AUCHAGAH (the name is written thus in La Vérendrye’s journal, but is sometimes spelled Ochagach or Ochakah, Ochagac), a Cree who frequented Fort Kaministiquia, fur trading establishment of Pierre Gaultier* de La Vérendrye; fl. 1729.
Questioned by La Vérendrye about means of reaching the fabled “Western Sea,” Auchagah sketched for him a map showing, among others, the Grand Portage–Nantoüagan (Pigeon River) route. He evidently held this to be superior to the Kaministiquia River route hitherto followed by the few European travellers who had ventured beyond Lake Superior.
Writing to Beauharnois* de La Boische, governor of New France, in 1729, La Vérendrye calls Auchagah “the man most capable of guiding a party and with whom there would be no fear of our being abandoned on the way.” Auchagah agreed to act as guide, though it is not known whether he did accompany La Vérendrye when he journeyed over the suggested route in 1732. The new route pleased the explorer and the Kaministiquia one was thereafter abandoned.
The route suggested by Auchagah thus became the great highway to the northwest. At its eastern end, long the fur traders’ rendezvous, there came into being Grand Portage, the imposing western headquarters of the North West Company. In 1783 the Pigeon River became a part of the international boundary, and the commerce of the Northwest reverted to the “all-Canadian” Kaministiquia route.
Copies of Auchagah’s map are in the PAC, Map Div., H2-902-1737; the Ayer Collection of the Newberry Library, Chicago; and the Kohl Collection of the Library of Congress.
[La Vérendrye], Journals and letters of La Vérendrye (Burpee), 52–53. Wis. State Hist. Soc. Coll., XVII, 102–3. J. P. Bertrand, Highway of destiny; an epic story of Canadian development (New York, 1959), 79. [Bertrand states that Auchagah guided La Vérendrye across the Lake of the Woods in 1732. This, however, seems doubtful k.r.m.] L. J. Burpee, Pathfinders of the great plains; a chronicle of La Vérendrye and his sons (Toronto, 1914), 15–17. N. M. Crouse, La Vérendrye, fur trader and explorer (Toronto and Ithaca, N.Y., 1956), 44–47.