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Title: Notes of a Twenty-Five Years' Service in the Hudson's Bay Territory - Volume I.
Author: M'lean, John
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Publisher in Ordinary to her Majesty.



The writer's main object in first committing to writing the following
Notes was to while away the many lonely and wearisome hours which are
the lot of the Indian trader;--a wish to gratify his friends by the
narrative of his adventures had also some share in inducing him to
take up the pen.

While he might justly plead the hacknied excuse of being urged by not
a few of those friends to publish these Notes, in extenuation of the
folly or presumption, or whatever else it may be termed, of obtruding
them on the world, in these days of "making many books;" he feels that
he can rest his vindication on higher grounds. Although several works
of some merit have appeared in connexion with the subject, the
Hudson's Bay territory is yet, comparatively speaking, but little
known; no faithful representation has yet been given of the situation
of the Company's servants--the Indian traders; the degradation and
misery of the many Indian tribes, or rather remnants of tribes,
scattered throughout this vast territory, is in a great measure
unknown; erroneous statements have gone abroad in regard to the
Company's treatment of these Indians; as also in regard to the
government, policy, and management of the Company's affairs;--on these
points, he conceives that his plain, unvarnished tale may throw some
new light.

Some of the details may seem trivial, and some of the incidents to be
without much interest to the general reader; still as it was one chief
design of the writer to draw a faithful picture of the Indian trader's
life,--its toils, annoyances, privations, and perils, when on actual
service, or on a trading or exploring expedition; its loneliness,
cheerlessness, and ennui, when not on actual service; together with
the shifts to which he is reduced in order to combat that ennui;--such
incidents, trifling though they may appear to be, he conceives may yet
convey to the reader a livelier idea of life in the Hudson's Bay
Company's territories than a more ambitious or laboured description
could have done. No one, indeed, who has passed his life amid the busy
haunts of men, can form any just idea of the interest attached by the
lonely trader to the most trifling events, such as the arrival of a
stranger Indian,--the coming of a new clerk,--a scuffle among the
Indians,--or a sudden change of weather. No one, unaccustomed to their
"short commons," can conceive the intense, it may be said fearful,
interest and excitement with which the issue of a fishing or hunting
expedition is anticipated.

Should his work contribute, in any degree, to awaken the sympathy of
the Christian world in behalf of the wretched and degraded Aborigines
of this vast territory; should it tend in any way to expose, or to
reform the abuses in the management of the Hudson's Bay Company, or to
render its monopoly less injurious to the natives than hitherto it has
been; the writer's labour will have been amply compensated. Interested
as he still is in that Company, with a considerable stake depending on
its returns, it can scarcely be supposed that he has any intention,
wantonly or unnecessarily, to injure its interests.

    _1st March, 1849._





The Hudson's Bay Company and Territories


I enter the Hudson's Bay Company's Service--Padre Gibert


On Service--Lake of Two Mountains--Opposition--Indians--Amusements at
the Posts


Portage des Chats--Tactics of our Opponents--Treachery of an
Iroquois--Fierce yet ludicrous nature of the Opposition


Arrival at the Chats--Installed as Bourgeois--First Trading
Excursion--Bivouac in the Woods--Indian Barbarity


Trip to Fort Coulonge--Mr. Godin--Natives


Superseded--Feelings on the Occasion--More Opposition--Æ.
Macdonell--Tactics--Melancholy Death of an Indian


Activity of our Opponents--Violent Conduct of an Indian--Narrow
Escape--Artifice--Trip to Indian's Lodge--Stupidity of Interpreter


Expedition to the Bear's Den--Passage through the Swamp--Cunning of
the Indians--A Scuffle--Its Results


Père Duchamp--Mr. S.'s Instructions--Unsuccessful--Trading
Excursion--Difficulties of the Journey--Lose our way--Provisions
fail--Reach the Post--Visit to an Algonquin Chief--His abusive


Success of the Iroquois Traders--Appointed to the Charge of the
Chats--Canadian disputes Possession--Bivouac without a Fire--Ruse to
baffle my Opponents--Roman Catholic Bigotry


Journey to Montreal--Appointment to Lac de Sable--Advantages of this
Post--Its Difficulties--Governor's flattering Letter--Return from
Montreal--Lost in the Woods--Sufferings--Escape


Narrowly escape Drowning--Accident to Indian Guide--Am nearly Frozen
to Death--Misunderstanding between Algonquins and Iroquois--Massacre
at Hannah Bay


Fall through the Ice--Dangerous Adventure at a Rapid--Opponents give
in--Ordered to Lachine--Treatment on my Arrival--Manners, Habits, and
Superstitions of the Indians--Ferocious Revenge of a supposed
Injury--Different Methods of the Roman Catholic and Protestant
Missionary--Indian Councils--Tradition of the Flood--Beaver


Embark for the Interior--Mode of Travelling by Canoes--Little
River--Lake Nipissing--French River--Old Station of Indian
Robbers--Fort Mississaga--Indians--Light Canoe-Men--Sault Ste.
Marie--Lake Superior--Canoe-men desert--Re-taken--Fort William--M.
Thibaud--Lac la Pluie and River--Indians--White River--Narrow
Escape--Conversation with an Indian about Baptism


Continuation of the Voyage--Run short of Provisions--Dogs
Flesh--Norway House--Indian Voyageurs--Ordered to New Caledonia--Lake
Winnipeg--McIntosh's Island submerged--Cumberland House--Chippewayan
and Cree Indians--Portage La Loche--Scenery--Athabasca--Healthiness of
the Climate


Arrival of Mr. F. from Caledonia--Scenery--Land-slip--Massacre at Fort
St. John's--Rocky Mountain Portage--Rocky Mountains--Magnificent
Scenery--McLeod's Lake--Reception of its Commander by the Indians


Arrival at New Caledonia--Beautiful Scenery--Indian Houses--Amusements
at the Fort--Threatened Attack of Indians--Expedition against
them--Beefsteaks--New Caledonian Fare--Mode of catching
Salmon--Singular Death of native Interpreter--Indian Funeral
Rites--Barbarous Treatment of Widows


Indian Feast--Attempt at Dramatic Representation--Religion--Ordered to
Fort Alexandria--Advantages of the Situation--Sent back to Fort St.
James--Solitude--Punishment of Indian Murderer--Its Consequences--Heroic
Adventure of Interpreter


Appointed to the Charge of Fort George--Murder of Mr. Yale's
Men--Mysterious Loss of Mr. Linton and Family--Adventures of Leather
Party--Failure of Crops--Influenza


Climate of New Caledonia--Scenery--Natural
Productions--Animals--Fishes--Natives--Their Manners and








That part of British North America known by the name of the Hudson's
Bay territory extends from the eastern coast in about 60° W. long. to
the Russian boundary in 142° W.; and from the Gulf of St. Lawrence,
along the Ottawa River and the northern shores of Lakes Huron and
Superior, and thence to the boundary line of the United States;
extending in latitude thence to the northern limit of America; being
in length about 2,600 miles, and in breadth about 1,400 miles. This
extensive space may be divided into three portions, each differing
most materially in aspect and surface. The first and most extensive is
that which is on the east, from the Labrador coast, round Hudson's
Bay, northward to the Arctic region, and westward to the Rocky
Mountains. This is entirely a wooded district, affording that
plentiful supply of timber which forms so large a branch of the
Canadian export trade. These interminable forests are principally
composed of pines of large size, but which towards the northern
boundary are of a very stinted growth. Another portion is the prairie
country, reaching from Canada westward to the Rocky Mountains, and
intersected by the boundary line of the United States. In general, the
soil is rich alluvial, which being covered with luxuriant herbage,
affords pasturage for the vast herds of wild buffaloes which roam over
these extensive plains. The western part is that which lies between
the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, including the Oregon
territory, which was likely to have led to a serious misunderstanding
between Great Britain and the United States.

These extensive portions are divided by the Hudson's Bay Company into
four departments, and these departments are again subdivided into
districts. At the head of each department and district a chief factor
or chief trader generally presides, to whom all the officers within
their respective jurisdictions are amenable. Those in charge of posts,
whatever may be their rank, are subject to the authority of the person
at the head of the district; and that person receives his instructions
from the superintendent of the department. The whole affairs of the
country at large are regulated by the Governor and Council, and their
decisions again are referred, for final adjustment, to the Governor
and Committee in London.

The Montreal department comprehends all the districts and posts along
the Gulf and River St. Lawrence; also the different posts along the
banks of the Ottawa and the interior country. The depôt of the
department is at Lachine, where all the returns are collected, and the
outfits prepared.

The southern department has its depôt at Moose Factory, in James's
Bay; it includes the districts of Albany, Rupert's House,
Temiscamingue, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior, together with several
isolated posts along the shores of the Bay.

The northern department is very extensive, having for its southern
boundary the line which divides the British from the American
territories, sweeping east and west from Lac La Pluie, in 95° W. long,
and 49° N. lat. to the Rocky Mountains in 115° W. long.; then, with
the Rocky Mountains for its western boundary, it extends northward to
the Arctic Sea. The whole of this vast country is divided into the
following districts: Norway House, Rainy Lake, Red River,
Saskatchewan, English River, Athabasca, and McKenzie's River. The
depôt of this department is York Factory, in Hudson's Bay, and is
considered the grand emporium; here the grand Council is held, which
is formed of the Governor and such chief factors and chief traders as
may be present. The duty of the latter is to sit and listen to
whatever measures the Governor may have determined on, and give their
assent thereto, no debating or vetoing being ever thought of; the
Governor being absolute, his measures therefore more require obedience
than assent. Chief traders are also permitted to sit in council as
auditors, but have not the privilege of being considered members.

The Columbia department is bounded on the east by the Rocky Mountains,
and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. An ideal line divides it on the
south from the province of California, in lat. 41° 30'; and it joins
the Russian boundary in lat. 55°. This, although a very extensive
department, does not consist of many districts; New Caledonia is the
principal, situated among the Rocky Mountains, and having several of
its posts established along the banks of the Fraser River, which
disembogues itself into the Gulf of Georgia in nearly 49° lat. and
122° W. long. The next is Colville, on the Columbia River, along with
some isolated posts near the confluence of the same river. The
_forts_, or trading posts, along the north-west coast, have each their
respective commander. The shipping business is conducted by a person
appointed for that purpose, who is styled, _par excellence_, the head
of the "Naval department." The Company have a steamboat and several
sailing vessels, for the purpose chiefly of trading with the natives
along the coast. The primary object, however, is not so much the
trade, as to keep brother Jonathan in check, (whose propensity for
encroaching has of late been "pretty much" exhibited,) and to deter
him from forming any establishments on the coasts; there being a just
apprehension that if once a footing were obtained on the coast, an
equal eagerness might be manifested for extending their locations into
the interior. Strong parties of hunters are also constantly employed
along the southern frontier for the purpose of destroying the
fur-bearing animals in that quarter; the end in view being to secure
the interior from the encroachments of foreign interlopers. The depôt
of this department is at Fort Vancouver, on the Columbia River.

The Hudson's Bay Company, as it at present exists, was incorporated in
the winter of 1820-21, a coalition having been then formed with the
North-West Company. Upon this taking place, an Act of Parliament was
obtained which gave them not only the possession of the territory they
had originally held by virtue of their royal charter, but also
investing them with the same rights and privileges conferred by that
charter in and over all the territories that had been settled by the
North-West Company for a term of twenty-one years.

The Governor, Deputy-Governor, and managing Committee, are, properly
speaking, the only capitalists. The stock is divided into one hundred
shares; sixty of which their Honours retain for themselves; and the
remaining forty are divided among the chief traders and chief factors,
who manage the affairs in the Indian country. A chief factor holds two
of these shares, and a chief trader one; of which they retain the full
interest for one year after they retire, and half interest for the six
following years. These cannot be said to be stock-holders, for they
are not admitted to any share in the executive management; but
according to the present system they are termed Commissioned Officers,
and receive merely the proceeds of the share allotted to them. They
enjoy, however, one very superior advantage,--they are not subjected
to bear their share in any losses which the Company may sustain. It is
generally reckoned that the value of one share is on an average about
350l. sterling a-year. By the resignation of two chief traders, one
share is at the Company's disposal the year after, which is then
bestowed on a clerk. When two chief factors retire, a chief trader is
promoted in like manner. Promotion also take place when the shares of
the retired partners fall in.



I entered the service of the Company in the winter of 1820-21, and
after passing my contract at Montreal in the month of January, I took
up my residence for the remainder of the season with a French priest,
in the parish of Petit le Maska, for the purpose of studying the
French language. The Padre was a most affable, liberal-minded man, a
warm friend of England and Englishmen, and a staunch adherent to their
government, which he considered as the most perfect under the sun. The
fact is, that the old gentleman, along with many others of his
countrymen who had escaped from the horrors of the French Revolution,
had found an asylum in our land of freedom, which they could find
nowhere else; and the personal advantages that had accrued to him from
that circumstance, naturally induced a favourable disposition towards
his benefactors, their laws, and their institutions. Though the Padre
was extremely liberal in his political opinions, his management of his
worldly affairs bore the stamp of the most sordid parsimony. He
worshipped the golden calf, and his adoration of the image was
manifest in everything around him. He wore a cassock of cloth which
had in former times been of a black colour, but was now of a dusky
grey, the woollen material being so completely incorporated with dust
as to give it that colour. His table was furnished with such fare as
his farm produced, with the addition, on particular occasions, of a
bottle of _black strap_. A charming nymph, of some fifty years of age
or so, had the management of the household, and discharged all her
duties with strict decorum and care. I have the beauties of her person
in my mind's eye to this day. She was hump-backed, short-necked, and
one-eyed, and squinted bewitchingly with the remaining one: she had a
short leg and a long one, a high shoulder and a low. In short, the
dear creature seemed to be formed, or rather deformed, by the hand of
nature on purpose to fill the situation of housekeeper for a
priest,--so that whatever might be his age, no scandal could possibly
attach itself to him from such a housekeeper. The man-servant was
directly the counterpart of the charming Marguerite; he also was far
advanced in the vale of years, and was of a most irascible temper. To
stir up Joseph to the _grinning point_ was a very easy matter; and his
frantic gesticulations, when thus goaded to wrath by our teasing
pleasantries, (there were two other young gentlemen beside myself,)
were of the most extraordinary description, and afforded infinite
amusement. We never failed to amuse ourselves at Joseph's expense,
when the Padre's absence permitted our doing so with impunity,--especially
as a small present of tobacco, which was always kept at hand for such
occasions, soon made us friends again. But it sometimes happened that
such jokes were carried too far, so as to render the offering of
_incense_ quite unacceptable, when the touch of _metal_ could alone
produce the desired effect.

I remained with Father Gibert until spring, and shall take leave of
him by relating an anecdote or two illustrative of his loyalty and
benevolence. Some time during Madison's unprovoked war with Great
Britain, an alarm came from the upper part of the parish of which
Father Gibert was _curé_, that a party of Americans had been seen
marching down the country. The _Capitaine_ of militia, who was the
_curé's_ next door neighbour, was immediately sent for, and by their
joint influence and authority a considerable number of _habitans_ were
soon assembled under arms, such as they were. The Father then
shouldering his musket, and placing himself at the head of his
parishioners, led them into his garden, which was enclosed by a picket
fence, and bordered on the highway. Here the loyal band took their
stand under cover of the fence, waiting to give Jonathan a warm
reception the moment he came within reach. The supposed Americans
proved to be a small detachment of British troops, and thus the affair

On another occasion during the same period the Padre's loyalty and
good humour were manifested, though in a different manner. While
amusing himself in the garden one day, he overheard two Irish soldiers
engaged in conversation to this effect:--

"You know that the ould boy asks every body afore he gives any
praties, if they belong to St. Patrick; well, is it a hard matter to
tell him we do, agrah?"

"Sure you'd be telling a lie, Paddy!"

"Never mind that," said Paddy, "I'll spake."

The old gentleman immediately returned to the house, and entering by a
back door, was snugly seated in his arm-chair, book in hand, when the
two Hibernians were admitted.

"Well, my boys, what is your business with me?"

"We would be wanting a few praties, if your Riverence could spare

"Aha! you are from Ireland, I perceive. Irishmen very fond of
potatoes! Well, my boys, I have a few remaining, and you shall have
some if you belong to St. Patrick."

"Faith, and it is all as your honour says; we are Irishmen, and we
belong to St. Patrick."

The old gentleman ordered Joseph to supply them with the "blessed
root," without any further parley. Then addressing the speaker in a
voice of assumed choler, exclaimed:--

"You are a great raskail! does your religion teach you to tell lies?
You are Protestant both of you. However, if you do not belong to St.
Patrick, you belong to the King of England, and I give my potatoes for
his sake. But you must never try to impose upon an old priest again,
or you may not come so well off."



I arrived at Montreal about the beginning of May, and soon learnt that
I was appointed to the post at Lake of Two Mountains. The Montreal
department was headed at that time by Mr. Thane, a man of rather
eccentric character, but possessed of a heart that glowed with the
best feelings of humanity. I was allowed to amuse myself a few days in
town, having directions however to call at the office every day, in
case my services should be required. The period of departure at length
arrived. I was one evening accosted by Mr. Thane in these terms:--"I
say, youngster, you have been trifling away your time long enough
here; you must hold yourself ready to embark for your destination
to-morrow morning at five o'clock precisely. If you delay one moment,
you shall have cause to remember it." Such positive injunctions were
not disregarded by me. I was of course ready at the time appointed,
and after all the hurry, had the honour of breakfasting with my
commander before departing; but the woful and disheartening accounts
of the hardships and privations I was to suffer in the country to
which I was to proceed, fairly spoiled my appetite. I was told that my
only lodging was to be a tent, my only food Indian corn, _when I could
get it_; and many other _comforts_ were enumerated with the view of
producing a certain effect, which my countenance no doubt betrayed,
whilst he chuckled with the greatest delight at the success of his
jokes. I took leave, and found myself that evening at the Lake of Two
Mountains. On my arrival, a large building was pointed out to me as
the Company's establishment, to which I soon found admittance, and
was, to my great surprise, ushered into a large well furnished
apartment. Tea had just been served, with a variety of substantial
accompaniments, to which I felt heartily disposed to do ample justice,
after my day's abstinence. This was very different entertainment from
what I had been led to expect in the morning; would it had been my lot
to be always so agreeably deceived!

The village of the Lake of Two Mountains is inhabited by two distinct
tribes of the aborigines--viz. the Iroquois and the Algonquins; the
latter are a tribe of the Sauteux nation, or Ojibbeway, and live
principally by the chase. The former cultivate the soil, and engage as
voyageurs, or in any other capacity that may yield them the means of
subsistence. They are a very hardy industrious race; but neither the
habits of civilized life, nor the influence of the Christian religion,
appear to have mitigated, in any material degree, the ferocity that
characterized their pagan ancestors. Although they do not pay great
deference to the laws of God, they are sufficiently aware of the
consequences of violating the laws of man, and comport themselves

The Catholic seminary and church, along with the gardens of the
establishment, almost divide the village into two equal parts; yet
this close proximity does not appear to encourage any friendly
intercourse between the two tribes. They in fact seldom pass their
respective limits, and, with few exceptions, cannot converse together,
the language of the one being unintelligible to the other.

The Company established a post here in the spring of 1819, and when I
arrived it was in charge of Mr. Fisher, then a senior clerk. He had
two other clerks under him, besides myself, a like number of
_attachés_, two interpreters, two servants, and a horse to ride upon.
With such an establishment to rule over, need it be matter of surprise
that our _bourgeois_ was in his own estimation a magnate of the first
order? _N'importe_,--whatever might be his vanity, he possessed those
qualities which constitute a first-rate Indian trader, and he required
them to fill successfully his present situation. A number of petty
traders were settled in the village, who, whenever the Company entered
the lists against them, laid aside the feuds that subsisted among
themselves, and joined to oppose their united efforts against the
powerful rival that threatened to overwhelm them all. The spring fur
campaign was about to open when I made my _début_ at the post. The
natives being daily expected from the interior, all parties watched
their arrival night and day. This was not a very harassing duty to us,
as we relieved each other; but the situation of our superior was
exceedingly irksome and annoying. The moment an Indian canoe appeared
(the Indians always arrived at night), we were ordered to apprize him
of it; having done so, he was immediately at the landing-place, our
opponents being also there, attending to their own interests. Some of
the natives were supplied by the Company, others by the petty traders;
and according as it happened to be the customers of either that
arrived, the servants assisted in unloading the canoes, conveying the
baggage to their houses, and kindling a fire. Provisions were
furnished in abundance by both parties. While these preliminary
operations were being performed by the servants, the traders
surrounded the principal object of their solicitude--the hunter; first
one, then another, taking him aside to persuade him of the superior
claims each had on his love and gratitude. After being pestered in
this manner for some time, he, (the hunter,) eventually allowed
himself to be led away to the residence of one of the parties, where
he was treated to the best their establishment afforded; the natives,
however, retaining their furs, and visiting from house to house, until
satiated with the good cheer the traders had to give them, when they
at length gave them up, but not always to the party to whom they were
most indebted. They are generally great rogues; the sound of the
dollars, which the Company possessed in abundance, often brought the
furs that were due to the petty trader to the Company's stores; while
some of our customers were induced by the same argument to carry their
furs to our rivals.

For a period of six weeks or so, the natives continued to arrive;
sometimes in brigades, sometimes in single canoes; during the whole of
this period we were occupied in the manner now described, day and
night. So great was the pressure of business, that we had scarcely
time to partake of the necessary refreshment. When they had at length
all arrived, we enjoyed our night's rest, if indeed our continually
disturbed slumbers could be called rest:--what with the howling of two
or three hundred dogs, the tinkling of bells with which the horses the
Indians rode were ornamented, the bawling of the squaws when beaten by
their drunken husbands, and the yelling of the savages themselves when
in that beastly state, sleep was impossible,--the infernal sounds that
continually rent the air, produced such a _symphony_ as could be heard
nowhere else out of Pandemonium. No liquors were sold to the natives
at the village, but they procured as much as they required from the
opposite side of the lake. Some wretches of Canadians were always
ready, for a trifling consideration, to purchase it for them; thus the
law prohibiting the sale of liquor to the Indians was evaded. After
wallowing in intemperance for some time, they ultimately submitted to
the authority of the priests, confessed their sins, received
absolution, and became _good Christians_ for the remainder of the
season. If any indulged in the favourite vice--a few always did--they
were confined to their quarters by their families. After attending
mass on Sundays, they amused themselves playing at ball, or running
foot races; and it was only on such occasions they were seen to
associate with their neighbours the Iroquois. They took opposite sides
in the games; small stakes were allowed, merely to create an interest
in the issue of the contest. The chiefs of both tribes sat smoking
their pipes together, viewing the sports in silent gravity, and acting
as umpires in all cases of doubt between the parties. They, in fact,
led a glorious life during the three months they remained at the
village; that period was to them a continued carnival. The best fare
the country afforded--the best attire that money could procure--all
that sensuality, all that vanity could desire--their means permitted
them to enjoy. Their lands not having been hunted on during the war,
the beaver multiplied at an extraordinary rate, and now swarmed in
every direction. Every individual belonging to the tribe might then
have acquired an independent fortune. They arrived at the village,
their canoes laden with furs; but the characteristic improvidence of
their race blinded them to future consequences. Such was their
wasteful extravagance, that the money obtained by the sale of their
furs was dissipated ere half the summer season was over. The traders
supplied them afterwards with all requisites at a _moderate_ per
centage; and when they embarked in autumn for their hunting grounds,
they found themselves deeply involved in debt, a few only excepted.

In the course of this summer, some of our opponents foreseeing the
probable issue of the contest they were engaged in, proposed terms of
capitulation, which were in most instances readily assented to by the
Company; the inventories and outstanding debts were assumed at a
certain valuation. They retired from the field, some with annuities
for a stipulated period, while to others a round sum of money was
granted; in either case the party bound himself, under certain
penalties, not to interfere in the trade for a stated period of time.

In this manner the Company got rid of all petty opponents, with the
exception of two who continued the unequal contest. By the latter end
of August the natives had all started for the interior, leaving behind
only a few decrepit old men and women. The scene was now completely
changed; a death-like stillness prevailed where but a few days before
all was activity, bustle and animation. Two of my brother scribes were
ordered to the interior; one[1] to the distant Lake Nipissingue, the
other to the Chats. Mr. Fisher set off to enjoy himself in Montreal,
Mr. Francher, the accountant, being appointed _locum-tenens_ during
his absence. Another young Scot and myself, together with two or three
non-descripts, formed the winter establishment. Having just quitted
the scenes of civilized life, I found my present solitude sufficiently
irksome; the natural buoyancy of youthful spirits, however, with the
amusements we got up amongst us, conspired to banish all gloomy
thoughts from my mind in a very short time. We--my friend Mac and
myself--soon became very intimate with two or three French families
who resided in the village, who were, though in an humble station,
kind and courteous, and who, moreover, danced, fiddled and played

    [1] This gentleman's name was Cockburn;--he met his end a few
    years afterwards in a very melancholy manner, while on his way
    to Montreal (having retired from the service). He rolled over
    the canoe on a dark night, and disappeared for ever!

There was another family of a different status from the others, that
of Capt. Ducharme, the king's interpreter, a kind-hearted, hospitable
man, who frequently invited us to his house, where we enjoyed the
charms of polished society and good cheer. The captain's residence was
in the Iroquois division of the village; this circumstance led us to
form another acquaintance that for some time afforded us some
amusement, _en passant_. We discovered that a very ugly old widow, who
resided in that quarter, had two very pretty young daughters, to whom
we discoursed in Gaelic; they answered in Iroquois; and in a short
time the best _understanding_ imaginable was established between us,
(Mac and myself, be it always understood.) No harm came of it, though;
I vow there did not; the priests, it seems, thought otherwise. Our
acquaintance with the girls having come to their knowledge, we were
one day honoured with a visit from the Iroquois padre; the severe
gravity of whose countenance convinced us at a glance of the nature of
his mission. I must do him the justice to say, however, that his
address to us was mild and admonitory, rather than severe or
reproachful. I resolved from that moment to speak no more Gaelic to
the Iroquois maidens; Mac continued his visits.

We always amused ourselves in the evenings with our French
_confrères_, (whom I have mentioned as "nondescripts," from the
circumstance of their being under no regular engagement with the
Company,) playing cards or fiddling and dancing. We were on one
occasion engaged in the latter amusement _en pleine midi_--our
_Deputy_ Bourgeois being one of the party, and all of us in the
highest possible glee, when lo! in the midst of our hilarity, the hall
door flew open and the _great man_ stood sternly before us. The
hand-writing on the wall could scarcely have produced a more startling
effect on the convivial party of old, than did this unexpected
apparition upon us. We listened to the reprimand which followed in all
due humility, none more crest-fallen than our worthy Deputy. Mr.
Fisher then opened his portmanteau and drew forth a letter, which he
presented to my friend Mac, exclaiming in a voice of thunder, "Read
that, gentlemen, and hear what Mr. Thane thinks of your conduct." We
read and trembled; Mac's defiance of the authority of the priests
offended them mortally; a formal complaint was consequently preferred
against the innocent and the guilty, (although there was no guilt in
fact, unless _speaking Gaelic_ to the wood-nymphs could be so
construed,) and drew upon us the censures this dreadful missive
conveyed. The magnate remained a few days, and on his departure for
town, we resumed our usual pastimes, but selected a different _path_
to Captain Ducharme's. The Fathers had requested, when this
establishment was first formed, that some of the Company's officers
should attend church on Sundays for the purpose of showing a good
example to the natives. I did so, on my part, very regularly until
Christmas Eve, when having witnessed the ceremonies of the midnight
mass, I determined on remaining at home in future. I shuddered with
horror at the idolatrous rites, as they appeared to me, which were
enacted on that occasion. The ceremonies commenced with the
celebration of mass; then followed the introduction of the "Infant
Jesus," borne by four of the choristers, attired in surplices of white
linen. The image being placed by them on a sofa in front of the altar,
the superior of the seminary made his début, retiring to the railing
that surrounds the altar, when he knelt, and bending low his head
apparently in devout adoration, he arose, then advanced two steps
towards the altar and knelt again; he knelt the third time close to
the side of the image, which he devoutly embraced, then withdrew: the
younger priests performed the same ceremonies; and after them every
one of their congregation: yet these people protest that their
religion has no connexion with idolatry, and that the representations
of Protestants regarding it are false and calumnious. If we credit
them, however, we must belie the evidence of our own senses; but the
fact is, there are not a few Roman Catholics who speak with very
little _respect_ themselves of some of these mummeries.



MR. Fisher returned from town in the month of March; he had learnt
that our opponents intended to shift the scene of operations to the
Chats, (where the greater number of the Indians pass on their way
going to or returning from their hunting grounds,) and were making
preparations of a very extensive nature for the spring competition.
The Company were not tardy in adopting such measures as were deemed
the most efficient to meet them on their own terms. We understood that
they had hired two _bullies_ for the purpose of deciding the matter
_par voie de fait_. Mr. Fisher hired two of the same description, who
were supposed to be more than a match for the opposition party. On the
28th of April, 1822, our opponents set off in two large canoes, manned
by eight men in each; we followed in three canoes with twenty-four
men, under the command of three leaders--namely, Captain Ducharme, who
had volunteered on the occasion, Mr. Lyons, a retired trader, and
myself. Nothing occurred worthy of description on our passage to the

The Ottawa is at this point interrupted by a ledge of rock, which
extends across its whole breadth. In forcing a passage for itself
through this barrier, it is divided into several channels, which form
as many beautiful cascades as they fall into the extensive basin that
receives them below. On one of the islands thus formed, the natives
make a portage. Here, then, we took our station close to a cascade:
our opponents commenced building a hut on one side of the path, we on
the other. While this operation was in progress, basilisk looks
denoted the strength of feeling that pervaded the breasts of either
party, but not a word was exchanged between us. Our hut was first
completed, when our champion clambered aloft, and crowed defiance;
three times he crowed (aloud), but no responding voice was heard from
the opposite camp. This act was altogether voluntary on the part of
our man, but it did not displease us, as the result convinced us that
we stood on safe ground, should any violence be attempted. Our
opponents were enraged at the want of spirit evinced by their men, and
determined on being revenged upon _us_ in a manner that showed the
virulence of their animosity. A number of lumber men were making up
their rafts within a short distance of us at the time, who were for
the most part natives of the Emerald Isle. Paddy's "knocking down for
love" is proverbial. Our opponents immediately sent them word that the
Hudson's Bay Company had brought up a _bully_ from Montreal who defied
"the whole of the Grand River." "By my faith, does he thin," said Pat;
"let us have a look at him, any how."

On the succeeding evening (after the occurrence of the circumstance
above related) we were surprised to see the number of canoes that
arrived at the portage from all directions. The crew of each canoe as
they landed went direct to our opponents, where they appeared to be
liberally supplied with spirits. Their object was sufficiently
evident, as the potent agent they had employed, in a short time,
produced the desired effect. Oaths and execrations were heard amid
crowing and yelling. Our Canadians all took to their heels, except our
noble game-cock and two others; and now the drama opened. A
respectable good looking fellow stept out from the crowd, accompanied
by another man, a Canadian, and advancing to our champion, asked him
"if he would not sell his feathers" (his hat being decorated with
them). It is unnecessary to state the reply. An altercation ensued,
and blows would undoubtedly have succeeded, had I not then interfered.
I invited the stranger to my tent, and having opened my _garde de
vin_, produced some of the good things it contained. A little
conversation with my guest, proved him to be a shrewd sensible man;
and when I explained the nature of our dispute with our rivals, he
comprehended in an instant the object they had in view in circulating
the reports which induced him and others to assemble at the portage.
The consanguinity of the sons of Erin and Caledonia was next touched
upon, and the point settled to our mutual satisfaction; in short, my
brother Celt and I parted as good friends as half-an-hour's
acquaintance and a bottle of wine could make us. At the conclusion of
our interview he departed, and meeting our champion, cordially shook
him by the hand; then addressing his companions, remarked, "This, my
lads, is a quarrel between the traders, in which we have no right to
interfere at all; for my own part, I am very much obliged to the
jintlemin on both sides o' the road, for traiting me so jintaily; but
Jack Hall shall not be made a tool of by anybody whatsumdever."

Jack Hall embarked with his crew, and was soon afterwards followed by
the others. Both parties were thus again in their previous positions,
and a little tact saved us from the fatal consequences that might have
ensued, had their villainous design proved successful. The daring
insult was keenly felt by us all, and accordingly one of our trio
despatched a message to the only individual of the opposite party who
had any pretension to the title of gentleman, soliciting the pleasure
of his company to take the air next morning. The invitation was
accepted. Our party kept the appointment, and remained for two hours
on the ground, awaiting the arrival of their _friends_; but the
friends allowed them the sole enjoyment of the morning air.

A few days afterwards the natives began to make their appearance, and
scenes of a revolting nature were of frequent occurrence. Rum and
brandy flowed in streams, and dollars were scattered about as if they
had been of no greater value than pebbles on the beach. The expenses
incurred by both parties were very great; but while this lavish
expenditure seriously affected the resources of the petty traders, the
coffers of the Company were too liberally filled to be sensibly
diminished by such outlay. Nevertheless, the natives would not dispose
of their furs until they reached the village.

We remained at the portage until the 7th of June, when the natives
having all passed, we embarked, and arrived at the lake on the 10th,
where we were shocked to learn that our Bourgeois[1] had had a very
narrow escape from the treachery of an Iroquois during our absence,
the particulars of which were thus related to us. Mr. Fisher had
advanced a sum to this scoundrel two years before, and seeing him pass
his door the ensuing spring after the debt had been contracted, with
his furs, which he carried to our opponents, he watched his return,
and calling him in, demanded payment; an insolent reply was the return
for his kindness, which so much exasperated him, that he kicked him
out in presence of several other Indians. The insult was not
forgotten. Soon after his arrival this spring, he sent for Mr. Fisher,
who complied with the invitation, expecting payment of his debt. The
moment he entered the house, however, he discovered that he had been
inveigled. The Indian stood before him, his face painted, and a pistol
in his hand, which he presented. In an instant Mr. Fisher bared his
breast, and staring his enemy fiercely in the face, exclaimed, "Fire,
you black dog! What! did you imagine you had sent for an old woman?"

    [1] The term Bourgeois is used for Master throughout the
    Indian country.

Mr. Fisher's knowledge of the Indian character saved his life; had he
betrayed the slightest symptom of fear, he was a dead man; but the
undaunted attitude he assumed staggered the resolution of the savage;
a new bias seemed to operate on his mind, probably through a feeling
of respect for the determined courage displayed by his intended
victim. He could not brace his nerves to a second effort; his hand
dropped listlessly by his side; his gaze was fixed on Mr. Fisher for a
moment; then dashing the pistol violently on the ground, he beckoned
him to withdraw.[1]

    [1] At that period some of the Iroquois made good hunts,
    trapping beaver along the main rivers and outskirts of the
    Algonquin lands.

Immediately after the close of the spring trade, the most formidable
of our opponents _hinted_ that he might be induced to quit the field;
a negotiation was accordingly opened with him, which soon terminated
in a favourable issue, on very advantageous terms to the retiring

The solitary being who remained behind was thus thrown upon his own
resources, and his efforts to maintain the unequal contest unaided,
were so feeble and ineffectual, that the Company might be said to hold
a monopoly of the fur-trade at this period; but thereafter they paid
dearly for their triumph, as further sacrifices had yet to be made ere
they could enjoy it in quiet. A Canadian merchant, in easy
circumstances, who dwelt opposite to the village, having learned the
advantageous terms obtained by the petty traders from the Company,
addressed a very polite note to Mr. Fisher, stating his intention to
try his fortune as a trader, but that he would have no objection to
postpone the attempt for five years, provided the Company would allow
him 150l. per annum, during that period. The proposal was submitted to
Mr. Thane, who laconically replied, "Let him do his worst, and be...."
Accordingly, St. Julien immediately commenced operations. He hired one
end of an Indian house, which he fitted up as a trader's shop: Fisher
hired the other end. St. Julien then removed to another: Fisher
occupied the other end of that house also. St. Julien next rented a
_whole_ house: Fisher purchased a house, placed it upon rollers, and
wheeled it directly in front of that of his rival, rearwards, scarcely
leaving sufficient room for one person to pass between the premises.
This caused great amusement to the Indians; not so to St. Julien, who
had not anticipated so excessive a desire on the part of any of the
Company's officers for so close an intimacy; and at the end of six
weeks he took his departure without pay or pension from the Company.

In the course of this summer our Algonquins received a visit from a
party of Ottawas, (this tribe occupies the hunting grounds in the
vicinity of Michimmakina or Makinaw, and speaks the Sauteaux
language,) which created considerable alarm in the village, as they
came for the purpose of demanding satisfaction for the murder of one
of their tribe, which had been perpetrated two years before by an
Algonquin. The details of the atrocious deed were communicated to me
as follows. The Ottawas and Algonquins, with their families, were
proceeding in company to the Lake, in the spring of 1819, when being
encamped in the neighbourhood of the long Sault rapid, the Algonquin
sprang upon his unsuspecting companion, and cleft his skull with his
tomahawk, without the least apparent provocation; then dragging the
body to the water's edge, he cut it up into small pieces, and threw
them in. He next despatched the woman, and mutilated her body in the
same savage manner, having first committed the most horrible barbarity
on her person; (the recital of which curdled my blood; and yet our
Christianized (?) Algonquins laughed heartily on hearing it!) The
demon in human form, with the yet reeking tomahawk raised over the
heads of his wife and children, made them swear that they would never
divulge the horrid deed; but they did disclose it; and it was from the
wife the tale of horror was elicited. The object of the Ottawas was
not revenge. Compensation to the full estimated value of the lives of
a man and woman was all they demanded; and that they received to an
amount that far exceeded their expectations. Had the murderer been in
the village the chiefs declared they would have given him up; but they
had already delivered him over to the proper authorities, and he was
then in prison waiting his sentence.

It has been already mentioned, that the Company had assumed the
outstanding debts of the petty traders. When the accounts were closed
this autumn, the aggregate amount of liabilities due to the Company
exhibited the enormous sum of seventy-two thousand dollars--not a
shilling of that sum has ever been repaid.

Soon after the departure of the natives for the interior, I was
notified of my appointment to the charge of the Chats post. My friend
Mac also received marching orders; and after parting with him I took
leave of the Lake of Two Mountains on the 20th of August.



I ARRIVED at the Chats on the 26th of August, 1822. As we approached
the establishment, the crew struck up a song which soon attracted the
notice of its only inmate; a tall gaunt figure, who was observed
moving toward the landing-place, where it remained stationary. With
the exception of this solitary being, no sign of animation was
perceptible. We landed, and found the recluse to be the gentleman whom
I was to succeed. The men belonging to the post were at the time
employed elsewhere; fire-arms were therefore discharged, to summon
them to return. An old interpreter and two men, constituting the force
at this station, soon made their appearance. Such an uncommon event as
an _arrival_ seemed to produce an exhilarating effect upon them.
Immediately after my landing the charge was made over to me; and on
the following day my predecessor, Mr. Macdonald, took his departure,
leaving me to the fellowship of my own musings, which for a time
assumed but sombre hues; but I was then young, and the hopes and
aspirations of an ardent mind threw a halo around the gloomy path that
lay before me, and resting upon the bright spots that glimmered in the
distant background, concealed from my view the toils and miseries I
had to experience in the intermediate passage.

On assuming the responsibility of this post, I found myself in a
position which gratified my vanity. I was Bourgeois of the Chats; had
an interpreter and two men subject to my orders; and could make such
arrangements as my own inclinations dictated, without the surveillance
of a superior. I was, in fact, master of my own time and of my own
actions; could fiddle when I pleased, and dance when I had a mind with
my own shadow; no person here dared to question my actions.

About the beginning of September the natives began to pass for the
interior, and to my great surprise appeared to be in want of further
supplies, although they had left the Lake amply provided with
everything necessary. Some of them took advances here again to a
considerable amount. I learned from them that a petty trader who had
just then sprung into existence, intended to establish a couple of
posts in the interior of the district--(this post being subject to the
Lake of Two Mountains.) This was rather an unpleasant piece of
intelligence, and quite unexpected by my superiors or myself. I
despatched a messenger to head-quarters to give the alarm, and was
soon joined by a reinforcement of men conducted by a junior clerk and
an interpreter. Preparations were then made to follow up this new
competitor the moment he appeared. He did not allow us to remain long
in suspense. A few days afterwards his party was observed passing in
two canoes; our people were immediately in their wake, and I remained
with but one man and the old interpreter during the winter. I had only
two Indian hunters to attend to; one in the immediate vicinity of the
post, the other about three days' journey distant. Late in autumn I
was gratified by a visit from the superintendent of the district, who
expressed himself perfectly satisfied with my arrangements. As soon as
the river _set fast_ with ice, I resolved on paying a visit to my more
remote customer, and assumed the snow-shoes for the first time. I set
out with my _only_ man, leaving the old interpreter sole occupier of
the post. My man had visited the Indian on several occasions during
the previous winter, and told me that he usually halted at a
Chantier,[1] on the way to his lodge. We arrived late in the evening at
the locality in question, and finding a quantity of timber collected
on the ice, concluded that the _shanty_ must be close at hand. We
accordingly followed the lumber-track until we reached the hut which
had formerly afforded such comfortable accommodation to my companion.
Great was our disappointment, however, to find it now tenantless, and
almost buried in snow. I had made an extraordinary effort to reach the
spot in the hope of procuring good quarters for the night, and was now
so completely exhausted by fatigue that I could proceed no further.
The night was dark, and to make our situation as cheerless as
possible, it was discovered that my companion had left his
"fire-works" behind--a proof of his inexperience. Under these
circumstances our preparations were necessarily few. Having laid a few
boughs of pine upon the snow, we wrapped ourselves up in our blankets,
and lay down together. I passed the night without much rest; but my
attendant--a hardy Canadian--kept the wild beasts at bay by his deep
snoring, until dawn. I found myself completely benumbed with cold; a
smart walk, however, soon put the blood in circulation, and ere long
we entered a shanty where we experienced the usual hospitality of
these generous folks. Here we borrowed a "smoking-bag," containing a
steel, flint, and tinder. With the aid of these desiderata in the
appointments of a voyageur, we had a comfortable encampment on the
following night.

    [1] The hut used by the lumbermen, and the root of the
    well-known "shanty."

The mode of constructing a winter encampment is simply this:--you
measure with your eye the extent of ground you require for your
purpose, then taking off your snow-shoes, use them as shovels to clear
away the snow. This operation over, the finer branches of the balsam
tree are laid upon the ground to a certain depth; then logs of dry
wood are placed at right angles to the feet at a proper distance, and
ignited by means of the "fire-works" alluded to. In such an encampment
as this, after a plentiful supper of half-cooked peas and Indian
corn--the inland travelling fare of the Montreal department--and a
day's hard walking, one enjoys a repose to which the voluptuary
reclining on his bed of down is a perfect stranger.

We reached our destination on the following day about noon, where we
found but little to recompense us for our journey. Both our own people
from the outpost and our opponents had already traded all the furs the
Indian had to dispose of, although his supplies at the Lake of Two
Mountains and at my post amounted to a sum that would have required
his utmost exertions to pay. We remained that night at his lodge, and
very early on the succeeding morning, started on our return. With the
exception of a couple of trips I made to the inland posts, nothing
disturbed the monotony of my avocations during the remaining part of
the winter. Petty traders swarmed all over the country; the posts
which were established in the interior to cope with them traded freely
with the natives, in order to secure their furs from competitors. Thus
the immense sacrifices which the Company had made to obtain a
monopoly, as they imagined, yielded them no advantage whatever; and
repeated defalcations on the part of the natives, induced them to
curtail their advances at their principal station. The natives,
however, found no difficulty in procuring their requisites in exchange
for their furs, either from the posts belonging to the Company in the
interior, or from the opposition; for they were, with few exceptions,
of the same character as the individual already alluded to.

The Indian whom I mentioned as residing in the neighbourhood of the
establishment arrived, late in autumn, from the Lake, where he could
not obtain a charge of ammunition on credit. I supplied all his wants
liberally, knowing him to be a good hunter, though a notorious rogue;
and he set out for his hunting grounds, to all appearance well

In the course of the winter a Yankee adventurer opened a "grog shop,"
within a short distance of the depôt, who appeared to have no
objection to a beaver's skin in exchange for his commodities. My
Indian debtor returned in the month of March, with a tolerable "hunt,"
and pitched his tent midway between the post and my Yankee neighbour.
I called upon the Indian immediately for payment, which he told me I
should receive on the morrow. I went accordingly at the time
appointed, and was annoyed to find that he had already disposed of a
part of his furs for the Yankee's whiskey; and I therefore demanded
payment in a tone of voice which clearly indicated that I was in
earnest. To-morrow was mentioned again; but having come with the
determination of being satisfied on the spot, I seized, without
further ceremony, what furs remained, and throwing them out of the
wigwam to my man, who was placed there to receive them, I remained
within, to bear the brunt of the Indian's resentment, should he show
any, until my man had secured the prize. I was well prepared to defend
myself, in case of any violence being offered. Nothing of the kind was
attempted, however; and I took my leave, after sustaining a volley of
abuse, which did me no harm. The Indian paid me a visit next morning,
for the purpose of settling accounts, a small balance being due to
him, which, at his own request, was paid in rum. I soon after received
another visit, for nectar, on credit; this request I granted.

The visits, however, were repeated so often for the same purpose, that
I at length found it advisable to give a denial, by proxy, not wishing
to part on bad terms with him, if possible, on account of the spring
hunt. I absented myself from the house, having instructed my
interpreter how to act. I took my station in a small grove of pines,
close by, watching for the appointed signal to apprise me of the
departure of the Indian. My attention was suddenly arrested by most
doleful cries at the house; and presently the voice of my interpreter
was heard, calling me loudly by name. I ran at the top of my speed,
and arrived just in time to save the life of a poor old woman, who had
been making sugar in my neighbourhood. I found the father and two
sons, both approaching manhood, in a complete state of nudity, dancing
round the body of their victim (to all appearance dead), their bodies
besmeared with blood, and exulting in the barbarous deed they had
committed. My interpreter informed me, that as soon as they observed
the old woman approaching the house, the Christian father told his
sons that now was the time to take revenge for the death of their
brother, whose life had been destroyed by this woman's "bad medicine."
We drove the wretches away, and carried the miserable woman into the
house; and so dreadfully bruised and mangled were her head and face,
that not the least trace of her features could be distinguished. At
the end of a month she recovered sufficiently to crawl about. Her son
passed in the spring, with an excellent hunt. When I related to him
the manner his mother had been treated by the Indians, and the care I
had taken of her, he coolly replied that he was sure they were bad
Indians. "It was very charitable of you," said he, "to have taken so
much care of the old woman. Come to my wigwam next winter, and I shall
trade with you, and treat you well." In the meantime every skin he had
went to our opponents, although he was deeply indebted to the Company.



A large canoe arrived from Montreal about the latter end of June, by
which I received orders to proceed to Fort Coulonge, situated about
eighty miles higher up the Ottawa, to relieve the person then in
charge of that post. I accordingly embarked in the same canoe,
accompanied by my young friend Mr. MacDougal, who joined me last
autumn, and who kindly volunteered to proceed along with me to my
destination. This canoe was under the charge of people hired for the
trip, and directed by the bowsman, or guide. I soon discovered that I
was considered merely as a piece of live lumber on board. My companion
and myself were reduced to the necessity of cooking our own victuals,
or of going without them. We pitched our tent as best we could, and
packed it up in the morning without the slightest offer of assistance
from the crew.

No incident worthy of notice occurred until we reached the Grand
Calumet Portage, the longest on the Ottawa River. The crew slept at
the further end of the portage, whither the canoe and part of the
cargo had been carried during the day, and we pitched our tent there
also in the usual awkward manner. The weather was very fine in the
evening, but soon after night-fall a tremendous storm burst upon us:
our tent was blown about our ears in an instant. We endeavoured to
compose ourselves to rest underneath, but found it impracticable. We
then attempted to pitch it anew, but our strength and ingenuity were
not sufficient for the purpose. We tried afterwards to find shelter
under the canoe (the rain pouring in torrents), but the crew were
already in possession, and so closely packed, that not an inch was
unoccupied. Thus baffled on every hand, we passed the night completely
exposed to the "pelting of the pitiless storm," learning a lesson of
practical philosophy which I have not yet forgotten.

We arrived at Fort Coulonge early the next day, when a portly old
gentleman, bearing a paunch that might have done credit to an
Edinburgh baillie, came puffing down to the landing-place to receive
us. We soon discovered that Mr. Godin was only "nominally" in charge
of the establishment, for that his daughter, a stout, masculine-looking
wench, full thirty summers blown, possessed what little authority was
required for the management of affairs.

We arrived on Wednesday. The father proposed setting out for Montreal
on Friday; the daughter objected the ill luck of the day: it was
finally determined that they should embark on Thursday, however late.
The necessary preparations were immediately commenced under her
ladyship's superintendence, and being completed late in the evening,
they embarked, leaving me perfectly alone. The contracts with the men
had just expired, which I proposed to renew, but the answer from one
and all was, "I shall follow my bourgeois." This was the result of the
old gentleman's arrangements (having been ordered off contrary to his
wishes), and which might have been anticipated by those who appointed
me to the situation; but it would have been derogatory to the exalted
rank of their highnesses to bestow any consideration on such trivial
matters as related to the comfort or convenience of a paltry
apprentice! Their neglect, however, might have been attended on this
occasion with serious consequences to the Company's interests, as I
had never seen any of the Indians of that quarter before, and knew
very little of their mode of trading. It was a fortunate circumstance
for myself that I understood the language sufficiently well to
converse with the natives, otherwise my situation would have been
disagreeable in the extreme. I remained alone until the latter end of
July, when I was joined by an English lad, whom I induced by the
promise of high wages to leave his former employers (lumbermen) and
share my solitude.

The history of my predecessor being rather singular, a few words here
regarding him may perhaps not be considered out of place. He commenced
his career as a hired servant, or Voyageur, as they are termed in the
country, and was thirty years of age before he knew a letter of the
alphabet. Being a man possessed of strong natural parts, and great
bodily strength withal, he soon distinguished himself as an under
trader of uncommon tact,--his prowess as a pugilist also gave him a
very decided advantage in the field of competition. Endowed with such
qualifications, his services were duly appreciated by the traders, and
he knew full well how to turn them to his own advantage. He served all
parties alike; that is, he served each in turn, and cheated and
deceived them all.

After the organization of the North-West Company, he entered their
service; and returning to the same quarter, Temiscamingue, where he
had wintered for his last employer, he passed the post unperceived,
and falling in with a band of Indians, whom he himself had supplied
the preceding autumn, told them he still belonged to the same party,
and traded all their furs on the spot. The North-West Company gave him
charge of a post, when his subtle management soon cleared the country
of opposition.

The natives of Temiscamingue were in those times very treacherous, as
they would be at this day, did they not dread the consequences;
several men had been murdered by them, and they at length became
exceedingly bold and daring in deeds of violence. One example is
sufficient:--Godin happened, on one occasion, to remain at his post
with only one man, who attended the nets,--fish being the staff of
life in that quarter. Visiting them regularly every day to procure his
own and his master's subsistence, his return was one morning delayed
much beyond the usual time. Godin felt so anxious, that he determined
on going to the fishery to learn the cause; and just as he had quitted
the house with that intention, he met an Indian who had been for some
time encamped in the vicinity, and asked him--

"What news?"

"I have killed a white dog this morning," was the reply.

"Indeed!" said Godin, feigning ignorance of the Indian's meaning:
"Pray, to whom did he belong?"

"He was a stray dog, I believe."

Conversing with him in this strain, he threw the Indian completely off
his guard, while he approached him until he was sufficiently near him
for his purpose, when, raising his powerful arm, he struck the savage
a blow under the ear that felled him to the ground,--he fell to rise
no more. The next moment, a couple of well-disposed Indians came to
inform Godin of the murder of his man, which it appeared they could
not prevent. "My children," said he, with the utmost composure, "the
Master of life has punished your kinsman on the spot for taking the
life of a white man; he told me just now that he had killed a white
dog, and had scarcely finished the sentence when he fell down dead at
my feet. Feel his body, it must be still warm; examine it, and satisfy
yourselves that he has suffered no violence from me, and you see that
I have no weapons about me."

Godin was soon afterwards removed to Fort Coulonge, and was allowed a
high salary by the North-West Company. Here he learned to read and
write, and married a fair countrywoman of his own, who resided the
greater part of the time in Montreal, where, to make the gentleman's
establishment complete, he had the good taste to introduce his
mistress. A circumstance that presents his character in its true
colours made his wife acquainted with his infidelity. Writing to both
his ladies at the same time, he unwittingly addressed his mistress's
letter to his wife, by which she learnt, with other matters, that a
present of ten prime otters had been sent to her rival. The enraged
wife carried the letter to Mr. Thane, from whom, however, she met with
a very different reception to what she had anticipated. After perusing
the letter, he ordered her immediately out of his presence. "Begone,
vile woman!" he exclaimed: "What! would you really wish to see your
husband hanged?"

The Company were well aware of Godin's tricks, but winked at them on
account of his valuable services. He was removed from Fort Coulonge in
consequence of mismanagement, (occasioned by aberration of his mental
faculties,) and was allowed by the Company to retire with a pension of
100l. per annum. The transcript of a public letter, addressed to Mr.
Thane, will show his attainments in literature; and, with this I shall
close my sketch of Mr. Godin:--

  "Mon'r Tane,

    "Cher Mon'r,

    "Vot letre ma té livie par Guiaume dean aisi qui
  le butin tout a bon ord le Shauvages on ben travaié
  set anne et bon aparans de bon retour st. anne Dieu
  merci je ne jami vu tant de moustique et de maragoen
  com il en a st anne je pens desend st anne ver le meme
  tan com l'anné pasé.

          "Je sui,

            "Cher Mon'r, &c.

                "JOSEPH GODIN."

The Indians attached to this post speak the Sauteux language, and are
denominated "Tetes des Boules" by the French, and "Men of the Woods"
by the other Indians. Although so near to priests and ministers, they
are still Pagans, but are nevertheless a quiet harmless race, and
excellent hunters. The greater part of them originally belonged to
Temiscamingue, and were drawn to this quarter by Mr. Godin. A
considerable number of Algonquins also trade here, where they pass the
greater part of their lives without visiting the Lake. The people
appear to me to differ in no respect from their heathen brethren, save
in the very negligent observance of certain external forms of worship,
and in being more enlightened in the arts of deceiving and lying.

About the middle of August, I was gratified by the arrival of Mr.
Godin's interpreter, and three men, by whom I received letters from
head-quarters, informing me that my neighbours of last winter intended
to establish posts in this quarter also, and that I should soon be
joined by a strong reinforcement of men, to enable me to cope
successfully with them. We complain of solitude in the Indian forests,
yet the vicinity of such a neighbour is considered the greatest evil;
and instead of cherishing the feelings enjoined in the Decalogue, one
hates his neighbour as the d----l, and employs every means to get rid
of him.

The natives having been all supplied, had taken their departure for
their hunting-grounds by the latter end of August; I then commenced
making the arrangements requisite for the coming contest.



About the middle of September, I observed a north canoe paddling in
for the landing-place, having a gentleman passenger on board, who
immediately on landing ordered his servant to carry his baggage up to
the Fort. On his entering the house, the apparent mystery was soon
unfolded. Mr. Siviright handed me a letter from Mr. Thane, conveying
the agreeable Intelligence of my being superseded by the
bearer,--commanding me to obey him as my bourgeois, and to conduct
myself in such a manner as to give Mr. S. every satisfaction. The
latter injunction I felt very little inclination to comply with at the
time; in fact, the slight put upon me caused my northern blood to rise
to fever heat; and in this excited frame of mind I sat down to reply
to the "great man's" communication, in which I gave vent to my injured
feelings in very plain language. What he may have thought of the
epistle, I know not, as he never deigned to reply. It was
inconsiderate in me, however, to have so acted; but prudence had not
yet assumed her due influence over me.

Mr. S. had been at that time twenty-four years in the service, I only
three; he had therefore a superior claim to any I could advance: but
why not inform me at once that my appointment to the charge was merely
temporary? This double dealing manifested a distrust of me, for which
no cause could possibly be assigned: that excited my resentment, and
not the circumstance of being superseded.

Towards the latter end of the month of September, our opponents made
their appearance in three small canoes, while I embarked in pursuit
with the same number. One of my north canoes was in charge of three
men, the others contained two, counting myself as a man. Having become
rather expert as an amateur voyageur, I considered myself capable of
undertaking the real duty now, and accordingly volunteered my services
as steersman, as no additional hand could be spared, without great
inconvenience to my bourgeois. A little experience convinced me,
however, that my zeal exceeded my ability. My opponent was in a light
canoe, and moved, about with a celerity that my utmost exertions could
not cope with; for as soon as an Indian canoe appeared, he paddled off
for it; I of course attempted to compete, but generally arrived just
in time to find that he had already concluded his transaction with the

We reached Black River on the third day from Fort Coulonge, where it
appeared my opponent's intention to remain for some time, to await the
arrival of certain Indians who were expected down by that river. I
determined therefore to despatch a canoe to Fort Coulonge, to acquaint
Mr. S with the particulars above related; and sent back therewith such
of the property as I thought could be dispensed with at the time, as
it was quite evident we could not keep up with our opponent in the
portages with such a quantity of baggage as we then had, and we could
obtain no information that could be depended upon as to their ultimate
destination--it might be at the distance of a hundred miles, or only

My messengers were but two days absent; and I was not a little
mortified to learn from them, that Mr. S., instead of attending to my
suggestions, not only returned all the property I had sent, but nearly
an equal quantity in addition. He wrote me his reasons for doing so;
but I felt assured that he had no other object in view than to show me
that he was the superior, I the subordinate; and I resolved from that
moment, to perform no more extra duty.

After continuing a fortnight at our encampment, we again embarked,
when I ordered the third man in the large canoe into my own, and
tossing my paddle down stream, took my station in the middle of my
canoe. A few hours' paddling brought us to an old shanty in the island
of Allumette, where, to my great joy, I perceived my opponent intended
to fix his winter quarters. We accordingly commenced erecting a couple
of huts, a store, and dwelling-house, in close proximity to him. This
being the best season of the year for the natives to hunt, it was the
interest of all parties not to molest them; and we therefore employed
our time in preparing suitable accommodation for the winter.

On the completion of our arrangements, I set out, about the beginning
of October, on a visit to Fort Coulonge; and on the day after my
arrival there we observed a north canoe paddling slowly past, and
distinguished the features of every individual on board through a
telescope, but could recognise no one: however, to clear up the doubt,
the interpreter was sent after them in a small canoe, with
instructions to make a close scrutiny. They no sooner discovered that
he was in pursuit, than they ceased paddling. After a long
confabulation he learned that they were proceeding to Sault St. Marie,
where they intended to settle. I passed two days with my bourgeois,
and returned home, where we--our opponents and ourselves--watched each
other's movements, being our only occupation until the end of
November, when Mr. S. paid me a visit, which proved anything but

He (Mr. S.) had learned from some lumbermen, that the "Settlers for
the Sault Ste. Marie" were an opposition party conducted by Mr. Æneas
Macdonell, my predecessor at the Chats; and that he purposed to
_settle_ for the winter near Lac des Allumettes. This gentleman's
engagement had been cancelled at the earnest solicitation of his
father, whom death had lately deprived of another son; and who now, to
requite the favour granted to him by the Company, sent this son in
opposition! We had barely a sufficient number of men to perform the
necessary duties of the two posts already established; we were,
therefore, completely at a loss to meet this emergency. Mr. S. could
spare one man only from his own post, whom he brought up to me.

I embarked early next morning with one of my own men, in search of the
"settler." On reaching Lac des Allumettes on the same evening, our
attention was arrested by the voices of Indians, singing on an island.
We immediately pulled in for the spot, and found a large camp of
Algonquins, men, women and children, all in a state of intoxication;
from whom I learned, though with much difficulty, the whereabouts of
Macdonell's retreat. Quitting this disgusting scene as speedily as
possible, we resumed our paddles, and soon afterwards discovered the
opposition post. When we landed, my quondam mess-mate advanced to
receive me, and, after a cordial shake of the hand, kindly invited me
to pass the night with him. I gladly accepted the offer; and was not a
little concerned to perceive that his preparations for winter were
already complete; a circumstance which gave him a decided advantage.
Happening in the course of conversation to express my surprise at
seeing him in the character of an opponent, he told me that nothing
could be farther from his intention than to oppose the Company. He
came to this quarter for the purpose of preparing timber for the
Quebec market; in provincial phrase, "to make a shanty." But I knew
well enough his designs.

I started early next morning on my return, and immediately thereafter
prepared a small outfit; and re-embarked next evening with five men in
two canoes, leaving the interpreter in charge of the post, with one
man to assist him.

Having experienced very bad weather on our way, and consequently some
delay, we did not reach our new station until late in the evening of
the fourth day. I immediately sent back two of the men to the
interpreter, and retained three with myself, which placed me on a par
with my opponent in point of numbers. But he was now ready for active
operations, while I had every thing to prepare. I resolved, however,
to forego every personal comfort and convenience rather than allow him
to enjoy any advantage over me. I accordingly assisted in erecting a
small hut, which I intended should serve for dwelling-house for myself
and men, trading-shop, store and all.

A couple of days after our arrival, Macdonell was seen walking down to
the water's edge with a very cautious step, accompanied by one of his
men, bearing his canoe, basket fashion, on one arm, and a large bundle
on the other, from which, notwithstanding his steady pace, the
jumbling sound of liquor was distinctly heard.

"Holla, Mac, where are you going with your basket?"

"Why, I am going across to Herd's shanty, to get my axes ground."

"My dear fellow, how can you think of risking yourself in such a
gimcrack contrivance as that? I must absolutely send a couple of my
men along with you to see no accident happens to you."

Having a parcel of goods ready for emergencies of this kind, my men
started in a moment, and embarked at the same time as my neighbour. I
continued with my only man completing my castle; but the earth being
already hard frozen, no clay could be obtained for the purpose of
plastering; the interstices between the logs were therefore caulked
with moss; a large aperture being left in the roof to serve the
double purpose of chimney and window. I had formerly seen houses so
constructed--somewhere--but let no one dare to imagine that I allude
to "my own, my native land." Stones were piled up against the logs, to
protect them from the fire. The timber required for floor, door, and
beds, was all prepared with the axe; our building being thus rendered
habitable without even going to the extent of Lycurgus' frugal laws,
for the axe was our only implement.

My opponent returned in four days, having been at an Indian camp, not
far distant, where both he and our people traded a considerable
quantity of furs. This was our only trip by open water. As soon as the
river became ice-bound, we were again in motion.

To enter into minute details of our various movements would but prove
tedious; I shall therefore present a general sketch of our mode of
life at this period, and such occurrences as I may consider worthy of

Macdonell had chosen his situation with great judgment. The majority
of the Algonquins take their start from the Grand River at this place
for their hunting-grounds. Some of them not being more than a day's
journey distant from us, the joyful intelligence soon spread amongst
them that an opposition party had been established in their
neighbourhood; they accordingly flocked about us as soon as travelling
became practicable on the ice, and generally brought with them the
means of ensuring a friendly reception. One party came in at this
early season with all their fall hunts, which they bartered for
liquors and provisions, and encamped close by, enjoying themselves,
until an event occurred that alarmed them so much, (being with some
reason considered by them as a punishment for the wicked life they had
led,) that with the utmost precipitation they struck their camp.

I was joined early in the month of January by a party of men and a
clerk, whom Mr. S. had ordered, or rather "requested," from Montreal;
and having, on the day of their arrival, received an invitation from
one of our Algonquin chiefs to pay him a _trading_ visit, I started
next day, leaving Mr. Lane in charge, accompanied by two men, and
reached the chief's wigwam late in the evening. As soon as I was
seated, he asked me if I had not met the Matawin Indians. On my
replying in the negative, he informed me that they had passed his
place early in the morning, loaded with furs, and that they expressed
their intention of proceeding to the post before they halted. These
Indians had all been supplied by myself in autumn to a large amount;
so that the intelligence acted on my nerves like an electric shock. I
felt much fatigued on entering the lodge, but I now sprung to my feet,
as fresh for the journey as when I had commenced it; and ordering one
of my men to return with me, left the other, an experienced hand, to
manage affairs with the chief.

I arrived at my post about two next morning, when I found the Indians,
some at our hut, some at our opponent's, all of them approaching the
climax of Indian happiness, and Mr. Lane in a state of mind bordering
on distraction. Neither he nor any of the men had ever seen any of
these Indians before, nor did they understand a word of the language.
The Indians were honest enough, however, to give him their furs in
charge till my return; reserving only a small quantity to dispose of
at discretion. My arrival was soon announced at my neighbour's, and
brought the whole bevy about me in an instant, only one individual
remaining behind. On inquiring into the cause of his absence, his
companions replied that he had fallen asleep immediately after he had
supped, and that they did not wish to disturb him.

A few hours afterwards I was not a little surprised to see my
neighbour entering our hut hurriedly, who addressed me thus:--

"My dear Mac, it is true we are in opposition, but no enmity exists
between us. A dreadful misfortune happened in my house last
night.--Come and see!"

I instantly complied with his request; proceeded to his hut, and saw
the Indian who was said to be asleep, with his eyes closed--for ever;
a sad spectacle, for it was evident that the death of the poor wretch
had been caused by intemperance; he was found in the morning lying on
his face, and his body already stiff. We were both alike involved in
the same awful responsibility, for the Indians drank as much at one
house as the other, though his death occurred at the establishment of
the other party. The Company only permit the sale of liquors to the
natives when the presence of opponents renders it an indispensable
article of trade, as it is by this unhallowed traffic that the petty
traders realize their greatest profit. Yet this plea of necessity,
however satisfactory it may appear in a certain quarter, will not,
I feel assured, be accepted in our vindication by the world, nor
hereafter in our justification at that tribunal where worldly
considerations have no influence. Information soon reached the camp of
the calamity that had happened, which promptly silenced the clamorous
mirth that prevailed; and the voice of mourning succeeded--the Indians
being all in good crying trim, that is, intoxicated; for I have never
seen an Indian shed a tear when sober.

No more liquor was traded; the relatives of the deceased departed with
the body to the Lake of Two Mountains, and the other Indians started
for their hunting-grounds--thus granting us a short respite from
the arduous duties in which we had been engaged. While the Indians
remained about us we never enjoyed a moment's refreshing rest, our hut
being crowded with them night and day. It was at times with difficulty
we could prepare our victuals, or, when cooked, command sufficient
time to partake of a hasty meal, in the midst of the "living mass"
that environed us. All this was extremely annoying; but other comforts
must be added ere this picture of the life we then led is complete.
The motions of our opponents must needs be attended to, at dawn of
day; each morning every path was carefully examined, to ascertain that
no one had started during night: these precautions were also
punctually taken by our opponents; and every stratagem that could be
devised to elude each other's vigilance put in practice, it being the
"interest" of each party to reach the Indians alone.



When we discovered that our opponents had outwitted us, we would
despatch messengers in pursuit; and I need scarcely add, the same
means were resorted to by our neighbours, when inquisitive about
our movements. We had now the advantage in point of numbers, being
nearly two to one; yet it so happened that we seldom could perform
a trip unattended; very frequently by a single man against two or
three--still he got his share; for the system of trade in this quarter
does not allow violent means being employed to obtain possession of
the products of the hunt. The mode of procedure is this:--On entering
the lodge of an Indian, you present him with a small keg of nectar, as
a propitiatory offering; then, in suppliant tones, request payment of
the debt he may owe you, which he probably defers to a future day--the
day of judgment. If your opponent be present, you dare not open your
lips in objection to the delay; for you may offend his dignity, and
consequently lose all his furs. This you are aware of, and accordingly
proceed to untie your pack, and exposing its contents to view, solicit
him to give, at least, the preference in trade. Your opponent, on the
other side of the fire-place, having also poured out his libation,
imitates your example in every respect; and most probably he may
secure the wife, while you engage the husband as customers.

A few weeks elapsed without the arrival of any hunters, and we were
beginning to recover from the effects of our late fatigues, when a
numerous band arrived from a considerable distance, and encamped on
the same spot that had been occupied by those lately noticed, and the
same riotous scenes were again enacted, although these new comers were
fully aware of the misfortune that had already occurred in consequence
of similar disgusting intemperance.

Among this band was a son of the principal sachem of the Algonquins,
who was acknowledged heir apparent to his _dad's vermin_, and who
assumed the airs of a man of great consequence, in virtue of his
prospective dignity. The father bore a respectable character; the son
was a sot. In consideration of his furs, however, I paid him some
little attentions, though much against my inclination. He came one
evening reeling into our hut, more than "half-seas over," having been
thus far advanced on his voyage to Elysium through the insinuating
influences of my opponent's "fire-water;" and seating himself on a
three-legged stool, close to the fire-place, he soon began to nod;
then, losing his equilibrium, ultimately fell at full length on the
floor. I could not suppress a smile at sight of his copper highness's
prostrate position, when springing up in a furious passion, he seized
an axe, and proceeded to demolish the seat. I wrested the axe from his
grasp, and reprimanded him sharply for his insolence. This exasperated
him to the utmost: he swore I was in league with the stool to insult
him; but that he should be revenged on us both before morning.
Uttering these menaces, he set out for the camp.

It so happened that a strong party of men arrived on that evening from
Fort Coulonge with supplies, and were huddled together with myself
and my men, all under the same roof. The greater part of them lay
down to rest; but a few still continued the vigil, indulging in the
favourite luxury of smoking, and chatting about the enjoyments of
"Mont-rial,"--when, all of a sudden, the dread-inspiring war-whoop
echoed through our little hut; the next instant the door flew off
its wooden hinges, and fell with a crash on the floor, exhibiting to
view the person of the Indian, standing on the threshold, holding a
double-barrelled gun in his hand, with blackened face and his eyes
flashing fire.

The men had now all started to their feet, as well as myself. The
moment the eyes of the savage fell upon me, in the midst of the crowd,
he brought the piece to bear upon me, or at least attempted to do
so; but I sprang upon him with a bound, and beat the muzzle down;
instantly the discharge followed: we then struggled for the possession
of the gun, which I quickly wrested from his grasp; and, applying the
butt end of it "gently" to his ear, laid him sprawling at my feet.

On the discharge of the gun, I heard a voice calling out, "Mon Dieu!"
and another, in a plaintive tone, exclaiming, "Ah mon garçon!" This
was all I heard distinctly, when every voice joined in one cry,
"Tueons le crapaud;" and presently the wretched Indian was kicked
and cuffed by as many as could press round him. I called on them to
desist--as well have spoken to the wind!--not a soul heeded my orders.
At length one of them observed, "What occasion is there for more
beating of him--the black dog is dead enough."

I looked about for the person whom I supposed to have been wounded,
in vain--the whole mass was in motion. As soon as the tumult had
subsided, however, I was glad to find that no one had received any
serious injury; the ball had grazed the thigh of a youth (who had
arrived from Montreal on a visit to his father), and lodged in a log
of the building.

The uproar occasioned by the men soon brought the Indians from the
camp about the hut; and perceiving the apparently lifeless body
stretched on the floor, they raised a yell that was reverberated by
the surrounding hills. "Revenge! revenge!" shouted every savage
present. We mustered too strong, however, to permit their threats
being put into execution without great hazard to themselves; which
fact pressed itself so powerfully on their minds, that for the present
they discreetly vented their rage in abuse, and returned to their
quarters. Satisfied by the feeble beating of the Indian's pulse that
the vital spark was not extinct, I would not allow his kinsmen to
remove him. Towards morning, recovering the use of speech, he
inquired, in a voice scarcely audible, if he "had shed the blood of a
white man?" I replied in the affirmative. "Then," said he, "it would
have been better had you despatched me at once, for I shall certainly
be hanged."

With the view of pacifying the natives, I deemed it advisable to
represent the young man's wound as very severe, and exercised my wits
to give my representation the semblance of truth. I caused the young
man's leg to be carefully bandaged; and, luckily, happening to have
a fresh beaver in the house, the bandage was speedily besmeared with
its blood, and the sound patient placed in bed, with instructions how
to act his part. The Indians returned early on the following morning
to inquire after their young chief, and being all perfectly sober,
I descanted on the calamity of the previous night, describing _my_
young man's case to be of such a serious nature as to induce the
apprehension that death, or at least amputation of the limb, would be
the consequence. In confirmation of the veracity of this statement,
the afflicted leg was exposed to view, while the patient's groans,
which impressed on the minds of the bystanders the conviction of the
pain he endured, prevented too close a scrutiny.

"Alas!" they exclaimed, "it is all very true. Wagh! this is indeed a
sad business; but the bad fire-water is to blame for it all."

My stratagem had succeeded. Most of the natives acknowledged the
justice of the punishment inflicted on their young chief, who had a
brother present, however, whose sullen countenance betrayed the
vindictive feelings in his breast, although he maintained a profound

The Fort Coulonge party started early next day, dragging their wounded
companion on a sled, until they were out of sight. The relatives of
the chief removed him to the camp, where he soon recovered. All the
other Indians took their departure on the day following the affray.
Shortly afterwards we were favoured with a visit from one whose
hunting-grounds bordered on Rice Lake, a distance of 150 miles. I
had advanced this Indian all the supplies he required previous to
Mr. Siviright's arrival, which formed a pretty large amount. On
examining the books, he animadverted upon the advance in terms of
disapprobation, as being very imprudent to risk so much with an
Indian. Most gratified and happy was I then to learn from the hunter
that he had sufficient to liquidate the debt, and nearly as much more
to trade. On making out his requisition for the latter purpose, it was
found that four sleds at least would be required for the transport of
all the property. To employ this number in one direction, however,
would leave my neighbour at liberty to prosecute his views in another
quarter without the necessary attendance. Still, I determined on
risking a point, and securing at all hazards the valuable prize now
offered. Obtaining a _piece_ at the sacrifice of a _pawn_ is
considered good play.

I proceeded accordingly with the Indian, accompanied by four men,
all with heavily laden sleds, with a pack of goods strapped over my
shoulders weighing eighty pounds. Macdonell did not follow, as the
Indian gave him no encouragement. We reached the Indian's lodge on the
eleventh day from the post, when the abundant display of furs I beheld
gave assurance of being amply remunerated for my trip. There were
eleven packs of beaver piled upon a scaffold, besides some others,
amounting to at least 600l. sterling. My hospitable customer detained
me two days with him to partake of his good cheer. After settling
accounts with him, together with payment of the sum he owed, seven of
the eleven packs were placed in my possession, with which I started on
my return, as proud as if I had been advanced to a share in the

We arrived at the post after an absence of twenty-five days; and I
was mortified to learn that my substitute had most stupidly bungled
affairs. A number of Indians had come in during my absence who were
considered our best friends, and entering our hut without noticing our
opponent, threw down their bundles, thereby clearly indicating,
according to the usual custom, their intention of trading with one
party only. On the other hand, should they leave a bundle at the door,
it shows that they intend to divide its contents between two parties.
With these particulars the interpreter's experience rendered him
perfectly well acquainted, but he "cau'd na be fasht."

It is customary when the Indians arrive, to present each with a pipe,
a plug of tobacco, and, though last, not least in their estimation, "a
dram." The usual _politesse_ was expected as a matter of course on
this occasion. Seeing it was not forthcoming, the Indians demanded it.
They were answered that no instructions had been left to that effect.

"Very well," said they, "we shall soon find it elsewhere." And away
they went.

Macdonell received them with open arms. His reception not only induced
them to trade every skin they had brought with them, but they also
invited him to their camp; and he consequently returned with his own
and his men's sleds laden with furs.

I learnt all these particulars from himself; for he and I were on as
good terms as the nature of our occupation and our relative positions
would admit. I was, moreover, made acquainted through him that the
Indians had expressed regret at my absence, and that an immense
quantity of "beaver" still remained at their camp.

The spring was now fast approaching, the ice so bad as to render
travelling dangerous, and but little snow on the ground. Still, I
determined on paying a visit to these Indians, in order to retrieve
the loss, if possible, sustained through the mismanagement of the
interpreter. They might yet be in want of some supplies, poor fellows;
and we were all so anxious they should want for nothing we could spare
for their accommodation;--we, therefore, good, humane souls, supplied
them even at the hazard of our lives.



I set off on this trip accompanied by another interpreter recently
sent from Montreal, and one of my men, all with heavy burdens on our
backs, the season not allowing the use of sledges. The second day we
arrived at an Indian lodge about half-way to the Bear's Camp, where I
learned that our opponent at the lower outpost had given our people
the slip, but had been induced to return from the supposition that
the extensive swamp in his way was impassable, being so inundated as
to present the appearance of a lake. Urged on, however, by youthful
ardour and ambition, I determined to make at least one attempt ere I
relinquished the enterprise; although I acknowledge that the idea of
overcoming difficulties deemed insurmountable by an opponent, had as
much to do with the resolution as the desire of doing my duty.
Followed by my men, I accordingly plunged in, along the margin of the
marsh; the water reached our middle, but we found it to decrease in
depth as we proceeded, though never below the knee. The water being
very cold, our legs soon became quite benumbed; nevertheless we moved
onward. A certain passage in history occurred to my mind, which
records the perseverance of a great man in a like situation. I too
persevered, though with a different object in view. We all have our
hobbies. I waded for furs, he for glory. We occasionally met with
large trunks of trees as we proceeded, on which we mounted, and
restored the circulation to our limbs by stamping upon them; and thus,
after five or six hours' painful exertion we reached dry land, where a
rousing fire and a hearty breakfast made us soon forget the miseries
of the swamp.

We reached the old _bear's den_ next evening, who, with his party,
expressed much surprise to see me at such a season, and in recompense
for my exertions, "traded"[1] every article of goods I had.

    [1] _Anglicè_,--bought.

There were here seven Indians, who, notwithstanding the frequent
visits that had been paid them, in the course of the winter, by the
people of the lower posts, had still upwards of forty packs of beaver.
I got one pack, with which I set off on my return, pleased enough.
We found the water in the swamp so far subsided as to permit an easy
passage; but the ice on the Grand River was so much worse that we were
compelled to travel in the woods the greater part of the way.

On arriving at the post, I found the opposition party in active
preparation for their departure, Macdonell having received orders
from his father to that effect. He embarked as soon as the navigation
became practicable. Opponent as he was, I experienced some painful
sensations at parting with him; but soon had the _consolation_ to see
our opponent at the lower post occupy his place,--a measure which he
ought to have adopted at a much earlier period, as even then it gave
him a much better chance for a share of the spring trade than below,
where he might be said to be placed between two fires. His removal,
however, enabled us to concentrate our whole strength against him, so
that he could not move a foot without a strong party at his heels.
Thus circumstanced, he chose to await the arrival of the natives
quietly at his post, and we were happy to follow his example.

The spring passed in a happy state of quiescence, which was scarcely
disturbed by the arrival of the Indians, who, this year, had all
taken a fancy to visit their ghostly fathers at the Lake,[1] and had,
consequently, no time to spend with us; some intending to get married,
some having children to be baptized, and some carrying their dead, in
order that the last sacred rites for the benefit of their departed
spirits might be performed upon them. A few _têtes de boules_ remained
for some time, but under so strict a surveillance that they could
seldom communicate with our opponents without being observed, and the
discovery subjected them to some chastisement.

    [1] Of the Two Mountains.

I shall here relate a circumstance that occurred at this time, as an
example of the cunning of the Indians in devising plans to evade us.
Soon after their arrival, an old squaw brought to our house several
casseaux[1] of sugar, and pointing out one, which she said was left open
for immediate consumption, said she would return for it presently. She
came next day and took the casseaux down to the tent of the Algonquin
chief, who had passed the spring close by, and was now building a
canoe, preparatory to his departure for the Lake. Soon after I went
to have a chat with the chief, and found only his squaw at home. I
observed the casseau, and asked for what purpose it was brought there.
"Mine hostess" smiled, and answered, "You ought to know everything
about it, when it has just quitted your house and passed the night
with you. You whites pretend to be very cunning," she continued, "but
when an Indian, or even an old squaw tries to cheat you, your 'white'
knowledge is no match for her. Now look into that casseau, Anamatik,[2]
and see what is in it."

    [1] Packages made of bark.

    [2] My Indian cognomen.

I looked, and found, instead of sugar, a very valuable bundle of furs.

"What do you think of the sugar?"

"Oh, it is very fine indeed; so much finer than any that I have, that
I must take it along with me."

"Your white neighbour will be angry with you, for it is left here for

"Let him come to my house if he wants any."

I set off with my prize, and as soon as it was deposited in a place of
safety, took up a favourable position to watch my opponent, whom I
soon perceived making for the tent with long and rapid strides. I
could not help laughing heartily at the idea of his disappointment,
when told what had happened. The "fair deceiver," to whom the bone of
contention had belonged, soon made her appearance with downcast looks,
humbly entreating payment for her furs, and I paid her the full
amount, after lecturing her severely on the treachery of her conduct
_in doing "what she willed with her own._"

My opponent embarked on the 10th June, and I immediately followed him
to the lower post, which he left in charge of one man, and then set
off for Montreal. I kept him company as far as Fort Coulonge, where I
met with a very friendly reception from my bourgeois,--the collected
trade of the different posts having far exceeded his most sanguine
expectations. He set out for Montreal with returns of the value
of 5,000l. sterling, and left me in charge for the summer at Fort
Coulonge, and Mr. Lane at the outpost. Only one family of Algonquins
passed the summer inland,--the same miscreants that had nearly
murdered the old woman at the Chats; a deed which I had neither
forgotten, nor could divest myself of the feelings of indignation it
had awakened in my breast.

In the course of the summer, the interpreter of the post being in want
of some paddles, employed this exemplary father to make them, and paid
for them in rum. The quantity was so small, however, that it only had
the effect of exciting their thirst, and they returned early in the
night for more, which was peremptorily refused. The doors were bolted,
and we retired to rest; but rest they were determined we should not
have that night; and they continued knocking at the doors and windows,
and bawling out at the top of their lungs, "Rum,--more rum!" until
daylight next morning. I rose very early, in not the best humour
possible, and taking the key of the store in my hand--I know not
for what purpose--went out, and was followed by the Indian, still
demanding more rum. I told him he should have none from me. "But I
must have some." "Then you shall go elsewhere for it;" and without
more ado, I turned him out, pushing him with some violence from the
door. He fell on his face on the platform that ran in front of the
building, and leaving him there to recover his footing at leisure, I
returned towards the dwelling-house; but had scarcely reached the end
of the platform, when the yell of defiance, "Hee-eep, hoo-aw!"
resounded in my ears. I instantly wheeled round, and found myself face
to face with the Indian. The old villain attempted to collar me, but,
enraged to madness, I now grappled with him, and with all my might
hurled him from the platform to the ground.

I stood for a moment hesitating whether I should strike him while
down, but had little time to deliberate,--the savage was again on his
legs. He rushed towards a gun that stood against a fur-press hard
by; I instantly comprehended his intention, and finding a stick at
hand, in the twinkling of an eye, I struck him a blow that laid him
senseless on the ground. Being scarcely aware of what I was doing, I
was about to repeat the blow, when I found the uplifted weapon seized
from behind. It was Primeau, my interpreter, who addressed me in a
soothing tone, telling me I had already "done for" the Indian.

This startling announcement restored me to reason. Was I indeed guilty
of the blood of a fellow-creature? The thought chilled me with horror.
I dashed the stick to the ground. It was instantly picked up by one of
his three sons, whom the noise of the scuffle had now brought all up;
brandishing it aloft, he aimed a blow at my head, which I parried with
my arm, the limb dropping senseless to my side. My men, however, were
now on the spot to defend me, and a fierce scuffle took place between
them and the Indian's sons. Had they been the stronger party on this
occasion, my fur-trading career would have terminated that morning.
They, however, got a sound drubbing; while their wretched father, who
had been the cause of the disturbance, lay unheeded and unconscious on
the spot where he had fallen, not exhibiting the least sign of life.

A place of temporary accommodation being prepared by his family, he
was borne thither on a blanket, and I retired to my quarters in a
state of mind not easy to be described. Soon after, the interpreter
came in with a message from the Indians, entreating me to come and
advise with them touching the manner in which they should dispose of
their father's body. I went, and just as I stepped within the camp, to
the astonishment of all present, the dead man sprang upon his feet.
Seeing me at his side, he exclaimed, "You shall have cause to repent
this!" The words were scarcely out of his mouth, when he sank down
again, and for a period of six weeks after he remained as helpless as
an infant. He was subsequently carried down to the Lake of Two
Mountains, where he recovered from the effects of this castigation, to
die, two years after, in a fit of drunkenness.



Mr. Siviright arrived about the latter end of August, accompanied by
another junior clerk, and a few days afterwards the opposition were
seen passing. I embarked with my fellow-scribe, and arrived next day
at the lower outpost, when I was much disappointed to find my old
interpreter, whom I had with me at the Chats, in the service of our
opponents. He was my Indian tutor, and took every pains, not only to
teach me the language, but to initiate me in the mysteries of the
trade, in which he was justly considered an adept. Our opponents
offered him a high salary, which he would not accept until he had
previously made a tender of his valuable services to the Company, whom
he had faithfully served for a period of thirty years and upwards. He
requested a small addition to his salary, which was refused.

My regard for the worthy old man, however, was not in the least
diminished by the circumstance of his being in opposition. Père
Duchamp and I had still our friendly _tête-à-tête_ whenever we had an
opportunity. The autumn passed without any incident having occurred
worthy of note, I and my opponent being occupied in the usual
way,--watching each other night and day, chasing each other, and
circumventing each other when we could.

Late in the month of October, I was surprised to observe a couple of
middle-sized canoes, deeply laden, put ashore at our opponent's, where
the crews, five in number, passed the night. Next morning, as soon as
they were gone, I called on my old friend, who happened to be alone at
the time, to inquire about his visitors.

He demurred for a little, and at length said: "For your sake, and
to you only, would I disclose the secret of these people's object
and destination. They called at Fort Coulonge yesterday, and gave
themselves out for a party of hunters, bound for the Temiscamingue
quarter;--they are a party of Iroquois, supplied with a valuable
assortment of goods for trade, and their destination is Lac de la
Vieille, in the very centre of the Algonquin hunting-grounds."

This was a most important piece of intelligence: some of these Indians
had been supplied at Fort Coulonge, some at my post, and all of them
were deeply indebted at the Lake of Two Mountains. I passed the day
in the anxious expectation of seeing Mr. S., or at least receiving
instructions from him with reference to these people. No one coming, I
resolved to proceed to Fort Coulonge, and communicate _viva voce_ the
information I had received.

Late in the evening, I embarked in a small canoe, with two men, and
reached the Fort at early dawn; and rousing Mr. S. from his slumbers,
I at once announced the object of my visit.

"Well," said he, "this requires consideration: retire to rest, and I
shall think about it."

I retired accordingly, and slept till breakfast-time, when the subject
was discussed; and his decision was, that I should send one of the two
young men who were at my post in pursuit of the Iroquois, with
instructions to follow them up, until the season should be so far
advanced as merely to admit of his return by open water, unless the
Iroquois pitched their tent before then.

I volunteered myself to go after them with an outfit; but no; it would
be dividing our forces, thereby allowing an advantage to our more
formidable opponents; besides, we had not much to apprehend from the
Iroquois with their trifling means. "_Très bien_," I said to myself,
and set off on my return forthwith. I of course lost no time in
executing the orders I had received. My bourgeois had his opinion of
the matter, and I had mine; I knew that the Iroquois, when left to
themselves, would make their own prices for their goods, and thus,
even with the small outfit they had, fleece the Indians of the
principal part of their furs.

Among the Indians whom I had supplied, was an individual whose
advances amounted to a heavy sum. I felt extremely anxious about him,
and resolved to pay him a visit as soon as travelling was practicable;
meantime, Swanston, who had been in pursuit of the Iroquois, returned
from his disagreeable voyage on the 28th November, having learned
nothing more than we already knew.

I set off the next day, ostensibly on a visit to Mr. S., but really
with the intention of starting from his post on my intended
"derouine,"[1] arrived at Fort Coulonge among the drift ice, and on
the 1st December started, accompanied by the interpreter Primeau and
another man, all of us with heavy burdens on our backs. This proved
the most toilsome trip I had yet undertaken; the smaller lakes only
were passable on the ice, and the rivers were nearly all open. The
difficulties we thus encountered necessarily retarded our progress,
and occupied so much more time than we had calculated upon, that our
provisions were nearly consumed by the time we reached the first
Indian camp, where we expected to procure a guide to conduct us to the
party we were in search of. We succeeded in hiring a young man, but we
only obtained a small supply of flour, the Indians having no other
kind of provision to spare.

    [1] "Derouine,"--a trading visit to the Indians.

Three days travelling brought us to the borders of the Indian's lands,
where we soon discovered one of his early winter encampments; had we
been a few days sooner we could have easily traced him from this spot,
but the snow, which had recently fallen to a great depth, had nearly
obliterated the marks he had left behind him.[1] My interpreter,
accustomed to "tracking," followed the _scent_ for two days; our
guide, discontented with the short allowance, gave no assistance, till
coming to an extensive "brulé,"[2] he was completely _at fault_, as no
marks of any kind could be discovered.

    [1] When Indians remove in winter, in passing on rivers and
    lakes, they stick, at intervals, in the snow, branches of
    balsam, inclining in the direction they may have gone. In the
    woods, small saplings are cut or broken down; if there is no
    underwood, an occasional "blaze" serves as a sign-post to the
    experienced woodsman.

    [2] "Brulé," a part of the forest consumed by fire.

Our situation was now extremely critical; we were reduced to one
solitary meal of flour and water per diem, and but a few handfuls of
this poor fare remained; to return by the way we came was out of the
question, to proceed to the post was in truth our only alternative,
and none of us was sufficiently acquainted with that part of the
country to be sure of finding it; while the Indian, positively
refusing to keep us company any longer, turned back, and left us to
get out of our difficulties as we best could.

The interpreter proposed that another attempt should be made to find
the Indian's encampment, and volunteered to go alone; this proved the
poor fellow's zeal, but he returned to our encampment next morning
unsuccessful; we therefore resolved to go back, and, finding our way
without much difficulty for a couple of days, we reached the upper end
of a long portage leading to the Ottawa River, where we encamped late
in the evening, and supped on the _hope_ of getting to the post next

We started early in the morning, the Canadian leading, and about noon
fell on fresh snow-shoe tracks--the tracks, we supposed, of some of
our people who had come to seek us; and feeling assured that our
sufferings would terminate with the day, we pursued our route with
renovated vigour and speed; when lo! our encampment of the preceding
night came in view, the excitement of our minds having prevented us
from discerning our mistake, as we might have done, sooner. The sun
was still high, but the circumstance of the encampment being already
prepared, induced us to put up there again for the night. It was a sad
disappointment, and I felt it as such, though I affected a gaiety that
was far from my heart; while with downcast looks and heavy hearts my
poor fellows betook themselves to rest at a very early hour.

Next morning we set off determined to be more cautious; the mistake of
the previous day was ascribed to the sound of a high cascade at the
head of the rapid, which we had mistaken for another considerably
farther down; our Canadian still acted as guide--the blind leading
the blind--and after two hours' walk we fell upon our own tracks
again;--the poor fellow had yielded so completely to despair, that he
walked about mechanically, scarcely knowing or caring whither he went;
he was therefore ordered to the rear, and Primeau succeeded as leader.
We saw nothing more of our tracks, but encamped in the evening with
much the same prospects as before. I felt extremely weak, having
carried Primeau's pack along with my own, as the old man could
scarcely move when beating the track in the deep snow. Having a few
fresh beaver skins, we cut off the thicker parts about the head and
legs, and made a _bouillon_ of them, which we drank, and then turned

In the morning it became a subject of serious debate what direction we
should proceed in; the sky, however, having been clear the preceding
evening, I observed the sun setting, and determined in my own mind the
proper course; both my companions differed from me, but readily agreed
to follow me. I therefore took the lead, and was so fortunate as
to discover an old track, soon after leaving our encampment, which
we followed until it brought us in sight of the Grand River--the
long looked-for object of our fast failing hopes. Tears of joy burst
from my eyes, as I beheld before me the wide expanse of the noble
stream: although covered with ice and divested of the beauties of
summer, it never appeared more lovely to me. We reached the post after
night-fall; opening the door cautiously, I threw in my snow-shoes,
then bolting in myself, was gratified with the sight of a table
garnished with the best things the country afforded, which my two
friends had prepared for their Christmas dinner; the sight, however,
was all that prudence allowed us for the present to enjoy, our long
abstinence rendering it necessary to confine ourselves, for a time, to
a very weak diet.

Next day I despatched a messenger to Fort Coulonge with the narrative
of my adventures; and as soon as my strength was sufficiently
recruited I set off again, accompanied by a _tête de boule_ as my
guide, who led us direct to the camp of the Indian I had so long been
in search of; where I had the mortification to learn, that on my first
attempt I had returned from within a day's journey of him, and that
if I had then succeeded in finding him, I should have secured the
whole of the valuable hunts of him and his people, which were now
in possession of the Iroquois traders. On my return to the post I
communicated my sentiments freely to Mr. S. in writing, regarding the
oversight that had led to consequences so injurious to the Company,
and went afterwards, at his own request, to talk over the matter
with him. It was now decided that I should go with a party of men to
establish a post against them, i.e. to shut the stable-door after
the steed was stolen. To accomplish this object supplies of every
kind must be hauled on sledges by the men, at an enormous expense,
and after all we could not furnish the means of competing with the
Iroquois with any prospect of advantage. I however lost no time in
executing the orders of my superior, and set off with as many men as
could be spared for the purpose.

On arriving at our destination, we built a temporary hut for our own
accommodation, and a small store for the goods; but I soon discovered
that the Iroquois had not only already secured all the Indians' furs,
but had so completely ingratiated themselves with them that we were
scarcely noticed. I remained two months in this wretched situation,
and, as Mr. S.'s instructions left me in some measure to the exercise
of my own judgment, I resolved on transferring the _honourable_ charge
to persons less sanguine than myself, and returned to my post, where
I knew my services could be turned to better account. In returning I
happened to fall in with a small band of Indians, who had not yet been
visited by the Iroquois, one of whom was the brother of the Algonquin
chief, who had been so severely chastised the preceding winter. At
his lodge I passed the night, and was not only treated with the usual
Indian hospitality, but received a very pressing invitation to return
with a supply of goods, which he promised to trade.

Such invitations are never neglected. The moment I arrived at my post
I laid aside the articles required by the Indians, and after one day's
rest, started, myself and two men, carrying everything on our backs.
It being late in the season, we encountered every possible difficulty
on our way: the small streams overflowed, and the ice was so bad
on the rivers as to preclude travelling on them. We were therefore
under the necessity of taking to the woods, through a horridly rugged
country, now ascending hills so steep that we could only scramble up
their sides by holding on by the branches and underwood, the descent
on the opposite side being equally difficult and laborious; now
forcing our way through deep ravines overgrown with underwood, all but
impervious; sinking to the ground at every step, and raising on our
snow-shoes a load of half-melted snow, which strained the tendons of
the legs and caused acute pain.

Early in the morning of the sixth day we arrived at the camp, but, to
our astonishment, neither heard the voice nor saw the form of a human
being, though there were infallible signs that the camp was inhabited.
It was the sugar season. I entered the great man's hut with a cautious
step, and found every soul in it fast asleep. I marked with surprise
the confusion that prevailed around,--sugar kettles upset, pots,
pans, wearing apparel, blankets, and other articles, scattered about
in every direction;--what could it mean? I awoke the chief, and
the mystery was solved. He appeared to be just recovering from the
effects of the night's debauch,--the Iroquois were in the camp. Mine
host "grinned horribly a ghastly smile" as he placed himself, rather
unsteadily, in a sitting posture in his bed, and in a hoarse tremulous
voice bade me welcome, at the same time rousing his better-half, who
appeared to be in the same _happy_ state as himself.

A clatter ensued that soon set the whole household in motion, and I
hastened to make the customary offering of a small keg of rum to the
chief, and another of shrub to the squaw, who immediately ordered a
young woman (the family drudge) to prepare my breakfast. Meanwhile the
chief, along with two of his relatives, amused himself quaffing his
nectar, which evidently began to have its usual effects, and from the
expressions I overheard, I could gather that he had neither forgotten
his brother's treatment last winter, nor forgiven me the part I had
acted on the occasion. I listened with affected indifference for a
time to the taunts he began to throw out, and at last, to get rid
of them, went to visit the other huts, where I found the Iroquois
preparing for their departure; they had several parcels of beaver,
which they took no pains to conceal from me, but there was still much
more remaining.

After seeing them depart I returned to my chief, who received me
with a volley of abuse, in which he was joined by his associates.
The women, who were sober, observing by my looks that I was getting
excited, requested me to withdraw. I did so, but was followed by the
chief to the next hut, which I quitted immediately; I found myself
still pursued by the same insufferable insolence. My philosophy being
unequal to so severe a trial, I turned upon my tormentor, and seizing
him by the throat, dashed him to the ground, and left him there
speechless. I then made for a hut a short distance apart from the
others, belonging to a _tête de boule_, where I remained in quietness
for about the space of fifteen minutes; when suddenly my Canadian came
rushing into the hut, his countenance betraying the utmost alarm, and
staring me wildly in the face, he stammered out, "Les sauvages! les
sauvages, monsieur, prennent leurs armes! Sauvons-nous! Sauvons-nous!"
The Iroquois, coming in the next instant, confirmed his report; but I
had, in fact, been flying the whole morning, and thought it now high
time to take my stand. My Iroquois appearing quite calm, I told him I
was determined not to stir from the spot, and asked if he would remain
with me.

"I came here for that purpose," said he, "and shall stand by you to
the last."

Our _tête de boule_ had two guns, which he loaded; Sabourin had his,
which he promised to use in his own defence: thus prepared, we awaited
the expected attack. The remainder of the day, however, passed without
molestation, and after night-fall, I sent out my trusty Iroquois to
reconnoitre; he soon returned with the welcome intelligence that the
Indians had all retired to rest. We did the same.

Next morning I went to the chief's lodge, and found him perfectly
sober; I saluted him according to custom, which he returned with a
scowl, repeating my words in a contemptuous manner; this exasperated
my yet excited feelings to the highest degree. I felt assured that
the fellow had invited me on purpose to insult me, if not for a worse
purpose; and, addressing him in language that plainly bespoke my
feelings, I immediately ordered my men to prepare for our departure.
He remained silent for a moment, and then whispered in his wife's ear;
she turned round to me, smiling, and asked if I had not brought the
goods, my men were packing up, to trade?

"Yes," I replied.

"Then," said she, "you must not be in such a hurry to go away."

The husband now spoke to me in a conciliatory tone, begging me to
place all that had happened to the account of the "fire-water," and
for heaven's sake not to acquaint his father with his conduct.

This I readily assented to; we entered upon business, and nearly all
the goods I had were exchanged for their full value in beaver. We
found the travelling much better on our return, the small streams
having subsided, and the snow so much diminished, that we could walk
without snow-shoes.



The Iroquois passed early in spring with eighteen Indian packs in
their canoes,--each pack might be estimated at 60l.,--our other
opponent started for Montreal about the same time as last year, and
I was ordered down to Fort Coulonge to take Mr. S.'s place for the
summer. He returned from Montreal about the end of August, and I was
much gratified to learn from him that I had been again appointed to
the charge of the Chats, so that all the merit or demerit of good or
bad management would now be entirely my own. A few days after, a
middle-sized canoe arrived, manned by three Canadians, with whom I
embarked for the scene of my first essay as an Indian trader.

On arriving at the post, I was surprised to find an old Canadian and
his _cara sposa_ in possession,--a circumstance of which I had had no
previous intimation. This worthy pair seemed determined to maintain
their position in defiance of me; and not wishing to employ violent
means to dispossess them if it could possibly be done otherwise, I
passed the night in the hall. Having, however, obtained possession of
the outworks, I was determined to carry the citadel; and, summoning
the contumacious occupants into my presence next morning, I demanded,
in a peremptory tone, the immediate surrender of the keys.

"Show me your authority," said he.

"If I do not show it, you shall feel it presently!"

Seeing that I ordered my men to put my threat into execution, Jean
Baptiste assumed a more humble attitude, and requested me, as a
favour, to permit him to remain in the kitchen until he could find a
passage to Montreal;--with this request I willingly complied.

My old opponent had still a post in this district, and I was directed
to send a party in opposition to him; which being done, I remained
quiet until the winter communication became practicable, when I
determined on paying a visit to my friends in the Fort Coulonge
district. The distance being short, and my object having no connexion
with the Company's interests, I set off on my pleasure jaunt alone.
I put up the first night at a sort of tavern just then opened by an
American at the upper end of the Chats' Lake, the only habitation at
that time in the quarter, whence I started at early dawn, expecting
to reach Fort Coulonge before night. The lumbermen having commenced
sledging their winter supplies, the road formed by these vehicles
presented a hard, smooth surface, on which I made good speed, as I had
nothing to encumber me, save my blanket and tomahawk.

Arriving at a long bend of the river about 2 P.M., I put on my
snow-shoes to cut across the point and meet the road again, flattering
myself that I should thus shorten the distance some two or three
miles. The weather being mild, and the sun overcast, I was as much at
a loss to find my way in the woods as if I had been blindfolded; I
nevertheless continued my onward course, and again came on the road. I
proceeded in high spirits for a considerable time, when I perceived a
man before me going in the same direction with myself; quickening my
pace I soon came up with him, and asked him if he was bound for the

"I guess I don't know of any fort in this part of the world," said he.

"What! not know of Fort Coulonge, and you so near to it? are you not
going there?"

"I have heard of such a place," said Jonathan; "but I'd take a
tarnation long time to get to it, I calculate, if I followed my nose
as it points now."

I told him who I was, whither bound, and where I slept last night.

"I guess then you had better sleep there again, for it is not quite
three miles off."

This was the result of making a short cut, and I resolved to follow
the long and sure road in future.

A shanty that had been recently occupied, afforded me comfortable
lodgings for the night, and I arrived at Fort Coulonge about noon
next day, where I passed the night, and started for the outpost.
Here I remained two days, and would have remained still longer, had
it not been discovered one morning that our opponents were off in
the direction of my outpost on the Bonne Chere. As the Indians in
that quarter were excellent hunters, and owed me much, I deemed it
advisable to follow them; my friends, too, sent an interpreter and
three men along with me, for the purpose of trading what they could on
account of their own post--_chacun pour soi_ being the order of the

We soon overtook our opponents, and I resolved, if possible, to give
them the slip by the way. Accordingly, when within a day's journey of
the establishment, I pretended to have sprained my foot so badly, that
I walked with the greatest seeming difficulty. My men, who were aware
of the ruse, requested me to place my bundle on their sledges, to
enable me to keep up with them. This farce commenced in the evening.
Next morning my leg was worse than ever, until we came on the river at
about ten miles' distance from the post. I was delighted to find but
little snow upon the ice, so that I had a fair opportunity of putting
the metal of my legs to the test, and the opposition party having
sledges heavily laden, I walked hard, my foot on a sudden becoming
perfectly sound, in order to tire them as much as possible before I
bolted. Having apparently effected my purpose, I set off at the top of
my speed, and never looked behind me until I had cleared the first
long reach, when turning round, I saw a man in pursuit about half-way
across; I started again, and saw no more of my pursuer.

On arriving at the post I was gratified to learn that the Indians,
whom I was so anxious about, had been in a few days previously, while
our opponents were off in another direction; so that they had been
seen by none save our own people. Finding two men at home, I proceeded
with them to the Indian camp, and arrived at dawn of day. I met with a
very friendly reception, and had the good fortune to prevail upon the
Indians to deliver me their furs upon the spot, which formed a very
heavy load for both myself and men. We met our opponents in returning;
but though they had ocular proof of my success, they nevertheless went
on to the camp.

Having arrived at the post, I found some Indians there all
intoxicated; I was also mortified to find the person in charge in the
same state. I immediately displaced him, and made over the charge,
_pro tempore_, to one of the men. The conduct of my worthless deputy
hurt me so much that I could not remain another night under the same
roof with him. I therefore set off on my return to the Chats, although
already late in the afternoon, expecting to reach the first shanty in
the early part of the night.

The Bonne Chere river is very rapid in the upper part, and does not
"set fast"[1] until late in the season, unless the cold be very intense.
I arrived at this part soon after night-fall, and perceiving by the
clear light of the moon the dangers in my way, I deemed it imprudent
to proceed farther; and having nothing to strike fire with, I cut a
few branches of balsam and strewed them under the spreading boughs of
a large cedar, and wrapping myself up in my blanket, lay down. The
weather being mild, I thought I could sleep comfortably without fire;
but was mistaken. When I awoke from my first sleep, which must have
been sound, I found my limbs stiff with cold, while my teeth chattered
violently in my head. To remain in this condition till daylight was
almost certain death; I resolved, therefore, at all hazards to find my
way to the shanty, which might be about ten miles distant. The light
of the moon being very bright, enabled me to avoid the openings in the
ice, and by moving on cautiously, about three o'clock in the morning I
reached the shanty; which belonged to a warm-hearted son of Erin, who
received me with the characteristic hospitality of his countrymen,
placing before me the best his cabin afforded, and with his own
blankets and those of his men making up a comfortable bed, on which I
slept till late in the day, and next night in my own bed.

    [1] Freeze.

As the greater part of my customers wintered in the vicinity of the
outpost, and I had no longer any confidence in the person in charge
there, I resolved on passing the remainder of the winter at it myself;
I therefore requested that a person should be sent up from the Lake of
Two Mountains to take care of the establishment during my absence. On
the arrival of this person, I proceeded to the outpost, but shall pass
over the transactions that occurred there, being similar in all
respects to those already narrated. One circumstance, however,
occurred, which, though not in my vocation, I think worthy of notice.

Two itinerant missionaries called at the Lake of Two Mountains and
distributed a number of religious tracts among the natives, together
with a few copies of the Gospel according to St. John, in the Indian
language. My Algonquin interpreter happened to get one of the latter,
and took much pleasure in reading it. Towards the latter end of the
season I received a packet from my superior at the Lake, and, to my
surprise, found in it a letter with the seal of the Church affixed,
addressed to my interpreter, which I put into his hands, and observed
him perusing very attentively. Soon after he called me aside, and told
me that the letter in question conveyed a peremptory command from the
priest to destroy the bad book he had in his possession, or else his
child that died in autumn would be denied the rites of Christian

We are told that the age of bigotry is past: facts like this prove the
contrary. I asked him if he intended to obey the commands of his
ghostly father. "Not exactly," said he; "I shall send the book to him,
and let him do with it what he pleases; for my part, I have read it
over and over again, and find it all good, very good; why the 'black
coat' should call it bad is a mystery to me."



Early in spring I returned to the Chats, and after the close of
the trade took my departure for Montreal, having finished my
apprenticeship. I renewed my contract for three years, and was
appointed to the charge of Lac de Sable, a post situated on a
tributary of the Ottawa, called _Rivière aux Lièvres_, two hundred
miles distant from Montreal.

I embarked on the 15th August, 1826, and arrived at the post on
the 1st September; where I was gratified to find a comfortable
dwelling-house, and a large farm with pigs, poultry, and cattle in
abundance. All this was very well, but there was also a powerful
opposition, and I had experience enough to know that the enjoyment of
any kind of comfort is incompatible with the life we lead in

The difficulties of my situation, moreover, were from various
causes extremely perplexing. The old North-West agents, acting for
the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada, had declared a bankruptcy the
preceding winter; the principal manager having quitted the country
rather precipitately, as was supposed, and forgotten to appoint a
successor; the management devolved in consequence upon the head
accountant, Mr. C----e, who, however well he might be qualified
for the duties of the situation, felt the responsibility of acting
without authority to be too great, and confined himself accordingly
to such measures only as he was confident would subject him to no
inconvenience when the day of reckoning arrived. Meantime the business
of this department sustained a serious check; the old hands of the
post, having been tampered with by the opposition in the course
of last winter, quitted the service to a man, and I now found the
establishment to consist of a clerk, interpreter, and one man only.
I was given to understand that three men additional would join me as
soon as they could, and that I must not expect any more; thus our
number would be seven against twenty-two.

A disparity so vast precluded all hopes of maintaining the contest
with advantage to the Company or credit to myself. Fortune, however,
declared in our favour; dissensions arose in the ranks of our
opponents, clerks and men deserted, supplies for trade ran short, and
from being the weaker party we were now the stronger.

Governor Simpson having taken up his residence at La Chine in autumn,
men and goods were furnished in abundance, and the petty traders were
made to see, ere the winter passed, the futility of entering the lists
in competition with a Company possessing so vast resources.

Mr. MacD----l having wintered two years at this post, and being
consequently well acquainted with the natives, I entrusted the
direction of affairs against the opposition entirely to him, and
remained quietly at home, having only the few Indians that wintered in
the neighbourhood of the post to attend to; my situation, however, was
often far from agreeable, being frequently reduced to the company of
my pigs and poultry for weeks together, and obliged to act as trader,
cook, hewer of wood, and drawer of water.

In the course of the winter I was favoured with a visit from Mr.
F----r, to whose district this post had just been annexed, and had the
gratification to receive, through him, a letter from Governor Simpson,
conveying, in very flattering terms, his approbation of my conduct.
I was told that I was in the direct road to preferment--that my
merits should be represented to the Council on his arrival in the
interior--and that he should be happy to have an opportunity of
recommending me to the Governor and Committee, when he returned to
England. We shall see, in the sequel, how these promises were

I embarked, on the 15th June, 1827, for Montreal, and found Mr.
K----h, a chief factor in the service, at the head of affairs; and my
outfit being prepared in a few days, I re-embarked, taking my passage,
as formerly, on board of a large canoe, deeply laden. The last rapid
and portage on the Rivière aux Lièvres is within eight miles of the
establishment, and generally takes the men a day to pass it. Arriving
at this place late in the evening, I resolved on going on a-foot;
it being fine moonlight, I felt confident of finding my way without
difficulty. The weather having been immoderately hot for some time
past, I had sat in the canoe divested of my upper garments, and
thought I might, without inconvenience, dispense with them now, as I
expected to reach the house ere the night air could prove injurious to

Setting off, therefore, in "light marching order," I immediately
gained the high grounds, in order to keep clear of the underwood that
covers the banks of the river; and just as the moon appeared above the
surrounding hills, arrived on the banks of a small stream, where I
observed a portage path sunk deep in the ground, a circumstance which
proved it to be much frequented--by whom or for what purpose I could
not say, for I had seldom passed the limits of my farm during last
winter, and was nearly as ignorant of the topography of the environs
as the first day I arrived. I had not heard of the existence of a
river in the quarter, nor did I imagine there was any; the conclusion
I arrived at therefore was, that I had lost my way, and that my most
eligible course was, to endeavour to find the main stream, and by
following it, retrace my course to the portage.

I soon fell on the river, but my retrograde march proved exceedingly
toilsome; at every step I was obliged to bend the branches of the
underwood to one side and another, or pressing them down under my
feet, force my way through by main strength: some short spaces indeed
intervened, that admitted of an easier passage; still my progress was
so slow that the sun appeared before I reached the upper end of the
portage. Finding an old canoe here, belonging to the post, I resolved
on crossing to the opposite side of the river, where I knew there was
a path that led to the house, by which the Indians often passed when
travelling in small canoes. I accordingly ran to the lower end of the
portage for a paddle, where I found my men still asleep; and having
heard that the lower end of this path came out exactly opposite to the
upper end of the portage, I struck out into the woods the moment I
landed, fancying that I could not fail to discover it.

The sun got higher and higher as I proceeded, and I went faster and
yet faster, to no purpose;--no path appeared; and I at length became
convinced that I was lost--being equally in difficulty to find my way
back to the river as forward to the post.

The weather was very sultry; and such had been the drought of the
season that all the small creeks were dried up, so that I could
nowhere procure a drop of water to moisten my parched lips. The
sensations occasioned by thirst are so much more painful than those we
feel from hunger, that although I had eaten but little the preceding
day, and nothing on that day, I never thought of food. While my inner
man was thus tortured by thirst, my outer man scarcely suffered less
from another cause. The country through which I passed being of a
marshy nature, I was incessantly tormented by the venomous flies that
abound in such situations,--my shirt, and only other habiliment,
having sustained so much damage in my nocturnal expedition, that the
insects had free access _partout_.[1]

    [1] There are three different kinds of these tormenting
    insects, viz. the mosquito, the black-fly, and the gnat--the
    latter the same as the midge in N. Britain--who relieve each
    other regularly in the work of torture. The mosquitoes
    continue at their post from dawn to eight or nine o'clock,
    A.M.; the black-flies succeed, and remain in the field till
    near sunset; the mosquitoes again mount guard till dark, and
    are finally succeeded by the gnats, who continue their watch
    and incessant attacks till near sunrise.

I came to the foot of a high hill about two o'clock P.M., which I
ascended, and got a very good view of the surrounding country from its
summit; hills and lakes appeared in every direction; but the sight
of these objects only served to impress my mind with the conviction,
that, unless Providence should direct my steps to the establishment,
the game was up with me. Having descended, I sauntered about the
remainder of the day, my ideas becoming more and more bewildered,
and my strength declining; and passed the night sometimes sitting,
sometimes standing, sometimes moving about;--but sitting, standing, or
moving about, subjected to the same tortures.

I endeavoured during the night to compose my mind as much as possible;
some happy thought might perchance suggest itself, which might lead to
my deliverance. Nor were my efforts without some success: I called to
mind the position of the post with respect to the rising and setting
sun; another circumstance of importance also recurred to me.

A Canadian hunter, who received his supplies at my post, had told me
that such Indians as did not wish to pay their debts at the post,
frequently passed unperceived by a chain of small lakes that ran
parallel to the river, and extended from Lac de Sable to somewhere
near the rapid, whence I had taken my departure. I recollected, too,
his having mentioned that some Indian families occasionally made sugar
on the borders of these lakes, and that a good path lay from their
camp to the post. Having passed the night in a deep valley, the sun
did not appear until late in the morning, when I shaped my course,
to the best of my judgment, for the post. Two or three hours' walk
brought me to the foot of a high hill, nearly destitute of wood on one
side; and expecting that some discovery might be made from the top
which might be of use to me, I resolved on attempting the ascent--an
undertaking of no small difficulty in my enfeebled state. I succeeded
in gaining the top, and to my unspeakable joy, perceived a chain of
lakes within about two miles of me, exactly corresponding to the
description given me by the Canadian hunter. I also heard the reports
of guns, but so indistinctly that I could not determine the direction
the report came from. Noting with the utmost care the course that
would lead me to the lakes, I descended the steep declivity with a
degree of speed that surprised myself,--such is the powerful influence
the mind exercises over the body.

I expected an hour's walk would bring me to the lakes, but the sun
being in the zenith, and my way lying through a dense forest of pine,
I could not keep a straight course. I proceeded onward, however, as
well as _reason_ could direct me, and most willingly would I have
exchanged a little of that _faculty_ for the _instinct_ that leads the
brute creation with unerring certainty through the pathless depths of
the forest.

The sun was rapidly declining, and my hopes with it, when suddenly I
fancied I heard the murmuring sound of running water. Could it be
really so? What a delightful feast I should have! for I had passed the
day, like the preceding, without a drop of water to allay my raging
thirst. I listened; the sound became more distinct--it was no
illusion. I quickened my pace, and soon came upon a charming rivulet,
flowing rapidly over a bed of white pebbles, its water clear as
crystal. I rushed into the midst of it, and fervently thanking the
Giver of all good, threw myself on my knees, and drank draught
after draught till my thirst was quenched. I felt refreshed to an
extraordinary degree, and concluding that the stream would lead me
to the river, or to some lake communicating with it, I followed its
course, wading in the water that there might be "no mistake," and soon
came out on the border of a small lake, where I had the additional
satisfaction of hearing the report of guns so distinctly as to
convince me that the party firing them could be at no great distance.
I walked round the lake, and at its far end fell on a portage path
that soon conducted me to another lake. This, then, must be the chain
of lakes I was in search of! I was transported at the thought.

But an incident soon occurred that served to damp at once my spirits
and my person: a distant peal of thunder was heard; peal after peal
succeeded; the heavens were obscured, and heavy drops of rain, the
harbingers of an approaching storm, fell from the dark clouds. I
strained every nerve to reach the firing party ere the storm should
burst upon me. I reached the foot of the hill, but the firing had
ceased. I nevertheless ascended as quickly as my wearied limbs would
carry me, but on reaching the spot found no one there.

The storm now burst upon me in all its fury. Flash followed flash in
quick succession, and the rain fell in torrents, which, however, as
the few clothes that still adhered to my person were already saturated
by the previous rain, caused me but little additional inconvenience.
I descended to the lake, and by the time I reached the far end of it
the darkness had increased so much, that I could proceed no farther.
Perceiving an old encampment--a few half-decayed branches of balsam,
at the foot of a large hemlock--I took up my quarters there for the
night. The tufted branches of this tree render it a much more secure
retreat in a thunder-storm than the pine, whose pointed branches and
spiral shaped top frequently attract the electric fluid.

Towards morning the storm seemed to have expended its fury; and,
strange to say, in the midst of it I enjoyed two or three hours'
sleep. Nature had been so exhausted by protracted sufferings, that
(though the flies were driven to their covert) I believe I could have
slept upon a bed of thorns, covered with gnats and mosquitoes. As soon
as it was sufficiently clear to enable me to find my way, I quitted
my hemlock and fell on the portage path, which soon led me to another
small lake, and which I proceeded to circumambulate as usual, keeping
a sharp look-out for the path that led to the post; when suddenly the
report of a gun burst from an adjoining hill. At the same instant, I
observed a net pole standing in the water at the bottom of a small
bay close by, and directed my steps towards it; when on approaching
it I discovered a broad path ascending from the water's edge, and
immediately after the buildings of a sugar camp.

Allowing the party on the hill to blaze away, I followed the
path, and in less than half-an-hour came out upon the Rivière aux
Lièvres, immediately opposite the house. I perceived the men of the
establishment, with some Indians, all in a bustle; some preparing to
embark in a canoe, others firing. I sat down to gaze for a moment on
the most interesting scene I had ever witnessed, and then gave a loud
cry, which it was evident nobody heard, although the river is not more
than a stone-cast across. I made a second effort with better success.
The Indians raised a shout of triumph; the men hallooed,

"Le voilà! le voilà! Je le vois! Je le vois à l'autre bord! Embarquez!

A few minutes more, and I found myself restored to at best a prolonged
life of misery and exile. Let it not be inferred from this expression
that I felt ungrateful for my deliverance; on the contrary, my escape
from a death so lingering and terrible made a deep impression upon my
mind. I afterwards gave a holiday to my men in remembrance of it, and
made them all happy for one day.



Nothing occurred this year out of the usual routine, save an accident
that happened to myself, and had nearly proved fatal. A couple of
hounds had been presented to me by a friend, for the purpose of
hunting the deer that abounded in the neighbourhood. The dogs having
one day broken loose from the leash, betook themselves to the hills;
and the first intimation we had of their being at liberty, was the
sound of their voices in full cry on an adjacent hill. I instantly
seized my gun, and following a beaten track that led to a small lake
at the base of the hill, I perceived a deer swimming towards an island
in the middle of the lake, and only a little beyond the range of
gun-shot. An old fishing-canoe happening to be at hand, I immediately
launched it, and gave chase, without examining the condition it was
in. I proceeded but a short distance, however, when I perceived that
it leaked very much. I continued, nevertheless, to paddle, till I got
nearly half-way across to the island; but by this time the quantity of
water in the canoe had increased so much, that my ardour for the chase
began to give way to anxiety for my own safety. I perceived a large
hole in the stern of the canoe, now almost level with the surface of
the lake, through which the water gushed with every stroke of the
paddle. The fore-part appearing free from injury, I immediately
inverted my position,--a movement necessarily effected with much
difficulty in so small a craft; and having thus placed myself, the
stern was consequently raised a little higher. I then paddled gently
towards a long point projecting from the mainland, much nearer me than
the island; and although I used the utmost caution in paddling, the
canoe sunk under me some distance from the shore. The lake, however,
was fortunately shallow at this place, so that I soon found bottom.
Had there been the least ripple on the water, I could not have
escaped; but the weather was perfectly calm, and the lake smooth as

In the early part of next winter, I went again in pursuit of the
deer; and although I incurred no great risk of losing my life, I yet
experienced such inconveniences as seldom fall to the lot of amateur
hunters in other parts of the world. I left the house early in the
morning, and, starting a deer close by, gave chase, following the
track over hill and dale, until I reached a high ridge bordering on
Lac de Sable. Here the deer slackened his pace, and appeared, by his
track, to have descended slowly into a valley, where he remained until
I started him a second time. I still continued the pursuit, without
thinking of time or distance from the establishment. At length the
night evidently began to close, and I felt faint and exhausted from
want of food, and the exertions I had made during the day. I therefore
gave up the chase; but to retrace my steps by the devious path by
which I had pursued the deer, would have occupied the greater part of
the night; I therefore resolved on returning by a more direct course;
but the upshot was, that, after wandering about for some time, and
repeatedly falling on my own tracks, I passed the night in the woods.
Although nearly overcome with fatigue, I durst not think of lying
down, well knowing what the consequence would be; I therefore walked
backwards and forwards, on a beaten track, the whole night; and next
morning adopted the sure course of finding my way by my tracks of the
preceding day. Meeting an Indian by the way, who had been sent in
search of me, he led me by a short cut, and we arrived at the house
about two o'clock, P.M.

In the autumn of 1829, another opponent entered the lists against
us,--an enterprising Canadian, who had been for a long time in the
Company's service. This adventurer proceeded some distance inland,
and I need scarcely say that a party was sent to keep him company.
Understanding that the new competitor gave our people more trouble
than had been anticipated, I determined on taking an active part in
the game; and as I had only two men with me at Lac de Sable, whose
services were required there, I set off alone, intending to take with
me an Indian who had an encampment by the way, as I was unacquainted
with the route. I slept at the Indian's wigwam, who readily
accompanied me next morning; but the weather being intolerably cold,
the poor fellow got both his ears frozen, _et aliud quidquam
præterea_, in crossing a large lake not far from his camp. The moment
he perceived his mishap, he assailed me in the most abusive terms, and
swore that he would accompany me no farther; which, being conscious
that I was partly the cause of his misfortune, I bore with as much
equanimity as I could; and arriving at the opposite side of the lake,
we kindled a fire, and I proceeded to treat his case according to the
usual practice; that is, rubbing the part affected with snow, or
bathing it with cold water until it is thawed, and the circulation
restored. Having happily succeeded, I forthwith dismissed him, and
determined to find my way alone; and having a tolerable idea of the
direction in which I should go, and the weather being clear, I
entertained no doubt of falling somewhere on the river whereon the
post is situated. I came upon it, as it seemed to me, a considerable
distance below the establishment, just as the sun was setting.

Having travelled in deep snow the whole day, I felt so much fatigued
that I could scarcely exert myself sufficiently to keep my body warm,
the cold being intense. I walked as briskly as my diminished strength
would allow; but at length became so weak, that I was obliged to lay
myself down at short intervals. In this wretched state,--my limbs
benumbed with cold, and thinking I should never see daylight,--I
suddenly came upon a hard beaten path: this inspired me with new
vigour, as it indicated the close vicinity of a shanty. I soon
discovered the desired haven, and crawling up the steep bank that led
to it, I knocked at the door with my snow-shoes, and was immediately

The noise I made roused the inmates, who had been sound asleep; and
who, seeing my helpless condition, exerted themselves in every
possible way to relieve me. I was nearly in the last stage of
exhaustion, being unable to take off my snow-shoes, or even articulate
a word. One of these noble woodsmen guided me next day to the post;
when, as a small mark of gratitude for his generous kindness, I
presented him and his companions with what is always acceptable to a
shanty-man, a liberal allowance of the "crathur," to enjoy themselves

If it be asked why I did not make a fire, when I had the necessary
apparatus; I answer, that I had but a very small axe, quite unfit for
felling so large timber as grew on the banks of this river; and I was,
besides, so benumbed and exhausted as to be unequal to the task even
of lighting a fire.

Sometime after my return from Montreal in the autumn of 1830, I went
to pay a visit to one of my customers whose lands were at a
considerable distance. I was accompanied by one man in a small canoe;
and as it was necessary that one of us should carry the canoe over the
portages, and the other the property, I chose the former, being the
lightest though by far the most inconvenient load. I found it very
oppressive at first, but use rendered it more easy. This was the first
time I carried a canoe.

On our return from the Indian's camp we met with rather a disagreeable
accident, while ascending a small and very rapid river. In pushing
forward the canoe against the stream, my pole happened to glance off a
stone, and the canoe swinging round came in contact with the trunk of
a tree projecting from the bank, and we, or at least I, was upset in
an instant. Fortunately the current, though strong, was smooth and
free from whirlpools; so that, after swimming down a short distance
in search of a landing-place, I rejoined my companion, whom I found
standing on the bank perfectly dry. On inquiring of him how he
happened to avoid a ducking, he told me he sprang ashore while I was
attempting to parry off the tree; doubtless his having done so was in
a great measure the cause of the accident. He, however, acted a very
prudent part after landing, having caught hold of the canoe in the act
of upsetting, and thus preserved the goods from being lost or damaged.

In the course of this year, the Iroquois and Algonquins were nearly
coming to blows on account of the hunting-grounds. This quarrel
originated from a speech which Colonel McKay, then at the head of the
Indian department, had addressed to the Iroquois, in which, making use
of the metaphorical language of the people, he observed that Indians
of all tribes ought to live together in the utmost concord and amity,
seeing they inhabited the same villages, "and ate out of the same
dish." This the Iroquois interpreted in a way more suitable to their
own wishes than consistent with its real meaning. "Our father," said
they, "tells us we eat out of the same dish with the Algonquins;--he
means that we have an equal right to the hunting-grounds." They
proceeded, accordingly, to avail themselves of the supposed privilege.
The consequence was a very violent quarrel, in which Government was
ultimately obliged to interfere.

The Indians informed us, this spring, of a dreadful murder that had
been committed in the early part of the winter by some of the natives
of Hudson's Bay. The particulars of this tale of blood I since learned
from an individual that escaped from the massacre. The Indians
attached to the posts established along the shores of Hudson's Bay are
comparatively civilized; most of them speak English, and are employed
as voyageurs by the Company. Few or no precautions are taken at these
posts to guard against treachery; the gates are seldom shut, and some
of the posts are destitute of palisades or defence of any kind. Of
this description was the post where the catastrophe occurred which I
am about to relate.

The post of Hannah Bay is situated about sixty miles to the north
of Moose Factory, and was at this time under the charge of a Mr.
Corrigal. His establishment consisted of two or three half-breeds, and
an Indian who had been brought up by the whites. He and some of the
men had families. In the course of the winter five Indians came in
with their "hunts," and agreeably to their usual practice encamped
close by. Those Indians are designated "Home Guards,"--a term
generally applied to the Indians attached to a trading post; they hunt
in winter at a convenient distance from the post, and are employed in
summer as voyageurs, or in performing any other necessary duty.
Notwithstanding their thus being frequently in company with white men
and Christians, they still retain many of the barbarous habits, and
much of the superstitious belief of their forefathers, aggravated, I
regret to say, by some of the vices of the whites.

Among the number of those just mentioned was an individual who had
acquired considerable influence among his tribe, from his pretending
to be skilled in the art of divination. This man told his fellows that
he had had a communication from the Great Spirit, who assured him that
he would become the greatest man in Hudson's Bay if he only followed
the course prescribed to him, which was, first, to cut off their own
trading post, and then with the spoil got there to hire other Indians,
who should assist in destroying all the other posts the Company
possessed in the country. Accordingly, it was determined to carry
their design into execution, whenever a favourable opportunity
occurred. This was not long in presenting itself. They came one day to
the establishment, and told the people that the "man of medicine" had
come for the purpose of performing some extraordinary feat that would
astonish them all. The silly creatures believed the story, and went to
the borders of the lake, where they observed the sorcerer showing off
a variety of antics very much to their amusement. The conspirators,
seeing this part of the stratagem succeed, rushed into the house, and
immediately despatched Mr. Corrigal and his family. The men, hearing
the report of the guns, hastened back towards the house. The two that
first arrived were saluted by a volley of balls; the one fell dead,
the other fled. The third, seeing what had happened, seized his
youngest child, and also fled. The murderers pursued. The poor fellow,
encumbered by the weight of his child, necessarily fell behind. A ball
from the pursuers killed the child, and wounded him in the hand.
Dropping, then, the lifeless body, he soon came up with his fellow,
and both escaped without further injury.

It was about noon when they began their flight. One of them reached
Moose Factory next day about noon, the other soon after. The
distance--nearly sixty miles--travelled in so short a space of time,
may appear incredible; but fear gave them wings, they fled for their
lives and never halted. One of them, my informant, lost all the toes
of one of his feet by the frost.

Measures were immediately adopted to frustrate the further diabolical
designs of the Indians, as well as to avenge the innocent blood that
had been shed. Messengers were despatched with all possible haste to
Rupert's house, the nearest post, to give the alarm, and a party of
men, under an efficient leader, was sent to seize the murderers. This
expedition, however, proved unsuccessful, as the Indians could not be
found in that direction; but, in the meantime, two of them who had
come to Rupert's house to "spy the land," were seized and sent bound
to Moose Factory, and one of them was compelled to act as guide to
another party. Led by him, they approached the camp without being
perceived, and found the "man of medicine" sitting very composedly in
his tent, surrounded by the spoils he had taken from the fort. He was
secured, and the rest of his associates, who were absent hunting, were
soon "tracked," and secured likewise. They then all underwent the
punishment they deserved.

The fort presented a horrible spectacle. Men, women, and children
shared the same fate, and the mangled limbs of their victims were
scattered among the articles of property which the wretches, not being
able to carry off with them, had attempted to destroy.



Finding that my presence was more wanted at the outpost than
elsewhere, I resolved on taking up my residence there for the winter
1831-32. Our active opponent gave us much annoyance, causing great
expense to the Company, without any benefit to himself; on the
contrary, it ultimately ruined him.

While accompanying our party on a trading excursion in the beginning
of winter, I had a very narrow escape. We were travelling on the
Gatineau, a very rapid stream that joins the Ottawa, a little below
Hull. A young lad, interpreter to the opposition, and I, had one
morning gone considerably in advance of the others, walking smartly
to keep ourselves warm, when I suddenly broke through the ice. The
current here running strong, I should soon have been swept under the
ice, had I not, by extending my arms upon it on either side of me,
kept my head above water. At the hazard of his own life, my companion
came to my assistance; but the ice was too weak to admit of his
approaching sufficiently near to reach me his hand; he therefore cut a
long pole, and tying his belt to it, threw it to me; and laying hold
of it, I dragged myself on the sound ice. But the danger was not yet
over; the weather was intensely cold, so that my clothes were soon
frozen solid upon me, and having no means of lighting a fire, I ran
into the woods; and in order to keep my body from being frozen into
the same mass with my clothes, continued running up and down with all
my might, till the rest of the party arrived.

I had a still more narrow escape in the month of March ensuing. I had
been on a visit to the post under my own immediate charge, termed
head-quarters _par excellence_; returning to the post alone, I came to
a place where our men, in order to avoid a long detour occasioned by a
high and steep hill coming close to the river, were accustomed to draw
their sledges upon the ice along the edge of a rapid. About the middle
of the rapid, where the torrent is fiercest, the banks of the river
are formed of rocks rising almost perpendicularly from the water's
edge; and here they had to pass on a narrow ledge of ice, between the
rock on the one side, and the foaming and boiling surge on the other.
The ledge, at no time very broad, was now reduced, by the falling in
of the water, to a strip of ice of about eighteen inches, or little
more, adhering to the rock. The ice, however, seemed perfectly solid,
and I made no doubt that, with caution, I should succeed in passing
safely this formidable strait.

The weather having been very mild in the fore-part of the day, my
shoes and socks had been saturated with wet, but were now frozen hard
by the cold of the approaching night. Overlooking this circumstance,
I attempted the dangerous passage; and had proceeded about halfway,
when my foot slipped, and I suddenly found myself resting with one hip
on the border of ice, while the rest of my body overhung the rapid
rushing fearfully underneath. I was now literally in a state of
agonizing suspense: to regain my footing was impossible; even the
attempt to move might precipitate me into the rapid.

My first thought indeed was to throw myself in, and endeavour by
swimming to reach the solid ice that bridged the river a short
distance below; a glance at the torrent convinced me that this was a
measure too desperate to be attempted;--I should have been dashed
against the ice, or hurried beneath it by the current. But my time was
not yet come. Within a few feet of the spot where I was thus suspended
_in sublimis_, the rock projected a little outward, so as to break
the force of the current. It struck me that a new border of ice
might be formed at this place, under and parallel to that on which
I was perched; exploring cautiously, therefore, with a stick which
I fortunately had in my hand, all along and beneath me, I found my
conjecture well founded; but whether the ice were strong enough
to bear me, I could not ascertain. But it was my only hope of
deliverance; letting myself down therefore gently, I planted my feet
on the lower ledge, and clinging with the tenacity of a shell-fish to
the upper, I crept slowly along till I reached land.

This autumn, I had the satisfaction of seeing all my opponents quit
the field, some of whom had maintained a long and obstinate struggle;
yet, although I had reason to congratulate myself on their departure,
as it promised me relief from the painfully toilsome life I had led,
I must do one of the parties, at least, the justice to say, that, in
different circumstances, I should have beheld their departure with
regret. Dey and McGillivray carried on the contest longer than the
others, and did so without showing any of that rancorous feeling which
the other petty traders manifested towards the Company. MacGillivray
and myself, when travelling together, often shared the same blanket,
and the same kettle; and found, that while this friendly feeling was
mutually advantageous to ourselves, it did not in any way compromise
the interests of our employers. I parted from him, wishing him every
success in _any other_ line of business he might engage in.

After the removal of my competitors, I found the time to hang heavily
on my hands; and the ease I had so often sighed for, I now could
scarcely endure; but I was not allowed long time to sigh for a change.
On the 5th of April an Iroquois came up from Montreal with a packet
conveying orders to me to proceed forthwith to Lachine, whence I
should embark by the opening of the navigation for the northern
department. I was alone at the post when these unexpected orders came
to hand, all the men being absent at the outpost; and as it behoved me
to use the utmost diligence in order to get away ere winter travelling
should break up, leaving an old squaw in charge, I set out for the
outpost in quest of Mr. Cameron, who was appointed my successor; and
on the 7th of April took my departure.

On arriving at the Grand River, I found travelling on the ice to
be attended with great danger, and several accidents had already
happened; but I had the good fortune to reach Grenville at the head
of the Long Sault in safety; here, however, my farther progress was
arrested for a fortnight, the roads being impassable. I arrived at
Lachine in the end of April, and after handing in the documents
relative to my late charge, Mr. K---- toldme I was at liberty to spend
the intervening time until the embarkation, where and how I pleased.
Gratified by this indulgence, I was about to frame a speech expressive
of my gratitude, when he continued,--"for, Sir, you are to understand
we do not keep a boarding-house here." This stopped my mouth, and I
reserved my thanks for a future occasion; for I could not but feel,
that being an officer of the Company, it was robbing me of a part of
my pay under the pretext of an indulgence. Availing myself, however,
of this ungenerous grant of freedom, I spent some halcyon days in the
company of relatives most dear to me, and expected no interruption to
my enjoyment until the time appointed for the embarkation: but a few
days after I had joined my relatives in the vicinity of Montreal, I
received a letter, commanding me, in the most peremptory manner, to
repair to Lachine,--"circumstances not foreseen at my arrival from the
interior required my departure without further delay." I accompanied
the bearer of Mr. K----'s letter, and found, on arriving at Lachine,
that I had been appointed to conduct some of Captain Back's party, who
proved rather troublesome to him at Montreal, to the Chats, and there
to await my passage to the north by the Brigade.

I had now served the Hudson's Bay Company faithfully and zealously
for a period of twelve years, leading a life of hardship and toil,
of which no idea can be formed except by those whose hard lot it may
be to know it by experience. How enthusiastically I had laboured for
them, may be better gathered from the foregoing narrative than from
any statement I could here make. And what was my reward? I had no
sooner succeeded in freeing my district from opposition, than I was
ordered to resign my situation to another, who would enjoy the fruits
of my labour:--when I arrived at the Company's head-quarters to take
my departure for a remote district, I was ordered to provide for
myself until I embarked; and when enjoying myself in the bosom of my
family, to suit the convenience of one of their correspondents, I was
torn away from them prematurely, and without warning,--treatment,
which caused one of them so severe a shock as nearly to prove fatal!

Before I take leave of the Montreal department, it may be well to
allude more particularly to the manners and customs of the natives.
The mode of life the Algonquins lead, while at their village, has been
already touched upon; within these few years a great change has taken
place, not in their morals, but in their circumstances. The southern
and western parts of their hunting-grounds are now nearly all
possessed by the white man, whose encroachments extend farther and
farther every year. Beaver meadows are now to be found in place of
beaver dams; and rivers are crossed on bridges formed by the hand of
man, where the labours of the beaver afforded a passage for the roving
Indian and hunter only a few years before.

Happy change, it may be said; but so say not the Indians; the days
of happiness are gone for them, at least for those of the present
generation; though I have no doubt that their posterity may, in course
of time, become reconciled to, and adopt those habits of life which
their altered circumstances may require. A few have done so already,
but many of them still remain on the most remote parts of their lauds,
having no longer the means of enjoying themselves at their village, or
of satisfying the avarice of priests and traders. Here they pursue,
without restraint or interruption, the mode of life most congenial to
their habits.

I have already observed, that I could discover but little difference
between the (so called) Christian Indians, and their unbaptized
countrymen, when beyond the surveillance of their priests. They
practise all the superstitious rites of their forefathers, and place
implicit confidence in the power of magic, although they admit that
the same results cannot be obtained now, as formerly, in consequence,
as they say, "of the Cross having come in contact with the Medicine."
They have their genii of lakes, rivers, mountains, and forests, to
whom they offer sacrifice. I was present at the sacrifice of a
beaver, made by an Algonquin to his familiar, or "totem," in order
to propitiate him, because he had been unsuccessful in hunting.
The beaver was roasted without being skinned, the fur only being
appropriated to the spirit, whilst the flesh afforded a luxurious
feast to the sacrificer; and in this part of the ceremony I willingly

When any of them is taken ill, the indisposition is ascribed to the
effects of "bad medicine;" and the person is mentioned whom they
suspect of having laid the disease upon them. Many violent deeds are
committed to revenge these supposed injuries. An Algonquin, who had
lost a child, blamed a _tête de boule_, who was domiciled at Lac de
Sable, for his death. The ensuing spring the _tête de boule_ took a
fancy to visit the Lake of Two Mountains, and set off in company with
the Algonquins.

On arrival of the party at the Grand River, he who had lost his child
invited the _tête de boule_ to his tent, and entertained him in the
most friendly manner for a time, then suddenly drawing his knife, he
plunged it into the side of his unsuspecting guest. The poor wretch
fled, and concealed himself in a pig-sty, where his groans soon
discovered him to the Algonquin, who, again seizing him, thrust his
knife into his throat, and did not withdraw it until he ceased to

"Now," exclaimed his murderer, "I am avenged for the death of my
child. You wanted to go to the Lake to be baptized, and here I have
baptized you in your own blood."

Many other instances might be adduced to prove that the savage
disposition of these Indians has not been greatly ameliorated by their
profession of Christianity; they have, in fact, all the vices with but
few of the virtues of their heathen countrymen.

They are immoderately fond of ardent spirits, men, women and--shocking
to say--children. This hateful vice, which contributes more than any
other to the debasement of human nature, seems to produce more baneful
effects upon the Indian, both physically and morally, than upon the
European. The worst propensities of his nature are excited by it.
While under the influence of this demon he spares neither friend nor
foe; and in many instances the members of his own family become the
victims either of his fury or his lust.

The crime of incest is by no means unknown among them; rum, the
greatest scourge and curse of the Indian race, is undoubtedly the
principal cause of this dreadful corruption: but is it not strange
that religion should have so little effect in reforming their manners?
The Mississagays, the neighbours of the Algonquins, who speak the same
language, were only converted a few years ago by the Methodists, and
from being the most dissipated and depraved of Indians, are now become
sober, industrious and devout.

It seems, therefore, impossible even for the most unprejudiced to
avoid the conclusion that the difference in manners must in a great
measure be ascribed to the different methods adopted by the Roman
Catholic and Protestant missionaries in converting the natives. The
Roman Catholic convert is first baptized, then instructed in the forms
of worship, taught to repeat Pater nosters and Ave Marias, to make the
sign of the cross, and to confess. He is now a member of the Church,
and is dismissed to his woods--a Christian, can we say? The Methodists
pursue a different course. Their converts must not only reform their
lives, but give indubitable proofs that they are reformed; they
are taught so as to understand thoroughly the sound principles of
Christianity; and they must give an account of their faith, and a
reason for the hope that is in them, before they are admitted as
members of the Christian community. "The tree is known by its fruits."

The Sachems, or chiefs of the Algonquins, possess little or no
authority, but their advice is of some weight There are gradations of
rank in the chieftainship; the Kitchi Okima, or great chief, takes
precedence at the Council, and propounds the subject of discussion;
the inferior chiefs (Okimas) speak in turn, according to seniority;
every old man, however, whether chief or not, is allowed to give his
opinion, and the general voice of the assembly decides the question at
issue. It is seldom, however, that any question arises requiring much
deliberation in the present times of peace. When a party of strange
Indians arrives at the village, a council is called to ascertain the
means the community may possess of discharging properly the rites of
hospitality; each individual states the modicum he is willing to
contribute, in cash or in kind, and the proceeds, which are always
sufficient to entertain the guests sumptuously, according to Indian
ideas, while they remain, are placed at the disposal of the Kitchi

Councils are held and harangues delivered when they receive their
annual presents from Government; these consist of blankets, cloth,
ammunition, and a variety of small articles, all of which in their
present impoverished state are highly valued by them. They profess an
attachment to the British Government; but, like certain more civilized
nations, they will fight for the cause that is likely to yield them
most advantage. Their loyalty to Britain, therefore, is less to be
depended on than their hatred to America. A general idea has gone
abroad regarding their taciturnity which does not accord with my
experience. Far from being averse to colloquial intercourse, they
delight in it; none more welcome to an Indian wigwam than one who
can talk freely. They pass the winter evenings in relating their
adventures, hunting being their usual theme, or in telling stories;
and often have I heard the woods resound with peals of laughter
excited by their wit, for they too are witty in their own way.

Their tradition of the flood (_kitchi a tesoka_, or "great tale,") is
somewhat remarkable. The world having been overflowed by water, all
mankind perished but one family, who embarked in a large canoe, taking
a variety of animals along with them. The canoe floated about for some
time, when a musk-rat, tired of its confinement, jumped overboard and
dived; it soon reappeared, with a mouthful of mud, which it deposited
on the surface of the water, and from this beginning the new world was

When the veracity of an Indian is doubted, he points to heaven with
his forefinger, and exclaims:--

"He to whom we belong knows that what I say is true."

No white man trusts more firmly in the validity of a solemn oath than
the Indian in this asseveration. Still it must be confessed that they
are prone to falsehood; but they seem to allow themselves a much
greater licence in this respect in their intercourse with the whites
than amongst themselves.

When an Indian is about to enter a wigwam, he utters the word or sound
"Quay" in a peculiar tone; the word repeated from within is considered
as an invitation to enter. Should he neglect to announce himself
in this way he is considered as ill-bred--an unmannerly boor. The
left-hand side of the wigwam as you enter is considered the place
of honour; here the father of the family and chief squaw take their
station, the young men on the opposite side, and the women next to the
door, or at the upper end of the fire-place, both ends being alike
plebeian. When a person of respectability enters, the father, moving
towards the door, resigns his place to his guest, places skins under
him, and otherwise pays every attention to his comfort. They are
extremely hospitable, and cheerfully share their last morsel with the
stranger who may be in want. Hospitality, however, is a virtue which
civilization rarely improves.

A good hunter always leaves his lodge by dawn of day, and seldom
tastes food till he returns late at night. Hunting beavers is a most
laborious occupation, and becomes more so in proportion to the
scarcity of these animals; for this reason, that when a great number
of beavers occupy a lake, their places of retreat are in closer
proximity to each other, and for the most part inhabited; if the
number be reduced, it is likely they will have the same places of
retreat, and the hunter must bore through the ice, before he can
ascertain whether they are inhabited or not.

The sagacity of their dogs is truly surprising. The beaver house being
first destroyed by the hunter, the dogs are urged by a peculiar call
to scent out their retreats, which they never fail to do, whatever
may be the thickness of the ice. They keep running about the borders
of the lake, their noses close to the ground, and the moment they
discover a retreat, begin to bark and jump on the ice; the hunter then
cuts a hole with his trench, and with a stick which he carries along
with him feels for the beaver; should he find one, he introduces his
bare arm into the hole, and seizing his prey by the tail, drags it out
on the ice, where it is dispatched with a spear. There is less danger
in this operation than one would imagine, for the beaver allows itself
to be seized without a struggle, but sometimes inflicts severe wounds
on his captor after he is taken out of the water.

When the retreat is not inhabited, the entrance to it is barred by
sticks, and the hunter proceeds to chisel again, and continues his
operations until the beaver is either taken, or shut out from all his
haunts, in which case he is compelled to return to the house to take
breath, where he is either shot or caught in a trap.

The language of these Indians is a dialect of the Sauteux or Bungee,
intermixed with Cree, and a few words of French derivation. The
greater part of them have a smattering of French or English; but the
acquisition of a foreign language is extremely difficult to them,
from the peculiar formation of their own, which wants the letter r.
An Algonquin pronounces the word "marrow" "manno" or "mallo." Their
dialect has all the softness of the Italian, but is extremely poor and



On the 25th April, 1833, I embarked on board of a steamboat at
Lachine, and reached Hull on the 27th. Here the regular conveyance by
land carriages and steamboat ended, and the traveller in those days
was obliged to wait his passage by the canoes of shanty men, or hire a
boat or canoe for himself. I had recourse to the latter expedient, and
reached the post of the Chats, then in charge of my esteemed friend
Mr. McD----l, on the 30th. Captain Back arrived on the 1st of May,
put ashore for a few supplies and my wards, and immediately

The brigade arrived on the 2d, and the guide delivered me a letter
from Mr. K----, informing me that I was to consider myself merely as
a passenger, the command of the men being entrusted to the guide by
Governor Simpson's orders. This arrangement relieved me of much
anxiety and trouble; though I would rather have preferred undergoing
any personal inconvenience to being placed under the command of an
ignorant Canadian, who might use his "brief" authority in a way very
offensive to my feelings, without being guilty of anything that I
could complain of.

My fears, however, were disappointed, as he showed every deference to
my wishes, as well as the utmost courtesy to the other passengers,
most of whom were of a rank not likely to find much consideration from
a Canadian boatman; they consisted of a young priest not yet ordained,
an apprentice clerk, three youths who had been at their education in
Lower Canada, and myself.

The brigade consisted of three Montreal canoes, laden with provisions
for the trip, and some tobacco for the southern department; and manned
by sixty Iroquois and Canadians, the latter engaged to winter, the
former for the trip.

The day was far spent when we left the portage of the Chats, and we
encamped in the evening near the head of the rapids. The mode of
travelling in canoes being now well known, I shall not detail the
occurrences of each day, but confine myself to the narration of such
incidents as may be most worthy of notice throughout the voyage. The
moment we landed the tent was pitched by men employed for the purpose;
the other men unloaded the canoes, and carried the goods beyond
high-water mark, where it was piled and covered with oil-cloths.

It is the particular duty of the bowsman to attend to the canoe, to
repair and pitch it when necessary, and to place it in security when
the cargo is discharged. In consideration of these services he is
exempt from the duty of loading or unloading, his wages are higher
than those of the steersman, and he ranks after the guide. The latter
generally messes with the gentlemen, his canoe always takes the lead
in the rapids, but in still water the post of honour is held by the
best going canoe. The guide rouses the men in the morning; the moment
the call is heard, "Lève, lève!" the passengers spring upon their
feet, tie up their beds, and if they are not smart about it, the tents
go down about their ears, and they must finish the operation in the
open air.

Several of our men having already deserted, we encamped upon islands,
when they could be found, or kept watch on the mainland. Our hour
of departure was three o'clock, A.M.; when the weather permitted we
breakfasted at seven, dined at one or two o'clock, P.M., and encamped
at sunset. In calm weather the canoes went abreast, singing in chorus
and keeping time with the paddles. All was then gaiety, and, to
appearance, happiness; but this is one of those bright spots in a
voyageur's life which are few and far between.

We reached Fort Coulonge on the 3d, and it being late, I took up my
quarters with my worthy old bourgeois, Mr. S. Here we received some
additional supplies of provisions for the crews and passengers. We
arrived at Lac des Allumettes on the 5th, where I put ashore merely to
say _bon jour_ to an old acquaintance. We encamped rather early this
evening, to allow the men a little extra rest, on account of the
laborious duty they had performed for some days before. Next day,
when ascending the rapid of Roche Capitaine, the canoe in which I
was passenger came in violent contact with another; but mine only
sustained damage. The bow being stove in, the canoe began to fill; we
however gained the shore, to which fortunately we were close, at a
leap, and lost no time in discharging the cargo. Drying the goods and
repairing the canoe occupied us a good part of the day.

We reached the Forks of Mattawin on the 8th, where we found a small
outpost belonging to the Fort Coulonge district, recently established
for the purpose of securing the hunts of the Indians of this quarter,
who were in the habit of trading with shanty men. Being no longer
under any apprehensions of the men deserting, we now discontinued the
watch and slept in comfort.

The passage of the Little River was effected with much toil and
difficulty, from the shallowness of the water. We entered Lake
Nipissing on the 10th; descended French River, a rapid and dangerous
stream, without accident, and entered Lake Huron on the morning of the
12th. The guide pointed out to me a place near the mouth of the river
where the Indians used to waylay the canoes on their passage to and
from the interior; a sort of rude breastwork still marks the spot.
After much destruction of life and property by the savages, they
were eventually caught in their own toil; the voyageurs, instead
of descending the river at this place, passed by land, and coming
unawares on the Indians killed them all.

We reached the post of the Cloche early on the 13th, and spent two
hours in the company of Mr. McB----u, who entertained us most kindly;
and on the 14th looked in at Mississaga post, an establishment which
appeared to possess but few attractions as a place of residence;
consisting of a few miserable log buildings, surrounded by a number
of pine-bark wigwams, the temporary residence of the natives; several
of whom came reeling into the house after our arrival, there being an
opposition party there.

These Indians were, without comparison, the most uncouth,
savage-looking beings I ever beheld; mouth from ear to ear,
cheek-bones remarkably high, low projecting forehead, hair like a
horse's mane, and eyes red and swollen by continual intoxication.
American whisky had no doubt contributed to increase their natural

After leaving this post we had a strong breeze of adverse wind for the
remainder of the day, and encamped in consequence earlier than usual.
On the following morning we were very early roused from our slumbers
by the call of "Canot à lège," (light canoe). Our beds were tied up,
tents packed, canoes launched and loaded in an instant; and we set off
in pursuit of the mail, which we overtook at breakfast time, and found
Mr. G. K----th in charge, who had just returned from England, and
was now proceeding to assume the charge of Lake Superior district.
Mr. K----th exchanged some of his men, who were found incapable of
performing light canoe duty, for some of our best; an arrangement that
did not appear to please our guide much.

The duty which the crew of a light canoe have to perform is laborious
in the extreme, and requires men of the greatest strength and vigour
to stand it. They are never allowed to remain more than four hours
ashore by night, often only two or three; during the day they are
constantly urged on by the guide or person in command, and never cease
paddling, unless during the few moments required to exchange seats, or
while they take their hasty meals ashore. They are liberally plied
with grog, well paid, and well fed, and seldom quit the service until
it is hinted to them that the duty is become too hard for them. A
light canoe-man considers it quite a degradation to be employed in
loaded craft.

We arrived early on the 16th at the Company's establishment at Sault
Sainte Marie, where there is a large depôt of provisions for the
purpose of supplying the canoes passing to and from the interior and
the surrounding districts. The south side of the river is occupied by
the Americans as a military post, and it was gratifying to see the
friendly intercourse that subsisted between the American officers and
the gentlemen in the Company's service. Would that the same good
feeling were more universal between two nations of one blood and the
same language!

The rapid which unites the waters of Lakes Huron and Superior is
avoided by making a portage. The carrying of the canoes and goods
to the upper end of this portage occupied the men till about noon,
when we embarked on the "Sea of Canada," having Messrs. Bethune and
McKenzie on board as passengers. We proceeded about fifteen miles and
encamped. We were ready to embark at the usual hour next morning, but
being prevented by the high wind, to make the best of the time we
turned in again, and after a most refreshing nap got up to breakfast.

The weather moderating soon after, all hands were ordered to embark,
but all hands were not there; four of them had deserted during the
night, and were not missed until the crews mustered for embarkation.

While we were holding a consultation regarding this unpleasant matter,
an Indian canoe luckily cast up, and it was determined to despatch a
party of Iroquois, conducted by a passenger in disguise, in pursuit of
the fugitives. Another party was sent by land, and after an absence
of about three hours returned with their prisoners. No criminals ever
appeared more dejected than they; so humble did they seem, that they
got off with a slight reprimand.

We reached the post of Michipikoton early on the morning of the 19th,
and passed the remainder of the day waiting for despatches which Mr.
K---- was preparing for the interior. We left on the 20th, put ashore
at the Pic on the 23d, where we dined with Mr. McMurray, and after
experiencing much bad weather, adverse winds, together with showers of
snow, we reached Fort William on the 28th, about noon.

We found the grand depôt of the North-West Company falling rapidly
to decay, presenting in its present ruinous state but a shadow of
departed greatness. It is now occupied as a petty post, a few Indians
and two or three old voyageurs being the sole representatives of
the crowded throngs of former times. It must have been a beautiful
establishment in its days of prosperity; but the buildings certainly
do not appear to have been erected with a view to durability. We
here exchanged our large Montreal canoes for those of the North,
(the former carrying seventy packages of ninety pounds, the latter
twenty-five, exclusive of provisions;) and each of the passengers had
a canoe for his own accommodation--an arrangement that seemed to
increase in no small degree the self-importance of some of our number.
Our guide was now obliged to perform the duty of bowsman, still,
however, retaining his authority over the whole brigade.

We bade adieu to Fort William and its hospitable commander on the
29th. Mr. McI----h had supplied all our wants most liberally, but
the men were now allowed only Indian corn and a small quantity of
grease;--a sad and unpleasing change for poor Jean Baptiste; but he
had no help but to submit, though not perhaps with the utmost
"Christian resignation."

Our men being now well disciplined, and our canoes comparatively
light, we sped over our way at an excellent rate. We encamped on the
4th of June at one of the Thousand Lakes, and the canoes were drawn
up before M. Thibaud (the priest) arrived. I was surprised to observe
his frowning aspect on landing, and ascribed it to the circumstance of
his being the "harse," or harrow, a term of derision applied to the
slowest canoe. Calling me aside, however, he explained the cause of
his discontent, which was very different from what I had surmised:
his crew, whenever they found themselves sufficiently far in the rear
to be out of hearing, invariably struck up an obscene song, alike
unmindful of his presence and remonstrances; and this day had not only
sung, but indulged in conversation the most indecent imaginable. This
announcement appeared to me the more strange, that most of these young
men had never before quitted home; and I had always understood the
authority of the priest to be, at least, equal to that of the parent.
Although, therefore, I never had any very great reverence for the
(so-called) successors of St. Peter, I yet felt for my fellow-traveller,
and addressed the miscreants who had insulted him in terms of grave
reprehension, threatening them with severe punishment if such conduct
should again be repeated.

We arrived at the post of Lac de la Pluie, on the 8th of June; and,
after a short halt, and carrying our _impedimenta_ across the portage
on which the fort is situated, commenced the descent of Lac de la
Pluie river,--a beautiful stream, running with a smooth, though strong
current, and maintaining a medium breadth of about 200 yards. Its
banks, which are clothed with verdure to the water's edge, recede by a
gradual slope until they terminate in a high ridge, running parallel
to the river on both sides. This ridge yields poplar, birch, and
maple, with a few pines, proving the excellence of the soil. The
interior, however, is said to be low and swampy.

We passed the residence of an old retired servant of the Company, on
the 9th, who, if I may judge from the appearance of his farm and the
number of his cattle, must vegetate very much at his ease.

Observing in the evening a large Indian camp, I requested the guide
to put ashore for a little. We were received kindly, but in a manner
quite different to what I had been accustomed. The young men were
drawn up on the shore, and eyed us with a savage _fierté_ in their
looks, returning our salutation in a way that convinced us that we
were at length among the "wild men of the woods." The weather being
extremely hot, we found them in almost a complete state of nudity,
with only a narrow shred of cloth around their loins. They speak
the Sauteux language; and I had much difficulty in making myself
understood by them. In their physiognomy and personal appearance they
exhibit all the characteristic features of the genuine aboriginal
race; and this party certainly appeared, one and all, to be "without a
cross;" but there had been long a trading post at Lac la Pluie, and I
noticed, in a neighbouring camp, a lass with brown hair and pretty
blue eyes. Where did she get them? After bartering some sturgeon with
the Indians, and presenting them with a little tobacco, we parted good
friends, and encamped so near them as to be annoyed the whole night by
the sound of their drum.

On the following morning we entered the Lake of the Woods, and next
morning White River, a very violent stream, full of falls and
dangerous rapids. The portages are innumerable, and often close
together. After crossing one of these portages, we observed, with
astonishment, a number of people on the next portage, La Cave, about
pistol-shot distance from us. They proved to be Mr. Hughes, formerly
partner of the North-West Company; Mr. Berens, a member of Committee,
and suite: they were painfully situated, in consequence of the loss of
their bowsman, who, by missing a stroke with his pole, fell into the
rapid, and was drowned: the steersman was saved with great difficulty.

We got safe through this dangerous river, on the 15th; but two of the
men had a narrow escape in one of the last portages. Our guide here,
as everywhere else, having a picked crew, pushed on, and left us
considerably in the rear. Approaching a fall, Le Bonnet, where no
traces of a portage could be discovered, the men unloaded the canoes,
and commenced carrying the goods through the woods; but the _boutes_
(bowsmen and steersmen) determined on wading down with the canoes, the
water being shallow, until they should come close to the fall; where,
by lifting them across a narrow point, they could place them in the
smooth water beneath. The attempt was made accordingly, by the leading
canoe; but the rock over which the current flows being smooth, and
covered with a slimy moss, the men slipped, and were in an instant
precipitated over the fall. When we saw the canoe rushing over the
brink, with the poor fellows clinging to it, we all concluded they had
reached the end of their voyage. Running down to the foot of the fall,
which was about eleven feet high, having previously ordered a canoe to
be carried across the point, and some shots to be fired to recall the
guide, who was now nearly out of sight, I was astonished to find the
canoe had not upset, although the men had got into it, and it was half
full of water, and so near the shore that I extended my arm to lay
hold of the bow. The next moment, however, the stern having come
within the influence of a whirlpool, it was hurried out into the
middle of the stream, and dashed with such violence against a rock,
that the crashing of the timbers was distinctly heard from the shore.
This shock, which had nearly proved fatal to the men, threw the canoe
into an eddy, or counter-current, which whirled it to the opposite
shore, where it was about to sink when assistance came.

In the evening, we arrived at the post of Bas de la Rivière, in charge
of an Orkney-man, by name Clouston, who had risen from the ranks, and
who, seeing what small fry he had to deal with, treated us somewhat
superciliously. Our stock of provisions being exhausted, we applied to
_Maister_ Clouston for a fresh supply: he granted us what I thought
very inadequate to our wants; but he said it was all that was allowed
by the Governor for the passage of the Lake. Here M. Thibaud found two
men with a small canoe, who had been sent by the Bishop of Red River
to convey him to his destination, waiting his arrival. We parted with
feelings of mutual regret.

We left this post late on the 16th, and had proceeded but a short
distance on the Lake, when a strong head wind compelled us to put
ashore. We now experienced constant bad weather, never completing a
day's sailing without interruption from some cause or other; and in
consequence of these delays, it was found necessary to curtail our
allowance of provisions. On the 20th, we pitched our tents near a camp
of Sauteux, from whom the men procured a small quantity of sturgeon,
in exchange for some articles of clothing. I was surprised to find
Indians, in a quarter so remote from those tribes with whom I had
hitherto been conversant, speaking a dialect which I understood
perfectly: their erratic habits, and intercourse with the Crees and
Algonquins, may perhaps account for this similarity of dialect.

I entered into conversation with a shrewd old fellow, who had been
often at Red River settlement. Among other questions, I asked him
whether he had not been baptized?

"Baptized!" he exclaimed; "don't speak of it, my brother.
Baptized--that I may go to the devil! Indians think a good Indian goes
to the good place when he dies; but the priests send _all_ to the evil

I asked him how he made that out?

"Why, I learned it from the priests themselves. When I first went to
Red River, I met a French priest, who earnestly besought me to be
converted. I heard him attentively, and his words had a great effect
upon me; but I had been told there was another priest there, who had
different thoughts about religion, and I thought I would go to him
too. He was very kind to me, and spoke nearly the same words as the
French priest; so that I thought there was no difference in their
religions. He asked me if I would be baptized? and I told him that I
would; but I wanted to learn the French prayer. 'Ah! my son,' he said,
'that must not be: if you adopt that bad religion, you will be burned
for certain.' And he spoke so strong, that I almost thought he was
right. But before I would do anything, I went to the French priest
again, and told him what the English priest said to me; and then said
I would learn the English prayer. 'Ah! my son,' said he, 'if you do
so, it will lead you to perdition: all that pray after the English
manner go to the fire.' And he said much more, and his words were very
strong too; so I saw that I could be no better by forsaking the belief
of my fathers, and I have not gone to French or English priest since."

This is by no means a solitary case; and it is one of the sore evils
which arise from the corruption of Christianity, and the divisions
of Christians. Nor, in the case of creeds so opposite as those of
Protestants and Roman Catholics--creeds as opposite as light and
darkness--is it easy to point out a remedy. After all, it is surely
better for these poor Indians to adopt some form of Christianity,
however corrupt, than to remain in the darkness and debasement of
heathenism. And if our missionaries would act upon the noble maxim
of the greatest of the Apostles--"never to enter upon the sphere of
another man's labours,"--consequences so injurious would be avoided.
If they have not so much Christianity and good sense as to do so of
themselves, where there is the power, they should be compelled to do
it. The Company have the power, but are too much occupied with matters
which they deem more momentous, to waste a thought upon this.



High winds detained us in camp on the 21st. The crews of two canoes,
having finished their last meal to-day, bartered some more of their
clothes for dogs. We reached a small outpost called Berens House on
the 23d, where we procured a couple of sturgeon, and a dog valued at
ten shillings, for which I gave my note of hand. I had a _preein_ of
this cynic mutton at breakfast; and could not help thinking it would
have made a most appropriate and _philosophical_ addition to the
larder of the wise man of the tub. The men, however, having been for
some time on short commons, seemed to relish it. We supped lightly
enough on the remainder of Mr. Clouston's bountiful supply, giving a
share to the men.

After a most tedious and miserable passage, we reached the outlet of
Lake Winnipeg on the 24th, and arrived next morning at Norway House.
Here the men were liberally supplied; and I found myself at breakfast
with a number of chief factors and chief traders, just arrived from
their respective districts, and on their way with their valuable
returns to York Factory. Captain Back was also here, having sent on
his men and baggage under the command of Dr. King, intending himself
to follow in a light canoe, after having forwarded his despatches to

The day after my arrival, I was notified by one of the officials,
that it was arranged that I should pass the summer here, giving such
assistance to the gentleman in charge as might be required of me; and
that my future destination should be determined upon at York Factory.
I now passed my time very agreeably, having just enough employment
in the day-time to keep off _ennui_, and the company of several
gentlemen, and, what I thought still better, that of a fair
countrywoman,[1] in the evening. I was gratified to find that there
existed here a far greater degree of intimacy between gentlemen of
different ranks in the service, than in the Montreal department, where
a clerk is considered as a mere hireling; here, on the contrary,
commissioned officers look upon clerks as candidates for the same rank
which themselves hold, and treat them accordingly.

    [1] Mistress of the establishment.

The Governor, having taken up his residence for some years past in
England, crosses the Atlantic once a year, and during his brief
sojourn, Norway House forms his head-quarters. Here it is that the
sham Council is held, and everything connected with the business of
the interior arranged. Here also is the depôt for the districts of
Athabasca and McKenzie's River, which supplies all the provisions
required for inland transport. These provisions are furnished by the
Saskatchewan district, or are purchased by the Company from the
colonists of Red River, who have no other customers.

The natives of this quarter speak a jargon of Cree and Sauteux, which
sounds very harshly. They all understand English, and some of them
speak it fluently. Many of them are constantly employed as voyageurs
between Norway House and York Factory; and none perform the trip more
expeditiously, or render their cargoes in better condition than they.
Of Christianity, they have learned just as much as enables them to
swear; in other respects, they are still Pagans.

On the 20th of July, I received a letter from Mr. Chief Factor
Cameron, who acted as President of the Council in the Governor's
absence, conveying orders for me to proceed to New Caledonia; Mr.
Charles being instructed to furnish me with a passage to Athabasca,
and to forward me afterwards to Fort Dunvegan, on Peace River, where I
was to wait the arrival of the party sent annually from New Caledonia
for a supply of leather.

The brigade having been despatched on the 27th, Mr. C. and I embarked
on the 28th, and overtook it at the entrance of Lake Winnipeg. The
crews being ashore, and enjoying themselves, we passed on; but did not
proceed far, ere the wind blew so violently as to compel us to put
ashore. After a delay of about four hours, we "put to sea" again; and
the wind gradually abating as we proceeded, we encamped in the evening
nearly opposite to McIntosh's Island.

This island, some years ago, presented an extensive surface of land
covered with wood: there is not now a vestige of land to be seen; the
spot where it existed being only known to voyagers by a shoal which is
visible at low water. But not only have the islands been swept away,
but the mainland along the west end of the lake seems gradually being
encroached upon and engulphed by the waves; an undeniable proof of
which is, that the old post of Norway House, which formerly stood at a
considerable distance from the water's edge, is now close to it, and
the burial-ground is nearly all submerged.

We arrived at the foot of Grand Rapid late on the 29th of July, and
passed the portage on the 30th, assisted by the natives--Sauteux,
Crees, and half-breeds. These live luxuriously on sturgeon, with
little toil. Among them I observed two or three old Canadians, who
could scarcely be distinguished from the natives by language, manners,
or dress; such persons, when young, having formed an attachment to
some of the Indian young women, betake themselves to their half-savage
mode of life, and very soon cannot be persuaded to quit it.

We arrived on the 5th of August at Rivière du Pas, where an old
Canadian, M. Constant, had fixed his abode, who appeared to have
an abundance of the necessaries of life, and a large family of
half-Indians, who seemed to claim him as their sire. We breakfasted
sumptuously on fish and fowl, and no charge was made; but a gratuity
of tea, tobacco, or sugar is always given; so that M. Constant loses
nothing by his considerate attentions to his visitors.

We reached Cumberland House on the 8th. Here I was cheered by the
sight of extensive corn-fields, horned cattle, pigs and poultry, which
gave the place more the appearance of a farm in the civilized world,
than of a trading post in the far North-West; and I could not help
envying the happy lot of its tenant, and contrasting it with my own,
which led me to the wilds of New Caledonia--to fare like a dog,
without knowing how long my exile might be protracted.

We arrived at the post of Isle à la Crosse, where we were detained a
day in consequence of bad weather. This post is also surrounded by
cultivated fields, and I observed a few cattle; but the voice of the
grunter was not heard.

The Indians who frequent this post are chiefly Chippeweyans, with a
few families of Crees. The former differ in features, language, and
manners from any I had yet seen. Their face is of a peculiar mould,
broad; the cheekbone remarkably prominent, chin small, mouth wide,
with thick lips, the upper covered with beard; the body strongly built
and muscular. They appear destitute of the amiable qualities which
characterise the Crees. Whenever we met any of them on our route, and
asked for fish or meat, "Budt hoola,"[1] was the invariable answer;
yet no Indians were ever more importunate than they in begging for
tobacco. On the contrary, when we fell in with Crees, they allowed
us to help ourselves freely, and were delighted to see us do so,
receiving thankfully whatever we gave them in return. The features of
the Crees are not so strongly marked as those of the Sauteux, although
they are a kindred people; yet they are as easily distinguishable from
each other, as an Englishman from a Frenchman.

    [1] There is none.

We left Isle à la Crosse on the 12th, and without meeting with any
adventure worthy of notice, reached the end of Portage la Loche
about two o'clock P.M. of the following day, with canoe and baggage.
In this, as in every other part of their territories, the Company
use boats for the transport of property; but by a very judicious
arrangement, much time and labour are saved at this portage, which is
said to be twelve miles in length. Boats are placed at the upper and
lower ends, so that the men have only to carry across the property,
which, in truth, of itself is a sufficiently laborious operation for
human beings. The people from the district of McKenzie's River come
thus far with their returns, and receive their outfit in boats manned
by half-breeds, who are hired at Red River for the trip.

The prospect which the surrounding country presents from the upper
end of the portage is very striking; and the more so from the sudden
manner in which it bursts upon the view. You suddenly arrive at the
summit of a remarkably steep hill, where, on looking around, the first
object that attracts attention is a beautiful green hill standing on
the opposite side of the deep glen, through which the clear Water
River flows, forming the most prominent feature of an extensive range,
cut up by deep ravines, whose sides are clothed with wood, presenting
already all the beautiful variety of their autumnal hues; while,
at intervals, a glimpse was caught of the river meandering through
the valley. In former times these hills were covered with herds of
buffaloes, but not one is to be seen now.

We once more proceeded down the stream, and arrived at Athabasca on
the 21st of August, where we found Dr. King, who had been delayed some
days repairing his boats; Capt. Back having proceeded onwards in a
light canoe to fix on a winter residence.

Fort Chippeweyan was, in the time of the North-West Company, next in
importance to Fort William. Besides having several detached posts
depending immediately upon itself, and carrying on a very extensive
trade with the Chippeweyans, (the best hunters in the Indian country,)
it served as depôt for the districts of McKenzie's River, and Peace

The trade of this district, although it bears no comparison to that of
former times, is yet pretty extensive. It is still the depôt for Peace
River, and commands the trade with the Chippeweyans. Trade is carried
on in this quarter solely by barter, which secures the Company from
loss, and is apparently attended with no inconvenience to the natives,
who used formerly to take their supplies on credit.

Beaver is the standard according to which all other furs are rated; so
many martens, so many foxes, &c., equal to one beaver. The trader, on
receiving the Indian's hunt, proceeds to reckon it up according to
this rule, giving the Indian a quill for each beaver; these quills are
again exchanged at the counter for whatever articles he wants. The
people of this post subsist entirely on the produce of the country,
fish, flesh, and fowl, of which there is the greatest abundance. Both
soil and climate are said to be unfavourable to the cultivation of
grain or vegetables; the attempt is made, however, and sometimes with

I took my departure from Athabasca on the 24th of August, accompanied
by Mr. Charles Ross, who had passed the summer there as _locum
tenens_, and was now proceeding to assume the charge of his own post,
Fort Vermillion, where we arrived on the 1st of September.

This post is agreeably situated on the right bank of Peace River,
having the river in front, and boundless prairies in the rear. The
Indians attached to it are designated Beaver Indians, and their
language is said to have some affinity to the Chippeweyan. This is,
however, the only point of resemblance between them. The Beavers are
a more diminutive race than the Chippeweyans, and their features bear
a greater resemblance to those of the Crees. They are allowed to be
generous, hospitable and brave; and are distinguished for their strict
adherence to truth.

Most Indians boast of the murder of white men as a glorious exploit;
these, on the contrary, glory in never having shed the blood of one,
although they often imbrue their hands in the blood of their kindred;
being very apt to quarrel among themselves, chiefly on account of
their gallantry. When an illicit amour is detected, the consequence is
frequently fatal to one of the parties; but the unmarried youth, of
both sexes, are generally under no restraint whatever.

I bade adieu to Mr. Ross, a warm-hearted Gael, on the 3d, and arrived
at Fort Dunvegan on the 10th of September, then under the charge of
Mr. McIntosh, chief factor, where I met with a Highland welcome, and
passed the time most agreeably in the company of a well educated
gentleman. The Indians here are of the same tribe as those of Fort
Vermillion, but are not guiltless of the blood of the whites. This
post is also surrounded by prairies. A large farm is cultivated,
yielding in favourable seasons a variety of vegetables and grain: but
the crops are subject to injury from frost; sometimes are altogether
destroyed. When the wind blows for some time from the west, it cools
in its passage across the glaciers of the Rocky Mountains, to such
a degree, that the change of temperature caused by it is not only
severely felt in the vicinity of the mountains, but at a great
distance from them, as far even as Red River.

From the great age attained by many of the retired servants of the
Company, who pass their lives in this country, the salubrity of the
climate may fairly be inferred. Meeting a brigade of small canoes
between Fort Vermillion and this place, and observing an old man with
a white head and wrinkled face, sitting in the centre of one of them,
I made up to him, and after saluting him _à la Française_, presented
him with a piece of tobacco--the Indian letter of introduction. I
inquired of him how long it was since he had left home.

"Sixty-two years, Monsieur," was the reply; and as the canoes
assembled around us, he pointed out to me his sons, and his sons'
sons, to the third and fourth generation.

I heard of no malady which the white inhabitants are liable to, except
the goîtres; caused, it is presumed, in part by the use of snow-water,
and in part by the use of the river-water, which is strongly
impregnated with clay, so much so, as sometimes to resemble a solution
of the earth itself.



Mr. Paul Fraser, a senior clerk, arrived from Caledonia with three
canoes, on the 26th of September, and on the 28th we took our
departure. Above Fort Dunvegan the current becomes so strong that
the canoes are propelled by long poles, in using which the men had
acquired such dexterity that we made much better progress than I
could have expected. As we ascended the river, the scenery became
beautifully diversified with hill and dale and wooded valleys, through
which there generally flowed streams of limpid water. I observed at
one place a tremendous land-slip, caused by the water undermining the
soil. Trees were seen in an inverted position, the branches sunk in
the ground and the roots uppermost; others with only the branches
appearing above ground; the earth rent and intersected by chasms
extending in every direction; while piles of earth and stones
intermixed with shattered limbs and trunks of trees, contributed to
increase the dreadful confusion of the scene. The half of a huge hill
had tumbled into the river, and dammed it across, so that no water
escaped for some time. The people of Dunvegan, seeing the river
suddenly dry up, were terrified by the phenomenon, but they had not
much time to investigate the cause: the river as suddenly reappeared,
presenting a front of nearly twenty feet in height, and foaming and
rushing down with the noise of thunder.

On the 3d of October we reached the tenantless Fort of St. John's,
where a horrid tragedy was enacted some years ago--the commander of
the post with all his men having been cut off by the Indians. The
particulars of this atrocious deed, as related to me by the gentleman
at the head of the district at the time, were as follows:--

It had been determined that the post of St. John's should be
abandoned, and the establishment removed to the Rocky Mountain
portage, for the convenience of the Tsekanies, who were excellent
hunters, but who could not be well supplied from this post, on account
of the greatness of the distance. Unfortunately a quarrel had arisen
about this time between the Indians of St. John's and the Tsekanies.
The former viewed the removal of the post from their lands as an
insult, and a measure that gave their enemies a decided superiority
over them, and they took a very effectual method of disappointing

Mr. Hughes, having sent off his men with a load of property for the
new post, remained alone. This was the opportunity the Indians sought
for, and they did not fail to take advantage of it. The unfortunate
man had been in the habit of walking daily by the river side, and was
taking his usual promenade the day after the departure of his men,
when he was shot down by two of the assassins. They then carried his
body to his room and left it, and his blood still marks the floor.
The men, altogether unconscious of the fate that awaited them, came
paddling toward the landing-place, singing a voyageur's song, and just
as the canoe touched the shore a volley of bullets was discharged at
them, which silenced them for ever. They were all killed on the spot.
The post has remained desolate ever since. Fort Dunvegan was also
abandoned for some years, which reduced the natives to the greatest

As soon as intelligence was received of the catastrophe, a party of
half-breeds and Crees, under the command of one of the clerks, was
fitted out in order to inflict deserved punishment on the murderers;
but just as the party had got on the trail, and within a short
distance of the camp, they received orders from the superintendent to

These orders were no doubt dictated by feelings of humanity, as Mr.
McIntosh had learned that some Indians, who were not concerned in the
murder, were in the same camp, and he was apprehensive the innocent
might be involved in the same punishment with the guilty. The most
of them, however, were afterwards starved to death; and the country
having been abandoned by the Company, gave the natives occasion to
remark, that the measure was dictated more by fear of them than by
motives of humanity.

The Rocky Mountains came in view on the 8th of October, and we reached
the portage bearing their name on the 10th, the crossing of which took
us eight days, being fully thirteen miles in length, and excessively
bad road, leading sometimes through swamps and morasses, then
ascending and descending steep: hills, and for at least one-third of
the distance so obstructed by fallen trees as to render it all but
impassable. I consider the passage of this portage the most laborious
duty the Company's servants have to perform in any part of the
territory; and, as the voyageurs say, "He that passes it with his
share of a canoe's cargo may call himself a man."

In the passage we came upon a large camp of Tsekanies, Mr. Eraser's
customers. Their dialect is similar to that of the Beaver Indians, but
they understand the Cree, which is the medium of communication between
Mr. F. and them. It thus appears that this language is understood from
the shores of Labrador to the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

After passing the portage, the Rocky Mountains reared their snow-clad
summits all around us, presenting a scene of gloomy grandeur, that
had nothing cheering in it. One scene, however, struck me as truly
sublime. As we proceeded onward the mountains pressed closer on the
river, and at one place approached so near that the gap seemed to have
been made by the river forcing a passage through them. We passed in
our canoes at the base of precipices that rose almost perpendicularly
above us on either side to the height of 3,000 or 4,000 feet! After
passing through these magnificent portals, the mountains recede to
a considerable distance, the space intervening between them and the
river being a flat, yielding timber of a larger growth than I expected
to find in such a situation.

We arrived at McLeod's Lake--Mr. Fraser's post--on the 25th, where
a number of Indians were waiting their supplies. They received us
quite in a military style, with several discharges of fire-arms, and
appeared delighted at the arrival of their chief. They seemed to be
on the best possible terms together--the white chief and his _red
"tail"_. They are Tsekanies, and are reputed honest, industrious, and

The outfit for this post is conveyed on horse-back from Stuart's Lake.
A more dreary situation can scarcely be imagined, surrounded by
towering mountains that almost exclude the light of day, and snow
storms not seldom occurring, so violent and long continued as to bury
the establishment. I believe there are few situations in the country
that present such local disadvantages; but there is the same miserable
solitude everywhere; and yet we find natives of England, Scotland,
and Ireland devoting their lives to a business that holds forth
such prospects! I remained with my new friend one day, enjoying the
comforts of his _eyry_, and then set off for the goal of my long
course, where I arrived on the 28th of October.



Fort St. James, the depôt of New Caledonia district, stands near
the outlet of Stuart's Lake, and commands a splendid view of the
surrounding country. The lake is about fifty miles in length, and
from three to four miles in breadth, stretching away to the north and
north-east for about twenty miles; the view from the Fort embraces
nearly the whole of this section of it, which is studded with
beautiful islands. The western shore is low, and indented by a number
of small bays formed by wooded points projecting into the lake, the
back-ground rising abruptly into a ridge of hills of varied height and
magnitude. On the east the view is limited to a range of two or three
miles, by the intervention of a high promontory, from which the eye
glances to the snowy summits of the Rocky Mountains in the distant
back-ground. I do not know that I have seen anything to compare with
this charming prospect in any other part of the country; its beauties
struck me even at this season of the year, when nature having partly
assumed her hybernal dress, everything appeared to so much greater

The Indian village is situated in a lovely spot at the outlet of the
lake, and consists of only five or six houses, but every house is
occupied by several families. These buildings are of a very slight and
simple construction, being merely formed of stakes driven into the
ground; a square piece of timber runs horizontally along the top of
this wall, to which the stakes are fastened by strips of willow bark.
This inclosure, which is of a square form, is roofed in by placing two
strong posts at each gable, which support the ridge pole, on which
the roof sticks are placed, one end resting on the ridge pole, and
the other on the wall, the whole being covered with pine bark: there
is generally a door at each end, which is cut in the wall after the
building is erected. These apertures are of a circular form, and about
two and a half feet in diameter, so that a stranger finds it very
awkward to pass through them. In effecting a passage you first
introduce a leg, then bending low the body you press in head and
shoulders; in this position you will have some difficulty in
maintaining your equilibrium, for if you draw in the rest of the body
too quickly, it is a chance but you will find yourself with your head
undermost: the natives bolt through them with the agility of a weasel.

For some time after my arrival here, I had very little employment,
there being a scribe already in the establishment, whose experience
and industry required no assistance from me. I thus found myself a
supernumerary--a character that did not suit me, but I was obliged to
content myself for the present. We were joined early in winter by some
of the gentlemen in charge of posts, when we managed to pass the time
very agreeably. Mr. D----, superintendent of the district, played
remarkably well on the violin and flute, some of us "wee bodies" could
also do something in that way, and our musical soirees, if not in
melody, could at least compete in noise, numbers taken into account,
with any association of the kind in the British dominions. Chess,
backgammon, and whist, completed the variety of our evening pastimes.
In the daytime each individual occupied himself as he pleased. When
together, smoking, "spinning yarns" about _dog_ racing, canoe sailing,
and _l'amour_; sometimes politics; now and then an animated discussion
on theology, but without bitterness; these made our days fly away as
agreeably as our nights.

While thus pleasantly occupied, a piece of intelligence was received,
which caused the breaking up of our little society, and created some
alarm. A party of seven or eight Indians having been drowned on their
way to Alexandria, in autumn, their relatives imputed the misfortune
to the whites. "Had there been no whites at Alexandria," said they,
"our friends would not have gone there to trade; and if they had not
gone there, they would not have been drowned:" _ergo_--the white men
are the cause of their death, and the Indians must be avenged.

Nothing, however, was known of their hostile intentions until winter,
when Mr. F. had occasion to send a man to Stuart's Lake with
despatches, who, on arriving opposite to the Indian camp, found
himself suddenly surrounded by the natives. They advanced rapidly upon
him, brandishing their arms, and uttering horrid yells, and would
have dispatched him on the spot but for the interference of one of
themselves, who nobly threw himself between the Canadian and the
muzzles of the guns that were levelled at him, and beckoned him to
flee. He took to his heels accordingly, and never looked behind him
till he reached the fort.

A little before Mr. Fisher had learned from his home guards that an
attack on the fort was intended, and that they had been solicited by
their neighbours to join in it, but had refused. So far, indeed, from
wishing to injure the whites, they consented to carry the despatches
which conveyed the information I have just mentioned. As Mr. F.
urgently requested that assistance should be afforded him with as
little delay as possible, it was determined that I should forthwith
proceed to Alexandria, accompanied by Waccan, the interpreter, and
eight men well armed.

Passing Fraser's Lake and Fort George posts, we arrived at the Indian
winter camp, which we found abandoned; but a well beaten track led
from it in the direction of Alexandria, a circumstance which made
us apprehensive that our aid might come too late, and prompted us
to redouble our speed. Our party consequently was soon very much
scattered--a most unmilitary procedure--which might have proved fatal
to ourselves, while we thought of relieving our friends.

The interpreter, myself, and two Iroquois, forming the advanced
guard of the _grand army_, which consisted of full six men, still
considerably in the rear, on turning a point found ourselves
immediately in front of the camp. We were thus as much taken by
surprise as those whom we wished to surprise; but without hesitating a
moment we rushed up the bank, and were instantly in the midst of the
camp. The uproar was tremendous, the Indians seized their arms with
the most threatening gestures and savage yells, and it would have
been impossible for us to execute our orders--which were to seize
the ringleader only--without a fierce struggle and bloodshed on both
sides; and though more resolute, perhaps, than our enemies, we were by
far the weaker party, their numbers being at least ten to one of ours.

Happily, however, there was an Indian (one of our friends) from
Alexandria, in the camp, who, as soon as he could make himself
heard, informed us that the affair had been already arranged to the
satisfaction of both parties. Thus terminated our expedition, without
bloodshed and without laurels. A few days earlier it might have been
otherwise; nor was Mr. F. without blame in neglecting to advise us of
the arrangement.

We continued our course towards Fort Alexandria, and reached it late
in the evening. My unexpected appearance gave my old bourgeois of Two
Mountains an agreeable surprise. Having eaten nothing since morning,
we made sad havoc of his beefsteaks and potatoes.

"Well, Mac," said he, "to judge from your appetite, the air of New
Caledonia seems to agree wonderfully with you. Pray how do you like
the beef-steaks?"

"Never tasted anything better," said I.

Next morning he requested me to accompany him to the store, as he
said, to see a hind-leg of the steer which had furnished me with my
steaks. I approached it, and lo! it was the hind-leg of a horse!
The beef-steaks, or rather _horse_-steaks, were again presented at
breakfast, and I confess I had not the same relish for them as at
supper, but my repugnance--such is the effect of habit--was soon

I remained a few days here for the sake of repose, and then returned.
On the approach of spring, my fellow-subordinate, Mr. McKenzie,
dissatisfied with the service, left for the east side of the
mountains, and I took his place at the desk, the duties of which,
although by no means harassing, left me but little leisure. The
accounts of all the posts in the district, eight in number, were made
up here; I had also to superintend the men of the establishment,
accompany them on their winter trips, and attend to the Indian trade.
But even if the duty had been more toilsome, I had every inducement to
perform it cheerfully, as Mr. Dease was one of the kindest and most
considerate of men. On the 5th of May Mr. Dease took his departure
for Fort Vancouver, with the returns of his district, which might he
valued at 11,000l. The outfit, together with servants' wages and
incidental expenses, amounted to about 3,000l., leaving to the Company
a clear profit of about 8,000l.

I was appointed to the charge of Stuart's Lake during the summer, with
four men to perform the ordinary duties of the establishment--making
hay, attending to gardens, &c. A few cattle were introduced in 1830,
and we now began to derive some benefit from the produce of the dairy.
Our gardens (a term applied in this country to any piece of ground
under cultivation) in former times yielded potatoes; nothing would now
grow save turnips. A few carrots and cabbages were this year raised
on a piece of new ground, which added to the luxuries of our table.
Heaven knows, they were much wanted, for the other fare was scarcely
fit for dogs! In the early part of the season it consisted entirely
of salmon, which this year was of the worst quality, having been two
years in the store. A few sturgeon, however, of enormous[1] size,
were caught, whose flesh was the most tender and delicious I had ever
eaten, and would have been considered a delicacy by Apicius himself;
it need not be wondered at then that the capture of one caused
universal joy.

    [1] Belluga?

The salmon (the New Caledonian staff of life) ascend Frazer's River
and its tributaries, from the Pacific in immense shoals, proceeding
towards the sources of the streams until stopped by shallow water.
Having deposited their spawn, their dead bodies are seen floating down
the current in thousands; few of them ever return to the sea; and in
consequence of the old fish perishing in this manner, they fail in
this quarter every fourth year. The natives display a good deal of
ingenuity in catching them. Where the current and depth of water
permit, they bar it across by means of stakes driven into the bottom
with much labour, and standing about six inches apart; these are
strongly bound to a piece of timber, or "plate," running along the
top; stays, or supporters, are placed at intervals of ten or twelve
feet, the upper end bearing against the plate so as to form an angle
with the stream. Gaps are left in the works of sufficient size to
admit the _varveaux_, or baskets, in which the fish are taken. After
the whole is finished, square frames of wicker-work, called keys, are
let down against the upper side, to prevent the fish from ascending,
and at the same time to allow the water a free passage. The keys must
be kept entirely free from filth, such as branches, leaves, &c.,
otherwise the whole works would soon be swept away. The baskets are
of a cylindrical form, about two and a half feet in diameter at the
mouth, and terminate in a point of four or, five inches. When the
fishing is over, all the materials are removed, and replaced the
ensuing year with equal labour.

To preserve the fish for future consumption the following process is
adopted. The back being split up, and the back-bone extracted, it is
hung by the tail for a few days; then it is taken down and distended
on splinters of wood; these are attached to a sort of scaffold erected
for the purpose, where the fish remains till sufficiently dry for
preservation. Even in dry seasons, during this process, the ground all
round the scaffold is thickly covered with large maggots; but in wet
seasons the sight becomes much more loathsome.

I have already observed that the salmon fail periodically, and the
natives would consequently be reduced to the utmost distress, did not
the goodness of Providence furnish them with a substitute. Rabbits
are sent to supply the place of the salmon; and, singular as it may
appear, these animals increase in number as the salmon decrease,
until they swarm all over the country. When the salmon return, they
gradually disappear, being destroyed or driven away by their greatest
enemy, the lynx, which first appear in smaller, then in greater
numbers;--both they and their prey disappearing together. As to the
_cause_ that induces those animals to appear and disappear in this
manner, I cannot take upon myself to explain.

In the course of this summer one of our interpreters, a native, lost
his life in rather a singular manner. He had made a bear-trap, and
wishing to ascertain how it would work, tried his own weight on the
spring, which yielded but too readily, and crushed him in so dreadful
a manner that he only survived his experiment but a few hours. As
he had withdrawn from the Company's service this year, his body was
disposed of after the manner of his own people, except that it was
buried instead of being burned; this, however, was the first instance
of an interment, it being introduced through our influence in pity to
the unfortunate widows, who are exposed to the cruellest tortures at
the burning of the body. I never beheld a more affecting scene than
the present. Immediately as the coffin was lowered into the grave, the
widow threw herself upon it, shrieking and tearing her hair, and could
only be removed by main force: several other females, relatives of the
deceased, were also assembled in a group hard by, and evinced all the
external symptoms of extreme grief, chanting the death-song in a most
lugubrious tone, the tears streaming down their cheeks, and beating
their breasts. The men, however, even the brothers of the deceased,
showed no emotion whatever, and as soon as the rites were ended, moved
off the ground, followed by the female mourners, who soon after were
seen as gay and cheerful as if they had returned from a wedding. The
widow, however, still remained by the grave, being obliged to do so
in conformity with the customs of her nation, which required that she
should mourn day and night, until the relatives of the deceased should
collect a sufficiency of viands to make a feast in honour of his

As already observed, the bodies were formerly burned; the relatives of
the deceased, as well as those of the widow, being present, all armed;
a funeral pile was erected, and the body placed upon it. The widow
then set fire to the pile, and was compelled to stand by it, anointing
her breast with the fat that oozed from the body until the heat became
insupportable: when the wretched creature, however, attempted to draw
back, she was thrust forward by her husband's relatives at the point
of their spears, and forced to endure the dreadful torture until
either the body was reduced to ashes, or she herself almost scorched
to death. Her relatives were present merely to preserve her life; when
no longer able to stand they dragged her away; and this intervention
often led to bloody quarrels! The body being burned, the ashes were
collected in a box and given in charge to the widow, who carried them
about with her until the feast was prepared, when they were taken from
her, and deposited in a small hut or placed upon the top of a wooden
pillar neatly carved, as their final resting-place.

During this interval she was in a state of the most wretched slavery;
every child in the village might command her and beat her unmercifully
if they chose, no one interfered. After the feast, however, she
regained her freedom, and along with that the privilege of incurring
the risk of another scorching. Our interference relieved them from the
most cruel part of the ceremony; the temporary state of slavery is
still continued.



Mr. Dease arrived from Fort Vancouver on the 5th of September, and
expressed himself highly gratified with the appearance our "gardens"
presented; an ample stock of salmon had also been laid in, so that we
had nothing to fear from want, which sometimes had been severely felt.
In the beginning of November, our despatches from the east side of the
mountains came to hand, usually a joyful event, but saddened this year
by the intelligence we received, that our excellent superintendent was
about to leave us, having obtained permission to visit the civilized
world for medical advice;--the doctor was only 5,000 miles off!

In the beginning of the winter we were invited to a feast held in
honour of a great chief, who died some years before. The person who
delivered the invitation stalked into the room with an air of vast
consequence, and strewing our heads with down, pronounced the name of
the presiding chief, and withdrew without uttering another syllable.
To me the invitation was most acceptable: although I had heard much of
Indian feasts, I never was present at any.

Late in the evening we directed our steps towards the "banqueting
house," a large hut temporarily erected for the occasion. We found the
numerous guests assembled and already seated around "the festive
board;" our place had been left vacant for us, Mr. Dease taking his
seat next to the great chief, Quaw, and we, his Meewidiyazees (little
chiefs), in succession. The company were disposed in two rows: the
chiefs and elders being seated next the wall, formed the outer, and
the young men the inner row; an open space of about three feet in
breadth intervening between them. Immense quantities of roasted meat,
bear, beaver, siffleu or marmot, were piled up at intervals, the whole
length of the building; berries mixed up with rancid salmon oil, fish
roe that had been buried underground a twelve-month, in order to give
it an _agreeable_ flavour, were the good things presented at this
feast of gluttony and flow of oil. The berry mixture, and roes were
served in wooden troughs, each having a large wooden spoon attached to
it. The enjoyments of the festival were ushered in with a song, in
which all joined:--

            "I approach the village,
            Ya ha he ha, ya ha ha ha;
            And hear the voices of many people,
            Ya ha, &c.
            The barking of dogs,
            Ya ha, &c.
            Salmon is plentiful,
            Ya ha, &c.
            The berry season is good,
            Ya ha, &c.

After the song commenced the demolition of the mountains of meat,
which was but slowly effected, notwithstanding the unremitting and
strenuous exertions of the guests. The greatest order, however, was
maintained; the relatives of the deceased acted as stewards, each of
them seizing a roasted beaver, or something else, squatted himself in
front of one of the guests, and presenting the meat, which he held
with both his hands (males and females officiating), desired him to
help himself. If the guest appeared backward in the attack, he was
pressed, in the politest terms, to eat. "Now, I pray you, tear away
with a good will;"--"I am glad to see you eat so strongly;"--"Come
now, stuff yourself with this fine piece of fat bear." And stuff
himself he must, or pay a forfeit, to avoid a catastrophe. But having
paid thus, and acknowledged himself fairly overcome by his host's
politeness, he is spared any further exertions, and his viands are no
longer presented to him in this way, but placed in a dish beside him.

Well aware of our inability to maintain the honour of our country in a
contest of this kind, we paid our forfeit at the commencement of the
onslaught, reserving our portions to be disposed of at home.

The gormandizing contest ended as it began, with songs and dances; in
the latter amusement, however, few were now able to join; afterwards
ensued a rude attempt at dramatic representation. Old Quaw, the chief
of Nekaslay, first appeared on the stage, in the character of a
bear--an animal he was well qualified to personate. Rushing from his
den, and growling fiercely, he pursued the huntsman, the chief of
Babine portage, who defended himself with a long pole; both parties
maintained a running fight, until they reached the far end of the
building, where they made their exit. Enter afterwards a jealous
husband and his wife, wearing masks (both being men). The part these
acted appeared rather dull; the husband merely sat down by the side of
his "frail rib," watching her motions closely, and neither allowing
her to speak to nor look at any of the young men. As to the other
characters, one personated a deer, another a wolf, a third a strange
Tsekany. The bear seemed to give the spectators most delight.

The scene was interesting, as exhibiting the first rude attempts at
dramatic representation of a savage people; and it served, in some
measure, to efface the impression made by the somewhat disgusting
spectacle previously witnessed. The affair concluded by an exchange of
presents, and the party broke up.

Two young men, natives of Oregon, who had received a little education
at Red River, had, on their return to their own country, introduced a
sort of religion, whose groundwork seemed to be Christianity,
accompanied with some of the heathen ceremonies of the natives. This
religion spread with amazing rapidity all over the country. It reached
Fort Alexandria, the lower post of the district, in the autumn; and
was now embraced by all the Nekaslayans. The ceremonial consisted
chiefly in singing and dancing. As to the doctrines of our holy
religion, their minds were too gross to comprehend, and their manners
too corrupt to be influenced by them. They applied to us for
instruction, and our worthy chief spared no pains to give it. But,
alas! it is for the most part labour in vain. Yet, an impression
seemed to have been made on a few; and had there been missionaries
there at the time, their efforts might have proved successful. But the
influence of the "men of medicine," who strenuously withstand a
religion which exposes their delusive tricks, and consequently
deprives them of their gains,--together with the dreadful depravity
everywhere prevalent,--renders the conversion of the Tekallies an
object most difficult to accomplish.

It is a general opinion among Christians, that there exists no nation
or people on earth who are entirely ignorant of a Supreme Being. I
shall contrast the language of this tribe with that of the Sauteux or
Ojibbeway, and let the reader judge for himself.

I have heard a heathen Ojibbeway, when giving a feast, express himself
thus: "The great Master of Life, he who sees us and whom we cannot
see, having done me charity, I invite you, my brother, to partake of
it." On a like occasion, a Takelly describes the manner in which he
killed his game, but never alludes to a deity. When an Ojibbeway
wishes to confirm the truth of what he says beyond a doubt, he points
to heaven and exclaims, "He to whom we belong hears that what I say is
true." The Takelly says, "The toad hears me." You ask a Takelly what
becomes of him after death, he replies, "My life shall be _extinct_,
and I shall be dead." Not an idea has he of the soul, or of a future
state of rewards and punishments. The Ojibbeway answers, "After death
my soul goes either to a happy land, abounding with game and every
delight; or to a land of misery, where I shall suffer for ever from
want. Whether it go to the good or bad place depends on my good or bad
conduct here."

In fact the Takelly language has not a term in it to express the name
of Deity, spirit, or soul. When the Columbia religion was introduced
among them, our interpreters had to invent a term for the
Deity--Yagasita--the "Man of Heaven." The only expression I ever heard
them use that conveyed any idea whatever of a superior Being is, that
when the salmon fail, they say, "The Man who keeps the mouth of the
river has shut it up with his red keys, so that the salmon cannot get
up." One of our gentlemen, a member of the Roman Catholic Church,
teaching the Takellies to make the sign of the cross, with the words
used on the occasion, his interpreter translated them, "Au nom du
Père, de son Frère, et puis de son petit Garçon!" (In the name of the
Father, his Brother, and his little Boy!)

The accompts and despatches for head-quarters being finished in the
beginning of March, I was ordered to convey them to Fort Alexandria,
to the charge of which post I was now appointed. This post is
agreeably situated on the banks of Frazer's River, on the outskirts of
the great prairies. The surrounding country is beautifully diversified
by hill and dale, grove and plain; the soil is rich, yielding abundant
successive crops of grain and vegetable, unmanured; but the crops are
sometimes destroyed by frost. The charming locality, the friendly
disposition of the Indians, and better fare, rendered this post one of
the most agreeable situations in the Indian country. In spring,
moreover, the country swarms with game--pheasants and a small species
of curlieu in the immediate vicinity, and ducks and geese within a
short distance. The sport was excellent, and, with the amusement the
cultivation of my garden afforded me, enabled me to vegetate in great
comfort--a comfort I was not destined long to enjoy.

Mr. Ogden, chief factor, arrived from Fort Vancouver about the end of
May, and Mr. Fisher from Stuart's Lake a few days afterwards; and
having consulted together, determined that I should retrace my steps
to Stuart's Lake without delay. When I arrived at Fort St. James its
dreadful solitude almost drove me to despair. I found myself sitting
alone in the hall where my late excellent bourgeois and friends had
passed the time so happily, and I felt a depression of spirits such as
I never experienced before. Fortunately for me, my old friend Mr.
Fraser, a gentleman of a gay and lively disposition, arrived soon
after, and continued with me for the remainder of the season, and his
company soon drove melancholy away.

The particulars of an affair which had occurred here some years
before, and threatened the most serious consequences to the post, were
about this time related to me by Waccan, the interpreter.

A native of Frazer's Lake had murdered one of the Company's servants,
and, strange to say, no steps were taken to punish him; he concealed
himself some time, and finding he had nothing to apprehend, returned
to his village. At length he was led by his evil genius to visit
Stuart's Lake, then under the command of a Douglas. Douglas heard of
his being in the village, and though he had but a weak garrison,
determined that the blood of the white man should not be unavenged.
The opportunity was favourable, the Indians of the village were out on
a hunting excursion, the murderer was nearly alone. He proceeded to
the camp accompanied by two of his men, and executed justice[1] on the
murderer. On their return in the evening, the Indians learned what had
happened, and enraged, determined to retaliate. Aware, however, that
Douglas was on his guard, that the gates were shut and could not be
forced, they resolved to employ Indian stratagem.

    [1] "Wild justice,"--Bacon.

The old chief accordingly proceeded to the Fort alone, and knocking at
the gate desired to be admitted, which was granted. He immediately
stated the object of his visit, saying that a deed had been done in
the village which subjected himself and his people to a heavy
responsibility to the relatives of the dead; that he feared the
consequences, and hoped that a present would be made to satisfy them;
and continuing to converse thus calmly, Mr. Douglas was led to believe
that the matter could easily be arranged. Another knock was now heard
at the gate: "It is my brother," said the chief, "you may open the
gate; he told me he intended to come and hear what you had to say on
this business."

The gate was opened, and in rushed the whole Nekasly tribe, the
chief's brother at their head; and the men of the Fort were
overpowered ere they had time to stand on their defence. Douglas,
however, seized a wall-piece that was mounted in the hall, and was
about to discharge it on the crowd that was pouring in upon him, when
the chief seized him by the arms, and held him fast. For an instant
his life was in the utmost peril. Surrounded by thirty or forty
Indians, their knives drawn, and brandishing them over his head with
frantic gestures, and calling out to the chief, "Shall we strike?
shall we strike?"

The chief hesitated; and at this critical moment the interpreter's
wife[1] stepped forward, and by her presence of mind saved him and the

    [1] This woman is the daughter of Mr. James MacDougal, a
    gentleman who had a chief hand in the settlement of the
    district. He served the Company for a period of thirty-five
    years, enduring all the hardships that were in his time
    inseparable from an Indian trader's life; and was dismissed
    from their service, in old age, without a pension, to starve
    on such little savings as he had effected out of his salary.
    He is still alive (1841), struggling with adversity.

Observing one of the inferior chiefs, who had always professed the
greatest friendship for the whites, standing in the crowd, she
addressed herself to him, exclaiming, "What! you a friend of the
whites, and not say a word in their behalf at such a time as this!
Speak! you know the murderer deserved to die; according to your own
laws the deed was just; it is blood for blood. The white men are not
dogs; they love their kindred as well as you; why should they not
avenge their murder?"

The moment the heroine's voice was heard the tumult subsided; her
boldness struck the savages with awe; the chief she addressed, acting
on her suggestion, interfered; and being seconded by the old chief,
who had no serious intention of injuring the whites, was satisfied
with showing them that they were fairly in his power. Mr. Douglas and
his men were set at liberty; and an amicable conference having taken
place, the Indians departed much elated with the issue of their

A personal adventure of Waccan's is worth recording. An interpreter, a
Cree half-breed, had been murdered by the Indians of Babine post with
circumstances of great barbarity; and the perpetrators of the deed
were allowed to exult in the shedding of innocent blood with impunity,
one feeble, ineffectual attempt only having been made to chastise
them. Waccan, however, determined that the matter should not end thus,
the victim being his adopted brother. Having been sent to Babine post
with an Indian lad, he learned from him that the murderers were
encamped in a certain bay on Stuart's Lake, and resolved to seize the
long wished-for opportunity of revenge; but fearing for his
companion's safety more than his own, he landed him at a considerable
distance from the camp, directing him to make the best of his way home
if he should hear many shots.

He then paddled down as near the camp as he could without being
discovered, and landing, threw off every article of clothing save a
shred round his loins; and with his gun in the one hand, and dagger in
the other, proceeded to the spot. Having approached sufficiently near
to see all that passed in the encampment, he squatted among the
bushes, and watching his opportunity, "picked off" the ringleader;
then rushing from his covert, and giving the war whoop, he planted his
dagger in his heart almost before the Indians had time to know what
had happened. Seeing the infuriated "avenger of blood" in the midst of
them, they fled precipitately to the woods. Waccan dared them to
revenge the death of the "dead dog" who had murdered his brother.

"Come," said he, "you that were so brave at Babine Lake, and danced
round the body of him whom you did not face, but knocked down when his
back was to you, now is your time to show yourselves _men_."

No one answering the challenge, he shouldered his gun, walked along
the beach to his canoe, and paddling leisurely off from the shore,
sang the Cree song of triumph.



In the beginning of September, Mr. Ogden arrived from Fort Vancouver,
and I was appointed by him to the charge of Fort George, whither I
proceeded forthwith. Mr. Linton, my predecessor, was directed to wait
the arrival of the party sent to Jasper's house for a supply of
leather, ere he took his departure for Chilcotin, an outpost of Fort

Fort George was established a few years ago, and passed through the
bloody ordeal ere yet the buildings were completed. The gentleman in
charge, Mr. Yale, had left his men at work, and gone on a visit to
Fort St. James, where he only remained a few days; on his return he
found his men had been treacherously murdered by the Indians during
his absence. Their mangled bodies were found in one of the houses,
with one of their own axes by their side, which evidently had been the
instrument of their destruction. The poor men were in the habit of
retiring to rest during the heat of the day, and were despatched while
they slept.

A great change has come over this people since that time; they are now
justly considered the best disposed and most industrious Indians in
the district. The situation of the post is exceedingly dreary,
standing on the right bank of Frazer's River, having in front a high
hill that shades the sun until late in the morning, and in the midst
of "woods and wilds, whose melancholy gloom" is saddening enough. Yet
it has its _agrémens_, its good returns,--the _ne plus ultra_ of an
Indian trader's happiness,--its good Indians, and its good fare; the
produce of the soil and dairy.

Poor Linton had remained with me till late in autumn; when the cold
weather setting in with unusual rigour, the ice began to drift on the
river, rendering the navigation already dangerous; and no accounts
having been received of the leather party, he determined to embark for
his destination without further loss of time. He, alas! had already
waited too long. Having occasion in the beginning of winter to send
down a messenger to Fort Alexandria, I was surprised to see him two
days after enter the fort, accompanied by one of Mr. Fisher's men, who
brought me the melancholy tidings of Mr. L.'s death, part of his
baggage having been found by the natives among the ice. Eight souls
had perished, no one knows how; Mr. L., his wife and three children,
an interpreter, his wife and one child.

Some suspicions attached to a disreputable family of Indians who were
known to be encamped on the banks of the river at the time; but it is
more probable that the catastrophe occurred in a rapid not far from
this post, as a dog which the party had with them came back at an
early hour the day after their departure. This misfortune threw a
gloom over the whole district, where Linton was much beloved, and his
death, so sudden and mysterious, made the blow be felt more severely.

Before this sad intelligence reached us, the safety of the leather
party had become a source of deep anxiety. They had been expected in
October, and no accounts had been received of them in the month of
December. Having forwarded Mr. Fisher's despatches to head-quarters, I
received orders from Mr. Ogden to proceed to Jasper's house, in order,
if possible, to obtain information regarding them; which I eagerly
obeyed, setting off with five men, and sledges loaded with provisions,
drawn by dogs. We had not proceeded far, however, when we met the
truants all safe and sound. Their non-arrival in the fall was
occasioned by the winter setting in unprecedentedly early.

They experienced the utmost difficulty in crossing the Rocky
Mountains, from the great depth of snow that had already fallen; and
when they reached the heights of Frazer's River, they found the ice
beginning to form along its shores. They persevered, however;
sometimes forcing their way through the ice, sometimes carrying the
canoes and property overland where the passage was blocked up by the
ice. But all their efforts proved unavailing, for they were at length
completely frozen in.

Their prospects were now most disheartening. Their remaining
provisions would only suffice for four days on short allowance, and
they had a journey of fifteen days before them, whichever way they
should direct their course. Some of the men yielded to despair, but
the greater part cheerfully embraced Mr. Andersen's views. Those only
who are unacquainted with the Canadian voyageurs will deny them the
possession of qualities, of the highest value in this country--ready
obedience to their superiors, patience of fatigue and hardship, and
unyielding perseverance under the most trying difficulties, so long as
their leaders show them the way. Mr. Anderson having secured the
property _en cache_, determined to return to Jasper's house, in order
to procure at least a part of the much wanted supply of leather. On
their way back they had the good fortune to light upon a stray horse,
which they converted into provender: they also shot a moose deer; and
thus providentially supplied, they suffered little from want.

On arriving at the post, they found to their sad disappointment that
nothing could be got there, except some provisions; it was therefore
necessary to proceed to Fort Edmonton, at least 400 miles distant,
with but one intermediate post. They succeeded in reaching it, though
in a most deplorable condition, half starved and half frozen, none of
the party being provided with winter clothing; but they were most
hospitably received by the kind-hearted bourgeois Mr. Rowand; and,
after remaining a few days to recruit their strength in this land
overflowing with fat and pemmican, and receiving their supplies, they
set off on their return, and reached their destination without

Farming on a small scale had been attempted here by my predecessor,
and the result was such as to induce more extensive operations. I
received orders, therefore, to clear land, sow and plant, forthwith.
These orders were in part carried into effect in the autumn. Four
acres of land were put in a condition to receive seed, and about the
same quantity at Fort Alexandria. Seed was ordered from the Columbia,
and handmills to grind our grain. Pancakes and hot rolls were
thenceforward to be the order of the day; Babine salmon and dog's
flesh were to be sent--"to Coventry!" The spring, however, brought
with it but poor prospects for pancakes; the season was late beyond
all precedent; the fields were not sown until the 5th of May; they,
nevertheless, promised well for some time, but cold weather ensued,
and continued so long that the crops could not recover before the
autumn frosts set in, and thus our hopes were blasted. The farm at
Alexandria had not much better success, owing to the neglect of the
good people themselves;--not having enclosed their fields, the cattle
destroyed the greater part of the crops. Here, however,
notwithstanding the failure of our grain crops, we had abundance of
vegetables and a large stock of cattle, so that our fare was far
superior to that of the other _exiles_ in the district.

Mr. Ogden returned from Fort Vancouver about the usual time, and was
mortified to find that our grand agricultural experiment had so
completely failed. He, however, had brought a supply of flour
sufficient to afford each commander of posts a couple of bags, and
thus the inconvenience arising from our disappointment was, in some
degree, obviated.

From his first arrival amongst us, Mr. Ogden evinced the most earnest
desire to ameliorate the condition of his subordinates in this
wretched district, and all felt grateful to him for his benevolent
intentions. To Mr. Dease, however, the praise is due of having
introduced this new order of things: he it was who first introduced
cattle from Fort Vancouver; it was he who first introduced farming,
and recommended it to others.

Late in autumn, the natives being all about the post, the dread
influenza, that had made such fearful havoc among the Indians in other
quarters, broke out here also. The poor creatures had a great deal of
confidence in my medical skill, from the circumstance of my having
saved the life of a boy who had eaten some poisonous root, when
despaired of by their own mountebanks.

On the present occasion I tried my skill on one of the subjects best
able to bear my experiments, by administering a strong emetic and
purge, and causing him afterwards to drink a decoction of mint. He was
cured, and I afterwards prescribed the same medicine to many others
with a like success; so that my reputation as a disciple of Æsculapius
became firmly established.

Having last year applied to the Governor for permission to visit
head-quarters, for a purpose which will be noticed hereafter, I
received a favourable answer, and, in the month of February, set off
for the depôt of the district preparatory to my departure, where I
remained for a month in company with Mr. Ogden and several



Ere I proceed on my long journey, I must pause for a little to
describe more particularly the country, which I am about to quit,
perhaps for ever, and the manners of its savage inhabitants. The
climate of New Caledonia is exceedingly variable at all seasons of the
year. I have experienced at Stuart's Lake, in the month of July, every
possible change of weather within twelve hours; frost in the morning,
scorching heat at noon; then rain, hail, snow. The winter season is
subject to the same vicissitudes, though not in so extreme a degree:
some years it continues mild throughout. These vicissitudes may, I
think, be ascribed to local causes--proximity to, or distance from the
glaciers of the Rocky Mountains, the direction of the winds, the
aspect of the place, &c. Fort St. James is so situated as to be
completely exposed to the north-east wind, which wafts on its wings
the freezing vapours of the glaciers. The instant the wind shifts to
this quarter, a change of temperature is felt; and when it continues
to blow for a few hours, it becomes so cold that, even in midsummer,
small ponds are frozen over. The surrounding country is mountainous
and rocky.

Frazer's Lake is only about thirty miles distant from Fort St. James
(on Stuart's Lake), yet there they raise abundance of vegetables,
potatoes and turnips, and sometimes even wheat and barley. The post
stands in a valley open to the south-west,--a fine champaign country,
of a sandy soil; it is protected from the north-east winds by a high
ridge of hills. The winter seldom sets in before December, and the
navigation is generally open about the beginning of May.

Few countries present a more beautiful variety of scenery than New
Caledonia. Stuart's Lake and its environs I have already attempted to
describe, but many such landscapes present themselves in different
parts of the country, where towering mountains, hill and dale, forest
and lake, and verdant plains, blended together in the happiest manner,
are taken in by the eye at a glance. Some scenes there are that recall
forcibly to the remembrance of a son of Scotia, the hills and glens
and "bonnie braes" of his own poor, yet beloved native land. New
Caledonia, however, has the advantage over the Old, of being generally
well wooded, and possessed of lakes of far greater magnitude;
unfortunately, however, the woods are decaying rapidly, particularly
several varieties of fir, which are being destroyed by an insect that
preys on the bark: when the country is denuded of this ornament, and
its ridges have become bald, it will present a very desolate
appearance. In some parts of the country, the poplar and aspen tree
are to be found, together with a species of birch, of whose bark
canoes are built; but there is neither hard wood nor cedar.

Such parts of the district as are not in the immediate vicinity of the
regions of eternal snow, yield a variety of wild fruit, grateful to
the palate, wholesome, and nutritious. Of these, the Indian pear is
the most abundant, and most sought after, both by natives and whites;
when fully ripe, it is of a black colour, with somewhat of a reddish
tinge, pear-shaped, and very sweet to the taste. The natives dry them
in the sun, and afterwards bake them into cakes, which are said to be
delicious; for my own part, having seen the process of manufacturing
them, I could not overcome my prejudices so far as to partake of a
delicacy in whose composition filth formed so considerable an
ingredient. When dried, the cakes are placed in wooden vessels to
receive the juice of green fruit, which is expressed by placing
weights upon it, in wooden troughs, from which spouts of bark draw off
the liquid into the vessels containing the dry fruit; this being
thoroughly saturated, is again bruised with the unclean hand, then
re-formed into cakes, and dried again; and these processes are
repeated alternately, until the cakes suit the taste of the maker.
Blue berries are plentiful in some parts of the district; there is a
peculiar variety of them, which I preferred to any fruit I ever
tasted; it is about the size of a musket-ball, of a purple colour,
translucid, and in its taste sweet and acid are deliciously blended.

The district is still rich in fur-bearing animals, especially beavers
and martens, which are likely to continue numerous for many years to
come, as they find a safe retreat among the fastnesses of the Rocky
Mountains, where they multiply undisturbed. This is the great beaver
nursery, which continues to replace the numbers destroyed in the more
exposed situations; there is, nevertheless, a sensible decrease in the
returns of the fur since the introduction of steel traps among the
natives: there are also otters, musk-rats, minxes, and lynxes. Of the
larger quadrupeds bears only are numerous, and in all their varieties,
grizzled, black, brown, and chocolate: numbers of them are taken by
the natives in wooden traps. A chance moose or reindeer is sometimes
found. The mountain sheep generally keeps aloft in the most
inaccessible parts of the mountains, and is seldom "bagged" by a
Carrier, but often by the Tsekanies. I have before observed that
rabbits sometimes abound. Another small animal, whose flesh is
delicious in season, the marmot, is found in great numbers. In the
neighbourhood of Fort Alexandria, the jumping deer, or chevreuil, is
abundant. To these add dog and horse flesh, and you have all the
varieties of animal food the country affords to its inhabitants,
civilized or savage.

A most destructive little animal, the wood-rat, infests the country,
and generally nestles in the crevices of the rocks, but prefers still
more human habitations; they domicile under the floors of
out-buildings, and not content with this, force their way into the
inside, where they destroy and carry off every thing they can; nor is
there any way of securing the property in the stores from their
depredations but by placing it in strong boxes. When fairly located,
it is almost impossible to root them out. They are of a grey colour,
and of nearly the size and form of the common rat, but the tail
resembles that of the ground squirrel.

The birds of this country are the same as in Canada. I observed no
strange variety, except a species of curlieu that frequents the plains
of Fort Alexandria in the summer. Immense flocks of cranes are seen in
autumn and spring, flying high in the air; in autumn directing their
flight towards the south, and in spring towards the north.

Some of the Lakes abound in fish; the principal varieties are trout,
carp, white fish, and pike. Stuart's Lake yields a small fish termed
by the Canadians "poisson inconnu;" it seems as if it were partly
white fish and partly carp, the head resembling the former; it is full
of small bones, and the flesh soft and unsavoury. The sturgeon has
been already mentioned, but they are unfortunately too rare; seldom
more than five or six are captured in a season; they weigh from one
hundred to five hundred pounds. A beautiful small fish of the size of
the anchovy, and shaped like a salmon, is found in a river that falls
into Stuart's Lake; it is said they pass the winter in the lake, and
ascend their favourite stream in the month of June, where they deposit
their spawn. They have the silvery scales of the larger salmon, and
are exceedingly rich; but the natives preserve them almost exclusively
for their own use. There are four varieties of salmon, distinguished
from each other by the peculiar form of the head; the largest species
seems to be the same we have in the rivers of Britain, and weighs from
ten to twenty pounds; the others do not exceed half that weight.

New Caledonia is inhabited by the Takelly or Carrier nation, and by a
few families of Tsekanies on the north-eastern extremity of the
district. The Takellies are divided into as many tribes as there are
posts--viz. eight, who formerly were as hostile to each other as if
they had been of different nations. The presence of the whites,
however, has had the beneficial effect of checking their cut-throat
propensities, although individual murders still occasionally occur
among them.

Before the introduction of fire-arms, the _honourable_ practice of
duelling prevailed among them, though in a fashion peculiar to
themselves. One arrow only was discharged, by the party demanding
satisfaction, at his opponent, who, by dint of skipping about and
dodging from side to side, generally contrived to escape it; fatal
duels, therefore, seldom if ever occurred; and the parties, having
thus given and received satisfaction, retired from the field
reconciled.[1] They appear more prone to sudden bursts of passion than
most Indians I have seen, and quarrel often and abuse each other in
the most scurrilous terms. With the Sauteux, Crees, and other tribes
on the east side of the mountains, few words are uttered before the
blow, often a fatal one, is given; whereas, with the Takellies, it is
often many words and few blows. In the quarrels which take place among
them, the ladies are generally the _causa belli_--a cause which would
soon lead to the depopulation of the country, were all husbands to
avenge their wrongs by shedding the blood of the guilty.

    [1] I would recommend this mode of conducting "affairs of
    honour" to _honourable_ gentlemen using the hair-trigger, as
    an improvement. Though practised by savages, it must be
    allowed to be somewhat less barbarous than ten paces'
    distance, and standing still! If the exhibition should appear
    somewhat ludicrous, both parties would have the additional
    "satisfaction" that their morning _exercise_ had given a
    keener zest to their breakfast. It would be a sort of Pyrrhic

Their chiefs have still considerable authority; but much of the homage
they claimed and received in former times is now transferred to the
white chiefs, or traders, whom they all esteem the greatest men in
the universe. "After the Man of heaven," said old Guaw to Mr. Dease,
"you are next in dignity." Owing to the superstitious notions of the
people, the chiefs are still feared on account of the magical powers
ascribed to them; it is firmly believed they can, at will, inflict
diseases, cause misfortunes of every kind, and even death itself;
and so strong is this impression, that they will not even pass in a
direction where the shadow of a chief, or "man of medicine," might
fall on them, "lest," say they, "he should bear us some ill-will and
afflict us with some disease."

These conjurors, nevertheless, are the greatest bunglers at their
trade of any in the Indian territory; they practise none of the
clever tricks of the Sauteux sorcerers, and are perfectly ignorant
of the medicinal virtues of herbs and plants, with which the Sauteux
and other Indians often perform astonishing cures. The Takellies
administer no medicine to the sick; a variety of ridiculous
gesticulations, together with singing, blowing, and _beating_ on
the _patient_, are the means they adopt to effect their end; and
they, not seldom, effectually cure the patient of "all the ills of
life." Whether they effect a cure or not, they are sure to be well
recompensed for their expenditure of wind, an article of which they
are not sparing: they, in fact, exert themselves so much that the
perspiration pours from every pore. The only real remedy they use,
in common with other Indians, is the vapour-bath, or sweating-house.
The house, as it is termed, which is constructed by bending twigs of
willow, and fixing both ends in the ground, when finished, presents
the appearance of a bee-hive, and is carefully covered to prevent the
escape of the vapour; red-hot stones are then placed inside, and water
poured upon them, and the patient remains in the midst of the steam
thus generated as long as he can bear it, then rushing out, plunges
into the cold stream. This is said to be a sovereign remedy for
rheumatism, and the natives have recourse to it in all cases of severe
pain: I myself witnessed its efficacy in a case of paralysis.

The salubrity of the climate, however, renders disease of every kind
extremely rare, except such as are caused by the excesses of the
natives themselves. The venereal is very common, and appears to have
been indigenous. At their feasts they gorge themselves to such a
degree as to endanger their lives; after a feast many of the guests
continue ill for a considerable time, yet this does not prevent them
from gormandizing again whenever an opportunity presents itself. Old
and young, male and female, are subject to severe inflammation in the
eyes, chiefly, I believe, from their passing the winter in hovels
underground, which have no outlet for the smoke, and passing from them
into the glare of sunshine upon the snow. What with the confined smoke
and tainted atmosphere of these abominable burrows, I found it painful
to remain even for a few minutes in them.

It has been remarked by those who first settled in the district, that
the Indians are rapidly decreasing in numbers since their arrival--a
fact which does not admit of a doubt: I myself have seen many villages
and encampments without an inhabitant. But what can be the cause of
it? Here there has been neither rum nor small-pox--the scourges of
this doomed race in other parts. Yet, on the banks of the Columbia,
which, when first visited by the whites a few years ago, literally
swarmed with Indians, a disease broke out which nearly exterminated
them. Has the fiat, then, gone forth, that the aboriginal inhabitants
of America shall make way for another race of men? To my mind, at
least, the question presents not the shadow of a doubt. The existence
of the present race of Indians at some future, and by no means distant
period, will only be known through the historical records of their

The Takellies do not use canoes on their hunting excursions, so
that they are necessitated to carry all their conveniences on their
backs; and it is astonishing to see what heavy loads they can carry,
especially the women, on whom the transport duty generally devolves.
Among this tribe, however, the women are held in much higher
consideration than among other Indians: they assist at the councils,
and some ladies of distinction are even admitted to the feasts. This
consideration they doubtless owe to the efficient aid they afford
in procuring the means of subsistence. The one sex is as actively
employed during the fishing season as the other. The men construct
the weirs, repair them when necessary, and capture the fish; the
women split them up--a most laborious operation when salmon is
plentiful--suspend them on the scaffolds, attend to the drying, &c.
They also collect berries, and dig up the edible roots that are found
in the country, and which are of great service in years of scarcity.
Thus the labour of the women contributes as much to the support of the
community as that of the men.

The men are passionately addicted to gambling, staking everything they
possess, and continuing at it night and day, until compelled to desist
by sheer hunger, or by the loss of all. I could not understand their
game; we, in fact, used our best endeavours to abolish the pernicious
custom, and, to avoid countenancing it, were as seldom present as
possible. It is played with a few small sticks, neatly carved, with a
certain number of marks upon them, tied up in a small bundle of hay,
which the player draws out successively, throws up and catches between
his hands; and when all are drawn, they are taken up one by one, and
dashed against a piece of parchment, and rolled up again in the hay.

The whole party appear merry enough at the commencement of the game,
all joining chorus in a song, and straining their lungs to such
a degree, that hoarseness soon ensues, when they continue their
amusement in silence. When the game is ended, some of them present
a sad spectacle; coming forth, their hair dishevelled, their eyes
bloodshot, and faces ghastly pale, with probably nothing to cover
their nakedness, save perhaps an old siffleux robe, which the winner
may be generous enough to bestow. They never shoot or hang themselves,
let their luck be ever so bad, but sometimes shoot the winning party.

Dogs, if not held sacred, are at least as much esteemed by them as
their own kindred. I have known an instance of a quadruped of the
cynic sect being appointed successor to a biped chief, and discharging
the duties of his office with the utmost gravity and decorum;
appearing at the feast given in honour of his deceased predecessor,
and furnishing his quota--(this of course by proxy)--of the
provisions. This dog-chief was treated by his owner with as much
regard as if he had been his child! All, indeed, treat their dogs
with the greatest respect, calling them by the most endearing
epithets:--"Embark, my son;" "Be quiet, my child;" "Don't bark at the
white men, they will not harm you."

The lewdness of the Carrier women cannot possibly be carried to a
greater excess. They are addicted to the most abominable practices;
abandoning themselves in early youth to the free indulgence of their
passions, they soon become debilitated and infirm; and there can be no
doubt that to this monstrous depravity the depopulation of the country
may, in part, be ascribed.

They never marry until satiated with indulgence; and if the woman then
should be dissatisfied with the restraint of the conjugal yoke, the
union, by mutual consent, is dissolved for a time; both then betake
themselves to their former courses. The woman, nevertheless, dare
not, according to law, take another husband during this temporary
separation. Whoever infringes this law, forfeits his life to the
aggrieved party, if he choose, or dare to take it.

Polygamy is allowed; but only one of the women is considered as the
wife. The most perfect harmony seems to subsist among them. When the
favourite happens to be supplanted by a rival, she resigns her place
without a murmur, well pleased if she can only enjoy the countenance
of her lord in a subordinate situation. Yet a rupture does sometimes
occur, when the repudiated party not unfrequently destroys herself.
Suicides were frequent among the females in the neighbourhood of Fort

The Takellies are a sedentary people, remaining shut up in their huts
during the severer part of the winter. You may then approach a camp
without perceiving any sign of its vicinity, until you come upon
their well, or one of their salmon _caches_. They are very social,
congregating at each other's huts, and passing their time talking or
sleeping. When awake, their tongues are ever in motion,--all bawling
out at the same time; and it has often surprised me how they could
possibly make themselves understood in the midst of such an uproar.

All Indians with whom I have come in contact, Christian as well as
Pagan, are addicted to falsehood; but the Takellies excel; they
are perfect adepts in the art, telling their stories with such an
appearance of truth, that even those who know them well are often
deceived. They were the greatest thieves in the world when the whites
first settled among them. The utmost vigilance failed to detect them.
Some of our people have been known to have their belts taken off them,
without perceiving it till too late; and many a poor fellow, after
passing a night in one of their encampments, has been obliged to pass
the remainder of the winter with but half a blanket--the other half
having been cut off while he slept.

Theft, however, is not quite so prevalent as formerly; and, strange
to say, no Indians can be more honest in paying their debts. It would
indeed be desirable that this credit system, long since introduced,
were abolished; but if this were done, the natives would carry the
greater part of their hunts to another quarter. Some of the natives
of the coast, having become regular traders of late years, penetrate
a considerable distance into the interior; in this manner the goods
obtained from the Company's posts along the coast, or from foreign
trading ships, pass from hand to hand in barter, until they eventually
reach the borders of New Caledonia, where the trade still affords a
very handsome profit to the native speculator.

These Indians are not given to hospitality in the proper sense of
the word. A stranger arriving among them is provided with food
for a day only; should he remain longer, he pays for it; for that
day's entertainment, however, the best fare is liberally furnished.
Strangers invited to their feasts are also provided for while they

There is much more variety and melody in the airs they sing, than
I have heard in any other part of the Indian country. They have
professed composers, who turn their talent to good account on the
occasion of a feast, when new airs are in great request, and are
purchased at a high rate. They dance in circles, men and women
promiscuously, holding each other by the hand; and keeping both feet
together, hop a little to a side all at once, giving at the same time
a singular jerk to their persons behind. The movement seems to be
difficult of execution, as it causes them to perspire profusely; they,
however, keep excellent time, and the blending of the voices of the
men and women in symphony has an agreeable effect.

The Takelly, or Carrier language is a dialect of the Chippewayan; and
it is rather a singular fact, that the two intervening dialects of
the Beaver Indians and Tsekanies, kindred nations, should differ more
from the Chippewayan than the Carrier; the two latter nations being
perfectly intelligible to each other, while the former are but
very imperfectly understood by their immediate neighbours, the

An erroneous opinion seems to have gone abroad regarding the variety
of languages spoken by the Indians. There are, in reality, only four
radically distinct languages from the shores of Labrador to the
Pacific: Sauteux, Chippewayan, Atna and Chinook. The Cree language
is evidently a dialect of the Sauteux, similar in construction, and
differing only in the modification of a few words. The Nascopies, or
mountaineers of Labrador, speak a mixture of Cree and Sauteux, the
former predominating.

Along the communication from Montreal to the foot of the Rocky
Mountains, following the Peace River route, we first meet with the
Sauteux tribes, who extend from the Lake of the Two Mountains to Lake
Winnipeg; then the Crees to Isle à la Crosse; after them, Crees and
Chippewayans to Athabasca; and along the banks of Peace River, the
Beaver Indians occupy the lower, and the Tsekanies the upper part. The
Chippewayan is evidently the root of the Beaver, Tsekany and Carrier
dialects; it is also spoken by a numerous tribe in the McKenzie's
River district--the Hare Indians.

On the west side of the Rocky Mountains the Carrier language is
succeeded by the Atna, which extends along the Columbia as far down,
as the Chinooks, who inhabit the coast. The Atna language, in its
variety of dialects, seems to have as wide a scope as either the
Sauteux or Chippewayan.

New Caledonia is one of the richest districts in the Company's
vast domain; its returns average about 8,000 beavers, with a fair
proportion of other valuable furs. When the district was first
settled, the goods required for trade were brought in by the winterers
from Lac la Pluie, which was their dépôt. The people left the district
as early in spring as the navigation permitted, and returned so
late that they were frequently overtaken by winter ere they reached
their destination. Cold, hunger, and fatigue, were the unavoidable
consequences; but the enterprising spirit of the men of those
days--the intrepid, indefatigable adventurers of the North-West
Company--overcame every difficulty. It was that spirit that opened a
communication across the broad continent of America; that penetrated
to the frostbound regions of the Arctic circle; and that established
a trade with the natives in this remote land, when the merchandise
required for it was in one season transported from Montreal to within
a short distance of the Pacific. Such enterprise has never been
exceeded, seldom or never equalled. The outfit is now sent out from
England by Cape Horn, to Fort Vancouver, thence it is conveyed in
boats to Okanagan, then transported on horses' backs to Alexandria,
the lower post of the district, whence it is conveyed in boats to Fort
St. James.

There are generally two commissioned gentlemen in this district,--a
chief-factor and chief-trader, with six or seven clerks in charge of
posts; and about forty men, principally Iroquois and half-breeds. The
fare at the different posts depends entirely on local circumstances.
In some places it is tolerable, in others, scarcely fit for dogs. For
the year's consumption, the Company allow a clerk two bags of flour,
sixty pounds of sugar, twelve pounds of tea, and a small quantity of
wine and brandy. Butter is now produced in abundance in the district.
Where there are no gardens, the men have only dried salmon,--as poor
fare as civilized man subsists on in any part of the world. It has at
first the same effect on most people as if they fed on Glauber salts.
Nevertheless, the men generally continue in this wretched condition
for many years, apparently contented and happy; the indulgence they
find among the females being, I grieve to say, the principal



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