Chilcat and dried salmon


On October 30 we visited a camp of Hoonas at the mouth of a

salmon-chuck. We had seen some of them before, and they received us

kindly. Here we learned that peace reigned in Chilcat. The reports that

we had previously heard were, as usual in such cases, wildly

exaggerated. The little camp hut of these Indians was crowded with the

food-supplies they had gathered—chiefly salmon, dried and tied in

bunches of convenient size for handling and transporting to their

villages, bags of salmon-roe, boxes of fish-oil, a lot of mountain-goat

mutton, and a few porcupines. They presented us with some dried salmon

and potatoes, for which we gave them tobacco and rice. About 3 P.M. we

reached their village, and in the best house, that of a chief, we found

the family busily engaged in making whiskey. The still and mash were

speedily removed and hidden away with apparent shame as soon as we came

in sight. When we entered and passed the regular greetings, the usual

apologies as to being unable to furnish Boston food for us and

inquiries whether we could eat Indian food were gravely made. Toward

six or seven o’clock Mr. Young explained the object of his visit and

held a short service. The chief replied with grave deliberation, saying

that he would be heartily glad to have a teacher sent to his poor

ignorant people, upon whom he now hoped the light of a better day was

beginning to break. Hereafter he would gladly do whatever the white

teachers told him to do and would have no will of his own. This under

the whiskey circumstances seemed too good to be quite true. He thanked

us over and over again for coming so far to see him, and complained

that Port Simpson Indians, sent out on a missionary tour by Mr. Crosby,

after making a good-luck board for him and nailing it over his door,

now wanted to take it away. Mr. Young promised to make him a new one,

should this threat be executed, and remarked that since he had offered

to do his bidding he hoped he would make no more whiskey. To this the

chief replied with fresh complaints concerning the threatened loss of

his precious board, saying that he thought the Port Simpson Indians

were very mean in seeking to take it away, but that now he would tell

them to take it as soon as they liked for he was going to get a better

one at Wrangell. But no effort of the missionary could bring him to

notice or discuss the whiskey business. The luck board nailed over the

door was about two feet long and had the following inscription: “The

Lord will bless those who do his will. When you rise in the morning,

and when you retire at night, give him thanks. Heccla Hockla Popla.”

This chief promised to pray like a white man every morning, and to bury

the dead as the whites do. “I often wondered,” he said, “where the dead

went to. Now I am glad to know”; and at last acknowledged the whiskey,

saying he was sorry to have been caught making the bad stuff. The

behavior of all, even the little ones circled around the fire, was very

good. There was no laughter when the strange singing commenced. They

only gazed like curious, intelligent animals. A little daughter of the

chief with the glow of the firelight on her eyes made an interesting

picture, head held aslant. Another in the group, with upturned eyes,

seeming to half understand the strange words about God, might have

passed for one of Raphael’s angels.

The chief’s house was about forty feet square, of the ordinary fort

kind, but better built and cleaner than usual. The side-room doors were

neatly paneled, though all the lumber had been nibbled into shape with

a small narrow Indian adze. We had our tent pitched on a grassy spot

near the beach, being afraid of wee beasties; which greatly offended

Kadachan and old Toyatte, who said, “If this is the way you are to do

up at Chilcat, we will be ashamed of you.” We promised them to eat

Indian food and in every way behave like good Chilcats.

We set out direct for Chilcat in the morning against a brisk head wind.

By keeping close inshore and working hard, we made about ten miles by

two or three o’clock, when, the tide having turned against us, we could

make scarce any headway, and therefore landed in a sheltered cove a few

miles up the west side of Lynn Canal. Here I discovered a fine growth

of yellow cedar, but none of the trees were very large, the tallest

only seventy-five to one hundred feet high. The flat, drooping,

plume-like branchlets hang edgewise, giving the trees a thin, open,

airy look. Nearly every tree that I saw in a long walk was more or less

marked by the knives and axes of the Indians, who use the bark for

matting, for covering house-roofs, and making temporary portable huts.

For this last purpose sections five or six feet long and two or three

wide are pressed flat and secured from warping or splitting by binding

them with thin strips of wood at the end. These they carry about with

them in their canoes, and in a few minutes they can be put together

against slim poles and made into a rainproof hut. Every paddle that I

have seen along the coast is made of the light, tough, handsome yellow

wood of this tree. It is a tree of moderately rapid growth and usually

chooses ground that is rather boggy and mossy. Whether its network of

roots makes the bog or not, I am unable as yet to say.

Three glaciers on the opposite side of the canal were in sight,

descending nearly to sea-level, and many smaller ones that melt a

little below timber-line. While I was sketching these, a canoe hove in

sight, coming on at a flying rate of speed before the wind. The owners,

eager for news, paid us a visit. They proved to be Hoonas, a man, his

wife, and four children, on their way home from Chilcat. The man was

sitting in the stern steering and holding a sleeping child in his arms.

Another lay asleep at his feet. He told us that Sitka Jack had gone up

to the main Chilcat village the day before he left, intending to hold a

grand feast and potlatch, and that whiskey up there was flowing like

water. The news was rather depressing to Mr. Young and myself, for we

feared the effect of the poison on Toyatte’s old enemies. At 8.30 P.M.

we set out again on the turn of the tide, though the crew did not

relish this night work. Naturally enough, they liked to stay in camp

when wind and tide were against us, but didn’t care to make up lost

time after dark however wooingly wind and tide might flow and blow.

Kadachan, John, and Charley rowed, and Toyatte steered and paddled,

assisted now and then by me. The wind moderated and almost died away,

so that we made about fifteen miles in six hours, when the tide turned

and snow began to fall. We ran into a bay nearly opposite Berner’s Bay,

where three or four families of Chilcats were camped who shouted when

they heard us landing and demanded our names. Our men ran to the huts

for news before making camp. The Indians proved to be hunters, who said

there were plenty of wild sheep on the mountains back a few miles from

the head of the bay. This interview was held at three o’clock in the

morning, a rather early hour. But Indians never resent any such

disturbance provided there is anything worth while to be said or done.

By four o’clock we had our tents set, a fire made and some coffee,

while the snow was falling fast. Toyatte was out of humor with this

night business. He wanted to land an hour or two before we did, and

then, when the snow began to fall and we all wanted to find a

camping-ground as soon as possible, he steered out into the middle of

the canal, saying grimly that the tide was good. He turned, however, at

our orders, but read us a lecture at the first opportunity, telling us

to start early if we were in a hurry, but not to travel in the night

like thieves.

After a few hours’ sleep, we set off again, with the wind still against

us and the sea rough. We were all tired after making only about twelve

miles, and camped in a rocky nook where we found a family of Hoonas in

their bark hut beside their canoe. They presented us with potatoes and

salmon and a big bucketful of berries, salmon-roe, and grease of some

sort, probably fish-oil, which the crew consumed with wonderful relish.

A fine breeze was blowing next morning from the south, which would take

us to Chilcat in a few hours, but unluckily the day was Sunday and the

good wind was refused. Sunday, it seemed to me, could be kept as well

by sitting in the canoe and letting the Lord’s wind waft us quietly on

our way. The day was rainy and the clouds hung low. The trees here are

remarkably well developed, tall and straight. I observed three or four

hemlocks which had been struck by lightning,—the first I noticed in

Alaska. Some of the species on windy outjutting rocks become very

picturesque, almost as much so as old oaks, the foliage becoming dense

and the branchlets tufted in heavy plume-shaped horizontal masses.

Monday was a fine clear day, but the wind was dead ahead, making hard,

dull work with paddles and oars. We passed a long stretch of beautiful

marble cliffs enlivened with small merry waterfalls, and toward noon

came in sight of the front of the famous Chilcat or Davidson Glacier, a

broad white flood reaching out two or three miles into the canal with

wonderful effect. I wanted to camp beside it but the head wind tired us

out before we got within six or eight miles of it. We camped on the

west side of a small rocky island in a narrow cove. When I was looking

among the rocks and bushes for a smooth spot for a bed, I found a human

skeleton. My Indians seemed not in the least shocked or surprised,

explaining that it was only the remains of a Chilcat slave. Indians

never bury or burn the bodies of slaves, but just cast them away

anywhere. Kind Nature was covering the poor bones with moss and leaves,

and I helped in the pitiful work.

legal consultations and travel advisor in the States and within UK

Media solutions , Media company , online classes , learn german , learn english , perfect language , blood cord , rehab , rehabiliations , rehabilitation center , magazitta

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post

Contact Form