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The Father of St. Kilda



The following appears in the Canadian Gazette of February 4th, 1893 :—

You publish this item of news from Manitoba:—“The Indians of St. Peter’s Reserve, near Winnipeg, have a little crisis of their own. An Indian named Asham was declared elected chief, but supporters of his rival, Henry Prince, have made an appeal to Ottawa to unseat Asham. One i« a Baptist, and the other a member of the Church of England.’’ Having been a titular chief for a number of years among the Indians in question, may I explain the true nature of this local quarrel?

When I first entered the Chartered Company, the good chief Pequis was still alive, but shortly afterwards died at the ripe age of ninety-three years. He was one of the chiefs who signed, with the Earl of Selkirk, early in the century, the two-mile limit treaty relating to both sides of the Red River, and in token held a medal bearing the head-image of one of the Georges. He was, moreover, the Sir Wilfrid Lawson of that rum-drinking country ; but, despite his good and noble example, made far fewer converts than the untiring leader of Local Abstinence has done. That he had an intense aversion to strong drink may be gathered from the words he once used in speaking to me. He said he was more than surprised that human beings should be so fond of drinking what a dog would not taste. He died after a good innings, leaving two sons —the Henry Prince in question being the younger; the elder, by another princess, had settled himself at Nettly Creek to await the chiefship.

But events, alas! proved contrary. Early in the sixties—in those halcyon days of entire monopoly, when my worthy Company could well afford it—we were given no less than a fortnight’s holiday, i.e., a week at Christmas and one at the New Year—and business was all suspended at the time, in order, I presume, to give us ample opportunity of attending the countless balls and weddings which the happy season brought in its wake. About the middle of the festival season—and as I was studying hard the Indian language of my adopted country, so essential to a youth in my capacity —the door of my one-roomed house was thrown open, and in steps that would-be chief, and gave at the same time a note from the chief officer, written evidently under some difficulty— half Scotch and half English. With considerable difficulty I succeeded, after the manner of hierography, in guessing that he was to be given so-and-so gratis—which I supplied, not thinking it was the last time I was ever to behold his face again. He would not be a convert to the father’s principles, and he suffered the penalty that night, by being frozen to all eternity, after the doctrine of the Moravian missionary in Greenland!

Henry thus thought the road to the throne was clear for him, but the eldest son of the frozen “Crown Prince”—after the manner of the European Courts, thought differently. Henry, moreover, had, as sole credentials and exchequer, the father’s medal, and he held to it, and became chief solely on its strength, and without the voice of all and the consent of the whole, as is the Indian custom in choosing a “brave” to be their chief. Thus the friends of the dead “ Crown Prince,” though silent, were always slow to follow him. He was, besides, addicted to strong drink whenever he could get it. Proud and selfish to a fault, always full of grievances, which were, as a rule, mainly fictitious, he had become an impudent expert at begging. No one of distinction could arrive at our forts or Winnipeg without his tramping thirty miles to beg. I now speak of him without resentment, but in sober truth.

There is another element in the Reserve — the Swampie Indians, who predominate. These are pious and religious, while their Indian (Salteaux) brethren are more indifferent to the spiritual law in the natural world. So the former sent for Jeroboam—Asham—out of Egypt to rule over the tribes of Israel. Asham is one of the very few converts of old Pequis, and 1 cannot recall ever seeing him taste a drop of that Demerara rum warranted to kill at forty roods. This semi jocose personal narrative may carry with it but little interest for the general reader ; but I shall be curious to know the result of “an appeal to Ottawa.”

Roderick Campbell, F.R.G.S.
Park Road, Bushey,
January 2yd.


Fort Garry,
11th August, 1863.

Mr. Wm. McKay,
Berens River.

My dear Sir,—Mr. Roderick Campbell leaves this week by the York Factory boats for Berens River, to establish and take charge of the new post we desire to open at the head of the river. His qualification for that position has been fully established during the three years he has been under my own immediate supervision. His marvellous capacity for acquiring the Indian languages has not only surprised myself personally, but the natives themselves are being wholly astonished at his quick acquirements. Besides, he has always proved himself to look at duty first; punctuality and diligence are likewise his habits and gifts. He has also shown high spirits which are not easily subdued, touched with sparks of pride and Celtic bravery. The tribe with whom he is to deal are both savage and bloodthirsty—those who killed poor Cummings, as you know, but mark my word, young as he is, he will teach them right from wrong.

S. K. Y

I need not say more, except I am sorry to lose him, only of course we must have a good man there, which is more essential to our interest. Yours sincerely,

Wm. McTavish.


We have received the following documents, which were lost for thirteen years in the Arctic Regions:—

Her Majesty’s Discovery Ship “Investigator,”

Polar Sea, off Point Warren, 11th August, 1850.

Sir,—I have to request that you will cause the accompanying despatch for the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to be forwarded with the least possible delay, so that :t it is practicable ,t may arrive this year. You are aware of the great interest that is attached to this expedition, and consequently all information regarding its progress will be considered of the utmost importance.

I feel convinced it is unnecessary to urge you to exertion in performance of this duty, the honourable Company with which you are connected having with great liberality, zeal, and beneficence, expressed their desire to render every assistance in forwarding the views, not only of her Majesty’s Government, but of the nation at large, in facilitating the search for the missing expedition under Sir John Franklin.

It is impossible for me to suggest any method by which this despatch may be carried, whether bv Indians, specially engaged for the purpose, or through your usual com-mur’cation, only permit me to beg that the most expeditious method may be pursued, and let the expenses attending its transmission be placed at the account of the Arctic Searching Expedition.

I am, Sir,

Your most obedient Servant, (Signed) Robert McClure, Commander.


The Officer of the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Good Hope, North America.

On the outside of the enclosure containing the above letter appear the following words, in Captain McClure’s handwriting:—

“I would thank you to give the Esquimaux who delivers this to you some present he most values.—R. McC.”

Underneath these appears the inscription, in Mr. Roderick McFarlane’s handwriting:—

“Received at Fort Anderson, Anderson River, 5th June, 1862.—R. McFarlane.”

“Gave the Esquimaux who delivered the package one steel trap and two pounds of Negrohead tobacco.—R. McF.”

Fort Simpson,

31st August 1862.

A. G. Dallas, Esq., Governor-in-Chief.

Sir.—I beg to enclose you for transmission to the Admiralty the long-missing despatches of Commander (now Captain Sir Robert) McClure, of her Majesty’s discovery ship Investigator, entrusted by him to the Esquimaux when off Cape Bathurst m the month of August, 1850, for the purpose of being forwarded to England, via Hudson’s Bay posts on the McKenzie, and which despatches were received at Fort Anderson a short time ago. I may mention that ever since 1857, when I first descended and examined Anderson P'ver (the Beghulatesse of the map), 1 hare endeavoured to ascertain from the Esquimaux the fate of the despatches in question, but until now without success.

This I partly attributed to the inability of the Indians who acted as interpreters to explain my wishes to the Esquimaux; and, indeed, it was only when on a visit to a party of these last February that I succeeded in obtaining information which has resulted in their discovery. . . .

The package had been cut by the Esquimaux, and several of the letters opened, probably with a view of ascertaining their contents. I annex a list of the documents as received last June, all of which (except those to the Admiralty) are now forwarded to their respective addresses.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Yours very respectfully, (Signed) R. McFarlane.

List of documents recovered after thirteen years:—

4 packages addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty, London.
I package, Director-General, medical returns from her Majesty’s discovery ship Investigator.

Packages addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty, London.

1 sealed letter addressed to Sir John Richardson, London.
1 sealed letter addressed to Rev. P. Latrobe.
1 sealed letter addressed to Rev. Reginald Wynniott.
1 sealed letter addressed to 0. Barrington Piers, Esq.
1 sealed letter addressed to William Bell, Esq.
1 sealed letter addressed to Francis Cress-well, Esq.
1 sealed letter addressed to (Lady) McClure.
1 sealed letter addressed to H. Sainsbury.
1 sealed letter addressed to Mrs. Law.
1 sealed letter addressed to William Armstrong, Esq.,

R. McFarlane.


Winnipeg, 10/13/’77.

Dear Mr. McKenzie.—This will introduce to you Mr. Roderick Campbell, whom I have known intimately since he entered the country some twenty years ago, in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s service, since which time he has not only shown energy and enterprise, but markedly so as an acute observer of passing events; and I am certain that there is not any significant point in our alarming history of his time that will be lost to history and the world. His last enterprise was a bold, nay a foolhardy, excursion of two years’ sojourn and unattended into the wild country of the Saskatchewan, the savage Sioux country, and the Rocky Mountains. During his absence he furnished the press in town with various contributions, all marked by a singular perspicacity and perspicuity alike, descriptive of the country through which he passed. Mr. C. is on a visit to his native Scotland, and I trust he will disseminate, as best he can, the truly vast possibilities of our virgin Prairie province to his countrymen there!

A. G. B. Bannatyne, M.P.

To The Hon. Alex. McKenzie.

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