Native American Copper Mining
The idea that Europeans settlers could find copper deposits around Lake Superior came from the earliest contacts explorers had with the native peoples. They found tribes from the St. Lawrence River to the Gulf of Mexico using copper implements and ornaments. They also learned that much of this copper had come from the Lake Superior region.
George A. West, in Copper: Its Mining and Use by the Aborigines of the Lake Superior Region, describes how the Indians mined the green metal. First they searched rock outcroppings for green streaks that indicated the presence of malachite which is often found in association with other copper-bearing minerals. They then built a large fire over the rock, and, after getting it very hot, threw water on the rock causing it to fracture. Next, the Indians used stone mauls to break away the cracked pieces of rock. The stone these mauls were made of was very brittle, and so they didn’t last long before the workers had to find another one. As a consequence, Indians littered the areas around their copper pits with the splintered remains of hundreds of thousands of mauls. In the process of mining copper, these early miners excavated trenches 5-15 feet wide, 6-10 feet deep, and up to 20 feet long. In some cases, the Indians used their canoe paddles as shovels.
After separating the copper from the fractured bits of rock, a toolmaker in the tribe worked the metal into one of many items. To strengthen the copper so it could be given a thin edge, the Indians annealed the metal, repeatedly heating the piece being worked on and then dipping it in water. In this way, Indians were able to fashion spear and arrow-points, knives, axes, wedges, piercing implements, fishing implements, and ornaments such as beads, bracelets, rings, and pendants.
The passage thither and home is neither to long nor to Best countries to visit in julyshort but easy and to be made twice in the year. 5. And where England now Best countries to visit in julyfor certain hundreth years last passed, by the peculiar commodity of wools, and of later years by clothing of the same, hath raised itself from meaner state to greatr wealth and much highr honour, mighty and power than before, to the equaling of the princes of the same to the greatst potentates of this part of the world it cometh now so to passe, that by the great endeavour of the increase of the trade of wools in Spain and in the West Indies, now daily more and more multiplying that the wools of England, and the clothe made of the same, will become base, and every day more base then other; which, prudently weighed yet behoveth this realm if it mean not to return to former olde means and baseness but to stand in present and late former honour, glory, and force, and not negligently and sleepingly to slide into beggery, to foresee and to plant at Norumbega [New England] or some like place, were it not for any thing else but for the hope of the vent of our wool endraped, the principal and in effect the only enriching continuing natural commodity of this realm.
And effectually pursuing that course, we shall not only find on that tract of land, and especially in that firm northward (to whom warm clothe shall be right welcome), an ample vent, but also shall, from the north side of that firm, find out known and unknown islands and dominions replenished with people that may fully vent the abundance of that our commodity, that else will in few years wax of none or of small value by foreign abundance &c.; so as by this enterprise we shall shun the imminent mischief hanging over our heads that else must needs fall upon the realm without breach of peace or sword drawn against this realm by any foreign state; and not offer our ancient riches to scornful neighbors at home, nor sell the same in effect for nothing, as we shall shortly, if presently it be not provided.
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