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Voyages from Montreal Through the Continent of North America
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Friday, 28. — At a very early hour of the morning every man was employed in making preparations for building another canoe, and different parties went in search of wood, watape, and gum. At two in the afternoon they all returned successful, except the collectors of gum, and of that article it was feared we should not obtain here a sufficient supply for our immediate wants. After a necessary portion of time allotted for refreshment, each began his respective work. I had an altitude at noon, which made us in 53. 2. 32. North latitude.
Saturday, 29. — The weather continued to be fine. At five o'clock we renewed our labour, and the canoe was got in a state of considerable forwardness. The conductor of the work, though a good man, was remarkable for the tardiness of his operations, whatever they might be, and more disposed to eat than to be active; I therefore took this opportunity of unfolding my sentiments to him, and thereby discovering to all around me the real state of my mind, and the resolutions I had formed for my future conduct. After reproaching him for his general inactivity, but particularly on the present occasion, when our time was so precious, I mentioned the apparent want of economy, both of himself and his companions, in the article of provisions. I informed him that I was not altogether a stranger to their late conversations, from whence I drew the conclusion that they wished to put an end to the voyage. If that were so, I expressed my wish that they would be explicit, and tell me at once of their determination to follow me no longer. I concluded, however, by assuring him, that whatever plan they had meditated to pursue, it was my fixed and unalterable determination to proceed, in spite of every difficulty that might oppose, or danger that should threaten me. The man was very much mortified at my addressing this remonstrance particularly to him; and replied that he did not deserve my displeasure more than the rest of them. My object being answered, the conversation dropped, and the work went on.
About two in the afternoon one of the men perceived a canoe with two natives in it, coming along the inside of the island, but the water being shallow, it turned back, and we imagined that on perceiving us they had taken the alarm; but we were agreeably surprised on seeing them come up the outside of the island, when we recognised our guide, and one of the natives whom we had already seen. The former began immediately to apologize for his conduct, and assured me that since he had left me, his whole time had been employed in searching after his family, who had been seized with the general panic, that had been occasioned by the false reports of the people who had first fled from us. He said it was generally apprehended by the natives, that we had been unfriendly to their relations above, who were expected upon the river in great numbers at this time: and that many of the Atnah or Chin nation, had come up the river to where we had been, in the hope of seeing us, and were very much displeased with him and his friends for having neglected to give them an early notice of our arrival there. He added, that the two men whom we had seen yesterday, or the day before, were just returned from their rendezvous, with the natives of the sea coast, and had brought a message from his brother-in-law, that he had a new axe for him, and not to forget to bring a moose-skin dressed in exchange, which he actually had in his canoe. He expected to meet him, he said, at the other end of the carrying-place.
This was as pleasing intelligence as we had reason to expect, and it is almost superfluous to observe that we stood in great need of it. I had a meridian altitude, which gave 53. 3. 7. North latitude. I also took time in the fore and afternoon, that gave a mean of 1. 37. 42. Achrometer slow apparent time, which, with an observed immersion of Jupiter's first satellite, made our longitude 122. 48. West of Greenwich.
The blind old man gave a very favourable account of us to his friends, and they all three were very merry together during the whole of the afternoon. That our guide, however, might not escape from us during the night, I determined to set a watch upon him.
Sunday, 30. — Our strangers conducted themselves with great good humour throughout the day. According to their information, we should find their friends above and below the carrying-place. They mentioned, also, that some of them were not of their tribe, but are allied to the people of the sea coast, who trade with the white men. I had a meridian altitude, that gave 53. 3. 17. North latitude.
JULY. Monday, 1. — Last night I had the first watch, when one of my Indians proposed to sit up with me, as he understood, from the old man's conversation, that he intended, in the course of the night, to make his escape. Accordingly, at eleven I extinguished my light, and sat quietly in my tent, from whence I could observe the motions of the natives. About twelve, though the night was rather dark, I observed the old man creeping on his hands and knees towards the waterside. We accordingly followed him very quietly to the canoe, and he would have gone away with it, if he had not been interrupted in his design. On upbraiding him for his treacherous conduct, when he had been treated with so much kindness by us, he denied the intention of which we accused him, and declared that his sole object was to assuage his thirst. At length, however, he acknowledged the truth, and when we brought him to the fire, his friends, who now awoke, on being informed of what had passed, reprobated his conduct, and asked him how he could expect that the white people would return to this country, if they experienced such ungrateful treatment. The guide said, for his part, he was not a woman, and would never run away through fear. But notwithstanding this courageous declaration, at once I awakened Mr. Mackay, related to him what had passed, and requested him not to indulge himself in sleep, till I should rise. It was seven before I awoke, and on quitting my tent I was surprised at not seeing the guide and his companion, and my apprehensions were increased when I observed that the canoe was removed from its late situation. To my inquiries after them, some of the men very composedly answered, that they were gone up the river, and had left the old man behind them. Mr. Mackay also told me, that while he was busily employed on the canoe, they had got to the point before he had observed their departure. The interpreter now informed me that at the dawn of day the guide had expressed his design, as soon as the sun was up, to go and wait for us, where he might find his friends. I hoped this might be true; but that my people should suffer them to depart without giving me notice, was a circumstance that awakened very painful reflections in my breast. The weather was clear in the forenoon. My observation this day gave 53. 3. 32. North latitude.
At five in the afternoon our vessel was completed, and ready for service. She proved a stronger and better boat than the old one, though had it not been for the gum obtained from the latter, it would have been a matter of great difficulty to have procured a sufficiency of that article to have prevented her from leaking. The remainder of the day was employed by the people in cleaning and refreshing themselves, as they had enjoyed no relaxation from their labour since we landed on this spot.
The old man having manifested for various and probably very fallacious reasons, a very great aversion to accompany us any further, it did not appear that there was any necessity to force his inclination. We now put our arms in order, which was soon accomplished, as they were at all times a general object of attention.
Tuesday, 2. — It rained throughout the night, but at half past three we were ready to embark, when I offered to conduct the old man where he had supposed we should meet his friends, but he declined the proposition. I therefore directed a few pounds of pemmican to be left with him, for his immediate support, and took leave of him and the place, which I named Canoe Island. During our stay there we had been most cruelly tormented by flies, particularly the sand-fly, which I am disposed to consider as the most tormenting insect of its size in nature. I was also compelled to put the people upon short allowance, and confine them to two meals a-day, a regulation peculiarly offensive to a Canadian voyager. One of these meals was composed of the dried rows of fish, pounded, and boiled in water, thickened with a small quantity of flour, and fattened with a bit of Brian. These articles, being brought to the consistency of an hasty pudding, produced a substantial and not unpleasant dish. The natives are very careful of the rows of fish, which they dry, and preserve in baskets made of bark. Those we used were found in the huts of the first people who fled from us. During our abode in Canoe Island, the water sunk three perpendicular feet. I now gave the men a dram each, which could not but be considered, at this time, as a very comfortable treat. They were, indeed, in high spirits, when they perceived the superior excellence of the new vessel, and reflected that it was the work of their own hands.
At eleven we arrived at the rapids, and the foreman, who had not forgotten the fright he suffered on coming down it, proposed that the canoe and lading should be carried over the mountain. I threatened him with taking the office of foreman on myself, and suggested the evident change there was in the appearance of the water since we passed it, which upon examination had sunk four feet and an half. As the water did not seem so strong on the West side, I determined to cross over, having first put Mr. Mackay, and our two hunters, on shore, to try the woods for game. We accordingly traversed, and got up close along the rocks, to a considerable distance, with the paddles, when we could proceed no further without assistance from the line; and to draw it across a perpendicular rock, for the distance of fifty fathoms, appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle. The general opinion was to return, and carry on the other side; I desired, however, two of the men to take the line, which was seventy fathoms in length, with a small roll of bark, and endeavour to climb up the rocks, from whence they were to descend on the other side of that which opposed our progress; they were then to fasten the end of the line to the roll of bark, which the current would bring to us; this being effected, they would be able to draw us up. This was an enterprise of difficulty and danger, but it was crowned with success; though to get to the water's edge above, the men were obliged to let themselves down with the line, run round a tree, from the summit of the rock. By a repetition of the same operation, we at length cleared the rapid,. with the additional trouble of carrying the canoe, and unloading at two cascades. We were not more than two hours getting up this difficult part of the river, including the time employed in repairing an hole which had been broken in the canoe, by the negligence of the steersman.
Here we expected to meet with the natives, but there was not the least appearance of them, except that the guide, his companion, and two others, had apparently passed the carrying-place. We saw several fish leap out of the water, which appeared to be of the salmon kind. The old man, indeed, had informed us that this was the season when the large fish begin to come up the river. Our hunters returned, but had not seen the track of any animal. We now continued our journey; the current was not strong, but we get with frequent impediments from the fallen trees, which lay along the banks. We landed at eight in the evening; and suffered indescribable inconveniences from the flies.
Wednesday, 3. — It had rained hard in the night, and there was some small rain in the morning. At four we entered our canoe, and at ten we came to a small river, which answered to the description of that whose course the natives said, they follow in their journies towards the sea coast; we therefore put into it, and endeavoured to discover if our guide had landed here; but there were no traces of him or of any others. My former perplexities were now renewed. If I passed this river, it was probable that I might miss the natives; and I had reason to suspect that my men would not consent to return thither. As for attempting the woods, without a guide, to introduce us to the first inhabitants, such a determination would be little short of absolute madness. At length, after much painful reflection, I resolved to come at once to a full explanation with my people, and I experienced a considerable relief from this resolution. Accordingly, after repeating the promise they had so lately made me, on our putting back up the river, I represented to them that this appeared to me to be the spot from which the natives took their departure for the sea coast, and added, withal, that I was determined to try it: for though our guide had left us, it was possible that, while we were making the necessary preparations, he or some others might appear, to relieve us from our present difficulties. I now found, to my great satisfaction, that they had not come to any fixed determination among themselves, as some of them immediately assented to undertake the woods with me. Others, however, suggested that it might be better to proceed a few leagues further up the river, in expectation of finding our guide, or procuring another, and that after all we might return hither. This plan I very readily agreed to adopt, but before I left this place, to which I gave the name of the West-Road River, I sent some of the men into the woods, in different directions, and went some distance up the river myself, which I found to be navigable only for small canoes. Two of the men found a good beaten path, leading up a hill just behind us, which I imagined to be the great road.
At four in the afternoon we left this place, proceeding up the river; and had not been upon the water more than three quarters of an hour, when we saw two canoes coming with the stream. No sooner did the people in them perceive us than they landed, and we went on shore at the same place with them. They proved to be our guide, and six of his relations. He was covered with a painted beaver robe, so that we scarcely knew him in his fine habiliment. He instantly desired us to acknowledge that he had not disappointed us, and declared, at the same time, that it was his constant intention to keep his word. I accordingly gave him a jacket, a pair of trowsers, and a handkerchief, as a reward for his honourable conduct. The strangers examined us with the most minute attention, and two of them, as I was now informed, belonged to the people whom we first saw, and who fled with so much alarm from us. They told me, also, that they were so terrified on that occasion, as not to approach their huts for two days; and that when they ventured thither, they found the greater part of their property destroyed, by the fire running in the ground. According to their account, they were of a different tribe, though I found no difference in their language from that of the Nagailas or Carriers. They are called Nascud Denee. Their lodges were at some distance, on a small lake, where they take fish, and if our guide had not gone for them there, we should not have seen a human being on the river. They informed me that the road by their habitation is the shortest, and they proposed that we should take it.
Thursday, 4. — At an early hour this morning, and at the suggestion of our guide, we proceeded to the landing-place that leads to the strangers' lodges. Our great difficulty here was to procure a temporary separation from our company, in order to hide some articles we could not carry with us, and which it would have been imprudent to leave in the power of the natives. Accordingly Mr. Mackay, and one of our Indians embarked with them, and soon run out of our sight. At our first, hiding-place we left a bag of pemmican, weighing ninety pounds, two bags of wild rice, and a gallon keg of gunpowder. Previous to our putting these articles in the ground, we rolled them up in oilcloth, and dressed leather. In the second hiding-place, and guarded with the same rollers, we hid two bags of Indian corn, or maize, and a bale of different articles of merchandise. When we had completed this important object, we proceeded till half past eight, when we landed at the entrance of a small rivulet, where our friends were waiting for us.
Here it was necessary that we should leave our canoe, and whatever we could not carry on our backs. In the first place, therefore, we prepared a stage, on which the canoe was placed bottom upwards, and shaded by a covering of small trees and branches, to keep her from the sun. We then built an oblong hollow square, ten feet by five, of green logs, wherein we placed every article it was necessary for us to leave here, and covered the whole with large pieces of timber.
While we were eagerly employed in this necessary business, our guide and his companions were so impatient to be gone, that we could not persuade the former to wait till we were prepared for our departure, and we had some difficulty in persuading another of the natives to remain, who had undertook to conduct us where the guide had promised to wait our arrival.
At noon we were in a state of preparation to enter the woods, an undertaking of which I shall not here give any preliminary opinion, but leave those who read it to judge for themselves.
We carried on our backs four bags and a half of pemmican, weighing from eighty-five to ninety 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 about ninety pounds, with a gun, and some ammunition. The Indians had about forty-five pounds weight of pemmican to carry, besides their gun, &c., with which they were very much dissatisfied, and if they had dared would have instantly left us. They had hitherto been very much indulged, but the moment was now arrived, when indulgence was no longer practicable. My own load, and that of Mr. Mackay, consisted of twenty-two pounds of pemmican, some rice, a little sugar, &c., amounting in the whole to about seventy pounds each, besides our arms and ammunition. I had also the tube of my telescope swung across my shoulder, which was a troublesome addition to my burthen. It was determined that we should content ourselves with two meals a day, which were regulated without difficulty, as our provisions did not require the ceremony of cooking.
In this state of equipment we began our journey, as I have already mentioned, about twelve at noon, 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 evening, and even when it ceased, the underwood continued its drippings upon us.
About half past six we arrived at an Indian camp of three fires, where we found our guide, and on his recommendation we determined to remain there for the night. The computed distance of this day's journey was about twelve geographical miles; the course about West.
At sun-set, an elderly man and three other natives joined us from the Westward. The former bore a lance, which very much resembled a serjeant's halberd. He had lately received it, by way of barter, from the natives of the Sea-Coast, who procured it from the white men. We should meet, he said, with many of his countrymen, who had just returned from thence. According to his report, it did not require more than six days' journey, for people who are not heavily laden, to reach the country of those with whom they bartered their skins for iron, &c., and from thence it is not quite two days' march to the sea. They proposed to send two young men on before us, to notify to the different tribes that we were approaching, that they might not be surprised at our appearance, and be disposed to afford us a friendly reception. This was a measure which I could not but approve, and endeavoured by some small presents to prepossess our couriers in our favour.
These people live but poorly at this season, and I could procure no provision from them, but a few small, dried fish, as I think, of the carp kind. They had several European articles; and one of them had a strip of fur, which appeared to me to be of the sea otter. He obtained it from the natives of the coast, and exchanged it with me for some beads and a brass cross.
We retired to rest in as much security as if we had been long habituated to a confidence in our present associates: indeed, we had no alternative; for so great were the fatigues of the day in our mode of travelling, that we were in great need of rest at night.
Friday, 5. — We had no sooner laid ourselves down to rest last night, than the natives began to sing, in a manner very different from what I had been accustomed to hear among savages. It was not accompanied either with dancing, drum, or rattle; but consisted of soft plaintive tones, and a modulation that was rather agreeable: it had somewhat the air of church music. As the natives had requested me not to quit them at a very early hour in the morning, it was five before I desired that the young men, who were to proceed with us, should depart, when they prepared to set off: but on calling to our guide to conduct us, he said that he did not intend to accompany us any further; as the young men would answer our purpose as well as himself. I knew it would be in vain to remonstrate with him, and therefore submitted to his caprice without a reply. However, I thought proper to inform him, that one of my people had lost his dag or poignard, and requested his assistance in the recovery of it. He asked me what I would give him to conjure it back again; and a knife was agreed to be the price of his necromantic exertions. Accordingly, all the dags and knives in the place were gathered together, and the natives formed a circle round them; the conjurer also remaining in the middle. When this part of the ceremony was arranged, he began to sing, the rest joining in the chorus; and after some time he produced the poignard, which was stuck in the ground, and returned it to me.
At seven we were ready to depart; when I was surprised to hear our late guide propose, without any solicitation on our part, to resume his office; and he actually conducted us as far as a small lake, where we found an encampment of three families. The young men who had undertaken to conduct us, were not well understood by my interpreters, who continued to be so displeased with their journey, that they performed this part of their duty with great reluctance. I endeavoured to persuade an elderly man of this encampment to accompany us to the next tribe, but no inducement of mine could prevail on him to comply with my wishes. I was, therefore, obliged to content myself with the guides I had already engaged, for whom we were obliged to wait some time, till they had provided shoes for their journey. I exchanged two halfpence here, one of his present Majesty, and the other of the State of Massachusett's Bay, coined in 1787. They hung as ornaments in children's ears.
My situation here was rendered rather unpleasant by the treatment which my hunters received from these people. The former, it appeared, were considered as belonging to a tribe who inhabit the mountains, and are the natural enemies of the latter. We had also been told by one of the natives, of a very stern aspect, that he had been stabbed by a relation of theirs, and pointed to a scar as the proof of it. I was, therefore, very glad to proceed on my journey.
Our guides conducted us along the lake through thick woods, and without any path, for about a mile and a half, when we lost sight of it. This piece of water is about three miles long and one broad. We then crossed a creek and entered upon a beaten track, through an open country, sprinkled with cyprus trees. At twelve the sky became black, and a heavy gust with rain shortly followed, which continued for upwards of an hour. When we perceived the approaching storm, we fixed our thin light oil-cloth to screen us from it. On renewing our march, as the bushes were very wet, I desired our guides, they having no burdens, to walk in front and beat them as they went: this task they chose to decline, and accordingly I undertook it. Our road now lay along a lake, and across a creek that ran into it. The guides informed me, that this part of the country abounds in beaver: many traps were seen along the road, which had been set for lynxes and martens. About a quarter of a mile from the place where we had been stopped by the rain, the ground was covered with hail, and as we advanced, the hailstones increased in size, some of them being as big as musket-balls. In this manner was the ground whitened for upwards of two miles. At five in the afternoon we arrived on the banks of another lake, when it again threatened rain; and we had already been sufficiently wetted in the course of the day, to look with complacency towards a repetition of it: we accordingly fixed our shed, the rain continuing with great violence through the remainder of the day: it was therefore determined, that we should stop here for the night.
In the course of the day we passed three winter huts; they consisted of low walls, with a ridge pole, covered with the branches of the Canadian balsam-tree. One of my men had a violent pain in his knee, and I asked the guides to take a share of his burden, as they had nothing to carry but their beaver robes, and bows and arrows, but they could not be made to understand a word of my request.
Saturday, 6. — At four this morning I arose from my bed, such as it was. As we must have been in a most unfortunate predicament, if our guides should have deserted us in the night, by way of security, I proposed to the youngest of them to sleep with me, and he readily consented. These people have no covering but their beaver garments, and that of my companions was a nest of vermin. I, however, spread it under us, and having laid down upon it, we covered ourselves with my camblet cloak. My companion's hair being greased with fish-oil, and his body smeared with red earth, my sense of smelling as well as that of feeling, threatened to interrupt my rest; but these inconveniences yielded to my fatigue, and I passed a night of sound repose.
I took the lead in our march, as I had done yesterday, in order to clear the branches of the wet which continued to hang upon them. We proceeded with all possible expedition through a level country with but little under-wood; the larger trees were of the fir kind. At half past eight we fell upon the road, which we first intended to have taken from the Great River, and gust be shorter than that which we had travelled. The West-road river was also in sight, winding through a valley. We had not met with any water since our encampment of last night, and though we were afflicted with violent thirst, the river was at such a distance from us, and the descent to it so long and steep, that we were compelled to be satisfied with casting oar longing looks towards it. There appeared to be more water in the river here, than at its discharge. The Indian account, that it is navigable for their canoes, is, I believe, perfectly correct.
Our guides now told us, that as the road was very good and well traced, they would proceed to inform the next tribe that we were coming. This information was of a very unpleasant nature; as it would have been easy for them to turn off the road at an hundred yards from us, and, when we had passed them, to return home. I proposed that one of them should remain with us, while two of my people should leave their loads behind and accompany the other to the lodges. But they would not stay to hear our persuasions, and were soon out of sight.
I now desired the Cancre to leave his burden, take a small quantity of provision, with his arms and blanket, and follow me. I also told my men to come on as fast as they could, and that I would wait for them as soon as I had formed an acquaintance with the natives of the country before us. We accordingly followed our guides with all the expedition in our power, but did not overtake them till we came to a family of natives, consisting of one man, two women, and six children, with whom we found them. These people betrayed no signs of fear at our appearance, and the man willingly conversed with my interpreter, to whom he made himself more intelligible, than our guides had been able to do. They, however, had informed him of the object of our journey. He pointed out to us one of his wives, who was a native of the sea coast, which was not a very great distance from us. This woman was more inclined to corpulency than any we had yet seen, was of low stature, with an oblong face, grey eyes, and a flattish nose. She was decorated with ornaments of various kinds, such as large blue beads, either pendant from her ears, encircling her neck, or braided in her hair: she also wore bracelets of brass, copper, and horn. Her garments consisted of a kind of tunic, which was covered with a robe of matted bark, fringed round the bottom with skin of the sea otter. None of the women whom I had seen since we crossed the mountain wore this kind of tunic; their blankets being merely girt round the waist. She had learned the language of her husband's tribe, and confirmed his account, that we were at no great distance from the sea. They were on their way, she said, to the great river to fish. Age seemed to be an object of great veneration among these people, for they carried an old woman by turns on their backs who was quite blind and infirm from the very advanced period of her life.
Our people having joined us and rested themselves, I requested our guides to proceed, when the elder of them told me that he should not go any further, but that these people would send a boy to accompany his brother, and I began to think myself rather fortunate, that we were not deserted by them all.
About noon we parted, and in two hours we came up with two men and their families: when we first saw them they were sitting down, as if to rest themselves; but no sooner did they perceive us than they rose up and seized their arms. The boys who were behind us immediately ran forwards and spoke to them, when they laid by their arms and received us as friends. They had been eating green berries and dried fish. We had, indeed, scarcely joined them, when a woman and a boy came from the river with water, which they very hospitably gave us to drink. The people of this party had a very sickly appearance, which might have been the consequence of disease, or that indolence which so natural to them, or of both. One of the women had a tattooed line along the chin, of the same length of her mouth.
The lads now informed me that they would go no further, but that these men would take their places; and they parted from their families with as little apparent concern, as if they were entire strangers to each other. One of them was very well understood by my interpreter, and had resided among the natives of the sea coast, whom he had left but a short time. According to his information, we were approaching a river, which was neither large nor long, but whose banks were inhabited; and that in the bay which the sea forms at the mouth of it, a great wooden canoe, with white people, arrives about the time when the leaves begin to grow; I presume in the early part of May.
After we parted with the last people, we came to an uneven, hilly, swampy country, through which our way was impeded by a considerable number of fallen trees. At five in the afternoon we were overtaken by a heavy shower of rain and hail, and being at the same time very much fatigued, we encamped for the night near a small creek. Our course till we came to the river, was about South-West ten miles, and then West, twelve or fourteen miles. I thought it prudent, by way of security, to submit to the same inconveniences I have already described, and shared the beaver robe of one of my guides during the night.
Sunday, 7. — I was so busily employed in collecting intelligence from our conductors, that I last night forgot to wind up my timepiece, and it was the only instance of such an act of negligence since I left Fort Chepewyan on the 11th of last October. At five we quitted our station, and proceeded across two mountains, covered with spruce, poplar, white birch, and other trees. We then descended into a level country, where we found a good road, through woods of cypress. We then came to two small lakes, at the distance of about fourteen miles. Course about West. Through them the river passes, and our road kept in a parallel line with it on a range of elevated ground. On observing some people before us, our guides hastened to meet them, and, on their approach, one of them stepped forward with an axe in his hand. This party consisted only of a man, two women, and the same number of children. The eldest of the women, who probably was the man's mother, was engaged, when we joined them, in clearing a circular spot, of about five feet in diameter, of the weeds that infested it; nor did our arrival interrupt her employment, which was sacred to the memory of the dead. The spot to which her pious care was devoted, contained the grave of an husband, and a son, and whenever she passed this way, she always stopped to pay this tribute of affection.
As soon as we had taken our morning allowance, we set forwards, and about three we perceived more people before us. After some alarm we came up with them. They consisted of seven men, as many women, and several children. Here I was under the necessity of procuring another guide, and we continued our route on the same side of the river, till six in the evening, when we crossed it. It was knee deep, and about an hundred yards over. I wished now to stop for the night, as we were all of us very much fatigued, but our guide recommended us to proceed onwards to a family of his friends, at a small distance from thence, where we arrived at half past seven. He had gone forward, and procured us a welcome and quiet reception. There being a net hanging to dry, I requested the man to prepare and set it in the water, which he did with great expedition, and then presented me with a few small dried fish. Our course was South-West about twelve miles, part of which was an extensive swamp, that was seldom less than knee deep. In the course of the afternoon we had several showers of rain. I had attempted to take an altitude, but it was past meridian. The water of the river before the lodge was quite still, and expanded itself into the form of a small lake. In many other places, indeed, it had assumed the same form.
Monday, 8. — It rained throughout the night, and it was seven in the morning before the weather would allow us to proceed. The guide brought me five small boiled fish, in a platter made of bark; some of them were of the carp kind, and the rest of a species for which I am not qualified to furnish a name. Having dried our clothes, we set off on our march about eight, and our guide very cheerfully continued to accompany us; but he was not altogether so intelligible as his predecessors in our service. We learned from him, however, that this lake, through which the river passes, extends to the foot of the mountain, and that he expected to meet nine men, of a tribe which inhabits the North side of the river.
In this part of our journey we were surprised with the appearance of several regular basons, some of them furnished with water, and the others empty; their slope from the edge to the bottom formed an angle of about forty-five degrees, and their perpendicular depth was about twelve feet. Those that contained water, discovered gravel near their edges, while the empty ones were covered with grass and herbs, among which we discovered mustard, and mint. There were also several places from whence the water appears to have retired, which are covered with the same soil and herbage.
We now proceeded along a very uneven country, the upper parts of which were covered with poplars, a little under-wood, and plenty of grass: the intervening vallies were watered with rivulets. From these circumstances, and the general appearance of vegetation, I could not account for the apparent absence of animals of every kind.
Tuesday, 9. — At two in the afternoon we arrived at the largest river that we had seen, since we left our canoe; and which forced its way between and over the huge stones that opposed its current. Our course was about South-South-West sixteen miles along the river, which might here justify the title of a lake. The road was good, and our next course, which was West by South, brought us onward ten miles, where we encamped, fatigued and wet, it having rained three parts of the day. This river abounds with fish, and must fall into the great river, further down than we had extended our voyage.
A heavy and continued rain fell through great part of the night, and as we were in some measure exposed to it, time was required to dry our clothes; so that it was half past seven in the morning before we were ready to set out. As we found the country so destitute of game, and foreseeing the difficulty of procuring provisions for our return, I thought it prudent to conceal half a bag of pemmican: having sent off the Indians, and all my people except two, we buried it under the fireplace, as we had done on a former occasion. We soon overtook our party, and continued our route along the river or lake. About twelve I had an altitude, but it was inaccurate from the cloudiness of the weather. We continued our progress till five in the afternoon, when the water began to narrow, and in about half an hour we came to a ferry, where we found a small raft. At this time it began to thunder, and torrents of rain soon followed, which terminated our journey for the day. Our course was about South, twenty-one miles from the lake already mentioned. We now discovered the tops of mountains, covered with snow, over very high intermediate land. We killed a whitehead and a grey eagle, and three grey partridges; we also saw two otters in the river, and several beaver lodges along it. When the rain ceased, we caught a few small fish, and repaired the raft for the service of the ensuing day.
Wednesday, 10. — At an early hour of this morning we prepared to cross the water. The traverse is about thirty yards, and it required five trips to get us all over. At a short distance below, a small river falls in, that comes from the direction in which we were proceeding. It is a rapid for about three hundred yards, when it expands into a lake, along which our road conducted us, and beneath a range of beautiful hills, covered with verdure. At half past eight we came to the termination of the lake, where there were two houses that occupied a most delightful situation, and as they contained their necessary furniture, it seemed probable that their owners intended shortly to return. Near them were several graves or tombs, to which the natives are particularly attentive, and never suffer any herbage to grow upon them. In about half an hour we reached a place where there were two temporary huts, that contained thirteen men, with whom we found our guide who had preceded us, in order to secure a good reception. The buildings were detached from each other, and conveniently placed for fishing in the lake. Their inhabitants called themselves Sloua-cuss-Dinais, which denomination, as far as my interpreter could explain it to me, I understood to mean Red-fish Men. They were much more cleanly, healthy, and agreeable in their appearance, than any of the natives whom we had passed; nevertheless, I have no doubt that they are the same people, from their name alone, which is of the Chepewyan language. My interpreters, however, understood very little of what they said, so that I did not expect much information from them. Some of them said it was a journey of four days to the sea, and others were of opinion that it was six; and there were among them who extended it to eight; but they all uniformly declared that they had been to the coast. They did not entertain the smallest apprehension of danger from us, and, when we discharged our pieces, expressed no sensation but that of astonishment, which, as may be supposed, was proportionably increased when one of the hunters shot an eagle, at a considerable distance. At twelve I obtained an altitude, which made our latitude 53. 4. 32. North, being not so far South as I expected.
I now went, accompanied by one of my men, an interpreter, and the guide, to visit some huts at the distance of a mile. On our arrival, the inhabitants presented us with a dish of boiled trout, of a small kind. The fish would have been excellent if it had not tasted of the kettle, which was made of the bark of the white spruce, and of the dried grass with which it was boiled. Besides this kind of trout, red and white carp and jub, are the only fish I saw as the produce of these waters.
These people appeared to live in a state of comparative comfort; they take a greater share in the labour of the women, than is common among the savage tribes, and are, as I was informed, content with one wife. Though this circumstance may proceed rather from the difficulty of procuring subsistence, than any habitual aversion to polygamy.
My present guide now informed me, that he could not proceed any further, and I accordingly engaged two of these people to succeed him in that office; but when they desired us to proceed on the beaten path without them, as they could not set off till the following day, I determined to stay that night, in order to accommodate myself to their convenience. I distributed some trifles among the wives and children of the men who were to be our future guides, and returned to my people. We came back by a different way, and passed by two buildings, erected between four trees, and about fifteen feet from the ground, which appeared to me to be intended as magazines for winter provisions. At four in the afternoon, we proceeded with considerable expedition, by the side of the lake, till six, when we came to the end of it: we then struck off through a much less beaten track, and at half past seven stopped for the night. Our course was about West-South-West thirteen miles, and West six miles.
Thursday, 11. — I passed a most uncomfortable night: the first part of it I was tormented with flies, and in the latter deluged with rain. In the morning the weather cleared, and as soon as our clothes were dried, we proceeded through a morass. This part of the country had been laid waste by fire, and the fallen trees added to the pain and perplexity of our way. A high, rocky ridge stretched along our left. Though the rain returned, we continued our progress till noon, when our guide took to some trees for shelter. We then spread our oil-cloth, and, with some difficulty, made a fire. About two the rain ceased, when we continued our journey through the same kind of country which we had hitherto passed. At half past three we came in sight of a lake; the land at the same time gradually rising to a range of mountains whose tops were covered with snow. We soon after observed two fresh tracks, which seemed to surprise our guides, but they supposed them to have been made by the inhabitants of the country, who were come into this part of it to fish. At five in the afternoon we were so wet and cold (for it had at intervals continued to rain) that we were compelled to stop for the night. We passed seven rivulets and a creek in this day's journey. As I had hitherto regulated our course by the sun, I could not form an accurate judgment of this route, as we had not been favoured with a sight of it during the day; but I imagine it to have been nearly in the same direction as that of yesterday. Our distance could not have been less than fifteen miles.
Our conductors now began to complain of our mode of travelling, and mentioned their intention of leaving us; and my interpreters, who were equally dissatisfied, added to our perplexity by their conduct. Besides these circumstances, and the apprehension that the distance frog the sea might be greater than I had imagined, it became a matter of real necessity that we should begin to diminish the consumption of our provisions, and to subsist upon two-thirds of our allowance; a proposition which was as unwelcome to my people, as it was necessary to put into immediate practice.
Friday, 12. — At half past five this morning we proceeded on our journey, with cloudy weather, and when we came to the end of the lake, several tracks were visible that led to the side of the water; from which circumstance I concluded, that some of the natives were fishing along the banks of it. This lake is not more than three miles long, and about one broad. We then passed four smaller lakes, the two first being on our right, and those which preceded, on our left. A small river also flowed across our way from the right, and we passed it over a beaver-dam. A larger lake now appeared on our right, and the mountains on each side of us were covered with snow. We afterwards came to another lake on our right, and soon reached a river, which our guides informed us was the same that we had passed on a raft. They said it was navigable for canoes from the great river, except two rapids, one of which we had seen. At this place it was upwards of twenty yards across, and deep water. One of the guides swam over to fetch a raft which was on the opposite side; and having encreased its dimensions, we crossed at two trips, except four of the men, who preferred swimming.
Here our conductors renewed their menace of leaving us, and I was obliged to give them several articles, and promise more, in order to induce them to continue till we could procure other natives to succeed them. At four in the afternoon we forded the same river, and being with the guides at some distance before the rest of the people, I sat down to wait for them, and no sooner did they arrive, than the former set off with so much speed, that my attempt to follow them proved unsuccessful. One of my Indians, however, who had no load, overtook them, when they excused themselves to him by declaring that their sole motive for leaving us, was to prevent the people, whom they expected to find, from shooting their arrows at us. At seven o'clock, however, we were so fatigued, that we encamped without them; the mountains covered with snow now appeared to be directly before us. As we were collecting wood for our fire, we discovered a cross road, where it appeared that people had passed within seven or eight days. In short, our situation was such as to afford a just cause of alarm, and that of the people with me was of a nature to defy immediate alleviation. It was necessary, however, for me to attempt it; and I rested my principles of encouragement on a representation of our past perplexities and unexpected relief, and endeavoured to excite in them the hope of similar good fortune. I stated to them, that we could not be at a great distance from the sea, and that there were but few natives to pass, till we should arrive among those, who being accustomed to visit the sea coast, and, having seen white people, would be disposed to treat us with kindness. Such was the general tenor of the reasoning I employed on the occasion, and I was happy to find that it was not offered in vain.
The weather had been cloudy till three in the afternoon, when the sun appeared; but surrounded, as we were, with snow-clad mountains, the air became so cold, that the violence of our exercise, was not sufficient to produce a comfortable degree of warmth. Our course to-day was from West to South, and at least thirty-six miles. The land in general was very barren and stony, and lay in ridges, with cypress trees scattered over them. We passed several swamps, where we saw nothing to console us but a few tracks of deer.
Saturday, 13. — The weather this morning was clear but cold, and our scanty covering was not sufficient to protect us from the severity of the night. About five, after we had warmed ourselves at a large fire, we proceeded on our dubious journey. In about an hour we came to the edge of a wood, when we perceived a house, situated on a green spot, and by the side of a small river. The smoke that issued from it informed us that it was inhabited. I immediately pushed forward towards this mansion, while my people were in such a state of alarm, that they followed me with the greatest reluctance. On looking back, I perceived that we were in an Indian defile, of fifty yards in length. I, however, was close upon the house before the inhabitants perceived us, when the women and children uttered the most horrid shrieks, and the only man who appeared to be with them, escaped out of a back door, which I reached in time to prevent the women and children from following him. The man fled with all his speed into the wood, and I called in vain on my interpreters to speak to him, but they were so agitated with fear as to have lost the power of utterance. It is impossible to describe the distress and alarm of these poor people, who believing that they were attacked by enemies, expected an immediate massacre, which, among themselves, never fails to follow such an event.
Our prisoners consisted of three women, and seven children, which apparently composed three families. At length, however, by our demeanor, and our presents, we contrived to dissipate their apprehensions. One of the women then informed us, that their people, with several others had left that place three nights before, on a trading journey to a tribe whom she called Annah, which is the name the Chepewyans give to the Knisteneaux, at the distance of three days. She added also, that from the mountains before us, which were covered with snow, the sea was visible; and accompanied her information with a present of a couple of dried fish. We now expressed our desire that the man might be induced to return, and conduct us in the road to the sea. Indeed, it was not long before he discovered himself in the wood, when he was assured, both by the women and our interpreters, that we had no hostile design against him; but these assurances had no effect in quieting his apprehensions. I then attempted to go to him alone, and showed him a knife, beads, &c., to induce him to come to me, but he, in return, made a hostile display of his bow and arrows: and, having for some time exhibited a variety of strange antics, again disappeared. However, he soon presented himself in another quarter, and after a succession of parleys between us, he engaged to come and accompany us.
While these negotiations were proceeding, I proposed to visit the fishing machines, to which the women readily consented, and I found in them twenty small fish, such as trout, carp, and jub, for which I gave her a large knife; a present that appeared to be equally unexpected and gratifying to her. Another man now came towards us, from a hill, talking aloud from the time he appeared, till he reached us. The purport of his speech was, that he threw himself upon our mercy, and we might kill him, if it was our pleasure, but that from what he had heard, he looked rather for our friendship than our enmity. He was an elderly person, of a decent appearance, and I gave him some articles to conciliate him to us. The first man now followed with a lad along with him, both of whom were the sons of the old man, and, on his arrival, he gave me several half dried fish, which I considered as a peace-offering. After some conversation with these people, respecting the country, and our future progress through it, we retired to rest, with sensations very different from those with which we had risen in the morning. The weather had been generally cloudy throughout the day, and when the sun was obscured, extremely cold for the season. At noon I obtained a meridian altitude, which gave 52. 58. 53. North latitude. I likewise took time in the afternoon.
Sunday, 14. — This morning we had a bright sun, with an East wind. These people examined their fishing machines, when they found in them a great number of small fish, and we dressed as many of them as we could eat. Thus was our departure retarded until seven, when we proceeded on our journey, accompanied by the man and his two sons. As I did not want the younger, and should be obliged to feed him, I requested of his father to leave him, for the purpose of fishing for the women. He replied, that they were accustomed to fish for themselves, and that I need not be apprehensive of their encroaching upon my provisions, as they were used to sustain themselves in their journies on herbs, and the inner tegument of the bark of trees, for the stripping of which he had a thin piece of bone, then hanging by his side. The latter is of glutinous quality, of a clammy, sweet taste, and is generally considered by the more interior Indians as a delicacy, rather than an article of common food. Our guide informed me that there is a short cut across the mountains, but as there was no trace of a road, and it would shorten our journey but one day, he should prefer the beaten way.
We accordingly proceeded along a lake, West five miles. We then crossed a small river, and passed through a swamp, about South-West, when we began gradually to ascend for some time till we gained the summit of a hill, where we had an extensive view to the South-East, from which direction a considerable river appeared to flow, at the distance of about three miles: it was represented to me as being navigable for canoes. The descent of this hill 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. We now left a small lake on our left, then crossed a creek running out of it, and at one in the afternoon came to a house, of the same construction and dimensions as have already been mentioned, but the materials were much better prepared and finished. The timber was squared on two sides, and the bark taken off the two others; the ridge pole was also shaped in the same manner, extending about eight or ten feet beyond the gable end, and supporting a shed over the door: the end of it was carved into the similitude of a snake's head. Several hieroglyphics and figures of a similar workmanship, and painted with red earth, decorated the interior of the building. The inhabitants had left the house but a short time, and there were several bags or bundles in it, which I did not suffer to be disturbed. Near it were two tombs, surrounded in a neat manner with boards, and covered with bark. Beside them several poles had been erected, one of which was squared, and all of them painted. From each of them were suspended several rolls or parcels of bark, and our guide gave the following account of them; which, as far as we could judge, from our imperfect knowledge of the language, and the incidental errors of interpretation, appeared to involve two different modes of treating their dead; or it might be one and the same ceremony, which we did not distinctly comprehend: at all events, it is the practice of these people to burn the bodies of their dead, except the larger bones, which are rolled up in bark and suspended from poles, as I have already described. According to the other account, it appeared that they actually bury their dead; and when another of the family dies, the remains of the person who was last interred are taken from the grave and burned, has been already mentioned; so that the members of a family are thus successively buried and burned, to make room for each other; and one tomb proves sufficient for a family through succeeding generations. There is no house in this country without a tomb in its vicinity. Our last course extended about ten miles.
We continued our journey along the lake before the house, and, crossing a river that flowed out of it, came to a kind of bank, or weir, formed by the natives, for the purpose of placing their fishing machines, many of which of different sizes, were lying on the side of the river. Our guide placed one of them, with the certain expectation that on his return he should find plenty of fish in it. We proceeded nine miles further, on a good road, West-South-West, when we came to a small lake: we then crossed a river that ran out of it, and our guides were in continual expectation of meeting with some of the natives. To this place our course was a mile and a half, in the same direction as the last. At nine at night we crossed a river on rafts, our last distance being about four miles South-East, on a winding road, through a swampy country, and along a succession of small lakes. We were now quite exhausted, and it was absolutely necessary for us to stop for the night. The weather being clear throughout the day, we had no reason to complain of the cold. Our guides encouraged us with the hope that, in two days of similar exertion, we should arrive among people of the other nation.
Monday, 15. — At five this morning we were again in motion, and passing along a river, we at length forded it. This stream was not more than knee deep, about thirty yards over, and with a stony bottom. The old man went onward by himself, in the hope of falling in with the people, whom he expected to meet in the course of the day. At eleven we came up with him, and the natives whom .he expected, consisting of five men, and part of their families. They received us with great kindness, and examined us with the most minute attention. They must, however, have been told that we were white, as our faces no longer indicated that distinguishing complexion. They called themselves Neguia Dinais, and were come in a different direction from us, but were now going the same way, to the Anah-yoe Tesse or River, and appeared to be very much satisfied with our having joined them. They presented us with some fish which they had just taken in the adjoining lake.
Here I expected that our guides, like their predecessors, would have quitted us, but, on the contrary, they expressed themselves to be so happy, in our company, and that of their friends, that they voluntarily, and with great cheerfulness proceeded to pass another night with us. Our new acquaintance were people of a very pleasing aspect. The hair of the women was tied in large loose knots over the ears, and plaited with great neatness from the division of the head, so as to be included in the knots. Some of them had adorned their tresses with beads, with a very pretty effect. The men were clothed in leather, their hair was nicely combed, and their complexion was fairer, or perhaps it may be said, with more propriety, that they were more cleanly, than any of the natives whom we had yet seen. Their eyes, though keen and sharp, are not of that dark colour, so generally observable in the various tribes of Indians; they were, on the contrary, of a grey hue, with a tinge of red. There was one man amongst them of at least six feet four inches in height; his manners were affable, and he had a more prepossessing appearance than any Indian I had met with in my journey; he was about twenty-eight years of age, and was treated with particular respect by his party. Every man, woman, and child carried a proportionate burden, consisting of beaver coating, and parchment, as well as skins of the otter, the marten, the bear, the lynx, and dressed moose-skins. The last they procure from the Rocky-Mountain Indians. According to their account, the people of the sea coast prefer them to any other article. Several of their relations and friends, they said, were already gone, as well provided as themselves, to barter with the people of the coast; who barter them in their turn, except the dressed leather, with white people, who, as they had been informed, arrive there in large canoes.
Such an escort was the most fortunate circumstance that could happen in our favour. They told us, that as the women and children could not travel fast, we should be three days in getting to the end of our journey; which must be supposed to have been very agreeable information to people in our exhausted condition.
In about half an hour after we had joined our new acquaintance, the signal for moving onwards was given by the leader of the party, who vociferated, the words Huy, Huy, when his people joined him and continued a clamorous conversation. We passed along a winding road, over hills, and through swampy vallies, from South to West. We then crossed a deep, narrow river, which discharges itself into a lake, on whose side we stopped at five in the afternoon, for the night, though we had reposed several times since twelve at noon; so that our mode of travelling had undergone a very agreeable change. I compute the distance of this day's journey at about twenty miles. In the middle of the day the weather was clear and sultry.
We all sat down on a very pleasant green spot, and were no sooner seated, than our guide and one of the party prepared to engage in play. They had each a bundle of about fifty small sticks, neatly polished, of the size of a quill, and five inches long: a certain number of these sticks had red lines round them; and as many of these as one of the players might find convenient were curiously rolled up in dry grass, and according to the judgment of his antagonist respecting their number and marks, he lost or won. Our friend was apparently the loser, as he parted with his bow and arrows, and several articles which I had given him.
Tuesday, 16. — The weather of this morning was the same as yesterday; but our fellow-travellers were in no hurry to proceed, and I was under the necessity of pressing them into greater expedition, by representing the almost exhausted state of our provisions. They, however, assured us, that after the next night's sleep we should arrive at the river where they were going, and that we should there get fish in great abundance. My young men, from an act of imprudence, deprived themselves last night of that rest which was so necessary to them. One of the strangers asking them several questions respecting us, and concerning their own country, one of them gave such answers as were not credited by the audience; whereupon he demanded, in a very angry tone, if they thought he was disposed to tell lies, like the Rocky Mountain Indians; and one of that tribe happening to be of the party, a quarrel ensued, which might have been attended with the most serious consequences, if it had not been fortunately prevented by the interference of those who were not interested in the dispute.
Though our stock of provisions was getting so low, I determined, nevertheless, to hide about twenty pounds of pemmican, by way ' of providing against our return. I therefore left two of the men behind, with directions to bury it, as usual, under the place where we had made our fire.
Our course was about West-South-West by the side of the lake, and in about two miles we came to the end of it. Here was a general halt, when my men overtook us. I was now informed, that some people of another tribe were sent for, who wished very much to see us, two of whom would accompany us over the mountains; that, as for themselves, they had changed their mind, and intended to follow a small river which issued out of the lake, and went in a direction very different from the line of our journey. This was a disappointment, which, though not uncommon to us, might have been followed by considerable inconveniences. It was my wish to continue with them whatever way they went; but neither my promises or entreaties would avail; these people were not to be turned from their purpose; and when I represented the low state of our provisions, one of them answered, that if we would stay with them all night, he would boil a kettle of fish-roes for us. Accordingly, without receiving any answer, he began to make preparation to fulfil his engagement. He took the roes out of a bag, and having bruised them between two stones, put them in water to soak. His wife then took an handful of dry grass in her hand, with which she squeezed them through her fingers; in the mean time her husband was employed in gathering wood to make a fire, for the purpose of heating stones. When she had finished her operation, she filled a water kettle nearly full of water, and poured the roes into it. When the stones were sufficiently heated, some of them were put into the kettle, and others were thrown in from time to time, till the water was in a state of boiling; the woman also continued stirring the contents of the kettle, till they were rough to a thick consistency; the stones were then taken out, and the whole was seasoned with about a pint of strong rancid oil. The smell of this curious dish was sufficient to sicken me without tasting it, but the hunger of my people surmounted the nauseous meal. When unadulterated by the stinking oil, these boiled roes are not unpalatable food.
In the mean time four of the people who had been expected, arrived, and, according to the account given of them, were of two tribes whom I had not yet known. After some conversation, they proposed, that I should continue my route by their houses; but the old guide, who was now preparing to leave us, informed me that it would lengthen my journey; and by his advice I proposed to them to conduct us. along the road which had already been marked out to us. This they undertook without the least hesitation; and, at the same time, pointed out to me the pass in the mountain, bearing South by East by compass. Here I had a meridian altitude, and took time.
At four in the afternoon we parted with our late fellow-travellers in a very friendly manner, and immediately forded the river. The wild parsnip, which luxuriates on the borders of the lakes and rivers, is a favourite food of the natives: they roast the tops of this plant, in their tender state, over the fire, and taking off the outer rind, they are then a very palatable food.
We now entered the woods, and some time after arrived on the banks of another river that flowed from the mountain, which we also forded. The country soon after we left the river was swampy; and the fire having passed through it, the number of trees, which had fallen, added to the toil of our journey. In a short time we began to ascend, and continued ascending till nine at night. We walked upwards of fourteen miles, according to my computation, in the course of the day, though the strait line of distance might not be more than ten. Notwithstanding that we were surrounded by mountains covered with snow, we were very much tormented with musquitoes.
Wednesday, 17. — Before the sun rose, our guides summoned us to proceed, when we descended into a beautiful valley, watered by a small river. At eight we came to the termination of it, where we saw a great number of moles, and began again to ascend. We now perceived many ground-hogs, and heard them whistle in every direction. The Indians went in pursuit of them, and soon joined us with a female and her litter, almost grown to their full size. They stripped off their skins, and gave the carcases to my people. They also pulled up a root, which appeared like a bunch of white berries of the size of a pea; its shape was that of a fig, while it had the colour and taste of a potatoe.
We now gained the summit of the mountain, and found ourselves surrounded by snow. But this circumstance is caused rather by the quantity of snow drifted in the pass, than the real height of the spot, as the surrounding mountains rise to a much higher degree of elevation. The snow had become so compact that our feet hardly made a perceptible impression on it. We observed, however, the tracks of an herd of small deer which must have passed a short time before us, and the Indians and my hunters went immediately in pursuit of them. Our way was now nearly level, without the least snow, and not a tree to be seen in any part of it. The grass is very short, and the soil a reddish clay, intermixed with small stones. The face of the hills, where they are not enlivened with verdure, appears, at a distance, as if fire had passed over them. It now began to hail, snow, and rain, nor could we find any shelter but the leeward side of an huge rock. The wind also rose into a tempest, and the weather was as distressing as any I had ever experienced. After an absence of an hour and a half, our hunters brought a small doe of the rein-deer species, which was all they had killed, though they fired twelve shots at a large herd of them. Their ill success they attributed to the weather. I proposed to leave half of the venison in the snow, but the men preferred carrying it, though their strength was very much exhausted. We had been so long shivering with cold in this situation that we were glad to renew our march. Here and there were scattered a few crow-berry bushes and stinted willows; the former of which had not yet blossomed.
Before us appeared a stupendous mountain, whose snow-clad summit was lost in the clouds; between it and our immediate course, flowed the river to which we were going. The Indians informed us that it was at no great distance. As soon as we could gather a sufficient quantity of wood, we stopped to dress some of our venison; and it is almost superfluous to add, that we made an heartier meal than we had done for many a day before. To the comfort which I have just mentioned, I added that of taking off my beard, as well as changing my linen, and my people followed the humanising example. We then set forwards, and came to a large pond, on whose bank we found a tomb, but lately made, with a pole, as usual, erected beside it, on which two figures of birds were painted, and by them the guides distinguished the tribe to which the deceased person belonged. One of them, very unceremoniously, opened the bark and shewed us the bones which it contained, while the other threw down the pole, and having possessed himself of the feathers that were tied to it, fixed them on his own head. I therefore conjectured, that these funeral memorials belonged to an individual of a tribe at enmity with them.
We continued our route with a considerable degree of expedition, and as we proceeded the mountains appeared to withdraw from us. The country between them soon opened to our view, which apparently added to their awful elevation. We continued to descend till we came to the brink of a precipice, from whence our guides discovered the river to us, and a village on its banks. This precipice, or rather succession of precipices, is covered with large timber, which consists of the pine, the spruce, the hemlock, the birch, and other trees. Our conductors informed us, that it abounded in animals, which, from their description, must be wild goats. In about two hours we arrived at the bottom, where there is a conflux of two rivers, that issue from the mountains. We crossed the one which was to the left. They are both very rapid, and continue so till they unite their currents, forming a stream of about twelve yards in breadth. Here the timber was also very large; but I could not learn from our conductors why the most considerable hemlock trees were stripped of their bark to the tops of them. I concluded, indeed, at that time that the inhabitants tanned their leather with it. Here were also the largest and loftiest elder and cedar trees that I had ever seen. We were now sensible of an entire change in the climate, and the berries were quite ripe.
The sun was about to set, when our conductors left us to follow them as well as we could. We were prevented, however, from going far astray, for we were hemmed in on both sides and behind by such a barrier as nature never before presented to my view. Our guides had the precaution to mark the road for us, by breaking the branches of trees as they passed. This small river must, at certain seasons, rise to an uncommon height and strength of current most probably on the melting of the snow; as we saw a large quantity of drift wood lying twelve feet above the immediate level of the river. This circumstance impeded our progress, and the protruding rocks frequently forced us to pass through the water. It was now dark, without the least appearance of houses, though it would be impossible to have seen them, if there had been any, at the distance of twenty yards, frog the thickness of the woods. My men were anxious to stop for the night; indeed the fatigue they had suffered justified the proposal, and I left them to their choice; but as the anxiety of my mind impelled me forwards, they continued to follow me, till I found myself at the edge of the woods; and, notwithstanding the remonstrances that were made, I proceeded, feeling rather than seeing my way, till I arrived at a house, and soon discovered several fires, in small huts, with people busily employed in cooking their fish. I walked into one of them without the least ceremony, threw down my burden, and, after shaking hands with some of the people, sat down upon it. They received me without the least appearance of surprize, but soon made signs for me to go up to the large house, which was erected, on upright posts, at some distance frog the ground. A broad piece of timber with steps cut in it, led to the scaffolding even with the floor, and by this curious. kind of ladder I entered the house at one end; and having passed three fires, at equal distances in the middle of the building, I was received by several people, sitting upon a very wide board, at the upper end of it. I shook hands with them, and seated myself beside a man, the dignity of whose countenance induced me to give him that preference. I soon discovered one of my guides seated a little above me, with a neat mat spread before him, which I supposed to be the place of honour, and appropriated to strangers.
In a short time my people arrived, and placed themselves near me, when the man, by whom I sat, immediately rose, and fetched, from behind a plank of about four feet wide, a quantity of roasted salmon. He then directed a mat to be placed before me and Mr. Mackay, who was now sitting by me. When this ceremony was performed, he brought a salmon for each of us, and half an one to each of my men. The same plank also served as a screen for the beds, whither the women and children were already retired; but whether that circumstances took place on our arrival, or was the natural consequence of the late hour of the night, I did not discover. The signs of our protector seemed to denote that we might sleep in the house, but as we did not understand him with a sufficient degree of certainty, I thought it prudent, from the fear of giving offence, to order the men to make a fire without, that we might sleep by it. When he observed our design, he placed boards for us, that we might not take our repose on the bare ground, and ordered a fire to be prepared for us. We had not been long seated round it, when we received a large dish of salmon roes, pounded fine and beat up with water, so as to have the appearance of a cream. Nor was it without some kind of seasoning that gave it a bitter taste. Another dish soon followed, the principal article of which was also salmon roes, with a large proportion of gooseberries, and an herb that appeared to be sorrel. Its acidity rendered it more agreeable to my taste than the former preparation. Having been regaled with these delicacies, for such they were considered by that hospitable spirit which provided them, we laid ourselves down to rest, with no other canopy than the sky; but I never enjoyed a more sound and refreshing rest, though I had a board for my bed, and a billet for my pillow.
Thursday, 18. — At five this morning I awoke, and found that the natives had lighted a fire for us, and were sitting by it. My hospitable friend immediately brought me some berries and roasted salmon, and his companions soon followed his example. The former, which consisted among many others, of gooseberries, hurtleberries, and raspberries, were of the finest I ever saw or tasted, of their respective kinds. They also brought the dried roes of fish to eat with the berries.
Salmon is so abundant in this river, that these people have a constant and plentiful supply of that excellent fish. To take them with more facility, they had, with great labour, formed an embankment or weir across the river, for the purpose of placing their fishing machines, which they disposed both above and below it. I expressed my wish to visit this extraordinary work, but these people are so superstitious, that they would not allow me a nearer examination than I could obtain by viewing it from the bank. The river is about fifty yards in breadth, and by observing a man fish with a dipping net, I judged it to be about ten feet deep at the foot of the fall. The weir is a work of great labour, and contrived with considerable ingenuity. It was near four feet above the level of the water, at the time I saw it, and nearly the height of the bank on which I stood to examine it. The stream is stopped nearly two-thirds by it. It is constructed by fixing small trees in the bed of the river, in a slanting position (which could be practicable only when the water is much lower than when I saw it) with the thick part downwards; over these is laid a bed of gravel, on which is placed a range of lesser trees, and so on alternately till the work is brought to its proper height. Beneath it the machines. are placed, into which the salmon fall when they attempt to leap over. On either side there is a large frame of timber-work, six feet above the level of the upper water, in which passages are left for the salmon leading directly into the machines, which are taken up at pleasure. At the foot of the fall dipping nets are also successfully employed.
The water of this river is of the colour of asses' milk, which I attributed in part to the limestone that in many places forms the bed of the river, but principally to the rivulets which fall from mountains of the same material.
These people indulge an extreme superstition respecting their fish, as it is apparently their only animal food. Flesh they never taste, and one of their dogs having picked and swallowed part of a bone which we had left, was beaten by his master till he disgorged it. One of my people also having thrown a bone of the deer into the river, a native, who had observed the circumstance, immediately dived and brought it up, and, having consigned it to the fire, instantly proceeded to wash his polluted hands.
As we were still at some distance from the sea, I made application to my friend to procure us a canoe or two, with people to conduct us thither. After he had made various excuses, I at length comprehended that his only objection was to the embarking venison in a canoe on their river, as the fish would instantly smell it and abandon them, so that he, his friends, and relations, must starve. I soon eased his apprehensions on that point, and desired to know what I must do with the venison that remained, when he told me to give it to one of the strangers whom he pointed out to me, as being of a tribe that eat flesh. I now requested him to furnish me with some fresh salmon in its raw state; but, instead of complying with my wish, he brought me a couple of them roasted, observing at the same time, that the current was very strong, and would bring us to the next village, where our wants would be abundantly supplied. In short, he requested that we would make haste to depart. This was rather unexpected after so much kindness and hospitality, but our ignorance of the language prevented us from being able to discover the cause.
At eight this morning, fifteen men armed, the friends and relations of these people, arrived by land, in consequence of notice sent them in the night, immediately after the appearance of our guides. They are more corpulent and of a better appearance than the inhabitants of the interior. Their language totally different from any I had heard; the Atnah or Chin tribe, as far as I can judge from the very little I saw of that people, bear the nearest resemblance to them. They appear to be of a quiet and peaceable character, and never make any hostile incursions into the lands of their neighbours.
Their dress consists of a single robe tied over the shoulders, falling down behind, to the heels, and before, a little below the knees, with a deep fringe round the bottom. It is generally made of the bark of the cedar tree, which they prepare as fine as hemp; though some of these garments are interwoven with strips of the sea-otter skin, which give them the appearance of a fur on one side. Others have stripes of red and yellow threads fancifully introduced toward the borders, which have a very agreeable effect. The men have no other covering than that which I have described, and they unceremoniously lay it aside when they find it convenient. In addition to this robe, the women wear a close fringe hanging down before them about two feet in length, and half as wide. When they sit down they draw this between their thighs. They wear their hair so short, that it requires little care or combing. The men have their's in plaits, and being smeared with oil and red earth, instead of a comb they have a small stick hanging by a string from one of the locks, which they employ to alleviate any itching or irritation in the head. The colour of the eye is grey with a tinge of red. They have all high cheek-bones, but the women are more remarkable for that feature than the gen. Their houses, arms, and utensils I shall describe hereafter.
I presented my friend with several articles, and also distributed some among others of the natives who had been attentive to us. One of my guides had been very serviceable in procuring canoes for us to proceed on our expedition; he appeared also to be very desirous of giving these people a favourable impression of us; and I was very much concerned that he should leave me as he did, without giving me the least notice of his departure, or receiving the presents which I had prepared for him, and he so well deserved. At noon I had an observation which gave 52. 28. 11. North latitude.