the hunters procured it. An interpreter was sent with
Keskarrah, the guide, to search for the Indians who had made the fire
seen on Saturday, from whom we might obtain some supplies of provision.
An Indian was also despatched to Akaitcho, with directions for him to
come to this place directly, and bring whatever provision he had as we
were desirous of proceeding, without delay, to the Copper-Mine River. In
the evening our men brought in the carcases of seven rein-deer, which
two hunters had shot yesterday, and the women commenced drying the meat
for our journey. We also obtained a good supply of fish from our nets

A heavy rain, on the 23d, prevented the men from working, either at the
building, or going for meat; but on the next day the weather was fine,
and they renewed their labours. The thermometer, that day did not rise
higher than 42°, and it fell to 31° before midnight. On the morning of
the 25th, we were surprised by some early symptoms of the approach of
winter; the small pools were frozen over, and a flock of geese passed to
the southward. In the afternoon, however, a fog came on, which
afterwards changed into rain, and the ice quickly disappeared. We
suffered great anxiety all the next day respecting John Hepburn, who had
gone to hunt before sunrise on the 25th, and had been absent ever since.
About four hours after his departure the wind changed, and a dense fog
obscured every mark by which his course to the tents could be directed,
and we thought it probable he had been wandering in an opposite
direction to our situation, as the two hunters, who had been sent to
look for him, returned at sunset without having seen him. Akaitcho
arrived with his party, and we were greatly disappointed at finding they
had stored up only fifteen rein-deer for us. St. Germain informed us,
that having heard of the death of the chief's brother-in-law, they had
spent several days in bewailing his loss, instead of hunting. We learned
also, that the decease of this man had caused another party of the
tribe, who had been sent by Mr. Wentzel to prepare provision for us on
the banks of the Copper-Mine River, to remove to the shores of the Great
Bear Lake, distant from our proposed route. Mortifying as these
circumstances were, they produced less painful sensations than we
experienced in the evening, by the refusal of Akaitcho to accompany us
in the proposed descent of the Copper-Mine River. When Mr. Wentzel, by
my direction, communicated to him my intention of proceeding at once on
that service, he desired a conference with me upon the subject, which
being immediately granted, he began, by stating, that the very attempt
would be rash and dangerous, as the weather was cold, the leaves were
falling, some geese had passed to the southward, and the winter would
shortly set in; and that, as he considered the lives of all who went on
such a journey would be forfeited, he neither would go himself, nor
permit his hunters to accompany us. He said there was no wood within
eleven days' march, during which time we could not have any fire, as the
moss, which the Indians use in their summer excursions, would be too wet
for burning, in consequence of the recent rains; that we should be forty
days in descending the Copper-Mine River, six of which would be expended
in getting to its banks, and that we might be blocked up by the ice in
the next moon; and during the whole journey the party must experience
great suffering for want of food, as the rein-deer had already left the

He was now reminded that these statements were very different from the
account he had given, both at Fort Providence and on the route hither;
and that, up to this moment, we had been encouraged by his conversation
to expect that the party might descend the Copper-Mine River,
accompanied by the Indians. He replied, that at the former place he had
been unacquainted with our slow mode of travelling, and that the
alteration in his opinion arose from the advance of winter.

We now informed him that we were provided with instruments by which we
could ascertain the state of the air and water, and that we did not
imagine the winter to be so near as he supposed; however, we promised to
return on discovering the first change in the season. He was also told
that all the baggage being left behind, our canoes, would now, of
course, travel infinitely more expeditiously than any thing he had
hitherto witnessed. Akaitcho appeared to feel hurt, that we should
continue to press the matter further, and answered with some warmth:
"Well, I have said every thing I can urge, to dissuade you from going on
this service, on which, it seems, you wish to sacrifice your own lives,
as well as the Indians who might attend you: however, if after all I
have said, you are determined to go, some of my young men shall join
the party, because it shall not be said that we permitted you to die
alone after having brought you hither; but from the moment they embark
in the canoes, I and my relatives shall lament them as dead."

We could only reply to this forcible appeal, by assuring him and the
Indians who were seated around him, that we felt the most anxious
solicitude for the safety of every individual, and that it was far from
our intention to proceed without considering every argument for and
against the proposed journey.

We next informed him, that it would be very desirable to see the river
at any rate, that we might give some positive information about its
situation and size, in our next letters to the Great Chief; and that we
were very anxious to get on its banks, for the purpose of observing an
eclipse of the sun, which we described to him, and said would happen in
a few days. He received this communication with more temper than the
preceding, though he immediately assigned as a reason for his declining
to go, that "the Indians must now procure a sufficient quantity of
deer-skins for winter clothing for themselves, and dresses for the
Canadians, who would need them if they had to travel in the winter."
Finding him so averse to proceed, and feeling at the same time, how
essential his continuance with us was, not only to our future success,
but even to our existence during the winter, I closed the conversation
here, intending to propose to him next morning, some modification of the
plan, which might meet his approbation. Soon after we were gone,
however, he informed Mr. Wentzel, with whom he was in the habit of
speaking confidentially, that as his advice was neglected, his presence
was useless, and he should, therefore, return to Fort Providence with
his hunters, after he had collected some winter provision for us. Mr.
Wentzel having reported this to me, the night was passed in great
anxiety, and after weighing all the arguments that presented themselves
to my mind, I came reluctantly to the determination of relinquishing the
intention of going any distance down the river this season. I had
considered, that could we ascertain what were the impediments to the
navigation of the Copper-Mine{57} River, what wood grew on its banks, if
fit for boat building, and whether drift timber existed where the
country was naked, our operations next season would be much facilitated;
but we had also cherished the hope of reaching the sea this year, for
the Indians in their conversations with us, had only spoken of two great
rapids as likely to obstruct us. This was a hope extremely painful to
give up; for, in the event of success, we should have ascertained
whether the sea was clear of ice, and navigable for canoes; have learned
the disposition of the Esquimaux; and might have obtained other
information that would have had great influence on our future

I must confess, however, that my opinion of the probability of our being
able to attain so great a desideratum this season had been somewhat
altered by the recent changes in the weather, although, had the chief
been willing to accompany us with his party, I should have made the
attempt; with the intention, however, of returning immediately upon the
first decided appearance of winter.

On the morning of August 27th, having communicated my sentiments to the
officers, on the subject of the conference last evening, they all agreed
that the descent to the sea this season could not be attempted, without
hazarding a complete rupture with the Indians; but they thought that a
party should be sent to ascertain the distance and size of the
Copper-Mine River. These opinions, being in conformity with my own, I
determined on despatching Messrs. Back and Hood on that service, in a
light canoe, as soon as possible.

We witnessed this morning an instance of the versatility of our Indian
companions, which gave us much uneasiness, as it regarded the safety of
our faithful attendant Hepburn. When they heard, on their arrival last
night, of his having been so long absent, they expressed the greatest
solicitude about him, and the whole party immediately volunteered to go
in search of him as soon as daylight permitted. Their resolutions,
however, seem to have been changed, in consequence of the subsequent
conversation we had with the chief, and we found all of them indisposed
to proceed on that errand this morning; and it was only by much
entreaty, that three of the hunters and a boy were prevailed upon to go.
They fortunately succeeded in their search, and we were infinitely
rejoiced to see Hepburn return with them in the afternoon, though much
jaded by the fatigue he had undergone. He had got bewildered, as we had
conjectured, in the foggy weather on the 25th, and had been wandering
about ever since, except during half an hour that he slept yesterday. He
had eaten only a partridge and some berries, for his anxiety of mind had
deprived him of appetite; and of a deer which he had shot, he took only
the tongue, and the skin to protect himself from the wind and rain. This
anxiety, we learned from him, was occasioned by the fear that the party
which was about to descend the Copper-Mine River, might be detained
until he was found, or that it might have departed without him. He did
not entertain any dread of the white bears, of whose numbers and
ferocious attacks the Indians had been constantly speaking, since we had
entered the barren grounds. Our fears for his safety, however, were in a
considerable degree excited by the accounts we had received of these
animals. Having made a hearty supper he retired to rest, slept soundly,
and arose next morning in perfect health.

On the 28th of August Akaitcho was informed of our intention to send a
party to the river, and of the reasons for doing so, of which he
approved, when he found that I had relinquished the idea of going
myself, in compliance with the desire which he and the Indians had
expressed; and he immediately said two of the hunters should go to
provide them with food on the journey, and to serve as guides. During
this conversation we gathered from him, for the first time, that there
might still be some of his tribe near to the river, from whom the party
could get provision. Our next object was to despatch the Indians to
their hunting-ground to collect provision for us, and to procure the fat
of the deer for our use during the winter, and for making the pemmican
we should require in the spring. They were therefore furnished with
some ammunition, clothing, and other necessary articles, and directed to
take their departure as soon as possible.

Akaitcho came into our tent this evening at supper, and made several
pertinent inquiries respecting the eclipse, of which we had spoken last
night. He desired to know the effect that would be produced, and the
cause of it, which we endeavoured to explain; and having gained this
information, he sent for several of his companions, that they might also
have it repeated to them. They were most astonished at our knowing the
time at which this event should happen, and remarked that this knowledge
was a striking proof of the superiority of the whites over the Indians.
We took advantage of this occasion to speak to them respecting the
Supreme Being, who ordered all the operations of nature, and to impress
on their minds the necessity of paying strict attention to their moral
duties, in obedience to his will. They readily assented to all these
points, and Akaitcho assured us that both himself and his young men
would exert themselves in obtaining provision for us, in return for the
interesting communications we had just made to them.

Having received a supply of dried meat from the Indian lodges, we were
enabled to equip the party for the Copper-Mine River, and at nine A.M.,
on the 29th, Mr. Back and Mr. Hood embarked on that service in a light
canoe, with St. Germain, eight Canadians and one Indian. We could not
furnish them with more than eight days' provision, which, with their
blankets, two tents, and a few instruments, composed their lading. Mr.
Back, who had charge of the party, was directed to proceed to the river,
and if, when he arrived at its banks, the weather should continue to be
mild, and the temperature of the water was not lower than 40°, he might
embark, and descend the stream for a few days to gain some knowledge of
its course, but he was not to go so far as to risk his being able to
return to this place in a fortnight with the canoe. But, if the weather
should be severe, and the temperature of the water below 40°, he was not
to embark, but return immediately, and endeavour to ascertain the best
track for our goods to be conveyed thither next spring.

We had seen that the water decreases rapidly in temperature at this
season, and I feared that, if he embarked to descend the river when it
was below 40°, the canoe might be frozen in, and the crew have to walk
back in very severe weather.

As soon as the canoes had started, Akaitcho and the Indians took their
departure also, except two of the hunters, who staid behind to kill
deer in our neighbourhood, and old Keskarrah and his family, who
remained as our guests.

The fishing-nets were this day transferred from the river in which they
had been set since our arrival, to Winter Lake, whither the fish had
removed, and the fishermen built a log-hut on its borders to reside in,
that they might attend more closely to their occupation.

The month of September commenced with very disagreeable weather. The
temperature of the atmosphere ranged between 39° and 31° during the
first three days, and that of the water in the river decreased from 49°
to 44°. Several rein-deer and a large flight of white geese passed to
the southward. These circumstances led us to fear for the comfort, if
not for the safety, of our absent friends. On the 4th of September we
commenced building our dwelling-house, having cut sufficient wood for
the frame of it.

In the afternoon of September the 6th, we removed our tent to the summit
of a hill, about three miles distant, for the better observing the
eclipse, which was calculated to occur on the next morning. We were
prevented, however, from witnessing it by a heavy snow-storm, and the
only observation we could then make was to examine whether the
temperature of the atmosphere altered during the eclipse, but we found
that both the mercurial and spirit thermometers remained steadily at
30° for a quarter of an hour previous to its commencement, during its
continuance, and for half an hour subsequent to its termination; we
remarked the wind increased very much, and the snow fell in heavier
flakes just after the estimated time of its commencement. This
boisterous weather continued until three P.M., when the wind abated, and
the snow changed to rain.

As there was now no immediate occasion for my remaining on the spot, the
eclipse being over, and the Indians having removed to their
hunting-grounds, Dr. Richardson and I determined on taking a pedestrian
excursion to the Copper-Mine River, leaving Mr. Wentzel in charge of the
men, and to superintend the buildings. On the morning of September the
9th we commenced our journey, under the guidance of old Keskarrah, and
accompanied by John Hepburn and Samandré, who carried our blankets,
cooking utensils, hatchets, and a small supply of dried meat. Our guide
led us from the top of one hill to the top of another, making as
straight a course to the northward as the numerous lakes, with which the
country is intersected, would permit. At noon we reached a remarkable
hill, with precipitous sides, named by the Copper Indians the Dog-rib
Rock, and its latitude, 64° 34' 52" S.{58}, was obtained. The
canoe-track passes to the eastward of this rock, but we kept to the
westward, as being the more direct course. From the time we quitted the
banks of Winter River we saw only a few detached clumps of trees; but
after we passed Dog-rib Rock even these disappeared, and we travelled
through a naked country. In the course of the afternoon Keskarrah killed
a rein-deer, and loaded himself with its head and skin, and our men
also carried off a few pounds of its flesh for supper; but their loads
were altogether too great to permit them to take much additional weight.
Keskarrah offered to us as a great treat the raw marrow from the hind
legs of the animal, of which all the party ate except myself, and
thought it very good. I was also of the same opinion, when I
subsequently conquered my then too fastidious taste. We halted for the
night on the borders of a small lake, which washed the base of a ridge
of sand-hills, about three hundred feet high, having walked in direct
distance sixteen miles.

There were four ancient pine-trees here which did not exceed six or
seven feet in height, but whose branches spread themselves out for
several yards, and we gladly cropped a few twigs to make a bed and to
protect us from the frozen ground, still white from a fall of snow which
took place in the afternoon. We were about to cut down one of these
trees for firewood, but our guide solicited us to spare them, and made
us understand by signs that they had been long serviceable to his
nation, and that we ought to content ourselves with a few of the smaller
branches. As soon as we comprehended his request we complied with it,
and our attendants having, with some trouble, grubbed up a sufficient
quantity of the roots of the dwarf birch to make a fire, we were enabled
to prepare a comfortable supper of rein-deer's meat, which we despatched
with the appetites which travelling in this country never fails to
ensure. We then stretched ourselves out on the pine brush, and covered
by a single blanket, enjoyed a night of sound repose. The small quantity
of bed-clothes we carried induced us to sleep without undressing. Old
Keskarrah followed a different plan; he stripped himself to the skin,
and having toasted his body for a short time over the embers of the
fire, he crept under his deer-skin and rags, previously spread out as
smoothly as possible, and coiling himself up in a circular form, fell
asleep instantly. This custom of undressing to the skin even when lying
in the open air is common to all the Indian tribes. The thermometer at
sunset stood at 29°.

Resuming our journey next morning we pursued a northerly course, but had
to make a considerable circuit round the western ends of two lakes
whose eastern extremities were hidden from our view. The march was very
uncomfortable as the wind was cold, and there was a constant fall of
snow until noon; our guide too persisted in taking us over the summit of
every hill that lay in the route, so that we had the full benefit of the

We forded two streams in the afternoon flowing between small lakes, and
being wet, did not much relish having to halt, whilst Keskarrah pursued
a herd of rein-deer; but there was no alternative, as he set off and
followed them without consulting our wishes. The old man loaded himself
with the skin, and some meat of the animal he killed, in addition to his
former burden; but after walking two miles, finding his charge too heavy
for his strength, he spread the skin on the rock, and deposited the meat
under some stones, intending to pick them up on our return.

We put up at sunset on the borders of a large lake, having come twelve
miles. A few dwarf birches afforded us but a scanty fire, yet being
sheltered from the wind by a sandy bank, we passed the night
comfortably, though the temperature was 30°. A number of geese passed
over us to the southward. We set off early next morning, and marched at
a tolerably quick pace. The atmosphere was quite foggy, and our view
was limited to a short distance. At noon, the sun shone forth for a few
minutes, and the latitude 64° 57' 7" was observed. The small streams
that we had hitherto crossed run uniformly to the southward.

At the end of sixteen miles and a half we encamped amongst a few dwarf
pines, and were much rejoiced at having a good fire, as the night was
very stormy and cold. The thermometer fluctuated this day between 31°
and 35°. Though the following morning was foggy and rainy, we were not
sorry to quit the cold and uncomfortable beds of rock upon which we had
slept, and commence our journey at an early hour. After walking about
three miles, we passed over a steep sandy ridge, and found the course of
the rivulets running towards the north and north-west. Our progress was
slow in the early part of the morning, and we were detained for two
hours on the summit of a hill exposed to a very cold wind, whilst our
guide went in an unsuccessful pursuit of some rein-deer. After walking a
few miles farther, the fog cleared away, and Keskarrah pointed out the
Copper-Mine River at a distance, and we pushed towards it with all the
speed we could put forth. At noon we arrived at an arm of Point Lake,
an extensive expansion of the river, and observed the latitude 65° 9'
06" N. We continued our walk along the south end of this arm for about a
mile further, and then halted to breakfast amidst a cluster of pines.
Here the longitude, 112° 57' 25", was observed. After breakfast we set
out and walked along the east-side of the arm towards the main body of
the lake, leaving Samandré to prepare an encampment amongst the pines
against our return. We found the main channel deep, its banks high and
rocky, and the valleys on its borders interspersed with clusters of
spruce-trees. The latter circumstance was a source of much gratification
to us. The temperature of its surface water was 41°, that of the air
being 43°. Having gained all the information we could collect from our
guide and from personal observation, we retraced our steps to the
encampment; and on the way back Hepburn and Keskarrah shot several
waveys (_anas hyperborea_) which afforded us a seasonable supply, our
stock of provision being nearly exhausted. These birds were feeding in
large flocks on the crow-berries, which grew plentifully on the sides of
the hills. We reached the encampment after dark, found a comfortable hut
prepared for our reception, made an excellent supper, and slept soundly
though it snowed hard the whole night.

The hills in this neighbourhood are higher than those about Fort
Enterprise; they stand, however, in the same detached manner, without
forming connected ranges; and the bottom of every valley is occupied,
either by a small lake or a stony marsh. On the borders of such of these
lakes as communicate with the Copper-Mine River, there are a few groves
of spruce-trees, generally growing on accumulations of sand, on the
acclivities of the hills.

We did not quit the encampment on the morning of September 13th until
nine o'clock, in consequence of a constant fall of snow; but at that
hour we set out on our return to Fort Enterprise, and taking a route
somewhat different from the one by which we came, kept to the eastward
of a chain of lakes. Soon after noon the weather became extremely
disagreeable; a cold northerly gale came on, attended by snow and sleet;
and the temperature fell very soon from 43° to 34°. The waveys, alarmed
at the sudden change, flew over our heads in great numbers to a milder
climate. We walked as quickly as possible to get to a place that would
furnish some fuel and shelter; but the fog occasioned us to make
frequent halts, from the inability of our guide to trace his way. At
length we came to a spot which afforded us plenty of dwarf birches, but
they were so much frozen, and the snow fell so thick, that upwards of
two hours were wasted in endeavouring to make a fire; during which time
our clothes were freezing upon us. At length our efforts were crowned
with success, and after a good supper, we laid, or rather sat down to
sleep; for the nature of the ground obliged us to pass the night in a
demi-erect position, with our backs against a bank of earth. The
thermometer was 16° at six P.M.

After enjoying a more comfortable night's rest than we had expected, we
set off at day-break: the thermometer then standing at 18°. The ground
was covered with snow, the small lakes were frozen, and the whole scene
had a wintry appearance. We got on but slowly at first, owing to an old
sprained ancle, which had been very troublesome to me for the last three
days, and was this morning excessively painful. In fording a rivulet,
however, the application of cold water gave me immediate relief, and I
walked with ease the remainder of the day. In the afternoon we rejoined
our track outwards and came to the place where Keskarrah had made his
deposit of provision, which proved a very acceptable supply, as our
stock was exhausted. We then crossed some sand hills, and encamped
amidst a few small pines, having walked thirteen miles.

The comfort of a good fire made us soon insensible to the fatigue we had
experienced through the day, in marching over the rugged stones, whose
surface was rendered slippery by the frost. The thermometer at seven
P.M. stood at 27°.

We set off at sunrise next morning, and our provision being expended
pushed on as fast as we could to Fort Enterprise, where we arrived at
eight P.M., almost exhausted by a harassing day's march of twenty-two
miles. A substantial supper of rein-deer steaks soon restored our
vigour. We had the happiness of meeting our friends Mr. Back and Mr.
Hood, who had returned from their excursion on the day succeeding that
on which we set out; and I received from them the following account of
their journey.

They proceeded up the Winter River to the north end of the Little Marten
Lake, and then the guide, being unacquainted with the route by water to
the Copper-Mine River, proposed that the canoe should be left. Upon this
they ascended the loftiest hill in the neighbourhood, to examine whether
they could discover any large lakes, or water communication in the
direction where the guide described the river to be. They only saw a
small rivulet, which was too shallow for the canoe, and also wide of the
course; and as they perceived the crew would have to carry it over a
rugged hilly track, they judiciously decided on leaving it, and
proceeding forward on foot. Having deposited the canoe among a few dwarf
birch bushes, they commenced their march, carrying their tents,
blankets, cooking utensils, and a part of the dried meat. St. Germain,
however, had previously delineated with charcoal, a man and a house on a
piece of bark, which he placed over the canoe and the few things that
were left, to point out to the Dog-Ribs that they belonged to white

The party reached the shores of Point Lake, through which the
Copper-Mine River runs, on the 1st of September. The next day was too
stormy for them to march, but on the 3d, they proceeded along its shores
to the westward, round a mountainous promontory, and perceiving the
course of the lake extending to the W.N.W., they encamped near some
pines, and then enjoyed the luxury of a good fire, for the first time
since their departure from us. The temperature of the water in the lake
was 35°, and of the air 32°, but the latter fell to 20° in the course of
that night. As their principal object was to ascertain whether any arm
of the lake branched nearer to Fort Enterprise than the part they had
fallen upon, to which the transport of our goods could be more easily
made next spring, they returned on its borders to the eastward, being
satisfied, by the appearance of the mountains between south and west,
that no further examination was necessary in that direction; and they
continued their march until the 6th at noon, without finding any part of
the lake inclining nearer the fort. They therefore encamped to observe
the eclipse, which was to take place on the following morning; but a
violent snow storm rendering the observation impossible, they commenced
their return, and after a comfortless and laborious march regained their
canoe on the 10th, and embarking in it, arrived the same evening at the

Point Lake varied, as far as they traced, from one to three miles in
width. Its main course was nearly east and west, but several arms
branched off in different directions. I was much pleased with the able
manner in which these officers executed the service they had been
despatched upon, and was gratified to learn from them, that their
companions had conducted themselves extremely well, and borne the
fatigues of their journey most cheerfully. They scarcely ever had more
than sufficient fuel to boil the kettle; and were generally obliged to
lie down in their wet clothes, and consequently, suffered much from

The distance which the parties travelled, in their journey to and from
Point Lake, may be estimated at one hundred and ten statute miles, which
being added to the distances given in the preceding pages, amount to one
thousand five hundred and twenty miles that the Expedition travelled in
1820, up to the time of its residence at Fort Enterprise.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's corrections and comments:

  1.  Original had a superfluous "C" in the year of publication
      ("MDCCCCXXIV"); corrected to "MDCCCXXIV" (1824).

  2.  "Holy Lake" is inconsistent with the three occurrences in the
      text, which are all spelled "Holey Lake"; same in chapter

  3.  Added "à" missing in original in "Isle à la Crosse".

  4.  Symbol for seconds in original misprinted (56',); corrected to
      quotation mark (56").

  5.  Original used comma instead of decimal point; corrected to

  6.  Original had "were"; corrected to "where".

  7.  Original had "sienite"; changed to "syenite".

  8.  Original had "come"; corrected to "came".

  9.  Original had "tress"; corrected to "trees".

  10. Original had "cosequence"; corrected to "consequence".

  11. Original had "o"; corrected to "of".

  12. Original had comma after 83° 14' 22"; corrected to period.

  13. Original had "th weeather"; corrected to "the weather".

  14. Original had "dependant"; changed to "dependent".

  15. Original had "Copper-mine"; changed to "Copper-Mine" to be
      consistent with other occurrences in the text.

  16. "Mississippi" is most likely a misprint for "Missinippi", i.e.
      Churchill river.

  17. Original had "McKenzie's"; changed to "Mackenzie's" to be
      consistent with other occurrences in the text.

  18. Original had "dependant"; changed to "dependent".

  19. Original had "agreeble"; corrected to "agreeable".

  20. Original had "oxycocoos"; corrected to "oxycoccos".

  21. Original had "scarely"; corrected to "scarcely".

  22. Original had "sufficent"; corrected to "sufficient".

  23. Original had "notwithanding"; corrected to "notwithstanding".

  24. Original had comma after "showers"; corrected to period.

  25. Original had "intractible"; corrected to "intractable".

  26. "Assinéboine" is given as "Asseenaboine" elsewhere in the text.

  27. Original had "of"; corrected to "off".

  28. Original had "thuogh"; corrected to "though".

  29. Original had "effrontry"; corrected to "effrontery".

  30. Original had "dranked"; corrected to "drank".

  31. Original had "o"; corrected to "of".

  32. Original had "excution"; corrected to "execution".

  33. Original had "suprise"; corrected to "surprise".

  34. Deleted superfluous period after "cyprès".

  35. "W." in the variation reading is most likely a misprint for "E.";
      compare previous and next readings.

  36. Original had "traveling"; corrected to "travelling".

  37. Original had "Copper-mine"; changed to "Copper-Mine" to be
      consistent with other occurrences in the text.

  38. Original had "Copper-mine"; changed to "Copper-Mine" to be
      consistent with other occurrences in the text.

  39. Original had "bow-men and steers-men"; changed to "bowmen and
      steersmen" to be consistent with other occurrences in the text.

  40. Original had "Mammawee"; changed to "Mamma-wee" to be consistent
      with previous occurrence.

  41. The name of the fish "attihhawmegh" is spelled "attihhawmeg"

  42. Original reference was to page 92, which contains nothing about
      fish or fishing; changed to "143-4", where references to fishing
      can be found.

  43. Original had "occasionly"; changed to "occasionally".

  44. Original had "it"; corrected to "in".

  45. Added period missing in original after "winter".

  46. "Conolly" is a possible misprint for "Connolly" (as found earlier
      in the text).

  47. "Conolly" is a possible misprint for "Connolly".

  48. Original had "Riviére"; corrected to "Rivière".

  49. Original had comma after "fish"; corrected to period.

  50. "Echiamamis" is probably the same as "Echemamis" above.

  51. "N." is most likely a misprint for "E.", as magnetic variation of
      the compass can only be East or West.

  52. "McCleod" is a possible misprint for "McLeod", as it appears
      earlier in the text.

  53. Original had "or"; corrected to "of".

  54. "Thlouee-tessy" is probably the same as "Thloueea-tessy" above.

  55. Original had "today"; changed to "to-day" to be consistent with
      other occurrences in the text.

  56. Original had "varition"; changed to "variation".

  57. Original had "Copper-Mine-River"; changed to "Copper-Mine River".

  58. "S." in the latitude reading is very unlikely; almost certainly a
      misprint for "N."

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