It is neither gaming nor debauchery that disable them from the payment of their debts, but their vanity, which is excessive, in the presents of peltry they make to other savages, who come either in quality of envoys from one country to another, or as friends or relations upon a visit to one another. Then it is, that a village is sure to exhaust itself in presents; it being a standing rule with them, on the arrival of such persons, to bring out every thing that they have acquired, during the winter and spring season, in order to give the best and most advantageous idea of themselves. Then it is chiefly they make feasts, which sometimes last several days; of the manner of which I should perhaps spare you the description, if the ceremony that attends them did not include the strongest attestation of the great stress they lay on hunting; the excelling wherein they commonly take for their text in their panegyrics on these occasions, and consequently enters, for a great deal, into the idea you are to conceive of the life and manners of the savages in these parts.
The first thing I am to observe to you is, that one of the greatest dainties, and with which they crown their entertainments, is the flesh of dogs. For it is not till the envoys, friends, or relations, are on the point of departure, that, on the eve of that day, they make a considerable slaughter of dogs, which they slea, draw, and, with no other dressing, put whole into the kettle; from whence they take them half boiled, and carve out into as many pieces as there are guests to eat of them, in the cabbin of him who gives the treat. But every one, before entering the cabbin, takes care to bring with him his Oorakin, or bowl, made of bark of birch-tree, either polygone shaped, or quite round; and this is practised at all their entertainments. These pieces of dogs flesh are accompanied with a small Oorakin full of the oil or fat of seal, or of elk’s grease, if this feast is given at the melting-time of the snow. Every one has his own dish before him, in which he sops his flesh before he eats it. If the fat be hard, he cuts a small piece of it to every bit of flesh he puts into his mouth, which serves as bread with us. At the end of this fine regale, they drink as much of the oil as they can, and wipe their hands on their hair. Then come in the wives of the master and persons invited, who carry off their husbands plates, and retire together to a separate place, where they dispatch the remains.
After grace being said by the oldest of the company, who also never fails of pronouncing it before the meal, the master of the treat appears as if buried in a profound contemplation, without speaking a word, for a full quarter of an hour; after which, waking as it were out of a deep sleep, he orders in the Calumets, or Indian pipes, with tobacco. First he fills his own, lights it, and, after sucking in two or three whiffs, he presents it to the most considerable man in the company: after which, every one fills his pipe and smoaks.