Tales from Temagami - Land of Deep Water

Temagami oral history relating to the Iroquois

Michael Paul and Thor Conway Iroquois battles

Temagami River Fight

Michael Paul tells a story about a fight with some Iroquois on the Temagami River. The location is one of about three possible places in the area below S narrows. The Temagami river drains Lake Temagami and leads to the Sturgeon River and ultimately to Lake Nipissing.

A party of Iroquois were paddling (in or from the Sturgeon river?), and the Temagami set an ambush using a lynx skin as a decoy. They made the lynx skin float and had a rope tied to it. When the Iroquois canoes came into sight, the local Indians pulled the skin so the Iroquois thought it was swimming. They then turned into that portion of the river trying to kill the animal. The local Indians used this specific spot for once the Iroquois entered it, the current would pull them along a known way in the river which they had to follow. They wouldn't be able to paddle out of the current for awhile, because of its swiftness.

I believe that Michael Paul said there were three canoes of Iroquois involved in this raid. He did state that all but one Iroquois were killed. The survivor fled on foot.

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Lake Temagami Chase and Battle

This story was told by Bill Twain, former Chief of the Temagami who lives on Bear island. Bill Twain learned this story when he was a young man from older Temagami Indian people that he worked with at ... They would pass the site of the fight on their way to work, and the old people would recall the battle and the locations of the Indians.

The fight was the result of an accidental encounter between a canoe of local Indians and a large Nadoway (Iroquois) raiding party.
mist on lake Temagami

The Nadoways were camped at Matawapika which is located near the junction of the Lady Evelyn and Montreal Rivers. It was very early in the morning when they spotted a canoe with Temagami people heading up the Lady Evelyn River. The mists were thick on the water.

Three canoes of Nadoways left the main group to chase the Temagami canoe. Continuing with the story, Bill Twain told how the pursuit lasted all day, goin up the lady Evelyn River, across Lady Evelyn Lake and Diamond Lake into Lake Temagami. This trip covers a distance of fourty miles, and it would be a hard paddle to make in one day.
diamond lake pictograph of a canoe

While on lake Temagami, the fleeing Indians encountered other Temagamis who then alerted the village and set an ambush. The chased canoe lead the Nadoways down the main channel of the lake, so that by nightfall the Nadoways would have to camp near the south side of ..., gathered to hide in quickly dug pits located across from a small island where the Iroquois camped.

The Iroquois had likely followed the original Temagami canoe to locate the village where they could steal furs. The low island just offshore from ... is a short way from the Temagami village. the Nadoways may have smelled smoke from the cooking fires. They decided to camp nearby in order to launch a surpirse raid at dawn not knowing that the enemy awoke near dawn, they noticed the trickery and began to swim to shore. Suddenly, Temagami men appeared from the forest and canoed into the channel to kill the hated Nadoways who were swimming. All of the raiders were destroyed in this fight.

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Rabbit Lake Fight

scan of Original This event is still remembered in 1983 at Bear island. I heard the same oral history from Chief Gary Potts and many other members of the Temagami band.

Long before the oldest living Temagami people were born, there was a battle with Nadoways (Iroquois) on Rabbit lake. During the time when the Nadoways were making raids into the Temagami homeland to steal furs, a group of Nadoways was spotted on Rabbit lake, this is a part of the Matabitchuan River system that is now flooded.

the Matabitchuan River is the common access route to Temagami country from the East, It leads from lake Temiskaming to a series of lakes, including Rabbit Lake, that enable a traveller to reach the northeast arm of Lake Temagami.

The enemy had camped for the night on an island. The Temagami swam out after many hours of darkness and slit the bottoms of the Nadoways canoes. At dawn, the Temagami attacked the Nadoways who tried to flee quickly in their canoes. As they paddled out into the water, the slit canoes sank, and the local Indians clubbed the hated enemy to death in the river.

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Stinking Islands Battle

An Iroquois raid took place on the small island just north of Garden island in Lake Temagami. This place and the next island are called the Stinking islands due to the bodies that were left to rot after the battle between the Temagami and the Nadoway.

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There is an early historic Temagami campsite on the south Stinking island at which numerous artifacts have been uncovered by a cottage owner. It is likely that a Temagami camp was attacked by the Nadoway.

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Iroquois battles and lookout pits

scan of Original scan of Original
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Island Lookout Pits

Alex Misabi told to look out of the window of his house on Bear island to ... Island or KAP-KOG-GINUNG-GIDAY. Alex told me that there are several pits along the top of .. island that were dug by the Temagami to watch for Iroquois raiding parties.

Later this week, in August 1982, I searched the top of ... Island which appears to be a remnant of an esker. I located three man-made pits along the crest of the steep ridge on the island. A foot path runs along the length of the ridge, Two of the pits are small, about five to eight feet in diameter, Near the centre of the island, I found another wider, non-natural depression ... Michael Paul stated that people are buried on top of ... Island.

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Temagami Island Indian Burial Ground

cemetary. The site rests on a high bluff at the edge of the island. This burial ground is associated with a historic Indian village a short distance away known as the Wabi-Kon archeological site. One of the early Hudson Bay Company outposts for Lake Temagami lies just west of this burial ground in a shallow cove.

There are two very deep and wide, man-made pits located at the Temagami Island ... site. Neither of these pits, which closely resemble the largest pits at Wabun Pits site, are associated with the 19th and 20th century burials.
After interviewing several older Temagami band members, the only reference to these pits that I found was in connection with lookouts for the Nadoway raids. Further research may uncover a pattern of such lookout pits near each of the early historic Temagami settlements in their homeland.

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Wabun Pits Site

scan of Original At least nine pits occur ,,, The pits vary in size from approximately nine feet in diameter to four feet in diameter. Some are over four feet deep. The larger pits lie at the highest portion of the hill, while a cluster of smaller pits can be seen halfway down beside the footpath. Mature forest covers these features.

The pits on Garden island are located at the best vantage point for a lookout. Their actual function will be difficult to determine prior to excavation.

the End
battles in memory