[Footnote 6: Of the genera Juglans and Carya.]
[Footnote 7: The huge deer of the genus Alces. Elk is the old Scandinavian name. Moose, derived from the Kri language, is the Canadian term, "Elk" being misapplied to the wapiti (red) deer. Champlain calls the elk orignac, its name in Algonkin.]
At last his little expedition in "a skiff and canoe" had to draw into the bank, warned by the noise that they were approaching a great fall of water—the La Chine or St. Louis Rapids. Champlain wrote: "I saw, to my astonishment, a torrent of water descending with an impetuosity such as I have never before witnessed.... It descends as if in steps, and at each descent there is a remarkable boiling, owing to the force and swiftness with which the water traverses the fall, which is about a league in length.... The territory on the side of the fall where we went overland consists, so far as we saw it, of very open wood, where one can go with his armour without much difficulty."
From the Algonkin Indians in the neighbourhood of these St. Louis Rapids, and also from those living near Quebec, Champlain obtained a good deal of geographical information to add to his own observations. He was given an idea, more or less correct, of Lake Ontario, the Falls of Niagara, Lake Erie and Lake Huron, and perhaps also of Lake Superior, a sea so vast, said the Amerindians, that the sun set on its horizon. This sheet of water, Champlain calculated, must be 1200 miles distant to the west, and therefore identical with the "Mer du sud" (Pacific Ocean), which all North-American explorers for three centuries wished to reach.
After collecting much information about possible copper mines in the regions north and south of the Lower St. Lawrence, and of silver in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, and a terrible story which he more than half believed about a monster of prodigious size, the Gougou, Champlain set sail for France at the end of August, 1603.
[Footnote 8: Or lead mixed with silver. The local natives used this ore, which was white when beaten, for their arrowheads.]
[Footnote 9: The Gougou dwelt on the small island of Miscon, to the east of the Bay of Chaleurs. It had the form of a woman but was about a hundred feet high. Its habit was to catch and devour men and women, whom it first placed in a pocket capacious enough to hold a small ship. Its roarings and hissings could be heard at times coming from the island of Miscon, where the Gougou lay concealed. Even a Frenchman, the Sieur Prevert, had heard these noises. Probably this islet had a whirlpool communicating with a cavern into which fishermen were sucked by the current.]
In April, 1604, Champlain accompanied the Sieur de Monts (who had succeeded the dead Amyard de Chastes as head of a chartered fur-trading association) in a fresh expedition to North America, together with a hundred and twenty artisans and several noblemen. They were to occupy the lands of "Cadie" (Acadia, Nova Scotia), Canada, and other places in New France. De Monts thought Tadoussac and Quebec too cold in wintertime, and preferred the sunnier east coast regions. He aimed indeed at colonizing what is now New England.
On the way to Nova Scotia, the expedition was nearly wrecked on Sable Island, about one hundred and twenty miles south of Cape Breton Island, and noticed there the large red cattle run wild from the bulls and cows landed on Sable Island by the Portuguese some sixty years earlier. (The Portuguese of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries deserved well of humanity for the generous way in which they left cattle, goats, pigs, and rabbits to run wild on desert islands and serve as provender for shipwrecked mariners like Robinson Crusoe.) Champlain also speaks of the "fine large black foxes" which he and other voyagers noticed on Sable Island. How they came there is a mystery, unless the island had once been part of the mainland.
This same Sable Island had been the scene of an extraordinary experiment at the end of the previous century. In 1598 the Marquis de la Roche, given a commission to colonize New France, sailed in a small ship for North America with sixty convicts from French prisons as colonists. He landed them on Sable Island, and went away to look for some good site for his colony. But then a storm arose, and his little ship was literally blown back to France. The convicts, abandoned thus, built themselves shelters out of the driftwood of wrecks; killed and ate the cattle and caught fish. They made themselves warm clothes out of the skins of the seals which frequented the island coast in thousands. But these convicts quarrelled and fought among themselves so fiercely that when at last a ship from Normandy came to take them away, there were only twelve left—twelve shaggy men with long tangled hair and beards; and, a legend says, in addition a Franciscan monk who had been landed on the island with them as a kind of missionary or chaplain, and who had been so heartbroken at their bloody quarrels and horrible deeds that when the Norman ship arrived to take the castaways back to France, the Franciscan refused to go with them, believing himself to be dying and wishing to end his life undisturbed. So he was left behind. But after the ship had sailed away he slowly mended, grew well and strong, and cultivated eagerly his little garden. For food he ate the whelks, mussels, and oysters that were so abundant on the shore. Occasionally ships (then as now) were wrecked on Sable Island in stormy weather, and the good monk ministered to the mariners who reached the shore. Also he was visited, ever and again, by the Breton fishing boats, which brought him supplies of necessaries and the bread and wine for celebrating Mass. Long after his death his spirit was thought to haunt the desolate island.
Champlain and his companions passed on from Sable Island to the south-east coast of Nova Scotia, noticing as they landed here and there the abundance of rabbits and sea birds, especially the Great Auk, of which they killed numbers with sticks, cormorants (whose fishy eggs they ate with enjoyment), puffins, guillemots, gulls, terns, scissorbills, divers, ospreys, buzzards, and falcons; and no doubt the typical American white-tailed sea eagles, ravens, ducks, geese, curlews, herons, and cranes. Here and there they found the shore "completely covered with sea wolves"—seals, of course, probably the common seal and the grey seal. Of these they captured as many as they wanted, for the seals, like most of the birds, were quite unafraid of man.
[Footnote 10: There are no real rabbits in America. This was probably the Polar Hare (Lepus timidus glacialis), or the common small varying hare (L. americanus).]
They then explored the Bay of Fundy, and, after zig-zagging about, decided to fix on the harbour of St. John's (New Brunswick) as the site for their colony. The future capital of New France, therefore, was begun on La Sainte Croix (Dochet) Island, near the mouth of the wonderful tidal estuary of the Uigudi (Ouygoudy) River.
Here they passed the winter, but suffered so badly from scurvy that, when in the spring of 1605 Du Pont Grave arrived from Brittany with supplies, the remnant of the colony was removed to the opposite coast of Nova Scotia to Port Royal (afterwards named by the English Annapolis). The French seem to have fallen in love with this place from the very first. Nevertheless here they suffered from scurvy during the winter as elsewhere. Before moving over here, however, Champlain, together with De Monts, had explored the west of New England south of New Brunswick as far as Plymouth, just south of Boston.
[Footnote 11: How awful was this "mal de terre" or scurvy amongst the French settlers may be seen from this description of Champlain: "There were produced in the mouths of those who had it great pieces of superfluous and drivelling flesh, which got the upper hand to such an extent that scarcely anything but liquid could be taken. Their teeth became very loose and could be pulled out with the fingers without its causing them pain.... Afterwards a violent pain seized their arms and legs, which remained swollen and very hard, all spotted as if with fleabites; and they could not walk on account of the contraction of the muscles.... They suffered intolerable pains in the loins, stomach, and bowels, and had a very bad cough and short breath.... Out of seventy-nine who composed our party, thirty-five died and twenty were on the point of death (when spring began in May)."
Scurvy is said to be a disease of the blood caused by a damp, cold, and impure atmosphere combined with absence of vegetable food and a diet of salted or semi-putrid meat or fish, such as was so often the winter food of Amerindians and of the early French pioneers in Canada. We have already noted Cartier's discovery of the balsam remedy.]
[Footnote 12: From Queen Anne.]
Off the coast of Maine (Richmond's Island) they encountered agricultural Amerindians of a new tribe, the Penobskot probably, who cultivated a form of rank narcotic tobacco (Nicotiana rustica), which they called Petun. (A variety of this has produced the handsome garden flower Petunia, whose Latin name is derived from this native word Petun.) They also grew maize or Indian corn, planting very carefully three or four seeds in little mounds three feet apart one from the other, the soil in between being kept clear of weeds. The American farmers of to-day cannot adopt any better method.
The islands round about Portland (Maine) were matted all over with wild red currants, so that the eye could scarcely discern anything else. Attracted by this fruit, clouds of wild pigeons had assembled. They manifested hardly any fear of the French, who captured large numbers of them in snares, or killed them with guns. The natives of southern Maine fled with dismay on sighting the French ships, for they had never before seen sailing vessels, but later on they timidly approached the French ships in a canoe, then landed and went through a wild dance on the shore to typify friendliness. Champlain took with him some drawing paper and a pencil or crayon, together with a quantity of knives and ship's biscuit. Landing alone, he attracted the natives towards him by offering them biscuits, and having gathered them round him (being of course as much unable to understand their speech as they were French), he proceeded to ask questions by means of certain drawings, chiefly the outlines of the coast. The savages at once seized his idea, and taking up his pencil drew on the paper an accurate outline of Massachusetts Bay, adding also rivers and islands unknown to the French. They went on by further intelligent signs to supply information. For instance, they placed six pebbles at equal distances to intimate that Massachusetts Bay was occupied by six tribes and governed by as many chiefs. By drawings of growing maize and other plants they intimated that all these people lived by agriculture.
[Footnote 13: The pigeons referred to by Champlain were probably the Passenger pigeon (Ectopistes) which at one time was extraordinarily abundant in parts of North America, though it has now been nearly killed out by man. It would arrive in flocks of millions on its migratory journeys in search of food.]
Champlain thought Massachusetts (in his first voyage) a most attractive region in the summer, what with the blue water of the enclosed arms of the sea, the lofty forest trees, and the fields of Indian corn and other crops.
When these French explorers reached the harbour of Boston, the islands and mainland were swarming with the native population. The Amerindians were intensely interested in the arrival of the first sailing vessel they had ever seen. Although it was only a small barque, its size was greater than any canoe known to them. As it seemed to spread huge white wings and to glide silently through the water without the use of paddles or oars, it filled them with surprise and admiration. They manned all their canoes and came out in a flotilla to express their honour and reverence for the wonderful white men. But when the French took their leave, it was equally obvious that the natives experienced a sense of relief, for they were disquieted as well as filled with admiration at the arrival of these wonderful beings from an unknown world.
[Footnote 14: It is interesting to learn from his accurate notes that in Massachusetts (and from thence southwards) there were no more bark canoes, but that the canoes were "dug-outs"—trunks of tall trees burnt and chipped till they were hollowed into a narrow vessel of considerable length.]
Champlain describes the wigwams or native huts as being cone-shaped, heavily thatched with reeds, with an opening at the top of the roof for the smoke to escape. Inside the huts was a low bed raised a foot from the ground and made of short posts driven into the ground, with a surface made of boards split from trees. On these boards were laid either the dressed skins of deer or bear, or thick mattresses made of reeds or rushes. The beds were large enough for several people to lie on. Champlain describes the huts as being full of fleas, and likewise the persons of the nearly naked Indians, who carried these fleas out with them into the fields when they were working, so that the Frenchmen by stopping to talk to the natives became covered with fleas to such an extent that they were obliged to change their clothes.
In the fields were cultivated not only maize, but beans similar to the beans grown by the natives of Brazil, vegetable marrows or pumpkins, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, and tobacco. The woods were filled with oaks, walnut trees, and the red "cedar" of North America, really a very large juniper, the foliage of which in the summertime often assumes a reddish colour, together with the trunk. This Virginian juniper or "red cedar" is now quite a common tree in England. In warm weather it exhales a delicious aromatic scent.
[Footnote 15: This tuber, which is a well-known and very useful vegetable in England, comes from the root of a species of sunflower (Helianthus tuberosus). It has nothing to do with the real artichoke, which is a huge and gorgeous thistle, and it has equally nothing to do with Jerusalem. The English people have always taken a special delight in mispronouncing and corrupting words in order to produce as much confusion as possible in their names for things. Jerusalem is a corruption of Girasole, which is the Italian name given to this sunflower with the edible roots, because its flower is supposed always to turn towards the sun. The Jerusalem artichoke was originally a native of North America.]
[Footnote 16: These walnut trees were afterwards known in modern American speech as hickories, butter-nuts, and pig-nuts, all of which are allied to, but distinct from, the European walnut.]
All these natives of the Massachusetts coast were described by Champlain as being almost naked in the summertime, wearing at most a small piece of leather round the waist, and a short robe of spun hemp which hung down over the shoulders. Their faces were painted red, black and yellow. The men pulled out any hairs which might come on the chin, and thus were beardless. They were armed with pikes, clubs, bows, and arrows. The pikes were probably made of wood with the ends hardened by being burnt to a point in the fire, and the arrow tips were made of the sharp termination of the tail of the great king-crab.
[Footnote 17: Limulus polyphemus. This extraordinary crustacean is one of the oldest of living animals in its history, as it is closely related to the Xiphosura and even the Trilobites of the Primary Epoch, which existed millions of years ago. In a rough way it is a kind of connecting link between the Crustacea, or crabs and lobsters, and the Scorpions and spiders.]
These Massachusetts "Indians" described to Champlain a wonderful bird which at some seasons of the year they caught in snares and ate. This Champlain at once guessed was the wild turkey, now, of course, quite extinct in that region. This wild turkey of the eastern half of North America (including southern Canada) was quite a distinct form from the Mexican bird, which last is the origin of our domestic turkey.
In July, 1606, as De Monts had not returned from France, and the little colony at Port Royal was without supplies, they decided to leave two Frenchmen in charge of the local chief of the Mikmak Indians, and find their way along the coast to Cape Breton, where they might get a fishing vessel to take them back to France. But after travelling in an open boat—a chaloupe—round the coast of Nova Scotia they met another small boat off Cape Sable, under the charge of the secretary of De Monts, and learnt that Lieutenant-General DE POUTRINCOURT (one of the great names amongst the pioneers of Canada, and the man who had really chosen Port Royal for the French headquarters at Nova Scotia) had already returned from France with fresh supplies. Consequently, Champlain and his companions returned to Port Royal, and all set to work with eagerness to develop the settlement. Champlain relates in his book how he created vegetable gardens, trout streams and ponds, and a reservoir of salt water for sea fish; but he was soon off again on a fresh journey of exploration, because De Monts was not satisfied with Nova Scotia on account of the cold in winter. Accordingly Champlain examined the whole coast round the Bay of Fundy, and down to Cape Cod, and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. But in this region, already visited in past times by French, Spanish, and English ships, they found the natives treacherous and hostile. An unprovoked attack was made on the French after they landed, and several of the seamen were killed with arrows.
[Footnote 18: Jean de Biencourt, the Sieur de Poutrincourt and Baron de Saint-Just, were his full titles.]
On the 24th of May, 1607, a small barque of six or seven tons burden (fancy crossing the wide Atlantic from Brittany to Nova Scotia in a ship of that size at the present day!) arrived outside Port Royal from France, with an abrupt notification that De Monts' ten years' monopoly and charter were cancelled by Henry IV, and that all the colony was to be withdrawn and brought back to France. Henry IV took this action simply because De Monts attempted to make his monopoly a real one, and stop the ships of fur traders who were trading with the Amerindians of Cape Breton without his licence. These fur traders of Normandy then complained bitterly that because De Monts was a Protestant he was allowed not only to have this monopoly, but to endanger the spiritual welfare of the savages by spreading his false doctrines! So King Henry IV, volatile and capricious, like most of the French kings, cancelled a charter which had led to such heroic and remarkable results.
[Footnote 19: You will observe that neither the French nor the English sovereigns of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries went to much personal expense over the creation of colonies. They simply gave a charter or a monopoly, which cost them nothing, but which made other people pay.]
The greater part of the little colony had to leave Port Royal and make its way in small boats along the Nova Scotia coasts till they reached Cape Breton Island. Here fishing vessels conveyed them back to Brittany. It was in this boat journeying along the coast of Nova Scotia that Champlain discovered Halifax Harbour, then called by the Indian name of Shebuktu. As they passed along this coast with its many islands, they feasted on ripe raspberries, which grew everywhere "in the greatest possible quantity".
Poutrincourt, however, had succeeded in taking back with him samples of the corn, wheat, rye, barley, and oats which had been so successfully grown on the island of Sainte Croix and at Port Royal, and also presented to that monarch five brent-geese which he had reared up from eggs hatched under a hen. The king was so delighted at these presents that he once more veered about and gave to De Monts the monopoly of the fur trade for one more year, in order to enable him to renew his colonies in New France.
[Footnote 20: Branta canadensis, a handsome black-and-brown goose with white markings, which the French pioneers in Canada styled "outarde" or "bustard", and whose eggs were considered very good eating.]
The Sieur de Monts was again appointed by Henry IV Lieutenant-General in New France. The latter engaged Champlain as his lieutenant, and also sent out Du Pont Grave in command of the second vessel, as head of the trading operations. This time, on the advice of Champlain, the expedition made its way directly to the St. Lawrence River, stopping first at Tadoussac, where Du Pont Grave proceeded to take very strong measures with the Basque seamen, who were infringing his monopoly by trading with the natives in furs. Apparently they were still allowed to continue their whale fishery.
Once more Champlain heard from the Montagnais Indians of the great Salt Sea to the north of Saguenay, in other words, the southern extension of Hudson's Bay; and in his book he notes that the English in these latter years "had gone thither to find their way to China". However, he kept his intent fixed on the establishment of a French colony along the St. Lawrence, and may be said to have founded the city of Quebec (the site of which was then covered with nut trees) on the 4th of July, 1608. Then his enterprise was near being wrecked by a base conspiracy got up between a surgeon and a number of French artisans, who believed that by seizing and killing Champlain, and then handing over the infant settlement to the Spanish Basques, they might enable these traders and fishermen with their good strong ships to overcome Du Pont Grave, and seize the whole country. Naturally (they believed) the Basques would reward the conspirators, who would thus at a stroke become rich men. They none of them wished to go to France, but would live here independent of outside interference. A conspirator, however, revealed the plot to Champlain as he was planting one of the little gardens which he started as soon as he had been in a place a few days. He went about his business very discreetly, arrested all the leading conspirators, gave them a fair trial, had the ringleader executed by Pont Grave, and sent three others back to France. After this he settled down at Quebec for the winter, taking care, however, in the month of October, to plant seeds and vines for coming up in the spring.
In the summer of 1609 Champlain, apparently with the idea of thus exploring the country south of the St. Lawrence, decided to accompany a party of Algonkins and Hurons from Georgian Bay and the neighbourhood of Montreal, who were bent on attacking the Iroquois confederacy in the Mohawk country at the headwaters of the Hudson River. He was accompanied by two French soldiers—Des Marais and La Routte—and by a few Montagnais Indians from Tadoussac.
The Hurons were really of the same group (as regards language and descent) as the Iroquois (Irokwa), but in those days held aloof from the five other tribes who had formed a confederacy and alliance under the name of Ongwehonwe—"Superior Men". The Iroquois (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Kayugas, and Senekas) dominated much of what is now New York State, and from the mountain country of the Adirondaks and Catskills descended on the St. Lawrence valley and the shores of Lakes Ontario and Huron to rob and massacre.
[Footnote 21: Huron was a French name given to the westernmost group of the Iroquois family (see p. 159). The Huron group included the Waiandots, the Eries or Erigas, the Arendaronons, and the Atiwandoronk or "neutral" nation. The French sometimes called all these Huron tribes "the good Iroquois". Iroquois was probably pronounced "Irokwa", and seems to have been derived from a word like Irokosia, the name of the Adirondack mountain country.]
[Footnote 22: The confederacy was founded about 1450 by the great Hiawatha (of Longfellow's Poem), himself an Onondaga from south of Lake Ontario, but backed by the Mohawks only, in the beginning of his work.]
The route into the enemy's country lay along the Richelieu River and across Lake Champlain to its southern end, in sight of the majestic snow-crowned Adirondak Mountains. On the way the allies stopped at an island, held a kind of review, and explained their tactics to Champlain. They set no sentries and kept no strict watch at night, being too tired; but during the daytime the army advanced as follows: The main body marched in the centre along the warpath; a portion of the troops diverged on either side to hunt up food for the expedition; and a third section was told off for "intelligence" work, namely, they ran on ahead and roundabout to locate the enemy, looking out especially along the rivers for marks or signals showing whether friends or enemies had passed that way. These marks were devised by the chiefs of the different tribes, and were duly communicated to the war leaders of tribes in friendship or alliance, like our cipher codes; and equally they were changed from time to time to baffle the enemy. Neither hunters nor main body ever got in front of the advance guard, lest they should give an alarm. Thus they travelled until they got within two days or so of the enemies' headquarters; thenceforward they only marched by night, and hid in the woods by day, making no fires or noise, and subsisting only on cooked maize meal.
At intervals the soothsayers accompanying the army were consulted for signs and omens; and when the war-chiefs decided on their plan of campaign they summoned all the fighting men to a smooth place in a wood, cut sticks a foot long (as many as there were warriors), and each leader of a division "put the sticks in such order as seemed to him best, indicating to his followers the rank and order they were to observe in battle. The warriors watched carefully this proceeding, observing attentively the outline which their chief had made with the sticks. Then they would go away and set to placing themselves in such order as the sticks were in. This manoeuvre they repeated several times, and at all their encampments, without needing a sergeant to maintain them in the proper order they were able to keep accurately the positions assigned to them" (Champlain).
The Hurons who were accompanying Champlain frequently questioned him as to his dreams, they themselves having a great belief in the value of dreams as omens and indications of future events. One day, when they were approaching the country of the Iroquois, Champlain actually did have a dream. In this he imagined that he saw the Iroquois enemies drowning in a lake near a mountain. Moved to pity in his dream he wished to help them, but his savage allies insisted that they must be allowed to die. When he awoke he told the Amerindians of his dream, and they were greatly impressed, as they regarded it as a good omen.
Near the modern town of Ticonderoga the Hurons and Algonkins of Georgian Bay and Ottawa met a party of Iroquois, probably of the Mohawk tribe. The Iroquois had built rapidly a stockade in which to retreat if things should go badly with them, but the battle at first began in the old heroic style with as much ceremony as a French duel. First the allies from the St. Lawrence asked the Iroquois what time it would suit them to begin fighting the next day; then the latter replied: "When the sun is well up, if you don't mind? We can see better then to kill you all." Accordingly in the bright morning the Hurons and Algonkins advanced against the circular stockade of the Iroquois, and the Iroquois marched out to fight in great pomp, their leaders wearing plumed headdresses. With this exception both parties fought quite naked, and armed only with bows and arrows.
"I marched twenty paces in advance of the rest" (wrote Champlain) "till I was within about thirty paces of the Iroquois.... I rested my musket against my cheek, and aimed directly at one of the three chiefs. With the same shot two fell to the ground, and one of their men was so wounded that he died some time afterwards. I had loaded my musket with four balls. When they saw I had shot so favourably for them, they (the Algonkins and Hurons) raised such loud cries that one could not have heard it thunder.
"Meantime the arrows flew on both sides. The Iroquois were greatly astonished that two men had been so quickly killed, though they were equipped with armour woven from copper thread and with wood, which was proof against their arrows."
Whilst Champlain was loading to fire again one of his two companions fired a shot from the woods, whereupon the Iroquois took to flight, abandoning their camp and fort. As they fled they threw off their armour of wooden boards and cotton cloth.
As to the way in which the Hurons tortured their Iroquois prisoners, Champlain writes of one instance.
"They commanded him (the prisoner) to sing, if he had courage, which he did, but it was a very sad song." The Hurons kindled a fire, and when it was well alight they each took a brand from the blaze, the end of which was red-hot, and with this burnt the bodies of their prisoners tied to stakes. Every now and then they stopped and threw water over them to restore them from fainting. Then they tore out their finger nails and applied fire to the extremities of the fingers. After that they tore the scalps off their heads, and poured over the raw and bleeding flesh a kind of hot gum. Then they pierced the arms of the prisoners near the wrists, and drew up their sinews with sticks inserted underneath, trying to tear them out by force, and, if failing, cutting them. One poor wretch "uttered such terrible cries that it excited my pity to see him treated in this manner, yet at other times he showed such firmness that one would have said he suffered scarcely any pain at all".
In this case Champlain, seeing that the man could not recover from his injuries, drew apart and shot him dead, "thus putting an end to all the tortures he would have suffered".
But the savage Hurons were not yet satisfied. They opened the corpse and threw its entrails into the lake. Then they cut off head, arms, and legs, and cut out the heart; this they minced up, and endeavoured to force the other prisoners to eat it.
With those of his allies who were Montagnais Indians from Tadoussac, Champlain returned to that place. As they neared the shore the Montagnais women undressed themselves, jumped into the river, and swam to the prows of the canoes, from which they took the heads of the slain Iroquois. These they hung about their necks as if they had been some costly chain, singing and dancing meanwhile.
However, in spite of these and other horrors, Champlain had "separated from his Upper Canadian allies with loud protestations of mutual friendship", promising to go again into their country and assist them with continued "fraternal" relations.
From this expedition Champlain learned much regarding the geography of eastern North America, and he brought back with him to France, to present to King Henry IV, two scarlet tanagers—one of the commonest and most beautiful birds of the eastern United States—a girdle of porcupine quills made from the Canadian porcupine, and the head of a gar-pike caught in Lake Champlain.
[Footnote 23: Unconsciously, no doubt, he brought away with him to the King of France one of the most remarkable freshwater fish living on the North-American continent, for the gar-pike belongs, together with the sturgeon and its allies, to an ancient type of fish the representatives of which are found in rock formations as ancient as those of the Secondary and Early Tertiary periods. Champlain may be said to have discovered this remarkable gar-pike (Lepidosteus osseus), which is covered with bony scales "so strong that a poniard could not pierce them". The colour he describes as silver-grey. The head has a snout two feet and a half long, and the jaws possess double rows of sharp and dangerous teeth. These teeth were used by the natives as lancets with which to bleed themselves when they suffered from inflammation or headache. Champlain declares that the gar-pike often captures and eats water birds. It would swim in and among rushes or reeds and then raise its snout out of the water and keep perfectly still. Birds would mistake this snout for the stump of a tree and would attempt to alight on it; whereupon the fish would seize them by the legs and pull them down under the water.]
On Champlain's return from France in 1610 (he and other Frenchmen and Englishmen of the time made surprisingly little fuss about crossing the North Atlantic in small sailing vessels, in spite of the storms of spring and autumn) he found the Iroquois question still agitating the minds of the Algonkins, Montagnais, and Hurons. Representatives of these tribes were ready to meet this great captain of the Mistigosh or Matigosh (as they called the French), and implored him to keep his promise to take part in another attack on the dreaded enemy of the Adirondak heights. Apparently the Iroquois (Mohawks) this time had advanced to meet the attack, and were ensconced in a round fortress of logs built near the Richelieu River. The Algonkins and their allies on this expedition were armed with clubs, swords, and shields, as well as bows and arrows. The swords of copper(?) were really knife blades attached to long sticks like billhooks. Before the barricade, as usual, both parties commenced the fight by hurling insults at each other till they were out of breath, and shouting "till one could not have heard it thunder". The circular log barricade, however, would never have been taken by the Algonkins and their allies but for the assistance of Champlain and three or four Frenchmen, who with their musketry fire at short range paralysed the Iroquois. Champlain and one other Frenchman were wounded with arrows in the neck and arm, but not seriously. The victory of the allies was followed by the usual torture of prisoners, which Champlain made a slight—only slight—attempt to prevent.
[Footnote 24: Spelt by Champlain with a "ch" instead of sh.]
[Footnote 25: Then called the Riviere des Iroquois.]
But results far more serious arose from these two skirmishes with the Iroquois in 1609 and 1610. The Confederacy of the Five Nations (afterwards six) realized that they had been attacked unprovoked by the dominant white men of the St. Lawrence, called by the Montagnais Mistigosh, and by the Iroquois Adoresetui ("men of iron", from their armour). They became the bitter enemies of the French, and tendered help first to the Dutch to establish themselves in the valley of the Hudson, and secondly to the English. In the great Colonial wars of the early eighteenth century the Iroquois were invaluable allies to the British forces, Colonial and Imperial, and counted for much in the struggle which eventually cost France Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, the two Canadas, and Louisiana. On the other hand, the French alliance with the Hurons, Algonkins, and Montagnais, begun by this brotherhood-in-arms with Champlain, secured for France and the French such widespread liking among the tribes of Algonkin speech, and their allies and friends, that the two Canadas and much of the Middle West, together with Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois, became French in sympathy without any war of conquest. When the French dominion over North America fell, in 1759, with the capture of Quebec by Wolfe's army, tribes of Amerindians went on fighting for five years afterwards to uphold the banner and the rule of the beloved French king.
On Champlain's next visit to Canada, in 1610, he handed over to the Algonkin Indians a French youth named Etienne Brule (see p. 88), to be taught the Algonkin language (the use of which was spread far and wide over north-east America), and, further, sent a Huron youth to France to be taught French. Between 1611 and 1616 he had explored much of the country between Montreal (the foundations of which city he may be said to have laid on May 29, 1611, for his stockaded camp is now in the centre of it) and Lakes Huron and Ontario, especially along the Ottawa River, that convenient short cut (as a water route) between the St. Lawrence at Sault St. Louis (Montreal) and Lakes Huron and Superior. With short portages you can get in canoes from Montreal to the waters of Hudson Bay, or to Lake Winnipeg and the base of the Rocky Mountains.
In exploring this "River of the Algonkins" (as he called it), Champlain was nearly drowned between two rocks, and much hurt, from over bravery and want of knowledge of how to deal with a canoe on troubled water; but on June 4, 1613, he stood on the site of the modern city of Ottawa—the capital of the vast Canadian Dominion—and gazed at the marvellous Rideau or Curtain Fall, where the Rideau River enters the Ottawa. But the air was resonant with the sound of falling water. Three miles above the falls of the Gatineau and the Rideau, the main Ottawa River descended with a roar and a whirl of white foam and rainbow-tinted mist into the chasm called the Chaudiere or Kettle. On a later occasion he describes the way in which the Algonkins propitiated the Spirit of the Chasm:
"Continuing our way, we came to the Chaudiere Falls, where the savages carried out their customary ceremony. After transporting their canoes to the foot of the fall they assemble in one spot, where one of them takes up a collection on a wooden platter, into which each person puts a bit of tobacco. The collection having been made, the plate is placed in the midst of the troop, and all dance about it, singing after their style. Then one of the captains makes an harangue, setting forth that for a long time they have been accustomed to make this offering, by which means they are ensured protection against their enemies, that otherwise misfortune would befall them from the evil spirit. This done, the maker of the harangue takes the plate and throws the tobacco into the midst of the cauldron (the chasm of foaming water), whereupon they all together raise a loud cry. These poor people are so superstitious, that they would not believe it possible for them to make a prosperous journey without observing this ceremony at this place; for sometimes their enemies (Iroquois) await them at this portage, not venturing to go any farther on account of the difficulty of the journey. Consequently they are occasionally surprised and killed by the Iroquois at this place (the south bank of the Ottawa)."
Above the Chaudiere Champlain met the Algonkin chief, Tessouat, and thus described the burial places of his tribe:
"On visiting the island I observed their cemeteries, and was struck with wonder as I saw sepulchres of a shape like shrines, made of pieces of wood fixed in the ground at a distance of about three feet from each other, and intersecting at the upper end. On the intersections above they place a large piece of wood, and in front another upright piece on which is carved roughly, as would be expected, the figure of the male or female interred. If it is a man, they add a shield, a sword attached to a handle after their manner, a mace, and bow and arrows. If it is a chief, there is a plume on his head, and some other matachia or embellishment. If it is a child, they give it a bow and arrow, if a woman or girl, a boiler, an earthen vessel, a wooden spoon, and an oar. The entire sepulchre is six or seven feet long at most, and four wide; others are smaller. They are painted yellow and red, with various ornaments as neatly done as the carving. The deceased is buried with his dress of beaver or other skins which he wore when living, and they lay by his side all his possessions, as hatchets, knives, boilers, and awls, so that these things may serve him in the land whither he goes; for they believe in the immortality of the soul, as I have elsewhere observed. These carved sepulchres are only made for the warriors, for in respect to others they add no more than in the case of women, who are considered a useless class, accordingly but little is added in their case."
In the summer of 1615 Champlain, returning from France, made his way up the Ottawa River, and, by a short portage, to Lake Nipissing, thence down French River to the waters of Lake Huron. On the banks of the French River he met a detachment of the Ottawa tribe (of the Algonkin family). These people he styled the Cheveux Releves, because the men's hair was gathered up and dressed more carefully and becomingly on the top of the head than (he says) could at that time be done by a hairdresser in France. This arrangement of the hair gave the men a very handsome appearance, but here their toilet ended, for they wore no clothes whatever (in the summertime), making up for this simplicity by painting their faces in different colours, piercing their ears and nostrils and decorating them with shell beads, and tattooing their bodies and limbs with elaborate patterns.
These Ottawas carried a club, a long bow and arrows, and a round shield of dressed leather, made (wrote Champlain) "from the skin of an animal like the buffalo". The chief of the party explained many things to the white man by drawing with a piece of charcoal on the white bark of the birch tree. He gave him to understand that the present occupation of his band of warriors was the gathering of blueberries, which would be dried in the sun, and could then be preserved for eating during the winter.
[Footnote 26: This was the first intimation probably that any European sent home for publication regarding the existence of the bison in North America, though the Spanish explorers nearly a hundred years before Champlain must have met with it in travelling through Louisiana, Texas, and northern Mexico. The bison is not known ever to have existed near Hudson Bay, or in Canada proper (basin of the St. Lawrence). South of Canada it penetrated to Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River, but not farther eastward.]
From French River, Champlain passed southwards to the homeland of the Hurons, which lay to the east of what Champlain called "the Fresh Water Sea" (Lake Huron). This country he describes in enthusiastic terms. The Hurons, like the other Iroquois tribes (and unlike the hunting races to the north of them), were agriculturists, and cultivated pumpkins, sunflowers, beans and Indian corn.
[Footnote 27: The Amerindians of the Lake regions made much use of the sunflowers of the region (Helianthus multiflorus). Besides this species of sunflower already mentioned, which furnishes tubers from its roots (the "Jerusalem" artichoke) others were valued for their seeds, and some or all of these are probably the originals of the cultivated sunflower in European gardens. The largest of these was called Soleille by the French Canadians. It grew in the cultivated fields of the Amerindians to seven or eight feet in height, with an enormous flower. The seeds were carefully collected and boiled. Their oil was collected then from the water and was used to grease the hair. This same Huron country (the Simcoe country of modern times) was remarkable for its wild fruits. There was the Canada plum (Prunus americana), the wild black cherry (Prunus serotina), the red cherries (P. pennsylvanica), the choke cherry (P. virginiana), wild apples (Pyrus coronaria), wild pears (a small berry-like pear called "poire" by the French: Pyrus canadensis), and the may-apple (Podophyllum peltatum). Champlain describes this may-apple as of the form and colour of a small lemon with a similar taste, but having an interior which is very good and almost like that of figs. The may-apples grow on a plant which is two and a half feet high, with not more than three or four leaves like those of the fig tree, and only two fruits on each plant.]
The Hurons persuaded Champlain to go with them to attack the Iroquois tribe of the Senekas (Entuhonorons) on the south shores of Lake Ontario. On the way thither he noticed the abundance of stags and bears, and, near the lake, of cranes, white and purple-brown.
[Footnote 28: The cranes of Canada—so often alluded to by the French explorers as "Grues"—are of two species, Grus canadensis, with its plumage of a purple-grey, and Grus americanus, which is pure white (see p. 139).]
On the southern shores of the lake were large numbers of chestnut trees, "whose fruit was still in the burr. The chestnuts are small but of a good flavour." The southern country was covered with forests, with very few clearings. After crossing the Oneida River the Hurons captured eleven of the Senekas, four women, one girl, three boys, and three men. The people had left the stockade in which their relations were living to go and fish by the lake shore. One of the Huron chiefs—the celebrated Iroquet, who had been so much associated with Champlain from the time of his arrival—proceeded at once to cut off the finger of one of these women prisoners. Whereupon Champlain, firmer than in years gone by, interposed and reprimanded him, pointing out that it was not the act of a warrior such as he declared himself to be, to conduct himself with cruelty towards women "who had no defence but their tears, so that one should treat them with humanity on account of their helplessness and weakness". Champlain went on to say that this act was base and brutal, and that if he committed any more of such cruelties he, Champlain, "would have no heart to assist or favour them in the war". To this Iroquet replied that their enemies treated them in the same manner, but that since this was displeasing to the Frenchmen he would not do anything more to women, but he would not promise to refrain from torturing the men.
[Footnote 29: Lakes Ontario and Huron were probably first actually reached by Father Le Caron, a Recollett missionary who came out with Champlain in 1615 (see p. 90), and by Etienne Brule, Champlain's interpreter.]
However, in the subsequent fighting which occurred when they reached the six-sided stockade of the Senekas (a strong fortification which faced a large pond on one side, and was surrounded by a moat everywhere else except at the entrance), the Hurons and Algonkins showed a great lack of discipline. Champlain and the few Frenchmen with him, by using their arquebuses, drove the enemy back into the fort, but not without having some of their Indian allies wounded or killed. Champlain proposed to the Hurons that they should erect what was styled in French a cavalier—a kind of box, with high, loopholed sides, which was erected on a tall scaffolding of stout timbers. This was to be carried by the Hurons to within a pike's length of the stockade. Four French arquebusiers then scrambled up into the cavalier and fired through the loopholes into the huts of the Seneka town. Meantime the Hurons were to set fire, if possible, to the wooden stockade. They managed the whole business so stupidly that the fire produced no effect, the flames being blown in the opposite direction to that which was desired. The brave Senekas threw water on to the blazing sticks and put out the fire. Champlain was wounded by an arrow in the leg and knee. The reinforcement of the five hundred Hurons expected by the allies did not turn up. The Hurons with Champlain lost heart, and insisted on retreating. Only the dread of the French firearms prevented the retreat being converted into a complete disaster. Whenever the Senekas came near enough to get speech with the French they asked them "why they interfered with native quarrels".
Champlain being unable to walk, the Hurons made a kind of basket, similar to that in which they carried their wounded. In this he was so crowded into a heap, and bound and pinioned, that it was as impossible for him to move "as it would be for an infant in his swaddling clothes". This treatment caused him considerable pain after he had been carried for some days; in fact he suffered agonies while fastened in this way on to the back of a savage.
He was afterwards obliged to pass the winter of 1615-6 in the Huron country. At that time it swarmed with game. Amongst birds, there were swans, white cranes, brent-geese, ducks, teal, the redbreasted thrush (which the Americans call "robin"), brown larks (Anthus), snipe, and other birds too numerous to mention, which Champlain seems to have brought down with his fowling-piece in sufficient quantities to feed the whole party whilst waiting for the capture of deer on a large scale.
Meanwhile, many of the Indians were catching fish, "trout and pike of prodigious size". When they desired to secure a large number of deer, they would make an enclosure in a fir forest in the form of the two converging sides of a triangle, with an open base. The two sides of these traps were made of great stakes of wood closely pressed together, from 8 to 9 feet high; and each of the sides was 1000 yards long. At the point of the triangle there was a little enclosure. The Hurons were so expeditious in this work that in less than ten days these long fences and the "pound" or enclosure at their convergence were finished. They then started before daybreak and scattered themselves in the woods at a considerable distance behind the commencement of these fences, each man separated from his fellow by about 80 yards. Every Huron carried two pieces of wood, one like a drumstick and the other like a flat, resonant board. They struck the flat piece of wood with the drumstick and it made a loud clanging sound. The deer who swarmed in the forest, hearing this noise, fled before the savages, who drove them steadily towards the converging fences. As they closed up, the Hurons imitated very cleverly the yapping of wolves. This frightened the deer still more, so that they huddled at last into the final enclosure, where they were so tightly packed that they were completely at the men's mercy. "I assure you," writes Champlain, "there is a singular pleasure in this chase, which takes place every two days, and has been so successful that in thirty-eight days one hundred and twenty deer were captured. These were made good use of, the fat being kept for the winter to be used as we do butter, and some of the flesh to be taken to their homes for their festivities."
Champlain himself, in the winter of 1615, pursuing one day a remarkable bird "which was the size of a hen, had a beak like a parrot and was entirely yellow, except for a red head and blue wings, and which had the flight of the partridge"—a bird I cannot identify—lost his way in the woods. For two days he wandered in the wilderness, sustaining himself by shooting birds and roasting them. But at last he found his way back to a river which he recognized, and reached the camp of the Hurons, who were extremely delighted at his return. Had they not found him, or had he not come back of himself, they told him that they could never again have visited the French for fear of being held responsible for his death.
By the month of December of this year (1615) the rivers, lakes, and ponds were all frozen. Hitherto, Champlain had had to walk when he could not travel in a canoe, and carry a load of twenty pounds, while the Indians carried a hundred pounds each. But now the water was frozen the Hurons set to work and made their sledges. These were constructed of two pieces of board, manufactured from the trunks of trees by the patient use of a stone axe and by the application of fire. These boards were about 6 inches wide, and 6 or 7 feet long, curved upwards at the forward end and bound together by cross pieces. The sides were bordered with strips of wood, which served as brackets to which was fastened the strap that bound the baggage upon the sledge. The load was dragged by a rope or strap of leather passing round the breast of the Indian, and attached to the end of the sledge. The sledge was so narrow that it could be drawn easily without impediment wherever an Indian could thread his way over the snow through the pathless forests.
The rest of the winter and early spring Champlain spent alone, or in company with Father Joseph Le Caron (one of the Recollet missionaries), visiting the Algonkin and Huron tribes in the region east of Lake Huron. He has left this description of the modern country of Simcoe, the home, three hundred years ago, of the long-vanished Hurons; and gives us the following particulars of their home life. The Huron country was a pleasant land, most of it cleared of forest. It contained eighteen villages, six of which were enclosed and fortified by palisades of wood in triple rows, bound together, on the top of which were galleries provided with stores of stones, and birch-bark buckets of water; the stones to throw at an enemy, and the water to extinguish any fire which might be put to the palisades. These eighteen villages contained about two thousand warriors, and about thirty thousand people in all. The houses were in the shape of tunnels, and were thatched with the bark of trees. Each lodge or house would be about 120 feet long, more or less, and 36 feet wide, with a 10-foot passage-way through the middle from one end to the other. On either side of the tunnel were placed benches 4 feet high, on which the people slept in summer in order to avoid the annoyance of the fleas which swarmed in these habitations. In winter time they slept on the ground on mats near the fire. In the summer the cabins were filled with stocks of wood to dry and be ready for burning in winter. At the end of each of these long houses was a space in which the Indian corn was preserved in great casks made of the bark of trees. Inside the long houses pieces of wood were suspended from the roof, on to which were fastened the clothes, provisions, and other things of the inmates, to keep them from the attacks of the mice which swarmed in these villages. Each hut might be inhabited by twenty-four families, who would maintain twelve fires. The smoke, having no proper means of egress except at either end of the long dwelling, and through the chinks of the roof, so injured their eyes during the winter season that many people lost their sight as they grew old.
[Footnote 30: They were almost completely exterminated by the Iroquois confederacy between thirty and forty years after Champlain's visit.]
"Their life", writes Champlain, "is a miserable one in comparison with our own, but they are happy amongst themselves, not having experienced anything better, nor imagining that anything more excellent could be found."
These Amerindians ordinarily ate two meals a day, and although Champlain and his men fasted all through Lent, "in order to influence them by our example", that was one of the practices they did not copy from the French.
The Hurons of this period painted their faces black and red, mixing the colours with oil made from sunflower seed, or with bears' fat. The hair was carefully combed and oiled, and sometimes dyed a reddish colour; it might be worn long or short, or only on one side of the head. The women usually dressed theirs in one long plait. Sometimes it was done up into a knot at the back of the head, bound with eelskin. The men were usually dressed in deerskin breeches, with gaiters of soft leather. The shoes ("Moccasins") were made of the skin of deer, bears, or beavers. In addition to this the men in cold weather wore a great cloak. The edges of these cloaks would often be decorated with bands of brown and red colour alternating with strips of a whitish-blue, and ornamented with bands of porcupine quills. These, which were originally white or grey in colour, had been previously dyed a fine scarlet with colouring matter from the root of the bed-straw (Galium tinctorum). The women were loaded with necklaces of violet or white shell beads, bracelets, ear-rings, and great strings of beads falling below the waist. Sometimes they would have plates of leather studded with shell beads and hanging over the back.
In 1616 Champlain returned to France, but visited Quebec in 1617 and 1618. During the years spent at Quebec, which followed his explorations of 1616, he was greatly impeded in his work of consolidating Canada as a French colony by the religious strife between the Catholics and Huguenots, and the narrow-minded greed of the Chartered company of fur-trading merchants for whom he worked. But in 1620 he came back to Canada as Lieutenant-Governor (bringing his wife with him), and after attending to the settlement of a violent commercial dispute between fur-trading companies he tried to compose the quarrel between the Iroquois and the Algonkins, and brought about a truce which lasted till 1627.
In 1628 came the first English attack on Canada. A French fleet was defeated and captured in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in the following year Champlain, having been obliged to surrender Quebec (he had only sixteen soldiers as a garrison, owing to lack of food), voyaged to England more or less as a prisoner of state in the summer of 1629. He found, on arriving there, that the cession of Quebec was null and void, peace having been concluded between Britain and France two months before the cession. Charles I remained true to his compact with Louis XIII, and Quebec and Nova Scotia were restored to French keeping. In 1633 Champlain returned to Canada as Governor, bringing with him a considerable number of French colonists. It is from 1633 that the real French colonization of Canada begins: hitherto there had been only one family of settlers in the fixed sense of the word; the other Frenchmen were fur traders, soldiers, and missionaries. But Champlain only lived two years after his triumphant return, and died at Quebec on Christmas Day, 1635.
His character has been so well summed up by Dr. S.E. Dawson, in his admirable book on the Story of the St. Lawrence Basin, that I cannot do better than quote his words:
"Champlain was as much at home in the brilliant court of France as in a wigwam on a Canadian lake, as patient and politic with a wild band of savages on Lake Huron as with a crowd of grasping traders in St. Malo or Dieppe. Always calm, always unselfish, always depending on God, in whom he believed and trusted, and thinking of France, which he loved, this single-hearted man resolutely followed the path of his duty under all circumstances; never looking for ease or asking for profit, loved by the wild people of the forest, respected by the courtiers of the king, and trusted by the close-fisted merchants of the maritime cities of France."
After Champlain: from Montreal to the Mississippi
A very remarkable series of further explorations were carried out as the indirect result of Champlain's work. In 1610 he had allowed a French boy of about eighteen years of age, named ETIENNE BRULE, to volunteer to go away with the Algonkins, in order to learn their language. Brule was taken in hand by Iroquet, a chief of the "Little Algonkins", whose people were then occupying the lands on either side of the Ottawa River, including the site of the now great city of Ottawa. After four years of roaming with the Indians, Brule was dispatched by Champlain with an escort of twelve Algonkins to the headwaters of the Suskuehanna, far to the south of Lake Ontario, in order to warn the Andastes tribe of military operations to be undertaken by the allied French, Hurons, and Algonkins against the Iroquois. This enabled Brule to explore Lake Ontario and to descend the River Suskuehanna as far south as Chesapeake Bay, a truly extraordinary journey at the period. This region of northern Virginia had just been surveyed by the English, and was soon to be the site of the first English colony in North America.
[Footnote 1: Mentioned on p. 80.]
[Footnote 2: The Andastes were akin to the Iroquois, but did not belong to their confederacy; they lived in Pennsylvania.]
[Footnote 3: The inaccurate statement has frequently been written about Newfoundland being "the first British American colony". Newfoundland was reached by the ship in which John Cabot sailed on his 1497 voyage of discovery, and a few years afterwards its shores were sought by the English in common with the French and the Portuguese, and later on the Spaniards and Basques, for the cod fishery. But no definite British settlement, such as subsequently grew into an actual colony, was founded in Newfoundland until the year 1624; the island was not recognized as definitely British till 1713, and no governor was appointed till 1728. The first permanent English colonial settlement in America was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607; and in the Bermudas and Barbados (West Indies) soon afterwards.]
In attempting to return to the valley of the St. Lawrence in 1616, with his Andaste guides, Brule lost his way, and to avoid starvation surrendered himself to the Seneka Indians (the westernmost clan of the Iroquois) against whom the recent warlike operations of the French were being directed. Discovering his nationality, the Senekas decided to torture him before burning him to death at the stake. As they tore off his clothes they found that he was wearing an Agnus Dei medal next his skin. Brule told them to be careful, as it was a medicine of great power which would certainly kill them. By a coincidence, at that very moment a terrific thunderstorm burst from a sky which until recently had been all sunshine. The Senekas were so scared by the thunder and lightning that they believed Brule to be a person of supernatural powers. They therefore released him, strove to heal such slight wounds as he had incurred, and carried him off to their principal town, where he became a great favourite. After a while they gave him guides to take him north into the country of the Hurons.
His further adventures led him to discover Lake Superior and the way thither through the Sault Ste. Marie, and to reach a place probably not far from the south coast of Hudson Bay, in which there was a copper mine. Then he explored the Montagnais country north of Quebec, and even at one time (in 1629) entered the service of the English, who had captured Quebec and Tadoussac from the French. When the English left this region Brule travelled again to the west and joined the Hurons once more.
His licentious conduct amongst his Indian friends seems to have roused them to such a pitch of anger that in 1632 they murdered him, then boiled and ate his body. But immediately afterwards misfortune seemed to fall on the place. The Hurons were terrified at what they had done, and thought they heard or saw in the sky the spirits of the white relations of Brule—some said the sister, some the uncle—threatening their town (Toanche), which they soon afterwards burnt and deserted.
In 1615 Champlain, returning from France, had brought out with him friars of the Recollet order. These were the pioneer missionaries of Canada, prominent amongst whom was FATHER LE CARON, and these Recollets traversed the countries in the basin of the St. Lawrence between Lake Huron and Cape Breton Island, preaching Christianity to the Amerindians as well as ministering to the French colonists and fur traders. One of these Recollet missionaries died of cold and hunger in attempting to cross New Brunswick from the St. Lawrence to the Bay of Fundy, and another—Nicholas Viel—was the first martyr in Canada in the spread of Christianity, for when travelling down the Ottawa River to Montreal he was thrown by the pagan Hurons (together with one of his converts) into the waters of a rapid since christened Sault le Recollet. Another Recollet, Father d'Aillon, prompted by Brule, explored the richly fertile, beautiful country known then as the territory of the Neutral nation, that group of Huron-Iroquois Amerindians who strove to keep aloof from the fierce struggles between the Algonkins and Hurons on the one hand and the eastern Iroquois clans on the other. This region, which lies between the Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron, is the most attractive portion of western Canada. Lying in the southernmost parts of the Dominion, and nearly surrounded by sheets of open water, it has a far milder climate than the rest of eastern Canada.
[Footnote 4: The Recollet (properly Recollect) friars were a strict branch of the Franciscan order that were sometimes called the Observantines. They were also known as "Recollects" (pronounced in French recollet) because they were required to be constantly keeping guard over their thoughts. This development of the Franciscan order of preaching missionary friars was originally a Spanish one, founded early in the sixteenth century, and becoming well established in the Spanish Netherlands. Many of them were Flemings or Walloons.]
In 1626 the Jesuit order supplanted the Recollets, and commenced a campaign both of Christian propaganda and of geographical exploration which has scarcely finished in the Canada of to-day.
In 1627 the war between the Iroquois Confederacy and the Huron and Algonkin tribes recommenced, and this, together with the British capture of Quebec and other portions of Canada, put a stop for several years to the work of exploration. This was not resumed on an advanced scale till 1634, when Champlain, unable himself, from failing health, to carry out his original commission of seeking a direct passage to China and India across the North-American continent, dispatched a Norman Frenchman named JEAN NICOLLET to find a way to the Western Sea. Nicollet, as a very young man, had lived for years amongst the Amerindian tribes, especially amongst the Nipissings near the lake of that name. Being charged, amongst other things, with the task of making peace between the Hurons and the tribes dwelling to the west of the great lakes, Nicollet discovered Lake Michigan. He was so convinced of the possibility of arriving at the Pacific Ocean, and thence making his way to China, that in the luggage which he carried in his birch-bark canoe was a dress of ceremony made of Chinese damask silk embroidered richly with birds and flowers. He was on his way to discover the Winnebago Indians, or "Men of the Sea", of whom Champlain had heard from the Hurons, with whom they were at war. But the great water from which they derived their name was not in this instance a sea, but the Mississippi River. The Winnebago Indians were totally distinct from the Algonkins or the Iroquois, and belonged to the Dakota stock, from which the great Siou confederation was also derived.
[Footnote 5: See p. 160.]
Nicollet advanced to meet the Winnebagos clad in his Chinese robe and with a pistol in each hand. As he drew near he discharged his pistols, and the women and children fled in terror, for all believed him to be a supernatural being, a spirit wielding thunder and lightning. However, when they recovered from their terror the Winnebagos gave him a hearty welcome, and got up such lavish feasts in his honour, that one chief alone cooked 120 beavers at a single banquet.
Nicollet certainly reached the water-parting between the systems of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi, and under that name—Misi-sipi—"great water"—he heard through the Algonkin Indians of a mighty river lying three days' journey westward from his last camp. Winnebago (from which root is also derived the names of the Lakes Winnipeg and Winnipegosis much farther to the north-west) meant "salt" or "foul" water. Both terms might therefore be applied to the sea, and also to the lakes and rivers which, in the minds of the Amerindians, were equally vast in length or breadth.
From 1648 to 1653 the whole of the Canada known to the French settlers and explorers was convulsed by the devastating warfare carried on by the Iroquois, who during that period destroyed the greater part of the Algonkin and Huron clans. The neutral nation of Lake Erie (the Erigas) was scattered, and between the shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron and Montreal the country was practically depopulated, except for the handfuls of French settlers and traders who trembled behind their fortifications. Then, to the relief and astonishment of the French, one of the Iroquois clans—the Onondaga—proposed terms of peace, probably because they had no more enemies to fight of their own colour, and wished to trade with the French.
The fur trade of the Quebec province had attracted an increasing number of French people (men bringing their wives) to such settlements as Tadoussac and Three Rivers. Amongst these were the parents of PIERRE ESPRIT RADISSON. This young man went hunting near Three Rivers station and was captured in the woods by Mohawks (Iroquois) who carried him off to one of their towns and intended to burn him alive. Having bound him at a stake, they proceeded to tear out some of his finger nails and shoot arrows at the less vital parts of his body. But a Mohawk woman was looking on and was filled with pity at the sufferings of this handsome boy. She announced her intention of adopting him as a member of her family, and by sheer force of will she compelled the men to release him. After staying for some time amongst the Mohawks he escaped, but was again captured just as he was nearing Three Rivers. Once more he was spared from torture at the intercession of his adopted relations. He then made an even bolder bid for freedom, and fled to the south, up the valley of the Richelieu and the Hudson, and thus reached the most advanced inland post of Dutch America—then called Orange, now Albany—on the Hudson River. From this point he was conveyed to Holland, and from Holland he returned to Canada.
Soon after his return he joined two Jesuit fathers who were to visit a mission station of the Jesuits amongst the Onondagas (Iroquois) on a lakelet about thirty miles south-east of the present city of Rochester. The Iroquois (whose language Radisson had learnt to speak) received them with apparent friendliness, and there they passed the winter. But in the spring Radisson found out that the Onondaga Iroquois were intending to massacre the whole of the mission. Instructed by him, the Jesuits pretended to have no suspicions of the coming attack, but all the while they were secretly building canoes at their fort. As soon as they were ready for flight, and the sun of April had completely melted the ice in the River Oswego, the French missionaries invited the Onondagas to a great feast, no doubt making out that it was part of the Easter festivities sanctioned by the Church. They pointed out to their guests that from religious motives as well as those of politeness it was essential that the whole of the food provided should be eaten, "nothing was to be left on the plate". They set before their savage guests an enormous banquet of maize puddings, roast pigs, roast ducks, game birds, and fish of many kinds, even terrapins, or freshwater turtles. The Iroquois ate and ate until even their appetites were satisfied. Then they began to cry off; but the missionaries politely insisted, and even told them that in failing to eat they were neglecting their religious duties. To help them in this respect they played hymn and psalm tunes on musical instruments. At last the Onondagas were gorged to repletion, and sank into a stertorous slumber at sunset. Whilst they slept, the Jesuits, their converts, and Radisson got into the already prepared canoes and paddled quickly down the Oswego River far beyond pursuit.
Radisson next joined his brother-in-law, Medard Chouart, and after narrowly escaping massacre by the Iroquois (once more on the warpath along the Ottawa River) reached the northern part of Lake Huron, and Green Bay on the north-west of Lake Michigan. From Green Bay they travelled up the Fox River and across a portage to the Wisconsin, which flows into the Mississippi. Down this river they sped, meeting people of the great Siou confederation and Kri (Cree) Indians, these last an Algonkin nation roaming in the summertime as far north as Hudson's Bay, until at length they reached the actual waters of the Mississippi, first of all white men. Returning then to Lake Michigan, the shores of which seemed to them an earthly paradise with a climate finer than Italy, they journeyed northwards into Lake Huron, and thence north-westwards through the narrow passages of St. Mary's River into Lake Superior. The southern coast of Lake Superior was followed to its westernmost point, where they made a camp, and from which they explored during the winter (in snowshoes) the Wisconsin country and collected information regarding the Mississippi and its great western affluent the Missouri. The Mississippi, they declared, led to Mexico, while the other great forked river in the far west was a pathway, perhaps, to the Southern Sea (Pacific).
The Jesuits, on the other hand, were convinced that Hudson's Bay (or the "Bay of the North") was at no great distance from Lake Superior (which was true) and that it must communicate to the north-west with the Pacific Ocean or the sea that led to China.
In 1661, without the leave of the French Governor of Canada, who wanted them to take two servants of his own with them and to give him half the profits of the venture, Chouart and Radisson hurried away to the west, picked up large bodies of natives who were returning to the regions north of Lake Huron, with them fought their way through the ambushed Iroquois, and once more navigated the waters of Lake Superior. Once again they started for the Mississippi basin and explored the country of Minnesota, coming thus into contact with native tribes which lived on the flesh of the bison. In Minnesota they met a second time the Kri or Kinistino Indians of north-central Canada, and joined one of their camps in the spring of 1662, somewhere to the west of Lake Superior. With Kri guides they started away to the north and north-east, no doubt by way of the Lake of the Woods, the English River, Lake St. Joseph, and the Albany River, thus reaching the salt sea at James Bay, the southernmost extension of Hudson Bay. Or they may have proceeded by an even shorter route, though with longer portages for canoes, through Lake Nipigon to the Albany.
The summer of 1662 they passed on the islands and shores of James Bay hunting "buffalo" with the Indians. Then, in 1663, travelling back along the same route they had followed in the previous year, they regained Lake Superior, and so passed by the north of Lake Huron to the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence. But on their return to Three Rivers they were arrested by the French Governor, D'Avaugour, who condemned them to imprisonment and severe fines. The courts of France gave them no redress, and in their furious anger Chouart and Radisson went over to the English, offered their services to England, and so brought about the creation of the Hudson Bay Company.
[Footnote 6: More probably musk oxen.]
Radisson's journey from England to Hudson Bay has been treated of in an earlier chapter: it is preferable to follow out to its finish the great, western impulse of the French, which led them to neglect for a time the doings of the British on the east coast of North America and in the sub-Arctic regions of Hudson Bay.
From 1660 onwards the Jesuit missionaries again took up vigorously that work of Christianizing the Amerindians which had been so completely checked by the frightful ravages of the Iroquois between 1648 and 1654.
By 1669 the Jesuits had three permanent stations in western Canada. The first was the mission station at Sault Ste. Marie, the second was the station of Ste. Esprit, on Lake Superior (not far from the modern town of Ashland), and the third was the station of St. Francois Xavier at the mouth of the Fox River, on Green Bay, Lake Michigan.
As regards some of the sufferings which these missionaries had to go through when travelling across Canada in the winter, I quote the following from The Relations of the Jesuits (p. 35):—
"I [Father de Crepieul] set out on the 16th of January, 1674, from the vicinity of Lake St. John, near the Saguenay River, with an Algonkin captain and two Frenchmen. We started after Mass, and walked five long leagues on snowshoes with much trouble, because the snow was soft and made our snowshoes very heavy. At the end of five leagues, we found ourselves on a lake four or five leagues long all frozen over, on which the wind caused great quantities of snow to drift, obscuring the air and preventing us from seeing where we are going. After walking another league and a half with great difficulty our strength began to fail. The wind, cold, and snow were so intolerable that they compelled us to retrace our steps a little, to cut some branches of fir which might in default of bark serve to build a cabin. After this we tried to light a fire, but were unable to do so. We were thus reduced to a most pitiful condition. The cold was beginning to seize us to an extraordinary degree, the darkness was great, and the wind blew fearfully. In order to keep ourselves from dying with cold, we resumed our march on the lake in spite of our fatigue, without knowing whither we were going, and all were greatly impeded with the wind and snow. After walking a league and a half we had to succumb in spite of ourselves and stop where we were. The danger we ran of dying from cold caused me to remember the charitable Father de Noue, who in a similar occasion was found dead in the snow, kneeling and with clasped hands.... We therefore remained awake during the rest of the night.... On the following morning two Frenchmen arrived from Father Albanel's cabin very opportunely, and kindled a great fire on the snow.... After this we resumed our journey on the same lake, and at last reached the spot where Father Albanel was.... A serious injury, caused by the fall of a heavy load upon his loins, prevented him from moving, and still more, from performing a missionary's duties."
One of the Jesuit fathers, Allouez, in founding the station of St. Francois Xavier on Green Bay, Lake Michigan, had gained further information about the wonderful Mississippi, which he called "Messi Sipi". He also thoroughly explored Lake Nipigon, to the north of Lake Superior. In 1669 two missionaries, named Dollier de Casson and Galinee, started from the seminary of St. Sulpice (Montreal) to reach the great tribes of the far west, supposed to be eager to learn of Christianity and known to be much more tractable than the Iroquois. These two missionaries, in their expedition of seven canoes and twenty-one Amerindians, were accompanied by a remarkable young man commonly known as La Salle, but whose real name was Robert Cavalier.
[Footnote 7: La Salle was the name of his property in France.]
Before leaving Lake Ontario, they actually passed the mouth of the Niagara River and heard the falls, but had not sufficient curiosity to leave their canoes and walk a short distance to see them. The wonderful cascades of Niagara, where the St. Lawrence leaving Lake Erie plunges 328 feet down into Lake Ontario (which is not much above sea level), remained nearly undiscovered and undescribed until the year 1678, when they were visited by Father Hennepin. Near the western end of Lake Ontario the two Sulpician missionaries met another Frenchman, Jolliet, who had come down to Lake Superior by way of the Detroit passage, which is really the portion of the St. Lawrence connecting Lake Huron with Lake Erie. Jolliet told the missionary de Casson of a great tribe in the far west, the Pottawatomies, who had asked for missionaries, and who were of Algonkin stock. La Salle, on the other hand, was determined to make for the rumoured Ohio River, which lay somewhere to the south-west of Lake Erie.
The two Sulpicians wintered in "the earthly paradise" to the north of Lake Erie, passing a delightful six months there in the amazing abundance of game and fish. They then met with various disasters to their canoes, and consequently gave up their western journey, passing northwards through Detroit and Lake St. Clair into Lake Huron, and thence to the Jesuit mission station of the Sault Ste. Marie. Here they were received rather coldly, as being rivals in the mission field and in exploration. They in their turn accused the Jesuits of thinking mainly, if not entirely, of the foundation of French colonies, and very little of evangelizing the natives.
JOLLIET, a Canadian by birth, was dispatched by the Viceroy of Canada in 1672 to explore the far west. Two years—1670—previously the French Government had for the first time adopted a really definite policy about Canada, and had taken formal possession of the Lake region and of all the territories lying between the lakes and the Mississippi. A great assembly of Indians was held at Sault Ste. Marie, near the east end of Lake Superior; and here a representative of the French Government, accompanied by numerous missionaries and by Jolliet, read a proclamation of the sovereignty of King Louis XIV of France and Navarre. Below a tall cross was erected a great shield bearing the arms of France. Father Allouez addressed the Indians in the Algonkin language, and told them of the all-powerful Louis XIV, who "had ten thousand commanders and captains, each as great as the Governor of Quebec". He reminded them how the troops of this king had beaten the unconquerable Iroquois, of how he possessed innumerable soldiers and uncountable ships; that at times the ground of France shook with the discharge of cannon, while the blaze of musketry was like the lightning. He pictured the king covered with the blood of his enemies and riding in the middle of his cavalry, and ordering so many of his enemies to be slain that no account could be kept of the number of their scalps, whilst their blood flowed in rivers. The Amerindians being what they were, addicted to warfare, and only recognizing the right of the strongest, it may be that this gospel of force was not quite so shocking and unchristian as it reads to us nearly 250 years afterwards, though it jars very much as coming from the lips of a missionary of Christianity. However, it must be remembered that but for the valour of the French soldiers in the awful period between 1648 and 1666 (when the Mohawks received a thorough and well-deserved thrashing) many of the tribes addressed on this occasion by the Jesuit missionaries would have been completely exterminated; the Iroquois would have depopulated much of north-eastern America. It is obvious, indeed, from our study of the conditions of life amongst the Amerindians, that one reason why the New World was so poorly populated at the time of its discovery by Europeans was the wars of extermination between tribe and tribe; for America between the Arctic regions and Tierra del Fuego is marvellously well supplied with natural food products—game, fish, fruits, nuts, roots, and grain—much more so than any area of similar extent in the Old World.
[Footnote 8: Born at Quebec in 1645.]
Jolliet was to be accompanied on his westward expedition by Father JACQUES MARQUETTE, a Jesuit missionary who had become well acquainted with the tribes visiting Lake Superior, and had learnt the Siou dialect of the Illinois people. On May 17, 1673, Jolliet and Marquette started from the Straits of Michili-Makinak with only two bark canoes and five Amerindians. They coasted along the north coast of Lake Michigan, passed into Green Bay, and thence up the River Fox. They were assisted by the Maskutins, or Fire Indians, and were given Miami guides. Thence the natives assisted them to transport their canoes and baggage over the very short distance that separates the upper waters of the Fox River from the Wisconsin River, and down the Wisconsin they glided till they reached the great Mississippi. The Governor of Quebec, who had sent Jolliet on this mission, believed that the Great River of the west would lead them to the Gulf of California, which was then called the Vermilion Sea by the Spaniards, because it resembled in shape and colour the Red Sea.
[Footnote 9: Father Jacques Marquette was born in the province of Champagne, eastern France. He came to Canada when he was twenty-nine years old, having already been prepared by the Jesuits for priesthood and missionary work since his seventeenth year. He spent nine years in Canada, and died at the age of thirty-eight. He has left an enduring memory for goodness, courage, and purity of life.]
"On the 17th of June (1673)", writes Father Marquette, "we safely entered the Mississippi with a joy that I cannot express. Its current is slow and gentle, the width very unequal. On its banks there are hardly any woods or mountains. The islands are most beautiful, and they are covered with fine trees. We saw deer and cattle (bison), geese, and swans. From time to time we came upon monstrous fish, one of which struck our canoe with such violence that I thought it was a great tree. On another occasion we saw on the water a monster with the head of a tiger, a sharp nose like that of a wild cat, with whiskers and straight erect ears. The head was grey, and the neck quite black (possibly a lynx).... We found that turkeys had taken the place of game, and the pisikiou, or wild cattle, that of the other animals."