Alexander Henry.

Alexander Henry's Travels and adventures in the years 1760-1776, ed. with historical introduction and notes by Milo Milton Quaife online

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the facts which I am to describe.

The copper presented itself to the eye in
masses of various weight. The Indians showed
me one of twenty pounds. They were used to
manufacture this metal into spoons and brace-
lets for themselves. In the perfect state in

1 86

which they found it, it required nothing but to
be beat into shape. The Pi-wa-tic, or Iron
River,* enters the lake to the westward of the
Ontonagan; and here, as is pretended, silver
was found while the country was in the pos-
session of the French.

Beyond this river I met more Indians, whom
I furnished with merchandise on credit. The
prices were, for a stroud blanket, ten beaver-
skins; for a white blanket, eight; a pound of
powder, two; a pound of shot, or of ball, one;
a gun, twenty; an axe of one pound weight,
two; a knife, one. Beaver, it will be remem-
bered, was worth at Michilimackinac two
shillings and sixpence a pound, in the cur-
rency of that place; that is, six livres, or a

On my arrival at Chagouemig I found fifty
lodges of Indians there. These people were
almost naked, their trade having been inter-
rupted, first by the EngUsh invasion of Canada
and next by Pontiac's War.

Adding the Indians of Chagouemig to those
which I had brought with me, I had now a
hundred families, to all of whom I was required
to advance goods on credit. At a council
which I was invited to attend, the men de-
clared that unless their demands were comphed
with their wives and children would perish;
for that there were neither ammunition nor

' Modern Iron River, in Ontonagon County, Michi-
gan. — Editor.


^lejtranticr i^nirp

clothing left among them. Under these circum-
stances I saw myself obliged to distribute goods
to the amount of three thousand beaver-skins.
This done, the Indians went on their hunt, at
the distance of a hundred leagues. A clerk,
acting as my agent, accompanied them to
Fond du Lac,^ taking with him two loaded
canoes. Meanwhile, at the expense of six
days' labor I was provided with a very com-
fortable house for my winter's residence.

^ At or near the site of modern Superior, Wisconsin. —

Cl^apter 2


CHAGOUEMIG, or Chagouemigon, might
at this period be regarded as the metrop-
oHs of the Chippewa, of whom the
true name is O'chibbuoy. The chiefs informed
me that they had frequently attacked the
Nadowessies (by the French called Sioux or
Nadouessioux) with whom they are always
at war, with fifteen hundred men including
in this number the fighting men from Fond du
Lac, or the head of Lake Superior. The cause
of the perpetual war carried on between these
two nations, is this, that both claim as their
exclusive hunting ground the tract of country
which lies between them, and uniformly attack
each other when they meet upon it.^

' This immemorial warfare between the Chippewa
and the Sioux was continued until almost our own day.
In August, 1919, there died at Beaulieu, Minnesota, a
Chippewa chief (Mayzhuckegeshig) who in earlier life
had repeatedly led his braves to battle against the
Sioux. When a warrior distinguished himself in battle
by killing and scalping his foeman he was usually
decorated with a feather from a war eagle. Some
indication alike of the prowess and of the manner of life
of Mayzhuckegeshig in his earlier years is afforded by
the fact that he had accumulated some twenty of these
prized trophies. In 1825 Governor Cass met the Sioux
and the Chippewa in council at Prairie du Chien,

^Icjcanbcr i^cnrp

The Chippewa of Chagouemig are a hand-
some, well-made people; and much more
cleanly, as well as much more regular in the
government of their families, than the Chip-
pewa of Lake Huron. The women have agree-
able features and take great pains in dressing
their hair, which consists in neatly dividing it
on the forehead and top of the head and in
plaiting and turning it up behind. The men
paint as well their whole body as their face;
sometimes with charcoal, and sometimes with
white ocher; and appear to study how to make
themselves as unlike as possible to anything
human. The clothing in which I found them,
both men and women, was chiefly of dressed
deer-skin, European manufactures having been
for some time out of their reach. In this re-
spect, it was not long after my goods were dis-
persed among them before they were scarcely
to be known for the same people. The wom-
en heightened the color of their cheeks, and

Wisconsin, in an effort to arrange their boundary-
disputes and tiius end the interminable warfare between
the two tribes. When he asked the Sioux chiefs on what
ground they claimed the territory in dispute they an-
swered, "by possession and occupation from our fore-
fathers." Turning to the Chippewa, Cass put the same
question, to which the noted Hole-in-the-Day, rising
with a graceful gesture, replied: "My Father, we
claim it on the same ground that you claim this country
from the British king — by conquest. We drove them
from the country by force of arms, and have since
occupied it; and they dare not try to dispossess us of
our habitations." — Editor.


€rabel^ and atibenture{6f

really animated their beauty, by a liberal use
of vermilion.

My house being completed, my winter's
food was the next object; and for this purpose,
with the assistance of my men, I soon took two
thousand trout and whitefish, the former fre-
quently weighing fifty pounds each and the
latter commonly from four to six. We pre-
served them by suspending them by the tail in
the open air. These, without bread or salt,
were our food through all the winter, the men
being free to consume what quantity they
pleased and boiUng or roasting them whenever
they thought proper. After leaving Michili-
mackinac I saw no bread; and I found less
difficulty in reconciling myself to the privation
than I could have anticipated.

On the fifteenth of December the Bay of
Chagouemig was frozen entirely over. After
this I resumed my former amusement of spear-
ing trout, and sometimes caught a hundred of
these fish in a day, each weighing on an average
twenty pounds.

My house, which stood in the bay, was shel-
tered by an island of fifteen miles in length,*
and between which and the main the channel
is four miles broad. On the island there was
formerly a French trading-post, much fre-
quented; and in itfe neighborhood a large
Indian village. To the south-east is a lake,
called Lake des Outaouais, from the Ottawa,

' Modern Madelaine Island. — Editor.

^lexanticr ]^cnrp

its former possessors'; but it is now the prop-
erty of the Chippewa.

From the first hunting party which brought
me furs I experienced some disorderly be-
havior; but happily without serious issue.
Having crowded into my house and demanded
rum, which I refused them, they talked
of indulging themselves in a general pillage,
and I found myself abandoned by all my men.
Fortunately I was able to arm myself; and on
my threatening to shoot the first who should
lay his hands on anything, the tumult began
to subside and was presently after at an end.
When over, my men appeared to be truly
ashamed of their cowardice, and made promises
never to behave in a similar manner again.

Admonished of my danger, I now resolved
on burying the hquor which I had; and the
Indians, once persuaded that I had none to

^ Lac Court Oreilles in Sawyer County, Wisconsin,
about eighty miles southwest of Henry's wintering
place. Hither the Ottawa fled in the seventeenth
century, seeking refuge from the destroying Iroquois.
Although they remained for but a brief period they
returned to the place on subsequent hunting expedi-
tions. The Ottawa acquired the sobriquet of Court
Oreilles (short ears) not because they practiced clip-
ping these organs, but because, unlike certain other
tribes who distended the lobe by ornaments or weights,
they left their ears in their natural condition. The
Ottawa have long since disappeared from the \'icinity
of Lac Court Oreilles. where there is today an Indian
reservation inhabited by several hundred Chippewa.
— Editor.


Crabd^ef and ^Dbrnturcjef

give them, went and came very peaceably,
paying their debts and purchasing goods. In
the month of March the manufacture of maple
sugar engaged, as usual, their attention.

While the snow still lay on the ground, I
proposed to the Indians to join me in a hunting
excursion, and they readily agreed. Shortly
after we went out my companions discovered
dents or hollows in the snow, which they
affirnied to be the footsteps of a bear, made in
the beginning of the winter, after the first
snow. As for me, I should have passed over
the same ground without acquiring any such
information; and probably without remarking
the very faint traces which they were able to
distinguish, and certainly without deducting
so many particular facts: but what can be
more credible than that long habits of close
observation in the forest should give the Indian
hunter some advantages in the exercise of his
daily calling? The Indians were not deceived;
for on follownng the traces which they had
found they were led to a tree at the root of
which was a bear.

As I had proposed this hunt, I was by the
Indian custom the master and the proprietor
of all the game; but the head of the family
which composed my party begged to have the
bear, alleging that he much desired to make a
feast to the Kichi Manito, or Great Spirit, who
had preserved himself and his family through
the winter and brought them in safety to the


^llerantier J^enrp

lake. On his receiving my consent, the women
went to the spot where we had killed the bear
and where the carcass had been left in safety,
buried deep in the snow. They brought the
booty back with them, and kettles being hung
over the fires, the whole bear was dressed for
the feast.

About an hour after dark accompanied by
four of my men I repaired to the place of
sacrifice, according to invitation. The number
of the Indians exactly equalled ours, there
being two men and three women; so that
together we were ten persons, upon whom it
was incumbent to eat up the whole bear. I was
obliged to receive into my own plate, or dish,
a portion of not less than ten pounds weight,
and each of my men were supplied with twice
this quantity. As to the Indians, one of them
had to his share the head, the breast, the heart,
with its surrounding fat, and all the four feet;
and the whole of this he swallowed in two
hours. He, as well as the rest, had finished be-
fore I had got through half my toil; and my
men were equally behindhand. In this situa-
tion one of them resorted to an experiment
which had a ludicrous issue, and which at the
same time served to discover a fresh feature
in the superstitions of the Indians. Having
first observed to us that a part of the cheer
would be very acceptable to him the next day,
when his appetite should be returned, he with-
drew a part of the contents of his dish and


€rabclj^ anil ^Dbcnturc^

made it fast to the girdle which he wore under
his shirt. While he disposed in this manner
of his superabundance I, who found myself
unable to perform my part, requested the
Indians to assist me; and this they cheerfully
did, eating what I had found too much with
as much apparent ease as if their stomachs
had been previously empty. The feast being
brought to an end, and the prayer and thanks-
giving pronounced, those near the door de-
parted; but when the poor fellow who had
concealed his meat, and who had to pass from
the farther end of the lodge, rose up to go, two
dogs, guided by the scent, laid hold of the
treasure and tore it to the ground. The Indians
were greatly astonished; but presently ob-
served that the Great Spirit had led the dogs
by inspiration to the act in order to frustrate the
profane attempt to steal away this portion of
the offering. As matters stood the course they
took was to put the meat into the fire and there
consume it.

On the twentieth of April the ice broke up,
and several canoes arrived filled with women
and children who reported that the men of
their band were all gone out to war against the
Nadowessies. On the fifteenth of May a part
of the warriors, with some others, arrived in
fifty canoes, almost every one of which had
a cargo of furs. The warriors gave me some
account of their campaign, stating that they
had set out in search of the enemy four

^leranticr f$cnvp

hundred strong and that on the fourth day
from their leaving their village they had met
the enemy and been engaged in battle. The
battle, as they related, raged the greater part
of the day and in the evening the Nadowessies
to the number of six hundred fell back across
a river which lay behind them, encamping
in this position for the night. The Chippewa
had thirty-five killed and they took advantage
of the suspension of the fray to prepare the
bodies of their friends, and then retired to a
small distance from the place expecting the
Nadowessies to recross the stream in the
morning and come again to blows. In this,
however, they were disappointed; for the
Nadowessies continued their retreat without
even doing the honors of war to the slain. To
do these honors is to scalp, and to prepare the
bodies is to dress and paint the remains of the
dead, preparatorily to this mark of attention
from the enemy: "The neglect," said the Chip-
pewa, "was an affront to us — a disgrace; be-
cause we consider it an honor to have the scalps
of our countrymen exhibited in the villages
of our enemies in testimony of our valor. "
The concourse of Indians already mentioned,
with others who came after, all rich in furs,
enabled me very speedily to close my traffic for
the spring, disposing of all the goods which on
taking M. Cadotte into partnership had been
left in my own hands. I found myself in pos-
session of a hundred and fifty packs of beaver

weighing a hundred pounds each, besides
twenty-five packs of otter and marten skins;
and with this part of the fruits of my adventure
I embarked for Michilimackinac, sailing in
company with fifty canoes of Indians who had
still a hundred packs of beaver which I was
unable to purchase.

On my way I encamped a second time at the
mouth of the Ontonagan and now took the
opportunity of going ten miles up the river
with Indian guides. The object which I went
most expressly to see, and to which I had the
satisfaction of being led, was a mass of copper
of the weight, according to my estimate, of no
less than five tons. Such was its pure and mal-
leable state, that with an axe I was able to cut
off a portion weighing a hundred pounds.^"
On viewing the surrounding surface I conjec-
tured that the mass at some period or other
had rolled from the side of a lofty hill which
rises at its back.

'" This mass of copper, later known as Copper Rock,
was known to explorers from a very early period. At
the time of the boom in the Copper Country in the
early 'forties, possession was taken of Copper Rock by
some miners from the lead-mines o! southern Wisconsin.
It was later removed to the Smithsonian Institution
at Washington. — Editor.


Cl^aptet 3


I PASSED the winter following at the Sault
de Ste. Marie. Fish, at this place, are
usually so abundant in the autumn that
precautions are not taken for a supply of
provisions for the winter; but this year the
fishery failed, and the early setting-in of the
frost rendered it impracticable to obtain
assistance from Michilimackinac. To the
increase of our diflBculties, five men, whom, on
the prospect of distress, I had sent to subsist
themselves at a distant post, came back on the
day before Christmas, driven in by want.

Under these circumstances, and having
heard that fish might be found in Oak Bay,
called by the French, Anse a la Feche, or Fish-
ing Cove,^^ which is on the north side of Lake
Superior, at the distance of twelve leagues
from the Sault, I lost no time in repairing
thither, taking with me several men, with a
pint of maize only for each person.

In Oak Bay we were generally able to obtain
a supply of food, sometimes doing so with great
facihty, but at others going to bed hungry.

'^ "Ance a la P^che" is shown on Bellin's map of
Canada of 1 745 as the indentation on the east side of
modern Whitefish Bay into which the Goulais River
empties. — Editor.


After being here a fortnight, we were joined by
a body of Indians, flying, like ourselves, from
famine.- Two days after, there came a young
Indian out of the woods alone, and reporting
that he had left the family to which he be-
longed behind in a starving condition and
unable, from their weakly and exhausted state,
to pursue their journey to the bay. The ap-
pearance of this youth was frightful; and from
his squalid figure there issued a stench which
none of us could support.

His arrival struck our camp with horror and
uneasiness; and it was not long before the In-
dians came to me, saying, that they suspected
he had been eating human flesh, and even
that he had killed and devoured the family
which he pretended to have left behind.

These charges, upon being questioned, he
denied; but not without so much equivocation
in his answers as to increase the presumption
against him. In consequence, the Indians
determined on traveling a day's journey on his
track; observing that they should be able to
discover from his encampments whether he
were guilty or not. The next day they re-
turned, bringing with them a human hand and
skull. The hand had been left roasting before
a fire, while the intestines, taken out of the
body from which it was cut, hung fresh on a
neighboring tree.

The youth, being informed of these dis-
coveries, and further questioned, confessed the

^krantjcr J^crnrp

crime of which he was accused. From the
account he now proceeded to give it appeared
that the family had consisted of his uncle and
aunt, their four children, and himself. One
of the children was a boy of fifteen years of
age. His uncle, after firing at several beasts of
the chase, all of which he missed, fell into de-
spondence, and persuaded himself that it was
the will of the Great Spirit that he should
perish. In this state of mind, he requested
his wife to kill him. The woman refused to
comply; but the two lads, one of them, as has
been said, the nephew, and the other the son
of the unhappy man, agreed between them-
selves to murder him, to prevent, as our in-
formant wished us to believe, his murdering
them. Accomplishing their detestable pur-
pose, they devoured the body; and famine
pressing upon them still closer, they succes-
sively killed the three younger children, upon
whose flesh they subsisted for some time, and
with a part of which the parricides at length
set out for the lake, leaving the woman, who
was too feeble to travel, to her fate. On their
way, their foul victuals failed; the youth
before us killed his companion; and it was a
part of the remains of this last victim that had
been discovered at the fire.

The Indians entertain an opinion that the
man who has once made human flesh his food
will never afterward be satisfied with any
other. It is probable that we saw things in

some measure through the medium of our prej-
udices; but I confess that this distressing ob-
ject appeared to verify the doctrine. He ate
with relish nothing that was given him; but,
indifferent to the food prepared, fixed his eyes
continually on the children which were in the
Indian lodge, and frequently exclaimed, "How
fat they are!" It was perhaps not unnatural
that after long acquaintance with no human
form but such as was gaunt and pale from want
of food, a man's eyes should be almost riveted
upon anything where misery had not made
such inroads, and still more upon the bloom
and plumpness of childhood; and the exclama-
tion might be the most innocent, and might
proceed from an involuntary and unconquerable
sentiment of admiration. Be this as it may, his
behavior was considered, and not less naturally,
as marked with the most alarming symptoms;
and the Indians, apprehensive that he would
prey upon their children, resolved on putting
him to death. They did this the next day with
the single stroke of an axe, aimed at his head
from behind, and of the approach of which he
had not the smallest intimation.

Soon after this affair our supply of fish, even
here, began to fail; and we resolved, in conse-
quence, to return to the Sault, in the hope that
some supply might have arrived there. Want,
however, still prevailed at that place, and no
stranger had visited it; we set off, therefore,
to Michilimackinac, taking with us only one

9llejtrantier l^cnrp

meal 's provision for each person. Happily, at
our first encampment an hour's fishing pro-
cured us seven trout, each from ten pounds
weight to twenty. At the River Miscoutinsaki
we found two lodges of Indians who had fish,
and who generously gave us part. The next
day we continued our journey till, meeting
with a caribou, I was so fortunate as to kill it.
We encamped close to the carcass, which
weighed about four hundred pounds, and sub-
sisted ourselves upon it for two days. On the
seventh day of our march we reached Fort
Michilimackinac, where our difl&culties ended.
On the first of July there arrived a hundred
canoes from the Northwest, laden mth. beaver.


THE same year I chose my wintering
ground at Michipicoten on the north
side of Lake Superior, distant fifty
leagues from the Sault de Ste. Marie. On my
voyage, after passing the great capes which are
at the mouth of the lake, I observed the banks
to be low and stony and in some places run-
ning a league back to the feet of a ridge of

At Point Mamance the beach appeared to
abound in mineral substances and I met with a
vein of lead ore, where the metal abounded in
the form of cubical crystals. Still coasting
along the lake, I found several veins of copper
ore of that kind which the miners call gray ore.
From Mamance to Nanibojou is fifteen
leagues. Nanibojou is on the eastern side of
the Bay of Michipicoten. At the opposite
point, or cape, are several small islands, under
one of which, according to Indian tradition,
is buried Nanibojou, a person of the most
sacred memory. Nanibojou is otherwise called
by the names of Minabojou, Michabou, Mes-
sou, Shactac, and a variety of others, but of
all of which the interpretation appears to be
the Great Hare. The traditions related of the


^ieranticr I^cnrp

Great Hare are as varied as his name.^- He
was represented to me as the founder, and in-
deed the creator, of the Indian nations of
North America. He lived originally toward
the going-down of the sun where, being warned
in a dream that the inhabitants would be
drowned by a general flood produced by heavy
rains, he built a raft, on which he afterwards
preserved his own family and all the animal
world without exception. According to his
dream, the rains fell and a flood ensued. His
raft drifted for many moons during which
no land was discovered. His family began to
despair of a termination to the calamity, and
the animals, who had then the use of speech,
murmured loudly against him. In the end he
produced a new earth, placed the animals upon
it, and created man.

At a subsequent period he took from the
animals the use of speech. This act of severity
was performed in consequence of a conspiracy
into which they had entered against the human
race. At the head of the conspiracy was the
bear; and the great increase which had taken
place among the animals rendered their num-
bers formidable. I have heard many other

^'^ The legends of Nanibojou, dealing with the m)'th
of the creation, are preserved among many and widely
scattered tribes. In 1804 Captain Thomas G. Anderson
found at the site of modern Two Rivers, Wisconsin,
an Indian chief named Nannabojou. His account of
the origin and significance of his name is recorded in
Wis. Hist. Colls., IX, 155-57. — Editor.


€rabri^ and ^Dbcnturc^

stories concerning Nanibojou, and many have
been already given to the public; and this at
least is certain, that sacrifices are offered on
the island which is called his grave or tumulus,
by all who pass it. I landed there and found
on the projecting rocks a quantity of tobacco
rotting in the rain, together with kettles,
broken guns, and a variety of other articles.
His spirit is supposed to make this its constant
residence; and here to preside over the lake,

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