Discovering the Region: Texts

12. George Simpson on the Fur Trade*

“George Simpson’s Remarks connected with the Fur Trade &c. in the course of a Voyage from York Factory Hudsons Bay to Fort George Columbia River and back to York Factory 1824/25,” unpublished typescript (Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada),  58-63, 74-75, 84-86, 94-95, 131-53.

[October 1824] . . . . The good people of Spokan District and I believe of the interior of the Columbia generally have since its first establishment shown an extraordinary predilection for European Provisions without once looking at or considering the enormous price it costs; if they had taken that trouble they would have had little difficulty in discovering that all this time they may be said to have been Eating Gold; such fare we cannot afford in the present times, it must therefore be discontinued and I do not see why one oz. of European Stores or Provisions should be allowed on one side of the Mountain more than the other:  its great distance from the Seat of Government has been of late the only cause – no other can be assigned.  From 80 to 100 pieces Trading Goods Stores Luxuris &c or the Cargoes of Two Boats navigated by 16 men is as much as can be required or as the Trade of Spokan District can afford if it is meant that any thing like respectable profits should be realised; but for these three Years Past Five and sometimes Six Boats have been annually sent and these principally loaded with Eatables Drinkables and other Domestic Comforts.  Thompsons River and Nez Perces Districts in the same proportions as it has been considered that what was good for the one must be so for the others and to accommodate Gentlemen in this manner about 35 to 40 men (commonly called

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extra men) have been kept merely to transport this Superflous property.  These extra men alone (valuing the Eatables Drinkables & Luxuries they brought up at nothing) were sufficient to run away with a large share of the Columbia profits:  the articles of Provisions and Luxuries are in themselves at Prime cost of little value but when the Expence of conveying them to their destination is taken into the account their acquired value is a matter of very serious consideration.

I do not know any part of the Country on the East side of the Mountain that affords such resources in the way of living as Spokan District; they have abundance of the finest Salmon in the World besides a variety of other Fish within 100 yds of their Door, plenty of Potatoes, Game if they like it in short every thing that is good or necessary for an Indian Trader; why therefore squander thousands uselessly in this manner?  The old Hackneyed plausable answer of Mr. Haldane is always at hand, that the Brigades must come up formidable on account of the hostility of the Natives:  that a Ship must come out annually and that therefore the Provisions cost nothing beyond Invoice prices which is cheaper fare than Dog or Horseflesh but I contend that thirty men in all is sufficient force to pass with safety from one end of the Columbia River to the other if any thing like firmness and discretion is observed as shall be examplified by my own ingress and Egress;

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that, that number is adequate to bring up all the outfits and sufficient to establish all the Country about Fort George a few Summer men excepted:  and further that as they consider Dog & Horseflesh expensive articles they need not indulge in them as the Waters at little cost and trouble will supply all their Wants.  I have therefore given intimation that they had better stuard the European provisions and Luxuries they have got now in Store as their future supplies will be very scanty barely the allowances determined on by the Honble Committee.

Everything being settled at Spokan House to the satisfaction of all parties we started to rejoin our Craft on the Morning of the 30th and after a hard ride got to the Forks the same Evening, the Dr. quite knocked up being unaccustomed to such violent exercise.

The Climate of this part of the Country is delightful scarcely a Cloud to be seen for Months together, little Frost or Snow Some Winters not exceeding a few Days but the Rains Spring and Fall are constant when they set in for about a Fortnight or three Weeks at a time; there are occasional refreshing Showers in the course of the Summer.  I mean to send some Garden and Field seed across next Season to be tried at Spokan House and I feel confident that they will thrive, Indian Corn cannot fail.  Rattle Snakes are very numerous in this part of the Country but rarely do mischief; they are always on the

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defensive and give notice by shaking their Rattle when approached so that accidents seldom happen indeed none of our people have ever been bitten altho instances are known of Indians having lost their Lives.

[October] 31st.  Took leave of Mr Ogden at the Forks of Spogan River early this morning and pursued our route.  The San Poil River falls in from the north about Three Leagues below the Forks.  The Country now becomes dreary and wretchedly sterile scarcely a shrub to be seen and merely here and there a solitary Red Pine.  Saw a few Indians collecting the exhausted fish that float down on the Surface of the Water half dead and alive, they are quite putrid and have scarcely strength to move out of the way of the Fisherman.

1824 November

Monday 1st.  Left our Encampment before Day break, had a good deal of Strong current and some heavy Rapids particularly the Dalles – got to Oknagan at 10 A. M.  Mr Birnie Clerk in charge with two men.  Here we found Mr Annance with some of the Thompson River people who had been sent by Mr McLeod for supplies brougt up by Mr Ogden after the arrival of the Vigilent which could not be got at Fort George when they went for their outfits in the Summer on account of the non-arrival of the Vessel from England.

This Post agreeably sit-

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uated in a fine plain near the Forks of the Oknagan and Main River; the Soil is much the same as at Spokan and produces the finest potatoes I have seen in the Country.  Grain in any quantity might be raised here, but cultivation to any extent has never been attempted, indeed throughout the Columbia no pains have been taken to meet the demands of the trade in that way which was a great oversight or neglect as corn in abundance might have been procured at little or no Expence at the Door of every Establishment but those in charge have preferred the less troublesome and more costly mode of Importing them from England Boston or California and employing extra men to deliver it into their Stores.  It has been said that Farming is no branch of the Fur Trade but I consider that every pursuit tending to lighten the expence of the Trade is a branch thereof and that some of our Factors and Traders on the other side are better adapted for and would be more usefully employed on this side in the peaceable safe and easy occupation of Farming than in Councilling Dealing with Indians or exploring new countries for which many of them are totally unfit but it unfortunately happens that in these savage regions Gentlemen sometimes imbibe the exalted notions of Indian Chiefs who conceive that to Slaves or inferiors alone belong the less important yet useful and necessary duties of providing for their Daily wants by their own personal exertions in short they have no notion of acting

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but think that their business only is to legislate and direct and are not satisfied unless they have a posse of Clerks Guides Interpreters & supernumeraries at their disposal while they look on with a pair of Gloves on their hands.

In order to acquire a thorough knowledge of the communication and country from hence to Fort George round by Thompsons & Frazers Rivers and from the Mouth of the latter by Pugets Sound to the entrance of the Columbia River, I was desirous to have dispatched an Expedition from this place under the charge of Mr. McMillan as there would be more of the Season before him than by starting from Fort George and a better opportunity afforded of examing the Navigation of Frazers River as there is a probability that by the latter route he may not be able to ascend that Stream on account of the drift Ice at a more advanced period of the Season but I found that many essential requisites for such a hazardous and formidable undertaking could not be obtained here it was therefore determined on outfitting the Expedition from Fort George after our arrival there.  This Establishment (Okenagan) is an outpost from Thompsons River District under the direction of Chief Trader McLeod; the principal establishment Kamloops (the Indian name) or Thompsons River being situated on the banks of that Stream about Eight Days March from hence due West with loaded Horses. . . .

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. . . . At Fort Nez Perces as at Thompsons River & Spokan House large quantities of Luxuries and European provisions are annually consumed at a prodigious cost and for no other good reason than that they are preferred to the produce of the Country which is cheap and abundant; while this ruinous system continues it is not surprising that the Columbia Department is unprofitable but from what I can see and learn no question exists in my Mind that by introducing Œconomy and regularity with the necessary spirit of enterprize and a disregard to little domestic comforts it may be made a most productive branch of the Companys Trade and the result of this and perhaps an other visit from me will shew that I do not take a visionary or speculative view of the business:  it must however be understood that to effect this change we have no petty coat politicians, that is, that Chief Factors and Chief Traders do not allow themselves be influenced by the Sapient councils of their Squaws or neglect their business merely to administer to their comforts and guard against certain innocent indiscretions which these frail brown ones are so apt to indulge in.  The extent of evil arising from this

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source strangers can have no conception of and the Honble Committee would scarcely believe that their business is frequently a matter of secondary consideration compared to little family affairs and domestic arrangements, that their people and Craft are employed in transporting Women & Children with the Baggage Pots Pans Kettles & Bags of Moss and that if these Women and Families were not appendages to the Brigades there would not be so many extra men employed in the Columbia and the Services of Commissioned Gentlemen would be turned to better account.

The Pacific Fur Coy had an Establishment situated some distance up the Nez Perces River which was cut off by the Natives in the Winter of 1813/14 when Mr Reed the Clerk in charge and 8 or 10 men were massacred. – This melancholy occurrence was in revenge for a Cruel Wanton and ill advised Murder (I may call it) on the part of Chief Factor Clarke who was then a Clerk in that concern having hung one of the principal Indians without any kind of trial or formal examination merely on suspicion of his having Stolen some triffling article of Table Furniture; the only remark I shall offer on this affair is that it is to be lamented the innocent should have suffered instead of the guilty. . . .

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. . . . Having finished the Voyage and touched on every point connected therewith which appeared to me Worthy of remark I shall now without reference to Dates continue my remarks on the Trade and observations generally as they occur to me.

The Establishment of Fort George is a large pile of building covering about an acre of ground well stockaded and protected by Bastions or Blockhouses, having two 18 Pounders mounted in front and altogether an air or appearance of Grandeur & consequence which does not be come a is not at all suitable to an Indian Trading Post.  Every thing appears to me on the Columbia on too extended a Scale except the Trade and when I say that that is confined to Four permanent Establishments the returns of which do not amount to 20,000 Beaver & Otters altho the country has been

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occupied upwards of Fourteen Years I feel that a very Severe reflection is cast on those who have had the management of the Business as on looking at the prodigious expences that have been incurred and the means at their command, I cannot help thinking that no Œconomy has been observed, that little exertion has been used, and that sound judgment has not been exercised but that mismanagement and extravagence has been the order of the Day it is now however necessary that a radical change should take place and we have no time to lose in bringing it about.

In the Columbia Department comprehending the Posts of Spokan House, Thompsons River, Walla Walla and Fort George with their temporary Outposts, vizt the Coutonais and Flat Heads outfitted from Spokan, and Oknkogan oufitted from Thompsons River; likewise the Snake Country Expedition outfitted from Spokan there are employed at present Two Chief Factors Three Chief Traders Ten Clerks and One Hundred and Thirty Six Men in all One Hundred and Thirty Six men in all One Hundred and Fifty One officers and men appropriated as follows vizt

Fort George 2 Chief Factors  Chief  Trader 3 Clks 65 Men
Nez Perces -- 1 Do Do 10 Do
Thompson's River -- 1 Do 2 Do 20 Do
Spokan -- -- 4 Do 18 Do
Snake Country -- 1 Do 1 Do 23 Do
  ______ ______ ______ ______
  2 Chief Factors 3 Chief Traders 10 Clerks 135 Men

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Whereas the following complement would answer every useful purpose vizt

Fort George 1 Chief Factors  Chief  Trader 2 Clks 20 Men
Nez Perces -- Do 1 Do Do 8 Do
Thompson's River -- Do 1 Do 1 Do 12 Do
Spokan 1 Do -- 2 Do 12 Do
Snake Country -- Do 1 Do 1 Do 20 Do
  ______ ______ ______ ______
  2 Chief Factors 3 Chief Traders 6 Clerks 72Men

in all Eighty Three officers & men which is a reduction of Sixty Eight officers and men or a saving of Two Thousand and Forty Pounds p Annum averaging the Wages and allowances of officers & men all round at £30 p Annum.

The Goods Provisions &c transported from Fort George for the Interior have taking the average of the last Three years amounted to 645 North West pieces of which 183 pieces were trading goods private orders and Equipments and the remaining 462 pieces Provisions Luxuries &c. &c. – A very large proportion of the last item is quite superfluous and unnecessary as I am of opinion that 200 pieces should cover the whole outfit or supplies for the interior including Trading Goods private Orders and Luxuries. . . .

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. . . . The enterprising spirit of the British Merchant shews itself conspicuous in all parts of the World except on the North West coast of America altho’ our discoveries in that quarter have been pushed at a heavy expence and in a Manner that reflects highly to the honor of our Nation and the individuals employed therein; but it is mortifying to feel that up to the present hour two rival Nations should alone benefit thereby and that a profitable and extended Source of Trade is lost to Gt Britain who alone has any just right thereto.  I shall not here examine into the claims set forth by the Russian and American Governts to this line of Coast as it is with peculiar satisfaction I understand the Government is at length roused and beginning to assert its rights which have been so long usurped by Foreigners.

The Trade of this Coast and its interior Country is unquestionably worth contending for and if the British Government do take that interest in the Welfare of the Fur Trade which it is Wonted to do in every other branch of its widely extended commerce the Americans will not talk so vauntingly of their discoveries and the

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absurd and sweeping Ukase of the Russian Government will prove of little avail to its Rus American compy.

The Trade of this side of the Mountain if sufficiently extended and properly managed I make bold to say can not only be made to Rival, but to yield double the profit that any other part of North America does for the Amount of Capital employed therein but in order to turn it to the best advantage New Caledonia must be included and the Coasting Trade must be carried on in conjunction with the inland business.  The support and assistance of the East India Company would however be essential to its prosperity; that powerful body has already evinced a Friendly disposition towards the Hudsons Bay Compy in the late Contract entered into for the supply of the China Market and from their well known liberality and patriotism it is not to be doubted that they would go great lengths to secure to Gt Britain and their fellow Citizens a profitable branch of Commerce which has hitherto been enjoyed by their Countrys most powerful and dangerous Neighbours. . . .

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. . . . All the Natives of the River appear well disposed, indeed I never saw such good humoured inoffencive Indians in any part of the Country:  those of the Cascade and Chute portages have on three or four occasions attempted to pillage the Brigades when the Country was first established but the example made of them at the time and subsequent conciliatary yet firm and judicious conduct of the Traders has deterred them from offering any insult or Violence for several Years past.

From the Cascade portage to the Coast they are collected into Villages of Ten to fifteen Houses and three or Four Families inhabiting the same House.  They live in great comfort throughout the Year, as Fish are taken at all Seasons, Roots abundant close to their Houses and Wood Animals are numerous so that they may have a variety of choice fare.

The Chinook Tribe is the most powerful and having been resident among them for a considerable time I am enabled to give a sketch of their customes Mode of Life &c which will serve to give an idea of all the Natives below the Cascade Portage as they may be considered one and the same Nation altho’ speaking different Languages.

Their looks on the whole are pleasing

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being more fair and their features more resembling those of the Whites than any other Tribe I have seen.  They have however a strange practise of flattening the upper part of the Head which at an early age disfigures them very much but as they advance in Life it is not offencive to the Eye at least was not so to me at first sight and as none but the wretched Slaves have round heads I begin to fall into the Chinook way of thinking that they do not look so well (particularly the Ladies) with round as with Flat Heads.  The Child is almost constantly kept laced down on its back on a Cradle or Wooden frame the back part of the head leaning against the board, on the forehead a pad is laid and tied lightly to the board which keeps the head in the same position and by constant pressure in this manner until the child is about 18 months old it becomes flattened or assumes the shape of a Wedge and the flatter it is the more dignified and fashionable the Wearer:  this operation does not seem to give pain as the children rarely cry and it certainly does not affect the brain or understanding as they are without exception the most intelligent Indians and most acute and finished bargain makers I have fallen in with.  A couple of those Heads will be sent to the Honble Committee next Season as a

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curiosity.  They frequently tattoo the Legs Arms and breast but not the Face; the Ears are perforated all round and Beads or Hyaques suspended therefrom in quantity according to the rank or taste of the party.  Mr Corney states in his Journal lately published in the Literary Gazette that the rite of circumcision is observed among them but this and many other circumstances he has introduced probably with the intention of giving interest to his Narrative I find to be incorrect.

The Dress of the Men consists of a Wood Rat skin Robe, or Blanket fastened over the shoulder by a Gun Worm or Wooden pin, the opening down the side leaves the right arm at liberty but they can use both by casting the blanket or robe round at pleasure; breech Cloths they never use and their sense of delicacy or decency is moderate; the only other article of Dress they Wear is a straw or Chip Hat or Cap of a conical form which the Women make very neatly; on their War excursions however they Wear a double Shirt or kind of guernsey frock of thick Deer skin two fold which is arrow proof.  The Women wear a kilt or short petty Coat made of rushes fastened round the loins and hanging in fringes down to the knees and occasionally a small pin-af-ore of Rat skin hanging over the breast or a piece of Cloth or Blanket but are more frequently with-

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out any other article of apparel than their Kilts or Petty Coats.

Concomelly is the principal man of the Chinook Tribe from the circumstance of his being the most Wealthy having a number of Slaves and a large stock of Hyaques Beads and other property but he has little controal over them indeed every Flat Head Indian who is possessed of a Slave considers himself a Chief.

In cases of quarrels or misunderstandings with other Nations they either compromise matters by an exchange of presents or determine on fighting it out.  Their mode of Warfare is much more honorable and manly than that practised on the East side of the Mountain; they appoint a time for Meeting and the Belligerents go to the Scene of action in their War Canoes, the neighbouring Tribes or Nations observing a strict neutrality; they never come to close quarters and sometimes fight from Sun rise till sun Set, that is, fly their Arrows at each other, from a safe distance without drawing blood; in the course of their battle they occasionally exhibit a flag of truce when a cessation of hostilities immediately takes place and a parley is held on the subject of their differences but if a reconciliation cannot be effected they resume the combat which may be spun out for several Days until two or three fall when

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the losing party makes the necesary concessions and then they settle Matters amicably and sometimes enter into offensive and defensive alliances.

In their Marriages they follow the example of many great folks in the old World, as love is entirely out of the question, these alliances being formed solely on political considerations when presents are exchanged according to the means of the parties.

The Chinooks never take the trouble of hunting and rarely employ their Slaves in that way, they are however keen Traders and through their hands nearly the whole of our Furs pass, indeed so tenacious are they of this Monopoly that their jealousy would carry them the length of pillaging or even Murdering strangers who come to the Establishment if we did not protect them.  To the other Tribes on the Coast they represent us as Cannibals and every thing that is bad in order to deter them from visiting the Fort; and in order to strengthen their commercial relations men of consequence or extensive Traders have sometimes as many as half a Doz Wives selected from among the best Families of the Neighbouring Tribes and each of those is entrusted with a small outfit and sent on Trading excursions to their Friends & relatives and this is her constant employment.

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When any serious offence is committed one against an other such as Robbery Seduction or Slander the party agrieved sometimes takes revenge by Murder but it is generally settled by presents or through the intervention of Friends. 

The Young Women previous to Marriage are allowed to indulge the full scope of their inclinations and chastity is not looked upon as a virtue except in regard to the Ladies of the very first rank when the parents are desirous that they should be allied to the White great Men in which cases they are closely watched indeed are never allowed to cross the Door except after Dark and then attended by Slaves it however strangely happens that these precautions are of little avail as the Young Ladies are in this respect very much disposed to disregard the injunctions of their parents and have sufficient address to elude the vigilence of their Guards.  After Marriage they are more circumspect and the Husband if an Indian severely punishes the infidelity of his Rib if discovered, but a price will command the Princess of Wales [Simpson later refers to this woman as Mr. McKenzie’s wife] downwards.  When married or allied to the Whites they are under little restraint and in most cases gain such an ascendency that they give law to their Lords, indeed this observation applies to the whole Indian Country on both sides the Mountain and I

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am sorry to say that even Members of Council are not excepted which is more injurious to the Compys interests than I am well able to describe:  but to return to the Chinooks.

They are in general exceedingly filthy in their habits, their persons and habitations swarming with loathsome vermin which they do not take the trouble of hunting except for the purpose of conveying to their Mouths; they are however wonderfully healthy being rarely afflicted by any other than Imported Diseases and such as proceed from them vizt Scroffula Sores and a species of Leprosy and the original is so prevalent that nine whites out of Ten who have been resident at Fort George have undergone a course of Mercury.  They have no knowledge of Simples or Medicinal herbs but are now beginning to discover the value of our Drugs and when the case is not very serious they apply to us for assistance but dangerous cases are seldom or never cured or almost invariably prove fatal as their Conjurers have so great an influence over them that the patient is forthwith put under the care of one of those men of Medicine; the treatment is most inhuman and presposterous; the conjurer and his followers beat a kind of Drum & Sing making a horrible clamour for perhaps 24 hours on end, if this affords no relief, he gets all fours on

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the body of the Invalid (who is held down by the attendants) and presses with his hands and knees the wretched sufferer who frequently faints under this racking pain which is intended to force out the evil spirit occasioning the indisposition; this process is continued in the din of Drums Kettles Singing and Yelling in order to drown the voice of the patient until the Conjurer has wrought himself into a kind of phrenzy, he then pretends to have caught the said spirit and exhibits it in the shape of a small pebble or piece of Ivory which has hitherto been secreted in his hand or Mouth and calls for assistance to overpower this turbulent spirit when all present lend their aid to the conjurer in dragging it to the River for the purpose of being Drouned which occasions a violent struggle; if the conjurer thinks the patient will recover he declares with triumphant shouts that he has conquered the Spirit but on the contrary admits that it has got the better of him and made its escape back to the patient which Seals his fate.  When the conjurers themselves are afflicted by sickness they undergo similar treatment.  These conjurers or Men of Medicine live by their profession and are much respected by all classes who never venture to question their skill and conceive that they have the power of conjuring or praying them to

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Death at pleasure and even from a distance.  When the patient Dies, the body is placed in a Canoe with his most valuable property interred and if he is a man of consequence all the relatives go into mourning by cropping their hair allowing their beards to grow and exhibiting no Ornaments for a given time:  they had an inhuman practise of sacraficing Slaves on such occasions but it is now wearing away in consequence of the interference of the Whites; Concomely however killed one a few months ago on the Death of his Son before we were aware that such was his intention and excused himself by saying that the Slave was dangerously ill at the time and could not have recovered so that he did not consider it a crime as it was merely anticipating Death in its regular course by a few Days or Weeks.

Slaves form the principal article of Traffick on the whole of this Coast and constitute the greater part of their Riches; they are made to Fish, hunt, draw Wood & Water in short all the drudgery falls on them; they feed in Common with the Family of their proprietors and intermarry with their own class, but lead a Life of Misery, indeed I conceive a Columbia Slave to be the most unfortunate Wretch in existence; the proprietors excercise the most absolute

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authority over them even to Life and Death and on the most triffling fault wound & maim them shockingly.  Several of the Flat Head Women at the Establishment keep Female Slaves and it was the practise to allow them be let out among the newly arrived Servants for the purpose of prostitution; indeed the Princess of Wales (Mr McKenzies Woman) carried on this shameful traffick to a greater extent than any other having 8 or 10 female Slaves, it is now however broke off altho with some difficulty all the Women in the Fort having come to a resolution that they would not conform to this innovation as it deprived them of a very important source of Revenue.  These Wretched Slaves often change proprietors two or three times in the course of a Season and when they escape a violent Death they are brought to a premature end by Disease when they are left a prey to the Dogs & crows as they are denied the ordinary burial.  Our remonstrances with the Chiefs however begin to have the effect of ameliorating the situation of those dreadfully oppressed people and Casseno the next Man to Concomely in the River shews his respect for the Whites by kind treatment of his Slaves.

A most inhuman practise existed here for some time after Fort George was established

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of the Children of the Whites by the Native Women being murdered by the Mothers; this arose from the circumstance of the Fathers insisting that the heads should not be flattened and the Mother preferring to sacrifice her child to having it ranked as a Slave the grand distinction being in the formation of the head but the custom was held in such distestation by the Whites that I believe no instance of the kind has been known for some Years past.

Gambling is a favorite amusement with all Indians but particularly so with those of the Columbia, I have never had the curiosity to see any of their Games played throughout but they appear very simple merely consisting of secreting a certain number of small sticks or stones and guessing where they are placed; these Games sometimes occupy a whole Day on which large bets depend; Slaves Beads Hyaques and Blankets form the Stakes and the slaves go to the gambling ground as composedly to be played for as to their ordinary avocations.

I have questioned some of the most intelligent Indians as to their religious notions, and opinions in regard to a future state but could not discover that they have any idea, that there is a Supreme being, they however believe that rewards and punishments await them according to their deserts in an other World; the former

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consists of meeting their Friends & Relatives and living in ease and comfort in a fine Country, and the latter of being subjected to hard labour and Starvation in a strong Wood country where they Navigation is dangerous:  this other World they conceive to be beyond Seas and that they must proceed thither by Water which accounts for their being buried in Canoes.  They listen with great attention to our remarks on these subjects and since we have commenced reading prayers in public on Sundays at the Establishment they attend regularly and conduct themselves with great decorum.

The principal occupation of the Men during the Winter is going about among the Neighbouring Indians for the purpose of Trade, preparing their Canoes Fishing Tackle &c; the Women are employed in like manner.  In Spring Summer & Autumn they are chiefly occupied in Fishing and feasting their Slaves collect Roots and the Country afford such abundant resources that they never know what Starvation is altho’ they are idle and lazy to an extreme.  There are Thousands of Sea Otter on their Coast but they never give themselves the trouble of Hunting them; in short they are quite a Nation of Traders and not of Hunters.

Their Fishing tackle consists of Nets made from the stalk of a shrub resembling Hemp

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which they prepare in like Manner and which they prefer to our Twine; with these they catch the Salmon and the Indians of the Upper part of the River use scoop Nets attached to a pole or shaft, the Mouth kept open by a hoop and with this they scoop up the Fish as they are mounting the Rapids, the Fisherman standing on a projecting Rock; the Salmon are very fine until the Fall and Weigh from 15 to 30 lbs.

The Sturgeon are generally speared as on the East side the Mountain and Weigh from 100 to 500 lbs.  A small Fish resembling the pilchard comes into the River in immence shoals, they are very delicate and are taken by dragging a Rake through the Water after a canoe, the teeth being sharp pointed Wooden pins or Fish bones which pass through the body of the Fish and so numerous are they that every time the rake is drawn through the Water one or more Fish appear on each Tooth.  In rainy Weather in the Fall they collect Shell Fish on the Shore resembling a Lobster in shape and colour also in taste but much smaller, in fact they are the Lobster in Miniature.  Whales and Sea Lions are occasionally found on the coast by stress of Weather and sometimes find their way into the River when they are generally killed, but the Natives make War on them from a safe distance; the Flesh

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and blubber they are very fond of.

Their Canoes are neatly made from the Trunks of Trees say from one or more according to the size:  the small Canoes are about the size and after the Model of a Thames Wherry and go swiftly through the Water; the War canoes are on the same plan, good Sea Worthy Craft and will carry 30 to 40 people.

Our Iron Works are not as yet come into general use among them; they have no occasion for Hatchets to fell Timber as their shores are covered with Drift Wood which they split with Wedges; in hollowing Trunks of Trees for canoes or in making boards for their Houses they use a sharp edged flint Stone which answers every purpose, indeed some of their Workmanship with this Tool is very ingenious and well finished. Their Cooking Kittles are Baskets made of the inner skin or rind of a small shrub which is twisted into a stout thread or cord and Wove so close as to hold Water and the contents are cooked by casting in from time to time heated stones so as to keep the Water constantly boiling.

The Natives male & female bathe regularly throughout the Year and are excellent Swimmers; they even surpass our Sandwich Islanders and remain under water a longer time.

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The great people of the Village are constantly at variance with each other, arising chiefly from jealousy of the attentions shewn them at the Fort; these misunderstandings are never attended with serious consequences we therefore keep them alive as by that means we know all that passes and have them in a certain degree under our controul.  The principal personage is His one Eyed Majesty Concomely a well disposed Indian; he lost two fine young men lately one of whom was to have been his successor altho’ the youngest; the only remaining Son Cassicus is a cruel tyrannical blood thirsty Villain who has formed several plans to cut off the Fort; he and the old Man are anxious that I should take his Son a Boy of about 9 Years of age for the purpose of being Educated, but the lad looks delicate and if any accident happened to him it might be attended with unpleasant reflections & perhaps consequences I am therefore as yet undetermined on the subject; the Princess of Wales (Mrs McKenzie) is much attached to us and not only leads her husband but the whole of the Royal Family.  Calpo, the next Man is nobody as his Lady rules the Roost; she is now eating bread & Molasses at my Elbow and has just been taking a great deal of pains to make me acquainted with her pedigree, the old Lady being very proud of her Ancestry; she is the best News Monger in

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the parish and through her I know more of the Scandal Secrets & politics both of the out & inside the Fort than from any other Source:  she is much attached to the Whites and has repeatedly saved the Establishment from being cut off by giving timely notice of the treacherous plans of the Indians.  The third in rank is Sachla but in consequence of an alliance formed lately between Chief Factor Kennedy and his Daughter, he begins to dispute precedence with Concomely & Lady Calpo, the former knows his superiority and laughs at the presumption but the latter is quite outrageous and indignant and presses hard that I should take her Daughter (a buxum Damsel of about 18 or 20 who has never yet seen Day light) even for the few Weeks I have to remain here with a Dowery of 100 Beaver in order to re-establish and confirm her rank; I have therefore a difficult card to play being equally desirous to keep clear of the Daughter and continue on good terms with the Mother and by management I hope to succeed in both altho her Ladyship is most pressing & persevering tempting me with fresh offers and inducements every succeeding Day.

The Climate of the Columbia is temperate regular and salubrious; on New Years

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Day, I have seen at Fort George Pease, Carrots and Radishes in blossom and up to that Date we had neither Frost nor Snow the Thermometer being generally about temperate; below the Cascades there is a great deal of Rain from about the latter end of November until the latter end of March the plurometer averaging about 5 Inches P Month; the Winds at that Season blow from all points of the compass, I did not observe that they prevailed from any particular qrt and are less violent than in any other part of the World in which I have been, indeed I cannot say that we experienced a strong Gale of Wind while in the Columbia.  In the course of the Winter there are occasionally falls of Snow, but they are of short duration and it melts away almost immediately; we had no Frost before the Month of January and very little afterwards.  From the beginning of April until the Month of November the Weather is delightful, the heat never oppressive as for three or four hours during the height of the Sun there is always a refreshing Sea breeze.

The Soil is poor at Fort George being a mixture of Clay & Sand, it however produces excellent Potatoes Cabbidges & Turnips these being the only Vegetables that have had a fair trial and altho considerable quantities of different

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kinds of seed Grain have been sent hither from England and the United States I cannot learn that any trouble has been taken to ascertain if it would yield returns.  We have however accidentally discovered that Oats will grow as a few Stalks made their appearance last Year from some seed that fell into the ground from among the Sweepings of the Fort.

Timber grows to a prodigious size say Ceder Oak Hemlock Pine &c &c. there is the Trunk of an old Ceder still standing close to the Fort exceeding 300 feet in heighth and 42 in circumference without the bark.  At Fort George the ground is so uneven that a Farm to any considerable extent cannot be made and there are not above 15 to 20 acres where a Plough can be used, on the contrary at the Jolie Prarie or Belle vue Point where the New Fort is situated it may be from time to time enlarged to any number of acres or even Miles without the trouble of felling a Tree.

I do not know any part of North America where the Natives could be civilized and instructed in Morality and Religion at such a moderate expence and with so much facility as on the Banks of the Columbia River:  on the East side the Mountain it does not appear to me practicable on account of the erratick Life the Indians lead chang-

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ing their Encampments almost Daily and the Great difficulty nay utter impossibility of procuring the means of subsistence for any considerable body of people until Cultivation becomes a principal object of attention among them; but in many parts of the Columbia they are settled in Villages; the River affords ample provision and the Earth yields spontaneously nutricious roots in abundance.  The praise worthy zeal of the Missionary Society in the cause of Religion I think would here be soon crowned with success; they would not only have the satisfaction of ameliorating the condition of an immence savage population but of extending christianity to regions where there is not even the idea of the existance of a supreme being.  I have spoken to several of the Chiefs & principal men on the subject of forming Establishments on their Lands for Religious purposes and they have assured me that nothing could afford them so much delight as having Spiritual instructors among them.  There are two or three places in this part of the Country which I would particularly recommend for this object vizt the Neighbourhood of the Cascade Portage on the Columbia Spokan House and the Forks of Thompsons  and Frazers Rivers; at these three places the Indians live in Villages; the Soil is capable of the highest cultivation and the

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Waters produce Fish in abundance; cattle & Hogs could be reared in any number and the few European supplies that would be required could be had at a moderate Expence.  If the Society were to determine on sending Missionaries, it would be proper that they should be engaged for a series of years certainly not less than Five as new faces and changes of system would occasion great difficulties, moreover the Compy could not undertake to provide interpreters as we are so ignorant of the Languages that most of our negotiations are carried on in dumb show; it would therefore be necessary for those Gentlemen to apply themselves closely to the study of the Languages and I do not think that in less than a couple of Years they could make themselves sufficiently understood to convey much instruction.  I shall here endeavour to form a rough Estimate of the Expence that an Establishment of this description might cost the first Year vizt

Saly to Clergyman supposed to be about

                                       p Annum.  .  .  .  £150

Wages of 2 Servants for the purposes of

                                      Gardening &c   .      60

40 pieces Goods necessaries Luxuries and

for the purpose of bartering for Provis-

ions valued at £8 each.     .   .   .   .   .   .   .    320

Freight from the Coast to be regulated by

the distance, if to the Cascades not ex-

ceeding £5.  If to the Forks of Frazers

and Thompsons River and that Indians could   ------

                                            (Carried Forwd £530)

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                                             (Brot Forward £530)

be prevailed on to undertake the Voyage

about £10 on the contrary if done by

the Coys Servants about £100 and if to

Spokan House about the same amoun.   . 100

Contingencies Books &c.   .   .   .   .   .   .   50




All expences might the first Year be estimated at or come up to £700 for either the Establishment of Spokan or the Forks or Frazers River, but thereafter it would not exceed half that Amount and would be reducing annually to merely the Salys of the Clergyman & Servants with the few imported necessaries they might require; and near the Coast either on the Banks of the Columbia or Frazers River it would not even the first Year exceed about £500 as being near the Coys Establishment we could render it much assistance without inconvenience or Expence.

The Society should place the Clergyman in a certain degree under the protection of the Coys representative (say the Chief Factor in charge of the District) and direct him to look up to that Gentleman for support and assistance in almost every thing as a superior; on the contrary if he attempts to dictate or act independently of or in opposition to the views & wishes of that Gentleman it is to be feared they will not draw together.  The missionary ought to be cool and

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temperate in his habits and of a mild conciliatory disposition even tempered and not too much disposed to find fault severely with any little laxity of Morals he may discover at the Coys Establishment otherwise ‘tis to be feared he would find his situation uncomfortable and it might even interfere with the objects of his mission:  he ought to understand in the outset that nearly all the Gentlemen & Servants have Families altho’ Marriage ceremonies are unknown in the Country and that it would be all in vain to attempt breaking through this uncivilised Custom.  On no other score would he have serious grounds of complaint as the conduct of our people in general is perfectly correct decorous & proper when well managed.There may be a difference of opinion as to the effect the conversion of the Indians might have on the Trade; I cannot however forsee that it could be at all injurious, on the contrary I believe it would be highly beneficial thereto as they would in time imbibe our Manners and Customs and imitate us in Dress; our supplies would thus become necessary to them which would increase the consumption of European produce & manufactures and in like measure increase & benefit our Trade as they would find it requisite to become

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more industrious and to turn their attention more seriously to the Chace in order to be enabled to provide themselves with such supplies; we should moreover be enabled to pass through their lands in greater safety which would lighten the expence of Transport and supplies of Provisions would be found at every Village and among every Tribe; they might likewise be employed on extraordinary occasions as Runners Boatmen &c and their Services in other respects turned to profitable Account.The Honble Committee I am satisfied will take this view of the subject and there are a few of the most enlightened in this Country who would do so likewise but there are others (and I am almost ashamed to say Members of our Council) who would condem it as being Wild & Visionary and ruinous to the Fur Trade without even taking the trouble of thinking seriously thereon or looking at the question in all its bearings and important consequences. . . .

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* Editorial marks hand-written on the typescript from which this transcription is taken have been applied.  Although we have been unable to verify whether these marks were made to the typescript or to Simpson’s original remarks, several corrections appear to be of typographical errors.  Thus we concluded that the editorial marks were made in order to render the transcript a more accurate copy of Simpson’s original words.

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