Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Portage La Loche in 1862

'canot du nord'  This type of H.B.C. freighter canoe brought Governor Dallas to the Portage in 1862.

The people at the Portage in 1862:

More than 150 people were living on Lac La Loche in 1862. 
They had houses at La Loche, West La Loche and scattered around the lake. 
In 1862 most were gathered in tents at the Portage as they did every year to trade and to work with the brigades.
This year they awaited the visit of Bishop Grandin and the new governor of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Father Emile Petitot o.m.i. arrived with one of the Portage La Loche brigades out of Fort Garry guided 
by Alexi Bonami Lesperance on July 20, 1862. The Lesperance Brigade consisted of 7 boats and a crew of 65 men. 
Lesperance was close to 80 years old in 1862. His son was on the same boat.

Fellow passengers who came with Father Petitot included Father Grouard
Annie Burke with a baby who was the wife of William Charles Burke the HBC factor of Fort Yukon, Alaska,
Reverend Robert McDonald of the Church of England on his way to the Fort Yukon/Fort McPherson area and
Francois 'Canard' Wabisten, his wife Mary and  family. Mary Wabisten would give birth to a boy on the boat 
while camped overnight near Frog Portage.

Michel Dumas guide on Petitot's barge, Baptiste Boucher the cook and porter, and Paulet, a French/Beaver metis 
all helped to build a shelter for Petitot and Grouard with oars, poles and coverings from the boats. 
Petitot said mass to a group of over 350 people from this shelter made in the form of a large tepee.

The other brigade from Fort Garry led by Jean Baptiste Bruce and aided by Ignace Mackay had already arrived 
at the Portage. Petitot's  journey from Fort Garry to the Portage had taken 42 days.

At least 400 people were at the Portage. "There were people from French Canada, Scotland, the Orkneys, 
England and Norway. Wood Crees, Plains Cree, Chippewas, Chipewyans, Beavers and Metis of all kinds." 

Included were the chief factor of the Saskatchewan District from Fort Edmonton William Joseph Christie.
He accompanied the new Governor of Ruperts Land Alexander Grant Dallas on a tour of inspection.
Mr.Dallas and Mr. Christie had just attended the yearly HBC Northern Council meeting at Norway House.
They arrived in a large 21 foot 'Canot du nord' crewed by 6 to 8 French speaking Iroquois from Kahnawake in Quebec. 

The chief factor of the Athabasca District  William Lucas Hardisty came with his Athabasca brigade of 5 boats.

The chief factor of the Mackenzie District from Fort Simpson Bernard Rogan Ross  came with his Mackenzie River brigade
of 5-6 boats. This year he brought with him as a passenger and friend Robert Kennicott an american naturalist.
Robert Kennicott was returning from his first expedition to the Mackenzie/Yukon Rivers area. 
They had left Fort Good Hope "on the 1 st of June with the boats for Portage La Loche".

It took three weeks for the brigades to finish their work. 
Carts with horses and oxen were being used in the transport of freight across the Portage.
Local residents, Hargrave calls them "freemen", also had horses for hire.

Petitot waited 12 days at the portage. 
Then he left with the Joseph Bouvier Brigade of the Athabasca District consisting of 5 boats and 
continued his voyage north to Fort Providence.

Note: There were between 400-425 people at the Portage as Petitot estimated.
There were 24-25 York boats in the four brigades with 225 men as crew and over 30 passengers
and one 'canoe du nord' with a crew of 6-8 men and 2 passengers.
The H.B.C had 10 employees at the fort who maintained or brought in horses, oxen and carts for the season and 
the Dene village of 15 to 20 tepees had 150 people.

The book  "En Route pour la mer Glaciale"  published in Paris:Letouzey et Ane (1887) and written by Emile Petitot omi.

The book "Red river"  by Joseph James Hargrave published in 1871. This book describes the Red River Settlement before 1869.    http://openlibrary.org/books/OL6911962M/Red_river.

Kennicott in his Metis voyageur outfit

and had his picture taken after he returned. In this  "Carte de visite" (visiting card)
he is wearing a capote (a wool jacket with a hood) tied at the waist
with an  Assomption sash (Metis sash). His pants are trimmed at the cuffs and outside seams 
with a contrasting colour. Just below the knees are Metis garters (leg ties). 
On his head is a toque and on his feet are decorated moccasins either beaded or embroidered. 
From his sash hangs a marten fur skin fire-bag.

Kennicott's described his fire-bag on January 18, 1862. 
"It (the fire-bag used for carrying flints, steel, touchwood, pipe, knife, etc., etc., by all voyageurs, in place of pockets)
is made of a fine, large marten skin, and is the bonniest one in the district."
page 203 of the "Transactions of the Chicago Academy of Sciences" (volume 1) link

Bernard Rogan Ross, Chief Factor of the Mackenzie District based in Fort Simpson
Jean Baptiste Bruce was the guide of one of La Loche Boat Brigades.
Father Emile Petitot  dressed in his northern outfit.                                   
Alexi Bonami Lesperance was guide of one of the La Loche Brigades.
Father Grouard would later become Bishop Grouard.
Monsignor Vital Justin Grandin's arrival was expected at the Portage.
 William Lucas Hardisty,  Chief Factor of the Athabasca District based in Fort Chipewyan.
William Joseph Christie , Chief Factor of the Saskatchewan District based in Fort Edmonton.

La Loche teepees with Revillon Post in June of 1918
The Dene tent village 

Petitot describes the Dene tent village of 150 people near where he was camped. (my translation of three separate documents)
"The tents were made of smoked skins, conical like those of the *Lapps. On the bare earthen floor a few pine
branches were placed around a small fire. In a corner there was a pile of old clothes. Here and there were a few
European made utensils. Around the lodge were skinny hungry dogs. There were no curious hunting implements, no native decorations, not a single hint of savagery. A civilized people but indigenous, bohemian and always nomadic. 
Everything was decent and chaste. " (translated from "En route pour la mer Glaciale" by Emile Petitot)

"These people though they see a priest only once a year keep within their hearts a great piety. Every day they recite their rosary and 
sing their hymns. In all their lodges they have prayer books and objects of devotion. Since we would be here several days
we hurried to raise a chapel. It was made of seven or eight long poles and oars from the boats. Beautiful hangings were hung
from the apex. Our blankets and tarps went on the floor. It was in this improvised chapel that we
sung High Mass and our best hymns. Last Sunday there were united in front of our little chapel more than 250 people.
The same thing awaits us at the other end of the Portage."

"We stayed at this mission, R.P. Grouard and myself until the departure of the Mackenzie brigade, that is twelve days.
I took advantage of the time to raise a conical chapel which I covered with white covers and colored decorations.
An altar surrounded in white cloth stood the whole time we were there.
It was in this improvised little temple that I had the joy of singing High Mass on the Sunday after our arrival, and to
celebrate the holy mysteries each day in front of more than three hundred and fifty people, both metis and Indian."

York boat under sail in the North West Territories 1917.
....read more at..'Portage La Loche in 1862'