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Title: On Canada's Frontier - Sketches of History, Sport, and Adventure and of the - Indians, Missionaries, Fur-traders, and Newer Settlers of - Western Canada
Author: Ralph, Julian
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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  Copyright, 1892, by Harper & Brothers.

  _All rights reserved_.





If all those into whose hands this book may fall were as well informed
upon the Dominion of Canada as are the people of the United States,
there would not be needed a word of explanation of the title of this
volume. Yet to those who might otherwise infer that what is here related
applies equally to all parts of Canada, it is necessary to explain that
the work deals solely with scenes and phases of life in the newer, and
mainly the western, parts of that country. The great English colony
which stirs the pages of more than two centuries of history has for its
capitals such proud and notable cities as Montreal, Quebec, Toronto,
Halifax, and many others, to distinguish the progressive civilization of
the region east of Lake Huron--the older provinces. But the Canada of
the geographies of to-day is a land of greater area than the United
States; it is, in fact, the "British America" of old. A great
trans-Canadian railway has joined the ambitious province of the Pacific
slope to the provinces of old Canada with stitches of steel across the
Plains. There the same mixed surplusage of Europe that settled our own
West is elbowing the fur-trader and the Indian out of the way, and is
laying out farms far north, in the smiling Peace River district, where
it was only a little while ago supposed that there were but two seasons,
winter and late spring. It is with that new part of Canada, between the
ancient and well-populated provinces and the sturdy new cities of the
Pacific Coast, that this book deals. Some references to the North are
added in those chapters that treat of hunting and fishing and

The chapters that compose this book originally formed a series of
papers which recorded journeys and studies made in Canada during the
past three years. The first one to be published was that which describes
a settler's colony in which a few titled foreigners took the lead; the
others were written so recently that they should possess the same
interest and value as if they here first met the public eye. What that
interest and value amount to is for the reader to judge, the author's
position being such that he may only call attention to the fact that he
had access to private papers and documents when he prepared the sketches
of the Hudson Bay Company, and that, in pursuing information about the
great province of British Columbia, he was not able to learn that a
serious and extended study of its resources had ever been made. The
principal studies and sketches were prepared for and published in
Harper's Magazine. The spirit in which they were written was solely that
of one who loves the open air and his fellow-men of every condition and
color, and who has had the good-fortune to witness in newer Canada
something of the old and almost departed life of the plainsmen and
woodsmen, and of the newer forces of nation-building on our continent.



   I. Titled Pioneers          1

  II. Chartering a Nation     11

 III. A Famous Missionary     53

  IV. Antoine's Moose-yard    66

   V. Big Fishing            115

  VI. "A Skin for a Skin"    134

 VII. "Talking Musquash"     190

VIII. Canada's El Dorado     214

  IX. Dan Dunn's Outfit      290



  _The Romantic Adventure of Old Sun's Wife_        Frontispiece

  _Dr. Rudolph Meyer's Place on the Pipestone_                 2

  _Settler's Sod Cabin_                                        3

  _Whitewood, a Settlement on the Prairie_                     4

  _Interior of Sod Cabin on the Frontier_                      5

  _Prairie Sod Stable_                                         7

  _Trained Ox Team_                                            9

  _Indian Boys Running a Foot-race_                           31

  _Indian Mother and Boy_                                     36

  _Opening of the Soldier Clan Dance_                         39

  _Sketch in the Soldier Clan Dance_                          43

  _A Fantasy from the Pony War-dance_                         47

  _Throwing the Snow Snake_                                   51

  _Father Lacombe Heading the Indians_                        61

  _The Hotel--Last Sign of Civilisation_                      69

  _"Give me a light"_                                         73

  _Antoine, from Life_                                        79

  _The Portage Sleigh on a Lumber Road_                       83

  _The Track in the Winter Forest_                            87

  _Pierre from Life_                                          91

  _Antoine's Cabin_                                           93

  _The Camp at Night_                                         97

  _A Moose Bull Fight_                                       101

  _On the Moose Trail_                                       103

  _In sight of the Game--"Now Shoot"_                        105

  _Success_                                                  109

  _Hunting the Caribou--"Shoot! Shoot!"_                     111

  _Indians Hunting Nets on Lake Nipigon_                     119

  _Trout-fishing Through the Ice_                            127

  _Rival Traders Racing to the Indian Camp_                  137

  _The Bear-trap_                                            143

  _Huskie Dogs Fighting_                                     147

  _Painting the Robe_                                        151

  _Coureur du Bois_                                          159

  _A Fur-trader in the Council Tepee_                        163

  _Buffalo Meat for the Post_                                167

  _The Indian Hunter of 1750_                                171

  _Indian Hunter Hanging Deer Out of the Reach of Wolves_    173

  _Making the Snow-shoe_                                     177

  _A Hudson Bay Man (Quarter-breed)_                         181

  _The Coureur du Bois and the Savage_                       185

  _Talking Musquash_                                         193

  _Indian Hunters Moving Camp_                               198

  _Setting a Mink-trap_                                      201

  _Wood Indians Come to Trade_                               205

  _A Voyageur, or Canoe-man, of Great Slave Lake_            209

  _In a Stiff Current_                                       211

  _Voyageur with Tumpline_                                   217

  _Voyageurs in Camp for the Night_                          221

  _"Huskie" Dogs on the Frozen Highway_                      227

  _The Factor's Fancy Toboggan_                              233

  _Halt of a York Boat Brigade for the Night_                239

  _An Impression of Shuswap Lake, British Columbia_          251

  _The Tschummum, or Tool Used in Making Canoes_             257

  _The First of the Salmon Run, Fraser River_                261

  _Indian Salmon-fishing in the Thrasher_                    266

  _Going to the Potlatch--Big Canoe, North-west Coast_       269

  _The Salmon Cache_                                         275

  _An Ideal of the Coast_                                    279

  _The Potlatch_                                             283

  _An Indian Canoe on the Columbia_                          293

  _"You're setting your nerves to stand it"_                 297

  _Jack Kirkup, the Mountain Sheriff_                        299

  _Engineer on the Preliminary Survey_                       303

  _Falling Monarchs_                                         308

  _Dan Dunn on His Works_                                    311

  _The Supply Train Over the Mountain_                       313

  _A Sketch on the Work_                                     317

  _The Mess Tent at Night_                                   319

  _"They Gained Erectness by Slow Jolts"_                    322




There is a very remarkable bit of this continent just north of our State
of North Dakota, in what the Canadians call Assiniboia, one of the
North-west Provinces. Here the plains reach away in an almost level,
unbroken, brown ocean of grass. Here are some wonderful and some very
peculiar phases of immigration and of human endeavor. Here is Major
Bell's farm of nearly one hundred square miles, famous as the Bell Farm.
Here Lady Cathcart, of England, has mercifully established a colony of
crofters, rescued from poverty and oppression. Here Count Esterhazy has
been experimenting with a large number of Hungarians, who form a colony
which would do better if those foreigners were not all together, with
only each other to imitate--and to commiserate. But, stranger than all
these, here is a little band of distinguished Europeans, partly noble
and partly scholarly, gathered together in as lonely a spot as can be
found short of the Rockies or the far northern regions of this


These gentlemen are Dr. Rudolph Meyer, of Berlin, the Comte de Cazes and
the Comte de Raffignac, of France, and M. Le Bidau de St. Mars, of that
country also. They form, in all probability, the most distinguished and
aristocratic little band of immigrants and farmers in the New World.

Seventeen hundred miles west of Montreal, in a vast prairie where
settlers every year go mad from loneliness, these polished Europeans
till the soil, strive for prizes at the provincial fairs, fish, hunt,
read the current literature of two continents, and are happy. The soil
in that region is of remarkable depth and richness, and is so black that
the roads and cattle-trails look like ink lines on brown paper. It is
part of a vast territory of uniform appearance, in one portion of which
are the richest wheat-lands of the continent. The Canadian Pacific
Railway crosses Assiniboia, with stops about five miles apart--some mere
stations and some small settlements. Here the best houses are little
frame dwellings; but very many of the settlers live in shanties made of
sods, with such thick walls and tight roofs, all of sod, that the awful
winters, when the mercury falls to forty degrees below zero, are endured
in them better than in the more costly frame dwellings.

[Illustration: SETTLER'S SOD CABIN]

I stopped off the cars at Whitewood, picking that four-year-old village
out at hap-hazard as a likely point at which to see how the immigrants
live in a brand-new country. I had no idea of the existence of any of
the persons I found there. The most perfect hospitality is offered to
strangers in such infant communities, and while enjoying the shelter of
a merchant's house I obtained news of the distinguished settlers, all
of whom live away from the railroad in solitude not to be conceived by
those who think their homes the most isolated in the older parts of the
country. I had only time to visit Dr. Rudolph Meyer, five miles from
Whitewood, in the valley of the Pipestone.


The way was across a level prairie, with here and there a bunch of young
wolf-willows to break the monotonous scene, with tens of thousands of
gophers sitting boldly on their haunches within reach of the wagon whip,
with a sod house in sight in one direction at one time and a frame house
in view at another. The talk of the driver was spiced with news of
abundant wild-fowl, fewer deer, and marvellously numerous small
quadrupeds, from wolves and foxes down. He talked of bachelors living
here and there alone on that sea of grass, for all the world like men
in small boats on the ocean; and I saw, contrariwise, a man and wife who
blessed Heaven for an unheard-of number of children, especially prized
because each new-comer lessened the loneliness. I heard of the long and
dreadful winters when the snowfall is so light that horses and mules may
always paw down to grass, though cattle stand and starve and freeze to
death. I heard, too, of the way the snow comes in flurried squalls, in
which men are lost within pistol-shot of their homes. In time the wagon
came to a sort of coulee or hollow, in which some mechanics imported
from Paris were putting up a fine cottage for the Comte de Raffignac.
Ten paces farther, and I stood on the edge of the valley of the
Pipestone, looking at a scene so poetic, pastoral, and beautiful that in
the whole transcontinental journey there were few views to compare with


Reaching away far below the level of the prairie was a bowl-like valley,
a mile long and half as wide, with a crystal stream lying like a ribbon
of silver midway between its sloping walls. Another valley, longer yet,
served as an extension to this. On the one side the high grassy walls
were broken with frequent gullies, while on the other side was a
park-like growth of forest trees. Meadows and fields lay between, and
nestling against the eastern or grassy wall was the quaint,
old-fashioned German house of the learned doctor. Its windows looked out
on those beautiful little valleys, the property of the doctor--a little
world far below the great prairie out of which sportive and patient Time
had hollowed it. Externally the long, low, steep-roofed house was
German, ancient, and picturesque in appearance. Its main floor was all
enclosed in the sash and glass frame of a covered porch, and outside of
the walls of glass were heavy curtains of straw, to keep out the sun in
summer and the cold in winter. In-doors the house is as comfortable as
any in the world. Its framework is filled with brick, and its trimmings
are all of pine, oiled and varnished. In the heart of the house is a
great Russian stove--a huge box of brick-work, which is filled full of
wood to make a fire that is made fresh every day, and that heats the
house for twenty-four hours. A well-filled wine-cellar, a well-equipped
library, where Harper's Weekly, and _Uber Land und Mer_, _Punch_,
_Puck_, and _Die Fliegende Blätter_ lie side by side, a kindly wife, and
a stumbling baby, tell of a combination of domestic joys that no man is
too rich to envy. The library is the doctor's workshop. He is now
engaged in compiling a digest of the economic laws of nations. He is
already well known as the author of a _History of Socialism_ (in
Germany, the United States, Scandinavia, Russia, France, Belgium, and
elsewhere), and also for his _History of Socialism in Germany_. He
writes in French and German, and his works are published in Germany.

[Illustration: PRAIRIE SOD STABLE]

Dr. Meyer is fifty-three years old. He is a political exile, having been
forced from Prussia for connection with an unsuccessful opposition to
Bismarck. It is because he is a scholar seeking rest from the turmoil of
politics that one is able to comprehend his living in this overlooked
corner of the world. Yet when that is understood, and one knows what an
Arcadia his little valley is, and how complete are his comforts
within-doors, the placidity with which he smokes his pipe, drinks his
beer, and is waited upon by servants imported from Paris, becomes less a
matter for wonder than for congratulation. He has shared part of one
valley with the Comte de Raffignac, who thinks there is nothing to
compare with it on earth. The count has had his house built near the
abruptly-broken edge of the prairie, so that he may look down upon the
calm and beautiful valley and enjoy it, as he could not had he built in
the valley itself. He is a youth of very old French family, who loves
hunting and horses. He was contemplating the raising of horses for a
business when I was there. But the count mars the romance of his
membership in this little band by going to Paris now and then, as a
young man would be likely to.

Out-of-doors one saw what untold good it does to the present and future
settlers to have such men among them. The hot-houses, glazed vegetable
beds, the plots of cultivated ground, the nurseries of young trees--all
show at what cost of money and patience the Herr Doctor is experimenting
with every tree and flower and vegetable and cereal to discover what can
be grown with profit in that region of rich soil and short summers, and
what cannot. He is in communication with the seedsmen, to say nothing of
the savants, of Europe and this country, and whatever he plants is of
the best. Near his quaint dwelling he has a house for his gardener, a
smithy, a tool-house, a barn, and a cheese-factory, for he makes gruyere
cheese in great quantities. He also raises horses and cattle.

The Comte de Cazes has a sheltered, favored claim a few miles to the
northward, near the Qu' Appele River. He lives in great comfort, and is
so successful a farmer that he carries off nearly all the prizes for the
province, especially those given for prime vegetables. He has his wife
and daughter and one of his sons with him, and an abundance of means,
as, indeed, these distinguished settlers all appear to have.

[Illustration: TRAINED OX TEAM]

These men have that faculty, developed in all educated and thinking
souls, which enables them to banish loneliness and entertain themselves.
Still, though Dr. Meyer laughs at the idea of danger, it must have been
a little disquieting to live as he does during the Riel rebellion,
especially as an Indian reservation is close by, and wandering red men
are seen every day upon the prairie. Indeed, the Government thought fit
to send men of the North-west Mounted Police to visit the doctor twice a
week as lately as a year after the close of the half-breed uprising.



How it came about that we chartered the Blackfoot nation for two days
had better not be told in straightforward fashion. There is more that is
interesting in going around about the subject, just as in reality we did
go around and about the neighborhood of the Indians before we determined
to visit them.

In the first place, the most interesting Indian I ever saw--among many
kinds and many thousands--was the late Chief Crowfoot, of the Blackfoot
people. More like a king than a chief he looked, as he strode upon the
plains, in a magnificent robe of white bead-work as rich as ermine, with
a gorgeous pattern illuminating its edges, a glorious sun worked into
the front of it, and many artistic and chromatic figures sewed in gaudy
beads upon its back. He wore an old white chimney-pot hat, bound around
with eagle feathers, a splendid pair of _chaperajos_, all worked with
beads at the bottoms and fringed along the sides, and bead-worked
moccasins, for which any lover of the Indian or collector of his
paraphernalia would have exchanged a new Winchester rifle without a
second's hesitation. But though Crowfoot was so royally clothed, it was
in himself that the kingly quality was most apparent. His face was
extraordinarily like what portraits we have of Julius Cæsar, with the
difference that Crowfoot had the complexion of an Egyptian mummy. The
high forehead, the great aquiline nose, the thin lips, usually closed,
the small, round, protruding chin, the strong jawbones, and the keen
gray eyes composed a face in which every feature was finely moulded, and
in which the warrior, the commander, and the counsellor were strongly
suggested. And in each of these roles he played the highest part among
the Indians of Canada from the moment that the whites and the red men
contested the dominion of the plains until he died, a short time ago.

He was born and lived a wild Indian, and though the good fathers of the
nearest Roman Catholic mission believe that he died a Christian, I am
constrained to see in the reason for their thinking so only another
proof of the consummate shrewdness of Crowfoot's life-long policy. The
old king lay on his death-bed in his great wig-a-wam, with twenty-seven
of his medicine-men around him, and never once did he pretend that he
despised or doubted their magic. When it was evident that he was about
to die, the conjurers ceased their long-continued, exhausting formula of
howling, drumming, and all the rest, and, Indian-like, left Death to
take his own. Then it was that one of the watchful, zealous priests,
whose lives have indeed been like those of fathers to the wild Indians,
slipped into the great tepee and administered the last sacrament to the
old pagan.

"Do you believe?" the priest inquired.

"Yes, I believe," old Crowfoot grunted. Then he whispered, "But don't
tell my people."

Among the last words of great men, those of Saponaxitaw (his Indian
name) may never be recorded, but to the student of the American
aborigine they betray more that is characteristic of the habitual
attitude of mind of the wild red man towards civilizing influences than
any words I ever knew one to utter.

As the old chief crushed the bunch-grass beneath his gaudy moccasins at
the time I saw him, and as his lesser chiefs and headmen strode behind
him, we who looked on knew what a great part he was bearing and had
taken in Canada. He had been chief of the most powerful and savage tribe
in the North, and of several allied tribes as well, from the time when
the region west of the Mississippi was _terra incognita_ to all except a
few fur traders and priests. His warriors ruled the Canadian wilderness,
keeping the Ojibbeways and Crees in the forests to the east and north,
routing the Crows, the Stonies, and the Big-Bellies whenever they
pleased, and yielding to no tribe they met except the Sioux to the
southward in our territory. The first white man Crowfoot ever knew
intimately was Father Lacombe, the noble old missionary, whose fame is
now world-wide among scholars. The peaceful priest and the warrior chief
became fast friends, and from the day when the white men first broke
down the border and swarmed upon the plains, until at the last they ran
what Crowfoot called their "fire-wagons" (locomotives) through his land,
he followed the priest's counselling in most important matters. He
treated with the authorities, and thereafter hindered his braves from
murder, massacre, and warfare. Better than that, during the Riel
rebellion he more than any other man, or twenty men, kept the red man of
the plains at peace when the French half-breeds, led by their mentally
irresponsible disturber, rebelled against the Dominion authorities.

When Crowfoot talked, he made laws. While he spoke, his nation listened
in silence. He had killed as many men as any Indian warrior alive; he
was a mighty buffalo-slayer; he was torn, scarred, and mangled in skin,
limb, and bone. He never would learn English or pretend to discard his
religion. He was an Indian after the pattern of his ancestors. At eighty
odd years of age there lived no red-skin who dared answer him back when
he spoke his mind. But he was a shrewd man and an archdiplomatist.
Because he had no quarrel with the whites, and because a grand old
priest was his truest friend, he gave orders that his body should be
buried in a coffin, Christian fashion, and as I rode over the plains in
the summer of 1890 I saw his burial-place on top of a high hill, and
knew that his bones were guarded night and day by watchers from among
his people. Two or three days before he died his best horse was
slaughtered for burial with him. He heard of it. "That was wrong," he
said; "there was no sense in doing that; and besides, the horse was
worth good money." But he was always at least as far as that in advance
of his people, and it was natural that not only his horse, but his gun
and blankets, his rich robes, and plenty of food to last him to the
happy hunting-grounds, should have been buried with him.

There are different ways of judging which is the best Indian, but from
the stand-point of him who would examine that distinct product of
nature, the Indian as the white man found him, the Canadian Blackfeet
are among if not quite the best. They are almost as primitive and
natural as any, nearly the most prosperous, physically very fine, the
most free from white men's vices. They are the most reasonable in their
attitude towards the whites of any who hold to the true Indian
philosophy. The sum of that philosophy is that civilization gets men a
great many comforts, but bundles them up with so many rules and
responsibilities and so much hard work that, after all, the wild Indian
has the greatest amount of pleasure and the least share of care that men
can hope for. That man is the fairest judge of the red-skins who
considers them as children, governed mainly by emotion, and acting upon
undisciplined impulse; and I know of no more hearty, natural children
than the careless, improvident, impulsive boys and girls of from five to
eighty years of age whom Crowfoot turned over to the care of Three
Bulls, his brother.

The Blackfeet of Canada number about two thousand men, women, and
children. They dwell upon a reserve of nearly five hundred square miles
of plains land, watered by the beautiful Bow River, and almost within
sight of the Rocky Mountains. It is in the province of Alberta, north of
our Montana. There were three thousand and more of these Indians when
the Canadian Pacific Railway was built across their hunting-ground,
seven or eight years ago, but they are losing numbers at the rate of
two hundred and fifty a year, roughly speaking. Their neighbors, the
tribes called the Bloods and the Piegans, are of the same nation. The
Sarcis, once a great tribe, became weakened by disease and war, and many
years ago begged to be taken into the confederation. These tribes all
have separate reserves near to one another, but all have heretofore
acknowledged each Blackfoot chief as their supreme ruler. Their old men
can remember when they used to roam as far south as Utah, and be gone
twelve months on the war-path and on their foraging excursions for
horses. They chased the Crees as far north as the Crees would run, and
that was close to the arctic circle. They lived in their war-paint and
by the chase. Now they are caged. They live unnaturally and die as
unnaturally, precisely like other wild animals shut up in our parks.
Within their park each gets a pound of meat with half a pound of flour
every day. Not much comes to them besides, except now and then a little
game, tobacco, and new blankets. They are so poorly lodged and so
scantily fed that they are not fit to confront a Canadian winter, and
lung troubles prey among them.

It is a harsh way to put it (but it is true of our own government also)
to say that one who has looked the subject over is apt to decide that
the policy of the Canadian Government has been to make treaties with the
dangerous tribes, and to let the peaceful ones starve. The latter do not
need to starve in Canada, fortunately; they trust to the Hudson Bay
Company for food and care, and not in vain. Having treated with the
wilder Indians, the rest of the policy is to send the brightest of their
boys to trade-schools, and to try to induce the men to till the soil.
Those who do so are then treated more generously than the others. I have
my own ideas with which to meet those who find nothing admirable in any
except a dead Indian, and with which to discuss the treatment and policy
the live Indian endures, but this is not the place for the discussion.
Suffice it that it is not to be denied that between one hundred and
fifty and two hundred Blackfeet are learning to maintain several plots
of farming land planted with oats and potatoes. This they are doing with
success, and with the further result of setting a good example to the
rest. But most of the bucks are either sullenly or stupidly clinging to
the shadow and the memory of the life that is gone.

It was a recollection of that life which they portrayed for us. And they
did so with a fervor, an abundance of detail and memento, and with a
splendor few men have seen equalled in recent years--or ever may hope to
witness again.

We left the cars at Gleichen, a little border town which depends almost
wholly upon the Blackfeet and their visitors for its maintenance. It has
two stores--one where the Indians get credit and high prices (and at
which the red men deal), and one at which they may buy at low rates for
cash, wherefore they seldom go there. It has two hotels and a half-dozen
railway men's dwellings, and, finally, it boasts a tiny little station
or barracks of the North-west Mounted Police, wherein the lower of the
two rooms is fitted with a desk, and hung with pistols, guns,
handcuffs, and cartridge belts, while the upper room contains the cots
for the men at night.

We went to the store that the Indians favor--just such a store as you
see at any cross-roads you drive past in a summer's outing in the
country--and there were half a dozen Indians beautifying the door-way
and the interior, like magnified majolica-ware in a crockery-shop. They
were standing or sitting about with thoughtful expressions, as Indians
always do when they go shopping; for your true Indian generates such a
contemplative mood when he is about to spend a quarter that one would
fancy he must be the most prudent and deliberate of men, instead of what
he really is--the greatest prodigal alive except the negro. These bucks
might easily have been mistaken for waxworks. Unnaturally erect, with
arms folded beneath their blankets, they stood or sat without moving a
limb or muscle. Only when a new-comer entered did they stir. Then they
turned their heads deliberately and looked at the visitor fixedly, as
eagles look at you from out their cages. They were strapping fine
fellows, each bundled up in a colored blanket, flapping cloth leg-gear,
and yellow moccasins. Each had the front locks of his hair tied in an
upright bunch, like a natural plume, and several wore little brass
rings, like baby finger-rings, around certain side locks down beside
their ears.

There they stood, motionless and speechless, waiting until the impulse
should move them to buy what they wanted, with the same deliberation
with which they had waited for the original impulse which sent them to
the store. If Mr. Frenchman, who kept the store, had come from behind
his counter, English fashion, and had said: "Come, come; what d'you
want? Speak up now, and be quick about it. No lounging here. Buy or get
out." If he had said that, or anything like it, those Indians would have
stalked out of his place, not to enter it again for a very long time, if
ever. Bartering is a serious and complex performance to an Indian, and
you might as well try to hurry an elephant up a gang-plank as try to
quicken an Indian's procedure in trading.

We purchased of the Frenchman a chest of tea, a great bag of lump sugar,
and a small case of plug tobacco for gifts to the chief. Then we hired a
buck-board wagon, and made ready for the journey to the reserve.

The road to the reserve lay several miles over the plains, and commanded
a view of rolling grass land, like a brown sea whose waves were
petrified, with here and there a group of sickly wind-blown trees to
break the resemblance. The road was a mere wagon track and horse-trail
through the grass, but it was criss-crossed with the once deep ruts that
had been worn by countless herds of buffalo seeking water.

Presently, as we journeyed, a little line of sand-hills came into view.
They formed the Blackfoot cemetery. We saw the "tepees of the dead" here
and there on the knolls, some new and perfect, some old and
weather-stained, some showing mere tatters of cotton flapping on the
poles, and still others only skeleton tents, the poles remaining and the
cotton covering gone completely. We knew what we would see if we looked
into those "dead tepees" (being careful to approach from the windward
side). We would see, lying on the ground or raised upon a framework, a
bundle that would be narrow at top and bottom, and broad in the
middle--an Indian's body rolled up in a sheet of cotton, with his best
bead-work and blanket and gun in the bundle, and near by a kettle and
some dried meat and corn-meal against his feeling hungry on his long
journey to the hereafter. As one or two of the tepees were new, we
expected to see some family in mourning; and, sure enough, when we
reached the great sheer-sided gutter which the Bow River has dug for its
course through the plains, we halted our horse and looked down upon a
lonely trio of tepees, with children playing around them and women
squatted by the entrances. Three families had lost members, and were
sequestered there in abject surrender to grief.

Those tents of the mourners were at our feet as we rode southward, down
in the river gully, where the grass was green and the trees were leafy
and thriving; but when we turned our faces to the eastward, where the
river bent around a great promontory, what a sight met our gaze! There
stood a city of tepees, hundreds of them, showing white and yellow and
brown and red against the clear blue sky. A silent and lifeless city it
seemed, for we were too far off to see the people or to hear their
noises. The great huddle of little pyramids rose abruptly from the level
bare grass against the flawless sky, not like one of those melancholy
new treeless towns that white men are building all over the prairie, but
rather like a mosquito fleet becalmed at sea. There are two camps on
the Blackfoot Reserve, the North Camp and the South Camp, and this town
of tents was between the two, and was composed of more households than
both together; for this was the assembling for the sun-dance, their
greatest religious festival, and hither had come Bloods, Piegans, and
Sarcis as well as Blackfeet. Only the mourners kept away; for here were
to be echoed the greatest ceremonials of that dead past, wherein lives
dedicated to war and to the chase inspired the deeds of valor which each
would now celebrate anew in speech or song. This was to be the
anniversary of the festival at which the young men fastened themselves
by a strip of flesh in their chests to a sort of Maypole rope, and tore
their flesh apart to demonstrate their fitness to be considered braves.
At this feast husbands had the right to confess their women, and to cut
their noses off if they had been untrue, and if they yet preferred life
to the death they richly merited. At this gala-time sacrifices of
fingers were made by brave men to the sun. Then every warrior boasted of
his prowess, and the young beaus feasted their eyes on gayly-clad
maidens the while they calculated for what number of horses they could
be purchased of their parents. And at each recurrence of this wonderful
holiday-time every night was spent in feasting, gorging, and gambling.
In short, it was the great event of the Indian year, and so it remains.
Even now you may see the young braves undergo the torture; and if you
may not see the faithless wives disciplined, you may at least perceive a
score who have been, as well as hear the mighty boasting, and witness
the dancing, gaming, and carousing.

We turned our backs towards the tented field, for we had not yet
introduced ourselves to Mr. Magnus Begg, the Indian agent in charge of
the reserve. We were soon within his official enclosure, where a pretty
frame house, an office no bigger than a freight car, and a roomy barn
and stable were all overtopped by a central flag-staff, and shaded by
flourishing trees. Mr. Begg was at home, and, with his accomplished
wife, welcomed us in such a hearty manner as one could hardly have
expected, even where white folks were so "mighty unsartin" to appear as
they are on the plains. The agent's house without is like any pretty
village home in the East; and within, the only distinctive features are
a number of ornamental mounted wild-beast's heads and a room whose walls
are lined about with rare and beautiful Blackfoot curios in skin and
stone and bead-work. But, to our joy, we found seated in that room the
famous chief Old Sun. He is the husband of the most remarkable Indian
squaw in America, and he would have been Crowfoot's successor were it
not that he was eighty-seven years of age when the Blackfoot Cæsar died.
As chief of the North Blackfeet, Old Sun boasts the largest personal
following on the Canadian plains, having earned his popularity by his
fighting record, his commanding manner, his eloquence, and by that
generosity which leads him to give away his rations and his presents. No
man north of Mexico can dress more gorgeously than he upon occasion, for
he still owns a buckskin outfit beaded to the value of a Worth gown.
Moreover, he owns a red coat, such as the Government used to give only
to great chiefs. The old fellow had lost his vigor when we saw him, and
as he sat wrapped in his blanket he looked like a half-emptied meal bag
flung on a chair. He despises English, but in that marvellous Volapük of
the plains called the sign language he told us that his teeth were gone,
his hearing was bad, his eyes were weak, and his flesh was spare. He
told his age also, and much else besides, and there is no one who reads
this but could have readily understood his every statement and
sentiment, conveyed solely by means of his hands and fingers. I noticed
that he looked like an old woman, and it is a fact that old Indian men
frequently look so. Yet no one ever saw a young brave whose face
suggested a woman's, though their beardless countenances and long hair
might easily create that appearance.

Mr. Remington was anxious to paint Old Sun and his squaw, particularly
the latter, and he easily obtained permission, although when the time
for the mysterious ordeal arrived next day the old chief was greatly
troubled in his superstitious old brain lest some mischief would befall
him through the medium of the painting. To the Indian mind the sun,
which they worship, has magical, even devilish, powers, and Old Sun
developed a fear that the orb of day might "work on his picture" and
cause him to die. Fortunately I found in Mr. L'Hereux, the interpreter,
a person who had undergone the process without dire consequences, was
willing to undergo it again, and who added that his father and mother
had submitted to the operation, and yet had lived to a yellow old age.
When Old Sun brought his wife to sit for her portrait I put all
etiquette to shame in staring at her, as you will all the more readily
believe when you know something of her history.

Old Sun's wife sits in the council of her nation--the only woman, white,
red, or black, of whom I have ever heard who enjoys such a prerogative
on this continent. She earned her peculiar privileges, if any one ever
earned anything. Forty or more years ago she was a Piegan maiden known
only in her tribe, and there for nothing more than her good origin, her
comeliness, and her consequent value in horses. She met with outrageous
fortune, but she turned it to such good account that she was speedily
ennobled. She was at home in a little camp on the plains one day, and
had wandered away from the tents, when she was kidnapped. It was in this
wise: other camps were scattered near there. On the night before the day
of her adventure a band of Crows stole a number of horses from a camp of
the Gros Ventres, and very artfully trailed their plunder towards and
close to the Piegan camp before they turned and made their way to their
own lodges. When the Gros Ventres discovered their loss, and followed
the trail that seemed to lead to the Piegan camp, the girl and her
father, an aged chief, were at a distance from their tepees, unarmed and
unsuspecting. Down swooped the Gros Ventres. They killed and scalped the
old man, and then their chief swung the young girl upon his horse behind
him, and binding her to him with thongs of buckskin, clashed off
triumphantly for his own village. That has happened to many another
Indian maiden, most of whom have behaved as would a plaster image,
saving a few days of weeping. Not such was Old Sun's wife. When she and
her captor were in sight of the Gros Ventre village, she reached forward
and stole the chief's scalping-knife out of its sheath at his side. With
it, still wet with her father's blood, she cut him in the back through
to the heart. Then she freed his body from hers, and tossed him from the
horse's back. Leaping to the ground beside his body, she not only
scalped him, but cut off his right arm and picked up his gun, and rode
madly back to her people, chased most of the way, but bringing safely
with her the three greatest trophies a warrior can wrest from a
vanquished enemy. Two of them would have distinguished any brave, but
this mere village maiden came with all three. From that day she has
boasted the right to wear three eagle feathers.

Old Sun was a young man then, and when he heard of this feat he came and
hitched the requisite number of horses to her mother's travois poles
beside her tent. I do not recall how many steeds she was valued at, but
I have heard of very high-priced Indian girls who had nothing except
their feminine qualities to recommend them. In one case I knew that a
young man, who had been casting what are called "sheep's eyes" at a
maiden, went one day and tied four horses to her father's tent. Then he
stood around and waited, but there was no sign from the tent. Next day
he took four more, and so he went on until he had tied sixteen horses to
the tepee. At the least they were worth $20, perhaps $30, apiece. At
that the maiden and her people came out, and received the young man so
graciously that he knew he was "the young woman's choice," as we say in
civilized circles, sometimes under very similar circumstances.

At all events, Old Sun was rich and powerful, and easily got the savage
heroine for his wife. She was admitted to the Blackfoot council without
a protest, and has since proven that her valor was not sporadic, for she
has taken the war-path upon occasion, and other scalps have gone to her

After a while we drove over to where the field lay littered with tepees.
There seemed to be no order in the arrangement of the tents as we looked
at the scene from a distance. Gradually the symptoms of a great stir and
activity were observable, and we saw men and horses running about at one
side of the nomad settlement, as well as hundreds of human figures
moving in the camp. Then a nearer view brought out the fact that the
tepees, which were of many sizes, were apt to be white at the base,
reddish half-way up, and dark brown at the top. The smoke of the fires
within, and the rain and sun without, paint all the cotton or canvas
tepees like that, and very pretty is the effect. When closer still, we
saw that each tepee was capped with a rude crown formed of pole
ends--the ends of the ribs of each structure; that some of the tents
were gayly ornamented with great geometric patterns in red, black, and
yellow around the bottoms; and that others bore upon their sides rude
but highly colored figures of animals--the clan sign of the family
within. Against very many of the frail dwellings leaned a travois, the
triangle of poles which forms the wagon of the Indians. There were three
or four very large tents, the headquarters of the chiefs of the soldier
bands and of the head chief of the nation; and there was one spotless
new tent, with a pretty border painted around its base, and the figure
of an animal on either side. It was the new establishment of a bride and
groom. A hubbub filled the air as we drew still nearer; not any noise
occasioned by our approach, but the ordinary uproar of the camp--the
barking of dogs, the shouts of frolicking children, the yells of young
men racing on horseback and of others driving in their ponies. When we
drove between the first two tents we saw that the camp had been
systematically arranged in the form of a rude circle, with the tents in
bunches around a great central space, as large as Madison Square if its
corners were rounded off.

We were ushered into the presence of Three Bulls, in the biggest of all
the tents. By common consent he was presiding as chief and successor to
Crowfoot, pending the formal election, which was to take place at the
feast of the sun-dance. European royalty could scarcely have managed to
invest itself with more dignity or access to its presence with more
formality than hedged about this blanketed king. He had assembled his
chiefs and headmen to greet us, for we possessed the eminence of persons
bearing gifts. He was in mourning for Crowfoot, who was his brother, and
for a daughter besides, and the form of expression he gave to his grief
caused him to wear nothing but a flannel shirt and a breech-cloth, in
which he sat with his big brown legs bare and crossed beneath him. He is
a powerful man, with an uncommonly large head, and his facial features,
all generously moulded, indicate amiability, liberality, and
considerable intelligence. Of middle age, smooth-skinned, and plump,
there was little of the savage in his looks beyond what came of his long
black hair. It was purposely wore unkempt and hanging in his eyes, and
two locks of it were bound with many brass rings. When we came upon him
our gifts had already been received and distributed, mainly to three or
four relatives. But though the others sat about portionless, all were
alike stolid and statuesque, and whatever feelings agitated their
breasts, whether of satisfaction or disappointment, were equally hidden
by all.

When we entered the big tepee we saw twenty-one men seated in a circle
against the wall and facing the open centre, where the ground was
blackened by the ashes of former fires. Three Bulls sat exactly opposite
the queer door, a horseshoe-shaped hole reaching two feet above the
ground, and extended by the partly loosened lacing that held the edges
of the tent-covering together. Mr. L'Hereux, the interpreter, made a
long speech in introducing each of us. We stood in the middle of the
ring, and the chief punctuated the interpreter's remarks with that queer
Indian grunt which it has ever been the custom to spell "ugh," but which
you may imitate exactly if you will try to say "Ha" through your nose
while your mouth is closed. As Mr. L'Hereux is a great talker, and is of
a poetic nature, there is no telling what wild fancy of his active brain
he invented concerning us, but he made a friendly talk, and that was
what we wanted. As each speech closed, Three Bulls lurched forward just
enough to make the putting out of his hand a gracious act, yet not
enough to disturb his dignity. After each salutation he pointed out a
seat for the one with whom he had shaken hands. He announced to the
council in their language that we were good men, whereat the council
uttered a single "Ha" through its twenty-one noses. If you had seen the
rigid stateliness of Three Bulls, and had felt the frigid
self-possession of the twenty-one ramrod-mannered under-chiefs, as well
as the deference which was in the tones of the other white men in our
company, you would comprehend that we were made to feel at once honored
and subordinate. Altogether we made an odd picture: a circle of men
seated tailor fashion, and my own and Mr. Remington's black shoes
marring the gaudy ring of yellow moccasins in front of the savages, as
they sat in their colored blankets and fringed and befeathered gear,
each with the calf of one leg crossed before the shin of the other.

But L'Hereux's next act after introducing us was one that seemed to
indicate perfect indifference to the feelings of this august body. No
one but he, who had spent a quarter of a century with them in closest
intimacy, could have acted as he proceeded to do. He cast his eyes on
the ground, and saw the mounds of sugar, tobacco, and tea heaped before
only a certain few Indians. "Now who has done dose t'ing?" he inquired.
"Oh, dat vill nevaire do 'tall. You haf done dose t'ing, Mistaire Begg?
No? Who den? Chief? Nevaire mind. I make him all rount again, vaire
deeferent. You shall see somet'ing." With that, and yet without ceasing
to talk for an instant, now in Indian and now in his English, he began
to dump the tea back again into the chest, the sugar into the bag, and
the plug tobacco in a heap by itself. Not an Indian moved a
muscle--unless I was right in my suspicion that the corners of Three
Bulls' mouth curved upward slightly, as if he were about to smile. "Vot
kind of wa-a-y to do-o somet'ing is dat?" the interpreter continued, in
his sing-song tone. "You moos' haf one maje-dome [major-domo] if you
shall try satisfy dose Engine." He always called the Indians "dose
Engine." "Dat chief gif all dose present to his broders und cousins,
which are in his famille. Now you shall see me, vot I shall do." Taking
his hat, he began filling it, now with sugar and now with tea, and
emptying it before some six or seven chiefs. Finally, when a double
share was left, he gave both bag and chest to Three Bulls, to whom he
also gave all the tobacco. "Such tam-fool peezness," he went on, "I do
not see in all my life. I make visitation to de t'ree soljier chief
vhich shall make one grand darnce for dose gentlemen, und here is for
dose soljier chief not anyt'ing 'tall, vhile everyt'ing was going to one
lot of beggaire relation of T'ree Bull. Dat is what I call one tam-fool
way to do some'ting."


The redistribution accomplished, Three Bulls wore a grin of
satisfaction, and one chief who had lost a great pile of presents, and
who got nothing at all by the second division, stalked solemnly out of
the tent, through not until Three Bulls had tossed the plugs of tobacco
to all the men around the circle, precisely as he might have thrown
bones to dogs, but always observing a certain order in making each round
with the plugs. All were thus served according to their rank. Then Three
Bulls rummaged with one hand behind him in the grass, and fetched
forward a great pipe with a stone bowl and wooden handle--a sort of
chopping-block of wood--and a large long-bladed knife. Taking a plug of
tobacco in one hand and the knife in the other, he pared off enough
tobacco to fill the pipe. Then he filled it, and passed it, stem
foremost, to a young man on the left-hand side of the tepee. The
superior chiefs all sat on the right-hand side. The young man knew that
he had been chosen to perform the menial act of lighting the pipe, and
he lighted it, pulling two or three whiffs of smoke to insure a good
coal of fire in it before passing it back--though why it was not
considered a more menial task to cut the tobacco and fill the pipe than
to light it I don't know.

Three Bulls puffed the pipe for a moment, and then turning the stem from
him, pointed it at the chief next in importance, and to that personage
the symbol of peace was passed from hand to hand. When that chief had
drawn a few whiffs, he sent the pipe back to Three Bulls, who then
indicated to whom it should go next. Thus it went dodging about the
circle like a marble on a bagatelle board. When it came to me, I
hesitated a moment whether or not to smoke it, but the desire to be
polite outweighed any other prompting, and I sucked the pipe until some
of the Indians cried out that I was "a good fellow."

While all smoked and many talked, I noticed that Three Bulls sat upon a
soft seat formed of his blanket, at one end of which was one of those
wickerwork contrivances, like a chair back, upon which Indians lean when
seated upon the ground. I noticed also that one harsh criticism passed
upon Three Bulls was just; that was that when he spoke, others might
interrupt him. It was said that even women "talked back" to him at times
when he was haranguing his people. Since no one spoke when Crowfoot
talked, the comparison between him and his predecessor was injurious to
him; but it was Crowfoot who named Three Bulls for the chieftainship.
Besides, Three Bulls had the largest following (under that of the too
aged Old Sun), and was the most generous chief and ablest politician of
all. Then, again, the Government supported him with whatever its
influence amounted to. This was because Three Bulls favored agricultural
employment for the tribe, and was himself cultivating a patch of
potatoes. He was in many other ways the man to lead in the new era, as
Crowfoot had been for the era that was past.

When we retired from the presence of the chief, I asked Mr. L'Hereux how
he had dared to take back the presents made to the Indians and then
distribute them differently. The queer Frenchman said, in his
indescribably confident, jaunty way:

"Why, dat is how you mus' do wid dose Engine. Nevaire ask one of dose
Engine anyt'ing, but do dose t'ing which are right, and at de same time
make explanashion what you are doing. Den dose Engine can say no t'ing
'tall. But if you first make explanashion and den try to do somet'ng,
you will find one grand trouble. Can you explain dis and dat to one hive
of de bees? Well, de hive of de bee is like dose Engine if you shall
talk widout de promp' action."

He said, later on, "Dose Engine are children, and mus' not haf
consideration like mans and women."

The news of our generosity ran from tent to tent, and the Black Soldier
band sent out a herald to cry the news that a war-dance was to be held
immediately. As immediately means to the Indian mind an indefinite and
very enduring period, I amused myself by poking about the village, in
tents and among groups of men or women, wherever chance led me. The
herald rode from side to side of the enclosure, yelling like a New York
fruit peddler. He was mounted on a bay pony, and was fantastically
costumed with feathers and war-paint. Of course every man, woman, and
child who had been in-doors, so to speak, now came out of the tepees,
and a mighty bustle enlivened the scene. The worst thing about the camp
was the abundance of snarling cur-dogs. It was not safe to walk about
the camp without a cane or whip, on account of these dogs.


The Blackfeet are poor enough, in all conscience, from nearly every
stand-point from which we judge civilized Communities, but their tribal
possessions include several horses to each head of a family; and though
the majority of their ponies would fetch no more than $20 apiece out
there, even this gives them more wealth per capita than many civilized
peoples can boast. They have managed, also, to keep much of the savage
paraphernalia of other days in the form of buckskin clothes, elaborate
bead-work, eagle headdresses, good guns, and the outlandish adornments
of their chiefs and medicine-men. Hundreds of miles from any except such
small and distant towns as Calgary and Medicine Hat, and kept on the
reserve as much as possible, there has come to them less damage by
whiskey and white men's vices than perhaps most other tribes have
suffered. Therefore it was still possible for me to see in some tents
the squaws at work painting the clan signs on stretched skins, and
making bead-work for moccasins, pouches, "chaps," and the rest. And in
one tepee I found a young and rather pretty girl wearing a suit of
buckskin, such as Cooper and all the past historians of the Indian knew
as the conventional every-day attire of the red-skin. I say I saw the
girl in a tent, but, as a matter of fact, she passed me out-of-doors,
and with true feminine art managed to allow her blanket to fall open for
just the instant it took to disclose the precious dress beneath it. I
asked to be taken into the tent to which she went, and there, at the
interpreter's request, she threw off her blanket, and stood, with a
little display of honest coyness, dressed like the traditional and the
theatrical belle of the wilderness. The soft yellowish leather, the
heavy fringe upon the arms, seams, and edges of the garment, her
beautiful beaded leggings and moccasins, formed so many parts of a very
charming picture. For herself, her face was comely, but her figure
was--an Indian's. The figure of the typical Indian woman shows few
graceful curves.

The reader will inquire whether there was any real beauty, as we judge
it, among these Indians. Yes, there was; at least there were good looks
if there was not beauty. I saw perhaps a dozen fine-looking men, half a
dozen attractive girls, and something like a hundred children of varying
degrees of comeliness--pleasing, pretty, or beautiful. I had some jolly
romps with the children, and so came to know that their faces and arms
met my touch with the smoothness and softness of the flesh of our own
little ones at home. I was surprised at this; indeed, the skin of the
boys was of the texture of velvet. The madcap urchins, what riotous fun
they were having! They flung arrows and darts, ran races and wrestled,
and in some of their play they fairly swarmed all over one another,
until at times one lad would be buried in the thick of a writhing mass
of legs and arms several feet in depth. Some of the boys wore only
"G-strings" (as, for some reason, the breech-clout is commonly called on
the prairie), but others were wrapped in old blankets, and the larger
ones were already wearing the Blackfoot plume-lock, or tuft of hair tied
and trained to stand erect above the forehead. The babies within the
tepees were clad only in their complexions.

The result of an hour of waiting on our part and of yelling on the part
of the herald resulted in a war-dance not very different in itself from
the dances we have most of us seen at Wild West shows. An immense tomtom
as big as the largest-sized bass-drum was set up between four poles,
around which colored cloths were wrapped, and from the tops of which the
same gay stuff floated on the wind in bunches of party-colored ribbons.
Around this squatted four young braves, who pounded the drum-head and
chanted a tune, which rose and fell between the shrillest and the
deepest notes, but which consisted of simple monosyllabic sounds
repeated thousands of times. The interpreter said that originally the
Indians had words to their songs, but these were forgotten no man knows
when, and only the so-called tunes (and the tradition that there once
were words for them) are perpetuated. At all events, the four braves
beat the drum and chanted, until presently a young warrior, hideous with
war-paint, and carrying a shield and a tomahawk, came out of a tepee and
began the dancing. It was the stiff-legged hopping, first on one foot
and then on the other, which all savages appear to deem the highest form
the terpsichorean art can take. In the course of a few circles around
the tomtom he began shouting of valorous deeds he never had performed,
for he was too young to have ridden after buffalo or into battle.
Presently he pretended to see upon the ground something at once
fascinating and awesome. It was the trail of the enemy. Then he danced
furiously and more limberly, tossing his head back, shaking his hatchet
and many-tailed shield high aloft, and yelling that he was following the
foe, and would not rest while a skull and a scalp-lock remained in
conjunction among them. He was joined by three others, and all danced
and yelled like madmen. At the last the leader came to a sort of
standard made of a stick and some cloth, tore it out from where it had
been thrust in the ground, and holding it far above his head, pranced
once around the circle, and thus ended the dance.


The novelty and interest in the celebration rested in the
surroundings--the great circle of tepees; the braves in their blankets
stalking hither and thither; the dogs, the horses, the intrepid riders,
dashing across the view. More strange still was the solemn line of the
medicine-men, who, for some reason not explained to me, sat in a row
with their backs to the dancers a city block away, and crooned a low
guttural accompaniment to the tomtom. But still more interesting were
the boys, of all grades of childhood, who looked on, while not a woman
remained in sight. The larger boys stood about in groups, watching the
spectacle with eyes afire with admiration, but the little fellows had
flung themselves on their stomachs in a row, and were supporting their
chubby faces upon their little brown hands, while their elbows rested on
the grass, forming a sort of orchestra row of Lilliputian spectators.

We arranged for a great spectacle to be gotten up on the next afternoon,
and were promised that it should be as notable for the numbers
participating in it and for the trappings to be displayed as any the
Blackfeet had ever given upon their reserve. The Indians spent the
entire night in carousing over the gift of tea, and we knew that if they
were true to most precedents they would brew and drink every drop of it.
Possibly some took it with an admixture of tobacco and wild currant to
make them drunk, or, in reality, very sick--which is much the same thing
to a reservation Indian. The compounds which the average Indian will
swallow in the hope of imitating the effects of whiskey are such as to
tax the credulity of those who hear of them. A certain patent
"painkiller" ranks almost as high as whiskey in their estimation; but
Worcestershire sauce and gunpowder, or tea, tobacco, and wild currant,
are not at all to be despised when alcohol, or the money to get it with,
is wanting. I heard a characteristic story about these red men while I
was visiting them. All who are familiar with them know that if medicine
is given them to take in small portions at certain intervals they are
morally sure to swallow it all at once, and that the sicker it makes
them, the more they will value it. On the Blackfoot Reserve, only a
short time ago, our gentle and insinuating Sedlitz-powders were classed
as children's stuff, but now they have leaped to the front rank as
powerful medicines. This is because some white man showed the Indian how
to take the soda and magnesia first, and then swallow the tartaric acid.
They do this, and when the explosion follows, and the gases burst from
their mouths and noses, they pull themselves together and remark, "Ugh!
him heap good."


On the morning of the day of the great spectacle I rode with Mr. Begg
over to the ration-house to see the meat distributed. The dust rose in
clouds above all the trails as the cavalcade of men, women, children,
travoises and dogs, approached the station. Men were few in the
disjointed lines; most of them sent their women or children. All rode
astraddle, some on saddles and some bareback. As all urged their horses
in the Indian fashion, which is to whip them unceasingly, and prod them
constantly with spurless heels, the bobbing movement of the riders'
heads and the gymnastics of their legs produced a queer scene. Here and
there a travois was trailed along by a horse or a dog, but the majority
of the pensioners were content to carry their meat in bags or otherwise
upon their horses. While the slaughtering went on, and after that, when
the beef was being chopped up into junks, I sat in the meat-contractor's
office, and saw the bucks, squaws, and children come, one after another,
to beg. I could not help noticing that all were treated with marked and
uniform kindness, and I learned that no one ever struck one of the
Indians, or suffered himself to lose his temper with them. A few of the
men asked for blankets, but the squaws and the children wanted soap. It
was said that when they first made their acquaintance with this symbol
of civilization they mistook it for an article of diet, but that now
they use it properly and prize it. When it was announced that the meat
was ready, the butchers threw open an aperture in the wall of the
ration-house, and the Indians huddled before it as if they had flung
themselves against the house in a mass. I have seen boys do the same
thing at the opening of a ticket window for the sale of gallery seats in
a theatre. There was no fighting or quarrelling, but every Indian pushed
steadily and silently with all his or her might. When one got his share
he tore himself away from the crowd as briers are pulled out of hairy
cloth. They are a hungry and an economical people. They bring pails for
the beef blood, and they carry home the hoofs for jelly. After a steer
has been butchered and distributed, only his horns and his paunch

The sun blazed down on the great camp that afternoon and glorified the
place so that it looked like a miniature Switzerland of snowy peaks. But
it was hot, and blankets were stretched from the tent tops, and the
women sat under them to catch the air and escape the heat. The salaried
native policeman of the reserve, wearing a white stove-pipe hat with
feathers, and a ridiculous blue coat, and Heaven alone knows what other
absurdities, rode around, boasting of deeds he never performed, while a
white cur made him all the more ridiculous by chasing him and yelping at
his horse's tail.

And then came the grand spectacle. The vast plain was forgotten, and the
great campus within the circle of tents was transformed into a theatre.
The scene was a setting of white and red tents that threw their
clear-cut outlines against a matchless blue sky. The audience was
composed of four white men and the Indian boys, who were flung about by
the startled horses they were holding for us. The players were the
gorgeous cavalrymen of nature, circling before their women and old men
and children, themselves plumed like unheard-of tropical birds, the
others displaying the minor splendor of the kaleidoscope. The play was
"The Pony War-dance, or the Departure for Battle." The acting was
fierce; not like the conduct of a mimic battle on our stage, but
performed with the desperate zest of men who hope for distinction in
war, and may not trifle about it. It had the earnestness of a challenged
man who tries the foils with a tutor. It was impressive, inspiring, at
times wildly exciting.


There were threescore young men in the brilliant cavalcade. They rode
horses that were as wild as themselves. Their evolutions were rude, but
magnificent. Now they dashed past us in single file, and next they came
helter-skelter, like cattle stampeding. For a while they rode around and
around, as on a race-course, but at times they deserted the enclosure,
parted into small bands, and were hidden behind the curtains of their
own dust, presently to reappear with a mad rush, yelling like maniacs,
firing their pieces, and brandishing their arms and their finery wildly
on high. The orchestra was composed of seven tomtoms that had been dried
taut before a camp fire. The old men and the chiefs sat in a semicircle
behind the drummers on the ground.

All the tribal heirlooms were in the display, the cherished gewgaws,
trinkets, arms, apparel, and finery they had saved from the fate of
which they will not admit they are themselves the victims. I never saw
an old-time picture of a type of savage red man or of an extravagance of
their costuming that was not revived in this spectacle. It was as if the
plates in my old school-books and novels and tales of adventure were all
animated and passing before me. The traditional Indian with the eagle
plumes from crown to heels was there; so was he with the buffalo horns
growing out of his skull; so were the idyllic braves in yellow
buckskin fringed at every point. The shining bodies of men, bare naked,
and frescoed like a Bowery bar-room, were not lacking; neither were
those who wore masses of splendid embroidery with colored beads. But
there were as many peculiar costumes which I never had seen pictured.
And not any two men or any two horses were alike. As barber poles are
covered with paint, so were many of these choice steeds of the nation.
Some were spotted all over with daubs of white, and some with every
color obtainable. Some were branded fifty times with the white hand, the
symbol of peace, but others bore the red hand and the white hand in
alternate prints. There were horses painted with the figures of horses
and of serpents and of foxes. To some saddles were affixed colored
blankets or cloths that fell upon the ground or lashed the air,
according as the horse cantered or raced. One horse was hung all round
with great soft woolly tails of some white material. Sleigh-bells were
upon several.

Only half a dozen men wore hats--mainly cowboy hats decked with
feathers. Many carried rifles, which they used with one hand. Others
brought out bows and arrows, lances decked with feathers or ribbons,
poles hung with colored cloths, great shields brilliantly painted and
fringed. Every visible inch of each warrior was painted, the naked ones
being ringed, streaked, and striped from head to foot. I would have to
catalogue the possessions of the whole nation to tell all that they wore
between the brass rings in their hair and the cartridge-belts at their
waists, and thus down to their beautiful moccasins.

Two strange features further distinguished their pageant. One was the
appearance of two negro minstrels upon one horse. Both had blackened
their faces and hands; both wore old stove-pipe hats and queer
long-tailed white men's coats. One wore a huge false white mustache, and
the other carried a coal-scuttle. The women and children roared with
laughter at the sight. The two comedians got down from their horse, and
began to make grimaces, and to pose this way and that, very comically.
Such a performance had never been seen on the reserve before. No one
there could explain where the men had seen negro minstrels. The other
unexpected feature required time for development. At first we noticed
that two little Indian boys kept getting in the way of the riders. As we
were not able to find any fixed place of safety from the excited
horsemen, we marvelled that these children were permitted to risk their

Suddenly a hideously-painted naked man on horseback chased the little
boys, leaving the cavalcade, and circling around the children. He rode
back into the ranks, and still they loitered in the way. Then around
swept the horsemen once more, and this time the naked rider flung
himself from his horse, and seizing one boy and then the other, bore
each to the ground, and made as if he would brain them with his hatchet
and lift their scalps with his knife. The sight was one to paralyze an
on-looker. But it was only a theatrical performance arranged for the
occasion. The man was acting over again the proudest of his
achievements. The boys played the parts of two white men whose scalps
now grace his tepee and gladden his memory.


For ninety minutes we watched the glorious riding, the splendid horses,
the brilliant trappings, and the paroxysmal fervor of the excited
Indians. The earth trembled beneath the dashing of the riders; the air
palpitated with the noise of their war-cries and bells. We could have
stood the day out, but we knew the players were tired, and yet would
not cease till we withdrew. Therefore we came away.

We had enjoyed a never-to-be-forgotten privilege. It was if we had seen
the ghosts of a dead people ride back to parody scenes in an era that
had vanished. It was like the rising of the curtain, in response to an
"encore," upon a drama that has been played. It was as if the sudden
up-flashing of a smouldering fire lighted, once again and for an
instant, the scene it had ceased to illumine.



The former chief of the Blackfeet--Crowfoot--and Father Lacombe, the
Roman Catholic missionary to the tribe, were the most interesting and
among the most influential public characters in the newer part of
Canada. They had much to do with controlling the peace of a territory
the size of a great empire.

The chief was more than eighty years old; the priest is a dozen years
younger; and yet they represented in their experiences the two great
epochs of life on this continent--the barbaric and the progressive. In
the chief's boyhood the red man held undisputed sway from the Lakes to
the Rockies. In the priest's youth he led, like a scout, beyond the
advancing hosts from Europe. But Father Lacombe came bearing the olive
branch of religion, and he and the barbarian became fast friends,
intimates in a companionship as picturesque and out of the common as any
the world could produce.

There is something very strange about the relations of the French and
the French half-breeds with the wild men of the plains. It is not
altogether necessary that the Frenchman should be a priest, for I have
heard of French half-breeds in our Territories who showed again and
again that they could make their way through bands of hostiles in
perfect safety, though knowing nothing of the language of the tribes
there in war-paint. It is most likely that their swarthy skins and black
hair, and their knowledge of savage ways aided them. But when not even a
French half-breed has dared to risk his life among angry Indians, the
French missionaries went about their duty fearlessly and unscathed.
There was one, just after the dreadful massacre of the Little Big Horn,
who built a cross of rough wood, painted it white, fastened it to his
buck-board, and drove through a country in which a white man with a pale
face and blond hair would not have lived two hours.

It must be remembered that in a vast region of country the French priest
and _voyageur_ and _coureur des bois_ were the first white men the
Indians saw, and while the explorers and traders seldom quarrelled with
the red men or offered violence to them, the priests never did. They
went about like women or children, or, rather, like nothing else than
priests. They quickly learned the tongues of the savages, treated them
fairly, showed the sublimest courage, and acted as counsellors,
physicians, and friends. There is at least one brave Indian fighter in
our army who will state it as his belief that if all the white men had
done thus we would have had but little trouble with our Indians.

Father Lacombe was one of the priests who threaded the trails of the
North-western timber land and the Far Western prairie when white men
were very few indeed in that country, and the only settlements were
those that had grown around the frontier forts and the still earlier
mission chapels. For instance, in 1849, at twenty-two years of age, he
slept a night or two where St. Paul now weights the earth. It was then a
village of twenty-five log-huts, and where the great building of the St.
Paul _Pioneer Press_ now stands, then stood the village chapel. For two
years he worked at his calling on either side of the American frontier,
and then was sent to what is now Edmonton, in that magical region of
long summers and great agricultural capacity known as the Peace River
District, hundreds of miles north of Dakota and Idaho. There the Rockies
are broken and lowered, and the warm Pacific winds have rendered the
region warmer than the land far to the south of it. But Father Lacombe
went farther--400 miles north to Lake Labiche. There he found what he
calls a fine colony of half-breeds. These were dependants of the Hudson
Bay Company--white men from England, France, and the Orkney Islands, and
Indians and half-breeds and their children. The visits of priests were
so infrequent that in the intervals between them the white men and
Indian women married one another, not without formality and the sanction
of the colony, but without waiting for the ceremony of the Church.
Father Lacombe was called upon to bless and solemnize many such matches,
to baptize many children, and to teach and preach what scores knew but
vaguely or not at all.

In time he was sent to Calgary in the province of Alberta. It is one of
the most bustling towns in the Dominion, and the biggest place west of
Winnipeg. Alberta is north of our Montana, and is all prairie-land; but
from Father Lacombe's parsonage one sees the snow-capped Rockies, sixty
miles away, lying above the horizon like a line of clouds tinged with
the delicate hues of mother-of-pearl in the sunshine. Calgary was a mere
post in the wilderness for years after the priest went there. The
buffaloes roamed the prairie in fabulous numbers, the Indians used the
bow and arrow in the chase, and the maps we studied at the time showed
the whole region enclosed in a loop, and marked "Blackfoot Indians." But
the other Indians were loath to accept this disposition of the territory
as final, and the country thereabouts was an almost constant
battle-ground between the Blackfoot nation of allied tribes and the
Sioux, Crows, Flatheads, Crees, and others.

The good priest--for if ever there was a good man Father Lacombe is
one--saw fighting enough, as he roamed with one tribe and the other, or
journeyed from tribe to tribe. His mission led him to ignore tribal
differences, and to preach to all the Indians of the plains. He knew the
chiefs and headmen among them all, and so justly did he deal with them
that he was not only able to minister to all without attracting the
enmity of any, but he came to wield, as he does to-day, a formidable
power over all of them.

He knew old Crowfoot in his prime, and as I saw them together they were
like bosom friends. Together they had shared dreadful privation and
survived frightful winters and storms. They had gone side by side
through savage battles, and each respected and loved the other. I think
I make no mistake in saying that all through his reign Crowfoot was the
greatest Indian monarch in Canada; possibly no tribe in this country was
stronger in numbers during the last decade or two. I have never seen a
nobler-looking Indian or a more king-like man. He was tall and straight,
as slim as a girl, and he had the face of an eagle or of an ancient
Roman. He never troubled himself to learn the English language; he had
little use for his own. His grunt or his "No" ran all through his tribe.
He never shared his honors with a squaw. He died an old bachelor,
saying, wittily, that no woman would take him.

It must be remembered that the degradation of the Canadian Indian began
a dozen or fifteen years later than that of our own red men. In both
countries the railroads were indirectly the destructive agents, and
Canada's great transcontinental line is a new institution. Until it
belted the prairie the other day the Blackfoot Indians led very much the
life of their fathers, hunting and trading for the whites, to be sure,
but living like Indians, fighting like Indians, and dying like them. Now
they don't fight, and they live and die like dogs. Amid the old
conditions lived Crowfoot--a haughty, picturesque, grand old savage. He
never rode or walked without his headmen in his retinue, and when he
wished to exert his authority, his apparel was royal indeed. His coat of
gaudy bead-work was a splendid garment, and weighed a dozen pounds. His
leg-gear was just as fine; his moccasins would fetch fifty dollars in
any city to-day. Doubtless he thought his hat was quite as impressive
and king-like, but to a mere scion of effeminate civilization it looked
remarkably like an extra tall plug hat, with no crown in the top and a
lot of crows' plumes in the band. You may be sure his successor wears
that same hat to-day, for the Indians revere the "state hat" of a brave
chief, and look at it through superstitious eyes, so that those queer
hats (older tiles than ever see the light of St. Patrick's Day) descend
from chief to chief, and are hallowed.

But Crowfoot died none too soon. The history of the conquest of the
wilderness contains no more pathetic story than that of how the kind old
priest, Father Lacombe, warned the chief and his lieutenants against the
coming of the pale-faces. He went to the reservation and assembled the
leaders before him in council. He told them that the white men were
building a great railroad, and in a month their workmen would be in that
virgin country. He told the wondering red men that among these laborers
would be found many bad men seeking to sell whiskey, offering money for
the ruin of the squaws. Reaching the greatest eloquence possible for
him, because he loved the Indians and doubted their strength, he assured
them that contact with these white men would result in death, in the
destruction of the Indians, and by the most horrible processes of
disease and misery. He thundered and he pleaded. The Indians smoked and
reflected. Then they spoke through old Crowfoot:

"We have listened. We will keep upon our reservation. We will not go to
see the railroad."

But Father Lacombe doubted still, and yet more profoundly was he
convinced of the ruin of the tribe should the "children," as he sagely
calls all Indians, disobey him. So once again he went to the reserve,
and gathered the chief and the headmen, and warned them of the soulless,
diabolical, selfish instincts of the white men. Again the grave warriors
promised to obey him.

The railroad laborers came with camps and money and liquors and numbers,
and the prairie thundered the echoes of their sledge-hammer strokes. And
one morning the old priest looked out of the window of his bare bedroom
and saw curling wisps of gray smoke ascending from a score of tepees on
the hill beside Calgary.[1] Angry, amazed, he went to his doorway and
opened it, and there upon the ground sat some of the headmen and the old
men, with bowed heads, ashamed. Fancy the priest's wrath and his
questions! Note how wisely he chose the name of children for them, when
I tell you that their spokesman at last answered with the excuse that
the buffaloes were gone, and food was hard to get, and the white men
brought money which the squaws could get. And what is the end? There are
always tepees on the hills now beside every settlement near the
Blackfoot reservation. And one old missionary lifted his trembling
forefinger towards the sky, when I was there, and said: "Mark me. In
fifteen years there will not be a full-blooded Indian alive on the
Canadian prairie--not one."

Through all that revolutionary railroad building and the rush of new
settlers, Father Lacombe and Crowfoot kept the Indians from war, and
even from depredations and from murder. When the half-breeds arose under
Riel, and every Indian looked to his rifle and his knife, and when the
mutterings that preface the war-cry sounded in every lodge, Father
Lacombe made Crowfoot pledge his word that the Indians should not rise.
The priest represented the Government on these occasions. The Canadian
statesmen recognize the value of his services. He is the great authority
on Indian matters beyond our border; the ambassador to and spokesman for
the Indians.

But Father Lacombe is more than that. He is the deepest student of the
Indian languages that Canada possesses. The revised edition of Bishop
Barager's _Grammar of the Ochipwe Language_ bears these words upon its
title-page: "Revised by the Rev. Father Lacombe, Oblate Mary Immaculate,
1878." He is the author of the authoritative _Dictionnaire et Grammaire
de la Langue Crise_, the dictionary of the Cree dialect published in
1874. He has compiled just such another monument to the Blackfoot
language, and will soon publish it, if he has not done so already. He is
in constant correspondence with our Smithsonian Institution; he is
famous to all who study the Indian; he is beloved or admired throughout


His work in these lines is labor of love. He is a student by nature. He
began the study of the Algonquin language as a youth in older Canada,
and the tongues of many of these tribes from Labrador to Athabasca are
but dialects of the language of the great Algonquin nation--the Algic
family. He told me that the white man's handling of Indian words in the
nomenclature of our cities, provinces, and States is as brutal as
anything charged against the savages. Saskatchewan, for instance, means
nothing. "Kissiskatchewan" is the word that was intended. It means
"rapid current." Manitoba is senseless, but "Manitowapa" (the mysterious
strait) would have been full of local import. However, there is no need
to sadden ourselves with this expert knowledge. Rather let us be
grateful for every Indian name with which we have stamped individuality
upon the map of the world be it rightly or wrong set forth.

It is strange to think of a scholar and a priest amid the scenes that
Father Lacombe has witnessed. It was one of the most fortunate
happenings of my life that I chanced to be in Calgary and in the little
mission beside the chapel when Chief Crowfoot came to pay his respects
to his old black-habited friend. Anxious to pay the chief such a
compliment as should present the old warrior to me in the light in which
he would be most proud to be viewed, Father Lacombe remarked that he had
known Crowfoot when he was a young man and a mighty warrior. The old
copper-plated Roman smiled and swelled his chest when this was
translated. He was so pleased that the priest was led to ask him if he
remembered one night when a certain trouble about some horses, or a
chance duel between the Blackfoot tribe and a band of its enemies, led
to a midnight attack. If my memory serves me, it was the Bloods (an
allied part of the Blackfoot nation) who picked this quarrel. The chief
grinned and grunted wonderfully as the priest spoke. The priest asked if
he remembered how the Bloods were routed. The chief grunted even more
emphatically. Then the priest asked if the chief recalled what a pickle
he, the priest, was in when he found himself in the thick of the fight.
At that old Crowfoot actually laughed.

After that Father Lacombe, in a few bold sentences, drew a picture of
the quiet, sleep-enfolded camp of the Blackfoot band, of the silence and
the darkness. Then he told of a sudden musket-shot; then of the
screaming of the squaws, and the barking of the dogs, and the yelling of
the children, of the general hubbub and confusion of the startled camp.
The cry was everywhere "The Bloods! the Bloods!" The enemy shot a
fusillade at close quarters into the Blackfoot camp, and the priest ran
out towards the blazing muskets, crying that they must stop, for he,
their priest, was in the camp. He shouted his own name, for he stood
towards the Bloods precisely as he did towards the Blackfoot nation. But
whether the Bloods heard him or not, they did not heed him. The blaze of
their guns grew stronger and crept nearer. The bullets whistled by. It
grew exceedingly unpleasant to be there. It was dangerous as well.
Father Lacombe said that he did all he could to stop the fight, but when
it was evident that his behavior would simply result in the massacre of
his hosts and of himself in the bargain, he altered his cries into
military commands. "Give it to 'em!" he screamed. He urged Crowfoot's
braves to return two shots for every one from the enemy. He took
command, and inspired the bucks with double valor. They drove the Bloods
out of reach and hearing.

All this was translated to Crowfoot--or Saponaxitaw, for that was his
Indian name--and he chuckled and grinned, and poked the priest in the
side with his knuckles. And good Father Lacombe felt the magnetism of
his own words and memory, and clapped the chief on the shoulder, while
both laughed heartily at the climax, with the accompanying mental
picture of the discomfited Bloods running away, and the clergyman
ordering their instant destruction.

There may not be such another meeting and rehearsal on this continent
again. Those two men represented the passing and the dominant races of
America; and yet, in my view, the learned and brave and kindly
missionary is as much a part of the dead past as is the royalty that
Crowfoot was the last to represent.

[Footnote 1: Since this was written Father Lacombe's work has been
continued at Fort McLeod in the same province as Calgary. In this
smaller place he finds more time for his literary pursuits.]




It was the night of a great dinner at the club. Whenever the door of the
banqueting hall was opened, a burst of laughter or of applause disturbed
the quiet talk of a few men who had gathered in the reading-room--men of
the sort that extract the best enjoyment from a club by escaping its
functions, or attending them only to draw to one side its choicest
spirits for never-to-be-forgotten talks before an open fire, and over
wine and cigars used sparingly.

"I'm tired," an artist was saying--"so tired that I have a horror of my
studio. My wife understands my condition and bids me go away and rest."

"That is astonishing," said I; "for, as a rule, neither women nor men
can comprehend the fatigue that seizes an artist or writer. At most of
our homes there comes to be a reluctant recognition of the fact that we
say we are tired, and that we persist in the assumption by knocking off
work. But human fatigue is measured by the mile of walking, or the cords
of firewood that have been cut, and the world will always hold that if
we have not hewn wood or tramped all day, it is absurd for us to talk
of feeling tired. We cannot alter this; we are too few."

"Yes," said another of the little party. "The world shares the feeling
of the Irishman who saw a very large, stout man at work at reporting in
a courtroom. 'Faith!' said he, 'will ye look at the size of that man--to
be airning his living wid a little pincil?' The world would acknowledge
our right to feel tired if we used crow-bars to write or draw with; but
pencils! pshaw! a hundred weigh less than a pound."

"Well," said I, "all the same, I am so tired that my head feels like
cork; so tired that for two days I have not been able to summon an idea
or turn a sentence neatly. I have been sitting at my desk writing
wretched stuff and tearing it up, or staring blankly out of the window."

"Glorious!" said the artist, startling us all with his vehemence and
inapt exclamation. "Why, it is providential that I came here to-night.
If that's the way you feel, we are a pair, and you will go with me and
rest. Do you hunt? Are you fond of it?"

"I know all about it," said I, "but I have not definitely determined
whether I am fond of it or not. I have been hunting only once. It was
years ago, when I was a mere boy. I went after deer with a poet, an
editor, and a railroad conductor. We journeyed to a lovely valley in
Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, and put ourselves in the hands of a man
seven feet high, who had a flintlock musket a foot taller than himself,
and a wife who gave us saleratus bread and a bowl of pork fat for supper
and breakfast. We were not there at dinner. The man stationed us a mile
apart on what he said were the paths, or "runways," the deer would take.
Then he went to stir the game up with his dogs. There he left us from
sunrise till supper, or would have left us had we not with great
difficulty found one another, and enjoyed the exquisite woodland quiet
and light and shade together, mainly flat on our backs, with the white
sails of the sky floating in an azure sea above the reaching fingers of
the tree-tops. The editor marred the occasion with an unworthy suspicion
that our hunter was at the village tavern picturing to his cronies what
simple donkeys we were, standing a mile apart in the forsaken woods. But
the poet said something so pregnant with philosophy that it always comes
back to me with the mention of hunting. 'Where is your gun?' he was
asked, when we came upon him, pacing the forest path, hands in pockets,
and no weapon in sight. 'Oh, my gun?' he repeated. 'I don't know.
Somewhere in among those trees. I covered it with leaves so as not to
see it. After this, if I go hunting again, I shall not take a gun. It is
very cold and heavy, and more or less dangerous in the bargain. You
never use it, you know. I go hunting every few years, but I never yet
have had to fire my gun, and I begin to see that it is only brought
along in deference to a tradition descending from an era when men got
something more than fresh air and scenery on a hunting trip.'"

The others laughed at my story, but the artist regarded me with an
expression of pity. He is a famous hunter--a genuine, devoted
hunter--and one might almost as safely speak a light word of his
relations as of his favorite mode of recreation.


"Fresh air!" said he; "scenery! Humph! Your poet would not know which
end of a gun to aim with. I see that you know nothing at all about
hunting, but I will pay you the high compliment of saying that I can
make a hunter of you. I have always insisted heretofore that a hunter
must begin in boyhood; but never mind, I'll make a hunter of you at
thirty-six. We will start to-morrow morning for Montreal, and in
twenty-four hours you shall be in the greatest sporting region in
America, incomparably the greatest hunting district. It is great because
Americans do not know of it, and because it has all of British America
to keep it supplied with game. Think of it! In twenty-four hours we
shall be tracking moose near Hudson Bay, for Hudson Bay is not much
farther from New York than Chicago--another fact that few persons are
aware of."

Environment is a positive force. We could feel that we were disturbing
what the artist would call "the local tone," by rushing through the
city's streets next morning with our guns slung upon our backs. It was
just at the hour when the factory hands and the shop-girls were out in
force, and the juxtaposition of those elements of society with two
portly men bearing guns created a positive sensation. In the cars the
artist held forth upon the terrors of the life upon which I was about to
venture. He left upon my mind a blurred impression of sleeping
out-of-doors like human cocoons, done up in blankets, while the savage
mercury lurked in unknown depths below the zero mark. He said the
camp-fire would have to be fed every two hours of each night, and he
added, without contradiction from me, that he supposed he would have to
perform this duty, as he was accustomed to it. Lest his forecast should
raise my anticipation of pleasure extravagantly, he added that those
hunters were fortunate who had fires to feed; for his part he had once
walked around a tree stump a whole night to keep from freezing. He
supposed that we would perform our main journeying on snow-shoes, but
how we should enjoy that he could not say, as his knowledge of
snow-shoeing was limited.

At this point the inevitable offspring of fate, who is always at a
traveller's elbow with a fund of alarming information, cleared his
throat as he sat opposite us, and inquired whether he had overheard that
we did not know much about snow-shoes. An interesting fact concerning
them, he said, was that they seemed easy to walk with at first, but if
the learner fell down with them on it usually needed a considerable
portion of a tribe of Indians to put him back on his feet. Beginners
only fell down, however, in attempting to cross a log or stump, but the
forest where we were going was literally floored with such obstructions.
The first day's effort to navigate with snow-shoes, he remarked, is
usually accompanied by a terrible malady called _mal de raquette_, in
which the cords of one's legs become knotted in great and excruciatingly
painful bunches. The cure for this is to "walk it off the next day, when
the agony is yet more intense than at first." As the stranger had
reached his destination, he had little more than time to remark that the
moose is an exceedingly vicious animal, invariably attacking all hunters
who fail to kill him with the first shot. As the stranger stepped upon
the car platform he let fall a simple but touching eulogy upon a dear
friend who had recently lost his life by being literally cut in two,
lengthwise, by a moose that struck him on the chest with its rigidly
stiffened fore-legs. The artist protested that the stranger was a
sensationalist, unsupported by either the camp-fire gossip or the
literature of hunters. Yet one man that night found his slumber tangled
with what the garrulous alarmist had been saying.

In Montreal one may buy clothing not to be had in the United States:
woollens thick as boards, hosiery that wards off the cold as armor
resists missiles, gloves as heavy as shoes, yet soft as kid, fur caps
and coats at prices and in a variety that interest poor and rich alike,
blanket suits that are more picturesque than any other masculine garment
worn north of the city of Mexico, tuques, and moccasins, and, indeed,
so many sorts of clothing we Yankees know very little of (though many
of us need them) that at a glance we say the Montrealers are foreigners.
Montreal is the gayest city on this continent, and I have often thought
that the clothing there is largely responsible for that condition.

[Illustration: "GIVE ME A LIGHT"]

A New Yorker disembarking in Montreal in mid-winter finds the place
inhospitably cold, and wonders how, as well as why, any one lives there.
I well remember standing years ago beside a toboggan-slide, with my
teeth chattering and my very marrow slowly congealing, when my attention
was called to the fact that a dozen ruddy-cheeked, bright-eyed, laughing
girls were grouped in snow that reached their knees. I asked a Canadian
lady how that could be possible, and she answered with a list of the
principal garments those girls were wearing. They had two pairs of
stockings under their shoes, and a pair of stockings over their shoes,
with moccasins over them. They had so many woollen skirts that an
American girl would not believe me if I gave the number. They wore heavy
dresses and buckskin jackets, and blanket suits over all this. They had
mittens over their gloves, and fur caps over their knitted hoods. It no
longer seemed wonderful that they should not heed the cold; indeed, it
occurred to me that their bravery amid the terrors of tobogganing was no
bravery at all, since a girl buried deep in the heart of such a mass of
woollens could scarcely expect damage if she fell from a steeple. When
next I appeared out-of-doors I too was swathed in flannel, like a jewel
in a box of plash, and from that time out Montreal seemed, what it
really is, the merriest of American capitals. And there I had come
again, and was filling my trunk with this wonderful armor of
civilization, while the artist sought advice as to which point to enter
the wilderness in order to secure the biggest game most quickly.

Mr. W. C. Van Horne, the President of the Canadian Pacific Railroad,
proved a friend in need. He dictated a few telegrams that agitated the
people of a vast section of country between Ottawa and the Great Lakes.
And in the afternoon the answers came flying back. These were from
various points where Hudson Bay posts are situated. At one or two the
Indian trappers and hunters were all away on their winter expeditions;
from another a famous white hunter had just departed with a party of
gentlemen. At Mattawa, in Ontario, moose were close at hand and
plentiful, and two skilled Indian hunters were just in from a trapping
expedition; but the post factor, Mr. Rankin, was sick in bed, and the
Indians were on a spree. To Mattawa we decided to go. It is a
twelve-hour journey from New York to Montreal, and an eleven-hour
journey from Montreal to the heart of this hunters' paradise; so that,
had we known at just what point to enter the forest, we could have taken
the trail in twenty-four hours from the metropolis, as the artist had

Our first taste of the frontier, at Peter O'Farrall's Ottawa Hotel, in
Mattawa, was delicious in the extreme. O'Farrall used to be game-keeper
to the Marquis of Waterford, and thus got "a taste of the quality" that
prompted him to assume the position he has chosen as the most lordly
hotel-keeper in Canada. We do not know what sort of men own our great
New York and Chicago and San Francisco hotels, but certainly they cannot
lead more leisurely, complacent lives than Mr. O'Farrall. He has a
bartender to look after the male visitors and the bar, and a matronly
relative to see to the women and the kitchen, so that the landlord
arises when he likes to enjoy each succeeding day of ease and
prosperity. He has been known to exert himself, as when he chased a man
who spoke slightingly of his liquor. And he was momentarily ruffled at
the trying conduct of the artist on this hunting trip. The artist could
not find his overcoat, and had the temerity to refer the matter to Mr.

"Sir," said the artist, "what do you suppose has become of my overcoat?
I cannot find it anywhere."

"I don't know anything about your botheration overcoat," said Mr.
O'Farrall. "Sure, I've throuble enough kaping thrack of me own."

The reader may be sure that O'Farrall's was rightly recommended to us,
and that it is a well-managed and popular place, with good beds and
excellent fare, and with no extra charge for the delightful addition of
the host himself, who is very tall and dignified and humourous, and who
is the oddest and yet most picturesque-looking public character in the
Dominion. Such an oddity is certain to attract queer characters to his
side, and Mr. O'Farrall is no exception to the rule. One of the
waiter-girls in the dining-room was found never by any chance to know
anything that she was asked about. For instance, she had never heard of
Mr. Rankin, the chief man of the place. To every question she made
answer, "Sure, there does be a great dale goin' on here and I know
nothin' of it." Of her the artist ventured the theory that "she could
not know everything on a waiter-girl's salary." John, the bartender, was
a delightful study. No matter what a visitor laid down in the
smoking-room, John picked it up and carried it behind the bar. Every one
was continually losing something and searching for it, always to observe
that John was able to produce it with a smile and the wise remark that
he had taken the lost article and put it away "for fear some one would
pick it up." Finally, there was Mr. O'Farrall's dog--a ragged,
time-worn, petulant terrier, no bigger than a pint-pot. Mr. O'Farrall
nevertheless called him "Fairy," and said he kept him "to protect the
village children against wild bears."

I shall never be able to think of Mattawa as it is--a plain little
lumbering town on the Ottawa River, with the wreck and ruin of once
grand scenery hemming it in on all sides in the form of ragged mountains
literally ravaged by fire and the axe. Hints of it come back to me in
dismembered bits that prove it to have been interesting: vignettes of
little school-boys in blanket suits and moccasins, of great-spirited
horses forever racing ahead of fur-laden sleighs, and of troops of
olive-skinned French-Canadian girls, bundled up from their feet to those
mischievous features which shot roguish glances at the artist--the
biggest man, the people said, who had ever been seen in Mattawa. But the
place will ever yield back to my mind the impression I got of the
wonderful preparations that were made for our adventure--preparations
that seemed to busy or to interest nearly every one in the village. Our
Indians had come in from the Indian village three miles away, and had
said they had had enough drink. Mr. John De Sousa, accountant at the
post, took charge of them and of us, and the work of loading a great
portage sleigh went on apace. The men of sporting tastes came out and
lounged in front of the post, and gave helpful advice; the Indians and
clerks went to and from the sleigh laden with bags of necessaries; the
harness-maker made for us belts such as the lumbermen use to preclude
the possibility of incurable strains in the rough life in the
wilderness. The help at O'Farrall's assisted in repacking what we needed
so that our trunks and town clothing could be stored. Mr. De Sousa sent
messengers hither and thither for essentials not in stock at the post.
Some women, even, were set at work to make "neaps" for us, a neap being
a sort of slipper or unlaced shoe made of heavy blanketing and worn
outside one's stockings to give added warmth to the feet.

"You see, this is no casual rabbit-hunt," said the artist. The remark
will live in Mattawa many a year.

The Hudson Bay Company's posts differ. In the wilderness they are forts
surrounded by stockades, but within the boundaries of civilization they
are stores. That at Winnipeg is a splendid emporium, while that at
Mattawa is like a village store in the United States, except that the
top story is laden with guns, traps, snow-shoes, and the skins of wild
beasts; while an outbuilding in the rear is the repository of scores of
birch-bark canoes--the carriages of British America. Mr. Rankin, the
factor there, lay in a bed of suffering and could not see us. Yet it
seemed difficult to believe that we could be made the recipients of
greater or more kindly attentions than were lavished upon us by his
accountant, Mr. De Sousa. He ordered our tobacco ground for us ready for
our pipes; selected the finest from among those extraordinary blankets
that have been made exclusively for this company for hundreds of years;
picked out the largest snow-shoes in his stock; bade us lay aside the
gloves we had brought, and take mittens such as he produced, and for
which we thanked him in our hearts many times afterwards; planned our
outfit of food with the wisdom of an old campaigner; bethought himself
to send for baker's bread; ordered high legs sewed on our moccasins--in
a word, he made it possible for us to say afterwards that absolutely
nothing had been overlooked or slighted in fitting out our expedition.

[Illustration: ANTOINE, FROM LIFE]

As I sat in the sleigh, tucked in under heavy skins and leaning at royal
ease against other furs that covered a bale of hay, it seemed to me that
I had become part of one of such pictures as we all have seen,
portraying historic expeditions in Russia or Siberia. We carried
fifteen hundred pounds of traps and provisions for camping, stabling,
and food for men and beasts. We were five in all--two hunters, two
Indians, and a teamster. We set out with the two huge mettlesome horses
ahead, the driver on a high seat formed of a second bale of hay,
ourselves lolling back under our furs, and the two Indians striding
along over the resonant cold snow behind us. It was beginning to be
evident that a great deal of effort and machinery was needed to "make a
hunter" of a city man, and that it was going to be done thoroughly--two
thoughts of a highly flattering nature.

We were now clad for arctic weather, and perhaps nothing except a mummy
was ever "so dressed up" as we were. We each wore two pairs of the
heaviest woollen stockings I ever saw, and over them ribbed bicycle
stockings that came to our knees. Over these in turn were our "neaps,"
and then our moccasins, laced tightly around our ankles. We had on two
suits of flannels of extra thickness, flannel shirts, reefing jackets,
and "capeaux," as they call their long-hooded blanket coats, longer than
snow-shoe coats. On our heads we had knitted tuques, and on our hands
mittens and gloves. We were bound for Antoine's moose-yard, near Crooked

The explanation of the term "moose-yard" made moose-hunting appear a
simple operation (once we were started), for a moose-yard is the
feeding-ground of a herd of moose, and our head Indian, Alexandre
Antoine, knew where there was one. Each herd or family of these great
wild cattle has two such feeding-grounds, and they are said to go
alternately from one to the other, never herding in one place two years
in succession. In this region of Canada they weigh between 600 and 1200
pounds, and the reader will help his comprehension of those figures by
recalling the fact that a 1200-pound horse is a very large one. Whether
they desert a yard for twelve months because of the damage they do to
the supply of food it offers to them, or whether it is instinctive
caution that directs their movements, no one can more than conjecture.

Their yards are always where soft wood is plentiful and water is near,
and during a winter they will feed over a region from half a mile to a
mile square. The prospect of going directly to the fixed home of a herd
of moose almost robbed the trip of that speculative element that gives
the greatest zest to hunting. But we knew not what the future held for
us. Not even the artist, with all his experience, conjectured what was
in store for us. And what was to come began coming almost immediately.

The journey began upon a good highway, over which we slid along as
comfortably as any ladies in their carriages, and with the sleigh-bells
flinging their cheery music out over a desolate valley, with a leaden
river at the bottom, and with small mountains rolling all about. The
timber was cut off them, except here and there a few red or white pines
that reared their green, brush-like tops against the general blanket of
snow. The dull sky hung sullenly above, and now and then a raven flew
by, croaking hoarse disapproval of our intrusion. To warn us of what we
were to expect, Antoine had made a shy Indian joke, one of the few I
ever heard: "In small little while," said he, "we come to all sorts of a
road. Me call it that 'cause you get every sort riding, then you sure be

At five miles out we came to this remarkable highway. It can no more be
adequately described here than could the experiences of a man who goes
over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The reader must try to imagine the most
primitive sort of a highway conceivable--one that has been made by
merely felling trees through a forest in a path wide enough for a team
and wagon. All the tree stumps were left in their places, and every here
and there were rocks; some no larger than a bale of cotton, and some as
small as a bushel basket. To add to the other alluring qualities of the
road, there were tree trunks now and then directly across it, and, as a
further inducement to traffic, the highway was frequently interrupted by
"pitch holes." Some of these would be called pitch holes anywhere. They
were at points where a rill crossed the road, or the road crossed the
corner of a marsh. But there were other pitch holes that any intelligent
New Yorker would call ravines or gullies. These were at points where one
hill ran down to the water-level and another immediately rose
precipitately, there being a watercourse between the two. In all such
places there was deep black mud and broken ice. However, these were mere
features of the character of this road--a character too profound for me
to hope to portray it. When the road was not inclined either straight
down or straight up, it coursed along the slanting side of a steep hill,
so that a vehicle could keep to it only by falling against the forest
at the under side and carroming along from tree to tree.


Such was the road. The manner of travelling it was quite as astounding.
For nothing short of what Alphonse, the teamster, did would I destroy a
man's character; but Alphonse was the next thing to an idiot. He made
that dreadful journey at a gallop! The first time he upset the sleigh
and threw me with one leg thigh-deep between a stone and a tree trunk,
besides sending the artist flying over my head like a shot from a sling,
he reseated himself and remarked: "That makes tree time I upset in dat
place. Hi, there! Get up!" It never occurred to him to stop because a
giant tree had fallen across the trail. "Look out! Hold tight!" he would
call out, and then he would take the obstruction at a jump. The horses
were mammoth beasts, in the best fettle, and the sleigh was of the
solidest, strongest pattern. There were places where even Alphonse was
anxious to drive with caution. Such were the ravines and unbridged
waterways. But one of the horses had cut himself badly in such a place a
year before, and both now made it a rule to take all such places flying.
Fancy the result! The leap in air, and then the crash of the sled as it
landed, the snap of the harness chains, the snorts of the winded beasts,
the yells of the driver, the anxiety and nervousness of the passengers!

At one point we had an exciting adventure of a far different sort. There
was a moderately good stretch of road ahead, and we invited the Indians
to jump in and ride a while. We noticed that they took occasional
draughts from a bottle. They finished a full pint, and presently
Alexandre produced another and larger phial. Every one knows what a
drunken Indian is, and so did we. We ordered the sleigh stopped and all
hands out for "a talk." Firmly, but with both power and reason on our
side; we demanded a promise that not another drink should be taken, or
that the horses be turned towards Mattawa at once. The promise was
freely given.

"But what is that stuff? Let me see it," one of the hunters asked.

"It is de 'igh wine," said Alexandre.

"High wine? Alcohol?" exclaimed the hunter, and, impulse being quicker
than reason sometimes, flung the bottle high in air into the bush. It
was an injudicious action, but both of us at once prepared to defend
and re-enforce it, of course. As it happened, the Indians saw that no
unkindness or unfairness was intended, and neither sulked nor made
trouble afterwards.

We were now deep in the bush. Occasionally we passed "a brulè," or tract
denuded of trees, and littered with trunks and tops of trunks rejected
by the lumbermen. But every mile took us nearer to the undisturbed
primeval forest, where the trees shoot up forty feet before the branches
begin. There were no houses, teams, or men. In a week in the bush we saw
no other sign of civilization than what we brought or made. All around
us rose the motionless regiments of the forest, with the snow beneath
them, and their branches and twigs printing lacework on the sky. The
signs of game were numerous, and varied to an extent that I never heard
of before. There were few spaces of the length of twenty-five feet in
which the track of some wild beast or bird did not cross the road. The
Indians read this writing in the snow, so that the forest was to them as
a book would be to us. "What is that?" "And that?" "And that?" I kept
inquiring. The answers told more eloquently than any man can describe it
the story of the abundance of game in that easily accessible wilderness.
"Dat red deer," Antoine replied. "Him fox." "Dat bear track; dat
squirrel; dat rabbit." "Dat moose track; pass las' week." "Dat
pa'tridge; dat wolf." Or perhaps it was the trail of a marten, or a
beaver, or a weasel, or a fisher, mink, lynx, or otter that he pointed
out, for all these "signs" were there, and nearly all were repeated
again and again. Of the birds that are plentiful there the principal
kinds are partridge, woodcock, crane, geese, duck, gull, loon, and owl.


When the sun set we prepared to camp, selecting a spot near a tiny rill.
The horses were tethered to a tree, with their harness still on, and
blankets thrown over them. We cleared a little space by the road-side,
using our snow-shoes for shovels. The Indians, with their axes, turned
up the moss and leaves, and levelled the small shoots and brushwood.
Then one went off to cut balsam boughs for bedding, while the other set
up two crotched sticks, with a pole upon them resting in the crotches,
and throwing the canvas of an "A" tent over the frame, he looped the
bottom of the tent to small pegs, and banked snow lightly all around it.
The little aromatic branches of balsam were laid evenly upon the ground,
a fur robe was thrown upon the leaves, our enormous blankets were spread
half open side by side, and two coats were rolled up and thrown down for
pillows. Pierre, the second Indian, made tiny slivers of some soft wood,
and tried to start a fire. He failed. Then Alexandre Antoine brought two
handfuls of bark, and lighting a small piece with a match, proceeded to
build a fire in the most painstaking manner, and with an ingenuity that
was most interesting. First he made a fire that could have been started
in a teacup; then he built above and around it a skeleton tent of bits
of soft wood, six to nine inches in length. This gave him a fire of the
dimensions of a high hat. Next, he threw down two great bits of timber,
one on either side of the fire, and a still larger back log, and upon
these he heaped split soft wood. While this was being done, Pierre
assailed one great tree after another, and brought them crashing down
with noises that startled the forest quiet. Alphonse had opened the
provision bags, and presently two tin pails filled with water swung from
saplings over the fire, and a pan of fat salt pork was frizzling upon
the blazing wood. The darkness grew dead black, and the dancing flames
peopled the near forest with dodging shadows. Almost in the time it has
taken me to write it, we were squatting on our heels around the fire,
each with a massive cutting of bread, a slice of fried pork in a tin
plate, and half a pint of tea, precisely as hot as molten lead, in a tin
cup. Supper was a necessity, not a luxury, and was hurried out of the
way accordingly. Then the men built their camp beside ours in front of
the fire, and followed that by felling three or more monarchs of the
bush. Nothing surprised me so much as the amount of wood consumed in
these open-air fires. In five days at our permanent camp we made a great
hole in the forest.

But that first night in the open air, abed with nature, with British
America for a bedroom! Only I can tell of it, for the others slept. The
stillness was intense. There was no wind and not an animal or bird
uttered a cry. The logs cracked and sputtered and popped, the horses
shook their chains, the men all snored--white and red alike. The horses
pounded the hollow earth; the logs broke and fell upon the cinders; one
of the men talked in his sleep. But over and through it all the
stillness grew. Then the fire sank low, the cold became intense, the
light was lost, and the darkness swallowed everything. Some one got up
awkwardly, with muttering, and flung wood upon the red ashes, and
presently all that had passed was re-experienced.

The ride next day was more exciting than the first stage. It was like
the journey of a gun-carriage across country in a hot retreat. The sled
was actually upset only once, but to prevent that happening fifty times
the Indians kept springing at the uppermost side of the flying vehicle,
and hanging to the side poles to pull the toppling construction down
upon both runners. Often we were advised to leap out for safety's sake;
at other times we wished we had leaped out. For seven hours we were
flung about like cotton spools that are being polished in a revolving
cylinder. And yet we were obliged to run long distances after the
hurtling sleigh--long enough to tire us. The artist, who had spent years
in rude scenes among rough men, said nothing at the time. What was the
use? But afterwards, in New York, he remarked that this was the roughest
travelling he had ever experienced.

The signs of game increased. Deer and bear and wolf and fox and moose
were evidently numerous around us. Once we stopped, and the Indians
became excited. What they had taken for old moose tracks were the
week-old footprints of a man. It seems strange, but they felt obliged to
know what a man had gone into the bush for a week ago. They followed the
signs, and came back smiling. He had gone in to cut hemlock boughs; we
would find traces of a camp near by. We did. In a country where men are
so few, they busy themselves about one another. Four or five days later,
while we were hunting, these Indians came to the road and stopped
suddenly, as horses do when lassoed. With a glance they read that two
teams had passed during the night, going towards our camp. When we
returned to camp the teams had been there, and our teamster had talked
with the drivers. Therefore that load was lifted from the minds of our
Indians. But their knowledge of the bush was marvellous. One point in
the woods was precisely like another to us, yet the Indians would leap
off the sleigh now and then and dive into the forest to return with a
trap hidden there months before, or to find a great iron kettle.

[Illustration: PIERRE, FROM LIFE]

"Do you never get lost?" I asked Alexandre.

"Me get los'? No, no get los'."

"But how do you find your way?"

"Me fin' way easy. Me know way me come, or me follow my tracks, or me
know by de sun. If no sun, me look at trees. Trees grow more branches
on side toward sun, and got rough bark on north side. At night me know
by see de stars."

We camped in a log-hut Alexandre had built for a hunting camp. It was
very picturesque and substantial, built of huge logs, and caulked with
moss. It had a great earthen bank in the middle for a fireplace, with an
equally large opening in the roof, boarded several feet high at the
sides to form a chimney. At one corner of the fire bank was an ingenious
crane, capable of being raised and lowered, and projecting from a
pivoted post, so that the long arm could be swung over or away from the
fire. At one end of the single apartment were two roomy bunks built
against the wall. With extraordinary skill and quickness the Indians
whittled a spade out of a board, performing the task with an axe, an
implement they can use as white men use a penknife, an implement they
value more highly than a gun. They made a broom of balsam boughs, and
dug and swept the dirt off the floor and walls, speedily making the
cabin neat and clean. Two new bunks were put up for us, and bedded with
balsam boughs and skins. Shelves were already up, and spread with pails
and bottles, tin cups and plates, knives and forks, canned goods, etc.
On them and on the floor were our stores.

[Illustration: ANTOINE'S CABIN]

We had a week's outfit, and we needed it, because for five days we could
not hunt on account of the crust on the snow, which made such a noise
when a human foot broke through it that we could not have approached any
wild animal within half a mile. On the third day it rained, but without
melting the crust. On the fourth day it snowed furiously, burying the
crust under two inches of snow. On the fifth day we got our moose.

In the mean time the log-cabin was our home. Alexandre and Pierre cut
down trees every day for the fire, and Pierre disappeared for hours
every now and then to look after traps set for otter, beaver, and
marten. Alphonse attended his horses and served as cook. He could
produce hotter tea than any other man in the world. I took mine for a
walk in the arctic cold three times a day, the artist learned to pour
his from one cup to another with amazing dexterity, and the Indians (who
drank a quart each of green tea at each meal because it was stronger
than our black tea) lifted their pans and threw the liquid fire down
throats that had been inured to high wines. Whenever the fire was low,
the cold was intense. Whenever it was heaped with logs, all the heat
flew directly through the roof, and spiral blasts of cold air were
sucked through every crack between logs in the cabin walls. Whenever the
door opened, the cabin filled with smoke. Smoke clung to all we ate or
wore. At night the fire kept burning out, and we arose with chattering
teeth to build it anew. The Indians were then to be seen with their
blankets pushed down to their knees, asleep in their shirts and
trousers. At meal-times we had bacon or pork, speckled or lake trout,
bread-and-butter, stewed tomatoes, and tea. There were two stools for
the five men, but they only complicated the discomfort of those who got
them; for it was found that if we put our tin plates on our knees, they
fell off; if we held them in one hand, we could not cut the pork and
hold the bread with the other hand; while if we put the plates on the
floor beside the tea, we could not reach them. In a month we might have
solved the problem. Life in that log shanty was precisely the life of
the early settlers of this country. It was bound to produce great
characters or early death. There could be no middle course with such an

[Illustration: THE CAMP AT NIGHT]

Partridge fed in the brush impudently before us. Rabbits bobbed about in
the clearing before the door. Squirrels sat upon the logs near by and
gormandized and chattered. Great saucy birds, like mouse-colored robins,
and known to the Indians as "meat-birds," stole our provender if we left
it out-of-doors half an hour, and one day we saw a red deer jump in the
bush a hundred yards away. Yet we got no game, because we knew there was
a moose-yard within two miles on one side and within three miles on the
other, and we dared not shoot our rifles lest we frighten the moose.
Moose was all we were after. There was a lake near by, and the trout in
those lakes up there attain remarkable size and numbers. We heard of
35-pound specked trout, of lake trout twice as large, and of enormous
muskallonge. The most reliable persons told of lakes farther in the
wilderness where the trout are thick as salmon in the British Columbia
streams--so thick as to seem to fill the water. We were near a lake that
was supposed to have been fished out by lumbermen a year before, yet it
was no sport at all to fish there. With a short stick and two yards of
line and a bass hook baited with pork, we brought up four-pound and
five-pound beauties faster than we wanted them for food. Truly we were
in a splendid hunting country, like the Adirondacks eighty years ago,
but thousands of times as extensive.

Finally we started for moose. Our Indians asked if they might take their
guns. We gave the permission. Alexandre, a thin, wiry man of forty
years, carried an old Henry rifle in a woollen case open at one end like
a stocking. He wore a short blanket coat and tuque, and trousers tied
tight below the knee, and let into his moccasin-tops. He and his brother
François are famous Hudson Bay Company trappers, and are two-thirds
Algonquin and one-third French. He has a typical swarthy, angular Indian
face and a French mustache and goatee. Naturally, if not by rank, a
leader among his men, his manner is commanding and his appearance grave.
He talks bad French fluently, and makes wretched headway in English.
Pierre is a short, thickset, walnut-stained man of thirty-five, almost
pure Indian, and almost a perfect specimen of physical development. He
seldom spoke while on this trip, but he impressed us with his strength,
endurance, quickness, and knowledge of woodcraft. Poor fellow! he had
only a shot-gun, which he loaded with buckshot. It had no case, and both
men carried their pieces grasped by the barrels and shouldered with the
butts behind them.

We set out in Indian-file, plunging at once into the bush. Never was
forest scenery more exquisitely beautiful than on that morning as the
day broke, for we breakfasted at four o'clock, and started immediately
afterwards. Everywhere the view was fairy-like. There was not snow
enough for snow-shoeing. But the fresh fall of snow was immaculately
white, and flecked the scene apparently from earth to sky, for there was
not a branch or twig or limb or spray of evergreen, or wart or fungous
growth upon any tree that did not bear its separate burden of snow. It
was a bridal dress, not a winding-sheet, that Dame Nature was trying on
that morning. And in the bright fresh green of the firs and pines we saw
her complexion peeping out above her spotless gown, as one sees the rosy
cheeks or black eyes of a girl wrapped in ermine.

[Illustration: A MOOSE BULL FIGHT]

Mile after mile we walked, up mountain and down dale, slapped in the
faces by twigs, knocking snow down the backs of our necks, slipping
knee-deep in bog mud, tumbling over loose stones, climbing across
interlaced logs, dropping to the height of one thigh between tree
trunks, sliding, falling, tight-rope walking on branches over thin ice,
but forever following the cat-like tread of Alexandre, with his
seven-league stride and long-winded persistence. Suddenly we came to a
queer sort of clearing dotted with protuberances like the bubbles on
molasses beginning to boil. It was a beaver meadow. The bumps in the
snow covered stumps of trees the beavers had gnawed down. The Indians
were looking at some trough like tracks in the snow, like the trail of a
tired man who had dragged his heels. "Moose; going this way," said
Alexandre; and we turned and walked in the tracks. Across the meadow and
across a lake and up another mountain they led us. Then we came upon
fresher prints. At each new track the Indians stooped, and making a
scoop of one hand, brushed the new-fallen snow lightly out of the
indentations. Thus they read the time at which the print was made. "Las'
week," "Day 'fore yesterday," they whispered. Presently they bent over
again, the light snow flew, and one whispered, "This morning."

[Illustration: ON THE MOOSE TRAIL]

Stealthily Alexandre swept ahead; very carefully we followed. We dared
not break a twig, or speak, or slip, or stumble. As it was, the breaking
of the crust was still far too audible. We followed a little stream, and
approached a thick growth of tamarack. We had no means of knowing that a
herd of moose was lying in that thicket, resting after feeding. We knew
it afterwards. Alexandre motioned to us to get our guns ready. We each
threw a cartridge from the cylinder into the barrel, making a "click,
click" that was abominably loud. Alexandre forged ahead. In five minutes
we heard him call aloud: "Moose gone. We los' him." We hastened to his
side. He pointed at some tracks in which the prints were closer together
than any we had seen.

"See! he trot," Alexandre explained.

In another five minutes we had all but completed a circle, and were on
the other side of the tamarack thicket. And there were the prints of the
bodies of the great beasts. We could see even the imprint of the hair of
their coats. All around were broken twigs and balsam needles. The moose
had left the branches ragged, and on every hand the young bark was
chewed or rubbed raw. Loading our rifles had lost us a herd of moose.

[Illustration: IN SIGHT OF THE GAME--"NOW SHOOT!"]

Back once again at the beaver dam, Alexandre and Pierre studied the
moose-tramped snow and talked earnestly. They agreed that a desperate
battle had been fought there between two bull moose a week before, and
that those bulls were not in the "yard" where we had blundered. They
examined the tracks over an acre or more, and then strode off at an
obtuse angle from our former trail. Pierre, apparently not quite
satisfied, kept dropping behind or disappearing in the bush at one side
of us. So magnificent was his skill at his work that I missed him at
times, and at other times found him putting his feet down where mine
were lifted up without ever hearing a sound of his step or of his
contact with the undergrowth. Alexandre presently motioned us with a
warning gesture. He slowed his pace to short steps, with long pauses
between. He saw everything that moved, heard every sound; only a deer
could throw more and keener faculties into play than this born hunter.
He heard a twig snap. We heard nothing. Pierre was away on a side
search. Alexandre motioned us to be ready. We crept close together, and
I scarcely breathed. We moved cautiously, a step at a time, like
chessmen. It was impossible to get an unobstructed view a hundred feet
ahead, so thick was the soft-wood growth. It seemed out of the question
to try to shoot that distance. We were descending a hill-side into
marshy ground. We crossed a corner of a grove of young alders, and saw
before us a gentle slope thickly grown with evergreen--tamarack, the
artist called it. Suddenly Alexandre bent forward and raised his gun.
Two steps forward gave us his view. Five moose were fifty yards away,
alarmed and ready to run. A big bull in the front of the group had
already thrown back his antlers. By impulse rather than through reason I
took aim at a second bull. He was half a height lower down the slope,
and to be seen through a web of thin foliage. Alexandre and the artist
fired as with a single pull at one trigger. The foremost bull staggered
and fell forward, as if his knees had been broken. He was hit twice--in
the heart and in the neck. The second bull and two cows and a calf
plunged into the bush and disappeared. Pierre found that bull a mile
away, shot through the lungs.

It had taken us a week to kill our moose in a country where they were
common game. That was "hunter's luck" with a vengeance. But at another
season such a delay could scarcely occur. The time to visit that
district is in the autumn, before snow falls. Then in a week one ought
to be able to bag a moose, and move into the region where caribou are

Mr. Remington, in the picture called "Hunting the Caribou," depicts a
scene at a critical moment in the experience of any man who has
journeyed on westward of where we found our moose, to hunt the caribou.
There is a precise moment for shooting in the chase of all animals of
the deer kind, and when that moment has been allowed to pass, the chance
of securing the animal diminishes with astonishing rapidity--with more
than the rapidity with which the then startled animal is making his
flight, because to his flight you must add the increasing ambush of the
forest. What is true of caribou in this respect is true of moose and red
deer, elk and musk-ox in America, and of all the horned animals of the
forests of the other great hemisphere. Every hunter who sees Mr.
Remington's realistic picture knows at a glance that the two men have
stolen noiselessly to within easy rifle-shot of a caribou, and that
suddenly, at the last moment, the animal has heard them.

[Illustration: SUCCESS]

Perhaps he has seen them, and is standing--still as a Barye bronze--with
his great, soft, wondering eyes riveted upon theirs. That is a situation
familiar to every hunter. His prey has been browsing in fancied
security, and yet with that nervous prudence that causes these timid
beasts to keep forever raising their heads, and sweeping the view around
them with their exquisite sight, and analyzing the atmosphere with
their magical sense of smell. In one of these cautious pauses the
caribou has seen the hunters. Both hunters and hunted seem instantly to
turn to stone. Neither moves a muscle or a hair. If the knee or the foot
of one of the men presses too hard upon a twig and it snaps, the caribou
is as certain to throw his head high up and dart into the ingulfing
net-work of the forest trunks and brush as day is certain to follow
night. But when no movement has been made and no mishap has alarmed the
beast, it has often happened that the two or more parties to this
strangely thrilling situation have held their places for minutes at a
stretch--minutes that seemed like quarters of an hour. In such cases the
deer or caribou has been known to lower his head and feed again, assured
in its mind that the suspected hunter is inanimate and harmless. Nine
times in ten, though, the first to move is the beast, which tosses up
its head, and "Shoot! shoot!" is the instant command, for the upward
throwing of the head is a movement made to put the beast's great antlers
into position for flight through the forest.


The caribou has very wide, heavy horns, and they are almost always
circular--that is, the main part or trunk of each horn curves outward
from the skull and then inward towards the point, in an almost true
semicircle. They are more or less branched, but both the general shape
of the whole horns and of the branches is such that when the head is
thrown up and back they aid the animal's flight by presenting what may
be called the point of a wedge towards the saplings and limbs and small
forest growths through which the beast runs, parting and spreading every
pair of obstacles to either side, and bending every single one out of
the way of his flying body. The caribou of North America is the reindeer
of Greenland; the differences between the two are very slight. The
animal's home is the arctic circle, but in America it feeds and roams
farther south than in Europe and Asia. It is a large and clumsy-looking
beast, with thick and rather short legs and bulky body, and, seen in
repose, gives no hint of its capacity for flight. Yet the caribou can
run "like a streak of wind," and makes its way through leaves and brush
and brittle, sapless vegetation with a modicum of noise so slight as to
seem inexplicable. Nature has ingeniously added to its armament, always
one, and usually two, palmated spurs at the root of its horns, and
these grow at an obtuse angle with the head, upward and outward
towards the nose. With these spurs--like shovels used sideways--the
caribou roots up the snow, or breaks its crust and disperses it, to get
at his food on the ground. The caribou are very large deer, and their
strength is attested by the weight of their horns. I have handled
caribou horns in Canada that I could not hold out with both hands when
seated in a chair. It seemed hard to believe that an animal of the size
of a caribou could carry a burden apparently so disproportioned to his
head and neck. But it is still more difficult to believe, as all the
woodsmen say, that these horns are dropped and new ones grown every

It is not the especial beauty of Frederic Remington's drawings and
paintings that they are absolutely accurate in every detail, but it is
one of their beauties, and gives them especial value apart from their
artistic excellence. He draws what he knows, and he knows what he draws.
This scene of the electrically exquisite moment in a hunter's life, when
great game is before him, and the instant has come for claiming it as
his own with a steadily held and wisely chosen aim, will give the reader
a perfect knowledge of how the Indians and hunters dress and equip
themselves beyond the Canadian border. The scene is in the wilderness
north of the Great Lakes. The Indian is of one of those tribes that are
offshoots of the great Algonquin nation. He carries in that load he
bears that which the plainsmen call "the grub stake," or quota of
provisions for himself and his employer, as well as blankets to sleep
in, pots, pans, sugar, the inevitable tea of those latitudes, and much
else besides. Those Indians are not as lazy or as physically degenerate
as many of the tribes in our country. They turn themselves into
wonderful beasts of burden, and go forever equipped with a long, broad
strap that they call a "tomp line," and which they pass around their
foreheads and around their packs, the latter resting high up on their
backs. It seems incredible, but they can carry one hundred to one
hundred and fifty pounds of necessaries all day long in the roughest
regions. The Hudson Bay Company made their ancestors its wards and
dependents two centuries ago, and taught them to work and to earn their



In October every year there are apt to be more fish upon the land in the
Nepigon country than one would suppose could find life in the waters.
Most families have laid in their full winter supply, the main exceptions
being those semi-savage families which leave their fish out--in
preference to laying them in--upon racks whereon they are to be seen in
rows and by the thousands.

Nepigon, the old Hudson Bay post which is the outfitting place for this
region, is 928 miles west of Montreal, on the Canadian Pacific Railway,
and on an arm of Lake Superior. The Nepigon River, which connects the
greatest of lakes with Lake Nepigon, is the only roadway in all that
country, and therefore its mouth, in an arm of the great lake, is the
front door to that wonderful region. In travelling through British
Columbia I found one district that is going to prove of greater interest
to gentlemen sportsmen with the rod, but I know of no greater fishing
country than the Nepigon. No single waterway or system of navigable
inland waters in North America is likely to wrest the palm from this
Nepigon district as the haunt of fish in the greatest plenty, unless we
term the salmon a fresh-water fish, and thus call the Fraser, Columbia,
and Skeena rivers into the rivalry. There is incessant fishing in this
wilderness north of Lake Superior from New-year's Day, when the ice has
to be cut to get at the water, all through the succeeding seasons, until
again the ice fails to protect the game. And there is every sort of
fishing between that which engages a navy of sailing vessels and men,
down through all the methods of fish-taking--by nets, by spearing, still
fishing, and fly-fishing. A half a dozen sorts of finny game succumb to
these methods, and though the region has been famous and therefore much
visited for nearly a dozen years, the field is so extensive, so well
stocked, and so difficult of access except to persons of means, that
even to-day almost the very largest known specimens of each class of
fish are to be had there.

If we could put on wings early in October, and could fly down from
James's Bay over the dense forests and countless lakes and streams of
western Ontario, we would see now and then an Indian or hunter in a
canoe, here and there a lonely huddle of small houses forming a Hudson
Bay post, and at even greater distances apart small bunches of the
cotton or birch-bark tepees of pitiful little Cree or Ojibaway bands.
But with the first glance at the majestic expanse of Lake Superior there
would burst upon the view scores upon scores of white sails upon the
water, and near by, upon the shore, a tent for nearly every sail. That
is the time for the annual gathering for catching the big, chunky,
red-fleshed fish they call the salmon-trout. They catch those that weigh
from a dozen to twenty-five or thirty pounds, and at this time of the
year their flesh is comparatively hard.

Engaged in making this great catch are the boats of the Indians from far
up the Nepigon and the neighboring streams; of the chance white men of
the region, who depend upon nature for their sustenance; and of Finns,
Norwegians, Swedes, and others who come from the United States side, or
southern shore, to fish for their home markets. These fish come at this
season to spawn, seeking the reefs, which are plentiful off the shore in
this part of the lake. Gill nets are used to catch them, and are set
within five fathoms of the surface by setting the inner buoy in water of
that depth, and then paying the net out into deeper water and anchoring
it. The run and the fishing continue throughout October. As a rule,
among the Canadians and Canada Indians a family goes with each boat--the
boats being sloops of twenty-seven to thirty feet in length, and capable
of carrying fifteen pork barrels, which are at the outset filled with
rock-salt. Sometimes the heads of two families are partners in the
ownership of one of these sloops, but, however that may be, the custom
is for the women and children to camp in tents along-shore, while the
men (usually two men and a boy for each boat) work the nets. It is a
stormy season of the year, and the work is rough and hazardous,
especially for the nets, which are frequently lost.

Whenever a haul is made the fish are split down the back and cleaned.
Then they are washed, rolled in salt, and packed in the barrels. Three
days later, when the bodies of the fish have thoroughly purged
themselves, they are taken out, washed again, and are once more rolled
in fresh salt and put back in the barrels, which are then filled to the
top with water. The Indians subsist all winter upon this October catch,
and, in addition, manage to exchange a few barrels for other provisions
and for clothing. They demand an equivalent of six dollars a barrel in
whatever they get in exchange, but do not sell for money, because, as I
understand it, they are not obliged to pay the provincial license fee as
fishermen, and therefore may not fish for the market. Even sportsmen who
throw a fly for one day in the Nepigon country must pay the Government
for the privilege. The Indians told me that eight barrels of these fish
will last a family of six persons an entire winter. Such a demonstration
of prudence and fore-thought as this, of a month's fishing at the
threshold of winter, amounts to is a rare one for an Indian to make, and
I imagine there is a strong admixture of white blood in most of those
who make it. The full-bloods will not take the trouble. They trust to
their guns and their traps against the coming of that wolf which they
are not unused to facing.

Up along the shores of Lake Nepigon, which is thirty miles by an air
line north of Lake Superior, many of the Indians lay up white-fish for
winter. They catch them in nets and cure them by frost. They do not
clean them. They simply make a hole in the tail end of each fish, and
string them, as if they were beads, upon sticks, which they set up into
racks. They usually hang the fishes in rows of ten, and frequently
store up thousands while they are at it. The Reverend Mr. Renison, who
has had much to do with bettering the condition of these Indians, told
me that he had caught 1020 pounds of white-fish in two nights with two
gill nets in Lake Nepigon. It is unnecessary to add that he cleaned his.


Lake Nepigon is about seventy miles in length, and two-thirds as wide,
at the points of its greatest measurement, and is a picturesque body of
water, surrounded by forests and dotted with islands. It is a famous
haunt for trout, and those fishermen who are lucky may at times see
scores of great beauties lying upon the bottom; or, with a good guide
and at the right season, may be taken to places where the water is
fairly astir with them. Fishermen who are not lucky may get their
customary experience without travelling so far, for the route is by
canoe, on top of nearly a thousand miles of railroading; and one mode of
locomotion consumes nearly as much time as the other, despite the
difference between the respective distances travelled. The speckled
trout in the lake are locally reported to weigh from three to nine
pounds, but the average stranger will lift in more of three pounds'
weight than he will of nine. Yet whatever they average, the catching of
them is prime sport as you float upon the water in your picturesque
birch-bark canoe, with your guide paddling you noiselessly along, and
your spoon or artificial minnow rippling through the water or glinting
in the sunlight. You need a stout bait-rod, for the gluttonous fish are
game, and make a good fight every time. The local fishermen catch the
speckled beauties with an unpoetic lump of pork.

A lively French Canadian whom I met on the cars on my way to Nepigon
described that region as "de mos' tareeble place for de fish in all over
de worl'." And he added another remark which had at least the same
amount of truth at the bottom of it. Said he: "You weel find dere dose
Mees Nancy feeshermans from der Unite State, which got dose
hunderd-dollar poles and dose leetle humbug flies, vhich dey t'row
around and pull 'em back again, like dey was afraid some feesh would
bite it. Dat is all one grand stupeedity. Dose man vhich belong dere put
on de hook some pork, and catch one tareeble pile of fish. Dey don't
give a ---- about style, only to catch dose feesh."

To be sure, every fisherman who prides himself on the distance he can
cast, and who owns a splendid outfit, will despise the spirit of that
French Canadian's speech; yet up in that country many a scientific
angler has endured a failure of "bites" for a long and weary time, while
his guide was hauling in fish a-plenty, and has come to question
"science" for the nonce, and follow the Indian custom. For gray trout
(the namaycush, or lake trout) they bait with apparently anything edible
that is handiest, preferring pork, rabbit, partridge, the meat of the
trout itself, or of the sucker; and the last they take first, if
possible. The suckers, by-the-way, are all too plenty, and as full of
bones as any old-time frigate ever was with timbers. You may see the
Indians eating them and discarding the bones at the same time; and they
make the process resemble the action of a hay-cutter when the grass is
going in long at one side, and coming out short, but in equal
quantities, at the other.

The namaycush of Nepigon weigh from nine to twenty-five pounds. The
natives take a big hook and bait it, and then run the point into a piece
of shiny, newly-scraped lead. They never "play" their bites, but give
them a tight line and steady pull. These fish make a game struggle,
leaping and diving and thrashing the water until the gaff ends the
struggle. In winter there is as good sport with the namaycush, and it
is managed peculiarly. The Indians cut into the ice over deep water,
making holes at least eighteen inches in diameter. Across the hole they
lay a stick, so that when they pull up a trout the line will run along
the stick, and the fish will hit that obstruction instead of the
resistant ice. If a fish struck the ice the chances are nine to one that
it would tear off the hook. Having baited a hook with pork, and stuck
the customary bit of lead upon it, they sound for bottom, and then
measure the line so that it will reach to about a foot and a half above
soundings--that is to say, off bottom. Then they begin fishing, and
their plan is (it is the same all over the Canadian wilderness) to keep
jerking the line up with a single, quick sudden bob at frequent

The spring is the time to catch the big Nepigon jack-fish, or pike. They
haunt the grassy places in little bogs and coves, and are caught by
trolling. A jack-fish is what we call a pike, and John Watt, the famous
guide in that country, tells of those fish of such size that when a man
of ordinary height held the tail of one up to his shoulder, the head of
the fish dragged on the ground. He must be responsible for the further
assertion that he saw an Indian squaw drag a net, with meshes seven
inches square, and catch two jack-fish, each of which weighed more than
fifty pounds when cleaned. The story another local historian told of a
surveyor who caught a big jack-fish that felt like a sunken log, and
could only be dragged until its head came to the surface, when he shot
it and it broke away--that narrative I will leave for the next New
Yorker who goes to Nepigon. And yet it seems to me that such stories
distinguish a fishing resort quite as much as the fish actually caught
there. Men would not dare to romance like that at many places I have
fished in, where the trout are scheduled and numbered, and where you
have got to go to a certain rock on a fixed day of the month to catch

The Indians are very clever at spearing the jack-fish. At night they use
a bark torch, and slaughter the big fish with comparative ease; but
their great skill with the spear is shown in the daytime, when the pike
are sunning themselves in the grass and weeds along-shore. But when I
made my trip up the river, I saw them using so many nets as to threaten
the early reduction of the stream to the plane of the ordinary resort.
The water was so clear that we could paddle beside the nets and see each
one's catch--here a half-dozen suckers, there a jack-fish, and next a
couple of beautiful trout. Finding a squaw attending to her net, we
bought a trout from her before we had cast a line. The habit of buying
fish under such circumstances becomes second nature to a New Yorker. We
are a peculiar people. Our fishermen are modest away from the city, but
at home they assume the confident tone which comes of knowing the way to
Fulton fish-market.

The Nepigon River is a trout's paradise, it is so full of rapids and
saults. It is not at all a folly to fish there with a fly-rod. There are
records of very large trout at the Hudson Bay post; but you may
actually catch four-pound trout yourself, and what you catch yourself
seems to me better than any one's else records. I have spoken of the
Nepigon River as a roadway. It is one of the great trading trails to and
from the far North. At the mouth of the river, opposite the Hudson Bay
post, you will see a wreck of one of its noblest vehicles--an old York
boat, such as carry the furs and the supplies to and fro. I fancy that
Wolseley used precisely such boats to float his men to where he wanted
them in 1870. Farther along, before you reach the first portage, you
will be apt to see several of the sloops used by the natives for the
Lake Superior fishing. They are distinguished for their ugliness,
capacity, and strength; but the last two qualities are what they are
built to obtain. Of course the prettiest vehicles are the canoes. As the
bark and the labor are easily obtainable, these picturesque vessels are
very numerous; but a change is coming over their shape, and the historic
Ojibaway canoe, in which Hiawatha is supposed to have sailed into
eternity, will soon be a thing found only in pictures.

There is good sport with the rod wherever you please to go in "the
bush," or wilderness, north of the Canadian Pacific Railway, in Ontario
and the western part of Quebec. My first venture in fishing through the
ice in that region was part of a hunting experience, when the conditions
were such that hunting was out of the question, and our party feasted
upon salt pork, tea, and tomatoes during day after day. At first, fried
salt pork, taken three times a day in a hunter's camp, seems not to
deserve the harsh things that have been said and written about it. The
open-air life, the constant and tremendous exercise of hunting or
chopping wood for the fire, the novel surroundings in the forest or the
camp, all tend to make a man say as hearty a grace over salt pork as he
ever did at home before a holiday dinner. Where we were, up the Ottawa
in the Canadian wilderness, the pork was all fat, like whale blubber. At
night the cook used to tilt up a pan of it, and put some twisted
ravellings of a towel in it, and light one end, and thus produce a lamp
that would have turned Alfred the Great green with envy, besides smoking
his palace till it looked as venerable as Westminster Abbey does now. I
ate my share seasoned with the comments of Mr. Frederic Remington, the
artist, who asserted that he was never without it on his hunting trips,
that it was pure carbonaceous food, that it fastened itself to one's
ribs like a true friend, and that no man could freeze to death in the
same country with this astonishing provender. We had canned tomatoes and
baker's bread and plenty of tea, with salt pork as the _pièce de
résistance_ at every meal. I know now--though I would not have confessed
it at the time--that mixed with admiration of salt pork was a growing
dread that in time, if no change offered itself, I should tire of that
diet. I began to feel it sticking to me more like an Old Man of the Sea
than a brother. The woodland atmosphere began to taste of it. When I
came in-doors it seemed to me that the log shanty was gradually turning
into fried salt pork. I could not say that I knew how it felt to eat
quail a day for thirty days. One man cannot know everything. But I felt
that I was learning.

One day the cook put his hat on, and took his axe, and started out of
the shanty door with an unwonted air of business.

"Been goin' fish," said he, in broken Indian. "Good job if get trout."

A good job? Why the thought was like a floating spar to a sailor
overboard! I went with him. It was a cold day, but I was dressed in
Canadian style--the style of a country where every one puts on
everything he owns: all his stockings at once, all his flannel shirts
and drawers, all his coats on top of one another, and when there is
nothing else left, draws over it all a blanket suit, a pair of
moccasins, a tuque, and whatever pairs of gloves he happens to be able
to find or borrow. One gets a queer feeling with so many clothes on.
They seem to separate you from yourself, and the person you feel inside
your clothing might easily be mistaken for another individual. But you
are warm, and that's the main thing.


I rolled along the trail behind the Indian, through the deathly
stillness of the snow-choked forest, and presently, from a knoll and
through an opening, we saw a great woodland lake. As it lay beneath its
unspotted quilt of snow, edged all around with balsam, and pine and
other evergreens, it looked as though some mighty hand had squeezed a
colossal tube of white paint into a tremendous emerald bowl. Never had I
seen nature so perfectly unalloyed, so exquisitely pure and peaceful, so
irresistibly beautiful. I think I should have hesitated to print my
ham-like moccasin upon that virgin sheet had I been the guide, but
"Brossy," the cook, stalked ahead, making the powdery flakes fly before
and behind him, and I followed. Our tracks were white, and quickly faded
from view behind us; and, moreover, we passed the signs of a fox and a
deer that had crossed during the night, so that our profanation of the
scene was neither serious nor exclusive.

The Indian walked to an island near the farther shore, and using his axe
with the light, easy freedom that a white man sometimes attains with a
penknife, he cut two short sticks for fish-poles. He cut six yards of
fish-line in two in the middle of the piece, and tied one end of each
part to one end of each stick, making rude knots, as if any sort of a
fastening would do. Equally clumsily he tied a bass hook to each
fish-line, and on each hook he speared a little cube of pork fat which
had gathered an envelope of granulated smoking-tobacco while at rest in
his pocket. Next, he cut two holes in the ice, which was a foot thick,
and over these we stood, sticks in hand, with the lines dangling through
the holes. Hardly had I lowered my line (which had a bullet flattened
around it for a sinker, by-the-way) when I felt it jerked to one side,
and I pulled up a three-pound trout. It was a speckled trout. This
surprised me, for I had no idea of catching anything but lake or gray
trout in that water. I caught a gray trout next--a smaller one than the
first--and in another minute I had landed another three-pound speckled
beauty. My pork bait was still intact, and it may be of interest to
fishermen to know that the original cubes of pork remained on those two
hooks a week, and caught us many a mess of trout.

There came a lull, which gave us time to philosophize on the contrast
between this sort of fishing and the fashionable sport of using the most
costly and delicate rods--like pieces of jewelry--and of calculating to
a nicety what sort of flies to use in matching the changing weather of
the varying tastes of trout in waters where even all these calculations
and provisions would not yield a hatful of small fish in a day. Here I
was, armed like an urchin beside a minnow brook, and catching bigger
trout than I ever saw outside Fulton Market--trout of the choicest
variety. But while I moralized my Indian grew impatient, and cut himself
a new hole out over deep water. He caught a couple of two-and-a-half-pound
brook trout and a four-pound gray trout, and I was as well rewarded. But
he was still discontented, and moved to a strait opening into a little
bay, where he cut two more holes. "Eas' wind," said he, "fish no bite."

I found on that occasion that no quantity of clothing will keep a man
warm in that almost arctic climate. First my hands became cold, and then
my feet, and then my ears. A thin film of ice closed up the fishing
holes if the water was not constantly disturbed. The thermometer must
have registered ten or fifteen degrees below zero. Our lines became
quadrupled in thickness at the lower ends by the ice that formed upon
them. When they coiled for an instant upon the ice at the edge of a
hole, they stuck to it, frozen fast. By stamping my feet and putting my
free hand in my pocket as fast as I shifted my pole from one hand to the
other, I managed to persist in fishing. I noticed many interesting
things as I stood there, almost alone in that almost pathless
wilderness. First I saw that the Indian was not cold, though not half so
warmly dressed as I. The circulation or vitality of those scions of
nature must be very remarkable, for no sort of weather seemed to trouble
them at all. Wet feet, wet bodies, intense cold, whatever came, found
and left them indifferent. Night after night, in camp, in the open air,
or in our log shanty, we white men trembled with the cold when the log
fire burned low, but the Indians never woke to rebuild it. Indeed, I did
not see one have his blanket pulled over his chest at any time.
Woodcocks were drumming in the forest now and then, and the shrill,
bird-like chatter of the squirrels frequently rang out upon the forest
quiet. My Indian knew every noise, no matter how faint, yet never raised
his head to listen. "Dat squirrel," he would say, when I asked him. Or,
"Woodcock, him calling rain," he ventured. Once I asked what a very
queer, distant, muffled sound was. "You hear dat when you walk. Keep
still, no hear dat," he said. It was the noise the ice made when I

As I stood there a squirrel came down upon a log jutting out over the
edge of the lake, and looked me over. A white weasel ran about in the
bushes so close to me that I could have hit him with a peanut shell.
That morning some partridge had been seen feeding in the bush close to
members of our party. It was a country where small game is not hunted,
and does not always hide at a man's approach. We had left our fish lying
on the ice near the various holes from which we pulled them, and I
thought of them when a flock of ravens passed overhead, crying out in
their hoarse tones. They were sure to see the fish dotting the snow like
raisins in a bowl of rice.

"Won't they steal the fish?" I asked.

"T'ink not," said the Indian.

"I don't know anything about ravens," I said, "but if they are even
distantly related to a crow, they will steal whatever they can lift."

We could not see our fish around the bend of the lake, so the Indian
dropped his rod and walked stolidly after the birds. As soon as he
passed out of sight I heard him scolding the great birds as if they were
unruly children.

"'Way, there!" he cried--"'way! Leave dat fish, you. What you do dere,
you t'ief?"

It was an outcropping of the French blood in his veins that made it
possible for him to do such violence to Indian reticence. The birds had
seen our fish, and were about to seize them. Only the foolish bird
tradition that renders it necessary for everything with wings to circle
precisely so many times over its prey before taking it saved us our game
and lost them their dinner. They had not completed half their quota of
circles when Brossy began to yell at them. When he returned his brain
had awakened, and he began to remember that ravens were thieves. He said
that the lumbermen in that country pack their dinners in canvas sacks
and hide them in the snow. Often the ravens come, and, searching out
this food, tear off the sacks and steal their contents. I bade good-bye
to pork three times a day after that. At least twice a day we feasted
upon trout.



  The motto of the Hudson Bay Fur-trading Company

Those who go to the newer parts of Canada to-day will find that several
of those places which their school geographies displayed as Hudson Bay
posts a few years ago are now towns and cities. In them they will find
the trading stations of old now transformed into general stores.
Alongside of the Canadian headquarters of the great corporation, where
used to stand the walls of Fort Garry, they will see the principal store
of the city of Winnipeg, an institution worthy of any city, and more
nearly to be likened to Whiteley's Necessary Store in London than to any
shopping-place in New York. As in Whiteley's you may buy a house, or
anything belonging in or around a house, so you may in this great
Manitoban establishment. The great retail emporium of Victoria, the
capital of British Columbia, is the Hudson Bay store; and in Calgary,
the metropolis of Alberta and the Canadian plains, the principal
shopping-place in a territory beside which Texas dwindles to the
proportions of a park is the Hudson Bay store.

These and many other shops indicate a new development of the business of
the last of England's great chartered monopolies, but instead of marking
the manner in which civilization has forced it to abandon its original
function, this merely demonstrates that the proprietors have taken
advantage of new conditions while still pursuing their original trade.
It is true that the huge corporation is becoming a great retail
shop-keeping company. It is also true that by the surrender of its
monopolistic privileges it got a consolation prize of money and of
twenty millions of dollars' worth of land, so that its chief business
may yet become that of developing and selling real estate. But to-day it
is still, as it was two centuries ago, the greatest of fur-trading
corporations, and fur-trading is to-day a principal source of its

Reminders of their old associations as forts still confront the visitor
to the modern city shops of the company. The great shop in Victoria, for
instance, which, as a fort, was the hub around which grew the wheel that
is now the capital of the province, has its fur trade conducted in a
sort of barn-like annex of the bazaar; but there it is, nevertheless,
and busy among the great heaps of furs are men who can remember when the
Hydahs and the T'linkets and the other neighboring tribes came down in
their war canoes to trade their winter's catch of skins for guns and
beads, vermilion, blankets, and the rest. Now this is the mere catch-all
for the furs got at posts farther up the coast and in the interior. But
upstairs, above the store, where the fashionable ladies are looking over
laces and purchasing perfumes, you will see a collection of queer old
guns of a pattern familiar to Daniel Boone. They are relics of the fur
company's stock of those famous "trade-guns" which disappeared long
before they had cleared the plains of buffalo, and which the Indians
used to deck with brass nails and bright paint, and value as no man
to-day values a watch. But close to the trade-guns of romantic memory is
something yet more highly suggestive of the company's former position.
This is a heap of unclaimed trunks, "left," the employés will tell you,
"by travellers, hunters, and explorers who never came back to inquire
for them."


It was not long ago that conditions existed such as in that region
rendered the disappearance of a traveller more than a possibility. The
wretched, squat, bow-legged, dirty laborers of that coast, who now dress
as we do, and earn good wages in the salmon-fishing and canning
industries, were not long ago very numerous, and still more villanous.
They were not to be compared with the plains Indians as warriors or as
men, but they were more treacherous, and wanting in high qualities. In
the interior to-day are some Indians such as they were who are accused
of cannibalism, and who have necessitated warlike defences at distant
trading-posts. Travellers who escaped Indian treachery risked
starvation, and stood their chances of losing their reckoning, of
freezing to death, of encounters with grizzlies, of snow-slides, of
canoe accidents in rapids, and of all the other casualties of life in a
territory which to-day is not half explored. Those are not the trunks of
Hudson Bay men, for such would have been sent home to English and
Scottish mourners; they are the luggage of chance men who happened
along, and outfitted at the old post before going farther. But the
company's men were there before them, had penetrated the region
farther and earlier, and there they are to-day, carrying on the fur
trade under conditions strongly resembling those their predecessors once
encountered at posts that are now towns in farming regions, and where
now the locomotive and the steamer are familiar vehicles. Moreover, the
status of the company in British Columbia is its status all the way
across the North from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

To me the most interesting and picturesque life to be found in North
America, at least north of Mexico, is that which is occasioned by this
principal phase of the company's operations. In and around the fur trade
is found the most notable relic of the white man's earliest life on this
continent. Our wild life in this country is, happily, gone. The
frontiersman is more difficult to find than the frontier, the cowboy has
become a laborer almost like any other, our Indians are as the animals
in our parks, and there is little of our country that is not threaded by
railroads or wagon-ways. But in new or western Canada this is not so. A
vast extent of it north of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which hugs our
border, has been explored only as to its waterways, its valleys, or its
open plains, and where it has been traversed much of it remains as
Nature and her near of kin, the red men, had it of old. On the streams
canoes are the vehicles of travel and of commerce; in the forests
"trails" lead from trading-post to trading-post, the people are Indians,
half-breeds, and Esquimaux, who live by hunting and fishing as their
forebears did; the Hudson Bay posts are the seats of white population;
the post factors are the magistrates.

All this is changing with a rapidity which history will liken to the
sliding of scenes before the lens of a magic-lantern. Miners are
crushing the foot-hills on either side of the Rocky Mountains, farmers
and cattle-men have advanced far northward on the prairie and on the
plains in narrow lines, and railroads are pushing hither and thither.
Soon the limits of the inhospitable zone this side of the Arctic Sea,
and of the marshy, weakly-wooded country on either side of Hudson Bay
will circumscribe the fur-trader's field, except in so far as there may
remain equally permanent hunting-grounds in Labrador and in the
mountains of British Columbia. Therefore now, when the Hudson Bay
Company is laying the foundations of widely different interests, is the
time for halting the old original view that stood in the stereopticon
for centuries, that we may see what it revealed, and will still show far
longer than it takes for us to view it.

The Hudson Bay Company's agents were not the first hunters and
fur-traders in British America, ancient as was their foundation. The
French, from the Canadas, preceded them no one knows how many years,
though it is said that it was as early as 1627 that Louis XIII.
chartered a company of the same sort and for the same aims as the
English company. Whatever came of that corporation I do not know, but by
the time the Englishmen established themselves on Hudson Bay, individual
Frenchmen and half-breeds had penetrated the country still farther west.
They were of hardy, adventurous stock, and they loved the free roving
life of the trapper and hunter. Fitted out by the merchants of Canada,
they would pursue the waterways which there cut up the wilderness in
every direction, their canoes laden with goods to tempt the savages, and
their guns or traps forming part of their burden. They would be gone the
greater part of a year, and always returned with a store of furs to be
converted into money, which was, in turn, dissipated in the cities with
devil-may-care jollity. These were the _coureurs du bois_, and theirs
was the stock from which came the _voyageurs_ of the next era, and the
half-breeds, who joined the service of the rival fur companies, and who,
by-the-way, reddened the history of the North-west territories with the
little bloodshed that mars it.

Charles II. of England was made to believe that wonders in the way of
discovery and trade would result from a grant of the Hudson Bay
territory to certain friends and petitioners. An experimental voyage was
made with good results in 1668, and in 1670 the King granted the charter
to what he styled "the Governor and Company of Adventurers of England
trading into Hudson's Bay, one body corporate and politique, in deed and
in name, really and fully forever, for Us, Our heirs, and Successors."
It was indeed a royal and a wholesale charter, for the King declared,
"We have given, granted, and confirmed unto said Governor and Company
sole trade and commerce of those Seas, Streights, Bays, Rivers, Lakes,
Creeks, and Sounds, in whatsoever latitude they shall be, that lie
within the entrance of the Streights commonly called Hudson's, together
with all the Lands, Countries, and Territories upon the coasts and
confines of the Seas, etc., . . . not already actually possessed by or
granted to any of our subjects, or possessed by the subjects of any
other Christian Prince or State, with the fishing of all sorts of Fish,
Whales, Sturgeons, and all other Royal Fishes, . . . . together with the
Royalty of the Sea upon the Coasts within the limits aforesaid, and all
Mines Royal, as well discovered as not discovered, of Gold, Silver,
Gems, and Precious Stones, . . . . and that the said lands be henceforth
reckoned and reputed as one of Our Plantations or Colonies in America
called Rupert's Land." For this gift of an empire the corporation was to
pay yearly to the king, his heirs and successors, two elks and two black
beavers whenever and as often as he, his heirs, or his successors "shall
happen to enter into the said countries." The company was empowered to
man ships of war, to create an armed force for security and defence, to
make peace or war with any people that were not Christians, and to seize
any British or other subject who traded in their territory. The King
named his cousin, Prince Rupert, Duke of Cumberland, to be first
governor, and it was in his honor that the new territory got its name of
Rupert's Land.

In the company were the Duke of Albemarle, Earl Craven, Lords Arlington
and Ashley, and several knights and baronets, Sir Philip Carteret among
them. There were also five esquires, or gentlemen, and John Portman,
"citizen and goldsmith." They adopted the witty sentence, "_Pro pelle
cutem_" (A skin for a skin), as their motto, and established as their
coat of arms a fox sejant as the crest, and a shield showing four
beavers in the quarters, and the cross of St. George, the whole upheld
by two stags.

[Illustration: THE BEAR TRAP]

The "adventurers" quickly established forts on the shores of Hudson Bay,
and began trading with the Indians, with such success that it was
rumored they made from twenty-five to fifty per cent. profit every year.
But they exhibited all of that timidity which capital is ever said to
possess. They were nothing like as enterprising as the French _coureurs
du bois_. In a hundred years they were no deeper in the country then at
first, excepting as they extended their little system of forts or
"factories" up and down and on either side of Hudson and James bays. In
view of their profits, perhaps this lack of enterprise is not to be
wondered at. On the other hand, their charter was given as a reward for
the efforts they had made, and were to make, to find "the Northwest
passage to the Southern seas." In this quest they made less of a trial
than in the getting of furs; how much less we shall see. But the company
had no lack of brave and hardy followers. At first many of the men at
the factories were from the Orkney Islands, and those islands remained
until recent times the recruiting-source for this service. This was
because the Orkney men were inured to a rigorous climate, and to a diet
largely composed of fish. They were subject to less of a change in the
company's service than must have been endured by men from almost any
part of England.

I am going, later, to ask the reader to visit Rupert's Land when the
company had shaken off its timidity, overcome its obstacles, and dotted
all British America with its posts and forts. Then we shall see the
interiors of the forts, view the strange yet not always hard or uncouth
life of the company's factors and clerks, and glance along the trails
and watercourses, mainly unchanged to-day, to note the work and
surroundings of the Indians, the _voyageurs_, and the rest who inhabit
that region. But, fortunately, I can first show, at least roughly, much
that is interesting about the company's growth and methods a century and
a half ago. The information is gotten from some English Parliamentary
papers forming a report of a committee of the House of Commons in 1749.

Arthur Dobbs and others petitioned Parliament to give them either the
rights of the Hudson Bay Company or a similar charter. It seems that
England had offered £20,000 reward to whosoever should find the
bothersome passage to the Southern seas _viâ_ this northern route, and
that these petitioners had sent out two ships for that purpose. They
said that when others had done no more than this in Charles II.'s time,
that monarch had given them "the greatest privileges as lords
proprietors" of the Hudson Bay territory, and that those recipients of
royal favor were bounden to attempt the discovery of the desired
passage. Instead of this, they not only failed to search effectually or
in earnest for the passage, but they had rather endeavored to conceal
the same, and to obstruct the discovery thereof by others. They had not
possessed or occupied any of the lands granted to them, or extended
their trade, or made any plantations or settlements, or permitted other
British subjects to plant, settle, or trade there. They had established
only four factories and one small trading-house; yet they had connived
at or allowed the French to encroach, settle, and trade within their
limits, to the great detriment and loss of Great Britain. The
petitioners argued that the Hudson Bay charter was monopolistic, and
therefore void, and at any rate it had been forfeited "by non-user or

In the course of the hearing upon both sides, the "voyages upon
discovery," according to the company's own showing, were not undertaken
until the corporation had been in existence nearly fifty years, and then
the search had only been prosecuted during eighteen years, and with only
ten expeditions. Two ships sent out from England never reached the bay,
but those which succeeded, and were then ready for adventurous cruising,
made exploratory voyages that lasted only between one month and ten
weeks, so that, as we are accustomed to judge such expeditions, they
seem farcical and mere pretences. Yet their largest ship was only of 190
tons burden, and the others were a third smaller--vessels like our small
coasting schooners. The most particular instructions to the captains
were to trade with all natives, and persuade them to kill whales,
sea-horses, and seals; and, subordinately and incidentally, "by God's
permission," to find out the Strait of Annian, a fanciful sheet of
water, with tales of which that irresponsible Greek sea-tramp, Juan de
Fuca, had disturbed all Christendom, saying that it led between a great
island in the Pacific (Vancouver) and the main-land into the inland
lakes. To the factors at their forts the company sent such lukewarm
messages as, "and if you can by any means find out any discovery or
matter to the northward or elsewhere in the company's interest or
advantage, do not fail to let us know every year."

The attitude of the company towards discovery suggests a Dogberry at its
head, bidding his servants to "comprehend" the North-west passage, but
should they fail, to thank God they were rid of a villain. In truth,
they were traders pure and simple, and were making great profits with
little trouble and expense.


They brought from England about £4000 worth of powder, shot, guns,
fire-steels, flints, gun-worms, powder-horns, pistols, hatchets, sword
blades, awl blades, ice-chisels, files, kettles, fish-hooks, net-lines,
burning-glasses, looking-glasses, tobacco, brandy, goggles, gloves,
hats, lace, needles, thread, thimbles, breeches, vermilion, worsted
sashes, blankets, flannels, red feathers, buttons, beads, and "shirts,
shoes, and stockens." They spent, in keeping up their posts and ships,
about £15,000, and in return they brought to England castorum,
whale-fins, whale-oil, deer-horns, goose-quills, bed-feathers, and
skins--in all of a value of about £26,000 per annum. I have taken the
average for several years in that period of the company's history, and
it is in our money as if they spent $90,000 and got back $130,000, and
this is their own showing under such circumstances as to make it the
course of wisdom not to boast of their profits. They had three times
trebled their stock and otherwise increased it, so that having been
10,500 shares at the outset, it was now 103,950 shares.

And now that we have seen how natural it was that they should not then
bother with exploration and discovery, in view of the remuneration that
came for simply sitting in their forts and buying furs, let me pause to
repeat what one of their wisest men said casually, between the whiffs of
a meditative cigar, last summer: "The search for the north pole must
soon be taken up in earnest," said he. "Man has paused in the
undertaking because other fields where his needs were more pressing, and
where effort was more certain to be rewarded with success, had been
neglected. This is no longer the fact, and geographers and other
students of the subject all agree that the north pole must next be
sought and found. Speaking only on my own account and from my knowledge,
I assert that whenever any government is in earnest in this desire, it
will employ the men of this fur service, and they will find the pole.
The company has posts far within the arctic circle, and they are manned
by men peculiarly and exactly fitted for the adventure. They are hardy,
acutely intelligent, self-reliant, accustomed to the climate, and all
that it engenders and demands. They are on the spot ready to start at
the earliest moment in the season, and they have with them all that they
will need on the expedition. They would do nothing hurriedly or rashly;
they would know what they were about as no other white men would--and
they would get there."

I mention this not merely for the novelty of the suggestion and the
interest it may excite, but because it contributes to the reader's
understanding of the scope and character of the work of the company. It
is not merely Western and among Indians, it is hyperborean and among
Esquimaux. But would it not be passing strange if, beyond all that
England has gained from the careless gift of an empire to a few
favorites by Charles II., she should yet possess the honor and glory of
a grand discovery due to the natural results of that action?

To return to the Parliamentary inquiry into the company's affairs 140
years ago. If it served no other purpose, it drew for us of this day an
outline picture of the first forts and their inmates and customs. Being
printed in the form our language took in that day, when a gun was a
"musquet" and a stockade was a "palisadoe," we fancy we can see the
bumptious governors--as they then called the factors or agents--swelling
about in knee-breeches and cocked hats and colored waistcoats, and
relying, through their fear of the savages, upon the little putty-pipe
cannon that they speak of as "swivels." These were ostentatiously
planted before their quarters, and in front of these again were massive
double doors, such as we still make of steel for our bank safes, but,
when made of wood, use only for our refrigerators. The views we get of
the company's "servants"--which is to say, mechanics and laborers--are
all of trembling varlets, and the testimony is full of hints of petty
sharp practice towards the red man, suggestive of the artful ways of our
own Hollanders, who bought beaver-skins by the weight of their feet, and
then pressed down upon the scales with all their might.

[Illustration: PAINTING THE ROBE]

The witnesses had mainly been at one time in the employ of the company,
and they made the point against it that it imported all its bread (_i.e._,
grain) from England, and neither encouraged planting nor cultivated
the soil for itself. But there were several who said that even in August
they found the soil still frozen at a depth of two and a half or three
feet. Not a man in the service was allowed to trade with the natives
outside the forts, or even to speak with them. One fellow was put in
irons for going into an Indian's tent; and there was a witness who had
"heard a Governor say he would whip a Man without Tryal; and that the
severest Punishment is a Dozen of Lashes." Of course there was no
instructing the savages in either English or the Christian religion; and
we read that, though there were twenty-eight Europeans in one factory,
"witness never heard Sermon or Prayers there, nor ever heard of any such
Thing either before his Time or since." Hunters who offered their
services got one-half what they shot or trapped, and the captains of
vessels kept in the bay were allowed. "25 _l. per cent._" for all the
whalebone they got.

One witness said: "The method of trade is by a standard set by the
Governors. They never lower it, but often double it, so that where the
Standard directs 1 Skin to be taken they generally take Two." Another
said he "had been ordered to shorten the measure for Powder, which ought
to be a Pound, and that within these 10 Years had been reduced an Ounce
or Two." "The Indians made a Noise sometimes, and the Company gave them
their Furs again." A book-keeper lately in the service said that the
company's measures for powder were short, and yet even such measures
were not filled above half full. Profits thus made were distinguished as
"the overplus trade," and signified what skins were got more than were
paid for, but he could not say whether such gains went to the company or
to the governor. (As a matter of fact, the factors or governors shared
in the company's profits, and were interested in swelling them in every
way they could.)

There was much news of how the French traders got the small furs of
martens, foxes, and cats, by intercepting the Indians, and leaving them
to carry only the coarse furs to the company's forts. A witness "had
seen the Indians come down in fine _French_ cloaths, with as much Lace
as he ever saw upon any Cloaths whatsoever. He believed if the Company
would give as much for the Furs as the _French_, the _Indians_ would
bring them down;" but the French asked only thirty marten-skins for a
gun, whereas the company's standard was from thirty-six to forty such
skins. Then, again, the company's plan (unchanged to-day) was to take
the Indian's furs, and then, being possessed of them, to begin the

This shouldering the common grief upon the French was not merely the
result of the chronic English antipathy to their ancient and their
lively foes. The French were swarming all around the outer limits of the
company's field, taking first choice of the furs, and even beginning to
set up posts of their own. Canada was French soil, and peopled by as
hardy and adventurous a class as inhabited any part of America. The
_coureurs du bois_ and the _bois-brûlés_ (half-breeds), whose success
afterwards led to the formation of rival companies, had begun a mosquito
warfare, by canoeing the waters that led to Hudson Bay, and had
penetrated 1000 miles farther west than the English. One Thomas Barnett,
a smith, said that the French intercepted the Indians, forcing them to
trade, "when they take what they please, giving them Toys in Exchange;
and fright them into Compliance by Tricks of Sleight of Hand; from
whence the _Indians_ conclude them to be Conjurers; and if the _French_
did not compel the _Indians_ to trade, they would certainly bring all
the Goods to the _English_."

This must have seemed to the direct, practical English trading mind a
wretched business, and worthy only of Johnny Crapeau, to worst the noble
Briton by monkeyish acts of conjuring. It stirred the soul of one
witness, who said that the way to meet it was "by sending some _English_
with a little Brandy." A gallon to certain chiefs and a gallon and a
half to others would certainly induce the natives to come down and
trade, he thought.

But while the testimony of the English was valuable as far as it went,
which was mainly concerning trade, it was as nothing regarding the life
of the natives compared with that of one Joseph La France, of
Missili-Mackinack (Mackinaw), a traveller, hunter, and trader. He had
been sent as a child to Quebec to learn French, and in later years had
been from Lake Nipissing to Lake Champlain and the Great Lakes, the
Mississippi, the Missouri, the Ouinipigue (Winnipeg) or Red River, and
to Hudson Bay. He told his tales to Arthur Dobbs, who made a book of
them, and part of that became an appendix to the committee's report. La
France said:

    "That the high price on _European_ Goods discourages the Natives
    so much, that if it were not that they are under a Necessity of
    having Guns, Powder, Shot, Hatchets, and other Iron Tools for
    their Hunting, and Tobacco, Brandy, and some Paint for Luxury,
    they would not go down to the Factory with what they now carry.
    They leave great numbers of Furs and Skins behind them. A good
    Hunter among the _Indians_ can kill 600 Beavers in a season, and
    carry down but 100" (because their canoes were small); "the rest
    he uses at home, or hangs them upon Branches of Trees upon the
    Death of their Children, as an Offering to them; or use them for
    Bedding and Coverings: they sometimes burn off the Fur, and
    roast the Beavers, like Pigs, upon any Entertainments; and they
    often let them rot, having no further Use of them. The Beavers,
    he says, are of Three Colours--the Brown-reddish Colour, the
    Black, and the White. The Black is most valued by the Company,
    and in _England_; the White, though most valued in _Canada_, is
    blown upon by the Company's Factors at the Bay, they not
    allowing so much for these as for the others; and therefore the
    _Indians_ use them at home, or burn off the Hair, when they
    roast the Beavers, like Pigs, at an Entertainment when they
    feast together. The Beavers are delicious Food, but the Tongue
    and Tail the most delicious Parts of the whole. They multiply
    very fast, and if they can empty a Pond, and take the whole
    Lodge, they generally leave a Pair to breed, so that they are
    fully stocked again in Two or Three Years. The _American_ Oxen,
    or Beeves, he says, have a large Bunch upon their backs, which
    is by far the most delicious Part of them for Food, it being all
    as sweet as Marrow, juicy and rich, and weighs several Pounds.

    "The Natives are so discouraged in their Trade with the Company
    that no Peltry is worth the Carriage; and the finest Furs are
    sold for very little. They gave but a Pound of Gunpowder for 4
    Beavers, a Fathom of Tobacco for 7 Beavers, a Pound of Shot for
    1, an Ell of coarse Cloth for 15, a Blanket for 12, Two
    Fish-hooks or Three Flints for 1; a Gun for 25, a Pistol for 10,
    a common Hat with white Lace, 7; an Ax, 4; a Billhook, 1; a
    Gallon of Brandy, 4; a chequer'd Shirt, 7; all of which are sold
    at a monstrous Profit, even to 2000 _per Cent_. Notwithstanding
    this discouragement, he computed that there were brought to the
    Factory in 1742, in all, 50,000 Beavers and above 9000 Martens.

    "The smaller Game, got by Traps or Snares, are generally the
    Employment of the Women and Children; such as the Martens,
    Squirrels, Cats, Ermines, &c. The Elks, Stags, Rein-Deer, Bears,
    Tygers, wild Beeves, Wolves, Foxes, Beavers, Otters, Corcajeu,
    &c., are the employment of the Men. The _Indians_, when they
    kill any Game for Food, leave it where they kill it, and send
    their wives next Day to carry it home. They go home in a direct
    Line, never missing their way, by observations they make of the
    Course they take upon their going out. The Trees all bend
    towards the South, and the Branches on that Side are larger and
    stronger than on the North Side; as also the Moss upon the
    Trees. To let their Wives know how to come at the killed Game,
    they from Place to Place break off Branches and lay them in the
    Road, pointing them the Way they should go, and sometimes Moss;
    so that they never miss finding it.

    "In Winter, when they go abroad, which they must do in all
    Weathers, before they dress, they rub themselves all over with
    Bears Greaze or Oil of Beavers, which does not freeze; and also
    rub all the Fur of their Beaver Coats, and then put them on;
    they have also a kind of Boots or Stockings of Beaver's Skin,
    well oiled, with the Fur inwards; and above them they have an
    oiled Skin laced about their Feet, which keeps out the Cold, and
    also Water; and by this means they never freeze, nor suffer
    anything by Cold. In Summer, also, when they go naked, they rub
    themselves with these Oils or Grease, and expose themselves to
    the Sun without being scorched, their Skins always being kept
    soft and supple by it; nor do any Flies, Bugs, or Musketoes, or
    any noxious Insect, ever molest them. When they want to get rid
    of it, they go into the Water, and rub themselves all over with
    Mud or Clay, and let it dry upon them, and then rub it off; but
    whenever they are free from the Oil, the Flies and Musketoes
    immediately attack them, and oblige them again to anoint
    themselves. They are much afraid of the wild Humble Bee, they
    going naked in Summer, that they avoid them as much as they can.
    They use no Milk from the time they are weaned, and they all
    hate to taste Cheese, having taken up an Opinion that it is made
    of Dead Men's Fat. They love Prunes and Raisins, and will give a
    Beaver-skin for Twelve of them, to carry to their Children; and
    also for a Trump or Jew's Harp. The Women have all fine Voices,
    but have never heard any Musical Instrument. They are very fond
    of all Kinds of Pictures or Prints, giving a Beaver for the
    least Print; and all Toys are like Jewels to them."

He reported that "the _Indians_ west of Hudson's Bay live an erratic
Life, and can have no Benefit by tame Fowl or Cattle. They seldom stay
above a Fortnight in a Place, unless they find Plenty of Game. After
having built their Hut, they disperse to get Game for their Food, and
meet again at Night after having killed enough to maintain them for that
Day. When they find Scarcity of Game, they remove a League or Two
farther; and thus they traverse through woody Countries and Bogs, scarce
missing One Day, Winter or Summer, fair or foul, in the greatest Storms
of Snow."

It has been often said that the great Peace River, which rises in
British Columbia and flows through a pass in the Rocky Mountains into
the northern plains, was named "the Unchaga," or Peace, "because" (to
quote Captain W. F. Butler) "of the stubborn resistance offered by the
all-conquering Crees, which induced that warlike tribe to make peace on
the banks of the river, and leave at rest the beaver-hunters"--that is,
the Beaver tribe--upon the river's banks. There is a sentence in La
France's story that intimates a more probable and lasting reason for the
name. He says that some Indians in the southern centre of Canada sent
frequently to the Indians along some river near the mountains "with
presents, to confirm the peace with them." The story is shadowy, of
course, and yet La France, in the same narrative, gave other information
which proved to be correct, and none which proved ridiculous. We know
that there were "all-conquering" Crees, but there were also inferior
ones called the Swampies, and there were others of only intermediate
valor. As for the Beavers, Captain Butler himself offers other proof of
their mettle besides their "stubborn resistance." He says that on one
occasion a young Beaver chief shot the dog of another brave in the
Beaver camp. A hundred bows were instantly drawn, and ere night eighty
of the best men of the tribe lay dead. There was a parley, and it was
resolved that the chief who slew the dog should leave the tribe, and
take his friends with him. A century later a Beaver Indian, travelling
with a white man, heard his own tongue spoken by men among the Blackfeet
near our border. They were the Sarcis, descendants of the exiled band of
Beavers. They had become the must reckless and valorous members of the
warlike Blackfeet confederacy.

[Illustration: COUREUR DU BOIS]

La France said that the nations who "go up the river" with presents, to
confirm the peace with certain Indians, were three months in going, and
that the Indians in question live beyond a range of mountains beyond
the Assiniboins (a plains tribe). Then he goes on to say that still
farther beyond those Indians "are nations who have not the use of
firearms, by which many of them are made slaves and sold"--to the
Assiniboins and others. These are plainly the Pacific coast Indians. And
even so long ago as that (about 1740), half a century before Mackenzie
and Vancouver met on the Pacific coast, La France had told the story of
an Indian who had gone at the head of a band of thirty braves and their
families to make war on the Flatheads "on the Western Ocean of America."
They were from autumn until the next April in making the journey, and
they "saw many Black Fish spouting up in the sea." It was a case of what
the Irish call "spoiling for a fight," for they had to journey 1500
miles to meet "enemies" whom they never had seen, and who were peaceful,
and inhabited more or less permanent villages. The plainsmen got more
than they sought. They attacked a village, were outnumbered, and lost
half their force, besides having several of their men wounded. On the
way back all except the man who told the story died of fatigue and

The journeys which Indians made in their wildest period were tremendous.
Far up in the wilderness of British America there are legends of visits
by the Iroquois. The Blackfeet believe that their progenitors roamed as
far south as Mexico for horses, and the Crees of the plains evinced a
correct knowledge of the country that lay beyond the Rocky Mountains in
their conversations with the first whites who traded with them. Yet
those white men, the founders of an organized fur trade, clung to the
scene of their first operations for more than one hundred years, while
the bravest of their more enterprising rivals in the Northwest Company
only reached the Pacific, with the aid of eight Iroquois braves, 120
years after the English king chartered the senior company! The French
were the true Yankees of that country. They and their half-breeds were
always in the van as explorers and traders, and as early as 1731 M.
Varennes de la Verandrye, licensed by the Canadian Government as a
trader, penetrated the West as far as the Rockies, leading Sir Alexander
Mackenzie to that extent by more than sixty years.

But to return to the first serious trouble the Hudson Bay Company met.
The investigation of its affairs by Parliament produced nothing more
than the picture I have presented. The committee reported that if the
original charter bred a monopoly, it would not help matters to give the
same privileges to others. As the questioned legality of the charter was
not competently adjudicated upon, they would not allow another company
to invade the premises of the older one.

At this time the great company still hugged the shores of the bay,
fearing the Indians, the half-breeds, and the French. Their posts were
only six in all, and were mainly fortified with palisaded enclosures,
with howitzers and swivels, and with men trained to the use of guns.
Moose Fort and the East Main factory were on either side of James Bay,
Forts Albany, York, and Prince of Wales followed up the west coast, and
Henley was the southernmost and most inland of all, being on Moose
River, a tributary of James Bay. The French at first traded beyond the
field of Hudson Bay operations, and their castles were their canoes. But
when their great profits and familiarity with the trade tempted the
thrifty French capitalists and enterprising Scotch merchants of Montreal
into the formation of the rival Northwest Trading Company in 1783,
fixed trading-posts began to be established all over the Prince Rupert's
Land, and even beyond the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia. By 1818
there were about forty Northwest posts as against about two dozen Hudson
Bay factories. The new company not only disputed but ignored the
chartered rights of the old company, holding that the charter had not
been sanctioned by Parliament, and was in every way unconstitutional as
creative of a monopoly. Their French partners and _engagés_ shared this
feeling, especially as the French crown had been first in the field with
a royal charter. Growing bolder and bolder, the Northwest Company
resolved to drive the Hudson Bay Company to a legal test of their
rights, and so in 1803-4 they established a Northwest fort under the
eyes of the old company on the shores of Hudson Bay, and fitted out
ships to trade with the natives in the strait. But the Englishmen did
not accept the challenge; for the truth was they had their own doubts of
the strength of their charter.


They pursued a different and for them an equally bold course. That
hard-headed old nobleman the fifth Earl of Selkirk came uppermost in the
company as the engineer of a plan of colonization. There was plenty of
land, and some wholesale evictions of Highlanders in Sutherlandshire,
Scotland, had rendered a great force of hardy men homeless. Selkirk saw
in this situation a chance to play a long but certainly triumphant game
with his rivals. His plan was to plant a colony which should produce
grain and horses and men for the old company, saving the importation
of all three, and building up not only a nursery for men to match the
_coureurs du bois_, but a stronghold and a seat of a future government
in the Hudson Bay interest. Thus was ushered in a new and important era
in Canadian history. It was the opening of that part of Canada; by a
loop-hole rather than a door, to be sure.

Lord Selkirk's was a practical soul. On one occasion in animadverting
against the Northwest Company he spoke of them contemptuously as
fur-traders, yet he was the chief of all fur-traders, and had been known
to barter with an Indian himself at one of the forts for a fur. He held
up the opposition to the scorn of the world as profiting upon the
weakness of the Indians by giving them alcohol, yet he ordered
distilleries set up in his colony afterwards, saying, "We grant the
trade is iniquitous, but if we don't carry it on others will; so we may
as well put the guineas in our own pockets." But he was the man of the
moment, if not for it. His scheme of colonization was born of
desperation on one side and distress on the other. It was pursued amid
terrible hardship, and against incessant violence. It was consummated
through bloodshed. The story is as interesting as it is important. The
facts are obtained mainly from "Papers relating to the Red River
Settlement, ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, July 12,
1819." Lord Selkirk owned 40,000 of the £105,000 (or shares) of the
Hudson Bay Company; therefore, since 25,000 were held by women and
children, he held half of all that carried votes. He got from the
company a grant of a large tract around what is now Winnipeg, to form
an agricultural settlement for supplying the company's posts with
provisions. We have seen how little disposed its officers were to open
the land to settlers, or to test its agricultural capacities. No one,
therefore, will wonder that when this grant was made several members of
the governing committee resigned. But a queer development of the moment
was a strong opposition from holders of Hudson Bay stock who were also
owners in that company's great rival, the Northwest Company. Since the
enemy persisted in prospering at the expense of the old company, the
moneyed men of the senior corporation had taken stock of their rivals.
These doubly interested persons were also in London, so that the
Northwest Company was no longer purely Canadian. The opponents within
the Hudson Bay Company declared civilization to be at all times
unfavorable to the fur trade, and the Northwest people argued that the
colony would form a nursery for servants of the Bay Company, enabling
them to oppose the Northwest Company more effectually, as well as
affording such facilities for new-comers as must destroy their own
monopoly. The Northwest Company denied the legality of the charter
rights of the Hudson Bay Company because Parliament had not confirmed
Charles II.'s charter.


The colonists came, and were met by Miles McDonnell, an ex-captain of
Canadian volunteers, as Lord Selkirk's agent. The immigrants landed on
the shore of Hudson Bay, and passed a forlorn winter. They met some of
the Northwest Company's people under Alexander McDonnell, a cousin
and brother-in-law to Miles McDonnell. Although Captain Miles read the
grant to Selkirk in token of his sole right to the land, the settlers
were hospitably received and well treated by the Northwest people. The
settlers reached the place of colonization in August, 1812. This place
is what was known as Fort Garry until Winnipeg was built. It was at
first called "the Forks of the Red River," because the Assiniboin there
joined the Red. Lord Selkirk outlined his policy at the time in a letter
in which he bade Miles McDonnell give the Northwest people solemn
warning that the lands were Hudson Bay property, and they must remove
from them; that they must not fish, and that if they did their nets were
to be seized, their buildings were to be destroyed, and they were to be
treated "as you would poachers in England."

The trouble began at once. Miles accused Alexander of trying to inveigle
colonists away from him. He trained his men in the use of guns, and
uniformed a number of them. He forbade the exportation of any supplies
from the country, and when some Northwest men came to get buffalo meat
they had hung on racks in the open air, according to the custom of the
country, he sent armed men to send the others away. He intercepted a
band of Northwest canoe-men, stationing men with guns and with two
field-pieces on the river; and he sent to a Northwest post lower down
the river demanding the provisions stored there, which, when they were
refused, were taken by force, the door being smashed in. For this a
Hudson Bay clerk was arrested, and Captain Miles's men went to the
rescue. Two armed forces met, but happily slaughter was averted. Miles
McDonnell justified his course on the ground that the colonists were
distressed by need of food. It transpired at the time that one of his
men while making cartridges for a cannon remarked that he was making
them "for those ---- Northwest rascals. They have run too long, and
shall run no longer." After this Captain Miles ordered the stoppage of
all buffalo-hunting on horseback, as the practice kept the buffalo at a
distance, and drove them into the Sioux country, where the local Indians
dared not go.

But though Captain McDonnell was aggressive and vexatious, the Northwest
Company's people, who had begun the mischief, even in London, were not
now passive. They relied on setting the half-breeds and Indians against
the colonists. They urged that the colonists had stolen Indian real
estate in settling on the land, and that in time every Indian would
starve as a consequence. At the forty-fifth annual meeting of the
Northwest Company's officers, August, 1814, Alexander McDonnell said,
"Nothing but the complete downfall of the colony will satisfy some, by
fair or foul means--a most desirable object, if it can be accomplished;
so here is at it with all my heart and energy." In October, 1814,
Captain McDonnell ordered the Northwest Company to remove from the
territory within six months.

[Illustration: THE INDIAN HUNTER OF 1750]

The Indians, first and last, were the friends of the colonists. They
were befriended by the whites, and in turn they gave them succor when
famine fell upon them. Many of Captain Miles McDonnell's orders were in
their interest, and they knew it. Katawabetay, a chief, was tempted with
a big prize to destroy the settlement. He refused. On the opening of
navigation in 1815 chiefs were bidden from the country around to visit
the Northwest factors, and were by them asked to destroy the colony. Not
only did they decline, but they hastened to Captain Miles McDonnell to
acquaint him with the plot. Duncan Cameron now appears foremost among
the Northwest Company's agents, being in charge of that company's post
on the Red River, in the Selkirk grant. He told the chiefs that if they
took the part of the colonists "their camp-fires should be totally
extinguished." When Cameron caught one of his own servants doing a
trifling service for Captain Miles McDonnell, he sent him upon a journey
for which every _engagé_ of the Northwest Company bound himself liable
in joining the company; that was to make the trip to Montreal, a voyage
held _in terrorem_ over every servant of the corporation. More than
that, he confiscated four horses and a wagon belonging to this man, and
charged him on the company's books with the sum of 800 livres for an
Indian squaw, whom the man had been told he was to have as his slave for
a present.


But though the Indians held aloof from the great and cruel conspiracy,
the half-breeds readily joined in it. They treated Captain McDonnell's
orders with contempt, and arrested one of the Hudson Bay men as a spy
upon their hunting with horses. There lived along the Red River, near
the colony, about thirty Canadians and seventy half-breeds, born of
Indian squaws and the servants or officers of the Northwest Company.
One-quarter of the number of "breeds" could read and write, and were fit
to serve as clerks; the rest were literally half savage, and were
employed as hunters, canoe-men, "packers" (freighters), and guides. They
were naturally inclined to side with the Northwest Company, and in time
that corporation sowed dissension among the colonists themselves,
picturing to them exaggerated danger from the Indians, and offering them
free passage to Canada. They paid at least one of the leading
colonists £100 for furthering discontent in the settlement, and four
deserters from the colony stole all the Hudson Bay field-pieces, iron
swivels, and the howitzer. There was constant irritation and friction
between the factions. In an affray far up at Isle-à-la-Crosse a man was
killed on either side. Half-breeds came past the colony singing
war-songs, and notices were posted around Fort Garry reading, "Peace
with all the world except in Red River." The Northwest people demanded
the surrender of Captain McDonnell that he might be tried on their
charges, and on June 11, 1815, a band of men fired on the colonial
buildings. The captain afterwards surrendered himself, and the remnant
of the colony, thirteen families, went to the head of Lake Winnipeg. The
half-breeds burned the buildings, and divided the horses and effects.

But in the autumn all came back with Colin Robertson, of the Bay
Company, and twenty clerks and servants. These were joined by Governor
Robert Semple, who brought 160 settlers from Scotland. Semple was a man
of consequence at home, a great traveller, and the author of a book on
travels in Spain.[2] But he came in no conciliatory mood, and the foment
was kept up. The Northwest Company tried to starve the colonists, and
Governor Semple destroyed the enemy's fort below Fort Garry. Then came
the end--a decisive battle and massacre.

Sixty-five men on horses, and with some carts, were sent by Alexander
McDonnell, of the Northwest Company, up the river towards the colony.
They were led by Cuthbert Grant, and included six Canadians, four
Indians, and fifty-four half-breeds. It was afterwards said they went on
innocent business, but every man was armed, and the "breeds" were naked,
and painted all over to look like Indians. They got their paint of the
Northwest officers. Moreover, there had been rumors that the colonists
were to be driven away, and that "the land was to be drenched with
blood." It was on June 19, 1816, that runners notified the colony that
the others were coming. Semple was at Fort Douglas, near Fort Garry.
When apprised of the close approach of his assailants, the Governor
seems not to have appreciated his danger, for he said, "We must go and
meet those people; let twenty men follow me." He put on his cocked hat
and sash, his pistols, and shouldered his double-barrelled
fowling-piece. The others carried a wretched lot of guns--some with the
locks gone, and many that were useless. It was marshy ground, and they
straggled on in loose order. They met an old soldier who had served in
the army at home, and who said the enemy was very numerous, and that the
Governor had better bring along his two field-pieces.

"No, no," said the Governor; "there is no occasion. I am only going to
speak to them."

Nevertheless, after a moment's reflection, he did send back for one of
the great guns, saying it was well to have it in case of need. They
halted a short time for the cannon, and then perceived the Northwest
party pressing towards them on their horses. By a common impulse the
Governor and his followers began a retreat, walking backwards, and at
the same time spreading out a single line to present a longer front. The
enemy continued to advance at a hand-gallop. From out among them rode a
Canadian named Boucher, the rest forming a half-moon behind him. Waving
his hand in an insolent way to the Governor, Boucher called out, "What
do you want?"

[Illustration: MAKING THE SNOW-SHOE]

"What do _you_ want?" said Governor Semple.

"We want our fort," said Boucher, meaning the fort Semple had destroyed.

"Go to your fort," said the Governor.

"Why did you destroy our fort, you rascal?" Boucher demanded.

"Scoundrel, do you tell me so?" the Governor replied, and ordered the
man's arrest.

Some say he caught at Boucher's gun. But Boucher slipped off his horse,
and on the instant a gun was fired, and a Hudson Bay clerk fell dead.
Another shot wounded Governor Semple, and he called to his followers.

"Do what you can to take care of yourselves."

Then there was a volley from the Northwest force, and with the clearing
of the smoke it looked as though all the Governor's party were killed or
wounded. Instead of taking care of themselves, they had rallied around
their wounded leader. Captain Rogers, of the Governor's party, who had
fallen, rose to his feet, and ran towards the enemy crying for mercy in
English and broken French, when Thomas McKay, a "breed" and Northwest
clerk, shot him through the head, another cutting his body open with a

Cuthbert Grant (who, it was charged, had shot Governor Semple) now went
to the Governor, while the others despatched the wounded.

Semple said, "Are you not Mr. Grant?"

"Yes," said the other.

"I am not mortally wounded," said the Governor, "and if you could get me
conveyed to the fort, I think I should live."

But when Grant left his side an Indian named Ma-chi-ca-taou shot him,
some say through the breast, and some have it that he put a pistol to
the Governor's head. Grant could not stop the savages. The bloodshed had
crazed them. They slaughtered all the wounded, and, worse yet, they
terribly maltreated the bodies. Twenty-two Hudson Bay men were killed,
and one on the other side was wounded.

There is a story that Alexander McDonnell shouted for joy when he heard
the news of the massacre. One witness, who did not hear him shout,
reports that he exclaimed to his friends: "_Sacré nom de Dieu! Bonnes
nouvelles; vingt-deux Anglais tués!_" (----! Good news; twenty-two
English slain!) It was afterwards alleged that the slaughter was
approved by every officer of the Northwest Company whose comments were

It is a saying up in that country that twenty-six out of the sixty-five
in the attacking party died violent deaths. The record is only valuable
as indicating the nature and perils of the lives the hunters and
half-breeds led. First, a Frenchman dropped dead while crossing the ice
on the river, his son was stabbed by a comrade, his wife was shot, and
his children were burned; "Big Head," his brother, was shot by an
Indian; Coutonohais dropped dead at a dance; Battosh was mysteriously
shot; Lavigne was drowned; Fraser was run through the body by a
Frenchman in Paris; Baptiste Morallé, while drunk, was thrown into a
fire by inebriated companions and burned to death; another died drunk on
a roadway; another was wounded by the bursting of his gun; small-pox
took the eleventh; Duplicis was empaled upon a hay-fork, on which he
jumped from a hay-stack; Parisien was shot, by a person unknown, in a
buffalo-hunt; another lost his arm by carelessness; Gardapie, "the
brave," was scalped and shot by the Sioux; so was Vallée;
Ka-te-tee-goose was scalped and cut in pieces by the Gros-Ventres;
Pe-me-can-toss was thrown in a hole by his people; and another Indian
and his wife and children were killed by lightning. Yet another was
gored to death by a buffalo. The rest of the twenty-six died by being
frozen, by drowning, by drunkenness, or by shameful disease.

It is when things are at their worst that they begin to mend, says a
silly old proverb; but when history is studied these desperate
situations often seem part of the mending, not of themselves, but of the
broken cause of progress. There was a little halt here in Canada, as we
shall see, but the seed of settlement had been planted, and thenceforth
continued to grow. Lord Selkirk came with all speed, reaching Canada in
1817. It was now an English colony, and when he asked for a body-guard,
the Government gave him two sergeants and twelve soldiers of the
Régiment de Meuron. He made these the nucleus of a considerable force of
Swiss and Germans who had formerly served in that regiment, and he
pursued a triumphal progress to what he called his territory of
Assiniboin, capturing all the Northwest Company's forts on the route,
imprisoning the officers, and sending to jail in Canada all the
accessaries to the massacre, on charges of arson, murder, robbery, and
"high misdemeanors." Such was the prejudice against the Hudson Bay
Company and the regard for the home corporation that nearly all were
acquitted, and suits for very heavy damages were lodged against him.


Selkirk sought to treat with the Indians for his land, which they said
belonged to the Chippeways and the Crees. Five chiefs were found whose
right to treat was acknowledged by all. On July 18, 1817, they deeded
the territory to the King, "for the benefit of Lord Selkirk," giving him
a strip two miles wide on either side of the Red River from Lake
Winnipeg to Red Lake, north of the United States boundary, and along the
Assiniboin from Fort Garry to the Muskrat River, as well as within two
circles of six miles radius around Fort Garry and Pembina, now in
Dakota. Indians do not know what miles are; they measure distance by the
movement of the sun while on a journey. They determined two miles in
this case to be "as far as you can see daylight under a horse's belly on
the level prairie." On account of Selkirk's liberality they dubbed him
"the silver chief." He agreed to give them for the land 200 pounds of
tobacco a year. He named his settlement Kildonan, after that place in
Helmsdale, Sutherlandshire, Scotland. He died in 1821, and in 1836 the
Hudson Bay Company bought the land back from his heirs for £84,000. The
Swiss and Germans of his regiment remained, and many retired servants of
the company bought and settled there, forming the aristocracy of the
place--a queer aristocracy to our minds, for many of the women were
Indian squaws, and the children were "breeds."

Through the perseverance and tact of the Right Hon. Edward Ellice, to
whom the Government had appealed, all differences between the two great
fur-trading companies were adjusted, and in 1821 a coalition was formed.
At Ellice's suggestion the giant combination then got from Parliament
exclusive privileges beyond the waters that flow into Hudson Bay, over
the Rocky Mountains and to the Pacific, for a term of twenty years.
These extra privileges were surrendered in 1838, and were renewed for
twenty-one years longer, to be revoked, so far as British Columbia
(then New Caledonia) was concerned, in 1858. That territory then became
a crown colony, and it and Vancouver Island, which had taken on a
colonial character at the time of the California gold fever (1849), were
united in 1866. The extra privileges of the fur-traders were therefore
not again renewed. In 1868, after the establishment of the Canadian
union, whatever presumptive rights the Hudson Bay Company got under
Charles II.'s charter were vacated in consideration of a payment by
Canada of $1,500,000 cash, one-twentieth of all surveyed lands within
the fertile belt, and 50,000 acres surrounding the company's posts. It
is estimated that the land grant amounts to 7,000,000 of acres, worth
$20,000,000, exclusive of all town sites.

Thus we reach the present condition of the company, more than 220 years
old, maintaining 200 central posts and unnumbered dependent ones, and
trading in Labrador on the Atlantic; at Massett, on Queen Charlotte
Island, in the Pacific; and deep within the Arctic Circle in the north.
The company was newly capitalized not long ago with 100,000 shares at
£20 ($10,000,000), but, in addition to its dividends, it has paid back
£7 in every £20, reducing its capital to £1,300,000. The stock, however,
is quoted at its original value. The supreme control of the company is
vested in a governor, deputy governor, and five directors, elected by
the stockholders in London. They delegate their powers to an executive
resident in this country, who was until lately called the "Governor of
Rupert's Land," but now is styled the chief commissioner, and is in
absolute charge of the company and all its operations. His term of
office is unlimited. The present head of the corporation, or governor,
is Sir Donald A. Smith, one of the foremost spirits in Canada, who
worked his way up from a clerkship in the company. The business of the
company is managed on the outfit system, the most old-fogyish, yet by
its officers declared to be the most perfect, plan in use by any
corporation. The method is to charge against each post all the supplies
that are sent to it between June 1st and June 1st each year, and then to
set against this the product of each post in furs and in cash received.
It used to take seven years to arrive at the figures for a given year,
but, owing to improved means of transportation, this is now done in two


Almost wherever you go in the newly settled parts of the Hudson Bay
territory you find at least one free-trader's shop set up in rivalry
with the old company's post. These are sometimes mere storehouses for
the furs, and sometimes they look like, and are partly, general country
stores. There can be no doubt that this rivalry is very detrimental to
the fur trade from the stand-point of the future. The great company can
afford to miss a dividend, and can lose at some points while gaining at
others, but the free-traders must profit in every district. The
consequence is such a reckless destruction of game that the plan adopted
by us for our seal-fisheries--the leasehold system--is envied and
advocated in Canada. A greater proportion of trapping and an utter
unconcern for the destruction of the game at all ages are now
ravaging the wilderness. Many districts return as many furs as they ever
yielded, but the quantity is kept up at fearful cost by the
extermination of the game. On the other hand, the fortified wall of
posts that opposed the development of Canada, and sent the surplus
population of Europe to the United States, is rid of its palisades and
field-pieces, and the main strongholds of the ancient company and its
rivals have become cities. The old fort on Vancouver Island is now
Victoria; Fort Edmonton is the seat of law and commerce in the Peace
River region; old Fort William has seen Port Arthur rise by its side;
Fort Garry is Winnipeg; Calgary, the chief city of Alberta, is on the
site of another fort; and Sault Ste. Marie was once a Northwest post.

But civilization is still so far off from most of the "factories," as
the company's posts are called, that the day when they shall become
cities is in no man's thought or ken. And the communication between the
centres and outposts is, like the life of the traders, more nearly like
what it was in the old, old days than most of my readers would imagine.
My Indian guides were battling with their paddles against the mad
current of the Nipigon, above Lake Superior, one day last summer, and I
was only a few hours away from Factor Flanagan's post near the great
lake, when we came to a portage, and might have imagined from what we
saw that time had pushed the hands back on the dial of eternity at least
a century.

Some rapids in the river had to be avoided by the brigade that was being
sent with supplies to a post far north at the head of Lake Nipigon. A
cumbrous, big-timbered little schooner, like a surf-boat with a sail,
and a square-cut bateau had brought the men and goods to the "carry."
The men were half-breeds as of old, and had brought along their women
and children to inhabit a camp of smoky tents that we espied on a bluff
close by; a typical camp, with the blankets hung on the bushes, the
slatternly women and half-naked children squatting or running about, and
smudge fires smoking between the tents to drive off mosquitoes and
flies. The men were in groups below on the trail, at the water-side end
of which were the boats' cargoes of shingles and flour and bacon and
shot and powder in kegs, wrapped, two at a time, in rawhide. They were
dark-skinned, short, spare men, without a surplus pound of flesh in the
crew, and with longish coarse black hair and straggling beards. Each man
carried a tump-line, or long stout strap, which he tied in such a way
around what he meant to carry that a broad part of the strap fitted over
the crown of his head. Thus they "packed" the goods over the portage,
their heads sustaining the loads, and their backs merely steadying them.
When one had thrown his burden into place, he trotted off up the trail
with springing feet, though the freight was packed so that 100 pounds
should form a load. For bravado one carried 200 pounds, and then all the
others tried to pack as much, and most succeeded. All agreed that one,
the smallest and least muscular-looking one among them, could pack 400

As the men gathered around their "smudge" to talk with my party, it was
seen that of all the parts of the picturesque costume of the _voyageur_
or _bois-brûlé_ of old--the capote, the striped shirt, the
pipe-tomahawk, plumed hat, gay leggins, belt, and moccasins--only the
red worsted belt and the moccasins have been retained. These men could
recall the day when they had tallow and corn meal for rations, got no
tents, and were obliged to carry 200 pounds, lifting one package, and
then throwing a second one atop of it without assistance. Now they carry
only 100 pounds at a time, and have tents and good food given to them.

We will not follow them, nor meet, as they did, the York boat coming
down from the north with last winter's furs. Instead, I will endeavor to
lift the curtain from before the great fur country beyond them, to give
a glimpse of the habits and conditions that prevail throughout a
majestic territory where the rivers and lakes are the only roads, and
canoes and dog-sleds are the only vehicles.

[Footnote 2: I am indebted to Mr. Matthew Semple, of Philadelphia, a
grandnephew of the murdered Governor, for further facts about that hero.
He led a life of travel and adventure, spiced with almost romantic
happenings. He wrote ten books: records at travel and one novel. His
parents were passengers on an English vessel which was captured by the
Americans in 1776, and brought to Boston, Mass., where he was born on
February 26, 1777. He was therefore only 39 years of age when he was
slain. His portrait, now in Philadelphia, shows him to have been a man
of striking and handsome appearance.]



  Concluding the sketch of the history and work of the Hudson Bay Company

The most sensational bit of "musquash talk" in more than a quarter of a
century among the Hudson Bay Company's employés was started the other
day, when Sir Donald A. Smith, the governor of the great trading
company, sent a type-written letter to Winnipeg. If a Cree squaw had
gone to the trading-shop at Moose Factory and asked for a bustle and a
box of face-powder in exchange for a beaver-skin, the suggestion of
changing conditions in the fur trade would have been trifling compared
with the sense of instability to which this appearance of
machine-writing gave rise. The reader may imagine for himself what a
wrench civilization would have gotten if the world had laid down its
goose-quills and taken up the type-writer all in one day. And that is
precisely what Sir Donald Smith had done. The quill that had served to
convey the orders of Alexander Mackenzie had satisfied Sir George
Simpson; and, in our own time, while men like Lord Iddesleigh, Lord
Kimberley, and Mr. Goschen sat around the candle-lighted table in the
board-room of the company in London, quill pens were the only ones at
hand. But Sir Donald's letter was not only the product of a machine; it
contained instructions for the use of the type-writer in the offices at
Winnipeg, and there was in the letter a protest against illegible manual
chirography such as had been received from many factories in the
wilderness. Talking business in the fur trade has always been called
"talking musquash" (musk-rat), and after that letter came the turn taken
by that form of talk suggested a general fear that from the Arctic to
our border and from Labrador to Queen Charlotte's Islands the canvassers
for competing machines will be "racing" in all the posts, each to prove
that his instrument can pound out more words in a minute than any
other--in those posts where life has hitherto been taken so gently that
when one day a factor heard that the battle of Waterloo had been fought
and won by the English, he deliberately loaded the best trade gun in the
storehouse and went out and fired it into the pulseless woods, although
it was two years after the battle, and the disquieted Old World had long
known the greater news that Napoleon was caged in St. Helena. The only
reassuring note in the "musquash talk" to-day is sounded when the
subject of candles is reached. The Governor and committee in London
still pursue their deliberations by candlelight.

But rebellion against their fate is idle, and it is of no avail for the
old factors to make the point that Sir Donald found no greater trouble
in reading their writing than they encountered when one of his missives
had to be deciphered by them. The truth is that the tide of immigration
which their ancient monopoly first shunted into the United States is
now sweeping over their vast territory, and altering more than its
face. Not only are the factors aware that the new rule confining them to
share in the profits of the fur trade leaves to the mere stockholders
far greater returns from land sales and storekeeping, but a great many
of them now find village life around their old forts, and railroads
close at hand, and Law setting up its officers at their doors, so that
in a great part of the territory the romance of the old life, and their
authority as well, has fled.

[Illustration: TALKING MUSQUASH]

Less than four years ago I had passed by Qu'Appelle without visiting it,
but last summer I resolved not to make the mistake again, for it was the
last stockaded fort that could be studied without a tiresome and costly
journey into the far north. It is on the Fishing Lakes, just beyond
Manitoba. But on my way a Hudson Bay officer told me that they had just
taken down the stockade in the spring, and that he did not know of a
remaining "palisadoe" in all the company's system except one, which,
curiously enough, had just been ordered to be put up around Fort
Hazleton, on the Skeena River, in northern British Columbia, where some
turbulent Indians have been very troublesome, and where whatever
civilization there may be in Saturn seems nearer than our own. This one
example of the survival of original conditions is far more eloquent of
their endurance than the thoughtless reader would imagine. It is true
that there has come a tremendous change in the status and spirit of the
company. It is true that its officers are but newly bending to external
authority, and that settlers have poured into the south with such
demands for food, clothes, tools, and weapons as to create within the
old corporation one of the largest of shopkeeping companies. Yet to-day,
as two centuries ago, the Hudson Bay Company remains the greatest
fur-trading association that exists.

The zone in which Fort Hazleton is situated reaches from ocean to ocean
without suffering invasion by settlers, and far above it to the Arctic
Sea is a grand belt wherein time has made no impress since the first
factory was put up there. There and around it is a region, nearly
two-thirds the size of the United States, which is as if our country
were meagrely dotted with tiny villages at an average distance of five
days apart, with no other means of communication than canoe or dog
train, and with not above a thousand white men in it, and not as many
pure-blooded white women as you will find registered at a first-class
New York hotel on an ordinary day. The company employs between fifteen
hundred and two thousand white men, and I am assuming that half of them
are in the fur country.

We know that for nearly a century the company clung to the shores of
Hudson Bay. It will be interesting to peep into one of its forts as they
were at that time; it will be amazing to see what a country that
bay-shore territory was and is. There and over a vast territory three
seasons come in four months--spring in June, summer in July and August,
and autumn in September. During the long winter the earth is blanketed
deep in snow, and the water is locked beneath ice. Geese, ducks, and
smaller birds abound as probably they are not seen elsewhere in
America, but they either give place to or share the summer with
mosquitoes, black-flies, and "bull-dogs" (_tabanus_) without number,
rest, or mercy. For the land around Hudson Bay is a vast level marsh, so
wet that York Fort was built on piles, with elevated platforms around
the buildings for the men to walk upon. Infrequent bunches of small
pines and a litter of stunted swamp-willows dot the level waste, the
only considerable timber being found upon the banks of the rivers. There
is a wide belt called the Arctic Barrens all along the north, but below
that, at some distance west of the bay, the great forests of Canada
bridge across the region north of the prairie and the plains, and cross
the Rocky Mountains to reach the Pacific. In the far north the musk-ox
descends almost to meet the moose and deer, and on the near slope of the
Rockies the wood-buffalo--larger, darker, and fiercer than the bison of
the plains, but very like him--still roams as far south as where the
buffalo ran highest in the days when he existed.

Through all this northern country the cold in winter registers 40°, and
even 50°, below zero, and the travel is by dogs and sleds. There men in
camp may be said to dress to go to bed. They leave their winter's store
of dried meat and frozen fish out-of-doors on racks all winter (and so
they do down close to Lake Superior); they hear from civilization only
twice a year at the utmost; and when supplies have run out at the posts,
we have heard of their boiling the parchment sheets they use instead of
glass in their windows, and of their cooking the fat out of
beaver-skins to keep from starving, though beaver is so precious that
such recourse could only be had when the horses and dogs had been eaten.
As to the value of the beaver, the reader who never has purchased any
for his wife may judge what it must be by knowing that the company has
long imported buckskin from Labrador to sell to the Chippeways around
Lake Nipigon in order that they may not be tempted, as of old, to make
thongs and moccasins of the beaver; for their deer are poor, with skins
full of worm-holes, whereas beaver leather is very tough and fine.

But in spite of the severe cold winters, that are, in fact, common to
all the fur territory, winter is the delightful season for the traders;
around the bay it is the only endurable season. The winged pests of
which I have spoken are by no means confined to the tide-soaked region
close to the great inland sea. The whole country is as wet as that
orange of which geographers speak when they tell us that the water on
the earth's surface is proportioned as if we were to rub a rough orange
with a wet cloth. Up in what we used to call British America the
illustration is itself illustrated in the countless lakes of all sizes,
the innumerable small streams, and the many great rivers that make
waterways the roads, as canoes are the wagons, of the region. It is a
vast paradise for mosquitoes, and I have been hunted out of fishing and
hunting grounds by them as far south as the border. The "bull-dog" is a
terror reserved for especial districts. He is the Sioux of the insect
world, as pretty as a warrior in buckskin and beads, but carrying a
red-hot sword blade, which, when sheathed in human flesh, will make the
victim jump a foot from the ground, though there is no after-pain or
itching or swelling from the thrust.


Having seen the country, let us turn to the forts. Some of them really
were forts, in so far as palisades and sentry towers and double doors
and guns can make a fort, and one twenty miles below Winnipeg was a
stone fort. It is still standing. When the company ruled the territory
as its landlord, the defended posts were on the plains among the bad
Indians, and on the Hudson Bay shore, where vessels of foreign nations
might be expected. In the forests, on the lakes and rivers, the
character and behavior of the fish-eating Indians did not warrant
armament. The stockaded forts were nearly all alike. The stockade was of
timber, of about such a height that a man might look over it on tiptoe.
It had towers at the corners, and York Fort had a great "lookout" tower
within the enclosure. Within the barricade were the company's buildings,
making altogether such a picture as New York presented when the Dutch
founded it and called it New Amsterdam, except that we had a church and
a stadt-house in our enclosure. The Hudson Bay buildings were sometimes
arranged in a hollow square, and sometimes in the shape of a letter H,
with the factor's house connecting the two other parts of the character.
The factor's house was the best dwelling, but there were many smaller
ones for the laborers, mechanics, hunters, and other non-commissioned
men. A long, low, whitewashed log-house was apt to be the clerks' house,
and other large buildings were the stores where merchandise was kept,
the fur-houses where the furs, skins, and pelts were stored, and the
Indian trading-house, in which all the bartering was done. A
powder-house, ice-house, oil-house, and either a stable or a boat-house
for canoes completed the post. All the houses had double doors and
windows, and wherever the men lived there was a tremendous stove set up
to battle with the cold.

The abode of jollity was the clerks' house, or bachelors' quarters.
Each man had a little bedroom containing his chest, a chair, and a bed,
with the walls covered with pictures cut from illustrated papers or not,
according to each man's taste. The big room or hall, where all met in
the long nights and on off days, was as bare as a baldpate so far as its
whitewashed or timbered walls went, but the table in the middle was
littered with pipes, tobacco, papers, books, and pens and ink, and all
around stood (or rested on hooks overhead) guns, foils, and
fishing-rods. On Wednesdays and Saturdays there was no work in at least
one big factory. Breakfast was served at nine o'clock, dinner at one
o'clock, and tea at six o'clock. The food varied in different places.
All over the prairie and plains great stores of pemmican were kept, and
men grew to like it very much, though it was nothing but dried buffalo
beef pounded and mixed with melted fat. But where they had pemmican they
also enjoyed buffalo hunch in the season, and that was the greatest
delicacy, except moose muffle (the nose of the moose), in all the
territory. In the woods and lake country there were venison and moose as
well as beaver--which is very good eating--and many sorts of birds, but
in that region dried fish (salmon in the west, and lake trout or
white-fish nearer the bay) was the staple. The young fellows hunted and
fished and smoked and drank and listened to the songs of the _voyageurs_
and the yarns of the "breeds" and Indians. For the rest there was plenty
of work to do.

They had a costume of their own, and, indeed, in that respect there has
been a sad change, for all the people, white, red, and crossed, dressed
picturesquely. You could always distinguish a Hudson Bay man by his
capote of light blue cloth with brass buttons. In winter they wore as
much as a Quebec carter. They wore leather coats lined with flannel,
edged with fur, and double-breasted. A scarlet worsted belt went around
their waists, their breeches were of smoked buckskin, reaching down to
three pairs of blanket socks and moose moccasins, with blue cloth
leggins up to the knee. Their buckskin mittens were hung from their
necks by a cord, and usually they wrapped a shawl of Scotch plaid around
their necks and shoulders, while on each one's head was a fur cap with

[Illustration: SETTING A MINK-TRAP]

The French Canadians and "breeds," who were the _voyageurs_ and hunters,
made a gay appearance. They used to wear the company's regulation light
blue capotes, or coats, in winter, with flannel shirts, either red or
blue, and corduroy trousers gartered at the knee with bead-work. They
all wore gaudy worsted belts, long, heavy woollen stockings--covered
with gayly-fringed leggins--fancy moccasins, and tuques, or
feather-decked hats or caps bound with tinsel bands. In mild weather
their costume was formed of a blue striped cotton shirt, corduroys, blue
cloth leggins bound with orange ribbons, the inevitable sash or worsted
belt, and moccasins. Every hunter carried a powder-horn slung from his
neck, and in his belt a tomahawk, which often served also as a pipe. As
late as 1862, Viscount Milton and W. B. Cheadle describe them in a book,
_The North-west Passage by Land_, in the following graphic language:

    "The men appeared in gaudy array, with beaded fire-bag, gay
    sash, blue or scarlet leggings, girt below the knee with beaded
    garters, and moccasins elaborately embroidered. The (half-breed)
    women were in short, bright-colored skirts, showing richly
    embroidered leggings and white moccasins of cariboo-skin
    beautifully worked with flowery patterns in beads, silk, and
    moose hair."

The trading-room at an open post was--and is now--like a cross-roads
store, having its shelves laden with every imaginable article that
Indians like and hunters need--clothes, blankets, files, scalp-knives,
gun screws, flints, twine, fire-steels, awls, beads, needles, scissors,
knives, pins, kitchen ware, guns, powder, and shot. An Indian who came
in with furs threw them down, and when they were counted received the
right number of castors--little pieces of wood which served as
money--with which, after the hours of reflection an Indian spends at
such a time, he bought what he wanted.

But there was a wide difference between such a trading-room and one in
the plains country, or where there were dangerous Indians--such as some
of the Crees, and the Chippeways, Blackfeet, Bloods, Sarcis, Sioux,
Sicanies, Stonies, and others. In such places the Indians were let in
only one or two at a time, the goods were hidden so as not to excite
their cupidity, and through a square hole grated with a cross of iron,
whose spaces were only large enough to pass a blanket, what they wanted
was given to them. That is all done away with now, except it be in
northern British Columbia, where the Indians have been turbulent.

Farther on we shall perhaps see a band of Indians on their way to trade
at a post. Their custom is to wait until the first signs of spring, and
then to pack up their winter's store of furs, and take advantage of the
last of the snow and ice for the journey. They hunt from November to
May; but the trapping and shooting of bears go on until the 15th of
June, for those animals do not come from their winter dens until May
begins. They come to the posts in their best attire, and in the old days
that formed as strong a contrast to their present dress as their leather
tepees of old did to the cotton ones of to-day. Ballantyne, who wrote a
book about his service with the great fur company, says merely that they
were painted, and with scalp-locks fringing their clothes; but in Lewis
and Clarke's journal we read description after description of the brave
costuming of these color-and-ornament-loving people. Take the Sioux, for
instance. Their heads were shaved of all but a tuft of hair, and
feathers hung from that. Instead of the universal blanket of to-day,
their main garment was a robe of buffalo-skin with the fur left on, and
the inner surface dressed white, painted gaudily with figures of beasts
and queer designs, and fringed with porcupine quills. They wore the fur
side out only in wet weather. Beneath the robe they wore a shirt of
dressed skin, and under that a leather belt, under which the ends of a
breech-clout of cloth, blanket stuff, or skin were tucked. They wore
leggins of dressed antelope hide with scalp-locks fringing the seams,
and prettily beaded moccasins for their feet. They had necklaces of the
teeth or claws of wild beasts, and each carried a fire-bag, a quiver,
and a brightly painted shield, giving up the quiver and shield when guns
came into use.

The Indians who came to trade were admitted to the store precisely as
voters are to the polls under the Australian system--one by one. They
had to leave their guns outside. When rum was given out, each Indian had
to surrender his knife before he got his tin cup.


The company made great use of the Iroquois, and considered them the best
boatmen in Canada. Sir Alexander Mackenzie, of the Northwest Company,
employed eight of them to paddle him to the Pacific Ocean by way of the
Peace and Fraser rivers, and when the greatest of Hudson Bay
executives, Sir George Simpson, travelled, Iroquois always propelled
him. The company had a uniform for all its Indian employés--a blue,
gray, or blanket capote, very loose, and reaching below the knee, with a
red worsted belt around the waist, a cotton shirt, no trousers, but
artfully beaded leggins with wide flaps at the seams, and moccasins over
blanket socks. In winter they wore buckskin coats lined with flannel,
and mittens were given to them. We have seen how the half-breeds were
dressed. They were long employed at women's work in the forts, at making
clothing and at mending. All the mittens, moccasins, fur caps, deer-skin
coats, etc., were made by them. They were also the washer-women.

Perhaps the factor had a good time in the old days, or thought he did.
He had a wife and servants and babies, and when a visitor came, which
was not as often as snow-drifts blew over the stockade, he entertained
like a lord. At first the factors used to send to London, to the head
office, for a wife, to be added to the annual consignment of goods, and
there must have been a few who sent to the Orkneys for the sweethearts
they left there. But in time the rule came to be that they married
Indian squaws. In doing this, not even the first among them acted
blindly, for their old rivals and subsequent companions of the Northwest
and X. Y. companies began the custom, and the French _voyageurs_ and
_coureurs du bois_ had mated with Indian women before there was a Hudson
Bay Company. These rough and hardy woodsmen, and a large number of
half-breeds born of just such alliances, began at an early day to
settle near the trading-posts. Sometimes they established what might be
called villages, but were really close imitations of Indian camps,
composed of a cluster of skin tepees, racks of fish or meat, and a swarm
of dogs, women, and children. In each tepee was the fireplace, beneath
the flue formed by the open top of the habitation, and around it were
the beds of brush, covered with soft hides, the inevitable copper
kettle, the babies swaddled in blankets or moss bags, the women and
dogs, the gun and paddle, and the junks and strips of raw meat hanging
overhead in the smoke. This has not changed to-day; indeed, very little
that I shall speak of has altered in the true or far fur country. The
camps exist yet. They are not so clean (or, rather, they are more
dirty), and the clothes and food are poorer and harder to get; that is


The Europeans saw that these women were docile, or were kept in order
easily by floggings with the tent poles; that they were faithful and
industrious, as a rule, and that they were not all unprepossessing--from
their point of view, of course. Therefore it came to pass that these
were the most frequent alliances in and out of the posts in all that
country. The consequences of this custom were so peculiar and important
that I must ask leave to pause and consider them. In Canada we see that
the white man thus made his bow to the redskin as a brother in the
truest sense. The old _coureurs_ of Norman and Breton stock, loving a
wild, free life, and in complete sympathy with the Indian, bought or
took the squaws to wife, learned the Indian dialects, and shared their
food and adventures with the tribes. As more and more entered the
wilderness, and at last came to be supported, in camps and at posts and
as _voyageurs_, by the competing fur companies, there grew up a class of
half-breeds who spoke English and French, married Indians, and were as
much at home with the savages as with the whites. From this stock the
Hudson Bay men have had a better choice of wives for more than a
century. But when these "breeds" were turbulent and murderous--first in
the attacks on Selkirk's colony, and next during the Riel rebellion--the
Indians remained quiet. They defined their position when, in 1819, they
were tempted with great bribes to massacre the Red River colonists.
"No," said they; "the colonists are our friends." The men who sought to
excite them to murder were the officers of the Northwest Company, who
bought furs of them, to be sure, but the colonists had shared with the
Indians in poverty and plenty, giving now and taking then. All were
alike to the red men--friends, white men, and of the race that had taken
so many of their women to wife. Therefore they went to the colonists to
tell them what was being planned against them, and not from that day to
this has an Indian band taken the war-path against the Canadians. I have
read General Custer's theory that the United States had to do with
meat-eating Indians, whereas the Canadian tribes are largely
fish-eaters, and I have seen 10,000 references to the better Indian
policy of Canada; but I can see no difference in the two policies, and
between the Rockies and the Great Lakes I find that Canada had the
Stonies, Blackfeet, and many other fierce tribes of buffalo-hunters. It
is in the slow, close-growing acquaintance between the two races, and in
the just policy of the Hudson Bay men towards the Indians, that I see
the reason for Canada's enviable experience with her red men.

[Illustration: IN A STIFF CURRENT]

But even the Hudson Bay men have had trouble with the Indians in recent
years, and one serious affair grew out of the relations between the
company's servants and the squaws. There is etiquette even among
savages, and this was ignored up at old Fort St. Johns, on the Peace
River, with the result that the Indians slaughtered the people there and
burned the fort. They were Sicanie Indians of that region, and after
they had massacred the men in charge, they met a boat-load of white men
coming up the river with goods. To them they turned their guns also, and
only four escaped. It was up in that country likewise--just this side
of the Rocky Mountains, where the plains begin to be forested--that a
silly clerk in a post quarrelled with an Indian, and said to him,
"Before you come back to this post again, your wife and child will be
dead." He spoke hastily, and meant nothing, but squaw and pappoose
happened to die that winter, and the Indian walked into the fort the
next spring and shot the clerk without a word.

To-day the posts are little village-like collections of buildings,
usually showing white against a green background in the prettiest way
imaginable; for, as a rule, they cluster on the lower bank of a river,
or the lower near shore of a lake. There are not clerks enough in most
of them to render a clerks' house necessary, for at the little posts
half-breeds are seen to do as good service as Europeans. As a rule,
there is now a store or trading-house and a fur-house and the factor's
house, the canoe-house and the stable, with a barn where gardening is
done, as is often the case when soil and climate permit. Often the
fur-house and store are combined, the furs being laid in the upper story
over the shop. There is always a flag-staff, of course. This and the
flag, with the letters "H. B. C." on its field, led to the old hunters'
saying that the initials stood for "Here before Christ," because, no
matter how far away from the frontier a man might go, in regions he
fancied no white man had been, that flag and those letters stared him in
the face. You will often find that the factor, rid of all the ancient
timidity that called for "palisadoes and swivels," lives on the high
upper bank above the store. The usual half-breed or Indian village is
seldom farther than a couple of miles away, on the same water. The
factor is still, as he always has been, responsible only to himself for
the discipline and management of his post, and therefore among the
factories we will find all sorts of homes--homes where a piano and the
magazines are prized, and daughters educated abroad shed the lustre of
refinement upon their surroundings, homes where no woman rules, and
homes of the French half-breed type, which we shall see is a very
different mould from that of the two sorts of British half-breed that
are numerous. There never was a rule by which to gauge a post. In one
you found religion valued and missionaries welcomed, while in others
there never was sermon or hymn. In some, Hudson Bay rum met the rum of
the free-traders, and in others no rum was bartered away. To-day, in
this latter respect, the Dominion law prevails, and rum may not be given
or sold to the red man.

When one thinks of the lives of these factors, hidden away in forest,
mountain chain, or plain, or arctic barren, seeing the same very few
faces year in and year out, with breaches of the monotonous routine once
a year when the winter's furs are brought in, and once a year when the
mail-packet arrives--when one thinks of their isolation, and lack of
most of those influences which we in our walks prize the highest, the
reason for their choosing that company's service seems almost
mysterious. Yet they will tell you there is a fascination in it. This
could be understood so far as the half-breeds and French Canadians were
concerned, for they inherited the liking; and, after all, though most of
them are only laborers, no other laborers are so free, and none spice
life with so much of adventure. But the factors are mainly men of
ability and good origin, well fitted to occupy responsible positions,
and at better salaries. However, from the outset the rule has been that
they have become as enamoured of the trader's life as soldiers and
sailors always have of theirs. They have usually retired from it
reluctantly, and some, having gone home to Europe, have begged leave to

The company has always been managed upon something like a military
basis. Perhaps the original necessity for forts and men trained to the
use of arms suggested this. The uniforms were in keeping with the rest.
The lowest rank in the service is that of the laborer, who may happen to
fish or hunt at times, but is employed--or enlisted, as the fact is, for
a term of years--to cut wood, shovel snow, act as a porter or gardener,
and labor generally about the post. The interpreter was usually a
promoted laborer, but long ago the men in the trade, Indians and whites
alike, met each other half-way in the matter of language. The highest
non-commissioned rank in early days was that of the postmaster at large
posts. Men of that rank often got charge of small outposts, and we read
that they were "on terms of equality with gentlemen." To-day the service
has lost these fine points, and the laborers and commissioned officers
are sharply separated. The so-called "gentleman" begins as a prentice
clerk, and after a few years becomes a clerk. His next elevation is to
the rank of a junior chief trader, and so on through the grades of chief
trader, factor, and chief factor, to the office of chief commissioner,
or resident American manager, chosen by the London board, and having
full powers delegated to him. A clerk--or "clark," as the rank is
called--may never touch a pen. He may be a trader. Then again he may be
truly an accountant. With the rank he gets a commission, and that
entitles him to a minimum guarantee, with a conditional extra income
based on the profits of the fur trade. Men get promotions through the
chief commissioner, and he has always made fitness, rather than
seniority, the criterion. Retiring officers are salaried for a term of
years, the original pension fund and system having been broken up.

Sir Donald A. Smith, the present governor of the company, made his way
to the highest post from the place of a prentice clerk. He came from
Scotland as a youth, and after a time was so unfortunate as to be sent
to the coast of Labrador, where a man is as much out of both the world
and contact with the heart of the company as it is possible to be. The
military system was felt in that instance; but every man who accepts a
commission engages to hold himself in readiness to go cheerfully to the
north pole, or anywhere between Labrador and the Queen Charlotte
Islands. However, to a man of Sir Donald's parts no obstacle is more
than a temporary impediment. Though he stayed something like seventeen
years in Labrador, he worked faithfully when there was work to do, and
in his own time he read and studied voraciously. When the Riel
rebellion--the first one--disturbed the country's peace, he appeared on
the scene as commissioner for the Government. Next he became chief
commissioner for the Hudson Bay Company. After a time he resigned that
office to go on the board in London, and thence he stepped easily to the
governorship. His parents, whose home was in Morayshire, Scotland, gave
him at his birth, in 1821, not only a constitution of iron, but that
shrewdness which is only Scotch, and he afterwards developed remarkable
fore-sight, and such a grasp of affairs and of complex situations as to
amaze his associates.


Of course his career is almost as singular as his gifts, and the
governorship can scarcely be said to be the goal of the general
ambition, for it has been most apt to go to a London man. Even ordinary
promotion in the company is very slow, and it follows that most men live
out their existence between the rank of clerk and that of chief factor.
There are 200 central posts, and innumerable dependent posts, and the
officers are continually travelling from one to another, some in their
districts, and the chief or supervising ones over vast reaches of
country. In winter, when dogs and sleds are used, the men walk, as a
rule, and it has been nothing for a man to trudge 1000 miles in that way
on a winter's journey. Roderick Macfarlane, who was cut off from the
world up in the Mackenzie district, became an indefatigable explorer,
and made most of his journeys on snow-shoes. He explored the Peel, the
Liard, and the Mackenzie, and their surrounding regions, and went far
within the Arctic Circle, where he founded the most northerly post of
the company. By the regular packet from Calgary, near our border, to the
northernmost post is a 3000-mile journey. Macfarlane was fond of the
study of ornithology, and classified and catalogued all the birds that
reach the frozen regions.

I heard of a factor far up on the east side of Hudson Bay who reads his
daily newspaper every morning with his coffee--but of course such an
instance is a rare one. He manages it by having a complete set of the
London _Times_ sent to him by each winter's packet, and each morning the
paper of that date in the preceding year is taken from the bundle by his
servant and dampened, as it had been when it left the press, and spread
by the factor's plate. Thus he gets for half an hour each day a taste of
his old habit and life at home.

There was another factor who developed artistic capacity, and spent his
leisure at drawing and painting. He did so well that he ventured many
sketches for the illustrated papers of London, some of which were

The half-breed has developed with the age and growth of Canada. There
are now half-breeds and half-breeds, and some of them are titled, and
others hold high official places. It occurred to an English lord not
long ago, while he was being entertained in a Government house in one of
the parts of newer Canada, to inquire of his host, "What are these
half-breeds I hear about? I should like to see what one looks like." His
host took the nobleman's breath away by his reply. "I am one," said he.
There is no one who has travelled much in western Canada who has not now
and then been entertained in homes where either the man or woman of the
household was of mixed blood, and in such homes I have found a high
degree of refinement and the most polished manners. Usually one needs
the information that such persons possess such blood. After that the
peculiar black hair and certain facial features in the subject of such
gossip attest the truthfulness of the assertion. There is no rule for
measuring the character and quality of this plastic, receptive, and
often very ambitious element in Canadian society, yet one may say
broadly that the social position and attainments of these people have
been greatly influenced by the nationality of their fathers. For
instance, the French _habitants_ and woodsmen far, far too often sank to
the level of their wives when they married Indian women. Light-hearted,
careless, unambitious, and drifting to the wilderness because of the
absence of restraint there; illiterate, of coarse origin, fond of
whiskey and gambling--they threw off superiority to the Indian, and
evaded responsibility and concern in home management. Of course this is
not a rule, but a tendency. On the other hand, the Scotch and English
forced their wives up to their own standards. Their own home training,
respect for more than the forms of religion, their love of home and of a
permanent patch of ground of their own--all these had their effect, and
that has been to rear half-breed children in proud and comfortable
homes, to send them to mix with the children of cultivated persons in
old communities, and to fit them with pride and ambition and cultivation
for an equal start in the journey of life. Possessing such foundation
for it, the equality has happily never been denied to them in Canada.


To-day the service is very little more inviting than in the olden time.
The loneliness and removal from the touch of civilization remain
throughout a vast region; the arduous journeys by sled and canoe remain;
the dangers of flood and frost are undiminished. Unfortunately, among
the changes made by time, one is that which robs the present factor's
surroundings of a great part of that which was most picturesque. Of all
the prettinesses of the Indian costuming one sees now only a trace here
and there in a few tribes, while in many the moccasin and tepee, and in
some only the moccasin, remain. The birch-bark canoe and the snow-shoe
are the main reliance of both races, but the steamboat has been
impressed into parts of the service, and most of the descendants of the
old-time _voyageur_ preserve only his worsted belt, his knife, and his
cap and moccasins at the utmost. In places the _engagé_ has become a
mere deck-hand. His scarlet paddle has rotted away; he no longer awakens
the echoes of forest or cañon with _chansons_ that died in the throats
of a generation that has gone. In return, the horrors of intertribal war
and of a precarious foothold among fierce and turbulent bands have
nearly vanished; but there was a spice in them that added to the
fascination of the service.

The dogs and sleds form a very interesting part of the Hudson Bay
outfit. One does not need to go very deep into western Canada to meet
with them. As close to our centre of population as Nipigon, on Lake
Superior, the only roads into the north are the rivers and lakes,
traversed by canoes in summer and sleds in winter. The dogs are of a
peculiar breed, and are called "huskies"--undoubtedly a corruption of
the word Esquimaux. They preserve a closer resemblance to the wolf than
any of our domesticated dogs, and exhibit their kinship with that
scavenger of the wilderness in their nature as well as their looks.
To-day their females, if tied and left in the forest, will often attest
companionship with its denizens by bringing forth litters of wolfish
progeny. Moreover, it will not be necessary to feed all with whom the
experiment is tried, for the wolves will be apt to bring food to them as
long as they are thus neglected by man. They are often as large as the
ordinary Newfoundland dog, but their legs are shorter, and even more
hairy, and the hair along their necks, from their shoulders to their
skulls, stands erect in a thick, bristling mass. They have the long
snouts, sharp-pointed ears, and the tails of wolves, and their cry is a
yelp rather than a bark. Like wolves they are apt to yelp in chorus at
sunrise and at sunset. They delight in worrying peaceful animals,
setting their own numbers against one, and they will kill cows, or even
children, if they get the chance. They are disciplined only when at
work, and are then so surprisingly obedient, tractable, and industrious
as to plainly show that though their nature is savage and wolfish, they
could be reclaimed by domestication. In isolated cases plenty of them
are. As it is, in their packs, their battles among themselves are
terrible, and they are dangerous when loose. In some districts it is the
custom to turn them loose in summer on little islands in the lakes,
leaving them to hunger or feast according as the supply of dead fish
thrown upon the shore is small or plentiful. When they are kept in dog
quarters they are simply penned up and fed during the summer, so that
the savage side of their nature gets full play during long periods. Fish
is their principal diet, and stores of dried fish are kept for their
winter food. Corn meal is often fed to them also. Like a wolf or an
Indian, a "husky" gets along without food when there is not any, and
will eat his own weight of it when it is plenty.

A typical dog-sled is very like a toboggan. It is formed of two thin
pieces of oak or birch lashed together with buckskin thongs and turned
up high in front. It is usually about nine feet in length by sixteen
inches wide. A leather cord is run along the outer edges for fastening
whatever may be put upon the sled. Varying numbers of dogs are
harnessed to such sleds, but the usual number is four. Traces, collars,
and backbands form the harness, and the dogs are hitched one before the
other. Very often the collars are completed with sets of sleigh-bells,
and sometimes the harness is otherwise ornamented with beads, tassels,
fringes, or ribbons. The leader, or fore-goer, is always the best in the
team. The dog next to him is called the steady dog, and the last is
named the steer dog. As a rule, these faithful animals are treated
harshly, if not brutally. It is a Hudson Bay axiom that no man who
cannot curse in three languages is fit to drive them. The three
profanities are, of course, English, French, and Indian, though whoever
has heard the Northwest French knows that it ought to serve by itself,
as it is half-soled with Anglo-Saxon oaths and heeled with Indian
obscenity. The rule with whoever goes on a dog-sled journey is that the
driver, or mock-passenger, runs behind the dogs. The main function of
the sled is to carry the dead weight, the burdens of tent-covers,
blankets, food, and the like. The men run along with or behind the dogs,
on snow-shoes, and when the dogs make better time than horses are able
to, and will carry between 200 and 300 pounds over daily distances of
from 20 to 35 miles, according to the condition of the ice or snow, and
that many a journey of 1000 miles has been performed in this way, and
some of 2000 miles, the test of human endurance is as great as that of
canine grit.

Men travelling "light," with extra sleds for the freight, and men on
short journeys often ride in the sleds, which in such cases are fitted
up as "carioles" for the purpose. I have heard an unauthenticated
account, by a Hudson Bay man, of men who drove themselves, disciplining
refractory or lazy dogs by simply pulling them in beside or over the
dash-board, and holding them down by the neck while they thrashed them.
A story is told of a worthy bishop who complained of the slow progress
his sled was making, and was told that it was useless to complain, as
the dogs would not work unless they were roundly and incessantly cursed.
After a time the bishop gave his driver absolution for the profanity
needed for the remainder of the journey, and thenceforth sped over the
snow at a gallop, every stroke of the half-breed's long and cruel whip
being sent home with a volley of wicked words, emphasized at times with
peltings with sharp-edged bits of ice. Kane, the explorer, made an
average of 57 miles a day behind these shaggy little brutes. Milton and
Cheadle, in their book, mention instances where the dogs made 140 miles
in less than 48 hours, and the Bishop of Rupert's Land told me he had
covered 20 miles in a forenoon and 20 in the afternoon of the same day,
without causing his dogs to exhibit evidence of fatigue. The best time
is made on hard snow and ice, of course, and when the conditions suit,
the drivers whip off their snow-shoes to trot behind the dogs more
easily. In view of what they do, it is no wonder that many of the
Northern Indians, upon first seeing horses, named them simply "big dog."
But to me the performances of the drivers are the more wonderful. It was
a white youth, son of a factor, who ran behind the bishop's dogs in
the spurt of 40 miles by daylight that I mention. The men who do such
work explain that the "lope" of the dogs is peculiarly suited to the
dog-trot of a human being.


A picture of a factor on a round of his outposts, or of a chief factor
racing through a great district, will now be intelligible. If he is
riding, he fancies that princes and lords would envy him could they see
his luxurious comfort. Fancy him in a dog-cariole of the best pattern--a
little suggestive of a burial casket, to be sure, in its shape, but
gaudily painted, and so full of soft warm furs that the man within is
enveloped like a chrysalis in a cocoon. Perhaps there are Russian bells
on the collars of the dogs, and their harness is "Frenchified" with
bead-work and tassels. The air, which fans only his face, is crisp and
invigorating, and before him the lake or stream over which he rides is a
sheet of virgin snow--not nature's winding-sheet, as those who cannot
love nature have said, but rather a robe of beautiful ermine fringed and
embroidered with dark evergreen, and that in turn flecked at every point
with snow, as if bejewelled with pearls. If the factor chats with his
driver, who falls behind at rough places to keep the sled from tipping
over, their conversation is carried on at so high a tone as to startle
the birds into flight, if there are any, and to shock the scene as by
the greatest rudeness possible in that then vast, silent land. If
silence is kept, the factor reads the prints of game in the snow, of
foxes' pads and deer hoofs, of wolf splotches, and the queer
hieroglyphics of birds, or the dots and troughs of rabbit-trailing. To
him these are as legible as the Morse alphabet to telegraphers, and as
important as stock quotations to the pallid men of Wall Street.

Suddenly in the distance he sees a human figure. Time was that his
predecessors would have stopped to discuss the situation and its
dangers, for the sight of one Indian suggested the presence of more, and
the question came, were these friendly or fierce? But now the sled
hurries on. It is only an Indian or half-breed hunter minding his traps,
of which he may have a sufficient number to give him a circuit of ten or
more miles away from and back to his lodge or village. He is approached
and hailed by the driver, and with some pretty name very often--one that
may mean in English "hawk flying across the sky when the sun is
setting," or "blazing sun," or whatever. On goes the sled, and perhaps a
village is the next object of interest; not a village in our sense of
the word, but now and then a tepee or a hut peeping above the brush
beside the water, the eye being led to them by the signs of slothful
disorder close by--the rotting canoe frame, the bones, the dirty
tattered blankets, the twig-formed skeleton of a steam bath, such as
Indians resort to when tired or sick or uncommonly dirty, the worn-out
snow-shoes hung on a tree, and the racks of frozen fish or dried meat
here and there. A dog rushes down to the water-side barking
furiously--an Indian dog of the currish type of paupers' dogs the world
around--and this stirs the village pack, and brings out the squaws, who
are addressed, as the trapper up the stream was, by some poetic names,
albeit poetic license is sometimes strained to form names not at all
pretty to polite senses, "All Stomach" being that of one dusky princess,
and serving to indicate the lengths to which poesy may lead the
untrammelled mind.

The sun sinks early, and if our traveller be journeying in the West and
be a lover of nature, heaven send that his face be turned towards the
sunset! Then, be the sky anything but completely storm-draped, he will
see a sight so glorious that eloquence becomes a naked suppliant for
alms beyond the gift of language when set to describe it. A few clouds
are necessary to its perfection, and then they take on celestial dyes,
and one sees, above the vanished sun, a blaze of golden yellow thinned
into a tone that is luminous crystal. This is flanked by belts and
breasts of salmon and ruby red, and all melt towards the zenith into a
rose tone that has body at the base, but pales at top into a mere blush.
This I have seen night after night on the lakes and the plains and on
the mountains. But as the glory of it beckons the traveller ever towards
itself, so the farther he follows, the more brilliant and gaudy will be
his reward. Beyond the mountains the valleys and waters are more and
more enriched, until, at the Pacific, even San Francisco's shabby
sand-hills stir poetry and reverence in the soul by their borrowed

The travellers soon stop to camp for the night, and while the "breed"
falls to at the laborious but quick and simple work, the factor either
helps or smokes his pipe. A sight-seer or sportsman would have set his
man to bobbing for jack-fish or lake trout, or would have stopped a
while to bag a partridge, or might have bought whatever of this sort the
trapper or Indian village boasted, but, ten to one, this meal would be
of bacon and bread or dried meat, and perhaps some flapjacks, such as
would bring coin to a doctor in the city, but which seem ethereal and
delicious in the wilderness, particularly if made half an inch thick,
saturated with grease, well browned, and eaten while at the temperature
and consistency of molten lava.


The sled is pulled up by the bank, the ground is cleared for a fire,
wood and brush are cut, and the deft laborer starts the flame in a
tent-like pyramid of kindlings no higher or broader than a teacup. This
tiny fire he spreads by adding fuel until he has constructed and led up
to a conflagration of logs as thick as his thighs, cleverly planned with
a backlog and glowing fire bed, and a sapling bent over the hottest part
to hold a pendent kettle on its tip. The dogs will have needed
disciplining long before this, and if the driver be like many of his
kind, and works himself into a fury, he will not hesitate to seize one
and send his teeth together through its hide after he has beaten it
until he is tired. The point of order having thus been raised and
carried, the shaggy, often handsome, animals will be minded to forget
their private grudges and quarrels, and, seated on their haunches, with
their intelligent faces towards the fire, will watch the cooking
intently. The pocket-knives or sheath-knives of the men will be apt to
be the only table implement in use at the meal. Canada had reached the
possession of seigniorial mansions of great character before any
other knife was brought to table, though the ladies used costly blades
set in precious and beautiful handles. To-day the axe ranks the knife in
the wilderness, but he who has a knife can make and furnish his own
table--and his house also, for that matter.

Supper over, and a glass of grog having been put down, with water from
the hole in the ice whence the liquid for the inevitable tea was gotten,
the night's rest is begun. The method for this varies. As good men as
ever walked have asked nothing more cosey than a snug warm trough in the
snow and a blanket or a robe; but perhaps this traveller will call for a
shake-down of balsam boughs, with all the furs out of the sled for his
covering. If nicer yet, he may order a low hollow chamber of three sides
of banked snow, and a superstructure of crotched sticks and cross-poles,
with canvas thrown over it. Every man to his quality, of course, and
that of the servant calls for simply a blanket. With that he sleeps as
soundly as if he were Santa Claus and only stirred once a year. Then
will fall upon what seems the whole world the mighty hush of the
wilderness, broken only occasionally by the hoot of an owl, the cry of a
wolf, the deep thug of the straining ice on the lake, or the snoring of
the men and dogs. But if the earth seems asleep, not so the sky. The
magic shuttle of the aurora borealis is ofttimes at work up over that
North country, sending its shifting lights weaving across the firmament
with a tremulous brilliancy and energy we in this country get but pale
hints of when we see the phenomenon at all. Flashing and palpitating
incessantly, the rose-tinted waves and luminous white bars leap across
the sky or dart up and down it in manner so fantastic and so forceful,
even despite their shadowy thinness, that travellers have fancied
themselves deaf to some seraphic sound that they believed such commotion
must produce.

An incident of this typical journey I am describing would, at more than
one season, be a meeting with some band of Indians going to a post with
furs for barter. Though the bulk of these hunters fetch their quarry in
the spring and early summer, some may come at any time. The procession
may be only that of a family or of the two or more families that live
together or as neighbors. The man, if there is but one group, is certain
to be stalking ahead, carrying nothing but his gun. Then come the women,
laden like pack-horses. They may have a sled packed with the furs and
drawn by a dog or two, and an extra dog may bear a balanced load on his
back, but the squaw is certain to have a spine-warping burden of meat
and a battered kettle and a pappoose, and whatever personal property of
any and every sort she and her liege lord own. Children who can walk
have to do so, but it sometimes happens that a baby a year and a half or
two years old is on her back, while a newborn infant, swaddled in
blanket stuff, and bagged and tied like a Bologna sausage, surmounts the
load on the sled. A more tatterdemalion outfit than a band of these
pauperized savages form it would be difficult to imagine. On the plains
they will have horses dragging travoises, dogs with travoises, women
and children loaded with impedimenta, a colt or two running loose, the
lordly men riding free, straggling curs a plenty, babies in arms, babies
swaddled, and toddlers afoot, and the whole battalion presenting at its
exposed points exhibits of torn blankets, raw meat, distorted pots and
pans, tent, poles, and rusty traps, in all eloquently suggestive of an
eviction in the slums of a great city.

I speak thus of these people not willingly, but out of the necessity of
truth-telling. The Indian east of the Rocky Mountains is to me the
subject of an admiration which is the stronger the more nearly I find
him as he was in his prime. It is not his fault that most of his race
have degenerated. It is not our fault that we have better uses for the
continent than those to which he put it. But it is our fault that he is,
as I have seen him, shivering in a cotton tepee full of holes, and
turning around and around before a fire of wet wood to keep from
freezing to death; furnished meat if he has been fierce enough to make
us fear him, left to starve if he has been docile; taught, aye, forced
to beg, mocked at by a religion he cannot understand, from the mouths of
men who apparently will not understand him; debauched with rum,
despoiled by the lust of white men in every form that lust can take. Ah,
it is a sickening story. Not in Canada, do you say? Why, in the northern
wilds of Canada are districts peopled by beggars who have been in such
pitiful stress for food and covering that the Hudson Bay Company has
kept them alive with advances of provisions and blankets winter after
winter. They are Indians who in their strength never gave the
Government the concern it now fails to show for their weakness. The
great fur company has thus added generosity to its long career of just
dealing with these poor adult children; for it is a fact that though the
company has made what profit it might, it has not, in a century at
least, cheated the Indians, or made false representations to them, or
lost their good-will and respect by any feature of its policy towards
them. Its relation to them has been paternal, and they owe none of their
degradation to it.


I have spoken of the visits of the natives to the posts. There are two
other arrivals of great consequence--the coming of the supplies, and of
the winter mail or packet. I have seen the provisions and trade goods
being put up in bales in the great mercantile storehouse of the company
in Winnipeg--a store like a combination of a Sixth Avenue ladies' bazaar
and one of our wholesale grocers' shops--and I have seen such weights of
canned vegetables and canned plum-pudding and bottled ale and other
luxuries that I am sure that in some posts there is good living on high
days and holidays if not always. The stores are packed in parcels
averaging sixty pounds (and sometimes one hundred), to make them
convenient for handling on the portages--"for packing them over the
carries," as our traders used to say. It is in following these supplies
that we become most keenly sensible of the changes time has wrought in
the methods of the company. The day was, away back in the era of the
Northwest Company, that the goods for the posts went up the Ottawa
from Montreal in great canoes manned by hardy _voyageurs_ in picturesque
costumes, wielding scarlet paddles, and stirring the forests with their
happy songs. The scene shifted, the companies blended, and the centre of
the trade moved from old Fort William, close to where Port Arthur now is
on Lake Superior, up to Winnipeg, on the Red River of the North. Then
the Canadians and their cousins, the half-breeds, more picturesque than
ever, and manning the great York boats of the Hudson Bay Company, swept
in a long train through Lake Winnipeg to Norway House, and thence by a
marvellous water route all the way to the Rockies and the Arctic,
sending off freight for side districts at fixed points along the course.
The main factories on this line, maintained as such for more than a
century, bear names whose very mention stirs the blood of one who knows
the romantic, picturesque, and poetic history and atmosphere of the old
company when it was the landlord (in part, and in part monopolist) of a
territory that cut into our Northwest and Alaska, and swept from
Labrador to Vancouver Island. Northward and westward, by waters emptying
into Hudson Bay, the brigade of great boats worked through a region
embroidered with sheets and ways of water. The system that was next
entered, and which bore more nearly due west, bends and bulges with
lakes and straits like a ribbon all curved and knotted. Thus, at a great
portage, the divide was reached and crossed; and so the waters flowing
to the Arctic, and one--the Peace River--rising beyond the Rockies, were
met and travelled. This was the way and the method until after the
Canadian Pacific Railway was built, but now the Winnipeg route is of
subordinate importance, and feeds only the region near the west side of
Hudson Bay. The Northern supplies now go by rail from Calgary, in
Alberta, over the plains by the new Edmonton railroad. From Edmonton the
goods go by cart to Athabasca Landing, there to be laden on a steamboat,
which takes them northward until some rapids are met, and avoided by the
use of a singular combination of bateaux and tramway rails. After a slow
progress of fifteen miles another steamboat is met, and thence they
follow the Athabasca, through Athabasca Lake, and so on up to a second
rapids, on the Great Slave River this time, where oxen and carts carry
them across a sixteen-mile portage to a screw steamer, which finishes
the 3000-mile journey to the North. Of course the shorter branch routes,
distributing the goods on either side of the main track, are still
traversed by canoes and hardy fellows in the old way, but with shabby
accessories of costume and spirit. These boatmen, when they come to a
portage, produce their tomplines, and "pack" the goods to the next
waterway. By means of these "lines" they carry great weights, resting on
their backs, but supported from their skulls, over which the strong
straps are passed.

The winter mail-packet, starting from Winnipeg in the depth of the
season, goes to all the posts by dog train. The letters and papers are
packed in great boxes and strapped to the sleds, beside or behind which
the drivers trot along, cracking their lashes and pelting and cursing
the dogs. A more direct course than the old Lake Winnipeg way has
usually been followed by this packet; but it is thought that the route
_via_ Edmonton and Athabasca Landing will serve better yet, so that
another change may be made. This is a small exhibition as compared with
the brigade that takes the supplies, or those others that come plashing
down the streams and across the country with the furs every year. But
only fancy how eagerly this solitary semi-annual mail is waited for! It
is a little speck on the snow-wrapped upper end of all North America. It
cuts a tiny trail, and here and there lesser black dots move off from it
to cut still slenderer threads, zigzagging to the side factories and
lesser posts; but we may be sure that if human eyes could see so far,
all those of the white men in all that vast tangled system of trading
centres would be watching the little caravan, until at last each pair
fell upon the expected missives from the throbbing world this side of
the border.




There is on this continent a territory of imperial extent which is one
of the Canadian sisterhood of States, and yet of which small account has
been taken by those who discuss either the most advantageous relations
of trade or that closer intimacy so often referred to as a possibility
in the future of our country and its northern neighbor. Although British
Columbia is advancing in rank among the provinces of the Dominion by
reason of its abundant natural resources, it is not remarkable that we
read and hear little concerning it. The people in it are few, and the
knowledge of it is even less in proportion. It is but partially
explored, and for what can be learned of it one must catch up
information piecemeal from blue-books, the pamphlets of scientists, from
tales of adventure, and from the less trustworthy literature composed to
attract travellers and settlers.

It would severely strain the slender facts to make a sizable pamphlet of
the history of British Columbia. A wandering and imaginative Greek
called Juan de Fuca told his people that he had discovered a passage
from ocean to ocean between this continent and a great island in the
Pacific. Sent there to seize and fortify it, he disappeared--at least
from history. This was about 1592. In 1778 Captain Cook roughly surveyed
the coast, and in 1792 Captain Vancouver, who as a boy had been with
Cook on two voyages, examined the sound between the island and the
main-land with great care, hoping to find that it led to the main water
system of the interior. He gave to the strait at the entrance the
nickname of the Greek, and in the following year received the transfer
of authority over the country from the Spanish commissioner Bodega of
Quadra, then established there. The two put aside false modesty, and
named the great island "the Island of Vancouver and Quadra." At the time
the English sailor was there it chanced that he met that hardy old
homespun baronet Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who was the first man to cross
the continent, making the astonishing journey in a canoe manned by
Iroquois Indians. The main-land became known as New Caledonia. It took
its present name from the Columbia River, and that, in turn, got its
name from the ship _Columbia_, of Boston, Captain Gray, which entered
its mouth in 1792, long after the Spaniards had known the stream and
called it the Oregon. The rest is quickly told. The region passed into
the hands of the fur-traders. Vancouver Island became a crown colony in
1849, and British Columbia followed in 1858. They were united in 1866,
and joined the Canadian confederation in 1871. Three years later the
province exceeded both Manitoba and Prince Edward Island in the value of
its exports, and also showed an excess of exports over imports. It has a
Lieutenant-governor and Legislative assembly, and is represented at
Ottawa in accordance with the Canadian system. Its people have been more
closely related to ours in business than those of any other province,
and they entertain a warm friendly feeling towards "the States." In the
larger cities the Fourth of July is informally but generally observed as
a holiday.

British Columbia is of immense size. It is as extensive as the
combination of New England, the Middle States and Maryland, the
Virginias, the Carolinas, and Georgia, leaving Delaware out. It is
larger than Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire joined
together. Yet it has been all but overlooked by man, and may be said to
be an empire with only one wagon road, and that is but a blind artery
halting in the middle of the country. But whoever follows this
necessarily incomplete survey of what man has found that region to be,
and of what his yet puny hands have drawn from it, will dismiss the
popular and natural suspicion that it is a wilderness worthy of its
present fate. Until the whole globe is banded with steel rails and
yields to the plough, we will continue to regard whatever region lies
beyond our doors as waste-land, and to fancy that every line of latitude
has its own unvarying climatic characteristics. There is an opulent
civilization in what we once were taught was "the Great American
Desert," and far up at Edmonton, on the Peace River, farming flourishes
despite the fact that it is where our school-books located a zone of
perpetual snow. Farther along we shall study a country crossed by the
same parallels of latitude that dissect inhospitable Labrador, and we
shall discover that as great a difference exists between the two shores
of the continent on that zone as that which distinguishes California
from Massachusetts. Upon the coast of this neglected corner of the world
we shall see that a climate like that of England is produced, as
England's is, by a warm current in the sea; in the southern half of the
interior we shall discover valleys as inviting as those in our New
England; and far north, at Port Simpson, just below the down reaching
claw of our Alaska, we shall find such a climate as Halifax enjoys.

British Columbia has a length of 800 miles, and averages 400 miles in
width. To whoever crosses the country it seems the scene of a vast
earth-disturbance, over which mountains are scattered without system. In
fact, however, the Cordillera belt is there divided into four ranges,
the Rockies forming the eastern boundary, then the Gold Range, then the
Coast Range, and, last of all, that partially submerged chain whose
upraised parts form Vancouver and the other mountainous islands near the
main-land in the Pacific. A vast valley flanks the south-western side of
the Rocky Mountains, accompanying them from where they leave our
North-western States in a wide straight furrow for a distance of 700
miles. Such great rivers as the Columbia, the Fraser, the Parsnip, the
Kootenay, and the Finlay are encountered in it. While it has a lesser
agricultural value than other valleys in the province, its mineral
possibilities are considered to be very great, and when, as must be the
case, it is made the route of communication between one end of the
territory and the other, a vast timber supply will be rendered

The Gold Range, next to the westward, is not bald, like the Rockies,
but, excepting the higher peaks, is timbered with a dense forest growth.
Those busiest of all British Columbian explorers, the "prospectors,"
have found much of this system too difficult even for their pertinacity.
But the character of the region is well understood. Here are high
plateaus of rolling country, and in the mountains are glaciers and snow
fields. Between this system and the Coast Range is what is called the
Interior Plateau, averaging one hundred miles in width, and following
the trend of that portion of the continent, with an elevation that grows
less as the north is approached. This plateau is crossed and followed by
valleys that take every direction, and these are the seats of rivers and
watercourses. In the southern part of this plateau is the best grazing
land in the province, and much fine agricultural country, while in the
north, where the climate is more most, the timber increases, and parts
of the land are thought to be convertible into farms. Next comes the
Coast Range, whose western slopes are enriched by the milder climate of
the coast; and beyond lies the remarkably tattered shore of the Pacific,
lapped by a sheltered sea, verdant, indented by numberless inlets,
which, in turn, are faced by uncounted islands, and receive the
discharge of almost as many streams and rivers--a wondrously beautiful
region, forested by giant trees, and resorted to by numbers of fish
exceeding calculation and belief. Beyond the coast is the bold chain of
mountains of which Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands are
parts. Here is a vast treasure in that coal which our naval experts have
found to be the best on the Pacific coast, and here also are traces of
metals, whose value industry has not yet established.

It is a question whether this vast territory has yet 100,000 white
inhabitants. Of Indians it has but 20,000, and of Chinese about 8000. It
is a vast land of silence, a huge tract slowly changing from the field
and pleasure-ground of the fur-trader and sportsman to the quarry of the
miner. The Canadian Pacific Railway crosses it, revealing to the
immigrant and the globe-trotter an unceasing panorama of grand, wild,
and beautiful scenery unequalled on this continent. During a few hours
the traveller sees, across the majestic cañon of the Fraser, the
neglected remains of the old Cariboo stage road, built under pressure of
the gold craze. It demonstrated surprising energy in the baby colony,
for it connected Yale, at the head of short steam navigation on the
Fraser, with Barkerville, in the distant Cariboo country, 400 miles
away, and it cost $500,000. The traveller sees here and there an Indian
village or a "mission," and now and then a tiny town; but for the most
part his eye scans only the primeval forest, lofty mountains, valleys
covered with trees as beasts are with fur, cascades, turbulent streams,
and huge sheltered lakes. Except at the stations, he sees few men. Now
he notes a group of Chinamen at work on the railway; anon he sees an
Indian upon a clumsy perch and searching the Fraser for salmon, or in a
canoe paddling towards the gorgeous sunset that confronts the daily
west-bound train as it rolls by great Shuswap Lake.

But were the same traveller out of the train, and gifted with the power
to make himself ubiquitous, he would still be, for the most part,
lonely. Down in the smiling bunch-grass valleys in the south he would
see here and there the outfit of a farmer or the herds of a cattle-man.
A burst of noise would astonish him near by, in the Kootenay country,
where the new silver mines are being worked, where claims have been
taken up by the thousand, and whither a railroad is hastening. Here and
there, at points out of sight one from another, he would hear the crash
of a lumberman's axe, the report of a hunter's rifle, or the crackle of
an Indian's fire. On the Fraser he would find a little town called Yale,
and on the coast the streets and ambitious buildings and busy wharves of
Vancouver would astonish him. Victoria, across the strait, a town of
larger size and remarkable beauty, would give him company, and near
Vancouver and Victoria the little cities of New Westminster and Nanaimo
(lumber and coal ports respectively) would rise before him. There, close
together, he would see more than half the population of the province.


Fancy his isolation as he looked around him in the northern half of the
territory, where a few trails lead to fewer posts of the Hudson Bay
Company, where the endless forests and multitudinous lakes and streams
are cut by but infrequent paddles in the hands of a race that has lost
one-third its numerical strength in the last ten years, where the only
true homes are within the palisades or the unguarded log-cabin of the
fur-trading agents, and where the only other white men are either
washing sand in the river bars, driving the stages of the only line that
penetrates a piece of the country, or are those queer devil-may-care but
companionable Davy Crocketts of the day who are guides now and then,
hunters half the time, placer-miners when they please, and whatever else
there is a can for between-times!

A very strange sight that my supposititious traveller would pause long
to look at would be the herds of wild horses that defy the Queen, her
laws, and her subjects in the Lillooet Valley. There are thousands of
them there, and over in the Nicola and Chilcotin country, on either side
of the Fraser, north of Washington State. They were originally of good
stock, but now they not only defy capture, but eat valuable grass, and
spoil every horse turned out to graze. The newspapers aver that the
Government must soon be called upon to devise means for ridding the
valleys of this nuisance. This is one of those sections which promise
well for future stock-raising and agricultural operations. There are
plenty such. The Nicola Valley has been settled twenty years, and there
are many cattle there, on numerous ranches. It is good land, but rather
high for grain, and needs irrigation. The snowfall varies greatly in all
these valleys, but in ordinary winters horses and cattle manage well
with four to six weeks' feeding. On the upper Kootenay, a valley eight
to ten miles wide, ranching began a quarter of a century ago, during the
gold excitement. The "cow-men" raise grain for themselves there. This
valley is 3000 feet high. The Okanagon Valley is lower, and is only from
two to five miles wide, but both are of similar character, of very great
length, and are crossed and intersected by branch valleys. The greater
part of the Okanagon does not need irrigating. A beautiful country is
the Kettle River region, along the boundary between the Columbia and the
Okanagon. It is narrow, but flat and smooth on the bottom, and the land
is very fine. Bunch-grass covers the hills around it for a distance of
from four hundred to five hundred feet, and there timber begins. It is
only in occasional years that the Kettle River Valley needs water. In
the Spallumcheen Valley one farmer had 500 acres in grain last summer,
and the most modern agricultural machinery is in use there. These are
mere notes of a few among almost innumerable valleys that are clothed
with bunch-grass, and that often possess the characteristics of
beautiful parks. In many wheat can be and is raised, possibly in most of
them. I have notes of the successful growth of peaches, and of the
growth of almond-trees to a height of fourteen feet in four years, both
in the Okanagon country.

The shooting in these valleys is most alluring to those who are fond of
the sport. Caribou, deer, bear, prairie-chicken, and partridges abound
in them. In all probability there is no similar extent of country that
equals the valley of the Columbia, from which, in the winter of 1888,
between six and eight tons of deer-skins were shipped by local traders,
the result of legitimate hunting. But the forests and mountains are as
they were when the white man first saw them, and though the beaver and
sea-otter, the marten, and those foxes whose furs are coveted by the
rich, are not as abundant as they once were, the rest of the game is
most plentiful. On the Rockies and on the Coast Range the mountain-goat,
most difficult of beasts to hunt, and still harder to get, is abundant
yet. The "big-horn," or mountain-sheep, is not so common, but the
hunting thereof is usually successful if good guides are obtained. The
cougar, the grizzly, and the lynx are all plentiful, and black and
brown bears are very numerous. Elk are going the way of the
"big-horn"--are preceding that creature, in fact. Pheasants (imported),
grouse, quail, and water-fowl are among the feathered game, and the
river and lake fishing is such as is not approached in any other part of
the Dominion. The province is a sportsman's Eden, but the hunting of big
game there is not a venture to be lightly undertaken. It is not alone
the distance or the cost that gives one pause, for, after the province
is reached, the mountain-climbing is a task that no amount of wealth
will lighten. And these are genuine mountains, by-the-way, wearing
eternal caps of snow, and equally eternal deceit as to their distances,
their heights, and as to all else concerning which a rarefied atmosphere
can hocus-pocus a stranger. There is one animal, king of all the beasts,
which the most unaspiring hunter may chance upon as well as the bravest,
and that animal carries a perpetual chip upon its shoulder, and seldom
turns from an encounter. It is the grizzly-bear. It is his presence that
gives you either zest or pause, as you may decide, in hunting all the
others that roam the mountains. Yet, in that hunter's dream-land it is
the grizzly that attracts many sportsmen every year.

From the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company in Victoria I obtained
the list of animals in whose skins that company trades at that station.
It makes a formidable catalogue of zoological products, and is as
follows: Bears (brown, black, grizzly), beaver, badger, foxes (silver,
cross, and red), fishers, martens, minks, lynxes, musk-rat, otter (sea
or land), panther, raccoon, wolves (black, gray, and coyote),
black-tailed deer, stags (a true stag, growing to the size of an ox, and
found on the hills of Vancouver Island), caribou or reindeer, hares,
mountain-goat, big-horn (or mountain-sheep), moose (near the Rockies),
wood-buffalo (found in the north, not greatly different from the bison,
but larger), geese, swans, and duck.

The British Columbian Indians are of such unprepossessing appearance
that one hears with comparative equanimity of their numbering only
20,000 in all, and of their rapid shrinkage, owing principally to the
vices of their women. They are, for the most part, canoe Indians, in the
interior as well as on the coast, and they are (as one might suppose a
nation of tailors would become) short-legged, and with those limbs small
and inclined to bow. On the other hand, their exercise with the paddle
has given them a disproportionate development of their shoulders and
chests, so that, being too large above and too small below, their
appearance is very peculiar. They are fish-eaters the year around; and
though some, like the Hydahs upon the coast, have been warlike and
turbulent, such is not the reputation of those in the interior. It was
the meat-eating Indian who made war a vocation and self-torture a
dissipation. The fish-eating Indian kept out of his way. These short
squat British Columbian natives are very dark-skinned, and have
physiognomies so different from those of the Indians east of the Rockies
that the study of their faces has tempted the ethnologists into
extraordinary guessing upon their origin, and into a contention which I
prefer to avoid. It is not guessing to say that their high check-bones
and flat faces make them resemble the Chinese. That is true to such a
degree that in walking the streets of Victoria, and meeting alternate
Chinamen and Siwash, it is not always easy to say which is which, unless
one proceeds upon the assumption that if a man looks clean he is apt to
be a Chinaman, whereas if he is dirty and ragged he is most likely to be
a Siwash.

You will find that seven in ten among the more intelligent British
Columbians conclude these Indians to be of Japanese origin. The Japanese
current is neighborly to the province, and it has drifted Japanese junks
to these shores. When the first traders visited the neighborhood of the
mouth of the Columbia they found beeswax in the sand near the vestiges
of a wreck, and it is said that one wreck of a junk was met with, and
12,000 pounds of this wax was found on her. Whalers are said to have
frequently encountered wrecked and drifting junks in the eastern
Pacific, and a local legend has it that in 1834 remnants of a junk with
three Japanese and a cargo of pottery were found on the coast south of
Cape Flattery. Nothing less than all this should excuse even a
rudderless ethnologist for so cruel a reflection upon the Japanese, for
these Indians are so far from pretty that all who see them agree with
Captain Butler, the traveller, who wrote that "if they are of the
Mongolian type, the sooner the Mongolians change their type the better."


The coast Indians are splendid sailors, and their dugouts do not always
come off second best in racing with the boats of white men. With a
primitive yet ingeniously made tool, like an adze, in the construction
of which a blade is tied fast to a bent handle of bone, these natives
laboriously pick out the heart of a great cedar log, and shape its outer
sides into the form of a boat. When the log is properly hollowed, they
fill it with water, and then drop in stones which they have heated in a
fire. Thus they steam the boat so that they may spread the sides and fit
in the crossbars which keep it strong and preserve its shape. These
dugouts are sometimes sixty feet long, and are used for whaling and long
voyages in rough seas. They are capable of carrying tons of the salmon
or oolachan or herring, of which these people, who live as their fathers
did, catch sufficient in a few days for their maintenance throughout a
whole year. One gets an idea of the swarms of fish that infest those
waters by the knowledge that before nets were used the herring and the
oolachan, or candle-fish were swept into these boats by an implement
formed by studding a ten-foot pole with spikes or nails. This was swept
among the fish in the water, and the boats were speedily filled with the
creatures that were impaled upon the spikes. Salmon, sea-otter, otter,
beaver, marten, bear, and deer (or caribou or moose) were and still are
the chief resources of most of the Indians. Once they sold the fish and
the peltry to the Hudson Bay Company, and ate what parts or surplus they
did not sell. Now they work in the canneries or fish for them in summer,
and hunt, trap, or loaf the rest of the time. However, while they still
fish and sell furs, and while some are yet as their fathers were, nearly
all the coast Indians are semi-civilized. They have at least the white
man's clothes and hymns and vices. They have churches; they live in
houses; they work in canneries. What little there was that was
picturesque about them has vanished only a few degrees faster than their
own extinction as a pure race, and they are now a lot of longshoremen.
What Mr. Duncan did for them in Metlakahtla--especially in housing the
families separately--has not been arrived at even in the reservation at
Victoria, where one may still see one of the huge, low, shed-like houses
they prefer, ornamented with totem poles, and arranged for eight
families, and consequently for a laxity of morals for which no one can
hold the white man responsible.

They are a tractable people, and take as kindly to the rudiments of
civilization, to work, and to co-operation with the whites as the plains
Indian does to tea, tobacco, and whiskey. They are physically but not
mentally inferior to the plainsman. They carve bowls and spoons of stone
and bone, and their heraldic totem poles are cleverly shapen, however
grotesque they may be. They still make them, but they oftener carve
little ones for white people, just as they make more silver bracelets
for sale than for wear. They are clever at weaving rushes and cedar
bark into mats, baskets, floor-cloths, and cargo covers. In a word,
they were more prone to work at the outset than most Indians, so that
the present longshore career of most of them is not greatly to be
wondered at.

To anyone who threads the vast silent forests of the interior, or
journeys upon the trafficless waterways, or, gun in hand, explores the
mountains for game, the infrequency with which Indians are met becomes
impressive. The province seems almost unpeopled. The reason is that the
majority of the Indians were ever on the coast, where the water yielded
food at all times and in plenty. The natives of the interior were not
well fed or prosperous when the first white men found them, and since
then small-pox, measles, vice, and starvation have thinned them
terribly. Their graveyards are a feature of the scenery which all
travellers in the province remember. From the railroad they may be seen
along the Fraser, each grave apparently having a shed built over it, and
a cross rising from the earth beneath the shed. They had various burial
customs, but a majority buried their dead in this way, with
queerly-carved or painted sticks above them, where the cross now
testifies to the work at the "missions." Some Indians marked a man's
burial-place with his canoe and his gun; some still box their dead and
leave the boxes on top of the earth, while others bury the boxes. Among
the southern tribes a man's horse was often killed, and its skin decked
the man's grave; while in the far north it was the custom among the
Stickeens to slaughter the personal attendants of a chief when he died.
The Indians along the Skeena River cremated their dead, and sometimes
hung the ashes in boxes to the family totem pole. The Hydahs, the fierce
natives of certain of the islands, have given up cremation, but they
used to believe that if they did not burn a man's body their enemies
would make charms from it. Polygamy flourished on the coast, and
monogamy in the interior, but the contrast was due to the difference in
the worldly wealth of the Indians. Wives had to be bought and fed, and
the woodsmen could only afford one apiece.

To return to their canoes, which most distinguish them. When a dugout is
hollowed and steamed, a prow and stern are added of separate wood. The
prow is always a work of art, and greatly beautifies the boat. It is in
form like the breast, neck, and bill of a bird, but the head is intended
to represent that of a savage animal, and is so painted. A mouth is cut
into it, ears are carved on it, and eyes are painted on the sides; bands
of gay paint are put upon the neck, and the whole exterior of the boat
is then painted red or black, with an ornamental line of another color
along the edge or gunwale. The sailors sit upon the bottom of the boat,
and propel it with paddles. Upon the water these swift vessels, with
their fierce heads uplifted before their long, slender bodies, appear
like great serpents or nondescript marine monsters, yet they are pretty
and graceful withal. While still holding aloof from the ethnologists'
contention, I yet may add that a bookseller in Victoria came into the
possession of a packet of photographs taken by an amateur traveller in
the interior of China, and on my first visit to the province, nearly
four years ago, I found, in looking through these views, several Chinese
boats which were strangely and remarkably like the dugouts of the
provincial Indians. They were too small in the pictures for it to be
possible to decide whether they were built up or dug out, but in general
they were of the same external appearance, and each one bore the
upraised animal-head prow, shaped and painted like those I could see one
block away from the bookseller's shop in Victoria. But such are not the
canoes used by the Indians of the interior. From the Kootenay near our
border to the Cassiar in the far north, a cigar-shaped canoe seems to be
the general native vehicle. These are sometimes made of a sort of
scroll of bark, and sometimes they are dugouts made of cotton-wood logs.
They are narrower than either the cedar dugouts of the coast or the
birch-bark canoes of our Indians, but they are roomy, and fit for the
most dangerous and deft work in threading the rapids which everywhere
cut up the navigation of the streams of the province into separated
reaches. The Rev. Dr. Gordon, in his notes upon a journey in this
province, likens these canoes to horse-troughs, but those I saw in the
Kootenay country were of the shape of those cigars that are pointed at
both ends.


Whether these canoes are like any in Tartary or China or Japan, I do not
know. My only quest for special information of that character proved
disappointing. One man in a city of British Columbia is said to have
studied such matters more deeply and to more purpose than all the
others, but those who referred me to him cautioned me that he was

"You don't know where these Indians came from, eh?" the _savant_ replied
to my first question. "Do you know how oyster-shells got on top of the
Rocky Mountains? You don't, eh? Well, I know a woman who went to a
dentist's yesterday to have eighteen teeth pulled. Do you know why women
prefer artificial teeth to those which God has given them? You don't,
eh? Why, man, you don't know anything."

While we were--or he was--conversing, a laboring-man who carried a
sickle came to the open door, and was asked what he wanted.

"I wish to cut your thistles, sir," said he.

"Thistles?" said the _savant_, disturbed at the interruption. "---- the
thistles! We are talking about Indians."

Nevertheless, when the laborer had gone, he had left the subject of
thistles uppermost in the _savant's_ mind, and the conversation took so
erratic a turn that it might well have been introduced hap-hazard into
_Tristram Shandy_.

"About thistles," said the _savant_, laying a gentle hand upon my knee.
"Do you know that they are the Scotchmen's totems? Many years ago a
Scotchman, sundered from his native land, must needs set up his totem, a
thistle, here in this country; and now, sir, the thistle is such a curse
that I am haled up twice a year and fined for having them in my yard."

But nearly enough has been here said of the native population. Though
the Indians boast dozens of tribal names, and almost every island on the
coast and village in the interior seems the home of a separate tribe,
they will be found much alike--dirty, greasy, sore-eyed, short-legged,
and with their unkempt hair cut squarely off, as if a pot had been
upturned over it to guide the operation. The British Columbians do not
bother about their tribal divisions, but use the old traders' Chinook
terms, and call every male a "siwash" and every woman a "klootchman."

Since the highest Canadian authority upon the subject predicts that the
northern half of the Cordilleran ranges will admit of as high a
metalliferous development as that of the southern half in our Pacific
States, it is important to review what has been done in mining, and what
is thought of the future of that industry in the province. It may almost
be said that the history of gold-mining there is the history of British
Columbia. Victoria, the capital, was a Hudson Bay post established in
1843, and Vancouver, Queen Charlotte's, and the other islands, as well
as the main-land, were of interest to only a few white men as parts of a
great fur-trading field with a small Indian population. The first nugget
of gold was found at what is now called Gold Harbor, on the west coast
of the Queen Charlotte Islands, by an Indian woman, in 1851. A part of
it, weighing four or five ounces, was taken by the Indians to Fort
Simpson and sold. The Hudson Bay Company, which has done a little in
every line of business in its day, sent a brigantine to the spot, and
found a quartz vein traceable eighty feet, and yielding a high
percentage of gold. Blasting was begun, and the vessel was loaded with
ore; but she was lost on the return voyage. An American vessel, ashore
at Esquimault, near Victoria, was purchased, renamed the _Recovery_, and
sent to Gold Harbor with thirty miners, who worked the vein until the
vessel was loaded and sent to England. News of the mine travelled, and
in another year a small fleet of vessels came up from San Francisco; but
the supply was seen to be very limited, and after $20,000 in all had
been taken out, the field was abandoned.

In 1855 gold was found by a Hudson Bay Company's employé at Fort
Colville, now in Washington State, near the boundary. Some Thompson
River (B. C.) Indians who went to Walla Walla spread a report there
that gold, like that discovered at Colville, was to be found in the
valley of the Thompson. A party of Canadians and half-breeds went to the
region referred to, and found placers nine miles above the mouth of the
river. By 1858 the news and the authentication of it stirred the miners
of California, and an astonishing invasion of the virgin province began.
It is said that in the spring of 1858 more than twenty thousand persons
reached Victoria from San Francisco by sea, distending the little
fur-trading post of a few hundred inhabitants into what would even now
be called a considerable city; a city of canvas, however. Simultaneously
a third as many miners made their way to the new province on land. But
the land was covered with mountains and dense forests, the only route to
its interior for them was the violent, almost boiling, Fraser River, and
there was nothing on which the lives of this horde of men could be
sustained. By the end of the year out of nearly thirty thousand
adventurers only a tenth part remained. Those who did stay worked the
river bars of the lower Fraser until in five months they had shipped
from Victoria more than half a million dollars' worth of gold. From a
historical point of view it is a peculiar coincidence that in 1859, when
the attention of the world was thus first attracted to this new country,
the charter of the Hudson Bay Company expired, and the territory passed
from its control to become like any other crown colony.


In 1860 the gold-miners, seeking the source of the "flour" gold they
found in such abundance in the bed of the river, pursued their search
into the heart and almost the centre of that forbidding and unbroken
territory. The Quesnel River became the seat of their operations. Two
years later came another extraordinary immigration. This was not
surprising, for 1500 miners had in one year (1861) taken out $2,000,000
in gold-dust from certain creeks in what is called the Cariboo District,
and one can imagine (if one does not remember) what fabulous tales were
based upon this fact. The second stampede was of persons from all over
the world, but chiefly from England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
After that there were new "finds" almost every year, and the miners
worked gradually northward until, about 1874, they had travelled through
the province, in at one end and out at the other, and were working the
tributaries of the Yukon River in the north, beyond the 60th parallel.
Mr. Dawson estimates that the total yield of gold between 1858 and 1888
was $54,108,804; the average number of miners employed each year was
2775, and the average earnings per man per year were $622.

In his report, published by order of Parliament, Mr. Dawson says that
while gold is so generally distributed over the province that scarcely a
stream of any importance fails to show at least "colors" of the metal,
the principal discoveries clearly indicate that the most important
mining districts are in the systems of mountains and high plateaus lying
to the south-west of the Rocky Mountains and parallel in direction with

This mountain system next to and south-west of the Rockies is called,
for convenience, the Gold Range, but it comprises a complex belt "of
several more or less distinct and partly overlapping ranges"--the
Purcell, Selkirk, and Columbia ranges in the south, and in the north the
Cariboo, Omenica, and Cassiar ranges. "This series or system
constitutes the most important metalliferous belt of the province. The
richest gold fields are closely related to it, and discoveries of
metalliferous lodes are reported in abundance from all parts of it which
have been explored. The deposits already made known are very varied in
character, including highly argentiferous galenas and other silver ores
and auriferous quartz veins." This same authority asserts that the Gold
Range is continued by the Cabinet, Coeur d'Alene, and Bitter Root
mountains in our country. While there is no single well-developed gold
field as in California, the extent of territory of a character to
occasion a hopeful search for gold is greater in the province than in
California. The average man of business to whom visitors speak of the
mining prospects of the province is apt to declare that all that has
been lacking is the discovery of one grand mine and the enlistment of
capital (from the United States, they generally say) to work it. Mr.
Dawson speaks to the same point, and incidentally accounts for the
retarded development in his statement that one noteworthy difference
between practically the entire area of the province and that of the
Pacific States has been occasioned by the spread and movement of ice
over the province during the glacial period. This produced changes in
the distribution of surface materials and directions of drainage,
concealed beneath "drifts" the indications to which prospectors farther
south are used to trust, and by other means obscured the outcrops of
veins which would otherwise be well marked. The dense woods, the broken
navigation of the rivers, in detached reaches, the distance from the
coast of the richest districts, and the cost of labor supplies and
machinery--all these are additional and weighty reasons for the slowness
of development. But this was true of the past and is not of the present,
at least so far as southern British Columbia is concerned. Railroads are
reaching up into it from our country and down from the transcontinental
Canadian Railway, and capital, both Canadian and American, is rapidly
swelling an already heavy investment in many new and promising mines.
Here it is silver-mining that is achieving importance.


Other ores are found in the province. The iron which has been located or
worked is principally on the islands--Queen Charlotte, Vancouver,
Texada, and the Walker group. Most of the ores are magnetites, and that
which alone has been worked--on Texada Island--is of excellent quality.
The output of copper from the province is likely soon to become
considerable. Masses of it have been found from time to time in various
parts of the province--in the Vancouver series of islands, on the
main-land coast, and in the interior. Its constant and rich association
with silver shows lead to be abundant in the country, but it needs the
development of transport facilities to give it value. Platinum is more
likely to attain importance as a product in this than in any other part
of North America. On the coast the granites are of such quality and
occur in such abundance as to lead to the belief that their quarrying
will one day be an important source of income, and there are marbles,
sandstones, and ornamental stones of which the same may be said.

One of the most valuable products of the province is coal, the essential
in which our Pacific coast States are the poorest. The white man's
attention was first attracted to this coal in 1835 by some Indians who
brought lumps of it from Vancouver Island to the Hudson Bay post on the
main-land, at Milbank Sound. The _Beaver_, the first steamship that
stirred the waters of the Pacific, reached the province in 1836, and
used coal that was found in outcroppings on the island beach. Thirteen
years later the great trading company brought out a Scotch coal-miner to
look into the character and extent of the coal find, and he was followed
by other miners and the necessary apparatus for prosecuting the inquiry.
In the mean time the present chief source of supply at Nanaimo, seventy
miles from Victoria and about opposite Vancouver, was discovered, and in
1852 mining was begun in earnest. From the very outset the chief market
for the coal was found to be San Francisco.

The original mines are now owned by the Vancouver Coal-mining and Land
Company. Near them are the Wellington Mines, which began to be worked in
1871. Both have continued in active operation from their foundation, and
with a constantly and rapidly growing output. A third source of supply
has very recently been established with local and American capital in
what is called the Comox District, back of Baynes Sound, farther north
than Nanaimo, on the eastern side of Vancouver Island. These new works
are called the Union Mines, and, if the predictions of my informants
prove true, will produce an output equal to that of the older Nanaimo
collieries combined. In 1884 the coal shipped from Nanaimo amounted to
1000 tons for every day of the year, and in 1889 the total shipment had
reached 500,000 tons. As to the character of the coal, I quote again
from Mr. Dawson's report on the minerals of British Columbia, published
by the Dominion Government:

    "Rocks of cretaceous age are developed over a considerable area
    in British Columbia, often in very great thickness, and fuels
    occur in them in important quantity in at least two distinct
    stages, of which the lower and older includes the coal measures
    of the Queen Charlotte Islands and those of Quatsino Sound on
    Vancouver Island, with those of Crow Nest Pass in the Rocky
    Mountains; the upper, the coal measures of Nanaimo and Comox,
    and probably also those of Suquash and other localities. The
    lower rocks hold both anthracite and bituminous coal in the
    Queen Charlotte Islands, but elsewhere contain bituminous coal
    only. The upper have so far been found to yield bituminous coal
    only. The fuels of the tertiary rocks are, generally speaking,
    lignites, but include also various fuels intermediate between
    these and true coals, which in a few places become true
    bituminous coals."

It is thought to be more than likely that the Comox District may prove
far more productive than the Nanaimo region. It is estimated that
productive measures underlie at least 300 square miles in the Comox
District, exclusive of what may extend beyond the shore. The Nanaimo
area is estimated at 200 square miles, and the product is no better
than, if it equals, that of the Comox District.

Specimens of good coal have been found on the main-land in the region of
the upper Skeena River, on the British Columbia water-shed of the
Rockies near Crow Nest Pass, and in the country adjacent to the Peace
River in the eastern part of the province. Anthracite which compares
favorably with that of Pennsylvania has been found at Cowgitz, Queen
Charlotte Islands. In 1871 a mining company began work upon this coal,
but abandoned it, owing to difficulties that were encountered. It is now
believed that these miners did not prove the product to be of an
unprofitable character, and that farther exploration is fully justified
by what is known of the field. Of inferior forms of coal there is every
indication of an abundance on the main-land of the province. "The
tertiary or Laramie coal measures of Puget Sound and Bellingham Bay" (in
the United States) "are continuous north of the international boundary,
and must underlie nearly 18,000 square miles of the low country about
the estuary of the Fraser and in the lower part of its valley." It is
quite possible, since the better coals of Nanaimo and Comox are in
demand in the San Francisco market, even at their high price and with
the duty added, that these lignite fields may be worked for local

Already the value of the fish caught in the British Columbian waters is
estimated at $5,000,000 a year, and yet the industry is rather at its
birth than in its infancy. All the waters in and near the province
fairly swarm with fish. The rivers teem with them, the straits and
fiords and gulfs abound with them, the ocean beyond is freighted with an
incalculable weight of living food, which must soon be distributed among
the homes of the civilized world. The principal varieties of fish are
the salmon, cod, shad, white-fish, bass, flounder, skate, sole, halibut,
sturgeon, oolachan, herring, trout, haddock, smelts, anchovies,
dog-fish, perch, sardines, oysters, crayfish shrimps, crabs, and
mussels. Of other denizens of the water, the whale, sea-otter, and seal
prove rich prey for those who search for them.

[Illustration: THE SALMON CACHE]

The main salmon rivers are the Fraser, Skeena, and Nasse rivers, but the
fish also swarm in the inlets into which smaller streams empty. The
Nimkish, on Vancouver Island, is also a salmon stream. Setting aside
the stories of water so thick with salmon that a man might walk upon
their backs, as well as that tale of the stage-coach which was upset by
salmon banking themselves against it when it was crossing a
fording-place, there still exist absolutely trustworthy accounts of
swarms which at their height cause the largest rivers to seem alive with
these fish. In such cases the ripple of their back fins frets the entire
surface of the stream. I have seen photographs that show the fish in
incredible numbers, side by side, like logs in a raft, and I have the
word of a responsible man for the statement that he has gotten all the
salmon needed for a small camp, day after day, by walking to the edge of
a river and jerking the fish out with a common poker.

There are about sixteen canneries on the Fraser, six on the Skeena,
three on the Nasse, and three scattered in other waters--River Inlet and
Alert Bay. The total canning in 1889 was 414,294 cases, each of 48
one-pound tins. The fish are sold to Europe, Australia, and eastern
Canada. The American market takes the Columbia River Salmon. Around
$1,000,000 is invested in the vessels, nets, trawls, canneries,
oil-factories, and freezing and salting stations used in this industry
in British Columbia, and about 5500 men are employed. "There is no
difficulty in catching the fish," says a local historian, "for in some
streams they are so crowded that they can readily be picked out of the
water by hand." However, gill-nets are found to be preferable, and the
fish are caught in these, which are stretched across the streams, and
handled by men in flat-bottomed boats. The fish are loaded into scows
and transported to the canneries, usually frame structures built upon
piles close to the shores of the rivers. In the canneries the tins are
made, and, as a rule, saw-mills near by produce the wood for the
manufacture of the packing-cases. The fish are cleaned, rid of their
heads and tails, and then chopped up and loaded into the tins by
Chinamen and Indian women. The tins are then boiled, soldered, tested,
packed, and shipped away. The industry is rapidly extending, and fresh
salmon are now being shipped, frozen, to the markets of eastern America
and England. My figures for 1889 (obtained from the Victoria _Times_)
are in all likelihood under the mark for the season of 1890. The coast
is made ragged by inlets, and into nearly every one a watercourse
empties. All the larger streams are the haven of salmon in the spawning
season, and in time the principal ones will be the bases of canning

The Dominion Government has founded a salmon hatchery on the Fraser,
above New Westminster. It is under the supervision of Thomas Mowat,
Inspector of Fisheries, and millions of small fry are now annually
turned into the great river. Whether the unexampled run of 1889 was in
any part due to this process cannot be said, but certainly the salmon
are not diminishing in numbers. It was feared that the refuse from the
canneries would injure the "runs" of live fish, but it is now believed
that there is a profit to be derived from treating the refuse for oil
and guano, so that it is more likely to be saved than thrown back into
the streams in the near future.

The oolachan, or candle-fish, is a valuable product of these waters,
chiefly of the Fraser and Nasse rivers. They are said to be delicious
when fresh, smoked, or salted, and I have it on the authority of the
little pamphlet "British Columbia," handed me by a government official,
that "their oil is considered superior to cod-liver oil, or any other
fish-oil known." It is said that this oil is whitish, and of the
consistency of thin lard. It is used as food by the natives, and is an
article of barter between the coast Indians and the tribes of the
interior. There is so much of it in a candle-fish of ordinary size that
when one of them is dried, it will burn like a candle. It is the custom
of the natives on the coast to catch the fish in immense numbers in
purse-nets. They then boil them in iron-bottomed bins, straining the
product in willow baskets, and running the oil into cedar boxes holding
fifteen gallons each. The Nasse River candle-fish are the best. They
begin running in March, and continue to come by the million for a period
of several weeks.

Codfish are supposed to be very plentiful, and to frequent extensive
banks at sea, but these shoals have not been explored or charted by the
Government, and private enterprise will not attempt the work. Similar
banks off the Alaska coast are already the resorts of California
fishermen, who drive a prosperous trade in salting large catches there.
The skil, or black cod, formerly known as the "coal-fish," is a splendid
deep-water product. These cod weigh from eight to twenty pounds, and
used to be caught by the Indians with hook and line. Already white men
are driving the Indians out by superior methods. Trawls of 300 hooks are
used, and the fish are found to be plentiful, especially off the west
coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. The fish is described as superior
to the cod of Newfoundland in both oil and meat. The general market is
not yet accustomed to it, but such a ready sale is found for what are
caught that the number of vessels engaged in this fishing increases year
by year. It is evident that the catch of skil will soon be an important
source of revenue to the province.

[Illustration: AN IDEAL OF THE COAST]

Herring are said to be plentiful, but no fleet is yet fitted out for
them. Halibut are numerous and common. They are often of very great
size. Sturgeon are found in the Fraser, whither they chase the salmon.
One weighing 1400 pounds was exhibited in Victoria a few years ago, and
those that weigh more than half as much are not unfrequently captured.
The following is a report of the yield and value of the fisheries of the
province for 1889:

  |      Kind of Fish.       | Quantity.  |    Value.       |
  |                          |            |                 |
  |                          |            |                 |
  | Salmon in cans      lbs. | 20,122,128 |  $2,414,655 36  |
  |    "   fresh        lbs. |  2,187,000 |     218,700 00  |
  |    "   salted      bbls. |      3,749 |      37,460 00  |
  |    "   smoked       lbs. |     12,900 |       2,580 00  |
  | Sturgeon, fresh          |    318,600 |      15,930 00  |
  | Halibut,    "            |    605,050 |      30,152 50  |
  | Herring,    "            |    190,000 |       9,500 00  |
  |   "    smoked            |     33,000 |       3,300 00  |
  | Oolachans,  "            |     82,500 |       8,250 00  |
  |   "     fresh            |      6,700 |       1,340 00  |
  |   "    salted      bbls. |        380 |       3,800 00  |
  | Trout, fresh        lbs. |     14,025 |       1,402 50  |
  | Fish, assorted           |    322,725 |      16,136 25  |
  | Smelts, fresh            |     52,100 |       3,126 00  |
  | Rock cod                 |     39,250 |       1,962 50  |
  | Skil, salted       bbls. |      1,560 |      18,720 00  |
  | Fooshqua, fresh          |    268,350 |      13,417 50  |
  | Fur seal-skins       No. |     33,570 |     335,700 00  |
  | Hair    "             "  |      7,000 |       5,250 00  |
  | Sea-otter skins       "  |        115 |      11,500 00  |
  | Fish oil           gals. |    141,420 |      70,710 00  |
  | Oysters            sacks |      3,000 |       5,250 00  |
  | Clams                 "  |      3,500 |       6,125 00  |
  | Mussels               "  |        250 |         500 00  |
  | Crabs                No. |    175,000 |       5,250 00  |
  | Abelones           boxes |        100 |         500 00  |
  | Isinglass           lbs. |      5,000 |       1,750 00  |
  +--------------------------+------------+                 |
  | Estimated fish consumed in province   |     100,000 00  |
  | Shrimps, prawns, etc.                 |       5,000 00  |
  | Estimated consumption by Indians--    |                 |
  |    Salmon                             |   2,732,500 00  |
  |    Halibut                            |     190,000 00  |
  |    Sturgeon and other fish            |     260,000 00  |
  |    Fish oils                          |      75,000 00  |
  |        Approximate yield              |  $6,605,467 61  |

When it is considered that this is the showing of one of the newest
communities on the continent, numbering only the population of what we
would call a small city, suffering for want of capital and nearly all
that capital brings with it, there is no longer occasion for surprise
at the provincial boast that they possess far more extensive and richer
fishing-fields than any on the Atlantic coast. Time and enterprise will
surely test this assertion, but it is already evident that there is a
vast revenue to be wrested from those waters.

I have not spoken of the sealing, which yielded $236,000 in 1887, and
may yet be decided to be exclusively an American and not a British
Columbian source of profit. Nor have I touched upon the extraction of
oil from herrings and from dog-fish and whales, all of which are small
channels of revenue.

I enjoyed the good-fortune to talk at length with a civil engineer of
high repute who has explored the greater part of southern British
Columbia--at least in so far as its main valleys, waterways, trails, and
mountain passes are concerned. Having learned not to place too high a
value upon the printed matter put forth in praise of any new country, I
was especially pleased to obtain this man's practical impressions
concerning the store and quality and kinds of timber the province
contains. He said, not to use his own words, that timber is found all
the way back from the coast to the Rockies, but it is in its most
plentiful and majestic forms on the west slope of those mountains and on
the west slope of the Coast Range. The very largest trees are between
the Coast Range and the coast. The country between the Rocky Mountains
and the Coast Range is dry by comparison with the parts where the timber
thrives best, and, naturally, the forests are inferior. Between the
Rockies and the Kootenay River cedar and tamaracks reach six and eight
feet in diameter, and attain a height of 200 feet not infrequently.
There are two or three kinds of fir and some pines (though not very
many) in this region. There is very little leaf-wood, and no hard-wood.
Maples are found, to be sure, but they are rather more like bushes than
trees to the British Columbian mind. As one moves westward the same
timber prevails, but it grows shorter and smaller until the low coast
country is reached. There, as has been said, the giant forests occur
again. This coast region is largely a flat country, but there are not
many miles of it.

To this rule, as here laid down, there are some notable exceptions. One
particular tree, called there the bull-pine--it is the pine of Lake
Superior and the East--grows to great size all over the province. It is
a common thing to find the trunks of these trees measuring four feet in
diameter, or nearly thirteen feet in circumference. It is not especially
valuable for timber, because it is too sappy. It is short-lived when
exposed to the weather, and is therefore not in demand for railroad
work; but for the ordinary uses to which builders put timber it answers
very well.

[Illustration: THE POTLATCH]

There is a maple which attains great size at the coast, and which, when
dressed, closely resembles bird's-eye-maple. It is called locally the
vine-maple. The trees are found with a diameter of two-and-a-half to
three feet, but the trunks seldom rise above forty or fifty feet. The
wood is crooked. It runs very badly. This, of course, is what gives it
the beautiful grain it possesses, and which must, sooner or later,
find a ready market for it. There is plenty of hemlock in the province,
but it is nothing like so large as that which is found in the East, and
its bark is not so thick. Its size renders it serviceable for nothing
larger than railway ties, and the trees grow in such inaccessible
places, half-way up the mountains, that it is for the most part
unprofitable to handle it. The red cedars--the wood of which is consumed
in the manufacture of pencils and cigar-boxes--are also small. On the
other hand, the white cedar reaches enormous sizes, up to fifteen feet
of thickness at the base, very often. It is not at all extraordinary to
find these cedars reaching 200 feet above the ground, and one was cut at
Port Moody, in clearing the way for the railroad, that had a length of
310 feet. When fire rages in the provincial forests, the wood of these
trees is what is consumed, and usually the trunks, hollow and empty,
stand grimly in their places after the fire would otherwise have been
forgotten. These great tubes are often of such dimensions that men put
windows and doors in them and use them for dwellings. In the valleys are
immense numbers of poplars of the common and cottonwood species, white
birch, alder, willow, and yew trees, but they are not estimated in the
forest wealth of the province, because of the expense that marketing
them would entail.

This fact concerning the small timber indicates at once the primitive
character of the country, and the vast wealth it possesses in what might
be called heroic timber--that is, sufficiently valuable to force its way
to market even from out that unopened wilderness. It was the opinion of
the engineer to whom I have referred that timber land which does not
attract the second glance of a prospector in British Columbia would be
considered of the first importance in Maine and New Brunswick. To put it
in another way, river-side timber land which in those countries would
fetch fifty dollars the acre solely for its wood, in British Columbia
would not be taken up. In time it may be cut, undoubtedly it must be,
when new railroads alter its value, and therefore it is impossible even
roughly to estimate the value of the provincial forests.

A great business is carried on in the shipment of ninety-foot and
one-hundred-foot Douglas fir sticks to the great car-building works of
our country and Canada. They are used in the massive bottom frames of
palace cars. The only limit that has yet been reached in this industry
is not in the size of the logs, but in the capacities of the saw-mills,
and in the possibilities of transportation by rail, for these logs
require three cars to support their length. Except for the valleys, the
whole vast country is enormously rich in this timber, the mountains
(excepting the Rockies) being clothed with it from their bases to their
tops. Vancouver Island is a heavily and valuably timbered country. It
bears the same trees as the main-land, except that it has the oak-tree,
and does not possess the tamarack. The Vancouver Island oaks do not
exceed two or two-and-a-half feet in diameter. The Douglas fir (our
Oregon pine) grows to tremendous proportions, especially on the north
end of the island. In the old offices of the Canadian Pacific Railway at
Vancouver are panels of this wood that are thirteen feet across,
showing that they came from a tree whose trunk was forty feet in
circumference. Tens of thousands of these firs are from eight to ten
feet in diameter at the bottom.

Other trees of the province are the great silver-fir, the wood of which
is not very valuable; Englemann's spruce, which is very like white
spruce, and is very abundant; balsam-spruce, often exceeding two feet in
diameter; the yellow or pitch pine; white pine; yellow cypress;
crab-apple, occurring as a small tree or shrub; western birch, common in
the Columbia region; paper or canoe birch, found sparingly on Vancouver
Island and on the lower Fraser, but in abundance and of large size in
the Peace River and upper Fraser regions; dogwood, arbutus, and several
minor trees. Among the shrubs which grow in abundance in various
districts or all over the province are the following: hazel, red elder,
willow, barberry, wild red cherry, blackberry, yellow plum,
choke-cherry, raspberry, gooseberry, bearberry, currant, and snowberry,
mooseberry, bilberry, cranberry, whortleberry, mulberry, and blueberry.

I would have liked to write at length concerning the enterprising cities
of the province, but, after all, they may be trusted to make themselves
known. It is the region behind them which most interests mankind, and
the Government has begun, none too promptly, a series of expeditions for
exploiting it. As for the cities, the chief among them and the capital,
Victoria, has an estimated population of 22,000. Its business district
wears a prosperous, solid, and attractive appearance, and its detached
dwellings--all of frame, and of the distinctive type which marks the
houses of the California towns--are surrounded by gardens. It has a
beautiful but inadequate harbor; yet in a few years it will have spread
to Esquimault, now less than two miles distant. This is now the seat of
a British admiralty station, and has a splendid haven, whose water is of
a depth of from six to eight fathoms. At Esquimault are government
offices, churches, schools, hotels, stores, a naval "canteen," and a
dry-dock 450 feet long, 26 feet deep, and 65 feet wide at its entrance.
The electric street railroad of Victoria was extended to Esquimault in
the autumn of 1890. Of the climate of Victoria Lord Lorne said, "It is
softer and more constant than that of the south of England."

Vancouver, the principal city of the main-land, is slightly smaller than
Victoria, but did not begin to displace the forest until 1886. After
that every house except one was destroyed by fire. To-day it boasts a
hotel comparable in most important respects with any in Canada, many
noble business buildings of brick or stone, good schools, fine churches,
a really great area of streets built up with dwellings, and a notable
system of wharves, warehouses, etc. The Canadian Pacific Railway
terminates here, and so does the line of steamers for China and Japan.
The city is picturesquely and healthfully situated on an arm of Burrard
Inlet, has gas, water, electric lights, and shows no sign of halting its
hitherto rapid growth. Of New Westminster, Nanaimo, Yale, and the still
smaller towns, there is not opportunity here for more than naming.

In the original settlements in that territory a peculiar institution
occasioned gala times for the red men now and then. This was the
"potlatch," a thing to us so foreign, even in the impulse of which it is
begotten, that we have no word or phrase to give its meaning. It is a
feast and merrymaking at the expense of some man who has earned or saved
what he deems considerable wealth, and who desires to distribute every
iota of it at once in edibles and drinkables among the people of his
tribe or village. He does this because he aspires to a chieftainship, or
merely for the credit of a "potlatch"--a high distinction. Indians have
been known to throw away such a sum of money that their "potlatch" has
been given in a huge shed built for the feast, that hundreds have been
both fed and made drunk, and that blankets and ornaments have been
distributed in addition to the feast.

The custom has a new significance now. It is the white man who is to
enjoy a greater than all previous potlatches in that region. The
treasure has been garnered during the ages by time or nature or
whatsoever you may call the host, and the province itself is offered as
the feast.



At Revelstoke, 380 miles from the Pacific Ocean, in British Columbia, a
small white steamboat, built on the spot, and exposing a single great
paddle-wheel at her stern, was waiting to make another of her still few
trips through a wilderness that, but for her presence, would be as
completely primitive as almost any in North America. Her route lay down
the Columbia River a distance of about one hundred and thirty miles to a
point called Sproat's Landing, where some rapids interrupt navigation.
The main load upon the steamer's deck was of steel rails for a railroad
that was building into a new mining region in what is called the
Kootenay District, just north of our Washington and Idaho. The sister
range to the Rockies, called the Selkirks, was to be crossed by the new
highway, which would then connect the valley of the Columbia with the
Kootenay River. There was a temptation beyond the mere chance to join
the first throng that pushed open a gateway and began the breaking of a
trail in a brand-new country. There was to be witnessed the propulsion
of civilization beyond old confines by steam-power, and this required
railroad building in the Rockies, where that science finds its most
formidable problems. And around and through all that was being done
pressed a new population, made up of many of the elements that produced
our old-time border life, and gave birth to some of the most picturesque
and exciting chapters in American History.

It should be understood that here in the very heart of British Columbia
only the watercourses have been travelled, and there was neither a
settlement nor a house along the Columbia in that great reach of its
valley between our border and the Canadian Pacific Railway, except at
the landing at which this boat stopped.

Over all the varying scene, as the boat ploughed along, hung a mighty
silence; for almost the only life on the deep wooded sides of the
mountains was that of stealthy game. At only two points were any human
beings lodged, and these were wood-choppers who supplied the fuel for
the steamer--a Chinaman in one place, and two or three white men farther
on. In this part of its magnificent valley the Columbia broadens in two
long loops, called the Arrow Lakes, each more than two miles wide and
twenty to thirty miles in length. Their prodigious towering walls are
densely wooded, and in places are snow-capped in midsummer. The forest
growth is primeval, and its own luxuriance crowds it beyond the edge of
the grand stream in the fretwork of fallen trunks and bushes, whose
roots are bedded in the soft mass of centuries of forest débris.

Early in the journey the clerk of the steamer told me that wild animals
were frequently seen crossing the river ahead of the vessel; bear, he
said, and deer and elk and porcupine. When I left him to go to my
state-room and dress for the rough journey ahead of me, he came to my
door, calling in excited tones for me to come out on the deck. "There's
a big bear ahead!" he cried, and as he spoke I saw the black head of the
animal cleaving the quiet water close to the nearer shore. Presently
Bruin's feet touched the bottom, and he bounded into the bush and

The scenery was superb all the day, but at sundown nature began to revel
in a series of the most splendid and spectacular effects. For an hour a
haze had clothed the more distant mountains as with a transparent veil,
rendering the view dream-like and soft beyond description. But as the
sun sank to the summit of the uplifted horizon it began to lavish the
most intense colors upon all the objects in view. The snowy peaks turned
to gaudy prisms as of crystal, the wooded summits became impurpled, the
nearer hills turned a deep green, and the tranquil lake assumed a bright
pea-color. Above all else, the sky was gorgeous. Around its western edge
it took on a rose-red blush that blended at the zenith with a deep blue,
in which were floating little clouds of amber and of flame-lit pearl.

A moonless night soon closed around the boat, and in the morning we were
at Sproat's Landing, a place two months old. The village consisted of a
tiny cluster of frame-houses and tents perched on the edge of the steep
bank of the Columbia. One building was the office and storehouse of the
projected railroad, two others were general trading stores, one was the
hotel, and the other habitations were mainly tents.

I firmly believe there never was a hotel like the hostlery there. In a
general way its design was an adaptation of the plan of a hen-coop.
Possibly a box made of gridirons suggests more clearly the principle of
its construction. It was two stories high, and contained about a baker's
dozen of rooms, the main one being the bar-room, of course. After the
framework had been finished, there was perhaps half enough "slab" lumber
to sheathe the outside of the house, and this had been made to serve for
exterior and interior walls, and the floors and ceilings besides. The
consequence was that a flock of gigantic canaries might have been kept
in it with propriety, but as a place of abode for human beings it
compared closely with the Brooklyn Bridge.


They have in our West many very frail hotels that the people call
"telephone houses," because a tenant can hear in every room whatever is
spoken in any part of the building; but in this house one could stand
in any room and see into all the others. A clergyman and his wife
stopped in it on the night before I arrived, and the good woman stayed
up until nearly daylight, pinning papers on the walls and laying them on
the floor until she covered a corner in which to prepare for bed.

I hired a room and stored my traps in it, but I slept in one of the
engineers' tents, and met with a very comical adventure. The tent
contained two cots, and a bench on which the engineer, who occupied one
of the beds, had heaped his clothing. Supposing him to be asleep, I
undressed quietly, blew out the candle, and popped into my bed. As I did
so one pair of its legs broke down, and it naturally occurred to me, at
almost the same instant, that the bench was of about the proper height
to raise the fallen end of the cot to the right level.

"Broke down, eh?" said my companion--a man, by-the-way, whose face I
have never yet seen.

"Yes," I replied. "Can I put your clothing on the floor and make use of
that bench?"

"Aye, that you can."

So out of bed I leaped, put his apparel in a heap on the floor, and ran
the bench under my bed. It proved to be a neat substitute for the broken
legs, and I was quickly under the covers again and ready for sleep.

The engineer's voice roused me.

"That's what I call the beauty of a head-piece," he said. Presently he
repeated the remark.

"Are you speaking to me?" I asked.

"Yes; I'm saying that's what I call the beauty of a head-piece. It's
wonderful; and many's the day and night I'll think of it, if I live.
What do I mean? Why, I mean that that is what makes you Americans such a
great people--it's the beauty of having head-pieces on your shoulders.
It's so easy to think quick if you've got something to think with. Here
you are, and your bed breaks down. What would I do? Probably nothing.
I'd think what a beastly scrape it was, and I'd keep on thinking till I
went to sleep. What do you do? Why, as quick as a flash you says,
'Hello, here's a go!' 'May I have the bench?' says you. 'Yes,' says I.
Out of bed you go, and you clap the bench under the bed, and there you
are, as right as a trivet. That's the beauty of a head-piece, and that's
what makes America the wonderful country she is."

Never was a more sincere compliment paid to my country, and I am glad I
obtained it so easily.

There was a barber pole in front of the house, set up by a "prospector"
who had run out of funds (and everything else except hope), and who,
like all his kind, had stopped to "make a few dollars" wherewith to
outfit again and continue his search for gold. He noted the local need
of a barber, and instantly became one by purchasing a razor on credit,
and painting a pole while waiting for custom. He was a jocular fellow--a
born New Yorker, by-the-way.

"Don't shave me close," said I.

"Close?" he repeated. "You'll be the luckiest victim I've slashed yet if
I get off any of your beard at all. How's the razor?"

"All right."

"Oh no, it ain't," said he; "you're setting your nerves to stand it,
so's not to be called a tender-foot. I'm no barber. I expected to 'tend
bar when I bumped up agin this place. If you could see the blood
streaming down your face you'd faint."

In spite of his self-depreciation, he performed as artistic and painless
an operation as I ever sat through.

While I was being shaved the loungers in the barber-shop entered into a
conversation that revealed, as nothing else could have disclosed it, the
deadly monotony of life in that little town. A hen cackled out-of-doors,
and the loungers fell to questioning one another as to which hen had
laid an egg.

"It must be the black one," said the barber.

"Yet it don't exactly sound like old blacky's cackle," said a more
deliberate and careful speaker.

"'Pears to me 's though it might be the speckled un," ventured a third.

"She ain't never laid no eggs," said the barber.

"Could it be the bantam?" another inquired.

Thus they discussed with earnestness this most interesting event of the
morning, until a young man darted into the room with his eyes lighted by

"Say, Bill," said he, almost breathlessly, "that's the speckled hen
a-cackling, by thunder! She's laid an egg, I guess."


In Sproat's Landing we saw the nucleus of a railroad terminal point. The
queer hotel was but little more peculiar than many of the people who
gathered on the single street on pay-day to spend their hard-earned
money upon a great deal of illicit whiskey and a few rude necessaries
from the limited stock on sale in the stores. There never had been any
grave disorder there, yet the floating population was as motley a
collection of the riffraff of the border as one could well imagine, and
there was only one policeman to enforce the law in a territory the size
of Rhode Island. He was quite as remarkable in his way as any other
development of that embryotic civilization. His name was Jack Kirkup,
and all who knew him spoke of him as being physically the most superb
example of manhood in the Dominion. Six feet and three inches in height,
with the chest, neck, and limbs of a giant, his three hundred pounds of
weight were so exactly his complement as to give him the symmetry of an
Apollo. He was good-looking, with the beauty of a round-faced,
good-natured boy, and his thick hair fell in a cluster of ringlets over
his forehead and upon his neck. No knight of Arthur's circle can have
been more picturesque a figure in the forest than this "Jack." He was as
neat as a dandy. He wore high boots and corduroy knickerbockers, a
flannel shirt and a sack-coat, and rode his big bay horse with the ease
and grace of a Skobeleff. He smoked like a fire of green brush, but had
never tasted liquor in his life. In a dozen years he had slept more
frequently in the open air, upon pebble beds or in trenches in the snow,
than upon ordinary bedding, and he exhibited, in his graceful movements,
his sparkling eyes and ruddy cheeks, his massive frame and his
imperturbable good-nature, a degree of health and vigor that would seem
insolent to the average New Yorker. Now that the railroad was building,
he kept ever on the trail, along what was called "the right of
way"--going from camp to camp to "jump" whiskey peddlers and gamblers
and to quell disorder--except on pay-day, once a month, when he stayed
at Sproat's Landing.


The echoes of his fearless behavior and lively adventures rang in every
gathering. The general tenor of the stories was to the effect that he
usually gave one warning to evil-doers, and if they did not heed that he
"cleaned them out." He carried a revolver, but never had used it. Even
when the most notorious gambler on our border had crossed over into
"Jack's" bailiwick the policeman depended upon his fists. He had met the
gambler and had "advised" him to take the cars next day. The gambler, in
reply, had suggested that both would get along more quietly if each
minded his own affairs, whereupon Kirkup had said, "You hear me: take
the cars out of here to-morrow." The little community (it was Donald, B.
C., a very rough place at the time) held its breathing for twenty-four
hours, and at the approach of train-time was on tiptoe with strained
anxiety. At twenty minutes before the hour the policeman, amiable and
easy-going as ever in appearance, began a tour of the houses. It was in
a tavern that he found the gambler.

"You must take the train," said he.

"You can't make me," replied the gambler.

There were no more words. In two minutes the giant was carrying the limp
body of the ruffian to a wagon, in which he drove him to the jail. There
he washed the blood off the gambler's face and tidied his collar and
scarf. From there the couple walked to the cars, where they parted

"I had to be a little rough," said Kirkup to the loungers at the
station, "because he was armed like a pin-cushion, and I didn't want to
have to kill him."

We made the journey from Sproat's Landing to the Kootenay River upon a
sorry quartet of pack-horses that were at other times employed to carry
provisions and material to the construction camps. They were of the kind
of horses known all over the West as "cayuses." The word is the name of
a once notable tribe of Indians in what is now the State of Washington.
To these Indians is credited the introduction of this small and peculiar
breed of horses, but many persons in the West think the horses get the
nickname because of a humorous fancy begotten of their wildness, and
suggesting that they are only part horses and part coyotes. But all the
wildness and the characteristic "bucking" had long since been "packed"
out of these poor creatures, and they needed the whip frequently to urge
them upon a slow progress. Kirkup was going his rounds, and accompanied
us on our journey of less than twenty miles to the Kootenay River. On
the way one saw every stage in the construction of a railway. The
process of development was reversed as we travelled, because the work
had been pushed well along where we started, and was but at its
commencement where we ended our trip. At the landing half a mile or more
of the railroad had been completed, even to the addition of a locomotive
and two gondola cars. Beyond the little strip of rails was a long reach
of graded road-bed, and so the progress of the work dwindled, until at
last there was little more than the trail-cutters' path to mark what had
been determined as the "right of way."

For the sake of clearness, I will first explain the steps that are taken
at the outset in building a railroad, rather than tell what parts of the
undertaking we came upon in passing over the various "contracts" that
were being worked in what appeared a confusing and hap-hazard disorder.
I have mentioned that one of the houses at the landing was the railroad
company's storehouse, and that near by were the tents of the surveyors
or civil engineers. The road was to be a branch of the Canadian Pacific
system, and these engineers were the first men sent into the country,
with instructions to survey a line to the new mining region, into which
men were pouring from the older parts of Canada and from our country. It
was understood by them that they were to hit upon the most direct and at
the same time the least expensive route for the railroad to take. They
went to the scene of their labors by canoes, and carried tents,
blankets, instruments, and what they called their "grub stakes," which
is to say, their food. Then they travelled over the ground between their
two terminal points, and back by another route, and back again by still
another route, and so back and forth perhaps four and possibly six
times. In that way alone were they enabled to select the line which
offered the shortest length and the least obstacles in number and degree
for the workmen who were to come after them.


At Sproat's Landing I met an engineer, Mr. B. C. Stewart, who is famous
in his profession as the most tireless and intrepid exponent of its
difficulties in the Dominion. The young men account it a misfortune to
be detailed to go on one of his journeys with him. It is his custom to
start out with a blanket, some bacon and meal, and a coffee-pot, and to
be gone for weeks, and even for months. There scarcely can have been a
hardier Scotchman, one of more simple tastes and requirements, or one
possessing in any higher degree the quality called endurance. He has
spent years in the mountains of British Columbia, finding and exploring
the various passes, the most direct and feasible routes to and from
them, the valleys between the ranges, and the characteristics of each
section of the country. In a vast country that has not otherwise been
one-third explored he has made himself familiar with the full southern
half. He has not known what it was to enjoy a home, nor has he seen an
apple growing upon a tree in many years. During his long and
close-succeeding trips he has run the whole gamut of the adventures
incident to the lives of hunters or explorers, suffering hunger,
exposure, peril from wild beasts, and all the hair-breadth escapes from
frost and storm and flood that Nature unvanquished visits upon those who
first brave her depths. Such is the work and such are the men that
figure in the foremost preliminaries to railroad building.

Whoever has left the beaten path of travel or gone beyond a well-settled
region can form a more or less just estimate of that which one of these
professional pioneers encounters in prospecting for a railroad. I had
several "tastes," as the Irish express it, of that very Kootenay Valley.
I can say conscientiously that I never was in a wilder region. In going
only a few yards from the railroad "right of way" the difficulties of an
experienced pedestrianism like my own instantly became tremendous. There
was a particularly choice spot for fishing at a distance of
three-quarters of a mile from Dan Dunn's outfit, and I travelled the
road to it half a dozen times. Bunyan would have strengthened the
_Pilgrim's Progress_ had he known of such conditions with which to
surround his hero. Between rocks the size of a city mansion and unsteady
bowlders no larger than a man's head the ground was all but covered.
Among this wreckage trees grew in wild abundance, and countless trunks
of dead ones lay rotting between them. A jungle as dense as any I ever
saw was formed of soft-wood saplings and bushes, so that it was next to
impossible to move a yard in any direction. It was out of the question
for anyone to see three yards ahead, and there was often no telling when
a foot was put down whether it was going through a rotten trunk or upon
a spinning bowlder, or whether the black shadows here and there were a
foot deep or were the mouths of fissures that reached to China. I fished
too long one night, and was obliged to make that journey after dark.
After ten minutes crowded with falls and false steps, the task seemed so
hopelessly impossible that I could easily have been induced to turn back
and risk a night on the rocks at the edge of the tide.

It was after a thorough knowledge of the natural conditions which the
railroad men were overcoming that the gradual steps of their progress
became most interesting. The first men to follow the engineers, after
the specifications have been drawn up and the contracts signed, are the
"right-of-way" men. These are partly trail-makers and partly laborers at
the heavier work of actually clearing the wilderness for the road-bed.
The trail-cutters are guided by the long line of stakes with which the
engineers have marked the course the road is to take. The trail-men are
sent out to cut what in general parlance would be called a path, over
which supplies are to be thereafter carried to the workmen's camps. The
path they cut must therefore be sufficiently wide for the passage along
it of a mule and his load. As a mule's load will sometimes consist of
the framework of a kitchen range, or the end boards of a bedstead, a
five-foot swath through the forest is a trail of serviceable width. The
trail-cutters fell the trees to right and left, and drag the fallen
trunks out of the path as they go along, travelling and working between
a mile and two miles each day, and moving their tents and provisions on
pack-horses as they advance. They keep reasonably close to the projected
line of the railway, but the path they cut is apt to be a winding one
that avoids the larger rocks and the smaller ravines. Great distortions,
such as hills or gullies, which the railroad must pass through or over,
the trail men pay no heed to; neither do the pack-horses, whose tastes
are not consulted, and who can cling to a rock at almost any angle, like
flies of larger growth. This trail, when finished, leads from the
company's storehouse all along the line, and from that storehouse, on
the backs of the pack-animals, come all the food and tools and clothing,
powder, dynamite, tents, and living utensils, to be used by the workmen,
their bosses, and the engineers.

Slowly, behind the trail-cutters, follow the "right-of-way" men. These
are axemen also. All that they do is to cut the trees down and drag them
out of the way.

It is when the axemen have cleared the right of way that the first view
of the railroad in embryo is obtainable. And very queer it looks. It is
a wide avenue through the forest, to be sure, yet it is little like any
forest drive that we are accustomed to in the realms of civilization.

[Illustration: FALLING MONARCHS]

Every succeeding stage of the work leads towards the production of an
even and level thoroughfare, without protuberance or depression, and in
the course of our ride to Dan Dunn's camp on the Kootenay we saw the
rapidly developing railroad in each phase of its evolution from the
rough surface of the wilderness. Now we would come upon a long reach of
finished road-bed on comparatively level ground all ready for the rails,
with carpenters at work in little gullies which they were spanning with
timber trestles. Next we would see a battalion of men and dump-carts
cutting into a hill of dirt and carting its substance to a neighboring
valley, wherein they were slowly heaping a long and symmetrical wall of
earth-work, with sloping sides and level top, to bridge the gap between
hill and hill. Again, we came upon places where men ran towards us
shouting that a "blast" was to be fired. Here was what was called
"rockwork," where some granite rib of a mountain or huge rocky knoll was
being blown to flinders with dynamite.

And so, through all these scenes upon the pack-trail, we came at last to
a white camp of tents hidden in the lush greenery of a luxuriant forest,
and nestling beside a rushing mountain torrent of green water flecked
with the foam from an eternal battle with a myriad of sunken rocks. It
was Dunn's headquarters--the construction camp. Evening was falling, and
the men were clambering down the hill-side trails from their work. There
was no order in the disposition of the tents, nor had the forest been
prepared for them. Their white sides rose here and there wherever there
was a space between the trees, as if so many great white moths had
settled in a garden. Huge trees had been felled and thrown across
ravines to serve as aerial foot-paths from point to point, and at the
river's edge two or three tents seemed to have been pushed over the
steep bluff to find lodgement on the sandy beach beside the turbulent

There were other camps on the line of this work, and it is worth while
to add a word about their management and the system under which they
were maintained. In the first place, each camp is apt to be the outfit
of a contractor. The whole work of building a railroad is let out in
contracts for portions of five, ten, or fifteen miles. Even when great
jobs of seventy or a hundred miles are contracted for in one piece, it
is customary for the contractor to divide his task and sublet it. But a
fairly representative bit of mountain work is that which I found Dan
Dunn superintending, as the factotum of the contractor who undertook it.

If a contractor acts as "boss" himself, he stays upon the ground; but in
this case the contractor had other undertakings in hand. Hence the
presence of Dan Dunn, his walking boss or general foreman. Dunn is a man
of means, and is himself a contractor by profession, who has worked his
way up from a start as a laborer.

The camp to which we came was a portable city, complete except for its
lack of women. It had its artisans, its professional men, its store and
workshops, its seat of government and officers, and its policeman, its
amusement hall, its work-a-day and social sides. Its main peculiarity
was that its boss (for it was like an American city in the possession of
that functionary also) had announced that he was going to move it a
couple of miles away on the following Sunday. One tent was the
stableman's, with a capacious "corral" fenced in near by for the keeping
of the pack horses and mules. His corps of assistants was a large one;
for, besides the pack-horses that connected the camp with the outer
world, he had the keeping of all the "grade-horses," so called--those
which draw the stone and dirt carts and the little dump-cars on the
false tracks set up on the levels near where "filling" or "cutting" is
to be done. Another tent was the blacksmith's. He had a "helper," and
was a busy man, charged with all the tool-sharpening, the care of all
the horses' feet, and the repairing of all the iron-work of the wagons,
cars, and dirt-scrapers. Near by was the harness-man's tent, the shop of
the leather-mender. In the centre of the camp, like a low citadel, rose
a mound of logs and earth bearing on a sign the single word "Powder,"
but containing within its great sunken chamber a considerable store of
various explosives--giant, black, and Judson powder, and dynamite.

[Illustration: DAN DUNN ON HIS WORKS]

More tremendous force is used in railroad blasting than most persons
imagine. In order to perform a quick job of removing a section of solid
mountain, the drill-men, after making a bore, say, twenty feet in depth,
begin what they call "springing" it by exploding little cartridges in
the bottom of the drill hole until they have produced a considerable
chamber there. The average amount of explosive for which they thus
prepare a place is 40 or 50 kegs of giant powder and 10 kegs of black
powder; but Dunn told me he had seen 280 kegs of black powder and 500
pounds of dynamite used in a single blast in mountain work.

Another tent was that of the time-keeper. He journeyed twice a day all
over the work, five miles up and five down. On one journey he noted what
men were at labor in the forenoon, and on his return he tallied those
who were entitled to pay for the second half of the day. Such an
official knows the name of every laborer, and, moreover, he knows the
pecuniary rating of each man, so that when the workmen stop him to order
shoes or trousers, blankets, shirts, tobacco, penknives, or what not, he
decides upon his own responsibility whether they have sufficient money
coming to them to meet the accommodation.

The "store" was simply another tent. In it was kept a fair supply of the
articles in constant demand--a supply brought from the headquarters
store at the other end of the trail, and constantly replenished by the
pack-horses. This trading-place was in charge of a man called "the
book-keeper," and he had two or three clerks to assist him. The stock
was precisely like that of a cross-roads country store in one of our
older States. Its goods included simple medicines, boots, shoes,
clothing, cutlery, tobacco, cigars, pipes, hats and caps, blankets,
thread and needles, and several hundred others among the ten thousand
necessaries of a modern laborer's life. The only legal tender received
there took the shape of orders written by the time-keeper, for the man
in charge of the store was not required to know the ratings of the men
upon the pay-roll.


The doctor's tent was among the rest, but his office might aptly have
been said to be "in the saddle." He was nominally employed by the
company, but each man was "docked," or charged, seventy-five cents a
month for medical services whether he ever needed a doctor or not. When
I was in the camp there was only one sick man--a rheumatic. He had a
tent all to himself, and his meals were regularly carried to him. Though
he was a stranger to every man there, and had worked only one day before
he surrendered to sickness, a purse of about forty dollars had been
raised for him among the men, and he was to be "packed" to Sproat's
Landing on a mule at the company's expense whenever the doctor decreed
it wise to move him. Of course invalidism of a more serious nature is
not infrequent where men work in the paths of sliding rocks, beneath
caving earth, amid falling forest trees, around giant blasts, and with
heavy tools.

Another one of the tents was that of the "boss packer." He superintended
the transportation of supplies on the pack-trail. This "job of 200 men,"
as Dunn styled his camp, employed thirty pack horses and mules. The
pack-trains consisted of a "bell-horse" and boy, and six horses
following. Each animal was rated to carry a burden of 400 pounds of dead
weight, and to require three quarts of meal three times a day.

Another official habitation was the "store-man's" tent. As a rule, there
is a store-man to every ten miles of construction work; often every camp
has one. The store-man keeps account of the distribution of the supplies
of food. He issues requisitions upon the head storehouse of the company,
and makes out orders for each day's rations from the camp store. The
cooks are therefore under him, and this fact suggests a mention of the
principal building in the camp--the mess hall, or "grub tent."

This structure was of a size to accommodate two hundred men at once. Two
tables ran the length of the unbroken interior--tables made roughly of
the slabs or outside boards from a saw-mill. The benches were huge
tree-trunks spiked fast upon stumps. There was a bench on either side of
each table, and the places for the men were each set with a tin cup and
a tin pie plate. The bread was heaped high on wooden platters, and all
the condiments--catsup, vinegar, mustard, pepper, and salt--were in cans
that had once held condensed milk. The cooks worked in an open-ended
extension at the rear of the great room. The rule is to have one cook
and two "cookees" to each sixty men.

While I was a new arrival just undergoing introduction, the men, who had
come in from work, and who had "washed up" in the little creeks and at
the river bank, began to assemble in the "grub tent" for supper. They
were especially interesting to me because there was every reason to
believe that they formed an assembly as typical of the human flotsam of
the border as ever was gathered on the continent. Very few were what
might be called born laborers; on the contrary, they were mainly men of
higher origin who had failed in older civilizations; outlaws from the
States; men who had hoped for a gold-mine until hope was all but dead;
men in the first flush of the gold fever; ne'er-do-wells; and here and
there a working-man by training. They ate as a good many other sorts of
men do, with great rapidity, little etiquette, and just enough
unselfishness to pass each other the bread. It was noticeable that they
seemed to have no time for talking. Certainly they had earned the right
to be hungry, and the food was good and plentiful.

[Illustration: A SKETCH ON THE WORK]

Dan Dunn's tent was just in front of the mess tent, a few feet away on
the edge of the river bluff. It was a little "A" tent, with a single cot
on one side, a wooden chest on the other, and a small table between the
two at the farther end, opposite the door.

"Are ye looking at my wolverenes?" said he. "There's good men among
them, and some that ain't so good, and many that's worse. But
railroading is good enough for most of 'em. It ain't too rich for any
man's blood, I assure ye."

Over six feet in height, broad-chested, athletic, and carrying not an
ounce of flesh that could be spared, Dan Dunn's was a striking figure
even where physical strength was the most serviceable possession of
every man. From never having given his personal appearance a
thought--except during a brief period of courtship antecedent to the
establishment of a home in old Ontario--he had so accustomed himself to
unrestraint that his habitual attitude was that of a long-bladed
jack-knife not fully opened. His long spare arms swung limberly before a
long spare body set upon long spare legs. His costume was one that is
never described in the advertisements of city clothiers. It consisted of
a dust-coated slouch felt hat, which a dealer once sold for black, of a
flannel shirt, of homespun trousers, of socks, and of heavy "brogans."
In all, his dress was what the æsthetes of Mr. Wilde's day might have
aptly termed a symphony in dust. His shoes and hat had acquired a
mud-color, and his shirt and trousers were chosen because they
originally possessed it. Yet Dan Dunn was distinctly a cleanly man, fond
of frequent splashing in the camp toilet basins--the Kootenay River and
its little rushing tributaries. He was not shaven. As a rule he is not,
and yet at times he is, as it happens. I learned that on Sundays, when
there was nothing to do except to go fishing, or to walk over to the
engineer's camp for intellectual society, he felt the unconscious
impulse of a forgotten training, and put on a coat. He even tied a black
silk ribbon under his collar on such occasions, and if no one had given
him a good cigar during the week, he took out his best pipe (which had
been locked up, because whatever was not under lock and key was certain
to be stolen in half an hour). Then he felt fitted, as he would say,
"for a hard day's work at loafing."

[Illustration: THE MESS TENT AT NIGHT]

If you came upon Dan Dunn on Broadway, he would look as awkward as any
other animal removed from its element; yet on a forest trail not even
Davy Crockett was handsomer or more picturesque. His face is
reddish-brown and as hard-skinned as the top of a drum, befitting a man
who has lived out-of-doors all his life. But it is a finely moulded
face, instinct with good-nature and some gentleness. The witchery of
quick Irish humor lurks often in his eyes, but can quickly give place
on occasion to a firm light, which is best read in connection with the
broad, strong sweep of his massive under-jaw. There you see his fitness
to command small armies, even of what he calls "wolverenes." He is
willing to thrash any man who seems to need the operation, and yet he is
equally noted for gathering a squad of rough laborers in every camp to
make them his wards. He collects the money such men earn, and puts it in
bank, or sends it to their families.

"It does them as much good to let me take it as to chuck it over a
gin-mill bar," he explained.

As we stood looking into the crowded booth, where the men sat elbow to
elbow, and all the knife blades were plying to and from all the plates
and mouths, Dunn explained that his men were well fed.

"The time has gone by," said he, "when you could keep an outfit on salt
pork and bacon. It's as far gone as them days when they say the Hudson
Bay Company fed its laborers on rabbit tracks and a stick. Did ye never
hear of that? Why, sure, man, 'twas only fifty years ago that when meal
hours came the bosses of the big trading company would give a workman a
stick, and point out some rabbit tracks, and tell him he'd have an hour
to catch his fill. But in railroading nowadays we give them the best
that's going, and all they want of it--beef, ham, bacon, potatoes, mush,
beans, oatmeal, the choicest fish, and game right out of the woods, and
every sort of vegetable (canned, of course). Oh, they must be fed well,
or they wouldn't stay."

He said that the supplies of food are calculated on the basis of
three-and-a-half pounds of provisions to a man--all the varieties of
food being proportioned so that the total weight will be
three-and-a-half pounds a day. The orders are given frequently and for
small amounts, so as to economize in the number of horses required on
the pack-trail. The amount to be consumed by the horses is, of course,
included in the loads. The cost of "packing" food over long distances is
more considerable than would be supposed. It was estimated that at
Dunn's camp the freighting cost forty dollars a ton, but I heard of
places farther in the mountains where the cost was double that. Indeed,
a discussion of the subject brought to light the fact that in remote
mining camps the cost of "packing" brought lager-beer in bottles up to
the price of champagne. At one camp on the Kootenay bacon was selling at
the time I was in the valley at thirty cents a pound, and dried peaches
fetched forty cents under competition.

As we looked on, the men were eating fresh beef and vegetables, with tea
and coffee and pie. The head cook was a man trained in a lumber camp,
and therefore ranked high in the scale of his profession. Every sort of
cook drifts into camps like these, and that camp considers itself the
most fortunate which happens to eat under the ministrations of a man who
has cooked on a steamboat; but a cook from a lumber camp is rated almost
as proudly.


"Ye would not think it," said Dunn, "but some of them men has been bank
clerks, and there's doctors and teachers among 'em--everything, in fact,
except preachers. I never knew a preacher to get into a railroad gang.
The men are always changing--coming and going. We don't have to
advertise for new hands. The woods is full of men out of a job, and out
of everything--pockets, elbows, and all. They drift in like peddlers on
a pay-day. They come here with no more clothing than will wad a gun. The
most of them will get nothing after two months' work. You see, they're
mortgaged with their fares against them (thirty to forty dollars for
them which the railroad brings from the East), and then they have their
meals to pay for, at five dollars a week while they're here, and on top
of that is all the clothing and shoes and blankets and tobacco, and
everything they need--all charged agin them. It's just as well for
them, for the most of them are too rich if they're a dollar ahead.
There's few of them can stand the luxury of thirty dollars. When they
get a stake of them dimensions, the most of them will stay no longer
after pay-day than John Brown stayed in heaven. The most of them bang it
all away for drink, and they are sure to come back again, but the
'prospectors' and chronic tramps only work to get clothes and a flirting
acquaintance with food, as well as money enough to make an affidavit to,
and they never come back again at all. Out of 8500 men we had in one big
work in Canada, 1500 to 2000 knocked off every month. Ninety per cent.
came back. They had just been away for an old-fashioned drunk."

It would be difficult to draw a parallel between these laborers and any
class or condition of men in the East. They were of every nationality
where news of gold-mines, of free settlers' sections, or of quick
fortunes in the New World had penetrated. I recognized Greeks, Finns,
Hungarians, Danes, Scotch, English, Irish, and Italians among them. Not
a man exhibited a coat, and all were tanned brown, and were as spare and
slender as excessively hard work can make a man. There was not a
superfluity or an ornament in sight as they walked past me; not a
necktie, a finger-ring, nor a watch-chain. There were some very
intelligent faces and one or two fine ones in the band. Two typical
old-fashioned prospectors especially attracted me. They were evidently
of gentle birth, but time and exposure had bent them, and silvered their
long, unkempt locks. Worse than all, it had planted in their faces a
blended expression of sadness and hope fatigued that was painful to see.
It is the brand that is on every old prospector's face. A very few of
the men were young fellows of thirty, or even within the twenties. Their
youth impelled them to break away from the table earlier than the
others, and, seizing their rods, to start off for the fishing in the

But those who thought of active pleasure were few indeed. Theirs was
killing work, the most severe kind, and performed under the broiling
sun, that at high mountain altitudes sends the mercury above 100 on
every summer's day, and makes itself felt as if the rarefied atmosphere
was no atmosphere at all. After a long day at the drill or the pick or
shovel in such a climate, it was only natural that the men should, with
a common impulse, seek first the solace of their pipes, and then of the
shake-downs in their tents. I did not know until the next morning how
severely their systems were strained; but it happened at sunrise on that
day that I was at my ablutions on the edge of the river when Dan Dunn's
gong turned the silent forest into a bedlam. It was called the
seven-o'clock alarum, and was rung two hours earlier than that hour, so
that the men might take two hours after dinner out of the heat of the
day, "else the sun would kill them," Dunn said. This was apparently his
device, and he kept up the transparent deception by having every clock
and watch in the camp set two hours out of time.

With the sounding of the gong the men began to appear outside the little
tents in which they slept in couples. They came stumbling down the
bluff to wash in the river, and of all the pitiful sights I ever saw,
they presented one of the worst; of all the straining and racking and
exhaustion that ever hard labor gave to men, they exhibited the utmost.
They were but half awakened, and they moved so painfully and stiffly
that I imagined I could hear their bones creak. I have seen spavined
work-horses turned out to die that moved precisely as these men did. It
was shocking to see them hobble over the rough ground; it was pitiful to
watch them as they attempted to straighten their stiffened bodies after
they had been bent double over the water. They gained erectness by slow
jolts, as if their joints were of iron that had rusted. Of course they
soon regained whatever elasticity nature had left them, and were
themselves for the day--an active, muscular force of men. But that early
morning sight of them was not such a spectacle as a right-minded man
enjoys seeing his fellows take part in.


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  =Transcriber's Notes:=
  original hyphenation, spelling and grammar have been preserved as in
    the original
  Page 7, "doctor's workshop" changed to "doctor's workshop."
  Page 29, "he in vented concerning" changed to "he invented concerning"
  Page 33, "through why it was" changed to "though why it was"
  Page 110, "Nine times in-ten" changed to "Nine times in ten"
  Page 156, "mainland" changed to "main-land" [Ed. for consistency]
  Page 169, "to get baffalo meat" changed to "to get buffalo meat"
  Page 238, "that we be come" changed to "that we become"
  Page 282, "two-and-a half" changed to "two-and-a-half"

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "On Canada's Frontier - Sketches of History, Sport, and Adventure and of the - Indians, Missionaries, Fur-traders, and Newer Settlers of - Western Canada" ***

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