Pathfinders of the West eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 264 pages of information about Pathfinders of the West.

[1] The authorities for La Verendrye’s life are, of course, his own reports as found in the State Papers of the Canadian Archives, Pierre Margry’s compilation of these reports, and the Rev. Father Jones’ collection of the Aulneau Letters.

[2] The Pays d’en Haut or “Up-Country” was the vague name given by the fur traders to the region between the Missouri and the North Pole.

[3] Throughout this volume the word “Sioux” is used as applying to the entire confederacy, and not to the Minnesota Sioux only.

PART III

1769-1782

SEARCH FOR THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE LEADS
  SAMUEL HEARNE TO THE ARCTIC CIRCLE AND
  ATHABASCA REGION

CHAPTER IX

1769-1782

SAMUEL HEARNE

The Adventures of Hearne in his Search for the Coppermine River and the Northwest Passage—­Hilarious Life of Wassail led by Governor Norton—­The Massacre of the Eskimo by Hearne’s Indians North of the Arctic Circle—­Discovery of the Athabasca Country—­Hearne becomes Resident Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, but is captured by the French—­Frightful Death of Norton and Suicide of Matonabbee

For a hundred years after receiving its charter to exploit the furs of the North, the Hudson’s Bay Company slumbered on the edge of a frozen sea.

Its fur posts were scattered round the desolate shores of the Northern bay like beads on a string; but the languid Company never attempted to penetrate the unknown lands beyond the coast.  It was unnecessary.  The Indians came to the Company.  The company did not need to go to the Indians.  Just as surely as spring cleared the rivers of ice and set the unlocked torrents rushing to the sea, there floated down-stream Indian dugout and birch canoe, loaded with wealth of peltries for the fur posts of the English Company.  So the English sat snugly secure inside their stockades, lords of the wilderness, and drove a thriving trade with folded hands.  For a penny knife, they bought a beaver skin; and the skin sold in Europe for two or three shillings.  The trade of the old Company was not brisk; but it paid.

[Illustration:  An Eskimo Belle.  Note the apron of ermine and sable].

It was the prod of keen French traders that stirred the slumbering giant.  In his search for the Western Sea, De la Verendrye had pushed west by way of the Great Lakes to the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains and the Saskatchewan.  Henceforth, not so many furs came down-stream to the English Company on the bay.  De la Verendrye had been followed by hosts of free-lances—­coureurs and voyageurs—­who spread through the wilderness from the Missouri to the Athabasca, intercepting the fleets of furs that formerly went to Hudson Bay.  The English Company rubbed its eyes; and rivals at home began to ask what

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Pathfinders of the West from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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