Sleeping Island: The Story of One Man’s Travels in the Great Barren Lands of the Canadian North.

A delightful book of Chipawyan and Cree folklore by a regular American summer visitor in the 1930s and early 40s, a Harvard man (AB ’33) and high school teacher at Belmont Hill School. He loved exploring the Barren Lands during his summer breaks between 1937 and 1947. Shows signs of his fairly wide reading on the history of the region, but none of his own reading on this particular voyage. Since he never overwintered his opportunities for reading were limited.

p. 85-6, on his missionary friend Father Egernolf. About the Chipewyans Egernolf had this to say: Like the birds and the animals, their God-given sphere is limited to what they know. Let me give you an example. During the summer here I have a catechism class of the children every day. Every day through the summer I go over the same thing, the identical questions and answers. Do you think they learn?

There was a little girl in my class. She looked very bright—most Indian children do. Every day I took special care of this little one. I went over the questions and answers with her alone. You know, there is a part of our catechism where the question is asked, ‘What is the most beautiful thing that God created?’ The answer is: ‘Man and all the angels.’ But do you think I could teach this simple thing, that this little mind could learn? Every time I asked: ‘What is the most beautiful thing that God created?’ She would look up at me and say: ‘Idthen!’ the caribou.

… It has been thirty-four years now. Sometimes when I feel weak, I say to myself, ‘Thirty-four years here and I have perhaps done nothing.’

p. 293, concerning the fur traders and hunters from many nationalities who separated themselves from the Canadians, or the “people outside”: Though they shunned the world in actuality, they did not in thought or fancy. Several were omnivorous readers. Many times during the night I would be awakened as one of my hosts lit a candle, seized a book, and read until nearly dawn. One of the brotherhood was a prolific and fecund poet. In discussions and arguments, particularly if enhanced by a case of beer or two, monologues and conversations soared to the most prolix and profound spirals of philosophic thought.