LONG, JOHN, fur-trader; b. London, England; fl. 1768–91.
All that is known of John Long is contained in his Voyages and travels of an Indian interpreter and trader. According to this account he arrived in Montreal in 1768 as an articled clerk and spent the next seven years in the vicinity learning the Indian trade under the direction of a merchant. He grew particularly familiar with the Mohawks of Caughnawaga, in whose language he became fluent. During the early years of the American revolution he accompanied Indian parties on scouting expeditions and in several actions against the invaders in the Montreal area.
Having learned Ojibwa, the lingua franca of the fur trade, Long was employed in 1777 by an unnamed merchant to lead a trading party into the region north of Lake Superior. At Pays Plat (near the mouth of the Nipigon River, Ont.) he was adopted by the Ojibwa chief Madjeckewiss*. Although the ceremony was painful, adoption was believed by traders to be worthwhile for the business advantages it brought. Long and his men then went inland to Dead Lake (east of Lake Nipigon) and wintered there, doing a considerable trade. In the summer they returned to Pays Plat where their employer’s agents picked up their furs and gave them a fresh supply of goods and provisions. The traders returned inland to Weed Lake (possibly Nighthawk Lake) for the winter of 1778–79. In the spring Long left the severe hardships of the interior for the more comfortable life of Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.).
Disturbances connected with the American revolution were affecting the fur trade in the southern hinterland of Michilimackinac. In June 1780 word reached the post that the traders in that region had left their winter’s furs at Prairie du Chien (Wis.) under the care of the interpreter Charles-Michel Mouet de Langlade rather than risk bringing them in. Long, with 36 Foxes and Sioux under Wahpasha* and 20 Canadians, went to the Mississippi to fetch the furs.
Long’s next trading venture took him up the Saguenay River (Que.) in the autumn of 1780. He wintered at Chicoutimi and in the spring went west to Lake Shaboomoochoine (possibly Matagami Lake, Que.). In August 1781 he returned to Quebec. Seeing no further prospects for himself in Canada, he left for England in 1783. He contracted with a relative there to supply him with goods and by 1784 was in Canada again. His fortunes declined, however, and he was almost continually out of work and in debt for the next three years. He spent time in New York and in the new loyalist settlements on the Bay of Quinte (Ont.) but was unable to manage a trip to the fur-trading country. When he received money in 1787 from a friend, he decided to go back to England while he could, and he left Canada in October.
His book was published in London in 1791. It was, he claimed, “not the pages of a professed Tourist, but such observations as a commercial man flatters himself may be found acceptable to the merchant and the philosopher.” It is significant for its detailed and relatively unbiased descriptions of Indian life. He deplored the behaviour of the Indians when they were intoxicated, but he recognized that many of the problems they were experiencing were directly attributable to the influence and example of whites. (He himself had pushed the priest of Tadoussac (Que.) into the St Lawrence during a drunken quarrel.) Of considerable importance also are his lengthy vocabularies of Inuit, Mohawk, Algonkin, Mohegan, Shawnee, and Ojibwa terms.
John Long’s Voyages and travels of an Indian interpreter and trader, describing the manners and customs of the North American Indians; with an account of the posts situated on the River Saint Laurence, Lake Ontario, &c. to which is added a vocabulary of the Chippeway language, names of fuss and skins in English and French, a list of words in the Iroquois, Mohegan, Shawanee, and Esquimeaux tongues, and a table shewing the analogy between the Algonkin and Chippeway languages (London, 1791) was translated into German in 1791 and into French in 1794. An edition by R. G. Thwaites appeared as volume II of Early western travels, 1748–1846 . . . (32v., Cleveland, Ohio, 1904–7); one by M. M. Quaife was published in Chicago in 1922. The original edition was reprinted in New York, 1968, and Toronto, 1971.