Pioneers in Canada
by Sir Harry Johnston
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

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

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

[Footnote 10: See p. 128.]

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 12: See p. 166.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Samuel Hearne

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the 19th of May, geese, swans, ducks, gulls, and other birds of passage were so plentiful, flying from south to north, and halting to rest at the lake, that Hearne felt the time had come to resume his journey, provisions being now very plentiful and the worst of the thaw over. The weather was remarkably fine and pleasant as the party travelled northwards.

There must have been good patent medicines even in those days. Of these Hearne possessed "Turlington's Drops" and "Yellow Basilicon", and with these he not only healed the terrible wounds of a valuable Indian who had cut his leg most severely (when making birch-bark dishes, spoons, &c), but also the hand of another Indian, which was shattered with the bursting of a gun. These medicines soon restored the use of his hand, so that in a short time he was out of danger, while the carver of birch-bark spoons was able to walk. Nevertheless, although they were to the south of the 60th degree of latitude, the snow was not completely melted until the end of June.

All at once the weather became exceedingly hot, the sledges had to be thrown away, and each man had to carry on his back a heavy load. For instance, Hearne was obliged to carry his quadrant for taking astronomical observations, and its stand; a trunk containing books and papers, &c.; a large compass; and a bag containing all his wearing apparel; also a hatchet, a number of knives, files, &c., and several small articles intended for presents to the natives—in short, a weight of sixty pounds. Moreover, the barren ground was quite unsuited to the pitching of the southern type of tent, the poles of which obviously could not be driven into the bare rock, so that Hearne was obliged to sleep in the open air in all weathers. Very often he was unable to make a fire, and was constantly reduced to eating his meat quite raw. "Notwithstanding these accumulated and complicated hardships, we continued in perfect health and good spirits." The average day's walk was twenty miles, sometimes without any other subsistence than a pipe of tobacco and a drink of water.

At last they saw three musk oxen grazing by the side of a small lake. This seemed a splendid piece of fortune, but, to their mortification, before they could get one of them skinned, a tremendous downpour of rain ensued, so as to make it out of their power to have a fire, for their only form of fuel was moss. And the flesh of the musk ox eaten raw was disgusting; it was coarse and tough, and tasted so strongly of musk that Hearne could hardly swallow it. "None of our natural wants," he writes, "except thirst, are so distressing or hard to endure as hunger.... For want of action, the stomach so far loses its digestive powers that, after long fasting, it resumes its office with pain and reluctance." After these prolonged fasts, his stomach was scarcely able to contain two or three ounces of food without producing the most agonizing pain. "We fasted many times two whole days and nights, and twice for three days; once for nearly seven days, during which we tasted not a mouthful of anything, except a few cranberries, water, scraps of old leather, and burnt bones."

At a place 63 deg. north latitude he bought a canoe for a single knife "the full value of which did not exceed one penny", having been told that they would soon reach rivers through which they could not wade. And, moreover, they found an Indian who was willing to carry it. In July his guide persuaded him to join an encampment of natives—about six hundred persons living in seventy tents—asserting that, as it was no use proceeding much farther north in their search for the Coppermine River that season, it would be well to winter to the west, and resume their northern journey in the spring. The country, though quite devoid of trees, and mostly barren rock, was covered with a herb or shrub called by the Indian name of Wishakapakka,[2] from which the European servants of the Hudson's Bay Company had long been used to prepare a kind of tea by steeping it in boiling water. Here there were multitudes of reindeer feeding on the Cladina lichen and the Indians with Hearne killed large numbers for the food of the party, and also for their skins and the marrow in their bones.

[Footnote 2: This word is said to be a corruption or altered form of Wishakagamiu, a liquid or broth (Kri language). The drink made from this shrub or herb (Ledum palustre) is now known as Labrador tea. It is a bitter aromatic infusion.]

The Indian who had volunteered to carry the canoe proved unequal to his task. But Hearne found another of his carriers who was willing to take the burden. In order, therefore, to be readier with his gun to shoot deer, he transferred a portion of his own load to the ex-canoe carrier. This portion consisted of the invaluable quadrant and its stand, and a bag of gunpowder. The gunpowder was of such importance to Hearne and his party that one wonders he made this exchange; for if he lost this powder he had no means of killing game, and was entirely dependent for food on the troop of Indians with whom he was travelling, and whom he knew to be most niggardly and inhospitable. Judge, therefore, of his horror when, at the end of a day's march, this weakly Indian porter was missing with his load. All night Hearne was unable to sleep with anxiety, and the whole of the next day he spent searching the rocky ground for miles to discover some sign of the missing man. At that season of the year it was like looking for a needle in a pottle of hay, for there was no snow, and equally no herbage, on which a man's foot could leave traces. However, at last, by some miracle, they discovered the load by the banks of a little river where a party of Indians had crossed.

Shortly afterwards, leaving his quadrant on its stand for a few minutes, whilst he went to eat his dinner, a violent wind arose and blew the whole thing on to the rocks, so that the quadrant was smashed and rendered useless. On this account he determined once more to return to Fort Prince of Wales. The Northern Indians[3] with whom Hearne travelled backwards towards the fort were most inhospitable, not to say dangerous. They robbed him of most of his goods, and refused to allow their women to assist his people to dress the reindeer skins out of which it would be necessary shortly to make coverings to protect them from the severe cold of the autumn. In fact Hearne was in rather a desperate condition by September, 1770, when he was joined by a party of Indians under a famous leader, whom he calls Matonabi.

[Footnote 3: The Indians of the Athapaskan or Dene group were usually called the Northern Indians by the Hudson Bay people, in comparison to all the other tribes of the more temperate regions farther south, who were known as the Southern Indians (Algonkins, &c.).]

Matonabi, though of Athapaskan stock, had, when a boy, resided several years at Prince of Wales's Fort, and learnt a little English, and, above all, was a master of several Algonkin dialects or languages, so that he could discourse with the Southern Indians. As soon as he heard of Hearne's distress he furnished him with a good, warm suit of skins, and had the reindeer skins dressed for the Indian carriers who accompanied Hearne. In journeying together, Matonabi invited him to return once more, with himself as guide, to discover the copper mines.

"He attributed all our misfortunes to the misconduct of my guides, and the very plan we pursued, by the desire of the Governor, in not taking any women with us on this journey, was, he said, the principal thing that occasioned all our wants. 'For,' said he, 'when all the men are heavy laden, they can neither hunt nor travel to any considerable distance; and in case they meet with success in hunting, who is to carry the produce of their labour?' 'Women,' added he, 'were made for labour; one of them can carry, or haul, as much as two men can do. They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at night; and, in fact, there is no such thing as travelling any considerable distance, or for any length of time, in this country, without their assistance.' 'Women,' said he again, 'though they do everything, are maintained at a trifling expense; for as they always stand cook, the very licking of their fingers in scarce times is sufficient for their subsistence.'

"This," added Hearne, "however odd it may appear, is but too true a description of the situation of women in this country: it is at least so in appearance; for the women always carry the provisions, though it is more than probable they help themselves when the men are not present."

On the 7th of December, 1770, Samuel Hearne started again from Prince of Wales's Fort, Hudsons Bay, but under very much happier circumstances, Matonabi being practically in charge of the expedition.

Unfortunately, on reaching the Egg River, where Matonabi's people had made a cache or hiding place in which they had stored a quantity of provisions and implements, they found that other Indians had discovered this hiding place and robbed it of nearly every article. This was a great disappointment to Matonabi's people; but Hearne remarks the fortitude with which they bore this, nor did one of them ever speak of revenge. But the expedition's scarcity of food obliged them to push on from morning till night, day after day; yet the road being very bad, and their sledges heavy, they were seldom able to do more than eighteen miles a day. Hearne himself writes that he never spent so dull a Christmas. For the last three days he had not tasted a morsel of anything, except a pipe of tobacco and a drink of snow water, yet he had to walk daily from morning till night heavily laden. However, at the end of December they reached Island Lake, where they entered a camp of Matonabi's people, and here they found a little food in the way of fish and dried venison. From Island Lake they made their way in a zigzag fashion, stopping often to drive reindeer into pounds to secure large supplies of venison and of skins, till, in the month of April, 1771, they reached a small lake with an almost unpronounceable name, which meant "Little Fish Hill", from a high hill which stood at the west end of this sheet of water.

On an island in this lake they pitched their tents, as deer were very numerous. During this time also they were busily employed in preparing staves of birch wood, about seven or eight feet long, to serve as tent poles in the summer, and in the winter to be converted into snowshoe frames. Here also Chief Matonabi purchased another wife. He had now with him no less than seven, most of whom would for size have made good grenadiers. He prided himself much on the height and strength of his wives, and would frequently say few women could carry off heavier loads. In fact in this country wives were very seldom selected for their beauty, but rather for their strength.

"Ask a Northern Indian," wrote Hearne, "'What is beauty?' He will answer: 'A broad, flat face, small eyes, high cheekbones, three or four broad black lines across each cheek, a low forehead, a broad chin, a clumsy hook nose, and a tawny hide.'"

But the model woman amongst these Indians was one who was capable of dressing all kinds of skins and making them into clothing, and who was strong enough to carry a load of about a hundred pounds in weight in summer, and to haul perhaps double that weight on a sledge in winter. "As to their temper, it is of little consequence; for the men have a wonderful facility in making the most stubborn comply with as much alacrity as could possibly be expected." When the men kill any large beast the women are always sent to bring it to the tent. When it is brought there, every operation it undergoes, such as splitting, drying, pounding, is performed by the women. When anything is prepared for eating it is the women who cook it; and when it is done, not even the wives and daughters of the greatest chiefs in the country are served until all the males—even the male slaves—have eaten what they think proper. In times of scarcity it was frequently the lot of the women to be left without a single mouthful; though, no doubt, they took good care to help themselves in secret.

Hearne mentions that in this country among the Northern Indians the names of the boys were various and generally derived from some place, or season of the year, or animal; whilst the names of the girls were chiefly taken from some part or property of a marten,[4] such as the white marten, the black marten, the summer marten, the marten's head, foot, heart, or tail.

[Footnote 4: A fur-bearing animal (Mustela americana), very like the British pine marten.]

From the Lake of Little Fish Hill the party moved on to Lake Clowey, and here the Northern Indians set to work to build their canoes in the warm and dry weather, which was about to come in at the end of May. These canoes were very slight and simple in construction and wonderfully light, which was necessary, for some of the northern portages might be a hundred to one hundred and fifty miles in length, over which the canoes would have to be carried by the Indians. All the tools employed in those days, in building such canoes and making snowshoes and all the other furniture and utensils of Indian life, consisted of a hatchet, a knife, a file, and an awl obtained from the stores of the Hudson's Bay Company. In the use of these tools they were so dexterous that everything they manufactured was done with a neatness which could not be excelled by the most expert mechanic. These northern canoes were flat-bottomed, with straight, upright sides, and sharp prow and peak. The stern part of the canoe was wider than the rest in order to receive the baggage. The average length of the canoe would be from twelve to thirteen feet, and the breadth in the widest part about two feet. Generally but a single paddle was used, and that rather attenuated. When transporting the canoes from one river to another, a strong band of bark or fibre would be fastened round the thwarts of the canoe, and then slung over the breast and shoulders of the Indian that was carrying it.

From Lake Clowey the northern progress was made on foot, steady and fatiguing walking over the barren grounds. The wooded region had been left behind to the south; but for a distance of about twenty miles outside the living woods there was a belt of dry stumps more or less ancient. According to Hearne, these vestiges of trees to the north of the present forest limit were an indication that the climate had grown colder during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, because, according to the traditions of the Indians and the remembrances of their old people, the forest had formerly extended much farther to the north.

Whilst they were staying for the canoe building at Lake Clowey, Hearne was a great deal bothered by the domestic troubles of his Indian friend Matonabi. This man had been constantly trying to add to his stock of wives as he passed up country, and at Clowey he had met the former husband of one of these women whom he had carried off by force. The man ventured to reproach him, whereupon Matonabi went into his tent, opened one of his wives' bundles, and with the greatest composure took out a new, long, box-handled knife; then proceeded to the tent of the man who had complained, and without any parley whatever took him by the collar and attempted to stab him to death. The man had already received three bad knife wounds in the back before other people, rushing in to his assistance, prevented Matonabi from finishing him. After this, Matonabi returned to his tent as though nothing had happened, called for water, washed the blood off his hands and knife, and smoked his pipe as usual, asking Hearne if he did not think he had done quite right!

"It has ever been the custom among those people for the men to wrestle for any woman to whom they are attached; and of course the strongest party always carries off the prize. A weak man, unless he be a good hunter and well beloved, is seldom permitted to keep a wife that a stronger man thinks worth his notice; for at any time when the wives of those strong wrestlers are heavy laden either with furs or provisions, they make no scruple of tearing any other man's wife from his bosom and making her bear a part of his luggage. This custom prevails throughout all their tribes, and causes a great spirit of emulation among their youth, who are upon all occasions, from their childhood, trying their strength and skill in wrestling. This enables them to protect their property, and particularly their wives, from the hands of those powerful ravishers, some of whom make almost a livelihood by taking what they please from the weaker parties without making them any return. Indeed it is represented as an act of great generosity if they condescend to make an unequal exchange, as, in general, abuse and insult are the only return for the loss which is sustained.

"The way in which they tear the women and other property from one another, though it has the appearance of the greatest brutality, can scarcely be called fighting. I never knew any of them receive the least hurt in these rencontres; the whole business consists in hauling each other about by the hair of the head; they are seldom known either to strike or kick one another. It is not uncommon for one of them to cut off his hair and to grease his ears immediately before the contest begins. This, however, is done privately; and it is sometimes truly laughable to see one of the parties strutting about with an air of great importance, and calling out: 'Where is he? Why does he not come out?' when the other will bolt out with a clean-shorn head and greased ears, rush on his antagonist, seize him by the hair, and, though perhaps a much weaker man, soon drag him to the ground, while the stronger is not able to lay hold of him. It is very frequent on those occasions for each party to have spies, to watch the other's motions, which puts them more on a footing of equality. For want of hair to pull, they seize each other about the waist, with legs wide extended, and try their strength by endeavouring to vie who can first throw the other down."

"Early in the morning of the twenty-ninth 'Captain' Keelshies (an Indian) joined us. He delivered to me a packet of letters and a two-quart keg of French brandy, but assured me that the powder, shot, tobacco, knives, &c, which he received at the fort for me, were all expended. He endeavoured to make some apology for this by saying that some of his relations died in the winter, and that he had, according to native custom, thrown all his own things away; after which he was obliged to have recourse to my ammunition and other goods to support himself and a numerous family. The very affecting manner in which he related this story, often crying like a child, was a great proof of his extreme sorrow, which he wished to persuade me arose from the recollection of his having embezzled so much of my property; but I was of a different opinion, and attributed his grief to arise from the remembrance of his deceased relations. However, as a small recompense for my loss, he presented me with four ready-dressed moose skins, which was, he said, the only retribution he could then make. The moose skins, though not the twentieth part of the value of the goods which he had embezzled, were in reality more acceptable to me than the ammunition and the other articles would have been, on account of their great use as shoe leather, which at that time was a very scarce article with us, whereas we had plenty of powder and shot."

During Hearne's stay at Lake Clowey a great number of Indians entered into a combination with those of his party to travel together to the Coppermine River, with no other intent than to murder the Eskimo who frequented that river in considerable numbers. Before leaving Lake Clowey all the Northern Indians who had assembled there prepared their arms for the encounter, and did not forget to make shields before they left the woods of Clowey. These shields were composed of thin boards about three-quarters of an inch thick, two feet broad, and three feet long, and were intended to ward off the arrows of the Eskimo.

When the now large expedition reached a river with the fearful name of Congecathawhachaga, they found a portion of the tribe known as Copper Indians,[5] and these had never before seen a white man. They gave a very friendly reception to Hearne on account of Matonabi.

[Footnote 5: Or "Tantsawhuts". Like the "Dog-rib" Indians, mentioned farther on, they belonged to the "Northern", Tinne, Athabaskan type.]

"They expressed as much desire to examine me from top to toe as a European naturalist would a nondescript animal. They, however, found and pronounced me to be a perfect human being, except in the colour of my hair and eyes; the former, they said, was like the stained hair of a buffalo's tail, and the latter, being light, were like those of a gull. The whiteness of my skin also was, in their opinion, no ornament, as they said it resembled meat which had been sodden in water till all the blood was extracted. On the whole I was viewed as so great a curiosity in this part of the world that during my stay there, whenever I combed my head, some or other of them never failed to ask for the hairs that came off, which they carefully wrapped up, saying: 'When I see you again, you shall again see your hair'."

The Copper Indians sent a detachment of their men in the double capacity of guides and warriors, and the whole party now turned towards the north-west, and after some days' walking reached the Stony Mountains. "Surely no part of the world better deserves that name", wrote, Hearne. They appeared to be a confused heap of stones quite inaccessible to the foot of man. Nevertheless, with the Copper Indians as guides, they got over this range, though not without being obliged frequently to crawl on hands and knees. This range, however, had been so often crossed by Indians coming to and fro that there was a very visible path the whole way, the rocks, even in the most difficult places, being worn quite smooth. By the side of the path there were several large, flat stones covered with thousands of small pebbles. These marks had been gradually built up by passengers going to and fro from the copper mines in the far north. The weather all this time, although the month was July, was very bad—constant snow, sleet, and rain. Hearne seldom had a dry garment of any kind, and in the caves where they lodged at night the water was constantly dropping from the roof. Their food all this time was raw venison. One snowstorm which fell on them was heavier than was customary even in the winter, but at last the weather cleared up and sunshine made the journey far more tolerable.

As they descended the northern side of the Stony Mountains they crossed a large lake, passing over its unmelted ice, and called it Musk-ox Lake, from the number of these creatures which they found grazing on the margin of it.

This was not the first time that Hearne had seen the musk ox. These animals were wont to come down as far south as the shores of Hudson Bay.

On the northern side of the Stony Mountains Hearne was taken by the Indians to see a place which he called Grizzly-bear Hill, which took its name from the numbers of those animals (presumably what we call grizzly bears) which resorted here for the purpose of bringing forth their young in a cave in this hill. On the east side of the adjoining marsh Hearne was amazed at the sight of the many hills and dry ridges, which were turned over like ploughed land by the long claws of these bears in searching for the ground squirrels and mice which constitute a favourite part of their food. It was surprising to see the enormous stones rolled out of their beds by the bears on these occasions.

As they neared the Coppermine River the weather became very warm, and the country had a good supply of firewood. Reindeer were abundant, and, the Indians having killed some of these, Hearne sat down to the most comfortable meal he had had for some months.

It was a kind of haggis, called by the Amerindians "biati", made with the blood of the reindeer, a good quantity of fat shredded small, some of the tenderest of the flesh, together with the heart and lungs, cut, or more commonly torn, into small slivers—all which would be put into the stomach, and roasted by being suspended before the fire by a string. Care had to be taken that it did not get too much heat at first, as the bag would thereby be liable to be burnt and the contents be let out. When it was sufficiently done it emitted steam, "which", writes Hearne, "is as much as to say: 'Come, eat me now'; and if it be taken in time, before the blood and other contents are too much done, it is certainly a most delicious morsel, even without pepper, salt, or any other seasoning."

It was now almost impossible to sleep at night for the mosquitoes, which swarmed in myriads as soon as the warmth of the sun melted the ice and snow. When Hearne actually reached the banks of the Coppermine River he was a little disappointed at its appearance, as it seemed to be only one hundred and eighty yards wide, shallow, and full of shoals. The Chipewayan Amerindians with him now sent out their spies to try and locate the Eskimo. Presently they found that there were five tents of them on the west side of the river.

"When the Indians received this intelligence no further attendance or attention was paid to my survey, but their whole thoughts were immediately engaged in planning the best method of attack, and how they might steal on the poor Eskimo the ensuing night and kill them all when asleep. To accomplish this bloody design more effectually the Indians thought it necessary to cross the river as soon as possible; and, by the account of the spies, it appeared that no part was more convenient for the purpose than that where we had met them, it being there very smooth, and at a considerable distance from any fall. Accordingly, after the Indians had put all their guns, spears, shields, &c, in good order, we crossed the river....

"When we arrived on the west side of the river, each painted the front of his shield; some with the figure of the sun, others with that of the moon, several with different kinds of birds and beasts of prey, and many with the images of imaginary beings, which, according to their silly notions, are the inhabitants of the different elements, Earth, Sea, Air, &c. On enquiring the reason of their doing so, I learned that each man painted his shield with the image of that being on which he relied most for success in the intended engagement. Some were content with a single representation; while others, doubtful, as I suppose, of the quality and power of any single being, had their shields covered to the very margin with a group of hieroglyphics quite unintelligible to everyone except the painter. Indeed, from the hurry in which this business was necessarily done, the want of every colour but red and black, and the deficiency of skill in the artist, most of those paintings had more the appearance of a number of accidental blotches, than 'of anything that is on the earth, or in the water under the earth'....

"After this piece of superstition was completed, we began to advance towards the Eskimo tents; but were very careful to avoid crossing any hills, or talking loud, for fear of being seen or overheard by the inhabitants."

When the attacking party was within two hundred yards of the Eskimo tents, they lay in ambush for some time, watching the motions of their intended victims; and here the Indians wanted Hearne (for whom they had a sincere affection) to stay till the fight was over; but to this he would not consent, lest, when the Eskimo came to be surprised, they should try every way to escape, and, finding him alone, kill him in their desperation.

While they lay in ambush the Northern Indians performed the last ceremonies which were thought necessary before the engagement. These chiefly consisted in painting their faces: some all black, some all red, and others with a mixture of the two; and to prevent their hair from blowing into their eyes, it was either tied before or behind, and on both sides, or else cut short all round. The next thing they considered was to make themselves as light as possible for running, which they did by pulling off their stockings, and either cutting off the sleeves of their jackets, or rolling them up close to their armpits; and though the mosquitoes at that time "were so numerous as to surpass all credibility", yet some of the Indians actually pulled off their jackets and entered the lists nearly or quite naked. Hearne, fearing he might have occasion to run with the rest, thought it also advisable to pull off his stockings and cap, and to tie his hair as close up as possible.

By the time the Indians had made themselves thus "completely frightful", it was nearly one in the morning. Then, finding all the Eskimo quiet in their tents, they rushed forth from their ambuscade, and fell on the poor, unsuspecting creatures, unperceived till they were close to the very eaves of the tents. A horrible massacre forthwith took place, while Hearne stood neutral in the rear.

"The scene was shocking beyond description. The poor unhappy victims were surprised in the midst of their sleep, and had neither time nor power to make any resistance; men, women, and children, in all upward of twenty, ran out of their tents stark naked, and endeavoured to make their escape; but the Indians having possession of all the landside, to no place could they fly for shelter. One alternative only remained, that of jumping into the river; but, as none of them attempted it, they all fell a sacrifice to Indian barbarity!

"The shrieks and groans of the poor expiring wretches were truly dreadful; and my horror was much increased at seeing a young girl, seemingly about eighteen years of age, killed so near me, that when the first spear was stuck into her side she fell down at my feet, and twisted round my legs, so that it was with difficulty that I could disengage myself from her dying grasp. As two Indian men pursued this unfortunate victim, I solicited very hard for her life; but the murderers made no reply till they had stuck both their spears through her body, and transfixed her to the ground. They then looked me sternly in the face, and began to ridicule me by asking if I wanted an Eskimo wife; and paid not the smallest regard to the shrieks and agony of the poor wretch, who was twining round their spears like an eel!"

On his requesting that they would at least put the woman out of her misery, one of the Indians hastily drew his spear from the place where it was first lodged, and pierced it through her breast near the heart. The love of life, however, even in this most miserable state, was so predominant, that "though this might justly be called the most merciful act that could be done for the poor creature, it seemed to be unwelcome, for, though much exhausted by pain and loss of blood, she made several efforts to ward off the friendly blow."... "My own situation and the terror of my mind at beholding this butchery, cannot easily be conceived, much less described; though I summed up all the fortitude I was master of on the occasion, it was with difficulty that I could refrain from tears; and I am confident that my features must have feelingly expressed how sincerely I was affected at the barbarous scene I then witnessed; even at this hour I cannot reflect on the transactions of that horrid day without shedding tears."

There were other Eskimo on the opposite shore of the river. Though they took up their arms to defend themselves, they did not attempt to abandon their tents, for they were utterly unacquainted with the nature of firearms; so much so that when the bullets struck the ground, they ran in crowds to see what was sent them, and seemed anxious to examine all the pieces of lead which they found flattened against the rocks. At length one of the Eskimo men was shot in the calf of his leg, which put them in great confusion. They all immediately embarked in their little canoes, and paddled to a shoal in the middle of the river, which being somewhat more than a gunshot from any part of the shore, put them out of the reach of our barbarians.

"When the savages discovered that the surviving Eskimo had gained the shore above-mentioned, the Northern Indians began to plunder the tents of the deceased of all the copper utensils they could find; such as hatchets, bayonets, knives, &c, after which they assembled on the top of an adjacent hill, and, standing all in a cluster, so as to form a solid circle, with their spears erect in the air, gave many shouts of victory, constantly clashing their spears against each other, and frequently calling out tima! tima![6] by way of derision to the poor surviving Eskimo, who were standing on the shoal almost knee deep in water."

[Footnote 6: "Tima in the Eskimo language is a friendly word similar to what cheer?"—Hearne.]

"It ought to have been mentioned in its proper place," writes Hearne, after describing further atrocities, "that in making our retreat up the river, after killing the Eskimo on the west side, we saw an old woman sitting by the side of the water killing salmon, which lay at the foot of the fall as thick as a shoal of herrings. Whether from the noise of the fall, or a natural defect in the old woman's hearing, it is hard to determine, but certain it is, she had no knowledge of the tragical scene which had been so lately transacted at the tents, though she was not more than two hundred yards from the place. When we first perceived her she seemed perfectly at ease, and was entirely surrounded with the produce of her labour. From her manner of behaviour, and the appearance of her eyes, which were as red as blood, it is more than probable that her sight was not very good; for she scarcely discerned that the Indians were enemies, till they were within twice the length of their spears of her. It was in vain that she attempted to fly, for the wretches of my crew transfixed her to the ground in a few seconds, and butchered her in the most savage manner. There was scarcely a man among them who had not a thrust at her with his spear; and many in doing this aimed at torture rather than immediate death, as they not only poked out her eyes, but stabbed her in many parts very remote from those which are vital.

"It may appear strange that a person supposed to be almost blind should be employed in the business of fishing, and particularly with any degree of success; but when the multitude of the fish is taken into the account, the wonder will cease. Indeed they were so numerous at the foot of the fall, that when a light pole, armed with a few spikes, which was the instrument the old woman used, was put under water, and hauled up with a jerk, it was scarcely possible to miss them. Some of my Indians tried the method, for curiosity, with the old woman's staff, and seldom got less than two at a jerk, sometimes three or four. Those fish, though very fine, and beautifully red, are but small, seldom weighing more (as near as I could judge) than six or seven pounds, and in general much less. Their numbers at this place were almost incredible, perhaps equal to anything that is related of the salmon in Kamschatka, or any other part of the world."

Hearne seems to have been so intent on geographical discovery that he did not allow his feelings to influence him very long against the society of his Amerindian companions, who apparently sat down and ate a dish of salmon with him an hour or so after they had killed this last old woman! The Indians now told him that they were ready again to assist him in making an end of his survey, and apparently on foot, for the Coppermine River was not navigable here, even for a boat.

Thus, first of all white men coming overland, he reached the sea coast of the Arctic Ocean. The tide was then out, and a good deal of the sea surface was covered with ice, on which he observed many seals lying about. Along the sea coast and river banks were many birds; gulls, divers or loons, golden plovers, green plovers, curlews, geese, and swans. The country a little way inland was obviously inhabited by numbers of musk oxen, reindeer, bears, wolves, gluttons, foxes, polar hares, snowy owls, ravens, ptarmigans, gopher ground-squirrels, stoats (ermines), and mice. In this region also he saw a bird which the Copper Indians called the Alarm Bird. He tells us that in size and colour it resembles a "Cobadekoock"; but as none of us know what that is, we can only go on to imagine that the Alarm Bird was a kind of owl, as Hearne says it was "of the owl genus". When it perceived people or beasts it directed its way towards them immediately, and, after hovering over them for some time, flew over them in circles or went away with them in the same direction as they walked. All this time the bird made a loud screaming noise like the cry of a child. These owls were sometimes accustomed to follow the Indians for a whole day, and the Copper Indians believed that they would in some way conduct them to herds of deer and musk oxen, which without the birds' assistance might never be found. They also warned Indians of the arrival of strangers. The Eskimo, according to Hearne, paid no heed to these birds, and it was thus that they allowed themselves to be surprised and massacred, for if they had looked out from the direction in which the Chipewayans were lying in ambush, they would have seen a large flock of these owls continually flying about and making sufficient noise to awaken any man out of the soundest sleep.

The country on either side of the estuary of the Coppermine River was not without vegetation. There were stunted pines and tufts of dwarf willows, and the ground was covered with a lichen or herb, which the English of the Hudson's Bay Company knew by the name of Wishakapaka,[7] and which they dried and used instead of tea. There were also cranberry and heathberry bushes, but without fruit. The scrub grew gradually thinner and smaller as one approached the sea, and at the mouth of the river there was nothing but barren hills and marsh.

[Footnote 7: Ledum palustre.]

The unfortunate Eskimo of this region, judging by the examples seen by Hearne, were of low stature, with broad thickset bodies. Their complexion was a dirty copper colour, but some of the women were almost fair and ruddy. Their dress, their arms and fishing tackle were precisely similar to those of the Greenland Eskimo. Their tents were made of deerskins, and were pitched in a circular form. But these were only their summer habitations, those for the winter being partly underground, with a roof framework of poles, over which skins were stretched; and of course Nature did the rest, covering the roof with several feet of snow. Owing to being almost entirely surrounded by snow, these winter houses were very warm. Their household furniture consisted of stone kettles and wooden troughs of various sizes, also dishes, scoops, and spoons made of musk-ox horns. The stone kettles (which some people think they borrowed from the Norse discoverers of America in the eleventh century) were as large as to be capable of containing five or six gallons. They were, of course, carved out of solid blocks of stone, every one of them being ornamented with neat moulding round the rims, and some of the large ones with fluted work at each corner. In shape they were oblong, wider at the top than the bottom, and strong handles of solid stone were left at each end to lift them up.

The Eskimo hatchets were made of a thick lump of copper about five or six inches long, and one and a half to two inches broad. They were bevelled away at one end like a chisel. This piece of copper was lashed into the end of a piece of wood about twelve or fourteen inches long. The men's daggers and the women's knives were also made of copper. The former were in shape like the ace of spades, and the handle was made of reindeer antler.

With the Eskimo was a fine breed of dogs, with erect ears, sharp noses, bushy tails. They were all tethered to stones to prevent them from eating the flesh that was spread all over the rocks to dry. Apparently, these beautiful dogs were left behind still tethered by the wicked Amerindians, after the massacre of their owners. Hearne, however, noticed with these Coppermine River Eskimo that the men were entirely bald, having all their head hair pulled out by the roots. The women wore their hair at the usual length.

Before leaving this region to return southwards, Hearne was led by the Indians to one of the copper mines about thirty miles south-east of the river mouth. It was no more than a jumble of rocks and gravel, which had been rent in many ways, apparently by an earthquake shock. This mine was at the time of Hearne's visit very poor in copper, much of the metal having already been removed.

The Copper Indians set a great value on this native metal even at the present day, and prefer it to iron for almost every use except that of a hatchet, a knife, and an awl. "For these three necessary implements", writes Hearne, "copper makes but a very poor substitute."

On the return journey, in the course of which the Great Slave Lake—which Hearne calls "Lake Athapuscow"—was discovered and crossed on the ice, the party travelled so hard and stayed so seldom to rest that Hearne suffered terribly with his legs and feet. "I had so little power to direct my feet when walking, that I frequently knocked them against the stones with such force, as not only to jar and disorder them, but my legs also; and the nails of my toes were bruised to such a degree, that several of them festered and dropped off. To add to this mishap, the skin was entirely chafed off from the tops of both my feet, and between every toe; so that the sand and gravel, which I could by no means exclude, irritated the raw parts so much, that for a whole day before we arrived at the women's tents, I left the print of my feet in blood almost at every step I took. Several of the Indians began to complain that their feet also were sore; but, on examination, not one of them was the twentieth part in so bad a state as mine. This being the first time I had been in such a situation, or seen anybody foot-foundered, I was much alarmed, and under great apprehensions for the consequences. Though I was but little fatigued in body, yet the excruciating pain I suffered when walking had such an effect on my spirits, that if the Indians had continued to travel two or three days longer at that unmerciful rate, I must unavoidably have been left behind; for my feet were in many places quite honeycombed by the dirt and gravel eating into the raw flesh."

"Among the various superstitious customs of those people, it is worth remarking, and ought to have been mentioned in its proper place, that immediately after my companions had killed the Eskimo at the Copper River, they considered themselves in a state of uncleanness, which induced them to practise some very curious unusual ceremonies. In the first place, all who were absolutely concerned in the murder were prohibited from cooking any kind of victuals, either for themselves or others. As luckily there were two in company who had not shed blood, they were employed always as cooks till we joined the women. This circumstance was exceedingly favourable on my side; for had there been no persons of the above description in company, that task, I was told, would have fallen on me; which would have been no less fatiguing and troublesome, than humiliating and vexatious.

"When the victuals were cooked, all the murderers took a kind of red earth, or ochre, and painted all the space between the nose and chin, as well as the greater part of their cheeks, almost to the ears, before they would taste a bit, and would not drink out of any other dish, or smoke out of any other pipe, but their own; and none of the others seemed willing to drink or smoke out of theirs."

He goes on to relate that they practised the custom of painting the mouth and part of the cheeks before each meal, and drinking and smoking out of their own utensils, till the winter began to set in, and during the whole of that time they would never kiss any of their wives or children. They refrained also from eating many parts of the deer and other animals, particularly the head, entrails, and blood; and during their "uncleanness" their food was never cooked in water, but dried in the sun, eaten quite raw, or broiled. When the time arrived that was to put an end to these ceremonies, the men, without a female being present, made a fire at some distance from the tents, into which they threw all their ornaments, pipe stems, and dishes, which were soon consumed to ashes; after which a feast was prepared, consisting of such articles as they had long been prohibited from eating, and when all was over each man was at liberty to eat, drink, and smoke as he pleased, "and also to kiss his wives and children at discretion, which they seemed to do with more raptures than I had ever known them to do it either before or since".

On the 11th of January, as some of Hearne's companions were hunting, they saw the track of a strange snowshoe, which they followed, and at a considerable distance came to a little hut, where they discovered a young woman sitting alone. As they found that she understood their language, they brought her with them to the tents. On examination she proved to be one of the Western Dog-rib Indians, who had been taken prisoner by the Athapaska Indians in the summer of 1770. From these, in the following summer, she had escaped, with the intention of returning to her own country, but the distance being so great, and the way being unknown to her, she forgot the track, so she built the hut in which they found her, to protect her from the weather during the winter, and here she had resided from the first setting in of the cold weather. For seven months she had seen no human face. During all this time she had supported herself in comparative comfort by snaring grouse, rabbits, and squirrels; she had also killed two or three beaver, and some porcupines. That she did not seem to have been in want was evident, as she had a small stock of provisions by her when she was discovered, and was in good health and condition; and Hearne thought her "one of the finest women", of the real Indian type, that he had seen in any part of North America.

"The methods practised by this poor creature to procure a livelihood were truly admirable, and are great proofs that necessity is the real mother of invention. When the few deer sinews that she had an opportunity of taking with her were all expended in making snares and sewing her clothing, she had nothing to supply their place but the sinews of the rabbits' [he means hares'] legs and feet; these she twisted together for that purpose with great dexterity and success. The rabbits, &c, which she caught in those snares, not only furnished her with a comfortable subsistence, but of the skins she made a suit of neat and warm clothing for the winter. It is scarcely possible to conceive that a person in her forlorn situation could be so composed as to be capable of contriving or executing anything that was not absolutely necessary to her existence; but there were sufficient proofs that she had extended her care much farther, as all her clothing, beside being calculated for real service, showed great taste and exhibited no little variety of ornament. The materials, though rude, were very curiously wrought and so judiciously placed as to make the whole of her garb have a very pleasing, though rather romantic, appearance.

"Her leisure hours from hunting had been employed in twisting the inner rind or bark of willows into small lines, like net twine, of which she had some hundred fathoms by her; with this she intended to make a fishing net as soon as the spring advanced. It is of the inner bark of willows, twisted in this manner, that the Dog-rib Indians make their fishing nets, and they are much preferable to those made by the Northern Indians.

"Five or six inches of an iron hoop, made into a knife, and the shank of an arrowhead of iron, which served her as an awl, were all the metals this poor woman had with her when she eloped, and with these implements she had made herself complete snowshoes, and several other useful articles.

"Her method of making a fire was equally singular and curious, having no other materials for that purpose than two hard sulphurous stones. These, by long friction and hard knocking, produced a few sparks, which at length communicated to some touchwood (a species of fungus which grew on decayed poplars); but as this method was attended with great trouble, and not always with success, she did not suffer her fire to go out all the winter...."

Hearne regained Prince of Wales's Fort on Hudson Bay in June, 1772. Subsequently he was dispatched, in the year 1774, to found the first great inland trading station and fort of the Hudson's Bay Company which was established at any considerable distance westward of Hudson Bay—the first step, in fact, which led to this chartered company becoming in time the ruler and colonizing agent of Alberta and British Columbia. Hearne chose for his station of "Cumberland House" a site at the entrance to Pine Island Lake on the lower Saskatchewan River.

In 1775 he became Governor of his old starting-point on Hudson Bay—Fort Prince of Wales. During the American war with France, the French admiral, La Perouse, made a daring excursion into Hudson Bay (1782), and summoned Hearne to surrender his fort. This he felt obliged to do, not deeming his small garrison strong enough to resist the French force.

Samuel Hearne returned to England in 1787, and died (probably in London) in 1792.


Alexander Mackenzie's Journeys

It has been already mentioned that the conquest of Canada by the British led to a great increase in travel for the development of the fur trade. Previously, under the French, permission was only granted to a few persons to penetrate into the interior to trade with the natives, commerce being regarded as a special privilege or monopoly to be sold or granted by the Crown. But after the British had completely assumed control, nothing was done to bar access to the interior. So long as the Catholic missionaries had been practically placed in charge of the Amerindians, and had served as buffers between them and unscrupulous traders, they—the Amerindians—had been saved from two scourges, smallpox and strong drink.[1] But now, unhappily, all restrictions about trade in alcohol were removed. In their eagerness to obtain ardent spirits and "high" wine, the Indians eagerly welcomed British traders and French Canadians in their midst. The fur trade developed fast. The Hudson's Bay Company had established its trading stations only in the vicinity or on the coasts of that inland sea, far away from the two Canadas, from the Middle West and the vast North West. After a little reluctance and suspicion, most of the northern Amerindian tribes were persuaded to deflect their caravans from the routes leading to Hudson Bay, and to meet the British, the New Englander ("Bostonian"), and the French Canadian traders at various rendezvous on Lake Winnipeg and its tributary lakes and rivers. The principal depot and starting-point for the north-west traders was Grand Portage, on the north-west coast of Lake Superior, whence canoes and goods were transferred by a nine-mile portage to the waters flowing to Rainy Lake, and so onwards to the Winnipeg River and the vast system of the Saskatchewan, the Red River, and the Assiniboine.

[Footnote 1: See Sir Alexander Mackenzie's Travels, p. 5.]

Amongst the pioneers in this new development of the fur trade, who became also the great explorers of northernmost America, was Alexander Henry (already described), THOMAS CURRIE, JAMES FINLAY, PETER POND,[2] JOSEPH and BENJAMIN FROBISHER, and SIMON M'TAVISH. These and some of their supporting merchants in Montreal resolved to form a great fur-trading association, the celebrated North-west Trading Company, and did so in 1784.

[Footnote 2: Peter Pond was a native of Connecticut, and in the opinion of his trading associates rather a ruffian. He was strongly suspected of having murdered an amiable Swiss fur trader named Wadin, and at a later date he actually did kill his trading partner, Ross.]

Two of the Montreal merchant firms participating in this confederation (Gregory and M'Leod) were inclined to play a somewhat independent part, and called themselves the New North-west Trading Company. They had the foresight to engage as their principal agents in the north-west (Sir) ALEXANDER MACKENZIE and his cousin RODERICK MACKENZIE. Both these young men were Highlanders, probably of Norse origin. Alexander Mackenzie was born at Stornoway, in the Island of Lewis (Hebrides), in 1763. He was only sixteen when he started for Canada to take up a position as clerk in the partnership concern of Gregory & M'Leod at Montreal.

It may be said here briefly that this "New North-west Company" went at first by the nickname of "The Little Company" or "The Potties", this last being an Amerindian corruption of the French Les Petits. Later it developed into the "X.Y. Company", or "Sir Alexander Mackenzie & Co.". Although much in rivalry with the original "Nor'-westers", the rivalry never degenerated into the actual warfare, the indefensible deeds of violence and treachery, which later on were perpetrated by the Hudson's Bay Company on the agents of the North-west, and returned with interest by the latter. Often the New North-west agents and the original Nor'-westers would camp or build side by side, and share equably in the fur trade with the natives; their canoemen and French-Canadian voyageurs would sing their boating songs in chorus as they paddled side by side across the lakes and down the rivers, or marched with their heavy loads over the portages and along the trails. Eventually, in 1804, the X.Y. Company and the North-west fused into the North-west Trading Company, which until 1821 fought a hard fight against the encroachments and jealousy of the Hudson's Bay Company.

During the period, however, from 1785 to 1812 the men of the north-west, of Montreal, and Grand Portage (as contrasted with those of Hudson Bay) effected a revolution in Canadian geography. They played the role of imperial pioneers with a stubborn heroism, with little thought of personal gain, and in most cases with full foreknowledge and appreciation of what would accrue to the British Empire through their success. It is impossible to relate the adventures of all of them within the space of any one book, or even of several volumes. Moreover, this has been done already, not only in their own published journals and books, but in the admirable works of Elliot Coues, Dr. George Bryce, Dr. S.J. Dawson, Alexander Ross, and others. I must confine myself here to a description of the adventures of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, with a glance at incidents recorded by Simon Fraser and by Alexander Henry the Younger.

Mackenzie, having been appointed at the age of twenty-two a partner in the New North-west Company, proceeded to Grand Portage in 1785, and by the year 1788 (after founding Fort Chipewayan on Lake Athabaska) conceived the idea of following the mysterious Slave River to its ultimate outlet into the Arctic or the Pacific Ocean. He left Fort Chipewayan on June 3, 1789, accompanied by four French-Canadian voyageurs, two French-Canadian women (wives of two voyageurs), a young German named John Steinbruck, and an Amerindian guide known as "English Chief". This last was a follower and pupil of the Matonabi who had guided Hearne to the Coppermine River and the eastern end of the Great Slave Lake. The party of eight whites packed themselves and their goods into one birch-bark canoe. English Chief and his two wives, together with an additional Amerindian guide and a hunter, travelled in a second and smaller canoe. The expedition, moreover, was accompanied as far as Slave River by LE ROUX, a celebrated French-Canadian exploring trader who worked for the X.Y. Company. The journey down the Slave River was rendered difficult and dangerous by the rapids. Several times the canoes and their loads had to be lugged past these falls by an overland portage. Mosquitoes tortured the whole party almost past bearance. The leaders of the expedition and their Indian hunter had to be busily engaged (the Indian women also) in hunting and fishing in order to get food for the support of the party, who seemed to have had little reserve provisions with them. Pemmican was made of fish dried in the sun and rubbed to powder. Swans, geese, cranes, and ducks fell to the guns; an occasional beaver was also added to the pot. When they reached the Great Slave Lake they found its islands—notwithstanding their barren appearance—covered with bushes producing a great variety of palatable fruits—cranberries, juniper berries, raspberries, partridge berries, gooseberries, and the "pathogomenan", a fruit like a raspberry.

Slave Lake, however, was still, in mid-June, under the spell of winter, its surface obstructed with drifting ice. In attempting to cross the lake the frail birch-bark canoes ran a great risk of being crushed between the ice floes. However, at length, after halting at several islands and leaving Le Roux to go to the trading station he had founded on the shores of Slave Lake, Mackenzie and his two canoes found their way to the river outlet of Slave Lake, that river which was henceforth to be called by his name. Great mountains approached near to the west of their course. They appeared to be sprinkled with white stones, called by the natives "spirit stones"—indeed over a great part of North America the Rocky Mountains were called "the Mountains of Bright Stones"—yet these brilliant patches were nothing more wonderful than unmelted snow.

A few days later the party encountered Amerindians of the Slave and Dog-rib tribes, who were so aloof from even "Indian" civilization that they did not know the use of tobacco, and were still in the Stone Age as regards their weapons and implements. These people, though they furnished a guide, foretold disaster and famine to the expedition, and greatly exaggerated the obstacles which would be met with—rapids near the entrance of the tributary from Great Bear Lake—before the salt water was reached.

The canoes of these Slave and Dog-rib tribes of the Athapaskan (Tinne) group were covered, not with birch bark, but with the bark of the spruce fir.

The lodges of the Slave Indians were of very simple structure: a few poles supported by a fork and forming a semicircle at the bottom, with some branches or a piece of bark as a covering. They built two of these huts facing each other, and made a fire between them. The furniture consisted of a few dishes of wood, bark, or horn. The vessels in which they cooked their victuals were in the shape of a gourd, narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, and made of watape.

This was the name given to the divided roots of the spruce fir, which the natives wove into a degree of compactness that rendered it capable of containing a fluid. Watape fibre was also used to sew together different parts of the bark canoes. They also made fibre or thread from willow bark. Their cooking vessels made of this watape not only contained water, but water which was made to boil by putting a succession of hot stones into it. It would, of course, be impossible to place these vessels of fibre on a fire, and apparently none of the Amerindians of temperate North America knew anything about pottery. Those that were in some degree in touch with the Eskimo used kettles or cauldrons of stone. Elsewhere the vessels for boiling water and cooking were made of bark or fibre, and the water therein was made to boil by the dropping in of red-hot stones. The arrows of these Slave Indians were two and a half feet long, and the barb was made of bone, horn, flint, or copper. Iron had been quite lately introduced, indirectly obtained from the Russians in Alaska. Their spears were pointed with barbed bone, and their daggers were made of horn or bone. Their great club, the pogamagan, was made of a reindeer's antler. Axes were manufactured out of a piece of brown or grey stone, six to eight inches long and two inches thick. They kindled fire by striking together a piece of iron pyrites and touchwood, and never travelled without a small bag containing such materials.

The Amerindians along the lower Mackenzie had heard vague and terrible legends about the Russians, far, far away on the coast of Alaska; they were represented as beings of gigantic stature, and adorned with wings; which, however, they never employed in flying (possibly the sails of their ships). They fed on large birds, and killed them with the greatest ease. They also possessed the extraordinary power of killing with their eyes (no doubt putting up a gun to aim), and they travelled in canoes of very large dimensions.

"I engaged one of these Indians," writes Mackenzie, "by a bribe of some beads, to describe the surrounding country upon the sand. This singular map he immediately undertook to delineate, and accordingly traced out a very long point of land between the rivers ... which he represented as running into the great lake, at the extremity of which he had been told by Indians of other nations there was a white man's fort." The same people described plainly the Yukon River westward of the mountains, and told Mackenzie it was a far greater stream than the one he was exploring. This was the first "hint" of the existence of the great Alaskan river which was ever recorded. They also spoke to Mackenzie of "small white buffaloes" (?the mountain goat), which they found in the mountains west of the Mackenzie.

Whenever and wherever Mackenzie's party met these northernmost tribes of Athapascan Indians they were always ready to dance in between short spells of talking. This dancing and jumping was their only amusement, and in it old and young, male and female, went to such exertions that their strength was exhausted. As they jumped up and down they imitated the various noises produced by the reindeer, the bear, and the wolf.

In descending the Mackenzie River, and again on the return journey upstream, Mackenzie notices the abundance of berries on the banks of the river, especially the kind which was called "pears" by the French Canadians. These were of a purple hue, rather bigger than a pea, and of a luscious taste. There were also gooseberries and a few strawberries. Quantities of berries were collected and dried, but while on the lower Mackenzie the expedition fed mainly on fat geese. On the beach of the great river they found an abundance of a sweet fragrant root which Mackenzie calls "liquorice".

Mackenzie seemed to think that along the lower Mackenzie River, near the sea, there were not only reindeer, bears, wolverines, martens, foxes, and hares, but a species of white buffalo or white musk ox, which may have been the mountain goat above referred to. He noted, in the cliffs or banks of the lower Mackenzie, pieces of "petroleum" which bore a resemblance to yellow wax but was more friable. His Indian guide informed him that rocks of a similar kind were scattered about the country at the back of the Slave Lake, near where the Chipewayans collected copper. If so, there may be a great oilfield yet to be discovered in Arctic Canada.

On the river coming out of the Bear Lake Mackenzie discovered coal; the whole beach was strewn with it. He was attracted towards it by seeing smoke and noticing a strong sulphurous smell. The whole bank of the river was on fire for a considerable distance, and he thought this was due to the natives having camped there and set fire to the coal in the bank from their hearths. But subsequent travellers have also found this lignite coal burning to waste, and imagine that, being full of gas, it catches fire spontaneously if any landslip or other accident exposes it to moist air. In 1906 it was still burning!

According to Mackenzie, the ground in the regions about the lower reaches of the Mackenzie River is always frozen at least five inches down from the surface, yet he found small spruce trees growing in patches near the delta of this river, besides pale-yellow raspberries of an agreeable flavour, and a great variety of other plants and herbs.

As the expedition drew near to the estuary of the great Mackenzie River a range of lofty snowy mountains rose into sight on the west. These mountains were said by the natives to swarm with large bears—probably of the huge chocolate-coloured Alaska type; and again a mention was made of "small white buffaloes", which were in all probability the large white mountain goat (Oreamnus). The Amerindians along the river greatly magnified the dangers, predicting impassable rapids between the confluence of the Great Bear River and the sea. But these stories were greatly exaggerated. Every now and then the river would narrow and flow between white precipitous limestone walls of rock, but there was no obstacle to navigation, though it was very deep and the current fast.

The travellers now began to get within touch of the Eskimo and to hear of their occasional raids up the river from the sea. They were said to use slings, from which they flung stones with such dexterity as to prove formidable in their fights with the Amerindians, who regarded them with great respect, the more so because of their intercourse with the mysterious white people (Russians) from whom they obtained iron.

Mackenzie just managed to reach within sight of the sea, beyond the delta of the river, his most northern point being about 69 deg. 14" north latitude. Hence he gazed out northwards over a vast expanse of piled-up ice in which several small islands were embedded. In the spaces of open water whales were visible (the small white whale, Beluga). The water in between the islands was affected by the tide. The travellers had, in fact, reached the Arctic ocean. But, owing to the fickleness of their guides, and the danger of being detained by some obstacle in these northern latitudes without proper supplies for the winter, Mackenzie was afraid to stay for further investigations, and on July 16, 1789, turned his back on the sea and commenced his return journey up the stream of the great river which was henceforth to bear his name.

The strength of the current made the homeward travel much more lengthy and tedious. The Indians of the party were troublesome, and the principal guide, English Chief, was sulky and disobedient. This man had insisted on being accompanied by two of his wives, of whom he was so morbidly jealous that he could scarcely bring himself to leave them for an hour in order to go hunting or to prospect the country; consequently he did little or nothing in the killing of game, and this kept the expedition on very small rations. Mackenzie got wroth with him, and so gave him a sound rating. This irritated English Chief to a high degree, and after a long and vehement harangue he burst into tears and loud and bitter lamentations. Thereat his friends and wives commenced crying and wailing vociferously, though they declared that their tears were shed, not for any trouble between the white man and English Chief, but because they suddenly recollected all the friends and relations they had lost within the last few years! "I did not interrupt their grief for two hours, but as I could not well do without them, I was at length obliged to sooth it and induce the chief to change his resolution (to leave me), which he did with great apparent reluctance."

Later on English Chief told Mackenzie that he feared he might have to go to war, because it was a custom amongst the Athapaskan chiefs to make war after they had given way to the disgrace attached to such a feminine weakness as shedding tears. Therefore he would undertake a warlike expedition in the following spring, but in the meantime he would continue with Mackenzie as long as he wanted him.

Mackenzie, rejoining Le Roux at the Slave Lake, safely reached his station at Fort Chipewayan on September 12, 1789, just as the approach of winter was making travel in these northern regions dangerous to those who relied on unfrozen water as a means of transit.

Mackenzie seems to have been a little disappointed with the results of his northward journey; perhaps he had thought that the outlet of Slave Lake and the Mackenzie River would be into the Pacific, the Mer de l'Ouest of his Canadian voyageurs. Yet he must have realized that he had discovered something very wonderful after all: the beginning of Alaska, the approach to a region which, though lying within the Arctic circle, has climatic conditions permitting the existence of trees, abundant vegetation, and large, strange beasts, and which, moreover, is highly mineralized. His work in this direction, however (and that of Hearne), was to be completed in the next century by SIR JOHN FRANKLIN, SIR GEORGE BACK, SIR JOHN RICHARDSON, and SIR JOHN ROSS—all knighthoods earned by magnificent services in geographical exploration—and by THOMAS SIMPSON, Dr. John Rae,[3] WARREN DEASE, JOHN M'LEOD, ROBERT CAMPBELL, and other servants of the Hudson's Bay Company.

[Footnote 3: See p. 125.]

In October, 1792, Mackenzie had determined to make a great attempt to reach the Pacific Ocean. By this time he and his colleagues had explored the Peace River (the main tributary of Slave Lake), and had realized that they could travel up it into the heart of the Rocky Mountains. He wintered and traded at a place which he called "New Establishment", on the banks of the Peace River, near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He left this station on May 9, 1793, accompanied by ALEXANDER MACKAY,[4] six French Canadians, and two Indian guides. They travelled up the Peace River in a twenty-five-foot canoe, and at first passed through scenery the most beautiful Mackenzie had ever beheld. He describes it as follows:—

"The ground rises at intervals to a considerable height, and stretching inwards to a considerable distance: at every interval or pause in the rise, there is a very gently ascending space or lawn, which is alternate with abrupt precipices to the summit of the whole, or at least as far as the eye could distinguish. This magnificent theatre of nature has all the decorations which the trees and animals of the country can afford it: groves of poplars in every shape vary the scene; and their intervals are enlivened with vast herds of elks and buffaloes: the former choosing the steeps and uplands and the latter preferring the plains. At this time the buffaloes were attended with their young ones, who were striking about them; and it appeared that the elks would soon exhibit the same enlivening circumstance. The whole country displayed an exuberant verdure; the trees that bear a blossom were advancing fast to that delightful appearance, and the velvet rind of their branches reflecting the oblique rays of a rising or setting sun, added a splendid gaiety to the scene which no expressions of mine are qualified to describe."

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse