The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume VI

1 Abbe
in a letter to
the Arch-
bishop of
Quebec about
1863 also
this fact.

2 Vol. 11, p. 97. [sic]

2 Champlain,
op. cit.

p. 2665

to the Kenamou, which falls into Hamilton Inlet. By this route the Montagnais can journey in their canoes from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Hamilton Inlet in seven days.” 1
In his account of the Naskapis, Hind says : “ 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.” 2
Hind's volumes were published in 1863—sixty years ago. That conditions have not changed in the intervening period will be seen from the following extracts from a chapter on the Indians of the Labrador by William B. Cabot, published in the year 1910. “ Along the Gulf the principal trading-stations are Bersimis, Seven Islands, Mingan and St. Augustine. From Seven Islands the Moisie is the main highway to the interior, and several of its families make their hunts within two hundred miles of Ungava on eastern branches of the George. Nearly parallel with the Moisie is the St. Marguerite or Tshimanipishtuk. Its principal western branch interlocks with the Maniquagan. The network of Indian travel about and far beyond the heads of these rivers is interminable.”
“ From the Gulf near Mingan, the hunters ascend the St. John, pass a difficult high portage to the Romaine, and proceed towards the Grand Falls region of the Hamilton.” 3
“ Eastward from Mingan the people travel the Natashquan, St. Augustine and Eskimo rivers. Their lands are chiefly in the region between the Hamilton and the St. Lawrence. Southward from the Mealy Mountains of Hamilton Inlet and the Sandwich Bay coast lies an indefinite unmapped area of high territory, partly barren where great lakes supply the rough rivers passing north, east and south.” 4
An interesting confirmation of this statement comes from Mr. Ernest F. Ewing, whose position as manager of the Hudson's Bay post at North West River gives the statement unusual authority. He says : “ The Montagnais or Mountaineer Indians will continue to visit North West River annually and each year we receive contingents from Mingan, Seven Islands, Masquarrow and St. Augustine. These Indians are dependent on North West River for sufficient supplies to enable them to hunt furs on their way out to the above mentioned Gulf posts. The country over which Indians hunt, ranges as follows : St. Augustine Indians hunt and always have hunted from St. Augustine to Sandwich Bay. Mingan and Seven Island Indians' hunting grounds extend from Mingan and Seven Islands respectively to Lake Michikamau and the Grand or Hamilton River. Over these hunting grounds they claim their fathers and forefathers have always hunted and trapped.” Lake Michikamau is a great lake, north of Hamilton River and north west by west of Lake Melville.
There is but one direction in which Indian travel has declined. Cabot says : “ During late years, few Indians have been regular visitors on the eastern (or Atlantic) coast of the Peninsula. For convenience to themselves

p. 2666

the Oblate fathers have influenced the hunters, who formerly traded at Hamilton Inlet to make the longer journey to Seven Islands. Irregularly a few northern Indians from George River have visited Davis Inlet post.”
The Hudson's Bay Company, as their correspondence shows, fully adopted the view expressed by the immemorial practice of the Indians, that the Gulf section was an integral part of the indivisible whole known as Labrador. In a letter from Governor Simpson to Angus McGillivray who had been appointed to manage the posts just then opened at Esquimaux Bay, he explains that the Company did not contemplate carrying competition in this quarter, but were driven to it by their Canadian opponents “ seducing our Mingan Indians in the first instance and latterly interfering with our trade generally in that quarter.” 1
As soon as arrangements were made by which the Company's rivals withdrew from Esquimaux Bay, the Company resolved to unite Esquimaux Bay and Mingan on the Gulf of St. Lawrence under one management, the reason being that “ the Indian Transport trade and other arrangements are closely connected with those of Esquimaux Bay.” 2 In another letter written a week later to the district manager at Montreal, Simpson stated : “ Mingan and Esquimaux Bay. These two districts have heretofore been under distinct managements, but on account of their proximity to each other, likewise with a view to guarding against internal opposition in trade ” it was determined to unite them.3
The practice of the Indians of the Interior visiting the Gulf posts caused some embarrassment to the Company.
In January 1845, Simpson wrote to the officer in charge of the posts at Esquimaux Bay, who had reported that the Indians attached to his post desired to visit Mingan in order to meet a Roman Catholic priest, telling him that “ if they defer it for another year, we will endeavour to send a priest to their own lands.” 4 A few years later, Simpson gave it as his opinion that it was the high prices paid for furs at the St. Lawrence posts rather than the missions which attracted the Indians.5
In April 1853, Simpson pointed out to Donald A. Smith the inconveniences of allowing priests to visit Esquimaux Bay by the overland route from Mingan. Among these was that the priests would, perhaps unconsciously, act as path openers to the Esquimaux Bay for their rivals on the St. Lawrence.6
Even the distant Naskapis were importunate for the ministrations of the priest, and Simpson thought it better to waive his objections to resident priests than to lose his Naskapis. An intimation to this effect was given to Smith in March 1858.7
It is fair to the Company to point out that there was a good deal of reason in their objection to inland missions. Simpson in a letter to Hardisty and Smith, the outgoing and incoming manager of the posts at Esquimaux Bay, written on March 26, 1852, gives the reason. “ With regard to the desire of the North West River Indians to obtain the ministrations of a Roman Catholic priest, we are at all times ready to promote the spread of

p. 2667

civilization and christianity to the best of our ability and will therefore facilitate the visits or settlement of a Roman Catholic priest among those Indians if such can be done without exposing the natives, the missionary, or the Company's establishment to the danger of famine by collecting at any one point large bodies of people.”
There was also the necessity of preserving a perfect impartiality as between Catholics and Protestants. The Moravians had long been settled on the coast, and since 1849, a mission of the Church of England had been opened there. The Company pointed this out to the Manager of the Montreal district in a letter of December 29, 1862. The manager was, however, able to reply : “Fortunately in the case in point, no conflict of creeds need be apprehended, as the Roman Catholics at present hold that rather unpromising field entirely to themselves.” 1
The relations between Canada and the Indians of the Labrador owed nothing to chance. Governors, priests and traders all in their own way, and frequently in antagonism to one another, contributed to the creation and nurture of those intimacies. Five years before Quebec was founded, a firm alliance had been made by its founder with the Montagnais Indians.2 Two years before a permanent inhabitant had set plough to land in Canada, a Recollet priest had entered on labours in a field of another sort, which extended from Tadoussac to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Governor Murray in the report on the conditions in the District of Quebec in 1762, sums up one aspect of the age-long relations between Canadians and Indians in the following words : “ The French bent their whole attention in this part of the world to the Fur Trade, they never entered heartily or with any spirit into the fisheries, most of what was done in this way was by adventurers from the ports of France ; some fish, indeed, lumber and provisions were exported to the French islands.” 3
The records of the period of French rule in Canada amply confirm this statement. The material conditions on which the colony on the banks of the St. Lawrence depended for its prosperity, and indeed for a considerable part of the period for its existence,4 are to be found in the trade which was carried on between the Canadians and the Indians, who hunted over the vast territory between the Atlantic seaboard and the undefined west.
But these trading relations with the intimacies springing from them, necessarily gave rise to other relations, scarcely less important in the lives of communities. The Kings of France, indeed, at once perceived and never forgot that contact with uncivilized peoples implied a duty on their part, which it was their constant endeavor to fulfil. In the commission given by Francis I to Jacques Cartier in October 1540, the King mentions a number of Indians having been brought to France on an earlier expedition “ whom we have maintained for a long time in our kingdom having them instructed in the love and fear of God and of His holy law and Christian doctrine, with the intention of returning them to those countries in the company of a number of our subjects of good will, in order the more easily to induce the other peoples of those countries to believe in our holy faith.” 5

p. 2668

The purpose on the part of the French rulers of evangelizing the Indians, thus initiated, continued throughout the whole period. From 1663, when the government of the country was resumed by the King, every governor was instructed to “ appeal to the peoples still unconverted, by the gentlest means possible, to come to the knowledge of God and of the light of the faith and of the Catholic Apostolic and Roman religion, and to establish the worship of it to the exclusion of all others.” 1
For the first seventy years after the discovery of Canada by Cartier in 1534, these high aims remained in the realm of pious wishes. No Frenchmen, except traders, who stayed only for the season, could be induced to leave their homes to settle in a country, of which few favourable reports reached France. The fur trade, however, was steadily expanding until in the last years of the sixteenth century it had reached dimensions, which made it an object with several individuals and companies to undertake to transport and settle French people in the new country, on consideration of having secured to them the monopoly of the fur trade.
But though these people enjoyed the benefits of their agreements, they managed to evade their obligations, so that it was not until 1617 that the first permanent settler landed at Quebec, and in 1628, when the English gained temporary possession of the country, there were only two families in the country occupying land for purposes of farming.
Fortunately, in the early years of the seventeenth century a man appeared whose sympathies led him to cultivate the Indians, and, in his dealings with them he gave a note, which though sometimes pitched in a lower key, was always thereafter discernible. Samuel Champlain, who had attracted the attention of the court by the excellent account he gave of a voyage made by him in the Spanish service to the West Indies, was invited to take part in an exploratory expedition, which was being fitted out by M. de Chaste, Viceroy of Canada. He set out in March, 1603, and arrived at Tadoussac on May 27. He spent a month among the Montagnais Indians, gaining their friendship and enjoying their hospitality. He and his associate, Dupont Gravé, brought out with them two Montagnais Indians, whom the latter had taken to France with him on a former voyage. At the ceremonial feast, in which the Frenchmen were seated beside the Montagnais chief, one of the Indians who had returned from France told the audience of the kindly reception he and his companion had from the King. His Majesty informed them that he wished their nation well, and desired to have his people settle in the country. The King was prepared to secure peace for them from their enemies, the Iroquois, or to assist in crushing this race. The Montagnais chief welcomed the words of the French king, and thereupon was concluded an alliance, which endured as long as the French remained rulers of Canada.2
This alliance had momentous consequences for the French in Canada. In 1608, Champlain joined the united Indian tribes of Montagnais, Algonquins and Hurons against the Iroquois, gaining the steady enmity of this powerful group of tribes, and thereby bringing the colony to the brink of ruin on more than one occasion.

p. 2669

Champlain's plan for the Indians of Canada extended far beyond protection against their enemies. He would make them Frenchmen—first Christians and then Frenchmen. In addressing a body of Indians in 1635, the last year of his life, he exhorted them to embrace the Christian religion, which besides securing to them eternal salvation would be the means of cementing a close alliance with the French, who would then come readily into their country, marry their daughters, teach them the several arts and trades, and assist them against their enemies.1
The King entered heartily into Champlain's views. In the act passed on April 29, 1627, authorising the charter of the Hundred Associates, it was provided that “ the descendants of Frenchmen dwelling in that country, as also the Indians who are brought to a knowledge of the faith, and make profession of it, shall be reputed to be natural-born Frenchmen, and, as such, be at liberty to come to dwell in France, when they see fit, and to acquire, succeed to and accept gifts and legacies in all respects as if they were real inhabitants of the country and of French origin, without being obliged to take out letters of declaration of naturalization.” 2 This section of the act of 1627 was confirmed by a Royal decree of March 5, 1648,3 and re-enacted in the edict establishing the West India Company in 1664.4
The relations of the Indians to the French criminal law which prevailed in Canada were settled in characteristic fashion. An Indian was brought before the Superior Council on March 16, 1664, charged with a criminal offence against a woman. The charge was fully made out, and the Council saw themselves face to face with the question as to whether an Indian was properly subject to the jurisdiction of the French criminal law. They invited the chiefs of the several tribal bodies to meet them at the Council, and put to them the question, why the criminal should not be hanged and strangled. The chiefs began by reminding the Council of the many years of amity which had existed between the French and the Indians, and pointed out if their youth had on occasions been at fault, the French had not been always free from blame. Until that time they had not understood that the crime of which their tribesman stood convicted was punishable by death, and they pleaded that for this first offence, he should not suffer the extreme penalty of the law.
For the future they were prepared to submit to the French law as regards this crime, but it was only right that the law should be put in writing, in order that it might remain for their posterity.5
What they suffered most from at the hands of the French was the oppresive acts of French creditors towards defaulting Indian debtors, and they asked that Frenchmen should be forbidden to pillage and maltreat Indians, who were unable to acquit themselves entirely of their debts, particularly as during a period of war, it was impossible to give more than half their time to the pursuit of fur bearing animals.
The Council after deliberation agreed to relieve the Indian from the penalty he had incurred, except as regards the civil interest of the woman; and in order to prevent such disorders in the future, it was ordered, with the


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