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Scenes Among The Indians

( Originally Published 1851 )



The following description is from a work entitled, " Adventures on the Columbia River, &c. By Ross Cox." It furnishes a forcible example of the effects of intoxication. The author states that there are three descriptions of men in the service of the Fur Company. First come the white Canadians ; and, secondly, the half-breeds, which race is now numerous throughout the Indian country.

" The third description of men in the Company's service are the Iroquois, Nipisings, and others of the native tribes of Canada. These Indians have been all nearly reclaimed from their original state of barbarism, and now profess the Roman Catholic religion. They engage for limited periods in the Company's service as canoe-men and hunters, but on lower terms than are usually allowed to the French Canadians. They are strong, able-bodied men, good hunters, and well acquainted with the management of canoes. They are immoderately attached to the use of ardent spirits; are rather quarrelsome, revengeful, and sometimes insubordinate; and during their periods of intoxication the utmost prudence and firmness are necessary to check their ferocious propensities, and confine them within proper bounds. They are generally employed on the east side of the mountains, but we had a few of them on the Columbia. One, named George Teewhattahownie, was a powerful man about six feet high. On one occasion, during our voyage to the sea, we had a stiff breeze, and George, who was foreman of my canoe, kept up a heavy press of sail. I requested him repeatedly to take in a reef, and pointed out the danger to which we were exposed in the event of an accident. He appeared to pay no attention to my request, and I was at length obliged to use peremptory and threatening language, which produced a, forced and sulky obedience. A few days after our arrival at Fort George he came into my room in a state of intoxication, and ungovernable rage, with a vessel containing rum in his left hand, and in his right his hunting-knife ; in short, his whole appearance was wild and savage, and I at once guessed his visit was not of a friendly nature. His opening speech realized my suspicions."

' Cox, you toad, prepare for death! you abused, me, and I must have my revenge.'

You're not sober, George; go sleep awhile, and we'll talk on this subject to-morrow.'

" ' No; you insulted me before the men, and 1 must have satisfaction ; but as you're a young man, I will now only take one of your ears!'

" I became a little easy on finding he had lowered his demands; but as I had an equal affection for both lugs, and as ' the prejudice ran in favor of two,' I had no wish, like Jack Absolute, to affect singularity in that respect. After some further parley, and finding he was determined to try his knife on my auricular cartilages, I told him to retire, or I should be obliged to order him into confinement. ' Ha ! crapaud !' said he, ' do you threaten Teewhattahownie?' and at the same instant he rushed on me like a grisly bear. I was now forced to draw my dagger in self-defence, and in parrying off his thrust gave him a severe wound across the fingers of the right hand. He dropped the knife, but instantly seized it with the left hand, and at the same time attempted to catch me, which I avoided by running under his arm, and as he turned round was compelled to give him a severe cut, which nearly laid open one side of his head He now became quite furious, roared like a buffalo, and with the blood streaming down his face appeared more like a demon than a human being. I thought to fly, but in the attempt he seized the skirt of my coat, and 1 was obliged once more to give him another wound across the left hand, which obliged him to drop the knife; a desperate struggle then followed for the dagger, which, from his great strength, he must have wrested from me, had not the noise occasioned by his bellowing, and my cries for assistance, brought Mr. Montour and some of the men into the room. With much difficulty they succeeded in binding him hand and foot, and lodging him in the guard-room. He tore off the dressings that were applied to his wounds, refused every assistance, and the greater part of the night was spent in wild yells and ferocious threats against me. Nature at last became exhausted, and he fell asleep, in which state his wounds were dressed. None of them were dangerous. Between the loss of blood and a long fast he became quite cool on the following day, and when told of what had occurred he could scarcely believe it, cursed the rum as the cause, and made a solemn promise never again to drink to intoxication. At the end of a couple of days I interceded and had him liberated. He appeared most grateful, acknowledged that he deserved what he got, expressed his surprise that I did not kill him, and declared if he ever heard a man say a bad word of me for wounding him he would knock him down. I believe his regret was sincere, and from that period until the following year, when I quitted the Columbia, 1 never saw him in a state of inebriety."

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