The only fish we got were some torsk and halibut, which were chiefly brought by the natives to sell; and we caught a few sculpins about the ship, with some purplish star-fish, that had seventeen or eighteen rays. The rocks were observed to be almost destitute of shell-fish; and the only other animal of this tribe seen, was a red crab, covered with spines of a very large size.
The metals we saw were copper and iron; both which, particularly the latter, were in such plenty, as to constitute the points of most of the arrows and lances. The ores, with which they painted themselves, were a red, brittle, unctuous ochre, or iron-ore, not much unlike cinnabar in colour; a bright blue pigment, which we did not procure; and black-lead. Each of these seems to be very scarce, as they brought very small quantities of the first and last, and seemed to keep them with great care.
Few vegetables of any kind were seen; and the trees which chiefly grew here, were the Canadian and spruce-pine, and some of them tolerably large.
The beads and iron found amongst these people, left no room to doubt, that they must have received them from some civilized nation. We were pretty certain, from circumstances already mentioned, that we were the first Europeans with whom they had ever communicated directly; and it remains only to be decided, from what quarter they had got our manufactures by intermediate conveyance. And there cannot be the least doubt of their having received these articles, through the intervention of the more inland tribes, from Hudson’s Bay, or the settlements on the Canadian lakes; unless it can be supposed, (which, however, is less likely,) that the Russian traders, from Kamtschatka, have already extended their traffic thus far; or at least that the natives of their most easterly fox islands communicate along the coast with those of Prince William’s Sound.
[Footnote 6: There is a circumstance mentioned by Muller, in his account of Beering’s voyage to the coast of America in 1741, which seems to decide this question. His people found iron at the Schumagin Islands, as may be fairly presumed from the following quotation: “Un seul homme avoit un couteau pendu a sa ceinture, qui parut fort singulier a nos gens par sa figure. Il etoit long de huit pouces, et fort epais, et large a l’endroit ou devoit etre la pointe. On ne pent savoir quel etoit l’usage de cet outil.” Decouvertes des Russes, p. 274.
If there was iron amongst the natives on this part of the American coast, prior to the discovery of it by the Russians, and before there was any traffic with them carried on from Kamtschatka, what reason can there be to make the least doubt of the people of Prince William’s Sound, as well as those of Schumagin’s Islands, having got this metal from the only probable source, the European settlements on the north-east coast of this continent?—D.]
As to the copper, these people seem to procure it themselves, or at most it passes through few hands to them; for they used to express its being in a sufficient quantity amongst them, when they offered any to barter, by pointing to their weapons; as if to say, that having so much of this metal of their own, they wanted no more.