BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

The barren ground of northern Canada Pike, Warburton, 1861-1915 1892

Item Metadata

Download

Media
bcbooks-1.0222310.pdf
Metadata
JSON: bcbooks-1.0222310.json
JSON-LD: bcbooks-1.0222310-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): bcbooks-1.0222310-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: bcbooks-1.0222310-rdf.json
Turtle: bcbooks-1.0222310-turtle.txt
N-Triples: bcbooks-1.0222310-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: bcbooks-1.0222310-source.json
Full Text
bcbooks-1.0222310-fulltext.txt
Citation
bcbooks-1.0222310.ris

Full Text

Array    
THE UNIVERSITY OF
BRITISH COLUMBIA
LIBRARY THE   BARREN   GROUND
OF
NORTHERN   CANADA  THE
BARREN GROUND
OF
NORTHERN CANADA
BY
WARBURTON   
MACMILLAN   AND   CO.
AND   NEW YORK
189 HORACE HART,   PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY PREFACE
In many of the outlying districts of Canada an idea
is prevalent, fostered by former travellers, that somewhere in London there exists a benevolent society
whose object is to send men incapable of making any
useful scientific observations to the uttermost parts of
the earth, in order to indulge their taste for sport or
travel. Several times before I had fairly started for
the North, and again on my return, I was asked if I
had been sent out under the auspices of this society,
and, I am afraid, rather fell in the estimation of the
interviewers when I was obliged to confess that my
journey was only an ordinary shooting expedition, such
as one might make to the Rocky Mountains or the
interior of Africa, and that no great political reformation depended upon my report as to what I had seen.
In talking with officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, many of whom had been stationed for long
periods in the Athabasca and Mackenzie River districts,
I had often heard of a strange animal, a relic of an
earlier age, that was still to be found roaming the
Barren Ground, the vast desert that lies between
Hudson's Bay, the eastern ends of the three great
lakes of the North, and the Arctic Sea.    This animal
n I
VI
PREFACE.
1
I,
was the Musk-ox, but my informants could tell me
nothing from personal experience, and all that was
known on the subject had been gathered from Indian
report. Once or twice some enthusiastic sportsman
had made the attempt to reach the land of the Musk-
ox, but had never succeeded in carrying out his object;
specimens had been secured by the officers of the
various Arctic expeditions, but no one had ever seen
much of these animals or of the methods of hunting
them employed by the Northern Indians.
This, then, was the sole object of my journey; to
try and penetrate this unknown land, to see the Musk-
ox, and find out as much as I could about their habits,
and the habits of the Indians who go in pursuit of
them every year. But the only white men who had
succeeded in getting far out into the Barren Ground
were the early explorers,—Hearne, Sir John Franklin,
Sir George Back, and Dr. Richardson, while long afterwards Dr. Rae, and Stewart and Anderson went in
search of the missing Franklin expedition. With the
exception of Hearne, who threw in his lot with the
Indians, these leaders were all accompanied by the
most capable men that could be procured, and no
expense was spared in order to make success as certain
as possible ; yet in spite of every precaution the story
of Sir John Franklin's first overland journey and the
death of Hood are among the saddest episodes in the
history of Arctic exploration.
My best chance seemed to be to follow Hearne's PREFACE.
vn
example, and trust to the local knowledge of Indians
to help me; and I think, as the sequel showed, that I
was right in not taking a crew from Winnipeg. The
Indians and half-breeds of the Great Slave Lake,
although very hard to manage, are certainly well up
in Barren Ground travel; they are possessed of a
thorough knowledge of the movements of the various
animals at different seasons, and thus run less danger
of starvation than strangers, however proficient the
latter may be in driving dogs and handling canoes.
In following out this plan I naturally passed through
a great deal of new country, and discovered, as we
white men say when we are pointed out some geographical feature by an Indian who has been familiar
with it since childhood, many lakes and small streams
never before visited except by the red man. I have
attempted in a rough map to mark the chains of lakes
by which we reached the Barren Ground, but their
position is only approximate, and perhaps not even
that, as I had no instruments with which to make
correct observations, and in any case should have had
little time to use them. Let no eminent geographer
waste his time in pointing out the inaccuracies in this
map ; I admit all the errors before he discovers them.
All that I wish to show is that these chains of lakes do
exist and can be used as convenient routes, doing
away with the often-tried method of forcing canoes up
the swift and dangerous streams that fall into the
Great Slave Lake from the northern tableland. vni
PREFACE.
1
The success of my expedition is to be attributed
entirely to the assistance which was given me by the
Hudson's Bay Company, and I take this opportunity
of thanking them for all the hospitality that was shown
to me throughout my journey ; I was never refused a
single request that I made, and, although a total
stranger, was treated with the greatest kindness by
everybody, from the Commissioner at Winnipeg to the
engaged servant in the Far North. My thanks are
especially due to Lord Anson, one of the directors in
London, to Messrs. Wrigley and William Clark at
Winnipeg, Mr. Roderick MacFarlane, lately of Stuart's
Lake, British Columbia, a well-known northern explorer who put me in the way of making a fair start,
Dr. Mackay of Athabasca, Mr. Camsell of Mackenzie
River, Mr. Ewen Macdonald of Peace River, and
most of all to Mr. Mackinlay of Fort Resolution on
the Great Slave Lake, who was my companion during
a long summer journey in the Barren Ground.
My only excuse for publishing this account of my
travels is that the subject is a reasonably new one,
and deals with a branch of sport that has never been
described. I have spared the reader statistics, and
I have kept my story as short as possible. I hope that
in return anyone who may be interested in these pages
will spare his comments on faulty style, and the various
errors into which a man who has spent much time
among the big game is sure to fall when he is rash
enough to lay down his rifle and take up the pen. PREFACE.
IX
I have also cut out the chapter with which these
books usually begin,—a description of the monotonous
voyage by Atlantic steamer and Canadian Pacific
Railway, and start at once from Calgary, a thriving
cattle-town close under the eastern foothills of the
Rocky Mountains.
I am sorry that I have no reliable means of illustration, as I had no camera with me, and a few very
rough sketches that I made were lost. I believe that
a book can be illustrated effectively enough in London,
thousands of miles away from the scenes which the
pictures are supposed to represent; but these illustrations must always lack the charm of reality, and
a record of travel should aim at being truthful if it
cannot be interesting. Another thing that I regret
still more is the loss of a small collection of geological
specimens which were abandoned during the vicissitudes of travel.  MAPS
i. A Sketch Map to illustrate Mr. Warburton Pike's journeys
to the Barren Ground of Northern Canada .    .    .    To face p. r
2. Dominion of Canada.    Outline  Map, showing the  larger
unexplored areas, 1890 To face p. 277 SSBB
mA
ill' CORRIGENDUM.
Page 149, line 8, for and Montaignais as interpreter read and
as Montaignais interpreter
Pikfs Canada.
rii
i I 1 I  THE
BARREN GROUND
OF
NORTHERN   CANADA
CHAPTER I.
In the middle of June, 1889, I left Calgary for a
drive of two hundred miles to Edmonton, the real starting-point for the great northern country controlled by
the Hudson's Bay Company, and, with the exception
of their scattered trading-posts, and an occasional
Protestant or Roman Catholic Mission, entirely given
up to what it was evidently intended for, a hunting-
ground for the Indian.
My conveyance was a light buckboard, containing
my whole outfit, which was as small as possible, consisting almost entirely of ammunition for a 12-bore
Paradox and a 50-95 Winchester Express, besides a
pair of large blankets and a little necessary clothing.
Forest fires were raging in the Rocky Mountains
close at hand, and the thick smoke obscuring the sun,
the heat was not nearly so fierce as usual at this time
of the year; the road was good for a prairie road,
and comfortable stopping-places each night made the THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. I.
journey quite easy. About sixty miles out the
country loses the appearance of what is known among
cattlemen as the bald-headed prairie, and is dotted
with clumps of poplar, and occasionally pines; half
way to Edmonton the road crosses the broad stream
of the Red Deer, and passes through the most attractive country that I have seen in the north-west
territories. It is being rapidly settled, and, with the
convenience of a railway now building between Calgary
and Edmonton, cannot fail to be an important farming
and stock-raising district within a few years.
On the morning of the fifth day I reached Edmonton, a pleasant little town scattered along the far bank
of the North Saskatchewan, and historical in the annals
of the Hudson's Bay Company, by whom it was established as a fur trading-post many years ago ; it is fated
shortly to lose its individuality in the stream of advancing civilization, and will probably develop into an
ordinary prairie-town of some importance.
Finding that I had no time to spare if I wished to
catch the steamer down the Athabasca river, I left
again the same evening, after buying a small supply of
flour and bacon. I changed the buckboard for a
wagon, having for driver a French half-breed who had
spent his early life on the prairie in buffalo-hunting,
but, on the extinction of the game, had been earning
a living by freighting for the Hudson's Bay Company,
and farming on a small scale. He was a much pleas-
anter companion than the smartly dressed young man,
' come of good folks in the East,' who had been my
driver from Calgary, and many an interesting tale he 1 "
CHAP. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
told me on our three-days' journey to the banks of the
Athabasca; tales of the good old times when the
buffalo were thick, and the Crees waged perpetual war
against the Blackfeet, and whisky formed the staple
article of trade for the Indian's fur. At the present
day the Prohibition Act orders that even the white
men of the north-west territories must be temperate,
thereby causing whisky to be dear and bad, but
plentiful withal, and it is surprising how such a law
exists in a country where nine men out of ten not only
want to drink, but do drink in open defiance of the
commands of a motherly Government.
A fair road some hundred miles in length has been
made by the Hudson's Bay Company through a rolling
sandy country, crossing several large streams and
passing through a good deal of thick pine timber
where some heavy chopping must have been necessary. The flies bothered us greatly; the large bulldogs, looking like a cross between a bee and a bluebottle, drove the horses almost to madness, and after
our midday halt it was no easy matter to put the
harness on; fortunately we had netting, or the poor
beasts would have fared much worse: as it was the
blood was streaming from their flanks during the heat
of the day. The mosquitos appeared towards evening,
but as the nights were usually chilly they only annoyed
us for a few hours. There were no houses along the
road, but plenty of firewood and feed for the horses ;
we had a good camp every night, sleeping in the open
air, starting very early and resting long in the middle
of the day.
b a THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. I.
Two days took us over the divide between the Saskatchewan and Athabasca rivers, and now the water in
the little streams that we crossed eventually reached
the sea far away in the frozen Arctic Ocean at the
mouth of the great Mackenzie. Early on the fourth
day we came in sight of the Athabasca running
between high pine-clad banks, and, dropping down
a steep hill, found the Company's steamer loading up
with freight for the far north. This spot is known as
the Athabasca landing, and consists of a large depot
for goods, trading-store, and several workmen's houses,
while the house of the officer in charge stands on the
hillside a little way back from the river. From the
landing there is water communication down stream,
broken of course by portages, to the Arctic sea, while
the Lesser Slave Lake lies within a few days' travel up
stream, from the north end of which a road seventy-five
miles in length has been cut to the bank of Peace River.
I spent a pleasant enough day loafing about, Mr. Wood,
who was in charge, showing me great kindness and
giving me much useful information about my route,
and at twelve o'clock the following day we started
down stream. The only other passengers were a Mr.
Flett and his wife and daughter, who were on their
way to take charge of Fort Smith during the coming
winter. Mr. Flett was just returning from a visit to
his native country, the Orkney Islands, after an absence of forty-four years in the service of the Company,
all of which time was spent in the wildest part of the
North. He was full of the wonderful changes that
had taken place since he was a boy, but finding him-
it — 1	
CHAP. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
self completely lost in civilization, had hurried back to
the land of snow. Unfortunately Mrs. Flett had been
unable to stand the climate of the old country, and was
quite broken down in her health. I was sorry to hear
during the winter that she died a few days after we left
her at Fort Chipeweyan.
Owing to the very light snowfall in the mountains in
the winter of 1888—89, the water in the river was unusually low, and, as we expected, on the third day the
steamer, a large light-draught stern-wheeler, after
striking several times on shallow bars, had to abandon
the attempt to reach the Grand Rapids. We accordingly tied up to the bank, and, sending a skiff down to
take the news, awaited the arrival of boats from below
to take our cargo. For ten days we lay at the junction
of Pelican River, a small stream coming in on the
north side of the Athabasca. There was absolutely
nothing to do ; the low gravelly banks on each side
were fringed with thick willows backed by a narrow
belt of poplars, and behind these the gloomy pine
woods, with here and there a solitary birch, stretched
away in an unbroken mass as far as the eye could see.
The forest was alive with mosquitos, although owing
to the low water in the river they were said to be
much less numerous than usual; they were sufficiently
thick however to make any exploration in the woods a
misery. Fishing we tried without much result, and
everybody was pleased when at last Mr. Scott Simpson, who was in charge of the river transport that
summer, arrived with two boats. The steamer's cargo
was unloaded, partly into the boats and partly on to
1 THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. I.
the bank, and early in the morning she started back
for the landing while we proceeded on our journey
down stream.
These inland boats, as they are termed, are extraordinary specimens of marine architecture, long open
craft, classified according to shape as York boats,
sturgeon-heads, and scows, capable of carrying a load
of ten tons, manned by a crew of eight oars and a
steersman, rowed down stream and tracked up, running
rapids and bumping on rocks. Planks, nails, and pitch
are always kept ready to effect repairs, and are in
frequent demand. The crews are generally half-
breeds from the Lesser Slave Lake and Lake La
Biche, both of which pour their waters into the Athabasca ; but there are also volunteers from all parts of
the North, as the wages are good and the work is
suited to the half-breed's character, besides the certainty of receiving rations every day, which is a great
attraction in a land of scarcity. Sometimes crews of
Locheaux Indians are sent up from the Mackenzie,
and have the reputation of being the best workers;
they certainly seemed to me to be less given to rebellion and more easily managed than the half-breeds.
The boats are steered with a huge sweep passed
through a ring in the stern post, and great responsibility rests on the steersman, who at times requires all
his skill and strength to throw the heavily-laden boat
clear of a rock in a boiling rapid.
In three days, without accident, we reached the
island at the head of the Grand Rapids, just in time to
rescue a Company's clerk named Mackay from a very — ij m    i
CHAP. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
unenviable position.    He had come up with the boat-
brigade from Fort MacMurray, and, provisions running
short, had travelled over-land accompanied by a half-
breed to meet the steamer from which they expected
to get supplies to take down to the crews.    On reach-
ing the island they were unable to attract the attention
of the man left in charge of the freight lying there, so
they walked a couple of miles up the north bank and
built a raft on which to cross the river.   They thought
they would be able to pole the raft, but the water
proved too deep, and being unable to get steerage way
on her, they soon broke their unmanageable vessel to
pieces against a rock.   It was now a case of swimming
in a strong current that was forcing them over the big
rapid where certain death awaited them ; the half-breed
succeeded in fetching the island, but Mackay, seeing
he was being swept over the fall, swam to a rock and
managed to climb on to it.    The half-breed found the
sole inhabitant of the island in his cabin, but there was
no boat in which to go to the rescue, and if there had
been it was no easy matter for two men to lower it
down, without all going over the rapid.    They were
engaged in building a raft to make the attempt when
they saw our brigade coming down the river.    By the-
aid of a long line and plenty of hands the smallest
boat was lowered down to the rocks, and what might
have been a very serious accident was luckily averted.
Mackay was much chilled by sitting on the rocks for
several hours in wet clothes after two days without
eating; but, when he had had a good meal he was
none the  worse   for  his  rough  experience, and, as
if THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. I.
is always the case when the danger is past, had plenty
of chaff to put up with.
The channel on the south side of the island can be
used for dropping a light boat down with a line, but
all cargo has to be portaged; the north channel is
quite impracticable for navigation, having a heavy
overfall with an immense body of broken water. The
whole river-bed above the island is covered with round
boulders of soft sandstone, many above water, which
make the approach to the landing difficult. The north
bank is a sand-bluff with many similar boulders protruding from the steep cliff, the south bank lower and
timbered close to the water's edge. Many perfect
specimens of petrifaction are to be seen on the island
and along the river-banks.
The portage is the whole length of the island, about
one thousand yards, and a rough tramway has been
built to save the labour of carrying cargoes such a
distance on men's backs; this tramway is a splendid
plaything for the crews, and they spend hours in
running the trolley down the hill and poling it up on
the principle of a canoe ascending a rapid. Here we
passed two weeks in waiting for the boats from below
to take the whole of the steamer's load, which during
this time was brought down by the same boats that we
had used. The time slipped away quickly, though we
did nothing but smoke and yarn, and towards the end
of July the brigade turned up, bringing the first consignment of furs and the news from the North. We
were soon off on our hundred-and-fifty-miles' run to
Fort MacMurray, and the travelling was now exciting CHAP. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
enough, a succession of rapids making hard work for
the men, as several had to be run with half loads and
the boats tracked up for the other half, and at a small
cascade everything had to be portaged while the boats
were dropped over with a line.
The worst rapid goes by the name of the Boiler
Rapid, from the fact of the boiler for the steamer
Wrigley which plies on Mackenzie River having been
lost here through the breaking of a boat. Here the
channel has a bad turn in the strong water, and neat
steering is required to clear two reefs of rocks which
lie in an awkward position in the middle of the stream.
Sometimes there were long stretches of quiet water
between the rapids, and the boats drifted with the
current while the men smoked or slept; occasionally
some one would strike up a snatch from one of the old
French-Canadian chansons, which seem to be dropping
out of fashion entirely since the steamers have to such
a large extent done away with the old style of boating.
Four, five, and on long days sometimes six times we
put ashore to eat; a wonderful amount of flour, bacon,
and tea being consumed by the fifty men composing
the brigade. Considering the distance from which the
provisions are brought, the inability of this part of the
country to supply any of the necessaries of life, and the
importance of forwarding trading-goods to the northern
districts before the short summer closes, it is not
surprising that there should be at times a scarcity.
On the present occasion, however, there was no stint,
and fine weather made the trip delightful. At night
the boats were run ashore, and each crew lighting their
i
1 111 IO
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. I.
own fire, the encampment presented a most picturesque
appearance, the gaudy belts and head-gear of the
swarthy crews as they moved in the firelight showing
in strong contrast to the dark background of tall pine
trees. We generally chose as exposed a place as
possible for the camp, to get the benefit of any wind
there might be to blow away the mosquitos, which
were bad in this part of the river. I had the post of
honour in the leading boat steered by the guide of the
brigade, a Swampy Indian from the Red-River country
who had spent many years in voyaging for the Hudson's Bay Company. In former days the guide was
absolute dictator and had full control over all the boats,
but nowadays discipline is slack and he seems to have
little authority.
It was a pretty sight to see the long string of boats
leaping the rapids behind us, the bowsman standing up
and pointing the course to the steersman, while the
rowers plied their utmost and broke out into the wild
shouts that can never be suppressed in moments of
excitement. The Cree language forms the medium
of conversation, although many of the half-breeds talk
fluently in Red-River French ; English is little spoken
in any part of the North that I visited.
On the afternoon of the fourth day we arrived at
Fort MacMurray, a small post of little importance,
standing at the junction of the Athabasca and the
Clearwater River, a large stream coming in from
the southward, and until the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway to Calgary the main route to the
North.   The outfits sent from Winnipeg used to reach CHAP. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
ii
the waters falling into the Arctic Sea far up the Clearwater at the northern end of what was known as the
Long Portage, but the present route is much simpler,
as there is no up-stream work with loaded boats.
After leaving Fort MacMurray the old course is
maintained, following down stream the main artery of
the northern watershed.
The stern-wheel steamer Grahame was waiting
for us in the mouth of the Clearwater, with Dr. Mackay,
the Hudson's Bay Company's officer in charge of the
Athabasca district of which MacMurray is the most
southerly post. It extends to the north as far as Fort
Resolution on the Great Slave Lake, and also takes in
Fort Chipeweyan, the head-post of the district, situated
at the west end of the Athabasca Lake, Fond du Lac
at the east end of the same sheet of water, Vermilion
and Little Red River on the Lower Peace River, and
Fort Smith at the foot of the rapids on the Slave
River. It is no sinecure for the man that has to keep
this vast extent of country supplied with everything
necessary for the existence of the Indians, making the
best bargain he can for the products of their hunts, and
endeavouring to please the Chipeweyans in the woods
and the shareholders of the Company in England at
the same time.
The cargo was put on board the steamer in the
evening, and in the early morning we started once
more for the North. The water was still exceedingly
low, but not so much so as to be an impediment to
navigation, as the stream increases in size after the
junction of the Clearwater, and beyond scraping once 12
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. I.
or twice on sandbars, our progress was uninterrupted.
About twenty miles below MacMurray we stopped to
take on wood and pitch from the natural tar deposits
which are just beginning to attract a little attention in
Eastern Canada, and the geologists, about to be sent
from Ottawa to examine into the resources of this
part of the country, will doubtless make a thorough
investigation of the amount and quality of the deposit.
The whole of that day we steamed through a wilderness of pine timber presenting exactly the same
appearance as in the upper reaches of the river, but on
the following morning the banks became low and
swampy, the stream sluggish and divided into various
branches, and a few miles of intricate navigation
brought us out on to the Athabasca Lake. Across on
the north shore we could make out the white houses
and church of Fort Chipeweyan, and after a couple of
hours' steaming, with smooth water, we were alongside
the rather rough apology for a landing-place.
Fort Chipeweyan was established in the early days
of fur-trading, and a hundred years ago was the
starting-point of Sir Alexander Mackenzie's voyage
of discovery that resulted in the exploration and
naming of the immense stream discharging- from the
Great Slave Lake. It was the scene of many stirring
events during the rivalry of the North-West and the
Hudson's Bay Companies, and since their amalgamation has always been an important trading-post. At
the present day it consists of a long row of white
painted log-houses occupied chiefly by the Company's
servants ; at the southern end are the officers' quarters CHAP. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
*3
in close proximity to the large trading and provision
stores; at the north end stand the Protestant church
and Mission buildings, and farther along the lake is
the Roman Catholic establishment. The numerous
houses form quite an imposing sight in contrast to the
surrounding desolation. The settlement is almost at
the west end of the Athabasca Lake which stretches
away some two hundred and fifty miles to the eastward, with Fond du Lac, a small outpost, at the far
end.
Since the steamers have been running Chipeweyan
has been partly supplied with the provisions of civilization, but is still chiefly dependent on its fisheries for
food, and great pains are taken in the autumn to store
as many whitefish as possible. At the commencement of cold weather every available net is working
and the fish are hung on stages to freeze; a large
number are spoilt for eating if the weather turns
warm during hanging-time, but they are always available for the dogs. Trout-lines are worked all the
winter, and if the supply seems to be running short,
nets are also set under the ice, but usually without
such good results as at the Fall fishery. Caribou
from the Barren Ground sometimes wander near Fond
du Lac, and whenever this occurs the fort is kept
well supplied by the Indians, but an occasional moose
affords as a rule the only chance of fresh meat.
Many geese and ducks are killed and salted during
the spring and autumn migration of wild-fowl, which
come to the Athabasca Lake at these periods in
vast numbers.     Chipeweyan has a large population
***"• 14
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. I.
for the part of the world in which it is situated,
and as there is a proportionate consumption of food
no chance of laying in a stock is missed. The lake
still affords an excellent field for exploration, as
beyond the main route to the east end and some
of the nearer fisheries very little is known to the
Whites, and the country in every direction from Fond
du Lac is mapped chiefly on information derived from
Indians. It is unlikely that there are any startling
discoveries to be made, as the general character of
the country seems to be the same as that of the
district lying to the north and east of the Great Slave
Lake, developing gradually into the Barren Ground;
but there must be many geographical features in the
form of streams and lakes to be noticed, which might
amply repay the trouble of a summer's exploration.
All supplies can easily be taken by water-carriage as
far as the east end of the lake, though of course the
well-known difficulty of transporting provisions into
the Barren Ground would commence as soon as the
main lake was left. CHAPTER II.
After a stay of a few hours at the Fort, we started
again in the Grahame on our voyage to the head
of the rapids at Fort Smith, a distance of perhaps
a hundred miles, and almost immediately passed into
the main stream leaving the lake, and until the junction of the Peace bearing the name of the Rocky
River. During the high water in summer part of the
water of the Peace finds its way into the Athabasca
Lake by a passage known as the Quatres Fourches,
but as the floods subside a slight current sets in the
opposite direction; the lake thus has another outlet
into the Peace, which eventually joins the Rocky River
about thirty miles below; the combined stream is then
called the Slave River till it debouches into the Great
Slave Lake, on leaving which it becomes the Mackenzie.
A distinct alteration in the appearance of the country
is visible on leaving Fort Chipeweyan. The red
granite rock shows up and the pine timber is smaller
and more scattered, burnt in many places, and mixed
.with a thick growth of willows and berry-producing
bushes ; the scenery from the river is monotonous and
without landmarks, although a wider view can be ob- i6
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. II.
tained than in running down the Athabasca, where the
big pine-trees prevent all chance of seeing far in any
direction. The current is of no great velocity with
the exception of two small rapids formed by the
contraction of the channel; both are navigable,
although at certain stages of water it is necessary
to put out a rope to assist the steamer in mounting
the more formidable of the two. We had a very
merry passage down, Dr. Mackay and several of the
officers of his district accompanying us, and in good
time on the second day we tied up to the bank on the
west side of the river, just at the head of the rapids.
I must take this opportunity of congratulating the
Hudson's Bay Company on the efficient manner in
which their steamers are managed. Considering the
utter incapacity of the Indian and half-breed crews
when they first come on board, great praise is due to
the captains and engineers for their success in overcoming obstacles in navigation and carrying on the
Company's business in a country so remote from
civilization. Everything is done in a quiet and orderly way, and a very noticeable feature is the total
absence of the swearing and profanity so essential
to the well-being of a river-steamer in other parts of
the American continent.
The next day the work of portaging began, as the
whole cargo had to be transported sixteen miles to the
lower end of the rapids. In former days the goods
were taken down by water, necessitating many portages and great delay; but within the last few years
a road has been cut through the woods on the west CHAP. II,
OF NORTHERN CANADA
side of the river, and the portage is made with Red-
River carts drawn by oxen. Twenty carts are in use,
starting loaded and returning light, on alternate days.
The road is fair in a dry summer, but full of mud-holes
in bad weather, and celebrated as the worst place for
mosquitos in all the North.
While this was going on we amused ourselves with
duck-shooting on some lakes and muskegs a few miles
back from the landing, and our bag was always a
welcome addition to the table, as no other kind of
fresh meat was to be had. Big game is very scarce
along the main route, and though there are still a few
moose and bear it is rarely that an animal is seen
close to the banks of the river. As soon as the cargo
was all over we went across to Fort Smith, standing
just below the rapids, to await the arrival of the
Mackenzie River steamboat which was expected at
any time. Dr. Mackay took me down the old boat-
route in a canoe, and I had a good opportunity of
seeing what labour and risk there must have been
with heavily-laden boats; we made some fifteen
portages in all, which occupied a long afternoon, with
only a light canoe. A large colony of pelicans have
taken possession of some islands among the rapids,
and rear their young without fear of molestation.
Fort Smith, in spite of its fine situation on an open
flat high above the river, is the most disreputable
establishment I came across in the North, and the
contrast was more striking as most of the forts are
kept rather smartly. Several half-breeds have settled
close round, and a large band of Indians, known as THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. II.
the Caribou-Eaters, whose hunting-ground lies between
the two big lakes, get their supplies from here.
Within a short distance is Salt River, which produces
all the salt consumed in the country, and saves the
expense of importing this necessary article.
On August 13th, after several days' waiting, the
steamer Wrigley arrived, bringing up the Mackenzie
River furs and several of the officers from that district. Among her passengers was a French half-
breed, King Beaulieu, who afterwards became my
guide to the Barren Ground. He agreed to go in
this capacity at a consultation held in Dr. Mackay's
presence, swearing eternal fidelity and promising to do
everything in his power to ensure the success of the
expedition. Nobody could give him a very good
character, but as he was known as a pushing fellow
and first-rate traveller, besides having made a successful musk-ox hunt in the previous year, I concluded
that my best chance lay in going with him. Certainly,
with all his faults, I must say that he was thoroughly
expert in all the arts of travel with canoes or dog-
sleighs, quick in emergencies, and far more courageous
than most of the half-breeds of the Great Slave Lake.
When I was alone with him I found him easy enough
to manage; but his three sons, who accompanied us,
are the biggest scoundrels I ever had to travel with,
and as they seem to demoralize the old man when
they are together, the united family is a bad combination.
Two more days were passed in loading the Wrigley, and in discussion among the officers from the two S9P	
CHAP. II.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
19
districts, who only meet on this occasion, and have to
make the most of the short stay to go over the news
of the last year and prospects for the next. Mr.
Camsell, who is in charge of Mackenzie River district,
was on board, and, although I never actually went
within his dominions, was exceedingly kind in giving
me supplies from his own outfit, and in doing everything he could to help me during the year that I spent
in the neighbourhood of the Great Slave Lake.
The Wrigley, having the rough crossing of the
lake to make, is a very different style of boat to the
stern-wheelers above, which do all their work in
smooth water. She is a screw-boat, drawing seven
feet when loaded; and it gives an idea of the great
size of the Mackenzie when I mention that a vessel
with this draught of water has a clear run of thirteen
hundred miles from Fort Smith to Peel's River, a tributary joining the main stream from the west a short
distance above its mouth. She has never, I believe,
steamed into the Arctic Sea, partly on account of the
channel being unknown, and partly owing to the
shortness of the season, which necessitates her being
constantly at work to supply the forts before the
closing of navigation.
After leaving Fort Smith and passing the mouth
of Salt River the Slave River widens considerably,
and, with a slight current running between low banks
and numerous islands, follows a more circuitous course
than in its upper reaches. The steamer's course
covers a distance of one hundred and eighty miles to
the Great Slave Lake, but, in travelling with canoes
c t
m
I
mm
l*M THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. II,
or dogs, a number of portages are made to cut off
bends of the river, and about one-third of the distance
is saved.
The granite formation is quickly lost sight of from
the water. The sandy banks are covered with a dense
growth of willows backed by the pine forest; a gloomy
uninviting stretch of country, to which the tall dead
trees charred by former fires give a peculiar air of
desolation. The soft nature of the sand, and the fact
that much of the bank has fallen in through the action
of the ice breaking up in the spring, render tracking
difficult on this part of the river; the fallen timber
leaning over it at all angles, and making it impossible
to pass the line. The sluggish nature of the current,
however, compensates for this, as its strength can
always be overcome by oars or paddles in the bad
places. Early on the second day we steamed through
the low delta lands at the mouth of the river, and,
passing cautiously among the sandy battures lying far
off shore, arrived in heavy rain and strong westerly
wind at Fort Resolution, situated about ten miles to
the westward of the river's mouth. Mr. Mackinlay,
who is in charge of the fort, was away; but, as the
steamer was delayed for a couple of days by the storm
that was blowing, Mr. Camsell gave me very valuable
assistance in making preparation for my voyage.
The resources of the fort were at the lowest; no
supplies had yet arrived from outside, and the people
were entirely dependent on their nets for food: as is
usually the case at this time of year, fish were scarce
and hard times prevalent,    A boat had been fitted out CHAP. II.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
21
to be sent to the east end of the lake to trade for meat
with the Indians hunting there; but after waiting a
long time for the steamer, to obtain the ammunition
necessary for trading, she was blown ashore and broken
up on the night of our arrival. I had intended to take
a passage by this boat; but as a party of men had to
be sent to Fort Smith to bring down another one, and
I was anxious to get among the game with as little
delay as possible, I determined to make the journey as
well as I could with canoes.
It was now that I made the acquaintance of King
Beaulieu's sons, Francois, Jose, and Paul, each of them
married and father of such a big family that it makes
one tremble for the future of the Great Slave Lake
country when the next generation has grown up. The
original Beaulieu seems to have been a French half-
breed brought in by the Hudson's Bay Company
among the early voyageurs fro m Red River. He
settled at Salt River, where buffalo were numerous at
the time, and by an indefinite number of wives raised
a large family which is threatening gradually to inundate the North. King's father appears to have been
a fighting man, and great stories of his bravery and
prowess are told by his sons and grandsons; but his
name only appears in the Company's records in connection with various deeds of violence not much to his
credit.
All King's family were hanging about the fort in
a state of semi-starvation, and I was glad when we
eventually started well on in the afternoon of August
19th, with the hope of reaching first some good fishing- 22
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. II.
ground to supply them with food for immediate want,
and afterwards the country of the caribou in the woods
to the north of the lake, while beyond that again was
the prospect of finding the musk-ox far out in the
Barren Ground.
In character a Beaulieu is a mixture of a very simple,
child and a German Jew; all the lack of reason of the
one combined with the greed of the other, and a sort
of low cunning more like that of an animal than a
human being. He is not a nice man to travel with, as
he always keeps a longing eye on his master's possessions, even though he is fully as well-equipped
himself, and is untrustworthy if you leave anything in
his charge. To your face he is fairspoken and humble
enough, and to hear him talk you would think he had
a certain amount of regard for you; but out of sight
the promises are forgotten, and he is devising some
scheme to annoy you and get something out of you.
The only way to treat him is as you would treat a dog;
if you are kind to him he takes it as a sign that you
are afraid of him, and acts accordingly. With the
exception of King there is no fear of violence; but his
passion is at times so uncontrollable that he is capable
of anything. It is needless to relate all the bother
I had with these people, and I shall content myself
with saying that the whole time I was with them the
camp was the scene of one continuous wrangle; sometimes they would quarrel with me and sometimes
among themselves, but we never did anything without
having a row.
As far as Fort Resolution the travelling had been CHAP. II.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
23
almost as easy, although there were many delays, as in
civilization; but directly you branch from the Company's main route you are thrown entirely on your own
resources, and, owing to the impossibility of carrying
enough provision for a prolonged journey in the Barren
Ground, the rifle and net are the only means of obtaining food. This is a point to be well considered before
undertaking a trip to the country of the musk-ox,
as, however well you may be supplied at starting, you
are sure to experience some hard times before your
object is accomplished.
My only provisions consisted of a couple of sacks of
flour and about fifty pounds of bacon, and I might as
well have started with none at all. My companions
had all the improvidence of the Indian nature, and
hated the idea of keeping anything for hard times.
There was such a constant begging, not without a
certain excuse from hunger, to be allowed to eat flour
and bacon, that I was really rather glad when it was
all gone, which was actually the case before we left the
Great Slave Lake. We had a good supply of tea and
tobacco, though it proved after all insufficient, plenty
of ammunition for the three Winchester rifles, and
powder, shot, and ball for the muzzle-loading weapons
of the party; we had also nets and a few hooks and
lines, matches, needles, and awls to be used in the
manufacture of moccasins and the deer-skin clothes so
essential for winter travel; knives of various shapes
and sizes, scrapers for dressing skins, and a small stock
of the duffel imported by the Company for lining
mittens and wrapping up the feet during the intense
^m^... ■ 24
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. II.
during
the
cold  that we  were  sure  to  experience
trip.
Our fleet numbered three large birch-bark canoes,
crowded with men, women, and children, amounting in
all to over twenty souls, or, to be more practical,
mouths. Besides these there were fifteen gaunt and
hungry dogs, which had been spending their short
summer's rest in starving as a preparation for the hard
work and harder blows which were in store for them in
the coming winter.
I was of course the only white man in the party, and
whatever conversation I held with the three or four
half-breeds that I could understand was carried on in
the French patois of the North. Among themselves
they used the Montaignais dialect of the Chipeweyan
language, which is spoken with variations to the northward of the Cree-speaking belt, till its place is taken
by the Slavi and Locheaux language of the Mackenzie
River; in a couple of months I had picked up enough
Montaignais to be able to mix it with French and make
myself fairly well understood.
Four deerskin lodges made our encampment. I lived
with King, as his camp was always the quietest; in the
other lodges there was a continual screaming of children, or yelping of hungry dogs as they felt the cruel
blow of axe or paddle, which was the sure result of
approaching the savoury-smelling kettle too close. We
camped the first night in the delta of the Slave, or, as
it is more usually called, the-Big River. I distributed
a little ammunition, and we killed enough ducks to
provide the whole party with a night's provision.   The CHAP. II.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
25
next day a gale of wind was blowing from the lake,
and, after following winding muddy channels all the
morning, we were obliged to camp again on a point of
willows beyond which we should have been exposed to
the full violence of the storm, and our overloaded
canoes would have had no chance of living in the
heavy sea. Here we remained two days, still within
twenty miles of the fort. Wild-fowl were numerous,
but the great autumn migration had not yet set in, and
all the birds that we found had been bred in the
muskegs that surrounded us on all sides; they were
mostly mallard, widgeon, teal, shoveller, and pintail,
the latter being particularly plentiful. Musk-rats swam
in all the little creeks and lakes, and, as they are
esteemed as an article of food, and their skins are of
a trifling value, we killed a great many.
On the third day we paddled along the shore of the
lake against a strong head-wind, passing the Isle de
Pierre, one of the best fisheries in the neighbourhood,
and camped at the Point of Rocks, the first spot on the
south side of the lake where the red granite again
shows up, and the end of the muskeg country that
extends far on each side of the Big River. Here we
caught enough whitefish with the nets to enable even
the dogs to have a small feed, and, as we killed forty
ducks while waiting for the wind to moderate, everybody was satisfied. In the afternoon we put out in
a calm to paddle across the open traverse to the first
of a group of islands about fifteen miles to the north.
This traverse is the terror of the lake for canoes, both
in summer on account of the heavy sea which gets up 26
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. II.
Ea-
il
suddenly, and in winter when the drifting snow in
stormy weather obscures everything and makes it
a difficult matter to keep the course over the ice. On
this occasion we got over just in time, and, camping on
the nearest island of the group, were delayed for two
days by strong north-west winds accompanied by
showers of driving rain.
These islands, marked on the map as Simpson's
Group, extend for a hundred miles in a north-easterly
direction to Fond du Lac, and, if ever explored, will
be found to be in immense numbers, varying in size,
but all of the same red-granite formation, covered
with a scanty growth of pine, birch, and willows.
Many of them rise to a considerable height, with the
ridges generally running south-west and north-east.
A few moose still inhabit the larger islands; but the
big herds of caribou from the Barren Ground that
used formerly to come here in their wanderings seem
to have deserted them of late years. An occasional
small pond gives harbourage for a few wild-fowl, while
wood-grouse, and in winter ptarmigan, are plentiful.
The bare outlying rocks between the islands are the
breeding-ground of gulls and terns: divers and a few
cormorants give additional life to the lake in summer;
but at the first sign of cold weather the water-birds
all leave for a more temperate land, and a deathlike
silence settles over the frozen channels during the
eight months of winter*
The island on wliich we were encamped, being the
most westerly of the group, was exposed to the full
force of the gale.    The heavy fresh-water seas broke
mm CHAP. II.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
27
with great violence on the weather shore and on the
numerous rocks, some above water and others submerged, that make the navigation of this part of the
lake dangerous for anything larger than a canoe. It
was no easy matter to get out our nets, even to
leeward of the island, and the supply of fish was very
scanty; dissatisfaction was prevalent in the camp,
and heavy inroads were made on the flour and bacon
that would have proved so useful later on. When
the weather moderated we started against a strong
head-wind, and a hard day's paddling brought us to
a spot known as the Inconnu Fishery, situated on an
island halfway to Fond du Lac. The Inconnu, or
Unknown Fish, is, I believe, entirely restricted to the
Mackenzie River country, and its southernmost limits
seem to be the rapids at Fort Smith ; it was thus
named by the early voyageurs of the Company, who
were unable to classify it, and even to this day there
is a great variety of opinion as to what family it is a
member of: a long thin fish, not unlike a misshapen
salmon, running up to fifteen pounds in weight, with
flabby and unpalatable flesh, it is held in very low
estimation in comparison with whitefish or trout, and
is only appreciated in hard times. At this particular
island it will take a bait readily, but I never heard of
its doing so in any other part of the lake, although
large numbers are caught in the nets. There is some
peculiarity in the water which may account for this, as,
even in the dead of winter, there is generally an open
hole in the ice; and, in passing the Inconnu Fishery,
one must keep right ashore to avoid the treacherous
Is 111
■  ■      — THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. II.
If
spot. Here we were wind-bound again, and indeed
for several days made very little headway against the
northerly gales that seem almost incessant at this time
of year. We had a pleasant spot to camp in every
night, but not always enough to eat, and it was the
first of September before we sighted the high land
on the north side of the lake. This was the first
really fine day we had had since leaving the fort,
and, taking advantage of it, we left the shelter of the
islands, made a bold crossing of the wide stretch of
open water, and camped among the scattering pines
on the northern mainland. Exactly opposite to us
was the narrow entrance to Christie's Bay of the maps,
extending some hundred miles to the east and southeast, offering another tempting field for exploration.
On the west side of the entrance is a remarkable
many-coloured bluff, composed of the soft rock used
by the Indians for the manufacture of their stone
pipes, which are still in common use.
The range of hills along the north shore, which we
now had to coast, average perhaps five hundred feet
in height, occasionally reaching a much higher elevation, but without any conspicuous peaks; the land
begins to rise at once from the lake, in many places
taking the form of a steep cliff. The vegetation is
the same as that on the south side of the lake, but
more stunted, the pine trees especially showing the
increased rigour of the climate; small birch trees are
still numerous, and the growth of the hardy willows
is almost as strong as at Fort Resolution. Fruit-
bearing plants  are  common.     The   small   muskegs CHAP. II,
OF NORTHERN CANADA
29
between the ridges of rock are full of a much-prized
yellow berry, while blueberry bushes flourish in the
dry spots, and a few raspberries are still to be seen;
but strawberries, which used to be plentiful on the
south shore and among the islands, have disappeared.
I noticed here the low trailing plant bearing a woolly
red berry, known as Cannicannick by the Indians to
the west of the Rocky Mountains, and used by them
as tobacco ; the Slave Lake Indians sometimes smoke
it, but prefer the inner bark of the red willow; the
Hudson's Bay negrohead tobacco is in my opinion
much improved, as well as economized, by a mixture
with either of these substances. Countless streams,
the outlet of lakes on the elevated tableland to the
north, foam down the deep gulches in the hillside, and
confused masses of fallen timber and rocks give
evidence of the frequent land-slides that take place
during the spring thaws.
Again the north wind howled dismally down the
lake, and several more days were occupied in reaching
Fond du Lac. The enforced delay had a depressing
effect upon the whole party, as fish were scarce, and
paddling against continual head-winds is always hard
work. At last, on September. 5th, passing through
a narrow arm of the lake with a perceptible current
formed by the prevailing winds, we came in sight of
Fond du Lac, A single house at the head of a snug
little bay is all that is left standing, but the ruins
of others, and a number of rough graves, show that
at one time it was a more populous place. It was
formerly  an outpost of  Fort Resolution, used as a
I'M
;I1 3°
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. II.
depot for collecting meat, and presided over in a
haphazard manner by King Beaulieu, who is still
rather sore about the abandonment of the post and
his own discharge from the Company's service. The
weather now became worse than ever, snow and hail
taking the place of rain and throwing the first white
mantle on the hill-tops. It was evident that such a
large party, crippled as we were with women and
children, would never be able to reach the caribou,
in the event of these animals being far back from
the Great Slave Lake. We had met no Indians, and
so had no means of hearing the news of the caribou,
which forms the one topic of interest among the Dog-
Rib and Yellow Knife tribes who hunt in this part
of the country. Luckily trout and whitefish were
fairly abundant, some of the former reaching such an
enormous size that I am afraid to hazard a guess at
their weight, though I afterwards saw one at the fort
that turned the scale at fifty-eight pounds.
m ill
CHAPTER III.
We held a big council as to ways and means, and,
after much discussion, finally came to the decision that
our best chance was to leave the main body of women
and children with sufficient men to attend to the nets
for them, while the rest of us pushed on to the north
with our two biggest canoes, in the hope of falling in
with the caribou, and afterwards the musk-ox. We
were to leave all the dogs at Fond du Lac, as we
expected to send back before the setting in of winter;
only two women, King's wife and daughter, were to
come with us to dry meat, dress deerskins, and make
moccasins. Besides them our crew consisted of King
Beaulieu, his sons Francois, Jose, Paul, and Baptiste (a
boy of twelve), Michel (King's son-in-law), and a small
Indian boy who had thrown in his lot with us as the
best visible means of getting anything to keep him
alive during the autumn. All the provisions that I had
brought with me were exhausted, and we had nothing
but a dozen small dried whitefish when we left Fond
du Lac on September 7th to paddle another thirty
miles along the north shore before leaving the lake.
Our loads were cut down to the smallest weight
possible in order to save time on the portages.    I left
if THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. III.
my Paradox behind as the ammunition was heavy, and
trusted entirely to a Winchester rifle; a pair of glasses
and a blanket about completed my share of the cargo.
I had no instruments for taking observations, no
compass, and no watch; and, take it all round, it was
a very poorly-equipped expedition. We made a bad
start, as, after an hour's travel across a deep bay, we
found ourselves storm-bound on a small island, the
canoes hauled up on the beach, and such a heavy sea
on all sides that we could not get out a net. We
spent an uncomfortable night on the island, but the
wind moderated a little in the morning and we put
out again. After being once driven back to our refuge
we managed to reach the mainland, with the canoes
half full of water and our blankets and clothes soaked.
However, a good fire soon mended matters, and, as
we caught enough whitefish to stave off present
hunger, contentment reigned in the camp.
The next evening, after another long struggle
against the wind, we camped in the small bay at
which we intended to make our first portage, and
our long journey on the Great Slave Lake was
finished. Three ducks, our whole bag for the day,
and a kettle of black tea gave us a scanty supper,
and, as there was still a little daylight, we each carried
a small load to the top of the hill, a distance of two
miles, but were disappointed in not seeing any caribou
tracks. We thought we had a chance of finding them
close to the lake, but as a matter of fact we had
several days' journey yet before we fell in with them.
It now seemed pretty certain that we were in for a CHAP. III.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
33
spell of what my companions alluded to as les miskres
till we reached the meat-country, the joys of which
formed the chief subject of talk round the camp-fires.
With the first streak of light we began the portage
in a driving snowstorm, and long before midday the
rest of the cargo and the biggest canoe were landed
at the top of the steep climb; the other canoe we
abandoned, thinking one was ample for our work in
the Barren Ground. We sat down for a smoke at the
top of the hill, and took our last view of the Great
Slave Lake. Looking southward we could see the far
shore and the unknown land beyond rising in terraces to
a considerable height, and very similar in appearance
to the range we were on. Ahead of us, to the north,
lay a broken rocky country sparsely timbered and
dotted with lakes, the nearest of which, a couple of
miles away, was the end of bur portage; a bleak and
desolate country, already white with snow and with a
film of ice over the smaller ponds. Three hundred
miles in the heart of this wilderness, far beyond the
line where timber ceases, lies the land of the musk-ox,
to which we were about to force our way, depending
entirely on our guns for food and for clothing to withstand the intense cold that would soon be upon us.
A pair of hawks hovering overhead furnished the only
signs of life, and the outlook was by no means cheerful.
As I was sitting on a rock meditating upon these
things old King came up and said: ' Let us finish the
portage quickly; it is dinner-time.' I quite agreed
with him, but put his remark down as a rather unseasonable joke, as I did not think there was a bite to eat
D
' I
ii 34
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. III.
among us; but on reaching the lake I was pleasantly
surprised to see King fish out a lump of bacon, which
he had stowed away some time ago after one of my
lectures on improvidence. It was really the last piece,
and, although there was no bread (and for the matter
of that there was none for the next three months) we
all made a good enough meal. The lake was of course
named Lac du Lard to commemorate this event.
I think no white man had ever passed through this
chain of lakes before, as Sir John Franklin went up
by a more westerly route, following the course of the
Yellow Knife River, while Hearne and Back both left
from the east end of the Great Slave Lake; Stewart
and Anderson, when they were searching for survivors
of Franklin's last ill-fated expedition, reached the head
waters of the Great Fish River by a chain of lakes
about eighty miles to the eastward of my present route.
If the lakes were known among the Indians by any
particular names I enquired their meaning and preserved them; the others I named from incidents in the
voyage or from the Company's officers of Athabasca
and Mackenzie River districts.
During the afternoon we made four more short
portages, passing through the same number of lakes,
some of them of a considerable size. We kept a good
look-out for the caribou but saw no signs of them, and
at dark, after a hard day's work, camped on the east
shore of the Lac de Mort. It acquired this name from
a disaster that overwhelmed a large encampment of
Yellow Knives who were hunting here during one of
those epidemics of scarlet fever that have from time
I CHAP. III.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
35
to time ravaged the North. Most of the hunters were
too ill to walk, and, as game was scarce, the horrors
of starvation, combined with disease, almost exterminated the band.
The next two days were occupied in the same
manner of travelling towards the north with numerous
portages. We could not catch any fish, though we set
a net every night, but killed enough ducks to keep us
alive without satisfying our ravenous hunger. The
weather was still cold, with strong head-winds and
frequent snowstorms.
. On the third day we caught a big trout and killed a
loon and a wolverine, the latter after a most exciting
chase on a long point. In the next portage accordingly
we made a big feast, although wolverines are only
eaten in starving times, as they are looked upon in the
light of scavengers and grave-robbers, and ' carcajou-
eater' is a favourite term of contempt. On the present
occasion riobody made any objection, and in the circumstances the despised meat tasted remarkably well.
Our joy was soon cut short by finding the next lake,
which was more sheltered from the wind than the
others we had passed through, covered with a sheet of
ice sufficiently thick to prevent the passage of a birch-
bark canoe, while a heavy snowstorm came on at the
same time, making matters look more gloomy than
ever. King's sons at once expressed their intention
of returning to Fond du Lac while the lakes behind
them were still open. King, however, here showed
great determination, and declared, with an unnecessary
amount of strong language, that he had the heart of
D 2
i mill
£* 3&
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. III.
I
Beaulieu (the worst sort of heart, by the way), and,
when once he had started, would not turn back without
seeing the musk-ox. Eventually we persuaded them
to come on, and, canning the canoe, reduced our load
to the very smallest amount of necessaries. We then
started on foot for an expedition that would have most
certainly ended in disaster if we had gone on with it.
I noticed that the two women had the heaviest loads
to carry, but having myself as much as I cared about
for a long distance I made no .remarks on the subject.
Luckily, after spending a night without eating under
the shelter of a bunch of dwarf pines, we discovered
the next lake to be almost clear of ice; and carrying
our canoe over the four-mile portage we continued
our journey as before, pushing on as quickly as
possible to reach the Lac du Rocher, where the half-
breeds were confident of meeting the caribou, or, at
the worst, to camp at a spot well known to them
where we might catch fish enough for a temporary
support. We had now been in a half-starving condition for several days, and were beginning to lose the
strength that we required for portaging and paddling
against the continual north wind.
On September 13th we reached the Lac du Rocher,
a large irregular sheet of water, so broken up with
bays and promontories that it is hard to estimate its
size. Camp was made on the south side of the lake,
and we set our nets and lines, baited with carefully
preserved pieces of whitefish, while others explored
the surrounding hills for caribou tracks, but without
success.   The half-breeds were all much put out by this CHAP. III.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
37
failure, as they have always found the Lac du Rocher
a certainty for caribou at this time of year, and were
unable to account for it, except by the theory that the
animals had altered the usual course of their autumn
migration and were passing to the east of uS. There
was not a fish in the net when we turned in; but a
good trout was caught in the middle of the night, and
we all got up and finished the last mouthful* Again
we had no breakfast, and the early morning found us
discussing various plans in rather a serious manner.
The final decision was that Paul and Francois should
push ahead to try and find the caribou, while the rest
of us moved the camp to the north end of the lake
and worked the fishing till their return; six days were
allowed them for their trip, after which each party was
to act independently, and we were all to get out of the
awkward situation in the best way we could.
Accordingly we took the canoes across the lake as
soon as our hunters had started, and put up our deerskin lodge in the shelter of a clump of well-grown
pine trees; we tried the hand-lines for hours without
any better result than completely numbing our fingers,
and towards evening set the net, also without any luck.
I took my rifle and walked two or three miles back
from the lake, but beyond an Arctic fox, which I missed
at long range, saw nothing edible.
There is no better camp than a well-set-up lodge
with a good fire crackling in the middle, and in this
respect we were comfortable enough, but the shortness
of food was telling rapidly. We had made no pretence
at eating all day, and since leaving Fond du Lac had
1 i
38
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. III.
subsisted almost entirely on tea and tobacco, while
even on the Great Slave Lake provisions had been
none too plentiful. We passed the evening smoking,
and, as I have found usual in these cases, talking of
all the good things we had ever eaten, while eyes
shone in the firelight with the brilliancy peculiar to
the early stages of starvation. Outside the lodge the
wind was moderated; the northern lights, though it
was still early in the year, were flashing brightly across
the sky, and far away in the distance we could hear
the ominous howling of wolves. Late in the night I
awoke, and, on lighting my pipe, was greeted by King
with the remark: ' Ah! Monsieur, une fois j'ai goute
le pain avec le buerre; le bon Dieu a fait ces deux
choses la. expres pour manger ensemble.'
Long before daylight we put off in the canoe to visit
the net, and to our great joy found five fair-sized trout,
quite enough to relieve all anxiety for the day; the
weather also had improved, turning much warmer, with
the snow rapidly thawing. The half-breeds, who are all
Catholics, held a short service, as it was Sunday morning and they are very particular in this respect. Afterwards we all went out hunting, but only two or three
ptarmigan, the first we had seen, were killed, and there
were still no signs of the caribou. The country here
is much less rugged than on first leaving the Great
Slave Lake, and the rolling hills are covered with a
small plant, halfway between heather and moss, bearing
a small black berry, and growing in thick bunches
wherever the soil is capable of producing it. This
plant, and a wiry black moss which grows in patches CHAP. III.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
39
on the flat rocks, are much used as fuel in dry weather,
if no wood is available; in wet weather they are of course
useless. The hollows between the ridges are generally
muskegs, thawed out to the depth of a foot, producing
a long coarse grass, and in many places a plentiful
growth of a dwarf variety of the Labrador tea, an
excellent substitute for the product of China. Huge
glacial boulders lie scattered in every direction, many
of them balanced in an extraordinary manner on the
points of smaller stones, which seem to have been of
softer substance and gradually worn away. In other
spots are patches of broken rocks, covering a large
extent of ground and very difficult to travel on, especially when a light coating of snow makes them slippery,
and conceals the deep holes in which a leg might easily
be snapped ; even the caribou, sure-footed as they are,
will often make a long detour in preference to taking
the risk of a fall among these rocks. Lakes of all sizes
and shapes abound on every side, connected by small
streams that find their way into the Slave Lake one
hundred miles to the southward. Pine timber is now
very scarce and mostly small, growing in sheltered
spots with long stretches where not a tree is visible.
A fairly thick stem starts from the ground and immediately spreads out into a bush with the branches
growing downwards, and the top of the tree seldom
reaching a height of ten feet. Sometimes, however,
even as far out as this, a bunch of really well-grown
trees is to be found, probably having the advantages
of better soil to spring from. A very few birch sticks,
invaluable to the Indian for making snow-shoes, still 4°
THE BARREN GROUND
chap. nr.
manage to exist, and patches of scrub willow are
frequent. The general appearance of the country
and the vegetation, with the exception of the timber,
. reminded me strongly of the desert of Arnavatn in the
interior of Iceland.
A great variety of mosses and lichens flourish here
and in the true Barren Ground outside the tree limit,
the tripe des roches which has played such a conspicuous part in the story of Arctic exploration being particularly abundant at this spot. The formation of the
rocks is still red granite, with a good deal of mica
showing in the boulders.
Late in the evening we heard a gun, and, on our
replying, four or five shots were fired in rapid
succession, the signal of good news; soon afterwards
Paul and Francois came in, each carrying a small load
of meat, which we finished promptly. They had fallen
in with the caribou about thirty miles on, and reported
them to be moving south in great numbers; we had
now no hesitation in pushing on to meet them, and
were all jubilant at the thought of good times coming.
The next day was warm again with south-west wind,
and, after passing through the Lac du Corbeau (named
from our little Indian, who had acquired the title of
Chasseur du Corbeau from an unsuccessful hunt he had
made after a raven at one of our hungry camps), we
portaged into Lake Camsell, a fine sheet of water over
twenty miles in length, running more to the east than
the other lakes we had passed, full of small islands, and
with rather more timber than usual on its shores. .
For the first time we could put down our paddles, CHAP. III.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
4i
il   1
and, hoisting a large red blanket for a sail, ran in front
of the steady fair wind; the water was blue, the sun
pleasantly warm, and the snow had almost disappeared.
In the afternoon there was a cry of Et-then, Et-then !
(the caribou), and we saw a solitary bull standing
against the sky-line on the top of an island close to the
east shore of the lake. As soon as we were out of
sight we landed and quickly surrounded him ; he made
a break for the water, but one of the half-breeds, in
hiding behind a rock, dropped him before he put to
sea. It was a full-grown bull in prime condition, the
velvet not yet shed, but the horns quite hard underneath.
A scene of great activity now commenced. There
was no more thought of travelling that night, and,
.while two men were skinning and cutting up the
caribou, the others unloaded and carried ashore the
canoe, lit a fire, and got ready the kettles for a feast
that was to make up for all the hard times just gone
through. There was plenty of meat for everybody to
gorge themselves, and we certainly made a night of it,
boiling and roasting till we had very nearly finished
the whole animal. I could not quite keep up with the
others at this first trial of eating powers, but after a
couple of weeks among the caribou I was fully able to
hold my own. We seemed at length to have found the
land of plenty, as ptarmigan were very numerous, just
losing the last of their pretty brown plumage and
putting on their white dresses to match the snow, which
would soon drive them for food and shelter into the thick
pine woods round the shores of the Great Slave Lake.
Ill
niifani. n aiijB 42
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. III.
We had to sleep off the effects of over-eating, and it
was late in the day before we started down the lake.
After two or three hours' sailing at a slow pace we
spied a band of caribou, again on an island. With
unnecessary haste we made for the land, and, through
watching the deer instead of the water, ran the canoe
on a sharp submerged rock, tearing an ugly hole in the
birch-bark. We all stepped overboard up to the waist,
carried the cargo ashore, and, leaving the women to
stitch up the canoe with the bark and fibre that is
always kept handy when away from the birch woods,
started in pursuit of the caribou. The result was
that after a great deal of bad shooting we killed sixteen on the island, while the canoe, hastily patched up,
with a kettle going steadily to bale out and the women
paddling and shouting lustily, succeeded in picking up
two more that tried to escape by swimming.
The evening was passed in skinning and cutting up
the meat, which was stowed away in rough caches of
rocks to keep it safe from the wolves and wolverines.
These animals are always very plentiful in attendance
on the big herds of caribou, and are often the cause of
much annoyance to the hunter through stealing meat
that he is relying upon for subsistence; in many places
where the rocks are small it is impossible to build a
cache strong enough to keep out the wolverines, which
are possessed of wonderful strength for their size.
The following day while Michel, Paul, and myself
were walking overland to join the canoe at the end of
the lake, we fell in with another band of caribou, and,
as  the  rest  of the party  landed  at  an   opportune CHAP. III.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
43
moment, we caught the animals on a long point and
made, another big slaughter of seventeen, among them
some old bulls with very fine heads. A young bull,
nearly pure-white in colour, came my way, and I secured
him, but unfortunately the skin was afterwards stolen
by wolverines. We had now plenty of meat to establish a permanent camp, and set up our lodge at the
end of Lake Camsell with the intention of leaving the
women and boys to collect and dry the meat and dress
the skins, while the men were away on a short hunt
after musk-ox before the lakes set fast with ice.
We were now within a short distance of the last
woods, if a few bunches of dwarf pines, at intervals of
several miles, can be called woods, and were about to
push out into the Barren Ground, where, with the
exception of an occasional patch of small scrub willow,
all timber ceases.
dim
II
lil
AM CHAPTER IV.
In the various records of Arctic exploration, and
especially in those dealing with the Barren Ground,
there is frequent mention of deer, reindeer, and caribou,
leaving the casual reader in doubt as to how many
species of deer inhabit the rocky wilderness between
the woods and the Arctic Sea. As a matter of fact,
the Barren Ground caribou (which name I prefer,
as distinguishing it from the woodland caribou, the
only other member of the reindeer tribe existing on
the American continent) is the sole representative of
the Cervidae found in this locality.
The chief distinction between this animal and its
cousin the woodland caribou, or caribou des bois fort
in the half-breed parlance, lies in the different size, the
latter having by far the advantage in height and
weight. I have had no opportunity of weighing
specimens of either kind, but should imagine that
the woodland must be fully a third the heavier of
the two. I cannot agree with some of the natural
history books which state that the smaller animals
carry the larger horns, as of all the Barren Ground
caribou that we killed I never saw any with horns
to compare with the giant antlers of the woodland CHAP. IV.
NORTHERN CANADA
45
caribou of Newfoundland or British Columbia; more
irregular, if possible, they may be, and perhaps have
a greater number of points, but they are far behind
in weight, spread, and size of beam. The perfect
double plough is more often seen in the smaller
specimen, the larger animal being usually provided
with only one, or with one plough and a spike. In
colour they closely resemble each other, but there
is rather more white noticeable in the representative
of the Barren Ground, especially in the females, while
the texture of the coat, as is to be expected, is finer
in the smaller variety. The hoofs have the same
curious ' snow-shoe' formation in both cases.
The range of the Barren Ground caribou appears
to be from the islands in the Arctic Sea to the
southern part of Hudson's Bay, while the Mackenzie
River is the limit of their western wandering, although
not many years ago they are known to have crossed
the Slave River in the neighbourhood of Fort Smith.
In the summer time they keep to the true Barren
Ground, but in the autumn, when their feeding-grounds
are covered with snow, they seek the hanging moss
in the woods. From what I could gather from the
Yellow Knife Indians at the east end of the Great
Slave Lake, and from my own personal experience,
it was late in October, immediately after the rutting
season, that the great bands of caribou, commonly
known as La Foule, mass up on the edge of the woods,
and start for food and shelter afforded by the stronger
growth of pines farther southward. A month afterwards  the   males   and  females  separate,  the  latter
V'l- !     11
1
J a THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IV.
beginning to work their way north again as early as
the end of February; they reach the edge of the
woods in April, and drop their young far out towards
the sea-coast in June, by which time the snow is
melting rapidly and the ground showing in patches.
The males stay in the woods till May and never reach
the coast, but meet the females on their way inland
at the end of July; from this time they stay together
till the rutting season is over and it is time to seek
the woods once more.
The horns are mostly clear of velvet towards the
end of September, but some of the females carry it
later even than this; the old bulls shed their antlers
early in December, and the young ones do the same
towards the end of that month, the females being
some weeks later. In June both sexes present a
very shabby appearance, as the old coats have grown
long and white and are falling off in patches; by
the end of July the new .hair has grown, and the skins
are then in their best condition.
The caribou are extremely uncertain in their movements, seldom taking the same course in two consecutive years, and thus affording ground for the
universal cry in the North that the caribou are being
killed off. I think there is really much truth in the
statement that they keep a more easterly route than
formerly, as they seldom come in large quantities to
the Mackenzie River, where they used to be particularly numerous in winter. This is in a great
measure accounted for by the fact that great stretches
of the  country have been burnt, and so rendered CHAP. IV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
47
incapable of growing the lichen so dearly beloved
by these animals. The same thing applies at Fort
Resolution, where, within the last decade, the southern
shore of the Great Slave Lake has been burnt and
one of the best ranges totally destroyed.
One point that seems to bear out the theory of
a more easterly movement is that within the last
three years the caribou have appeared in their
thousands at York Factory on the west side of
Hudson's Bay, where they have not been seen for
over thirty years ; but I cannot believe, judging from
the vast herds that I myself saw, that there is any
danger of the caribou being exterminated.
It is absurd to say that the white man is killing
them off, as no white man ever fires a shot at them
unless they pass very close to a Company's establishment, and the Indians are themselves surely dying
out year by year. Nor is it any argument to say that
the Indians sometimes starve to death from want
of success in hunting, as a glance at Hearne's Journey
to the Northern Ocean in 1771 will show that the
same state of affairs prevailed before the Company
had penetrated to the Great Slave Lake or Mackenzie
River. Starvation will always be one of the features
of a Northern Indian's life, owing to his own improvidence ; his instinct is to camp close on the tracks
of the caribou and move as they move; a permanent
house and a winter's supply of meat are an abomination
to him.
Since the introduction of firearms the Indian has
lost much of his old hunting lore;  a snare is almost
X Mi-ml
48
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IV.
a thing of the past, but is still occasionally used when
ammunition is scarce. It is no hard matter to kill
caribou in the open country, for the rolling hills
usually give ample cover for a stalk, and even on
flat ground they are easily approached at a run, as
they will almost invariably circle head to wind and
give the hunter a chance to cut them off. But it is
with the spear that the vast slaughter in the summer
is annually made. The best swimming-places are
known and carefully watched, and woe betide a herd
of caribou if once surrounded in a lake by the small
hunting-canoes. One thrust of the spear, high up in
the loins and ranging forward, does the work. There
is no idea of sparing life, no matter what the age or
sex of the victim may be; the lake is red with blood
and covered with sometimes several hundred carcasses,
of which fully one-half are thrown away as not fat
enough to be eaten by men who may be starving in
a month. Surely this should exterminate the game;
but, if one remonstrates with the Indians at the waste,
the ready answer comes : jj Our fathers did this and
have taught us to do the same; they did not kill off
the caribou, and after we are gone there will be plenty
for our children.' These animals are easily induced
to swim at any particular spot by putting up a line
of rocks at right angles to the water, and a line of
pine bush planted in the snow across a frozen lake
has the same effect; the caribou will not pass it, but
following it along fall an easy prey to the hunter lying
in ambush at the end of the line. In the winter they
are killed in great numbers on the small lakes in the CHAP. IV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
49
timber, as they seem disinclined to leave the open lake
and will often run close up to the gun rather than
take to the woods. I have heard this accounted for
by the suggestion that they take the report of the
gun for a falling tree and are afraid of being struck
if they venture off the lake ; but I fancy their natural
curiosity has a great deal to do with this extraordinary
behaviour. It frequently happens that they will run
backwards and forwards within range till the last of
the band is killed.
The caribou supplies the Indian with nearly all the
necessaries of life; it gives him food, clothing, house,
and the equivalent of money to spend at the fort. He
leaves the trading-post, after one of his yearly visits,
with a supply of ammunition, tea, and tobacco, a blanket
or two, and, if he has made a good season's hunt, is
perhaps lucky enough to have taken one of the Company's duffel capotes (about the best form of greatcoat
that I have ever seen). He has a wife and family
waiting for him somewhere on the shore of the big
lake where fish are plentiful, expecting a gaudy dress,
a shawl, or a string of beads from the fort, but relying
entirely on the caribou for maintenance during the
awful cold of the coming winter. The journey up till
they fall in with the caribou is usually full of hardships,
but once they have reached the hunting-ground and
found game a great improvement in affairs takes
place; the hunter is busy killing, while the women
dry meat and make grease, dress the skins for moccasins, mittens, and gun-covers, and cut babiche,
which takes the place of string for lacing snow-shoes
E
III
,£* gE^agBBBgBHagaaaaiBraBas
5°
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IV.
1
if
■■   »
fe;- 5
-    ft
m
and many other purposes. For the hair-coats, which
everybody, men, women, and children, wear during
the cold season, the best skins are those of the young
animals killed in July or August, as the hair is short
and does not fall off so readily as in coats made from
the skin of a full-grown caribou; while the strong
sinews lying along the back-bone of an old bull make
the very best thread for sewing. Anything that is left
oyer after supplying the whole family finds a ready
sale at the fort, where there is always a demand for
dried meat, tongue-grease, dressed skins, and babiche,
so that the Dog-Ribs and Yellow Knives, whose
country produces little fur, with the exception of musk-
ox robes, are thus enabled to afford some few of the
white man's luxuries, tea and tobacco being especially
dear to the Indian's heart.
A good hunter kills the caribou with discretion according to their condition at various seasons of the
year. After the females leave the woods in the early
spring he has of course only the males to fall back on,
and these are usually poor till August, when the bones
are full of marrow and the back-fat commences to
grow. By the middle of September this back-fat, or
depouille as it is called in Northern patois, has reached
a length of a foot or more forward from the tail, and,
as it is sometimes a couple of inches thick and extends
right across the back, it is a great prize for the lucky
hunter. It is a point of etiquette that when two or
more Indians are hunting in company, the depouille
and tongue belong to the man who did the killing,
while the rest of the meat is shared in common. CHAP. IV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
5i
Towards the end of October, when the rutting season
is over, the males are in very poor condition. The
females then come into demand, but it is not till the
end of the year that they show any back-fat at all, and
this is always small in comparison with that of a bull
killed in the Fall. The summer months are generally
spent by the Indians far out in the Barren Ground,
and then, as I have said, they slaughter everything
that comes within reach of their spear in the most
indiscriminate manner.
Excepting in times of plenty, when the utmost recklessness with provisions is displayed, there are very
few parts of the caribou thrown away, and often the
actual stomach is the only thing left; the blood is
carefully preserved, and some of the intestines are
prized as great luxuries. If one does not see the
actual preparations for cooking they are good enough,
but the favourite dish of all, the young unborn caribou
cut from its dead mother, I could never take kindly to,
although it is considered a delicacy among the Indians
throughout the northern part of Canada. Another
morsel held in high esteem is the udder of a milk-
giving doe, which is usually roasted on the spot where
the animal is killed. Of the external parts the ribs
and brisket rank highest, the haunches being generally
reserved for dog's food; a roast head is not to be
despised, and a well-smoked tongue is beyond all
praise. It was the caribou of the Barren Ground that
provided the reindeers' tongues formerly exported in
such quantities by the Hudson's Bay Company. The
general method of cooking everything in the lodge is
E 3 52
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IV.
by boiling, which takes most of the flavour out of the
meat, but has the advantage of being easy and economical of firewood.
The marrow is usually eaten raw, and, as there is no
blood visible in the bones of a fat animal, it is not such
a disgusting habit as it seems to be at first sight, and
one readily accustoms oneself to the fashion. Everybody who has travelled in the North has experienced
the same craving for grease as the cold becomes more
intense. In the case of a white man the enforced
absence of flour and all vegetable food may be an
additional cause for this feeling; but it is a fact that
you can cheerfully gnaw a solid block of grease or raw
fat that it would make you almost sick to look at in
a land of temperate climate and civilized methods of
1
lving.
The Indian is by no means the only enemy of the
caribou. Along the shore of the Arctic Sea live
straggling bands of Esquimaux who kill great quan^
tities of these persecuted animals, although employing
more primitive methods than their southern neighbours ; it is done, moreover, at the most fatal season of
the year, just as the females have arrived at the coast
and are dropping their young. Then there are the
ever-hungry wolves and wolverines that hang with such
pertinacity on the travelling herds and rely upon them
entirely for subsistence. It is rarely that a caribou
once singled out can escape. The wolves hunt in
bands and seldom leave the track they have selected;
the chase lasts for many hours, till the victim, wearied
by the incessant running, leaves the band and his fate
m CHAP. rv.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
is sealed ; he has a little the best of the pace at first
but not the staying power, and is soon pulled to the
ground. Many a time I witnessed these courses, and
once disturbed half a dozen wolves just as they commenced their feast on a caribou in which life was
hardly extinct, and I took the tongue and depouille for
my share of the hunt.
I only saw wolves of two colours, white and black,
during my stay in the North, although I heard much
talk of grey wolves. There was some sort of disease,
resembling mange, among them in the winter of
1889-90, which had the effect of taking off all their
hair, and, judging from the number of dead that were
lying about, must have considerably thinned their
numbers. They do not seem to be dangerous to
human beings except when starving ; but the Indians
have stories of crazy wolves that run into the lodges,
kill the children, and play general havoc. I know that
they do at times get bold under stress of hunger, as
my own hauling dogs were set upon and eaten by them
while harnessed to the sleigh close to the house at
Fond du Lac ; nothing remained but the sleigh, and a
string of bells that must have proved less tempting
than the rest of the harness.
I scarcely credit the statement I have often heard
made, that the wolverines will kill a full-grown caribou,
although it is possible that they may attack the young
ones. They follow the herds more for the pickings they
can get from the feasts of the wolves, and are content
with showing their fighting powers on hares and ptarmigan ; if meat is not to be had they will eat berries freely, 54
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IV.
lit i
and their flesh is then not so bad as after they have had
a long course of meat. The carcajou possesses great
strength and cunning in removing rocks and breaking
into a cache; it climbs with great agility, and has a
mean trick of throwing down a marten-trap from
behind and taking out the bait, and is generally
credited by the Indian with more wiles than the devil
himself. It is an animal common enough in many
parts of Canada, but is rarely seen in the woods on
account of its retiring habits. In the Barren Ground,
however, I had many opportunities of watching them
through the glasses as they worked at the carcass of a
caribou or musk-ox, and was much struck by the
enormous power exercised by so small an animal; in
travelling it seems to use only one pace, the lope of the
Western prairies, which it is said to be able to keep up
for an indefinite time.
Another great source of annoyance to the caribou
are the two sorts of gadfly which use these animals as
a hatching-ground for their eggs. The biggest kind,
which seem the most numerous, deposit their eggs on
the back, and, as they hatch out the grubs, bore
through the skin and prey on the surrounding flesh.
They begin to show in October, and grow bigger
through the winter till the following spring, the
number of holes in many cases rendering the skin
absolutely useless for dressing. The other kind of
fly lays its eggs in the nostril, with the result that in
the months of May and June a nest of writhing grubs,
slimmer and more lively than the grubs under the
skin, appears at the root of the tongue ; at this time
i
Hi CHAP. IV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
bi>
of year the caribou may be often seen to stop and
shake their heads violently, with their horns close to
the ground, evidently greatly troubled by these grubs.
Of the latter kind the Indians who travelled with me
in the summer have a great horror, warning me to be
very careful not to eat them, as they have an idea they
would surely grow in a man's throat; and whenever
we killed an animal, the first operation was to cut off
its head and remove these unpleasant objects. By the
beginning of August all the grubs have dropped off
and the holes healed up, while the new coat has grown
and the skins are then in their best condition.
I could not hear of any attempt ever having been
made to domesticate the caribou, though there is no
good reason why they should not be trained to do the
same work as the reindeer of Northern Europe. If
this were brought about it would do away with the
greatest difficulty of winter travel, the trouble about
dog's food, which cripples any attempt to make a long
journey except where game is very plentiful; wherever
there was green timber and hanging moss the caribou
might find its own supper, and would always come in
better for food than a thin dog in times of starvation.
The caribou afford a wide scope for the superstitions
so ingrained in the Indian nature, and the wildest tales
without the least foundation are firmly believed in.
One widely-spread fancy is that they will entirely
forsake a country if anyone throws a stick or stone at
them, and their disappearance from the neighbourhood
of Fort Resolution is accounted for by the fact of a
boy, who had no gun, joining in the chase when the
f ■
I i fills '1
I 56
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. IV.
If
V
caribou were passing in big numbers, and clubbing
one to death with a stick; this belief holds good also
down the Mackenzie River, as does the idea that these
animals on some occasions vanish either into the air
or under the ground. The Indians say that sometimes
when following close on a herd they arrive at a spot
where the tracks suddenly cease and the hunter is left
to wonder and starve. It is very unlucky to let the
dogs eat any part of the head, and the remaining bones
are always burnt or put up in a tree out of reach, the
dogs going hungry, unless there happens to be some
other kind of meat handy. Another rather more
sensible superstition, presumably invented by the men,
is that no woman must eat the gristle of the nose
(a much-esteemed delicacy), or she will infallibly grow a
beard.
Such are examples of the endless traditions told of
the caribou, which will always form the chief topic of
conversation in the scattered lodges of the Dog-Ribs
and Yellow Knives.
W CHAPTER V.
On the 17th of September we left our camp at the
north end of Lake Camsell for a short expedition in
search of musk-ox, which we expected to find within
fifty miles of the edge of the woods. By this time we
had all fattened up, and entirely recovered from the
effects of the short rations we had had to put up with
before we fell in with the caribou.
My crew consisted at starting of King, Paul, Francois, Michel, and Jose; but as the two latter speedily
showed signs of discontent I made no objection to
their turning back, and despatched them to Fond du
Lac to get ready the dog-sleighs, snow-shoes, and
everything necessary for winter travel. As a matter
of fact they did absolutely nothing except squander a
relay of provisions and ammunition that had been sent
on by the trading-boat from the fort to meet me
at Fond du Lac. I was not sorry to see the last
of them, as four of us were quite enough to work the
canoe, and a small party naturally stands in less
danger of starvation than a big one; moreover, they
were certainly the most quarrelsome men in the camp,
which is saying a good deal, as we had all done our
fair share in that way since leaving the fort.
ill
-I! Iff i
li
m\
If
58
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. V.
We started without any meat, expecting to find
caribou everywhere, and in this respect we had great
luck all the time we were out; but we were not so well
Off for shelter. We had brought only one lodge from
Fond du Lac, which was of course left for the women,
while we took the chance of what weather might come,
hunting the lee-side of a big rock towards evening, and
often finding ourselves covered with an extra blanket
of snow {le convert du bon Dietc, as King called it) in
the morning.
The plan of campaign was to reach the musk-ox by
canoe and bring back as many robes as we could carry"
before the winter set in; or, failing this, to kill and
cache caribou along our line of travel, so that we should
have meat to help us reach the musk-ox with dog-
sleighs after the heavy snow had fallen and all the
caribou had passed into the woods.
I named the first lake that we portaged into King
Lake, a narrow sheet of water some five miles in
length, and here we were storm-bound all day by
a northerly gale, the force of the wind being so great'
that we could not move the canoe to windward,
although the water was smooth enough. The weather
improving in the morning, we paddled down the lake
and passed into a small stream running out of its north
end. A couple of miles down stream, with a portage
over a small cascade (the thirty-fourth and last portage
that we made with the big canoe), brought us to
a huge lake running in a south-east and north-west
direction, said to be the longest of all the lakes in this
part of the country, and by the Indians' account four CHAP. V.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
59
good days' travel, or over one hundred miles in length ;
the part that I saw is certainly over fifty miles, and is
said to be not half the total distance. The lake is
narrow in most places, and cut up by long points into
numerous bays; there are a great many islands, particularly at the north-east end, similar in appearance to
the main shore, which is just like the country I have
described at the Lac du Rocher, except that at the end
of the big lake the hills reach a greater elevation,
and present more the aspect of a regular range,
than in any other part of the Barren Ground that I
saw.
The position of Mackay Lake, as I named it after
Dr. Mackay of the Athabasca district, is worthy of
remark, as it is the best starting-point from which
to work the most important streams of both watersheds.
It lies very nearly on the height of land between the
Great Slave Lake and the Arctic Ocean; its west end
must be but a short portage from the Yellow Knife
River, while from its eastern extremity runs out the
large stream, named by Anderson the Outram, but
more generally known as Lockhart's River, from the
fact of its falling into the Great Slave Lake at Lock-
hart's house, which was established for the relief of
Stewart and Anderson when they went in search of the
missing Franklin Expedition. The Great Fish, or
Back's River, which they descended on that occasion,
heads within half a mile of the north bay of Aylmer
Lake, lying next below Mackay Lake, on Lockhart's
River. Fifteen miles to the north is another large
sheet of water known to my companions as the Lac de
ni
■ -i' gggBBBBBBBSBZ
60
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. V.
if  '
Gras, through which the Coppermine River runs on
its course direct to the Arctic Sea.
The point at which we fell on Lake Mackay is about
the edge of the woods, and here we camped for the
last time with pine timber, finding a small hunting-
canoe which some of the Beaulieus had left during the
previous autumn. This we decided to take with us,
and it proved extremely useful later on in crossing the
Coppermine.
On Sunday, September 22nd, with a fresh fair wind
and our blanket pulling strong, we ran for several
hours in a north-east direction; the little canoe which
we carried athwartship made the steering difficult, as
her bow and stern kept striking the tops of the big
waves that were running after us, but we met with no
accident except the carrying away of our mast.
We were continually in sight of large bands of
caribou, but they seemed to take little notice of the
extraordinary apparition. Towards evening we saw
a herd on a long point projecting far out from the
south shore of the lake, and, thinking it would be
a good place to make a cache, landed inside them and
walked down the point in line. We had the animals
completely hemmed in, and, when they charged through
us, nine dropped to quick shooting at short range.
There was little fuel of any kind on the spot, and we
had to eat our meat almost raw, as is the fashion of
the Barren Ground on these occasions. In the
morning we ferried all the carcasses to a convenient
island close to the point, put them in cache among
the rocks, and proceeded down the lake, camping at CHAP. V.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
61
sundown at the head of a small bay near its northeast end.
The weather now changed, and once more the north
wind came howling across the open country straight
from the Arctic Sea, and a steady continuous frost set
in. We hauled up the big canoe and set out on foot,
taking with us only our rifles and ammunition, a
blanket apiece, and a couple of small kettles, besides
the little canoe, which proved an awkward load to
carry against the strong head-wind. We must have
walked about twenty miles, occasionally making use of
a lake for the canoe, when we reached the south shore
of the Lac de Gras, much disappointed in seeing no
musk-ox or caribou all day.
The Lac de Gras is much broader than Lake
Mackay, and rounder in shape, although at one spot it
is nearly cut in half by points stretching out from each
side. The Coppermine River runs in at the east and
out at the west end, and the distance is not great to
the site of Fort Enterprise, Sir John Franklin's wintering place in 1820, and the scene of the awful
disasters which befell his first overland expedition.
We were now hard up for provisions again, and the
first daylight found us hunting for something to eat.
Two of us walked along the shore, while the others
paddled the canoe, but we could find neither musk-ox
-nor caribou; at midday we met and changed places,
King and myself making rather a bold crossing in the
shaky little canoe, while Paul and Francois walked
round. On approaching the north shore of the lake
we noticed a" raven rise and throw himself on his back
'- 62
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. V.
in the air, uttering the curious gurgling note which
always seems to imply satisfaction. King exclaimed,
I See the raven putting down his load! there is something to eat there'; and true enough there was, for we
found the carcasses of eight musk-ox, killed, as we
afterwards heard, a month before by a party of Yellow
Knives, who had driven the animals into the water and
massacred the whole band. Half a dozen gulls flapped
away heavily, and we caught sight of a wolverine
sneaking off as we came near. Neither of us much
fancied the appearance of the feast that lay before us,
but we had eaten nothing for some time, and one is
not particular in such cases, especially as it is never
certain when the next meal will turn up. We robbed
from the wolverines and ravens, and, signalling to Paul
and Francois, made a meal of the half-putrid flesh in
a little patch of willow scrub that happened to be close
at hand. It is never pleasant to find the game you
are hunting killed by somebody else, but in this instance
it was a relief to know that we had a supply of meat,
such as it was, to fall back upon in case we came
to grief later on.
After supper we crossed the Coppermine, a big deep
stream even here, with a current of a mile and a half
an hour, running out of another lake which stretched
northward and eastward as far as we could see. Here
we left the small canoe to cross with on our return,
and walked on late into the night, hoping to find some
more willows, but eventually made a wretchedly cold
camp without fire on a long promontory, to which we
always after alluded as Le Point de Misere.    A light fi'T
CHAP. V.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
63
snowstorm made us still more uncomfortable, and it
was well on in the next afternoon before we found
willows enough to make a fire, sighting almost immediately afterwards a big band of caribou. We killed
eight, and, as all the small lakes were firmly frozen
over by this time, were able to make the safest form of
cache by breaking the ice and throwing the meat into
shoal water, which would at once begin to freeze and
defy all the efforts of the wolverines. Two months
afterwards we chopped out this meat, and found it
fresh and palatable, although the outside was discoloured by its long soaking. When we had finished
our cache we lit a comparatively big fire in a bunch of
well-grown willows, and spent the rest of the day in
eating and mending our moccasins, which were all
badly worn out by the rough walking of the last few
days. We had left our main camp badly provided in
this respect, as the women had not had sufficient time
to dress any skins before we started, and in consequence
we were all troubled with sore feet during our wander-
ings in search of the musk-ox.
Curiously enough, now we did not want them, the.
ptarmigan appeared again in great quantities, although
we had not seen any since leaving our big canoe. The
only other birds remaining were a few hawks, owls,
gulls, and ravens; the wild-fowl had all left, and as
a matter of fact we had come across very few since
leaving the Great Slave Lake. About this time, too,
we killed the first Arctic hare, an animal by no means
to be despised, as it is fully as big as an English hare
and will at a pinch provide a meal for a small party; m
64
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. V..
i-i
11 &
at this time of year they are completely white, with the
exception of the tips of the ears which are black; they
are usually tame, and, being very conspicuous before
the snow covers the ground, afford an excellent mark
for the rifle.
On this day we crossed a peculiar ridge composed of
fine gravel and sand, resembling at a distance a high
railway embankment. It is a well-known landmark for
the Indians, and is said by them to stretch, with few
interruptions from the east end of the Athabasca Lake
to the east end of Great Bear Lake.
September 27th was a red-letter day, marking the
death of the first musk-ox. Soon after leaving camp
we came to a rough piece of country, full of patches of
the broken rocks that I have already described, and,
mounting a small hill, saw a single old bull walking
directly towards us at a distance of three hundred
yards. We lay down in the snow, and I had a capital
chance of watching him through the glasses as he
picked his way quietly over the slippery rocks, a sight
which went far to repay all the trouble we had taken
in penetrating this land of desolation. In crossing an
occasional piece of level ground he walked with a
curious rolling motion, probably accounted for by the
waving of the long hair on the flanks; this hair reaches
almost to the ground, and gives the legs such an
exaggerated appearance of shortness that, at first sight,
one would declare the animal to be incapable of any
rapid motion. The shaggy head was carried high, and
when he finally pulled up at sight of us, within forty
yards, with his neck slightly arched and a gleam of CHAP. V.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
65
sunshine lighting up the huge white boss formed by the
junction of the horns, he presented a most formidable
appearance. His fate was not long in doubt, as my
first shot settled him, and the main object of my trip
was accomplished; whatever might happen after this,
I could always congratulate myself on having killed
a musk-ox, and this made up for a great deal of the
misery that we afterwards had to undergo.
Although not absolutely prime, this animal was
a fine specimen of an old bull, with the yellow marking
on the back clearly defined, and as good a head as any
I saw during my stay in the musk-ox country. We
took the whole skin, with head, horns, and hoofs, and
cached it among the rocks, where I am sorry to say it
lies to this day; I intended to pick it up in the course
of our winter hunt, but unfortunately we were caught
in a snowstorm on the Lac de Gras, and were unable
to find the cache. In the evening we scattered over
the country, hoping to find a band of musk-ox, but
another bull, killed by Paul, was the only one seen.
On the following day the frost was much keener;
the smaller lakes and the sheltered bays in the big one
were set fast, and we began to realise that the sooner
we started back the better chance we had of getting
across Mackay Lake with the canoe, and avoiding the
long detour to cross Lockhart's River, which was sure
to remain open much longer than the lakes. The
winter was coming on quickly, and we were badly provided with clothes to withstand its severity; our moccasins were in rags, and everybody showed signs of
being footsore.   By rough reckoning we were about on
F 66
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. V.
■\
1    '
.   'I
■1.    I
the 65th degree of latitude, and it seemed too reckless
to push on any further towards the North, as already
we were separated from the nearest timber by a
hundred miles of treeless waste; even if we found
a band of musk-ox, we should be forced to come out
again with dogs to haul in the robes, as our big canoe
was now too far back for us to think of carrying any great
weight with us. Although we had not made a successful hunt, our trouble was not all thrown away, as enough
meat caches had been made to insure us a fair chance of
getting out into the same country on the first deep snow.
Nobody liked to be the first to talk about turning
back, but on reaching the top of a low range of hills
and seeing a flat desolate stretch of country lying to
the north of us, with the lakes frozen up and no sign
of animals or firewood, King turned to me and said :
' It is not far from here that the white men died from
cold and starvation at this time of year; let us go back
before the snow gets deep and we are not able to
travel.' The old man looked particularly tough at
this moment; none of our faces were very clean, but
his was the more remarkable, as the blood of the last
caribou that we killed had splashed in it, and, running
down his beard, had mixed with his frozen breath and
appeared in the form of long red icicles hanging from
his chin. I think he knew what was in my mind and
had an idea that I was laughing at him, for suddenly
his quick temper got the better of him and he broke
into one of those wild volleys of blasphemy that I had
heard him give way to so often, and, turning on his
heel, said that I could do as I liked, but he was going CHAP. V.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
67
to make the best of his way back to the lodge. The
walk back in front of the wind was not nearly so bad
as it had been coming out head to it; and in many
places we could travel straight over the ice, and, by
cutting across the bays instead of walking round, save
a considerable distance. Whenever we got this chance
we put our loads on a handful of willow-brush and
dragged them after us, finding it far easier than
carrying them on our shoulders.
Another night we spent without fire on the Point de
Misere, and on October 3rd crossed the Coppermine
amidst running ice, and there abandoned the little
canoe. On the south side of the river we fell in with
the biggest band of caribou we had yet seen, numbering fully three hundred; but as we had no need of any
more meat caches on the Lac de Gras, we only killed
enough for present use.
This crossing of the Coppermine, by the way, is an
important spot in the history of the Dog-Ribs and
Yellow Knives. It has always been a favourite
swimming-place for the caribou, and many a struggle
took place for the possession of this hunting-ground in
the old days when there was continual warfare between the two tribes. At the present day it is a
breach of etiquette for any Indians to camp here, as
it is supposed that if the caribou are once headed back
at this point they will not come south of Mackay Lake.
This rule had evidently been broken lately, as we found
signs of a recent encampment, and King considered
that this amply accounted for our not finding the
caribou before we reached the Lac du Rocher.
f 2
:Ili
<l M 68
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. V.
Mr
After two more days' hard travelling we arrived at
our big canoe, and had the satisfaction of finding some
meat, that we had left there, untouched by the wolverines ; but the bay was frozen solid, and there was no
open water within two miles. Beyond the points of
the bay we could see the white-capped waves running,
but we knew that at the first spell of calm weather the
whole lake would set fast.
I now saw an example of the readiness of idea
which King possessed in devising shifts and expedients to get out of difficulties. Of course he had had
fifty years' experience in northern travel, but he was
certainly, in my opinion, far above the average of the
many other half-breeds and Indians who had been my
companions in more or less difficult journeys in various
parts of Canada. Before I thoroughly understood his
scheme we commenced operations, by lashing together
all the poles and paddles into a rough sort of ice-raft;
on the top of this we placed the loads that we had
carried so many miles, forming a smooth bed, two feet
above the level of the ice, on which to rest the canoe.
The bay had evidently frozen and broken up once, and
the second freezing had left a rough surface; many of
the floes were piled on top of each other, while the
rest had been turned on edge, and it was necessary to
keep the canoe clear of these sharp edges, which would
have ripped the tender birch-bark like a knife. One
man ran ahead, trying the strength of the ice with an
axe, while the others hauled on the raft, and our
method of progression was so satisfactory that just
before dark, after much ominous cracking of the ice
1 n CHAP. V.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
69
but no disaster, we camped on the east point of the
bay close to the edge of open water. The half-breeds
showed great knowledge of ice, and, with an occasional
tap of the axe, picked out the safest route without
making a mistake.
The canoe propped on her side gave us the best
shelter we had had for many a night, and, finding
willows enough for a fire, we all felt jubilant at the
idea of reaching the first clump of pines on the following day, besides getting an opportunity to rest our
feet, which by this time were in a very bad condition.
In this, however, we were doomed to disappointment.
At the first sign of daylight we launched the canoe,
and, breaking our way out through the young ice, were
soon paddling in a heavy beam sea, with every splash
of water freezing on us, and many stops to knock the
ice from our paddles. After two or three hours of
this work the wind died out, and, as we approached
a group of small islands that cut the lake up into
numerous channels, we saw a thin sheet of ice across
the whole width. All hope of passing with the canoe
was given up, and we headed for the south shore
while a heavy snowstorm made it difficult to keep the
course; the surface water was rapidly thickening into
ice, and the sharp needles began to scrape unpleasantly
along the sides of our frail vessel. We were none too
soon in reaching the land, and had to carry the canoe
over the thick ice near the shore. Here we turned
her over carefully, and putting the poles, paddles, and
all necessaries underneath, abandoned her to be buried
under the snow till I might want her again the next 7°
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. V.
IH
II i
summer. Late in the following June we found her,
none the worse for her long exposure to the rigour of
a winter in the Barren Ground, but even then there
was no sign of open water in Mackay Lake.
We had now to continue our journey on foot; but
by keeping to the shore of the lake, and sometimes
making use of the ice in crossing a bay, we only
camped twice before reaching the pine timber. Late
on the third day we came to the bank of an ugly,
quick-flowing stream, and saw a large bunch of pines
on the far side. Waist-deep we made a ford among
the running ice, and were soon drying ourselves by
a blazing fire of pine-wood.
The whole of life is said to go by comparison, and
although a few pine-trees in a wilderness of snow
might seem the height of desolation to a man lately
used to the luxuries of the civilized world, it appeared
to us like a glimpse of heaven after the exposure of
the last few weeks. It really was a pleasant spot, and
one which has impressed itself on my memory more
than any other camp that we made during this trip.
A band of caribou, passing close by, provided us with
supper, while a big pack of ptarmigan held possession
of the little pine-trees, and kept up a constant expostulation at the intrusion of the scarcely known human
beings. Hunger and danger were behind us just at
present, and we felt in the best of tempers as we lay
down for a long sleep on sweet-smelling pine-brush.
Shortly after leaving camp in the morning another
band of caribou appeared, and, as the lodge was now
not far ahead, we killed about a dozen, and put them CHAP. V.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
7i
in cache for later use. We then walked steadily on all
day, and in the evening came in sight of Lake Camsell,
over which the sun was setting in full northern splendour, throwing a wonderful purple light across the thin
film of ice that coated the water. It was late in the
night, and it was not till we had fired several gun-shots
at intervals, that we heard an answering signal, and found
that the women had set up the lodge in the next
bunch of pines, as they had exhausted all the firewood
close to the old camp.
Meat was abundant, for the caribou had been
passing, and many had been killed by the women and
boys. Bales of dried meat formed a solid wall round
the lodge, varied here and there by a bladder of grease
or a skin-bag full of pounded meat, while bunches of
tongues and back-fats were hanging from the cross-
poles to smoke. The scene reminded me of the old
fairy stories in which the hero used to discover houses,
with walls of sugar and roofs of gingerbread, full of all
the good things imaginable, while any member of the
Beaulieu family would make a respectable ogre to
guard such treasures. Of course the lodge was dirty
and infested with the vermin from which these people
are never free; but there was an air of warmth and
plenty about it very agreeable after the hand-to-mouth
existence we had been leading.
On looking back at this expedition I cannot help
thinking that we were lucky in getting through it without more trouble; it was just the wrong time of year
to be travelling, too late for open water and too early
for dogs to have been of any service, even if we had
w 72
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. VJ
had them with us. One of the heavy snowstorms
that, judging from Sir John Franklin's experience, are
common in the end of September and beginning of
October, would have made the walking much more
laborious, as even the little snow that was on the
ground delayed us considerably. Another source of
danger was the numerous falls among the broken
rocks; but though we all came down heavily at times,
and, once or twice, with big loads of meat on our
backs, no damage was done. The caribou kept turning
up most opportunely, and we had no real hardships
from want of food. Fuel was nearly always insufficient, but we only had two fireless camps, both on the
Point de Misere. In many places we used black moss
in addition to whatever willow scrub we could collect,
and so long as the weather was dry found it quite
good enough for boiling a kettle, but when the snow
fell it was perfectly useless. This absence of a fire
to sit by at night is the most unpleasant feature in
travelling the Barren Ground.
1 ;!■
SB CHAPTER VI.
The day after our arrival was Sunday, a fine, calm
day with bright sunshine, of which we took advantage
to wash our scanty stock of clothing and generally pull
ourselves together. Cleanliness of the body is not
looked upon with much favour by the half-breeds, but
Sunday morning was always celebrated in the lodge by
the washing of faces and a plentiful application of
grease to the hair. After this operation was over we
held a consultation as to the best way of carrying on
our hunt of the musk-ox, which had so far not proved
successful. The same old wrangling and abuse of
each other ensued, and finally the following decision
was arrived at. Paul and Francois were to go back
to Fond du Lac, so soon as their feet were in a fit
condition to travel; they were to occupy themselves in
getting ready the dog-sleighs, and to return on the
first deep snow to the spot where we had killed the
caribou on the day that we reached the lodge. If any
of the Indians, of whom I had seen absolutely nothing
so far, were going to the musk-ox, arrangements should
be made with them to come all together, so that we
might have the benefit of as many sleighs as possible
to haul wood.    All our dried meat was  to be put
ass 74
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VI.
in cache at Lake Camsell, and the camp moved to a
clump of pines that we had noticed the day before.
King and myself were to remain with the women, to
kill meat enough to enable us to start well supplied
for the musk-ox country.
We built a rough scaffold with the longest poles
obtainable, and stowed all the meat as high above the
ground as possible. Then we pulled down the lodge,
and, after a couple of days' walk with heavy loads,
camped on the south side of a ridge, from the summit
of which we had a commanding view of Lake Mackay
and the surrounding country. There was little chance
of many caribou passing without being observed, as
there were usually several pairs of sharp eyes on the
look-out.
As this was to be our home for a month or so, we
took care to pick out a good spot and set up the lodge
in the most approved fashion, taking advantage of the
little shelter that the stunted pines could afford.
A mile or two to the east lay the northern end of a
large sheet of water, running about forty miles in a
southerly direction, known to the Indians as 'The
Lake of the Enemy,' and formerly the home of that
terrible Evil Spirit supposed to haunt the Barren
Ground. It is hard to get a full description of the
Enemy, as, although many people have seen it, they
are at once afflicted with insanity, and are incapable of
giving an accurate account of their experience; but
one must not dare to express unbelief in the existence
of the Enemy any more than in that of the Giant
Musk-Ox, fully ten times the size of the biggest bull CHAP. VI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
75
ever seen, whose track many Indians say they have
come across far out in the Barren Ground.
King and myself spent most of our time prowling
about in search of caribou, but for the first fortnight
few came and we were only just able to keep ourselves
in fresh meat, although there was soon plenty of dried
meat from the animals we had cached at this spot a
week before. I now saw what an advantage it is to
take women on a hunting-trip of this kind, and certainly
King's wife and daughter were both well up in the
household duties of the country. If we killed anything, we only had to cut up and cache the meat, and
the women and small boys would carry it in. On
returning to camp we could throw ourselves down on
a pile of caribou skins and smoke our pipes in comfort,
but the women's work was never finished. The rib
bones have all to be picked out, and the plat cdte hung
up in the smoke to dry; the meat of haunches and
shoulders must be cut up in thin strips for the same
purpose, and the bones have to be collected, pounded
down, and boiled for the grease which is in such
demand during the cold weather about to commence.
But the greatest labour of all lies in dressing the skins,
cutting off the hair, scraping away every particle of
flesh and fat, and afterwards tanning them into soft
leather for moccasins, which are themselves no easy
task to make. Many skins, too, have to be made into
parchment or carefully cut into babiche for the lacing of
snowshoes, and again, there are hair-coats to be made
for each member of the party. In an ordinary Indian
lodge the women have to put up with ill-usage as well THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VI.
as hard work; but most of the half-breeds know enough
to treat them fairly; and King, except in his moments
of passion, when he did not stop at any cruelty, treated
his womenkind very well.
One of our first expeditions was to hunt birch for
making the frames of snowshoes, which might be
needed at any time, and King soon had a pair ready
for lacing; he was very clever with the crooked knife,
the universal tool of the North, but the stunted birch
is hard to bend to the proper shape, and requires
constant watching during the process of warping.
The evenings were generally spent in long discussions over our pipes, for tobacco was still holding out,
and the old man was keen to hear about the doings of
the white man in the Grand Pays, as the half-breeds
indefinitely term the whole of the outside world. The
ignorance existing among these people is extraordinary,
considering how much time they spend at the forts,
and how many officers of the Hudson's Bay Company
they have a chance to talk to, besides the missionaries
of both faiths. It is a different matter with the
Indians, as they seldom come to the fort, and cannot
hold much conversation with the Whites without an
interpreter. It was difficult, for instance, to persuade
King that the Hudson's Bay Company does not rule
the whole world, or that there are countries that have
no fur-bearing animals, which in the North furnish the
only means of making a living for the poor man. He
was much interested in stories of the Queen, although
he could never believe that Her Majesty held such a
high rank as the Governor of the Company, and quite
m CHAP. VI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
77
refused to acknowledge her as his sovereign. [ No,'
he said; ' she may be your Queen, as she gives you
everything you want, good rifles and plenty of ammunition, and you say that you eat flour at every meal in
your own country. If she were my Queen, surely she
would send me sometimes half a sack of flour, a little
tea, or perhaps a little sugar, and then I should say
she was indeed my Queen. As it is I would rather
believe Mr. Reid of Fort Province, who told me once
that the earth went round and the sun stood still; but
I myself have seen the sun rise in the morning and
set at night for many years. It is wrong of you
White Men, who know how to read and write, to tell
lies to poor men who live by the muzzle of their
guns.'
Another matter over which his mind was greatly
exercised was the last North-West Rebellion under
Louis Riel. He was convinced that during this rising
the half-breeds and Indians had declared war upon the
Hudson's Bay Company, and gained a decisive victory
besides much glorious plunder; and he asked why
such an outbreak should not succeed on the Great
Slave Lake, where there was only one man in charge
of a fort. He had many questions too to ask about
the various good things that we eat and drink in
England, and criticised severely the habit of eating
three regular meals a day, which he described as
eating by the clock instead of by the stomach, a much
more greedy habit than that of gorging when meat is
plentiful and starving at other times. On several
occasions during our travels together I had reason to
I H-''>
I
78
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VI.
expostulate with him on the carelessness he displayed
with provisions, but without making the least impression. ' What is this improvidence ?' he would
say. 11 do not like that word. When we have meat
why should we not eat plein ventre to make up for the
time when we are sure to starve again ?' He could
never realise that starvation might be partially avoided
by a little care.
Often King would spin me a long story as we lay
round the fire in the lodge; usually some tradition
handed down from the time when all the animals and
birds could converse together; what the wolf said to
the wolverine when they went on a hunting-trip in
company, and how the ptarmigan invited the loon to
dine with him in a clump of willows in the Barren
Ground, while there was a big stock of giant stories,
with heroes much resembling those of the favourite
nursery tales of one's childhood. Again he would
come down to more recent times and describe the
battles of the Dog-Ribs and Yellow Knives, which seem
to have been carried on in the same sneaking fashion
that has always distinguished the warfare among the
tribes of Canadian Indians; there was no open
fighting, and all the victories were won by a successful
approach on an unsuspecting and usually sleeping
encampment of the enemy, the first grey of dawn
being the favourite time of attack.
The following story of the Deluge, as believed by
the Yellow Knives, I copied down from King's recital;
it appears to be a curious mixture of old tradition with
some details from the Biblical version as taught to the
■an CHAP. VI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
79
Northern Indians on the arrival of the first priests
in the country.
Many years ago, so long ago in fact that as yet no
man had appeared in the country of the Slave Lake,
the animals, birds, and fishes lived in peace and friendship, supporting themselves by the abundant produce
of the soil. But one winter the snow fell far more
heavily than usual; perpetual darkness set in, and
when the spring should have come the snow, instead
of melting away, grew deeper and deeper. This state
of affairs lasted many months, and it became hard for
the animals to make a living; many died of want, and
at last it was decided in grand council to send a
deputation to Heaven to enquire into the cause of the
strange events, and in this deputation every kind of
animal, bird, and fish was represented. They seem to
have had no difficulty in reaching the sky, and passing
through a trap-door into a land of sunshine and
plenty. Guarding the door stood a deerskin lodge
resembling the lodges now in use among the Yellow
Knives; it was the home of the black bear, an animal
then unknown on the earth. The old bear had gone
to a lake close at hand to spear caribou from a canoe,
but three cubs were left in- the lodge to take care of
some mysterious bundles that were hung up on the
cross-poles; the cubs refused to say what these
bundles contained and appeared very anxious for the
return of the old bear.
Now the idea of spearing caribou did not find
favour with the deputation from below, and as the
canoe was seen lying on the shore of the lake, the
PS 8o
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VI.
f-f
mouse was despatched to gnaw through the paddle,
and as he had nearly accomplished this feat the bear
came running down in pursuit of a band of caribou
that had put off from the far shore. When he was
close up to his intended victims and was working his
best, the paddle suddenly broke, the canoe capsized,
and the bear disappeared beneath the water. Then
the animals, birds, and fishes grew bold, and pulling
down the bundles, found that they contained the sun,
moon, and stars belonging to the earth; these they
threw down through the trap-door to lighten the
world and melt the snow, which by this time covered
the tops of the tallest pine-trees.
The descent from Heaven was not made without
some small accidents. The beaver split his tail and
the blood splashed over the lynx, so that ever afterwards till the present day the beaver's tail is flat and
the lynx is spotted ; the moose flattened his nose, and
■many other casualties occurred which account for the
peculiarities of various animals, and the little bears
came tumbling down with the rest.
And now the snow began to melt so quickly that
the earth was covered with water, but the fish found
for the first time that they could swim, and carried
their friends that could not on their backs, while the
ducks set to work to pull up the land from beneath
the water.
But it was still hard to make a living, so the raven,
then the most beautiful of birds, was sent to see if he
could find any place where dry land was showing;
but coming across the carcass of a caribou he feasted CHAP. VI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
upon it, although the raven had never before eaten
anything but berries and the leaves of the willow.
For this offence he was transformed into the hideous
bird that we know, and to this day is despised of
every living thing ; even omnivorous man will not eat
of the raven's flesh unless under pressure of starvation.
The ptarmigan was then sent out and returned
bearing in his beak a branch of willow as a message
of hope; in remembrance of this good action the
ptarmigan turns white when the snow begins to fall in
the Barren Ground, and thus warns the animals that
winter is at hand.
But the old life had passed away and the peace that
had reigned among all living things was disturbed.
The fish, as the water subsided, found that they could
no longer live on the land, and the birds took to flying
long distances. Every animal chose the country that
suited it best, and gradually the art of conversation was
lost. About this time too, in a vague and indefinite
manner about which tradition says little, the first human
being appeared on the shore of the Great Slave Lake.
The weather continued fine without severe frost till
the middle of October, the snow was still light on the
ground, but the lakes all set fast. On the night of the
fourteenth a storm arose equal in violence to a Dakota
blizzard and continued till the following evening, by
which time there were a couple of feet of snow on
the ground. It was impossible to keep the drift from
coming into the lodge, and as soon as the storm was
over we had to throw down our shelter and clear away
G 82
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VI.
the banks that had accumulated inside. This was
distinctly the coming of winter and there was no more
sign of a thaw; the cold kept growing severer,
especially on clear days, but I had no thermometer
to mark its intensity. The daylight was shortening
rapidly and the sun shone with little warmth.
With the increasing depth of snow there was a
noticeable migration of life from the Barren Ground.
Ptarmigan came literally in thousands, while the tracks
of wolves, wolverines, and Arctic foxes made a continuous network in the snow. Scattered bands of
caribou were almost always in sight from the top of
the ridge behind the camp, and increased in numbers
till the morning of October 20th, when little Baptiste,
who had gone for firewood, woke us up before daylight with the cry of Lafoule ! La foule ! and even in
the lodge we could hear the curious clatter made by
a band of travelling caribou. La foule had really
come, and during its passage of six days I was able to
realise what an extraordinary number of these animals
still roam in the Barren Ground. From the ridge we
had a splendid view of the migration; all the south
side of Mackay Lake was alive with moving beasts,
while the ice seemed to be dotted all over with black
islands, and still away on the north shore, with the aid
of the glasses, we could see them coming like regiments
on the march. In every direction we could hear the
grunting noise that the caribou always make when
travelling; the snow was broken into broad roads, and
I found it useless to try to estimate the number that
passed within a few miles of our encampment.    We CHAP. VI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
were just on the western edge of their passage, and
afterwards heard that a band of Dog-Ribs, hunting
some forty miles to the west, were at this very time in
the last straits of starvation, only saving their lives by
a hasty retreat into the woods, where they were lucky
enough to kill sufficient meat to stave off disaster.
This is a common danger in the autumn, as the
caribou coming in from the Barren Ground join
together in one vast herd and do not scatter much till
they reach the thick timber. It turned out very well
for us, however, and there is really no limit to the
number we might have killed if we had been in need
of them; but it was too far out to make a permanent
winter's camp, and hauling such a long distance with
dogs is unsatisfactory, as most of the meat would be
consumed on the way. We killed therefore only so
many as we could use, and had some luxurious living
during the rest of our stay in this camp. The caribou,
as is usually the case when they are in large numbers,
were very tame, and on several occasions I found
myself right in the middle of a band with a splendid
chance to pick out any that seemed in good condition.
The rutting season was just over, and as the bulls
had lost all their fat and their meat was too strong to
eat, only does were killed. A good deal of experience
is necessary to tell the fat ones, but the half-breeds
can tell age and sex pretty well by the growth of the
horns; often King told me which to shoot at, and it
was seldom that he made a mistake in his choice.
This passage of the caribou is the most remarkable
thing that I have ever seen in the course of many
G 2 84
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VI.
expeditions among the big game of America. The
buffalo were for the most part killed out before my
time, but, notwithstanding all the tall stories that are
told of their numbers, I cannot believe that the herds,
on the prairie ever surpassed in size La foule of the
caribou.
Soon after the migration had passed, Jose Beaulieu
arrived from Fond du Lac in company with an Indian,
having made the journey on foot in eight days.
Things had apparently gone all wrong there; they
had been starving, and had of course taken everything
of mine that they could lay hands on, both provisions
and ammunition. They had then quarrelled over the
division of the spoil, but as the caribou turned up
within two days of the house contentment was now
reigning. Jose had brought a little tea and tobacco,
of which we were now badly in need, and a long
string of grievances against his brothers at Fond du
Lac. He had done nothing to help me in any way,
although he had promised to have everything ready
for the first snow, and seemed rather surprised that I
did not take much interest in his wrongs. He got
even with me, however, on his way back, by breaking
into a cache, that I had made before reaching the Lac
du Rocher, and stealing the tobacco that I was relying
on for our next trip in the Barren Ground.
Jos6 reported the woods to the south of us to be
full of caribou, and a big band of Yellow Knives
camped at the Lac de Mort, some of whom were talking of coming for a musk-ox hunt", if I could give them
ammunition.    I sent word to the chief that I could CHAP. VI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
85
supply three or four of them, and ordered Paul and
Michel to come on with the dogs as soon as possible.
The snow was by this time quite deep enough for
travelling, and any delay meant an increased severity
in the weather, while in any case it would be late in
the year before we got back to Fond du Lac.
After Jose left we relapsed into our lazy existence
of eating and sleeping, having no more excuse for
hunting; occasionally we made a short trip on snow-
shoes to examine some of our caches and bring in a
little meat, and once went for a three days' expedition
to our meat on the island in Mackay Lake, and made
a more secure cache by putting the carcasses of the
caribou under the ice. At other times we amused
ourselves by setting snares for ptarmigan, which were
in great numbers, or by hauling a load of wood across
a small lake in front of the lodge, as we had used up
all the fuel within easy reach. On the shore of this
lake was a fine specimen of the balanced rocks so
common all over the open country; an enormous
boulder many tons in weight, so neatly set on the
three sharp points of an underlying rock that it could
be easily shaken but not dislodged; the lake is known
among the Indians as the ' Lake of the Hanging Rock.'
We might have done some successful trapping for
wolves, wolverines, and foxes, but had unfortunately
left all our steel traps at Fond du Lac in order to
travel as lightly as possible in the portages.
Quickly and without incident the short days slipped
away until on the tenth of November, as I was returning to camp, I heard a gunshot to the southward of us.
?w 86
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VI.
■i- -   i
m
Instantly all was excitement, and we had barely time
to answer the signal before a large party of men and
eight dog-sleighs came in sight over the ridge. At
first I could recognise no one, as the day had been
very cold and their faces were covered with hoar frost,
which makes it hard to distinguish one man from
another; but they turned out to be Paul, Francois,
and Michel, besides several Indians, among whom
was Zinto, the chief of the Yellow Knives, who had
come some hundred miles from his hunting-camp on
purpose to pay me a visit.
A small supply of tea and tobacco had come up,
but not nearly enough for our wants, and I could see
that we should have to do without these luxuries just
at the time when we most required them; there was
also a little flour, and we had a big feast of flour and
grease the same evening; all the new arrivals came
into the lodge, and sixteen people and fully as many
dogs slept inside' that night. After supper I handed
round a small plug of black tobacco to each man, as
is the invariable custom of the officer in charge of a
fort on the arrival of a band of Indians; and when
the pipes were lit Zinto gave me to understand that
he had a few remarks to make to me. He would
have been a fine-looking specimen of a Yellow Knife
but for a habit of blinking his eyes, which gave him
a rather owlish expression; he was possessed with a
great idea of a chief's importance, but I found him a
pretty good fellow during the many dealings that I
afterwards had with him. King acted as interpreter,
and I fancy rather cut down the speech in length, but CHAP. VI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
87
this was the gist of it. ' Zinto was very pleased to see
a white man on his hunting-ground. He had known
several at the forts, but had never before seen one
among the caribou. Many years ago his father had
told him stories of some white men who had wandered
across the Barren Ground and reached the sea-coast;
they had all endured much hardship, and many had
died from cold and starvation; he did not know why
they came to such a country, when by all accounts
they were so much better off at home, but supposed
there was some good reason which an Indian could
not understand. For his own part he liked the Whites;
all that he valued came from their country, and he
had always been well treated by the Company. He
was willing to help me as much as he could now that
I had ventured so far into his hunting-ground, but the
musk-ox hunt in snow-time was hard; only the bravest
of his young men went, and last year was the first
time they had made the attempt. The Dog-Ribs
who traded at Fort Rae often went, but they had an
easier country, as the musk-ox were nearer the woods.
There would be much walking to do, and the cold
would be great; however, if I meant to go he would
order his young men to look after me, and on no
account to leave me if from starvation or any other
cause I could not keep up. I was to have the first
choice of the meat in the kettle and the best place
in the lodge to lie down. He hoped we should have
a successful hunt, and, although he knew that we were
short of such things, he could not help asking for a
little tea and  tobacco to give  him courage for his
M THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VI.
journey back to the camp. If he received this he
should have a still higher opinion of the white man
and his heart would be glad.'
I replied that I was much gratified at seeing the
chief of the Yellow Knives in my camp, and was sorry
that I could not give him a more imposing reception
on the present occasion; I had heard much to his
credit from King Beaulieu and from the Company's
officer in charge of Athabasca district; he was spoken
of as a good chief and friendly towards the Whites.
I had come from far across the big water on purpose
to see the country of the Yellow Knives, and was
anxious to know how they lived, and how they hunted
the various kinds of animals upon which they depended for subsistence. For this purpose I now
proposed going for a musk-ox hunt, and was glad
to see that some of his tribe were prepared to accompany me. I could let them have enough ammunition
for the trip,' and would share with them the meat
caches that we had made along our line of travel,
and also the tea and tobacco while it lasted. Much
interest was felt in my country with regard to the
Yellow Knives, and I hoped to be able to give a
good account of their treatment to a stranger when
I returned home. If his young men behaved well
while they were out with me they should all receive
presents when they reached the fort.
Here the effect of my oration was rather spoilt by
the Beaulieus breaking in to ask what presents they
were to receive. Had they not been faithful so long,
and gone so much out of their way to help me ? and CHAP. VI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
89
then the misery they had gone through in the Barren
Ground on the last musk-ox hunt! Now followed
a tremendous quarrel among themselves, mostly, I
believe, about the stealing they had been doing at
Fond du Lac, and whether the value of the articles
they had taken should be deducted from the wages
I had agreed to pay them before starting. After the
discordant clamour had subsided a little, Zinto replied
that he was satisfied, and thanked me for the small
present of tea and tobacco which I could not well
refuse; we then discussed all the various plans for
the forthcoming hunt, and sat up feasting till late in
the night.
Something in the proceedings of the evening must
have displeased King, as he suddenly astonished us
all by saying that he would not go with us. What
the grievance was I never found out, but he was
obstinate on the point. I had been relying on him
for interpreter, and was rather annoyed at his refusal
to go, especially as Francois, the best French speaker
in the outfit, declared his intention of returning straight
to Fond du Lac. Michel too was wavering, but finally
decided to go, as Paul, who behaved very well on this
occasion, steadily declared that he was quite willing to
accompany me, and would carry out the promise that
he had made at Fort Resolution to go the whole
trip. These two then and myself, together with the
five Indians, Noel, William, Peter, Saltatha, and
Mario (brother of Zinto), and twenty-four dogs hauling six sleighs, made up the party that eventually
started for the Barren Ground about midday on
Sunday, November nth. 9°
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. VI.
y
King maintained his ill-temper till the hour of
departure, saying that he did not want so many men
and dogs in his lodge eating up the provisions that
he had worked so hard to earn, and that the sooner
we started the better he would be pleased. He used
some particularly offensive language to me, but relented at the last moment and gave me his own
hair-coat and a new pair of snow-shoes, of which I
was badly in want. He also promised to do his best
in the way of leaving meat caches along the course
that we should follow on our return from the musk-ox
country. I was rather sorry to leave the old fellow
after all, as on the whole we had been pretty good
friends while we lived together, and he certainly had
great influence over the Indians which might have
been useful during our difficult journey. CHAPTER VII.
That night we made an open camp in a bunch of
pines on the south side of Lake Mackay, at which
point we intended to load wood for use in the Barren
Ground. We were much better found in all respects
than on the last occasion, and having dogs with us
should not be obliged to carry anything ourselves.
We used the ordinary travelling sleighs of the North ;
two smooth pieces of birch, some seven feet in length,
with the front ends curled completely over and joined
together with cross slats secured with babiche into a
total width of sixteen inches. A ground-lashing is
passed along through holes in the outside edge of the
sleigh, and to this is fastened a rough deer-skin wrapper
in which the load is stowed as neatly as possible and
the wrapper laced on the top, so that in case of a
capsize, which frequently happens, nothing can fall out.
The traces are hitched on to loops in the front end of
the sleigh, and four dogs put in the caribou-skin harness
one in front of the other. The company officers have
imported leather dog-harness with buckles for their own
use between the forts; but I think for handling in really
nm 92
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VII.
&".'<E
cold weather the caribou-skin, or better still moose-skin,
with thongs instead of buckles, is preferable.
Our twenty-four dogs rejoiced in endless varieties of
names, English, French, and Indian, some popular
names introduced by the Whites being freely given
without reference to sex or colour. For instance, in
my own sleigh the fore-goer, a big yellow bitch,
answered to the name of Napoleon, whilst just behind
her came a black bushy-tailed dog La Reine ; we had
three Drap Fins, from their resemblance to the fine
black cloth so dearly beloved by the half-breeds and
Indians, two Chocolates of different colours, besides
Cavour, Chandelle, Diable, Lion, Blucher, Royal, Bismarck, and a host of unpronounceable Indian names.
We were all dressed alike in coats of caribou-skin
with the hair outside and hoods fastened up closely
under the chin, and these we hardly took off day or
night for the five weeks that we were out. Our hands
were thrust into moose-skin mittens lined with duffel
and hung round the neck by highly ornamented plaited
woollen strings, or in the case of a man of little wealth
with a more humble piece of babiche, but most of my
companions managed to show a little colour in this
respect. We rolled our feet in duffel and cased them
in huge moccasins, of which we all had two or three
pair ; and as we were very careful in drying them every
night before sleeping to get rid of all dampness caused
by perspiration there was not a single case of frozen
feet during the whole journey, although the big cold of
an Arctic winter had now fairly set in. We used small
snow-shoes about three feet in length, as most of the CHAP. VII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
93
travelling would be on the frozen lakes where the snow
is always drifting, and, consequently, pretty hard. One
man, or in case of softer snow two, went ahead to break
the road and the dogs followed in their tracks, or, if
they showed any disinclination to start, were most unmercifully clubbed and cursed by name till they did so.
A big deer-skin lodge and a sufficient number of
carefully trimmed poles had been brought up from
Fond du Lac, as it would have been impossible to
endure the cold and almost perpetual wind without
shelter of any kind, but they had the disadvantage of
greatly increasing the weight of our load. King had
given us a little dried meat, but only enough for a
couple of days for such a large outfit; the dogs alone
required at least fifty pounds a day to keep them in
good condition. We had the meat caches ahead, and
hoped to fall in with the musk-ox before we ran out of
provisions entirely. The danger of course lay in not
finding these animals when we got far out, as the
caribou had almost all passed into the woods and we
could not hope to see any after the first few days. Our
ammunition was rather limited, but with care we had
enough to keep the muzzle-loading weapons supplied,
and Paul and myself had a fair amount of cartridges
for our Winchester rifles. We were obliged to wrap
deer-skins round the levers and the parts of the barrel
that our hands touched to avoid contact with the iron,
which sticks to the bare skin in cold weather and causes
a painful burn.
The next day was spent in cutting wood into short
lengths  and  loading  it  on  to  the sleighs.    In  the
!Vi 94
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VII.
morning Mario was very ill from the surfeit of flour
he had had in King's camp, but was well enough to
travel a short distance in the afternoon, and we pitched
our lodge in the snow, clear of all timber. Here I had
my first experience of a winter camp in the Barren
Ground.
A spot being chosen where the snow is light and the
ground clear of rocks, a ring of the requisite size is
marked out. Snow-shoes are taken off and used as
shovels for throwing away the snow from the inside of
this ring, making a wall varying in height according to
the depth of snowfall. Outside this circle the sleighs
are turned on edge, the poles planted behind them, and
the deer-skin lodge spread round, forming as comfortable a camp as can be expected in such a country.
The wood allowed for supper is carefully split and a
fire lighted, the kettle hanging over it from three small
sticks carried for the purpose ; the lumps of meat for .
dog's food are spread round the fire till sufficiently
thawed, when a lively scene commences outside the
lodge, every man feeding his own dogs and watching
them to see there is no foul play. By the time this is
over the melted snow in the kettle is boiling, and
every man gets his piece of meat in much the same
manner as the dogs. I always had the privilege of
first choice, but in the dense clouds of smoke that
usually filled the lodge it was by no means easy to .take
the full advantage of it. We drank tea while it held
out, and then fell back on the greasy snow-water that
the meat was boiled in. There was always a good
proportion of caribou hair in everything we ate or CHAP. VII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
95
drank, varying afterwards to the coarse black hair of
the musk-ox, which was far more objectionable.
As soon as supper was over and our moccasins dry
the fire was allowed to go out, to economize wood, and
each man rolled himself up in his blanket, lay down on
the frozen ground, and slept as well as he might till it
was time to travel again. Directly all was quiet the
dogs forced their way in and commenced a free fight
over us for any scraps or bones they could find lying
about; finally they curled themselves up for the night
without paying much attention to our comfort. A
warm dog is not a bad thing to lie against or to put
at your feet, but these hauling dogs seem to prefer to
lie right on top of your body, and as most of them, are
a considerable weight a good night's rest is an impossibility. Any attempt to kick or shove them off produced
a general row, and a moving foot was often mistaken
in the darkness for a hostile dog and treated as such;
Paul received one rather bad bite on his toes, but the
rest of us all got off with slight nips. We had to be
careful to put everything edible, in the way of moccasins, mittens, and even snow-shoes, under us, as these
are things that few dogs can resist, and there is nothing
more annoying than to find all the babiche eaten out of
your snbw-shoes in the morning. When the hungry
time came later on the dogs began to eat the lodge,
and would soon have left us houseless but for one man
always keeping watch at night.
One is accustomed to hear of men sleeping in fluffy
woollen bags in the Arctic regions, but I found that a
deer-skin coat and one blanket were sufficient to keep
K 96
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VII;
II
I 'I
me warm except on the very coldest nights. I had
told Michel particularly to bring another blanket that
I had left behind at Fond du Lac, and abused him
roundly when I found he had come without it. It
seems that an Indian had arrived at the house with a
load of dried meat and grease, and was in want of a
blanket; Michel, to use his own expression, took pity
on him and gave him my blanket in exchange for
the grease. He doubtless considered this a pious act
of charity, but had rather spoilt it by consuming the
grease himself; and on my asking him why, if he felt so
sorry for the Indian, he had not given him one of his
own blankets, or at least kept the grease for me, he
replied : ' I have only two blankets and I have a wife;
you have no wife, so one blanket is enough for you;
besides, I love grease, and it is hard for me to see it
and not eat it.'
In the middle of the night Saltatha, always the
earliest, got up and drove out the dogs, lit the fire,
and prepared another meal, exactly similar to our
supper of the evening. Usually we harnessed up
many hours before daylight and travelled, with only
an occasional ten-minutes' rest, till the sun had been
long down and there was just enough daylight left to
make camp; dinner was completely cut out of our day
as being too heavy a strain on our firewood. There
was no attempt at washing made by any of the party
during the whole time that we were out, and indeed it
would have been an impossibility, as our small fires
were only just sufficient to melt the snow for cooking
purposes. chap. vii. OF NORTHERN CANADA
97
II
li
In clear weather the nights were of wonderful brilliancy, and after we had been out a couple of weeks the
moon was big enough to add a little light, and of
course kept steadily improving in this respect; but the
starlight alone illumined the waste of snow sufficiently
to see landmarks far ahead. Generally the Aurora
was flashing in its full glory, and if there was no wind
the travelling was pleasant enough. At the first sign
of dawn, and thence till the sun rose, the cold always
became more severe, and if a light head-wind happened
to get up at the same time there were sure to be some
frozen noses and chins in the outfit. The hair on our
faces, even to the eyebrows and eyelashes, was always
coated with rime, giving everybody a peculiarly stupid
expression; my beard was usually a mass of ice, and I
had great difficulty in thawing it out by our small fires,
although it proved a grand protection from frost-bite.
I think I was the only one that escaped being bitten
in the chin, but my nose, cheeks, and forehead were
touched several times.
The sunrise was often very beautiful, and the effects
of long duration, as the sun is close to the horizon a
considerable time before he shows above it, while the
;dense blue blackness in the north and west gives the
impression that the night is still lingering there. Often
a sun-dog is the first thing to appear, and more or less
of these attendants accompany the sun during his short
stay above the horizon. The driving snow, which
obliterates everything in blowing weather, often spoils
the evening effects; but once or twice I saw the sun
set over a frozen lake, tinting the snow with various
1 98
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VII;
shades of red, and throwing a beauty over the wilderness that it is useless for me to attempt to describe.
A thick fog hung over everything during the whole
of the second day out from the woods, and of course
made it extremely difficult to find the meat cache in
Lake Mackay; at dark we camped on the first land
that we came to, but had no very accurate idea of
our position. Luckily the weather cleared towards
morning, and we made out the island on which we
had stored the carcasses of the caribou killed on
September 22nd. We had some trouble in punching
a hole with our only ice-chisel and hauling out a solid
lump of meat and ice some five feet thick and many
feet in circumference; but the Indians were much
cheered at the sight of so much provision, and declared themselves ready to go out to the sea-coast if
necessary. The short day was nearly over by the
time we had got the meat, so we camped for the
night on the island; but before daylight we were off
again, and when the sun set had nearly reached the
end of the lake and made a wood cache on a conspicuous point for our return journey. The next day
was thick again, and we were lucky in finding the bay
in which we had left the big canoe during our last
expedition. A very curious thing, illustrating the
difficulty of recognising objects in these fogs, happened
just as we were leaving the ice. We saw an animal,
apparently at some distance, bounding along the
horizon at a most remarkable pace; all down the
line there were cries of Erjerer (musk-ox), Et-then,
Le loup ! guns were snatched from the sleighs, and CHAP. VII,
OF NORTHERN CANADA
99
even the dogs charged at a gallop in pursuit of the
strange animal. After a rush of ten yards the quarry
disappeared; the first man had put his foot on it,
and it turned out to be one of the small mice so
common in the Barren Ground. What it was doing
out on the lake at this time of year, instead of being
comfortably curled up under ground, I cannot say;
but it certainly gave me the impression that if these
fogs continued we should run a good chance of coming
to grief through losing our way.
At sunrise the weather cleared, and we found a
small band of caribou at the beginning of the twenty-
mile portage to the Lac de Gras. After we had
killed three and fed the dogs, we began our overland
work. The snow was much softer here, with many
large rocks showing through, and some steep hills
made travelling hard for the dogs. Night caught us
about half-way between the two lakes, and the north
wind freshened up into a tempest such as I have
never seen surpassed by the blizzards of the western
prairies. Fortunately we found a fairly sheltered
place for the lodge or it must have been swept away;
as it was the deer-skin flapped with a noise like that
of a sail blown to pieces at sea ; two of our lodge-
poles were carried away, and we were in momentary
expectation of being left without shelter to the mercy
of the storm; the driving snow forced itself in, and
men and dogs were only recognisable by the white
mounds which marked their position. For thirty hours
we lay like this till the wind abated at midnight, when
we  started again towards the north, and  continued
H 2
I fit
If
1
l|
■
; /
IE
100
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VII.
walking till we had crossed the big bay of the Lac
de Gras into which the Coppermine River runs. We
camped a little short of our second meat cache on
the Point de Misere, and on the following day, although
the fog had settled down again, Paul, by a very good
piece of piloting, discovered the small lake in which
we had cached the meat. We were getting pretty hard
up again by this time, and the Indians, with the
exception of Saltatha whose good spirits never failed,
were showing signs of sulkiness. This new supply,
however, gave them fresh courage, and we were all
confident of finding the musk-ox before we got to the
end of the six caribou that we picked up here. We
experienced the same difficulty in breaking the ice,
and as we spent much valuable time in getting out
the meat, made but a poor day's journey. On the
following day we passed the most northerly point that
we had reached in the autumn, and were now pushing
on into a country that none of us had ever seen before.
At the spot where we had left the Lac de Gras we
had noticed a few small willow sticks showing above the
snow, which afterwards proved very useful. Following
a small stream we reached another large lake, stretching in a north-easterly direction, and camped at the
far end of it in a heavy snowstorm that had been
going on all day. During this time we were keeping
a sharp look-out for musk-ox; but we could find no
tracks, and as the weather continued thick Had no opportunity of seeing animals at a distance. Two more
days we travelled on in this manner, making long
journeys with our meat nearly finished and our wood- CHAP. VII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
IOI
supply growing rapidly less; for there had been more
delay, from various reasons, than we had anticipated,
and we had been careful to avoid caching wood for
our return journey as we might be unable to follow
the same course. The shape of the hills here changes
in a most distinct manner. The usual undulations
give way to sharp scattered buttes, composed of
sand and taking very remarkable forms, a solitary
conical mound being a common feature in the scenery.
Small lakes were still numerous, and for a considerable
distance we followed a large stream, evidently one of
the head waters of the Coppermine, here running in
a south-east direction.
On November 20th we dropped on to a lake some
twelve miles in breadth, and crossed to the north shore
in falling snow. We had been on short rations, men
and dogs, for some time, and our last mouthful was
eaten for supper this night. When we made camp a
few miles beyond the lake the outlook therefore was
by no means cheerful. The continual thick weather
spoilt our chance of finding the musk-ox, and we were
now too far away from the woods to have much chance
of reaching them without meat. Of course we could
always have eaten the dogs, but then we should have
been unable to haul our wood, which in the Barren
Ground is almost as necessary as food. As we felt
certain that we were well in the musk-ox country we
decided to spend the next day in hunting at all risks,
and by good luck the morning broke clear and calm.
Michel and myself remained in camp to look after the
dogs, which had now become so ravenous that they
11
I
$kW}m ''^''■'"fia';' """"*" "lite?^
___„ „._, I02
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VII.
required constant watching to keep them from eating
the lodge, harness, and everything else that they could
get at. The others went in couples in different directions with the agreement that if anyone discovered a
band of musk-ox they should return at once to wait
for the rest of the party to come in, when we were all
to start with the dogs in pursuit* There was no breaks
fast, and all the hunters were off before daylight,
evidently fully aware that the success of our expedition,
if not our chance of supporting life, was centred in the
result of the day's proceedings; and it was certainly a
great relief when Paul and Noel appeared towards
mid-day and reported a large band of musk-ox undisturbed a short distance to the north. Peter and Mario
returned soon afterwards, having found another band
in a more westerly direction. I distributed a pipeful
Of the now very precious tobacco, while we waited for
William and Saltatha, and discussed the plan of attack,
I was rather surprised at Noel's asking Paul to tell me
that I might have some of the musk-ox, as he was
pleased at receiving the tobacco. I was about to
reply that I had come far, and been to a great deal of
trouble, on purpose to kill some of these animals, and
I should think it rather extraordinary if I were not
allowed to do so, when Paul explained that it was a
custom among the Yellow Knives to consider a band
of musk-ox as the property of the discoverer, and only
his personal friends were granted the privilege of
killing them without payment of some kind. Sometimes an Indian would go through all the hardships of
a hunt, and then have to give up nearly all his robes
It l
iri; CHAP. VII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
103
because he had not been lucky enough to discover a
band and was out of favour with his more fortunate
companions; so I told Noel I was very grateful for his
kindness, and made him believe himself a remarkably
good Indian. By this time it was getting late, and as
the wind had risen the snow was beginning to drift.
There was much grumbling at the delay, and in spite
of my remonstrances at breaking up our agreement to
wait for William and Saltatha, the dogs were harnessed,
the lodge pulled down, and the sleighs loaded. I
pointed out that the snow was drifting badly and that
the other two would not be able to follow our tracks ;
but was told that it was only white men who were
stupid in the snow, so I made no further objection.
After travelling about three miles through some rough
hills, we caught an indistinct view of the musk-ox,
fully a hundred in number, standing on a side-hill from
which most of the snow had drifted away; and then
followed a wonderful scene such as I believe no white
man has ever looked on before. 111 noticed the Indians
throwing off their mitten-strings, and on enquiring the
reason I was told that the musk-ox would often charge
at a bright colour, particularly red; this story must, I
think, have originated from the Whites in connection
with the old red-rag theory, and been applied by the
Indians to the musk-ox. I refused to part with my
strings, as they are useful in keeping the mittens from
falling in the snow when the hand is taken out to
shoot, but I was given a wide berth while the hunt
was going on. Everybody started at a run, but the
dogs, which had been let out of harness, were ahead of io4
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VII.
11
: I
us, and the first thing that I made out clearly through
the driving snow was a dense black mass galloping
right at us; the band had proved too big for the dogs
to hold, and most of the musk-ox had broken away.
I do not think they knew anything about men or had
the least intention of charging us, but they passed
within ten yards, and so frightened my companions
that I was the only man to fire at them, rolling over a
couple. The dogs, however, were still holding a small
lot at bay, and these we slaughtered without any more
trouble than killing cattle in a yard. There is an idea
prevalent in the North that on these occasions the old
musk-ox form into a regular square, with the young in
the centre for better protection against the dogs, which
they imagine to be wolves; but on the two occasions
when I saw a band held in this manner, the animals
were standing in a confused mass, shifting their position to make a short run at a too impetuous dog, and
with the young ones as often as not in the front of the
line. There was some rather reckless shooting going
on, and I was glad to leave the scene of slaughter with
Mario in pursuit of stragglers. Mario, in common
with the other Indians, had a great horror of the
musk-ox at close quarters, and I was much amused at
seeing him stand off at seventy yards and miss an
animal which a broken back had rendered incapable
of rising. He said afterwards that the musk-ox were
not like other animals ; they were very cunning, could
understand what a man was saying and play many
tricks to deceive him; it was not safe to go too
near, and he would never allow me to walk up within
■skL ^   -, —~—._ chap. vii. OF NORTHERN CANADA 105
a few yards to put in a finishing shot. After killing
off the cripples, we started back to the place where we
had left the sleighs, and, night having added its darkness to the drifting snow, we had the greatest difficulty
in finding camp. Mario confessed he was lost, and we
were thinking what it was best to do for the night when
we heard the ring of an axe with which somebody was
splitting wood in the lodge ; the others, with the exception of William and Saltatha, were all in, but there
seemed little chance of these two reaching camp that
night. We had eaten nothing for a long time, so we
celebrated our success with a big feast of meat, while
the dogs helped themselves from the twenty carcasses
that were lying about. They gave us very little
trouble in the lodge, as we saw nothing of them till we
skinned the musk-ox next day, when two or three
round white heaps of snow would uncurl themselves
on the lee-side of a half-eaten body. I questioned the
Indians about the two missing men, and they were
unanimous that unless the night got colder they were
in no danger • of freezing to death ; they were sorry
that they had not waited, and would go at the first
sign of daylight to see if they were in the old camp.
Peter and Noel accordingly started very early in the
morning, and found the men lying close together under
the snow at the old camp ; they had returned at dark,
and as our tracks had drifted up there was not the
least chance of finding us. They were slightly frostbitten in the face and hands, but as soon as they had
got over their first numbness were able to walk to
camp, where they soon forgot their natural indignation io6
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VII.
at the mean trick we had played them in the joys of
warmth and food. We were obliged to be a little
extravagant in our wood to make up for the hard
times of the night before, and Saltatha soon recovered
his liveliness ; he was far away the best Indian that I
met in the North, always cheerful and ready for work,
and afterwards, in the summer, the only one of the
Yellow Knives brave enough to volunteer for an expedition down the Great Fish River. A hard life he
leads, always in poverty, a butt and a servant to all
the other Indians, who are immeasurably his inferiors
for any useful purpose. Although a capital hunter,
they swindle him out of everything he makes, and take
the utmost advantage of the little fellow's good-nature;
he seems to have no sense in this respect, and will jump
readily at any bargain that is offered him. He is just
the man for an expedition in the Barren Ground, as
when once he has given his word to go he can be
relied upon to carry out his promise, which is more
than I can say for the rest of his tribe, who only wait
to rebel and desert till a time when they think you
can least do without them.
We spent most of the day in skinning the musk-ox,
which, by the way, is not a pleasant undertaking in cold
weather; the skin is naturally hard to get off, and on
this occasion the carcasses had grown cold during the
night, and the difficulty was greater than usual. The
robes were in splendid condition; the undergrowth,
which resembles a sheep's fleece and is shed in summer, was now thick and firm, while the long permanent
hair had obtained the black glossiness distinctive of a
\\m r I
CHAP. VII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
107
prime fur. We cut up all the meat that the dogs had
left us, and loading it on the sleighs with the robes,
moved camp about five miles to the west to be ready
to go in search of the other band which Peter and
Mario had discovered. We calculated that we should
be able to haul forty-five robes, besides meat enough
for our journey, back to the woods, and at present we
had only half a load.
While the men were planting the lodge I climbed
to the top of a high butte to have a look at the surrounding country; the hill was so steep that I had to
take off my snow-shoes to struggle to the summit, and
was rewarded for my trouble by a good view of probably the most complete desolation that exists upon
the face of the earth. There is nothing striking or
grand in the scenery, no big mountains or waterfalls,
but a monotonous snow-covered waste, without tree or
scrub, rarely trodden by the foot of the wandering
Indian. A deathly stillness hangs over all, and the
oppressive loneliness weighs upon the spectator till
he is glad to shout aloud to break the awful spell of
solitude. Such is the land of the musk-ox in snow-
time ; here this strange animal finds abundance of its
favourite lichens, and defies the cold that has driven
every other living thing to the woods for shelter.
{:] CHAPTER VIII.
Early on the following morning we left camp with
the light sleighs, and at sunrise were close to the place
where the second band had been discovered. We
were a long time in finding them, as the fog had
settled down again, but at last made out a band of
sixty on a high ridge between two small lakes in a
very easy place to approach. Directly after we sighted
them Paul's sleigh, which was ahead, capsized over a
rock, and his rifle, which was lashed on the top of it,
exploded with a loud report. The bullet must have
passed close to some of us, as on examination the rifle
appeared to be bearing right down the line, and it was
lucky that nobody was killed or crippled; a wounded
man would have had little chance of getting back to
the woods alive. The musk-ox took not the slightest
notice of the report, although we were within a couple
of hundred yards of them, and we soon had eighteen
rounded up, the main body breaking away as they had
done before. A sickening slaughter, without the least
pretence of sport to recommend it, now took place till
the last one was killed, and we were busy skinning till
dark. Chap. viii.
NORTHERN CANADA
109
I took some of the best heads, but most of them
were afterwards thrown away by the Indians to lighten
the load on the sleighs. The animals that we killed in
this band were of various ages, and it was interesting
to note the growth of the horns in different specimens.
They begin in both sexes with a plain straight shoot,
exactly like the horns of a domestic calf, and it is then
impossible to tell the male from the female by the
head alone. In the second year they begin to broaden
out, and the bull's horns become much whiter and
project straighter from the head than the cow's, which
are beginning already to show the downward bend.
At the end of the third year the cow's horns are fully
developed, and I do not think they grow much
after that age; with the bulls, however, the horns are
only just beginning to spread out at the base, and it is
not till the sixth year that the solid boss extends right
across the forehead, the point of junction being marked
by a slight crack into which the skin has been squeezed
during the growth of the horns. A curious fact is
noticeable in the horns of the young bulls before the
boss -has begun to form; they are quite soft and
porous at the base, and can easily be cut with a knife;
when once the boss has grown, the horn is as hard as
a rock. I made careful inquiries of the Indians on
these points, and they told me that, except in the case
of very young or very old animals, they could always
tell the age of the musk-ox by a glance at their horns.
We had the greatest difficulty in finding our way
back to the lodge, and it was late before we turned in,
everybody agreeing that we had done enough, and
"■fill
I no
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VIII.
ought to make our best way back to the timber before
our firewood was exhausted. The loads would be
quite as heavy as they had been coming out, for we
now had the weight of robes and meat to make up for
the wood we had used. We had, roughly, three hundred and fifty miles to travel to reach Fond du Lac,
but intended to take the last part of the journey easily
after we fell in with the caribou. I should like to have
known our exact position on the map, and the distance
from the sea-coast at Bathurst Inlet, but of course had
no chance of making even an approximate calculation;
the Indians had no local knowledge, as they were
entirely beyond any country they knew. Our only
luxuries, tea and tobacco, were now finished, and I
found that the want of tobacco was the most trying
hardship on the whole trip : one pipeful as you roll up
in your blanket for the night imparts a certain amount
of comfort, and makes you take a more cheerful view
of life; but when even this cannot be obtained there
is a perpetual craving for a smoke, and the best of
tempers is liable to suffer from the deprivation. After
we had boiled our last handful of tea-leaves three times
over, Saltatha ate them with great gusto, and in future
we drank the water in which the meat was boiled. I
did not miss the tea nearly so much as the tobacco,
and soon began to like the hot greasy bouillon well
enough to struggle for my full share.
We were late off next morning, and could not make
a good day's journey, as the snow was soft till we got
on the large lake, and we were further delayed in the
evening by finding another band of musk-ox.    The CHAP. VIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
in
Indians said they could carry half a dozen robes more,
and insisted, against my wishes, on killing this number;
the consequence was that we had to camp for the night,
and the dogs were more overloaded than ever ; they
were able, however, to eat to their hearts' content, and
there was very little left of the six musk-ox in the
morning. Two long days' travel took us back to
the point on the Lac de Gras where we had seen the
willows above the snow, and as the dogs were showing
signs of fatigue and their feet were much cut about by
the sharp snow-needles sticking between their toes, we
decided on taking a day's rest. We managed to pull
up enough small willows to keep a bit of a fire going
most of the day, and if we had had tobacco should all
have enjoyed ourselves immensely. It was a bright
clear day, without wind and terribly cold. I climbed
to the top of a hill in the afternoon to see if I could
make out the west end of the lake, but an intervening
hill made it impossible to get a clear view, and I could
form no idea of its length. On this day I felt the top
of my tongue cold in breathing, and my companions,
who were well accustomed to low temperatures, all.
remarked the extreme severity of the cold.
It must have been about midnight when I heard
Saltatha splitting wood, and the well-known cry of Ho
leve, leve, ilfaut partir ! Looking out of my blanket I
felt the snow falling in my face through a big hole that
the dogs had eaten in the lodge, and said that it was
no use moving, as we should never be able to find our
way across the broad traverse that lay ahead. I was
laughed at as usual, and after a breakfast of boiled 112
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VIII.
meat we started out into the darkness. I soon saw
there was little chance of picking up the skin of the
musk-ox that we had cached in September, as, although
the intention was to follow the shore of the lake till we
came to the cache, we lost sight of land immediately
with absolutely nothing to guide us on our course.
There was no wind, and such a thick downfall of snow
that matters did not improve much when the blackness
turned into grey with daylight.
I have often heard it stated that the gift of finding
their way is given to Indians under all conditions by a
sort of instinct that the white man does not possess,
but I never saw children more hopelessly lost than
these men accustomed all their lives to Barren Ground
travel. I have seen it happen to half-breeds and
Indians many times, and have come to the conclusion
that no man without a compass can keep his course in
falling snow, unless there is wind to guide him. It is
always advisable to put ashore at once, or, better still,
not to leave your camp in the morning, as then you
know your point of departure on the first signs of
a break in the weather. On this occasion the usual
thing happened; we walked all day, changing our road-
breaker every hour or so, while the men behind
shouted contrary directions when they thought he was
off his course. Luckily we found land just at dark,
and camped immediately._ A great discussion ensued
as to our position, and opinions varied greatly about
the direction of the north star ; but we could do nothing
till the weather improved, and even then, unless it
grew very clear, or the sun came out, we might not CHAP. VIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
113
\
know which course to take, as landmarks are few and
far between. Fuel could not last more than three
nights with the strictest economy.
The wind rose in the evening, and the snow ceased
falling, but began to drift heavily. In the night there
was a tremendous uproar. I was awakened by hearing
the universal Indian chant {Hi hi he, Ho hi he), and
much clapping of hands, while the dogs were howling
dismally far out on the ice, evidently thinking they
were meant to hunt something, but disappointed at not
being able to find anything to tear to pieces. I looked
out to see what was going on, and found everybody
sitting in the snow shouting; Saltatha had discovered
a single star, and the noise I had heard was the applause supposed to bring out one of the principal
constellations, so that we might get an idea of our
direction. The heavens certainly did clear, and when
daylight broke and the wind moderated we made out
our position easily enough. In fourteen hours' walk
we had come perhaps five miles straight, having made
a huge circle to the right and fallen on an island close
to the shore that we had left in the morning. There
was still the whole width of the lake to cross, but when
we camped late in the portage between the two big
lakes I thought we had got out of the scrape very well.
There was no apparent reason why the snowstorm
should have stopped, and a continuation of it must
have brought us serious trouble.
The next day was worse than ever. A gale from
the south in our teeth and drifting snow made it cruel
work to face the storm; but we had to go, as fuel was
i
I
1
QM
n
II ii4
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VIII.
h i 11
rapidly vanishing, and we had already burnt some of
our lodge-poles, and we hoped to reach a small wood-
cache that night. We could find the way, as we had
the wind to guide us; but the snow was soft, and the
dogs were hardly able now to drag the sleighs over
the rough hills; one of the poorest froze in harness
and had to be abandoned. Our blankets, which we
usually wrapped round our head and shoulders when
facing the wind, now came in for dog-cloths, and certainly saved some more of the dogs from being disabled
by frost-bite; but as the snow melted between their
backs and the blankets, the latter got wet and afterwards froze till they would stand like a board, and
were then a most uncomfortable form of bedding.
The slow pace at which we were forced to travel made
it much worse, and we all found our faces slightly
frozen. At dark we camped nearly at the end of the
portage, although we did not know it till morning, and
reluctantly cut up another couple of lodge-poles for firewood, besides a small box in which I had been carrying
my journal and ammunition.
The wind lightened during the night, and backing
into the east came fair on Lake Mackay. We found
our wood-cache all right, and set out on the sixty-mile
• walk that still lay between us and the first pine-timber.
The travelling on the lake was better than in the
portage, and well on in. the night we put ashore on
the island where we had stored our first meat during
the autumn musk-ox hunt. The dogs were too tired
to go any further without rest, or we should have
pushed on all night.    Our last lodge-pole was burnt to chap. viii. OF NORTHERN CANADA 115
cook a kettleful of meat for breakfast on December 1st,
and before daylight we were off, with no thought of
camping till we could make fire. The sun at this time
only stayed above the horizon for a couple of hours,
and had sunk beneath the snow before we made out
far ahead the high ridge under which the first clump
of pines lay. We were badly scattered along the track,
and some of the dogs, and the men too for that matter,
had great difficulty in keeping up pace enough to
make the blood circulate; it was six hours later, and
we were all pretty well used up, when we saw the little
pines standing out against the sky line.
What a glorious camp we had that night! The
bright glare of two big fires lit up the snow-laden
branches of the dwarf pines till they glittered like so
many Christmas-trees; overhead the full moon shone
down on us, and every star glowed like a lamp hung in
the sky; at times the Northern Lights would flash out,
but the brilliancy of the moon seemed too strong for
even this wondrous fire to rival. It was pleasant to
lie once again on the yielding pine-brush instead of the
hard snow, and to stretch our legs at full length as we
could never stretch them in the lodge; pleasant, too,
to look back at the long struggle we had gone through,
and to contrast our present condition with that of the
last month. Our experiences had been hard and not
without their share of danger, and we could now congratulate ourselves on having brought our hunt to
a most satisfactory conclusion. I had fully succeeded
in carrying out the object of my expedition, and could
look forward to a period of ever-increasing comfort,
1 2 Hrp -
116
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VIII.
culminating in the luxury of life at a Hudson's Bay
Fort within a few weeks. I had intended to winter at
the edge of the Barren Ground, but was forced to give
up the idea, as I had seen too much of the Beaulieus
to care about living any longer with them. The fact
that meat was scarce again did not trouble me, as I
was by this time accustomed to empty larders and had
fallen into the happy Indian method of trusting that
something would turn up; besides, we were pretty
sure to run across the caribou within the next few
days. The want of tobacco was the worst grievance
that I had, but the prospect of obtaining this was
getting brighter after each day's travel.
Very late at night Saltatha turned up with a badly
frozen nose and chin. One of his dogs had given out
and been abandoned, and he had been pushing the
sleigh for many hours; he had almost given up trying
to bring in his load when he saw the blaze of the fires
far off and his courage came back. The sun was up^
before anyone turned out, but the dogs were better for
the rest, and a short day took us into a big bunch of
pines on King Lake, within an easy day of a small
meat cache that I had made while we were camped at
the Lake of the Enemy. I had my doubts about
finding the place, as none of the others knew where it
was, but was lucky enough to hit it off; and we took
out the meat of two caribou, after breaking an axe to
pieces in our endeavours to chop away the ice which
had formed between the rocks from the melting of
the snow during a warm spell in the beginning of
October.
HBQffggBSSSBB CHAP. VIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
117
The same night we camped at the scaffold on which
we had. stored all the dried meat that the women had
made while we were away on the first musk-ox hunt.
King was to have taken most of it, leaving us sufficient
for a couple of days' supply, and a note in the syllabic
characters introduced into the North by the priests
informed us that he had kept his promise. There
were plenty of signs that he had done so ; but the
wolverines had been before us, and a few shreds of
meat lying at the foot of the stage told the story
plainly enough. This was rather a disappointment,
and matters looked worse when we had travelled the
whole length of Lake Camsell at our best speed. Here
again we expected to find a cache, as some meat had
been left when we killed the first caribou in the autumn,
but the wolverines had taken it. This is a common
incident in Northern travel, but never fails to draw
forth hearty execrations on the head of the hated
carcajou.
There was much talk of abandoning loads and
making a rush to reach the caribou or a Yellow Knife
encampment which was supposed to lie some distance
ahead of us ; but I opposed this scheme strongly, and
for once managed to get my own way. The weather
was fine, and we cared little for the cold, as we could
always make a fire in case of freezing. Without
eating much we pushed on rapidly for two days,
crossing the Lac du Rocher, the scene of our starva-
tion in September, and finally on the third morning
found a band of caribou, of which we killed enough to
relieve all immediate anxiety.    By this time we were
! -,v jl
W-\
'
MHHHHI n8
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VIII.
Rill
a
among thick timber and following closely our canoe-
route of three months ago.
In the early hours of December 7th we came to a
line of pine-brush planted across a small lake, and soon
afterwards fell on the tracks of fresh snow-shoes ;
before daylight, at the end of a long portage over a
thickly wooded hill, we dropped into an encampment
of a dozen lodges. It turned to be Zinto's camp, and
all my Indians found their wives and families awaiting
them here. There were great rejoicings over our
arrival, as we had been so long on the hunt that a good
deal of anxiety was felt for the safety of husbands and
brothers. Zinto invited me into his lodge, gave me a
feast of pounded meat and grease, a cup of tea, and,
better still, a small plug of black tobacco; this seemed
too good to leave, and as we had travelled many hours
in the night I decided to spend the rest of the day here.
The camp was very prettily situated on a small flat
a few feet above the edge of a frozen lake ; and when
the sun rose over the hill, lighting up the brown deerskin lodges with their columns of blue smoke rising
straight up in the frosty air, the snow-laden pine-trees,
and the silver-barked birches, the whole scene seemed
a realization of one of Fenimore Cooper's descriptions
of an Indian camp in winter.
Much talking had to be got through, and the story
of our musk-ox hunt was told many times over. I was
the object of great interest, and was closely questioned
as to my experiences in the Barren Ground and the
contrast between life there and in my own country.
After Zinto had satisfied himself on these points he CHAP. VIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
119
broached more abstruse subjects, insisting on knowing
my opinion with regard to the differences of the
Protestant and Roman Catholic faiths, and seeming
pleased to hear that he was by no means the first man
who had found this point hard to fully understand.
Many other things there were about which he desired
information ; but I am afraid some of my answers conveyed little meaning to him, as I was myself rather
hazy about many of the topics of conversation, and had
only Michel, who was the worst Frenchman of all, for
interpreter, Paul having gone off to see his wife who
was camped a few miles to the east. But when Zinto
got on to trading he was quite at home, and before
leaving I had to give him an order for many beaver-
skins (the medium of trade in the North), to be paid at
Fort Resolution. He was very good in providing me
with everything I wanted for my journey, and gave me
a new pair of snow-shoes and a sleigh, besides lending
a dog to replace one that had fallen lame ; meat he was
short of, but he had heard that the Beaulieus had been
killing caribou, so that I was likely to find caches by
the way ; a track was broken to Fond du Lac, and we
ought to ,get there easily in three days. Zinto thought
the Great Slave Lake would be entirely frozen over
and fit to travel on by this time, as lately the sky had
been clear in the south ; when there is any open water
a perpetual mist rises from it and lies like a huge fog-
bank over the lake.
A happy indolent life the Yellow Knives lead when
the caribou are thick on their pleasant hunting-ground
round the shores of the Great Slave Lake, and most of
H THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VIII.
the hard times that they have to put up with are due
to their own improvidence. This is their great failing ;
they will not look ahead or make preparation for the
time when the caribou are scarce, preferring to live
from hand to mouth, and too lazy to bother their heads
about the future. They are rather a fine race of men,
above the average of the Canadian Indian, and, as they
have had little chance of mixing with the Whites, have
maintained their characteristic manners till this day;
they are probably little changed since the time when
the Hudson's Bay Company first established a trading-
post on the Big Lake a hundred years ago. When
the priests came into the country the Yellow Knives
readily embraced the Roman Catholic religion, and are
very particular in observing all the outward signs of
that faith, but I doubt if their profession of Christianity
has done much to improve their character. They are
a curious mixture of good and bad, simplicity and
cunning; with no very great knowledge of common
honesty, thoroughly untrustworthy, and possessed with
an insatiable greed for anything that takes their fancy,
but with no word in their language to express thanks
or gratitude. To a white man they are humility itself,
looking upon him, by their own account, as their father,
and so considering him bound to provide them with
everything they want, even to his last pair of trowsers
or pipeful of tobacco ; refuse them anything when you
are dependent upon their services on a journey, and
they will leave you in the woods; for their own part,
if they have ammunition they are always at home. In
another way they are generous enough, and take great chap. viii. OF NORTHERN CANADA 121
pride in showing hospitality, Go into one of their
lodges, and a blanket is spread for you in the seat of
honour farthest away from the flap that does duty for
a door; a meal is instantly provided, no matter if it
takes the last piece of meat in the camp, and the
precious tea and tobacco are offered you in lavish
quantities. The Yellow Knives are a timid, peaceable
race, shrinking from bloodshed and deeds of violence,
and it is seldom that quarrels between the men get
beyond wrestling and hair-pulling. The women are, as
a rule, not quite so hideous as the squaws of the Black-
feet and Crees ; they are lax in morals, and accustomed
to being treated more as slaves than wives in the
civilized interpretation of the word. They do all the
hard work of the camp, besides carrying the heaviest
loads on the march; and in too many cases are
rewarded with the worst of the meat and the blows
of an over-exacting husband. Early marriages are
fashionable, as a man is useless without a wife to dry.
his meat and make moccasins for him. The great
object of a Yellow Knife beauty is to secure a good
hunter for a husband ; the man who can shoot straight,
and is known to be skilful in approaching the caribou,
is always a prize in the matrimonial market and need
have little fear of a refusal, especially as the husband is
supposed to hunt for his father-in-law after marriage,
and the old man will use all his influence to arrange
the match. Superstition still reigns supreme among,
these people; any mischance is put down to 'bad
medicine,' and reasons are always forthcoming to
account for its presence.    There are several miracle-
J I
111 122
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VIII.
!S.I
(Frit
Is \
111
if f ml
1III
If
W
II
11 i
workers and foreseers of the future in the tribe, who
are said to perform very wonderful things, but I found
them extremely shy of showing off their accomplishments when I asked for an exhibition. Like all other
Indians who live the wild life that they were intended
to live, the Yellow Knives are dirty to the last degree.
They are careful about combing and greasing their
hair, and are lavish in the use of soap, if they can get
it, for face and hands, but their bodies are a sanctuary
for the disgusting vermin that always infest them ;
they seem to have no idea of getting rid of these
objectionable insects, but talk about its being a good
or bad season for them in the same way that they
speak of mosquitos.
From every point of view, then, the Indian of the
Great Slave Lake is not a pleasant companion, nor a
man to be relied upon in case of emergency. Nobody
has yet discovered the right way to manage him.
His mind runs on different principles from that of a
white man, and till the science of thought-reading is
much more fully developed, the working of his brain
will always be a mystery to the fur-trader and traveller.
At sunrise the following morning I left Zinto's camp,
with Michel and Mario, bound for Fond du Lac, all the
other musk-ox hunters going back to domestic happiness. The weather was still bright and cold, and the
days perceptibly longer as we travelled south. We
were again short of meat, as all the Indians were in
the same plight, and although we saw a band of caribou
shortly after starting, we were unable to get a shot at
them.    Towards evening we found a small cache of
til CHAP. VIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
123
meat hung in a tree, and knowing that it must belong
to some of the Beaulieus I had no compunction in
taking it. Here we left our canoe-route, and passing
to the westward of the Lac de Mort headed straight
for the house at Fond du Lac. The woods were well
grown and signs of life abundant; the tracks of wolves,
wolverines, foxes, and an occasional marten, frequently
crossed the road, and ptarmigan were continually flying
up under the leader's feet. Here, too, I saw again my
old friend the Whisky Jack, as he is called throughout
the North, a grey and white bird the size of a thrush,
with a most confiding disposition and an inordinate
love of fat meat; he sits on the nearest tree while the
camp is being made, comes in boldly, inspects the
larder, and helps himself with very little fear of man.
If it is a starving camp he chortles in contempt and
flies away, having a very low opinion of people who
travel without provisions ; but if meat be plentiful he
spends the night there, and comes in for rich pickings
in the morning when the camp is struck. This bird
is common throughout the wilder parts of Canada,
and has acquired many names in different places; in
the mountains of British Columbia he is the Hudson's
Bay bird or grease bird, and far away to the East the
moose bird, caribou bird, Rupert's bird, and camp-
robber.
On the afternoon of the second day we met the
Indian Etitchula, who had left the fort with us in
August and had been hanging on more or less to our
party ever since. He was on his way back to King
Beaulieu's camp, two days' travel to the north-east,
II THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. VIII.
having made a trip to Fond du Lac to make a raid on
my tea and tobacco, and see if there was any news of
us, as King was greatly alarmed at our prolonged
absence. We relieved him of a little tea, but he had
not been able to get any tobacco out of Francois, who
had roundly asserted that it all belonged to him; he
also gave us a couple of whitefish, which proved a very
acceptable change from our long course of straight
meat. Late the same evening we made our last camp
on the high land close to the edge of the mountains
within five miles of the house; we could easily have
got in that night, but I much preferred a quiet camp
under the stars to the company of the gang of Beau-
lieus who were sure to be at Fond du Lac.
One word of caution against using the compressed
tea imported by the Hudson's Bay Company into the
North as a substitute for tobacco; it is very good to
drink, but if you smoke it you pay the penalty by
a most painful irritation in the throat, which is made
worse by breathing the intensely cold air. We all
tried it that night, and all swore never to do so again,
although I have often smoked the ordinary uncompressed tea without disastrous results and with a
certain amount of satisfaction.
We were off in good time on the morning of December ioth, and were soon sitting on the sleighs, rushing
down the steep incline, with frequent spills from
bumping against trees; this was the only piece of
riding I had during the whole five weeks' travel.
The first signs of the petit jour were just showing as
we pulled up at the house, and Francois quickly pro- CHAP. VIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
125
duced the tobacco he had refused Etitchula. I think
for a few minutes they were really glad to see us back
safe, but soon the old complaints began. Times had
been hard, although the women and children all looked
fat enough to belie this statement; Jose" had been
catching whitefish, but had refused to give any to
Francois; while the latter, according to Jose, had been
very mean in distribution of my effects, eating flour
every day himself but giving none away. They had
gone through nearly everything between them, and
moreover did not seem the least bit ashamed of their
conduct. As my dogs were all used up, I decided to
leave them here, and made arrangements with Francois to bring his own train on to the fort with me.
It seemed that notwithstanding the hard times he had
sufficient meat and fish stored away for our trip, and
there were still a few pounds of flour left, so that we
should live in luxury all the way in.
I spent the day shooting a few ptarmigan, indulging
in much tobacco, and listening to the petitions of the
various ill-used members of the family. Jose* was
particularly amusing; he had been the most useless
man of, the lot, never even venturing into the Barren
Ground, but spending most of his time at Fond du
Lac, shooting away my ammunition and playing havoc
with tea and tobacco, besides robbing the cache at the
Lac du Rocher. Now he was full of love for me, and
gave me a list of things that he wanted in addition to
his wages, as a reward for all that he had done and
was ready to do for me. Among other items, he
wanted my rifle and hunting-glasses, and  remarked
il
):l  3 126
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. VIII.
;.ii .
that my Paradox gun, which had been lying here all
the time, would be very useful for him at the goose-
hunt in the following spring. Fortunately none of the'
Beaulieus knew how to put together a breech-loading
gun, so the Paradox and its ammunition had been left
in peace to do me good service in the summer. I
think the Paradox is the most useful gun yet invented
for purposes of exploration, as it does away with the
necessity of carrying a separate weapon for shot and
ball, and shoots very true with either; but there seems
no reason why the patent should not be applied to
a 20-bore. For procuring food in a really rough
country, where a man has to carry his own ammunition,
the ball-cartridges for a 12-bore are needlessly heavy,
and the charge of shot is too great for the close range
shooting which is usually done on these occasions.
*■;[
' I CHAPTER IX.
At Fond du Lac I slept for the first time since we
left the fort under a roof, but on account of the awful
squalor of the house I should have much preferred
the usual open camp in the snow. Daylight found us
under way again, Francois and myself, with a small
boy to run ahead of the dogs; as we were travelling
light I expected to be able to ride the last half of the
journey, but for the first two days the fish for dogs'
food made our load too heavy to travel at a fast pace.
I left all the musk-ox and caribou heads and skins
that I had managed to save, to come in with Michel
and Mario when they made the usual journey to the
fort for New Year's day, on which occasion the Indians
from all quarters bring in their furs to trade, and
receive a small feast of flour and sugar, an event not
to be missed on any account, even though wives and
families may be left to starve in the woods and the
famished dogs drop with fatigue along the track.
There was no news as to the state of the ice, as we
were the first people to attempt the crossing of the
lake this winter. It is usually not safe for travel till
the middle of December, so we coasted along the 128
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IX.
II11  '
IIII  t
III
1
f 11   f
If
13
15/ T
f
a
Hi!
in-'
I*
north shore, increasing the distance, but getting greater
safety by doing so. We took things easily, making
early starts and putting ashore frequently for a cup of
tea; it was a great improvement on the canoe-travelling which had delayed us so much in the autumn.
At sundown every night we picked out a sheltered
spot among the tall pine-trees where firewood was
plentiful, threw away the snow with our snow-shoes,
and put down a thick mat of pine-brush ; then a huge
fire was lit and enough wood cut for the night, the
fish thawed for the dogs, and supper cooked for the
men. We had bread at every meal, which is in itself
a luxury after four months of straight meat; the day
ended with tobacco, and we rolled ourselves in our
blankets to sleep, till the position of the Great Bear
told us it was time to be on the march once more.
People who live in civilization find it hard to believe
that men in these northern latitudes habitually sleep
out under the stars, with the thermometer standing at
300, 400, and even 6o° below zero ; yet it is those same
people of civilization who suffer from colds in the
head, lung-diseases, and a variety of ailments unknown
to the voyageur, whose only dangers are starvation and
the risk of accidents incidental to travelling in rough
countries.
On the second day we passed a couple of houses
occupied by an Indian, Capot Blanc, with whom I
afterwards became great friends; he had left for the
fort a couple of days before, but the ice was reported
to be dangerous in the Grand Traverse. Another
Indian, Thomas, a brother of Mario and Zinto, was chap. ix. OF NORTHERN CANADA 129
ready to start, and joined in with us for the rest of the
journey; he had only two dogs, but with a light load
managed to keep up easily enough. The ice among
the islands was pretty good, but the snow was soft and
deep, and it was not till our fourth night out from
Fond du Lac that we camped on the last outlying
island, ready to take the Traverse. About eighteen
miles away to the s°uth, without any chance to put
ashore till we reached it, lay the He de Pierre, and
we were to make for a half-breed's house that lay
within a mile of it on the main shore of the lake. It
had been arranged that I was to ride in pomp across
this piece, so, after a good breakfast about three
o'clock, I turned into the sleigh and soon dropped off
to sleep to the music of sleigh-bells and a volley of
French oaths with which Francois encouraged his
dogs every few minutes. At this time the stars were
shining brightly, and there was not a breath of wind.
I must have slept for a couple of hours when Francois
awoke me with the information that we were lost.
Turning out of my warm berth I found a gale of wind
blowing, with snow falling and drifting heavily; I
could hardly make out the men in the darkness, though
they were all standing within a few yards of me. Of
course I had not the slightest idea where we were,
or the direction in which we had been travelling.
Francois seemed undecided, but Thomas was quite
sure that by keeping the wind abeam we should hit
off the He de Pierre. We put him ahead, and he
proved perfectly right in his direction; for after four
hours' steady walk we made out the land, the weather
K
I'll THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IX.
clearing a little at daybreak. We had headed a little
too far to the west, but were soon inside the half-
breed's cabin, where we found plenty of fish for the
dogs, and so decided to spend the day there, as the
wind had freshened up again and the drifting snow
made travelling unpleasant. We did not know what
a narrow escape we had had till the owner of the house
came in, after making an attempt to visit his nets.
He reported the ice broken up to the west by the
violence of the gale, and had we kept a little more in
that direction we might easily have walked into open
water in the darkness and made a disastrous ending to
our expedition.
Our course the next day lay over shoal water,
mostly inside sandbanks and through narrow channels
of the delta of the Slave River. We crossed the main
stream on good ice, and following the shore of the
lake for ten miles, rattled into the fort about two
o'clock, within ten minutes of the arrival of the outward-bound packet from Mackenzie River. Luckily
enough it had been delayed one day by the storm that
had overtaken us in the Grand Traverse, and I had
an opportunity of sending out letters by the dog-
sleigh that was to leave the same night. For true
hospitality there is nothing in the world to beat the
welcome back to a Hudson's Bay post in the North
after one has made a long journey in the wilds; no
need to trouble your head with the idea that you may
not be wanted, or that you will eat too much of the
ever insufficient supplies sent in from the outside
world to the officer in charge.    Why is it that the less CHAP. IX.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
131
a man has, and the harder things are to obtain, the
more ready he is to divide ? It does not seem to
work in civilization, but it is certainly so in rough
countries, and especially with the Hudson's Bay
Company's officers in the Far North. Perhaps it is
because they have all seen hardships and privations in
the Company's service and know the value of a
helping hand given in the time of need; men who
have suffered themselves have always more feeling
for the sufferings of others than people who have
lived only on the soft side of life.
I don't think I ever enjoyed a meal so much as that
first dinner at Fort Resolution, after a most necessary
wash. A year later I dragged myself into a small
trading-post at the foot of the Rocky Mountains after
many days' total starvation, but had then got beyond
the capacity of enjoying anything. On the present
occasion I was able to thoroughly appreciate the
change from my four months' experience in the Barren
Ground. How strange it seemed once more to sit at
a table, on a chair, like a white man, and eat white
man's food with a knife and fork, after the long course
of squatting in the filth of a smoky lodge, rending a
piece of half-raw meat snatched from the dirty kettle.
Then, too, I could speak again in my own language,
and there was a warm room to sit in, books to read,
and all the ordinary comforts of life, with the knowledge that so long as I stayed in the house I had
my own place, while the wind and the snow had theirs
outside.
There was no scarcity at the fort this year, although
k 2
1
1
: 11
nil'11
ill
1
1
'Jill
Jill
#1
i
jyp 132
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IX.
the autumn fishing had not been successful. The
Fond du Lac boat had brought in a good supply of
dried meat, and there was a better stock of flour than
is usually to be found at a northern fort. Mr. Mackinlay,
too, had got in a fair supply of luxuries from Winnipeg,
and, as Mrs. Mackinlay was an excellent manager, we
always lived as well as one should wish to live anywhere.
Fort Resolution is a fair sample of a trading-post in
the North. It is situated on the south side of a bay,
the entrance to which is sheltered by a group of
islands, the largest known as Mission Island, from the
Roman Catholic mission established there in charge of
Father Dupire. The original site was on an outlying
island known as Moose Island, but the present position
on the mainland has been found more practicable.
The buildings consist of the master's house, a comfortable log-building flanked on each side by a large
store, one used for provisions and the other as a fur and
trading store; these were originally within a stockade
and formed the fort proper, but the peaceable nature
of the Indians has removed all need for defensive
works. Outside is a small row of log-houses, occupied
by the engaged servants, freemen, and a couple of
pensioners too old to make their living in the woods.
Close at hand are the buildings belonging to the Pro-
testant Mission, while the willows and bush-growth of
a densely-wooded level country hem in the small patch
of cleared ground on which the settlement stands; here
potatoes and a few other vegetables are raised, and in
a favourable season produce very fair crops.    There CHAP. IX.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
*33
are a yoke of work-cattle for hauling wood and a
couple of milch cows are kept, as hay is easily procured
in the numerous swamps which are scattered through
the woods in every direction. The only high land to
be seen is a conspicuous bluff marking the entrance to
the Little Buffalo River some ten miles along the lake
shore; this stream heads in to the south, and as it
breaks up earlier in the spring than the Little Slave
River it is used at that time of year as a route to
Fort Smith, one overland portage being made, to
drop on to the main stream a short distance below the
fort.
Looking out over the vast expanse of frozen lake
on still, bright days some very beautiful and curious
mirage effects can often be seen. Everything takes
an unnatural and frequently inverted form; islands so
far away as to be below the horizon are seen suspended
in the air, and it is impossible to recognise a point or
bunch of trees with which you are perfectly familiar in
ordinary circumstances.
There are four engaged servants at the fort; a
white man, Murdo Mackay, native of the Hebrides,
who was serving a five years' contract with the Company, and three half-breeds, by far the best of whom
was Michel Mandeville, who has held the position of
interpreter at Fort Resolution for several years. Except at the time of the Fall fishery, an engaged
servant's work is light—cutting and hauling, enough
firewood to keep the fort supplied, visiting the nets
and lines, and an occasional trip with the packet, or to
get trading-goods from another fort. 134
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IX.
w
it
i. *
P ■ M
Christmas passed away quietly, but there was stir
enough when the Indians came in for New Year and
the trading began. The old system of barter is still
carried on, with the beaver-skin for a standard. An
Indian's pile of fur is counted, and he is told how many
skins' worth of goods he has to receive; then he is
taken into the store and the door solemnly locked, as
it is found impossible to trade at all with more than
one at a time. It seems very simple; the Indian
knows exactly how many skins he has to take, and the
value in skins of every common article. But, to begin
with, he wants everything he sees, and the whole stock
would hardly satisfy him, and it is a long time, with
many changes of opinion, before he has spent the
proceeds of his hunt. Then arises the question of his
debt, and he tries to take the largest amount possible
on credit for his spring hunt; the trader cannot refuse
absolutely to make any advances, as there are some
things essentially necessary to the Indian's life in the
woods, but the debts are kept in proportion to the
man's character. After he has finished his trade, he
shows his purchases to his friends, and, acting on their
advice, usually comes back to effect some change, and
the game begins all over again; sometimes a whole day
is passed in laying out a hundred skins, roughly fifty
dollars according to our method of calculation. Before
the Indian leaves the fort he always comes in and
does a little begging while saying good-bye to his
master.
I had a very bad time of it settling up with the
Beaulieus.    Promises that I had made under stress of CHAP. IX.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
x35
circumstances had to be redeemed, but it was hopeless
to try and satisfy them; although they had each received far more than had been originally agreed upon,
they continued grumbling till they left the fort. On
New Year's day a big ball was given to the half-breeds,
while the Indians were provided with the materials for
a feast, and held a dance of their own in one of the
empty houses. It was the poorest display imaginable;
many of the Canadian tribes have really effective
dancing, but the Yellow Knives appear to have a very
elementary idea of graceful movement. Their only
figure is to waddle round in a circle, holding each
others' hands, keeping up a monotonous chant, and
spitting freely into the middle of the ring. In the
big house Red River jigs and reels were kept up with
unflagging energy till daylight.
As soon as everything had quieted down and the
Indians had gone back to their hunting-ground, Mackinlay and myself started on an expedition after the
caribou to try and kill some fresh meat for the fort.
We took Michel, the interpreter, with us, and Pierre
Beaulieu, a brother of King's; and a resident of Mission
Island joined us with his two sons, as there was news
of the caribou being at no great distance on the far
side of the lake. It was now the dead of winter, the
season of the grd frete, and we had two remarkably
cold days' travel to reach the north shore of the Great
Slave Lake. We struck into the woods, not far to
the eastward of the Gros Cap, the point forming the
eastern extremity of the long narrow arm leading to
Fort Rae.    We each had a sleigh of dogs, and were
I
I
i
i Ill
136
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. IX.
able to ride most of the time on a good road broken
by a band of Indians hunting in the neighbourhood.
Two long days over small lakes and through the thick
pine woods, in a country much resembling that of
Fond du Lac but of lower elevation, brought us
among the caribou, but they were not in very large
numbers.
We had everything we could want to make life
pleasant in the woods, abundance of tea and tobacco,
meat if we killed it, and no hardships; the cold was
severe of course, but there was plenty of firewood, and
it was our own fault if we could not keep ourselves
warm. Three days we spent in hunting, and, although
we did not kill very much, there was a little meat to
take back; we never really found the caribou in any
quantity, or we should have made a big killing and
cached the meat, to be hauled later on when the days
grew longer. A rattling three days' journey took us
back to the fort, as old Pierre, who is one of the most
rushing travellers I ever met, hustled us along to save
using his meat on the way home; he had no intention
of feeding his dogs from his load for more than two
nights when he had fish to give them at home. This
trouble about dogs' food is the great drawback to
winter travelling in the North; a dog, to keep him
in good order, requires two whitefish, weighing each
perhaps three pounds, every night. This adds so
much to the load that a ten days' journey is about
the longest one can undertake with full rations all
round, unless it be in a part of the country where game
is plentiful or fish can be caught en route. CHAP. IX.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
i37
After the caribou hunt, we amused ourselves about the
fort; sometimes going in search of ptarmigan, which
are usually to be found among the willows close to the
edge of the lake ; and sometimes paying Father Dupire
a visit on his island, a couple of miles away, to hear
some of his interesting experiences during a residence
of many years among the Indians. Close at hand lay
the Protestant Mission, where there was always a welcome, and, with these attractions and a fair supply of
books, time did not hang at all heavily till early in
February the winter packet from the outside world
arrived. I received a big bundle of letters, the first
that reached me since June, but it happened that none
of the newspapers for the fort turned up, and we were
left in ignorance of what had happened in the Grand
Pays.
So many travellers have written about this great
Northern Packet and the wonderful journey that it
makes that it is unnecessary for me to say much about
it. On its arrival at Fort Resolution it presents the
appearance of an ordinary dog-sleigh, with a man
ahead of the dogs, which are driven by a half-breed,
with plenty of ribbons and beads on leggings and moccasins, capable of running his forty miles a day with
ease, and possessed of a full command of the more expressive part of the French language.
Dr. Mackay, who was on his yearly round of visits
to inspect the outlying posts in his district, came down
from Fort Chipeweyan with the packet, and we had
a long talk respecting a summer trip to the Barren
Ground which I proposed making.
:m 138
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP, ix:
III, I
My intention was to leave the fort on the last ice
in the spring and travel with the dogs to the spot
where we had left our big canoe in the autumn, there
to await the breaking up of the lakes and to descend
the Great Fish River with the first open winter. I had
no special object in reaching the sea-coast, as a birch-
bark canoe is not the right sort of craft for work
among salt-water ice; and it was more to see what
the Barren Ground was like in summer, and to notice
the habits of the birds and animals, than for the sake
of geographical discovery, that I wished to make the
expedition.
The Great Fish River has been twice descended
before, but of course both Back's and Anderson's
parties were compelled by the shortness of the summers to confine their exploration to the immediate
neighbourhood of the river; and I thought that, by
spending more time at the head-waters than they had
been able to do, I should get a good idea of the nature
of the country and an insight into the Indian summer
life among the caribou. The difficulty was to obtain
a crew; but Dr. Mackay very kindly consented to Mac-
kinlay's accompanying me, and also lent me the two
engaged servants, Murdo Mackay and Moise Man-
deville, brother of Michel Mandeville the interpreter,
but not half such a good fellow. We hoped to be able
to engage the services of some of the Indians to guide
us to the head of the river, but they have such a dread
of the Esquimaux, who hunt farther down the stream,
that we hardly expected any of the Yellow Knives to
accompany us beyond that point.   Long ago there was CHAP. IX.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
i39
always war between the Indians and the Esquimaux,
and Hearne's description of the massacre at the Bloody
Falls on the Coppermine gives a good idea of the
hatred that existed between these tribes. For many
years they have not met, and although the Esquimaux
seen by Anderson on the Great Fish River appear
peaceable enough, the Yellow Knives hunting at the
head of the river are in constant fear of meeting
them.
Zinto, the chief, and another Indian, Syene, arrived
at the fort soon after Dr. Mackay left, and we consulted them as to the best route to follow, and whether
we could depend upon their tribe for any help. They
told us that there was no difficulty in reaching the
head-waters of the river, as the Indians were in the
habit of coming there every summer, but beyond was
an unknown country; they both remembered Anderson's expedition, and were full of stories about the
difficulties of navigation, the numerous portages and
the likelihood of starvation, but knew nothing from
personal experience. We failed lamentably in the
attempt to discover when the ice in the river usually
broke up. Syene told us that it was in the moon
when the dogs lie on their backs in the sun, and Zinto
volunteered the information that it was soon after the
leaves begin to shoot on the little willows in the
Barren Ground; but we could not work it out into
any particular month. Both promised to make dried
meat and pemmican for us if they fell in with the
caribou, and to leave caches in the last bunch of pine-
trees.   Next day they left for their camp, two hundred
I 140
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. IX.
II
miles away in the woods, to await the first signs of
warmer weather to start for the spring musk-ox hunt.
Zinto was to come to the fort about the 1st of May,
and personally conduct us to the places where he had
piled up the meat of many caribou for our use. CHAPTER X.
About the middle of February, 1890, little Francois,
an Indian living at the mouth of Buffalo River, arrived
with the news that during a hunting-trip he had made
to the southward he had seen the tracks of a band of
wood buffalo and intended to go in pursuit of them
after this visit to the fort.
'Mackinlay and myself both wanted an excuse to be
in the woods again, and the next day saw us plodding
across the bay on snow-shoes to the comfortable little
shanty, under the high bluff, which forms the most
conspicuous landmark within sight of Fort Resolution.
The establishment was presided over by an old lady,
formerly cook at one of the forts, and kept with a
cleanliness not always to be found in a white man's
dwelling. The following morning we started with two
sleigh-loads of fish for the dogs and provisions and
blankets for ourselves. Francois brought his wife
and little girl, besides a rather crazy boy, given to
epileptic fits, but a good worker in the intervals between
his attacks. We followed the river for a mile or two,
then turned into the woods on the west bank, and,
crossing a lake of some size, headed in a south-west 142
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X.
direction through the thick pine-forest, occasionally
picking up a marten from a line of traps set by little
Francois, for we were following the track that he had
made on his last trip, or finding a rabbit hung by the
neck in one of his wife's snares; very cunning these
old women are in all things concerning the stomach,
and if there are many rabbit-tracks to be seen in the
snow there is little danger of going without supper.
On the second day we crossed a large prairie dotted
with lakes, formerly the home of many beavers, and
still bearing evidence of their labours in the long
banks which served as dams and the huge mounds
which were once their houses. The beavers have all
gone long ago, and the ladies who wore the pretty fur-
trimmed jackets in far-away England, and the husbands
who grumbled at their price, are gone too ; but the
beavers have left the most impression on the face of
the earth. Wonderful moulders of geography they
are; a stream dammed up in a level country forms a
huge lake where the forest stood, the trees fall as their
roots rot in standing water, and, if the dam be not
attended to by the workers, a fertile grass-covered
prairie takes the place of the lake. From the Liard
River and Great Slave Lake, to the Peace River on
the east side of the Rocky Mountains, extends the
greatest beaver country in the world. It is known by
Indian report alone, as no white man ever penetrates
far into the wilderness of pine-forest and morass ;
many streams head away into the interior of this
unknown land, but the white man has only seen their
mouths, as he passes up or down the main waterways CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
J43
of the North. It is true that the Company's men
have ascended Hay River, a large stream falling into
the Great Slave Lake, and by making an overland
portage, have dropped on the Peace River at Fort
Vermillion; but they have always made hurried
voyages and have had no opportunity of exploring
much new ground.
Scattered over this huge extent of country are still
a few bands of buffalo. Sometimes they are heard of
at Forts Smith and Vermillion, sometimes at Fort
St. John close up to the big mountains on Peace River,
and occasionally at Fort Nelson on the south branch
of the Liard. It is impossible to say anything about
their numbers, as the country they inhabit is so large,
and the Indians, who are few in number, usually keep
to the same hunting-ground. These animals go by the
name of wood buffalo, and most people are of opinion
that they are a distinct race from the old prairie buffalo
so numerous in bygone days; but I am inclined to
think that the very slight difference in appearance is
easily accounted for by climatic influences, variety of
food, and .the better shelter of the woods. Here too
the giant moose and the woodland caribou have their
home, and even in the short journey that I made into
this district the tracks in the snow told a tale of plenty.
Many black bears' skins are brought out every year,
and towards the mountains the formidable grizzly is
often encountered by the fearful hunter. Nor are the
small fur-bearing animals wanting; foxes—red, cross,
and a few silver—seek their living on the prairie, while
wolverines, fisher,  mink,  marten,  and  lynx  may be
1 If ill
144
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X.
i
trapped in the woods, and a few otters frequent the
streams and lakes. In the summer ducks, geese, and
many other water-birds have their nests in the muskegs, and two or three varieties of the tree grouse are
always to be found. * The hunter's Paradise!' says the
sporting reader; 'let us go and have a hunt there.'
But now for the other side of the picture. In the
summer it is practically impossible to travel, as it is a
swampy country not to be crossed with horses, and the
lakes are too far apart to be available as a canoe-route,
while the mosquitos are intolerable. Only when the
snow has fallen, and all water is held fast in the grip of
winter, has one a chance of exploring this Land of
Promise with dogs, sleighs, and snow-shoes; but, by
this time, the summer life has all flown far away southward, and, though I think one would be fairly safe in
pushing on, there is always a chance of coming across
a large tract of gameless country, and finding a
difficulty in obtaining provisions.
After three days' good travel we reached the end of
Francois' road, and long before daylight on the following morning were away to try and find the buffalo
tracks. We had a long day's walk over a perfect
hunting-ground, crossing several open ridges with
sufficient elevation to give us a view of the surrounding country. Prairie and timber were about in equal
proportion, and the eye could follow the windings of a
large stream that falls into the Little Buffalo River
close to the Fort Smith portage; its waters are
strongly impregnated with sulphur, and do not readily
freeze;   in  fact this   stream,  although   it has  little
■B CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
J45
current, remains open during a considerable part of its
course even in the coldest weather. About noon we
found the track that we had been looking for, easily
distinguishable from the many tracks of moose and
woodland caribou that we had crossed; little Francois
made a capital approach, and after a couple of hours'
walk we sighted a band of eight buffalo feeding in a
small wood-surrounded swamp. There are few spots
on the American continent to-day where one can see
buffalo in their wild state, but the Indian gave us no
time to watch them, and completely spoilt the chance of
clean shooting by letting off his gun too soon; we only
wanted to kill one, as we could not haul any more
meat, and it is really a pity to kill animals so nearly
extinct as these. As it turned out there were several
snap-shots fired as they ran into the woods, and two
tracks of blood in the snow showed that we had done
too much shooting, although it was not till late in the
second day that we secured a cow that had travelled
many miles before lying down.
By the way, it is as well when going for a hunting
expedition in the North to leave at home all the old-
fashioned notions of shooting-etiquette. If you see a
man in a good position for a shot, run up, jostle his
elbow, and let your gun off; if an animal falls, swear
you killed it, and claim the back-fat and tongue no
matter whether you fired or not; never admit that you
are not quite sure which animal you shot at. It is only
by strict attention to these rules that a white man can
get a fair division of plunder when shooting with half-
breeds and Indians.
L
1? 146
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X.
The other buffalo, on whose track there was little
blood, had not separated from the band, although
we followed it for a whole day, and, as this was a
sure sign of its having been only slightly wounded,
perhaps not much damage was done; a badly struck
animal will always leave its companions and lie
down.
There was much rejoicing when late on the third
night the result of our hunt was hauled into our pleasant
camp in a clump of thick pine-timber. The little girl
patted and played with the meat as an English child
would with a doll, and eventually dropped off to sleep
with the raw brisket for a pillow; while Pierre, the
boy, after a huge feast was seized with such a violent
fit that for a long time I was afraid it would prove his
last. The others took no notice of him beyond putting
down a log to keep him from rolling in the fire, and in
the morning he seemed perfectly well and hungry as
ever for buffalo-meat. With heavily-laden sleighs we
started back for the fort, but a wind-storm had drifted
up our track over the prairie, and the dogs had hard
work to drag their loads. In one of our steel traps
were the remains of a cross fox that a wolverine had
eaten, and beyond a few more martens our fur-hunting
was unsuccessful. It took us four days to reach little
Francois' house at the mouth of the river, and another
half-day to get to the fort, where we found everything
quiet, as usual in the monotony of the long winter.
February was nearly over, and the ' moon of the big
wind' was doing its best to keep up its reputation.
Day after day the north wind howled over the lake, CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
147
drifting the snow into a vast ridge on the lee shore and
making it no easy matter to find the trout-lines, which
had now to be set four or five miles out at sea, the fish
moving into deep water as the cold gets more intense
and the ice thicker. The thermometer hanging against
the wall of the house ranged between minus 30 and
minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and this state of affairs
continued until I left the fort for another hunt with
little Francois. We spent three weeks happily enough
in the woods, doing a little trapping, and getting enough
moose and caribou-meat to keep the dogs and ourselves in good condition. Our course lay the same
way as on the last hunt, to take advantage of the road
and visit the line of traps; but we pushed further on
till we came across the tracks of a party of Indians
hunting from Fort Smith. We saw no sign of buffalo,
and as Francois' wife damaged her leg rather badly
we were obliged to haul her back on the sleigh, and
this accident put an end to our trip. Away far in the
forest beyond the influence of the great frozen lake we
found the first indications of the coming spring. By
the end of the first week in April the snow was balling
under our snow-shoes in the middle of the day, and the
sun, which now had a long course to run, shone with
considerable power; the pine-trees threw out the
delicious scent so suggestive of Nature's awakening
after her long snow-wrapped sleep, and a puff of warm
south wind, sighing through the poplars, whispered a
message of hope from a more favoured land. But
winter made a final struggle, and it was not till the 25th
of April that the collapse came.    Then the snow in the
L 2
Ii! I
..*-»... trim?
.^. jw~ .,..»,., 148
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X.
I
woods around the fort melted away rapidly, and the
bare ground showed in patches. On May 1st water
was standing in pools over the ice in the bay, the snow
had disappeared except in the drifts, a light rain was
falling, and the first goose was killed from the door
of the master's house; small bands of wildfowl were
passing frequently, and cranes were calling in the
swamps to the southward; daylight lingered in the sky
all night, but there was always a sharp frost while the
sun was down.
It was time to shake off our luxurious habits and
push out again for the North to take full advantage of
the short summer of the Barren Ground. The fort
seemed to wake up with the spring, and there was
bustle and activity everywhere. The furs had to be
spread out to dry before they could be baled up; fish
had to be thrown out of the provision-store as they
thawed, and the dogs were happy for once. There was
talk of ploughing and planting the potato-crop; Indians
kept dropping in with small bundles of fur, to trade for
ammunition for the goose-hunt, which would soon be in
full swing; canoes were patched up and made tight in
readiness for the first open water. But there was a
rumour that the expedition to the Great Fish River
would fall through, as no crew could be found, and
some discontented spirits had been trying to persuade
the Indians against going with us; the half-breeds
were all full of excuses, and for a time it looked bad for
us. Mackinlay was of course keen enough for the trip,
and so was Murdo Mackay, the Scotch engaged servant;
and  luckily David, an Esquimaux boy from  Peel's
n CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
149
River, who had been left at Fort Resolution for the
winter to learn English from the Protestant missionary
there, was willing to come with us, and, although not a
first-rate traveller, might be very useful as interpreter
if we fell in with any of his countrymen. Moise
Mandeville was more obstinate and had the greatest
horror of the expedition, but he finally agreed to come
in the capacity of steersman and Montaignais as interpreter. We were still without a guide. Zinto, despite
his promises, had not put in an appearance, and there
was as yet no news of him. Meanwhile preparations
went on ; dogs were got together, new snow-shoes provided for each member of the party, and all available
pounded meat and grease converted into pemmican as
the most portable form of provisions; four sacks of
flour were forwarded to Fond du Lac to await our
arrival, and the women round the fort were busy
making moccasins for men and dogs, as the latter
have to be shod in spring-travelling, to prevent their
feet being cut to pieces on the rough needle-ice that
appears after the snow has melted off the lakes. We
also took a light canvas lodge in place of the heavier
deer-skins, and found it a great saving in weight,
especially after rain; dressed deer-skins hold water like
a sponge, and where firewood is scarce are extremely
hard to dry.
On May 4th Mr. Clark arrived from Fort Smith to
take charge of Resolution during Mackinlay's absence.
The slushy state of the snow made travelling hard,
but the Fort Smith people had managed to bring us
a welcome supply of tea, tobacco, ammunition, and
:! i5°
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X,
!
s
a few matches; none of these necessary articles were
to be had at Resolution, as the unusually heavy fur-
trade had left the store empty. We collected all the
touch-wood we could get hold of, and each took a
flint and steel, while Dr. Mackay sent us a burning-
glass, a compass, and a watch from Chipeweyan,
besides half a dozen pair of spectacles to keep off
snow-blindness, from which an unprotected eye is sure
to suffer. There was also a small stock of axes,
knives, and beads, presents for the Esquimaux in case
we fell in with them. Arrangements were made for
the fort boat to meet us at the old site of Lockhart's
house, at the north-east end of the Great Slave Lake,
on August ist, to bring us across the lake, as I wished
to start for the South in time to get back to civilization
before the rivers and lakes were set fast by the coming
winter.
The day after Mr. Clark's arrival a couple of Indians
came in from Fond du Lac. Zinto had not yet arrived
there, but was expected any day; he had no meat for
us, and caribou were reported scarce on the road we
proposed taking; most of the Yellow Knives would
be at Fond du Lac to meet us if they found food
enough for present use. Pierre Lockhart, an Indian
who had come to the fort, immediately engaged with
us as guide to the Great Fish River, saying that
whatever the other men might do he would be
faithful to the end of the journey, even if we wanted
him to go to the sea-coast: needless to say he was
the very first to desert on the appearance of hard
times.
i IIif I ■^MM
CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
I51
It was a goodly procession that left Fort Resolution
on the afternoon of May 7th, for every sleigh was
pressed into service to help us over the bad ice that
lay between the fort and the big river, and all the goose-
hunters had been waiting till we started to move their
families to the favourite feeding-grounds. Across the
first bay there was fully a foot of water, with a crust
of ice caused by the last night's frost; this top crust
had to be broken, and the dogs waded up to their
bellies, with the sleighs floating behind them : bitterly
cold for the feet and hard to avoid a fall, which meant
a thorough drenching in the icy water. On reaching
the delta and passing into the narrow channels at the
mouth of the big river the ice was much better, as
the water had run off through the cracks; the crossing
of the main stream looked dangerous, but, by carefully
picking our way and sounding the ice with an axe, we
got across without accident and camped in a bunch
of willows on the far side. The fires were kept
up late that night and much talking was done, as
to-morrow we had to say good-bye to our companions,
and many instructions were given to wives, mothers,
and children with reference to their good behaviour
during our absence. The red glow of sunset stayed
in the sky till it mingled with the brightness of the
coming day; often a whirr of wings told of a flock of
wildfowl passing overhead, and a few geese that had
arrived from the south kept up a continual honking
as they searched for a patch of open water to alight
on. But the frost was sharp in the night, and on
breaking camp at four o'clock we found the crust of 152
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X.
'nf!
surface-ice in the next bay strong enough in most
places to bear our sleighs, which were now reduced to
two in number and much more heavily loaded than
on the previous day. Sometimes a man would break
through, and, floundering on the bottom ice, would
bruise his shins and feet in a desperate manner, and
we were all badly knocked about when we put ashore
at T£te Noire's House, five miles beyond the lie de
Pierre, ready to take the big traverse on the following
day. A couple of hours out from the land brought us
again to dry snow, as the change of climate is very
sudden after leaving the south shore of the lake.
Crossing the big traverse was ordinary winter travelling,
although the snow was soft in the strong sunshine;
we made use of the frost at night and generally rested
during the heat of the day. Between the islands
snow-shoes were necessary, and, although spectacles
were constantly worn, some of the men-began to show
signs of snow-blindness ; occasionally we found a bare
rock to camp on, but more generally made the old
winter form of encampment on the snow. It was not
till the sixth day after leaving the fort that we pulled
into Fond du Lac, and found nearly the whole tribe
of Yellow Knives awaiting us with King Beaulieu and
his family at their head; there were five and twenty
lodges, and in every one we heard the old story of
Berula (no meat); they had tried fishing without
success, and hoped the white masters would give them
a little flour and pemmican. Why had they not
pushed on to some of the sure fisheries in the big lake
when they found the caribou fail ?    They wished to
WW CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
talk with us, they said, and so had stayed and starved
at Fond du Lac till we came. What. did they want
to speak to us about ? Only this, that an Indian's life
is hard, and he has at all times need of a little tea and
tobacco to give him courage; they had heard we were
taking much tea and tobacco, besides other presents,
to the Esquimaux. In vain did we tell them that
we had not enough for own use; there was no peace
till pipes were going in every lodge.
Zinto had not put up any meat for us. At one
time he had killed a good many caribou, but he had
met with a band of Dog-Ribs from Fort Rae and the
two tribes had camped together; the chief of the
Yellow Knives was bound in honour to give a feast to
his guests, and after the meat that was meant for us
had been used for this purpose they fell to gambling.
The unfortunate Zinto lost all his ammunition, so that
he had no chance to kill any more caribou, much as he
would have liked to help the white men in their undertaking.
The snow was lying deep in the woods and as yet
no breath of spring had visited Fond du Lac, although
at Fort Resolution, not more than one hundred miles
to the south, the buds were by this time shooting ok
the birch and willow trees, and the ground had been
bare for two weeks; no wildfowl had arrived, and the
Indians were of opinion that such a late spring had
never been known, advising us strongly not to attempt
to force our way into the Barren Ground till there was
some indication of better weather. It seemed to us,
though, that we should never be in a better position 154
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X.
if    If
I
to start than now, as any delay meant waste of provisions, and we hoped to find caribou before we began
to starve. Several days we spent in talking to the
Indians before we came to any satisfactory conclusion,
and we had the greatest trouble in persuading any of
them to come with us. Finally it was settled that
Capot Blanc, Saltatha, Syene, and Mario, with their
wives and families, should start with us, and on reaching the head of the Great Fish River should wait
there and hunt while we made the descent of the
stream. Capot Blanc behaved very well at all the consultations, speaking up for the white men whenever an
opportunity offered, but the interpretation was unsatisfactory ; Moise refused this duty in the presence
of the Beaulieus, and the latter, so far as we could
make out, used all their influence with the Indians to
damage our chances of making a successful expedition.
David, the Esquimau, rather complicated matters by
falling in love with King's daughter, but he made no
objection to starting, and soon forgot all about her in
the excitement of the journey. On the last evening
that we spent at Fond du Lac a Dog-Rib arrived with
his family from the Barren Ground in a wretched
state of starvation. He had come in by the route
that we proposed to take, and gave a very unsatisfactory report of the country: the cold was still
severe, and he had met with no game since leaving
the musk-ox a couple of weeks before; one of his
children had died of starvation and he was forced to
bury her under the snow at the Lac de Mort; the rest
had barely escaped with life.    Of course we gave them CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
155
enough flour and pemmican to take them to a well-
known fishery twenty miles on, but our provisions
were going very fast. Most of the Yellow Knives
had already moved away to the fishery, and the encampment was entirely deserted when we pulled down
our lodges on the morning of May 21st. Paul
Beaulieu was to have caught us up to show us some
meat-caches that he had made in the winter, and we
had engaged an Indian, Carquoss, to fish for his wife
while he was away; but we saw neither Paul nor his
caches. Carquoss however joined us later on, and
explained that he had given up fishing because we
had not left him any tea and the other Indians had
laughed at him.
A miserable-looking outfit we were as we plodded
for two days along the north shore of the lake, against
a strong head-wind and driving snowstorms. Seven
trains of starving dogs hauled their loads in a melancholy procession, and over twenty people walked in
the narrow road made by the passage of the sleighs;
by far too large a party for any rapid travelling, and
badly handicapped by women and children. On the
third day we turned up the mountain, and followed the
course of a stream coming in on the north shore; we
mounted by a series of frozen cascades, many of them
so steep that we were obliged to use ropes to help the
dogs, and towards evening camped at the far end of
the first lake on the plateau. This day's work was not
got through without a good deal of growling, as everybody was kept on short rations to make the most of
our provisions; three days' full allowance for human
« i56
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X.
beings alone, to say nothing of the thirty dogs, would
have put an end to our supplies.
From this lake the country was level, and the women
were quite able to manage the dog-sleighs, while the
men scoured the country on either side of the track in
search of caribou or ptarmigan. The birds were fairly
plentiful, but of course at this season were all paired,
and there was no chance of making a slaughter at a
single shot, as one can do in the fall of the year when
the birds are in big packs; this shooting at separate
birds was a serious strain on our ammunition, but the
ptarmigan helped us out till we fell in with the caribou.
It was almost a certainty to find these birds in every
bunch of pines, and they kept up such a constant
crowing round the camp at night that they had a poor
chance of escaping the hungry man's gun. After the
snow has melted the male bird gets pugnacious and
runs up to meet the hunter, with his feathers puffed
out, offering a fair mark for a stone; but before this
happened we disdained ptarmigan, and would only kill
the fattest-looking caribou. We eked out a precarious
existence in this manner for a week, making short days'
journeys, as the dogs could not travel fast or far. Pierre
Lockhart deserted one morning when breakfast was
particularly scanty, and taking his gun and blanket
started back for Fond du Lac; we were depending on
him for guide, but it was rather a relief when he went,
as he was inclined to steal food, and had several disgusting habits that made his absence from the lodge
rather acceptable than otherwise. Mario's brother-in-
law disappeared about the same time, but we thought CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
i57
they had gone off together and did not trouble ourselves further about them.
On the last day of May, acting on Capot Blanc's
advice, we forked from our canoe-route, and took a
more easterly course, to fall on the chain of lakes by
which Anderson and Stewart had reached the Great
Fish River. We hoped to find caribou in this direction, and on the same day that we made this change
in our course the indefatigable Saltatha, having made
a much longer round than the rest of us, came into
camp late at night with a load of caribou-meat on his
back; he had seen snow-shoe tracks to the east, but
falling in with the caribou had turned back to the camp
without following the tracks.
Sunday, June 1st, brought a distinct change in the
weather; a mild south-west wind was melting the snow
rapidly, and several flocks of geese and ducks passed
to the north. A few geese were called up to the camp
and killed from the doors of the lodges; the Indians
imitate to perfection the cry of any bird, and at this
time of year the geese are easy to call, as they are
always in search of open water, and seem not a bit
surprised to hear their friends calling to them from
a group of deer-skin lodges. In the morning we sent
two men to bring in the rest of Saltatha's meat, with
orders to investigate the tracks, and see if there was
another encampment of Indians to the east, as none of
the caribou hunters had intended to leave the Great
Slave Lake till the thaw came. Our peaceful Sunday
was greatly disturbed by a royal row in one of the
lodges, and we sent for Capot Blanc to ask him what
ii 158
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. X,
If i
U
the trouble was. The old fellow was glad enough to
get into our lodge away from the clamour, and explained the cause of the disturbance in his even low-
pitched voice, so pleasantly contrasted with the Yellow
Knife Billingsgate that was being freely used outside.
'It is the women,' he said; 'the wife of Syene has
called the wife of Saltatha by a bad name, because she
would not give her some meat; the wife of Saltatha
has taken the wife of Syene by the hair and beaten
her in the face with a snow-shoe till her nose bleeds
very much; the men have tried to separate them, but
that only makes things worse. It is always like this in
our camps when we starve. If the men are alone they
are quiet; but when there are women there is no peace.
Is it so also in your country ?'
Late in the night the men who had gone to fetch the
meat came back, hauling on the sleigh Mario's brother-
in-law Jos6, whom they had found lying in the snow,
without fire, in a bunch of dwarf pines ; the snow-shoe
tracks were his, and but for the lucky chance of
Saltatha's killing the caribou in that direction he must
have perished in a day or two, as he was too weak to
travel. He had left us to hunt ptarmigan, and lost
himself eight days ago, and, as we supposed he had
deserted with Pierre, we had taken no trouble to look
for him. He was one of the unlucky ones, believed to
have seen ' the Enemy' in his youth, and it certainly
says little for his wits that he was unable to follow the
tracks of such a large party. Jose had used up what
little ammunition he started with on the first day, and
since   then   had    eaten   nothing ;   he  was   without
llfvi-   w I CHAP. X.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
159
matches or touchwood to make fire, and as the
weather had been cold he must have suffered greatly.
We fed him up to the best of our ability, and he
recovered rapidly when meat was abundant in the
camp.
I
II
11
1
111
1 ■5
CHAPTER XL
On the following day we made an easy day's travel
to the east, and most of us succeeded in killing caribou
while the women drove the dogs. From this time, all
through the summer till we again reached the Great
Slave Lake late in August, we had no difficulty about
provisions ; although there was many a time when we
could not say where we might find our next meal, something always turned up, and we were never a single day
without eating during the whole journey. I really
believe it is a mistake to try to carry enough food for
a summer's work in the Barren Ground, as the difficulty
of transport is so great, and after the caribou are once
found there is no danger of starvation.
We were now travelling with the bull caribou, which
had just left the thick woods, and made easy marches
from lake to lake in a north-east direction ; the weather
became cold again for the last time, and June 7th was
like a bad winter's day with a strong north wind and
snowstorms. Then the summer came suddenly, and
on the nth we were obliged to camp on a high gravel
ridge to await le grand ddgel, which rendered travelling
impossible, till  the   deep water had run off the ice. CHAP. XI.
NORTHERN CANADA
161
Although we had been so far taking it very easily, a
rest was of great service, as many of the party were
suffering from acute snow-blindness caused by the
everlasting glare of the sun on the treeless waste ;
there was no dark object to rest the eyes upon for a
moment, and besides the actual pain the constant inflammation injured the sight and made rifle-shooting
very uncertain. The Indians smeared their faces with
blood and wood-ashes, and the white men were further
protected with spectacles; but these efforts were only
partially successful in keeping off the glare. I was
lucky in getting off quite free myself, but should
imagine that it must be a most painful affliction.
Along the foot of the sandy ridge, which closely
resembled the one I had seen the autumn before at
Lac de Gras, were many small lakes partially thawed,
and here the snow geese, or white ' wavies,' were
resting in thousands, waiting till the warm weather
should have melted the snow from their feeding-ground
along the sea-coast. We could have made enormous
bags of them, as they were tame and disinclined to
leave the open water; but we were sparing with our
ammunition, as we might want it badly later on. Great
numbers were killed, however, and their prime condition told of the good feeding-ground they had left far
southward. There were also plenty of large Canada
geese, but the grey wavy, or laughing goose, the best
of all for eating, is much scarcer. Of the more edible
ducks the pin-tail seems to be the only one that comes
so far beyond the Great Slave Lake, but long-tailed
ducks and golden eyes were in great numbers along
M
l""-
1 162
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XI.
this sandy ridge. Of the loons, the red-throated variety
was by far the most numerous, and the Pacific or
Adam's diver was fairly common, but the great northern
diver, although plentiful on the Great Slave Lake, does
not appear to visit the Barren Ground.
While we were waiting here, another band of Indians
from Fond du Lac caught us up, and our camp assumed
still larger proportions; but as we were fairly among
the game it did not much matter, With the new
arrivals were two blind men, Pierre and Antoine Fat,
who preferred a wandering life to the support they
would doubtless have been given at the fort. Both
were good fishermen, and would spend hours sitting
on the ice at the edge of an open hole with the
greatest patience, and later on made heavy catches of
trout. Pierre would often walk with the hunters to
get his share of the meat; Capot Blanc was usually
his guide, but seldom did more than trail a stick after
him and the blind man followed the sound; when a
caribou was killed, Pierre was led up to it, and in spite
of his blindness would do the butcher's work cleanly
and well.
The snow melted away rapidly; the hillsides were
running with small streams, the ground showed up in
ever increasing patches, and a thick mist, which the
Indians say always appears at the time of the big thaw,
hung over everything. On June 16th we found that
most of the water had run off through the cracks in the
ice, and resumed our journey, after solemnly burning
some thirty pairs of used-up snow-shoes. At first
walking without them seemed hard to me, as I had CHAP. XI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
163
used them continually since the previous October, and
we all found that our feet were made sore by walking
on the rough ice; unfortunately the skins of the caribou that we killed were so riddled by grubs that they
were unfit to dress for leather, and we were always
short of moccasins. We still travelled along easily,
as the river would not break up for a fortnight at the
earliest, and our best plan was to move with the caribou, which seemed to be keeping up with the edge
of the snow much in the same manner as ourselves.
The portages between the lakes were often three or
four miles in length, and, as the snow had gone, we
were obliged to carry the heavy loads on our backs;
firewood was getting scarce, and I came to the conclusion that our old canoe-route was by far the best
way to reach the Barren Ground in summer or in
winter. A few warm days made a great difference in
the appearance of the country. Leaves began to
sprout on the little willows, and the grass showed
green on the hillsides; sober-hued flowers, growing
close to the ground, came out in bloom, and a few
butterflies flapped in the hot sunshine, while we were
still walking on eight feet of solid ice. Mosquitos
appeared in myriads : in the daytime there was usually
a breeze to blow them away, and the nights were too
cold for them; but in the calm mornings and evenings
they made the most of their chance to annoy us.
On June 25th we planted our lodges on a high
ridge overlooking Lake Mackay, It has always been
the fashion of the Yellow Knives to camp in an
elevated position, in order to have command of the
M 2 164
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XI.
>
surrounding country in looking out for the caribou, or,
in the olden times, for a band of hostile Indians.
Right across the lake we could see the bay in which
we had left our big canoe during our first attempt to
find the musk-ox, and the hills forming the height of
land between the Great Slave Lake and the Arctic Sea;
on our right lay Lockhart's River and the huge
Aylmer Lake, which we were about to cross. Blind
Pierre knew the whole picture as well as any of us ; on
my way back to camp at sundown I found him sitting
on a boulder smoking, for we always rather favoured
him in the matter of tobacco; his face was turned to
the north-east, and he was evidently taking in all the
details of the landscape, without the sense of sight.
' Tetchenula, Tetchen Yarsula, Tetchen Taote (no
wood, not a little wood, no wood at all),' he said, as he
waved his hands towards Aylmer Lake; then, with a
sweep of his arm, he traced correctly the course of
Lockhart's River, with a rapid downward motion, to
denote its abrupt termination in a series of rapids and
waterfalls as it joins the Great Slave Lake. Poor old
fellow, it must be hard for him not to see the country
he loves so well; but he is happy, after his fashion, in
the summer-time when the caribou are thick.
From this point we sent Moise with three Indians
and our own dogs to bring up the big canoe from the
south shore of Lake Mackay, where I had left her in
the beginning of last October. Many little hunting-
canoes had been picked up along the track from Fond
du Lac, and now every sleigh carried a canoe athwart-
ships;   these  proved useful  enough in crossing the
i»A CHAP. XI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
165
small lake in the course of Lockhart's River, as on
arriving at the far side we found open water between
us and the land, and had to use the canoes to ferry our
cargo to the shore, the dogs swimming with the empty
sleighs in tow, while some enterprising spirits, who
conceived the idea of floating ashore on blocks of ice,
came in for  a ducking.    The ice on Aylmer Lake
was   still  solid,  but extremely rough, causing great
damage to our moccasins.    We kept near the north
shore, with sometimes a long traverse across a deep
bay; at the head of every bay a stream ran into the
lake, and the open water at its mouth was always a
sure find for trout;  forty or fifty large fish were often
caught in a day with hook and line at these places,
and, as we could always kill caribou, even the dogs
were getting fat in this land of plenty.   Soon we began
to see scraps of musk-ox hair on the large boulders
where  these  animals had been rubbing, and on the
second day's travel along Aylmer Lake David had an
adventure with an old bull.    David was by far the
keenest hunter in the outfit, but up till now had not'
succeeded in killing  anything bigger  than a goose,
and it was an exciting moment for him when he got
within range of a musk-ox.    He had heard strange
stories about these animals when a small boy among
his own countrymen at the mouth of the Mackenzie
River, and it was not without a little trembling that he
fired one of his scanty stock of bullets.   The beast was
wounded but would not die, and David, standing off at
a safe distance, soon exhausted all his bullets; he then
proceeded to  load  his gun with  round stones,  and
11
■*.*\. 166
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XV
finally with handfuls of gravel; his last charge of
powder was used to fire the ramrod, but another half
hour elapsed before the musk-ox expired. As this was
the first one that had been killed on this trip, the
proud hunter was made a good deal of when he came
into camp with the best of the highly-flavoured meat.
On the evening of July ist we made the encampment at the head of the most northerly bay of Aylmer
Lake, named Sandy Bay by Back, from the conspicuous
sand-ridges that here form the divide between the lake
and the Great Fish River, a distance of three quarters
of a mile. The ice was still firm in Aylmer Lake, but
there was a little difficulty in getting ashore through
a narrow belt of open water, and the head-reaches of
the river were clear. We were inspecting the stream,
to see what chance there was of being able to run the
canoe through the numerous rapids, when Noel, one of
the Indians who had been with me on the winter hunt,
came up with the news that he had spied a large band
of musk-ox feeding a couple of miles down the river.
The women were badly in need of their hides for
making moccasins, as the caribou-skins were still in
poor condition, so a hunt was arranged in a fashion
that I had not seen before. Most of the guns crossed
the river, and a spot was selected for the slaughter just
where the stream broadened out into a small lake ; at
right angles to the river mounds of stone and moss
were put up at a few yards' distance from each other,
ornamented with coats, belts, and gun-covers, and behind
the outside mound Capot Blanc took up his position.
A steep hill ran parallel with the stream about two CHAP. XI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
167
hundred yards away, and along this guns were posted
at intervals, with the intention of heading the musk-ox
towards the water. Noel and Mario, supposed to be
the two best runners, were to make a long round and
start the band in our direction ; I was stationed with
three other guns among some broken rocks on the
south side of the river, just opposite the barrier; and
orders were given that no shot should be fired till the
musk-ox took to the water.
It was a most interesting scene, and I would not
willingly have changed places with any of the loyal
Canadians who were at this time celebrating the anniversary of Dominion Day, with much rye whisky, a
thousand miles to the southward. I had plenty of
time to admire the surrounding landscape, and the sunset that lit up the snow-drifts on each side of the river;
when suddenly over the opposite ridge appeared the
horns of a band of caribou, and for a moment the
leader was outlined against the sky as he paused to
look at the strange preparations going on in the valley
below. Behind me a ptarmigan, perched on a rock,
crowed defiance ; but there was no other sound, except
the rush of water and the occasional grinding of an ice-
pan dislodged from some small lake in the course of
the stream. Fully an hour we sat among the rocks,
and were beginning to think that the hunt had mis-
carried, when we heard a distant shouting far down
the valley, and the next moment caught sight of a
scurrying, black mass crossing a spur of the hill close
to the river's bank. The men posted along the ridge
took up the cry as the musk-ox  passed them, and
I
I
jrar THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XI.
joined in the chase; soon the animals came to the
barrier, and pulled up short at the apparition, while, to
increase their alarm, the hoary head of Capot Blanc
, arose from behind a mound of rocks right in front of
them. This was the critical moment, and they would
certainly have taken to the water and been at the
mercy of their pursuers but for an untimely shot that
caused them to break, and I was not sorry to see that
several of the band escaped. I had had a splendid
view till now, as the musk-ox halted within twenty
yards of me, but we were forced to lie low when the
shooting began, as bullets were rattling freely among
the rocks in which we were hiding. We did no shooting on our side of the river, except to finish off a couple
that took to the water; seven were killed in all, six
cows, and a calf about a month old; there were no
bulls in the band, and from what I afterwards saw
they seemed to keep separate from the cows during the
summer. A solitary old bull is often met with at this
time of year.
When the hunt was over, I inquired the meaning of
the shouting that had been kept up so continually
throughout the drive, and was informed that this was
necessary to let the musk-ox know which way to run.
At starting they had shouted, ' Oh, musk-ox, there is
a barrier planted for you down there, where the river
joins the little lake; when you reach it take to the
water, there are men with guns on both sides, and so we
shall kill you all'; when the men are out of breath,
they shout to the musk-ox to stop, and, after they have
rested, to go on again.    These animals are said to CHAP. XI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
understand every word of the Yellow Knife language,
though it seems strange that they do not make use of
the information they receive to avoid danger instead of
obeying orders. The partial failure of the hunt was
attributed to the fact that Moise had called across the
river to me in French, and the musk-ox had not been
able to understand this strange language.
The sun had risen again when we got back to camp,
and there we found the big canoe, not a bit damaged
by her long rest under the snow or her adventurous
journey on the dog-sleigh. The day was spent in
getting in the meat and skins, and early the next
morning we carried the canoe across the portage and
launched her on the waters of the Great Fish River.
The cargo was all sent overland to a lake some six
miles down the stream; sleighs were abandoned, as
there was now no snow to haul on, but the dogs'
work was by no means over, the only difference being
that they had to carry loads on their backs instead of
dragging a sleigh; rough deer-skin pack-harness was
made, and the loads secured in a manner worthy of
a Mexican mule-packer. We came to grief with the
canoe at the third rapid, and should have done much
better to have made the portage to the lake, instead of
trying to navigate the difficult stream. A long delay
was necessary to effect repairs, and there were so many
portages over ice-blocks along the edge of the lake,
when we reached it, that the sun was high on the
following morning before we camped. The same work
continued for several days, the Indians toiling overland
heavily loaded, and our own party struggling with the
II ~?r
170
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XI.
Mi
li:
ice in a chain of lakes through which the river runs*
On the edge of one of these lakes we stopped for dinner
on the spot where Stewart and Anderson separated
from their Indian guides before descending the river in
1856. The rough stone fireplaces, by which they had
economised fuel, were still standing, and Capot Blanc,
seated on one of them, gave us a long lecture on the
events that had taken place during their expedition, as
he had heard the story from his father. More than
thirty years had elapsed since the last party of Whites
camped by the side of the Great Fish River, and thirty
years again before them Back the discoverer had
pushed out into the unknown land. Why has all
exploration in the Barren Ground ceased ? No more
is known of the country than was discovered by
Franklin and Back sixty years ago in their short
summer journeys, and the expeditions sent out in
search of the former in the 'Fifties. There are many
thousands of square miles on which the foot of white
man has never stepped. The Canadian Government
has an efficient body of surveyors and geologists at its
command, and it is curious that no attention is paid to
one of the most interesting fields for exploration.
On July 6th, after slow and tiresome travelling, we
reached the north end of a large sheet of water named
by Back Musk-ox Lake, and finding enough willow-
scrub for firewood, determined here to await the
breaking up of the ice in the lake. Judging by the
Indian's account the season was fully three weeks later
than usual, and, as I wished to be back at Fort Resolution in time to save the open water up Peace River
ffv   1 (('»; t;
lifcA CHAP. XI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
171
before winter set in, there was a poor chance of our
being able to penetrate far into the country of the
Esquimaux. Musk-ox Lake runs pretty nearly due
north and south, and is fifteen miles in length, averaging about two miles in width. Our camp was just at
the point where the river runs out, and a short distance
above is the best swimming-place for the caribou
known to the Indians. In some years immense slaughters are made here, but on the present occasion the
caribou did not cross in their usual numbers, so that
our companions had no chance to put up the dried
meat that we expected to get for our cruise down
stream, and we could only kill enough for the present
support of such a large encampment. Across the lake
is a hill of insignificant height, known as the Musk-ox
Mountain, a good landmark, and a favourite haunt for
the animals from which it takes its name.
This is the northerly limit of the Yellow Knives'
hunting-ground. Northwards is the land of the dreaded
Esquimaux, and many rumours were brought into the
camp of a strange track seen on soft ground, of men
standing far off on the sky-line, and a blue cloud of
smoke arising far down the valley of the river. The
Indians were convinced that their old enemies were
continually close to them, despite the fact that it would
be an impossibility for canoes to have yet ascended the
stream on account of the ice. We afterwards discovered that there was a debateable ground, fully sixty
miles in width, between Musk-ox Lake and the highest
point that the Esquimaux reach.
There is here a very striking change in the appear- 172
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XI.
ill
I i
ance of the country. The old red granite formation
gives way almost entirely to ironstone, split up into
slabs and piled into such peculiar shapes that one
might imagine giants had been building castles over
the rolling hills. Some of the slabs were turned on
edge and formed perfect turrets towering many feet into
the air, and in many places were heaps of shiny black
sand, resembling coal-dust, piled up into conical mounds
almost too steep to climb. Wherever vegetation had
a chance to grow it was much more luxuriant than one
could suppose possible in such a climate. The stunted
willows, not two feet in height, were thickly clothed
with bright green leaves; there was abundance of
grass, and in many spots the pretty little Arctic flowers
formed a bright carpet along the foot of a slowly
melting snowdrift.
Capot Blanc and myself made an expedition into the
roughest part of this country, to the north-east of
Musk-ox Lake, but we found travelling very hard, as
we had to climb continually over broken masses of
ironstone. This is another well-known haunt of ' the
Enemy,' and Capot Blanc attributed to his malign
influence the disaster that prevented our further exploration in this direction. We reached a stream of no
great size, one of the tributaries of the Great Fish
River, and attempted to wade across to the opposite
bank, selecting the head of a small rapid for the
purpose, as the water appeared to be shallower there.
On reaching the centre of the current our legs were
swept from under us, and we were immediately running
the rapid at the imminent risk of breaking our heads
w rPBC
CHAP. XI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
173"
against a rock. We both reached the still water at the
foot of the rapid with nothing worse than a few bruises,
and moreover held on to our guns, but of course our
ammunition was spoilt, and we were obliged to make
the best of our way back to camp. Capot Blanc afterwards told me that he thought the Enemy had made
the water strong, to keep us from coming into his
country, and it would be flying in the face of Providence to make another attempt. It would be interesting to know how far this ironstone formation extends;
and, as the journey to Musk-ox Lake and back to the
fort might easily be made by canoe during the summer,
the trip would amply repay the geologist and botanist
for their trouble.
Many other litde expeditions we made in various
directions, sometimes watching the birds, and sometimes in pursuit of caribou or musk-ox. One hunt in
particular I remember, which took place appropriately
enough on the top of Musk-ox Mountain. We had
made out the moving black spots through the glasses
from the lodge, and, as there was still a demand for
hides from the women and meat was being used in
great quantities, we paddled across the lake through
a narrow channel in the ice. The sun went down
while we were climbing the ascent, and a long wait
was necessary, as the animals were feeding towards us
on the flat top of the mountain and there was no cover
to enable us to make a nearer approach. The mos-
quitos buzzed merrily round us while we lay behind
the rock and watched the grotesque motions of the
calves as they played with each other, little suspecting
I'-iim mv
174
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XI.
that danger was so close. Presently the band moved
within easy range and we opened fire with four guns.
Seven were killed, and Mackinlay caught a calf that
stayed by the body of its dead mother, a fluffy, longhaired little beast; I was sorry that we could not keep
it alive, but it would have been impossible to carry it
in a birch-bark canoe. Cruel work, this shooting in the
summer-time, but it was necessary to keep the camp in
meat even though mother and young had to be sacrificed. I had a long run after a cripple, and eventually
killed it on the shore of a large lake in a valley
eastward of the mountain. The sun was high when
I found the rest of the hunters eating marrow-bones in
front of a big fire, in a clump of well-grown willows
close to the canoe, and we took a load of wood back to
the camp, sending over the women for the meat and
skins later in the day.
The weather during this time was variable in the
extreme ; two or three hot days would be followed by
a snowstorm, and once we were visited by a hurricane
that did much damage to lodge-poles, and caused us-
to shift camp hurriedly to the lee-side of a steep cliff
hanging over the river. July 10th was exceptionally
hot in the morning, with the mosquitos at their
worst; in the middle of the day there was a thunderstorm, and at five o'clock the ground was covered with
snow. The ice now began to show signs of rotting,
and the channel of open water round the weather
edge of the lake grew rapidly broader.
We had many talks with the Indians about the chances
of our being able to get together a crew; but they had CHAP. XI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
i75
no enthusiasm about the voyage, and wanted nothing
better than to keep us hanging about the head of the
river, providing them with ammunition. Saltatha was
the only one of the band who volunteered to go, and
he insisted on having another Indian with him, as he
was not used to the ways of white men, and would feel
safer if he had one of his own tribe with him in case
of accidents; but he hoped we should not go farther
than the big lake (Beechey Lake) which he had heard
us talking about, for it was getting late in the year,
and when the ice is long in melting winter comes
again soon. At last it was arranged that Saltatha and
Noel were to come in our canoe, while Mario and
Carquoss accompanied us with a small hunting-canoe,
to carry a little ammunition in case we lost our cargo
by capsizing in a rapid; we should then have a chance
of making a living, and be able to cross the tributary
stream if we had to return on foot. On our part we
agreed to turn back from Beechey Lake, reserving the
privilege of taking the little canoe overland from there
to Bathurst Inlet. As caribou were scarce, the rest of
the Indians were to work their way back towards the
Great Slave Lake, except Capot Blanc, who was to
stay on the divide at Aylmer Lake, if he could kill
enough meat to keep his family, and there await our
return.
The evening before we started Syene, who was a
Medicine Man, sent a message to our lodge that he
was going to foretell the result of our expedition down
the river, so we went over to hear what was in store
for us.    His lodge was full of Indians, but they made 176
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. XI.
1!
room for us, and we sat down on a blanket on the side
of the fire farthest from the door. Syene held a drum
made of tightly-stretched deer-skin parchment, which
he punched continually with a caribou's thigh-bone,
keeping up a melancholy chant, and singing a sentence
or two every few minutes. ' It is not that I can see
anything myself,' he said, ' but it is an unborn child
that is speaking to me.' Mrs. Syene, who was sitting
close to the Medicine Man, clasped her hands and
groaned, as if in great pain, by way of giving assent to
this statement. ' The child sees the canoe of the big
masters running down the strong water of a rapid;
below the rapid is a long point, and seven lodges of
the Esquimaux are planted on the point. There is
blood on the snow-drift; it is the blood of a white man.
One man is walking on the bank of a river; he walks
like a starving man, and the child knows not if he is
white or Indian. Now all is dark, and the child has
ceased speaking.'
Not a very cheerful prophecy, and it was hard to
make out how far the Indians believed in the Medicine
Man ; but our crew were rather down-hearted about it,
although, as is usual all the world over, the people
who were not going the journey themselves took a
philosophical view of the whole affair.
-Ill ifl
i Hi 11 CHAPTER XII.
On Thursday, July 17th, at two o'clock in the afternoon, we struck camp and started on a four-mile
portage to the next lake down stream, as the river-bed
was too full of large boulders to navigate the strong
current with safety. It was hard work carrying the
cargo and canoe through the mosquito-stricken ironstone country, and we did not camp till midnight.
Here another bad omen was observed. Mackinlay
and I had gone ahead, after carrying over a load, to
try and kill something for supper; we found a musk-
ox, but made rather a clumsy mess of killing it, and
the animal was badly heated before we finished it
off. The meat was consequently discoloured, and
Saltatha declared this to be an unfailing sign of some
great misfortune at hand. The women had made us
a few pair of moccasins each, but not nearly enough
for the tracking-work that we should have to do when
we turned up stream; and our stock of provisions,
instead of the bales of dried meat that we had expected
to enable us to travel without waste of time in hunting,
consisted of ten dried deers'-ribs, so full of maggots,
from having been imperfectly cured, that we  threw
N i78
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
IS I if
BANS I
them away on the second day out. Our flour and
pemmican had of course been finished long ago, and
we drank the last kettleful of tea before leaving Musk-
ox Lake, but as the Labrador tea grows all over this
country in profusion, this did not much matter; tobacco
too was nearly at an end.
The lake was still full of floating ice, but we had no
trouble in passing the canoe into the river at the north
end, and found the stream considerably increased in
volume by a couple of large tributaries that come in
from the opposite sides of the lake. After dropping
down two or three miles with a sluggish current, we
heard the roar of a rapid, and put ashore on an island
in mid-stream as soon as we sighted broken water.
It was lucky we did so, as there was a heavy overfall
impossible to run, and we were obliged to portage the
whole length of the island and then shoot the tail of
the rapid. Here we put ashore to patch the canoe,
which was leaking badly, and pulled out big trout as
quickly as we could throw in the spoon-bait; we found
this could be done at the foot of all the rapids, so one
need not take much thought about provisions in this
part of the stream. After another small rapid, which
was run with a full load, the river, heading straight to
the north, passes through a small lake and emerges as
a broad canal-like waterway with very slight current,
flowing through the roughest part of the ironstone
country that we had yet seen; the banks were steep
too, and we could put the canoe alongside a natural
wharf in any spot for a distance of five or six miles.
In passing  down   these  reaches we saw. and   killed —
chap. xn.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
179
musk-ox, but the caribou seemed to shirk the labour
of crossing the confused masses of rocks, and none of
these animals were seen till we reached a less rugged
district. Again the channel widened out into a lake,
two miles in length, with an ugly rapid at the north
end ; this we negotiated with the precaution of leaving
guns and ammunition ashore, and directly afterwards
Saltatha caused some excitement by saying he had
caught a glimpse of a man walking on a neighbouring
ridge; we put ashore, but could find no tracks, and
came to the conclusion that it was Saltatha's imagination. A long day's travel was made successfully, and
by ten o'clock we were clear of the ironstone and
slipping quietly along through a pleasant sandy country.
We camped at the foot of a high sand-butte covered
with flowers and moss, and found a bunch of willows
on the bank of the river. There were indications that
some one had camped on the same spot many years ago;
small sticks had been chopped with an axe, and bones
of caribou were lying in heaps on. the ground. The
Yellow Knives at once said it was an old Esquimaux
camp, and it was evident that they had little inclination to go any farther down stream; more probably
the chopping was done by a band of Dog-Ribs, whose
hunting-grounds lie to the west, or possibly by the
members of Stewart's and Anderson's expedition. On
mounting the butte we saw that the country northward
presented a much more fertile appearance than anything we had seen on the south side of the watershed.
There was a luxurious growth of grass over the sandy
ridges, and during the two months of summer one
N 3 i8o
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
could imagine oneself back on the prairies of Alberta;
the willows here too grew to a better size, and, as far
as we descended the river, we had little trouble about
fuel; in the winter, of course, the willows would be all
drifted over with snow, and it would then be no easy
matter to make  a fire.    This stream heads in  the
woodless country; consequently there is no drift-timber,
and not a single pine-tree is to be seen along its course.
We had a pleasant camp enough that night, but
rebellion was rife and burst into flame on the following
morning when we ordered the men to take their places
in the canoes.    This is the hopeless part of having to
rely on natives for travelling in the Barren Ground ;
they have no courage outside their own country.    If
we had had a good crew of half-breeds from   Red
River or the upper country of British Columbia we
might even now, notwithstanding the lateness of the
season, have pushed far out towards the northern sea-
coast, and possibly have made the acquaintance of
some of the scattered bands of Esquimaux who live
there in happy ignorance of any more comfortable
form of life.    But we were practically in the hands of
the Yellow Knives, for although I would myself have
taken the risk of steering, none of the men who were
willing to go knew how to stitch up a broken canoe,
and it would have been madness to push on without
this knowledge,    Moise, our half-breed interpreter and
steersman, who was an engaged servant of the Hudson's Bay Company and bound by his contract to obey
Mackinlay's orders in everything, showed the Indian
side of his nature by joining the mutineers and refusing CHAP. XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
181
to take his position in the stern of the canoe. For
two hours we argued the matter on the bank of the
river, and at one time I thought we should certainly
have come to blows. Mario and Carquoss were the
ringleaders, but Saltatha was inclined to stand by us,
although afraid of giving offence to the other Indians.
The result of the dispute was that the worst two
deserted, taking with them the little canoe, while Noel
and Saltatha, tempted by many promises of great
reward when we reached the fort, agreed to come with
us, and Moise sulkily went back to his duty. After
we had thus got rid of the element of discord things
went on better; but the loss of the little canoe, besides
doing away with our chance of crossing overland to
Bathurst Inlet, increased the risk of losing all our possessions by one disaster. A pretty poetical thing is a
birch-bark canoe, as it leaps down a sparkling river
among its native birch woods, but too frail a craft for
a long journey in the rock-bound country beyond the
line where timber grows. No chance here to strip the
bark from a birch-tree and put a new side in a canoe
that has struck a rock in the foaming rapid, or if needs
be to build a new canoe altogether; three square feet
of birch-bark, a little gum, and a bundle of fibre were
our only resources for effecting repairs.
The day's journey began with a rapid below, which
was a reach of quiet water gradually broadening out
into a lake some eight miles in length ; its surface was
covered with ice at the north end, but we found an
open channel close ashore on the west side and effected
a passage through by skirting the bays.    Several bands
ill
I
yyjgHll^
*w-~~~:—■"-"•' l82
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
t .     I,
I ill
Ilflte
if
of musk-ox were seen, and there was always too much
anxiety among the men to put ashore and shoot, or- to
do anything except push steadily on; just as we were
leaving the lake a magnificent bull appeared on the
top of a high ridge, and, standing on a flat rock within
one hundred yards of us, leisurely surveyed the first
human beings who had encroached upon his sanctuary
for so many years.
Below the lake the river makes a sharp bend eastward, and for three miles is nothing but a succession of
rapids. Moise when once at work was a splendid
steersman, and he certainly handled the canoe with
great skill through this difficult piece of navigation;
we passed the mouths of two big streams coming in
from the west, and at camping-time shot into a quiet
sandy lake and put ashore for the night. A musk-ox
that I killed from the door of the lodge, and the unlimited number of trout that we could catch in the
river, enabled us to spend a peaceful Sunday without
hunting. We explored towards the east, and came
once more upon the iron country, which seems to run
with a sharply defined edge in a north-easterly direction. There were few lakes out of the course of the
river, but long stretches of flat grassy muskegs extended as far as the eye could see to the west. Four-
footed game was plentiful, especially musk-ox ; the
caribou that we saw were generally solitary bucks, but
it was now nearly time for the does to be coming back
from the sea-coast; of the smaller animals we often
came across a skulking wolf, a wolverine, an Arctic fox,
or a hare, while the holes in the sand-hills were the BSSW
CHAP. XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
183
abode of numerous siffleurs and ermines. A ferocious
little mouse, brown in summer, but turning white as
the winter comes on, is very common all over the
Barren Ground; if disturbed from a tuft of grass it
will turn on a man and dance with impotent rage
at his feet; these mice naturally fall an easy prey
to the hawks and owls, which make a good living here
during the summer months. Beyond these predatory
birds little feathered life was visible in this part of the
country ; a few gulls, terns, and skuas flitted along the
reaches of the river, and occasionally a loon or a long-
tailed duck could be seen in the lakes. The Canada
goose and grey wavy were breeding in the marshes,
but not in great quantities; the main body of geese
go right out to the coast to lay their eggs, and do not
start for the South till the end of August.
In the early morning we made a short portage over
a small cascade immediately below the camp, and found
that the river still held its northerly course through
a chain of small lakes connected by short stretches of
bad water. We made one more portage at mid-day and
ran several rather nasty rapids. After dinner we were
obliged to portage fully a mile to avoid an impassable
reach, and then took more risk than we were justified
in doing with our only canoe by running a couple of
miles of broken water, full of boulders and with such
a heavy sea that we shipped a good deal of water;
luckily we did not touch anything, and dropped safely
into a long narrow lake, on the east side of which
camp was made for the night. This was the most
dangerous day that we made ; as although we always
■ iiHl
I) 184
THE BARREN GROUND
chap, xil:
put ashore to inspect the rapids in case we might discover a waterfall below, we became emboldened by
success and ran in safety through some places that we
should not have attempted. Back's map of the river
would have been a great help to us, but neither this
nor an account of the previous journeys that had been
made down the stream was procurable at the fort.
The next day a curious blue haze hung over everything, closely resembling the smoke of a forest fire at
a distance from the scene of conflagration. The lake
that we had camped on proved to be about six miles
in length, with the usual rapid at its north end connecting it with another lake, the size of which we could
not at first determine owing to the murky state of the
air; nor could we at once find its outlet, but by keeping
in a north-easterly direction soon felt the influence of
a current, and found the volume of water much increased by the junction of a tributary, which we afterwards discovered came in from the north-west. On
the east side of the stream, just as it left the lake, we
noticed a circle of flat stones standing on end, evidently
put up by human hands, and on landing discovered
unmistakable signs of a band of Esquimaux having
been encamped there not very long before. Seven
small oval-shaped enclosures, surrounded by rough
turf-heaps six inches in height, had been the dwelling-
places, but we could not determine whether these low
walls were the foundations of snow-houses or deer-skin
lodges; there were several blackened fireplaces outside,
but the fires must have been very small judging from
the charred stumps of tiny green willow twigs, and we
\\\: —■
MB
CHAP. XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
185
saw no wood within several miles of the encampment.
The stones propped on end had been used probably
for drying meat, and for tying up the dogs to keep
them from stealing. Bones and horns of musk-ox and
caribou were lying about in every direction, and their
numbers showed that this must be a favourite camping-
place of the Esquimaux ; some of the musk-ox horns
had been cut into rough spoons, and several were
found in a half-finished condition. A flat stone kettle
was picked up with the grease still sticking to it, and a
small piece of copper let into the back, possibly an
arrangement for a handle, showed that these people
are able to work this metal; there were also a few
bone arrow-heads scattered about in the camp. If any
further proof were necessary to determine what tribe
of people had camped here, it was forthcoming in the
form of several pieces of undressed sealskin with the
hair on, and these seemed to be of greater interest to
our crew than any of the other discoveries; arrowheads, spoons, and kettle were dropped in the contemplation of the skin of an animal they had never
seen, and they instantly demanded a description of the
seal. After we had told them all we knew upon the
subject, we asked their opinion as to the length of time
that the Esquimaux had remained here, and when they
had left. Saltatha, reading the signs that a white man
might miss, came to the conclusion that they had come
here in the autumn, as was proved by the hard horns
of male caribou lying about, that they had stayed here
through the winter, and left late in the spring with
dogs on the last snow, about six weeks before our
T
11 186
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
arrival. He thought too that they made a practice of
coming here regularly, in the same manner that the
Yellow Knives come to the head-waters of the river,
as the bones appeared to him to have belonged to
animals killed at widely differing dates. We found
hiding-places among the rocks close to the edge of the
river, which had evidently been used for concealing
men engaged in spearing the swimming caribou. The
only weak point in Saltatha's theory seemed to be the
absence of any carcasses of freshly killed caribou; but
it is possible that the Esquimaux may have left before
the females came out so far, and the animals would
have been later than usual in arriving here owing to
the backward nature of the spring.
When we had thoroughly inspected everything we
left again down stream, with a swift current and good
water without rapids for eight miles, where we found
another lake running more to the eastward than the
general course of the river; on the west side of this
lake we were obliged to camp, as a strong head-wind
raised too much sea to travel against, and rain was
falling in torrents. We explored the shore of the lake
in hopes of finding further traces of the Esquimaux,
but made no discoveries of any kind. No musk-ox
were seen this day, but there were enough caribou to
provide food for the party.
With better weather we made an early start in the
morning, the river on leaving the lake bending a little
more to the eastward, with a swift current for several
miles, and two rapids which we ran in safety. A short
distance below the second rapid the current slackens CHAP. XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
187
and the stream gets rapidly broader, till, with a sudden
sweep to the south-east, the whole length of Beechey
Lake comes open; a long narrow sheet of water,
twenty-five miles in length, and nowhere more than
two in breadth, lying east and west, and forming a well-
defined elbow in the course of the Great Fish River.
With a light fair wind, and a blanket set for a sail, we
ran down the lake and pitched our lodge on the north
shore. Two days were spent in exploration, but again
we failed entirely to find any signs of the Esquimaux.
Towards the east end of the lake the iron formation
shows up once more, and the country is rough to
travel through. There was a slight difficulty about
provisions at this time as game was scarce, and, though
we fully expected to catch fish in the lake and put out
our net both nights, not a single fish was taken; just
at the critical time, however, a few female caribou with
their young turned up on their way back to the South,
and we were relieved of all anxiety.
As we had promised our crew that we would not
descend the river beyond Beechey Lake, and it was
already the end of July, orders were reluctantly given
on the third day to start up stream with the intention
of doing a little exploration to the northward of the
old Esquimaux camp, to see if there was any feasible
route from there to Bathurst Inlet, as there were
no signs of these people having camped in any other
place along the river. It seemed a pity to abandon
the voyage just at the interesting time, after we had
got over all the difficulties of the upper part of the
river and had now only a broad stream to follow, with
III
«JTV*-»'r»-.>'lT"- w
7!
188
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
II
B
a great deal of easy lake-travel, to reach the Arctic
Ocean, and the scene of the final sufferings of the
members of Sir John Franklin's last expedition. On
the other hand, we had no object in going down to the
sea, and there is little pleasure to be got out of a
journey of this kind with an unwilling and untrustworthy crew; our canoe, too, which was already leaking
badly, would have been of very little service for sea
work.
As far as Beechey Lake the south side of the Great
Fish River is free from any large tributary streams, so
that, if our canoe had been smashed up in a rapid, and
we had been able to save guns and ammunition, it
would have been easy enough to follow the river
on foot; but on the north side there are several large
streams to be forded, and a long detour might be
necessary to find a spot shallow enough for this
purpose.
There was much more enthusiasm displayed by the
Indian portion of the crew on the up-stream journey,
and no encouragement was needful to get a good day's
work done. In the river stretches the tracking line
was used, and three men at the shore end of it kept
the canoe travelling at a lively pace except in the very
strong water; in mounting the second rapid a mistake
on the part of Noel, our bowsman, caused a heavy
collision with a rock, and several hours were spent in
putting in a patch of birch-bark. On the second night
we pitched our lodge on the sandy lake within sight of
the Esquimaux camp, and found a considerable stream
coming in from a north-westerly direction.    I cannot
IU. ^v
CHAP. XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
189
find any mention of this stream in the accounts of the
two former journeys down the river, nor is it marked
on the maps; it was probably unnoticed on both
occasions, as it comes in at the west end of the lake,
out of the course of a canoe passing up or down the
main river.
Mackinlay, Murdo, and myself started on foot the
following morning, to explore this stream for a couple
of days, taking David with us in case we came across
any of his countrymen. The malcontents were left in
charge of the camp, with orders to kill caribou if any
passed, and partially dry the meat to save the waste of
time caused by having to hunt for our living as we
travelled; they were also to thoroughly gum the
canoe, to stop as much as possible the leaking which
was getting serious.
We struck out along the bank of the stream, carrying nothing but a gun and a blanket apiece, and at
dinner-time were lucky enough to find a flock of moulting Canada geese, unable to fly; four were shot, and
two eaten at once, while the other two were stowed
away among the rocks for use later on. We had a
long day's walk through a pleasant grassy country, and
towards evening crossed an unusually high range of
hills through which the river canons. Finding a few
willows here, we left our blankets, and walked on along
the bank for an hour or two, finally,climbing a solitary
sand-butte at sundown for a last survey of the country
before turning our faces to the south.
Far away towards the north-west we could trace the
windings of the stream to a ridge of blue hills, which 190
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
111 Hit   I I
formed the horizon under the setting sun. How these
blue ridges in the distance tempt one to push on and
see what lies on the far side ! And the experience
that nine times out of ten you would have done better
to stay where you were is never sufficient to overcome
this feeling; to this day I can seldom resist it, although
game may be plentiful at the door of my lodge and
everything that one desires in a wild country is close
at hand. Below us lay a broad valley, so green and
fertile in appearance that we could hardly realise that
for nine months in the year it lay frost-bound and
snow-covered under the rigour of an Arctic climate.
In the middle of this valley, close to the bank of the
stream, was a black object that we had long ago learnt
to recognise at a glance, an old bull musk-ox feeding
in a patch of willow-scrub; he was sacrificed for our
night's rations, and, loaded with meat and marrowbones, we returned to the canon where we had left our
blankets. There was a distinct twilight, and late in
the night David awoke me to draw my attention to the
first star that we had seen for many weeks. ' See,' he
said, ' a star already; it is past middle summer, and we
have not yet seen the sun all night.' It was the first
summer he had ever spent without seeing the midnight
sun, as, since he had been left at the Peel River Fort
by a band of Esquimaux who come there annually to
trade, he had passed his life within the Arctic circle.
The only signs that we saw of people having
travelled along this valley were occasional cache-marks
made by piling up a heap of small stones in a conspicuous position, to denote the carcass of an animal CHAP. XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
191
hidden in the rocks close by; but it seems such an
easy route and leads so nearly in the direction of
Bathurst Inlet, the nearest point on the sea-coast, that
it is probably used regularly by wandering bands of
Esquimaux on their way to and from their inland
hunting-ground.
This was the end of our voyage of discovery, though
I should have liked to have pushed on another day or
two; but we wanted a small canoe to be certain of
reaching the coast, which must have been within sixty
miles of us, as there are sure to be many lakes to cross
en route, and making long detours on foot would be an
endless task. The fine weather also had broken, and
heavy showers of rain came driving in front of the
J O
north wind, while the rest of our crew that had remained with the canoe were not too trustworthy, and,
with the exception of Saltatha, in whom bothMackinlay
and myself had great confidence, were quite capable of
leaving us to find our way out of the country on foot.
We had to content ourselves with the hope that in a
future summer, with an earlier season and a better
crew, we might find an opportunity of exploring
thoroughly this promising valley in the Barren
Ground. But now I must turn my attention to my
long journey of seventeen hundred miles, mostly upstream, to cross the Rocky Mountains by the headwaters of the Peace River before the winter set in;
and even if I could manage this there were still many
hundred miles of mountain and forest to be crossed
before I saw the shores of the Pacific and the abodes
of civilization.
W\
i 192
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
'
I -
f!    I
When we reached the lodge we found that the
Indians had made a stupid slaughter of caribou, and,
not contented with taking as much meat as we could
carry, had been recklessly killing the females and young
that were now passing in great numbers. The love of
killing seems deeply rooted in the nature of most men,
but the Yellow Knives have it more fully developed
than other people. This indiscriminate slaughter is
especially culpable in a land where ammunition is
scarce, and not to be replaced when wasted by needless
firing.
The next morning we picked out of our trading-stock
a few presents to be left in the Esquimaux camp, as
a sign that there were people in the interior willing to
be on friendly terms with the people of the coast.
Knives, axes, beads, and files, a couple of hand-
mirrors, a few strips of red cloth, and a flannel shirt or
two were stuffed into a copper kettle, which would be
itself the biggest prize of all. On lifting the lid, the
first object to meet the eye of the wondering Esquimaux would be the photograph of the Protestant
missionary at Fort Resolution, which David had been
keeping among his small stock of treasures; it was
a photograph of a Church of England clergyman, in
clerical costume, and should certainly give the Esquimaux a favourable idea of the style of man who had
visited their camping-place. We also put in a note
asking anyone who might read it to let us know in
what manner it had come to hand, as it is uncertain
whether these scattered bands of Esquimaux ever visit
the Hudson's Bay Company's summer trading-post on
If:
ri%>V CHAP. XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
i93
Marble Island, which lies a great distance away at
the mouth of Chesterfield Inlet, or whether they only
know of the white men by hearsay from other tribes
that trade annually with the Company. The kettle
was carefully stowed in one of the pits made for watching the swimming caribou, and a canoe-pole, bearing
a gaudy cotton handkerchief for a flag, planted alongside to attract attention. Everybody tried their
handiwork at sketching our story with burnt sticks on
the conspicuous flat rocks close to the river: there was
a picture of a canoe, with seven upright black lines
supposed to represent seven men; another of a Yellow
Knife and an Esquimaux (though the artist could not
say which was which) shaking hands with the greatest
affection; while David was certainly entitled to the
first prize for a bloodthirsty sketch of a misshapen
musk-ox, with a thin black line, again supposed to be
a man, transfixed on the point of his horn. When we
thought we had represented everything to perfection,
we turned our backs on the land of the Esquimaux and
plodded away up stream, tracking and portaging in the
river-stretches, and paddling through the lakes which
are always a great help in mounting a stream.
We now came in for a spell of really bad weather,
which made the uphill work very laborious. A heavy
unceasing downpour of rain, and sometimes sleet,
continued day after day, accompanied by strong winds.
The men all worked well and without much grumbling,
although we were never dry and in many places the
tracking had to be done waist-deep in water; at night
we slept in our wet clothes, on the wet ground, rolled
o
lit
—oat1 194
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
i I;
up in our sopping blankets. This is the killing weather,
and one needs perfect health to resists its effects ; the
dry cold of a northern winter is child's play in comparison. Saltatha, who had hurt himself by a nasty fall
while carrying a heavy load over a portage, broke
down completely at this time, and was unable to work
during the rest of the trip. We could do nothing for
him, as there was no medicine of any kind in the
outfit, and he had to take his chance with the rest.
I think he came very near dying while we were running
down Lockhart's River; he lost all strength and was
spitting blood freely for a fortnight, but ultimately
recovered in a miraculous manner. We worked long
days tracking up-stream, but were continually delayed
by having to patch up the canoe every time she touched
a rock; it was just as well we did not go down to the
mouth of the river, for she would certainly not have
stood another three weeks' work of this kind. Another
trouble was the scarcity of moccasins, which were
completely worn out by a single day's walk on the
sharp rocks along the river's bank.
In eight days we reached Musk-ox Lake, and,
finding the wind too strong to paddle against, we put
ashore on the east side and took advantage of a little
sunshine to thoroughly dry all our belongings. From
this camp we saw the last musk-ox,, and, crossing the
bay with a canoe, went in pursuit as our meat supply
was short. Some of the guns were posted, and others
tried to drive the animals, but we made a mess of the
hunt and the whole band escaped; my last remembrance of the animals that I had started out a year ~
CHAP, XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
*95
before on purpose to kill, being a stern view of a grand
old bull disappearing at a gallop over a ridge, and
a puff of dust just behind him, marking the spot where
a badly aimed rifle-bullet had struck the ground. A
caribou, however, supplied us with meat, but we had
some trouble in picking him up, as he was killed in the
water and it was no easy matter to tow his carcass
ashore against the gale of wind that was raging.
Mackinlay and myself for once got ahead of the wolverines on this occasion. We saw three coming our
way before they saw us, and, lying behind a rock,
bowled them all over; a right and left at wolverines
is seldom brought about in a lifetime, but it is very
satisfactory when one thinks of the stolen caches and
consequent hard times that these wily brutes are responsible for.
From the south end of the lake I walked ahead with
Mackinlay, starting early in the morning, and at midday sighted three lodges on the Aylmer Lake divide.
We fired a signal-shot which brought everybody out,
and we were soon surrounded by Capot Blanc's brigade,
and deluged with questions as to what had happened
and why we had come back alone; for surely something evil had taken place in the country that always
slopes downhill. With our small command of the
Yellow Knife language, and plenty of signs, we made
them understand that the canoe was by this time at
the first lake, and the water was so low in the river
that it would be necessary to portage the whole
distance. All the available men and women went to
help our crew to carry the loads, and by sundown our
o 2
H [96
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XII.
lodge was once more planted by the water that finds
its way to the Great Slave Lake and runs a course of
a thousand miles before falling into the Arctic Sea.
It took half a day to settle accounts with the Indians
who had been working for us on our way up to Musk-
ox Lake, while the women were busy gumming the
canoe and getting her in order for the run down
Lockhart's River. A good proportion of the wages
due were paid out of the remainder of our trading-
stock that had been intended for the Esquimaux if we
had met them. The box that contained this small
supply of goods had been an object of strife the whole
time. The Indians had the strongest objection to any
of the products of the Grand Pays passing through
their country being given to strangers, and we had
been careful not to let them see the gaudy contents of
the box, or we should have been troubled with the
constant begging that the Yellow Knives think will
eventually gain them the object they desire. Imagination had run high as to the contents of the fairy casket,
and there was a great rush when it was announced that
any of the men to whom wages were due might take
what they fancied. They had seen pressed bales of
blankets landed at the fort on the arrival of the yearly
outfit from Winnipeg, and had been surprised at the
number of blankets that could be squeezed into a small
space; there was an idea prevalent that our box had
been packed on the same principle, and might contain
an abundant supply of all the good things that only the
white men know how to make. Some disappointment
was shown when it turned out that we had only been CHAP. XII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
197
speaking the truth in answering their petitions by
telling them we had such a small stock that nothing
could be spared. The trade went off to the satisfaction of both sides; the Indians obtained the trinkets
so dear to their vanity, and we lightened our load for
the numerous portages that lay between us and the
Great Slave Lake. There was some question as to
what it was best to do with Saltatha; whether to leave
him here with his friends, or to let him take his chance
of the canoe journey to the fort, where medicine could
possibly be obtained; at his own request we decided
on the latter course, and during the first few days his
health seemed to improve.
The route that we were now to take was the same
that Back and Anderson had both chosen, following the
Lockhart's River down-stream through the immense
lakes that lie in its course, gradually bending to the
south-west, and avoiding the impassable obstructions
in the lower part of the river by portaging through
a chain of lakes, the last of which is only three miles
distant from the north-east end of the Great Slave
Lake. The boat was to meet us on August 1st, and
as it was already several days past that date we determined to travel our best, although there was a chance
of getting windbound in any of the big lakes. CHAPTER XIIL
l
Late in the afternoon, with a great improvement in
the weather, our canoe was afloat on Aylmer Lake
(known to the Indians as the Lake of the Big Cliffs),
over which she had been dragged on a dog-sleigh five
weeks before. The following evening we passed into
the short stretch of river that leaves its east end, and
camped late on the south shore of Clinton Golden
Lake, or, as the Yellow Knives call it, the Lake where
the Caribou swim among the Ice. The vast body of
water opened out before us into apparently a perfect
circle, and now for the first time we were in doubt as
to our course, for there was nothing to indicate the
point at which the river leaves the far end of the lake;
the east shore was invisible from the slight hill behind
our camp, although it was a clear bright morning. We
had two maps with us, one, the latest issued under the
Dominion Government's directions, and the other, an
old 1834 map of Arrowsmith's which we had discovered
at the fort; they offered very divergent opinions as to
the general lay of Lockhart's River, and it says little
for later geographical research that the older map
should have been by far the more accurate of the
two.
•!»*•> V CHAP. XIII.
NORTHERN CANADA
[99
We put out at three o'clock in the morning to take
advantage of calm weather to make the crossing of the
lake, and after paddling about eight miles went ashore
on an island to cook breakfast and reconnoitre. From
here we could see the faint outline of land to the east,
and made out that what had appeared a circle consisted
in reality of three enormous bays, one heading east,
one south-east, and the third south-west, Which was
the right one to take ? An appeal to Saltatha and
Noel, who were supposed to have local knowledge,
produced no results; Noel said he thought the east
bay was the right one, while Saltatha, pointing southwest, said perhaps that was the correct course to
follow. It ended in our taking the middle bay, and,
for the benefit of the next party that crosses this lake,
I may state that there is a peculiar conical butte lying
roughly twenty miles south-east from this island | it is
just visible above the horizon, and is a capital leading
mark to bring a canoe into a long narrow arm of the
lake, which afterwards broadens again into a huge
round sheet of water, and here, by keeping close to
the east shore for five miles, the entrance to the river
will be found. It was in great uncertainty that we
headed our frail vessel across the broad traverse with
a blanket set in front of a light fair wind; at noon we
again put ashore on an island, and, killing a caribou,
made a long halt for dinner. We climbed to the
highest point of land but could make nothing out of
our survey, and continued coasting along the island
till we reached its south end, and then found ourselves
in the channel I  have mentioned.    No current was 200
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIII.
V     ;
noticeable, and we pushed on through the winding
waterway, in fear that it might be a cul de sac and
we should have to turn back and try our luck in some
other direction. On landing, however, we saw a sheet
of water ahead of us, so broad that the far shore was
below the horizon, and, on passing out of the channel
we had been following, pitched camp on the east side
of the lake, still uncertain as to where the river lay.
Very early in the morning we were under way again,
and followed the land to make sure that we did not
pass the opening of the river, if indeed we were any^
where near it. About six o'clock there came a shout
from the bowsman, that he saw a pole planted among
the rocks ashore, and the canoe at once began to feel
the influence of a slight current. Rounding a low
point, a reach of strong running water lay before us,
and we landed to see what was the meaning of the
pole. A broken piece of babiche hanging from it told
the old story of a rifled cache, another evidence of the
wolverine's handiwork.
Among the Indians who had come to the fort during
the winter to trade fur was a hunter generally known
by the name of Pierre the Fool, though it seems hard
to understand how one of the most intelligent Indians
in the country of the Great Slave Lake had earned
this soubriquet. Pierre had been much interested in
our expedition. Every summer he pitched his lodge
where the river leaves the lake in which the caribou
swim among the ice, to make dried meat to sell at the
fort; his hunt this year had been successful, and, when
he broke up his camp, he had faithfully kept his pro- CHAP.XIIL
OF NORTHERN CANADA
201
mise to leave us a cache of pounded meat and grease,
but the wolverines had reaped the benefit. Just below
the camp we saw plain evidence of the slaughter he
had made among the swimming caribou; what we took
at first for a bunch of remarkably big willow sticks
proved to be the horns of fifty or sixty bucks, lying in
shallow water at the edge of the stream ; and enough
meat to keep an Indian family for a year, if properly
cured, was rotting in the sun.
After a mile of strong running stream the river falls
into another lake, and immediately makes a sharp bend
to the south-west, and, during the rest of the descent,
we travelled in that direction with little variation till
we reached the Great Slave Lake. Saltatha now
began to recognise the country, and there was no
more doubt about the way; but had we been left to
our own judgment, we should have certainly gone
wrong in this first lake, as there is a promising bay
heading in to the south. None of the maps show this
bend in the stream at all correctly, nor do they take
any notice of the next lake, the Indians' Ptarmigan
Lake, a large sheet of water fully twenty miles in
length, which Pierre the Fool afterwards told us
lies within a short portage of the west bay of Clinton
Golden Lake.
We now fell in again with the big herds of caribou.
For the last few weeks we had only seen enough to
provide us with meat, but here they were in their
thousands, and I am sorry to say that our crew did
far too much killing, during the short spell of bad
weather which forced us to camp on Ptarmigan Lake. ill
202
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XlII.
!f  '
r f  i
Ml
t, f P
The excuse was that the hides were now at their best
for coats and robes; but even so, far more were killed
than could be used for this purpose.
We made rather a risky passage down the lake in
front of a strong wind and heavy sea, and at the west
end found an ugly rapid six hundred yards in length:
the cargo was portaged and the canoe run light in
safety; and, after crossing a short lake, another rapid
was negotiated in the same manner. In this second
portage stood a solitary pine-tree, round which we all
crowded as in welcome of an old friend after our long
journey in a woodless country. Just below there was
an impassable rapid, the only real impediment to
navigation from the head of Mackay Lake to the
foot of Artillery Lake, a distance of four hundred
miles. Below the portage we ran five or six miles
down a steady swift current, occasionally widening out
into a small lake, with caribou continually swimming
across the river ahead of the canoe, and late at night
camped on the edge of a huge lake with a clear horizon
to the west. This proved to be Artillery Lake, and at
four o'clock next morning we were running down the
south shore, in front of a gale of wind with our smallest
blanket set for a sail. The day was much colder, with
a few flakes of snow flying, and everybody was pleased
to put ashore in a clump of pine-trees at dinner-time;
the wind moderated towards evening, and, crossing to
the north shore, we camped once again in the strong
woods. The timber line is much more clearly defined
here than on the other routes by which I approached
the Barren Ground; the outlying clumps of pines ex- -CHAP. XIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
203
tend to a very short distance, and their growth ceases
entirely within seventy miles of the Great Slave Lake.
If it should ever again prove necessary to reach the
Arctic Sea by way of the Great Fish River, Artillery
Lake would, in my opinion, be by far the best place at
which to build light boats for the voyage ; the timber
is quite large enough, and only one portage has to be
made to reach the Aylmer Lake divide.
The next morning we reached the end of Artillery
Lake, which we reckoned roughly at forty-five miles in
length, and passed into a narrow channel with hardly
any current. Towards mid-day a couple of small canoes
appeared ahead of us, and the usual formalities of
saluting ensued. When they came alongside the occupants were asked for the news, and they informed
us that the burnt Indian was drowned, that the caribou
had been passing more thickly than ever known before,
and that the fort boat had not yet arrived at the appointed meeting-place. The burnt Indian seems to
have been badly out of luck. He had rolled into his
camp-fire during a fit, and was found with his feet
burnt off; after being doctored by the missionary for
many months, and cured as far as it was possible to
cure such .a case, the cripple had left the fort with
some of his relations to get back among the caribou,
but on the second day out was drowned by capsizing
his canoe. We could not account for the non-arrival
of the boat, as we ourselves were already a fortnight
later than the day agreed upon for meeting.
Round the next bend of the stream were six lodges,
and the first greeting we received was from old Syene,
ill 204
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIII.
the Medicine Man. There was no doubt that the
caribou had been passing, as the children and dogs
were rolling fat, and an unmistakeable air of plethora
from much feasting hung over the camp. Only four
days before there had been one of those big slaughters,
which one would think could not fail in a short time to
exterminate the caribou. A large band had been seen
to start from the opposite bank, and was soon surrounded by seven hunting-canoes; the spears were
kept going as long as there was life to take, with the
result that three hundred and twenty-six carcasses were
hauled ashore, and fully two hundred of these left to
rot in the shallow water. Every lodge was full of
meat and grease in various forms, and there would be
a cargo for the boat to take back to the fort. Pierre
the Fool, who was camped here, was in great form,
and at once presented us with a bunch of smoked
tongues and a bladder of marrow grease. He gave us
a great deal of information about the country eastward
of Clinton Golden Lake, and in a much more intelligent
manner than the usual Indian method of constant
repetition; he told us there were fewer lakes in that
direction than in any other part of the Barren Ground
that he had visited, but he was always obliged to take
a small canoe with him, to cross a big stream running
in a southerly direction, three days' easy travel from
Clinton Golden Lake. Once, when he had pushed out
farther than usual, he had seen smoke in the distance,
and came upon a camp that the Esquimaux from
Hudson's Bay had just left; they had been cutting
m ood for their sleighs in a clump of well-grown pines, CHAP. XIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
205
and Pierre, who shares the dread which every Yellow
Knife has of the Coast tribes, had been afraid to
follow them. From the fact of his having seen the
pine-trees, which are said not to extend far from the
salt water of Hudson's Bay, he must have been within
a short distance of the coast.
On the day after our arrival in the encampment a
general movement was made; the lodges were thrown
down, and the women and dogs received heavy loads
to carry to the Great Slave Lake. Lockhart's River
on leaving Artillery Lake becomes a wild torrent,
falling several hundred feet in twenty miles, and is
quite useless for navigation, so we had to make use of
a chain of lakes, eight in number, lying to the south of
the stream. This is by far the prettiest part of the
country that I saw in the North, and it was looking its
best under the bright sunshine that continued till we
reached the fort. Scattering timber, spruce and birch,
clothed the sloping banks down to the sandy shores of
the lakes ; berries of many kinds grew in profusion ;
the portages were short and down hill; and caribou
were walking the ridges and swimming the lakes in
every direction. A perfect northern fairyland it was,
and it seemed hard to believe that winter and want
could ever penetrate here; but on the shore of a
lovely blue lake Pierre the Fool pointed out a spot
where the last horrors of death and cannibalism had
been enacted within his memory. Sometimes a column
of smoke would be seen ahead, and we paddled by a
lodge where the fat sleepy children were revelling in
the abundance of grease.    Late on the second day
v.1 ill
—— 2o6
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIII.
i.i u
a white object on the shore attracted general attention:
'It is a wolf, a white caribou; no, a man, a man in
a white shirt,—it must be one of the boat's crew'; and
so it proved to be. The white shirt was a libel, but
the clean canvas jumper quite deserved the admiration
it had received, especially in contrast with our own
rags. The boat had arrived from Fort Resolution in
charge of Francois Mandville, another brother of
Michel the fort interpreter. Francois had been
alarmed at not finding us at the meeting-place, and
had immediately dispatched four of the crew in a
large canoe, with a supply of tea, tobacco, and flour, to
ascend the river in hopes of finding us. But the
relief party had come across the fresh tracks of caribou
in the first portage; it was long since they had tasted
meat, so the canoe was put down in the woods, and the
'big masters,' who were supposed to be lost in the
Barren Ground, were forgotten. The man we met had
come on to see some relations who were camped
among the lakes, and, as he was discovered to be
possessed of tobacco, we made him share up, and sat
on the beach enjoying the first smoke for many days,
and hearing the accounts of what little events had
happened during a short summer on the Great Slave
Lake. But it was getting late, and we still had the
longest portage to make. At the end of the last lake
we abandoned the canoe that had done me such good
service on two long journeys, and with loads on our
backs followed the well-worn trail that the Indians
have used from time immemorial as a route to their
hunting-grounds.   A natural pass with a steep descent CHAP. XIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
207
led between the rough broken hills on each side, and
a three-mile walk brought us within sight of the waters
of the big lake. Below us, close by the edge of the
bay, there were already several lodges planted, and
over a white tent floated the old red ensign bearing in
the corner the letters H. B. C. so well known throughout the whole dominion of Canada. A shot from the
last ridge aroused the encampment, and soon a general
fusilade took place; a fleet of canoes, running with
blankets set to a fair wind far across the bay, took up
the firing and headed for the shore, while every Indian
within sound of gun-shot hurried to hear the news and
join in the trading which was sure to take place on
our arrival.
Here we found everything that a man in the wilds
longs for, flour, bacon, tea, tobacco, sugar, a packet of
letters from England written many months before,
and a bottle of brandy, the first' fire-water' that had
come our way for a year. Women and dogs heavily
loaded with bales of meat and bladders of grease kept
dropping in from across the portage ; a dance was set
on foot and kept up all night round the huge camp
fires, while the tall pine-trees looked down on a scene
of feasting and revelry such as had probably never
been known on the shores of this pleasant bay.
Poor Saltatha, who had been very bad for the last
week, crawled into our lodge late at night, and threw
himself down on a blanket in a state of utter exhaustion.
In spite of the best law in Canada, which forbids a
white man to give an Indian any intoxicating drink,
under penalty of a $200 fine, I determined to try if 208
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIII.'
brandy could do him any good. Saltatha had never
tasted the strong water, but had heard much of its
wonderful qualities, and made no objection to trying
the cure. I gave him a small dose, but it had a
wonderful effect; his eyes became round and big, and
once again he started the dismal chant that he had
been so fond of during our musk-ox hunt last winter.
He was hopelessly drunk, and, when he was seized
with a violent fit of coughing and his head fell on the
blanket like a dead man's, I thought I had made
a sad mess of my doctoring. Early in the morning
I got up to see if he was dead, and was relieved to
find him much better and keen for some more brandy,
which I refused; he had had very pleasant dreams he
said, and the pain had gone from his chest to his head.
From that time he improved in health, his strength
came back rapidly, and when I left the fort a week
later, he looked as well as ever.
Two days were spent in trading for the meat which
kept coming in, and. during this time we sent out
a hunting-party to kill fresh meat, which we hoped
would keep till we reached the fort if we made a good
passage. At Resolution times were very hard; few
fish were being caught, and the return of the boat was
anxiously expected. Many caribou were killed, and
our ship was well loaded with fresh meat, besides over
three thousand pounds of dried meat, two hundred
pounds of grease, bunches of tongues, coils of babiche
and sinew, and a little fur that had been killed
during the spring.
The Indians all left on the evening of the second
■ in CHAP. XIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
209
day, and early the following morning we put to sea in
a flat calm. Before leaving we went through the
ceremony of cutting a lop-stick, as is the fashion of
the North, to commemorate our expedition. A conspicuous pine was chosen, a man sent aloft to lop off
the lower branches, while Mackinlay and myself cut
our names on the trunk; then everybody discharged
their guns at the tree, and the performance was ended.
Often in the lonely waterways of the Northern country
one sees a lop-stick showing far ahead on the bank, and
reads a name celebrated in the annals of the Hudson's
Bay Company or in the history of Arctic exploration.
These lop-sticks are easily distinguished landmarks,
well known to the voyageurs, and many an appointment
has been kept at Campbell's, Macdougal's, or Macfar-
lane's tree. In giving directions to a stranger it is
hopeless to describe the points and bends of a monotonous river highway, but a lop-stick does the duty of a
signpost and at once settles the question of locality.
Two hundred miles of the Great Slave Lake lay
between us and the fort, but a steady wind came from
the north, and the shallow-draught York boat ran in
front of it so well that on the fourth night we camped
on the Mission Island within a couple of miles of Fort
Resolution. A worse boat for the navigation of the
lake could hardly be imagined. A huge square sail,
set on a mast shipped right amidships, does good
work so long as the wind is abaft the beam ; but when
a head-wind springs up, too strong to row against, it is
a case of hauling ashore on the beach, as no anchor is
carried.    Steep cliffs on a lee shore have to be care-
p
:\1T
Ul 2IO
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIII.
IWl
fully avoided, for it is impossible to propel such a
vessel to windward in a heavy sea. On the present
occasion, however, we were in great luck, and I never
remember a more pleasant voyage in a sailing-boat.
A run up the English Channel in a well-found yacht,
with fair wind and sunshine, is enjoyable enough ; but
there are seldom any blankets to lie about in on deck,
and there is always some stray peak or jib-halliard
that wants pulling on, besides continual threats of
setting or stowing a topsail, which prevents your
settling down into a comfortable position. Here we
had nothing to worry us; the wind blew fair, and we
lay in our blankets, smoking and looking at the land,
as the boat glided along the narrow blue lanes, among
islands that the foot of white man had never pressed.
Four times a day we put ashore to boil the kettle, and
at night slept by the side of a huge fire in the thick
pine-woods; darkness lasted many hours now, and
prevented navigation among the countless islands and
outlying rocks. On the fourth day we crossed the
grand traverse, and, leaving the He de Pierre after
nightfall, ran for Mission Island with a strong wind
blowing in from the open lake. Crossing the mouth
of the big river was rather risky work in the dark, as
the sandy battures ran far off to sea and the waves
were breaking heavily in the shallow water; the
sounding-pole gave only four feet in one place, but we
ran across without touching, and at midnight camped
at the back of Mission Island.
The sun was just rising on Sunday, August the
24th, when we ran the boat on the beach in front of
Hpft
—— CHAP. XIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
Fort Resolution, and a glance at the faces that gathered
round told us that living had been none too good, and
that a man is sometimes better off among the caribou
than depending upon an uncertain fishery for a livelihood. With all thanks to priest and parson, Indian
and half-breed, for the kind welcome they gave us,
I noticed many an eye glancing furtively at our rich
cargo from the land of plenty; and the rejoicings that
day maybe attributed equally to joy at our safe arrival
and to the influence of a feast of fresh meat after many
weeks of short allowance.
I could afford to make only a short stay at Resolution, as the season was far advanced, and I had to
start at once to avoid the chance of being caught by
the winter during my long journey. Of the three
routes that might enable me to do this I should have
preferred the ascent of the Liard River, which falls into
the Mackenzie at Fort Simpson. From its headwaters at Dease Lake, in the once celebrated mining
district of Cassiar, the Pacific Coast is reached at Fort
Wrangel in Southern Alaska without difficulty; but
the Liard itself is full of terrors, even for the hardy
voyageurs of the North, and although Mr. Camsell
offered every inducement to men to accompany me he
was unable to get together a crew. Formerly the
Company had an establishment at Fort Halket on the
west branch of the Liard, but the difficulties of conveying supplies, and the frequent occurrence of starvation,
made it a hard post to maintain; finally a boat's crew
were drowned by a capsize in one of the worst rapids,
and the fort was abandoned.    The Athabasca I had
p 2 J
i if i
212
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIII.
seen, and not caring to go over old ground I decided
on ascending the Peace River to its head-waters in
the neighbourhood of Macleod's Lake on the west side
of the Rocky Mountains, and, crossing the small divide,
to run down the Fraser River to Quesnelle, a small
town on the southern edge of the Caribou Gold Fields
of Northern British Columbia.
The Wrigley had made her last up-stream voyage
for the year, and was daily expected from Fort Smith.
I was thus obliged to depend on canoe travelling to
reach Chipeweyan on the Athabasca Lake, some three
hundred miles distant; if we had arrived at the fort ten
days earlier I could have saved much valuable time by
making this part of my journey by steamer.
Taking advantage of frequent experience that it is
better to leave a fort overnight, even if camp be made
within a couple of miles, than to trust to an early start
in the morning, it was after sundown on the 26th when
I said good-bye to Resolution, not without a feeling of
regret, and the hope of seeing at some future time the
place where I had been so well treated. There are
few spots in the world in which one can live for a year
without making some friends, and when I left this
lonely trading-post there were many faces on the
beach that I should like to see again. Saltatha was
the last man to shake hands with me as I stepped into
the canoe; he tried to extract a promise from me to
come back the next summer for another expedition in
the Barren Ground, and was much disappointed when
I told him that I certainly could not return for two
years, and perhaps not even then.    No need to feel CHAP. XIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
213
pity for the people left behind, although I was going
to civilization and all the good things that this word
comprises. A man who has spent much time under
the influence of the charm which the North exercises
over everybody wants nothing better than to be
allowed to finish his life in the peace and quietness
which reign by the shores of the Great Slave Lake.
Ask the priest, when you meet him struggling against
a head-wind and driving snow on his way to some
Indian encampment, whether he ever sighs for his
sunny France. ' No,' he will tell you; ' here I have
everything I want and nothing to distract my thoughts;
I enjoy perfect health, and I feel no desire to go back
to the worries of the great world.' So it is with the
fur-trader; the mysterious charm has a firm hold on
him, and if he is in charge of a post where provisions
are fairly plentiful and the Indians not troublesome
he has a happy life indeed. I was sorry to have
missed seeing the Mackenzie River, La Grande
Riviere en Bas, as they call it at Fort Resolution, but
to do this meant spending another winter and another
summer-in the country, and I could not afford the
time.
The first evening out from the fort we camped near
the mouth of the Slave River, on the same spot where
I had spent a night with King Beaulieu and his family
more than a year before. My crew now consisted of
Murdo Mackay and three half-breeds, while Mackinlay, who had proved such a trusty companion during
our summer journey, was to accompany me till we met
the steamer.    This happened the next morning, and 214
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIII.
I
after an hour of hurried questions and answers, and
farewells to men who seemed more like old friends
than comparative strangers whom I had met once the
year before, The Wrigley put her head down-stream,
and we continued our voyage through the wilderness
of pines, cotton-wood, and willow.
Pierre Beaulieu was captain and guide of the canoe,
and a right good traveller he proved to be; no lying
snug in your blankets in the early morning, but breaks
fast in black darkness, and the paddles or tracking-line
in full swing at the first sign of the coming day.
Sometimes he would put ashore and start us off through
the woods, with canoe and cargo on our backs, to drop
on the river again at the end of the portage, and find
that we had saved many miles of laborious up-stream
work by cutting across a bend of the river. The
tracking till we reached Fort Smith was bad, as the
banks were usually soft muddy sand, while the land-j
slips had sent so many trees into the river that it was
often easier to paddle against the stream than to pass
the line round the obstruction. Ducks and geese were
plentiful enough, but Mackinlay had been liberal in the
matter of provisions for our voyage, so we only took
the most tempting shots, but if it had been necessary
we could have made our own living without difficulty.
Early on the sixth day we came in sight of Fort Smith,
and found Mr. Flett in charge, with the house much
improved and made fairly comfortable in readiness for
the winter; but there was no time to be spared, and
the next day saw us driving across the portage in
a waggon to take a fresh crew to Chipeweyan.    No ■*»
CHAP. XIII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
canoe was available, but Jose Beaulieu, another of
King's numerous brothers, lent us a skiff, which answered the purpose well enough. Mr. Flett took the
opportunity of going up to headquarters, and enlivened
the journey with many stories of over forty years'
experience in the North. Among the new crew was
a deaf and dumb half-breed, a capital worker and
always good-tempered, in spite of the cold drenching
rain that continued till we reached Chipeweyan; some
of his conversations by signs were very amusing, and
one could almost wish that all these boatmen were
deaf and dumb to avoid the constant chatter which
they keep up round the camp-fire when they know that
you understand them. One day we made a splendid
run in front of a gale of north wind, but nearly came to
grief through our steersman's recklessness in trying to
force the boat over a rapid under canvas; she took
a sheer in the swirl of an eddy, and the sail jibbed with
such violence that we were within an inch of a capsize.
Provisions ran short on the last day, but just as we
were talking of camping early and going after duck for
supper a little black bear turned up on the bank;
I was lucky enough to kill it, and we enjoyed a royal
feast of fat bear's meat instead of a night's starvation.
On the fourth day we entered the Athabasca Lake,
and forced our way to the fort against a strong headwind ; it was another Sunday arrival, and we did not
show to advantage in comparison with the bright
dresses and gaudy belts and moccasins of the dwellers
at the chief post of the Athabasca district. A little
snow was whitening the ground, the goose-hunt was at NORTHERN CANADA
chap. xin.
its height, and the array of nets showed plainly enough
that it was time to make preparation for the Fall
fishing. Dr. Mackay was away inspecting Fort Vermillion on the Lower Peace River, and would not be
back for several days. An unexpected difficulty now
turned up; there was no crew forthcoming for the next
part of my journey, and everybody advised me to take
the ordinary route by the Athabasca River. However,
two of my Fort Smith crew, Jos6 and Dummy, finally
agreed to go to Vermillion, although neither of them
had been there before, and Murdo, who was very
anxious to accompany me across the mountains, obtained leave to come with me till we should meet Dr.
Mackay on Peace River; if he could get extended
leave from the head officer of the District he was to
come right through. u*
CHAPTER  XIV.
By this time it was well on in September, and eight
hundred miles had to be travelled to reach the Rocky
Mountains, and when these were sighted there were
still two hundred miles to Macleod's Lake, the farthest
point I could reasonably hope to reach by open water.
The first night we camped in the Quatre Fourches,
the channel connecting the lake with the main stream
of Peace River. The banks were thickly peopled
with Indians and half-breeds, drying whitefish which
were being taken in marvellous numbers; white and
grey wavies and ducks of many kinds were flying overhead in large flocks, and rising in front of the canoe at
every bend of the stream; plovers and other wading
birds were screaming over the marshes, and I noticed
a good many snipe; but who would fire a charge of
ammunition at such a wretched little mouthful when
geese were plentiful ? Without going out of our way
to hunt, we could have loaded the canoe with wildfowl, but of course only killed as many as we required
for food.
At the end of the Quatre Fourches we passed into
the main stream of Peace River, and, with a sharp 2l8
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIV.
Ill'-
fe »■
westward turn, commenced our ascent of the easiest of
all the Northern waterways. From its junction with
the Slave River to the first range of the Rocky Mountains, with only the obstruction of the shute some forty
miles below Fort Vermillion, its course is navigable
throughout for a light-draught steamer, and, but for
this shute, would be an invaluable route for supplying
the Hudson's Bay Company's upper river-posts.
The lower reaches of the river present exactly the
same appearance as the country we had passed through
in ascending the Slave River; a broad stream with
low sandy banks, densely timbered, with often a huge
sand-bar, the resting-place of many geese, stretching
far out into the stream. We were rather handicapped
by not knowing the river, and missing the best tracking;
an old hand would have known all the correct crossings to take advantage of an easy bank to track from,
or an eddy to paddle in. Nor could we well risk the
short cuts, as a promising channel would often end in
dry sand instead of running through into the river, or
turn out to be the mouth of a tributary stream. After
our usual halt for dinner on the third day we saw
a canoe coming down stream, and, crossing over, found
that it was Dr. Mackay on his way from Vermillion;
both canoes put ashore, and we had the usual cup of
tea and an hour's yarn together. The Doctor was
anxious to get back to Chipeweyan, to begin his Fait
fishing and make every possible preparation for keeping
up the food-supply for the winter; I had no time to
spare either, and darkness must have found us camping
many miles apart.    These stray meetings in the wil- CHAP. XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
219
derness are always a pleasant recollection, and on first
returning to civilization one is surprised at the manner
in which people pass each other with a nod, till one
realises the fact that there are too many people about
for a more lengthy salute. Murdo obtained leave to
come with me across the mountains, subject to the
condition that he was to return in the spring if he
received orders to that effect from headquarters at
Winnipeg.
The same evening we hauled up an insignificant
rapid, caused by a contraction in the channel; a limestone formation, with many fossils, shows up here for
a few miles of the river's course, and is noticeable
again at the shutes and in several spots along the
river. We broke the canoe rather badly in mounting
this rapid, and during the rest of our journey to Vermillion had to bale out frequently. Day after day we
followed the winding course of the river, which bends
and doubles on itself through the flat country, and at
last made out a landmark in the Caribou Mountains,
lying to the north and stretching in that direction as
far as we could see : an inviting range of hills, clear of
timber on the slope, and their round summits sparsely
dotted with pines; a favourite hunting-ground for the
Indians of Vermillion, but none of the white men of
whom I made inquiry seemed to have any knowledge
of the extent or nature of this solitary range, rising so
conspicuously from the dead level of muskeg and pine
forest.
Just as we were starting on the tenth morning a
light puff of west wind brought us the first sound of
I
1 220
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIV.
a distant roar that we knew must be caused by the
shute, and a couple of hours' tracking brought us to
a small Company's trading-post, known as Little Red
River, from a stream bearing that name which here
joins the Peace River from the south. The establishment was deserted, although it was to be kept open
during the winter; so we passed on and soon came in
sight of a low white wall of water extending across the
whole width of the river. Dr. Mackay had told me to
make the portage close under the fall on the south
side, or we should have been at a loss to find the only
place where it is possible to take the canoe out of the
water. In a strong running current, with the spray
falling over her bow, we put alongside a ledge of rock
six feet above us, and two men, standing on a submerged ledge, not without difficulty passed everything
up to the others above; the distance to carry was very
short, and we were soon afloat again above the fall.
The shute is not more than eight feet in height, but is
of course a complete barrier to navigation. I think
the scene from the south bank is one of the most
beautiful in the whole course of the loveliest of rivers.
It was a bright afternoon when we made the portage,
and the white broken water of the cascade showed in
strong contrast to the broad blue stretches above and
below; several rocky, pine-covered islands stand on the
brink of the overfall, as if to give a chance to any
unlucky traveller who may approach too near the
danger; fully three-quarters of a mile away on the far
side stands the gloomy forest of black pines, relieved
by a glimpse of the open side-hills of the Caribou m
CHAP. XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
Mountains. Another small portage was necessary a
mile or two above; but from the spot where we
camped that night we never had to lift canoe or skiff
out of the water till we reached the foot-hills of the
Rocky Mountains.
The next day we passed a couple of Cree lodges,
and finding moose-meat plentiful made the most of
our opportunity, as a gale of wind sprang up right
ahead and prevented travel.
It was not till sundown on the eleventh day from
Chipeweyan that we completed our journey of two
hundred and eighty miles, and put ashore at the
Company's trading-post at Fort Vermillion. Here
the appearance of the country suddenly changes;
stretches of open prairie dotted with small poplars
take the place of the pine-woods, and the sand-bars
in the river begin to give way to gravel, and the banks
rise higher and higher as one journeys up-stream. We
reached Vermillion late in September, in the full glory
of the autumn; the sharp morning frosts had coloured
the poplar leaves with the brightest golden tints, and
the blue haze of an Indian summer hung over prairie
and wood. Away on the Great Slave Lake a half-
breed had told me of the beauties of Vermillion as
a farming country, and had explained that all the good
things of the world grew there freely, so that I was
prepared for the sight of wheat and barley fields, which
had this year produced a more abundant harvest than
usual; potatoes and other vegetables were growing
luxuriously, cattle and horses were fattening on the
rich prairie grass, and it seemed that there was little lit
222
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIV.
to be gained by leaving such a fertile spot in the face
of the winter that would soon be upon us.
Vermillion is also an important fur-post, and probably to-day the best in the North for beaver and
marten; but there are several free-traders on the
Peace River, and the Company have to carry on their
business with the extra difficulty of competition, which
always raises the price of fur. It is all very well to say
that no Company should have the monopoly of trading
over so vast a territory, but after all the Indians are
little benefited by the appearance of the free-traders.
The Hudson's Bay Company have always treated the
Indians fairly and leniently, taking the greatest care
only to import articles absolutely necessary to the
welfare of the natives. Guns, ammunition, blankets,
capotes, dress-stuff for the women, and tea and tobacco,
have always been the principal contents of the store;
and these are sold at absurdly low prices, when the
cost of the long and risky transport is considered.
The Indians' love of gaudy colours was always indulged, but the goods were of the best material.
Then came the free-trader with a stock of bright cheap
clothing, a variety of dazzling tinsel, or perhaps a keg
of molasses, which attracted the eye and palate of the
wily hunter, so that he would give up his rich furs for
the worthless trash, only to find himself short of all
the necessaries for maintaining life in the woods when
the snow began to fall again. No amount of experience enables him to resist the temptation ; but the long
enduring Hudson's Bay Company always listens to his
tale of woe  and  helps  him  out  of his  difficulties, CHAP. XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
accepting his promise, ever readily given and as readily
broken, to hand in his fur in the following spring to
the officer in charge of the post. Whenever the often-
told story of a band of Indians caught by the horrors
of starvation reaches the fort, the Company sends to
the rescue, and every winter saves many a man from
death, while the free-trader, having taken as much fur
as he can out of the country during a short summer's
trip, is living at ease on the confines of civilization. The
days are long gone by when a prime silver fox could
be bought for a cotton pockethandkerchief, but still
the rumours brought from this little known Northern
country attract the venturesome trader, usually to his
own loss, and always to the upsetting of the Company's
wise system of dealing with the Indians.
Vermillion has a comparatively large population,
outside the numerous employe's of the country. Both
the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches have
missions here, and several half-breeds have taken up
an irregular method of stock-raising and small farming
to help out the uncertain living afforded by fur-trapping. Mr. Lawrence, a practical hard-working farmer
from Eastern Canada, has been successful with a farm
three miles above the fort; but for many years to
come there is not the slightest reason for that emigration of farmers to Peace River which wild enthusiasts
clamour for. So much talk about this scheme has
lately appeared in the Canadian newspapers, mostly,
no doubt, as one of the political cries which find such
favour with the statesmen of Ottawa, that I cannot
allow  this  opportunity  to  pass  without  a  word  of 224
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIVi
warning to any intending settler. I made careful
inquiries and observations along the whole length of
Peace River, and I do not for a moment deny that in
some parts of its course crops of wheat and barley may
be raised in favourable seasons, as the well-managed
farms of Mr. Lawrence, at Vermillion, and Mr. Brick,
higher up at Smoky River, fully attest; but these
farms, and all the spots in which grain ripens, are in
close proximity to the bed of the river, and here the
amount of arable land is limited. Climb the steep
banks and take a glance over the millions of fertile
acres which the philanthropic politician wishes to see
cultivated; notice the frost on a summer's morning,
and make the attempt, as has often been made already,
to raise a crop on this elevated plateau. In ten years'
time this may be a cattle-country, although the hay-
swamps are insufficient to ensure enough feed for the
long winter; but let us have an end of this talk of
sending poor settlers to starve in a land unable to
supply food to the Indian, who is accustomed to a life
of continual struggle with a relentless nature.
Mr. Wilson entertained me royally at the fort, but
here again was the same trouble that I had found at
Chipeweyan ; no crew was procurable, and there was a
journey of three hundred and fifty miles to Dunvegan
before I had any chance of getting men. Jos6 and
Dummy, who had both worked right well up to now,
considered they were far enough away from their
beloved Fort Smith ; and Jose had an extra attraction
in Dummy's sister, who was waiting his return to make
him happy for ever, but was not very reliable in case CHAP. XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
225
of a more prepossessing admirer coming to the fore.
Jose" made a touching speech at parting : ' God made
the mountains, the lakes, and the big rivers,' he said.
' What is better than drifting down Peace River singing
hymns ? You are going up-stream to cross the big
mountains back to your own country; I am going
down-stream to marry Dummy's sister; I shall think
of you many times.' Dummy smiled and nodded
affectionately, and the pair shot out into the river with
my canoe, leaving me on the bank with only Murdo for
my crew and no means of conveyance.
Now if I could have got a small dug-out wooden
canoe, and pottered away up-stream with Murdo,
tracking in turns, we should have got on very well;
but unfortunately there was nothing but a large and
somewhat clumsy skiff available, and this we finally
had to take. The evening before we were to start I
received a visit from a man whom I shall allude to as
John. Long before in merry England he had seen
better times, and was evidently intended by nature for
a sedentary life, or any other kind of life than the
physical activity necessary to accomplish quickly and
successfully a boating-trip up a swift-running river ; in
reality he was powerful enough, and but for his extraordinary laziness might have earned a good living anywhere. John told me he wished to leave Peace River
and cross the mountains to Quesnelle, and would be
glad to render me every assistance in his power if I
would let him take advantage of this chance to get out
of the country. In spite of the warnings of Mr. Wilson
and everybody else who knew John's character, I went
Q 226
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIV.
on the theory that when one is shorthanded any kind
of a man is better than no man, but was speedily disabused of this idea after leaving the fort. He turned
sulky when he found that I would stand no shirking,
and was painfully slow on the tracking-line, awkward in
letting go or tying a knot, and, although he had been
five years at boating, absolutely without knowledge of
the duties of bowsman or steersman. In addition to
this he was just as useless in camp, and conceived a
violent hatred to Murdo, who fully reciprocated the
feeling. Once, on being heartily cursed while he was
tracking, John threatened to desert and go back to
Vermillion, but when we ran the skiff ashore and
offered to help him build a raft and to give him a
week's rations, he hastily withdrew his proposition. I
hoped to be able to leave him at some fort en route,
but I found John was too well known, and no one
would accept the horrible responsibility of keeping him
for a winter on any terms. A man like this takes all
the pleasure out of a journey when good temper is the
almost invariable rule, and everybody takes his share
of the tracking and wading, the paddling and poling, as
part of the ordinary day's work.
At this time of year, when the water is at its lowest,
tracking is a comparatively easy matter, and taking
half-hour spells at a sharp walk we made good day's
journeys, although we should have done much better
with a canoe. It was a hard time for moccasins, but
we could get them at every fort we passed ; sometimes
we found an Indian encampment on the bank, and a
small present of tea and tobacco to the women ensured esssss
CHAP, XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
neat patches over the gaping holes in the moose-skin
soles.
The fourth day out from Vermillion we reached the
mouth of Battle River coming in from the north, and
found a small trading-post with a French half-breed in
charge. He told us that the Indians had been killing
a great many moose, and that he had already bought
the dried meat of sixteen as a start towards his winter
stock of provisions; black bear too were numerous on
Battle River, and there were reports of grizzly having
been seen. This would probably be one of the best
points from which to enter the unknown country
between Peace River and the Great Slave Lake.
I never remember to have seen in any part of
Canada such a fine autumn as we enjoyed between
Vermillion and the Rockies ; there was hardly a day's
rain the whole time, and, although a sharp white frost
usually made a cold camp, the days were bright and at
times almost too hot for tracking. Often we saw the
fresh tracks of moose and bear, but never happened to
see an animal of any kind, and as we could afford no
time for hunting did not fire a single shot at big game;
geese and ducks we could have killed every day if there
had been any necessity for doing so.
Fifteen days of continuous travel from Vermillion
took us to the junction of Smoky River, the principal
tributary of the Peace, flowing towards the south-west
not far from some of the head-waters of the Athabasca.
This junction is rather an important point, as it is close
to the end of the waggon-road to the Lesser Slave
Lake, lying seventy-five miles to the south.    Here the
Q2 ^28
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIV.
Hffli
trading-goods brought overland are loaded on to scows
and boats, to be sent down-stream to Vermillion and
up-stream to Dunvegan, St. John's, and Hudson's Hope.
A little above are Mr. Brick's mission and the farm
that I have already spoken of, besides a settlement of
naif-breeds, more hunters than farmers, well known as
the laziest and most worthless gang on the whole
length of Peace River. Many efforts have been made
to get these people to pay more attention to their
potato-patches as the game is getting killed out, but all
in vain ; sometimes they will fence in a piece of ground
and plant seed, but will take no further trouble with
the crop, and generally use their fence-rails for firewood
during the next winter. Luckily whitefish are very
plentiful in the Lesser Slave Lake within two days'
journey, or starvation would certainly play havoc at
Smoky River.
I enjoyed a long talk with Mr. Brick in his pleasant
home in the wilds, where we spent a night; he kindly
furnished me with supplies that I was short of, and
three days afterwards we arrived at Dunvegan, another
celebrated fur-post, situated on the north bank of the
river at the foot of a high bluff known as the Cap.
Here again was abundant evidence of the fertility of
the soil in the crops harvested by the Company and the
missionaries. Across the river, twenty miles away, is
the Company's cattle-ranche, where the oxen used on
the waggon-road are raised and a fair amount of beef
is annually killed. Some thoroughbred stock has been
imported and should prove successful, but of course
there is no paying market for a large amount of cattle,
I Ma
CHAP. XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
229
although there are plenty of hungry people who would
be glad of a chance to eat beef.
At Dunvegan, besides Mr. Round who was in charge
of the fort, I met Mr. Ewen Macdonald, the chief of
Peace River District, with headquarters at Lesser
Slave Lake. He had just finished his inspection of
the upper river-posts, and had left Hudson's Hope,
the last establishment east of the mountains, a few days
previously; he reported that the snow was already low
down on the foot-hills, and advised me strongly to give
up my attempt to cross the Rockies so late in the
autumn. He told me, however, that a free-trader was
expected in from the west side of the mountains, and
if I was lucky enough to meet him I should probably
be able to secure the service of some of his crew who
would be returning to Quesnelle.
Above Dunvegan the valley of the river contracts,
the banks rise for several hundred feet in height, and
the strength of the current increases. The hundred
and twenty miles to St. John's took us seven days and
a half to travel, and in many places we had to keep two
men on the line to stem the strong water; the tracking
too was bad, as the banks had fallen in several spots,
and John, who had been up and down the river three
times before, proved a very poor pilot. The weather
was colder, and a sheet of ice formed over the back
waters and close to the bank out of the current.
At St. John's we found Mr. Gunn busy with a band
of Indians who were taking their winter supplies, and
I had a chance of hearing their accounts of the wilderness to the north in the direction of the Liard River;
HI 23°
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIV.
II
1
they described it as a muskeg country abounding in
game and fur, but a hard district to reach, as the
streams are too rapid for canoes and the swamps too
soft for horses to cross. They occasionally fall in with
a small band of buffalo, but have never seen them in
large numbers. Sometimes by ascending Half-way
River, a stream adjoining Peace River twenty-five
miles above St. John's, they meet the Indians from
Fort Nelson on the south branch of the Liard.
We had now passed out of the Cree-speaking belt
and the language became that of the Beaver Indians,
a far inferior language to Cree, resembling in sound
and in many of the words some of the dialects of the
Chipeweyan tongue. Mr. Gunn had learned to speak
Beaver fluently, and was now going up to Hudson's
Hope to interpret; he was a great help to us both as
pilot and on the line, and with two men always
tracking we took little notice of the strong stream
which we found throughout the fifty miles to the next
fort.
Snow was falling heavily when we left St. John's,
and it looked as if the winter had set in, but next day
the ground was bare again, and a west wind from
across the mountains blew warm as a summer's breeze.
We camped for a night at the mouth of Half-way
River, heading towards the north through a wide open
bay which seems to invite exploration. A considerable
quantity of gold dust has been taken out of some of
the gravel-bars along this part of Peace River, and
Half-way River is supposed to be a paradise for
the miner and hunter, but I could not hear of any CHAP. XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
231
white man having ever penetrated far up this valley.
On the afternoon of Sunday, October 26th, on rounding a bend in the river, we caught our first glimpse of
the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains that I had
travelled so far to reach; but the sublime is often
mixed with the ludicrous, and when John in his admiration of the scenery slipped off a narrow ledge of
shale along which he was tracking and fell with an
oath into the river, the snowy peaks were forgotten in
the joy that always greets other people's misfortunes
in this sort of travelling.
A short distance below Hudson's Hope we passed
a remarkable group of high basaltic islands, differing
entirely from anything in the neighbourhood, and
affording a strong contrast to the low gravelly islands
so numerous in the course of this river. In the afternoon of the 27th we unloaded the skiff and hauled her
up on the beach in front of the fort, to lie there till
anybody might want to run her down-stream the following spring.
. Hudson's Hope is a small unpretentious establishment, standing on the south side of Peace River, a
mile below the wild canon by which this great stream
forces its way through the most easterly range of the
Rocky Mountains. The Indians were all encamped
in their moose-skin lodges on the flat close to the fort
waiting for the trade to begin, and I was surprised to
hear how few representatives of the once numerous
tribe of Beavers are left. It is the same at St. John's
and Dunvegan, and the total Indian population of the
upper Peace River cannot exceed three hundred, an THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIV.
immense falling off since Sir Alexander Mackenzie
first crossed the mountains by this route. The biggest
lodge was occupied by Baptiste Testerwich, a half-
breed Iroquois, descended from the Iroquois crew left
here many years ago by Sir George Simpson, formerly
Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company. Baptiste had
a house at Moberley's Lake twelve miles to the south,
and is well known as the most successful and most
enduring of moose-hunters. A remarkable point about
the man is his hardiness and indifference to cold; in
the dead of winter he wears no socks in his moccasins,
which to any other man would mean a certainty of
frozen feet, and the Indians say that his feet are so
hot that the snow melts in his tracks in the coldest
weather.
Once again arose the trouble about guides to take us
to Macleod's Lake. John had been there before, but
I had already seen too much of his piloting to trust
myself in his hands, and was quite sure that he would
lose his way if there was the least possibility of doing so.
The free-trader from across the mountains had not
yet arrived, and as it was getting late in the year there
was a chance of his being frozen in before he reached
Hudson's Hope. Besides the Peace River route there
is the Pine River Pass, farther to the southward, heading almost directly to Macleod's Lake. A party of
surveyors once came through this pass several years
ago, and the Indians use it habitually in the summer;
but none of the Beavers would volunteer to guide us
through at this time of the year, as a heavy snowfall
might be expected immediately. tea
CHAP. XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
I decided to wait a few days for the trader, and we
had a very festive time at Hudson's Hope; a ball was
given every night, and the moose-dance, rabbit-dance,
and duck-dance were kept up till the small hours. A
ball is not an expensive entertainment at an out-of-the-
way trading-post; no invitations are necessary, but a
scrape of the fiddle at the door of the master's house
fills the ball-room in a few minutes. If the master is
in a liberal state of mind, a cup of tea is provided for
his guests, but in any case the river is close, and if
anyone is thirsty there is plenty of water. On the
third night the ceremonies were interrupted by the
sound of a gunshot on the opposite bank, and an
Indian came across with the news that the trader
had arrived at the west end of the canon with two
small scows, and that some of his crew were going
back to Quesnelle.
Baptiste lent me a horse on the following day, and I
rode over to interview the new arrivals. A fair trail,
twelve miles in length on the north side of the river,
leads to the navigable water above the canon, while
the stream runs a circuitous course of probably thirty
miles. I could get little information as to the nature
of this canon; even the Indians seem to avoid it, and,
though accounts of it have been written, nobody appears to have thoroughly explored this exceptionally
rough piece of country. I went down a few miles from
the west end, but found the bluffs so steep that I could
seldom get a view of the water, and could form no idea
of the character of the rapids and waterfalls. There is
some quiet place in the middle of the canon where the 234
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XIV-
Indians cross on the ice, but beyond this they could tell
me little about it.
Right in the centre of the gap by which the trail
crosses stands the Bull's Head, a solitary mountain
well known to travellers coming from the west, as it
can be seen many miles away, and in full view to the
south is a huge flat-topped mountain, covered with
perpetual snow and fit to rank with any of the giants
of the main range. The trail reaches a considerable
elevation above the river level, and from the summit
the upper waters of the Peace are seen winding away
to the west, through a broad valley flanked by hills of
ever increasing height, as far as the eye can reach.
Close to the river the slopes are open or thinly
timbered with pine and poplar, but the big mountains
are clothed nearly to their summits with the dense,
almost impassable, forest growth which is such a
common feature in the scenery as the Pacific Coast
is approached.
At the far end of the portage, on the bank of the
river, stand a rough shanty and trading-store. Here
I made the acquaintance of Twelvefoot Davis, who
acquired this name, not from any peculiarity of stature,
but from a small though valuable mining claim of
which he had been the lucky possessor in the early
days of British Columbia. A typical man of his class
is Davis, and his story is that of many a man who has
spent his life just in advance of civilization. Born in
the Eastern States of America, a 'Forty-niner in California, and a pioneer of the Caribou Diggings discovered
far up the Fraser River in 'Sixty-one, he had eventually CHAP. XIV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
235
taken to fur-trading, which has ever such an attraction
for the wandering spirit of the miner. Here among
the mountains and rivers where formerly he sought the
yellow dust he carries on his roaming life. There is
a. strong kinship between the two enterprises; the
same uncertainty exists, and in each case the mythical
stake is always just ahead. No failure ever damps
the ardour of miner or fur-trader, or puts a stop to
his pleasant dreams of monster nuggets and silver
foxes.
Davis was making all possible haste in packing his
cargo across the portage with horses; an Indian and
a half-breed were going back to Quesnelle, and would
gladly enter my service as guides. A small stock of
goods was to be left at the west end of the portage,
and Thomas Barrow, the only white man who had
come down with Davis, was to remain in charge of the
trading-post during the winter.
il
1
/ CHAPTER  XV.
On November 5th I camped at the head of the
canon with my crew, Murdo, John, Charlie, a half-
breed from Quesnelle, and Pat, a full-blooded Siccanee
from Fraser Lake, ready to make a start up-stream the
following morning with a long narrow canoe dug out
of a cotton-wood log. But in the night the weather
changed; snow fell heavily, a severe frost set in, and
ice was forming rapidly along the banks. Baptiste,
the Iroquois, who had come across the portage to see
us off, had brought me a dozen pair of the best moose-
skin moccasins from his daughters, who were beyond
compare the belles of Hudson's Hope. Baptiste had
spent many years of his life in this part of the country,
and I was quite ready to listen to his opinion on the
chances of getting through to Macleod's Lake. He
would not hear of our starting with a canoe under the
changed conditions of weather: it was the winter; the
ice would catch us in less than three days, and we
should be lucky if we could get back on foot through
the deep snow. His advice was to wait a fortnight
till the river set fast, and occupy ourselves in making
hand-sleighs, while he would make us five pairs of CHAP. XV.
NORTHERN CANADA.
snow-shoes, and then we might walk the two hundred
miles to Macleod's Lake in comfort. Accordingly I
gave orders for the lodge, which we still had with us,
to be pitched in a clump of poplars a short distance
above Barrow's house, and we busied ourselves with
cutting birch and bending sleighs in readiness for our
trip.
The cold snap continued for several days, but very
little ice was running, although the eddies and backwaters were frozen up ; then the weather grew milder
again, and I could see that we had missed our chance.
It was past the middle of November, and the river, by
all accounts, is usually frozen solid at this time of year;
it seemed too risky to start out so late to try and make
a passage with open water. Meantime we were taking
things easily when, as it turned out, we should have
been travelling ; there was not much to shoot beyond
wood-grouse and rabbits, but with these we could keep
the pot going, and time went pleasantly enough in
short expeditions into the surrounding hills.
And now a warm Chinook wind came sweeping
across from the Pacific, and licked up the snow from
the ground, while the ice broke away from the banks
and drifted down in little floes to be ground to
pieces in the canon. I could bear the inactivity no
longer, and, with a recklessness that I had plenty of opportunity to repent later on, gave orders on November
25th for the canoe to be got ready on the morrow to
start up-stream and take the chances of being caught
by the ice in the main range of the Rocky Mountains.
I consulted Charlie and Pat about the route, and they 238
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XV*
both said they could make no mistake in finding- the
way to the Hudson's Bay Fort on Macleod's Lake, as
they had just come down the river, and Charlie had
made the journey the year before; if we could succeed
in getting to the junction of the Findlay and Parsnip,
just beyond the big mountains, before the ice caught
us, there could be no difficulty in reaching the fort on
foot in about four days' travel.
At the risk of being verbose and boring any reader
who has struggled thus far through the record of my
wanderings in the North, I must now enter somewhat
fully into the details of travel, and describe minutely
the events that happened during the next month, in
order to answer once for all the numerous questions
that I have been asked as to what took place on that
terrible winter journey in the Rocky Mountains.
When I reached civilization again, and found that
part of the story had leaked out, I received plenty of
gratuitous advice as to what I should have done and
where I should have gone, from people who had never
themselves been in a like predicament, and had no
further knowledge of hardship than perhaps having
had to pay a long price for a second-rate dinner. I
discovered that the easiest method of satisfying them
was to let them tell the tale of my adventures in their
own way, and assent readily to their convincing proofs
that if they had been there all would have gone well.
I admit freely that it was a stupid act to leave a supply-
post so late in the year, unprovided as we were with
the necessary outfit for winter travelling; but think I
was justified in trusting to the local knowledge of my CHAP. XV,
OF NORTHERN CANADA
native guides to bring our party in safety to Macleod's
Lake after we were forced to abandon the canoe.
Walter Macdonald, a son of Mr. Ewen Macdonald
of Lesser Slave Lake, and Tom Barrow both gave me
every assistance in their power to provision my crew
for what is usually an eight or nine days' journey.
Meat was not to be had, and there was little chance
of finding big game along the course of the river, but
a hundred pounds of flour, a few pounds of beans and
rice, and a small sack of potatoes, besides plenty of
tea and tobacco, would surely last us this short journey,
and, even if we found it impossible to travel quickly,
a few days of short rations could easily be endured.
It was late in the afternoon of Wednesday,November
26th, when I started the canoe off, and the sun was
down before I had settled up accounts and said goodbye to the friends whom I did not expect to meet
again for many a long day. The moon was full, and
I had no difficulty in finding my way six miles through
the woods to an old miner's cabin at which we had
arranged to camp for the night. At the first streak of
dawn we were off again, travelling our best with two
and sometimes three men on the line ; the current was
strong, but the tracking on the gravel-bars perfect.
That night there was a heavy snowstorm, while the
ground froze hard and caused many a nasty fall on the
slippery stones during the next two days. On Saturday morning cakes of soft ice began to run, but we
found that most of them were brought down by a large
tributary coming from the north, and above its mouth
the   river   was   comparatively   clear   of   ice.     The 240
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XV.
s\
same afternoon we reached the entrance to the main
range of mountains, and under the first peak of the
chain tracked up a strong rush of water with a heavy
sea at its foot, commonly known as the Polpar Rapid,
a curious corruption of la Rapide qui ne park pas, so
named by the old voyageurs from the absence of the
roar of waters which usually gives ample warning of
the proximity of a rapid. Part of the cargo we
portaged to keep it dry, and above the strong water
lay a quiet stretch of river, winding away in the
gloomy black chasm between the huge mountains,
which in many places takes the form of a sheer bluff
hanging over the stream.
We camped just above the Polpar, and another
night's snow made the tracking worse than ever ; often
it was necessary to put the line aboard and take to
the paddles, to struggle round some steep point upon
which a coating of frozen snow made it impossible to
stand. Ice was running in large pans and steering
was difficult, but we got on fairly well, and were far in
the heart of the mountains when we camped on Sunday night under one of the steepest and most forbidding peaks that I ever remember to have seen in
any part of the Rockies.
Monday was really cold, and our difficulties increased ; the tow-line was sheeted with ice and three
times its ordinary weight, while the channel was in
many places almost blocked; poles and paddles had to
be handled with numbed fingers, and our moccasins
from constant wading turned into heavy lumps of ice ;
but we pushed on, and at nightfall had passed the
ils\ CHAP. XV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
241
mountains and emerged into a more inviting country.
It was evident, however, that canoe-work was nearly
over for the year, but we determined to make one
more attempt, as the junction of the Findlay and
Parsnip was not far ahead, and there was just a chance
that the ice was coming from the Findlay and we might
find the Parsnip, up which our course lay, clear
enough for navigation. On Tuesday we made the
most dangerous day's travel that I ever experienced in
a canoe; the river was far too full of ice to handle
even a ' dug-out' with safety, and we had to make
many crossings in the swift current among the running
floes. I made it a point that everybody should keep
on the same side of the river to assure our all being
together in case of accident, and we had several
narrow escapes from being nipped. At dinner-time
we came in sight of the broken water of the Findlay
Rapid, and found the big eddy on the south side of
the river completely blocked with ice. We went
through the risky manoeuvre of skirting the edge of
the eddy with the floes whirling round us in the strong
running water, and, finding a solid spot, hauled the
canoe over the ice to the shore, making a half-mile
portage to the foot of the rapid. A very close shave
of capsizing filled the canoe with water; but the second
attempt at tracking through the swift current and
blocks of ice was more successful, and, as the short
day was drawing to its close, we were paddling under
a high bluff which prevented our using the tracking-
line. Here darkness caught us, and our position
was   perilous    in    the   extreme;    the   current   was
R
an
<&
H 242
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XV.
R i
i i
so strong that our best pace was required to stem it
at all, and many times we had to drift back to avoid
collision with the ice that was grinding past us. A
couple of hours' hard work brought us to the first
spot at which we could effect a landing, but it was no
easy matter to carry the cargo up the frozen bank;
we secured the canoe as well as we could, and found
ourselves on a small flat covered with willows and
abundance of firewood. Towards midnight the grind-
ing of the ice became less noticeable and before daylight ceased entirely; the river above us had set fast
and further water-travel was impossible. When morning broke we saw the Findlay branch completely
jambed with ice stretching away to the north-west,
and the Parsnip bending sharply to the south presented a similar appearance.
A glance at our position is not out of place, and a
good map might have saved us from the serious
trouble we afterwards experienced.
Far away in the mountains of British Columbia, in
a country little known to the white man and at no
great distance from the Pacific Ocean, the Findlay
River has its source, while the Parsnip rises close
under the Rocky Mountains on their west side, and,
skirting the foot-hills, joins the Findlay at the spot
where we now. encamped. Below the junction the
stream, already of considerable size and known as the
Peace River, pours through the black rent in the backbone of the North American continent many thousands
of feet below the summits of the mountains, and takes
its course towards the Arctic Ocean at the mouth of CHAP. XV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
the great Mackenzie. The most extraordinary feature
in this reversion of the laws of Nature is the extreme
tranquillity of the stream in passing through the main
range, for with the exception of the Findlay and Polpar
Rapid, one at either end of the pass, there is no difficulty in navigating a canoe. In passing the eastern
range above Hudson's Hope the canon is rough to the
last degree, and one would expect to find the same
thing among the higher mountains. A third branch;
the Omineca, once a celebrated mining-camp, joins
the Findlay, but is a much smaller stream. To reach
Fort Macleod we had to follow the Parsnip and turn
up a tributary branch known as Macleod's River,
draining Macleod's Lake into the Parsnip.
I had another long conversation with Charlie and
Pat as to the best plan of action, and pointed out to
them that if there was the least doubt about finding
the lake we might still get back to Hudson's Hope, as
by the aid of a few portages over ice-jambs one can
travel down-stream in company with the floes long after
it has become impossible to force a passage against
them, and when we reached the east end of the pass it
would be easy to walk through the level country. But
both the guides laughed at the idea of their getting lost,
and again reminded me of the fact that only a few weeks
before they had come from Macleod. If we could cross
the Parsnip, they said, we had only to follow the west
bank till we came to the Little River, and then half a
day would take us to the fort; in four days from now,
or five at the latest, we should reach the end of our
journey.    The morning of December 4th was spent in
r 2 244
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XV.
r ■
making a scaffold on which to store my rather bulky
cargo, which of course had to be left with the intention
of returning from Fort Macleod with a dog-sleigh.
After dinner we started on foot, every man carrying
his blanket and a small load of provisions, kettles, and
necessaries of various kinds. I decided to take no
gun, as I only had a dozen shot-cartridges left, and a
gun is always an impediment in walking through the
woods, although there is a good old saying in the
North that men should not part with their guns till
the women throw away their babies.
One thing that I thought might cause some trouble
was the fact of our having no snow-shoes, and the
snow would soon be deep enough to require them.
We took all our beans and rice, but left about thirty
pounds of flour in a sack on the scaffold, thinking it
needlessly heavy to carry, and that it was better to
run short for a day or two than overload ourselves and
prevent rapid travelling.
The ice was piled up high on the banks, and we
began badly by climbing over a steep hill covered with
such heavy timber that the pace was slow, and it was
night when we came out on the bank of the Parsnip
not more than four miles from our last camp. The
next day we did rather better, but, getting among burnt
timber and deep snow, had many heavy falls. In the
evening we found a jamb in the river, and, making
rather a risky crossing with the chance of our ice-
bridge breaking up at any moment, camped on the
Macleod side, thinking that we were now surely safe
enough, and the worst thing that could happen might
Mil >J CHAP. XV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
245
be a little starvation before we reached the fort. Then
came two days of fair travelling, sometimes on the ice
and sometimes in the woods, but the latter were so
thick that it was hard to get through them at all.
I have never seen a river freeze in the remarkable
manner that the Parsnip set fast this summer. The
first "jamb had probably taken place at the junction of
the Findlay; the water had backed up till it stood
at a higher level than the summer floods, and the
gravel beach was deeply submerged. There was
no appearance of shore-ice, as the constant rise and
fall in the water prevented a gradual freezing; jambs
would form and break up again, and huge blocks
of ice were forced on each other in every conceivable
position. Often too the ice was flooded, and it was
already cold enough to freeze wet feet; the backwaters
were full, and the ice on them usually under water
or hanging from the banks without support; the shores
were fringed with a tangled mass of willows, heavily
laden with snow and their roots often standing in
water, while behind, rising to the summit of rough
broken hills, was the dense pine-growth of the great
sub-Arctic forest.
John caused a good deal of delay by not keeping
up, and I did not like to leave him far behind, as
he was clumsy on the ice, and there were many
treacherous spots where black running water showed
in strong contrast to the snow, and the gurgle of
a swift current suggested an unpleasant ending to the
unlucky man who should break through. Everybody
carried   an  axe  or a  stick  to  sound  the  ice, and,
1
II
if
11. 246
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XV.
f • ! [
HI
excepting near the banks where the water had fallen
away from the ice, there were no mishaps. Further
delay was caused by our frequently having to light
a fire to dry moccasins and keep our feet from
freezing.
On the fourth night after abandoning the canoe
we camped close to a coffin hung between two frees,
as is the fashion of the Siccanees in dealing with their
dead; the guide recognised this coffin, and told me we
should certainly be at the fort in two days. Beans
and rice were finished, but we had flour enough left
for another day, and this we baked into bread to save
trouble in cooking later on, and on the following day
made a fair journey considering the bad state of
the ice.
The next morning, after eating our last bite of
bread, we were going to try for the fort, and to lighten
our load left behind the kettles, for which we had
no more use, while some of us were rash enough to
leave our blankets; we expected to be back with the
dog-sleigh in a few days, and could then pick up
everything.
The water had risen again in the night and the
ice was useless for travelling on, so on the guide's
advice we left the river on the west bank, and
climbing the rough hills walked along the ridge in
a south-westerly direction, expecting every hour to fall
upon the little river running out of Macleod's Lake.
When night caught us we were still in the woods, and,
although there was no supper arid snow was falling
softly, a bright fire and the prospect of reaching the fort
U|r CHAP. XV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
247
in the morning kept us in good spirits enough. I was
one of the unfortunates without a blanket, and was
glad to see daylight come again and with it a cessation
of the snowstorm. During the last few days rabbit-
tracks had been frequently seen in the snow and
grouse were plentiful, but we had no means of securing
game of any kind.
To make as sure as possible of getting food the
next day, I sent Murdo and Charlie ahead without
loads to make the best of their way to the fort, while
Pat and myself would stay by John, who was already
in difficulties, and carry the packs.
Starting without breakfast is the worst part of these
starving times. The walking for the first two hours
was very hard, through a thick growth of young pines
rising among the blackened stumps and fallen logs
of a burnt forest, up and down steep gullies, with the
snow from the branches pouring down our necks, and
our loads often bringing us up with a sudden jerk
as they stuck between two little trees. John soon
gave up his pack, and left it hanging on a bough,
where it remains probably till the present day. About
mid-day we came to the end of the ridge and looked
up the wide valley of the Parsnip. Far below us we
could trace its windings, and branching away to the
mountains in the west was a stream that Pat instantly
declared to be Macleod's River. Towards sundown
we lit a fire on a high bank above the stream, and
John in a fatuous manner remarked that he recognised
the place where he had camped with a boat's crew
some years before.    We followed the fresh tracks of
■ » ■
SSS3
E£ff .a*?* 248
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XV.
in
i
is? 1
our advanced party, and turning our backs on the
Parsnip walked on good shore-ice till darkness compelled us to camp. I was rather surprised to find that
the river was not frozen up and had much more
current than I had expected, but, as both John and Pat
were quite certain that all was right, I had not the
least doubt that we had at last reached Macleod's
River and should arrive at the fort in good time the
next day.
Another sleepless night gave me plenty of time for
reflection while John was comfortably rolled up in a
blanket that I had been carrying all day. Four
months had passed, and many a hundred miles of lake
and river travelled, since David had seen the first star
on that summer's night far away in the Barren
Ground; now I thought my journey was nearly over,
for two hundred miles on snow-shoes from Fort
Macleod to Quesnelle, and three hundred miles of
waggon-road from Quesnelle to the Canadian Pacific
Railway, counted as nothing. It was true that we
had not tasted food for two days, and rations had
been short for some time past; but it was by no means
my first experience of starvation, and to-morrow evening at the latest we should be in the midst of luxury
once more. It was satisfactory to think that we had
succeeded in forcing our way through the Rocky
Mountains in the face of the winter, and were every
day approaching a country made temperate by the
breezes of the Pacific; already the cedars, to be found
only on the west side of the main range, were showing
among the pines.
ml
m m~*
CHAP. XV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
249
With the first grey light in the east I roused my
companions, and we started on shore-ice at a good
pace with the prospect of breakfast ahead. Pat broke
through shortly after leaving camp, and, as he was
afraid of freezing his feet, we lit a fire to dry his
moccasins, and the sun was up when we set out again.
A couple of hours later we saw a thin blue column
of smoke rising straight up into the sky, and a nearer
approach showed that it came from the chimney of
a cabin hidden in the woods; a cheering sight at first,
but directly we reached the trail leading up from the
river I knew that something was wrong, and something wrong at such a time meant something very
wrong indeed.
I had spent too much of my life among the woods
and mountains to be unable to read the easy writing
in the snow; two tracks leading up the river late
overnight, and the same two tracks quite fresh
coming down-stream and turning up the trail. Murdo
and Charlie must be in the cabin, and could not have
reached the fort; if they had been coming back with
supplies they would never have put ashore with
starving men so close up. Pushing open the rough
door we found them sitting one on each side of a small
fire of cedar-chips that were just crackling into a blaze.
I Have you been to the fort, Murdo ?' I asked, needlessly enough. 'No.' 'Why not? What is the
matter ?' ' Charlie says it is the wrong river ; we
are lost, like d d fools.'
Murdo had described the situation concisely enough,
and I fully realised the awful position we were in ; lost
" III 250
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XV.
I
and starving in the mountains with no guns to procure
food, no snow-shoes with which to travel over the
increasing depth of snow, and no clothes to withstand
the cold of mid-winter which was already upon us.
There was still a hope, for Charlie was not quite
ready to admit that he was mistaken. Our advance
party had turned back on seeing a rapid, and even
now could not give me any accurate description of this
obstacle to navigation; if it was so bad that a scow
could not run down, it was obvious that this could not
be Macleod's River, for I knew that no portage was
necessary to reach the lake. Pat was still sure that
he had recognised many places this morning, but could
not say anything about the log-cabin ; -it stood back
from the river, and there was a chance that people,
passing quickly down-stream, might have missed
seeing it when the foliage was thick on the willowSi
The best plan seemed to first make sure about the
rapid, so we started up-stream to inspect it. I was
very doubtful of any good result coming from this
move, when I saw that the strength of the current
increased, and the mountains on each side of the
stream grew higher and steeper. Soon we passed
a newly-built beaver-house, which certainly was a
strange object on the side of a travelled river, and
-in a couple of hours reached the rapid. Surely this
was enough to make anyone turn back; a heavy shute
of broken water down which no scow could ever run
without being smashed to pieces; even Pat now
acknowledged that he was hopelessly lost. A valuable day had been wasted, and the sun was down
■Mr SP
CHAP. XV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
2«a
before we came again to the cabin, where we decided
on spending the night. Three days we had been
starving, and it was fully time to take the first steps
by which men in our desperate position seek to
maintain life as long as possible. A thorough search
in the shanty produced nothing of value but an old
lard-tin which would serve as a kettle ; there were
many empty boxes, labelled with enticing names and
pictures of canned fruit and of fat cattle that had been
converted into 'Armour's Preserved Beef at Kansas
City, Missouri; a large number of rotten sacks, marked
' Oregon Flour Patent Roller Process,' showed that
someone had spent a winter here, and an iron bottle
containing a little quicksilver proved that he had
been a miner by occupation. A board, with a notice
in pencil that two men, whose names I forget, had
arrived here from Sandy Bar in a day and a half,
conveyed no meaning to us.
Among the necessary articles that we had been
carrying was a large piece of dressed moose-skin for
mending moccasins, and this seemed the most edible
thing we could find; five small strips, three inches
in length and an inch broad, were cut off and put into
the lard-tin to boil for supper. We discovered
Labrador tea growing in the woods, and made a brew
with the leaves as soon as we thought the moose-skin
was soft enough to eat. Rabbit-snares were made by
unravelling a piece of string and set in the runs, but
after trying this plan on several nights not a rabbit
was caught, though we sometimes had the mortification
of finding a broken snare.    After supper of moose-
»
1
MErrnaasgiig
?^*~r-:
I
M 252
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP, XV.
It ■    -
skin and Labrador tea we felt in better spirits, and
with a good fire and a pipe of tobacco discussed our
position seriously enough.
Euclid, when he found himself incapable of proving
that any particular angle or line was the exact size
that he desired, had a habit of supposing it to be
of some other magnitude, and by enlarging upon
the absurdity of this supposition so completely puzzled
the aspiring student that he was glad to admit any
statement that the inventor of the proposition suggested.
This does well enough on paper, but starving men have
no time to put this plan to the test of practice, and
when they find that a river is not the one they supposed
it to be are at a loss to tell what stream it really is.
Charlie, Pat, and John, who had all been to
Macleod's Lake before, told me frequently that they
had never heard of any river coming into the Parsnip
on the west side between the Findlay and Macleod's
River. Now, in a boating journey the talk is always
of points and rivers, and the mouth of any tributary is
always commented upon, so it seemed unlikely that
they should have passed by this large stream without
noticing it; nor had they heard of any miner's cabin,
which must certainly have been spoken of in a country
where houses are scarce. There was a possibility that
we had come too far and missed the mouth of
Macleod's River, for we had sometimes travelled on
the east side of the Parsnip to take advantage of
better ice or a thinner growth of timber, and I had
heard David say that the Little River was not easy
for a stranger to find.    In any case it was better to CHAP. XV.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
253
retrace our steps to the mouth of the stream that we
had been following, to see if our guides could recognise
any landmark, for the hills were conspicuous and sometimes of remarkable shape.
At daylight on December 10th we left the cabin and
made tracks down-stream, taking with us the lard-tin
in which we had boiled more moose-skin for breakfast.
So far we had lost no strength and, with the exception
of John, who was always behind, were going strong
and well. It was late in the afternoon when we
reached the river and once again stood on the bank of
the Parsnip. Across on the east side rose a high-cut
bank of yellow clay, a mark that any one should recognise who had ever seen it before ; but Charlie and
Pat both put on a hopeless blank expression when
I asked them if they knew the place. No, they said,
they had never seen it before in their lives. Six
weeks before they had passed right under that cut
bank in a scow, and less than forty miles up-stream
would have taken us to the fort if we had only known
it. These men were a half-breed and an Indian,
supposed to be gifted with that extraordinary instinct
of finding their way in all circumstances which is
denied to the white man. John was just as much
to blame, although it was some years ago that he
travelled down the Parsnip; long afterwards, when all
the trouble was over, he confided to me, as an excuse
for his ignorance, that he had been very drunk when
he left Macleod and was unable to make any accurate
observations as to courses and distances.
There was nothing to be done but turn down the
1
I
1 254
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. XV.
tr ']
Parsnip again and keep a bright look-out for the mouth
of the little river, in case we had passed it. The ice
was too much flooded to walk on, and we camped high
up on the mountain-side in heavy falling snow. Another misfortune befell us here; the bottom of the lard-
tin was burnt out during the process of melting snow,
and we had to give up the small comfort of moose-skin
and wild tea. Murdo and myself spent a wretched
night cowering over the fire with the snow falling
down our backs, for we were still without blankets ;
daylight saw us struggling through the thick growth of
young pines and an increased depth of snow, till at
noon, when everybody was thoroughly exhausted and
John had nearly given up all hope, we found ourselves
stopped on the side-hill by a series of bluffs which no
one felt equal to scaling. Fifteen hundred feet below
us lay the river, and as a desperate alternative we
descended the mountain, with many bruises from
stumbling over logs hidden by the snow, to find that
the water had fallen in the night, and the ice, though
rough in the extreme, was dry enough to travel on.
After the night had closed down over the forest we
reached the place where the kettles and blankets had
been left, and things looked a little brighter with the
prospect of tea and a night's sleep; but we knew now
that Fort Macleod must lie behind us, although there
was little inducement to make another attempt to
reach it with such untrustworthy guides. Our only
chance of life was to reach the entrance of the Peace
River Pass, where thirty pounds of flour lay on a
rough scaffold exposed to the mercy of the wolverines!
iM.rO! CHAPTER XVI.
Snow fell again in the night and increased our
difficulties. For a, day and a half we forced our way,
sometimes on rough ice and sometimes through the
o o
thick willow bushes, with frequent rests as exhaustion
overtook us, till we again saw the Siccanee coffin hung
in the trees. Here we found the flour-sack that had
been thrown away on our up-stream journey, and
scraped off perhaps half a pound of flour which had
stuck to the sack when wet. At the same time a
mouse was caught in the snow, and, with no further
preparation than singeing off the hair, was cut into
strips and boiled with the flour into a thin soup.
Every man carried a tin cup in his belt, so a careful
distribution of the precious soup was made, and the
last pipe of tobacco smoked ; we certainly derived a
little strength from this unexpected supply, and our
spirits improved greatly for a short time.
The weather now turned colder and its increased
severity told on us heavily, for our clothes were torn
to rags by pushing through the woods, and a starving
man through loss of flesh always feels the cold more
severely than a man in good condition.   We often had
I It
256
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVI.
H
to light a fire to prevent our feet from freezing when
wet from walking on flooded ice or breaking through
near the shore. The river was still open in places and
continually altering its level. John was always far
behind, and I expected to see him drop at any time ;
but he had the advantage of starting fatter than the
rest of us, and took good care of himself, always
hanging in the rear and coming into camp when the
labour of throwing out the snow and getting wood was
accomplished. Never once during the whole of this
march did he go ahead to break a trail through the
snow, which is of course the most fatiguing work of
all.
A little before sundown on December 17th, the
tenth day without eating anything but small scraps
of moose-skin and the soup at the coffin-camp, we
staggered among huge blocks of ice, passed the junction of the Findlay, and soon afterwards arrived at the
cache. It was an anxious moment as I crawled up-
the frozen bank and waded through the snow to the
scaffold; no wolverine tracks were to be seen, and the
flour was lying untouched. Camp was made, a kettle
of thick paste boiled, and a cupful eaten every half-
hour to prevent any ill effects from straining the
weakened organs of the digestion.
But we were by no means out of our difficulties yet.
Thirty pounds of flour, without meat, is the ordinary
amount that would be given to five men for two days,
without taking into account the fact that we had been
starving for a long time and were now reduced to
skeletons.   Before us was the main range of the Rocky
Wm .CHAP. XVI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
257
Mountains; the snow would be drifted deep in the
narrow pass, and travel would be slow, if indeed we
got through at all. Another serious trouble was the
state of our moccasins; as they wore out we had eaten
them, and were now wearing rough apologies for
shoes which we had made out of the moose-skin that
was quickly getting very small under the constant
•demands made upon it for various purposes.
In the morning I measured the flour very carefully
with a cup into different loads, so that I might be able
to keep account of the quantity that was used, and,
taking a gun and what few cartridges were left, we
started for Tom Barrow's cabin, which we hoped to be
able to reach in three or four days if the ice should
prove good. In this we were terribly disappointed,
for at the end of the second day, after wading through
deep snow, and frequently putting ashore to light a
fire on account of the intense cold, we camped but a
short distance below the Findlay Rapid. John's feet
were frozen already, and all of us were touched in
the face ; there was always great difficulty in lighting
a match with numbed fingers, but birch-bark was
plentiful, and being readily inflammable was nearly
sure to blaze up at once. Our only remaining axe
was almost useless from having been carelessly left for
a night in the fire. Much of the snow had drifted off
the ice and was lying three and four feet deep on the
banks, increasing the labour of making camp and
picking up firewood, for we were too weak to do any
effectual chopping even if our axe had been in good
condition.    Without snow-shoes it was impossible to
s Ill
258
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVI.
I
If!
walk through the forest in the hope of finding grouse ;
and, after one or two efforts, the exertion of wading
waist-deep through snow that reached to the belt was
found too great, and the attempt was abandoned.
On the third day a blizzard swept through the pass,
completely obscuring the opposite bank of the river,
which was here quite narrow. We attempted to travel
against it, but found our faces were frozen before going
a quarter of a mile. Murdo and myself had always to
light the matches, as the other men suffered more
from the cold than we did; I knew that my hands
were already useless, and that if we continued to force
our way against the storm there would be little chance
of starting a fire further on. I gave orders to turn
back for the camp, and we spent the short day in
keeping up the fire that was still burning. Besides
the drift, a gust of wind would often send down the
masses of snow that had gathered on the branches,
putting out our little blaze and filling up the hole that
we had dug in the snow, while the boughs themselves
often fell dangerously close to the camp. The allowance of flour was cut down to two cupfuls among five
men, and this was eaten in the form of paste, which we
found more satisfying than bread. The Labrador tea
was buried deep under the snow, and from this time no
more was obtained.
The shortening of rations produced grumbling in
the camp, especially from John, who declared that it
was better to eat well while the little flour lasted, to
gain strength to take us to the trading-post. Murdo
was more sensible in this respect, but was beginning CHAP. XVI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
259
to lose the full use of his head, and, besides the strong
aversion he had always shown to John, now developed
a passionate hatred to Charlie and Pat, whom rightly
enough he held responsible for our position. This ill-
feeling among the various members of our party was
increased tenfold by an episode which took place on
the following day. The morning was very cold but
with less wind, and, although our faces froze again, we
pushed on for an hour or two and then made a fire on
the bank. Here we left the Indian and half-breed
drying their moccasins, and continued travelling down
stream to make a camp for the mid-day halt, knowing
that the others could catch us up easily with the
advantage of our road through the snow; this they
did just as our fire was blazing up. I asked Charlie
for his flour, as so far we had not used any from his
load, but when he produced it there was not more than
a cupful left in the bag. I had given him five pounds
of flour to carry, and at once knew that our guides,
who had caused all the trouble, had now been guilty
of stealing food, when our lives depended on the
scanty store that we had picked up at the cache. For
this offence, at such a time, there is but one punishment : a man on the point of starving to death cares,
little whether you cut off the dollar a day that he is
earning or not; a blow struck would have fired the
train of discontent that was ready to explode;—the
only course open to me, if the offenders were to be
punished at all, was to put an end to them both with
the shot-gun that I carried. For a long time I debated
this  question while a few spoonfuls of flour were
s 2 •M.
260
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVI.
i !
■ Fii
boiled for dinner, and finally decided to let matters
take their course; there were still seven or eight
pounds of flour left, and by further reduction of
rations we might keep ourselves alive for a few more
days; the weather might be warmer, the ice less rough,
and the snowfall lighter if we could reach the far end
of the pass, but at present things looked very black
indeed. Flesh and strength were failing rapidly ; this
loss of provisions would tell heavily, and travelling
through the gloomy pass under the high mountains
was more laborious than words can describe. It was
no good refusing to give the thieves their share of
rations, as this might induce them to strike a blow in
the night, and deal us the death that they themselves
deserved ; but the question might still have to be
decided, in case of a man dropping, whether his life
should be sacrificed and the offenders allowed to go
free. If affairs came to the point which everything
seemed to indicate, there could now be no fair
drawing of lots to see who should die that the
survivors might support themselves by the last resource of all.
The weather continued cold, and frozen feet caused
many delays; there was no chance here to treat a
frost-bite by the tender methods of thawing with snow
and rubbing with oil that are practised in civilization,
but feet were thrust into a blazing fire and allowed to
blister as they would. John and Charlie suffered
greatly from this cause, and their pain in walking was
much increased. These delays were serious, for
although the Peace River Pass lies as far to the south
mm-
mm- CHAP. XVI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
261
as the 56th parallel of latitude the days were at their
shortest.
For three more days we continued wading through
the snowdrifts, and crawling over rough ice, continually changing our leader, till on December 24th we
were stopped by another blizzard, and forced to lie in
camp all day. Rations were by this time cut down to
a spoonful of flour in the morning and a strip of
moose-skin at night for each man. Not more than a
pound of flour was left, and the storm, far too fierce
for such wretched skeletons to face, might continue for
several days. Our situation seemed utterly hopeless
as we crouched over the fire that was with difficulty
maintained, and apparently the end had come. There
was none of the kindly sympathy for companions in
misfortune which men who share a common danger
should have : a mutual distrust was prevalent; hatred
and the wolfish madness of hunger ruled the camp ;
and to this day I cannot understand how it was that
the fatal spark was never struck, and no tragedy of
murder and cannibalism enacted on the banks of that
ice-bound river without witnesses save the great silent
mountains and the God who made them.
Christmas Day brought rather better weather,
although snow was still falling quietly, and, finding
open water in the river with shore-ice on which the
snow was not so deep as usual, there was a great
improvement in our case. An accident, however,
occurred which nearly put an end to two of the party.
Charlie and Pat, who were leading at the time,
ventured too near the edge of the open water and 262
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVI.
i
broke through, not only to the knees or waist, as had
so often happened, but over their heads in deep water
with a strong current, and we had some trouble in
pulling them out. It was very important that we
should make a fire at once, as the temperature was
many degrees below zero, and the men drenched to
the skin began to freeze directly. The accident had
taken place under a long steep bluff, and from where
we stood no firewood was to be seen on our side of
the river within a couple of miles. By the greatest
good fortune, on turning a point we found a huge tree
that had fallen over the cliff and. lay on the beach
smashed up into firewood, as if it had been prepared
specially for our use. A blaze was soon started, and
the two half-drowned men left to dry themselves.
-The most unfortunate part of the affair was the wetting
of the matches which they carried. I had divided
these precious articles among the men in case of accidents of this kind, for without fire we should have had
no chance of saving our lives; as it turned out we
never ran short of matches and never once missed
making fire, although there was often trouble in pn>
curing wood; we were far too weak to handle a big
\ogt but usually found a dead cotton-wood tree, from
which the bark is easily pulled and makes the best of
fires.
In the afternoon we passed the Polpar Rapid, which
was completely frozen up, and emerging from the pass
caught the first sight of the sun, that had been hidden
from us for many days by the high mountains. The
ice below the rapid continued fairly good till nightfall, Mfea
n
CHAP. XVI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
26'
when we were forced to camp, although the moon was
full and we tried to travel by her light. But although it
was easy enough to see close ahead, it was impossible
to pick out the line of the best ice, and the labour of
travelling was increased by having to force our way
through drifts and piled-up ice that we might have
avoided in daylight.
Soon after leaving camp on the following morning
a grouse was killed, and I think even this little
nourishment helped us a .great deal to accomplish our
task of reaching the trading-post; this was the only
grouse we had seen since we left the cache, although
on the up-stream journey birds had been plentiful
enough. The ice was still rough at times, but in
some places the river was open and good shore-ice
made the walking easy; the weather was much
warmer, with bright sunshine, and there was no
danger of freezing our feet. At dark camp was made
within a day's travel of Barrow's house, if only we had
strength enough to reach it.
The long night passed away, and just before daylight we were staggering among the blocks of ice
in a scattered line. There was always difficulty in
starting from the camp, for there was a certain amount
of comfort in lying in our blankets, and nobody was
anxious to try whether he could still stand upright
or not. Our inclination during the worst time was to
lie down and make no further effort, but after walking
half an hour we usually found ourselves in better
spirits. Soon after coming out on the ice, I looked
back to see how John was travelling, and noticed that
1
jLA 264
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVI.
he was down. Charlie, who had been behind with
him, came up and said that John could travel no
longer and intended to stay where he was. I stopped
all the men, but Charlie tried to push by me and said
that he would not wait for anyone. For the first time
I had to use threats to ensure my orders being carried
out, and taking the gun from my shoulder let Charlie
plainly see that I meant to shoot him if he did not
obey. This quickly brought him to his senses, and
John came up very slowly. He wanted someone
to stay with him and trust to the others sending back
provisions, but I would not listen to this proposal.
I told him that it was only want of courage that
prevented him making any further effort; he was as
strong as the rest of us, and, if he would try, could
keep up quite easily; if he would come on till we
reached the place where we had had dinner on the
second day out with the canoe, we would make him
a camp and leave all our blankets, so that he might
have a chance of keeping himself alive till relief came.
On rounding a point we saw open water ahead, and
John, although far behind, went far better on the
smooth ice, and eventually came in not more than an
hour after us. At noon the Bull's Head was in sight,
and we could see the line of hills at the foot of which
Barrow's house lay. The pace was fast for men in
our condition, but we kept up a steady walk, leaving
our blankets when there seemed a certainty of reaching
the house that night. The sun was down when we
passed the old shanty in which we had camped for
a night on the way up, and by moonlight we travelled 1
CHAP. XVI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
265
on, following close to the edge of the open water and
taking little precaution to test the strength of the ice.
Soon the roar of the canon was heard, and at seven
.o'clock .we crawled up the steep bank and stood in
front of the cabin. I pushed open the door, and shall
never forget the expression of horror that came over
the faces of the occupants when they recognised us.
We had become used to the hungry eyes and wasted
forms, as our misery had come on us gradually, but
to a man who had seen us starting out thirty-two days
before in full health the change in our appearance
must have been terrible. There was no doubt that
we were very near the point of death. For my
own part I felt a dull aching in the left side of my
head; I was blind in the left eye and deaf in the
left ear; there was a sharp pain on each side just
below the ribs; but my legs, though not well under
control, were still strong. We had all completely lost
the use of our voices, and suffered greatly from the
cracking of the skin on hands and feet, which always
results from starving in cold weather; to say that we
were thin conveys no idea of our miserable condition.
It is needless to go into the details of our recovery ;
but under Barrow's careful nursing, and restrictions as
to the quantity of food allowed, we all came back
to health, although for some days our lives were
hanging in the balance.
I can never sufficiently thank Tom Barrow for his
kind behaviour on this occasion. Of course, everybody is sorry for starving people; but it is rather
a strain on this sympathy to have to look after five
JL 266
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVI.
.    , |
men so near to death in a small cabin among the
Rocky Mountains, with such slender supplies as had
been left for a winter s rations for two people. Without a murmur he shared his blankets and his provisions, although he knew that there was a good
chance of starving himself in the spring.
Barrow told us directly where we had made our
mistake. The river we had turned up was Nation
River, and the log-cabin had been occupied some
years before by a party of miners, but very little gold
had been taken out. Some distance up Nation River
was the old trail to the Omineca mining-camp; but
of course we should not have known what trail it was
if we had found it. The mouth of the Nation River
and the yellow cut bank Barrow remembered perfectly,
and said there had been much talk about these landmarks on the way down ; it seems inexplicable that'
three men, who had been over the route before,
should have made the mistake that so nearly cost
us our lives. If we had followed up the Parsnip
beyond the mouth of Nation River we should have
reached Macleod's Lake on December 12th at latest
with only a few days' starvation, and avoided all the
misery that continued till the 27th of that month.
In a week communication was opened with Hudson's
Hope, and Walter Macdonald did everything he could
to help us; but the same thing had happened to him.
A band of Beaver Indians had been caught by starvation at the mouth of the Pine River Pass, and had
suffered the same experiences as ourselves. Many
had been left by the way, but I think there were no
~~ 1 mi r  1'     1  f        1   1111"     r ...--,.,-..     .-1 ■  1-        1 Mha
CHAP. XVI*
OF NORTHERN CANADA
267
deaths, as provisions were sent out so soon as the
news reached Baptiste at Moberley's Lake.
At the end of a fortnight everybody was well
enough to travel; and to ease the strain on provisions
I sent Murdo, John, and Charlie to Lesser Slave Lake,
where they could get fish to support them, and spare
the resources of the upper river posts. But even now
these men could not travel together, although they
had full rations and nothing to quarrel about. Murdo
reached the Lesser Slave Lake alone, John arriving
several days later, and I found Charlie at Dunvegan,
where he had already distinguished himself by robbing
from the priest's trading-store. A thorough blackguard was Charlie, and it would have been little loss
to the world in general if he had left his bones under
the snow in the Peace River Pass; he had begun
his voyage badly by stealing fifty dollars from his
mother at Quesnelle, and there were several other
offences for which the police had hunted him away
from the borders of civilization. Pat was to stay for
the winter with Barrow, and as soon as Baptiste had
made us snow-shoes we pottered about in the woods
together, hunting grouse and rabbits, and had soon
entirely recovered our strength.
I have never heard any satisfactory explanation
of the gradual increase and sudden dying out of the
rabbits and lynx, which takes place every seven years
throughout the North. Starting from the few survivors of the last epidemic, the numbers increase
slowly every season, till in the sixth year the whole
country is so overrun with them that a man can travel THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVI.
anywhere with no further provision than shot-gun and
snares. Then the disease breaks out, dead bodies are
found all through the woods, and scarcely a living
rabbit or lynx is to be seen. The autumn of 1885
I spent on the head-waters of the Athabasca, at the
east end of the Tete Jaune Pass; the rabbits
were then at their height and as plentiful as I ever
saw them in England. 1892 will be the next big
rabbit-year; but after that famine is sure to be rife on
Peace River, as it is harder every year to kill moose,
and for the last two or three years the rabbit-snares
have kept many an Indian from starvation. This
rabbit-question is an important one to consider before
starting on an exploration trip in the Peace River
Country, as in the good seasons there is no danger
of running short of provisions.
One day, as we were setting snares together, Pat
told me the story of the stolen flour. They had
stayed behind to dry their moccasins, and Charlie had
explained to Pat that I was keeping the flour for
the use of the white men, and that their only chance
of getting any was to help themselves ; Pat had
objected at first, but afterwards gave way when he saw
Charlie cooking the flour, and they had eaten about
four pounds between them. Judging from Charlie's
character I am inclined to believe the story, as Pat in
all other respects had behaved well under the pressure
of hardship, and had always done more than his share
of work in making camp and breaking the trail.
While staying at Hudson's Hope, Macdonald and I
walked over to Moberley's Lake, twelve miles to the
: -""X^-.' CHAP. XVI.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
269
south, to pay old Baptiste a visit. The house stands
within view of the big peaks of the Rockies close
to the edge of the lake, but the appearance of the
country is rather spoilt by the abundant traces of
forest fires that have taken place of late years. The
lake is a beautiful sheet of water, ten miles in length,
drained by the Pine River, which falls into the Peace
a short distance above Fort St. John. Baptiste has
a fruitful potato-patch, and his women were catching
plenty of rabbits ; there was moose-pemmican, too,
and dried meat, for the Fall hunt had been successful.
The Iroquois gave me a pair of snow-shoes ornamented with tassels of coloured wool, as well as a pair
of beaded moccasins which he made me promise not
to eat, and came with us to the fort to see us off.
ij CHAPTER XVII.
<t-v
It was towards the end of January, 1891, that I left
Hudson's Hope for Edmonton, a distance of six hundred miles, giving up all further attempt to reach
Macleod's Lake. A son of Mr. Brick, of Smoky
River, turned up just before I started, and promised to
go with Pat to my cache at the junction of the Findlay
and Parsnip when the days grew long in spring. The
rough ice would then be covered with deep snow, and
with snow-shoes and hand-sleighs it would be easy to
bring away the guns, journals, and many other articles
that I had been obliged to abandon.
Two days and a half took me to St. John's, and
after a week's stay th£re a dog-train, carrying the
winter packet, arrived, and I took this chance of getting
to Dunvegan. Alick Kennedy, one of the very best
half-breed voyageurs in Canada, was in charge of the
packet. The distances this man has been known to run
in a day would hardly be credited in a land where people
travel by railways and steamboats: moreover, he is a
pleasant companion to travel with ; his conversation is
interesting, and entirely free from the boasting which
most of the half-breeds indulge in.    Alick was captain Mkai
CHAP. XVII.
NORTHERN CANADA
271
of a boat-brigade on the Nile; and if all the Canadian
contingent had been of his stamp instead of the Winnipeg loafers, who were too worthless to get employment
in their own country, a different story might have been
told of the behaviour of the voyageurs on the march to
Khartoum.
Five days took us to Dunvegan, where I again met
Mr. Macdonald, and travelled with him to the Lesser
Slave Lake. From Dunvegan we made the portage
straight to Smoky River, crossing a pretty prairie
country and camping a night at Old Wives' Lake,
where Mr. Brick winters some of his cattle. With a
splendid track along the waggon-road, we made the
ninety miles to the Lesser Slave Lake in two days,
and, judging from the number of people and houses,
we seemed to have reached civilization already.
Besides the Hudson's Bay establishment, the missions
and the buildings of the free-traders, many half-breeds
have houses scattered along the lake, and devote part
of their attention to raising horses and cattle, though
of course whitefish are the main support of life. A
favourite haunt for wildfowl is this lake in spring and
autumn, but big game and fur have been nearly killed
out by the large population, and most of the Indian trade
is done at the out-posts nearer to the hunting-grounds.
I spent several days at the fort, being well treated
as usual, and February was nearly finished when I
started with Mr. Frank Hardistay on my last journey
with dogs. The Lesser Slave Lake is about seventy
miles in length, and covering this distance easily in
two days we travelled down the Little Slave River
I* if
,' I. y
!| |
1
1
1 '
J
I
I
!
■
■ t
1 w
liW
272
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVII.
which leaves the east end of the lake. A good deal of
labour has been expended in blasting rocks out of the
channel of this river, to enable the steamer from the
Athabasca landing to reach the lake, and so avoid
the expense of building boats and engaging crews to
transport the Peace River cargo, but so far these
efforts have proved unsuccessful.
I think we followed the course of this stream about
twenty miles, then dived into the thick pine-forest on
the east bank, and making a twelve-mile portage came
out on the Athabasca River, seventy miles above the
landing at the end of the waggon-road from Edmonton.
© ©o
The Athabasca has here the same monotonous look that
one becomes so tired of in its lower reaches. When
a point was rounded another point exactly similar
showed three or four miles ahead, and this continued
till we reached the landing, in clear cold weather, on
March 3rd ; three days later our dogs, bearing the
smartest of dog-cloths and with sleigh-bells ringing
merrily, rattled into Edmonton, and the wild free life
-of the last twenty months was over.
The excitement that the arrival of a stranger never
©
fails to create at a lonely Northern fort is rather apt to
give that stranger an exaggerated idea of his own
importance; but when I reached Edmonton I at once
realised that there are many people in the world who
have ideas beyond musk-ox and caribou, dog-sleighs
and snow-shoes. An election was at its height to
decide who should have the honour of representing
the territory of Alberta at Ottawa. Edmonton had
been drinking, although it is supposed to keep strictly chap. xvn. OF NORTHERN CANADA 273
to the rules of the Prohibition Act, and before I had
been an-hour in the town I found myself in the midst
of a free fight. I was unfortunate in not knowing the
names of the candidates, or what policy they represented, and as I could give no clear account as to
what I had done with my vote, I was roughly used by
both sides and was glad to escape to the less boisterous
hospitality of the Hudson's Bay Fort.
There were still two hundred miles of snow-covered
prairie to be crossed to reach Calgary, but with horses
to drag our sleigh, and a house to sleep in every
night, there could be little hardship in the journey.
At the crossing of the Red Deer we saw the iron
rails that had already pushed far out towards Edmonton, but work had ceased for the winter and
no trains were running. As we travelled south the
snow became less every day, till we were forced to
change our runners for wheels when still sixty miles
from Calgary. Late in the evening of March 15 th
the whistle of a locomotive told me, more plainly than
anything I had yet heard, that it was time to pull
myself together and take up the commonplace life of
civilization ; a few more miles of level country, down
a steep pitch or two, across the frozen stream of the
Elbow, and close ahead the lights of Calgary were
blinking over the prairie.
I am writing these concluding lines in a fashionable
garret off St. James's Street. Close at hand are all
the luxuries that only ultra-civilization can give, and
these luxuries  are   to -be   obtained   by the simple
T UU' !
274
THE BARREN GROUND
CHAP. XVII.
II    i
method of handing over an adequate number of coins
of the realm; there is no necessity to shoulder your
gun  and   tramp   many weary  miles  on  snow-shoes
before you get even a sight of your dinner in its raw
state.    But surely we carry this civilization too far,
and are in danger of warping our natural instincts
by too   close   observance   of   the   rules   that   some
mysterious force obliges us to follow when we herd
together in  big cities.     Very  emblematical  of this
warping process are the shiny black boots into which
we squeeze our feet when we throw away the moccasin
of freedom; as they gall and pinch the unaccustomed
foot, so does the dread of our friends' opinion gall and
pinch our minds till they become narrow, out of shape, -
and unable to discriminate between reality and semblance.    A dweller in cities is too wrapped up in the
works of man to have much respect left for the works
of  God,  and  to  him  the  loneliness   of forest  and
mountain, lake  and river, must ever appear  but a
weary desolation.    But there are many sportsmen who
love to be alone with Nature and the animals far from
their fellow-men, and as this book is intended solely for
the sportsman, a few words of advice to anyone who is
anxious to hunt the musk-ox may not be out of place.
I am not quite sure that Fort Resolution is the best
point to start from.    Fort Rae, on the north arm of
the Great Slave Lake, lies nearer the Barren Ground,
and the Dog-Ribs are said to be more amenable to
reason than the Yellow Knives, while the distance
to travel through a woodless country is shorter.    Fort
Good  Hope,   on   the   Lower   Mackenzie,  would  be
it
ML M
>aX\ CHAP. XVII.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
275
andther good spot to make headquarters ; but there
is less certainty of finding the caribou in that neighbourhood, and without the caribou there is little chance
of reaching the musk-ox. It, is not the slightest use
starting from a post with the theory that musk-ox can
be killed in so many days, and that, by taking a load
of provisions sufficient to last for the same length of
time, a successful hunt will be made. The only plan
is to work your way up slowly, to stay among the
caribou in the autumn, and kill and cache meat whenever an opportunity offers, ready for a rush on the
first snow. Remember, too, when provisions get
scarce, as they certainly will at some time or other,
the country ahead is as big as the country behind,
and the best chance lies in pushing on. To turn back
may prove fatal, when another day's travel may put
you in a land of plenty. It is possible to reach the
hunting-ground and return to  Fort Resolution with
©   ©
a canoe in the summer, but the robes are then worthless, and the whole sport savours too much of covert-
shooting in July. Make quite sure before you start
that you are determined to push on through everything, as even the Great Slave Lake is far to go on an
unsuccessful errand. Here, in London, in front of a
good fire at the club and under the influence of a good
© ©
dinner, it is easy enough to kill musk-ox and make
long night-marches on snow-shoes by the flashes of
the Northern Lights; but the test of practice takes off
some of the enjoyment.
A year has slipped away since our winter journey
through the  Peace River Pass.    Young Brick kept
T 2 276
NORTHERN CANADA
CHAP. XVII.
his promise of getting the cache right well, and a
couple of months ago my journals arrived in England,
so that I have been able to put together this rough
record of my Northern travels. On looking back one
remembers only the good times, when meat was
plentiful and a huge fire lit up the snow on the spruce
trees; misery and starvation are forgotten as soon as
they are over, and even now, in the midst of the
luxury of civilization, at times I have a longing to
pitch my lodge once more at the edge of the Barren
Ground, to see the musk-ox standing on the snowdrift
and the fat caribou falling to the crack of the rifle, to
hear the ptarmigan crowing among the little pines
as the sun goes down over a frozen lake and the glory
of an Arctic night commences.
To the man who is not a lover of Nature in all her
moods the Barren Ground must always be a howling,
desolate wilderness ; but for my part, I can understand
the feeling that prompted Saltatha's answer to the
worthy priest, who was explaining to him the beauties
of Heaven. ' My father, you have spoken well; you
have told me that Heaven is very beautiful; tell me
now one thing more. Is it more beautiful than the
country of the musk-ox in summer, when sometimes
the mist blows over the lakes, and sometimes the
water is blue, and the loons cry very often ? That is
beautiful; and if Heaven is still more beautiful, my
heart will be glad, and I shall be content to rest there
till I am very old.' -£'-*=<-
®33R
WJUIM II i-
Vs GeoftJEstajbt-
DOMINION!
IjjSj
11
|||
liv
W
Ilk i lit as
APPENDIX   I
I AM much indebted to Professor Dawson, of the Dominion
Geological Survey Department, for his kind permission to
publish the following paper on the Unexplored Regions of
Canada. It shows more plainly than any words of mine
could tell how much yet remains to be done before this great
portion of the British Empire is known as it ought to be.
ON SOME OF THE LARGER UNEXPLORED
REGIONS OF CANADA.
(By G. M. Dawson, D.S., Assoc. R.S.M., F.G.S., F.R.S.C.)
If on reading the title of the paper which I had promised
to contribute to the Ottawa Field Naturalists' Club, any one
should have supposed it to be my intention to endeavour to
describe or forecast the character of the unexplored areas
mentioned, I must, in the first place, disclaim any such intention. The very existence of large regions of which little or
nothing is known, is of course stimulating to a fertile imagination, ready to picture to itself undiscovered ' golden cities a
thousand leagues deep in Cathay,' but such unscientific use of
the imagination is far removed from the position of sober
seriousness, in which I ask your attention to the facts which
I have to present.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, as we may happen to regard
it, the tendency of our time is all in the direction of laying
bare to inspection and open to exploitation all parts, however
remote, of this comparatively small world in which we live,
and though the explorer himself may be impelled by a certain
romanticism in overcoming difficulties or even dangers met
t? 1
'
ill
u
!M
278
THE BARREN GROUND
APPEND. I.
with in the execution of his task, his steps are surely and
closely followed by the trader, the lumberer, or the agriculturist, and not long after these comes the builder of railways with his iron road. It is, therefore, rather from the
point of view of practical utility than from any other, that an
appeal must be made to the public or to the Government for
the further extension of explorations, and my main purpose
in addressing you to-night is to make such an appeal, and to
show cause, if possible, for the exploration of such considerable
portions of Canada as still remain almost or altogether unmapped.
What I have to say, in fact, on this subject resolves itself
chiefly into remarks on the map exhibited here, upon which
the unexplored areas to which I am about to refer are clearly
depicted in such a manner, I believe, as almost to speak for
themselves.
It is very commonly supposed, even in Canada, but to a
greater extent elsewhere, that all parts of the Dominion are
now so well known that exploration, in the true sense of the
term, may be considered as a thing of the past. This depends
largely upon the fact that the maps of the country generally
examined are upon a very small scale, and that upon such
maps no vast areas yet remain upon which rivers, lakes, mountains, or other features are not depicted. If, however, we
take the trouble to enquire more closely into this, and
consult perhaps one of the geographers whose maps we have
examined, asking such awkward questions as may occur to us
on the sources of information for this region or that, we may
probably by him be referred to another and older map, and so
on till we find in the end that the whole topographical fabric
of large parts of all these maps rests upon information of the
l vaguest kind.
Of most of the large areas marked upon the map here
shown, this is absolutely true, and the interests of knowledge
with respect to these would be better subserved if such areas
were left entirely blank, or, at least, if all the geographical
features drawn upon them appeared in broken lines, in such a APPEND. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
279
way as to show that none of them are certain. In other
regions, the main geographical outlines, such as the courses
of the larger rivers, are indicated approximately, with such
accuracy as may be possible from accounts or itineraries
derived from travellers or from officers of the Hudson's Bay
Company; or from the descriptions or rough sketches of
Indians or other persons by whom the region has been
traversed, but who have been unprovided with instruments
of any kind and whose knowledge of the country has been
incidentally obtained.
There is, in the case of such partially explored regions,
more excuse for the delineation of the main features on our
maps, as these may be useful in imparting general information
of a more or less inexact kind. We can scarcely, however,
admit that such regions have been explored in any true sense
of that term, while they are certainly unsurveyed, and very
little confidence can be placed in maps of this kind as guides
in travel. When, ten years ago, I struck across from Fort
Macleod, on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, with the
purpose of reaching Fort Dunvegan on the Peace, through a
country densely forested and without trails or tracks of any
kind, I had so much confidence in the existing maps of that
region as to assume that Dunvegan was at least approximately correct in position on them. As often as possible I
took observations for latitude, and each night worked out our
position by latitude and departure, till at a certain point
I was about to turn off to the north of the line previously
followed with the confident anticipation of finding Dunvegan.
Just here, very fortunately, we fell in with some Indians, and
though our means of communicating with them were very-
imp erfect,. we gathered enough to lead us to accept the
guidance of one of them, who promised to lead us to the fort,
but took an entirely different direction from that I had proposed taking. He was right, but Dunvegan proved to be, as
shown on the maps, nearly forty miles west of its real position. Fortunately no very great importance attached to our
reaching Dunvegan on a given day, but none the less, this
';-!
  - ■ ■■ - 280
THE BARREN GROUND
APPEND. I.
if
!
practical experience proved to me very conclusively the
desirability of showing features in broken lines, or otherwise
indicating their uncertainty when they have not been properly
fixed.
It must be confessed, however, that most of the travellers
ordinarily to be found in these unexplored regions, being
Indians or hunters, traders and others travelling under the
guidance of Indians, do not depend on the latitudes and longitudes of places, or on the respective bearings of one place
from another. The Indians follow routes with which they
have been familiar since childhood, or, when beyond the
boundaries of their own particular region of country, go by
land-marks, such as mountains, lakes, and rivers, which have •
been described to them by their neighbours. Their memory.
in this respect is remarkable; but it must be remembered that
among their principal subjects of conversation when sitting
about the camp-fire are the distances in day's journeys from
place to place, the routes which they have followed or have
known others to follow, the difficulties to be encountered on
these, the points at which food of different kinds may be
obtained, and the features which strike them as being remarkable in the country traversed. Returning, however, from this
digression, which began with the statement that accurate
maps of such regions as are at present merely traversed by
traders and Indians, are not imperative from the point of
view of such travellers, it may with confidence be affirmed
that such maps and explorations upon which they are based
are absolutely essential to civilized society, to show in the
first place what the natural resources of these regions are and
how they may be utilized, in the second by what highways
such regions may be most easily reached.
A glance at the map will show, that while many of the
larger unexplored areas may be affirmed to lie to the north of
the limit of profitable agriculture, considerable regions situated
to the south of this limit still await examination. Large districts, again, in which no farmer will ever voluntarily settle,
may afford timber which the v/orld will be glad to get when
Ifv I APPEND. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
the white pine of our nearer forests shall become more nearly
exhausted, while, with respect to mineral resources, it is
probable that in the grand aggregate the value of those which
exist in the unexplored regions will be found, area for area,
to be equal to those of the known regions, comparing each
particular geological formation with its nearest representative.
On the grounds alone, therefore, of geographical knowledge,
and' of the discovery and definition of the reserves of the
country in timber and minerals, the exploration of all these
unknown or little-known regions may be amply justified.
Taking a line drawn north and south in the longitude of
the Red River Valley, which is, as nearly as may be, the centre
of Canada from east to west, it may confidently be stated that
by far the larger part of the country in which agricultural
settlement is possible lies to the west, while the great bulk of
the actual population lies to the east of this line. Looking
to this grand fundamental fact, I believe it may safely be
affirmed that some members of this audience will live to see
the day when these conditions with respect to population will
be boldly reversed, and in which the greater number of our
representatives in Parliament gathering here will come from
this great western region.
This disposition of the cultivable land depends partly upon
the physical characteristics of the country, and in part on its
climatic conditions. Beyond Winnipeg, and stretching therefrom to the west and north-west, is the great area of prairie,
plain, and plateau, which, wider near the forty-ninth parallel
than elsewhere on the continent, runs on in one form or other,
though with diminishing width, to the Arctic Ocean. This
is, generally speaking, an alluvial region, and one of fertile
soils. Very fortunately, and as though by a beneficent provision of nature, the climatic features favour the utilization of
this belt. The summer isothermals, which carry with them
the possibility of ripening crops, trend far to the north.
Let us trace, for example, and as a rough and ready index
of the northern limit of practicable agriculture of any kind,
that isothermal line which represents a mean temperature of .
282
THE BARREN GROUND
APPEND. I.
Ill
6o° Fahrenheit in the month of July. Passing through the
southern part of Newfoundland and touching the island of
Anticosti, this line runs to the north end of Mistassini Lake,
and thence crosses Hudson's Bay, striking the west shore a
short distance north of York Factory. Thence it runs westward, skirting the north end of Reindeer Lake, and then
bending to the north-west, crosses Great Slave Lake, and
touches the southern extremity of Great Bear Lake. From
this point it resumes a westward course and crosses the
Yukon River a considerable distance to the north of the
confluence of the Pelly and the Lewes, turning south again
almost on the east line of Alaska. We need not, however,
further follow its course, as owing to peculiar climatic
conditions on the West Coast, it ceases there to be any
criterion as to the conditions of agriculture.
The character of much of the western interior country is
such that its exploration and survey is comparatively easy,
and it will be observed that here the larger unknown regions
are to be found only far to the northward, leaving in the
more rugged and inhospitable eastern region vast islands of
unexplored country in much more southern latitudes.
It may be said, in fact, that comparatively little of the
region capable, so far as climate goes, of producing wheat is
now altogether unknown; but it may be added, that
increasing as the world now is in population, its people
cannot much longer expect to find wheat-growing lands
unoccupied in large blocks. The time is within measurable
distance when lands with a fertile soil though more or less
rigorous climate, in which only barley, oats, hemp, flax, and
other hardy crops can be matured, will be in demand, and we
are far from having acquired even a good general knowledge
of these lands in Canada.
For many of the unexplored regions marked upon this
map, however, we can in reason appeal only to their possible
or presumable mineral wealth as an incentive to their exploration, and if some of them should prove wholly or in great
part barren when such exploration shall have been carried :im
APPEND. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
283
out, it will not be without utility to acquire even this negative
information, and write upon them in characters as large as
need be, 'No thoroughfare.'
I will now ask your further attention for a few moments
while I run over and make some remarks in detail on the
various unexplored areas as indicated on the map. It must
first, however, be explained in what manner the unexplored
areas referred to have been outlined. All lines, such as those
of rivers, chains of lakes, or other travelled routes, along which
reasonably satisfactory explorations have been made and of
which fairly accurate route-maps are in existence, are given an
approximate average width of about fifty miles, or twenty-five
miles on each side of the explorer's or surveyor's track. The
known lines are thus arbitrarily assumed to be wide belts of
explored country, and that which is referred to as unexplored
comprises merely the intervening tracts. By this mode of
definition the unexplored regions are reduced to minimum
dimensions. Neither are any comparatively small tracts of
country lying between explored routes included in my
enumeration, in which the least area mentioned is one of
7500 square miles; nor are the Arctic islands, lying to the
north of the continent, referred to. Because of the empirical
mode in which the unexplored areas have thus been delineated,
it has not been attempted to estimate with more than
approximate accuracy the number of square miles contained
in each, my purpose being merely to render apparent the
great dimensions of these areas.
In enumerating these areas, I shall not refer to the various
explorations and lines of survey by which they are defined
and separated one from another, as this would involve
mention of nearly all the explorers who have traversed the
northern part of the continent. I shall, however, note such
excursions as have been made into or across the regions
which are characterized as unexplored.
Beginning, then, in the extreme north-west of the
Dominion, we find these areas to be as follows :—
1. Area  between the eastern boundary of Alaska,  the 284
THE BARREN GROUND
APPEND. I.
Porcupine River and the Arctic Coast, 9500 square miles, or
somewhat smaller than Belgium. This area lies entirely
within the Arctic Circle.
2. Area west of the Lewes and Yukon Rivers and extending
to the boundary of Alaska, 32,000 square miles, or somewhat
larger than Ireland. This country includes the head-waters
of the White and probably of the Tanana Rivers, and, being
comparatively low and sheltered from the sea by one of the
highest mountain-ranges on the continent, the St. Elias Alps,
doubtless possesses some remarkable peculiarities of climate.
3. Area between the Lewes, Pelly, and Stikine Rivers and
to the east of the Coast Ranges, 27,000 square miles, or
nearly as large as Scotland. This has been penetrated only
by a few 'prospectors,' from whom, and from Indians, the
courses of rivers shown on my maps published in connection
with the Yukon Expedition Report are derived. It lies on
the direct line of the metalliferous belt of the Cordillera, and
its low lands are capable of producing hardy crops.
4. Area between the Pelly and Mackenzie Rivers, 100,000
square miles, or about twice the size of England. This
belongs partly to the Yukon Basin and partly to that of the
Mackenzie, and includes nearly 600 miles in length of the
main Rocky Mountain Range. Many years ago, Mr. A. K.
Isbister penetrated the northern part of this area for some
distance on the line of the Peel River1, but owing to the
manner in which he had to travel, but little accuracy can be
attributed to his sketch of that river. Abbe Petitot also
made a short journey into its northern part from the
Mackenzie River side, but, with these exceptions, no published
information exists respecting it.
5- Area between Great Bear Lake and the Arctic Coast,
50,000 square miles, or about equal to England in size.
Nearly all to the north of the Arctic Circle.
6. Area between Great Bear Lake, the Mackenzie, and the
*• Some account of JPeel River, North America, by A. K. Isbister, Joum. Roy.
Geog. Soc, vol. xv, 1845, p. 332.
Rifllm APPEND. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
285
western part of Great Slave Lake, 35,000 square miles, or
larger than Portugal. With respect to this region and that
last mentioned, it must be explained that I have felt some
doubt whether they should be characterized as unexplored
on the basis previously explained as that which is generally
applied. Between 1857 and 1865, Mr. R. Macfarlane, of the
Hudson's Bay Company, carried out an intelligent and valuable
examination of part of the region north of Great Bear Lake,
some results of which have lately been published1, and in
both of these areas, between 1864 and 1871, the indefatigable
missionary, Abbe Petitot, made numerous journeys, of which
he subsequently published an account2. As Petitot's instruments consisted merely of a compass, and a watch which he
rated by the meridian passage of the sun, it must be
assumed that his mapping of the country does not possess
any great accuracy. His work, however, considering the
difficulties under which it was performed, is deserving of all
praise, and his several descriptions of the character of the
country traversed are most valuable. It does not appear
from his account of these regions that they are likely to prove
of great utility to civilized man, except as fur-preserves, or
possibly from the minerals which they may contain. He
writes: ' Ce pays est compose de contrees silencieuses comme
le tombeau, des plaines vastes comme des departements, des
steppes glaces plus affreux que ceux de la Siberie, de forets
ch&ives, rabougries comme on n'en voit que dans le voisinage
des glaciers du Nord.'
7. Area between Stikine and Liard Rivers to the north and
Skeena and Peace Rivers to the south, 81,000 square miles, or
more than twice as large as Newfoundland- This includes a
portion of the western Cordillera, and, between the Liard and
Peace Rivers, a large tract of the interior plateau region of the
continent, parts of which, there is reason to believe, consist of
good agricultural land. Its western extremity was crossed in
1866 and   1867 by the exploratory survey of the Western
1 Canadian Record of Science, Jan., 1890.
.   a Bulletin de la Societi de Giographie, Tom. x, 1875.
■ Hit lp
286
THE BARREN GROUND
APPEND. I.
I I
%
II:
Union or Collins' Telegraph Company, then engaged in an
attempt to connect the North American and European
telegraph systems through Asia. No details of this part of
their exploration have, however, been published, and if we
may judge from other parts of their line, since checked, the
survey made was of too rough a character to possess much
geographical value.
8. Area between Peace, Athabasca, and Loon Rivers, J5co
square miles, or about half as large as Switzerland.
9. Area south-east of Athabasca Lake, 35,000 square
miles.    This may be compared in extent to Portugal.
10. Area east of the Coppermine River and west of
Bathurst Inlet, 7S°° square miles. This again may be compared to half the area of Switzerland.
11. Area between the Arctic Coast and Back's River,
31,000 square miles, or about equal to Ireland.
12. Area surrounded by Back's River, Great Slave Lake,
Athabasca Lake, Hatchet and Reindeer Lakes, Churchill
River, and the west coast of Hudson's Bay, 178,000 square
miles. Much larger than Great Britain and Ireland, and
somewhat larger than Sweden. The lakes and rivers shown
in this great region depend entirely on the result of the
three journeys made by Hearne in 1769-17721. Hearne
really wandered through parts of this region in company
with Indians whom he was unable to control, his ultimate
object (which he at length accomplished) being to reach the
Coppermine River, in order to ascertain for the Hudson's Bay
Company whether it was possible to utilize the native copper
found there. Not even roughly approximate accuracy can
be assigned to his geographical work. Referring to the
position of the mouth of the Coppermirfe, he writes:—' The
latitude may be depended upon to within 20 miles at the
utmost.' In reality it afterwards proved to be 200 miles too
far north.    This country includes the great ' barren grounds'
1 A fourney from Prince of Wales Fort, in Hudson's Bay, to the Northern
Ocean, 1796. APPEND. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
287
of the continent, and is the principal winter resort of the
musk-ox as well as of great herds of caribou. Hearne's
general' characterization of it is not very encouraging, but
certainly we shall know more about it. He writes:—' The
land throughout the whole tract of country is scarcely anything but one solid mass of rocks and stones, and in most
parts very hilly, particularly to the westward, among the
woods.' The north-eastern extremity of this region was also
crossed by Lieut. Schwatka in the course of his remarkable
journey to King-William Land, but his geographical results
possess little value 1.
13. Area between Severn and Attawapishkat Rivers and
the coast of Hudson's Bay, 22,000 square miles, or larger than
Nova Scotia. Several lakes and rivers are shown upon the
maps in this region in practically identical form since Arrow*
smith's map of 1850, but I have been unable to ascertain the
origin of the information.
14. Area between Trout Lake, Lac Seul, and the Albany
River, 15,000 square miles, or about half the size of Scotland.
15. Area to the south and east of James Bay, 35,000
square miles, which also may be compared to the area of
Portugal. This region is the nearest of those which still
remain unexplored to large centres of population. It is
probable that much of it consists of low land which may
afford merchantable timber.
16. Area comprising almost the entire interior of the
Labrador peninsula or North-east Territory, 289,000 square
miles. This is more than equal to twice the area of Great
Britain and Ireland, with an added area equal to that of
Newfoundland. Several lines of exploration and survey have
been carried for a certain distance into the interior of this
great peninsula, among which may be mentioned those of
Professor Hind, Mr. A. P. Low, and Mr. R. F. Holme2.  The
j 1
1 Schwatka's Search, by H. W. Gilder.
2 Explorations in Labrador, 1863; Annual Report Geol. Surv. Can., 1887-
Part. J; Proc. Royal Geog. Soc, 1888 ; Ott. Nat., Vol. iv.
RffiS THE BARREN GROUND
APPEND. I.
m
m
limits of the unexplored area have been drawn so as to
exclude all these. The area regarded as still unexplored
has, however, it is true, been traversed in several directions
at different times by officers of the Hudson's Bay Company,
particularly on routes leading from the vicinity of Mingan on
the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the head of Hamilton Inlet, and
thence to Ungava Bay. These routes have also, according
to Mr. Holme, been travelled by a missionary, Pere Lacasse;
but the only published information which I have been able
to find is contained in a book written by J. McLeanr, and in
a brief account of a journey by Rev. E. J. Peck2. Mr.
McLean made several journeys and established trading-posts
between Ungava and Hamilton Inlet in the years 1838-1841,
while Mr. Peck crossed from Little Whale River, on Hudson
Bay, to Ungava in 1884. Something may be gathered as to
the general nature of the country along certain lines from
the accounts given by these gentlemen, but there is little of
a really satisfactory character, while neither has made any
attempt to fix positions or delineate the features of the
region on the map. In all probability this entire region
consists of a rocky plateau or hilly tract of rounded archaean
rocks, highest on the north-east side and to the south, and
sloping gradually down to low land towards Ungava Bay.
It is known to be more or less wooded, and in some places
with' timber of fair growth; but if it should be possessed of
any real value, this may probably lie in its metalliferous
deposits. In this tract of country particularly there is reason
to hope that ores like those of Tilt Cove, in Newfoundland,
or those of Sudbury, in Ontario, may occur.
To sum up briefly, in conclusion, what has been said as
to the larger unexplored areas of Canada, it may be stated
that, while the entire area of the Dominion is computed at
3,470,257 square miles, about 954,000 square miles  of the
1 Notes of a Twenty-five year? Service in the Hudson's Bay Territory. London,
1849.
* Church Missionary Intelligencer, June 1886; Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc, 1887,
p. 192. APPEND. I.
OF NORTHERN CANADA
continent alone, exclusive of the inhospitable detached Arctic
portions, is for all practical purposes entirely unknown. In
this estimate the area of the unexplored country is reduced to
a minimum by the mode of definition employed. Probably
we should be much nearer the mark in assuming it as about
one million square miles, or between one-third and one-fourth
of the whole. Till this great aggregate of unknown territory
shall have been subjected to examination, or at least till it
has been broken up and traversed in many directions by
exploratory and survey lines, we must all feel that it stands
as a certain reproach to our want of enterprise and of a
justifiable curiosity. In order, however, to properly ascertain
and make known the natural resources of the great tracts
lying beyond the borders of civilization, such explorations
and surveys as are undertaken must be of a truly scientific
character. The explorer or surveyor must possess some
knowledge of geology and botany, as well as such scientific
training as may enable him to make intelligent and accurate
observations of any natural features or phenomena with which
he may come in contact. He must not consider that his
duty consists merely in the perfunctory measuring of lines
and the delineation of rivers, lakes, and mountains. An
explorer or surveyor properly equipped for his work need
never return empty-handed. Should he be obliged to report
that some particular district possesses no economic value
whatever, besides that of serving as a receiver of rain and
a reservoir to feed certain river-systems, his notes should
contain scientific observations on geology, botany, climatology,
and similar subjects, which may alone be sufficient to justify
the expenditure incurred.
U ■ill 1
y
APPENDIX   II
I HAVE to thank the authorities at Kew for the following
list of a small collection of flowering plants that I found
growing in the Barren Ground, chiefly in the neighbourhood
of the head-waters of the Great Fish River.
Draba nivalis, Liljebl.?
Oxytropis campestris, L. (yellow and purple varieties).
Potentilla nivea, L.
Dryas integrifolia, L.
Saxifraga tricuspidata, Retz.
Epilobium latifolium, L.
Arnica angustifolia, Vahl.
Taraxacumpalustre, DC.
Vaccinium uliginosum, L.
Cassiope tetragona, L.
Andromedapolifolia, L.
Phyllodoce taxifolia, Salisb. (Menziesia cxrulea, Wahl.).
Ledtim pahistre, L.
Loiseleuna procumbens, Desv.
Rhododendron lapponicum, L.
Kalmia glauca, L.
Diapensia lapponica, L.
Pedicularis hirsuta, L.
Pedicularis lapponica, L.
\\\ INDEX
Alaska, Southern, 211.
Alberta, its prairies remembered,
180; an election of its representative, 272.
America, the Eastern   States   of,
234-
Anderson, Mr.; his route referred
to, vi, 34, 59, 138, 139, 157, 170,
179, 197.
Arnavatn, in Iceland, 40.
Arctic exploration, its records, 44.
Arctic flowers, 172.
Arctic fox, shot at, 37.
Arctic hare, described, 63, 64.
Arctic Ocean or Sea, v, 4, 11, 19,
59, 60, 61, 164, 188,196, 242 ; the
best route to, 203.
Arctic   regions,   no   extraordinary
thickness of clothes required in
them, 96.
Arrowsmith's map, compared with
that   issued  by   the   Dominion
Government, 198.
Artillery Lake, 202, 203, 205.
Athabasca   district,   59,   215;   its
limits, 11.
Athabasca Lake, 13,   15,  64, 212,
215 ; reached by Mr. Pike, 12 ;
its produce, 13.
Athabasca River, v, 2, 3, 4, 5,6,10,
16,  34,  211, 268;   the landing,
4, 272.
Aylmer Lake, or the Lake of the
Big Cliffs, 59, 164, 165, 166, 175,
195, 198, 203.
Back, Sir George, vi, 34, 138, 166,
170, 197 ; his map, 184.
Back's, or the Great Fish, River, see
Great Fish River.
Baptiste, little, see Beaulieu, Baptiste.
Baptiste Testerwick, a half-breed
Iroquois,, 232, 233, 236, 267, 269 ;
his daughters, the [ belles' of Hudson's Hope, 236.
Barren Ground, the, v, vi, 13,14,18,
22, 33, 45, Si, 54, 59, 60, 70, 74,
78, 81, 82, 83, 84, 87, 89, 91, 94,
101, 106, 112, 116, 118, 125, 131,
153, 154, 160, 162, 163, 180, 191,
202, 206, 212, 248, 274, 276; Mr.
Pike's various expeditions to it,
18-71, 91-117, 151-209; Mr.
Pike's advice to future travellers
there, 23 ; its mosses and lichens,
40; it produces one species of
CervidcB, 44; its birds, 161; exploration in it is ceasing, 170; its
animals, 182,183; Mr. Pike longs
to return to it, 276 ; a list of its
flowers, 291.
Barrow, Thomas, 235, 239,265,266,
267 ; his house or cabin, 237, 257,
263, 264.
Bathurst Inlet, no, 175, 181, 187,
191.
Battle River reached, 227.
Beaulieu, Baptiste, a son of King
Beaulieu, 31, 82.
Beaulieu, Francois, a son of King
Beaulieu, 21, 37, 40, 57, 73, 86,
89, 124, 125, 127, 129.
Beaulieu, Jose, brother of King
Beaulieu, 215.
Beaulieu, Jose, a son of King
Beaulieu, 21, 57, 84, 85, 125, 216;
his love-affairs, 224, 225.
Beaulieu, KmS,a French half-breed
and guide, 18, 30, 35, 38, 57, 61,
62, 66, 67, 75, 76, 83, 86, 88, 90,
93, 94, 117, 123, 124, 152, 213;
his character, 18, 22; his father
and sons, 21; he calls the snow
le convert du bon Dieu, 58; a
lake is called after him, 58; his
cleverness, 68; his opinions and
anecdotes, 77-81; he refuses to
V 2 292
INDEX.
ioin the second musk-ox hunt,
89.
Beaulieu, Paul, a son of King
Beaulieu, 21, 37, 40, 57, 65, 73,
85, 86, 89, 93, 95, 100, 102, 108,
119.
Beaulieu, Pierre, a brother of King
Beaulieu, 135, 136, 214.
Beaulieus, the, 31, 60, 71, 123, 124,
126; their character, 22; they
are not agreeable to live with,
116; the final settlement with
them, 134,135; they apparently try
to damage Mr. Pike's chances of
success, 154.
Beaulieus, the young, the sons of
King Beaulieu, 21,35.
Beaver tribe dying out, 231.
Beavers, their actions mould geography, 142; an account of the
other animals found in their country, 143- .
Beaver Indians, their language, 230.
Beechey Lake, 175, 187, 188.
Biche, Lake La, 6.
Big Lake, 120.
Big River, the usual native name
for the Slave River, 24.
Blackfeet, the, 3, 121.
Blue hills in the distance tempt one
to push on, 190.
Bloody Falls, the, 139.
Boiler Rapid, the, 9.
Boiling, the favourite method of
cooking, 52.
British Columbia, see Columbia.
Brick, Mr., a farmer of Smoky
River, 224,271; his mission, 228 ;
his son, 270, 275.
Buffalo band's, 143; a hunt for,
141-146.
Bull-dogs, 'a cross between a bee
and a blue-bottle,' an annoyance
to the horses, 3.
Bull's Head, the, 234, 264.
Calgary, ix, 2, 10, 273; left in
June, 1889, 1.
California, 234.
Camp, a good, 37, 115.
Campbell, Mr., 209.
Camsell Lake, 40, 43, 57, 71, 74,
117.
Camsell, Mr., in charge of the Mackenzie River district, 19, 20, 211.
Canada, Eastern, 12.
Cannicannick Berry used for tobacco, 29.
Canoe, a birch-bark, is a ' pretty
poetical thing,' 181.
Cap, the, 228.
Capot Blanc, an Indian, 128, 154,
157, 162, 166, 168, 170, 172, 173,
IP ^5-
Carcajou, the, is a cunning beast,
54-
Caribou, the, sometimes found near
the Fond du Lac, 13 ; Mr. Pike's
prospect of finding it, 30; he finds
some bands, 40,60,67, 70, 82, 99;
Et-then, Et-then! the cry on
the sight of it, 41; the methods
of cooking it, 41-43 ; it is the one
specimen of Cervidce found in
the Barren Ground, 44; its different species described, 44, 45 ;
killed by Esquimaux, 52; some
details of its appearance and
habits, 45-56; the methods of
freezing it, 63; it is killed by
women and boys, 71; the cry,
La Foule, La Foule! when a
band is in sight, 82; the most
remarkable passage of caribou
seen by Mr. Pike, 83.
Caribou diggings, 234.
Caribou-eaters, 18.
Caribou gold-fields, 212.
Caribou mountains, 219, 220.
Carquoss, an Indian, 175, 181.
Cassiar mining district, 211.
Catholics, all half-breeds are, 38.
Charlie, a half-breed from Quesnelle., 236, 237, 238, 243,247, 249,
250, 252, 253, 259, 260, 261, 264,
268; his character, 267.
Chesterfield Inlet, 193.
Chinook wind, the, 237.
Chipeweyan Fort, the head-post of
the Athabasca district, 5, n, 137,
150, 212, 214, 215, 218, 221, 224;
its history and present life, 12-14;
trout-lines may be worked there,
13 ; the appearance of the country changes on leaving it, 15.
Chipeweyan language, 24, 230.
Christie's Bay, 28.
Civilisation is degenerating, 274.
Clark, Mr., arrives as Mr. Mackin-
lay's substitute, 149, 150.
3e\ INDEX.
293
Clearwater River, the main route to
the North, 10, n.
Clinton Golden Lake, or the Lake
where the caribou swim among
the ice, 198, 201, 204 ; described,
199, 200.
Columbia, British. 212, 242.
Company, the, see Hudson's Bay
Company.
Cooking, the favourite method is
boiling, 52.
Cooper, Fenimore, 118.
Coppermine River, 60, 61, 62, 67,
100, 101, 139; the Bloody Falls
of, 139.
Corbeau, Lac du, 40.
Country, the, its nature between
Calgary and Edmonton, 1,2; and
after leaving Chipeweyan, 15, 16.
Crees, the, 3, 121; their language
the medium of conversation on
the Athabasca, 10; their lodges
passed, 221.
Cree-speaking belt, 24; left by Mr.
Pike, 230.
Cries : that on the sight of caribou,
Et-then, Et-then! 41; on the
sight of a band of caribou, La
Foule, La Foule! 82 ; to awake
a camp, He live, live, il faut
partir ! in; that of Hi hi he, Ho
hi he, to bring out the stars, 113.
Dakota blizzard, brought to Mr.
Pike's mind by his experience of
wind, 81.
David, the Esquimaux, 148, 189,
192, 193, 248, 252 ; falls in love
with the daughter of King Beaulieu, 154; a keen hunter, 165;
his first summer outside the
Arctic circle, 190.
Davis, Twelvefoot, 234, 235.
Dease Lake, 211.
Deluge, King Beaulieu's story of
the, 79-81.
Dog-rib tribes, the, 30, 50, 56, 78,
83, 87, 179; a spot on their
history, 67; they gamble with
the Yellow-knives, 153 ; they are
more amenable than the Yellow-
knives, 274.
Dogs are a trouble in winter travelling from their need of much
food, 136.
Dominion Day, a Canadian anniversary, 167.
Dominion government's map, 198.
Dunvegan, 224, 228, 229, 231, 267,
270, 271.
Dupire, Father, in charge of the
Catholic mission at Fort Resolution,. 132, 137.
Edmonton, 2, 270, 273; the starting point for the territory of
Hudson's Bay Company, 1; an
election at, 272, 273.
Enemy, the, 74, 172.
Enemy, the Lake of the, 74, 116.
English is little spoken in the
north, 10.
English Channel, the, 210.
Enterprise Fort, 61.
Esquimaux, the, 171, 176, 179, 180,
187, 190, 193; they also kill the
caribou, 52; they are dreaded
by the Indians, 138, 139; presents for them, 150, 153, 192;
signs of their camp, 184-188.
Etitchula, the Indian, 123, 125.
Et-then, Et-then! the cry on the
sight of the caribou, 41.
Euclid's methods, 252.
Expedition, the object of Mr.
Pike's, v, vi, 65 ; the ceremony of
commemorating one, 209.
Fat, Antoine, a blind Indian, 162.
Fat, Pierre, a blind Indian, 162; he
appreciates scenery, 164.
Findlay River, 238,' 241, 243, 245,
252, 256, 270; its rapids, 241,
243, 257 ; its source, 242.
Flett, Mr., and his family, passengers down the Athabasca, 4, 5 ;
in charge of Fort Smith, 214,
215.
Fond du Lac, n, 13, 14, 26, 29,
30. 35, 37, 53, 57, 58, 73, 84, 85,
89, 93, 96, iIO> "9, 122, 123,
124, 125, 127, 129, 132, 136, 149,
150, 152, 153, 154, 156, 162;
described, 29, 30; women and
children left there, 31.
Fogs, effect of, 99.
Forest fires, I.
France is not sighed for by the
priest of an Indian encampment,
213.
U3 294
INDEX.
Jhl1
Francois, see Beaulieu, Francois.
Francois   the   little,   conducts   a
buffalo hunt, 141-146; his wife,
147.
Franklin, Sir John, vi, 34, 72, 170,
188;   his   expedition,   59;    his
wintering-place, 61.
Fraser Lake, 236.
Fraser River, 212, 234.
French-Canadians, their chansons
dying out, 9.
French patois of the Red River and
the North, 10, 24.
Gold-dust is to be found by the
Peace River, 230.
Good Hope, Fort, 274.
Government, motherly, defied, 3.
Grahame, the steamer, 11, 15.
Grand Pays, the half-breeds' name
for the outside world, 76, 137.
Grand Traverse, the, 128, 129, 130.
Grand Rapids, not reached by the
steamer,   5;   reached   by   Mr.
Pike, 6;   a description   of the
channel and its passage, 8-10.
Gras, Lac de, 60, 65, 99, 100, in,
161.
Grease longed for in the cold, 52.
Great Bear Lake, 64.
Great Fish or Back's River, 34, 59,
106, 138, 139, 148, 150, 154, 157,
166, 169, 170, 172, 187, 188, 203.
Great Slave Lake, see Slave Lake.
Great Slave River, see Slave River.
Gros Cap, 135.
Gunn, Mr., of St. John's, 229; he
knew Beaver Indian tongue, 230.
Half-breeds are all Catholics, 38.
Half-way River, 230.
Halket Fort, 211.
Hanging Rock, the Lake of, 85.
Hardistay, Mr. Frank, 271.
Hay River, 143.
Hearne, Mr., vi, 34,139; his four-
ney to the Northern Ocean, 47.
Hi hi he, Ho hi he J the cry for the
stars, 113.
Ho live, live, il faut partir! the
cry for arousing a camp, 111.
Hood, vi.
Hospitality is in inverse proportion
to a man's means, 131.
Hudson's Bay, 45, 47, 204, 205.
Hudson's Bay Company, or The
Company, v, 1, 3, 12, 47, 49,
76, 77, 91, 120, 143, 180, 192,
193, 207, 209, 211, 218, 220,
228, 232, 271; Mr. Pike's gratitude to the officers of, for their
hospitality, viii, 130, 131; one of
their early trading posts, 2; their
steamers are well-managed, 16;
they bring a certain amount of
civilisation, 23; their duffel
capotes, 49; their compressed tea
not good to smoke, 124; they are
fair to the Indians, 222, 223.
Hudson's Bay Fort on Macleod's
Lake, 238.
Hudson's Hope, 228, 229, 230, 243,
266, 268, 270; visited, 231-235.
Iceland, 40.
Inconnu, a fish found only in the
Mackenzie River, 27.
I Indian, the burnt,' his bad luck,
203.
Indians, the great northern territory
is their hunting-ground, I; they
are more easily managed than
the half-breeds, 6 ; they are sent
from Locheaux to man the I inland boats,' 6; they cannot find
their way in snow, 112; they are
very improvident, 120 seq.; they
are peaceable bynature, 132; they
dread the Esquimaux, 139 ; their
women quarrel, 158; they imitate
birds very well, 157; some of
them show themselves much interested in the skin of a seal, an
animal they had never seen, 185;
they have a stupid love of killing,
192; intoxicating drink may not
be given to them, 207.
Inland boats described, 6.
John, 236, 245, 247, 248, 252, 253,
254, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 263,
267; he visits Mr. Pike, 225-
232; his character, 225, 226.
John, Saint, see Saint John.
Jose, see Beaulieu, Jose.
Jose, the brother-in-law of Zinto,
156, 158.
Kennedy, Alick, a good voyageur,
270, 271. INDEX.
295
-Khartoum, 271.
King, see Beaulieu, King.
King Lake, 58,116.
Labrador tea, 39, 178, 251, 252,
258.
La Foule, la Foule! the cry on
the sight of a caribou band, 82.
Languages, those of the North,
10; those beyond the Cree-
speaking belt on the Mackenzie,
24.
Lard, Lac du, 34.
Lawrence, Mr., a farmer of Vermillion, 223.
Lesser Slave Lake, 4, 6, 227, 228,
229, 239, 267, 271.
Liard River, 142, 143, 211,229, 230.
Little Buffalo River, 133, 144 ; it is
impregnated with sulphur, 144.
Little Red River, in Athabasca district, 11; its beautiful scenery,
220.
Little River, 243, 252.
Little Slave River, 133, 271.
Locheaux language, 24.
Lockhart's house, 150.
Lockhart's or Outram River, 59,65,
164, 165, 194, 196, 197, 205 ; different opinions of its route, 198.
Lockhart, Pierre, a guide, 150, 156.
Lower Peace River, 216.
Lynx and rabbits, their periodic
dying out, 267, 268.
Macdonald, Ewen, the chief of
the Peace River district, 229.
Macdonald, Walter, son of Ewen
Macdonald, 239, 266, 268, E71.
Macdougall, 209.
Macfarlane, 209.
Mackay, Dr., in charge of the Athabasca district, 11,16, 17, 59, 220;
a visit from him, 137, 138; he
sends presents, 150; he is absent, 216; he is met by Mr.
Pike, 218.
Mackay, Lake, or the Lake of the
Hanging Rock, 59, 60, 65,67, 70,
74, 82, 85, 91, 98, 114, 163, 164,
202; described, 59.
Mackay, Mr., a Company's clerk,
6,7.
Mackay, Murdo, a servant at Fort
Resolution who accompanies Mr.
Pike, 133, 138, 148,189,213,216,
219, 225, 226, 236, 247, 249, 254,
258, 267.
Mackenzie, Sir Alex., 12, 232.
Mackenzie River, or La Grande
Rivilre en Bos, v, 4,9,17,18,19,
34, 45, 46, 47, 56, 13°, 165, 211,
213, 243, 274 ; its origin, 15 ; the
languages spoken along its banks,
24. _
Mackinlay, Mr., in charge of Fort
Resolution, 20,132,135,148,174,
177, 180, 189, 191, 195, 209, 213,
214; joins Mr. Pike in expedition
to the Barren Ground, 138.
Mackinlay, Mrs., 132.
Macleod, Fort, 243, 244, 248, 253,
254.
Macleod's Lake, 212, 217, 232, 236,
237, 239, 243, 246, 252, 266, 270;
Hudson's Bay Fort on it, 238.
Macleod's River, 243, 247,250, 252.
MacMurray, Fort, 7; Mr. Pike
starts for it, 8 ; reaches it, 10; it
is the most southerly post of the
Athabasca district, 11; it is near
some natural tar deposits, 12.
Mandeville, Francois, the brother
of Michel Mandeville, 206.
Mandeville, Michel, the interpreter
at Fort Resolution, 133, 135, 138.
Mandeville, Moise, the brother of
Michel J Mandeville, who joins
Mr. Pike, 138, 149, 154, 164, 169,
180, 181; is a good steersman,
182.
Maps, those of Mr. Pike are not
very accurate, vii.
Marble Island, 193.
Mario, the brother of Zinto, 89,
94, 102, 104, 105, 107, 122, 127,
154, 167, 175, 181.
Michel, a son-in-law of King Beaulieu, 31, 42, 57,85, 86, 89, 96,101,
119, 122, 127.
Misere, Point de, 62, 67, 72, 100.
Mission Island, 132, 209, 210.
Moberley's Lake, 267, 268.
Moise, see Mandeville, Moise.
Montaignais dialect of Chipeweyan
language, 24.
Moose Island, 132.
Mort, Lac de, 34, 84, 123.
Mouse chased for a caribou, 99.
Murdo, see Mackay, Murdo. 296
INDEX.
Hill
\%\M
Muskeg country ends at the Point
of Rocks, 25.
Musk-ox, 64, 65 ; the object of Mr.
Pike's journey, v, vi; to be
sought on the Barren Ground,
22; the first killed, 65; birds
seen during the hunt for them,
63; an expedition in search of
them, 57 seq.; a band of them,
104 ; the method of slaughtering
them is unpleasant, 106 ; their
horns described, 109 ; a description of a hunt for them, 166-169 >
they are said to understand the
Yellow-knife language, 169; advice to hunters of them, 274,275.
Musk-ox, the giant, 74.
Musk-ox Lake, 170, 171, 172, 173,
178, 194, 196.
Musk-ox Mountain, 173 ; it is the
limit of the Yellow-knives' hunting-ground, 171.
Nation River, 266.
Nelson Fort, 143, 230.
New Year's Day, an occasion of
trade, 127, 134.
Nile, the, 271.
Noel, an Indian, who