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Pioneers in Canada by Sir Harry Johnston

Part 4 out of 6

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seats were laid across the canoe from gunwale to gunwale, the small
roots of the spruce fir afforded the fibre with which the bark was
sewn or stitched, and the gum of the pine tree supplied the place of
tar and oakum. Bark, some spare fibre, and gum were always carried in
each canoe for repairs, which were constantly necessary (one
continually reads in the diaries of the pioneers of "stopping to gum
the canoe"). The canoes were propelled with paddles, and occasionally
a sail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Musical notation and words:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


The Hudson Bay Explorers and the British Conquest of all Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: Map of EASTERN CANADA and NEWFOUNDLAND]

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

[Footnote 4: See p. 159.]

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

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

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

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


The Pioneers from Montreal: Alexander Henry the Elder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 5: Shell beads.]

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

Here are some of his adventures at this period.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 10: See p. 128.]

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 12: See p. 166.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Samuel Hearne

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

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

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

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

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

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


By the 19th of May, geese, swans, ducks, gulls, and other birds of

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