INDIAN TRAVEL ROUTES AND POINTS OF RENDEZVOUS IN LABRADOR PENINSULA.
(EXTRACTS FROM LOW'S REPORT ON EXPLORATIONS IN THE LABRADOR PENINSULA, VIDE NO. 1047.)
Sandgirt Lake is an important gathering place for the Indians of the interior, on account of the number of routes that centre here. The Hamilton River divides into two branches, the larger or Ashuanipi Branch flowing in from the northwest and the Attikonak Branch from the south. The main route from the Hamilton River to Lake Michikamau also ends here. The Indians who trade on the lower St. Lawrence and hunt anywhere in this vicinity, always congregate here in the spring, and descend to the coast in company, either by the Romaine or Moisie River.
Returning in the autumn, they travel together to this lake, where they separate into small parties for their winter hunts. The standing poles of their wigwams, scattered everywhere along the shores and on the islands of the lake, show that several families camp here.
For many years the Hudson's Bay Company had a post called Fort Nascaupee on the second northern bay of Petitsikapau. This post was established about the time of McLean's journeys from Ungava to Hamilton Inlet, in or about the year 1841, and it is mentioned by W. H. A. Davies in an article published in 1843, as having then been lately established.* This post was erected for trade with the Nascaupee Indians of the interior, and was quite successful until after the second establishment of Fort Chimo in 1866, when the Indians began to desert it ; those from the north going to Fort Chimo, while the southern Indians traded at Mingan or Seven Islands, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or at Northwest River—all of them preferring to undertake the long arduous journey to and from the coast, where they could obtain better prices for their furs, and purchase provisions and other necessities at a much cheaper rate than at the interior post, where the cost of transport and maintenance added several hundred per cent to the original cost of the goods. The post was accordingly abandoned about 1873, and now the only trading posts of the interior are those situated at Nichicun and Mistassini.
*Trans. Lit. and Hist. Soc. Quebec, vol. IV., part I., p. 74.
Near the mouth of this stream, the Hudson's Bay Company kept a small outpost called Michikamau during the time that Fort Nascaupee was occupied. Nothing can be learned about this outpost from the old Hudson's Bay Company journals at Rigolet or Northwest River, beyond the bare facts that a post was maintained there for a number of years, and was finally abandoned from the same reasons which caused Fort Nascaupee to be given up. This post was not visited, but, from the accounts of the Indians, some of the buildings have been accidentally burnt, and those remaining are in about the same state of decay as Fort Nascaupee.
From the north end of Michikamats, three portages connecting narrow lakes lead to a branch of the George River, where the Indians of the region assemble in September to spear the caribou, which then cross the river in immense herds in the course of their annual migration from the high barren grounds behind Nain to the wooded region of the interior, where they pass the winter.
From the summit of a barren granite hill 400 feet high, close by, the discharge or Northwest River is seen to leave the lake between a number Michikamau. of large, flat-topped islands of drift about thirty feet high, that extend outwards from the shore some four miles, and along it for six miles. A long, low point of drift, passing into a ridge, separates the river from the southern part of the lake, and the river is seen extending eastward through a succession of lake-expansions, until it passes behind and is hidden by rocky ridges in that direction. Another chain of lakes extends northward from the river and passes close to the base of a high range on the horizon. By these lakes a second route leads to the caribou grounds, which is used by the Indians when they want to proceed there direct, without the delay usually caused by adverse winds on Michikamau and Michikamats. The river flowing into the Atlantic near Davis Inlet, heads in the high range to the north, and a winter-route from the George River to the coast follows its course closely. Owing to many rapids and falls, entailing several long portages, this stream is never used as a canoe-route by the Indians.
This place is called Sandy Banks, and the Hudson's Bay Company formerly maintained a small trading-post on the north side, where the site of their clearing is marked by a new growth of birch.
At the head of the lake, a small branch called the Elizabeth River, flows Lake in from the west, down a narrow valley, while the main valley bends to the north-west.
On the south side, at the mouth of the Elizabeth River, there is a wide, sandy plain about twenty-five feet above the river, and on it time Hudson's Bay Company formerly had a post, which was abandoned in 1873, and subsequently destroyed by fire.