I THINK it was the sixth day
out from Georgetown that we again entered Canada. Late in the evening of the
eighth day we rounded the point at the mouth of the Assiniboine, and landed
at Fort Garry.
It was raining hard, and mud
I climbed the banks and saw
the walls and bastions of the fort, and looked out northward on the plains
and saw one house.
Where that house stood, now
stands the city of Winnipeg.
Fortunately for us a brigade
of York boats was then loading to descend the rivers and lakes, and cross
the many portages to York Factory on Hudson's Bay.
Father lost no time
in-securing a passage in one of these, which was to start the next morning.
In the meantime, Governor MacTavish invited father and mother and sisters to
quarters in his own home for the night.
My work was to transfer our
luggage to the York boat, and then stay and look after it, for it was
evident that our new crew were pretty well drunk.
Near dark we heard a strange
noise up the Red, and one of the boatsmen said, "Indians coming!" And sure
enough a regular fleet of wild, Red Lake Ojibways hove in sight, and singing
and paddling in time, came ashore right beside us. Painted, and feathered,
and strangely costumed, these were real specimens of North American Indians.
As was customary the Hudson's
Bay Company served them out a "regale" of rum, and very soon the night was
made hideous with the noise of their drunken bout.
I had a big time keeping them
out of our boat, but here my acquaintance with their language served me in
Until near morning I kept my
vigil in the bow of our boat, and then our steersman woke up, and was
sufficiently sobered to relieve me, and I took his blanket and slept a short
Early in the day we made our
start for Norway House. This we trusted was our last transfer.
Our craft was an agreeable
change to the clumsy barge. This was more like a bateau built and used on
our eastern lakes, but lighter and stronger, capable of standing a good sea,
and making good time under sail. We were manned with eight men and a
steersman. One of the eight was the bowman.
With our eight big oars
keeping stroke, we swept around the point and again took the Red for Lake
Winnipeg and beyond. Our quarters in the open boat were small, and for our
party, crowded, but we hoped to reach our destination in a few days.
We had but four hundred miles
more to make to what was to be our new home.
We were now passing through
the old Red River settlement, St. John's, St. Boniface, Kudonan, the homes
of the people on either bank, many of these making one think that these folk
literally believed in the old saw,."Man wants but little here, nor wants
that little long." Here, as everywhere in the North-West, the influence of
the great herds of buffalo on the plain, and big shoals of fish in the lakes
and rivers, was detrimental to the permanent prosperity of a people. You
cannot really civilize a hunter or a fisherman until you wean him from these
modes of making a livelihood.
We passed Stone Fort and
Archdeacon Cowley's Mission, where for a lifetime this venerable servant of
God labored for the good of men, on to the mouth of the Red, which we camped
at the second day. We had many delays coming through the settlements, but
now we were fairly off.
Up to this time father and I
had not let our crew know that we understood the Ojibway, or as it was
termed here, the Salteaux.
Often had we been much amused
at the remarks some of these men had made about us, but seeing a muskrat
near the boat, I forgot all caution and shouted in Indian to a man with a
gun to shoot it. The man let the nuskratgo because of his wonder at my use
of the language. "Te Wa," said he, this fellow speaks as ourselves;" and
then we became great friends.
Here for the first time in my
life I found myself amongst "Indian gamblers."
Whenever we were wind-bound,
some of the various crews (for there were a number of boats) would form
gambling circles, and with drum and song play "Odd or Even," or something
Here the man most gifted with
mind-reading power would invariably come off the winner.
Our men seemed passionately
fond of this kind of gambling, and it was one of the habits the missionary
had to contend against, for to the Indian there was associated with this the
supernatural and heathenish, and often these gambling circles break up for
the time with a stabbing or shooting scrape.
sometimes sailing, sometimes pulling, merely calling at Berens River post,
where some ten or twelve years later Rev. E. R. Young began a mission, and
presently we had gone the greater part of the length of Lake Winnipeg, had
entered one of the outward and sea-bound branches of the Nelson, had crossed
the island-dotted and picturesque Play-green Lake, had come down the Jack
River, and on the tenth day from Fort Garry, pulled up at Norway House, and
met a very kind welcome from the Hudson's Bay Factor and his lady, and
indeed from everybody.
We were still two miles from
Rossville. Our new friends manned a boat and took us over. Here we found the
Rev. Robt. Brooking and family; and as no news had preceded us, we brought
them word of their being relieved. And great was their joy, and ours was not
a little, for we had now reached our objective point for the present. Here
was our home, and here were we to work and labor, each according to his