BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


History of Toronto and county of York, Ontario

by Charles Pelham Mulvany

Excerpt:

Chapter I.
PRE-HISTORIC CANADA.

HE history of Canada is the history of three races,—the Indian,
the Frenchman, and the English-speaking immigrant from the
British isles or the neighbouring Republic.

The Indian tribes had roamed over the unbroken forest that is now the Dominion of Canada, through ages that we can only approximately estimate by the guesses of experts in our pre-historic annals. Like the other inferior races of man, they have no annals, no record of their own past; but the record of race, stamped on skin and skeleton, would seem to indicate an Asiatic origin. In the part of North America south of what is now New York State, the present race of Indians appear to have superseded a far more civilized race, the builders of fortified towns and permanent temples, who were well acquainted with the use of metals. But when, in the sixteenth century of Christian civilization, French and English maritime enterprise, born of the new birth of classical literature, discovered or re-discovered this country, the Indian race in Canada had not advanced beyond the civilization of the Stone Age. They were in some respects behind, they were in no respect in advance of, the human wild beast who was the contemporary of the mammoth and the cave-bear. Their spears and arrows were pointed with carefully-chipped flint, their knives were of clam-shells; of the use of metal they knew nothing; their dress was that of the earlier savages described in the legends of' Hebrew and other primitive races, paint and the skins of wild beasts. They had no domesticated animals except a breed of dogs useless for the chase, which they kept for the purpose of religious sacrifice and of food. They had lived for unknown 'centuries with no home but the forest, which they shared with the wolf, the bear, and the lynx. In architecture they were inferior to the brute instinct which had shaped the lake cities of the beaver, the cave-shaped nestsxsf the mole, the wax hexagon of the bee.

The Indians of Canada represent its pre-historic age. It is impossible to estimate the date of their sparse and nomadic occupation of a country that, now civilized into farms, towns, and cities, supports an increasing population which to their feeble and shifting number is as a thousand to one. No doubt these inferior races fulfilled a useful purpose. They were of some service to the first white immigrants into Canada. They guided Champlain up the tortuous courses of the Ottawa; their conversion from Fetichism to Roman Catholicism elicited the noblest missionary effort which the Christian Church has seen since' its first century of miracles and martyrdoms. But they surpassed all other savage races known to history in cruelty, treachery, and revenge; and whenever, after a fashion, they have become civilized, they seem to have lost many of the virtues of savage life. It may be doubted whether the heroism of the French Jesuits does not count among the wasted efforts of man's noblest powers. The Christianized Indian is no permanent or prosperous element in the population of this country; his civilization is second-hand; disease and vice decimate his ranks; alcoholism fastens its fangs into his strength. An intelligent officer of the Hudson's Bay Company, employed at the Pacific Railway station of Mattawa, in 1882, not long since expressed the opinion that the Indian tribes in the northern part of Canada will most likely be extinct before the end of another hundred years.

When the continent of America was first discovered, what is now the Dominion of Canada was inhabited by a number of savage tribes who, in their approach to civilization, were on a level with the negroid races of Africa or Australia, although to some degree surpassing them in courage and physical vigour. Of these, there were two principal divisions: the tribes of the Algonquin race, and those of the Iroquois, since known as the Six Nation Indians. The Algonquins, as a rule, did not live in fortified villages; the solitary hunter wandered through the woods, or with wife and children erected the birchbark wigwam by the banks of some stream, whose plentiful supply of fish would supplement the more precarious venison. In the tropical Canadian summer, life passed in Arcadian content. With the Arctic winter came the severer struggle for existence against the wild beasts and the weather. When the long-hoarded supply of food, often little better than putrid carrion, became nearly exhausted, old people and women were knocked on the head, and cannibalism became a necessity; the scanty supply of fuel, hewn with long-continued labour of flint knife and stone hatchet, gave little protection against the terrible winter wind which entered every crevice of the wretched dwelling. Deaths from exposure thinned the ranks of the hunters; wolf and wildcat vainly strove to tear the marble-stiffened form frozen in the snow. And still, with the conservatism of savage life, no advance was made, no protection sought against cold and hunger; the warrior in the brief hour of feasting forgot the sure approach of famine, and the terrors of winter descended upon his defenceless home, without any provision having been made against its approach.

A nearer approach to civilization was made by those tribes that, as a rule, lived in settled communities. Of these, by far the most remarkable were the Iroquois, whose organization, once that of the terrible Iroquois League, continues to this day in the Reserve on the Grand River, which the British Government granted as an asylum for their race. They formed a Confederacy originally seated in what is now New York State, but whose hunting grounds extended, and whose villages' were built, over the entire lake region and valley of the St. Lawrence. Their settlements were made up of a number of large houses, surrounded by a wooden rampart. Each house was solidly built of wood, and well protected against wind and rain. It was generally from a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet long, and contained many fire-places, and a number of bunks, a few feet from the ground, on which the various families—men, women, children, old and young—slept promiscuously together. Provision for privacy or decency there was none. Their only drink was the water of the stream; their food, meat or fish, often kept till it was putrid; their sole luxury, tobacco, that great gift of the New World to the Old, in return for which she had not yet received the more questionable gift of fire-water.

The Iroquois have been aptly termed "the Romans of the Western World." Their political organization, with its extensive settlements of allied tribes and towns, enabled them to conquer the other Indian races in every part of Canada, to exterminate the two great tribes of the Hurons and the Eries, and to become an important ally to England in the wars of the French and English colonists previous to the conquest, and in the two wars with the United States which followed it. Enthusiastic writers on the romantic aspects of savage life have drawn rose-coloured pictures of the courage, the simplicity, the eloquence of the noble red man. But, looked at in the light of careful and patient investigation, the ways of the dwellers in wigwams lose much of this ideal colouring. The Indian Chief was not, as writers like the poet Campbell have represented him, a hero king, like those of the Grecian army before Troy. He was simply a warrior raised above others by superior strength or cunning; with no authority of life or death; no power as a ruler, beyond what the influence he could exert in the interminable wrangling of war-council might give him for the time. He was in no respect a member of an aristocratic caste; he fished and hunted just as did every other member of his tribe; had no privilege of class, such as those of the chief of a Highland clan, or an Irish sept. The most noted chiefs of even the most recent, and therefore the best, phase of Indian warfare, such as Pontiac or Tecumseh, were in many respects mere painted savages among their fellow-savages.


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