|Title:||Stewart, Frances to , 1822|
|Collection||Revisiting Our Forest Home_The immigrant letters of Frances Stewart [J. L. Aoki]|
|Origin||Cobourg, Newcastle District, Upper Canada|
|Genre||journal, account of the Aboriginals|
|Transcript||[1822 or 1823]|
June is the best time for a summer burn.... When the ground has cooled
so as to be able to walk on it the men come for "Logging." They draw the
Logs into heaps with oxen & pile them up with poles or "hand spikes" used
as levers, & skids for supports to raise the heavy Logs to the top of the heap.
These "skids" are poles placed with one end on the Log heap, the others on
the ground on which they roll the logs till they are at the top of the heap.
The logs are  by a strong iron chain 10 or 12 feet long or more. One end
is fastened round the log. The other end hooks into a ring in the yoke of
the oxen. Every evening these log heaps are set on fire & it has a beautiful
appearance, perhaps 20 or 30 immense fires blazing & sparking up & illuminating
all the surrounding forests. When the log heaps are all burnt the
ground is ready for any seed or crops you choose to put in.
The wigwams are formed of several slender poles stuck into the ground
& brought together at the top, covered with pieces of Birch bark. The fire
is sometimes lighted inside in the centre. In summer they cook out of
doors. The Indian women or Squaws carry their infants in curious little
cradles made of a board rather longer than the child with a small hoop at
one end which comes over the childs forehead & protects it, sometimes
two or three hoops all round the head & sometimes they ornament these
hoops with Porcupine quills dyed different colours. They lay the child on
the board with its head under the hoops & strap it down tight & swath
it up, so that they can place the cradle on one end without the infants
slipping in any direction. In these cradles they keep their infants always & carry them about so on their back or in the arms. When the child crys
instead of rocking they put one end of the cradle against or on their toes
& jump it up and down gently.
The Indians and Squaws are much improved in dress since they
have mixed more with Europeans. The men now generally wear
European clothes, hats, trowsers, long coats, &c but when they retire
to the woods to hunt they wear their own dress which is merely a shirt,
a sort of frock coat made of Blanket & fastened round their waist with
a belt. On their head they wear a hood or cap of coloured cloth bound
with some different colours & with two points sticking up at the top
like ears of some animal. I wish I could give you some idea of it [a tiny
diagram is included in the original]. This is the back & it falls over their neck like a cape. I cannot make any scratch. [Like] the front at the
points they have a little knot of ribbon & a tassel. On their legs they
wear leggings or stockings of coloured cloth tied at the ankles & knees,
on their feet moccasins of Deer skin. The squaws have not yet adopted
European dress except that they put up their long hair behind & some
of the educated girls wear stays. They wear a Bedgown of coloured cotton,
generally from it [ ] cotton or larger pattern & bright colours, petticoats
of green or purple cloth bound round with ribbon of different
colours in rows round the tail & often ornamented all round with silver
buckles or broaches put close together which look very pretty on the
dark cloth [a tiny diagram is included in the original] — that way. They
always wear a blanket for a cloak or shawl & go bareheaded, the stockings
& moccasins like the men.
They encamp in parties in the woods near settlements but are
always shy & never encamp in clearings. The men go out hunting &
leave their families at the encampment. If an Indian sees a Deer or Deer
track, he will follow it for 2 or three days together & do without food
all that time. He will go on & persevere till he hunts it down & kills it.
Then he opens it, takes out its entrails & eats them raw, he is so hungry
& exhausted. He then returns home marking the road as he goes along
by breaking twigs or other little signs which he tells his Squaw & she
sets out & follows his marks. She knows his from all others & will not
touch a deer sh'd she see it on her path till she comes to the place he described where he had left his Deer concealed in a safe manner. She
then ties it up with bands of Basswood bark & fastens it on her back
by a band round it & round her forehead. In this manner they carry
immense loads, 100 lbs or 150 lbs. The Squaws always carry burdens as
the Indians think it beneath them.
In summer they don't always make wigwams but turn their canoes
bottom upwards & sleep under it.
They light their fires very expeditiously. They always carry about
with them a store of dry cedar bark & spunk which is knots of maple
become quite rotten. It grows dry, light & spongy & is used as tinder.
When they want to light a fire they powder some dry cedar bark & mix
a little gunpowder with it. They put a bit of spunk along with this which
has been set on fire with a spark from a flint. They then whirl it round
& round when the gunpowder explodes & the cedar bark takes fire &
blazes instantly. If they are in a great hurry for a fire they find out a dry
rotten stump & log of which there are plenty everywhere in the woods.
Into this they fire their gun, then pile up dry sticks & have a fire directly.