As settlement began to take place to the northward, more especially in the great Bay of Notre Dame, early in this century, it was only to be expected that the natives who frequented this section of the island more particularly, would occasionally be met with. There are numerous vague traditions of encounters between those first settlers and the Indians, in nearly all of which the whites would appear to be the aggressors. The tendency to appropriate small articles, such as hooks, lines, knives, axes, or in fact anything that might be useful to them, on the part of the poor untutored savages, was made an excuse for the most barbarous cruelties, and wholesale slaughter by the fishermen. Late in the century only did the authorities awake to the enormity of this inhuman barbarity, and then alas! the feeling of embittered enmity which had been created could not be allayed. The poor Beothuck, armed only with his bow and arrow and spear, was no match for the fisherman with his deadly fire-arms. He was ruthlessly shot down, wherever he made his appearance, just as any other wild denizen of the forest, but an even worse fate overtook him when the semi-civilized Micmacs from Cape Breton and Nova Scotia found their way across the Gulf and invaded his territory. The latter also were armed with the deadly fire-lock procured from the French settlers in Acadia. They spread themselves over the interior, in their hunting excursions, and waged war upon the aborigines, who became hemmed in on all sides, and were unable to contend successfully against such overwhelming odds. The latter retreated further and further into the interior, coming out to the coast only when driven by scarcity of food, and then in as stealthy a manner as possible. It was but natural under such circumstances that when an opportunity did present itself they would retaliate. Yet the instances of their having done so are very few and of a very doubtful nature.
A tradition existed amongst the Micmacs as related by Mr. W. E. Cormack, who had it from some of themselves, that on their first coming over to this island, amicable relations existed between them and the Beothucks, until a certain act of diabolical treachery upon the part of the former, put an end for ever to all friendly intercourse. Mr. J. B. Jukes, Geologist, had the relation of this event from Mr. Peyton, to whom it was told by an old Micmac Indian. It was also confirmed by another Micmac whom Jukes met in the Bay of St. George. He gives it in full in his work entitled Excursions in Newfoundland(1).
/26/ According to this tradition, it appears that: -- "When the Micmacs first visited the country, they and the Red Indians were friendly. About a hundred years ago, however, the French offered a reward for the head of every Red Indian. To gain this reward, the Micmacs privately shot some of them; and one day, in descending a river, near St. George's Bay, they fell in with another party of them, while they had the heads of some of their nation concealed in their canoe. The Red Indians invited the Micmacs ashore to a feast, during which, some children playing about discovered the heads. No notice was taken till each Micmac was seated between two Red Indians, when, at a given signal, the latter fell upon them and slew them. After this they fought at the north end of the Grand Pond, and at Shannoc Brook, on the Exploits River, and, indeed, wherever they met. In these encounters, from the fact of their possessing fire-arms, the Micmacs were usually victorious. Mr. Peyton said the Red Indians had a great dread of the Micmacs, whom they called Shannoc, and used to point to Shannoc Brook(2), a tributary of the Exploits River, as the way by which they arrived in their country. The woman, who lived with him some time, was greatly alarmed at the sight of two Micmacs who came once to visit him, and hid herself during their stay. They were acquainted with another tribe of Indians, whom they called the `Shaunamunc,' and with whom they were very friendly. These came from Labrador, but were not Esquimaux, whom the Red Indians also knew, and despised for their filthiness. The `Shaunamuncs' were dressed in deer skins, not seal-skins, as in the case of the Eskimos, but their deer skins were not reddened. They answer, I believe, to the Indians called Mountaineers, on the Labrador shore. The Red Indians traded with these `Shaunamuncs' receiving stone hatchets and other implements from them, and they mutually visited each other's countries. This fact, in some measure corroborates the supposition, that the total disappearance of the Red Indians, for the last ten or fifteen years, is not due to their utter destruction, but to their having passed over to the Labrador coast; and the same occurrence is mentioned in Sir R. Bonnycastle's entertaining book on the Canadas."
The above tradition of the Micmac's appears to me to be open to very considerable doubt in many respects. The statement that the French had offered a reward for the heads of any Red Indians brought to them, is at variance with the general treatment accorded the native tribes of America by that nation, and is hard to believe. The French, it is well known, always held that the Indians were human beings, with souls to be saved, not mere animals to be destroyed. Possibly, the French fishermen on our coast were a different, and more blood-thirsty class than the peaceable Acadian and Canadian settlers. What seems however, to lend some colour to this part of the story, is the fact related by Kirke, of the murderous onslaught made by the Indians, on the French settlements at St. Julien and Croque. Such an occurrence as that might very naturally incite the French to acts of retaliation.
Possibly, the savages who perpetrated these massacres, were not Beothucks at all, but some of the Nascoppi, or Mountaineers, who came over hunting from Labrador. I am led to infer this from a statement made by Captain George Cartwright, of Labrador fame. He relates that on his way home from Labrador, to St. John's, and while stopping at Hawke's Harbour, that, "Two French fishermen, having gone into the country shooting, were met by eight Mountaineers, men and women, belonging to Labrador tribes, who not only robbed them of their arms, but /27/ even stripped them almost naked." Again, in another place, he speaks of "the Mountaineers being at Quirpon Island."
In the ninth edition of the Geographical Grammar, published by Patrick Gordon, in 1722, it is said, "That the natives of this island are generally of a middle stature, broad-faced, colouring their faces with ochre, and for clothing using skins of wild beasts; that they live by ten or twelve families together; their cabins being made of poles in form of our arbours, and covered with skins."
"About the year 1760, one, Scott, with another shipmaster and a strong crew, went from St. John's to the Bay of Exploits, which was known to be much frequented by the Indians, during the summer season. Scott and his party having landed at the mouth of the bay, built there a place of residence, in the manner of a fort. Some days afterwards, a large party of Indians appeared in sight, and made a full stop, none of them showing the least inclination to approach nearer. Scott then proposed to the other shipmaster to go among them; the latter advised to go armed. Scott opposed it on the ground that it might create alarm. They proceeded towards the Indians with part of their crew without arms. Scott went up to them with every sign of amity, that he could imagine, aud mixed with them, taking several of them, one after another by the hands. An old man, in pretended friendship, put his arms around his neck; at the same instant, another stabbed Scott in the back. The war-whoop resounded, a shower of arrows fell upon the English which killed the other shipmaster and four of his companions. The rest of the party then hastened to their vessels and returned to St. John's, carrying one of those who had been killed with the arrows sticking in his body." (Anspach.)
According to Mr. Thos. Peyton, who had the story from one, Henry Rowsell, of Hall's Bay, --
"The first five men who attempted to make a settlement in that bay, were all killed by the Indians. A crew went up from Twillingate shortly afterwards, and found the bodies of those unfortunates, with their heads cut off and stuck on poles."
The above instances, if true, would seem to prove that the Indians were really of a very sanguinary disposition, but this is not borne out by other accounts, notably by Whitbourne's. There are some instances of individuals being killed by them, but it always appears to have been in retaliation for brutal murders committed upon them by the whites. On the other hand, there are numerous cases in which they could have wreaked vengeance upon their oppressors which they did not avail themselves of. Once an old Micmac remarked to me, "Red Injun not bad man, if he mind to he could kill every fisherman without letting himself be seen at all." There are no instances of their ever having attacked a white settlement, or of revenging themselves upon those who did not molest them.
Sir Joseph Banks was a naturalist who visited this country,
and Labrador, in the summer of 1766, to study their fauna and flora. He
has left a manuscript journal of his studies and observations, which is
of a very interesting character. There is but a short reference to the
aborigines of Newfoundland, but as it contains some entirely new information,
I quote it in full.
/28/ "Of the Indians that inhabit the interior parts of Newfoundland, I have as yet been able to learn very little about them. They are supposed to be the original inhabitants, of that country. They are, in general, thought to be very few as I am told, not exceeding five-hundred (500) in number, but why that should be imagined, I cannot tell, as we know nothing at all of the interior parts of the Island, nor ever had the least connection with them, tho' the French we are told had.
"The only part of the island that I have heard of their inhabiting, is in the neighborhood of Fogo, where they are said to be as near the coast as four (4) miles.
"Our people, who fish in these parts, live in a continual state of warfare with them, firing at them whenever they meet with them, and if they chance to find their houses or wigwams as they call them, plundering them immediately, tho' a bow and arrows, and what they call their pudding (?) is generally the whole of their furniture.
"They in return, look upon us in exactly the same light as we do them, killing our people whenever they get the advantage of them, and stealing or destroying their nets, wherever they find them.
"The pudding, which I mention in the last paragraph is, our people say, always found in their huts, made of eggs and deers' hair to make it hang together, as we put hair into our mortar and bake in the sun. Our people believe it to be a part of their food, but do not seem certain whether it is intended for that or any other use. They are said to fetch eggs for this composition, as far as Funk or Penguin Island, ten leagues from the nearest land.
"They are extremely dexterous in the use of their bows and arrows, and will, when pressed by an enemy, take four arrows, three between the fingers of their left hand, with which they hold the bow, and the fourth notched in the string, discharge them as quick as they can draw the bow, and with great certainty.
"Their canoes, by the gentleman's account from whom I have all this, are made like the Canadians', of Birch-bark, sewed together with deer's sinews, or some other material, but differ from the Canadians' essentially, in that they are made to shut up by the sides closing together for the convenient carrying of them through the woods, which they are obliged to do on account of the many lakes that abound all over the Island.
"Their method of scalping too, is very different from the Canadian's, they not being content with the hair, but skinning the whole face, at least, as far as the upper lip.
"I have a scalp of this kind which was taken from one, Sam Frye, a fisherman, who they shot in the water, as he attempted to swim off to his ship from them. They kept this scalp a year, but the features were so well preserved, that when upon a party of them being pursued the next summer, they dropt it, it was immediately known to be the scalp of the identical Sam Frye, who was killed the year before.
"So much for the Indians: if half of what I have written
about them is true, it is more than I expect, tho' I have not the least
reason to think but that the man who told it to me believed it, and had
heard it from his own people, and more of the neighboring planters and
The Authorities, having at length come to the conclusion
that it was about time to put a stop to the inhuman barbarities practiced
upon the poor defenceless Beothucks, took the matter seriously in hand.
In 1768, the then Governor, Sir Hugh Palliser, sent an expedition up the
Exploits River, under the command of Lieut. John Cartwright, of H.M.S.
Guernsey to try and open up communication with them, and establish
a friendly intercourse. The expedition, unfortunately, failed to meet w1th
any of them, but the account in Cartwright's own language, which is given
in full below, is of a very interesting character.
"Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears Him in the wind."
The journey in which the River Exploits was traced, and Lieutenant's Lakes discovered, was undertaken with a design to explore the unknown interior parts of Newfoundland; to examine into the practicability of travelling from shore to shore, across the body of that island; and to acquire a more certain knowledge of the settlements of the natives or Red Indians, as well as to surprise, if possible, one or more of these savages, for the purpose of effecting in time, a friendly intercourse with them, in order to promote their civilization, and render them in the end, useful subjects to His Majesty.
The epithet "Red Indian" is given to these Indians, from their universal practise of colouring their garments, their canoes, bows, arrows, and every other utensil belonging to them with red ochre.
The situation of this tribe as part of the human species, with certain particulars relating to them is truly singular. Although they are the original native inhabitants of a country we have been so long possessed of, they have not now the least intercourse with us whatever; except indeed, sometimes the unfriendly one of reciprocal injuries, and murders. There are traditions amongst the English inhabitants of Newfoundland, which prove that an amicable intercourse once subsisted between them, and the natives; and at the same time afford sufficient evidence, that the conduct of the savages was not the cause that those social bonds were broken. In the course of those remarks, will be shown more at large, the reason for the continuance of this disunion; whence it will, perhaps, appear that there is no other method to restore the commerce between us, than that which was adopted by Governor Palliser, and attempted on the expedition which gave rise to those observations.
But before I mention anything that bears a reference to the sketch, or speak of the Indian manner of living, it may be necessary in order to prevent any confused ideas arising in the mind of the reader, to give previous descriptions of the whigwham or hut, distinguished on the sketch with red ink by the mark `O'; of the square dwellings marked [with a square shape]; of the deer fences and sewers marked [with undulating lines and a flagellated shape]; of the canoe; and lastly of the bow and arrow, in which are at once comprised the whole of their arms, either offensive or defensive.
The whigwham is a hut in the form of a cone. The base of it is proportioned to the number of the family, and their beds form a circle /30/ around a fire that burns in the centre. The beds are only so many oblong hollows in the earth, lined with the tender branches of fir and pine. Several straight sticks like hoop-poles, compose the frame of the whigwham, and the covering is supplied by the rind of the Birch-tree. This is overlaid sheet upon sheet, in the manner of tiles, and perfectly shelters the whole apartment except the fire-place, over which there is left an opening to carry off the smoke. The birch rind is secured in its place by outside poles whose weight from their inclined position is sufficient for that purpose. The central fire spreading its heat on all sides makes them quite warm; and notwithstanding one of these habitations where materials are plentiful, may be completed in less than an hour, yet they are extremely durable; for being always in the woods they are defended from the force of the wind, that would otherwise very soon overturn such slender fabrics.
Of the square habitations, only two were observed on the whole journey; one upon Sabbath Point, in Lieutenant's Lake, and the other in a small distance above Little Rattle(4). They were much alike and examining the latter we found it to be rectangle, framed nearly in the fashion of the English fishing houses, only that the studs were something apart, from which it was evident that they alone could not, in that state, form the shell, as in the English buildings, where they are closely joined together. But about eighteen inches within this and parallel to it, there was another frame of slighter workmanship rising to the roof. From the hair which adhered to the studs, the interval appeared to have been filled with deer-skins, than which there could have been nothing better calculated for keeping out the cold. This was the construction of only three sides, the fourth being raised by trees well squared and placed horizontally one upon another, having their seams caulked with moss. The difference was probably owing to the deficiency of skins; and rather so as this inferior side of the dwelling bore a SE. aspect, which required less shelter than any other. The lodgements of the rafters on the beams and the necessary joints were as neatly executed as in the houses commonly inhabited by our fishers. The roof was a low pyramid, being encompassed at the distance of three feet from its vertex by a hoop tied to the rafters with thongs. Here the covering had terminated, and the space above the hoop had been left open as in the whigwham, for a passage for the smoke, the fire-place, according to custom, having been in the centre.
The deer fences we found erected on the banks of the Exploits are situated in places the most proper for intercepting herds of these animals, as they cross the river in their route to the southward, on the approach of winter, and against the return of mild weather, when they wander back to the northward. They have the best effect when there is a beach about twenty feet wide and from thence a steep ascending bank. Along the ridge of this bank the Indians fell the trees without chopping the trunks quite asunder; taking care that they fall parallel with the river and guiding every fresh cut tree so as to coincide with and fall on the last. The weak parts of the fence are filled up with branches and limbs of other trees /31/ secured occasionally by large stakes and bindings; in short, these fences and our plashed hedges are formed on the same principles, differing only in their magnitude. They are raised to the height of six, eight, or ten feet, as the place may require, so that, the steepness of the bank considered, they are not found to be forced or overleaped by the largest deer.
Those fences near Slaughter and Fatal Isles, and the other most frequented places, are from half a mile to half a league in length; only discontinued here and there for short distances where the ill-growth of the woods does not favour such works. The Indians are here at no loss, for their knowledge of the use of sewels(5) supplies this deficiency, and completes their toils. At certain convenient stations they have small half-moon breastworks, half the height of a man (by the furriers called gazes), over which it may be presumed, they shoot the deer passing between the water-side and the bank, deterred by the sewels, and disabled by means of the fence from entering the wood, until an opening clear of these obstructions may present itself.
Their sewels(6) are made by tying a tassel of birch rind formed like the wing of a paper kite, to the small end of a slight stick about six feet in length. These sticks are pricked into the ground about ten or a dozen yards apart, and so much sloping, that the pendant rind may hang clear of its support, in order to play with every breath of wind. Thus it is sure to catch the eye of the deer, and to make them shun the place where it stands.
The canoe peculiar to these Indians comes next to be considered, and so well deserves particular notice, that no pains will be spared to gratify the curiosity of the inquisitive reader; and it is hoped, that by the assistance of the perspective view exhibited in the sketch, the more so, as it may be observed that such descriptions in the best writers are too often loose and inaccurate, wanting that precision necessary to give a full and distinct idea of the general figure, the parts and proportions of the thing described. But perhaps, great indulgence is due to such writers, when we reflect on the very limited powers, for paintings of this nature, that are vested in the pen. Conscious of her weakness on this occasion, she has taken to her aid her elder sister, and faithful ally, the pencil; that by the assistance of the perspective view, exhibited on the same sheet with the sketch of the country, it is hoped the reader will be fully satisfied on this head. There also he will see representations of the whigwham as well as of the bow and arrow of this people. The principle on which the Red Indian's canoe is constructed, is, perhaps, nowhere else to be met with throughout the very great variety of these embarkations, known in the different quarters of the globe. It has, in a manner, no bottom at all, the sides beginning at the very keel, and from thence running up in straight lines to the edge or gunwale. A transverse section of it at any part whatever, marks an /32/ acute angle; only that it is not sharpened to a perfect angular point, but is somewhat rounded to take in the slight rod that serves by way of a keel. This rod is thickest in the middle (being in that part about the size of the handle of a common hatchet), tapering each way, and terminating with the slender curved extremities of the canoe. The form of this keel will then, be the same with the outline of the long section, it is evident, which, when represented on paper, is nearly, if not exactly, the half of an ellipse, longitudinally divided. Having thus drawn the keel, whose two ends become also similar stems to the canoe, the side may be easily completed after this manner. Perpendicular to the middle of the keel, and at two-thirds the height of its extremities, make a point. Between this central and the extreme points, describe each way, a catenarian arch with a free curve, and you will have the form of the side, as well as a section of the canoe; for their difference is so very trifling as not be discernible to the eye, which will be clearly comprehended on recollecting that the side, as I said before, begins at the keel. The coat or shell of the canoe is made of the largest and finest sheets of birch rind that can be secured. Its form being nothing more than two sides joined together where the keel is to be introduced, it is very easily sewn together entire. The sewing is perfectly neat, and performed with spruce roots, split to the proper size. That along the gunwale is like our neatest basket work. The seams are paved over with a sort of gum, appearing to be a preparation of turpentine, oil, and ochre; and which effectually resists all the efforts of the water. The sides are kept apart, and their proper distance preserved by means of a thwart of about two fingers substance, whose ends are lodged on the rising points above mentioned, in the middle of the gunwale. The extension used when this thwart is introduced, lessens in some degree, the length of the canoe, by drawing in still more its curling ends: it also fixes the extreme breadth in the middle, which is requisite in a vessel having similar stems and intended for advancing with either of them foremost, as occasion may require and by bulging out its sides, gives them a perceptible convexity, much more beautiful than their first form. The gunwales are made with tapering sticks, two on each side; the thick ends of which meet on the rising points, with the ends of the main thwart, and being moulded to the shape of the canoe, their small ends terminate with those of the keel-rod, in the extremities of each stem. On the outside of the proper gunwale, with which they exactly correspond, and connected with them by a few thongs, are also false gunwales, fixed there for the same purpose as we use fenders. The inside is lined entirely with sticks, two or three inches broad, cut flat and thin, and placed lengthwise, over which again others are crossed, that being bent in the middle, extend up each side to the gunwale, where they are secured, serving as timbers. A short thwart near each end to preserve the canoe from twisting, or being bulged more open than proper, makes it complete. It may readily be conceived, from its form and light fabric, that being put into the water, it would lie flat on one side, with the keel and gunwale both at the surface. But being ballasted with stones, it settles to a proper depth in the water, and then swims upright; when a covering of sods and moss being laid on the stones, the Indians kneel on them and /33/ manage the canoe with paddles. In fine weather they sometimes set a sail on a very slight mast, fastened to the middle thwart, but this is a practice for which those delicate and unsteady barks are by no means calculated. A canoe of fourteen feet long, is about four feet wide in the middle.
The bows are all sycamore(7), which being very scarce in this country, and the only wood it produces which is fit for this use, thence becomes valuable. The sticks are not selected with any great nicety, some of them being knotty, and of very rude appearance; but under this simple rustic guise they carry very great perfection; and to those who examine them with due attention admirable skill is shown in their construction. Except in the grasp the inside of them is cut flat, but so obliquely, and with so much art, that the string will vibrate in a direction coinciding exactly with the thicker edge of the bow. This seems to be essential to the true delivery of the arrow, but is a principle that appears not to be generally understood among archers. The bow is full five and a half feet long. The arrow is made of well seasoned pine, slender, light, and perfectly straight. Its head is a two-edged lance, about six inches long, and the stock is about three feet more. Like the famous arrow that pierced the heart of Douglas, it was feathered with the "Grey goose wing."
The country which the Red Indians now inhabit, is chiefly about the River Exploits, extending northerly as far as Cape John, and to Cape Frehel in the southeast. They were formerly known to spread themselves much further, but it is thought they were then considerably more numerous than they are at present. In the winter it seems they reside chiefly on the banks of the Exploits, where they are enabled to procure a plentiful subsistence, as appeared by the abundance of horns and bones that lay scattered about their wigwams at the deer fences, Rangers River, Prospect Lake. The forbidden ponds, and other places may admit, no doubt, of a like residence, and afford them the same kind of food, though not in such plenty; for the channel of the Exploits, stretching itself directly across the regular and constant track of the deer, must necessarily insure to them abundance of venison, while all the other places may yield them no more than occasional supplies. In summer they live altogether, as is supposed, on the sea-coast. Between the boundaries I have mentioned, of Cape John and Cape Frehel, is spread a vast multitude of islands abounding with sea-fowl, ptarmigan, hares and other game, besides seals in great numbers. On the largest of these islands are deer, foxes, bears and otters. Besides hunting all these, they used formerly to kill considerable quantities of salmon in the rivers and small streams; but the English have now only left them in possession of Charles's and another brook. During the egg season they are supposed to feed luxuriously; and by no means to want after the young have taken to wing; for in archery they have an unerring hand that amply supplies their wants. A kind of cake made of eggs, and baked in the sun, and a sort of pudding stuffed in a gut, and composed of seals' fat, livers, eggs, and other ingredients, have been found about their wigwams. /34/ These puddings, it is thought, are preserved by them, as a provision against times of scarcity, and when the chase may happen to fail.
The Red Indians, as I have observed before, have no intercourse with Europeans, except a hostile one; which there is great reason to think, is founded, on their part, upon a just, and, to any uncivilized people, a noble resentment of wrongs. On the part of the English fishers, it is an inhumanity which sinks them far below the level of savages. The wantonness of their cruelties towards the poor wretches, has frequently been almost incredible. One well-known fact shall serve as a specimen. A small family of Indians being surprised in their wigwam, by a party of fishermen, they all fled, to avoid if possible, the instant death that threatened them from the fire-arms of their enemies; when one woman being unable to make her escape, yielded herself into their power. Seeing before her none but men, she might naturally have expected that her sex alone would have disarmed their cruelty but to awaken in them still stronger motives to compassion, she pointed with an air of most moving entreaty to her prominent belly. Could all nature have produced another pleader of such eloquence as the infant there concealed? But this appeal, Oh, shame to humanity! was alas! in vain; for an instant stab, that ripped open her womb, laid her at the feet of those cowardly ruffians, where she expired in great agonies. Their brutal fury died not with its unhappy victim; for with impious hands they mutilated the dead body, so as to become a spectacle of the greatest horror. And that no aggravation of their crime might be wanting, they made, at their return home, their boasts of this exploit. Charity might even have prevailed in their favour, against their own report, and have construed their relation into an idle pretence only of wickedness, which, however, they were incapable of having in reality committed, had they not produced the hands of the murdered woman, which they displayed on the occasion as a trophy. Although I meant to confine myself to a single proof of my charge against the fishermen, yet, as that is general, and of so criminal a nature, it may not be amiss to bring more evidence against them, in order to satisfy the reader that their guilt has not been exaggerated. The following story will but too much confirm what has been already advanced. Some fishermen, as they doubled in their boat, a point of land discovering a single defenceless woman with an infant on her shoulders, one of them instantly discharged at her a heavy load of swan shot, and lodged it in her loins. Unable now to sustain her burthen, she unwillingly put it down, and with difficulty crawled into the woods, holding her hand upon the mortal wound she had received, and without once taking off her eyes from the helpless object she had left behind her. In this dreadful situation she beheld her child ravished from her by her murderers, who carried it to their boat. How the infant's cries, as they bore it off, must have pierced her fainting heart! How the terrors of its approaching fate must have wrung a mother's breast! A cruel death or an ignominious bondage among enemies the only prospects for a beloved son she was to see no more! Sure the arrow of death was now dipped in the keenest of all poisons! Assassinations but not the deeds of manly courage are the genuine effects of cruelty. The child was snatched away in all the hurry /35/ and affright imaginable, and the most precipitate retreat made in the boat, till out of bowshot from the shore because this courageous crew just before they discovered the woman, had seen on an eminence at a considerable distance, two Indian men. Sentiments of horror and indignation will move no doubt the generous reader, when he casts his eye upon these shocking scenes; but what feeling, what mode of disgust has nature implanted in the human heart, to express its abhorrence of the wretch who can be so hardened to vice as to conceive that he is entitled to a reward for the commission of such bloody deeds! One of the very villains concerned in this capture
of the child, supposing it a circumstance that would be acceptable to the Governor, actually came to the writer of these remarks at Toulinguet, to ask a gratuity for the share he had borne in the transaction. Had he been describing the death of a beast of chase, and the taking of its young, he could not have shown greater insensibility than he did at the relation above mentioned: but it was not to be heard without far other feelings, and in point of facts is here literally repeated. The woman was shot in August 1768, and to complete the mockery of human misery, her child was the winter following, exposed as a curiosity to the rabble at Pool for two pence apiece.(8)
These Indians are not only secluded thus from any communication with Europeans, but they are so effectually cut off from the society of every other Indian people. The Canadians(9) have generally a strong hunt that range the western coast of Newfoundland, between whom and these natives reigns so mortal an enmity (as in the subsequent letter is more fully mentioned) that they never meet but a bloody combat ensues. This is the case with all savage nations; occasioned by mutual fears, and not being able to understand each other's language.
This is the only tribe from the continent that can now approach them; for the English settlements on the east coast keep back the Esquimaux, who are said formerly to have ranged far enough to the southward, to have fallen in with Red Indian canoes, and it is understood that, they then treated all they met as enemies. The Esquimaux in harrassing them kept to their own element the water; where their superior canoes and missile weapons, provided for killing whales, made them terrible enemies to encounter: but in getting rid of these they have still changed for the worse, meeting with foes more powerful, and to their experience, no less savage; who distress them everywhere alike; so that neither sea nor land can now afford them safety. To complete their wretched condition, Providence has even denied them the pleasing services and companionship of the faithful dog. This affectionate and social creature is partner in the joyous chase, fellow-traveller, protector, and domestic attendant, to every race of mankind that history has brought to my knowledge, except to those most forlorn of all human beings. May we not look upon this as one of the heaviest evils they endure? For the Indian that in his dealings with his fellow creatures will but too frequently experience fraud and treachery, finds in his honest dog a friend /36/ that never will forsake or betray him, and one that is not incapable of sympathising in his misfortunes and in his welfare. Their coming down in the spring to the sea-coast and the islands I have spoken of, may very properly be termed taking the field or opening the campaign, for there they are obliged to observe all the vigilance of war. So inconsiderable are they in point of numbers, and subject to such an extreme dread of fire-arms, that they are ever on the defensive. Besides, the necessity of their separating into single families and small parties in order to obtain that subsistence which no one place would furnish to numerous bodies, renders them in general an easy conquest to a single boat's crew.
There is no cod-fishery, and consequently there are no inhabitants, within the very extreme verge of these islands, but they are often visited by boats that carry the salmon fishers, shipbuilders, sawyers, woodmen, and furriers, into the respective bays and rivers situated within them; as well as by such as run from isle to isle in quest of game. The Indians from their secret haunts in the woods, let not a motion of all these people escape them; and in order to be on their guard, are careful to post themselves where they can command a view of all approaches, and secure an easy retreat. Their wigwams are frequently erected on a narrow isthmus; so that their canoes may be launched into the water on the safe side, whenever an enemy's boat appears. Both day and night they keep an unremitting and wary lookout; so that to surprise them requires in general uncommon address and subtlety. Even to gain a sight of them is no small difficulty; for they enjoy in so much perfection the senses of sight and hearing, that they seldom fail to discover the advance of the fishermen early enough to make their retreat, without so much as being perceived. This is known to every one who has traversed these islands, as the traces of Indians are found by such persons wherever they land, and sometimes such fresh signs of them, as a proof they have not quitted the spot many moments, and these appearances are observable every day yet whole seasons sometimes pass without an Indian being seen by them. They cannot be too watchful for surprises in their wigwams have generally proved fatal to them, and upon sudden accidental meetings it has been the usual practice of the fishermen to destroy them unprovoked, while the terrified Indians have attempted nothing but to make their escape, of which the two cases I have mentioned are shocking instances. The fishermen generally even take a brutal pleasure in boasting of these barbarities. He that has shot one Indian values himself more upon the fact than had he overcome a bear or wolf and fails not to speak of it with a brutal triumph, especially in the mad hours of drunkenness.
A Red Indian in the summer season, may with too much propriety be compared to a beast of chase, such as the wolf or fox that preys on the smaller game, and in his turn is liable to fall himself a prey to hunters more destructive. He is like them endowed with a peculiar sagacity, in finding, watching and tracing his game, as well as with strength and activity, for the pursuit: and he subsists by the sole exercise of these powers. Like them he is a wanderer, roaming from place to place, as the revolving seasons vary his food, and point out each successive haunt of woods or /37/ rocky shores, mountains or valleys, ponds or plains, in which it must be sought; and lastly he has to expect from the fishermen, exactly the same treatment as the brute creatures he is compared with; and it behooves him no less to seek his safety in the friendly covert of the forest, and in a vigilance equal to theirs.
From this view of the unsettled restless life of the Red Indians during the campaign, which breaks not up until the expiration of the summer season, it appears that their perpetual apprehensions of danger must entirely deprive them of that repose and security which is essential to the enjoyment of life.
But let us accompany them into their winter quarters where it is probable that, like the Indian tribes of the neighbouring continent, a general festival reigns amongst them. They are now free from alarm, and if any particular rites in their religious worship require time in the performance, this, and not the summer, is evidently the season for celebrating them.
From the undoubted original connection between the islanders and the tribes just mentioned, it is to be supposed that like them, they hold assemblies for deliberating on peace or war, and for promoting an early union of the sexes in nuptial bonds, as the grand support of the community. On these occasions the continental Indians pass the time in singing, dancing, and feasting, and in recounting perils in war and in the chase. But we may conclude that the first happy meeting of our Indians in the interior country cannot be of long duration for want of provisions to supply the feast. It must be soon necessary for them to form themselves into distinct and proper parties, for occupying the posts at which they kill the travelling deer, for their chief subsistence during a long winter.
Between Flat Rattle(10) and Rangers River(11), the banks of the Exploits bears marks of being well inhabited. Beyond Rangers River, as my letter to Governor Palliser mentions, the wigwams are thinly scattered. I have already ventured some conjectures of that river itself, and the country from which it flows, affording stations proper for affording the same subsistence, as is procured on the Exploits, though with less certainty, and that parties of the Indians accordingly betake themselves thither: for I cannot think that more than half or at most, two-third parts of the Red Indian tribe dwell in the winter on the banks of this river. At the same time it must be allowed that we saw in our journey to the source of the Exploits, more wigwams than would be necessary for the use of the entire tribe, as its numbers are estimated by most people who have bestowed any thoughts upon them; but I think their estimates are all too low. Some are of opinion that they amount to 300, others suppose them not to exceed 200 souls; and no doubt their reasons for keeping within such narrow bounds, have considerable weight; they draw their conclusions chiefly from their so seldom seeing an Indian in the summer, and that always within the limits already noticed: to which if we add the certainty of their totally abandoning the interior parts to occupy the sea-coast at that season, it may be confessed that this estimate is plausible and perhaps just. But /38/ when we consider on the other hand that the two capes which form the bounds of their settlements are thirty leagues apart, that between them there is at least an island for every man in the largest of these computations, and that near twenty capacious bays and inlets deeply indent the intermediate part of the coast; we shall easily find shelter in the woods that overhang all these shores, for a much greater number of these savages, who have no temptation to expose themselves carelessly to sight. But the numerous habitations that appeared as we journeyed towards Lieutenant's Lake(12), are what incline me to add to the greatest of these numbers, one or two hundred souls more, and in that note upon the sketch which treats of the Forbidden Ponds(13) it may be seen that I have not allowed a winter settlement to the Indians in that part of the country, merely on conjecture; but from a fact which from its own nature and as it existed at the only time there was an opportunity of knowing it, may well be admitted in my opinion as general. But again, it is very certain that several of the wigwams we saw had been totally deserted, and possibly many more of them than I apprehended; that had all such been demolished we might from the standing ones have made an accurate calculation of the inhabitants; which would have probably have corresponded more nearly with that of other persons. But as in that respect we can have no certainty, and as I have such good authority for not confining their settlements to the Exploits alone, I must still retain my opinion; though with little confidence as it rests on so slight a foundation.
When the Indians assemble at their respective stations their habitations are soon put in order, their deer fences repaired, the necessary sewelling completed, and every preparation made for the ensuing slaughter. In the beginning of winter the deer of this country all resort to the southward, where the climate is more mild and the snow not so deep as in the northern parts, so that those which have spent the summer to the northward of the Exploits, have necessarily this river (running from west to east) to cross in their route. The country hereabout being one universal forest, it would be impracticable to find or kill many of them in such an unbounded covert. The wide opening made by this river, being as it were, a lane through these extensive woods, renders it the most commodious situation for that purpose.
The first fall of snow is sure to put the deer in motion, and when the earth is covered to a certain depth, the Indians know that their harvest is at hand. The deer, to defend themselves from the packs of wolves which for ever infest them on their road, seek as it were, protection from each other, and gather together in vast hordes, as birds of passage collect in flocks to make their journey. If the snow continues with the usual frost, they travel at an easy rate both night and day, without quitting the paths trodden by their leaders, and without any other food than what they crop or browse from the overhanging branches, as they pass along. In this case their journey is not of long continuance, and the killing season of the Indians must soon be over. But when the frost fails, and a thaw dissolves /39/ the snow, the deer no longer pursue their march with the same regularity, but spread themselves on the spot to feed, until fresh snow and new frost give the signal for re-assembling. These interruptions frequently happen, and must then always retard the operations of the Indians more or less. With plenty and happiness smiling upon them on one hand, and on the other hunger and misery staring them in the face, there can be no doubt but that they employ all their ingenuity in framing their toils, and that their utmost watchfulness, skill and alacrity are exerted in attending to them. We must remember that this extraordinary fatigue always happens in the worst weather; for it is the falling of the snow that urges the deer to move, and at this change of the seasons the weather is particularly tempestuous. So long as their wants continue, they must be strangers to sleep and repose; and even night can yield them no repose from watching and labour. To dispose of the weighty carcasses, as the deer are slain, must be a fatiguing part of their work; and care is to be taken to have them kept free from taint until the frost seizes them. They are then in perfect security the whole winter, except an unexpected thaw should happen; for so long as the frost holds there is no want of salt.
It may be presumed that their first meeting in winter quarters affords every delight and social enjoyment, that so hardfaring, rude, and uncultivated a people are capable of. Refinements in sentiment are not to be found amongst them, and they can be little acquainted with the rational pleasure of reflection; but whensoever mankind possesses plenty and are content with it, they must be happy; and that the full measure of this must sometimes fall to their lot, cannot well be doubted. If they know not the arts which embellish life, and those sciences which dignify humanity, they are ignorant also of the long train of vices that corrupt the manners of civilized nations and of the enormous crimes that debase mankind.
I cannot obtain the least insight into the religion of the Red Indians, and have thought it very remarkable, that in a journey of about seventy miles through the heart of their winter country, not a single object should present itself that might be looked upon as intended for religious purposes or devoted to any superstitious practices of those people; except indeed some small figured bones neatly carved, and having four prongs the two middle ones being paralleled, and almost close together, while the outer ones spread like a swallow's tail. Some of these have fallen in my way, and from the thong fixed to their handle, I have imagined them to be worn as amulets; and I am inclined to judge that the religion of this people rises but little above such harmless trifling observances.
The summer in this part of the world is tolerably long and pleasant, the autumn short and rough; when a hasty winter armed with stormy north-east winds, snow, sleet, and frost makes his furious onset, giving no quarter until he has bound the whole country in his icy chains, and overwhelmed it with a load of snow. But having once subdued all nature to his obedience, he then deigns to smile. A serene sky, a bright sun, and gentle breeze, show the mildness of his established reign.
On a supposition that our Indians might fall short in venison, it may not be improper to show what other resources they have to help them /40/ out. Along all the shores, either of salt or fresh water, that we are acquainted with, which are well sheltered with wood, there is in winter the greatest abundance of ptarmigan, which is a species of grouse, though they are erroneously called partridges. These birds do not seek the warm woody vales until the snow and wintry blasts drive them off the open barrens where they are bred. They become in cold weather so tame as to appear deficient in the principle of self-preservation; so that they are killed at pleasure, and may be almost reckoned as a kind of domestic poultry to the Indians.
The martin or sable, next to be considered, is a creature with which the whole country abounds, and is of all others the most easily entrapped by the furrier. This animal follows every track made by men in the woods, and allured by the smell of provisions, haunts dwellings. This pilfering inclination is easily turned to the destruction of the animal, and is fortunate for the furrier.
The beaver is not wanting in these parts, and makes no mean addition to their store of provisions. The most luxurious epicure may envy them this dainty. The flesh has an exquisite flavour peculiar to itself, which together with a certain crispness in the fat is so grateful to the taste that it is preferred to the finest venison. No broth excels that which is made from the forequarters, which are quite lean. The hindquarters, unseparated, are commonly roasted, being richly clothed with fat, of which the tail entirely consists. A dish of tails to eat as marrow is esteemed a great delicacy. The meat is remarkably easy of digestion, and its admirers say it may vie with turtle itself as a delicious, nutritive and wholesome diet. It is only in winter that beaver is in season, when a large one, as some report, will weigh sixty or seventy pounds. The much admired political, mechanical, provident and social operations of this animal have exercised many ingenious pens, which may be deservedly styled ingenious, as it is the property of ingenuity to invent. How could a traveller resist the temptation of applying the flat scaly tail, so admirably contrived for the purpose, as a trowel for spreading mortar in the erection of their dams and houses? Nor must it be disputed but that it must be equally serviceable as a sledge whereon to draw the materials. But I am well informed that the sagacious beaver himself is still ignorant that this singular tail was given him for either of these ends. Their sage maxims of government, their punishment of offenders and expulsion of slothful members from the community, have been all gravely related by authors who have gained no small credit from these curious discoveries, the result of their deep researches into nature; and these writers in transgressing the dictates of truth, have not however entirely lost sight of them; for the beaver will be readily admitted to be an equal favourite of Providence, and to be governed by as intelligent an instinct as the bee or ant, whose economy is so wonderful.
We may add to the animals above mentioned the bear, the wolf, the fox, hare and otter, besides two or three birds of prey, all of which are to be found in this wild forest, and may afford the Indians a casual meal now and then.
/41/ The white or water bear is not to be reckoned amongst
the creatures that contribute to the subsistence of the Red Indians. Although
this animal is found in Newfoundland in the winter and early in the spring,
he is only a stranger from the northern continent. Stimulated at this season
by hunger he will quit the shores and venture many leagues amongst the
floating ice in quest of seals, and he preys indifferently by sea or land.
He is of enormous size and strength, and no less fierce and voracious.
The homes of the fishermen are sometimes broken open by him, and sometimes
he will pursue a boat at sea, his attacks being always without craft or
hesitation, for he knows no fear; but as he seldom or never goes any distance
from the sea coast inland, I do not imagine that the Indians ever see him
about their settlements.
Letter addressed to His Excellency, Sir Hugh Palliser,
Governor of Newfoundland, by Lieut. John Cartwright. Dated Toulinguet,
19th September, 1768.
Presuming Sir, that you might have a desire to know what occurred on our journey worthy of observation, I have hurried over the inclosed unfinished sketch to lay before your Excellency, and shall take the liberty to run over such particulars as may serve to convey an idea to you of the scenes that presented themselves to us.
On the twenty fourth of last month we rowed in the evening from John Cousen's house, near Indian Point, to Start Rattle, where we left the boat in the woods, and at sunrise next morning (Mr. Stow(14), my brother and five seamen, being on the south side, Cousens myself and five more on the north side, of the river) we began our march, each person carrying his own provisions, consisting of fourteen pounds of bread, and seven pounds of meat. Our other burthens were also distributed as equally as possible.
Our heavy rifled guns we always carried ourselves, with plenty of apparatus for both those and our fowling pieces occasionally. The spare ammunition, hatchets and other implements, were proportionably divided among the seamen, our shot guns ready loaded, we put into the hands of the most trustworthy, and the rest had each of them a pistol for their defence. Early that day and throughout the same we discovered so many wigwams (most of which appeared to be the work of last winter) and other apparatus, that we were in high spirits; fully expecting to find parties of the Indians in a short time. Adjoining these large wigwams, we saw in one place, a slight frame made of sticks pricked into the ground and crossed with others, to which were hanging various shreds of split roots, small thongs and fine sinews all which gave it the appearance of a machine for drying salmon upon. For a whole mile or more, leading us to Sewel Point, we had a line of sewels as described in the reference to the sketch, and in the same place we saw a gaze(15). Not then having discovered the path whereby to avoid the rocks by the great falls we were obliged to scramble over them, which in some places was difficult, requiring a secure hold and sure foot to keep us out of the water, that was very deep. The river here is pent in between two rocks very near each other, which together with a descent of fourteen or fifteen feet, makes the water gush down with such fury as to form a beautiful cascade in a situation highly romantic. Towards night, having accommodated ourselves in a wigwam we spent what short time we had to spare in searching for such things as might enable us to form the least judgement of what might be before us. The many remnants of split spruce roots, and other materials led us to conjecture that this was a spot where the Indians stopped in their passage to the sea coast to repair and fit their canoes for their summer hunting among the islands. /42/ The particular situation of the place, and the discovery of the path for conveying the canoes below the falls, confirmed us in our opinion; especially when we considered that they were here secure from any disturbance in this occupation, by boats coming up the river. The second day in the morning early we found a large raft lodged on the bank; it was of Indian construction, and composed with strength and ingenuity. We continued to see many wigwams without having the pleasure to find any appearance of a later residence in them than in those we had seen before, but the beautiful appearance of the river in Nimrod's pool(16), and afterwards a long line of sewelling with a deer fence, raised in us at times fresh hopes. The shores on each side continued an entire wood as they had been from the first, still running chiefly upon birches and poplar, which I am informed is a certain indication of their having been once burnt. It is remarkable that when a wood of almost entire fir is destroyed by fire, those other trees should, as it were, spring from their ashes; while scarce one fir in a thousand is restored, that before exceeded the poplar and birch in the inverse proportion of a thousand to one. I could not at first very readily assent to this proposition, but observation has since reconciled it to my belief.
The searching of some brooks for beaver and other hindrances made our journey by the river but short for this day, as will appear by the figure 2, showing our evening's quarters; and 3, 4, 5, and 6 point out the distance travelled each corresponding day.
The third day throughout and first part of the fourth, we still perceived much the same traces of Indians as before, but nothing more. Ranger's River(17) being crossed the deer fence was seldom visible and all other vestiges discontinued very much in comparison of what we had hitherto seen. We now began to imagine that the savages wholly abandoned these parts, to resort to the sea coast, for the summer; only residing here in the winter, so long as they could subsist on the venison killed at the toils, and the furs taken in the course of the season; except indeed they might inhabit the shore of the large lake, which Cousens' Indian had formerly reported, to lie at the head of this river, and to be the seat of their capital settlement. This prospect again revived our hopes, and the rivers course making every step we trod an advance towards the western coast, to which I was very anxious for finding a road, we determined to proceed as far as it were practicable. I believe it was not until the fourth day that we observed the woods to change from birch and poplar to firs, pines and larch. They now evidently wore the face of antiquity, and pointed out the bounds of the fire, that about seventy years ago consumed all the wood from the north and south heads of the bay, up the river on both sides, far beyond the knowledge of any person till now: the islands only and some other small spots escaping which all at this time bear the marks of such an exemption by producing in a manner nothing but their original spruce, fir, etc., while the rest, formerly the same, is now converted into one continuous scene of birch and poplar. This river has been such an Indian bug-bear that it was never before traced so high as Sewell Point, except by two furriers last winter; who seeing at that place a canoe half built, and other signs of Indians, retired with their best speed. Cousens once came down Thunder Brook(18), and no sooner arrived at the river than he retreated as precipitately, not daring to explore the course of it either up or down. The fifth morning my brother and four of his party, having worn out their shoes were obliged to return. But Mr. Stow and one other attendant proceeded, soon after crossing the river to join us. It was early the same day we found the square house described in the reference It seemed to have been a very comfortable winter quarter; and more than ever confirmed our suppositions, with regard to the Indians change of residence, with the seasons. After this we saw very few other habitations for the day. Some very large pines and birches appeared now among the firs which latter we did not think so well grown as the former, in proportion. On setting forward the sixth day /43/ we were obliged to leave behind us one man, to repair his shoes and await our return; and ere we had travelled three hours, found ourselves deserted by two fellows more, who were so sick of the river that they never stopped to be overtaken until they got back to Cousens's house. Our whole party Mr. Stow and myself excepted were nearly bare foot, the scarcity of game we had met with had reduced our provisions to a bare sufficiency for regaining our boat; our wished for lake might be still far distant, without any other prospect of seeing the Indians except there, besides very bad weather seemed now to be set in as it had rained the greater part of this and the preceding day, being now no less likely to continue. All these obstacles and discouragements conspiring, we had thought of giving up our pursuit of the lake, except we should reach it that day. That we might make the most of our time, we deferred stopping for refreshment until constant rain and a setting sun obliged us to seek for shelter. At the same place where we stopped the river had some remarkable mud beds; and there were decayed leaves that seemed but lately to have driven down and lodged in the coves, which appeared to me the most promising sign of a neighboring lake, that had anywhere presented itself, rendered my desire of proceeding so long as a ray of light remained, too powerful to be withstood. Leaving the rest of the party to erect a lodging and advancing about half a league, I had the satisfaction to discover an opening, which in a few minutes, gave me an extensive view of the object that had so strongly excited my curiosity to behold. A quickened pace soon gratified my solicitude for arriving at this goal; and having at the end of six days labour reached Sabbath Point(19). I there sat down to rest; enjoying the thoughts of having at last explored thus much, and being able to return without so blank an account of our journey, as must necessarily have been given, to have remained in ignorance of the rivers source. Upon Tacamahacca(20) Point grew abundance of the aromatic shrub of that name; which in England is an exotic imported from America. It resembles the leaves and branches of a pear tree, and grows amongst the stones along the upper edge of the beach. This is the only spot in this Island where I have either seen it or heard of its being produced, so that I am inclined to consider the Canadians as the transplanters of it from the continent.(21)
It is probably used by them in medicine; for I have been informed that the leaf of it, applied to a green wound, is a good remedy. Upon this point also I passed a vacancy in the woods, where the remains of wigwams appeared.
The morning following, having left another man behind to mend his shoes, the rest of us, being only five of the original fourteen went to view the lake; and walked about halfway to the bottom of June's Cove(22) which was found to answer the description of such a place given by the Indian boy June, where he said his father dwelt. By his account it was the residence also of great part of his tribe which might have been very true for, reaching about a quarter of a mile within the beach, that was cleared of timber, and covered with old marks of an Indian settlement, now gone entirely to decay, and almost hid with young woods and high weeds, which flourish here in great luxuriance, the soil being fruitful. From the circumstance of its large extent; being well filled with habitations; being cleared of wood and thrown open to the north west winds, as if for air and coolness; I should be inclined to think that it might have been a settlement for all seasons; the studded houses making it sufficiently warm in winter, without the shelter of the woods; could a method be assigned whereby the Indians might be able to procure their summers subsistence in such a place. But that appears improbable except that lake abounds in fish and fowl; the latter of which from appearances must I believe be very scarce. After /44/ allotting the shores at this end for a residence to his own tribe June made the Canadians(23) possess those at the western end of the lake and related that the two nations did not see the least signs one of the other during whole winters. This in the main might also be true for, being mortal enemies, and never giving quarter on either side, their reciprocal fears might, naturally enough, keep them apart. We know that the Canadians range all the western coast opposite to those parts; and probably the same reasons prevail over them, that drive these savages into the interior parts of the country during winter. Between June's Cove and Tacamahacca Point are a few wigwams and one square house, that were occupied during last winter. Over the western part of the lake there hung such a fog and dark clouds, that we could not extend our view more than two leagues down. It is probably of much greater length, seeming to bend towards the southwest; but, from the form of the land I do not imagine it is anywhere very broad. This river and lake running for so long a distance in so convenient a direction; I had a strong curiosity of taking a view from the summit of Mount Janus(24) which I persuaded myself would have extended to the west coast, taking in at the same time a large tract of the journey we had made from the eastward. This was the highest land we had seen from our losing sight of Labour in vain Mountain(25). From the shores of the lake on the north side there is an easy ascent, until the land becomes pretty high; but all the way up the river the land is in general low, so far as we could discern; with here and there a small hill near the water side: The whole country that lay open to our view around the lake, as well as the shores of the river from end to end is one unvarying scene of thick woods. Leaving the lake about noon we travelled back with as much speed as broken shoes and very rainy weather, would admit of, reaching our boat the fifth afternoon.
The practicability of getting a whaleboat into the lake, to carry a stock of provisions for enabling a party to visit Mount Janus and the country beyond it, made me wish to have been so provided, and unconfined to time, that I might have returned immediately, and made an attempt to have found a way quite across the island. At all opportunities I cast an eye on the naked beds of the brooks and over the uncovered rocks, but without perceiving any indications of lead or copper that I was acquainted with: But in many places the water is strongly tinctured with iron.
I fear Sir, I have trespassed on your time too far.
I have the honour to subscribe myself
most obedient humble servant,
(Signed) JOHN CARTWRIGHT.
Postscript, dated November 8th, 1769.
Having endeavored to convey to the reader in the above remarks written in February 1768, the earliest idea in my power of the Red Indians in Newfoundland, and not doubting, but he compassionates their unhappy life, while upon the seacoast, it is with much satisfaction that I can now communicate to him the pleasure I felt on finding that the present Governor(26), immediately on his arrival in the country last July, issued a proclamation, signifying that it was His Majesty's will and pleasure, he should express his abhorrence of such barbarities, as it had been represented to him, his subjects frequently exercised to the native savages and that they were required to live in amity and brotherly kindness with them; commanding the /45/ magistrates at the same time, to use their utmost diligence in apprehending all persons, who might be guilty of murdering any of the said native Indians, that they might be tried for such capital crime by the laws of England. His Excellency has likewise adopted the plan of his predecessor, for the future civilization of these people, which though his first attempt has failed, yet as it happened by mere ill fortune, against a most flattering prospect at one particular juncture, it is to be hoped, may finally be crowned with success. Bonnycastle says of him, "He was the first Governor who appears to have taken a lively interest in the aborigines, or Red Indians, who were ruthlessly massacred on every possible occasion by the barbarous furriers; he issued a proclamation for their protection which the lawless vagabonds on the north eastern coast cared very little about."
Given under my hand,
This proclamation was re-issued by Commodore Robert Duff, Governor, in 1775, and again by Rear Admiral Montague, in 1776.
This work is in three volumes, commencing with the year 1770, and ending with the year 1786. The references to the Red Indians are all contained in the first and second volumes.
After a short autobiographical sketch, the author goes on to relate that, his brother John being appointed first lieutenant of the man of war sloop Guernsey of fifty guns, bound for Newfoundland, on board of which the present Sir Hugh Palliser, who was then Governor of that island, had his broad pennant. "Having," says Cartwright, "no particular engagement, and hearing that bears and deer were plentiful there, I felt so strong inclination to be among them, that I accompanied my brother on that voyage.
"On our arrival in St. John's the command of a small schooner was conferred upon my brother, and he was sent on some service to one of /46/ the northern harbours, when I accompanied him; and it was then that I obtained my first knowledge of the wild or Red Indians."
"During the Guernsey's stay in St. John's, I went upon an expedition against the wild Indians."
Having left the army he says he started for the Labrador on the 25th of May, 1770, and arrived in Fogo in July. While waiting here for his vessel to be refitted, he borrowed a small sloop from a merchant named Coughlan, and sailed on a cruise up the Bay of Exploits in hopes of meeting with the Red Indians, as numbers of them frequent this bay at this time of the year. (He passed through Dildo Run.)
"July 11th. As we towed towards Comfort Island, I discovered by the aid of a pocket Dolland a party of the Red Indians on a very small island which lies contiguous to the east end of little Coald Hall (Coal-All Id). They had two wigwams about l00 yards from the shore, with a fire in each, and two canoes lying upon the beach, one of which they seemed to be mending. I counted six people, and one of them appeared to be remarkably tall, but I could not distinguish of which sex they were. They did not seem to be alarmed at us, because their ignorance of the powers of the telescope made them not suspect we had discovered them at that distance. After going into a cove and anchoring for the night," he adds, "I had formed a plan for surprising the Indians &c. At midnight I proposed going off in the wherry with all the men, but I then found that my English Captain and Irish cooper did not choose to venture their lives upon an expedition which threatened some danger and no prospect of profit, so I had to give up the scheme."
These Indians are the original inhabitants of the Island of Newfoundland, and though beyond a doubt descendants from some of the tribes upon the continent of America, and most probably from the mountaineers of Labrador(27), yet it will be very difficult to trace their origin. They have been so long separated from their ancient stock, as well as from all mankind, that they differ widely in many particulars from all other nations. In my opinion they are the most forlorn of any of the human species which have yet come to my knowledge, the Indians of Terra del Fuego excepted, for these are not only excluded from intercourse with the rest of mankind, but are surrounded by inveterate enemies, and not even possessed of the useful services of the dog.
As far as I can learn there were many Indians on the island when first discovered by Europeans, and there are still fishermen living who remember them to have been in much greater numbers than at present, and even to have frequented most parts of the island. They are now much diminished, confining themselves chiefly to the parts between Cape Freels and Cape St. John. The reason I presume of their preferring that district to any other is because within it are several deep winding bays, with many islands in them, where they can more easily procure subsistence, and with greater security hide themselves from our fishermen. I am sorry to add that the latter are much greater savages than the /47/ Indians themselves, for they seldom fail to shoot the poor creatures whenever they can, and afterwards boast of it as a very meritorious action. With horror I have heard several declare they would rather kill an Indian than a deer.
These Indians are called Red from their custom of painting themselves and everything belonging to them with red ochre, which they find in great plenty in various parts of the island; and wild because they secrete themselves in the woods, keep an unremitting watch and are seldom seen; a conduct which their defenceless condition, and the inhuman treatment which they have always experienced from strangers, whether Europeans or other tribes of Indians from the continent, have compelled them to adopt.
They are extremely expert at managing their canoes, which are made with very thin light woodwork, covered with birch bark, and worked by single headed paddles; they are in size according to the number of persons which they are intended to carry. They are excellent archers, as many of our fishermen have too fatally experienced, and they are likewise good furriers. Indeed if they had not these resources, the whole race must long since have been extirpated by cold and famine.
Formerly a very beneficial barter was carried on in the neighbourhood of Bonavista, by some of the inhabitants of that harbour. They used to lay a variety of goods at a certain place to which the Indians resorted, who took what they were in want of, and left furs in return. One day a villain hid himself near the deposit, and shot a woman dead, as she furnished herself with what pleased her best. Since that time they have been always hostile to Europeans. I fear that the race will be totally extinct in a few years, for the fishing trade is continually increasing, almost every river and brook which receives salmon is already occupied by our people, and the bird islands are so continually robbed that the poor Indians must now find it much more difficult than before to procure provisions for the summer, and this difficulty will annually become greater. Nor do they succeed better in the winter, for our furriers are considerably increased in number, and much improved in skill, and venture further into the country than formerly, by which the breed of beavers is greatly diminished.
About two years ago I went on an expedition up the Exploits River, which is the largest in Newfoundland, many miles higher than any European was before, and I then saw a great number of the Indian houses uninhabited. I concluded from thence that the Indians retire into the country at the approach of winter to feed on venison and beaver, and if I may judge by the number of deer's heads which I saw by the river's sides, they must be very dexterous hunters. The very long and strong fences which they had made were convincing proofs that they knew their business. I observed that these fences were of two kinds. (Here follows a similar description to that given by his brother John.)
He then goes on to say, "At certain intervals the Indians make stands, from whence they shoot the deer with their arrows as they pass along under the fence, some of these were, I observed, in large spreading trees, and others were raised behind the fence.
/48/ The wigwams were constructed of poles in the form of a cone about six or seven feet in diameter at the base, eight or nine in height, and covered with birch rind or skins, and often with sails, which they contrived to steal from the fishing rooms. We also observed several houses specially built of timber. (Here again he describes these houses in a similar manner to his brother.)
As they cannot always get a regular supply of provisions, in times of plenty they take care to provide for those of scarcity; this they do by jerking venison, seal's flesh, birds and fish; and by making sausages, several of which I have often found when I was formerly in Newfoundland. They consisted of flesh and fat of seals, eggs, and a variety of other rich matter, stuffed into the guts of seals, for want of salt and spices. The composition had the Haut gout to perfection.
It is a singular, almost incredible fact, that these people should visit Funk Island, which lies forty miles from Cape Freels and sixty from the island of Fogo. The island being small and low, they cannot see it from either of these places, nor is it possible to conceive how they get information from any other nation. The Indians repair thither once or twice every year, and return with their canoes laden with birds' eggs; for the number of sea-fowl which resort to this island to breed are far beyond credibility.
That our people might easily have established a friendly intercourse, and beneficial traffic with these Indians, the circumstances which I have already related renders highly probable; but vile murder at first produced a spirit of revenge, and that has been made a pretence for unheard of cruelties on the part of our fishermen.
The expedition in which I was engaged two years ago was undertaken at my instance, under the auspices of Commodore Palliser, the Governor of Newfoundland in 1768, with a design to explore the interior parts of the country and to endeavour to surprise some of the Indians. Our object was through these means, to establish an amicable intercourse with the natives for the purpose of trade. The party consisted of my brother John, first Lieutenant of the Guernsey man of war, the Flag Ship; the Rev. Neville Stow, Chaplain of the Guernsey; John Cousens, Esq., a planter, who lived in the Bay of Exploits; nine seamen belonging to the Guernsey; my servant and myself. (Here follows the same description of the journey up the river as related by his brother.)(28)
He then continues, "What number of these Indians may still be left, no person can even hazard a conjecture, but it must decrease annually: for our people murder all they can, and also destroy their stock of provisions, canoes, and implements of all sorts, whenever a surprise forces them by a precipitate retreat to leave those things behind them. This loss has frequently occasioned whole families to die of famine. The Micmac Indians who came from Cape Breton, and are furnished with fire arms, are also their implacable enemies, and greatly an overmatch for these poor wretches /49/ who have no better defensive weapons than bows and arrows." -- Speaking of the difficulty of seeing them, he says, "When I was formerly in Newfoundland, both in the years 1766 and 1768, I met with wigwams upon several of these islands (which are very numerous), in which the fires were burning, yet I never saw an Indian; nor should I have been gratified with the sight of one now, had they not supposed that we were at too great a distance to discover them."
Next day having proceeded across the Bay of Exploits to Charles's Brook to visit a salmon post there, he says, "The crew here consisted of three men only, and this was the first year they tried this brook. These people informed me, that this was the first season of an English crew being here, but that it had hitherto been constantly occupied by Indians, to whom it answers very well; that soon after they came here, several large canoes full of indians came into the mouth of the brook, but immediately retired again; and that they still remained hid in the neighbouring woods, but had not yet done them any mischief: they however, added that the natives often made their appearance on the opposite side, and used threatening tones and gestures."
July 13th. "When the Salmoniers visited their nets this morning, they found that the Indians had stolen one fleet." On returning through Dildo Run, he says, "Upon the island where we had seen the Indians as we went up the bay, there still remained one wigwam with a fire in it, but the inhabitants were most probably on a cruise for provision, for I could not discern their canoe. I soon after discovered another wigwam upon an island near Solid Island which was not there on the 11th inst.
At page 49, Vol. III, speaking of Catalina Harbour, he says, "This Harbour was formerly full of fishing rooms, but the very frequent depredations of the American privateers, in the last war caused every merchant and planter to abandon it except Mr. Child, who has now only two people here; one of whom is the Red Indian who was caught about seventeen years ago, by a man who shot his mother as she was endeavouring to make her escape with him in her arms; he was then about four years old.(29)"
Examination of Mr. Jeffrey, merchant of Newfoundland.
On being asked if he knew anything respecting the conduct of the inhabitants towards the Indians, he said, "He has heard in many instances /50/ of very inhuman treatment of individuals towards them in the North part of the island; he thinks it requires investigation."
George Cartwright Esq., being examined, informed your Committee, that he was an Officer of Foot in His Majesty's service. And being asked whether he has been in Newfoundland? he said, "Yes; several times." And being asked in what capacity? he said, "Twice on pleasure, five times on business, on his way backwards and forwards to Labrador; the last time he was there was in 1786, he has been much in that part of Newfoundland inhabited by the native Indians; he has reason to believe that their numbers are considerable, but he cannot state what the numbers are, as they have been so much chased and driven away by the Fishermen and Furriers(31)." And being asked, How near to any of our settlements do the Indians come? he said, "They frequently come in the night into the harbours to pilfer what they can get, to supply their necessities." -- And being asked, What were the articles which they mostly steal? he said, "Sails, hatchets, boats, kettles and such other things as they think will be of use; they use the sails as covering for their wigwams or tents." And being asked, Could he state any particulars respecting the condition of the Indians in Newfoundland? he said, "He thinks their condition is very wretched and forlorn indeed, our fishermen and furriers shooting at the Indians for their amusement." He said, "He has heard many say they had rather have a shot at an Indian than at a deer: A few years ago there two men, one of whom he knew personally, went up the Great River Exploits in the winter, on purpose to murder and plunder such Indians as they could meet with; when they got to the head of the river where it comes out of a great lake, they met with an Indian town, containing above one hundred inhabitants; they immediately fired upon them with long guns loaded with buckshot; they killed and wounded several, the rest made their escape into the woods, some naked, others only half clothed; none of them provided with implements to procure either food or fuel; they then plundered their houses or wigwams of what they thought worth bringing away, and burnt the rest, by which they must necessarily have destroyed the remainder, as they could not exist in the snow." And being asked, If he meant to state that the conduct of the Fishermen and Furriers towards the Indians was in general of that cruel nature, or that these were only particular instances? he said, "He has reason to believe from the conversations he has had with the fishermen of these parts, that there are very few who would not have done the same thing." -- The witness having stated, that the Indians sometimes come down into the ports where our Cod-fishery is carried on, and steal various articles, he was asked, Whether he believes that was in consequence of any provocation or molestation that they might have received from the Fishermen and Furriers? he said, "Most certainly, and also from the impossibility of their ever getting anything they want by any other means; he has been well assured, that formerly a very beneficial barter was carried on between our people and /51/ the Indians, somewhere near the port of Bonavista, by our people leaving goods at a certain place, and the Indians taking what they wanted and leaving furs in return: but that barter was at length put a stop to by one of our fishermen hiding himself near the place of deposit, and shooting a woman dead upon the spot as she was suiting herself to what she wanted." -- And being asked, Whether he believes, from what he has seen of the Indians, that any intercourse could be again established between them and the British Fishermen and Furriers in Newfoundland? he said, "He thinks it very possible and practicable that he gave in a plan several years ago to the administration for that purpose, and then stated generally these circumstances, and he offered to undertake the execution of it himself." -- And being asked, from what he has seen of the Indians, did they seem to be of a more sanguinary and savage disposition than people in that state of society generally are? he said, "By no means, for he has heard many instances of their saving the lives of our people, when they might very easily have put them to death; he heard one man tell his master, that a few days before he left the Bay of Exploits, as he was going to land out of his boat to look at a trap that he had set for an otter, he was surprised by the voice of an Indian; and on turning his head, saw an Indian standing on the shore with an arrow in his bow ready to shoot him; the Indian made a motion with his hand for him to retire; he was then not above four or five yards from the Indian; he immediately pulled his boat round and made off as fast as he could; the Indian remained in the same posture until he had got some distance from the shore, and then retired into the woods; the Fisherman then added, that he regretted not having his gun with him, as he would have shot him dead upon the spot." -- And being asked, Whether the Indians are large and stout men? he said, "From what few he had seen of them, he believes they are." -- And being asked, Did the cruelties which he mentioned to be exercised by the Fishermen and Furriers to the Indians happen in summer as well as in winter? he said, "Yes, in both, but more opportunities happen in summer than in winter." -- And being asked, Did the merchants and persons who go out from this country to Newfoundland use their influence and endeavours to prevent such practices? he said, "He did not recollect an instance of it." And being asked, Had the Magistrates used any exertions to prevent those outrages? he said, "There are no Magistrates within that district, that he knew of, he means the district between Cape St. John and Cape Freels." -- And being asked, Whether the Magistrates resident within any of the other districts were capable of preventing these horrors if they exerted themselves for that purpose? he said, "He does not believe they could, because they reside at too great a distance." -- And being asked, Did he conceive that those horrors could be prevented without the establishment of a regular Court of Judicature in Newfoundland? he said, "He thinks that if his plan, or something similar to it, was adopted, it would effectually prevent everything of the kind and the offender might be carried to St. John's to be tried by any Court of Judicature established there for the trial of criminal offences." -- And being asked, Whether there is not a trade at present carried on with the Indians? he said, "No: he knew not when the intercourse was /52/ interrupted; it was twenty-seven years ago that he first heard of it." -- And being asked, Whether there is any English merchant that carries on a Fishery North of Cape John? he said, "Not now he believes." -- And being asked, Whether the people that he states to have committed those enormities were annual Fishermen from England or residents in Newfoundland? he said, "Generally the resident Fishermen." -- And being asked, If that residence was prohibited, would not these enormities be in a great measure prevented? he said, "If residency within the district he alludes to was not permitted, it would in a great measure have that effect;" he means the district between Cape Freels and Cape John. -- And being asked, Whether he thinks that the disposition of the Indians is such as to lead them to live upon good terms with our people, provided there were only a sufficient number left to take care of the fishing materials? he said, "He thinks our people would be in danger, unless some intercourse was first established." -- And being asked, In what year did the enormities he represents happen, and who were the Officers of the Navy commanding in those parts at the time? he said "He could not recollect." -- And being asked, if he was conversant with the Coast of Labrador? he said, "Yes." And being asked, Whether there is not an annual Fishery carried on there from Great Britain, without any residence? he said, "No, there are very few who go out for the summer there." -- And being asked, How is justice administered in Labrador? he said, "There has been neither law, justice, nor equity there for many years." -- And being asked, Whether there is not a more flourishing Fishery carried on there than in Newfoundland? he said, "He could not tell how flourishing it is, but he knew that numbers of people have suffered there for want of justice." -- And being desired to state any instances he might have heard while he resided in Newfoundland, which might make a new Court of Judicature necessary, he said, "He could not pretend to say; he knew of none." -- And being desired to state the outlines of his plan, he said, "It was to appropriate that part of the Coast from North Head to Dog Creek(32), including Chapel Island, and all other islands within that line, to the use of the Indians, and to have some person stationed there with a schooner and a sufficient number of people to protect them; by which means some acquaintance and connection might be formed betwixt the Indians and the English, and beyond all doubt a traffic would be established." There is no intercourse or barter between those native Indians he speaks of and our people. There are parts of the island where some intercourse is maintained with the Mickmack Indians, and in other parts with the Nescopite Indians. -- And being asked, If he meant that all the residents should be removed from that part he has described, and that no person should land or go there without permission? he said, "He does." -- And being asked, Whether he ever knew more than one man residing upon the River Exploits? he said, "He knew but of one." -- And being asked, Whether the same cruelties were exercised against the Indians of the Coast of Labrador, as against the Red Indians? he said, "Not since the year 1770, since he went amongst them, and learned their language, and got upon terms of /53/ friendship with them; previous to that period the cruelties were just as numerous as those exercised in Newfoundland. It appears to him that the Indians wish to be on terms of friendship with the English." -- And being asked, Whether the inveteracy of the Indians towards the Europeans is not so great that they murder every European they are able? he said, "Yes." -- And being asked, Whether he conceives that, if the traders, going in the summer to Newfoundland, use their influence to prevent the horrors that have been described, that they might not in some degree be prevented? he said, "He believes it would have a good effect, but in general they do not trouble their heads about the matter, for fear it should affect their own interests." -- And being asked, Whether those Indians are not universally afraid of an Englishman? he said, "They are." -- And being asked, Would they venture to come within sight of an European? he said, "They conceal themselves in the woods as much as possible, and very seldom show themselves." -- And being asked, Did not the merchants going to Newfoundland receive the furs that are taken from the Indians without making any enquiry? he said, "Yes." -- And being asked, Whether our trade and intercourse with Labrador was not very insignificant before the year 1770? he said, "Yes." -- And being asked, Whether there is not a more flourishing trade carried on at Labrador than at Newfoundland? he said, "He could only say, with respect to himself, that his trade has been very flourishing, having cleared above one hundred per cent for the last three years." -- And being asked, If any fees were paid on that coast? he said, "Not that he knew of." -- And being asked, If there were any restrictions under which that trade laboured? he said, "He does not know that there are."
The boundaries the witness proposed to be set apart for the Indian district are as follows: --
From the north end of Dog Creek, all along the shore of Newfoundland, to the north head of the Exploits; from thence to the nearest point of New World Island, keeping on the out or north side of Burnt, and all other Islands which lie between; from the aforesaid point along the west and south sides of New World Island, to the point nearest to Change Island Tickle; from thence to the south side of the said Tickle, along the west side of Change Islands, to the south point of the same, and from thence to the north head of Dog Creek. No person except those employed by his Majesty, to go within that circle (save only those who want to fell timber, or who are obliged to do so through stress of weather), without leave in writing from the person employed in the protection of the Indians. This was part of the plan the witness gave into Government.
Mr. Ougier, merchant, examined, said, "A grand Jury would at this time have readily found a bill against the murderer of an Indian, and the Petty Jury on proof would have convicted him." On being asked whether he knew anything of the Island of Newfoundland, or the coast of Labrador? he said, "He knows there is at present a beneficial traffic with the Indians, both Esquimaux and Micmacs, which has been acquired from the humane treatment of His Majesty's subjects towards them; there are instances of two or three hundred coming together to traffic with the English merchants, and that there is no apprehension of fear between one party and the other. /54/ It has been doubted whether there are any Newfoundland Indians or not; they are supposed to be of the other two descriptions, only who, at certain seasons of the year, inhabit Newfoundland. Some Esquimaux have been in the service of English merchants as boat-masters in the Cod Fishery(33), in which they have been very excellent: he has known an Indian who lived in Dartmouth some years; he returned to Labrador, and joined with his countrymen; he is now the cause of a considerable traffic between them.
Vice-Admiral Edwards, examined, said, "He was Governor of Newfoundland in 1757, 1758, 1759, and in 1789 and 1790." And being asked, Whether he knew anything of the manner in which the Indians are treated? he said, "He knew one instance, in 1758, of a murder committed by some Irish hunters on the north part of the island; they fired into a wigwam, killed a woman with a child, and brought away a girl of nine years old. Complaint was made to him by the Justices, and pains taken to catch the culprits, but without effect. The girl was brought home to England(34). If they had been found he would have tried them at the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Mr. Cartwright never made any complaints to him of the cruel treatment of the Indians by the inhabitants, and he knows of no other instance of it."
John Reeves, Esq., Chief Justice of Newfoundland, being examined, said, "Another subject is the state of the Wild Indians in the interior parts of the island.
"At a time when the Legislature is manifesting so much anxiety for the protection and welfare of a people who do not belong to us (I mean the Africans while in their own country) I make no doubt of being heard while I say a few words in behalf of these poor people, who are a part of the King's subjects. These Indians inhabit a country the sovereignty of which is claimed and exercised by His Majesty. Unlike the wandering tribes upon the continent, who roam from place to place, these people are more peculiarly our own people than any other of the savage tribes; they and everything belonging to them is in our power; they can be benefitted by none others; they can be injured by none others: in this situation they are entitled the protection of the King's government, and to the benefit of good neighborhood from his subjects; but they enjoy neither; they are deprived of the free use of the shores and the rivers, which should entitle them to some compensation from us; but they receive none; instead of being traded with, they are plundered, instead of being taught, they are pursued with outrage and murder.
"It seems very extraordinary, but it is a fact known to hundreds in the northern part of the island, that there is no intercourse or connection whatsoever between our people and the Indians but plunder, outrage and murder. If a wigwam is found it is plundered of the furs it contains, and /55/ is burnt; if an Indian is discovered he is shot at exactly as a fox or bear. This has gone on for years in Newfoundland, while Indians in all other parts of the King's dominions have received benefit from their connection with us, either in the supply of their worldly necessities by traffic, or in being initiated in the principles of morality and religion; but such has been the policy respecting this island, that the residents for many years had little benefit of a regular government for themselves, and when they were so neglected, it is not to be wondered that the condition of the poor Indians was never mended.
"When the Indians show themselves, it is in the Bay of Exploits and in Gander Bay, to the northward. They come down to get what the seashore affords for food. This is a lawless part of the island, where there are no Magistrates resident for many miles, nor any control, as in other parts, from the short visit of a man-of-war during a few days in the summer; so that people do as they like, and there is hardly any time of account for their actions. The persons who are best acquainted with the resort of the Indians, and who are deepest in the outrages that have been committed upon them, are the furriers of the bays I have just mentioned, and of the places thereabouts. Some of these men have been conversed with last summer, and I understand, if they were relieved from the danger of enquiry into what is past, they would open upon the subject, and make themselves useful in commencing any new system of treatment and conduct.
"What then do I propose to be done for these Indians, and what is the manner in which I propose it should be accomplished? In the first place, it seems they ought to be protected from violence, and that ought to be done by executing the present laws against offenders. I hope something is already begun towards attaining this, by what I said to the Grand Jury, last year, and the apprehension expressed, as I understand, by some furriers, who feared they should be brought to justice; but in so distant a part of the island the fear of the law is little security, and if it is really to be executed, I hardly know the means of doing it in the present circumstances of the island and its government.
"But supposing this attained, does our bare duty towards these people end here? Separated as they are from all the world but us, is it not incumbent upon us to use the means in our power to impart to them the rights of religion and civil society? or at least, does not our interest suggest an advantage that might be derived by a free and unrestrained trade with them, in which furs and other produce might be exchanged for British manufactures? Should any or all of these considerations be thought sufficient for endeavouring to conciliate the confidence of these people, and to open a friendly intercourse with them, there seems no difficulty or hazard in the undertaking. It is similar to what has already been done on the Labrador coast with a race of savages said to be more untractable, and under circumstances much less favourable. It is only to choose between holding out encouragement to the Moravians to send a Missionary, as they now do to Labrador, or employing the present furrier under the direction of some person who has a talent for such enterprises. In both cases, there should be some small force; and if one /56/ of the sloops of war upon that station were to winter in the Bay of Exploits, or Gander Bay, for protecting such a project in the season that is most favourable to it, it would be as much force as would be needed; but the mode and manner of carrying into execution such a scheme is for the consideration of the Committee."
1st September, 1790.
I have taken the earliest opportunity to reply to your letter of the 18th past on the subject of the native Indians, and feel great satisfaction in knowing that His Excellency coincides in opinion with me.
I am very sorry that it is not in my power to send the Governor a copy of my letter to Admiral Milbank. It was written without any premeditation at St. John's, and the original left with Mr. Graham. I had not the honour to see His Excellency, nor did I receive any answer, either verbally or in writing(35).
There was at that time in St. John's a Mr. Salter, who had been agent to a house in Fogo, and it was from him that I obtained the information which made the subject of my letter. I introduced this man to Mr. Graham, that he might hear his story from his own mouth.
I have not at this distance of time any recollection of the names of the persons who were accused, but the Indians murdered, if I remember right, were a man and his wife. They had with them a girl, then a child, and in their solicitude to save her, they lost their own lives. The girl was not long afterwards carried to Trinity, and treated with great care and humanity by Mr. and Mrs. Stone, who took her with them to England, where she died about two years ago. I am not certain that the men charged with this murder were not in the employ of one Peyton, who for many years has possessed a Salmon Fishery in the Bay of Exploits, and at this time resides at some place near Poole in England. Peyton has rendered himself infamous for his persecution of the Indians. The stories told of this man would shock humanity to relate, and for the sake of humanity, it is to be wished are not true.
It almost always happens that the proposer of any public scheme is regarded as an intended projector -- he is heard with suspicion and trusted with caution. Although I have never thoroughly digested any plan for promoting an end, which His Excellency appears to have much at heart, I will, in compliance with his request, suggest such hints as I conceive may be improved and acted upon.
The first object, in my opinion, is to obtain possession of some of the Indians. The use to be made of this advantage is obvious to every man who considers the nature of his own constitution. Kind treatment, trifling presents and a friendly dismission, it can be hardly doubted, would open a way to further communication. But, then that barbarous spirit of hostility, manifested by our people upon occasions where the plea of personal safety cannot, in reason be admitted, will of course increase the difficulty of gaining this object. The question therefore, is what appears to be the most eligible scheme for obtaining it.
The persons I should prefer to employ upon this service would be soldiers selected from the garrison at St. John's, and I should give this preference for obvious reasons. It would lessen the expense annexed to the measure, they would operate as a check upon the furriers and salmon catchers, who are the chief delinquents and the nature of the undertaking is suited to their profession. Where and how to station them would be a matter for after consideration. A small number of the /57/ Esquimaux might probably facilitate the execution of the plan. It is likely that there may be an affinity between their language and that spoken by the Newfoundland Indian. Some opportunities have offered for ascertaining this point; but it has not, I believe, been yet determined.
An Indian pursued and hopeless of escape, and at the same time rendered desperate with the belief that his pursuers only seek his destruction would doubtless sell himself as dearly as he could: it might therefore be advisable that the men employed upon this duty be furnished with a covering for the body sufficient to resist the force of an arrow. This precaution might in most cases supersede the necessity of using fire arms. Guides should be chosen from amongst the furriers and winter residents who are all acquainted with the interior parts of the country, and these people liberally rewarded. His Excellency will perceive that the expense can never be an object of national consideration, but would be such as will ever be a bar to the undertaking by any individual in this Island.
In the summer season the Indians frequent the sea coasts, to provide a stock for the winter. They have been known to adventure as far as Funk Islands, a distance of thirteen leagues. The evident danger of so long a navigation in their brittle vessels (for the plank of their canoe is only a birch rind) is a presumptive proof that the winter stock is obtained with difficulty where there could be less risk. And indeed it is conjectured that they sometimes perish by hunger in the winter.
However inclined they may be to shun a people whom they regard as implacable enemies, there would be little doubt of falling in with them, while they were busied in the necessary pursuit of procuring subsistence. Those whom you select to interrupt them should be provided with fast rowing wherries.
But though it should be impracticable to obtain the desired profession, in the course of the summer, without mischief, which if possible, should be avoided, I can see no difficulty in tracing them to their winter quarters, from whence every description of them could hardly escape. You could, in the dreary season, have it completely within your power to show them that you are sincere in your offer of peace. To every prudent and wise man entrusted with the execution of the proposed plan, circumstances as they arose, would suggest considerations which cannot be detailed in the best digested scheme. Had Mr. Peyton in some of his winter excursions, instead of marking his visit with desolation and plunder, and thereby exposing the wretched savages to perish by famine and the rigours of the season -- had he deposited in their huts tokens that indicated a wish for peace, it is reasonable to suppose (for human nature is the same thing everywhere) that the repetition of such evidences of friendship and good will would ultimately have led to a better understanding. Perhaps to expel Mr. Peyton from the Bay of Exploits and to bestow a right of such advantages as a better disposed professor might be able to reap from that tract of country, would be an essential point gained in the desired end.
I will, now, Sir, mention two objections which I have heard urged by persons in this country against the success of any conciliatory scheme. The one is; That the Indians of this Island are naturally of so untameable and malignant cast, that they will be always hostile to a strange people. The other (widely different): That the strong and deep sense of their injuries has so embittered their minds that they would reject every peaceful overture. The first scarcely merits a reply, for it cannot be supported by any experience of human nature hitherto had. And the second, if it will be well founded, is one of the best arguments that can be brought in favour of making the experiment. A strong and deep sense of injuries received certainly never yet resided in a human breast which had no place for gratitude for kindness conferred.
If I remember well, the natives of this island, upon its first discovery, have been represented as tractable and ingenious; and their ingenuity is indeed discoverable in all they do. If upon any occasion they now seek your destruction, it is but a natural consequence of their ill-usage and by no means a proof of a malignant disposition.
/58/ It ought to be remembered that these savages have a natural right to this island and every invasion of a natural right is a violation of the principle of justice. They have been progressively driven from South to North, and though their removal has been produced by a slow and silent operation, it has nevertheless had all the effect of violent compulsion. In proportion as their means of procuring subsistence became narrowed, their population must necessarily have decreased, and before the lapse of another century, the English nation, like the Spanish, may have affixed to its character the indelible reproach of having extirpated a whole race of people. The Spaniard, indeed, was stimulated by a passion which only great virtue can resist; and the inhumanities inflicted by some of our countrymen, on many occasions, upon the poor savages of Newfoundland, can hardly be conceived to originate in any other principle than a cruelty of disposition.
It would, I am persuaded, be highly gratifying to His Excellency, that it was under his administration the humane plan of rescuing this people from oppression, was first put into a train for execution; and I will assure you, Sir, that it would yidd me a very sensible pleasure, should any hints that I may have suggested, or may hereafter suggest, be ultimately employed to soften the rigours of their condition.
I am not much acquainted with that part of the island to which the Indians are confined, but I have a knowledge of residents there from whom essential information might be obtained. The part I should desire to have in so laudable an undertaking would depend chiefly on the encouragements and aids given by Government to carry it into execution. I must, nevertheless, beg of His Excellency to accept my sincere acknowledgements for his favourable opinion and good intentions.
I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
J. P. Rance, Esq. (Signed) JOHN BLAND.
20th 0ctober, 1797.
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency's letter of the 20th past, to which I should not, at this time, have troubled Your Excellency with my reply, but that I wish to take some notice of the objection urged against the hint which I had suggested relative to the Esquimaux. I have before heard that there is no affinity between the languages spoken by those Indians and the Indians of this island, and that they are in perpetual hostility; but I am ignorant upon what ground this opinion has been entertained. Situated as both are at present, neither can with advantage, or convenience, visit the country of the other.
Before this quarter was possessed by the Europeans, there was nothing to separate these Indians but the natural boundary of the Straits of Bellisle; and then, like other barbarous nations who can find no interest in a friendly intercourse, they might have been at continual war. But a great many years have elapsed since the Esqulmaux have had any footing to the Southward of Cape Charles, and it is not improbable that the present generation of the Newfoundland Indian may scarcely know that there is such a people as the Esquimaux.
In respect to an affinity between their languages, if there be no positive evidence against it, I should strongly incline to that opinion except in the instance of the girl mentioned in my former letter, there has not occurred any favourable opportunity of deciding this question for more than thirty years. It is not so long ago, as I am informed, since an Indian named June died(36).
/59/ This savage, the first remembered to have been in our possession was taken when a boy, and became uncommonly expert in all the branches of the Newfoundland business. An old man in this bay who knew June has told me that he frequently made visits to his parents in the heart of the country. If this story be true it is a proof that our people were not very solicitous to cultivate their friendship. Certain, it is however, that the Indian June, was never confronted with an Esquimau, though it is likely that he retained his native tongue for a considerable time after his capture. The language, religion and customs of the different nations of the world, have ever been objects of research with the enlightened of all countries: but looking at the state of this Island, it will not be matter of surprise if no person in it has hitherto felt his curiosity excited on such a subject. It is a common opinion here, that the Indians of this island have a singular veneration for the Cross, and the furriers, it is said, by erecting a cruciform figure upon their winter houses, have saved them from being destroyed during their absence in the summer. Thence it has been concluded that these savages have some obscure notion of the Christian religion. This wild conjecture and the opinion entertained of their language may probably rest upon the same foundation.
With the bulk of mankind, conjecture too often supplies the place of truth, and even the better-informed sometimes had us wrong by relating too confidently on the faith of others. The Esquimau is very little indebted to some of his historians and yet I have heard Mr. Cartwright declare (who must be allowed to have some judgement in this case) that he had always found them more deserving of confidence than his own countrymen.
Since the death of June, August who died a few years ago, has been the only Indian within our possession. This man was taken when an infant, and therefore could be no evidence on the point in question. August fell from his Mother's back, who was running off with her child when she was shot, and I have been told by those who were intimate with August that he has frequently expressed a wish to meet the murderer of his mother, that he might revenge her death. I only mention this circumstance to show that a Newfoundland Indian is not destitute of filial affection.
But, Sir, how and when it has been decided, that there is no affinity between the two languages in question, is not undeserving of our enquiry. There is good reason to suppose that both these tribes of Indians are the aborigines of the countries they inhabited. Before these countries were possessed by the people of Europe, that they must have been very near neighbours, is hardly to be doubted, and their languages can have undergone no change from cultivation. Is it not therefore reasonable to suppose that there may be any affinity between them? There is, to be sure, no reasoning against experience; but, it is only to experience, in all such cases, that we can reasonably yield. For my part I cannot help holding an opinion that we know almost as little of the Newfoundland Indian as we do of the inhabitant of the interior of Africa.
Since I had the honour to submit to Your Excellency my former hints upon this subject, I have learnt that frequent opportunities occur of falling in with the Indians in Gander Bay. Mr. Street, of Poole, has a fixed salmon crew in this Bay, who are also furriers in the winter season. His humanity I have reason to believe, while it would lead him to discountenance any improper conduct in his servants, would also induce him to second any effort of Government in a plan of reconciliation.
I have the honour to be,
With great respect,
Your Excellency's most obedient, humble, servant,
(Signed) JOHN BLAND.
His Excellency, The Hon. William Waldegrave.
/60/ In the year 1800 Governor Pole
sent one, Capt. Le Breton, to examine the nature of the North coast of
the island, and to inquire about the Aborigines. Capt. Le Breton returned
without meeting the Indians, but in several places found very recent traces
of them. (Cormack.)(37)
25th August, 1800.
I have been honoured with Your Excellency's letter of the 16th instant by Lieutenant Scambler, who is yet detained at this place by contrary winds. I will assure you, sir, that it would give me much pleasure could I by any means contribute to forward your wishes in favour of the Native Indians of this island. Admiral Waldegrave did me the honour of his correspondence upon the same subject. My official letters to him contain all the information I could procure both in respect to the general conduct of our settlers towards those poor savages, and the means of conciliating their good will. But Your Excellency may rest assured that this desirable object will hardly be obtained without the earnest interference of Government.
My last suggestion to the late Governor, and which I repeat here, is a very simple one, and cannot in the prosecution be attended with any expense worth regarding. It is to station in the neighbourhood of Exploits a select military party commanded by an officer of discretion. A resident of that district, whose name is Rousel, sent me word that he would conduct such a party to the residence of the Indians. It is not likely, in a case of surprise, that every description of them could escape. The possession of one, or more, is assuredly the first step towards the end so much to be desired. Every man who has considered the nature of his own constitution will be at no loss how to improve such an advantage. It will be confessed unless we would deny one of the widest principles of human nature that benevolent and kind usage must excite sentiments of affection and gratitude in the most uninstructed part of the human race. Could an opportunity be once afforded of showing those savages that we are really well disposed towards them, the chief difficulty, in my opinion, would be removed.
I do not think, sir, that a proclamation would have any good effect, unless it were followed up by some strong measure. Should Your Excellency resolve that a party shall be stationed near the resorts or residences of the Indians, in that case it would certainly be proper to issue a proclamation in the vicinity of Fogo, informing the inhabitants of the intention of placing such a party there, and holding out the most exemplary punishment to all who disobey it. I do not conceive any other mode of suppressing the spirit of hostility uniformly manifested by the furriers and other residents of that quarter.
I apprehend that the Indians are about this time withdrawing from the seaside with such winter stock as they have been able to collect. In this case Mr. Le Breton may not so readily fall in with any of them unless he could make an inland excursion. But I do not think his party sufficiently numerous nor does he appear to be provided for such an enterprise.
Should nothing effectual result from the present attempt, I see no reason to be discouraged from repeating it. Indeed it is the general opinion of persons who must be allowed to have the best judgement in this case, that the thing is very /61/ practicable. And it is beyond all question that the most salutary and happy consequences would result from its success as well as to our settlers as Indians themselves.
The mind of man naturally leads to where his interest points. It is a principle too self-evident to be denied. But, to abstract, sir, from all motives of interest, of which you can have no share, and inlarge our view, how gratifying to Your Excellency the reflection, that you have been chiefly instrumental to a reconciliation which put an end to practices disgraceful to a civilized people, ameliorated the condition of an unfortunate race of human beings, and finally removed the cause of mischief and distrust both on their part and on ours.
I have the honour to be,
With very great respect,
Your Excellency's faithful, humble servant,
[Signed) JOHN BLAND.
Charles Morice Pole, Esquire.
1. By J.B. Jukes, F.G.S., F.C.P.S; London, 1842. Vol. 11, page 129.
2. Noel Paul's Brook.
3. Life of Major Cartwright, by his niece, F.D. Cartwright, in two volumes, published by Henry Cobbin, New Burlington Street, London, 1826. The Weymouth must have been his last ship. That on whch he served at the date of the expedition was certainly the Guernsey as appears from his original MS.
4. Furrier's term for rapid.
5. "Hos non immissos canibus, non cassibus ullis:
Puniciae agitant pavidos formidine pennae."
Virgil has neglected the peculiar beauty of this passage by using only the general word tolis, which gives no idea of a sewel formed with coloured feathers.
6. This word is probably compoundd from see and well; another example is Semore (Mt See-more) near Birchy Lake, Upper Humber River.
7. Maple (Fraxinus Americana), called sycamore by the Newfoundland fishermen. Cartwright is not correct in stating that this was the only wood used for that purpose, they also used Mountain Ash and a hard tough species of fir.
8. This was the Indian (John August) mentioned by Capt. George Cartwright in his Journal of Transactions and Events, seen at Catalina, June 15th, 1785.
9. Micmacs and other tribes from the Continent.
10. Local term for rapid.
11. Badger Brook (?).
12. Red Indian Lake.
13. Twin Ponds (?).
14. Rev. Neville Stow, Chaplain of the Guernsey.
15. A construction of bushes or loose stones behind which a hunter conceals himself when watching for game.
16. Junction of Rushy Pond Brook(?).
17. Badger Brook.
18. Small Brook near Badger (?). Either Aspen or Leach Brook.
19. Bloody Pt., Red Indian Lake.
20. American name for the Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera) site of R. I. Village.
21. The balsam or balm of Gilead, is quite common on the west coast along the rivers in Bay St. George.
22. N.E. Arm of lake, where Millertown now stands.
23. Micmac and other continental tribes.
24. Halfway Mountain.
25. Hodges Hill.
26. This was His Excellency, Capt. The Hon. John Byron, who succeeded Capt. H. Palliser in 1769.
27. Cartwright says, "I saw no difference between the wigwam of the Mountaineer and Red Indians of Newfoundland."
28. It looks as though Capt. Geo. Cartwright not only assumed to himself the planning of the expedition up the Exploits river, but the carrying out of the same, thereby robbing his brother John of all the kudos, whereas it will be remembered by the latter's narrative, he merely formed one of the party and abandoned the enterprise when about halfway up the river.--J.P.H.
29. This was the first mentioned by his brother John Cartwright, who was captured in August 1768, and called John August. He died in 1788, and was interred in the Churchyard at Trinity. The following notice of his interment is taken from the Parish Register of the Church of England at that place.
October 29th, 1788.
"Interred John August, a native of this island, a servant of Jeffery G. Street."
30. I am indebted to Mr. W. G. Gosling for this and much other valuable information which he had copied for me from the records.
31. This term in Newfoundland parlance has not exactly the same significance as elsewhere. It is applied to the trapper or hunter who procures the skins of fur bearing animals, rather than to the person who cures and dresses the furs.
32. North Head is at the Western side of Exploits Bay. Dog Creek now Dog Bay.
33. I think Mr. Ougier is mistaken in this, and that he really refers to the Beothuck men Tom June and John August, who acted in that capacity. Mr. Ougier being evidently unaquainted with the northern parts of the island, easily made the mistake.
34. This is evidently the girl referred to by Mr. J. Bland in his first letters to the Governor as having been taken when the father and mother were killed, and afterwards sent to Trinity where she was reared up. She was subsequently taken to England by a Mr. and Mrs. Stone and died there about 1795. She was probably the person named Ou-bee from whom Rev. Clinch obtained his vocabulary?
35. I could not succeed in tracing the letter referred to, which I much regret as I have no doubt it must have been very interesting.
36. It has been said that June lost his life by upsetting of his skiff while entering the narrow dangerous gut leading into Fogo Harbour.
37. Presumably Capt. Le Breton made a report to the Governor, but I have failed to find it amongst the records of Government House, or elsewhere.