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CHAPTER rieo

EARLIEST INHABITANTS

FUR TRADE SURVEY

In searching for information concerning early life on our conti­ nent, some interesting facts have been unearthed during recent times. One in particular is the evidence that the horse, closely associated with the progress of man, came into being on our conti­ r.ent some 5,000,000 years ago, later migrating to Asia, presumably by way of Alaska. Also is the fact that the buffalo came to this continent some 400,000 years ago from Asia and we can account for seven different specie, one being a very large animal, weighing 23 to 251 hundred pounds, with horns that measured six feet from

tip to tip. I

During the last glacial era, the horses that had remained on our continent perished. The continent was then without horses until the 14th century, when more were brought from Spain by the explorers. The first horses in our area were those ridden by the Assiniboines around 1685. As the ice fields receded, the buffalo along with other animals and birds moved inland, the former dominating our plains until the late 70's. It was conservatively estimated by one of our noted naturalists, Thomas Seton, that at one time the great plains herds exceeded some 70,000,000, but by the early 80's the specie on the plains had been reduced to seven calves. However, a small herd of the bushland specie still existed in the timber area of the North. The slaughter of buffalo was supported by the army in the United States in order to starve the Indians into submission, and in our country, gun-crazy hunters were responsible for the destruction of our own great herds.

Evidence from early camp sites, now known to exist on the Northern slopes of the Turtle Mountains, will undoubtedly help to establish when man first inhabited our area. Stone hoes and pestles have been found near Cherry Creek, South and West of Boissevain, to prove that agriculture had been practised in this district by a people prior to the advent of the Assiniboine Indian, who emigrated from the Lake of the Woods region in the late 1500's. The Assini­ boine was not an agriculturalist, but lived well or meagre according to the fortunes of the chase, as records of the early fur companies confirm. Fur traders made many attempts to encourage these people to hunt furs in the Turtle Mountain area but met with little success.

In 1809, Alexander Henry states in his diary, between 8 and 10 thousand Assiniboines lived in the Turtle Mountain and surround-

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