Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burly Ear Tale

"Some of the chiefs being desirous of seeing my North-west guns, I was obliged to open a case for their inspection; this I did unwillingly, as the weather was fine, and I was extremely anxious to get to the wintering ground before a heavy fall of snow: having shewn them the guns, they loaded four, and laid them down by the cases, intending to try them; during the time they were thus employed I was busy in arranging the goods that had been displaced in getting at them; but as soon as I was at leisure, I took up one of the guns in a careless manner, not knowing it was charged, and snapped the lock, which most unfortunately shot off the ear of one of the chiefs, and I also received some injury by the powder flying in my face, and almost depriving me of sight. The discharge was so instantaneous, and appeared so premeditated that the chief reproached me in very severe terms for the injury I had done him, and threatened revenge; however, I soon convinced him it was an accident, and giving him some presents, he consoled himself for the loss of his ear, which was very large and handsome, and without a single break, which made it very valuable in his estimation. It was fortunate I did not kill him, as in all probability we should have been sacrificed to the resentment of the band." (sic)

This incident occurred in the Lake Superior region at Crows Nest Lake among the Nipegon Indians. Long was a trader and was well travelled. He visited several different tribes including the Iroquois around the late 1760's and several of the native groups living near Lake Superior later in the century.

Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader. Pages 107-108.
J. Long
Printed 1791, London
Research contribution courtesy Mr. Scott Meachum

The illustration is of a piece of burl driftwood I found on Ruby Beach off the Northwest Coast. The earring is an original 18th c. Native American ball & cone earring....perhaps the same one lost by the chief?

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