They relate that those islanders have quite different customs from the mainland people, inasmuch as their clothing consists of the skins of seals and dogs, rarely of reindeer skins, as the latter are procurable only when one of their number comes to the shore to trade for such articles as cannot be obtained on his locality. The spear, kaiak, bow and arrow are used, and they have but little knowledge of firearms. These people are represented as often being driven to greatest extremity for food. It is said that their language differs considerably from that of their neighbors.
The Indian inhabitants of this region may be divided into three groups, differing but slightly in speech, and even less in habits.
(1) The Mountaineers, “ Montagnais ” of the early Jesuit missionaries, roam over the areas south of the Hamilton inlet and as far as the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Their western limits are imperfectly known. They trade at all the stations along the accessible coast. Many of them barter at Rigolet and Northwest river.
In customs they differ little from the Indians to the north of them. Their means of subsistence are the flesh of reindeer, porcupines, and various birds, such as geese, ducks, ptarmigan, and grouse.
The habits of the reindeer in this portion of the country are very erratic. They are often absent from large tracts for several years, and appearing in abundance when little expected. The scarcity of the reindeer renders the food supply quite precarious; hence, the Indians rely much upon the flesh of the porcupine, hare and birds for their principal food.
Their clothing is of the tanned skin of the deer, when they are able to procure it. As nearly all the skins of the reindeer are used for garments, few are prepared for other purposes; hence the northern stations (Fort Chimo) furnish great numbers of these skins in the parchment condition to be purchased by the Mountaineers, who cut them into fine lines for snowshoe netting and other purposes.
They procure the furs of marten, mink, fur beaver, muskrats, lynxes, wolverines, wolves and foxes. A considerable number of black bears are also obtained by these Indians. By the barter of these furs they procure the articles made necessary by the advent of the white people among them. They are quiet and peaceable. Many of them profess a regard for the teachings of the Roman missionaries, who have visited them more or less frequently for over a hundred and fifty years. I was unable to obtain the term by which they distinguish themselves from their neighbors. That they are later comers in the region than the Innuit is attested by the bloody warfare formerly carried on between then, of which many proofs yet exist. The Mountaineers applied to the more northern Indians the term of reproach, “ Naskopie.” This word denotes the contempt the Mountaineers felt for the Naskopies when the latter failed to fulfil their promise to assist in driving the Innuit from the country.
It was impossible to obtain a satisfactory estimate of the numbers of the Mountaineers. My stay in their vicinity was too short to learn as much about them as was desired.
(2) The Indians dwelling to the southwest of the Ungava district differ rather more than the Mountaineers, in their speech, from the Indians of the Ungava district. They average, for both sexes, slightly taller than the Naskopies. The men are spare, and have small limbs and extremities. The cheek bones are also more prominent, although this is partly due to the thin visage. The women are disposed to be stout, and in the older women there is a decided tendency to corpulence. The complexion, too is considerably darker. The men wear long hair, usually cut so as to fall just upon the shoulders. The hair of the women is quite heavy, and is worn either in braids or done up in folds upon the side of the head. . . .
(3) The third division of Indians includes those dwelling for the most part in the Ungava district. The total number of these Indians is about 350. They apply the term Ne né not—true, ideal men—to themselves, although known by the epithet Naskopie, which was applied to them by the Mountaineers of the southeastern portion of the region.
They differ slightly in customs from their neighbors, but their speech is somewhat different, being very rapidly uttered and with most singular inflections of the voice. A conversation may be begun in the usual tone, and in a moment changed to that of a whining or petulant child. It is impossible for the white man to imitate this abrupt inflection, which appears to be more common among the males than the females. . . .
THE NENENOT OR “ NASKOPIE.”
The Indians of the Ungava district are locally known as Naskopie, a term of reproach applied to them by the mountaineers (the Montagnais of the early Jesuit missionaries) during the earlier days when the former acted falsely in one of their concerted struggles with the Eskimo of the eastern coast.
The name given to themselves is Nenenot, a word meaning true, or ideal 30 red men. To the west of these people dwell a branch of the tribe along the east shore of Hudson bay. To the southeast dwell the mountaineers.
The western people differ greatly in customs and many words of their language from the Nenenots. The mountaineers differ but little in their customs, and only in speech as much as would be expected from the different locality in which they dwell.
These three tribes have distinct boundaries, beyond which they seldom wander. Of late years, however, a gradual influx of the western people has poured into the Ungava district, due to the decrease of the food supply along that portion of the eastern coast of Hudson bay.
The Nenenots appear, from the best information I could obtain on the subject, to have been driven to their present location during the wars waged against them by the Iroquois in times long gone by and remembered only in tradition.
They assert that their original home was in a country to the west, north of an immense river, and toward the east lay an enormous body of salt water. The former was supposed to be the St. Lawrence river and the latter to be Hudson bay. When they came to their present place they say that they found Eskimo alone, and these only along the coast. They are a branch of the Cree stock, as their language clearly indicates.
Many years ago war was waged upon them by the people whose name is remembered with terror even to this day. Most cruel atrocities were perpetrated, and in despair they fled from the land of their fathers, where they had lived as a numerous people, and were pursued by their merciless foes until but a remnant reached what is now known as the "Height of Land."
Being now driven to a strange land, where they found numerous Eskimo on all sides, only a few years elapsed before they encroached too greatly upon the land which the Eskimo had always held. Contention and struggles arose, culminating in a disposition to fight, and in the course of time desultory warfare carried on by single combat or organized raids. This lasted for many years, even after the advent of the white men as traders along the coast. Some of the battles were attended with great slaughter on both sides. The Eskimo seldom ventured far from the coast on their raids, but fought bravely when attacked on their own ground. In most instances they outwitted the Indians by decoying them into ambush, and killing great numbers of them. Within the present century they have been more peaceably disposed toward each other. Since the arrival of the white men at various points along the coast these troubles have ceased, and the Indians and Eskimo are now on intimate terms ; not that either party have any special regard for the new comers, but they have a mutual fear of each other, and the white man now engages their entire attention.