SAIL UP THE RIVER KOKSOAK. TRANSACTIONS IN THAT REGION. DANGEROUS EDDY. MEET ESQUIMAUX. ADDRESS TO THEM. THEIR JOY AND EAGERNESS TO HAVE MISSIONARIES RESIDENT AMONG THEM. FIND A SUITABLE SITUATION FOR A SETTLEMENT. DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY.
AUGUST 25th. This was the joyful day on which at last we saw our hopes realized, and the principal aim of our journey obtained. The sun rose beautifully, and announced a delightful day. We were obliged to wait till seven A.M. for the turn of the tide, before we could proceed up the river. The estuary of the Koksoak lies, according to an observation taken, in 58 degrees 36 minutes North latitude, nearly the same as Okkak. To the west the country is called by the Esquimaux ASSOKAK, the coast turning again W.N.W. This river, therefore, seems to be at the most southern point of the coast, George's river entering the sea at 58 degrees 52 minutes, consequently more North.
The Koksoak appeared to us to be about as broad as the Thames at Gravesend, or the Elbe near Hamburg, and the whole river, with its various windings, much resembles the Thames for twenty-four miles upwards. Its depth is sufficient for a ship thus far. Its general direction is from the South. We reckoned it to be about 600 or 700 miles from Okkak, and Killinek or Cape Chudleigh half way.
Having proceeded five or six miles up the river, we came to a small island, which we left on our right.
We saw several stacks of blubber, a sledge, and some other /71/ articles lying on the beach, and Jonathan and Brother Kmoch went in the small boat to discover the proprietors, but found nobody there, to guard the goods.
A little farther on is a point of land running out into nearly the middle of the stream. The current sets very rapidly round it, so as to form a dangerous eddy. Our boat was seized, and twice turned quite round; the small boat was whirled about several times, as she pushed through it. The women on board our boat, on seeing this, set up a loud scream; but Jonathan only laughed at their fears, and we afterwards saw kayaks passing the eddy in perfect safety.
Having doubled the point, we perceived several kayaks approaching. The people in them shouted aloud for joy, exclaiming, INNUIT, INNUIT! Men, Men! Some guns were also fired in the boat, which were soon answered by some fowling-pieces from the shore.
We now saw three tents pitched on the bank, and hoisted our colours, when we were incessantly hailed by the inhabitants. There was a great cry of KUVE, KUVE, KABLUNAET, KABLUNAET! Europeans, Europeans! from the men in the kayaks, who, by all manner of gesticulations, expressed their pleasure, brandishing their pautiks, (oars), and shouting continually as they rowed alongside the boat. The women on shore answered with loud acclamations.
About one P.M. we cast anchor close to their habitations. Fourteen families were here, among whom were some from a distant district, called EIVEKTOK. These had pitched their tents farther up the river. ARNAUYAK was with them, a man, with whom Brother Kohlmeister had become acquainted some years ago, exceedingly regretted, that he had but a few days ago left the place, to hunt reindeer on George's river. The children expressed their joy by running to and fro on the strand, like wild creatures.
At first, the people in the tents appeared rather shy, but after accepting of some trifling presents, they became quite /72/ communicative, and gave us some of their toys in exchange; then walking round us, surveyed us narrowly, as if we were a new species of animals. Most of them had never before seen an European. Uttakiyok's brother had joined them, and already informed them of our arrival, without which they would probably have been yet more alarmed at seeing strangers, and hearing the report of fire-arms.
They now invited all our people to dine with them, and having heard that Brother Kohlmeister would like to taste the flesh of a whitefish, a kettle was immediately placed on the fire, and a large piece put in to boil. Brother Kmoch meanwhile cooked a savoury soup of birds, and reindeer-flesh, more fit for an European stomach. While dinner was preparing, Brother Kohlmeister took a walk up the bank of the river, and across some hills. As the families belonging to EIVEKTOK had their summer dwelling in that neighbourhood, the Esquimaux, on perceiving that he had walked in that direction, and fearing that the Eivektok people, seeing him alone, might mistake him for an Indian, and shoot at him, dispatched two men to bring him back. They missed him, and he returned before them. He found our people very pleasantly conversing with the heathen concerning the aim of our journey, and the way of salvation. Even Uttakiyok was thus engaged, explaining, as well as he could, the cause of our living in Labrador: he exclaimed, "let us, my friends, all be converted to Jesus." He was heard with peculiar attention, being considered as a captain among them. In the evening we sang hymns in Jonathan's tent. The people all came and listened with much seriousness.
26th. Today the Eivektok families came in a skin-boat down the river, to see us. They were full of astonishment, but soon took courage, and handled us, to discover whether we were made of the same materials with themselves. An old man, NETSIAK, addressed Brother Kohlmeister: "Are you Benjamin? I have seen you with my eyes, but at /73/ Eivektok have heard your name often mentioned." He seemed to be a sensible man, and a captain among his tribe.
We could not help remarking the difference between these Esquimaux and their countrymen living on the same coasts with our settlements. The former are very poor, and miserably equipped, whereas the latter, by their intercourse with us and other Europeans, have acquired many conveniences, and are, by barter, well provided with what they want.
27th. We proceeded farther up the river, accompanied by most of the men, and some women, in their skin-boat, and arrived at a bay, which, by the winding of the stream, appears like a lake, surrounded on all sides with gently rising grounds, well planted with wood of moderate size, chiefly larch. Behind the wood are some low hills. We named this place UNITY'S BAY. There is here a very good place for a Missionary settlement. A fine slope extends for about half an English mile, bounded on each extremity by a hill, on each of which we erected high signals. The land is even and dry. Juniper, currants, and other berries, grow here in abundance, and rivulets run out of the wood at a distance of a few hundred paces from each other. The slope faces the S.S.E. and we named it PILGERRUH, (Pilgrim's rest). Brother Kohlmeister made drawings of the situation.
From our first arrival we had improved every opportunity of making the Esquimaux acquainted with the chief aim of our visit to this country, and addressed them both singly and in companies. Nor were Jonathan and Jonas remiss in conversing with them about the concerns of their immortal souls, declaring to them the love of God our Saviour towards them. We once met with Sybilla, Jonathan's wife, seated with a company of women, under the shadow of a skin- boat, set on edge, exhorting them, with great simplicity and fervour, to hear and believe the gospel.
28th. Brother Kmoch landed with Jonathan, and spent /74/ some hours in examining the banks of the river. On ascending the first eminence, the view of the interior is in general flat, with a few low hills, and ponds in some places, full of wild geese. The timber in the woods hereabouts is not large: we found none fit for masts. The largest trees were not more than eight inches in diameter, and fifteen or twenty feet high. They are chiefly larch and pines. In some places we found them burnt or withered, and were informed by the Esquimaux, that it was the effect of the Indian's fires. Indeed we saw several places where the Indians had put up huts, and left sufficient vestiges of their abode. Berries grow everywhere, and between the river and the wood, the plain is chiefly covered with willows, high grass growing between them, but these and the various shrubs are so low, that a man can easily look over them. In all directions we saw the tracks of reindeer, and there is every appearance of its being a place much frequented by these animals. Deeper in the wood, we found great quantities of sorrel and other European plants. The woods appeared very thick, and extended as far as the eye could reach, often coming down to the edge of the river. The Esquimaux say, that higher up, large timber is found. On our return to the skin-boat we found ourselves pretty much fatigued, and ready to partake of a supper, cooked by the Esquimaux, consisting of ship's biscuit, dried fish, and raw whitefish blubber. The Esquimaux prevailed upon Brother Kmoch to taste the latter, and he reported, that having once overcome his aversion to it, its taste was sweet, like the kernel of a nut, but heated his stomach like a hot posset.
29th. Changeable and rainy weather prevented us from going out much.
30th. Our people, and with them the strange Esquimaux, met for public worship. Brother Kohlmeister once more explained to them our intention in coming thus far to visit them. He addressed them to the following effect: "That /75/ already, many years ago, many excellent people in the country beyond the great ocean, had thought of them with much love, and felt desirous that the inhabitants of the Ungava country also might hear the comfortable word of God, and be instructed in it: for they had heard that the Esquimaux here were heathen, who, through ignorance, served the Torngak, or evil spirit, and were led by him into the commission of all manner of sin, that they might hereafter be lost, and go to the place of eternal darkness and misery. Out of love, therefore," continued the missionary, "they have sent us to you, and out of love we have come to you, to tell you how you may be saved, and become happy, peaceful children of God, being delivered from the fear of death, which is now upon you all, and have the prospect of everlasting joy and peace hereafter, even by receiving the gospel, and turning to Jesus, who is the only Creator and Saviour of all men. He died for YOUR sins, for OUR sins, and for the sins of all mankind, as our surety, suffering the punishment we deserved, that YOU, by receiving Him, and believing on Him, might be saved, and not go to the place of eternal darkness and pain, but to the place of bliss and eternal rest. You cannot yet understand these comfortable words of the gospel, but if it is your sincere wish to know the truth of them, Jesus will open your ears and hearts, to hear and understand them. These my companions were as ignorant as you, but they now thank God, that they know Jesus as their Saviour, and are assured that through His death they shall inherit everlasting life."
During this address all were silent and very attentive. Some exclaimed: "O we desire to hear more about it!" Old Netsiak, from Eivektok, said: "I am indeed old, but if you come to live here, I will certainly remove hither also, and live with you and be converted." /76/ When we put the question to them, whether they were willing, that we should come and dwell with them, and instruct them, they all answered with a loud and cheerful voice. "KAITITSE TOK, KAITITSE TOK! O do come soon, and live with us, we will all gladly be converted, and live with you." Jonathan and Jonas also bore ample testimony to the truth of what we had spoken, and their words seemed to make a deep impression on all their countrymen. Uttakiyok was above others eager to express his wish that we might soon make a settlement in the Ungava country. Five of the fourteen families who mean to reside here next winter, are from Eivektok.
Farther inland, the river Koksoak widens considerably, but consequently grows more shallow. The country is pleasant, with wood, grassy plains, and gentle hills.
31st. Having finished all our observations here, we dropped down the stream to the place, where we had discovered the first tents.
In descending, as well as ascending to the river, we saw a great number of whitefish, and many seals. Reindeer are numerous on both shores, both in summer and winter. All the Esquimaux declared, that this was the best provision-place in the whole country, and they consequently flock to it from all parts every summer, frequently protracting their stay during the winter. The greater number of those we found here, purposed spending next winter in this neighbourhood. The Esquimaux are prevented from making this place their constant residence by their fear of the land-Indians, which cause them to quit it sooner than they otherwise would wish to do.
We spared no pains to collect all the information we possibly could obtain, on every subject relating to this situation, both as to itself, and in reference to the possibility of approaching it with a ship, as likewise respecting the inhabitants of the Ungava country in general. It appeared /77/ evident, that the place above described is the most eligible for forming a missionary-settlement.
We found it unnecessary to proceed to the Westward, by the account given us by our worthy conductor Uttakiyok, whose information hitherto we had always found correct, and confidently to be relied on.
2. That besides the two rivers Kangerlualuksoak and Koksoak, they knew of no place where a ship might with safety approach the land.
3. That at this time we should probably find no inhabitants, as they had all gone into the interior to hunt reindeer.
We therefore now considered the business committed to us to be accomplished, and determined to return to Okkak, thankful to God our Saviour for the many proofs of His favour and protection, experienced in the execution of our commission.