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The Men of the Last Frontier
Chapter X. The Trail of Two Sunsets

Back in 1876 when the combined forces of the Sioux, the Cheyennes, and the Pawnees defeated General Custer in the ill-advised fiasco which resulted in the demolition of his entire command, the wiser chiefs, having formed by that time a pretty fair idea of the methods of reprisal likely to be handed out, advised the departure from that place of the warriors involved.

Their scheme of holding Custer as a hostage against retaliation by the whites had been thwarted by that General blowing out his brains on the field of battle: a historical fact, long known only to the Indians themselves. And so, like guilty children who have only too successfully opposed the authority of their elders, they fled before the expected retribution, to Canada.

They had learned the bitter lesson that although a battle won by the white man's soldiers was considered a victory, a combat in which the Indians prevailed was termed a massacre. Their chiefs were hanged for participation in honest battle, whilst atrocities committed by the troops, such as took place at Klamath Lake and Wounded Knee, went unpunished. It speaks well for the policy of the Canadian Government towards Indians that these people saw Canada in the light of a sanctuary. As a result of the just and considerate treatment of the tribes coming under British control the Canadian frontier was, with the exception of the abortive Riel Rebellion, singularly free from the brutalities, the injustice, the massacres, and the prolonged wars that so characterized the settling of the Western United States. But all that is over now. The Indian is an outcast in his native land, and the Indian population on both sides of the line is at peace for always, if a condition of gradual wasting away and disintegration can be so called.

A moiety have adopted the white man’s ways, not always with success, and mostly with attendant degeneracy and lowering of national integrity; although individuals, even so, have risen to remarkable heights.

No longer do they produce great war chiefs, such as Tecumseh, Crowfoot, Dull Knife, and a hundred others, the necessity for them having long passed, but of the large number in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, more than one received a commission, several were N.C.O.’s, and as snipers many distinguished themselves, one, to my personal knowledge, winning the V.C. Lately in the United States a man of Indian blood, Curtis by name, came close to the Presidential chair, and Pauline Johnstone, or Tekahionwake to give her her tribal name, is Canada’s foremost poetess. Dr. Orokonateka became head of the Foresters, next to the Masons the most powerful organized society in Canada; there is an Indian artist of note, and Buffalo-Child Long-Lance is by no means the only Indian author. These are of course outstanding examples and, considering the small number of the race yet remaining, compare well numerically with the white man’s achievements; for these people, and some others not mentioned, must be taken seriously, and not at all in the spirit of the old gentleman who once visited a college maintained for the education of Indians. On his tour of inspection he came across a young tribesman who was working away at a carpenter’s bench. Astonished at the sight of an Indian engaged in such an occupation, he stared for a time and at length exclaimed:

“This is extraordinary; are you an Indian?”

The young man admitted he was.

“And are you civilized?” continued the old gentleman.

“No,” replied the Indian, “are you?”

Another incident of the kind occurred at an exhibition where a Sioux chieftain, attired in the regalia to which his rank entitled him, was displaying some specimens of the handiwork of his tribe. He had much impressed those visitors who had come in contact with him by his quiet and gentlemanly bearing, and one of these, a lady of authentic Puritan ancestry, remarked patronizingly:

“An Indian warrior; how antique.”

And the Indian looked at her steadily and replied:

“Yes, madam, ‘antique’ is correct. As residents of this country our people have at least the merit of antiquity.”

Indian Chiefs, however able, have not, and never did have, absolute authority over their bands; they acted in an advisory capacity, and, their ideas being once accepted, the people placed themselves under their direction for that particular battle or journey; but the opinion of a whole tribe might run counter to the chiefs policy, in which case the matter was decided by vote. This has given rise to the general impression that Indians are not amenable to discipline, but their record in the late war disproves this, and there is no doubt that had they been able to forget their tribal differences and jealousies and become properly organized, they could have put up a resistance that would have gained them better terms than they received, at the hands of their conquerors.

At the outbreak of war, a number of young men of the band with which I hunted, offered their services. Most of them could speak no English, and few had ever made a journey of any kind, save in a canoe. One patriotic soul, Pot-Mouth by name, offered to provide his own rifle, tent and blankets. After several weeks in a training camp, where, owing to the retiring disposition of the forest-bred, he fared badly, this doughty warrior showed up one day at the trading post, in full uniform, purchased a quantity of supplies, and hit for his hunting ground. On his return for a second load he found an escort awaiting him and he was brought to trial as a deserter.

Through an interpreter, he stated, in his defence, that the board was poor, and that the officers had too much to say; so, there being as yet no sign of hostilities, he had decided to quit the job until the fighting started. He was leniently dealt with, and served as a sniper until “the job” was finished, having acquired in the meantime a good record, and a flow of profanity that could wither a cactus.

This independence of spirit has prevented the Indians as a race from entering the field of unskilled labour, but the members of some tribes have shown an aptitude for certain occupations requiring skill and activity.

The Iroquois of Caughnawauga are amongst the best bridge-builders in Canada; as canoemen the Crees, Ojibways and Algonquins can be approached by no white man save, with few exceptions, those they themselves have trained; and although not companionable as guides they command a high wage where serious trips into difficult territories are contemplated.

There exists with a certain type of woodsman, not however in the majority, a distinct hostility towards the Indian, often the result of jealousy of the latter’s undoubted superiority in woodcraft. They evince a good-natured contempt for the Indian’s abilities in the woods, mainly because, not having travelled with him, they have not the faintest idea of the extent of his powers nor of the deep insight into the ways of the wilderness that he possesses, entailing knowledge of things of which they themselves have never even heard. For the red man does not parade his accumulated knowledge of two thousand years. He is by nature cautious, and an opportunist, seizing on every available means to attain his ends, working unobtrusively by the line of least resistance; and his methods of progress are such that a large band may pass through a whole district without being seen.

He is accused of pusillanimity because he follows the shore line of a lake when beating into a tempest, his purpose being to take advantage of the eddies and back currents of wind which exist there; whilst the tyro plunges boldly and obstinately down the centre of the lake, bucking the full force of the elements, shipping water and wetting 208 his outfit, and often becoming wind-bound, or at least arriving at his destination some hours late.

This people, who knew the fine art of canoeing when in England bold knights fought for the favour of fair ladies, do not need to run rapids to gain experience, and will not do so, thereby risking water-soaked provisions, unless they may gain time by so doing. But, on the necessity arising, they face, without hesitation, white water and. storms that their detractors would not for a moment consider. For this is their daily life; the novelty of the game was worn off somewhere around 1066, and they no more pass their time doing unnecessary stunts, than an expert runner would sprint to his daily work in a series of hundred yard dashes.

The genuine woodsman knows these things, and does not disdain to learn from his swarthy brother, attaining often a degree of excellence that causes even his teachers to look to their laurels. The Indian is not to be judged by the standards of civilization, and those who cast aspersion on his skill or manhood, from the fund of their slight experience, know not whereof they speak. In his own line he is supreme, and few know his worth who have not travelled with him. The Indian is rarely seen in lumber camps, for he was never an axeman to compare with the French-Canadian; but in river-driving, the operation of herding a half-million or so of logs down a river swollen with melted snows, and generously strewn with rapids, an occupation requiring a degree of quick-footed daring and swift judgment, he excels.

His knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of swift water is unsurpassed, and although less spectacular than his Gallic contemporary, awakened from his lethargy by the lively competition with his vivacious co-worker, he enters into the spirit of the game with zest. The famous Mohawk drivers are much in demand by companies whose holdings necessitate long drives of timber down rough and dangerous rivers such as the Ottawa, the Gatineau, the Mada-waska and other famous streams.

Civilization has had a certain influence on the more primitive Indians of the north in some districts, but rarely for good, as witness the shiftless, vagabond families living in squalid misery on some of the small reserves, where they are neither flesh, fish, nor fowl, nor yet good red Indian.

The Indian, and I refer now only to him whose life is spent in the Land of Shadows, although a dreamer and a visionary in his idle moments, is a being who lives by constant struggle against the elements, and some very signal virtues are called forth by the demands of his life. As many a business man, on quitting his chosen sphere of activity, becomes more or less atrophied, so the Indian, removed from his familiar occupations, and having no occasion for the exercise of his highly specialized faculties and ideas, loses out entirely.

Those Indians before mentioned who have attained national prominence belong to tribes whose geographical position was in their favour; civilization has made them fairly prosperous, and, excepting Long Lance who is, though educated, a splendid savage, they have two or three generations of civilization already behind them. Some are so fortunately situated as to have oil found on their reserves with the result that they are actually^wealthy. But the Indians of the far north live much as their grandfathers did; they are too far behind to catch up in this generation and at the present rate of decrease they will not long outlive the frontier that is so rapidly disappearing.

To effect in a few years an advancement in them that it has taken the white man two thousand years to accomplish would entail their removal; and to wrench them loose from their surroundings and suddenly project them into the pitiless, competitive maelstrom of modern life would be equivalent to curing a sick man by hanging him, or loading a sinner into a sixteen-inch gun and shooting him up into heaven. Or, to come back to earth, requesting the Indian to exchange the skilful manipulation of pole, paddle, and snowshoe, in which his soul rejoices, for the drudgery of a shovel on a small backwoods farm, the first step in the reclaiming of which requires him to destroy the forest on which he looks as a home, is to ask an artist to dig graves, for an artist he surely is in his line, and the grave would be his own.

The coming of civilization does not surround the northern tribes with prosperous farmers or the multifarious chances of employment as it did in more favoured districts; it merely destroys their means of livelihood, without offering the compensations of the more productive areas.

Left to his own devices in civilization the Indian is a child let loose in a house of terrors. As a solace he indulges in the doubtful amusements of those only too ready to instruct him, and lacking their judgment, untrained in the technique of vice, he becomes a victim of depravity. Unable to discern the fine line between the evasions and misrepresentations with which civilized man disguises his thoughts, and downright dishonesty, he becomes shiftless and unreliable. The few words of English he learns consist mainly of profanity, so we have the illuminating object-lesson of a race just emerging from a state of savagery turning to the languages of the white man for oaths that their own does not contain. Some few have been brought out to the front and partially educated, but almost invariably they return to the tent or the teepee, and the crackling wood fires, to the land of endless trails, tumbling water, and crimson sunsets.

The Indian readily falls a victim to consumption when he substitutes a poor imitation of the white man’s way of living for his own; as he gropes blindly around in the maze of complications that surround him, he selects badly; and undernourished and inadequately clothed, his impoverished system absorbs the first disease that comes along.

Submission to the unalterable facts of a hard life have given the Indian a subdued mien, which his bold and vigorous features belie, quite out of keeping with his fierce and tireless energy when roused. He is the freeman of a vast continent, the First American. Innovation intrudes itself all about him, but he changes not. To those who undertake his regeneration he listens gravely and attentively, whilst retaining his own opinion; inflexible as the changeless courses of Nature which flow around him. If the Indian accepts one or another of the white man’s various religions, he does so with reservations. He fails to see what lasting benefit can be derived from a gospel of love and peace, the adherents to the many sects of which are ready to fly at one another’s throats over a discussion as to which is the shortest road to hell. An Algonquin once innocently asked me what did I suppose the white man had done in the past that he was unable to approach his God save through an interpreter?

He is Catholic or Protestant with cheerful impartiality, according to whichever minister gets to him first, practising the required rites at intervals, in public, and is easily persuaded to give sums of money for the building of churches. For he is a simple man, he thinks there may be something in this hell business after all, and he, with his bush experience, takes nothing for granted and likes to play safe. Yet he retains his own views, and secretly communes with his omnipresent deity, and propitiates his evil spirit, whilst the white man, too, often works for his own particular devil quite cheerfully, and at times with enthusiasm. I once lived in a small town where the Indians hunting to the north of the railroad track were Protestants and those to the south of it were Catholics; a matter of geography. I remember, too, a Cree Indian, well advanced and able to speak good English, although unable to write, who dictated to me a letter addressed to a Protestant minister in which he reminded the churchman of a promise to help in case of need. The need had now arisen, and the Cree asked for the loan of a hundred dollars, or some such trifling sum, I forget exactly, and to intimidate the good parson into granting his request, he threatened, in the event of a refusal, to turn Catholic.

Under the white man’s scheme of existence the Indian is asked to forget his language, his simple conception of the Great Spirit, and his few remaining customs, which if it were demanded of the Hindus, the Boers, the Irish or the French-Canadians, would without doubt cause a rebellion.

And as he sits and glooms beneath the arches of the forest before his little smoky fires, he coughs his hacking cough and stares dumbly out into the dancing shadows, wondering, now that his spirits are forbidden him, why the white man’s God that dispossessed them does not fulfil the oft-repeated promise of the missions. Yet their loyalty is such that they recognize no Provincial authority, but look to Ottawa, the seat of Dominion Government, as directly representing the King, who to them is no Royal personage, but Gitche Okima, literally the Great Chief, a father who cannot fail them.

Since the war I have attended councils where no white men were present, the opening ceremony of which was to place on the floor the Union Jack, the assembly seating themselves in a circle around it, and each speaker advanced to the edge of the flag and there had his say.

Very recently I listened to an altercation between a band of Indians and an ecclesiastic who had lowered the dignity of his Church, and entirely lost the confidence of his flock by his extortionate methods of retailing high-priced salvation. During the discussion the “ Black Robe ” stated that the British Government had nothing to do with the Indians, and that they were directly responsible to the Church for any benefits they had received, including the introduction of moose and beaver into the country. And an old chief arose, and speaking for his assembled people, said with grave emphasis:

“When King George tells us that, we will believe it!” And no matter how pious, earnest and sincere a man of God may undertake the task, it will take years of patient labour and devotion to eradicate the effect of this untimely speech on a people to whose minds a statement once made can in no wise be withdrawn.

The Ojibways are probably the most numerous of the tribes that roam the vast Hinterland north of the fifty-first parallel; and regardless of wars, rumours of wars, and the rise and fall of nations, oblivious of the price of eggs, champagne, and razor blades, they wander the length and breadth of the land, which, with the one proviso of game being in plenty, is at once to them a kingdom and a paradise. They overcome with apparent ease the almost insuperable difficulties incidental to a life in this land of violent struggle for existence. By a process of elimination, the result of many generations of experience, they have arrived at a system of economy of effort, a reserving of power for emergencies, and an almost infallible skill in the detection of the weak points in Nature’s armour, that makes for the highest degree of efficiency.

Gaunt Crees, in lesser numbers, hollow-cheeked, high shouldered fellows, skilled in the arts of speed, ranged this region with burning ambition and distance-devouring stride. The light wiry Ojibway, with his crew of good and evil spirits, his omens, and his portents continually dogging his footsteps, packed unbelievable loads over unthinkable trails or no trails at all, and insinuated himself by devious ways into the most inaccessible fastnesses. Then came the white man, cheerful, humorous, undismayed by gods, devils or distance; working mightily, hacking his way through by main force where the Indian sidled past with scarcely a trace, pushing onward by sheer grit and bulldog courage.

Subdued by no consideration of the passage here before him of the wise and mighty men of former generations, there being in his case none, he forged ahead and lugged the outfit along. And if his lack of skill in the discovery of game left the larder kind of low at times, _ he starved like the gentleman he was, and dared the wilderness to beat him. And always he left behind permanent works; laboriously hewn trails, log cabins, small clearances and often large burns, while his russet-skinned,_ sloe-eyed contemporaries with their easy swing and resilient methods, looked askance at his ruinous progress, and wished him evil. And they retired unobtrusively before him to where as yet, for a little time, the enchanted glades were not disfigured by unsightly stumps, nor the whispering echoes rudely awakened by the crash of falling timber, and other unseemly uproar. The passage of the paleface through, his ancestral territories is, to the Indian, in effect, what the arrival of the German Army would have been to a conquered England. To them his progress is marked by a devastation comparable only with that left in the wake of a plague in a crowded metropolis.

His coming changed the short springy carpet of buffalo-grass that covered the prairie into a tangle of coarse wild hay, shoulder high. The groves of the forest became dismal clearances of burnt and blackened skeleton trees, and the jewelled lakes were dammed and transformed into bodies of unclean water, bordered by partly submerged rampikes, and unsightly heaps of dead trees, where, in the event of a sudden storm, landing was dangerous if not impossible. Fish died in the pollution, and game of all kinds migrated to other regions.

For the Indian the woods are peopled with spirits, voices, and mysterious influences. To him the Spirit of the North, a brooding, sullen destroyer who glooms over the land like a shadow of death, is very real. How this destructive demon retains his supremacy over the forces of nature in face of the Indian’s ever-present God, to whom he can apply at a moment’s notice, is as easily explained as is the uninterrupted prosperity enjoyed by the Satan of the white man. Certain dark ravines are mausoleums in which dwell the shades of savage ancestors. Individual trees and rocks assume a personality, and a quiet glade is the abode of some departed friend, human or animal. The ghostly flickering of the Northern Lights he calls the Dance of the Dead Men, and in the Talking Waters of a rapids he hears the voices of the Old Men of bygone days. The thunder is a bird, and the May-may-gwense, mischievous bush fairies, tangle the traveller’s footsteps, spring his traps and put out his fires. Headless skeletons run shouting through the woods at night, and in some dark and swirling eddy dead men swim at the full of the moon. The Windigo, a half-human, flesh-eating creature, scours the lake shores looking for those who sleep carelessly without a fire, and makes sleeping out in some sections a thing of horror.

Thunder Cape rears its thirteen hundred feet of imposing grandeur up out of Lake Superior, fitting bastion to the wall of seismic masonry that swells and plunges its tortuous way across the lone land to add its mass to the Great Divide, which, swinging eastward for a thousand miles and westward for a thousand more, was erected by the Red Gods to be an impregnable rampart to the jealously guarded treasure house of the north. And here beneath this solid mass of the oldest known rock sleeps Hayowentha, or as sometimes called, Hiawatha. He was the great and wise prophet of the Indians, a gentle soul who called the animals Little Brothers, worked for the betterment of mankind, and went around doing good.

When the first white-winged vessel landed on these shores, he left his people in sorrow at their approaching doom, which they would not take means to avert, with his dogs, his beaver, and his birds, and his canoe, and entered the mighty rock, there to sleep, waking but once a year, until finally he comes forth to effect the emancipation of his people.

Every Fall he releases the Hunting Winds, and opens the Four Way Lodge, coursing for a night through the forest he tried to save, with his furred and feathered familiars, and guarded by a host of wolves. And at such times the Indians can detect in the antiphony of the song of the wolf-pack, the deeper baying of Hiawatha’s hell-dogs; they can hear the muted swish of wings of ghost-birds, and across the hills echoes the clear flute-like call of phantom beaver, from wastes where never beaver was before.

And so we see the Indian cluttered up and retarded by a host of inhibitions, as he was formerly by ceremonial, so that he will put off an important trip on account of a dream, as in former days he delayed a battle to recover a few venerated bones and trinkets, or lost sight of a cause in the fulfilment of some useless vow. The Indian’s God does not reside in the inaccessible heights of majestic indifference of most deities. The Indian feels his presence all his waking hours, not precisely as a god, but as an all powerful, benevolent Spirit, whose outward manifestation is the face of nature. An intimate kind of a Spirit who sends a message in the sighing of the North-west Wind, may plant a hidden motive in the action of a beast for man to profit by, or disturb the course of nature to save a life. They do not fear him, for this God jogs at their elbow, and is a friend, nor do they worship him, save through the sun, a tree, a rock, or a range of hills, which to them are the outward and visible signs of the Power that lives and breathes in all creation.

The Indian believes that his dead are not gone from him, that they live invisible, but ever-present, in selected spots, to which, in trouble, he will repair and spend hours in meditation. The little girl who lost her pet beaver, as related a few pages back, begged the hunter who had killed them to show her where the bodies lay. She preserved the skulls and all the bones, hanging them, in a birch-bark box decorated with porcupine quills, in some secret resort, where she spent hours at a time, and where none were permitted to disturb her.

Great fighting chiefs of former days carried medicine pouches containing a few bits of feathers and small bones, and other apparently useless remnants, as sacred, however, in their eyes, as some religious relics are to a devout congregation.

The band of white thrown across a lake at night by the moonbeams, is, to the red man, the path that little children and small animals take when they die; the Silver Trail to the Land of Spirits. All others take the Sunset Trail.

The conception of the Indian’s heaven generally held is erroneous. The Happy Hunting Ground, so called, is not a place of care-free slaughter, but a, let us hope not too mythical, region where hunting is no longer necessary, and where men and the animals live together in amity, as was supposed to be in the beginning. For the Indians were always conservationists, the first there ever were in this country. They are blamed for the existing shortage of wild life, yet when these people were the most numerous, on the arrival here of the white man, the forests and plains swarmed with game. Few Indians are left to-day, yet every period of a few years sees some interesting or valuable animal practically wiped off the map.

The Provinces of Canada have at last decided, now that some varieties of animals and timber are on the point of disappearance, to get together and try to evolve some means of preserving Canada’s rapidly dwindling natural forest resources. The stable door is about to be closed, the horse having long gone. How slowly we move!

Let us hope that in this judicious and altogether praiseworthy attempt to save something from the wreckage, money will not talk as loud as it generally does when the public welfare and the interests of some branches of big business come into conflict.

There is a kindred feeling between the Indians and the animals which is hard to understand in the face of their former cruel and relentless methods of warfare; but these wars were almost always waged in the defence of those things they held most dear; their freedom, their game, and their sacred spots. Behind a masklike visage the Indian hides a disposition as emotional as that of a Latin. Men who carried dripping scalps at their belts, their bodies streaked with the blood of dead enemies, fought for the preservation of individual trees, and wept at the grave of a friend. When the real bush Indians kill they often address the body before cutting it up, and perform some little service, such as placing the head in a comfortable position or brushing snow from the dead face, whenever they pass that way. They hang up the skull of a bear and place tobacco in it, in propitiation, and if they eat any of the meat they hang the shoulder blades on a tree, first painting two black stripes on them, running parallel to show that their thoughts were not against the bear’s, but with them. There is a little bird that stays around campfires, in the trees, hopping from the stem of one leaf to another, as if inspecting them; he is called the Counter of the Leaves, and must on no account be killed. All savagery, no doubt, but not more savage than a civilization that permits the continuance of bull fighting, where worn-out working horses, as a reward for their long service, are, when wounded in the unequal contest, patched up until killed by the bull—blindfolded, that they may not evade the thrust that disembowels them, their vocal chords destroyed so as not to upset by their screaming the delicate nerves of a cowardly and degenerate audience, who, elated by the knowledge that helpless dumb creatures are being tortured for their amusement, shout their brutal satisfaction. And this on the very day they set apart to worship the white man’s God of mercy and love! Indians never did these things. Frightful torments they inflicted, or submitted to, according to the luck of war, but to inflict such brutalities on an animal as a pastime seemingly never occurred to them.

Indians are in tune with their surroundings, and that accounts to a large extent for their ability in the old days to detect the foreign element in the atmosphere of the woods and plains. A movement where all should be still; a disturbance of the colour scheme; a disarrangement in the set of the leaves; the frayed edge of a newly-broken stick, speak loud to the Indian’s eye. They have catalogued and docketed every possible combination of shape, sound, and colour possible in their surroundings, and any deviation from these, however slight, at once strikes a dissonance, as a false note in an orchestra of many instruments is plain to the ear of a musician. An approaching change of weather affects them as it does the animals, and they readily take on the moods of Nature, rain and dull weather seeming to cast a gloom over a whole community. A change of wind they forecast quite accurately and even if sleeping the changed atmospheric conditions brought about by its turning from the South to the North awaken the older people, and they will say, “It is Keewaydin; the North Wind is blowing.”

To them the North-west wind is paramount; it is the Wind of Winds; it stands for good trails and clear skies, and puts a bracing quality into the atmosphere that makes any extreme of temperature endurable. They sniff it with distended nostrils as one quaffs a refreshing drink, and inhale deeply of it, as though it were some elixir that cured all bodily ills. From it they seem to gather some sort of inspiration, for it speaks to them of that vast, lone land, down from which it sweeps, which, no matter what advances civilization may make, no one will ever know quite all about.

The red man’s whole attitude towards Nature can be summed up in the words of an old man, my companion during many years of travel:

“When the wind speaks to the leaves, the Indian hears—and understands.”

The singing of the wolves is not to him the dreadful sound that it is to some. The wolf and his song are as much a part of the great wilderness as the Indian himself, for they are hunters too, and suffer from cold and hunger, and travel long hard trails, as he does.

The wild frenzy of a hurrying rapids, the buffeting, whistling masses of snow whirling across the winter lakes, are to him a spectacle in which he is taking an active part, a rough but friendly contest amid surroundings with which he is familiar, and which he feels will not betray him, does he but obey the rules of the game.

With the heroic atmosphere of war removed and the Cooperesque halo of nobility dissipated by continuous propinquity, the red man loses much of his romantic appeal. But as one gets to know this strange people, with their simplicity, their silence, and their almost Oriental mysticism, other and unsuspected qualities become apparent, which compel the admiration of even those who make much of their faults. Doggedly persevering, of an uncomplaining endurance and an infinite patience, scrupulously honest for the most part, and possessed by a singleness of purpose that permits no deviation from a course of action once decided on, they are as changeless as the face of the wilderness, and as silent almost, and much given to deep thinking, not of the future, but—fatal to the existence of the individual or of a nation—of the past. The future holds nothing for them, and they live in the days gone by. The Indian stands adamant as the very hills, while the tide of progress swells around him, and unable to melt and flow with it, he, like the beaver and the buffalo with whose history his own destiny has been so identified, will be engulfed and swept away. And then all the heartburnings and endless complaints of the land-hungry over the few acres of soil that are given him in return for the freedom of a continent, will be at an end for all time.

And it almost were better that he so should go, whilst he yet holds his proud position of supremacy in the arts of forest lore, and retains his wild independence and his freedom in the environment for which he is so eminently fitted. It is better that he should follow where the adventurer and the free trapper already point the way, to where the receding, ever shrinking line of the Last Frontier is fading into the dimness of the past. Better thus, than that he should be thrown into the grinding wheels of the mill of modernity, to be spewed out a nondescript, undistinguish-able from the mediocrity that surrounds him, a reproach to the memory of a noble race. Better to leave him, for the short time that remains to him, to his recollections, his animals, and his elfin-haunted groves, and when the end comes, his race will meet it as a people, with the same stoic calm with which they met it individually when defeated in war in former times.

The old days are not so far behind, the most stirring period in the history of the old frontier is removed from the present only by a period frequently covered by the span of one human life. I have talked with an old woman who remembered, for she has long joined the great majority, the first matches introduced to her people. They were the kind, still in use in the woods, known as eight-day matches, as on being struck they simmered along for an interminable period before finally bursting into flames. After the interesting entertainment of seeing them lit she retrieved the sticks and took them home to demonstrate the new marvel, but much to her disappointment she could not make them work.

She told me much of the ancient history of the Iroquois and remembered the war parties going out, and as a child, during a battle she hid with the rest of the children and the women in the fields of squashes and corn which the Indians maintained around their villages.

One old man of the Ojibway with the prolonged name of Neejin-nekai-apeechi-geejiguk, or to make a long story short, “Both-ends-of-the-day,” witnessed the Iroquois raids of 1835 or thereabouts in the Temagami region. He was a man to whom none could listen without attention, and was a living link with a past of which only too little is known. Although he died in distressing circumstances a good many years ago, I remember him well, as I last saw him; straight as an arrow and active as a young man in spite of his years, he had an unusually developed faculty for seeing in the dark, which accounts for his name, which inferred that day and night were all one to him. I recollect that he carried an alarm clock inside his shirt for a watch, and when once, at a dance, he fell asleep, some mischievous youngster set the alarm, and he created the diversion of the evening when the sudden racket within his shirt woke him up. In reality the first touch of the little urchin had awakened him, but he purposely feigned continued sleep till the alarm should go off, for he had a keen sense of humour, which Indians possess more often than they get credit for. He was also fond of the society of young children, but he once showed me some grisly relics that invested his character with quite a different aspect; and from then on there seemed to lurk behind his cheery smile at times a savage grin. _

He would sit for hours outside his camp, tapping a small drum, singing ancient songs in a language no one understood; and sometimes he would lay the drum aside, and to those who had assembled to hear his songs, he would tell of things that students of Canadian history would have given much to hear; of ways and means now long forgotten; tales of the wild Nottaways in bark canoes that held a dozen men; of shaven-headed Iroquois who crept at dawn into a sleeping village and slew all within it before they could awaken. He told of a woman who having crossed a portage some distance from camp, was fishing, and whilst so engaged, saw land at the portage, canoe-load after canoe-load of Mohawk warriors, who secreted their canoes, and effacing the signs of their passage, lay hidden in deadly silence, awaiting the proper hour to strike. That she had been observed she took for granted; but she reasoned, and rightly, that the enemy would not risk killing her, as, if missing, a search for her might reveal the war-party. She decided to return to camp by way of the portage, her passport to safety being her pretended ignorance of the presence there of enemies. So this courageous and sagacious woman landed, picked up her canoe, and walked the full length of the trail, knowing that in the dark forest on either hand lay a hundred warriors thirsting for her blood, and that the least faltering or sign of fear would cause her instant death, and precipitate an attack on the village. Her steadiness of mien led the invaders to imagine themselves undiscovered, and she made the trip unmolested. Thus she was able to warn her people who made such good use of the hours of darkness that when at dawn the Iroquois made their attack they found only an empty village.

Judging by some of the old man’s narratives, apparently these far-famed warriors were not as uniformly successful as we have been led to believe. It appears that they made a practice of taking along a captive as a guide in his own territory, knocking him on the head when his sphere of usefulness was ended, and taking another in the new district. These conscripted guides sometimes put their knowledge of the country to a good account, as on the occasion when a large canoe, loaded with warriors, arrived near the head of a falls, which was hidden from sight by a curve. The guides, there were two of them in this case, informed their captors that this was a rapids that could be run by those who were acquainted with the channel, and they took the steering positions, formulating, as they did so, a plan, with swift mutterings in their own language, unheard in the roar of the falls. The water ran dark and swift between high rock walls, except at one spot where there was a line of boulders reaching from the shore out into the channel. Increasing the speed of the canoes as much as possible, the Ojibways jumped off the now racing craft as it passed the stepping stones, and the remainder of the crew, struggling desperately to stem the current, were swept over the falls. Those that did not drown were killed with stones by their erstwhile guides, who had raced over the portage with that end in view. And great was the glory thereof. The incident obtained for that place the name of Iroquois Falls, which it retains to this day.

During the winter a band of them, arriving back in camp after an arduous and fruitless man-hunt, fatigued by the use of snowshoes unsuited to conditions so far North, asked their guide, a woman, what steps her people took to relieve the cramps that afflicted their legs after such heavy snowshoeing. She informed them that the method generally adopted was to lie with their legs elevated, with the ankles on cross-bars, feet towards the fire. This they did. Exhausted, they fell asleep. The woman wetted and stretched some rawhide thongs, lightly bound their ankles to the bars, and put on a good fire. Soon the thongs dried and shrunk, holding them with a grip like iron, and she killed them all before they could extricate themselves. Taking all the provision she needed, this very able woman proceeded to another war party she knew to be in the vicinity, as vicinities go in that country, a matter of fifty miles or so, and gave herself up as a prisoner. She soon gained the confidence of her captors, and once, coming home tired, they committed the indiscretion of falling asleep in her presence. She thereupon burnt all the snowshoes except one pair, on which she escaped, leaving them as much marooned in six feet of snow as any crew of shipwrecked sailors on a desert island could be, and they were later found and killed by a jubilant band of Algonquins.

The descendants of these same Iroquois to-day are living near Montreal, and are staging a comeback, reviving their ancient customs, dress and dances, and this movement is becoming widespread. In the West, blanketted, bonnetted warriors are no longer an uncommon sight, college graduates though some of them may be; and big Indian conventions are being held, to which all the tribes send delegates, where the English language is not permitted, none but tribal dress is worn, and at which the long forbidden Sun Dance is now permitted, minus the self-torturing feature. Always the most interesting thing to me at these revivals is the sight of the old men with their long braided hair, in some cases white with the passage of three-quarters of a century, dressed in the regalia that was at one time the only garb they knew, and wearing war-bonnets that they earned, when each feather represented the accomplishment of some deed of courage, or of skill. They may not be able to compete with the younger men in their supple posturings, but they are living for a while once more the old life that has so long been taken away from them. And I often wonder what stirring memories, and perchance what melancholy recollections of the past, are awakened behind those inscrutable old eyes and wrinkled faces, as they raise their quavering voices in the “ Buffalo Song ” in a land of cattle, or tread, in mimic war-dance, measures to which they stepped in deadly earnest half a century ago.

Many years ago i cast in my lot with that nation known under the various appellations of Chippeways, Algonquins, Londucks, and Ojibways. A blood-brother proved and sworn, by moose-head feast, wordless chant, and ancient ritual was I named before a gaily decorated and attentive concourse, when Ne-ganik-abo, “Man-that-stands-ahead,’’ whom none living remember as a young man, danced the conjurors’ dance beneath the spruce trees, before an open fire; danced the ancient steps to the throb of drums, the wailing of reed pipes, and the rhythmical skirring of turtle shell rattles; danced alone before a sacred bear-skull set beneath a painted rawhide shield, whose bizarre device might have graced the tomb of some long-dead Pharaoh. And as the chanting rose and fell in endless reiteration, the flitting shadows of his weird contortions danced a witches’ dance between the serried tree-trunks. The smoke hung in a white pall short of the spreading limbs of the towering trees, and with a hundred pairs of beady eyes upon me, I stepped out beneath it when called on. And not one feral visage relaxed in recognition, as, absorbed in the mystery of their ritual they intoned the almost forgotten cadences.

“Hi-Heeh, Hi-Heh, Ho! Hi-Heh, Hi-Heh, Ha! Hi-Hey, Hi-Hey, Ho! Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, Ha!” and on and on in endless repetition, until the monotony of the sounds had the same effect on the mind that the unvarying and measured markings of a snake have on the eye. The sensation of stepping into the motionless ring was that of suddenly entering a temple, devoted to the worship of some pagan deity, where the walls were lined with images cast in bronze; and there I proudly received the name they had devised, which the old man now bestowed upon me.

At that the drums changed their rhythm and the whole assemblage, hitherto so still, commenced to move with a concerted swaying, rocking motion, in time to the thunder of the drums, and the circle commenced to revolve about me. The chant broke into a series of rapidly ascending minor notes, which dropped from the climax to the hollow, prolonged hoot of the owl whose name I now bore.

“Hoh-hoh, hoh-hooooooo! Hoh-hoh, hoh-hoooooo! ” The weird cries trailed off into the empty halls of the forest, while faster and faster grew the dance before the bear skull; and the drummers, and those who played the rattles, and the circle round about, moved in unison to the constantly accelerating tempo that the old man gave them, till the swift thudding of many feet made a thunder of its own, and the glade became a whirling mass of colour; and ever the chant grew louder, until with a long-drawn out quavering yell, “Ahi, yah-ah-ah-ah-ah,” all movement ceased, and like the dropping of a curtain, silence fell.

This band is sadly reduced. The lonely graves beneath the giant red pines are more numerous to-day; they are a fading people. Not long from now will come one 226 '

sunset, their last; far from the graves of their fathers they are awaiting with stolid calm what, to them, is the inevitable. To leave them, to stand from under, to desert the sinking ship, were a craven act, unthinkable. All of whatsoever I may know of the way of the wild they have taught me.

Neganikabo, my mentor, my kindly instructor, my companion in untold hardship and nameless tribulation, has pulled back little by little, the magic invisible veil of mystery from across the face of the forest, that I might learn its uttermost secrets, and has laid open before me the book of Nature for me to read; and in my bungling way I have profited by his lessons, but the half is not yet done.

I have followed him when snowshoes sank into the soft snow halfway to the knee, mile after weary mile, to sleep at night behind a square of canvas; this for five days and nights, it snowing steadily most of the time, and with nothing to eat but strips of dried moose-meat, and teas made from boiled leaves of the Labrador sage. I have negotiated dangerous rapids under his tuition, when at each run, after the irrevocable step of entering, I doubted much that I would make the foot alive. He has led me many hours of travel with birch bark flares at night, and more than once entire nights in an unknown country without them. Once, soon after the freeze-up, and with the ice in bad condition, we returned late in the evening to our sahaagan, to be greeted by a heap of charred fragments, and bare poles on which small portions of canvas were still smouldering.

Our fire, which we supposed we had extinguished, had worked under the peaty forest soil, and sprung up in the centre of the camp, destroying every last ounce of provisions, the blankets, and the shelter itself. Greatest of our losses was that of several mink and a red fox, the latter not entirely destroyed, but now scorched black; my first black fox, and, I might add, my last. As a storm threatened the old man started on the day and a half’s journey to the village in the darkness, over ice that few would have attempted by daylight, judging it by the sound only, singing in bad spots in an undertone, a song suitable to the conditions; such as “I see the trail like a thread, I see it, I see it,” or “I feel water close, I feel water.” Meanwhile all I could see was the surrounding blackness, and the only thing I felt was a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach when the tap of his pole indicated bad ice.

I have seen him, in the spring of the year, when all ice is treacherous, after half a day of juggling between canoe, sleigh, and snowshoes, walk out on to the next lake, that by all the law should have been as bad as the last one, and glancing casually across it say:

“This ice is good.”

His faculties of observation, as with most Indians, were very keen; nothing seemed to escape him. He could detect game invisible to me, yet his gaze was not piercing, rather it was comprehensive, all-embracing, effortless, as is the eye of a camera, registering every detail in a moment of time. He often made fire with bow and spindle, habitually carried flint and steel, and seemed to have knowledge of the speech of some animals, calling them almost at will in the right season. He carried a beaded pouch which contained, among other trinkets, some small beaver bones. In spite of the unprecedented advances in latter years of the price of beaver skins, on account of some belief he held he would not kill these animals, even when in want; and he would stand at times outside their lodges, seeming to converse with them. Not a good shot with firearms, yet he would get so close to his quarry without their knowledge, that an old muzzle-loading beaver-gun (so called from the method of purchase) fulfilled all his requirements for game of all sizes, partridges included. For your Indian, in common with the white hunter, shoots his birds sitting; but he uses a bullet, and the mark is its head, a sporting enough proposition for a man with an empty belly. He showed me, in the course of years, did I but have the head to hold it all, what a man may learn in a long life of observation and applied experience.

He had his humorous occasions, too. With a party of moose-hunters we were standing on the abrupt edge of a hill, the face of which had fallen away and lay in a mass of broken fragments at the foot, crowned with a few small jackpines, shoulder high. Across the valley was a ridge crested with a row of immense white pines, seedlings, perhaps, in the days when the Plymouth Brethren dodged flights of arrows on their way to church. One of the tourists had shown great curiosity with regard to the venerable guide, and had pestered me with endless questions regarding him. The old man knew no English, but I think he got the gist of the conversation, for at last, on being asked his age, he pointed across to the big pines.

“Tell that man,” he said, “that when I was a boy those trees were so small that I could reach out and shake them -—so!” and grasping one of the jackpine saplings he shook it violently back and forth.

He who lands his canoe at a semi-permanent Indian village at any hour after daylight will find few, if any, of the men at home. At the first sign of dawn the hunters are away, for more game may be taken in the two hours after the break of day than in all the rest of the twenty-four together.

Returning at noon the visitor is very apt to find the inhabitants all sleeping, and the camp basking silently in the sunlight without a sign of life; save perhaps some old woman who sits smoking and dreaming by the slowly smouldering fire; and he will hear no sound save the drowsy hum of insects and the metallic shrilling of the cicadas* in the tree-tops. For this is the hour of rest. Quite often these people have done half a day’s work when the rest of the world was in bed, and when an Indian is not actually engaged in some branch of his strenuous occupation, he relaxes utterly and completely. The women do all the camp work, and this is what no doubt gives rise to the legend of Indian laziness. Did a man lay his hand to the maintenance of camp, once it is erected, he would be laughed out of countenance by his womenfolk and sent about his business.

These villages are all movable, for this is a nomadic people. Rarely do they build cabins save in the vicinity of a trading post. Tents, wind-breaks and birch-bark shelters are scattered amongst the growth of umbrella-toped jack-pines, on a low point midway of a lake set deep into an amphitheatre of emerald hills. Here and there a tall teepee, its upper half dyed a deep umber by the smoke of years, looms above its lesser brethren. On the foreshore a variety of canoes are drawn up, the canvas-covered type predominating, but some of them are of birch-bark, dyed red with alder sap, with black strips of gum at the seams. And in the background is the inevitable dark, towering wall of evergreen forest.

Hudson Bay blankets, half an inch thick, and green, blue, black, red or white, according to the owner’s taste, hanging out on poles to air before each lodge, give a brilliant note of colour. Women in voluminous plaid dresses and multicoloured head shawls, move from tent to tent, sewing, baking endless bannocks, or working everlastingly at half-tanned hides. In an open space near the centre of the village is standing a rack of poles, ten feet long and six high, festooned with numerous strips of moose-meat, and on it, split open from the back, hangs a giant sturgeon the length of a man. Beneath this rack a long slow fire is burning, the cool smoke hovering in amongst the meat and fish, adding to it a savour and a zest that no bottled condiment can impart. Men, some with clipped heads, others bobbed, older men with long black braids, gather around this central place, whittling out muskrat stretchers * with crooked-knives, mending nets, sitting around and smoking, or just sitting around. Half-naked children play in the dust with half-tame huskies; a crow, tied by the leg with a length of thong to a cross pole, squaking discordantly at intervals.

Two tumbling bear cubs run loose; one, his face covered with flour, chased by an enraged woman with a cudgel; a month-old wolf, his nature already asserting itself, creeps up on a cat, twice his size, which lies sleeping, its head in the shade of a small square of birch-bark it has found; for so do even domestic animals adapt themselves to this manner of life and turn opportunist; next winter some of the dogs will feign a limp, or unaccountably fall sick, on being hitched up for the first trip.

As the sun climbs down towards the rim of hills the men bestir themselves, and at intervals, in parties of two, or singly, take their guns and light axes, slip down on noiseless moccasined feet to the shore, and paddle silently away. Some will be back at dark, others at midnight; a few have taken small neat packs and will be gone several days. No goodbyes have been said, no stir has taken place; they just steal away as the spirit moves them; when one turns to speak they are not there; that is all.

As the day falls, smudges are lit to the windward, a protection from the swarms of mosquitoes that now descend on the camp, and volumes of smoke envelope the point, through which the tents are dimly visible. Tiny beavers are brought down to the lake for their daily swim, whilst young boys stand guard with clubs to keep the dogs away, or take canoes and, herd the stragglers in, for there are voracious pike of immense size in these waters that would make short work of a month-old kit. Nets are set, everything eatable, and many things not considered to be so, are hung up out of reach of the dogs, and the business of the day is ended. Little, twinkling fires spring to life and the pale illumination of tallow dips within the lodges gives the village from the distance the appearance of a gathering of fireflies. And on the canvas wall the shadows of those within depict their every movement, and through them every sound escapes, so that one’s neighbour’s doings are so obvious, and his conversation so audible, as to be no longer intriguing. The same principle that is the doom of prudery and prohibition, in this case ensures a privacy that four stone walls do not always give.

Then some morning at daybreak the whole village is in motion. Blankets are folded and teepees pulled down, fires are extinguished with countless pails of water. Children, now fully dressed, commence carrying down the smaller bundles to the canoes. The tenting place has become monotonous; the fish have moved to deeper water, also a woman heard a squirrel chittering during the night; a bad omen. So the camp is to be moved.

The dogs, viewing the preparations with disfavour, howl dolorously, for to them this means a long and arduous journey around the edge of the lake to the next stop, whilst their masters sit at ease in the smooth-running canoes. For Indians, unless on a flying trip, travel within easy reach of the shore line, as offering _ better observation of the movements of game; and this is a country of sudden and violent tempests, a consideration of some account, with women and children aboard. Should the shore deviate too far from the line of travel, room will be made, temporarily, for the dogs.

There is no unseemly haste in this breaking of camp. Every individual has his or her allotted task; not a move is wasted. Quietly, smoothly, without bustle or confusion, the canoes are loaded, and in little more than an hour from the time of rising nothing remains of a village of perhaps ten or fifteen families, save the damp steam rising from deluged fires and the racks of bare poles, piled clear of the ground for future use.

The scene at a portage is a lively one. Colourful as a band of gypsies, men, women and children are strung out over the trail, decked with inordinate loads of every imaginable description. Men with a hundred pounds of flour and a tin stove take a canoe for a binder; others take from two hundred pounds up, of solid weight. Women carry tents and huge rolls of blankets with apparent ease, their hands filled with light but irksome utensils. The squaws take their share of the labour as a matter of course, and to suggest to them that packing is no job for a woman would be to meet with instant ridicule.

Children carry their own packs with miniature tump lines, taking their work as seriously as do their elders. Some women carry infants on their backs, laced on to flat padded boards fitted with an outrig in such a manner that the child is protected in case of a fall, from which dangles a wooden home-made doll or other simple toy. These mothers carry no other load, but to them, having their hands free, is delegated the difficult and diplomatic task of herding, leading and hazing along the trail those of the multifarious pets that cannot be carried in bags or boxes, assisted by the children. I have seen cats perched contentedly on top of a roll of bedding, stealing a ride, crows carried on poles like banners, full grown beaver led on a chain, tiny bears running loose, not daring to leave the outfit, and once a young girl with an owl laced tightly into a baby’s cradle, the poor creature being supposedly highly honoured.

The younger men vie with one another in tests of speed and endurance, while the seasoned veterans move along with measured step and a smooth effortless progression that never falters or changes. These people are considered to be half-savage, which probably they are, yet contrast their expenditure of effort on behalf of the young of wild animals that fall into their hands, with the behaviour of a family of civilized Indians, who bought a bear cub from some of their more primitive brethren, expecting to sell it at a high figure to tourists. Failing in this, they had no more use for it, and unwilling to let it go, as it had cost them money, they neglected the poor little creature, and it died of thirst chained to a tree within a few feet of the lake shore.

A large percentage of the Indians of mixed blood who live near the railroad (this does not include those bush Indians who of necessity trade at railroad posts) are rascals; their native cunning in the chase is diverted into improper channels, and they become merely sly and lazy. They lack the dignity, the honesty, and the mental stability of the genuine forest dwellers, whose reputation as a race has suffered much at the hands of this type.

Indian winter camps in the Keewaydin district differ little from their summer villages. They erect their habitations in more sheltered places, but tents and wigwams are the only shelters, the former warmed by small tin stoves that give a surprising heat, and the latter by an open fire inside, with sometimes the stove as well. The lodges are banked high with snow and are a good deal warmer than would be supposed. But once the stove dies it is only a matter of a few minutes till the cold swoops down like a descending scimitar of chilled steel, down through the flimsy canvas, on into the ground beneath the sleepers, freezing it solid as a rock, searching out every nook and cranny in the weak defences, petrifying everything. And over the camp hangs a mist of hoar frost, whilst the wolves beyond the ridges bay the moon, and the trees crack with reports like gunshots in the iron grip of ninety degrees of frost. Although permanent for the period of deep snow, the entire camp may be loaded on toboggans and moved at an hour’s notice. Stretched out in file across the surface of frozen lakes, half hidden by drifting snow, these winter caravans travel sometimes hundreds of miles. They literally march, these people, and almost always in step, each stepping between the tracks of his predecessor, an action which in time becomes second nature, so that the trail, by the packing of many snowshoes, becomes a solid springy road, on which the dogs are able to put forth their best efforts. And in the van, leading a procession perhaps a quarter of a mile in length, are the trail breakers, often young girls and boys of from twelve years of age up. This seems like cruelty, but it is no colder at the. head of the caravan than at the rear, and these children pass lightly over the snow without hardship to themselves, packing the trail; and the entire outfit travels easily behind them, where otherwise men would have to take turns to break a trail a foot in depth, at the rate of a mile an hour. These youngsters take a pride in their work and contest hotly for the leadership, a coveted honour.

Every night camp must be made in any weather. A heavy carpet of spruce or balsam boughs supports the tents and provides a floor on the surface of several feet of snow; stoves are quickly put up, wood cut and the cooking done, and the dogs, once fed, dig themselves in for the night. The various tasks are all performed with the speed and efficiency of long practice; and in a remarkably short space of time the camp assumes an appearance of permanence and comfort; only, in the morning, to be taken down and loaded up for the next leg of a journey that is never quite completed, summer or winter.

To follow these restless people in their ceaseless wanderings, is to spend long weeks of terrific labour, alternating with lazy days of basking in the sun, and games, and dancing. Periods of want are offset by days and nights of feasting. I have seen times when small birds and squirrels were snared for their meat, dogs were eaten as they died of hunger, and wailing children cried for the food their starving mothers could not give. And on a day a lucky hunter found a herd of moose, and pinched faces became broad with smiles, and people ate, and ate, till they could eat no more, and a herd of brown youngsters with laughing shoe-button eyes, sat around a fire of their own, each with his broiled moose-rib, hands and faces well smeared with grease. Juicy steaks were impaled on sticks planted at an angle before the fires, and when they had sizzled awhile, one ate the meat with his fingers, and wiped his hands on the stick.

Generally the more primitive Indian camps are well regulated and the housekeeping, although often untidy, is clean, but in cases of this kind, aboriginal standards are the only ones followed for the time being, and everybody is happy—until the next time. In these communities, provision, on becoming short, becomes common property, as meat is at any time. No one claims a kill as his own exclusively, each family sending a representative to collect their share and those unable to leave have it brought to them. Each also takes his turn to supply, and on this account, another young fellow and myself, our turn arriving, undertook to do our bit.

It was the time of first ice, and the travelling was of the best, with less than six inches of snow. We took two days’ provisions, intending to return by a short-cut the third day. And here is where the mice and men, so often mentioned, sustained their well-known reputation. We were poor prophets. The second night it turned soft, and there was an unprecedented snowfall of at least two feet. The lakes slushed up and the bush was clogged with wet snow. We had brought no snowshoes, we had not killed a moose, we had nothing to eat save the remains of our last meal, and were at least twenty miles from the village; an interesting problem any way you look at it. It took us four days and a half to get back, during which time we ate one partridge and two squirrels. These last we ate raw in order to get all there was in them. Once we found a thin strip of dried moose-meat hanging on a rack at an old camp ground; it was no bigger than your thumb, and must have been old enough to vote, being much like a stick of wood.

We commenced to become weak, taking long rests which ate into our time, and when it was necessary to cross over a log larger than common, we sat on it and looked at one another for long periods. I thought frequently of the squirrel skins which we had thrown away; apart from the hair there had been nothing wrong with them. We were much tempted to commit the indiscretion of eating snow, and sometimes chewed the scrapings off the inside bark of yellow birch. This, however, induced thirst, and drinking ice-water under these conditions is sometimes fatal. In the course of our wanderings we arrived at a spot where a moose had been killed that Fall, and we dug the bones out of the snow, scorched them for a while on a fire, broke them open, and devoured the rotten marrow with relish.

These exercises occupied four days. At noon on the next day we met a rescue party supplied with snowshoes, but we were unable to use them, as we were now deathly sick from our last meal, and had to ride the dog teams. But for an old woman who understood the use of herbal medicines we should probably have died. I can never be caught in precisely the same predicament again, as since that experience I keep my snowshoes within reach whilst there is ice on the lake.

But the pitfalls are many and various. Violent and unseasonable changes of weather may catch unprepared those who live precariously on the edge of things, and inflict severe hardship; and even Indians, who have made the weather a separate study, are not altogether immune.

Five canoes of us, all heavily laden, were caught on a river that was rapidly freezing up, and thinking to beat out the ice, we made no camp, but continued on our journey in the darkness, until, unable to break ice any further we were actually frozen in near the shore. We had to chop the canoes out by firelight, make a cache, and wait for daylight. This was only the middle of October, and one of the party froze the ends of all the fingers of one hand.

The next day, taking what we could carry, we started overland on a twenty-five mile journey to our destination, where we had camps already built, walking on good ice all of the last day. On our arrival we commenced setting traps,- intending to return with toboggans, at the first snow, for our goods. We had worked only a couple of days, when the unnatural conditions changed, the ice went out with heavy rain, and we were well marooned on a large island, on which the camps were situated, with but little food and no canoes.

We stayed here for three weeks living mostly on fish, until the second and permanent freeze-up released us, when we drew in our huge loads by relays, losing the early Fall hunt in the process.

As is common with all save peoples, and some not so savage, there was prevalent amongst the Indians, not so long ago, the practice of the arts of the medicine-man, or conjuror, and even to-day every Indian community has at least one exponent of the black arts. Undoubtedly most of these wizards are nothing more than quacks and charlatans who, working on the credulity of their less well-informed tribesmen, have indulged a taste for the occult with attendant increase in prestige. This exploitation of the ignorant is common enough in the administration of most of the many religions with which man has seen fit to cloud his clear perception of things infinite; but in the case of the Indian these practices have no bearing on religion, and the medicine-man is simply a magician. In most cases he is merely tolerated on the off-chance that there may be something in it, since nobody wants to be caught with his boots off, yet amongst the Indian mystics are men who sincerely believe in their own powers; and powers some of them have without a doubt, over and above those of common men.

I have seen some startling performances, but believe that they all come under the heading of either sleight-of-hand, or hypnotism, or perhaps in some instances, telepathy. In the first place the Indian is by the nature of his environment psychic and imaginative to the last degree. The ceaseless and monotonous beating of a drum for hours, which precedes nearly all these seances, exercises an influence on him which leaves him in a very receptive condition for the hypnotic influence. I was present at a gathering where an old medicine-man caused a handkerchief to be hidden, by a stranger, at a distance but in his presence. Taking from the crowd a youth of his own race, he placed both hands on the lad’s shoulders and gazed steadily into his eyes perhaps for a minute. At this point the beating of a drum, which had continued without a break for at least an hour, ceased. On being released the young Indian walked out of sight as though dazed, but without hesitation, soon returning with the handkerchief. This was repeated with several different articles in various hiding places, with only one failure.

Collusion between the conjuror and the stranger was impossible, as the former could speak no English, and the latter was a tourist passing by on a trip. No word passed the old man’s lips, but the boy seemed to fall very easily under his influence, and was no doubt a familiar subject.

On another occasion, before a small but sceptical assemblage, a noted conjuror sat facing a disc of stretched rawhide, distant from him about ten paces. I assisted in hanging immediately in front of the disc, about a foot apart, three tanned moose hides, which suspended loosely from a beam, formed a target that was almost bullet-proof. Yet before the eyes of all, this man took a shaftless bone arrowhead, and with a quick flirt of his hand drove it apparently through the hides. On pulling them aside the arrowhead was seen to be imbedded in the disc, and no hole or other mark could be discerned on the skins. None present were able to detect the trick, and it was suggested that the performance had been an example of group hypnotism, of which, in that case, I was one of the victims together with several highly mystified tourists.

There have been cases where a conjuror has put a curse on one who has offended him, such as bad luck in hunting, accidental maiming with an axe or knife, sickness, or even death. Fear of the supposed power, causing a lack of confidence in his ability to break the spell cast on him, has caused many a victim unconsciously to bring about his own undoing, and so fulfil the curse. The hypnotic power of a drum at a certain pitch of sound, beaten regularly and without intermission, is not generally known. Some of these magicians claim the uncanny ability of calling to them by this means those who are far out of earshot of the sound. It is not beyond the realms of possibility, perhaps, that reduction to a clairvoyant or psychic condition —if such a condition exists—by voluntary starvation, the monotonous beat of the drum, and continuous mental concentration on the one idea over a period of thirty hours or more, may enable a strong-willed man to project his thoughts through space, forcing his ego in waves across the ether, willing himself to be felt hour after hour, until the object of these intense mental efforts to be heard feels an influence, he knows not what, that inevitably draws him to a certain spot.

An experience, yet very fresh in my mind, befell me not long since, and, although not offered as a proof of these things, yet could be of interest to those who make a study of telepathy or thought transference, and might give food for thought to others. My opinion in the matter is of no value, and the occurrence could easily be accounted a coincidence, or the result of a reaction to nostalgia. It was in autumn, a season when everyone is more of less tempted to indulge in reflection and recollection, and I was taking a few days of relaxation between the finish of a strenuous summer’s exploration in search of a hunting-ground, and the commencement of the Fall trip in with my supplies. I passed the peaceful lazy days of Indian Summer gathering up energy for the trials to come, mostly sitting before my tent, smoking and thinking, as our custom is when idle. Meanwhile I found my mind constantly dwelling on the scenes of my younger days, and particularly on a certain lake, now widely known for the picturesque beauty of its shores. More and more frequently my thoughts reverted to the well-remembered scene, until I thought of little else in my waking hours, and sleeping, dreamed of it. Recollections crowded down upon me, and there rose vividly and persistently before my mind the image of my wise and ancient companion of former days, whom I should never see again. It was on those waters that I had embarked on the restless wandering life of a trapper, and a feeling akin to homesickness, which I found myself unable to conquer, at last decided me to visit that place once more, although I knew the inhabitants had long ago departed. Little more than a day’s travel by canoe brought me to the last portage, which comes out on to the lake I sought at the deserted camping-ground.

As I neared the end of the carry I became conscious of some peculiar quality in the silence, which I felt but could not define. Coming out onto the open lake shore and my hearing no longer impeded by the canoe, I knew this for the measured, persistent throbbing of an Indian drum, which, whilst distant, seemed to come from no particular direction. The sound brought back a flood of reminiscences of long-departed days amongst the simple, kindly people of my adoption, of whom no recent sign remained, though the graveyard showed a pitiful increase.

Here, under these very trees I had feasted, and gamed, and danced with those of whom many now rested in that silent grove, with its miniature birch-bark huts which had contained food, and its remnants of personal belongings, laid in bark receptacles by trusting friends, for use on the journey to the Other Side.

Only the teepee and tent poles, rotten and fallen long since, and the shallow moss-grown depressions left by the fires of many years, marked the site of what had once been a populous village of human souls. And as I gazed on the familiar scene, my feelings reflected the mood of the place, which seemed immersed in a brooding melancholy.

The leasing of the surrounding waters to a fishing concern, resulting in a shortage of the food supply of the Indian, and the proximity of a new railroad with its attendant horde of amateur trappers, leaving in their wake a ravished area of poison and broken beaver-dams, had driven the occupants of the glade from their ancestral home forever. I thought of my old associate, and what his feelings would be were he alive to see the ruin and decay that had encompassed his little band; he whose rigid adherence to the customs of his race had long kept his people from that contamination of the wilderness and its dwellers, which seems to be, only too often, inherent in the advance of civilization in its earlier stages. A feeling of sadness pervaded me, and I began to wish I had not come.

I had felt influenced in some unaccountable way to make this pilgrimage, and, now, having arrived, I decided to make the best of it, and proceeded to make fire and prepare my shelter for the night. And as I worked the monotonous beat of the drum, at first, merging itself into the scheme of things, as does the ticking of a clock in a silent room, so as to be at times unnoticed, became insistent, obtruding itself on my senses, weaving a spell about me, until I found myself moving about my various tasks in time to it. During the still night the sound, now fainter, now louder, never ceasing with its changeless rhythm, dominated my consciousness, sleeping and waking, and the figments of my half-formed dreams danced in the darkness to its tune.

Unable to rest I went down and sat by the water’s edge. The ceaseless hypnotic throbbing permeated the air with its magic of a bygone day, and in the amphitheatre of the dusky hills that rimmed the lake, seemed to sound a chord to which the tympans of Nature vibrated, to strike a master note which, if prolonged enough, could rock the fabric of the wilderness to its foundations. I felt as one must who is becoming hypnotized. Education and the influences of civilization slipped from me like a discarded garment, as the atavistic syncopated pulsing thrilled me, arousing half-forgotten instincts, and stirring my blood with impulses long supposed to be dead. Back down the years the memories trooped upon me, effacing the veneer of semi-culture I had acquired; memories of barbarous nights when the lines of half-naked dancers postured and side-stepped through the figures of the Wabeno, between the long fires; bowed, and writhed, and stamped as they chanted a chorus that was old before the white man came, to the thudding of one-sided drums, the thin wailing of reed whistles, the piping of hollow wing-bones of eagles, and the clinking rattle of dried deer-hoofs. High-pitched yells and ululations rang sharply against the roof of the forest, and long quavering whoops trailed off into the recesses of the mountains, echoing back and forth across the empty hills in fading repetitions; dying away at times to the whisper of wind through the dry grasses of the fenlands, swelling again to a rhythmic uproar; continuing without intermission, until after two nights and a day the drums were stilled; and then the feasts of moose-meat—

Late the next day the sound abruptly ceased, and towards evening a bark canoe drifted gently ashore at the landing-place, and with a guttural exclamation of greeting there rose before me my friend of many days—Ne-ganik-abo, Stands First.

My emotions were not a little mixed, as I had thought of him as long ago gathered to his fathers. Many years had passed since we first had bent to the paddle and slept beneath the stars together. An aged man from my earliest recollection of him, he now seemed of another day and age, which indeed he was, and changed beyond belief. Dressed in old and faded overalls and shirt, he retained only the footwear of his people, a pair of beautifully beaded moccasins, and a medicine pouch decorated with porcupine quills. His hair, now white, framed a face the colour of old mahogany, patrician in cast, and almost fleshless; the eyes alone lent life to the mask-like visage, which was seamed with a thousand wrinkles. He sat at the fire and smoked awhile, seeming to rest, for he was very feeble.

He refused my offers of food, and, it not being customary for younger men to open a conversation, I waited until he first should speak; which, his smoke finished, he did, standing, and emphasizing his remarks with the restrained but expressive gestures of an Indian.

“Washaquonasin, Grey Owl, I see you do not forget. I called, and, of them all, you came.”

Up to this moment I had thought of no such thing, but there now flashed through my mind the tales I had heard. Was this the explanation of my unaccountable urge to visit the lake? I remembered that this place had been accessible to me any day for years, yet I had chosen this particular time to come. Coincidence? I became conscious of a slight feeling of uneasiness. He continued:

“Three days have I called and none came; this is the last day, the day of Two Sunsets; to-night I go away from here; to-morrow you would not have found me. My son, I have seen many snows come and go; to me you are a young man, and most of what I say will pass by your ears like the piping of frogs, or the tapping of a woodpecker on a hollow tree; yet of all my people, you are the only one who remembers the way of our race. I was a warrior once, and fought the blue-coated soldiers on a day when a river ran red with blood, and none escaped. This is many years past. Three of us returned here; we formed ourselves into a blood-brotherhood, that of the Beaver, called after our bravest warrior, killed in the battle. Of them, I alone remain. When you were named, I made you a blood-brother of the clan; remember that.”

He looked searchingly at me for a moment. This, then, was the reason for his attitude towards these animals, and I knew that I might never set another beaver trap, did I choose to remain true to the creed of this society of the Dead. For the old man’s weakness was such that it was evident that soon, not he, but I, would be the last of the clan of the Beaver.

He said a few words in a language unintelligible to me and resumed:

“Since then I have seen many changes; I have seen the skin teepees replaced by houses; the snowshoe trail by the railroad; and now the winged canoe of the white man flies with the wild geese amongst the clouds. I am now very old. Old age is a time of rest and meditation, jet I find myself surrounded by changes that keep me moving; at no place can I rest, and ponder peacefully on the past. Long ago my people left this lake where I was born. I played as a child on this very beach, and in these forests I learned the wisdom of the Old Men. Here I will leave my bones that the Medicine Spirits may see that there is one that has not forgotten that he is an Indian.”

He paused and seemed to listen.

Came a sound, a murmuring from the distance, a wind that stirred the tree-tops overhead; the sleeping forest half-awakened, sighed, and as the sound passed onward, slept again. And all around the golden and red leaves of the birch and maples, the spots of sunlight on the forest floor; and the thin blue wisp of smoke trailing up and up from the dying fire, up through the leaves and on beyond them. And far overhead the Unseen Musician improvised a low rambling melody in the many-stringed lyre of the pine-tops, and its soft humming, and the quiet lap, lap of the wavelets on the sandy shore, mingled with the old man’s voice as he intoned in soft gutturals, with all the imagery to which his language lends itself.

“I hear a sound: the wind speaks to the leaves. Nol it is the spirit of an Indian, looking for a place to rest, and there is none! The sky is red at night with the fire of burning forests. The beaver are gone, and there are no more singing birds; they cannot sing in the dry limbs of dead trees, and the Indian cannot live in a land of rotting stumps. The setting sun throws a red path across the water; there lies the trail to the Land of Spirits; along it I soon must follow my people. When the deep snows come I will dance the Dance of the Dead Men in the northern sky.”

The latter part of his speech seemed only indirectly intended for me; rather he thought aloud. He spoke of his past life, his old-time friends, and of days beyond the memory of living man. He dwelt on the time when his band could count half a hundred lodges, and told of his struggles to keep his people steadfast; and he seemed to wander a little, till I got the purport of his words: he was painting the picture of a vanishing race. He seemed no longer aware of his surroundings, and somehow gave the impression of talking to an invisible audience, of which I was not one. And his voice gathered some arresting quality from his theme, so that even the motionless trees about him seemed to stand and listen. And my previous intimacy faded into the background; and he seemed no longer a man, but a prophet, the patriarchal ruler of a vanished people, a reincarnation of the fabled Hiawatha.

And from his words there seemed to spring a pageant in the air behind him, of days gone by; of mighty men, long dead, whose deeds now lived again; of lines of naked braves filing by in the crouching hop and shuffle of the war-dance; of clouds of mounted warriors with waving ghostly bonnets, passing in review to strains of wild unearthly music. Of a buckskin-coated figure, with long yellow hair, surrounded by the bodies of dead men dressed in blue, standing alone in an inferno of screaming, racing savages, painted ponies, and whirling dust-clouds; in his ears the terrible shuddering chorus of the death-hulloo; a pistol raised to his head for the last act.

His voice lost its martial note, and the fire died from the old eyes, momentarily aflame with the memory of the historic combat. And then the scene changed. Endless forests marching, marching, tops swaying to the tune of the Hunting Winds; brigades of yellow bark canoes loaded high with skins, floating down swift rivers walled with granite; four-footed creatures, now rare, trooping by in all their rich variety; the quiet lodges of a peaceful people, lodges before whose doors stood racks of sturgeon, moose and deer-meat. Then—the coming of the railroad; unnumbered leagues of noble forest falling before a sea of flames; scattered bands of a broken, bewildered people driven like leaves before the wind and then— to-day! And as he ceased the scenes faded, and the figures were gone; and he stood again alone; a forlorn, lonely old man.

I fumbled in my mind for words to express my thoughts, when turning, he walked the few steps beyond the edge of the forest to the sandy lake shore, and stood facing the glimmering ribbon of red cast on the still water by the now rapidly setting sun. In the crimson glow, the broken, patched canoe became a thing of beauty, and the withered, time-worn figure in its tattered clothing, silhouetted against the brilliance, seemed to take on again something of the wild freedom of his youth m its posture. With the simple dignity of a savage chieftain he raised his right hand, palm out, and bowed his head, as though in benediction of the scene before him, saluting the western sky with that greeting with which the Indian met the first white man, the ancient and almost forgotten Peace Sign. And as he so stood, embracing into his audience with a single gesture, the peaceful sleeping lake, the dark legions of the forest, and the brooding hills, he cried in a loud, clear voice, as to a vast and unseen assemblage:

“I stand on the Trail of Two Sunsets. To-night the sun sets for the White Man for a day. Soon another sun will set for the Indian; and it will be forever. There is a cloud across the face of the sky, and it shadows our trail to the end.”

He dropped his head, and sitting down beside his canoe, seemed lost in reverie. And the rim of the burning sun sank behind the distant hill-tops, and the last vestige of the red beam disappeared from the surface of the water.

I waited respectfully till the aged chieftain should see fit to address me again, when another thought struck me, and with a chill not altogether accounted for by the cool of evening, I walked quickly over and laid my hand on his shoulder.

His arm slipped gently down from the gunwale to his side. He was dead.    .

I buried him the next day in his old canoe, with his muzzle-loading gun, his old-fashioned axe, and his beaded pouch of relics by his side, in the smooth ground beneath the birches near the lake-shore, where he may hear the singing birds trill in rippling melody their evensong, in the sad days of the Fall of the Leaf, and the North-West wind may bring a message from the Great Lone Land beyond.

And there he will always be, facing towards the West, so that the rays of the setting sun to which he turned so wistfully in his last moments, may, at the close of every summer day, bathe his resting-place, in the Glory of his Sunset Trail.

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