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Journey to Norway House

I started from Stuart's Lake on the 22d of February, and arrived at Fort Alexandria on the 8th of March. Although the upper parts of the district were yet buried in snow, it had disappeared in the immediate neighborhoods of the establishment, and everything wore the pleasing aspect of spring.

Mr. F—— was about to remove to a new post he had erected on the west bank of the river. Horses were provided for us to perform the journey overland to Okanagan. We left on the 13th; on the 15th we encamped on the borders of Lac Vert, having experienced a violent snow-storm in the early part of the day. The lake and circumjacent country presented a beautiful scene; the spurs of the Rocky Mountains bounding the horizon and presenting a rugged outline enveloped in snow—the intervening space of wooded hill and dale clothed in the fresh verdure of the season; and the innumerable low points and islands in the lake contributing to the variety of the landscape.

Hitherto we had found much snow on the ground, and our progress in consequence was very slow. Our tardy horses subsisting on whatever they could pick during the night, or when we halted for our meals, began to falter, so that we were under the necessity of stopping to allow them to feed wherever any bare ground appeared.

On the evening of the 18th we came in sight of Kamloops' Lake, which, to my great surprise, was not only clear of ice, but the valley in which it is situated appeared clothed with verdure, while the heights on the other side were still covered with snow. The valley looks to the south, and is protected from the cold winds by the neighboring high grounds.

On arriving at Kamloops' post we found two Canadians in charge, Mr. B—— having set off a few days before for the dépôt at Fort Vancouver. We met with a cordial reception from his men, who entertained us with horse-flesh and potatoes for supper; and next day we bountifully partook of the same delicacies, my prejudice against this fare having completely vanished.

Fort Kamloops is situated at the confluence of Thompson's River and its north branch; the Indians attached to it are a tribe of the Atnahs. Their lands are now destitute of fur-bearing animals, nor are there many animals of the larger kind to be found; they however find subsistence in the variety of edible roots which the country affords. They have the character of being honest, quiet, and well-disposed towards the whites. As soon as the young women attain the age of puberty, they paint their faces after a fashion which the young men understand without explanation. They also dig holes in the ground, which they inlay with grass or branches, as a proof of their industry; and when they are in a certain state they separate from the community and live in small huts, which they build for themselves. Should any one unwittingly touch them, or an article belonging to them, during their indisposition, he is considered unclean; and must purify himself by fasting for a day, and then jumping over a fire prepared by pure hands.

We left Kamloops on the 20th, and after traveling about twenty miles found the ground covered with snow, which increased in depth as we advanced. The track left by Mr. B——'s party was of great service to us.

We encamped at the extremity of Okanagan Lake, where we found a small camp of natives nearly starved to death; the unfortunate creatures passed the night in our encampment, and we distributed as much of our provisions amongst them as we could possibly spare. This encampment afforded me as miserable a night's lodging as I had ever met with; a snow-storm raged without intermission till daylight, when we set out so completely benumbed that we could not mount our horses till we had put the blood in circulation by walking.

We overtook Mr. B—— on the 25th, his horses completely jaded and worn out by the fatigues of the journey; the great depth of the snow indeed would have utterly precluded traveling had he not adopted the precaution of driving a number of young horses before the loaded horses to make a track.

The country through which we have traveled for the last few days is exceedingly rugged, and possesses few features to interest the traveler.

We arrived at the post of Okanagan on the 28th, situated on the left bank of the Columbia River. The ground was still covered with snow to the depth of two feet, and had been five feet deep in the course of the winter—an extraordinary circumstance, as there generally falls so little snow in this quarter, that the cattle graze in the plain nearly all winter. The Indians are designated Okanagans, and speak a dialect of the Atnah. Their lands are very poor, yielding only cats, foxes, &c.; they subsist on salmon and roots.

Messrs. F—— and D—— arrived from Fort Vancouver on the 7th of April, and we embarked on the 8th in three boats manned by retiring servants. Mr. B—— accompanied us, having obtained permission to cross the Rocky Mountains.

We arrived at Colville on the 12th, where we met with a most friendly reception from a warmhearted Gael, (Mr. McD.) The gentlemen proceeding to the dépôt in charge of the accounts of the Columbia department generally remain here a few days to put a finishing hand to these accounts—an operation which occupied us till the 22d, when we re-embarked, leaving Messrs. D—— and B—— behind; the former being remanded to Fort Vancouver; and the latter, having changed his mind, in an evil hour for himself, returned to his old quarters; where he was murdered sometime afterwards by an Indian who had lost his father, and thought that the company of his old trader would solace him for the absence of his children.

Notes of a Twenty-Five Years Service in the Hudson's Bay Territory, 1849


Notes on Hudson Bay Territory


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