CRUSOE, ROBINSON, Oupeshepow (Cree) hunter from Great Whale River; d. 9 Dec. 1755 at Richmond Fort.
Robinson Crusoe and his son Friday came to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s newly founded fort on Richmond Gulf (Lac Guillaume-Delisle, Que.) in 1750. For the next five years Crusoe was of inestimable assistance to the factor, John Potts. Crusoe carried the annual packet to Eastmain House in 1751. The next year he was sent to Great Whale River with a captain’s coat and hat for Shewescome, a chief there, to invite him to bring his band to hunt whales at Little Whale River. Shewescome and his men came, accepted presents of brandy and tobacco, but did no hunting. Crusoe was a particularly effective killer of whales, and the Smith at Richmond Fort made whaling instruments under his directions.
Crusoe’s conduct of his domestic affairs brought him a brush with death in 1753. Several years before, he had taken his son-in-law’s mother to wife. Then in 1753, when she was about 80, he turned her out and took another wife. Although other Indians supported his action, saying the woman and her relatives had given him much ill-usage, his son-in-law attacked him, inflicting six cuts on his head with a hatchet. Potts sent a sledge to bring him to the factory, as the death of “the best hunter, whale fisher, snowshoe maker, and best supplier of country provisions” would have been a serious blow to the settlement.
Crusoe recovered, and when in 1754 the Eskimos sacked the outpost at Little Whale River and carried off Matthew Warden, he supplied venison to the uneasy defenders of Richmond, who were afraid to leave their fort for fear of an Eskimo attack. When the two Eskimos whom Potts had captured as hostages for Warden were killed in trying to escape, Crusoe advised against hanging the bodies on a gibbet, English style, as doing so would be an invitation for the Eskimos to kill Warden if he were still alive. In March 1755 Potts sent Crusoe to Eastmain with letters for the forts at Albany (Fort Albany, Ont.) and Moose (Moose Factory, Ont.) describing the troubles at Richmond.
Crusoe was brought to the factory lame and ill in November, and he took a fever and died on 9 December. Henry Pollexfen Jr, who was in charge during Potts’ absence, recorded: “This morning died Robinson Crusoe, an honest worthy Indian; a man that has been the greatest help if not the only one of real Service to the Factory, and on whome the Whale fishing chiefly depended which makes his death regreted by the Europeans here as well as by his own Countrymen.”