A TALE OF INDIANS.
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.”
Park Road, Bushey,
11th August, 1863.
Mr. Wm. McKay,
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,
We have received the
following documents, which were lost for thirteen years in the Arctic
Her Majesty’s Discovery
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
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
31st August 1862.
A. G. Dallas, Esq.,
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
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
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.,
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.