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Tracking up the Athabasca River, Alberta, 1899.
Tracking up the Athabasca River, Alberta, 1899.

It is at this point we join the Fur-Brigade of the Hudson's Bay Company making its annual transport to the posts of the Far North, taking in supplies for trading material and bringing back the peltries obtained in barter during the previous winter. The big open scows, or "sturgeon-heads," which are to form our convoy have been built, the freight is all at The Landing, but for three days the half-breed boatmen drag along the process of loading, and we get our introduction to the word which is the keynote of the Cree character, "Kee-am," feebly translated, "Never mind," "Don't get excited," "There's plenty of time," "It's all right," "It will all come out in the wash."

When the present Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company entered office he determined to reduce chaos to a methodical exactness, and framed a time-table covering every movement in the northward traffic. When it was shown by the local representative to the Cree boatmen at The Landing, old Duncan Tremble´, a river-dog on the Athabasca for forty years, looked admiringly at the printed slip and said, "Aye, aye; the Commissioner he makes laws, but the river he boss." It is only when the ice is out and current serves that the brigade moves forward. (This anecdote from Agnes Deans Cameron, The New North, catches the phlegmatic resistance to modernity by the Athabasca Brigade, quoted in Athabasca Historical Society 1986, 109)

Tracking on the Athabasca River
Tracking on the Athabasca River
The difficulties of tracking on the Athabasca River
Tracking up the rapids, Athabasca River.
Tracking HBC boats on the Athabasca River
Tracking up the Athabasca River, Alberta, 1899.

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