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The Canadian North-West : its history and its troubles, from the early days of the fur-trade to the era… Adam, G. Mercer (Graeme Mercer), 1830-1912 1885

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O,    MERCER    AI>AM,
Ex-Capt. Queen's Own Rifles,
Late Editor of " The Canadian Monthly," etc., etc.
Whitby :
J.    S.    ROBERTSON    &   BROS.     jjj
1885.  •ft* Hwrnnt ;Pmo**j
^The Jtobtoi (SJudttie* of n %xut Sltommt,
p iVo tfrwe ?i/e «s long."-
MY   SONS   AND   DAUGHTERS " No fabled land of joy and song is this
That lieth in the glow of eventide ;
Not sung by bards of old in minstrel strain,
Yet he who reads its history shall learn
Of doughty deeds well worth all knightly fame.
It is a land of rivers flowing free,
Lake-mirrored mountains, rising proud and stern,—
A land of spreading prairies ocean wide,
"Where harsh sounds slumber in the hush of gloom,
And peace hath brooded with outstretched wings.
•* ■* * * #■
And here a mighty people shall arise,
A peopled nurtured in full liberty ;
Yet, not forgetful of the mother land,
Who scans with kindly eye her child's career,
Wafting a blessing o'er the mighty sea.
* * •* *
Such be thy future ; 0, thou land of hope.
Where, in the fear of God and love of home,
Thy people shall increase—0, may thy soil
Bear many a thinker, many a man of might,
Many a statesman fitted to control,
Many a hero, fitted to command.
Such may thy future be—not great alone,
In never-sated commerce,—rather great
In all that welds a people heart to heart;
Among thy sons may many a leader spring,
By whom the ship of State well piloted,
Thy haven of wide Empire thou may'st reach,
An empire stretching from the western wave
To where the rosy dawn enflames the seas. *}
—J. H. Bowes, in The 'Varsity. w?
N adding to the already numerous works on the
Canadian North-West, I have sought to make a
contribution of more than passing interest.   With
this end in view, I have not confined the narrative
to recent events; but have told the story from
the beginning.     It may fairly be claimed that
there is some advantage in this.    It will enable
the reader to follow the successive steps in the
development of the country, and to trace in the
past history some of the remote causes of the present rebellion.
These revolts, in some degree at least, are the legacy of
the  days of  monopoly and  privilege.    Neither the  Hudson
Bay Company nor the North-West Fur Company, of Montreal
was a colonising institution.    Both were opposed to the settler,
and both desired to keep the territory wild and uncultivated.
Only thus could it be useful to a great fur-trading corporation.     Though  the  rule of  these  trading   corporations  has
passed away, jealousy of the intruding settler remains, and
the aggressive spirit of monopoly which marked the dominion
of the companies still manifests itself.    The Indian shares the
one; the half-breed inherits the other.    Both, it may be said»
must be exorcised ere the North-West can become a desirable
possession of the Dominion, and a safe home for the settler.
In dealing with the later revolt, I have in the main confined
myself to the narrative of the spirited and successful effort of
the volunteers and   other Canadian troops to suppress it. VI
However inadequately treated, the story has been told, I
would fain believe, without partiality or exaggeration. Of the
insurgents I have striven to write without prejudice. The
immediate causes of the outbreak, and the question of responsibility for its occurrence, I have but lightly touched on, as the
time has not yet come to speak or to write with full knowledge
of the subject. The facts upon which dispassionateness could
rely were, in truth, not before me. In whatever criticism of
the AdministratioD I have ventured upon, I hope I have not
forgotten what is due by a subject to the Government of the
country of which I am a citizen and have been a soldier. In
what afterwards has to be said, when the nation s inquest on
the insurrection has developed the facts, I would ask that the
voice of patriotism be heard, rather than that of party objurgation.
In preparing the volume, I have been under repeated obligations, which I desire here to acknowledge, to Messrs. Hunter,
Rose & Co., Publishers, and to my friend, Mr. Wm. Williamson, Bookseller, Toronto. I am also indebted to Mr. Wm. Houston, M.A., and to Mr. John Watson, his assistant; to Mr. W. H.
Van der Smissen, M.A.; and to Mr. James Bain, jr.; the Librarians, respectively, of the Library of the Legislative Assembly
of Ontario, the Library of Toronto University, and the Toronto Public Library. To Mr. Bain I am chiefly beholden for
facilities in getting access to works on the early history of
Canada and the North-West, with which the Toronto Public
Library has been enriched by the generosity of Mr. John
Hallam. Mr. Bain's intimate acquaintance with Canadian
literature enhances the benefit to be derived from consultation
in this valuable department of the City Library.
To Mr. R. Lovell Gibson, of Montreal, to Mr. Fulford Arnoldi,
and to my son, Mr. Grasme Gibson Adam, of Toronto, my
thanks are also due for ready aid in placing material at my
hand in the preparation of the book.
Toronto, July 15th, 1885, -y&-
—^ -?W
^(rc rfr a^?
-• ♦ •
Chapter    I.-
-The Hudson Bay Company ...
-The North-West Fur Co., of Montreal
—Early Discoverers of the North-West:
(a) The English Trader, Alexander Henry
—       (b) Joseph La France, and Samuel Hearne
(c) Sir Alexander Mackenzie    -
-The Selkirk Settlement and its Fate
—The Massacre at Red River, and after
-The Nor'-Westers on the Pacific Coast, and the
Amalgamation of the Rival Fur Companies -
—Indian Tribes of the Older   Provinces and the
North-West      -
—Fifty Years' Interval—1820 to 1870
—Transfer of the Hudson Bay Territories to the
Dominion -
—The Riel Red River Rebellion       -
—The Province of Manitoba and the Era of Settlement      .-.---
—Kiel's Second Insurrection :
Causes of the Outbreak -
-The First Overt Act:
Duck Lake, and the Mounted Police   -
—Calling out the Volunteers 1
—Over | The Gaps " to Qu'Appelle -
131 Vlil CONTENTS.
XVIII.—Middleton's March to Clarke's Crossing
XIX.—Otter's Flying Column—The Dash to Battleford
XX.—The Frog Lake Massacre     -
XXI.—Otter Attacks Poundmaker :
The Fight at Cut Knife Hill   -
XXII.—The Campaign on the South Saskatchewan :
With Middleton at Fish Creek
-The Crisis at Hand -
-The Lines before Batoche   -
-Charging the Rifle Pits—Rout of the Rebels
After B a toche—The '' Big Bear % Hunt    -
-The Nation's Heroes—Counting the Cost -
-Remedial Measures—The Country's Future
Supplemental List of Staff and Company Officers of corps serving
in the North-West - - - - - -   389
'4&t 2^
E  should  be glad if we could say that the
world   had   outgrown   monopolies.      One
pf) Jif   j iii   p, ip
x^p\^ monopoly on this Continent it has however
outgrown.     A great Fur-trading Corpora-
j2Tj      tion that had seen ten British Sovereigns
cVnji j$C   °n\     come and go while it held swav over the
o j c^« ;      territories once ceded to His Serene Highness, Rupert, Prince Palatine of the Rhine,
^ yielded up its proprietary interests to the
government of a young and lusty nation. In 1869, the rule
over the " Great Lone Land'; of the Honourable Company of
Merchant Adventurers trading to Hudson Bav ceased, and
the Dominion of Canada took over almost its entire interests.
With the relinquishment of its rights and privileges, though it
stipulated for the retention of some of its trading posts and a 10     TriE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY Ato ITS TROUBLES.
certain portion of land, the Company parted with not a few of
the factors, trappers, voyageurs, and labourers, that had grown
grey in its service. It parted with its millions of acres of
territory, some of its isolated posts, and their treasuries of fox-
skin, marten, mink, musk-rat, and otter. It parted with the
traditions and associations of centuries of traffic, and all the
pretensions that adhere to absolute power in the hands of an
old and wealthy corporation and a long-established monopoly.
So scattered and distant were the possessions of the Company
that many moons rose and waned ere the news reached the
secluded inmates of its lonely stockaded posts that the great
trading Company had transferred its interests to the British
Government, and from it to the Canadian people. The price
of the transfer was a million and a half of dollars.
The cession of the interests of the Hudson Bay Company,
in the vast tract of country known as Rupert's Land, set at rest
the long vexed question of the right of that corporation to the
lordship of the region known as the Hudson Bay Territories.
It set at rest, also, not only the validity of the Company's title
to the territory, but the equally delicate question of the area
over which the Company was supposed to rule. Both questions
often disturbed the councils of the Company, and at successive
periods were the subjects of contemplated parliamentary
enquiry. Not only was it held that the Company, in the course
of time, had extended its territorial claims much further than
the charter, or any sound construction of it, would warrant,
but the charter itself was repeatedly called in question. In
the year 1670, when the Company was founded, it seems
clear that the English Sovereign, Charles II, had no legal right
to the country, for it was then and for long after the possession of France. By the treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye (1632)
the English had resigned to the French Crown all interest in
Nouvelle France. The Treaty of Ryswick, (1697) moreover,
confirmed French right to the country. Hence Charles's gift to
his cousin, Prince Rupert, and to ^hose associated with him in the *THE  HUDSON  BAY COMPANY.
organisation of the Hudson Bay Company, was gratuitous if not
illegal. The subsequent re-transfer of the country to Britain,
by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), may be said, however, to have
given the Company a right to its possessions, a right which was
practically confirmed by the Conquest, and by the Treaty of
Paris, in 1763. But conceding this, there arose the other question, namely, to what extent of territory, by the terms of the
original charter, w7as the Company entitled. The text of the
charter conveys only those lands whose waters drain into
Hudson Bay, or, more specifically, I ail the lands and territories
upon the countries, coasts, and confines of the seas, etc., that lie
within Hudson Straits." This very materially limited the area
of the Company's sway in the North-West, and nullified its
claim over the country which drains into the St. Lawrence,
into the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Arctic Oceans. The
Company, of course, never acknowledged this view of the
matter; but had its title been tested in a court of law, its
territorial assumptions would have been greatly abridged.
But, as we have said, all these disturbing questions, as to
the title and the area of the possessions of the Hudson Bay
Company, were settled by the sale and transfer of the territory to the Canadian Dominion. That territory, which included at first only the land bordering on Hudson Bay and
Strait, by process, partly of territorial aggrandisement and
partly of later trading-license, came to include : (1.) Labrador;
(2.) Prince Rupert Land; (3.) The districts of the Red River,
Swan River, and the Saskatchewan; (4.) The North-West
Territories; and (5.) Mackenzie river, British Columbia and
Vancouver. By the expiry of a special charter, the two latter
districts, in 1858, reverted to the Crown, and, in 1863, were
erected into a British colony. All the other districts, with thw
reservation of the trading-posts, and one-twentieth of the land.
O   J. ' '
passed in 1869, as we have stated, to the Imperial Government,
and, for the compensation named, from it to the Dominion of
To what national and commercial purposes this great acquisition has been put by the Dominion Government will be seen
from later chapters in the present work. Meantime let us
review briefly the more prominent incidents in the history of
this great trading corporation, which so long held sway over
the country. In 1610, the Bay that bears his name, or, as the
French caUed it, " the great North Sea," was discovered by
the ill-fated Henry Hudson, who found himself within its
waters in quest of that will-o'-the-wisp of the period, a northwest passage to India. The winter of 1610 Hudson spent at
the foot of the inland sea now known as James' Bay. The
rigours of the season, and want of food, led his men to mutiny,
and to leave him with his son and a small following to the
tender mercies of the region, when they betook themselves
with a lie in their mouth to England. In 1612 an expedition
was fitted out for the relief of Hudson, under the command of
Captain, afterwards Sir Thomas, Button; but no trace of the
navigator or of his party was ever found.
The next venture westward was that of Champlain, who,
in 1615, made his untoward voyage from the St. Lawrence, by
way of the Ottawa and Lake Nipissing, to la Mer Douce,
the inland sea of the Hurons, and the seat of the Jesuit missions on the Matchedash peninsula. Following upon Cham-
plain's expedition came the organisation of the One Hundred
Associates, which had been given its charter, in 1627, by Cardinal Richelieu, prime minister to Louis XIII. The operations
of this Company were interrupted by the first English conquest of Canada; hence little was done in prosecuting trade
in the West, if we except M. De Caen's enterprises, until the-
period of M. Montmagny's governorship. Under this Governor, another trading company was established, known as La
Compagnie de Montreal, and M. Maisonneuve, a gallant and
much-tried Frenchman, was appointed to the charge of its
affairs. The calamitous condition of the Colony, owing to wars
with the Iroquois, seriously hampered this Company's work j. THE  HUDSON  BAY  COMPANY.
and we have consequently little record of its operations during
the period of its existence,! viz., from 1640 to 1663. Three
years afterwards, however, two French Huguenots made their
way round Lake Superior, ascended the Kaministiquia river,
and following the water-way, subsequently known as the Dawson route, reached Winnipeg river and lake, and probed a route
for themselves down the Nelson to the sea discovered by
Henry Hudson. In process of time they returned to Quebec,
and proceeded to France, where they endeavoured to interest
capitalists in opening up the fur-bearing regions of Hudson
Bay to commerce. But French enterprise was then looking to
the East rather than to the West, to the extension of trade in
the rich archipelago of the East Indies, rather than to that
in the frozen seas of the North. Silks and spices, and the
diamonds of the Orient, were more attractive just then to the
Gallic sense than the skins of wild beasts. The two French
explorers we have referred to were thus foiled in the attempt to enlist French capital in their enterprise. One of
the two, M. de Grosseliez, was, however, not to be baulked.
He proceeded to England, and there met with the retired
student-soldier, Prince Rupert, whose head was filled with
many curious schemes of enterprise; and his imagination
was readily fired with the story M. de Grosseliez had to tell
The result after a time was the formation of the English
Hudson Bay Company, and the grant of Charles II. over the
region in which the Company intended to operate. In the interval, Hudson Bay had been explored by mariners, who, in
1631, had set out from London and from Bristol, with the still
delusive hope of reaching the Pacific and the far-distant
Cathay. The London venture was commanded by Captain
Fox, and the Bristol expedition by Captain James, the latter
giving his name to the Southern inlet of Hudson Bay. Both
expeditions were barren of result? save to impress upon the 14      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AND  ITS TROUBLES.
minds "of their commanders the inhospitable character of the
region and the terrors of a winter on its coasts.*
A New England captain connected with the Newfoundland
trade was the first to sail to Hudson Bay to further the interests of the new-formed Company. Presently, a governor
was dispatched to establish and take charge of a fort on the
Rupert river, and one on the Nelson. By the year 1686 the
Hudson Bay Company had organised five trading-posts round
the shores of James and Hudson Bay. These were known
as the Albany, the Moose, the Rupert, the Nelson, and the
Severn factories. The right to establish these posts was
actively combated by the French, who sent contingents from
Quebec, by the Ottawa and by Lake Superior, to harass the
English in their possession of them. For a number of years
a keen conflict was maintained between the two races, and the
forts successively changed hands as fortune happened to favour
the one or the other. Possession was further varied by the
Treaties of Ryswick and Utrecht, previously referred to.
Meanwhile the French were active in the lower waters of
the continent; for in 1672 La Salle had discovered the Mississippi, Joliet and Marquette had traced the outline of the
Georgian Bay and Lake Superior, and Father Hennepin had
seen and made a chart of the Falls of Niagara. Later on M.
du Luth and M. de la Verandrye had penetrated into all the
bays of Lake Superior, and the latter, in 1732, had constructed
a fort on the Lake of the Woods. At the period of the Conquest the French had done far more to discover and open
up what is now our North-West than the English. Up to
1763, they had gone even as far west as the Assiniboine and
the Saskatchewan. They had established Fort Maurepas on
the Winnipeg, Fort Dauphin on Lake Manitoba, Fort Bourbon
* For an account of the earlier voyages to Hudson Bay—those of Wm. Baffin,
Sir Martin Frobisher, and Master John Davis, with the voyages of Sebastian Cabot
to Newfoundland — see Rundall's Narrative of Voyages towards the North-West,
1496-1631—one of the Hakluyt Society Publications : !pondon, 1849, THE HUDSON  BAY COMPANY.
on Cedar Lake, and Fort & la Corne below the forks of the
Saskatchewan. The Hudson Bay Company, on the contrary,
had done little, as yet, to invade the continent. The trade of
the Company hardly extended beyond the shores of Hudson
Bay, or, at most, a short distance down the Albany river and
the Churchill. Inactive in their work, for a time they found
their charter ineffectual to keep out interlopers from sharing
the profits of the growing fur trade. Petitioning Parliament
they, now and again, got a confirmation of their title, and increased powers of trade; though one of the objects for which
the Company had originally secured its charter, the prosecution
of discovery in the Arctic regions, had been little promoted.
Hence, enemies in Parliament repeatedly tried to limit the Company's privileges and to annul its charter. Instigated by these
enemies, rival traders fitted out expeditions to Hudson Bay to
embarrass the Company and seize some portion of its trade.
The fate of these expeditions was, however, adverse to rivalry;
for no better sport was found for the employe's of the privileged
Company than to board the vessels, capture their crews, and
wreck the crafts on the shores of the Bay.
But not thus could the Hudson Bay Company choke off
competition from the interior. The French in the South were
materially interfering with its trade, and the Company found
that to retain it its employe's had to organise corps of traders
and voyageurs, who would ascend the rivers and establish
posts in the valleys of the Red River and Saskatchewan and
the region of the great lakes. This was a matter that entailed
no little difficulty and risk. To the "Hudson Bays" the
interior was an unknown wilderness ; and as yet they had not
learned the craft of the Indian woodsman or the skill of the
French coureur de bois. But they had more to contend with
than the tyranny of Nature and the perils of the way. The
colony of New France by this time had grown to considerable
proportions, and the French trader was to be met with all over
iihe country.   M. de Vaudreuil gives the population of Nouvells 16      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
France, in 1760, as 70,000, exclusive of voyageurs and those
engaged in trade with the Indians. The French, moreover,
held the two great water-ways to the West, the St. Lawrence
and the Mississippi. From these inlets their countrymen had
spread far to the North-West; and in their traffic with the
Indians of the Red River and Saskatchewan districts they had
cut off much trade that previously had found its way to the
Hudson Bay posts on the Albany, the Nelson, the Churchill,
and the Severn. Presently war with the English again broke
out, and from across the Atlantic came the invading forces of
Britain and contingents from her colonies on the coast. To
some extent this withdrew the French traders to their posts on
the meadows of the Mississippi, and to those on the Ohio and
the AUeghanv. The time was therefore favourable to the
Hudson Bay Company employe's in again diverting the fur
trade to the old posts by the Northern sea. More effectually
to secure this trade, the Company sent its servants to establish
posts in the South, and by the year 1774 Cumberland House
was founded on the Saskatchewan, and at a somewhat later
day an extensive circle of forts, tributary to that at York
Factory, was established and equipped.
Of the character and trade of these forts we get an intelligent idea from a graphic sketch of the Hudson Bay Company,
in a volume of an English periodical, published in the year
1870.*    The writer is an old employe* of the Company.
" A typical fort," he says, "of the Hudson Bay Company
at best was not a very lively sort of affair. Though sometimes
built on a commanding situation at the head of some beautiful
river, and backed by wave after wave of dark pine forest, it
was not unpicturesque in appearance. Fancy a parallelogram
of greater or less extent, enclosed by a picket twenty-five or
thirty feet in height, composed of upright trunks of trees,
placed in a trench, and fastened along the top by a rail, and
you have the enclosure.    At each corner was a strong bastion,
* " The Story of a Dead Monopoly."    Cornhill Magazine, August, 1870. THE HUDSON BAY COMPANY.
built of squared logs, and pierced for guns which could sw7eep
every side of the fort. Inside this picket was a gallery running right round the enclosure, just high enough for a man's
head to be level with the top of the fence. At intervals, all
along the side of the picket, were loop-holes for musketry, and
over the gateway was another bastion, from which shot could
be poured on any party attempting to carry the gate. Altogether, though incapable of withstanding a ten-pounder for
a couple of hours, it was strong enough to resist almost any
attack the Indians could bring against it. Inside this enclosure
were the store-houses, the residences of the employes, wells, and
sometimes a good garden. All night long, a voyageur would,
watch by watch, pace round this gallery, crying out at intervals, with a quid of tobacco in his cheek, the houis and the
state of the weather. This was a precaution in case of fire,
and the hour-calling was to prevent him falling asleep for any
length of time. Some of the less important and more distant
outposts were only rough little log-cabins among the snow,
without picket or other enclosure, where a j postmaster' resided
to superintend the affairs of the Company.
| The mode of trading was peculiar. It was an entire system
of barter, a j made' or \ typical' beaver-skin being the standard of trade. It was, in fact, the currency of the country.
Thus an Indian arriving at one of the Company's establishments with a bundle of furs which he intends to sell, proceeds,
in the first instance, to the trading-room: there the trader separates the furs into lots, and, after adding up the amount,
delivers to the Indian a number of little pieces of wood, indicating the number of I made beavers' to which his j hunt'
amounts. He is next taken to the store-room, where he finds
himself surrounded by bales of blankets, slop-coats, guns,
scalping-knives, tomahawks (all made in Birmingham), powder-horns, flints, axes, etc. Each article has a recognised value
in ' made-beavers ;' a slop-coat, for example, may be worth five
1 made-beavers,' for which the Indian delivers up twelve of his
pieces of wood ; for a gun he gives twenty ; for a knife two ;
and so on, until his stock of wooden cash is expended. * * *
After finishing he is presented with some trifle in addition to
the payment of his furs, and makes room for someone else."
Of these trading establishments of the Hudson Bay Company,
the writer adds: " There were in 1860 over 150, in charge of 18      THE NORTH-WEST:   ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
twenty-five chief factors and twenty-eight chief traders, with
150 clerks and 1200 other servants." 1 The trading districts of
the Company," he states, 1 were thirty-eight in number, divided
into five departments, and extending over a country nearly as
big as Europe, though thinly peopled by some 160,000 natives,
Esquimaux, Indians, and half-breeds."
We make no excuse for taking up space with this extended
quotation, for we deem a description of a Hudson Bay Company post, and an account of the mode of barter with the
Indian, to be as novel and interesting to the untravelled Canadian as they must be to the average Englishman. The picturesque features of life in the North-West in the palmy days
of the Hudson Bay Company, or of the North-West Fur Company, of Montreal, are many and full of interest,—not only to
the historian, but to the narrator ofvadventure and the descriptive writer. How fascinating and prolific a theme the
subject has been to such story-tellers as Cooper, Ballantyne?
Mayne-Reid, and others, the voracious youthful reader of their
books must well know. Life in the North-West in the olden
time, of course, had its drawbacks, in isolation from one's kith
and kin; in the utter desolation and dreariness of its long and
severe winters; in the fatigues and hardships of the voyages
from post to post, or those entailed in getting in and out of the
territory; and in the risks run, from both white men and
Indians, at a time of war between the two races that long and
bitterly strove for possession of the country. On the other
hand, there were many countervailing pleasures and advantages, known only to those who have realised the charm of
living in Nature's solitudes, away from the worries and conventionalities of civilisation, amidst surroundings that contributed to the building up of a healthy" ^ysical frame, and,
in the case of a successful factor or trader, that enabled him in
time to retire with a more than average share of this world's
goods. The writer from whom we have already quoted may
^e twst^c".- to say what present pleasure and store of future, THE HUDSON BAY COMPANY.
memories were to be extracted from life in the North-West,
and from employment in the Hudson Bay Company's service
when that corporation was in its prime. Here is an extract
from the article we have already referred to:
" We, who knew the Company in its palmy days, who drank
its good wine and ate of its salt • who hobnobbed in its picketed forts with the sturdy factors, at great oaken tables laden
with beaver-tails, buffalo-tongues, and huge roasts of moose, of
elk, and of caribou; dishes of juicy antelope and luscious salmon from the rivers of its empire of territory; ptarmigan from
Hudson Bay; oulachan, most delicious of fish, from Vancouver
Island ; and snowy hares from the Eskimo along the shores of
the Arctic sea: We, who shared its stirring enterprises, and
floated down far western rivers in its birch bark canoes, who
have been honoured by seeing our names carved on tamarack
' lob-sticks' on the Albany river, and on cedar ones on the
Columbia, in return for rSgales of tea, tobacco, and rum lar-
gessed unto its voyageurs: We, who were in a word, of it,
have precious memories in relation to the great corporation,
and may be excused for lingering fondly over its history, even
at a time when the world is most disposed to hold its achievements cheaply, and to dwell severely upon its misdoings and
We have no wish to become one of those to whom the
writer alludes in this passage, who refuse the meed of admiration for the Company's achievments, or who desire to arraign
its administration in respect of its many " misdoings and shortcomings." While the Company pursued its operations, its
government was paternal, and its sway, in the main, just. But
it was only and wholly a trading corporation : its motive was
to make money and to pay large dividends. It had no other
raison d'etre. Unlike the East India Company, its administration was not utterly unscrupulous or wholly devoid of conscience. If it was arrogant in its claims to territory, it did
not disturb the natives in their rights, or dispossess them of
their inheritance. Against rival trading companies it waged a
long and bitter war; but its rival wras in the territory with 20      THE NORTH-WEST:  ITS  HISTORY AND  ITS TROUBLES.
no higher motives than those that actuated the Company they
desire to oust. It was the interest of neither Company to
promote colonisation, though the Montreal institution, to make
a point against the English traders, made a show of encouraging settlement. The influence of both upon the Indian
must be conceded to be bad; though their common half breed
descendants may be said to be more useful in the country
than the aboriginal inhabitant, and more likely to cultivate
and civilise it. But the latter, has his rights in the country, as
its first possessor; and so long as the tribes exist these rights
should be respected and their interests conserved. Not only
should they be respected, they should be freely recognised and
generously dealt with. The same may be said for their descendants, the Me'tis.
The exclusive privileges of the Hudson Bay Company, being
opposed to the best interests of Canada, and antagonistic to
the progress as well as to the spirit of the age, could not, of
course, be suffered to run on in perpetua. Its shareholders
saw this in 1838, when the last renewal of its charter was
granted. They saw this more clearly in 1859, when its charter
had run out. At both of these periods there was much agitation over what was termed the usurpation of the Company.
While its operations were confined to the shores of Hudson
Bay, there were few to call in question its charter, or quarrel
with its license to trade. But when its employe's ascended the
rivers to the plains of the South, they came into collision with
the French joint-stock Company, whose traders had long
roamed over the valleys of the Assiniboine and the Saskatchewan, and excited prejudice by the claim of privilege and the
assumption of power. For many years hostility to the Hudson Bay Company was actively fostered in Canada. Not only
was it natural that the Colony should favour its own Com-,
pany ; it was peculiarly its interest to do so. The trade of the
North-West Company specially enriched it. It did more : it
tept open a hQme route to the West, and made Montreal the THE HUDSON BAY COMPANY.
centre of a large aiid lucrative trade. After the embroilment
of this Company with the Selkirk colony on the Red River, it
coalesced with the older Eiiglisn Company, and much Of the
trade returned to its former Outlet on Hudson Bay. This
amalgamation did not a little to revive Canadian antipathy to
the parent institution. The aggressions in Oregon, and the
later extension of its trade to the Pacific, increased public distrust of the Company and fanned the flame of hostility. The
Company, moreover, in asserting its power to enact tariffs, to
levy taxes, and collect customs dues, made itself more obnoxious, and intensified public feeling against it, when it approached the Imperial authorities for a renewal of its charter.
Its policy towards settlers added to the counts of the indictment which confronted its paid advocates in parliament.
Complaints were frequently made that immigrants, after fulfilling the hard conditions imposed upon the settler, failed to get
from the Company's officers the title-deeds to their lands. In
this respect, it is to be feared, history has repeated itself. Settlers also complained that an embargo was placed upon any
little trade with the Indians, which they, on occasion, might
effect. Their houses were entered in search of furs, which,
when discovered, were confiscated ; and the settlers' possessions
not infrequently were destroyed and themselves taken captive.
The Company's rule in the West was often arbitrary and oppressive. Little was done to ameliorate the condition of the
settler's life, but much often to annoy and impoverish him.
Water communication was nowhere facilitated, nor were roads
opened up. The character and resources of the region were
belied, and everything was done to dissuade or retard immigration. It may be doubted whether the country has ever
fully recovered from the effects of the circulation of these
Such a policy as we have referred to was sure to react upon
the Company. In 1857, the Imperial Parliament empowered a
Committee to take evidence in regard to the administration 2Z     THE tfORtfH-WEStf: ITS HISTORY AtiD ITS TfeOttfeLES.
of the Hudson Bay Company, and to consider the state of the
British Possessions in North America under its rule. The report of this Committee exhausts the arguments for and against
the Company : the report itself is a model of statesmanlike excellence. -It is one of the most valuable State papers in connection with Canadian affairs it has been our privilege to inspect. The eminence and high character of the Committee, its
adequate powers, the fulness of the evidence it elicited, and
the dispassionateness and impartiality with which it discharged
its functions, give a value to the Report unusual among political documents. The finding of the Committee was adverse to
the continuance of Hudson Bay Company rule in such portions
of the country as were fit for settlement, with which Canada
was willing to open and maintain communication, and for
which she would provide the means of local administration.
In this finding, the Committee not only paid regard to the reasonable desires of the settlers themselves, but had in view the
extension of the territory of an important and growing colony, and the interest and policy of the British Crown. The
opinion was also expressed, that it would be proper to terminate the Company's connection with Vancouver's Island, as the
best means of favouring the development of the great natural
resources of that and other portions of the adjacent country which might afterwards become part of a British colony on the Pacific coast. In respect of the remainder of the
Hudson Bay Territory, | in which, for the present at least, there
can be no prospect of settlement for the purposes of colonisation," the ^ Committee thought it desirable that the Company
should continue to enjoy the privilege of exclusive trade, and
to throw over it and the Indians inhabiting it whatever" protection it could afford.*
*It is due here to say that during the sittings of this important Committee of the
British Parliament the interests of Canada were most zealously watched by the
late Hon. Chief Justice Draper, to whose ability and high sense of honour, the
Committee made suitable acknowledgment, as well as expressed its indebtedness 'the Hudson bay coMPAHt.
The action taken by Parliament on this weighty Report, and
the subsequent negotiations by the Crown for the cession of the
Hudson Bay Territories, are matters of history. The immediate result of the transfer was the unhappy outbreak in 1869 ;
though the following year saw the retreat of disloyalty and
the advance of law and order. A vast continent came into the
possession of the Canadian people ;—boundless stretches of rich
prairie, verdant slopes and navigable rivers, with, it must not
be concealed, not a little of rock and reeking swamp, and, in
the inhospitable north, leagues of snow and desolation. What
the country has become in the fifteen years that have elapsed since it passed from the sway of the Hudson Bay Company is no slight tribute to the sagacity and foresight of those
who were instrumental in negotiating its transfer to the Can-
adian people. As a preserve for game it has lost its value; and
in this respect the native inhabitant is a keen sufferer, while
the fur trader has been despoiled of his trade. But in cattle-
raising and agriculture, the hunter, as well as the settler, has a
more assured means of livelihood than anv to be found in the
fruits of the chase.
There are problems yet to be worked out in the settlement
of the country, in turning the plains from a breeding-ground
of buffalo to the purposes of the agriculturist and the civilised
settler. But, for their solution, sagacity and prudence should
be all that is necessary, coupled with patriotism and the resolution to do right, and to see that right alone is done. What-
ever difficulties beset the immediate future, it is hoped that
these will neither be prolonged nor insurmountable. The insurgents of the North-West must be cured of their disposition
to resort to insurgency. No men, race, or class of men, whatever be their grievance, must be suffered to throw over constitutional means of seeking redress; nor should the ear of justice
for valuable information placed by Mr. Draper at its disposal while acting at the
enquiry as the representative of the Canadian Government. u
be inaccessible, or the hand of administration slow, in the application of a remedy. The resort to arms must be treated with
no sentimental, still less with partisan or racial, leniency. Insurrection should meet with speedy suppression, and seditious
speech sharply dealt with. There must be unfailing protection
to life and property, abiding peace, and absolute security. Only
on these conditions can the country be favourably settled, and
a material and a moral advance made on the rule of the Hudson Bay Company.
^»      sat, eilL/A^m.    ?.&Jte^i Ki
HE North-West Fur Company, of Montreal, was
for the space of nearly forty years an active and
formidable rival of the Hudson Bay Company.
It was entirely a Canadian venture, a private
joint-stock company, composed of French, Scottish, and, to some extent, half-breed traders,
u without charter, or, so far as we can make out,
license from the Government. Its object was to
pursue the peltry trade, and to traffic and barter with the
Indians. Next to the Hudson Bay Company, it was the most
powerful trading organisation that ever entered the field of
commerce in the North-West. Its history is marked by
chronic feuds with the employe's of its great English rival, and
by a sanguinary conflict with Lord Selkirk's settlement on the
Red River. In its encounter with the latter, twenty-two lives
were lost, including the Hudson Bay Governor. Towards the
colony of the Scottish nobleman it pursued a relentless and
cruel policy. In its hostility it was actuated by the same
spirit of opposition as that which actuated the English Company in resisting the entrance of a rival in its own field.
Neither Company loved the other; and when the colony was
founded it was with glee the Hudson Bay Company officials
saw the jealousy with which it was regarded by the rival insti-
tution. This jealousy it became the purpose of the Hudson
Bay Company to inflame. By every art it embittered the
feeling between the Nor'-Westers and the colony; and, later
on, it readily lent its aid as an ally in the strife. Hard indeed
was the lot of the Selkirk settlement under conditions so
adverse. But it is not our purpose here to narrate the history
of its career or to record its fate. This will be told in another
The feud with the Scotch immigrants of the Selkirk colony
was only an incident, though a prominent one, in the history
of the conflict between the two trading organisations locally
known as the "Nor-Westers" and the "Hudson Bays." The
intrusion of the former into what was deemed the exclusive
possessions of the latter, was the occasion of a long and bitter
strife. Organised in 1783, the/North-West Company was not
long in building up a successful trade, for its operations were
conducted with skill, vigour, and enterprise. From the period
of the Conquest to that of the establishment of the Canadian
Company, many private traders had penetrated into the North-
West. The head of Lake Superior was their common rendezvous. From there the usual route to the west was by Rainy
River, the Lake of the Woods, and the Winnipeg. Reaching
the Red River they gradually extended their operations as far
west as the Saskatchewan, and, ere long, to the forks of the
Athabasca. There they intercepted the trade which was wont
to seek the Hudson Bay posts on the Churchill. This rivalry
at last woke the English Company from its lethargy, and it
determined to send traders inland to recover its monopoly.
By this time, however, the Montreal Company was not only in
the field; it was strongly entrenched. Already it had possession of the trade of the Red River, and had established a fort
at the mouth of the Souris.
But the Canadian Company was not only active; it was
shrewd. The principle on which it was organised was a sort
of co-operative one, which gave to its servants a share in the THE  NORTH-WEST FUR COMPANY.
profits of the business. Proportionately, all were partners in
the concern ; hence, all had a personal interest in its success. The effect of this was to strengthen the Company, and
to make it a formidable rival in the field. Every year saw its
enterprising traders extend their operations further to the
west. This could not go on undisturbed. The Hudson Bay
Company, now fully alarmed at the encroachments of its rival,
bestirred itself to oppose it. Wherever the Nor'-Westers constructed a fort there the Hudson Bays established a rival one.
Brought thus into close proximity, each bidding against the
other for trade, it was impossible that they could live in peace.
Each, moreover, claimed a right to the territory, the one b}r
virtue of its charter, the other by right of discovery and first
occupancy. It will be seen there was no lack of matter to
wrangle over.
Now began a many-years' conflict. .The Hudson Bay Company was a newcomer in the territory; the French had been
actively in possession for over a century. As early as 1627,
forty years before the Hudson Bays had obtained their
charter, a body of French traders, known as the "One Hundred Associates," was trafficing on the plains of the North-
West. King Charles's deed to the Hudson Bay Company
seems, indeed, to have been issued with a knowledge of this
circumstance, for it cedes only those lands "not possessed by
the subjects of any other Christian King or State." The
French historian, Charlevoix, who visited Canada in 1720, and
Was well informed on the subject of the trade of the rival
nations in Hudson Bay and the North-West, speaks scornfully
of the pretensions of the English in these regions. A French
Company operating in the territory, and long in possession of
it, was sure to be aware of these facts, and naturally influenced
by them. But the Nor'-Westers had another and a demonstrative ally in their employe's, the Me*tis, or Bois-brules, who,
of course, took the French view of the case. These "Half-
breeds," who to-day form a considerable and an unsettled por- 28      THE  NORTH-WEST:  ITS  HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
tion of the population of the North-West, were the progeny of
the early French voyageur who had mated with the Indian.
Later on, the Scotch trader and Company's employe* was not
loath to follow the example sevt him by his French fellow-
countryman. He was of one mind with him, who, in the
Laureate's poem, sighs for a barbarian's retreat, and escape
from the links of habit and the ties of a conventional world:
" There the passions cramped no longer shall have scope and breathing-
I will take some savage woman, she shall rear my dusky race."
The writer from whom we have already quoted, * on the
characteristic features of Hudson Bay rule in the North-West,
speaks thus with reference to the Company's officers mating
with the Indian races:
"When the young clerk," he writes, "went out to the country, a wife as a compagnon de voyage was out of the question;
and most frequently, when he was able to marry, he was far
distant from the women of his own race, or from civilisation of
any sort. The same was true of the early pioneers all over the
American continent, few of them caring to take wives with
them, but preferring, for a time at least, to push their fortunes
alone. Absence from home, and a familiarity with the race
around them, soon broke the links which once bound them to
their fatherland and the women of their country, and many
took wives from among the daughters of the soil. This was
particularly common among the servants of the great fur companies, not only because few white women cared to take up
their tot with the rovers of the wide fur-countries, but that it
was also a matter of policy to ingratiate themselves with the
powerful Indian tribes among whom they were thrown. The
Hudson Bay Company, ever the most shrewd of merchants—
most cautious of Scotchmen—encouraged this mating with the
Indian races among their officers and voyageurs, mainly in
order that their employe's might have ties which would retain
them in the country and consolidate the foundations of the
Company by bonds of relationship and friendship between all
* '* Story of a Dead Monopoly."   Vide Cornhill, August, 1870,
•i'tVj    1..V »»•«.'. m
their factors, traders, and servants generally. So sons and
daughters were born to the Macs and. Pierres; and the blood of
Indian warriors, mingling with that of " Hieland lairds'; and
French bourgeois, the traders, the trappers, and the voyageurs
of the great Fur Company, began to flow in a steady stream all
through I His Majesty's Plantations in North America,' deepening and expanding until it reached from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, from York Factory to Fort Victoria. * * * It used
to be noted in the Company, in latter days, that if an officer
married a " white girl': on any of his visits to Montreal or
Victoria, he could give no surer guarantee of his fitness for
non-advancement in the Company. ' Oor ain fish-guts to oor
ain sea-maws,' used to be the motto of the Board of Management, composed of old factors who had daughters to marry.
Young officers, knowing this, proceeded accordingly."
But we h#ve digressed somewhat from the matter before us.
We were speaking of the 1 Half-breed " as an interested party
in the feud between the rival trading Companies. He was, in
truth, an influential factor in the struggle.    At the time of
' oo
which we write the j Metis" were almost entirely of French
extraction, and were exclusively in the employ of the North-
West Company. At a later date, on the Hudson Bay Company beginning to trade in the south, its officers formed liasons
with the young women of the various tribes, and an English, in
contradistinction to a French half-breed race, in process of time
sprung up. As yet, as we have said however, the Half-breed
was of French descent and owned his allegiance to the Canadian Company. To that Company he naturally looked for
employment; and he took to its service not only with alacrity but with ancestral pride. For his duties he was admirably
fitted ; for the Half-breed possesses, in addition to the Frenchman's versatility and ready resource, the Indian's skill as a
canoeist and his intuitive knowledge of the woods. The pride
and stately dignity of the old French noblesse, and the magnificence of the Highland laird, who had now become an opulent
fur-trader and possessor of large interests in the vast domain
of the West, attracted the eye and won the heart of the simple SO      THE NORTH-WEST:  ITS  HISTO&Y AND ITS TROUBLES.
child of the woods. This was true, indeed, not only of the
Half-breed, but of the full-blooded Indian. To the French, both
were drawn bv characteristics of race, which found no counter-
part in the English. The French race was quick to merge into
the Indian, and to pick up the habits, and not infrequently the
vices, of the dusky children of the woods. Parkman, the historian, remarks that the French colonists of Canada held, from
the beginning, a peculiar intimacy of relation with the Indian
tribes. Here are some passages from this graphic writer,*
which shew how French influence diffused itself throughout
Canada, and infected both the Indian and the Half-breed. He
is speaking specially of the period of French military domination in the colony:
" France laboured," he says, " with-eager diligence to conciliate
the Indians and win them to espouse her cause. Her agents
were busy in every village, studying the language of the inmates, complying with their usages, flattering their prejudices,
caressing them, cajoling them, and whispering friendly warnings
in their ears against the wicked designs of the English.   When
o o o
a party of Indian chiefs visited a French fort, they were greeted with the firing of cannon and rolling of drums ; they were
regaled at the tables of the officers, and bribed with medals
and decorations, scarlet uniforms, and French flags. Far wiser
than their rivals, the French never ruffled the self-complacent
dignity of their guests, never insulted their religious notions,
nor ridiculed their ancient customs. They met the savage
half way, and showed an abundant readiness to mould their
own features after his likeness. Count Frontenac himself,
plumed and painted like an Indian chief, danced the war-dance
and yelled the war-song at the camp-fires of his delighted allies.
In its efforts to win the friendship and alliance of the Indian
tribes, the French Government found every advantage in the
peculiar character of its subjects—that pliant and plastic temper
which forms so marked a contrast to the stubborn spirit of the
Englishman. At first, great hopes were entertained that, by
the mingling of French and Indians, the latter would be won
*" The Conspiracy of Pontiac." Vol. I. tHE NORTH-WEST tfUR COMPANY.
over to civilisation and the Church ; but the effect was precisely
the reverse; for, as Charlevoix observes, the savages did not
become French, but the French became savages. Hundreds
betook themselves to the forest never to return. These overflowings of French civilisation were merged in the waste of
o o
barbarism, as a river is lost in the sands of the desert. The
wandering Frenchman chose a wife or a concubine among his
Indian friends; and, in a few generations, scarcely a tribe of
the west was free from an infusion of Celtic blood. The
French Empire in America could exhibit among its subjects
every- shade of colour from white to red, every gradation of
culture, from the highest civilisation of Paris to the rudest barbarism of the wigwam."
" The fur-trade engendered a peculiar class of men, known
by the appropriate name of bush-rangers, or coureurs de bois,
half-civilised vagrants, whose chief vocation was conducting
the canoes of the traders along the lakes and rivers of the in-
terior; many of them, however, shaking loose every tie of
blood and kindred, identified themselves with the Indians, and
sank into utter barbarism. In many a squalid camp among
the plains and forests of the west, the traveller would have
encountered men owning the blood and speaking the language
of France, yet, in their swarthy visages and barbarous costume, seeming more akin to those with whom they had cast
their lot.     The renegade of civilisation caught the habits and
o o
imbibed the prejudices of his chosen associates. He loved to
decorate his long hair with eagle feathers, to make his face
hideous with vermilion, ochre, and soot, and to adorn his greasy
hunting frock with horse-hair fringes. His dwelling, if he
had one, was a wigwam. He lounged on a bear-skin while his
squaw boiled his venison and lighted his pipe. In hunting, in
dancing, in singing, in taking a scalp, he rivalled the genuine
Indian. His mind was tinctured with the superstitions of the
forest. He had faith in the magic drum of the conjuror; he
was not sure that a thunder-cloud could not be frightened
away by whistling at it through the wing-bone of an eagle ;
he carried the tail of a rattle-snake in his bullet pouch by way
of amulet; and he placed implicit trust in his dreams*. This
class of men is not yet extinct. In the cheerless wilds beyond
the northern lakes, or among the mountain solitudes of the
distant west, they may still be found, unchanged in life and §i
character since the day when Louis the Great claimed sovereignty over this desert empire."
In a fine passage, in the work from which we have made this
extract, Mr. Parkman draws a characteristic picture of the
Canadian woodsman, in contrast with the sturdy English colonist, whose political and religious life developed a type quite
different from the easy-going French-Canadian, the product of
feudalism and Mother-Church.    Says this interesting writer :
" In every quality7 of efficiency and strength, the Canadian
fell miserably below his rival; but in all that pleases the eye
and interests the imagination, he far surpassed him. Buoyant
and gay, like his ancestry of France, he made the frozen
wilderness ring with merriment, answered the surly howling
of the pine forest with peals of laughter, and warmed with
revelry the groaning ice of the St. Lawrence. Careless and
thoughtless, he lived happy in the midst of poverty, content if
he could but gain the means to fill his tobacco-pouch, and decorate the cap of his mistress with a ribbon. The example of a
beggared nobility, who, proud and penniless, could only assert
their rank by idleness and ostentation, was not lost upon him.
A rightful heir to French bravery and French restlessness, he
had an eager love of wandering and adventure; and this propensity found ample scope in the service of the fur-trade, the
engrossing occupation and chief source of income to the colony.
When the priest of St. Anne's had shrived him of his sins;
when, after the parting carousal, he embarked with his comrades in the deep-laden canoe; when their oars kept time to the
measured cadence of their song, and the blue, sunny bosom of
the Ottawa opened before them; when their frail bark quivered among the milky foam and black rocks of the rapid ; and
when, around their camp-fire, they wasted half the night with
jests and laughter,—then the Canadian was in his element.
His footsteps explored the farthest hiding-places of the wilderness. In the evening dance, his red cap mingled with the
scalp-locks and feathers of the Indian braves; or, stretched on
a bear-skin by the side of his dusky mistress, he watched the
gambols of his hybrid offspring, in happy oblivion of the partner whom he left unnumbered leagues behind. The fur-trade
engendered a peculiar class of restless bush-rangers, more akin Me north-west fur Company.
to Indians than to white men. Those who had once felt the
fascinations of the forest were unfitted ever after for a life of
quiet labour; and with this spirit the whole colony of Canada
was infected."
Such were the characteristics of the French Canadian and
the half-breed who eagerly entered the employment of the
North-West Fur Company, and worked long and unweariedly
in its interests. For a time no other race or class of men could
have been more serviceable to the Company. They wTere
inured to hardships; theyT wTere at home in the woods; their
relations with the Indians wTere of the happiest; and they
were never home-sick, or out of humour with their surroundings. Furthermore, they were always loyal to the Company.
With zest did they enter into the feuds between it and its
rival, and with equal zest did they take up their masters'
unfortunate quarfel with Lord Selkirk and his colony. This
nobleman's settlement on the Red River was, naturally enough,
considered an usurpation, for he had acquired his rights by
purchase from the Hudson Bayr Company, who had neither
discovered the region nor had been in occupancy. On the
other hand, the North-West traders were the discoverers, and for
many years had been in possession. In a dispassionate review
of the facts, it is important that this should be borne in mind.
The Conquest may be said to have given the English a right
to the territory; but in the absence of any confirmation of its
charter, subsequent to that occurrence, it can hardly be said to
have transferred that right to the Hudson Bay Company.
It is important also to note that the discoverers were not
unauthorised adventurers. French trading operations were
always coupled with the motive of discovery. It was the
invariable policy of the French Government, through its representatives at Quebec, to encourage geographical research and
advance the possessions of the Crown. As early as the year
1717, M. de la Noiie, a young French lieutenant, was commissioned by M. de Vaudreuil, the Governor, to proceed to the 34      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY ANt) ITS TROUBLES.
west on a mission of trade and discovery. By this and the enterprises which immediately followed it, the whole vast interior,
as far west as the Rocky Mountains, became known to the
French; and in the region they speedily established their forts.
In 1731, they erected Fort St. Pierre, at the discharge of the
Lac la Pluie (Rainy Lake), and in the following year founded
Fort St. Charles on the Lake of the Woods, and Fort Maurepas
on the Winnipeg. In 1738, all the district of the Assiniboine
was within the area of their operations, and Fort La Reine, on
the St. Charles, and Fort Bourbon, on the Riviere des Biches,
were established. Five years later, the Verandryes took possession of the Upper Mississippi and ascended the Saskatchewan
in the interest of French trade. In 1766, the famous post
of Michillimackinac, at the entrance of the Lac des Illinois
(Michigan), was established. Other parts of the continent
were also covered by the operations of the French traders and
discoverers. Hudson Bay had early been reached by way of
the Saguenay and Lake St. John, by the Ottawa, and by Lakes
Nipigon and Winnipeg. The Kaministiquia, at the head of
Lake Superior, as we have seen, was the base of supplies for
operations in the west, and the great rallying-place of the
French trader and voyageur. In short, the wThole country was
probed and made known to the outer world by the enterprise
of the French and the French Canadians. As a consequence,
any maps of the interior that were at all trustworthy were
those of the French : the charts of the English, until long after
the Conquest, were ludicrously inaccurate. Hence the opposition to the assumptions of the Hudson Bay Company, and the
hostile rivalry which it engendered. After the Conquest, it is
true, the French for a time abandoned their western possessions; but the old trading habit returned, stimulated, as we
have seen, by the sturdy Scotch and the organization of the
Canadian " Nor'-Westers." The success of this Company was
remarkable. It had, however, its periods of trade depression
and its years of disaster.   A scourge of small-pox would break THE  NORTH-WEST FUR COMPANY.
out among the Indians and for the season destroy its trade.
Another year, there would be great floods in the west, and
trade would be impeded if not wholly lost. Then there came
the era of strife with the Red River colony and collision with
the 1 Hudson Bays."- In these engagements forts were fired
and fur-depots destroyed. For a time hostilities were keen
and continuous, and on both sides ruinous. Finally^, the Hudson Bays and the Nor'-Westers coalesced; and from 1821 the
amalgamated corporations traded under the old English title
and charter of the Hudson Bay Company. This coalition of
the Nor'-Westers with its English rival gave great strength
to the united Company. It brought it an accession of capable
traders and intelligent voyageurs and discoverers. In the
service of the North-West Company were men—Alexander
Mackenzie and David Thompson among the number—whose
names will be forever identified with discovery in the North-
West. The writer from whom we have more than once
quoted, an old employe of the Hudson Bay Company, thus
writes of the character and social status of the men it took over
with the North-West Company \
"The sleepy old Hudson -Bay Company were astounded at
the magnificence of the newcomers, and old traders yet talk
of the lordly Nor'-Wester. It was in those days that young
Washington Irving was their guest, when he made his memor-
O O O '
able journey to Montreal. The agents who presided over the
affairs of the Company at headquarters were very important
personages indeed, as might be expected. They were veterans
that had grown grev in the  wilds, and were full of all the
O O       ./ '
traditions of the fur trade; and around them circled the laurels gained in the North.. They were, in fact, a sort of commercial aristocracy in Quebec and Montreal, in days when
nearly everybody- was more or less directly interested in the
fur trade."
In Washington Irving's " Astoria," the record of John Jacob
o O '
Astor's Fur-trading Expedition on the waters of the Columbia
River, occurs a graphic description of the North-West Com- r^
pany in the days of its prime. As the passage admirably
describes a gathering at the annual conference of the Company
at Fort William, we make no excuse for its insertion here, and
with it shall conclude the present chapter.
" To behold the North-West Company in all its state and
grandeur it was necessary to witness the annual gathering
at Fort William, near what is now called the Grand Portage, on Lake Superior. Here two or three of the leading
partners from Montreal proceeded once a year to meet the
partners from the various trading-places in the wilderness, to
discuss the affairs of the Company during the preceding year,
and to arrange plans for the future. On these occasions might
be seen the change since the unceremonious times of the old
French traders, with their roystering coureurs de bois. Now
the aristocratic character of the Briton, or rather the feudal
spirit of the Highlander, shone out magnificently ; every partner who had charge of an interior post, and had a score of
retainers at his command, felt like the chieftain of a Highland
clan, and was almost as important in the eyes of his dependants as of himself. To him a visit to the grand conference
at Fort William was a most important event, and he repaired
thither as to a meeting of Parliament. The partners from Montreal, however, were the lords of the ascendant. Coming from
the midst of a luxurious and ostentatious life, they quite eclipsed
their compeers from the woods, whose forms and faces had
been battered by hard living and rough service, and whose garments and equipments were all the worse for wear. Indeed
the partners from below considered the whole dignity of the
Company as represented in their own persons, and conducted
themselves in suitable style. They ascended the rivers in great
state, like sovereigns making a. progress, or rather like High-
' O O 1 O ' O
land chieftains navigating their subject lakes. They were
wrapped in rich furs, their huge canoes freighted with every
convenience and luxury, and manned by Canadian voyageurs
as obedient as clansmen. They carried with them cooks and
bakers, together with delicacies of every kind, and abundance
of choice wines for the banquets which attended this great convocation. Happy were they, too, if they could meet with any
distinguished stranger—above all, with some titled member of
the British nobility—to accompany them on this stately occa- THE NORTH-WEST FUR COMPANY.
sion, and grace their high solemnities. Fort William, the
scene of this important meeting, was a considerable village on
the banks of Lake Superior. Here, in an immense wooden
building, was the great council-chamber, and also the banquet-
ing-hall, decorated with Indian arms and accoutrements, and
the trophies of the fur trade. The house swarmed at this time
with traders and voyageurs from Montreal bound to the interior posts, and some from the interior posts bound to Montreal. The councils were held in great state, for every member
felt as if sitting in Parliament, and every retainer and dependant looked up to the assemblage with awe, as to the House
of Lords. There was a vast deal of solemn deliberation and
hard Scottish reasoning, with an occasional swell of pompous
declamation. These grave and weighty councils were alternated with huge feasts and revels.    The tables in the great
o o
banqueting-room groaned under the weight of game of all
kinds,—of venison from the woods, and fish from the lakes ;
with hunters' delicacies, such as buffaloes' tongues and beavers'
tails ; and various luxuries from Montreal. There was no stint
of generous wine, for it was a hard-diinking period, a time of
loyal toasts and Bacchanalian songs and brimming bumpers.
While the chiefs thus revelled in the hall, and made the rafters resound with bursts of loyalty and old Scottish song,
chanted in voices cracked and sharpened by the Northern
blast, their merriment was echoed and prolonged by a mongrel
legion of retainers, Canadian voyageurs, half-breeds, Indian
hunters, and vagabond hangers-on, who feasted sumptuously
without, on the crumbs from their table, and made the welkin
ring with old French ditties, mingled with Indian yelps and
veilings." 4
.T/ie English Trader, Alexander Henry.
NE of the conditions on which the Hudson Bay
Company received its original charter was that
it should interest itself in geographical research.
To a trading corporation this was a foolish proviso. We have seen that the Company took no
thought to colonise its possessions: on the contrary, it did all it could to prevent settlement.
The aid it gave to discovery, if we except some
little assistance to the expeditions to the Arctic
Seas in search of Franklin, was very slight. It sought solely
its own interests. If it opened up regions in the North-West,
it was to establish a trading-post, not to set up a meteorological
station or erect an observatory. We doubt if its administrative officers could give, even approximately, the latitude and
longitude of any one of its stations. Many of its traders and
voyageurs doubtless, in time, became very familiar with the
North-West, but only a few of them caught the adventurous
spirit of the old navigators and travellers, and forgot their
trading operations in their eagerness to explore the country.
From the earliest period of colonial settlement at Quebec, the
French led the van in all exploratory effort.    The great water-
ways of the country gave facilities in probing the continent.
Quebec was but the gateway to the Far West. From its portal
the Jesuit was the first to lead off in the adventurous mission
of carrying the Cross into the Canadian wilderness. Closely
following the Black Robes, Champlain pursued his toilsome
journey, by the Ottawa and Lake Nipissing, to the inland sea
of the Hurons.* From the home of the Wyandot, detachments
of the French missionaries threaded their way through the
maze of islands in the Georgian Bay to the St. Mary's river
and Lake Superior. Later on, Marquette tracked the mighty
waters of Superior, and penetrated to the Mississippi. Down
this great artery La Salle carried the flewr de lis to the
Gulf of Mexico, and finally found an unknown grave in Texas.
From the beginning of the seventeenth century the adventurous spirits of old France were to be found on all the great
waters of the continent; and the footsteps of French traders,
guided, it may be, by an Algonquin Indian, might be traced on
the crisp snow of even the western prairie. Over the latter,
in 1738, the Verandryes, father and son, braved their course to
the far Rockies, through untold dangers and over almost insurmountable obstacles.
War was not long in following on the trail of the explorer.
Over the route taken by Joliet and Marquette to the west
might be seen the armed column of Rogers' Rangers, on its way
to the fort at Detroit.    English garrisons were also to be found
o o
at Sault Ste. Marie, and at Green Bay, on Lake Michigan.
Ere long the woods at Mackinaw resounded with the shrieks
of Pontiac's victims in the treacherously captured garrison of
Michillimackinac; while a storm of blood and fire was passing
over  the  region  between   Lake  Erie  and  the  Alleghanies.
o o
English and French blood also flowed freely on the shores of
Lakes St. George and Champlain, and the woods of the neigh-
* For an account of this ill-starred expedition, and the subsequent Iroquois massacre of the Hurons and Jesuit Missionaries, see the Author's' article on '' The,
Georgian Bay and Muskoka Lakes," in Picturesque Canada, 40      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
bourhood rang nightly with the hideous shouts of the war-
dance. For a time exploration held its breath while the continent was thrilled with the shock of battle at Quebec.
We have mentioned the tragedy enacted at Michillimackinac,
the result of the' "conspiracy of Pontiac," whom Parkman
terms the " Satan of the forest paradise." As it happened, the
pioneer of the English fur trade in the west, Alexander Henry,
had come to the Fort shortly after the Conquest to pursue his
trade, and was one of its inmates at the time of the massacre.
Some extracts from this trader's narrative of the occurrence,
Mr. Parkman weaves into his own history of the Indian war
after the Conquest. Hemy's narrative is replete with interest,
not only for the thrilling personal account he gives of the Ojib-
way surprise and massacre of the English garrison, but for its
record of trading operations in Western Canada, and in the
Indian territories beyond the Red River. His work, * which
is dated from Montreal, in 1809, is well written, and covers a
period of trade and adventure from the years 1760 to 1776.
In August, 1761, while as yet there had been no treaty of
peace between the English and the Indians who had taken
part with the French against the conquerors of the country,
Henry decided to set out on a trading expedition from
Montreal to Mackinaw, at the entrance to Lake Michigan.
Receiving permission from General Gage, who was then Commander-in-Chief in Canada, and providing himself with a
passport from the town major, he left Montreal on the 2nd of
August, and Lachine on the following day. His party followed
the usual route to the west, by the Ottawa and Lake Nipissing.
By the end of the month, Henry had entered the Georgian Bay,
and early in September, he reached the island of Michillimackinac, sometimes called the " Great Turtle." Here our traveller
was cautioned not to remain, as the Indians of the region were
* *■ Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories."   By Alexander Henry, Esq.   New York, 1809.   EAtlLY DlSCOYERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
hostile to his countrymen, and the few French-Canadians at
the Fort were far from friendly. But Henry disregarded this
advice, for the place was important to him in preparing his
outfit for trade in the North-West; though he took the precaution to cross the straits of Mackinaw and enter the Fort. The
Fort at this time was garrisoned by a small number of militia,
who, having families, as Henry tells us, became less soldiers
than settlers. Not a few of them had served in the French
army; at the Conquest they entered the service and accepted
the pay of Britain.
At the Fort. Henrv was informed that the whole band of
Chippeways from the neighbouring island of Michillimackinae
intended to pay him a visit, a piece of information which was
far from agreeable to the adventurous trader. The report was
true.    Here is Henry's account of the unwelcome visit:
" At two o'clock in the afternoon, the Chippeways came to
my house, about sixty in number, headed by Minavavana, their
chief. They walked in single file, each with his tomahawk in
one hand and scalping-knife in the other. Their bodies were
naked from the waist upward, except in a few instances, where
blankets were thrown loosely over the shoulders. Their faces
w^ere painted with charcoal, worked up with grease; their
bodies with white clay, in patterns of curious fancies. Some
had feathers thrust through their noses, and their heads decorated with the same. It is unnecessary to dwell on the sensations
with which I beheld the approach of this uncouth, if not frightful, assemblage."
In the colloquy that ensued, Henry was far from being
assured; for, after an interval of pipe-smoking, during which
the English trader endured the tortures of suspense, the chief
addressed him in these words:
" Englishman, it is to you that I speak, and. I demand your
attention ! Englishman, it is your people that have made war
with our father, the French king. You are his enemy ; and
how, then, could you have the boldness to venture among us
his children ? You know that his enemies are ours. Englishman, although you have conquered the French, you have not
c II
. 1
yet conquered us! We are not your slaves. These lakes,
these woods and mountains, were left to us by our ancestors.
They are our inheritance; and we will part with them to none.
" Englishman, our father, the King of France, employed our
young men to make war upon your nation. In this warfare
many of them have been killed; and it is our custom to retaliate, until such time as the spirits of the slain are satisfied.
But the spirits of the slain are to be satisfied in either of two
ways : the first, by the spilling of the blood of the nation by
which they fell; the other, by covering the bodies of the dead,
and thus allaying the resentment of their relations. This is
done by making presents."
Here Henry, we can imagine, breathed freely. It was his
trading outfit, not his life, that was most in danger.
| Englishman, your king has never sent us any presents, nor
entered into any treat}7 with us, wherefore he and we are still
at war; and, until he does these things, we must consider that
we have no other father or friend among the white men than
the King of France ; but, for you, we have taken into consideration that you have ventured your life among us, in the
expectation that we should not molest you. You do not come
armed, with an intention to make war; you come in peace, to
trade with us, and supply us with necessaries, of which we are
much in want. We shall regard you, therefore, as a brother;
and you may sleep tranquilly without fear of the Chippeways.
As a token of our friendship, we present you with this pipe
to smoke."
The natural apprehension with which Henry regarded the
visit of the Chippewrays, as will be seen, was relieved by the
turn things had taken. It was not his life, but his goods, they
wanted. There is a delightful naivete about the chief's speech,
in his remarks about the giving of presents, a hint which
Henry was slow to take, though he reluctantly acceded to a
later request that the delegation should be allowred to taste his
English " milk," i. e. rum. There is an amusing delicacy about
the request for the rum, as Henry states it, which the Indians
wanted to drink, so as to know " whether or not there was any
difference between the English and the French milk," adding* felRLY DISCOVERERS  OF TftE tfoftTfi-WESt.
w that it was long since they had tasted any." Deeming it
prudent that the rum should not be " drunk on the premises,"
he hastened to get some few presents, which he'gave them, as
he observes, with the utmost good will, and was glad to see
them take their departure.
Henry's relief from this visitation Was but the prelude, however, to another. No sooner were the Chippeways gone than
two hundred of the neighbouring tribe of the Ottawas, from
L'Arbre Croche, came out of Lake Michigan and drew their
canoes up on the beach. They had heard of the arrival of the
Englishman, Henry, and his trading expedition. The Ottawas,
unlike the Ojibways, manifested no nice sense of delicacy in
their overtures to the trader; nor in their demands did they
beat about the bush. They summoned Henry to appear before
them, and without any preliminary palaver informed him of
their object in coming to the Fort. Their demand was that
Henry and the other traders who had come to Michillimack-
inac should distribute, on credit, to each of the tribes merchandise and ammunition to the amount of fifty beaver-skins, the
value of the goods to be repaid the traders on the return next
summer of the Indians from their winter hunts. The demand
was refused, as the Ottawas were known to be "bad pay;'
but it was threateningly renewed, and the traders were given
twenty-four hours for reflection. The next day there was a
Council; but Henry and his party thought it safest not to be
present, though a message was sent asking that the amount of
the credit demanded might be reduced. This was not entertained ; and threats of death were returned by the messenger
should their demands not be complied with. That night news
fortunately reached the small garrison of the near approach of
some 300 men of the 60th Regiment, who had been sent from
Detroit on detachment duty at Michiliimackinac and the other
posts in the west. Henry and the traders spent a night of
terror in their barricaded cabins, but on the morrow were relieved beyond measure to find that the Ottawas had fled with 44      THE NORTH-WES$:  ITS  HISTORY AND  ifs TROtJBLE^.
the dawn as the detachment of English troops reached the
o jr
Free now to pursue his mission of trade, Henry got his party
under way and despatched it to Sault Ste. Marie. For the
next two years he seems to have spent the time alternately at
the I Soo" and at Mackinaw. At the close of the year 1762,
the post at the " Soo 1 was accidentally burned, and Henry informs us, that to obtain suitable shelter, and save themselves
from famine, the garrison and the traders withdrew to Mackinaw. During the winter, rumours were rife of hostile designs
against the English soldiery at Michillimackinac. The garrison at this time, according to Henry, consisted of ninety privates, two subalterns, and the Commandant. There seems to be
doubt, however, of the accuracy of this statement. Parkman,
who quotes from the letters of Captain Etherington, the Commandant of the Fort, gives the number of rank and file as
thirty-five, exclusive of officers, traders, and non-combatants.
The trader, Henry, was again an inmate of the Fort. Spring
passed without incident, save an increasing restlessness among
the Chippeways (Ojibways) of the district. To this little heed
was paid by the deluded garrison. The Indians, indeed, were
allowed to come to the Fort to buy from the traders knives
and tomahawks. Henry, alone, seems to have been apprehensive.    An Indian, named Wawatam, had taken a great liking
' ' o o
to him, and imparted to him his fears for the safety of Henry
and the garrison. This Heniy communicated to Etherington,
the Commandant, but the latter onlv laughed at the trader's
uneasiness. The Indians, he affirmed, were friendly, and to emphasise this, he added, that the Chippeways were on the morrow
to play a game of baggattaway (lacrossej with a band of the
Sac Indians from Wisconsin. Unfortunate delusion ! The morrow was the 4th of June, the birthday of King George. Here
is Parkman's account of what happened on that anniversary:
" The discipline of the garrison (on account of its beino- the
King's birthday) was relaxed, and some license allowed to the EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
soldiers... .Women and children were moving about the doors;
knots of Canadian voyageurs reclined on the ground, smoking
and conversing; soldiers were lounging listlessly at the doors
and windows of the barracks, or strolling in careless undress
about the area.
" Without the fort the scene was of a very different character. The gates were wide open, and soldiers were collected in
groups under the shadow of the palisades, watching the Indian
ball-play. Most of them were without arms, and mingled
among them were a great number of Canadians, while a multitude of Indian squaws, wrapped in blankets, were conspicuous
in the crowd.
" Captain Etherington and Lieutenant Leslie stood near the
gate, the former indulging his inveterate English propensity;
for, as Henry informs us, he had promised the Ojibways that
he would bet on their side against the Sacs. Indian chiefs and
warriors were also among the spectators, intent, apparently, on
watching the game, but with thoughts, in fact, far otherwise
I The plain in front was covered by the ball-players. The
game in which they were engaged, called baggattaway by the
Ojibways, is still, as it always has been, a favourite with many
Indian tribes. At either extremity of the ground, a tall post
was planted, marking the stations of the rival parties. The
object of each was to defend its own post, and drive the ball to
that of its adversary. Hundreds of lithe and agile figures
were leaping and bounding upon the plain. Each was nearly
naked, his loose black hair flving in the wind, and each bore in
his hand a bat of a form peculiar to this game. At one moment
the whole were crowded together, a dense throng of combatants, all struggling for the ball; at the next, they were scattered again, and running over the ground like hounds in full cry.
Each, in his excitement, yelled and shouted at the top of his
voice. Rushing and striking, tripping their adversaries, or
hurHng them to the ground, they pursued the animating congest amid the laughter and applause of the spectators. Sud-*
denly, from the midst of the multitude, the ball soared into the
air, and, descending in a wide curve, fell near the pickets of the
fort. This was no chance stroke. It was part of a preconcerted stratagem to ensure the surprise and destruction of the
garrison.    As if in pursuit of the ball, the players turned an4 46
came rushing, a maddened and tumultuous throng, towards the
gate. In a moment they had reached it. The amazed English
had no time to think or act. The shrill cries of the ball-players were changed to the ferocious war-whoop. The wrarriors
snatched from the squaws the hatchets, which the latter, with
this design, had concealed beneath their blankets. Some of
the Indians assailed the spectators without, while others rushed
into the fort, and all was carnage and confusion, At the outset, several strong hands had fastened their gripe upon Etherington and Leslie, and led them awav from the scene of the
massacre towards the woods. Within the area of the fort, the
men were slaughtered without mercy!"
While this butchery was going on, the traveller, Henry, tells
us that he was in the Fort, employed in writing letters to be
forwarded to his friends in Montreal. Presently the Indian
war-cry reached his ears, and going to the window, he says:
" I saw a crowd of Indians within the fort furiously cutting
down every Englishman they found. I had in the room in
which I was a fowling-piece, loaded with swan-shot. This I
immediately seized, and held it for a few minutes, waiting to
hear the drum beat to arms. In this dreadful interval, I saw
several of my countrymen fall, and more than one struggling
between the knees of an Indian, who, holding him in this manner, scalped him while yet living, At length, disappointed in
the hope of seeing resistance made to the enemy, and sensible,
of course, that no effort of my own unassisted arm could avail
against four hundred Indians, I thought only of seeking
This shelter, Henry sought at the house of his neighbour, a
French-Canadian, who, with his countrymen, allies of the
Indians, was exempt from attack. But its owner, a M. Langlade, refused to succour Henry, being unfriendly to the English,
and disliking Henry as a rival in trade. Fortunately, a Pawnee slave of the Frenchman showed our trader the humanity
which her master had withheld, and conducted him to a place
of hiding. Here he was subsequently discovered, but though
his life was spared, he was subjected to every horror, and taken
from one place of confrnement to another.   TJie thrilling dan- EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE  NORTH-WEST.
gers through which he passed, during the next few weeks, fill
many pages in his narrative. For some time, he tells us, his
only covering was an old shirt; his bed was the bare ground ;
and for days he was left without food. In one passage he
says: " I confess that in the canoe with the Chippeways I was
offered bread—but bread, with what accompaniment! They
had a loaf which they cut with the same knives they had used
in the massacre—knives still covered with blood. The blood
they moistened with spittle, and, rubbing it on the bread,
offered this for food to their prisoners, telling them to eat the
blood of their countrymen."
We need not further follow the fortunes of Alexander
Henry, except to see what became of him and his fellow-prisoners taken at Michillimackinac, and to glance briefly at his
subsequent travels in the North-West. To the friendship of
the Indian, Wawatam, who interceded with the chief of the
Ojibways for his life and personal safety, Henry owed his
release from his savage captors. Painted and attired as an
Indian, he spent the following winter with his rescuer on the
north shore of Lake Huron. The remainder of the English
prisoners were rescued by the Ottawas, of Lake Michigan, a
neighbouring tribe who being incensed at the Chippeways' attack on Michillimackinac without having been asked to participate in it, wished to deprive them of some of the glory of the
victory, and induced their captors to give up the soldiers and
traders still in their possession. These the Ottawas took to
Montreal, and received a ransom for them on their arrival, in
August, 1763. Henry, in the summer of the following year,
had the opportunity, of which he gladly availed himself, to
accompany a party of the Chippeways, of Sault Ste. Marie, who
were setting out for Niagara, to which place they had been
summoned by Sir William Johnson, for the purpose of entering
into a treaty of peace with Great Britain. On the 18th of
June, we learn from his narrative, that Henry was at Lac aux
Qlaies (Lake  Simcoe), from which he proceeded with the 48      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
Indian   delegation   by   " the   carrying-place"   to   Toronto,*
thence across Lake Ontario to Niagara.
At Niagara, Henry joined an army, consisting of some three
thousand men, under General Bradstreet, who were about to proceed to Detroit, to raise Pontiac's siege of that fort, which, for
over a year, had been gallantly defended by Major Gladwyn, its
commandant. In the spring of 1769, we find him again at Sault
Ste. Marie, pursuing his trading operations as far west as
Michipicoten, on Lake Superior. Here, for a number of years,
he was engaged in mining and prospecting, while at intervals
he continued his fur-trade with the Indians. His success in
the latter seems to have been great, for he writes, that in
June, 1775, he left the Sault on his first trading expedition to the
head of Lake Superior " with goods and provisions to the value
of three thousand pounds sterling, on board twelve small canoes
and four large ones." From here he proceeds, by the Grand
Portage, to the Lake of the Woods, and ere long to the village
of the Christineaux, or Crees, on Lake Winnipeg. Like most
travellers of the period, Henry never fails to omit some description of the tribes among whom for a time he sojourned, and of
the social customs that prevail amongst them. Here are a few
extracts from his narrative, chiefly concerning the female
" The dress and other exterior appearances of the Christineaux are very distinguishable from those of the Chippeways and
the Wood Indians. The men were almost entirely naked, and
their bodies painted with a red ochre, procured in the mountains. Their ears were pierced, and filled with the bones of
fish and of land animals. The women wore their hair of a great
length, both behind and before, dividing it on the forehead and
at the back of the head, and collecting tho hair of each side
*The following is Henry's reference at this period (1769) to the capital of Ontario :
" Toranto, or Toronto, is the name of a French trading-house, on Lake Ontario,
built near the site of the present town of York, the capital of the Province of
Upper Canada." At the time our author's book was published (1809) York had
bepn founded some sixteen years. EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
into a roll, which is fastened above the ear; and this roll, like
the tuft on the. heads of the men, is covered with a piece of
skin. The skin is painted, or else ornamented, with beads
of various colours. The rolls, with their coverings, resemble a
pair of large horns.
" The ears of the women are pierced and decorated like those
of the men. Their clothing is of leather, or dressed skins of
the wild ox and the elk. The dress, falling from the shoulders
to below the knee, is of one entire piece. Girls of an early age
wear their dresses shorter than those more advanced. The
same garment covers the shoulders and the bosom; and is fastened by a strap, which passes over the shoulders; it is confined
about the wraist by a girdle. The stockings are of leather,
made in the fashion of leggings. The arms, to the shoulders,
are left naked, or are provided with sleeves, which are sometimes put on, and sometimes suffered to hang vacant from the
shoulders. The wrists are adorned with bracelets of copper
or brass, manufactured from old kettles. In general, one person is wrorth but one dress ; and this is worn as long as it willl
last, or till a new one is made, and then thrown away. The.
women, like the men, paint their faces with red ochre; and in.
addition, usually tatoo two lines, reaching from the lip to the-
chin, or from the corners of the mouth to the ears. TheyT omifc
nothing to make themselves lovely.
" Such are the exterior beauties of the female Christineaux;
and not content with the power belonging to these attractions,
they condescend to beguile, with tender looks, the hearts of
passing strangers. The men, too, unlike the Chippeways (who
are of a jealous temper), eagerly encourage them in this design.
One of the chiefs assured me that the children borne by the
women to Europeans were bolder warriors and better hunters
than themselves. The Christineaux have usually two wives
each, and often three; and make no difficulty in lending one of
them, for a length of time, to a friend. Some of my men
entered into agreements with the respective husbands, in virtue
of which they embarked the women in the canoes, promising to
return them next year. The women so selected consider themselves as honoured; and the husband who should refuse to lend
his wife would fall under the condemnation of the sex in
Such was the far from uncommon morality of this Indian 50      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS  HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
tribe, and such the morality which Henry seems to have been
obliged to countenance on the part of those who had entered
his service. From the village of the Christineaux Henry and
his party continued their voyage westward to Lac de Bourbon
(Cedar Lake), where the elder Verandrye had established a
fort about the year 1736. On the way he met the two brothers, Frobisher, who had been actively intercepting the trade of
the Indians with the Hudson Bay Company, and had met with
much success. He also fell in with Peter Pond, a Boston trader,
of unenviable repute, who, in later years, was tried in the Quebec Courts for the murder, in the North-West, of a Mr. Wadin,
a fur trader. Pond had the luck to be released, on the ground
that the jurisdiction of the Court did not extend to the distant
territories of the North-West. Mr. Charles Lindsey, whose
knowledge of early Canadian history is both extensive and
accurate, states that this Peter Pond was at the elbow of the.
American Commissioners in settling boundary matters after
the peace of 1793. "Pond," he observes, "is said to have
designated to the American Commissioners a boundary line
through the middle of the upper St. Lawrence and the Lakes,
and through the interior countries to the north-west corner of
the Lake of the Woods, thence west to the Mississippi; a line
that was accepted by the British Commissioners." *
Joining their forces, for greater safety, the traders hurried
forward, as there were signs of an early winter overtaking
them, for which they were as yet unprepared. Moreover, the
combined party was short of provisions: one hundred and
thirty men, it was found, made large demands on the commissariat. The exigencies of the situation are thus described by
our traveller:
" On the twenty-first of September, it blew hard and snow
began to fall.    The storm continued till the twenty-fifth, by
* "An Investigation of the Unsettled Boundaries of Ontario,"
Lindsey. Toronto ; Hunter, Rose & CoM 18^3,
which time the small lakes were frozen over, and two feet of
snow lay7 on level ground in the woods. This early severity7 of
the season filled us with serious alarm, for the country was
uninhabited for two hundred miles on every side of us, and, if
detained by winter, our destruction was certain. In this state
of peril we continued our voyage day and night. The fears of
our men were a sufficient motive for their exertions."
But the party was beset by other perils besides those of the
advancing season. At the mouth of the Saskatchewan, which
was reached early in October, the traders were enabled to eke
out their provisions with a supply of sturgeon from the river
and of wild fowl from the reeds on its banks. Ascending the
stream some leagues, they arrived at the village of a chief?
locally known as the " Pelican," who with a large armed following barred all progress until black-mail was levied on the party.
To this exaction, which was a heavy one, they had to submit
rather than lose their lives, and with them, of course, all their
effects. Finally, on the 26th of the month, they reached
Cumberland House, a factory on Sturgeon Lake, which had
been erected the previous year by Samuel Hearne, an explorer
in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company. Of this notable
traveller we shall have something to say in our next chapter.
The post on Sturgeon Lake, which Henry informs us was then
garrisoned by Orkney Highlanders, was established by the
Hudson Bay Company to restore the trade which for sometime
had been intercepted by Canadian merchants in its passage to
the Churchill. Though the rival traders were unwelcome
guests at Cumberland House, they were treated, nevertheless,
with forbearance and civility. Here the expedition broke up ;
some portion of it going in one direction, some in another.
Henry and the brothers Frobisher resolved on joining their
stock-in-trade, and on wintering together, in some favourable
location, in the direction of the Churchill river. Crossing
Sturgeon Lake, they ascended the Malign river, so called by
the CanadianSj we are told, from the vexatious delays occasioned 52      THE  NORTH-WEST:  ITS  HISTORY   AND ITS TROUBLES.
by its numerous and strong rapids. The traders aiid their
party of forty men at length reached Beaver Lake, where they
determined to encamp for the winter. The camp-larder was
kept well filled by the Indians. The supplies consisted of
moose and beaver; of pike, pickerel and sturgeon; but chiefly
of trout " from ten to fifty pounds weight," caught through
holes in the ice, as our historian narrates, in twenty and thirty
fathoms of water.
Fortunately, there was no lack of food, for the winter was
long and severe; the thermometer frequently registering 32°
below zero. Notwithstanding the inclemency of the season
Henry, early in the year 1776, determined to see something of
the western prairies, and, if possible, to reach the country of
the Assiniboines. In the expedition, he was to be accompanied
by Joseph Frobisher as far as Cumberland House, 120 miles
distant from Beaver Lake. Attended by three men, and provided with supplies of pemmican (dried meat), frozen fish, and
roasted maize, the party set out on snow-shoes, well wrapped
in buffalo robes, and made Cumberland House after a four
days' tramp. The snow, says the narrator, was on an average
four feet deep. From Cumberland House, our trader and his
party pursued a westerly course on the ice, by way of
Sturgeon Lake, to the Saskatchewan. The depth of the
snow greatly impeded their progress; and by7 the time they
reached Fort des Prairies, almost a month's journey from
their last stopping-place, our travellers had exhausted their
provisions, and, for the time being, their strength. But for
chance putting in their way a deer that had broken through
the ice, and, unable to extricate itself, had been frozen to death,
the expedition would have been in great straits for food.
Resting for a few days at Fort des Prairies, Henry and his
attendants set out now for the plains, which they followed for
many days' tramp towards the south-west. On the plains they
suffered much from cold and exposure, for, in the absence of
wood, they were unable to make a fire wheii they encamped.
!iV/fi»Ct;-T*«.i# l'iA!u EARLY DISCOVERER^  6ft tHE NOllTH-WEStf.
They also suffered greatly from blinding snow storms and
piercing cold winds. Much to their relief, they at last reached
the village of the Osinipoilles, or Assiniboines, where they were
received with marked hospitality and ostentatious kindness.
On their arrival, there was the usual " pow-wow," with the
declamation of the chief, and the " ughs" of approving warriors;
a lengthened period of pipe-smoking and mental stock-taking;
ending with a great feast, and its scenes of gormandising and
post-prandial Indian characteristics.
The stay of our leader and his party among the Assiniboines
was both pleasant and profitable. The tribal village was a considerable one, for Henry informs us that there were at least two
hundred wigwams, each containing from two to four families.
O ' o
Here, for the first time, he saw a herd of hardy Indian ponies
feeding on the skirts of the plain, and getting at the succulent
grass by scraping the deep snow with their feet. Here, also,
he had his first experience of a buffalo hunt, or, more properly,
a battue. Accepting the chief's invitation, Henry tells us, that
he set out with a party of forty Indians and a number of
women, for an island on the plain, some five miles from the
village, where the buffalo were to be entrapped. Here is his;
account of the incidents of the hunt.
| Arrived at the island, the women pitched a few tents, while
the chief led his hunters to the southern end, where there was-
a pound or enclosure. The fence was about four feet high,
formed of strong stakes of birch wood, wattled with smaller
branches of the same. The day was spent in making repairs y
and by the evening, all was ready for the hunt.
1 At daylight, several of the more expert hunters were sent
to decoy the animals into the pound. They were dressed in
ox-skins, with the hair and horns. Their faces were covered,
and their walk and gestures so closely resembled those of the-
animals themselves, that had I not been in the secret, I should
have been as much deceived as the oxen.
" At ten o'clock, one of the hunters returned, bringing infor-
mation of the herd. Immediately, all the dogs were muzzled ;
and this done, the whole crowd of men and women surroundel 54      THE NORTH-#EST: ITS HISTORY AND l'£s TROUlBL^.
the outside of the pound. The herd, of which the extent was
so great that I cannot pretend to estimate the number, was
distant half a mile, advancing slowly, and frequently stopping
to feed. The part played by the decoyers was that of approaching them within hearing, and then bellowing like themselves.
O O' o
On hearing the noise, the oxen did not fail to give it attention;
and, whether from curiosity or sympathy, advanced to meet
those from whom it proceeded. These, in the meantime, fell
back deliberately towards the pound, always repeating the call
whenever the oxen stopped. This was reiterated until the
leaders of the herd had followed the decoyers into the jaws of
the pound, which, though wide asunder toward the plain,
terminated like a funnel in a small aperture or gateway; and
within this was the pound itself. The Indians remark, that in
all herds of animals there are chiefs or leaders, by whom the
motions of the rest are determined.
"The decoyers now retired within the pound, and were
followed by the oxen. But the former retired still further,
withdrawing themselves at certain movable parts of the fence,
while the latter were fallen upon by all the hunters, and
presently wounded and killed by showers of arrows. Amid
the uproar which ensued, the oxen made several attempts to
force the fence; but the Indians stopped them, and drove them
back by shaking skins before their eyes. Skins were also
made use of to stop the entrance, being let down by strings as
soon as the buffalo were inside. The slaughter was prolonged
till the evening, when the hunters returned to their tents.
Next  morning all  the tongues  of the butchered oxen were
o o
presented to the chief, to the number of seventy-two. The
women brought the meat to the village on sledges drawn by
dogs. The lumps on the shoulders, and the hearts, as well as
the tongues, were set apart for feasts; while the rest was
consumed as ordinarv food, or dried, for sale at the fort."
It was the wish of our adventurous traveller to proceed further
to the west, until he should reach the mountains, of which he
had often heard, and the ocean that lay beyond. Like other
travellers in the region, he imagined that the Rocky Mountains
and the Pacific were less distant than was the fact. Even the
cartographers of the period had hazy notions of the vast
solitudes of the west, for they placed the  coast-line of the *m
Pacific only a little beyond Lake Athabasca. Few as yet
knew the wide extent of the prairies. In some degree, the
chief of the Assiniboines undeceived our traveller, and
informed him that the mountains he desired to reach were far
distant. Moreover, he told him, that between the village and
the snow-capped " Rockies," there lay the country of the
Snake-Indians and the Blackfeet, over which it was perilous
to travel. Henry reluctantly concluded to wend his way
From the interesting narrative of this trader, we shall make
O '
one more extract, describing the people among whom he had
pleasantly sojourned:
" The  men   among the  Assiniboines are   well  made,  but
O '
their colour is much deeper than that of the more northern
Indians. Some of the women are tolerably handsome, considering how they live, exposed to the extremes of heat and cold,
and enveloped by an atmosphere of smoke for at least one
half of the year. Their d^ess is of the same material, and of
the same form, as that of the female Christineaux. The
married women suffer their hair to grow at random, and even
hang over their eyes. [The fashion we should nowadays
describe as " banged."; All the sex is fond of garnishing the
lower edge of the dress with small bells, deer-hoofs, pieces of
metal, or anything capable of making a noise. When they
move, the sounds keep time and make a fantastic harmony.
" The Assiniboines treat their slaves with great cruelty. As
an example, one of the principal chiefs, whose tent was near
that which we occupied, had a female slave, of about twenty
years of age. I saw her always on the outside of the door of
the tent, exposed to the severest cold; and having asked the
reason, I was told that she was a slave. The information
induced me to speak to her master, in the hope of procuring
some mitigation of the hardships .she underwent; but he gave
me for answer, that he had taken her on the other side of the
western mountains; that at the same time he had lost a
brother and a son in battle; and that the enterprise had taken
place in order to release one of his own nation, who had been
a slave in her's, and who had been used with much greater
severity than that which she experienced.   The reality of the 56      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
last of these facts appeared to me to be impossible. The
wretched woman fed and slept with the dogs, scrambled with
them for the bones which w7ere thrown out of the tent. When
her master was within, she was never permitted to enter; at
all seasons the children amused themselves with impunity in
tormenting her, thrusting lighted sticks into her face; and if
;she succeeded in warding off these outrages, she was violently
^beaten. I was not successful in procuring any diminution
•of her sufferings; but I drew some relief from the idea that
their duration could not be long. They were too heavy to be
Contact with Europeans has had some influence, since the
period of Henry's narrative, in rendering the Indian heart
less inhuman. That it has not wholly civilised the tribes of
the region, or taken from them their lust of blood, present day
events, which have turned the strained eyes and anxious
hearts of the people of the Dominion to the still desolate plains
of the North-West, only too sadly indicate. But cruel as the
Osinipoilles were to their enemies, our travellers found them
friendly to the white man, and to those who treated them
fairly, they were kind and hospitable. As yet, they had had
little acquaintance with Europeans, at least not sufficient, as
Henry observes, to affect their simple, pristine habits. Unlike
their neighbours, the Christineaux, of whom they lived in fear,
they were a harmless people, " with a large share of simplicity
.of manners and plain dealing."
The Assiniboines, on being apprised of Henry's decision to
-proceed eastward, concluded to accompany him as far as Fort
. des Prairies, where the chief wished to barter peltry for necessaries and the inevitable trinket. So nomadic are the Indians
in their habits, that it was with little surprise Henry learned
that on the morrow the whole camp would be in motion. At
-daybreak the lodges were struck; the poles and their bark
, covering were transferred to dog sleighs; and at sunrise, amid
the yelps and howlings of the dogs, the village denizens filed
. out over the plain.   The line of march, we are told, exceeded EAKLY DISCOVERERS OE THE NORTH-WEST.
three miles in length. On the way they fell in with another
tribe (numbering a hundred tents), who were also proceeding
to the Fort for the purposes of trade. Nearing their destination, both tribes encamped in a wood; their principal men
only coming on to the trading-post with the products of the
At the Fort, after a brief rest, Henry parted with his Indian
friends, and continued his way from the Saskatchewan to
Cumberland House, thence to his old camp on Beaver Lake.
Here he found his men all in good health, but anxious for a
change of scene. As spring was returning, and the waterfowl beginning to reappear, Henry and his friend, Frobisher,
thought it would be safe to undertake a journey northward
to Athabasca, which they had previously agreed upon. Ere
long, our indefatigable travellers were again on the way, and
Henry had additional matter furnished him for his narrative.
On the fifth day they reached the Churchill, from which they
turned westward, towards the high latitudes of Lake Athabasca.
Having gone about three hundred miles, they found the lakes
and streams still frozen, and their progress consequently impeded. Reaching the Rapide du Serpent, they met a large
party of Athabasca Indians journeying southward, and after a
brief parley, they concluded to return with the Indians to their
point of departure. From the Athabascas, Henry acquired a
good deal of information about their country, and of the streams
that flow northward to the Arctic Ocean. Possessed of this
information, he seems to have been more content to give up
his expedition. By the first of July they were back again at
Beaver Lake.
Here, having completed his commercial adventure, and made
over the remainder of his merchandise to a brother of Frobish-
er's, Henry, with his friend and following, set out on their
return journey to the Grand Portage, near Lake Superior, and
from there  to  Montreal.    We  need not follow  our trader
further, save to relate his safe deliverance from the accidents
MP 18
and perils of the way, and his grateful arrival at the commercial metropolis of Eastern Canada. On an island in the Lake
of the Woods, Henry observes, that he haHed a party of
Indians, whom he saw encamped near by, in the hope of purchasing provisions, of which he and his men were much in
need. He tells us, that " he found them full of a story that
some strange nation had entered Montreal, taken Quebec,
killed all the English, and would certainly be at the Grand
Portage before we arrived there." From this disquieting, but
distorted rumour, our trader was to get his first inkling of what
had been going on in the outer world while he was figur-
o        o o
atively entombed in the wilds of the Far West. Continuing
his journey, he was not long in learning of the outbreak of the
American Revolution, and of Montgomery's abortive expedition
to Quebec. Arriving, finally, at Montreal, the last words
of Henry's narrative inform us, that "he found the province
delivered from the irruption of the colonists, and protected by
the forces of General Burgoyne." CHAPTER IV.
Joseph La France, and Samuel Hearne.
^HE interest that centres in these old narratives
of traders and discoverers in the Canadian
North-West, few are aware of. Their unwieldy quartos, it is to be feared, are seldom
looked into; the notion prevails that their
writers are either egotistical or garrulous, perhaps both. In some instances, the charge is
true; but allowance may well be made for
this, when one considers to what danger they committed
themselves, and what unrewarded toil was theirs, in venturing
upon the journeys they undertook, through countries that
were wholly unknown, and among tribes that were hostile
and barbarous. Courageous as they were, there was need for
courage; for seldom a day would pass without their being
confronted by peril in some shape or other, to which the most
daring would have to pay the tribute of fear. Known as the
country now is, and the terrors of the way, consequently, in
large measure, discounted, there are few who would care to
trust themselves to even a holiday excursion in the sombre
woods of the region, or on the awesome solitudes of the plains.
Only a comfortable Pullman on the Canadian Pacific, well filled
with friends, would give assurance to the nervous traveller in
passing over a thousand miles of solitude, allay the spectre of
his disturbing thoughts, and dispel the traditional memory of
the stealthy Indian, his scalping-knife and tomahawk.
Of the narratives of early English discoverers in the
North-West, that of Alexander Henry, of which we made free
use in our last chapter, is perhaps the most attractive. With
the exception of his work, we know of none, save the records
of a few French travellers, that treats of the region and period
with so much intelligence, and personal and literary interest.
Many years afterwards, we come to later travellers, and to descriptions of the country and its people under altered circumstances. The chief English narratives of the time deal with more
northern regions. We have thus little account of early travels
in the districts that have since been brought within civilisa-
tion, and in some measure opened for settlement. Most writers
treat of the territory round Hudson Bay7, and of the waters
that drain into the Arctic seas. This, of course, we naturally
expect; first, because the English approach to the region was
via Hudson Straits, and, secondly, because the main object of
discovery at the period was not to explore the interior of the
continent, but to find a water highway to the Pacific. Of those
who did explore the interior of the Continent, as it happens,
they have not, to any extent, written about it. This is notably
the case with both Hearne and Mackenzie, the former of whom
discovered and wrote of the Copper Mine River, and the latter
of the river that bears his name—both waters falling into the
Arctic Ocean. The same is true of other and less known writers, The literature that deals with the Arctic seas, in connection with a waterway to the west, far exceeds that which EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE N0RTH-WE3T.
deals with the inland possessions of the Hudson Bay Company
or the overland route to the Pacific.
From an early period the great Trading Company was importuned to extend its operations into the interior, and to do
something to open up the country southward. Too long, it
may be said, it refrained from adventuring in what was known
to be a rough and wild country. But it was more than this ;
it was a dangerous one. It was a country that was in possession of a people with whom the English were almost incessantly at war, and who were not only hostile themselves, but
who had infected the native with the same bitter hostility. As
far as trade was concerned, the Fur Company, unless forced to
do so, had no cause to take up national quarrels. So long as
the Indians brought peltry to the forts, the Company's employe's had neither the motive nor the desire to undergo the
toil and the risk of long journeys in search of it. Were we
the most partisan of the Company's apologists, this is all that
can be said for its failure to open up the country.
That the Hudson Bay Company wished to conceal all
knowledge of the country, and that it resorted to untruth, as
well as concealment, may be taken for granted. Both are now
well ascertained facts. But when a great corporation has the
monopoly of a valuable trade, it need occasion little surprise
if it be jealous of interference with its right and privilege.
Both its right and its privilege, we know, were long called in
question; and its jealousy of rivals in the field, at successive
intervals, became a matter of grave public interest. One of
the earliest writers to arraign the Company on its shortcomings is Arthur Dobbs, whose " Account of the Countries
adjoining Hudson Bay" was published in the year 1744.
Considering the early period in which he wrote, and the fact
that his account of the country is written out from the oral 6*2      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
report of a half-breed French trader, his work is of fair interest
and accuracy. It has the serious drawback, however, of being
without index, contents, or division into chapters. The chief
source of his information was a native, named Joseph La
France, whom he describes as a " French Canadese Indian."
This half-breed, we learn, was born at Michillimackinac early
in the eighteenth century, and on the death of his mother,
when he was but five years old, he was taken by his father to
Quebec to learn French. When he had grown up, he took to
the fur-trade; and for over twenty years travelled through the
whole of the French Colony, and into many portions of the
North-West. He seems to have been an intelligent observer
of the country, and to be more than usually familiar with
what was going on in it.
From Mr Dobbs's narrative of La France's story, we learn
that he was a French outlaw, or, at least, an unlicensed, runaway trader; and that he came to the English, at Hudson Bay,
owing to a falling out with the French Governor. Here is an
extract from the narrator's account of this incident: " About
six years ago he (La France) went to Montreal with two
Indians and a considerable cargo of furs, where he found the
Governor of Canada, who wintered there. He made him a
present of marten-skins, and also 1000 crowns for a conge, or
license to trade in the following year. But in spring he would
neither give him his conge nor his money, under pretence that
he had sold brandy to the Indians, which is prohibited, and
threatened him with imprisonment for demanding his money.
So he was obliged to steal away with his two Indians, three
canoes, and what goods he had got in exchange for his furs."
La France, the narrator states later on, was met on
Lake Nipissing by a brother-in-law of the Governor, who was
crossing the lake with thirty soldiers and a number of Indian EARLY DISCOVERERS  OF THE NORTH-WEST.
guides and carriers, conveyed in a fleet of nine canoes. Here
our trader was seized, as a runaway without a passport, and
his goods were confiscated.    During the night he managed,
however, to make his escape, " with only his gun and ^.yq
charges of powder and ball." After many hardships, he
reached Sault Ste Marie, and here determined to go to the
English post on Hudson Bay. He left the Sault in ihe
beginning of the winter of 1739, and, as we are told, lived and
hunted for a while on the north shore of Lake Superior, with
the Saulteaux, among whom he had previously traded.
Through the country of this tribe, and through the territories
inhabited by the Sturgeon Indians, the Sioux, the Crees, and
Assiniboines, he successively passed, feeding himself on the
way7 by the aid of his rod and gun, and sheltering himself at
night under brushwood, or whatever cover was available.
The spring of 1742 had arrived by the time he reached the
Nelson River. Here he met with a party of Indians, 100
canoes in number, on their way to York Factory, with their
product of the winter's hunt. Setting out with these Indians,
La France spent the next few weeks on the river, and arrived
at the Factory on the 24th of June. Mr. Dobbs, quoting from
our trader, gives some facts, which are here worth recording,
of the trade of the period at York Factory7, and the small sums
allowed the Indians in exchange for the peltry.
"The natives," he says, "are so discouraged in their trade
with the Hudson Bay Company that no peltry is worth the
carriage, and the finest furs are sold for very little. When La
France's party arrived at the Factory, in June, 1742, the prices
asked for European goods were much higher than the settled
prices fixed by the Company, which the Governors fix so, to
shew the Company how zealous they are to improve their
trade, and sell their goods to advantage. They give but a
pound of gunpowder for four beavers ; a fathom (sic) of tobacco
for 7 beavers; a pound of shot for 1; an ell of coarse cloth for 64      THE NORTH-#EST: ITS HISTORt AND ITS tfROU&LES.
15; a blanket for 12 ; 2 fish-hooks or three flints for 1; a gun
for 25 ; a pistol for 10; a common hat, with white lace (!) 7 ;
an axe, 4 ; a bill-hook, 1 ; a gallon of brandy, 4; a checked shirt,
7;—all of which are sold at a monstrous profit, even to 2000
per cent. Notwithstanding this discouragement, the two fleets
which accompanied La France carried down 200 packs of 100
each—20,000 beavers ; and the other Indians who arrived that
year, he computed, carried down 300 packs of 200 each—,
30,000—in aU 50,000 beavers, and above 9000 martens.*
As we have previously recorded, the half-breed, Joseph La
France, an extract from whose narrative is here given by us,
found his way to England in one of the trading-ships of
the season. Here he seems to have met with the writer who
^becomes the historian of his travels. This writer appears to
have been a person of influence, for he is styled, in a letter occurring in the text, the Honourable Arthur Dobbs. Mr. Dobbs
has a mission, in which he takes evident delight, namely, to
censure the Hudson Bay Company, and, in true John Bull
fashion, to excite the feelings of his countrymen against the
French, and their monopoly of the inland fur-trade in the Canadian colony. This is the burden of his work; though in his
pages there is much information that, at the period, must have
been new and important with regard to the colony, its characteristic features, its trade and people. From La France's knowledge of the country, supplemented by considerable reading,
his historian is enabled to describe, with tolerable accuracy, the
situation, extent, and physical aspects of the rivers, lakes, and
plains of the interior. He is also able to give a familiar account of the Indian tribes, their habits and pursuits, and some
detail of the animal life of the regions traversed.
In some parts, Mr. Dobbs's narrative reads as if he were describing a terrestrial paradise.    So far as his lumbering sen-
* "An Account of the Countries adjoining Hudson Bay."   By Arthur Dobbs,
fences permit, he grows eloquent over the great lakes and
wide stretches of fair territory in various portions of the country. At the same time, he bemoans the melancholy fact that
this great possession is cursed by the laissez-faire administration of a gigantic monopoly. He has a great deal to say of a
Captain Middleton, a navigator in the employ" of the Hudson
Bay Company, whom he accuses of studied concealment of his
discoveries, and wicked aspersion of the country and its Northern approaches. With Middleton he enters into a long correspondence over a presumed waterway from Hudson Bay to Japan,
a waterway which Middleton, for sinister purposes, he thinks,
conceals. In this delusion he his encouraged by the receipt of
letters from some of the crew and subordinate officers who made
voyages with Middleton. Of the practicability of the Hudson
Bay route to the North-West, and its advantage in giving speedy
access to the heart of the continent, Mr. Dobbs held strong opinions, and, in the main, his views were correct. We are to-day
only finding this out. The Canadian Hudson Bay Expedition
of 1884, for which the Dominion Parliament voted $100,000,
but reiterates what Mr. Dobbs had to say of the route one hundred and fifty years ago. The commercial importance of the
Expedition, and the results obtained through the labours of
Lieut. Gordon and his staff, are nevertheless great. The information gleaned respecting the route establishes not only its
feasibility, but its great advantage in materially shortening
the passage between Europe and Asia. To those in search of
facts on this subject, we commend a perusal of the Report of the
Expedition, also a valuable compilation from the pen of Mr.
Tuttle.*! H        Hi |v ji      ot*H  - .
In connection with this region, the period of which we write
supplies us with one other work of more than average note in
* | Our North Land: a Narrative of the Hudson Bay Expedition of 1884." By
Charles R. Tuttle.   Toronto, 1885, 66    the North-West: Its history and its troubles.
the records of discovery in the North-West. We refer to the
account of the expedition, during the years 1770-72, to the
Copper Mine River, undertaken at the request of the Hudson
Bay authorities by Samuel Hearne, an old employe* of the Company. A further object of that expedition was to discover, if
possible, a practicable passage-way to the Northern Ocean.
Mr. Hearne's name, it will be remembered, we have already mentioned in connection with the founding of the Company's post at
Cumberland House. He was a trusted servant of the Company.
Though his name appears in the literature of Arctic travel, in
connection with his famous journey to the country of the Copper
Mine Indians, he is well known as an early traveller and veteran explorer in the Canadian North-West. So intelligent an
observer, and so capable a writer, as he is, it is a matter of regret that he left no work recording his travels in the latter
region. His only published work is his " Journey to the Copper
Mine River," which was issued in London, in 1795.
In the introduction to that work, Mr. Hearne pays some attention to the writers who preceded him in describing the
country, and refers by name to Arthur Dobbs, whose book we
have just epitomised. His object in noticing these early writers
is to relieve his employers, the Hudson Bay Company, from
what he terms §' the aspersions of interested parties," who accuse the Company of being adverse to discovery. In the advocacy of his patrons, he points with evident pride to their encouragement of his own expedition, though he is frank enough
to admit that the Company's past actions in Hudson Bay, and
the secrecy which characterised investigation in the region,
may have justly prejudiced public opinion against the Company.
In regard to his expedition to the Copper Mine River, there is
no doubt that the Company was both liberal in the treatment of
its employe*, and generous in providing him with repeated out- EARLY DISCOVERERS Of TMfi NOfcTH-WESf.
fits for the journey.    We say repeated, for Hearne had to return twice before making a successful start, owing to the break
down of expeditions after they had been some weeks on the
way.    The failure of the first expedition was due to his having
attached to his party two white men—favourites of the Governor of Prince of Wales's Fort, from which Hearne started,—
men whom he could make nothing of, and whose idleness encouraged mutiny and desertion in the ranks.    The second expedition was unsuccessful from a rather amusing cause.    This
cause is explained by an Indian  chief, named Matonabbee,
whom Hearne meets in his distress, and who, on the return of
the expedition, agrees to go with it on its third venture.   Here
is Hearne's account of Matonabbee's explanation of the failure
of the second expedition : I He attributed all our misfortunes,"
writes Hearne, " to the misconduct of my guides, and to the
plan we pursued, by the desire of the Governor, of not taking
any women with us on this journey.    j This,' he said, I was the
principal  thing that occasioned all our wants, for,' said he,
j when all the men are heavy laden they can neither hunt nor
travel to any considerable distance; and in case they meet with
success in hunting, who is to carry the produce of their labour ?
Women,' added he,' were made for labour; one of them can
carry, or haul, as much as two men can.    They also pitch our
tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at night;
and, in fact, there is no such thing as travelling any considerable distance, or any length of time, in this country, without
their assistance. Women,' said he, again,' though they do everything, are maintained at a trifling expense; for as they always
act as cooks, the very licking of their fingers, in scarce times,
is sufficient for their subsistence.'    This, however odd it may
appear," remarks Hearne, | is but too true a description of the
situation of women in this country; it is at least so in appear- 63      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AttD IT3 TROUBLES.
ance; for the women always carry the provisions, and it is more
than probable they help themselves when the men are not
Could argument go further in support of the theory of the
indispensableness of women in such expeditions as that to
which Hearne had committed himself 1 " Revolt of women,"
do we hear ? Why, the cry is monstrous, when they possess
the priceless privilege of " licking their fingers," while their
lords' share was but the crumbs of the feast, not to speak of
I sly snacks " which the women might have by the way, or
hoarded store, to be partaken of without fear " when the men
are not present Iff But the injustice to the sisterhood, among
these Northern Indians, has not yet been fully told. Reading
on in Hearne's narrative, we make a discovery, which we will
ask our readers if it does not throw light on the Governor's
despatch of the second expedition womenless. We find that
our author, in a footnote, gives a sketch of the person and
habits of the Governor of the Fort, which, though no doubt
true, is too indelicate to transfer to our pages ; and we wonder
at Hearne's indiscretion in giving it publicity when he had
just been making a case for his employers and their administration in the district. But for our discovery. The Governor,
it seems, was an Indian, a native of the Fort, who had been
educated in England. On his appointment to the Hudson
Bay post, we learn that though an able and competent official,
he lapsed into the practices of his ancestry. He had many
wives. Of these he was jealous; and of other men's he was
covetous. Need we make the deduction ? Hearne's second
expedition was sent off without women. After Metonabbee's
explanation of its failure, not so was the third.
On the 7th of December, 1770, Hearne left Prince of Wales's
Fort, at the mouth of the Churchill, on his third essay to reach EARLY DISCOVERERS  OF  THE  NORTH-WEST.
the Copper Mines. The direction his party took was northwest by west, through thick scrubby woods, consisting chiefly
of stunted pine, with dwarf juniper intermixed here and there,
particularly round the margins of ponds and swamps, and
dark willow bushes. Among the rocks and sides of the hills
there were also clumps of poplar. So barren of animal life
was the region that the party was frequently in great straits
for food. Passing through this desolation, they found the
country improve, and that deer was to be met with. By the
end of the year they reached Island Lake, 102° west longitude
from Greenwich, a march of 7° westward, and 2° to the north
from the Fort.
At Island Lake, which is a rendezvous of the Northern
Indians who trade with the Hudson Bay post on the Churchill,
the party rested for a while, and took the opportunity to
repair their snowshoes and sledges, in preparation for their
long journey. The game of the region enabled them also to
provide a bountiful stock of provisions. By the 21st of
February, they reached Snowbird Lake, where they found
plenty of deer, among which the Indians, with their usual
improvidence, made great havoc and indulged in inordinate
feasts. Feasting, however, was excusable, as the cold was
intense. Several of the Indians, our author relates, were much
frozen; but none of them more so than one of Matonabbee's
wives, I whose thighs and buttocks were in a manner incrust-
ed with frost; and when thawed, several blisters arose, nearly
as large as a sheep's bladder." Hearne adds, that " the pain
the poor woman suffered on this occasion was greatly
aggravated by the laughter and jeering of her companions,
who said that she was rightly served for belting her clothes so
high. I must acknowledge that I was not of the number of
those who pitied her, as I thought she took too much pains to 70      THE NORTH-WEST:  ITS HTSTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
show her garters, which, though by no means considered here
as bordering on indecency, is by far too airy to^ withstand the
rigorous cold of a severe winter in a high Northern latitude."
O o
The attractions of the sex in the cold regions of the North
are not many. The women, as a rule, are very masculine, and
even when young are perfect' antidotes to love and gallantry/
Their much out-door life, exposure to long and severe winters,
hard labour in hauling heavy loads, and their nomadic habits,
make early havoc of their beauty. In what their beauty
consists, Hearne tells us; namely, " A broad, flat face; small
eyes; high cheek-bones; three or four black lines across each
cheek ; a low forehead; a large, broad chin; a clumsy hook
nose; and a tawny hide." Those beauties, he adds, are greatly
heightened, or at least rendered more valuable, when the possessor " is a good cook, is capable of dressing all kinds of skins,
converting them into the different parts of their clothing, and
able to carry eight or ten stone in summer, or haul a much
greater weight in winter." Their wants are few, as are those
of the tribe in general. Their whole aim is to secure a comfortable subsistence. Even in obtaining this they show little
ambition. Were they to do so, they would only be unhappy;
for those who exert themselves in gaining a more comfortable
living, the more readily fall a prey to the strongest among the
men, who afterwards make slaves of them.    Among the men
' o
of this tribe it is the custom to wrestle for the women to whom
they are attached, and, as a matter of course, the best athlete
carries off the prize.    Hearne tells us that:
" A weak man, unless he be a good hunter and well-beloved,
is seldom permitted to keep a wife that a stronger man thinks
worth his notice. ... It was often unpleasant to me," he adds,
" to see the object of the contest sitting in pensive silence watching her fate, while her husband and his rival were contending
O • o
for the prize.   I have indeed, not only felt pity for those poor EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
wretched victims, but the utmost indignation when I have
seen them won perhaps by a man whom they mortally hated.
On those occasions their grief and reluctance to follow their new
lord has been so great that the business has ended in the
greatest brutality ; for in this struggle, I have seen the poor
girl stripped quite naked, and carried by main force to her
new lodgings. At other times it was pleasant enough to see a
fine girl led off the field from a husband she disliked, with a
tear in one eye and a finger on the other : for custom, or delicacy if you please, has taught them to think it necessary to
whimper a little, let the change be ever so much to their inclination."
In May, 1771, the expedition reached Lake Clowey, ^ve degrees east of Lake Athabasca. From here, the route lay due
North. While at Clowey, the party was joined by a number of
neighbouring Indians, who accompanied Hearne on his expedition. Their reason for doing so transpired only on the way.
It seems they had an old quarrel with the Esquimaux at the
mouth of the Copper Mine River, and, without Hearne's knowledge, they had secured promise of assistance from the Indians
belonging to the expedition, in avenging themselves on their
enemies. Hearne's protests against this proceeding were unavailing ; his entreaties were received with derision; and he
was personally accused of cowardice. As his personal safety
depended on the favourable opinion his followers entertained
of him, he was reluctantly obliged to conceal his humanity, if
not to manifest a bellicose tone and manner. As he tells us,
he made no further attempt to turn the current of national
On the first of June, the party rid itself of the women, children, dogs, heavy baggage, and other encumbrances, and with
speed pursued the journey northward. By the end of the
month, the lakes and rivers were free of ice, and they now
made use of their canoes. Before the month was out, they
reached the country of the Copper Indians ; and here, by means r f
of an interpreter, Hearne informed the natives of the objects
of the expedition. The calumet was smoked with their chiefs,
who declared themselves pleased with the visit and the prospect of trade with the white man. The pow-wow ended with
the usual exchange of presents. Hearne remarks that though
the Copper Indians " have some European commodities among
them, wdiich they purchase from the Northern Indians, the
same articles from the hands of an Englishman were more
prized. As I was the first whom they had ever seen, and in
all probability might be the last, it was curious to see how
they flocked about me, and expressed as much desire to examine me from top to toe as a European naturalist would a
nondescript animal. They7, however, found and pronounced
me to be a perfect human being, except in the colour of my
hair and eyes; the former, they said, was like the stained hair
of a buffalo's tail, and the latter, being light, was like those of
a gull. The whiteness of my skin also was, in their opinion,
no ornament, as they said it resembled meat which had been
sodden in water till all the blood was extracted. On the whole
I was viewed as a great curiosity in this part of the world."
The month of July brought Hearne and his party to the upper portion of the Copper Mine River. Here, on its banks,
they found the musk-ox, or moose, feeding; they also met with
the ground squirrel, and got on the track of bears. Hearne proceeded with his survey. He had not gone far down the river
before he was startled by the intelligence that the scouts of his
party had come across a camp of Esquimaux. Instantly, the
whole of his followers put on the war-paint. But we must
leave Hearne to tell the story of what followed:—
" By the time the Indians had made themselves thus completely frightful," he writes, " it was near one o'clock in the
morning of the seventeenth ; when finding all the Esquimaux,
whom they had now reached, quiet in their huts, they rushed   EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
from their ambuscade and fell on the poor unsuspecting creatures, unperceived, till close to the very eaves of their huts,
when they soon began the bloody massacre, while I stood
neuter in the rear.
" In a few seconds the horrible scene commenced; it was
shocking beyond description ; the poor, unhappy victims were
surprised in the midst of their sleep, and had neither time nor
power to make any resistance. Men, women, and children—in
all upwards of twenty—ran out of their huts naked, and endeavoured to make their escape; but the Indians having
possession of all the land side, to no place could they fly for
shelter. One alternative only remained, that of jumping into
the river; but, as none of them attempted it, they all fell a
sacrifice to Indian barbarity.
" The shrieks and groans of the poor expiring wretches were
dreadful; and my horror was much increased at seeing a yxoung
girl, seemingly about eighteen years of age, killed so near me,
that when the first spear was stuck into her side she fell down
at my feet and twisted round my legs, so that it was with
difficulty I could disengage myself from her dying grasp. As
two Indians pursued this unfortunate victim, I begged very
hard for her life. The murderers made no reply till they had
stuck both their spears through her body, and transfixed her
to the ground. They then looked at me sternly in the face,
and began to ridicule me, by asking if I wanted an Esquimaux
wife; and paid not the smallest regard to the shrieks and
agony of the poor wretch who was twisting round their spears
like an eel. . . . My situation and the terror of my mind
at beholding this butchery cannot easily be conceived, much
less described. Even to this hour I never reflect on the transactions of that horrid day without shedding tears."
After this scene of wanton atrocity, Hearne's task in completing the survey of the river, and making an examination of
the region, as may readily be imagined, was not a pleasant one.
A neighbouring camp of Esquimaux, whose inmates had escaped,
though they had heard of the massacre, kept Hearne's party on
the qui vive for reprisals. None, however, was offered; and
our traveller was enabled to reach the Arctic Sea and the
mouth of the Copper Mine River in safety.    Here, he tells us
E +7
he erected a mark, and took possession of the coast on behalf
of the Hudson Bay Company. The appearance ofthe coast was
desolate in the extreme. Landward, nothing was seen, save a
few cranberry bushes, and a range of barren hills and marshes.
Seaward, broken ice was still visible. In a ravine were a few
miserable hovels, mostly underground, which had been deserted
by some wandering family of Esquimaux. Strewn about was
the debris of bones and scraps of skins; in some of the huts
were stone kettles, horn dishes and spoons, and several hatchets,
rudely headed with copper.
The animal life of the region consisted of mice, Alpine hares,
wolverines, and ground-squirrels. Musk-oxen, bears, and deer,
and a beautiful breed of dogs, with sharp, erect ears, pointed
noses, and bushy tails, were also met with. About the shores
were flocks of sea-fowl, comprising loons, geese, and Arctic
gulls. On drifting hummocks of ice, seals were visible. Of
the richness of the copper mines, Hearne, evidently, was not
convinced. One piece of the ore, weighing over four pounds,
he found tolerably pure and of good quality ; but his search for
the metal was on the whole indifferently rewarded. He appears to have contented himself, howrever, with a surface
survey; and, probably from want of tools, made no excavations. Seemingly to justify his unsuccess in finding copper,
Hearne, with no little simplicity, tells the following story,
which he gathered from the Indians of the region:
o o
" There is a strange tradition among those people, that the
first person who discovered those mines was a woman, and that
she conducted parties to the place for several years. On one
occasion some of the men were rude to her, and she made a vow
to be revenged on them. She is said to have been a great con-
juror. Accordingly, when the men had loaded themselves with
copper and were going to return, she refused to accompany
them, saying that she would sit on the mine till she sunk into
the ground, and that the copper would sink with her.    The EARLY DISCOVERERS OF TflE SORTH-WEST.
next year, when the men went for more copper, they found her
sunk up to the waist, though still alive, and the quantity of
copper much decreased. On their repeating their visit the following year, she had quite disappeared, and all the principal
part of the mine with her; so that after a period nothing
remained on the surface but a few small pieces, and these were
scattered at a considerable distance from each other. Before
that period, they say the copper lay on the surface in such large
heaps that the Indians had nothing to do but turn it over and
pick such pieces as would best suit the different uses for which
they intended it."
Hearne, by this time, made all haste out of the country
inhabited by the Copper and the Dog-rib Indians. With
his followers, the Northern Indians, he set out for the south,
hoping to be able to make a detour westward, to Lake Athabasca, before returning to the shores of Hudson Bay. He had
no motive for lingering in the scenes of his discovery. The
country he found disappointing: it was poorly settled; and
. any trade to be done with the native tribes he was willing
should be done through the medium of the Northern Indians.
This tribe, after Hearne's visit, he tells us, fell a prey to smallpox, contracted through contact with the Athabascas of the
south; while the once powerful race of the Dog-rib Indians
sank back into barbarism.
By the end of July, Hearne's party rejoined the women of
the tribe, whom they had left behind when on their way down
the Copper Mine River. It was January of the following
year before they arrived at Lake Athabasca, and the end of
June (1772), ere Hearne reached Prince of Wales's Fort. The
incidents of the return journey are few, and need not detain
It was a long and toilsome undertaking; how long and
*o >
toilsome one fails to realize by the mere reading of Hearne's
narrative. To gain any adequate conception of the extent of
this journey, one should have at hand a large English chart or THE NORTH-WESf: ITS HlStORY AND ITS fROtt&LES.
Survey map, when the distance will begin to dawn upon one as
the numerous meridional lines, in tracking the route of our adventurous explorer, are crossed. The time consumed in the
expeditions was two years, seven months, and twenty-four days.
On his march southward, Hearne seems not to have heard
anything of Great Slave Lake, the eastern flank of which he
must have passed close by on his way to the Athabasca. Of
the latter lake and surrounding country, not very much is yet
known, for the district is beyond hope of any likely settlement from the North-West. On Hearne's visit to the Lake,
now over a hundred years ago, he found it stocked with quantities of fish, and numerous herds of deer were grazing on its
banks. The lake was f uU of islands, most of which our author
found clothed with fine taU poplars, birch, and pines. The
pictorial representation of the lake, which appears in his book,
except for the absence of life, would indicate the presence of
the landscape gardener. Nature's solitudes are not so tidy and
prim as his engraving represents them.
Only one other incident in this remarkable journey must
we take up space to recount. About the middle of January,
the author relates, as some of his [companions were hunting,
they saw the track of a strange snow-shoe, which they followed;
and at a considerable distance came to a little hut, where they
discovered a young woman sitting alone. As they found that
she understood their language, they brought her with them to
the tents. On examination, she proved to be one of the Western Dog-rib Indians, who had been taken prisoner by the
Athabasca Indians two summers before. In the following
summer, when the Indians who took her prisoner were near
this region, she had eloped from them, with the intent of returning to her own country. The distance, however, was
great; and, having come there by a tortuous canoe voyage, she EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
could not discover the track, and despaired of ever finding her
way out. So she built the hut in which she was found, and
here she had resided since the first setting in of the Fall.
1 From her account of the moons past since her elopement,"
Hearne states, | it appeared that she had been nearly seven
months without seeing a human face; during all which time,
she had supported herself by7 snaring partridges, rabbits, and
squirrels. She had also killed two or three beaver and some
porcupine. That she did not seem to be in want, is evident,
as she had a small stock of provisions by her when she was
discovered ; she was in good health and condition, and I think
one of the finest women, of a real Indian, that I have seen in
any part of North America.
I The methods practised by this poor creature to procure a
livelihood were truly astonishing, and are great proofs that
necessity is the real mother of invention. When the few deer-
sinews that she had an opportunity of taking with her were
expended in making snares, and in making her clothing, she
had nothing to supply their place but the sinews of the rabbits' legs and feet; these she twisted together for that purpose
with great dexterity and success. What she caught in these
snares not only furnished her with a comfortable subsistence,
but, with their skins, she was enabled to make herself suits of
neat and warm clothing for the winter. It is scarcely possible
to conceive that a person in her forlorn situation could be so
composed as to be capable of contriving, or executing, anything
that was not absolutely necessary to her existence. But there
was sufficient proof that she had extended her care much
further, as all her clothing, besides being calculated for real
service, showed great taste, and exhibited no little variety of
ornament. The materials, though rude, were very curiously
wrought, and so judiciously placed as to make the whole of her
garb have a very pleasing, though rather romantic, appearance.
" Her leisure hours from hunting had been employed in
twisting the inner rind, or bark of willows, into small lines,
like net-wire, of which she had some hundred fathoms by her;
with this she intended to make a fishing-net, as soon as the
spring advanced. Five or six inches of an iron hoop, made
into a knife, and the shank of an arrow-head of iron, which
served her as an awl, were all the metals this poor wonian had H
with her when she eloped; and, with these implements, she
had made herself complete snowshoes, and several other useful
articles. Her method of making a fire was equally singular
and curious: having no other materials for that purpose than
two hard sulphurous stones, these, by long friction and hard
knocking, produced a few sparks, which at length communicated to some touchwood ; but as this method was attended with
great trouble, and not always with success, she did not suffer
the fire to go out all winter. The singularity of the circumstance, and the comeliness of her person, and her approved
accomplishment, occasioned a strong contest between several
of the Indians of my party, who should have her for wife ;
and the poor girl was actually won and lost at wrestling by
near half a score of different men the same evening."
Let us hope that the wilderness joust furnished this exemplary maiden with a chivalrous knight for husband. On the
16th of January, Hearne's party crossed the Athabasca River>
which flowed into the southern side of the lake ; and from this
point they headed for the east, taking advantage, as much as
possible, of the ice in the lakes to facilitate travel. Soon they
left the level country of the Athabasca region, and approached
the Stoney Mountains, which bound the northern Indian country. With May, the annual thaw set in, and travelling became
bad. But with Spring came the water-fowl and a change of
diet; and the party made continuous and sometimes merry
progress. The^ remainder of Hearne's narrative is taken up
with extended discussions on natural history, and with
accounts of the Indian tribes. Into these we shall not follow
him, but dismiss his interesting work with the announcement
' o
of his safe arrival at the Hudson Bay Factory7, at the end of
June, 1772, CHAPTER  V.
Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
E now come to the other important publication of the period, Alexander Mackenzie's
Journal of his Voyage through the North-
West Continent of America. This interesting work, which appeared in London, in
1801, contains the record of two journeys
undertaken by this able and enterprising
representative of the North-West Fur Company, in the years 1789 and 1793. The first of these journeys
deals with the river which bears his name, and which was
traced from its source, in Great Slave Lake, to the Arctic Sea.
The second consists of his diary while exploring the Peace
River, from the Lake of the Hills, through the Rocky Mountains to the waters of the Pacific. Prefixed to these narratives is a description of the route and the characteristics of
the Canadian Fur Trade, from Montreal, via the Ottawa and
the upper shores of Lake Superior, across the Continent, to
the Canading trading-post, Fort Chipewyan, on the Lake of
the Hills. The situation of the latter, which for some years
was Mackenzie's headquarters, may be roughly located, as in
latitude 58Q North, and longitude 110Q West (of Greenwich).
It lies immediately south of Great Slave Lake, with which it
is connected by the Slave River. The Elk, or Athabasca*
River flows into it on the south; and, at its eastern end, the
Peace River joins its waters.
Almost the whole of the route, from Montreal to this distant
post on  the  Lake  of  the Hills, can be followed by water,
though  it is broken  by innumerable and toilsome  portages.
Mackenzie's introductory chapter will still be found a lucid and
accurate guide over this great stretch of country, a valuable
record of the Indian tribes met with en route, and an instructive history of the growth and development of the Canadian
fur-trade.    At its outset, Mackenzie has something to say of
the native forester, the coureur des bois, and the habits which
the European acquired from him, of a free, but far from correct
manner of living in the woods.     The influence of the early
French missionaries, if it was ever practically operative on the
Indian tribes, in Mackenzie's day had long lost its  savour.
Any restraint upon lawlessness, in his time, was exercised, not
through the missions, which had languished or by stake and
torch had been hastened to a close, but through the military
and trading-pcsts that had taken  their place.     The  initial
work of the missionaries, however, was done:   they were the
avant-couriers of civilisation in Canada; and however few the
converts they made to their faith, they glorified it through
weariful years of toil and bloodshed, and to-day the Canadian
people reap the priceless benefit.    Nor must it be forgotten in
speaking, as Mackenzie does, of the merely transient influence
of the Church in the Wilderness, that this is due less to the
failure of the work of the missionaries than to the pernicious
example set before the Indians by the lay European.    It may
"joe true, what Mackenzie says, that greater results would have EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
followed evangelisation, had the missionaries first taught the
Indians how to surround themselves with the comforts of
civilisation; but perhaps a more important truth lies back
of that, in the step which should have preceded it, namely, to
have kept their countrymen out of the wilderness until they
themselves were Christianised. Having made these strictures
upon this portion of Mackenzie's narrative, it is only justice to
let our author himself be heard. Here is the passage which
arrested us I
"As for the missionaries, if sufferings and hardships in the
prosecution of the great work which they had undertaken deserve applause and admiration, they had an undoubted claim
to be admired and applauded; they spared no labour, and
avoided no danger, in the execution of their important office;
and it is to be seriously lamented that their pious endeavours
did not meet with the success which thev deserved; for there is
hardly a trace to be found, beyond the cultivated parts, of their
meritorious functions.
I The cause of this failure must be attributed to a want of
due consideration in the mode employed by the missionaries to
propagate the religion of which they were the zealous ministers. They habituated themselves to the savage life, and
naturalised themselves to the savage manners, and, by thus becoming dependent, as it were, on the natives, they acquired their
contempt rather than their veneration. If they had been as
well acquainted with human nature as they were with the
articles of faith, they would have known that the uncultivated
mind of an Indian must be disposed by much preparatory
method and instruction to receive the revealed truths of Christianity, to act under its sanctions, and be impelled to good by
the hope of its reward, or turned from evil by the fear of its
punishment. They should have begun their work by teaching
some of those useful arts which are the inlets of knowledge and
lead the mind by degrees to objects of higher comprehension.
Agriculture, so formed to ^x and combine society, and so preparatory to objects of superior consideration, should have been
the first thing introduced among a savage people; it attaches
the wandering tribe to that spot where it adds so much to ill!
their comforts ; while it gives them a sense of property and of
lasting possession, instead of the uncertain hopes of the chase
and the fugitive produce of uncultivated wilds."
Our author, before delivering himself of this judgment, had
better have enlarged his reading on the subject of French
missionary enterprise in the wilds of Canada. Had he considered what had been the experience of the Church previous
to his own day, or could he have known what has been the
experience of Government farm instructors since, he would
have been slow to hazard an opinion on so knotty a problem
as the civilisation of the Indian. He forgets, moreover, that a
common necessity, and often a common peril, herded missionaries and Indians together, in constant fear from the hereditary
foes of each, with few opportunities to sow fields, and fewer
still to reap them. Querulousness is free to say, of course, that
" the missionary habituated himself to the savage life;" but
querulousness does not say how else he could have subsisted.
It may have been a mistake to have sent the missionary first,
and the squatter and politician land-agent afterwards; but had
the process been reversed, we fear, there would have been
little, if any, need to send the missionary.
On his own field, Mackenzie is strong. He knows the fur-
trade ; and he had exceptional opportunities of becoming
acquainted with the country. We have previously observed
that, after the Conquest, many Canadians withdrew their
trading operations from the West. The war unsettled the
whole land. It brought together, in mortal combat, the two
great European nations that had long striven for dominion on
the continent of the New World. To the north of the lakes,
war threw the Indians into the French camp, and infected
them, far and wide, with a bitter hostility to the English.
The loss of Canada to France did little to soften the feeling of EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
antipathy. Despite this feeling, the great English Fur Company on the shores of Hudson Bay thought the time favourable
to extend its trade to the south.. It did so ; but for a time it
was at great disadvantage.    In coming inland, it had a difficult
O O O '
road to get over, and a long and toilsome transport. The
risks were many; for the country was unknown and trade
unsettled. Moreover, its agents knew little of the people, and
less of their language.    With Canada, the case was different.
O O '
In resuming her commerce in the woods, she walked in her old
paths. After the war the people took heart, and the pulse of
trade again began to beat. Once more Lachine was gay with
the throng of departing voyageurs. The little chapel at Ste
Anne's heard again the Pater Nosters of the kneeling boatmen,
O O '
or the heart-flutterings of his deserted sweetheart. . The
rugged coureur des bois toiled once more across the portages
of the dark Ottawa, lightly skimmed his canoe over the
gleaming water-sketches of Lake Nipissing, and stoutly
stemmed the rapids of the Sault and the Kaministiquia.
Camp fires were lit, as of yore, on the banks of the Lake of the
Woods; and sturgeon were speared through the ice of the
distant Saskatchewan. Canadian trade was again in full
Just before Mackenzie's advent, a number of traders had
gone to the Far West.    Among the number was the English-
o o o
man, Henry, and the brothers, Frobisher. Pond, from Boston,
and his victim, the Swiss Wadin, were also in the territories.
About this time the North-West Fur Company was founded,
with the Frobishers' and Simon M'Tavish at its head.
Mackenzie tell us, that at this period he had spent five years
in the counting-house of a Mr. Gregory, a Montreal merchant.
In 1784, he left that employment, with a small adventure of
his own in trade, and set out for Detroit,    ijere he was follQW-' 84
ed by one of his late principals, who proposed to him a journey
to the Indian country, to be undertaken next summer. This
he agreed to; and proceeding to the fair meadows of the Grand
Portage, he formally entered the service of the North-West
Fur Company. From its post on the Rainy River, Mackenzie
set out for Fort Chipewyan, on the " Lake of the Hills," or as
it is now known, Lake Athabasca. Two months afterwards
he arrived at the post. Here, for eight years, was his headquarters; and from here he started on his two celebrated
voyages. The post received its name from the Chipewyans, a
tribe of Indians, whose principal lodges lay in the district, and
who, in Mackenzie's day, were a numerous people. Their
territories extended from the Churchill, in the east, to the
Columbia River,  in the west.    The origin of the tribe, like
' O '
that of the aborigines of the whole country, can only be conjectured. Like other members of the Algonquin family, they
are very7 superstitious. Mackenzie tells us that they have a
tradition amongst them, that:
O '
" They originally came from another country, inhabited by a
wicked people, and had traversed a great lake, which was
narrow, shallow, and full of islands, where they suffered great
misery, it being always winter, with ice and deep snow. They*
believe, also, that in ancient times their ancestors lived till
their feet were worn out with walking, and their throats with
eating. They describe a deluge, when the waters spread over
the whole earth, except the highest mountains, on the tops of
which they preserved themselves.
" They believe that immediately after death they pass into
another world, where they arrive at a large river, on which
they embark on a stone canoe, and that a gentle current bears
them on to an extensive lake, in the centre of which is a
beautiful island; and that, in the view of this delightful abode,
they receive that judgment for their conduct during life which
determinates their final state and unalterable aUotment. If
their good actions are declared to predominate, they are landed
».-*»»    *■ .\ »»•*.« EAftlAv btSCOVrERER& Otf THft NOfcTH-WESt.
upon the island, where there is to be no end to their happiness ;
which, however, according to their notions, consists in an
eternal enjoyment of sensual pleasure and gratification. But
if their bad actions weigh down the balance, the stone canoe
O '
sinks at once, and leaves them up to their chins in the water,
to behold and regret the reward enjoyed by the good, and
eternally struggling, but with unavailing endeavours, to reach
the blissful island, from which they are excluded for ever."
While an inmate of Fort Chipewyan, Mackenzie was ever
haunted by projects of discovery. He was a born traveller,
capable in command, full of resource, able to withstand the
toil of arduous undertakings, and anxious, as we learn from
his work, to extend the boundaries of geographical science, and
add new countries to the realms of commerce. Such a task as
he proposed to himself, to trace the water-ways from Lake
Athabasca to the Frozen Ocean, was both laborious and
hazardous. Never before had the waters of the region borne
any other craft than the canoe of the savage; nor had the
report of a firelock ever disturbed its solitudes or rang through
its wastes. It was known that from Great Slave Lake a great
water flowed out towards the mountains that hem in the vast
plains; but whither, and through what devious paths it led, no
man knew. Mackenzie set himself to solve the problem. In
solving it he gave his name to the river.
o o
On the 3rd of June, 1789, Mackenzie set out on his voyage
of discovery. His party consisted of four Canadians, two of
whom were attended by their wives, and a German. For
guide and interpreter, he took with him an Indian, who had
accompanied Hearne in his journey to the Copper Mine River.
Two wives of the guide, and two young Indians, were also of
the party. A convoy from the Fort accompanied the expedition until it was well under way. At the outset there
occurred the usual defection from the ranks, owing to some of Ill
I 11 m
i iff
the party losing heart in presence of the difficulties of the
undertaking. This defection was soon, however, though only7
in part, made good. After our travellers had been out some
ten days, they came to rapids and other obstructions to navigation on the river, which entailed considerable and toilsome
portaging. At the end of the portage, the expedition made a
lengthened halt to recruit strength, overhaul the supplies for
the voyage, and repair their canoes. While in camp, a section
of the party added to the stores the product of a good day's
hunt. This consisted of moose, buffalo, and beaver, with a
basketful of carp, trout, and voisson inconnu.
Proceeding on the journey, the party passed by the lodges
of some of the Red-Knife Indians, one of whom they took for
a guide, but who was not long in losing his course on the lake
portions of the river. It turned out that he had travelled no
great distance down its waters. As they were now in sight of
the Rocky Mountains, they speedily recovered their course;
and, being favoured with a good wind, to catch which .they
rigged a light sail, they got well again on the way. About the
middle of July they reached the encampment of some families
of the Slave and the Dog-rib Indians.    So novel a sight to
o o
them were Europeans that they fled at their appearing. Recovering from their alarm, and being attracted by trinkets held
out for their acceptance, they suffered themselves to be
approached. On seeking information from them respecting
the river, Mackenzie could only extract from them the fabulous.
They earnestly dissuaded him from pursuing his voyage, say7-
ihg, that it wrould require several winters to get to the sea,
that the party would encounter monsters of horrid shape and
destructive power on their way, and that old age would
certainly come upon ere they could possibly return. The
effect of these fables was to discompose for a time the minds of feARLY biSCOVEREfeS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
Mackenzie's Indian employe's, who had already tired of the
voyage. They had themselves gathered* more exaggerated
stories than had come to their leader's ears; and it was with
difficulty he could persuade them of their absurdity, and
reasure them that no mishap would befall them. Their
greatest dread was that they would find few animals in the
country beyond them, and that, as they proceeded, the scarcity
would increase, and all would perish from want. By dint of
bribery, and the exercise of some little tact, Mackenzie was
fortunate, however, to induce one of the Indians of the region
, to join the party, and this allayed the fears of his nervous
following. The Indians of this encampment were fancifully
dressed. "Their ornaments," our traveller relates, "consists
of gorgets ; bracelets for the arms and wrists, made of wood,
horn, or bone; garters; and a kind of band to go round the
head, composed of strips of leather, embroidered with porcupine quills, stuck round with the claws of bears or wildfowl inverted, to which are suspended a few short thongs of
the skin of an animal that resembles the ermine, in the form
of a tassel. Their cinctures and garters are formed of porcupine quills woven with sinews, in a style of peculiar skill and
As the expedition proceeded down the river its current
quickened', and, though it was only the middle of July, the
temperature rapidly fell. Camping on its banks one night,
Mackenzie noticed the water rise and flow visibly towards his
tent. In the morning it had receded. This was a clear indica-
tion of approach to the sea. There were also solar indications.
of a high latitude. Some pages later on in the narrative we
find the following:
"I sat up all night to observe the sun.    At half-past twelve
I called up one of the men to view a spectacle which he had 8»    The nort£-WesT: iTs history an!) its Tro^l^s.
never before seen.    On seeing the sun so high, he thought it
O O     ' o
was a signal to embark, and began to call the rest of his companions, who would scarcely be persuaded by me that the sun
had not descended nearer to the horizon, and that it was now
but a short time past midnight."
A few voyages further on, the river perceptibly widened, now
expanding into an estuary, with numerous islands within its
embrace, and anon, contracting its banks. The cold became
more intense; and the animal life changed. Presently, a wandering family of Esquimaux was sighted; and with difficulty
the interpreter made out that our voyageurs had reached the
sea, and that a few more camps would close it against them .
Continuing their passage a day or two further, they found the
river full of broken ice, with whales disporting in the clear
water, and traces visible of the Polar bear and the Arctic fox.
Seaward, a heavy fog rested on the waters and concealed the
view. Setting sail in the larger canoe, Mackenzie visited
many of the islands of the region, in the hope of meeting other
parties of Esquimaux, from whom he might learn something of
the unknown beyond. His search was unrewarded, and the
party prepared to return.
Retracing their course, a few camps back, the expedition
came upon a lodge of Northern Indians. From them they
learned that a strong party of Esquimaux occasionally ascended
the river in large canoes in search of flint stones, which they
make use of to point their spears and arrows. They told Mackenzie that the Esquimaux were now at a lake due east from
the spot where he was now encamped, and that they were there
killing reindeer, and would soon begin " to catch big fish for
O ' o - o
the winter stock." They also informed our traveller that the
Esquimaux had reported their seeing, some winters ago, a number of large canoes full of white men far to the westward, in a
lake which they called " White Man's Lake."    It was difficult. EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
they said however, to reach the lake, for when the ice breaks
up, it s6on freezes again. This was the extent of the information Mackenzie could glean with reference to an open sea and
a North-West passage to the Pacific. He pursued his return
journey. Nothing of note happened on the homeward voyage,
save a repetition of the incidents that marked the passage of
the expedition outwards—the consternation of Indian tribes
that had never seen a white man. With one consent they fled-
at his approach. In August, our travellers had returned to a
region where it was sufficiently dark at night to render the
stars visible. By the middle of September they had completed
their journey.
Three years after Mackenzie returned from his thousand-
mile voyage on the great river that was henceforth to bear his
name, he undertook a second voyage, with a view to trace the
course of the Peace River and its affluents, and to endeavour,
if possible, to find a passage by its waters to the Pacific Ocean.
This new voyage was a much more serious undertaking than
the former one. In the Mackenzie River he had a noble
stream that drained a vast territory, a stream that presented
few obstacles to the voyageur, its early course being facilitated
by a succession of almost unbroken lacustrian pathways. In
his new journey, though the region presented a like terraqeous
aspect, the difficulties of navigation were tenfold what he had
experienced on his first voyage. The Peace River, which
drains into Lake Athabasca, has its source in the Rocky Mountains, the brooding cliffs and gigantic firs of which frown all
along its course, and frequently throw themselves into its
waters to fret and obstruct their passage.
In October, 1792, Mackenzie journeyed to a western post of
the Company, some distance from Fort Chipewyan, there to
spend the winter and make preparations for the outfit of his
expedition in the following spring. In May, 1793, he and his
party left the post and launched their canoes on the river.
Passing the confluence of the Bear River, the course of the
Peace River for a time took our travellers south-west; but
they had not gone far until a succession of rapids and cascades
compelled them to leave its course and portage for a considerable distance.    Returning to the river, Mackenzie relates that •*
I We now continued our toilsome and perilous progress west
by north; and as we proceeded the rapidity of the current increased, so that in the distance of two miles we were obliged
to unload four times, and carry everything but the canoe; indeed, in many places, it was with the utmost difficulty that we
could prevent her being dashed to pieces against the rocks by
the violence of the eddies. At five o'clock we had proceeded to
where the river was one continuous rapid. Here we again
took everything out of the canoe, in order to tow her up with
the line, though the rocks were so shelving as greatly to increase the toil and hazard of that operation. At length, however, the agitation of the water was so great, that a wave
striking the bow of the canoe broke the line, and filled us with
incredible dismay, as it appeared impossible that the vessel
could escape from being dashed to pieces, and those who were
in her from perishing. Another wave, however, more propitious than the former, drove her out of the tumbling water, so
that the men were able to bring her ashore, and though she
had been carried over rocks by the swells which left them a
moment naked after, the canoe had received no material injury.
The men were, however, in such a state from their late alarm
that it would not only have been unavailing but imprudent to
have proposed any further progress at present, particularly as
the river above us, as far as we could see, was one white sheet
of foaming water."
Proceeding on foot some distance through the woods, Mackenzie could see no end to the rapids, and he returned from
his reconnoitring excursion tired out in body and in spirit.
Next day he despatched several of the Indians to the summit
of the hills in the neighbourhood, with instructions to force a. EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
way northward, keeping the river in sight, and to advise him
when they saw smooth water. After a time they returned
with a favourable report. Another party of Indians was now
instructed to cut a path through the woods, for the transfer of
the canoes and the baggage. This toilsome work accomplished,
they proceeded on the voyage, at every new turn of the river
great hills and defiles revealing their menacing fronts as they
passed by. Each day's journey added new terrors to the way.
Huge precipices rose sheer up from the water, and lofty snowcapped peaks gleamed. down the ravine upon them as they
poled their fatiguing course up the torrent. Suddenly the river
would utterly change its appearance, the Waters breaking away
from the beetling crags that frowned upon it, and for a time,
quietly meandering over brief stretches of placid meadow. As
suddenly would it dash in again on the flanks of the mountain,
and burrow hiding-places in gloomy caverns, or impetuously
cleave a channel for itself under clammy over-hanging cliffs.
On the banks of the river Nature presented itself in like varying moods.    Towards the bottom of the heights, which were
O O '
clear of snow, the trees might be seen putting forth their
leaves, while those in the middle and upper parts still retained
all the characteristics of winter. Another day's advance was
made, but only to meet with new discouragements and more
formidable difficulties.
Presently, the expedition was forced to face a new problem
From the melting of the snow, the river became too swollen to
enable the canoes to live in the current. It also overflowed its
banks; and it was found impossible to keep in the channel.
For some weeks the party made what advance they could,
proceeding alternately along its banks and in the stream. The
prospect finally became too discouraging. Now, however, they7
fell in with some natives of the district, who for a time con- 92      THE NORTH-WEST:  ITS  HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
ducted them on another branch of the river; until it, too, became unnavigable. The Indians here suggested an ascent of
the mountains, and a tramp through its defiles to the sea. This
bold project Mackenzie was ready to carry out. "In the
present state of my information," he narrates, " to proceed further up the river was considered a fruitless waste of toilsome
exertion; and to return unsuccessful, after all our labour,
sufferings, and hunger, was an idea too painful to indulge."
After mature consideration, he determined to be the first white
man to cross the Rockies to the Pacific.
Coming to this conclusion, the party proceeded to " cache,J
;he larger canoe, and the stores they were not likely to want
until their return. Making their burdens as light as possible,
they began the ascent of the mountains, and by relays of guides,
they were able to make satisfactory though wearisome progress.
" We carried on our backs," writes Mackenzie, " four bags
and a half of pemmican, weighing about eighty-five pounds
each; a case with my instruments, a parcel of goods for
presents, weighing ninety pounds, and a parcel containing ammunition of the same weight. Each of the Canadians had a
burden of ninety pounds, with a gun and some ammunition.
The Indians had about forty-five pound weight of pemmican
to carry, beside their guns, &c, with which they were very much
dissatisfied, and if they had dared would have instantly left us.
. . . In this state of equipment we began our journey, the
commencement of which was a steep ascent of about a mile;
it lay along a well-beaten path, but the country through which
it led was rugged and ridgy and full of wood. When we were
in a state of extreme heat, from the toil of our journey, the
rain came on and continued till the evening, and even when it
ceased the underwood continued its drippings upon us."
It would weary the reader to record even a tithe of the details
of this painful journey. Day followed day, with the same tale of
weariful plodding, through deep canyons, over mammoth fallen
timber, and across shoulders of the mountains—one hope sustain- EARLY DISCOVERERS  OF  THE  NORTH-WtiST.
ing the party, that the furthest ridge would be reached and the
curtains roll up and disclose the sea. At length this cheer was
theirs. " They came to a hill," writes Mackenzie," the descent
of which was more steep than its ascent, and was succeeded by
another, whose top, though not so elevated as the last, afforded
a view of the range of mountains, covered with snow, which?
according to the intelligence of our guide, terminates in the
ocean." As they neared this range, the mountains seemed to
recede, as if in mockery of their anxious longings. Finally the
goal is reached. By a rapid descent, they get down to a lower
elevation, and reach a stream on which they were able to launch
their canoes and transfer their burdens to the river. Through
further vicissitude and many days' toil, the expedition is at
last rewarded by a sight of the coast. It is reached at a meridian which Mackenzie registers as 52° 21' 33", a little to the
north of Queen Charlotte Sound.* Here, as our traveller relates
he mixes some vermilion in melted grease, and with it inscribes
on a rock on the coast this legend: "Alexander Mackenzie,
from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand
seven hundred and ninety-three!"
This feat of Mackenzie and his party, in crossing the Rocky
Mountains at that early period, deserves high praise. It may
be that the route which he took from the Peace River, across
the " Mountains of the Sea," and what is now known as British Columbia, does not present the obstacles to be met with
in the passes in the higher elevations to the south. But that
it was a toilsome and daring venture, no one can prudently
deny.    The route he foUowed, we judge, must been either the
* Later research has enabled the writer to state more definitely the region where
Mackenzie reached the waters of the Pacific. It appears he approached the coast
by the Bella Coola River and North Bentinck arm, thence down Burke Channel
to the Sea. Turning North-Westward, he subsequently entered Dean Channel
and ascended Cascade Inlet, to the rock on which he painted his inscription and
where he took his observations. 94      THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
:lf i
Pine River or the Peace River Pass; and the great river he
speaks of sailing down after crossing the mountains, no doubt,
was the Fraser.   Leaving that stream about the region of Lake
o o
Quesnel, and following westward the course of the Salmon
River, he would reach the sea in the neighbourhood of Dean
Channel, in an alignment with the southern point of Queen
Charlotte Islands, or about the latitude indicated in the text.
At the coast, Mackenzie met with Indians who had previously
seen and traded with the white man. The previous year, Captain Vancouver, a Dutch navigator of the Royal Navy, had
cruised round the Island, surveyed its deeply fissured coasts,
and claimed it for the British Crown. Fourteen years earlier,
Captain Cook had coasted all along the Northern Pacific;
while in the interval a British colony had planted itself on the
shores of Nootka Sound, which was the occasion of historic
trouble with the Court of Spain.
Mackenzie's return voyage was exceedingly tedious. The
party was short of provisions ; the guide decamped, taking the
canoe with him; and many of the natives were hostile. As
the season was now the end of Julv, the weather was warm
and genial; and this in some degree ameliorated the condition of the party. In the sad plight they were in, Mackenzie
had time to note the beauty of the natural surroundings.
Here is a description of a scene on his return journey:
" It was now one in the afternoon, and we had to ascend the
summit of the first mountain before night came on, in order to
look for water. The fatigue of ascending these precipices I
shall not attempt to describe. It was past five when we arrived at a spot where we could get water, and in such an extremity of weariness, that it was with great pain any of us'
could crawl about to gather wood for the necessary purpose of
making a fire. But it was not possible to be in this situation
without contemplating the wonders of it. Such was the depth
of the precipices below, and the height of the mountains above,
with the rude and wild magnificence of the scenery around,
that I shall not attempt to describe such an astonishing and
awful combination of objects, of which, indeed, no description EARLY DISCOVERERS OF THE NORTH-WEST.
can convey an adequate idea. Even at this place, which is
only, as it were, the first step towards gaining the summit of
the mountains, the climate was very sensibly changed. The
air that fanned the village, which we left at noon, was mild
and cheering; the grass was verdant; and the wild fruits ripe
around it. But here the snow was not vet dissolved, the
ground was still bound by the frost, the herbage had scarce
begun to spring, and the berry bushes were just beginning to
Mackenzie followed the path by which he had come to the
sea. In time the expedition got over the mountains, and, recovering the canoe and the provisions they had concealed on
the Peace River, they7 made rapid progress homeward. The
water of the river was much lower than on the upward voyage,
though th*e portaging was still frequent and wearisome. Salmon
were plentiful and the whortleberries ripe. But for heavy
rains the condition of the returning voyageurs would have been
pleasant and happy. On leaving the mountains, the rains however ceased ; and for the rest of the voyage they had the rich
valleys of the Peace River, which lie within the Fertile Belt to
journey through, and to invigorate both mind and body. 1 Each
day," says our traveller, " we were on the water before daylight ; and when the sun rose a beautiful country appeared
around us, enriched and animated by large herds of wild cattle.
. . . . As we approached Fort Chipe wyan, the country increased in beauty, though the cattle appeared proportionately
to diminish. At length, as we rounded the point and came in
view of the Fort, we threw out our flag, and accompanied it
with a general discharge of our firearms; while the men were
in such spirits and made such an active use of their paddles,
that we arrived before the two men whom we left here in the
spring, could recover their senses to answer us. Here, on the
24th of August, 1793, my voyages of discovery terminate.
Their toils and their dangers, their solicitudes and sufferings,
have not been exaggerated in my description. On the contrary,
in many instances, language has failed me in the attempt to describe them. I received, however, the reward of my labours,
for they were crowned with success." m.
fd c EW records of colonial settlement are more sad
m than those of the community that strove to
V root itself, early in the century, in the soil of the
yUr Red River. Sorely tried as the Scot has ever
been, seldom has it been his lot to suffer so
keenly. In the year 1811, a small band of Scottish Highlanders, with a sprinkling of Celts from
the west of Ireland, landed at York Factory, and
after a winter spent on the Nelson River, proceeded to settle
on the virgin prairies of the Canadian North-West. Cheerless as was their surroundings on the bleak moorlands of
the Old World they had left, more cheerless stiU was their
introduction to the wild wastes of the New. When they
came inland from the forbidding shores of Hudson Bay, to
the banks of the Red River, they found that the heart of the
continent did not warm to them. It gave them no welcome.
Tear-dimmed eyes had watched their departing forms, as the
vessel bore them from the home of their fathers; but knit
.brows scowled upon them as they set down their household
gods to domicile themselves in a land which they now looked
upon as the heritage of their children. What a step-mother the
country was to be to them and theirs, it was not long ere they
unhappily found out.
We have already seen that the North-West Fur Company
was in occupancy of the region to which the colony had emigrated, and that the title to possession of its rival, the Hudson
Bay Company, was held in light esteem by it and its employes.
But the Nor'-Westers themselves had acquired no proprietary-
interests in the soil: they were merely traders, doing business
in the territory, and had no pretext to dispossess even the
wandering Indian of his hereditary claim to the land. The
Selkirk settlers were there not only by right of purchase from
the Hudson Bay Company, whose title to possession, however
imperfect it was, was certainly better than that of the Nor'-
Westers; but they were there after the Indian title had been
quieted for a consideration paid them by the founder of the
colony. The claim of the colony to possession was thus
doubly valid. But however valid it might be, it did not suit
the Nor'-Westers to have their hunting-grounds encroached
upon by a people whose pursuits would prove disastrous to
the interests which, as a trading corporation, they wished to
conserve. It still less suited this Canadian Company to have
a settlement grow up in the midst of its trade, by right of purchase from an organisation whose claims to possession it
ignored, and which had been founded under the direct auspices
of a powerful, and now likely to be actively aggressive, rival.
In this latter circumstance is the gravamen of the matter. It
was unfortunate that the colony came upon the scene at the
time and in the manner it did. It was unfortunate even in the
route by which it came to the country. All the circumstances
attending its arrival at Red River were construed as a menace
to the rival traders.    First of all, the colony was unwelcome 58     THE tfORTH-WEST: ITS HlSToHY AND ITS TROU^tElg.
because it was an undesirable intrusion upon lands which both
Companies wer^interested in preserving for the purposes of the
fur-trade. Secondly, it was unwelcome, because it had come to
the country directly from the headquarters, the trading-postsI
of its rivals. And, thirdly, it,was unwelcome, because it had
acquired the right to its location from a Company whose territorial claims were strenuously opposed by an organisation that
had long been in occupancy. For these several reasons, the
North-West Fur Company and its people, frDm the first, manifested hostility to the intruders, and looked sullenly upon the
arrival of each instalment of the colonists. How this aversion
afterwards found expression in overt acts of hostile intent, and
finally, ended in foul murder and ruthless expatriation, we
shall soon discover. Meantime, let us see who were these people that had taken up their abode in the solitudes of the Far
West, and who was the promoter of the scheme under which
the colony came to settle.
After the Rebellion of 1745, a change came over the national
and social condition of the Scottish Highlands. The heavy
hand of power that then fell upon romantic Caledonia broke
up the clans and severed many of the links that bound the
Gael to his chieftain. With the snapping of these links were
also severed the patriarchal relations the head of the clan held
with his -following.    England's foreign wars, no less than the
O O O '
suppression of Jacobinism, broke up the feudal system, and
drew the Highlander from his glens and straths to dye Continental battle-grounds with his life-blood. This break-up of
the old order of things entailed great suffering upon the faithful
clansmen of stern Caledonia. * They were now as sheep without
a shepherd. From being sturdy, well-fed retainers, and liegemen of the chiefs of their ancestral houses, they became cottars
and crofters, holders of small farms, from which they strove to THE SELKIRK SETTLEMENT AND ITS FATE.
Wrest a poor and often precarious subsistence. Later on, the
well-to-do, and moneyed, lowland farmer came in among them
and outbid them for their holdings, while the southern mag-
nate began to buy up their ancestral acres, to turn them into
game-preserves and mammoth sheep pastures. For long it
went hard with the poor Highlander.    There was a time when
1 — the fish of the lake, and the deer of the vale,
Were less free to Lord Dacre than Allan-a-dale ; 1
but that time was not now. In this period of transition the
noble endurance and many sterling qualities of the Scottish Celt
were manifested in full and heroic force. The drain of
absenteeism went on, and the poor Highlander, in his struggle
with the hard conditions of his lot, daily became poorer. But,
unlike the Irish Celt, upon whom governments ever lavished
their consideration and bounty, the Scottish Celt never shewed
the world that he had a grievance. Nor did he manifest his
distress in petulance and crime.
It has been remarked, that the Scot rarely complains that
the world he has been brought into is too stern for his temper.
The little world of Celtic Scotland, at the beginning of the
century, was, however, a hard foster-father to the poor cottar,
who was struggling for existence by the firths and estuaries of
Northern Britain. Self-reliant as he was by nature, if he
could not extract a living in the scenes of his birth, he was
determined that he would not stay there to disgrace himself
and his country by becoming a pauper. In other climes he
would find that subsistence which his own had denied him-
Deeply attached to the land of his fathers, the spirit of his
fathers was in his breast, and in other lands he would achieve
success and make a fairer home for his children. Emigration
was the stern but accepted remedy. 100     THE  tfOkTH-WEST:  ITS HISTORY AND  ITS  TROUBLES.
Just at this time, there comes upon the scene a philanthropic
Scottish nobleman, some thirty years of age, " full six feet
high," with a kindly heart and pleasant countenance. His name
is Thomas Douglas, and his title, fifth Earl of Selkirk, Baron
Daer and Shortcleugh. He it was who was to become the
Moses of the Scottish Exodus. On the family escutcheon were
the arms of the Douglasses of Marr, and in the traditions of the
house the record of their noble deeds. But knightly service
was to take a new form: this scion of the twin-houses of
Douglas and Angus was now to lead, not a cavalcade to battle,
but the quieter pageant of a ship-load of simple, trusting hearts
bound to a new Land of Promise. Early had the attention of
this compassionate nobleman been drawn to the condition of
the expatriated cottars in the north of Scotland. He had
appealed to Government for their relief, and had frequently
addressed the public, through pamphlets and articles in the (
press, on the subject of emigration to the British Colonies. In
this he saw a remedy for the poverty and distress that were
prevalent in the less fruitful regions of his country. In
emigration, moreover, he saw the bettering of the lot of those
who would take advantage of it. In 1803, at his own expense,
and under his personal supervision, he transferred a band of
800 Highlanders from their native moors to comfortable homes
on Prince Edward Island, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The
descendants of those Highland colonists, now grown a numerous
people, form the substantial yeomanry of one of the most
prosperous provinces of our Young Dominion.
From the New Canaan of these cottars of Skye and Inverness, Lord Selkirk came to Canada, to cast about him for other
desirable sites for colonial settlement. We find him interested
in the western portion of what is now the Province of Ontario;
and, in 1804, we learn that he was in correspondence with the THE SELKIRK SETTLEMENT AND ITS FATE.
Provincial Executive, with a view to giving aid to schemes of
colonisation in Upper Canada. For some reason, however, his
proposals were not taken advantage of, and, for a time, he returned to Scotland. There, his earnest desire to benefit the
peasantry" of his native country, led him to urge emigration in
the most hearty manner, and, ere long, to formulate a scheme
for planting a colony somewhere in the interior of the Hudson
Bay Territory. To extend to the incipient colony every advantage it could have, in material as well as in moral support, the
Earl and other members of his family acquired a large monetary interest in the Hudson Bay Company. The amount of
this interest is said to have been £35,000, or about a fourth of
its entire capital. A meeting of the general Court of Proprietors of the Company was then called, and the Selkirk proposal
submitted to it. A grant of land was asked on which to settle
a colony, to be located in the Assiniboine district,—the expense
of transport, the purchase of necessaries for the voyage, and
the support of the colony for a time after settlement, •the
cost of agricultural and house-building implements, and the
outlay for quieting the Indian title,—were all to be borne by
the noble applicant. The proposal, owing to alarm being taken
at the scheme by some members of the Court, who were stockholders in the rival Canadian Company, met wdth active opposition. The grant was, however, carried by a large majority
vote. The prospectus of the scheme was now launched, and
emigrants were invited to join the colony. In the summer of
1811, a party of some seventy Highland cottars from Suther-
landshire, with a small contingent from the west of Ireland, set
sail for Hudson Bay. Mr. Miles Macdonell, formerly a Captain
in the Queen's Rangers, a corps that had done duty in Canada
during Simcoe's administration, was appointed Governor by the
Hudson Bay Company, and by Lord Selkirk, was given chaige
of the colony. The emigrants spent the winter at the Company's post on the Nelson, and the next season arrived at Red
We have referred to the opposition to the colony, manifested
at the meeting of shareholders in London, which was convened
to consider Lord Selkirk's application for a grant of land for
the purposes of settlement. It is worth while particularly to
notice from whom this opposition came, and what were the
apparent motives that prompted it. We have already said
that objection was taken to the founding of the colony by men
who held stock, not only in the Hudson Bay Company, but in
the rival Canadian institution. From the literature of the
period we learn that these objectors had acquired shares in the
Hudson Bay Company only a short time before the*call for a
general meeting. The disingenuousness of their protest against
the grant of land to the colony may therefore be judged from
this fact. But not only were they largely interested in the
North-West Fur Company, they were known to be its active
London agents, and notoriouslv hostile to all settlement in the
fur-trading territor}7. After this statement, little argument
we think is needed to support the opinion, that the enmity of
these gentlemen was incited by questionable motives, and that
they had acquired their interest in one commercial company to
work out purposes of their own in the administration of
another. Such a proceeding, unhappily, is not unknown in
the world of commerce : its effects in this instance, as we shall
see, were to bring on the ill-fated colony a pall of disaster.
So far as Lord Selkirk is concerned, he is to be relieved of any
reflection in regard to the arrangements he made for the weal
o o
of the colony. His care and forethought were in a thousand
ways manifested; and everything he could reasonably do he
did to make smooth the path of settlement.   The situation THE SELKIRK  SETTLEMENT AND ITS FATE.
chosen for the Colony was the banks of the Red River, near
the confluence of the Assiniboine,— now the site of the Prairie
capital, the city of Winnipeg. The title given to it was the
Kildonan Settlement, from the name of the parish in Suther-
landshire from which the bulk of the settlers had emigrated.
Here, in the autumn of 1812, when other sections of Canada
were in the turmoil of invasion, a peaceful colony sought to
found homes for themselves in the wilderness. I The spot
which had been selected,"—so writes a chronicler of the period,
—" had been ascertained to be of the highest fertility and the
most easy of cultivation. Houses were built; a mill was
erected; sheep and cattle were sent up to the settlement; and
all practicable means were taken to forward the agricultural
purposes of the colony." Two years afterwards, it received
some additions to its number, and in September, 1814, we
learn, that the whole colony comprised two hundred settlers.
The first two winters were spent at the wooded region of
Pembina, close to the international boundary line, where Fort
Daer had been erected by Governor Macdonell's orders, so as
to afford better shelter and protection through the severe
winter months. In the spring the settlers returned to their
summer operations in the neighbourhood of the Colony's location, close by the Forks of the Assiniboine. Here Fort
Douglas was erected as a refuge in emergency, and as a
storehouse of supplies. As yet the colony had not become
self-supporting; some root-crops had been raised, but, so far,
little had been done in growing grain. There was want of
horses and oxen. Abundant supplies of fish were to be had ;
but buffalo and even smaller game were scarce. For the latter
they had to depend upon the Indians, who though at first
friendly, were now being alienated by the malice of the hostile
Nor'-Westers.     While   there  was likelihood   of the  colony 104    THE NORTH-WEST: ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES,
suffering from the  malevolence  of these traders, it was in
no apprehension as to its future. For contingencies, in the
event of trouble, the settlers were in some measure prepared.
Fort Douglas was capable of defence, for, thanks to the prevision of Lord Selkirk, some light brass field-pieces had been
sent kito the country, to be mounted on its ramparts; and the
settlers had been furnished with arms and ammunition. But,
as we have said, the settlement felt quite secure in its peaceful
mission to the country, and had no dread of serious molestation.    An authority of the period * emphasises this fact:
f In short, the settlers appeared confident of their security,
contented with their situation, and happy in their prospects;
nor did there exist any reasonable ground to doubt that, if
left undisturbed, the colony in a few years would have been
completely and firmly established. This, indeed, must have
been the decided opinion at the time, even of those who proved
to be its most inveterate opponents, otherwise they never
would have thought it necessary to take violent means to
destroy it. Had the settlement been likely to fail from causes
inherent in its nature, or arising from the remoteness of its
situation, or other local circumstances, its enemies (and none
were better judges than they) would doubtless have left it to
its fate; and, remaining passive spectators of its destruction,
would gladly have permitted the colony to die a natural death,
instead of incurring anxiety, expense, and the risk of the vengeance of the law, by adopting those active measures to which
they resorted for the purpose of strangling it in its infancy."
But had the situation of the colony been more serious than
it was, Scottish resoluteness and tenacity of purpose in the
face of danger, would have acquiesced in the dispensation and
contentedly accepted it. The Highland heart, though it had
its tender spots, and was keenly sensitive to kindness, partic-
* " Statement respecting the Earl of Selkirk's Settlement of Kildonan, on the
Red River, its destruction in the years 1815 and 1816, and the massacre of Governor Semple and his Party."   London, 1817.
ularly in amelioration of an exile's lot, was "dour" when
opposition thwarted, and hard as flint when it had to fight.
Unkindly as was his lot in the land of his fathers, there is no
doubt, for a time at least, that the Scottish settler pined for its
shores again. Years hence, did aU go well, there was prospect
of he and his being better off in the wilderness to which he
had come* But as yet he had not got over his home-sickness,
and the memory of the old land was heavy on his heart. We
can imagine him wistfully recaUing the loved scenes of his
former life; and, as he looks on the rough surroundings of his
inland home, longing for a sight of his native hills, and sighing
' o     o o * o        o
for the sound of the sea.
" 0 ! gie me a sough o' the auld saut sea,
A scent o' his brine again,
To stiffen the wilt that this wilderness
Has brought on this breast and brain.
Let me hear his roar on the rocky shore,
His thud on the shelly sand ;
For my spirit's bowed, and my heart is do wed,
Wi' the gloom o'this forest land."
In the year 1814, the smouldering fires of the Nor'-Westers
enmity emitted puffs of flame. In January, Miles Macdonell,
the Governor of the colony, had found it necessary to issue a
proclamation forbidding the export from the territory of the
food-suppHes that were required for the support of those who
had come to the colony and of those who were about to arrive
in it. The proclamation was construed by the North-West
Fur Company as a menace to its traders, and likely to deprive
them of a source, hitherto relied upon, of their support. There
would appear little ground of justification for this view of
the matter. The truth is, the Company was not so much
apprehensive for the safety and comfort of its employe's, as it
was anxious for a pretext to quarrel with the colony, How-
ever this may be, the proclamation was considered a casus belli.
Before proceeding further, it may be well to give an extract
from the offending document. Here is the essential part of it.
Says the Governor •
" And whereas the welfare of the families at present forming
settlements on the Red River, with those on the way to it,
passing the winter at York or Churchill Forts in Hudson Bay,
as also those who are expected to arrive next autumn, renders
it a necessary and indispensable part of my duty to provide
for their support. In the yet uncultivated state of the country,
the ordinary resources derived from the buffalo and other wild
animals hunted within the territory are not deemed more than
adequate for the requisite supply; wherefore, it is hereby
ordered, that no persons trading in furs or provisions within
the territory, for the Honourable the Hudson Bay Company,
the North-West Company, or any individual or unconnected
traders or persons whatever, shall take out any provisions,
either of flesh, grain, or vegetables, procured or raised within
the said territory, by water or land-carriage, for one twelvemonth from the date hereof; save and except what may be
judged necessary for the trading-parties at this present time
within the territory, to carry them to their respective destinations, and who may, on due application to me, obtain license
for the same. The provisions procured and raised as above
shall be taken for the use of the colony ; and that no losses
may accrue to the parties concerned, they will be paid for by
British bills at the customary rates.
"And be it hereby further made known, that whosoever
shall be detected in attempting to convey out any provisions
prohibited as above, either by land or water, shall be taken
into custody and prosecuted as the laws in such cases direct;
and the provisions so taken, as well as any goods or chattels
of what nature soever which may be taken along with them,
and also the craft, cattle, and carriages, instrumental in conveying away the same, to any part but the settlement on Red
River, shall be forfeited. Given under my hand, at Fort
Daer, Pembina, the 8th of January, 1814. By order of the
This proclamation, however essential its issue to the preservation and comfort of the colony, was a brusque assertion THE SELKIRK SETTLEMENT AND ITS FATE.
of rights in the territory ill for the Nor'-Wester to brook. In
its effect on his own comfort, in placing an embargo on
supplies, he was naturally eager to resent its publication and
defy its authority. But the proclamation was the result of
causes which the Nor'-Westers themselves had set in motion.
From the time of the colony's first appearing, they had
maliciously taken care to keep the territory clear of game.
Nor was this all: to prevent the settlers from obtaining provisions they systematically bought up any surplus food to be
had; and, through the active agency of the unfriendly half-
breeds, they had dissuaded the Indians from selling them the
produce of the chase. For the Governor's edict there may not
have been immediate and pressing necessity; but as a precautionary measure, in view of additions to the colony, its issue
was justifiable. That its promulgation gave offence to the
Nor'-Westers, we can readily believe; but we are far from
sympathising with them in the use they made of it as a brand
of strife.
The issue of this document, if it was not the beginning, was
the active fomenter, of lengthened hostility to the Selkirk
Settlement. The partners of the North-West Fur Company
who met at Fort William, in 1814, for their summer parliament, were loud in their protest against, the Governor's
proclamation, and fixed in their determination to suppress the
colony. They spoke excitedly of their rights in the interior
and bitterly of their dislike of the Hudson Bay Governor.
Scotch, as was the Kildonan Settlement, its active suppressors
were of the same nationality. • It was the old story, their foes
were of their own household. The partners who were entrusted
with the grim work of breaking up the colony were" the twin-
worthies, Duncan Cameron, and Alexander McDonell. They
were instructed to proceed to Fort Gibraltar, a trading-post of 10&    ME  NORTH-#EST:  ITS HISTORY Atff) ITS TROU$LE&
the Company, at the Forks of the Assiniboine, within half a
mile of the Red River Settlement. From this station, which
had not heretofore been honoured by the presence of a resident-
partner of the Company, they were to do what they could to
harass the settlers. At first the Company was wary in showing its animus to the colonists. The initial step was to coax
the settlers to leave the territory, and, failing in that, to
intimidate them by threats of Indian massacre. In the art of
coaxing, Cameron displayed much talent: he was moreover
assisted in his overtures by a knowledge of Gaelic, by a
cunning tongue, and a plausible address. With these gifts he
was enabled, first, to disarm suspicion of the intentions of the
Company; secondly, to ingratiate himself with the heads of
influential families in the Settlement; and, finally, to make
them discontented with their surroundings, dissatisfied with
their superiors, and doubtful of their prospects in the territory.
This was the first assault on the integrity of the colony.
The next undermining act was to excite the fears of the settlers
by disseminating reports of Indian treachery and threatened
massacre. These reports, so far as the Indians were concerned,
were wholly and cruelly untrue. Their dusky brethren had
always shown themselves friendly; and in supplying the colony
with game from the plains, they had found it to their advantage to continue in amity. They were, however, insidiously
approached by the Nor'-Westers, with the view of exciting
them to rise against the colony. Both the Salteaux and the
Crees were repeatedly urged to destroy it. It is on record,
that a Chippewa chief was offered rum and tobacco for his
tribe, if he would even intercept the bearer of despatches to
and from the Governor. From these malignant acts the in-
triguers of Fort Gibraltar resorted to more violent measures.
But the measures were not only violent, they were base and THE   SELKIRK SETTLEMENT AND ITS  FATE.
pitiful. They comprised acts of daily harassment, and weariful attacks upon a peaceable and dependent colony. The
horses and cattle of the settlers were shot by stealth in their
enclosures ; and, as was threatened, the downfall of the colony
was decided upon by fair means or foul. The next step was
to starve the settlers out of the country. A Hudson Bay
party, with 600 bags of pemmican, was captured on the Qu'
Appelle river, on the way to Fort Douglas. To reduce the
Settlement to a more tractable and dependent mood, a raid
was also made upon the arms and ammunition. From Fort
Douglas a howitzer and other field-pieces were boldly abstracted; and drunken Indians were sent in among the women and
children to frighten them out of their wits. Cameron, the
Company's agent, now gave out that he had been armed with
official authority" to protect the peace of the territory, and that
he was in receipt of His Majesty's commission to enforce
obedience to his orders. To give colour to this imposture, he
issued sundry intimidating proclamations, and ostentatiously
paraded himself in the uniform of what turned out to be a disbanded Canadian regiment. Under this pretended authority,
he employed his half-breeds to enter the houses of the settlers,
to serve them with injunctions, to abstract their weapons of
defence, and, in some instances, to take their inmates prisoners.
By bribery, and such harassing acts as we have mentioned, a
few of the colonists were induced to abandon their homes, and
received money and supplies to quit the country. But most of
the colony were true to one another, and loyal to their common
interest. No arts could allure or threats intimidate them to
give up possession of their territory. Opposition only the
more firmly rooted them to the soil.
It would be tedious to dwell longer upon the means adopted
by Cameron and his colleagues to seduce the settlers from their 110     THE NORTH-WEST:  ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
allegiance and to weaken their hold upon the Settlement. The
Nor'-Westers quickly saw that half measures would have little
effect in putting a stop to colonisation, and that recourse must
needs be had to harsher procedure. We have already said
that Cameron had made the settlers liberal offers to leave the
country. These overtures were renewed; and large bribes of
money and land in Canada were held out as an inducement to
desertion. This lure of the Company, and the discouragement
of the situation, at last had effect upon a few of the indentured
servants of the colony. These were prevailed upon to desert
before the expiration of their contracts, and to carry away
with them their working tools and many of the implements of
husbandry. Their defection had its influence upon others;
for during the winter of 1815 more of them deserted their
employments, and others secretly engaged to abandon the
settlement in the spring. After the raid upon the Fort, and
the loss of their means of defence, many of the settlers began
to despair; and this feeling was intensified by still further acts
of hostility and aggression.
About this time Miles Macdonell, the Governor of the district, had been served with a warrant of arrest, issued bv a
magistrate of the Indian territory, on a charge of having
feloniously taken a quantity of provisions belonging to the
North-West Company. This warrant, Macdonell, at first, paid
no heed to; but the colony being threatened with dire mishap
unless he surrendered himseH, he thought it prudent to do so,
and proceeded to Canada for trial. The Governor was taken to
Montreal, where he was long and vexatiously detained.
Meanwhile the poor colony was subjected to further and more
wanton outrage. The settlers were frequently fired upon by the
half-breeds; their houses were broken up and pillaged ; many
of the labourers, quietly employed in tillage, were forcibly THE SELKIRK SETTLEMENT AND ITS FATE.
seized and detained as prisoners; horses were stolen and cattle
driven away; and, finally, the whole colony was ordered to
leave the Red River. Things had now come to such a pass
that nothing but abandonment could save the lives of the colonists. In June, 1815, about sixty of the settlers fled for safety
to a Hudson Bay post on Jack Fish River, at the northern
end of Lake Winnipeg. To mark the triumph of this serious
defection, a number of clerks and servants of the North-
West Company proceeded to the Settlement, and | setting fire
to the houses, the mill, and other buildings, burnt them to the
ground." On this happening, the remainder of the settlers—
134 in number—abandoned the place, and accompanied the
North-West traders to the annual rendezvous at Fort William*
From this post on. Lake Superior they proceeded to Upper
Before we come to a new era of disaster, in connection with
the history of this ill-fated colony, let us see was
given to the outer world of these inhuman proceedings of the
agents of the North-West Fur Company. In a volume issued
at the period, from which we have already quoted, we have
the means of ascertaining what colour was given to the foul
acts of the Canadian Fur-traders. The Honourable Wm.
M'Gillivray, the founder and chief partner of the North-West
Company, and a member of the Lower Canada Legislature and
Executive Council, had been written to for information respecting the Red River colonists by Sir Frederick Robinson, at the
time in command of His Majesty's forces in Upper Canada.
From the report of this chief of the Canadian traders we learn
of the infamy of the Company's gloss upon their years of
hostility to the colony. His language is that of humane concern for the settlers, and of artfully simulated compassion for
their fate.    We are unwilling even to seem to do a wrong to 112     THE NORTH-WEST:  ITS HISTORY AND ITS TROUBLES.
this gentleman's memory, or unfairly to hold his Company
responsible for acts which they no doubt disowned.    But the
evidence is both clear and strong against this corporation ; and
it is impossible to think that McGiUivray was ignorant of the
true facts of the case.    Here are a few extracts from his report.
In accounting for the failure of the colony he first arraigns the
Governor, Miles Macdonell, for his indiscretions, and goes on to
say that " the disorder excited in the country by those (Mac-
donell's) acts of violence, the disgust given to the settlers by
the extensive disadvantages of the country, as well as the
violence and tyranny of their leader, and the dread of the
native Indians and mixed breed, all contributed to break up
the colony. Some few of the settlers," he adds, " have
returned to Hudson Bay, and the remainder threw themselves
upon the compassion of the North-West Company to obtain
means of conveyance to Canada. . . . Under these circumstances," the writer continues, " partly from compassion
towards these poor people, and partly from a dread of the
consequences of their remaining in the interior (because, in the
event of the Indians attacking them, it was feared that the
Hatchet, once raised, would not discriminate between a trader
and a settler, but that all the white men in the country might
become its victims), the North-West Company has offered these
settlers a conveyance to this province, and the means of subsistence since they left the Red River." McGiUivray concludes
by begging Sir Frederick Robinson's " protection and favour
for the poor settlers."
Of course, no reasonable man will nowadays grow very
indignant over the cant, not to speak of the deceit, of this
letter. History is likely to docket it at its true worth. From
the testimony taken in the Courts at the period, and particularly from the sworn evidence of credible agents of Lord Selkirk,
and of honest people connected with his Settlement, there can
be no question of the criminality of the traders of the North-
West Company in the outrages committed upon the Red River
colony, or of the responsibility of the administration of that \.
trading corporation for the acts of its servants. The writer of
the above letter knew but too well, not only what was the
attitude of his company towards the colony, but he also knew
the declared and avowed policy of the Trading Partners, of
whom he was one, towards Lord Selkirk and the rival English
Company with which he was associated. Occupying the position he did, as the ear and mouthpiece of all the doings of his
Company, it was impossible that he could be ignorant of the
instructions that had been issued from his Board to harass the
colony, to make life a burden to the settlers, and if need be, to
resort to violent measures to ruin the Settlement and root it,
stem and branch, from the country. The abundant evidence,
existing in contemporary affidavits, to criminate this trading
corporation in its policy of extermination, renders it unnecessary to dwell upon the matter further. We shall quote but
a sentence or two from a letter of one of the partners, written
to a friend in Montreal, just after the general conference of the
traders at Fort William, in the summer of 1814. The writer
is Alexander McDonell, the colleague of Duncan Cameron,
who was in command of Fort Gibraltar. A contemporary
critic says, " the letter speaks a language that cannot be
misunderstood : "
[I You see myself and our mutual friend, Mr. Cameron, so
far on our way to commence open hostilities against the enemy
in Red River. Much is expected from us, if we believe some
—perhaps too much. One thing is certain, we will do our
best to defend what we consider our rights in the interior.
Something serious will undoubtedly take place. Nothing but
the complete downfall of the colony will satisfy some, by fair
or foul means—a most desirable object if it can be accomplished