The Nipigon Historical Museum Archives
The Fenwich "Papers"
The News-Chronicle, August 27, 1938 Page 4
The Lakehead Cities- Port Arthur, Fort William, Westfort - Scheiber, Nipigon
To the theory that the Norsemen were the first Europeans to reach the continent of America and that they came down from the north into the central areas of Canada by way of Hudson Bay, is added another , which is that White Indians of the west shore of James Bay are actually descendants of the original Norsemen.
The thought has been advanced by J.W. Curran in his paper, the Sault Ste. Marie Daily Star, and given publicity elsewhere, has received some credence. Mr. Curran bases his theory in part on the word "Mistogoche," described as the Cree word for White Men and which, by its use in the language, would indicate the coming at some time in history of the white Norsemen.
Mr. Curran argues that Cree Indians in conversation with Champlain referred to white men as "wooden boat men", and that the Cree word for white men, which had been in use for a long time, spread southward among many tribes. The Swampy Crees of Hudson's Bay had another word for white men which meant "he is blown on shore", suggesting that some of the earlier arrivals were wrecked. Mr. Curran also mentions a Norse inscription found on a stone in Minnesota and an iron sword, iron axe and a shield handle of Norse workmanship, believed to be eight or nine hundred years old, reported to have been found in a gravel bed of a mining claim near Beardmore. This has been the subject of considerable controversy in Port Arthur where statements have been made throwing doubts on the bona fides of the discovery.
Mr. Curran quotes a Cree Indian as saying that there is a tribe of white-skinned Indians with fair hair and gray eyes living on the west shores of James Bay, north of the Albany River, and speaking Cree but no English.
Interesting as is the Soo editor's theory it does not receive support from a Port Arthur man who has made a study of the James Bay Indians and who has had the advantage of residence among them for a period of several years. That man is George Finlay, a public accountant, native of Scotland who for six and one half years subsequent to 1920 served the Hudson's Bay Company in the James Bay area.
Mr. Finlay covered the entire west shore territory of James Bay and claims to have known practically every man, woman and child in that area. He tells the News-Chronicle that he never saw or heard of a "White Indian." Mixed blood was apparent in a number of the families but Mr. Finlay, studying the matter of origin for his own satisfaction, came to the conclusion that all this could be attributed to the coming of Hudson Bay men or to the modern day traders. At Moose Factory he had access to old marriage certificates which showed the union of Hudson Bay employees with native women and this, Mr. Finlay believes, along with the further circumstances of traders coming into the territory, explains the appearance of a lighter colour in some of the population. He states he never saw any evidence of any kind, relics or anything else, to indicate the presence in pre-1492 history of Norsemen or other white men. Moreover, Mr. Finlay says the word "Mistogoche" is the Ojibway word for White Men and that the Cree word is "Wi - mistogoche."
In confirmation of his theory regarding the influence of white men on the Indain population, Mr. Finlay points out that previous to coming to this continent he spent three summers in the Orkney Islands, to the north of Great Britain. Residents of these islands were favoured by the Hudson Bay Company as employees and it was the custom to take them on at Stromness, the last port of call for ships trading into Hudson Bay for the Gentlemen Adventurers. Geographical location and the roving habits of the Norsemen suggest that there may have been an early Norse influence on the Orkneys.