The Drama of Our Great Forests
The Authentic, Dramatic, Pulsating Story of Canada’s Northern Wilds
By ARTHUR HEMING
Author of “Spirit Lake,” etc.
Have you seen God in His splendors, heard the text that nature renders?
( You’ll never hear it in the family pew.)
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things—
Then listen to the wild—it’s calling you. *
IT WAS in childhood that the primitive spirit first came whispering to me. It was then that I had my first day-dreams of the Northland—of its forests, its rivers and lakes, its hunters and trappers and traders, its fur-runners and mounted police, its voyageurs and packeteers, its missionaries and Indians and prospectors, its animals, its birds and its fishes, its trees and its flowers, and its seasons.
Even in childhood I was forever wondering. . . . what is daily going on in the Great Northern
Forest?.....not just this week, this month, or
this season, but what is actually occurring day by day, throughout the cycle of an entire year? That thought fascinated me, and when I grew into boyhood I began delving into books of northern travel, but I did not find the answer there. With the years this ever-present wonder grew, until it so possessed me that at last it spirited me away from the city, while I was still in my teens, and led me along a path of ever-changing and ever-increasing pleasure, showing me the world, not as men had mauled and marred it, but as the Master of Life had made it, in all its original beauty and splendor.
Nor was this all. It led me to observe and ponder over the daily pages of the most profound, and yet the most fascinating book man has ever tried to read; and though it seemed to me my feeble attempts to decipher its text were always futile, it has, nevertheless, not only taught me to love Nature with an everincreasing passion, but it has inspired in me an infinite homage toward the Almighty.
A Score of Pilgrimages to the Wilds
SO, TO make my life-dream come true, to contemplate in all its thrilling action and undying splendor the drama of the great forest, I travelled twenty-three times through various parts of the vast northern woods, from Maine to Alaska, and covered thousands upon thousands of miles by canoe, packtrain, snowshoes, bateau, dog-train, buck-board, timber-raft, prairie-schooner, lumber-wagon and “alligator.” No one trip ever satisfied me, or afforded me the knowledge or the experience I sought, for traversing a single section of the forest was not unlike making one’s way along a single street of a metropolis and then trying to persuade oneself that one knew all about the city s life. So back again I went at all seasons of the year to encamp in that great timber-land that sweeps from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Thus it has taken me thirty-three years to gather the information this volume contains, and my only hope in writing it is that perhaps others may have had the same day-dreams, and that in this book they may find a reliable and satisfactory answer to all their wonderings. But making my dream come true—what sheer delight it gave me! what sport and travel it afforded me! what toil and sweat it caused me! what food and rest it brought me! what charming places it -led me through! what interesting people it ranged beside me! what romance it unfolded liefere me! And into what thrilling adventures it plunged
But before we paddle down the winding wilderness aisle toward the great stage upon which Diana and all her attendant huntsmen and forest creatures may appear,
allow me to explain, that in compliance with the wishes of some of principal actors— who actually lived this story — fictitious names have been given to the principal characters and to the two principal trading posts herein depicted; the rest of the play, however, is merely thelifeasllearneditfrom personal experience, or as'it was rehearsed to ■ by the forest dwellers. And in order to retain all the «resting local color, the picturesque costumes, and Î thril lintr roman ce of the fur-trade days as I witnessed
them in my twenties—though much of the life has already passed away—the scene is set to represent the year 189—.
It was September 9th, 189—. From sunrise to sunset, through mist, sunshine, shower, and shadow we travelled, and the nearer we drew to our destination, the wilder the country became, the more water-fowl we saw, and the more the river banks were marked with tra ces of big game.
“Be My Guest for Two Weeks”
MY TRAVELLING companion was a “Free Trader,” whose name was Spear, a tall, stoop-shouldered man with heavy eye-brows and shaggy, drooping moustache. The way we met was amusing. It happened in a certain frontier town.
His first question was as to whether I was single. His second, as to whether my time was my own. Then he slowly looked me over from head to foot. He seemed to be measuring my stature and strength, and to be noting the color of my eyes and hair. Narrowing hia vision, he scrutinized me more carefully than before, for now he seemed to be reading my character—if not my soul. Then, smiling, he blurted out:
“Come, be my guest for a couple of weeks. Will you?”
He frowned. But on realizing that my mirth was caused only by surprise, he smiled again and let flow a vivid description of a place he called Spearhead.
It was the home of the northern fur trade. It was the centre of a great timber region. It was the heart of a vast fertile belt that was rapidly becoming the greatest of all farming districts. It was built on the fountain head of gigantic water power.
It virtually stood over the very vault that contained the richest veins of mineral to be found in the whole Dominion—at least that’s what he said— and he also assured me that the government had realized it too, for was it not going to hew a provincial highway clean through the forest to Spearhead? Was it not going to build a fleet of steamers to ply upon the lakes and rivers in that section? And was it not going to build a line of railroad to the town itself in order to connect it with the new transcontinental and thus put it in communication with the great commercial centres of the east and west?
In fact, he also impressed upon me that Spearhead was a town born for young men who were not adverse to becoming wealthy in whatever line of business they might choose. It seemed that great riches were already there and had but to be lifted. Would I go? ,
But when I explained that although I was single, and quite free, I was not a business man, he became crestfallen, but presently revived enough to exclaim:
“Well, what the dickens are you?"
“An artist," I replied.
“O, I see! Well. . . we need an artist very badly. You’ll have the field all to yourself in Spearhead. Besides, your pictures of the fur trade and of pioneer life would eventually become historical and bring you no end of wealth. You better come. Better decide right away, or some other artist chap will get ahead of you.”
But when I further explained that I was going to spend the winter in the wilderness, that I had already written to the Hudson’s Bay Factor at Fort Consolation and that he was expecting me, Spear gloated.
boy!” and, slapping me on the shoulder, he-
chuckled: “Why, my town is just across the lake from Fort Consolation. A mere five-mile paddle, old chap, and remember, I extend to you the freedom of Spearhead in the name of its future mayor. And, man-alive, I’m leaving for there to-morrow morning in a big four-fathom birch-bark, with four Indian canoemen. Be my guest. It won’t cost you a
farthing, and we’ll make the trip together.’’
The Mighty Town is Only a Shack
I GLADLY accepted. The next morning we started.
Free Trader Spear was a character, and I afterwards learned that he was an Oxford University man, who, having been “ploughed,” left for Canada, entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and had finally been moved to Fort Consolation where he served seven years, learned the fur trade business and resigned to become a “free trader” as all fur traders are (felled who carry on business in opposition to “The Great Company.” We were eight days upon the trip, but, strange to say, during each day’s travel toward Spearhead, his conversation in reference to that thriving town made it' appear to grow smaller and smaller, until at last it actually dwindled down to such a point, that, about sunset on the day wé were to arrive, he turned to me and casually remarked:
“Presently you’ll see Fort Consolation and the Indian village beyond. Spearhead is just across the lake, and bythe-by, my boy, I forgot to tell you that Spearhead is
just my log shack. But it’s a nice little place, and you’ll like it when you pay us a visit, for I want you to meet my wife.”
Then our canoe passed a jutting point of land and in a moment the scene was changed—we were no longer on a river, but were now upon a lake and the wilderness seemed suddenly left behind.
On the outer end of a distant point a cluster of poplars shaded
a small clapboarded log house. There, in charge of Fort Consolation, lived the Factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Beyond a little lawn enclosed by a picket fence stood the large storehouse. The lower floor of this was used as a trading-room; the upper story served for a fur loft. Behind were seen a number of shanties, then another large building in which dog-sleds and great birchbark canoes were stored. Farther away was a long open shed, under which those big canoes were built; then a few small huts where the half-breeds lived. With the exception of the Factor’s house, all the buildings were of roughhewn logs plastered with clay. Around the sweeping bend of the bay was a village of tepees in which the Indian fur hunters and their families spend their midsummer. Crowning a knoll in the rear stood a quaint little church with a small tin spire glistening in the sun, and capped by a cross that spread its tiny arms to heaven. On the hill in the background the time-worn pines swayed their shaggy heads and softly whispered to that, the first gentle touch of civilization in the wilderness.
A Joke on the Old Scotchman
pRESENTLY at irregular intervals guns were discharged along the shore, beginning at the point nearest the canoes and running round the curve of the bay to the Indian, camp, where a brisk fusillade took place. A moment later the Hud-
son’s Bay Company’s flag fluttered over Fort Consolation. Plainly, the arrival of our canoe was causing excitement at the Post. Trader Spear laughed aloud :
“That’s one on old Mackenzie. He’s taking my canoe for that of the Hudson’s Bay Inspector. He’s generally due about this time.”
From all directions men, women and children were swarming toward the landing, and when our canoe arrived there must have been fully four hundred Indians present. The first to greet us was Factor Mackenzie, a gruff, bearded Scotchman with a clean-shaven upper lip, gray hair, and piercing gray eyes.
When we entered the Factor’s house we found
it to be a typness home of the Hudson’s pany; and, far unlike the fur traders’ shown upon movie screen, zine illustrapossible to saw upon the
ical wilderan officer of Bay Comtherefore, as interiors of houses as the stage, or in magation, as it is imagine. We
mounted heads nor skins of wild animals; nor were fur robes spread upon the floors, as one would expect to find after reading the average story of Hudson’s Bay life. On the contrary,’ the well-scrubbed floors were perfectly bare, and the walls were papered from top to bottom with countless illustrations cut from the London Graphic, and the Illustrated London News. The pictures not only took the place of wall paper, making the house more nearly windproof, but also afforded endless amusement to those who had to spend therein the long winter months. The house was furnished sparingly with simple, homemade furniture that had more the appearance of utility than of beauty.
At supper-time we sat down with Mrs. Mackenzie, the Factor’s wife, who took the head of the table. After the meal we gathered in the living-room before an open fire, over the mantel-piece of which there were no guns, no powder horns, nor even a pair of snowshoes; for a fur-
trader would no more think of hanging his snowshoes there than a city dweller would think of hanging his overshoes over his drawing-room mantel.
After the two traders had finished “talking musquash”— fur trade business—they began reminiscing on the more picturesque side of their work, and as I had come to spend the winter with the fur hunters on their hunting grounds, the subject naturally turned to that well-worn topic, the famous Nimrods of the North. Trader Spear, withdrawing his pipe from his mouth, remarked :
“I have heard of an Indian, an Ojibway, named Narphim, who lived somewhere out in the Peace River country, and I’ve heard it stated that he killed, in his lifetime, over eighty thousand living things. Some bag for one hunter.” Since Trader Spear made that interesting remark I have had the pleasure of meeting a Factor of thé'Hudson’s Bay Company who knew Narphim from boyhood, and who was a personal friend of his, and who was actually in
charge of a number ofjposts at which the Indian traded. Owing to their friendship for one another, the Factor took such a personal pride in the fame the hunter won, that he compiled, from the books of the Hudson’s Bay Company, a complete record of all the fur-bearing animals the Indian killed, between the time he began to trade as a hunter at
the age of eleven, until his hunting days were ended. Furthermore, in discussing the subject with Narphim, they together compiled an approximate list of the number of fish, wild fowl, and rabbits that the hunter must have secured each season. The Factor gave me Narphim’s history as follows:
“Narphim’s proper name remains unknown as he was one of two children saved when a band of Ojibways, or Chipewyans, were drowned in crossing a large lake that lies S.E. of Cat Lake and Island Lake, and S.E. of Norway House. He was called Narphim—the Boy Saved from the Waters. The other child that was rescued was a girl and she was called Neseemis—Our Little Sister. At first Narphim was adopted and lived with a Swampy Cree chief, the celebrated Keteche-ka-paness, who was a great medicine man. When Narphim grew to be eleven years old he became a hunter, and first traded his catch at Island Lake, then as the years went by, at Oxford House, then at Norway House, then at Fort Chipewyan and then at Fort McMurray. After that he went to Lesser Slave Lake, then on to the Peace River at Dunvegan, then he showed up at Fort St. John, next at
Battle River, and finally at Vermilion.
“The following is a list of the number of creatures Narphim killed, but of course, he also killed a good deal of game that was never recorded in the Company’s books, especially those animals whose skins were used for the clothing of the hunter’s family.
Here is the list. Bears 585, beaver 1,080, ermines 130, fishers 195, red foxes 362, cross foxes 78, silver and black foxes 6, lynxes 418, martens 1,078, minks 384, muskrats 900, porcupines 19, otters 194, wolves 112, wolverines 24, wood buffaloes 99, moose 396, caribou 196, jumping deer 72, wapiti 156, mountain sheep 60, mountain goats 29; and rabbits, approximately 8,000, wild fowl, approximately 23,800, and fish approximately 36,000. Total 74,573.
“Yes, Narphim was a great hunter and a good man, says the Factor in his last letter to me. “He was a fine, active, well-built Indian and a reliable and pleasant companion. In fact, he was one of nature’s gentlemen, whom we shall be, and well may be, proud to meet in the Great Beyond, known as the Happy Hunting Grounds.”
I First Hear of Oo-Koo-Hoo
THUS the evening drifted by. While the names of several of the best hunters had been mentioned as suitable men for me to accompany on their hunting trail, it was suggested that as the men themselves would probably visit the post in the morning, I should have a chat with them before making my selection. Both Mackenzie and Spear, however, seemed much in favor of my going with an Indian called Oo-koo-hoo. Presently the clock struck ten and we turned in, the Free Trader sharing a big feather bed with me.
After breakfast, next morning, I strolled about the picturesque point. When I turned down toward the wharf, I found a score of Indians and half-breed trippers were unloading freight from a couple of sixfathom birch-bark canoes.
Canoes range in length all the way from twelve feet to thirty-six feet. The smaller size, being more easily portaged, is used by hunters, and is known as a two-fathom canoe. For family use canoes are usually from two-and-a-half to threeand-a-half fathoms long. Canoes of the largest size, thirty-six feet, are called six-fathom or “North” canoes. With a crew of from eight to twelve, they have a carrying capacity of
1. A small, bushy-topped sapling, planted upright in the river near a landing place on the shore, means: “Come ashore, follow
me; I am trailing game and want help to carry back the meat. Build a camp, but be cautious about lighting a fire.’’
2. Blazing a tree thus means : “Follow my trail and give me help.”
3. If the hunter wants assistance, and to abandon all caution, he will cut a long blaze and tear it off.
4. By cutting a long blaze on one tree and a short one on another the hunter informs his companions that he has left the
trail between these two trees, and he wants them to follow his trail and not the trail of the game.
5. In case the trail crosses a muskeg where there are no trees, the hunter will place moss upon the bushes to answer instead of blazes.
6. A pole standing in the water with grass wedged into its upper split end indicates that the hunter has gone ashore, and the slant of the pole points the direction.
7. A willow branch twisted in the form of a loop and hung upon a smaller pole signifies that the hunter, or leader, is not sure where he will land, but it may be at any point of the shore of the surrounding lake.
8. Some article of the hunter’s clothing, left near a number of sticks standing in the form of the poles of a lodge, says: “Camp here, on my trail.”
9. If a tree is blazed and on the blaze is the sketch of a certain animal, the Indians following know the hunter wants help to carry’ back to camp whatever animal the sketch indicates.
• 10. The second man, or follower, never blazes trees as he trails the first hunter, but breaks off twigs or binds branches in the direction he is going, so that a third man may distinguish between the trails.
three tons, and are used by the traders for transporting furs and supplies.
Some Indians engage in “voyaging” or “tripping” for the traders—taking out fur packs to the steamboats or railroads, by six-fathom canoe, york boat, or sturgeon-head •scow brigades, and bringing in supplies. Others put in part of their time on an occasional hunt for moose or caribou, or in shooting wild-fowl. On their return they potter around camp making paddles or snowshoe-frames; or they give themselves up to gambling—a vice to which they are rather prone.
Sometimes twenty men or more, divided into equal •sides, will squat in the form of an oval, with their hair drawn over their faces that their expression may not easily be read, and with their knées covered with blankets. Leaders are «hosen on either side, and each team is supplied with twelve small sticks. The game begins by one of the 'leaders placing his closed hands upon his blanket, and calling upon the other to match him. If the latter is holding his stick in the wrong hand, he loses; and so the game goes on. Two sets of drummers are playing continuously and all the while there is much chanting. In this simple wise they gamble away their belongings even to their clothing, and sometimes, their wives. When the wives are at stake however, they have 'the privilege of taking a hand in the game.
The women, in addition to their regular routine of summer camp duties, occupy themselves with fishing, moccasin making and berry picking.
How Indians Get Their Dyes
THE girl's first lesson in sewing is always upon the coarsest work, such as joining skins together for lodge coverings. The threads used aTe made from the sinews of the deer •or the wolf. These •sinews are first hung outside to dry a little, and are then split into the finest threads. The thread-maker passes each strand through her mouth to moisten it, then places it upon her bare thigh, and with a quick movement rolls it with the flat of her hand to twist it. Passing it again through her mouth, she ties a knot at one end, points the other, and sets it away to dry. The result is a thread like the finest hair-
For coloring moose hair or por■cupine quills for fancy work, the'women obtain their dyes in the following way: From the juice of boiled cranberries they derive a magenta dye.
From alder bark, boiled, beaten, and strained, they get a dark, slate-colored blue which is mixed with rabbit’s gall to make it adhere. The juice of bearberries gives them a bright red. From gunpowder and water they obtain a fine blaek, and from
ccal-tar a stain for work of the coarsest kind. They rely chiefly, however, upon the red, blue, green, and yellow ochres found in many parts of the country. These, when applied to the decoration of canoes, they mix with fishoil; but for general purposes the earths are baked and used in the form of powder.
From scenes such as I have described the summer traveller obtains his impression of the forest Indians. Too often their life and character are judged by such scenes, as if these truly represented their whole existence. In reality this is but their holiday season which they are spending upon their tribal summer camping-ground. It is only upon their hunting-grounds that one may fairly study the Indians; so presently, we shall follow them there.
The hunting-grounds in possession of the Indian tribes that live in the Great Northern Forest have been for centuries divided and subdivided and allotted, either by bargain or by battle, to the main families of each band. In many cases the same hunting-grounds have remained in the undisputed possession of the same families for generations. Family hunting-grounds are usually delimited by natural boundaries, such as hills, valleys, rivers
and lakes. The allotments of land generally take the form of wedge-shaped tracts radiating from common centres. From the intersection of these converging boundary lines the common centres become the hubs of the various districts. These district centres mark convenient summer camping-grounds for the reunion of families after their arduous labor during the long winter hunting season. The tribal summer camping-grounds, therefore, are not only situated on the natural highways of the country— the principal rivers and lakes—but also indicate excellent fishing stations. There, too, the Indians have their burial-grounds.
When an Indian Sits “On the Brush”
OFTEN these camping-grounds are the summer headquarters for from three to eight main families; and each main family may contain from five or six to fifty or sixty hunting men. Intermarriage between families of two districts gives the man the right to hunt on the land of his wife’s family as long as he “sits on the brush” with her —is wedded to her—but the children do not inherit that right; it dies with the father. An Indian usually lives
upon his own land, but makes frequent excursions to the land of his wife's family.
The natural overland highways throughout the country, especially those intersecting the water-courses and now used as the roadbeds for our great transcontinental railways, were not originally discovered by man at all. The credit is due to the big game of the wilderness; for the animals were not only the first to find them, but also the first to use them. The Indian simply followed the animal and the trader followed the Indian, and the official “explorer” followed the trader, and the engineer followed the “explorer,” and the railroad contractor followed the engineer. It was the buffalo, the deer, the bear, and the wolf who were our original transcontinental pathfinders, or rather path-makers.
The several zones of the Canadian wilderness are locally known as the Coast Country— the shores of the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay; the Barren Grounds— the treeless country between Hudson Bay and the Mackenzie River; the Strong-Woods Country — the whole of that enormous belt of heavy timber that spans Canada from east to west; the Border Lands — t h e tracts of small, scattered timber that lie between the prairies and the northern forests ; the Prairie Country; the Mountains; and the Big Lakes. These names have been adopted by the fur traders from the Indians. It is in the Strong-Woods Country that most of the fur-bearing animals five.
About ten o’clock on the morning after our arrivai at Fort Consolation Free Trader Spear left foi home with my promise to paddle over and dine at Spearhead next day.
At noon Factor Mackenzie informed me that he had received word that Oo-
was coming to the Fort that afternoon and that, taking everything into consideration, he thought Oo-koo-hoo’s hunting party the best for me to join. It consisted, he said, of Ookoo-hoo and his wife, his daughter and his son-in-law, Amik—The Beaver—and Amilx’s five children. The Factor further added that: Ookoo-hoo was not only one of the greatest hunters, and one of the best canoe-men in that district, but in his youth he had been a great traveller, as he had hunted with other Indian tribes, on Hudson Bay, on the Churchill, the Peace, the Athabasca, and the Slave Rivers, and even on the far-away Mackenzie; and was a master at the
The Owl Comes For His Advances
HIS son-in-law, Amik, was his hunting partner. Though Amik would not be home until to-morrow, Oo-koohoo and his wife, their daughter and her children were coming that afternoon to get their “advances,” as the party contemplated leaving for their hunting grounds on the second day. That I might look them over while they were getting their supplies in the Indian shop, and if I took a fancy to the old gentleman—who bythe-way was about sixty years of age—the trader would give me an introduction, and I could then make my arrangements with the hunter himself. So after dinner, when word came that they had landed, I left the living room for the Indian shop.
When I entered the trading-room, I saw that it was furnished with a U-shaped counter paralleling three sides of the room, and with a large box-stove in the middle of the intervening space. On the shelves and racks upon the walls and from hooks in the rafters rested or hung a conglomeration of goods to be offered in trade to the natives. There were copper pails and calico dresses, pain-killer bottles and Hudson’s Bay blankets, sow-belly and chocolate drops, castor oil and gun worms, frying-pans and ladies’ wire bustles, guns qnd corsets, axes and ribbons, shirts and hunting-knives, perfumes and bear traps. In a way, the Indian shop resembled a department store except that all the departments were jumbled together in a single room. At one post I visited years ago—that of Abitibi— they had a rather progressive addition in the way of a millinery department. It was contained in a large lidless packing case, against the side of which stood a long steering paddle for the clerk’s use in stirring about the varied assortment of white women’s ancient headgear should a fastidious Indian woman request to see more than the uppermost layer.
Already a number of Indians were being served by the Factor and Delaronde, the clerk, and I had not long to wait before Oo-koo-hoo appeared. I surmised at once who he was, for one could see by the merest glance at his remarkably pleasant, yet thoroughly clever face, that he was all his name implied, a wise, dignified old gentleman, who was in the habit of observing much more than he gave tongue to—a rare quality in men—especially white men. Even before I heard him speak I liked Oo-koo-hoo— The Owl.
As the Factor was busy with another Indian when the Chief entered—for Oo-koo-hoo was the chief of the Ojibways of that district—he waited patiently, as he would not deign to do business with a clerk. Then, when he saw the trader free, he greeted:
“Quay, quay, Hugemow!” (Good day, Master.)
“Gude day, man Oo-koo-hoo, what can I do for ye the day?” amicably responded the Factor.
“Master, it is this way. I am about to leave for my hunting-grounds; but, this time, I am going to spend the winter upon a new part of them, where I have not hunted for years, and where game of all kinds will be plentiful. Therefore, I want you to give me liberal advances so that my hunt will not be hindered.”
“Fegs, Oo-koo-hoo, ma freen’, yon’s an auld, auld farrant. But ye’re weel kenn’d for a leal, honest man; an’ sae, I’se no be unco haird upon ye.”
So saying, the Factor gave him a present of a couple of pounds of flour, half-apound of pork, half-apound of sugar, a quarter of a pound of tea, a plug of tobacco, and some matches. The Factor’s generosity was prompted largely by his desire to keep the Indian in good humor. After a little friendly chaffing, the Factor promised to give the hunter advances to the extent of one hundred “skins.”
’yjO CANADIAN has fell the call of the 1 ’ Dominion's great northern wilds, of the primeval forests that stretch from our eastern ocean to the western, with more force than Arthur Heming, artist and author. And no one has answered this call more frequently and more cheerfully. Twentythree times has Mr. Heming travelled across the Great Northland, from Maine to Alaska, by pack-train, canoe, snowshoes, bateau, dog-train, buckboard, timber-raft, prairieschooner, lumber-wagon and “alligator."
Mr. Heming is a charter member of the Society of Illustrators, that small but select organization which includes such namens as Abbey and Pyle, Gibson, Pennell 'and Brangwyn. Arthur Stringer writes that “Heming will be and must be some day looked on as the faithful and authoritative exponent of that wild life which is slowly but surely passing away."
The narrative, commencing in this issue, of which you have just read three pages of wonderful wood-lore and adventure, is Mr. Heming’s chef d’oeuvre—the product of a third of a century's toiling and moiling, perspiration and pain, romance and delight, achievements and dreams. He knows the world, not as men have “mauled and marred it,” but as the Creator made it. Through his eyes you, readers of MacLean’s, may also seel
Oo-koo-hoo “Works” Crafty Old Mackenzie
A “SKIN,” or—as it is often called—a “made beaver,” isequiv-. alent to one dollar in the Hudson Bay and the Mackenzie River districts, but represents only fifty cents in the region of Athabasca.
Perhaps it should be explained here that while Oo-koo-hoo could speak broken English, he always preferred to use his own language when addressing the trader, whom he knew to be quite conversant with Ojibway, and so, throughout this book, I have chosen to render the Indian’s speech as though it was translated from Ojibway into English, rather than at any time render it in broken English, as the former is not only easier to read, but is more expressive of the natural quality of the Indian’s speech. In olden days some of the chiefs who could not speak English at all, were, it is claimed, eloquent orators—far outclassing our greatest statesmen.
Oo-koo-hoo, having ascertained the amount of his credit, reckoned that he would use about fifty skins in buying traps and ammunition; the rest he would devote to the purchase of necessaries for himself and his party, as his son-inlaw had arranged with him to look after his family’s wants in his absence. So the old gentleman now asked for the promised skins. He was handed one hundred marked goosequills representing that number of skins. After checking them over in bunches of ten, he entrusted twenty to his eldest grandson, Ne-geek—The Otter—to be held in reserve for ammunition and tobacco, and ten to his eldest granddaughter, Neykia, with which to purchase an outfit for the rest of the party.
For a long time Oo-koo-hoo stood immersed in thought. At last his face brightened.
He had reached a decision.
For years he had coveted a new muzzle-loading gun, and he felt that the time had now arrived to get it. So he picked out one valued at forty skins and paid for it. Then, taking back the quills his grandson held, he bought twenty skins worth of powder, caps, shot, and bullets.
Then he selected for himself a couple of pairs of trousers, one pair made of moleskin and the other of tweed, costing ten skins; two shirts and a suit of underwear, ten skins; half-a-dozen assorted traps, ten skins. Finding that he had used up all his quills, he drew on those set aside for his wife and son-inlaw’s family and bought tobacco, five skins; files, one skin; an axe, two skins; a knife, one skin; matches, one half skin; and candy for his youngest grandchild, one-half skin.
On looking over his acquisitions he discovered that he must have at least ten skins worth of twine for nets and snares, five skins worth of tea, one skin worth of soap, one skin worth of needles and thread, as well as a tin pail and a new frying-pan. After a good deal of haggling, the Factor threw him that number of
quills, and Oo-koo-hoo’s manifest contentment somewhat relieved the trader’s anxiety.
“Mrs.” Oo-koo-hoo Must Be Placated
\ MOMENT later, however, Oo-koo-hoo was reminded ¿ * by his wife, Ojistoh, that there was nothing for her, so she determined to interview the Factor herself. She tried to persuade him to give her twenty skins in trade, and promised to pay for them in the spring with rat-and ermine skins, or—should those fail her—with her dog, which was worth fully thirty skins. She had been counting on getting some cotton print for a dre33, as well as thread and needles, to say nothing of extra tea, which in all would amount to at least thirty-five or forty skins. When, however, the Factor allowed her only ten skins, her disappointment was keen, and she ended by getting a shawl. Then she left the trading-room to pay a visit to the Factor’s wife, and confide to her the story of her expectations and of her disappointment so movingly tha£ she would get a cup of tea, a word of sympathy, and perhap3 even an old petticoat.
In the meantime Oo-koo-hoo was catching it again. He had forgotten his daughter; so after more haggling the trader agreed to advance her ten skins. Her mind had long been made up. She bought a three-point blanket, a small head shawl, and a piece of cotton print. Then the grandsons crowded round and grumbled because there was nothing for them.
By this time the trader was beginning to feel that he had done pretty well for the family already; but he kept up the appearance of bluff good humor, and asked:
“Well, Oo-koo-hoo, what wad ye be wantin’ for the laddies?”
“My grandsons are no bunglers, as you know,” said the proud old grandsire. “They can each kill at least twenty skins’ worth of fur.”
“Aye, aye!” rejoined the trader. “I shall e’en gie them twenty atween them.”
In the goodness of his heart he offered the boys some advice as to what they should buy: “Ye’ll be wantin’ to buy traps, I’m jalousin’, an’ sure ye’ll turn oot to be graun’ hunters, Nimrods o’ the North that men’ll mak’ sangs aboot i’ the cornin’ years.” He cautioned them to choose wisely, because from henceforth they would be personally responsible for everything they bought, and must pay, “skin for skin” (the motto of the Hudson’s Bay Company.)
Carries Shot, Tea and Sugar in Trouser Legs
THE boys listened with gloomy civility, and then purchased an assortment of useless trifles such as ribbons, tobacco, buttons, candy, rings, pomatum, perfume and Jew’s harps.
The Factor’s patience was now nearly exhausted. He picked up his account book, and strode to the door, and held it open as a hint to the Indians to leave. But they pretended to take no notice of his action.
The granddaughters, who had been growing more and more anxious lest they should be forgotten, now began to be voluble in complaint. Oo-koo-hoo called the trader aside and explained the trouble. The Factor realized that he was in a corner, and that if he now refused further supplies he would offend the old chief, and drive him to sell his best furs to the opposition trader in revenge. He surrendered, and the girls received ten skins between them. At last every one was pleased except the unhappy Factor. Gathering his purchases together, Oo-koo-hoo tied up the powder, shot, tea, and sugar in the legs of the trousers; placed the purchases for his wife, daughter and granddaughters in the shawl, and the rest of the goods in the blanket.
Then he made the discovery that he had neither flour nor grease. He could not start without them. The Factor’s blood was now almost at the boiling pitch, but he dared not betray his feelings; for the Indian was ready to take offence at the slightest word, so rich and independent did he feel. Angering him now would simply mean adding to the harvest of the opposition trader. He chewed his lower lip in the effort to smother-his disgust, and growled out with an angry grin:
“Hoots, mon, ye hae gotIt’s fair redeeklus. I jist canna
ten ower muckle already, gie ye onythin’ mair ava!”
“Ah, but master, you have forgotten that I am a great hunter. And that my son-in-law is a great hunter, too.
This is but the outfit for a lazy man! Besides, the great
Continued on page 71
The Drama of Our Great Forests
Continued from page 16
Company is rich, and I am poor. If you will be stingy, I shall not trouble you
Once again the Factor gave way, and handed out the flour and grease. All filed out, and the Factor turned the key in the door. As he walked towards the house, his spirits began to rise, and he clapped the old Indian on ttfe back goodnaturedly.
While the Indians lounged around the kitchen and talked to the Factor’s wife and the half-breed servant girl, the Factor went to his office and made out Oo-koohoo’s bill.
The Indian now told the trader that he wanted him to send the “Fur Runners” to him with supplies in ten weeks’ time; and that he must have a “geese-wark,” or measure of days, in order to know exactly when the Fur Runners would arrive at his camp. So the Factor made out the calendar shown on another page.
Presently the Factor and I were alone for a few moments and he growled:
“Fat d’ye think o’ the auld de’il?” “Fine, I’ll go with him, if he will take
“You Shall Have All My Fur"
SO I had a talk with the old Indian, and when he learned that I had no intention of killing game, hut merely wanted to accompany him and his son-in-law on their hunts, he consented and we came to terms. I was to be ready to start early on the morning of the 20th. Then Oo-koohoo turned to the trader and said:
“Master, it is getting late and it will be later when I reach my lodge. I am hungry now, and I shall be hungrier still when I get home. I am growing. ...”
“Aye, aye, ma birkie,” interrupted the Factor. “I un’erstaun’ fine.” He bestowed upon the confident petitioner a | further gratuity of flour, tea, sugar, and i tallow; a clay pipe; a plug of tobacco and some matches, so as to save him fromhav-
ing to break `in upon his winter supplies bef ore he started upon his journey to the hunting - grounds. Oo-koo-hoo solemnly expressed his gratitude:
“Master, my heart is pleased. You are my father. I 'shall now hunt well, and you shall have all my fur.”
To show his appreciation of the compliment, the Factor gave him an old shirt, and wished him good luck.
Next morning I busied myself making a few additions to my outfit for the winter. Then I borrowed a two-and-a-balf fathom canoe and paddled across the lake to Spearhead. The town I had heard so much about from the Free Trader was just a little clearing of about three acres on the edge of the forest; in fact, it was really just a stump lot with a small, one-and-ahalf story log-house standing in the middle. Where there was a rise in the field, a small log stable was set half underground; and upon its roof was stacked the winter’s supply of hay for a team of horses, a cow and a heifer.
At the front door Mr. and Mrs. Spear welcomed me. My hostess was a prepossessing Canadian woman of fair education, in fact, she had been a stenographer. On entering the house I found the tradingroom on the right of a tiny hall, on the left was the living-room, which was also used to eat in, and the kitchen was, of course, in the rear.
Enter Athabasca—Beauty of the North
AFTER being entertained for ten or fifteen minutes by my host and hostess, I heard light steps descending the stairs, and the next moment I beheld a charming girl. She was their only child. They called her Athabasca, after the beautiful lake of that name. She was sixtee.n years of age,t tall, slender and graceful, a brunette with large, soft eyes and long, flowing, wavy hair. She wore a simple little print dress that was becomingly short in the skirt, a pair of black stockings, and low, beaded moccasins. I admired her appearance, but regretted her shyness, for she was almost as bashful as I was. She bowed and blushed—so did I—• and while her parents talked to me she sat demurely silent on the sofa. Occasionally, I caught from her with pleasant embarrassment a shy, but fleeting glance.
Presently, dinner was announcéd by a half-breed maid, and we four took our places at the table, Athabasca opposite me. At first the talk was lively, though only three shared in it. Then, as the third seemed rather more interested in his silent partner, he would, from time to time, lose the thread of the discourse. By degrees the conversation died down into silence. A few minutes later, Mrs. Spear suddenly remarked: “Father. . . .don’t you think it would be a good thing if you took son-in-law into partnership?”
Fathej*1leaned back, scratched his head for a while and then replied:
“Yes, mother, I do, and I’ll do it.” The silent, though beautiful Athabasca without even raising her eyes from her plate blushed violently, and needless to say, I blushed too, but, of course, only out of sympathy.
“The horses are too busy just now to haul the logs, but of course the young people could have our spare room until I could build them a log-shack.”
“Father, that’s a capital idea. So there’s no occasion for any delay whatever. Then, when their house is finished, we could spare them a bed, a table, a couple of chairs, and give them a new cooking stove.”
Athabasca blushed deeper than ever and studied her plate all the harder, and I began to show interest and prick up my ears, for I wondered who on earth son-inlaw could be. I knew perfectly well there was no young white man in all that region, and that even if he lived in the nearest frontier town, it would take him, either by canoe or on snowshoes, at least two weeks to make the round trip to Spearhead, just to call on her. I couldn’t fathom it at all.
“Besides, mother, we might give them the heifer, as a starter, for she will be ready to milk in the spring. Then, too, we might give them a few ducks and geese and perhaps a pig.”
“Excellent idea, father; besides I think I could spare enough cutlery, dishes and cooking utensils to help out for a while.” “And I could lend them some blankets from the store,” the trader returned.
But Who is^“Son-in-Law?”
BUT at that moment Athabasca miscalculated the distance to her mouth and dropped a bit of potato on the floor,
and when she stooped to recover it, 1 caught a glance from the corner of her eye. It was one of those indescribable glancesi that girls give. I remember it made me perspire all over. Queer, isn’t it, the way women sometimes affect one? I would have blushed more deeply, but by that time there was no possible chance of my face becoming any redder, notwithstanding the fact that I was a red-head. Pondei as I would, I couldn’t fathom the mystery. . . . .who son-in-law could be. . . though: I had already begun to think him a lucky fellow—quite one to be envied.
Then Mrs. Spear exclaimel, as we ros« from the table:
“Good!. . . Then that’s settled. . . you’ll take him into partnership, and I’ir glad, for I like him, and I think he’l make an excellent trader.”
Our getting away from the table rathe; relieved me, as I was dripping perspira tion, and I wanted to fairly mop my face of course, when they weren’t looking.
Together they showed me over thi establishment; the spare bedroom, thi trading-shop, the stable, the heifer, thi ducks and the geese, and even the pig— though it puzzled me why they singlet out the very one they intended givini son-in-law. The silent, though beautiful Athabasca, followed a few feet behind a we went the rounds, and inspected thi wealth that was to be bestowed upon he lover. I was growing more inquisitive than ever as to who son-in-law might be Indeed, I felt like asking, but was reall; too shy, and besides, when I thought i over, I concluded it was none of my busi ness.
When the time came for me to return ti the Hudson’s Bay Post, I shook hand, with them all—-Athabasca had nice hand and a good grip too. Her parents gave mi a pressing invitation to visit them agaii for a few days at New Year’s, when every one in the country would be going to thi great winter festival that was always heli at Fort Consolation. As I paddled awa’ I mused:
“By George, son-in-law is certainly i lucky dog, for Athabasca’s a peach. . but I don’t see how in thunder her love ever gets a chance to call.”
I was up early next morning for ou departure. . . At last the canoes pushei off. Amid the waving of hands, the shout ing of farewells and the shedding of a fev tears even, the simple natives of the wil •derness paddled away over the silent lak en route for their distant hunting-ground;
Thither the reader must follow, anthère, amid the fastnesses of the Grea Northern Forest, he must spend the winte if he would see the Indian at his best.
CHAPTER II In Quest of Treasure
IT WAS an ideal day and the season am the country were in keeping. Soon th trading posts faded from view, and when after trolling around Fishing Point, w entered White River, and went ashore fo an early supper, every one was smiling I revelled over the prospect of wort freedom, contentment, and beauty befor me; and over the thought of leaving behim me the last vestige of the white man’ ugly, hypercritical and oppressive civiliza
Was it any wonder I was happy? Fo me it was but the beginning of a never to-be-forgotten journey in a land where : man can be a man without the aid c money. Yes. . . .without money. Am that reminds me of a white man I knew wh was born and bred in the Great Norther' Forest, and who supported and educated family of twelve, and yet he reached hi sixtieth birthday without once havin handled or ever having seen money. H was as generous, as refined, and as noble man as one would desire to know; ye when he visited civilization for the firs time—in his sixty-first year—he wa reviled because he had a smile for all, h was swindled because he knew no guilf he was robbed because he trusted ever> one, and he was arrested because he man1 tested brotherly love toward his fellow creatures. Our vaunted civilization! I was the regret of his declining years tha circumstances prevented him from leavin the enlightened Christians of the cities and going back to live in peace amon the honest, kindly-hearted barbarians c the forest. But of him a little more late
Soon there were salmon-trout—fried to a golden brown—crisp bannock, and tea for all; then a little readjusting of the packs, and we were again at the paddles. Oo-koo-hoo’s wife, Ojistoh, along with her second granddaughter and her two grandsons, occupied one of the three-and-a-half fathom canoes; Amik, and his wife, Naudin, with her baby and eldest daughter, occupied the other; and Oo-koo-hoo and I paddled together in the two-and-a-half fathom canoe. One of the five dogs— Oo-koo-hoo’s best hunter—travelled with us, while the other four took passage in the other canoes.
Canoe Carries Four Tons
ALTHOUGH the going was now up stream—the same river by which I had come—we made fair speed until Island Lake stretched before us, when we felt a south-west wind that threatened trouble; but by making a long détour about the bays of the south-western shore, the danger vanished. Arriving at the foot of the portage trail at Bear Rock Rapids, we carried our outfit to a cliff above, which afforded an excellent camping ground; and there arose the smoke of our evening fire. The cloudless sky giving no sign of rain, we contented ourselves with laying mattresses of balsam-brush upon which to
After supper, when twilight was deepening, and tobacco—in the smoking of which the women conscientiously joined— was freely forthcoming, the subject of conversation turned to woodcraft. I asked Oo-koo-hoo how he would signal, in case he went ashore to trail game— when the other canoes were out of sight behind him—-and he should want some one to follow him to help carry back the meat. He replied that he would cut a small, bushy-topped sapling and plant it upright in the river near his landing place on the shore. That, he said, would signify that he wished hi3 party to go ashore and camp on the first good camping-ground; while, at the same time, it would warn them not to kindle a fire until they had first examined the tracks to make sure whether the smoke would frighten the game. Then some one would follow his trail to render him assistance, providing they saw that he had blazed a tree.
If he did not want them to follow him, he would shove two sticks into the ground so that they would slant across the trail in the form of an X, but if he wanted them to follow he would blaze a tree. If he wanted them to hurry, he would blaze the same tree twice. If he wanted them to follow as fast as they could with caution, he would blaze the same tree three times, but if he desired them to abandon all caution and to follow with all speed, he would cut a long blaze and tear it off.
Mysteries of Woodcraft
'T'HEN again, if he were leaving the -*■ game trail to circle his quarry, and if he wished them to follow his tracks instead of those of the game, he would cut a long blaze on one tree and a small one on another tree, which would signify that he had left the game trail at a point between the two trees and that they were to follow his tracks instead of those of the game. But if he wished them to stop and come no further, he would drop some article of his clothing on the trail. Should, however, the game trail happen to cross a muskeg where there were no trees to blaze, he would place moss upon the bushes to answer instead of blazes, and in case the ground was hard and left an invisible trail, he would cut a stick and shoving the small end into the trail, would slant the butt in the direction he had gone.
If traversing water where there were no saplings at hand, and he wished to let his followers know where he had left the water to cross a muskeg, he would try to secure a pole, which he would leave standing in the water, with grass protruding from the split upper end, and the pole slanting to show in which direction he had gone. If, on the arrival at the fork of a river, he wished to let his followers know up which fork of a river he had paddled -say, for instance, if it were the right one he would shove a long stick into either bank of the left fork in such a way that it would point straight across the channel of the left fork, to signify, as it were, that the channel was blocked. Then, a little further up the right fork, he would plant a sapling or pole in the water, slanting in the direction he had gone—to prove to the follower that he was now on the right trail.
Oo-koo-hoo further explained, that if he were about to cross a lake and he wished to let his follower know the exact point upon which he intended to land, he would cut two poles, placing the largest nearest the woods and the smallest nearest the water, both in an upright position and in an exact line with the point to which he was going to head, so that the follower by taking sight from one pole to the other would learn the exact spot on the other shore where he should land—even though it were several miles away. But if he were not sure just where he intended to land, he would cut a willow branch and twist it into the form of a hoop and hang it upon the smaller pole—that would signify that he might land at any point of the surrounding shore of the lake.
The Hunter’s Signals
IF HE wanted to signal his family to camp at any particular point along his trail, he would leave some article of his clothing and place near it a number of sticks standing in the form of the poles of a lodge, thus suggesting to them that they should erect their tepee upon that spot. If he had wounded big game and expected soon to overtake and kill it, and if he wanted help to carry back the meat, he would blaze a tree and upon that smooth surface would make a sketch, either with knife or charcoal, of the animal he was pursuing.
If a full day had elapsed since the placing of crossed sticks over the trail, the follower would abandon all caution and follow at top speed, as he would realize that some misfortune had befallen the hunter. The second man, or foljower, however, never blazes trees as he trails the first hunter, but simply breaks off twigs or bends branches in the direction he is going, so that should it be necessary that a third man should also follow, he could readily distinguish the difference between the two trails. If a hunter wishes _ to leave a good trail over a treeless district, he, as-far as possible, chooses soft ground and treads upon his heels.
When a hunter is trailing an animal, he avoids stepping upon the animal’s trail, so that should it be necessary for him to go back and re-trail his quarry, the animal’s tracks shall not be obliterated. If, in circling about his quarry, the hunter should happen to cut his own trail, he takes great care to cut it at right angles, so that, should he have to circle several times, he may never be at a loss to know which was his original trail. If the hunter should wish to leave a danger signal behind him, he will take two saplings, one from either side of the trail, and twist them together in such a way that they shall block the passage of the follower, requiring him to pause in order to disentangle them or to pass around them; and if the hunter were to repeat such a signal two or three times it would signify that the follower should use great caution and circle down wind in order to stillhunt the hunter’s trail in exactly the same way he would still-hunt a moose. Then again, if the hunter should wish to let the follower know the exact time of day he had passed a certain spot, he would draw on the earth or snow a bow with an arrow placed at right angles to the bow, but pointing straight in the direction where the sun had been at that precise moment.
Their First Quarry
NEXT morning we arose with dawn.
After a hearty breakfast on fish— taken from the gill-net that had been set overnight below the rapids—the work of portaging round the rapids was begun and by about ten o’clock was finished. Noon overtook us near the mouth of Caribou River, up which we were to ascend on the first half of our journey to Oo-koo-hoo’s hunting-grounds. About two o’clock we entered that stream and headed westerly toward a spur of mountains that lay about a week’s travel away and through which we had to pass to gain our winter campingground. An hour later, as Oo-koo-hoo and I preceded the party, paddling up one of the channels caused by a number of large islands dividing the river into mere creeks, we chanced upon a woodland caribou bull, as it stood among the rushes in a marshy bend watching us from a distance of not more than forty yards. As I crouched down to be out of the hunter’s way, I heard him say:
“I’m sorry, my brother, but we need you for both food and clothing, so turn your eyes away before I fire.” The next moment the woods echoed the report of his
smooth-bore muzzle-loader—the kind of gun used by about ninety per cent, of the fur hunters of the forest. Why? Because of the simplicity of its ammunition. Such a gun never requires a variety of cumbersome shells for different kinds of game, but with varying charges of powder and shot or ball is ready for anything from a rat or duck to a bear or moose.
Before bleeding the deer, Oo-koo-hoo did a curious thing: with his sharp knife he destroyed the deer’s eyes. When I questioned him as to his purpose he replied: “As long as the eyes remain perfect, the spirit remains within the head, and I could not bear to skin the deer with its spirit looking at me.” Though Oo-koohoo was in many ways a wise old man he held some beliefs that were past my understanding, and others, that when I tried to analyze them, seemed to be founded on the working of a sensitive conscience.
Grandma’s Blood Pudding
HEARING the report of the gun, the others hurried to the scene. While the deer was being bled the old grandmother caught the blood in a pail—into which she threw a pinch of salt to dot the blood—as she wished to use it for the making of a blood pudding. Then the carcass was loaded aboard Oo-koo-hoo’s canoe, rather, indeed, overloading it. Accordingly I accepted Amik’s invitation to board his craft, and at the first good place we all went ashore to clear the ground for the night’s camp. There was a porcupine there, and though it moved but slowly away, my friends did not kill it, for they had plenty to eat, and did not want to be bothered with taking care ofthose dangerous little quills that the women dye and use to such good advantage in their fancy work. As to the Indian method of dressing meat and skins ■—more anon, when we are finally settled upon the fur trail.
That evening, while flames were leaping after ascending sparks, and shadows were dancing behind us among the trees, we lounged about the fire on packs and blankets and discussed the events of the day. When I asked Oo-koo-hoo why he had addressed the deer in such a manner, he replied that it was the proper and regular way to speak to an animal, because every creature in the forest, whether beast, bird or fish, contained the spirit of some former human being. He further explained that whenever the men of the olden time killed an unusually large animal with an extra fine coat, they did not save the skin to sell to the trader, but burnt the carcass, pelt and all, and in that way they returned the body to the spirit again. Thus they not only paid homage to the spirit, but proved themselves unselfish men.
He went on to say that from the time of the Great, Great Long Ago, the Indian had always believed—as they did to-day— that every bull moose contained the spirit of a famous Indian chief, that every caribou bull contained the spirit of a lesser chief, and so on down through the whole of the animal creation. Bears, however, or rather the spirits animating them, possessed the greatest power to render good or evil, and for that reason the hunter usually took the greatest care to address Bruin properly before he slew him.
The Red Man’s Honesty
THE honesty of the primitive Indian is beyond all doubt, in the opinion of those who know. If it were necessary to establish the honesty of the forest Indian, I could adduce many proofs from my own experience, but one will suffice:
Years ago, during my first visit to the Hudson’s Bay Post on Lake Temagami, when the only white man living in all that beautiful region was old Malcolm MacLean, a “freeman” of the H. B. Co., who had married an Indian woman and become a trapper, I was invited to be the guest of the half-breed Hudson’s Bay trader, Johnnie Turner, and was given a bedroom in his log house. The window of my room on the ground floor was always left wide open, and in fact was never once closed during my stay of a week or more. Inside my room, a foot from the open window, a lidless cigar box was nailed to the wall, yet it contained a heap of bills of varying denominations—ones, five, tens and even twenties; how much in all I don’t know for I never had the curiosity to count them though, at the time, I guessed that there were many hundreds of dollars. It was the trader’s bank. Nevertheless beside that open window was the favorite lounging place of all the Indian trappers and
hunters who visited the Post, and during my stay a group of Indians that numbered from three or four to thirty or forty were daily loitering in the shade within a few feet of that open window. Sometimes, when I was in my room, they would even intrude their heads and shoulders through the window and talk to me. Several times I saw them glance at the heap of money, but they no more thought of touching it than I did; yet day or night it could have been taken with the greatest ease, and the thief never discovered—but, of course, there wasn’t a thief in all that region.
But now that the white man has made Lake Temagami a fashionable summer resort, and the civilized Christians flock there from New York, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Montreal, how long would the trader’s money remain in an open box beside an open window on a dark night?
After breakfast next morning, while ascending Caribou River, we encountered a series of rapids that extended for nearly a quarter of a mile. Here and there, in midstream, rocks protruded above the foaming water, and from their leeward ends flowed eddying currents of back water that from their dark, undulating appearance rather suggested that every boulder possessed a tail.
It was always for those long, flowing tails that the canoes were steered in their slow upward struggle from one rock to another; for each tail formed a little harbor in which the canoe could not only make easier headway, but also might hover for a moment while the paddlers caught their breath. Then out again they would creep, and once more the battle would rage and, working with might and main, the paddlers would force the canoe gradually ahead and over into the eddy of another boulder. Sometimes, the water would leap over the gunwales and come aboard with a savage hiss. At other times the canoes seemed to become discouraged and, with their heads almost buried beneath the angry, spitting wives, would balk in midstream and not move forward so much as a foot to the minute. It was dangerous work, for if at any time a canoe became inclined across the current, even to the slightest degree, it might be rolled over and over, like a barrel descending an incline.
Dangerous work it was, but it was interesting to see how powerfully the Indians propelled their canoes, how skilfully they guided them, and how adroitly even the little children handled their paddles. However, we larided safely at the head of the rapids, and upon going ashore to drain the canoes, partook of a refreshing snack of tea and bannock.
Five Ways For Rapids
AFTER dinner we encountered another rapid, but though it was much shorter than the former, the current ran too strong to attempt the ascent with the aid of only paddles or poles. The northern tripper has the choice between five methods of circumventing “white water,” and his selection depends upon the strength of the current; first paddling, second poling, third wading, fourth tracking, and fifth portaging. You are already familiar with the method of paddling, and also with that of portaging, and a description of poling will shortly follow. Wading is resorted to only when the trippers, unprovided with poles, have been defeated in their effort to ascend with no other aid than their paddles. Then they leap overboard and seizing hold of the gunwales drag the craft up the rapids before it can be overcome by the turbulent water and either driven down stream or capsized. Again when the trippers encounter, in shallow water, such obstacles as jammed timbers, wading allows them carefully to ease their craft around or over the obstruction.
When tracking their six-fathom canoes, or “York boats” or “sturgeon scows,” the voyageurs of the north brigades use very long lines, one enfl of which is attached to the bow of the craft while to the other end is secured a leather harness of breast straps called “otapanapi” into which each hauler adjusts himself. Thus, while the majority of the crew land upon the shore and so harnessed walk off briskly in single file along the river bank, their mates aboard endeavor, with the aid of either paddles, sweeps or poles, to keep the craft in a safe channel.
In the present instance we had to resort to tracking, but it was of a light character,
for the canoes were not too heavily loaded, nor was the current too strong for us to make fair headway along the rough, pathless bank of the wild little stream. In each canoe one person remained aboard to hold the bow off shore with a paddle or pole, while the others scrambled along the river bank, either to help haul upon a line, or, in the case of the younger children and the dogs, simply to walk in order to relieve the craft of their weight and also for safety’s sake, should the canoe overturn. The greatest danger is for the steersman to lose control and allow the canoe to get out of line with the current, as the least headway in a wrong direction is apt to capsize it.
With us, all went well until a scream from the children announced that Ahging-goos, the second son, had fallen in, and anxiety reigned until the well drenched Chipmunk partly crawled and was partly hauled ashore; and then laughter echoed in the river valley, for the Chipmunk was at times much given to frisking about and showing off, and this time he got his re-
Grandmother’s Nervy Joy-Ride
BUT before we had ascended half the length of the rapids we encountered j the usual troubles that overtake the j tracker — those of clearing our lines of I trees and bushes, slipping into the muck j of small inlets, stumbling over stones, cutting the lines upon sharp rocks, or j having them caught by gnarled roots of drift wood. As we approached the last lap of white water, the canoes passed through a rocky basin that held a thirty or forty yard section of the river in a slack ! and unruffled pool. While ascending this I last section, the last canoe, the one in which the old grandmother was wielding the paddle, broke away from Oo-koo-hoo, the strain severing his well-worn line, and away grandmother went, racing backwards down through the turbulent foam. With her usual presence of mind she exercised such skill in guiding her canoe that it never for a moment swerved out of the true line of the current, and thus she saved herself and all her precious cargo. Then, the moment she struck slack water, she in with her paddle, and out with her pole, stood up in her unsteady craft, bent her powerful old frame, and—her pipe still clenched between her ancient teeth— with all her might and main she actually poled her canoe right up to the very head of the rapids, and came safely ashore. It was thrilling to watch her—for we could I render no aid—and when she landed we hailed her with approval for her courage, strength and skill; but grandmother was annoyed—her pipe was out.
While we rested a few minutes, the women espied, in a little springy dell, some unusually fine moss, which they at once began to gather. Indian women dry it and use it in a number of ways, especially for packing about the little naked bodies of their babies when lacing them to their cradle boards.
The incident, however, reminds me of what once happened to an Indian woman and her eight year old daughter when they were gathering moss about a mile from their camp on the shore of Great Slave Lake. They were working in a muskeg and the mother, observing a clump of gnarled spruces a little way off, sent her daughter there to see if there were any berries. Instead of fruit the child found a nice round hole that led into a cavern beneath the roots of the trees that stood upon the little knoll; and she called to her mother to come and see it. On kneeling down and peering within, the mother discovered a bear inside, and instantly turning about, hauled up her skirt and sat down in such a way that her figure completely blocked the hole and shut out all light. Then she despatched her child on the run for camp, to tell father to come immediately with his gun and shoot the
To one who is not versed in woodcraft such an act displays remarkable bravery, but to an Indian woman it meant no such thing, it was merely the outcome of her knowledge of bears, for she well knew that as long as all light was blocked from the hole the bear would lie still. But perhaps you wonder why she pulled up her skirt. To prevent it from being soiled or torn? No, that was not the reason. Again it was her knowledge of bears that prompted her, for she knew that if by any strange chance the bear did move about in the dark, and if he did happen to touch her bare figure—for Indian ladies never wear
lingerie—the bear would have been so mystified on encountering a living thing in the dark, that he would make never another move until light solved the mystery. However, father came with a rush, and shot the bear, and the brute was a big one,
Besides shooting a few ducks and a beaver, and seeing a distant moose, nothing happened that was eventful enough to deflect my intérest from the endless variety of charming scenery that came into view as we swept round bend after bend of that woodland river.
Visiting A Beaver Lodge
BUT Oo-koo-hoo, slipping away in his hunting canoe, paddled up a little creek into a small lake in which he knew a colony of beavers lived. He was gone ' about an hour and upon his return he told us about it. On% gaining the little mere, he, without removing his paddle from the water, propelled his canoe slowly and silently along the shore in the shadow of the overhanging trees, until a large beaver lodge appeared in the rising mist; and then standing up in his canoe—in order to get a better view—he became motionless. Minutes passed while the rising moon cast golden ripples upon the water, and two beavers, rising from below, swam toward, and mounted, the roof at their island home. Then, while the moonlight faded and glowed, other beavers appeared and swam hither and thither; some hauling old barkless poles, others bringing freshly cut poplar branches, and all busily engaged. A twig snapping behind the hunter turned hi? head, and as he caught a vanishing glimpse of a lynx in a tree, he was instantly startled by a tremendous report, and a splashing upheaval of water beside his canoe. A beaver had been swimming there, and on seeing the hunter move, had struck the water with its powerful tail, to warn its mates, before it dived. The lynx had been watching the beaver.
“Did you bring back anything?”
“No, my son,” replied Oo-koo-hoo, “that hunting-ground belongs to an old friend of mine.”
About four o’clock we arrived at the foot of another rapid. This Oo-koo-hoo and Amik examined carefully from the river bank, and decided that it could be ascended by poling. So from green wood we cut suitable poles of about two inches in diameter and seven to nine feet in length and knifed them carefully to rid them of bark and knots. Then, for this was a shoal rapids, both bowman and stemman stood up, the better to put the full force of their strength and weight into the work; the children, however, merely knelt to the work of wielding their slender poles; but in deep water, or where there were many boulders and consequently greater risk if the canoe were overturned, all would have knelt to do the work.
All the canoes having mounted the white water, however, in safety, it was decided, though sunset was several hours away, to spend the night at the head of the rapids, as the place afforded an excellent camping ground and besides the next day was Sunday, a day upon which all good trippers cease to travel.
Sitting around the fire that evening the subject of woodcraft again arose. When I enquired as to how I could best locate the north in case I happened to be travelling on a cloudy day without a compass, the old hunter replied that though he never used a compass, he found no difficulty in determinipg the north at any time, as the woods were full of signs. For instance, the branches of trees were less numerous and usually shorter on the north side, and the bark on the north side was usually finer in texture and of a smoother surface. The tops of pine trees usually leant toward the south-east— —but that that was not always a sure sign in all localities, as in some places the tree tops were affected by the prevailing winds. The stumps of trees furnished a surer indication. They showed the rings of growth to be greater in thickness on the south side, and redder on the same side in many trees, especially the pine. When trees were shattered by lightning, the cracks invariably opened on the south •side for lightning always struck from that direction.
Some of Nature's Secrets
CNOW was usually deeper on the south ^ side of trees on account of the prevailing •northerly winds; and if one dug away the
crust from around a tree they would come to fine, granulated snow much sooner on the northside, thus proving where the shadow usually fell. Furthermore as the snowdrifts always pointed in the direction whither the wind had gone, knowing the direction of the prevailing winds, one had no trouble in locating the north even on the snow-covered surface of a great
The old woodman cautioned me that if, while travelling alone upon a big lake, Ï should be overtaken by a blizzard, in no case should I try to fight it, but stop right in my tracks, take off my snowshoes, dig a hole in the snow, turn my sled over on its side to form a wind-break, crawl into the hole with the dogs; and wait until the storm subsided. If a blizzard came headon it was useless to try to fight it, for it would easily win; but if the wind were fair and if one were still sure of his bearings, he might drift with the wind, although at heavy risk, as the wind is apt to change its course and the tripper lose his way. There was always one consolation, however, and that was that the greater the storm the sooner it was over. Another thing I should remember when travelling on a lake or over an open country, in a violent snow-storm—I should allow for drifting, much in the same way as one would if travelling by canoe.
By that time, however, the women and children had gone to sleep upon their evergreen beds, while we three men continued to converse in whispers over the glow of the fading fire. Next I asked Oo-koo-hoo in which direction men usually turned when lost in the woods—to the right or to the left? He replied that circumstances had much to do with that, or the character of the country affected the man’s turning as it was natural to follow the line of least resistance; also it depended somewhat on the man’s build— whether one leg were shorter than the other. But though he had repeatedly experimented, he could not arrive at any definite conclusion. However, when trying blind-folded men on a frozen lake, he noticed that they had a tendency to turn to the south regardless of whether they were facing east or west. And he concluded by remarking that he thought people were very foolish to put so much faith in certain statements, simply because they were twice-told tales.
AS REGARDS trailing game, whether large or small, he cautioned me to watch my quarry carefully, and instantly to become rigid at the first sign that the game was about to turn round or raise its head to peer in my direction. More than that, I should not only remain motionless while the animal was gazing towards me, but I should assume at once some form that suggested the character of the surrounding trees or bushes or rocks.
For example, among straight -boled, perfectly vertical trees, I should stand upright; among uprooted trees, I should' assume the character of an overturned stump, by standing with inclined body, bent legs and arms and fingers thrust out at such angles as to suggest the roots of a fallen tree. And he added that if I doubted the wisdom of such an act, I should test it at a distance of fifty or a hundred paces, and prove the difficulty of detecting a man who assumed a characteristic landscape pose among trees or rocks.
That was years before the World’s War had brought the word camouflage into general use; for "as a matter of fact the forest Indians had been practising camouflage for centuries and, no doubt, that was one reason why many of the Indians in the Canadian Expeditionary Force did such remarkable work as snipers. For instance: Sampson Comego destroyed twenty-eight of the enemy, Philip McDonald killed forty, Johnny Ballantyne fifty-eight.
“One of their number, Lance-Corporal Johnson Paudash,” as the Department of Indian Affairs states, “received the Military Medal for his distinguished gallantry in saving life under heavy fire and for giving a warning that the enemy were preparing a counter attack at Hill Seventy; the counter attack took place twentyfive minutes after Paudash gave the information. It is said a serious reverse was averted as a result of his action. Like other Indian soldiers, he won a splendid record as a sniper, and is officially credited with having destroyed no less than eightyeight of the enemy.
“Another Indian who won fame at the front was Lance-Corporal Nor west; he was one of the foremost snipers in the army and was officially credited with one hundred and fifteen observed hits. He won the Military Medal and Bar. Still another, Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, won the Military Medal and two Bars. He distinguished himself signally as a sniper and bears the extraordinary record of having killed three hundred and seventyeight of the enemy. His Military Medal and two Bars were awarded, however, for his distinguished conduct at Mount Sorrell, Amiens, and Passchendaele. At Passchendaele, Corporal Pegahmagabow led his company through an engagement with a single casualty, and subsequently captured three hundred Germans at Mount Sorrell.
“The fine record of the Indians in the great war appears in a peculiarly favorable light when it is remembered that their services were absolutely voluntary, as they were specially exempted from the operation of the Military Service Act, and that they were prepared to give their lives for their country without compulsion or even the fear of compulsion.” Many military medals were won by the Canadian Indians; Captain A. G. E. Smith, of the Grand River band of the Iroquois, having been decorated seven times by the Governments of England, France and Poland, and many distinguished themselves by great acts upon the battlefield.
Looking Like a Pine Stump
BUT to return to the land of peace.
Of course, in attempting to deceive game, one must always guard against approaching down wind, for most animals grow more frantic over the scent than they do over the sight of man. Later on, when I went hunting with Oo-koo-hoo, he used to make me laugh, for at one moment he would be a jolly old Indian gentleman, and just as likely as not the next instant he would be posing as a rotten pine stump that had been violently overturned, and now resembled an object against which a bear might like to rub his back and scratch himself.
Next morning, being Sunday, we did not strike camp and the first thing the women attended to, even while breakfast was under way, was the starting of a fire of damp, rotten wood, which smoked but never blazed, and over which, at a distance of about four feet, they leant the stretched deerskins, hair side up, to dry. Besides those, other frames were made and erected over another slow fire and here the flakes or slabs of moose flesh were hung to be dried and smoked into what is called jerked meat. The fat, being chopped up and melted in a pail, was then poured into the moose bladder and other entrails to cool and be handy for future use. Of course, it would take several days to dry out the deer skins; so each morning when we were about to travel, the skins were unlaced and rolled up, to be re-stretched and placed over another fire the following evening.
Sunday was pleasantly spent, notwithstanding that so many different religious denominations were represented in camp; for while old Ojistoh counted her beads according to the Roman Catholic faith, Amik and Naudin wore singing hymns, as the former was an English Churchman and his wife a Presbyterian; but Oo-koohoo would join in none of it as he had no faith whatever in the various religions of the white man and so he remained a Pagan, a Sun-Worshipper; and I shall tell you why a little later on.
Part of the day we spent in pottering about, in doing a little mending here and there, smoking, telling stories, or in strolling through the woods; as both Oo-koo-hoo and Amik were opposed to doing actual work on Sunday. In the afternoon I turned to sketching, and my drawing excited so much interest that Amik tried his hand, and in a crude way his sketches of animals and birds were quite graphic in character. One sketch I made, that of the baby, so pleased Neykia, that I gave it to her, and when she realized my intention she seized it with such eagerness that she crumpled and almost tore the paper; for as the Ojibways have no word to express their thanks, they show their gratitude by the eagerness with which they accept a present.
That, however, reminds me of having read in one of the leading American magazines an account of a noted American illustrator’s trip into the woods of Quebec. While there he presented a red handker-
chief to an Indian girl. The fact that she snatched it from him, and then ran awayr was to him—as he stated—a sign that she was willing to comply with any civil intentions he might entertain toward her. Such absolute rot! The polite little maid was merely trying to express her unbounded thanks for his gift.
I Go With Amik
THE only thing that interrupted our paddling the following day was our going ashore to portage around a picturesque waterfall where two huge rocks, on the very brink of the cascade, split the river into three. We were now nearing the fork of Crane River, that in its threemile course came from Crane Lake, on the shore of which was Oo-koo-hoo’s last winter’s camping-ground; the men therefore decided that it was best for Amik to push on in the light canoe and get the two deerskin winter tepee coverings, as well as their traps, that had been cached there last spring; and then return to the fork of the river where the family would go into camp and wait for him.
Transferring most of the cargo to the other canoes, Amik and I provided ourselves with a little snack and started at once for Oo-koo-hoo’s old camping-ground. It appeared about a three-mile paddle to the fork of the river. Nothing save the quacking of ducks rushing by on the wing, the occasional rise of a crane in front of us, the soaring of an eagle overhead, and the rippling wakes left by muskrats ás they scurried away, enlivened our hurried trip.
We found the leather lodge coverings in good order upon a stage, and securing them along with several. bundles of steel traps that hung from trees, we put all aboard, and found we had quite a load, for not only were the tepee coverings bulky, each bundle being about two feet thick by four feet long, but they were heavy, too, for each weighed about a hundred pounds. Then too, the traps were quite a load in themselves. I didn’t stop to count them, but it is surprising the number of traps a keen, hard-working hunter employs; and they ranged all the way from small ones for rat and ermine to ponderous ones for bears.
Also we gathered up a few odds and ends such as old axes, an iron pot, a couple of slush scoops, a bundle of fish-nets and a lot of old snowshoes. Crane Lake, like many another northern mere, is a charming little body of water nestling among beautiful hills. After a cup of tea and some bannock, we once more plied our paddles.
A Good Supper—Well Earned
NOW it was down stream and we glided swiftly along, arriving at the confluence of the Crane and Caribou just before twilight and found smiling faces and a good supper awaiting our return. How human some Indians are, much more so than many a cold-blooded white!
Next day we wanted to make the Heightof-Land portage for our camp. As it meant a long stiff paddle against a strong current for most of the distance, we were up early, if not bright, and on our way before sunrise. This time, however, no rapids impeded us and we reached the portage on the further shore of Height-of-Land Lake, tired and hungry, but happy over a day’s work well done. It is a pretty little lake about two miles long, surrounded by low-lying land in the midst of a range of great rockbound hills, and its waters have a whimsical fashion of running either east or west according to which way the wind strikes it. Thus its waters become divided and, flowing either way, travel afar to their final destinations in oceans thousands of miles apart. But the western outlet, Moose Creek, being too shallow for canoes, a portage of a couple of miles was made the following day to the fork of an incoming stream that doubles its waters and makes the creek navigable.
When we camped that night the hour was late. Then a two days’ run—the second of which we travelled due north— took us into Moose Lake; but not without shooting three rapids, each of which the Indians examined carefully before we undertook the sport that all enjoyed so much. An eastern storm, however, caught us on Moose Lake and not only sent us ashore on an island, but windbound us there for two days while cold showers pelted us. Another day and a half up Bear River, with a portage round Crane Falls, landed us on the western shore of Bear Lake at the mouth of Muskrat Creek—and there we were to spend the winter.