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Mr. Buchan's Expedition into the Interior of
Newfoundland. Since the first establishment of the fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, very little communication has at any time been had with the natives of this large island, and for more than half a century past none at all; indeed, it was considered by many as doubtful whether there were on the island any permanent inhabitants, or whether the Indians, sometimes seen on the western coast, did not come in their canoes across the Strait of Bellisle merely for the purpose of fishing and killing deer. A settler, however, reported that, in the autumn of 1810, he had discovered a storehouse on the banks of the River of Exploits. Upon this report, Sir John Duckworth sent Lieutenant (now Captain) BUCHAN, commander of the schooner Adonis, to the Bay of Exploits for the purpose of undertaking an expedition into the interior, with a view of opening a communication with the native Indians, if any such were to be found. His vessel was soon frozen up in the bay; and on the 12th January, 1811, Mr. Buchan began his march into the interior, along the banks of the river, accompanied by twentyfour of his crew and three guides; and, having penetrated about one hundred and thirty miles, discovered some wigwams of the natives. He surprised them; and their inhabitants, in number about seventy-five persons, became in his power. He succeeded in overcoming their extreme terror, and soon established a good understanding with them. Four of the men, among whom was their chief, accepted his invitation to accompany them back to the place where, as he explained to them by signs, he had left some presents which he designed for them.
The confidence by this time existing was mutual, and so great, that two of Mr. Buchan's people requested to remain with the Indians till his return with the presents. They were permitted to do so; and Mr. Buchan set out on his return to his depôt, with the remainder of the party and the four Indians. They continued together for about six miles, (to the resting place of the night before,) when the chief declined going any farther, and with one of his men took leave, directing the other two to go on with Mr. Buchan. They did so till they came near the place to which they were to be conducted, when one of them became panic-struck, and fled. But the tempers of the two men were different. The latter remained unshaken in his determination, and with a cheerful countenance and an air of perfect confidence in the good faith of his new allies, motioned to them with his hand to proceed; disregarding his companion, and seeming to treat with scorn Mr. Buchan's invitation, to depart freely if he chose to do so. Soon afterwards the party reached their rendezvous ; slept there one night; loaded themselves with the presents, and returned again to the wigwams. The behaviour of the Indian renained always the same. He continued to shew a generous confidence, and the whole tenor of his conduct was such as Mr. Buchan could not witness without a feeling of esteem for him. On arriving at the wigwams they were found deserted, and the Indian became exceedingly alarmed. Many circumstances determined' Mr. Buchan to let him be at perfect liberty; and this treatment revived his spirits. The party spent the night at the wigwams, and continued their reute in the morning. They had proceeded about a mile, when, being a little in advance before the rest of the party, the Indian 'was seen to start suddenly backward. He screamed loudly, and fled with a swiftness that rendered pursuit in vain. The cause of his flight was understood when Mr. Buchan, the next moment, beheld upon the ice, headless and pierced by the arrows of the natives, the naked bodies of his two marines who had been left with the Indians. An alarm had, it is evident, been given by the savage to the party at the rendezvous ; and it is supposed that, to justify his conduct in so deserting, he had abused his countrymen with a tale, which excited them to what perhaps they considered a just retaliation: The following is an abstract of Mr. Buchan's journal :
JOURNAL Saturday, 12th January, 1811: River of Exploits. On the eve of this day my arrangements were closed, and every necessary preparation for the purpose of endeavouring to accomplish the object of procuring an interview with the native Indians of this island. For this service I employed William Cull and Matthew Hughster as guides, attended by twenty-three men and a boy of the crew of His Majesty's schooner, and Thomas Taylor, a man in Mr. Miller's employ, and well acquainted with this part of the country.
The provisions, arms, and other requisite articles, together with presents for the Indians, were packed on twelve sledges, and consisted of the following : viz. bread, eight hundred and fifty pounds; sugar, one hundred pounds; cocoa, thirty-four pounds; pork, six hundred and sixty pounds; salt beef, thirty pounds; spirits, sixty gallons, equal to four hundred and eighty pounds; rice, thirty pounds ; tea, six pounds; tare of casks and packages, five hundred pounds; ships' muskets, seven ; fowling-pieces, three; pistols, six ; cutlasses, six; with cartouch boxes and ammunition equal to two hundred and seventy pounds ; ten axes, and culinary utensils : presents for the Indians-blankets, thirty; wool
leu wrappers, nine ; Aannel shirts, eighteen; hatchets, twenty-six ; tin pots, ten ; with beads, thread, knives, needles, and other trifles, equal to one hundred and eighty pounds : the sledges with their lashings and drag-ropes are estimated at two hundred and forty pounds; one lower studding sail and painted canvass covers for the sledges, one
vamps, cuffs, and twenty-eight knapsacks, eighty pounds : making, independent of a small quantity of baggage allowed to each person, three thousand six hundred and twenty pounds in wieght.
13th. Wind N.W. blowing strong. At 7 A. M. commenced our march in crossing the arm from the schooner to Little Peter's Point, which is two miles; we found it ex
the sloppiness of the ice; but having rounded the point, we became sheltered from the wind until reaching Wigwam Point, which is two miles farther up on the north side; here the river turns to the northward; a mile farther up is Mr. Miller's upper Salmon station; the winter crew have their house on the south shore. 3 P.M. having reached the remains of a house occupied by William Cull last winter, we put up for the night, our distance made good being but eight miles in as many hours travelling. The night proved so intensely cold, with light snow at times, that none of our party could refresh themselves with sleep.
our journey with the dawn, not sorry to leave a place in which we had passed so intolerable a night. Having proceeded two miles, we came to the Nutt Islands, four in number, situated in the middle of the river; a mile above these, occurs the first rattle or small waterfall; as far as the eye could discern up the river, nothing appeared but ice, in rugged ridges, threatening to preclude the possibility of drawing the sledges along; but determined to surmount all practicable difficulties, I proceeded on with the guides to select among the hollows those which seemed to be the most favourable. At 3 P.M. we put up on the north side, and fenced round the fire-place by way of shelter. This day's laborious journey I compute to be seven miles; the crew, from excessive fatigue, and a somewhat milder night than the last, enjoyed some sleep :-Left a cask with bread, pork, cocoa and sugar, for two days, to be used on our return.
15th. Blowing fresh from W.N.W. to N. N.W. with snow at times; the river winding from west to north-west. At 3 P.M. stopped on the north bank for the night, one mile above a rattling brook, which empties itself into the great river. On the south side we discovered a canoe, which I observed to be one belonging to the Canadian who had resided at Wigwam Point. This day's journey exhibited the same difficulties as yesterday, having frequently to advance a party to cut and level, in some degree, the ridges of ice, to admit the sledges to pass from one gulph to another, and to fill up the hollows, to prevent them from being precipitated so violently as to be dashed to pieces,—but notwithstanding the utmost care, the lashings, from the constant friction, frequently gave way; and in the evening, most of the sledges had to undergo some repair and fresh packing. Fenced the fire-place in ; at supper the people appeared in good spirits, the weather being milder; and fatigue produced a tolerable night's rest. This day's distance may be estimated at seven miles.
16th. Strong breezes from the N.W. with sharp frost. Began our journey with the day; several of the sledges gave way, which delayed us a considerable time. At 11 A.M. discovered two old wigwams on the north bank of the river; although they did not appear to have been lately inhabited, yet there were some indications of the natives having been here this fall. 2h. 30P.M. having reached the lower extremity of the great waterfall, we put up on the north side. While the party were preparing a fire and fence, I