An Account of a Savage Girl, Caught Wild in the Woods of Champagne/Appendix VII

No. VII.

EXTRACT from the account of the Baron La Hontan, a French officer, who travelled over all the north of Canada, betwixt the years 1683 and 1694, P. 6. &c. Of the Esquimaux.

THE source of the river St. Laurence, &c. This river is about 20 or 22 leagues broad at its mouth, &c. On one side stands L'Isle Percée, which is a great rock, pierced through and through——The Biscayans and Normans, in time of peace, fish there for cod, &c. On the other side of the river appears the large country of Labrador, or of the Esquimaux, a nation so barbarous and wild, that it has never been possible to civilize them. The Danes were the first who discovered this nation.———The country is full of harbours and bays, into which the trading vessels of Quebec go in summer to traffic for the seals skins brought them by the savages. The traffic is carried on in this manner.

Whenever our ships have cast anchor, the savages come about them in small canoes made of seals skins sewed together, nearly in the shape of a weaver's shuttle, having a hole in the middle in which they fasten themselves with a cord, sitting on their hams. In this position they row with paddles, never leaning to either side, for fear of overturning. Upon their arrival they display their skins on the end of an oar, signifying at the same time time what they desire in exchange, whether knives, powder, ball, fire-locks, hatchets, kettles, &c. Every one in a word shews his merchandise, and intimates what he would have in return. The bargain being struck, they interchange their commodities by means of a pole. If, on the one hand, these savages have the precaution not to come aboard our ships, we, on the other hand, are as careful not to suffer ourselves to be surrounded by too great a number of their canoes; for they have often made themselves masters of small ships, while the sailors were employed in handling and examining the skins and merchandise. It is necessary to watch them narrowly at night; for they have boats that sail as swiftly as the wind, into which they enter in companies of thirty or forty men at a time: On this account the Normans, who fish for cod about Newfoundland, and the Spaniards at Portochoua, are obliged to arm light swift sailing merchant ships to pursue and clear the coast of them; for seldom a year passes that they don't surprise some crews at land, and kill them. It is certain, that they amount to above 30,000 fighting men; but they are such cowards, that 500 Clistinos of Hudson's Bay usually fight 5 or 6000 of them. Their country is of great extent, reaching from the coast opposite to the island of Minguan, on the north side of the mouth of the river St. Laurence, all the way to Hudson's straits. They cross daily to Newfoundland by the straits of Bellisle, which is but seven leagues broad.