For the ceremony of invocation a large inclosure was erected, in the middle of which was placed a wigwam and in this latter the turtle was supposed to speak to his priest.
The central tent was constructed of five poles of different woods, each about ten feet in height and eight inches in diameter, placed in a circle four feet in diameter and bound together at the top with a hoop after having been planted about two feet in the ground.
This was in turn covered with moose skins secured by thongs at the top and bottom save for a small aperture through which the priest was to enter.
As the darkness fell several fires were kindled around the wigwam to give light and all the village turned out to witness and to hear what would be disclosed.
The priest was not long in coming and, almost naked, he entered the enclosure and crawled on hands and knees into the wigwam.
Hardly had his head and shoulders disappeared beneath the moose skins, when the whole tent began to tremble and sway and then to rock furiously and a multitude of voices such as Henry had never heard before, filled the air with weird sounds like the barking of dogs, the howling of wolves, cries and sobs as of souls in despair and sharpest pain.
As the various voices issued from the swaying wigwam, the assembled Indians greeted them with hisses and jeers, for they affected to recognize in them the voices of malignant spirits, but presently silence fell and then arose a whining like the cry of a young puppy. The voice was no sooner heard, than all with one accord leapt and danced, clapping their hands and shouting, exclaiming meanwhile, ” It is the Chief Spirit, the Turtle, the Spirit that never lied.”
With the coming of the Turtle the other voices died away, and presently there arose strains of music for the space of an hour.
Not until these died away was the priest’s voice heard and, then for the first time since he entered the wigwam, he spoke to the assembly, telling them how the Great Turtle had come and now awaited to willingly answer questions.
Immediately the village chieftain strode forward, and with an abundant offering of tobacco, desired to know whether it were true that the English were gathering at Niagara to make war upon the Indians.
The chief’s questions were followed by another convulsion of the wigwam which threatened to level it with the ground and a frightful cry announced the flight of the Spirits.
Silence again reigned for a time, while the dusky warriors waited in breathless expectation the next development which, indeed, quickly followed, for in fifteen minutes the presence again announced itself, and the priest interpreting stated that it had been in the interval to Niagara and even as far as Montreal.
The soldiers, it continued, were not numerous at Niagara, but at the latter place the river was dotted with boats and canoes in number like to the leaves of the trees, and even now they were on their way to war against the Indians.
But the chief had a third question to ask. ” If,” queried he, ” we visit Sir William Johnston will we be received as friends ?”
” Sir William Johnston,” came the quick response, ” will fill your canoes with presents, with blankets, kettles, guns, gunpowder and shot and barrels of rum such as the stoutest of the Indians will not be able to lift and every man will return in safety to his own family.”
All doubt was set aside by this answer. The mind of the tribe was fixed and on all sides then arose the cry, ” I will go too !”
The question of greatest import having been settled, a number pressed toward the lodge to make their offering and to enquire for absent friends and of the ultimate fate of those who were sick, and Henry, fascinated with the weirdness of the whole proceeding and anxious to know his own fate, timidly approached the tent, and, laying his offering down, asked if he would ever again see his friends, so far was he from civilization in the Sault one hundred and fifty years ago.
To his query the Turtle gave a gratifying answer, stating that, not only would he see his friends again, but that no hurt should come to him. The delighted trader, on hearing the response, showed his gratitude by a second offering of the coveted weed.
It was soon afterward arranged that Henry should accompany the warriors who were to journey to Niagara, and so on the loth of June with sixteen Indians, four less than it was originally intended should go, he embarked to return once more to the East.
The war party crossed Lakes Huron and Simcoe, making a portage at what is now called Holland’s Landing, from thence they tramped to Toronto, and on the banks of Lake Ontario, near the mouth of the Humber, they hewed down an elm tree from whose bark were quickly constructed two canoes, one to hold nine men, the other to hold eight, and in these frail things they made their way across the waters to Sir William Johns-ton’s headquarters.
Here the Indians halted while Henry went forward to announce their arrival and insure their welcome.
The Commandant received him with such cordiality that the trader was greatly affected and became firmly attached to the big hearted British officers.
Here the detachment was placed under Bradstreet who was about to embark for Detroit and Henry was given command of the Indians to whom were added other eighty who had come down from the head of Lake Simcoe and these with the braves from the Sault made a unit of 96 men.
The warriors, however, when they learned that they were to fight against a tribe with whom their own nation was at peace, demurred and when the word to march was given, only ten were ready to start. With the exception of four others who joined the party at Fort Schlosser, the rest found their way back to their own country and Henry’s battalion dissolved.
But the fighting was over and a few weeks later saw a general peace concluded, Immediately after, Captain Howard and two companies of regulars with 30o volunteers were told off to proceed to Fort Michilimacinac, and Henry, attaching himself to the force, journeyed back to the scene of his trials.
Under the French regime it had been the rule to license men to trade with the natives, and none save those authorized might barter in any shape or form.
To soldiers frequently was this privilege granted, and it cannot be doubted that this was one of the chief inducements leading Sieur de Repentigny to plant his home on the edge of the wilderness.
To Alexander Henry was now granted by the Commandant at Michilimacinac the exclusive right to trade about Lake Superior, and on receiving his license he immediately embraked for Sault Sainte Marie and entered into partnership with the faithful Cadotte for the prosecution of trade.
For two years this was carried on without interruption, but in 1767 the hamlet was faced by famine and Henry found his operations blocked.
The fish in the Rapids had unaccountably failed and no communication could be established with Michilimacinac from the fact that the ice had formed unusually early, preventing canoeing, yet being unsafe for walking.
In the extremity, he dispatched five men to a distant post that he might be relieved of providing for them but they returned Christmas eve being driven back by want. No time was now to be lost unless they were to starve, so furnishing each` person with a pint of maize for the journey, he set out for Goulais Bay, about twelve leagues from the Sault, where it was thought fish might be caught.
There they remained for some time and the expiration of a fortnight saw their. camp infested with a party of Indians, like themselves, fleeing from famine.
Two days after these had arrived there appeared a solitary Indian who filled all with uneasiness and apprehension. He claimed that he had left his family in a starving condition too far gone to continue their journey and that he alone was able to pursue his way to the Bay.
His statements were doubted and a search party being dispatched, returned with the horrible intelligence that the man had killed and consumed the others.
The Indians hold to the belief that he who has once tasted human flesh becomes an evil spirit embodied in fleshly form, in their own language, becomes a ” windigo,” and can never be satisfied with other food.
A secret council of the natives was called on the discovery, and it was decided to put the man to death.
All unconscious of his impending fate he wandered next day about the camp, until a well directed blow with a tomahawk from behind laid him lifeless in their midst.
A legend had up to this time found root among the ” whites,” if a lump of virgin copper on the south shore of Lake Superrior but like the traditional monster of the seas it had a faculty for disappearing for years after each discovery nor were men to accurately describe its location.
The mass was eventually placed by scientists and in later years found its way into the Smithsonian Institute at Washington
Perhaps it was in a vain search for this mass that Henry and Mr, Norburg, a Russian geologist, discovered together in this region the immensely rich nuggets of precious metal specimens of which were carried to England by the latter gentleman. The Indians refused to bear the copper away with them, for it was thought to be the special property of the Great Spirit who visited his anger on those who touched it.
A story used to be related of some Braves who thought to steal some copper ore from Kitchi Manido and who journeyed up the Lake for that purpose. The ore was collected and some of it used in the preparation of fish for the evening meal. The usual way of cooking fish was to make a heap of stones red hot and to plunge them into the water which covered that which was to be cooked.
Immediately after the supper one of the braves was seized with violent pain and died before the eyes of his companions. Attributing his death to the Spirit’s wrath, the two remaining Indians fled in their canoe, leaving the one behind, but halfway down the lake a second was seized and died paddle in hand. The remaining Redman plyed his paddle desperately to reach the settlement, and on arriving sprang to the shore and related in horror-stricken terms the story of the calamity. Ere the tale was fully told he too was seized and died before the tribe. Of course the explanation is that the copper, as poison, caused the deaths, but no more did the Indian meddle with Kitchi Manido’s stones.
So impressed was Henry with the mineral wealth of the country that, in 1771, he engaged miners to open up !several rich veins. A sloop was floated in lake Superior for the carrying of ore and a company formed with H. R. H. the Duke of Gloucester at its head, but the venture proved a slip, and 1774 saw it abandoned.
From this date Henry dropped out of the life of the little settlement at Sault Sainte Marie and little of importance occurred until the coming of Mr. Johnston.