By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Pioneers in Canada
Author: Johnston, Harry Hamilton, Sir, 1858-1927
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Pioneers in Canada" ***

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

      In this e-text "a" with a breve and "o", "u", and
      "a" with a macron are represented by [)a] [¯o] [¯u] [¯a].




With Eight Coloured Illustrations by E. Wallcousins



The Pioneer Library

A standard series by Sir Harry Johnston. Tastefully bound.

     Pioneers in Australasia.
     Pioneers in Canada.
     Pioneers in South Africa.
     Pioneers in West Africa.
     Pioneers in Tropical America.
     Pioneers in India.


I have been asked to write a series of works which should deal with
"real adventures", in parts of the world either wild and uncontrolled
by any civilized government, or at any rate regions full of dangers,
of wonderful discoveries; in which the daring and heroism of white men
(and sometimes of white women) stood out clearly against backgrounds
of unfamiliar landscapes, peopled with strange nations, savage tribes,
dangerous beasts, or wonderful birds. These books would again and
again illustrate the first coming of the white race into regions
inhabited by people of a different type, with brown, black, or yellow
skins; how the European was received, and how he treated these races
of the soil which gradually came under his rule owing to his superior
knowledge, weapons, wealth, or powers of persuasion. The books were to
tell the plain truth, even if here and there they showed the white man
to have behaved badly, or if they revealed the fact that the American
Indian, the Negro, the Malay, the black Australian was sometimes cruel
and treacherous.

A request thus framed was almost equivalent to asking me to write
stories of those pioneers who founded the British Empire; in any case,
the first volumes of this series do relate the adventures of those who
created the greater part of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, by
their perilous explorations of unknown lands and waters. In many
instances the travellers were all unconscious of their destinies, of
the results which would arise from their actions. In some cases they
would have bitterly railed at Fate had they known that the result of
their splendid efforts was to be the enlargement of an empire under
the British flag. Perhaps if they could know by now that we are
striving under that flag to be just and generous to all types of men,
and not to use our empire solely for the benefit of English-speaking
men and women, the French who founded the Canadian nation, the Germans
and Dutch who helped to create British Africa, Malaysia, and
Australia, the Spaniards who preceded us in the West Indies, and the
Portuguese in West, Central, and East Africa, in Newfoundland and
Ceylon, might--if they have any consciousness or care for things in
this world--be not so sorry after all that we are reaping where they

It is (as you will see) impossible to tell the tale of these early
days in the British Dominions beyond the Seas, without describing here
and there the adventures of men of enterprise and daring who were not
of our own nationality. The majority, nevertheless, were of British
stock; that is to say, they were English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, perhaps
here and there a Channel Islander and a Manxman; or Nova Scotians,
Canadians, and New Englanders. The bulk of them were good fellows, a
few were saints, a few were ruffians with redeeming features.
Sometimes they were common men who blundered into great discoveries
which will for ever preserve their names from perishing; occasionally
they were men of Fate, predestined, one might say, to change the
history of the world by their revelations of new peoples, new lands,
new rivers, new lakes, snow mountains, and gold mines. Here and there
is a martyr like Marquette, or Livingstone, or Gordon, dying for the
cause of a race not his own. And others again are mere boys, whose
adventures come to them because they are adventurous, and whose feats
of arms, escapes, perils, and successes are quite as wonderful as
those attributed to the juvenile heroes of Marryat, Stevenson, and the
author of _The Swiss Family Robinson_.

I have tried, in describing these adventures, to give my readers some
idea of the scenery, animals, and vegetation of the new lands through
which these pioneers passed on their great and small purposes; as well
as of the people, native to the soil, with whom they came in contact.
And in treating of these subjects I have thought it best to give the
scientific names of the plant or animal which was of importance in my
story, so that any of my readers who were really interested in natural
history could at once ascertain for themselves the exact type alluded
to, and, if they wished, look it up in a museum, a garden, or a
natural history book.

I hope this attempt at scientific accuracy will not frighten away
readers young and old; and, if you can have patience with the author,
you will, by reading this series of books on the great pioneers of
British West Africa, Canada, Malaysia, West Indies, South Africa, and
Australasia, get a clear idea of how the British Colonial Empire came
to be founded.

You will find that I have often tried to tell the story in the words
of the pioneers, but in these quotations I have adopted the modern
spelling, not only in my transcript of the English original or
translation, but also in the place and tribal names, so as not to
puzzle or delay the reader. Otherwise, if you were to look out some of
the geographical names of the old writers, you might not be able to
recognize them on the modern atlas. The pronunciation of this modern
geographical spelling is very simple and clear: the vowels are
pronounced _a_ = ah, _e_ = eh, _i_ = ee, _o_ = o, _ô_ = oh,
_[¯o]_ = aw, _ö_ = u in 'hurt', and _u_ = oo, as in German, Italian, or
most other European languages; and the consonants as in English.



    II. JACQUES CARTIER.......................................... 29
             NORTH AMERICA.......................................153
             ALL CANADA..........................................202
     X. SAMUEL HEARNE............................................248
    XI. ALEXANDER MACKENZIE'S JOURNEYS...........................277
   XII. MACKENZIE'S SUCCESSORS...................................313



  Type of Ship sailed in by the English or French Pioneers in the
    Sixteenth Century _Frontispiece_
  Icebergs and Polar Bears
  Indians hunting Bison
  Indians lying in wait for Moose
  Caribou swimming a River
  Great Auks, Gannets, Puffins, and Guillemots
  Scene on Canadian River: Wild Swans flying up, disturbed by Bear
  Big-horned Sheep of Rocky Mountains


  Jacques Cartier
  Samuel de Champlain and Alexander Henry the Elder
  An Amerindian Type of British Columbia
  Lake Louise, the Rocky Mountains
  Samuel Hearne and Alexander Mackenzie
  The Upper Waters of the Fraser River
  The Kootenay or Head Stream of the Columbia River
  A Hunter's "Shack" in British Columbia: After a successful Shoot of
    Blue Grouse

  Map of Canada
  Map of Eastern Canada and Newfoundland
  Map of Part of the Coast Region of British Columbia

List of the Chief Authorities


_The Saint Lawrence Basin_. By Dr. S.E. DAWSON. London. 1905.
Lawrence & Bullen.

_Relation Originale du Voyage de Jacques Cartier au Canada en
1534_; Documents inédits, &c. Publiés par H. MICHELANT et A. RAME.
Paris. Librairie Tross. 1867.

_Voyage de Jacques Cartier au Canada en 1534_, &c. Par H.
MICHELANT. Paris. 1865.

_Champlain's Voyages_: The Publications of the Prince Society.
Boston. 1878. Three volumes.

_Voyage of Verrazano_, &c. By HENRY C. MURPHY. New York. 1875.
(Also the Essay on the Journeys of Verrazano, by Alessandro Bacchiani,
in the Bollettino della Societá Geografica Italiana. Rome. November,

_Volume IX of the Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of
Canada_. (For the History of Cape Breton and of the Beothiks of

_The Search for the Western Sea_. By Lawrence J. Burpee. London.
Alston Rivers. 1908.

_Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New
France_, &c. Edited by REUBEN GOLD THWAITES. Vol. LIX. Cleveland,
U.S.A. Burrows Bros. 1900.

_Travels and Explorations in Canada and the Indian Territories between
the years 1760 and 1776_. By ALEXANDER HENRY, Esq. New York. 1809.

_Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence through the Continent
of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans, in the years 1789
and 1793_, &c. &c. By ALEXANDER MACKENZIE, Esq. London. 1801.

_A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern
Ocean_, &c. By SAMUEL HEARNE. London. 1795.

_Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest_. By L.R. MASSON.
Quebec. 1890. Two volumes.

_New Light on the Early History of the Greater North-West_: The
Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry, Jun., and of David Thompson.
Edited by ELLIOTT COUES. Three Volumes. New York. Harper. 1897.

_Sport and Travel in the Northland of Canada_. By DAVID T. HANBURY.
London. Edward Arnold. 1904.

_Henry Hudson the Navigator_, &c. By G.M. ASHER. London. Hakluyt
Society, 1860.

_The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher_. By Rear-Admiral RICHARD
COLLINSON. London. Hakluyt Society. 1867.

_The Voyages and Works of John Davis the Navigator_. By Admiral Sir
ALBERT HASTINGS MARKHAM. London. Hakluyt Society. 1880.

_The Voyages of William Baffin, 1612-1622_. By Sir CLEMENTS R.
MARKHAM. London. 1881.


The White Man's Discovery of North America

So far as our knowledge goes, it is almost a matter of certainty that
Man originated in the Old World--in Asia possibly. Long after this
wonderful event in the Earth's history, when the human species was
spread over a good deal of Asia, Europe, and Africa, migration to the
American continents began in attempts to find new feeding grounds and
unoccupied areas for hunting and fishing. How many thousands or
hundreds of thousands of years ago it was since the first men entered
America we do not yet know, any more than we can determine the route
by which they travelled from Asia. Curiously enough, the oldest traces
of man as yet discovered in the New World are not only in South
America, but in the south-eastern parts of South America. Although the
most obvious recent land connection between the Old and New Worlds is
the Aleutian chain of islands connecting Kamschatka with Alaska, the
ethnologist is occasionally led to think by certain evidence that
there may, both earlier and later, have existed another way of
reaching western America from south-eastern Asia through Pacific
archipelagoes and islets now sunk below the sea. In any case it seems
quite probable that men of Mongolian or Polynesian type reached
America on its western coasts long before the European came from the
north-east and east, and that they were helped on this long journey by
touching at islands since submerged by earthquake shocks or tidal

The aboriginal natives of North and South America seem to be of
entirely Asiatic origin; and such resemblances as there are between
the North-American Indians and the peoples of northern Europe do not
arise (we believe) from any ancient colonization of America from
western or northern Europe, but mainly from the fact that the
North-American Indians and the Eskimo (two distinct types of people)
are descended from the same human stocks as the ancient populations of
the northern part of Europe and Asia.

It was--we think--from the far _north-west_ of Europe that America was
first visited by the true White man, though there has been an ancient
immigration of imperfect "White" men (Ainu) from Kamschatka. Three or
four hundred years after the birth of Christ there were great race
movements in northern and central Europe, due to an increase of
population and insufficiency of food. Not only did these white
barbarians (though they were not as barbarous as we were led to think
by Greek and Roman literature) invade southern Europe, North Africa,
and Asia Minor, but from the fourth century of the Christian era
onwards they began to cross over to England and Scotland. At the same
time they took more complete possession of Scandinavia, driving north
before their advance the more primitive peoples like the Lapps and
Finns, who were allied to the stock from which arose both the Eskimo
and the Amerindian.[1] All this time the Goths and Scandinavians
were either learning ideas of navigation from the Romans of the
Mediterranean or the Greeks of the Black Sea, or they were inventing
for themselves better ways of constructing ships; and although they
propelled them mainly by oars, they used masts and sails as well.[2]
Having got over the fear of the sea sufficiently to reach the coasts
of England and Scotland, the Hebrides, Orkneys, and Shetlands, they
became still more venturesome in their voyages from Norway, until they
discovered the Faroe Archipelago (which tradition says they found
inhabited by wild sheep), and then the large island of Iceland, which
had, however, already been reached and settled by the northern Irish.

[Footnote 1: This is a convenient name for the race formerly called
"American Indian". They are not Indians (i.e. natives of India), and
they are not the only Americans, since there are now about 110,000,000
white Americans of European origin and 24,000,000 negroes and
negroids. The total approximate "Amerindian" or aboriginal population
of the New World at the present day is 16,000,000, of whom about
111,000 live in the Canadian Dominion, and 300,000 in the United
States, the remainder in Central and South America.]

[Footnote 2: It is doubtful whether actual masts and sails were known
in America till the coming of Europeans, though the ancient Peruvians
are said to have used mat sails in their canoes. But the northern
Amerindians had got as far as placing bushes or branches of fir trees
upright in their canoes to catch the force of the wind.]

Iceland, though it lies so far to the north that it is partly within
the Arctic Circle, is, like Norway, Scotland, and Ireland, affected by
the Gulf Stream, so that considerable portions of it are quite
habitable. It is not almost entirely covered with ice, as Greenland
is; in fact, Iceland should be called Greenland (from the large extent
of its grassy pastures), and Greenland should be called Iceland.
Instead of this, however, the early Norwegian explorers called these
countries by the names they still bear.

The Norse rovers from Norway and the Hebrides colonized Iceland from
the year 850; and about a hundred and thirty-six years afterwards, in
their venturesome journeys in search of new lands, they reached the
south-east and south-west coasts of Greenland. Owing to the glacial
conditions and elevated character of this vast continental island
(more than 500,000 sq. miles in area)--for the whole interior of
Greenland rises abruptly from the sea-coast to altitudes of from 5000
to 11,000 ft.--this discovery was of small use to the early Norwegians
or their Iceland colony. After it was governed by the kingdom of
Norway in the thirteenth century, the Norse colonization of south-west
Greenland faded away under the attacks of the Eskimo, until it ceased
completely in the fifteenth century. When Denmark united herself with
the kingdom of Norway in 1397, the Danish king became also the ruler
of Iceland. In the eighteenth century the Norwegian and Danish
settlements were re-established along the south-east and south-west
coasts of Greenland, mainly on account of the value of the whale,
seal, and cod fisheries in the seas around this enormous frozen
island; and all Greenland is now regarded as a Danish possession.

But the adventurous Norsemen who first reached Greenland from Iceland
attempted to push their investigations farther to the south-west, in
the hope of discovering more habitable lands; and in this way it was
supposed that their voyages extended as far as Massachusetts and Rhode
Island, but in all probability they reached no farther than
Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. This portion of North America they
called "Vinland", more from the abundance of cranberries (_vinbær_) on
the open spaces than the few vines to be found in the woods of Nova

[Footnote 3: The grapes and vines so often alluded to by the early
explorers of North America ripened, according to the species, between
August and October. They belong to the same genus--_Vitis_--as that of
the grape vines of the Old World, but they were quite distinct in
species. Nowadays they are known as the Fox Grapes (_Vitis vulpina_),
the Frost Grape (_V. cordifolia_), the _V. aestivalis_, the _V.
labruska_, &c. The fruit of the Fox Grape is dark purple, with a very
dusky skin and a musky flavour. The Frost Grape has a very small
berry, which is black or leaden-blue when covered with bloom. It is
very acid to the taste, but from all these grapes it is easy to make a
delicious, refreshing drink. Champlain, however, says that the wild
grapes were often quite large in size, and his men found them
delicious to eat.]

This brings us down to the year 1008. The Icelandic Norsemen then
ceased their investigations of the North-American Continent, and were
too ignorant to realize the value of their discoveries. Their colonies
on the coasts of Nova Scotia ("Vinland") and Newfoundland
("Estotiland") were attacked probably by Eskimos, at any rate by a
short, thick-set, yellow-skinned ugly people whom the Norsemen called
"Skræling",[4] who overcame the unfortunate settlers, murdered some,
and carried off others into the interior.

[Footnote 4: Perhaps from the Eastern Eskimo national name _Karalit_.]

But about this period, when Europe was going through that dismal era,
the Dark Age which followed the downfall of the Roman Empire of the
west, various impulses were already directing the attention of
European adventurers to the Western Ocean, the Atlantic. One cause was
the increased hold of Roman and Greek Christianity over the peoples of
Europe. These Churches imposed fasts either for single days or for
continuous periods. When people fasted it meant that they were chiefly
denied any form of meat, and therefore must eat fish if they were not
content with oil, bread, or vegetables. So that there was an enormous
and increasing demand for fish, not only amongst those fortunate
people who lived by the seashore, and could get it fresh whenever they
liked, but among those who lived at a distance inland, and were still
required to fast when the Church so directed. Of course in many parts
of Europe they could get freshwater fish from the rivers or lakes. But
the supply was not equal to the demand; and fish sent up from the
seacoast soon went bad, so that the plan of salting and curing fish
was adopted. The Norsemen found it a paying business to fish
industriously in the seas round Iceland, Norway, Scotland, and
Ireland, salt and cure the fish, and then carry it to more southern
countries, where they exchanged it against wine, oil, clothing
materials, and other goods. This led to the Venetians (who had
absorbed so much of the carrying trade of the Mediterranean) sending
their ships through the Straits of Gibraltar into the northern seas
and trading with the Baltic for amber and salt fish. In the course of
this trade some Venetians, such as Antonio Zeno, found their way to
Norway and Iceland.[5] It is thought that by this means Venice became
acquainted with the records of the Icelandic voyages to North
America, and that her explorers thus grew to entertain the idea of a
sea journey westward, or north-westward, of Britain, bringing mariners
to a New World represented by the far-eastern extension of Asia.

[Footnote 5: Antonio Zeno served as pilot to Earl Sinclair of the
Faeroe Islands and of Roslyn, a Norman-Scottish nobleman who owed
joint fealty to the kings of Norway and Scotland. Sinclair was so
impressed with the stories of a "Newland" beyond Greenland that he
sailed to find it about 1390, but only reached Greenland.]

Christopher Columbus, the Genoese, conceived a similar idea, which
also may have owed something to the tradition of the Norsemen's
discovery of Vinland. But Columbus's theories were based on better
evidence, such as the discovery on the coasts of the Azores
archipelago, Madeira, and Portugal of strange seeds, tree trunks,
objects of human workmanship, and even (it is said) the bodies of
drowned savages--Amerindians--which had somehow drifted across, borne
by the current of the Gulf Stream, and escaping the notice of the

Whilst Columbus was bestirring himself to find Asia across the
Atlantic, a sea pilot, JOHN CABOT (Zuan Cabota)--Genoese by birth, but
a naturalized subject of Venice--came to England and offered himself
to King Henry VII as a discoverer of new lands across the ocean. At
first he was employed at Copenhagen to settle fishery quarrels about
Iceland, and probably Cabota, or Cabot, visited Iceland in King
Henry's service, and there heard of the Icelandic colonies on the
other side of the Atlantic, only recently abandoned.

In 1496 King Henry VII provided money to cover some of the expense of
a voyage of discovery to search for the rumoured island across the
ocean. The people of Bristol were ordered to assist John Cabot, and by
them he was furnished with a small sailing ship, the _Matthew_, and a
crew of fifteen mariners. Cabot, with his two sons, Luis and Sancio,
sailed for Ireland and the unknown West in May, 1497, and, after a sea
voyage quite as wonderful as that of Columbus, reached the coast of
Cape Breton Island (or "the New Isle", as it was first named[6]) on
June 24, 1497. They found "the land excellent, and the climate
temperate". The sea was so full of fish along these coasts that the
mariners opined (truly) that henceforth Bristol need not trouble about
the Iceland trade. Here along this "new isle" were the predestined
fisheries of Britain.[7]

[Footnote 6: Cape Breton was not then, or for nearly two hundred years
afterwards, known to be an island. It was thought to be part of the
"island" (peninsula) of what we now call Nova Scotia, and the whole of
this region which advances so prominently into the Atlantic was
believed to be at first the great unknown "New Island" of Irish and
English legends--legends based on the Norse discoveries of the
eleventh century. Cape Breton was thus named by the Breton seaman who
came thither soon after the Cabot expeditions to fish for cod. This
large island is separated from Nova Scotia by the Gut of Canso, a
strait no broader than a river.]

[Footnote 7: Dr. S.E. DAWSON (_The St. Lawrence Basin_) says of this
voyage: "When the forest wilderness of Cape Breton listened to the
voices of Cabot's little company (of Bristol mariners) it was the
first faint whisper of the mighty flood of English speech which was
destined to overflow the continent to the shores of another

They encountered no inhabitants, though they found numerous traces of
their existence in the form of snares, notched trees, and bone netting
needles. John Cabot hoisted the English flag of St. George and the
Venetian standard of St. Mark; then--perhaps after coasting a little
along Nova Scotia--fearful that a longer stay might cause them to run
short of provisions, he turned the prow of the _Matthew_ eastward, and
reached Bristol once more about August 6, and London on August 10,
1497, with his report to King Henry VII, who rewarded him with a
donation of £10. He was further granted a pension of £20 a year (which
he only drew for two years, probably because he died after returning
from a second voyage to the North-American coast), and he received a
renewal of his patent of discovery in February, 1498. In this patent
it is evidently inferred that King Henry VII assumed a sovereignty
over these distant regions because of John Cabot's hoisting of the
English flag on "the new Isle" (Cape Breton Island) in the preceding

The new expedition of 1498 was a relatively important affair. The
king assisted to finance the ventures of the Bristol captains, and
five of his ships formed part of the little fleet. It is probable that
John Cabot was in command, and almost certain that his young son
Sebastian was a passenger, possibly an assistant pilot. The course
followed lay much farther to the north, and brought the little sailing
vessels amongst the icebergs, ice floes, polar bears, and stormy seas
of Greenland and Labrador. Commercially the voyage was a failure,
almost a disaster. The ships returned singly, and after a considerable
interval of time. Nevertheless, some of the king's loans were repaid
to him; and in 1501 a regular chartered company was formed (perhaps at
Bristol), with three Bristolians and three Portuguese as directors.
Henry VII not only gave a royal patent to this association, but lent
more money to enable it to explore and colonize these new lands across
the western sea.

There can be little doubt that between 1498 and 1505 these Bristol
ships, directed by Italian, English, and Portuguese pilots, first
revealed to the civilized world of western Europe the coasts of
Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Massachusetts, and
Delaware. They must have got as far south as the State of Delaware
(according to Sebastian Cabot, their southern limit was lat. 38°),
because in 1505 they were able to bring back parrots ("popyngays"), as
well as hawks and lynxes ("catts of the mountaigne"), for the
delectation of King Henry; and parrots even at that period could not
have been obtained from farther north than the latitude of New

[Footnote 8: Almost certainly this was _Conurus carolinensis_, a green
and orange parrakeet still found in the south-eastern States of North
America, but formerly met with as far north as New York and Boston.]

But after 1505 English interest in "the Newe founde launde" and the
"Newe Isle" languished; the exploration of North America was taken up
and carried farther by Portuguese, Bretons and Normans of France,
Italians, and Spaniards.[9] It revived again under Henry VIII, owing
to the irresistible attraction of the Newfoundland fisheries and the
knowledge that the ships from France were returning every autumn with
great supplies of fish cured and salted; for an adequate supply of
salt fish was becoming a matter of great importance to the markets of
western Europe. In 1527 Henry VIII sent two ships under the command of
John Rut to explore the North-American coast, and Captain Rut seems
to have reached the Straits of Belle Isle between Newfoundland
and Labrador (then blocked with ice so that he took them for
a bay), and afterwards to have passed along the east coast of
Newfoundland--already much frequented by the Bretons, Normans, and
Portuguese--and to have stopped at the harbour of St. John's, thence
sailing as far south as Massachusetts.

[Footnote 9: The name _America_ probably appears for the first time in
English print in the old play or masque the _Four Elements_, which was
published about 1518. In a review of the geography of the Earth, as
known at that period, a description is given of this vast New World
across the Ocean: "But these new landys found lately, been called
America, because only Americus did find them first". Americus was a
Florentine bank clerk--Amerigo Vespucci--at Seville who gave up the
counting-house for adventure, sailed with a Spanish captain to the
West Indies and the mainland of Venezuela (off which he notes that he
met an English sailing vessel, and this as early as 1499!), and then
joined the first exploring voyage of the Portuguese to Brazil. He
returned to Europe, and in a letter to a fellow countryman at Paris,
written in the late autumn of 1502, he claimed to have discovered a
New World across the Ocean. His clear statement about what was really
the South American Continent aroused so much enthusiasm in civilized
Europe that five years afterwards the New World was called after him
by a German printer (Walzmüller) at the little Alsatian University of
St. Dié. By 1518 the English writers and mariners were probably aware
that the discoveries of Cabot, Columbus, and the Portuguese indicated
the extension of "America" from the Arctic to the Antarctic, but not
till about 1553 did the scholars and adventurers of England show
themselves fully alive to the gigantic importance of this New World.
Between 1530 and 1553 their attention was distracted from geography
and over-sea adventure by the religious troubles of the Reformation.]

The Portuguese monarchy had begun to take possession of the Azores
archipelago from the year 1432. These islands were probably known to
the Phoenicians, and even to the Arabs of the Middle Ages; between the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they had been rediscovered by
Catalans, Genoese, Flemings, and Portuguese; and after 1444 the Azores
began to prove very useful to the sea adventurers of this wonderful
fifteenth century, as they became a shelter and a place of call for
fresh water and provisions almost in the middle of the Atlantic, 800
to 1000 miles due west of Portugal. Portuguese vessels sailed
northwards from the Azores in search of fishing grounds, and thus
reached Iceland, which they called Terra do Bacalhao.[10] They may
even before Cabot have visited in an unrecorded fashion the wonderful
banks of Newfoundland--an immense area of shallow sea swarming with

[Footnote 10: _Bacalhao_ in Portuguese (and a similar word in Spanish,
old French, and Italian) means dried, salted fish. It comes from a
Latin word meaning "a small stick", because the fish were split open
and held up flat to dry by means of a cross or framework of small
sticks, the Norse name "stokfiske" meant the same: stockfish or

As soon as the news of the Cabot voyages reached the King of Portugal
he arranged to send an expedition of discovery to the far north-west,
perhaps to find a northern sea route to Eastern Asia. He gave the
command to Gaspar Corte-Real, a Portuguese noble connected through
family property with the Azores. Starting from the Azores in the
summer of 1500, Corte-Real discovered Newfoundland, and called it
"Terra Verde" from its dense woods of fir trees, which are now being
churned into wood pulp to make paper for British books and newspapers.
He then sailed along the coast of Labrador,[11] and thence crossed
over to Greenland, the southern half of which he mapped with fair
accuracy. His records of this voyage take particular note of the great
icebergs off the coast of Greenland. His men were surprised to find
that sea water frozen becomes perfectly fresh--all the salt is left
out in the process. So that his two ships could supply themselves
with fresh water of the purest, by hacking ice from the masses
floating in these Greenland summer seas. The next year he started
again, but on a more westerly course. His two ships reached the coasts
of New Jersey and Massachusetts, and sailed north once more to
Labrador. They captured a number of Amerindian aborigines, but only
one of the two ships (with seven of these savages on board) reached
Portugal; Gaspar Corte-Real was never heard of again. His brother
Miguel went out in search of him, but he likewise disappeared without
a trace.

[Footnote 11: _Labrador_ (_Lavrador_ in Portuguese) means a labourer,
a serf. The Portuguese are supposed to have brought some Red Indians
from this coast to be sold as slaves.]

Nevertheless these Portuguese expeditions to North America have left
ineffaceable traces in the geography of the Newfoundland coast, of
which (under the name of Terra Nova[12]) the governorship was made
hereditary in the Corte-Real family. Cape Race for example--the most
prominent point of the island--is really the Portuguese _Cabo
Raso_--the bare or "shaved" cape--and this was by the Spaniards
regarded as the westernmost limit of Portuguese sovereignty in that
direction. For the Spaniards were by no means pleased at the intrusion
of other nations into a New World which they desired to monopolize
entirely for the Spanish Crown. They did not so much mind sharing it,
along the line agreed upon in the Treaty of Tordesillas, with the
Portuguese, but the ingress of the English and French infuriated them.
The Basque people of the north-east corner of Spain were a hardy
seafaring folk, especially bold in the pursuit of whales in the Bay of
Biscay, and eager to take a share in the salt-fish trade. This desire
took them in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to Ireland and
Iceland. They began to fish off the Newfoundland coasts perhaps as
early as 1525. About this time also the Emperor Charles V, King of
Spain, having through one great Portuguese sea captain--Magalhães
(Magellan)--discovered the passage from Atlantic to Pacific across
the extremity of South America, thought by employing another
Portuguese--Estevão Gomez--to find a similar sea route through North
America, which would prove a short cut from Europe to China. This was
the famous "North-west Passage" the search for which drew so many
great and brave adventurers into the Arctic sea of America between
1500 and 1853, to be revealed at last by our fellow countrymen, but to
prove useless to navigation on account of the enormous accumulation of

[Footnote 12: Corte-Real's name of Terra Verde ("Greenland") was soon
dropped in favour of the older English name "New Land" (Newfoundland,
Terra Nova). This was at once adopted by the French seamen as "Terre

Gomez left Corunna in the winter of 1524-5, and reached the
North-American coast somewhere about Florida. He probably only began
to investigate closely after he passed into the broad gulf of Maine,
between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia. Here he sighted from the sea the
lofty mountains of New Hampshire, and steered for the mouth of the
Penobscot River (which he named the River of Deer), a title which
sticks to the locality--in Deer Island--at the present day. But this
being no opening of a broad strait, he passed on into the Bay of Fundy
(from Portuguese word, _Fundo_, the bottom of a sack or passage),
explored its two terminal gulfs, then returned along the coast of Nova
Scotia,[13] past Cape Sable, and so to the "gut" or Canal of Canso.
Gomez realized that Cape Breton was an island (we now know that it is
two islands separated by a narrow watercourse), but thought that Cabot
Strait was a great bay, and guessed nothing of the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, and the chance of securing for Spain the possession of this
mighty waterway into the heart of North America.

[Footnote 13: The name Nova Scotia was not applied to this peninsula
until 1621, by the British Government. It was at first included with
New Brunswick under the Spanish name of Norumbega, and after 1603 was
called by the French "Acadie".]

From Cape North he crossed over to the south coast of Newfoundland,
and followed this more or less till he came to Cape Race. Newfoundland
was a "very cold and savage land", and Gomez decided it was no use
prosecuting any farther his enquiry as to a water passage across North
America, because, if it existed, it must lie in latitudes of frozen
sea and be unnavigable.

At different places along the east coast of North America he kidnapped
natives, and eventually returned to Spain (via Florida and Cuba) with
a cargo of Amerindian slaves.

He had been preceded, by seven or eight months, in his explorations
along the same coast by GIOVANNI DA VERRAZANO, a native of Florence,
who as a navigator and explorer had visited the East, and had
associated himself a good deal with the shipowners of Dieppe. Ever
since the issue of Cabot's voyages was known--at any rate from
1504--ships from Brittany and Normandy had made their way to Cape
Breton Island and Newfoundland for the cod fisheries. In 1508 a Norman
named Aubert was sent out by Jean Ango--a great merchant of Dieppe of
that day--to found a colony in Newfoundland. Aubert failed to do this,
but he captured and brought away at least seven of the natives, no
doubt of the Beothik tribe, from Newfoundland to Rouen, with their
canoe, clothing, and weapons. A good many ships also went out from La
Rochelle on the west coast of France, and took part in the fishing off
the coast of Newfoundland: together with the ships of Brittany and
Dieppe there may have been a French fishing fleet of seventy to eighty
ships plying every summer season between France, Newfoundland, and
Cape Breton. So that when "John from Verrazano" offered his services
to Francis I to make discoveries across the ocean, which should become
possessions of the French Crown, he was quickly provided with the
requisite funds and ships.

Verrazano started on the 17th of January, 1524, for the coast of
North America, but I shall say little about his expedition here,
because it resulted chiefly in the discovery and mapping of what is
now the east coast of the United States. He reached as far as the
south coast of Newfoundland, it is true; he also gave the names of
Nova Gallia and Francesca to the coast regions of eastern North
America, and distinctly intended to take possession of these on behalf
of the French Crown. But his work in this direction did not lead
directly to the creation of the French colony of Canada, because, when
he returned from America, Francis I was at war with Spain, and could
pay no attention to Verrazano's projects. His voyage is worth
recording in the present volume only for these two reasons: he
certainly put it into the minds of French people that they might found
an empire in North America; and he inspired geographers for another
hundred years with the false idea that the great North American
Continent had a very narrow waist, like the Isthmus of Panama, and
that the Pacific Ocean covered the greater part of what is now called
the United States. This mistake arose from his looking across the
narrow belts or peninsulas of sand in North Carolina and Virginia, and
seeing vast stretches of open water to the west. These were found, a
hundred years afterwards, to be merely large shallow lagoons of sea
water, but Verrazano thought they were an extension of the Pacific

Nevertheless, Verrazano's voyage developed into the French
colonization of Canada, just as Cabot drew the British to
Newfoundland, Columbus the Spaniards to Central and South America, and
Amerigo Vespucci showed the Portuguese the way to Brazil. The modern
nations of western Europe owe the inception of their great colonies in
America to four Italians.


Jacques Cartier

Verrazano and Gomez, and probably the English captain, John Rut, had
all sought for the opening of a strait of salt water--like Magellan's
Straits in the far south--which should lead them through the great
North-American continent to the regions of China and Japan. Yet in
some incomprehensible way they overlooked the two broad passages to
the north and south of Newfoundland--the Straits of Belle Isle and of
Cabot--which would at any rate lead them into the vast Gulf of St.
Lawrence, and thence to the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes; a
natural system of waterways connected each with the other and all with
the Mississippi and Missouri, the Arctic Ocean, and Hudson's Bay; nay,
more, with the North Pacific also; so that with a few "portages", or
carryings of canoes from one watershed to another, a traveller of any
enterprise, accompanied by a sturdy crew, can cross the broad
continent of North America at its broadest from sea to sea without
much walking.

Estevão Gomez noticed Cabot Straits between Cape Breton and
Newfoundland, but thought them only a very deep bay. John Rut and
others discerned the Straits of Belle Isle as a wide recess in the
coast rather than the mouth of a channel leading far inland. And yet,
after thirty years of Breton, English, and Portuguese fishing
operations in these waters, there must have been glimmerings of the
existence of the great Gulf of St. Lawrence behind Newfoundland: and
JACQUES CARTIER (or Quartier), who had probably made already one
voyage to Newfoundland (besides a visit to Brazil), suspected that
between Newfoundland and Labrador there lay the opening of the great
sea passage "leading to China". He proposed himself to Philippe de
Chabot, the Admiral of France, as the leader of a new French adventure
to find the North-west Passage, was accepted by King Francis, and at
the age of forty-three years set out, with two ships, from St. Malo in
Brittany, on April 20, 1534, ten years after Verrazano's voyage, and
reached the coast of Newfoundland after a voyage of only twenty days.
As he sailed northwards, past the deeply indented fiords and bays of
eastern Newfoundland (the shores of which were still hugged by the
winter ice), he and his men were much impressed with the incredible
numbers of the sea fowl settled for nesting purposes on the rocky
islands, especially on Funk Island.[1] These birds were guillemots,
puffins, great auks,[2] gannets (called by Cartier _margaulx_), and
probably gulls and eider duck. To his sailors--always hungry and
partly fed on salted provisions, as seamen were down to a few years
ago--this inexhaustible supply of fresh food was a source of great
enjoyment. They were indifferent, no doubt, to the fishy flavour of
the auks and the guillemots, and only noticed that they were
splendidly fat. Moreover, the birds attracted Polar bears "as large as
cows and as white as swans". The bears would swim off from the shore
to the islands (unless they could reach them by crossing the ice), and
the sailors occasionally killed the bears and ate their flesh, which
they compared in excellence and taste to veal.

[Footnote 1: Funk Island--called by Cartier "the Island of Birds"--is
only about 3 miles round, and 46 feet above the sea level. It is 3
miles distant from the coast.]

[Footnote 2: The Great Auk (_Alca impennis_), extinct since about 1844
in Europe and 1870 in Labrador, once had in ancient times a
geographical range from Massachusetts and Newfoundland to Iceland,
Ireland, Scotland, N.E. England, and Denmark. Perhaps nowhere was it
found so abundantly as on the coasts of Eastern Newfoundland and on
Funk Island hard by. The Great Auk was in such numbers on the
north-east coast of Newfoundland that the Amerindians of that country
and of southern Labrador used it as fuel in the winter time, its body
being very full of oil and burning with a splendid flame. The French
seamen called it _pingouin_ ("penguin") from its fatness, and this
name was much later transferred to the real penguins of the southern
seas which are quite unrelated to the auks.]

Passing through the Straits of Belle Isle, Cartier's ships entered
the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They had previously visited the adjoining
coast of Labrador, and there had encountered their first "natives",
members of some Algonkin tribe from Canada, who had come north for
seal fishing (Cartier is clever enough to notice and describe their
birch-bark canoes). After examining the west coast of Newfoundland,
Cartier's ships sailed on past the Magdalen Islands (stopping every
now and then off some islet to collect supplies of sea birds, for the
rocky ground was covered with them as thickly as a meadow with
grass).[3] He reached the north coast of Prince Edward Island, and
this lovely country received from him an enthusiastic description. The
pine trees, the junipers, yews, elms, poplars, ash, and willows, the
beeches and the maples, made the forest not only full of delicious and
stimulating odours, but lovely in its varied tints of green. In the
natural meadows and forest clearings there were red and white
currants, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, a vetch which
produced edible peas, and a grass with a grain like rye. The forest
abounded in pigeons, and the climate was pleasant and warm.

[Footnote 3: On the shores of these islands they noticed "several
great beasts like oxen, which have two tusks in the mouth similar to
those of the elephant". These were walruses.]

Later on he coasted New Brunswick, and paused for a time over Chaleur
Bay, hoping it might be the opening to the strait across the continent
of which he was in search; but finding it was not, he continued
northwards till he had almost rounded the Gaspé Peninsula, a course
which would have led him straight away into the wonderful discovery of
the St. Lawrence River, but that, being forced by bad weather into
Gaspé Bay, and perhaps hindered by fog, instead of entering the St.
Lawrence he sailed right across to Anticosti Island. After that,
being baffled by bad weather and doubtful as to his resources lasting
out, he decided to return to France through the Strait of Belle Isle.

So far he had failed to realize two of the most important things in
the geography of this region: the broad southern entrance into the
Gulf of St. Lawrence (subsequently called Cabot Strait), which
separates Newfoundland on the north from Cape Breton Island on the
south, and the broad entrance into the River St. Lawrence between
Anticosti Island and the Gaspé Peninsula.

Yet, whilst staying in Gaspé Bay, he had a very important meeting with
Amerindian natives of the Huron-Iroquois stock, who had come down the
River St. Lawrence from the neighbourhood of Quebec, fishing for
mackerel. These bold, friendly people welcomed the French heartily,
greeting them with songs and dances. But when they saw Cartier erect a
great cross on the land at the entrance to Gaspé Bay (a cross bearing
a shield with the arms of France and the letters "Vive le Roi de
France"), they were ill at ease. It is certain that not one word could
be understood in language between the two parties, for there were as
yet no interpreters; but the Amerindians were probably shrewd enough
to perceive that Cartier was making some claim on the land, and they
explained by signs that they considered all this country belonged to
themselves. Nevertheless, Cartier persuaded two youths, the sons of
one of the chiefs, to go back with him to France on his ship, to learn
the French language, to see what France looked like, and to return
afterwards as interpreters. The boys, though they were practically
kidnapped at first, were soon reconciled to going, especially when
they were dressed in French clothes!

[Illustration: JACQUES CARTIER]

When Cartier was on his way home he sailed in a north-easterly
direction in such a way as to overlook the broad channel between the
Gaspé Peninsula and Anticosti Island, but having rounded the
easternmost extremity of that large island, he coasted along its
northern shores until he caught sight of the opening of the Canadian
channel to the west. He believed then that he had discovered the
long-looked-for opening of the trans-continental passage, and sailed
for France with his wonderful news.

On the 19th of May, 1535, Cartier started again from St. Malo with
three ships, the biggest of which was only 120 tons, while the others
were respectively 60 and 40 tons capacity. The crew consisted of about
112 persons, and in addition there were the two Indian youths who had
been kidnapped on the previous voyage, and were now returning as
interpreters. Instead, however, of reaching Newfoundland in twenty
days, he spent five weeks crossing the Atlantic before he reached his
rendezvous with the other ships at Blanc Sablon, on the south coast of
Labrador; for the easy access to the Gulf of St. Lawrence through
Cabot Strait (between Newfoundland and Cape Breton) was not yet
realized. Once past Anticosti Island, the two Huron interpreters began
to recognize the scenery.[4] They now explained to Cartier that he had
entered the estuary of a vast river. This they said he had only to
pursue in ships and boats and he would reach "Canada" (which was the
name they gave to the district round about Quebec), and that beyond
"Canada" no man had ever been known to reach the end of this great
water; but, they added, it was fresh water, not salt, and this last
piece of information much disheartened Cartier, who feared that he had
not, after all, discovered the water route across North America to the
Pacific Ocean. He therefore turned about and once more searched the
opposite coast of Labrador most minutely, displaying, as he did so, a
seamanship which was little else than marvellous, for it is a very
dangerous coast, the seas are very stormy, and the look-out often
hampered by a sudden rising of dense fog; there are islands and rocks
(some of them almost hidden by the water) and sandbanks; but Cartier
made this survey of southern Labrador without an accident.

[Footnote 4: Anticosti Island received from Cartier the name of "the
Island of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin", in consequence of his
having discovered it to be an island on the feast day of that name. It
did not receive its present title until the late seventeenth century.]

At this period, some three hundred and seventy-five years ago, the
northern coasts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and of Anticosti Island
swarmed with huge walruses, which were described by Cartier as sea
horses that spent the night on land and the day in the water. They
have long since been exterminated by the English and French seamen and

At last Cartier set sail for the south-west, intending to explore this
wonderful river and to reach the kingdom of Canada. According to his
understanding of the Amerindian interpreters, the waters of the St.
Lawrence flowed through three great states: _Saguenay_, which was the
mountainous Gaspé Peninsula and the opposite coast; _Canada_, Quebec
and its neighbourhood; and _Hochelaga_, the region between Montreal
and Lake Ontario. At the mouth of the Saguenay River, where Tadoussac
is now situated, he encountered large numbers of white whales--the
Beluga. These are really huge porpoises, allied to the narwhals, but
without the narwhal's exaggerated tusk. When he reached the vicinity
of the modern Quebec,[5] and his Amerindian interpreters found
themselves at their actual home (for they were far away from home on a
fishing expedition when he caught them in Gaspé Bay) there was great
rejoicing; for they were able to tell their relations of the wonderful
country to which they had been across the ocean. Cartier was delighted
with the surroundings of "Canada" (Quebec), near which at that time
was a large settlement (Stadacona) of Huron Indians under a chief
named Donnacona. He decided to lay up his ships here for the winter,
and to pursue the rest of his western explorations in his boats.

[Footnote 5: Then called "Canada". The word Quebec (pronounced
_Kebek_) means the narrow part of a river.]

But the Amerindians for some reason were not willing that he should go
any farther, and attempted to scare him from his projects by arranging
for three of their number to come down river in a canoe, dressed in
dogs' skins, with their faces blackened, and with bisons' horns
fastened to their heads. These devils pretended to take no notice of
the French, but to die suddenly as they reached the shore, while the
rest of the natives gave vent to howlings of despair and
consternation. The three devils were pretending to have brought a
message from a god to these Hurons of "Canada" that the country up
river (Hochelaga) was so full of ice and snow that it would be death
for anyone to go there.

However, this made little or no impression on Cartier; but he consented
to leave a proportion of his party behind with the chief Donnacona as
hostages, and then started up country in his boats with about seventy
picked officers and men. On the 2nd of October, 1535, they reached the
vicinity of the modern Montreal, the chief settlement of Hochelaga.
The Huron town at the foot of the hills was circular in outline,
surrounded by a stockade of three rows of upright tree trunks, which
rose to its highest point in the middle, where the timbers of the
inner and outward sides sloped to meet one another, the height of the
central row being about 8 feet above the ground. All round the inside
there was a platform or rampart on which were stored heavy stones to
be hurled at any enemy who should attempt to scale the fence. The town
was entered by only one doorway, and contained about fifty houses
surrounding an open space whereon the towns-people made their
bonfires. Each house was about 50 feet long by 12 to 15 feet wide.
They were roofed with bark, and usually had attics which were
storerooms for food. In the centre of each of these long houses there
was a fireplace where the cooking for the whole of the house
inhabitants was done. Each family had its own room, but each house
probably contained five families. Almost the only furniture, except
cooking pots, was mats on which the people sat and slept. The food of
the people consisted, besides fish and the flesh of beavers and deer,
of maize and beans. Cartier at once recognized the maize or Indian
corn as the same grain ("a large millet") as that which he had seen in

He gives a description of how they made the maize into bread (or
rather "dampers", "ashcakes"); but as this is not altogether clear, it
is better to combine it with Champlain's description, written a good
many years later, but still at a time when the Hurons were unaffected
by the white man's civilization. According to both Cartier and
Champlain, the women pounded the corn to meal in a wooden mortar, and
removed the bran by means of fans made of the bark of trees. From this
meal they made bread, sometimes mixing with the meal the beans
(_Phaseolus vulgaris_), which had been boiled and mashed. Or they
would boil both Indian corn and beans into a thick soup, adding to the
soup blueberries,[6] dried raspberries, or pieces of deer's fat. The
meal derived from the corn and beans they would make into bread,
baking it in the ashes.

[Footnote 6: The Canada Blueberry (_Vaccinium canadense_), called by
the French _bluës_ or _bluëts_. These bluës were collected and dried
by the Amerindians, and made a sweet nutriment for eating in the

Or they would take the pounded Indian corn without removing the bran,
and put two or three handfuls of it into an earthen pot full of water,
stirring it from time to time, when it boiled, so that it might not
adhere to the pot. To this was added a small quantity of fish, fresh
or dry, according to the season, to give a flavour to the _migane_ or
porridge. When the dried fish was used the porridge smelt very badly
in the nostrils of Europeans, but worst of all when the porridge was
mixed with dried venison, which was sometimes nearly putrid! If fish
was put into this porridge it was boiled whole in the mealy water,
then taken out without any attempt to remove the fins, scales, or
entrails, and the whole of the boiled fish was pounded up and put back
into the porridge. Sometimes a great birch-bark "kettle" would be
filled with water, fish, and meat, and red-hot stones be dropped in
till it boiled. Then with a spoon they would collect from the surface
the fat and oil arising from the fish or meat. This they afterwards
mixed with the meal of roasted Indian corn, stirring it with this fat
till they had made a thick soup. Sometimes, however, they were content
to eat the young corn-cobs freshly roasted, which as a matter of fact
(with a little salt) is one of the most delicious things in the world.
Or they would take ears of Indian corn and bury them in wet mud,
leaving them thus for two or three months; then the cobs would be
removed and the rotted grain eaten with meat and fish, though it was
all muddy and smelt horribly. Cartier also noticed that these Huron
Indians had melons and pumpkins, and described their wampum or shell

[Footnote 7: Cartier, in Hakluyt's translation, is made to say (I
modernize the spelling): "They dig their grounds with certain pieces
of wood as big as half a sword, on which ground groweth their corn,
which they call 'offici'; it is as big as our small peason.... They
have also great store of musk melons, pompions, gourds, cucumbers,
peas, and beans of every colour, yet differing from ours."

Wampum, or shell money (which recalls the shell money of the Pacific
Islands), consisted either of beads made from the interior parts of
sea shells or land shells, or of strings of perforated sea shells. The
most elaborate kind of wampum was that of the Amerindians of Canada
and the eastern United States, the shell beads of which were generally
white. The commoner wampum beads were black and violet. Wampum belts
were made which illustrated events, dates, treaties of peace, &c, by a
rude symbolism (figures of men and animals, upright lines, &c), and
these were worked neatly on string by employing different-coloured

From the eminence on which the Huron city stood, Cartier obtained a
splendid view of rivers and mountains and magnificent forests, and
called the place then and there, in his Norman French, Mont Real, or
Royal Eminence, a name which it will probably bear for all time,
though the actual city of Montreal lies a few miles below.

Montreal was the limit of Cartier's explorations on this journey. He
returned thence to "Canada" or Stadacona, where his men built a fort
armed with artillery, and where his ships were anchored. Here he had
to stay from the middle of November, 1535, to the middle of April,
1536, his ships being shut in by the ice. The experiences of the
French during these five months were mostly unhappy. At first Cartier
gave himself up to the collecting of information. He noticed for the
first time the smoking of tobacco,[8] and collected information about
the products and features of "Canada". The Indians told him of great
lakes in the far west, one of which was so vast that no man had seen
the end of it. They told him that anyone travelling up the Richelieu
River (as it was called sixty years later) would eventually reach a
land in the south where in the winter there was no ice or snow, and
where fruit and nut trees grew in abundance. Cartier thought that they
were talking to him of Florida, but their geographical information can
scarcely have stretched so far; they probably referred to the milder
regions of New Jersey and Virginia, which would be reached by
following southwards the valley of the Hudson and keeping to the
lowlands of the eastern United States.

[Footnote 8: "There groweth also a certain kind of herb whereof in
summer they make a great provision for all the year, making great
account of it, and only men use it; and first they cause it to be
dried in the sun, then wear it about their necks wrapped in a little
beast's skin made like a bag, together with a hollow piece of stone or
wood like a pipe. Then when they please they make powder of it and put
it in one of the ends of the said cornet or pipe, and laying a coal of
fire upon it at the other end, suck so long that they fill their
bodies full of smoke, till that it cometh out of their mouth and
nostrils, even as out of the tunnel of a chimney. They say that this
doth keep them warm and in health: they never go without some of it
about them. We ourselves have tried the same smoke, and having put it
in our mouths, it seemed almost as hot as pepper." The foregoing is
one of the earliest descriptions of tobacco smoking in any European
language, the original words being in Cartier's Norman French.]

As the winter set in with its customary Canadian severity the real
trouble of the French began. They did not suffer from the cold, but
they were dying of scurvy. This disease, from which the natives also
suffered to some extent, was due to their eating nothing but salt or
smoked provisions--forms of meat or fish. They lived, of course, shut
up in the fort, and Cartier's fixed idea was to keep the Hurons from
the knowledge of his misfortune, fearing lest, if they realized how
the garrison was reduced, they might treacherously attack and massacre
the rest; for in spite of the extravagant joy with which their arrival
had been greeted, the Amerindians--notably the two interpreters who
had been to France and returned--showed at intervals signs of disquiet
and a longing to be rid of these mysterious white men, whose coming
might involve the country in unknown misfortunes. In January and
February, also, Donnacona and these two interpreters and many of the
Huron men had been absent hunting in the forests, so that there was no
one among the Amerindians to whom the French could turn for
information regarding this strange disease. At last 25 out of the 112
who had left France were dead, and of the remainder only 10 men,
including Cartier, were not grievously ill. Those who were living
found it sometimes beyond their strength to bury the dead in the
frozen ground, and simply placed their bodies in deep snow. Once or
twice, when Cartier left the fort to go out to the ships, he met
Domagaya, one of the two interpreters, and found that he also was
suffering from this mysterious disease, though not nearly so badly as
the French people. On the body of one young man who died of scurvy
Cartier and his officers, shuddering, made investigations, opening the
corpse and examining the organs to try and find the cause of death.
This was on the afternoon of a day on which they had held a solemn
service before a statue erected to the Virgin Mary on the shore
opposite to the ships. All who were fit to walk went in procession
from the fort to the statue, singing penitential psalms and the Litany
and celebrating Mass.

Some days after this religious service Cartier met the interpreter,
Domagaya, and to his surprise found him perfectly well and strong. He
asked him for an explanation, and was told that the medicine which
cured this disease was made from the leaves and bark of a tree called
ameda.[9] Cartier then ventured to say that one of his servants was
sick of this unknown disease, and Domagaya sent for two women, who
taught the French people how to make an extract from the balsam fir
for drinking, and how to apply the same liquid to the inflamed skin.
The effect on the crews was miraculous. In six days all the sick were
well and strong.

[Footnote 9: This tree was the balsam fir, _Abies balsamea_.]

Then came the sudden spring. Between April 15th and May 1st the ice on
the river was all melted, and on the 6th May, 1536, Cartier started
from the vicinity of Quebec to return to France. But before leaving he
had managed to kidnap Donnacona, the chief of the Huron settlement,
and six or seven other Amerindians, amongst them Tainyoanyi, one of
the two interpreters who had already been to France. He seized these
men, it appears, partly because he wanted hostages and had good reason
to fear that the Indians meditated a treacherous attack on his ships
before they could get away. He also wished for native witnesses at
Court, when he reached France, to testify to the truth of his
discoveries, and even more to convince the King of France that there
was great profit to be obtained from giving effect to Cartier's
explorations. The chief, Donnacona, was full of wonderful stories of
the Saguenay region, and of the great lakes to the northwards of
Quebec. Probably he was only alluding to the wealth of copper now
known to exist in northern Canada, but to Cartier and the other
Frenchmen it seemed as though he spoke of gold and silver, rubies, and
other precious stones.

Donnacona's people howled and wept when their chief was seized; but
Cartier obliged the chief to reassure them, and to say that the French
had promised to bring him back after he had paid a visit to their
great king, who would return him to his country with great presents.
As a matter of fact, not one of these Indians rapt away by Cartier
ever saw Canada again. But this was not the fault of Cartier, but of
the distractions of the times which turned away the thoughts of King
Francis I from American adventures. The Indians were well and kindly
treated in France, but all of them died there before Cartier left St.
Malo to return to Canada in 1541.

One advantage he derived from sailing away with these hostages was (no
doubt) that they could give him geographical information of importance
which materially shortened the return journey. For the first time he
made use of the broad strait between Anticosti Island and Gaspé
Peninsula, and, better still, entered the Atlantic, not by the
dangerous northern route through the straits of Belle Isle, but by
means of Cabot Strait, between Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island. Of
these discoveries he availed himself on his third and last voyage in

When in that year he once more anchored his ships near Quebec he found
the attitude of the Hurons changed. They enquired about their friends
and relations who had been carried off five years before, and although
they pretended to be reconciled to their fate when they heard (not
altogether truly) that one or two were dead, and the others had become
great lords in France and had married French women, they really felt a
disappointment so bitter and a hostility so great that Cartier guessed
their expressions of welcome to be false. However, he sent back to
France two of the ships under his command and beached the other three,
landed his stores, built two forts at Cap Rouge, above and below, and
then started off with a few of his men and two boats to revisit the
country of Hochelaga. Here he intended to examine the three rapids or
"saults"--interruptions to the navigation of the St. Lawrence--which
he had observed on his previous journey, and which were later named
the La Chine Rapids (in the belief that they were obstacles on the
river route to China). But these falls proved insuperable obstacles to
his boats, and he gave up any further idea of westward exploration,
returned to his forts and ships near Quebec, and there laid the
foundations of a fortified town, which he called Charlesbourg Royal.
Here he spent a very difficult winter, the Hurons in the neighbourhood
becoming increasingly hostile, and at last, when the spring came, as
he had received no relief from France, he took to his three ships,
abandoned Charlesbourg Royal (having probably to do some fighting
before he could get safely away) and thence sailed for France. Off the
Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland he met the other ships of the
expedition which was to have occupied Canada for France. These were
under the command of the Sieur de Roberval, a French nobleman, who had
really been made head of the whole enterprise, with Cartier as a
subordinate officer, but who, the year before, had allowed Cartier to
go off to Canada and prepare the way, promising to follow immediately.
The interview between Cartier and Roberval, near where the capital of
Newfoundland (St. John's) now stands, was a stormy one. Roberval
ordered Cartier to return at once to Charlesbourg and await his
arrival. However, in the middle of the night which followed this
interview, Cartier took advantage of a favourable wind and set sail
for France, arriving soon afterwards at St. Malo.

But Roberval arrived at Charlesbourg (going the roundabout way through
the straits of Belle Isle, for Cartier had told him nothing of the
convenient passage through Cabot Strait), and there spent the winter
of 1542-3, sending his ships back to France. This winter was one of
horrors. Roberval was a headstrong, passionate man, perfectly reckless
of human life. He maintained discipline by ferocious sentences,
putting many of his men in irons, whipping others cruelly, women as
well as men, and shooting those who seemed the most rebellious. Even
the Indians were moved to pity, and wept at the sight of the woes of
these unhappy French men and women under the control of a bloodthirsty
tyrant, and many of them dying of scurvy, or miserably weak from that

[Footnote 10: A story was subsequently told of Roberval's stern
treatment which had a germ of truth in it, though it has since been
the foundation of many a romance. On the journey out from France it is
said that Roberval took with him his niece Marguerite, a high-born
lady, who was accompanied by an old companion or nurse. Marguerite was
travelling with her uncle because, unknown to him, she had a lover who
had sailed with him on this expedition and whom she hoped to marry. As
they crossed the Atlantic these facts leaked out, and Roberval
resolved to bide his time and punish his niece for her deception. As
they passed the coast of Southern Labrador Marguerite and her old
nurse were seized and put into a boat, Roberval ordering his sailors
to row them ashore to an island, and leave them to their fate. They
were given four guns with ammunition and a small supply of provisions.
But, as the boat was leaving the ship, Marguerite's lover threw
himself into the sea and swam to the island. Here, according to the
story which Marguerite is supposed to have told afterwards, they
endeavoured to live by killing the wild animals and eating their
flesh; but her lover-husband died, so also did her child soon after it
was born, and then the old nurse, and the unhappy Marguerite was left
alone with the wild beasts, especially the white Polar bears, who
thronged round her hut. Nevertheless she kept them at bay with her
arquebus, and managed somehow to support an existence, until after
nineteen months' isolation the ascending smoke of her fire was seen by
people on one of the many fishing vessels which, by this time,
frequented the coasts of Newfoundland. She was taken off the island
and restored to her home in France. The island to which this tradition
more especially relates is now called Grand Meccatina.]

However, when the weather was warm again, in June, 1543, Roberval
started up the St. Lawrence River in boats to reach the wonderful
country of Saguenay. Apparently he met with little success, and, being
relieved by French ships in the late summer of 1543, he returned to

Thus the splendid work achieved by Cartier seemed to have come to
nothing, for neither he nor Roberval revisited America. The French
settlement near Quebec was abandoned, so far as the officers of the
French king were concerned, and between 1545 and about 1583, if any
other Frenchman or European visited Canada it was some private
adventurer who traded with the natives in furs, or Basques from France
and Spain who frequented the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence on
account of the abundance of whales, walruses, and seals. In fact, at
the close of the sixteenth century, the Spanish Basques had
established themselves on shore at Tadoussac and other places, and
seemed likely to colonize the country.


Elizabethan Pioneers in North America

Except that the ships of Bristol still no doubt continued to resort to
the banks of Newfoundland for fishing, and that even the captains of
these ships were occasionally elected admirals of the French, Basque,
Portuguese, and English fishing fleets during the summer, the English,
as a nation, took no part in claiming political dominion over North
America after the voyage of Captain John Rut in 1527. This was the
fault of Sebastian Cabot, the son of the man who founded British
America, and who had returned to England long afterwards as the Grand
Pilot appointed by Edward VI to further the discovery of a northern
sea passage to China. Through him the attention of adventurers for a
time was diverted from America to the "discovery" of Russia (as it has
been called). The efforts of Sebastion Cabot were directed towards the
revelation of a north-east passage by way of Arctic Russia to the
Pacific, rather than past Newfoundland and Labrador and across Arctic

But as soon as Elizabeth came to the throne the sea adventurers of
Britain, freed from any subservience to Spanish wishes, developed
maritime intercourse between England, Morocco, and West Africa on the
one hand, and Tropical and North America on the other. Once more the
discovery of the North-west Passage across America to China came into
favour. MARTIN FROBISHER[1] offered himself as a discoverer, and the
Earl of Warwick found the means which provided him with two small
sailing vessels of 25 and 20 tons each, besides a pinnace of 10
tons.[2] Queen Elizabeth confined herself, in the way of
encouragement, to waving her lily hand from her palace of Greenwich as
these three little boats dropped down the Thames on the 8th of June,
1576. She also sent them "an honourable message", which no doubt
reached them at Tilbury.

[Footnote 1: The name was also spelt Furbusher, and in other ways. He
became Sir Martin Frobisher over the wars of the Armada, and died Lord
High Admiral of England in 1592.]

[Footnote 2: It may be of interest to set forth the kind of rations
shipped in those Elizabethan times for the food of the sailors.
According to Frobisher's accounts these consisted of salted beef, salt
pork, salt fish, biscuit, meal for making bread, dried peas, oatmeal,
rice, cheese, butter, beer, and wine, with brandy for emergencies. As
regards beer, the men were to have a ration of 1 gallon a day each.
Altogether it may be said that these rations were superior in
variety--and no doubt in quality--to the food given to seamen in the
British merchant marine in the nineteenth century.]

But the pinnace was soon swallowed up in the high seas; the seamen in
the vessel of 20 tons lost heart and turned their ship homewards.
Frobisher alone, in his 25-ton bark, sailed on and on across the
stormy Atlantic, past the south end of Greenland, and over the great
gulf that separates Greenland from Labrador. He missed the entrance to
Hudson's Bay, but reached a great "island" which he named Meta
Incognita[3]. Here he gathered up stones and, as he believed,
minerals, besides capturing at least one Eskimo, and then returned.

[Footnote 3: We now know Meta Incognita to be the southernmost
peninsula of the vast Baffin Island.]

One of his stones was declared by the refiners of London to contain
gold. There was at once--as we should say in modern slang--a boom for
these Arctic regions. Queen Elizabeth took part in it, and on the 27th
of May, 1577, a considerable fleet, under the command of Frobisher,
sailed past the Orkneys for the south end of Greenland. It did not
reach as far as Meta Incognita, but it brought back large heaps of
earth and pieces of rock, probably from northern Labrador, which
almost certainly contained mica schist, and were therefore believed
to be full of gold. The following year 1578, Frobisher started on his
third American voyage with a fleet of fifteen vessels, mainly financed
by Queen Elizabeth, and manned to a great extent by the sons of the
aristocracy, besides a hundred persons who were going out as
colonists. For this region of ice and snow which was believed to be a
mass of gold-bearing rocks! But the result was one of bitter
disappointment. The captains were bewildered by the immense icebergs,
"so vast that, as they melted, torrents poured from them in sparkling
waterfalls". One iceberg toppled over on to a ship and crushed it,
though most of the sailors were picked up in the sea and saved. In the
thick mists the greater part of the fleet blundered into Hudson's
Straits, yet did not realize that they had found a passage into the
heart of Canada. At last, disgusted with this land of bare rocks, ice,
and snow, they filled up the ships with cargoes of stones supposed to
contain gold, and straggled back to England. No gold was extracted,
however, from these cargoes, and much discouragement ensued.

SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT, one of the brilliant figures of Elizabeth's
reign--scholar, poet, courageous adventurer, and man of
chivalry--stimulated by the discoveries of Frobisher, obtained a
patent or charter in 1578, and, after several unsuccessful attempts,
led an expedition of small sailing ships to Newfoundland, where he
entered St. John's Bay, and in the presence of the Basque, Portuguese,
and Breton fishermen took formal possession of the country for Queen
Elizabeth, raising a pillar on which the arms of England were engraved
as a token. He then proceeded to grant lands to the fishermen to
reassure them, and loaded his ships with rocks brought from the
interior mountains and supposed to contain minerals. But in his
further explorations of the southern coast of Newfoundland one of the
ships was lost and nearly a hundred men intended as colonists were

Gilbert then determined to return to England in his small frigate of
10 tons named the _Squirrel_. He was accompanied by a larger vessel,
the _Golden Hinde_, but refused to leave the men on the _Squirrel_ to
their fate. Consequently, between the Azores and the north coast of
Spain, when the _Squirrel_ was overwhelmed by the heavy seas, Sir
Humphrey Gilbert perished together with all on board.

In spite, however, of the disappointing results of Gilbert's attempt
to found a colony in Newfoundland, the importance of the cod fishery
and the ivory tusks and oil of the walruses drew ever more and more
ships from Bristol and Devonshire to the coasts of that great island
and to the Gulf of St. Lawrence beyond. In 1592 the English
adventurers got as far west as Anticosti Island (in a ship from
Bristol), and in 1597 there is the first record of English ships (from
London--the _Hopewell_ and the _Chancewell_) sailing up the St.
Lawrence River, perhaps as far west as Quebec.

In 1602, stimulated by Sir Walter Raleigh,[4] Bartholomew Gosnold
sailed direct to the coast of North America south of the Newfoundland
latitudes, and anchored his bark off the coast of Massachusetts on the
26th of March, 1602. Failing to find a good harbour here, he stood out
for the south and definitely discovered and named Cape Cod, not far
from the modern city of Boston. From Cape Cod he made his way to the
Elizabeth Islands in Buzzard's Bay, and here he built a storehouse and
fort, and may be said to have laid the foundations of the future
colony of New England. He brought back with him a cargo of sassafras
root, which was then much esteemed as a valuable medicine and a remedy
for almost all diseases.

[Footnote 4: In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh, the half-brother of Sir
Humphrey Gilbert, financed an expedition to sail to the coast of North
America in a more southerly direction. In this way was founded the
(afterwards abandoned) colony of Roanoke, in North Carolina. It was to
this region that Queen Elizabeth applied the title of Virginia, which
some years afterwards was transferred to the first English colony on
the James River.]

Subsequent expeditions of English ships explored and mapped the coast
of Maine, and took on board Amerindians for exhibition in England.
Their adventures, together with those of the colonists farther south,
led to the creation of chartered companies, and to the great British
colonies of New England, New York, Virginia, the Carolinas, and
Georgia, which were to become in time the United States of America--a
vast field of adventure which we cannot follow farther in this book.

As regards Newfoundland, James I, in 1610, granted a patent to a
Bristol merchant for the foundation there of a colony, and although
this attempt, and another under Sir George Calvert (Lord Baltimore) in
1616, came almost to nothing through the attacks of the French and the
dislike of the crews of the fishing vessels to permanent settlers who
might interfere with the fishing industry, the English colonization of
Newfoundland to some extent caught hold, so that in 1650 there were
about two thousand colonists of English descent along the east and
south-east coasts of the island. But settlement was prohibited within
six miles of the shore, to please the fishermen, and this regulation
checked for more than two hundred years the colonization of

Nova Scotia as a British colony also came into being as another result
of these adventurous British expeditions to North America in the reign
of James I. Under the name of Acadie this region had been declared to
be a portion of New France by De Monts and Champlain in 1604-14. But
the English colonists in 1614 drove the French out of the peninsula of
Nova Scotia on the plea that it was a part of the discoveries made by
the Cabots on behalf of the British Crown. In 1621 James I gave a
grant of all this territory to Sir William Alexander under the name of
Nova Scotia, and both Charles I and Cromwell encouraged settlement in
this beautiful region. When Charles II ceded it to France in 1667 the
English and Scottish colonists who were residing there, and the
English settlers of New England, refused to recognize the effects of
the Treaty of Bréda, and so harassed the French in the years which
followed that in 1713 Nova Scotia was, together with Newfoundland,
recognized as belonging to Great Britain. The French colonists were
allowed to remain, but during the course of the eighteenth century
they combined with the Amerindians (who liked the French and disliked
the British) and made the position of the British colonists so
precarious that they were finally expelled and obliged to transfer
themselves to Louisiana and Canada. This was the departure of the
Acadians so touchingly described by Longfellow.

The British had become tenacious of their rights over the east coast
of Newfoundland, because from the middle of the seventeenth century
onwards they were becoming increasingly interested in the whale
fisheries and the fur trade of the lands bordering on Hudson's Bay,
and would not tolerate any blocking of the sea route thither by the

In the explorations of Arctic America, Frobisher's expeditions had
been succeeded by those of JOHN DAVIS, who in the course of three
voyages, beginning in June, 1585, passed the entrance of Hudson's
Straits and reached a point as far north as 72° 41', a lofty granite
island, which he named Sanderson's Hope. He saw beyond him a great
sea, free, large, very salt, and blue, unobstructed by ice and of an
unsearchable depth, and believed that he had completely discovered the
eastern entrance of the North-West Passage.


HENRY HUDSON, the great English navigator, who had made two voyages
(1607-8) for the English-Moscovy Company to discover a north-east
passage to India, past Siberia, commanded a third experiment in 1609
at the expense of the Dutch East India Company. He was to discover the
North-West Passage. For this purpose he entered the river now named
the Hudson, but soon found it was only a river; though he returned to
Holland with such an encouraging account of the surrounding country
that the Dutch a little later on, founded on the banks of the Hudson
River their colony of New Amsterdam (afterwards the State of New
York). In 1610 Hudson accepted a British commission to sail beyond
where Davis and Frobisher had passed, and once more seek for the
north-west passage to China. Instead he found the way into Hudson's
Bay. Here his men, alarmed at the idea of being lost in these regions
of ice and snow, mutinied against him, placed him and those who were
faithful to him in a boat, and cast them off, themselves returning to
England with the news of his discovery. Hudson was never heard of
again, and, strange to say, the mutineers apparently received no

Between 1602 and 1668, English adventurers from London and Bristol,
notable amongst whom were WILLIAM BAFFIN, LUKE FOX, and CAPTAIN JAMES,
mapped the coasts of Hudson's Bay and Baffin's Bay and brought to the
notice of merchants in England the abundance of whales in these Arctic
waters, and of fur-bearing beasts and fur-trading Indians in the
region of Hudson's Bay.

This last point was most forcibly presented to Charles II and his
Government by a disappointed French Canadian, Pierre Esprit Radisson,
whose adventures will later on be described. Radisson, conceiving
himself to be badly treated by the French Governor of Canada, crossed
over to England with his brother-in-law, Chouart, and the two were
warmly taken up by Prince Rupert of Bavaria, the cousin of Charles II.
They were sent out by Prince Rupert in command of an expedition
financed by him and a number of London merchants, and in 1669 the New
England captain, Gillam, returned to England with Chouart and the
first cargo of furs from Hudson's Bay. This cargo so completely met
the expectations of those who had promoted the venture that it led in
1670 to the foundation of the Governor and Company of Adventurers of
England trading into Hudson's Bay, a company chartered by Charles II
and presided over by Prince Rupert, and an association which proved to
be the germ of British North America, of the vast three-quarters of
the present Dominion of Canada.


Champlain and the Foundation of Canada

From the first voyage of Cartier onwards, Canada was called
intermittently New France, and its possibilities were not lost sight
of by a few intelligent Frenchmen on account of the fur trade. Amongst
these was Amyard de Chastes, at one time Governor of Dieppe, who got
into correspondence with the adventurers who had settled as fur
traders at Tadoussac, prominent amongst whom was Du Pont-Gravé. De
Chastes dispatched with Pont-Gravé a young man whose acquaintance he
had just made, SAMUEL CHAMPLAIN.[1] This was the man who, more than
any other, created French Canada.

[Footnote 1: Afterwards the Sieur de Champlain. The title of _Sieur_
(from the Latin _Senior_) is the origin of the English "sir", and is
about equivalent to an English baronetcy.]

Champlain had had already a most adventurous life. He was born about
1567, at Brouage, in the Saintonge, opposite to the Island of Héron,
on the coast of western France. From his earliest years he had a
passion for the sea, but he also served as a soldier for six years.
His father had been a sea captain, and his uncle as an experienced
navigator was commissioned by the King of Spain to transport by sea to
that country the remainder of the Spanish soldiers who had been
serving in Brittany. The uncle took his nephew with him. Young
Champlain when in Spain managed to ingratiate himself so much with the
Spanish authorities that he was actually commissioned as a captain to
take a king's ship out to the West Indies. No sooner did he reach
Spanish America than he availed himself of the first chance to
explore it. For two years he travelled over Cuba, and above all
Mexico. He visited the narrowest part of Central America and conceived
the possibility of making a trans-oceanic canal across the Panama

When he got back to France he placed before Henry IV a report on
Spanish Central America, together with a project for making a canal at
Panama. Henry IV was so pleased with his work and enterprise that he
gave him a pension and the title of Geographer to the King. Shortly
afterwards he met Governor de Chastes at Dieppe, and was by him sent
out to Canada. The ship which carried Champlain, PONT-GRAVÉ,[2] the
SIEUR DE MONTS,[3] and other French adventurers (together with two
Amerindian interpreters whom Pont-Gravé had brought from Canada to
learn French) arrived at Tadoussac on May 24, 1603.

[Footnote 2: Correctly written this was François Gravé, Sieur du

[Footnote 3: The full name was Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts.
Including de Champlain and de Poutrincourt, who will be described
later, we have here the four great heroes who founded French Canada.]

Champlain lost no time in commencing his explorations. Tadoussac was
at the mouth of an important river, called by the French the Saguenay,
a name which they also applied to the mysterious and wonderful country
through which it flowed in the far north; a country rich in copper and
possibly other precious metals. Champlain ascended the Saguenay River
for sixty miles as far as the rapids of Chicoutima. The Amerindians
whom he met here told him of Lake St. John, lying at a short distance
to the west, and that beyond this lake and the many streams which
entered it there lay a region of uplands strewn with other lakes and
pools; and farther away still began the sloping of the land to the
north till the traveller sighted a great arm of the salt sea, and
found himself amongst tribes (probably the Eskimo) who ate raw flesh,
and to the Indians appeared absolute savages.[4] This was probably
the first allusion, recorded by a European, to the existence of
Hudson's Bay, that huge inlet of the sea, which is one of the leading
features in the geography of British North America.

[Footnote 4: The real name for this remarkable people, the Eskimo, is,
in Alaska and Arctic North America, _Innuit_, and in Labrador and
Greenland, _Karalit_. Eskimo (in French, _Esquimaux_) is said to be a
corruption of the Montagnais-Indian word, Eskimantsik, meaning "eaters
of raw flesh".]

The Montagnais Indians round about Tadoussac received Champlain with
great protestations of friendship, and at the headquarters of their
principal chief or "Sagamore" celebrated this new friendship and
alliance with a feast in a very large hut. The banquet, as usual, was
preceded by a long address from the Sagamore in answer to the
description of France, given by one of the Indian interpreters. The
address was accompanied by the solemn smoking of tobacco, and at every
pause in this grave oration the natives present shouted with one
voice: "Ho! ho! ho!" The repast consisted of elk's meat (which struck
the Frenchmen as being like beef), also the flesh of bear, seal,
beaver, and wild fowl. There were eight or ten stone boilers or
cauldrons full of meats in the middle of the great hut, separated each
six feet from each other, and each one having its own fire. Every
native used a porringer or vessel made of birch bark. When the meat
was cooked a man in authority distributed it to each person. But
Champlain thought the Indians ate in a very filthy manner. When their
hands were covered with fat or grease they would rub them on their own
heads or on the hair of their dogs. Before the meat was cooked each
guest arose, took a dog, and hopped round the boilers from one end of
the great hut to the other. Arriving in front of the chief, the
Montagnais Indian feaster would throw his dog violently to the ground,
exclaiming: "Ho! ho! ho!" after which he returned to his place.

At the close of the banquet every one danced, with the skulls of
their Iroquois enemies slung over their backs. As they danced they
slapped their knees with their hands, and shouted: "Ho! ho! ho!" till
they were out of breath.

The huts of these Indians were low and made like tents, being covered
with the bark of the birch tree. An opening about a foot of the top
was left uncovered to admit light and to allow the smoke to escape.
Though low, the huts were sometimes quite large, and would accommodate
ten families. These slept higgledy-piggledy on skins, with their dogs
amongst them. The dogs in appearance were something like what we know
as Eskimo dogs, and also rather resembled the Chinese chow, with broad
heads and rather short muzzles, prick ears, and a tail inclined to
curl over the back. "All these people have a very cheerful
disposition, laughing often, yet at the same time they are somewhat
phlegmatic. They talk very deliberately, as if desiring to make
themselves well understood, and, stopping suddenly, they reflect for a
long time, when they resume their discourse."

They were agile, well-proportioned people, who in the summertime went
about nearly naked, but in the winter were covered with good furs of
elk, otter, beaver, bear, seal, and deer. The colour of their skin was
usually a pale olive, but the women for some reason made themselves
much darker-skinned than the men by rubbing their bodies with pigments
which turned them to a dark brown. At times they suffered very much
from lack of food, being obliged then to frequent the shore of the
river or gulf to obtain shellfish. When pressed very hard by famine
they would eat their dogs (their only domestic animal) and even the
leather of the skins with which they clothed themselves. In the autumn
they were much given to fishing for eels, and they dried a good deal
of eel flesh, to last them through the winter. During the height of
the winter they hunted the beaver, and later on the elk. Though they
ate wild roots and fruits whenever they could obtain them, they do
not seem to have cultivated any grain or vegetables. In the early
spring they were sometimes dying of hunger, and looked so thin and
haggard that they were mere walking skeletons. They were then ready to
eat carrion that was putrid, so that it is little wonder that they
suffered much from scurvy.

Yet the rivers and the gulf abounded in fish, and as soon as the
waters were unlocked by the melting of the ice in April, the surviving
Indians rapidly grew fat and well, and of course the late summer and
the autumn brought them nuts (hickory and other kinds of walnut, and
hazel nuts), wild cherries, wild plums, raspberries, strawberries,
gooseberries, blackberries, currants,[5] cranberries, and grapes.

[Footnote 5: The wild currants so often mentioned by the early
explorers of Canada are often referred to as red, green, and blue. The
blue currants are really the black currant, now so familiar to our
kitchen gardens (_Ribes nigrum_). This, together with the red currant
(_Ribes rubrum_), grows throughout North America, Siberia, and eastern
Europe. The unripe fruit may have been the green currants alluded to
by Champlain, or these may have been the white variety of our gardens.
The two species of wild strawberry which figure so frequently in the
stories of these early explorers are _Fragaria vesca_ and _F.
virginiana_. From the last-named is derived the cultivated strawberry
of Europe. The wild strawberries of North America were larger than
those of Europe. Champlain does not himself allude to gooseberries
(unless they are his _groseilles vertes_), but later travellers do.
Three or more kinds of gooseberry grow wild in Canada, but they are
different from the European species. The blueberry so often Mentioned
by Champlain (bluëts or bluës) was _Vaccinium canadense_.]

Champlain observed amongst them for the first time the far-famed
Amerindian snowshoes, which he compares very aptly for shape to a
racquet used in tennis.

Champlain next visited the site of Stadacona, but there was no longer
any settlement of Europeans at that place, nor were the native
Amerindians the descendants of the Hurons that had received Jacques
Cartier. For the first time the name Quebec (pronounced Kebek) is
applied to this point where the great River St. Lawrence narrows
before dividing to encircle the Isle of Orleans. In fact, Quebec meant
in the Algonkin speech a place where a river narrows; for a tribe of
the great Algonkin family, _the_ Algonkins, allied to the tribes of
Maine and New Brunswick, had replaced the Hurons as the native
inhabitants of this region.

On the shore of Quebec he noticed "diamonds" in some slate rocks--no
doubt quartz crystals. Proceeding on up the River St. Lawrence he
observed the extensive woods of fir and cypress (some kind of _Thuja_
or _Juniper_), the undergrowth of vines, "wild pears", hazel nuts,
cherries, red currants and green currants, and "certain little
radishes of the size of a small nut, resembling truffles in taste,
which are very good when roasted or boiled". As they advanced towards
the interior the country became increasingly mountainous on the south
(the green mountains of New Hampshire), and was more and more
beautiful--"the pleasantest land yet seen". Landing on the south bank
of the St. Lawrence, west of the entrance of the river of the Iroquois
(the Richelieu), he found magnificent forests, which, besides the
trees already mentioned, included oaks, chestnuts, maples, pines,
walnut-like nut trees,[6] aspens, poplars, and beeches; with climbing
hops and vines, strawberries trailing over the ground, and raspberry
canes and currant bushes "growing in the thick grass". These splendid
woods on the islands and banks of the broad river were full of game:
elks,[7] wapiti deer, Virginian deer, bears, porcupines, hares, foxes,
beavers, otters, and musk rats, besides many animals he could not

[Footnote 6: Of the genera _Juglans_ and _Carya_.]

[Footnote 7: The huge deer of the genus _Alces_. Elk is the old
Scandinavian name. _Moose_, derived from the Kri language, is the
Canadian term, "Elk" being misapplied to the wapiti (red) deer.
Champlain calls the elk _orignac_, its name in Algonkin.]

At last his little expedition in "a skiff and canoe" had to draw into
the bank, warned by the noise that they were approaching a great fall
of water--the La Chine or St. Louis Rapids. Champlain wrote: "I saw,
to my astonishment, a torrent of water descending with an impetuosity
such as I have never before witnessed.... It descends as if in steps,
and at each descent there is a remarkable boiling, owing to the force
and swiftness with which the water traverses the fall, which is about
a league in length.... The territory on the side of the fall where we
went overland consists, so far as we saw it, of very open wood, where
one can go with his armour without much difficulty."

From the Algonkin Indians in the neighbourhood of these St. Louis
Rapids, and also from those living near Quebec, Champlain obtained a
good deal of geographical information to add to his own observations.
He was given an idea, more or less correct, of Lake Ontario, the Falls
of Niagara, Lake Erie and Lake Huron, and perhaps also of Lake
Superior, a sea so vast, said the Amerindians, that the sun set on its
horizon. This sheet of water, Champlain calculated, must be 1200 miles
distant to the west, and therefore identical with the "Mer du sud"
(Pacific Ocean), which all North-American explorers for three
centuries wished to reach.

After collecting much information about possible copper mines in the
regions north and south of the Lower St. Lawrence, and of silver[8] in
New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, and a terrible story which he more than
half believed about a monster of prodigious size, the _Gougou_,[9]
Champlain set sail for France at the end of August, 1603.

[Footnote 8: Or lead mixed with silver. The local natives used this
ore, which was white when beaten, for their arrowheads.]

[Footnote 9: The Gougou dwelt on the small island of Miscon, to the
east of the Bay of Chaleurs. It had the form of a woman but was about
a hundred feet high. Its habit was to catch and devour men and women,
whom it first placed in a pocket capacious enough to hold a small
ship. Its roarings and hissings could be heard at times coming from
the island of Miscon, where the Gougou lay concealed. Even a
Frenchman, the Sieur Prévert, had heard these noises. Probably this
islet had a whirlpool communicating with a cavern into which fishermen
were sucked by the current.]

In April, 1604, Champlain accompanied the Sieur de Monts (who had
succeeded the dead Amyard de Chastes as head of a chartered
fur-trading association) in a fresh expedition to North America,
together with a hundred and twenty artisans and several noblemen.
They were to occupy the lands of "Cadie" (Acadia, Nova Scotia),
Canada, and other places in New France. De Monts thought Tadoussac and
Quebec too cold in wintertime, and preferred the sunnier east coast
regions. He aimed indeed at colonizing what is now New England.

On the way to Nova Scotia, the expedition was nearly wrecked on Sable
Island, about one hundred and twenty miles south of Cape Breton
Island, and noticed there the large red cattle run wild from the bulls
and cows landed on Sable Island by the Portuguese some sixty years
earlier. (The Portuguese of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
deserved well of humanity for the generous way in which they left
cattle, goats, pigs, and rabbits to run wild on desert islands and
serve as provender for shipwrecked mariners like Robinson Crusoe.)
Champlain also speaks of the "fine large black foxes" which he and
other voyagers noticed on Sable Island. How they came there is a
mystery, unless the island had once been part of the mainland.

This same Sable Island had been the scene of an extraordinary
experiment at the end of the previous century. In 1598 the Marquis de
la Roche, given a commission to colonize New France, sailed in a small
ship for North America with sixty convicts from French prisons as
colonists. He landed them on Sable Island, and went away to look for
some good site for his colony. But then a storm arose, and his little
ship was literally blown back to France. The convicts, abandoned thus,
built themselves shelters out of the driftwood of wrecks; killed and
ate the cattle and caught fish. They made themselves warm clothes out
of the skins of the seals which frequented the island coast in
thousands. But these convicts quarrelled and fought among themselves
so fiercely that when at last a ship from Normandy came to take them
away, there were only twelve left--twelve shaggy men with long tangled
hair and beards; and, a legend says, in addition a Franciscan monk
who had been landed on the island with them as a kind of missionary or
chaplain, and who had been so heartbroken at their bloody quarrels and
horrible deeds that when the Norman ship arrived to take the castaways
back to France, the Franciscan refused to go with them, believing
himself to be dying and wishing to end his life undisturbed. So he was
left behind. But after the ship had sailed away he slowly mended, grew
well and strong, and cultivated eagerly his little garden. For food he
ate the whelks, mussels, and oysters that were so abundant on the
shore. Occasionally ships (then as now) were wrecked on Sable Island
in stormy weather, and the good monk ministered to the mariners who
reached the shore. Also he was visited, ever and again, by the Breton
fishing boats, which brought him supplies of necessaries and the bread
and wine for celebrating Mass. Long after his death his spirit was
thought to haunt the desolate island.

Champlain and his companions passed on from Sable Island to the
south-east coast of Nova Scotia, noticing as they landed here and
there the abundance of rabbits[10] and sea birds, especially the Great
Auk, of which they killed numbers with sticks, cormorants (whose fishy
eggs they ate with enjoyment), puffins, guillemots, gulls, terns,
scissorbills, divers, ospreys, buzzards, and falcons; and no doubt the
typical American white-tailed sea eagles, ravens, ducks, geese,
curlews, herons, and cranes. Here and there they found the shore
"completely covered with sea wolves"--seals, of course, probably the
common seal and the grey seal. Of these they captured as many as they
wanted, for the seals, like most of the birds, were quite unafraid of

[Footnote 10: There are no real rabbits in America. This was probably
the Polar Hare (_Lepus timidus glacialis_), or the common small
varying hare (_L. americanus_).]

They then explored the Bay of Fundy, and, after zig-zagging about,
decided to fix on the harbour of St. John's (New Brunswick) as the
site for their colony. The future capital of New France, therefore,
was begun on La Sainte Croix (Dochet) Island, near the mouth of the
wonderful tidal estuary of the Uigudi (Ouygoudy) River.

Here they passed the winter, but suffered so badly from scurvy[11]
that, when in the spring of 1605 Du Pont Gravé arrived from Brittany
with supplies, the remnant of the colony was removed to the opposite
coast of Nova Scotia to Port Royal (afterwards named by the English
Annapolis[12]). The French seem to have fallen in love with this place
from the very first. Nevertheless here they suffered from scurvy
during the winter as elsewhere. Before moving over here, however,
Champlain, together with De Monts, had explored the west of New
England south of New Brunswick as far as Plymouth, just south of

[Footnote 11: How awful was this "mal de terre" or scurvy amongst the
French settlers may be seen from this description of Champlain: "There
were produced in the mouths of those who had it great pieces of
superfluous and drivelling flesh, which got the upper hand to such an
extent that scarcely anything but liquid could be taken. Their teeth
became very loose and could be pulled out with the fingers without its
causing them pain.... Afterwards a violent pain seized their arms and
legs, which remained swollen and very hard, all spotted as if with
fleabites; and they could not walk on account of the contraction of
the muscles.... They suffered intolerable pains in the loins, stomach,
and bowels, and had a very bad cough and short breath.... Out of
seventy-nine who composed our party, thirty-five died and twenty were
on the point of death (when spring began in May)."

Scurvy is said to be a disease of the blood caused by a damp, cold,
and impure atmosphere combined with absence of vegetable food and a
diet of salted or semi-putrid meat or fish, such as was so often the
winter food of Amerindians and of the early French pioneers in Canada.
We have already noted Cartier's discovery of the balsam remedy.]

[Footnote 12: From Queen Anne.]

Off the coast of Maine (Richmond's Island) they encountered
agricultural Amerindians of a new tribe, the Penobskot probably, who
cultivated a form of rank narcotic tobacco (_Nicotiana rustica_),
which they called _Petun_. (A variety of this has produced the
handsome garden flower _Petunia_, whose Latin name is derived from
this native word Petun.) They also grew maize or Indian corn, planting
very carefully three or four seeds in little mounds three feet apart
one from the other, the soil in between being kept clear of weeds. The
American farmers of to-day cannot adopt any better method.

The islands round about Portland (Maine) were matted all over with
wild red currants, so that the eye could scarcely discern anything
else. Attracted by this fruit, clouds of wild pigeons had
assembled[13]. They manifested hardly any fear of the French, who
captured large numbers of them in snares, or killed them with guns.
The natives of southern Maine fled with dismay on sighting the French
ships, for they had never before seen sailing vessels, but later on
they timidly approached the French ships in a canoe, then landed and
went through a wild dance on the shore to typify friendliness.
Champlain took with him some drawing paper and a pencil or crayon,
together with a quantity of knives and ship's biscuit. Landing alone,
he attracted the natives towards him by offering them biscuits, and
having gathered them round him (being of course as much unable to
understand their speech as they were French), he proceeded to ask
questions by means of certain drawings, chiefly the outlines of the
coast. The savages at once seized his idea, and taking up his pencil
drew on the paper an accurate outline of Massachusetts Bay, adding
also rivers and islands unknown to the French. They went on by further
intelligent signs to supply information. For instance, they placed six
pebbles at equal distances to intimate that Massachusetts Bay was
occupied by six tribes and governed by as many chiefs. By drawings of
growing maize and other plants they intimated that all these people
lived by agriculture.

[Footnote 13: The pigeons referred to by Champlain were probably the
Passenger pigeon (_Ectopistes_) which at one time was extraordinarily
abundant in parts of North America, though it has now been nearly
killed out by man. It would arrive in flocks of millions on its
migratory journeys in search of food.]

Champlain thought Massachusetts (in his first voyage) a most
attractive region in the summer, what with the blue water of the
enclosed arms of the sea, the lofty forest trees, and the fields of
Indian corn and other crops.

When these French explorers reached the harbour of Boston, the islands
and mainland were swarming with the native population. The Amerindians
were intensely interested in the arrival of the first sailing vessel
they had ever seen. Although it was only a small barque, its size was
greater than any canoe known to them. As it seemed to spread huge
white wings and to glide silently through the water without the use of
paddles or oars, it filled them with surprise and admiration. They
manned all their canoes[14] and came out in a flotilla to express
their honour and reverence for the wonderful white men. But when the
French took their leave, it was equally obvious that the natives
experienced a sense of relief, for they were disquieted as well as
filled with admiration at the arrival of these wonderful beings from
an unknown world.

[Footnote 14: It is interesting to learn from his accurate notes that
in Massachusetts (and from thence southwards) there were no more bark
canoes, but that the canoes were "dug-outs"--trunks of tall trees
burnt and chipped till they were hollowed into a narrow vessel of
considerable length.]

Champlain describes the wigwams or native huts as being cone-shaped,
heavily thatched with reeds, with an opening at the top of the roof
for the smoke to escape. Inside the huts was a low bed raised a foot
from the ground and made of short posts driven into the ground, with a
surface made of boards split from trees. On these boards were laid
either the dressed skins of deer or bear, or thick mattresses made of
reeds or rushes. The beds were large enough for several people to lie
on. Champlain describes the huts as being full of fleas, and likewise
the persons of the nearly naked Indians, who carried these fleas out
with them into the fields when they were working, so that the
Frenchmen by stopping to talk to the natives became covered with
fleas to such an extent that they were obliged to change their

In the fields were cultivated not only maize, but beans similar to the
beans grown by the natives of Brazil, vegetable marrows or pumpkins,
Jerusalem artichokes[15], radishes, and tobacco. The woods were filled
with oaks, walnut trees[16], and the red "cedar" of North America,
really a very large juniper, the foliage of which in the summertime
often assumes a reddish colour, together with the trunk. This
Virginian juniper or "red cedar" is now quite a common tree in
England. In warm weather it exhales a delicious aromatic scent.

[Footnote 15: This tuber, which is a well-known and very useful
vegetable in England, comes from the root of a species of sunflower
(_Helianthus tuberosus_). It has nothing to do with the real
artichoke, which is a huge and gorgeous thistle, and it has equally
nothing to do with Jerusalem. The English people have always taken a
special delight in mispronouncing and corrupting words in order to
produce as much confusion as possible in their names for things.
Jerusalem is a corruption of _Girasole_, which is the Italian name
given to this sunflower with the edible roots, because its flower is
supposed always to turn towards the sun. The Jerusalem artichoke was
originally a native of North America.]

[Footnote 16: These walnut trees were afterwards known in modern
American speech as hickories, butter-nuts, and pig-nuts, all of which
are allied to, but distinct from, the European walnut.]

All these natives of the Massachusetts coast were described by
Champlain as being almost naked in the summertime, wearing at most a
small piece of leather round the waist, and a short robe of spun hemp
which hung down over the shoulders. Their faces were painted red,
black and yellow. The men pulled out any hairs which might come on the
chin, and thus were beardless. They were armed with pikes, clubs,
bows, and arrows. The pikes were probably made of wood with the ends
hardened by being burnt to a point in the fire, and the arrow tips
were made of the sharp termination of the tail of the great

[Footnote 17: _Limulus polyphemus_. This extraordinary crustacean is
one of the oldest of living animals in its history, as it is closely
related to the Xiphosura and even the Trilobites of the Primary Epoch,
which existed millions of years ago. In a rough way it is a kind of
connecting link between the Crustacea, or crabs and lobsters, and the
Scorpions and spiders.]

These Massachusetts "Indians" described to Champlain a wonderful bird
which at some seasons of the year they caught in snares and ate. This
Champlain at once guessed was the wild turkey, now, of course, quite
extinct in that region. This wild turkey of the eastern half of North
America (including southern Canada) was quite a distinct form from the
Mexican bird, which last is the origin of our domestic turkey.

In July, 1606, as De Monts had not returned from France, and the
little colony at Port Royal was without supplies, they decided to
leave two Frenchmen in charge of the local chief of the Mikmak
Indians, and find their way along the coast to Cape Breton, where they
might get a fishing vessel to take them back to France. But after
travelling in an open boat--a chaloupe--round the coast of Nova Scotia
they met another small boat off Cape Sable, under the charge of the
secretary of De Monts, and learnt that Lieutenant-General DE
POUTRINCOURT[18] (one of the great names amongst the pioneers of
Canada, and the man who had really chosen Port Royal for the French
headquarters at Nova Scotia) had already returned from France with
fresh supplies. Consequently, Champlain and his companions returned to
Port Royal, and all set to work with eagerness to develop the
settlement. Champlain relates in his book how he created vegetable
gardens, trout streams and ponds, and a reservoir of salt water for
sea fish; but he was soon off again on a fresh journey of exploration,
because De Monts was not satisfied with Nova Scotia on account of the
cold in winter. Accordingly Champlain examined the whole coast round
the Bay of Fundy, and down to Cape Cod, and the islands of Martha's
Vineyard and Nantucket. But in this region, already visited in past
times by French, Spanish, and English ships, they found the natives
treacherous and hostile. An unprovoked attack was made on the French
after they landed, and several of the seamen were killed with arrows.

[Footnote 18: Jean de Biencourt, the Sieur de Poutrincourt and Baron
de Saint-Just, were his full titles.]

On the 24th of May, 1607, a small barque of six or seven tons burden
(fancy crossing the wide Atlantic from Brittany to Nova Scotia in a
ship of that size at the present day!) arrived outside Port Royal from
France, with an abrupt notification that De Monts' ten years' monopoly
and charter were _cancelled_ by Henry IV, and that all the colony was
to be withdrawn and brought back to France. Henry IV took this action
simply because De Monts attempted to make his monopoly a real one,[19]
and stop the ships of fur traders who were trading with the
Amerindians of Cape Breton without his licence. These fur traders of
Normandy then complained bitterly that because De Monts was a
Protestant he was allowed not only to have this monopoly, but to
endanger the spiritual welfare of the savages by spreading his false
doctrines! So King Henry IV, volatile and capricious, like most of the
French kings, cancelled a charter which had led to such heroic and
remarkable results.

[Footnote 19: You will observe that neither the French nor the English
sovereigns of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries went to much
personal expense over the creation of colonies. They simply gave a
charter or a monopoly, which cost them nothing, but which made other
people pay.]

The greater part of the little colony had to leave Port Royal and make
its way in small boats along the Nova Scotia coasts till they reached
Cape Breton Island. Here fishing vessels conveyed them back to
Brittany. It was in this boat journeying along the coast of Nova
Scotia that Champlain discovered Halifax Harbour, then called by the
Indian name of Shebuktu. As they passed along this coast with its many
islands, they feasted on ripe raspberries, which grew everywhere "in
the greatest possible quantity".

Poutrincourt, however, had succeeded in taking back with him samples
of the corn, wheat, rye, barley, and oats which had been so
successfully grown on the island of Sainte Croix and at Port Royal,
and also presented to that monarch five brent-geese[20] which he had
reared up from eggs hatched under a hen. The king was so delighted at
these presents that he once more veered about and gave to De Monts the
monopoly of the fur trade for one more year, in order to enable him to
renew his colonies in New France.

[Footnote 20: _Branta canadensis_, a handsome black-and-brown goose
with white markings, which the French pioneers in Canada styled
"outarde" or "bustard", and whose eggs were considered very good

The Sieur de Monts was again appointed by Henry IV Lieutenant-General
in New France. The latter engaged Champlain as his lieutenant, and
also sent out Du Pont Gravé in command of the second vessel, as head
of the trading operations. This time, on the advice of Champlain, the
expedition made its way directly to the St. Lawrence River, stopping
first at Tadoussac, where Du Pont Gravé proceeded to take very strong
measures with the Basque seamen, who were infringing his monopoly by
trading with the natives in furs. Apparently they were still allowed
to continue their whale fishery.

Once more Champlain heard from the Montagnais Indians of the great
Salt Sea to the north of Saguenay, in other words, the southern
extension of Hudson's Bay; and in his book he notes that the English
in these latter years "had gone thither to find their way to China".
However, he kept his intent fixed on the establishment of a French
colony along the St. Lawrence, and may be said to have founded the
city of Quebec (the site of which was then covered with nut trees) on
the 4th of July, 1608. Then his enterprise was near being wrecked by a
base conspiracy got up between a surgeon and a number of French
artisans, who believed that by seizing and killing Champlain, and then
handing over the infant settlement to the Spanish Basques, they might
enable these traders and fishermen with their good strong ships to
overcome Du Pont Gravé, and seize the whole country. Naturally (they
believed) the Basques would reward the conspirators, who would thus at
a stroke become rich men. They none of them wished to go to France,
but would live here independent of outside interference. A
conspirator, however, revealed the plot to Champlain as he was
planting one of the little gardens which he started as soon as he had
been in a place a few days. He went about his business very
discreetly, arrested all the leading conspirators, gave them a fair
trial, had the ringleader executed by Pont Gravé, and sent three
others back to France. After this he settled down at Quebec for the
winter, taking care, however, in the month of October, to plant seeds
and vines for coming up in the spring.

In the summer of 1609 Champlain, apparently with the idea of thus
exploring the country south of the St. Lawrence, decided to accompany
a party of Algonkins and Hurons from Georgian Bay and the
neighbourhood of Montreal, who were bent on attacking the Iroquois
confederacy in the Mohawk country at the headwaters of the Hudson
River. He was accompanied by two French soldiers--Des Marais and La
Routte--and by a few Montagnais Indians from Tadoussac.

The Hurons[21] were really of the same group (as regards language and
descent) as the Iroquois (Irokwá), but in those days held aloof from
the five other tribes who had formed a confederacy[22] and alliance
under the name of _Ongwehonwe_--"Superior Men". The Iroquois
(Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Kayugas, and Senekas) dominated much of
what is now New York State, and from the mountain country of the
Adirondaks and Catskills descended on the St. Lawrence valley and the
shores of Lakes Ontario and Huron to rob and massacre.

[Footnote 21: Huron was a French name given to the westernmost group
of the Iroquois family (see p. 159). The Huron group included the
Waiandots, the Eries or Erigas, the Arendáronons, and the Atiwándoronk
or "neutral" nation. The French sometimes called all these Huron
tribes "the good Iroquois". Iroquois was probably pronounced "Irokwá",
and seems to have been derived from a word like Irokosia, the name of
the Adirondack mountain country.]

[Footnote 22: The confederacy was founded about 1450 by the great
Hiawatha (of Longfellow's Poem), himself an Onondaga from south of
Lake Ontario, but backed by the Mohawks only, in the beginning of his

The route into the enemy's country lay along the Richelieu River and
across Lake Champlain to its southern end, in sight of the majestic
snow-crowned Adirondak Mountains. On the way the allies stopped at an
island, held a kind of review, and explained their tactics to
Champlain. They set no sentries and kept no strict watch at night,
being too tired; but during the daytime the army advanced as follows:
The main body marched in the centre along the warpath; a portion of
the troops diverged on either side to hunt up food for the expedition;
and a third section was told off for "intelligence" work, namely, they
ran on ahead and roundabout to locate the enemy, looking out
especially along the rivers for marks or signals showing whether
friends or enemies had passed that way. These marks were devised by
the chiefs of the different tribes, and were duly communicated to the
war leaders of tribes in friendship or alliance, like our cipher
codes; and equally they were changed from time to time to baffle the
enemy. Neither hunters nor main body ever got in front of the advance
guard, lest they should give an alarm. Thus they travelled until they
got within two days or so of the enemies' headquarters; thenceforward
they only marched by night, and hid in the woods by day, making no
fires or noise, and subsisting only on cooked maize meal.

At intervals the soothsayers accompanying the army were consulted for
signs and omens; and when the war-chiefs decided on their plan of
campaign they summoned all the fighting men to a smooth place in a
wood, cut sticks a foot long (as many as there were warriors), and
each leader of a division "put the sticks in such order as seemed to
him best, indicating to his followers the rank and order they were to
observe in battle. The warriors watched carefully this proceeding,
observing attentively the outline which their chief had made with the
sticks. Then they would go away and set to placing themselves in such
order as the sticks were in. This manoeuvre they repeated several
times, and at all their encampments, without needing a sergeant to
maintain them in the proper order they were able to keep accurately
the positions assigned to them" (Champlain).

The Hurons who were accompanying Champlain frequently questioned him
as to his dreams, they themselves having a great belief in the value
of dreams as omens and indications of future events. One day, when
they were approaching the country of the Iroquois, Champlain actually
did have a dream. In this he imagined that he saw the Iroquois enemies
drowning in a lake near a mountain. Moved to pity in his dream he
wished to help them, but his savage allies insisted that they must be
allowed to die. When he awoke he told the Amerindians of his dream,
and they were greatly impressed, as they regarded it as a good omen.

Near the modern town of Ticonderoga the Hurons and Algonkins of
Georgian Bay and Ottawa met a party of Iroquois, probably of the
Mohawk tribe. The Iroquois had built rapidly a stockade in which to
retreat if things should go badly with them, but the battle at first
began in the old heroic style with as much ceremony as a French duel.
First the allies from the St. Lawrence asked the Iroquois what time it
would suit them to begin fighting the next day; then the latter
replied: "When the sun is well up, if you don't mind? We can see
better then to kill you all." Accordingly in the bright morning the
Hurons and Algonkins advanced against the circular stockade of the
Iroquois, and the Iroquois marched out to fight in great pomp, their
leaders wearing plumed headdresses. With this exception both parties
fought quite naked, and armed only with bows and arrows.

"I marched twenty paces in advance of the rest" (wrote Champlain)
"till I was within about thirty paces of the Iroquois.... I rested my
musket against my cheek, and aimed directly at one of the three
chiefs. With the same shot two fell to the ground, and one of their
men was so wounded that he died some time afterwards. I had loaded my
musket with four balls. When they saw I had shot so favourably for
them, they (the Algonkins and Hurons) raised such loud cries that one
could not have heard it thunder.

"Meantime the arrows flew on both sides. The Iroquois were greatly
astonished that two men had been so quickly killed, though they were
equipped with armour woven from copper thread and with wood, which was
proof against their arrows."

Whilst Champlain was loading to fire again one of his two companions
fired a shot from the woods, whereupon the Iroquois took to flight,
abandoning their camp and fort. As they fled they threw off their
armour of wooden boards and cotton cloth.

As to the way in which the Hurons tortured their Iroquois prisoners,
Champlain writes of one instance.

"They commanded him (the prisoner) to sing, if he had courage, which
he did, but it was a very sad song." The Hurons kindled a fire, and
when it was well alight they each took a brand from the blaze, the end
of which was red-hot, and with this burnt the bodies of their
prisoners tied to stakes. Every now and then they stopped and threw
water over them to restore them from fainting. Then they tore out
their finger nails and applied fire to the extremities of the fingers.
After that they tore the scalps off their heads, and poured over the
raw and bleeding flesh a kind of hot gum. Then they pierced the arms
of the prisoners near the wrists, and drew up their sinews with sticks
inserted underneath, trying to tear them out by force, and, if
failing, cutting them. One poor wretch "uttered such terrible cries
that it excited my pity to see him treated in this manner, yet at
other times he showed such firmness that one would have said he
suffered scarcely any pain at all".

In this case Champlain, seeing that the man could not recover from his
injuries, drew apart and shot him dead, "thus putting an end to all
the tortures he would have suffered".

But the savage Hurons were not yet satisfied. They opened the corpse
and threw its entrails into the lake. Then they cut off head, arms,
and legs, and cut out the heart; this they minced up, and endeavoured
to force the other prisoners to eat it.

With those of his allies who were Montagnais Indians from Tadoussac,
Champlain returned to that place. As they neared the shore the
Montagnais women undressed themselves, jumped into the river, and swam
to the prows of the canoes, from which they took the heads of the
slain Iroquois. These they hung about their necks as if they had been
some costly chain, singing and dancing meanwhile.

However, in spite of these and other horrors, Champlain had "separated
from his Upper Canadian allies with loud protestations of mutual
friendship", promising to go again into their country and assist them
with continued "fraternal" relations.

From this expedition Champlain learned much regarding the geography of
eastern North America, and he brought back with him to France, to
present to King Henry IV, two scarlet tanagers--one of the commonest
and most beautiful birds of the eastern United States--a girdle of
porcupine quills made from the Canadian porcupine, and the head of a
gar-pike caught in Lake Champlain.[23]

[Footnote 23: Unconsciously, no doubt, he brought away with him to the
King of France one of the most remarkable freshwater fish living on
the North-American continent, for the gar-pike belongs, together with
the sturgeon and its allies, to an ancient type of fish the
representatives of which are found in rock formations as ancient as
those of the Secondary and Early Tertiary periods. Champlain may be
said to have discovered this remarkable gar-pike (_Lepidosteus
osseus_), which is covered with bony scales "so strong that a poniard
could not pierce them". The colour he describes as silver-grey. The
head has a snout two feet and a half long, and the jaws possess double
rows of sharp and dangerous teeth. These teeth were used by the
natives as lancets with which to bleed themselves when they suffered
from inflammation or headache. Champlain declares that the gar-pike
often captures and eats water birds. It would swim in and among rushes
or reeds and then raise its snout out of the water and keep perfectly
still. Birds would mistake this snout for the stump of a tree and
would attempt to alight on it; whereupon the fish would seize them by
the legs and pull them down under the water.]

On Champlain's return from France in 1610 (he and other Frenchmen and
Englishmen of the time made surprisingly little fuss about crossing
the North Atlantic in small sailing vessels, in spite of the storms of
spring and autumn) he found the Iroquois question still agitating the
minds of the Algonkins, Montagnais, and Hurons. Representatives of
these tribes were ready to meet this great captain of the _Mistigosh_
or _Matigosh_[24] (as they called the French), and implored him to
keep his promise to take part in another attack on the dreaded enemy
of the Adirondak heights. Apparently the Iroquois (Mohawks) this time
had advanced to meet the attack, and were ensconced in a round
fortress of logs built near the Richelieu River.[25] The Algonkins and
their allies on this expedition were armed with clubs, swords, and
shields, as well as bows and arrows. The swords of copper(?) were
really knife blades attached to long sticks like billhooks. Before the
barricade, as usual, both parties commenced the fight by hurling
insults at each other till they were out of breath, and shouting "till
one could not have heard it thunder". The circular log barricade,
however, would never have been taken by the Algonkins and their
allies but for the assistance of Champlain and three or four
Frenchmen, who with their musketry fire at short range paralysed the
Iroquois. Champlain and one other Frenchman were wounded with arrows
in the neck and arm, but not seriously. The victory of the allies was
followed by the usual torture of prisoners, which Champlain made a
slight--only slight--attempt to prevent.

[Footnote 24: Spelt by Champlain with a "ch" instead of _sh_.]

[Footnote 25: Then called the Rivière des Iroquois.]

But results far more serious arose from these two skirmishes with the
Iroquois in 1609 and 1610. The Confederacy of the Five Nations
(afterwards six) realized that they had been attacked unprovoked by
the dominant white men of the St. Lawrence, called by the Montagnais
_Mistigosh_, and by the Iroquois _Adoreset[¯u]i_ ("men of iron", from
their armour). They became the bitter enemies of the French, and
tendered help first to the Dutch to establish themselves in the valley
of the Hudson, and secondly to the English. In the great Colonial wars
of the early eighteenth century the Iroquois were invaluable allies to
the British forces, Colonial and Imperial, and counted for much in the
struggle which eventually cost France Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,
Maine, the two Canadas, and Louisiana. On the other hand, the French
alliance with the Hurons, Algonkins, and Montagnais, begun by this
brotherhood-in-arms with Champlain, secured for France and the French
such widespread liking among the tribes of Algonkin speech, and their
allies and friends, that the two Canadas and much of the Middle West,
together with Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois, became French in
sympathy without any war of conquest. When the French dominion over
North America fell, in 1759, with the capture of Quebec by Wolfe's
army, tribes of Amerindians went on fighting for five years afterwards
to uphold the banner and the rule of the beloved French king.

On Champlain's next visit to Canada, in 1610, he handed over to the
Algonkin Indians a French youth named Étienne Brulé (see p. 88), to
be taught the Algonkin language (the use of which was spread far and
wide over north-east America), and, further, sent a Huron youth to
France to be taught French. Between 1611 and 1616 he had explored much
of the country between Montreal (the foundations of which city he may
be said to have laid on May 29, 1611, for his stockaded camp is now in
the centre of it) and Lakes Huron and Ontario, especially along the
Ottawa River, that convenient short cut (as a water route) between the
St. Lawrence at Sault St. Louis (Montreal) and Lakes Huron and
Superior. With short portages you can get in canoes from Montreal to
the waters of Hudson Bay, or to Lake Winnipeg and the base of the
Rocky Mountains.

In exploring this "River of the Algonkins" (as he called it),
Champlain was nearly drowned between two rocks, and much hurt, from
over bravery and want of knowledge of how to deal with a canoe on
troubled water; but on June 4, 1613, he stood on the site of the
modern city of Ottawa--the capital of the vast Canadian Dominion--and
gazed at the marvellous Rideau or Curtain Fall, where the Rideau River
enters the Ottawa. But the air was resonant with the sound of falling
water. Three miles above the falls of the Gatineau and the Rideau, the
main Ottawa River descended with a roar and a whirl of white foam and
rainbow-tinted mist into the chasm called the Chaudière or Kettle. On
a later occasion he describes the way in which the Algonkins
propitiated the Spirit of the Chasm:

"Continuing our way, we came to the Chaudière Falls, where the savages
carried out their customary ceremony. After transporting their canoes
to the foot of the fall they assemble in one spot, where one of them
takes up a collection on a wooden platter, into which each person puts
a bit of tobacco. The collection having been made, the plate is placed
in the midst of the troop, and all dance about it, singing after
their style. Then one of the captains makes an harangue, setting forth
that for a long time they have been accustomed to make this offering,
by which means they are ensured protection against their enemies, that
otherwise misfortune would befall them from the evil spirit. This
done, the maker of the harangue takes the plate and throws the tobacco
into the midst of the cauldron (the chasm of foaming water), whereupon
they all together raise a loud cry. These poor people are so
superstitious, that they would not believe it possible for them to
make a prosperous journey without observing this ceremony at this
place; for sometimes their enemies (Iroquois) await them at this
portage, not venturing to go any farther on account of the difficulty
of the journey. Consequently they are occasionally surprised and
killed by the Iroquois at this place (the south bank of the Ottawa)."

Above the Chaudière Champlain met the Algonkin chief, Tessouat, and
thus described the burial places of his tribe:

"On visiting the island I observed their cemeteries, and was struck
with wonder as I saw sepulchres of a shape like shrines, made of
pieces of wood fixed in the ground at a distance of about three feet
from each other, and intersecting at the upper end. On the
intersections above they place a large piece of wood, and in front
another upright piece on which is carved roughly, as would be
expected, the figure of the male or female interred. If it is a man,
they add a shield, a sword attached to a handle after their manner, a
mace, and bow and arrows. If it is a chief, there is a plume on his
head, and some other _matachia_ or embellishment. If it is a child,
they give it a bow and arrow, if a woman or girl, a boiler, an earthen
vessel, a wooden spoon, and an oar. The entire sepulchre is six or
seven feet long at most, and four wide; others are smaller. They are
painted yellow and red, with various ornaments as neatly done as the
carving. The deceased is buried with his dress of beaver or other
skins which he wore when living, and they lay by his side all his
possessions, as hatchets, knives, boilers, and awls, so that these
things may serve him in the land whither he goes; for they believe in
the immortality of the soul, as I have elsewhere observed. These
carved sepulchres are only made for the warriors, for in respect to
others they add no more than in the case of women, who are considered
a useless class, accordingly but little is added in their case."

In the summer of 1615 Champlain, returning from France, made his way
up the Ottawa River, and, by a short portage, to Lake Nipissing,
thence down French River to the waters of Lake Huron. On the banks of
the French River he met a detachment of the Ottawa tribe (of the
Algonkin family). These people he styled the _Cheveux Relevés_,
because the men's hair was gathered up and dressed more carefully and
becomingly on the top of the head than (he says) could at that time be
done by a hairdresser in France. This arrangement of the hair gave the
men a very handsome appearance, but here their toilet ended, for they
wore no clothes whatever (in the summertime), making up for this
simplicity by painting their faces in different colours, piercing
their ears and nostrils and decorating them with shell beads, and
tattooing their bodies and limbs with elaborate patterns.

These Ottawas carried a club, a long bow and arrows, and a round
shield of dressed leather, made (wrote Champlain) "from the skin of an
animal like the buffalo".[26] The chief of the party explained many
things to the white man by drawing with a piece of charcoal on the
white bark of the birch tree. He gave him to understand that the
present occupation of his band of warriors was the gathering of
blueberries, which would be dried in the sun, and could then be
preserved for eating during the winter.

[Footnote 26: This was the first intimation probably that any European
sent home for publication regarding the existence of the bison in
North America, though the Spanish explorers nearly a hundred years
before Champlain must have met with it in travelling through
Louisiana, Texas, and northern Mexico. The bison is not known ever to
have existed near Hudson Bay, or in Canada proper (basin of the St.
Lawrence). South of Canada it penetrated to Pennsylvania and the
Susquehanna River, but not farther eastward.]

From French River, Champlain passed southwards to the homeland of the
Hurons, which lay to the east of what Champlain called "the Fresh
Water Sea" (Lake Huron). This country he describes in enthusiastic
terms. The Hurons, like the other Iroquois tribes (and unlike the
hunting races to the north of them), were agriculturists, and
cultivated pumpkins, sunflowers,[27] beans and Indian corn.

[Footnote 27: The Amerindians of the Lake regions made much use of the
sunflowers of the region (_Helianthus multiflorus_). Besides this
species of sunflower already mentioned, which furnishes tubers from
its roots (the "Jerusalem" artichoke) others were valued for their
seeds, and some or all of these are probably the originals of the
cultivated sunflower in European gardens. The largest of these was
called _Soleille_ by the French Canadians. It grew in the cultivated
fields of the Amerindians to seven or eight feet in height, with an
enormous flower. The seeds were carefully collected and boiled. Their
oil was collected then from the water and was used to grease the hair.
This same Huron country (the Simcoe country of modern times) was
remarkable for its wild fruits. There was the Canada plum (_Prunus
americana_), the wild black cherry (_Prunus serotina_), the red
cherries (_P. pennsylvanica_), the choke cherry (_P. virginiana_),
wild apples (_Pyrus coronaria_), wild pears (a small berry-like pear
called "poire" by the French: _Pyrus canadensis_), and the may-apple
(_Podophyllum peltatum_). Champlain describes this may-apple as of the
form and colour of a small lemon with a similar taste, but having an
interior which is very good and almost like that of figs. The
may-apples grow on a plant which is two and a half feet high, with not
more than three or four leaves like those of the fig tree, and only
two fruits on each plant.]

The Hurons persuaded Champlain to go with them to attack the Iroquois
tribe of the Senekas (Entuhónorons) on the south shores of Lake
Ontario. On the way thither he noticed the abundance of stags and
bears, and, near the lake, of cranes, white and purple-brown.[28]

[Footnote 28: The cranes of Canada--so often alluded to by the French
explorers as "Grues"--are of two species, _Grus canadensis_, with its
plumage of a purple-grey, and _Grus americanus_, which is pure white
(see p. 139).]

On the southern shores of the lake[29] were large numbers of chestnut
trees, "whose fruit was still in the burr. The chestnuts are small but
of a good flavour." The southern country was covered with forests,
with very few clearings. After crossing the Oneida River the Hurons
captured eleven of the Senekas, four women, one girl, three boys, and
three men. The people had left the stockade in which their relations
were living to go and fish by the lake shore. One of the Huron
chiefs--the celebrated Iroquet, who had been so much associated with
Champlain from the time of his arrival--proceeded at once to cut off
the finger of one of these women prisoners. Whereupon Champlain,
firmer than in years gone by, interposed and reprimanded him, pointing
out that it was not the act of a warrior such as he declared himself
to be, to conduct himself with cruelty towards women "who had no
defence but their tears, so that one should treat them with humanity
on account of their helplessness and weakness". Champlain went on to
say that this act was base and brutal, and that if he committed any
more of such cruelties he, Champlain, "would have no heart to assist
or favour them in the war". To this Iroquet replied that their enemies
treated them in the same manner, but that since this was displeasing
to the Frenchmen he would not do anything more to women, but he would
not promise to refrain from torturing the men.

[Footnote 29: Lakes Ontario and Huron were probably first actually
reached by Father Le Caron, a Recollett missionary who came out with
Champlain in 1615 (see p. 90), and by Étienne Brulé, Champlain's

However, in the subsequent fighting which occurred when they reached
the six-sided stockade of the Senekas (a strong fortification which
faced a large pond on one side, and was surrounded by a moat
everywhere else except at the entrance), the Hurons and Algonkins
showed a great lack of discipline. Champlain and the few Frenchmen
with him, by using their arquebuses, drove the enemy back into the
fort, but not without having some of their Indian allies wounded or
killed. Champlain proposed to the Hurons that they should erect what
was styled in French a _cavalier_--a kind of box, with high, loopholed
sides, which was erected on a tall scaffolding of stout timbers. This
was to be carried by the Hurons to within a pike's length of the
stockade. Four French arquebusiers then scrambled up into the
_cavalier_ and fired through the loopholes into the huts of the Seneka
town. Meantime the Hurons were to set fire, if possible, to the wooden
stockade. They managed the whole business so stupidly that the fire
produced no effect, the flames being blown in the opposite direction
to that which was desired. The brave Senekas threw water on to the
blazing sticks and put out the fire. Champlain was wounded by an arrow
in the leg and knee. The reinforcement of the five hundred Hurons
expected by the allies did not turn up. The Hurons with Champlain lost
heart, and insisted on retreating. Only the dread of the French
firearms prevented the retreat being converted into a complete
disaster. Whenever the Senekas came near enough to get speech with the
French they asked them "why they interfered with native quarrels".

Champlain being unable to walk, the Hurons made a kind of basket,
similar to that in which they carried their wounded. In this he was so
crowded into a heap, and bound and pinioned, that it was as impossible
for him to move "as it would be for an infant in his swaddling
clothes". This treatment caused him considerable pain after he had
been carried for some days; in fact he suffered agonies while fastened
in this way on to the back of a savage.

He was afterwards obliged to pass the winter of 1615-6 in the Huron
country. At that time it swarmed with game. Amongst birds, there were
swans, white cranes, brent-geese, ducks, teal, the redbreasted thrush
(which the Americans call "robin"), brown larks (_Anthus_), snipe, and
other birds too numerous to mention, which Champlain seems to have
brought down with his fowling-piece in sufficient quantities to feed
the whole party whilst waiting for the capture of deer on a large

Meanwhile, many of the Indians were catching fish, "trout and pike of
prodigious size". When they desired to secure a large number of deer,
they would make an enclosure in a fir forest in the form of the two
converging sides of a triangle, with an open base. The two sides of
these traps were made of great stakes of wood closely pressed
together, from 8 to 9 feet high; and each of the sides was 1000 yards
long. At the point of the triangle there was a little enclosure. The
Hurons were so expeditious in this work that in less than ten days
these long fences and the "pound" or enclosure at their convergence
were finished. They then started before daybreak and scattered
themselves in the woods at a considerable distance behind the
commencement of these fences, each man separated from his fellow by
about 80 yards. Every Huron carried two pieces of wood, one like a
drumstick and the other like a flat, resonant board. They struck the
flat piece of wood with the drumstick and it made a loud clanging
sound. The deer who swarmed in the forest, hearing this noise, fled
before the savages, who drove them steadily towards the converging
fences. As they closed up, the Hurons imitated very cleverly the
yapping of wolves. This frightened the deer still more, so that they
huddled at last into the final enclosure, where they were so tightly
packed that they were completely at the men's mercy. "I assure you,"
writes Champlain, "there is a singular pleasure in this chase, which
takes place every two days, and has been so successful that in
thirty-eight days one hundred and twenty deer were captured. These
were made good use of, the fat being kept for the winter to be used as
we do butter, and some of the flesh to be taken to their homes for
their festivities."

Champlain himself, in the winter of 1615, pursuing one day a
remarkable bird "which was the size of a hen, had a beak like a parrot
and was entirely yellow, except for a red head and blue wings, and
which had the flight of the partridge"--a bird I cannot
identify--lost his way in the woods. For two days he wandered in the
wilderness, sustaining himself by shooting birds and roasting them.
But at last he found his way back to a river which he recognized, and
reached the camp of the Hurons, who were extremely delighted at his
return. Had they not found him, or had he not come back of himself,
they told him that they could never again have visited the French for
fear of being held responsible for his death.

By the month of December of this year (1615) the rivers, lakes, and
ponds were all frozen. Hitherto, Champlain had had to walk when he
could not travel in a canoe, and carry a load of twenty pounds, while
the Indians carried a hundred pounds each. But now the water was
frozen the Hurons set to work and made their sledges. These were
constructed of two pieces of board, manufactured from the trunks of
trees by the patient use of a stone axe and by the application of
fire. These boards were about 6 inches wide, and 6 or 7 feet long,
curved upwards at the forward end and bound together by cross pieces.
The sides were bordered with strips of wood, which served as brackets
to which was fastened the strap that bound the baggage upon the
sledge. The load was dragged by a rope or strap of leather passing
round the breast of the Indian, and attached to the end of the sledge.
The sledge was so narrow that it could be drawn easily without
impediment wherever an Indian could thread his way over the snow
through the pathless forests.

The rest of the winter and early spring Champlain spent alone, or in
company with Father Joseph Le Caron (one of the Recollet
missionaries), visiting the Algonkin and Huron tribes in the region
east of Lake Huron. He has left this description of the modern country
of Simcoe, the home, three hundred years ago, of the long-vanished
Hurons[30]; and gives us the following particulars of their home
life. The Huron country was a pleasant land, most of it cleared of
forest. It contained eighteen villages, six of which were enclosed and
fortified by palisades of wood in triple rows, bound together, on the
top of which were galleries provided with stores of stones, and
birch-bark buckets of water; the stones to throw at an enemy, and the
water to extinguish any fire which might be put to the palisades.
These eighteen villages contained about two thousand warriors, and
about thirty thousand people in all. The houses were in the shape of
tunnels, and were thatched with the bark of trees. Each lodge or house
would be about 120 feet long, more or less, and 36 feet wide, with a
10-foot passage-way through the middle from one end to the other. On
either side of the tunnel were placed benches 4 feet high, on which
the people slept in summer in order to avoid the annoyance of the
fleas which swarmed in these habitations. In winter time they slept on
the ground on mats near the fire. In the summer the cabins were filled
with stocks of wood to dry and be ready for burning in winter. At the
end of each of these long houses was a space in which the Indian corn
was preserved in great casks made of the bark of trees. Inside the
long houses pieces of wood were suspended from the roof, on to which
were fastened the clothes, provisions, and other things of the
inmates, to keep them from the attacks of the mice which swarmed in
these villages. Each hut might be inhabited by twenty-four families,
who would maintain twelve fires. The smoke, having no proper means of
egress except at either end of the long dwelling, and through the
chinks of the roof, so injured their eyes during the winter season
that many people lost their sight as they grew old.

[Footnote 30: They were almost completely exterminated by the Iroquois
confederacy between thirty and forty years after Champlain's visit.]

"Their life", writes Champlain, "is a miserable one in comparison
with our own, but they are happy amongst themselves, not having
experienced anything better, nor imagining that anything more
excellent could be found."

These Amerindians ordinarily ate two meals a day, and although
Champlain and his men fasted all through Lent, "in order to influence
them by our example", that was one of the practices they did _not_
copy from the French.

The Hurons of this period painted their faces black and red, mixing
the colours with oil made from sunflower seed, or with bears' fat. The
hair was carefully combed and oiled, and sometimes dyed a reddish
colour; it might be worn long or short, or only on one side of the
head. The women usually dressed theirs in one long plait. Sometimes it
was done up into a knot at the back of the head, bound with eelskin.
The men were usually dressed in deerskin breeches, with gaiters of
soft leather. The shoes ("Moccasins") were made of the skin of deer,
bears, or beavers. In addition to this the men in cold weather wore a
great cloak. The edges of these cloaks would often be decorated with
bands of brown and red colour alternating with strips of a
whitish-blue, and ornamented with bands of porcupine quills. These,
which were originally white or grey in colour, had been previously
dyed a fine scarlet with colouring matter from the root of the
bed-straw (_Galium tinctorum_). The women were loaded with necklaces
of violet or white shell beads, bracelets, ear-rings, and great
strings of beads falling below the waist. Sometimes they would have
plates of leather studded with shell beads and hanging over the back.


In 1616 Champlain returned to France, but visited Quebec in 1617 and
1618. During the years spent at Quebec, which followed his
explorations of 1616, he was greatly impeded in his work of
consolidating Canada as a French colony by the religious strife
between the Catholics and Huguenots, and the narrow-minded greed of
the Chartered company of fur-trading merchants for whom he worked. But
in 1620 he came back to Canada as Lieutenant-Governor (bringing his
wife with him), and after attending to the settlement of a violent
commercial dispute between fur-trading companies he tried to compose
the quarrel between the Iroquois and the Algonkins, and brought about
a truce which lasted till 1627.

In 1628 came the first English attack on Canada. A French fleet was
defeated and captured in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in the
following year Champlain, having been obliged to surrender Quebec (he
had only sixteen soldiers as a garrison, owing to lack of food),
voyaged to England more or less as a prisoner of state in the summer
of 1629. He found, on arriving there, that the cession of Quebec was
null and void, peace having been concluded between Britain and France
two months before the cession. Charles I remained true to his compact
with Louis XIII, and Quebec and Nova Scotia were restored to French
keeping. In 1633 Champlain returned to Canada as Governor, bringing
with him a considerable number of French colonists. _It is from 1633
that the real French colonization of Canada begins_: hitherto there
had been only one family of settlers in the fixed sense of the word;
the other Frenchmen were fur traders, soldiers, and missionaries. But
Champlain only lived two years after his triumphant return, and died
at Quebec on Christmas Day, 1635.

His character has been so well summed up by Dr. S.E. Dawson, in his
admirable book on the _Story of the St. Lawrence Basin_, that I cannot
do better than quote his words:

"Champlain was as much at home in the brilliant court of France as in
a wigwam on a Canadian lake, as patient and politic with a wild band
of savages on Lake Huron as with a crowd of grasping traders in St.
Malo or Dieppe. Always calm, always unselfish, always depending on
God, in whom he believed and trusted, and thinking of France, which he
loved, this single-hearted man resolutely followed the path of his
duty under all circumstances; never looking for ease or asking for
profit, loved by the wild people of the forest, respected by the
courtiers of the king, and trusted by the close-fisted merchants of
the maritime cities of France."


After Champlain: from Montreal to the Mississippi

A very remarkable series of further explorations were carried out as
the indirect result of Champlain's work. In 1610 he had allowed a
French boy of about eighteen years of age, named ÉTIENNE BRULÉ, to
volunteer to go away with the Algonkins, in order to learn their
language. Brulé was taken in hand by Iroquet,[1] a chief of the
"Little Algonkins", whose people were then occupying the lands on
either side of the Ottawa River, including the site of the now great
city of Ottawa. After four years of roaming with the Indians, Brulé
was dispatched by Champlain with an escort of twelve Algonkins to the
headwaters of the Suskuehanna, far to the south of Lake Ontario, in
order to warn the Andastes[2] tribe of military operations to be
undertaken by the allied French, Hurons, and Algonkins against the
Iroquois. This enabled Brulé to explore Lake Ontario and to descend
the River Suskuehanna as far south as Chesapeake Bay, a truly
extraordinary journey at the period. This region of northern Virginia
had just been surveyed by the English, and was soon to be the site of
the first English colony in North America.[3]

[Footnote 1: Mentioned on p. 80.]

[Footnote 2: The Andastes were akin to the Iroquois, but did not
belong to their confederacy; they lived in Pennsylvania.]

[Footnote 3: The inaccurate statement has frequently been written
about Newfoundland being "the first British American colony".
Newfoundland was reached by the ship in which John Cabot sailed on his
1497 voyage of discovery, and a few years afterwards its shores were
sought by the English in common with the French and the Portuguese,
and later on the Spaniards and Basques, for the cod fishery. But no
definite British settlement, such as subsequently grew into an actual
colony, was founded in Newfoundland until the year 1624; the island
was not recognized as definitely British till 1713, and no governor
was appointed till 1728. The first permanent English colonial
settlement in America was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607; and
in the Bermudas and Barbados (West Indies) soon afterwards.]

In attempting to return to the valley of the St. Lawrence in 1616,
with his Andaste guides, Brulé lost his way, and to avoid starvation
surrendered himself to the Seneka Indians (the westernmost clan of the
Iroquois) against whom the recent warlike operations of the French
were being directed. Discovering his nationality, the Senekas decided
to torture him before burning him to death at the stake. As they tore
off his clothes they found that he was wearing an _Agnus Dei_ medal
next his skin. Brulé told them to be careful, as it was a medicine of
great power which would certainly kill them. By a coincidence, at that
very moment a terrific thunderstorm burst from a sky which until
recently had been all sunshine. The Senekas were so scared by the
thunder and lightning that they believed Brulé to be a person of
supernatural powers. They therefore released him, strove to heal such
slight wounds as he had incurred, and carried him off to their
principal town, where he became a great favourite. After a while they
gave him guides to take him north into the country of the Hurons.

His further adventures led him to discover Lake Superior and the way
thither through the Sault Ste. Marie, and to reach a place probably
not far from the south coast of Hudson Bay, in which there was a
copper mine. Then he explored the Montagnais country north of Quebec,
and even at one time (in 1629) entered the service of the English, who
had captured Quebec and Tadoussac from the French. When the English
left this region Brulé travelled again to the west and joined the
Hurons once more.

His licentious conduct amongst his Indian friends seems to have
roused them to such a pitch of anger that in 1632 they murdered him,
then boiled and ate his body. But immediately afterwards misfortune
seemed to fall on the place. The Hurons were terrified at what they
had done, and thought they heard or saw in the sky the spirits of the
white relations of Brulé--some said the sister, some the
uncle--threatening their town (Toanche), which they soon afterwards
burnt and deserted.

In 1615 Champlain, returning from France, had brought out with him
friars of the Récollet order.[4] These were the pioneer missionaries
of Canada, prominent amongst whom was FATHER LE CARON, and these
Récollets traversed the countries in the basin of the St. Lawrence
between Lake Huron and Cape Breton Island, preaching Christianity to
the Amerindians as well as ministering to the French colonists and fur
traders. One of these Récollet missionaries died of cold and hunger in
attempting to cross New Brunswick from the St. Lawrence to the Bay of
Fundy, and another--Nicholas Viel--was the first martyr in Canada in
the spread of Christianity, for when travelling down the Ottawa River
to Montreal he was thrown by the pagan Hurons (together with one of
his converts) into the waters of a rapid since christened Sault le
Récollet. Another Récollet, Father d'Aillon, prompted by Brulé,
explored the richly fertile, beautiful country known then as the
territory of the Neutral nation, that group of Huron-Iroquois
Amerindians who strove to keep aloof from the fierce struggles between
the Algonkins and Hurons on the one hand and the eastern Iroquois
clans on the other. This region, which lies between the Lakes
Ontario, Erie, and Huron, is the most attractive portion of western
Canada. Lying in the southernmost parts of the Dominion, and nearly
surrounded by sheets of open water, it has a far milder climate than
the rest of eastern Canada.

[Footnote 4: The Récollet (properly Recollect) friars were a strict
branch of the Franciscan order that were sometimes called the
Observantines. They were also known as "Recollects" (pronounced in
French _récollet_) because they were required to be constantly keeping
guard over their thoughts. This development of the Franciscan order of
preaching missionary friars was originally a Spanish one, founded
early in the sixteenth century, and becoming well established in the
Spanish Netherlands. Many of them were Flemings or Walloons.]

In 1626 the Jesuit order supplanted the Récollets, and commenced a
campaign both of Christian propaganda and of geographical exploration
which has scarcely finished in the Canada of to-day.

In 1627 the war between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Huron and
Algonkin tribes recommenced, and this, together with the British
capture of Quebec and other portions of Canada, put a stop for several
years to the work of exploration. This was not resumed on an advanced
scale till 1634, when Champlain, unable himself, from failing health,
to carry out his original commission of seeking a direct passage to
China and India across the North-American continent, dispatched a
Norman Frenchman named JEAN NICOLLET to find a way to the Western Sea.
Nicollet, as a very young man, had lived for years amongst the
Amerindian tribes, especially amongst the Nipissings near the lake of
that name. Being charged, amongst other things, with the task of
making peace between the Hurons and the tribes dwelling to the west of
the great lakes, Nicollet discovered Lake Michigan. He was so
convinced of the possibility of arriving at the Pacific Ocean, and
thence making his way to China, that in the luggage which he carried
in his birch-bark canoe was a dress of ceremony made of Chinese damask
silk embroidered richly with birds and flowers. He was on his way to
discover the Winnebago Indians, or "Men of the Sea", of whom Champlain
had heard from the Hurons, with whom they were at war. But the great
water from which they derived their name was not in this instance a
sea, but the Mississippi River. The Winnebago Indians were totally
distinct from the Algonkins or the Iroquois, and belonged to the
Dakota stock, from which the great Siou confederation[5] was also

[Footnote 5: See p. 160.]

Nicollet advanced to meet the Winnebagos clad in his Chinese robe and
with a pistol in each hand. As he drew near he discharged his pistols,
and the women and children fled in terror, for all believed him to be
a supernatural being, a spirit wielding thunder and lightning.
However, when they recovered from their terror the Winnebagos gave him
a hearty welcome, and got up such lavish feasts in his honour, that
one chief alone cooked 120 beavers at a single banquet.

Nicollet certainly reached the water-parting between the systems
of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi, and under that
name--Misi-sipi--"great water"--he heard through the Algonkin Indians
of a mighty river lying three days' journey westward from his last
camp. Winnebago (from which root is also derived the names of the
Lakes Winnipeg and Winnipegosis much farther to the north-west) meant
"salt" or "foul" water. Both terms might therefore be applied to the
sea, and also to the lakes and rivers which, in the minds of the
Amerindians, were equally vast in length or breadth.

From 1648 to 1653 the whole of the Canada known to the French settlers
and explorers was convulsed by the devastating warfare carried on by
the Iroquois, who during that period destroyed the greater part of the
Algonkin and Huron clans. The neutral nation of Lake Erie (the Erigas)
was scattered, and between the shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron and
Montreal the country was practically depopulated, except for the
handfuls of French settlers and traders who trembled behind their
fortifications. Then, to the relief and astonishment of the French,
one of the Iroquois clans--the Onondaga--proposed terms of peace,
probably because they had no more enemies to fight of their own
colour, and wished to trade with the French.

The fur trade of the Quebec province had attracted an increasing
number of French people (men bringing their wives) to such settlements
as Tadoussac and Three Rivers. Amongst these were the parents of
PIERRE ESPRIT RADISSON. This young man went hunting near Three Rivers
station and was captured in the woods by Mohawks (Iroquois) who
carried him off to one of their towns and intended to burn him alive.
Having bound him at a stake, they proceeded to tear out some of his
finger nails and shoot arrows at the less vital parts of his body. But
a Mohawk woman was looking on and was filled with pity at the
sufferings of this handsome boy. She announced her intention of
adopting him as a member of her family, and by sheer force of will she
compelled the men to release him. After staying for some time amongst
the Mohawks he escaped, but was again captured just as he was nearing
Three Rivers. Once more he was spared from torture at the intercession
of his adopted relations. He then made an even bolder bid for freedom,
and fled to the south, up the valley of the Richelieu and the Hudson,
and thus reached the most advanced inland post of Dutch America--then
called Orange, now Albany--on the Hudson River. From this point he was
conveyed to Holland, and from Holland he returned to Canada.

Soon after his return he joined two Jesuit fathers who were to visit a
mission station of the Jesuits amongst the Onondagas (Iroquois) on a
lakelet about thirty miles south-east of the present city of
Rochester. The Iroquois (whose language Radisson had learnt to speak)
received them with apparent friendliness, and there they passed the
winter. But in the spring Radisson found out that the Onondaga
Iroquois were intending to massacre the whole of the mission.
Instructed by him, the Jesuits pretended to have no suspicions of the
coming attack, but all the while they were secretly building canoes at
their fort. As soon as they were ready for flight, and the sun of
April had completely melted the ice in the River Oswego, the French
missionaries invited the Onondagas to a great feast, no doubt making
out that it was part of the Easter festivities sanctioned by the
Church. They pointed out to their guests that from religious motives
as well as those of politeness it was essential that the _whole_ of
the food provided should be eaten, "nothing was to be left on the
plate". They set before their savage guests an enormous banquet of
maize puddings, roast pigs, roast ducks, game birds, and fish of many
kinds, even terrapins, or freshwater turtles. The Iroquois ate and ate
until even _their_ appetites were satisfied. Then they began to cry
off; but the missionaries politely insisted, and even told them that
in failing to eat they were neglecting their religious duties. To help
them in this respect they played hymn and psalm tunes on musical
instruments. At last the Onondagas were gorged to repletion, and sank
into a stertorous slumber at sunset. Whilst they slept, the Jesuits,
their converts, and Radisson got into the already prepared canoes and
paddled quickly down the Oswego River far beyond pursuit.

Radisson next joined his brother-in-law, Medard Chouart, and after
narrowly escaping massacre by the Iroquois (once more on the warpath
along the Ottawa River) reached the northern part of Lake Huron, and
Green Bay on the north-west of Lake Michigan. From Green Bay they
travelled up the Fox River and across a portage to the Wisconsin,
which flows into the Mississippi. Down this river they sped, meeting
people of the great Siou confederation and Kri (Cree) Indians, these
last an Algonkin nation roaming in the summertime as far north as
Hudson's Bay, until at length they reached the actual waters of the
Mississippi, first of all white men. Returning then to Lake Michigan,
the shores of which seemed to them an earthly paradise with a climate
finer than Italy, they journeyed northwards into Lake Huron, and
thence north-westwards through the narrow passages of St. Mary's River
into Lake Superior. The southern coast of Lake Superior was followed
to its westernmost point, where they made a camp, and from which they
explored during the winter (in snowshoes) the Wisconsin country and
collected information regarding the Mississippi and its great western
affluent the Missouri. The Mississippi, they declared, led to Mexico,
while the other great forked river in the far west was a pathway,
perhaps, to the Southern Sea (Pacific).

The Jesuits, on the other hand, were convinced that Hudson's Bay (or
the "Bay of the North") was at no great distance from Lake Superior
(which was true) and that it must communicate to the north-west with
the Pacific Ocean or the sea that led to China.

In 1661, without the leave of the French Governor of Canada, who
wanted them to take two servants of his own with them and to give him
half the profits of the venture, Chouart and Radisson hurried away to
the west, picked up large bodies of natives who were returning to the
regions north of Lake Huron, with them fought their way through the
ambushed Iroquois, and once more navigated the waters of Lake
Superior. Once again they started for the Mississippi basin and
explored the country of Minnesota, coming thus into contact with
native tribes which lived on the flesh of the bison. In Minnesota they
met a second time the Kri or Kinistino Indians of north-central
Canada, and joined one of their camps in the spring of 1662, somewhere
to the west of Lake Superior. With Kri guides they started away to the
north and north-east, no doubt by way of the Lake of the Woods, the
English River, Lake St. Joseph, and the Albany River, thus reaching
the salt sea at James Bay, the southernmost extension of Hudson Bay.
Or they may have proceeded by an even shorter route, though with
longer portages for canoes, through Lake Nipigon to the Albany.

The summer of 1662 they passed on the islands and shores of James Bay
hunting "buffalo"[6] with the Indians. Then, in 1663, travelling back
along the same route they had followed in the previous year, they
regained Lake Superior, and so passed by the north of Lake Huron to
the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence. But on their return to Three
Rivers they were arrested by the French Governor, D'Avaugour, who
condemned them to imprisonment and severe fines. The courts of France
gave them no redress, and in their furious anger Chouart and Radisson
went over to the English, offered their services to England, and so
brought about the creation of the Hudson Bay Company.

[Footnote 6: More probably musk oxen.]

Radisson's journey from England to Hudson Bay has been treated of in
an earlier chapter: it is preferable to follow out to its finish the
great, western impulse of the French, which led them to neglect for a
time the doings of the British on the east coast of North America and
in the sub-Arctic regions of Hudson Bay.

From 1660 onwards the Jesuit missionaries again took up vigorously
that work of Christianizing the Amerindians which had been so
completely checked by the frightful ravages of the Iroquois between
1648 and 1654.

By 1669 the Jesuits had three permanent stations in western Canada.
The first was the mission station at Sault Ste. Marie, the second was
the station of Ste. Esprit, on Lake Superior (not far from the modern
town of Ashland), and the third was the station of St. François Xavier
at the mouth of the Fox River, on Green Bay, Lake Michigan.

As regards some of the sufferings which these missionaries had to go
through when travelling across Canada in the winter, I quote the
following from _The Relations of the Jesuits_ (p. 35):--

"I [Father de Crépieul] set out on the 16th of January, 1674, from the
vicinity of Lake St. John, near the Saguenay River, with an Algonkin
captain and two Frenchmen. We started after Mass, and walked five long
leagues on snowshoes with much trouble, because the snow was soft and
made our snowshoes very heavy. At the end of five leagues, we found
ourselves on a lake four or five leagues long all frozen over, on
which the wind caused great quantities of snow to drift, obscuring the
air and preventing us from seeing where we are going. After walking
another league and a half with great difficulty our strength began to
fail. The wind, cold, and snow were so intolerable that they compelled
us to retrace our steps a little, to cut some branches of fir which
might in default of bark serve to build a cabin. After this we tried
to light a fire, but were unable to do so. We were thus reduced to a
most pitiful condition. The cold was beginning to seize us to an
extraordinary degree, the darkness was great, and the wind blew
fearfully. In order to keep ourselves from dying with cold, we resumed
our march on the lake in spite of our fatigue, without knowing whither
we were going, and all were greatly impeded with the wind and snow.
After walking a league and a half we had to succumb in spite of
ourselves and stop where we were. The danger we ran of dying from cold
caused me to remember the charitable Father de Noue, who in a similar
occasion was found dead in the snow, kneeling and with clasped
hands.... We therefore remained awake during the rest of the night....
On the following morning two Frenchmen arrived from Father Albanel's
cabin very opportunely, and kindled a great fire on the snow.... After
this we resumed our journey on the same lake, and at last reached the
spot where Father Albanel was.... A serious injury, caused by the fall
of a heavy load upon his loins, prevented him from moving, and still
more, from performing a missionary's duties."

One of the Jesuit fathers, Allouez, in founding the station of St.
François Xavier on Green Bay, Lake Michigan, had gained further
information about the wonderful Mississippi, which he called "Messi
Sipi". He also thoroughly explored Lake Nipigon, to the north of Lake
Superior. In 1669 two missionaries, named Dollier de Casson and
Galinée, started from the seminary of St. Sulpice (Montreal) to reach
the great tribes of the far west, supposed to be eager to learn of
Christianity and known to be much more tractable than the Iroquois.
These two missionaries, in their expedition of seven canoes and
twenty-one Amerindians, were accompanied by a remarkable young man
commonly known as La Salle, but whose real name was Robert

[Footnote 7: La Salle was the name of his property in France.]

Before leaving Lake Ontario, they actually passed the mouth of the
Niagara River and heard the falls, but had not sufficient curiosity to
leave their canoes and walk a short distance to see them. The
wonderful cascades of Niagara, where the St. Lawrence leaving Lake
Erie plunges 328 feet down into Lake Ontario (which is not much above
sea level), remained nearly undiscovered and undescribed until the
year 1678, when they were visited by Father Hennepin. Near the western
end of Lake Ontario the two Sulpician missionaries met another
Frenchman, Jolliet, who had come down to Lake Superior by way of the
Detroit passage, which is really the portion of the St. Lawrence
connecting Lake Huron with Lake Erie. Jolliet told the missionary de
Casson of a great tribe in the far west, the Pottawatomies, who had
asked for missionaries, and who were of Algonkin stock. La Salle, on
the other hand, was determined to make for the rumoured Ohio River,
which lay somewhere to the south-west of Lake Erie.

The two Sulpicians wintered in "the earthly paradise" to the north of
Lake Erie, passing a delightful six months there in the amazing
abundance of game and fish. They then met with various disasters to
their canoes, and consequently gave up their western journey, passing
northwards through Detroit and Lake St. Clair into Lake Huron, and
thence to the Jesuit mission station of the Sault Ste. Marie. Here
they were received rather coldly, as being rivals in the mission field
and in exploration. They in their turn accused the Jesuits of thinking
mainly, if not entirely, of the foundation of French colonies, and
very little of evangelizing the natives.

JOLLIET, a Canadian by birth,[8] was dispatched by the Viceroy of
Canada in 1672 to explore the far west. Two years--1670--previously
the French Government had for the first time adopted a really definite
policy about Canada, and had taken formal possession of the Lake
region and of all the territories lying between the lakes and the
Mississippi. A great assembly of Indians was held at Sault Ste. Marie,
near the east end of Lake Superior; and here a representative of the
French Government, accompanied by numerous missionaries and by
Jolliet, read a proclamation of the sovereignty of King Louis XIV of
France and Navarre. Below a tall cross was erected a great shield
bearing the arms of France. Father Allouez addressed the Indians in
the Algonkin language, and told them of the all-powerful Louis XIV,
who "had ten thousand commanders and captains, each as great as the
Governor of Quebec". He reminded them how the troops of this king had
beaten the unconquerable Iroquois, of how he possessed innumerable
soldiers and uncountable ships; that at times the ground of France
shook with the discharge of cannon, while the blaze of musketry was
like the lightning. He pictured the king covered with the blood of his
enemies and riding in the middle of his cavalry, and ordering so many
of his enemies to be slain that no account could be kept of the number
of their scalps, whilst their blood flowed in rivers. The Amerindians
being what they were, addicted to warfare, and only recognizing the
right of the strongest, it may be that this gospel of force was not
quite so shocking and unchristian as it reads to us nearly 250 years
afterwards, though it jars very much as coming from the lips of a
missionary of Christianity. However, it must be remembered that but
for the valour of the French soldiers in the awful period between 1648
and 1666 (when the Mohawks received a thorough and well-deserved
thrashing) many of the tribes addressed on this occasion by the Jesuit
missionaries would have been completely exterminated; the Iroquois
would have depopulated much of north-eastern America. It is obvious,
indeed, from our study of the conditions of life amongst the
Amerindians, that one reason why the New World was so poorly populated
at the time of its discovery by Europeans was the wars of
extermination between tribe and tribe; for America between the Arctic
regions and Tierra del Fuego is marvellously well supplied with
natural food products--game, fish, fruits, nuts, roots, and
grain--much more so than any area of similar extent in the Old World.

[Footnote 8: Born at Quebec in 1645.]

Jolliet was to be accompanied on his westward expedition by Father
JACQUES MARQUETTE,[9] a Jesuit missionary who had become well
acquainted with the tribes visiting Lake Superior, and had learnt the
Siou dialect of the Illinois people. On May 17, 1673, Jolliet and
Marquette started from the Straits of Michili-Makinak with only two
bark canoes and five Amerindians. They coasted along the north coast
of Lake Michigan, passed into Green Bay, and thence up the River Fox.
They were assisted by the Maskutins, or Fire Indians, and were given
Miami guides. Thence the natives assisted them to transport their
canoes and baggage over the very short distance that separates the
upper waters of the Fox River from the Wisconsin River, and down the
Wisconsin they glided till they reached the great Mississippi. The
Governor of Quebec, who had sent Jolliet on this mission, believed
that the Great River of the west would lead them to the Gulf of
California, which was then called the Vermilion Sea by the Spaniards,
because it resembled in shape and colour the Red Sea.

[Footnote 9: Father Jacques Marquette was born in the province of
Champagne, eastern France. He came to Canada when he was twenty-nine
years old, having already been prepared by the Jesuits for priesthood
and missionary work since his seventeenth year. He spent nine years in
Canada, and died at the age of thirty-eight. He has left an enduring
memory for goodness, courage, and purity of life.]

"On the 17th of June (1673)", writes Father Marquette, "we safely
entered the Mississippi with a joy that I cannot express. Its current
is slow and gentle, the width very unequal. On its banks there are
hardly any woods or mountains. The islands are most beautiful, and
they are covered with fine trees. We saw deer and cattle (bison),
geese, and swans. From time to time we came upon monstrous fish, one
of which struck our canoe with such violence that I thought it was a
great tree. On another occasion we saw on the water a monster with the
head of a tiger, a sharp nose like that of a wild cat, with whiskers
and straight erect ears. The head was grey, and the neck quite black
(possibly a lynx).... We found that turkeys had taken the place of
game, and the _pisikiou_, or wild cattle, that of the other animals."

Father Marquette, of course, by his wild cattle means the bison, of
which he proceeds to give an excellent description. He adds: "They are
very fierce, and not a year passes without their killing some savages.
When attacked, they catch a man on their horns if they can, toss him
in the air, throw him on the ground, then trample him under foot and
kill him. If a person fires at them from a distance with either a bow
or a gun, he must immediately after the shot throw himself down and
hide in the grass, for if they perceive him who has fired they run at
him and attack him."

Soon after entering the Mississippi, Marquette noticed some rocks
which by their height and length inspired awe. "We saw upon one of
them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon
which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. They are as
large as a calf; they have horns on their heads like those of deer, a
horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face somewhat like
a man's, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds
all round the body and ends like that of a fish. Green, red, and black
are the three colours composing the picture. Moreover, these two
monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is
their author, for good painters in France would find it difficult to
paint so well, and, besides, they are so high up on the rock that it
is difficult to reach that place conveniently to paint them."[10]

[Footnote 10: These remarkable rock pictures were situated immediately
above the present city of Alton, Illinois. In 1812 they still remained
in a good state of preservation, but the thoughtless Americans had
gradually destroyed them by 1867 in quarrying the rock for building

As the Jolliet expedition paddled down the Mississippi--ever so easily
and swiftly--a marvellous panorama unfolded itself before the
Frenchmen's fascinated gaze. Immense herds of bison occasionally
appeared on the river banks, flocks of turkeys flew up from the glades
and roosted in the trees and on the river bank. Everywhere the natives
seemed friendly, and Father Marquette was usually able to communicate
with them through his knowledge of the Illinois Algonkin dialect,
which the Siou understood.


On their first meeting with the Mississippi Indians, the French
explorers were not only offered the natives' pipes to smoke in token
of peace, but an old man amongst the latter uttered these words to
Jolliet: "How beautiful the sun is, O Frenchman, when thou comest to
visit us. Our village awaits thee, and thou shalt enter all our cabins
in peace."... "There was a crowd of people," writes Marquette; "they
devoured us with their eyes, but nevertheless preserved profound
silence. We could, however, hear these words addressed to us from time
to time in a low voice: 'How good it is, my brothers, that you should
visit us'.

"... The council was followed by a great feast, consisting of four
dishes, which had to be partaken of in accordance with all their
fashions. The first course was a great wooden platter full of
sagamité, that is to say, meal of Indian corn boiled in water, and
seasoned with fat. The Master of the Ceremonies filled a spoon with
sagamité three or four times, and put it to my mouth as if I were a
little child. He did the same to Monsieur Jollyet. As a second course
he caused a second platter to be brought, on which were three fish. He
took some pieces of them, removed the bones therefrom, and, after
blowing upon them to cool them, he put them in our mouths as one would
give food to a bird. For the third course, they brought a large dog
that had just been killed, but, when they learned that we did not eat
this meat, they removed it from before us. Finally, the fourth course
was a piece of wild ox, the fattest morsels of which were placed in
our mouths.... We thus pushed forward and no longer saw so many
prairies, because both shores of the river are bordered with lofty
trees. The cotton wood, elm and bass wood are admirable for their
height and thickness. There are great numbers of wild cattle whom we
hear bellowing. We killed a little parroquet, with a red and yellow
head and green body.... We have got down to near the 33° of
latitude.... We heard from afar savages who were inciting one another
to attack us by their continual yelling. They were armed with bows and
arrows, hatchets, clubs, and shields.... Part of them embarked in
great wooden canoes, some to ascend, others to descend the river in
order to surround us on all sides.... Some young men threw themselves
into the water and seized my canoe, but the current compelled them to
return to land. One of them hurled his club, which passed over without
striking us. In vain I showed the calumet (pipe of peace), and made
them signs that we were not coming to war against them. The alarm
continued; they were already preparing to pierce us with arrows from
all sides when God suddenly touched the hearts of the old men who were
standing at the water's edge, who checked the ardour of their young
men.... Whereon we landed, not without fear on our part. First we had
to speak by signs, because none of them understood the six languages
which I spoke. At last we found an old man who could speak a little
Illinois. We informed them that we were going to the sea.

"The next day was spent in feasting on Indian corn and dogs' flesh.
The people here had an abundance of Indian corn, which they sowed at
all seasons. They cook it in great earthen jars which are very well
made, and also have plates of baked earth. The men go naked and wear
their hair short; they pierce their noses, from which, as well as from
their ears, hang beads.... Their cabins are made of bark, and are long
and wide. They sleep at the two ends, which are raised two feet above
the ground. They know nothing of the beaver, and their wealth consists
in the skins of wild cattle. They never see snow in their country, and
recognize the winter only through the rains."

The expedition had passed the confluence of the Missouri and that of
the Ohio, and had finally reached the place where the Arkansas River
enters the Mississippi. Here the Frenchmen gathered from the natives
that the sea was only ten days distant, and this sea they knew (for
Jolliet was able to take astronomical observations and to make a rough
survey) could only be the Gulf of Mexico. Jolliet feared if he
prosecuted his journey any farther, he and his people would fall into
the hands of the Spaniards and be imprisoned, if not killed.
Therefore, at this point on the Lower Mississippi, the expedition
turned back. Its return journey was a weary business, for the current
was against the canoes as they were propelled northwards up the Great
River. But Jolliet learnt from the natives of a better homeward route,
that of following the Illinois River upstream until the expedition
came within a very short distance of Lake Michigan, near where Chicago
now stands. The canoes were carried over a low ridge of ground,
launched again in the Chicago River, and so passed into Lake Michigan.
(There is, in fact, at this point the remains of an ancient water
connection between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, and a canal
now connects the two systems.) Jolliet, in describing this region,
realized that by cutting a canal through two miles of prairie it would
be possible to go "in a small ship" from Lake Erie or Lake Superior
"to Florida".

Father Marquette remained at his new mission on the Fox River (he died
two years afterwards on the shores of the Straits of Michili-makinak).
Jolliet, on returning by way of the Ottawa River to Quebec, was nearly
drowned in the La Chine Rapids (Montreal), and all his papers and maps
were lost. The natives with him also perished, but he struggled to
shore with difficulty, and went on his way to Quebec to report his
wonderful discoveries to the Governor, Frontenac. Fortunately Father
Marquette had also kept a journal and had made maps, and these
reaching the superior of his mission arrived in time to confirm
Jolliet's statements.

Jolliet married at Quebec, and proceeded to explore and develop the
regions along the north coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, travelling
in this work as far as Hudson's Bay. He was given by the French
Government the Island of Anticosti as a reward for his achievements,
but the work and capital which he put into the development of this
long-neglected island came to nothing; for it was captured by the
English, and Jolliet died a poor man whilst attempting to explore the
coast of Labrador.

As to ROBERT CAVALIER DE LA SALLE, he had, after all, discovered the
Ohio, and had descended that river as far as the site of the present
town of Louisville. Then he interested the Governor (Frontenac) of
Canada in his enterprises. A fort, called Fort Frontenac, was built at
what is now Kingston, at the point where the St. Lawrence leaves Lake
Ontario. La Salle returned to France, and obtained the grant of the
lordship of this fort and the surrounding country on conditions of
maintaining the whole cost of the establishment, and making a
settlement of colonists. Another visit to France in 1677-8 secured him
further support and capital, and he returned from France with a
companion, Henry de Tonty.

La Salle, with de Tonty, started from Fort Frontenac in September,
1678, so intensely anxious to commence his discoveries that he
disregarded the difficulties of the winter season. On his way to
Niagara he paid a visit to the Iroquois to conciliate them, and
cleverly got from them permission to build a vessel on Lake Erie and
also to erect a blacksmith's forge, near where Niagara now stands. The
blacksmith's forge grew rapidly into a fort before the Indians were
aware of what was being done. By August, 1679, he had built and
launched (in spite of extraordinary calamities and misfortunes) on the
Upper Niagara River the first sailing boat which ever appeared on the
four great upper lakes of the St. Lawrence basin.

In this ship he sailed through Lake Erie and past Detroit into Lake
Huron, and thence to Green Bay (Lake Michigan), stopping at intervals
amongst the canoes of the amazed natives, who for the first time heard
the sound of cannon, for he had armed his vessel with guns. At Green
Bay he collected a large quantity of furs, which had been obtained in
trade by the men he had sent on in advance. He loaded up his sailing
boat, the _Griffon_, and sent her on a voyage back to the east to
transport this splendid load of furs to the merchants with whom he had
become deeply indebted. Unhappily the _Griffon_ foundered in a storm
on Lake Michigan, and was never heard of again. Meantime La Salle,
with de Tonty and Father HENNEPIN, the discoverer of Niagara, had
travelled in canoes to the south-east end of Lake Michigan, had passed
up the Joseph River, and thence by portage into the Kankaki, which
flows into the Illinois. This river he descended till he stopped near
the site of the modern Peoria. Below this place he built a fort--for
it was winter time--and although the natives were not very friendly he
collected enough information from them to satisfy himself that he
could easily pass down the Illinois to the Mississippi.

He sent one of the Frenchmen, Michel Accault, together with Father
Hennepin, to explore the Illinois down to the Mississippi; de Tonty he
placed in charge of the fort with a small garrison; and then himself,
on the last day of February, 1680, started to walk overland from Lake
Michigan to Detroit. Eventually, by means of a canoe, which he
constructed himself, he regained Fort Frontenac and Montreal. When he
returned to Fort Crèvecoeur, on the Illinois River,[11] it was to meet
with the signs of a horrible disaster. The Iroquois in his absence had
descended on the place with a great war party. They had massacred the
Illinois people dwelling in a big settlement near the fort, and the
remains of their mutilated bodies were scattered all over the place.
Their town had been burnt; the fort was empty and abandoned. There
were no traces of the Frenchmen, however, amongst the skulls and
skeletons lying around him; for the skulls retained sufficient hair to
show that they belonged to Amerindians. Nevertheless, he deposited his
new stock of goods and most of his men in the ruins of the Fort
Crèvecoeur, and descended the River Illinois to the Mississippi. But
he was obliged to turn back. On the west bank of the river were the
scared Illinois Indians, on the east the raging Iroquois. Whenever La
Salle could safely visit a deserted camp he would examine the remains
of the tortured men tied to stakes to see if amongst them there was a

[Footnote 11: He had named this place "Heartbreak" because when
building it he had learnt of the loss of his sailing ship _Griffon_,
with the splendid supply of furs which was to have paid off his debts,
with all his reserve supplies and his men. This was not the limit of
his troubles; for, after the overland journey of appalling hardships
through a country of melting ice, flood, swamp, and hostile
Iroquois--the Iroquois being furious with La Salle for having
outwitted them in the building of this fort, and seeking him
everywhere to destroy him--when he got to Montreal it was only to
learn that a ship, coming from France with further supplies for his
great journey had been wrecked at the mouth of the St. Lawrence!]

But de Tonty was not dead. After incredible adventures he had escaped
the raids of the Iroquois and had reached the Straits of
Michili-makinak, between Lakes Michigan and Huron, and there met La
Salle, who was once more on his way to Montreal.

Again de La Salle and de Tonty, in the winter of 1681, returned to the
south end of Lake Michigan, and made their way over the snow to the
Illinois River. On the 6th February, 1682, they left the junction of
the Illinois and the Mississippi to trace that great river to its
outlet in the sea. La Salle reached the delta on the 6th April, 1682,
having on the way taken possession of the country in the name of the
King of France. Accault and Father Hennepin had meantime paddled up
the Northern Mississippi as far as its junction with the Wisconsin. At
this place their party was surrounded and captured by a large band of
Siou warriors.

The Frenchmen were at first in danger of being killed, as the Sious
refused to smoke with them the pipe of peace. But being much less
bloodthirsty than the Iroquois, they soon calmed down and treated
their captives with a certain rough friendliness. All their goods were
taken from them, even the vestments worn by Father Hennepin. But they
were well supplied with food such as the country produced--bison,
beef, fish, wild turkeys, and the grain of the wild rice, which made
such excellent flour. They were gradually conveyed by the Siou[12] to
a large settlement of that tribe on the shore of Mille Lacs, a sheet
of water not far distant from the westernmost extremity of Lake
Superior. Whilst staying at this Siou town Hennepin conversed with
Indians from the far north and north-west, and from what they told him
came to the conclusion that there was no continuous waterway or
"Strait of Anian" across the North-American continent, but that
the land extended to the north-west till it finally joined the
north-eastern part of Asia--a guess that was not very far wrong. But
he also surmised that there were rivers in the far west which led to
an ocean--the Pacific--across which ships might go to Japan and China
without passing to the southward of the Equator.

[Footnote 12: The real name of the Siou, as far as we can arrive at it
through the records of the French pioneers, was Issati or Naduessiu.]

Whilst moving up and down the northern Mississippi, bison-hunting with
the Indians, the Frenchmen were met near the site of St. Paul by one
of the great French pioneers of the seventeenth century, the Sieur
DANIEL DE GREYSOLON DU L'HUT. This remarkable man, who was an officer
of the French army, had already planted the French arms at the
Amerindian settlement of Mille Lacs in 1679, and had established
himself as a powerful authority at the west end of Lake Superior. He
had also summoned a great council of Amerindian tribes--the Siou from
the Upper Mississippi, the Assiniboins from the Lake of the Woods
(between Lake Superior and Lake Winnipeg), and the Kri Indians from
Lake Nipigon. He had further discovered, in 1679, the water route of
the St. Croix River from near Lake Superior to the Mississippi.

Du L'Hut soon persuaded the Siou to let his fellow countrymen return
with him to Lake Superior. Accault remained behind with the Siou,
delighted with their wild, roving life, and no doubt married an Indian
wife and became the father of some of those bold half-breeds who
played such a great part in the subsequent history of innermost
Canada. But Father Hennepin returned to Montreal, and made his way
eventually to France, where he fell into great disgrace and was
unfrocked. He had richly merited this treatment, for after he heard of
the death of La Salle he impudently claimed the discovery of the whole
course of the Mississippi River for himself, and for a long time was
believed. He will certainly go down in history as the man who
discovered and described Niagara Falls (in 1678), and he also assisted
greatly to clear up the geography of the time by the information he
collected from the Amerindians as to the vast extent of the
North-American continent; but he was a boastful, unscrupulous man.

Du L'Hut, who came to the rescue of Accault and Hennepin, was of noble
family, and a member of the king's bodyguard. He decided, however, to
seek his fortune in Canada, and obtained a commission as captain. It
was his cousin, Henri de Tonty, who had accompanied La Salle. After
returning to France to fight in the wars then going on, he came back
to Canada with a younger brother, Claude. He had in him the spirit of
great adventurers, and longed to visit the unknown countries of the
upper Mississippi. In the early part of these journeys he rescued his
fellow countrymen from the keeping of the Sious in the manner
described. After that he spent _thirty_ years travelling and trading
about North America, from the northern Mississippi into what we
should now call Manitoba, and from the vicinity of Lake Winnipeg to
Hudson Bay. He brought the great Amerindian nation of the Dakotas into
direct relations with the French. He was absolutely fearless, and in
no period of Canadian history has France been more splendidly
represented in the personality of any of her officers than she was by
Daniel de Greysolon du L'Hut. His was a tiresome name for English
scribes and speakers. It was therefore written by them "Duluth" and
pronounced D[)a]l[)a]th (instead of "Dülüt"). It is the name given to
the township near the southernmost extremity of Lake Superior.

When the journeys of du L'Hut came to an end--he died at Montreal in
1710--and after the era of great French explorations in North America
drew to a close, the French power was beginning to be eclipsed by that
of the British, who were building up the foundations of a colony on
the shores of Hudson's Bay, and were taking steps to acquire
Newfoundland and to colonize New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Nevertheless, in 1720, the King of France, or rather the regent acting
for the king, decided that a serious attempt must be made to discover
the Western Sea, or Pacific Ocean, from the French posts which had
been established in what is now known as Manitoba. The French had
already discovered the Missouri, and had heard from several Indian
tribes that it was possible to cross the Rocky Mountains and descend
by other rivers to the waters of a great ocean, the coasts of which
were visited by Spaniards. Several expeditions were sent out, more or
less under the control of Jesuits, but did not accomplish much.

The really great discoveries which link the "Great North-West" for all
time in history with France and French names were initiated by PIERRE
GAULTIER DE LA VÉRENDRYE, who was born in 1685 at the town of Three
Rivers, in Lower Canada, where his father was Governor. He entered
the army at the age of twelve, and took part in the French campaigns
in Flanders, winning the rank of lieutenant at the battle of
Malplaquet, where he received nine wounds and was left for dead on the
field. He then returned to Canada, not having the necessary means with
which to support the position of a lieutenant; and then, as France
seemed to have entered upon a period of protracted peace, he
determined to become an explorer. In 1728, when he was commandant of
the trading post of Nipigon, to the north of Lake Superior, he heard
from an Indian that there was a great lake beyond Lake Superior, out
of which flowed a river towards the west, which ultimately led to a
great salt lake where the water ebbed and flowed. As a matter of fact,
these stories simply referred to Lake Winnipeg, but the importance of
them lay in the fact that they acted as a powerful incentive to La
Vérendrye to push his explorations westwards, and perhaps discover a
route to the Pacific Ocean.[13]

[Footnote 13: The water of Lake Winnipeg--whatever it may be now--was
frequently stated by Amerindians in earlier days to be "stinking
water", or salt, brackish water, disagreeable to drink, and this lake
exhibits a curious phenomenon of a regular rise and fall, reminding
the observer of a tide, a phenomenon by no means confined to Lake
Winnipeg, but occurring on sheets of water of much smaller extent.]

La Vérendrye afterwards went to Quebec, where he discussed his plans
for Western exploration with the Governor of New France, the Marquis
de Beauharnais, who was a distant connection of the Beauharnais family
from which sprang the first husband of the Empress Joséphine, the
grandfather of Napoleon III.

This Governor entered into his scheme with enthusiasm, though he could
obtain little or no money from the ministers of Louis XVI. But a way
out of the difficulty was found by the Governor giving La Vérendrye
the monopoly of the fur trade in the far North-West.[14] This
monopoly enabled La Vérendrye to obtain the funds for his expenditure
from the merchants of Montreal, and in the summer of 1731 he started
out on his explorations, accompanied by three of his sons, his nephew,
fifty soldiers and French Canadian canoe men, and a Jesuit missionary.
For a guide they had the Indian, Oshagash, who had first told La
Vérendrye of the western river and the salt water. After many delays,
necessitated by the need for trading in furs to satisfy the merchants
of Montreal, La Vérendrye and his expedition skated on snowshoes down
the ice of the Winnipeg River and reached the shores of Lake Winnipeg.
They were probably the first white men to arrive there. La Vérendrye
established forts and posts along his route from Lake Nipigon, but his
expedition had not been a commercial success. There was a deficit of
£1700 between the amount realized in furs and the cost of the
equipment and wages of the French and French Canadians. De Beauharnais
made a fresh appeal to the French Court; he urged that the expenditure
to convey La Vérendrye's expedition to the Pacific Ocean would not be
a large one--perhaps only £1500.

[Footnote 14: What we should call to-day a "concession".]

But the French Court was obdurate; it would not furnish a penny. Thus
La Vérendrye, in all probability, was prevented from forestalling the
British explorers of sixty and seventy years later, besides the
expeditions of Captain Cook and Captain Vancouver, which secured for
Great Britain a foothold on the Pacific seaboard of British Columbia.

La Vérendrye in his fort on Lake Winnipeg was in a desperate position.
He made a hasty journey back to Montreal and even Quebec, to beat up
funds and to pacify the capitalists of his fur-trading monopoly. He
painted in glowing colours the prospects of cutting off the trade of
the Hudson's Bay Company and the building up of an immense commerce in
valuable furs, and these men agreed once again to furnish the funds
for the extension of the expedition. On his return he took back with
him his youngest son, Louis, a boy of eighteen. Whilst he had been
absent from Fort St. Charles (a post which he had built on the Lake of
the Woods, in communication by water with the Winnipeg River), on Lake
Winnipeg, that place was visited by a party of Siou Indians. They
found the fort occupied in the absence of the French by a number of
Kri or "Knistino" Indians in French service. These Kris were
frightened at the arrival of the Sious and fired guns at them. "Who
fired on us?" demanded these haughty Indians from Dakota, and the Kris
replied, "The French". Then the Sious withdrew, but vowed to be
completely revenged on the treacherous white man.

When La Vérendrye reached Fort St. Charles its little garrison was
almost at the point of starvation. He had travelled himself ahead of
his party, and the immense stock of supplies and provisions he was
bringing up country were a long way behind him when he reached the
fort. He therefore sent back his son Jean, together with the most
active of his Canadian voyageurs and the Jesuit missionary, in order
that they might meet the heavily laden canoes and hurry them up
country as fast as possible. But this party was met by the Sious on
Rainy River, who massacred them to a man. They were afterwards found
lying in a circle on the beach, decapitated and mutilated. The heads
of most of them were wrapped ironically in beaver skins, and La
Vérendrye's son, Jean, was horribly cut and slashed, and his
mutilated, naked body decorated with garters and bracelets of
porcupine quills.

Meantime, during his absence in Lower Canada, two of his sons in
charge of Fort Maurepas, on Lake Winnipeg, had been very active. They
had discovered the great size of this lake, and also the entrance of
the Red River on the south. They then proceeded to explore both the
Red River and its western tributary the Assiniboin. On the Assiniboin
was afterwards built the post of Fort La Reine, and from this place in
1738 La Vérendrye started with two of his sons, several other
Frenchmen, a few Canadian voyageurs, and twenty-five Assiniboin
Indians. Leaving the Assiniboin River, they crossed the North Dakota
prairies on foot. Owing to the timidity of his Indian guides, La
Vérendrye was not led direct to the Missouri River, the "Great River
of the West", but along a zigzag route which permitted his guides to
reinforce their numbers at Assiniboin villages, and every now and then
join in a bison hunt. All the party were on foot, horses not then
having reached the Assiniboin tribe. But on the 28th of November,
1738, they drew near to the Missouri and were met by a chief of the
great Mandan tribe, who was accompanied by thirty of his warriors, and
who presented La Vérendrye with young maize cobs and leaves of native
tobacco, these being regarded as emblems of peace and friendship.

The Mandan tribe differed materially in its habits and customs from
the Indians to the north, who supported themselves mainly, if not
entirely, by hunting, who cared very little for agriculture, and moved
continually like nomads over great stretches of country, living
chiefly in tents or temporary villages. The Mandans, on the other
hand, were a people who practised agriculture, and had permanent and
well-constructed towns. In fact, their civilization and demeanour made
such an impression on the Assiniboin and other northern tribes that
they had been considered a sort of "white people", somewhat akin to
Europeans, and La Vérendrye was a little disappointed to find them
only Amerindians in race and colour.

The six hundred Assiniboins who had gathered about La Vérendrye's
expedition proved to be a great trouble to him, as they were
constantly picking quarrels with the Mandans, who were very dishonest.
Accordingly, La Vérendrye arranged with the Mandans to frighten them
away by pretending that the Siou Indians were on the warpath. The six
hundred Assiniboins bolted, but took with them La Vérendrye's
interpreter, so that he was henceforth obliged to communicate with the
Mandans by means of signs and gestures. This and other reasons decided
him to return--even though it was the depth of winter, to Fort La
Reine, but not before he had given the head chief of the Mandans a
flag and a leaden plate which (unknown to the Mandans) meant taking
possession of their country in the name of the French king.

The journey back to Fort La Reine, over the plains of the Assiniboin,
was a terrible experience. The party had to travel in the teeth of an
almost unceasing north-east wind which was freezingly cold. Night
after night they were obliged to dig deep holes in the snow for their
sleeping places. La Vérendrye nearly died of agonizing pain and
fatigue during this journey, and was a long time recovering from its

As they continued to receive friendly messages from the Mandans,
inviting them to make further discoveries, LA VÉRENDRYE'S sons, PIERRE
and FRANCOIS, set out in the spring of 1742, and, after some checks
and disappointments, managed with a single Mandan guide to reach Broad
Lands on the Little Missouri River, where they noticed the earths of
different colours, blue, green, red, black, white, and yellow, which
are so characteristic of this region. They reached the village of the
Crow Indians, passed through a portion of the friendly tribe, the
Cheyennes (the name was probably pronounced Shian) and got into the
country which was constantly being ravaged by the Snake Indians, or
Shoshones. Here, on the 1st of January, 1743, when the mists of
morning cleared away, they saw upon the horizon the outline of huge
mountains. As they travelled westwards or south-westwards, day after
day, the jagged blue wall resolved itself into towering snow-capped
peaks, glittering in the sun and provoking the appellation of "the
Mountains of Bright Stones", a name probably given to the Rocky
Mountains by the Amerindians, but used in all the earlier French and
English maps until the end of the eighteenth century.[15]

[Footnote 15: The term Rocky Mountains was probably first officially
applied by the American expedition, under Lewis and Clarke, sent out
by the United States Government in 1804 to take possession of the
coast of Oregon, but it was used twenty or thirty years earlier by
British explorers of Western Canada.]

On the 12th of January they reached the very foot of the mountains,
the slopes of which they saw were thickly covered with magnificent
forests of pine and fir--forests, that have since suffered to an
appalling extent from annual bush fires, which so far the United
States Government seems unable to check. Here they were to meet with a
bitter disappointment. They were travelling with a very large war
party of the Bow Indians for the purpose, if need be, of attacking and
routing the Shoshones; but a Shoshone camp at the base of the
mountains was found to be deserted, and the Bow Indians jumped to the
conclusion that the Shoshones had turned back through the forest
unseen, and were now making with all speed for the principal war camp
of the Bow Indians, where they would massacre the women and children.
They would listen to no remonstrances from the two Frenchmen, who
perforce had also to travel back, either alone or with the Bow
Indians, in the direction of their war camp, where the idea of a
Shoshone attack was found to be baseless. Eventually, the two La
Vérendrye brothers were obliged to make their way to the Missouri
River, and abandon any idea of finding a way to the Western Ocean
across the Rocky Mountains.

The French pioneers had already heard of the Spaniards in California,
and the possibility of getting into touch with them. They had now
discovered, first of all Europeans, the Rocky Mountains--that great
snowy range of North America which extends from Robson Peak on the
eastern borders of British Columbia to Baldy Peak in New Mexico.

Afterwards the La Vérendryes directed their attention more to the
opportunities of reaching the Far West through the streams that flowed
into the system of Lake Winnipeg, and in this way discovered, in or
about 1743, the great River Saskatchewan. This river La Vérendrye's
sons followed up till they reached the junction between the North and
the South Rivers, and then they probably learnt a good deal more of
the Southern Saskatchewan, on which they may have built one or two
posts. La Vérendrye himself thought that this would prove to be the
best route by which the French could reach the Western Sea.

By this time the French Government was becoming alive to the
importance of these discoveries, and it conferred a decoration on La
Vérendrye, and allowed him to hope that he might be furnished with
means for further exploration. But he died soon afterwards, at the
close of 1749, and after his death his sons were treated with gross
ingratitude and neglect. The self-seeking Governor of New France
endeavoured to secure the fur trade for his own friends, and sent an
officer with a terribly long name--Captain Jacques Répentigny Le
Gardeur de Saint Pierre--to continue the exploration towards the
Pacific. From 1750 to 1763 the French occupation of this region of the
two Saskatchewan Rivers was extended till in all probability the
French got within sight of the northern Rocky Mountains in the
vicinity of Calgary. Then came the English conquest of Canada to stop
all further enterprise in this direction, and the story was next to be
taken up by English, Scottish, and Canadian explorers.

It will be men with English and Scottish names, mainly, who will
henceforth complete the work begun and established so magnificently by
Cartier, Brulé, Nicollet, Jolliet, La Salle, du L'Hut, and La
Vérendrye, though the French Canadians will also play a notable part,
together with "Americans", from New England.


The Geographical Conditions of the Canadian Dominion

Before we continue to follow the adventures of the pioneers of British
North America, I think--even if it seems wearisome and discursive--my
readers would better understand this story if I placed before them a
general description of what is now the Dominion of Canada, more
particularly as it was seen and discovered by the earliest European

The most prominent feature on the east, and that which was nearest to
Europe, was the large island of NEWFOUNDLAND, 42,000 square miles in
extent, that is to say, nearly as large as England without Wales. It
seems to bar the way of the direct sea access by the Gulf of St.
Lawrence to the very heart of North America; and, until the Straits of
Belle Isle and of Cabot were discovered, did certainly arrest the
voyages of the earliest pioneers. Newfoundland, as you can see on the
map, has been cut into and carved by the forces of nature until it has
a most fantastic outline. Long peninsulas of hills alternate with
deep, narrow gulfs, and about the south-east and east coasts there are
innumerable islets, most of which in the days of the early discoverers
were the haunt of millions of sea birds who resorted there for
breeding purposes. The heart of Newfoundland, so to speak, is an
elevated country with hills and mountains rising to a little over 2000
feet. A great deal of the country is, or was, dense forests, chiefly
consisting of fir trees. As numerous almost as the sea birds were the
seals and walruses which frequented the Newfoundland coasts. Inland
there were very large numbers of reindeer, generally styled nowadays
by the French-Canadian name of _Caribou_[1]. Besides reindeer there
were wolves, apparently of a smaller size than those of the mainland.
There were also lynxes and foxes, besides polar bears, martens,
squirrels, &c. The human inhabitants of Newfoundland, whom I shall
describe in the next chapter, were known subsequently by the name of
Beothuk, or Beothik, a nickname of no particular meaning. They had
evidently been separated for many centuries from contact with the
Amerindians of the mainland, though they may have been visited
occasionally on the north by the Eskimo. They had in fact been so long
separated from the other Amerindians of North America that they were
strikingly different from them in their habits, customs, and language.

[Footnote 1: The first Frenchmen visiting North America, and seeing
the caribou without their horns, thought they were a kind of wild ass.
The reindeer of Newfoundland is a sub-species peculiar to this

The climate of Newfoundland is not nearly so cold as that of the
mainland, nor so hot in summer, but it is spoilt at times by fogs and
sea mists which conceal the landscape for days together. In the
wintertime, and quite late in the spring, quantities of ice hang about
the shores of the islands, and when the warm weather comes, these
accumulations of ice slip away into the Atlantic in the form of
icebergs and are most dangerous to shipping.

To the south-east of Newfoundland the sea is very shallow for hundreds
of miles, the remains no doubt of a great extension of North America
in the direction of Europe which had sunk below the surface ages ago.
In this shallow water--the "Banks" of Newfoundland--fish, especially
codfish, swarmed in millions, and still continue to swarm with little,
if any, diminution from the constant toll of the fishing fleets.
Another creature found in great abundance on these coasts is the true
lobster,[2] which filled as important a part in the diet of the
Beothuk natives, before the European occupation, as the salmon did in
the dietary of the British Columbian tribes.

[Footnote 2: _Homarus americanus_. The lobster of Newfoundland and the
coasts of North-east America is closely related to the common lobster
of British waters. These true lobsters resemble the freshwater
crayfish in having their foremost pair of legs modified into large,
unequal-sized claws. The European rock-lobster of the Mediterranean
and French coasts (the _langouste_ of the French) has no large claws.]

The next most striking feature in the geography of Eastern North
America is NOVA SCOTIA. AS you look at it on the map this province
seems to be a long peninsula connected with the mainland by the narrow
isthmus of Chignecto; but its northernmost portion--Cape
Breton--really consists of two big and two little islands, only
separated from Nova Scotia by a very narrow strait--the Gut of Canso.
On the north of Nova Scotia lies the large Prince Edward Island, and
north of this again the small group of the Magdalen Islands,
discovered by Cartier, the resort of herds of immense walruses at one
time. Due west of Nova Scotia the country, first flat (like Nova
Scotia itself) and at one time covered with magnificent forests, rises
into a very hilly region which culminates on the north in the Shikshok
Mountains of the Gaspé Peninsula (nearly 4000 feet in height) and the
White Mountains (over 6000 feet) and the Adirondak Mountains (over
5000 feet). The White, the Green, and the Adirondak Mountains lie just
within the limits of the United States.

North of the Gaspé Peninsula, in the great Gulf of St. Lawrence, is
Anticosti Island, which rises on the south in a series of terraces
until it reaches an altitude of about 2000 feet. This island, which is
well wooded, was said to have swarmed with reindeer at one time, and
perhaps other forms of deer also, and to have possessed grizzly bears
which fed on the deer, besides Polar bears visiting it in the winter.

[Illustration: MAP OF CANADA]

Newfoundland is separated from the mainland of LABRADOR on the north
by the Strait of Belle Isle, and from Cape Breton Island on the south
by Cabot Strait. Labrador is an immense region on the continent, where
the coast (except for the deep inlet of Melville Lake) soon rises into
an elevated plateau 2000 feet in height, which is strewn with almost
uncountable lakes, out of which rivers flow north, south, east, and
west. On the north-east corner of Labrador there are mountains from
3000 to 4000 feet, overlooking the sea. The whole of this vast
Labrador or Ungava Peninsula, which is bounded on the south by the
River and Gulf of St. Lawrence, and on the north by Hudson's Bay and
Hudson's Straits, is an inhospitable land, at no time with much

"The winter of Labrador is long and severe; one would need to have
blood like brandy, a skin of brass, and an eye of glass not to suffer
from the rigours of a Labrador winter. In the summer the frequent fogs
render the air damp, and the constant breezes from the immense fields
of ice floating in the gulf keep the land very cool, and make any
alteration in the winter dress almost unnecessary" (James M'Kenzie).
Labrador and the lands farther north on the continent of North America
are separated from Greenland on the east by the broad straits--a great
branch of the Atlantic--named after Davis and Baffin, who first
explored them. Passing up Davis Strait, along the coast of Labrador to
beyond 60° N. lat., the voyager comes to Hudson's Straits, which, if
followed up first to the northwards and then to the south-west, would
lead him into the great expanse of Hudson's Bay, one of the most
important features in the geography of North America.

HUDSON'S BAY, which is a great inland sea with an area of about
315,000 square miles, has a southern loop or extension called James
Bay, the shores of which are not at a very great distance either from
Lake Superior to the south-west, or from the source of the River
Saguenay on the south. The Saguenay flows into the Lower St. Lawrence
River. It is therefore not surprising that as soon as the French began
to settle in Lower Canada they heard of a vast northern inland sea of
salt water--Hudson's Bay. But the people who discovered and surveyed
Hudson's Bay during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth
centuries were always on the search for a passage out of its waters
into the Arctic Sea, which would enable them to get right round
America into the Pacific Ocean.

In Arctic North America Nature really seems to have been preparing
during millions of years a grim joke with which to baffle exploring
humanity! It is easy enough to pass from Davis Straits into Hudson's
Bay, but to get out of Hudson's Bay in the direction of the Arctic
Ocean is like getting out of a very cleverly arranged maze. There are
innumerable false exits, which have disappointed one Arctic explorer
after another. When they had discovered that Hudson's Bay to the south
was only like a great bottle, and had no outlet, they explored its
northern waters; and when they found Chesterfield Inlet on the
north-west, which leads into Baker Lake, they thought perhaps here was
the passage through into the Arctic Sea. But no; that was no good. To
the north of Chesterfield Inlet was a broad channel called Roe's
Welcome, which led into Wager Bay and through frozen straits into
Fox's Channel, and this again into Ross Bay. Here only a very narrow
isthmus separates Hudson's Bay from the Arctic Sea; but still it is an
isthmus of solid land. Turning to the north-east and north there are
the broad waters of Fox's Channel leading into Fox's Basin; but the
north-west corner of this inland sea was so blocked with ice and
islands that it was not until the year 1822 that the _real_ northern
outlet of Hudson's Bay was discovered by Captain EDWARD PARRY to be
the narrow Fury and Hecla Straits (the discovery was not completed
until 1839 by the Hudson's Bay Company's explorers T. SIMPSON and W.

Here you have found the way out into the Gulf of Boothia, which
communicates in the north with Barrow Strait and Baffin's Bay. But
across the supposed peninsula of Boothia there were discovered, in
1847, by Dr. JOHN RAE (also an officer of the Hudson's Bay Company)
the narrow Bellot Straits, which lead into Franklin Straits and so
into M'Clintock Channel and the Arctic Ocean. After this you might
theoretically (if the ice permitted it) sail or steam your ship
through Victoria Straits and Coronation Gulf till you got into
Beaufort Sea (part of the open Arctic Ocean), or, by turning round
Prince Albert Land, pass through the Prince of Wales' Straits or
M'Clure Straits into the same Beaufort Sea.

The North-West Passage across the Arctic extremity of North America,
therefore, _did_ exist after all, and the directest route would be up
Davis Straits, through Hudson's Straits into Fox's Basin, then through
the Fury and Hecla Straits into the Gulf of Boothia, then through the
Bellot Straits and Franklin Straits (past Victorialand and Kemp
Peninsula) and out through the Dolphin and Union Straits into the
Arctic Ocean, and so on round the north coast of Alaska, past Bering's
Straits into Bering Sea and the Pacific. But of course the
accumulations of ice completely block continuous navigation.

The huge jagged island of BAFFIN'S LAND differs from much of Arctic
America in that it has high land rising into mountains. This is so
completely covered with ice that it is of little interest under
present circumstances to the world of civilization, though the large
herds of musk oxen which it once supported were of much use to Arctic
explorers as a food supply in winter. The coasts are inhabited by a
few thousand Eskimo, and Davis Straits and Baffin's Bay possess a
certain amount of commercial importance owing to the whale fisheries
which are carried on there by the British, the Danes, the Americans,
and the Eskimo. In fact the importance of these whale fisheries have
of late made the Americans of the United States a little inclined to
challenge the British possession of these great Arctic islands. North
Devon, North Somerset, Prince of Wales' Land, Melville Island, Banks
Land, Prince Albert Land, &c. &c, are names of other great Arctic
islands completely within the grip of the ice. The nature of their
interior is almost unknown. They are at present of use to no form of
man unless it be to a few wandering Eskimo, who come to their coasts
in the summer to kill seals.

The great NORTH-WEST TERRITORIES of the Canadian Dominion extend from
the American frontier of Alaska (which is the 141° of W. long.) to the
Ungava Peninsula, which abuts on Labrador. Where this vast region
slopes to the Arctic Ocean and Hudson's Bay it is rather low and flat,
except between Alaska and the Mackenzie River, and between the
Mackenzie and the watershed of Hudson's Bay. The principal river
system in the far North-West is that of the great Mackenzie River,
which flows into the Arctic Ocean (Beaufort Sea) through an immense
delta, and is one of the longest rivers in the world. The southernmost
sources of the Mackenzie (such as the Peace River and the Athabaska
River) rise in the Rocky Mountains to the east of British Columbia.
These waters are stored for a time in Lake Athabaska, and then under
the name of Slave River flow northwards into the Great Slave Lake, and
out of this, under the name of Mackenzie River, into Beaufort Sea,
through an immense delta. The Great Bear Lake is also a feeder of the

Two other Arctic rivers at one time thought to be of great importance
as means of communication with the Arctic Ocean, are the Great Fish
River, which flows into Elliot Bay, and the Coppermine River, which
enters Coronation Gulf. The other northward-flowing rivers (passing
through innumerable lakes and lakelets) enter Hudson's Bay.

West of the great Mackenzie River rises the northernmost extension of
the Rocky Mountains. All this easternmost part of Alaska, which is
under British control, is a region of great elevation, something like
parts of Central Asia. The streams which rise here unite in the great
Yukon River, and this has its outlet in Bering's Sea. Some points of
the great mountains within the limits of British territory in this
direction reach to nearly 20,000 feet (Mount Logan).

But the climate of the northern parts of the Canadian Dominion differs
very greatly in the west as compared to the east. For instance, the
northern parts of Labrador are cruelly Arctic, hopelessly frozen,
though they are in the same latitude as St. Petersburg (the capital of
European Russia) and as the splendidly forested northern parts of
British Columbia. Eastern Labrador is a region in which explorers have
frequently perished from cold and starvation. Although in the lofty
parts of the Yukon country (three hundred and fifty miles north of
treeless Labrador) the winter is intensely cold, and the ground is
frozen for a considerable depth downwards, all the year round, there
are still great forests; and a white and Amerindian population find it
possible to live there all the year round, while animal life is
extremely abundant. On the other hand, a good deal of the territory
between Mackenzie River and Hudson's Bay is almost uninhabitable,
except during the summertime, owing to the depth of the snow and the
bare rocky nature of the ground.

The treeless area north of Lake Athabaska (the "barren lands" of the
Canadian Dominion) seems to consist of nothing but slabs of rock and
loose stones. Yet this region is far from being without vegetation.
The rock is often covered with a thin or thick sod of lichen
("reindeer moss", in some districts three feet deep) intermixed with
the roots of the wishakapakka herb (_Ledum palustre_, from which
Labrador tea is made), of cranberries, gooseberries, heather (with
white bell flowers), and a dwarf birch. This last, in sheltered places
where a little vegetable soil has been formed, grows into a low
scrubby bush. As to the gooseberries--here and farther south--Hearne
describes them as "thriving best on the stony or rocky ground, open
and much exposed to the sun". They spread along the ground like vines.
The small red fruit is always most plentiful and fine on the under
side of the branches, probably owing to the reflected heat of the
stones. In the bleaker places a hard, black, crumply lichen--the
"Tripe de roche" of the French Canadians (_Gyrophoreus_) grows on the
rocks and stones, and is of great service to the Amerindians, as it
furnishes them with a temporary subsistence when no animal food can be
procured. This lichen, when boiled, turns to a gummy consistence
something like sago. Hearne describes it as being remarkably good when
used to thicken broth; but some other pioneers complained that it made
them and their Indians seriously ill. Another lichen, "reindeer moss"
(_Cladina_), is also eaten by men as well as deer. The _muskegs_, or
bogs and marshes, produce in the summertime a very rapid growth of
grass (as well as breeding swarms of mosquitoes!), and thus furnish
food for the geese and swans which throng them between June and

In the summertime all these northern territories of Canada--from the
basin of Lake Winnipeg, with its white pelicans, to the Arctic
circle--swarm with birds, wild swans, geese, ducks, plovers, grouse,
cranes, eagles, owls of several kinds--especially the great snowy
eagle-owl--red-breasted thrushes, black and white snow-buntings,
scarlet grosbeaks (the female green and grey), crested jays, and
ravens "of a beautiful glossy black, richly tinged with purple", but
smaller in size than those of Europe.

This is also the country for bears. Some grizzlies still linger here.
Their range at one time extended to near the Arctic circle. In
Alaska (British as well as United States) there is an enormous
chocolate-coloured bear, the biggest in the world. The Polar bear,
usually creamy white along the seacoast, is stated to range inland
during the summer over the "barren grounds", and to develop either a
permanent local variety or a seasonal change of coat, which is
greyish-brown or blue-grey.

The black bear in northern Canada is said to give birth at times to
cubs which are cinnamon-brown in colour.

"In the early summer the black bears swim up and down the northern
rivers with their mouths open, swallowing the immense number of water
insects which have come into being at that season." Hearne goes on to
state that bears which have subsisted on this food for some days, when
cut open emit a stench that is intolerable, and which taints their
flesh to a sickening degree. The insects on which they feed are mostly
of two kinds: one a sort of grasshopper with a hard black skin, and
the other a soft, brown, sluggish fly. "This last is the most
numerous. In some of the lakes such quantities are forced into the
bays when the wind blows hard, that they are pressed together in dead
multitudes and remain a great nuisance. I have several times, in my
inland voyages from York Fort (Hudson's Bay), found it scarcely
possible to land in some of those bays for the intolerable stench of
those insects, which in some places were lying in putrid masses to the
depth of two or three feet." It is more than probable that the bears
occasionally feed on these dead insects. After the middle of July,
when they take to a diet of berries, they are excellent eating, and
continue to be so to the end of the winter.

The Arctic foxes of this region when young are sooty black all over,
and gradually change to a light ash-grey in colour, with a dark,
almost blue, tint on the head, legs, and back. In winter they usually
become white all over, with or without a black tip to the tail; but it
is recorded by some travellers that not all the foxes of the _Canis
lagopus_ species turn white; some keep their dark-grey colour all the
year round. The common fox (_C. vulpes fulvus_) in Northern Canada is
sometimes black, with white-tipped hairs. Wolves in these far northern
regions do not seem to have been so abundant as farther south.

The deer tribe are represented (north of the Athabaska region) by the
reindeer and the elk (called by the Canadians "Moose"). The wapiti or
red deer (for which the common Amerindian name in the north was
_Waskesiu_) seldom ranged farther north than the vicinity of Lake
Winnipeg. The reindeer of the "barren ground" sub-species extended to
the Arctic seacoast, and were at one time especially abundant in
Labrador. Here they were so tame, down to a hundred years ago, that
fishermen were often known to shoot many of them from the windows of
their huts near the seashore. This type (_Rangifer tarandus arcticus_)
might possibly be domesticated; not so the larger and much wilder
Caribou woodland reindeer of the more southern and western parts of
the Dominion, which dislikes the neighbourhood of man. The elk or
moose, east of the Rocky Mountains, was not found northward of about
50° to 55°; but west of that range extended over all British Columbia
and Alaska, in which latter country it grows to a giant size and
develops enormous antlers.

Hearne says of the elk in northern Canada: "In summer, when they
frequent the margins of rivers and lakes, they are often killed by the
Indians in the water while they are crossing rivers or swimming from
the mainland to islands, &c. When pursued in this manner, they are
the most inoffensive of all animals, never making any resistance; and
the young ones are so simple that I remember to have seen an Indian
paddle his canoe up to one of them and take it by the poll without the
least opposition; the poor, harmless animal seeming at the same time
as contented alongside the canoe as if swimming by the side of its
dam, and looking up in our faces with the same fearless innocence that
a house lamb would; making use of its fore foot almost every instant
to clear its eyes of mosquitoes, which at that time were remarkably
numerous.... The moose are also the easiest to tame and domesticate of
any of the deer kind. I have repeatedly seen them at Churchill as tame
as sheep, and even more so; for they would follow their keeper any
distance from home, and at his call return with him without the least
trouble, or ever offering to deviate from the path."

The most northern range of the elk would seem to be the region round
Lake Athabaska.

The musk ox (_Ovibos_) is perhaps the most remarkable beast of Arctic
Canada.[3] Samuel Hearne is my principal source for the following
notes as to its habits and appearance: The number of bulls is very few
in proportion to the cows, for it is rare to see more than two or
three full-grown bulls with the largest herd; and from the number of
the males that are found dead, the Indians are of opinion that they
kill each other in contending for the females. In the rutting season
they are so jealous of the cows that they run at either man or beast
who offers to approach them, and have been observed to run and bellow
even at ravens and other large birds which chanced to alight near
them. They delight in the most stony and mountainous parts of the
"barren ground", but are seldom found at any great distance from the
woods. Though they are a beast of great magnitude, and apparently of a
very unwieldy inactive structure, yet they climb the rocks with ease
and agility, and are nearly as surefooted as a goat. Like it, too,
they will feed on anything; and though they seem fondest of grass, yet
in winter, when grass cannot be had in sufficient quantity, they will
eat moss or any other herbage they can find, as also the tops of
willows and the tender branches of the pine tree.

[Footnote 3: The musk ox, which is not an ox, but a creature about
midway in structure and affinities between cattle on the one hand and
sheep and goats on the other, is a large beast comparatively, being
the size of a small ox, but appearing very much larger than it is on
account of the extremely thick coat of hair and wool. Both sexes have
horns, and the horns, after meeting in the middle and making more or
less of a boss over the forehead, droop down at the sides of the
cheeks and then turn up with sharp points. The musk ox once ranged
right across the northern world, from England and Scandinavia, through
Germany, Russia, and Siberia, to Alaska and North America. Many
thousands of years ago, during one of the Glacial periods, it
inhabited southern England. At the present day it is extinct
everywhere, excepting in the eastern parts of Arctic America, not
going west of the Mackenzie River nor south of Labrador. It is also
found in Greenland.]

"The musk ox, when full grown, is as large as the generality of
English black cattle; but their legs, though thick, are not so long,
nor is their tail longer than that of a bear; and, like the tail of
that animal, it always bends downward and inward, so that it is
entirely hid by the long hair of the rump and hind quarters. The hunch
on their shoulders is not large, being little more in proportion than
that of a deer. Their hair is in some parts very long, particularly on
the belly, sides, and hind quarters; but the longest hair about them,
particularly the bulls, is under the throat, extending from the chin
to the lower part of the chest between the fore legs. It there hangs
down like a horse's mane inverted, and is fully as long, which gives
the animal a most formidable appearance. It is of the hair from this
part that the Eskimo make their mosquito wigs (face screens or masks).
In winter the musk oxen are provided with a thick fine wool or fur
that grows at the root of the long hair, and shields them from the
intense cold to which they are exposed during that season; but as the
summer advances this fur loosens from the skin, and by frequently
rolling themselves on the ground it works out to the end of the hair,
and in time drops off, leaving little for their summer clothing except
the long hair. This season is so short in these high latitudes, that
the new fleece begins to appear almost as soon as the old one drops
off, so that by the time the cold becomes severe they are again
provided with a winter dress."

According to Hearne, the flesh of the musk ox does not resemble that
of the bison, but is more like the meat of the moose or wapiti. The
fat is of a clear white, "slightly tinged with a light azure". The
calves and young heifers are good eating, but the flesh of the bulls
both smells and tastes so strongly of musk as to be very disagreeable;
"even the knife that cuts the flesh of an old bull will smell so
strongly of musk that nothing but scouring the blade quite bright can
remove it, and the handle will retain the scent for a long time".

Bisons of the "wood" variety are (or were) found far up the heights of
the Rocky Mountains and in the regions south-west of the Great Slave
Lake. These "wood buffaloes" delight in mountain valleys, and never
resort to the plains. And higher than anything, of course, range the
great white mountain goat-antelopes (_Oreamnus montanus_) from
northern Alaska to the Columbia River.

The north and the north-west were, of course, pre-eminently the great
fur-trading regions, though all parts of the vast Dominion have at one
time or another yielded furs for commerce with the white man. The
principal fur-bearing smaller mammals of the north and north-west were
wolves, foxes, lynxes, gluttons (wolverene), otters, martens (sables)
and black fishing martens, mink (a kind of polecat), ermine-stoats,
weasels, polar hares (_Lepus timidus_), beavers, musquash, lemming,
gopher or pouched ground-squirrels, and the common red squirrel of
North America. The grey squirrel and striped chipmunk are only found
in southern Canada.

The musquash (_Fiber zibethicus_) is such a characteristic animal of
northern Canada that it is worth while to give Hearne's description of
it (I would mention it is really a huge _vole_, and no relation of the

"The musk rat or musquash builds a dwelling near the banks of ponds or
swamps to shelter it from the bitter cold of the winter, but never on
land, always on the ice, as soon as it is firm enough, taking care to
keep a hole open to admit it to dive for its food, which chiefly
consists of the roots of grass or arums. It sometimes happens in very
cold winters that the holes communicating with their dwellings under
the water are so blocked by ice that they cannot break through them.
When this is the case, and they have no provisions left in the house,
they begin to eat one another. At last there may be only one rat left
out of a whole lodge. They occasionally eat fish, but in general feed
very cleanly, and when fat are good eating. They are easily tamed and
soon grow fond of their owner. They are very cleanly and playful, and
'smell exceedingly pleasant of musk', but their resemblance to the rat
is so great that few are partial to them, though of course they are
much larger in size, and have webbed hind feet and a flat scaly tail.
In Canadian regions farther south the musquash no longer builds on the
ice, but in swamps, where it raises heaps of mud like islands in the
surrounding water. On the top of these mounds they build their nests,
and on the top of the musquash nest, or 'lodge', wild geese frequently
lay their eggs and bring forth their young brood without any fear of
being molested by foxes."

The YUKON territories of the Dominion, and above all the State of
BRITISH COLUMBIA, constitute a very distinct region from the rest of
British North America, not only in their tribes of Amerindians but in
their fauna, flora, and climate. British Columbia is one of the most
beautiful and richly endowed countries in the world. Here, in spite
of northern latitudes, the warm airs coming up from the Pacific Ocean
act somewhat in the same way as the Gulf Stream on north-west Europe,
and favour the growth of magnificent forests.

All this north-western part of British Columbia is very mountainous,
and the rocks are rich in minerals, especially gold in the Fraser and
Columbia Rivers, far north in the upper valley of the Yukon, and
copper and coal in Vancouver Island.

The rainfall in British Columbia is considerable, and the
flora--trees, plants, ferns--richer than anywhere else in North
America, with many resemblances to the trees and plants of Japan and
northern China. In British Columbia more than in any other part of the
world are found the noblest developments of the pines, firs, and
junipers (_Coniferæ_).

The coast rivers swarm with salmon, and perhaps because of the
abundance of sea fish close in shore there have been developed in the
course of ages those remarkable aquatic mammals, the sea lions or fur
seals (_Otaria_), whose relationship to the true seals is a very
distant one. On the Alaskan coasts and islands is _Otaria ursina_, the
creature which provides the sealskin fur of commerce. There is also
the much larger sea lion (_Otaria stelleri_), on the coasts of British
Columbia and Vancouver Island. Alexander Henry, jun., gives some
interesting facts about this remarkable beast.

"The natives at Oak Point, during the time Mr. Keith was there, killed
five very large sea lions by spearing them at night. Two canoes being
lashed together, they approach very softly, and throw their spears,
which are fastened by a long, strong cord, with a barb so fixed in a
socket that, when it strikes the animal and pierces the flesh, it is
detached from the shaft of the spear, but remains fastened to the
cord. This is instantly made fast between the canoes; the animal
dives and swims down river, dragging the canoes with such velocity
that they may be in danger of filling, and require great skill in
steering. In this manner they are carried down some miles before the
animal becomes exhausted with loss of blood, makes for the shore, and
lies on the beach, where they dispatch it and cut it up. The price of
a sea lion among the natives is one slave and an assortment of other
articles. Mr. Keith bought the flesh of one of these animals, and we
had some roasted; it resembles bear's meat. The hair is like that of a
horse, in summer of a chestnut colour. The natives, and also the
Russians, are particularly fond of marine animals, such as whales,
&c.; they drink the oil like milk."

Another notable water beast of the British Columbia coast was the sea
otter (_Enhydris_), described on p. 305. Such an immense value was set
on its fur that it is now nearly extinct within British limits.

The huge chocolate-coloured bear of the Yukon valley has already been
mentioned; also the very large, blackish-brown wild dog (_Canis
pambasileus_), which from one or two passages in the writings of
Canadian pioneers may also be found as far south as the British
Columbian Rocky Mountains. In the Yukon country the elk (which was
formerly very common in British Columbia) grows to gigantic
proportions with longer and larger antlers than elsewhere. In the
forested mountains of British Columbia (as well as farther north) are
the wood bison, the white mountain goat, grizzly bears, black bears,
two kinds of lynx, the wapiti red deer, and the large bighorn sheep.

These (_Ovis montana_) sheep are of a grey or leaden colour; the rump
and the inner side of the legs are white; the hoofs black, about one
inch long. "The hair is rather soft, and at the roots is mixed with
exceedingly fine white wool, which seems to grow only in certain
patches. The neck is relatively much thicker than that of other
animals of the same size; the legs and hoofs are also strongly built,
like the neck." The horns of the female are comparatively small,
flat, and have only a small bend backward; they are of a
dirty-yellowish white, marked with closely connected annulations to
the very tip. The legs are brown, as are also the ends of the hairs
about the neck; the hoofs are black. "A ewe will weigh about 100 lb.
when in full flesh, with only the entrails taken out. The head bears
every resemblance to that of our European sheep." The colour of the
males is nearly the same as that of the females, only rather browner;
they are much larger and more strongly built, with a pair of enormous
horns, which incline backward. As they grow they bend downward, and in
the course of time form a complete curve and project forward. At the
root the horns are nearly three inches square, the flat sides
opposite; they are marked with closely connected ridges and end in a
tapering flat point.

When the horns grow to a great length, forming a complete curve, the
tips project on both sides of the head so as to prevent the ram from
feeding. This, with their great weight, causes the sheep to dwindle to
a mere skeleton and die. The bighorn sheep feed much in the caverns of
the Rocky Mountains, eating a kind of moss and grass growing on the
floors of these caves, and also a peculiar soft, sweet-tasting "clay",
of which the natives also are fond.

The southern part of British Columbia contains the mule deer of
western North America (_Mazama macrotis_), and a very strange rodent,
the sewellel or mountain beaver (_Haplodon_), a creature distantly
allied to squirrels, marmots, and beavers, but restricted in its
distribution to a few parts of California, Oregon, and British
Columbia. Amongst the birds noteworthy in the landscape are the
white-headed sea eagles and Californian condors (_Pseudogryphus
californianus_). Humming-birds range through British Columbia and
Vancouver Island between mid-April and October.

In the regions about the upper Kootenay River (Eastern British
Columbia), before the railway was constructed, there were wild horses,
descended, no doubt, from those which had escaped from the Spaniards
in New Mexico and California. They went in large herds, and in the
winter when the snow was deep the natives would try to catch them by
running them down with relays of fresh horses, or driving them up the
mountains into the deepest snow or some narrow pass. A noose would
then be thrown about the exhausted animal, which would be instantly
mounted by an Indian and broken immediately to the saddle. Some of
these wild horses were exceedingly swift, well-proportioned, and
handsome in shape, but they seldom proved as docile as those born in
captivity. When in a wild condition they would snort so loudly through
the nostrils on descrying an enemy that they could be heard at a
distance of five hundred yards.

The provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba--the MIDDLE
WEST--represent mainly the great prairie region of the Canadian
Dominion. Nearly all the streams here flow from the eastern side of
the Rocky Mountains and direct their course to the basin of Lake
Winnipeg and to Hudson's Bay. A few turn south-west to the Missouri
and Mississippi. The landscapes here remind one more of the middle
part of the United States. The climate is severe in winter but very
warm and dry in summer. In the extreme south, within the basin of the
upper Missouri, the "prickly pear" (_Opuntia_) cactus grows in
sheltered places, and suggests affinities with distant Colorado and

These great plains and river courses of the middle West were, until
about fifty years ago, one of the world's great natural parks or
zoological gardens. Large numbers of wapiti deer, of the smaller
Virginian deer,[4] and of the prongbuck "antelope"[5] thronged the
grassy flats, and elk browsed on the foliage of the thickets along the
river banks. Grizzly bears and black bears,[6] large grey wolves, the
small coyote wolf, the pretty little kit fox and large red fox preyed
on these herbivores, as did also pumas and lynxes. Marmots and prairie
hares (_Lepus campestris_)--often called rabbits by the pioneers, who
also named the marmots "wood-chucks"--frolicked in the herbage, and
formed the principal prey of the numerous rattlesnakes. By the shores
of streams and lakes stood rows of stately cranes: the whooping crane,
of large size, pure white, with black quill feathers, the crown of the
head crimson scarlet and the long legs black; and the purple-brown
crane, somewhat smaller in size. On hot, calm days in the region of
Lake Winnipeg the cranes soar to an amazing height, flying in circles,
till by degrees they are almost out of sight. Yet their loud note
sounds so distinct and near that the spectator might fancy they were
close to him.

[Footnote 4: _Mazama americana_, similar to, but quite distinct from,
the larger mule deer of British Columbia.]

[Footnote 5: The prongbuck (_Antilocapra americana_) is not a true
antelope, though in outward appearance it resembles a large gazelle.
It was called "cabri" by the French Canadians.]

[Footnote 6: "Bears make prodigious ravages in the brush and willows;
the plum trees, and every tree that bears fruit share the same fate.
The tops of the oaks are also very roughly handled, broken, and torn
down, to get the acorns. The havoc they commit is astonishing...."
--Alex. Henry, jun.]

The air at this season is full of great birds--eagles, buzzards,
hawks, and falcons--soaring in circles to look out for prey among the
flocks of wild swans, white geese, bernicle geese and brent geese,
duck and teal, which cover the backwaters and the marshes and shallow
lagoons. Turkey buzzards, coming up from the south, act as scavengers
during the summer months. Immense flocks of passenger pigeons,
buntings, grosbeaks, attack the ripening fruits and the wild rice of
the swamps. Grouse in uncountable numbers inhabit the drier tablelands
and open moors.[7]

[Footnote 7: Nowhere in the world are there so many kinds of grouse as
in North America. In the more northern regions are several species of
ptarmigan or snow partridges (_Lagopus_), which turn white in winter,
and the spruce partridges (_Canachites_); in the more genial climate
of the great plains of eastern Canada and in the Far West the ruffled
grouse and hazel grouse (_Bonasa_), the sage cocks (_Centrocercus_),
the prairie hens (_Tympanuchus_), and the blue or pine grouse

"To snare grouse requires no other process than making a few little
hedges across a creek, or a few short hedges projecting at right
angles from the side of an island of willows, which those birds are
found to frequent. Several openings must be left in each hedge, to
admit the birds to pass through, and in each of them a snare must be
set; so that when the grouse are hopping along the edge of the willows
to feed, which is their usual custom, some of them soon get into the
snares, where they are confined till they are taken out. I have caught
from three to ten grouse in a day by this simple contrivance, which
requires no further attendance than going round them night and
morning" (Hearne).]


But--a hundred years ago and more--the dominant features in the
fauna of the Middle West was the bison. Between the Athabaska and
Saskatchewan Rivers on the north, the Rocky Mountains on the west, and
Lake Superior on the east the bison passed backwards and forwards over
the great plains and prairies in millions, when white explorers first
penetrated these lands. They moved in herds which concealed the ground
from sight for miles. Here are some word pictures selected from the
writings of the pioneers between 1770 and 1810:

"The buffaloes chiefly delight in wide open plains, which in those
parts produce very long coarse grass, or rather a kind of small flags
and rushes, upon which they feed; but when pursued they always take to
the woods. They are of such an amazing strength, that when they fly
through the woods from a pursuer, they frequently brush down trees as
thick as a man's arm; and be the snow ever so deep, such is their
strength and agility, that they are enabled to plunge through it
faster than the swiftest Indian can run in snowshoes. To this I have
been an eyewitness many times, and once had the vanity to think that I
could have kept pace with them; but though I was at that time
celebrated for being particularly fleet of foot in snowshoes, I soon
found that I was no match for the buffaloes, notwithstanding they were
then plunging through such deep snow, that their bellies made a
trench in it as large as if many sacks had been hauled through it. Of
all the large beasts in those parts the buffalo is easiest to kill,
and the moose are the most difficult; neither are the (red) deer very
easy to come at, except in windy weather: indeed it requires much
practice and a great deal of patience to slay any of them, as they
will by no means suffer a direct approach, unless the hunter be
entirely sheltered by woods or willows.

"The flesh of the buffalo is exceedingly good eating, and so entirely
free from any disagreeable smell or taste, that it resembles beef as
nearly as possible."

"The spots of wood along the Park River are ravaged by buffaloes
(bison); none but the large trees are standing, the bark of which is
rubbed perfectly smooth, and heaps of hair and wool lie at the bottom
of the trees ... and even the grass is not permitted to grow.... The
ground is trampled more by these cattle than about the gate of a

"The Kris informed me they had seen a calf as white as snow in a herd
of buffalo. White buffalo are very scarce. They are of inestimable
value among the nations of the Missouri.... There were also some of a
dirty-grey colour, but these are very rare."

"I brought home two buffalo calves alive; they no sooner lost sight of
the herd than they followed my horse like dogs, directly into the
fort. On chasing a herd at this season the calves follow it until they
are fatigued, when they throw themselves down in high grass and lie
still, hiding their heads if possible. But seeing only a man and his
horse they remain quiet and allow themselves to be taken. Having been
a little handled, they follow like dogs."

In the spring, when the ice melted, innumerable buffaloes were killed
through attempting to cross the rivers on the melting ice. They would
drift by an observer (such as Alexander Henry, jun.) in entire herds
of drowned corpses. Vast numbers perished. They formed one continuous
line on the current for two days and two nights.

"By this time the river was crowded with them, swimming across,
bellowing and grunting terribly. The bulls really looked fierce; all
had their tails up, and each appeared eager to land first. The scene
would have struck terror to one unaccustomed to such innumerable
herds. From out in the plains, as far as the eye could reach, to the
middle of the river, they were rushing toward us, and soon began to
land about ten yards off. I shot one dead on the spot, my ball having
broken his neck; my hunter and guide only wounded theirs. This
discharge suddenly halted those on the south side, and turned those
that were still in the water."

In the autumn:--"Plains burned in every direction and blind buffalo
seen every moment wandering about. The poor beasts have all the hair
singed off; even the skin in many places is shrivelled up and terribly
burned, and their eyes are swollen and closed fast. It was really
pitiful to see them staggering about, sometimes running afoul of a
large stone, at other times tumbling down hill and falling into creeks
not yet frozen over. In one spot we found a whole herd lying dead."

Throughout British North America, from the Yukon to Newfoundland, and
from Labrador to Vancouver's Island, the rivers and freshwater lakes
swarm with fish, and fish that in most cases is exceedingly good to
eat. Salmon are most strikingly abundant in the rivers of British
Columbia and Newfoundland, but they also ascend most of the rivers
flowing into the Atlantic and Hudson's Bay. In the great lakes of
Canada and of the middle west there are trout and white fish
(_Coregonus_), pike, bass, chub, barbel, and five species of sturgeon.
In the rivers and lakes of the far north-west is found the blackfish

Hearne writes of Lake Athabasca that it swarms with fish, such as
pike, trout, perch, barbel, and other kinds not easily identified.
Apparently there is also a form of gar-pike found here (see p. 74);
this is described as having scales of a very large and stiff kind, and
being a beautiful bright silver in colour. The size of these gar-pike
range from two feet to four feet in length. Their flesh was delicately
white and soft, but so foul and rank in taste that even the Indians
would not eat it. The trout in Lake Athabaska seem to have been
enormous, weighing from 35 to 40 pounds, while pike were of about the
same weight.

The Amerindian tribes and the early European explorers lived mainly on
fish, which was a palatable and easily obtained food. Yet it must be
admitted that they had a splendid array of large and small game from
which to take their toll.

Nor was the whole Dominion, from west to east and up to the Arctic
zone, wanting in wild vegetable produce fit for man's consumption. The
sugar maple (_Acer saccharinum_) and its ally the _Negundo_ maple
provided a delicious syrup; the bark of certain poplars and the bast
of the sugar pine were chewed for their well-flavoured sweetness; the
wild rice of the marshes will be further described in the next
chapter. The wild fruits included delicious strawberries, cherries,
gooseberries, currants, black currants, grapes (in the south only),
blackberries of many kinds, whortleberries, cranberries, pears of the
service tree (_Pyrus canadensis_[8]), and raspberries of various
types--red, yellow, and black. Southern Canada and Nova Scotia
contained various nut trees of the walnut order (hickories,
butter-nuts, &c.), and hazel nuts were found everywhere except in the

[Footnote 8: Sometimes called _Amelanchier canadensis_.]

We have left undescribed what is still politically the most important
part of the whole of British North America--UPPER and LOWER CANADA.
These regions lie within the basin of the great St. Lawrence River,
beyond all doubt the most important waterway of North America, more
important even than the Mississippi. The main origin of the St.
Lawrence in the west is Lake Superior, the largest sea of fresh water
in the world, which is connected with Lake Nipigon on the north. The
waters of Lake Superior are carried over the Sault Ste. Marie rapids
into Lake Huron and find a huge backwater in Lake Michigan.[9] Out of
Lake Huron again they flow past Detroit into Lake Erie. From Duluth,
at the westernmost extremity of Lake Superior, to Buffalo, on the
easternmost point of Lake Erie, including all Lake Michigan and Lake
Huron, with its bays and channels, a steamer can pass with just the
one difficulty (easily surmounted) of the rapids at Sault Ste. Marie
between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. But after you have left Lake
Erie on the east you find yourself in the Niagara River, which at the
Niagara Falls plunges several hundred feet downwards into Lake
Ontario. From Lake Ontario to the sea along the St. Lawrence there is
uninterrupted navigation, though there are rapids that require careful
steering both with steamers and boats. Quebec marks the place where
the St. Lawrence River suddenly broadens from a river into a tidal
gulf of brackish or salt water. Ocean steamers from all over the world
can come (except during the height of the winter, when the water
freezes) to Quebec. But for the ice in wintertime Quebec would be
_the_ great sea-port of eastern Canada.

[Footnote 9: The south shore of Lake Superior, the whole of Lake
Michigan, the west shore of Lake Huron, and the south coasts of Lake
Erie and Lake Ontario are within the territories of the United

"If pitiless rock is commonly understood by an 'iron-bound shore',
then the coasts of the River St. Lawrence along the northern side of
the Gulf may truly be so styled, as nothing scarcely is to be seen
for hundreds of leagues but bare rocky mountains, capes and cliffs in
various shapes and figures, some of which are dotted with a few spruce
firs, while others present their bald pates deprived of covering by
the unmerciful hand of time." (James M'Kenzie).

The winters of the Quebec province are extremely cold, but the summer
and autumn are warm and sunny. The best winter climate, possibly, in
all Canada (though not as good as that of Vancouver Island, British
Columbia) is to be found in the small peninsula region, on the shores
of Lakes Erie and Huron, between Toronto and Detroit. This is the
district which the Jesuit missionaries described as "an earthly
paradise" even during the winter-time.

The following extracts, mostly from the journals of Alex. Henry, jun.,
give a good idea of the difference in climate and temperature between
the western and the central parts of the Canadian Dominion.

The late spring of northern Canada (Lake Nipigon, 50° N. lat.):--About
May 15, the tops of the poplars begin to appear green, with fresh
buds; the hills are changing their hue from a dry straw colour to a
delightful verdure, and fragrant odours greet us.

"Early in March, 1800, in the Assiniboin country (Manitoba, about 29°
N. lat.) the snow was entirely gone, for this winter had been an
abnormally mild one for central Canada. The birds soon realized the
openness of the season, for, on the 7th of March, turkey-buzzards
began to arrive from the south, and cormorants, ducks, swans, and
other spring birds; indeed, by the 24th of March not only had the snow
quite melted, but the meadows had grown so dry with the hot sun that
some accidents set them on fire. By April the 11th the weather had
become excessively hot, and immense flocks of the traveller-pigeon
(_Ectopistes_) flew northwards over the country."

In somewhat similar latitudes (50°) the spring bursts on the Pacific
coast region of British Columbia towards the end of February. "The
tall raspberry bushes were in blossom with a beautiful red flower,
which appeared more forward than the leaf (_Rubus spectabilis_). The
elder had sprouts an inch long, the alder was also beginning to
sprout, and willows were budding."

Although nowhere in Upper and Lower Canada (or in the maritime
provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) are the forests so
splendid as in parts of British Columbia, yet nevertheless when this
region was first discovered the magnificence of its woodlands greatly
impressed even the explorers of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, who were not as much given to praise of landscape beauty as
are we of later times. These Canadian forests include oaks, elms,
pines and firs, chestnuts and beeches, birch trees and sycamores,
maples and poplars, willows, alders, and hazelnuts (these last
sometimes growing into tall trees with thick trunks). The trees and
low-growing plants are partly like those of the north-eastern United
States, and partly resemble those of northern and central Europe.

Nowadays, owing to two centuries of incessant killing, the beasts and
birds of Upper and Lower Canada are not nearly so abundant as they
were a hundred years ago. When Canada proper was first discovered, the
wapiti red deer was still found in the basin of the St. Lawrence; it
has long since been extinct. There are, however, still lingering,
reindeer in the north, and elk in the forests of the east. There are
also Virginian deer (_Mazama_), but there is no bison (and, so far as
we know, never has been). There is no prongbuck, and many other
creatures characteristic of the United States and British Columbia are
not found in Upper and Lower Canada or in the maritime provinces. The
tree porcupine (_Erethizon dorsatus_), which the Canadians call
"Urson", or "Little Bear" is found still in the well-wooded regions
of eastern and southern Canada, as well as in British Columbia and
Alaska. In southern Canada there is the wood hare (_Lepus
sylvaticus_), and in the east and north the varying hare (_L.
americanus_) which turns white in winter.

Perhaps the most characteristic animal of this region was and is still
the beaver, though the beaver is found all over British North America
as far north as the Saskatchewan province and westwards into British

It is curious that the Indians of central Canada had a belief
(recorded by French and English pioneers) that occasionally in the
dusk, or at night, they have seen an enormously large beaver in the
water, so large that at first sight they have taken it for a moose.
Travellers who have related this have surmised that the Indian perhaps
saw a bear swimming, or a female moose, and in the dim light mistook
it for a giant beaver. But as we know that there were once giant
beavers (_Trogontherium_) as large as a bear, existing in England, it
is just possible there may have been a gigantic type of beaver
lingering in Canada before the opening up of the country by Europeans.

The beaver of North America is a very similar animal to the beaver
which used to exist wild in Wales, England, France, Germany, and
central Europe, and which still lingers in some parts of the Rhine
valley, Poland, Russia, and Siberia; but the American form is
classified as a separate species--_Castor canadensis_.

Beavers were sometimes exterminated or diminished in numbers by an
epidemic disease, which, according to JAMES TANNER[10], destroyed vast
quantities of them.

[Footnote 10: A remarkable eighteenth-century pioneer who joined the
Indians when a boy and lived as one of them.]

"I found them dead or dying in the water, on the ice, and on the land;
sometimes I found one that, having cut a tree half down, had died at
its roots; sometimes one who had drawn a stick of timber halfway to
his lodge was lying dead by his burthen. Many of them which I opened
were red and bloody about the heart. Those in large rivers and running
water suffered less; almost all of those that lived in ponds and
stagnant water, died. Since that year the beaver have never been so
plentiful in the country of Red River and Hudson's Bay as they used
formerly to be."

The great attraction which Canada offered to France and England as a
field of adventure lay in its wonderful supply of furs. The beaver
skins were perhaps the commonest article of export, and were generally
regarded as a unit of value, such as a shilling might be. Other skins
were valued at "so many beavers," or the smaller ones at half or a
quarter of a beaver each. Besides beaver skins, which were used for
making hats, as well as capes and coats, the following furs and skins
were formerly, or are still, exported from Canada. "Buffalo"
robes--the carefully rubbed-down hides of the bison, rendered, by
shaving and rubbing, so thin and supple that they could be easily
folded; reindeer and musk-ox skins treated in the same way; marten or
sable skins; mink (a kind of polecat); ermine (the white winter dress
of the stoat); the fishing marten, or pekan; otter skins; black bear
and white polar bear skins; raccoon, muskwash, squirrel, suslik, and
marmot skins, and the soft white fur of the polar hare; the white
skins of the Arctic fox, the skins of the blue fox, black fox, and red
fox;[11] wolf skins, and the furs of the wolverene or glutton, and of
the skunk--a handsome black-and-white creature of the weasel family,
which emits a most disgusting smell from a gland in its body. (The
skunk only comes from the south-central parts of the Canadian
Dominion). At one time a good many swans' skins were exported for the
sake of the down between the feathers, also the skins of grebes.

[Footnote 11: The blue fox is the Arctic fox (_Canis lagopus_) in its
summer dress; the black fox is a beautiful variety or sub-species of
the common fox (_C. vulpes_); so also is the red or "cross" fox. There
is also common throughout the Canadian Dominion the pretty little kit
fox (_Canis velox_).]

       *       *       *       *       *

A general fact that must not be forgotten in studying the adventures
of the pioneers of Canada was the means which Nature and savage man
had provided or invented for quickly traversing in all directions this
enormous area of nearly half North America. These means consisted (1)
of the distribution of salt and fresh water in such a way that by
means of ocean-sailing ships explorers coming from the east could
enter through straits and bays of the sea into the heart of Canada;
and (2) the facility, on quitting the seashore, of passing up
navigable rivers in boats or canoes into big lakes, and from these
lakes into other rivers leading to other lakes. Moreover, the
different river systems approached so closely to one another that even
the Amerindians and the Eskimo, long before the white man, had
realized that they had only to pick up their light canoes and carry
them a few miles, to launch them on fresh waters which might provide
hundreds or even thousands of miles of continuous travel. These are
the celebrated "portages" of Canadian history, from the French word
_porter_, to carry, transport. Sometimes the portages were made still
easier for loaded canoes by a road being cleared through the scrub and
over the rocks, and wooden rollers placed across it. Strong men could
then easily haul a loaded canoe over these wooden rollers until it
could be launched again in the water. Often these portages were made
to circumvent dangerous rapids or waterfalls. The Indians and the
French Canadians soon learnt how to steer canoes down rushes of
water--rapids--which we should think very dangerous on an English
river; but of course many of the rivers were obstructed at intervals
by descents of water which no canoe could traverse up or down, and in
these cases a path was cut from one smooth part of the river to
another, and the canoe carried or hauled overland.

In this way the great French and British explorers found it possible
to travel by water from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean across a
width of land of something like 2500 miles. The only serious walking
that had to be done was the crossing somewhere or other of the Rocky
Mountains, where the streams, of course, were far too precipitate in
descent to be navigable. In the hot, dusty plains of Assiniboia and
the upper Missouri region the Amerindians had introduced horses,
obtained indirectly from Spanish Mexico, and these were of great
service to the white pioneers, especially in their pursuit of the

So much for the summer season, when the rivers were full and
overflowing, and the ground consisted of bare rock, sand, or soil
covered with vegetation; the abundance of navigable streams and the
suitability of the country to horses rendered very little walking
necessary for those who wished to traverse the Canadian Dominion from
end to end.

But the winter changed these conditions, the rivers became coated with
thick ice, and the ground was covered, except in steep places, with an
unvarying mantle of snow. Yet transport became just as easy as in the
summertime, though perhaps a trifle more fatiguing. Men and women put
on snowshoes shaped like tennis rackets, and flew over the hard snow
quicker than a canoe could travel, dragging after them small sledges
on which their luggage was packed; or, if they had not much luggage,
carrying it slung round the shoulders and scurrying away on their
snowshoes even swifter for the weight they carried; or they travelled
over the smooth ice of the rivers and lakes.

Winter travellers, however, were sometimes troubled with a disorder
known as the snowshoe evil. This arose from the placing of an unusual
strain on the tendons of the leg, occasioned by the weight of the
snowshoe. It often resulted in severe inflammation of the lower leg.
The local remedy was a drastic one: it was to place a piece of lighted
touchwood on the most inflamed part, and to leave it there till the
flesh was burnt to the nerve!

In the north and the regions round Hudson's Bay, and also in the far
west--British Columbia and Alaska--there were dogs, more or less of
the Eskimo breed, trained by Eskimo or by Amerindians to drag the
sledges. In the months of December and January it is true that the
daylight in Arctic Canada (north of Lake Athapaska) became so short
that the sun at its greatest altitude only appeared for two or three
hours a short distance above the horizon. But there were
compensations. The brilliancy of the Aurora Borealis, even without the
assistance of the moon and the stars, made some amends for that
deficiency, for it was frequently so light all night that travellers
could see to read a very small print (Samuel Hearne). The importance
of these "Northern lights" must not be overlooked in forming an
opinion on the habitability of the far north in the "dark" winter
months. The display was frequent and brilliant.

The Athapaskan Indians called this phenomenon _Edthin_, that is to
say, "reindeer". When the Aurora Borealis was particularly bright in
the sky they would say that deer were plentiful in that part of the
heavens. Their fancy in this respect was not quite so silly as one
might think. They had learnt from experience that the Aurora Borealis
was in some way connected with electricity, and experience had equally
shown them that the skin of the reindeer, if briskly stroked by the
hand on a dark night, would emit as many electric sparks as the back
of a cat. On the other hand, the Amerindians in the southern and more
temperate regions thought the Aurora Borealis was a vast concourse of
"spirits of the happy day" dancing in the clouds.

Thus there were no climatic reasons why, both in summer and in winter,
immense distances should not be quickly covered in Canada between the
Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. This is how a mere hundred of
white pioneers opened up Canada to the knowledge of the civilized
world far quicker than the same area could have been discovered in
Africa or Asia. Sometimes, for about a month, between the melting of
the snow and ice and the steady flowing of the rivers in the late
spring, or between the uncertain autumn of November and the confirmed
winter of December, there might be an interval of a few weeks in which
journeys had to be made on foot under conditions of great hardship,
through mud, swamp, and over sharp stones or slippery rocks.

"The plains are covered with water from the melting of the snow so
suddenly, and our men suffer much, as they are continually on the
march, looking after Indians in every creek and little river. The
water is commonly knee deep, in some places up to the middle, and in
the morning is usually covered with ice, which makes it tedious and
even dangerous travelling. Some of our men lose the use of their legs
while still in the prime of life", wrote one eighteenth-century
pioneer, in the Canadian spring.

Severe as were the winter conditions of climate, the explorers were
just as willing to travel through the winter as the summer, because in
the winter they were spared the awful plague of mosquitoes and midges
which still renders summer and early-autumn travel throughout the
whole of Canada, from the United States borders on the south to the
Arctic Ocean on the north, a severe trial, and even an unbearable
degree of physical suffering.


The Amerindians and Eskimo: the Aborigines of British North America

I have already attempted to describe in the first chapter the ancient
peopling of America from north-eastern Asia, but it might be useful if
I gave here some description of the Eskimo and Amerindian tribes of
the Canadian Dominion at the time of its gradual discovery by
Europeans, especially during the great explorations of the eighteenth
and early nineteenth centuries.

It is evident that the ESKIMO--who are quite distinct from the
Amerindians in physical type, language, customs, and industries--have
been for thousands of years the only inhabitants of Arctic America.
When the Norsemen came to the New World they seem to have met with
Eskimo as far south as New England, but in more recent times the
Eskimo have only been found inhabiting the extreme north and
north-east: in Greenland, on the Labrador coast, on Baffin's Land, and
along the Arctic coast of the North-American continent, between the
Coppermine River and the westernmost extremity of Alaska, as well as
on the opposite islands and promontories of Asia.

Their name for themselves as a people is usually "Innuit" (in
Greenland, "Karalit"). Eskimo is a corruption of _Eskimantsik_, a
northern Algonkin word meaning "eaters of raw flesh". Although their
geographical range extends over a distance of about three thousand
five hundred miles--from north-easternmost Asia to the east coast of
Greenland--the difference in their dialects is little more than that
between French and Italian; whereas the difference between the speech
of one Amerindian tribe and another--even where they belong to the
same language group--is very great--not less than that between German
and Latin, or English and French, or even between Russian and
Hindustani. This fact--of the widespread Eskimo language--makes some
authorities suppose that the presence of the Eskimo in Arctic America
cannot be such a very ancient event as, from other evidence, one might
believe. Perhaps the bold travelling habits of the Eskimo--which makes
them range over vast distances of ice and snow when hunting seals,
walruses, whales, musk ox, or reindeer--enables them to keep in touch
with their far-away relations.

The canoes or _kayaks_ in which they travel (first described by the
Norsemen in the tenth century) are made out of the hide of the seal or
walrus. The leather is stretched over a framework constructed from
driftwood or whales' bones. There is a hole in the middle for the man
or woman to insert their legs. This hole they fill up with their
bodies. If the canoe capsizes, the Eskimo cannot fall out, but bobs up
immediately. He and the canoe are really "one-and-indivisible" when he
is navigating the seas and lakes, plying deftly a large paddle.

In regard to food they were certainly not particular or squeamish.
They loved best of all whales' blubber, or to drink the fishy-tasting
oil from bodies of whales, seals, or walruses. Besides the meat of
Polar bears and of any fur animals they could catch, or the musky beef
of the musk ox, they devoured eagerly sea birds' eggs, Iceland moss,
and even the parasitic insects of their own heads and bodies! Hearne
relates that they will eat with a relish whole handfuls of maggots
that have been produced in meat by the eggs of the bluebottle fly! On
the other hand, they held cannibalism in horror, whereas for two-two's
their Amerindian neighbours on the west and south would eat human
flesh without repugnance.

The Eskimo, though occasionally tall, are as a rule stumpy and
thickset, with very small hands and feet, broad faces, and projecting
cheekbones, a narrow nose without the aquiline bridge of the
Amerindian, slanting narrow eyes, and long heads containing large
well-developed brains. In disposition the Eskimo are nearly always
merry, affectionate to one another, honest, and modest. Modern
travellers in the Arctic regions give them invariably a high
character; but Frobisher, Davis, and the explorers of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries accused them of treachery and an inclination
to steal. Iron in any shape or form they could hardly resist taking.
Moreover, if they are the same people as the Skraellings of the Norse
traditions they must have been of a fiercer disposition a thousand
years ago.

The Amerindians who inhabited (more or less) the rest of the Canadian
Dominion, and the whole remainder of the New World, differed in
physical appearance from the Eskimo mainly in being taller and better
proportioned, with shorter and rounder heads, larger, fuller eyes, a
bigger nose, and a handsomer personal appearance. The skin colour, as
a rule, was darker and browner than the greyish- or pinkish-yellow of
the Eskimo.

The various human types that went to form the Amerindian race (beside
the Eskimo element in them) seem to have entered north-west America
from Asia, and first to have peopled the Pacific slopes of the Rocky
Mountains, after which they wandered farther and farther south till
they got into a warmer climate. Then they crossed the Rocky Mountains
and peopled the centre and east of what is now the United States. As
they pushed their way north up the valleys of the great rivers, they
no doubt killed, mingled with, or pushed back the Eskimo. At last
their northernmost extensions reached to the Mackenzie River, the
vicinity of Hudson's Bay, Labrador, and Newfoundland. But in all the
middle, west, and even east of Canada they seem to have been
_relatively recent arrivals_,[1] not to have inhabited the country for
a great many centuries before the white man came, and all their
recorded and legendary movements in North America have been from the
south-west towards the north-east (after they had got across the Rocky
Mountains). The few cultivated plants they had, such as maize (Indian
corn), tobacco, and pumpkins, they brought with them or received from
the south.

[Footnote 1: There may have been an earlier race inhabiting north-east
America which was killed out or driven away by the last Glacial

The only domestic animal possessed by either Eskimo or Amerindian was
the dog. We are most of us by now familiar with the type of the Eskimo
dog--a large, wolf-like animal with prick ears and a bushy tail curled
over its back. In this carriage of the tail the Eskimo and most other
true dogs differ from wolves, with whom the tail droops between the
hind quarters. But there is a small wild American wolf--the
coyote--which carries its tail more upright, like that of the true
dog; and the coyote seems indeed an intermediate form between the wolf
and the original wild dog. Most of the domestic dogs of the
Amerindians[2] (as distinguished from those of the Eskimo) seem to
have been derived from the coyote or small wolf of central North

[Footnote 2: "The dogs of the Northern Indians are of various sizes
and colours, but all of them have a foxy or wolf-like appearance,
sharp noses, bushy tails, and sharp ears standing erect." (Samuel

Hearne also remarks that the northern Indians had a superstitious
reverence and liking for the wolf. They would frequently go to the
mouth of the burrows where the female wolves lived with their young,
take out the puppies and play with them, and even paint the faces of
the young wolves with vermilion or red ochre.

When first observed by Europeans the unhappy Beothiks (of
Newfoundland) had apparently no domestic dogs, only "tame wolves",
whom they distinguished from the wild wolves by marking their ears.
They were made more angry by the European seamen attacking and killing
the wolves than by anything else they did. Apparently some kind of
alliance had been struck up between the Beothiks--a nation of
hunters--and the wolf packs which followed in their tracks; and the
Newfoundland wolves were on the way to becoming domesticated "dogs".
Later on it was realized that the island _did_ produce a special
breed--the celebrated Newfoundland dog--the original type of which was
much smaller than the modern type, nearly or entirely black in colour,
with a sharper muzzle and less pendulous ears. But its feet were as
strongly webbed and its habits as aquatic as those of the
"Newfoundland" of the modern breed. Some people have noticed the
resemblance between the farmers' dogs in Norway and the Newfoundland
type, and have thought that the latter may not be altogether of wolf
extraction, but be descended from the dogs brought from Norway and
Iceland by the Norse adventurers who visited Newfoundland in the tenth
and eleventh centuries.]

On the Pacific coast there were other types of domestic dog,
resembling greatly breeds that are found in eastern Asia and the
Pacific islands. Some of these were naked, and others grew silky hair,
which was woven by the natives into cloth (see p. 323). The Eskimo dog
almost certainly has been derived from northern Asia, and is closely
related to the well-known Chinese breed--the chow dog--and the
domestic breeds of ancient Europe. Even the commonest type of house
dog in the Roman Empire was very much like an Eskimo or a chow in
appearance. There is a true wild dog, however, in the Yukon province
of the Canadian Dominion and in Alaska--_Canis pambasileus_--a dark,
blackish-brown in colour. This may have been a parent of the Eskimo
dog, but it is also doubtless closely allied to the original (extinct)
wild dog of northern Asia, from which the chow and many other breeds
are directly descended. The Eskimo never under ordinary circumstances
ate their dogs; on the other hand, the Amerindians were fond of dog's
flesh, and in some tribes simply bred dogs for the table.

When Europeans first reached America all these Amerindian tribes, and
also the Eskimo, were still, for all practical purposes, in the Stone
Age. Those who lived in the north had discovered the use of copper and
had shaped for themselves knives and spear blades out of copper, but
not even this metal was in use to any great extent, and for the most
part they relied, down to the end of the eighteenth century, for their
implements and weapons, on polished and sharpened stones, on deer's
antlers, buffalo horns, sticks, sharp shells, beavers' incisor
teeth,[3] the claws or spines of crustaceans, flints, and suchlike
substances--in short, they were leading the same life and using almost
exactly the same tools as the long-since-vanished hunter races of
Europe of five thousand to one hundred thousand years ago--the people
who pursued the mammoth, the bison, the Irish "elk", and the other
great beasts of prehistoric Europe. Indeed, North America represented
to some extent, as late as a hundred years ago, what Europe must have
looked like in the days of palæolithic Man.

[Footnote 3: Of which they made very serviceable chisels.]

       *       *       *       *       *

The AMERINDIANS of the Canadian Dominion (when the country first
became known to Europeans) belonged to the following groups and
tribes. The order of enumeration begins in the east and proceeds
westwards. I have already mentioned the peculiar _Beothiks_ of
Newfoundland.[4] In Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick,
and the Gaspé Peninsula there were the _Mikmak_ Indians belonging to
the widespread ALGONKIN family or stock. West and south of the
Mikmaks, in New Brunswick and along the borders of New England, were
other tribes of the Algonkin group: the Etchemins, Abenakis,
Tarratines, Penobscots, _Mohikans_, and Adirondacks. North of these,
in the eastern part of the Quebec province, on either side of the Gulf
of St. Lawrence, were the _Montagnais_. This name, though it looks
like a French word meaning "mountaineers", was also spellt Montagnet,
and in various other ways, showing that it was originally a native
name, pronounced Montanyé. The Montagnais in various clans extended
northwards across Labrador until they touched the Eskimo, with whom
they constantly fought. The interior of Labrador was inhabited by
another Algonkin tribe, the _Naskwapi_, living in a state of rude
savagery. The _Algonkins_ proper, whose tribe gave their name to the
whole stock because the French first became acquainted with them as a
type, dwelt in the vicinity of Montreal, Lake Ontario, and the valley
of the St. Lawrence. In upper Canada, about the great lakes and the
St. Lawrence valley, were the Chippeways, or _Ojibwés_, and the
Ottawas. West and north of Lake Michigan were the Miamis, the
Potawátomis, and the Fox Indians (the Saks or Sawkis). Between Lake
Winnipeg and Lake Superior were the _Cheyennes_ (Shians); between
North and South Saskatchewan, the _Blackfeet_ or Siksika Indians
(sections of which were also called Bloods, Paigans, Piegans, &c).
North of Lake Winnipeg, as far as Lake Athabaska, and almost from the
Rocky Mountains to the shores of Hudson's Bay, were the widespread
tribe of the _Kris_, or _Knistino_.[5] The Gros Ventres or Big
Bellies--properly called _Atsina_--inhabited the southern part of the
middle west, between the Saskatchewan and the Missouri basins; and the
Monsoni or Maskegon were found in eastern Rupert Land.

[Footnote 4: See also pp. 156, 164, 186, and 199. In this list I have
put in italics the names of the tribes more important in history, and
in capitals the principal group names.]

[Footnote 5: Kinistino, Kiristineaux, Kilistino; called "Crees" or
"Kris" for short.]

All the above-enumerated tribes, except the Beothik indigenes of
Newfoundland, belong to the great and widespread ALGONKIN group.
(Algonkin is a word derived from the "Algommequin" of Champlain.) In
the valley of the St. Lawrence the French first encountered those
Indians whom they called _Huron_. This was a French word meaning
"crested", because these people wore their hair in a great crest over
the top and back of the head, which reminded the French of the
appearance of a wild boar (_Hure_). The real name of the Hurons, who
dwelt at a later date between Lakes Huron, Erie, Ontario, and the
neighbourhood of Montreal, was _Waiandot_ (Wyandot); but they went
under a variety of other names, according to the clans, such as the
Eries and the Atiwándoran or Neutral Nation. They were also called the
"Good" Iroquois, to distinguish them from the six other nations, the
IROQUOIS proper of the French Canadians, who signalized themselves by
fiendish and frightful warfare against the French and the various
tribes of Algonkin Indians. The Hurons and the rest of the six tribes
grouped under the name of IROQUOIS[6] were of the same stock
originally, forming a separate group like that of the Algonkins,
though they are supposed to be related distantly to the Dakota or
Siou. Amongst the "Six Nations" or tribes banded together in warfare
and policy were the celebrated "Mohawks" who dwelt on the southern
borders of the St. Lawrence basin and near Lake Champlain. As the
others of the six nations (including the Senekas and Onondagas)
inhabited the eastern United States, well outside the limits of
Canada, they need not be referred to here.

[Footnote 6: "Iroquois" was a name invented by Champlain (see p. 69).
Apparently this confederation called themselves _Hodenosauni_. The
termination "ois" in all French-American names is pronounced

Between the South Saskatchewan, the Rocky Mountains, and Lake
Superior, nearly outside the limits of the Canadian Dominion, was the
great DAKOTA, or Siou group,[7] divided into the distinct tribe of
_Assiniboin_ or "Stone" Indians (because they used hot stones in
cooking), the "Crows" or Absaroka, the Hidatsa or Minitari (also
called Big Bellies, like the quite distinct Atsina of the Algonkin
family), the Menómini (the most north-eastern amongst the Siouan
tribes, and the first met with by the British and French Canadians
south-west of Lake Superior), the Winnebagos on the southern borders
of Manitoba, the Yanktons or Yanktonnais, the "_Santi Siou_"
proper--generally calling themselves _Dakota_ or Mdewakanton--and the
"Tétons" along the northern Dakota frontier and into the Rocky
Mountains--also known as _Blackfeet_, Sans Arcs ("without bows"),
"Two-kettles", "Brulés" or "Burnt" Indians, &c.

[Footnote 7: The far-famed term _Siou_ is said to have been an
abbreviation of one of the original French names for this type of
Amerindian, _Nadouessiou_. In early books they are often called the

Next must be mentioned the very important and widespread ATHAPASKAN or
Déné (Tinné) group, named after Lake Athapaska (or Athabaska), because
that sheet of water became a great rallying place for these northern
tribes. The Athapaskan group of Indians indeed represents the
"Northern Indians" of the Hudson's Bay Company's reports and
explorers. They drew a great distinction between the Northern Indians
(the Athapaskan tribes) and the Southern Indians, which included all
the other Amerindian groups dwelling to the south of the Athapaskan
domain. But although nowadays so much associated with the far north
and north-west of America, the Athabaskan group evidently came from a
region much farther south, and has been cut in half by other tribal
movements, wars, and migrations; for the Athapaskan family also
includes the Apaches and the Navaho of the south-western portions of
the United States and the adjoining territories of Mexico. The
northern and southern divisions of the Athapaskan group are separated
by something like twelve hundred miles. The following are the
principal tribes into which the Northern ATHAPASKAN group was divided
at the time of the first explorations of the north-west. There were
the _Chippewayan_ Indians[8] round about Lake Athapaska, and the
Caribou Eaters or Ethen-eldeli between Lake Athapaska and Reindeer
Lake. The "_Slaves_", or Slave Indians of the Great Slave Lake and the
upper Mackenzie River; the Beaver and Sarsi Indians (known also as the
Tsékehn), about the Peace River and the northern part of Alberta
province; and the _Yellow Knives_, or Totsan-ottine (so called from
their being found with light-coloured copper knives when first
discovered by Europeans), north-east of the Great Slave Lake and along
the Coppermine River: the _Dogribs_ between the Great Slave Lake and
Great Bear Lake, perhaps (except in Alaska) the most northern
extension of the Amerindian type towards the Arctic regions. West of
the Dogribs dwelt--and still dwell--the interesting tribe of _Hare_
Indians, or Kawcho-Tinné. They extend northwards to the Anderson
River, on the verge of the Arctic Ocean. West of the lower Mackenzie
River, and stretching thence to the Porcupine or Yukon Rivers, are the
Squinting Indians ("Loucheux", or Kuchin), who in former times were
met with much farther to the south-east than at the present day.
Finally, there are the Nahani Indians, who have penetrated through the
Rocky Mountains to the Stikine River, reaching thus quite close to the
Pacific Ocean. This penetration northwards of groups of Athapaskan
Indians into districts inhabited for the most part by Amerindian
tribes differing widely in language and customs from all those _east_
of the Rocky Mountains, explains the way in which stories of the great
western sea--the Pacific--reached, by means of trading intercourse,
those Amerindian tribes of the middle-west and upper Canada, and so
stirred up the French and English explorers of the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries to make the marvellous journeys which are
recounted in this book.

[Footnote 8: These northern Indians are described by Hearne as having
very low foreheads, small eyes, high cheekbones, Roman noses, broad
cheeks, and long, broad chins. Their skins were soft, smooth and
polished, somewhat copper-coloured, and inclining towards a dingy
brown. The hair of the head was black, strong, and straight. They were
not in general above middle size, though well proportioned.]

_West_ of the Rocky Mountains, in British Columbia and Vancouver
Island (besides southern Alaska), the Amerindian tribes form the
N[¯u]tka-Columbian group, which is markedly distinct from the
Amerindians _east_ of the Rocky Mountains, from whom they differ
_widely_ in language, type, and culture. They are divided into quite a
large number of small separate groups--the Wakashan or _N[¯u]tkas_ of
Vancouver Island and south-western British Columbia, the Shahaptian or
"Nez percés" Indians of the Columbia basin, and the Chin[¯u]ks of
the lower Columbia River, the _Salishan_ or "Flathead" group
(including the Atn[¯a]s) of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers and central
British Columbia; and the _Haida_ Indians of Queen Charlotte's Islands
and the north-west coast of British Columbia. It must be remembered
that these different groups are only based on the relationships of
their component tribes in language or dialect, and do not always imply
that the tribes belonging to them had the same customs and
dispositions; but they were generally able to communicate with one
another in speech, whereas if they met the Indians of another group
the language might be so totally different that they could only
communicate by means of signs.


Sign and gesture language[9] was extraordinarily developed amongst all
the Amerindian races from the Arctic Ocean to the Antarctic. Not only
that, but they were quick to understand the purpose of pictures. They
could draw maps in the sand to explain the geography of their country,
and Europeans could often make them understand what they required by
rough drawings. They themselves related many events by means of a
picture language--the beginning of hieroglyphics; and in the
south-eastern parts of Canada, as in the United States, these signs or
pictographs were recorded in bead-shell work--the celebrated "wampum".

[Footnote 9: "It is surprising how dexterous all these natives of the
plains are in communicating their ideas by signs. They hold
conferences for several hours, upon different subjects, during the
whole of which time not a single word is pronounced upon either side,
and still they appear to comprehend each other perfectly well. This
mode of communication is natural to them; their gestures are made with
the greatest ease, and they never seem to be at a loss for a sign to
express their meaning" (Alex. Henry the Younger, 1800). But it should
also be noted that during the last hundred years the peoples belonging
to the N[¯u]tka-Columbian group have developed a trade language which
they use in common. This is a mixture of Chin[¯u]k, English, French,
Chinese, and Hawaaian.]

All these tribes, of course, varied very much in personal appearance,
though not in disposition. The vanished Beothiks of Newfoundland are
described as having been a good-looking tall people, with large black
eyes and a skin so light, when washed free from dirt or paint, that
the Portuguese compared them to gipsies; and the writer of Fabian's
_Chronicle_, who saw two of them (brought back by Cabot) at Henry
VII's Court, in 1499, took them for Englishmen when they were dressed
in English clothes. It was these people--subsequently killed out by
the British settlers on Newfoundland--who originated the term "Red
Indians", or, in French, _Peaux Rouges_, because their skins, like
those of so many other Amerindians, were painted with red ochre.

Many of the British Columbian peoples made themselves artificially
ugly by flattening the sides of the head. To press the skull whilst it
was soft, they squeezed the heads of their children between boards;
others, such as the warlike tribes of the upper Missouri, had a
passion for submitting themselves to mutilation by the medicine man of
the clan, in order to please the sun god. Such would submit to large
strips being cut from the flesh of their shoulders, arms, or legs, or
having their cheeks slashed. The result, of course, was to leave their
limbs and features horribly scarred when they healed up. In some
tribes, however, a young man could not obtain--or retain--a wife
unless he had shown his bravery by submitting to this mutilation.
Women often cut off one or more joints of their fingers to show their
grief for the death of children.

In some tribes, especially of the far north-west and of the Rocky
Mountains, the personal habits of men and women, or of the women only,
were so filthy, and their dislike to bathing so pronounced, that they
became objects of loathing to white men; in other tribes personal
cleanliness was highly esteemed, especially on the seacoast of British
Columbia or along the banks of the great rivers. Usually the men were
better looking and better developed than the women--for one reason,
because they were better fed.

Here is a description by PETER GRANT--a pioneer of the North-West
Company--of the Ojibwé Indians dwelling near the east end of Lake
Superior at the beginning of the nineteenth century:--

"Their complexion is a whitish cast of copper colour, their hair
black, long, straight, and of a very strong texture. The young men
allow several locks of the hair to fall down over the face, ornamented
with ribbons, silver brooches, &c. They gather up another lock from
behind the head into a small clump, and wrap it up with very thin
plates of silver, in which they fix the tail feathers of the eagle or
any other favourite bird with the wearing of which they have
distinguished themselves in war. They are very careful with their
hair, anointing it with bears' oil, which gives it a smooth and glossy
appearance. The teeth are of a beautiful ivory white, the cheeks
rather high and prominent, the eyes black and lively. Their
countenances are generally pleasant, and they might often be called
handsome. The ears are pierced in infancy, and the lobe is extended to
an unnatural size by suspending lead or any other heavy metal from the
outer rim, which in time brings them down near the shoulder. The nose
ornaments hang down half an inch, and nearly touch the upper lip.

"The men are bold, manly, and graceful in their gait, always carrying
their bodies erect and easy. On the other hand, the women, by walking
with the toes of their feet turned inwards, have a disagreeable and
lame appearance. The men are specially fond of painting their faces
and bodies with vermilion, white and blue clay, charcoal or soot mixed
with a little grease or water. With this colour they daub the body,
legs, and thighs in bars and patches, and take the greatest pains
about painting the face, usually with red and black. Their skins are
generally tattooed with figures representing the sun, stars, eagles,
serpents, &c, especially objects which have appeared to them in their
dreams. The women's faces are much less painted, usually a spot of red
on each cheek and a circle of red round the roots of the hair or

Here is a summary of what Alexander Henry, sen., wrote of the _Kri_ or
_Knistino_ Indians of Lake Athabaska about 1770:--

"The men in general tattoo their bodies and arms very much. The women
confine this ornamentation to the chin, having three perpendicular
lines from the middle of the chin to the lip, and one or more running
on each side, nearly parallel with the corner of the mouth. Their
dress consists of leather; that of the men is a pair of leggings,
reaching up to the hip and fastened to the girdle. Between the legs is
passed a strip of woollen stuff, but when this cannot be procured they
use a piece of dressed leather about nine inches broad and four feet
long, whose ends are drawn through the girdle and hang down before and
behind about a foot.... The shirt is of soft dressed leather, either
from the prong-buck or young red deer, close about the neck and
hanging to the middle of the thigh; the sleeves are of the same, loose
and open under the arms to the elbows, but thence to the wrist sewed
tight. The cap is commonly a piece of leather, or skin with the hair
on, shaped to fit the head, and tied under the chin; the top is
usually decorated with feathers or other ornament. Shoes are made of
buffalo (bison) hide, dressed in the hair, and mittens of the same.
Over the whole a buffalo robe is thrown, which serves as covering day
and night.

"Such is their common dress, but on particular occasions they appear
to greater advantage, having their cap, shirt, leggings, and shoes
perfectly clean and white, trimmed with porcupine quills and other
ingenious work of their women, who are supposed to be the most skilful
hands in the country at decorations of this kind. The women's dress
consists of the same materials as the men's. Their leggings do not
reach above the knee, and are gathered below that joint; their shoes
always lack decoration. The shift or body garment reaches down to the
calf, where it is generally fringed and trimmed with quillwork; the
upper part is fastened over the shoulders by strips of leather; a flap
or cape hangs down about a foot before and behind, and is ornamented
with quillwork and fringe. This covering is quite loose, but tied
around the waist with a belt of stiff parchment fastened on the side,
where also some ornaments are suspended. The sleeves are detached from
the body garment; from the wrist to the elbow they are sewed, but
thence to the shoulder they are open underneath and drawn up to the
neck, where they are fastened across the breast and back.

"Their ornaments are two or three coils of brass wire twisted around
the rim of each ear, in which incisions are made for that purpose;
blue beads, brass rings, quillwork, and fringe occasionally answer.
Vermilion (a red clay) is much used by the women to paint the face.

"Their hair is generally parted on the crown and fastened behind each
ear in large knots, from which are suspended bunches of blue beads or
other ingenious work of their own. The men adjust their hair in
various forms; some have it parted on top and tied in a tail on each
side, while others make one long _queue_ which hangs down behind, and
around which is twisted a strip of otter skin or dressed buffalo
entrails. This tail is frequently increased in thickness and length by
adding false hair, but others allow it to flow loose naturally. Combs
are seldom used by the men, and they never smear the hair with grease,
but red earth is sometimes put upon it. White earth daubed over the
hair generally denotes mourning. The young men sometimes have a bunch
of hair on the crown, about the size of a small teacup, and nearly in
the shape of that vessel upside down, to which they fasten various
ornaments of feathers, quillwork, ermine tails, &c. Red and white
earth and charcoal are much used in their toilets; with the former
they usually daub their robes and other garments, some red and others
white. The women comb their hair and use grease on it."

The Slave Indians (a tribe of the Athapaskan family) tattooed their
cheeks with charcoal inserted under the skin, also daubed their
bodies, robes, and garments profusely with red earth (generally
called, in the text of travellers, vermilion), but they had another
favourite pigment, procured from the regions on the west of the Rocky
Mountains, some kind of graphite, like the lead of lead pencils. With
this they marked their faces in black lead after red earth has been
applied, and thus gave themselves a ghastly and savage appearance.
Their dress consists of a leather shirt trimmed with human hair and
porcupine-quill work, and leggings of leather. Their shoes and caps
were made of bison leather, with the hair outside. Their necklaces
were strings of grizzly-bear claws, and a "buffalo" robe was thrown
over all occasionally. Some of them occasionally had quite light
skins--when free of dirt or paint--and grey eyes, and their hair,
instead of being black, was greyish-brown. These last features (grey
eyes and brown hair) characterized many individuals among the northern
British-Columbian tribes.

The Naskwapis of inland Labrador--allied in speech to the Kris and the
Montagnais, but in blood to the Eskimo--are described as above the
middle size in height, slender, and long-legged, their cheeks being
very prominent, eyes black, nose rather flat, mouth large, lips thick,
teeth white, hair rough and black, and the complexion a yellowish
"frog" colour. They were dressed in elaborate and warm garments made
of reindeer skin. The ordinary covering for the head of the men was
the skin of a bear's head. "Thus accoutred, with the addition of a
bow and quiver, a stone axe, and a bone knife, a Naskwapi man
possessed no small degree of pride and self-importance" (James

The handsomest tribes of Amerindians encountered by the Canadian
pioneers seem to have been the Ojibwés of Lake Superior, the Iroquois
south of the St. Lawrence, and the Mandans of the upper Missouri.

Until well on in the nineteenth century none of the Canadian
Amerindians were particular about wearing clothes if the weather was
hot. The men, especially, were either quite oblivious of what was
seemly in clothing (except perhaps the Iroquois) or thought it
necessary to go naked into battle, or to remove all clothing before
taking part in religious ceremonies.

It is commonly supposed that the Red Man was a rather glum person,
seldom seen to smile and averse to showing any emotion. That is not
the impression one derives from the many pen portraits of Amerindians
in the journals of the great pioneers. Here, on the contrary, you see
the natives laughing, smiling, kissing eagerly their wives and
children after an absence, displaying exuberant and cordial friendship
towards the white man who treated them well, having love quarrels and
fits of raging jealousy, moods of deep remorse after a fight, touching
devotion to their comrades or chiefs, and above all to their children.
They are most emotional, indeed, and, apart from this chapter you will
find frequent descriptions of how they wept at times over the
remembrance of their dead relations and friends.

Hearne remarked, in 1772, that when two parties of Athapaska Indians
met, the ceremonies which passed between them were very formal. They
would advance within twenty or thirty yards of each other, make a full
halt, and then sit or lie down on the ground, not speaking for some
minutes. At length one of them, generally an elderly man, broke
silence by acquainting the other party with every misfortune that had
befallen him and his companions from the last time they had seen or
heard of each other, including all deaths and other calamities which
had happened to any other Indians during the same period. When he
finished, another orator, belonging to the other party, related in
like manner all the bad news that had come to _his_ knowledge. If
these orations contained any news that in the least affected either
party, it would not be long before some of them began to sigh and sob,
and soon after to break out into a loud cry, which was generally
accompanied by most of the grown persons of both sexes; and sometimes
it was common to hear them all--men, women, and children--joining in
one universal howl. When the first transports of grief had subsided,
they advanced by degrees, and both parties mixed with each other, the
men with the men, the women with the women. They then passed round
tobacco pipes very freely, and the conversation became general. They
had now nothing but good news left to tell, and in less than half an
hour probably nothing but smiles and cheerfulness would be seen on
every face.

One direction in which the Amerindians did not shine was in their
treatment of women. This perhaps was worse than in other uncivilized
races. Woman was very badly used, except perhaps for the first year of
courtship and marriage. Courtship began by the young man throwing
sticks at the girl[10] who pleased his fancy, and if she responded he
asked her in marriage. But not long after she had become a mother she
sank into the position of a household drudge and beast of burden. For
example, amongst the Beaver Indians, an Athapaskan tribe of the far
north-west, it is related by Alexander Mackenzie that the women are
permanently crippled and injured in physique by the hardships they
have to undergo. "Having few dogs for transport in that country, the
women alone perform that labour which is allotted to beasts of burden
in other countries. It is not uncommon whilst the men carry nothing
but a gun, that their wives and daughters follow with such weighty
burdens that if they lay them down they cannot replace them; nor will
the men deign to perform the service of hoisting them on to their
backs. So that during their journeys they are frequently obliged to
lean against a tree for a small degree of temporary relief. When they
arrive at the place which their tyrants have chosen for their
encampment, they arrange the tent in a few minutes by forming a curve
of poles meeting at the top and expanding into a circle of twelve or
fifteen feet in diameter at the bottom, covered with dressed skins of
the moose sewn together. During these preparations the men sit down
quietly to the enjoyment of their pipes, if they happen to have any

[Footnote 10: The manner of courtship among the Ojibwés seemed to
Peter Grant not only singular, but rude. "The lover begins his first
addresses by gently pelting his mistress with bits of clay, snowballs,
small sticks, or anything he may happen to have in his hand. If she
returns the compliment, he is encouraged to continue the farce, and
repeat it for a considerable time, after which more direct proposals
of marriage are made by word of mouth."]

Among the Ojibwé and Huron Indians of the Great Lakes the men
sometimes obliged their wives to bring up and nourish young bears
instead of their own children, so that the bears might eventually be
fattened for eating. If food was scarce, the women went without before
even the male slaves of the tribe were unprovided with food. Women
might never eat in the society of males, not even if these males were
slaves or prisoners of war. If food was very scarce, the husband as
likely as not killed and ate a wife; perhaps did this before slaying
and eating a valuable dog. (On the other hand, Mackenzie instances the
case of a woman among the Slave Indians who, in a winter of great
scarcity, managed to kill and devour her husband and several
relations.) So terrible was the ill-treatment of the women in some
tribes that these wretched beings sometimes committed suicide to end
their tortures. Even in this, however, they were not let off lightly,
for the Siou men invented as a tenet of their religion the saying that
"Women who hang themselves are the most miserable of all wretches in
the other world".

On the other hand, the kind treatment of children by fathers as well
as mothers is an "Indian" trait commented on by writer after writer.
Here is a typical description by Alexander Henry the Elder, concerning
the children of the Ojibwé tribe:

"As soon as the boys begin to run about, they are provided with bows
and arrows, and acquire, as it were 'by instinct', an astonishing
dexterity in shooting birds, squirrels, butterflies, &c. Hunting in
miniature may be justly said to comprise the whole of their education
and childish diversion. Such as excel in this kind of exercise are
sure of being particularly distinguished by their parents, and seldom
punished for any misbehaviour, but, on the contrary, indulged in every
degree of excess and caprice. I have often seen grown-up boys of this
description, when punished for some serious fault, strike their father
and spit in his face, calling him 'bad dog', or 'old woman', and,
sometimes, carrying their insolence so far as to threaten to stab or
shoot him, and, what is rather singular, these too-indulgent parents
seem to encourage such unnatural liberties, and even glory in such
conduct from their favourite children. I heard them boast of having
sons who promised at an early age to inherit such bold and independent
sentiments.... Children of nine or ten years of age not only enjoy
the confidence of the men, but are generally considered as companions
and very deliberately join in their conversations."

When death overtook anybody the grief of the female relations was
carried to great excess. They not only cut their hair, cried and
howled, but they would sometimes, with the utmost deliberation,
employ some sharp instrument to separate the nail from the finger and
then force back the flesh beyond the first joint, which they
immediately amputated. "Many of the old women have so often repeated
this ceremony that they have not a complete finger remaining on either
hand" (Mackenzie).


The Amerindians of North America were religious and superstitious, and
had a firm faith in a world of spiritual agencies within or outside
the material world around us. Most of them believed in the existence
of "fairies",--woodland, earth, mountain, or water spirits--whom they
declared they could see from time to time in human semblance. Or such
spirit or demi-god might assume for a time or permanently the form of
an animal. To all such spirits of earth, air, and water, or to the
sacred animals they inhabited, sacrifices would be offered and prayers
made. Great importance was attributed to dreams and visions. They
accustomed themselves to make long fasts, so that they might become
light-headed and see visions, or hear spirit voices in a trance. To
prepare their minds for this state they would go four or five days
without food, and even abstain from drinking.

Undoubtedly their "medicine men" developed great mesmeric powers, and
this force, combined with rather clumsy juggling and ventriloquism,
enabled them to perform a semblance of "miracles". The Iroquois
offered much opposition to Christianity, thinking it would tame their
warriors too quickly and affect their national independence; but by
the greater part of the Amerindians the message of the Gospel brought
by the French priests was eagerly received, and the converts became
many and most sincere. Their reverence for the missionaries and belief
in them was increased when they saw how effectually they were able to
protect them from too-rapacious white adventurers, fierce soldiers,
and unscrupulous traders.

The Miamis of Lake Michigan held the symbol of the cross in great
respect. A young Frenchman who was trading with them got into a
passion and drew his sword to avenge himself for a theft committed on
his goods. The Miama chieftain, to appease him, showed him the cross,
which was planted in the ground at the end of his lodge, and said to
him: "Behold the tree of the Black Gown; he teaches us to pray and not
to lose our temper,"--of course, referring to the missionary in the
black gown who had been amongst them. Before the cross was planted
here these Miamis kept in their houses one or more bogies, to which
they appealed in times of distress or sickness. One of these was the
skull of the bison with its horns. Another was the skin of the bear
raised on a pole in the middle of the hut and retaining the head,
which was usually painted green. The women sometimes died of terror
from the stories told them by the men about these idols, and the
Jesuits did a great deal of good by getting them abolished in many

The Supreme Being of the Eskimos was a goddess rather than a god: a
mother of all things who lived under the sea. On the other hand, most
of the Amerindian tribes believed in one great God of the Sky--Manito,
as He was called by the peoples of Algonkin stock, Nainubushan by the
Siou and their kindred. This Being was usually kindly disposed towards
man; but they also (in most cases) believed in a _bad_ Manito, who was
responsible for most of the harm in the world. But sometimes the Great
Manito was capricious, or apparently made many mistakes which he had
afterwards to rectify. Thus the Siou tribes of Assiniboia believed
that the Supreme Being (whom they called Eth-tom-é) first created
mankind and all living things, and then, through some oversight or
mistake, caused a great flood to cover the earth's surface. So in a
hurry he was obliged to make a very large canoe of twigs and
branches, and into this he put a pair of every kind of bird and beast,
besides a family of human beings, who were thus saved from drowning,
and began the world afresh when the waters subsided. This legend was
something like the story of Noah's ark, but seems in some form or
another to have existed in the mind of all the North-American peoples
before the arrival of Christian missionaries. Much the same story was
told by the Ojibwés about the Great Hare-God, Nainiboju.

The Siou and the Ojibwé (and other tribes also) believed that after
death the soul lay for a time in a trance, and then found itself
floating towards a River which must be crossed. Beyond the River lay
the Happy Hunting Grounds, the Elysian fields; but to oppose the weary
soul anxious to reach this paradise there ramped on the other side a
huge, flaming-red bison bull, if it had been ordained by the Great
Spirit that the soul's time was not yet come, this red bison pushed it
back, and the soul was obliged to re-enter the body, which then awoke
from its trance or swoon and resumed its worldly activities.

Suicide was regarded as the most heinous of crimes. Any man killing
himself deliberately, fell into the river of the ghost world and was
never heard of again, while women who hanged themselves "were regarded
as the most miserable of all wretches in the other world".

Their belief in spirits--even ancestral spirits--taking up an abode in
the bodies of beasts, birds, or reptiles, or even in plants or stones,
caused them to view with respect of a superstitious kind many natural
objects. Some one thing--a beast, bird, reptile, fish, plant, or
strange stone had been fixed on as the abode of his tutelary spirit by
some father of a family. The family grew into a clan, and the clan to
a tribe, and the object sacred in the eyes of its father and founder
became its "totem", crest, or symbol. As a rule, whatever thing was
the _totem_ of the individual or the clan was held sacred in their
eyes, and, if it was an animal, was not killed, or, if killed, not
eaten. Many of the northern Indians would refrain from killing the
wolf or the glutton, or if they did so, or did it by accident, they
would refuse to skin the animal. The elder people amongst the
Athapaskan Indians, in Hearne's day, would reprove the young folk for
"speaking disrespectfully" of different beasts and birds.

Their ideas of medicine and surgery were much mixed up with a belief
in magic and in the mysterious powers of their "medicine men". This
person, who might be of either sex, certainly knew a few simple
medicines to be made from herbs or decoctions of bark, but for the
most part he attempted to cure the sick or injured by blowing lustily
on the part affected or, more wisely, by massage. A universal cure,
however, for all fevers and mild ailments was sweating. Sweating huts
were built in nearly every settlement. They were covered over in a way
to exclude air as much as possible. The inside was heated with red-hot
stones and glowing embers, on to which from time to time water was
poured to fill the place with steam. The Amerindians not only went
through these Turkish baths to cure small ailments but also with the
idea of clearing the intelligence and as a fitting preliminary to
negotiations--for peace, or alliance, or even for courtship. In many
tribes if a young "brave" arrived with proposals of marriage for a
man's daughter he was invited to enter the sweating house with her
father, and discuss the bargain calmly over perspiration and the
tobacco pipe.

Tobacco smoking indeed was almost a religious ceremony, as well as a
remedy for certain maladies or states of mind. The "pipe of peace" has
become proverbial. Nevertheless tobacco was still unknown in the
eighteenth century to many of the Pacific-coast and far-north-west
tribes, as to the primitive Eskimo. It was not a very old practice in
the Canadian Dominion when Europeans first arrived there, though it
appeared to be one of the most characteristic actions of these
red-skinned savages in the astonished eyes of the first pioneers. They
used pipes for smoking, however, long before tobacco came among them,
certain berries taking the place of tobacco.

The Amerindians of the southern parts of Canada and British Columbia
were more or less settled peoples of towns or villages, of fixed homes
to which they returned at all seasons of the year, however far afield
they might range for warfare, trade, or hunting. But the more northern
tribes were nomads: people shifting their abode from place to place in
pursuit of game or trade. Unlike the people of the south and west
(though these only grew potatoes) they were not agriculturists: the
only vegetable element in their food was the wild rice of the marshes,
the sweet-tasting layer between the bark and the wood of certain
trees, and the fruits or fungi of the forest or the lichen growing on
the rocks. Though these people might in summertime build some hasty
wigwam of boughs and moss, their ordinary dwelling place was a tent.

The Wood Indians, or Opimitish Ininiwak, of the Athapaskan group
(writes Alexander Henry, sen.) had no fixed villages; and their lodges
or huts were so rudely fashioned as to afford them very inadequate
protection against the weather. The greater part of their year was
spent in travelling from place to place in search of food. The animal
on which they chiefly depended was the _hare_--a most prominent animal
in Amerindian economy and tradition. This they took in springes. From
its skin they made coverings with much ingenuity, cutting it into
narrow strips and weaving this into the shape of a blanket, which was
of a very warm and agreeable quality.

The Naskwapi Algonkins of inland Labrador were savages that led a
wandering life through the bare, flat parts of that country,
subsisting chiefly upon flesh, and clothing themselves with the skin
of the caribou, which they caught in pitfalls or shot with the bow
and arrow. "Very few sights, I believe, can be more distressing to the
feelings of humanity than a Labrador savage, surrounded by his wife
and five or six small children, half-famished with cold and hunger in
a hole dug out of the snow and screened from the inclemency of the
weather by the branches of the trees. Their whole furniture is a
kettle hung over the fire, not for the purpose of cooking victuals,
but for melting snow" (James M'Kenzie).

A description of the tents of the Kris or Knistino (Algonkins of the
Athabaska region), written by Alexander Henry, sen., applies with very
little difference to all the other tribes dwelling to the east of the
Rocky Mountains.[11]

[Footnote 11: See also p. 249.]

These tents were of dressed leather, erected with poles, generally
seventeen in number, of which two were tied together about three feet
from the top. The first two poles being erected and set apart at the
base, the others were placed against them in a slanting position,
meeting at the top, so that they all formed nearly a circle, which was
then covered with the leather. This consisted of ten to fifteen
dressed skins of the bison, moose, or red deer, well sewed together
and nicely cut to fit the conical figure of the poles, with an opening
above, to let out smoke and admit the light. From this opening down to
the door the two edges of the tent were brought close together and
well secured with wooden pegs about six inches long, leaving for the
door an oval aperture about two feet wide and three feet high, below
which the edges were secured with similar pegs. This small entrance
did well enough for the natives, who would be brought up to it from
infancy, but a European might be puzzled to get through, as a piece of
hide stretched upon a frame of the same shape as the door, but
somewhat larger, hung outside, and must be first raised by the hand of
the incomer.

Such tents were usually spacious, measuring twenty feet in diameter.
The fire was always made in the centre, around which the occupants
generally placed a range of stones to prevent the ashes from
scattering and to keep the fire compact. New tents were perfectly
white; some of them were painted with red and black figures. These
devices were generally derived from the dreams of the Amerindians,
being some mythical monster or other hideous animal, whose description
had been handed down from their ancestors. A large camp of such tents,
pitched regularly on a level plain, had a fine effect at a distance,
especially when numerous bands of horses were seen feeding in all

The "lodges" or long houses made of poles, fir branches, moss, &c.,
wherein, among the Iroquois, Algonkin, and Siou peoples, several
families made a common habitation, are described here and there in the
course of the narrative. The houses of the coast tribes of British
Columbia were bigger, more elaborate, and permanent, and in this
region the natives had acquired some idea of carpentry, and had learnt
to make planks of wood by splitting with wedges or hewing with adzes.

One of these British Columbian houses was measured, and found to be
seventy feet long by twenty-five feet wide; the entrance in the gable
end was cut through a plank five and a half feet wide, and nearly
oval. A board suspended on the outside answered for a door; on the
other side of the broad plank was rudely carved a large painted figure
of a man, between whose legs was the passage. But other houses on the
Pacific coast, visited by Cook or Vancouver, are said to have been
large enough to accommodate seven hundred people. These houses of the
Pacific coast region were exceedingly filthy, sturgeon and salmon
being strewn about in every direction. The men inhabiting them were
often disgusting in their behaviour, while the women are declared to
have been "devoid of shame or decency".

According to Mackenzie, such habitations swarmed with fleas, and even
the ground round about them "was alive with this vermin". The
Alexander Henrys, both uncle and nephew, complain of the flea plague
(partly due to the multitude of dogs) in every Indian village or

The domestic implements of the Amerindians were few. Pottery seems to
have been unknown amongst the northern tribes to the east and north of
the Mississippi valley, but earthen jars and vessels were made by the
Dakota-Siou group in the valley of the Mississippi. Amongst these
agricultural Indians the hoe was made of a buffalo's blade bone
fastened to a crooked wooden handle. The Ojibwés manufactured chisels
out of beavers' teeth. The Eskimo and some of the neighbouring
Amerindian tribes used oblong "kettles" of stone--simply great blocks
of stone chipped, rubbed, and hollowed out into receptacles, with
handles at both ends. (It is suggested that they borrowed the idea of
these stone vessels for cooking from the early Norse settlers of
Greenland; see p. 18.)

The Amerindians of the regions west of the Rocky Mountains made
kettles or cooking vessels out of blocks of "cedar" (_Juniper_) wood;
east of the Rocky Mountains the birch-bark kettle was universal. Of
course these vessels of wood or bark could not be placed on the fire
or embers to heat or boil the contents, as was possible with the
"kettles" of stone or the cooking pots of clay. So the people using
them heated the water in which the food or the soup was boiled by
making stones red-hot in the fire and then dropping them into the
birch-bark or cedar-wood tubs. Many of the northern Indians got into
the way of eating their food raw because of the difficulty of making a
fire away from home.

In regard to food, neither Amerindian nor Eskimo was squeamish. They
were almost omnivorous, and specially delighted in putrid or noisome
substances from which a European would turn in loathing, and from the
eating of which he might conceivably die.

It was only in the extreme south of Canada or in British Columbia
(potatoes only) that any agriculture was carried on and that the
natives had maize, pumpkins, and pease to add to their dietary; but
(as compared to the temperate regions of Europe and Asia) Nature was
generous in providing wild fruits and grain without trouble of
husbandry. The fruits and nuts have been enumerated elsewhere, but a
description might be given here of the "wild oats" (_Avena fatua_) and
the "wild rice" of the regions of central Canada and the middle west.
The wild oats made a rough kind of porridge, but were not so important
and so nourishing as the wild rice which is so often mentioned in the
stories of the pioneers, who liked this wild grain as much as the
Indians did.

This wild rice (_Zizania aquatica_) grew naturally in small rivers and
swampy places. The stems were hollow, jointed at intervals, and the
grain appeared at the extremity of the stalk. By the month of June
they had grown two feet above the surface of the shallow water, and
were ripe for harvesting in September. At this period the Amerindians
passed in canoes through the water-fields of wild rice, shaking the
ears into the canoes as they swept by. The grain fell out easily when
ripe, but in order to clean it from the husk it was dried over a slow
fire on a wooden grating. After being winnowed it was pounded to flour
in a mortar, or else boiled like rice, and seasoned with fat. "It had
a most delicate taste", wrote Alexander Henry the Elder.

Fish was perhaps the staple of Amerindian diet, because in scarcely
any part of the Canadian Dominion is a lake, river, or brook far away.
In the region of the Great Lakes fish were caught in large quantities
in October, and exposed to the weather to be frozen at nighttime. They
were then stored away in this congealed state, and lasted good--more
or less--till the following April.

Pemmican--that early form of potted meat so familiar to the readers of
Red-Indian romances--was made of the lean meat of the bison. The
strips of meat were dried in the sun, and afterwards pounded in a
mortar and mixed with an equal quantity of bison fat. Fish "pemmican"
was sun-dried fish ground to powder.

A favourite dish among the northern Indians was blood mixed with the
half-digested food found in the stomach of a deer, boiled up with a
sufficient quantity of water to make it of the consistency of pease
porridge. Some scraps of fat or tender flesh were shredded small and
boiled with it. To render this dish more palatable they had a method
of mixing the blood with the contents of the stomach in the paunch
itself, and hanging it up in the heat and smoke of the fire for
several days--in other words, the Scotch haggis. The kidneys of both
moose and buffalo were usually eaten _raw_ by the southern Indians,
for no sooner was one of those beasts killed than the hunter ripped up
its belly, snatched out the kidneys, and ate them warm, before the
animal was quite dead. They also at times put their mouths to the
wound the ball or the arrow had made, and sucked the blood; this, they
said, quenched thirst, and was very nourishing.

The favourite drink of the Ojibwé Indians in the wintertime was hot
broth poured over a dishful of pure snow.

The Amerindians of the Nipigon country (north of Lake Superior) and
the Ojibwés and Kris often relapsed into cannibalism when hard up for
food. Indeed some of them became so addicted to this practice that
they simply went about stalking their fellow Indians with as much
industry as if they were hunting animals. "These prowling ogres caused
such terror that to sight the track of one of them was sufficient to
make twenty families decamp in all the speed of their terror"
(Alexander Henry). It was deemed useless to attempt any resistance
when these monsters were coming to kill and eat. The people would even
make them presents of clothes and provisions to allow them and their
children to live. There were women cannibals as well as men (see p.

As the greater part of their food came from the chase, and their only
articles of commerce likewise, they devoted themselves more entirely
to hunting and fishing than to any other pursuit. The women did most
of the fishing (and all the skin-curing for the fur market and for
their own dress), while the men pursued with weapons the beasts of the
chase, trapped them in pitfalls or snares, or drove them into "pounds"
(excavated enclosures).

Illustrating the wonderful sagacity of the Amerindians as game
trackers, Alexander Henry the Elder tells the following story in the
autumn of 1799:--

"We had not gone far from the house before we fell upon the fresh
tracks of some red deer (wapiti), and soon after discovered the herd
in a thicket of willows and poplars; we both fired, and the deer
disappeared in different directions. We pursued them, but to no
purpose, as the country was unfavourable. We then returned to the spot
where we had fired, as the Indian suspected that we had wounded some
of them. We searched to see if we could find any blood; on my part, I
could find tracks, but no blood. The Indian soon called out, and I
went to him, but could see no blood, nor any sign that an animal had
been wounded. However, he pointed out the track of a large buck among
the many others, and told me that from the manner in which this buck
had started off he was certain the animal had been wounded. As the
ground was beaten in every direction by animals, it was only after a
tedious search that we found where the buck had struck off. But no
blood was seen until, passing through a thicket of willows, he
observed a drop upon a leaf, and next a little more. He then began to
examine more strictly, to find out in what part of the body the
animal had been wounded; and, judging by the height and other signs,
he told me the wound must have been somewhere between the shoulder and
neck. We advanced about a mile, but saw nothing of the deer, and no
more blood. I was for giving up the chase; but he assured me the wound
was mortal, and that if the animal should lie down he could not rise
again. We proceeded two miles farther, when, coming out upon a small
open space, he told me the animal was at no great distance, and very
probably in this meadow. We accordingly advanced a few yards, and
there we found the deer lying at the last gasp. The wound was exactly
as I had been told. The sagacity of the Saulteurs [Ojibwés] in tracing
big wood animals is astonishing. I have frequently witnessed
occurrences of this nature; the bend of a leaf or blade of grass is
enough to show the hunter the direction the game has taken. Their
ability is of equally great service to war parties, when they discover
the footsteps of their enemies."

The Assiniboin Indians (a branch of the Sious) down to about fifty
years ago captured the bison of the plains in hundreds at a time by
driving them into large excavated areas below the level of the ground.

Alexander Henry, jun., gives the following description of this
procedure in 1810:--

"The pounds are of different dimensions, according to the number of
tents in one camp. The common size is from sixty to one hundred paces
or yards in circumference, and about five feet in height. Trees are
cut down, laid upon one another, and interwoven with branches and
green twigs; small openings are left to admit the dogs to feed upon
the carcasses of the (old) bulls, which are generally left as useless.
This enclosure is commonly made between two hummocks, on the declivity
or at the foot of rising ground. The entrance is about ten paces wide,
and always fronts the plains. On each side of this entrance commences
a thick range of fascines, the two ranges spreading asunder as they
extend to the distance of one hundred yards, beyond which openings are
left at intervals; but the fascines soon become more thinly planted,
and continue to spread apart to the right and left until each range
has been extended about three hundred yards from the pound. The labour
is then diminished by only placing at intervals three or four cross
sticks, in imitation of a dog or other animal (sometimes called 'dead
men'); these extend on the plain for about two miles, and double rows
of them are planted in several other directions to a still greater
distance. Young men are usually sent out to collect and bring in the
buffalo--a tedious task, which requires great patience, for the herd
must be started by slow degrees. This is done by setting fire to dung
or grass. Three young men will bring in a herd of several hundred from
a great distance. When the wind is aft it is most favourable, as they
can then direct the buffalo with great ease. Having come in sight of
the ranges, they generally drive the herd faster, until it begins to
enter the ranges, where a swift-footed person has been stationed with
a buffalo robe over his head, to imitate that animal; but sometimes a
horse performs this business. When he sees buffaloes approaching he
moves slowly toward the pound until they appear to follow him; then he
sets off at full speed, imitating a buffalo as well as he can, with
the herd after him. The young men in the rear now discover themselves,
and drive the herd on with all possible speed. There is always a
sentinel on some elevated spot to notify the camp when the buffalo
appear; and this intelligence is no sooner given than every man,
woman, and child runs to the ranges that lead to the pound to prevent
the buffalo from taking a wrong direction. Then they lie down between
the fascines and cross sticks, and, if the buffalo attempt to break
through, the people wave their robes, which causes the herd to keep
on, or turn to the opposite side, where other persons do the same.
When the buffalo have been thus directed to the entrance of the pound,
the Indian who leads them rushes into it and out at the other side,
either by jumping over the enclosure or creeping through an opening
left for that purpose. The buffalo tumble in pell-mell at his heels,
almost exhausted, but keep moving around the enclosure from east to
west, and never in a direction against the sun. What appeared
extraordinary to me on those occasions was that, when word was given
to the camp of the near approach of the buffalo, the dogs would skulk
away from the pound and not approach until the herd entered. Many
buffaloes break their legs and some their necks in jumping into the
pound, as the descent is generally six or eight feet, and stumps are
left standing there. The buffalo being caught, the men assembled at
the enclosure, armed with bows and arrows; every arrow has a
particular mark of the owner, and they are let fly until the whole
herd is killed. Then the men enter the pound, and each claims his own;
but commonly there is what they term the master of the pound, who
divides the animals and gives each tent an equal share, reserving
nothing for himself. But in the end he is always the best provided
for; everyone is obliged to send him a certain portion, as it is in
his tent that the numerous ceremonies relating to the pound are
observed. There the young men are always welcome to feast and smoke,
and no women are allowed to enter, as that tent is set apart for the
affairs of the pound. Horses are sometimes used to collect and bring
in buffalo, but this method is less effectual than the other; besides,
it frightens the herds and soon causes them to withdraw to a great
distance. When horses are used the buffalo are absolutely driven into
the pound, but when the other method is pursued they are in a manner
enticed to their destruction."

A somewhat similar method was adopted by the northern Kris and
Athapascans for the capture of reindeer.

As regards means of transport, the use of dogs as draught animals was
by no means confined to the Eskimo: they were used in wintertime to
draw sledges over the snow or ice by nearly all the northern Indian
tribes, and by the people of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific coast.
After the Amerindians of the prairies and plains received horses
(indirectly through the Spaniards of Mexico)[12] they sometimes
employed the smaller and poorer kind of ponies as pack animals; but
for the most part throughout the summer season of the Canadian
Dominion--from May to October--transport and travel by canoe was the
favourite method.

[Footnote 12: See p. 150.]

There were four very well marked types of canoe or boat in British
North America. There was the already-described Eskimo _kayak_, made of
leather stretched over a framework of wood or bone; the Amerindians of
the Dominion, south of the Eskimo and east of the Rocky Mountains,
used the familiar "birch-bark" canoe;[13] the peoples of the Pacific
coast belt possessed something more like a boat, made out of a
hollowed tree trunk and built up with planks; and the tribes of the
Upper Mississippi used round coracles. Here are descriptions of all
three kinds of Amerindian canoe from the pens of eighteenth-century
pioneers: The birch-bark canoe used on the Great Lakes was about
thirty-three feet long by four and a half feet broad, and formed of
the smooth rind or bark of the birch tree fastened outside a wooden
framework. It was lined with small splints of juniper cedar, and the
vessel was further strengthened with ribs of the same wood, of which
the two ends were fastened to the gunwales. Several bars rather than
seats were laid across the canoe from gunwale to gunwale, the small
roots of the spruce fir afforded the fibre with which the bark was
sewn or stitched, and the gum of the pine tree supplied the place of
tar and oakum. Bark, some spare fibre, and gum were always carried in
each canoe for repairs, which were constantly necessary (one
continually reads in the diaries of the pioneers of "stopping to gum
the canoe"). The canoes were propelled with paddles, and occasionally
a sail.

[Footnote 13: In the far north-west, on the rivers of the Pacific
slope, the natives used spruce-fir bark instead of birch.]

The aborigines of Newfoundland--the Beothiks--are said to have known
the birch-bark canoe, framework canoe, but to have employed
"dug-outs"--hollowed tree trunks. The canoes of the Mandans of the
upper Missouri basin were like coracles, of circular form, made of a
framework of bent willow branches over which was stretched a raw
bison-hide with the hair inside. This was sewn tightly round the
willow rim. In lieu of a paddle they use a pole about five feet long,
split at one end to admit a piece of board about two feet long and
half a foot broad, which was lashed to the pole and so formed a kind
of cross. There was but one for each canoe. The paddler of this
coracle made directly for the opposite shore; every stroke he gave
turned his "dish" almost entirely round; to recover his position and
go on his intended route, he must give a stroke on the other side,
which brought him up again; and so on till he got over, not without
drifting down sometimes nearly a mile.

Alexander Henry, jun., thus describes a canoe of the Clatsop people on
the Lower Columbia (Pacific coast, opposite Vancouver Island): "This
was a war canoe--the first of the kind I had seen. She was about
thirty-six feet long and wide in proportion, the stem rising upright
about six feet, on top of which was a figure of some imaginary monster
of uncouth sculpture, having the head of a carnivorous animal with
large erect ears but no body, clinging by arms and legs to the upper
end of the canoe, and grinning horribly. The ears were painted green,
the other parts red and black. The stern also rose about five feet in
height, but had no figure carved on it. On each side of both stem and
stern broad strips of wood rose about four feet, having holes cut in
them to shoot arrows through. She had a high sprit-sail made of
handkerchiefs and pieces of gunny-cloth or jute, forming irregular
stripes, I am told these Indians commonly have pieces of squared
timber, not unlike a three-inch plank, high and broad, perforated to
shoot arrows through; this is fixed on the bow of the war canoe to
serve as bulwarks in battle."

Canoe voyages were mainly embarked on for trading; but in all
probability before the coming of the European there was little trading
done between one tribe and another, except in the region _west_ of the
Rocky Mountains, in which--especially to the north--the Amerindians
were so different in their habits and customs from those dwelling east
of the mountains as to suggest that they must very occasionally have
been in touch with some world outside America, such as Hawaii,
Kamschatka, or Japan. In these Pacific coastlands they used a white
seashell as a currency and a medium of exchange. So also did the
Iroquois people and the southern Algonkin tribes, in the form of
"wampum". The principal articles of barter were skins of fur animals,
porcupine quills, dogs, slaves, and women.

First Hunting (to supply food), then Trading in the products of the
chase, and lastly War were the main subjects which occupied the
Amerindian's thoughts before the middle of the nineteenth century.
They usually went to war to turn other tribes out of profitable
hunting grounds or productive fisheries; or because they wanted slaves
or more wives; or because a chief or a medicine man had a dream; or
because some other notability felt he had given way too much to tears
over some personal or public sorrow, and must show his manliness by
killing the people of another tribe. In their wars they knew no mercy
when their blood was up, and frequently perpetrated frightful
cruelties for the sheer pleasure of seeing human suffering. Yet these
devilish moods would alternate with fits of sentimentality. A man or a
woman would suddenly take a war prisoner, or a person who was wounded
or half-tortured to death, under their protection, and a short time
afterwards the whole war party would be greeting this rescued wretch
(usually a man--they were far more pitiless towards women) as brother,
son, or friend, and even become quite maudlin over a scratch or a
bruise; whereas an hour or so before they were on the point of
disembowelling, or of driving splinters up the nails and setting them
on fire. In warfare they often gave way to cannibalism.

Though extremely fond of singing--they sang when they were merry; when
they thought they were going to die; when they were victorious in
hunting, love, or war; when they were defeated; when they were
paddling a canoe or sewing a moccasin--they had but a poor range of
musical instruments. Most of the tribes used flutes made out of the
wing bones of cranes or out of reeds, and some had small trumpets of
wood, bark, or buffalo horn. The Pacific coast Indians made gongs or
"xylophones" out of blocks or slabs of resonant wood.

Here is a specimen of Amerindian singing. It is the song which
accompanied the famous Calumet dance in celebration of the peacemaking
qualities of tobacco-smoking. It was taken down by the Jesuit
missionaries in the seventeenth century from the Ilinwa (Illinois)
Algonkin Indians of the middle west, and its notation reminds one of
Japanese music.

  [Musical notation and words:


     Ni-na-ha-ni,  ni-na-ha-ni,  ni-na-ha-ni
     na-ni  on-go;  Ni-na-ha-ni,  ni-na-ha-ni,
     ni-na-ha-ni  ho-ho; ni-na-ha-ni,  ni-na-ha-ni,
     ni-na-ha-ni, Ka-wa ban-no-ge  at-chi-cha
     Ko-ge  a-ke  a-w[¯a]; Ba-no-ge  a-chi-cha
     sha-go-be  hé, hé,  hé! Min-tin-go  mi-ta-de
     pi-ni,  pi-ni  hé!  A-chi-cha  lé  ma-chi
     mi nam ba mik-tan-de, mik-tan-de  pi-ni, pini hé!]

     Ninahani, &c, ongo; ninahani, &c, hoho; ninahani, &c.
     Kawa bannoge atchicha Koge ake aw[¯a];
     Banoge atchicha shagobe hé hé hé! Mintingo mitade
     Pini pini hé! Atchicha lé machi mi nam ba miktande,
     Miktande pini pini hé!

Dancing was little else than posturing and jumping in masks--usually
made to look like the head of a wild beast. But the men were usually
very athletic. Wrestling competitions were almost universal,
especially as a means of winning a wife. The conqueror in a wrestling
match took the wife or wives of the defeated man. Their running powers
for endurance and speed became justly celebrated.

"Their principal and most inveterate game is that of the hoop," writes
Alexander Henry, sen., "which proves as ruinous to them as the platter
does to the Saulteurs (Ojibwé)." This game was played in the following
manner. A hoop was made about two feet in diameter, nearly covered
with dressed leather, and trimmed with quillwork, feathers, bits of
metal, and other trinkets, on which were certain particular marks. Two
persons played at the same time, by rolling the hoop and accompanying
it, one on each side; when it was about to fall, each gently threw one
arrow in such a manner that the hoop might fall upon it, and according
to that mark on the hoop which rested on the arrows they reckoned the
game. They also played another game by holding some article in one
hand, or putting it into one of two shoes, the other hand or shoe
being empty. They had another game which required forty to fifty small
sticks, as thick as a goose quill and about a foot long; these were
all shuffled together and then divided into two bunches, and according
to the even or odd numbers of sticks in the bunch chosen, the players
lost or won.

A favourite game amongst the Ojibwé is described as "the hurdle",
which is another name for the Canadian national game of La Crosse.
When about to play, the men, of all ages, would strip themselves
almost naked, but dress their hair in great style, put ornaments on
their arms, and belts round their waists, and paint their faces and
bodies in the most elaborate style. Each man was provided with "a
hurdle", an instrument made of a small stick of wood about three feet
long, bent at the end to a small circle, in which a loose piece of
network is fixed, forming a cavity big enough to receive a leather
ball about the size of a man's fist. Everything being prepared, a
level plain about half a mile long was chosen, with proper barriers or
goals at each end. Having previously formed into two equal parts, they
assembled in the very middle of the field, and the game began by
throwing up the ball perpendicularly in the air, when instantly both
parties (writes an eyewitness) "formed a singular group of naked men,
painted in different colours and in the most comical attitudes
imaginable, holding their rackets elevated in the air to catch the
ball". Whoever was so fortunate as to catch it in his net ran with it
to the barrier with all his might, supported by his party; whilst the
opponents were pursuing and endeavouring to knock the ball out of the
net. He who succeeded in doing so ran in the same manner towards the
opposite barrier, and was, of course, pursued in his turn. If in
danger of being overtaken, he might throw it with his hurdle towards
any of his associates who happened to be nearer the barrier than
himself. They had a particular knack of throwing it a great distance
in this manner, so that the best runners had not always the advantage;
and, by a peculiar way of working their hands and arms while running,
the ball never dropped out of their "hurdle".

"The best of three heats wins the game, and, besides the honour
acquired on such occasions, a considerable prize is adjudged to the
victors. The vanquished, however, generally challenge their
adversaries to renew the game the next day, which is seldom refused.
The game then becomes more important, as the honour of the whole
village is at stake, and it is carried on with redoubled impetuosity,
every object which might impede them in their career is knocked down
and trodden under foot without mercy, and before the game is decided,
it is a common thing to see numbers sprawling on the ground with
wounded legs and broken heads, yet this never creates any disputes or
ill-will after the play is decided" (Alexander Henry, sen.).

It has been computed that in the middle of the eighteenth century the
Amerindian population of the vast territories now known as the
Dominion of Canada numbered about 300,000. It now stands at an
approximate 110,000. The chief diminution has taken place in
Newfoundland, Lower and Upper Canada, New Brunswick, Assiniboia, and
British Columbia. There may even have been an increase in the north
and north-west. The first great blow to the Amerindians of these
regions was the smallpox epidemic of 1780. The next was the effect of
the strong drink[14] introduced by the agents of the Hudson's Bay and,
still more, the two North-west Companies. Phthisis or pulmonary
consumption also seems to have been introduced from Europe (though
Hearne thought that the Northern Indians had it before the white man
came). In fact, before the European invaded America neither Eskimo nor
Amerindian seem to have had many diseases. They suffered from ulcers,
scurvy, digestive troubles, rheumatism, headache, bronchitis, and
heart complaints, but from few, if any, "germ" diseases.

[Footnote 14: Before the white man came to _North_ America the natives
had no form of intoxicating drink.]

Some of the agents of the North-west Company apologize in their
writings for the amount of rum that was circulated among the
Amerindians at the orders of that company to stimulate trade, by
saying that it was seven parts water. Nevertheless it excited them to
madness, as the following extracts show. These are mostly taken from
the journals of Alexander Henry the Younger, but they are typical of
what was recorded by many other writers who describe the far interior
of British North America between 1775 and 1835.

"To see a house full of drunken Indians, consisting of men, women, and
children, is a most unpleasant sight; for, in that condition, they
often wrangle, pull each other by the hair, and fight. At times, ten
or twelve of both sexes may be seen fighting each other promiscuously,
until at last they all fall on the floor, one upon another, some
spilling rum out of a small kettle or dish which they hold in their
hands, while others are throwing up what they have just drunk. To
add to this uproar, a number of children, some on their mothers'
shoulders, and others running about and taking hold of their clothes,
are constantly bawling, the elder ones, through fear that their
parents may be stabbed, or that some other misfortune may befal them
in the fray. These shrieks of the children form a very unpleasant
chorus to the brutal noise kept up by their drunken parents."

       *       *       *       *       *

"In a drinking match at the Hills yesterday, Gros Bras (Thick Arms) in
a fit of jealousy stabbed Aupusoi to death with a hand-dague (dagger);
the first stroke opened his left side, the second his belly, and the
third his breast; he never stirred, although he had a knife in his
belt, and died instantly. Soon after this Aupusoi's brother, a boy
about ten years of age, took the deceased's gun, loaded it with two
balls, and approached Gros Bras's tent. Putting the muzzle of the gun
through the door the boy fired the two balls into his breast and
killed him dead, just as he was reproaching his wife for her affection
for Aupusoi, and boasting of the revenge he had taken. The little
fellow ran into the woods and hid. Little Shell (Petite Coquille)
found the old woman, Aupusoi's mother, in her tent; he instantly
stabbed her. Ondainoiache then came in, took the knife, and gave her a
second stab. Little Shell, in his turn taking the knife, gave a third
blow. In this manner did these two rascals continue to murder the old
woman, as long as there was any life in her. The boy escaped into
Langlois' house, and was kept hid until they were all sober. Next
morning a hole was dug in the ground, and all three were buried
together. This affair kept the Indians from hunting, as Gros Bras was
nearly related to the principal hunters."

     *       *       *       *       *

"Grand' Gueule stabbed Perdrix Blanche with a knife in six places.
Perdrix Blanche fighting with his wife, fell in the fire and almost
roasted, but had strength enough left notwithstanding his wounds to
bite her nose off."

     *       *       *       *       *

"In the first drinking match a murder was committed in an Assiniboine
tent, but fortunately it was done by an Ojibwé. L'Hiver stabbed
Mishewashence to the heart three times, and killed him instantly. The
wife and children cried out, and some of my people ran to the tent
just as L'Hiver came out with the bloody knife in his hand, expecting
we would lay hold of him. The first person he met was William Henry,
whom he attempted to stab in the breast; but Henry avoided the stroke,
and returned the compliment with a blow of his cudgel on the fellow's
head. This staggered him; but instantly recovering he made another
attempt to stab Henry. Foiled in this design, and observing several
coming out of the fort, he took to his heels and ran into the woods
like a deer. I chased him with some of my people, but he was too fleet
for us. We buried the murdered man, who left a widow and five
helpless orphans, having no relations on this river. The behaviour of
two of the youngest was really piteous while we were burying the body;
they called upon their deceased father not to leave them, but to
return to the tent, and tried to prevent the men from covering the
corpse with earth, screaming in a terrible manner; the mother was
obliged to take them away."

     *       *       *       *       *

"Men and women have been drinking a match for three days and nights,
during which it has been drink, fight--drink, fight--drink, and fight
again--guns, axes, and knives being their weapons--very disagreeable."

     *       *       *       *       *

"Mithanasconce was so troublesome (in drink) that we were obliged to
tie him with ropes to prevent his doing mischief. He was stabbed in
the back in three different places about a month ago. His wounds were
still open, and had an ugly appearance; in his struggling to get loose
they burst out afresh and bled a great deal. We had much trouble to
stop the blood, as the fellow was insensible to pain or danger; his
only aim was to bite us. We had some narrow escapes, until we secured
his mouth, and then he fell asleep."

     *       *       *       *       *

"Some Red Lake Indians having traded here for liquor which they took
to their camp, quarrelled amongst themselves. One jumped on another
and bit his nose off. It was some time before the piece could be
found; but, at last, by tumbling and tossing the straw about, it was
recovered, stuck on, and bandaged, as best the drunken people could,
in hopes it would grow again" (Alexander Henry, jun.).

     *       *       *       *       *

As regards drunkenness, several authors among the early explorers
declared that the French Canadian voyageurs were more disagreeable
when drunk even than the Amerindians, for their quarrels were noisier
and more deadly. "Indeed I had rather have fifty drunken Indians in
the fort than sixty-five drunken Canadians", writes Alexander Henry in
1810. And yet the extracts I have given from his journal show that it
would be hard to beat the Amerindians for disagreeable ferocity when

Henry, summing up his experiences before leaving for the Pacific coast
in 1811, writes these remarks in his diary:--

"What a different set of people they would be, were there not a drop
of liquor in the country! If a murder is committed among the Saulteurs
(Ojibwés), it is always in a drinking match. We may truly say that
liquor is the root of all evil in the north-west. Great bawling and
lamentation went on, and I was troubled most of the night for liquor
to wash away grief."

As a rule, the treatment of the Amerindians by the British and French
settlers was good, except the thrusting of alcohol on them. But in
Newfoundland a great crime was perpetrated. Between the middle of the
seventeenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries the British
fishermen and settlers on the coasts of Newfoundland had _destroyed_
the native population of Beothik Indians.

Before the English arrived on the coasts of Newfoundland the Beothiks
lived an ideal life for savages. They were well clothed with beasts'
skins, and in the winter these were supplemented by heavy fur robes.
Countless herds of reindeer roamed through the interior, passing from
north to south in the autumn and returning in the spring. Vast flocks
of willow grouse (like ptarmigan) were everywhere to be met with; the
many lakes were covered with geese, swans, and ducks. The woods were
full of pigeons; the salmon swarmed up the rivers to breed; the sea
round the coasts was--except in the wintertime--the richest fishery in
the world. They caught lobsters in the rock pools, and speared or
clubbed seals and great walruses for their flesh and oil. An
occasional whale provided them with oil, blubber, and meat. The Great
Auk--which could not fly--swarmed in millions on the cliffs and
islets. So abundant was this bird, and so fat, that its body was
sometimes used as fuel, or as a lamp. In the summertime their fish and
flesh diet could be varied by the innumerable berries growing
wild--strawberries, raspberries, currants, cranberries, and
whortleberries. The _capillaire_ plant yielded a lusciously sweet,
sugary substance.[15]

[Footnote 15: This was the Moxie plum or creeping snowberry
(_Chiogenes hispidula_).]


The Beothiks were a tall, good-looking people, with large black eyes
and a light-coloured skin. The early French and Biscayan seamen, who
resorted to the coasts of Newfoundland for the whale fisheries,
reported these "Red Indians" to be "an ingenious and tractable people,
if well used, who were ready to help the white men with great labour
and patience in the killing, cutting-up, and boiling of whales, and
the making of train oil, without other expectation of reward than a
little bread or some such small hire".

Yet from the beginning of the seventeenth century the Beothiks--then
about four thousand in number--were ill-treated by the European
fishermen who frequented the Newfoundland coasts. They soon greatly
decreased in numbers, and became very shy of white men. The French,
when they occupied the south coast of Newfoundland, brought over
Mikmak Indians to chase and kill the Beothiks or "Red" Indians. The
Eskimo attacked them from Labrador. Finally, when Newfoundland became
British in the eighteenth century, the English fishermen settlers and
fur hunters attacked and slew the harmless Beothiks with a wanton
ferocity (described by horror-struck officers of the British navy)
which is as bad as anything attributed to the Spaniards in Cuba and
Hispaniola. By about 1830 they were all extinct. As late as 1823 the
following anecdote is recorded of two English settlers whose names are
hidden behind the initials C and A. "When near Badger Bay they fell in
with an Indian man and woman, who approached, apparently soliciting
food. The man was first killed, and the woman, who was afterwards
found to be his daughter, in despair remained calmly to be fired at,
when she was also shot through the chest and immediately expired. This
was told Mr. Cormack by the man who did the deed." Even English women
in the late eighteenth century were celebrated for their skill "in
shooting Red Indians and seals".

"For a period of nearly two hundred years this barbarity had
continued, and it was considered meritorious to shoot a Red Indian.
'To go to look for Indians' came to be as much a phrase as to look for
partridges (ptarmigan). They were harassed from post to post, from
island to island; their hunting and fishing stations were
unscrupulously seized by the invading English. They were shot down
without the least provocation, or captured to be exposed as
curiosities to the rabble at the fairs of the western towns of
Christian England at twopence a piece."[16]

[Footnote 16: These are the remarks of an English chaplain in the
island, quoted by the Rev. George Patterson, who contributed a most
interesting article on the vanished Beothiks of Newfoundland to the
Royal Society of Canada in 1891.]

Too late--when the worry and anxiety of the Napoleonic wars were
over--the British Government sent a commission of naval officers to
enquire into the treatment of the Beothiks by the settlers. One woman
alone remained, as a frightened semi-captive, to be consoled and
soothed. There are Indians in the south of Newfoundland at the present
day, but they are Mikmaks who come over from the adjoining regions of
Cape Breton and Nova Scotia. So tender, indeed, is the modern
government of the island towards these (out of compunction for the
past) that they are allowed to kill the reindeer and other wild
animals without the licence which is exacted from white people, and so
are actually injuring Newfoundland's resources!

Since the great Dominion of Canada was brought into existence in 1871
as a unified, responsible government, the treatment of the remaining
Amerindian natives of British North America has been admirable; and
splendid work has been done in reclaiming them to a wholesome
civilization by the Moravian, Roman Catholic, and Church of England


The Hudson Bay Explorers and the British Conquest of all Canada

In a general way the discovery of the main features of the vast
Canadian Dominion may be thus apportioned amongst the different
European nations. First came the British, led by an Italian pilot.
They discovered Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.
Then came the Portuguese, who discovered the north-east of
Newfoundland and the coast of Labrador, while a French expedition
under an Italian captain reached to Nova Scotia and southern
Newfoundland. A Spanish expedition under a Portuguese leader shortly
afterwards reached the coast of New Brunswick. After that the French
from Brittany, Normandy, and the west coast of France laid bare the
_west_ coast of Newfoundland, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the River St.
Lawrence, and the Great Lakes.

Sir Francis Drake led the way in the exploration of the north-west
coast of North America. He reached, in 1579, as far north on that side
as the country of Oregon, which he christened New Albion. This action
stirred up the Spaniards, who explored the coast of California, and in
1591-2 sent an Ionian Island pilot, Apostolos Valeriano (commonly
called Juan de Fuca), in charge of an expedition to discover the
imagined Straits of Anian. He gave strength to this idea of a
continuous water route across temperate North America by entering (in
1592) the straits, since called Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island
and the modern State of Washington, and passing thence into the
Straits of Georgia, which bear a striking resemblance in their
features to the Straits of Magellan.

French explorers and adventurers, as we have seen, penetrated from the
basin of the St. Lawrence to the north and west until they touched the
southern extension of Hudson Bay (James's Bay), discovered Lake
Winnipeg and the Saskatchewan Rivers, the upper Missouri and the whole
course of the Mississippi, and finally recorded the existence of the
Rocky Mountains.

Parallel with these movements the British discovered the broad belt of
sea between Greenland and North America and the whole area of Hudson
Bay. After the French had ceased to reign in North America, the
British were to reveal the great rivers flowing into the Arctic Ocean,
the coasts and islands of the Arctic Ocean, the Yukon River, and the
coasts and islands of British Columbia and Alaska.

The first Europeans, however, to reach Alaska were Russians led by
Vitus Bering, a great Danish sea captain in the Russian service.
Bering was born in 1680 at Horsens, in the province of Aarhuus, E.
Denmark, and entered the service of Peter the Great, who was desirous
of knowing where Asia terminated and America began. Bering discovered
the straits which bear his name in 1728, and in 1741 was wrecked and
died on Bering's Island. Captain James Cook, the British discoverer of
Australia and of so many Pacific islands, completed the work of Bering
in 1788 in charting the north-west American coast right into the
Arctic Ocean.

It has already been related in Chapter III how the Hudson's Bay
Chartered Company came to be founded. Soon after their first pioneers
were established, in 1670, at Fort Nelson, on the west coast of Hudson
Bay, near where York Factory now stands, there was born--or brought
out from England as an infant--a little boy named Henry Kellsey, who
as a child took a great fancy to the Amerindians who came to trade at
Fort Nelson. As he played with them, and they returned his affection,
he learnt their language, and--for some inconceivable reason--this
gave great offence to the stupid governor of the fort (indeed, when
Kellsey as a grown man, some years afterwards, compiled a vocabulary
of the Kri language for the use of traders, the Hudson's Bay Company
ordered it to be suppressed). Stupid Governor Geyer not only objected
to Kellsey picking up the Kri language, but punished him most severely
for that and for his boyish tricks and jokes; so much so, that
Kellsey, when he was about ten years old, ran away with the returning
Indians, some of whom had grown very fond of him whilst they stayed at
Fort Nelson.

Six years afterwards an Indian brought to the governor of the fort a
letter written by Kellsey in charcoal on a piece of white birch bark.
In this he asked the governor's pardon for running away, and his
permission to return to the fort. As a kind reply was sent, Kellsey
appeared not long afterwards grown into a young man, accompanied by an
Indian wife and attended by a party of Indians. He was dressed exactly
like them, but differed from them in the respect which he showed to
his native wife. She attempted to accompany her husband into the
factory or place of business, and the governor stopped her; but
Kellsey at once told him in English that he would not enter himself if
his wife was not suffered to go with him, and so the governor
relented. After this Kellsey (who must then have been about seventeen)
seems to have regularly enrolled himself in 1688 in the service of the
Company, and he was employed as a kind of commercial traveller who
made long journeys to the north-west to beat up a fur trade for the
Company and induce tribes of Indians to make long journeys every
summer to the Company's factory with the skins they had secured
between the autumn and the spring. In this way Kellsey penetrated
into the country of the Assiniboines, and he finally reached a more
distant tribe or nation called by the long name of Néwátamipoet.[1]
Kellsey first of all made for Split Lake, up the Nelson River, and
thence paddled westwards in his canoe for a distance of 71 miles. Here
he abandoned the canoe, and, for what he estimated as 316 miles, he
tramped through a wooded country, first covered with fir and pine
trees, and farther on with poplar and birch. Apparently he then
reached a river flowing into Reindeer Lake. In a general way his steps
must have taken him in the direction of Lake Athapaska.

[Footnote 1: Spelt in the documents of the Hudson's Bay Company,

On the way he had much trouble with the Assiniboin Indians and Kris,
with whom he had caught up, and with whom he was to travel in the
direction of these mysterious Néwátamipoets. The last-named tribe, who
were probably of the Athapaskan group, had killed, a few months
previously, three of the Kri women, and the Kri Indians who belonged
to Kellsey's party were bent, above all things, on attacking the
Néwátamipoets and punishing them for this outrage. Kellsey only wished
to open up peaceful relations with them and create a great trade in
furs with the Hudson's Bay Company, so he kept pleading with the
Indians not to go to war with the Néwátamipoets. On this journey,
however, one of the Kri Indians fell ill and died. The next day the
body was burnt with much ceremony--first the flesh, and then the
bones--and after this funeral the companions of the dead man began to
reason as to the cause of his death, and suddenly blamed Kellsey.
Kellsey had obstructed them from their purpose of avenging their slain
women, therefore the gods of the tribe were angry and claimed this
victim in the man who had died. Kellsey was very near being sent to
the other world to complete the sacrifice; but he arranged for "a
feast of tobacco"--in other words, a calm deliberation and the smoking
of the pipe of peace. He explained to the angry Indians that his
Company had not supplied him with guns and ammunition with which to go
to war, but to induce them to embark on the fur trade and to kill wild
animals for their skins. If, instead of this, they went to war, or
injured him, they need never again go down to Fort Nelson for any
further trade or supplies. Four days afterwards, however, the
attention of the whole party was concentrated on bison.

Bison could now be seen in abundance. Kellsey was already acquainted
with the musk ox, which he had seen in the colder regions near to
Hudson Bay; but the bison seemed to him quite different, with horns
growing like those of an English ox, black and short. In the middle of
September he reached the country of the Néwátamipoets, and presented
to their chief, on behalf of the Hudson's Bay Company, a present of
clothes, knives, awls, tobacco, and a gun, gunpowder, and shot. On
this journey Kellsey encountered the grizzly bear, a more common
denizen of the western regions of North America. According to his own
account, he and one of the Indians with him were attacked by two
grizzly bears and obliged to climb into the branches of trees. The
bears followed them; but Kellsey fired and killed one, and later on
the other also. For this feat he was greatly reverenced by the
Indians, and received the name of Mistopashish, or "little giant".
Kellsey afterwards rose to be governor of York Fort, on the west coast
of Hudson Bay.

The next great explorer ranging westward from Hudson Bay was Anthony
Hendry.[2] Anthony Hendry left York factory in 1754, with a company of
Kri Indians, to make a great journey of exploration to the west, and
with the deliberate intention of wintering with the natives and not
returning for that purpose to Hudson Bay. By means of canoe travel and
portages he reached Oxford Lake. From here he gained Moose Lake, and
soon afterwards "the broad waters of the Saskatchewan--the first
Englishman to see this great river of the western plains".[3]
Twenty-two miles upstream from the point where it reached the
Saskatchewan he came to a French fort which had only been standing for
a year, and which represented probably the farthest advance northwards
of the French Canadians.

[Footnote 2: The young or old reader of this and other books dealing
with the exploration of the Canadian Dominion will be indeed puzzled
between the various Hendrys and Henrys. The last-named was a prolific
stock, from which several notable explorers and servants of the
fur-trading companies were drawn. In this book a careful distinction
must be made between the _Anthony_ Hendrey or Hendey, who commenced
his exploration of the west in 1754; the unrelated _Alexander_ Henry
the Elder, who journeyed between 1761 and 1776; and the nephew of the
last-named, Alexander Henry the Younger, whose pioneering explorations
occurred between 1799 and 1814.]

[Footnote 3: _The Search for the Western Sea_, by Lawrence J. Burpee.]

[Illustration: Map of EASTERN CANADA and NEWFOUNDLAND]

The situation was a rather delicate one, for the Hudson's Bay Company
was a thorn in the side of French Canada. However, in this
year--1754--the two nations were not actually at war, and the two
Frenchmen in charge of the fort received him "in a very genteel
manner", and invited him into their home, where he readily accepted
their hospitality. At first they spoke of detaining him till the
commandant of the fort returned, but abandoned this idea after
reflection, and Hendry continued his journey up the Saskatchewan. He
then left the river and marched on foot over the plains which separate
the North and the South Saskatchewan Rivers. The South Saskatchewan
was found to be a high stream covered with birch, poplar, elder, and
fir. He and his Indian guides were searching for the horse-riding
Blackfeet Indians.[4] All the Amerindians known to the Hudson's Bay
Company hitherto travelled on foot, using snowshoes in the winter; but
vague rumours had reached the Company that in the far south-west there
were great nations of Indians which did all their hunting on

[Footnote 4: See p. 159.]

Hendry had now found them, and he also met a small tribe of
Assiniboins--the Mekesue or Eagle Indians--who differed from the
surrounding tribes by going about, at any rate in the summertime,
absolutely naked. Here, too, between the two Saskatchewans, they saw
herds of bison on the plains grazing like English cattle. But they
also found elk (moose), wapiti or red deer, hares, grouse, geese, and
ducks. He records in his journal: "I went with the young men
a-buffalo-hunting, all armed with bows and arrows; killed several;
fine sport. We beat them about, lodging twenty arrows in one beast. So
expert were the natives that they will take the arrows out of the
buffalo when they are foaming and raging with pain and tearing up the
ground with their feet and horns until they fall down." The
Amerindians killed far more of these splendid beasts than they could
eat, and from these carcasses they merely took the tongues and a few
choice pieces, leaving the remainder to the wolves and the grizzly

At last they arrived at the temporary village of the Blackfeet. Two
hundred tents or _tipis_ were pitched in two parallel rows, and down
this avenue marched Anthony Hendry, gazed at silently by many
Blackfeet Indians until he reached the large house or lodge of their
great chief, at the end of the avenue of tents. This lodge was large
enough to contain fifty persons. The chief received him seated on the
sacred skin of a white buffalo. The pipe of peace was then produced
and passed round in silence, each person taking a ceremonial puff.
Boiled bison beef was then brought to the guests in baskets made of
willow branches. Hendry told the great chief of the Blackfeet that he
had been sent by the great leader of the white men at Hudson Bay to
invite the Blackfeet Indians to come to these eastern waters in the
summertime, and bring with them beaver and wolf skins, for which they
would get, in return, guns, ammunition, cloth, beads, and other trade
goods. But this chief, though he listened patiently, pointed out that
this fort on Hudson Bay was situated at a very great distance, that
his men only knew how to ride horses, and not how to paddle canoes.
Moreover, they could not live without bison beef, and disliked fish.

After leaving the headquarters of the Blackfeet, Hendry rambled over
the beautiful country of fir woods and pine woods until he must have
got within sight of the Rocky Mountains, though these are not
mentioned in his journal. Then, after passing the winter (which did
not begin as regards cold weather till the 2nd of December, and was
over at the end of March) he returned to the French fort on the
Saskatchewan, where he was received by the Commandant, de La Corne,
with great kindness and hospitality. These Frenchmen, he found, were
able to speak in great perfection several Indian languages; they were
well dressed, and courtly in manners, and led a civilized life in
these distant wilds. They had excellent trade goods and were sincerely
liked by the Indians, but for some reason or other they lacked
Brazilian tobacco, which seems to have been a commodity much in favour
amongst the Indians. With this the Hudson's Bay Company were kept well
supplied, and that alone enabled them in any degree to compete with
the French. But in ten years more this French fort would be abandoned
owing to the cession of Canada to Britain.

The British, in fact, all through the first half of the eighteenth
century, by their superiority in sea power, were steadily strangling
the French empire in North America. Acadia, or Nova Scotia, and New
Brunswick had been, as we have seen, recognized as British in 1713,
and Newfoundland, also, subject to certain conditions, giving France
the exclusive right to fish on the _western_ and _northern_ coasts of
Newfoundland. The result was that when "New France", or Canada and
Louisiana combined, was at its greatest extent of conquered and
administered territory, France held but a very limited seacoast from
which to approach it--just the mouth of the Mississippi, and a little
bit of Alabama on the south and Cape Breton Island on the east. Cape
Breton Island was commanded by the immensely strong fortress of
Louisburg, and the possession of this place gave the French some
security in entering the Gulf of St. Lawrence through Cabot Straits.
But Louisburg was captured by the British colonists of New England
(United States) in 1745; and although it was given back to France
again, it was reoccupied in 1758, and served as a basis for the
armaments which were directed against Quebec in 1759, and which
resulted at the close of that year in the surrender of that important
city. In 1763 all Canada was ceded to the British, and Louisiana
(which had become the western barrier of the about-to-be-born United
States) was ceded to Spain; the French flag flew no more on the
Continent of North America, save in the two little islands of St.
Pierre and Miquelon adjoining Newfoundland, wherein it still remains
as a reminder of the splendid achievements of Frenchmen in America.


The Pioneers from Montreal: Alexander Henry the Elder

After 1763, when the two provinces of Canada were definitely ceded to
Great Britain, the exploring energies of the Hudson's Bay Fur-trading
Company revived. But before this rather sluggish organization could
take full advantage of the cessation of French opposition, independent
British pioneers were on their way to explore the vast north-west and
west, soon carrying their marvellous journeys beyond the utmost limits
reached by La Vérendrye and his sons. Eventually these pioneers, who
had Montreal for their base and who wisely associated themselves in
business and exploration with French Canadians, founded in 1784 a
great trading association known as the North-west Trading Company. A
few years later certain Scottish pioneers brought a rival exploration
and trading corporation into existence and called it the "X.Y.
Company". In 1804 these rival Montreal fur-trading associations were
fused into a new North-west Trading Company. Between this and the old
Hudson's Bay Company an intensely bitter rivalry and enmity--almost at
times a state of war--arose, and continued until 1821, when the
North-west Company and that of Hudson's Bay amalgamated. It is
necessary that these dry details should be understood in order that
the reader may comprehend the motives and reasons which prompted the
journeys which are about to be described.

Jonathan Carver, of Boston, U.S.A., was perhaps the pioneer of all
the British traders into the far west of Canada, beyond Lake Superior,
after Canada had been handed over to the British.[1] In 1766-7 he
reached the Mississippi at its junction with the St. Peter or
Minnesota River, and journeyed up it to the land of the Dakota. Thomas
Currie, of Montreal, in 1770 travelled as far as Cedar Lake,[2] where
there had been established the French post of Fort Bourbon. He was
succeeded the next year by James Finlay, who extended his explorations
to the Saskatchewan, whither he was followed by Alexander Henry the
Elder in 1775.

[Footnote 1: Carver was not so remarkable for his actual journeys as
for his confident predictions of a feasible transcontinental route
being found to the Pacific coast.]

[Footnote 2: The white-barked conifer, which gives its name to this
lake, is _Thuja occidentalis_. There are no real "cedars" in America.]

Alexander Henry (styled The Elder to distinguish him from his famous
nephew of the same name) was a native of New Jersey (U.S.A.), where he
was born in 1739. His parents were well-to-do people of the middle
class who are believed to have emigrated at the beginning of the
eighteenth century from the West of England, and to have been related
to Matthew Henry, the Bible commentator. Their son, Alexander,
received a good education, and after some commercial apprenticeship at
Albany (New York) came to Quebec when Canada was occupied by the
British in 1760; at which period he was about twenty-one years old. He
was in such a hurry to try a trading adventure in the country of the
great lakes that he ventured into central Canada before it was
sufficiently calmed down and reconciled to British rule. The
hostility, curiously enough, manifested itself much more among the
Amerindians than the settlers of French blood. These white men had not
been so well treated by the arrogant French officers and officials as
much to mind the change to the greater freedom of British government.
But the Indian chiefs and people loved the French, largely owing to
the goodness and solicitude of the missionaries.

"The hostility of the Indians", wrote Henry in his journal, travelling
along the coast of Lake Huron, "was exclusively against the English.
Between them and my Canadian attendants, there appeared the most
cordial goodwill. This circumstance suggested one means of escape, of
which, by the advice of my friend, Campion, I resolved to attempt
availing myself; namely, that of putting on the dress usually worn by
such of the Canadians as pursue the trade into which I had entered,
and assimilating myself, as much as I was able, to their appearance
and manners. To this end I laid aside my English clothes and covered
myself only with a cloth passed about the middle; a shirt, hanging
loose; a 'molton', or blanket coat, and a large, red worsted cap. The
next thing was to smear my face and hands with dirt and grease; and,
this done, I took the place of one of my men, and, when the Indians
approached, used the paddle with as much skill as I possessed. I had
the satisfaction to find, that my disguise enabled me to pass several
canoes without attracting the smallest notice."

When he reached Fort Michili-makinak[3] he wrote: "At two o'clock in
the afternoon, the Chipeways came to my house, about sixty in number,
and headed by Minaváváná, their chief. They walked in single file,
each with his tomahawk in one hand and scalping knife in the other.
Their bodies were naked from the waist upward, except in a few
examples, where blankets were thrown loosely over the shoulders. Their
faces were painted with charcoal, worked up with grease; their bodies,
with white clay, in patterns of various fancies. Some had feathers
thrust through their noses, and their heads decorated with the
same.... It is unnecessary to dwell on the sensations with which I
beheld the approach of this uncouth, if not frightful assemblage.

"The chief entered first, and the rest followed without noise. On
receiving a sign from the former, the latter seated themselves on the

"Minaváváná appeared to be about fifty years of age. He was six feet
in height, and had, in his countenance, an indescribable mixture of
good and evil.... Looking steadfastly at me, where I sat in ceremony,
with an interpreter on either hand and several Canadians behind me, he
entered at the same time into conversation with Campion, enquiring how
long it was since I left Montreal, and observing that the English, as
it would seem, were brave men, and not afraid of death, since they
dared to come, as I had done, fearlessly among their enemies."

[Footnote 3: The famous place of call (the name means "Turtle Island")
in the narrow strait between Lakes Huron and Michigan, and near Lake
Superior. (See p. 230.) But some authorities declare that
Michili-makinak means "Island of the great wounded person".]

The Indians now gravely smoked their pipes, whilst Henry inwardly
endured tortures of suspense. At length, the pipes being finished, a
long pause of silence followed. Then Minaváváná, taking a few strings
of wampum in his hand, began a long speech, of which it is only
necessary to give a few extracts:--

"Englishman, it is to you that I speak, and I demand your attention!

"Englishman, although you have conquered the French, you have not yet
conquered us! We are not your slaves. These lakes, these woods and
mountains, were left to us by our ancestors. They are our inheritance,
and we will part with them to none. Your nation supposes that we, like
the white people, cannot live without bread--and pork--and beef! But,
you ought to know, that He, the Great Spirit and Master of Life, has
provided food for us in these spacious lakes, and on these woody

"Englishman, our father, the King of France, employed our young men to
make war upon your nation. In this warfare many of them have been
killed, and it is our custom to retaliate, until such time as the
spirits of the slain are satisfied. But the spirits of the slain are
to be satisfied in either of two ways. The first is by the spilling of
the blood of the nation by which they fell; the other by covering the
bodies of the dead, and thus allaying the resentment of their
relations. This is done by making presents.

"Englishman, your king has never sent us any presents, nor entered
into any treaty with us, wherefore he and we are still at war; and,
until he does these things, we must consider that we have no other
father, nor friend, among the white men, than the King of France; but,
for you, we have taken into consideration, that you have ventured your
life among us in the expectation that we should not molest you. You do
not come armed with an intention to make war; you come in peace, to
trade with us, and supply us with necessaries, of which we are in
want. We shall regard you, therefore, as a brother, and you may sleep
tranquilly, without fear of the Chipeways.... As a token of our
friendship, we present you with this pipe to smoke."

When Minaváváná had finished his harangue, an Indian presented Henry
with a pipe, the which, after he had drawn smoke through it three
times, was carried back to the chief, and after him to every person in
the room. This ceremony ended, the chief arose, and gave the
Englishman his hand, in which he was followed by all the rest.

At the Sault Ste Marie, on the river connecting Lake Superior and
Huron, Henry spent part of the spring of 1763-4, and engaged with a
few French Canadians and Indians in making maple sugar, the season for
which--April--was now at hand.

A temporary house for eight persons was built in a convenient part of
the maple woods, distant about three miles from the fort. The men
then gathered the bark of white birch trees, and made out of it
vessels to hold the sap which was to flow from the incisions they cut
in the bark of the maple trees. Into these cuts they introduced wooden
spouts or ducts, and under them were placed the birch-bark vessels.
When these were filled, the sweet liquid was poured into larger
buckets, and the buckets were emptied into bags of elkskin containing
perhaps a hundred gallons. Boilers (probably of metal, introduced by
the French) were next set up in the camp over fires kept burning day
and night, and the maple sap thus boiled became, by concentration,
maple sugar.

The women attended to all the business of sugar manufacture, while the
men cut wood and went out hunting and fishing to secure food for the
community; though, as a matter of fact, sugar and syrup were their
main sustenance during all this absence from home. "I have known
Indians", wrote Henry, "to live for a time wholly on maple sugar and
syrup and become fat." The sap of the maple had certain medicinal
qualities which were exceedingly good for persons who had previously
been eating little else than meat and fish, so that the three weeks of
sugar-boiling in Canada was, no doubt, a splendid assistance to the
health of the natives. On this particular occasion described by Henry,
the party returned, after three weeks' absence, to the Sault Ste Marie
with 1600 lb. of maple sugar, and 36 gallons of syrup.[4]

[Footnote 4: There are at least two species of maple in Canada
yielding sugar from their sap; but the best is _Acer saccharinum_. The
maple leaf is the national emblem of Canada.]

Henry returned in the summer of 1763 to Fort Michili-makinak. The
place was then held by a British garrison under Major Etherington.
Shortly after Henry's arrival, an Ojibwé chief named Wáwátam came
often to his lodgings, and, taking a great fancy to the Englishman,
asked leave to become his blood brother. He was about forty-five
years of age, and of an excellent character amongst his nation. He
warned Henry that he, Wáwátam, had had bad dreams during the winter,
in which he had been disturbed "by the noises of evil birds", and gave
him other roundabout warnings that the Indians of different tribes
were going to attack the British garrison at Michili-Makinak, and
endeavour to destroy all the English in Upper Canada. Henry did not
pay over much attention to this warning, because "the Indian manner of
speech is so extravagantly figurative".

The King's birthday was celebrated with, no doubt, somewhat tipsy
rejoicings in the summer of 1763. The Ojibwé Indians outside the fort
pretended they were going to have a great game of La Crosse with the
S[¯a]ki or "Fox" Indians. This game was got up to find a pretext for
entering the fort and taking the British officers and garrison at a
disadvantage. Some of the officers and soldiers, suspecting nothing in
the way of danger, were outside the fort by the waterside. However,
the sport commenced, and suddenly the ball was struck over the pickets
of the fort. At once the Ojibwés, pretending great ardour in their
game, came leaping, struggling and shouting over the defences into the
fort as though "in the unrestrained pursuit of a rude, athletic
exercise". Once inside the fortifications, they attacked the
unsuspicious and unarmed soldiers and officers, of whom they killed
seventy out of ninety.

Henry had not gone with the others, but had stayed in his room writing
letters. Suddenly he heard the Indian warcry and a noise of general
confusion. Looking out of his window he saw a crowd of Indians inside
the fort furiously cutting down and scalping every Englishman they
could reach. Meantime, the French Canadian inhabitants of the fort
looked on calmly, neither intervening to stop the Indians, nor
suffering any injury from them. Realizing that all his fellow
countrymen were practically destroyed, Henry endeavoured to hide
himself. He entered the house of his next-door neighbour, a Frenchman,
and found the whole family at the windows gazing at the scene of blood
before them. He implored this Frenchman to put him into some place of
safety until the massacre was over. The latter merely shrugged his
shoulders and intimated that he could do nothing for him; but a Pani
Indian woman, a slave of this Frenchman, beckoned to Henry to follow
her, and hid him in a garret. Then the Indians burst into the house
and asked the Frenchman if he had got any Englishmen concealed, the
latter returned an evasive answer, telling them to search for
themselves. Henry hid himself under a heap of birch-bark vessels,
which were used in maple-sugar manufacture. The door was unlocked, the
four Indians dashed in, their bodies covered with blood, and armed
with tomahawks. The hidden man thought that the throbbing of his heart
must make a noise loud enough to betray him. The Indians searched the
garret, and one of them approached Henry so closely as almost to touch
him; yet he remained undiscovered, possibly owing to the dark colour
of his clothes and the dim light in the room. Then the Indians, after
describing to the Frenchman how many they had killed and scalped,
returned downstairs, and the door was locked behind them.

But the next day the Indians insisted on a further search, and,
regarding every attempt at concealment as vain, Henry, by a desperate
resolve, rose from his bed and presented himself in full view to the
Indians as they entered the room. They were all in a state of
intoxication and entirely naked. One of them, upwards of six feet in
height, had all his face and body covered with charcoal and grease,
but with a large white ring encircling each of his eyes. This man,
walking up to Henry, seized him with one hand by the collar of his
coat, and in the other held up a large carving knife, making a feint
as if to plunge it into his breast, his eyes meanwhile fixed
steadfastly on those of the Englishman. At length, after some seconds
of the most anxious suspense, he dropped Henry's arm, saying: "I won't
kill you," adding that he had often fought in war with the English and
brought away many scalps, but that on a certain occasion he had lost a
brother whose name was Musinigon, and that he would adopt Henry in his

One would like the story to have stopped here at this happy turn of
events, but Wenniway (as this saviour of Henry was called) entertained
a very fickle regard for his adopted brother, and, though he once or
twice intervened, subsequently took no great pains to see that his
life was spared. However, for the time being he was reprieved, and
regarded Wenniway as his "master". Nevertheless, he was soon haled out
of the house by another Indian, apparently coming with Wenniway's
authority. This man ordered him to undress, and then took away all his
clothes, giving him such dirty rags or strips of leather as he
possessed himself. He frankly owned that his motive for stripping him
was that, as he wished afterwards to kill him, Henry's clothes might
not be stained with blood! With the intention of assassinating him, in
fact, he dragged Henry along to a region of bushes and sandhills, and
then produced a knife and attempted to execute his purpose. But with
the rage and strength of absolute despair Henry wrenched himself free,
pushed his would-be murderer on one side, and ran for his life towards
the fort.

Here Wenniway rather indifferently helped him to take refuge in the
house of the Frenchman in which he had formerly hidden, but the same
night he was roused from sleep and ordered to come below, where to his
surprise he found himself in the presence of three of the British
officers who had formerly commanded in this fort, and who were now
prisoners of the Ojibwés. The Indian chiefs for the time being had
handed these men over to the surveillance of the French Canadians,
together with the seventeen surviving English soldiers and traders.
Henry, like the others, was almost without clothes. The French
Canadian in whose house he had taken refuge refused to give him as
much as a blanket, but another Canadian, less indifferent to the
sufferings of a fellow white man, did give him a blanket, but for
which he would certainly have perished from cold.

The next day he and the other English prisoners were embarked in
canoes and taken away to Lake Michigan. On reaching the mouth of that
lake, at the Beaver Islands, the Ojibwé canoes, on account of the fog,
were obliged to approach the lands of the Ottawa Indians. These last
suddenly seized the canoes as they entered shallow water, and
professed great indignation at the capture of Fort Michili-Makinak and
the slaughter of the Englishmen. They declared their intention of
saving the survivors, and charged the Ojibwés with being about to kill
and eat them. By the Ottawa Indians, therefore, the twenty Englishmen
were carried back again and deposited in Fort Michili-Makinak, which
was now taken possession of by the Ottawas. The English were still
held as prisoners. After hearing all the Ojibwés had to say, and
receiving from them large presents, the Ottawas finally decided to
restore their English prisoners to the Ojibwés, who consequently took
them away with ropes tied round their necks, and put them into an
Indian habitation. Here, as they were starving, they were offered
loaves of bread, but with the horrible accompaniment of seeing the
slices cut with knives still covered with the blood of the murdered
English. The Ojibwés moistened this blood on the knife blades with
their spittle, and rubbed it on the slices of bread, offering this
food then to their prisoners, so that they might force them to eat the
blood of their countrymen.

The next morning, however, there appeared before Ménéhewéhná, the
great war chief of the Ojibwés, Henry's friend and adopted brother,
Wáwátam. This man made an earnest speech to the council of Ojibwé
chiefs and braves, in which he pleaded hard for the Englishman's life,
at the same time tendering from out of his own goods a considerable
ransom. After much pipe-smoking and an embarrassing silence, the war
chief rose to his feet and accepted the ransom, giving Wáwátam
permission to take away into safety his adopted brother. "Wáwátam led
me to his lodge, which was at the distance of a few yards only from
the prison lodge. My entrance appeared to give joy to the whole
family; food was immediately prepared for me; and I now ate the first
hearty meal which I had made since my capture. I found myself one of
the family; and, but that I had still my fears as to the other
Indians, I felt as happy as the situation could allow."

The next day seven of the English prisoners were killed by the
Ojibwés, and Henry actually saw their dead bodies being dragged out
into the open. They had been killed in cold blood by an Indian chief
who had just arrived from a hunting expedition, and who, not having
been present at the attack on the fort, now desired to satisfy his
warlike instincts and his agreement with the policy of the Ojibwés by
going into the lodge where the English officers and men were tied up,
and slaughtering seven of them in cold blood.

Shortly afterwards two of the Ojibwés took the fattest amongst the
dead men, cut off his head, and divided his body into five parts, one
of which was put into each of five kettles hung over as many fires,
which were kindled for this purpose at the door of the house in which
the other prisoners were tied up. They then sent to insist on the
attendance at their cannibal feast of Wáwátam, the adopted brother and
protector of Henry. The invitation was delivered after the Amerindian
fashion. A small cutting of cedar wood about four inches in length
supplies the place of the written or printed invitation to dinner of
European civilization, and the man who bore the slip of cedar wood
gave particulars as to place and time by word of mouth. Guests on
these occasions were expected to bring their own dish and spoon.

In spite of repugnance, Wáwátam, to save his life and that of Henry,
was obliged to go. He returned after an absence of half an hour,
bringing back in his dish the portion given to him--a human hand and a
large piece of flesh. His objection to eat this gruesome food was
apparently not very deep or persistent. He excused the custom by
saying that amongst all Amerindian nations there existed this practice
of making a war feast from out of the bodies of the slain after a
successful battle.

Soon after this episode of horror the Ojibwés abandoned Fort
Michili-Makinak, for fear the English should come to attack it. Henry
was hidden by his adopted brother, Wáwátam, in a cave, where he found
himself by the light of the next morning sleeping on a bed of human
bones, which the night before he had taken to be twigs and boughs. The
whole of the cave was, in fact, filled with these human remains. No
one knew or remembered the reason. Henry thought that the cave had
been an ancient receptacle for the bones of persons who had been
sacrificed and devoured at war feasts; for, however contemptuous they
may be of the flesh, the Amerindians paid particular attention
to the bones of human beings--whether friends, relations, or
enemies--preserving them unbroken, and depositing them in some
place kept exclusively for that purpose.

The great chief of the Ojibwés, however, advised that Henry, who had
rejoined Wáwátam, should be dressed in disguise as an Indian to save
him from any further harm, for the natives all round about were
preparing for what they believed to be an inevitable war with the

"I could not but consent to the proposal, and the chief was so kind as
to assist my friend and his family in effecting that very day the
desired metamorphosis. My hair was cut off, and my head shaved, with
the exception of a spot on the crown, of about twice the diameter of a
crown piece. My face was painted with three or four different colours;
some parts of it red, and others black. A shirt was provided for me,
painted with vermilion, mixed with grease. A large collar of wampum[5]
was put round my neck, and another suspended on my breast. Both my
arms were decorated with large bands of silver above the elbow,
besides several smaller ones on the wrists; and my legs were covered
with _mitasses_, a kind of hose, made, as is the favourite fashion, of
scarlet cloth. Over all I was to wear a scarlet blanket or mantle, and
on my head a large bunch of feathers. I parted, not without some
regret, with the long hair which was natural to it, and which I
fancied to be ornamental; but the ladies of the family, and of the
village in general, appeared to think my person improved, and now
condescended to call me handsome, even among Indians."

[Footnote 5: Shell beads.]

He then went away to live with his protectors, and with them passed a
by no means unhappy autumn, winter, and spring, hunting and fishing.

Here are some of his adventures at this period.

"To kill beaver, we used to go several miles up the rivers, before the
approach of night, and after the dusk came on, suffer the canoe to
drift gently down the current, without noise. The beavers, in this
part of the evening, come abroad to procure food, or materials for
repairing their habitations, and as they are not alarmed by the canoe,
they often pass it within gunshot.

"On entering the River Aux Sables, Wáwátam took a dog, tied its feet
together, and threw it into the stream, uttering, at the same time, a
long prayer, which he addressed to the Great Spirit, supplicating his
blessing on the chase, and his aid in the support of the family,
through the dangers of a long winter. Our 'lodge' was fifteen miles
above the mouth of the stream. The principal animals, which the
country afforded, were red deer (wapiti), the common American deer,
the bear, racoon, beaver, and marten.

"The beaver feeds in preference on young wood of the birch, aspen, and
poplar tree[6]; but, in defect of these, on any other tree, those of
the pine and fir kinds excepted. These latter it employs only for
building its dams and houses. In wide meadows, where no wood is to be
found, it resorts, for all its purposes, to the roots of the rush and
water lily. It consumes great quantities of food, whether of roots or
wood; and hence often reduces itself to the necessity of removing into
a new quarter. Its house has an arched dome-like roof, of an
elliptical figure, and rises from three to four feet above the surface
of the water. It is always entirely surrounded by water; but, in the
banks adjacent, the animal provides holes or _washes_, of which the
entrance is below the surface, and to which it retreats on the first

"The female beaver usually produces two young at a time, but not
unfrequently more. During the first year, the young remain with their
parents. In the second, they occupy an adjoining apartment, and assist
in building, and in procuring food. At two years old, they part, and
build houses of their own; but often rove about for a considerable
time before they fix upon a spot. There are beavers, called, by the
Indians, _old bachelors_, who live by themselves, build no houses, and
work at no dams, but shelter themselves in holes. The usual method of
taking these is by traps, formed of iron, or logs, and baited with
branches of poplar.

"According to the Indians, the beaver is much given to jealousy. If a
strange male approaches the cabin, a battle immediately ensues. Of
this the female remains an unconcerned spectator, careless as to which
party the law of conquest may assign her. The Indians add that the
male is as constant as he is jealous, never attaching himself to more
than one female.

"The most common way of taking the beaver is that of breaking up its
house, which is done with trenching tools, during the winter, when the
ice is strong enough to allow of approaching them; and when, also, the
fur is in its most valuable state.

"Breaking up the house, however, is only a preparatory step. During
this operation, the family make their escape to one or more of their
_washes_. These are to be discovered by striking the ice along the
bank, and where the holes are, a hollow sound is returned. After
discovering and searching many of these in vain, we often heard the
whole family together in the same wash. I was taught occasionally to
distinguish a full wash from an empty one, by the motion of the water
above its entrance, occasioned by the breathing of the animals
concealed in it. From the washes, they must be taken out with the
hands; and in doing this, the hunter sometimes receives severe wounds
from their teeth. Whilst I was a hunter with the Indians, I thought
beaver flesh was very good; but after that of the ox was again within
my reach, I could not relish it. The tail is accounted a luxurious

"One evening, on my return from hunting, I found the fire put out, and
the opening in the top of the lodge covered over with skins--by this
means excluding, as much as possible, external light. I further
observed that the ashes were removed from the fireplace, and that dry
sand was spread where they had been. Soon after, a fire was made
withoutside the cabin, in the open air, and a kettle hung over it to

"I now supposed that a feast was in preparation. I supposed so only,
for it would have been indecorous to enquire into the meaning of what
I saw. No person, among the Indians themselves, would use this
freedom. Good breeding requires that the spectator should patiently
wait the result.

"As soon as the darkness of night had arrived, the family, including
myself, were invited into the lodge. I was now requested not to speak,
as a feast was about to be given to the dead, whose spirits delight in
uninterrupted silence.

"As we entered, each was presented with his wooden dish and spoon,
after receiving which we seated ourselves. The door was next shut, and
we remained in perfect darkness.

"The master of the family was the master of the feast. Still in the
dark, he asked everyone, by turn, for his dish, and put into each two
boiled ears of maize. The whole being served, he began to speak. In
his discourse, which lasted half an hour, he called upon the manes of
his deceased relations and friends, beseeching them to be present, to
assist him in the chase, and to partake of the food which he had
prepared for them. When he had ended, we proceeded to eat our maize,
which we did without other noise than what was occasioned by our
teeth. The maize was not half boiled, and it took me an hour to
consume my share. I was requested not to break the spikes,[7] as this
would be displeasing to the departed spirits of their friends.

"When all was eaten, Wáwátam made another speech, with which the
ceremony ended. A new fire was kindled, with fresh sparks, from flint
and steel; and the pipes being smoked, the spikes were carefully
buried, in a hole made in the ground for that purpose, within the
lodge. This done, the whole family began a dance, Wáwátam singing, and
beating a drum. The dance continued the greater part of the night, to
the great pleasure of the lodge. The night of the feast was that of
the first day of November."

[Footnote 6: _Populus nigra_, called by the French Canadians _liard_.]

[Footnote 7: The grains of maize (Indian corn) grow in compact cells,
round a pithy core.]

In the month of January, Henry happened to observe that the trunk of a
very large pine tree was much torn by the claws of a bear, made both
in going up and down. On further examination he saw there was a large
opening, in the upper part, near which the smaller branches were
broken. From these marks, and from the additional circumstances that
there were no tracks on the snow, there was reason to believe that a
bear lay concealed in the tree.

He communicated his discovery to his Indian friends, and it was agreed
that all the family should go together in the morning to cut down the
tree, the girth of which was not less than eighteen feet! This task
occupied them for one and a half days with their poor little axes,
till about two o'clock in the second afternoon the tree fell to the
ground. For a few minutes everything remained quiet, and Henry feared
that all his expectations would be disappointed; but, as he advanced
to the opening, there came out a female bear of extraordinary size,
which he had shot and killed before she had proceeded many yards.

"The bear being dead, all my assistants approached, and all, but more
particularly my old mother, (as I was won't to call her), took the
bear's head in their hands, stroking and kissing it several times;
begging a thousand pardons for taking away her life; calling her their
relation and grandmother; and requesting her not to lay the fault upon
them, since it was truly an Englishman that had put her to death.

"This ceremony was not of long duration; and if it was I that killed
their grandmother, they were not themselves behindhand in what
remained to be performed. The skin being taken off, we found the fat
in several places six inches deep. This, being divided into two parts,
loaded two persons; and the flesh parts were as much as four persons
could carry. In all, the carcass must have exceeded five

"As soon as we reached the lodge, the bear's head was adorned with all
the trinkets in the possession of the family, such as silver armbands
and wristbands, and belts of wampum; and then laid upon a scaffold,
set up for its reception, within the lodge. Near the nose was placed a
large quantity of tobacco.

"The next morning no sooner appeared, than preparations were made for
a feast to the manes. The lodge was cleaned and swept; and the head of
the bear lifted up, and a new Stroud blanket, which had never been
used before, spread under it. The pipes were now lit; and Wáwátam blew
tobacco smoke into the nostrils of the bear, telling me to do the
same, and thus appease the anger of the bear, on account of my having
killed her.

"At length, the feast being ready, Wáwátam commenced a speech,
resembling, in many things, his address to the manes of his relations
and departed companions; but, having this peculiarity, that he here
deplored the necessity under which men laboured, thus to destroy their
_friends_. He represented, however, that the misfortune was
unavoidable, since without doing so, they could by no means subsist.
The speech ended, we all ate heartily of the bear's flesh; and even
the head itself, after remaining three days on the scaffold, was put
into the kettle. The fat of our bear was melted down, and the oil
filled six porcupine-skin bags. A part of the meat was cut into
strips, and fire-dried, after which it was put into the vessels
containing the oil, where it remained in perfect preservation, until
the middle of summer."

In the spring of 1762 Henry once more returned to Fort
Michili-Makinak, and went sugar-making with his Indian companions.
Whilst engaged in this agreeable task, a child belonging to one of the
party fell into a kettle of boiling syrup. It was instantly snatched
out, but with little hope of its recovery. So long, however, as it
lived, a continual feast was observed; and this was made "to the Great
Spirit and Master of Life", that he might be pleased to save and heal
the child. At this feast Henry was a constant guest; and often found
some difficulty in eating the large quantity of food which, on such
occasions as these, was put upon his dish.

Several sacrifices were also offered; among which were dogs, killed
and hung upon the tops of poles, with the addition of blankets and
other articles. These, also, were yielded to the Great Spirit, in the
humble hope that he would give efficacy to the medicines employed. But
the child died. To preserve the body from the wolves it was placed
upon a scaffold, and then later carried to the borders of a lake, on
the border of which was the burial ground of the family.

"On our arrival there, which happened in the beginning of April, I did
not fail to attend the funeral. The grave was made of a large size,
and the whole of the inside lined with birch bark. On the bark was
laid the body of the child, accompanied with an axe, a pair of
snowshoes, a small kettle, several pairs of common shoes, its own
strings of beads, and--because it was a girl--a carrying belt and a
paddle. The kettle was filled with meat. All this was again covered
with bark; and at about two feet nearer the surface logs were laid
across, and these again covered with bark, so that the earth might by
no means fall upon the corpse.

"The last act before the burial, performed by the mother, crying over
the dead body of her child, was that of taking from it a lock of hair
for a memorial. While she did this, I endeavoured to console her by
offering the usual arguments: that the child was happy in being
released from the miseries of this present life, and that she should
forbear to grieve, because it would be restored to her in another
world, happy and everlasting. She answered that she knew it, and that
by the lock of hair she should discover her daughter; for she would
take it with her. In this she alluded to the day when some pious hand
would place in her own grave, along with the carrying belt and paddle,
this little relic, hallowed by maternal tears."

After many ups and downs of hope and despair, and many narrow escapes
of being killed and made into broth for warlike Ojibwés, Henry at
length obtained permission to travel with a party of Ojibwé Indians
who were invited to visited Sir William Johnson at Niagara. This
British Governor of Canada was attempting to enter into friendly
relations with the Amerindian tribes, and induce them to accept
quietly the transference of Canada from French to English control.


Before starting, however, to interview this great White Governor, the
Ojibwés decided to consult their oracle, the Great Turtle, after which
Fort Michili-Makinak was named.[8] Behind Fort Michili-Makinak is an
extraordinary mound or hill of stone supposed to resemble this reptile
exactly, and in fact to be in some way the residence of a supernatural
giant turtle.

[Footnote 8: Michili, pronounced "Mishili", means "great", and
Makinak, "turtle", in the translation of some Canadian writers. The
turtle in question is, of course, not the turtle of sea waters, but
the Snapping Turtle (_Chelydra serpentina_) found in most Canadian
lakes and the big rivers of North America, east of the Rocky

For invoking and consulting the Great Turtle, the first thing to be
done was to build a large house, within which was placed a kind of
tent, for the use of the priest and reception of the spirit. The tent
was formed of moose skins, hung over a framework of wood made out of
five pillars of five different species of timber, about ten feet in
height and eight inches in diameter, set up in a circle of four feet
in diameter, with their bases two feet deep in the soil. At the top
the pillars were bound together by a circular hoop of withies. Over
the whole of this edifice were spread the moose skins, covering it at
top and round the sides, and made fast with thongs of the same, except
that on one side a part was left unfastened, to admit of the entrance
of the priest.

The ceremonies did not commence till the approach of night. To give
light inside the house several fires were kindled round the tent.
Nearly the whole village assembled in the house, Alexander Henry among
the rest. It was not long before the priest appeared, almost in a
state of nakedness. As he approached the tent the skins were lifted
up, as much as was necessary to allow of his creeping under them on
his hands and knees. His head was scarcely within side when the
edifice, massive as it has been described, began to shake; and the
skins were no sooner let fall than the sounds of numerous voices were
heard beneath them--some yelling, some barking as dogs, some howling
like wolves; and in this horrible concert were mingled screams and
sobs of despair, anguish, and the sharpest pain. Articulate speech was
also uttered, as if from human lips, but in a tongue unknown to any of
the audience.

After some time these confused and frightful noises were succeeded by
a perfect silence; and now a voice, not heard before, seemed to
manifest the arrival of a new character in the tent. This was low and
feeble, resembling the cry of a young puppy. The sound was no sooner
distinguished than all the Indians clapped their hands for joy,
exclaiming that this was the Chief Spirit, the Turtle, the Spirit that
never lied! Other voices, which they had distinguished from time to
time, they had previously hissed, as recognizing them to belong to
evil and lying spirits, the deceivers of mankind.

Then came from the tent a succession of songs, in which a diversity
of voices met the ear. From his first entrance, till these songs were
finished, we heard nothing in the proper voice of the priest. But now
he addressed the multitude, declaring the presence of the Great
Turtle, and the spirit's readiness to answer such questions as should
be proposed. The questions were to come from the chief of the village,
who was silent, however, till after he had put a large quantity of
tobacco into the tent, introducing it at the aperture. This was a
sacrifice offered to the spirit; for the spirits were supposed by the
Indians to be as fond of tobacco as themselves. This done, the chief
desired the priest to enquire: Whether or not the English were
preparing to make war upon the Indians? and whether or not there were
at Fort Niagara a large number of English troops?

The priest was heard to put the questions, and then the tent shook and
rocked so violently that Henry expected to see it levelled with the
ground. But apparently answers were given, after which a terrific cry
announced, with sufficient intelligibility, the departure of the
Turtle. Subsequently the priest interpreted the Great Turtle's
answers, which gave a great deal of information regarding the
disposition and numbers of the English soldiers, and the presents
which Sir William Johnson was preparing for the Ojibwés; and which
finally approved the wisdom of the embassy proceeding on its way.

Journeying along the shores of Lake Huron, they stopped to avoid a
gale of wind and to rest. Henry, gathering firewood, disturbed a
rattlesnake which manifested hostile intentions. He went back to the
canoe to fetch his gun; but upon telling the Ojibwés that he was about
to kill a rattlesnake they begged him to desist. They then seized
their pipes and tobacco pouches and returned with him to the place
where he had left the rattlesnake, which was still coiled up and

"The Indians, on their part, surrounded it, all addressing it by
turns, and calling it their _grandfather_; but yet keeping at some
distance. During this part of the ceremony they filled their pipes;
and now each blew the smoke towards the snake, who, as it appeared to
me, really received it with pleasure. In a word, after remaining
coiled, and receiving incense for the space of half an hour, it
stretched itself along the ground, in visible good humour. Its length
was between four and five feet. Having remained outstretched for some
time, at last it moved slowly away, the Indians following it, and
still addressing it by the title of grandfather, beseeching it to take
care of their families during their absence, and to be pleased to open
the heart of Sir William Johnson, so that he might _show them
charity_, and fill their canoe with rum.

"One of the chiefs added a petition, that the snake would take no
notice of the insult which had been offered him by the Englishman, who
would even have put him to death, but for the interference of the
Indians, to whom it was hoped he would impute no part of the offence."

Early the next morning they proceeded on their way, with a serene sky
and very little wind, so that to shorten the journey they determined
to steer across the lake to an island which just appeared on the
horizon. But after hoisting a sail the wind increased, and the
Indians, beginning to be alarmed, frequently called on the rattlesnake
to come to their assistance. By degrees the waves grew high, and at
last it blew a hurricane, Henry and his companions expecting every
moment to be swallowed up. From prayers the Indians now proceeded to
sacrifices, both alike offered to the god-rattlesnake, or
_manito-kinibik_. One of the chiefs took a dog, and, after tying its
fore legs together, threw it overboard, at the same time calling on
the snake to preserve the party from being drowned, and desiring him
to satisfy his hunger with the carcass of the dog. The snake was
unpropitious, and the wind increased. Another chief sacrificed
another dog, with the addition of some tobacco. In the prayer which
accompanied these gifts he besought the snake, as before, not to
avenge upon the Indians the insult which he had received from the
Englishman. "He assured the snake that I was _absolutely_ an
Englishman, and of kin neither to him nor to them."

"At the conclusion of this speech, an Indian, who sat near me,
observed, that if we were drowned it would be for my fault alone, and
that I ought myself to be sacrificed, to appease the angry manito; nor
was I without apprehensions, that in case of extremity this would be
my fate; but, happily for me, the storm at length abated, and we
reached the island safely."

The next day they arrived at the shore of Lake Ontario. Here they
remained two days to make canoes out of the bark of the elm tree, in
which they might travel to Niagara. For this purpose the Indians first
cut down a tree, then stripped off the bark in one entire sheet of
about eighteen feet in length, the incision being lengthwise. The
canoe was now complete as to its bottom and sides. Its ends were next
closed, by sewing the bark together; and a few ribs and bars being
introduced, the architecture was finished. In this manner they made
two canoes; of which one carried eight men, and the other nine.

A few days later Henry was handed over safe and sound to Sir William
Johnson at Niagara. He was then given the command of a corps of Indian
allies which was to accompany the expedition under General Bradstreet
to raise the siege of Detroit, which important place had been long
invested by a great Indian chief, Pontiac, who still carried on the
war on behalf of King Louis XV. This enterprise was successful, and
British control was extended to many places in central Canada. Henry
returned to Fort Michili-Makinak and regained much of the property
which he had lost in the Indian attacks. As some compensation for his
former sufferings he received from the British commandant of
Michili-Makinak the exclusive fur trade of Lake Superior.

The currency at that period, and long before, in Canadian history, was
in beaver skins, which were approximately valued at the price of two
shillings and sixpence a pound. Otter skins were valued at six
shillings each, and marten skins at one shilling and sixpence, and
others in proportion; but all these things were classed at being worth
so many beaver skins or proportion of beaver skins. Thus, for example,
the native canoemen and porters engaged by Henry for his winter hunts
were paid each at the rate of a hundred pounds weight of beaver

[Footnote 9: The smallest change, so to speak, was the skin of a
marten, worth one shilling and sixpence. If you went to a canteen for
a drink you paid your score with a marten skin, unless the value of
your refreshment exceeded the sum of eighteen pence.]

At various places on the River Ontonagan, which flows into Lake
Superior, Henry was shown the extraordinary deposits of copper, which
presented itself to the eye in masses of various weight. The natives
smelted the copper and beat it into spoons and bracelets. It was so
absolutely pure of any alloy that it required nothing but to be beaten
into shape. In one place Henry saw a mass of copper weighing not less
than five tons, pure and malleable, so that with an axe he was able to
cut off a portion weighing a hundred pounds. He conjectured that this
huge mass of copper had at some time been dislodged from the side of a
lofty hill and thence rolled into the position where he found it.
Farther to the north of Lake Superior he found pieces of virgin copper
remarkable for their form, some resembling leaves of vegetables, and
others the shapes of animals.

In these journeys he collected some of the native traditions, amongst
others that of the Great Hare, Naniboju, who was represented to him as
the founder or creator of the Amerindian peoples. An island in Lake
Superior was called Naniboju's burial place. Henry landed there, and
"found on the projecting rocks a quantity of tobacco, rotting in the
rain; together with kettles, broken guns, and a variety of other
articles. His spirit is supposed to make this its constant residence;
and here to preside over the lake, and over the Indians, in their
navigation and fishing."

In the spring of the following year (1768), whilst the snow still lay
many feet thick on the ground, he and his men made sugar from the
maple trees on a mountain, and for nearly three weeks none of them ate
anything but maple sugar, consuming a pound a day, desiring no other
food, and waxing fat and strong on this diet. Then they returned to
the banks of the Ontonagan River, where the wild fowl appeared in such
abundance that one man, with a muzzle-loading gun, could kill in a day
sufficient birds for the sustenance of fifty men. As soon as the ice
and snow had melted, parties of Indians came in from their winter's
hunt, bringing to Henry furs to pay him for all the goods he had
advanced. In this way the whole of his outstanding credit was
satisfied, with the exception of thirty skins, which represented the
contribution due from one Indian who had died. In this case even, the
man's family had sent all the skins they could gather together, and
gradually acquitted themselves of the amount due, in order that the
spirit of the dead man might rest in peace, which it could not do if
his debts were not acquitted.

In the following autumn he had an experience which showed him how near
famine was to great abundance, and how ready the Amerindians were in
cases of even slight privation to turn cannibal, kill and eat the
weaker members of the party. He was making an excursion to the Sault
de Sainte Marie, and took with him three half-breed Canadians and a
young Indian woman who was journeying in that direction to see her
relations. As the distance was short, and they expected to obtain much
fish by the way, they only took with them as provisions a quart of
maize for each person. On the first night of their journey they
encamped on the island of Naniboju and set their net to catch fish.
But there arose a violent storm, which continued for three days,
during which it was impossible for them to take up the net or to leave
the island. In consequence of this they ate up all their maize. On the
evening of the third day the storm abated, and they rushed to examine
the net. It was gone! It was impossible to return to the point of
their departure, where there would have been plenty of food, on
account of the strong wind against them. They therefore steered for
the Sault de Sainte Marie. But the wind veered round, and for nine
days blew a strong gale against their progress in this direction,
making the waves of the lake so high that they were obliged to take
refuge on the shore.

Henry went out perpetually to hunt, but all he got during those nine
days were two small snow-buntings. The Canadian half-breeds with him
then calmly proposed to kill and feed upon the young woman. One of
these men, indeed, admitted that he had had recourse to
this expedient for sustaining life when wintering in the north-west
and running out of food. But Henry indignantly repudiated the
suggestion. Though very weak, he searched everywhere desperately for
food, and at last found on a very high rock a thick lichen, called by
the French Canadians _tripe de roche_,[10] looking, in fact, very much
like slices of tripe. Henry fetched the men and the Indian woman, and
they set to work gathering quantities of this lichen. The woman was
well acquainted with the mode of preparing it, which was done by
boiling it into a thick mucilage, looking rather like the white of an
egg. On this they made hearty meals, though it had a bitter and
disagreeable taste. After the ninth day of their sufferings the wind
fell, they continued their journey, and met with kindly Indians, who
supplied them with as many fish as they wanted. Nevertheless, they all
were so ill afterwards that they nearly died, from the effects of the
lichen diet.

[Footnote 10: See p. 128.]

Some time after this Henry resolved to search for the marvellous
island of Yellow Sands,[11] an island of Lake Superior which, it is
true, the French had discovered, but about which they kept up a good
deal of mystery. The Indian legend was that the sands of this small
island consisted of gold dust, and the Ojibwé Indians, having
discovered this, and attempting to bring some away, they were
disturbed by a supernatural being of amazing size, sixty feet in
height, which strode into the water and commanded them to deliver back
what they had taken away. Terrified at his gigantic stature, they
complied with his request, since which time no Indian has ever dared
to approach the haunted coast. Henry, however, with his men, finally
discovered this Island of Yellow Sands in 1771, in the north-east part
of Lake Superior. It was much smaller than he had been led to expect,
and very low and studded with small lakes, probably made by the action
of beavers damming up the little streams. He found no supernatural
monster to dispute the island with him, but a number of large
reindeer, so unused to the sight of man that they scarcely got out of
his way, so that he was able to shoot as many as he wanted. The
ancestors of these reindeer may have reached the island either by
floating ice or by swimming. They seem, with the birds, to have been
the island's only inhabitants, and to have increased and multiplied to
a remarkable extent, small portions of the island's surface being
actually formed of immense accumulations of reindeer bones.

[Footnote 11: The Isle of Yellow Sands, famed in legend for its
terrible serpents and ogre sixty feet high, was subsequently
identified with the Ile de Pont Chartrain, which is distant sixty
miles from the north shore of Lake Superior.]

Amongst the birds of the island, besides geese and pigeons, were
hawks. No serpents whatever were seen by the party, but Henry remarks
that the hawks nearly made up for them in abundance and ferocity. They
appeared very angry at the intrusion of these strangers on the sacred
island, and hovered round perpetually, swooping at their faces and
even carrying off their caps.

In 1775 Henry, having been greatly disappointed over an attempt to
work the copper of Lake Superior, entered with vigour into a fur trade
with the north-west. He penetrated from Lake Superior to the Lake of
the Woods and reached the great Lake Winnipeg. Here he encountered the
Kristino,[12] Knistino, or Kri Indians. He found these people very
different in appearance from the other Amerindian tribes farther
south. The men were almost entirely naked in spite of the much colder
climate. Their bodies were painted with an ochre or clay so red that
it was locally known by the French Canadians as vermilion. Every man
and boy had his bow strung and in his hand, with the arrow, ready to
attack in case of need. Their heads were shaved all over except for a
large spot on the crown. Here the hair grew very long, and was rolled
and gathered into a tuft; and this tuft, which was the object of the
greatest care, was covered with a piece of skin. The lobes of their
ears were pierced, and through the opening was inserted the bones of
fish or small beasts. The women wore their hair in great length all
over the head. It was divided by a parting, and on each side was
collected into a roll fastened above the ear and covered with a piece
of painted skin or ornamented with beads. The clothing of the women
was of leather, the dressed skins of buffalo or deer. This cloak was
fastened round the waist by a girdle, and the legs were covered with
leather gaiters. The Kristino men were eager that their women should
marry Europeans, because the half-breed children proved to be bolder
warriors and better hunters than themselves. Henry found that although
the Kris were much addicted to drunkenness they were peaceable when
inebriated, and, moreover, detached two of their number, who refused
ever to touch the liquor under such circumstances, in order that they
might guard the white men, and not allow any drunken Indian to
approach their camp.

[Footnote 12: See p. 166.]

Henry and his party, after crossing Lake Winnipeg, ascended the
Saskatchewan (in the autumn of 1775). On their way up this river they
came to a village of Paskwaya Indians, which consisted of thirty
families, who were lodged in tents of a circular form, composed of
dressed bison skins stretched upon poles twelve feet in length. On
their arrival the chief of this village, named Chatik, which name
meant Pelican,[13] called the party rather imperiously into his lodge
or meeting house, and then told them very plainly that his armed men
exceeded theirs in number, and that he would put the whole of the
party to death unless they were very liberal in their presents. To
avoid misunderstanding, he added that he would inform them exactly
what it was that he required: Three casks of gunpowder, four bags of
shot and ball, two bales of tobacco, three kegs of rum, and three
guns, together with knives, flints, and other articles. He went on to
say that he had already seen white men, and knew that they promised
more than they performed. He, personally, was a peaceful man, who
contented himself with moderate views in order to avoid quarrels;
nevertheless, he desired that an immediate answer should be given
before the strangers quitted his lodge. A hurried consultation took
place, and Henry could do nothing but comply with the chief's demands,
for he was powerless to resist. Having, therefore, intimated his
acceptance of these demands, he was invited to smoke the pipe of
peace, and then obtained permission to depart. After this the goods
demanded were handed over, but Chatik managed to snatch more rum from
them before they got safely away.

[Footnote 13: Elsewhere Henry observes the great numbers of pelicans
to be seen on Lake Winnipeg.]

In the winter of 1776 Henry, who, together with his party, had
received welcome hospitality from the Hudson's Bay Company's station
at Cumberland House, resolved to reach the western region known as the
Great Plains, or Prairies--that immense tract of country through which
flow the Athabaska, the Saskatchewan, the Red River, and the Missouri.
He and his party, of course, travelled on snowshoes, and their goods
were packed on sledges made of thin boards, and drawn after them by
the men. The cold was intense, so that, besides wearing very warm
woollen clothes, they were obliged to wrap themselves in blankets of
beaver skin and huge bison robes. On these plains there were
occasional knolls covered with trees, which were usually called
"islands". These provided the precious fuel which alone enabled the
travellers to support the intense cold of the nights.

After fifteen days of very difficult travel, during which it had been
impossible to kill any game, as the beasts were mostly hidden in the
dense woods on these rare hillocks, the situation of his party became
alarming. They were now on the borders of the plains, and the trees
were getting small and scanty. On the twentieth day of their journey
they had finished the last remains of their provisions. But Henry had
taken the precaution of concealing a large cake of chocolate[14] as a
reserve in case of great need. His men had walked till they were
exhausted, and had lost both strength and hope, when Henry informed
them of the treasure which was still in store. They filled the big
kettle with snow. It held two gallons of water, and into this was put
one square of the chocolate. The quantity was scarcely sufficient to
give colour to the water, but each man drank off a gallon of this hot
liquor and felt much refreshed. The next day they marched vigorously
for six hours on another two gallons of chocolate and water. For five
days the chocolate kept them going, though more by faith than by any
actual nourishment that it imparted. They now began to be surrounded
by large herds of wolves, who seemed to be conscious of their dire
extremity and the probability that they would soon fall an easy prey,
yet were cunning enough to keep out of gunshot. At last, however, at
sunset on the fifth day, they discovered on the ice the remains of an
elk's carcass on which the wolves had left a little flesh. From these
elk bones a meal of strong and excellent soup was soon prepared, and
the men's bodies thrilled with new life.

[Footnote 14: Chocolate from St. Domingue (Haiti) was a favourite form
of portable nutriment among the French Canadians, who also provided a
means of subsistence for long journeys called _praline_. This was made
of roasted Indian corn on which sugar had been sprinkled. It was a
most nourishing food, as well as being an agreeable sweet-meat.]

"Want had lost his dominion over us. At noon we saw the horns of a red
deer, standing in the snow, on the river. On examination we found that
the whole carcass was with them, the animal having broken through the
ice in the beginning of the winter, in attempting to cross the river,
too early in the season; while his horns, fastening themselves in the
ice, had prevented him from sinking. By cutting away the ice we were
enabled to lay bare a part of the back and shoulders, and thus procure
a stock of food amply sufficient for the rest of our journey. We
accordingly encamped, and employed our kettle to good purpose, forgot
all our misfortunes, and prepared to walk with cheerfulness the twenty
leagues which, as we reckoned, still lay between ourselves and Fort
des Prairies. Though the deer must have been in this situation ever
since the month of November, yet its flesh was perfectly good. Its
horns alone were five feet high or more, and it will therefore not
appear extraordinary that they should be seen above the snow."

The next day they reached the Fort des Prairies, established by the
Hudson's Bay people, on the verge of the Assiniboin country. The
journey was resumed in company with Messrs. Patterson and Holmes, and
accompanied by a band of natives. They had entered the bison country,
and were regaled by the Indians with bison tongue and beef.

"Soon after sunrise we descried a herd of oxen (bison) extending a
mile and a half in length, and too numerous to be counted. They
travelled, not one after another, as, in the snow, other animals
usually do, but, in a broad phalanx, slowly, and sometimes stopping to
feed.... Their numbers were so great that we dreaded lest they should
fairly trample down the camp; nor could it have happened otherwise,
but for the dogs, almost as numerous as they, who were able to keep
them in check. The Indians killed several when close upon their tents,
but neither the fire of the Indians nor the noise of the dogs could
soon drive them away." The poor animals were more frightened of the
frightful snowstorm which was raging than of what man or dog might do
to them in the shelter of the woods.

At last the party reached the residence of the great chief of the
Assiniboins, whose name was "Great Road". These Amerindians received
Henry and his people with the greatest respect, giving them a
bodyguard, armed with bows and spears, who escorted them to the lodge
or tent prepared for their reception. This was of circular form,
covered with leather, and not less than twenty feet in diameter. On
the ground within, bison skins were spread for beds and seats.

"One-half of the tent was appropriated to our use. Several women
waited upon us, to make a fire and bring water, which latter they
fetched from a neighbouring tent. Shortly after our arrival these
women brought us water, unasked for, saying that it was for washing.
The refreshment was exceedingly acceptable, for on our march we had
become so dirty that our complexions were not very distinguishable
from those of the Indians themselves."

Invited to feast with the great chief, they proceeded to the tent of
"Great Road", which they found neither more ornamented nor better
furnished than the rest. At their entrance the chief arose from his
seat, saluted them in the Indian manner by shaking hands, and
addressed them in a few words, in which he offered his thanks for the
confidence which they had reposed in him in trusting themselves so far
from their own country. After all were seated, on bearskins spread on
the ground, the pipe, as usual, was introduced, and presented in
succession to each person present. Each took his whiff, and then let
it pass to his neighbour. The stem, which was four feet in length, was
held by an officer attendant on the chief. The bowl was of red marble
or pipe stone.

When the pipe had gone its round, the chief, without rising from his
seat, delivered a speech of some length, after which several of the
Indians began to weep, and they were soon joined by the whole party.
"Had I not previously been witness" (writes Henry) "to a weeping scene
of this description, I should certainly have been apprehensive of some
disastrous catastrophe; but, as it was, I listened to it with
tranquillity. It lasted for about ten minutes, after which all tears
were dried away, and the honours of the feast were performed by the
attending chiefs." This consisted in giving to every guest a dish
containing a boiled bison's tongue. Henry having enquired why these
people always wept at their feasts, and sometimes at their councils,
he was answered that their tears flowed to the memory of their
deceased relations, who were formerly present on these occasions, and
whom they remembered as soon as they saw the feast or the conference
being got ready.[15]

[Footnote 15: The Assiniboins (whom Henry calls the Osinipoilles) are
the Issati of older travellers, and have sometimes been called the
Weeper Indians, from their tendency to tears.]

The chief to whose kindly reception they were so much indebted was
about five feet ten inches high, and of a complexion rather darker
than that of the Indians in general. His appearance was greatly
injured by the condition of his head of hair, and this was the result
of an extraordinary superstition.

"The Indians universally fix upon a particular object, as sacred to
themselves; as the giver of their prosperity, and as their preserver
from evil. The choice is determined either by a dream, or by some
strong predilection of fancy; and usually falls upon an animal, or
part of an animal, or something else which is to be met with, by land,
or by water; but 'Great Road' had made choice of his _hair_--placing,
like Samson, all his safety in this portion of his proper substance!
His hair was the fountain of all his happiness; it was his strength
and his weapon, his spear and his shield. It preserved him in battle,
directed him in the chase, watched over him on the march, and gave
length of days to his wife and children. Hair, of a quality like this,
was not to be profaned by the touch of human hands. I was assured that
it had never been cut nor combed from his childhood upward, and, that
when any part of it fell from his head, he treasured up that part with
care: meanwhile, it did not escape all care, even while growing on the
head; but was in the special charge of a spirit, who dressed it while
the owner slept. All this might be; but the spirit's style of
hairdressing was at least peculiar; the hair being suffered to remain
very much as if it received no dressing at all, and matted into ropes,
which spread themselves in all directions."

From this Assiniboin village Henry saw, for the first time, one of
those herds of horses which the Assiniboins possessed in numbers. The
herd was feeding on the skirts of the plain. The horses were provided
with no fodder, but were left to find food for themselves, which they
did in winter by removing the snow with their feet till they reach
the grass. This was everywhere on the ground in plenty.

Amongst these people they saw the paunch or stomach of a bison
employed as a kettle. This was hung in the smoke of a fire and filled
with snow. As the snow melted, more was added, till the paunch was
full of water. The lower orifice of the organ was used for drawing off
the water, and stopped with a plug and string.

Henry also noticed amongst the Assiniboins the celebrated lariat. This
is formed of a stone of about two pounds weight, which is sewed up in
leather and made fast to a wooden handle two feet long. In using it
the stone is whirled round the handle by a warrior sitting on
horseback and riding at full speed. Every stroke which takes effect
brings down a man, a horse, or a bison. To prevent the weapon from
slipping out of the hand, a string, which is tied to the handle, is
also passed round the wrist of the wearer.

Alexander Henry extended his travels in the north-west within four
hundred and fifty miles of Lake Athabaska. He met at this point some
Chipewayan slaves in the possession of the Assiniboins, and heard from
them (1) of the Peace River in the far west which led one through the
Rocky Mountains (he uses that name) to a region descending towards a
great sea (the Pacific Ocean); and (2) of the Slave River which, after
passing through several lakes, also reached a great sea on the north.
This, of course, was an allusion to the Mackenzie River. Here were
given and recorded the chief hints at possible lines of exploration
which afterwards sent Alexander Mackenzie and other explorers on the
journeys that carried British-Canadian enterprise and administration
to the shores of the Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

After 1776 Alexander Henry ceased his notable explorations of the far
west. In that year he paid a visit to England and France, returning to
Canada in 1777. Whilst in France he was received at the French Court
and had the privilege of relating to Queen Marie Antoinette some of
his wonderful adventures and experiences. After two more visits to
England he settled down at Montreal as a merchant (autumn of 1780),
and in 1784 he joined with other great pioneers in founding, at
Montreal, The North-west Trading Company. Eventually he handed over
his share in this enterprise to his nephew, Alexander Henry the
Younger, and established himself completely in a life of ease and
quiet. He died at Montreal in 1824, aged eighty-five years.


Samuel Hearne

The first noteworthy explorer of the far north was SAMUEL HEARNE,[1]
who had been mate of a vessel in the employ of the whale fishery of
Hudson Bay. He entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company about
1765, and was selected four years afterwards by the Governor of Prince
of Wales's Fort (a certain Moses Norton, a half-breed) to lead an
expedition of discovery in search of a mighty river flowing
northwards, which was rumoured to exist by the Eskimo. This
"Coppermine" River was said to flow through a region rich in deposits
of copper. From this district the northern tribes of Indians derived
their copper ornaments and axeheads.

[Footnote 1: Hearne was born in London in 1745. He entered the Royal
Navy as a midshipman at the tender age of eleven, and remained in the
Navy till about 1765, when he went out to Hudson Bay with the rank of
quartermaster. He must have acquired a considerable education, even in
botany and zoology. He not only wrote well, and was a good surveyor
for rough map making, but he had a considerable talent as a

Samuel Hearne started on the 6th of November, 1769, from Prince of
Wales's Fort at the mouth of the Churchill River, on the north-west
coast of Hudson Bay. Presumably he and the two "common white men" who
were with him travelled on snowshoes and hauled small sledges after
them. Travelling westward they passed over bleak hills with very
little vegetation--"the barren grounds, where, in general, we thought
ourselves well off if we could scrape together as many shrubs as would
make a fire; but it was scarcely ever in our power to make any other
defence against the weather than by digging a hole in the snow down to
the moss, wrapping ourselves up in our clothing, and lying down in it,
with our sledges set up edgeways to windward". But the principal
Indian guide that he engaged was so obviously determined to make the
expedition a failure that Hearne returned to his base, Prince of
Wales's Fort, and made a second start on the 23rd of February, 1770,
this time taking care not to be accompanied by any other white men,
and insisting that the Indians who accompanied him should be more
carefully chosen.

It must be remembered that in all these early expeditions, French and
English, the explorers relied for their food almost entirely on what
could be obtained as they went along, in the way of venison, grouse,
geese, fish, and wild fruits. In the springtime they would probably
get goose eggs and some form of maple sugar through the Indians. From
the summer to the autumn there would be an abundance of wild fruits
and nuts, but for the rest of the year it would be a diet almost
entirely of flesh or fish. As a stand-by there was probably
_pemmican_, made in times of plenty from fish, from bison meat and
fat, or from the dried flesh of deer or musk oxen; but tea, coffee,
bread, biscuits, and such like accessories were absolutely unknown to
them, in fact they lived exactly as the Amerindians did. Their
habitations, of course, were the tents or houses of the natives, or
what they made for themselves.

In order to pitch an Indian tent in winter it was first necessary to
search for a level piece of dry ground, and this could only be
ascertained by thrusting a stick through the snow, down to the ground,
all over the proposed plot. When a suitable site had been found the
snow was then cleared away down to the very moss, in the shape of a
circle. When a prolonged stay was contemplated, even the moss was cut
up and removed, as it was very liable when dry to catch fire. A
quantity of poles were then procured, proportionate in number and
length to the size of the tent cloth and the number of persons the
tent was intended to contain. Two of the longest poles were tied
together at the top and raised to an angle of about 45 degrees from
the ground, so that the lower ends extended on either side as widely
as the proposed diameter of the tent. The other poles were then
arranged on either side of the first two, so that they formed a
complete circle round the bottom, and their points were tied together
at the top. The tent cloth was usually of thin moose leather, and in
shape resembled the vane of a fan, so that the large outer curve
enclosed the bottom of the poles, and the smaller one fitted round the
apex of the poles at the top, leaving an open space which let out the
smoke and let in air and light. The fire was made on the ground in the
centre of the floor, which floor was covered all over with small
branches of firs and pines serving as seats and beds. Pine foliage and
branches were laid round the bottom of the poles on the outside, and a
quantity of snow was packed all round the exterior of the tent, thus
excluding a great part of the external air, and contributing much to
the warmth within.

For a month or more Hearne camped in this fashion by the side of a
lake, waiting till the season was sufficiently open for him to
continue his journey by water. He and his party of Indians lived
mainly on fish, but when these became scarce they attempted to snare
grouse or kill deer. In the intervals of rare meals all the party
smoked or slept, unless they were obliged to go out to hunt and fish.
They would delight, after killing deer, in securing as much as
possible of the blood and turning it into broth by boiling it in a
kettle with fat and scraps of meat. This was reckoned a dainty dish.
Their spoons, dishes, and other necessary household furniture were cut
out of birch bark.


By the 19th of May, geese, swans, ducks, gulls, and other birds of
passage were so plentiful, flying from south to north, and halting to
rest at the lake, that Hearne felt the time had come to resume his
journey, provisions being now very plentiful and the worst of the thaw
over. The weather was remarkably fine and pleasant as the party
travelled northwards.

There must have been good patent medicines even in those days. Of
these Hearne possessed "Turlington's Drops" and "Yellow Basilicon",
and with these he not only healed the terrible wounds of a valuable
Indian who had cut his leg most severely (when making birch-bark
dishes, spoons, &c), but also the hand of another Indian, which was
shattered with the bursting of a gun. These medicines soon restored
the use of his hand, so that in a short time he was out of danger,
while the carver of birch-bark spoons was able to walk. Nevertheless,
although they were to the south of the 60th degree of latitude, the
snow was not completely melted until the end of June.

All at once the weather became exceedingly hot, the sledges had to be
thrown away, and each man had to carry on his back a heavy load. For
instance, Hearne was obliged to carry his quadrant for taking
astronomical observations, and its stand; a trunk containing books and
papers, &c.; a large compass; and a bag containing all his wearing
apparel; also a hatchet, a number of knives, files, &c., and several
small articles intended for presents to the natives--in short, a
weight of _sixty pounds_. Moreover, the barren ground was quite
unsuited to the pitching of the southern type of tent, the poles of
which obviously could not be driven into the bare rock, so that Hearne
was obliged to sleep in the open air in all weathers. Very often he
was unable to make a fire, and was constantly reduced to eating his
meat quite raw. "Notwithstanding these accumulated and complicated
hardships, we continued in perfect health and good spirits." The
average day's walk was twenty miles, sometimes without any other
subsistence than a pipe of tobacco and a drink of water.

At last they saw three musk oxen grazing by the side of a small lake.
This seemed a splendid piece of fortune, but, to their mortification,
before they could get one of them skinned, a tremendous downpour of
rain ensued, so as to make it out of their power to have a fire, for
their only form of fuel was moss. And the flesh of the musk ox eaten
raw was disgusting; it was coarse and tough, and tasted so strongly of
musk that Hearne could hardly swallow it. "None of our natural wants,"
he writes, "except thirst, are so distressing or hard to endure as
hunger.... For want of action, the stomach so far loses its digestive
powers that, after long fasting, it resumes its office with pain and
reluctance." After these prolonged fasts, his stomach was scarcely
able to contain two or three ounces of food without producing the most
agonizing pain. "We fasted many times two whole days and nights, and
twice for three days; once for nearly seven days, during which we
tasted not a mouthful of anything, except a few cranberries, water,
scraps of old leather, and burnt bones."

At a place 63° north latitude he bought a canoe for a single knife
"the full value of which did not exceed one penny", having been told
that they would soon reach rivers through which they could not wade.
And, moreover, they found an Indian who was willing to carry it. In
July his guide persuaded him to join an encampment of natives--about
six hundred persons living in seventy tents--asserting that, as it was
no use proceeding much farther north in their search for the
Coppermine River that season, it would be well to winter to the west,
and resume their northern journey in the spring. The country, though
quite devoid of trees, and mostly barren rock, was covered with a herb
or shrub called by the Indian name of Wishakapakka,[2] from which the
European servants of the Hudson's Bay Company had long been used to
prepare a kind of tea by steeping it in boiling water. Here there were
multitudes of reindeer feeding on the _Cladina_ lichen and the Indians
with Hearne killed large numbers for the food of the party, and also
for their skins and the marrow in their bones.

[Footnote 2: This word is said to be a corruption or altered form of
_Wishakagami[¯u]_, a liquid or broth (Kri language). The drink made
from this shrub or herb (_Ledum palustre_) is now known as Labrador
tea. It is a bitter aromatic infusion.]

The Indian who had volunteered to carry the canoe proved unequal to
his task. But Hearne found another of his carriers who was willing to
take the burden. In order, therefore, to be readier with his gun to
shoot deer, he transferred a portion of his own load to the ex-canoe
carrier. This portion consisted of the invaluable quadrant and its
stand, and a bag of gunpowder. The gunpowder was of such importance to
Hearne and his party that one wonders he made this exchange; for if he
lost this powder he had no means of killing game, and was entirely
dependent for food on the troop of Indians with whom he was
travelling, and whom he knew to be most niggardly and inhospitable.
Judge, therefore, of his horror when, at the end of a day's march,
this weakly Indian porter was missing with his load. All night Hearne
was unable to sleep with anxiety, and the whole of the next day he
spent searching the rocky ground for miles to discover some sign of
the missing man. At that season of the year it was like looking for a
needle in a pottle of hay, for there was no snow, and equally no
herbage, on which a man's foot could leave traces. However, at last,
by some miracle, they discovered the load by the banks of a little
river where a party of Indians had crossed.

Shortly afterwards, leaving his quadrant on its stand for a few
minutes, whilst he went to eat his dinner, a violent wind arose and
blew the whole thing on to the rocks, so that the quadrant was
smashed and rendered useless. On this account he determined once more
to return to Fort Prince of Wales. The Northern Indians[3] with whom
Hearne travelled backwards towards the fort were most inhospitable,
not to say dangerous. They robbed him of most of his goods, and
refused to allow their women to assist his people to dress the
reindeer skins out of which it would be necessary shortly to make
coverings to protect them from the severe cold of the autumn. In fact
Hearne was in rather a desperate condition by September, 1770, when he
was joined by a party of Indians under a famous leader, whom he calls

[Footnote 3: The Indians of the Athapaskan or Déné group were usually
called the _Northern Indians_ by the Hudson Bay people, in comparison
to all the other tribes of the more temperate regions farther south,
who were known as the _Southern Indians_ (Algonkins, &c.).]

Matonabi, though of Athapaskan stock, had, when a boy, resided several
years at Prince of Wales's Fort, and learnt a little English, and,
above all, was a master of several Algonkin dialects or languages, so
that he could discourse with the Southern Indians. As soon as he heard
of Hearne's distress he furnished him with a good, warm suit of skins,
and had the reindeer skins dressed for the Indian carriers who
accompanied Hearne. In journeying together, Matonabi invited him to
return once more, with himself as guide, to discover the copper mines.

"He attributed all our misfortunes to the misconduct of my guides, and
the very plan we pursued, by the desire of the Governor, in not taking
any women with us on this journey, was, he said, the principal thing
that occasioned all our wants. 'For,' said he, 'when all the men are
heavy laden, they can neither hunt nor travel to any considerable
distance; and in case they meet with success in hunting, who is to
carry the produce of their labour?' 'Women,' added he, 'were made for
labour; one of them can carry, or haul, as much as two men can do.
They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at
night; and, in fact, there is no such thing as travelling any
considerable distance, or for any length of time, in this country,
without their assistance.' 'Women,' said he again, 'though they do
everything, are maintained at a trifling expense; for as they always
stand cook, the very licking of their fingers in scarce times is
sufficient for their subsistence.'

"This," added Hearne, "however odd it may appear, is but too true a
description of the situation of women in this country: it is at least
so in appearance; for the women always carry the provisions, though it
is more than probable they help themselves when the men are not

On the 7th of December, 1770, Samuel Hearne started again
from Prince of Wales's Fort, Hudsons Bay, but under very much happier
circumstances, Matonabi being practically in charge of the expedition.

Unfortunately, on reaching the Egg River, where Matonabi's people had
made a _cache_ or hiding place in which they had stored a quantity of
provisions and implements, they found that other Indians had
discovered this hiding place and robbed it of nearly every article.
This was a great disappointment to Matonabi's people; but Hearne
remarks the fortitude with which they bore this, nor did one of them
ever speak of revenge. But the expedition's scarcity of food obliged
them to push on from morning till night, day after day; yet the road
being very bad, and their sledges heavy, they were seldom able to do
more than eighteen miles a day. Hearne himself writes that he never
spent so dull a Christmas. For the last three days he had not tasted a
morsel of anything, except a pipe of tobacco and a drink of snow
water, yet he had to walk daily from morning till night heavily laden.
However, at the end of December they reached Island Lake, where they
entered a camp of Matonabi's people, and here they found a little
food in the way of fish and dried venison. From Island Lake they made
their way in a zigzag fashion, stopping often to drive reindeer into
pounds to secure large supplies of venison and of skins, till, in the
month of April, 1771, they reached a small lake with an almost
unpronounceable name, which meant "Little Fish Hill", from a high hill
which stood at the west end of this sheet of water.

On an island in this lake they pitched their tents, as deer were very
numerous. During this time also they were busily employed in preparing
staves of birch wood, about seven or eight feet long, to serve as tent
poles in the summer, and in the winter to be converted into snowshoe
frames. Here also Chief Matonabi purchased another wife. He had now
with him no less than seven, most of whom would for size have made
good grenadiers. He prided himself much on the height and strength of
his wives, and would frequently say few women could carry off heavier
loads. In fact in this country wives were very seldom selected for
their beauty, but rather for their strength.

"Ask a Northern Indian," wrote Hearne, "'What is beauty?' He will
answer: 'A broad, flat face, small eyes, high cheekbones, three or
four broad black lines across each cheek, a low forehead, a broad
chin, a clumsy hook nose, and a tawny hide.'"

But the model woman amongst these Indians was one who was capable of
dressing all kinds of skins and making them into clothing, and who was
strong enough to carry a load of about a hundred pounds in weight in
summer, and to haul perhaps double that weight on a sledge in winter.
"As to their temper, it is of little consequence; for the men have a
wonderful facility in making the most stubborn comply with as much
alacrity as could possibly be expected." When the men kill any large
beast the women are always sent to bring it to the tent. When it is
brought there, every operation it undergoes, such as splitting,
drying, pounding, is performed by the women. When anything is prepared
for eating it is the women who cook it; and when it is done, not even
the wives and daughters of the greatest chiefs in the country are
served until all the males--even the male slaves--have eaten what they
think proper. In times of scarcity it was frequently the lot of the
women to be left without a single mouthful; though, no doubt, they
took good care to help themselves in secret.


Hearne mentions that in this country among the Northern Indians the
names of the boys were various and generally derived from some place,
or season of the year, or animal; whilst the names of the girls were
chiefly taken from some part or property of a marten,[4] such as the
white marten, the black marten, the summer marten, the marten's head,
foot, heart, or tail.

[Footnote 4: A fur-bearing animal (_Mustela americana_), very like the
British pine marten.]

From the Lake of Little Fish Hill the party moved on to Lake Clowey,
and here the Northern Indians set to work to build their canoes in the
warm and dry weather, which was about to come in at the end of May.
These canoes were very slight and simple in construction and
wonderfully light, which was necessary, for some of the northern
portages might be a hundred to one hundred and fifty miles in length,
over which the canoes would have to be carried by the Indians. All the
tools employed in those days, in building such canoes and making
snowshoes and all the other furniture and utensils of Indian life,
consisted of a _hatchet_, a _knife_, a _file_, and an _awl_ obtained
from the stores of the Hudson's Bay Company. In the use of these tools
they were so dexterous that everything they manufactured was done with
a neatness which could not be excelled by the most expert mechanic.
These northern canoes were flat-bottomed, with straight, upright
sides, and sharp prow and peak. The stern part of the canoe was wider
than the rest in order to receive the baggage. The average length of
the canoe would be from twelve to thirteen feet, and the breadth in
the widest part about two feet. Generally but a single paddle was
used, and that rather attenuated. When transporting the canoes from
one river to another, a strong band of bark or fibre would be fastened
round the thwarts of the canoe, and then slung over the breast and
shoulders of the Indian that was carrying it.

From Lake Clowey the northern progress was made on foot, steady and
fatiguing walking over the barren grounds. The wooded region had been
left behind to the south; but for a distance of about twenty miles
outside the living woods there was a belt of dry stumps more or less
ancient. According to Hearne, these vestiges of trees to the north of
the present forest limit were an indication that the climate had grown
colder during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, because,
according to the traditions of the Indians and the remembrances of
their old people, the forest had formerly extended much farther to the

Whilst they were staying for the canoe building at Lake Clowey, Hearne
was a great deal bothered by the domestic troubles of his Indian
friend Matonabi. This man had been constantly trying to add to his
stock of wives as he passed up country, and at Clowey he had met the
former husband of one of these women whom he had carried off by force.
The man ventured to reproach him, whereupon Matonabi went into his
tent, opened one of his wives' bundles, and with the greatest
composure took out a new, long, box-handled knife; then proceeded to
the tent of the man who had complained, and without any parley
whatever took him by the collar and attempted to stab him to death.
The man had already received three bad knife wounds in the back before
other people, rushing in to his assistance, prevented Matonabi from
finishing him. After this, Matonabi returned to his tent as though
nothing had happened, called for water, washed the blood off his hands
and knife, and smoked his pipe as usual, asking Hearne if he did not
think he had done quite right!

"It has ever been the custom among those people for the men to wrestle
for any woman to whom they are attached; and of course the strongest
party always carries off the prize. A weak man, unless he be a good
hunter and well beloved, is seldom permitted to keep a wife that a
stronger man thinks worth his notice; for at any time when the wives
of those strong wrestlers are heavy laden either with furs or
provisions, they make no scruple of tearing any other man's wife from
his bosom and making her bear a part of his luggage. This custom
prevails throughout all their tribes, and causes a great spirit of
emulation among their youth, who are upon all occasions, from their
childhood, trying their strength and skill in wrestling. This enables
them to protect their property, and particularly their wives, from the
hands of those powerful ravishers, some of whom make almost a
livelihood by taking what they please from the weaker parties without
making them any return. Indeed it is represented as an act of great
generosity if they condescend to make an unequal exchange, as, in
general, abuse and insult are the only return for the loss which is

"The way in which they tear the women and other property from one
another, though it has the appearance of the greatest brutality, can
scarcely be called fighting. I never knew any of them receive the
least hurt in these _rencontres_; the whole business consists in
hauling each other about by the hair of the head; they are seldom
known either to strike or kick one another. It is not uncommon for one
of them to cut off his hair and to grease his ears immediately before
the contest begins. This, however, is done privately; and it is
sometimes truly laughable to see one of the parties strutting about
with an air of great importance, and calling out: 'Where is he? Why
does he not come out?' when the other will bolt out with a clean-shorn
head and greased ears, rush on his antagonist, seize him by the hair,
and, though perhaps a much weaker man, soon drag him to the ground,
while the stronger is not able to lay hold of him. It is very frequent
on those occasions for each party to have spies, to watch the other's
motions, which puts them more on a footing of equality. For want of
hair to pull, they seize each other about the waist, with legs wide
extended, and try their strength by endeavouring to vie who can first
throw the other down."

"Early in the morning of the twenty-ninth 'Captain' Keelshies (an
Indian) joined us. He delivered to me a packet of letters and a
two-quart keg of French brandy, but assured me that the powder, shot,
tobacco, knives, &c, which he received at the fort for me, were all
expended. He endeavoured to make some apology for this by saying that
some of his relations died in the winter, and that he had, according
to native custom, thrown all his own things away; after which he was
obliged to have recourse to my ammunition and other goods to support
himself and a numerous family. The very affecting manner in which he
related this story, often crying like a child, was a great proof of
his extreme sorrow, which he wished to persuade me arose from the
recollection of his having embezzled so much of my property; but I was
of a different opinion, and attributed his grief to arise from the
remembrance of his deceased relations. However, as a small recompense
for my loss, he presented me with four ready-dressed moose skins,
which was, he said, the only retribution he could then make. The moose
skins, though not the twentieth part of the value of the goods which
he had embezzled, were in reality more acceptable to me than the
ammunition and the other articles would have been, on account of their
great use as shoe leather, which at that time was a very scarce
article with us, whereas we had plenty of powder and shot."

During Hearne's stay at Lake Clowey a great number of Indians entered
into a combination with those of his party to travel together to the
Coppermine River, with no other intent than to murder the Eskimo who
frequented that river in considerable numbers. Before leaving Lake
Clowey all the Northern Indians who had assembled there prepared their
arms for the encounter, and did not forget to make shields before they
left the woods of Clowey. These shields were composed of thin boards
about three-quarters of an inch thick, two feet broad, and three feet
long, and were intended to ward off the arrows of the Eskimo.

When the now large expedition reached a river with the fearful name of
Congecathawhachaga, they found a portion of the tribe known as Copper
Indians,[5] and these had never before seen a white man. They gave a
very friendly reception to Hearne on account of Matonabi.

[Footnote 5: Or "Tantsawh[¯u]ts". Like the "Dog-rib" Indians,
mentioned farther on, they belonged to the "Northern", Tinné,
Athabaskan type.]

"They expressed as much desire to examine me from top to toe as a
European naturalist would a nondescript animal. They, however, found
and pronounced me to be a perfect human being, except in the colour of
my hair and eyes; the former, they said, was like the stained hair of
a buffalo's tail, and the latter, being light, were like those of a
gull. The whiteness of my skin also was, in their opinion, no
ornament, as they said it resembled meat which had been sodden in
water till all the blood was extracted. On the whole I was viewed as
so great a curiosity in this part of the world that during my stay
there, whenever I combed my head, some or other of them never failed
to ask for the hairs that came off, which they carefully wrapped up,
saying: 'When I see you again, you shall again see your hair'."

The Copper Indians sent a detachment of their men in the double
capacity of guides and warriors, and the whole party now turned
towards the north-west, and after some days' walking reached the Stony
Mountains. "Surely no part of the world better deserves that name",
wrote, Hearne. They appeared to be a confused heap of stones quite
inaccessible to the foot of man. Nevertheless, with the Copper Indians
as guides, they got over this range, though not without being obliged
frequently to crawl on hands and knees. This range, however, had been
so often crossed by Indians coming to and fro that there was a very
visible path the whole way, the rocks, even in the most difficult
places, being worn quite smooth. By the side of the path there were
several large, flat stones covered with thousands of small pebbles.
These marks had been gradually built up by passengers going to and fro
from the copper mines in the far north. The weather all this time,
although the month was July, was very bad--constant snow, sleet, and
rain. Hearne seldom had a dry garment of any kind, and in the caves
where they lodged at night the water was constantly dropping from the
roof. Their food all this time was raw venison. One snowstorm which
fell on them was heavier than was customary even in the winter, but at
last the weather cleared up and sunshine made the journey far more

As they descended the northern side of the Stony Mountains they
crossed a large lake, passing over its unmelted ice, and called it
Musk-ox Lake, from the number of these creatures which they found
grazing on the margin of it.

This was not the first time that Hearne had seen the musk ox. These
animals were wont to come down as far south as the shores of Hudson

On the northern side of the Stony Mountains Hearne was taken by the
Indians to see a place which he called Grizzly-bear Hill, which took
its name from the numbers of those animals (presumably what we call
grizzly bears) which resorted here for the purpose of bringing forth
their young in a cave in this hill. On the east side of the adjoining
marsh Hearne was amazed at the sight of the many hills and dry ridges,
which were turned over like ploughed land by the long claws of these
bears in searching for the ground squirrels and mice which constitute
a favourite part of their food. It was surprising to see the enormous
stones rolled out of their beds by the bears on these occasions.

As they neared the Coppermine River the weather became very warm, and
the country had a good supply of firewood. Reindeer were abundant,
and, the Indians having killed some of these, Hearne sat down to the
most comfortable meal he had had for some months.

It was a kind of haggis, called by the Amerindians "biati", made with
the blood of the reindeer, a good quantity of fat shredded small, some
of the tenderest of the flesh, together with the heart and lungs, cut,
or more commonly torn, into small slivers--all which would be put into
the stomach, and roasted by being suspended before the fire by a
string. Care had to be taken that it did not get too much heat at
first, as the bag would thereby be liable to be burnt and the contents
be let out. When it was sufficiently done it emitted steam, "which",
writes Hearne, "is as much as to say: 'Come, eat me now'; and if it be
taken in time, before the blood and other contents are too much done,
it is certainly a most delicious morsel, even without pepper, salt, or
any other seasoning."

It was now almost impossible to sleep at night for the mosquitoes,
which swarmed in myriads as soon as the warmth of the sun melted the
ice and snow. When Hearne actually reached the banks of the Coppermine
River he was a little disappointed at its appearance, as it seemed to
be only one hundred and eighty yards wide, shallow, and full of
shoals. The Chipewayan Amerindians with him now sent out their spies
to try and locate the Eskimo. Presently they found that there were
five tents of them on the west side of the river.

"When the Indians received this intelligence no further attendance or
attention was paid to my survey, but their whole thoughts were
immediately engaged in planning the best method of attack, and how
they might steal on the poor Eskimo the ensuing night and kill them
all when asleep. To accomplish this bloody design more effectually the
Indians thought it necessary to cross the river as soon as possible;
and, by the account of the spies, it appeared that no part was more
convenient for the purpose than that where we had met them, it being
there very smooth, and at a considerable distance from any fall.
Accordingly, after the Indians had put all their guns, spears,
shields, &c, in good order, we crossed the river....

"When we arrived on the west side of the river, each painted the front
of his shield; some with the figure of the sun, others with that of
the moon, several with different kinds of birds and beasts of prey,
and many with the images of imaginary beings, which, according to
their silly notions, are the inhabitants of the different elements,
Earth, Sea, Air, &c. On enquiring the reason of their doing so, I
learned that each man painted his shield with the image of that being
on which he relied most for success in the intended engagement. Some
were content with a single representation; while others, doubtful, as
I suppose, of the quality and power of any single being, had their
shields covered to the very margin with a group of hieroglyphics quite
unintelligible to everyone except the painter. Indeed, from the hurry
in which this business was necessarily done, the want of every colour
but red and black, and the deficiency of skill in the artist, most of
those paintings had more the appearance of a number of accidental
blotches, than 'of anything that is on the earth, or in the water
under the earth'....

"After this piece of superstition was completed, we began to advance
towards the Eskimo tents; but were very careful to avoid crossing any
hills, or talking loud, for fear of being seen or overheard by the

When the attacking party was within two hundred yards of the Eskimo
tents, they lay in ambush for some time, watching the motions of their
intended victims; and here the Indians wanted Hearne (for whom they
had a sincere affection) to stay till the fight was over; but to this
he would not consent, lest, when the Eskimo came to be surprised, they
should try every way to escape, and, finding him alone, kill him in
their desperation.

While they lay in ambush the Northern Indians performed the last
ceremonies which were thought necessary before the engagement. These
chiefly consisted in painting their faces: some all black, some all
red, and others with a mixture of the two; and to prevent their hair
from blowing into their eyes, it was either tied before or behind, and
on both sides, or else cut short all round. The next thing they
considered was to make themselves as light as possible for running,
which they did by pulling off their stockings, and either cutting off
the sleeves of their jackets, or rolling them up close to their
armpits; and though the mosquitoes at that time "were so numerous as
to surpass all credibility", yet some of the Indians actually pulled
off their jackets and entered the lists nearly or quite naked. Hearne,
fearing he might have occasion to run with the rest, thought it also
advisable to pull off his stockings and cap, and to tie his hair as
close up as possible.

By the time the Indians had made themselves thus "completely
frightful", it was nearly one in the morning. Then, finding all the
Eskimo quiet in their tents, they rushed forth from their ambuscade,
and fell on the poor, unsuspecting creatures, unperceived till they
were close to the very eaves of the tents. A horrible massacre
forthwith took place, while Hearne stood neutral in the rear.

"The scene was shocking beyond description. The poor unhappy victims
were surprised in the midst of their sleep, and had neither time nor
power to make any resistance; men, women, and children, in all upward
of twenty, ran out of their tents stark naked, and endeavoured to make
their escape; but the Indians having possession of all the landside,
to no place could they fly for shelter. One alternative only remained,
that of jumping into the river; but, as none of them attempted it,
they all fell a sacrifice to Indian barbarity!

"The shrieks and groans of the poor expiring wretches were truly
dreadful; and my horror was much increased at seeing a young girl,
seemingly about eighteen years of age, killed so near me, that when
the first spear was stuck into her side she fell down at my feet, and
twisted round my legs, so that it was with difficulty that I could
disengage myself from her dying grasp. As two Indian men pursued this
unfortunate victim, I solicited very hard for her life; but the
murderers made no reply till they had stuck both their spears through
her body, and transfixed her to the ground. They then looked me
sternly in the face, and began to ridicule me by asking if I wanted an
Eskimo wife; and paid not the smallest regard to the shrieks and agony
of the poor wretch, who was twining round their spears like an eel!"

On his requesting that they would at least put the woman out of her
misery, one of the Indians hastily drew his spear from the place where
it was first lodged, and pierced it through her breast near the heart.
The love of life, however, even in this most miserable state, was so
predominant, that "though this might justly be called the most
merciful act that could be done for the poor creature, it seemed to be
unwelcome, for, though much exhausted by pain and loss of blood, she
made several efforts to ward off the friendly blow."... "My own
situation and the terror of my mind at beholding this butchery,
cannot easily be conceived, much less described; though I summed up
all the fortitude I was master of on the occasion, it was with
difficulty that I could refrain from tears; and I am confident that my
features must have feelingly expressed how sincerely I was affected at
the barbarous scene I then witnessed; even at this hour I cannot
reflect on the transactions of that horrid day without shedding

There were other Eskimo on the opposite shore of the river. Though
they took up their arms to defend themselves, they did not attempt to
abandon their tents, for they were utterly unacquainted with the
nature of firearms; so much so that when the bullets struck the
ground, they ran in crowds to see what was sent them, and seemed
anxious to examine all the pieces of lead which they found flattened
against the rocks. At length one of the Eskimo men was shot in the
calf of his leg, which put them in great confusion. They all
immediately embarked in their little canoes, and paddled to a shoal in
the middle of the river, which being somewhat more than a gunshot from
any part of the shore, put them out of the reach of our barbarians.

"When the savages discovered that the surviving Eskimo had gained the
shore above-mentioned, the Northern Indians began to plunder the
tents of the deceased of all the copper utensils they could find; such
as hatchets, bayonets, knives, &c, after which they assembled on the
top of an adjacent hill, and, standing all in a cluster, so as to form
a solid circle, with their spears erect in the air, gave many shouts
of victory, constantly clashing their spears against each other, and
frequently calling out _tima! tima!_[6] by way of derision to the poor
surviving Eskimo, who were standing on the shoal almost knee deep in

[Footnote 6: "_Tima_ in the Eskimo language is a friendly word similar
to _what cheer_?"--Hearne.]

"It ought to have been mentioned in its proper place," writes Hearne,
after describing further atrocities, "that in making our retreat up
the river, after killing the Eskimo on the west side, we saw an old
woman sitting by the side of the water killing salmon, which lay at
the foot of the fall as thick as a shoal of herrings. Whether from the
noise of the fall, or a natural defect in the old woman's hearing, it
is hard to determine, but certain it is, she had no knowledge of the
tragical scene which had been so lately transacted at the tents,
though she was not more than two hundred yards from the place. When we
first perceived her she seemed perfectly at ease, and was entirely
surrounded with the produce of her labour. From her manner of
behaviour, and the appearance of her eyes, which were as red as blood,
it is more than probable that her sight was not very good; for she
scarcely discerned that the Indians were enemies, till they were
within twice the length of their spears of her. It was in vain that
she attempted to fly, for the wretches of my crew transfixed her to
the ground in a few seconds, and butchered her in the most savage
manner. There was scarcely a man among them who had not a thrust at
her with his spear; and many in doing this aimed at torture rather
than immediate death, as they not only poked out her eyes, but stabbed
her in many parts very remote from those which are vital.

"It may appear strange that a person supposed to be almost blind
should be employed in the business of fishing, and particularly with
any degree of success; but when the multitude of the fish is taken
into the account, the wonder will cease. Indeed they were so numerous
at the foot of the fall, that when a light pole, armed with a few
spikes, which was the instrument the old woman used, was put under
water, and hauled up with a jerk, it was scarcely possible to miss
them. Some of my Indians tried the method, for curiosity, with the old
woman's staff, and seldom got less than two at a jerk, sometimes
three or four. Those fish, though very fine, and beautifully red, are
but small, seldom weighing more (as near as I could judge) than six or
seven pounds, and in general much less. Their numbers at this place
were almost incredible, perhaps equal to anything that is related of
the salmon in Kamschatka, or any other part of the world."

Hearne seems to have been so intent on geographical discovery that he
did not allow his feelings to influence him very long against the
society of his Amerindian companions, who apparently sat down and ate
a dish of salmon with him an hour or so after they had killed this
last old woman! The Indians now told him that they were ready again to
assist him in making an end of his survey, and apparently on foot, for
the Coppermine River was not navigable here, even for a boat.

Thus, first of all white men coming overland, he reached the sea coast
of the Arctic Ocean. The tide was then out, and a good deal of the sea
surface was covered with ice, on which he observed many seals lying
about. Along the sea coast and river banks were many birds; gulls,
divers or loons, golden plovers, green plovers, curlews, geese, and
swans. The country a little way inland was obviously inhabited by
numbers of musk oxen, reindeer, bears, wolves, gluttons, foxes, polar
hares, snowy owls, ravens, ptarmigans, gopher ground-squirrels, stoats
(ermines), and mice. In this region also he saw a bird which the
Copper Indians called the Alarm Bird. He tells us that in size and
colour it resembles a "Cobadekoock"; but as none of us know what that
is, we can only go on to imagine that the Alarm Bird was a kind of
owl, as Hearne says it was "of the owl genus". When it perceived
people or beasts it directed its way towards them immediately, and,
after hovering over them for some time, flew over them in circles or
went away with them in the same direction as they walked. All this
time the bird made a loud screaming noise like the cry of a child.
These owls were sometimes accustomed to follow the Indians for a whole
day, and the Copper Indians believed that they would in some way
conduct them to herds of deer and musk oxen, which without the birds'
assistance might never be found. They also warned Indians of the
arrival of strangers. The Eskimo, according to Hearne, paid no heed to
these birds, and it was thus that they allowed themselves to be
surprised and massacred, for if they had looked out from the direction
in which the Chipewayans were lying in ambush, they would have seen a
large flock of these owls continually flying about and making
sufficient noise to awaken any man out of the soundest sleep.

The country on either side of the estuary of the Coppermine River was
not without vegetation. There were stunted pines and tufts of dwarf
willows, and the ground was covered with a lichen or herb, which the
English of the Hudson's Bay Company knew by the name of
Wishakapaka,[7] and which they dried and used instead of tea. There
were also cranberry and heathberry bushes, but without fruit. The
scrub grew gradually thinner and smaller as one approached the sea,
and at the mouth of the river there was nothing but barren hills and

[Footnote 7: _Ledum palustre_.]

The unfortunate Eskimo of this region, judging by the examples seen by
Hearne, were of low stature, with broad thickset bodies. Their
complexion was a dirty copper colour, but some of the women were
almost fair and ruddy. Their dress, their arms and fishing tackle were
precisely similar to those of the Greenland Eskimo. Their tents were
made of deerskins, and were pitched in a circular form. But these were
only their summer habitations, those for the winter being partly
underground, with a roof framework of poles, over which skins were
stretched; and of course Nature did the rest, covering the roof with
several feet of snow. Owing to being almost entirely surrounded by
snow, these winter houses were very warm. Their household furniture
consisted of stone kettles and wooden troughs of various sizes, also
dishes, scoops, and spoons made of musk-ox horns. The stone kettles
(which some people think they borrowed from the Norse discoverers of
America in the eleventh century) were as large as to be capable of
containing five or six gallons. They were, of course, carved out of
solid blocks of stone, every one of them being ornamented with neat
moulding round the rims, and some of the large ones with fluted work
at each corner. In shape they were oblong, wider at the top than the
bottom, and strong handles of solid stone were left at each end to
lift them up.

The Eskimo hatchets were made of a thick lump of copper about five or
six inches long, and one and a half to two inches broad. They were
bevelled away at one end like a chisel. This piece of copper was
lashed into the end of a piece of wood about twelve or fourteen inches
long. The men's daggers and the women's knives were also made of
copper. The former were in shape like the ace of spades, and the
handle was made of reindeer antler.

With the Eskimo was a fine breed of dogs, with erect ears, sharp
noses, bushy tails. They were all tethered to stones to prevent them
from eating the flesh that was spread all over the rocks to dry.
Apparently, these beautiful dogs were left behind still tethered by
the wicked Amerindians, after the massacre of their owners. Hearne,
however, noticed with these Coppermine River Eskimo that the men were
entirely bald, having all their head hair pulled out by the roots. The
women wore their hair at the usual length.

Before leaving this region to return southwards, Hearne was led by the
Indians to one of the copper mines about thirty miles south-east of
the river mouth. It was no more than a jumble of rocks and gravel,
which had been rent in many ways, apparently by an earthquake shock.
This mine was at the time of Hearne's visit very poor in copper, much
of the metal having already been removed.

The Copper Indians set a great value on this native metal even at the
present day, and prefer it to iron for almost every use except that of
a hatchet, a knife, and an awl. "For these three necessary
implements", writes Hearne, "copper makes but a very poor substitute."

On the return journey, in the course of which the Great Slave
Lake--which Hearne calls "Lake Athapuscow"--was discovered and crossed
on the ice, the party travelled so hard and stayed so seldom to rest
that Hearne suffered terribly with his legs and feet. "I had so little
power to direct my feet when walking, that I frequently knocked them
against the stones with such force, as not only to jar and disorder
them, but my legs also; and the nails of my toes were bruised to such
a degree, that several of them festered and dropped off. To add to
this mishap, the skin was entirely chafed off from the tops of both my
feet, and between every toe; so that the sand and gravel, which I
could by no means exclude, irritated the raw parts so much, that for a
whole day before we arrived at the women's tents, I left the print of
my feet in blood almost at every step I took. Several of the Indians
began to complain that their feet also were sore; but, on examination,
not one of them was the twentieth part in so bad a state as mine. This
being the first time I had been in such a situation, or seen anybody
foot-foundered, I was much alarmed, and under great apprehensions for
the consequences. Though I was but little fatigued in body, yet the
excruciating pain I suffered when walking had such an effect on my
spirits, that if the Indians had continued to travel two or three days
longer at that unmerciful rate, I must unavoidably have been left
behind; for my feet were in many places quite honeycombed by the dirt
and gravel eating into the raw flesh."

"Among the various superstitious customs of those people, it is worth
remarking, and ought to have been mentioned in its proper place, that
immediately after my companions had killed the Eskimo at the Copper
River, they considered themselves in a state of uncleanness, which
induced them to practise some very curious unusual ceremonies. In the
first place, all who were absolutely concerned in the murder were
prohibited from cooking any kind of victuals, either for themselves or
others. As luckily there were two in company who had not shed blood,
they were employed always as cooks till we joined the women. This
circumstance was exceedingly favourable on my side; for had there been
no persons of the above description in company, that task, I was told,
would have fallen on me; which would have been no less fatiguing and
troublesome, than humiliating and vexatious.

"When the victuals were cooked, all the murderers took a kind of red
earth, or ochre, and painted all the space between the nose and chin,
as well as the greater part of their cheeks, almost to the ears,
before they would taste a bit, and would not drink out of any other
dish, or smoke out of any other pipe, but their own; and none of the
others seemed willing to drink or smoke out of theirs."

He goes on to relate that they practised the custom of painting the
mouth and part of the cheeks before each meal, and drinking and
smoking out of their own utensils, till the winter began to set in,
and during the whole of that time they would never kiss any of their
wives or children. They refrained also from eating many parts of the
deer and other animals, particularly the head, entrails, and blood;
and during their "uncleanness" their food was never cooked in water,
but dried in the sun, eaten quite raw, or broiled. When the time
arrived that was to put an end to these ceremonies, the men, without a
female being present, made a fire at some distance from the tents,
into which they threw all their ornaments, pipe stems, and dishes,
which were soon consumed to ashes; after which a feast was prepared,
consisting of such articles as they had long been prohibited from
eating, and when all was over each man was at liberty to eat, drink,
and smoke as he pleased, "and also to kiss his wives and children at
discretion, which they seemed to do with more raptures than I had ever
known them to do it either before or since".

On the 11th of January, as some of Hearne's companions were hunting,
they saw the track of a strange snowshoe, which they followed, and at
a considerable distance came to a little hut, where they discovered a
young woman sitting alone. As they found that she understood their
language, they brought her with them to the tents. On examination she
proved to be one of the Western Dog-rib Indians, who had been taken
prisoner by the Athapaska Indians in the summer of 1770. From these,
in the following summer, she had escaped, with the intention of
returning to her own country, but the distance being so great, and the
way being unknown to her, she forgot the track, so she built the hut
in which they found her, to protect her from the weather during the
winter, and here she had resided from the first setting in of the cold
weather. For seven months she had seen no human face. During all this
time she had supported herself in comparative comfort by snaring
grouse, rabbits, and squirrels; she had also killed two or three
beaver, and some porcupines. That she did not seem to have been in
want was evident, as she had a small stock of provisions by her when
she was discovered, and was in good health and condition; and Hearne
thought her "one of the finest women", of the real Indian type, that
he had seen in any part of North America.

"The methods practised by this poor creature to procure a livelihood
were truly admirable, and are great proofs that necessity is the real
mother of invention. When the few deer sinews that she had an
opportunity of taking with her were all expended in making snares and
sewing her clothing, she had nothing to supply their place but the
sinews of the rabbits' [he means hares'] legs and feet; these she
twisted together for that purpose with great dexterity and success.
The rabbits, &c, which she caught in those snares, not only furnished
her with a comfortable subsistence, but of the skins she made a suit
of neat and warm clothing for the winter. It is scarcely possible to
conceive that a person in her forlorn situation could be so composed
as to be capable of contriving or executing anything that was not
absolutely necessary to her existence; but there were sufficient
proofs that she had extended her care much farther, as all her
clothing, beside being calculated for real service, showed great taste
and exhibited no little variety of ornament. The materials, though
rude, were very curiously wrought and so judiciously placed as to make
the whole of her garb have a very pleasing, though rather romantic,

"Her leisure hours from hunting had been employed in twisting the
inner rind or bark of willows into small lines, like net twine, of
which she had some hundred fathoms by her; with this she intended to
make a fishing net as soon as the spring advanced. It is of the inner
bark of willows, twisted in this manner, that the Dog-rib Indians make
their fishing nets, and they are much preferable to those made by the
Northern Indians.

"Five or six inches of an iron hoop, made into a knife, and the shank
of an arrowhead of iron, which served her as an awl, were all the
metals this poor woman had with her when she eloped, and with these
implements she had made herself complete snowshoes, and several other
useful articles.

"Her method of making a fire was equally singular and curious, having
no other materials for that purpose than two hard sulphurous stones.
These, by long friction and hard knocking, produced a few sparks,
which at length communicated to some touchwood (a species of fungus
which grew on decayed poplars); but as this method was attended with
great trouble, and not always with success, she did not suffer her
fire to go out all the winter...."

Hearne regained Prince of Wales's Fort on Hudson Bay in June, 1772.
Subsequently he was dispatched, in the year 1774, to found the first
great inland trading station and fort of the Hudson's Bay Company
which was established at any considerable distance westward of Hudson
Bay--the first step, in fact, which led to this chartered company
becoming in time the ruler and colonizing agent of Alberta and British
Columbia. Hearne chose for his station of "Cumberland House" a site at
the entrance to Pine Island Lake on the lower Saskatchewan River.

In 1775 he became Governor of his old starting-point on Hudson
Bay--Fort Prince of Wales. During the American war with France, the
French admiral, La Pérouse, made a daring excursion into Hudson Bay
(1782), and summoned Hearne to surrender his fort. This he felt
obliged to do, not deeming his small garrison strong enough to resist
the French force.

Samuel Hearne returned to England in 1787, and died (probably in
London) in 1792.


Alexander Mackenzie's Journeys

It has been already mentioned that the conquest of Canada by the
British led to a great increase in travel for the development of the
fur trade. Previously, under the French, permission was only granted
to a few persons to penetrate into the interior to trade with the
natives, commerce being regarded as a special privilege or monopoly to
be sold or granted by the Crown. But after the British had completely
assumed control, nothing was done to bar access to the interior. So
long as the Catholic missionaries had been practically placed in
charge of the Amerindians, and had served as buffers between them and
unscrupulous traders, they--the Amerindians--had been saved from two
scourges, smallpox and strong drink.[1] But now, unhappily, all
restrictions about trade in alcohol were removed. In their eagerness
to obtain ardent spirits and "high" wine, the Indians eagerly welcomed
British traders and French Canadians in their midst. The fur trade
developed fast. The Hudson's Bay Company had established its trading
stations only in the vicinity or on the coasts of that inland sea, far
away from the two Canadas, from the Middle West and the vast North
West. After a little reluctance and suspicion, most of the northern
Amerindian tribes were persuaded to deflect their caravans from the
routes leading to Hudson Bay, and to meet the British, the New
Englander ("Bostonian"), and the French Canadian traders at various
rendezvous on Lake Winnipeg and its tributary lakes and rivers. The
principal depot and starting-point for the north-west traders was
_Grand Portage_, on the north-west coast of Lake Superior, whence
canoes and goods were transferred by a nine-mile portage to the waters
flowing to Rainy Lake, and so onwards to the Winnipeg River and the
vast system of the Saskatchewan, the Red River, and the Assiniboine.

[Footnote 1: See Sir Alexander Mackenzie's _Travels_, p. 5.]

Amongst the pioneers in this new development of the fur trade, who
became also the great explorers of northernmost America, was Alexander
Henry (already described), THOMAS CURRIE, JAMES FINLAY, PETER POND,[2]
their supporting merchants in Montreal resolved to form a great
fur-trading association, the celebrated North-west Trading Company,
and did so in 1784.

[Footnote 2: Peter Pond was a native of Connecticut, and in the
opinion of his trading associates rather a ruffian. He was strongly
suspected of having murdered an amiable Swiss fur trader named Wadin,
and at a later date he actually did kill his trading partner, Ross.]

Two of the Montreal merchant firms participating in this confederation
(Gregory and M'Leod) were inclined to play a somewhat independent
part, and called themselves the New North-west Trading Company. They
had the foresight to engage as their principal agents in the
north-west (Sir) ALEXANDER MACKENZIE and his cousin RODERICK
MACKENZIE. Both these young men were Highlanders, probably of Norse
origin. Alexander Mackenzie was born at Stornoway, in the Island of
Lewis (Hebrides), in 1763. He was only sixteen when he started for
Canada to take up a position as clerk in the partnership concern of
Gregory & M'Leod at Montreal.

It may be said here briefly that this "New North-west Company" went at
first by the nickname of "The Little Company" or "The Potties", this
last being an Amerindian corruption of the French _Les Petits_. Later
it developed into the "X.Y. Company", or "Sir Alexander Mackenzie &
Co.". Although much in rivalry with the original "Nor'-westers", the
rivalry never degenerated into the actual warfare, the indefensible
deeds of violence and treachery, which later on were perpetrated by
the Hudson's Bay Company on the agents of the North-west, and returned
with interest by the latter. Often the New North-west agents and the
original Nor'-westers would camp or build side by side, and share
equably in the fur trade with the natives; their canoemen and
French-Canadian _voyageurs_ would sing their boating songs in chorus
as they paddled side by side across the lakes and down the rivers, or
marched with their heavy loads over the portages and along the trails.
Eventually, in 1804, the X.Y. Company and the North-west fused into
the North-west Trading Company, which until 1821 fought a hard fight
against the encroachments and jealousy of the Hudson's Bay Company.

During the period, however, from 1785 to 1812 the men of the
north-west, of Montreal, and Grand Portage (as contrasted with those
of Hudson Bay) effected a revolution in Canadian geography. They
played the rôle of imperial pioneers with a stubborn heroism, with
little thought of personal gain, and in most cases with full
foreknowledge and appreciation of what would accrue to the British
Empire through their success. It is impossible to relate the
adventures of all of them within the space of any one book, or even of
several volumes. Moreover, this has been done already, not only in
their own published journals and books, but in the admirable works of
Elliot Coues, Dr. George Bryce, Dr. S.J. Dawson, Alexander Ross, and
others. I must confine myself here to a description of the adventures
of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, with a glance at incidents recorded by
Simon Fraser and by Alexander Henry the Younger.

Mackenzie, having been appointed at the age of twenty-two a partner in
the New North-west Company, proceeded to Grand Portage in 1785, and
by the year 1788 (after founding Fort Chipewayan on Lake Athabaska)
conceived the idea of following the mysterious Slave River to its
ultimate outlet into the Arctic or the Pacific Ocean. He left Fort
Chipewayan on June 3, 1789, accompanied by four French-Canadian
_voyageurs_, two French-Canadian women (wives of two _voyageurs_), a
young German named John Steinbruck, and an Amerindian guide known as
"English Chief". This last was a follower and pupil of the Matonabi
who had guided Hearne to the Coppermine River and the eastern end of
the Great Slave Lake. The party of eight whites packed themselves and
their goods into one birch-bark canoe. English Chief and his two
wives, together with an additional Amerindian guide and a hunter,
travelled in a second and smaller canoe. The expedition, moreover, was
accompanied as far as Slave River by LE ROUX, a celebrated
French-Canadian exploring trader who worked for the X.Y. Company. The
journey down the Slave River was rendered difficult and dangerous by
the rapids. Several times the canoes and their loads had to be lugged
past these falls by an overland portage. Mosquitoes tortured the whole
party almost past bearance. The leaders of the expedition and their
Indian hunter had to be busily engaged (the Indian women also) in
hunting and fishing in order to get food for the support of the party,
who seemed to have had little reserve provisions with them. Pemmican
was made of fish dried in the sun and rubbed to powder. Swans, geese,
cranes, and ducks fell to the guns; an occasional beaver was also
added to the pot. When they reached the Great Slave Lake they found
its islands--notwithstanding their barren appearance--covered with
bushes producing a great variety of palatable fruits--cranberries,
juniper berries, raspberries, partridge berries, gooseberries, and the
"pathogomenan", a fruit like a raspberry.

Slave Lake, however, was still, in mid-June, under the spell of
winter, its surface obstructed with drifting ice. In attempting to
cross the lake the frail birch-bark canoes ran a great risk of being
crushed between the ice floes. However, at length, after halting at
several islands and leaving Le Roux to go to the trading station he
had founded on the shores of Slave Lake, Mackenzie and his two canoes
found their way to the river outlet of Slave Lake, that river which
was henceforth to be called by his name. Great mountains approached
near to the west of their course. They appeared to be sprinkled with
white stones, called by the natives "spirit stones"--indeed over a
great part of North America the Rocky Mountains were called "the
Mountains of Bright Stones"--yet these brilliant patches were nothing
more wonderful than unmelted snow.

A few days later the party encountered Amerindians of the Slave and
Dog-rib tribes, who were so aloof from even "Indian" civilization that
they did not know the use of tobacco, and were still in the Stone Age
as regards their weapons and implements. These people, though they
furnished a guide, foretold disaster and famine to the expedition, and
greatly exaggerated the obstacles which would be met with--rapids near
the entrance of the tributary from Great Bear Lake--before the salt
water was reached.

The canoes of these Slave and Dog-rib tribes of the Athapaskan (Tinné)
group were covered, not with birch bark, but with the bark of the
spruce fir.

The lodges of the Slave Indians were of very simple structure: a few
poles supported by a fork and forming a semicircle at the bottom, with
some branches or a piece of bark as a covering. They built two of
these huts facing each other, and made a fire between them. The
furniture consisted of a few dishes of wood, bark, or horn. The
vessels in which they cooked their victuals were in the shape of a
gourd, narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, and made of _wátápé_.

This was the name given to the divided roots of the spruce fir, which
the natives wove into a degree of compactness that rendered it capable
of containing a fluid. Wátápé fibre was also used to sew together
different parts of the bark canoes. They also made fibre or thread
from willow bark. Their cooking vessels made of this wátápé not only
contained water, but water which was made to boil by putting a
succession of hot stones into it. It would, of course, be impossible
to place these vessels of fibre on a fire, and apparently none of the
Amerindians of temperate North America knew anything about pottery.
Those that were in some degree in touch with the Eskimo used kettles
or cauldrons of stone. Elsewhere the vessels for boiling water and
cooking were made of bark or fibre, and the water therein was made to
boil by the dropping in of red-hot stones. The arrows of these Slave
Indians were two and a half feet long, and the barb was made of bone,
horn, flint, or copper. Iron had been quite lately introduced,
indirectly obtained from the Russians in Alaska. Their spears were
pointed with barbed bone, and their daggers were made of horn or bone.
Their great club, the _pógamagán_, was made of a reindeer's antler.
Axes were manufactured out of a piece of brown or grey stone, six to
eight inches long and two inches thick. They kindled fire by striking
together a piece of iron pyrites and touchwood, and never travelled
without a small bag containing such materials.

The Amerindians along the lower Mackenzie had heard vague and terrible
legends about the Russians, far, far away on the coast of Alaska; they
were represented as beings of gigantic stature, and adorned with
wings; which, however, they never employed in flying (possibly the
sails of their ships). They fed on large birds, and killed them with
the greatest ease. They also possessed the extraordinary power of
killing with their eyes (no doubt putting up a gun to aim), and they
travelled in canoes of very large dimensions.


"I engaged one of these Indians," writes Mackenzie, "by a bribe of
some beads, to describe the surrounding country upon the sand. This
singular map he immediately undertook to delineate, and accordingly
traced out a very long point of land between the rivers ... which he
represented as running into the great lake, at the extremity of which
he had been told by Indians of other nations there was a white man's
fort." The same people described plainly the Yukon River westward of
the mountains, and told Mackenzie it was a far greater stream than the
one he was exploring. This was the first "hint" of the existence of
the great Alaskan river which was ever recorded. They also spoke to
Mackenzie of "small white buffaloes" (?the mountain goat), which they
found in the mountains west of the Mackenzie.

Whenever and wherever Mackenzie's party met these northernmost tribes
of Athapascan Indians they were always ready to dance in between short
spells of talking. This dancing and jumping was their only amusement,
and in it old and young, male and female, went to such exertions that
their strength was exhausted. As they jumped up and down they imitated
the various noises produced by the reindeer, the bear, and the wolf.

In descending the Mackenzie River, and again on the return journey
upstream, Mackenzie notices the abundance of berries on the banks of
the river, especially the kind which was called "pears" by the French
Canadians. These were of a purple hue, rather bigger than a pea, and
of a luscious taste. There were also gooseberries and a few
strawberries. Quantities of berries were collected and dried, but
while on the lower Mackenzie the expedition fed mainly on fat geese.
On the beach of the great river they found an abundance of a sweet
fragrant root which Mackenzie calls "liquorice".

Mackenzie seemed to think that along the lower Mackenzie River, near
the sea, there were not only reindeer, bears, wolverines, martens,
foxes, and hares, but a species of white buffalo or white musk ox,
which may have been the mountain goat above referred to. He noted, in
the cliffs or banks of the lower Mackenzie, pieces of "petroleum"
which bore a resemblance to yellow wax but was more friable. His
Indian guide informed him that rocks of a similar kind were scattered
about the country at the back of the Slave Lake, near where the
Chipewayans collected copper. If so, there may be a great oilfield yet
to be discovered in Arctic Canada.

On the river coming out of the Bear Lake Mackenzie discovered coal;
the whole beach was strewn with it. He was attracted towards it by
seeing smoke and noticing a strong sulphurous smell. The whole bank of
the river was on fire for a considerable distance, and he thought this
was due to the natives having camped there and set fire to the coal in
the bank from their hearths. But subsequent travellers have also found
this lignite coal burning to waste, and imagine that, being full of
gas, it catches fire spontaneously if any landslip or other accident
exposes it to moist air. In 1906 it was still burning!

According to Mackenzie, the ground in the regions about the lower
reaches of the Mackenzie River is always frozen at least five inches
down from the surface, yet he found small spruce trees growing in
patches near the delta of this river, besides pale-yellow raspberries
of an agreeable flavour, and a great variety of other plants and

As the expedition drew near to the estuary of the great Mackenzie
River a range of lofty snowy mountains rose into sight on the west.
These mountains were said by the natives to swarm with large
bears--probably of the huge chocolate-coloured Alaska type; and again
a mention was made of "small white buffaloes", which were in all
probability the large white mountain goat (_Oreamnus_). The
Amerindians along the river greatly magnified the dangers, predicting
impassable rapids between the confluence of the Great Bear River and
the sea. But these stories were greatly exaggerated. Every now and
then the river would narrow and flow between white precipitous
limestone walls of rock, but there was no obstacle to navigation,
though it was very deep and the current fast.

The travellers now began to get within touch of the Eskimo and to hear
of their occasional raids up the river from the sea. They were said to
use slings, from which they flung stones with such dexterity as to
prove formidable in their fights with the Amerindians, who regarded
them with great respect, the more so because of their intercourse with
the mysterious white people (Russians) from whom they obtained iron.

Mackenzie just managed to reach within sight of the sea, beyond the
delta of the river, his most northern point being about 69° 14" north
latitude. Hence he gazed out northwards over a vast expanse of
piled-up ice in which several small islands were embedded. In the
spaces of open water whales were visible (the small white whale,
_Beluga_). The water in between the islands was affected by the tide.
The travellers had, in fact, reached the Arctic ocean. But, owing to
the fickleness of their guides, and the danger of being detained by
some obstacle in these northern latitudes without proper supplies for
the winter, Mackenzie was afraid to stay for further investigations,
and on July 16, 1789, turned his back on the sea and commenced his
return journey up the stream of the great river which was henceforth
to bear his name.

The strength of the current made the homeward travel much more
lengthy and tedious. The Indians of the party were troublesome, and
the principal guide, English Chief, was sulky and disobedient. This
man had insisted on being accompanied by two of his wives, of whom he
was so morbidly jealous that he could scarcely bring himself to leave
them for an hour in order to go hunting or to prospect the country;
consequently he did little or nothing in the killing of game, and this
kept the expedition on very small rations. Mackenzie got wroth with
him, and so gave him a sound rating. This irritated English Chief to a
high degree, and after a long and vehement harangue he burst into
tears and loud and bitter lamentations. Thereat his friends and wives
commenced crying and wailing vociferously, though they declared that
their tears were shed, not for any trouble between the white man and
English Chief, but because they suddenly recollected all the friends
and relations they had lost within the last few years! "I did not
interrupt their grief for two hours, but as I could not well do
without them, I was at length obliged to sooth it and induce the chief
to change his resolution (to leave me), which he did with great
apparent reluctance."

Later on English Chief told Mackenzie that he feared he might have to
go to war, because it was a custom amongst the Athapaskan chiefs to
make war after they had given way to the disgrace attached to such a
feminine weakness as shedding tears. Therefore he would undertake a
warlike expedition in the following spring, but in the meantime he
would continue with Mackenzie as long as he wanted him.

Mackenzie, rejoining Le Roux at the Slave Lake, safely reached his
station at Fort Chipewayan on September 12, 1789, just as the approach
of winter was making travel in these northern regions dangerous to
those who relied on unfrozen water as a means of transit.

Mackenzie seems to have been a little disappointed with the results
of his northward journey; perhaps he had thought that the outlet of
Slave Lake and the Mackenzie River would be into the Pacific, the _Mer
de l'Ouest_ of his Canadian _voyageurs_. Yet he must have realized
that he had discovered something very wonderful after all: the
beginning of Alaska, the approach to a region which, though lying
within the Arctic circle, has climatic conditions permitting the
existence of trees, abundant vegetation, and large, strange beasts,
and which, moreover, is highly mineralized. His work in this
direction, however (and that of Hearne), was to be completed in the
RICHARDSON, and SIR JOHN ROSS--all knighthoods earned by magnificent
services in geographical exploration--and by THOMAS SIMPSON, Dr. John
Rae,[3] WARREN DEASE, JOHN M'LEOD, ROBERT CAMPBELL, and other servants
of the Hudson's Bay Company.

[Footnote 3: See p. 125.]

In October, 1792, Mackenzie had determined to make a great attempt to
reach the Pacific Ocean. By this time he and his colleagues had
explored the Peace River (the main tributary of Slave Lake), and had
realized that they could travel up it into the heart of the Rocky
Mountains. He wintered and traded at a place which he called "New
Establishment", on the banks of the Peace River, near the foothills of
the Rocky Mountains. He left this station on May 9, 1793, accompanied
by ALEXANDER MACKAY,[4] six French Canadians, and two Indian guides.
They travelled up the Peace River in a twenty-five-foot canoe, and at
first passed through scenery the most beautiful Mackenzie had ever
beheld. He describes it as follows:--

"The ground rises at intervals to a considerable height, and
stretching inwards to a considerable distance: at every interval or
pause in the rise, there is a very gently ascending space or lawn,
which is alternate with abrupt precipices to the summit of the whole,
or at least as far as the eye could distinguish. This magnificent
theatre of nature has all the decorations which the trees and animals
of the country can afford it: groves of poplars in every shape vary
the scene; and their intervals are enlivened with vast herds of elks
and buffaloes: the former choosing the steeps and uplands and the
latter preferring the plains. At this time the buffaloes were attended
with their young ones, who were striking about them; and it appeared
that the elks would soon exhibit the same enlivening circumstance. The
whole country displayed an exuberant verdure; the trees that bear a
blossom were advancing fast to that delightful appearance, and the
velvet rind of their branches reflecting the oblique rays of a rising
or setting sun, added a splendid gaiety to the scene which no
expressions of mine are qualified to describe."

[Footnote 4: Alexander Mackay long afterwards left the service of the
North-west Company, and was killed by savages on the Alaska coast,
near Nutka Sound.]

Of course, as they neared the Rocky Mountains the navigation of the
Peace River became more and more difficult. At last they left the
river to find their way across the mountains till they should reach
the headwaters of a stream flowing towards the Pacific Ocean.
Sometimes they only accomplished three miles a day, having to carry
all their goods and their canoe. The mountainous country was covered
with splendid forests of spruce, pine, cypress, poplar, birch, willow,
and many other kinds of trees, with an undergrowth of gooseberries,
currants, and briar roses. The travellers generally followed paths
made by the elk,[5] just as in the dense forests of Africa the way
sometimes is cleared for human travellers by the elephant. Every now
and again they resumed their journey on the river between the falls
and cascades. The mountains seemed to be a solid mass of limestone, in
some places without any covering of foliage.

[Footnote 5: For the word "elk" Mackenzie uses "moose deer". "Elk" in
the Canadian Dominion is misapplied to the great Wapiti red deer.]

"In no part of the north-west", writes Mackenzie, "did I see so much
beaver work" (along the eastern branch of the Peace River). In some
places the beavers had cut down acres of large poplars, and were
busily at work on their labours of dam-making during the night,
between the setting and the rising sun.

Gnats and mosquitoes came with the intense heat of June to make life
almost unbearable. As they got close to the Rocky Mountains they
encountered Amerindians who had never seen a white man before, and who
at first received them with demonstrations of great hostility and
fright. But owing to the diplomatic skill of Mackenzie they gradually
yielded to a more friendly attitude, and here he decided to camp until
the natives had become familiarized with him and his party, and could
give them information as to his route. But they could only tell that,
away to the west beyond the mountains, a month's travel, there was a
vast "lake of stinking water", to which came, for purposes of trade,
other white men with vessels as big as islands.

These Rocky Mountain Indians made their canoes from spruce bark[6] in
the following manner: The bark is taken off the spruce fir to the
whole length of the intended canoe, only about eighteen feet, and is
sewed with _wátápé_ at both ends. Two laths are then laid across the
end of the gunwale. In these are fixed the bars, and against them the
ribs or timbers, that are cut to the length to which the bark can be
stretched; and to give additional strength, strips of wood are laid
between them. To make the whole water-tight, gum is abundantly

[Footnote 6: See p. 281.]

Obtaining a guide from these people, Mackenzie continued his journey
along the Parsnip, or southern branch of the upper Peace River,
partly by water, partly by land till he reached its source,[7] a lake,
on the banks of which he saw innumerable swans, geese, and ducks. Wild
parsnips grew here in abundance, and were a grateful addition to the
diet of the travellers. As to birds, they not only saw blue jays and
yellow birds, but the first humming bird which Mackenzie had ever
beheld in the north-west.[8]

[Footnote 7: Mr. Burpee points out that this was really the
southernmost source of the mighty congeries of streams which flowed
northwards to form the Mackenzie River system. Having traced the
Mackenzie to the sea, its discoverer now stood four years afterwards
at its most remote source, 2420 miles from its mouth at which he had
seen the ice floes and the whales.]

[Footnote 8: Humming birds arrive annually in British Columbia between
April and May, and stay there till the autumn. They winter in the
warmer parts of California.]

From this tiny lake he made his way over lofty mountains to another
lake at no great distance, and from this a small stream called the Bad
River flowed southwards to join a still bigger stream, which Mackenzie
thought might prove to be one of the branches of the mighty Columbia
River that flows out into the Pacific through the State of Oregon. It
really was the Fraser River, and of the upper waters of the Fraser
Mackenzie was the discoverer.[9]

[Footnote 9: The great surveyor and map maker, David Thompson, was the
first white man to reach the upper waters of the _Columbia_ River. The
Fraser River was afterwards followed to its outlet in the Straits of
Georgia (opposite Vancouver Island) by Simon Fraser.]


Their experiences down the little mountain stream which was to take
them into the Fraser nearly ended in complete disaster. "The violence
of the current being so great as to drive the canoe sideways down the
river, and break her by the first bar, I instantly jumped into the
water and the men followed my example; but before we could set her
straight, or stop her, we came to deeper water, so that we were
obliged to re-embark with the utmost precipitation.... We had hardly
regained our situations when we drove against a rock which shattered
the stern of the canoe in such a manner, that it held only by the
gunwales, so that the steersman could no longer keep his place. The
violence of this stroke drove us to the opposite side of the river,
which is but narrow, when the bow met with the same fate as the
stern.... In a few moments, we came across a cascade which broke
several large holes in the bottom of the canoe, and started all the
bars.... The wreck becoming flat on the water, we all jumped out ...
and held fast to the wreck; to which fortunate resolution we owed our
safety, as we should otherwise have been dashed against the rocks by
the force of the water, or driven over the cascades.... At length we
most fortunately arrived in shallow water, and at a small eddy, where
we were enabled to make a stand, from the weight of the canoe resting
on the stones, rather than from any exertions of our exhausted
strength.... The Indians, when they saw our deplorable situation,
instead of making the least effort to help us, sat down and gave vent
to their tears."

Nobody, however, had been killed, though much of the luggage was lost,
and what remained had to be spread out to dry. Many of Mackenzie's
people, however, when they took stock of their misfortunes, were
rather pleased than otherwise, as they thought the disaster would stop
him from any further attempt to reach the Western Sea. He wisely
listened to their observations without replying, till their panic was
dispelled, and they had got themselves warm and comfortable with a
hearty meal and a glass of rum; though a little later only by their
indifferent carelessness they nearly exploded the whole of the
expedition's stock of gunpowder.

Fortunately the weather was fine. Mackenzie and his fellow
countryman, Mackay, allowed nothing to dismay them or damp their
spirits. Bark was obtained from the forest, the canoe was repaired,
and they heard from their guide that this violent little stream
would before long join a great and much smoother river. But they
were tormented with sandflies and mosquitoes, and a day or two
afterwards the guide bolted, while the expedition had to cross
morasses in which they were nearly engulfed, and the water journey
was constantly obstructed by driftwood. Nevertheless, at last they
had "the inexpressible satisfaction of finding themselves on the
bank of a navigable river on the western side of the first great
range of mountains". Here they re-embarked, and were cheerful in
spite of heavy rain.

As they paddled down this great stream, more than two hundred yards
wide, snow-capped mountains rose immediately above the river. The
current was strong, but perfectly safe. Flocks of ducks, entirely
white, except the bill and a part of the wing, rose before them. Smoke
ascending in columns from many parts of the woods showed that the
country was well inhabited, and the air was fragrant with the strong
odour of the gum of cypress and spruce fir.

Then came a series of cascades and falls and a most arduous portage
of the heavy canoe. These labours were somewhat lightened by the
discovery of quantities of wild onions growing on the banks; but
these, when mixed with the pemmican, on which the party was
subsisting, stimulated their appetites to an inconvenient degree,
seeing that they were on short commons. Meeting with strange Indians
they found no one to interpret, and had to use signs. But on the banks
of the Fraser they were lucky enough to find the "real red deer", the
great wapiti stag, which is absent from the far north-west, beyond the
region of the Saskatchewan. The canoe was loaded with venison. The
banks of the Fraser River sank to a moderate height and were covered
with poplars and cypresses, birch trees, junipers, alders, and
willows. The deserted house or lodge of some Amerindian tribe was
visited on the banks. It was a finer structure than anything that
Mackenzie had seen since he left Fort Michili-Makinak in upper
Canada. It had been constructed for three families. There were three
fireplaces and three beds and a kind of larder for the purpose of
keeping fish. The whole "lodge" was twenty feet long by three wide,
and had three doors. The walls were formed of straight spruce timbers
with some skill of carpentry. The roof was covered with bark, and
large rods were fixed across the upper part of the building, where
fish might hang and dry.

As they continued to descend the Fraser River, with here and there a
rapid which nearly swamped the canoe, and lofty cliffs of red and
white clay like the ruins of ancient castles (stopping on their way to
bury supplies of pemmican against their return, and to light a fire on
the top of the burial place so as to mislead bears or other animals
that might dig it up), they were more or less compelled to seek
intercourse with the new tribes of Amerindians, whose presence on the
river banks was obvious. As usual, Mackenzie had to exercise great
bravery, tact, and guile to get into peaceful conversation with these
half-frightened, half-angry people. The peacemaking generally
concluded with the distribution of trinkets amongst the men and women,
and presents of sugar to the children. Talking with these folk,
however, through such interpreters as there were amongst the Indians
of his crew, he learnt that lower down on the Fraser River there was a
peculiarly fierce, malignant race, living in vast caves or
subterranean dwellings, who would certainly massacre the Europeans if
they attempted to pass through their country on their way to the sea.
He therefore stopped and set some of his men to work to make a new
canoe. He noticed, by the by, that these Amerindians of the Fraser had
small pointed canoes, "made after the fashion of the Eskimo".

Renewing their voyage, they reached a house the roof of which just
appeared above the ground. It was deserted by its inhabitants, who had
been alarmed at the approach of the white men, but in the
neighbourhood appeared gesticulating warriors with bows and arrows.
Yet these people of underground houses turned out to be friendly and
very ready to give information, partly because they were in
communication with the Amerindian tribes to the east of the Rocky
Mountains. From the elderly men of this tribe Mackenzie ascertained
that the Fraser River flowed south by east, was often obstructed by
rapids, and, though it would finally bring them to a salt lake or
inlet, and then to the sea, it would cause them to travel for a great
distance to the south. He noticed the complete difference in the
language of these Atna or Carrier Indians[10] and that of the Nagailer
or Chin Indians of the Athapaskan group on the eastern side of the
Rocky Mountains.

[Footnote 10: Apparently these were of the Sikanni tribe, and only
another branch of the great Tinné (Athapaskan) stock.]

He, however, learnt from these Atna Indians that although the Fraser
was out of the question as a quick route to the sea, if he retraced
his journey a little up this river he would find another stream
entering it from the west, and along this they could travel upstream.
And then the route to the water "which was unfit to drink", and the
region to which came people with large ships, would be of no great
length. Accordingly, after having had a tree engraved with Mackenzie's
name and the date, by the bank of the Fraser River, the expedition
returned to the subterranean house which they had seen the day before.

"We were in our canoe by four this morning, and passed by the Indian
hut, which appeared in a state of perfect tranquillity. We soon came
in sight of the point where we first saw the natives, and at eight
were much surprised and disappointed at seeing Mr. Mackay and our two
Indians coming alone from the ruins of a house that had been partly
carried away by the ice and water, at a short distance below the place
where we had appointed to meet. Nor was our surprise and apprehension
diminished by the alarm which was painted in their countenances....
They informed me they had taken refuge in that place, with the
determination to sell their lives ... as dear as possible. In a very
short time after we had separated, they met a party of the Indians,
whom we had known at this place, and were probably those whom we had
seen landing from their canoe. These Indians appeared to be in a state
of extreme rage, and had their bows bent, with their arrows across
them. The guide stopped to ask them some questions, which our people
did not understand, and then set off with his utmost speed. Mr.
Mackay, however, followed, and did not leave him till they were both
exhausted with running.... The guide then said that some treacherous
design was meditated against them, ... and conducted them through very
bad ways as fast as they could run. When he was desired to slacken his
pace, he answered that they might follow him in any manner they
pleased, but that he was impatient to get to his family, in order to
prepare shoes and other necessaries for his journey. They did not,
however, think it prudent to quit him, and he would not stop till ten
at night. On passing a track that was but lately made, they began to
be seriously alarmed, and on enquiring of the guide where they were,
he pretended not to understand. Then they all laid down, exhausted
with fatigue, and without any kind of covering; they were cold, wet,
and hungry, but dared not light a fire, from the apprehension of an
enemy. This comfortless spot they left at the dawn of day, and, on
their arrival at the lodges, found them deserted; the property of the
Indians being scattered about, as if abandoned for ever. The guide
then made two or three trips into the woods, calling aloud, and
bellowing like a madman. At length he set off in the same direction as
they had come, and had not since appeared. To heighten their misery,
as they did not find us at the place appointed, they concluded that
we were all destroyed, and had already formed their plan to take to
the woods, and cross in as direct a line as they could proceed, to the
waters of the Peace River, a scheme which could only be suggested by
despair. They intended to have waited for us till noon, and if we did
not appear by that time, to have entered without further delay on
their desperate expedition."

Making preparations for warfare, if necessary, yet neglecting no
chance of re-entering into friendly relations with the natives,
Mackenzie set to work to repair the wretched canoe, which was
constantly having holes knocked through her. He dealt tactfully with
the almost open mutiny of his French Canadians and Indians. At last
everyone settled down to the making of a new canoe, on an island in
the river where there were plenty of spruce firs to provide the
necessary bark. Even here they were plagued with thunderstorms.
Nevertheless, the men set to work, and as they worked Mackenzie
addressed them with simple fervour, saying he knew of their plans to
desert him, but, come what might, _he_ was resolved to travel on to
the westwards until he reached the waters of the Pacific.

This calmed down the mutineers, and, to the great relief of all
concerned, that very afternoon the runaway guide of the Atna people
returned and apologized for having deserted them. He then offered once
again to conduct them to the seacoast. Nevertheless, again he fled,
and Mackenzie was obliged to guide the expedition, according to the
information he had gathered from the natives, up the small western
affluent of the upper Fraser, which he called the West Road River (now
known as the Blackwater).

His perseverance was rewarded, for after proceeding up this river for
some distance he saw two canoes coming towards them containing the
runaway guide and six of his relations. The guide was dressed in a
painted beaver robe, and looked so splendid that they scarcely knew
him again. Once more he declared it really was his intention not to
disappoint them. Soon afterwards they landed, buried their property
and provisions, and placed their canoe on a stage, shaded by a
covering of small trees and branches from the sun. Each man carried on
his back four bags and a half of pemmican, of an average weight of
eighty-five pounds, or other loads (instruments, goods for presents,
ammunition, &c.) of ninety pounds in weight. Moreover, each of the
Canadians carried a gun. The Amerindian servants of the expedition
were only asked to carry loads of forty-five pounds in weight.
Mackenzie's pack, and that of his companion, Mackay, amounted to about
seventy pounds. Loaded like this they had to scramble up the wooded
mountains, first soaked in perspiration from the heat and then
drenched with heavy rain. Nevertheless they walked for about thirteen
miles the first day. Now they began to meet natives who were closely
in touch with the seacoast, which lay to the west at a distance of
about six days' journey.

"We had no sooner laid ourselves down to rest last night than the
natives began to sing, in a manner very different from what I had been
accustomed to hear among savages. It was not accompanied either with
dancing, drum, or rattle; but consisted of soft, plaintive tones, and
a modulation that was rather agreeable: it had somewhat the air of
church music." The country through which they travelled abounded in
beavers. It was the month of July, however, and they were harassed
with thunderstorms, some of which were followed by hailstones as big
as musket balls. After one such storm the ground was whitened for two
miles with these balls of ice.

In order not to be deserted by all of their new guides, Mackenzie was
obliged to insist on one of them sharing his hut. This young
Amerindian was dressed in beaver garments which were a nest of
vermin. His hair was greased with fish oil, and his body smeared with
red earth, so that at first Mackenzie thought he would never be able
to sleep; but such was his fatigue that he passed a night of profound
repose, and found the guide still there in the morning. In this region
he notes that the balsam fir of Canada was abundant, the tree which
provided the gum that cured Cartier's expedition of scurvy. Some of
the natives with whom they now came into contact were remarkable for
their grey eyes, a feature often observed amongst the Amerindians of
the North Pacific coast.

"On observing some people before us, our guides hastened to meet them,
and, on their approach, one of them stepped forward with an axe in his
hand. This party consisted only of a man, two women, and the same
number of children. The eldest of the women, who probably was the
man's mother, was engaged, when we joined them, in clearing a circular
spot, of about five feet in diameter, of the weeds that infested it;
nor did our arrival interrupt her employment, which was sacred to the
memory of the dead. The spot to which her pious care was devoted
contained the grave of a husband and a son, and whenever she passed
this way she always stopped to pay this tribute of affection."

By this time, exposure to wind and sun, the attacks of mosquitoes and
flies, the difficulty of washing or of changing their clothes, had
made all the Europeans of the party as dark in skin colour as the
Amerindians, so that such natives as they met who had the courage to
examine them, did so with the intention of discovering whether they
had any white skin left. The natives whom they now encountered
(belonging to the maritime tribes) were comely in appearance, and far
more cleanly than the tribes of the north-west. As already mentioned,
they had grey eyes, sometimes tinged with hazel. Their stature was
noble, one man measuring at least six feet four inches. They were
clothed in leather, and their hair was nicely combed and dressed with
beads. One of a travelling band of these Indians, finding that
Mackenzie's party was on short rations and very hungry, offered to
boil them a kettle of fish roes.

"He took the roes out of a bag, and having bruised them between two
stones, put them in water to soak. His wife then took an handful of
dry grass in her hand, with which she squeezed them through her
fingers. In the meantime her husband was employed in gathering wood to
make a fire, for the purpose of heating stones. When she had finished
her operation, she filled a _wátápé_ kettle nearly full of water, and
poured the roes into it. When the stones were sufficiently heated,
some of them were put into the kettle, and others were thrown in from
time to time, till the water was in a state of boiling. The woman also
continued stirring the contents of the kettle, till they were brought
to a thick consistency; the stones were then taken out, and the whole
was seasoned with about a pint of strong rancid oil. The smell of this
curious dish was sufficient to sicken me without tasting it, but the
hunger of my people surmounted the nauseous meal. When unadulterated
by the stinking oil these boiled roes are not unpalatable food."

Farther on their journey their hunger was alleviated by wild parsnips,
also roots which appeared, when pulled up, like a bunch of white peas,
with the colour and taste of a potato. On their way they were obliged
to cross snow mountains, where the snow was so compact that their feet
hardly made any perceptible impression. "Before us appeared a
stupendous mountain, whose snow-clad summit was lost in the clouds."
These mountains, according to the Indians, abounded in white
goats.[11] Emerging from the mountains on to the lower ground, sloping
towards the sea, at nightfall they came upon a native village in the
thickness of the woods. Desperate with his fatigue, and risking any
danger to obtain rest, Mackenzie walked straight into one of the
houses, where people were busily employed in cooking fish, threw down
his burden, shook hands with the people, and sat down.

[Footnote 1: _Oreamnus_.]

"They received me without the least appearance of surprise, but soon
made signs for me to go up to the large house, which was erected, on
upright posts, at some distance from the ground. A broad piece of
timber with steps cut in it led to the scaffolding even with the
floor, and by this curious kind of ladder I entered the house at one
end; and having passed three fires, at equal distances in the middle
of the building, I was received by several people, sitting upon a very
wide board, at the upper end of it. I shook hands with them, and
seated myself beside a man, the dignity of whose countenance induced
me to give him that preference...."

Later on, this man, seeing Mackenzie's people arriving tired and
hungry, rose and fetched from behind a plank, four feet wide, a
quantity of roasted salmon. A whole salmon was offered to Mackenzie,
and another to Mackay; half a salmon was given to each of the French
Canadian _voyageurs_. Their host further invited them to sleep in the
house, but, Mackenzie thinking it preferable to camp outside, a fire
was lit to warm the weary travellers, and each was lent a thick board
on which to sleep, so that he might not lie on the bare ground.

"We had not long been seated round the fire when we received a dish of
salmon roes, pounded fine and beat up with water so as to have the
appearance of a cream. Nor was it without some kind of seasoning that
gave it a bitter taste. Another dish soon followed, the principal
article of which was also salmon roes, with a large proportion of
gooseberries, and an herb that appeared to be sorrel. Its acidity
rendered it more agreeable to my taste than the former preparation.
Having been regaled with these delicacies, for such they were
considered by that hospitable spirit which provided them, we laid
ourselves down to rest with no other canopy than the sky. But I never
enjoyed a more sound and refreshing rest, though I had a board for my
bed and a billet for my pillow."

The gooseberries, wortleberries, and raspberries which Mackenzie ate
at this hospitable village were the finest he ever saw or tasted of
their respective kinds. They were generally eaten together with the
dry roes of salmon. Salmon was the staple food of the country, and
very abundant in the river which Mackenzie was following down to the
Pacific shore. The fish were usually caught in weirs, and also by
dipping nets. The natives were so superstitious about the salmon, that
they believed they would give offence to the spirits if they ate any
other animal food, especially meat. They would scarcely allow
Mackenzie to carry venison in his canoe, in case the salmon should
smell it and abandon the river.

After this welcome rest they embarked in two canoes on the stream
which Mackenzie calls the Salmon River. The stream was rapid, and they
proceeded at a great rate, stopping every now and then to get out and
walk round salmon weirs. Nevertheless, although other Indians ran
before them announcing their approach towards a village, the noise of
which was apparent in the distance, they were received at this place
in a very hostile way, the men rapidly arming themselves with bows and
arrows, spears, and axes. But Mackenzie walked on alone to greet them,
and shook hands with the nearest man. Thereupon an elderly man broke
from the crowd and took Mackenzie in his arms. Another then came and
paid him the same compliment. One man to whom he presented his hand
broke the string of a handsome robe of sea-otter skin and threw it
over Mackenzie.

The chief made signs to the white men to follow him to his house,
which Mackenzie found to be of larger dimensions and better materials
than any he had yet seen. "Very clean mats" were spread in this house
for the chief, his counsellors, and the two white men. A small roasted
salmon was then placed before each person.

"When we had satisfied ourselves with the fish, one of the people who
came with us from the last village approached, with a kind of ladle in
one hand, containing oil, and in the other something that resembled
the inner rind of the cocoanut, but of a lighter colour. This he
dipped in the oil, and, having eaten it, indicated by his gestures how
palatable he thought it. He then presented me with a small piece of
it, which I chose to taste in its dry state, though the oil was free
from any unpleasant smell. A square cake of this was next produced,
when a man took it to the water near the house, and having thoroughly
soaked it, he returned, and, after he had pulled it to pieces like
oakum, put it into a well-made trough, about three feet long, nine
inches wide, and five deep. He then plentifully sprinkled it with
salmon oil, and manifested by his own example that we were to eat of
it. I just tasted it, and found the oil perfectly sweet, without which
the other ingredient would have been very insipid. The chief partook
of it with great avidity after it had received an additional quantity
of oil. This dish is considered by these people as a great delicacy;
and on examination, I discovered it to consist of the inner rind of
the hemlock pine tree, taken off early in summer, and put into a
frame, which shapes it into cakes of fifteen inches long, ten broad,
and half an inch thick; and in this form I should suppose it may be
preserved for a great length of time. This discovery satisfied me
respecting the many hemlock trees which I had observed stripped of
their bark."

Mackenzie found some of the older men here with long beards, and to
one of them he presented a pair of scissors for clipping his beard.

After describing some remarkable oblong "tables" (as they might be
called) of cedar wood--twenty feet long by eight feet broad--made of
thick cedar boards joined together with the utmost neatness, and
painted with hieroglyphics and the figures of animals; and his visit
to a kind of temple in the village, into the architecture of which
strangely carved and painted figures were interwoven; Mackenzie
goes on to relate an episode giving one a very vivid idea of the
helplessness of "native" medicine in many diseases.

He was taken to see a son of the chief, who was suffering from a
terrible ulcer in the small of his back, round which the flesh was
gangrened, one of his knees being afflicted in the same way. The poor
fellow was reduced to a skeleton, and apparently drawing very near to

"I found the native physicians busy in practising their skill and art
on the patient. They blew on him, and then whistled; at times they
pressed their extended fingers with all their strength on his stomach;
they also put their forefingers doubled into his mouth, and spouted
water from their own with great violence into his face. To support
these operations the wretched sufferer was held up in a sitting
posture, and when they were concluded he was laid down and covered
with a new robe made of the skin of a lynx. I had observed that his
belly and breast were covered with scars, and I understood that they
were caused by a custom prevalent among them of applying pieces of
lighted touchwood to their flesh, in order to relieve pain or
demonstrate their courage. He was now placed on a broad plank, and
carried by six men into the woods, where I was invited to accompany
them. I could not conjecture what would be the end of this ceremony,
particularly as I saw one man carry fire, another an axe, and a third
dry wood. I was, indeed, disposed to suspect that, as it was their
custom to burn the dead, they intended to relieve the poor man from
his pain, and perform the last sad duty of surviving affection. When
they had advanced a short distance into the wood, they laid him upon a
clear spot, and kindled a fire against his back, when the physician
began to scarify the ulcer with a very blunt instrument, the cruel
pain of which operation the patient bore with incredible resolution.
The scene afflicted me, and I left it."

The chief of this village had probably met Captain Cook about ten
years before. He had been down in a large canoe[12] with forty of his
people to the seacoast, where he saw two large vessels.

[Footnote 12: Mackenzie thus describes one of the large sea-going
canoes of the coast natives: "This canoe was built of cedar,
forty-five feet long, four feet broad, and three and a half in depth.
It was painted black and decorated with white figures of different
kinds. The gunwale fore and aft was inlaid with the teeth of the sea
otter." He adds that "these coast tribes (north of Vancouver Island
and of Queen Charlotte Sound) had been in indirect contact with the
Spaniards since the middle of the sixteenth century, and with the
Russians from the middle of the eighteenth century. Therefore, from
these two directions they had learnt the use of metal, and had
obtained copper, brass, and iron. They may possibly have had copper
earlier still from the Northern Indians on the other side of the Rocky
Mountains; but brass and iron they could, of course, only have
obtained from Europeans. They had already become very deft at dealing
with these metals, and twisted the iron into collars which weighed
upwards of twelve pounds, also beating it into plates for their
daggers and knives."]

Farther down the river the natives, instead of regaling them with
fish, placed before them a long, clean, and well-made trough full of
berries, most of them resembling blackberries, though white in colour,
and others similar to huckleberries. In this region the women were
employed in beating and preparing the inner rind of the juniper bark,
to which they gave the appearance of flax, and others were spinning
with a distaff; again, others were weaving robes of this fibrous
thread, intermixed with strips of sea-otter skin. The men were fishing
on the river with drag nets between two canoes, thus intercepting the
salmon coming up the river.

At last, on Saturday, the 20th of July, 1793, they emerged from the
Salmon River into an arm of the sea (probably near King Island). The
tide was out, and had left a large space covered with seaweed. The
surrounding hills were involved in fog.... The bay appeared to be some
three miles in breadth, and on the coast the travellers saw a great
number of sea otters.[13] At two in the afternoon the swell was so
high, and the wind, which was against them, so boisterous, that they
could not proceed along the seacoast in their leaky canoe. A young
chief who had come with them as one of their guides, and who had been
allowed to leave when the seacoast was reached, returned bearing a
large porcupine on his back. He first cut the animal open and threw
its entrails into the sea, then singed the skin and boiled it in
separate pieces; nor did he go to rest till, with the assistance of
two others who happened to be awake, every morsel of it had been
devoured. This was fortunate, because their stock of provisions was
reduced to twenty pounds' weight of pemmican, sixteen pounds of rice,
and six pounds of flour amongst ten men, "in a leaky vessel, and on a
barbarous coast".

[Footnote 13: These _may_ have been small seals, but the sea otter
(_Enhydris lutris_), now nearly extinct, was at one time found in
numbers along the north-west American coast, from the Aleutian Islands
and Alaska to Oregon. Owing to persecution it now leads an almost
entirely aquatic life, resting at times on the masses of floating

The rise and fall of the tide here was noted at fifteen feet in
height. Mr. Mackay collected a quantity of small mussels, which were
boiled and eaten by the two Scotchmen, but not by the Canadians, who
were quite unacquainted with sea shellfish.

Near Point Menzies, which had already been reached and named by
Captain VANCOUVER in the spring of 1793 on his great voyage of
discovery up the North American coast,[14] Alexander Mackenzie met a
party of Amerindians, amongst whom was a man of insolent aspect, who,
by means of signs and exclamations, made him understand that he and
his friends had been fired at by a white man named Makuba (Vancouver),
and that another white man, called "Bensins", had struck him on the
back with the flat of his sword. This man more or less compelled
Mackenzie to accompany him in the direction of his village, and on the
way explained that "Makuba" had come there with his "big boat".
Indeed, Mackenzie's party perceived the remains of sheds or buildings
on the shore where Europeans had probably made a camp, and here they
established themselves, taking up a position of defence, because the
attitude of the natives was rather threatening.

[Footnote 14: GEORGE VANCOUVER (born about 1758, and probably
descended from Dutch or Flemish ancestors) was one of the great
pioneers of the British Empire. His name is commemorated in
Vancouver's Island, an important portion of British Columbia.
Vancouver entered the navy when only thirteen, sailed with Captain
Cook, and eventually was appointed to command a naval expedition sent
out in 1791 to survey and take over from the Spaniards the north-west
American coast north of Oregon. It is remarkable that he should only
have missed Mackenzie's arrival at Point Menzies by about two months.
With what amazed rejoicing would these two heroic explorers have
greeted one another had they met on this remote point of the Pacific
coast, the one coming overland (so to speak) from Quebec and the
Atlantic, and the other all the way by sea from Falmouth via the Cape
of Good Hope, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii.]

At this camp there was a rock, and on this Alexander Mackenzie, mixing
up some vermilion or red clay in melted grease, inscribed in large
characters the following words: "Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by
land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand seven hundred and
ninety-three". He then shifted his camp to a place three miles to the
north-east, below a precipice from which issued streams of fine water
as cold as ice. And here he took careful observations with his
astronomical and surveying instruments, in order to fix his position.
Fortunately the day was one of bright sunshine. Otherwise, had there
been a long persistence of cloud, he might have been obliged to leave
the Pacific coast without being able to fix precisely the place where
he had reached the sea.

Then he yielded to the passionate desire of his people to withdraw
inland from the possibly dangerous inhabitants of the coast, and
returned with them to the encampment where the porcupine had been
eaten. Here the guide made off into the woods. Mackenzie followed him,
and thus reached a village from which two men issued armed with
daggers and intending to attack him. While stopping to defend himself,
many other people assembled, and amongst them he recognized the
irritating person who incessantly repeated the names "Makuba" and
"Benzins". However, this threatened danger was narrowly averted, and
eventually they left the village with a supply of food; but also in a
state of considerable irritation with--fleas! For some of the houses
of these Pacific coast villages swarmed with fleas to such an extent
that Mackenzie and his men were obliged to take to the water to rid
themselves of these vermin, which swarmed also on the ground that was
bare of grass.

The return journey up the Salmon River was a series of bewildering
vicissitudes. Sometimes Mackenzie and his party were received in the
most threatening way by persons who had been warm friends on their
downward journey, then seemingly inevitable war was transformed into
peace, but guides deserted, or the Amerindians from across the Rocky
Mountains attempted to mutiny. However, they struggled through all
their difficulties, till at last they reached the place known as the
Friendly Village, and were here fortunately received with great
kindness, being once more entertained "with the most respectful
hospitality". "In short, the chief behaved to us with so much
attention and kindness that I did not withhold anything in my power to
give which might afford him satisfaction.... I presented him with two
yards of blue cloth, an axe, knives, and various other articles. He
gave me in return a large shell which resembled the under shell of a
Guernsey oyster, but was somewhat larger. Where they procure them I
could not discover, but they cut and polish them for bracelets,
ear-rings, and other personal ornaments...."

The women of this place were employed in boiling sorrel and different
kinds of berries in large square kettles made of cedar wood. This
pottage, when it had attained a certain consistency, they took out
with ladles, and poured it into frames about twelve inches square.
These were then exposed to the sun, until their contents became so
many dried cakes. This was their principal article of food, and
probably of traffic. These people had also made portable chests of
cedar, in which they packed these cakes, as well as their salmon, both
dried and roasted. The only flesh they ate in addition to the salmon
was that of the sea otter and the seal; except that one instance
already mentioned of the young Indian who feasted on the flesh of the

"Their faces are round, with high cheekbones, and their complexion
between olive and copper. They have small grey eyes with a tinge of
red,... their hair is of a dark-brown colour." The men wore their hair
long, and either kept it well combed and hanging loose over the
shoulders, or plaited it and bedaubed it with brown earth so as to
make it quite impervious to the comb. Those who adopted this fashion
had to carry a bone bodkin about with them to ease the frequent
irritation which arose from the excessive abundance of vermin in their

The women, on the other hand, usually wore their hair short. Mackenzie
noticed that the infants had their heads enclosed with boards covered
with leather, to press the skull into the shape of a wedge. The women
wore a fringed apron, and over that a long robe made of skins or
leather, either loose or tied round the middle with a girdle. Over
these in wet weather was worn a cap in the shape of an inverted bowl
or dish. The men also wore this cap, and in cold weather used the
robe, but in warm weather went about in no clothing at all, except
that their feet were protected with shoes made of dressed elks' skins.
In wet weather, over their robe they wore a circular mat with an
opening in the middle sufficiently large to admit the head. This,
spreading over the shoulders, threw off the wet. As compared with the
Indians of the Rocky Mountains and the great plains, the men and boys
were very cleanly, being constantly in the water. The women, however,
were dirty.

At the end of July, 1793, Mackenzie left what he calls the Friendly
Village, and prepared to return to the east across the Rocky
Mountains, having distributed to each man about twenty pounds weight
of smoked salmon, flour, and pemmican. The fatigue of ascending the
precipices of the mountains was past description. When they arrived at
a spot where water could be obtained, and a camp made, they were in
such an extremity of weariness they could hardly crawl about to gather
wood for the purpose of making a fire; but two hours afterwards the
Amerindians of their party arrived and came to their assistance. Then
when they were sitting round a blazing fire, and some of their fatigue
had lessened, they could sit and talk of past dangers, and indulge in
the delightful reflection that they were thus far advanced on their
homeward journey. "Nor was it possible to be in this situation without
contemplating the wonders of it. Such was the depth of the precipices
below, and the height of the mountains above, with the rude and wild
magnificence of the scenery around, that I shall not attempt to
describe such an astonishing and awful combination of objects.... Even
at this place, which is only, as it were, the first step towards
gaining the summit of the mountains, the climate was very sensibly
changed. The air that fanned the village which we left at noon, was
mild and cheering; the grass was verdant, and the wild fruits ripe
around it. But here the snow was not yet dissolved, the ground was
still bound by the frost, the herbage had scarce begun to spring, and
the crowberry bushes were just beginning to blossom."

Eventually they found their canoe, and the property which they had
left behind, in perfect safety. At this camp, where the canoe had been
left behind, many natives arrived both from the upper and lower parts
of the river, all of them dressed in beaver robes, which they were
ready enough to sell for large knives. It struck Alexander Mackenzie
as being very extraordinary that these people, who had left absolutely
untouched the property stored at this place--when anyone passing by
could have stolen it and never have been detected--should now be so
ready to pilfer articles and utensils from the camp. So many small
things had been picked up and taken away by them, when coming to sell
their beaver robes, that he was obliged to take some action. So,
before all these beaver-clad Amerindians had departed on their
westward journey, he told the rearguard that he had noticed the
thefts, and scarcely thought their relations who were guilty of
stealing realized the awful mischief that would result from this
dishonesty; that they were on their way now to the sea to procure
large quantities of salmon from the rivers, but the salmon, which was
absolutely necessary to their existence, came from the sea which
belonged to the white men, and it only needed a message from the white
men to the powers of nature to prevent the fish coming up from the sea
into the rivers; and if this word were spoken they and their children
might starve. He consequently advised them to hurry after their
friends, and see that all the stolen articles were sent back. This
plan succeeded. The stolen articles were restored, and then Mackenzie
purchased from these people several large salmon, and his party
enjoyed a delicious meal.

Mackenzie declared that there were no bison to be found on the west
side of the Rocky Mountains[15] (British Columbia), and no wolves.

[Footnote 15: He was not quite accurate: there were a few "wood" bison
in the north and east of British Columbia.]

Resuming their journey up the Fraser River, they passed through the
narrow gut between mountainous rocks, which on the outward journey had
been a passage of some risk. But now the state of the water was such
that, they got up without difficulty, and had more time to examine
these extraordinary rocks, which were as perpendicular as a wall, and
gave the traveller the idea of a succession of enormous Gothic
cathedrals. With little difficulty they transported their canoe across
the water parting to the Peace River.

As they began to glide down this stream, homeward bound, they noticed
at the entrance of a small tributary an object which proved to be four
beaver skins hung up to attract their attention. These were the skins
which had been given to Mackenzie as a present by a native as he
travelled westwards. Not wishing to add to his loads, he had left the
skins behind, saying he would call for them on his return. Mackenzie
imagined, therefore, that, being under the necessity of leaving the
river, this Indian had hung up the skins in the hope that they would
attract the attention of the travellers on their return. "To reward
his honesty, I left three times the value of the skins in trade goods
in their place." As the Peace River carried them away from the great
mountains, and the plains extended before their sight, they stopped to
repair the canoe and to get in supplies of food from the herds of game
that were visible. They began with a hearty meal of bison beef. "Every
fear of future want was removed." Soon afterwards they killed an elk,
the carcass of which weighed over two hundred and fifty pounds. "As we
had taken a very hearty meal at one o'clock, it might naturally be
supposed that we should not be very voracious at supper; nevertheless,
a kettleful of elk flesh was boiled and eaten, and that vessel
replenished with more meat and put on the fire. All that remained of
the bones, &c, were placed after the Indian fashion round the fire to
roast, and at ten the next morning the whole was consumed by ten
persons and a large dog, who was allowed his share of the banquet. Nor
did any inconvenience result from what may be considered as an
inordinate indulgence."

On the 24th of August, 1793, Mackenzie was back again at Fort
Chipewayan, after an absence of eleven months, having been the first
white man to cross the broad continent of North America from the
Atlantic to the Pacific, north of Mexico.


Mackenzie's Successors

The Spaniards of California had been aware in the middle of the
eighteenth century that there was a big river entering the sea to the
north of the savage country known as Oregon. The estuary of this river
was reached in May, 1792, by an American sea captain of a whaling
ship--ROBERT GRAY, of Boston. He crossed the bar, and named the great
stream after his own ship, the _Columbia_. Five months afterwards
(October, 1792) Lieutenant BROUGHTON, of the Vancouver expedition,
entered the Columbia from the sea, explored it upstream for a hundred
miles, and formally took possession of it for the King of Great
Britain. The news of this discovery reached Alexander Mackenzie (no
doubt after his return from his overland journey to the Pacific
coast), and he at once jumped to the conclusion that the powerful
stream he had discovered in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and had
partially followed on its way to the Pacific, must be the Columbia. As
a matter of fact it was the river afterwards called Fraser.

If you look at the map of British North America, and then at the map
of Russian Asia--Siberia--you will notice a marked difference in the
arrangement of the waterways. Those of the Canadian Dominion, on the
whole, flow more eastwards and westwards, or at any rate radiate in
all directions, so as to constitute the most wonderful system of
natural canals possessed by any country or continent. On the contrary,
the rivers of Siberia flow usually in somewhat parallel lines from
south to north. Siberia also is far less well provided than British
North America with an abundance of navigable rivers, streams, and
great lakes. Therefore the traveller in pre-railway days wishing to
cross Siberia from west to east or east to west was obliged to have
recourse to wheeled traffic, to ride, or to walk. Consequently, until
the beginning of the twentieth century, the "exploitation" (or turning
to useful account) of Siberia was a far more difficult process than
the development of North America, once the question of British
_versus_ French or Spanish was settled. Siberia at one time was almost
as rich in fur-bearing animals as British North America; yet so
difficult was transport (and so severe were the rigours of the
climate) that the Russians, once they reached the shores of the
Pacific at the beginning of the eighteenth century, began to stretch
out their influence to the opposite peninsula of Alaska mainly on
account of the fur trade. For it was easier and less expensive to
bring furs from Alaska round Cape Horn, or the Cape of Good Hope, to
Europe than to convey them overland from eastern Siberia. Then, also,
the Chinese market was becoming of importance to the fur trade.
Already Mackenzie, at the end of the eighteenth century, is found
considering whether a sea trade between China and a British port on
the North Pacific coast could not be arranged so as to develop a
profitable market among the mandarins and grandees of the Celestial
Empire for a good proportion of the North-west Company's skins.

[Illustration: Map of Part of the Coast Region of BRITISH COLUMBIA]

Peter Pond, already referred to on p. 278, is said to have expressed
his intention (in 1788) of going to treat with the Empress Catherine
II for a Russian occupation of the Alaskan and Columbian coasts. For
this reason, or the mere desire to have a proportion of this
fur-producing country, the Emperor Paul, in 1799, created a Russian
Chartered Company to occupy the Alaska and north Columbian coasts.
Great Britain offered no objection--in spite of having acquired some
rights here by an agreement with Spain--and that is why, when you look
at the map of the vast Canadian Dominion, you find with surprise that
it has been robbed (one might almost say) of at least half of its
legitimate Pacific seaboard. The Russian Company was allowed to claim
the north Columbian coast between Alaska proper and Queen Charlotte

In 1867 the Russian Government sold all Alaska and the north Columbian
coast to the United States, partly to annoy Great Britain, whom it had
not forgiven for the Crimean War.

You will have noticed that quite a number of United States citizens
(mostly born British subjects in New England) had taken part in the
north-west fur trade immediately after the British conquest of Canada
disposed of French monopolies. There were Jonathan Carver and Peter
Pond, for example; and a much more worthy person than the last
named--Daniel W. Harmon, a New Englander, who entered the service of
the North-west Company in 1800, and followed in Mackenzie's footsteps
to the upper Fraser River and the vicinity of the Skeena. Simon Fraser
also, whose tracing of the Fraser River from its upper waters to the
Pacific coast we shall presently deal with, was a native of Vermont,
though his father came from Scotland. The furs which began to
penetrate into the United States by way of Detroit and Niagara, the
rising scale of luxury in dress in the towns of the eastern seaboard
of the United States, the voyages of American whalers up the west
coast of North America (including the discovery of the Columbia River
in 1792 by Captain Robert Gray), the purchase of Louisiana from the
Emperor Napoleon in 1804--with the vague claim it gave to the coast
line of Oregon on the Pacific: all these circumstances inspired
far-sighted persons in the United States at the beginning of the
nineteenth century with a wish to secure for their Government and
commerce a share in the fur trade and in these wonderful new lands of
the Pacific watershed. American ships (whaling ships) had already
become accustomed to sail round Cape Horn and to visit the Oregon and
Alaskan coasts. The American Government therefore, immediately after
the Louisiana purchase, dispatched an American expedition under
Captains Meriwether Lewis and Jonathan Clarke to travel up the
Missouri River and so across the mountains to the coast of Oregon, a
wonderful expedition, which they carried out with great success in two
years (1804-6), reaching the lower Columbia River and following it
down to the sea.

Consequently, with all this in the air, it is not very surprising that
the far-sighted John Jacob Astor, a wealthy German merchant of New
York, should have conceived the idea of founding a great American
fur-trading company and of establishing it at the mouth of the
Columbia River.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century he had entered into
arrangements with an Anglo-Canadian Company (the Mackinaw), which
worked the southernmost part of Canada, to fuse its enterprise with
his, and thus founded the _South-west Company_, the name of which (at
any rate in current speech) was afterwards changed into the Pacific
Fur-trading Company. After attempting in vain to come to a working
arrangement with the great North-west Company, he decided to act quite
independently and to establish the headquarters of his new concern at
the mouth of the Columbia River. Accordingly, the expedition was sent
out in duplicate to the mouth of the Columbia River, one-half going a
six-months' voyage round Cape Horn in a sailing ship, the _Tonquin_,
and the other marching overland or canoeing on lakes and rivers in
eighteen months from Montreal via the Mississippi and Missouri. These
two parties together founded "Astoria", at the mouth of the Columbia.
But most of Astor's employees were British subjects derived from men
of the North-west and Mackinaw Companies; and when, in 1812, war
broke out between the United States and Great Britain, a British war
vessel came up the Pacific coast to Astoria and promptly turned it
into "Fort George". Forthwith the North-west Company bought up the
derelict property of Mr. Astor's Company from his not very honest
British employees, and the few Americans in the concern retreated
inland, and, after almost incredible sufferings from the attacks of
unfriendly Indians, succeeded in reaching the Mississippi.


This Columbia River had in reality been discovered at its sources, and
traced down to the sea, between 1807 and 1811 by DAVID THOMPSON (once
a Blue-coat boy in London; from 1784 to 1792 in the service of the
Hudson's Bay Company, and after that one of the most famous of the
Nor'-westers). The upper course of this river and its northern
affluents were annexed as British by David Thompson; the lower course
did not at once become the political property of the United States,
but was considered vaguely to be the joint property of both nations,
till the Oregon settlement of 1846. By the treaty of 1792, the
southern boundary of central Canada was agreed upon as being the 49th
degree of north latitude, but only between the Lake of the Woods and
the Rocky Mountains. The agreement of 1846 continued the 49th degree
boundary to the shore of the Pacific opposite Vancouver Island.

Prominent among the agents of the North-western Company who followed
Sir Alexander Mackenzie as a pioneer towards the Pacific shores was
ALEXANDER HENRY THE YOUNGER,[1] regarding whose journeys some extracts
may be given.

[Footnote 1: The nephew of the Alexander Henry already mentioned as an
explorer between 1761 and 1775.]

The first entry in his diary of 1799 is not particularly romantic, but
shows some of the unexpected dangers attending the life of an
adventurer in the far north-west. He had been riding through the
Assiniboin country in the autumn of 1799, probably after one of the
very indigestible meals which he describes here and there in his
pages. Alone, and crossing an open plain swarming with wolves, he was
seized suddenly with a violent colic, the pain of which was so
terrible that he could not remain in the saddle. He dismounted,
hobbled his horse, and threw himself on the grass, where he lay in
agony for two hours, expecting every moment would be his last, till,
quite exhausted, he fell asleep. He was awakened, however, by the
howling of the wolves advancing to tear him to pieces; yet he was so
weak that he was scarcely able to mount his horse, and then could only
proceed at a slow walk, with the wolves snapping at his horse's heels.

Near the site of the present city of Winnipeg, in the late summer of
1800, he and his expedition were much troubled by swarms of water
snakes. They were harmless but not pleasant in their familiarity, for
they entered the tents and took refuge in the explorers' beds; and as
they apparently came from their breeding places in Amerindian graves
which covered the remains of people who had died of smallpox in a
recent epidemic, they were additionally loathsome.

Smallpox indeed played a very important part in the historical
development of western North America. Prior to 1780 the Amerindian
tribes between the upper Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, and
between the Saskatchewans and the Missouri, were numerous and warlike.
At first, about 1765, they received in very friendly fashion the
pioneer British traders and French Canadians who attempted to resume
the fur trade where it had been dropped by the French monopolists in
1760. But fifteen years afterwards, enraged at the violence and
wrongdoing of the British and Canadian traders, and maddened by strong
drink, they were planning a universal massacre of the whites, when
suddenly smallpox (introduced by the Spaniards into New Mexico) came
on them as a scourge, which destroyed whole tribes, and depopulated
much of western North America.

Alexander Henry had many adventures with the bison of the plains. Here
is one of them.

"Just as I came up to him at full speed and prepared to fire, my horse
suddenly stopped. The bull had turned about to face my horse, which
was naturally afraid of buffaloes, and startled at such a frightful
object; he leaped to one side to avoid the bull. As I was not prepared
for this I was pitched over his head, and fell within a few yards of
the bull's nose; but fortunately for me he paid no more attention to
my horse than to me. The grass was long, and I lay quiet until a
favourable opportunity offered as he presented his placotte. I
discharged both barrels of my double gun at him; he turned and made
one plunge toward me, but had not time to repeat it before he fell,
with his nose not more than three paces off.... I had to return on
foot as my horse had bolted."

At this place--near the Red River (the season September)--the country
swarmed with big game such as North America will never see any more:
enormous numbers of bison, of wapiti or Canadian red deer, moose or
elk, prong-buck, and of grizzly bears and black bears who followed the
herds to attack them. The rivers swarmed with otters and beavers. The
ground along the banks of the river was worn into a smooth, hard
pavement by the hoofs of the thousands of buffaloes. Racoons, red
foxes, wolves, and pumas frequented the bush country and the chumps of
forest. A large white wolf, prowling rather imprudently, came within a
few yards of Henry, and was shot dead. "We observed on the opposite
beach no fewer than seven bears drinking all at the same time. Red
deer were whistling in every direction, but our minds were not
sufficiently at ease to enjoy our situation." Large flocks of swans
(_Cygnus columbianus_) rose out of the Red River apparently in a state
of alarm and confusion, possibly caused by the many herds of buffaloes
rushing down to the river to drink. At night everything was quiet
except the bellowing of buffaloes and the whistling of red deer. "I
climbed up a tall oak at the entrance of the plain, from the top of
which I had an extensive view of the country. Buffalo and red deer
were everywhere in sight passing to and fro."

But the prairie had its nuisances as well as its wonders of animal
life. From the end of April to the end of July the woods and grass
swarmed with ticks (_Ixodes_), which covered the clothes of the
Europeans and entered their ears and there caused serious
inflammations. They would in time get such a firm hold by the
insertion of their heads into the skin that they could not be removed
without pulling the body from the head, which caused a terrible
itching lasting for months. If left alone they adhered to the flesh
until they swelled to the size of a musket ball, when they fell off of
themselves. In the summertime gadflies were exasperating in their
attacks on men and cattle. Mosquitoes were a veritable plague, and
midges also, between June and the end of September.

Not the least of the terrors of life in the far north-west in those
days was the vermin that collected in the houses or huts built for a
winter sojourn. It is frequently mentioned, in the records of the
pioneers, how the lodges or tents of the Amerindians swarmed with
fleas and lice. Henry notes on the 19th of April, 1803: "The men began
to demolish our dwelling houses, which were built of bad wood, and to
build new ones of oak. The nests of mice we found, and the swarms of
fleas hopping in every direction, were astonishing."

Henry reached the Pacific coast in 1814, by way of the Kootenay,
Spokane, and Columbia River route, which had been discovered by David
Thompson. He describes well the forests of remarkable trees on this
portion of the Pacific coast, opposite the south end of Vancouver
Island: the crooked oaks loaded with mistletoe, the tall wild cherry
trees, the hazels with trunks thicker than a man's thigh, the
evergreen arbutus, the bracken fern, blackberries, and black
raspberries; and the game in these glades of trees and fern: small
Columbian _Mazama_ deer, large lynxes, bears, gluttons, wolves, foxes,
racoons, and squirrels. Overhead soared huge Californian condors

Henry was drowned in 1812 in the estuary of the Columbia River,
through the capsizing of a boat.

The question of the identity of the great river flowing to the Pacific
from near the headwaters of the Peace--the river which Mackenzie had
discovered and been forced to leave--was finally decided by SIMON
FRASER, one of the most celebrated among the North-west Company's
pioneers. Like Mackenzie, he believed this stream to be the upper

Accompanied by John Stuart and Jules Quesnel, he left the Fraser River
at its junction with the Nechaco on May 22, 1807, and, keeping as near
as he could to the course of the river, found himself in the country
of the Atna tribe, Amerindians of a diminutive size but active
appearance, from whom he obtained an invaluable guide and faithful
interpreter, Little Fellow, but for whose bravery, wise advice, and
clever diplomacy the journey must have ended in disaster or
disappointment--a remark which might be made about nearly all the
Amerindian guides of the pioneers.

The Atna Indians were dressed in skins with the hair outside, and were
armed with bows and arrows. They besmeared their bodies with fish oil
and red earth, and painted their faces in different colours. Bison
were quite unknown to them, being very seldom found in those latitudes
on the western side of the Rocky Mountains. The country of the Atna
Indians on the upper Fraser abounded in elk, wapiti, reindeer, bighorn
sheep, mountain goats,[2] and beaver.

[Footnote 2: This remarkable beast (_Oreamnus_) they called "Aspai",
and wove from its white wool an excellent cloth for their clothing.]

Here is a description by Fraser of some of the rapids in the upper
part of the river named after him.

"The channel contracts to about forty yards, and is enclosed by two
precipices of immense height, which bending towards each other make it
narrower above than below. The water which rolls down this
extraordinary passage in tumultuous waves and with great velocity has
a frightful appearance. However, it being impossible to carry canoes
by land, all hands without hesitation embarked, as it were, _à corps
perdu_ upon the mercy of this awful tide. Once engaged, the die was
cast. Our great difficulty consisted in keeping the canoes in the
middle of the stream, that is, clear of the precipice on the one side,
and of the gulfs formed by the waves on the other. Thus, skimming
along as fast as lightning, the crews, cool and determined, followed
each other in awful silence, and when we arrived at the end we stood
gazing at each other in silent gratification at our narrow escape from
total destruction.... I scarcely ever saw anything so dreary and
dangerous in any country (such precipices, mountains, and rapids), and
I still seem to see, whichever way I turn my eyes, mountains upon
mountains whose summits are covered with eternal snow."


They had to take to these same mountains, the river being unnavigable.
The Asketti Indians brought them different kinds of roots, especially
wild onions boiled into a syrup, excellent dried salmon, and some
berries. These Indians had visited the seacoast, and had seen ships of
war come there with white men, "very well dressed, and very proud,
for," continued the chief, getting up and clapping his two hands upon
his hips, and then striding about the place with an air of
importance, "this is the way they go". In this country of the Hakamaw
and Asketti Indians, dogs were much in use for carrying purposes, and
could draw from one hundred to one hundred and fifty pounds. They were
considered by the French Canadians very good eating, though only the
smaller kinds were eaten, the large dogs being of another race and
having a rank taste. They also shaved these dogs in the summer time,
and wove rugs from their hair. These rugs were striped in different
colours, crossing at right angles, and resembling at a distance a
Highland plaid.

The tombs of the Indian villages on this western side of the Rocky
Mountains were superior to anything that Fraser had ever seen amongst
savages. They were about fifteen feet long, and of the form of a chest
of drawers. Upon the boards and posts, beasts and birds were carved in
a curious but crude manner, and pretty well proportioned. Returning to
the river, when the worst of the rapids were passed, they descended it
rapidly, helped by a strong current, and at length entered a lake
where they saw seals, which showed that they had got near to the
Pacific Ocean. They also beheld a round mountain, the now celebrated
Mount Baker, which is visible from so much of the surrounding country
of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. The trees were splendid,
junipers thirty feet in circumference in their trunks and two or three
hundred feet high. Mosquitoes, however, were in clouds. Nearer to the
coast the Indians often appeared in the distance like white men, for
the very literal reason that they had covered their skins with white
paint. Their houses were built of cedar planks, and were six hundred
and forty feet long by sixty feet broad, all under one roof, but of
course separated into a great number of partitions for different
families. On the outside the boards (as Mackenzie had noticed) were
carved with figures of men, beasts, and birds as large as life. Simon
Fraser, however, when he reached sea water, near the site of New
Westminster, was greatly disappointed that any view of the main ocean
should be obstructed by distant lands. He had believed all along that
he was tracing the far-famed Columbia River to its entrance into the
Pacific Ocean; and now that, instead of this, he had discovered an
entirely new river, henceforth to be called after him but without so
long a course as the Columbia, his vanity was hurt.

The Amerindians of the sea coast, opposite Vancouver Island, showed
hostility to Fraser's party, as they had done farther north to
Mackenzie. The Canadian _voyageurs_ got alarmed, and told Fraser's
assistant, John Stuart, that they had made up their minds to return by
land across the Rocky Mountains. Fraser and the other officers of the
expedition joined in arguing with them and recalling them to their
senses. Finally each member of the party swore a solemn oath before
Almighty God that they would sooner perish than forsake in distress
any of the crew in the present voyage. After this ceremony was over
all hands dressed in their best apparel, and each took charge of his
own bundle. They therefore returned as much as possible by the Fraser
River, and only took to the mountains when obliged by the rapids. They
had to pass many difficult rocks, defiles, precipices, in which there
was a beaten path made by the natives, and made possible by means of
scaffolds, bridges, and ladders, so peculiarly constructed that it
required no small degree of necessity, dexterity, and courage in
strangers to undertake them. For instance, they had to ascend
precipices by means of ladders composed of two long poles placed
upright, with sticks tied crosswise with twigs; upon the end of these
others were placed, and so on to any height; add to this that the
ladders were often so slack that the smallest breeze put them in
motion, swinging them against the rocks, while the steps leading from
scaffold to scaffold were so narrow and irregular that they could
scarcely be traced by the feet without the greatest care and
circumspection; but the most perilous part was when another rock
projected over the one they were clearing.

The Hakamaw Indians certainly deserved Fraser's grateful remembrance
for their able assistance throughout these alarming situations. The
descents were, if possible, still more difficult; in these places the
white men were under the necessity of trusting their property to the
Indians, even the precious guns were handed from one Indian to
another; yet they thought nothing of it, they went up and down these
wild places with the same agility as sailors do on a ship. After
escaping innumerable perils in the course of the day, the party
encamped about sunset, being supplied by the natives with plenty of
dried fish.

Thus the main lines of the exploration of the great Canadian Dominion
were completed. Alexander Mackenzie went to England in 1799 and
received a knighthood for his remarkable achievements. On his return
he first definitely created the New North-west or "X.Y." Company, and
then brought about its fusion (after several years of bitter rivalry)
with the old North-west Company; and it was this united and
strengthened organization which, between 1804 and 1819, sent out so
many bold pioneers to fill in the details of the map between the
Columbia and Missouri on the south, and the Great Slave Lake and Liard
River on the north. But during these years the energies of the
Hudson's Bay Company were reviving under a strange personality--THOMAS
DOUGLAS, EARL OF SELKIRK. Lord Selkirk conceived the idea of putting
new life into the Hudson's Bay Company, reviving the monopolies of
trading granted in its old charter, and turning its vague rights to
land into the absolute ownership of the enormous area of North
America north and west of the Canadian provinces. No regard of course
was paid to any rights of the natives, who as a matter of fact were
dying out rapidly from the effects of bad alcohol and epidemic

His motive was to establish large colonies of stalwart Highlanders as
the tenants of a Chartered Company. Alexander Mackenzie had already
called the north-west country "New Caledonia". Lord Selkirk wished to
make it so in its population.

Already he had been instrumental in establishing a Scottish colony on
Prince Edward's Island,[3] which, after some difficulties at the
beginning, had soon begun to prosper. Two or three years later he came
to Montreal, and there collected all the information he could obtain
from the partners in the North-west Company regarding the prospects of
trade and colonization in the far west. In the year 1811 he had
managed to acquire the greater part of the shares in the Hudson's Bay
Company, and, placing himself at its head, he sent out his first
hundred Highlanders and Irish to form a feudatory colony in the Red
River district (the modern Manitoba). He also dispatched an official
to govern what might be called the Middle West on behalf of the
Hudson's Bay Company. This person, acting under instructions, claimed
the whole region beyond the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada as the
private property of the Hudson's Bay Company, on the strength of their
antiquated charter issued by Charles II. The agents of the North-west
Company were warned (as also the two or three thousand French
Canadians and half-breeds in their pay) that henceforth they must not
cut wood, fish or hunt, build or cultivate, save by the permission and
as the tenants of the Hudson's Bay Company.

[Footnote 3: Prince Edward's Island is off the north coast of New
Brunswick. It was named after Queen Victoria's father, the Duke of

It is not surprising that such an outrageous demand, when it was
followed up by the use of armed force, soon provoked bloodshed and a
state of civil war throughout the North-west Territories. Lord Selkirk
himself took command on the Red River, with a small army of
disciplined soldiers. At length, in 1817, the British Government
intervened through the Governor-General of Canada, and in 1818 Lord
Selkirk left North America disgusted, and two years afterwards died at
Pau, in France, from an illness brought on by grief at the failure of
his projects.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie also died suddenly in 1820, in Scotland. For
twelve years he had been member of parliament for Huntingdon, and
since 1812 had been the determined opponent in England of Lord
Selkirk's plans of forcible colonization. After his death, however, in
1821, a sudden movement for reconciliation took place between the two
Companies. Thenceforth the Hudson's Bay Company ruled over the vast
regions of British North America, beyond Newfoundland, New Brunswick,
Nova Scotia, and the two Canadian provinces. Under their government
the work of geographical exploration went on apace. In 1834 one of
their officers, J. M'Leod, discovered the Stikine River in northern
British Columbia, and by 1848 J. Bell and Robert Campbell had revealed
the Porcupine and Yukon Rivers. By the time Thomas Simpson, Warren
Dease, and Dr. John Rae, on behalf of the Hudson's Bay Company; and
Franklin, Back, Parry, Richardson, and M'Clintock, for the Imperial
Government, had completed the explorations mentioned in Chapter VI,
all the main features of Canadian geography were made known. The next
series of pioneers were to be those of the mining industry--it was the
discovery of gold in 1856 which created British Columbia; of
agriculture--the wheat-growers of the Red River region made the
province of Manitoba; of the steamboat; and above all the railway.
Developments of science scarcely yet dreamt of will demand in further
time their pioneers, and these will not come from abroad, but will
assuredly be found in this splendid Canadian people, the descendants
of the men or of the types of men I have attempted to describe.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pioneers in Canada" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.