VOLUNTARY STATEMENTS OF INHABITANTS OF THE LAKE MELVILLE DISTRICT AND TWO AFFIDAVITS RELATING TO THE VOLUNTARY STATEMENTS.
IN THE PRIVY COUNCIL.
IN THE MATTER OF THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE DOMINION OF CANADA AND THE COLONY OF NEWFOUNDLAND ON THE
Voluntary Statement of ERNEST F. EWING, of North West River, Lake Melville.
1. I am the Post Manager of the Hudson's Bay Company's post situated at the mouth of North West River in Lake Melville. I have served with the Hudson's Bay Company at Cartwright as accountant, at Rigoulette Post as acting Manager and four years as Post Manager at North West River Post. From my experience on the Labrador and examination of the ancient records of the Hudson's Bay Co., I have acquired some knowledge of the conditions of trade and happenings in this region for some years past, and, more particularly, of the facts and matters hereinafter mentioned.
2. Re Indian Trade : The fur trading post at North West River, operated by the Hudson's Bay Company, was established in the year 1836, for the purpose of trading with the Indians. During the time North West River was supplied from Quebec with a French Canadian priest, this Post was the headquarters (during summer months) of large bands of Indians, chiefly of the Montagnais tribe. A few Nascaupees also come this way. With the passing of the caribou, the Nascaupees ceased to come, as the journey was too far to undertake unless deer were plentiful. These Indians now come from Ungava (their headquarters) to Davis Inlet and from there get enough grub to enable them to resume their hunting back to Ungava.
The Montagnais or Mountaineer Indians still continue to visit North West River annually and each year we receive contingents from Mingan, Seven Islands, Nascarrow, 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. The Nascaupees hunt from Ungava to Lake Michikamau. Indians, when hungry, will kill game and in fact all animals at any season of the year, for food, irrespective of the condition of the skin, and of game regulations. When hunting fur, however, they conform to the game laws of Quebec rather than to those of Newfoundland for the reason that they would otherwise be unable to dispose of their pelts at the gulf post which are regularly visited by the Quebec game inspectors.
3. Re Customs Duties : This Post has been in the habit of paying Customs Duties to the Newfoundland Government for some years, but always under protest, as we claim that this post comes under the jurisdiction of Canada rather than of Newfoundland.
4. Re Game and Fish Regulations : Salmon and trout are netted during July and August in Lake Melville and its tributary rivers and streams. Newfoundland's game laws are, the hunters claim, not applicable to this country. Owing to climatic differences, the seasons are not the same as Newfoundland's, and, therefore, as the different fur bearing animals change with the seasons, the natives cannot conform with Newfoundland game laws even if they were otherwise disposed to do so. Representation has been made by the natives to the Newfoundland Government to have the existing laws altered, but their requests have not been granted. The game laws as applied in the province of Quebec will be of great advantage to Lake Melville and the Hamilton Inlet.
5. Re Magisterial Authority in Lake Melville : M. Murphy, J.P., of Cartwright, one of the commissioners of the Newfoundland Supreme Court, and Dr. W. T. Grenfell, have authority to try cases in Labrador. Dr. Grenfell has to my knowledge tried a few cases in this Bay. In one case, an Indian was tried for catching furs out of season. This case was dismissed. Some few cases of seduction have also been tried. Samuel Hope, charged with seducing a young girl, was fined $100.00 and James Michelin was sentenced to one year in gaol for the like offence. He was incarcerated at St. Johns.
6. Re Grants of Mineral Lands : I have been informed by Charles Goudie of North West River that sixteen grants were made on Lake Winokapau on the Hamilton River, all of which have lapsed with the exception of five, which, I understand, Goudie is holding for himself and others, paying $20.00 per annum for each grant to the Newfoundland Government.
7. Re Grants of Poor Relief : The Newfoundland Government dispenses relief at Rigoulette and Cartwright and along the coast. Owing to the hunting facilities being good and possibly to more energy being shown by the natives of North West River, there has been very little need of relief at this post. When necessary however I have issued relief to natives on account of the Newfound-land Government. I also issue relief when occasion arises to sick and destitute non-treaty Indians who, being considered Canadians, have no claim on the Newfoundland Government. Relief was issued by me to Indians last year, and application has been made to the Indian department at Ottawa for payment of the same.
8. Re Religious Dependence of Indians : The Indians visiting and inhabiting this post, depend as their forefathers did before them, upon the diocese of Quebec to furnish them with a priest for spiritual instruction and for the purpose of christening their infants and burying their dead. They will carry their dead about with them for hundreds of miles until they meet a priest in order that their dead may be buried upon consecrated ground. The religious superstitions of the Indians are very pronounced and their belief in the rites of the Roman Catholic Church very strong.
9. Re Census. The census of North West River and surroundings was taken by Mr. P. Smith of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1911. The Hudson's Bay Company is taking it this season for the Canadian Government.
10. Re Codfish in Lake Melville. There are no codfish in Lake Melville proper. Some years codfish will come to within a short distance of Rigoulette post, and in 1919 whilst I was at Rigoulette the natives caught large quantities at Burnt Wood Head one mile below the Hudson's Bay Company's post. This is a very unusual occurrence and possibly does not happen once in a decade. The caplin which the codfish pursues for food does not enter this Inlet and this together with prevalence of fresh water in this bay, accounts for the fact that there are not now, nor apparently ever have been, any deep sea codfish in Lake Melville.
11. Re Natives Attitude Towards Boundary Question : The natives of North West River and outlaying settlements have expressed the wish that they desire a change in their condition ; that whilst the boundary question is in dispute they still have to pay taxes to the Newfoundland Government for which they receive nothing in return, except a more or less casual mail service.
I make the foregoing statement voluntarily, verily believing it to be true according to the best of my knowledge, information and belief.
Dated at North West River this twenty-second day of July, A.D. 1921.
E. F. EWING.
C. P. PLAXTON.