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Virtual Museum of Canada The Making of Treaty #8 in Canada's Northwest
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The Peoples, Their Places

Through the Mackenzie Basin: Lesser Slave River and Lesser Slave Lake

"The distance from Athabasca Landing to the Lesser Slave is called sixty-five miles, but this must have been ascertained by measuring from point to point, for, following the shore up stream, as boats must, it is certainly more. To the head of the river is an additional sixty miles, and thence to the head of the lake seventy-five more. The Hudson's Bay Company had a storehouse at the Forks, and an island was forming where the waters meet, the finest feature of the place being an echo, which reverberated the bugler's call at reveille very grandly.

Tracking up the AthabascaA spurt was made in the early morning, the trackers first following a bank overgrown with alders and sallows, all of a size, which looked exactly like a well-kept hedge, but soon gave way to the usual dense line of poplar and spruce, rooted to the very edges of the banks, which are low compared with those of the Athabasca. After ascending it for some distance, it being Sunday, we camped for the day upon an open grassy point, around which the river swept in a perfect semicircle, the dense forest opposite towering in one equally perfect, and glorious in light and shade and harmonious tints of green, from somber olive to the lightest pea. The point itself was covered with strawberry vines and dotted with clumps of Saskatoon's all in bloom.

Commission CampIt was a lovely and lonely spot, which was soon converted into a scene of eating and laughter, and a drying ground for wet clothes. Towards evening Bishop Grouard and Father Lacombe held a well-attended service, which in this profound wilderness was peculiarly impressive.

Shortly after our tents were pitched a boat drifted past with five jaded-looking men aboard - more baffled Klondikers returning from Peace River. We had heard of numbers in the interior who could neither go on nor return, and expected to meet more castaways before we reached the lake. In this we were not astray, and several days after in the upper river we met a York boat loaded with them - alert and unmistakable Americans, but with the worn features of disappointed men." [continue]

Reprinted from Through the Mackenzie Basin: An Account of the Signing of Treaty No. 8 and the Scrip Commission, 1899 by Charles Mair.