IN THE PRIVY COUNCIL.
IN THE MATTER OF THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THE DOMINION OF CANADA AND THE COLONY OF NEWFOUNDLAND ON THE
COAST OF LABRADOR.
Voluntary Statement of JOHN MICHELIN and JOHN BLAKE, both of Grand Village, Mud Lake, on the Hamilton River.
1.We, the undersigned, are the oldest inhabitants of the country on and about Lake Melville and the Hamilton Inlet.
2.I, John Michelin, was born in 1852 at Sabisisquasho on Lake Melville about twelve miles east of the Northwest River. My father, Merceller Michelin, was a French-Canadian who came from Three Rivers, Quebec, to work at the Hudson's Bay Company's post at the Northwest River shortly after it was established. I have lived in this country ever since my birth. The greater portion of my time, since early manhood, I have spent in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company : during the past fifteen years I have been in charge of an outpost for the company at Grand Village, Mud Lake.
3.I, John Blake, the son of the late William Blake, deceased, was born at a settlement on Lake Melville near Rigoulette in 1856 and have always lived in this country, except for two winters spent in Nova Scotia. My occupation, for the most part, has been that of a trapper and fisherman.
4.We both have an intimate knowledge of the country on and about Lake Melville and the Hamilton Inlet, of the natives who inhabit or range over this region, and of the conditions and happenings which have existed and taken place from time to time since our early boyhood, and, in particular, of the facts and matters hereinafter mentioned.
5.The Montagnais Indians have been in the habit of trading furs annually at the trading posts situated at the Northwest River and also to an inconsiderable extent at the Hudson's Bay Company's post at Rigoulette, the trade at the latter post being carried on for the most part with the planters living around the Hamilton Inlet and a few Eskimo families. The said
Indians call themselves the “ Gulf Indians.” They sojourn at the various trading posts along the Gulf of St. Lawrence during the summer months, usually leaving these posts some time in August to travel northwards by canoe routes to their hunting grounds in the interior country. Originally these Indians never visited the trading posts hereabouts, but since the “ seventies ” they have been in the habit of coming out to the Northwest River about the middle of December to obtain fresh supplies of provisions. Some of them come back in the early wring to trade their furs, but the most of them go to the gulf posts, claiming that they receive higher prices for their furs at those posts. Before the Montagnais Indians began to come to the Northwest river, the trade at this place was carried on chiefly with the Northwest River Indians who hunted over this region and with the Nascaupee Indians who came down from the North, but in the course of time many of the Northwest River Indians died off and others of them joined the Gulf Indians and the Nascaupees were attracted to the trading posts in the Ungava country, and to some extent also to the posts of Davis Inlet and to the posts on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The Indians hunt over all the territory north and south of Lake Melville and the Hamilton Inlet, as far seawards as the coastal mountain range, near the seashore, wherever game is to be had, and they have done this, we believe, for a great number of years.
6.Re grants and leases of lands, timber limits and mineral rights.
The first grant or lease of timber limits or of lands made in this region by the Newfoundland government was that made to the Grand River Pulp and Lumber Co. about twenty years ago of a timber limit on Goose Bay and the lower part of the Hamilton River. The company erected three mills,—one at the Kennemish River, one at Mud Lake, and still another at Muskrat Island in the Hamilton River. They carried on operations until 1911 or 1912 when they closed the mills and abandoned all operations, except (we believe) the annual cutting by hand-saw of 5,000 feet of lumber in order to keep alive the said grant or lease.
Another timber limit on the Kenamou River was granted about the same time to a man named Caulder of Nova Scotia. He worked this limit during one winter (1902–3) cutting upwards of 800,000 feet of deals.
In 1905 each of us as well as a number of other settlers obtained from the Newfoundland government grants of the lands on which our homes are now situated, the other settlers referred to being Robert Best, Mark Best, and Joseph Blake. We understand the Methodist Mission also secured a grant of the lands occupied here by the chapel and parsonage. In 1917 we each obtained from the Newfoundland government a grant of mineral rights on Lake Winokapau up the Hamilton River. We know that Charles Goudie, Donald Michelin, Joseph Blake, Rev. Wm. S. Mercer and George Serricks secured similar grants in the same region. None of us worked our claims and we believe the grants have all lapsed.
7.Re Game and fishing regulations.
Until 10 years ago no pretence was made to notify or apply Newfoundland regulations in regard to the killing of game and the catching of fish, in and about Lake Melville and the Hamilton River, but during the last 10 years posters have been hung up from time to time at the trading posts requiring the inhabitants to observe certain game and fishing regulations. However, very little has been done towards securing the enforcement of these regulations. During the last six years (excepting last year), Mike Delaney, a Newfoundland fish warden, paid an annual visit to Lake Melville and Mud Lake. Three years ago he required Robert Montague of Northwest River, to remove his trout nets from the rapids just below Grand Lake, but this is the only case of an exercise of authority by him which has come to our notice. The Indians do not observe the game and fish regulations of the Newfoundland government. They seem to be governed only by their own customs in regard to hunting and fishing seasons.
8.Re magisterial authority.
Dr. Wilfrid T. Grenfell and Dr. Henry Paddon of the Deep Sea Mission, are justices of the peace on the Labrador Coast, the former having been appointed some twenty years ago, and the latter six or seven years ago. These gentlemen have visited Rigoulette and the Northwest River annually during the periods of time above mentioned, but we do not know of more than four cases which they have heard and disposed of, one of them being a case relating to an infraction of the game laws and the others relating to charges of seduction.
9.Although the Newfoundland government, of recent years, has been in the habit of granting relief through the Hudson's Bay Company's post at Rigoulette, to poor and destitute planters and Eskimos on the sea-coast to the eastward of Rigoulette, no such grant has to our knowledge ever been made to any person on or about Lake Melville on the Hamilton River.
10.An inconsiderable number of cod fish are caught during a few days each year in the Hamilton Inlet about four miles east of Rigoulette, but at no time within our recollection has this species of fish been caught or found in the Narrows or in Lake Melville to the eastward of the limit above mentioned. In our opinion, the reason for this is the prevalence of fresh water within the area above described, the cod fish being strictly a salt-water fish.
11.The inhabitants of Labrador have never been given the franchise, neither have they been allowed representation in the Newfoundland legislative assembly, although on one or two occasions they petitioned the Newfoundland government to be allowed such representation. They feel that they are entitled to it in view of the considerable revenue which Newfoundland derives
from Labrador. Moreover, they are greatly dissatisfied with what Newfoundland has done and, more particularly, left undone on the Labrador coast and earnestly hope that Labrador will be held to form part of Canada.
The foregoing statement has been read over to us and we sign it, verily believing it to be true in every particular.
Dated at Grand Village, Mud Lake, this 18th day of July, A.D. 1921.
(Signed) JOHN MICHELIN.
(Signed) JOHN BLAKE.
C. P. PLAXTON.
JOHN E. KEATS.