Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Disputes Claim of White Indians at James Bay

The Nipigon Historical Museum Archives
The Fenwick "papers"

The News-Chronicle, September 13, 1938
The Lakehead Cities - Port Arthur, Fort William, Westfort - Schreiber, Nipigon

George Finlay of Port Arthur has sent the following letter on the subject of white Indians to the editor of the Sault Daily Star:

Dear Sir - I am attaching two cuttings from the News-Chronicle issue of September 9, relative to 'White Indians" of James Bay.
Taking first the article "White Indians" of James Bay," wherein you state "all doubts of their existence is set to rest," I definitely challenge this statement and contend that all evidence points to the contrary.
1. "These white Indians are pretty well bunched on the shores of James Bay at and north of the Albany River." This would mean that their dwelling places would be at Albany, Kapisko, Attawapiskat, and Opinaga or Negatosaki. I certainly saw no white Indians during my stay at these posts.
2. all deal with Finlay's interpretation of characteristics

8. Turning to the editorial. If, as the News-Chronicle states, "He attaches principal importance to the fact that the Crees had a word for white man, "Mistigoche,' which could have been used only on account of their coming," I feel that your theory fails at this point. The word "Mistikoose" or "Mistigoche" means a boat, the first syllable "mistik" meaning wood, tree, log, timber or stick. However, we find that the word for boat used on the west coast of James Bay is "Cheman".
"Chemanis" being a small boat or canoe. The translation of white man into Cree would be "Wapiskusuki," literally white skin. Now at Moose Factory and up the coast we find the word used to indicate "white man" is "Wamistikosew," this literally meaning Frenchman. Incidentally, and American is "Kitckemookoman", literally Big Knife, no doubt a reference to the Bowie knives so freely used some time ago by American frontiersmen. It should be remembered that Radisson and Grossilliers had been in this country, that is at the site of Moose Factory, before the lack of interest by the French King in their discoveries led them to England and the formation of The Hudson's Bay Company. These explorers were French and the word used now to indicate white man has a direct reference to the men and their companions, who took the overland route, that is down the Abitibi and Moose Rivers.

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