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VOYAGES FROM MONTREAL THROUGH THE CONTINENT OF NORTH AMERICA
TO THE FROZEN and PACIFIC OCEANS IN 1789 and 1793
WITH AN ACCOUNT OF THE RISE AND STATE OF THE FUR TRADE
WITH MAP IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. I.
NEW AMSTERDAM BOOK COMPANY
NEW YORK, 1902
Published, August 1902. N.
SEE VOLUME II
Table of Contents.
[A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE FUR TRADE
FROM CANADA TO THE NORTH-WEST.]
[SOME ACCOUNT OF THE KNISTENEAUX INDIANS.]
[SOME ACCOUNT OF THE CHEPEWYAN INDIANS.]
Embarked at Fort Chepewyan, on the Lake of the Hills, in company with M. Le Roux. Account of the party, provisions, etc. Direction of the course. Enter one of the branches of the Lake. Arrive in the Peace River. Appearance of the land. Navigation of the river. Arrive at the mouth of the Dog River. Successive description of several carrying places. A canoe lost in one of the Falls. Encamp on Point de Roche. Course continued. Set the nets, etc. Arrive at the Slave Lake. The weather extremely cold. Banks of the river described, with its trees, soil, etc. Account of the animal productions, and the fishery of the Lake. Obliged to wait till the moving of the ice. Three families of Indians arrive from Athabasca. Beavers, geese, and swans killed. The nets endangered by ice. Re-embark and land on a small island. Course continued along the shores, and across the bays of the Lake. Various successes of the hunters. Steer for an island where there was plenty of cranberries and small onions. Kill several reindeer. Land on an island named Isle a la Cache. Clouds of mosquitoes.
Landed at some lodges of Red-Knife Indians: procure one of them to assist in navigating the bays Conference with the Indians. Take leave of M Le Roux, and continue the voyage. Different appearances of the land; its vegetable produce. Visit an island where the wood had been felled. Further description of the coast. Plenty of rein- and moose-deer, aud white partridges. Enter a very deep bay. Interrupted by ice. Very blowing weather. Continue to cross the bay. Arrive at the mouth of a river. Great numbers of fish and wild-fowl. Description of the land on either side. Curious appearance of woods that had been burned. Came in sight of the Horn Mountain. Continue to kill geese and swans, etc. Violent storm.
Continued our course. The river narrows. Lost the lead. Passed a small river. Violent rain. Land on a small island. Expect to arrive at the rapid. Conceal two bags of pemmican in an island. A view of mountains. Pass several encampments of the natives. Arrive among the islands. Ascend a high hill. Violence of the current. Ice seen along the banks of the river. Land at village of the natives. Their conduct and appearance. Their fabulous stories. The English chief and Indians discontented. obtain a new guide. Singular customs of the natives. An account of their dances. Description of their persons, dress, ornaments, buildings, arms for war and hunting, canoes, etc. Passed on among islands. Encamped beneath a hill, and prevented from ascending by the mosquitoes. Landed at an encampment. Conduct of the inhabitants. They abound in fabulous accounts of dangers. Land at other encampments. Procure plenty of hares and partridges. our guide anxious to return. Land and alarm the natives, called the Hare Indians, etc. Exchange our guide. State of the weather.
The new guide makes his escape. Compel another to supply his place. Land at an encampment of another tribe of Indians. Account of their manners, dress, weapons, etc. Traffic with them. Description of a beautiful fish. Engage another guide. His curious behaviour. Kill a fox and ground-hog. Land at an encampment of a tribe called the Deguthee Denees, or Quarrellers. Saw flax growing wild. The varying character of the river and its banks. Distant mountains. Perplexity from the numerous channels of the river. Determined to proceed. Land where there had been an encampment of the Esquimaux. Saw large flocks of wild-fowl. View of the sun at midnight. Description of a place lately deserted by the Indians. Houses of the natives described. Frequent showers. Saw a black fox. The discontents of our hunters renewed, and pacified. Face of the country. Land at a spot lately inhabited. Peculiar circumstances of it. Arrive at the entrance of the lake. Proceed to an island. Some account of it.
The baggage removed from the rising of the water. one of the nets driven away by the wind and current. Whales are seen. Go in pursuit of them, but prevented from continuing it by the fog. Proceed to take a view of the ice. Canoe in danger from the swell. Examine the islands. Describe one of them. Erect a post to perpetuate our visit there. The rising of the water appears to be the tide. Successful fishing. Uncertain weather. Sail among the islands. Proceed to a river. Temperature of the air improves. Land on a small island, which is a place of sepulture. Description of it. See a great number of wildfowl. Fine view of the river from the high land. The hunters kill reindeer. Cranberries, etc., found in great plenty. The appearance and state of the country. Our guide deserts. Large flight of geese; kill many of them. Violent rain. Return up the river. Leave the channels for the main stream. Obliged to tow the canoe. Land among the natives. Circumstances concerning them. Their account of the Esquimaux Indians. Accompany the natives to their huts. Account of our provisions.
Employ the towing line. Description of a place where the Indians come to collect flint. Their shyness and suspicions. Current lessons. Appearance of the country. Abundance of hares. Violent storm. Land near three lodges. Alarm of the Indians. Supply of fish from them. Their fabulous accounts. Continue to see Indian lodges. Treatment of a disease. Misunderstanding with the natives. The interpreter harangues them. Their accounts similar to those we have already received. Their curious conduct. Purchase some beaver skins. Shoot one of their dogs. The consequence of that act. Apprehensions of the women. Large quantities of liquorice. Swallows' nests seen in the precipices. Fall in with a party of the natives killing geese. Circumstances concerning them. Hurricane. Variation of the weather. Kill great numbers of geese. Abundance of several kinds of berries. State of the river and its bank.
Voyage continued. Suspect the integrity of the interpreter. Stars visible. Springs of mineral water, and lumps of iron ore. Arrive at the river of the Bear Lake. Coal mine in a state of combustion. Water of the river diminished. Continue to see Indian encampments, and kill geese, etc. Hunting excursions. A canoe found on the edge of the wood. Attempt to ascend a mountain. Account of the passage to it. See a few of the natives. Kill a beaver and some hares. Design of the English chief. Kill a wolf. Changeable state of the weather. Recover the pemmican, which had been hidden in an island. Natives fly at our approach. Meet with dogs. Altercation with the English chief. Account of the articles left by the fugitives. Shoals of the river covered with saline matter. Encamp at the mouth of the river of the mountain. The ground on fire on each side of it. Continue to see encampments of the natives. Various kinds of berries. Kill geese, swans, etc., etc., etc. Corroding quality of the water. Weather changeable. Reach the entrance of the Slave Lake. Dangers encountered on entering it. Caught pike and trout. Met M. Le Roux on the lake. Further circumstances till our return to Fort Chepewyan. Conclusion of the voyage.
Leave Fort Chepewyan. Proceed to the Peace River. State of the Lakes. Arrive at Peace Point. The reason assigned for its name. The weather cold. Arrive at the Falls. Description of the country. Land at the Fort, called The old Establishment. The principal building destroyed by fire. Course of the river. Arrive at another fort. Some account of the natives. Depart from thence. Course of the river continued. It divides into two branches. Proceed along the principal one. Land at the place of our winter's residence. Account of its circumstances and inhabitants, etc. Preparations for erecting a fort, etc., etc. Table of the weather. Broke the thermometer. Frost sets in. Description of birds.
The exact date of Sir Alexander Mackenzie's birth is not accurately known, although it is supposed he was born at Inverness, Scotland, about 1755. He came to North America at an early age and obtained employment in the counting-house of Messrs. Gregory and Co., a connexion of the North-West Fur Company. It was while he was with this company that he obtained the experience and knowledge necessary to his profession of a fur-trader, long before he undertook his arduous and dangerous expeditions to the far North. He was soon to distinguish himself. His firm gave him a small venture to Detroit on condition that he penetrate to the back country, which was then almost entirely unexplored, and open up trade with the Indians. He carried out his task in his usual thorough manner, but not without a severe struggle with a party of European traders, who had already obtained a foothold on the margin of this district, and who resented any interference with their monopoly by outside parties. However, finally the intruders were permitted to remain and share in the trade with the first corners. For many years after this, Mr. Mackenzie was occupied in trading and exploring in various parts of the continent, but of these operations we have, unfortunately, little or no record. After the amalgamation of the North-West Company with the older Hudson's-Bay Company, Mr. Mackenzie appears to have resided in Canada, where he became a member of the provincial parliament, representing Huntingdon County. He married in 1812, and afterwards bought an estate at Avoch, Ross-shire, Scotland, where he resided until his death in March, 1820.
It is as an explorer of the vast and lonely wilds of the North that Mackenzie's fame chiefly rests. The bravery and hardihood which carried him thousands of miles over the prairie and muskegs of the illimitable plains, down the rapids of great unknown rivers, over the ranges of almost impassable mountains, will always command the admiration of all who care for noble deeds.
With a small party of Canadian voyageurs and Indians, in birch-bark canoes, Mr. Mackenzie started to explore the unknown regions of the North. Skirting the Great Slave Lake, he finally entered the Mackenzie River, and then began that long, deep plunge into the wilderness, which lasted many months, until he finally emerged on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, in Latitude 69. North. Here he set up a post with his name and date of visit. The return voyage was fraught with many dangers and vicissitudes, but he finally arrived safely at Fort Chippewayan in September, 1789.
Mr. Mackenzie's next expedition was even more dangerous and difficult than the former. He started from Fort Chippewayan on the 10th of July, 1792, with the object of reaching the Pacific Coast, an enterprise never before attempted by a European. After more than nine months of perilous travel he achieved his ambition and reached the Great Western Ocean near Cape Menzies on the 22nd June, 1793. He is said to have inscribed on the face of a rock the date of his visit, and here it was that he was nearly murdered by the natives before setting out on his return.
The results of Mr. Mackenzie's voyages to the far North have not been meagre. The opening of the territory to the west of the Rocky Mountains, followed quickly after; and the great Hudson's-Bay Company immediately started to stud the whole northern country with small trading posts, whence have been drawn since incalculable riches in the furs of the North.
All this is easy enough to write down, but the tale is still far from being told in full. What of the long days of gloom and loneliness, days of peril and uncertainty, days when hope had almost reached the vanishing point? Who shall speak? It is a fascinating record which has placed the name of this indomitable Scotchman beside the names of the world's greatest explorers.
On presenting this Volume to my Country, it is not necessary to enter into a particular account of those voyages whose journals form the principal part of it, as they will be found, I trust, to explain themselves. It appears, however, to be a duty, which the Public have a right to expect from me, to state the reasons which have influenced me in delaying the publication of them.
It has been asserted, that a misunderstanding between a person high in office and myself, was the cause of this procrastination. It has also been propagated, that it was occasioned by that precaution which the policy of commerce will sometimes suggest; but they are both equally devoid of foundation. The one is an idle tale; and there could be no solid reason for concealing the circumstances of discoveries, whose arrangements and prosecution were so honourable to my associates and myself, at whose expense they were undertaken. The delay actually arose from the very active and busy mode of life in which I was engaged since the voyages have been completed; and when, at length, the opportunity arrived, the apprehension of presenting myself to the Public in the character of an Author, for which the course and occupations of my life have by no means qualified me, made me hesitate in committing my papers to the Press; being much better calculated to perform the voyages, arduous as they might be, than to write an account of them. However, they are now offered to the Public with the submission that becomes me.
I was led, at an early period of life, by commercial views, to the country North-West of Lake Superior, in North America, and being endowed by Nature with an inquisitive mind and enterprising spirit; possessing also a constitution and frame of body equal to the most arduous undertakings, and being familiar with toilsome exertions in the prosecution of mercantile pursuits, I not only contemplated the practicability of penetrating across the continent of America, but was confident in the qualifications, as I was animated by the desire, to undertake the perilous enterprise.
The general utility of such a discovery, has been universally acknowledged; while the wishes of my particular friends and commercial associates, that I should proceed in the pursuit of it, contributed to quicken the execution of this favourite project of my own ambition: and as the completion of it extends the boundaries of geographic science, and adds new countries to the realms of British commerce, the dangers I have encountered, and the toils I have suffered, have found their recompence; nor will the many tedious and weary days, or the gloomy and inclement nights which I have passed, have been passed in vain.
The first voyage has settled the dubious point of a practicable North-West passage; and I trust it has set that long agitated question at rest, and extinguished the disputes respecting it for ever. An enlarged discussion of that subject will be found to occupy the concluding pages of this volume.
In this voyage, I was not only without the necessary books and instruments, but also felt myself deficient in the sciences of astronomy and navigation; I did not hesitate, therefore, to undertake a winter's voyage to this country, in order to procure the one, and acquire the other. These objects being accomplished, I returned, to determine the practicability of a commercial communication through the continent of North America, between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which is proved by my second journal. Nor do I hesitate to declare my decided opinion, that very great and essential advantages may be derived by extending our trade from one sea to the other.
Some account of the fur trade of Canada from that country, of the native inhabitants, and of the extensive districts connected with it, forms a preliminary discourse, which will, I trust, prove interesting to a nation, whose general policy is blended with, and whose prosperity is supported by, the pursuits of commerce. It will also qualify the reader to pursue the succeeding voyages with superior intelligence and satisfaction.
These voyages will not, I fear, afford the variety that may be expected from them; and that which they offered to the eye, is not of a nature to be effectually transferred to the page. Mountains and valleys, the dreary waste, and the wide-spreading forests, the lakes and rivers succeed each other in general description; and, except on the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, where the villages were permanent, and the inhabitants in a great measure stationary, small bands of wandering Indians are the only people whom I shall introduce to the acquaintance of my readers.
The beaver and the buffalo, the moose-deer and the elk, which are the principal animals to be found in these countries, are already so familiar to the naturalists of Europe, and have been so often as well as correctly described in their works, that the bare mention of them, as they enlivened the landscape, or were hunted for food; with a cursory account of the soil, the course and navigation of lakes and rivers, and their various produce, is all that can be reasonably expected from me.
I do not possess the science of the naturalist; and even if the qualifications of that character had been attained by me, its curious spirit would not have been gratified. I could not stop to dig into the earth, over whose surface I was compelled to pass with rapid steps; nor could I turn aside to collect the plants which nature might have scattered on the way, when my thoughts were anxiously employed in making provision for the day that was passing over me. I had to encounter perils by land and perils by water; to watch the savage who was our guide, or to guard against those of his tribe who might meditate our destruction. I had, also, the passions and fears of others to control and subdue. To-day, I had to assuage the rising discontents, and on the morrow, to cheer the fainting spirits of the people who accompanied. me. The toil of our navigation was incessant, and oftentimes extreme; and in our progress over land, we had no protection from the severity of the elements, and possessed. no accommodations or conveniences but such as could be contained in the burden on our shoulders, which aggravated the toils of our march, and added to the wearisomeness of our way.
Though the events which compose my journals may have little in themselves to strike the imagination of those who love to be astonished, or to gratify the curiosity of such as are enamoured of romantic adventures; nevertheless, when it is considered, that I explored those waters which had never before borne any other vessel than the canoe of the savage; and traversed those deserts where an European had never before presented himself to the eye of its swarthy natives; when to these considerations are added the important objects which were pursued, with the dangers that were encountered, and the difficulties that were surmounted to attain them, this work will, I flatter myself, be found to excite an interest, and conciliate regard, in the minds of those who peruse it.
The general map which illustrates this volume, is reduced by Mr. Arrowsmith from his three-sheet map of North America, with the latest discoveries, which he is about to republish. His professional abilities are well known, and no encomium of mine will advance the general and merited opinion of them.
Before I conclude, I must beg leave to inform my readers, that they are not to expect the charms of embellished narrative, or animated description; the approbation due to simplicity and to truth, is all I presume to claim; and am not without the hope that this claim will be allowed me. I have described whatever I saw with the impressions of the moment which presented it to me. The successive circumstances of my progress are related without exaggeration or display. I have seldom allowed myself to wander into conjecture; and whenever conjecture has
been indulged, it will be found, I trust, to be accompanied with the temper of a man who is not disposed to think too highly of himself: and if, at any time, I have delivered myself with confidence, it will appear, I hope, to be on those subjects, which, from the habits and experience of my life, will justify an unreserved communication of my opinions. I am not a candidate for literary fame; at the same time, I cannot but indulge the hope that this volume, with all its imperfections, will not be thought unworthy the attention of the scientific geographer; and that, by unfolding countries hitherto unexplored, and which, I presume, may now be considered as a part of the British dominions, it will be received as a faithful tribute to the prosperity of my country.
London, November 30, 1801.