EXPLORATIONS IN THE INTERIOR OF THE LABRADOR PENINSULA.
THE COUNTRY OF THE MONTAGNAIS AND NASCQUAPEE INDIANS.
BY HENRY YOULE HIND, M.A., F.R.G.S.
(In two Volumes.) London, 1863.
The country of the Nasquapees extends from Lake Mistassinni to the Atlantic coast of the Labrador Peninsula, a distance exceeding 800 miles. They occupy the table-land, and it is only lately that they have visited the coasts and shores of the Gulf and River St. Lawrence in considerable numbers. They make their way from the interior, chiefly by the Manicouagan, the St. Marguerite, the Trinity, and the Moisie rivers. . . . They speak a dialect of the Cree language, and can hold communication with the Montagnais without any difficulty. The men are tattooed on the cheek, generally from the cheek-bone to the nostril on either side. The marks which I saw consisted of slight cuts about a line long, parallel to one another, and about a line apart.
Mr. McLean describes the Nasquapees of Ungava as very averse to locomotion, many of them growing up to man's estate without once visiting a trading port. Before the establishment of Fort Chimo at Ungava, they were in the habit of assembling in the interior and delivering their furs to an elderly man of the tribe, who proceeded with them to the King's Posts or Esquimaux Bay (Hamilton Inlet) and traded them for such articles as they required. As with other northern Indian tribes, the Slaves and Rabbit-skins excepted, so with the Nasquapees, the women are the slaves of the men. When they remove from camp to camp in the winter, the women set out first, dragging sledges loaded with their effects, and such of the children as are incapable of walking; meantime the men remain in the abandoned encampment, smoking their pipes, until they suppose the women are suffi-
ciently far advanced on the route to reach the new encampments ere they overtake them.
The Nasquapees, like their friends and allies the Montagnais, hate the Esquimaux, whom they never fail to attack when opportunity offers.
The vast extent of the country hunted by the wandering Nasquapees may be conceived when, 100 years ago, we find this people side by side with their allies the Montagnais on the Saguenay, and 100 miles west of the Straits of Belle Isle, places from 800 to 900 miles apart.
Cartwright saw two Nasquapee canoes near the mouth of Indian Tickle in 1774. He calls the Indians Nasquapicks; and he not only purchased furs from them in the same year, but he speaks of a chain of hills as Nasquapick Ridge. In 1771 he saw signs of Nasquapick Indians near Denbigh Islands, and on several points of the coast north-west of the Straits of Belle Isle. They must then have been in the immediate neighbourhood of their enemies the Esquimaux, but Cartwright does not say that any conflicts took place whilst he was on the coast.
The excellent missionary Pere Arnaud visited the Nasquapees, whose hunting-grounds lie to the north-west of Lake Manicougan in 1853.
The Nasquapees are the most easterly division of the great Cree nation, whose hunting-grounds from time immemorial have extended from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic coast of Labrador, a region extending from the 51st to the 120th degree of longitude, a distance exceeding 2,500 miles, with a mean breadth of about 600 miles, and equal to seven times the area of France, or about 1,500,000 square miles. It must have required a very long time to people this vast waste with tribes speaking dialects of the same tongue, and who were far more numerous, powerful, and independent, 300 years ago, than they are at the present time. That the Nasquapees were once very numerous in the Labrador Peninsula there is every reason to believe; and famine (not wars, as with many other Indian tribes) has been the cause of their decrease in numbers. In many parts of the Peninsula the wild animals which formerly abounded have almost disappeared, and consequently the means of subsistence of the native races have been withdrawn. Rabbits were once quite common on the mainland as far east and north as the Atlantic coast of the Labrador Peninsula. The porcupine was everywhere abundant on the Gulf coast, and reindeer "covered the country." The destruction of mosses, lichens, and forests by fires has been the most potent cause in converting Labrador into a desert.