When We Had Arrived At The Bottom I Could Not But Feel Astonished
At The Laborious Task Which The Voyagers
Have twice in the year to
encounter at this place in conveying their stores backwards and forwards.
We went across
The Clear Water River which runs at the bases of these
hills, and followed an Indian track along its northern bank, by which we
avoided the White Mud and Good Portages. We afterwards followed the river
as far as the Pine Portage, when we passed through a very romantic defile
of rocks which presented the appearance of Gothic ruins, and their rude
characters were happily contrasted with the softness of the snow and the
darker foliage of the pines which crowned their summits. We next crossed
the Cascade Portage which is the last on the way to the Athabasca Lake,
and soon afterwards came to some Indian tents containing five families
belonging to the Chipewyan tribe. We smoked the calumet in the chief's
tent, whose name was the Thumb, and distributed some tobacco and a weak
mixture of spirits and water among the men. They received this civility
with much less grace than the Crees, and seemed to consider it a matter
of course. There was an utter neglect of cleanliness and a total want of
comfort in their tents; and the poor creatures were miserably clothed.
Mr. Frazer, who accompanied us from the Methye Lake, accounted for their
being in this forlorn condition by explaining that this band of Indians
had recently destroyed everything they possessed as a token of their
great grief for the loss of their relatives in the prevailing sickness.
It appears that no article is spared by these unhappy men when a near
relative dies; their clothes and tents are cut to pieces, their guns
broken, and every other weapon rendered useless if some person do not
remove these articles from their sight, which is seldom done.
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