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Indian Name of the Wolverine

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Population of Michilimackinack--Notices of the weather--Indian name of the Wolverine--Harbor closed--Intensity of temperature which can be borne--Domestic incidents--State of the weather--Fort Mackinack unsuccessfully attacked in 1814--Ossiganoc--Death of an Indian woman--Death of my sister--Harbor open--Indian name of the Sabbath day--Horticultural amusement--Tradition of the old church door--Turpid conduct of Thomas Shepard, and his fate--Wind, tempests, sleet, snow--A vessel beached in the harbor--Attempt of the American Fur Company to force ardent spirits into the country, against the authority of the Agent.

1834. Jan. 1st. My journal for this winter will be almost purely domestic. It is intended to exhibit a picture of men and things, immediately surrounding a person isolated from the world, on an island in the wide area of Lake Huron, at the point where the current, driven by the winds, rushes furiously through the straits connected with Lake Michigan. Where the ice in the winter freezes and breaks up continually, where the temperature fluctuates greatly with every wind, and where the tempests of snow, rain and hail create a perpetual scene of changing phenomena.

Society here is scarcely less a subject of remark. It is based on the old French element of the fur trade--that is, a commonalty who are the descendants of French or Canadian boatmen, and clerks and interpreters who have invariably married Indian women. The English, who succeeded to power after the fall of Quebec, chiefly withdrew, but have also left another element in the mixture of Anglo-Saxons, Irishmen or Celts, and Gauls, founded also upon intermarriages with the natives. Under the American rule, the society received an accession of a few females of various European or American lineage, from educated and refined circles. In the modern accession, since about 1800, are included the chief factors of the fur trade, and the persons charged by benevolent societies with the duties of education and of missionaries; and, more than all, with the families of the officers of the military and civil service of the government.

In such a mass of diverse elements the French language, the Algonquin, in several dialects, and the English, are employed. And among the uneducated, no small mixture of all are brought into vogue in the existing vocabulary. To fouchet, and to chemai, were here quite common expressions.

The continued mildness of the weather enabled the Indians from the surrounding shore to approach the island, not less than fifty-four of whom, in different parties, visited the office during the day. This day is a sort of carnival to these people, who are ever on the qui vive for occasions "to ask an alms." I had prepared for this. To each person a loaf of bread.

To adult males a plug of tobacco. No drink of any kind, but water, to a soul.

Snow fell during the day, rendering it unpleasant.

Jan. 2d. Shabowawa, a Chippewa chief, and part of his band, with the remainder of the Point St. Ignace band, got across the Traverse this morning. The whole number who visited the office during the day was thirty. Shabowawa said we might soon expect cold weather.

3d. Visits from a number of Indians (about twenty), who had not before called, to offer the bon jour of the season. Among them were several widows and disabled old people, to whom presents of clothing were given.

The atmosphere has been severely cold. A hard frost last night. I killed an ox for winter beef, and packed it, when cut into pieces, in snow. There has been floating ice, for the first time, in the harbor. The severe weather prevented the St. Ignace Indians from returning.

One of the St. Ignace Indians, referring to the meteoric phenomenon of the morning of the 13th of November, said that the stars shot over in the form of a bow, and seemed to drop into the lake. Such a display, he added, was never before seen. He says that the Chippewa Indians called the Wolverine "Gween-guh-auga," which means underground drummer. This animal is a great digger or burrower.

4th. Stormy and cold.

5th. S. Cold. Mr. Barber preached on the character and trials of Noah. The old N.E. divines loved to preach from texts in the Old Testament.

6th. A change of wind from N. to S.W. created a very perceptible increase of temperature. Indians, who had been detained by floating ice since New Year's day, got over to Point St. Ignace.

The postmaster sends me word that the second express will start to-morrow, without awaiting the return of the first.

On visiting the monthly concert in the evening, I was reminded that this day had been set apart by various churches for imploring a special blessing on the Word of God, in the conversion of the world.

7th. Yesterday afternoon the harbor filled with floating ice. This morning it is frozen over into a solid body, completely closing up the harbor. But the passage between it and Round Island is open, and the lake in other directions. Wind northerly and westwardly; thermometer as on the 3d, 4th, and 5th; but the air does not feel to be as cold as those days. This is the effect of its having remained about a week of nearly the same temperature. It is, in truth, the range of the thermometer between given points, and not the absolute degree of it, that creates the sensation of intense change. And herein must be sought the secret of people's standing a great degree of cold in the north, without being duly sensible of the extreme degree of it. This remark ought, perhaps, to be limited to such severe degree of cold (say 40 deg. below zero), as a man can withstand or live in.

The ice, being only glued together, separated about 2 o'clock, and left the harbor free again before night.

The express from St. Mary's came in, about two hours after our Detroit express left. By letters brought by it, I learn that letters of recall have recently passed the Sault for Capt. Back. It is stated that Capt. Ross has unexpectedly returned to England, after an absence of four years, great part of which time he had passed among the Esquimaux, or in an open boat on the sea. That he had made observations to fix the magnetic meridian, and had discovered a large island, almost the size of Great Britain, which he named Boothea.

Mr. Ferry, Lieut. Kingsbury, and Mr. P. passed the evening with us.

Fires were seen on the main land, which are supposed to be signals from our express men.

8th. Snow--blustering--cold. Our first express to Detroit has so far overstayed its time, that it is impossible to say when it may now be expected. Fires again seen on the main land, and an unsuccessful attempt made to reach them, the floating ice preventing.

9th. Maternal Association meets at my house, which, Mrs. S. reports, is well attended. In the evening, Mr. H., Mr. J., Miss McF., and Miss S.

Floating ice in the straits, and no crossing.

11th. Snowing--blustering. Expecting the mail soon, I prepared my letters, and, being Saturday, sent them to the post-office, lest the mail should arrive and depart on Sunday.

13th, Deep snow drifts, stormy--cold. Very difficult, in consequence of the drifts, to reach the teacher's concert, in the evening, which met at the Court House. Meeting between Mr. D. and Mr. Ferry at my house, to try the effects of conciliation.

14th. High wind died away last night: the sun rose, this morning, clear and pleasant, but the air still cold. Ice completely fills the channel between Boisblanc and the main harbor; the outer channel is still open.

Mrs. Kingsbury passed the day with us. The church session on examination accepts her, and Mr. D. Stuart, the gentleman named in Irving's Astoria.

15th. The express from Detroit arrives, having crossed from the main to Boisblanc on the ice, and from thence in a boat. By this mail we have a week's later dates than were brought by the "Warren." No political intelligence of importance. I received a number of printed sheets of the appendix to the narrative of my tour to Itasca Lake. Heard also from LeConte, the engraver, at New York.

16th. Took Mr. D. in my cariole to Mr. Ferry's, to further the object of a reconciliation of the matters in difference between them. It commenced raining, soon after we got there, and continued steadily all evening. Got a complete wetting in coming home, and in driving to the fort Mrs. Kingsbury, whom I found there.

17th. Yesterday's fain has much diminished the quantity of snow; bare ground is to be seen in some spots. Atmosphere murky, and surcharged with moisture, rendering it disagreeable to be out of doors.

The soldiery of the garrison invite Mr. F. to hold a meeting in the garrison every Sabbath afternoon, showing an awakened moral sense among them.

18th. Depression of the atmospheric temperature. Frost renders the walking slippery, and the snow crusted and hard. This condition of things, in the forest, is fatal to wild hoofed animals, which at every step are subject to break through, and cut their ankles. In this way the Indians successfully pursue and take the moose and reindeer of our region.

19th. Mr. David S. and Mrs. K. are admitted to the communion, on a profession of faith, and Mr. Seymour, Miss Owen, and Miss Leverett, by letter. The Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Barber were also, for the first time, present.

Snow fell upon the previous glare surface, and, being attended with wind, rendered the day very blustering and boisterous. The wind being from the west, was very strong--so strong as to blow some persons down. The temperature at the same time was quite cold.

20th. Coldness continued; the thermometer stood at only 2 deg. above zero at 8 o'clock in the morning; the west wind continuing. The air, in consequence of this depression, became colder than the water of the lake, producing an interchange of temperature, and the striking phenomenon of rising vapor. The open lake waters gave out their latent heat, like a boiling pot, till the equilibrium was restored. This singular phenomenon I had seen before in the North, and it is to be observed, in the basin of the upper lakes, some days every winter.

I received a visit from Mr. Barber. Conversation on the state of religious knowledge. Do geology and the natural sciences afford external evidence of the truth of God's word?

21st. Atmospheric temperature still low; the thermometer at 8 o'clock A.M. standing at 9 deg. above zero. The harbor and straits, between the island and Point St. Ignace, frozen over; but the channel, in which, there is a strong current, between the outer edge of the harbor and Round Island, still open. Along this edge very deep water is immediately found, and these waters, under the pressure of lake causes, rush with the force of a mill-race. 22d. The air is slightly warmer, the thermometer standing at 8 o'clock, A.M., at 16 deg. above zero. The soldiery further request of Mr. F. to hold a Bible class in the fort.

23d. The temperature still rises a few degrees, the thermometer standing at 21 deg. at 8 o'clock, A.M. The express from the Sault arrives. Prepared my mail matter and dispatched it to the office.

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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851

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