Samuel Hearne's Track: Some Obscurities Clarified

  • W.A. Fuller
Keywords: Clowey Lake, Lac de Gras, Lynx Lake, Matonabbee, No Name Lake, Point Lake, Thelewey-aza-yeth, Thoy-kye-lyned Lake, Thoy-noy-kyed Lake


In 1770-72, Samuel Hearne walked from the present-day Churchill, Manitoba, to the lower Coppermine River and back in the company of a band of northern Indians (Chipewyans) and their leader, Matonabbee. Hearne's map is sketchy, to say the least; nevertheless, J.B. Tyrrell (1911) identified the main features along his route from Churchill to Wholdaia Lake. The key to the rest of the journey is identification of Lake Thelewey-aza-yeth, which is the next lake that Hearne mentioned by name and the point at which his homeward track crossed his outbound track. My conclusion that Thelewey-aza-yeth is named Spearfish Lake on modern maps leads to identification of Clowey Lake (McArthur), Peshew or Catt Lake (Lynx), Thoy-noy-kyed Lake (Ptarmigan), Thoy-kye(coy)-lyned Lake (Aylmer), Cogead Lake (Contwoyto), Buffalo or Muskox Lake (Takijuaq), and Thaye chuk gyed (Lac de Gras). There are two candidates for Hearne's Point Lake. One is MacKay Lake, in which case Camsell Lake would be Hearne's No Name Lake. The alternative is Courageous Lake, in which case Warburton Bay on MacKay Lake is No Name Lake. It is certain that Hearne's Point Lake is not either Franklin's Point Lake or the modern Point Lake. Evidence shows that the route followed was well known to the Chipewyan Indians (and probably to other Dene). Segments of the journey scarcely depart from the most direct route (a straight line on a map), even though at least two segments are well over 100 miles (160 km) in length.