[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:
THE CALUMET OR TOBACCO-PIPE DANCE
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-wⱥ; 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 awⱥ; 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 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 intoxicated.
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.
[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."
[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 missionaries.
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. 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, Naywatame-poet.]
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. 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". 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.]
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. 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 horseback.
[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 bears.
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. 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, 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 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 floor.
"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 mountains.
"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.
[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 Sⱥki 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 place.
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 English.
"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 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; 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 alarm.
"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 morsel.
"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 boil.
"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, 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 hundredweight.
"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. 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 Mountains.]
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 angry.
"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 skins.
[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.