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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I chose, therefore, an adjacent bush for this
night's lodging, and slept under it as before;
but in the morning I awoke hungry and dis-
pirited, and almost envying the dry bones, to
the view of which I returned. At length the

sound of a foot reached me, and my Indian
friend appeared, making many apologies for
his long absence, the cause of which was an
unfortunate excess in the enjoyment of his

This point being explained, I mentioned the
extraordinary sight that had presented itself
in the cave to which he had commended my
slumbers. He had never heard of its existence
before; and upon examining the cave together
we saw reason to believe that it had been
anciently filled with human bodies.

On returning to the lodge I experienced a
cordial reception from the family, which con-
sisted of the wife of my friend, his two sons,
of whom the eldest was married, and whose
wife and a daughter of thirteen years of age,
completed the list.

Wawatam related to the other Indians the
adventure of the bones. All of them expressed
surprise at hearing it, and declared that they
had never been aware of the contents of this
cave before. After visiting it, which they im-
mediately did, almost every one offered a dif-
ferent opinion as to its history.

Some advanced that at a period when the
waters overflowed the land (an event which
makes a distinguished figure in the history of
their world) the inhabitants of this island had
fled into the cave, and been there drowned;
others, that those same inhabitants, when the
Huron made war upon them (as tradition

^Icrantier i^enrp

says they did) hid themselves in the cave, and
being discovered, were there massacred. For
myself, I am disposed to believe that this cave
was an ancient receptacle of the bones of
prisoners sacrificed and devoured at war
feasts. I have always observed that the Indians
pay particular attention to the bones of sacri-
fices, preserving them unbroken, and deposit-
ing them in some place kept exclusively for
that purpose.

€\)apttv 14


A FEW days after the occurrence of the
incidents recorded in the preceding
chapter, Menehwehna, whom I now
found to be the great chief of the village of
Michilimackinac, came to the lodge of my
friend; and when the usual ceremony of smok-
ing was finished, he observed that Indians were
now daily arriving from Detroit, some of whom
had lost relations or friends in the war, and
who would certainly retaliate on any English-
man they found; upon which account his
errand was to advise that I should be dressed
like an Indian, an expedient whence I might
hope to escape all future insult.

I could not but consent to the proposal, and
the chief was so kind as to assist my friend
and his family in effecting that very day the
desired metamorphosis. My hair was cut ofif,
and my head shaved with the exception of a
spot on the crown of about twice the diameter
of a crown-piece. My face was painted with
three or four different colors, some parts of it
red, and others black. A shirt was provided
for me, painted with vermilion mixed with
grease. A large collar of wampum was put
round my neck, and another suspended on my


3llej:anticr l^mrp

breast. Both my arms were decorated with
large bands of silver above the elbows, be-
sides several smaller ones on the wrists; and my
legs were covered with mitasses, a kind of hose
made, as is the favorite fashion, of scarlet
cloth. Over all I was to wear a scarlet blanket
or mantle, and on my head a large bunch of

I parted, not without some regret, with the
long hair which was natural to it and which I
fancied to be ornamental; but the ladies of the
family and of the village in general appeared
to think my person improved, and now con-
descended to call me handsome, even among

Protected in a great measure by this dis-
guise, I felt myself more at Uberty than before;
and the season being arrived in which my
clerks from the interior were to be expected
and some part of my property, as I had a right
to hope, recovered, I begged the favor of
Wawatam that he would enable me to pay a
short visit to Michilimackinac. He did not
fail to comply, and I succeeded in finding my
clerks; but, either through the disturbed state
of the country, as they represented to be the
case, or through their misconduct, as I had
reason to think, I obtained nothing; and noth-
ing, or almost nothing, I now began to think,
would be all that I should need during the rest
of my life. To fish and to hunt, to collect a
few skins, and exchange them for necessaries,

€rabel^ anD SlDbenturc^ef

was all that I seemed destined to do and to
acquire for the future.

I returned to the Indian village where at
this time much scarcity of food prevailed. We
were often for twenty-four hours without
eating; and when in the morning we had no
victuals for the day before us the custom was
to black our faces with grease and charcoal,
and exhibit through resignation a temper as
cheerful as if in the midst of plenty.

A repetition of the evil, however, soon in-
duced us to leave the island in search of food;
and accordingly we departed for the Bay of
Boutchitaouy, distant eight leagues, and where
we found plenty of wild fowl and fish.

While in the bay my guardian's daughter-
in-law was taken in labor of her first child.
She was immediately removed out of the com-
mon lodge; and a small one for her separate
accommodation was begun and finished by the
women in less than half an hour.

The next morning we heard that she was
very ill, and the family began to be much
alarmed on her account; the more so, no doubt,
because cases of difficult labor are very rare
among Indian women. In this distress, Wawa-
tam requested me to accompany him into the
woods; and on our way informed me that if
he could find a snake he should soon secure
relief to his daughter-in-law.

On reaching some wet ground we speedily
obtained the object of our search in a small


9llcjt:anticr i^cnrp

snake of the kind called the garter snake.
Wawatam seized it by the neck; and hold-
ing it fast while it coiled itself around his
arm, he cut off its head, catching the blood
in a cup that he had brought with him. This
done, he threw away the snake, and carried
home the blood, which he mixed with a quan-
tity of water. Of this mixture he adminis-
tered first one tablespoonful, and shortly after-
wards a second. Within an hour the patient
was safely delivered of a fine child : and Wa-
watam subsequently declared that the remedy
to which he had resorted was one that never

On the next day we left the Bay of Bout-
chitaouy; and the young mother, in high
spirits, assisted in loading the canoe, bare-
footed, and knee deep in the water.

The medical information, the diseases and
the remedies of the Indians, often engaged my
curiosity during the period through which
I was familiar with these nations; and I shall
take this occasion to introduce a few particulars
connected with their history.

The Indians are in general free from dis-
orders; and an instance of their being subject
to dropsy, gout, or stone, never came within
my knowledge. Inflammations of the lungs
are among their most ordinary complaints, and
rheumatism still more so, especially Viith the
aged. Their mode of life, in which they are so
much exposed to the wet and cold, sleeping on

the ground, and inhaling the night air, suffi-
ciently accounts for their liability to these dis-
eases. The remedies on which they most rely
are emetics, cathartics, and the lancet; but
especially the last. Bleeding is so favorite an
operation among the women that they never
lose an occasion of enjoying it, whether sick
or well. I have sometimes bled a dozen women
in a morning as they sat in a row along a fallen
tree, beginning with the first — opening the vein
— then proceeding to the second — and so on,
having three or four individuals bleeding at
the same time.

In most villages, and particularly in those of
the Chipewa, this service was required of
me; and no persuasion of mine could ever
induce a woman to dispense with it.

In all parts of the country and among all
the nations that I have seen, particular in-
dividuals arrogate to themselves the art of
healing, but principally by means of pretended
sorcery; and operations of this sort are always
paid for by a present, made before they are
begun. Indeed, whatever, as an impostor, may
be the demerits of the operator, his reward
may generally be said to be fairly earned by
dint of corporal labor.

I was once present at a performance of this
kind in which the patient was a female child of
about twelve years of age. Several of the elder
chiefs were invited to the scene; and the same
compliment was paid to myself on account of


^Icjcanticr i^cnrp

the medical skill for which it was pleased to
give me credit.

The physician (so to call him) seated himself
on the ground; and before him on a new stroud
blanket was placed a basin of water in which
were three bones, the larger ones, as it appeared
to me, of a swan's wing. In his hand he had his
shishiqjioi, or rattle, with which he beat time to
his medicine-song. The sick child lay on a blan-
ket near the physician. She appeared to have
much fever, and a severe oppression of the
lungs, breathing with difficulty, and betraying
symptoms of the last stage of consumption.

After singing for some time the physician
took one of the bones out of the basin: the
bone was hollow ; and one end being applied to
the breast of the patient, he put the other into
his mouth in order to remove the disorder by
suction. Having persevered in this as long
as he thought proper, he suddenly seemed to
force the bone into his mouth and swallow it.
He now acted the part of one suffering severe
pain; but presently finding relief, he made a
long speech, and after this returned to singing,
and to the accompaniment of his rattle. With
the latter, during his song, he struck his head,
breast, sides and back; at the same time strain-
ing as if to vomit forth the bone.

Relinquishing this attempt, he applied
himself to suction a second time, and with the
second of the three bones; and this also he
soon seemed to swallow.

€rabcl^ anil illlibcnturc^

Upon its disappearance he began to distort
himself in the most frightful manner, using
every gesture which could convey the idea
of pain; at length he succeeded, or pretended
to succeed, in throwing up one of the bones.
This was handed about to the spectators, and
strictly examined; but nothing remarkable
could be discovered. Upon this he went back
to his song and rattle: and after some time
threw up the second of the two bones. In the
groove of this the physician, upon examination,
found and displayed to all present a small
white substance, resembling a piece of the
quill of a feather. It was passed round the
company from one to the other; and declared
by the physician to be the thing causing the
disorder of his patient.

The multitude believe that these physicians,
whom the French call jongleurs, or jugglers,
can inflict as well as remove disorders. They
believe that by drawing the figure of any per-
son in sand or ashes, or on clay, or by consider-
ing any object as the figure of a person and then
pricking it with a sharp stick or other sub-
stance, or doing in any other manner that
which done to a living body would cause pain
or injury, the individual represented, or sup-
posed to be represented, will suffer accordingly.
On the other hand the mischief being done,
another physician of equal pretension can by
suction remove it. Unfortunately, however,
the operations which I have described were

^Icranticr l^enrp

not successful in the instance referred to; for
on the day after they had taken place the girl

With regard to flesh wounds the Indians
certainly effect astonishing cures. Here, also
much that is fantastic occurs, but the success
of their practice evinces something solid.

At the Sault de Ste. Marie I knew a man
who in the result of a quarrel received the
stroke of an axe in his side. The blow was so
violent and the axe driven so deep that the
wretch who held it could not withdraw it, but
left it in the wound and fled. Shortly after the
man was found and brought in to the fort where
several other Indians came to his assistance.
Among these, one, who was a physician, im-
mediately withdrew in order to fetch his
penegusan, or medicine bag, with which he soon
returned. The eyes of the sufferer were fixed,
his teeth closed, and his case apparently

The physician took from his bag a small
portion of a very white substance, resembling
that of a bone; this he scraped into a little
water and forcing open the jaws of the patient
with a stick he poured the mixture down his
throat. What followed was that in a very
short space of time the wounded man moved
his eyes, and beginning to vomit threw up a
small lump of clotted blood.

The physician now, and not before, exam-
ined the wound from which I could see the

€raijcl^ and 9lDbenturci^

breath escape, and from which a part of the
omentum depended. This the physician did
not set about to restore to its place; but cutting
it away, minced it into small pieces and made
his patient swallow it.

The man was then carried to his lodge where
I visited him daily. By the sixth day he was
able to walk about; and within a month he
grew quite well except that he was troubled
with a cough. Twenty years after his mis-
fortune he was still alive.

Another man, being on his wintering
ground and from home hunting beaver, was
t crossing a lake covered with smooth ice with
two beavers on his back, when his foot slipped
and he fell. At his side in his belt was his axe,
the blade of which came upon the joint of his
wrist; and the weight of his body coming upon
the blade, his hand was completely separated
from his arm with the exception of a small
piece of the skin. He had to walk three miles to
his lodge which was thus far away. The skin,
which alone retained his hand to his arm, he
cut through with the same axe which had done
the rest; and fortunately having on a shirt, he
took it ofiF, tore it up, and made a strong hga-
ture above the wrist, so as in some measure
to avoid the loss of blood. On reaching his
lodge he cured the wound himself by the mere
use of simples. I was a witness to its perfect

I have said that these physicians, jugglers,

^Icranticr l^cnrp

or practitioners of pretended sorcery, are sup-
posed to be capable of inflicting diseases ; and
I may add that they are sometimes themselves
sufferers on this account. In one instance I
saw one of them killed by a man who charged
him with having brought his brother to death
by malefic arts. The accuser in his rage thrust
his knife into the belly of the accused and
ripped it open. The latter caught his bowels in
his arms and thus walked toward his lodge,
gathering them up from time to time as they
escaped his hold. His lodge was at no con-
siderable distance and he reached it alive and
died in it.

Cl^apter is


OUR next encampment was on the Island
of Saint Martin, oflf Cape St. Ignace,
so called from the Jesuit mission of St.
Ignatius to the Hurons formerly established
there. Our object was to fish for sturgeon,
which we did with great success; and here in
the enjoyment of a plentiful and excellent sup-
ply of food we remained until the twentieth
day of August. At this time, the autumn being
at hand, and a sure prospect of increased
security from hostile Indians afforded, Wawa-
tam proposed going to his intended wintering
ground. The removal was a subject of the
greatest joy to myself on account of the fre-
quent insults to which I had still to submit
from the Indians of our band or village; and to
escape from which I would freely have gone
almost anywhere. At our wintering ground we
were to be alone; for the Indian families in the
countries of which I write separate in the
winter season for the convenience as well of
subsistence as of the chase, and re-associate in
the spring and summer.

In preparation our first business was to sail
for Michilimackinac, where, being arrived,
we procured from a Canadian trader on credit


^Icjcanticr ipcnrp

some trifling articles together with ammuni-
tion and two bushels of maize. This done we
steered directly for Lake Michigan. At L'Ar-
bre Croche we stopped one day on a visit to
the Ottawas where all the people, and particu-
larly Okinochumaki, the chief, the same who
took me from the Chippewa, behaved with
great civiUty and kindness. The chief presented
me with a bag of maize. It is the Ottawa, it
will be remembered, who raise this grain for
the market of Michilimackinac.

Leaving L'Arbre Croche, we proceeded
direct to the mouth of the River Aux Sables ®°
on the south side of the lake and distant about
a hundred and fifty miles from Fort Michili-
mackinac. On our voyage we passed several
deep bays and rivers, and I found the banks of
the lake to consist in mere sands without any
appearance of verdure, the sand drifting from
one hill to another like snow in winter. Hence
all the rivers which here entered the lake are as
much entitled to the epithet of sandy as that

^^ There is a modern Big Sable River in northern
Mason County, Michigan, and near its mouth a head-
land known as Point Sable juts into Lake Michigan.
On D'Anville's map of North America, published in
1746, the Aux Sables River is represented correspond-
ing with modern Pentwater River. It is clear that
Henry 's wintering place was in the vicinity of modern
Ludington, Michigan, but whether on the Big Sable,
the Notepseakan, or the Pentwater River, is uncertain.
At the mouth of the Notepseakan (site of modern Lud-
ington) occurred the death of Father Marquette in
1675. — Editor.


Crabd^ anti ^tibcnturcief

to which we were bound. They are also dis-
tinguished by another particularity always
observable in similar situations. The current
of the stream being met when the wind is con-
trary by the waves of the lake, it is driven back,
and the sands of the shore are at the same time
washed into its mouth. In consequence the
river is able to force a passage into the lake,
broad only in proportion to its utmost strength;
while it hollows for itself behind the sandbanks
a basin of one, two, or three miles across. In
these rivers we killed many wild fowl and

To kill beaver we used to go several miles
up the rivers before the approach of night,
and after the dusk came on, suffer the canoe
to drift gently down the current without
noise. The beaver in this part of the evening
come abroad to procure food or materials for
repairing their habitations; and as they are
not alarmed by the canoe, they often pass it
within gun shot.

While we thus hunted along our way I en-
joyed a personal freedom of which I had been
long deprived, and became as expert in the
Indian pursuits as the Indians themselves.

On entering the River Aux Sables, Wawatam
took a dog, tied its feet together, and threw it
into the stream, uttering at the same time a
long prayer which he addressed to the Great
Spirit, suppHcating his blessing on the chase,
and his aid in the support of the family through


^IJerantier i^cnrp

the dangers of a long winter. Our lodge was
fifteen miles above the mouth of the stream.
The principal animals which the country
afforded were the stag, or red deer, the com-
mon American deer, the bear, raccoon, beaver,
and marten.

The beaver feeds in preference on young
wood of the birch, aspen, and poplar tree:^^
but in defect of these, on any other tree, those
of the pine and fir kinds excepted. These latter
it employs only for building its dams and
houses. In wide meadows where no wood is to
be found it resorts for all its purposes to the
roots of the rush and water lily. It consumes
great quantities of food, whether of roots or
wood; and hence often reduces itself to the
necessity of removing into a new quarter. Its
bouse has an arched dome-like roof, of an
elliptical figure, and rises from three to four
feet above the surface of the water. It is
always entirely surrounded by water; but in
the banks adjacent the animal provides holes
or washes, of which the entrance is below
the surface, and to which it retreats on the
first alarm.

The female beaver usually produces two
young at a time, but not infrequently more.
During the first year the young remain with
their parents. In the second, they occupy an
adjoining apartment and assist in building and

" Populus nigra, called by the Canadians, Hard. —


€rabcl^ and 3lDbenture^

in procuring food. At two years old they part
and build houses of their own, but often rove
about for a considerable time before they fix
upon a spot. There are beavers called by the
Indians old bachelors, who live by themselves,
build no houses, and work at no dams, but
shelter themselves in holes. The usual method
of taking these is by traps, formed of iron or
logs, and baited with branches of poplar.

According to the Indians the beaver is much
given to jealousy. If a strange male approaches
the cabin a battle immediately ensues. Of
this the female remains an unconcerned spec-
tator, careless to which party the law of con-
quest may assign her. Among the beaver
which we killed those who were with me pre-
tended to show demonstrations of this fact,
some of the skins of the males, and almost all
of the older ones, bearing marks of violence,
while none were ever to be seen on the skins
of the females.

The Indians add that the male is as constant
as he is jealous, never attaching himself to
more than one female; while the female on her
side is always fond of strangers.

The most common way of taking the beaver
is that of breaking up its house, which is done
with trenching tools during the winter, when
the ice is strong enough to allow of approaching
them, and when, also, the fur is in its most
valuable state.

Breaking up the house, however, is only a


^Icranticr l^cnrp

preparatory step. During this operation the
family make their escape to one or more of
their washes. These are to be discovered by
striking the ice along the bank, and where the
holes are a hollow sound is returned. After
discovering and searching many of these in
vain we often found the whole family together
in the same wash. I was taught occasionally
to distinguish a full wash from an empty one
by the motion of the water above its entrance
occasioned by the breathing of the animals
concealed in it. From the washes they must
be taken out with the hands; and in doing this
the hunter sometimes receives severe wounds
from their teeth. While a hunter I thought
with the Indians that the beaver flesh was
very good; but after that of the ox was again
within my reach I could not relish it. The tail
is accounted a luxurious morsel.

Beavers, say the Indians, were formerly a
people endowed with speech, not less than with
the other noble faculties they possess; but the
Great Spirit has taken this away from them
lest they should grow superior in understand-
ing to mankind.

The raccoon was another object of our chase.
It was my practice to go out in the evening
with dogs, accompanied by the youngest son
of my guardian, to hunt this animal. The
raccoon never leaves its hiding place till after

As soon as a dog falls on a fresh track of the


raccoon he gives notice by a cry, and immediate-
ly pursues. His barking enables the hunter to
follow. The raccoon, which travels slowly and
is soon overtaken, makes for a tree on which
he remains till shot.

After the falling of the snow nothing more is
necessary for taking the raccoon than to follow
the track of his feet. In this season he seldom
leaves his habitation; and he never lays up any
food. I have found six at a time in the hollow
of one tree lying upon each other, and nearly
in a torpid state. In more than one instance
I have ascertained that they have Hved six
weeks without food. The mouse is their prin-
cipal prey.

Raccoon hunting was my more particular and
daily employ. I usually went out at the first
dawn of day and seldom returned till sunset, or
till I had laden myself with as many animals as
I could carry. By degrees I became familiar-
ized with this kind of life ; and had it not been for
the idea of which I could not divest my mind,

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Online LibraryAlexander HenryAlexander Henry's Travels and adventures in the years 1760-1776, ed. with historical introduction and notes by Milo Milton Quaife → online text (page 8 of 20)