EXTRACTS FROM “LABRADOR.”
BY WM. B. CABOT (London, 1922).
“ We passed Kutálik or Massacre Island close and were off the Mountaineers' Rock, a small affair awash at low tide. Sam told its tale. In old days when warfare between the Eskimo and Mountaineers of the inland was unrelenting the Eskimo of the neighbourhood were camped on the smooth moss ground of the western side of Kutálik, where their old rings of tent stones are still visible. While the men were off hunting Indians descended upon the women and children, killed them all, threw them into the sea, and departed. As the Eskimo men were returning one of them saw something floating and threw his spear, finding then that he had transfixed the boot and foot of his own wife, killed with the rest. . . . It was late in the day, and the Mountaineers' Rock lay toward the sunset, some three miles away. The Eskimo noticed that the rock seemed higher than usual. As the tide came to its height they saw the Mountaineers leave the flooded rock and paddle up the bay beyond to the mainland. They had been concealed under their canoes, placed close together, and it was these which gave the rock its unusual elevation. The Eskimo followed them after dark, surrounded their camp, and speared them to a man.
Some say that Eskimo men as well as women were floating in the water that day. At all events the story shows how things went between the two races, from Maine, perhaps, around the northern shores to Alaska. They have little taste for each other to this day, although white influence at the shores has ended the fighting. There is no doubt that, man for man, with the primitive weapons, the Eskimo was at no disadvantage, but the Indians acquired guns first and gradually forced the shore dwellers out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and to the north.
The Indians' families, back on the country, were probably not much exposed in the fighting, while those of the Eskimo were, as they could be easily found along the shores. Yet it is not likely that the initiative has always been with the Indians. The two main causes of trouble among simple people in the world at least have been infringement of territory and woman stealing ; and the Eskimo, while at a disadvantage from their shore habitat, have doubtless had some share in aggression and its proceeds.”
“ To-day, nevertheless, it is rather hard to imagine a pure Indian of north-east Labrador marrying an Eskimo. Their antipathy seems racial. The
Eskimo seems to regard the Indian as a hateful predatory creature of the wolf or panther kind. The Indian view is not so easy to assume ; the Eskimo revolts him a little, his dirt, his lack of dignity, his diet, his smell. The Indian has given to him what to his own mind is almost as bad a name as he could, for the word Eskimo is Algonquian for Eater of the Raw. The Indian is particular in having his food cooked.
Late in the winter the Eskimo of the coast go inland for caribou nearly to the height of land, but only in strong parties, so far as I can learn. Many of the white or partly white shore people tell of going into the interior one or two hundred miles, always in winter, but really they do not go far, and 'signs of Indians' are mentioned with bated breath. Some of the shore people are pretty well acquainted with the individual Indians now, for the latter are peacable enough at the shore, but a shore person hunting alone at a distance inland would, I think, be made uncomfortable if discovered.”
Further on Cabot tells how a projected trip inland of servants of the Hudson's Bay Company at Davis Inlet with a view to the possible establishment of a trading post inland was frustrated by the Indians. He says:
“ What turned the Hudson's Bay Company partly back was Indians, not snowshoe tracks or imaginary Indians, but the very men they were with. For some reason best known to themselves they announced to the outsiders that they did not want them to go any farther into the country and actually threatened violence. Our white man was disposed to be militant, but William's enthusiasm fell away and they turned back. This may have been well; it was then not so very long since some of the northern Indians had set out to rush Davis Inlet post, being denied what they asked.
The projected trip inland was now off, of course, I being a doubtful person. The feasibility of making an arrangement with the Indians was also lessened, for their keen observation had not missed the change of atmosphere, and they are not apt to take much trouble for a person of doubtful standing among his own people. Whether it was the prevailing talk of the shore people, or, more likely, the councils of cautious old Captain Gray, of the Pelican, that upset things, I never knew. The blocking of Cotter's vacation into the country may have been partly due to William Edmunds. The journey was a reconnoissance [sic] toward a possible inland trading post. As William's best perquisite was the boating of Indians from Opetik to Davis Inlet at a dollar each, his interest would be against the project. It was generally thought that he had intrigued with the Indians against this enterprise. It remains, however, that to the present year 1920 they have allowed no white person but myself and occasional countrymen to enter. In 1915 they ejected a party summarily.”