Only one of the squaws was at home; this was my old acquaintance the hunter’s wife, who was sitting on a blanket; her youngest, little David, a papouse of three years, who was not yet weaned, was reposing between her feet; she often eyed him with looks of great affection, and patted his shaggy head from time to time. Peter, who is a sort of great man, though not a chief, sat beside his spouse, dressed in a handsome blue surtout-coat, with a red worsted sash about his waist. He was smoking a short pipe, and viewing the assembled party at the door of the tent with an expression of quiet interest; sometimes he lifted his pipe for an instant to give a sort of inward exclamation at the success or failure of his sons’ attempts to hit the mark on the tree. The old squaw, as soon as she saw me, motioned me forward, and pointing to a vacant portion of her blanket, with a good-natured smile, signed for me to sit beside her, which I did, and amused myself with taking note of the interior of the wigwam and its inhabitants. The building was of an oblong form, open at both ends, but at night I was told the openings were closed by blankets; the upper part of the roof was also open; the sides were rudely fenced with large sheets of birch bark, drawn in and out between the sticks that made the frame-work of the tent; a long slender pole of iron-wood formed a low beam, from which depended sundry iron and brass pots and kettles, also some joints of fresh-killed venison and dried fish; the fires occupied the centre of the hut, around the embers of which reposed several meek deer-hounds; they evinced something of the quiet apathy of their masters, merely opening their eyes to look upon the intruders, and seeing all was well returned to their former slumbers, perfectly unconcerned by our entrance.
The hunter’s family occupied one entire side of the building, while Joseph Muskrat with his family, and Joseph Bolans and his squaw shared the opposite one, their several apartments being distinguished by their blankets, fishing-spears, rifles, tomahawks, and other property; as to the cooking utensils they seemed from their scarcity to be held in common among them; perfect amity appeared among the three families; and, if one might judge from outward appearance, they seemed happy and contented. On examining the books that were in the hands of the young men, they proved to be hymns and tracts, one side printed in English, the other the Indian translation. In compliance with our wishes the men sang one of the hymns, which sounded very well, but we missed the sweet voices of the Indian girls, whom I had left in front of the house, sitting on a pine-log and amusing themselves with my baby, and seeming highly delighted with him and his nurse.
Outside the tent the squaw showed me a birch-bark canoe that was building; the shape of the canoe is marked out by sticks stuck in the ground at regular distances; the sheets of bark being wetted, and secured in their proper places by cedar laths, which are bent so as to serve the purpose of ribs or timbers; the sheets of bark are stitched together with the tough roots of the tamarack, and the edges of the canoe also sewed or laced over with the same material; the whole is then varnished over with a thick gum.