They could undergo
great privations, and were admirable for the service of the
rivers, lakes, and forests, provided they could be kept sober,
and in proper subordination; but once inflamed with liquor, to
which they were madly addicted, all the dormant passions inherent
in their nature were prone to break forth, and to hurry them into
the most vindictive and bloody acts of violence.
Though they generally professed the Roman Catholic religion, yet
it was mixed, occasionally, with some of their ancient
superstitions; and they retained much of the Indian belief in
charms and omens. Numbers of these men were employed by the
Northwest Company as trappers, hunters, and canoe men, but on
lower terms than were allowed to white men. Ignace Shonowane had,
in this way, followed the enterprise of the company to the banks
of the Spokan, being, probably, one of the first of his tribe
that had traversed the Rocky Mountains.
Such were some of the motley populace of the wilderness, incident
to the fur trade, who were gradually attracted to the new
settlement of Astoria.
The month of October now began to give indications of approaching
winter. Hitherto, the colonists had been well pleased with the
climate. The summer had been temperate, the mercury never rising
above eighty degrees. Westerly winds had prevailed during the
spring and the early part of the summer, and been succeeded by
fresh breezes from the northwest.