Trails of the Pathfinders - G. B. Grinnell

Jonathan Carver

At the close of the "late war with France," when peace had been established by the treaty of Versailles, in the year 1763, Jonathan Carver, the captain of a company of provincial troops during the French and Indian War, began to consider how he might continue to do service to his country and contribute as much as lay in his power to make advantageous to Great Britain that vast territory which had been acquired by that war in North America. What this territory was, how far it extended, what were its products, who were its inhabitants, were some of the questions that suggested themselves to Carver. He was a good patriot, and felt that knowledge as to these points would be of the greatest importance to his country. With the natural suspicion that Englishmen of his time felt of the French, he believed that they, while they retained their power in North America, had taken every artful method to keep all other nations, particularly the English, ignorant of everything concerning the interior parts of the country. "To accomplish this design with the greatest certainty," he says, "they had published inaccurate maps and false accounts; calling the different nations of the Indians by nicknames they had given them, and not by those really appertaining to them. Whether the intention of the French in doing this was to prevent these nations from being discovered and traded with, or to conceal their discourse, when they talked to each other of the Indian concerns, in their presence, I will not determine; but whatsoever was the cause from which it arose, it tended to mislead."

Carver contemplated something more important and far-reaching than the mere investigation of the country, for he says: "What I chiefly had in view after gaining a knowledge of the manners, customs, languages, soil, and natural products of the different nations that inhabit the back of the Mississippi, was to ascertain the breadth of that vast continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean in its broadest part, between 43 and 46 degrees north latitude. Had I been able to accomplish this, I intended to have proposed to the government to establish a post in some of those parts about the Straits of Annian [Puget Sound] which, having been first discovered by Sir Francis Drake, of course belonged to the English. This, I am convinced, would greatly facilitate the discovery of the northwest passage, or a communication between Hudson's Bay and the Pacific Ocean, an event so desirable, and which has been so often sought for, but without success. Besides this important end, a settlement on that extremity of America would answer many good purposes, and repay every expense the establishment of it might occasion. For it would not only disclose new sources of trade, and promote many useful discoveries, but would open a passage for conveying intelligence to China, and the English settlements in the East Indies, with greater expedition than a tedious voyage by the Cape of Good Hope or the Straits of Magellan would allow of."

Carver's projects for crossing the continent to the Pacific Ocean proved abortive; yet he travelled into the interior nearly as far as any one had hitherto advanced. True, the Verendryes and one or two of the Jesuit Fathers went beyond him on this parallel of latitude; yet the work which Carver published is almost the first that touches on a region lying well within the borders of the Louisiana Purchase, and now one of the most important sections of the United States.

In his introduction, Carver has a prophetic word to say about the unhappy relations existing, when he wrote, between Great Britain and America. "To what power or authority this new world will become dependent, after it has arisen from its present uncultivated state, time alone can discover. But as the seat of Empire, from time immemorial, has been gradually progressive toward the west, there is no doubt but that at some future period, mighty kingdoms will emerge from these wildernesses, and stately palaces and solemn temples, with gilded spires reaching the skies, supplant the Indians' huts, whose only decorations are the barbarous trophies of their vanquished enemies."

In June, 1766, Carver left Boston for the interior parts of North America. He has little to say about the country lying adjacent to the "back-settlements," which, he observes, have often been described. He passed through the Great Lakes, mentioning as he goes various Indian tribes and some of the products of the country, stopped some little time at the great town of the Winnebagoes, at Lake Winnebago, in Wisconsin, where he was very civilly received. At this time these people had a queen, or woman chief. He discusses this tribe at some length, and incidentally repeats a curious story: "An elderly chief more particularly acquainted me that, about forty-six winters ago, he marched, at the head of fifty warriors, toward the southwest for three moons. That during this expedition, whilst they were crossing a plain, they discovered a body of men on horseback, who belonged to the Black People; for so they call the Spaniards. As soon as they perceived them, they proceeded with caution, and concealed themselves till night came on; when they drew so near as to be able to discern the number and situation of their enemies. Finding they were not able to cope with so great a superiority by daylight, they waited till they had retired to rest; when they rushed upon them, and after having killed the greatest part of the men, took eighty horses loaded with what they termed white stone. This I suppose to have been silver, as he told me the horses were shod with it, and that their bridles were ornamented with the same. When they had satiated their revenge, they carried off their spoil, and being got so far as to be out of reach of the Spaniards that had escaped their fury, they left the useless and ponderous burthen, with which the horses were loaded, in the woods, and mounting themselves, in this manner returned to their friends. The party they had thus defeated, I conclude to be the caravan that annually conveys to Mexico the silver which the Spaniards find in great quantities on the mountains lying near the heads of the Colorado River; and the plains where the attack was made, probably, some they were obliged to pass over in their way to the heads of the River St. Fee, or Rio del Nord, which falls into the Gulf of Mexico to the west of the Mississippi."

From the Winnebago town, Carver proceeded up the Fox River, and then carried across a short distance to the Ouisconsin River, and proceeded down that. Here he found the great town of the Saukies, the largest and best built Indian town he ever saw. It consisted of "about ninety houses, each large enough for several families, built of hewn plank, neatly jointed, and covered with bark so compactly as to keep out the most penetrating rains." The streets were regular and spacious; and it appeared more like a civilized town than the abode of savages. About the town lay the plantations of the Indians, in which they raised great quantities of corn, beans, and melons; and their annual product was so large that this place was esteemed the best market for traders to furnish themselves with provisions of any within eight hundred miles. Near the mouth of the Wisconsin River, on the banks of the Mississippi, the Ottigaumies—Outagami, i.e., "people of the other band," that is the Foxes—had a large town, at a place called "La Prairie des Chiens [Carver writes this name in various ways], which signifies Dog Plains," a great trading place.

About the first of November, Carver reached Lake Pepin, and speaks with the greatest enthusiasm of the beauty of the country, its apparent productiveness, and the extraordinary number of game and wild fowl seen near about it. "On the plains," he says, "are the largest buffalo of any in America. In the groves are found great plenty of turkeys and partridges; while great numbers of fowl, such as storks, swans, geese, brants, and ducks frequent the lake." A little below that lake he discovered, in a fine, level, open plain, what had once been a breastwork, about four feet in height, extending the best part of a mile, and sufficiently capacious to cover five thousand men; one of the famous mounds for which the Mississippi Valley has so long been celebrated.

About thirty miles above Lake Pepin, near the St. Croix River, Carver met three bands of the Naudowessie Sioux—Indians; and while he was there a war party of Chippewas approached the camp, and seemed to be preparing for an attack. The Sioux requested Carver to help them, to put himself at their head and lead them against their enemies. This the traveller was of course unwilling to do, for his work in the country made it important that he should be friendly with all people. He endeavored to persuade the Sioux to allow him to attempt to make peace with the Chippewas, and when at length they assented, he met the invaders and succeeded in inducing them to turn back without making an attack. He then persuaded the Sioux to move their camp to another part of the country, lest the Chippewas should change their mind and return to attack them. Carver declares that this diplomatic success gained him great credit with both Sioux and Chippewas; that to it he was indebted for the friendly reception that he afterward met with the Naudowessie of the Plains; and that when many months later he reached the village of the Chippewas, farther to the north, he was received with great cordiality by the chiefs, many of whom thanked' him for having prevented the mischief.

About thirty miles below the Falls of St. Anthony, Carver was shown a remarkable cave of amazing depth, which the Indians called Wacon-teebe—Wakan tipi, mysterious or sacred dwelling—that is to say, "the Dwelling of the Great Spirit." Within it is a lake, which "extends to an unsearchable distance; for the darkness of the cave prevents all attempts to acquire a knowledge of it." The walls are covered with many Indian hieroglyphics, which seem to be very ancient, for time had nearly covered them with moss. The Falls of St. Anthony greatly impressed Carver, as they did the young Indian in his company.

At the mouth of the river St. Francis, Carver says, "I observed here many deer and carraboes—a record for the caribou unusually far south for the mid continent—some elk, with abundance of beavers, otters and other furs. Not far above this, to the northeast, are a number of small lakes called the Thousand Lakes; the parts about which though but little frequented, are the best within many miles for hunting, as the hunter never fails of returning loaded beyond his expectations."

Above the St. Francis River, the Mississippi was new ground, for Hennepin, the river's first explorer, had not passed up it farther than the St. Francis, and Carver remarks that, "As this river is not navigable from sea for vessels of any considerable burthen, much higher up than the forks of the Ohio, and even that is accomplished with great difficulty, owing to the rapidity of the current, and the windings of the river, those settlements which may be made on the interior branches of it must be indisputably secure from the attacks of any maritime power. But at the same time the settlers will have the advantage of being able to convey their produce to the sea-ports with great facility, the current of the river, from its source to its entrance into the Gulph of Mexico, being extremely favorable for doing this in small craft. This might also in time be facilitated by canals or shorter cuts; and a communication opened by water with New York, Canada, etc., by way of the lakes."

Returning to the mouth of the river St. Pierre, now the Minnesota River, Carver ascended this about two hundred miles, to the country of the Naudowessie of the Plains. The northern branch of the river St. Pierre rises, he says, from a number of lakes near the Shining Mountains; and it is from some of these also that a capital branch of the river Bourbon—the York, now Nelson River—which runs into Hudson's Bay, has its sources. All this geography comes from the accounts of Indians, and is clearly misunderstood as to distance and location, for Carver says, also, that the river Messorie, which enters the Mississippi far to the southward, also takes its rise at the head of the river St. Pierre. His distances were very far from right, for he makes the St. Lawrence, the Mississippi, the river Bourbon, and the Oregon, or River of the West (Columbia), head all together in these high mountains.

At the great Sioux camp, which he came to on this river, and which he estimated to contain a thousand people, most of whom had never seen a white man, he was most hospitably received. He spent the winter with them, studying their language, acquiring so far as possible a knowledge of the geography of the country, and at last, with a considerable portion of the camp, returning down the river to the Great Cave, and to the burial ground which lay near it. Before parting with the Sioux he held a council with them, at which long speeches were made by both Englishman and Indians, and finally Carver left them to return to La Prairie du Chien, where there were some traders from whom he purchased goods for his farther journey.

Among the places now well known which Carver visited, was what he calls the Red Mountain, from which the Indians get a sort of red stone out of which they hew the bowls of their pipes. This is, no doubt, the pipestone quarry, described by Catlin, and then owned by the Sioux Indians, which has been purchased by the government as a park. Carver says, also, that in some of these parts is found a black, hard clay, or rather stone, of which, the Indians make their family utensils.

Carver was much impressed by the beauties of the country through which the river St. Pierre [Minnesota River] flowed; of which he says: "Wild rice grows here in great abundance; and every part is filled with trees, bending under their loads of fruit, such as plums, grapes, and apples; the meadows are covered with hops, and many sorts of vegetables; whilst the ground is stored with useful roots, with angelica, spikenard, and ground-nuts as large as hen's eggs. At a little distance from the sides of the river are eminences, from which you have views that cannot be exceeded even by the most beautiful of those I have already described; amidst these are delightful groves, and such amazing quantities of maples, that they would produce sugar sufficient for any number of inhabitants."

Carver at length reached La Prairie du Chien, and after attending to various matters there, returned up the Mississippi to the place where the Chippewa River enters it, a little below Lake Pepin. Here he engaged an Indian pilot, and instructed him to steer toward the Ottowaw Lakes, which lie near the head of that river. About thirty miles from the mouth, Carver took the easternmost of the two branches and passed along through the wide, gently flowing stream. "The country adjoining to the river," he says, "for about sixty miles, is very level, and on its banks lie fine meadows, where larger droves of buffaloes and elks were feeding, than I had observed in any other part of my travels. The track between the two branches of this river is termed the Road of War between the Chipeway and Naudowessie Indians." Near the head of the stream he came upon a Chippewa town, the houses built after the Indian manner, and having neat plantations behind them. He then carried over to the head of the river St. Croix, descended one of the branches, and then ascended another; and on both streams he discovered several mines of virgin copper. Then carrying across a height of land and descending another stream, he found himself on Lake Superior, and coasted along its western shores until he reached the Grand Portage, between Lake Superior and Lac la Pluie, or Rainy Lake.

Here were met a large party of Killistinoe and Assinipoil Indians, "with their respective kings and their families." They had come to this place to meet the traders from the east, who were accustomed to make this their road to the northwest. From these Indians Carver received considerable geographical information about the country to the westward, much of which, however, is too vague to be very valuable. Many of the great lakes to the westward were mentioned and described, and some of them are readily recognized. Such are Lake Winnepeek, Lac du Bois, and Lac la Pluye, or Rainy Lake. Of the country about Lake Bourbon and Lake Winnepeek it was said that there were found some buffalo of small size, which were fat and good in the latter part of the summer. This difference in size Carver attributes to their northerly situation; "just as the black cattle of the northern parts of Great Britain differ from English oxen." But it is quite probable that these "small buffalo" may have been musk-oxen, and their location wrong.

"These Indians informed me that to the northwest of Lake Winnepeek lies another whose circumference vastly exceeded any they had given me an account of. They describe it as much larger than Lake Superior. But as it appears to be so far to the northwest, I should imagine that it was not a lake, but rather the Archipelago or broken waters that form the communication between Hudson's Bay and the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean."

As already stated, Carver believed that the head-waters of the Missouri were not far from the headwaters of his St. Pierre River. The Indians told him that they frequently crossed over from the head of that stream to the Missouri. The nearest water to the head of the Minnesota River is Big Sioux River in Dakota, which is, in fact, a tributary of the Missouri.

The ethnological information there gathered was as little trustworthy as that concerning the geography of the more distant parts. For example, it is said that in the country belonging to the Pawnees, and the Pawnawnees, nations inhabiting some branches of the Messorie River, mandrakes are frequently found, a species of root resembling human beings of both sexes; and that these are more perfect than such as are discovered about the Nile in Nether-Ethiopia.

"A little to the northwest of the heads of the Messorie and the St. Pierre, the Indians further told me, that there was a nation rather smaller and whiter than the neighboring tribes, who cultivate the ground, and (as far as I could gather from their expressions), in some measure, the arts. To this account they added that some of the nations who inhabit those parts that lie to the west of the Shining Mountains, have gold so plenty among them that they make their most common utensils of it. These mountains (which I shall describe more particularly hereafter) divide the waters that fall into the South Sea from those that run into the Atlantic.

"The people dwelling near them are supposed to be some of the different tribes that were tributary to the Mexican kings, and who fled from their native country to seek an asylum in these parts, about the time of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, more than two centuries ago." After a brief discussion of the reasons which may have led these supposed immigrants, and the Winnebagoes to leave their southern home for the north, Carver speaks at some length of the Shining or Rocky Mountains, just mentioned.

"That range of mountains, of which the Shining Mountains are a part, begin at Mexico, and continuing northward on the back or at the east of California, separate the waters of those numerous rivers that fall either into the Gulph of Mexico or the Gulph of California. From thence continuing their course still northward, between the sources of the Mississippi and the rivers that run into the South Sea, they appear to end in about forty-seven or forty-eight degrees of north latitude; where a number of rivers arise, and empty themselves either into the South Sea, into Hudson's Bay, or into the waters that communicate between these two seas.

"Among these mountains, those that lie to the west of the river St. Pierre are called the Shining Mountains, from an infinite number of crystal stones, of an amazing size, with which they are covered, and which, when the sun shines full upon them, sparkle so as to be seen at a very great distance.

"This extraordinary range of mountains is calculated to be more than three thousand miles in length, without any very considerable intervals, which I believe surpasses anything of the kind in the other quarters of the globe. Probably in future ages they may be found to contain more riches in their bowels than those of Indostan and Malabar, or that are produced on the Golden Coast of Guinea; nor will I except even the Peruvian mines. To the west of these mountains, when explored by future Columbuses or Raleighs, may be found other lakes, rivers and countries, full fraught with all the necessaries or luxuries of life; and where future generations may find an asylum, whether driven from their country by the ravages of lawless tyrants, or by religious persecutions, or reluctantly leaving it to remedy the inconveniences arising from a superabundant increase of inhabitants; whether, I say, impelled by these, or allured by hopes of commercial advantages, there is little doubt but their expectations will be fully gratified by these rich and unexhausted climes."

The pages which Carver devotes to a description of the unknown country to the west, are inserted in his account while he was sojourning with these Crees and Assiniboines, at the Grand Portage. There were more than three hundred people in the camp, and as they waited for the traders who did not come, their stock of provisions began to run low; and the coming of the traders was awaited with an impatience that increased day by day.

It was during this period of waiting that Carver had an opportunity to witness one of those prophecies by a priest, or medicine man, which even in modern times have puzzled many cool and clear heads; and though the story of what he saw is long, yet it is worth while to give his account of it in full. It appears that one day while all were expressing their hopes for the early arrival of the traders, and were sitting on the hill looking over the lake, in the hope that they might be seen, the chief priest of the Crees informed those who were with him that he would endeavor to obtain information from the Great Spirit as to when the traders would arrive. Carver gave little heed to the suggestion, supposing it to be merely a juggling trick; but the chief of the tribe advised him that the priest had made this offer chiefly for the purpose of allaying his anxiety, and at the same time to convince Carver of his ability to talk with the Great Spirit. "The following evening was fixed upon for this spiritual conference. When everything had been properly prepared, the king came to me and led me to a capacious tent, the covering of which was drawn up, so as to render what was transacting within visible to those who stood without. We found the tent surrounded by a great number of the Indians, but we readily gained admission, and seated ourselves on skins laid on the ground for that purpose.

"In the centre I observed that there was a place of an oblong shape, which was composed of stakes stuck in the ground, with intervals between, so as to form a kind of chest or coffin, large enough to contain the body of a man. These were of a middle size, and placed at such a distance from each other, that whatever lay within them was readily to be discerned. The tent was perfectly illuminated by a great number of torches made of splinters cut from the pine or birch tree, which the Indians held in their hands.

"In a few minutes the priest entered; when an amazing large elk's skin being spread on the ground, just at my feet, he laid himself down upon it, after having stript himself of every garment except that which he wore dose about his middle. Being now prostrate upon his back, he first laid hold of one side of the skin, and folded it over him, and then the other; leaving only his head uncovered. This was no sooner done, than two of the young men who stood by took about forty yards of strong cord, made also of an elk's hide, and rolled it tight around his body, so that he was completely swathed within the skin. Being thus bound up like an Egyptian mummy, one took him by the heels and the other by the head, and lifted him over the pales into the inclosure. I could now also discern him as plain as I had hitherto done, and I took care not to turn my eyes a moment from the object before me, that I might the more readily detect the artifice, for such I doubted not but that it would turn out to be.

"The priest had not lain in this situation more than a few seconds when he began to mutter. This he continued to do for some time, and then by degrees grew louder and louder, till at length he spoke articulately; however, what he uttered was in such a mixed jargon of the Chippeway, Ottawaw, and Killistinoe languages, that I could understand but very little of it. Having continued in this tone for a considerable while he at last exerted his voice to its utmost pitch, sometimes raving and sometimes praying, till he had worked himself into such an agitation that he foamed at his mouth.

"After having remained near three-quarters of an hour in the place and continued his vociferation with unabated vigor, he seemed to be quite exhausted, and remained speechless. But in an instant he sprung to his feet, notwithstanding at the time he was put in it appeared impossible for him to move either his legs or arms, and shaking off his covering, as quick as if the bands with which it had been bound were burned asunder, he began to address those who stood around, in a firm and audible voice. 'My Brothers,' said he, 'the Great Spirit has deigned to hold a talk with his servant at my earnest request. He has not, indeed, told me when the persons we expect will be here, but to-morrow, soon after the sun has reached his highest point in the heavens, a canoe will arrive, and the people in that will inform us when the traders will come.' Having said this, he stepped out of the inclosure, and after he had put on his robes, dismissed the assembly. I own I was greatly astonished at what I had seen, but as I observed that every eye in the company was fixed on me with a view to discover my sentiments, I carefully concealed every emotion.

"The next day the sun shone bright, and long before noon all the Indians were gathered together on the eminence that overlooked the lake. The old king came to me and asked me whether I had so much confidence in what the priest had foretold as to join his people on the hill and wait for the completion of it? I told him that I was at a loss what opinion to form of the prediction, but that I would readily attend him. On this we walked together to the place where the others were assembled. Every eye was again fixed by turns on me and on the lake; when just as the sun had reached his zenith, agreeable to what the priest had foretold, a canoe came round a point of land about a league distant. The Indians no sooner beheld it than they sent up an universal shout, and by their looks seemed to triumph in the interest their priest thus evidently had with the Great Spirit.

"In less than an hour the canoe reached the shore, when I attended the king and chiefs to receive those who were on board. As soon as the men were landed, we walked all together to the king's tent, where according to their invariable custom we began to smoke; and this we did, notwithstanding our impatience to know the tidings they brought, without asking any questions; for the Indians are the most deliberate people in the world. However, after some trivial conversation, the king inquired of them whether they had seen anything of the traders? The men replied that they had parted from them a few days before, and that they proposed being here the second day from the present. They accordingly arrived at that time, greatly to our satisfaction, but more particularly to that of the Indians, who found by this event the importance both of their priest and of their nation greatly augmented in the sight of a stranger.

"This story I acknowledge appears to carry with it marks of great credulity in the relater. But no one is less tinctured with that weakness than myself. The circumstances of it I own are of a very extraordinary nature; however, as I can vouch for their being free from either exaggeration or misrepresentation, being myself a cool and dispassionate observer of them all, I thought it necessary to give them to the public. And this I do, without wishing to mislead the judgment of my readers, or to make any superstitious impressions on their minds, but leaving them to draw from it what conclusions they please."

The arrival of the traders, so anxiously looked for, did not greatly help Carver, who found that he could not procure from them the goods that he desired, and shortly afterward he proceeded eastward, having coasted around the north and east shores of Lake Superior. He describes the lake, and the various peoples who inhabit its borders, most of whom are Chippewas. During his trip, he found native copper on a stream running into the lake on the south, and describes how large a trade might be made in this metal, which, as he says, "costs nothing on the spot, and requires but little expense to get it on board; could be conveyed in boats or canoes through the Falls of St. Marie to the Isle of St. Joseph, which lies at the bottom of the straits near the entrance into Lake Huron; from thence it might be put on board large vessels, and in them transported across that lake to the Falls of Niagara; there being carried by land across the Portage, it might be conveyed without much more obstruction to Quebec. The cheapness and ease with which any quantity of it may be procured will make up for the length of way that it is necessary to transport it before it reaches the sea-coast, and enable the proprietors to send it to foreign markets on as good terms as it can be exported from other countries." Stockholders in the Calumet and Hecla and in other Lake Superior copper concerns are requested to take notice.

The fishing of Lake Superior impressed Carver as much as it has other travellers. Of these fish he says: "The principal and best are the trout and sturgeon, which may be caught at almost any season in the greatest abundance. The trout in general weigh about twelve pounds; but some are caught that exceed fifty. Besides these, a species of white fish is taken in great quantities here, that resemble a shad in their shape, but they are rather thicker, and less bony; they weigh about four pounds each, and are of a delicious taste. The best way of catching these fish is with a net; but the trout may be taken at all times with the hook. There are likewise many sorts of smaller fish in great plenty here, and which may be taken with ease; among these is a sort resembling a herring, which are generally made use of as a bait for the trout." The foot of the Sault Ste. Marie, which Carver calls the Falls of St. Marie, is noted by him as "a most commodious station for catching the fish, which are to be found there in immense quantities. Persons standing on the rocks which lie adjacent to it may take with dipping nets, about the months of September and October, the white fish before-mentioned; at that season, together with several other species, they crowd up to this spot in such amazing shoals that enough may be taken to supply, when properly cured, thousands of inhabitants throughout the year."

Passing now through the Straits into Lake Huron, this body of water is described, and attention called to the rise and fall of the waters, which Carver says is not diurnal, but occurs in periods of seven years and a half. Still going eastward, the town of Detroit was reached, and something given of its history in recent years, and especially of the conspiracy of Pontiac, and the death of that chief.

In Lake Erie, Carver noticed the islands near the west end, so infested with rattlesnakes that it is very dangerous to land on them; and also the 'great number of water-snakes, which lie in the sun on the leaves of the large pond-lilies floating on the water.

"The most remarkable of the different species that infest this lake is the hissing-snake [the innocent Heterodon platyrhinos], which is of the small, speckled kind, and about eighteen inches long. When anything approaches, it flattens itself in a moment, and its spots, which are of varied dyes, become visibly brighter through rage; at the same time it blows from its mouth with great force a subtle wind, that is reported to be of a nauseous smell; and if drawn in with the breath of the unwary traveller,' will infallibly bring on a decline, that in a few months must prove mortal, there being no remedy yet discovered which can counteract its baneful influence." Still proceeding eastward, the author continues to describe the country, mentioning many well-known lakes, and the peoples about them.

This concludes Carver's journey, but by no means his book, of which the remaining two-thirds are devoted to the manners and customs of the Indians, with a chapter giving vocabularies of several languages, and other chapters treating of the fauna and flora of the vast region passed over. Like most writers about the Indians, he discusses their origin, quoting a great number of authors, from the discovery of America to the time of his writing; the last of these, Adair, who, as is well known, devoted a very considerable work to proving to his own satisfaction that the Indians were the lost tribes of Israel. Carver announces that he is of the opinion that "the North American continent received its first inhabitants from the islands which lie between the extremities of Asia and America, viz., Japon, Yeso, or Jedso, Gama's Land, Behring's Isle, with many others "; to which he adds a cluster of islands that reach as far as Siberia, which may possibly be the Aleutian Islands. To support this conclusion, he advances many cogent arguments, and announces that "that great and learned historian Doctor Robinson," is of the same opinion with him.

Concerning the persons and dress of the Indians, Carver has much to say. He notices many things still well known, and speaks of certain others that are so long obsolete as to be almost forgotten. Thus he declares that: "It is also a common custom among them to bore their noses, and wear in them pendants of different sorts. I observed that sea-shells were much worn by those of the interior parts, and reckoned very ornamental; but how they procured them I could not learn: probably by their traffic with other nations nearer the sea." Another custom noted, which has long been obsolete, but is still remembered by the most ancient persons of some of the Western tribes, is the woman's fashion of dressing the hair. To the west of the Mississippi, he says, the Sioux and Assiniboine women "divide their hair in the middle of the head, and form it into two rolls, one against each ear. These rolls are about three inches long, and as large as their wrists. They hang in a perpendicular attitude at the front of each ear, and descend as far as the lower part of it."

The characteristics of the Indians, their method of reckoning time, their government, division into tribes, their chiefs, food, dances, and many other matters, are described at great length; as is also their hunting, their manner of making war, and, incidentally, the defeat of Braddock, and the massacre of the people under Col. Monroe, at Fort William Henry. Carver himself appears to have been with the prisoners, of whom so many were massacred on that unhappy day; but he himself at length reached Fort Edward in safety. He tells something, also, of the way in which the Indians tortured their captives, and speaks of the Illinois Indian brought into the town of Ottigaumies, who was bound to a tree while all the small boys in the village were permitted to amuse themselves by shooting arrows at the victim. As none of the boys were more than twelve years old, and they were placed at a considerable distance, their arrows did little more than pierce the skin; so that the prisoner stood for more than two days pierced with these arrows. During all this time he sung his warlike exploits, told how much injury he had inflicted on his enemies, and endeavored with his last gasp to incite his tormentors to greater efforts, in order that he might give still greater proofs of his fortitude.

Following the chapter on war comes one on their methods of making peace; then one on games, marriage, religion, and character. The last hundred pages of the volume treats "Of the Beasts, Birds, Fishes, Reptiles, and Insects, which are found in the interior parts of North America." Of the larger mammals a catalogue is given from which two or three descriptions may be taken.

"The Carrabou. This beast is not near so tall as the moose, however, it is something like it in shape, only rather more heavy, and inclining to the form of an ass. The horns of it are not flat as those of an elk are, but round like those of the deer; they also meet nearer together at the extremities, and bend more over the face than either those of the elk or moose. It partakes of the swiftness of the deer, and is with difficulty overtaken by its pursuers. The flesh of it likewise is equally as good, the tongue particularly is in high esteem. The skin being smooth and free from veins is as valuable as shamoy."

"The Carcajou. This creature, which is of the cat kind, is a terrible enemy to the preceding four species of beasts. He either comes upon them from some concealment unperceived, or climbs up into a tree, and taking his station on some of the branches, waits till one of them, driven by an extreme of heat or cold, takes shelter under it; when he fastens upon his neck, and opening the jugular vein, soon brings his prey to the ground. This he is enabled to do by his long tail, with which he encircles the body of his adversary; and the only means they have to shun their fate is by flying immediately to the water, by this method, as the carcajou has a great dislike to that element, he is sometimes got rid of before he can effect his purpose."

There is a very long description of the beaver, and its extraordinary intelligence.

The list of birds, too, is a long one; but that of the fishes is very short. To snakes, as might be imagined, much space is given; but to insects very little. Carver describes the lightning-bug, but adds: "Not-withstanding this effulgent appearance, these insects are perfectly harmless; you may permit them to crawl upon your hand, when five or six, if they freely exhibit their glow together, will enable you to read almost the finest print."

Trees, plants, and shrubs are all described, and among them the wild rice, of which Carver says: "In future periods it will be of great service to the infant colonies, as it will afford them a present support until in the course of cultivation other supplies may be produced; whereas in those realms which are not furnished with this bounteous gift of nature, even if the climate is temperate and the soil good, the first settlers are often exposed to great hardships from the want of an immediate resource for necessary food."

In his appendix, Carver sums up conclusions drawn from his extensive travels in, and wide knowledge of, the interior of the continent. He has faith in the discovery of a northwest passage, and believes that Hudson's Bay would be a safe retreat for the adventurous navigators who might try, at first unsuccessfully, a northwest passage. He even names a certain Richard Whitworth, gentleman, of England, who had proposed pursuing nearly the same route as Carver, and having built a fort at Lake Pepin, to have proceeded up the river St. Pierre, crossed over the river Messorie, till, having discovered the source of the Oregon, or River of the West, he would have sailed down that river to the place where it is said to empty itself near the Straits of Annian. Carver was to have accompanied this Mr. Whitworth on his explorations, and many of the preparations had been made for the trip, "when the present troubles in America began, which put a stop to an enterprise that promised to be of inconceivable advantage to the British dominions."

So the War of the Revolution put an end to Carver's Western explorations.