The members of the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) were very talented and ready for hard work. Even so, they could not have travelled into the remote parts of the country and accomplished what they did without the help of their Native guides.
Native guides showed the surveyors hunting trails and portage routes. Besides acting as guides, they built and paddled canoes, and hunted, gathered and cooked food. They also acted as porters, helping to carry supplies, equipment and specimens.
Close contact with First Nations peoples led to an interest in their cultures and customs. Geologists collected information on the Aboriginal peoples they met from the Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast, the High Arctic and everywhere in between. George Dawson, for example, collected very detailed and important information on the Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, in 1878.
Robert Bell learned the Ojibway language during his travels in northern Ontario. He filled pages of a notebook with long lists of Native names of trees, animals, fish and birds in the Temagami area. He also recorded a Cree legend from the Eastmain River in Quebec, on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. Bell was also very interested in the Inuit cultures of the eastern Arctic during his expeditions there in 1884 and 1885.