01-028: Mackenzie’s Description of the Beaver Indians
From Alexander Mackenzie’s Journal (1792-93)Note: this is not a very complimentary description of the Indians Mackenzie referred to as the Beaver, but it does represent the earliest written account of them.
The men are in general of a comely appearance, and fond of personal decoration. The women are of contrary disposition and the slaves of the men: in common with all the Indian tribes, polygamy is allowed among them. They are very subject to jealousy, and fatal consequences frequently result from the indulgence of that passion. But not withstanding the vigilance and severity which is exercised by the husband, it seldom happens that a woman is without her favourite, who, in the absence of the husband, exacts the same submission, and practices the same tyranny. And so premature is the tender passion, that it is sometimes known to invigorate so early a period of life as the age of eleven or twelve years. The women are not very prolific; a circumstance which may be attributed, in a great measure, to the hardships that they suffer, for except a few small dogs, they alone perform that labour which is allotted to beasts of burden in other countries. It is not uncommon, while the men carry nothing but a gun, that their wives and daughters follow with such weighty burdens, that if they lay them down they cannot replace them, and that is a kindness which the men will not deign to perform; so that during their journeys they are frequently obliged to lean against a tree for a small portion of temporary relief.