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BC Historical Books

BC Historical Books

Scenes and studies of savage life Sproat, Gilbert Malcolm, 1832-1913 1868

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Occupation of District.
Occupation of Alberni—Interview with the Natives—Threatened Hostilities—Progress of the Settlement—Cook, Meares, and Jewitt's
Accounts of several of these Indian Tribes	
Right of Savages to the Soil.
The Right of Civilized Men to occupy
je Countries—Duty of
Intruders—Plots of the Ahts to attack us—Arrival of H.M. gunboat Grappler—The Indian's notion of an English Bishop, and of
the Crews of English Ships of War      6
Localities of the Aht Nation—Topographical Features of the District
—The large Sounds : the outside Coast: the Mountain Lakes:
the Pine-Forests: the Climate—Native Population on the West
Coast of Vancouver Island—Several Characteristics of Tribes—
Tribal Names originally bestowed by Quawteaht—Subdivision of
Tribes	 VI
Physical Appearance.
Physical Appearance of the Natives—Their Stature, Strength, Weight,
Complexion — Their Teeth, Hah, Dress, Ornaments — Abb6
Domenech's Book—Fish-eating Indians not weak in the Legs—
Bathing common; Skill of the Ahts in Diving—Vapour-Bath
unknown—Water colder than in England—Traces of old Spanish
Settlement—Painting Faces—Custom of Moulding the Head—
Appearance of the Natives in Infancy and Youth—Rapid Decay of
Manly Strength—The Faces of the Ahts expressive of Settled
Character    21
Pursuit op a Fugitive.
Strength of the Natives Fingers — Speed in Running — Skill in
Paddling—Escape of a Fugitive     32
Houses of the Ahts—Custom of Changing Quarters—Mode of Shifting an Encampment—No Appreciation of Natural Scenery—
Description of Dwellings and Furniture    37
A Justice oe the Peace on Circuit.
A Mutinous Crew—My Canoe stolen—Lef t upon an Island—George
the Pirate—Stormy Sea—Sensations from Freezing—Samaritan
Woodmen       44
Domestic Manners.
Winter the time for Feasts—Domestic Manners ; Fondness for Jokes
and Gossip—Rarity of Serious Quarrels ; Ignorance of Fisticuffs
—Unwillingness to labour—Appetite, Meals, Food and Drinks,
Cooking ; Gathering Gammass Roots ; Cutting down Crab-apple
Trees in Despair—Hospitality to Friendly Unexpected Visitors
—Observance of Formalities in Social Intercourse  	
Feasts and Feasting—Description of a great Whale Feast—After-
dinner Oratory : Skill in Public Speaking—Seta-Kanim " on his
Legs "—Vocal Peculiarities—Indian's reply to Governor Kennedy
—Singing ■ Blind Minstrel from Klah-oh-quaht ; Translation of
one of his Songs—Amusements of Adults and Children—Dances
and Plays; Description of five different Dances     59
An Attempt at an Inquest.
Depredations of the Indians—An Indian shot with Peas—English
Staff Surgeon—Soft-hearted Yorkshireman—Absurd Verdicts of
the Jury 	
Acquisition and Use op Property.
Acquisition of Property—Sharpness in Bargaining—Restrictions upon
Trade—Land considered as Tribal Properly—Description of
various kinds of Personal Property : Muskets, Bows and Arrows,
Canoes, Hand-adze, Bone Gimlet, Elkhorn Chisel, Stone Hammer,
Household Utensils, Mats, Clothing—Method of Making and
Managing Canoes—Prevalence of Slavery and Slave-Dealing—
Condition and Treatment of Slaves	
Condition oe Women.
Condition of the Aht Women—Unmarried and Married—then Betrothal
—Marriage—Divorce—Widowhood—Polygamy—Polyandry    93
Escape from the Toquahts.
Respect for Rank—Visit to the Toquahts—Dangerous Encampment—
Indians circumvented  103 viii CONTENTS.
Tribal Ranks.
Use made of an Accumulation of Personal Chattels—Custom of Distributing Property—Object of such Distribution—Degrees of Tribal
Ranks—Position of Hereditary Chiefs ; of Minor Chiefs; War
Chiefs, and Military Officers—Rank bestowed on Women   Ill
Intellectual Capacity and Language.
Intellectual Capacities—Mode of Numeration—Division of Time—
Language ; its Imperfect Structure ; Formation of New Words—
Remarks on some Peculiarities of the Language—Nitinaht Variations— Cook's List of Words—Little Change in the Language
since Cook's Time—The Aht Language probably Allied to the
Real Chinook—Tribal Names 	
A Great Deer Hunt.
The Waw-win—a great Deer Hunt	
Moral Dispositions.
The Savage Character—Vindictiveness—Coldbloodedness—Attack on
the Elkwhahts—Murder of a Girl—-Human Sacrifice—Custom of
the Min-okey-ak—Notions about Stealing—Affection for Children
—Habitual Suspicion—Want of Foresight—Absence of Faith—
Ingratitude—Sincerity of the Indian's Declarations  150
Some Account of the Sorcerers or "Medicine-men"  167
An Account of a Few of the Primitive Traditions of the People     176 CONTENTS. ix
Usages in Warfare.
Usages in Warfare—Description by an Eyewitness of an Indian Attack
on a Village—Admiral Denman's Brush with the Ahousahts  186
Religious Practices.
The Religious Practices of the Ahts   203
Usages in Fishing.
The Aht mode of Fishing, with descriptions of several Fish—the
Salmon—Herrings—Halibut—Whale—Cod   215
Usages in Hunting.
The Aht mode of Hunting ; with Descriptions of Several Animals—
the Panther—Wolf—Bear—Wapiti or Elk—Blacktailed Deer—
Indian Dogs—Marten—Mink—Racoon—Beaver  231
Diseases—Medicines and Medical Practice  251
Usages in Burial.
Usages in Burial—Appearance of the Aht Burying Grounds—Burial     ,
of a Chief    258
Miscellaneous—Giving Names to Persons—Description of a Feast where
a Name was Given—Indians have some Standard of Correct Speech
. —Aht Names for Different Winds—Few Memorials of an Older
Time—Rock Carving on the side of Sproat's Lake—Imperfectness
of Indian Traditions—Pipes—Secret Fraternity among the Tribes
on the Coast     264 x CONTENTS.
Effects upon Savages of Intercourse with Ctvilized Men.
Effects of Intercourse between Civilized and Uncivilized Races—Real
Meaning of Colonization as regards Aborigines—Want of Definite-
ness in the English Colonial Policy—Moral and Physical Agencies
Concerned in Disappearance of Native Races—Decay of Tribes
in their Isolated State—Evidence from my own Experience and
Observations—Inconsiderateness of Untravelled Writers—Aborigines, as a rule, not Harshly Treated by English Colonists—What
are the Diseases and Vices of Civilization ?—Course of Operation of the Destructive Agencies following Intercourse with the
Whites  272
Concluding  Chapter.
Can Nothing be Done to Save the Native People ?—My View of the
Case—the Home Government Primarily Responsible—Practical
Suggestion as to the Means of Improving Isolated Tribes —
Results of Missionary Work hitherto   287
■ Vocabulary of the Aht  Language, with a List of  the
Numerals  ;.-.  295
Appendix   311 PBEFACE.
I did not intend, originally, to publish these observations,
and have made no attempt, now, at literary ornament in
producing them. Any value found in these pages will
consist, I think, in their freshness and minuteness of
detail, as well as in the more special consideration of
social feelings, moral and intellectual characteristics and
religious notions—matters which travellers among savages,
ordinarily, have not full opportunity to do justice to. My
private and official business on the west coast of Vancouver
Island gave me an advantageous position for studying the
natives themselves, and also the effect upon them of
intercourse with civilized intruders. I lived among the
people and had a long acquaintanceship with them; I
did not merely pass through the country. The information which I give concerning their language, manners,
customs, and ways of life, is not from memory, but from
memoranda, written- with a pencil on the spot—in the hut,
in the canoe, or in the deep forest; and afterwards verified xu
or amended by my own further researches, or from the
observations of my friends. Among these, I am especially
indebted to the late George R«id, of Alberni,. and to
the well-known traveller and naturalist, Mr. Robert
Brown, F.R.G.S., whose knowledge of the North-West
American Indians is extensive and accurate.
During this singular episode in my early career, I
was for five years a colonial magistrate, and also a
proprietor of the settlement at Alberni in Nitinaht (or
Barclay) Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island—
the only civilized settlement on the west coast. The
condition of the native tribes on that coast has, hitherto,
been quite unknown.
I have stated in the two concluding chapters the
opinions which I have formed from my observation and
experience of these savages. Some, perhaps, will read
these chapters, who have not time to read the whole
Mr. F. Whymper has kindly given me the sketch for
the frontispiece.
G. M. S.
London, January 1,1868. SCENES   AND  STUDIES
Occupation of Alberni—Interview with the Natives—Threatened Hostilities
—Progress of the Settlement—Cook, Meares, and Jewitt's Accounts of
several of these Indian Tribes.
He took great content, exceeding delight, in that his voyage.—Burton.
Ipr'ythee now, lead the way without any more talking.—Shakspeare
In August, 1860, I entered Nitinaht, or Barclay Sound,
on the outside, or western, coast of Vancouver Island,
with the two armed vessels, Woodpecker and Meg Mer-
rilies, manned by about fifty men, who accompanied me
for the purpose of taking possession of the district now
called Alberni, a name taken from the Spanish navigator
who first discovered the inlet at the head of the Sounds
Reaching the entrance of this inlet, we sailed for
twenty miles up to the end of it—as up a natural canal— OCCUPATION OF DISTRICT.
three-quarters of a mile wide and very deep, bordered
by rocky mountains, which rose high on both sides almost
perpendicularly from the water. The view, as we advanced
up this inlet from the sea, was shut in behind and before
us, making the prospect like that from a mountain lake.
At the end of this singular canal, the rocky sides of which
appear to have been smoothed by a continued action of
moving ice upon their surface, and which itself gives an
idea of having been the furrow of a mighty glacier moving
downwards towards the sea, the high land on the right
receded from the shore, and a large bay or basin, with a
river flowing into it through level wooded land, met our
view. The range of hills which opened on one side formed
an elbow about ten miles distant from the canal, and
crossing in a direction almost at right angles to the course
of the inlet, met a continuation of the other range, and
thus shut in the district known to all the Indians as the
famous berry-land of Somass.
Near a pretty point at one side of the bay, where there
was a beach shaded by young trees, the summer encampment of a tribe of natives was to be seen. Our arrival
caused a stir, and we saw their flambeaux of gumsticks
flickering among the trees during the night.
In the morning I sent a boat for the chief, and
explained to him that his tribe must move their encampment, as we had bought all the surrounding land from the
Queen of England, and wished to occupy the site of the
village for a particular purpose. He replied that the land
belonged to themselves, but that they were willing to sell
it. The price not being excessive, I paid him what was
asked—about twenty pounds' worth of goods—for the sake THREATENED HOSTILITIES.
of peace, on condition that the whole people and buildings
should be removed next day. But no movement was then
made, and as an excuse it was stated that the children
were sick. On the day following the encampment was in
commotion; speeches were made, faces blackened, guns
and pikes got out, and barricades formed. Outnumbered
as we were, ten to one, by men armed with muskets, and
our communications with the sea cut off by the impossibility of sailing steadily down the Alberni Canal (the
prevalent breeze blowing up it), there was some cause for
alarm had the natives been resolute. But being provided,
fortunately, in both vessels with cannon—of which the
natives at that time were much afraid—they, after a little
show of force on our side, saw that resistance would be
inexpedient, and began to move from the spot. The way
in which these people move their encampments will be
described further- on. Two or three days afterwards, when
the village had been moved to another place, not far
distant, I visited the principal house at the new encampment, with a native interpreter.
"Chiefs of the Seshahts," said I on entering, "are
you well; are your women in health; are your children
hearty; do your people get plenty of fish and fruits ?"
" Yes," answered an old man, " our families are well,
our people have plenty of food; but how long this will
last we know not. We see your ships, and hear things
that make our hearts grow faint. They say that more
King-George-men will soon be here, and will take our
land, our firewood, our fishing grounds ; that we shall be
placed on a little spot, and shall have to do everything
according to the fancies of the King-George-men."
" Do you believe all this ? " I asked.
" We want your information," said the speaker.
i Then," answered I, "it is true that more King-
George-men (as they call the English) are coming: they
will soon be here; but your land will be bought at a fair
"We do not wish to sell our land nor our water; let
your friends stay in their own country."
To which I rejoined : " My great chief, the high chief
of the King-George-men, seeing that you do not work
your land, orders that you shall sell it. It is of no use to
you. The trees you do not need ; you will fish and hunt
as you do now, and collect firewood, planks for your houses,
and cedar for your canoes. The white man will give you
work, and buy your fish and oil."
I Ah, but we don't care to do as the white men wish."
I Whether or not," said I, " the white men will come.
All your people know that they are your superiors; they
make the things which you value. You cannot make
muskets, blankets, or bread. The white men will teach
your children to read printing, and to be like themselves."
" We do not want the white man. He steals what we
have.    We wish to live as we are."
These were the first savages that I had ever seen, and
they were probably at that time less known than any
aboriginal people under British dominion, not excepting
even the Andamaners.
A civilized settlement was now formed almost immediately in their midst, and the natives stared at the buildings, wharves, steam-engines, ploughs, oxen, horses, sheep,
and pigs, which they had never seen before. JEWITTS ACCOUNT.
Having myself remained amongst them for a considerable time—since the first occupation of Alberni—I
am now able to give an account of their condition and
customs, in addition to what has been written concerning
several of the Aht tribes dwelling more to the north by
Cook, Meares, and Jewitt. Cook's account is the best
that has been published; that of Jewitt, though evidently
authentic, has probably suffered in the hands of some
professed bookmaker.
As evidence to some extent of the authenticity of
Jewitt's book, I may here record that an old Indian told
the late W. E. Banfield, a well-known trader on the coast,
that he had been a youthful servitor in the family of the
chief Klan-nin-ittle during the bondage of Jewitt and
Thompson, and that he often assisted Jewitt in carrying the bows, arrows, and other weapons which Klan-nin-
ittle used in hostile expeditions. He said further that
the white slave generally accompanied his owner on visits
of courtesy, which in quiet times he frequently paid to the
tribes of Ayhuttisaht, Ahousaht, and Klah-oh-quaht.
Jewitt, it seems, was a general favourite, owing to his
good-humour and lightheadedness, and he often recited
and sang in his own language for the amusement of the
savages. He was described as a tall, well-made youth,
with a mirthful countenance, whose dress, latterly, consisted of nothing but a mantle of cedar-bark. There was
a long story- also of Jewitt's courting, and, I think, finally
abducting the charming daughter of the Ahousaht chief,
Waugh-clagh; with which, however, I shall not trouble
the reader. (    6    )
The right of civilized Men to occupy savage Countries—Duty of Intruders
—Plots of the Ahts to attack us—Arrival of H.M. gunboat Grappler
—The Indian's notion of an English Bishop, and of the Crews of
English Ships of War.
I say, by sorcery he got this isle,
From me he got it.—Tempest.
I spent some months very pleasantly directing the first
work at the settlement. The vessels discharged their
cargoes, and the carpenters worked on shore preparing
timber for the houses and buildings. The first house
that was built was made of logs, with split wood for the
roof—rather a plain-looking hut, but nevertheless a
comfortable house in all weathers. It was the kind
of house that woodmen build with the axe alone. By-
and-by, we had more ambitious houses of sawn wood.
The place the Indians had moved to was about a mile
distant, and our conversation naturally was very much
about them. In the evenings we sat round the fire
discussing their dispositions and probable intentions,
and the Indians did the  same about us in their  new THE RIGHT TO OCCUPY SAVAGE COUNTRIES.
encampment. We often talked about our right as strangers
to take possession of the district. The right of bona fide
purchase we had, for I had bought the land from the
Government, and had purchased it a second time from the
natives. Nevertheless, as the Indians disclaimed all knowledge of the colonial authorities at Victoria, and had sold
the country to us, perhaps, under the fear of loaded cannon
pointed towards the village, it was evident that we had
taken forcible possession of the district. The American
woodmen, who chiefly formed my party, discussed the whole
question with great clearness. Their opinion generally
was that our occupation was justifiable, and could not be
sternly disputed even by the most scrupulous moralist.
They considered that any right in the soil which these
natives had as occupiers was partial and imperfect, as, with
the exception of hunting animals in' the forests, plucking
wild fruits, and cutting a few trees to make canoes and
houses, the natives did not, in any civilized sense, occupy
the land. It would be unreasonable to suppose, the
Americans said, that a body of civilized men, under the
sanction of their Government, could not rightfully settle
in a country needing their labours, and peopled only by a
fringe of savages on the coast. Unless such a right were
presumed to exist, there would be little progress in the
world by means of colonization,—that wonderful agent,
which, directed by laws of its own, has changed and is
changing the whole surface of the earth. I could not,
however, see how this last-named fact strictly could form
the groundwork of a right. My own notion is that the
■particular circumstances which make the deliberate intrusion of a superior people into another country lawful or RIGHT OF SAVAGES TO THE SOIL.
expedient are connected to some extent with the use which
the dispossessed or conquered people have made of the soil,
and with their general behaviour as a nation.   For instance,
we might justify our occupation of Vancouver Island by the
fact of all the land lying waste without prospect of improvement, and our conquest of a peopled and cultivated country
like Oude by  some such consideration as this—that the
State was delinquent before the world, and by its  corruption put the welfare of neighbouring  and progressive
English territories  in  danger.     It would be  necessary
in  all  cases   to   remember that,   though   the  right  of
the intruders might be justified by  some of these considerations, the intruders would be bound to act always
with such justice, humanity, and moderation as should
vindicate fully those superior pretensions which were the
ground of the right of occupying.    Any extreme act, such
as a general confiscation of cultivated land, or systematic
personal ill-treatment of the dispossessed people, would be
quite unjustifiable.    Probably, no other circumstance than
a continued wanton quarrelling with their fate, after the
occupation of the country by a superior race, ought to be
held as sufficient cause for depriving  savage  aboriginal
inhabitants of their title to a limited and sufficient property, enjoyable under certain conditions.    So much they
could  claim  as    our   fellow-men,  and  they would  also
have   other    obvious   claims   on   the   consideration   of
a  Christian  nation.     The   whole  question of the right
of any  people  to   intrude  upon    another,  and  to  dispossess them of their country, is one of those questions
to which   the 'answer practically   is   always  the  same,
though differently given by many as a matter of specu- NOTIONS  OF AN ENGLISH BISHOP. 9
lative opinion. The practical answer is given by the
determination of intruders under any circumstances to
keep what has been obtained ; and this, without discussion,
we, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, were all prepared to do. It can easily be supposed that we spent
many anxious nights in our remote, isolated position at
Alberni. It was discovered afterwards that various plans
of attacking us were at this time entertained by the
natives; and there, of course, were rumours of plots which
never had existence. Happily, however, no disturbance
took place, with the exception of a few individual brawls,
and we gradually gained the confidence and goodwill of
the people. On a rumour spreading that we had been
- attacked in our encampment, Governor Douglas sent the
gunboat Orappler, Commander Helby, to our assistance,
which remained at anchor for a short time near the settlement. During the stay of this vessel, several interesting
and picturesque interviews took place between two neighbouring tribes and Commander Helby, accompanied by his
guest the Bishop of Columbia.* The Aht notion of an
English bishop is that he is a great medicine man or
sorcerer; and they regard the sailors in her Majesty's
ships as belonging to a separate, distinct tribe of whites.
Being themselves all fighters, the Ahts cannot understand
why the great King-George tribe should leave all their
fighting to a few individuals.
* The latter, I believe, sent home an account of one of these interviews,
and it was published in some of the missionary newspapers. Localities of the Aht Nation—Topographical Features of the District—
The large Sounds: the outside Coast: the Mountain Lakes: the Pine-
Forests : the Climate — Native Population on the West Coast of
Vancouver Island—Several Characteristics of Tribes—Tribal Names
originally bestowed by Quawteaht—Subdivision of Tribes.
Fain would I here have made abode,
But I was quickened by my hour.—Herbert.
I will now give the reader a short description of the
wild country in which we were the first settlers. To many
this subject may not be very interesting, but perhaps in a
few years it may become desirable to possess a record of
the state of this portion of the island in its now condition.
Dr. Arnold said he always looked for descriptions of places
in books of travel, though he seldom found one that gave
him any clear notion of a place. I hope to have avoided
this condemnation.
The localities inhabited by the Aht tribes are, chiefly, the
three large Sounds on the west coast of Vancouver Island,
called Nitinaht (or Barclay), Klah-oh-quaht, and Nootkah,
the two former of which are native names borne by tribes
at these places.    In Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound, is now TOPOGRAPHY OF THE DISTRICT.
the settlement and port of Alberni, the origin of which
I have just described; Klah-oh-quaht was the scene
of the destruction of the ship Tonquin, and massacre of
her crew, as related in Irving's Astoria, an occurrence
which to this day is spoken of among the tribes; Nootkah
gave its name (whatever that may have come from, for
there is now no native name resembling it) to a convention in 1790 between England and Spain. As will be
seen in the map, these capacious inlets or sounds throw
out arms in various directions inland; and into these arms,
coming from mountain lakes known to a few Indians only,
shallow rivers flow, which are diversified by falls and rapids,
and deepen here and there when pent up between mountains
approaching one another closely. The broad surface of the
sounds is studded with rocky islets of various sizes—as in
the Skar, on the North-west coast of Europe—covered
with scrubby, hemlock, cedar, and pine trees. These trees
—the pine predominating—also clothe the rugged sides of
the hills that rise from the shore into peaks or serrated
ridges, in some places almost perpendicularly, at other
places with a gradual ascent.
The scenery visible from these great sheets of water, if
not beautiful, is at all times interesting, though in broad
daylight, the jagged, fissured, rocky islands, the bare-topped
trees dwarfed by the sea-breeze, and the hard outline of
the mountain-ranges, appear perhaps rather too distinctly
defined to make any near view either pleasing or impressive.
I found that perhaps the best time to linger in a canoe on
these wide bays was just about the twilight, when the harsh
sharp lines of the surrounding scenery were softened, and
the shadows of islet and mountain lengthened over the 12
singularly clear water. Among the islands, and on the
shore of the Sounds, there is an endless number and variety
of passages, creeks, bays, and harbours of all shapes and
sizes, which can be discovered only on a near approach.
Many of these marine nooks, these unexpected quiet
retreats on this secluded shore, are deep enough to float the
largest ship, and far down through the pellucid water,
never moved by storms, gardens of zoophytes are visible
at the bottom. Such places, on a summer day, strike the
imagination of a loiterer like the creations in a happy
dream; they are so small, calm, and remote—so margined
by worn, strange-shaped rocks, and by diminutive trees,
chiefly cedar and fir, under whose arched roots streamlets
flow murmuring into the sea.
On the ocean coast outside, between the entrances to
the great inlets, a different prospect is found: the line of
the shore there is broken by low headlands which project
from the seaboard, and appear with their shapeless, outlying
rocks, not unlike the shattered angles of a fortified work;
between these capes are narrow beaches, backed by a curtain
of rock, over which bill upon hill appears, woody and rugged.
As the coast lies exposed to the uninterrupted western swell
of the North Pacific, the waves are generally large, and
even in calm weather they break with a noise on the shore
and roar among the caverns. During a storm in winter,
those who care for terrible scenes are gratified by the sight
of enormous billows rolling in from the ocean and dashing
with fury upon the shore. The line of the raging surf on
the beach extends before one's eyes for miles to some
rocky cape, over which the waves foam, the spray being
borne   upwards   and   flung   through   the    air.     Wild THE  COAST.
black clouds approach the earth, and are hurried along
by the blast. There is nowhere any sign of life now;
the Indians crowd together in their houses, and the
birds huddle behind the sheltering rocks. Speaking
generally, however, navigators, since the publication
of the Admiraltv charts, do not consider the coast dan-
gerous in average weather; they find anchorages in the
Sounds, and the channels from the ocean are deep—too
deep rather—and are free from rocks and rapid currents.
The severest gales that I remember occurred in November,
but during the whole winter there are heavy storms ;• in
summer calms and fogs prevail—March and October being
considered the foggiest months.*
Of the country along this coast, a short description will
suffice. The whole surface, as far inland as I have penetrated, is rocky and mountainous, and is covered with thick
pine-forests, without any of the oak-openings that enliven
the scenery near Victoria in the southern part of the island.
From some of the eminences near Alberni a great expanse
of country can be seen on a clear day; but the view, looking
inland, is not varied, consisting for the most part of narrow
valleys and steep hills, weathered peaks with bare stony
tops; here and there glimpses of shining lakes or rain-
pools, and in the distance snow-covered mountains. " The
back of the world, brother," with some truth the Gaelic-
* The kelp is one of the most extraordinary marine productions on the
coast. It is found in masses which spread over the surface of the sea, and
through these great weeds it is difficult for a small vessel to make way
unless with a strong breeze. I do not know the greatest length of the stems
of this plant, but I have seen it growing in twenty-five fathoms of water, and
remember measuring a piece of kelp on the beach near the Ohyaht village,
in Nitinaht Sound, that was fifty-five yards in length and an inch and a half
in diameter at the thickest part. 14
woman said in her own expressive words on first seeing
this district; " you are bringing me to the back of the
world." Owing to the absence of any large tract of level
land in the district, and the height of the land near the sea,
the rivers are small, shallow, and rapid, and only navigable
by canoes for a few miles.
Two days' rain, dissolving a portion of the snow on the
hills, or gathering in the innumerable natural reservoirs
and channels, will cause a rise of many feet in streams
which before were extremely shallow. I know an instance
of a fordable river—the Klistachnit at Alberni—which rose
twelve feet in less than forty-eight hours. The mountains
everywhere approach closely to one another, and form
between them deep, thickly-wooded valleys or long narrow
lakes. These lakes are a marked feature in Vancouver
Island scenery. They have no main feeders, but generally
receive their waters from the rain and melted snow, which
come down the sides of the steep mountains. In fact
they are extensive " tarns," and many of them are the
finest and gloomiest of their class. They are most irregular
in shape, seldom exceeding a mile or two in width, but
extending between mountains for ten or fifteen miles in
different directions like the legs on a Manx penny. The
whole country—valley and mountain—is covered with pines,
which, though rough-looking trees, yet by the deep verdure
of their tops, preserve the scenery from the bareness and
hardness which, for instance, characterize many of the
West of Scotland Lochs. There are lakes, however, in the
Aht district which are as deep, dark, and wild, as Loch
Corruisken, and solitary beyond conception. I never knew
what utter solitude meant till I went among these Vancouver THE MOUNTAIN LAKES.
lakes; all is silence but for the melancholy cry of the loon,
the breaking of a decayed branch in the woods, or the rush
of a torrent; and the feeling of loneliness is increased by
the thought that you are in a savage  country far from
civilized men.     As a journeyer in these wilds, I have
often reclined on a decaying tree by the lake-side in the
deepening twilight, looking at the black clouds and stormy
rain, and have tried to imagine—as my last match sputtered
out—that the lee of a cedar-tree would be a comfortable
resting-place.     In truth, not much imagining is required;
for it is wonderful how easily a man becomes reconciled even
to so poor a bed, if he is in good health and has a cheerful
heart.    One can sleep almost anywhere if one's clothes are
dry and the cold not excessive.     The conditions necessary
to  avoid positive physical discomfort depend  greatly on
habit: an old campaigner thinks that a sod turned up
against the wind is a luxury.    In the interior of the Aht
country, it is hardly possible for the traveller to reach the
edge of the forest, except at a lake ; and then, through the
darkness, whatever his bed promises to be, it is grand sometimes, as I remember, to see the lightning-flash lighting up
the shaggy breast of the mountain opposite; and when the
blazing glare comes again, to mark the long line through the
trees made by the avalanche in rolling down for thousands
of feet into the lake.    He marks too the draperies of mist
moving upwards from the gloomy fells, and that cataract
just seen hanging like a silver thread to the cap of clouds
on the far summit, which strikes the eye again, expanded
into  a torrent,  a thousand feet   lower at  the  exposed
turn   of some ravine,   and then  is heard rushing into
the narrow lake just opposite to the spot on  which the 16
observer sits.     I have seen many such nights in these
It is difficult to find in any part of the district more
than a few patches of open land here and there, near the
mouths of rivers and the borders of lakes. The soil is
generally deep, and often rich from the accumulation of
vegetable remains ; but as rough wooded hills form a great
part of the surface of the country, and rocks crop out everywhere, there is not room for many farms. Notwithstanding,
the deep shade in the forest, the undergrowth of shrubs
is luxuriant at certain seasons, but it does not last long.
In July and August—July being called Kow-wishimilh
(from Kow-wit, salmon-berry, and Hishimilh, a crowd)—
the graceful branches and wavy green leaves of the low
berry-bushes in the woods are most pleasant to look upon,
but are a great hindrance in travelling. Probably there
is nothing in Vancouver Island more interesting to a
stranger than the aged forests of pine—nearly all of one
species, Abies Douglassii — which cover the country.
Viewed commercially, though the wood is of first-rate
quality, these forests are of little value, owing to the
difficulty of getting the " logs " or " spars " over a rugged
surface to a saw-mill or place of shipment. The traveller,
accustomed elsewhere to trees of smaller growth, and to
pleasing varieties of verdure and freshness, finds himself
here amidst old, gigantic, thick-barked pines without
branches to a considerable height from the ground, and
with dark-green bristling foliage that hardly ever changes.
The tops of these great trees are in many places so densely
mingled as to scatter, if not to exclude, the rays of the
sun.    Here and there in the forest are open spaces where PINE-FORESTS.
the, trees burnt by a fire—caused perhaps by the careless
Indians—lie blackened on the ground, or where they appear
lying white and withered, as if destroyed by some blast or
circle of wind that left the surrounding trees uninjured:
{* Blasted pines,
Wrecks of a single winter, barkless, branchless."—Manfred.
And many an old tree meets the eye, fit object of a contemplative and melancholy regard, which, after its long
growth and towering position in the forest, has reached
the period of its decline, and can no longer oppose the
ravages of the insects that prey on its naked trunk. These
aged trees are constantly falling one across another, and
their great thickness and length make them, when prostrate, formidable obstructions in walking through the
woods. On my leaping upon a fallen decayed tree, the
bark has given way, and I have sunk to the thigh in a
red mould. Judging from the fact that many clumps
of young trees grow in the forest, it would appear that
the seeds, on being shaken out of the cones by the wind,
either are blown from the parent trees here and there in
heaps, steered by their membranous sail, or that they
cover the whole surface, and spring up numerously only
where the conditions of growth are favourable. These
young trees stand so closely together that they have a
hard struggle to grow beyond a certain height; and I
should think fifty trees die for every one that lives to
throw out its green top under the heavens.
There is occasionally a good deal of snow in the Aht
district—much more than falls in the neighbourhood of
Victoria; but, as a rule, it does not lie long on the lower
ground near the water, and it is seldom seen on the moun-
2 18
tains in summer, except in clefts from which the sun is
excluded. The third month or " moon " of the Indians,
Hy-yeskikamilh, which means " the month of most snow,"
corresponds with our January. The climate on the west
coast, as in all parts of Vancouver Island, particularly in
the favoured locality of Victoria, is probably altogether the
most healthful and delightful in the world. Most people
fatten there, and feel strong and vigorous. I never was
brisker than when exploring the unknown Aht district,
carrying with me my food, and sleeping where I chanced
to halt, generally beneath a spreading cedar.
I will now remark upon the population of the district,
which has been thus roughly described to the reader.   It
is not easy to ascertain the exact native population at the
present time;  but so far as I know there are, between
Pacheenah and Nespod, twenty distinct tribes of the Aht
nation (see Appendix), numbering together about 1,700
men, capable of bearing arms.    The largest tribe numbers
400 men; seven other tribes have between one and two
hundred; the remaining fifteen tribes vary in numbers from
sixty down to as few as five : the average number in each of
the last-named tribes being about twenty-five grown men.
Few of these natives have visited Victoria; and their condition, in fact, as already stated, is comparatively unknown
to Americans as well as to Europeans.    The Aht district
lies quite out of the ordinary route of travellers, and can
be. reached  conveniently  only by engaging a vessel at
Victoria.   These tribes of the Ahts are not confederated ;
and I have no other warrant for calling them a nation
than the fact of their occupying adjacent territories, and
having the same superstitions and language.    They evi- TRIBAL  CHARACTERISTICS.
dently have had an ancient connection, if not a common
origin. It may be noticed that, though living only a few
miles apart, the tribes practise different arts, and have,
apparently, distinct tribal characteristics. One tribe is
skilful in shaping canoes; another in painting boards for
ornamental work, or making ornaments for the person,
or instruments for hunting and fishing. Individuals, as
a rule, keep to the arts for which their tribe has some
repute, and do not care to acquire those arts in which
other tribes excel. There seems to be among all the tribes
in the island a sort of recognized tribal monopoly in certain
articles produced, or that have been long manufactured in
their own district. For instance, a tribe that does not
grow potatoes, or make a particular kind of mat, will go
a long way, year after year, to barter for those articles,
which, if they liked, they themselves could easily produce or manufacture. The different Aht tribes vary in
physiognomy somewhat—faces of the Chinese and the
Spanish types may be seen; they vary also in intelligence,
in love of war, in fondness for many wives, in decorum
of speech and manner, in several social usages, in taste
for music and oratory, in habits of slave-dealing and
gambling, and in their thievish propensities. No
superior position in the political scale of the tribes is
assigned by then* traditions to any one tribe; but the
Toquahts in Nitinaht, or Barclay Sound, are generally
considered by their neighbours to have been the tribe
from which the others sprung. Quawteaht, a great personage in the mythology of these barbarians, who, while
on earth, lived at the Toquaht river, is said to have given
the first part of the names to the tribes; for instance,
9, 2 20
Toqu to the Toquahts, Ohy to the Ohyahts, Nitin to the
Nitinahts, Klah-oh-Qu to the Klah-oh-Quahts, and so on.
The natives added the termination Aht in honour of their
instructor or progenitor, Quawteaht. Subdivisions of tribes
occasionally take place by the secession of restless, influential individuals, who, with their families and friends,
endeavour to start new tribes under their own chief ship.
In this way—if a natural increase of numbers is possible
in a savage state of life—we may suppose that the tribes
now existing along the coast branched off formerly from a
few parent stems; a supposition which accords with one
of the legends of the people. These first families, leaving
the parent tribes, and settling at good fishing-places, would
forget their kindred in a few generations, and treat them
in all respects as members of separate tribes. But against
the supposition of such secession having occurred frequently
in modern days, there is the improbability of the number
of these natives having increased ; and the fact (which
will be proved farther on) that the Aht language has not
changed materially within the last century, as would most
likely have been the case if subdivisions and formations of
new tribes had been common. 21   )
Physical Appearance of the Natives—Their Stature, Strength, Weight, Complexion—Their Teeth, Hair, Dress, Ornaments—Abbe Domenech's
Book —Fish-eating Indians not weak in the Legs—Bathing common ;
Skill of the Ahts in Diving—Vapour-Bath unknown—Water colder
than in England—Traces of old Spanish Settlement—Painting Faces
—Custom of Moulding the Head—Appearance of the Natives in
Infancy and Youth—Rapid Decay of Manly Strength—The Faces of
the Ahts expressive of Settled Character.
. . . And yet more pleased have, from your lips,
Gathered this fair report of them who dwell'
In that retirement.—Wordsworth.
The next part of my subject, which I hope will not be
uninteresting to the reader, is the physical appearance
and characteristics of these people. As their only article
of dress is a blanket, and I was constantly among them,
I can speak with some confidence as to their physique.
The external features of all the natives along this coast are
much alike, but one acquainted with them can generally
distinguish the tribes to which individuals belong. I have
noticed that the slaves have a meaner appearance than the
free men, and that those few small tribes who dwell inland 22
along lakes and rivers, and who live on a mixed diet of
fish and flesh, have a finer stature and bearing than the
fish-eaters on the coast. Of all the tribes in Vancouver
Island the Klah-oh-quahts, who live in Klah-oh-quaht
Sound, probably are, as a tribe, physically the finest.*
Individuals may be found in all the tribes who reach a
height of five feet eleven inches, and a weight of a hundred
and eighty pounds, without much flesh on their bodies.
The extreme average height of the men of the Aht nation
ascertained by comparison of a number, is about five feet
six inches, and of the women about five feet and a quarter
of an inch—a stature which equals that of the New
Zealanders.f Many of the men have well-shaped forms
and limbs. None are corpulent, and very few are
deformed from their birth. I have, however,, seen
several who had been born crippled; one, with withered
crooked legs, stiff at the knees, was an excellent canoe-
man. The men, as a rule, are better-looking than
the women.
The latter  are  not  enticing,   even   when
young, though one meets with some
women, but these in a few years, after reaching womanhood, lose their comeliness. They are short-limbed,
and  have  an  awkward   habit  of turning  their toes  in
* " Klah-oh-quaht," in the native tongue, means " another people," but
this tribe is now in every respect the same as the others.
f The following ridiculous account of the Ahts is contained in the latest
book in which they are mentioned : Abbe Domenech's Residence in the
Great Deserts of North America. " The men (the Nootkahs) are below
the middle height, with thick-set limbs, broad faces, low foreheads, and
rough, coppery, and tanned skins. Their moral deformities are as great
as their physical ones. Their dialect is exceedingly difficult, and the
harshness of their'pronunciation incredible." The abbe evidently knows
nothing about the people. POWERS OF ENDURANCE  OF NATIVES.
too much when walking.    The men generally have well-
set,   strong frames,   and, if they had  pluck  and  skill,
could probably hold their own in a grapple with Englishmen of the same stature.    They want heart, however, for
a close struggle, and seldom come up after the first knockdown.    The best place to strike them with the fist is on
the throat, or on the breast, so as to take away their wind;
a blow on the head does them very little harm.     The
powers of endurance possessed by the natives are great in
any work to which they are accustomed, such as paddling,
or rowing, or walking in the woods.    I have had men with
me from sunrise to sunset whilst exploring new districts
where the walking tried one's powers to the utmost, and
they scarcely seemed to feel the exertion*    The natives
can bear the want of food for a long time without becoming
exhausted.    Their complexion is a dull brown, just about,
perhaps, what the English complexion would be if the people
were in a savage instead of a civilized condition—the difference being explained by the habits of life of the Ahts, by
their frequent exposure, and by the effect of their food of
blubber, oil, and fish.    The Queen Charlotte Islanders and
other natives to the north are fairer in complexion than the
, Vancouverians, though living under the same conditions
* It is an error to suppose that these fish-eating Indians become weak
in the legs from constantly sitting or stooping in canoes ; mean-looking,
thin-legged Ahts can travel for great distances in the woods without tiring.
There is a fair proportion of well-limbed men among them. No. finer, men
than the Queen Charlotte Islanders, a canoe-using people, can be found on
the American continent \ they will stand up and fight Englishmen with
their fists, though the Aht fails on this point. The notion of the Coast
Indians being deficient in muscular power in their legs, probably arose from
their legs being always seen uncovered, which is a severe ordeal for any
people. If the men wore blankets, how many presentable legs would there
be in an ordinary crowd of Englishmen ? 24
in a climate not much colder. Their young women's
skins are as clear and white as those of Englishwomen.
But it is different among the Ahts. Cook and Meares
probably mentioned exceptional cases in stating that the
natives of Nootkah had the fair complexions of the North
of Europe. The prevailing colour of the people in Vancouver Island is unmistakeably, as here described, a sort
of dull brown. During summer they are much in the
open air, lightly clad, and in winter pass most of their
time sitting round fires in a smoky atmosphere. All the
natives swim well, but not so fast nor so lightly as
Europeans; they labour more in the water. As divers
they cannot be beaten; a friend of mine saw Maquilla,
a noted warrior and fisherman of the Nitinahts, dive
from the stern of a boat, in five fathoms of water, and
bring up a pup seal in each hand from the bottom.
On approaching the boat, one of the seals got away, but
Maquilla, throwing the other into the boat, again dived
and captured the seal before it could reach the bottom.
Till beyond middle age many of the natives bathe every
day in the sea, and in winter they rub their bodies with
oil after coming out of the water.* The vapour-bath is not
known on this coast. Mothers roll their young children
in the snow to make them hardy. I should not call the
Aht Indians a dirty people in their persons: they wash
often, the fresh air circulates round their bodies, and they
have not the disagreeable oniony smell about them which
is common among the more closely attired poorer classes
* Throughout the year, though the climate on the whole is milder than
the English climate, the water in the sea round Vancouver Island is colder
than on any part of the shores of Great Britain. TRACES OF OLD SPANISH SETTLEMENT.     25
in many countries. After their day's work, the women
arrange their dress and hair, and wash themselves in fresh
water.* The men's dress is a blanket; the women's a
strip of cloth, or shift, and blanket. The old costume
of the natives was the same as at present, but the material
was different; for instance, a single robe of bearskin, or of
four red catskins sewn together, was worn instead of a
blanket. They use no covering for the head or feet except
on canoe journeys, when hats and capes made of bark or
grass are worn. There is no difference between summer
and winter dresses, nor anything peculiar, on ordinary
occasions, in the dress of the chiefs. The men's beards
and whiskers are deficient, probably from the old alleged
custom, now seldom practised, of extirpating the hairs
with small shells. This custom, continued from one
generation to another, would perhaps at last produce a
race distinguishable as these natives are by a thin and
straggling growth of beard and whiskers. Several of the
Nootkah Sound natives (Moouchahts) have large moustaches and whiskers, and on that account are supposed
to have Spanish or foreign blood in them. A few names
and a cast of features reminding one of Spain, cross one
here and there on this coast. I have heard an Indian
from Nootkah count ten in Spanish. Few traces of the
settlement at Nootkah remain, except an indistinct ridge
showing the site of houses, and here and there a few
bricks half hidden in the ground; but the older natives
* It is a characteristic of these natives, that men sometimes saunter
along, holding each other's hand in a friendly way: a habit never
to be observed in civilized life, except amongst boys, or sailors when
intoxicated. 26
sometimes speak of the Spaniards. They say that the
foreigners (who must - have been Meares' men or the
Spanish) had begun to cultivate the ground and to erect
a stockade and fort, when one day a ship came with papers
for the head man, who was observed to cry, and all the
white men became sad. The next day they began moving
their goods to the vessel.
The hair of the natives is never shaven from the head.
It is black or dark brown, without gloss, coarse and lank,
but not scanty, worn long, and either tied in a bunch or
knot at the crown without an attempt at ornament, or
allowed to hang loosely from under a handkerchief or
wreath of grass, or of feathered birdskin, encircling the
head. A favourite place of concealment for a knife
carried as a weapon is among the hair behind the ear.
The practice of tying the hair behind the head in the
Chinese fashion is said to be peculiar to the natives on
the outside coast of the Island. Slaves wear their hair
short. Now and then, but rarely, a light-haired native is
seen. There is one woman in the Opechisaht tribe at
Alberni who had curly, Or rather wavy, brown hair. Few
grey-haired men can be noticed in any tribe. I once saw
a middle-aged native with red hair, and he seemed a pure
Indian, but it is difficult to say whether he was so or
not. The women are careful of their hair, and have little
boxes in which they keep combs and looking-glasses.
There is a small white-flowered plant, of about three feet
in height, the bruised roots of which are put on their hair
by the Indians to make it grow. One frequently sees the
women combing their hair and afterwards disposing it on
each side into plaits, which taper to a point, and are there PUNISHMENT OF NATIVES. 27
ornamented with beads; or it hangs loosely and is kept
down by leaden weights affixed to the end. When at
work the women tie up their hair so as not to be inconvenienced. Unlike the men, they are fond of toys and
ornaments for themselves and children, and are seldom
seen without rings, anklets, and bracelets of beads or
brass. Their blankets are often tastefully ornamented
with beads. To cut off the hair of an Indian is an effective
punishment for minor offences, as he is thereby exposed
to the derision of his own people. The face of the Ahts
is rather broad and flat; the mouth and lips of both men
and women are large, though to this there are exceptions,
and the cheekbones are broad but not high. The skull
is fairly shaped, the eyes small and long, deep set, in
colour a lustreless inexpressive black or very dark hazel,
none being blue, grey, nor brown. Some of the Chinese
workmen brought to Nootkah eighty years ago by Meares,
have no doubt left descendants among the Ahts. One
occasionally sees an Indian with eyes distinctly Chinese.
The nose, of all the features of the human face rarest for
beauty, in some instances is remarkably well-shaped. A
brilliant ring or piece of cockleshell, or a bit of brass,
shaped like a horse-shoe, often adorns this feature.
Similar ornaments are worn in the ear by both sexes.
The teeth are regular, but stumpy, and are deficient in
enamel at the points, as some think from the natives? eating
so much dried salmon with which sand has intermixed in
the process of drying.
No such practice as tatooing exists among these natives.
At great feasts the faces of the women are painted red
with vermilion or berry-juice,  and the men's faces are 28
blackened with burnt wood. About the age of twenty-five
the women cease to use paint, and for the remainder of their
lives wear feathers in their hair for full dress. Some of
the young men streak their faces with red, but grown-up
men seldom now use paint, unless on particular occasions.
Hair cut short and a blackened face are signs of grief; at
a time of rejoicing the face is also of that colour, except a
space round the eyes; but in war every portion of the
visage is blackened, and the eyes glare through. The
leader of a war expedition is distinguished by a streaked
visage from his black-faced followers.
The curious custom of moulding the heads of infants
into a different shape from the natural form does not now
extensively prevail among the Ahts, though almost every
child's head receives a slight pressure, owing to the mode
of resting in the cradle. The traveller leaves on this side
of Cape Scott a people with fine, broad—though perhaps
slightly flattened—foreheads, and heads well set on, and
soon finds himself on the north side of the Cape, among
the Quoquoulth nation, a people with disfigured heads,
who speak a language different from that of the Ahts,
though, of course, liaving many words in common, near
the tribal boundaries. In other parts of the Island, also,
as well as among the Quoquoulth natives, the practice of
moulding the head is followed, but it is principally among
the latter people that heads have been seen of the real
sugar-loaf shape. I have never seen an Aht head so much
distorted as the chief's head shown at page 317, vol. ii., in
Wilson's Pre-Historic Man. In Barclay (Nitinaht) Sound,
where the Aht tribes have intermarried with the Flatheads,
on the American shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, CUSTOM OF MOULDING THE HEAD.
many of the natives are proud of such children as have
their foreheads flattened, but they do not regard this disfigurement as a sign of freedom, nor of high birth—as
travellers have reported of the natives at the mouth of the
Columbia river. The Ahts imagine that it improves the
appearance, and also gives better health and greater
strength to the infant. I could not satisfactorily discover
whether the brain is injured by this change in the form of
the skull. The natives say that no harm is done, but I
have observed—from whatever cause the superiority arises
—that several of the tribes of the Aht nation, the Klah-oh-
quahts, for instance, who do not greatly flatten their heads,
are superior to other tribes, not Ahts, known to me which
flatten their heads excessively. This superiority, however,
may be in the race: the Klah-oh-quahts, for instance—
which, from their name, are probably a foreign tribe now
assimilated to the other Aht tribes—may have originally
possessed a superior organization to any others. It is
extremely difficult to compare the intellectual faculties of
any two tribes of suspicious, reserved, and weak-minded
savages, without a particular acquaintance with both tribes,
and a knowledge of their language and subjects of thought,
their politics and management of individual and tribal affairs;
but I may say that the general opinion which I have formed
with respect to these natives is that the flattening of the
skull in infancy cannot decisively be said to injure the
intellect. The process by which the deformity is effected
is similar to that described by Irving as usual with the
Coast Indians near the Columbia river. The infant is
laid, soon after birth, on a small wooden cradle higher at the
head than the foot.    A padding is placed on the forehead, 30
and is pressed down with cords, which pass through holes
on each side of the trough or cradle; these being tightened
gradually the required pressure is obtained, and after a time
the front of the skull is flattened. The covering or padding
is filled with sand, or sometimes a maple mould is made to
fit the forehead. It is said that the process is not painful,.
but some of the children, whom I saw undergoing the compression, seemed to breathe slowly, and their faces were
pale. The origin of this singular custom cannot with
certainty be ascertained. It may have been adopted to
celebrate some particular event, or in honour of a great
warrior whose head was naturally of that form. It is a
fashion; that is all that can be said about it. During
infancy the native children are big-headed and ugly, and
are subject to eruptive diseases, but in a few years they
become interesting and sprightly in appearance and manners. They are plump and fresh-looking, with smooth
skins of a rich brown colour. About the age of puberty—
which in both sexes is early—the visage of the men
assumes the composure, and displays the cold serious
traits of the savage. The eye, particularly, has a hard
furtive expression that was not there in childhood.* After
having reached a vigorous age, no other important stage
takes place till their manhood fails, when the Aht natives
become thin and wrinkled in a short time. They do not
seem to have any intermediate stage in their existence
corresponding with the attractive time in an Englishman's
* The face of the Indian, while it conceals present thoughts, seems to me
to be a much more open book than the face of the white man in expressing
settled character. It shows the very normal types of the vices plainly
printed in the features, most especially those of anger, cunning, and
life between full manhood and the first steps that lead
downwards into age. They are either vigorous or weak,
young-looking or old-looking. I have known many Indians
who have become quite old in appearance within the five
vears since I first saw them. PURSUIT OF A FUGITIVE.
Strength of the Natives' Fingers—Speed in Running—Skill in Paddling-
Escape of a Fugitive.
You have not seen such a thing as it is;
I can hardly forbear hurling things at him.
Tweufth Night.
The Upper Canadians and the men of the Northern and
Western States of the United States are the finest-looking
men I have anywhere seen, with the exception, perhaps, of
the Queen Charlotte Islanders, on the North-west of British
Columbia. I thought so on seeing them in their homes
in Canada and America, and my estimate was confirmed
by the appearance of the British Columbian population
and the inhabitants of my own settlement, who chiefly
were of these nationalities. Finer men cannot be seen, in
face and figure, than among the miners and woodmen, say,
at a race-meeting in Beacon Hill Park, near Victoria,
Vancouver Island, any summer afternoon. I had on an
average about 270 men at Alberni—perhaps three-fourths
of these Canadians and Americans—stalwart, handsome
fellows, accustomed to work with their hands.    One day, STRENGTH OF THE NATIVES' FINGERS.
when the vessels were discharging cargo into the warehouse, we amused ourselves by trying who could carry
round the room, on two fingers, the governor of a steam-
engine—a mass of metal like a 10-inch shell—and not one
of us could carry it half the distance. A middle-sized
Indian, who was present, carried it round the warehouse
apparently with ease. The constant use of the paddle may
be supposed to make the fingers of the Indians strong;
but would the use of the axe from childhood not also
strengthen the fingers of the woodmen ? Why should the
fingers of a comparatively small Indian be stronger than
the fingers of a powerful American woodman ? The generally prevalent opinion, as regards the hand of the Indians,
was that it exceeded the white man's hand in power. On
a certain occasion, a disturbance having arisen, I armed
my men, warning them earnestly not to strike or fire till
the last extremity. Every one answered that if the Indians
came to close quarters and grasped their clothes, they
could not disengage the Indians' hold without drawing
blood. The blanket worn by the Indians is a convenient
garment in a close struggle. One of my men who had
watched an Indian potato-stealer for weeks, gripped him at
last one night by slipping round a tree upon him as he was
filling his bag; but the savage got off by pulling out the
bone skewer that fastened his blanket at the neck, and by
running naked across the potato-beds into the thick wood.
If an Indian is unarmed, one can hold him only by seizing
his hair; if he has a weapon about his person, he should
not be seized at all, but should be knocked down. The
Indians, as already stated, often carry a knife concealed
behind the ear in their long hair. 34
The Aht Indian runs well, but  does not equal the
Englishman in running.     In pursuing a native in the
open, he should always be turned from the forest, as, when
once there, nothing but a hound can follow him.     In
November, 1864, on a day so dreary and snowy" that we
could not work, word reached the settlement that a notoriously bad Indian, who, we were well aware, had committed
several murders, and was under sentence of imprisonment,
but who had escaped from the constable in 1862, was
visiting his married daughter at a temporary Indian hut
on the bank of the Klistachnit River, about a mile from
Alberni.    Taking with me John Eyloc, a New Brunswick
shipwright, a quick runner and a first-rate oarsman and
paddler, with  five other trusty men, • all unarmed, and
putting my six-barrelled Adams' revolver in my own belt,
I went up the river in a boat, and landed on the bank a
few hundred yards below the hut, towards which we walked.
Before the inmates discovered our approach, we had surrounded the hut.     Cautiously entering  the doorway, I
looked into the apartment, and saw no one but the son-in-
law of the fugitive and two women sitting by the fire, who
sprang to their feet on observing me.    A noise outside
attracted my attention, and, on going out, I found that
the savage we wanted to capture had sprung unobserved
from an opening at a corner of the hut, and was making
for the wood at full speed over the snow.    Eyloc was
in pursuit, and having gained on him quickly, notwithstanding the disadvantage  of shoes (which  get  clogged
in the  snow),  the Indian  abandoned his  intention   of
reaching the wood, and turned towards a near point on
the river.    We ran to intercept him, but he reached the SKILL IN PADDLING.
bank, and, throwing off his blanket, plunged into the
stream. The excitement in our party was now so great
that one of my men ran towards me, seized my arm, and
almost ordered me to shoot, or he would escape. The
fugitive had risen to the surface, and was swimming
towards a canoe that was quite out of our reach, tied to a
drift tree in the river. I covered him several times with
my pistol, in the excitement of the moment; but had no
intention of firing, especially as two of my own men had
got into a small canoe some way down the stream, and
were paddling up stream towards the coveted canoe. The
Indian reached it, however, first. He looked to see if
the canoe contained a paddle, then eagerly grasped the
welcome instrument. His pursuers, by this time, were
perhaps twenty yards from him, and were labouring with
powerful, but unequal and unskilful strokes against the
rapid current. We on the bank were not more than thirty,
yards distant. The river was about 250 yards wide. It
was beautiful to see how boldly the Indian, now seated in
a canoe, shot athwart his pursuers, and how skilfully he
forced his light skiff both up and across the stream, while
our men lost ground greatly in attempting to slant their
canoe and follow him. There were more than fifty yards
between the two canoes when the Indian reached the
wooded bank opposite, and plunged into the forest. We,
of course, then lost him. I believe he never again came
near the settlement. As our party retraced their steps to
the boat, cold, weary, and disappointed, I could see that
my not having fired at this fellow was not approved by my
companions. During the whole time of the pursuit, the
two women,—one of them, as above named, the fugitive's
daughter,—squatted near me and scolded bitterly. " You a
chief! " repeated they. " You pretend to be a chief; and
try to steal our papa ! You a chief! You are a common
man. So-and-so" (naming one of the foremen) "is a
high chief. You are no chief at all." They are adepts in
scolding; and it was done, in this case, so vigorously that
I could not laugh at them. Next day the same women
were quite friendly and chatty when they saw me at the
settlement. Their papa, they said, was now far beyond
my reach.
I remember many instances of Indians having escaped
from us through their skill in swimming, and paddling, and
travelling through the woods. The management by a
single Indian of a canoe in crossing a rapid stream cannot
be surpassed. At the same time, I may observe that I
have seen a trained crew of white men beat a crew of
Indians in a long canoe race on the sea. The civilized
man seems to have more bottom in him, when the exertion
is intense and prolonged.
IL 67
Houses of the Ahts—Custom of Changing Quarters—Mode of Shifting an
Encampment—No Appreciation of Natural Scenery—Description of
Dwellings and Furniture.
Carrying his own home still, still is at home.—Donne.
A fish: he smells like a fish; a very ancient and fishlike smell.
The framework or fixed portion of the houses in an Indian
village here belongs to individuals, generally to subordinate
chiefs, or to men of some station in the tribe. The name
of the owner of the framework of any division of the house
is given to the division formed by such framework for
the use of a family, when the whole encampment is
planked in for occupation. The planking is a joint
contribution from the inmates. It is eustomary for the
natives to shift their encampments several times during
the year, so as to be near good fishing and root and
fruit grounds. They cannot, however, be strictly considered as migratory tribes, as they always move to the
same places, according to the season, and these different
encampments are not far apart.    The framework of the 38
building is never removed, so that planking the sides and
roofs is the only work on re-occupation. Planks required
for repairing the houses are made during winter. Following the salmon as they swim up the rivers and inlets, the
natives place their summer encampments at some distance
from the seaboard, towards which they return for the winter
season about the end of October, with a stock of dried
salmon—their principal food at all times. By this arrangement, being near the seashore, they can get shell-fish, if
their stock of salmon runs short, and can also catch the
first fish that approach the shore in the early- spring.
Every tribe, however, does not thus regularly follow the
salmon; some of the tribes devote a season to whale-
fishing, or to the capture of the dog-fish, and supply
themselves with salmon by barter with other tribes. If
the natives did not thus often move their quarters, their
health would suffer from the putrid fish and other nasti-
nesses that surround their camps, which the elements and
the birds clear away during the time of non-occupation.
They remove in the following manner from an encampment :—Two large canoes are placed about six feet apart,
and connected by planks—the sides and roofs of the
houses—laid transversely upon each other, so as to form
a wide deck the whole length of the canoe, space enough
for one man being reserved at the bow and stern. On this
deck are baskets full of preparations of salmon-roe, dried
salmon, and other fish, together with wooden boxes containing blankets and household articles. The women and
children sit in a small space purposely left for them. I
have seen the goods piled on these rafts as high as fourteen feet from the water.   Each canoe is managed by two SITE OF AN ENCAMPMENT.
men, who, with the women and children, often raise a
cheery song as they float down the stream with all their
goods and chattels. The principal men send slaves or
others to prepare their quarters, and among the common
people it is understood beforehand who shall live together
at the new encampment. A willing, handy poor man sometimes is invited to live for the winter with a richer family,
for whom he works for a small remuneration. The houses
of the natives at their winter camping-grounds are large
and strongly constructed. I have seen a row of houses
stretching along the bank of a stream for the third of a
mile, with a varying breadth, inside the buildings, of from
twenty-five to forty feet, and a height of from ten to twelve.
Cedar {Thuja gigantea) is the wood used in making the
houses. Far from presenting a mean appearance, some
of the permanent winter encampments on this coast
suggest to us what the wooden halls of the old Northern
nations in Europe may have been like. They are far
superior, as human dwellings, to the hovels in Connaught,
or the mud cabins in the west of Sutherland. The village
sites are generally well chosen, and, though not selected
for any other reason than nearness to firewood and water,
and safety against a surprise, are often beautiful, occupying picturesquely the made * ground at the bend of a
river, or a spot near some pleasant brook, where fantastic
masses of rock, or the dense mixed forests, keep off the
wind.f   At such places, occupied for centuries year after
* This " made " ground consists of mud or earth, partly deposited from
the river itself, and partly washed from the bank of the stream. This
washing takes place especially at any bend or turn in the river.
f It is not my belief that these savages select pretty spots for their village
sites, or that they have any appreciation of natural scenery.   The notion that 40
year, shell-mounds have been formed, like the Danish
" kitchen refuse heaps," and from some of these in Vancouver Island, on their being dug through, the materials
for information respecting a past time may yet be got.
A row of round posts, a foot thick, and from ten to twelve
feet high, placed twenty feet apart and slightly hollowed
out at the top, is driven firmly into the ground to form
the framework of the lodge. These posts are connected by
strong cross-pieces, over which, lengthwise, the roof-tree is
placed—a stick sometimes of twenty inches diameter and
eighty or ninety feet long, hewn neatly round by the
mussel-adze, and often to be seen blackened by the smoke
of several generations. Some of the inside main-posts
often have great faces carved on them.* Heavy timbers
cap the side-posts, and across from these to the roof-tree
smaller cross-poles are laid, which support the roof.    The
they find a charm in contemplating the beauties of nature while resting hour
after hour on the grass near their houses, seems to me to have no foundation.
It is easy to imagine, from an Indian's attitude, that he is watching tranquilly
the floating clouds, or the light waves on the surface of the water, or that his
ear enjoys the pleasant mmmuring of the leaves; but the chances are, I
imagine, that the savage either gazes with a dull eye on vacancy, or is half
asleep. His rude, coarse organization cannot receive the impressions of which
more civilized, elevated natures are susceptible. If his fancy roves, the
images before the mind of the savage will be gross and common, and very
different from the beautiful conceptions which a refined intelligence would
form. The woods, to him, merely shelter beasts ; an angry spirit makes a
ripple on the water; and every shadow of a cloud causes alarm. The
immediate necessities of his life, vague fears of the future, an unavenged
wrong, or some torturing suspicions, fill the mind of the savage, and unfit
him even for the sensuous enjoyment of fine scenery and climate.
* These are not idols, but rude artistic efforts undertaken without any
view to symbolize the notions which the natives have of Quawteaht as a
higher being. I could not find that the Ahts possessed any symbols or
images that could be properly called idols, as objects of religious or superstitious veneration. CONSTRUCTION OF BUILDINGS.
roof is formed of broad cedar boards, sometimes seen of five
feet in width by- two inches thick, overlaid so as to turn
off water. The roof is not quite flat, but has a slight
pitch from the back part. The sides of the house are
made of the same material as the roof—the boards overlapping and being tied together with twigs between slender
upright posts fixed into the ground. The building is now
complete, except that the inmates have no place for the
reception of goods. To get this, a sort of duplicate inside
building is made by driving into the ground, close to the
exterior upright posts, smaller posts shorter by about two
feet. Small trees are tied to these shorter inside posts,
one end of each tree being fastened to an inside post on
one side of the house, about two feet below the top of this
inside post, and the other end tied in a similar manner to
the opposite short post on the other side of the house. At
right angles to these small trees, slender poles are laid, on
which the natives stow all sorts of things—onions, fern-
roots, mats, packages of roe, dried fish, guns, and hunting
and fishing instruments. There is no ceiling, and, with
the exception of these poles, the interior is open to the roof.
For about a foot deep inside of the building the earth is
hollowed out, and on the outside a strong stockade of split
cedar is sometimes erected, about six feet from the walls.
At the Ohyaht village, in Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound,
I have seen a loopholed stockade of this kind, erected so
as to face almost the only beach in the neighbourhood on
which an enemy could land. The Nitinahts also have a
fortified village. The houses of the Ahts are without
windows, and the entrances are small, and usually at a
corner of some division of the building.    The chimney 42
consists of a shifting board in the roof. There is access
from division to division of the house. The inside is
divided for family occupation into large squares, partitioned
for four feet in height; in the middle of each square is the
fire burning on a ring of stones; and round the sides of
these squares are wooden couches, raised nine inches from
the ground,* and covered with six or eight soft mats for
bedding. A more comfortable bed to rest upon I do not
know, and the wooden pillow, nicely fitting the head of
the sleeper, and covered with mats, is a good contrivance.
Boxes are piled between the couches, and also in the
corners of these rooms or divisions. The floor is uncovered. There are no prescribed seats in these divisions
for the different members of the family. All the houses
are so much alike, and the habits of the natives differ so
little, that in a night attack the stealthy enemy can enter,
and in the dark know where to strike the sleepers. A
strong fish-like smell, and rather more pungent smoke
than is agreeable, salute the nose and eyes of the careless
traveller who enters the • Aht dwellings. The outside,
however, is the worst, for the whole refuse of the camp
is thrown there; and, not being offensive to the organs
of the natives, is never removed. A pinch of snuff and
a toothful of good brandy are very grateful to one who
picks his way among the putrid fish and castaway mollusks
that cover the ground. The principal occupant lives at
the extreme end, on the left of the building as you walk
* It is worthy of remark that in several villages on the north-east of
Vancouver Island, and in nearly all on the coast of British Columbia, the
Indian houses are divided into small rooms. I have not seen a house so
divided on the west coast of the island. It probably is an imitation
of white men's houses. PLACES  OF OCCUPANTS.
up from the main door; the next in rank at the nearer
end, on the left as one enters; the intermediate spaces
being occupied by the common people. The half bulkheads between the different families are removed oh great
occasions, and the whole building kept clear.*
* The Indians saw our carpenters at work constantly, and were present
at the building of perhaps a hundred wooden houses—both log-houses and
frame-houses—yet, though furnished with sawn wood and the necessary tools
and appliances, they built their new houses exactly like their old ones, never
altering nor improving them. 44     )
A Mutinous Crew—My Canoe stolen—Left upon an Island—George the
Pirate—Stormy Sea—Sensations from Freezing—Samaritan Woodmen.
Nature, whilst fears her bosom chill,
Suspends her pow'rs, and life stands still.—Churchill.
The comfort of even such a house as the Indians have is
never so much felt, as when one has no house at all to sleep
in. I remember one night when the poorest hut would have
delighted me. During the afternoon a request had reached
me that I would visit officially, as a magistrate, an English
ship which had put into Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound with a
discontented crew. I went to the ship in a canoe manned
by six Indians, and found her at an anchorage about forty-
five miles from our settlement. After spending a night and
the greater part of the next day on board, I succeeded in
inducing the crew to lift the anchor and set the sails.
They made some petty complaints, but the truth was they
had a weak captain, and did hot wish to proceed with the
vessel.    My canoe was alongside, the ship was beginning ISLAND  SOLITUDE.
to move slowly through the water, and I was signing some
papers for the captain, when a sudden hailstorm struck the
vessel, and obscured the whole deck for several minutes.
When the squall passed I prepared to depart, but on
looking over the side found that my canoe was gone. The
boatswain of the ship also was missing; he had sprung
into the canoe during the squall, and had satisfied the
Indians by some story of my going to sea in the vessel,
that it would be according to my wishes if they proceeded
with him alone—at all events the canoe was nowhere to be
seen. Here was a pretty situation—several miles from the
mainland, night approaching, the ship increasing her
speed every minute, and the sea becoming rough. I need
not relate at length how the ship managed to land me without again casting anchor. Suffice it to say, that after several
hours I was landed, in the ship's gig, on a small wooded
island near the entrance of Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound; the
boat returned to the ship, and she stood away and disappeared in the evening gloom. I had a pocketful of biscuits
with me, but no blankets, as I expected to find an Indian
encampment on the other side of the island. This chance
failed me, however; for after scrambling across the island
to the village, I found it empty—the Indians had moved
to other fishing quarters. The night was falling, and there
was nothing for it but to light a fire, and sit down beside
it to chew a biscuit, and to wish the boatswain some well-
deserved punishment. He was, no doubt, by this time far
on his way, in my fine canoe, to some decent place of
shelter. The want of a blanket I felt most; one does not
like, on a January evening, to lie down at the foot even of
a suitable tree without a covering of some sort.    I sat by 46
the fire till about midnight, and then made a bed of young
fir-branches, and drawing several branches over me, fell
asleep, with my feet towards the fire. The cold awoke me
early in the morning, and I got up and moved about the
island, and seated myself finally on an elevated rock, from
which I could see numerous other small islands, and a
considerable part of the open water of the Sound. I took
a breakfast of biscuits here, and looked out anxiously for
some Indian canoe. I at last saw one crossing the Sound,
a long way off, and waved a handkerchief to attract attention. The Indians made no sign, but changed their course
slightly in my direction. I kept on waving till I was
certain they saw me, and then sat down to wait their
pleasure. It was a wretched small canoe, with a man and
woman in it. They did not come on steadily within hailing distance, but stopped now and then and talked, and
then paddled a little way farther. Coming near at last, I
shouted, " Are you Seshahts ? " to which they replied by
a great hoarse laugh, after the manner of the Indians.
"Seshahts?" I again shouted interrogatively, and they
answered, " No, Ohyahts." " Very well," said I, " come
and take me to the Ohyaht village." The answer to this
was another guffaw, and an objection that the canoe was
too small. All this time they were endeavouring to find
the real reason of one white man being there without a
boat, and at the same time they were manoeuvring for a
hard bargain. I agreed to give them all they asked, and
finally was taken by them to the village of the Ohyahts—
three or four miles distant.
My first inquiry was for George the Pirate, a noted
Ohyaht murderer and scoundrel, but a very good paddler. A  CANOE  VOYAGE.
On coming forward, he at once recognized me, and I began
to be treated with distinction, which, in view of the
inevitable bargain? for a canoe, I was rather sorry for, as
chiefs in this part are expected to pay like chiefs for everything they have. Kleeshin, the head chief of the Ohyahts,
was sent for, and he invited me into his house, and spread
a clean mat on a box for me to sit upon. After many questions and answers, we came to business. I wanted a large
canoe, with six Indians, to take me quickly to Alberni. Such
a canoe, I ascertained, could not be got—there were no
large canoes at the village; so it was finally agreed that
Kleeshin and scoundrel George should take me in George's
small canoe, at the hire of three blue blankets. They
insisted on this agreement being written on paper, to
which, though unable to read it, they attached great
We started about nine o'clock, and kept close to the
shore, as the Indians generally do. About eleven the wind
rose, and snow began to fall. We passed a point on which
a dog was howling piteously. Kleeshin said this dog had
been abandoned by the Indians. Entering the long canal
described in the first chapter, the work became very stiff, as
. the sea was rough and the wind blew against the canoe; but
the two paddlers worked hour after hour with regularity and
vigour, and without speaking a word. I was told afterwards that we were in great danger during the whole of
this time, and that nothing saved us but the extraordinary
skill of Kleeshin and George with the paddles. • The sea
was rougher than they had expected, and there was no
landing-place, and to go back was as bad as to go on. I
was sitting with my back to the stern of the canoe where 48
Kleeshin was, but saw every movement of George the bow
paddler; and not being aware of any danger, I watched
his action with admiration. His manner showed no excitement ; hour after hour his shoulder and arm worked
like part of a steam-engine, and when an angry curling
wave came close to the gunwale, he cut the top of it
lengthwise with his paddle, and not a drop came on board.
The snow all this time continued to fall; I was sitting
on the bottom of the canoe, without any power of changing
my position, and the flakes gathered round my feet and
legs in spite of all my endeavours to free myself from their
soft embrace. It was a long time before I felt any alarm;
but when the line of foam on the steep rocks showed the
impossibility of landing anywhere, and I remembered we
were only half-way on our journey, a sort of dread crept
over me. Using my hands as a scoop, I shovelled the
snow out of the canoe : still, hour after hour passed, and
the snow never ceased to fall. I spoke to the Indian in
front, but he did not reply, nor make any sign that he
heard me speaking. Mile after mile was thus slowly
passed, and I recollect fancying that I felt the cold less,
and that I should be warmer if the snow quite covered my
legs. When, in changing his paddle for another lying in
the canoe, George accidentally struck my leg, I remember
it seemed odd to me that I should see and not feel something striking my leg. After that it was all like a dream ;
I seemed to be resting on a soft couch, in a great hall
lighted by numerous lamps shedding a pleasant light,
and beautiful people were tending me, and there were
strains of music in the air. The fact was the cold was
becoming too much for me.   Then the scene changed to a RECOVERY FROM FREEZING.
rough hut, lighted imperfectly by a huge fire of logs under
a large chimney in the middle of the hut, at some distance
from which fire I was propped up by two strong woodmen,
who were rubbing my legs. The pleasant words, " I guess,
Jim, he's thawing," recalled me to earth from the land of
dreams, and I began to estimate the whole position exactly,
though I could as yet not utter a word, but only laugh
in recognition of my attendants' kindness. Having had
a warm dry shirt and drawers put on, I tumbled into
a bunk, under a heap of blankets, and awoke next morning
quite myself again. We were a long way from the settlement I but, fortunately for me, several of the men engaged
in rafting timber happened to have occupied an old hut for
the night; and the Indians, seeing the light and becoming
aware of my condition, had steered for the place, and had
succeeded in landing safely, though with damage to their
canoe. I had no very kindly feelings towards the boatswain
who was the cause of this mischance. 50
Winter the time for Feasts—Domestic Manners ; Fondness for Jokes and
Gossip—Rarity of Serious Quarrels ; Ignorance of Fisticuffs—Unwillingness to labour—Appetite, Meals, Food and Drinks, Cooking ;
Gathering Gammass Roots ; Cutting down Crab-apple Trees in
Despair—Hospitality to Friendly Unexpected Visitors—Observance
of Formalities in Social Intercourse.
Come; our stomachs
Will make what's homely, savoury; weariness
Can snore upon the flint.—Shakspeaeb.
In fine seasons, the Ahts, following the salmon up the
inlets and streams, have been known not to return to their
winter quarters till the end of November. A month sooner,
however, is about the usual time. Mirth then prevails, as
the whole tribe is gathered like a family round a fireside.
There is a general holiday and time of feasting, called
Klooh-quahn-nah, which ends about the middle of January,
soon after which time the natives begin to look for fish that
approach the inlets on the coast in the spring. The winter
season is the time when, if one knew the Aht language
thoroughly, and had the stomach and nose to live actually
amongst them, their ways could be best learnt. The
natives delight in gossip and scandal, and the strangest
rumours circulate freely through every camp.
What talks there will be in the smoky houses about the
past fishing season, the conduct of other tribes, the doings of
the white men !    These natives are not at all times so grave
as out of doors they appear to us.   When relieved from
the presence of strangers, they have much easy and social
conversation among themselves.    Round their own fires
they sing and chat, and the older men, lying and bragging
after the manner of story-tellers, recount their feats in war
or the chase to a listening group.    Joke's pass freely, and
the laugh is long, if not loud.    According to our notions,
the conversation is frequently coarse and indecent.     A
common fireside amusement is to tease the women till they
become angry, which  always produces  great merriment.
The men rarely quarrel except with their tongues, and a
blow is seldom given.    If struck in anger it must be paid
for next day with a present, unless the striker chooses to
leave   the   dispute   between   himself  and  his opponent
open.     The   respect   entertained   for the   head   of  the
family is, however, generally speaking, sufficient to preserve order within the family circle.    Quarrelling is also
rare among the children.     The use of the doubled fist
as a means of offence is quite unknown  among these
people, and seemed at first very much to surprise them.
I have never witnessed a fight between two sober natives;
when drunk, they seek close quarters and pull each other's
hair.    When there is no dancing, their evenings are passed
round the fire, and, as the stories slacken, they retire one
by one to their couches.   They sleep in the same blankets
4—2 52
which they use during the day. To judge by their snoring,
the natives seem to sleep rather heavily than otherwise.
They rise from their beds at an early hour in the morning.'
The women go to bed first, and are up first in the morning
to prepare breakfast. In their own work, among themselves, I should not call these Ahts a very lazy people,
though they have no regular occupation, and though, from
the toiling Englishman's point of view, they are the reverse
of industrious.* They have a good deal to do in making
house utensils, nets, canoes, paddles, weapons, and implements. The high chiefs, of course, are mere gentlemen at
large. I have seen Indians hard at work on canoes in the
woods at five o'clock on an autumn morning, a long way
from their houses (see canoe-making, page 85). Their
appetite is capricious and not easily appeased; but when
necessary, they have great power of abstaining from food.
When at work, only two small meals are taken—in the
morning and evening; but, when not at work, cooking
■ continues all day, and as many as six or eight meals are
* "When I first employed Indians at Alberni, the price of their labour
was two blankets and rations of biscuits and molasses for a month's work
for each man, if he worked the whole time. The Indians became very
tired after labouring for ten days or a fortnight, and many forfeited the
wages already earned, rather than endure longer the misery of regular
labour. It was instructive, yet almost painful to witness the struggle
between the strong acquisitive instincts of the savage, and the real mental
and physical difficulty and pain caused by the stated regularity of the
hours for work and for meals. Some of the Indians became fair workmen, and their labour was worth half-a-dollar a day and rations, or about
one-third the value of an ordinary white labourer's work; but, on the whole,
I found that the Indians were unprofitable workmen. They make better
sailors than labourers ; a Tsclahllam slave from the opposite side of the
straits of Fuca, whom we named Quartermaster Jack, often took the wheel
of th'e%rew-steamer Thames in inland waters, on the way to Alberni. He
could see in the dark like a racoon. FOOD.
eaten. The principal food of the natives, as before alluded
to, is fish—salmon, whale, halibut, seal, herring, anchovy,
and shell-fish of various kinds. Their commonest article of
food at all times is dried salmon; whale-blubber, preparations of. salmon roe, and the heads of smaller fish are
esteemed delicacies. They are particularly fond of picking
bones. Twenty years ago, when few trading vessels visited
the coast, the Ahts probably were restricted to a diet of
fish, wild berries, and roots; but they now use also for food,
flour, potatoes, rice, and molasses. This change of food,
from what I saw of its effect on two tribes with whom I
lived, has proved to be very injurious to their health.
The dogfish is occasionally eaten, but is generally caught
for the sake of its oil, to barter with the whites. Fur-
seals and sea-otters are diligently pursued for their furs, but
few good furs are got without going much farther north than
any part of Vancouver Island. Only a few individuals in any
tribe follow the chase; but there are always some hunters
who pursue the bear, beaver, mink, marten and racoon for
their skins. Geese, ducks, and deer are also used as food,
but are not so well liked as fish, and are seldom kept in
stock. The marrow of animals is esteemed a great delicacy
by all the natives. They seem to be very improvident, or
rather, perhaps, are unable to calculate their probable
wants; and it happens sometimes that they are in straits
for want of food, when the fish do not appear until late in
the spring. Becoming weak and thin, they blacken their
faces to hide their altered looks. What we call the
refuse of birds and fish, particularly the head, is esteemed
by the natives. When the canoes return to shore
from fishing,  the  men fill the baskets with the  fish, 54
and place them on the women's shoulders. The latter,
assisted by the slaves, immediately cut off the heads, open,
and wash the fish, press out the water, and afterwards
hang them up to dry in the smoke without salt. The roe
is made into cakes or rolls, which are hung up and smoked.
The commonest way of cooking fish or flesh is by spitting
it on cedar sticks placed near the fire. Whale-blubber
and pieces of seal are prepared for food by being boiled in
a wooden dish, into which hot stones are thrown to heat
the water. A kind of gravy soup is also made from pieces
of fish. Another mode of cooking is to cover the fire with
stones, on which water is sprinkled and the fish placed,
mats saturated with fresh water being thrown over all. In
this way as many as fifty salmon are cooked at once, and
no better mode could be desired. When used immediately
as food, the head, backbone, ribs, and tail are separated
from the rest of the body, the heads and tails are strung
together and dried, and the backbone, which has a large
portion of the fish adhering to it, is generally eaten first.
As a corrective of the injurious effects of a continued
fish and animal diet, various plants are used by the natives
as food. The kammass,—a species of lily common in the
north and north-west of America, so called originally, it
is supposed, by the early French fur-trading voyageurs,
but known to the Ahts as gammass,—comes into flower
about the middle or end of April, and remains in flower
till June, when it is in a condition to be gathered <
Before that time its root is watery and unpalatable. The
gathering of the gammass is the most picturesque of all
Indian employments. One could hardly wish in his
honeymoon, or in any like happy time, for a pleasanter THE GAMMASS LILY.
dwelling than the little bush camps which the natives
form in the gammass districts. It is pleasant to lie on the
fern in these cosy abodes, and smoke, and read one of those
old books of travel too wonderful by half to be produced
in these days. This useful plant is found also in
Oregon, and the root is there roasted until black, and is
preserved in cakes. In Vancouver Island it is roasted and
preserved whole in bags for winter use. The gammass
has an agreeable sweetish taste, and, from the great
quantity of starchy matter which it contains, is justly
esteemed one of the most wholesome of the Indian
edibles. It grows only in small quantities on the west
coast, and is taken thither as an article of traffic from the
south of the island, particularly from the neighbourhood
of Victoria, where there are excellent gammass districts.
One of the bitterest regrets of the natives is that the
encroachment of the whites is rapidly depriving them of
their crops of this useful and almost necessary plant.
They have never attempted to increase the production of
gammass by any kind of cultivation.
The roots of the common fern or bracken are much
used as a regular meal. They are simply washed and
boiled, or beaten with a stone, till they become soft, and
are then roasted. All the different kinds of berries are a
favourite food, either fresh plucked from the bush, or when
pressed into cakes for use in winter. The gathering of
berries in the woods by parties of natives, during the lovely
summer and autumn days, is a pleasant and favourite occupation of the women and children. The tender shoots of
several species of rubus are eaten as a delicacy or relish
during the summer, as the shoots of the sweet-briar are 56
•eaten in Scotland. Canoes may be seen quite laden with
these shoots. Hazel-nuts and sal-al berries are used in
autumn. Many species of seaweed are collected for food,
and one species is pressed into cakes for winter use. The
dog-tooth violet, wild onions, and the roots or young
shoots of several other plants that grow on the coast, form
the food of the Indians at different times of the year.
Crab-apples are wrapped in leaves and preserved in bags
for the winter. The method of cooking them, when fresh
plucked, is by simply boiling the apples; but, when they
have lost their acidity, they are cooked by being placed in
a hole dug/ in the ground, over which green leaves are
placed, and a fire kindled above all. The natives are as
careful of their crab-apples as we are of our orchards ; and
it is a sure sign of their losing heart before intruding
whites when, in the neighbourhood of settlements, they
sullenly cut down their crab-apple trees, in order to gather
the fruit for the last time without trouble, as the tree lies
upon the ground.    The Indian,
As fades his swarthy race, with anguish sees
The white man's cottage rise beneath the trees.—Leyden.
Water is the only drink of the natives. They dislike
salt; at least I have observed they will not boil potatoes in
salt-water, even under the pressure of hunger. At meals a
circle is formed; the natives sit like Turks, and eat slowly
and without much conversation, until the pipe has been
passed round, after which they begin to talk. Travellers
are generally well received, but members of another tribe
are not expected to take their guns or pikes inside the
house with them—an act which, according to M. Hue, is
A stranger, on entering
contrary also to Tartar etiquette. SOCIAL ETIQUETTE.
a house, seats himself, and no word is spoken for several
minutes. Food is then placed before him without his
having to ask for it, and the host is displeased if the
stranger does not partake of it. He also feels hurt if by
any omission, the guest has to ask for refreshment. A
small mat, specially kept for strangers, is spread as a seat,
and at the end of the meal, a wooden box of water and
some soft bark strips are offered for washing the mouth
and hands. Next follows a pipe, if tobacco is plentiful,
and then the host asks a string of questions at once :
where the guest is from ? where going to ? on what business ? and the news from his tribe ? In reply to which,
the guest makes a sort of speech, answering all the questions. Another family now expresses a'wish to entertain
him, and, though occasionally a traveller has to eat six or
eight times in a night, such invitations cannot be declined
without offence. In the morning, the guest receives another
meal, and departs without any charge being made for his
entertainment. On the arrival of a number of strange
canoes on a friendly but unexpected visit, they are brought
stern foremost to the shore, and the natives cease paddling
and wait without speaking. Had they been expected, the
canoes would have approached bow foremost, and the
people on shore would have run down and helped to pull
their bows on to the beach; but in the case of unexpected
visitors, the inmates of the village simply come out of
their houses and squat down, looking at the visitors. By-
and-by, one, and then another, is asked to go up to the
houses; but no person goes without a special invitation,
and sometimes it is an hour or more before all the visitors
find accommodation. 58
The Aht Indians have an etiquette by which the
manner of receiving guests and visitors is laid down, and
all their ceremonies on public occasions are regulated.
Extreme formality prevails, and any failure in good
manners is noticed. The natives of rank rival one another
in politeness. Compared with the manners of English
rustics or mechanics, their manners are simple and rather
dignified. Since the whites went amongst them, it is
amusing to observe the attempts that are made to imitate
some of the forms of civilized intercourse. In meeting
out of doors, they have no gesture of salutation; in their
houses it consists of a polite motioning towards a couch. >9    )
Feasts and Feasting—Description of a great Whale Feast—After-dinner
Oratory : Skill in Public Speaking—Seta-Kanim " on his Legs "—
Vocal Peculiarities—Indian's reply to Governor Kennedy—Singing :
Blind Minstrel from Klah-oh-quaht ; translation of one of his
Songs—Amusements^ of Adults and Children—Dances and Plays ;
Description of five different Dances.
I could be pleased with any one
Who entertained my sight with such gay shows.—DetdeN.
The great feasts, as before named, take place in winter, but
feasting goes on at all times. There are always feasts and
distributions when a new house is built. An Indian who
thinks anything of himself, never gets a deer or a seal, or
even a quantity of flour, without inviting his friends to a
feast. The guests go early, and sit chatting while the food is
being cooked. They eat in silence, and go away afterwards
one by one, each taking the uneaten portion of his allowance with him in a corner of his blanket. After a whale
is brought on shore, about a hundredweight of the best
part is cut off and presented to the chief. The harpooner
who first struck the whale, and the fish-priest—a sorcerer 60
who prophesies as to the success of the fish seasons—next
receive their shares; then the minor chiefs, in portions
according to their rank; and, finally, the common people,
until the whole fish is divided. A round of feasts is now
expected from those who have received large portions.
Messengers, with red and blue blankets tastefully put on,
go to each house, and in a loud voice invite all the men of
the tribe to attend a feast at a particular house. The
women are not invited to a feast of this kind, and are
seldom seen at any large entertainment, except at that
called Wawkoahs, which is given by one tribe to another
with which they are on very friendly terms. The common
people—how odd to talk of common people where all
seem so common—go early, and take their seats near, the
door by which they enter. It is the habit of men of rank
to be late in going to a feast, and to have several messages sent to them to request their presence. Each
person's place is duly reserved for him. For a feast of
this kind, a large part of the whole building is cleared; all
the dividing planks that separate the families are removed,
and a clear space left, sometimes fifty feet wide by two
hundred in length. Clean mats, or long twists of cedar
fibre are laid round the inside of the lodge. On the
entrance of a guest, he is announced by name and placed
in his proper seat, where he finds a bunch of bark strips
for wiping his feet. When a popular chief .enters, he is
loudly cheered after the Aht fashion, that is, by striking the
walls with the back of the hand or with a piece of stick, in
which way the natives also accompany their monotonous
songs.   The meal is never served till all the invited guests
have arrived.
Meanwhile the cooking goes on in a corner TREATMENT OF GUESTS.
of the house in a manner new to Soyer. Hot stones are
put, by means of wooden tongs, into large wooden boxes,
containing a small quantity of water. When the water'
boils, the blubber of the whale, cut into pieces about an
inch thick, is thrown into these boxes, and hot stones are
added till the food is cooked. This imperfect boiling does
not extract half the oil from the blubber, but whatever
appears is skimmed off, and preserved in bladders as a
delicacy to be eaten with dried salmon and with potatoes
or other roots. Whale-oil is so much liked by the natives
that they rarely sell it. The chief's wives at such an
entertainment prepare the food, and afterwards wait upon
the guests. On everything being ready, the host directs
the feast to be served. Silence while eating is considered
a mark of politeness. No knives are used ; the blubber,
which in tenacity resembles gutta-percha, is held in the
hands while being eaten. Each guest receives a larger or
a smaller piece according to his rank. During dinner, the
host and one of his servants, who may be called a sort of
master of the feast, walk round to see that all the visitors
have been served with due attention. On finishing his meal,
each person receives some soft cedar bark, that he may
wipe his mouth and hands. The remains of each person's
meal are carefully gathered by the servants of the host, and
carried to the guest's dwelling. By-and-by, conversation
begins; a few compliments are paid to the chief for his
good cheer, and then, perhaps, some tribal topics are
introduced, and animated speeches are delivered by various
orators. Praises of their own and their forefathers'
achievements in war, or skill in hunting and fishing, and
boasts of the number of their powerful friends and the 62
admirable qualities of each, form the burden of these after-
dinner speeches. The principal chief always gives the
signal to break up the party, and he leaves first. When the
guests retire, it is usual, in fine weather, for small groups
to meet and discuss the whole proceedings and criticize
the speeches. I had no expectation of finding that oratory
—the queen of human gifts—was so much prized among
this rude people. It is almost the readiest means of
gaining power and station. The Klah-oh-quahts excel in
public speaking. Individuals sometimes speak at festive
or political meetings for more than an hour, with great
effect upon the hearers. My not being able always to
follow the words enabled me perhaps more to notice the
graces of action which the speakers exhibited. The
blanket is a more becoming garment to an orator than a
frock coat. The voices of one or two noted chiefs are very
powerful, yet clear and musical, the lower tones remark-
ably so ; their articulation is distinct, and their gestures
and attitudes are singularly expressive. I have been
tempted sometimes to cheer them.
There is a noticeable difference, I may mention, between
the voices of the Ahts and those of Englishmen. I never
more distinctly observed this than when a savage replied
to Governor Sir Arthur Kennedy on his addressing an
assembly of natives in front of the Government House at
Victoria, soon after his arrival in the colony, The
Governor is a soldier-like man, with a resolute, handsome
face, and firm voice ; but the contrast was striking between
his measured voice and talk, and the deep, careless tones of
the savage, as his utterance in reply burst on the relieved
ears of the audience.     There is a pith in an Indian's ORATORY,  SINGING, AND DANCING.
speech altogether, in voice, manner, and meaning, that
startles one accustomed to the artificial declamation of
English public meetings. It has occurred to me, while
hearing savage oratory among the Ahts, that an actor or
artist who wished to know what natural earnest manner
in public speaking really is, should visit Klah-oh-qu, and
hear Seta-Kanim on his legs. Viewing the matter artistically,- it is quite a treat; but, from another point of view,
the picture is saddening, even to one ignorant of the
language, to see a savage in the open air, pleading, under
a sense of injustice, for some object he has much at heart
—perhaps his native land. There is nothing to be seen
in England like it. We Englishmen converse well indoors across green tables, but out of doors the savage beats
us in public speaking beyond compare. In all the externals of oratory, the Bishop of Oxford at Bradford, or
Lamartine at the Hotel de Ville, would be tame, placed
beside Seta-Kanim speaking for war.
Boys practise the recital of portions of celebrated
speeches which they retain in memory; and occasionally,
as the old men sit on the beach, watching the sunset on a
summer evening, they point out future orators and envoys
among the youngsters who play before them. Such winter
feasts as I have described are often followed by singing
and dancing. Singing is very common, but their musical
attainments are not great.
They have, however, different airs or chants for times
of grief or joy, for careless moments, and for the hour of
triumph, all of which, rude and informal as they may be,
have a distinct character about them. The most unmusical
ear, of course, distinguishes at once the song of the mother 64
fondling her child from the wail of the parent lamenting
for her offspring; and not less marked is the difference
between the terrible death chant and the song of mirth at
a feast. And, I daresay, one might perceive, on comparison,
a certain beauty of natural expression in many of the native
strains, if it were possible to relieve them from the monotony
which is their fault. The required expression is usually
given by uttering the sounds in quick or slow time, more
than by any attempt at musical cadence. It is remarkable
how aptly the natives catch and imitate songs heard from
settlers or travellers. They soon learn to sing the " Old
Hundredth " as well as many a Scottish congregation;
"Bobbing Around," and "Dixie's Land," were lately
familiar tunes; and I have heard several natives join
in " God Save the Queen," and sing it fairly well too,
without the variations which destroy that grave, simple
song. The musical faculty must be far from unimportant
that enables the natives thus accurately to catch, after a
few hearings, the right expression of songs, the meaning
and tendency of which are quite unknown to them. The
singer often acts while he sings, representing, for instance,
the spearing of fish or the paddling of a canoe. In almost
every tribe there is an old man who sings war-chants, and
songs of praise at public feasts. One old man from Klah-
oh-quaht Sound, blind from age, accompanied by his two
sons who lead him about, visits the different tribes of his
own—the Aht—nation every summer. He is one of the
richest men in his tribe. On landing at a camp, this
white-haired minstrel praises the tribe and the chief, and
makes a song, to which they listen quite pleased, and some
one, whose benevolence or vanity has been touched, gives OUT-DOOR AMUSEMENTS.
him a present. The following is a free translation of one
of his improvisations :—" The Ohyahts are a great people
I with strong, hearts, and all the tribes fear them; they
"make good canoes and kill whales. I am an old man
I who has seen many snows, but every snow I hear more
" about the Ohyahts; they have a great chief who has
" taken many heads, and has many slaves; his grand-
| father was strong and took many heads. The Ohyahts
" are lucky and will catch plenty of salmon ; I have come
I far and am old, and will need blankets in winter."
The venerable beggar will sing thus for an hour, praising
different people and their forefathers, if at every stoppage
he receives a present; and should there be any backwardness in giving on the part of the audience, he will ask for
a gift in a most unbard-like manner.
The men have few out-door amusements except swimming, or trying strength by hooking little fingers, which is
always conducted with good humour.* Hunting and fishing
may be called more occupations than amusements. The
war-dance is now and then practised out of doors, but
is little like the dance one's imagination would picture,
consisting merely of a number of men with blackened faces
running to and fro, now and then jumping on one leg,
yelling and firing their guns. The native children are
sprightly enough and amuse themselves in various ways;
climbing poles, shooting with bows and arrows, and darting
miniature spears at shapes of birds and fish made of grass;
* From some cause, perhaps the constant use of the paddle, their fingers
are very strong ; as already stated, I have seen middle-sized natives carry
heavy weights with their fingers which stalwart woodmen could scarcely
lift. For this reason an angry Indian should not be allowed to catch the
clothes of an opponent; he should be knocked down. 66
or alone in a small canoe, upsetting by a quick movement
the tiny vessel, soon to right it, and empty the canoe of
water before the bold swimmer again gets in to paddle off
and repeat the trick. Another boy's pastime, which their
elders instruct them in, is cutting off with a knife the heads
of clay models made to represent enemies.
After a great feast, as a signal for dancing to commence,
the host claps his hands, and, in a loud tone, sings a few
words of some well-known song. As a rule, the men and
women do not dance together; when the men are dancing
the women sing and beat time. Hardly an evening passes
in winter without a dance in some part of the encampment,
and if no one has a party, the chief invites some of the
young men to dance at bis own house. The seal-dance is •
a common one. The men strip naked, though it may be a
cold frosty night, and go into the water, from which they
soon appear, dragging their bodies along the sand like
seals. They enter the houses, and crawl about round the
fires, of which there may be fifteen or twenty kept bright
with oil. After a time the dancers jump up, and dance
about the house. In another dance, in which all the
performers are naked, a man appears with his arms tied
behind his back with long cords, the ends of which, like
reins, are held by other natives Who drive him about. The
spectators sing and beat time on their wooden dishes and
bearskin drums. Suddenly the chief appears, armed with
a knife, which he plunges into the runner's back, who
springs forward, moving wildly as if in search of shelter.
Another blow is given; blood flows down his back, and great
excitement prevails, amidst which, the civilized spectator
shudders and remonstrates.    The stroke is repeated and PANTOMIMIC DANCES.
the victim staggers weakly, and falls prostrate and lifeless.
Friends gather round, and remove the body, which,
outside the house, washes itself and puts on its blanket.
I never saw acting more to the life; the performers
would be the making of a minor theatre in London. Here,
in fact, is theatrical performance in its earliest stage. The
blood, which by some contrivance flows down the back at
the moment the stroke is given, is a mixture of a red gum,
resin, oil and water—'the same that is used in colouring
the inside of canoes. In these dances men only share, but
there is a dance in which men and women join, and which
they keep up for a long time. Both sexes are naked to the
waist, and the best blanket is worn as a kilt. Such a scene
brings Alloway Kirk to mind, and one peers through the
smoky, dim-lighted Indian house for a vision of the shaggy
fiddler in the corner. The hair is allowed to hang loose,
and the women are ornamented with anklets and bracelets.
The dancers sing, and the boys standing round keep time
with sticks on bearskin drums. No notice is taken of the
women except, occasionally, when a gallant youth throws a
string of beads round an active maiden's neck. The dancing
is not with partners, and each seems to quit the dance alone,
and without ceremony. The dancers move slowly through
a kind of figure—the nature of which I could not understand
— and pass strips of blanket under the arm so quickly to one
another, that one cannot see them till some performer,
tired out, stops and walks away with a strip in his hand.
I may mention here a few more of the Aht dances,
which, accompanied with singing, are called by the natives
" Nook," as I witnessed them at Alberni, during a large
intertribal feast.
5—2 68
Nook 1.—The great aim in this dance was, that it was
to be carried on with energy and without cessation ; when
some one was tired out others joined in; and those who
had stopped returned to it again, when they had recovered
their strength. The words of the song were equivalent to
" keep it up." Many of the dancers kept it up till the
perspiration appeared freely on their half-naked bodies:
some went out and plunged into the river, and returned
to renew their exertions.
Nook 2.—There was a peculiar song here, as in all the
other dances ; but I do not know the words. Probably in
this, as certainly in some other instances, there were no
words, and tradition had only retained the notes of the
tune, and the peculiar feature of the dance. The aim of
the performers was to bend the knee excessively, while
at the same time they kept time with the quick drum-
beating and singing to which they danced. Only a few of
the Indians excel in this dance.
Nook 3.—This might be called the doctor's (Ooshtukyu)
nook. During the song and dance, which at first seemed
to present nothing peculiar, a well-known slave (one, however, who was in a comparatively independent position,
being employed as a sailor on board the steamer Thames,)
suddenly ceased dancing, and fell down on the ground apparently in a dying state, and having his face covered with
blood. He did not move or speak, his head fell on one
side, his limbs were drawn up, and he certainly presented a
ghastly spectacle. While the dance raged furiously around
the fallen man, the doctor, with some others, seized and
dragged him to the other side of the fire round which they
were dancing, placing his naked feet very near the flames. NOOK" DANCES.
After this, a pail of water was brought in, and the doctor,
who supported the dying man on his arm, washed the blood
from his face; the people beat drums, danced, and sang,
and suddenly the patient sprang to his feet and joined in
the dance, none the worse for the apparently hopeless condition of the moment before. While all this was going on,
I asked the giver of the feast whether it was real blood upon
the man's face, and if he were really wounded. He told me
so seriously that it was, that I was at first inclined to believe
him, until he began to explain that the blood which came
from the nose and mouth was owing to the incantations of
the medicine-man, and that all the people would be very
angry if he did not afterwards restore him. I then recalled
to mind that in the early part of the day, before the feast,
I had seen the doctor and the slave holding very friendly
conferences ; and the former had used his influence to get
a pass for the latter to be present at the entertainment,
to which, probably, he had no right to come. I feel sure
that many of the Indians really believed in this exhibition
of the doctor's power. When the affair was over, many
of the natives asked me what I thought of it, and referred
to it as if it must set at rest for ever any possible doubts
with regard to the abilities of their native doctors. The
Indian, who explained this and other performances to me,
said, that the cure was not entirely owing to the doctor, but
to the large body of dancers and singers who all " exerted
their hearts " to desire the recovery of the sick man, and
so procured the desired effect.
Nook 4.—This is the roof dance, a performance peculiar
to the Seshaht people. Suddenly, during an apparently
ordinary course of singing and dancing, the majority of
II 70
those engaged climb up the posts of the house, thrust the
boards aside, and the next moment are heard leaping on
the roof and making a noise like thunder. This goes on
for a time, some descending from above and joining those
below, and others climbing up to take their places on
the roof. It may be mentioned, in connection with this
roof-dance, that "after all the dances were over, on the
occasion I speak of, an old man came forward and made,
apparently, a very eloquent speech. He said that the
roof-dance was one belonging to the Seshahts, and could
not be omitted; but, at the same time, noticed that it
was an injurious thing for the roof, as it was apt to split
the boards and let in the rain. This was intended as an
apology to the owner of the house. Afterwards, several
Indians came forward, and each gave a small stick, which
was received as a present by the owner of the house.
These sticks intimated a gift of roof-boards, and the person
presenting one of them undertook, at some future time,
to redeem it with a roof-board.
Nook 5.—This dance was characterized by having a
greater number of dancers, and a movement and song
which, though cheerful, was not so quick nor loud as those
which had preceded it. It seemed to be intended to have a
sort of confidential and conversational tone. The dancers
moved softly but actively about, and seemed to address
each other in praises of the building; they looked cheerful,
and turned the head quickly, as if speaking first to one
and then to another, and sang, " It is a very great house»
a very great house ; a very great house." Upon a movement of the leader, who with voice and arm never failed to
direct all the performances of the company, they changed "NOOK"  DANCES.
their words (while they kept the same tune, certainly the
most pleasant one of the entertainment,) to "It is a very
warm fire; a very warm fire; a very warm fire;" and
finally ended by praising the household furniture: " These
are very nice things; very nice things ; very nice things."
On the whole, this dance-song was much the most pleasing
of those which we witnessed. There was something dramatic in the way in which these rudely-painted and half-
naked creatures attempted to represent, in dance and song,
the idea of an animated conversation. CHAPTER XI.
Depredations of the Indians—An Indian shot with Peas—English Staff
Surgeon—Soft-hearted Torkshireman—Absurd Verdicts of the Jury.
(After they'd almost por'd out their eyes)
Did very learnedly decide
The bus'ness on the horse's side.—Hudibeas.
I was roused from my bed one dark rainy night at
Alberni, by a messenger from our farm up the Klistachnit
River, bringing word that the man in charge of the farm
had shot an Indian. The farm was about two miles
distant, and being on the opposite side of the river, could
only be reached by water. Not knowing very well what it
might be necessary to do, I asked Mr. Johnston, a gentleman in our service, to take a few men and go to the farm
and see what had happened. This party had some difficulty, owing to the darkness, in getting their boat past
the drift-trees at the entrance of the rapid stream, but in
an hour or two they reached the farm. Two men were
employed there—an American and a Yorkshireman—who
both were sitting in the kitchen, looking at the fire, when A SHOT IN THE DARK.
Mr. Johnston entered the house.    It appeared that the
foreman, the American, had for several nights past been
watching a field of potatoes which the Indians were plundering.    They came in numbers up a long creek, and half
filled their canoes in a few hours, and before morning were
many miles distant.    The foreman, two nights previously,
had caught one of these Indians, a fellow who seemed- a
ringleader, but he had escaped by slipping off his blanket
and running naked into the forest.    The. same Indian had
again returned with his plundering gang.    On the evening
in question the foreman went out to watch the field, and
took with him his gun, loaded with five hard peas, thinking
that, if he could not catch an Indian, he would frighten
them by shooting the peas amongst them.    As usual, the
depredators were in the field fining their bags, and as soon
as they became  aware of the foreman's presence, they
ran with them to their canoes.   He could not overtake
them, but having fired his gun with as good an aim as he
could take in the dark at the supposed ringleader, he was
horror-struck to see the Indian fall flat upon the ground.
Rushing back to the house with his discharged gun, the foreman cried to his companion, the Yorkshireman, on entering,
'' Jack, I've shot an Indian." These particulars being learnt,
Mr. Johnston and two others took a lantern and visited
the field, where, after looking about for some time, they
found the Indian lying dead.     He had fallen over his
potato-bag, and his hands were clutching the soil.    The
body was  dragged to the river; but the men forming
Mr. Johnston's party objected to take it on board the boat,
and proposed tying a string round the ankle, and towing
the body astern.    Finally, however,  a small abandoned 74 AN ATTEMPT AT AN INQUEST.
canoe was found, and the body was placed in this and
towed behind the boat to the settlement, where it was put
into a room full of old casks until the morning.
After breakfast next day I proceeded to examine into
this affair. The peculiarity of the case was that everybody
in the district was in my own employment. I took the
word of the American that he would appear when wanted,
knowing this to be a better security for his appearance,
than locking him up in a room from which he might have
escaped. The feeling among the settlers as to the death
of this Indian was that nothing was required to be done.
Several men came to me and said, " You are not going to
trouble Henry about this—are you, sir?" I could only
answer that we must do what the law required us to do.
It was easy to summon a jury, but where could we get a
doctor to make a post-mortem examination of the Indian's
body ? The difficulty was solved by a workman advancing
from a gang employed in carrying wood, and asking to
speak with me. He was a careworn, middle-aged man,
dressed in common clothes. We went into the room that
served as an office or court-room, and on entering into
conversation, this man told me that he had been a staff
surgeon in the British army, and that he had his diploma
and certificates of service in his chest. He brought me
these, and they proved the truth of his statement—so, of
course, I gladly accepted his services. The next step was
to get a jury. I selected twelve of the most respectable
and intelligent workmen, and opened the court: this jury
consisted of Canadians, Americans, and Englishmen. We
inspected the body, and did everything in proper form. The
doctor proved that death was caused by wounds in the chest, AN EXAMINATION.
and he produced a pea, which he had found in the left lung.
The Yorkshireman, who lived in the farm-house with the
American, a fine young fellow above six feet in height,
was next examined. He stood in the middle of the room
with his cap in his hand; the jurymen standing half-a-
dozen on each side of the room. I asked the Yorkshire-
man to tell the jury what happened that night. He said
his "chum" had gone out of the farm-house, and had
come back in about an hour. He took his gun out, and
had brought it back. The witness had heard a gun-shot.
He knew no more. I asked this witness what his companion said when he returned to the house ? At this
question he blushed, and then grew pale, and twirled his
cap round, and said nothing. I repeated the question,
and told the Yorkshireman to take time, and not to shrink
from telling the truth. He seemed embarrassed, and did
not reply. Noticing he was ill at ease, I left him alone for
a little, and then again asked him the question in a mild,
tone. His agitation increased, the cap fell from his hands,
he staggered, and finally fainted where he stood. Some
of the jurymen caught him in their arms, and carried
him outside. I have never seen a strong man faint from
mental agitation before or since this occasion; it is probably a very unusual occurrence. The witness must have
had a large heart, and he believed that his evidence as to
the words of his companion, " Jack, I've shot an Indian,"
might be fatal words. The examination continued, and,
after several other witnesses had given testimony, I stated j
the case to the jury, and sent them into another room for
their finding. There was, it appeared, a long debate:
for nearly half an hour passed before they returned to rERDICT OF THE JURY.
my room. One after another entered, and when they
had ranged themselves again on the side of the room, I
inquired what their finding was. The answer was, " We
find the Siwash was worried by a dog." "A what?" I
exclaimed. "Worried by a dog, sir," said another juryman, fearing that the foreman had not spoken clearly.
Assuming, with great difficulty, an expression of proper
magisterial gravity, I pointed out to the jury the incompatibility of this finding with the evidence, and went again
over the points of the case, calling particular attention to
the medical testimony, and the production by the doctor of
the pea found in the body of the Indian; after which I, a
second time, dismissed the jury to their room, and begged
them to come back with something, at all events, reasonably connected with the facts of the case. A longer time
than before elapsed. The jury, on this occasion, left their
room, and walked about the settlement, and I saw knots
of men conversing eagerly. There was some hope now, I
thought, of a creditable verdict, When the jurymen at
length sidled into my room for the second time, I drew a
paper towards me to record a finding which I expected
would suitably end this unpleasant inquest. " Now, men,
what do you say ?" Their decisive answer was, " We say
he was killed by falling over a cliff." I shuffled my papers
together, and told them they might go to their work; I
would return a verdict for the jury myself. The farm, I
may mention, for a mile every way from where the dead
body was found, was as level as a table. I could not but
think it strange the jury did not decide upon an open or
evasive finding, instead of those extraordinarily absurd
ones.    The fact was the men were determined to shut AN ARREST AND AN ESCAPE.
then* eyes, and they shut them so close that they became
quite blind. Not a bit of a joke was in their minds;
they acted with perfect seriousness throughout, and this
made the comic parts of this tragi-comedy still more
I arrested the American, and sent him in our own steamboat to Victoria in charge of a constable, but he escaped
from custody. He was an excellent fellow, and I am
sure had no intention of killing the Indian. The victim
belonged to a distant tribe, but they were too much
ashamed of the circumstances of his death to send for the
body. We accordingly buried it in the forest. The
Indians who lived beside the settlement were rather
pleased than otherwise with the death of this Indian, and
many of them pointed to the body and said, " Now you see
who steals your potatoes ; our tribe does not."
I beg the reader to observe that the foregoing statement
is not in the slightest degree exaggerated or distorted; it
is a mere simple statement of the facts of the case as they
actually occurred. CHAPTER XI.
Acquisition of Property—Sharpness in Bargaining—Restrictions upon
Trade—Land considered as Tribal Property—Description of various
kinds of Personal Property; Muskets, Bows and Arrows, Canoes,
Hand-adze, Bone Gimlet, Elkhorn Chisel, Stone Hammer, Household
Utensils, Mats, Clothing—Method of Making and Managing Canoes—
Prevalence of Slavery and Slave-Dealing—Condition and Treatment
of Slaves.
Takes what she liberal gives, nor thinks of more.—Thomson.
Commodities are obtained among the Ahts from one
another by bartering slaves, canoes, and articles of food,
clothing, or ornament; and from the colonists by exchanging oil, fish, skins, and furs. All the natives are
acute, and rather too sharp at bargaining. The Ahts are
fond of a long conversation in selling, but seldom reduce
their price ; living at no expense, they can afford to keep
their stock of goods a long time on hand. I have known
an Indian keep a sea-otter's skin more than three years,
though offered repeatedly a fair price for it. News about
prices, and indeed about anything in which the natives
take an interest, travels quickly to distant places from one
tribe to another. If a trading schooner appeared at one
point on the shore, and offered higher prices than are LAWS OF PROPERTY
usually given, the Indians would know the fact immediately along the whole coast. An active trade existed
formerly among the tribes of this nation, as also between
them and the tribes at the south of the island and on the
American shore. The root called gammass, for instance,
and swamp rushes for making mats, neither of which could
be plentifully produced on the west coast, were sent from
the south of the island in exchange for cedar-bark baskets,
dried halibut, and herrings. The coasting intertribal trade
is not free, but is arbitrarily controlled by the stronger
tribes, who will not allow weaker tribes to go past them in
search of customers ; just as if the people of Hull should
intercept all the vessels laden with cargo from the north of
England for London, and make the people of London pay
for them an increased price, fixed by the interceptors.
There is no very strict notion of individual property in
land among the Ahts. The land belongs, to the whole
tribe. In dealing with other tribes the hereditary chief
represents the proprietory body. I have, however, known
several instances in which claims to portions of land were
put forward by individuals. On one occasion a minor
chief, who with his family and friends had for some years
occupied a small island near the main encampment of the
tribe, claimed to be regarded individually as the possessor
of the island. I knew, also, an instance of a man of rank
in one tribe who controlled ingress to a lake, and would
allow no one to pass without his permission ; but this may
not have been so much for his own benefit as that someone should have authority, in the interest of the whole
tribe, to prevent the salmon from being disturbed in their
ascent up the river.    The occupier of a detached house 80
—of which there are very few—built by bis family on the
same spot for several generations, will probably be found
to have so far an idea of his right to the land, that he will
prevent other persons from cutting down any valuable tree
near his dwelling, or from occupying ground immediately
adjoining. Trees, when they are cut down, belong to the
feller. A noted hunter, in a small tribe where there are
few to question his right, will sometimes regard the
country along one side of a stream as his own hunting-
ground ; or the land will be claimed by the head of a
powerful family who will allow none but his own friends
to hunt over it. But these are exceptions to the general
rule, among all the Aht tribes, that the whole extent of
the tribal land is the common property of all the free men
in the tribe. This rule is the more easily preserved as the
land really is of little use to individuals, except for the
berries which the women collect, or unless it is a good
hunting-ground for the beaver, mink, marten, or deer.
Agriculture is not here practised, and probably separate
ownership of the soil nowhere exists generally until
cultivation begins. While, however, private property in
land is «not fully recognized among these people, each
tribe maintains the exclusive right of its members to the
tribal territory—including all lands periodically or occasionally occupied or used, sites for summer and winter encampments, fishing and hunting grounds and spots for burial—
and would strongly resist encroachment upon these places.
They believe (see chapter on religion) that their villages
existed and were occupied by birds and beasts even before the
Indians themselves took the human form. What Captain
Cook said of this people,  that " nowhere in his several TRIBAL AND PERSONAL PROPERTY.
Voyages did he meet with any uncivilized nation or tribe
who had such strict notions of their having a right to the
exclusive property of everything that their country produces,"
is quite true of these tribes, as tribes. In the numerous
bays and rivers, the limits of the fishing-grounds, and the;
ownership of the islands, are strictly defined. But on the
sea-shore, at any distance from a village, the exact boundaries
of the land owned by the different tribes frequently remain
open until settled in the discussions following some dispute
about a stranded, whale or some other waif. None of the
natives have any clear views as to the mode in which the
tribes acquired the land which they now claim as their own,
beyond the general impression which some of them have,
that it was bestowed by Quawteaht. The property owned
by individuals consists chiefly of slaves, blankets, canoes,
muskets, pikes, lances, tools, mats, wooden dishes, fishing
spears and nets, inflated seal-skins, trinkets, skins, oil, and
furs. Every free man keeps what his own labour earns j
and it was an old custom of the tribes that younger men
in a family, until they had wives and children, should give
their earnings to the eldest brother. I speak of the
customs of the tribes before these were influenced and
weakened by closer intercourse with the colonists.
Perhaps about three-fourths of the grown men on this
coast possess muskets, common smooth-bore flint-lock
weapons, which are sold in Victoria at about forty shillings,
each. They prefer flintlock guns, being apt to lose or wet
percussion-caps, or to run out of the supply. The muskets
are kept in flannel cases, and great care is taken of them.
. The stocks are generally ornamented with brass-headed
tacks.    Neat powder-horns and seal-skin shot-pouches are
6 82
made by the young hunters. The natives seldom shoot
at game flying or running. As in other parts of the world,
the bow was the weapon formerly used before the musket
was known, or could be got. The native bow, like the
canoe and paddle, is beautifully formed. It is generally
made of yew or crab-apple wood, and is three and a half
feet long, with about two inches at each end turned sharply
backwards from the string. The string is a piece of dried
seal-gut, deer-sinew, or twisted bark. The arrows are about
thirty inches long, and are made of pine or cedar, tipped
with six inches of serrated bone, or with two unbarbed
bone or iron prongs. I have never seen an Aht arrow
with a barbed head. Two such arrows weigh as much as
the bow. The bow is held horizontally, and the string
is pulled to the right side. It is said that a good native
bowman can kill a small animal at fifty yards, but I have
not seen any good archery among these tribes. Since
muskets were introduced, the bowmen probably have been
out of practice. I can understand that the native bow
was formerly a formidable weapon.
Canoes are made on this coast principally of cedar, and
are well shaped, and managed with great skill by men,
women, and-children. They are moved by a single sail
or by paddles, or in ascending shallow rapid streams, by
long poles. I have seen an Indian boy with a single pole
make good way with a small laden canoe against a stream
that ran at the rate of six miles an hour. Canoes are of
all sizes, but of a uniform general shape, from the war-
canoe of forty feet long to the small dug-out in which
children of four years old amuse themselves. Outriggers
are not used, but the natives sometimes tie bladders or MANAGEMENT OF CANOES.
seal-skin buoys to the sides of a canoe to prevent it from
upsetting in heavy weather.     The  sail—of which  it is
• supposed, but rather vaguely, that they got the idea from
Meares some eighty years ago—•* is a square mat tied at
the top to a small stick or yard crossing a mast placed
close to the bow.    It is only useful in running before the
wind in  smooth water.     The  management  of a  canoe
by natives in  a  heavy sea is dexterous;  they seem  to
accommodate themselves readily to every motion of their
conveyance, and if an angry breaker threatens to roll over
the canoe, they weaken its effect quickly by a horizontal cut
with their paddles through the upper part of the breaker
when it is within a foot of the gunwale {see page 48).   Their
mode of landing on a beach through a surf shows skill and
coolness.    Approaching warily, the steersman of the canoe
decides when to dash  for the shore; sometimes quickly
countermanding the movement, by strenuous exertion the
canoe is paddled back.    Twenty minutes may thus pass
while  another chance  is  awaited.     At length the time
comes; the men give a strong stroke and rise to their feet
as the canoe darts over the first roller; now there is no
returning : the second roller is just passed when the bow-
paddler leaps out and pulls the canoe through the broken
water ; but it is a question of moments : yet few accidents
happen.    The paddles used by the Ahts are from four to
five feet long, and are made of crab-apple or yew.    Two
kinds are used; the blade of one is shaped like a leaf, and
the other tapers to a sharp point.     The sharp-pointed
* Would it be fanciful to connect their first notion of a canoe sail with
their observation of the membranous fan of the pine-seed, which they often
see floating through the air, in the forest, after falling from the cones ?
6—2 84-
paddle is suitable for steering, as it is easily turned under
water. It was formerly used as a weapon in canoe-fighting
for putting out the eye—a disfigurement which many of
the old Aht natives show. In taking a seat in a canoe,
the paddler drops on his knees at the bottom, then turns
his toes in, and sits down as it were on his heels. The
paddle is grasped both in the middle and at the handle.
To give a stroke and propel the canoe forward, the hand
grasping the middle of the paddle draws the blade of the
paddle backwards through the water, and the hand grasping the handle pushes the handle-end forward, and thus
aids the other hand in making each stroke of the paddle :
a sort of double-action movement. As a relief, the paddler
occasionally shifts to the handle the hand grasping the
middle of the paddle, and vice versa. Such a position looks
awkward, but two natives can easily paddle a middle-sized
canoe forty miles on a summer day. The Strait of Juan
de Fuca is about fifteen miles wide, and trading canoes
often cross during the summer season to the American
shore.* The Indians paddle best with a little wind ahead;
when it is quite calm, they often stop to talk or look at
objects in the water. It is useless to hurry them : they do
quite as they"please, and will sulk if you are too hard upon
them.    In a small canoe, when manned by two paddlers,
* I read with surprise the doubtful opinions of ethnological writers as
to whether savages could cross in canoes from the Asiatic to the American
shore. The Aht natives, and particularly the bolder Northern Indians,
could do so in such canoes as they now have without any difficulty. It is
not easy to determine what motive could induce savages to undertake such
a voyage, or to migrate at all over the sea. The hope of reaching a better
country would not be likely to enter the mind of a savage. He would not
move unless forced to move. {See Paper by G. M. Sproat in the Transactions of the Ethnological Society, 1866.) MAKERS OF CANOES.
One sits in the stern and the other in the bow. The
middle is the seat of honour for persons' of distinction.
An Indian sitting in the stern can propel and steer a canoe
with a single paddle. In crowded war-canoes the natives
sit two abreast. No regular time is kept in the stroke of
the paddles unless on grand occasions, when the canoes
are formed in order, and all the paddles enter the water at
once and are worked with regularity* The most skilful
canoe-makers among the tribes are the Nitinahts and
the Klah-oh-quahts. They make canoes for sale to other
tribes. Many of these canoes are of the most accurate
workmanship and perfect design—so much so that I have
heard persons fond of such speculations say that the
Indians must have acquired the art of making these
beautiful vessels in some earlier civilized existence. But
it is easy to see now, among the canoes owned by any
tribe, nearly all the degrees of progress in skilful workmanship, from the rough tree to the well-formed canoe.
Vancouver Island and the immediately opposite coast of
the mainland of British Columbia have always supplied
the numerous tribes to the northward with canoes. The
native artificers in these localities have in the cedar
{Thuja gigantea) a wood which does not flourish so extensively to the north) and which is very suitable for their
purpose, as it is of large growth, durable, and easily worked.
Savages progress so slowly in the arts, that the absence of
such a wood as cedar, and the necessity of fashioning
canoes with imperfect implements from a hard wood like
oak, as the ancient people of Scotland did, might make
a difference of many centuries in reaching a stated degree
of skill in their construction. 86
The time for making canoes in the rough is during the
cold weather in winter, and they are finished when the
days lengthen and become warmer. Few natives are without canoes of some sort, which have been made by themselves, or been worked for, or obtained by barter. The
condition of the canoe, like an Englishman's equipage,
generally shows the circumstances of the possessor. Selecting a good tree not far from the water, the Indian cuts it
down laboriously with an axe, makes it of the required
length, then splitting the trunk with wedges into two
pieces, he chooses the best piece for bis intended canoe.
If it is winter, the bark is stripped and the block of wood is
dragged to the encampment; but in summer it is hollowed
out, though not finished, in the forest. English or American
tools can now be easily procured by the natives. The axe
used formerly in felling the largest tree,—which they did
without the use of fire—was made of elkhorn, and was
shaped like a chisel. The natives held it as we use a
chisel, and struck the handle with a stone, not unlike a
dumb-bell, and weighing about two pounds. This chisel-
shaped axe, as well as large wooden wedges, was also used
in hollowing the canoe. The other instruments used in
canoe-making were the gimlet and hand-adze, both of
which indeed are still generally used. The hand-adze is
a large mussel-shell strapped firmly to a wooden handle.
The natural shape of the shell quite fits it for use as a
tool. In working with the hand-adze, the back of the
workman's hand is turned downward, and the blow struck
lightly towards the holder, whose thumb is pressed into
a space cut to receive it. The surface of the canoe, marked
by the regular chipping of the hand-adze, is prettier than MODE OF MAKING CANOES.
if it were smooth. The gimlet, made of bird's bone, and
having a wooden handle, is not used like ours : the shaft
is placed between the workman's open hands brought
close together, and moved briskly backwards and forwards
as on hearing good news; in which manner, by the revolution of the gimlet, a hole is quickly bored. Thus, also, did
the natives formerly produce fire, by rubbing two dry cedar
sticks in the same way. A few slits, opening on one side,
were made in a dry flat stick, and on the end of the rubbing
stick being inserted into one of these, and twirled round
quickly between the palms, a round hole was made, at the
bottom of which ignition took place among the wood dust.
When the wood was in bad order for lighting, two or three
natives were sometimes employed successively in the work,
before fire was obtained. The making of a canoe takes
less time than has been supposed. With the assistance of
another native in felling and splitting the tree, a good workman can roughly finish a canoe of fifteen or twenty feet
long in about three weeks. Fire is not much used here in
the hollowing of canoes, but the outside is always scorched
to prevent sun-rents and damage from insects. After the
sides are of the required thinness, the rough trunk is filled
with fresh water, which is heated by hot stones being thrown
into it, and the canoe, thus softened by the heat, is, by
means of cross-pieces of wood, made into a shape which, on
cooling, it retains. The fashioning is done entirely by the
eye, and is surprisingly exact. In nine cases out of ten, a
line drawn from the middle of the extremities will leave,
as nearly as possible, the same width all along on each
side of the line. To keep the canoe in shape, light cross-
pieces fastened to the inside of the gunwales are placed 88
about four feet apart, and there remain. The gunwale is
turned outwards a little to throw off the water. The bow
and stern pieces are made separately* and are always of one
form, though the body of the canoe varies a little in shape
according to the capabilities of the tree and the fancy or
skill of the maker. Red is the favourite colour for the
inside of a canoe, and is made by a mixture of resin, oil,
and urine; the outside is as black as oil and burnt wood
will make it; the bow and stern generally bear some device
in red. The natural colour of the wood is, however, often
allowed to remain. The baling-dish of the canoes is always
of one shape—the shape of the gable-roof of a cottage—
and is well suited to its purpose*
Of all the household articles, the prettiest is the common
basket, which is of different sizes,-and is used by the women
in carrying salmon or berries—being supported on their
backs by a thong passing across their foreheads. The dishes
used are wooden, either hollowed from a block, or having the
sides fastened together with wooden pegs ; cedar and alder
are commonly used in making them* Some of these dishes
are very neatly formed. Water is brought from the stream
in square wooden boxes, by the younger women and children;
Similarly shaped are their-wooden pots, which, of course,
are not placed on the fire; the practice is, to throw hot
stones into them till the water boils. For keeping fishhooks, gun-flints, and other small necessaries, a cedar-bark
case is used, which fits into another similar case, like the
common cigar-cases sold in England. Three kinds of mats
are used, one made of rushes for bedding, one of white-pine
bark for bed-clothing and such purposes, and one of cedar-
bark for use in canoes.    To get the black colour considered HATS AND  CAPS.
ornamental in a portion of the mat, the strips of bark are
steeped in a mixture of charcoal, oil, and water. The
inside of the curious hats worn by the natives in canoe
voyages is made of white-pine bark and the outside is made
of cedar-bark, the hat being shaped so as to shade the head
and throw the rain off the shoulders. The upper part
of the body is, on these occasions, protected by a cape made
of white-pine bark, which is soft, but not close in texture*
and which looks pretty when clean, and edged with marten
fur. A strong fine thread is made of this bark, of which
the Aht natives, who all are expert with the needle, make
constant use. Their needle is a slender twig sharpened at
one end* It is unnecessary to give any further account of
their property in personal chattels, which, as may be
supposed, are all of the simplest description. I may
mention that the stock of salmon collected for consumption in winter is not quite regarded as common property*
but is an article which a native, in case of need, will give
freely to another. If a quantity, the product of one man's
fishing, is stored in his particular division of a house, he
will not object to another industrious Indian using it for food,
should he be destitute. The Indians give food ungrudgingly,
to one another ; they have generally plenty and can be free
with it. In connection with the descriptions of property
owned by the Ahts, I must not omit to refer to the slaves.
No institution is more specifically defined among the
Ahts than that of slavery. It has probably existed in
these tribes for a long time, as many of the slaves have a
■characteristic mean appearance, and the word " slave " is
used commonly as a term of reproach. If a man acts
meanly or is niggardly in his distributions of property (see 90
chapter on Tribal Ranks), it is said that he has a " slave's
heart." Next to a " heart of water," which means a coward,
the " heart of a slave" is the most opprobrious epithet.
It is the fashion for slaves to wear short hair. Formerly
almost every well-born native owned a slave, and some of
the chiefs had five or six. A slave was considered a useful
and honourable possession, and if sold or lost, was replaced
immediately by another. Women and children, as well as
men, were enslaved. Slave-wromen are at the present day
bought and sold on this coast like sheep. A slave never
sat at meat with his owner; he waited upon the family
and their guests, and took his own meals afterwards. His
duty was to split salmon, pluck berries, carry wood and
water, and to do all that he was told to do, without
remonstrance or remuneration. There were means, though
what they were I do not know, by which a person recently
enslaved might regain his freedom ; but this was a rare
occurrence, and I could not discover any instance of a
person becoming free who had been born in slavery and
was basely descended. Stories, however, are told of great
chiefs in former times, such as Tsosiatin of the Kowitchans,
who occasionally freed a number of slaves in order to show
their magnanimity. I believe that a well-born native,
captured in war and reduced to slavery, could be bought
back by his friends for a large price; and if he remained a
captive until death, and left an orphan born of his own
wife, the child, in some cases, on growing up, would, on
account of his better descent and unfortunate condition, so
far become free that he could not be sold out of the tribe.
On this subject, however, I found it difficult to get accurate
information.     Like other native institutions, slavery has INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY.
been shaken by the approach of civilization, and sometimes
what the traveller now might mistake for old customs are,
in reality, but the mere portions or remnants of them.
The natives take great pride in honourable birth, as
distinguished from the base mixed extraction from slaves.*
One instance, however, is known to me of a chief having pro^
moted a slave to be one of his inferior wives.t The slave
is at the absolute disposal of his master in all things ; he is
a bond-servant who may be transferred without his own consent from one proprietor to another. A master sometimes
directs a slave, on pain of death, to kill an enemy, and the
slave dares not again appear in the presence of his master
without the head of the person. The behest of the Sheikh
Al Jebel is not more faithfully obeyed. The case, in this
instance, is one in which—native evidence being excluded by
the working of the British criminal law as administered in
Vancouver Island—the slave would be put to death, while
the chief, who cares nothing for a slave's life, would
probably go free, and boast of his successful crime. So
complete is the power over slaves, and the indifference to
human life among the Ahts, that an owner might bring
half a dozen slaves out of his house and kill them publicly
in a row without any notice being taken of the atrocity.
But the slave, as a rule, is not harshly treated; he is
clothed and has plenty to eat, and is seldom beaten except
for desertion, when a severe flogging is administered. A
runaway  slave, if belonging to a chief, is  occasionally
* The Vancouver Indians dislike and have a contempt for Chinamen
and negroes.    They regard them as inferior people to themselves.
t The fathers of the offspring of female slaves are not known, as the
slaveholders hire out the women to infamy. SLA VE-TRADINQ.
returned, through courtesy, by the chief of another friendly
tribe; but more frequently he is seized and immediately
conveyed along the coast for sale, the captors being unwilling to risk the hostility of his owner by detaining him.
As it is the practice of powerful tribes to prevent the canoes
of smaller tribes from passing their villages in search of
customers, the price of a slave increases at each stage, as
he is conveyed along the coast to the best market. Men
formerly were preferred to women, but since the island has
been colonized women have brought higher prices, owing
to the encouragement given to prostitution among a yonng
unmarried colonial population. A young woman worth,
say, thirty blankets on the west coast towards the north
end of the island, will, at Victoria, be worth fifty or sixty
blankets* or about thirty pounds. I know of several
instances of slave-dealing between the west coast and
Victoria within the last two years. The coast of British
Columbia, and the islands towards the north are, however,
the chief sources of this odious and shameful traffic with
Victoria. On the west coast of Vancouver Island there is
not much slave-trade with Victoria; it is directed chiefly from
that quarter to the American side of the Strait of Juan de
Fuca, where the Cape Flattery Indians are great promoters
and supporters of this hateful commerce. Being comparatively rich and numerous, they induce the larger
Vancouverian tribes to attack the small ueighbouriiv
tribes on their own shores, and capture persons fit for the
slave-market. Some of the smaller tribes at the north of
the Island are practically regarded as slave-breeding tribes,
and are attacked periodically by stronger tribes, who make
prisoners, and sell them as slaves. (    93
Condition of the Aht Women—Unmarried and Married—their Betrothal-
Allegiance and fast fealty
Which I do owe unto all womankind.—Spencer.
The condition of the Aht women is not one of unseemly
inferiority; the men have their due share of the labours
necessary for subsistence. The women do all the work of
the camps, prepare fur-skins, collect roots and berries,
take charge of the fish on the canoes reaching the shore,
manage the cooking, and prepare food for winter. They
also make mats, straw-hats and capes, wreaths and ornamental niceties of grass or cedar-fibre. I have met
women in the woods in autumn, at four o'clock in the
morning, staggering under a great burden of cedar-bark.
They are seldom invited to feasts, and do not share
in public ceremonies, except as assistants. On reaching
puberty, young women, on a given occasion, are placed in
the sort  of gallery already described as in every house, 94
and are there surrounded completely with mats, so that
.neither the sun nor any fire can be seen. In this cage
they remain for several days. Water is given to them,
but no food. The longer a girl remains in this retirement
the greater honour is it to the parents; but she is dis^
graced for life if it is known that she has seen fire or the
sun during this initiatory ordeal. Feasts are given at
this time as part of the ceremony, by her parents or by
other near friends.* The average age at which native
women marry is about sixteen. They suffer little during
pregnancy or at childbirth, but seldom bear children after
the age of about twenty-five. As a rule they have few
children, and, I think, more boys than girls. Their
female relations act as midwives. There is no separate
place for lying-in. The child, on being born, is rolled up
in a mat among feathers. Instances are known of women
having been at work twelve hours after their confinement.
They suckle one child till another comes. I have seen a
boy of four following his mother for her milk. The women
are good and kind mothers, and the crime of infanticide
after birth is unknown; but, in order to spite their husbands after a quarrel, they frequently take means to
procure abortion. I could find no evidence among the
Ahts for the past prevalence or present existence of the
custom of the couvade, by which, among some savages,
when a child is born, the father, not the mother, goes to
bed and is treated as a patient. Before meeting with
white men, it is  supposed that the  Aht women were
* This reminds one of the Mexican superstition at the rekindling of the
sacred fire, according to which women were confined to their houses with
covered faces, lest, if they saw the fire, they should be changed into beasts. PRIVILEGES OF WOMEN.
generally faithful to their husbands, who,   according to
the accounts of former travellers, valued them so much as
sometimes to show jealousy on their account—a feeling:
not found often in savage bosoms, but which implies a
certain  degree of affection.    The Ahts,  indeed, within
recent times, were  distinguished by the respect which
they showed towards their women, and especially towards
their wives.     A  girl who was  known to have lost  her
virtue, lost with it one of her  chances of a favourable
marriage;  and a chief, or man of high rank in an Aht
tribe, would have put his daughter to death for such a
lapse.    He would not, for any consideration, have prostituted his wife, but his female slaves were readily devoted
to such infamy.    The reverse, as far as the wife is concerned, is the case farther north among the tribes on the
coast of British Columbia: the temporary present of a wife
is one of the greatest honours that can be shown there
to a guest.    Generally speaking, wives are not harshly
treated among the Ahts.    They have the important privilege, with the consent of their own friends, of at any time
leaving their husbands, who thus have to treat them well
if they wish them to remain.    An active female slave,
however, is more valued than any wife who does not bring
riches or powerful connections, for the slave cannot leave
the master's service.   Wives may be divorced at the will of
their husbands, and a discarded wife is not viewed with disfavour.    A singular mode of punishing an unfaithful wife
came under my notice.   The frail fair one was taken to the
beach, and her husband, kneeling upon her, surrounded by
wailing friends, fired a succession of blank musket charges
close to her  head.     The woman was much frightened, 06
and afterwards sat by herself weeping for several days.
On separating from his wife, a husband has to give up the
fishing or hunting grounds acquired with her at marriage.
The property reverts to the woman's sole use, and is a
dowry for her next matrimonial experiment. In the case
of a marriage between persons of different tribes, and their
separation while the children are young, the children go
always with the mother to her own tribe. Separations and
new connections are ordinary occurrences. The baskets
and mats made by a wife for sale belong to herself, and
she has also a certain small share of all the property
acquired by her husband. He cannot interfere with her
portion, which is a sort of pin-money used by the wife in
the purchase of personal requirements. Additionally, as
the traders well know, a wife has an important say in the
disposal of articles. She and her husband talk together,
and argue as to what shall be asked for oil or furs. The
one may want blankets, and the other cotton. Privileges
such as these prevent the women from being treated
otherwise than with consideration. Early betrothals are
common, and in the betrothal of chiefs' children the
parents on both sides deposit a number of blankets to
ensure good faith. Betrothals are so much respected that
the wounded pride of a disappointed suitor or his tribe
will not be satisfied by the mere return of the pledge. It
is pretty well known at the betrothal what the price at
marriage will be; but a chief can raise the price up to
ten blankets above the original agreed number, if his
daughter is pronounced by a majority of her own tribe
to have greatly improved. Strange to say, this happens less frequently than might be expected.   Prices for COURTSHIP AND BETROTHAL. 97
marriage, when the price has not been fixed at the time of
betrothal, are sometimes offered formally, year after year,
by the betrothed man; and the reception of the third offer
is considered to show truly whether the betrothal is likely
to be respected.    It is an understood custom that if the
' third offer is rejected, the original betrothal is cancelled,
and the pledge forfeited by the woman's friends.    This
leads always to bitterness of feeling, and is only done when
some more distinguished native chief, or rich white man,
seeks the woman in marriage.    There is, however, a way
of cancelling a betrothal by mutual agreement; and as a
symbol of such termination, if the parties are well-born,
each tribe sends a canoe laden with blankets, and manned
with a full crew, who paddle to a distance from land, and,
singing all the while a song, throw the blankets one by
one  upon  the  waves.    For several days before a young
girl's marriage the old women are busily engaged with hex-
in a variety of ceremonies.    The young men, under the
like circumstances, to show their pluck, scratch their faces
till blood comes.*
Wives, as has been before stated, are obtained by
purchase, and the price is regulated by the rank and
wealth of both parties. There is no particular mode of
courtship; the matter has generally to be arranged with
the parents. No English father, in his library, raising his
spectacles to survey a diffident youth who longs to be his
son-in-law, is sterner in the matter of " settlements " than
a family man among the Ahts.    I was offered a young,
* A fond practice in courtship among the common people (not among
the chiefs) is for the woman to search the man's head, and give him to eat
the fattest and least nimble of the population which she is able, to secure.
7 98
pretty, well-bom woman for one hundred blankets; but a
wife can be bought sometimes for an old axe or half-a-
dozen mink-skins. Though a wife is always purchased, it
is a point of honour that the purchase-money given for a
woman of rank—not for a common woman—shall, sometime or other, be returned by her friends or her tribe in a
present of equal value. A man occasionally steals a wife
from the women of his own tribe; but it is much like
eloping in England, for both parties understand each other:
and, after all, it is a purchase, as the friends of the woman
must be pacified with presents. Though the different
tribes of the Aht nation are frequently at war with one
another, women are not captured from other tribes for
marriage, but only to be kept as slaves. The idea of
slavery connected with capture is so common, that a free-
born Aht would hesitate to marry a woman taken in war,
whatever her rank had been in her own tribe.
Polygamy is permitted in all classes, but, owing to its
inconveniences, is not generally practised. There is no
rule by which any wife obtains precedence over the
others ; the oldest wife, if she has children, seems to
have most authority in the house. It is not uncommon,
on the death of a poor native, for a friend to take the
widow for one of his own wives, and to adopt the children.
These children are kept much in the position of slaves,
and, in the course of time, the younger ones are regarded as
slaves, but they cannot be sold out of their tribe. Unless
widows have property of their own, their position is hard.
The eldest son takes all that property of his father not
given away to the deceased's friends, during his last
illness, nor buried with him. POL YANDR Y—INTERMARRIA GE.
I could find no traces of the existence of polyandry
among the Ahts. The people have a strong idea of blood-
relationship ; so strong that it may be described as the
principal constituent in the structure of their simple
society. The groups of relatives round the different heads
of families are very noticeable in a tribe, and any injury
to a member of such a group is resented by the family
and all the family's friends. The feeling of relationship
is not confined merely to their offspring, nor is it of
temporary duration, as in the case of animals, but it
extends to all kinsmen—to the son and grandson, and,
also, collaterally to marriage connections. Whether kinship is now, or ever was, considered by the Ahts to be
stronger when derived through males than females, I do
not know; the fact of its great influence at present among
these primitive tribes on this coast is undoubted.
Intermarriage with other tribes is sought by the higher
classes to strengthen the foreign connections of their own
tribe, and, I think also, with some idea of preventing
degeneracy of race. Before the house of the head chief
of the Khah-oh-quahts there is a large stone which a man
must lift and carry, in the presence of the people, before
he may woo the chief's daughter. The poorer orders are
unable to do otherwise than marry among their own people.
By the old custom of the Aht tribes, no marriage was permitted within the degree of second-cousin. The marriage
of a patrician is an important affair. He loses caste unless
he marries a woman of corresponding rank, in his own
or another tribe. Affection or attachment has little to do
with the marriage ; the idea is to preserve the family from
a mixture of common blood.   The marriage of a head chief
7_2 100
must be with the descendant in the first line of another
chief of similar rank, and no head chief is permitted to
take a first wife for himself, or to agree to a marriage for
his children by such first wife, without the consent of his
tribe. Few of the head chiefs have more than one wife.
Should a head chief wish for more wives than one, it is
not necessary that he take other than his first wife from
women of his own rank ; but the children of his extra wives
have not the father's rank. The purchase of wives is
made in public, and great ceremony is observed when a
chief's wife is purchased. Crave tribal discussions as to
the purchase-money, the suitableness of rank, and all the
benefits likely to follow, accompany any such proposal of
marriage. Most of the tribes have heralds or criers, who
announce important events, and their office, like the har-
pooner's, is obtained by inheritance.* On this official
giving public notice that distinguished visitors are at
hand, every person in a native encampment comes out,
and squats down, covered with a blanket to the chin.
Further proceedings are awaited in silence. If it is a
marriage visit, thirty or forty canoes sometimes escort
the suitor to the shore. No word is spoken on either
side for ten minutes. At last, on the question being
asked, where the visitors are from, and what is wanted—
a form that is gone through, though the object of the visit
is perfectly well known—a speaker rises in one of the
canoes, and addresses the natives on shore in a loud voice.
Talk of a voice, it would fill St. Paul's !    He gives the
* The Bishop of Columbia and Commander Helby of the Grappler will
remember the Seshaht herald who intci-preted their speeches to the tribes
assembled at Alberni in 1860. MARRIAGE CEREMONIES.
name, titles, and history of the expectant husband, and
states the number and influence of his friends and connections in his own and among other tribes ; the object being
to show that the honour of marrying so great a person
should suffice without much purchase-money. At the end
of the speech a canoe is paddled to the beach, and a bundle
of blankets is thrown on land. Contemptuous laughter
follows from the friends of the woman, and the suitor is
told to go away, as he places too small a value upon the
intended bride. Then some orator on shore in turn gets
up, and praises the woman; and thus, with speeches and
additional gifts, many hours are occupied, until finally
the woman is brought down to the shore, stripped to her
shift, and delivered to her lover. His first wedding present
is the necessary covering of a blanket. After the marriage,
a feast is spread which lasts for several days. Instead of
throwing the proffered blankets on shore in a bundle, the
natives sometimes land from their canoes, and, standing a
few paces apart, hold up the red, white, blue, and green
blankets in a long pretty line before the eyes of the
woman's tribe. But this is not the ordinary practice of
the Ahts : in the few cases in which it has been done
among them, the custom of some other tribes has been
imitated. When the man's rank is much higher than
the woman's, the latter is sometimes brought to the man's
tribe to be married; and Raleigh's courtesy is then outdone, for blankets are laid, not only over the puddles,
but all the way, for her to walk upon, from the canoe
to the house. There are several minor ceremonies in
marriage, which, however, are hardly worth mentioning,
as they vary greatly, and no one can explain their meaning.
.j 102
A wooden head-piece, fringed with human hair, and having
a long snout, is worn by the bridegroom on his head. At
great marriages, such as I have just alluded to, this ugly
covering is simply thrown upon the beach; but on common
occasions, when merely the friends of the " young people "
and not the whole tribe are present, the bridegroom, decorated with feathers and accompanied by a friend, walks
into the woman's house, and throws the head-piece upon
the floor, returning afterwards to his canoe. When the
feasting, the speeches, and marriage mummeries are over,.
I have been told that the women's friends light two torches
in her late house, and after a time extinguish them in
water that is spilt for this purpose on the ground. 103    )
Eespect for Rank—Yisit to the Toquahts—Dangerous Encampment-
Indians circumvented.
In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin',
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman.—"Burns.
The high consideration in which rank or actual authority
is held by these savages is extraordinary. After deciding
whether a stranger is a friend or enemy, the first question,
in the mind of a native, is as to his rank,— whether he
is a chief or a common man. If several travellers are
together, the natives are not satisfied till they know who
is the leader, and who is next in command. At Alberni,
where more than two hundred men were engaged in
various employments, the Indians in the neighbourhood
knew particularly the position of every person in the
settlement. In their own villages, the common men
point out the chiefs to a visitor, and show the differences
of rank- by holding up one forefinger for the highest chief,
and placing the other forefinger against it, at points
gradually lower and lower, for the inferior chiefs.    I once VISIT TO THE TOQUAHTS.
visited, with a companion,—leaving three of my party
in a boat at the entrance of the Toquaht river—the
ancient and somewhat rascally tribe of Toquahts, now
reduced by war to comparatively a small number,* whose
village is in a dreary, remote part of Nitinaht (or Barclay)
Sound. As our canoe rounded a corner of the shallow
river, and came suddenly upon their village, a loud yell
was raised by a group of natives, who sat on a bank making
cedar-traps for salmon; and the shout was repeated by the
inmates of the houses, who rushed out of doors.. There
is a strange wildness in the half-human, half-beast cry
which these savages raise on being thus surprised, and it
made the blood go back to our hearts; however, as we
much wanted a fish for our supper, we hauled up the
canoe, and walked towards the group. There was no fish
to be got; so we lighted our cigars and entered into conversation. The natives ceased work, and formed a half
circle round a middle-aged, important-looking savage, who
was pointed out to us as the chief, and who sat looking
unconcernedly before him, while all the others surveyed us
with curious eyes. We did not speak much, and I daresay
ten minutes passed before any of the natives opened their
mouths. The evening was approaching; it was a wild
remote place : the dense, motionless pines were everywhere
around, and no sound broke the stillness but the murmuring of the shallow stream, as it flowed past the village.
I began to have a feeling of apprehension as to these
crouching  Toquahts,  wrapped all round in bearskins  to
* In the list of the tribes, given in the Appendix, the real TcqunhN
appear as few ; but many fugitives from other tribes join them. A JOKE.
the chin, above which their savage, furtive eyes looked
out upon us.* At last, a grey-haired man commenced
a song in praise of the chief, to whom he pointed often
while singing, and who, with his hands crossed before
him, carried himself, all the while, as a man of rank.
Our visit seemed to have been turned into an occasion of
glorifying this chief of twelve men—the remnant of a large
tribe distinguished formerly in war and for savage arts.
The time for speeches, and explanations, and presents
was arriving; but being hungry, and having to trust to
our guns or hooks for providing our supper, and having
to select our camping ground for the night, we lost patience
and retired to our canoe. The Toquahts, no doubt, thought
us unmannerly visitors, and, in fact, aroused us next
morning, on discovering our encampment, in a way which
made us glad to get out of their neighbourhood.
I will relate how' this occurred. After leaving the
village, on our way down the river, we met several fierce-
looking savages in canoes, one of whom, as he passed,
grinned at us and presented a large horse-pistol. This
was meant probably as a joke on his part, and, as a joke
in return, I showed him the muzzles of our two six-barrel
revolvers. He grinned still more, and asked where we
were going. "■ Very far," I answered, and we pushed
away from him, and by-and-by joined the remainder of
* The Indians rarely kill a well-known white man, as they know that he
would be inquired for ; but they think no more of cutting off a common
man's head than of killing a salmon. You may, perhaps, travel safely alone,
from one tribe to another, all round the island ; but it is a matter of chance :
your head may be cut off at. any time. The Indians are the creatures of
impulse ; you never know what they will do ; they are like grown children
subject to ferocious demoniacal possession. 106
our party, whom we had left in the boat. We were now
five in number; we had the prospect only of biscuit and
coffee for our supper, as no fish had been got. It was
with great difficulty we found a camping place along the
shore. Not trusting the Toquahts, we wanted to go a
long way from them. There were few streams of water
in this part of Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound; one place was
too stony, another too wet; so it was almost dark before
we found a place for our tent. One very suitable place
was reached as we coasted along, where there was a nice
stream and the remains of an Indian camp, but the smell
of the decayed fish was so offensive we could not stay
there. Taking with us a slender hewn pole from the
standing framework of the temporarily abandoned huts,
we proceeded farther, and at last encamped—just beyond
a point—on a narrow stony beach, fifteen yards wide from
the forest to the water, and perhaps two hundred yards
long. Having pitched the tent with the pole above
mentioned, we boiled some coffee, drew up the boat, and
lay down to sleep. In using the pole for this purpose, we
cut off about a foot of its length. The night was dark,
and we let the fire burn, without fearing that the smoke
would be seen. I remember we all looked uneasy; though,
as often happens on such occasions, we laughed and talked
a good deal about the very objects of our suspicions, namely
the Indians we had just left. At length we fell asleep, I
waking occasionally during the night when startled by the
scream of the owl (known to ornithologists as the " great
owl ") from some neighbouring high tree.
Having   awoke about  five  o'clock,   I  lay still, and
occasionally lifted up a corner of the tent to observe the
morning.    On doing so once, I thought I saw the form of
an Indian through the mist moving about between the
wood and the water.    I do not know whether it was an
Indian or not, but the appearance rather startled me, for
there were no Indians but Toquahts in the neighbourhood, and, as already stated, we rather wished to avoid
them.    Waking my companions, we thought it prudent
quietly to pack everything within the tent, without appearing outside ; then first one and next another went out of
the tent, and, with apparent unconcern, made the usual
arrangements for breaking up the camp.    Breakfast we
thought we would take later in  the  day; our present
object was to remove quickly from the spot.    Our supposition that Indians were near was soon confirmed, for, in a
short time, about a dozen Toquaht Indians appeared coming
towards us along the beach, sauntering with their usual
undecided step, and their blankets tightly folded round
them.    A large canoe with a crew of twenty Indians was
also seen through the mist coming round the point, near
which, as above stated, we had placed our camp.   The canoe
stopped near the shore, and we saw that the crew wore
their war-paint.    The Indians on shore had no war-paint;
they saluted us, and came near and began talking.    One
commenced a song, and accompanied it by imitating the
action of paddling.     We continued our preparations for
embarking, when all at once, for the first time, we remembered that our heavy boat was fast aground.   I shall not
forget my sensations at that moment; I was certain that
the savages meant mischief, and we seemed to be fairly
trapped.    Badly as all this looked, I was glad it was daylight.    The shore party of the Indians had now mixed 108
with us, and laughed and chatted; we working quietly, but
on our guard. I asked why the Indians in the canoe wore
war-paint, while those on shore did not, and was answered
that the canoe was going to surprise a party of You-clul-ahts
who had a fishing station somewhere near. As we moved
about packing our things and collecting sticks for a make-
believe fire, one of our party, a quick-witted woodman
from the State of Maine, whispered, " Manoeuvre to make
them launch the boat for us." I was about replying, when
a wild angry shout from one of the Indians on shore arrested
the conversation; it was followed by a louder howl from the
canoe. The song of the paddler ceased; angry exclamations
and shouts filled the air, and the savages literally danced
with passion. It appeared that, in search of a cause of
quarrel, one of them had stumbled on the tent-pole we
had cut, which they said belonged to the Toquaht tribe.
" Toquaht house," " Toquaht stick," " steal stick," "steal
stick," " you come here to steal stick," were among the
cries the maddened Indians uttered. We were now familiar
with the danger, and had reckoned our chances ; we were
getting into that dogged state of feeling very noticeable in
the English race during a time of danger; and which
would be expressed by saying, " Come now, if you mean
business, set to work; we have had enough of this."
The excitement of the Indians drew them all together, so
that we had them before us, and they seemed at a loss
how to proceed. The canoe came near the shore, and
landed half its crew, who joined the shore party. Still
we stood ready, but without drawing our pistols. When
a party of the Indians tried to slip along the shore
with  the  evident intention  of getting behind  us,  we INDIANS CIRCUMVENTED.
moved back one by one, till their movement was neutralized.    Their excitement continued, but they hesitated to
attack.    At length I shouted to them,  "Where is your
chief, I want to talk to him : we did not know the stick
was yours ;   we  will   pay  for   it."     A  score  of voices
answered " The chief is up the river."    " Well, go and
bring him," said I.    " No," they replied, "you go to the
chief."   A thought having struck me, I said, we would go
to the chief; our hearts were good to the Toquahts : they
must get into their canoe, however, and show us the way,
as the channel of the river when reached was intricate.
The Indians talked this over among themselves for a short
time, and seemed pleased with the proposition.     Finally,
they got into their canoe, and remained close to the shore,
leaving half a dozen common men to help us to launch our
boat, which still was aground.     Stowing everything in it,
we placed the oars handy, shipped the rudder; and went
to work to shove the boat off, not with a " Yo-heave-oh ! "
but with the Indian " Tchoo, Tchoo, Tchoo."    It was odd
to see how the frantic excitement of the Indians had now
subsided, and how willingly they seemed to comply with our
wishes.    They,  no doubt, thought they had us nicely in
a trap of our own contriving, forgetting quite that once up
the Toquaht river was enough for any one.    No sooner,
with a great  | Tchoo, Tchoo," did the keel of our boat
cease to grate on the bottom, than each man sprang on
board to his place, shipped his oar, and pulled vigorously
in an opposite direction from the Toquaht river and from
the expectant Indian canoe.    The Indians in the canoe
said nothing, but rose to their feet and sat down again;
those who had helped to launch our boat stood in the water 110
stupefied. I watched them for a long time throngh a field
glass, and they were still about the same place. A stern
chase after a boat with five men in it, each armed with a
six-barrelled rifled revolver, was not to their mind. These
Indians had expected to find our encampment during the
night, but coming unexpectedly upon our party in the
morning, and finding us moving, they were disconcerted.
This trip was the last trip I made to the Toquaht river;
their tribe was the most mischievous I saw on the west
coast of Vancouver Island. ( in i
Use made of an Accumulation of Personal Chattels—Custom of Distributing
Property—Object of such Distribution—Degrees of Tribal Ranks—
Position of Hereditary Chiefs ; of Minor Chiefs; War Chiefs, and
Military Officers—Rank bestowed on Women.
Let it not then seem strange to you,
That here one strange thing more you see.—Mace.
The principal use made by the Ahts of an accumulation
of personal chattels is to distribute them, periodically
among invited guests, each of whom is expected to return
the compliment by equivalent presents on like occasions.
The following particulars refer to the distribution of
property by individuals to others of their own tribe:
Blankets are usually given to men; beads, trinkets,
and paint for the face, to women. Not more than two
blankets are usually given to any person at one time.
Sometimes a new musket is divided, and the stock, lock,
and barrel given to three different persons. The destruction of certain kinds of property serves the same purpose as its distribution.    Canoes, for instance, are rarely 112
given away. The practice is to make a hole in them, and
allow them to sink. The distributor shows by this act
his total indifference to his property; he gives it away, he
destroys' it; his heart is very strong. Yet the same man,
who has rid himself of almost his whole property, will
haggle the next minute about the price of a trinket. Slaves
are rarely given away at a distribution. This singular
custom of distribution, which prevails among the coast
tribes here, is thought by some to have been necessary,
owing to the thievish habits of the people which prevented
any individual from retaining what he had collected; but,
whatever may have been its origin, the continuance of the
custom probably is secured by the gratification which the
practice affords to two strong propensities in human
nature—pride of rank, and love of display. A lavish
distribution of property among the Ahts shows what the
natives call the " strong heart" of the distributor.*
The practice is not so highly appreciated now as it was a
generation since ; still, the gaining of property with a view
to its distribution is a ruling motive for the actions of
the Ahts, and without bearing this in mind no one can
understand their character, nor appreciate the difficulties in
the way of reclaiming them. The collection of property for
the purpose of distribution is the constant aim of many of
the natives who, to the common observer, seem listless and
idle. The Indian who stands by your side in a tattered
blanket, may have twenty new blankets and yards of calico
in his box at home. Whatever he acquires beyond immediate necessaries goes to increase this stock, until his high
* This  term   expresses  what  is frequently  meant  by  our  word
day comes in the winter season, when he spreads his feast
and distributes gifts among the guests, according to their
rank. To include all present at such a feast, a single
blanket is sometimes torn into twenty pieces; and it is
said, but this I can hardly believe, that the exact quantity
or value given to each guest is accurately remembered. It
is customary to throw the article briskly into the face of
the receiver, to show that it goes from a willing heart.
The giver does not now consider that he has parted with
his property : he regards it as well invested, for the present
recipients of his largess will strive to return to him at
their own feasts more than he has bestowed. The person
who gives away the most property receives the greatest
praise, and in time acquires, almost as a matter of course,
but by the voice of the tribe, the highest rank obtainable by
such means. This rank is not of the highest class. It
is only for life, and is different from the ancient hereditary tribal rank. With each step in rank there is
usually a change of name; and thus, bearing different
names, the industrious or acquisitive native may rise
from one honour to another, till finally he reaches a
high position.
The head chief in an Aht tribe occupies apparently a
position of which the type is patriarchal. His authority is
rather nominal than positive. He generally calls the old
men together to consider weighty matters, but neither he
nor they can do anything without the consent of the
people. At these public councils, where the tribal interests are debated with much shrewdness, the principal
persons  are seated according to their rank, and much
8 114
respect is shown throughout to the ancient ceremonies.
There is no formal way of taking a vote; the *will of the
tribe is  expressed by acclamation.     The  chief has  no
officers, except his slaves, who could enforce obedience in
his own tribe; but there are proper tribal officers through
whom he communicates all resolutions of his own people
to other tribes.    He cannot give in marriage, nor betroth
his children, contrary to the tribal custom or will.    He
never joins an embassy, nor leads an expedition in war.
Though frequently receiving presents from his tribesmen,
the  chief is not  often wealthy, as he has to entertain
visitors and make large distributions to his own people.
There is at this day one instance, which possibly is the
remnant of an old general custom among the Ahts, of all
the members of a tribe paying tribute to their chiefs.   The
instance to which I allude is that of the Klah-oh-quahts,
some of whom pay annually to their chief certain contributions, consisting of blankets, skins, oil, and other articles.
On public occasions, or in intertribal communications, the
hereditary chief is  an important person, whose  official
dignity is maintained by strict etiquette.    But his actual
influence in the tribe is frequently exceeded by that of
some vigorous underchief.    It is not uncommon for the
principal chief, under his people's displeasure, to abandon
his property, and abdicate his position in favour of the
nest heir.    On retiring into private life he is little noticed.
When a chief is childless, his next of kin, male, commonly succeeds to the chiefship, but occasionally a more
distant kinsman is preferred by the tribe, if bis property
is large and his character approved  of.    As with the DEGREES OF RANK.
Irish septs in old times, and with most Eastern people,
much reverence is shown by the Ahts to the true reigning
family, though individuals belonging to it are occasionally
set aside in the line of succession. Minor tribal rank,
of what may be called the first degree, is hereditary,
but children only can inherit it, and in default of children,
the dignity ceases. Unless accompanied with wealth,
inherited rank in a tribe is a poor possession. The native
grandee without blankets is like an English peer without
land. The value of his distributions of property among
the people is expected to befit his rank, and he gets no
commendation for what would bring praise and honour to
a plebeian. Whatever may have been the origin or
purpose of these dignities, it is evident that the particular rank and position of every person in an Aht
tribe are well understood. Some are called high chiefs,
others half chiefs or small chiefs; and any insult,
wrong, or injury offered to a chief by another tribe, is
resented by his own tribe according to the rank of the
sufferer. But his " blue blood " avails not in a dispute with
one of his own people; he must fight his battle like a
common man.
In marriage, however, or at burials, feasts and public
ceremonies, and in a council of the tribe, the privileges of
a man of rank are strictly regarded. The sons of high
chiefs often have a following of eight or ten free-born
youngsters, who, unremunerated, follow them about, and
receive their commands. In the actual conduct of war,
civil rank fails to secure for the possessor an important
position.    The war chiefs and the under officers in war
8- 11Q
are,  as  a general rule, chosen for their  special fitness
for military command, and not at all on account of their
rank.    Success in war, is a broad stepping-stone in  an
ambitious career.    So far as I can learn, there are among
the Ahts the following degrees or classes of rank.    It must
be understood that I speak of what is already almost of the
past.    So great has been the disturbing force of contact
with the colonists, that rank has lost much of its value,
and as regards some of their ancient customs, they are now
but little  regarded by the  natives.    First,  then, as  to
ranks ; there is' the head chief's rank, which is hereditary
in the male line, and to which, owing to the respect generally entertained for the true lineage (if not in all cases for
the immediate heir), it is almost useless for any low-born
native directly to aspire.    Next are the various degrees of
rank which probably have been held by inheritance from
generation to generation.    Degrees of rank are sometimes
acquired, by the consent of the tribe, for great services or
special acts of valour, but these are .aot altogether of so
high a character as  the  former.     The way the natives
have of fixing the intended degree of rank is by saying
that it is the  will of the tribe, that so-and-so shall be
equal to so-and-so, or next under him.    The harpooner,
in the tribes that live on the  seaboard, possesses  high
hereditary rank.    Inferior to these are the various degrees
of rank, obtained by the consent of the tribe, consequent
upon large  distributions  of property.     This practice of
distribution, it may be observed, is not confined to any
particular class; all ranks find it useful in supporting their
influence.    All the ranks above mentioned appear to be CONFERRED RANK.
hereditary. There are two additional descriptions of rank,
both ending with the possessor's life ; one, which, in our own
country, we should call a courtesy title or rank, is enjoyed,
as a matter of course,.by well-born youths ; the other it is
the privilege of the hereditary chief and the principal chiefs
to confer. This last-named rank is generally conferred
during the festive period following the return of a tribe to
winter quarters. I did not know that the chiefs had this
power, or that rank could be possessed except with the
expressed consent of the people, till I learnt that the right
was exercised by the chief or chiefs independently, at this
season, in a tribe near which I lived. This rank can be
bestowed on men or women, adults or children; and its
bestowal is preceded, if not actually obtained, generally by
presents to the chiefs. Those seeking such rank signify
their wish to the chief, who, on ascertaining the number of
aspirants, directs them, at stated times, to assemble at his
house, where they dance, sing, and go through various
exercises, day-after day—sometimes for weeks—before they
receive the honour. The women, on these occasions, dress
in their best; they are ornamented with beads and brass
rings, and pretty shells are attached to their noses and
plaited among their hair. This is the only description of
rank which the women can acquire, by any tribal usage, but
they partially inherit their parent's rank, to the extent, at
least, of a regard being paid to it at their marriage. In an
Aht tribe of two hundred men, perhaps fifty possess various
degrees of acquired or inherited rank; there may be about
as many slaves; the remainder are independent members,
less rich as a body than the men of rank, but who live 118
much in the same way, the difference of position being
noticeable only on public occasions.* It is among the idle,
poor, and low-born youth of the last-named class that the
worst Indians are found; as a rule well-born natives, and
especially the heads of families in a tribe are quiet and
* Was Darwin long enough among the Puegians to be enabled authoritatively to affirm that perfect equality exists among the individuals composing the Puegian tribes ? (    119    )
Intellectual Capacities—Mode of Numeration—Division of Time —
Language ; its Imperfect Structure ; Pormation of New Words—
Remarks on some Peculiarities of the Language—Nitinaht Variations
—Cook's List of Words—Little Change in the Language since Cook's
Time—The Aht Language probably Allied to the Real Chinook—
Tribal Names.
He in the lowest depth of Being framed
The imperishable mind.—Southey.
Speak what terrible language.you will, though you understand it not
Yourselves, no matter!  Chough's language, gabble enough, and good enough.
Until the effect of a judicious education of the Aht natives
has been fairly tested through several generations, it will
be difficult for any one to express a confident opinion as to
their capability for improvement. Mr. Duncan, the missionary, has succeeded beyond his expectation in his
educational efforts among the Tshimpseans on the coast
of British Columbia ; and there is no such great difference,
apparently, between the Tshimpseans and the Ahts as to
lead us to suppose that the one nation would be incapable
of what is evidently within the capacity of the other.    I 120
could not be easily persuaded that any barrier exists to
prevent savage races from attaining a fair degree of mental
cultivation, whatever might be their capacity for advancing
ultimately in civilization beyond a certain point. The
cleverness shown in modes of hunting, fishing, and warfare, and in the adaptation of their manufactures to
intended uses, might be exhibited, no doubt, by savages in
other studies and pursuits. I had abundant proof, in
conversing with the Ahts about matters in which they took
an interest, that their mental capabilities are by no means
small. It is true that the native mind, to an educated
man, seems generally to be asleep; and if you suddenly
ask a novel question, you have to repeat it while the mind
of the savage is awaking, and to speak with emphasis
until he has quite got your meaning. This may partly
arise from the questioner's imperfect knowledge of the
language; still, I think, not entirely, as the savage may
be observed occasionally to become forgetful, when voluntarily communicating information. On his attention being
fully aroused, he often shows much quickness in reply and
ingenuity in argument. But a short conversation wearies
him, particularly if questions are asked that require efforts
of thought or memory on his part. The mind of the
savage then appears to rock to and fro out of mere weakness, and he tells lies and talks nonsense. I do not doubt,
however, that, in course of time the mental powers of the
Indian could be greatly improved by education. The chief
difficulty is that the people would vanish from before the
white man during the polishing process, as so many tribes
of savages have done in other parts of the world.
I will mention the system of numeration of the Ahts, SYSTEM OF NUMERATION.
in connection with the question of their intellectual
It will be seen from the list of Aht numerals in the
Appendix, that there is no impediment to prevent the
Indian from counting up to any number. As a matter of
fact, he has seldom any necessity to use the higher
numbers. The young men are, many of them, not well
acquainted with their own numeration, and not un-
frequently make kochtseyk "thirty," sootcheyk "fifty,"
and so on; but this is certainly repudiated by the elders
and those who still place a value upon the national mode
of enumeration {see "Numerals," in the Appendix).
It may be noticed that their word for one occurs again
in that for six and nine, and the word for two in that for
seven and eight. The Aht Indians count upon their
fingers. They always, count, except where they have learnt
differently from their contact with civilisation, by raising
the hands with the palms upwards, and extending all the
fingers, and bending down each finger as it is used for
enumeration. They begin with the little finger. This
little finger, then, is one. Now six is five (that is, one
whole hand) and one more. We can easily see then
why their word for six comprehends the word for one.
Again, seven is five (one whole hand) and two more—thus
their word for seven comprehends the word for two. Again,
when they have bent down the eighth finger, the most
noticeable feature of the hand is that two fingers, that
is, a finger and a thumb, remain extended. Now the Aht
word for eight comprehends atlah, the word for two. The
reason for this I imagine to be as follows :—Eight is ten
(or two whole hands) wanting two.  Again, when the ninth 122 CONNECTION OF NUMERALS WITH WORDS.
finger is down, only one finger is left extended. Their
word for nine comprehends tsow-wauk, the word for one.
Nine is ten (or two whole hands) wanting one.
The classical reader will recollect that the Greeks
expressed such a number as, for instance, " thirty-nine "
by saying "forty, wanting one," or such a number as
" thirty-eight" by saying " forty, wanting two."
On this point, then, I think a similarity of view must
have existed in the mind of the polished Greek, and the
rude, but shrewd savage. There seems no cause to doubt
the above reasonable explanation, which I had from an
intelligent Indian.*
A curious feature in connection with the numerals is
that, in agreement with a certain class of words, they are
used simply as they are set down in the list {see Appendix);
but, with another class of words, the numerals have the
affix of kamilh or kumilolah; and again with other words,
the affix of sok or sokko. Thus the Ahts say, tsow-wauk
or atlah, that is, "one" or "two," ko-us (man); or
klootsmah (woman); or tsoowit (salmon); or waw-it (frog);
but with other words, for instance, with the words for
dollar, paddle, house, stone, bird and beast of any sort,
articles of clothing, and, in fact, with the majority of
common   names,   the   numerals   noop- {kamilh),   atlah-
* It may be interesting to notice some of the modes in which certain of
the British Columbian Indian tribes express their numbers. For 6 the
Carrier says twice 3.    In 7, the Tshimpsean, like the Aht, has a 2.   Into
8, the Indians who live near the English towns of Douglas and Tale introduce a 1 ; while the Carrier, strong in his arithmetic says twice 4.   For
9, the Douglas and the Carrier have 10 save 1, and the Yale and Lytton
Indians have 9 and 1 for 10, borrowing their Temilk from Teemilh, their
Shewshwap neighbours' term for 9. METHOD OF DIVIDING THE YEAR.
{kamilh), kochtsa-{kamilh), &c, are made use of. The
affix sok or sokko is used of trees or masts, as sootcha-
sokko klakkahs, "five trees;" kochtsa-sokko-kloksem
chaputs, " a vessel with three masts." Of compound
words in which numerals appear, I may mention tsow-
wauchinnik, " unaccompanied; " atlahchinnik, " with one
other" {i.e. "himself the second"); and so on with the
other numbers: tsow-wauklus, " sole occupant" of a house;
tsow-wista, atlista, kochtsista, &c, "a canoe manned by
one, two, three," &c.; tsow-wautshamma, atlistshamma,
" with one wife," " with two wives."
The method in which the natives divide the year may
also be stated.
The natives divide the year into thirteen months, or
rather moons, and begin with the one that pretty well
answers to our November. At the same time, as their
names are applied to each actual new moon as it appears,
they are not, by half a month and more (sometimes),
identical with our calendar months.
1. Mah-mayksoh is the first moon, to which, meaning
"elder brother" {see Vocabulary), the word is
appropriately applied. "In this month the seals
2. Kathlahtik means " brother."    Of this moon, and
of another occurring seventh from it, they say,
" It does not travel, but stays for two days."
3. Hy-yeskikamilh, " the month of most snow."    (So
described and probably so derived, ei-yeh quees,
i.e. hy-yes).
4. Kahs-sit-imilh.
5. Ay-yak-kamilh,   " when   the   herrings    spawn." NAMES  OF MONTHS.
{Ayyak,  perhaps,   is   Uh-yeh-yahk,   i.e.
6. Outlohkamilh, " the month in which the geese leave
for the lakes to breed.-'
7. Oh-oh-kamilh. "In this month the strange geese
from a distance fly at a great height on their way
to the inland lakes."
8. Tahklahdkamilh. " Before the end of this month
the salmon-berry has just begun to ripen, and a
small bird, with a single human sort of whistle,
has arrived."
9. Kow-wishimUh. So named from kow-wit, " salmon-
berry," and hishimilh, a " crowd " or " quantity,"
this being emphatically the salmon-berry month.
Like kathlahtik, " this moon stays for two days."
10. Aho-sit sis.
11. Satsope-us.    Evidently from the salmon so called.
12. Enakonsimilh. Evidently from the salmon so
13. Cheeyahk-amilh.
I notice that this last moon (about October) and the
fifth moon (about March), have each yak or yahk in them,
which, by itself, as well as in composition, has the meaning
of " long."
I will now make a few remarks about the language of
these people.
Language of the Ahts.
If the language has any grammatical construction at
all—of which there certainly seem to be some traces—
still it is in a most imperfect and partially developed state. LANGUAGE OF THE AHTS.
Case, gender, and tense are not found, number is only
recognised in the personal pronouns, and the inflection of
the verbs, which is very irregular and imperfect, marks, so
far as I know, little difference between singular and plural.
The special characteristic of the language is that it is
evdently made up of roots expressive of natural sounds and
generic ideas. In many instances, in the case of newly
formed or derivative compound words, in which, perhaps,
one root retains its full form and significance, and the
other or others retain their significance, but have partially
lost their form, the Indian immediately recognises the unaltered root, and quickly also the roots of altered form
when they are pointed out to him and his attention is
given to them. Connected with this extensive use of
roots in composition, is the readiness with which the
natives invent names for any new objects. A compound
word is suggested by some individual in the tribe who is
considered skilful in forming appropriate names, and who,
for the sake of sound, subjects the roots to great change
and, often, abbreviation in the process of compounding.
Yet all the Indians who hear the new word at once recognise its meaning, and it is added to their vocabulary. It
is surprising to find how quickly universal among the
tribes any such new name becomes. As a rule, in the
formation of Aht Compounds, one root remains unchanged,
or nearly so, in the compound word, but the other roots in
it are freely altered. A marked feature of the language is
the numerous terminations to words which, evidently,
have been formed from the same root. Mr. Anderson
{see Cook's Voyages) mentions this as a defect of the
language, as if the variety were useless and unreasonable; 126     ROOTS AND TERMINATIONS  OF  WORDS.
but there is no doubt that these various terminations have
their proper significance, though this may often be difficult
to discover.
The extensive use of roots and great variety of terminations may be mere barbarisms in a language ; but these
peculiarities, on the other hand, may be usages and even
proofs of qualities that are beautiful and valuable_ in the
highest degree,—all depends on the language itself, its
genius and capabilities. In the Greek, which in Homer's
time, was used in a very primitive state of society, these
peculiarities are at once observed; and the scholar is well
aware how adapted that most perfect language is for the
conveyance of spiritual and moral truths, and how much
this power of conveyance depends on its abundant use of
root terms. I do not offer an opinion on the capabilities
of the Aht language—these may, perhaps, be comparatively
small—but, without for a moment comparing it with any
more civilized language, I name the beauty and value of a
great variety of terminations and an extensive use of roots,
both alone and in compound derivative words,—usages which,
in themselves, in the Aht language, cannot be considered
as defects. The language of the savage came from the
same source as the most perfect and philosophically constructed language, that is, from God Himself; and it is a
wonderful proof of wisdom, as regards language, that it
should be simple enough for the use of even a savage, and
yet contain elements, in common with the most refined and
beautiful of languages, by which it is fitted for a development equal to the requirements of the most advanced
stages of divine knowledge, of civilization and taste.
A few instances of the Aht manner of compounding COMPOUND  WORDS.
words may be given. We find the root yats or yets,
which expresses the idea of movement of the feet or legs :
yetsook, is "to walk; " yetspannich, " to walk and see; "
yetshitl, is "to kick;" and yetseh-yetsah (their only way
of expressing either a frequentative or plural being by
reduplication), is " to kick frequently." Yetseh-yet-
sokleh, undoubtedly from the same root, is a " screw
steamer." When the natives first saw one of these vessels,
noticing the disturbance of the water astern, they attributed the propulsion to some action analogous to the
stroke of the legs of a swimmer, and so the name of
| continual kicker " was at once invented and universally
received. This is an Indian's explanation, without suggestion or assistance. I may add that, in compound words,
several consonants or syllables of the component parts
are often run into one. This being the case, it is not
unlikely that the tsok in the above word gives (as in many
other instances) the idea of water {chu-uk). Another
example of a new name, adopted within my own knowledge, may be mentioned, which shows that parts of
different Aht words, expressing different ideas, are some^
times brought together and combined into one word.
Yahk means "long," and is probably connected with the
yet more radical yeh, yah, which I have noticed seems in
some words to give the idea of distance. Apuxim is
| hair upon the face," hynmuxhel is " the mouth;" and
there are other words of a similar sound showing the
uxim and uxhel to have a particular reference to the face.
These roots are formed into yahkpekuksel, "a beard."
From this word, and ko-us, " a man," a combination of
six syllables, the two-syllabled word yakpus is derived. 128
Yakpus is a proper name, meaning " beard-man," and was
applied by its Indian inventor or suggestor to my dear
friend, the late George Reid, of Alberni.
Klahchoochin, "a stranger," or literally, "the newly-
come," is derived from klah, a root signifying " present
time," and chookwah, " come." This last word is connected with the Chinook word chako. The radical klah is
found also in the word klahooye, " now;" klah-huksik,
" the present generation; " and probably in klah-oh,
"another," with its derivatives, klah-oh-quiU, "the day
after to-morrow," and klah-oh-quill-ooye, " the day before
yesterday." The quill in the two latter words is found
also in atlah-quiU, " eight," and tsow-wauk-quill, "nine,"
and probably means "beyond," or "in addition;" and
the ooye of the last word is a word of time, used by itself
to express " soon " or " presently," and found in words
implying both the present and the past, as klah-ooye,
ahm-ooye, klah-oh-quill-ooye. Even to one possessing
only an imperfect knowledge of the language, the continual presence of significant roots in compound words is
evident. The peculiarity may be noticed in instances
where the meaning of the root is entirely unknown (that
is, unknown to any Indians I conversed with); thus, while
chapwts is the word now used for canoe, the syllable kleet
is found to occur in many words connected with a canoe.
The similarity of the following words—kleetcha, " the
steersman;" kleetchaik, "a rudder;" kleetshitl, "to
steer;" kleetsuppem, "a sail;" kleetsviah, "stuff to sit
on in a canoe;" and even klootsinnim, " the board which
the paddler kneels upon," can hardly be accidental.
Next to these prominent features of the   Aht Ian- TERMINATIONS OF WORDS.
guage, which may be further verified by consulting the
vocabulary,—to which I must generally refer the reader,
as it is not my intention to comment on the Ian*
guage at length,—some of the most usual terminations of words deserve notice. Ah or mah is, in verbs,
the termination of the first | person both in the singular
and plural; huk or ayts, of the second; and mah, win, or
sometimes utlma, of the third person. These terminations,
however, are not so bound to the verb but that sometimes
they are transferred to an accompanying adverb, the exact
manner of expression being apparently a good deal determined by phonetic considerations, subject to rule. From
wik, " not," and kumotop, " to understand," we get either
wikah-kumotop, or wimmutomah, both equally meaning,
" I do not understand ; " but the latter word has lost two
prominent consonants in the process of composition. In
contradistinction to the terminations mah and utlma, which
are applicable to the third person, the ultimate win, also
applicable to the third person, has specially the curious
meaning, in some instances, that the speaker has not seen
that which he speaks of, and in other instances, that the
object is not in sight at the time of his speaking. This
reference to a past and a present may indicate a growth of
the language towards the formation of tenses, but the form
has reference at present to space and locality, rather than
to time, though the idea of time is often necessarily included
in the expression. What I mean to observe is that perhaps
ultimately the savage may use this termination " win " to
express one of the two times (past or present), and adopt
some other termination to express the other time. The
"w" and the " n" sounds frequently are found in compound
i 130
words, the one implying a negative, and the other the
idea of sight. It might, however, be considered fanciful
to look for the derivation of the syllable win in these, even
although waw-win, "to hunt by shouts from unseen
hunters " (the game hearing only, and not seeing, their
pursuers); and tupwin, to gird or girdle the waist (and so
to conceal the nakedness), might seem to point in the
same direction. The first syllable in waw-win is obviously
the same as in waw-wah or waw-waw, "to speak" or
" shout."
The expression of number is more definite in the Aht
language than that of time. Reduplication of a significant
syllable is used to describe number in objects and frequency in action. The words waw-waw and tseka tseka
are both used of sustained speech; waw means simply
"to utter a shout," or "to say." I find the single word
tsechkah in a vocabulary of eighty years ago, though I
have not myself heard it without the reduplication. Of
three words in the Aht language, meaning " to work,"
two, oo-ooshtuk and pe-pe-sati, have the doubled syllable,
implying, no doubt, repeated action. Yetseh-yetsah and
yetseh-yetsokleh have been already mentioned. Maht-mahs
means " all the houses " or "the entire population," mahte
or mahs being the word for a single " house " or " settlement." The significance of the following terminals must
be considered as only implying a general rule, more or less
liable to exception. Instruments end in ik—as hukkaik,
"a knife;" hissik, "a saw;" kleetchaik, "a rudder."
Colours end in uk or ook, as ey-yoh-quk, " green; kistohkuk,
" blue ; " May-hook, " purple ; " kleesook, " white ; " toop-
kook, "black" {hissit, " red," is an exception). TERMINA TIONS.
Trees and grasses end in pt, as kow-whipt, see-whipt,
ootsmupt, klakkupt, klakkamupt, and many others.
Genera end in oop and toop, as eesh-toop, "household things ; " sush-toop, " beasts of the forest; " tel-
hoop, " fishes of the sea." The word kleetstoop means
I blankets," in contradistinction to the special name given
to each blanket according to its colour.
Verbs often end in shitl, shetl, and chitl. This termination is, on the whole, well-marked, though exceptions are
very numerous. It would, in fact, be more correct to say
that these endings, when occurring, are generally found
in verbs, than to call them verbal terminations. They
probably imply action or movement. Thus, apart from
verbs, we meet with these ultimates in kleeshitl, (from
kleesook, " white,") " the growing light of morning which
comes before sunrise; " in toopshitl, {toop-kook,< "black,")
" the increasing darkness of sunset and immediately after;"
and in moolshitl, " the flood, or flowing tide."
The most common termination in the language is Ih.
It is difficult to assign any uniform meaning to this termination. I have sometimes thought that it expresses the
application of the meaning of a general word to a word of
a more particular import. Thus ey-yoh-quilh, the usual
term of the Ahts for a green blanket, means " a green
one." The general term for blanket, as named above, is
kleetstoop; as this word has no apparent connection with
ey-yoh-quilh, and as the Ahts use now almost exclusively
blankets for dress, we must suppose that in saying "a
green one," they are referring to their usual and almost
only covering. The word for a black blanket is toopkulh |
for white, kleeselh; for red, klayhulh; {klayhook is purple,
IISllUj 132
hissoolh is bloody.)    Attalh or uttalh is an Aht word for
black, evidently formed from attyh or nttyh, night.
Terminations in up seem to convey the* meaning of
loss, curtailment, injury, as chd-tay-up, "to cut off with
a knife;" kddsup, "to hurt, to wound;" hy-yusatyup,
" to lessen or diminish ; " kawkushup, " sickness of the
eyes; " ash-sup " to break a cord or string; " quoy-up " to
break'a stick."
The Nitinaht Dialect.
Among the various tribes living round Nitinaht (or
Barclay) Sound, that called the Nitinahts is the largest
tribe of all those both round the Sound and on the coast.
The Nitinahts live on the seaboard close to the Sound,
and it is worthy of remark that they have more words and
changes of verbal form peculiar to themselves than any
other of the Aht tribes. Their speech differs more from
that of the other tribes in Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound than
from the speech of the tribes immediately north of the
"Sound, though the latter are farther removed from them.
This probably arises from the circumstance of the seaboard
tribes of the Ahts having more intercourse with the tribes
of other nations of Indians speaking different languages
than the Aht tribes have who live inside the large Sounds,
The Nitinaht tribe, known specially by that name, is
nearer to the Indians on the other side of the Strait of
Juan de Fuca; and, additionally, as being a powerful tribe,
represses, to a certain degree, the foreign intercourse of
other seaboard tribes, and, therefore, naturally has most
mixture of language, as the Nitinahts most visit and are
visited by foreigners.    Also, both Nitinahts and all other THE NITINAHT DIALECT.
seaboard tribes have more foreign intercourse than the
tribes living inside the Sounds, their position hindering
these latter from visiting other nations, and strangers, on
their/part, being afraid to venture into the Sounds or inland.
In common with several of the seaboard Aht tribes to
the north, the Nitinahts have boouch {moouch) for " deer;"
and I have also heard Nitinahts use atlah-sib, tsow-wau-sib,
{Atlah-sim and tsow-wau-sim) for " eight" and " nine."
On the other hand, the tribes inside Nitinaht (or Barclay)
Sound use ahtoosh and atlahquill and tsow-toauk-quill
respectively for the same, that is, for " deer," 1 eight"
and " nine." The Nitinaht dialect, however, is understood
by all the tribes, though now and then one notices that, in
conversation with Indians of other tribes of their own
nation, the Nitinahts have to repeat their words with some
alteration of expression in order to make themselves understood. Much of the difference of their dialect from that
of others of the Aht tribes consists in the fact that, in
almost every instance, the m and n of the other tribes are
changed by the Nitinahts into b and d; this, with the
frequent abbreviation or expansion of words in composition, often leads to singular alterations. Thus, for the
common Aht wordsnoowayksoh, "father," and oomayksoh,
| mother," the Nitinahts have respectively dooux and
abahx; for quequenixo, " a hand," they have kookadooxyeh ;
for nismah, "country" or "territory," dissibach; for
mamook " to work," baboik. Two of the Nitinaht numerals
I may remark, chayukpalh, " six," and klah-ioha, " ten,''
are entirely different from those of the other tribes ; the
rest are substantially the same. 134
Cook's List op Nooteah Woeds.
Any one duly appreciating the difficulty of collecting
the words of an unknown language without an interpreter
will admire the industry of Mr. Anderson, surgeon of
Cook's ship, the Resolution, who, in the short space of less
than a month, obtained in the neighbourhood of Nootkah
some 280 native words. The tribes who live in that
neighbourhood, I may state, are the Moouchaht, Ayhutti-
saht, Noochahlaht, and these form part of the Aht nation
—a fact hitherto unknown. On examining Mr. Anderson's
list, I recognize, inclusive of the first ten numerals, 133
words which are substantially the same as words now spoken
by the tribes in Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound. The distance
along the coast between Nootkah and Nitinaht is about
90 miles. When from the remaining 147 words in Mr.
Anderson's list are deducted those words in which the
Nootkah Indians at present differ from the Nitinaht (or
Barclay) Sound tribes, and those words in which they may
agree, but with which agreement I am unacquainted, it is
probable that very little change will be found to have
taken place in the Aht language since Cook's visit eighty
years ago; perhaps not a greater change than might be
observed in the language—say of the south of Scotland,
within the last hundred years. It is singular that an
unwritten language should have been preserved with so
little alteration among tribes so widely scattered, and who
have so often opposed each other with deadly hatred.*
* Tbe language of the Indians in the interior of America—commonly
called the Indians of the Plain—is constantly changing, owing to their
roving habits and intermixture with other tribes.   In the case of some of MR. ANDERSON'S VOCABULARY.
The curious pronunciation remarked upon by Mr.
Anderson as only approximately represented by lozth may
have been somewhat altered and simplified by lapse of
time, or it may be a peculiarity not shared by those of
the Aht tribes best known to me. The words spelt by him
according to that pronunciation are now pronounced in
different instances as thl, Ith, or Ih, or are at least nearly
represented by such a combination of letters; not very
different, after all, from Mr. Anderson's pronunciation, only
I cannot distinguish the sound of s or z. I quite recognize ;
what Mr. Anderson means when he says, "It is formed
by clashing the tongue partly against the roof of the mouth
with considerable force, and may be compared to a very
coarse or harsh method of lisping." I do not, however,
recognize an actual lisp, which would, of course, imply the
presence of a sibilant. In Mr. Anderson's vocabulary I
find, without any very careful examination, a few words
either erroneously set down by him, or which have since
changed their meaning. The error (if any) in one or two
cases may easily be explained. I here give a few words,
as set down by Mr. Anderson, and also their present
pronunciation and meaning:—
Mr. Anderson's Words.
Opulszhl," the sun."
Onalszthl, " the moon."
Tsechkah, " a general song."
Present "Words.
Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound.
Hoop-palh, " the moon."
Nas, " the sun."
Tseka, " to speak, say, or Sing."
these tribes, the vocabulary of a missionary is of little use to his successor
after the lapse of a dozen years. The Coast Indians, on the other hand,
remain for generations—perhaps for centuries—on one spot, and their
language, consequently, is less susceptible of alteration, notwithstanding
the effect of the coast intercourse before alluded to. 136
Mr. Anderson's Words.
Haweelsth, or Hawalth, "friendship,
Eineetl, "goat, deer."
Okumha, | the wind."
Tchoo, " throw it down."
Jakops, "a man."
Nahei, Naheis, " friendship."
Ta-eetcha, " full, satisfied with eating."
Present Words.
Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound.
How-wilh, " chief."
Ahtoosh, or, Moouch, " deer."
Ennitl, " dog."
Wikseh, " wind."
Tchoo, "incites to any sort of action."
Chekoop, " a husband."
Ko-us, " a man."
Nahay, Nahais, " give or to give."
Teech, " well; not sick."
Teechah, " I am well."
The present meaning of tush-she is " a door-way," the same
word being applied to any gangway, and also to a track or
road in the woods. Mooshussem is "a door or lid." For
Mao or hlao-appi, a word of likely occurrence in barter with
Indians, Mr. Anderson has "keep it," or "I'll not have
it," having, I daresay, assigned that meaning to the word
from the evident dissatisfaction expressed by the person
using it. The real meaning of klao is " another," or
I something else;" and klao-appi means " substitute
something else." The expression, therefore, does not
convey so much a refusal of the article offered in barter
as a request that something else more acceptable should
be produced. Klao, or klah-oh, is a word which enters
frequently into the speech of the Ahts, and always with
the signification of " another " or " some more." Ah-ah-
tomah-klah-oh Oliver is a literal rendering of " Oliver
asks for more." Ohkullik, or ohquinnik, set down by
Mr. Anderson as the general term for " box," is now
used only to describe a box with double sides, the inner
ones sliding out. The innik or tdlik gives the idea of
duality;   klah-hix is the  common term for "a box;" AFFINITY OF  INDIAN LANGUAGES.
klah-haytsoh for one having a lid fitting over the sides.
The word allee, or alia, which Mr. Anderson translates
"friend," or "hark ye," is the same as the present
Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound anni, and the Chinook annah,
the transition from n to I, easy in all languages, being
particularly so in the Aht language, in which a sound
often lies halfway between two kindred consonants. The
exact meaning of anni is "look." It is connected with
the reply generally made to it, anni-mah, "I see;" with
cheh-neh, " I do not know," or,-more literally, " I do not
see," or "have not seen;" and also, no doubt, with the*
Chinook nanich, "to see;" and many other words in
which the same root may be traced. The word 'kaweebts
applied by Mr. Anderson to the wild raspberry* is now
used by the Ahts for a very common and well-known berry-
bush, to which the colonists give the name of " the salmon-
berry." Though not the wild raspberry, it is of the same
order of plants, and not unlike it in appearance, and when
in flower might easily be mistaken for the wild raspberry.
Affinity of the Indian Languages on the
North-West Coast.
An adequate acquaintance with the Indian languages
spoken in Vancouver Island, and on the north-west coast
of the continent, would throw a trustworthy and most interesting light on the early history of the different nations
of Indians; at least on so much of their early history as
consisted in their migrations. On this point, however,
I will confine my observations to the people on the outside
coast of the island, with whom I happen to be acquainted.
A cursory notice is sufficient to prove to the traveller the 138
close similarity of the languages of all the Aht tribes,
and, therefore, the relationship of the people; and he is
surprised, on going along the coast towards the north of the
island, where no great physical obstruction prevents communication between the different tribes, to find a boundary,
as it were, beyond which the speech of the Aht people
(phonetically, at least,) is so much changed, that  even
numerals and other radical forms have no appearance of
similarity.    I hesitate to affirm that the several languages
in Vancouver Island are absolutely distinct, for I have not
•closely studied the whole of them.   The contrast I speak of,
in reference to the Aht language, appears about Cape Scott,
at the northern end of Vancouver Island, where this language meets the language of the Quoquoulth   (the Indians
of the north and north-east of the island); and the contrast
appears again  towards  the   south end  of the island at
some point between Pacheenah and Victoria, where the
Aht language comes into abrupt contact with the Kowitchan,
or dialects of the Kowitchan.    But though these points,
north and south, are the limits of the districts in which
the Aht language proper in Vancouver Island is spoken,
the same language probably crosses the Straits of Juan
de Fuca, and  is  traceable, with gradual and increasing
alterations, through all the tribes along the ocean-coast,
from about Cape Flattery to the mouth of the Columbia
Biver.    There is a decided resemblance between the Aht
language and many words of the Chinook jargon, which
is a portion of the language of the  now almost extinct
Chinook  tribes at  the mouth  of the Columbia River,
supplemented by words of other tribal dialects on the
north-west coast; also by French, English, Hawaian, and, CHINOOK AND AHT WORDS. 139
perhaps (but of these I am doubtful), Spanish words. The
real Chinook was the first coast language of the northwest coast languages that was learned by settlers and
traders on the banks near the mouth of the Columbia
Biver ; and a portion of it was afterwards incorporated into
a barbarous jargon, to facilitate communication with other
natives.* I know about 100 words of the Chinook jargon,
and probably 500 of the Aht language, and among these,
without research, I can recall the following parallels :—
Chinook. Aht.
Mowitch, " a deer "  Moouch, " a deer "
Syah, " far away "   Si-yah, " far away."
Kloosh, " good "  Kloothl, " good."
( (Ihu-uk," water."
Chuk, " water "        i m      ,  <t „   • „
' I J su-uk,   a river.
Kumtax, " to understand "        Kumotop, " to understand."
I Naneisah, " to see."
Nanich, «to see "        } Yetspannich, " to walk out and see."
Hyas, " great"           Eher, " great."
Hy-ya, " a great many "        Ei-yeh, " a great many."
Hyemmah, " a great many."
Hy-yu, " ten, i. e., the highest number
one can count on the fingers."
Chako, " to come "        Chookwah, " come."
Klootchman, "a woman"          Klootsmah, " a married woman."
Klootchmoop, " a sister."
Wayk, "no, not"           Wik,wiklyt,wikah,waykomah,"no,not."
Wah-wah, " to speak "         Wah, " to speak."
Keekilly " low, deep down "         Keekqulk, " submerged."
Many other words suggest themselves, not showing
such an evident similarity, but still conclusive to one
knowing something of the Aht language. The similar ity
to the Chinook is contained often in some composite word,
* This is the real origin of the Chinook jargon, in reference to which
one writer after another copies the conventional nonsense that the Hudson
Bay Company " invented " it. Such an achievement as the invention of a
language is beyond the capabilities of even a chief factor. 140
where the resemblance has been almost entirely lost in the
expression of the more simple idea. Thus—to take a
partial instance from one of the parallels just adduced—the
word nanetsah retains, indeed, the radical nan found in the
Chinook nanich, but has a different termination. The
Chinook termination, however, has remained in the Aht
composite word yetspannich, a word which means " to go out
and look about," and is applied to any one strolling about
without any apparent object. In like manner, the Chinook
roots chuk, tsuk, enter continually into Aht composite words,
and convey a reference to water; wik and wayk, in composition, imply a negative; and nan and an, similarly,
imply sight; and kloothl implies good—thus showing a
much more intimate connection between the Chinook and
Aht tongues than the mere similarity of a few words, not
in a composite form, would suggest. It may be objected
that the Aht Indians, a few of whom know something of
the Chinook jargon, may have introduced some of the
words among their own words; but, with any knowledge
of the languages, it seems impossible to hold this opinion.
The Ahts know perhaps fewer of the Chinook words than
any other Indians in the island, and yet the other Vancouver Indian languages do not, so far as I know, exhibit the
same similarity to the Chinook. The Ahts have absolutely
no other word for water than chu-uk, and it is not likely
that they would have adopted the Chinook word, and
entirely lost their own term for such a common necessary.
The various tribes of the Aht nation differ a little, but a
very little, in their language ; each tribe 'having some
few words quite peculiar to itself. One of these differences
affords fair evidence of the reality of the relation between SIMILARITY OF CHINOOK AND AHT TONGUES. 141
the Aht and the Chinook; the difference to which I allude
is the variation in the term for deer among different Aht
tribes. Those Aht tribes which have, in modern times, seen
most of the white man, and, therefore, heard most of
Chinook, inhabit Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound. The name
which the tribes in that locality have for a deer is ahtoosh,
but other Aht tribes more to the north, who have heard less
of Chinook than the others—tribes such as the Ahousaht or
Moouchaht—call a deer moouch, which has a very close
' likeness to the Chinook mowitch. This similarity of an
important word in the two tongues existing among those
Aht tribes ignorant of Chinook, and which happens not to
be found in the language of the tribes who know Chinook,
is one proof of an old connection of the Aht and Chinook
languages. I have said that, in Cook's list of words, made
eighty years ago, a general resemblance of the two languages
is found; and I may here add that an intelligent Indian on
the west coast of the island has remarked to me upon the
similarity of the Aht and the Chinook, without any suggestion from me ; also, that the conclusion thus independently formed is confirmed by those traders who are most
familiar with the dialects spoken along the coast. Being
altogether unacquainted with the neighbouring languages
on the nearest American territory, I do not know whether
the Aht form of language has kept merely to the ocean
coast, or has in any instance penetrated into the interior of
the country. I should expect to find that it adhered to
the coast; but, no doubt, the course of the language might
be altered and directed inland by such a feature as a great
river, or a range of mountains, The distance, following
the ocean coast, from Cape Scott in Vancouver Island to 142
the Columbia Biver, which, so far as I know, is the range
of the Aht language, is about 400 miles. I have not
attempted to trace the language outside of these limits,
and I can form no opinion whether the Aht people spread
originally from the Columbia River, along the coast towards
the north, or whether they spread south from the west coast
of Vancouver Island.
Tribal Names.
The Indians relate that Quawteaht gave names to most
or all of the things on land, and in the sky, and sea ; and
that he, also, is the author of their tribal names. The
terminal of all the tribal names, namely, aht, is the terminal of Quawteaht's own name. This story of the Indians
is a myth; the tribal names probably were adopted to
describe the principal features of some locality, or in honour
of a great chief. It is possible that the affix aht, which
terminates the tribal names, is identical with maht, mahte,
or mahs, which are words respectively meaning "house."
The word mahte is not only applied to the material building, but also to the settlement or population. Maht-mahs
(the reduplication being their only way of forming a plural)
means "the whole population," or "all the settlements."
The word Ishinnikquaht, "next door," or "next house,"
is an instance of aht in composition, giving to the composite word the meaning of " house," as Ishinnik means
"with," "close to," "next to." Quisaht, abbreviated
compound of quispah and mahte, signifies " the further
settlements "—quispah meaning " further," or "on the
other side," and mahte meaning " house," as above stated.
The natives do not apply the tribal name, with its TRIBAL NAMES.
terminal aht, to the district owned by the tribe, but only
to the village and people. The Seshaht territory is called
Sesh; that of Ohyaht, Ohy; that of Pacheenaht,
Pacheen. It is not unreasonable to suppose that all the
names of the tribes were significant when first applied;
and, in spite of the legend of Quawteaht, we may be
inclined to believe that each new settlement, as it was
formed, received its name from some particular feature of
the locality, or some notable occurrence connected with the
new establishment. When we find in the language noochee,
"mountain;" moouch, "deer;" klah-oh, "another;"
koquahowsah, " a seal; " it seems reasonable to recognise
in the tribal appellations of Noochahlaht, Moouchaht,
Klah-oh-quaht, Ahousaht, names which will bear the simple
translations, " mountain-house," " deer-house," " another
house," " seal-house." Several other tribal names of the
Ahts seem to be significant, though not quite so obviously
as the above. The Indian's mode of forming a name is
often difficult to trace, as a long word is sometimes
represented in composition by only a single syllable, or
even a single letter. lilt
( w± )
The Waw-win—a great Deer Hunt.
Rare work ! aUfilled with terror and delight.—Cowley.
It is not of much use going out to shoot deer on the west
coast without the assistance of an Indian. One may walk
alone, day after day, over the rough wooded mountains
without raising a deer, while an Indian on the same ground
will get several shots. After trying all the usual ways of
shooting deer—by stalking them on the hills, by lying in
ambush, and by pushing them out of covert, I arranged
for a great deer hunt at Alberni in February, 1864.* Nearly
* " Eheufugaces, Postume, Postume, Labuntwr anni!" Alas! do not
our fleeting years too quickly end! Which of my welcome friends,
Anderson, Ker, Connell, Gaskell—men of the right kidney, each one—does
not remember the glorious days spent in the chase at Alberni, and the
hearth piled with well-dried logs that greeted our return?
" But ye whom social pleasure charms,
Whose hearts the tide of kindness warms,
Who hold your being on the terms,
' Each aid the others,'
Come to my bowl, come to my arms,
My friends, my brothers !" INDIAN HUNTERS.
a- whole tribe of Indians took part in this waw-win, as they
call it; as far as I could judge, there were about ninety
men in the forest, and half of them were armed with guns.
This grand battue is called by the natives watv-win, from
the word waw, which means to speak or shout. The practice
is for a number of Indians to spread over a district and
drive the deer with shouts through the forest towards some
lake or arm of the sea, on the banks of which they are
killed, and canoes are kept in readiness to capture or drive
back those that are bold enough to attempt escape by
swimming. The deer I speak of is the black-tailed deer;
I have never known the wapiti to be captured in a waw-
win. The wapiti is not found in such numbers as the
black-tailed deer, nor does the wapiti often come near the
coast, where only a waw-win can take place, near some
large village.
There had been heavy falls of snow, and the Indians
were certain that many deer had come down from the
higher mountains, and would be found on the side of a
great, rugged, wooded hill, which rose steep from the
Alberni inlet. A swollen torrent, rising from a source
inland, flowed across the back of this hill, and, at the
southern extremity of the hill, this torrent fell into the-
Alberni inlet. The hill itself occupied about two miles of
frontage on the inlet. Thus the reader will perceive that
there was but one side, the north one, left open for the
inland escape of the deer—in fact like the base of a triangle.
On this base, if I may so call it, at certain intervals, men
were placed to hem in the deer, and then advance and
drive them forward into the corner or apex of the triangle,
where the torrent fell into the Alberni inlet.  When driven
1 146
into this spot the deer were to be shot. This base was
probably about a mile in length. The sloping face of the
hill measured about a thousand feet; its surface was
broken by ravines and hollows, by precipices and huge
masses of rock, all of which were hidden by the forest, and
to be seen only as one came upon them in walking. These
irregularities of the surface favoured the growth of many
clumps of young fir trees, and among these the deer found
shelter. It was common to have a waw-win hunt on this
hill, when deer were wanted for some great intertribal feast.
The Indians spent the evening before the day appointed
for the hunt in dancing and singing, and in various ceremonies intended to secure good luck on the morrow. We,
on our part, cleaned our rifles, and got to bed soon. About
two o'clock in the morning, the Indians assembled on the
hill, and occupied the base line above described. They
took no dogs with them. I crossed the inlet in a canoe,
with three other gentlemen, and reached the ground about
two hours later. The Indians did not appear to be under
the command of any one, nor did they advance in any
order, but straggled forward, beating the bushes and
pushing through the clumps of young trees, shouting
loudly all the time. It was very cold and very fatiguing
work, as we laboured over fallen trees and occasionally
sank deep into the snow. I often wished I had left my rifle
at home, for it was heavy to carry, and we saw few deer, and
could not fire, owing to the danger of hitting the men. I
had landed on the north part of the hill, at one end of the
base line spoken of, and I had intended to proceed from
man to man of the Indians as they advanced, that I might
notice their proceedings.    This plan would have brought BEATING  THE BUSH.
me to some point of the torrent at the back of the hill,
but I soon found that the Indians advanced too quickly to
allow me to carry it out. If I had persevered in my
attempt to do so, I should have been left behind, and
have been quite out of the way of witnessing the result
when the deer were hemmed in at the south of the hill,
where they were to be shot down.
As we went on, the Indians collected into twos and
threes and fours, which was a sign that the line was
being shortened, and the hunters were pushed one against
another. The excitement was now great among all the
Indians that I saw; they laughed, and yelled, and redoubled
their exertions - to start the deer, and we occasionally
heard muskets cracking along the line. The effect of all
this manoeuvring now began to be seen ; a herd of twenty
or thirty deer came bounding over the snow towards us,
and, being greeted with terrific yells, turned and fled. I
had never been quite able to keep up with the Indians, few
white men could; and now as the noise and excitement and
the musketry increased, I decided on not advancing much
farther towards the angle we were approaching, lest the
fate of William Rufus should overtake me. The surface
of the side of the hill was so broken, and the trees were so
numerous and large, that one could see only a small bit of
ground anywhere. The deer seemed now so desperate as
to have lost their timidity; many broke through the line
of their enemies and escaped.
From the top of a mass of rock on which I was glad to
rest, I saw beneath me a bare patch of the hill-side; beyond
that the forest again, and farther down still a low gravelly
.point without trees, which formed the angle at the meeting
of the torrent with the inlet.    A few canoes were floating
about as if waiting for something.     The shouting and
yelling, and a confused noise of voices and of feet trampling
the branches of prostrate trees, were now heard on every
side.   Deer leapt wildly across the bare patch and disappeared in the wood beyond, followed by Indians excited
as only uncivilized men can be; then first one deer, then a
few, then more deer trotted out on the gravelly point, and
looked about in all directions, and smelt the water.    There
was soon a large herd on the point, and, in a few minutes,
the pursuers began advancing a little along the point and
firing.    The shooting was very bad, and the deer trotted
about for many minutes without losing more than a few of
their number.  I loaded and fired my rifle as fast as I could;
but, being a long way off, probably did little damage.   My
friends having now come to me, we descended and joined
the Indians, in order to bring the morning's work to as
speedy a termination as possible.    It was extraordinary to
notice the carelessness of the Indians;  after all their
exertions to bring the deer to this place, they allowed
nearly one-third of them to escape.    A few deer took to
the water, but the canoes pursued them, and they were
turned back to the shore by blows of the paddles on their
heads.    The total number killed during this waw-win was
fifty-three, that is to say, sixteen during the chase and
thirty-seven on the point of land.    We sat down for a
time after the hunt was over, and the Indians had a long
. talk among themselves to decide how the deer were to be
divided.     The man whose hunting ground the hill was
considered to be—though not a chief—received the largest
share of any.    The Indians do not much relish deer-meat, DIVISION OF THE SPOIL.
and, on this occasion, seemed to value the skins more than
any other part of the animal, except for the chance they
had of selling the venison to some of the ships at Alberni.
We left them discussing the proceedings and the results of
the hunt, and went home to our breakfast. (     150     )
The Savage Character—"Vindictivcncss—Coldbloodedness—Attack on the
lilkwhahts—Murder of a Qirl—Human Sacrifice—Custom of the
Min-okey-ak—Notions about Stealing—Affection for Children—
Habitual Suspicion—Want of Foresight—Absence of Faith—Ingratitude—Sincerity of the Indian's Declarations.
Judge from their own mean hearts, and foully wrong mankind.—Soutiie v.
It is very difficult, for a civilized man, to form in his mind
a correct estimate of the moral condition of a savage. In
one part of his character the savage resembles the lowest
members of a civilized community—such as the outcasts
in large cities ; but another part of his character, inherited
through a long succession of moral degradation, unchecked
by any surrounding counteracting influences, is unlike
anything that can be witnessed even in the most brutalized
individual in a civilized community. There is a resemblance, in many respects closer than one likes to admit,
between the promptings and habits of uncivilized man and
those of the wild beasts which he hunts. The Aht savage
seems to the traveller, on a first observation, very like an FIRST IMPRESSIONS.
animal with a superior instinct and the gift of rude speech.
Regarding him in that light, or, at least, not quite as a
fellow-man, I have been pleased with his conversation, par-,
ticularly with his account—given in the easy but striking
manner characteristic of narrators who are free from
drudgery and live much out of doors *—of the ingenious
ways in which he captures fish, wild animals, and birds;
and it has been only on turning the talk towards other
topics—such as the history and destiny of his race in this
world, or after death, and on remembering, in connection
with these thoughts, that the untutored Indian was a
fellow-being—that I have fully realized his actual benighted condition. The first natural impulse of any
civilized observer, who judges by recognized standards
for appreciating a social and moral condition, is to turn
with aversion from a people so degraded as the natives
on this coast ; but, in my own case, I found that this
feeling gradually changed to one of interest and curiosity,
after seeing them in their own villages, where all their
ways and doings had, at least, the recommendation of being
thorough and of being novel. It then appeared that,
together with the rude vices of a man always cut off from
every external influence of an improving kind, the savage
had sonde qualities that were of a nature to be commended :•
he was sincere in his friendship, kind to his wife and
children, and devotedly loyal to his own tribe. His hos-'
pitality and faithfulness to any trust reposed in him were
* No persons equal in power and manner of graphic oral narration,
those gentlemen in the Hudson Bay Company's service who have passed
the greater part of their lives in the Indian country, remote from all
civilized intercourse. 152
noticeable virtues. I also found, on visiting his house,
that he had much more of what was playful and kindly
in his nature towards his relatives and friends, than one
would expect him to have. And, of course, the more intimately the savage became known to me, the more clearly
man, in man's natural condition and proportions, stood forth,
exhibiting a character which owed its peculiarity specially to
excess or defect in regard to the moral qualities—qualities
which he shared with the rest of the human race. These
excesses and defects come up before one's mind, in describing his character, far more readily than any good
qualities! which the Indian possesses. His virtues do
not reach our standard, and his vices exceed our standard ; so, in reflecting on his character, we naturally think
first of his vices, not of his virtues. The prominent
characteristics which I have observed in the Ahts are a
want of observation, a great deficiency of foresight, extreme
fickleness in their passions and purposes, habitual suspicion, and a love of power and display. Added to which
may be noticed their ingratitude and revengeful dispositions, their readiness for war, and revolting indifference
to human suffering. A murder, if not perpetrated on one
of his own tribe, or on a particular friend, is no more to
an Indian than the killing of a dog, and he seems altogether steeled against human misery, when found among
ordinary acquaintances or strangers. The most terrible
sufferings, the most pitiable conditions, elicit not the
slightest show of sympathy, and do not interrupt the
current of his occupations or his jests for a moment. REVENGEFUL SPIRIT.
The Aht natives are very revengeful, and appear to cherish
rancour for a length of time, sometimes for more than one
generation. Disputes between individuals lead to implacable family feuds. Though it is usual to accept large presents as expiation for murder, yet, practically, this expiation
is not complete, and blood alone effectually atones for blood.
An accepted present never quite cancels the obligation to
punish in the breast of the offended person or tribe. Many
years after the offence, and, generally, when disappointed
in some blood-thirsty expedition, these savages will call to
mind an old injury, and make it the pretext for a murderous attack on an unsuspecting tribe. An illustration of
this is afforded by an occurrence in the Straits of Fuca a
few years ago. The Nitinahts, on the Vancouver Island
shore, had mustered for an expedition to attack another
island tribe near Victoria, but were deterred by the arrival
of several ships of war at Esquimalt. These were English
ships of war, which, after the unsuccessful attack on Petro-
paulovski, went to Vancouver Island to refit. Unwilling
to go back without heads for trophies, the Nitinahts determined to attack the Elkwhahts, on the south side of the
Straits—a tribe against which they bore a grudge for some
old injury, but with which people the Nitinahts had, since
the injury, been for years on friendly terms. After nightfall, the attackers paddled across the Straits, and drew
their canoes over the rocks, into the forest near the Elk-
whaht village. It was the fishing season, and a quiet
morning in summer. Before the sun rose, the Elkwhahts
were out in their canoes fishing, at some distance from 154
the shore. All at once the eager enemy rushed from the
forest, dragging their canoes, and,' embarking in them,
they intercepted the terrified, unarmed fishermen before
they could reach the land. The women and children
ran out of the houses and shrieked, but there was no
battle. In a few minutes the headless bodies of the
Elkwhahts were lying in their canoes, which floated here
and there, and the victors were paddling across the Straits,
singing a death-song.
I was told by a trustworthy eye-witness of another
bloody act, committed at Klah-oh-quaht Sound by a native
who is well known to me. My informant, while trading
on the coast, stayed to sleep at the village. While at
supper, he heard the death-song; and, on going out of
the house, found the natives assembling to meet canoes
on their return from a warlike expedition. It was clear
moonlight, so that everything could be seen. The men
landed and danced on the beach, many holding high in
one hand a musket, and in the other, several human heads.
A few captives were dragged by the hair towards the
village. Amongst these were two children, a boy and
girl, of about twelve years of age, who had been captured
by the Indian alluded to. This savage had been at San
Francisco, and could speak a word or two of English.
Anybody on the west coast of Vancouver Island knows
" trader George" (the Indian in question), the rich
merchant of Klah-oh-quaht. Approaching my informant
in a state of great excitement, he repeated, " me strong,"
" me brave," " me very strong heart," and suddenly drew HUMAN SACRIFICE.
his long, knife, and so quickly severed the girl's head that
the blood spouted upwards, and the body seemed to steady
itself for a moment before it fell. The demon danced
with the head in his hand, and pushed on the boy before
him. This infernal crime was committed merely to show
to the white man that the native warrior had a " strong
I may mention another atrocity which occurred within
a few yards of my house. As a magistrate, I had to take
official cognizance of this act. In December, 1864, the
Seshaht Indians, then occupying their village close to
Alberni, put one of their women to a violent death. The
day before they commenced a celebration of a peculiar
character, which was to last several days, and the murder
of the woman formed, no doubt, a part of this celebration.
The woman was stabbed to death by an old man in whose
house she lived, and who probably owned her as a slave,
and offered her for a victim. The body was then laid out
without a covering by the water-side, about a hundred and
fifty yards from the houses. There appeared to be no
inclination to bury the body, and it was only after the chief
had been strongly remonstrated with that the poor victim's
remains were removed, after two days' exposure. I observed
that even after this removal, certain furious rites took
place over the very spot where the body had been exposed.
The chief feature of the celebration, apart from the murder,
was a pretended attack upon the Indian settlement by
wolves, which were represented by Indians, while the rest
* It may be said that in killing this girl, the Klah-oh-quaht only exercised his right as a victor, according to Aht ideas. This, however, is little
more than saying that the rest of his tribe were as infernal as himself. 156
of the population, painted, armed, and with furious shouts,
defended their houses from attack.    The horrid practice of
sacrificing a victim is not annual, but only occurs either
once in three years, or else (which is more probable) at
uncertain intervals; always, however, when it does happen,
the   sacrifice   takes   place during the Klooh-quahn-nah
season, which lasts from about the middle of November to
the middle of January.    The Klooh-quahn-nah or Klooh-
quel-lah is a great festival observed annually by all the
Aht tribes, after their return from their fishing-grounds
to the winter encampment.   It is generally a time of mirth
and feasting, during which tribal rank is conferred, and
homage done to the chief, in a multitude of observances
which   have   now  lost  their meaning,  and   cannot be
explained by the natives themselves.     I was not aware
until this  murder was  committed under our eyes, that
human sacrifices formed any part of the Klooh-quahn-nah
celebration.     I should think it likely that old worn-out
slaves are generally the victims.    The Seshaht Indians
at Alberni represent the practice  as  most  ancient, and
the fact  that the other tribes of the Aht nation (about
twenty in number) observe it,  favours   this  supposition.
Their legends somewhat differ as to this practice, some
saying that it was instituted by the Creator of the world ;
others that it arose from the sons of a chief of former
times having really been seized by wolves.*    To  some
* These Indians imitate animals and birds extremely well, such as
wolves or crows. At this Klooh-quahn-nah celebration they had their hair
tied out from their heads, so as to represent a wolf's head and snout, and the
blanket was arranged to show a tail. The motion of the wolf in running
was closely imitated. More extraordinary still was their acting as crows ;
they had a large wooden bill, and blankets arranged so like wings that, in SANGUINARY RITES.
extent it is a secret institution, the young children not
being acquainted with it until formally initiated. Many
of them during the horrid rite are much alarmed; the
exhibition of ferocity, the firing of guns and shouting,
being calculated, and probably intended, to excite their
fears. Part of a day is given up to an instruction of those
children who are to be initiated, and it is impressed upon
them that the Klooh-quahn-nah must always be kept up,
or evil will happen to the tribe. The tendency, no doubt,
and probably the intention of this human sacrifice, and the
whole celebration, is to destroy the-natural human feeling
against murder, and to form in the people generally, and
especially in the rising generation, hardened and fierce
hearts. They themselves say that their "hearts are bad,"
as long as it goes on. In the attendant ceremonies, their
children are taught to look, without any sign of feeling,
upon savage preparations for war, strange dances performed
in hideous masks, and accompanied by unearthly noises,
vand occasionally, at least, upon the cruel destruction of
human life. Although I have no direct evidence of the
fact, I believe that part of the course of those to be
initiated would be to view, howl over, and perhaps handle,
or even stick their knives into the dead body of the victim,
without showing any sign of pity or of horror.
A strange belief, of which I could get no explanation,
nor learn its origin, existed lately among these people .
connected with an instrument called min-okey-ak, made
of a stone or other hard substance, fastened to the end of
the dusk, the Indians really seemed like large crows hopping about, particularly when, after the manner of these birds, they went into the shallow
water, and shook their wings and " dabbed " with then long bills. HORRIBLE SUPERSTITION.
a long string. This instrument was supposed to be thrown
from an unseen hand, and the person struck by it sickened
and died. No one was allowed to live who knew how to
make the min-okey-ak. The last person possessing this
knowledge among the Ohyahts—the tribe from which I
derived this information—was a young man of a family of
eight men, and it was resolved at a meeting of the chiefs,
that the whole family should be extirpated. On an appointed day, four of the doomed men were asked, one after
another, by different individuals to go fishing or hunting,
and each was killed by his companion unawares. The
other four, on the same day, were invited to a feast, and.
murderers sat beside them with concealed knives, who, at
a given signal, stabbed them to the heart. The women
were sold into slavery, and the house and property of the
family were destroyed. Since this tragedy, no one among
the Ohyahts has known how to make the min-okey-ak.
But enough of these terrible and repulsive scenes !
They are atrocities of which it is painful to read, but
which, nevertheless, should be placed before the reader, in
order to show to him what savages really are, and how
blessed are the influences of Christianity and civilization.
I turn from these harrowing details to a more general
account of various characteristics of the people, which were
observed by me during a somewhat lengthened intercourse
with them.    And, first, as to their notions on the subject
Stealing is not sanctioned by public opinion among
the Ahts, but they all have a tendency to sympathise with NOTIONS ABOUT STEALING.
some forms of theft, in which dexterity is required.
Chiefs and heads of large families very seldom commit
theft; they know the value of a good name, and prefer
inciting their poor men to the unlawful act. A chief who
himself steals is a very bad chief indeed. Larceny of a
fellow-tribesman's property is rarely heard of, and the
aggravation of taking it from the house or person is almost
unknown. When the thief and loser are of the same tribe,
the loser either retaliates, or, by feeing the chief, induces
him to use his offices in recovering the property. In cases
of theft from another tribe, the chief of the tribe to which
the offending native belongs, on receiving a remonstrance,
either compels him to make restitution, or himself pays
the value for the honour of his people. On the other
hand, anything left under an Indian's charge, in reliance
on his good faith, is perfectly safe; he takes a pride in
returning every separate article that was given to him.
I must not, however, be understood to say that thieving
from other tribes is unusual among the Ahts; on the
contrary, it is a common vice where the property of
other tribes, or white men, is concerned. But it would
be unfair to regard thieving among these savages as
culpable, ya. the same degree, as among ourselves. They
cannot understand the considerations on which we desire
to protect among ourselves the rights of property. Nor
have they any knowledge of a moral or social law forbidding the act. Thieving, that is, intertribal thieving,
has been commonly practised among the tribes for many
generations. In addition to which, we should consider
how strong the temptation to steal must have become
when articles of civilized manufacture—curious tools of AFFECTION FOR CHILDREN.
iron, saving the wearied arm many months of labour—
were first introduced to their sight, and left about carelessly before them. I think that discriminating laws should
be made. It is unjust, and therefore, in the long run,
useless, to punish the Aht savages according to our law for
some offence which they do not regard as an offence, and
which, at all events, is committed under conditions not contemplated by the framers of the law. The efficacy of human
punishments lies, in a great degree, in the public opinion
concerning them; and certainly the savages on this coast
think that our imprisonments < and hangings are nothing
but the arbitrary and harsh exercises of superior power.
Men whom they think innocent are hanged, and those
whom they consider guilty often escape.
Affection fob Children.
I have been pleased often to notice the affection of the
Indian fathers for their children, and how proud they are
in remarking any skill in their childish amusements.
Undoubtedly they have, in general, strong love for their
relations, most of all for their children. They never beat
them, and I have known many instances of fathers taking
home for their children little dainties which it required an
exercise of self-denial to abstain from. Should they suffer
the loss of those they love, the women howl and lament; the
men nurse their sorrow, and show, by altered demeanour,
and even loss of flesh and health, their inward affliction.
At the same time, this love is not connected with thought-
fulness and care for the sick, who, as is described in a
chapter of this book, if not neglected, are often treated
with utter disregard to their comfort. SUSPICIOUS NATURE.
Habitual Suspicion.
Like other wild men, the hand of the Aht Indian has
been against every man—so far as he has felt it consistent
with his own safety; and, as a natural consequence, his
eye is ever on the watch against the hostility of others.
His thought, when he comes in contact with any but the
few who are within the circle of his bosom friends, is,
" How can I turn this person to my own account, and how
can I defend myself from his design against me ? " For,
to his credit (as far as it goes), it must be allowed, that
he does not for a moment believe that he is sacrificing a.
confiding or honest person, but sets down all appearance
of unguardedness either to folly or simulation. The
Indian is educated by his necessities, by his fears, and by
his experience of human nature within the range of his own
observation. His countenance apparently of studied self-
command, his watchful concealed glances, his suspicions
developed upon every occasion, show a character lying, as
it were, in ambush. The power of self-command possessed
by savages seems to me to have been over-estimated. It
is great up to a certain point, both over the countenance
and over the emotions; but in reality it is much inferior
to that of civilized men, though a first acquaintance
with the stern manner of savages would lead one to
believe the contrary. When their composure is once
broken through by the assault of feeling, all their self-
possession is gone, and they become the sudden slaves
of fear, anger, or the like. Their nerve, under ordinary, and perhaps even under extraordinary, circumstances,  is   naturally strong;    but,  when once it gives
11 102
way, they have no adequate counteracting moral power
to sustain them.
Want of Foresight.
I may mention, also, deficiency of foresight' as a
leading and evident component of the moral habit of the
Aht savages—a deficiency which weakens their virtues,
and partially palliates many of their vices. The possessor
of a civilized education and an enlightened conscience
does not act without bearing in mind, in a general way,
the probable consequence of bis deeds, both to himself
and others; in the main, his actions, whether good or
evil, are deliberate and wilful. But, with the exception
of following certain inherited habits necessary for very
existence, the Indian does not appear to exercise to any
adequate extent his' power of reflecting on and acting for
the future; impending dangers, and near and sensible
advantages, of course exercise their influence; but the
advantage of acting strenuously for a result which he considers uncertain, is altogether unrecognised. Even his
cunning calculations and attempts at deception, most
clever and complete in themselves, are simple and shortsighted, and remind one almost as much of the instincts
of the animal, as of the exercise of human powers. In
this want of inclination and ability to prepare for and
mould the circumstances of the future, we find, perhaps,
not so much a characteristic of the people on this coast,
as a leading cause of the long-continued uncivilized condition of barbarous nations generally. MORAL DEFICIENCIES.
Absence of Faith.
Another great impediment to these natives advancing
as a people, by ameans very conducive to their progress,—
that is, by their becoming tillers of the soil,—exists in
their impatience of delay or any long expectation. If they
could only learn the lesson of trustfulness and hope taught
to the farmer by seed-time and harvest, the improvement
of their moral condition would have begun, probably on a
good foundation. The almost entire absence of faith and
hope is, indeed, among these natives a striking and painful
defect. They will work hard as long as the goal of their
efforts is almost, or quite, within sight and as long as they
have no sort of hesitation as to the adequacy of their
strength or skill. They have no faith in any kind of help
but their own, and none 'of the hope which often enables
civilized men to contend to the last against circumstances,
and sometimes to pull through against all likelihood. In
sickness and approaching death, the savage always becomes
melancholy. The prospect of Chay-her, the land of departed
spirits, has no comfort or relief for the Aht savage then ;
the only good thing he has ever felt sure of is the life
which he is about to part with, and consequently his only
desire is, to meet with some one who will restore him to
Ingratitude is a vice which is commonly attributed to
these Indians by those who know them well. It is
unpleasant to have to deny, even to a savage fellow-creature,
the possession of such a virtue as gratitude, which is shared
ll—2 m
by many of the inferior animals ; but it must be stated that
those persons best acquainted with the character of the
Aht Indians agree in no respect more completely than in
complaining of their ingratitude. I have concurrent testimony on this point from Indian agents and traders who
spoke their language tolerably well, and who have been a
good deal among them. Their belief is, that you may feed
a hungry Indian, tend him when sick, or save his life, and
he will afterwards ridicule or rob you, as if you had never
been kind to him. The sensibilities of the natives, they
say, are so rude that what, according to our notions, is
kindness, does not seem to the savages to demand any
acknowledgment on their part.
To this strong general testimony I will not offer a
decided opposition; but I think that, generally, civilised
men are apt to expect too much from a savage, and, being
disappointed, are ready to deny the good which, perhaps,
really exists in his nature. As I have said several times
in this book, it is a most difficult matter, even for observant
and thoughtful men, to understand the character of a
savage, or to gain so much of his confidence as to induce
him to lay aside his habitual reserve. A particular feature
of the character of the Aht Indian is the manner in which
he gives or withholds the expression of his affections.
Great weight is attached to a declaration of friendship, and
still more, perhaps, to that of sorrow for another's misfortune or death. Among civilised people, announcements
of friendship or sympathy are accepted as matters of form,
and people look for signs of reality in something beyond
these ordinary expressions. But in the Indian's declaration of personal feeling, every syllable is weighty; you are NATIVE GRATITUDE.
not supposed for a moment to doubt his word, nor he to
be capable of falsifying. Such earnest expressions, it is
true, may not uniformly be followed by constancy, but,
at the time they are made, they are generally sincere; the
Indian, in such a declaration, lays aside his usual pride and
caution, and this sacrifice is the pledge of his sincerity.
The Ahts have, it is true, no word for gratitude, but a
defect in language does not absolutely imply defect in
heart; and the Indian who, in return for a benefit received,
says, with glistening eyes, that "his heart is good"
towards his benefactor, expresses his gratitude quite as well
perhaps as the Englishman who says, " Thank you."
The measure of the Indian's gratitude, I think, should be
taken by more accurate means—by a study of the immediate working of his heart, so far as one can reach it, and
from observation of his conduct after gratitude has been
expressed. Two points of character throw light upon the
subject. The Indian's suspicion prevents a ready gratitude,
as he is prone to see, in apparent kindness extended to
him, some under-current of selfish motive. His reserve
prevents a frequent expression of gratitude—such expression
being kept for great occasions. Again, his mind, occupied
much with the present, and what is immediately useful to
him, makes him judge another, and treat him according to
his own interpretation of that other's behaviour, without
much consideration either of past kindness or past hostility.
Further, the Indian is not, in general, very grateful for
assistance which, in his view, costs the giver nothing—
however useful or necessary the assistance afforded. A
person may keep an Indian from starving all the winter
through, yet, when summer comes, very likely he will not 100
walk a yard for his preserver without payment. The savage
does not, in this instance, recognise any obligation; but
thinks that a person who had so much more than he could
himself consume might well, and without any claim for
after services, part with some of it for the advantage of
another in want. This view, considered from an abstract
point, is true; still the recipient of kindness, either savage
or civilised, ought to entertain feelings—strong feelings of
gratitude towards the benefactor who has thus acted out
right principles. The savage's judgment is right—his
feeling is deficient. In justice it must be said that the
Indian would often similarly succour any one in need of
his help, and not look for any ulterior benefit. His
gratitude shines best—and in this he shows his discernment—when he thinks that behind the kindly act he can
discern a really friendly heart. He is accustomed, among
his own people, to gifts made for purposes of guile, and
also to presents made merely to show the greatness and
richness of the giver; but, I imagine, when the Aht
ceases to suspect such motives—when he does not detect
pride, craft, or carelessness—he is grateful, and probably
grateful in proportion to the trouble taken to serve him. (     167    )
Some account of the Sorcerers or " Medicine-men."
Go to!
You are a subtile nation, you physicians.—Ben Jonson,
There is a class of persons among the Ahts who pretend
to possess extraordinary powers, and who, without having
any tribal rank, are extremely influential. I have not been
quite able, in my own mind, to assign a position to these
sorcerers, nor to determine exactly the connection of their
practices with the religion of the people. I think these
sorcerers may, in many respects, be called devil-priests;
that is to say, their influence is supposed to be with those
spirits which the natives believe to be evil rather than with
those which they believe to be good. The general practice
of the people is to address the good deities direct, without
the agency of the sorcerers; for instance, standing alone
in the forest, they pray to the moon for abundance of food
or for health, or security, but when the powers of evil—the 108
avenging deities, who are supposed to bring misfortune,
sickness, and famine—have to be propitiated, the natives
always seek the intervention of the sorcerers. I do not
say that they never employ the sorcerers in addressing the
good deities, but only that the influence of these impostors
is believed to be more efficient with the evil spirits. This
employment of agents to deal with evil spirits is found
amongst savage men generally. Of course the savage, as
every human being, is now by nature an alien to God, and
the peculiar circumstances surrounding his daily life lead
to the development of this innate feeling of alienation.
He discerns faintly the phenomena which produce good
effects, but sees and feels with terrible distinctness the
ravages of cruelty, suffering and death; and being unable
to conceive that Quawteaht, the beneficent spirit, permits
such evils to afflict mankind, the savage turns with
instinctive terror to propitiate the demons by which he
believes these miseries are inflicted.
The sorcerers among the Ahts, in their pretensions
and practices, seem to me to have a greater general
resemblance to the inferior Lamas in Tartary than to any
other class of which I have read. The Mongolian belief
in the transmigration of souls, in the cause of sickness, in
the power of the Lamas to expel the visiting demon
Tchutgour (query, the Aht Chay-her,) by incantations and
yelling; the duplicity and imposture of the Lamas, and
their horrible ceremonies, might indeed be almost transferred without alteration from M. Hue's narrative to these
pages. The common doctor of the Ahts is called Ooshtuk-yu,
the " worker," and the sorcerer Kau-koutsmah-hah, the
"influencer   of   souls."     The  "worker"  and   the  old THE "INFLUENCER  OF SOULS."
women act as doctors in ordinary cases, but the " influencer
of souls " is required in times of great bodily or mental
trouble, and in fact, on every unusual occasion, whether
individual or tribal. The sorcerer professes and undertakes
to bring back truant souls into bodies that have been bereft
of them; also to effect interchanges of souls, to interpret
dreams, to explain prophecies, to cast out demons, and to
restore the body to health. The sorcerer seldom gains
tribal rank, but appears to be content with his actual
power, and with the fees which he extorts from his dupes.
There is not, so far as I could ascertain, among these
sorcerers, as there is said to be among those of some other
savages, any peculiar sorcerers' dialect, or set of terms
unknown to the rest of the people, in which they can
converse together on the subject of their professed art, nor
are their supposed personal gifts dependent on family
descent Practically they vary their ceremonies and treatment to suit their own purposes; but there must be some
prescribed rules of action in which the young sorcerers
are instructed. The sorcerers are obliged, for their own
sake, to do extraordinary things, or they would soon be
looked upon as ordinary persons. For some reason they
have less power among the Ahts than among the tribes
farther north on the coast of British Columbia; in several
tribes known to me there is no Kau-koutsmah-hah,
(influencer of souls), but only a common Ooshtuk-yu
(worker). I have seen the sorcerers at work a hundred
times, but they use so many charms, which appear to me
ridiculous,—they sing, howl, and gesticulate in so extravagant a manner, and surround their office with such
dread and mystery,—that I am quite unable to describe 170
their performances. The ceremonies of the sorcerers
formed the only phase of savage life—marked as it is
by repulsive features—which I could not bring my mind
by any effort to study; the whole thing was so foolish,
meaningless, and pretentious. It is undoubtedly a fact,
however, that many of these sorcerers themselves thoroughly
believe in their own supernatural powers, and are able,
in their preparations and practices, to endure excessive
fatigue, want of food, and intense prolonged mental excitement. Their practices among the tribes most under their
influence comprise almost everything which subtle wickedness can devise for the purpose of terrifying and controlling
the ignorant. The whole gamut of the most frightful
noises which the human voice, the collision of hard substances, and the beating of bearskin drums can produce,
is run up and down by them with ease. The howling
of the Aht sorcerers is perfectly demoniacal; no wild
beast could utter sounds so calculated to strike sudden
terror into the heart. While in perfect security, I have
shuddered at the yells of these savage men. One of their
practices is to absent themselves from the encampment
of the tribe, for a time, to fast in the forest, and suddenly
to appear, naked and almost fleshless, with lacerated
bodies, and foam on their lips, uttering cries and sounding
rattles and drums. Their heads are, on such occasions,
covered with frightful masks. The natives rise from their
occupations on seeing the sorcerers approach, and run from
their presence to seek the shelter of the houses, where
they cower in silence. Outside, the demons howl, and
leap through the village; then, on a sudden, all of them
make a rush and close together, like wolves over a prey ; DECEPTIONS PRACTISED.
sometimes it is a dead human being, or a living dog, which
is torn asunder by their hands and carried off in their teeth.
Excepting, perhaps, the human sacrifice at the Klooh-
quahn-nah season (see pages 155 to 157), which horrid
custom is supported by these impostors, the devilry just
described is one of the worst practices of the sorcerers.
They have milder methods, however, of keeping up their
influence and filling their boxes; and having described
one of their worst ways, I will mention another of a less
objectionable nature.
As all the people are credulous, they are easily deceived
by any shrewd fellow who desires, by some exercise of his
■ wits, to obtain increased wealth and higher consideration.
A clever practitioner, just before the herring, salmon, or
berry season, will get it spread about that he has dreamt
there will be great quantities of berries or fish at some
particular places, the knowledge of which he keeps secret.
By various ceremonies, such as abstaining from ordinary
food, washing himself unusually well, and walking in
lonely places at night, he will manage to persuade the
ignorant and weak-minded members of his tribe that he
is doing a great work, that he is inducing the berries to
grow and the fish to come to be caught. This he will
make the ground for levying a species of tax; and the
curious part of it is, that, whether the berries and fish
are plentiful or not, this " Artful Dodger" gets, not only
higher social consideration, but douceurs of berries and
fish throughout the season. I have known him get two-
thirds of a canoe-load of the fish that were first caught in
the season.
Any account of the Aht sorceries would be incomplete 172
which did not mention the old women, with their coarse
skins, blear eyes, and shambling gait.
... Dire faces, figures dire
Sharp-elbowed and lean-ankled too.
They are generally employed in the care of the sick, but
also practise the arts of sorcery, in unimportant cases, with
considerable success. Prophecy is their particular department. They foretel wars, deaths, good seasons, and other
events bearing on the interests of individuals and of the tribe,
who, for the information, give them presents. The apparition of ghosts is especially an occasion on which the services
of the sorcerers, the old women, and all the friends of the
ghost-seer are in great request. Owing to the quantity of
indigestible food eaten by the natives, they often dream
that they are visited by ghosts. After a supper of blubber,
followed by one of the long talks about departed friends,
which take place round the fire, some nervous and timid
person may fancy, in the night time, that he sees a ghost.
A child will dream that his deceased parent is standing
at one end of the house. Waking with a scream, the
dreamer starts from his couch, and rends his blanket.
Friends hurry round, rake up the fire, and the old women
begin to sing. The dreamer snatches feathers from his
pillow, and eats them, and covers his head with them.
His nearest relative approaches with a knife, and scores
the ghost-seer's arms and legs till the blood comes, which
is received into a dish, and sprinkled on his face, and on
the part of the house where the spirit seemed to be. This
scoring the limbs reminded me of the ancient Viking
practice of marking warriors, on the bed of sickness, with
the point of a spear.   After the operation, the wounds TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS.
are dressed with blackberry leaves. If the vision continues, the friends throw articles belonging to the dreamer
on the fire, and cry "more! more!" till all his property
(including clothes, mats, and even his boxes,) is heaped
upon the fire. The greatest excitement prevails, and young
girls are often sick and exhausted for many days after such
an unfortunate dream.
There are, I think, several beliefs, held formerly by
the Ahts, originating how or when I shall not conjecture,
that would materially contribute to assist the sorcerers
in retaining power—particularly their belief in the transmigration of souls, and in the reality of dreams. I will
mention first their ideas concerning the transmigration of
souls. Like other rude Indians, these people have no intellectual conception of the soul, other than as a being of
human shape and human mode of acting. They imagine
that the soul, like the inhabitant of a house, may wander
forth from the body and return at pleasure. It may pass
from one man into another, and also enter into the body
of a brute. Stories are told of men who, going into the
mountains to seek their " medicine,"—which means
choosing a guardian spirit, on attaining manhood,—have
associated with wolves, like the Arcadian mentioned in
Pliny's legend; and, after a time, body and soul have
changed into the likeness of these beasts.*   If the soul has
* What is called the " medicine " of the natives, is something which
they seek after arriving at manhood, and which is only to be got by hard
trial of privation or exposure. The Indian, taking with him neither food
nor water, and only a single blanket to cover his body, ascends to the
summit of a high hill not far from the encampment, and there remains for
several days. He keeps a fire burning to show to the people that he is
actually at the  place.    The longer he  endures  the  more  efficacious 174
migrated, and entered any other form or body, and the
soul of this other form or body does not in turn migrate to
the one which has been bereft, this latter first becomes
weak, and then sickens, and finally dies if the soul is not
brought back. A similar notion {See chapter on " Beligion ")
prevails respecting a soul's visit to Chay-her, or the
inferior world after death. The natives often imagine
that a bad spirit, which loves to vex and torment,
takes the place of the truant soul during its absence.
What anguish must be endured by these wretched
creatures when possessed by this idea! I may add
that the souls of dead friends are believed to reappear
in human shape, or in the form of some beast or bird;
and they are generally supposed to presage evil, and
are regarded with fear. Sometimes, however, it is
thought they visit the earth with good intentions; and
it is the practice of many families, on retiring to rest,
to place a meal of dried fish' and potatoes beside the
embers of the fire, for the refreshment of such ghostly
visitors.    These notions about the soul, it will be obvious
" medicine " is he supposed to obtain. As might be supposed of a people
whose life and thoughts are bound almost within the limits of their bodily
perceptions, this medicine generally comes through a dream in the form of
an animal, as a wolf or eagle, when the sufferer's body and mind are
enfeebled and disordered by hunger and exposure. Occasionally the
medicine-seeker loses his reason, and wanders about and dies, and he is
then believed to have gone in further search, and his return to the village
is looked for month after month. The animal, thus supernaturally revealed
to the natives as his | medicine," is supposed, throughout his life, to be
connected with him as only an untrained imagination could conceive or
explain, and finally, as is believed by some of the natives, to receive into its
body the Indian after his departure from the earth. A multitude of stories
concerning the adventures of men who have gone forth to seek their
"medicine" are told by the natives. BELIEF IN DREAMS AND  OMENS.
to the reader, would open to the sorcerers a ready path to
power, after the people's belief in their supernatural influence was established.
The other belief I mentioned, as aiding the sorcerers,
the belief, namely, in the reality of dreams, is strongly
held by the natives. The soul, as already said, is supposed to have the power of leaving the body during sleep,
and of conversing with distant people, and visiting regions
and places in remote parts of the world, and in the
land of spirits. Dreams are regarded by the people, as
the explanations of the movements of their vagrant
souls; also as premonitions from the dead, and, in
some sense, as intimations from an unknown greater
power. An unlucky dream will stop a sale, a treaty, a
fishing, hunting, or war expedition. Dreams are both
good and bad, but oftener forebode evil than good. Almost
equal to dreams in importance is the influence of omens.
An eagle flying near the houses, the appearance of many
seals, a watery moon, the presence of a white man, are the
fancied causes of innumerable events; in fact, hardly a
day passes in a native house without some fear being
caused by dreams or omens. All the people live in constant apprehension of danger from the unseen world.
No natural exhalation in the sky,
No common wind, no 'customed event,
But superstition, from its natural cause,
Construes awry, and calls them prodigies,
Signs, fatal presages, and tongues of heaven
Plainly denouncing vengeance. (    170    )
An Account of a Few of the Primitive Traditions of the People.
By sundry recollections of such fall
From high to low, ascent from low to high.—Wordsworth.
It is extraordinary how many stories the Aht natives have
to tell about every curious rock, hill, valley, and lake in-
their district.    One must have been a long time amongst
them, and quite possess their confidence, before they will
speak to him freely on such matters ; but, when assured of
the listener's character and friendly disposition, there is
no end to the stories which an old Indian will relate.    An
account of the innumerable original traditions and legends
current among the Aht people would be very interesting
and useful; but the matter is sufficient for a large book,
and I shall, therefore, content myself with recording a few
selected traditions, which, I am sure, have not been in any
way derived from the teaching of priests or travellers. *
* There is a common story, I may here mention, of an ascent by a rope
to a region above the earth ; and a host of other stories which I hardly like
to leave unrecorded, for such savage myths are, in many respects, interesting THE DEITY TOOTOOCH.
How they first came to this Coast.—One of their stories
i.s that they came in old times from the west, in numerous
canoes, and, being caught near the shore by a storm, they
fastened their canoes to the long kelp.   The gale increased,
and in the morning the canoes were scattered, a few survivors being able to land at different points on the coast,
from whom the  present separate tribes  are  descended.
This tradition partly agrees with the story also told of two
Indians having   come   from   an  unknown   country  {see
chapter on " Beligion "), on whose approach the various
creatures fled, and left behind numerous Indians who had
been contained in their bodies.    In  plain words, both
stories mean that a few Indians originally came to the
coast, and afterwards increased in number.
Of the great Bird or Deity Tootooch.—Tootooch is a
mighty supernatural bird dwelling aloft and far away..
The flap of his wings makes the. thunder (Tootah), and
his tongue is the forked lightning. He is the survivor of
four great birds which once dwelt in the land of the
Howchuklisahts in the Alberni Canal, three of which were
killed by Quawteaht.. These mighty creatures fed. upon
whales. Quawteaht one day, desiring to destroy them,
entered into a great whale, and gradually approached the
Howchuklis shore, spouting to attract attention. One of
the birds swooped down upon him and caught him with
to the student of early history, and probably would illustrate the mental
peculiarities of a people more satisfactorily than the general description of
any traveller. It is to be hoped that some account of the primitive
•mythology of all the Indians in Vancouver Island will be published before
it is much farther intermixed and distorted. The Rev. A. C. Garrett, of
Victoria, Vancouver Island, and the active and observant traveller, Dr.
Robert Brown, lately commanding the Vancouver Island Government
Exploring Expedition, possess extensive information on this subject.
12 178
his talons, when Quawteaht dashed down to the bottom of
the water, dragging with him his adversary, who was
quickly drowned. Another Tootooch, and another, came
to the attack, only to be served in the same way; and the
last remaining one spread his wings and fled to the distant
height, where he has ever since remained. According to
Quassoon's tradition, related in this chapter, Quawteaht and
Tootah—if the same as Tootooch—had once been better
friends. The natives, I may remark, get confused about
the gender of many of their divinities. So far as I know,
the Indians neither worship Tootooch, nor believe that he
has any great influence over their affairs. I have sometimes thought that Tootooch was the malevolent spirit
whose power they fear, as is described in Chapter xxi., but
I have not been able to satisfy myself on this point. The
Chinooks and other tribes at the mouth of the Columbia
river call their evil spirit | Ecutoch," which word somewhat
resembles Tootooch.
How Fire was obtained.—Quawteaht made the earth,
and also all the animals, but had not given them fire,
which burned only in the dwelling of the cuttle-fish
(Telhoop), who could live both on land and in the sea.
All the beasts of the forest went in a body in search of the
necessary element, (for in those days the beasts required
fire, having the Indians in their bodies,) which was finally
discovered and stolen from the house of Telhoop by the
deer (Moouch), who carried it away, as the natives curiously
describe it, both by words and signs, in the joint of his
hind leg.
narrators   vary  slightly in  this  legend;   some
that the fire was  stolen from the cuttle-fish, ORIGIN OF THE INDIANS.
others that it was taken from Quawteaht. All agree that
it was not bestowed as a gift, but was surreptitiously
Of the Origin of the Indians.—THe following account
of the origin of the people was given to me by Quassoon,
of the Opechisahts, a famous hunter, but rather a stupid
man on general subjects. The first Indian who ever lived
was of short stature, with very strong hairy arms and legs>
and was named Quawteaht. Where he came from was
never known, but he was the forefather of all the natives
here. Before his time fishes, birds, and beasts existed in
the world (this is a most common Indian notion). Quawteaht killed himself—why the narrator could not say—but
he lay covered with vermin, when a beneficent spirit,
Tootah (their word for thunder), in shape a bird, came and
put the vermin into a box, and Quawteaht revived and
looked about, but saw no one, as the bird had flown away.
Bye and bye, the bird returned, and Quawteaht married her,
and had a son, who was the forefather of all the Indians.
How the Head of the Alberni Canal came first to be
Settled by the Ahts.—A very long time ago the Ahts lived
only on the coast, and never entered the singular inlet known
as the Alberni Canal already described. At length, three
-adventurous spirits determined to explore the close and
unknown waters. They started up in their canoe, and the
first strange phenomenon which struck them was that, as
they advanced, the mountains closed in upon them,
shutting off, all possibility of return. They went up the
unknown inlet without meeting with any appearance of
habitation ; but they noticed fragments of salmon floating
•upon the tide,, which seemed to imply that people lived at
12—2 180
some place further up. When they turned the point
which brought them close to the head of the inlet, a novel
prospect burst upon their view. They beheld a most
admirable dwelling, better, say present narrators, than any
Englishman's house that was ever built. They touched
the shore, and entered the house. It was plentifully
supplied—venison, elk meat, salmon, berries, oysters, and
clams (the last two they noticed particularly) were there
in abundance. But what astonished them most was that
the inhabitants consisted entirely of women. Two of the
men stayed in the house that night; the other slept outside, under the trees. In the morning, he was horrified
to find that his two companions had been killed, and their
bodies cast out of the house. Making the best of bis way
back, the mountains opened for his return, and he again
found himself among his own tribe. He told his story ;
and now many were eager to go to this land of plenty, and
desirous also to be revenged on the murderers of their
friends. They put boards across several canoes (a usual
practice when they have to carry much with them), and
went up in a large body. As they turned the final promontory, all eyes were strained in the direction of the
beautiful house which had been described to them.
Instead of the house, they saw nothing. There was no
house,—not a log nor a board to show that a house had
ever stood there. There were no women, no inhabitants
of any sort, and the sea there produced neither oysters
nor clams. Evidently these weird women had taken their
houses on their, backs, and had flown off to the mountains,
taking the oysters and clams with them ; and the proof
of the whole story is that, from that day to this, neither HEAD OF THE ALBERNI CANAL.
oysters nor clams are to be found in the head waters of the
Alberni canal. This, in fact, arises from a fresh-water,
stream entering the inlet at this place, and making the
water unsuitable for those shell-fish.
This story, there is little doubt, is founded on fact.
The exaggerations are just such as might be expected.
The mountains closing in upon the canoe, and opening
again for its return, is the narration of men accustomed to
the open coast, and not to narrow, land-locked waters.
The beauty of the house at the head, of the canal is a
traveller's wonder, resting upon the evidence of only one
pair of eyes, and, therefore, exaggerated with impunity.
In describing the abundant supplies seen in the house,
and in enumerating them, the surviving Indian would not
be particular, but would name, probably, every article of
food which himself and tribe were accustomed to find upon
the coast. Among these, he would mention oysters and
clams. It is probable that, when the three Indians arrived,
the men were out hunting and fishing, and that the house
presented the appearance of being occupied by women
only. The husbands, on their return, put to death the
two men found in the house ; and then the whole tribe
placed the boards of their house across their canoes, put
their women and children and moveables upon these, and
went up the river to one of the lakes, or to some other place
of security. So readily, by Indian lips, may the marvellous
be produced.
Concerning the Loon.—The commonest of all the Aht
stories about animals and birds is the story which accounts
for the cry of the loon. Two Indians, a long time ago,
went out to fish for halibut in different canoes, and one was 182
successful, but the other did not catch a fish. The fortunate
fisherman laughed at the other, who got angry, and said to
himself, " I am stronger, and will take his fish, and make
him ashamed." Then he thought that his successful companion had many friends, and that, if he harmed him,
they would retaliate. While in this mind, his eye caught
the small wooden club with which the halibut is killed
before being dragged into the canoe, and with this instrument, while his companion was pulling up a fish, he
knocked him on the head. He then took his fish, and
was going away, when he thought that, to prevent the
deed being known, he would cut out his companion's
tongue, so that he should not be able to speak. This
being done, he returned alone to the village, and his wife
took the fish. On being asked by the other man's friends
where the missing man was, he said, it was some time
since he had seen him; but when he last saw him, he had
no fish: the weather, however, being fine, he would, no
doubt, be home by-and-bye. While thus speaking, the
other canoe arrived, and the man's friends went to ask
how many fish had been caught, to which the mutilated
fisherman could only reply by making a noise like the cry
which the loon now utters. The great spirit, Quawteaht,
was so angry at all this, that he changed the injured
Indian into a loon, and the other into a crow; and the
loon's plaintive cry now is the voice of the fisherman
trying to make himself understood. How strangely this
savage story often came back to my mind in crossing the
wild, silent lakes, where the stillness was unbroken but
for the melancholy note of the loon!
This story is frequently told, and with unusually little &ua
Variation, by the natives along the whole coast; but they
cannot explain why both the assailant and his victim were
Of a great Ebb and Flow of the Sea.—Generations
ago, the Seshahts, who live now during part of the year
in Nitinaht Sound and the remainder of the year at
Alberni, were unacquainted with the head of the Alberni
Canal. They had two houses on Nitinaht Sound, and
used to migrate from one to the other.
At that time a most curious phenomenon of nature
occurred. The tide ebbed away from the shores of the
Sound and left it dry, and the sea itself retreated a long
distance. This continued for four days, and the Seshahts
made light of the occurrence. There was one, however,
Wispohahp, who, with his two brothers, did not do so. After
a mature consideration of the circumstance, he thought it
likely that this ebb would be succeeded by a flood-tide of
corresponding height and power. Accordingly, he and his
brothers spent three days in the forest collecting material for
a rope of cedar inner bark, which, when made, was so large
as to fill four boxes. There was a rock near the Seshaht
village, from the base of which sprang a group of bushes,
of a sort well known for its toughness. Round these
bushes Wispohahp fastened one end of his rope, attaching
the other to his canoe. In his canoe were placed all his
moveables, his wife, his two brothers, and their wives;
and thus prepared they waited for the result. After i four
days the tide began to flow, and crept slowly up to about
half-way between the point of its furthest ebb and the
Seshaht houses. At this point, its pace was suddenly
quickened,  and   it rushed up  at   fearful   speed.     The 184
Seshahts ran to their canoes. Some begged to be attached
to Wispohahp's rope; but to this he would not consent,
lest it should be broken. Others would have given him
several of their women; but he would not receive them.
They were all soon caught by the rising water; and while
Wispohahp rode safely at anchor, the Seshahts, unable to
resist its force, were drifted in their canoes to distant
parts. Finally, the water covered the whole country,
except Quossakt, a high mountain near the Toquahts,
and Mount Arrowsmith (Cush-cu-chuhl). The Toquahts,
another tribe living near the Seshahts, got into a large
canoe (Eher Kleetsoolh), and paddled to the summit of
Quossakt, where they landed. At the end of four days,
the flood-tide began to abate. As it did so, Wispohahp
hauled in his rope, and as the waters descended to their
usual level, found himself afloat near the site of the
former Seshaht dwelling. He built himself a small
house, having two chambers, with a passage in the middle.
One of the chambers he occupied himself, while the other
was used by his brothers.
Some time after a Klah-oh-quaht canoe, manned by
three Indians, approached the shore where the house was
situated. One of the three had with him in the canoe a
quantity of the medicine which they use for making fishermen successful in the capture of the whale. They brought
their canoe close to the land, and when asked what they
wanted, said, that they had come to see Wispohahp's
house. Wispohahp, after some consideration, invited
them to land, and, as the Indian manner is when friendship is intended, helped to pull up their canoes, and
offered them sleeping accommodation.    One of the Klah- ORIGIN OF A  TRIBE.
oh-quahte, to show his goodwill, made a present of his
medicine. After this, Wispohahp proposed to make him
chief of their small household. This was finally agreed
to, and the Klah-oh-quaht took a Toquaht wife—for that
tribe had returned from Quossakt; and this is the origin
of the present tribe of the Seshahts. The Klah-oh-quaht
who thus became a chief was the great-grandfather of
Hy-yu-penuel, the present chief of the Seshahts, and the
friendly terms upon which the Klah-oh-quahts and Seshahts
live is owing to this circumstance. (    186    )
Usages in Warfare—Description by an Eyewitness of an Indian Attack on
a Village—Admiral Denman's Brush with the Ahousahts.
Man, only, mars kind nature's plan,
And turns the fierce pursuit on man.—Sir W. Scott.
Like a fiend in a cloud
With howling woe;
After night I do croud,
And with night will go.—W. Blake.
Though the members of an Aht tribe live together in much
social harmony, there are many wars between separate Aht
tribes along the coast. The motive for a war is oftener a
spirit of revenge than a wish to obtain additional property or
land. As previously observed, a trifling cause, such as an
unavenged or an imagined affront— offered, it may have been,
in the time of a preceding generation—is considered a sufficient pretext for an attack on another unsuspecting tribe.
Arrangements for war are made secretly, and a declaration
or notice of the intention to attack is not given. No individual, nor body of persons in a tribe can engage the tribe TREATMENT OF PRISONERS.
in war; the matter is debated and settled in a full meeting
of all the members of the tribe.    The question never is
whether the proposed war is just or unjust, but whether
there is sufficient force, and what are the chances of success.
If victory is likely to be doubtful without assistance, another
tribe is invited or compelled to join the attacking force.
The appointed war-chief of the tribe, who is always chosen
by the people, and retains his office until displaced in
popular favour by a more vigorous aspirant, assumes command of the party, as a matter of course, in virtue of his
office.    The subordinate military positions in an expedition are generally assigned by the people to chieftains of
acknowledged bravery and skill in war.    Attacks are made
during the night.   Notwithstanding their propensity to
■yvarfare, the Ahts are not remarkable for bravery.    They
seldom meet openly a foe equal in strength, and a slight
repulse daunts them.    If prisoners are taken, they are
either put to death immediately, or kept as slaves.   I never
heard of an instance of captives being tortured by the Ahts.
They do not take the scalp of an enemy, but cut off his
head, by three dexterous movements of the knife, from the
back of the neck, and the warrior who has taken most
heads is most praised and feared.    The natives do not eat
human flesh, and deny that the horrid practice existed
among their forefathers.   The presence of so many animals,
and the abundance of easily caught fish on the coast, fit
for human food, incline me to disbelieve that the people
ever were cannibals.    I think it probable that the old navigators too hastily inferred the existence of cannibalism,
from the dried human hands that were offered to them for
sale at Nootkah.   These may have been trophies, or charms, MODE OF WARFARE.
preserved by the natives under some superstitious feeling.
The Indian interpreter and trader, J. Long, who published
a book on the North American Indians, in 1791, records,
as a custom of the Mattaug-wessawauks—a tribe on the
eastern side of the continent—that, if one of the people
was killed by accident, they kept a dried and salted hand
or foot, as a charm to avert calamities. I have also read
somewhere that, in our own country, during the reign
of Charles II., and down to a later time, the hands of
criminals who had been executed at Newgate were thought
to be of great efficacy in the cure of diseases and the prevention of misfortunes.
I shall probably best convey an idea of the native
mode of warfare to the reader, by describing an expedition of the Klah-oh-quahts against the Ky-yoh-quahts,
a large tribe living on the coast, about eighty miles
north from Klah-oh-quaht Sound.* A bad feeling had
existed for some time past between the two tribes, which
had been fostered by the chief warrior of the Klah-oh-
quahts—a restless, ambitious man, who was always on
the lopk-out for a cause of quarrel. The tribe debated the
question of peace or war for several months, and at last
agreed to attack the Ky-yoh-quahts, provided that Shewish,
the chief of the Moouchahts, which tribe lived between the
expected belligerents, would join the expedition, with his
warriors. An envoy was sent to Shewish, in a light canoe
to invite his co-operation, and, before leaving on his
mission,  the  diplomatist was instructed to use various
arguments that were likely to be effec
After five di
* In Commander Mayne's book on Vancouver Island, there is a brief
erroneous account of this war. A  WAR EXPEDITION.
had passed, the messenger returned, with the intelligence
that the Moouchahts would join the Klah-oh-quahts in
exterminating the Ky-yoh-quahts; or, at least, in reducing
them to the position of a tributary tribe. There was immediately great excitement in the Klah-oh-quaht village.
Not an hour was lost in commencing preparations ; the
war canoes were launched and cleaned, and their bottoms
scorched with blazing faggots of cedar to smooth them-;
knives were sharpened; long-pointed paddles, pikes, and
muskets were collected; fighting men and captains of
canoes chosen, who, during the night, washed themselves,
rubbed their bodies, and went through ceremonies, which,
they supposed, would shield them from fatigue and wounds.
In the forenoon of the next day, twenty-two large canoes
took their departure from Klah-oh-quaht, with from ten to
fifteen men in each, under the command-in-chief of Seta-
kanim, the great advocate for the war. Part of the crews
were natives of small neighbouring tribes dependent on the
Klah-oh-quahts. The women on the beach, before the canoes
left, sang a spirited song, and urged the men to be bold, and
support the honour of the tribe. After proceeding for twenty
miles through an inner water, the canoes followed the seaboard for about the same distance, and reached the village of
the Hishquayahts—a tributary tribe of the Klah-oh-quahts
—which had to furnish six canoes, manned. The fatigued
warriors slept in their canoes that night, and Seta-kanim
ordered the Hishquayahts to be ready in the morning
with their contingent. Leaving Hishquay at dawn, on
a fine morning in June, the whole force, increased
now to twenty-eight canoes, arrived, during the afternoon,
at  Friendly  Cove,  Nootkah  Sound,  near the  principal 190
village of their allies, the Moouchahts. Before approaching the village, the canoes were formed into three
divisions, eight of the largest canoes in the middle
and ten in each wing division, in which order they proceeded slowly towards the shore. As they raised their
war-song, and stopped now and then to beat time with
paddles on the gunwales of the canoes, a change could
be noticed in the appearance of the warriors. The savage
blood in them was up; their fingers worked convulsively
on the paddles, and their eyes glared ferociously from
blackened faces besmeared with perspiration; altogether
they were two hundred murderous-looking villains. When
within fifty yards of the shore, all the canoes, which had
been going at the rate of six knots at least, came to
a dead stop, not one of them a foot ahead of another. The
Moouchahts by this time had come out of their houses,
and the two parties, according to the native custom, looked
at each other in silence for a considerable time. At last
Seta-kanim rose in his canoe to address the people on
shore. He was a tall muscular savage, with a broad face
blackened with charred wood, and his hair was tied in
a knot on the top of his head so that the ends stood
straight up; a scarlet blanket was bis only dress, belted
lightly round his loins, and so thrown over one shoulder as
to leave uncovered his right arm, with which he flourished
an old dirk. Such a voice as he had ! One could almost
hear what he said at the distance of a mile. The speech
or harangue lasted forty minutes, and seemed rather a
violent address. Strange to say, Seta-kanim spoke to the
Moouchahts, his allies, not in terms of civility, but
imperiously as if he were bullying them.    Very likely he MAPPING  ON THE SAND.
ventured to do so from the notion that, as they had gone
too far now to withdraw from their engagement, he, as the
leader of the Klah-oh-quahts, might safely assume a tone
befitting the greatest man in the joint expedition.    Only
a short reply was made by Shewish to the visitor's speech,
and then all the Klah-oh-quahts landed, and, having drawn
their canoes above high-water mark, went to the chief's
house, where they found piles of herring spawn and dried
salmon collected for a repast.   Their hunger being satisfied,
speaking began;   and  one chief after another expressed
opinions as to the best mode of attacking the Ky-yoh-
quahts.   Finally, on the motion of Seta-kanim, the meeting
adjourned to a smooth untrodden sandbeach in the neighbourhood.     Here  Quartsoppy,   a  Klah-oh-quaht,  whose
wife was a Ky-yoh-quaht woman, was directed to describe
on the sand the Island of Ocktees, on which the village of
the  Ky-yoh-quahts was placed.    He immediately set to
work and drew an outline of the island, then showed the
coves, beaches, tracks; next the village with the different
houses, divisions, and sub-divisions—referring now  and
then for confirmation to other natives who also knew the
locality.    Small raised piles of sand represented houses,
one of which was Nancie's, the chief of the Ky-yoh-quahts,
another belonged to Moochinnick, a noted warrior; others to
chiefs of inferior repute.   Quartsoppy, referring to his drawing, also showed, or otherwise informed his audience of the
usual number of men in each division of the camp, their arms
and supposed ammunition, the characteristics of the principal men, as their youth, age, courage, activity, or strength.
All this time the warriors of the two tribes and the
Hishquayaht  tributaries  stood round   the  delineator in 192
a large circle, and qestions were asked and eager conversation held. After several speeches had been made, a
general plan of attack proposed by Seta-kanim was adopted :
fifteen Klah-oh-quaht canoes were to form the centre;
the Moouchats, with fourteen canoes and one hundred and
fifty men, to attack from the right; and seven Klah-oh-
quaht canoes, with the Hishquayaht auxiliaries, to compose
the left attack—the whole force to approach secretly, and
to land and advance at one time, and a man from each
canoe to be detached to set fire to the enemy's houses
with matches and prepared gumsticks. This general plan
being adopted, the two tribes, Klah-oh-quahts and Moouchahts, separated for the purpose of arranging the details
of their respective duties ; for instance, Seta-kanim for his
people assigned to subordinate chiefs their positions in the
attack, according to his own knowledge of their capabilities
and according to Quartsoppy's information as to whom
they might meet. Notwithstanding his influence, however, a violent dispute arose between two of his best men
as to who should attack the lodge of the famous chief
Moochinnick, and the rivals would have come to blows
but for the interposition of several old men. Towards
nightfall, when every preparation was completed, both
parties of the natives returned from the sandbeach to the
village, and ate another meal, after which criers went
round to notify that the starting hour would be at early
dawn. The weather continued fine, and before sunrise on
the appointed day, the Klah-oh-quahts started in their
canoes in the same order in which they had entered the
bay, working their paddles to the beating of a drum and
the shouting of a war song.   Their allies, the Moouchahts, ASSAULT ON A   VILLAGE.
Under the command of their war-chief, Nisshenel, a
man of gigantic stature, followed at a distance of two
hundred yards, in two divisions, each of seven canoes.
Crossing Nootkah Sound, the expedition came out on the
seaboard, after three hours' paddling; and now precautions
were taken to prevent discovery of their approach. Orders
were issued that the canoes should form a single line, and
keep within paddle's-length of the rocks. During the forenoon the small village of another Aht tribe, the Ayhuttisahts,
was reached, and the warriors landed and re-blackened their
faces. The coming night was the night of the attack.
Having proceeded all day cautiously in a single line,
winding close round the rocks like a great sea-serpent,
the canoes succeeded, just after nightfall, in reaching
undiscovered, a deep cove within two miles of the Island
of Ocktees, where the Ky-yoh-quaht village was. The
men now rested on their paddles until midnight without
speaking a word. There was no moon, and though the
stars were bright, the haze on the water and the deep
shadow of the forest favoured their approach. The hour
at last came; the canoes, urged forward by long stealthy
strokes, hurried on their fearful errand, and the line of the
Ky-yoh-quaht village, extending in a curve round the
head of an indentation, was soon seen.
Four hundred well-armed savages, under their own
leaders, and with a concerted plan of attack, sprang on the
beach, and rushed towards the village. Fortunately, a
minute sooner, as afterwards appeared, two stray Ky-yoh-
quahts, coming from the north, had reached the landing-
place, and were carrying their blankets and paddles towards
the houses, when the hostile canoes emerged from the fog
13 194
and swept rapidly towards the shore. "Weena! w6ena !
strangers ! danger ! danger ! " resounded through the air
before the canoes touched the beach, and the cry was
answered instinctively by a hundred half-waked sleepers,
' Weena! weena ! Klah-oh-quaht! Moouchaht! Weena ! "
and already the crack of muskets and the noise of running
and shuffling within the houses were heard. The torches
and the blaze from several houses that had been set on
fire now lighted up the front. The Ky-yoh-quahts had
retreated into the house of their chief, which they had
barricaded with boxes and loose planks, and they kept up
a quick but not destructive fire on the assailants. Seta-
kanim, with the two bearers of bis muskets and the party
under his immediate command, was well forward in the
centre. The canoemen on the left were inside the Ky-yoh-
quaht houses, and were killing the inmates, and had set
several houses on fire; stragglers, shouting and gesticulating, but evidently not relishing the fight, were between
the advanced parties and the shore, and a large body of
Moouchahts was collected near their canoes on the beach,
as if they had fallen back immediately after the first rush.
The attack was a failure; that could be seen at a glance.
Still, for ten or fifteen minutes the fight continued, both
where the Klah-oh-quahts tried to enter the chief's house
in the front, and also inside the houses which the canoemen on the left had attacked. By-and-by the fires became
duller, and what went on could not be so well seen. Batches
of excited savages came towards the canoes, and shouted
and fired their muskets into the air; finally, Seta-kanim,
who had fought in the front, out of cover the whole time,
finding himself   left with about a  dozen men,  retired RESULTS OF FAILURE.
sullenly to the shore. The enemy did not follow, and the
discomfited assailants paddled away in confusion; Klah-
oh-quaht and Moouchaht canoes mixed together, and every
warrior in a savage humour. The confidence of the advance
was changed now in the retreat to fear and suspicion.
Passing Ayhuttis, Hishquay, and Nootkah, the Klah-oh-
quahts reached their own village two days after the fight,
and, as they did not raise on their approach the victorious
song, all the women met them with loud lamentations.
They brought in the canoes thirty-five Ky-yoh-quaht
heads, and thirteen slaves, chiefly taken by the canoe-men
on the left of the attack; and this detachment, and the party
under Seta-kanim, had lost altogether eleven men killed
and seventeen wounded. The heads were placed on poles
in front of the village, and the spoil taken from the Ky-yoh-
quahts was apportioned to the captors. The distinction
of a change of name, denoting some act of daring, was
awarded to a few who had been forward in the attack.
The result of this war expedition was not satisfactory to
the Klah-oh-quahts, who had looked forward to the extermination of their powerful rivals, instead of which they had
been repulsed with loss; and, having offended the Moouchahts by reproaching them as the cause of failure, the
Klah-oh-quahts were now apprehensive that the Ky-yoh-
quahts and Moouchahts would unite against them. Their
fears increased daily, till every one in the camp was in a
feverish and unhappy state of mind. No one could sleep
without expecting to be waked by a knife in his throat.
Winter, too, was at hand, and' the stock of provisions low;
yet it was thought necessary to stop all trade to the north
in the direction of the  Ky-yoh-quahts.    Few Klah-oh-
I 190
quaht canoes would venture half a mile from the shore to
fish. A large stockade with only one gate was built, and
the whole tribe lived within the enclosure. The night was
divided into two watches, and sentinels were posted. False
alarms, devised on purpose by the chiefs, exercised the
people in defending the camp. Such a state of matters
soon produced discontent, and turned the anger of his own
tribe against Seta-kanim, whose restlessness had caused
the war. So strong a feeling was manifested against this
chief that he shut himself up in his house for more than
three months, and did not once venture out of doors for
fear of being shot; and it was only by thus keeping out of
sight, and by giving all his property away as presents, that
he managed to escape without further punishment. Many
wars, and a train of calamities to all the tribes concerned,
followed this untoward attack upon the Ky-yoh-quahts.
To illustrate the bearing of the Aht natives in presence
of a superior force of white men—whose random shooting
with great guns, and practice of attacking by daylight,
they ridicule as contrary to correct notions of warfare—I
give here an extract from a despatch of Rear-Admiral
Denman, dated on board the frigate Sutlej, in Klah-oh-
quaht Sound, the 11th October, 1864, and addressed to
the Oovernor of Vancouver Island. A trading schooner,
the Kingiisher, had been decoyed near the shore by
Cap-chah, an Ahousaht chief, who told the captain that he
had a quantity of oil to dispose of. Cap-chah killed the
captain, and two other Ahousahts killed the sailor who
was on board, as well as a Quoquoulth Indian, who was
one of the crew. The bodies, after being cut open, were
thrown into the sea, and the schooner was plundered and MURDERERS OF BRITONS DEMANDED.
burned. Admiral Denman's object in visiting Klah-oh-
quaht Sound with H.M.S. Sutlej, was to demand delivery
of the murderers ; and, on arriving at the Sound, he found
that H.M.S. Devastation had preceded him, according to
orders. The following extracts from the official despatch
describe the further steps that were taken to punish the
Ahousahts for refusing to deliver the chief Cap-chah:—
" Finding Matilda Creek and Bawden Bay deserted by
the natives, I proceeded up the North Arm to a village
called Sik-tok-kis, on the right bank, and sent Mr. Hankin
with the Indian interpreter Friday, alias Thomas Robert,
on shore in a canoe to endeavour to open communication
with the natives, and to demand that the twelve principals
in the murder and piracy of the Kingfisher should be
given up.
" No natives would answer them, though they were
heard talking in the bush ; but after some time one Indian
came down to speak with Mr. Hankin, who, desiring Friday
to keep him in conversation, ran to the beach, and calling
up four of the covering boat's crew, seized him and brought
him on board.
I The man seized acknowledged to having been on
board the Kingfisher at the time of the murder, and has
afforded much valuable information. I enclose a copy of
his deposition.
" At the same time I had sent the Devastation to
Herbert Arm, where all communication was refused, and a
large body of Indians in their fighting paint fired upon the
boat and ship. In conformity with my orders Commander
Pike confined himself to self-defence, and returned to report
proceedings. 198
"From the information obtained from the captured
Indian, I found that three of the actual murderers were at
Moo-yah-kah in Herbert Arm, who had fired on the Devastation I that Cap-chah, the chief of the tribe, and the
murderer of the captain, resided at Trout Biver, in Cypress
Bay, or in Bedwell Arm, both of which belonged to him.
That Sik-tok-Ms was the residence of Ayah-kahchitl, and
that others, parties to the crime, were to be found at
Obstruction Inlet, and at two villages at the head of
Shelter Arm.
" On the 3rd, I proceeded up Herbert Arm to Moo-yah-
kah, and sent the Devastation to Sik-tok-kis, Obstruction
Inlet, and Shelter Arm, with orders to destroy the canoes,
houses, &c, but not to fire on the natives unless resistance
were offered. Commander Pike was not able to find the
village in Destruction Inlet, but he destroyed Sik-tok-kis
and those in Shelter Arm, and found in each of them
letters, accounts, and other property belonging to the
" I sent Friday into Moo-yah-kah under the ship's
guns. A number of Indians came down and held a palaver
with him on the beach; he told them that I promised not
to fire on them if they delivered up to me all the men concerned in the affair of the Kingfisher, three of whom I
knew were there. Friday, on his return, brought a message
from the Indians saying, that if I wanted the men I might
come and take them, if I destroyed the village they would
soon build it up again, and that if I attempted to touch
the canoes they would shoot every man who came near the
" I  then   ordered a heavy fire to be opened on the DESTRUCTION OF NATIVE  VILLAGES.
village, and on the surrounding bush, to clear it, and sent
in the gigs to complete the destruction of the village
under cover of the ship's guns, and those of the heavy
"Notwithstanding these precautions, several musket
shots were fired at the boats, but were instantly silenced
by the boats' guns, which replied to them with admirable
I Having brought away twelve canoes, I returned to
Matilda Creek, where the crime had been perpetrated, and
the Kingfisher sunk, and next day I ordered the remains of
the village, which had been abandoned and dismantled, to
be fired.
I The Devastation had, on the 5th, been ordered to
destroy the villages of Cap-chah, in Cypress Bay and
Bedwell Arm, and to bring away his canoes; the boats
were fired on, and Cap-chah himself was seen at the head
of his men in Cypress Bay, dressed in one of the blue
jackets which. had formed a part   of  the Kingfisher's
" Finding that all these measures had failed to bring
the Ahousahts to terms, I was obliged to strike a yet more
severe blow, directed against Cap-chah himself in such a
manner as to impress the Indians more deeply with the
idea of our power, and with the impossibility of escaping
punishment due for such atrocities against unoffending
white traders.
I On the morning of the 7th October, forty seamen, and
thirty marines, with one Ahousaht and six Klah-oh-quaht
Indians, to act as guides, were landed at White Pine Cove
in Herbert Arm, under the command of Lieutenant Stewart, 200
the senior lieutenant of this ship. Lieutenant Stewart
was ordered to march across the trail to Trout River (about
three miles), and to endeavour to seize Cap-chah and any
of his people.
" The Ahousahts were completely taken by surprise,
and they must have been all captured in the temporary
huts which they had constructed in the bush, had not the
alarm been given by the barking of a dog when our party
was within a few yards of them. The Indians had barely
time to rush into the thick cover, from whence they opened
a heavy fire upon our men, which was returned with such
effect, that in a few moments they took flight, leaving ten
men' dead. Cap-chah himself, who did not fight, was
wounded in two places as he ran away.
" The success of this affair is due to the excellent
conduct of Lieutenant Stewart, and the officers and seamen and marines under his command, while the defeat of
the Ahousahts by an attack after their own fashion, has
produced profound alarm and astonishment.
" Cap-chah is in hiding, and his people, having
abandoned all idea of resistance, look upon him as responsible for all the calamities which have befallen them. He
has effected his escape to Moo-yah-yah, and I am now on
my way to Herbert Arm with a party of his own people
aboard to promulgate the terms which I have demanded to
obtain the person of Cap-chah and others actually concerned
in the murder.
" In consideration of the severe punishment which has
been inflicted on the Ahousahts, I have now limited my
demand to the delivery up to me of Cap-chah and the six
persons who took part in the murder, although the cargo BOAST OF THE AHOUSAHTS.
and effects of the Kingfisher we have found, in every place
destroyed, prove how very extensively the tribe at large was
implicated in the piracy.
"It is with great pleasure that I inform you that the
service, in which sixty-nine canoes have been destroyed,
and about fifteen men killed, has been performed without
the slightest injury on our side.
" I hope soon to return to Esquimalt with some of the
murderers on board, and I have promised that no further
measures shall be adopted against the Ahousahts for one
month from this time; but if the six murderers are not
given up by that time, I shall be obliged to order forcible
measures to be resumed."
Having had several Ahousahts in my employment
subsequently to this attack by the ships, I learnt from
them that the destruction of their canoes was felt as a
misfortune, but the loss, as they described it, of half a
war-canoe of men, was thought to be of no consequence
whatever. The want of canoes prevented them from
obtaining and laying in a store of their usual food for the
winter, and the tribe consequently dispersed and lived
among other friendly tribes, until the fishing season commenced in the spring. During the winter they were busy
preparing new canoes, and it was expected that they would
be pretty well supplied with them before the autumn of
1865. For some reason the ships of war did not return
at the end of the month's grace allowed by Admiral
Denman for the delivery of Cap-chah, nor at any later
time; consequently the Ahousahts now believe that they
gained a victory over the ships, and, in consideration of
such a triumph, all the trouble of making new canoes has
been forgotten.    Cap-chah has added to his reputation;
he is the great chief who defied and baffled the English or
King-George war-vessels.
tion drawn by the natives between the crews of the Queen's
ships on the one hand, and the great King George tribe
on the other,—believing the people in the ships to be a
separate tribe by themselves—my Ahousaht informants
told these particulars to me as if I were an indifferent
person, and the affair had been, not between them and my
own countrymen, but between the Ahousahts and some
other tribe. The extent and composition of a great society
of civilized men are beyond their comprehension.
Owing to the curious distinc- (    203    )
The Religious Practices of the Ahts.
Rather with the Rechabites we will live in tents of conjecture.
No subject connected with the people could possess a more
general interest than that of their religion, but it is one as
to which a traveller might easily form erroneous opinions,
owing to the practical difficulty, even to one skilled in the
language, of ascertaining the true nature of their superstitions. This short chapter is the result of more than
four years' inquiry, made unremittingly under favourable
circumstances. There is a constant temptation—from
which the unbiassed observer cannot be quite free—to fill
up in one's mind, without proper material, the gap between
what is known of the religion of the natives for certain,
and the larger less-known portion which can only be
guessed at; and I frequently found that, under this
temptation, I was led on to form, in my own mind, a connected whole, designed to coincide with some ingenious
theory which I wished might be true. 204
Generally speaking, it is necessary, I think, to view
with suspicion any very regular account given by travellers
of the religion of savages; their real religious notions
cannot be separated from the vague and unformed, as well
as bestial and grotesque mythology with which they are
intermixed.   The faint, struggling efforts of our natures in
7 DO O
so early, or so little advanced a stage of moral and intellec-
tual cultivation, can produce only a medley of opinions and
beliefs—not to be dignified by the epithet religious —which
are held loosely by the people themselves, and are neither
very easily discovered nor explained. In a higher stage,
accurate systematizing, in a more or less acceptable and
reasonable form, of the undefined notions which frequently
accompany and form a part of human appreciation respecting objects supposed to be more than human, is the work,
not of barbarous, but of intellectual and civilised minds.
Religious system, in its highest character and plan, has,
in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, been
embodied in these divine revelations to mankind. I refer
to the three eras of the savage—the civilised, the heathen,
and the savage.
In speaking of the religion of the Ahts, I use the
word simply for want of any other; what I refer to is
among them rather a certain form of worship or propitiation of deities according to old usages, and not, of course,
a system of religion in our sense of the word, containing a
body of moral and spiritual truths. No attempt is made
by any class of priests, nor by the older men, to teach
religion to the people,—there are no doctrines of religion
in which they could instruct the people. If the sorcerers
are considered to constitute a priestly class, all that they RELIGIOUS NOTIONS OF THE AHTS.
do in the way of teaching is to introduce to a knowledge
of ceremonies and usages the youths who are destined to
be their successors.
I can say thus much of the religion of the Aht Indians,
that it clearly is an influential power among them, and
extensively governs their affairs.
The people are extremely unwilling to speak of what
is mysterious, or akin to the spiritual in their ideas;
not, it appears, from a sense of the sacredness of the
ideas, but from a notion that evil will result from any
free communication on such subjects with foreigners.
Even after long acquaintance, it is only now and then,
when " i' the vein," that the sullen, suspicious natures of
these people will relax, and permit them to open a corner
of their minds to a foreigner who possesses their confidence.*    They generally begin by saying that no white
* I was two years among the Ahts, with my mind constantly directed
towards the subject of their religious beliefs, before I could discover that
they possessed any ideas as to an overruling power or a future state of
existence. The traders on the coast, and other persons well acquainted
with the people, told me that they had no such ideas, and this opinion was
confirmed by conversation with many of the less intelligent savages ; but
at last I succeeded in getting a satisfactory clue to such information as
this chapter contains. Is it not possible that many otherwise observant
travellers have too hastily assumed, after living a few months among
savages, that they had no religion ? It is no easy attainment to know the
language of savages conversationally ; and to get their confidence—particularly the confidence of the intelligent Indians—is a still more difficult task.
A traveller must have lived for years among savages, really as one of themselves, before his opinion as to their mental and spiritual condition is of
any value at all. The fondness of the Ahts for mystification, and the number
of | sells " which they practise on a painstaking inquirer going about with
note-book in hand, are unexpected and extraordinary on the part of savages
whom we regard as so mean in intelligence. They will give a wrong
meaning intentionally to a word, and afterwards, if you use it, will laugh at
,you; and enjoy the joke greatly among themselves. 200.
man is able to understand the mysteries of which they will
speak. "You know nothing about such things; only old
Indians can appreciate them," is a common remark. And
in nine cases out of ten, so many lies and mis-statements
are mixed up with the account, either directly for the
purpose of mystifying the inquirer, or owing to the
unenlightened confusion of the savage in thinking upon
religious subjects, that little reliance can be placed upon
it. Also, the opinions expressed by some of the natives
are found, on examination, to differ on so many points
from those of others, that it is hardly possible to ascertain the prevailing opinions of any tribe. Still, speaking
of the tribes of the Ahts together, as a nation, I have satisfied myself as to one or two facts in connection with their
religion. They undoubtedly worship the sun and the moon,
particularly the full moon (hoop-palh), and the sun {nas),
while ascending to the zenith. Like the Teutons, they
regard the moon as the husband, and the sun as the wife;
hence their prayers are more generally addressed to the
moon, as being the superior deity. The moon is the
highest of all the objects of their worship; and they
describe the moon—I quote the words of my Indian
informant—" as looking down upon the earth in answer
to prayer, and as seeing everybody." The great Quawteaht
himself, who made everything, and who first taught the
people to address the moon and the sun in times of need,
is, in their estimation, an inferior divinity to both these
Prayer is common among the Aht natives—among
men, women, and children. There is a word in their language, queel-queel-ha, meaning " to pray," also klah-quay, PRAYERS.
"to beseech; " these words are more urgent words than
na-nash "to beg, or ask for," or than ah-ah-toh, which
means simply "to ask." I could not find that they have
any, as it were, recognized chief worshipper, or any class
of priests, except the sorcerers, but I have noticed that
the prayers of old men are thought to be specially efficacious. For different wants the Ahts have different
modes of prayer. When working at the settlement at
Alberni, in gangs by moonlight, individuals have been
observed to look up to the moon, blow a breath, and
'Utter quickly the word Teech! teech!—their word for
"health" or "life." This opinion of the moon's power
over human affairs is wide-spread. I remember that we
boys at school in Scotland used to turn over the money in
our pockets for luck on the appearance of a new moon.
Teech/ teech! "life! life!" this is the great Wish of
these people's hearts—even such a miserable life as their
life seems to a civilized observer.    So true is it that
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature, is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
I Teech! teech!" is their common and almost constant
prayer. On one occasion the tribe of Seshahts, at Alberni,
being dissatisfied with a friend of mine—the late Mr.
George Reid, from Fraserburgh, Scotland, who was also
one of the best friends the natives ever had *—resolved to
* George Reid was originally a working cooper in my service, but was
promoted to the position of superintendent of Indian affairs at Alberni.
He died in Victoria in October, 1865, at the early age of thirty-nine. I
esteem it a privilege, and valuable lesson, to have known one who was so
remarkable, intellectually and morally, who was so modest, manly, and good—
F modes.of praying:
kill him ; but their design was betrayed to us by a friendly
native, who, on disclosing his danger to the intended
victim, urged him to pray to the new moon for life, and
he would be secure.
The usual manner of praying is for the suppliant to
retire alone into the woods, if possible, near to a running
stream, and having rubbed bis face with a prickly bush,
he lays aside his blanket, stands erect naked, with extended arms, and looks towards the moon. Set words and
gestures are used, according to the thing desired; for
instance, in praying for salmon, the native rubs the backs
of his hands, looks upwards, and utters the words "Many
salmon, many salmon; " if he wishes for deer, he carefully
rubs both eyes; or if it is geese, he rubs the back of bis
shoulder, uttering always, in a sing-song way, the accustomed formula. Bears are prayed for only during the last
moon, before the snow appears; and it is usual for the
suppliant, in praying for bears, to rub bis sides and legs
vigorously with both hands, and to wear round his head a
piece of red blanket,, adorned with feathers. All these
practices in prayer no doubt have a meaning; for instance,
in every respect so fine a pattern of what a man ought to be. Many hundreds,
now scattered here and there, of all nations, who also knew him, and were
his friends, would repeat my words without envy or grudging, and would
acknowledge, that among all of us at the settlement, Reid's character was
the type which showed to the savages the high civilization our countrymen
had reached in comparison with themselves. The savages saw amongst us
a man, not of the church, not set apart, but a man hard at work all day like
other labourers; and this man, having authority over them, was in all tilings
just and sternly consistent; was patient of their talk ; seldom answered
without a smile. Yet they could not flatter nor outwit him. They could
understand an ordinary white man's impatience, selfishness, and partiality;
but this Christian life was a mystery to them. QUAWTEAHT.
in reference to the above-named practices, we may see that
a steady hand is needed in throwing the salmon spear, and
clear eyesight in finding deer in the forest.
So far as I know, the Aht Indians do not possess the
knowdedge of one supreme and beneficent Being; but there
are indications, as before said, in some of their legends and
usages of a belief in a superior Being, not acknowledged
distinctly as good or bad, which presides over their destinies.
This great Being is known to all the Aht tribes by the
name of Quawteaht, and if there is any clear conception
of him in the minds of the people, I should say that he is
generally regarded as a good divinity. There is a large
body of floating tradition among them as to Quawteaht,
which appears, however, to be very confusedly held, and
is certainly very differently related by different Indians.
Quawteaht is not a local or tribal deity, but is known in
every village. Perhaps the most prevailing notion is that
he is the chief of an extensive and beautiful country,
situated somewhere in the sky, though not directly over
the earth, in which everything is found that the savage
mind can conceive as ministering to man's sensual comfort
and satisfaction. Everything there is beautiful and abundant. There a continual calm prevails, and the canoes
float lightly on the sleeping waters ; frost does not bind
the rivers, and the snow never spreads its white blanket;
over the ground. In this pleasant country, where there
is continual sunshine, and warmth, and gladness, it is
believed that the high chiefs, and those natives who have
been slain in battle on the earth, find their repose; the
chiefs living in a large house as the guests of Quawteaht,
and the slain in battle living by themselves in another
house. No Indians of a common degree go to the land of
Quawteaht; like Odin, he drives away the pauper and the
bondsman from the doors of Valhalla.
My first idea was that the Aht legend of Quawteaht
might have reference to some superior chief or white man
among themselves, who had in former times been a benefactor, and who had left the memory of his genius and
goodness behind him. I now feel comparatively sure that
they look upon Quawteaht as an entirely supernatural
being, although, of course, their idea of him is a material
one. He is undoubtedly represented as the general framer
—I do not say Creator—of all things, though some special
things are excepted. He made the earth and water, the
trees and rocks, and all the animals. Some say that
Quawteaht made the sun and moon, but the majority of
the Indians believe that he had nothing to do with their
formation, and that they are deities superior to himself,
though more distant and less active. He gave names to
everything, among the rest to all the Indian houses which
then existed, although inhabited only by birds and animals.
Quawteaht went away before the apparent change of the
birds and beasts into Indians, which took place in the
following manner :—
The birds and beasts of old had the spirits of the
Indians dwelling in them, and occupied the various coast
villages, as the Ahts do. at present. One day a canoe
manned by two Indians from an unknown country,
approached the shore. As they coasted along, at each
house at which they landed, the deer, bear, elk, and other
brute inhabitants, fled to the mountains, and the geese
and other birds flew to the woods and rivers.    But in this EVIL SPIRIT OF THE AHTS.
flight, the Indians, who had hitherto been contained in
the bodies of the various creatures, were left behind; and
from that time they took possession of the deserted dwellings, and assumed the condition in which we now see
them. I may remark that Quawteaht, in the widely spread
and apparently primitive Aht tradition of the Loon, {see
Traditions), is represented as knowing—as a matter of
course, yet evidently only as an all-seeing divinity could
know—the particulars of the dispute between the two fishermen ; and it is further stated in the tradition that Quawteaht
inflicted punishment upon the offender. This shows that
Quawteaht occasionally becomes displeased; but whether
they consider this divinity, when in an angry mood,
as their evil spirit, or whether their evil spirit is an
entirely separate being, I do not know; it may perhaps
be Tootooch, {see Chapter XIX.). Certain it is that
the Aht people believe in a malevolent power of some
sort, which frightens the salmon and deer, sends dreadful
storms, overturns canoes, and brings sickness and death.
I could never get any clear notion as to who this destructive being was. Sometimes the Indians relate that this
being is Quawteaht enraged; at other times Tootooch ;
then Chay-her, which latter, as will be seen farther on,
is a personification of death, and the name also of the
inferior of the two worlds after death. Neither Quawteaht nor the evil spirit, whether Quawteaht or not,
is acknowledged by the natives, so far as I could
discover, in any private and, so to speak, bodily form
of worship, such as is offered to the sun and moon.
Each deity, however, is supposed to have minor spirits
connected   in   some way with itself,  which the   people
14—2 212
frequently symbolise and represent under the form of
different creatures; and those of a benign character are
believed to have the power, if not of shielding, at least of
making things lucky for, the individual who trusts in them.
The evil spirits, on the other hand, are regarded with
fear, especially if they have been the subjects of a dream ;
and a very large part, indeed, of the superstitious practice
of the Ahts consists in efforts to deprecate the wrath of
these avenging deities. This propitiation or devil-worship
is carried on by the assistance of a class of devil-priests
or sorcerers, commonly called "medicine men," and is
accompanied by many foolish ceremonies, by atrocities
and revolting festivals. Some account of the medicine men
has been given in a previous chapter. I do not think that
the belief in the existence of these two opposing powers,
the good and the evil god, is in any way derived by the
people on this coast from the teaching of missionaries : it is
probably the old belief which has been everywhere observed
to be a characteristic of heathenism. Perhaps the commonest notion among the Ahts is that, in a former state
—as illustrated by the legend of Quawteaht just mentioned
—they existed in the form of birds, animals, or fishes.
This opinion respecting transmigration, or transformation,
mixed up with much that is ludicrous and grotesque,
probably would have been the chief characteristic of the
religious system that would have arisen among the natives
in the course of time, had they advanced intellectually
without any contact with Christianity. Some of them
believe that, after death, they will again pass into the
bodies of the animals which they occupied in a former
state; but others have a better notion, that their souls CHAY-HER.
will go to the land of Quawteaht or to Chay-her, which
latter is the land of departed spirits for all except the
chiefs and the slain in battle—a place described as situated
deep down under the earth. Few of the religious beliefs
of the Ahts are connected with heaven and the sky : their
thoughts of the regions above are confined to Quawteaht's
land, and to the fact that the spirit Tootooch {see " Traditions") dwells somewhere up there, and to the poetical idea
that sickness comes from thence, and may be seen by the
sharpsighted floating in the air. My-yalhi is the Aht
word for this principle or personification of sickness.
Chay-her is described as a country much like the earth,
with inferior houses, no salmon, and very small deer. The
blankets are small and thin, and therefore when the dead
are buried the friends often burn blankets with them, for
by destroying the blankets in this upper world, they send
them also with the departed soul to the world below.
Chay-her, as just said, is generally regarded as the
place to which all the common people and slaves (unless
slain in battle) go after death; and there they remain, as
there is no passage thence to the martial and aristocratic
elysium of Quawteaht's land. Chay-her is sometimes
personified as an, old man with a long grey beard, and
a figure of flesh without bones, and is believed to wander
at nights seeking men's souls which he steals away, and
unless the doctors can recover them the losers will die.
In wishing death to anyone, the natives blow and say,
I Chay-her, come quick." A corresponding belief is that,
when a person is dangerously sick, his soul {Kouts-mah)
leaves his body and goes down into the country of Chay-her,
but does not enter a house.    If it enters a house, that 214
is a sign it has taken up its abode below for good, and
the sick man dies. The common medicine man {Ooshtuk-
yu) has no power over a soul descended to Chay-her, but
the sorcerer {Kaukoutsmah-hah) has the power of sending
his own soul in pursuit of the descended soul of the sick
man. If the mission be successful, the truant soul is
brought back to the sorcerer, who throws it into the sick
man's head ; for the soul, as they believe, dwells in the heart
{lebuxti) and also in the head {Weht, brain). My informant
asked me if I had ever seen a soul, and said he had once
seen his own, when, at the close of a severe illness, it
was brought to him by the sorcerer on a small piece of
stick, and thrown into his head. !15
he A.ht mode of Fishing, with Descriptions of several Fish—the Salmon
WJtatsoever swims upon any water belongs to this exchequer.—J. Tayloe.
I will now mention a few of the fish that are caught by
the natives, beginning with the salmon. It is not likely
that the accounts of any two travellers will agree as to the
salmon in these waters, or that any trustworthy comprehensive information will be obtained until some means
exist on the spot of collecting and comparing proved facts
about salmon. I entertain this opinion on account of the
extent of uninhabited coast in this part of the world—
uninhabited, I mean, by any civilised observers—and the
number of streams, rivers, and lakes ; also the many kinds
of salmon, and the different appearances which these fish
present at various seasons, and at several stages of their
ascent from the sea. The reader will have observed how
important to the natives are the periodical migrations of
the salmon, and how much human life, and life also of SALMON FISHING.
beast and bird, is sustained by this precious visitor.
Depending mainly on this fish for their means of subsistence, any change in its habits, or serious diminution of
its numbers, would reduce the Aht people to great straits.
The bear, marten, mink, racoon, and other animals,
together with several birds of prey, would also suffer
greatly without the salmon. This fish is, to man, here
what the corn crop is in England, or what the potato crop
was in Ireland.
"Are there many salmon ?" is the common inquiry
from canoe to canoe. " The salmon are scarce, and many
people will die," is occasionally the disheartening answer.
The natives believe that their forefathers knew always how
to fish,* but some great personage in the old time taught
them how to capture land animals. The hunters among
these tribes are more intelligent than the fishermen, or
perhaps they seem so to a stranger imperfectly acquainted
with their language. The hunters have a better opportunity of noticing, and, consequently, greater readiness
in describing the appearance and habits of the objects
of their pursuit. So far as I have learnt by particular
separate inquiries, made at various points on the west
coast of Vancouver Island, seven kinds of salmon visit
the Aht streams, and these seven kinds are considered by
the natives to agree in nearly all essentials. One kind
remains in the sounds, and six kinds ascend rivers. This
is the positive statement of the Indians, but whether any
* On the coast of Kerry twenty years ago—in 1845—the people were
so ignorant and untaught that they did not know how to fish. When they
had nets prepared for fishing, they did not follow the fish, but waited till
the fish approached, and they had a good place to make a haul. (See Foster's
Letters on the Condition of Ireland.} SALMON MIGRATIONS.
of these seven kinds are fish of different ages, or males
following females, I have not definitely ascertained. Of
the six kinds that go up streams, two are unable to leap
waterfalls. There are two kinds of salmon trout {Ne-neech-
nuck) in addition to these seven kinds of salmon. Salmon
can be found during the whole year in the sounds, or in
the long natural canals, or in the rivers. But there are
special seasons, during which more salmon, and salmon of
a better quality, can be got. For many years this valuable
fish has come and gone with great regularity, though not
always in similar numbers. It arrives in some rivers
earlier than in others, though the soil traversed by the
rivers in their course and the warmth of the water, are in
all respects the same.*
I will here simply give the statement of the natives
about the salmon, and, for sake of clearness, will use the
native names. One kind of salmon in going down
towards the deep salt water, meets another kind on its
way up, which inquires as to the state of matters
in the rivers. The Klaywailth, which is about thirty
inches long, ascends from the sea in December, for the
purpose of spawning, and remains with the spawn till
it becomes very thin. Returning towards the sea in the
middle of January, it meets the Kliklimeesoulth—the
largest of all the kinds, being on an average over three
feet in length—on its way up. This large fish does not
stay long after depositing its spawn, but returns to the sea
* It is a curious fact that while the river Doon in Ayrshire is one of the
earliest salmon rivers in the west of Scotland, the river Ayr, which is close
at hand, is characterised by the lateness of its produce, few salmon being
captured in it before the beginning of June. SALMON MIGRATIONS.
about the beginning of March, and when in the brackish
water near the mouth of rivers, where fresh and salt water
mingle, is accosted by the Hissit—the smallest of all the
kinds, but a good fish for eating—which asks if there is a
clear channel. Next comes the Tsoo-wit, the common
salmon in British rivers, and about the same average size.
This fish arrives in the inlets and rivers about June, and
swims up the rivers without stopping, and afterwards
remains for a considerable time. There are more of this
fish than of any of the other descriptions. The Tsoo-wit
is succeeded by the Satsope, which in size nearly equals
the Klaywailth, and has large teeth. The latest salmon
is the Enakous, a fish as large as the Satsope, and remarkable for its hook-nose. The Indians say that this
peculiarity is caused by the fish rubbing its nose on
stones and gravel, in making its way against the strong
streams in shallow rivers, swollen by melting snow. They
laughed when I asked them if this peculiarity of the jaw
existed only for a short time in male salmon, when the
reproductive system was active. The former they
evidently considered the real reason. The two last-named
salmon cannot leap waterfalls, though they are able to
pass small rapids. I thought that the Satsope and
Enakous might be the same fish, as the latter has large
teeth, as well as a hook-nose, but the natives affirm that
these two fish are different species, one being distinguished
by its hook-nose and the other by its long teeth. They
say that the nose becomes of a right shape on the return
of the fish to the sea, and that both males and females
have hook-noses; but this latter statement, from my own
observation, I am inclined to doubt, as I have seen female SPA WNING.
fishes with well-formed jaws or noses, but in other respects
resembling those called by the natives Enakous, going up
the rivers in company with the males. The only remaining
kind of salmon, as the natives class it, is the Soha, a large
flat-sided fish, which appears in the sounds in winter, but
is not often caught. This kind never goes up rivers, and
the natives have not discovered its spawning ground. Of
all these salmon the Hissit and Tsoo-wit are the best food.
They all look better when caught in the sounds than in the
rivers. When caught in salt water, small fishes are found
in the stomachs of the salmon, but in rivers their insides
are quite small, and never have any contents. You do not
see many flies skimming on the surface of the Aht streams,
and I do not remember an instance of a salmon rising to
catch them, but fine trout are caught by fly-fishers. Many
of the salmon become tired by rubbing against the stones
in swimming up the rivers, and finally die, and are cast
upon the beach. The natives say that it is the old salmon
which die thus by the way, in endeavouring to reach the
spawning ground. They certainly cannot be fresh strong
fish on leaving the sea, for in a stream within six miles of
salt water I have seen numbers of salmon quite emaciated,
and so worn that their fins were almost dropping off. The
spawn of the salmon is deposited among the gravel in deep
water, at the bottom of the river, where there is little
current. It is put into holes which the fish cover by
means of their tails and fins, the female doing it first, and
the male afterwards.
The water is so clear here, that probably the necessary
light for quickening the eggs penetrates to a depth
of ten feet.    I have not observed any preference  given AHT MANNER  OF CAPTURE.
by the fish to shallow waters in seeking a spawning-
ground. Sometimes, after spawning, the salmon return
to the sea, but swim so fast, and keep so much in deep
water, that they are rarely seen. At this time they are very
thin and poor-looking. The Indians have no more certain
notion where they go to, than that they go into the sea,
and, as they suppose, do not swim far away. The young
fry {ta-tooin), most of which are spawned at various times
during the middle and latter part of the year, are seen
swimming about the river in winter, and they leave for the
sea in five months after attaining the length of an inch.
It takes them about a year to grow to this length; * and
after attaining this size they grow quickly. All the fry go
to the sea ; none of them stay behind in their native river.
The most usual modes of capturing salmon by the
Ahts are as follow :—close to the sea, with the hook;
with the spear, off the mouths of rivers; and with traps,
as well as the spear, when the fish are ascending streams.
The steel hook is now in general use, with an anchovy or
small herring for bait; formerly the . salmon-hook was
wooden, with two bone barbs, and was fastened to a maple
bark line of native manufacture. When the fish are
numerous in deep water, a long stick, armed with several
bone or iron upward spikes, as long as a little finger, and
placed about two feet apart, is thrust down into the water,!
and quickly drawn up among the fish, in order to rip
* It is a common practice among the few tribes whose hunters go far
inland, at certain seasons, to transport the ova of the salmon in boxes
filled with damp moss, from the rivers to lakes', or to other streams.
f The Newfoundland fishermen employ, in the capture of cod, a
plummet of lead, armed with hooks, which is let down into the sea and
moved to and fro.   This practice is called "jigging " the fish. SALMON-SPEARS.
them. The net is not used at all by the Ahts in taking
salmon. Their most picturesque mode of capture is
spearing by torchlight from canoes, off the mouths of
streams where the salmon linger in the cool, brackish
water, before going up the river. Dark nights are preferred for this mode of fishing. Two natives go in a canoe,
one steering, and the other standing with his spear in the
bow, where.a fir-torch flares. I have seen the lights of thirty
canoes at one place moving on the water, and have known
a canoe to bring in forty good salmon for a night's spearing.
Such success, however, is unusual, and is only obtained
at particular times under favourable conditions. Before
leaving the shore to spear salmon, it is a common practice
for a native to enter the water, and to rub his face hard,
in the hope that this will induce more fish to come—quite
as sensible an act as that of the English fisherman, who
spits on his anchor ; and with the same idea, at the commencement of the season, men and women go into the
water on a moonlight night, and lie quietly on the surface,
floating here and there, without speaking a word, now and
then crossing one another's arms and spreading the backs
of their hands towards the moon. {See Chapter on
" Religion.") The salmon-spears are made of pine, and
are rounded and smoothed by being rubbed on watered
stones, and are afterwards straightened by warmth in the
ashes of the fires. The spear, with two heads and two
finger-places in the handle, is about fifteen feet long, and is
used in the deeper water off the mouths of rivers, when
the two heads double the chances of hitting a fish at one
stroke. The single-headed spear is used in the shallow
water in rivers.     The  spear-head is made of elk-bone, SALMON-TRAPS.
glazed with resin, and becomes detached from the spear on
the fish being struck, but remains fastened to the line.
The fisherman lays the spear down in the canoe, and
hauls in the fish with the line. If the salmon is very
large and troublesome, a few small bladders are tied to the
line as near to the fish as possible, and he is left to weary
himself by the effort of dragging these under the water.
In the rivers and mountain streams, in which the water
generally is shallow and flows rapidly, the natives place
stones across the channel, and with the single-headed
spear strike the fish as they pass. It is a pretty sight
indeed to see an Indian, with his blue blanket flung carelessly round him, standing on these stones in a vigilant,
graceful attitude, poising his long spear. Another mode of
salmon river-fishing is by the trap which is used in all the
streams on the coast. On each side of the trap, in some
instances extending as far as the bank, a wall, or fence of
stones or small stakes, slants down the stream, so as to
lead the fish, in swimming up, towards the spot where the
trap is placed. This consists of three or four long circular
baskets, of uniform diameter, made of cedar splinters tied
neatly together, a space of about two inches being left
between each splinter. The up-stream end of the baskets
is closed, and the down-stream end is left open. The
length of the baskets is from ten to twenty feet, and their
diameter from three to five feet. They are placed lengthwise down the stream, and small stakes stop the passage
between each basket, without leaving even the pig-length
passage which Monkbarns would have looked for, as by
Scottish statute allotted. Inside each basket is a rather
shorter basket of the same material and make, except that, HERRINGS.
while the down-stream end of both baskets is the full size
of the cylinder, the inner basket, which in shape is like a
long candle-extinguisher, decreases till its open up-stream
end is just of the size through which a salmon can pass.
The down-stream ends of both inner and outer baskets
being lashed together, form the entrance to the trap.
The fish enters the inside basket in swimming up the
stream, and on getting out of the small up-stream end of
it, finds himself imprisoned between the two cylinders.
These salmon traps are very neatly constructed, and catch
a great many fish.
Herrings are numerous on the coast, but they have
not so good a flavour as the British herring. The finest
I ever got were caught in December in a bay near the head
of a long inlet. Their appearance in that place at the end
of the year was, however, unusual. Herrings are caught
in the beginning of March close to the seashore in great
numbers, and they enter the inlets, creeks, and bays, in
the two following months for the purpose of spawning.
As far as the Indians know, the herrings have only one
spawning ground, and they never spawn, as the Indians
describe it, " when snow is on the ground." They avoid
places where the water runs fast. The spawning ground
is generally the rough, stony bottom of a bay which
becomes shallow towards the shore. At the Seshaht
islands in Nitinaht (or Barclay) Sound, immense quantities
of spawn are deposited by the herrings every year. I have
seen many acres of herring-spawn at this place. The
natives put cedar branches or stalks of long grass into the 224
water, and press them to the bottom with stones—each
person having his own piece of ground—and when the
herrings have deposited their spawn, the pieces of grass
or the branches are lifted, and the egg-bed is found firmly
adhering to them. It is dried in the sun and kept as
a delicacy to be eaten with whale oil. After spawning
the herrings stay near the place for about a month, and
then return to the deep sea. The fry grow quickly,—the
natives say at the rate of an inch in a month,—and in the
first summer of their existence depart for the sea, on the
way to which many of them are eaten by the salmon. The
fry return full-grown next spring. The herring is not
a difficult fish to catch; many are caught by the Indians
in a net similar in appearance to the " scum net " used
in the north-east of Scotland. This net is made of nettles,
which grow here to the height of eight or ten feet. The
outside of the stalks is stripped off, and the inner portion
is afterwards steeped in fresh water for four or five days
during cold weather—a material thus being formed which
makes a light strong net that will last for twenty years.
Another mode of fishing herrings is with- the fish-rake—
a fiat-sided pole ten feet long, armed for two feet from one
end with sharp bones a few inches long and not far apart.
This instrument is moved quickly through a herring shoal
with a wavy motion, and the fish are transfixed and
deposited in the canoe. For a considerable time after
the first appearance of herrings for the season, the rake
can only be used on dark nights, when. every now and
then the water near the canoe is lighted up as the fish
approach the surface. At spawning time, being less alert,
they can be caught with the rake in the daytime. HALIBUT FISHING.
The next fish I will mention is the halibut—a very
common fish  on the coast.    The mode of fishing for
halibut is by " long-lining."    For some reason or other,
the natives will not use a steel hook in fishing for halibut.
Their   own   halibut-hook  is   curiously   shaped,  and   is
made of a  stringy tough part of the Douglas pine or
the yew, which is steamed until it is flexible, when it
receives its proper shape.    The hook is of bone and has
no barb.    The sides of the  hook must be kept tightly
bound together until the time of using.    The lines are
made of seaweed except for six or eight feet from the
hook, where they are of twisted twigs or deer sinew.    To
make seaweed into a line it is soaked in a fresh stream,
and the water being afterwards  squeezed out with the
hands, the line is rubbed with an oily cloth and afterwards
dried in the sun.     Clams or small fishes are used for
bait in fishing halibut.     The fishing season is during
March, April, May, and June.     Thousands  of halibut,
some of them weighing more than two hundred pounds,
are caught by the natives, and are exchanged for potatoes,
gammass, rush mats, and other articles.   The best fishing-
grounds are about twelve miles off the land, but the halibut
is also caught near the shore.    The fishing tribes on both
sides of the Straits of Fuca would drive away any other
tribes which had not been accustomed to fish on the halibut
banks.    The mode of fishing is to trail the line slowly
after the canoe, the   hook being   sunk  in deep water.
Hundreds of canoes, with two or three men in each, start
at midnight for the fishing-ground, so as to arrive there
15 226
in the morning. After half a day's work, if the sea is
moderate, the canoes are quite laden and the fishermen
return. If the sea should rise during their progress to the
shore, rather than throw any of the fish overboard, the
natives tie large inflated, sealskins to both sides of the
canoe to increase its buoyancy. The hairy side of these
skins is turned inside and the skinny side outside, and
various rude devices are painted on the outside, such as
the sinking of a canoe, or the capture of a great fish. To
get so large a fish as a halibut into a canoe at sea is rather
a difficult matter. Accidents, however, rarely happen,
and the fish seldom gets away after being hooked. By
using bladders attached to the line, and spearing the
halibut when he appears on the surface, the largest fish
is finally towed alongside the canoe, where he is killed
by being struck on the head with a club.
A whale chase is an affair of some moment. The kind
of whale commonly seen on the coast was described to me
by an old whaling skipper as a " finner," in which there is
not much oil. The season for fishing whales commences
about the end of May or in June. Many whales are killed
every season by the Nitinahts, who live principally on the
seaboard near Barclay or Nitinaht Sound. This tribe has
a custom, which I have not observed elsewhere, of separating during spring and summer into small parties, each
under a separate head, but all still continuing under the
chief ship of the principal chief of the tribe.
Months beforehand   preparations   are made   for the
whale-fishing, which is considered almost a sacred season. WHALE FISHING.
I particularly noticed this circumstance from having, in
boyhood, heard of the  Manx custom, in which all  the
crews   of   the   herring   fleet   invoke
a   blessing   before
"shooting" their herring-nets. The honour of using
the harpoon in an Aht tribe is enjoyed but by few—
about a dozen in the tribe—who inherit the privilege.
Instances, however, are known of the privilege having been
acquired by merit. Eight or nine men, selected by the
harpooner, form the crew of his canoe. For several
moons before the fishing begins these men are compelled
to abstain from their usual food : they live away from
their wives, wash their bodies morning, noon,, and night,
and rub their skins with twigs, or a rough stone. If a
canoe is damaged or capsized by a whale, or any accident
happens during the fishing season, it is assumed that
some of the crew have failed in their preparatory offices,
and a very strict inquiry is instituted by the chief men
of the tribe. Witnesses are examined, and an investigation made into the domestic affairs and the habits of the
accused persons. Should any inculpatory circumstance
appear, the delinquent is severely dealt with, and is often
deprived of his rank, and placed under a ban for months.
When the whales approach the coast, the fishermen are
out all day, let the wind blow high or not. The canoes
have different cruising-grounds, some little distance apart.
The Indian whaling-gear consists of harpoons, lines,
inflated sealskins, and wooden or bone spears. The
harpoon is often made of a piece of the iron hoop of an
ale cask, cut with a chisel into the shape of a harpoon
blade—two barbs fashioned from the tips of deer-horns
being affixed to this blade with gum. Close to the harpoon
I 228
the line is of deer sinews. To this the main line is
attached, which is generally made of cedar twigs laid
together as thick as a three-inch rope. Large inflated
skins are fastened to this line about twelve feet from the
harpoon. The weapon itself is then tied slightly to a yew-
handle ten feet long. On getting close, the harpooner,
from the bow of his canoe, throws his harpoon at the
whale with his full force. As soon as the barb enters,
the fastening of the wooden handle, being but slight,
breaks, and it becomes detached from the line. The
natives raise a yell, and the whale dives quickly, but the
seal-skins impede his movements. Very long lengths of
line are kept in the canoes, and sometimes the lines from
several canoes are joined. On the re-appearance of the
whale on the surface, he is attacked from the nearest
canoe ; and thus, finally, forty or fifty large buoys are
attached to his body. He struggles violently for a time,
and beats and lashes the water in all directions, until,
weakened by loss of blood and fatigued by his exertions,
he ceases to struggle, and the natives despatch him with
their short spears. The whale is then taken in tow by the
whole fleet of canoes—the crews yelling, and singing and
keeping time with their paddles. Sometimes, after being
harpooned, the whale escapes, and takes ropes, harpoons,
sealskins, and everything with him. Should he die from
his wounds, and be found by another tribe at sea, or on
the shore within the territorial limits of the finders, the
instruments are returned to the losers, with a large piece
of the fish as a present. Many disputes arise between
tribes on the finding of dead whales near the undefined
boundaries  of the tribal territories.     If the  quarrel is THE COD.
serious,. all intercourse ceases ; trade is forbidden, and
war is threatened. By-and-by, when the loss of trade is
felt, negotiation is tried. An envoy is selected who is of
high rank in his own tribe, and, if possible, connected with
the other tribe by marriage. He is usually a quiet man of
fluent speech. Wearing white-eagle feathers in his headdress as a mark of peace, he departs in a small canoe.
Only one female attendant, generally an old slave, accompanies him, to assist in paddling, as the natives never
risk two men on such occasions. The envoy's return is
anxiously awaited. As a general rule, the first proposition
is rejected. Objections, references, counter-proposals, frequently make three or four embassies necessary before the
question can be settled. By that time the blubber must
be very rancid.
The Cod.
The existence of banks of the real bearded cod on
the west coast of Vancouver Island is not yet quite
established. I have seen, however, codfish at Barclay or
Nitinaht Sound which were unmistakeably of that species.
There is a productive bank on the west coast of Vancouver
Island of an excellent fish, called by the Ahts, " Toosh-ko,"
which is very like the " Tusk" of the north of Scotland,
and almost as good to eat as the true cod. Being a fatter
fish, it becomes slightly yellow during the process of drying;
but in other respects the Vancouver Island " Toosh-ko,"
when well prepared, is equal to the best dried Boston cod.
It sells in Victoria at from 10 to 12 cents, a pound. In
the deep sea off shore, instead of being caught by | long-
lining," these fish are enticed to the surface and speared
l!|i 230
by the natives in a singular manner. They tie a line to
the head of a small herring or anchovy, which is thrown
alive into the water, and after descending several fathoms,
is rapidly drawn back towards the surface. The "Toosh-ko,"
in following this prey, approach the surface, and are speared
from the canoes. A bit of wood fifteen inches long—
generally decayed wood, on account of its lightness—is
sometimes used in smooth water as a decoy-fish, instead
of the herring or anchovy bait. It is made thin at one
end for' three or four inches, and a piece of heavier white
wood, representing an elongated spoon bait, is fixed on
each side of the thin part. This instrument is thrust
down into the water on the end of a long spear, and being
detached by a jerk, spins upwards, and attracts the
Toosh-ko, which, on approaching the surface, is speared,
and the decoy is picked up and again used. This may
seem a strange way of fishing cod, but I have seen it
practised with success. (     231     )
The Aht mode of Hunting ; with Descriptions of Several Animals—the
Panther—Wolf—Bear—Wapiti or Elk—Blacktailed Deer—Indian
And whafs tcorse,
To fight the animals, and to kill them up,
In their assigned and native dwelling place.—Shakspeaee.
The outside coast of Vancouver Island offers good sport to
those who take pleasure in hunting wild animals, the
pursuit of which involves little danger to the hunter; but
the mere partridge-shooter, who always expects his dinner
to be ready for him at an appointed hour, should not try
this Far West sporting-ground. Whoever visits this coast
at present for the purpose of hunting must possess the
spirit and endurance of the sportsman, or his expectations
will be disappointed. The traveller who lands from a ship
to shoot a few ducks in a bay, or a deer near the shore,
has only an imperfect notion of the sport which the
country affords. To find what game there is really in the
country, he should leave the shore and traverse the interior 232
at proper seasons, carrying his shooting gear, food, and
blankets through intricate woods and over broken ground,
where a mile-and-a-half an hour will be good walking;
now and then wearing snow shoes, and sometimes prepared for rain; and at all times satisfied with a native hut
or a spreading cedar-tree as shelter for the night. It is
advisable to take with one a native hunter, who understands the habits and peculiarities of the wild fowl and
the animals which are found in the district. And I may
remind the untravelled sportsman, who would exchange
the anxieties of life for an interval of interest and adventure in these pathless woods, that in the Aht district he
must live for the time remote from civilized man, among a
savage people, whose language he does not know, and who
will be quite ready to take advantage of him. This is,
indeed, the chief difficulty at present in the way of the
sportsman; but by-and-by, when settlements are formed
along the coast, wild sports in Vancouver Island will be
more generally followed. *
The Aht natives, distinctively, as before stated, are a
fish-eating people, but one or two good hunters are found
in most of the tribes.    The hunters of those tribes which
* I may mention here that the Indian hunter is certainly inferior to the experienced white man in the best qualities of a sportsman, whatever quickness
of sight, or knowledge of the habits of animals he may possess. The Aht
savage has not yet learned how to shoot game, running or flying, and under
unexpected circumstances he wants the coolness and judgment of the civilized hunter. If deer spring from cover on both sides of him the Indian
becomes flurried, fires hastily, and misses his aim ; but the white hunter
retains his self-possession, and perhaps knocks a deer down right and left. I
have noticed also that the Indian has fired a long shot when it was certain
that by waiting he would get a nearer one. He is too excitable, and acts
on the first impulse in discharging his gun, particularly when the powder
is not his own. PANTHER.
go inland only at certain seasons in pursuit of salmon, and
hunt along the stream from which they obtain their fish,
are, of course, less informed respecting the habits of the
wild animals than the small tribes which, living inland
along lakes and rivers, spend more of their time in hunting.
I took up my quarters forty miles from the sea-board, near
the village of one of these latter tribes, in which were two
noted native hunters—Quicheenam and Quassoon—who were
familiar with the rough mountains and wild lakes of the
interior. They showed me their traps, and explained their
modes of hunting the various beasts of chase. They also
described several animals which I am sure never existed
but in their lying imaginations. I will relate what they
told me, and what I myself saw here and elsewhere upon
the coast. On my return now to civilization, it will be
curious to notice how far this account agrees with the conventional statements in books of natural history.*
The most dangerous wild beast in this part of the island
is a species of panther (ky-yu-men), which occasionally enters
the deer traps of the natives. It is not so numerous as
might be expected from the number of elk and deer in the
district on which it might prey. The largest panther that
has been killed near Alberni measured eight feet from the
nose to the end of the tail, and was over three feet high at
the shoulder.    The tail was two feet long,    The colour of
* I may record that I have seen a whistling marmot, and only one, on
the West Coast; and in 1863, an Indian brought me a small tortoise from
Sproat's Lake, which Dr. It. Brown thinks probably was the Actinemys
Marmorata of Agassiz. I could not find that the tortoise was regarded as
a sacred animal. WOLVES.
this formidable animal was a light brown, with a dark-
brown streak all the way down the back, and a black tip to
the tail. His skin was measured by Captain John Henderson, of the steamer Thames, and myself, at Alberni, in
1865. The panther is of a solitary disposition, and is
rarely seen by the native hunters. They do not pursue it,
but rather endeavour to get out of its way. Hardly anything is known by them of this animal's habits, except
that it prowls at night, and captures the deer by springing
suddenly upon them. On one occasion I saw a young
panther shot, which had betaken itself to a tree, and it
looked a dangerous beast, lying on the ground wounded,
and gnashing its strong teeth. It was of a brownish
yellow colour, with dark tips on the hairs, and a lighter
line down its back. In the full-grown animal this line, as
has been observed, turns to a dark colour. During the
last few years several flocks of sheep have been disturbed
by panthers in the neighbourhood of Victoria, but it is not
thought that there are many of these animals in any part
of the island.
Wolves {sah-ook or kannatlah) of different colours are
numerous along the whole coast, but are seldom shot,
as these wild and savage beasts are of little use to the
natives, and besides are regarded with superstitious fear.
Occasionally, however, a wolf is shot which has approached
too near a village on a misty night, and its fat is then
melted down for a medicine to be applied outwardly to
wounds and bruises. As the animals which form the prey
of the wolves abound in the wocds—retreating inland in BEAR.
summer to the mountains, and in winter coming nearer the
shore—the wolves do not assemble in large packs under
pressure of a common want of food, but hunt in couples, or
four or five together. I have often heard their dreadful howls
at night. Deer are the favourite prey of the wolves, but
they will eat almost anything—putrid fish, or carcases of
animals left by hunters in the woods, and when pressed
by hunger, even the refuse that lies about the temporarily
deserted native encampments. The traps for marten,
racoon, and deer, also the bear traps—when Bruin is
helpless under the treacherous mass of wood—are harried
by the wolves, who devour the captured prey. The dogs of
the natives fly, and crouch near their masters, when the
wolves' howls are heard; but an old mastiff bitch of mine,
which I brought from London, came off not very much the
worse from several stiff encounters. No instance is known
of wolves having attacked the natives.
The common black bear {chimmus) is frequently met with,
and makes excellent sport. He sometimes reaches a size of
three feet high at the shoulder, and six feet long, not including
the tail. The latter end of the autumn, just before the bears
go into their winter quarters, is the best season for hunting
them. Three or four hunters—one carrying a lance, and
the others armed with guns—enter the woods with half-a-
dozen dogs, and separate in search of game. When a bear
is seen, a whoop is sounded to bring the hunters together.
The dogs follow, barking loudly, but cannot always overtake the bear; he sometimes turns on the dogs, and drives
them back.    On seeing the men, the bear again runs, and 236
finally climbs a tree, commonly a cedar, as the branches
come low down the trunk, and the foliage affords cover.
A bear, however, by grasping the bole of the tree between
its paws, can readily climb a full-grown pine-tree, which
has no branches to a considerable height from the ground.
His fate, on being discovered, is no longer doubtful, though
many shots may have to be fired before he is dislodged.
A bear,  desperately wounded,  will   not   relinquish   his
position while he has power to support himself.   He hangs
sometimes, for a time, by one paw, until at last, weak and
dizzy, he falls to the ground and is despatched by a lance
thrust.    Another plan of getting a bear is by marking the
end of his track, commonly at a drinking place on a river
bank, and by shooting him from a canoe or an ambush on
shore.     The bear is also shot or speared in his winter
hiding-place, which is usually the decayed body, or under
the root, of some large tree in a retired part of the forest.
Here the female bear brings forth her young, and makes a
bed for them at the bottom of her den.    The large bears
generally have two young ones at a birth, and the small
bears only one.    Four months is about the time during
which the bear remains in retirement;  but the animal
does not sleep during the whole winter, for I have seen
bears (probably males) walking about in January, when the
snow was a foot deep.    In the month of February I have
seen their tracks towards water.    Bear cubs are often seen
about the native villages which have been taken from the
mother's den at an age when the skin was of no value, and
there was consequently no inducement to Mil them.    The
food of the bear consists of grass, leaves, berries,  and
salmon.   He is a great fisher, and will repair at night to BEAR-TRAP.
the bank of a shallow river or stream, and there patiently
sit on his haunches, looking downwards, until a rippling
of the water, touched brightly, perhaps, by a ray of the
moon, shows an approaching fish ; by a clever scoop of his
large paw he lands the fish on the bank, seizes it with his
mouth, and retires into the forest. This is not a difficult
feat with tired salmon in a shallow stream ; I have thrown
them upon the bank with the paddle of a canoe. Another
fishing station of the bear is on a tree blown down and
lying across a brook; with his paw near the surface of the
shallow water he catches the fish swimming up, as they
appear from under the tree.
The natives frequently catch wild animals in traps.
One description of trap is generally used, and is simple
and effective.    It is made larger or smaller, as required for
bears, deer,, beaver, racoon, marten, or mink.    Since guns
were introduced trapping has been little practised, and few
skilful native trappers can now be found.    It is still, however, followed, especially by the marten hunters, as gunshot injures the skin of small animals.  Pitfalls are seldom
used on the West Coast for the capture of wild animals.
The bear-trap succeeds best when snow lies on the ground.
A few sticks, two or three stones, and a bit of rope made
of cedar-bark, are all the materials necessary in making
the trap.    A thick piece of timber, or the trunk of a small
tree, is heavily weighted with stones for about the length
of five feet  from  one  end,   and  the  extremity  of this
weighted end rests on the ground.    The unweighted end
of the piece of timber is then raised about eight feet above
the ground, and is kept thus suspended by a strong rope
of cedar-bark which is attached to it, and also tied to the 238
end of a cross-piece, which has been placed immediately
above the raised end of the piece of timber. The other
end of this cross-piece, which at its middle or centre rests
upon a convenient support—perhaps the stump of a tree,
or other suitable object—is then depressed to within about
two feet of the ground, by a slender rope slightly attached
to it. This rope is made to cross the animals' track,' and
on his touching it, it slips off this depressed end of the
cross-piece, and this end of the cross-piece itself immediately flies up so much above the level that the other end
is depressed, and the whole cross-piece slips off its resting-
place, and the whole affair—cross-piece and piece of timber
—of course falls to the ground. The latter falls heavily,
both on account of its own weight, and also from the
weighty pressure of the stones on the other end, and thus
the bear is, in fact, crushed by it. Of course, for smaller
animals, slighter materials are employed. Placed in the
accustomed track of the bear to bis feeding or drinking -
place—generally at a spot where a stump or upturned root
for supporting the cross-bar allows the trap to be set
without disturbing the usual appearance of the path—the
bear walks against the slender rope, and a heavy log falls
on his neck or back, and presses him to the ground.*
This stick-trap is also used by the natives in capturing
deer (but not elk) when ammunition is scarce.
So far as I know, there are but two kinds of deer in
the country—a black-tailed deer {ah-toosh or moouch), and
* A small trap, made on this principle, is used for capturing martens by
the Indians who inhabit the woody district around Hudson's Bay. THE  WAPITI.
what is called the American elk {kloh-nym). This name of
elk is the name given to the animal by the colonists, but it
must not be confounded with the moose of the United States.
The deer meant by me is similar in general appearance to
the stag of Europe, and is probably the wapiti, or Cervus
Canadensis. I may note, however, that it is stated in
some books that the branching horns of this animal are
no incumbrance in forcing its way through the woods, and
that it lays them flat on its back before plunging among
the trees. Neither of these remarks is true of the wapiti
of Vancouver Island.
The other deer, which I call " blacktail," may be the
Cervus Macrotis or Virginianus. The reader may judge for
himself by the description.
Both these species of deer are numerous, owing to the
smallness of the population and the absence of large carnivorous wild animals in Vancouver Island. The wapiti
deer have not been much seen by the colonists, but they
are numerous in the interior of the island. In summer,
they frequent the mountains, and in winter, they come
down to the lower ground. A man and boy at Pacheen,
on the West Coast, killed seven elk in two days, in
1864. The body of the wapiti is round, and as large as
that of a good-sized ox, and the height of a full-grown
buck is sometimes above five feet at the shoulder. The
male elk is the larger. The legs and hoofs are shaped
like those of a deer, but seem longer and thinner in proportion to the weight of the animal's body. The head is
flat on the sides, like the head of a horse, which it somewhat resembles, except that the nose of an elk is much
sharper, and the upper lip is somewhat prominent, and 240
well adapted for grasping.    The tail is quite short, and is
kept down in running.    The ears are less broad, and less
finely shaped, than the deer's, and stand straight up.   The
hair, in winter, is long and coarse ; but comes off towards
summer, beginning at the flanks.    The colour of the head
and of the body of the elk is the same, viewed as a whole,
namely, a light brown, with a little yellowish tinge at the
end of the lower lip and round the eyes, along the back it
is of a somewhat fainter colour than the body, and has a
sandy-coloured rump and tail.    In summer, when the hair
is short, the elk becomes of a light red colour, the hinder
part, including the tail, then being white.    His swiftest
pace is a trot, and he never bounds, except in leaping over
fallen trees.    For a short distance, the elk runs, on clear
ground, as fast as a dog; but is soon overtaken, especially
if snow lies on the ground.    He has tracks of his own
through the woods, as he cannot go freely through the
forest, owing to his great size and his spreading antlers.
The largest pair of elk horns that I have seen weighed
forty-six pounds; the length, twenty-seven inches; they
measured across between tip and tip, twenty-five inches.
The females have no horns.   As the elk, in this island, has
never been domesticated, no one has had an opportunity of
observing the progressive growth of the antlers; but the
natives say that the brow antler comes at the fifth year,
and an additional point every year afterwards.    The horns
fall off and are renewed annually.    Previously becoming
soft and hairy, they are dropped about March or April,
and for two months the reproductive growth is hardly perceptible ; but after that interval, the horns grow quickly
for the remainder of the year.    The lower jaw teeth of the ELK-HUNTING.
deer and elk are the same—eight teeth in the front of the
jaw, with grinders near the throat; but the upper jaw of
the two animals is differently furnished. The deer has no
tqeth in the upper jaw in front of the grinders, whereas
the elk has one large conical tooth on each side of the
upper jaw, about two inches back from the point of the
nose. Both have facial slits, or supplementary breathing
organs, under the eyes. The female elk brings forth in May
or June, and generally produces one, but sometimes two
young ones at a birth. The flesh of the elk is good to eat,
indeed is finer in flavour than that of the black-tailed deer.
His food consists of grass, bark, and leaves. He loves to
retire into the thick parts of the forest, from which he comes
out in the early morning and in the evening for the purpose
of feeding. The natives hunt the elk both in summer and
winter, and find them fattest in October and November, at
which time they have been feeding long on good pasture.
So quick is the native hunter's practised sense of hearing
that, in walking through the woods, he will first discover
the near presence of deer by the slight noise they make in
feeding. Two or three elk generally go together; but as
many as nine females and young, with one king or leader,
are occasionally seen. I knew an old native hunter—
Quicheenam, of the Opechisahts—who, with his whole
family, was accustomed to go every summer for two months
about thirty miles from his village, for the purpose of
shooting elk and deer on a large rocky mountain. There
being.no wood on the mountain, except a scrubby fringe at
its foot, a hut was made of stones, and wood was carried
up for fire. Knowing well the haunts and habits of the
animals, and approaching them warily behind masses of
16 DOGS.
rock, the hunter and his sons killed many elk and deer
every season; and, as the animals were too" heavy to be
removed to any distance, they cut the flesh into long
strips, which they dried in the smoke, and carried in bags
to their village. On this excursion, no dogs were taken ;
but in chasing elk in winter, the dog is a useful ally of the
hunter. Three dogs are sufficient to pursue and harass a
small elk; but it is better to have four or five to surround
a large elk. Every Aht tribe has several dogs, short-
haired, sharp-nosed, thin-tailed, sour-natured animals, of
middle size, with a wheezy bark, and which howl as if
howling were natural to them.
The more inland tribes say they got their dogs from the
tribes dwelling on the seaboard. They may have been
originally left by voyagers, and may have degenerated; or
the dogs of the Ahts may be indigenous. Mr. Joseph Dean,
an intelligent settler at Komux, told me that he, on one'
occasion, saw dogs—half-bred between dogs of the Indians
and dogs of the colonists—playing with wolves, the wolves
chasing the dogs, and the dogs chasing the wolves. As
has been already stated, the wolves at Alberni several times
attacked my mastiff bitch. Following by scent the track
of the elk in the snow, the dogs bark on seeing him, and the
courageous animal, on hearing the voice of the dogs, stops
and turns round to butt them. As long as the dogs harass
him, the elk will not fly, even on the appearance of the
hunter.*   It is common for half-a-dozen natives to go out
* An old chief, Kal-lowe-ish, not more given to lying than his neighbours, assured me that an elk,will approach and stand stilL looking at
a blue blanket spread upon the snow, but will not be attracted by a red or
white blanket, and that he has lured elk in this way in hunting without
elk-hunting. They make a small hut of branches in the
forest, hunt in the morning and evening, and sit round
the fire during the day. On killing an elk, they search
for his marrow, and eat it as a precious morsel; in this,
resembling the Danish " Kitchen-middeners," who also
seem to have liked marrow. A wounded elk sometimes
attacks the hunter, who, for his protection in such an
event, carries a knife, made of sharpened iron hoop
(formerly of mussel shell), fixed into a wooden handle
three feet long. The natives formerly made many weapons
and instruments of elk-horn; but, since the introduction
of iron, elk-horn has not been much used for such
Black-tailed Deer.
The other species of deer I have called the black-tailed
deer, as the tail is always black for about two inches at
the end on the upper side, the under side being white.
The tail is not over four inches long, and is turned up in
running. This is a much smaller animal than the elk,
seldom exceeding 150 lbs. in weight, but its shape is
beautiful. The flesh, however, is inferior in flavour to
that of the elk, and also to the flavour of the English deer.
It is "in best condition about the end of the year. All that
I have seen were of the same colour—a lightish brown,
but not so light as the elk—with a slightly darker shade
along the back than on the body. The hair at the end of
the nose, the forehead between the eyes, and the top of the
head round the root of the horns, is black. In the males
the parts between the nose and eyes, and round the eyes,
are ash-coloured, with darker shades towards the cheeks.
16—2 244 THE MARTEN.
The ears are long and flexible, and are of the same colour
as the body. The hair of this deer is shorter, closer, and
finer than the coarse, spongy hair of the elk. It becomes
thin and short in summer, at which time it is of a lighter
colour than in winter. When dropped, the young are
beautifully marked along the back with round spots, hut
these soon disappear.
In running, the black-tailed deer bounds with every
foot from the ground at the same time. The hunter finds
it singly, or two or three together, in ravines or thickets,
or in the morning and evening browsing in the open
forest. As many as forty have been seen in one day.
When numerous in the mountains, the black-tailed deer
are often caught with dogs, which are able to gain upon
them among rocks or in thick wood; but nearer the shore
the natives generally shoot them. Traps are also set in
their tracks near drinking places, and sometimes dogs
chase the deer into the water and enable the natives to
capture them. In this way I captured two deer from a
boat one forenoon at Alberni. They do not swim quickly,
and are easily taken. The horns of the black-tailed deer
are not large; the brow antler is wanting, and five points
are the most I ever saw on the horns of an old animal.
The natives say that the horns " fall with the grass "—
about December—and " grow again with the leaves." The
young are brought forth about May. The average number
at a birth is two ; this number is rarely exceeded.
Of the remaining land-animals hunted by the natives,
the marten {Kleekklayhy-yeh) is one of the most valuable, as MARTEN-TRAP.
its fur is prized by white traders. The fur of this active and
graceful little animal is in its best condition in winter, but
the marten is most easily caught in the autumn and fall,
when it approaches the waters in search of salmon. The
marten makes its house among stones on the ground, but
more commonly inside decayed trees on which the bark
is loose. It will climb up between the bark and wood of
a decayed tree to its nest many feet from the ground. The
marten sleeps during the greater part of the day, and
comes out to feed in the early morning, and afterwards
runs about for a few hours before returning to rest. The
hunter at this time watches to shoot it, but trapping is
preferred because the shot injures the skin. The trap
is a small stick-trap, exactly like the bear-trap already
described. It is baited with a bit of salmon and placed
near where the tracks of the marten have been seen, or
Where a tree has been, playfully scraped with its claws, as
is its wont on a bright forenoon. As many as forty traps
are set at one time by a hunter, and if by the whole
number one marten is caught in a week, it is fair sport.
There is but one kind of marten on the island. The
natives do not know that the marten eats anything but
salmon or salmon-trout. They do not think that it eats
birds or eggs. It does not go into the water, but feeds on
dead salmon washed upon the beach, or on portions of
fish left by the bears in the woods. The remains of deer
killed and abandoned by the natives also furnish it with
food. The marten breeds during summer in the stump
of a decayed tree, and the-female has generally three young
ones. The hunter never sees more than two old martens,
with their young, together.    The only apparent difference 246
between the female and male is that the male is of a
darker colour on the breast. I could not find what the
marten was likely to feed on when fish or deer was not
obtainable; perhaps it may be able to get one or the other
all the year round, or it may feed on birds.
The mink {chastimit) is a small animal, not unlike the
marten in shape, but with a less bushy tail and an inferior
fur of a darker colour, and white instead of red under the
throat and on the breast; it is more independent than the
marten in the matter of food, being able to dive under
water and fish for itself. The natives Mil numbers of
mink all the year round for the sake of the skins, which
they sell to the traders. They are shot, taken with stick-
traps, or caught by dogs. Dogs can catch them on a
clear beach, but not in the forest. The mink does not
climb trees. Morning or evening is the best time for
getting them. This animal lives among the stones on
the beach, and keeps near the sea-coast, where it feeds
upon clams, oysters, mussels, fish, and also birds. It sleeps
during the afternoon and night, and hunts for its prey
generally in the early morning. The natives say that the
mink also eats salmon-berry leaves, but that the marten
does not. As many as five mink are sometimes seen
together. Summer is their breeding time, and the female
generally has four young at a birth:
Another common wild animal hunted by the natives is
the black-footed racoon {Klapesim), the skin of which is HABITS OF THE RACOON
also sold to white traders. I have forced a racoon in the
day time from under the root of a fallen tree, and killed
him with a stone. He is generally found up a cedar tree,
which he easily climbs, and he spends the day in sleep on
one of its branches, coming down in the night time to feed.
The locality he prefers is the neighbourhood of small
shallow streams that run into a river. More racoons are
found near the sea-shore than away from it. Like the
mink, he is fond of mussels and shell fish, or a dead deer,
but roots, berries, and leaves, are also favourite articles of
food. He will not enter the water, yet the bear himself is
not a keener fisher. When twilight comes, the racoon,
who has passed the day rolled up in the form of a ball on
the thick branch of a cedar tree, descends to the ground,
and stations himself upon his haunches, by the side of a
stream, in which there may be only a few inches of water.
His round eyes, specially adapted for seeing well in the
dark, glisten as the tiny fish sport before him, and, suddenly
extending at the same time his two fore-feet into the water,
he presses the little captive between them and conveys it to
his mouth. The racoons seem to be sociable animals, as
four or five are sometimes seen together. The female breeds
in summer, and has as many as five young ones at a birth.
When taken young, the racoon is easily tamed, but it is
always of rather a capricious temper. The common native
stick-trap, baited with a small fish, and placed near a track
of the racoon towards the water, is used by the natives in
capturing this animal. They sometimes succeed in shooting him from the bank of a stream in the morning, while
fishing, as described. Though proverbially wary, the
racoon is more easily captured by the natives than either 248
the marten or mink.   His gait is heavy and awkward, and
when discovered on the ground he rarely escapes.
The beaver {Attoh) which, in some respects, is the most
interesting of all the wild animals hunted by the natives, is
the last I shall mention. The skin of the beaver, formerly,
was very valuable in trade. What the natives told me of this
animal was rather disappointing, after all my boyish respect
for the sagacity which it was said to display. They think the
beaver is a commonplace animal, which any ordinary hunter
can capture. A chief might be proud of the name of
Kill-bear, or Eill-elk, or Kill-whale, but Kill-beaver would
hardly be valued as an honorary title. I confess that I
have seen many beaver-dams both in the streams and lakes
of the Aht district, and they never struck me as anything
extraordinary. The most noticeable effort on the part of
the beavers that I could hear of was, biting through and
felling a willow tree seven inches in diameter; but the
stupid creatures could not move the tree when it was down,
so all their labour was lost. Perhaps as the winters are
mild in Vancouver Island, an inferior instinct suffices on
the part of the beaver, compared with the instinct required
by the animal in a severer climate. No large community
of beavers has been seen by the Indians. Their dams are
formed both in lakes and streams, and are made of trunks
and branches of trees, sticks, mud, and stones huddled
rudely together. Their oval houses are built of the same
materials, and are about six feet in diameter, and five or
six feet in height. Four old beavers and six or eight young
ones are the most that have been seen in one dwelling. HABITS OF THE BEAVER.
The beavers lie in these houses—as the Indians express
it—" like boys ;" but when the female has young ones
she goes into a separate bed, or chamber, I could not
ascertain which. There is no storey in a beaver's house for
convenience of change in case of floods ; the waste-way is
generally sufficient to carry off any extraordinary quantity
of water. The beaver breeds at any season when there is
no snow on the ground, and has three or four little ones at
a time. The houses of the beaver on the banks of lakes
are abandoned when the water is very high; and the
beavers go to small streams, which they form into a
succession of diminutive lakes. These dams are connected,
in case of a flood, by a sufficient watercourse through the
middle of the dam, and down the centre of the stream;
and on, or rather in, the dams, the beavers build their
-houses, and provide themselves with an entrance by means
of a hole under water. It is in these houses on small
streams that the beavers generally breed. The principal
food of the beaver in this district is grass, and the leaf and
bark of the willow and alder, and roots at the bottom of the
lake. It is not necessary for him to lay in a stock for
winter. He sleeps during the day, and comes out at nights
to feed; the only difference in his habits being that he
sleeps a little longer in the winter—still, however, appearing
at nights for the purpose of feeding. His eyes are small,
and he cannot see far, but bis nose is very keen. He swims
in the water with a part of his head above the surface like
a seal. The natives approach to leeward at night, and spear
the beaver from a canoe, as he floats eating a branch taken
from the shore; or they shoot him when he is in shallow
water, but not in deep water, as he sinks on receiving the 250
shot. They also block up the opening into his house,
break through the wall, and shoot or spear him. It would
be no use waiting at his house to shoot the beaver as he
went out, for the entrance is under water. Trapping is
perhaps the favourite mode of capturing the beaver, as it
leaves the skin uninjured. The common stick-trap is used
without bait, but with the addition of a side or wall made
of cedar sticks, which projects into the lake for ten or
fifteen feet, so as to lead the animal towards the trap as he
approaches the shore. The beaver generally lands at one
place, and the trap is set in the track, almost the whole of
it being in the water. The deceiving string is placed just
about the water line. (     251     )
Diseases—Medicines and Medical Practice.
And at their heels, a huge infectious troop
Of pale distemperatures and foes to life.—ShaKspeaKE.
The commonest diseases among the Ahts are bilious complaints, constipation, dysentery, and consumption, produced, I suppose, by their coarse oily food, irregular
meals, and frequent personal exposure. Fevers and acute
inflammatory diseases are also common, and these often
end fatally, as the natives do not understand the proper
modes of treatment. Bheumatism and paralysis are rare
maladies. I have been told by traders that syphilis was
unknown among them twenty years ago. I think this is a
mistake, and that it is probably indigenous, as the natives
have herbs which they use in curing this disease. It is
now quite common, and is almost invariably followed by
consumption. Many of the old people, particularly the
women, suffer from ophthalmia. Being totally ignorant of
the pathology of diseases, and believing that bodily ailments 252
are caused, either by the temporary absence of the soul, or
by the presence of the spirit of some animal or demon in
the sick person, the natives treat every disease nearly in the
same manner, and direct their efforts towards the recovery
of the soul or the expulsion of the evil spirit. They have
no knowledge of anatomy, nor any distinct knowledge of
the circulation of the blood. Sprains and contusions are
cured by the plentiful application of cold water. In cases
of breakage of the arm or leg, the limb is straightened,
and four deep incisions, several inches long, are made
lengthwise through the flesh, round the limb, at the place
of fracture. Into these cuts the doctor spits, after chewing
leaves. No splints are used except when a leg is broken; a
piece of delicate white pine bark cloth is then tied round the
limb, in many folds, and allowed to remain till the bone has
become re-united. I have seen several cases of broken legs
that had been cured by the natives, but there was always
some shortness of the limb afterwards. They possess
sufficient skill to set dislocations in a rough way, which
probably causes much pain to the patient. In gunshot
wounds the ball, when buried, is never removed, but
operations with a knife are performed for the extraction of
bullets lying near the skin. Amputation and blood-letting
have never been resorted to by the natives as a means
of cure.
Perhaps no people more extensively believe in.the
assisting of nature, by means of medicines and extraordinary operations. These appliances, as might be expected,
consist more in jugglery and sorcery than in legitimate
allopathies. The natives use many plants in their medicines, and some of these may perhaps be worthy of the MEDICINAL HERBS,
attention of more civilized practitioners. They understand
the best season for getting the different kinds, so as to
preserve their virtues for medicinal purposes. The Oregon
grape, a shrub which grows plentifully at some parts of
the coast, is a favourite medicine, and an article of barter
among the tribes—as I learnt by noticing the native lads
in a vessel collecting it, for the purpose of sale, at any
village on the coast which the ship might stop at. It is
largely used both by the natives and colonists, for the
cure of venereal diseases. This grape makes an excellent
tonic, and I have been assured that its virtues, in the
complaints mentioned, are undoubted. The astringent
qualities of the blackberry, and the value of the dogwood
root, as strengthening medicines, seem also to have been
discovered by the Ahts. A common tonic is a powder
made of comb from a wasp's nest, burned and mixed with
cold water. Hemlock bark is used as a sticking plaster.
There are many other plants known to the native doctors
for their curative virtues, and a still greater number of
empiric medicaments, which they use as favourite specifics
in different .diseases. None of the natives possess sufficient knowledge to compound medicines, with any appreciation of their properties, though the sorcerers pretend to
make valuable mixtures. Their most common way of
using leaves, roots, or bark medicinally, is to make them
into a kind of tea, which is allowed to cool before being
taken. No metallic medicines are used. An infusion of
the soft young cones of the pines is taken by women for
various purposes, particularly, I think, to keep them from
bearing children—an object which is also thought to be
secured by a medicine made of the scrapings of the inside 254
of a human skull. There is a small three-leaved plant,
with a white flower in May, from which a medicine is
made that is said to have a sure effect in producing
abortion. The women mash the roots in water, and drink
the solution, occasionally, once or twice a day. So far as
I know, the natives are not acquainted with many poisons,
though some of them pretend to such a knowledge, in
order to frighten others of their tribe. They poison deer
with the roots of a climbing species of convolvulus. , Of all
the medicines used on the coast—and these are beyond
enumeration, for the Indians seem to have a medicine for
everything—the love medicines are by far the most numerous. Every doctor or doctoress has a favourite specific,
which is rubbed on the body as a means of attraction, or
placed on the garments of those on whom it is intended
to operate. Among the medicines is a decoction that will
make a man cry, and a well-educated half-breed woman,
who disbelieved the superstitions of her mother's people,
candidly declared to a friend of mine that she had faith in
this medicine. The different medicines used by the Ahts
are kept secret, and it is most difficult to get any information from them with respect to their medical practice. If
you ask the old women or doctors, they will either not
answer, or will intentionally mystify you. They will speak
on such a subject only to those for whom they have the
highest respect, and who they believe will not take advantage of the information to damage the practice of those
possessed of the secret. We laugh at such things, but
have we nothing of the same kind among ourselves ? Are
not English physicians as jealous ? How often are rural
druggists asked for love powders ?   And do not herbalists MODE OF TREATMENT
believe in the virtues of certain herbs as fully and sometimes as absurdly as the neglected and untaught Vancou-
verian ? In all the tribes, as before mentioned, the old
women are the ordinary nurses and doctors, but in serious
cases the sorcerers are sent for to expel the evil spirit,
which is supposed to have occupied the patient's body.
Many observances are connected with the giving of
medicines, and greater efficacy seems to be attributed to
the mode of administering than to the medicine itself. I
saw a case of bowel complaint treated in a curious way.
Having drank a decoction of some leaf, root, or bark, the
sick person sat naked on his couch, and the doctor, firmly
pressing his hands on each side of the body, rubbed with
his thumbs till the patient became pale and sick, accompanying the work with a low song; then, finally, raising
his hands so as to join the fingers above the patient's
head, he blew through them, and the sickness, or the
evil spirit, was supposed to be blown away. An English
trader on the coast told me afterwards that he attributed
the preservation of his life on one occasion at Pacheen
to this mode of treatment, when the usual remedies for
constipation had failed to relieve him. Among the Ohyahts,
a few years ago, there was a young woman, deformed and
of diminutive stature, who had a high medical reputation.
A native presented his leg to her, which she grasped at
the knee, and rubbed, as would a Malvern doctor. On its
being remarked that she did not cry nor groan, as usual
with native practitioners, the patient explained aside that
she was quite skilful in her work, but that if in his case
she cried or groaned during the operation of rubbing, her
charge would be a blanket, instead of a fathom of small 256
beads, and he could not at that time afford a blanket. As
long as patients are not hopelessly sick the women seem to
treat them kindly, but their singing and howling must
distress a sick person's nerves. Work in the house goes
on as usual, and no attempt is made to lessen noise. The
cracked voices of the old nurses produce a very effective
discord; but, to make matters worse (though they believe
they are bettering them), friends occasionally join in a
dreary, piteous song, and keep time to it with sticks on
the sides of the house. It is characteristic of a savage to
want fortitude in bodily sickness; he never fights against
disease, but sinks at once languid and helpless ; and it is
amidst bad smells, smoke, laughter, and the crooning of
hags, that his stricken body is expected to regain its
health. The sorcerers rely partly on the actual means of
cure already mentioned, but principally on incantations
and the necromantic influence which they are supposed to
exert through the medium of small bits of bones, metals,
and feathers contained in their pouches. Their most
absurd requirements are superstitiously observed. A
patient will travel fifty miles to consult the sorcerer or
doctor of a friendly tribe, if he has a good name, and will
pay him handsomely if he succeeds in his cure.
The practice of abandoning aged persons, or those
afflicted with lingering disease, was lately quite common
among the Ahts. Before satisfying myself on this point, I
had believed that this inhuman custom was confined to those
savage tribes which, being forced to wander over extensive
districts in pursuit of game for food, and obliged to be at
all times ready to fight an enemy, were, unable to carry
with them, in their rapid marches, persons infirm from NEGLECT OF INVALIDS.
age or sickness, and children of defective formation. But
the practice is common among the tribes on this coast, who
are seldom in want of food, and who never move their
encampments but for short distances, and the custom, I
think, rests simply on the unwillingness of the natives to
be troubled with the care of hopeless invalids. It is not
much worse, as a proof of the insensibility of the human
heart, than the manner of treating insane persons was
in Scotland, and other civilized countries, before lunatic
asylums were established. The victims among the Indians,
as stated above, are not always aged persons; young and
old of both sexes are exposed when afflicted with lingering
disease. A father will abandon his child, or a child his
father. In bitter weather a sufferer has been known to
have been taken to a distance from the encampment, and
left unsheltered, with a small quantity of water and dried
salmon. No one is permitted to add to the allowance, or
to show attention to the miserable invalid; his own relatives pass him by in the woods with perfect indifference.
Individuals thus abandoned occasionally recover and return
to the village, but more often they perish wretchedly, and the
wild beasts devour them. In opposition to this indifference,
an eyewitness told me of the frightful manner in which the
parents of a young girl who died showed, on that occasion,
their excessive grief. As soon as life had departed they
screamed, and frantically seizing the body by the hair,
arms, and legs, threw it about the house till they were
quite fatigued; then, after a time, they placed it on a
couch in a sitting posture, to await burial.
17 (     258    )
Usages in Burial—Appearance of the Aht Burying-Grounds
Burial of a Chief.
Let not that ugly skeleton appear!—Drtden.
The Aht tribes differ somewhat in their modes of burial.
They have no stone tombs, and neither burn nor inter
their dead. The usual practice is to place deceased men
of rank and young girls in rudely constructed boxes, which
are fastened upon trees at a height of about twelve feet from
the ground. A white blanket is thrown over the box, and
four or five blankets, or pieces of calico, are hung upon a
neighbouring tree. These blankets are torn in many places
—either for the purpose of showing grief, or of spoiling
them so that they should not be worth stealing. Another
tree is draped with strips of blue blankets. The coffins of
the highest chiefs, and sometimes also those of well-born
infants are hoisted to a great height from the ground. A
child which has only the name given to it at its birth is
buried differently from a child which has received a second DISTINCTIONS OF RANK.
name. The one with two names is put higher up the tree
than the others. Old women, and men and boys of no
rank in the tribe, are wrapped in worn blankets or mats, and
simply left upon the ground. No grave is dug to receive
their bodies ; a little of the earth is removed, and they lie
there covered with sticks and stones; occasionally a worn-out
canoe is used for a coffin. As among the people in remote
parts of our own country at present, the days of mourning
among the Ahts often end in a festival. A poor man of
rank, wishing to bury his wife or child with the usual ceremonies, has been known to postpone the funeral for many
months, until he obtained the means of giving a feast and
distributing property. When a death becomes known in a
native village, all the women begin to wail and continue
lamenting for several hours. The near relatives of the
deceased blacken their faces, and put on mean apparel.
Little time is lost in conveying the body to the grave.
Every tribe has a burial-place or places—generally on an
islet or point of land—set apart for this special purpose,
and these are never desecrated even by hostile tribes. The
corpse, wrapped in a blanket and placed in a canoe or
box, is conveyed to the burial-ground by the deceased
person's friends, who are accompanied by many or few
canoes, according to his rank or popularity during his
lifetime. The whole of the dead man's personal effects
that have not been given away before his death are
deposited with him—except his best canoes, his house-
planks, and fishing and hunting instruments, which, with
any slaves he may have had, are inherited by the eldest
son. If his friends are very superstitious they burn the
dead man's house with all its contents, or they remove the
17—2 260
materials, and build the house in another place. These
usages in burial among savage tribes may be supposed to
spring from sentiment, or some strange imagination ; but,
beyond the exhibition of a certain natural regret and
instinctive respect for the dead, I think we shall err in
investing the burial customs of the Aht nation with much
significance. The habit of suspending the remains of
young girls and men of rank upon trees originated
probably in the desire of preserving the bodies from
wolves and other wild animals ; and for the same
reason islands were preferred as burial places.* The
natives bury a man's personal effects with him, and burn
his house, in the fear that if these were used, the ghost
would appear and some ill consequences would follow.
Burning the house may have been practised at the first
in order to guard against the spread of infectious diseases.
I have not found that any articles are deposited in burying
places with the notion that they would be useful to the
deceased in an after time, with the exception of blankets
{see " Religion "). Such a belief, however, exists, I have
heard, among the tribes farther north on the coast of
British Columbia, and it is possible that the Ahts may
have derived the custom from them without any thought
of its meaning. An islet used as a native burial-ground
has generally a wretched look. The most appropriate idea
of a burying ground is associated in my mind with some
hill-side far from houses, or among old trees near a rocky
shore—the grass being wild and unshorn, not trimmed, nor
* A tradition exists in a district of Sutherlandshire in Scotland, that,
owing to the ravages of wolves in disinterring bodies, the people were
obliged to use the precipitous island of Handa as a safer place of sepulture. NATIVE BURYING PLACES.
the place made into a flower-garden by art. But the
burying places of the natives on this coast are too forlorn
to please even the eye of one who does not care to see the
bright flowers blooming in these sad places of rest. Fragments and piles of old canoes, boxes, boards, paddles,
blankets, and other articles cover the surface. Here and
there, rude coloured wooden carvings are placed near the
bodies of chiefs. The labour of carving these images,
when a sharp shell or a piece of bone was the only
instrument available to the carver, must have been great.
You may see a wooden figure which stands grimly contemplating the skull of an enemy placed in his hand; another,
famous as a speaker in his lifetime, is represented with an
outstretched arm; a third grasps a wolf. I once saw
canoes daily visiting at twilight, for several weeks, one
of these burying places, where they remained till past
midnight. The visitors lighted a great fire and fed it
with oil, gumsticks, and other combustible materials, and
they wailed loudly at intervals during the whole time.
The death and burial of the deceased, who in this case
was a person of high rank, were thus described to me :—-
The whole tribe had assembled in the house, and a friend
of the sick person, in a loud and grave tone, announced
that his relative was breathing his last. He then recounted
his generous acts and deeds of daring, and intimated that
the dying man wished to bequeath all his personal effects
to his tribe. There was a contrast between the brave
history of this chief and the poor creature who lay on a few
mats, breathing heavily, his eyes glazed and his features
pinched and pallid, from disease and exhaustion. The
distribution next   began,  in which  each person  shared 262
according to his rank. About an hour after life had
departed, messengers went round to the different houses
to give notice of the funeral. All the women in the village
began to wail loudly. The men remained stern, sad, and
silent. The corpse, wrapped in a blue blanket, was put
into a canoe, which moved slowly from the shore, accompanied by about ninety canoes. Having reached an islet,
a native climbed a large tree, and after various ceremonies,
the body—which, in the meantime, had been placed in a
box—was hoisted up and secured to a lofty branch. Long
speeches were afterwards made in praise of the deceased,
whose death, it was stated, should be honoured by a human
sacrifice. A small neighbouring tributary tribe was accordingly visited by an armed party, which returned in a day
or two with several heads. These, it was stated, had not
been taken by force, but had been demanded and given as
a necessary sacrifice on the occasion of the great warrior's
death. Such human sacrifices, happily, are now of rare
The natives have periods of mourning, but whether
definite or depending on the will of the mourner, I cannot
say. They cut the hair, as a mark of respect for the
dead. The men seek solitude while mourning, but the
women display their grief openly. In their houses the
women often talk about friends who have died; how they
were respected ; what great things they did ; how good
they were : and, as long as four or five years after their
death, becoming sad during such conversations, the old
women go outside, and sit wailing for days. It seems
odd to an Englishman that a woman should sit by herself,
crying for so long a time, without any one taking the least 'A FATHER'S GRIEF.
notice of her. The men do not indulge in such long
drawn-out sorrow; but their grief is sharp, as they have
strong natural affections. I remember an old Ohyaht's
grieving for his eldest son, who was drowned. The
mourner's hair was cut close, the body and face blackened,
tattered blankets wrapped round him, (sackcloth, indeed,
and ashes !) and all the while he piteously wept. There
is a heartrending expression in an Indian's grave hard
face distorted by grief. Tears did not come often to his
relief, and now and then he ceased his wail, and sat still,
all his emotion " contracted in one brow of woe." The
body of the son had not been found, and the old man, with
a few friends, carried to a resting-place in the forest two
cedar board