Confederation
1864-1949



The Labrador Boundary


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29 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan

29 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan.

29 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan

29 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan.

29 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan.




p. 408

to the King's Posts, there may be about 220 Families in all, but as their habitations are easily moved they are ever changing and shifting from one place to another. A Jesuit Missionary meets them at Tadousac when they come there for the trade and he resides in the neighbourhood all the Year.”
I need not deal with the coast territory, because those people were Hurons, who lived quite close to Quebec ; there was a special settlement of them there. Here you have a contemporary account of the two types of natives on this coast and in this interior : On the coast you have the Esquimaux; in the interior you have the two Indian tribes, the Montagnais and the Nascapies. These are people who are engaged in trade, and they come down to the St. Laurence posts, the trading posts, which are the French fur posts there, annually, on their migrations, for the purpose of exchanging the furs that they have got for food and guns and various other articles of trade. Sometimes they prefer to go to the Hudson's Bay side, because they are located up on this great plateau, where all these many lakes are, these many lakes and rivers in the interior ; so that sometimes they go down to the Hudson's Bay post on the Hudson's Bay side. But their natural direction, as your Lordships will see from the many other records in these books, was that they came down to the posts on the St. Laurence side. The King's posts were all down there, and they made their annual migrations down to that place. The great gathering ground was the Sandgirt Lake, in the head waters of the Hamilton River ; it was there they used to meet. Some of them came down to the Hamilton Inlet side. That there was a very considerable number of Indians in this territory, and that they carried on furring, is, I submit, beyond doubt ; but this matter of the natives in this region, that is to say in the Labrador region, was therefore before the framers of this proclamation, and in this proclamation they made provision for what the Governor of Quebec was to do in the matter of Indian administration.
Now, my Lords, is it suggested that these Indians were in the territory of Newfoundland ? If so, you will not find any provision made for Newfoundland granting licences to trade with them, nor will you find any such provisions as are made with regard to Quebec, to enable Quebec to deal with these Indians who were outside their territory. Does the prohibition with regard to purchasing land not apply to them ? No such proclamation is addressed to Newfoundland. Could Newfoundland have taken the hunting grounds from these Indians, these Montagnais in Labrador ? Could the Governor of Newfoundland have contravened all these directions which are designed to protect the Indians on their hunting grounds ? I submit, my Lords, that you have only to read it to see that it is perfectly plain that these Montagnais and Nascapies were just as much under the protection of His Majesty as any of the Indians round the Lakes and to the west, where no doubt there were a great many more. But why these unhappy Indians should be excluded, or why they should be called “ a few Esquimaux,” which I think they would probably have resented, I am quite at a loss to understand.

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May I just say this also, that if your Lordships will kindly turn to page 10 of the Newfoundland Case, you will get a description of the original inhabitants of the Labrador Peninsula, which might be useful to put alongside my learned friend's observations on page 231 of his speech. At page 9 of the Newfoundland Case they tell us with considerable accuracy the state of matters in the interior of Labrador. It is paragraph 6, and it says this : “ The aboriginal inhabitants of the Labrador Peninsula have altered very little, either in numbers or otherwise, since 1763. They may be roughly divided into three tribes : First the Esquimaux, to be found along the coast, particularly north of the Straits of Belle Isle (there are now no Esquimaux south of the Hamilton Inlet) ; next the Mountaineers, living further inland than the Esquimaux, and principally south of the Hamilton River, with their main huntinggrounds near the North West River, though they hunted on both sides of the height of land ; and thirdly, the Nascopies, occupying the central portion of the area south of the Hudson's Straits. The number of these native inhabitants varied probably between two thousand and four thousand in all. These Indians (apart from the Esquimaux who depended principally upon fishing) lived by hunting and trafficking in furs. The Mountaineers and Nascopies (particularly the latter, who had a large admixture of Red Indian blood) had had but little connection with white men.”
Now, my Lords, how it can be said in view of that statement, that in the territory to the north, the interior of Labrador, including the green area which embraces the Hamilton Inlet referred to here and the Hamilton River, there was nothing but a few Esquimaux there who did not require any protection from His Majesty, I am at a loss to see, but there is a great deal more, I am sure my learned friend's attention can hardly have been drawn to these matters, when I read the passages. If your Lordships would take Volume V, the volume containing the illustrations, page 2640. there is another contemporary account of the country of Labrador. This is a rather interesting document. It is “Extracted from the papers of Lieutenant Roger Curtis, of His Majesty's Sloop the . ‘Otter,’ with a plane–chart of the Coast. Communicated by the Honourable Daines Barrington. The people of this country form various nations or tribes ; and are at perpetual war with each other. Formerly the Esquimaux, who may be called a maritime nation, were settled at different places upon the sea coast quite down to the River St. John's ; but, for many years past, whether it has been owing to the quarrels with the Mountaineers, or the encroachments of the Europeans, they have taken up their residence far to the north. A good way up the country live a people distinguished by the appellation of Mountaineers, between whom and the Esquimaux there subsists an unconquerable aversion. Next to the Mountaineers, and still farther westward, you come to a nation called the Escopies. The Mountaineers are esteemed an industrious tribe ; and, for many years, had been known to the French traders ”—that is the Quebec traders. “ Their chief employment is to
3 I 2

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catch fur, and procure the necessaries of life. They are extremely illiterate, but generally good–natured; and are reckoned to be less ferocious than any other of the Indians. This softness of their manners is owing to their long intercourse with Europeans; and the other nations will doubtless lose their savage disposition, in proportion as they imbibe our customs.”

Sir JOHN SIMON : It was not the imbibing of customs which did it.

Mr. MACMILLAN: I am afraid what they imbibed in other ways rather brought their ruin than their civilisation. “They come every year to trade with the Canadian merchants, who have seal–fisheries on the southern part of the coast, and have the character of just dealers. They are immoderately fond of spirits, for which blanketing, fire–arms (in the use of which they are remarkably dexterous), and ammunition, they truck the greatest part of their furs. Their canoes are covered with the rind of birch ; and, though so light as to be easily carried, yet sufficiently large to contain a whole family, and their traffic. By means of the multitude of amazing ponds throughout the country, they convey themselves a vast distance in a very little time. Whenever they find a pond in their way, they embark on it, and travel by water ; when its course alters, and by following it they would lengthen their distance anything considerable, they land, place their canoe on their head, and carry their baggage on their shoulders, until other water gives them an opportunity of re–embarking. They are most excellent travellers. They bear inconceivable fatigue with astonishing patience, and will travel two days successively without taking any sort of nourishment. These Indians are of a deeper colour than the Esquimaux. They are low of stature. Though of a robust constitution, their limbs are small, and extremely well adapted to the rocky country they are continually traversing.” Then he passes on to the Esquimaux. “The Esquimaux Indians, inhabiting the sea coast of the northern part of Labradore, are indisputably from Greenland. They are a very deep tawny, or rather of a pale copper–coloured complexion. . . . They live always upon the sea shores, from their dread of the Mountaineers.” My Lords, notice the date of that, that is 1774. This is a contemporary account of the Indians of Labrador. Then the next author I can invoke also happens to be of this period, and it is extracted from a “Journal of Transactions and Events during a Residence of nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador,” by George Cartwright. It follows the document I have just been reading, and its date is 1792.“The native inhabitants are two distinct nations of Indians ; Mountaineers and Esquimaux. The Mountaineers are tall, thin, and excellent walkers ; their colour greatly resembles that of our gypsies ; probably occasioned by their being constantly exposed to the weather and smoky whigwhams. In features they bear a strong resemblance to the French, which is not to be wondered at, since they have had an intercourse with the Canadians for so many years, that there are few, I believe. who have not

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some French blood in them. These people inhabit the interior parts of the country, which they traverse by the assistance of canoes, covered with birch–rinds, in the summer ; and of rackets, or snow–shoes, in the winter,” and so on. It goes on to describe them at great length. It is interesting to note at, page 2643: “ They profess the Romish Religion; but know no more of it than merely to repeat a prayer or two, count their beads, and see a priest whenever they go to Quebec.”
My Lords, these are two more or less contemporary accounts. There are a great many other accounts given of the Indians which are not so old as that, but I think you might take a reference to one or two modern accounts, because as is stated in the Newfoundland Case, there had been practically no change since the period of 1763, the state of the inhabitants has been very much the same. There are several reports on the ethnography of this district, which are of some interest, they are printed in the same volume, first of all at page 2606. Mr. Low, of the Geological Survey of Canada, who has been already introduced to your notice, with compliments on his accuracy by my learned friend, gives his account of the population, and does so in very considerable detail, explaining again this difference between the Esquimaux and the Red Indians, but you will find the description of the Red Indians at the foot of page 2609. “The Indians of the Labrador Peninsular belong to tribes of the Algonkin family.”

The LORD CHANCELLOR : Have you got the date of this ?

Mr. MACMILLAN : It is quite modern ; it is 1895.

Viscount HALDANE : He was a cartographer.

Mr. MACMILLAN : He was a Geological Surveyor. It is a Geological survey of Canada.

Sir JOHN SIMON : He was also a cartographer.

Mr. MACMILLAN : He was also a cartographer. We both seem anxious to lavish compliments on his learning when it suits us ; in the last line but one he says : “ The Indians of the Labrador Peninsula belong to tribes of the Algonkin family. The principal tribes of Labrador are the Montagnais, the eastern and western Nascaupees, and the coastal Indians of Hudson Bay. The Montagnais inhabit the country extending south of a line drawn westward from Hamilton Inlet, to the headwaters of the St. Maurice River.”
It must be very shocking to my learned friend, but we are in the green territory here where there are only a few Esquimaux. We are right in the heart of the green country : “ The Nascaupees inhabit the interior country north of this line, or from the bottom of James Bay eastward to Hamilton Inlet. The northern limit of their territory is marked by the Koksoak River, from its mouth to the Hillwater Branch,

p. 412

and by this stream westward to its head on the neighbourhood of Clearwater Lake, and thence westward to Richmond Gulf on Hudson Bay. This line divides the Indian territory from that of the Eskimo, and the boundary is well observed, the latter keeping far to the north of it, when hunting deer inland, and the Indians rarely crossing it from the southward.” Then page 2611, at line 20 : “ A large majority of the Indians of Labrador are Christians, the Montagnais of the St. Lawrence and Hamilton Inlet being Roman Catholics, while the Indians of the western watershed have been converted by the missionaries of the Church of England.” That is what Mr. Low says, but he also, at page 2619, says something more about them, talking about trade : “ The post at Rigolet” —that is in Lake Melville—“ consists of about a dozen houses and stores, and trade for fur and fish is carried on with the Eskimo and ‘ planters.’ The trade of the post at Northwest River is made with the ‘ planters ’ living about the upper part of the inlet, and with the Indians, who hunt in the country drained by the Hamilton and Northwest rivers, as well as with those hunting to the southward in the Mealy Mountains.” We are right in the green area. “ A Roman Catholic chapel was erected some years ago near this post, and a missionary priest from the St. Lawrence used annually to visit the Indians there, during the summer, and so on. Then page 2627 in the last paragraph : “ The religion of the country is professedly almost wholly Christian. The people trading around Hudson Bay are Protestants, while all the Montagnais are Catholics, cared for spiritually by the various missions of the Gulf and the Saguenay.” Lest Mr. Low be thought to be tainted in any way with a Canadian view in writing, so in 1895 you will find the Smithsonian Institute Report on page 2628 on the ethnology of this district, on the ethnology of the Ungava district. You will find in that at page 2630 a sketch of the Esquimaux, and the Indians which is very interesting, and tells us all about the Montagnais and the Nascaupees, and about their religion and habits, and all the rest of it. The upshot of it all comes to be this, in this territory, this territory of Labrador, the native population consists of two tribes, the Esquimaux inhabiting the coast and the Indians, the Red Indians, inhabiting the interior, and the Red Indians again being divided into two types of Montagnais and the Nascaupees, and these Red Indians are people who have been in contact with Canadians—Quebec people—for a wry long period, indeed, they have been visited by the Jesuit missionaries and have been ministered to in matters both of commerce and religion from the Quebec centre. Their industry is the industry of pelters, they inhabit this great inland plateau. My Lord has heard a good deal about the height of land and the watershed, but this excellent relief map shows that in this country you have not got any distinct line of demarkation at all. The whole of the hinterland in there is a great mass of high lying land, the fall of the Lakes, the fact that all these Lakes are lying there is in itself an indication that you are not dealing with a ridge of mountains and watershed falling one way or the other, it is a great plateau on which this Lakes lie.

[1927lab]




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