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Pioneers in Canada by Sir Harry Johnston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


After Champlain: from Montreal to the Mississippi

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

[Footnote 1: Mentioned on p. 80.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 5: See p. 160.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 6: More probably musk oxen.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 8: Born at Quebec in 1645.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Governor entered into his scheme with enthusiasm, though he could
obtain little or no money from the ministers of Louis XVI. But a way
out of the difficulty was found by the Governor giving La Verendrye
the monopoly of the fur trade in the far North-West.[14] This
monopoly enabled La Verendrye to obtain the funds for his expenditure
from the merchants of Montreal, and in the summer of 1731 he started
out on his explorations, accompanied by three of his sons, his nephew,
fifty soldiers and French Canadian canoe men, and a Jesuit missionary.
For a guide they had the Indian, Oshagash, who had first told La
Verendrye of the western river and the salt water. After many delays,
necessitated by the need for trading in furs to satisfy the merchants
of Montreal, La Verendrye and his expedition skated on snowshoes down
the ice of the Winnipeg River and reached the shores of Lake Winnipeg.
They were probably the first white men to arrive there. La Verendrye
established forts and posts along his route from Lake Nipigon, but his
expedition had not been a commercial success. There was a deficit of
L1700 between the amount realized in furs and the cost of the
equipment and wages of the French and French Canadians. De Beauharnais
made a fresh appeal to the French Court; he urged that the expenditure
to convey La Verendrye's expedition to the Pacific Ocean would not be
a large one--perhaps only L1500.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Geographical Conditions of the Canadian Dominion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: MAP OF CANADA]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The treeless area north of Lake Athabaska (the "barren lands" of the
Canadian Dominion) seems to consist of nothing but slabs of rock and
loose stones. Yet this region is far from being without vegetation.
The rock is often covered with a thin or thick sod of lichen
("reindeer moss", in some districts three feet deep) intermixed with

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