p. 2670

consent of the several chiefs, that Indians should be subject to the penalties imposed by the laws and ordinances of France for murder and rape. As regards the oppressions suffered by defaulting Indian debtors, the cases would be dealt with on their merits, as they arose.
The Chiefs were desired to make known to all the people of their nations, the position in which they stood in regard to the crime mentioned. As these chiefs represented the whole body of Indians from Tadoussac on the east to Lake Nipissing on the west, the amenability of the tribes to the laws of France, in the matter of the crimes to which they were principally addicted, was firmly established.
The list of crimes regarding which Indians were brought under the French law was enlarged by a Police ordinance of May 1676. Besides those mentioned, theft, drunkenness and generally all other crimes, when committed by Indians, were brought within the scope of the French law, and the attorney general was directed to give notice of the fact to the chiefs of the several nations.1
That the several Indian tribes who came within the influence of the French Government conceived themselves to be subjects of the French King is shown by an incident, which concluded the ceremonies connected with the election in 1668 of a successor to an Algonquian chief, Captain Noel Tekouerimat, who had died some years before.
The relatives of the dead chief, on whom devolved the duty of choosing a successor, decided upon Negaskaoust, a Tadoussac war captain. At the investiture, the new captain was placed in the most literal sense in his predecessor's shoes, and not only in his shoes, but in his clothes as well. The ceremony took place before representatives of the French, the Montagnais, the Gaspesiens, the Abnaquiois, the Etechemins, the Poissonsblancs, the Nipissineriens and the Hurons. On the day following the festival, all the Indian captains with the new chief at their head paid a visit to the Governor de Courcelle. “ They asked from him the protection of the King, whose subjects they were; and his special assistance to check the disorders of vice among them. They then withdrew.2
The records of the courts show that the offences committed by Indians were dealt with in the same manner as the offences of the same sort committed by Frenchmen. Most of the delinquencies of the minor sort were disposed of in the inferior courts, the records of which are not available, but there were a sufficient number of cases in which Indians were involved heard in the Superior Council to leave no doubt on the point.
The crime to which the Indians were chiefly addicted, and which was the origin of most other crimes committed by them, was inebriety. In the words of an ordinance issued by the Superior Council on September 28, 1663, “ since the beginning of the colony the selling of intoxicating liquors to the Indians has always been forbidden, on account of the frenzy to which the Indians were aroused by intoxication; it is well established that they drink for no other purpose but to produce drunkenness; that the laws on the subject, particularly that made by the King's Council of state on March 7,

p. 2671

1657, have been disregarded, as well as the censures of the Church ; that the Indians when under the influence of liquor, abandon themselves to every species of vice, and cease from following the chase, by which alone the colony has existed until this day.” 1
Heavy penalties were imposed for the selling or giving Indians intoxicating liquors, even in the smallest quantities. But in enforcing the law, the officers of justice were confronted with the same sort of difficulty as exists today in securing convictions. Unless the person receiving the liquor can be induced to say from whom he received it, many violations of the law go unpunished. The Superior Council dealt with the difficulty in its own way. An Indian who was found intoxicated must disclose the name of the vendor or giver, or be arrested and remain in prison until he did so.
This edict which was passed on April 25, 1664,2 was enforced against two Indians a few weeks later, and a day or two in jail led to the desired result.
A further step was taken by an ordinance of December 6, 1667.3 The Indians, who accepted liquor were made subject to the same penalties as those who sold or gave it to them, with the additional penalty, in the case of those who became intoxicated, of three hours in the pillory. The duty of communicating this ordinance to the Indians was placed on the Jesuit missionaries. In the following June, a case4 involving an infraction of this law came before the Superior Council. Six Frenchmen, three of them employers, and three servants, and twelve Indians were subjected to a fine of 50 livres each. Should any of the latter be unable to pay the fine, the defaulters were to have a month each in prison, during the last fortnight of which they were to be exposed for an hour each day on a wooden horse, bearing on their persons the legend “ For having sold brandy to the Indians.”
A source of illwill between whites and Indians lay in a practice on the part of the whites, of buying or taking in payment of debts, the guns, ammunition or clothing of the Indians. Severe penalties were imposed on the whites who resorted to this practice, and the Indians who parted with any of these underwent a term in prison and the fine of a mooseskin.5
These laws and ordinances were enacted again and again during the period of the French possession of Canada, but as the number of officers at the command of the government for their enforcement were few, they could have but a partial application. Theoretically, the King's writ ran throughout the whole vast territory comprised in Canada or New France, but in practice it could run no further than there was an officer to carry it. But if the offence were grave or involved a large number of persons, the Government employed special means to secure respect for the laws.
On May 2, 1733, the Intendant had before him a number of complaints of disorders occurring at the post of Mingan on the Labrador coast. There were a group of Indian families dwelling about that post, who, in pursuit of their calling, were accustomed to go into the far interior in the early autumn to hunt the marten, fox and other furbearing animals, returning to the post in the early summer of the year following. These became the victims of

p. 2672

traders from Quebec and Louisburg, who sold liquor to them in such quantities, that a number of the families had perished through the immoderate use of these liquors. To remedy this state of things, the Council sent down to Mingan, Sieur de Lafontaine de Belcourt, with instructions to reside there and enforce the several ordinances prohibiting the sale or gift of brandy or other intoxicating liquors to Indians.1
The intimacies which had grown up between Frenchmen and Indians, and which were made the easier from certain temperamental traits in the French character, were not without their inconveniences to the rising settlements. Young men, who had gone into the depths of the forests to trade with the Indians in their own homes, found the wild life they had taken up very attractive. The freedom they acquired more than offset their repugnance to the hardships they had to endure. They remained in the woods, and were followed by others, led partly by the same motives, and partly by a desire to escape the rigid paternalism applied by the government to the settlements. The aim of the government was the establishment of a settled community, which was only possible by the clearing and cultivation of the land along the banks of the St. Lawrence. The labour of every man was required for that purpose. The coureurs de bois as these French dwellers in the wilds were called, were not only a loss so far as that purpose was concerned, but as they returned to the settlement prematurely aged, riddled by disease, and quite unfit from their habits to take up with the ways of settled life, they became a burden to the community. Ordinances were issued imposing heavy penalties on those who abandoned their homes for the life of the woods. The extent of the loss to the community may be judged from the terms of a royal edict issued in May 1681 offering amnesty to those who would return to their homes. It states that “ the majority of the inhabitants of the country (la plupart des habitans du dit pays) having been found engaged in the prohibited commerce with distant Indians, have abandoned their homes and the cultivation of their lands.” Throughout the whole French period the government had to struggle with this evil, alternating penalties and pardons, and acknowledging that the latter had not the measure of success the government was entitled to expect.
An interesting consequence of the sojourn of the coureurs de bois in the profondeurs is noted by Cartwright. He says, speaking of the Mountaineers:—“ In features they bear a strong resemblance to the French, which is not to be wondered at since they have had an intercourse with the Canadians for so many years that there are but few, I believe, who have not some French blood in them.” On this point Low says: “ The Montagnais are more or less of mixed blood, having intermarried with the old coureurs de bois and the French and English traders.”
The missionary bodies in France gave their loyal services to the Government in its efforts to introduce Christianity among the Indians, and to lead them into the ways of settled life. The relations between the Church and the Indians are, however, so important that the subject is being reserved for separate treatment.

p. 2673

The foregoing, however, relates largely to one only of the great races that inhabit the Labrador interior: the race whose home is in the regions between the Gulf and River St. Lawrence and the shores of Hamilton River and Lake Melville.
What of the other race, whose habitat is, in general, to the north of that occupied by the Montagnais? The Naskapis are not so frequently mentioned in the early records, but is it to be assumed that they did not at that time come at all in contact with the missionaries and traders? We hear of a great annual fair at Nekoubau and know that the Mistassins who were within the same area are of the Naskapi race ; 1 of Father Bailloquet in 1661, visiting seven or eight different nations at the mouth of the St. Lawrence—Papinachois, Bersiamites, the Nation of the Monts Pelés, the Oumamiousk and others allied to these; of the twenty nations, who were represented at a great assembly at Lake St. John ; of the meetings between the hunters and the shore Indians at lake Manicouagan,2 all of which places were within the pastoral labors of the Jesuit priests. Knowing, as we do, the nomadic character of all the Indians in the Labrador, the facilities for travel, the practical identity of the languages of the two races, the unvarying friendliness which subsisted between them, the eagerness manifested by the Naskapis at a later date to attend the ministrations of the priests, the question is rather, why should the Naskapis not have been in contact with the missionaries and traders in early times?
Hocquart the intendant of Canada in an exhaustive report on the King's Domain,3 gives a bit of evidence, which would indicate that the Naskapis visited the post at Mistissini. He states that Dorval the officer in charge of that post had traded with a nation dwelling to the north of the lake, called the Pays Peles from the circumstance that there was no timber to be found in their country. As he says: “ These Indians have no canoes nor any bark to make them from.” This is a fact commonly noted by those who have written on the Naskapis. In the words of the report: “ They formerly traded with the Indians of the northern sea; this year they traded with Dorval and the result was an output of 1300 martens at this post, which produced only about 200 before the establishment of the winter post.” Dorval, also, reported that he had been visited by 30 men from the northern sea.
Much more direct evidence comes from the King's Post in eastern Labrador. Hocquart in this report states that Réné Cartier, who had a half interest in the posts at River Moisie and Seven Islands “ intends forming a wintering post at the Lake of the Naskapis, where the nation of the same name are residing. They are a docile tribe and easy to manage, numbering about forty families. They have no canoes; and are not sparing of their peltries in trading.” The Lake of the Naskapis is not shown on any modern map, but a map drawn by Father Laure about 1730, on which the name appears, makes it practically certain that this lake is the one now named Ashuanipi, a large lake on the historic Indian route from the mouth of the Moisie to the interior of Labrador. Whether the evidence tending to establishing the identity be regarded as conclusive or not, the important fact remains that a section of the Naskapis inhabited a portion of the King's

p. 2674

Domain, and necessarily had regular relations with the traders who leased these domains.
Hocquart's report was made in 1733. The lessee of these posts ten years later, in a remonstrance addressed to the court, furnishes quite convincing evidence that Naskapis as well as the Montagnais traded with him. In 1743, M. Fornel, a Quebec merchant, was furnished with authority to explore and, in the name of the King, take possession of Esquimaux Bay. He succeeded in his undertaking, and thereupon applied for a grant of the territory about the bay. M. Cugnet, the lessee of the King's Posts made a vigorous protest, asserting that Fornel's purpose was not discovery but trade, and that if the application were acceded to, it would ruin the King's posts, inasmuch as the Indians who had been accustomed to trade at the Posts on the Gulf would be diverted to Esquimaux Bay. He further stated that Fornel's assistant would attract the Indians of the Domain “ des Lacs, des Nascopies, Atchouanipi, Manicoujan, Mistassins.” The route to the Bay was an easy one, while that to the St. Lawrence was difficult and toilsome.1 The anticipations he formed were not realized either then or at any time later, as the dwellers about Esquimaux Bay—Montagnais and Naskapis alike—have always had their reasons for taking the more arduous journey to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
But, although there is sufficient in the facts cited to warrant the statement that the relations between traders and the Indians embraced both Montagnais and Naskapis during the French regime, the latter appear more distinctly on the scene at a later period.
An explanation of the fact that, though they had well established trading relations with the posts in the Gulf, they were seldom seen there in numbers is found in a statement respecting them made by John McLean, who was in charge of Fort Chimo from 1837 until 1842. In the chapter of his work “ Twenty-five Years in the Hudson's Bay Territory” he says:—“ Of all Indians I have seen the Nascopies seem most averse to locomotion; many of them grow up to man's estate without once visiting a trading post. Previously to the establishment of this post they were wont to assemble at a certain rendezvous in the interior, and deliver their furs to some elderly man of the party, who proceeded with them to the King's Posts or Esquimaux Bay, and traded them for such articles as they required.”
This statement is confirmed by an entry in the Journal kept by the Hudson's Bay Company's agent at Richmond Fort. It is dated April 10, 1753, and here reproduced:—“ Mr. Isbester has taken great pails in giving me a particular account of the natives round us, in particular ye Nashcopy Indians, wherein he informs me (which I have already been informed by our Indians) that ye said Nashcopy Indians, never comes to trade with ye English or French but trafficks with the other Indians, which trade with both Nations and that a trade may be got with you in winter, they being nearer to us than any English or French Settlement and that if I could prevail with any Indians bordering near you to go and acquaint you that we are settled

[1927lab]




Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home