Shaggycoat by Clarence Hawkes
A FOURFOOTED AMERICAN
Just how long the red man, in company with his wild brothers, the deer, the bear, the wolf, the buffalo, and the beaver had inhabited the continent of North America, before the white man came, is a problem for speculation; but judging from all signs it was a very long time. The Mound Builders of Ohio and the temple builders of Mexico speak to us out of a dim prehistoric past, but the song and story of the red man and many a quaint Indian tradition tell us how he lived, and something of his life and religion.
If we look carefully into these quaint tales and folk-lore of the red man, we shall find that he lived upon very intimate relations with all his wild brothers and while he hunted them for meat and used their skins for garments and their hides for bowstrings, yet he knew and understood them and treated them with a reverence that his white brother has never been able to feel.
Before the red man bent the bow he sought pardon from the deer or bear for the act that he was about to commit. Often when he had slain the wild creature, he made offerings to its departed spirit, and also wore its likeness tattooed upon his skin as a totem. Thus we see that these denizens of the wilderness were creatures of importance, playing their part in the life of the red man, even before the white man came to these shores. But that they should have continued to play a prominent part after the advent of the white man is still more vital to us.
It was principally for beaver skins that the Hudson Bay Company unfurled its ensign over the wilds of Labrador and upon the bleak shores of Hudson Bay, during the seventeenth century. H. B. C. was the monogram upon their flag. Their coat of arms had a beaver in each quarter of the shield, and their motto was Pro Pelle Cutem, meaning skin for skin. An official of the company once interpreted the H. B. C. as "here before Christ," saying that the company was ahead of the missionaries with its emblem of civilization.
For more than two hundred and twenty-five years this company has held sway over a country larger than all the kingdoms of Europe, counting out Russia. For the first one hundred years it was the only government and held power of life and death over all living in its jurisdiction.