National Geographic : 1963 Sep
packages of such goods and provisions as are necessary for the interior country. This is a labour which cattle cannot conveniently per form in summer, as both horses and oxen were tried by the company without success.... "I have known some of them set off with two packages of ninety pounds each, and re turn with two others of the same weight, in the course of six hours, being a distance of eighteen miles over hills and mountains." Grand Portage was the scene of the famous rendezvous where each summer hundreds of canoemen, traders, and Indians gathered to exchange furs for guns, ironware, trinkets, and rum. It was a vital funnel for all trade with the Northwest until the early 19th cen tury. And from this isolated spot, well known in the courts and banking houses of Europe, expeditions sallied forth to Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods, Lake Winnipeg, and by way of the Saskatchewan and Churchill Rivers to Fort Chipewyan at the west end of Lake Athabasca, 2,000 miles away. Frenchmen First to Tame the Northwest In 1763 England finally won the long strug gle for possession of the Canadian West. But until then the trail into the interior had been French. Frenchmen had opened it and they had followed it deep into the continent, and the names they bestowed linger still-Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Belle Fourche, South Da kota; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. History tells us what manner of men these French pioneers were. They spoke the Indian languages and often adopted Indian ways. And they had a flamboyant audacity that takes the breath away. There was Nicolas Perrot, one of the great est of the French woodsmen. In the winter of 1683, Perrot strode arrogantly into an Outagami village to reproach the savages for murdering some missionaries. "I have learned that you are very desirous to eat the flesh of Frenchmen," he told them. Then he drew his sword and showed them his body. "My flesh is white and savory, but it is very salt; if you eat it, I do not think that it will pass the Adam's-apple without being vomited." Cowed, the Indians begged forgiveness. "What child is there who would eat his father, from whom he has received life?" moaned the chief to Perrot. "Thou hast given birth to us, for thou didst bring us the first iron." Earlier, in 1660, Pierre Esprit Radisson and his brother-in-law, M6dard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, had organized a canoe flotilla to travel down the St. Lawrence. Five hundred 421 ENGRAVINGFROM Hudson Bay, T. NELSON & SONS, 1879 Indians buy a musket at an old-time trading post. They also purchased powder, lead shot, and bolts of calico, paying for them with furs. Fur buyer (left) appraises a beaver hide at Port Arthur, Ontario. Flexible rule quickly measures the skin; fingers determine its grade.