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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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 9 of 20)
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that I was living among savages, and for the
whispers of a lingering hope that I should one
day be released from it — or if I could have
forgotten that I had ever been otherwise than
as I then was — I could have enjoyed as much
happiness in this as in any other situation.


chapter le


ONE evening on my return from hunting
I found the fire put out and the opening
in the top of the lodge covered over
with skins, by this means excluding as much
as possible external light. I further observed
that the ashes were removed from the fire-
place, and that dry sand was spread where they
had been. Soon after a fire was made without
side the cabin in the open air and a kettle hung
over it to boil.

I now supposed that a feast was in prepara-
tion. I supposed so only; for it would have
been indecorous to inquire into the meaning
of what I saw. No person among the Indians
themselves would use this freedom. Good
breeding requires that the spectator should
patiently wait the result.

As soon as the darkness of night had arrived
the family, including myself, were invited into
the lodge. I was now requested not to speak
as a feast was about to be given to the dead,
whose spirits delight in uninterrupted silence.

As we entered each was presented with his
wooden dish and spoon, after receiving which
we seated ourselves. The door was next shut,
and we remained in perfect darkness.


€rabdi9i and ^Dbcnturc^

The master of the family was the master of
the feast. Still in the dark he asked every one
by turn for his dish and put into each two
boiled ears of maize. The whole being served,
he began to speak. In his discourse, which
lasted half an hour, he called upon the manes
of his deceased relations and friends, beseech-
ing them to be present to assist him in the
chase, and to partake of the food which he had
prepared for them. When he had ended we
proceeded to eat our maize, which we did with-
out other noise than what was occasioned by
our teeth. The maize was not half boiled, and
it took me an hour to consume my share. I
was requested not to break the spikes,®^ as
this would be displeasing to the departed
spirits of their friends.

When all was eaten Wawatam made another
speech, with which the ceremony ended. A
new fire was kindled with fresh sparks from
flint and steel; and the pipes being smoked, the
spikes were carefully buried in a hole made in
the ground for that purpose within the lodge.
This done, the whole family began a dance,
Wawatam singing and beating a drum. The
dance continued the greater part of the night,
to the great pleasure of the lodge. The night of
the feast was that of the first day of November.

On the twentieth of December we took an
account of the produce of our hunt and found

^^ The grains of maize, called also Indian corn, grow
in compact cells round a spike. — ^Author.

' 131

^Icranticr l^cnrp

that we had a hundred beaver skins, as many
raccoons, and a large quantity of dried venison;
all which was secured from the wolves by
being placed upon a scaffold.

A hunting excursion into the interior of the
country was resolved on; and early the next
morning the bundles were made up by the
women for each person to carry. I remarked
that the bundle given to me was the Hghtest,
and those carried by the women the largest
and heaviest of the whole.

On the first day of our march we advanced
about twenty miles and then encamped. Being
somewhat fatigued, I could not hunt; but
Wawatam killed a stag not far from our en-
campment. The next morning we moved our
lodge to the carcass. At this station we re-
mained two days, employed in drying the
meat. The method was to cut it into slices
of the thickness of a steak, and then hang it
over the fire in the smoke. On the third day
we removed and marched till two o'clock in the

While the women were busy in erecting and
preparing the lodges I took my gun and strolled
away, telling Wawatam that I intended to
look out for some fresh meat for supper. He
answered that he would do the same; and on
this we both left the encampment in different

The sun being visible I entertained no fear
of losing my way; but in following several


€rabd^ antx 9LDbcnturc^

tracks of animals in momentary expectation of
falling in with the game I proceeded to a
considerable distance, and it was not till near
sunset that I thought of returning. The sky,
too, had become overcast, and I was therefore
left without the sun for my guide. In this
situation I walked as fast as I could, always
supposing myself to be approaching our en-
campment, till at length it became so dark
that I ran against the trees.

I became convinced that I was lost; and I
was alarmed by the reflection that I was in a
country entirely strange to me, and in danger
from strange Indians. With the flint of my
gun I made a fire, and then laid me down to
sleep. In the night it rained hard. I awoke
cold and wet; and as soon as light appeared I
recommenced my journey, sometimes walking
and sometimes running, unknowing where to
go, bewildered, and like a madman.

Toward evening I reached the border of a
large lake of which I could scarcely discern
the opposite shore. I had never heard of a
lake in this part of the country, and therefore
felt myself removed further than ever from the
object of my pursuit. To tread back my steps
appeared to be the most Hkely means of deliver-
ing myself; and I accordingly determined to
turn my face directly from the lake, and keep
this direction as nearly as I could.

A heavy snow began to descend and night
soon afterward came on. On this I stopped


^IcjcanDcr i^nirp

and made a fire, and stripping a tree of its
sheet of bark, lay down under it to shelter me
from the snow. All night at small distances
the wolves howled around; and to me seemed
to be acquainted with my misfortune.

Amid thoughts the most distracted I was able
at length to fall asleep; but it was not long
before I awoke refreshed, and wondering at
the terror to which I had yielded myself. That
I could really have wanted the means of re-
covering my way appeared to me almost in-
credible; and the recollection of it like a dream,
or as a circumstance which must have pro-
ceeded from the loss of my senses. Had this
not happened I could never, as I now thought,
have suffered so long without calling to mind
the lessons which I had received from my
Indian friend for the very purpose of being
useful to me in difficulties of this kind. These
were that generally speaking the tops of pine
trees lean toward the rising of the sun; that
moss grows toward the roots of trees on the
side which faces the north; and that the limbs
of trees are most numerous and largest on that
which faces the south.

Determined to direct my feet by these
marks and persuaded that I should thus
sooner or later reach Lake Michigan, which I
reckoned to be distant about sixty miles, I
began my march at break of day. I had not
taken, nor wished to take, any nourishment,
since I left the encampment; I had with me my


€rabel^ anti SlDbcnturc^

gun and ammunition, and was therefore under
no anxiety in regard to food. The snow lay-
about half a foot in depth.

My eyes were now employed upon the trees.
When their tops leaned different ways I looked
to the moss, or to the branches; and by connect-
ing one with another, I found the means of
travehng with some degree of confidence. At
four o'clock in the afternoon the sun, to my
inexpressible joy, broke from the clouds, and
I had now no further need of examining the

In going down the side of a lofty hill I saw
a herd of red deer approaching. Desirous of
killing one of them for food, I hid myself in the
bushes, and on a large one coming near, pre-
sented my piece, which missed fire on account
of the priming having been wetted. The animals
walked along without taking the least alarm;
and having reloaded my gun, I followed them
and presented a second time. But now a
disaster of the heaviest kind had befallen me;
for on attempting to fire I found that I had
lost the cock. I had previously lost the screw
by which it was fastened to the lock; and to
prevent this from being lost also I had tied it in
its place with a leather string: the lock, to
prevent its catching in the bows, I had carried
under my molton coat.

Of all the sufferings which I had experienced
this seemed to me the most severe. I was in a
strange country, and knew not how far I had


^leranticr ipmrp

to go. I had been three days without food; I
was now without the means of procuring my-
self either food or fire. Despair had almost
overpowered me: but I soon resigned myself
into the hands of that Providence whose arm
had so often saved me, and returned on my
track in search of what I had lost. My search
was in vain, and I resumed my course, wet,
cold and hungry, and almost without clothing.


Cl^apter 17


THE sun was setting fast when I descended
a hill at the bottom of which was a small
. lake entirely frozen over. On drawing
near I saw a beaver lodge in the middle
offering some faint prospect of food; but I
found it already broken up. While I looked at
it, it suddenly occurred to me that I had seen
it before; and turning my eyes round the place
I discovered a small tree which I had myself
cut down in the autumn when in company with
my friends I had taken the beaver. I was no
longer at a loss, but knew both the distance
and the route to the encampment. The latter
was only to follow the course of a small stream
of water which ran from the encampment to
the lake on which I stood. An hour before
I had thought myself the most miserable of
men; and now I leaped for joy and called my-
self the happiest.

The whole of the night and through all of
the succeeding day I walked up the rivulet,
and at sunset reached the encampment, where
I was received with the warmest expressions of
pleasure by the family, by whom I had been
given up for lost after a long and vain search
for me in the woods.


^lejiranticr l^enrp

Some days elapsed, during which I rested
myself and recruited my strength: after this
I resumed the chase, secure that as the snow
had now fallen I could always return by the
way I went.

In the course of the month of January I
happened to observe that the trunk of a very
large pine tree was much torn by the claws of
a bear, made both in going up and down. On
further examination I saw that there was a
large opening in the upper part near which
the smaller branches were broken. From
these marks and from the additional circum-
stance that there were no tracks on the snow
there was reason to beUeve that a bear lay
concealed in the tree.

On returning to the lodge I communicated
my discovery; and it was agreed that all the
family should go together in the morning to
assist in cutting down the tree, the girth of
which was not less than three fathoms. The
women at first opposed the undertaking be-
cause our axes, being only of a pound and a
half weight, were not well adapted to so heavy
a labor; but the hope of finding a large bear
and obtaining from its fat a great quantity of
oil, an article at the time much wanted, at
length prevailed.

Accordingly in the morning we surrounded
the tree, both men and women, as many at a
time as could conveniently work at it; and
here we toiled like beaver till the sun went


^taM^ anti 9lt»bcnturc^

down. This day's work carried us about half
way through the trunk; and the next morning
we renewed the attack, continuing it till about
two o'clock in the afternoon, when the tree
fell to the ground. For a few minutes every-
thing remained quiet, and I feared that all our
expectations were disappointed; but as I
advanced to the opening there came out, to
the great satisfaction of all our party, a bear
of extraordinary size, which, before she had
proceeded many yards, I shot.

The bear being dead, all my assistants ap-
proached, and all, but more particularly my
old mother (as I was wont to call her), took her
head in their hands, stroking and kissing it
several times; begging a thousand pardons for
taking away her hfe: calling her their relation
and grandmother; and requesting her not to
lay the fault upon them, since it was truly an
EngHshman that had put her to death.

This ceremony was not of long duration;
and if it was I that killed their grandmother
they were not themselves behindhand in what
remained to be performed. The skin being
taken off, we found the fat in several places
six inches deep. This being divided into two
parts, loaded two persons; and the flesh parts
were as much as four persons could carry.
In all, the carcass must have exceeded five

As soon as we reached the lodge the bear's
head was adorned with all the trinkets in the


^lerantier l^cnrp

possession of the family, such as silver arm
bands and wrist bands, and belts of wampum;
and then laid upon a scaffold, set up for its
reception within the lodge. Near the nose was
placed a large quantity of tobacco.

The next morning no sooner appeared than
preparations were made for a feast to the
manes. The lodge was cleaned and swept; and
the head of the bear lifted up, and a new stroud
blanket, which had never been used before,
spread under it. The pipes were now Ht; and
Wawatam blew tobacco smoke into the nos-
trils of the bear, telling me to do the same, and
thus appease the anger of the bear on account
of my having killed her. I endeavored to
persuade my benefactor and friendly adviser
that she no longer had any life, and assured
him that I was under no apprehension from
her displeasure; but the first proposition ob-
tained no credit, and the second gave but little

At length the feast being ready, Wawatam
commenced a speech resembling in many
things his address to the manes of his relations
and departed companions; but having this
peculiarity, that he here deplored the necessity
under which men labored thus to destroy their
friends. He represented, however, that the
misfortune was unavoidable, since without
doing so, they could by no means subsist.
The speech ended, we all ate heartily of the
bear's flesh; and even the head itself, after

€rabdi6f anti ^ttibcnturc^ef

remaining three days on the scaffold, was put
into the kettle.

It is only the female bear that makes her
winter lodging in the upper parts of trees, a
practice by which her young are secured from
the attacks of wolves and other animals. She
brings forth in the winter season; and remains
in her lodge till the cubs have gained some

The male always lodges in the ground under
the roots of trees. He takes to this habitation
as soon as the snow falls, and remains there
till it has disappeared. The Indians remark
that the bear comes out in the spring with the
same fat which he carried in in the autumn;
but after exercise of only a few days, becomes
lean. Excepting for a short part of the season,
the male lives constantly alone.

The fat of our bear was melted down, and
the oil filled six porcupine skins." A part of the
meat was cut into strips, and fire dried, after
which it was put into the vessels containing
the oil, where it remained in perfect preserva-
tion until the middle of summer.

February, in the country and by the people
where and among whom I was, is called the
Moon of Hard, or Crusted Snow; for now the
snow can bear a man, or at least dogs, in
pursuit of animals of the chase. At this season
the stag is very successfully hunted, his feet

*^ The animal which, in America, is called a por-
cupine, is a hedge-hog or urchin. — Author.


^Icrantier i^cnrp

breaking through at every step, and the crust
upon the snow cutting his legs with its sharp
edges, to the very bone. He is consequently,
in this distress, an easy prey; and it frequently
happened that we killed twelve in the short
space of two hours. By this means we were
soon put into possession of four thousand
weight of dried venison, which was to be car-
ried on our backs, along with all the rest of our
wealth for seventy miles, the distance of
our encampment from that part of the lake
shore at which in the autumn we left our
canoes. This journey it was our next business
to perform.



OUR venison and furs and peltries were to
be disposed of at Michilimackinac, and
it was now the season for carrying them
to market. The women therefore prepared our
loads; and the morning of departure being
come, we set off at daybreak, and continued
our march till two o'clock in the afternoon.
Where we stopped we erected a scaffold on
which we deposited the bundles we had
brought, and returned to our encampment,
which we reached in the evening. In the
morning we carried fresh loads, which being
deposited with the rest, we returned a second
time in the evening. This we repeated till all
was forwarded one stage. Then removing our
lodge to the place of deposit, we carried our
goods with the same patient toil a second stage;
and so on, till we were at no great distance from
the shores of the lake.

Arrived here, we turned our attention to
sugar making, the management of which, as
I have before related, belongs to the women,
the men cutting wood for the fires, and hunting
and fishing. In the midst of this we were
joined by several lodges of Indians, most of
whom were of the family to which I belonged,


^lerantJcr l^cnrp

and had wintered near us. The lands belonged
to this family, and it had therefore the ex-
clusive right to hunt on them. This is accord-
ing to the custom of the people; for each
family has its own lands. I was treated very
civilly by all the lodges.

Our society had been a short time enlarged
by this arrival of our friends, when an accident
occurred which filled all the village with anxiety
and sorrow. A little child belonging to one of
our neighbors fell into a kettle of boiling syrup.
It was instantly snatched out, but with little
hope of its recovery.

So long, however, as it lived a continual feast
was observed ; and this was made to the Great
Spirit and Master of Life, that he might be
pleased to save and heal the child. At this
feast I was a constant guest; and often found
difiiculty in eating the large quantity of food,
which on such occasions as these is put upon
each man's dish. The Indians accustom them-
selves both to eat much and to fast much, with

Several sacrifices were also offered; among
which were dogs, killed and hung upon the
tops of poles, with the addition of stroud
blankets and other articles. These, also, were
given to the Great Spirit in humble hope
that he would give efl5cacy to the medicines

. The child died. To preserve the body from
the wolves it was placed upon a scaffold, where


€rabcljef and ^bbcnturci^

it remained till we went to the lake, on the
border of which was the burial ground of the

On our arrival there, which happened in the
beginning of April, I did not fail to attend the
funeral. The grave was made of a large size,
and the whole of the inside lined with birch
bark. On the bark was laid the body of the
child, accompanied with an axe, a pair of
snowshoes, a small kettle, several pairs of
common shoes, its own strings of beads, and —
because it was a girl — a carrying-belt and a
paddle. The kettle was filled with meat.

All this was again covered with bark; and
at about two feet nearer the surface logs were
laid across, and these again covered with bark,
so that the earth might by no means fall upon
the corpse.

The last act before the burial, performed by
the mother crying over the dead body of her
child, was that of taking from it a lock of hair
for a memorial. While she did this I endeav-
ored to console her by offering the usual ar-
guments, that the child was happy in being
released from the miseries of this present Ufe,
and that she should forbear to grieve, because
it would be restored to her in another world,
happy and everlasting. She answered that she
knew it, and that by the. lock of hair she should
discover her daughter; for she would take it
with her. In this she alluded to the day when
some pious hand would place in her own


9llcranticr l^curp

grave, along with the carrying-belt and paddle,
this little relic, hallowed by maternal tears.

I have frequently inquired into the ideas and
opinions of the Indians in regard to futurity,
and always found that they were somewhat
different in different individuals.

Some suppose their souls to remain in this
world, although invisible to human eyes; and
capable, themselves, of seeing and hearing
their friends, and also of assisting them in
moments of distress and danger.

Others dismiss from the mortal scene the
unembodied spirit, and send it to a distant
world, or country, in which it receives reward
or punishment, according to the hfe which it
has led in its prior state. Those who have
lived virtuously are transported into a place
abounding with every luxury, with deer and all
other animals of the woods and water, and
where the earth produces, in their greatest
perfection, all its sweetest fruits. While, on the
other hand, those who have violated or neg-
lected the duties of this hfe are removed to
a barren soil, where they wander up and down
among rocks and morasses, and are stung by
gnats as large as pigeons.


Cl^apter 19


WHILE we remained on the border of the
lake a watch was kept every night in the
apprehension of a speedy attack from
the English, who were expected to avenge the
massacre of Michilimackinac. The immediate
grounds of this apprehension were the constant
dreams to this effect of the more aged women.
I endeavored to persuade them that nothing
of the kind would take place; but their fears
were not to be subdued.

Amid these alarms there came a report con-
cerning a real, though less formidable enemy,
discovered in our neighborhood. This was a
panther which one of our young men had seen
and which animal sometimes attacks and
carries away the Indian children. Our camp
was immediately on the alert, and we set off
into the woods, about twenty in number. We
had not proceeded more than a mile before
the dogs found the panther, and pursued him
to a tree, on which he was shot. He was of a
large size.

On the twenty-fifth of April we embarked
for Michilimackinac. At La Grande Traverse"
we met a large party of Indians who appeared
" Modern Grand Traverse Bay. — Editor.


^kjcanticr J^cnrp

to labor, like ourselves, under considerable
alarm; and who dared proceed no farther, lest
they should be destroyed by the English.
Frequent councils of the united bands were
held; and interrogations were continually put
to myself as to whether or not I knew of any
design to attack them. I found that they be-
lieved it possible for me to have a foreknowl-
edge of events, and to be informed by dreams
of all things doing at a distance.

Protestations of my ignorance were received
with but little satisfaction, and incurred the
suspicion of a design to conceal my knowledge.
On this account therefore, or because I saw
them tormented with fears which had nothing
but imagination to rest upon, I told them at
length that I knew there was no enemy to
insult them; and that they might proceed
to Michilimackinac without danger from the
English. I further, and with more confidence,
declared that if ever my countrymen returned
to Michilimackinac I would recommend 'them
to their favor on account of the good treatment
which I had received from them. Thus en-
couraged they embarked at an early hour the
next morning. In crossing the bay we ex-
perienced a storm of thunder and lightning.

Our port was the village of L'Arbre Croche,
which we reached in safety, and where we
stayed till the following day. At this village
we found several persons who had been lately
at MichiHmackinac, and from them we had

the satisfaction of learning that all was quiet
there. The remainder of our voyage was there-
fore performed with confidence.

In the evening of the twenty-seventh we
landed at the fort, which now contained only
two French traders. The Indians who had
arrived before us were very few in number; and
by all who were of our party I was used very
kindly. I had the entire freedom both of the
fort and camp.

Wawatam and myself settled our stock and
paid our debts; and this done, I found that my

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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 9 of 20)