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Owindia : a true tale of the MacKenzie River Indians, North-West America   By: (1830-1917)

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Avinash Kothare, Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. This file was produced from images generously made available by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.





A pretty open spot on the bank of the Great Mackenzie River was the place where Owindia first saw light. One of the universal pine forests formed the back ground, while low shrubs and willows, with a pleasant, green carpet of mossy grass, were the immediate surroundings of the camp.

The banks of the Mackenzie often rise to a height of sixty feet above the river. This was the case in the spot where Michel the Hunter had pitched his tent, or "lodge" as it is called. A number of other Indians were camped near, led thither by the fish which is so abundant in our Northern rivers, and which proves a seldom failing resource when the moose or reindeer go off their usual track. The woods also skirting the river furnish large supplies of rabbits, which even the Indian children are taught to snare. Beavers too are most numerous in this district, and are excellent food, while their furs are an important article of trade with the Hudson Bay Company; bringing to the poor Indian his much prized luxury of tea or tobacco, a warm blanket or ammunition. As the Spring comes on the women of the camps will be busy making "sirop" from the birch trees, and dressing the skins of moose or deer which their husbands have killed in the chase. There are also the canoes to be made or repaired for use whenever the eight months' fetters of ice shall give way.

Thus we see the Indian camps offer a pleasant spectacle of a contented and busy people; and if they lack the refinement and luxuries of more civilized communities, they have at all events this advantage, they have never learnt to need them.

Michel, the Indian, was a well skilled, practised hunter. Given a windy day, a good depth of snow, and one or two moose tracks on its fair surface, and there was not much chance of the noble beast's escape from Michel's swift tread and steady aim. Such is the excitement of moose hunting; and such the intense acuteness of the moose deer's sense of smell and hearing, that an Indian hunter will often strip himself of every bit of clothing, and creep stealthily along on his snow shoes, lest by the slightest sound he should betray his presence, and allow his prey to escape. And Michel was as skilled a trapper as he was hunter; from the plump little musk rat which he caught by the river brink to the valuable marten, sable, beaver, otter, skunk, &c., &c., he knew the ways and habits of each one; he would set his steel trap with as true an intuition as if he had received notice of the coming of his prey. Many a silver fox had found himself outdone in sharpness and cunning by Michel; many a lynx or wild cat had fought for dear life, and may be, made one escape from Michel's snares, leaving perhaps one of its paws in token of its fierce struggle, yet had perished after all, being allured in some opposite direction by tempting bait, or irresistible scent laid by the same skilful hand. In bear hunting also Michel was an adept, and he lacked not opportunity for this sport on the banks of the Mackenzie. Many a time would he and, perhaps, one other Indian glide down the river in his swift canoe, and suddenly the keen observant eyes would detect a bear walking stealthily along by the side of the stream! In an instant the two men would exchange signals, paddles would be lifted, and, every movement stilled, the men slowly and 'cannily' would make for shore. In spite of all, however, Bruin has heard them, he slakes his thirst no longer in the swift running river nor feasts luxuriously on the berries growing by the shore. The woods are close at hand, and with a couple of huge strides he reaches them, and is making with increasing speed for his lair; but Michel is his match for stealth and swiftness, and when one sense fails, another is summoned to his assistance... Continue reading book >>

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