Continue To wrangell of Alaska in the house of Hoona


The following morning we crossed Prince Frederick Sound to the west

coast of Admiralty Island. Our frail shell of a canoe was tossed like a

bubble on the swells coming in from the ocean. Still, I suppose, the

danger was not so great as it seemed. In a good canoe, skillfully

handled, you may safely sail from Victoria to Chilcat, a thousand-mile

voyage frequently made by Indians in their trading operations before

the coming of the whites. Our Indians, however, dreaded this crossing

so late in the season. They spoke of it repeatedly before we reached it

as the one great danger of our voyage.

John said to me just as we left the shore, “You and Mr. Young will be

scared to death on this broad water.”

“Never mind us, John,” we merrily replied, “perhaps some of you brave

Indian sailors may be the first to show fear.”

Toyatte said he had not slept well a single night thinking of it, and

after we rounded Cape Gardner and entered the comparatively smooth

Chatham Strait, they all rejoiced, laughing and chatting like

frolicsome children.

We arrived at the first of the Hootsenoo villages on Admiralty Island

shortly after noon and were welcomed by everybody. Men, women, and

children made haste to the beach to meet us, the children staring as if

they had never before seen a Boston man. The chief, a remarkably

good-looking and intelligent fellow, stepped forward, shook hands with

us Boston fashion, and invited us to his house. Some of the curious

children crowded in after us and stood around the fire staring like

half-frightened wild animals. Two old women drove them out of the

house, making hideous gestures, but taking good care not to hurt them.

The merry throng poured through the round door, laughing and enjoying

the harsh gestures and threats of the women as all a joke, indicating

mild parental government in general. Indeed, in all my travels I never

saw a child, old or young, receive a blow or even a harsh word. When

our cook began to prepare luncheon our host said through his

interpreter that he was sorry we could not eat Indian food, as he was

anxious to entertain us. We thanked him, of course, and expressed our

sense of his kindness. His brother, in the mean time, brought a dozen

turnips, which he peeled and sliced and served in a clean dish. These

we ate raw as dessert, reminding me of turnip-field feasts when I was a

boy in Scotland. Then a box was brought from some corner and opened. It

seemed to be full of tallow or butter. A sharp stick was thrust into

it, and a lump of something five or six inches long, three or four

wide, and an inch thick was dug up, which proved to be a section of the

back fat of a deer, preserved in fish oil and seasoned with boiled

spruce and other spicy roots. After stripping off the lard-like oil, it

was cut into small pieces and passed round. It seemed white and

wholesome, but I was unable to taste it even for manner’s sake. This

disgust, however, was not noticed, as the rest of the company did full

justice to the precious tallow and smacked their lips over it as a

great delicacy. A lot of potatoes about the size of walnuts, boiled and

peeled and added to a potful of salmon, made a savory stew that all

seemed to relish. An old, cross-looking, wrinkled crone presided at the

steaming chowder-pot, and as she peeled the potatoes with her fingers

she, at short intervals, quickly thrust one of the best into the mouth

of a little wild-eyed girl that crouched beside her, a spark of natural

love which charmed her withered face and made all the big gloomy house

shine. In honor of our visit, our host put on a genuine white shirt.

His wife also dressed in her best and put a pair of dainty trousers on

her two-year-old boy, who seemed to be the pet and favorite of the

large family and indeed of the whole village. Toward evening messengers

were sent through the village to call everybody to a meeting. Mr. Young

delivered the usual missionary sermon and I also was called on to say

something. Then the chief arose and made an eloquent reply, thanking us

for our good words and for the hopes we had inspired of obtaining a

teacher for their children. In particular, he said, he wanted to hear

all we could tell him about God.

This village was an offshoot of a larger one, ten miles to the north,

called Killisnoo. Under the prevailing patriarchal form of government

each tribe is divided into comparatively few families; and because of

quarrels, the chief of this branch moved his people to this little bay,

where the beach offered a good landing for canoes. A stream which

enters it yields abundance of salmon, while in the adjacent woods and

mountains berries, deer, and wild goats abound.

“Here,” he said, “we enjoy peace and plenty; all we lack is a church

and a school, particularly a school for the children.” His dwelling so

much with benevolent aspect on the children of the tribe showed, I

think, that he truly loved them and had a right intelligent insight

concerning their welfare. We spent the night under his roof, the first

we had ever spent with Indians, and I never felt more at home. The

loving kindness bestowed on the little ones made the house glow.

Next morning, with the hearty good wishes of our Hootsenoo friends, and

encouraged by the gentle weather, we sailed gladly up the coast, hoping

soon to see the Chilcat glaciers in their glory. The rock hereabouts is

mostly a beautiful blue marble, waveworn into a multitude of small

coves and ledges. Fine sections were thus revealed along the shore,

which with their colors, brightened with showers and late-blooming

leaves and flowers, beguiled the weariness of the way. The shingle in

front of these marble cliffs is also mostly marble, well polished and

rounded and mixed with a small percentage of glacier-borne slate and

granite erratics.

We arrived at the upper village about half-past one o’clock. Here we

saw Hootsenoo Indians in a very different light from that which

illumined the lower village. While we were yet half a mile or more

away, we heard sounds I had never before heard—a storm of strange

howls, yells, and screams rising from a base of gasping, bellowing

grunts and groans. Had I been alone, I should have fled as from a pack

of fiends, but our Indians quietly recognized this awful sound, if such

stuff could be called sound, simply as the “whiskey howl” and pushed

quietly on. As we approached the landing, the demoniac howling so

greatly increased I tried to dissuade Mr. Young from attempting to say

a single word in the village, and as for preaching one might as well

try to preach in Tophet. The whole village was afire with bad whiskey.

This was the first time in my life that I learned the meaning of the

phrase “a howling drunk.” Even our Indians hesitated to venture ashore,

notwithstanding whiskey storms were far from novel to them. Mr. Young,

however, hoped that in this Indian Sodom at least one man might be

found so righteous as to be in his right mind and able to give

trustworthy information. Therefore I was at length prevailed on to

yield consent to land. Our canoe was drawn up on the beach and one of

the crew left to guard it. Cautiously we strolled up the hill to the

main row of houses, now a chain of alcoholic volcanoes. The largest

house, just opposite the landing, was about forty feet square, built of

immense planks, each hewn from a whole log, and, as usual, the only

opening was a mere hole about two and a half feet in diameter, closed

by a massive hinged plug like the breach of a cannon. At the dark

door-hole a few black faces appeared and were suddenly withdrawn. Not a

single person was to be seen on the street. At length a couple of old,

crouching men, hideously blackened, ventured out and stared at us,

then, calling to their companions, other black and burning heads

appeared, and we began to fear that like the Alloway Kirk witches the

whole legion was about to sally forth. But, instead, those outside

suddenly crawled and tumbled in again. We were thus allowed to take a

general view of the place and return to our canoe unmolested. But ere

we could get away, three old women came swaggering and grinning down to

the beach, and Toyatte was discovered by a man with whom he had once

had a business misunderstanding, who, burning for revenge, was now

jumping and howling and threatening as only a drunken Indian may, while

our heroic old captain, in severe icy majesty, stood erect and

motionless, uttering never a word. Kadachan, on the contrary, was well

nigh smothered with the drunken caresses of one of his father’s

_tillicums_ (friends), who insisted on his going back with him into the

house. But reversing the words of St. Paul in his account of his

shipwreck, it came to pass that we all at length got safe to sea and by

hard rowing managed to reach a fine harbor before dark, fifteen sweet,

serene miles from the howlers.

Our camp this evening was made at the head of a narrow bay bordered by

spruce and hemlock woods. We made our beds beneath a grand old Sitka

spruce five feet in diameter, whose broad, winglike branches were

outspread immediately above our heads. The night picture as I stood

back to see it in the firelight was this one great tree, relieved

against the gloom of the woods back of it, the light on the low

branches revealing the shining needles, the brown, sturdy trunk

grasping an outswelling mossy bank, and a fringe of illuminated bushes

within a few feet of the tree with the firelight on the tips of the


Next morning, soon after we left our harbor, we were caught in a

violent gust of wind and dragged over the seething water in a

passionate hurry, though our sail was close-reefed, flying past the

gray headlands in most exhilarating style, until fear of being capsized

made us drop our sail and run into the first little nook we came to for

shelter. Captain Toyatte remarked that in this kind of wind no Indian

would dream of traveling, but since Mr. Young and I were with him he

was willing to go on, because he was sure that the Lord loved us and

would not allow us to perish.

We were now within a day or two of Chilcat. We had only to hold a

direct course up the beautiful Lynn Canal to reach the large Davidson

and other glaciers at its head in the cañons of the Chilcat and

Chilcoot Rivers. But rumors of trouble among the Indians there now

reached us. We found a party taking shelter from the stormy wind in a

little cove, who confirmed the bad news that the Chilcats were drinking

and fighting, that Kadachan’s father had been shot, and that it would

be far from safe to venture among them until blood-money had been paid

and the quarrels settled. I decided, therefore, in the mean time, to

turn westward and go in search of the wonderful “ice-mountains” that

Sitka Charley had been telling us about. Charley, the youngest of my

crew, noticing my interest in glaciers, said that when he was a boy he

had gone with his father to hunt seals in a large bay full of ice, and

that though it was long since he had been there, he thought he could

find his way to it. Accordingly, we pushed eagerly on across Chatham

Strait to the north end of Icy Strait, toward the new and promising


On the south side of Icy Strait we ran into a picturesque bay to visit

the main village of the Hoona tribe. Rounding a point on the north

shore of the bay, the charmingly located village came in sight, with a

group of the inhabitants gazing at us as we approached. They evidently

recognized us as strangers or visitors from the shape and style of our

canoe, and perhaps even determining that white men were aboard, for

these Indians have wonderful eyes. While we were yet half a mile off,

we saw a flag unfurled on a tall mast in front of the chief’s house.

Toyatte hoisted his United States flag in reply, and thus arrayed we

made for the landing. Here we were met and received by the chief,

Kashoto, who stood close to the water’s edge, barefooted and

bareheaded, but wearing so fine a robe and standing so grave, erect,

and serene, his dignity was complete. No white man could have

maintained sound dignity under circumstances so disadvantageous. After

the usual formal salutations, the chief, still standing as erect and

motionless as a tree, said that he was not much acquainted with our

people and feared that his house was too mean for visitors so

distinguished as we were. We hastened of course to assure him that we

were not proud of heart, and would be glad to have the honor of his

hospitality and friendship. With a smile of relief he then led us into

his large fort house to the seat of honor prepared for us. After we had

been allowed to rest unnoticed and unquestioned for fifteen minutes or

so, in accordance with good Indian manners in case we should be weary

or embarrassed, our cook began to prepare luncheon; and the chief

expressed great concern at his not being able to entertain us in Boston


Luncheon over, Mr. Young as usual requested him to call his people to a

meeting. Most of them were away at outlying camps gathering winter

stores. Some ten or twelve men, however, about the same number of

women, and a crowd of wondering boys and girls were gathered in, to

whom Mr. Young preached the usual gospel sermon. Toyatte prayed in

Thlinkit, and the other members of the crew joined in the hymn-singing.

At the close of the mission exercises the chief arose and said that he

would now like to hear what the other white chief had to say. I

directed John to reply that I was not a missionary, that I came only to

pay a friendly visit and see the forests and mountains of their

beautiful country. To this he replied, as others had done in the same

circumstances, that he would like to hear me on the subject of their

country and themselves; so I had to get on my feet and make some sort

of a speech, dwelling principally on the brotherhood of all races of

people, assuring them that God loved them and that some of their white

brethren were beginning to know them and become interested in their

welfare; that I seemed this evening to be among old friends with whom I

had long been acquainted, though I had never been here before; that I

would always remember them and the kind reception they had given us;

advised them to heed the instructions of sincere self-denying mission

men who wished only to do them good and desired nothing but their

friendship and welfare in return. I told them that in some far-off

countries, instead of receiving the missionaries with glad and thankful

hearts, the Indians killed and ate them; but I hoped, and indeed felt

sure, that his people would find a better use for missionaries than

putting them, like salmon, in pots for food. They seemed greatly

interested, looking into each other’s faces with emphatic nods and

a-ahs and smiles.

The chief then slowly arose and, after standing silent a minute or two,

told us how glad he was to see us; that he felt as if his heart had

enjoyed a good meal; that we were the first to come humbly to his

little out-of-the-way village to tell his people about God; that they

were all like children groping in darkness, but eager for light; that

they would gladly welcome a missionary and teacher and use them well;

that he could easily believe that whites and Indians were the children

of one Father just as I had told them in my speech; that they differed

little and resembled each other a great deal, calling attention to the

similarity of hands, eyes, legs, etc., making telling gestures in the

most natural style of eloquence and dignified composure. “Oftentimes,”

he said, “when I was on the high mountains in the fall, hunting wild

sheep for meat, and for wool to make blankets, I have been caught in

snowstorms and held in camp until there was nothing to eat, but when I

reached my home and got warm, and had a good meal, then my body felt

good. For a long time my heart has been hungry and cold, but to-night

your words have warmed my heart, and given it a good meal, and now my

heart feels good.”

The most striking characteristic of these people is their serene

dignity in circumstances that to us would be novel and embarrassing.

Even the little children behave with natural dignity, come to the white

men when called, and restrain their wonder at the strange prayers,

hymn-singing, etc. This evening an old woman fell asleep in the meeting

and began to snore; and though both old and young were shaken with

suppressed mirth, they evidently took great pains to conceal it. It

seems wonderful to me that these so-called savages can make one feel at

home in their families. In good breeding, intelligence, and skill in

accomplishing whatever they try to do with tools they seem to me to

rank above most of our uneducated white laborers. I have never yet seen

a child ill-used, even to the extent of an angry word. Scolding, so

common a curse in civilization, is not known here at all. On the

contrary the young are fondly indulged without being spoiled. Crying is

very rarely heard.

In the house of this Hoona chief a pet marmot (Parry’s) was a great

favorite with old and young. It was therefore delightfully confiding

and playful and human. Cats were petted, and the confidence with which

these cautious, thoughtful animals met strangers showed that they were

kindly treated.

There were some ten or a dozen houses, all told, in the village. The

count made by the chief for Mr. Young showed some seven hundred and

twenty-five persons in the tribe.

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