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The apostle of Alaska: the story of William Duncan, of Metlakahtla Arctander, Jno. W. (John William), 1849-1920 1909

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THE APOSTLE OF ALASKA    The Apostle of Alaska
Story. of .
WILLtii!   DUN    AN
Of the Minnmpidis Bar
3ric       Chicac
-.; any iPliiPfPRI The Apostle of Alaska
The   Story  of
Of Metlakahtla
Of the Minneapolis Bar
New York       Chicago       Toronto
Fleming H. Revell Company
London      and     Edinburgh  To
Theodore Roosevelt
The President,
The Man,
The  Christian,
The Friend of the Metlakahtlans,
These pages are
(Without permission, asked or granted)
Admiringly and respectfully inscribed by
The Author  Introduction
WHILE touring in Southeastern Alaska, in
1903,1 first heard of the remarkable story of
When, in the following summer, the call of the Northland came upon me again, I hied myself to the beautiful
village, to investigate what sounded like a veritable fairy
I was cordially received and entertained by Mr. William Duncan, and spent a most pleasant summer with him
and his people.
It was then I conceived the idea of becoming the historian of this interesting little nation, and the biographer
of their wonderful leader.
With this object in view, I have ever since spent all
my vacation months in the little village, and, during the
summer just past (1908), I wrote this book under the inspiring sky of Metlakahtla.
During these summer months I have had the unspeakable pleasure, day after day, to listen to the interesting
table-talks of Mr. Duncan, to witness him in his own inimitable dramatic style unrolling word-painting after
word-painting of the many interesting incidents of his
life-work and thrilling experiences.
After each one of these interesting talks, I made it a
point to write down his narrative, as nearly as possible
in the identical language used by him, while everything
he had said was still fresh in my memory.
In the following pages, I have faithfully reproduced
7 8
these, his stories, from my note-book. It is Mr. Duncan
who speaks all through them. It is he himself who repeats the very words of the action sought to be depicted.
In these pages every one who knows Mr. Duncan will
see him as he is, and moves and breathes, will hear his
voice, will recognize his virility. That is the merit of
the book, if it has any. I am merely a reporter, not an
It is a matter of pride with me that I have made an entirely truthful report, and not coloured it in any form,
shape, or manner.
The occasion I have had to draw from the inexhaustible
treasure-chests of the diaries of Mr. Duncan, to examine
his correspondence and his books, as well as the public
records of the colony, and all documents in any way
bearing upon any incident, has of course been very valuable in enabling me to give to the reader the true history
of the mission.
The opportunity I have had, through these many
moons, to study the Indians, their peculiarities, their
customs and manners, past and present, to listen to their
tales of past history and life, and to their interesting
legends, I have of course fully availed myself of.
Upon the subject of the contention between Bishop
Eidley and the Church Missionary Society and its representatives on the one side, and Mr. Duncan and his
people on the other, I have attempted to be fair, and to
give credit where credit was due. But I willingly confess that the intense feeling of Mr. Duncan on the subject
may, unconsciously, have coloured the glasses through
which I myself have observed this regrettable series of
Still, I insist, that I have carefully examined all documents bearing upon this untoward strife, that I have
diligently perused all that has been written on the sub-
^^^^v.r^aa^^u^^v.a^.LLIlLli'P^Mi INTKODUCTION 9
ject, on both sides, and that, after weighing judiciously
what has been charged and countercharged, I can honestly state it as my firm conviction that there is, in truth
and justice, but one side to the case.
Mr. Duncan may have his faults: most of us have.
He has, however, fewer than any man I ever met. I
have not sought to accentuate them ; neither have I attempted to hide them. They have been allowed to crop
out in the history of his life, without let or hindrance.
He has kindly permitted me to use, for the illustrations
of this book, a number of photographs taken by him, and
of which the copies lent me for such purpose are probably
now the only ones in existence. For this great kindness
I thank him.
Mr. Benjamin A. Haldane, the native photographer at
Metlakahtla, Mr. P. E. Fisher, of Seattle, and Mr. E. A.
Hegg, of Cordova, Alaska, have put me under lasting
obligation by allowing me to make use, for the same purpose, of many photos taken by each of them.
I cheerfully acknowledge my gratitude to Mr. James
Wallace, who, with great patience, during the long winter nights of the past five years, has drawn from some of
the older natives, and faithfully recorded for my use,
numerous legends of the Tsimsheans. By his painstaking care, I have been enabled to cull from a most bounteous supply of fifty or sixty legends, some fifteen, none
of which has ever before appeared in print.
Jno. W. Arotandee.
Mirmea/polis. w^i^U^^n^ Contents
The Call of the Lord
•     lS
The Boy the Father of the Man .
.     19
" Speak Lord, Thy Servant Heareth ".
•     27
A New Mission Field   ....
•     32
Aboard the Man-of-War
•     39
The Inside Passage
•     43
At the Fort
•     5*
The Tsimsheans   .
.     61
Mode of Living   .
.     66
Peculiar Customs
.     72
The Totems and Clubs
.     84
The Medicine-Men
.     92
The Religion of the Tsimsheans   .
.    101
The Son of the Heavenly Chief .
.    108
Traimshum, the Tsimshean Devil
Behind the Walls        ....
.    118
The First Message
The Devil Abroad
.    130
First Fruits
•    *37
A Christian Village   .
Onward and Upward .
Temporal Advancement
•  175
Interesting Incidents .
How Mr, Duncan Became a Judge
From Judge Duncan's Docket
Back in Old England ....
Home Again        .....
Notable Visitors	
11  Illustrations
William Duncan at Seventy  .
Bishop and Mrs. Edward Cridge
Fort Simpson in 1857 .
Clah, Mr. Duncan's Tsimshean Teacher
Regalia of a Tsimshean Chief
Totem-poles at Howkan, Alaska   .
Drawing a Seine of Fish at Taine, Near Metlakahtla
Remnants of the House of Neyahshnwah now Standing at Port Simpson	
Kincolith Mission     ......
Paul Legaic       .
Monument to Legaic at Port Simpson    .
Rev. R. Tomlinson and Family
Mr. Duncan's Pioneers	
Metlakahtla Baseball Nine   .
The Brass Band at Metlakahtla   .
Women Spinning at Old Metlakahtla   .
Mr. Duncan's Cathedral at Old Metlakahtla
Rev. W. H. Collison and Family    .
Admiral J. C Prevost	
Bishop William Ridley	
Ridley Home at Old Metlakahtla
New Day School at Old Metlakahtla .
Girls' School at Old Metlakahtla
Boys' School at Old Metlakahtla
Tom Hanbury's House at Metlakahtla .
Alex Guthrie's Bungalow at Metlakahtla ♦
302  The Apostle of Alaska
IT was a stormy, drizzly evening in December, 1853,
in the little town of Beverley, in Yorkshire, England.
The windows of St. John's Church, a chapel of ease in
the little city, were lighted and glittered invitingly out
into the dreary darkness. But few were abroad in the
stormy night to accept of the kindly invitation to attend
the quarterly missionary meeting to be held that evening
in the little chapel.
In the vestry, the vicar of the church, the Rev. A. T.
Carr, after surveying the scanty audience which had
braved the rain and storm, suggested to the speaker of
the evening, the venerable rector of a near-by town, that
the meeting had perhaps better be adjourned to a more
propitious evening. But this was not to the taste of the
representative of the Church Missionary Society, who insisted that those who had come out were entitled to hear
the message intended for them.
Perhaps the old evangelical preacher had learned from
a long and ardent experience in the Master's service that
those meetings, where only a few earnest and sincere
souls, who loved the Lord sufficiently to brave the wind
and the weather to attend, were the favourite trysting-
places of the " Comforter from heaven."
Be this as it may, the old rector was that evening, be*
15 16
fore an audience consisting of perhaps not over thirty
souls, at his best. Never had his pleadings for the wants
of the missionary fields, white and ripe for the harvest
and calling in vain for reapers, had a more sincere and
earnest ring.
And when he turned his eyes towards heaven, and implored God to fill the heart of some young man in |hat
slim congregation with a burning desire to serve his
Heavenly Master in the mission fields, his words set the
little audience on fire, and the prayers of earnest Christian men and women were wafted with his to the heavenly realms.
There was one young man in that audience, and only
A friend had, the Sunday before, extended an invitation to him to be present at the meeting. He graciously
accepted, and promised to be there.
The evening came. He looked out. The rain and the
slush were not very inviting for the long walk from his
home.   But he had promised—and he went.
The service was over. Alone, as he had come, the
young man went away. As he trudged homeward in the
storm the thought came to him:
"I was the only young man there. Why should not
I become a missionary f May not the Lord have something for me to do in heathen lands |"
Before he slept that night his mind was made up : If
God wanted him, he would accept the call and bring the
glad tidings to some desolate heathen home and hearth.
The young man was William Duncan, subsequently
" The Apostle of Alaska."
During the turmoil of the day, and in the discharge of
his daily duties, his resolution grew stronger.
The day's work over, he sought the companionship of
one of his best friends, Stephen Hewson, a young chemist, THE CALL OF THE LOED 17
and, while taking a stroll together, he confided to his chum
the resolve he had made. His enthusiasm for the cause
must have been contagious, for his friend, after listening
to him, exclaimed:
\i If you become a missionary, I will go with you!"
Any one who knows what human sympathy means, in
the most trying moments of life, can appreciate what this
promise meant to young Duncan, and how it would naturally strengthen and clarify him in his purpose, and
give him assurance of success.
But we can also easily imagine what shock he must
have experienced when he, within a day or two, learned
that his friend, moved thereto by the pleadings of a loving mother, withdrew his promise, so rashly made.
Young Duncan also had a loving mother. Undoubtedly, she also pleaded with him not to go away from her,
not to expose himself to dangers and perils, by land and
by sea. No doubt she was very persistent in her pleadings, unless, perchance, she knew from experience that
her son was so constituted that when he saw his duty he
did it, without regard to consequences, and therefore did
not strenuously pursue what she well knew would be a
useless appeal.
In any event, pleadings of mother and sisters and relatives could not make him recant the resolution of that
solemn moment in which he had dedicated his life to the
Master's service in heathen lands.
[Neither did the fact, that the young resolution of fellowship on the part of his childhood friend had withered
by the wayside, for one moment lure him from the path
he had staked out for himself.
Like his prototype of old, the great " Apostle to the
Gentiles," he could truthfully say, at this crucial period of
his life, as at all other trying and perilous moments which
were to follow in coming years:   "This one thing I do," 18
Undaunted by the desertion of his beloved friend, he
sought the counsel of his pastor, the Bev. A. T. Carr.
When he told him of the purpose he had formed he
was surprised to hear, falling from his lips, these words :
" It is strange, William, but do you know that evening,
during the service, I prayed the Lord to put into your
heart the desire to devote your life to this very work. I
feel that this call is from the Lord, and that you would
do wrong not to listen to it. His holy name be praised
who has heard my prayer!"
Another pillar of strength was raised up to our young
man, in place of the friend who had failed him.
It was agreed that the pastor should at once communicate with the Church Missionary Society on the subject,
and offer young Duncan's services.   This was done.
In due time, a favourable answer came, with the request that Duncan himself should address to the Society
a communication giving his life history, the circumstances
of his call, andean account of | the faith in him." II
THIS is the proper place to give what account I
can of young Duncan's history prior to the
memorable night mentioned in the preceding
That this account is so very scant is due to the innate
and extraordinary modesty of Mr. Duncan, and his excessive tendency to shrink from any and all publicity in
anything concerning his own personality.
His answer to all requests for something of his personal
history is invariably this : P I do not believe in putting
my personality to the front. The work is what counts.
If I, by the grace of God, have been allowed to accomplish
anything for His glory, mention the work, if you must,
but leave my personality out. * I will be glorified, saith
tiie Lord.7 I have only been an unworthy tool in His
hand. If an artisan has done a fine piece of work, you
would praise him and the cunning of his handicraft. No
one would think of extolling the tool in his hand. The
place for the tool is on the floor, or, at best, on the bench.
There I prefer to remain. It is the Gospel which has
done the work. As for me, I have done nothing. I am
only the tool in the Master's hand. Let us forget the
All the most ingenious arguments of the lawyer and of
the interviewer simply fell to the ground, blunted by the
adamant will of the great man.   This is my excuse for
19 20
not giving a fuller account of this remarkable man's early
William Duncan was born at Beverley, a city of about
12,000 inhabitants, in Yorkshire, England, some time
during the month of April in the year 1832. Even the
exact date of his birth is known only to himself, and he
will not give it.
It is known that his mother lived to an advanced age,
and died in the year 1898. She is buried at Beverley.
The Indians have told me that, some years ago, he used
to show them a plaid which he told them his sister had
embroidered. A remark that once escaped him of spending some part of his early childhood in the home of his
grandmother, leads me to believe that his father died
when he was very young. But who or what he was, or
what the circumstances and the religious conditions of
his parents were, I have been unable to learn.
I take it, however, that his admission that he had
never, as a boy, taken God's name in vain, that he never
thought even of entering a public house, as saloons are
called in England, that he never, until he came of age,
had tasted any intoxicating liquor, and his conduct as a
chorister, as I hereinafter shall relate, all point to the
fact that he must have been brought up in a Christian
home, and perhaps under the watchful care of a devoted
and praying mother, a possible situation which would,
partially at least, explain the wonderful work which he,
by the grace of God, has been allowed to perform, a work
which I do not hesitate to say has not been equalled on
any missionary field in the history of the world, by any
one man.
An incident in his life, happening when he was only
seven years old, characterizes the man he afterwards was :
One day he found a penny in his clothes which he
could not account for,   He did not remember that any
one had given it to him. He knew he had not stolen it—
how did it come there %
There came into his mind stories he had heard of people
selling themselves to the devil. At once the thought occurred to him : u Perhaps the devil had put it there;
perhaps he wanted to buy him." No quicker had this
idea come to him than he hurled the penny as far away
from him, into the tall grass, as his tiny hand could
send it.
" The devil should have no claims on him 1"
When he was nine years old, the organist of the great
cathedral in the city, the Beverley Minster, sent for him
to test his voice. Word had come to him that young
Duncan was a natural born singer, with a remarkable
The test was an encouraging and approving one. The
great musician patted him on the shoulder, and told him
to appear at the next rehearsal of the vested choir of the
Minster, and from that week till his voice, at the age of
sixteen, failed him, young Duncan was not only a diligent
attendant at all hours for practice and rehearsal, as well
as at every service in the cathedral, but he was soon given
the privilege of singing the solo parts of the boy soprano,
and sang them with such feeling and such artistic skill
that, according to a publication in the French language,
which I have had the opportunity to examine, people
came from long distances to hear his wonderful voice at
the divine services in Beverley Minster.
Of this he was not at all aware. In fact, so ignorant
was he of the unusual charms of his voice, and so strongly
did he look upon the religious side of his work, that he
frequently used to get another choir boy with him on
Saturday afternoons into the outskirts of the town where
they would kneel down and join in a prayer to God to
help them to sing their parts well the coming Sunday so 22
that they could be a help in edifying the congregation,
and that He might accept their part in that service
and worship, and help them to render it in the right
The only education received by the young man in his
childhood, outside of the usual course in the common
school, was one year's instruction, mainly in penmanship,
in a private institution.
He became an adept as a penman, and to this accomplishment he perhaps owed his employment in the office
of the house of George Cussons & Son, the owners of a
large tannery, and wholesale dealers in hides, leathers,
and findings, when he was only fifteen years of age.
His first occupation consisted in making out bills and
invoices, and copying letters, but Mr. Cussons, the
younger, was not slow to discover his latent abilities.
He taught him bookkeeping. Soon he was entrusted
with the books and cash of the house, and before he was
eighteen he was engaged as the commercial traveller of
the firm in seven or eight of the neighbouring counties.
He, from the start, made up his mind to take his religion with him into his business.
He learned the wants of his customers, and made them
known to his employers, whom he informed that he considered himself the agent of every buyer who could not
personally come to the warehouse of the wholesale house.
If his employers could not comply with the wishes of the
buyer, he simply cancelled the order, and told his employers that this would be his policy all through, and
that if it did not meet with their approval, he would at
once quit their service. They soon ascertained that it
was money in their pocket to let the young, erratic salesman have his own way.
Before he had been on the road two years, his quarterly
trips meant that the stock was completely sold out, and 1
the warehouses cleaned out, even to the last piece of
But then he was strictly attending to business. No
time was wasted, and no penny of expense either. He
was conscientiously aware of the fact that his time belonged to his employers, and the only privilege he asked
was to return to Beverley every week in time to allow
him to attend the Bible class in St. John's Church, taught
by the Rev. Mr. Carr himself, a thoroughly earnest and
evangelical preacher, to whose church young Duncan had
attached himself as soon as his relations to the vested
choir of the minster had ceased.
The loss of his voice had made singing out of the question with him for a time, but his music-loving soul
craved an outlet, and it soon found it in assiduous practice on a concertina or accordion, which he still has, and
which he one day, with considerable show of affection, exhibited to me. It seemed to grieve him much to ascertain,
on trying the old instrument, that two of the stops would
not work at all.
I, at the same time, saw the flute and piccolo which he
had played in the days of his youth, but which long
since had been laid aside for sterner and more practical
An incident of young Duncan's experience during his
second year as a commercial traveller must be mentioned:
On his entering the commercial room in the hotel at
Worksop, the head waiter said :
" I suppose you have heard the sad news that our landlord has committed suicide since you were with us last ? "
"No, I have not," said Mr. Duncan. "That is too
bad. How could the poor man do such a dreadful thing f
It is a pity to think that a man could commit such a
grievous sin as that."
An aged commercial traveller in the room, a well- 24
known agnostic, but then unknown to Mr. Duncan, put
in a word:
" The only one I think to be pitied is his poor wife.
She will have a hard row to hoe now. As for him,—if
he did not like it here, why should he not shuffle off this
mortal coil £   Better end it at once than to live in misery.''
"But think of his condition in the life to come. To
meet his Creator in that way !"
" Bah! there is no life to come, nor any Creator, for all
that.   It is all bosh !" grumbled the old traveller.
" Are you going to be here to-night, sir ?" asked Duncan. " If so, I would like to meet you and talk over this
matter after I am through with my mail."
" Certainly I will be here, and will be glad to discuss
the matter with you, young man."
After he had seen his customers, and made his report
to the house, young Duncan looked up his antagonist,
and found him at the fireplace in the commercial room.
And now commenced a battle of giants.
The old agnostic, for a while, found the young man's
enthusiasm a worthy fence to the blows of his agnostic
broadsword; but Duncan soon discovered that the old
infidel, with his arguments from Paine and Voltaire thoroughly mastered, was getting the best of the discussion
with a young novice who had not as yet sufficiently
studied the " apologies" of the Christian religion.
Finding himself unable to withstand the old infidel's
attacks with counter argument, he changed his tactics.
Leaping to his feet he rushed up to his adversary, looking him squarely in the eye.
" Sir !" he said, "you are twice my age. You could
easily be my father. I think you are a gentleman, and
I will ask you on your honour as a gentleman to answer
me truly and honestly from your heart the question I am
going to put to you.   Much may depend upon your an- THE BOY THE FATHER OF THE MAN 25
swer, as far as my future is concerned. Will you answer
me truly and honestly I "
And his large blue, honest eyes looked anxiously into
those of the other man.
" Certainly I will, young man. What do you want to
" The question I want to ask you is this: Here I am, a
young man. I have, from my childhood, tenderly embraced the Christian religion. I have grown up in the
Christian faith, have tried to live, as near as I could, a
Christian life, and have so far enjoyed it. I am happy
in my Christian faith. Now, sir, the question I want to
ask you, and I appeal to your honour to answer it honestly and truly : Would you advise me to give up this
religion, this faith, this happiness, and come over to
where you stand, without God, without faith, without
hope t "
The old infidel looked as ill at ease as if he had received a blow squarely in the face. His eyes sought to
escape, now one way, now another, from the pleading,
searching glances of the young man; but finally, as in an
effort to shake off something disagreeable, he looked his
young antagonist squarely in the face, and said, while
the perspiration beaded his forehead :
" No, young man! When you put it that way, I cannot, I will not advise you to drop your religion and faith.
Keep them and be happy."
"But what, then, do all your arguments of a little
while ago amount to ? Don't you see that you are standing on a rotten bridge? You are afraid to ask me to
come out and stand by your side, for fear the rotten thing
will not hold us both, but will break down. I, on the
other hand, stand on a good and solid bridge. I can ask
you and the whole world to come out and stand at my
side without fear that the bridge I stand on will give  Ill
IT was understood between young Duncan and his
pastor, the Rev. Mr. Carr, that he should himself,
on his next trip across the country, compose his life
story and confession of faith, to be sent to the Society.
This he did conscientiously and scrupulously.
On his return, he called on his pastor, and submitted
to him a rough draft of the communication, which met
with the full approval of his counsellor.
On his next trip, a fair copy was to be made out and
by the pastor forwarded to the proper authorities.
Duncan did his part, and returned to Beverley late at
night on the tenth of February, 1854, with the communication written out and signed. The next evening he
would take it over to his pastor, and his future would be
But God willed it otherwise.
As he in the morning came up the street leading to
the office of George Cussons & Son, a man behind him
"What are you in such a hurry for, Mr. Duncan?
Have you heard that your pastor is dead ? "
"No!   Not Mr. Carr?"
" Yes.   Mr. Carr died suddenly last night."
It was only too true, and proved a terrible blow to
young Duncan. Mr. Carr was his valued friend, and the
only one to whom he could look for counsel and help.
When he came home that night he placed the letter,
enclosed in the envelope, already addressed to "The
Church Missionary Society, Salisbury Square, Fleet
Street, London," in his desk.
He felt then that this blow ended all his ambition to
become a missionary, and probably looked at it in the
light of a divine interposition.
But herein he was mistaken.
A couple of months later, his uncle, who resided in
London, wrote him that he had suddenly been called to
the continent for a prolonged stay, and requested him to
come up to the city at once to take charge of his rooms,
papers, and other belongings.
When getting ready for this trip, Duncan, perhaps
without any particularly definite intention, put the letter
to the Church Missionary Society in his pocket.
After completing the business on which he came to
London, the idea struck him that he might as well look
up the Society, as long as he was there anyhow.
He soon found Fleet Street, and looked around. Just
as he expected, over there was Salisbury Square. And,
yes, there on a prominent brass plate he discovered, in
plain letters: " Church Missionary Society."
" Let me go up and look at them," was his mental reflection. " Nothing lost, I am sure. They certainly
can't eat me."
With these words, he evidently tried to persuade himself that the call of the Lord was not upon him as strong
as ever.
But it was.
At the door a liveried servant inquired as to his wants.
"IsMr. Chapman in?"
"Yes, sir."
" Please take in my card, and ask if I may see him."
In a few moments the servant returned.
"Mr. Chapman wishes to see you, sir. This way, if
you please."
..... r-rr-fT-rrT "THY SERVANT HEARETH"
Ushered into the secretary's room, he was met by a
"Ah, Mr. Duncan, glad to see you, sir. I had expected to hear from you ere this."
"So I intended, sir, but Mr. Carr died, you know."
" Yes, poor Brother Carr has gone home. It was so sad.
But he is happier now. We wrote him about you, and
expected an answer from you shortly, but received none."
" I know it, sir. I wrote an answer. But as I did not
have an opportunity to show the fair copy to my pastor
for his approval I thought I would not send it."
"That was too bad—too bad."
"Oh, nothing is lost, sir. I have it with me. You
may read it if you wish."
He read it, and was much pleased with its contents,
and sent him to the principal, Dr. Ryan, for examination
and questioning, and before young Duncan returned to
Beverley he was assured that he would soon hear from the
Within a week he was informed by the committee that
he would be accepted at Highbury College for his future
training, whenever he was ready to report.
On his return, one of his employers told him that there
was a rumour in town that two of its young men were
going out as missionaries, and asked him if he had heard
about it.
"Yes," said Mr. Duncan, " and I want to tell you, that
I am one of those young men."
His employers tried to persuade him not to leave a
work for which he had shown such great ability and aptness.
Knowing Duncan, as they did, they might readily have
realized that when his mind was made up as to what
he ought to do, no arguments or inducements could
change it. 30
As a matter of fairness, he agreed to postpone his departure for six months, so as to give them a chance to
train another man for his post, and with this concession
they had to be satisfied.
One evening, a few weeks later, a gentleman who some
years before had filled Mr. Duncan's position with the
firm, but who was now in the employ of a much larger concern, came to his rooms and said that he had heard that
Mr. Duncan was going to leave his present employers, and
offered him what was deemed an extravagant salary if he
would enter the employ of his firm. He even held out to
him the prospect of being admitted as a partner in three
or four years.
What his offer of salary was, I do not know for certain,
but I have been informed, by others than Mr. Duncan,
that to refuse this offer involved a sacrifice of something
like $5,000 per annum.
"I thank you for your liberal offer, sir ; but I cannot
accept it, as I have made up my mind to become a missionary," said Mr. Duncan.
" A missionary!   And at what salary may I ask ? "
" I don't know. Perhaps a hundred or a hundred and
fifty pounds per year."
"Ha, ha," said the other man. "To throw yourself
away like that. You, who have one of the keenest business minds in England. Don't you see you are making a
fool of yourself?"
"Fool or no fool, my mind is made up, and nothing
can change it."
When the six months were up, Mr. Duncan bade farewell to his friends and business associates, and buried
himself for over two years in Highbury College, where,
under the tutelage of Dr. Alford and a select faculty, he
was thoroughly prepared for his life-work.
So satisfied were his preceptors with the progress he "THY SERVANT HEARETH"
made in his studies that, after the lapse of two years, it
was mooted that he might, after another year's study, be
sent as instructor to a higher educational institution then
maintained by the Society in India.
But this was not to be. IV
GREAT BRITAIN has always been fortunate in
counting among its military and naval officers
many men who have not been ashamed to recognize Christ as their loving Master, or to speak a word for
Him whenever opportunity offered.
The Gordons, the Havelocks, and the Hedley Vicars
are not by any means solitary examples of Christian
soldiery, either in the British army or in its navy.
Captain J. C. Prevost, a commander in the British
navy, was a sincere Christian gentleman, anxious to do
his share to make others partakers of the glorious joy
with which a living faith had filled his own heart.
Called home to England in the spring of 1856, after a
four years' cruise on H. M. S. Virago, policing the
waters of British Columbia, extending for a distance of
nearly 600 miles from Puget Sound to Dixon Entrance,
the southern boundary line of what is now American
Alaska, but which was then the Alaska of the Russians,
a task which had given him a splendid opportunity to
observe the savage but physically splendid type of Indians that populated this long coast line and the thousand
beautiful islands skirting it, the commander had become
firmly convinced that if the loving evangel of the Saviour
of mankind could be preached to these heathen it would
be likely to bring far better results as to ending the cruel
warfare carried on among the tribes themselves, as well
as between them and the white men, whose trend also on
this coast was westward, than to send there a whole fleet
of war-ships.
His heart was full of sympathy for the red men of the
Northwest coast, to whose villages no Protestant missionary had, so far, found his way, though the white people,
ever since the discovery and survey of the coast by Captain
Vancouver, in 1792, had maintained most profitable trade
relatione with them.
The curse of civilization, in the form of rum, debauchery, and loathsome disease, had readily penetrated
to the farthest villages, while the peace-bringing message
of the White Christ had, during all these years, been
withheld from them.
Captain Prevost pressed upon the Church Missionary
Society the necessity of taking up this new mission field,
and called their attention to the fact that Fort Simpson, a
fortified trading station of the Hudson's Bay Company
directly south of the Russian boundary line, and which
he had visited with his ship just about the time of the
memorable missionary meeting in Beverley, herein described, would furnish a well-nigh perfect " naval base "
for a new mission, both because around it were located the
numerous villages of the most intelligent tribe of the
natives on the coast, the Tsimsheans, and because they,
being the traders of the region, in their turn were the
intermediaries between the Whites and the other Indians,
as well as between the Indians of the coast and those of
the Interior.
The officers of the Society were strongly impressed
with the appeals of the Christian naval officer, but regretfully had to inform him that it was impossible for
them to open any new field of missionary labour, because
of the total lack of funds for such purpose.
They offered him, however, the privilege of the
columns of their organ, The Christian Missionary Intelli- 34
geneer, for an appeal to the public for funds for the new
mission, which he had urged should be commenced
among the Northwest coast Indians.
It goes without saying that Captain Prevost gratefully
accepted this offer, and an eloquent article from his pen,
describing the Indians, their savage state, their intellectual possibilities and physical excellencies, and holding
up to the readers the reproach to the nation of having,
for more than seventy years, withheld from these tribes
the blessings of the Gospel, while showering over them
the curses of civilization, appeared in the July number,
1856, of the Society's publication.
This appeal was not made in vain. A month later, the
Society could give the gratifying information that, in
response to the captain's pleading, two anonymous friends
had contributed $2,500 for the proposed mission among
the Northwest coast Indians.
One hindrance thus was removed. But another remained. The Society did not have the proper missionary
to send.
Again and again the subject was canvassed at the
meetings of the committee. They could not find the
Then came another visit of Captain Prevost. He
called to inform them that he had been reappointed to his
old station on the Pacific Coast, and would sail in a fortnight, and, what was more important still, that he had
obtained the permission of the Admiralty to carry in his
ship on its trip around the world to Victoria any missionary whom the Society might conclude to send to the Indians on the Northwest coast.
Again the committee was called together. Where
could they find the proper man ? This mission required
a man of undaunted courage, of well-nigh indomitable
determination and will-power, of unlimited faith in God, A NEW MISSION FIELD
and of good, sound judgment, as the entire management
of the mission would practically devolve upon him alone,
without the aid of the counsel and direction of the Society
or its committee.
Again and again did they scan the lists of available
candidates; only to arrive at the same disheartening conclusion.
Then some one modestly whispered the name of Duncan*
'I Duncan! Duncan! He is the man,'' they all agreed.
"But—will he go?"
On Wednesday evening Dr. Alford sat in his study in
Highbury College.
Young Duncan had been sent for. He soon approached
the president of the college, who contemplated him with
loving eyes.
"Duncan!" said he, pointing, on a map hanging on
the wall, to a point away up near the northwestern extremity of the American continent, "the Society contemplates opening a mission at this point, among one of
the most savage tribes of the Indians of the Northwest
coast, but as any missionary sent there will have to take
his life in his hands, and perhaps will never return, it
does not feel like taking the responsibility of sending any
one there unless he would practically volunteer his services.   Your^name has been suggested.   Will you go ? "
"I will go wherever I am sent, sir," was the instant
" But the missionary who goes must sail by next Tuesday. Do you think you could get ready on such short
"I can go in an hour, if it is necessary, sir."
Dr. Alford had not been mistaken in his man.
The answer showed the stern stuff of which the intended
missionary was made.
" God bless you !   Duncan," he said, much affected, " I 36
honestly believe that you will go and return again hale
and hearty, in spite of all dangers."
"Whether I will ever return, sir, will be the Lord's
business. Going is mine. I am ready to do my part,
and I am sure we can trust the good Lord to do His."
On Friday afternoon, Duncan took his leave of the college, with the commission of the Society for the Fort
Simpson mission in his pocket.
There were perhaps some misgivings, because he was
prevented from finishing his course of study and had thus
to be sent away without graduating ; but the committee
felt that in this case " necessity knew no law," and so far
departed from the rules.
The same evening saw Duncan at the store of the outfitters, where he gave his order for a complete outfit, including even a shovel, an axe, a saw, a rake and a hoe,
besides numerous tools for carpentering and blacksmith-
Sunday was spent in Beverley bidding farewell to the
relatives and friends of a young lifetime.
On Monday morning he sped away on the express train
to London, where he was to receive his final instructions
at the Society's office before departing for Plymouth.
In the London streets he was caught in one of the inevitable jams which sometimes suspend all traffic for
hours and hours. But, undaunted, he sprang from his
cab, portmanteau in hand, wormed his way through the
crowded streets on foot, and succeeded in reaching Salisbury Square just as the secretary was about to leave his
Then off he hied to Paddington station, where he found
the van of the outfitters with his twenty-eight pieces of
luggage, large and small, and also his best friend among
the students at the college, a Mr. Trott, who had come to
say the last good-bye. 1
A few moments before seven o'clock a cab rolled up,
and, to Duncan's surprise, out stepped Dr. Alford, who
had concluded to go with him to Plymouth, in order to
see him safely on board.
Tickets purchased, the two were soon on their way to
Tuesday morning, before seven, the train pulled into
Plymouth station. The travellers disembarked and went
to the harbour. There, in the roadstead, impatiently
tugging at her anchor, with steam up, ready to speed
away from old England on her six months' cruise, lay
H. M. S. Satellite, a spick-and-span new corvette, with
twenty-one heavy Armstrong guns.
Aboard went Dr. Alford and Mr. Duncan, and his
twenty-eight pieces of luggage, to stow away which gave
the executive officer of the ship more trouble than anything else just then.
Dr. Alford remained on board all forenoon, as he desired
to say to Captain Prevost a last word in behalf of his
young friend, but finally had to depart, as the captain
tarried longer than expected.
At 2 p. m. on December 23, 1856, Captain Prevost
boarded his vessel, and, half an hour later, the ship was
under way, and steamed out of the harbour.
The young missionary stood alone, by himself, on its
deck, but, strange to say, when old England's coast
slowly receded in the fog-banks caressing it he did
not, for even one moment, look back on what he left
Untrammelled by any ties of kinship and friendship,
fancy-free and heart-whole, his dancing, courageous, blue
eyes looked forward, where the prow of the ship was
ploughing the waves, into the future, fraught with danger,
into the holy sacrifice of all comforts of home and home
life, into the awful solitude and the absence of all human  V
IT had been the understanding of the committee that
the young missionary should be given the privilege
of the captain's cabin on the voyage.
It was perhaps with this in view that he was warned
not to let the luxuries and comforts of the voyage weaken
him for the many hardships that perhaps would be his,
when he reached the end of his journey.
But, as it was, the committee need have borrowed no
trouble on this account.
When the captain came aboard, Duncan was, for the
first time, informed, that inasmuch as a prominent divine
and his family were to be passengers as far as the Island
of Madeira, he would, until their departure from the ship,
have to put up with quarters between decks, and be
transferred to the engineer's mess for his fare.
The quarters for sleeping were not over-sumptuous.
A hammock slung on the middle deck, so high that when
the young missionary the first night started to retire, unused as he was to accommodations of that sort, he went
on his head right over his bed, with a rather more hurried
than dignified movement.
He soon learned, however, the trick required to land
in his hammock, instead of on the floor, and had no fault
to find with his quarters.
Not so, however, with the engineer's mess, where he
39 40
was to take his meals. The second engineer was an uncouth, rowdyish fellow, and could not speak ten words in
sequence without ripping out an oath, or other sacrilegious expression.
Duncan bore it as long as he could. But at last he reported the matter to the captain, who, after he had investigated the complaint, found it true, and again transferred the missionary, this time to the gunners' mess.
He soon found that he had almost fallen from the fry- j
ing-pan into the fire.
The chief gunner was glum and morose, ugly and cross,
so that to sit down to table with him would naturally
make any one feel as if he were attending his own
But, as long as he was not condemned to listen to blasphemy and sacrilege, Duncan felt he could stand it for a
The worst was, that the captain seemed to have entirely forgotten his promise.
The sick vicar and his family were landed at Madeira,
but no one thought of inviting Duncan to the captain's
Tiring of the gloomy company at table, he, at the first
landing of the ship in Rio Janeiro, purchased a sack of
Every morning thereafter, he filled a little pocket-flask
with water, put some rusks in his coat-pocket, and with
a book for a companion, retired to the privacy of a little
dingy, dangling in its davits over the stern of the vessel.
Here he spent his days, for his food munching the dry,
toasted rusks, and for liquid refreshment sipping the
water, until evening came, when he retired to his hammock on the middle deck.
At Valparaiso he replenished his supply of rusks, and
for three months, and over, he lived on bread and water, ABOARD THE MAN-OF-WAR 41
rather than submit to the indignities offered him at table
on Her Majesty's war-ship.
When the ship left Callao, to which place it had
brought a number of supernumeraries for Her Majesty's
squadron stationed near that point, the ship's doctor, a
kindly, Christian gentleman, and the only one aboard
who had paid any marked attention to the young missionary, on behalf of the officers, invited him to take his
meals at the officers' mess; but this he declined to do,
and it was only by the most persistent urging, that he
was, about a month before the ship reached Victoria,
induced to abandon his bread and water diet and eat at
the officers' table.
On learning of this change in the programme, even the
captain's memory seems to have been jogged, and he now
sent for Mr. Duncan, and invited him to come into his
cabin. But Duncan, who had learned to like his modest
surroundings, asked to be excused, using as a pretext,
that his clothes were stowed away somewhere where he
could not get at them, and that, under the circumstances,
he preferred to be where he was, and where he now felt
perfectly at home.
It follows of itself, that he could not, during all this
time, remain inactive in his Master's service.
Only a short time out of England, he organized a Bible
class among the blue jackets, and had the satisfaction of
seeing it gradually grow, both in numbers and in interest,
until, upon the landing in Victoria, it numbered not less
than twenty-five young tars.
It would naturally be supposed that young Duncan
would find a genial companion in the chaplain of the
ship. But not so. This worthy and dignified representative of the Church of England, if I am correctly informed, deemed it proper to pay no attention whatever to
the lowly lay missionary, who, without receiving "holy  VI
VICTORIA, now one of the most beautiful and interesting cities on the Pacific Coast, located on
a rock-strewn inlet near the Southeastern extremity of the magnificent Vancouver Island, which, for
a distance of nearly three hundred miles, skirts the west
coast of British Columbia, was, when Mr. Duncan first
landed there, an insignificant hamlet, with less than two
hundred inhabitants, but, nevertheless, possessed of some
importance, partly because it was practically the only
white settlement north of the Straits of Juan de Fuca,
but especially because here was located the headquarters
for the great Northwest Territory of the powerful Hudson's Bay Company.
At the fort in Victoria, Duncan was officially received
by the governor of the company, Sir James Douglas, one
of the truly great men of Western Canada.
In order to allow him to begin his work at Fort Simpson, it was necessary to secure the consent of this autocrat
of the coast. Without that, he would not even be accepted as a passenger on the company's steamer, then
the only means of communication between the Northland
and civilization.
This consent the governor was loath to give.
He insisted that the Society had done a positive wrong
in sending a missionary to the Indians without first consulting the company's officers, inasmuch as they were the
only ones who knew and appreciated the true condition
of things.
43 44
" If I should allow you to go to Fort Simpson, it would
be just the same as to send you to your certain death.
This company cannot undertake to be responsible for
your safety, under the circumstances, and does not want
to become a party to your murder. Why not remain
here ? We have thousands of Indians near Victoria who
need a missionary, and we will give you all the aid in our
power if you will direct your efforts towards their conversion and civilization."
" The trouble is, Mr. Governor, that I am sent to Fort
Simpson, and to Fort Simpson I must go. If I cannot go
there, I must return, unless you can secure from the Society a change in my orders, which I do not think you
can. And, to tell you the truth, I would not myself very
much favour any such action."
I But, young man, knowing the situation as I do, I feel
sure you will not last up there three months. It is all
your life is worth to go among those savage and bloodthirsty Indians. You will do no good. But you will
make us eternally regret it, if anything should happen to
you, which it most certainly will."
When Mr. Duncan insisted that he must, nevertheless,
go, and stated that all he desired was permission to stay
in the Fort until he had learned the language, after which
time he would go out and shift for himself without any
responsibility for his safety on the part of the company,
the governor finally yielded, with this remark:
" Well, young man, if you are to be killed and eaten,
I suppose you are the one most vitally interested, after
all, and we will have \ to take a back seat.' "
The governor, who could not fail to appreciate the
pluck, courage, and determination of the young missionary, from that moment became his staunch friend, and in
after years, on more than one occasion, gave valuable
proofs of his appreciation of Mr. Duncan's wonderful work. THE INSIDE PASSAGE
But Victoria was nearly six hundred miles from Fort
Simpson, and the steamer, which went north only twice
a year, in the spring and autumn, had but a short time
before started for the Northland.
There was, therefore, nothing for Mr. Duncan to do
but to remain in Victoria for the next three or four
This time he spent, by invitation, at the rectory of
Christ's Church, with the Rev. Edward Cridge, who, some
years before, had come out from England as chaplain to
the Fort, accompanied by his young and amiable wife.
Young Duncan, during this enforced vacation, became
the leader and instructor of the young ladies' choir of the
church, and also conducted services for Mr. Cridge every
Sunday afternoon in a small settlement some miles from
the village.
He immediately proceeded to make himself familiar
with the Chinook language, a trading jargon invented by
one of the company's agents to enable, to some limited
extent, interchange of ideas with the different Indians of
the coast, who all spoke different tongues.
Later on, he managed to find a Tsimshean Indian, who
came to him an hour every day, and from him he began
to acquire some knowledge of the language of the tribes
among whom he was to work. But in a few weeks this
Indian was off for his home, and the lessons were interrupted. He arrived at Fort Simpson a month or two before Duncan, and told the Indians about his intended
coming, assuring them that they would like him, as he
was their friend, and in this way, to some extent, prepared the way for Duncan, though he himself never lived
to see the wonderful change which was to come over his
people, as he died within a month after the arrival of Mr.
Duncan at the Fort, from a gun-shot wound received during a drunken brawl. 46
The enforced delay was anything but pleasing to Mr.
Duncan, but even that proved to be of great benefit to him
in the future.
While in Victoria, his inviting and frank manner and
his earnest Christian zeal gained him the brotherly love
and warm friendship of Rector (later Bishop) Cridge, and
also the esteem of the Hon. W. J. MacDonald, who, some
years later, was appointed life-senator of the Dominion
Senate at Ottawa from the new province of British
The friendship of these two men, in his coming hour of
trial and tribulation, proved to him the greatest boon
which he possibly could have obtained.
God only knows where he would have been to-day, and
what would have become of the permanent fruits of his
life-work, had it not been for the support and strength
which these God-fearing men, standing high in the councils of the province and the nation, so unstintedly gave
to him in his hour of sorest need.
Finally, the hour of release came.
On the 25th day of September, 1857, he bade his many
new-found friends in Victoria a cordial farewell, as he
was about to speed northward and westward on the company's steamer, The Otter,
And now there was in store for him a wonderful
For five days he sailed through inlets and fjords, passages, reaches and channels, the one more beautiful and
wonderful than the other, where the shifting scenery, in
its solitary grandeur, enchanted the eye and charmed the
soul, from earliest morn to latest dusk.
The first day out it looked as though the steamer was
running right ashore. Suddenly, just as the prow almost
touched the rocks, an inlet opened to the right, the helm
was swung hard starboard, and the vessel slipped in as m
between the hugging banks of a river. Then, with just
as sudden a turn to port, through the swirls and tide-ripples of Active Pass out into the Gulf of Georgia, where
in the wide sapphire-blue expanse between the snow-clad
mountain peaks of Vancouver Island and the distant Selkirk Range on the mainland, he could occupy his time
all day long by watching the antics of playing and spouting whales.
Now the ship enters Discovery Passage, narrow, dangerous, though interesting, especially so near its centre,
the renowned Seymour Narrows, or "Yaculta," as the
natives call them—(the home of the evil spirits)—where
the tide races through at a speed varying from eight to
twelve knots an hour. Many a ship has here been caught
in the swirling currents, and hurled against the knife-
edged reef in the centre of the channel, only to sink, with
all on board, into the depths of over one hundred fathoms
close by.
No ship at that time dared pass through these dreaded
narrows, the maelstrom of the northwest coast, except on
a slack tide, and in full daylight; and even, to the present
day, the largest steamers dread the Seymour Narrows, and
tremble in the embrace of the giant current and tide-ripples as if they were alive and throbbing with fear.
At Cape Mudge the young missionary saw the first totem-pole, the strange carved monument peculiar to the
North-coast Indians.
But some distance farther on a more horrible sight
awaited him. As the steamer approached Fort Rupert,
at the northeast end of Vancouver Island, dismembered
and disembowelled human bodies were seen strewn all
over the beach of a near-by island.
A few days before, a Haida canoe had come to trade
with the Fort Rupert Indians. Some slight breach of etiquette on the part of the visitors brought on their de^ 48
voted heads the rage of the local Indians. They said
nothing at the time, save to nurse their wrath. But
when the time for departure came a large party had preceded the Haidas, laid in wait for them at an island near
the Fort, where they knew they would camp for the night,
and killed every one in the party except two young men,
one of them the son of a Haida chief, who were made
slaves. And there the dead bodies, mangled and mutilated, were allowed to lie scattered over the beaches of the
passage as a proof of the prowess of the slayers.
This was not a very encouraging sight to meet the eye
of the young missionary—enough, perhaps, to make many
a weak-hearted man turn back in fear and disgust. But
not so our young man. " This one thing I do," his eyes
It is well that we are soon in Queen Charlotte Sound,
where the swell of the great North Pacific, and the
storms of this misnamed ocean, can brush from our disgusted brows the memories of cruel bloodshed, as the
steamer, for a distance of thirty miles, is passing in the
open, with no protection from the mountainous isles of
the Columbian Archipelago.
But before long the ship steers by a mountain crag,
nearly four thousand feet in height, into what looks like
a mighty, smooth river, running between mountain banks,
the Fitzhugh Sound. Then it turns to the west through
the beautifully wooded way, called Lama Passage; then
through the narrow confines of Plumper Channel; and,
after a few miles' sail in the open again, the way goes by
the quaint-looking China Hat, past its Indian village and
phantom-like graveyard, through Finlayson's Channel.
Then we pass into Tolmie Channel, where the throbbing
of the engines echoes back from the near-by mountain
cliffs, and into the Hiehish Narrows, where the pines on
the   slope seem to elongate themselves  down in  the THE INSIDE PASSAGE
mirror-like waters, and where the wash of the waves from
the steamer against the shores, not farther away on either
side than one could toss a biscuit, awakens the slumbering eagles, who have rested on the topmost branches of
the highest trees, and now soar in daring flight towards
the azure heavens above.
Then the reaches, Fraser, Graham, and McKay, one
more beautiful and enchanting than the other. The steep,
forest-clad mountain ranges, hardly a quarter of a mile
apart, the deep, still waterways, the snow-clad crags, the
tracks of snow slides and of rock slides, the hanging valleys, and the noisy waterfalls, sometimes dancing down
from the very highest peaks for thousands of feet in one
uninterrupted leap, in their turn each appeal to the eye.
And then there is the wonderful Grenville Channel,
perhaps the most magnificent of them all, where, for nearly
fifty miles, one course is held without change, and the ship
glides almost noiselessly through the glassy sea, and past
a panoramic splendour which finds adequate expression
only in the use of the most extravagant superlatives.
Such is the wonderful inside passage of the Northwest
coast, where the largest ships of the world can safely pass,
and the grandest scenery on the globe throws open at
every turn its shifting vistas to the wondering and admiring gaze of all who have been fortunate enough to obtain an admission ticket to this God's own show-place,
where man has done nothing and nature everything,
where nature's God speaks to the heart in the strange
beauty of the great solitude, the " Nirwana" of the wonderful Northland.
We do not wonder that sailing through this magnificent and majestic scenery our young missionary read the
wonderful handwriting of the Master of "sea and sky
and land."
It was in the black darkness of a northern winter night.  VII
THE Hudson's Bay Company's Fort at Port Simpson was built in 1834, near the beach of a sheltered bay, east of Dixon's Entrance, not far
from the boundary line of what was then Russian Alaska,
but which, in 1867, was to become American Alaska.
The illustration, on an adjoining page, is from a photograph taken by a Metlakahtla native, Benjamin A. Hal-
dane, of an oil-painting by Gordon Lockerby, painted
from water-colour sketches taken of the Fort and its surroundings in 1863, and it, in Mr. Duncan's opinion, gives
a fairly good idea of the Fort, its location and surroundings, as they looked when he, on the morning after his
arrival, had an opportunity to first observe them.
The walls of the Fort consisted of palisades, thirty-two
feet high, built of trunks of trees over two feet in diameter driven into the ground, and solidly rivetted together. The double gate was iron-bound and bolted, and
in it was a smaller gate, similarly protected, at which a
sentinel or doorkeeper was stationed night and day, and
through which, under the rules of the company, not more
than two Indians at any one time were admitted, so great
was the fear of the inmates of the Fort of the savagery of
the natives.
At the four corners of the palisades, which enclosed a
space two hundred and forty feet square, were built bastions, two of which were provided with cannon, able to
sweep the surrounding country in all directions.
Inside of the palisades, about four feet below the top of
51 52
the wall, was a gallery, running all around the Fort, so
as to enable an armed guard to march back and forth,
and command a free view of the surrounding country on
all sides of the structure, night and day.
Within the Fort were located the company's store and
its immense warehouse, where thousands of valuable furs,
obtained by barter from the Indians at ridiculously low
prices, were kept, the captain's residence, where the
mess-room for the officers was located, a smaller building
for the second officer and visitors, where Mr. Duncan,
soon after his arrival, was installed in two small rooms.
There were also a carpenter shop, a blacksmith's shop,
and a large building, containing five rooms, for the garrison of the Fort, which, besides the three officers, consisted of twenty workmen, mostly French Canadians.
These men were paid the munificent (!) salary of twenty-
five cents per day and rations. They were all married to,
or at least living with, Indian women, and four of the
families were stowed away in one room, each family living in one corner, and doing its cooking at the common
fireplace in the centre of the room.
The walls of the Fort have now, and for many years
past, been razed, and the only remnants of the old Fort
now standing are the captain's residence and the company's storehouse. The latter has now been converted
into the new company store, and the front of the building
modernized, but the side wall of the storehouse still
remains in the identical condition in which it was when
Mr. Duncan first saw it.
When the Fort was first built there was no Indian vil*
lage close by.
The Tsimshean Indians, or at least the tribes which
later on took up their abode around the Fort, were then
located at Metlakahtla, some seventeen miles southeast
from the Fort. o
The word "Tsimshean" means "in the Skeena," by
which is meant to express: "the people living along or
on the banks of the Skeena River," and this name correctly records an historical fact, for these tribes, many
generations ago, had lived at different points along the
banks of the Skeena River. The name of each tribe, as
hereafter detailed, gives to those acquainted with the
topography of the country, and the language, the exact
original location of all of them.
When the Fort had been located at Port Simpson, the
Indian tribes, who had lived at Metlakahtla, were induced to take down their houses and rebuild them in the
immediate vicinity of the Fort, and when Duncan arrived,
there were, located around the Fort, nine tribes with a
population of 2,300, living in 140 houses.
To the left of the Fort is shown the village of the
Kitlootsahs (the people living inside). To the right is a
portion of the village of the Kishpokaloats (the people of
the land of the elderberries). The high pole, in front
of the last house to the right, is the totem-pole of Legaic,
the principal chief of this tribe, and, in fact, the head
chief of the Tsimsheans.
Immediately beyond the confines of this village was
situated a large peninsula (at high tide an island), on the
shores of which were located the other villages, one following in order after the other, all around the island :
the Kitnakangeaks (the people who live where there are
lots of mosquitoes); the Kitandoahs (the people of the
land of the poles) ; the Kitsahclahs (the people of the
canyon); the Kitlahns (the people of the island) ; the
Kitnatowiks (the people of the rapids; literally, where
the water runs swiftly) ; the Kitseesh (the people of the
land of the hair seal traps) ; and the Kitwilgeants (the
people of the last place down).
Besides these, there were five tribes of the Tsimsheans 54
living up the Nass River, some forty-five miles north of
the Fort, and three tribes had settled on the coast further
south. The only one of these tribes which will prove of
any interest to us, as this story proceeds, is the tribe of
the Kithrahtlas (the people of the salt water), which
lived along Brown's Passage, away out in the ocean.
The houses of thelndians were all one storey affairs, built
on poles or piles on the beach, fifteen or twenty feet above
high tide, one house almost contiguous to the next, ancj
none of them provided with windows.
Most of them were, however, of quite liberal dimensions, some of the chief's houses being fifty or fifty-five
by sixty-five feet. The framework consisted of heavy
logs, posts, and beams, two or three feet in diameter.
Upon the large beams rested the rafters of the roof,
which came to a peak, part of these rafters, for a distance
of five or six feet, extending out over the beams. At the
end of them was fastened a plank, against which the
walls, made of split cedar planks, rested. The roof was
made of big slabs of bark, which were held in position by
stones placed upon them.
There was only one room in each house. Around the
walls ran an elevated platform, used for storing away
eatables and treasure chests, as well as for sleeping purposes. In the centre was a large, deep, oblong space,
sometimes dug down into the earth. Here was the huge
fireplace, with its blazing logs, and, directly above it, an
opening in the roof, to allow the smoke to escape, and to
furnish whatever ventilation was needed. It goes without saying that, in a cold winter, there was plenty of it.
In fact, I have been told that a person sitting close up to
the fireplace was fairly toasted on one side, while the
other was white with frost.
In order to furnish a windbreak, planks were placed
on the roof, in proximity to this hole, and in such a way AT THE FORT
that they could be moved to correspond with the direction of the wind.
It was in this central portion of the house that the
family spent the day, when not engaged outside. Often
such a house would be the home of from thirty to forty
Each one of the tribes of these savages had its own
chiefs, usually four or five, one of whom was more prominent than the others. These chiefs came from the
" Skovalis," or "royal blood." No one could be a chief
unless he, on his mother's side, descended from the
"Skovalis" of the tribe.
In the case of the total extinction of the "Skovalis"
family, the wise men of the tribe would elect one of their
number to be the founder of another dynasty.
Then there were the " Ligakets" forming the aristocracy of the tribe, and from whom the head men, or counsellors of the chiefs^ usually from ten to twelve, came.
These men obtained their official rank and standing by
the liberal giving away of property, rather than by reason
of their birth.
Then we have the " Waheims," or the common people.
In addition to these castes or classes, there was also to
be found in each tribe a number of slaves (kligungits)
either prisoners of war, or obtained by barter and trade
from other tribes. The male slaves (hah) were doing the
hunting and fishing and all other hard work for the
chiefs and the aristocracy, and the females (wotek) were
performing all menial work required around the camp.
These slaves were treated very cruelly, and often killed,
at the bidding of their masters.
It has been stated that Legaic was the head chief of the
Tsimsheans at Fort Simpson. This does not indicate
that he ruled over any other tribe than his own. Each
tribe had absolute control of its own village; but when 56
the head men of the different tribes, for any purpose, met
together in common council, or attended a great feast,
Legaic, who, by reason of his having given away more
property than any other chief, ranked above the others,
took the most prominent seat, and greater attention was
paid to his words. Only to this extent did his head-
chiefship go.
Before Mr. Duncan had been at the Fort a week, it was
this chief who, a little after high noon, enraged at what
he considered a lack of recognition of his rank on the
part of a couple of chiefs of one of the other tribes, in
order to show the Indians his power and daring, shot an
unarmed Indian, a visiting Haida, just as he was about
to enter the gate of the Fort, and left him there wounded
and dying.
Not even satisfied with this wanton deed of cruelty, he
ordered two of his slaves to take their guns and go and
finish the fellow.
So thoroughly impregnated with fear of the savagery
of the tribes were the inmates of the Fort, that not one of
the garrison dared go outside to aid or rescue the wounded
man. The officers of the Fort, without interfering or protesting at all, from the gallery witnessed the killing of
the wounded man by Legaic's slaves. Looking more like
incarnate devils than human beings, they crawled over
the wood-piles in front of the Fort, and, in cold blood,
discharged their shotguns into the body of the bleeding
and dying victim. This scene of bloodthirstiness and
savage cruelty was Mr. Duncan's introduction to his future wards. Enough, surely, it was to discourage the
bravest heart. But to him it only gave a stronger determination to bring to these people the message of the
Gospel of peace and mercy. " This one thing I do," was
still his motto.
His practical mind had already told him that the only AT THE FORT 57
way to get to the heart of these savages was to bring them
the gospel message in their own tongue, and that the first
step for him to take was to learn this barbaric language,
without a grammar, without a dictionary, yea, even
without an alphabet, in as short a time as possible.
He ascertained that no one at the Fort understood the
language.   Even the captain, who had married a native
woman, got along with the trading jargon.    But the\
"Chinook" jargon could not be used for preaching the J
Gospel; that was certain.
Within a couple of days of his arrival, Mr. Duncan, on
the advice of the captain, and with his assistance, secured
for his teacher of the language a young " Ligaket," from
Legale's tribe, one Clah, who occasionally came into the
Fort, and who had impressed every one with his apparently greater intellectuality than the common, ordinary Indian.
But Clah understood no English, and Duncan hardly
knew a word of Tsimshean. Both could, however, make
use of the " Chinook " jargon, and, when that failed, they
had to resort to the sign language.
Mr. Duncan had, from his dictionary, made a list of
1,500 of the most common and useful words in the English
language. Now, his first task was to get the meaning of
these words in Tsimshean, and to write them down,
phonetically, as they were pronounced by Clah.
The difficulty was not so great while the objects of the
words were at hand, or within reach, and could be pointed
out, as a house, a man, a nose, an eye, a chair, a table,
etc. But when it came to words beyond that pale, the
ingenuity of Mr. Duncan was frequently taxed to the utmost in the attempt to make himself understood.
When I, in the summer of 1908, interviewed old Clah,
who is still living at Port Simpson, I was told by
him: 58
"Yes, Mr. Duncan teach me English, and me teach him
This mutual teaching perhaps helped matters some, as
Mr. Duncan, after a while, could express himself in English, at least in preparatory efforts to explain the expression he was after. Especially must the limited advance
of his teacher into the mysteries of the English language
have been of some assistance to him, when he sought to
learn the Tsimshean expressions for some twelve hundred
short sentences, which he had formed in English. But,
after all, the task was appalling.
He says himself that many a time did he spend half a
day in obtaining the proper words for a single idea.
Lacking, as the Tsimshean language naturally is, in
many expressions greatly valuable in preaching the
Gospel,—(it has, for instance, no word for " spiritual" or
"carnal," nor anything that expresses either of these
ideas)—there are, in other respects, a superabundance of
expressions, almost inexplicable to us.
They have, for instance, not less than five different
words for each numeral, depending on whether one
speaks of flat objects, like blankets or books, or of round
objects like dollars, or of men and women, or of canoes,
or of long objects, like guns, trees, nails, etc. "Two,"
for instance, in Tsimshean, when applied to blankets, is
"topral," when applied to dollars "kupal," to men
"tupahdool," to canoes "kalbailk," and to guns " koap-
Adjectives are entirely different words when applied
to the singular and to the plural nouns.
Also in other respects is the language intensely complicated. Words of ten and twelve syllables are not uncommon. One page in English could not be properly
translated into Tsimshean in much less than two.
Here is a sample:    The expression,  "May you be 1
forever happy " is one word in Tsimshean: " Clahtum-
villalooahmamkahkoadshumga." Not very remarkable
for its compactness and brevity, I am sure.
One illustration of the tireless efforts of Mr. Duncan to
acquire the language must here be given :
He wanted to get the expression in Tsimshean for the
word " try."
He first took a slate, and wrote in big letters, " Clah,"
and showed him the writing.
Then he rubbed out what he had written handed the
slate-pencil to Clah, and pointed to the slate. Clah, who
could not write, shook his head.
" Try! try !" with many gestures.
More shaking of the head.
Then he took Clah's hand and guided it, so that he,
with Duncan's help, wrote " Clah."
Then, pointing to the word written, pronouncing it,
and to the blank space below, and handing him the pencil,
he again repeated:
"Try !try !"
A light of understanding now came into Clah's eyes.
As he took hold of the pencil he exclaimed :
" Tumpaldo ! tumpaldo !"
" Ah," said Duncan, who wanted to be sure that he
had got it right. Running over to the fireplace, he
grabbed hold of a heavy log lying there, pretended to attempt to lift it, and, being unable to do so, crying all the
time, while looking anxiously at Clah:
" Tumpaldo ! Tumpaldo ! "
" Ah!   Ah !" was the answer.
" Ah" is Tsimshean for "yes." "Ein," for "no."
He had found it.
"Tumpaldo" means "I will try," just as "aino" in
Latin means " I love." The first person singular is expressed by the terminal " o."  VIII
NORTH of Vancouver Island, the coast Indians
of British Columbia were, in 1857, the "Kwa-
kiutl," the "Bilgula," the " Tsimsheans," and
the "Haidas."
North of Dixon Entrance, in Russian Alaska, were the
" Thlingits " and some tribes of " Haida " descendants.
The Indians of the interior were called the'i Stikeen'' or
" Tinnehs." Up around the Yukon were the " Athabas-
All the coast Indians are far in advance of the plain Indians of the United States and Canada. They have not
the roving disposition, nor the nomadic habits of these
Indians. They are, as a rule, industrious, frugal, imitative, and self-supporting, and have never been objects of
governmental charity.
Of all of these Indian peoples, the Tsimshean nation
ranks the highest, with the Haidas a close second.
While these different nations have many peculiarities
in common, especially the totem institution, which hereafter will be fully described, their language, and even their
make-up and characteristics are so different, that it is
evident that they do not spring from the same source, and
perhaps do not even originally hail from the same country.
Where the Tsimsheans originally came from, it is impossible to ascertain. Some have thought they could find
points of contact between them and the New Zealanders.
Others have believed that they could discover among
61 62
them traces of the peculiarities of the ancient ALztecs of
Mexico. Those who associate them, even in the distant
past, with the Japanese or the Koreans, certainly do not
find any very good arguments for their contention. They
perhaps drifted northward long ago from some tropical
island in the Pacific. I have been told that a legend, the
details of which now seem to be forgotten, speaks of a
beautiful island in the sea, which one day suddenly sank
under the waves—in other words, another Atlantis in the
Pacific Ocean.
One of their many different legends about the "flood"
also particularly accentuates that before they were
dispersed and driven away by the great flood, they lived
in a beautiful country, with lovely sunshine, fine large
trees, and gorgeous flowers.
The following legend, related by Adolphus Calvert of
Metlakahtla, may point to a warmer climate, where the
sun seemed nearer, or to a knowledge of the story of the
" tower of Babel," or both. I give it, in this connection,
for what it is worth:
" In ages long gone the heavens were much nearer the
earth than now. The people were afraid to disturb the
Great Chief. So they only talked in whispers. A
Tsimshean chief had a son, who was a great thinker.
He thought very much over all the troubles from which
his people suffered, and he wanted to help them in those
troubles. One night he stayed out in the woods all night,
and saw away up into the heavens. Then he knew much
more than he ever did before. Next day he commenced
to make arrows, and kept on at this till he had over a
thousand arrows. Then, one clear day, he shot an arrow
into the heavens with such force that it moved them a
little higher. Then he shot another, hit the first one
right on the head, and pushed the heavens still further
away.   Then they were so far away that he could not THE TSIMSHEANS 63
shoot so far. He then called upon the people, and they
carried rocks to a small island, high above the sea.
There they piled the rocks upon the highest peak. So
he went up on top of the rocks, and shot some more arrows, until the heavens were moved clear out of sight.
Then the people were glad, because now they could make
all the noise they wanted to, without disturbing the
Great Chief and making him angry."
Wherever the Tsimsheans may have come from originally, we certainly find that they must already have lived
on the coast south of the Skeena, when Captain Cook visited these regions in 1778, or perhaps even earlier than
that, at the visit of Captain Behring in 1741, or during
the cruise of the Spanish war-ships in 1774, as one of the
traditionary legends of the Tsimsheans, related to Mr.
Duncan by the Kithrahtlas, gives the following account
of " the first visit of the Whites " to the coast, which plainly
refers to one of the war-ships of one of the several expeditions here mentioned:
"One day, when my grandfather was a small boy,
four people from our village were out fishing for halibut.
There was a great fog, and nothing could be seen. When
their lines were all down, they suddenly heard a strange
noise coming from the sea. But the fog was so thick
they could not discover anything. They thought it was
some great monster coming in from the sea, up to the
shore where the village was, so they pulled up their lines
and paddled to the shore, to tell their people to look out
for the sea-monster.
" When they came near the shore, the fog lifted, and
then they saw a big round monster swimming in the sea.
Trees were growing out of its back, and heads of men
were hung on the branches of the trees.1 Then a baby
monstera came out of the belly of the big sea-monster,
blocks. * A boat. 64
and there were the heads of many white ghosts sticking
up from the back of it, and they had long sticks, and
pushed the water back with them, so the baby monster
flew towards the shore.
" When it came to the beach, the white ghosts lifted up
the sticks, and the tears of the salt water crawled down
the sticks, and fell in the water, with a great drip-drip.1
" Then the white ghosts went on shore. When the Indians saw them, they were afraid, but the white ghostfe
pointed to their halibut, and the Indians gave them one,
and they cut it up, and threw the pieces in a round black
"Then they wanted fire, and an Indian brought two
sticks to make a fire with, and commenced to rub them
together. But the white ghosts laughed, and one of them
took a little drv grass, and something from his pocket,
and made a big noise, and a flash, and fire came right
away in the wood. When the Indians saw that they all
. died.'2
"Then they put tht* black box right on to the fire, and
it did not burn up, but the halibut was cooked.3 Then
the Indians ' died' again.
" After that, the white ghosts empty a sack of maggots *
in the kettle. After a while they take the maggots out,
and put them in a dish, and then they pour over the
maggots the \ grease of dead people.'5 Then they want
the Indians to eat the maggots and the grease.   But the
1 This description certainly indicates that the boat must have belonged to a man-of-war, as it is well known that the oars of such boats,
when coming to a stop, are always raised up in salute to the commanding officer.
2 The Indian expression for amazement.
8 The Indian cooking was always done in square wooden boxes
wherein they placed water, and then dropped into it red hot stones.
4 Rice.
* Blood—Evidently has referenoe to treacle or molasses, THE TSIMSHEANS 65
Indians run away behind the rocks.   Then the white
ghosts eat the maggots and the grease themselves.
"When they sit and eat, a goose flies over their heads.
Then a white ghost takes a long stick, and points it at
the goose. Then there is a big noise, and a small smoke,
and the goose falls down, and is dead. When the Indians
see that, they ' die ■ again. But the chief and his slaves
now come down to the beach. Ajid the chief was painted
black and red. And he stood up right before the white
ghosts, and he looks wild at them. And the blood of
many men makes his eyes very red. And when the
white ghosts see his red eyes, then the white ghosts
'die.' And when the chief dances and sings the war-
song, and sings very hard and high, then the white ghosts
'die' again."
The native who told Mr. Duncan this story desired to
impress on him the contrast between the first visit of the
Whites to their home, and the visit of Mr. Duncan, at
which latter event he said that none of the Indians " died."
Many stories could be told from the traditions of the
Tsimsheans, of their cruel wars with the Indians of the
Interior, wherein their chief, Htrakats (Thunder), seems
to have proven especially valiant and successful, and of
their battle with the Alaska Indians, who were finally
driven back across Dixon Entrance, never to show themselves again, except for the peaceful purposes of trade,
also of their warfare with the Nass Indians, which seems
to have terminated in 1829 by a drawn wager of battle
between two chosen representatives of the contending
tribes, in wliich duel the Tsimsheans were victorious, and
by which the feud between them was settled. But we
must hasten on to more interesting topics. IX
NOW must be told how these people lived at the
time the Gospel first came to them.
The spring and summer was their work time.
The long winter months were mostly devoted to fun and
frolic, feasts and gambling, potlatches, dances, and medicine work, about which more anon, and to, now and
then, a murder.
They had for years been the traders of the coast. The
furs of the interior, which, before the white people came,
they used to cover their nakedness with, when they
deemed it necessary to cover it at all, they bartered from
the inland Indians, to whom they, in turn, furnished
food, dried and smoked fish, and the wonderful oolakan
oil, in large enough quantities to last them all winter, if
they had furs enough, for nothing was given without the
proper equivalent, and perhaps a little more. It is said,
that in trading their women always had the deciding
word, and that they could always be relied upon to make
clever bargains. And this in a day when there were no
bargain counters around.
After the Whites came to Fort Simpson, the Hudson's
Bay Company blankets took the place of the furs for covering their bodies, but only with this difference in the
trading, that they bartered furs so obtained from the Interior to the Hudson's Bay Company for blankets and
other of the white man's goods, which they could use.
They did not permit the interior Indians to trade directly
with the company at all, insisting on their right to act as
middlemen, and great are the bargains they sometimes
made, if reports are true. But that was necessary if they
would hold their own with the company, which cheated
them wofully in paying for their furs. There was no currency at the coast until the Whites came, when the company's two-point blankets became the commonly recognized medium of exchange, and were generally considered
to represent $2.50 in value. Prior to that time, the marten
or sable skin had generally been treated as the unit, and
it still, after the company's advent, retained its position
as the common fractional currency. It was taken at the
company's store for a quarter of a dollar in trade, and
when the prices of the company's goods are considered, I
think it may safely be said that the company got the best
of them both going and coming.
A piece of soap of a finger's thickness brought four
martens, or fifty minks, for a mink skin was then only
worth two cents.
Sea otter skins, now $700 and more, at this time in the
company's store at Fort Simpson, brought only from $10
to $12 in goods, which, at the ruling prices, probably
meant all the way from $2 to $4 in actual values.
The food, which these Indians subsisted upon, they
largely drew on the sea for. True, once in a while, a
deer, a mountain goat, or a wild fowl would furnish a few
meals. Dried wild berries also, at times, might be found
on the mat. (There was no table.) But the staple food,
year in and year out, for old and young, was fish—salmon
and halibut, fresh, smoked and dried, fish roe (salmon
and herring), clams and crabs, cuttlefish (a great delicacy),
seaweed, and all of it seasoned and enriched by the wonderful oolakan oil.
When the first of March came, the Indians of the different tribes at Fort Simpson broke camp, left the houses THE APOSTLE OF ALASKA
untenanted and unlocked, and came, with their families,
to occupy, for a month or two, their ancient fishing
grounds on the banks of the Nass River, forty-five miles
or so farther north, where the waters of the great river
tumble over the bar into Portland Canal.
They know that this is the time for the oolakan to run
up the river, and it is important to be at hand at tln3
great event.
The oolakan, or candle fish (thaleiehthyspaeificus), a won<
derfully sweet fish to eat when freshly caught, is in appearance a good deal like a smelt, most of them about twelve
to fourteen inches, and is said to contain more oil than
any other known fish. In the frying-pan it will melt
away like a lump of butter, and, when dried and provided
with a wick, it will burn like a candle.   Hence its name.
Between the 16th and 20th of March, each year, you
can see them come by the million, yes, by the billion, up
Portland Canal, and hustle over the bar of Nass River,
their great stamping ground.
At the time we are now interested in, their coming furnished a great sight. On the banks of the river, and in
hundreds of canoes near and on the bar, from five to
eight thousand Indians, all crying and yelling: " You
are all chiefs, every one of you ! " as they attempt to fill
their canoes with the shining, silvery fish. The sea-gulls,
by the thousands, swinging above the incoming shoals,
jabbering and chattering, moving back and forth, up and
down, all the day long. Further down, the spring salmon, which are after the oolakans, as well as the gulls and
the Indians,—jumping out of the water in their mad
chase. After them again, a little further down, are lurking the cunning hair seals, watching their chance; and
still further away you see the spouting of the large, finback whales, which follow the seals, only to be followed
in their turn by the orca, the whale-killer, which will MODE OF LIVING 69
rip open and disembowel one of these sea-monsters in the
twinkling of an eye, with its fin, which is as sharp as a
And this glorious sight, and all this incessant battle,
keeps on for a month or more. Thousands and thousands
of bushels of the little " chief" fishes are landed, and put
into wooden kettles, which are filled with water made to
boil by red hot stones dropped into the receptacles. The
grease of the boiling fish floats on top. The remainder
of the fishes, piping hot as they are, are scooped up into
pine-tree-root baskets, and then the boiling hot mass is
pressed against the bare breasts of the women, till the
grease, and every drop of it, has been squeezed out. The
oil must be pressed out in no other way. It would
" Shame " the fish to treat it otherwise.
With the precious grease, or oil, so obtained, the Indians now return to their homes at Fort Simpson, from
where, during the early summer months, the halibut
banks lure the fishermen to obtain a further supply from
the ocean's storehouse. And they are seldom disappointed. Halibut of from 75 to 250 pounds greedily snap
at their rudely constructed, but very effective hooks,
usually baited with a herring or an oolakan.
When July comes, it is off again, this time to the old
fishing villages on the Skeena River, where their ancestors, for centuries, have exercised the privilege of catching the red salmon, as it is wriggling its way up to its
breeding ground, to deposit its spawn.
Here, in a few weeks, not only all necessary for immediate use, but a full supply for the remainder of the year,
as well as for trading purposes, is secured, and the whole
family now turns its attention towards picking and drying the wild berries growing in abundance along the banks
of the river, as well as to curing the salmon caught, by
smoking and drying it for winter use. 70
The dry salmon is toasted before the fire, like our
bread, and eaten with oolakan oil. On a pinch, when
travelling for instance, it can be and is eaten raw. I have
done so myself, and will say that when one is hungry,
raw, dried salmon does not taste badly at all. When the
new catch is in, what remains of the old supply is destroyed, and never eaten. It is then considered out of
Then comes, in September, the great mart of the natives
on the beaches near the fort, where Lieutenant Simpson,
in 1841, says he saw over 14,000 Indians gathered on the
beach.   And after that is over, come the winter festivities.
As great masters as they show themselves in the trading mart, they are greater masters still on the sea, in their
wonderful canoes, hollowed out of a single trunk of one of
the red cedar giants growing along the coast. With their
paddles and sails, and nothing else, they make these
canoes fairly fly over the frothing billows, and carry them
safely through the roughest gales, when many larger
crafts, with practiced mariners, furnished with compass
and solid steering gear, have perished and never been
heard from again.
The Indians believe that their fish is just as sensitive
as they are as to any offense to its dignity.
The salmon is a chief, and must not be brought in contact
with any metal. It must only be boiled in their wooden
kettles. If not, it is " shamed " and may refuse to come
back to its usual haunts. In eating it, they of course use
only the heaven-given forks and knives, as that will not
"shame" him. Duncan, when first there, often witnessed their refusing to sell salmon to the steamer unless
the steward would permit them to boil it first in their own
wooden kettles.
The following legend is characteristic of this superstition: MODE OF LIVING 71
"Some boys had 'shamed' a salmon. They caught
him, cut a slit close to his fin and put gravel and stones
in the wound so that he could not use his fin, and then let
him out in the stream again. The poor fellow wriggled
and suffered, and could not swim with sand and gravel
down his back. This made the god of the mountain
angry with the people whose children had shamed the
salmon, and he spewed fire so that it ran down the mountainside, and way down into a river where the fire sputtered all around. But a god of another mountain,
near by, thought it was too bad, so he rolled down a big
rock, and stopped the fire stream.1
" The people then came together to consult about what
should be done to propitiate the irate mountain-god, and
the salmon as well, so he would not' go back' on them,
and they came to the conclusion that the naughty children had to be killed. But when the mothers heard this,
they raised a rumpus, and would not allow the sacrifice.
The people then compromised by agreeing, instead, to kill
the dogs of the village, which were thereupon all sacrificed and burned as a peace-offering to the salmon."
1 In the cracks of this mountain there is, to this day, to be found
deposits of clear alkali, which the Tsimsheans were in the habit of using in lieu of soap before Mr. Duncan came. PECULIAR CUSTOMS
BOTH the men and women of this nation, in olden
times, wore rings in their noses, and rings or
shells in their ears.   The men of rank often wore
a number of them in the ears.
The women of rank were provided with a "labrette,"
or ornament of bone, inlaid with abalone shell, two or
three inches long, and up to an inch wide, which was inserted in an opening in the chin. It came about in this
way: When a girl reached the age of puberty, she was
shut up by herself, either in a hut in the forest, or in a
separate enclosure in the house, for a period of about six
months. During this period, when no one except her
mother was allowed to see her, a slit was cut parallel with
her lower lip, and a little below it. In this slit was inserted a piece of bone. The slit was gradually made
larger, and a larger ornament inserted. The larger a
woman's labrette, the higher her rank. Slaves were not
allowed to wear them at all. A Tsimshean woman would
never think of appearing before a strange man, or in company, without her labrette. Should she accidentally do
so, she would feel as embarrassed as would one of our
ladies to-day who might be surprised in undress.
When the six months were over, it was claimed that
she had come back " from the moon." A feast was held
for her, and property was given away. When the guests
were all gathered in the house, a curtain was withdrawn,
and the maiden was shown sitting, surrounded by the
"coppers" l of the family, or the tribe, and commenced
to sing a song. This constituted the young lady's " coming out."   She was now marriageable.
Her marriage was proceeded with as follows :
The young girls are kept very strictly. They must be
modest, and never look at a young man. Outside the
house they could appear only with the mother or an older
There was, therefore, a very limited chance for flirtation, or even courtship. When a young man desired to
marry the young lady, he consulted with his parents, or
perhaps it is more correct to say that they consulted with
him when they had found some one they wanted him to
marry, as the mother of a young man was usually the one
who looked around to find a suitable bride for him.
The mother then went to the parents of the girl, and
told them she would like their daughter for her son, if
they would agree. The girl's parents never gave an answer right away. That would look as if they were
anxious to get rid of her. After listening to what the
boy's mother had to say, they, without committing themselves in any way, told her that they would consult their
relatives on the subject. This ended the meeting. After
a few "moons," the boy's mother would again call on the
girl's parents. If their answer was favourable, they
would now suggest that the young people wait a year, so
as to see if they behaved themselves, and that they would
not "shame" their folks. The engagement thus being
settled, without the intervention of the young people, the
boy's mother brought a present to the girl's mother, perhaps a basketful of cedar bark, torn up fine like oakum,
which they use for toweling, or something of that sort.
When the wedding day finally had been fixed, the
1 "Coppers" are large engraved and hammered shields of native
copper, heirlooms, and very costly possessions. 74
young man's father and uncles visited the girl's father
and mother, and gave them presents, generally canoes,
slaves, and mats. That is, they did not bring them along,
but promised them by placing a stick in front of the
father if they meant to give a canoe, and a stone, if they
meant a slave. If this offering was deemed sufficient, the
recipient would nod his head, and that settled the matter. This was really the purchase price which the boy's
family paid for the girl.
On the wedding day, the young man is seated on a mat
in the house of the girl's parents, with his parents and
uncles. The girl's mother would then go to the house,
where the girl is kept, bring her in, leading her by the
hand, and take her over to the mat where the young man
sits. She then seated herself on the mat at his side, but
without either taking his hand, or even speaking to him.
This was the whole of the marriage ceremony.
The procession would now start for the young man's
home. (If he had no house of his own, his home from
that time was with his maternal uncle, not with his
father.) In the procession the bridegroom went first,
then the bride, then his relatives, and, lastly, hers. A
feast was now given to the relatives, and, later on, one to
the leading men of the village. It was now the bride's
parents' turn to give presents, the father'generally presenting them with a supply of food, the mother with spoons
and other household utensils.
When a child came, the girl's mother gave presents to
the mother of the young man.
When a man died, his children went to their mother's
oldest brother to live, and became his children. The
dead man's property all descended to his oldest sister's
oldest son. So did the widow, whom he had to marry,
and this whether he had a wife already or not. If he did
not want to marry her, he must give her an indemnity,
PEsS -
when she could marry some one else. When a young
man, in this manner, got an old wife, it was not unusual
for him to take a young one, also, about the same time.
Except in these particular cases, polygamy was not
Before Duncan came to these people, they cremated
their dead. The only exception was in the case of the
medicine-men, who perhaps were considered too tough to
burn, and who were placed in a sitting position in a box,
which was either hidden among the branches of a tall
tree, or deposited on a prominent rock in some lonely spot.
At the funeral this was the procedure :
The box containing the corpse was placed on a mat in
the centre of the floor. The widow and children
blackened their faces with charcoal or black paint, cut
their hair short, put on the poorest and worst clothing
they had, took some old mats which had been thrown
away, and made head-dresses of them. They then formed
a procession, the widow leading, then the children, according to their ages, after which came the relatives.
Then all marched around the box. If the deceased was a
chief, they sang their famous "lemkoy," or funeral
dirge. This is never sung save at the funeral of a chief,
and is so sad and melancholy that a strong man is always
chosen to lead it, as most of the people break into violent
weeping during the singing.
If it was not a chief's funeral, an incessant wailing was
kept up as long as the corpse was in the house.
After a proper amount of wailing, the box containing
the body was taken out and placed in the centre of a pile
of wood, back of the house, and burned. The bones remaining were picked up, ground into dust, and placed in
a small box, which, if the deceased had a totem-pole, was
preserved in an opening in the back part of the pole. If
not, the ashes were sometimes placed in a mortuary 76
column, erected for the deceased some time after his
death. But as both totem-poles and mortuary columns
were the exception rather than the rule with the Tsimsheans, in most cases no further attention was paid to the
ashes of the dead after the cremation.
The Tsimsheans were very hospitable. The arrival of
a stranger was always the signal for immediately setting
before him of the best which the house could afford.
The winter season was one continuous round of feasting. Now one chief, then another, made a feast, and
every imaginable pretext was made use of as an excuse
for a feast, and this not only to give them a chance to
show their hospitality, but just as much to furnish an opportunity ' [ to show off.''
If there was anything that the Tsimsheans prized more
than a parade and display of what they had, it must have
been the observation of the strictest rules of etiquette.
They were worse sticklers on etiquette than the Lord
Chamberlain of a European Imperial Court.
If a boy should have his ears pierced, or should assume
a more important family name, or should become what
they called a "principal," at once each of these occasions
called for a feast, or rather several feasts, and, in the latter case, also for a "potlatch."
If a house was to be built, there had to be four different feasts, with plenty to eat, placed before the guests in
big boxes, sometimes in small canoes, and it all had to be
eaten, too, or, at least, taken away. These feasts were
distributed during the course of two years j but after the last feast must come a great "potlatch," which
consisted in the host making his guests presents of all he
had in the world of personal property.
We will witness such a "potlatch" given by a noted
Tsimshean chief.
The more display that can be made, and the more REGALIA OF A TSIMSHEAN CHIEF  PECULIAR CUSTOMS 77
property given away, the greater glory is reflected on the
tribe. Therefore, all the members of his tribe present to
him for days all that they possess, coppers, slaves, canoes,
guns, blankets, furs of all kinds, nets, mats, kettles,
bracelets, necklaces, rings, head-dresses, masks, calico,
dress-goods, hats, moccasins, and all other things fit
to give away.
The first parade and display is now made of what
these good people give to their chief for him to give
away to others.
The day before the great potlatch, they exhibit their
gifts publicly. Hundreds of yards of calico and cotton
goods are flapping in the breeze, hung from house to
house. Furs are nailed to the doors. Blankets and elk
skins are carried along the beach by carriers walking in
single file.
The cotton and calico is then brought down to the
beach, the farther away from the chief's house the better,
and unrolled to its full length ; a bearer is then secured
for about every three yards, and now it is carried in triumph to the chiefs house.
That, and all the other presents, are to be his now.
His people have ^impoverished themselves. But in another day he will not be much better off. All of theirs,
and all of his, will then be gone.
He and his chief counsellors, and his wife, are already
apportioning this new property brought to him, among
those who are to be his guests on the morrow.
The great day comes, and with it the chiefs and leading
men of the other tribes, and sometimes of other nations
or settlements; but not one of the chief's friends in his
own tribe. If they are present, it is only as spectators,
to witness the great sight. Not a yard of calico, or an
ounce of powder, is given to any of them. The chief is
seated at the chief's seat, the other great chiefe around 78
him, sitting according to their rank. A herald announces
the article. The chief, who continuously consults a
bundle of memorandum-sticks in his hand announces
the name of the recipient, and with great pomp the gift
is delivered.
Though the next morning the chief is as poor as when
he came into the world, that fact does not bother him a
bit, for he has experienced the glory of a potlatch, which
will be spoken of for many moons.
But do not think for a moment that he is actuated by
a desire to realize the beautiful sentiment: " It is more
blessed to give than to receive." Far from it. That
suffices for his poor tribes-people, who now have to go to
work to replenish their exhausted exchequer by hard
labour, excessive industry and hard-fisted economy, and
who have no other means of regaining their lost property.
Not so the chief. His giving-away-property is not given
away at all. It is the Tsimshean way of banking and
life insurance, moulded into one. He never gives away
anything which he is not sure to get back with interest
at the next potlatch which that chief gives. In fact,
these chiefs spend a good deal of their time in keeping
track of what they have received from each chief at every
potlatch, and in calculating what they shall give to each
in order to return an equivalent, and a little more.
The home of the Indian chief is not a convenient place
to keep potted wealth in, so he sets the ball rolling.
Some of it is here, and some there ; but as time goes on
it comes back with a little more, now from this chief,
and then again from another. In other words, his deposit in the bank is cashed out in smaller amounts, as he
needs it, and a little interest added for the use of it.
What more can he require ?
As to this proceeding being in the nature of a life insurance as well, let the following indicate; —
The chief dies, but his wife has the memo sticks, and
Is posted on all his gifts, and as to who is owing him, and
how much, and no chief will dare to slight the nephew
heir, fail to invite him, or to make him the suitable gift
due to his ancestor, for he well knows that the widow
keeps a strict account, and as she has married the heir,
she can keep him posted. Woe to the chief who failed
to return the gift he owed. Songs would be made about
him, "shaming" him, and he might just as well seek
death at once. Life would be unendurable after such a
deed. He has been guilty of the unpardonable sin, that
is all.
It is even suggested that it is in order to enable the
heir to keep track of these valuable claims, that the
Tsimshean law requires the nephew to marry the widow,
although the wise men add, that a young man and an old
wife, and an old man and a young wife, should ever be
the rule, because then, in both cases, there is at least one
wise person in the house.
It is in these potlatches, and the contributions of the
common people of the tribe to the chief's treasury, we
find the only vestige of taxes or salary paid by the people
to their chiefs. As a chief never does any manual labour,
he must of course find his living somewhere, and here a
way is pointed out for him so to do.
There was another way in which property was disposed
of, even more foolishly, among these people. It was this:
When one of them felt himself insulted or aggrieved by
another, he would, in the presence of the other, destroy
his own canoe, or other valuable property. The other
must then, at the risk of being shamed out of countenance
by the people, destroy the same article belonging to himself. Then the first one destroys another article, and he
has to follow suit. If he fails, he is "shamed," and
practically ostracized.   He certainly cannot show his face
i 80
again in decent society. Many a man has in this way
been absolutely ruined by a richer enemy.
Gambling was a national vice of the Tsimsheans. Many
of their legends have to do with men who gambled away
all that they possessed—slaves, canoes, coppers, wife and
At all their festivities, in fact, on all possible occasions, the Indians painted their faces in a most horrible
manner. While they perhaps could find an excuse for
doing so in their continuous exposure to the elements, and
to the attack of gnats and mosquitoes, the real reason
undoubtedly was, that, by painting their faces, they desired to make themselves look as terror-striking as possible.
"Lex talionis" was the supreme rule among the
Tsimsheans, as among all primitive peoples. But retaliation among them took a peculiar form. When a Haida
Indian had killed a Tsimshean, the law was satisfied by
killing the first Haida they came across, without regard
to whether he, or even his tribe, had had anything to do
with the killing of the Tsimshean. If the man killed was
a chief, two of the other nation had to pay for it with
their lives. Then, and then only, was the slate wiped
clean. If one of the two killed in retaliation was a chief
or leading man, they had overshot the mark, and some
more killing was due. But a murder, like all other injuries, could be settled for by paying an indemnity.
Every imaginable injury had a fixed compensatory
schedule-price in blankets.
It would sometimes bother a Philadelphia lawyer to
figure out the liability in these cases. Whether the
wrong-doer intended his act, or it was wholly accidental,
did not cut any figure at all, except, possibly, as to the
amount of the compensation. If an Indian shot at my
decoy, and thereby lost his cartridge, I was bound to pay PECULIAR CUSTOMS
him the price of the cartridge. It has even been held
that the owner of a stolen rifle had to pay indemnity to
the relatives of the burglar who stole it, and accidentally
shot himself with it, for his death.
If a man is attacked by a savage dog, and kills him in
self-defense, he must pay the owner for the dog.
A small trading schooner, in a furious gale, once rescued two Indians from a sinking canoe, which had been
carried out to sea. The canoe was so large that it could
neither be carried nor towed, and the natives themselves
cut the worthless craft adrift. When the captain landed
the men at their village, they demanded of him payment
for the canoe. We cannot blame him for not seeing it in
that light. But still it was a perfectly correct position to
take, from the Tsimshean point of view.
If a child is killed, the indemnity goes to its mother's
brother, not to the father. A native, by an unfortunate
accident, once killed his own son, and had to pay indemnity for his life to his wife's brother, or be killed himself
to balance the account.
A short time before Duncan's arrival the Fort came
near being destroyed by fire. The smoke-house, directly
back of the men's quarters, had caught fire, and, before
it was discovered, all of that part of the Fort was in flames.
During the excitement, some two hundred Indians had
come into the Fort, helping to carry water from the sea.
Finally, one of them suggested carrying a canoe up on
the gallery, and fill it with water, and, when full, tip it
over the building on fire. This was done, and undoubtedly saved the Fort from destruction. When the fire had
been put out, the Indians refused to leave, claiming that
the Fort belonged to them now, inasmuch as, if it had not
been for them, it would have been burned. The issue
would perhaps have been doubtful if the captain had not
succeeded in bribing one of the chiefs, who made aspeech? 82
and induced them to give up their claim. This chief,
forever afterwards, went by the name of "Spokes," a
title well earned by his effective argument.
Until their contamination by the Whites, the Tsimsheans
stood high in the moral scale. They were well known
all over that part of the country for their honesty
and uprightness. Theft was entirely unknown among
They had no intoxicating liquor of their own, and did
not know what intoxication was until the white man
brought the curse among them, and taught them how to
distil the "Hoochinoo," the vilest concoction imaginable.
With the fire-water came destruction to both soul and
body of the poor victims.
The Tsimsheans did raise a kind of substitute for tobacco, which they did not, however, use for smoking,
only for chewing.
Before the white men came among them, lapses from
virtue on the part of their women were practically unknown. Unfaithfulness on the part of a wife was punishable by death, the injured husband executing the law
himself, and in addition collecting a heavy indemnity
from the partner in her crime, or taking revenge upon
him by killing him. When the Whites came to the coast,
the sobriety and honesty of the men, and the purity of the
women, soon vanished. After a while it became the
fashion for the Tsimsheans to bring their wives, daughters
and nieces, by the canoe-load, to Victoria, where they
would rent them out for prostitution, without in any manner perceiving the moral obliquity of the act. Did not
the white people do it ?
When Mr. Duncan had been at the Fort for a year or
two, an Indian one day came to him quite excited, and
wanted him to go for some men on a schooner in the harbour.   When Duncan asked him why, he coolly said ; PECULIAR CUSTOMS 83
" They have had my two wives on board all night, and
will not pay for them."
" You scamp you, why did you let your wives go ? "
"Because they promised to pay me for them."
It is needless to say that Mr. Duncan did not go for
them.   Instead, that particular Indian received the finest
tongue-lashing he had ever had.
Through the influence and evil example of many bad
white men, the Tsimsheans had been hurled from the
lofty position of happiness and innocence which they had
once occupied. Through the loving influence, and Godfearing example, of one white man, were they to be again
restored to the heights where they once soared, and that
from the deepest depths of degradation. XI
WE have already seen that the 2,300 Tsimsheans
living at Fort Simpson were divided into
nine different tribes, living each in their own
separate village, close by each other.
But the bond of the Tsimshean nation was not the only
one uniting the different tribes. In every tribe were
found members of the same four different clans or crests,
the ties and relations of these clans being much more intimate and binding than the tribe relation. The name
given to this relation is "totem." We find it not only
permeating the Tsimshean nation, but also all the other
Indian communities on the Northwest coast, with practically the identical crests in each. Yea, we are told that
the same clan division is found among the aborigines
in the Southern Sea, as well as among some of the natives
of the South American continent.
The forest of totem-poles which greets the eye of the
traveller all along the coast of Southeastern Alaska, and
which, by their grotesque carving and painting, furnish
so great an attraction to him, is an outcropping and an
evidence of the existence of this clan or crest system all
around him.
At first the white people were inclined to look at the
totem-poles as idols, and believed them to be objects of
worship on the part of the Indians. But herein they were
clearly mistaken. The designs on them were simply
symbolical of the crests adopted in far back ages to distin-
84 s
jM     H
* 1«^|fc §iS
ohP      I
___      -         ^
guish the four social clans into which each tribe was divided, and the totem-pole, in reality, is a substitute for
the coat of arms of the European nobleman.
The use of the totem-pole never became common among
the Tsimsheans, while the Haidas, the expert carvers of
the coast, were especially noted for their complex sets of
totem-poles, and were closely followed by the Thlingits.
The illustration on a near-by page gives an idea of the
forest of totem-poles in a Haida village. At Fort Simpson, the headquarters of the Tsimshean nation, there was
never, at any time, more than eight or ten totem-poles,
all told. The Tsimsheans, instead, some time painted
the animals of their totems on the front wall of their
houses, and every household utensil and treasure chest,
as well as every box in which the winter food was stored,
bore upon it evidences of the family's totem, carved or
painted, as the case might be.
As it is important on a subject like this to have an
authoritative explanation, and as no man on the Northwest coast could be a more absolute authority on everything in connection with the Indians than Mr. Duncan, I
will reproduce what he has written on the totem subject
in The Metlahahflan, No. 4, for the month of November,
1889 :
" The names of the four clans, in the Tsimshean language, are
—Kishpootwadda,—Canadda,—Lacheboo, and—Lackshkeak.
"The Kishpootwadda, by far the most numerous hereabouts, are represented symbolically, by the grizzly bear on
land, the finback whale in the sea, the owl in the air, and the
rainbow in the heavens.—The Canadda symbols are the frog;
the raven; the starfish; and the bullhead.—The Lacheboo
take the wolf and the heron for totems.—The Lackshkeak the
beaver, the eagle, the halibut, and the dogfish.
"The creatures I have just named, are, however, only regarded as the visible representatives of the powerful and
mystical beings, or Genii, of Indian mythology.    And, as all of 86
one group are said to be of the same kindred ; so, all the members of the same clan, whose heraldic symbols are the same,
are counted as blood relations. Strange to say, this relationship holds good, should the persons belong to different, or
even hostile, tribes, speak a totally different language, or be
located thousands of miles apart. On being asked to explain
how this notion of relationship originated, or why it is perpetuated, in the face of so many obliterating circumstances, the
Indians point back to a remote age, when their ancestors lived
in a beautiful land; and where, in some mysterious manner, the
creatures, whose symbols they retain, revealed themselves to the
heads of the families of that day.
"They then relate the traditional story of an overwhelming
flood, which came and submerged the good land, and spread
death and destruction all around.
"Those of the ancients who escaped in canoes, were drifted
about, and scattered in every direction, on the face of the
waters; and where they found themselves after the flood had
subsided, there they located, and formed new tribal associations. Thus it was that persons related by blood became
widely scattered from each other; nevertheless, they retained,
and clung to the symbols, which had distinguished them and
their respective families before the flood; and all succeeding
generations have, in this particular, sacredly followed suit.
Hence it is that the crests have continued to mark the offspring
of the original founders of each family.
"As it may be interesting to know to what practical uses the
natives apply their crests, I will enumerate those which have
come under my own notice.
" (i) As I have previously mentioned, crests subdivide
tribes into social clans, and a union of crest is a closer bond
than a tribal union.
" (2) It is the ambition of all leading members of each clan
in the several tribes to represent by carving, or painting, their
heraldic symbols on all their belongings, not omitting even
their household utensils, as spoons and dishes : and on the death
of the head of the family, a totem-pole is often erected in front
of his house by his successor, on which is carved and painted,
more or less elaborately, the symbolic creatures of his clan, as
they appear in some mythological tale or legend.1
1 As before stated, this was only to a very limited extent applicable
to the Tsimsheans. hi
" (3) The crests define the bonds of consanguinity, and persons having the same crests are forbidden to intermarry; that
is, a frog may not marry a frog; nor a whale marry a whale;
but a frog may marry a wolf, and a whale may marry an eagle.
" Among some of the Alaskan tribes, I am told, the marriage
restrictions are still further narrowed, and persons of different
crests may not intermarry, if the creatures of their respective
clans have the same instincts; thus, the Canadda may not
marry a Lackshkeak, because the raven of the one crest and the
eagle of the other, seek and devour the same kind of food.
Again, the Kishpootwadda may not marry a Lacheboo, because
the grizzly bear and wolf, representing those crests, are both
"(4) All the children take the mother's crest, and are incorporated as members of the mother's family; nor do they
designate, or regard, their father's family as their relations. A
man's heir and successor, therefore, is not his own son, but his
sister's son. And, in the case of a woman being married into a
distant tribe, away from her relations, the offspring of such
union, when grown up, will leave their parents and go to their
mother's tribe, and take their respective places in their
mother's family. This law accounts for the great interest
which natives take in their nephews and nieces, which seems to
be quite equal to the interest they take in their own children.
" (5) The clan relationship also regulates all feasting. A
native never invites the members of his own crest to a feast.
They being regarded as his blood relations, are always welcome
as his guests; but at feasts which are given only for display, so
far from being partakers of the bounty, all the clansmen,
within a reasonable distance, are expected to contribute of
their means, and their services gratuitously, to make the feast a
success. On the fame of the feast hangs the honour of the
" (6) This social brotherhood has a great deal to do with
promoting hdspitality among the Indians, a matter of immense
importance in a country without hotels or restaurants.
"A stranger, with or without his family, in visiting an Indian village, need never be at a loss for shelter.   All he has to
1 While even at the present day the Tsimsheans very rarely, if at all,
marry within the confines of their clan, the further restriction on marriage, in the text given, never did apply to them. 88
do is to make for the house belonging to one of his crest.
There he is sure of a welcome, and of the best the host can afford. There, he is accounted a brother, and treated and
trusted, as such.
" (7) The subdivision of the tribes into their social clans,
accounts in a measure for the number of petty chiefs existing in
each tribe, as each clan can boast of its head men. The more
property a clan can accumulate, and give away to rival clans,,
the greater number of head men it may have.
I (8) Another prominent use, made by the natives of their
heraldic symbols is, that they take names from them for their
children; for instance, Wee-nay-ach, i big fin' (whale), Lee-
tahm-lach-taou, 'sitting on the ice' (eagle), Iksh-co-am-alyah,
I the first speaker in the morning ' (raven), Athl-kah-kout, * the
howler travelling' (wolf).
" (9) And last, but not least, the kinship, claimed and
maintained in each tribe by the method of crests, has much to
do with preventing blood-feuds; and also in restoring peace,
when quarrels and fighting have arisen. Tribes, or sections
thereof, may, and do fight, but members of the same social
clan may not fight. Hence, in contests between two tribes,
there always remain in each some non-combatants, who will
watch the opportunity to interpose their good offices, in the interests of peace and order. In case, too, of a marauding
party being out to secure slaves, should they find one or more
of their victims to be of their own crest, such a person would
be set free, and be incorporated as a member of their family;
while the captives of other crests would be held or sold as
" In writing of these matters, it must be understood that I
have kept in view the natives in their primitive state. The
Metlakahtlans, who are civilized, while retaining their crest distinctions, and upholding the good and salutary regulations
connected therewith, have dropped all the baneful and heathenish rivalry, with which the clannish system was intimately associated."
Besides this intertribal clan division, there was also
what may, for want of a better word, be denominated as a
club or lodge division into secret social fraternities.
About one-half of the population at Fort Simpson be- THE TOTEMS AND CLUBS 89
longed to one or other of three such organizations.   Those
who did not were called " amget."
The names of the three clubs were :
(1) " Weada-ha-hallied " or the cannibals.
(2) " Nukhlam," or the dog-eaters.
(3) "Miklah," or those who did not eat at all, but
only practiced dancing and singing.
Only members of the Kitandoah and the Kithrahtla
tribes were eligible for membership in the Cannibal
Club, but, to the other two, membership was open to any
member of any tribe.
The initiation of new members into these orders or
clubs was carried on during the winter months, with the
most disgusting ceremonies, and mostly in the open.
But if any one came upon the members of the club while
engaged in their secret work in the forest, he was compelled to become a member, whether he wanted to or not.
The initiation was generally under the direction of
some old and experienced medicine-man, but those "who
were made to ride the goat" were young men, and sometimes boys, who, before the public ceremonies, had to pass
several days and nights alone in the forest, where they
were supposed to receive supernatural gifts, enabling
them to go through the ordeal awaiting them.
The proceedings in the different clubs partook of the
same general character.
I will let Mr. Duncan speak :
"Early in the morning the pupils would be out on the beach,
or on the rocks, in a state of nudity. Each had a place in
front of his own tribe. Nor did intense cold interfere in the
slightest degree. After the poor creature had crept about,
jerking his head and screaming for some time, a party of men
would rush out, and, after surrounding him, commence singing.
The dog-eating party occasionally carried a dead dog to their
pupil, who forthwith commenced to tear it in the most dog-like
manner.    The party of attendants kept up a low, growling 90
noise, or a 'whoop,' which they seconded by a screeching
noise made on an instrument, which they believed to be the
abode of a spirit. In a little time, the naked youth would start
up again and proceed a few more yards in a crouching posture,
with his arms pushed out behind him, and tossing his flowing
black hair. All the while, he is earnestly watched by the group
about him, and when he pleases to sit down, they again surround him, and commence singing. This kind of thing goes
on, with several different additions, for some time. Before the
prodigy finally retires, he takes a turn into every house belonging to his tribe, and is followed by his train. When this is
done, in some cases he has a ramble on the tops of the same
houses, during which he is anxiously watched by his attendants, as if they expected his flight. By and by he condescends
to come down, and they then follow him to his den, which is
marked by a rope made of red bark, hung over the doorway, so
as to prevent any person from ignorantly violating its precincts.
None are allowed to enter the house but those connected with
the art.
"All I know, therefore, of their further proceedings, is that
they keep up a furious hammering, singing and screeching for
hours during the day.
" Of all these parties, none are so much dreaded as the cannibals. One morning I saw from the gallery hundreds of Tsimsheans sitting in their canoes, which they had just pushed away from
the beach. I was told that the cannibal party was in search of
a body to devour, and if they failed to find a dead body, it was
probable they would seize the first living one that came in their
way, so that all the people living near to the cannibal's house,
had taken to their canoes to escape being torn to pieces.
" The cannibal, when about to go through the rites of initiation, is generally supplied with one or more human bodies, which
he tears to pieces with his teeth, before his audience. Several
persons, either from bravado, or as a charm, present their arms
for him to bite.  I have seen several who have been thus bitten."
It has been claimed that the cannibals at these rites
actually devoured human bodies, and the dog-eaters the
flesh of dogs. Mr. Duncan himself once believed that
they did so. But I am happy to be able to say that a
thorough investigation, and a most searching cross-exami- THE TOTEMS AND CLUBS 91
nation of several Tsimsheans, who have themselves, in
their youth, belonged to the dog-eating club (there are
no former members of the cannibal club at Metlakahtla
now living), has convinced me that these Indians are entitled to be acquitted of this heinous charge.
They never,—of this I feel certain,—did eat either human flesh or dog-meat. It is perhaps bad enough that
they even pretended to do so. With their teeth they tore
the flesh from the bones, acted as if they chewed it, and
pretended to swallow it, but they invariably got rid of it,
after having kept it in the mouth for a while. This was
well known to the crowd that surrounded the novice, and
who, with their bodies, hid him from view when he
spewed out and got rid of the flesh in his mouth, so that
the uninitiated among the people did not see that, and,
therefore, honestly believed that he actually ate human
flesh or raw dog-meat, as the case might be.
On other occasions, they had deer-meat, which they, by
some trick or sleight of hand performance, substituted for
the human flesh just before the critical moment.
The object of the rites of both of these clubs was, of
course, to fill the people with terror at their pretended
All of this club work, as well as the medicine work
mentioned in the next chapter, was called by the Indians
The greater portion of the membership of these clubs
was made up of men and boys, approaching maturity,
but there were also a few female members in each club. XII
THE "Shoo-wansh," 1 the Tsimshean name for a
medicine-man (not fi shaman " as it is frequently
erroneously given), was a most important character in the Tsimshean, as in every other Indian community.
He was not, in a strict sense, the doctor of the tribe. The
use of herbs, both as potions and as applications for
wounds and swellings, was wholly in the hands of some
wise old women. They were especially successful in the
treatment of wounds, and that in spite of the fact that
their surgery was not very antiseptic.
The "Shoo-wansh" was generally called in to heal
only when some one got sick without any readily explainable cause for it, and when, therefore, the lively Indian
imagination was prone to suspect that a person had bewitched the party. For the " Shoo-wansh" was an exor-
cisor, and able to drive out the evil spirits that had taken
possession of the poor suffering body.
He then came with his rattle, and rattled over the sick
man, who had to be wholly naked during the performance, so that the evil spirits should not be able to hide in
his clothes, but get away readily. There he would work
away, rattle for dear life, dance about with wild gesticulations, blow in the patient's mouth and nostrils, pound
and knead his body, chant, swing to and fro, froth at the
mouth, and shout and shriek, till the patient said he was
1 The literal translation of this word is: "The blower.*'
better, when the medicine-man, with great earnestness
and show, replaced in the body his "soul," which he
claimed to have caught in the act of leaving it, and to
have incarcerated in a little hollow bone tube, which the
medicine-men invariably carried on a string around
the neck. They claimed to be able to see peoples' souls
travelling about in the open air, in the shape of flies,
with long, sharp bills, and often were observed, when walking about, to grab for something, and solemnly put it
away in this hollow bone, carefully closing the cover.
That was some one's soul that they had caught and imprisoned, and the unfortunate person now had to pay a
good price to get his poor wandering soul back again.
If the medicine-man did not do a first-class job, he had
to return the blankets, or other price he had received for
his services. Sometimes he might praise his luck if he
did not have to give up his life, if the patient died.
Generally, when the case was a serious one, his excuse
was that some one had bewitched the party. If he gave
the name of that person, he cleared his own skirts. It
was generally some man of small importance, a poor decrepit old woman, or a slave, who was thus denounced as
exercising the power of the "evil eye."
The following story, told me by Mr. Duncan, will give
an idea of the modus operandi in such a case :
"The old chief of the Kitlahns, Neyahshlakahnoosh,1
was sick in bed for a long time with an extremely malignant carbuncle. He sent for a medicine-man of the
Tsimsheans, but received no help. There was then a
medicine-man of great renown among the Thlingits, at
Tongas, called Neyahshot. He was sent for, and came.
He rattled over the old chief for a long time, but no improvement was perceived. He finally, as usual, suggested
that the chief had been bewitched. Some one had got
1 Neyahsh " means grandfather. 94
hold of some of his clothing, and had buried it with a
corpse at a graveyard far away. If it did not get away
from the grave, the old man would die.
"What they must do was to get the clothes away from
the grave at once, and then kill the sorcerer. Some one
was immediately despatched for the clothes. He came
back with something, which the old chief recognized as
having belonged to him. It was all a case of make-believe. The messenger never had been near either a grave
or a corpse. He was simply in league with the medicineman. Upon his return, the medicine-man whispered
solemnly in the chief's ear :
I' Nishaes is the man who has brought this upon you.
You must kill him if you wish to get well.'
"Nishaes was a weak old man, who trembled on the
verge of the grave. He did not belong to the Kitlahn
tribe, but lived a quarter of a mile up the beach. He
was sent for, and came, as the Indians always do, without
asking the why or the wherefore.
"When he came in, food was of course set before him.
While he was eating, the chief was lying in bed with a
loaded pistol in his hand under the blanket, fully determined to shoot and kill him as soon as he had finished
his meal.
" One of the chiefs counsellorsl whispered to him :
" ! Don't kill Nishaes. Don't kill him. Ask him to
pity you.'
I The chief dropped the pistol, and addressed him :
"'Nishaes, have pity on me. Have mercy on me.
Save me!'
I' What do you mean ? j
"'Save me!'
I' I don't understand you.'
1 The chiefs
and counsel.
i had some old wise men around them for advice THE MEDICINE-MEN 95
'l' You have sent this disease upon me. Pity me. Save
me !   Have mercy on me 1   I have suffered so much.'
" 'You are mistaken. I have nothing against you. I
never had.'
''' Yes, you have.   You have done it, but now pity me.'
" ' It is a great big lie !' and, in a huff, the old man
left the house."
The old chief got well, and, after he was converted to
Christianity, he often told Mr. Duncan that he was very
glad he had not killed the old man.   He would say:
"I know it well. The medicine-men are all liars.
How awful it would have been if I had murdered the poor
old man, and should have had that on my conscience now."
In order to obtain his commission, as a " blower," the
medicine-man or woman, for there were some medicine-
women also, had to show some miraculous power. This
they always managed to do by some trick or deceit.
An old medicine-woman, after her conversion, showed
Mr. Duncan how she had convinced the people of her
power to perform a miracle. She had a nice little round,
green stone, which had been picked up on the beach.
Producing a vessel filled with water, she asked the people present if they could get her little green stone to float
in the water. They all tried, but for every one of them
it sank, of course. Then she took the vessel, and, lo !
there the stone floated all right enough.
That was sufficient to show her supernatural power.
But, how was it done ? Simply enough. She had a twin
sister to the stone, made of wood, and in taking hold of
the vessel, she clandestinely substituted that for the stone.
That was all.
A favourite way of showing supernatural power, was
to kill some one, and restore them to life again.
One medicine-man showed his power by one evening
cutting off the chiefs head.   The head rolled to the floor, 96
and while the blood was squirting hither and thither, it
jumped from one end of the room to the other. In fact,
it was a most lively head, and it is no wonder that the
Indians present "died." But, still greater was their
amazement, when the medicine-man put the head back
again on the body, which had rolled over on to its side,
and, after fumbling with it for a while, smearing the cut
with some health-restoring salve and grease, exhibited
the chief in his normal condition, speaking, laughing,
and dancing, as if he had never " lost his head " at all.
The miracle is explained easily enough, when it is considered that the chief was an accomplice.
There was a false head put above his own, which latter
was concealed by his blanket. By operating a set of
strings, the false head, which was provided with bags
containing blood, was made to jump around the floor.
When the false head was pretended to be put back again,
it was in reality hidden in the folds of the blanket, while
the chiefs real head made its appearance and commenced
to talk.
Another medicine-man had a big box, in which he put
water, and then dropped in red hot stones, so as to make
the water boil, after he had put the lid on again. When
it was boiling, he opened the box and the steam poured
out. He then lifted up the chief, and threw him into the
box, and put the lid on again. The people heard the
chiefs voice inside the box, crying with pain, first very
strongly, and then a little weaker, and still weaker, till
you could hardly hear it at all. Then it ceased altogether.
The medicine-man now waited quite a while, so that the
chief would be boiled very thoroughly. Then he started
to open the lid, when, suddenly, the chief's voice was
heard, very strongly and distinctly, coming from the
forest, away back of the house. When the box was
opened, there was no chief there, but a great mass of I
eagle's feathers, which the medicine-man scattered around
the house. Nor was there any water or stones in the box
any more.
In two or three minutes, the chief came in through the
door, and did not look as if he had been parboiled at all.
The secret is readily explained. There was a false
bottom in the box, one end of which stood up against
the edge of the platform. This end of the box was open,
or had a trap-door, so the chief, after having spoken
inside, until it was about time for him to die, could crawl
out of the box through this opening, and then under the
platform into the open.
It is said that every prominent family in the different
tribes had its own trick, which was its secret, known
only to the chief and his counsellors. It was part of the
official business of the latter to instruct the new chief in
the secrets of the family.
The awe in which the medicine-men were held, by the
common people, was very remarkable. When Mr. Duncan, after he had commenced to get a following, ridiculed
the medicine-men and their practices, his adherents
begged of him to be careful and not to aggravate them.
And when he laughed at this, they used to say :
"Oh, it is because you don't know,—you don't know."
Again and again they would beg of him not to put
himself in their power :
"When you cut your hair, be sure to burn it all up, so
they will not get hold of any of it, and bewitch you."
Again §
" When you spit, don't spit on the ground. You must
spit up in the air. If they find some of your spittle, they
will make you sick, and you will die. Oh, you don't
Mr. Duncan, in order to show them that he was not
afraid, told them that the next time he cut his hair, he
SfiSiHi&iii 98
would send a lock of it to every medicine-man in the
camp, so that they could have some to work on.
His friends were awe-struck at his recklessness, and
could not be persuaded but that he took very serious
One medicine-man did get hold of an old paper collar,
which had belonged to Mr. Duncan. He placed it up in
a tree, and used to go around the tree two or three times
a day, exercising his rattle upon it, in order to send a
throat-trouble upon Mr. Duncan.
As Mr. Duncan suffers from a dry, hacking cough, due
to some chronic trouble in the bronchial tubes, I suggested that this medicine-man's actions might perhaps
explain this chronic throat-trouble.
With a merry twinkle in his eyes, Mr. Duncan answered :
"So it might, yes, only for the fact that I suffered
from that trouble long before he got hold of my old paper
It is surprising to see what a hold the influence of
these medicine-men has taken on the Tsimshean people.
One of the most intelligent of the Metlakahtla Indians,
who was converted in his early youth, and, therefore, got
away from their heathenish influences before they could
have had a chance to take very deep root in him, told
me the following story, with all evidences of belief in the
supernatural powers of the medicine-men. In fact, he
stated that he did not know what to believe, but that he
knew for certain that what he told me was the truth:
"Once, my uncle, who was a great sea-otter hunter,"
he said, "had gone on a hunting trip, with four men, in
his canoe. While he was gone, there came up an awful
storm, and great big waves. He was gone many weeks.
When he did not come back, our people thought he was
4rowned.   They went to the medicine-man.   He danced, THE MEDICINE-MEN 99
Then he told them to take a stick of wood and go down
to the beach,—(it was then low tide)—and to put it in
the ground, where he told them to.   They did so.
" 'Further,' he cried.
"Again:  'Further.'
"Finally he shouted: ' Now, there—put it down. Hit
it hard, so it will stay there.'
" When done, he said :
" 'When the tide comes to that point the men will all
come back again.'
" The people laughed. They were sure they were dead
long ago. But, nevertheless, though they did not believe
in it, they waited for the tide and watched anxiously;
and, lo and behold—just as the tide reached the stick on
the beach, a canoe came around the point, and all the
five men were in it. They had had no food for many
days, and were almost starved. The people gave them
food, and they all came out all right."
That the Tsimsheans are open to reason in other matters, and do not simply accept all that they hear, even if
it has the sanction of age and tradition, appears from
the following experience of Mr. Duncan, and is given to
show that when faith in the supernatural power of the
medicine-men still clings to them, to some extent, it must
be due to a most extraordinary cleverness on the part of
these deceivers:
Coming down Nass River, Mr. Duncan was invited by
an Indian chief to go and see in the forest a village which
their ancestors had inhabited. It was a very long journey, but they finally came to a beautiful spot, a basin
with high mountains all around, except where the trail
to the river went.   The chief told him :
"Where you now stand, our old chief's house once
stood. I would like to tell you what our old people say,
and find out if it is true.   They say that the chief's son,
—n 100
a little child, one night cried for water. The mother was
lazy, and would not get up and get it for him. The moon
then came down into the room, and asked the boy why
he cried. He then told the boy to come with him : 'I
will give you what you want.'
"The boy took his hand, and he took him with him
into the heavens. The next morning there was a great
cry when it was found that the boy was gone. They
hunted everywhere for him. The next night they saw j
him in the moon, with his little basket in his hand.
What do you think of it ? Do you think it is true that
the boy could get up there ?"
Mr. Duncan would not say that it was false. He knew
too much for that. He pointed up to the mountain-top,
and to the pines up there, and said to the chief:
"Those big pines up there are 150 feet high, and they
look like little plants. Now, do you think that you
could see a little boy up there, and, more especially, see
his basket?"
" Oh, no, you could not see him at all."
" Well, then, how do you think you could see a boy,
and especially his basket, in the moon, which is many
thousand miles further off than yonder mountain-top ?"
"Well, how our old folks could lie, could they not?"
That would do for him to say; not for Mr. Duncan. XIII
WHENEVER a Tsimshean saw a phenomenon
in nature, as a precipice, a tidal wave, etc.,
he considered it a spirit, a god, and sacrificed a piece of salmon, or something, to propitiate the
But these were only sub-deities. He recognized the
Great Spirit above them all, a good Spirit, the " Heavenly
His name for Heavenly Chief was '' Shimauget Lahaga,''
the first word being the word used for " chief" generally,
as chief of a tribe; and "Lahaga" meaning, literally,
I cannot find any legend distinctly attributing to this
Heavenly Chief either the creation of the world, or of
man, except as far as the idea can be made out from the
following two legends.
The first one, related to me by John Tait, a very intelligent and lovable Tsimshean Indian of Metlakahtla,
who in his youth belonged to the dog-eating club, really
has more to do with earthquakes, and the primitive Indian idea of what causes this natural phenomenon ; but
curtly recites the creation of the earth by the Heavenly
Chief, as if it were a well-known and established fact.
The moral certainty with which the once much-mooted
question of the earth being flat is established is amusing.
Mr. Tait's story is :
" The Heavenly Chief built the earth. It was round,
101 102
but flat. He had big piles at all the corners of the earth,
on which it rested, as a house does \ but, after a while,
the piles got rotten. The Heavenly Chief had a big, fat
slave. He tells him to put in new corner piles under the
earth, so that it shall not fall down. He was very strong,
—this slave. He goes and gets new piles ; then he strikes
with his big, heavy hammer on one of the old piles, to get
it out of the way, and he strikes so hard that the earth
trembles.   That is how the earthquake comes."
The other legend has reference to the creation of man,
and runs as follows :
"The Heavenly Chief once said, whoever can first get
a child, the rock over there, or that elderberry bush, of
that child shall man be.
" The rock was a little slow, so the elderberry bush became first with child. Therefore, man is weak and sickly,
and dies. If the rock had come first, man would have
been like the rocks, which nothing can destroy."
Mr. Duncan says that, at Nass River, an Indian showed
him the rock that tried, but failed, in the race.
They evidently believed that the Heavenly Chief was
immortal, that he observed all that was going on among
men, and that he frequently was angry, and punished
those who were bad.
They had very remarkable and advanced ideas about
prayers, as will be apparent from the following, told me
by Edward K. Mather, a prominent Metlakahtla Indian :
"Long before Mr. Duncan came, our people knew and
spoke of the Heavenly Chief. Before sitting down to
meals, the father of the family always took a small piece
of the food, and, putting it on the fire, burned it, and
said :
" i For thee, oh, Heavenly Chief, the first.'
"My grandfather used to tell me, if I wanted anything very badly, if I desired success, or anything like THE RELIGION OF THE TSIMSHEANS   103
that, or if I was sick and wanted to get well, to go alone
out into the forest and speak to the Heavenly Chief about
" He said I must be low in spirit, poor in heart, humble
and meek, and look up and ask the Heavenly Chief, and
I would get what I asked him for."
Sometimes, when calamities were prolonged or thickened, they became enraged against the Heavenly Chief,
and vented their anger against him, raising their eyes and
hands in savage wrath to heaven, stamping their feet, and
saying to him:
"You are a great slave !"
This is the strongest term of reproach their language has.
It may be here noted that the Tsimshean language has
no expression for any kind of an oath. When the Tsimshean wants to swear, he must have recourse to the English language.
Like almost every people on the footstool, they have
several interesting legends about the great flood.
Besides the one already given, I record the following,
told me by Mrs. Lucy A. Booth, of Metlakahtla, as it is
somewhat different from the one recited by Mr. Duncan,
given in another chapter:
" A long time ago the Tsimshean people lived far away
from here, and the people were very bad. The Heavenly
Chief did not like them, and told them to be good, but
they did not care. Then he got angry, and he sent a big
tide, bigger than ever had been before, and it rained
heavily, so much, indeed, that the people got their
canoes out, and the tide came up high, so that all the
mountains were under water, except a big mountain peak
near Wrangel.1   And there came a big storm, and all the
1 This probably refers to a mountain peak not far from Wrangel, in
Southeastern Alaska, called "The Devil's Thumb," and said to be
about 9,000 feet high. 104
little canoes were swamped, only the big ones got through.
And they tied them up to that peak. And when it came
low tide again, the Tsimsheans could not find their way
back, so they came south to Nass River."
They had a distinct idea of a life after this. Their
word for "die" is "sever" or "part"—the same word
which is used of a rope when it breaks under a strain.
They fed the dead for some time, till they should be
able to find food for themselves in the spirit-land. But
this food was burned in front of the dead, so as to give
spirit-food to the spirit.
They claimed that when a person was about to die, he
could see the great chiefs who had departed before him,
and who now seemed to stand ready to receive him.
Even to the present day Mr. Duncan well knows what
they mean, when they come to tell him that a sick person has " seen somebody." This is, to them, proof positive that he is dying.
When, at an early day, Mr. Duncan asked them if they
had any proof that the dead still lived, they told him the
following "true" story of "The man with the wooden
wife" :
"At old Metlakahtla lived a childless couple. They
loved each other very much, and were always together
whenever they could be. Everybody spoke of how much
they loved each other. Once the man went out on a
hunting trip. He had been gone only three or four days,
and when he came back it was night, and dark. He saw
a big fire at the chief's house, and knew there must be
a feast there. But he was lonesome for his wife, so he
steered for the beach in front of his own house.
" After pulling the canoe up, he went into the house. It
was dark, but at the fireplace he saw his wife, sitting on
a box. He spoke to her, but she did not answer him.
When he went up to the fireplace, she turned her face THE RELIGION OF THE TSIMSHEANS   10S
away from him, and, when he spoke to her again, she
still did not answer.
"He then felt very badly, as he understood that his wife
must have done something wrong, as she dared not speak.
So he went out again, pushed his canoe into the water,
and paddled about five or six miles, when he landed and
camped for the night But his heart was heavy, and he
did not sleep.
" The next morning, in paddling back to the village, he
met a canoe coming from there. As is the custom of the
people, he stopped, and asked them for news. They told
him that his wife was dead, and that she had been cremated outside the chief's house the night before.
" He was very sad, for then he knew that it was his
wife's spirit he had seen the night before, and not herself, as she was then dead.
" After that he always lived alone, and never married
again, though he was a young man.
" After a while he got a block of wood, and carved out
of it an image of his wife, sitting down on the box as he
saw her that night, and everybody said it was an exact
likeness of her face and figure.
" This wooden woman he kept with him in his house,
and also took her with him in his canoe wherever he
The Tsimsheans had very pronounced ideas of reincarnation, and of what might be called soul-transmigration.
Numerous legends go to substantiate this claim. One
is to the effect that a woman had a relative who was shot
in the breast in a fight. Shortly after, she gave birth to
a son with a red spot on his breast at the identical place
where the relative had been shot. She and her people
were positive that the old man had come back to life
again in that baby boy.
Another woman had an uncle who died.   Soon after 106
she gave birth to a boy with a peculiar mark on his
thumb, like one which the uncle had.
Sebassah, a Tsimshean chief, had a brother killed in a
fight by a blow from a spear, which tore the flesh from
his shoulder. His niece shortly afterwards dreamed that
she saw her uncle, and soon after gave birth to a boy,
who had a mark on his arm like a wound, in the same
place where her uncle was fatally hurt.
But a more remarkable story is this :
"The Tsimsheans once made a raid on a village up
Skeena River, and killed all the inhabitants. Only one
man escaped. He ran up into the mountains, and was
making his way to a neighbouring village, to tell of the
fate of his friends, when he came to a clear lake on the
top of the mountain. Being thirsty, he took a drink,
and at once became unconscious.
" The next thing he knew he was lying on his mother's
lap, a little baby. He could not talk at all, but he remembered well about the fight, and about his running
"It was then found out in some way that he really was
the first man slain in the fight. In order to test whether
he really was that man, he, when he grew up, went to
dig in a place where he remembered to have buried some
gambling tools shortly before the fight, and, right enough,
there he found them, just where he had hidden them."
They also have a clear idea of a future punishment.
They think that a bad man is punished by getting food
which is out of season—for instance, salmon, after the
proper season, which no Tsimshean will eat when he has
his choice.
The Tsimshean worships the moon. When it comes
forth in the night, he holds up his hand, and says :
"Alio quathleay " ("we can see you walking," or
" you walk in our night "). 1
Mr. Duncan tells how he once witnessed an enactment
of the moon's phases:
" One night—it was a dark and cloudy one,—as the tide was
at its lowest, one of the clubs of the * Hallied ' congregated in
a house, and rushed to the shore with a great noise. (Their
noises are never yelling only, but something different for different things, like college yells.) I was out on the gallery of the
fort, and saw the shadows moving. Then appeared on the
shore, some distance from the gathering, a moon,—at first, it
was at the quarter, then it waxed larger until it was half, then
three-quarters, and then full.    Then a man appeared in it.
" I think that it was made of thin deer skin, like parchment,
with a light inside.
" The moon then pretended to move down towards the
crowd. At this all the Indians commenced to cackle. It
sounded like the yelping of a pack of wolves. All at once,
the man in the moon answered them, I thought. Then the
moon waned, and finally disappeared altogether, and the Indians rushed back again to the house with horrible yells." XIV
WHILE legends, showing the consciousness, on
the part of the savage mind, of the existence
of a Supreme Being, are of more or less frequency among most aborigines, I doubt whether any
other heathen nation can produce evidences, like those of
the Tsimsheans, of a communication, in some manner or
form, of the story of the White Christ.
There are any number of their legends that occupy
themselves with the mission on earth of the son of the
Heavenly Chief, and the characteristics of this God-sent
friend of the people, correspond so wonderfully with those
of our blessed Saviour, that it hardly seems possible
for them thus to have been able to picture the Man of
Galilee, just as He wandered about on earth, if those
who first drew the picture had not seen Him with their
own eyes, or received their information from some one
who had.
Mrs. Booth, a full-blooded Tsimshean at Metlakahtla,
told me that her mother had related to her, when a little
girl, the following:
" At first it was entirely dark. There was no light in
the world. The people could see nothing, but were groping around in a continual night. Then, the son of the
Heavenly Chief came down to earth, and the people complained to him that it was so dark. He said he would
help them, and then light came. He travelled around
for a long time, and helped the people in their trouble.
108 ^
He was so kind and good, and the people loved him very
But, still more wonderful appears the story of "The
Battle between Good and Evil,17 as Mr. Duncan, who has
given it to me, calls the following legend.
Two of the natives have, independently of Mr. Duncan,
and of each other, related the same story, with only
enough slight variations in the phraseology to prove that
they each had received it from a different source.
The story, as told me by Mr. Duncan, runs as follows:
"Once there were only two villages of people in the
world, a great river flowing between them. They were
constantly at war, and the feud was so strong that,
finally, everybody in one of the villages was exterminated, except an old woman, named Kowak, and her
"Kowak was very anxious again to populate her extinguished village, which could only be done by raising up
children to her daughter. But, how was this to be done ?
It was, of course, out of the question to marry her to
any man in the inimical village, and the men in that
village were the only ones alive in the world. So Kowak
turned to the animal kingdom. She would spend her
days and nights in the forest, crying out incessantly:
" 'Who will marry Kowak's daughter?' repeating it
over and over again.
"Finally, a little red squirrel peeped out from among
the branches of a spruce, and said:
" 'Good woman, I will marry Kowak's daughter.'
" 'Well, then, son-in-law-elect, if you marry Kowak's
daughter, what will be your aim in life ? To what will
your energies be directed ?'
"'Oh, I will scramble up the trees, and gather the
cones, and throw them down.'
"'No, son-in-law-elect, you will have to give up the 110
idea of marrying Kowak's daughter. You will not fill
the bill at all.'
"Next came the bear,—the same question was put to
him.   His answer was:
" 'I will bellow and growl, and scare everybody. Lie
in wait for the animals in the forest, and kill them, and
catch the salmon, as they are jumping up the stream.'
" The same reply was given to him.
"The deer next, and then others offered their services.
The inquiry and the answer were similar, each animal
showing that its aim in life would be only a selfish exhibition of its own narrow conception of the enjoyment of
life, and the satisfaction of its animal craving.
"Then, as Kowak cried in the forest one day, there
appeared before her a person in shining clothes, with a
beautiful face, and kind, lovely eyes. It was the son of
the Heavenly Chief.
" 'I will marry Kowak's daughter, good woman,' said
" 'Oh, beautiful prince ! Heaven bless you, who will
marry Kowak's daughter.'
" The same question was then put to him.
"He answered :
"'My aim in life will be to destroy the enemies of
Kowak's deserted village.'
" ' Oh, you are a man after my own heart. You shall
indeed marry Kowak's daughter.'
" 'But my wife must go with me to heaven, and live
there.   I cannot leave her down here.'
" ' Ail right. I expected that. But may I not go with
you ? I would so like to live near my only daughter—
all that is left me of family, parents, husband, and children.   It will be so lonely for me here.'
" 'Well, that depends on yourself. But I doubt that
you will be able to do so.   Still, we will try.' THE SON OF THE HEAVENLY CHIEF   111
"He took his wife in his arms, and told the mother to
hold fast by his shoulders.
" 'But, as we rise up,' he said, 'if you would go to
heaven, you must not look down. Look up, or at me,
all the time. If you look down once, you will never get
"Up they rose, slowly, towards heaven, but when they
had got up into the clouds, the old lady could not help
throwing just one glance down to earth, and at once her
hold on the prince loosened, and she sank and sank, and,
finally, she landed in the branches of a tree, and there
she stuck fast, and she now moaned from pain and
repentance. That is what you hear moaning in the
branches of the trees when the wind blows.
"By and by, three beautiful sons came to the daughter. They grew up, and became stronger and more beautiful every day. The time neared when their father
wanted them to go down and destroy the inimical village. In preparation for this, they built each a fine
house. One day, one of the houses commenced to sink,
and it struck the earth with a great noise; so did the
next, and the next.
"In the morning the chief of the inimical village woke
up and rubbed his eyes :
" ' What, do I not see smoke in Kowak's deserted village ?   What can it be ?'
" He gathered his counsellors together to advise him
what to do. They determined to send a slave over there.
He went, and came back filled with awe, and gave the
most vivid description of what he had found.
" 'Oh, there are three fine men there. They treated
me splendidly. They were so kind and nice. And there
are the finest houses you ever saw.'
"The council was again called together. They then
determined to send the three young men a challenge to 112
come and gamble with them. Two of them accepted
the challenge. The third one refused to gamble, but
said he would come along anyway.
" They came, and the game commenced. The one who
took no part was especially a giant, with strong muscles
and fine arms. They won the game. The chief and his
followers got mad, and rose up to slay them. Then there
was a great battle. In the end, every one was slain by
the heavenly boys."
Mr. Duncan's explanation of this legend is, that it
represents the battle between good and evil.
Evil and sin first win. It seems as if the good had no
chance at all. But then it becomes joined to the Son of
God. He comes to redeem the world, and help good in
its battle against sin and evil.
The old lady, when she sinks back to earth, represents
the flesh, which cannot overcome temptation, and, therefore, cannot enter heaven's halls. While the spirit of
good in man, "the bride," is in the arms of Christ, and
attains the blessings of heaven.
In the end comes the triumph of good over evil, and the
final uprooting of evil, as a result of the union between
Christ and the spirit of man.
"It is a beautiful legend," said he. "When I first
heard it, it struck me that these Indians must have had
some information as to the Christ. We cannot explain
how. But the story of the Saviour, as we know it, must
have come to them in some mysterious way."
In order to show that they were not only thoroughly
imbued with the meek and lowly disposition of the Son of
God, and with the idea that He assumed, when here, the
role of a servant to man, but that they had also received
a correct impression of His divine power, evidencing itself in wonderful miracles, I give the following story of
Tezoda, the son of the Heavenly Chief, as told by Mrs. 1
Joseph Neyahshack, a venerable old Tsimshean woman,
residing at Metlakahtla, who prides herself on being one
of Tezoda's direct descendants.
Her story is as follows:
"Once a Tsimshean chief, and the one next to him in
rank, each had a daughter. The chief's daughter was
beautiful.   The other was lame, and homely.
" The chief kept his daughter shut up from everybody,
as he did not want her to marry any one of inferior rank.
So the Heavenly Chief took pity on the maiden, and sent
his son down to woo the fair one.
"The name of the son of the Heavenly Chief was
Tezoda. When he came down to earth, he brought with
him a slave, named Hallach. They camped in the bush
outside the village, and the first night Tezoda went alone
to visit the maiden. Now, he was a wonder-worker
(' Nock-nock '),* so he went into the girl's room through a
knot-hole in the wall. The next night he sent Hallach,
in order to get his opinion of the girl. As Hallach had
no supernatural powers, he had to get inside by slipping
in after those who lived in the house.
"He remained all night in the house. This made the
chief angry. So he said that he and the girl should get
married. As the girl preferred him to Tezoda, she consented, and the wedding took place at once.
"Now, it was the custom that a son-in-law should get
the wood, and do other work for his father-in-law, so
Hallach was sent with a large canoe, and a number of
boys, for fire-wood.
"He brought back a very poor kind of wood; so wet that,
when it was laid on the fire, it put it out. This made
Hallach feel ashamed, so he said he had a slave, named
1 The Tsimshean name for all supernatural power, as well as for the
person who has such power< 114
Tezoda, in the bush back of the village, whom he wished
to have brought in to do the menial work.
"So they fetched Tezoda, who came, seemingly as a
slave to his own former slave, Hallach.
"As a slave, he had to sleep near the door. During
the night, the chief's wife awoke, and saw the place
around where Tezoda slept lighted up with a great white
light. So she made up her mind that he was no slave
and thought she would watch him.
' | The next day Tezoda was sent for fire-wood. He took
a big canoe, and a number of women, and started out.
" On the way, they saw a seal put its head out of the
water, and he asked them if they would like to have it.
They said they would, but had no means of getting it.
"He told them to hide their heads. He then took a
sling, which he always carried, and a stone out of his
mouth, and hit the seal on the head, and killed it.
" The women were pleased, and from that time Tezoda
began to be famous.
'' He asked them if they did not want a big tree for wood,
but they said that they could not cut it down with their
stone-adzes. So he told them to hide their heads again,
and he struck the tree with a stone from his sling. It fell,
breaking into pieces just the right length, and he piled
the whole tree into the canoe, so that, when they got
back, all the people turned out to see a canoe carry so
big a load. And they filled up the house with wood so
full of pitch that it burned like grease.
|' So Hallach was ashamed of himself. Also his wife was
sorry that she had preferred him to Tezoda, and the chief
felt very badly because he had such a worthless son-in-law.
"Now the parents of the lame girl were anxious to
secure Tezoda for a son-in-law, and, as he was willing,
the wedding took place, after which a great feast was to
be given to the neighbouring tribes. THE SON OF THE HEAVENLY CHIEF   115
"Tezoda was sent out seal-hunting, and came back
with a canoe loaded down.
" On the morning of the feast, he took his bride to a
lonesome lake in the mountains, and both had a bath.
They came out of the water looking very differently from
what they did when they went in to swim.
" The bride's lameness and homeliness were gone, and
she was now a beauty. The groom was also much handsomer than ever.
"When they entered, and took their places at the feast,
they were the wonder and envy of all, and the wife of Hallach felt more sorry than ever that she had not accepted
"This was in the first part of the month of March, and,
shortly after, the whole village went to Nass River to get
the oolakan fish.
11 On the way up, there is a high, rocky point. Tezoda,
who wanted still further to ' shame' Hallach and his wife,
asked Hallach to sling a stone at the rock. Hallach did
so, but the stone fell short in the water. Then Tezoda
took his sling, and threw a stone, which struck the mountain, boring a hole through it, which can be seen even to
this day.
"Still further on the way, they saw a mountain with
copper on the top. Hallach again tried to hit it, but his
stone fell back into the canoe, and struck his mother-in-
law, who fell into the water, where she turned into a
salmon and disappeared.
" This was too much for Hallach, who felt so ashamed
that he jumped overboard and was lost.
"Then Tezoda, with his sling, threw a stone, which
struck the copper, and knocked it down so that it dropped
and broke into twelve ' coppers.' These he carried north.
He was the first one who brought these costly media of
exchange among the Northland tribes." XV
THE legendary lore of all primitive people is more
or less busy with the devil, or, at least, with an
evil spirit of some sort.
The Tsimshean folk-lore is no exception in this particular. In fact, their legends are so much occupied with
Thraimshum, their devil, that one of them told Mr.
Duncan that it would take him a whole week, should he
tell him all the Tsimshean legends about Thraimshum.
But the Tsimsheans seem to have had a clearer conception of him, and his true character, than most heathen nations have. Thus it will be seen from the following, that
their devil, like the Biblical one, fell, or was thrown,
down from heaven. Their common nickname for him is
the "father of liars." He is voracious, and a glutton,
never gets enough to eat, and practically scours the earth,
"seeking what he can devour."
While he has the power to hop from mountain peak to
mountain peak, and to hurl a mountainside down into a
ravine, and to change his appearance and assume gigantic
• proportions, he is ui^erlyunable to do anything useful for
himself. He cannot catch a fish for himself when he is
hungry—can only cheat a man out of one, by some one of
his many frauds, tricks and deceits.
His history, according to the Tsimsheans, begins as
'' A chief s son had a slave of his own age.   He grew up
to be an expert archer.   One day he shot a raven, skinned
it, put on the skin, and found that he could fly.
" The slave boy wanted to fly also, so he shot another
raven, and taught the slave to fly.
" They flew up into heaven, where the Great Chief gave
them each a wife, and each of them had a baby boy.
" Aiter a while, the Great Chief wished them to send
their boys down to earth to help the people. So their
fathers dropped them down. One fell on land, and the
other into the sea.   The latter was the devil.
" When he fell into the water, a salmon swallowed him.
This happened not far from a village, where lived a chief,
whose wife had no children. They both wanted children,
but she did not get any. One of her slave women was
put fishing with a net, and caught a big salmon. When
she took it ashore to clean it, she found the boy in its
belly. Then she put him under the bed of the chiefs
wife. When she awoke, during the night, she heard the
boy cry, looked under the bed, found him, and took him
in her arms.
"Then the chief adopted him as his own son." XVI
AT the request of Governor Douglas, Mr. Duncan, from the time when he first arrived at the
Fort, read the service of the Episcopal Church
for the garrison every Sunday forenoon.
The inmates seemed to appreciate this service very
much, also the schooling which he gave these grown up
men, many of whom could neither read nor write.
One of them, who learned the three "R's" from Mr.
Duncan, afterwards became clerk in his store, and his
bookkeeper at old Metlakahtla.
It was Sunday morning, some four or five weeks after
his arrival. As Mr. Duncan returned from his breakfast, he saw four or five of the men in their working
clothes, and with axes on their shoulders. He at once
went to the second officer, asked him what that meant,
and was informed that the captain had given them orders
to go out into the forest and chop wood.
Duncan at once went to his room, and wrote a letter to
the captain, stating what he had heard and seen as to his
"Now," he continued, "I have only this to say ; that
if this be so, I cannot hold any services in the Fort to-day.
I am no hypocrite, and will not take part in any hypocritical service wherein I read : ' From the contempt of
Thy word, and holy commandments,' and you answer,
'Good Lord, deliver us,' when you and I both know that
you have just broken one of God's commandments.
Therefore, if you want any service, you will have to read
it yourself, as I peremptorily decline so to do."
In ten minutes the captain was at his quarters, angry
as he could be. That was evident. Every one at the
Fort knew what it meant, when the captain appeared
with his cap, turned around with the vizor in the neck.
' 11 have received your letter, sir. I thought, when you
came, that in a short time you would try to run the Fort,
and I see I was right."
" Not at all, sir. I try to run nothing. I issue no orders, only to myself. I must have that right. I don't
prevent your having a service. I simply say : I will not
take any part in it, knowing that God's law as to the Sabbath is being openly broken. I am not the chaplain of
your Fort, and you cannot order me, sir."
"Well, sir, I shall certainly report this assumption of
authority to the Company."
"All right, do so. I will also make my report, and I
have no fear of the result."
The captain, angry as he could be, ran out, slammed
the door, and shouted to the men :
"You men need not go to work. It seems some one
else is going to run things in the Fort after this."
The men, of course, were more than pleased to quit
work, and all came to the service.
"This one thing I do."
As soon as Mr. Duncan had arrived at the state where
he could, to some extent, make himself understood to
Clah, he made it a point to go with him around to the
houses of the Indians.
His first specific object was to take a census of the people. This occupation gave him a chance to meet them in
a friendly way, and I have no doubt that his face, which
even then must have beamed like a benediction, spoke to 120
them volumes of the white missionary's kindness and
love for them.
Whenever he learned of any being sick, he welcomed
the opportunity to visit them, and to try to help them
out, by some simple advice, or, once in a while, with
some medicine from his medicine chest, for he had dabbled a little in medicine also, thinking it might be of use
to him in his missionary work. And many a heart was
won by the young missionary, even before he could make
himself understood at all in their language, through the
kindness and sympathy he showed the sick, and by his
being able to relieve their suffering by the means at hand.
It was a puzzle to the Indians to know what a white
man, who was not a trader, or a whiskey-seller, or a de-
baucher of their women, really came among them for.
Many a time must they have put this question to each
other. And frequently, I am told, did they inquire of
Clah when the white man would be able to speak to
One day, when Mr. Duncan had been at the Fort three
or four months, he was surprised to see a fine-looking old
Indian chief enter his room. The chief's name was " Ne-
yashtodoh." He was one of the chiefs of the Kitlahns,
and while not the head chief, was very much respected
by all the Indians in the camp.
The fact that he had three full grown sons living with
him, would alone make him very much respected.
"I have heard that you have come here with the letter of God. Is that so ? Have you the letter of God with
you?" asked the chief.
"I have," said Mr. Duncan.
" Would you mind showing it to me ? "
'' Certainly.'' And Mr. Duncan went into his bedroom,
and returned with a large Bible, which he placed on the
"This is God's Book."
The Indian reverently, almost caressingly, laid his hand
on the Bible.
" Is God's letter for the Tsimsheans ?"
"Certainly. God sent this Book to your people, as
well as to mine."
" Does that Book give God's ' heart' to us!"
"It does."
" Ajid are you going to tell the Indians that ?"
"I am."
" Ahm! Ahm! Shimauget." (It is good—It is good,
His coming, under the circumstances, showed how anxiously some of them were looking for the Gospel message.
T?hey could hardly wait until he was ready to bring it
them. XVII
FINALLY, the great day came, when Mr. Duncan,
after eight months' assiduous study, had attained
such knowledge of their language that he had
been able to write out in Tsimshean the first message of
the Christ to the savage heart.
The Indians had but lately returned from their oolakan
fishing-trip to the Nass River, when he was ready, for the
first time, to address them in their own language.
On Saturday morning, he sent word to the chiefs of the
nine different tribes that he would like to address their
people in their respective houses the next day, and asked
if they would permit him to do so.
The answer was favourable in every instance, and it
must have given him much encouragement to notice
that not a canoe started out that Sunday morning from
the settlement. Every Indian man, woman, and child
was anxious to hear what the white chief had come to tell
It was ten o'clock Sunday forenoon, the 13th day of
June, A.D. 1858, when he started from the Fort, with his
sermon in his pocket, and, accompanied by Clah, his
language teacher.
The first house which he entered was that of Neyahsh-
nawah, the head chief of the Kitlootsah tribe, where he
found an audience of about one hundred gathered to hear
It seems almost a dispensation of Providence that of all
the Indian houses, at that time located near Fort Simpson,
the only one of which any vestige now remains is that
very house, in which he, by God's grace, was first allowed to preach the Gospel to the Tsimsheans.
The framework of this house, as shown in the illustration on a near-by page, stands to-day at Fort Simpson,
though its occupants and their descendants long since are
By actual measurement of the beams and posts now
standing, it appears that this house was fifty-five feet by
sixty-five feet, with a height from the ground to the lower
edge of the cross-beams of a little over fifteen feet. The
beams and posts are logs of nearly three feet in diameter.
This was the first Indian assembly Mr. Duncan ever
faced. No wonder that he quailed before the undertaking. It required a stout heart for any one, with only his
limited knowledge of a strange and difficult language, to
dare lay before this waiting throng the precious Gospel
message. One word improperly used might produce an
entirely wrong impression—one mispronounced, bring
ridicule on the messenger and the message. But Mr.
Duncan had a stout heart, and then he had, in addition
thereto, the wonderful support of an Almighty Father,
who did not allow him to yield to the temptation to read
his sermon, sentence by sentence, to Clah, and have him
repeat it to the people.
When he, at the last moment, fearing the effect of his
faulty pronunciation, suggested this course to Clah, the
blanching of the latter's cheeks at once convinced him
that things would be liable to go worse then, and, with a
silent prayer to God for help, he started in by asking the
people to close the door.
This brought an awe of stillness over the audience,
^ 124
which was heightened by Mr. Duncan's kneeling down
for a few moments of silent prayer.
He then gave them the first address they ever heard
from a white man in their own language.
Fortunately, I am able to give, in English, a synopsis
of this historical address, the original of which, in Tsimshean, is still kept in Mr. Duncan's safe at Metlakahtla.
He first introduced himself as a missionary from England, who had come from afar over the great seas with the
specific object of giving to them the message of God from
His Book, which, if they would learn and obey it, would
bless them in this life, and prepare them for the life to
come. He then reminded them that we do not live here
always, that the term of our life here is uncertain; but,
though our bodies die, our souls do not, and proceeded:
"God's Book teaches us how we should live in this
world, and so be prepared for a future life in heaven
with God.
" It also teaches us about God—that He is holy, that
He hates every evil way—that all men and women are sinners, and that our hearts are full of evil.
" God made us to love Him, and follow His ways ; but
the people have forsaken Him, and followed their own
ways, which are evil in His sight.
"God's Book tells us that God sees all we do, knows all
that is in our hearts, and that, when we die, every one
of us must stand before Him, to answer for our conduct
on earth.
" We cannot hide anything from God, nor can we make
ourselves good.
" How then can we be saved from the punishment due
to our sins, and become good ?
'' The answer to these great questions is given us in God's
Book, and this is the Gospel, or good news, which God
has sent you. THE FIRST MESSAGE 125
" I now urge you to listen to this Gospel, which is: That
God so loved and pitied mankind, that He sent His only
Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save us.
" Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins.
" He is now in heaven to hear and answer our prayers.
" He bids us put away our sinful ways, and look to
Him to be saved.
" If we obey, He will pardon our sins, make us holy, and
take us to live with Him in heaven when we die.
" I exhort you not to reject God's message of love. Reflect on how much God has done to save us. Put away
your evil ways, and learn God's ways.
" One thing I ask you to do, from this day forth, which
you can do, and which will be pleasing to God. Refrain
from all kind of work on Sunday, which is the Lord's
Day, and meet together on that day to learn God's will,
and pray to Him.
" I have a great deal more to tell you from God's Book.
He has heard what I have told you to-day. Believe that
God is longing to bless you, and to save you."
The Indians were all remarkably attentive. When, at
the conclusion, he asked them to kneel down, they at once
complied. And while he offered up a prayer in English,
they preserved great silence.
He then bade them good-bye, and went to the house of
the head chief of the Tsimsheans, Legaic, where everything was prepared, a sail spread for Mr. Duncan to
stand upon, and a mat placed on a box for him to sit
upon. About one hundred and fifty people had assembled, who were, by the chief, admonished to behave
themselves, and listen respectfully to what he had to say.
A few people from the Fort being present, Mr. Duncan
first spoke shortly in English, and thereupon repeated
his address in Tsimshean.
They all knelt in prayer, and were very attentive, as at 126
the other place. Clah, upon inquiry, assured Mr. Duncan
that, from their looks, he knew that they understood him,
and felt it to be " good."
After this, he went to the other seven chiefs' houses in
succession, and in each repeated his address to a congregation of all the way from fifty to two hundred souls.
In some of the places, where he had an idea that the
people did not understand, or pay the attention he desired, he repeated his address. At one house he even repeated it twice.
When four o'clock came, he had, without getting any
rest or luncheon, preached in nine different houses, to between eight and nine hundred Indians.
That it was a great beginning of a great good to these
people, the following pages will show.
That he had made a good impression on the people
was evident from the fact that the head chief, Legaic, offered him the use of his house for a school, which he informed them he intended to open at once, for the children
in the forenoon, and for the adults in the afternoon.
The roll-call showed twenty-six children present on the
first day, and the attendance increased right along. Still
more satisfactory to the teacher was it to notice the attention and interest the scholars seemed to give to their
work from the beginning.
The attendance in the afternoon, some fifteen only, was
not so satisfactory. It evidently took some courage for
the grown people to go to school.
The spirit, which Mr. Duncan had recognized, by not
asking the people to hear his message, except in their
own chiefs house, soon made itself felt, also with reference
to the school.   One chief said to Mr. Duncan :
" You will have all the people to teach as soon as your
own house is built."
This set him to thinking, and as Legaic, when the sal- THE FIRST MESSAGE 127
mon season came, was going away, he, after a while, concluded he had better close his school till he could get a
school building erected.
On July 11th, Mr. Duncan had finished and prepared
a second address in Tsimshean, and proceeded to deliver
it in the same way as on the first occasion.
Of all the people present, there was only one, the Chief
Quthray, the head of the cannibal club, who refused to
kneel, when he asked them to do so. The angry scowl
and the ugly muttering of this chief showed that the
medicine-men recognized in the new teaching the death
knell to their nefarious practices and disgusting deviltry.
They undoubtedly commenced to feel already that a new
light was coming over their people, which would open
their eyes to the falsehood and deceit that so long had
been practiced upon them, and from which these same
medicine-men had so long managed to make an easy living.
During the summer months a goodly portion of the Indians were away, but enough remained to give Mr. Duncan a lift with his school building.
Several had undertaken to cut the logs and raft them
over to the beach, and now the logs were to be brought
up the hill, to the place where the school was to be located, about the site where the Methodist Church now
stands. But this was not to be. Only a few logs had
been brought to the location, when an Indian, assisting
in the work, fainted and died, undoubtedly from some
heart trouble.
Any one knowing the Indian superstition can appreciate
the effect of this. Naturally, any confidence with which
Mr. Duncan had inspired them would be shaken, and
they would be afraid to help any further in the work.
With a wisdom which seems to be of God, and which
never, all through his life, has> forsaken him, he immedi- 128
ately stopped the work, and changed the site to a place
whence it would not require such exertion to convey the
logs j but where, on the other hand, he put himself right
in the path of the enemies of his work, as he later on
found out.
He said nothing more about building, until September
16th.   The next day he wrote in his diary :
" Yesterday I spoke to a few on the subject, and all seemed
heartily glad. One old chief said to me: ' Cease being angry
now,' thinking, I suppose, my delay was occasioned by anger.
He assured me he would send his men to help. This morning
I went to the raft at 6 a. m. But only one old man was there.
In a little time came two or three. Then a few more. Then
two chiefs. By about half-past six we mustered seven or eight
workers on the raft, though several more came and sat at their
doors, Indian-like, as though they wished only to look on.
"This seemed greatly in contrast with their expressions to
me yesterday, but such is the Indian. I knew it was of no use
to push, so I patiently waited.
" About seven o'clock, one of the Indians on the raft sprang
to his feet, gave the word for starting, which is a peculiar kind
of a whoop, and he, with the few so inadequate to do the
work, determined to begin. At this, I proceeded up the beach
to the building site; but what was my surprise, when, on returning, I met upwards of forty Indians carrying logs.
" They all seemed to have moved in an instant, and sprung to
the work with one heart. The enthusiasm they manifested was
truly gladdening, and almost alarming. Among the number
were several old men, who were doing more with their spirited
looks and words than with their muscles. The whole camp
seemed now excited. Encouraging words and pleasant looks
greeted me on every side. Every one seemed in earnest, and
the heavy blocks and beams began to move up the hill with
amazing rapidity. When the Fort bell rang for breakfast, they
proposed to keep on. One old man said he would not eat till
the work was done. However, I did not think it good to
sanction this enthusiasm so far, but sent them off to their
" By three o'clock all was over, for which I was very glad,
for the constant whooping, groaning and bawling of the In- THE FIRST MESSAGE 129
dians, together with the difficulty of the work, from the great
weight of the pieces and the bad road, kept me in constant
Within a few days the framework was in position, and
the work of finishing the school building and providing
the schoolroom with the necessary desks and benches,
now proceeded as fast as could be expected.
Mr. Duncan had intended to buy bark for the roof, but
the Indians, saying that the white chief's teaching house
ought to have a roof of boards, insisted upon donating,
with a great deal of ceremony and show of good feeling,
the boards, both for the floor and the roofing.
Many, who could not otherwise have contributed,
brought boards from their own houses, and even planks,
which were part of their beds.
On November 17th, when the school was first opened,
his former scholars all rushed eagerly to the new school,
whither they were called by blows on a triangle of steel,
used for a bell.
The attendance proved to be one hundred and forty
children and fifty adults—many more than he had ever
expected, or hoped to see there. XVIII
THESE fall months were like the calm before
the storms, which always rage during the midwinter months in Alaskan waters. With the
month of December commenced the medicine work and
the club work, with all its abominable and disgusting
On the first of December, the head chief came to the
captain of the Fort, and told him that his young daughter ("the big fin") had gone to the moon for her education, and would be back in a month, and asked him to
persuade Mr. Duncan to suspend his school during that
month, as it would interfere with their work, and he did
not like to have the children pass by the house, going to
and from school, as it broke the spell of their mysteries.
If he would do this, they would all come to school afterwards. But, if he did not, the medicine-men might shoot
the children as they were on their way to school.
Now this going to the moon was, of course, only a
put-up game. They all know better. They simply hide
the child away somewhere in the forest for a month.
When she has disappeared, they go around with a mysterious air, and sing weird songs. A kind of heathenish
hysterics comes over the whole camp. They pretend to
know just when she is coming back. The whole tribe is
gathered on the beach looking for her, when she suddenly
appears, coming around the point on a raft, stark naked.
They now rush out into the water, to take her off the
130 n
little raft. She makes all kinds of funny gestures, as if
she wanted to get away, and go up into the air again.
They then tie her with a medicine-man's rope, and
butcher a dog. She pretends to eat the raw dog-meat,
smears the blood around her mouth, and on her breast
and arms, runs, with her arms stretched out, and moving
them up and down, as if she tried to fly, around to all
the houses in the village, followed by the crowd. At
some house she gets up on the roof, with the people after
her, holding her back from going to the moon again.
When the captain laid the request of Legaic before
Mr. Duncan, and asked him to give in to them in this
matter, his answer was :
"Not for a month, nor even for a day will I stop.
Satan has reigned long enough here. It is high time his
rule should be disturbed."
The second officer of the Fort should not have said what
he did:
"I think you are making a great mistake, sir, in not
giving in to them. You do not know what you are doing.
You ought to respect their superstitions. It is likely that
bloodshed will come from this."
" Well, sir," said Duncan, "I thank you for your advice, which, by the way, I did not ask you to give. I
may not know what I am doing. But I think you do
not know what you are talking about. If blood will be
shed, it certainly will not be yours anyhow. I suppose
you mean mine. But, as to my own blood, I will be responsible for that, sir. One thing I know—whether blood
will be shed or not, and I don't believe it will be, I never
could afford to make a compromise with the devil, and I
never Will."
That is Mr. Duncan, through and through. It was his
policy in the beginning. It has been his policy all through
his Hfe.   It is his policy to-day.   No one can move him 132
an inch, when he thinks he is right, and has laid out his
course to follow.
When Legaic that night came for his answer, and found
what it was, he begged the captain to ask Mr. Duncan to
stop for a fortnight anyway. But, by this time, the captain knew better than to run his head up against a stone
wall, and told the chief it would be of no use to speak to
Mr. Duncan about it again.
The day the girl was coming back, the chief's wife
hailed Mr. Duncan as he was going into the schoolroom.
She said the chiefs were all at her house, and had sent her
to ask him if he could not dispense with the school for
just one day.
" No, not for an hour."
"The bell does so disturb them. Could you be so kind
as not to ring the bell to-day ?"
"No, I cannot do that. If I did not ring the bell, the
scholars would think there would be no school, and would
not come."
" Well, you could ring it softly, not so hard ?"
"No, if I ring it at all, I will have to ring it as usual,
so they can hear it."
She cried, and went away seemingly much dejected at
the failure of her mission.
Mr. Duncan struck the steel used for a school bell, and
says he is inclined to think that, if anything, the bell was
clanging a little more lively that day than usual. And
no one who knows Mr. Duncan doubts that for a moment.
Only about eighty scholars came to school that day.
The rest undoubtedly knew what was coming, and prudently stayed away.
Nothing happened in the morning, but in the afternoon,
just as school was to commence, Duncan, on looking out
of the door (there were no windows in this school building), noticed several Indians coming in single file, Legaic THE DEVIL ABROAD 133
first. They all had their war-paint on. Some wore
When Legaic came into the room, the children all
scampered out of the door. The other Indians, seven in
number, followed Legaic in. Mr. Duncan, who perhaps
guessed what was coming, folded his arms, and stood immovable at his place.
Legaic first commenced to scold him because he had
not "obeyed" him. Mr. Duncan simply answered that
he had to obey God more than man, and that God looked
with anger and disgust on their heathen deviltry.
At this time, some of the other Indians evidently
taunted Legaic, who was considerably under the influence
of liquor, for he now started over, closer to Mr. Duncan,
with an ugly looking knife in his hand, assuring him in
the meanwhile that he was a bad man, that he had killed
men before, and that he now had made up his mind to
"punish" him. He was brandishing his knife, as his
companion, Cushwat, encouraged him by crying:
"Kill him. Cut his head off. Give it to me, and I
will kick it on the beach !''
Mr. Duncan, who thought his last moment had come,
threw a glance upward, and then looked his intended
murderer, who towered above the little Englishman,
firmly in the eye, as he said :
"Yes, you are a bad man. I know it. You would
kill me, who have done you no harm. I, who have come
here only for your good."
He noticed that while he was speaking, Legaic's eyes
were turning to the left of him ; that he seemed to waver
in his evident purpose. And he was more than surprised
when he heard Legaic commence to speak abusively to
On turning to the left, he saw Clah, who had come in
without the knowledge of Mr. Duncan, standing with his 134
right hand under his blanket, a little behind him. He then
understood that Legaic, as he came up to kill him, had
observed Clah's coming in, and that he, from the position,
well knew that Clah had a loaded pistol under his blanket,
and would shoot him dead the moment he did any harm
to Mr. Duncan.
Growling and cursing, Legaic's followers left. When
he saw that, he also retired.
Well might Mr. Duncan write in his diary that night:
" I have heartily to thank that all-seeing Father, who
has covered me and supported me to-day."
After Legaic had gone, Mr. Duncan went out to ring
the bell. He was surprised to find the children all huddled together under the building. (The house was built
on posts.) He told them to come in, which they did.
And with them came also an old woman belonging to
Legaic's tribe.
Duncan was a little nervous after the attack, perhaps,
but nevertheless he distributed the books, and was about
to commence the instruction, when there was a heavy
thump against the door, which he had just closed.
He understood perfectly well that this indicated an unfriendly action, and expected his last moment had come,
as he felt sure that Legaic had probably been taunted with
having come and gone without doing what he had said
he would do.   But he, nevertheless, went to open the door.
Legaic stood outside.
" You said I was a bad man. I wanted to show you I
was not.   Look at my ' teapots.' "
The Tsimsheans were then, as all the coast Indians are
now, very anxious to obtain letters or certificates from
white men, especially officials, as to their good character.
These certificates, which they call " teapots," they value
very much, and are very prone to show them to visiting
Whites, with whom they come in contact. THE DEVIL ABROAD 135
As they generally are unable to read writing, sometimes scurvy tricks are played upon them by persons
taking advantage of their ignorance.
I saw once such a " teapot" handed me in good faith
by an old, ignorant Indian, which read as follows:
" This Indian is an infernal thief. He will steal a red
hot stove.   Look out for him."
The poor old Indian did not look as if he could steal a
But Legaic's "teapots" were undoubtedly bona fide,
obtained from the captain of the Fort, and others. They
were carefully placed between two pieces of board, which
were whittled down to the thickness of thick, heavy paper.
He now handed this package to Mr. Duncan.
"No," he said, "I don't care to read your 'teapots.'
I know you better \han the men who gave them. But
that does not make any difference. I have no ill-feeling
against you. I have come here to make you good. Come
in here, and sit down, and I will help you to be better."
Saying this, he took him by the arm, as if to lead him
in. This was too much for the chief. With an indignant grunt, he disappeared.
His feeling continued for some time to be of such a
hostile nature, that in order not to expose the scholars'
lives to dangerous attacks as they passed his house, Mr.
Duncan deemed it best to close the school in the school-
house, and accept the offer of another chief to use his
house for a school, temporarily. Over one hundred
scholars were now in regular attendance.
The murderous attack of Legaic took place five days
before Christmas.
On Christmas Day, the scholars, at Mr. Duncan's request, brought their friends and parents with them to
School. Some two hundred gathered. Now, for the first
time, did Mr. Duncan attempt to speak to the people, with- 136 THE APOSTLE OF ALASKA
out having reduced his ideas to writing. The attempt,
much to his surprise, proved to be a complete success.
He explained to the Indians, to whom Sunday was
"dress-day," and Christmas Day " the great dress-day,"
why the white people celebrated this day as one of " great
joy to all people." That God's Son was born on that
day. He spoke again of the love of God, and His hatred
of sin, and especially called their attention to the sin
of drunkenness amongst men, and profligacy amongst
women, of which they were guilty. As he spoke, he
could see that his words went home to the consciences of
After his sermon, he questioned the children on some
Bible truths, which they had learned at school, and then
they sang two hymns, which he had translated into their
tongue, and which the children had practiced in school,
he accompanying the singing on his concertina.
Thereafter the same kind of services were held in the
schoolroom every Sunday. Hymns were sung, a short
address given, a brief catechization of the people on
simple truths, and then a closing song and prayer.
And this less than seven months after the Indians had,
for the first time in their lives, heard the Gospel message. XIX
IN February, 1859, Mr. Duncan thought it safe to
move the school back to the house he had built for
it, and, dividing the pupils into different classes, he
found himself able to make better progress than before in
instructing them. Every session of the school was opened
with prayer and a short address on a passage or narrative
from the Bible.
Then he would make the whole school learn a text in
English, which he explained and paraphrased, and which
they repeated again and again until it was firmly fixed
in their minds.
Singing was a very popular part of the school work.
Simple hymns were translated into their language, and
old and young were very much interested in learning
Gradually, the little crowd who gathered around the
Word every Sunday increased, and those who had come
from the beginning seemed to become more and more
The influence of the Gospel showed itself in many of
them. It was especially observable in those who attended the school. Week by week, there was a fewer
number who came to school painted in the heathen way,
or with the abominable rings or ornaments in their noses
or lips.
Soon it was also clearly perceivable that the drunken
brawls in the camp were on the decrease.
137 138
Some of the chiefs had already let it be known that
they would abandon their medicine work. And one
thing was certain, that the heathenish rites were not
carried on with the same spirit and dash as heretofore.
One could notice that a feeling of shame had taken possession of the common people when taking part in the
ceremonies, instead of the braggadocio which theretofore
was one of the concomitants of the medicine and club
No better proof that the teaching of the Gospel was
taking effect, and that the Word reached the hearts and
consciences of the people, can be found than the conduct
of a bad man, who was present at a service, and who
finally went away muttering, and later was heard to
"talk badly " against Mr. Duncan.
His trouble was that he was firmly convinced that Mr.
Duncan was speaking about him, and had been telling the
people his bad ways, and thus "shamed" him.
At a meeting held by several chiefs, in Legaic's house,
in March, just before the departure of the main body of
the people for the oolakan fishing at Nass River, it was
resolved to send word from them to Mr. Duncan, that
they hoped he would keep on to " speak strong " against
the bad ways of their people, and they would also support him with "strong speeches."
But more than mere talk was it, when the head chief,
Legaic himself, on the 6th of April, came to the school,
this time not to kill the teacher, but in order to sit at his
feet and learn about "the good ways."
This example was soon followed by many. And, during
the year, four or live other chiefs diligently attended
In August, the following event took place:
One Cushwaht had been bitten by a dog belonging in
the Fort.   According to the Indian custom, he was to FIRST FRUITS 139
take out his revenge on one of the Whites, and as Mr.
Duncan was the only one he could conveniently get at,
he went in his rage to the schoolhouse to kill him.
As he found the door locked, he smashed it, cut out the
lock, and destroyed some books and other property. It
was really the time for Mr. Duncan to be at school, but,
fortunately for him, he had been called to see an old Indian woman, who was suffering from peritonitis. He
told her that he had to go to the Fort to consult his books,
and to mix some medicine for her.
As he stood in his room rolling some pills, which he
had prepared, in magnesia, two Indians came rushing in.
They were very much excited, brought with them the
piece which had been cut out of the door, and begged of
him not to go outside the Fort, as Cushwaht had sworn
that he would kill him.
One of them, an old man, one of the first to come out
to his services, begged him, with tears in his eyes, not to
show himself outside the Fort that day.
But Mr. Duncan was immovable. He had promised
the old woman to come and see her again. She would expect him. He felt that it was his duty to keep his promise ; that God would protect him in the discharge of his
duty.   And he went on his way.
As he left the Fort, the Indians shouted after him :
"If Cushwaht kills you, we will kill him."
He had to pass near Cushwaht's house, in going to see
the old woman. He went by with his head erect, whistling in a careless manner. He imagined he saw some one
moving inside the door, but nothing happened.
While he was in his patient's house, a woman came in.
It was Cushwaht's wife. He noticed that she crossed the
floor, and observed him very closely. He looked up, cast
a careless glance in her direction, and went on with his
work.   Later on, he found that she had been sent to see 140
whether he appeared scared or flustered. If he had so
appeared, the Indian would have killed him, without
doubt. That was their way. If he was not afraid, then
the Indian did not dare to attack him, as Duncan's
"spirit" would then have been on top.
On coming out, the idea occurred to him to go directly
past the house, as there were some other sick people
farther away, whom he might visit now, when there was
to be no school in the afternoon. But then it came to
him :
" No, you have no duty to go there. God will protect
you in the discharge of your duty, but not when you
recklessly run into danger."
So he turned, and went back to the Fort. Nothing
happened. He paid no attention to what Cushwaht had
done. Only put on a new lock, and went about his usual
And now was apparent the change which had come
over the hearts of the Indians during the last half-year.
He had to use his strongest powers of persuasion to keep
them from taking measures of revenge against Cushwaht,
for doing what he had against him, and for threatening
his life.
That all days of danger, however, were not yet over, is
shown by the following incident:
Mr. Duncan, who had noticed that the Indian children
never played or laughed or even smiled, determined to
get his school children to have some innocent amusement,
as well as instruction.
He, therefore, in November, after the potatoes had been
dug from the garden at the Fort, secured the captain's
permission to use a portion of this garden for a playground for his scholars, and erected on it a greased pole,
with a cap on top, which was to belong to the boy who
could first get hold of it. FIRST FRUITS 141
They had quite a time of it, some of the old people gathering to look at the contest, as well as quite a lot of children, too small to take part.
As it was cold, and the children were scantily dressed,
he was afraid that the little ones, who were j ust looking
on, were getting chilly; so he proposed that they run
after him, and, to the one who could catch him, he promised to give a piece of soap. The little children, who already had become quite attached to the kind, loving
schoolmaster, started to run. One of them stumbled and
fell. Some of the others laughed at the clumsiness of the
little tot, who was foolish enough to cry at the mishap.
Mr. Duncan noticed a commotion over in the crowd of
people ; but did not know till it was all over what was up.
Loocoal, the father of the child, a medicine-man, who
had no love for Mr. Duncan, then or afterwards, angry at
his child having been "shamed," and using the Indian
logic, that it would not have happened had not Mr. Duncan asked them to run after him and catch him, had lifted
his gun, pointed it at Mr. Duncan, and undoubtedly
would have killed him then and there, had it not been
for his own nephew, who grabbed hold of the muzzle of
the gun, pushed it to the ground, and held it there,
till others could disarm the outraged medicine-man.
Loocoal was, some years later, killed by this very nephew.
The following summer, Mr. Duncan, at the joint re- ^
quest of Bishop Hills, of the Diocese of Columbia, and 1
of Governor Douglas, spent a couple of months, while his
Indians were away on their fishing trips, at Victoria,
where it was thought he could be of great assistance in
helping to organize a movement to control and Christianize the Indian camps near Victoria, where many of the
up-coast Indians came for trading and worse purposes.
He showed his ability as an organizer in this work.
His plans were fully approved by the authorities, and
*& 142
could he himself have been permitted to carry them out,
they would unquestionably have proven of great benefit.
But the people afterwards chosen to carry them into execution unfortunately did not have the requisite courage,
and the work fell through, after Mr. Duncan had left for
the Northland with the Rev. L. S. Tugwell, a missionary,
who, upon Duncan's repeated requests upon the Society,
to send him a married missionary, in order that the Indians might be taught Christian home-life, had, with his
young wife, been sent out from England, and arrived in
Victoria in the month of August, 1860.
Mr. Duncan, of course, started for Fort Simpson with
his new assistants on the first steamer going north.
On arriving at the Fort, he addressed Mrs. Tugwell:
I Now, don't bother about the luggage, Mrs. Tugwell!
Your husband and I will look after that. But we have
no bread in the house. Will you kindly make us some
biscuits ?   You will find the flour over there."
"Why, Mr. Duncan," was her answer, "I don't know
how to make biscuits. I never made any biscuits in all
my life."
One can hardly blame Mr. Duncan, when he, of late,
in speaking of this incident, said :
I \ What do you think of that ? The Church Missionary
Society had sent more than §.ve thousand miles, some
one to help me to teach the Indians Christian home-life,
and here I was, obliged to make bread for her myself, the
very first day she was in my house."
It is only fair, however, to say that Mrs. Tugwell, for
the little more than a year that she and her husband
spent at Fort Simpson, proved of much greater value
than her first day's lack of usefulness would seem to give
promise of.
As the accommodations in the Fort now had become
wholly inadequate, Mr. Duncan concluded to build a ^1
dwelling house outside, where he placed in charge of Mrs.
Tugwell some of the older schoolgirls, who were getting
to an age when they required a Christian mother's care,
and some one to look after them all the time, and this
position Mrs. Tugwell, to the best of her ability, filled
with great zeal and Christian earnestness.
In the month of April, 1860, Mr. Duncan had undertaken a journey up the Nass River in order to carry the
Gospel tidings to the Tsimshean tribes there. But as he
was not, at the time, able to get to the upper villages,
and now had been authorized by the Governor to warn all
the tribes in the Northwestern part of the province against
bringing their young women to Victoria, he, after returning to Fort Simpson with the Tugwells, made another tour
up Nass River, on which trip he visited all the different
villages located up that great stream.
On going away from the Fort on canoe trips, he always
took with him, for paddlers, some young boys of his
scholars. If he had one adult for counsel as to navigation, which he deemed safest, he always made it a point
to choose an old man, whom he could expect to be able to
overpower, should he attack him for the purpose of robbery. That was the extent of confidence he yet had in the
Indians. So much had been preached to him by the Fort
people of their treachery.
On this trip, he was happily surprised as to the character of the old man he had taken along. He says himself:
"One night, when I was camping out, after a weary day, the
supper and the little instruction being over, my crew of Indians, excepting one old man, quickly spread their mats near
the fire, and lay down to sleep, in pairs, each sharing his fellow's blanket.
" The one old man sat near the fire, smoking his pipe. I
crept into my little tent, but, after some time, put my head 144 THE APOSTLE OF ALASKA
outside, to see that all was right. The old man was just making his bed (a thin bark mat on the ground, a little box of
grease, and a few dry salmon for his pillow—a shirt on, and a
blanket around him—another bark mat over all, his head included). When everything was adjusted, he put his pipe
down, and offered up, in his own tongue, this simple little
" * Be merciful to me, Jesus/   Then he drew up his feet, and
was soon lost to view."
Methinks Mr. Duncan had no fear of any attempt at
robbery on the part of this old man after that day.
The reception which he met with at one of the upper
villages, on his second trip up Nass River, is so unique,
that it must be told, as I heard him tell it one day, in the
church at Metlakahtla, to a party of tourists. But I desire to preface the narrative with the remark that not only
had the news of Mr. Duncan's preaching the Gospel at
the lower villages the foregoing Spring reached these
tribes, but, more than that, the tale of the wonderful influence which he had already exercised over so many of
the Fort Simpson Indians had undoubtedly penetrated
into the Interior, and filled these savage hearts with awe
and wonderment.
On the eighth day of September, Mr. Duncan started
from the uppermost of the lower villages on Nass River
on his journey up-stream. The current in this river is so
rapid that it is almost impossible to make much headway
unless a man acquainted with the eddies of the river is at
the helm.
Mr. Duncan, therefore, with thanks accepted the generous offer of Kintsadah, the chief, to pilot him on his
Soon after he had arrived at Agweelakkah's village,
and had encamped on the river bank, messengers from
the chief came to tell him that the chiefs house was not ■^
in order just then, but that he was going to arrange it
right away, and then would send many messengers to him
to tell him to come.
After an hour or so, several persons came down to the
river bank, in state, to invite him to come to the chief's
house, and be present at his dance. Mr. Duncan was
shocked, and told the messengers that he had not come to
participate in a dance. That his errand was too solemn
a one for that.
The messengers retired, but soon came back with word
from the chief, that if the white chief would not come to
his dance, he would not come to the white chiefs talk,
but that, if he came, the chief and all his people would
come and listen to him.
Mr. Duncan still had some scruples about going. The
idea of a missionary proceeding *to a dance had something abhorrent in it to him, but when the young chief
finally came himself, and explained to him that a dance,
with them, meant just the same as the Book with the
white people (whatever he may have meant by this),
Duncan concluded that he had better give in for once,
and so went with his crew to the chief's house.
"Upon entering," he said, "I was, with many ceremonies, shown to a box, which had been placed for me,
covered with an expensive fur, in front of a sail doing
service as a curtain. There were many people in the
house. Over to one side sat a number of women, who,
later on, acted as a chorus. I looked just as glum as I
knew how. I was not going to smile at their dancing,
anyhow, and felt half-inclined to turn back, even after I
had been seated.
"Soon, a man, with a long staff in his hand, stepped out
in front of the curtain. He made a respectful bow to me,
and said :
" ' Welcome, chief!' 146
"As another man then came out, and placed himself by
his side, he commenced a sort of improvised chant:
''' Are the heavens going to change the hearts of our old
men now ?' he chanted, striking the time with his staff.
" ' Perhaps so,' the other man answered.
" The choir now fell in, asserting that the heavens were
going to change the hearts of their people, when, suddenly, the curtain was drawn aside, and the young chief,
arrayed in a beautiful suit, stepped forward with vqry
graceful movements, struck an exceedingly imposing attitude right in front of me, saluted me, and then looked
up to the bit of heaven showing through the opening in
the centre of the ceiling, found in all Indian houses to let
the smoke escape by, and, to my great amazement, instead
of dancing, commenced to recite a most beautiful prayer.
" This is about what he said, in his own sonorous, flowing language:
" 'Pity us, Great Father in heaven, pity us. Give us
Thy good Book to do us good, and clear away our sins.
This chief has come to tell us about Thee. It is good,
Great Father. We want to hear. Who ever came to
tell our fathers Thy will ? No—no. But this chief has
pitied us, and come. He has Thy Book. We will hear.
We will receive Thy Word.   We will obey.'
"Then he started a plaintive chant, sounding almost
like a hymn. It was an improvisation of how the
Heavenly Chief had taken pity on them, and sent the
white chief to tell them the great truth. Every little
while, the chorus would repeat what he had sung.
"He then made a speech to me, offering me the glad
hand of his people.
" In the afternoon, the whole village came to my tent to
hear me preach. Prominent among them was an old,
blind chief of the uppermost village on the river,
Skothene byname, who was greatly impressed by the J  1
message, and repeated the glad tidings about Jesus again
and again to the people, and told them that a change
had now come over their hearts. He even started a
prayer himself to Jesus to take his sins away.
"After supper, the chief from the lower village, who
had acted as my pilot up the river, told me that the old,
blind chief would like to be allowed to come to my evening's devotion with my crew, which request was cheerfully granted. About thirty came with him. Hearing
me singing Christian hymns took their hearts completely. I had to promise to teach them to sing the next
day, which I did, trying to instruct them to sing ' Jesus
my Saviour,' in their own language.
"In the afternoon, many of the men came to me, and
wanted me to write out, so that they could preserve it
and always look at it, a pledge not to drink any intoxicating liquors any more. To this pledge they each
attached their mark, folded it up carefully, and took it
away with them."
This was probably the first temperance meeting ever
held on the banks of the Nass River.
Some years later, a mission was started, under the
direction of Mr. Duncan, by the Rev. R. A. Doolan, at
Kincolith (the place of the scalps), at the mouth of the
river. This mission was, later on, most successfully carried on by the Rev. R. Tomlinson, and later still by the
Rev. (now the Venerable Archdeacon) W. H. Collison,
who, together with his interesting family, still keeps the
missionary fire burning at this place.
Returning to Fort Simpson, it is to be said that, during the winter of 1860 and 1861, the attendance at
church was very encouraging, some two or three hundred
at every service, and this, though there were three
services every Sunday, two for adults, and one for the
Children. 148
As these services, as well as the school, were conducted
in the native tongue, and as Mr. Tugwell did not seem to
be able to make much headway in his study of the
language, of course the burden of the work continued to
rest on Mr. Duncan's shoulders. But the mere presence
of a sympathizing co-worker, and the encouraging
words and cordial sympathy of a good, earnest, Christian
brother, were thoroughly appreciated by him, and undoubtedly gave more strength than the mere taking of
the burden of work from his shoulders could have done.
What he experienced in his solitude, both before this
time, and later on, when disappointments came in his
work, when he saw one or another fall back into sin, and
his heart was faint, we can easily imagine.
He has himself told me, that many a night, when he
felt faint and discouraged, he, before closing his eyes,
ardently implored God to never let him see another day.
The Lord always hears the prayers of His children, it is
So He did in this case. But in His own way. He did
not answer the prayer to take His servant home in his
sleep. But He heard it by giving him greater strength
to do the day's work, and by sending, now and then,
great encouragement, so that he could plainly perceive
that it was the Lord's work he was allowed to do.
The attendance at school this winter was from one
hundred to one hundred and fifty children, and from
forty to fifty adults.
On New Year's Day the first school feast among the
natives was held. Soup, rice, and molasses were served
to an assembly of over two hundred and fifty, and
speeches, singing, and games were greatly enjoyed by all
During the second and third weeks of January, Mr.
Duncan again  called  at the houses of the different FIRST FRUITS 149
chiefs, and, in the evening, held preaching services, now
here, and then there, in order to reach those who had not
come out to his regular meetings. During this fortnight,
the Gospel was thus preached to fourteen hundred
Indians, all told.
The schoolhouse now had become too small. And
during the summer preparations were made to erect a
building (76x36) to serve both as a church and a
schoolhouse. For the first time, the Indians themselves
contributed towards its cost, not only by giving their
labour, but also by direct contributions in the way of
baskets, carved spoons, and native dishes, which all
found a ready market in Victoria, as curios.
At the first service after the new schoolhouse was
opened, in the Fall of 1861, upwards of four hundred
Indians attended, the largest congregation ever gathered
together up to that time.
Mr. Duncan had, for some time, carried on two
weekly meetings for those who were candidates for baptism and inquirers for the truth. He considered this the
most interesting part of his work, and had the pleasure
of seeing them attended sometimes by as many as forty
earnest seekers for the eternal truth.
In the month of October, the state of Mrs. Tugwell's
health compelled the Tugwells to give up their work,
and return to England. Before leaving, Mr. Tugwell,
on the 26th day of July, 1861, had the pleasure of
receiving into the church, by the sacrament of baptism,
twenty-three persons, fourteen men, five women, and
four children—the first fruits of the earnest and strenuous
labours of Mr. Duncan among the Tsimsheans.
Several others came forward, asking baptism, but, for
several reasons, mainly because they did not seem advanced enough in instruction, they were advised to wait.
Others, who desired baptism, and were fit for it, were, at 150
this time, deterred from taking the step, by fear of their
fierce relatives. The only children baptized were those
of Christian parents.
While he remained in the Society's service Mr. Duncan
did not, himself, baptize the converts, as he was not an
ordained minister. Only in a few isolated cases did he
make an exception, in baptizing those who were dying,
when no priest of the Church could be reached.
Mr. Duncan, at about this time, writes thus of the
newly baptized:
" Since these have come fairly out, there has been more of a
persecuting spirit abroad from the Lord's enemies. This we
may expect to be increased. The converts are severely tried and
tempted at present, but we pray they may be preserved faithful. While some have decided, and many—increasingly many
—are anxious, others—the wicked—wax worse and worse.
Drunkenness seems to gather strength, as the facilities for it
increase." XX
AS early as 1859, Mr. Duncan had come to the conclusion that if the work he was carrying on
should have any permanent results, it would be
necessary to remove those of the Indians who had become
subject to the power of the Gospel, from the evil influences of the heathen homes and surroundings. And,
more important still, be it said to our shame, was it, in
his judgment, to get them away from the degrading influence of the white people at the Fort.
It could not be expected that young people, especially,
could remain steadfast in their faith, and in their determination to live clean Christian lives, when they were
continually exposed to taunts and temptations on the part
of parents and relatives.
He, therefore, for quite awhile had contemplated the
removal of those who had become interested in the Gospel
teaching, to a new home, where they could start a model
Christian village, keep intoxicating liquors entirely away,
worship God in their simple manner without taunts from
scoffers or mockers, and observe the Sabbath day, as became true followers of the White Christ.
One day, on talking with an old, venerable chief, and
telling him that his object in teaching the children was
to make them good and happy, he was surprised to hear
the old man echo his own ideas, by saying:
" Well, if you want to make them good and happy, you
will have to take them away from here."
This remark gave him the courage to broach the sub-
ject to those who attended his services, and, from this
time on, he incessantly urged upon his friends the necessity of taking steps soon for removal to the proper
locality, where they could start a village of their own.
The converts, and others who were friendly to the
Word, soon became convinced that this step was necessary, and the question now came tp the fore,—where
would the proper place be for the Christian settlement?
Two or three different places were suggested by his adherents, but, upon examination of them, Mr. Duncan came to
the conclusion that Metlakahtla,1 situate seventeen miles
south of the Fort, where these same tribes had had their
old villages, before removal to Fort Simpson, would be a
model place.
After visiting it in the spring of 1860, Mr. Duncan
describes it thus:
" A narrow, placid channel, studded with little promontories
and pretty islands. A rich verdure, a waving forest, backed
by lofty, but densely-wooded, mountains. A solemn stillness,
broken only by the cries of flocks of happy birds flying over,
or the more musical note of some little warbler near at hand."
What especially commended it to Mr. Duncan was
the splendidly protected harbour, the fine beach, furnishing an excellent landing-place for the canoes, and the fact
that portions of land on many of the promontories had
already been cleared, and would furnish fine garden spots
for the colonists.
It was originally Mr. Duncan's plan to send Mr. and
Mrs. Tugwell to Metlakahtla, to take charge of the new
settlement, while he was to remain at Fort Simpson, and
take trips around to the different settlements, and thus
win a greater number of recruits for the cause, whom he
1 Metlakahtla means "an inlet with an outlet," or "an inlet running parallel with the seashore," a " through passage," 1
could from time to time transfer to Metlakahtla. Contemplating a removal that year, he, during the summer,
set to work, draining the ground which he had selected
for the site of the new village, but Mr. Tug well's intended
departure delayed the carrying out of the project to the
next spring, and of course necessitated Mr. Duncan himself taking charge of the new settlement.
On the 14th of May, 1862, everything was in readiness
for the removal. The large schoolhouse, which had been
built with such a purpose in view, was taken down and
put into a raft, and was sent towards its destination, in
charge of a number of men, who were to start the building of a temporary house for Mr. Duncan, and plant
some potatoes at the new location.
Two days after the raft had started, a canoe from Victoria brought the sad news that an epidemic of smallpox
had broken out there. And, in fact, it seemed as if the
crew had brought the plague with them, as some of them
had died on the way up.
Before going away, Mr. Duncan had intended to speak
a last word to all the Indian tribes. As the shadow of
the fell disease was now upon them, he felt still more
impelled at once to see them and warn them.   He says:
"I, therefore, spent the next few days in assembling and
addressing each of the nine tribes separately. Thus, all in the
camp again heard a warning voice, many, alas, for the last
time, as it proved. Sad to relate, hundreds of those who heard
me were soon and suddenly swept into eternity."
On May 27, 1862, the departure came to pass. Mr.
Duncan says :
" In the afternoon we started off. All that were ready to go
with me occupied six canoes, and we numbered about fifty
souls, men, women, and children. Many Indians were seated
on the beach, watching our departure with solemn and anxious
faces.    Some promised to follow us in a few days.   The party THE APOSTLE OF ALASKA
with me seemed filled with solemn joy, as we pushed off, feeling that their long-looked-for flitting had actually commenced.
I felt that we were beginning an eventful page in the history of
these poor people, and earnestly besought God for His help
and blessing."
They arrived at their new location the next afternoon
at two o'clock, and at once set to work with a will building their new homes. Those who had gone before had
already got all the lumber, except some extremely heavy
beams, carried to its destination, had erected two temporary houses, and planted fifty bushels of potatoes.
Every night, after the day's work was ended, the whole
colony gathered on the beach, a happy family, for sing-
and devotion.
Mr. Duncan is a very methodical man. Before starting on this new enterprise, he had drafted the following
rules, which every adult was required to pledge himself
faithfully to live up to, before he could become a member
of this model community.
The rules were simple, but definite, and pledged each
(1) To give up their "Hallied," or Indian deviltry.
(2) To cease calling in conjurers when sick.
(3) To cease gambling.
(4) To cease giving away their property for display.
(5) To cease painting their faces.
(6) To cease drinking intoxicating drinks.
(7) To rest on the Sabbath.
(8) To attend religious instruction.
(9) To send their children to school.
(10) To be clean.
(11) To be industrious.
(12) To be peaceful.
(13) To be liberal and honest in trade.
(14) To build neat houses. A CHRISTIAN VILLAGE 155
(15)   To pay the village tax.
These obligations may seem easy enough to us, but when
we consider that the first five rules really required of
these people the surrender of all their ancient national
customs, which had, for ages, not only occupied their
time, but had come to be looked upon with the veneration of religious rites, we can readily understand that to
give them up all at once would seem to many of them
like "cutting off the right hand or plucking out the right
But Mr. Duncan had no idea of making the change an
easy one for them. That is not his style: it was a change
of heart he wanted. No half-hearted measures would do.
No compromise with the devil, or with the heathenish
past, could be tolerated for a moment.
No wonder, therefore, that many quailed before the
sacrifice, and deemed it too severe. But, strict as the
requirements were, they did not deter those who were
really in earnest.
It was a small company which started away with Mr.
Duncan that day, but what must have been their feelings
when they, within a fortnight, on the 6th day of June,
espied coming dashing down the inlet thirty canoes,
loaded with three hundred people, who were coming to
join their fortunes with the happy family, which had
gone before. If there were any faint hearts among the
pioneers, would not such a sight make them cry with
Among the new arrivals was almost the whole Kitlahn
tribe, with two chiefs.
This must have been a great day for Mr. Duncan. He
could now plainly see that his labours had, indeed, not
been in vain.
But he and his adherents were to be sorely tried.
The awful smallpox plague soon after broke out, in full 156
blast, among the Indians at Fort Simpson. More than
five hundred of them died from the ravages of the fell
disease, and, though quarantine, as strict as possible
under the circumstances, was maintained at Metlakahtla,
the disease was of course brought there, and soon a great
number of the newcomers fell victims to the plague.
God's protecting hand, however, was over the community, and only live of the settlers in the new village
died from the plague.
One of this number was Stephen Ryan, one of the
group baptized by Mr. Tugwell the year before.
Mr. Duncan gives a touching account of his (Ryan's)
last days:
I He died in a most distressing condition, as far as the body
is concerned, away from every one whom he loved, in a
little bark hut on a rocky beach, just beyond the reach of the
tide, which no one of his relatives dared approach, except the
one who nursed him. In this damp, lowly, distressing state,
suffering from the malignant disease, smallpox, how cheering
to receive such words as the following from him:
" j I am quite happy. I find my Saviour very near to me.
I am not afraid to die. Heaven is open to receive me. Give,
my thanks to Mr. Duncan. He told me of Jesus. I have hold
of the ladder that reaches to heaven. All Mr. Duncan taught
me, I now feel to be true.'
" These words he wanted carried to his relatives:
" l Do not weep for me. You are poor, being left. I am
not poor. I am going to heaven. My Saviour is very near to
me. Do all of you follow me to heaven. Let not one of you
be wanting. Tell my mother more clearly the way of life. I
am afraid she does not yet understand the way. Tell her not
to weep for me, but to get ready to die. Be all of one heart,
and live in peace !' "
Indeed, one such death was well worth all the sacrifices, all the loneliness, which Mr. Duncan had gone
through, and all he was still to go through. And there
were to be many, many more such deaths at Metlakahtla. XXI
THIS man, the head chief of the Tsimsheans,
who, it will be remembered, once sought to
take Mr. Duncan's life, but who, later on, attended school, and seemed to come under the influence
of the Word, was not among those who first went to
And this was hardly to be expected. To no man in all
the tribes would moving to Metlakahtla, and becoming a
Christian, mean so much as to Legaic.
Mr. Duncan had, in his wisdom, found it necessary to
do away with all chieftainship among the Christian
Tsimsheans. This, the very foundation for their heathen
institutions, must be entirely eradicated before a new
foundation could be laid.   So, his word was :
" We recognize no chiefs among us, except those who
excel in living upright Christian lives, and show that they
are true sons of God."
At Fort Simpson, Legaic was sought, for one purpose
and then another. He was looked up to and honoured as
the head chief of the nation. At Metlakahtla, he would
be as low as the lowest—no higher than the lowest, until his
life showed that he was a true and exemplary Christian.
The government of the village was, and of course had
to be, in the hands of Mr. Duncan. He could brook no
chiefs beside him, certainly none above him.
The only assistants he had, in the beginning of the life
of the new village, were twelve native constables, who
had to see that peace was maintained, that no strangers
157 158
coming among them misbehaved, and that the people of
the village lived proper Christian lives. It was their
duty to report all misbehaviour to Mr. Duncan.
Later on, the number of constables was increased to
thirty, and a village council appointed, the membership
varying in number from time to time. Each one of these
officials were then given the supervision of ten of the inhabitants, an arrangement similar to the class system in
the Methodist Church.
Legaic's tribe seemed to have suffered more, in proportion, than any other from the ravages of the smallpox
This visitation brought him to his senses, and sent him,
with his family, to Metlakahtla, where, for a while, he
seemed to try hard to live an humble and consistent
Christian life. But, every now and then, messengers
came to him from the Fort Simpson Indians.
He was wanted there for this and for that. When an
Indian had a feast, or had built, or was about to build, a
new house, or was to have a potlatch, he did not feel that
the festivities were complete without Legaic's presence.
Legaic once asked Mr. Duncan what he should do
about this. Whether he could not go over and help them
sometimes.   Mr. Duncan's answer was :
" No. You should not go. You have to be one thing
or the other."
It was the same old rule—no compromise with the
devil; no half-heartedness.
After a while, Legaic got so that he wanted to be
friends with both sides, and his talk, as reported to Mr.
Duncan, threatened to cause bad blood among the people
at Metlakahtla.
Mr. Duncan sent for him, and said to him :
"Legaic, you had better leave here, and go back to
Fort Simpson.   I don't want you here.   You are wear- LEGAIC 159
ing the mantle on both shoulders. You want to serve
both God and the devil, and you are doing the devil's
work here. You had better leave here and go back, for
your heart is there with the heathen, and where you can
be a chief."
There was nothing for him to do after that but to
leave. He knew Mr. Duncan. But he was a chief, a
great chief, and it would never do for him to admit that
he had been sent away. So, before he pushed his canoe
off from the beach, he made the crowd a little speech, in
which he told them that he had to go away. That he
knew he was doing wrong, and probably would be very
sorry for it some time. But his friends over there were
too strong for him and pulled him away.
How did these new Christians act?—shrug their shoulders, and say:
'' Just what I told you. It is just what I expected, that
he could not stand.   I am not at all surprised " ?
No. That is the way among many Whites, who pretend to be good Christians.   Not so these people.
As his canoe scraped against the sand, they knelt down
on the beach, and prayed God that He would speak to
his heart, and not allow him to turn away from his
Heavenly Father.
And then some of them hastened to Mr. Duncan to tell
him that Legaic had gone.
They must have been surprised indeed when he answered them:
" Yes, I know it.   I told him to go."
What? Send Legaic away—the head chief! Not care
to keep him in the village!
A little meditation, perhaps, made Mr. Duncan grow a
head or more in their estimation. But for that he did not
It was late at night, the third day thereafter, when 160
Mr. Duncan heard a knock at the door of his little cabin.
When he opened it, he found Legaic standing outside.
He scanned his hands for a weapon. He was a little
afraid that he had come back in the night for revenge.
But he discovered nothing.   Legaic's eyes were cast down.
" What do you want ? "
" I want to come in."
" What do you want here ? "
" I want to talk with you."
"All right.   Come in then."
He looked dejected, and broken-hearted, and walked
and acted very diffidently and humbly. There was nothing of the proud chief about him now ! When in the
room, Mr. Duncan said :
1 So you have come back ?"
" I have come back."
" Why did you, when I told you to go away ?"
"Because I could not help it. I have not slept for
three nights. I have come back to say to you: Tell me
what to do, and I will do it. Tell me what not to do,
and I will not do it. There is only one thing you must
not tell me to do, for I will not do it."
"What is that?"
"Do not tell me to go away. I w^Znotdoit, fori
cannot do it."
Impressed by his earnestness, Mr. Duncan allowed
him to come back, and he now became a truly humble,
earnest seeker, and the following year was baptized, together with his wife and only daughter.
In his baptism he, at his own request, received the
name of " Paul," and well might he, for he proved
another " Saul of Tarsus," indeed.
The man who once was ready to take Mr. Duncan's
life, now became known, up and down the coast, as his
most ardent admirer and assistant. LEGAIC 161
Once, and only once, after that, did he fail in his duty,
but Mr. Duncan gave him then such a good lesson that
he never forgot it:
The constables of the village were furnished with a
cap, belt and cape, as badges of office.
Legaic, who perhaps in this saw a distinction to make
up for the loss of his chieftainship, asked Mr. Duncan if
he would not appoint him a constable, and he readily
After a year or more, when he had found out that the
office of constable did not only consist of wearing a cap,
belt and cape, but that there was considerable work
connected with it, and sometimes even considerable
danger, he came to Mr. Duncan and said he thought he
would give it up.
"All right," Mr. Duncan said. "It is wholly voluntary, you know. If you take no interest in it, I'll not
have you."
Legaic told him that all the others wanted to give it up
Duncan ordered him to stay right where he was, and
at once sent for all the other constables. When they
had arrived, and were all seated around the table in his
office, he commenced :
"I have heard that some of you are dissatisfied with
your job, and want to give it up. If that is so, I want
to know it. I don't want to force this honourable but
dangerous office upon any one. It takes men with a
heart for that business, and I want no one else. Let us
now hear from each of you in turn. You—what do you
say ?   Do you want to give up your cap and belt ?"
"No, sir. I don't want to. I never thought of such a
"Andyou, sir!"
i 162
And so all around to nine of them.
The tenth, who belonged to Legaic's tribe, said:
"I have poor health, sir. Sometimes great strength
and endurance are required to discharge the duties of the
office. I don't think I have that strength, and sometimes I have thought of giving it up."
"All right, sir. You are right. Your health is
rather poor, and I think myself it may be the best thing
for you to make place for another man."
The eleventh answered a definite " No."
"Now, as to you, Legaic,—I will not ask you. I
want to say to you, sir, that you cannot be a constable
any longer.   I want your cap, belt, and cape at once."
A couple of months later, Legaic's wife came around
and told Mr. Duncan that he would like very much to
get back on the force. He evidently missed the authority
and distinction.
"No. Tell your husband that he has given it up
once, and never can be a constable again as long as he
This humiliation he took like a Christian, and never
expressed any dissatisfaction with Mr. Duncan's decision.
For several years he supported himself and family by
working as an humble carpenter, and whenever he could
say a word for the Master, who had conquered his proud
and savage heart, he did not fail so to do.
In 1864, he and Clah were present with Mr. Duncan at
a meeting in the Indian camp at Fort Simpson.
After Mr. Duncan had spoken, an old man got up and
said that he had come too late to do the old people any
good; that had he come sooner, when the first white
traders came, the Tsimsheans would long ago have been
good 5 but they had been allowed to grow up in sin, and   LEGAIC 163
now their sins were so deeply laid that they could not
Mr. Duncan was about to rise to answer the old man,
when he, to his surprise, noticed that Legaic had already
sprung to his feet, and with great fervour said :
"I am a chief,—a Tsimshean chief. You know I
have been bad, very bad,—as bad as any man here. I
have grown up, and grown old in sin. But God has
changed my heart, and He can change yours. Think
not to excuse yourselves in your sins by saying you are
too old, or too bad, to mend. Nothing is impossible with
God.   Come to God.   Try His way.   He can save you."
In 1869, while on the way down from Nass River, he
was suddenly taken ill at Fort Simpson.
When he became convinced that he could not live, he
sent the following note to Mr. Duncan:
" Dear Sir :
" I want to see you. I always remember you in my
mind. I shall be sorry not to see you before I go away, because you showed me the ladder that leads to heaven, and I
am on that ladder now. I have nothing to trouble me, only I
want to see you."
A malignant epidemic was, at the time, prevalent at
Metlakahtla, making it impossible for Mr. Duncan to
leave, though a second and third message came in quick
succession, and finally this last, which had not been fully
completed when the Father called him home :
" My Dear Sir :
" This is my last letter, to say I am very happy. I am
going to rest from trouble, trial, and temptation. I don't feel
afraid to meet my God, In my painful body I always remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ "
Here the pen had fallen from the dying man's hand. 164
This was the death of Legaic, once the mortal enemy
of Mr. Duncan, and of the holy cause he represented.
His life is not different from that of many others of the
Indians who found a happy, blessed end, thanks to the
solace of the Gospel, which Mr. Duncan had brought to
them at such sacrifice, and with such infinite labour.
It is only his one-time prominent position, and the fact
that he, in order to become a Christian, had to give up so
much more than many of the others, that entitles him to
any special mention. XXII
THE building up of the little village now proceeded
at a rapid gait.
Before the Fall of 1862, thirty-five houses,
averaging 34x18, and each with four windows, had
been erected. Governor Douglas himself gave the
windows and the nails for the buildings.
Mr. Duncan had built a log house for himself, containing a sitting-room, a kitchen and a bedroom, provided
with two bunks, so he even was in a position to entertain an occasional guest.
He had also, during the Summer and Fall, erected, in
time to be able to use it for the first time for the Christmas services in 1862, a large, octagonal church. There
were two roaring fires in the centre, the smoke finding its
way up through an opening in the middle of the roof, Indian fashion. The building had no flooring, the people
sitting on the bare gravel floor. It could easily hold seven
hundred people, and soon, as more and more every year
came to live at Metlakahtla, it was often taxed to its utmost capacity.
Both of these buildings were, later on, torn down to give
place to the magnificent Mission House. Unfortunately,
there are no photographs in existence of the two pioneer
buildings at "old" Metlakahtla.
From its beginning, Metlakahtla became known for its
rigid observation of the Sabbath day.   It was the first duty
imposed by Mr. Duncan on the Indians, in his very first
j 166
address to them, and he had always continued to insist
that it is a Christian's foremost duty to keep the Sabbath
day holy, to do no secular work on that day, but to devote it entirely to worship and rest.
The Metlakahtla Indians, the name under which his
people soon became known all over the coast, not only
observed Sunday rigorously when at home, which they
could not, of course, very well help, but wherever they
went, and no matter how great the temptation might be,
they were true to their convictions, and not only abstained from all labour, but made it a point to gather
around the Word every Sunday.
Bishop Hills, in 1863, after mentioning the excitement
attending the short fishing season, and the importance of
every hour's work while it lasts, writes :
"But what did the Christian Indians do when the Sunday
came ? The first Sunday of their fishing season, as Christians,
although the fish had come up in greater abundance than ever,
and the season was so short, the Christians said :
" * We cannot go and fish.'
"The heathen were full of excitement, gathering in the
spoils, but the Christians said :
" * No, we are God's people. God will provide for us, and
we will spend the day as He tells us to do.' "
Mr. Duncan relates an interesting incident, which took
place some years later:
Captain Butler, who was, at the time, superintending the building of the telegraph lines through the Interior of British Columbia, by the Western Union Telegraph
Company, and who was in a great hurry to get a shipment of wire and other supplies up to the large squad of
workmen in the Interior, who would all be idle till the
materials reached them, came to Mr. Duncan to ascertain
if he could furnish him some men to take the supplies up
the Skeena River in their canoes, just as fast as it could 1
possibly be done, whenever the materials should arrive on
the steamer.
"Yes," Mr. Duncan said. " I can get you the men,
and very reliable men at that, but they will not work
!! That is too bad. We are in such a hurry. We have
a large force lying idle at the Company's expense.
Every day costs a small fortune. But get me twenty-
four men and four canoes anyway."
This was done. When the captain came back with
his small steamer, they were ready. The steamer was
towing several canoes, belonging to some Indians, whom
he had picked up. When he came by Metlakahtla, Mr.
Duncan said:
" I have done what you wanted me to ;—the men are
all ready."
"I am sorry," the captain answered. "I don't need
them now. I have got enough Indians with me who will
work on Sunday, and every other day."
And, with these words, he started towards Skeena
River with his steamer and canoes.
The Indians, aggravated at his conduct, sought Mr.
Duncan's advice as to what to do.
"He has hired you," Mr. Duncan answered, "and has
insulted you by passing you by. You had better paddle
your canoes the twenty miles, and tell him you are ready
to go to work, as you agreed."
They did so. It was a good thing for Butler, for when
he was ready to start his canoes up the river, he found
his "Sunday and every-other-day" Indians all gone.
They had only wanted to get their canoes towed up anyway, and, under pretense of getting huffy at some treatment by some of his men, they had all left him in the
lurch. He was, therefore, more than glad to take the
Metlakahtla Indians, under the circumstances. 168
He had some boats manned by white sailors, and he
started them all together one Saturday at noon.
When Sunday came, the Indians refused to proceed,
and tied up their canoes for the day on the river bank.
He coaxed and threatened, but it did not help. Then the
sailors commenced to taunt and ridicule them, knowing
the Indians' weakness on that point. But they stood by
their guns, stayed and held their little meeting, while the
white sailors pulled on their oars.
Monday morning they started in afresh, and, before
Tuesday noon, they came up with the white sailors, and
shot past them like a streak of lightning. Now it was
their turn to laugh and taunt. They shouted to the
sailors that they would tell their friends that they would
be coming along by and by.
Captain Butler, later on, had to acknowledge that these
Indians were the best and most reliable men he ever had
to deal with, and that they always managed to get ahead
of those who worked on Sundays.
After that, he always tried to get Metlakahtla Indians
whenever he could.
New Year's Day, 1863, the people of Metlakahtla were
to pay their first annual village tax, to wit: one blanket,
or $2.50, for every adult male, and one shirt, or $1.00, for
boys approaching manhood. The proceeds were to be
used towards village improvements; that year for the
building of a road around the village.
Of one hundred and thirty amenable to the tax levy, only
ten defaulted, and they were excused on account of poverty.
The total proceeds of the tax collection was one green,
one blue, and ninety-four white blankets, one pair of
white trousers, one dressed elk skin, seventeen shirts, and
seven dollars.
It is evident that there were no tax-dodgers at Metlakahtla. 1
As to the spiritual condition about this time Mr. Duncan
wrote the Church Missionary Society as follows:
"About four hundred to six hundred souls attend divine
service on Sundays, and are being governed by Christian and
civilized laws. About seventy adults and twenty children are
already baptized, or are only waiting for a minister to come
and baptize them. About one hundred children are attending
the day school, and one hundred adults the evening school.
About forty of the young men have formed themselves into two
classes, and meet for prayer and exhorting each other.
"The instruments of the medicine-men, which have spellbound their nation for ages, have found their way into my
house, and are most willingly and cheerfully given up. The
dark and cruel mantle of heathenism has been rent, so it can
never be made whole.
" Feasts are now characterized by order and good-will, and
begin and end with the offering of thanks to the Giver of all
good gifts. Scarcely a soul remains away from divine service,
excepting the sick, and their nurses. Evening family devotions are common in almost every house, and, better than all,
I have a hope that many have experienced a real change of
heart. Thus the surrounding tribes have now a model village
before them, acting as a powerful witness for the truth of the
Gospel, shaming and correcting, yet still captivating, them, for
in it they see those good things which they and their forefathers have sought and laboured for in vain; to wit—peace,
security, order, honesty, and progress. To God be all the
praise and glory 1"
In April, 1863, Bishop Hills, of Columbia, came up
from Victoria to baptize fifty-seven adults.
Before admitting them to the holy sacrament, he examined the applicants carefully. He says about this
part of the work :
" It was a strange, yet intensely interesting sight in the log
cabin, by the dim glimmer of a small lamp, to see just the
countenance of the Indian, sometimes with uplifted eyes, as he
spoke of the blessedness of prayer,—at other times with downcast melancholy, as he smote upon his breast in the recital of 170 THE APOSTLE OF ALASKA
his penitence. The tawny face, the high check bones, the
glossy, jet black, flowing hair, the dark glossy eye, the manly
brow, were a picture worthy the pencil of an artist. The
night was cold—I had occasionally to rise, and walk about for
warmth—yet there were more. The Indian usually retires, as
he rises, with the sun; but now he would turn night into day,
if he might only be allowed to 'have the sign,' and be fixed in
j the good ways of God.' "
It is exceedingly interesting to read the bishop's description of the church, and of the preparations for the
"The impressiveness of the occasion was manifest in the
devout and reverent manner of all present. There were no
external aids, sometimes thought necessary for the savage mind,
to produce or increase the solemnity of the scene.
"The building is a bare, unfinished octagon of logs and
spars—a mere barn—capable of containing seven hundred persons. The roof was partly open at the top, and though the
weather was still cold, there was no fire. A simple table,
covered with a white cloth, upon which stood three hand-
basins of water, served for the font, and I officiated in a surplice. Thus, there was nothing to impress the senses, no
colour or ornament, or church decoration, or music. The
solemnity of the scene was produced by the earnest sincerity
and serious purpose with which these children of the Far West
were prepared to offer themselves to God, and to renounce forever the hateful sins and cruel deeds of their heathenism. And
the solemn stillness was broken only by the breath of prayer.
The responses were made with earnestness and decision. Not
an individual was there whose lips did not utter, in their own
expressive tongue, their hearty readiness to believe and to serve
Among those baptized on this occasion was Legaic, the
head chief, an account of whose life and death was given
in the foregoing chapter.
When it has been said, in a publication produced under
the Church Missionary Society's auspices, that this absence of all "external aids " to devotion was the result of ^
circumstances, rather than choice, it shows either a total
unacquaintance with Mr. Duncan's peculiarities and ideas,
or a wilful perversion of facts.
From his earliest days, Mr. Duncan has been, shall I
say—a most intolerant opponent of everything even
smacking of ritualism. No crosses or altars, or vestments, or even lecterns, are allowed in any church with
which he has anything to do. Every service has to be
as rigorously simple and unostentatious as it is possible
to make it, and it may well be believed that no bishop or
any other priest would be allowed to indulge in any high
church frills, like bowing to the East, or having the
catechumens kneel before the officiating clergyman, or
before any one but God. He simply would not have it.
As he once expressed himself to me:
" He was Bishop of Columbia; but I was Pope of Metlakahtla. So it had to be the way I wanted it, or not at
We, who know Mr. Duncan, can readily affirm that
this picture, painted by himself, is not the least bit overdrawn.
It should, perhaps, here be added, in order to explain
his position on these matters, that it is due to an honest
conviction on his part that it would be absolutely detrimental to the Indian to allow ceremonies, ritual, vestments and church decorations to be a part of his religious
devotion, for the reason that he feels assured that, in
that case, these outward elements would assume too great
importance to him, and that they would, in fact, become
his religion, instead of, as it should be, the faith of a repentant heart, and the soul resting, its sins^ forgiven, in
the loving arms of Jesus, the blessed Saviour.
It may also at this place be said, that as much as he
detests forms, and rituals, and ceremonies in religion,
just as cordially is he opposed to emotionalism, and, from 172
the earliest times, he has discouraged, as much as he
could, any phase of religion, which would particularly
address itself to the emotions of the natives. With him
it is, and must be, conviction, faith and practice, and
nothing else.
In his sermons, it is the head he addresses, rather than
the heart. And yet he can sometimes be as tender as a
The bishop, before he left, on the occasion mentioned
just before this digression, gave a feast of rice and molasses to all the village.
His description will give a new idea, both of their
ways, and of their accomplishments.   He says :
" They assembled in the octagon. Cloths were laid. They
all brought their own dishes and spoons. There were three
tables, at each of which one of their chiefs presided. Their
custom is to eat little at the time, but to take away the principal part of the allotted portion.
"All rise, before and after the meal, for grace. Singing was
then introduced, and excellent certainly were the strains of
harmony poured forth in the English language. Several well-
known rounds were capitally sung. First, a boat song;
" * When a weary task you find it,
Persevere and never mind it.'
Then :—•
" ' Come tell me now, sweet little bird,
Who decked thy wings with gold ? '
and last:—
" 'God save the Queen.' In this they were as quick and
lively as any children in the world, the men joining too, in
good time, and with voices sweet and soft. Mr. Duncan
afterwards addressed them in an earnest speech."
Six months later, the Rev. R. J. Dundas came to Metlakahtla, for the purpose of baptizing thirty-nine more
adults and thirteen children. ONWARD AND UPWARD 173
In 1866, the bishop again visited the settlement, and
then baptized sixty-five adults on Whitsunday. And
in September of the following year, the dean of Christ's
Church, Victoria, Mr. Duncan's old and beloved friend,
the Rev. E. Cridge, came up, stayed for several weeks,
and baptized ninety-six adults, and eighteen children.
Thus, the good work continued. Almost every year,
from now on, an increasing number were baptized. And
every New Year's Day, a large number of new colonists
were solemnly admitted to the privileges of the Christian
community.   In some years over one hundred joined.
In this connection it may be said that Dean Cridge, on
his visit to Metlakahtla, by his charming Christian disposition, completely won the hearts of the Indians, who,
after this, looked upon him as their best friend, next to
Mr. Duncan.
This was made apparent, when Bishop Hills, several
years later, wrote to Mr. Duncan that he intended again
to visit Metlakahtla.
Some time prior thereto, the bishop had had a falling-
out with Dean Cridge, which occurred in this way:
A sacerdotal and ritualistic *priest of the extreme high
wing of the Church had one day, at the bishop's invitation, preached in Christ's Church in Victoria. He gave
full vent to his extreme, faddish notions, a matter of bad
taste, to say the least, as it was well known that the dean
was an extreme low-churchman.
After the sermon, the dean announced that never
again, as long as he was dean of Christ's Church, should
such a sermon be delivered in that church, an announcement which was received by the congregation with a
round of applause.
The bishop, who was present, went into a paroxysm of
rage, and not only roundly abused the dean in the vestry,
after the service, but even went to the extent of having 174
him prosecuted before an ecclesiastical court, on the
charge of " brawling in church," a prosecution which
ended in the bishop taking away his license.
The result of this abominable treatment of Dean Cridge
was that not only he, but almost his whole congregation,
left Christ's Church, and joined the " Reformed Episcopal" Church, which latter church soon after recognized
his eminent qualifications by making him a bishop. This
high office he, to this day, at the advanced age of ninety
years, still fills with that true Christian love and evangelical zeal for which he always has been noted.
When the bishop's message came to Mr. Duncan, he,
who knew of the Indians' feelings in regard to the trouble
between the bishop and Dean Cridge, thought it best to lay
the matter before a meeting of his church, and to ask the
Indians what answer they wanted him to give the bishop.
It did not take the Indians long to come to the conclusion that they wanted Mr. Duncan to write the bishop:
"Let the bishop first become reconciled with Mr.
Cridge, and then he may come to Metlakahtla."
The letter was sent, but no bishop came.
The Indian Christians at Metlakahtla showed plainly
enough, by their action at this time, that they were not
persons with cringing knees, even before the highest
church dignitaries ; but reserved their Christian privilege
to insist upon Christian conduct and disposition, even in
the princes of the Church.
This declaration of independence on their part should
have given fair warning to the Society, and to the Church,
that they were not to be oppressed by any hierarchical domination. But it was not heeded, as will hereafter be made
apparent. In fact, it is not unlikely that their open and
frank avowal, at this time, was at least one of the causes
of the persecution, on the part of the Church and State,
to which they would some day find themselves subjected. XXIII
GOD well knew what He did, when He placed a
practical business man as missionary among
these Indians.
When a Tsimshean became a Christian, he became
poorer than when he was a heathen. This statement may
seem absurd, but its correctness is easily proven. To become a Christian does not make him a smarter hunter, or
a more skillful fisherman. In other words, if no new industry is provided for him, his income remains the same
as before. Not so with his expenses. When a heathen,
his old, dirty blanket was sufficient, both for a suit and
for bedclothes. His wife and children, most of the time,
trotted around only half-clothed. When he became a
Christian, he needed a decent suit to go to church in, and
another for his daily work. His wife required a civilized
dress, and the children also must be clothed and shod.
This meant to him quite an additional outlay.
Therefore, it was absolutely necessary, not only to convert him to Christianity, but also to open to him new
sources of industry, new means of earning wages, with
which to meet the extra demands on his purse.
This Mr. Duncan gradually set about doing. To begin
with, he paid the Indians wages for their work on his house,
and on the church. Then they were paid for all work on
the public improvements, such as the roads which were
being built, the drainage necessary, and, later on, the
building of a public guest house, or market house, where
175 176
visiting Indians could be housed while staying at the village for trading purposes.
One hundred garden plots were also laid out on a
neighbouring island, where some of the old villages had
been located, and distributed among the villagers, who
thus were enabled to raise all the potatoes they needed
for household use.
They were also encouraged in preparing salted and
smoked salmon, oolakan grease, and dried berries, for exportation to Victoria, and Mr. Duncan made it a point to
exhort them to extraordinary efforts to secure furs of all
After a while, he started a soap factory among them,
at which cheap soap was manufactured from the oolakan
grease, an industry which gave steady employment to
several people.
But, in order to get rid of their articles for export, and
to obtain the necessities of life, outside of what the ocean
furnished them, the Metlakahtla Indians were either
obliged to go to Fort Simpson to trade with the Company's
agents, or encourage the visits of trading schooners, who
were at the time " a visitation indeed " of the coast.
To go to Fort Simpson exposed them to the very temptations from which Mr. Duncan had wanted to remove
them, when he took them to Metlakahtla. Several of his
people, to his sorrow, while going to the Fort to trade,
had fallen victims to the temptations there so freely thrust
upon them.
On the other hand, the trading schooners were practically nothing but grog-shops, and their visits to the settlements of the Indians were only too frequently marked
by murder, and the very maddest of riots.
Mr. Duncan, therefore, soon after coming to Metlakahtla,
made an earnest effort to have the Hudson's Bay Company open a store in the village where the Indians could TEMPORAL ADVANCEMENT 177
exchange their furs and other produce, and obtain, in
return therefore, the necessities of life, without being
compelled to go to the heathen hell-hole at the Fort.
The only conditions he imposed were, that no intoxicating liquors should be sold or kept on the premises,
that only a reasonable profit should be exacted, and that
the agent in charge should be a decent man, who would
respect the Sabbath day, and not, in any manner, throw
any hindrance in the way of the Christian and civilizing
work carried on in the village.
The directors of the Company, who did not much fancy
the removal of all these Indians from the villages around
the Fort, refused to grant this reasonable request, and,
what was more, when Mr. Duncan attempted to induce
one after the other of the Christian merchants in Victoria
to establish a branch store at Metlakahtla, the Hudson's
Bay Company, which, at the time, was just about almighty
on the coast, insinuated to each of them that he might
not find it to his interest to take up this enterprise. They,
therefore, one after the other, backed out, after first having taken very kindly to the proposition.
But Mr. Duncan was not the man to be daunted. He
knew something about business himself, and what he did
not know, he could learn. And he concluded to open av
store on his own account at Metlakahtla.
He could buy furs, and other articles from the Indians
himself, and ship them to Victoria, and, in return, sell
them what they needed.
By being exceedingly careful and saving, he had been
able to put away quite a portion of the meagre salary of
$500 per annum, which the Society paid him while at the
Fort, and this small capital would now enable him to
purchase and pay cash for a small stock of goods, such as
the Indians needed.
But he soon ascertained that capital was not the only
tfMM 178
thing which he required. He -was nearly six hundred
miles from Victoria. His exports had to be shipped out,
and the goods that he needed had to be shipped in. And
the Hudson's Bay Company's steamers were the only
means of communication along the coast.
He was hardly prepared for their decision that their
steamers would not be allowed to carry any freight,
either to or from Metlakahtla.
But when it came, he made up his mind that a little
thing like that was not to baulk his plans.
He determined to buy and fit out his own schooner,
and have the Indians run it up and down the coast. It
would give more of them a living.   That was all.
He laid the matter before the Governor in Council, who
agreed to advance him, from the public funds, five hundred dollars. The schooner could be bought for fifteen
hundred dollars. Mr. Duncan, who wanted the Indians
to feel personally interested in the enterprise, persuaded
them to take shares of five dollars each to the amount of
four hundred dollars, all told, and the balance he advanced from his own private funds.
Soon the Carolina, with a native master and crew,
was running up and down the coast, bringing goods for
the store up to Metlakahtla, and furs, by the ton, down,
for, as soon as the other Indians living outside of Metlakahtla found out that their marten skins, which, at the
Company's store had only been worth twenty-five cents, at
Mr. Duncan's establishment brought their possessor from
three to four dollars; mink skins instead of two cents,
fifty or seventy-five cents, and sea otters, instead of ten
to twelve dollars, one hundred dollars, they soon found
it to their interest to transfer their trade to the new store.
And the Carolina now carried a full cargo both ways,
and was kept busy running all the time.
When, at the close of the year, Mr. Duncan was able to TEMPORAL ADVANCEMENT 179
pay each of the Indian stockholders five dollars per share
in dividend, they did not like to take the money at first,
as they thought they would then have to give up their
interest in the schooner; but when he explained to them
that they still retained their interest, just as before, as
part owners, and that the sum which he paid them only
represented what they had earned on their investment,
they almost "died."
After that, they wanted to rechristen the schooner,
" Hah " (a male slave). " For," said they, " he does all
the work, and we get all the profits."
The Indians evidently do not agree with us as to the
gender of a ship.
But it stands to reason that the Hudson's Bay Company,
which, at that time, was the Standard Oil Company of
the Northwest coast, not to say of all Canada, and used
to having things pretty much its own way, would not stand
for a man like Mr. Duncan, a poor man, and a mere missionary at that, interfering in this manner with their
monopoly, without trying to make him feel its power.
An order was given to overbid him on furs, and to
undersell him on goods, which the Indians wanted. He
would soon find that it did not pay to play with a concern like theirs. They could well afford to run their business at Fort Simpson for, say a year, even at an absolute
loss, if necessary, in order to crush this inconvenient and
obstreperous rival.
But the Company did not reckon with the kind of man
Mr. Duncan was.
When he heard of these plans of theirs, he went to the
Company's representative, and said to him :
"I have heard what the Company has concluded to do,
and I am perfectly willing to have you carry out its orders.
I do not fear you, and I will tell you frankly how I will
act in the matter, so that you may take your measures ac- 180
cordingly. My goods are all paid for, and it will not
break me if I do not sell a pound or an ell of my stuff.
The moment I find that you raise the price of furs above
a fair living price, or lower the price of goods below a fair
profit, I will turn the key in the lock of the door of my
store, and not sell another article. When the Indians
come for goods, or with furs, I will send them to you, and
tell them they can make a good profit by coming to the
Fort. But, mind you, you will have to keep on with
your plan, and your prices. For the moment I learn that
you have come down on the furs, or have come up on
your store goods, I open the door of my store again, and
tell the Indians to come and trade with me once more.
That I can do as well as you with them. And, considering the way they feel towards you, I think I will be able
to get them to do just about as I tell them. Now,
honestly, what do you think about my plan ? "
Captain Lewis evidently did not think much of it, for
the Hudson's Bay Company's order was revoked, and, for
the first time in its history, this purse-proud and powerful Company had to acknowledge a defeat in its great
trade of the Northwest Territory.
And what was more, not only did the directors conclude
it was good policy not to baulk Mr. Duncan in his enterprise, but, within another six months, they notified him
that they would be able to ship his freight on their
steamers from that time on, if he desired to sell his
schooner. This he did, obtaining a cash price of one
thousand dollars for it.
Of course, he paid back to the provincial government
its proportionate part of the proceeds of the sale price,
undoubtedly a surprise for the government, which naturally never had expected to get back a cent of any
money advanced to a missionary.
Never was victory more complete. TEMPORAL ADVANCEMENT 181
The profits of the trading establishment at Metlakahtla
were largely applied to public improvements of all sorts,
and to such new enterprises as promised to give employment to the people at their own home.
Very soon a blacksmith's shop was started, then a carpenter's shop followed.
At an early day Mr. Duncan had told the Indians that
he would teach them how to make water saw lumber for
them. When he first came to Metlakahtla, he had in
mind a fine water-power not far away.
When the water-wheel had been put in position, and a
sawmill started, one of the Indians came to him, and
said :
" I want to die now."
" Why do you want to die ?"
"Oh, I want to go and meet our old chiefs, and tell
them the wonder I have seen, that you have made water saw
wood. They never heard or saw anything like that while
they lived, and I want to be the first one to tell them."
He sat down on his haunches a whole day by the mill,
and seemed to take in everything intensely.
Strange enough, he did die a short time afterwards.
Some years later, Mr. Duncan, discovering some suitable clay near by started a brick kiln, which soon made
all the bricks they needed for their chimneys, and considerable for export to other camps.
After he had been at Metlakahtla a short time, Mr.
Duncan concluded that it would be well to give the prominent Indians some share in the government of both the
village and the church. He, therefore, appointed a
number of natives to be members of a village council, to
which council, together with the constables, whose number now had been increased to twenty, he gave an advisory
voice in relation to all village affairs.
Of course, Mr. Duncan naturally reserved to himself
the final decision of all matters, while he, with great urbanity, listened to all they had to say on any question,
and generally followed their advice.
He also appointed such number as he, from time to
time, deemed proper, to act as elders of the church.
After a while he thought he would try the experiment
of having them elect their own village council and elders.
His first experience convinced him that he could fully
trust them.
An elder was to be elected.
He called into the council-chamber the leading men of
the village, and told them that as they knew their fellows in daily life, and when away from the village, he
had made up his mind to have them vote for whom they
thought would be the best man for elder.
He announced the mode of election to be as follows :
He would go into the next room. Then, one of them at a
time could come in there, and tell him whom he wanted
to vote for.
The first man in voted for Silas. The next one also.
He was very much surprised to see that Silas had a great
maj ority of the votes cast. He himself had never thought
much of Silas. He was a quiet, reserved man, who never
had much to say, or testify. When the election was
over, he told them of his surprise at Silas receiving such
a vote, and asked them how it came about.
They said: "You don't know him. He is so quiet
here. But when he is out at the fishing stations, on Sundays, he always gathers the people around him, and
prays, speaks and exhorts, and does a great work.
Greater than any one of us."
And thus Mr. Duncan found it to be. Silas proved
one of his best men, and still he had never suspected it.
Later on, Mr. Duncan got up another mode of election.
At that stage very few of the electors could write.   So ft
they could, of course, not vote by ballot. He wanted to
get a perfectly free expression, and let every man have a
secret vote.   This is how he arranged it:
Mr. Duncan nominated a certain candidate. Every'
elector was furnished with a button. Then Mr. Duncan
took a deep hat, and passed it in front of them all slowly.
When the hat was before him, the elector was instructed
to put his hand, in which he held the button, way down
to the bottom of the hat. If he had any objection to the
man proposed, he should drop the button in the hat. If
he was favourable, he should withdraw the hand retaining the button in it.
Once a certain man had been proposed for elder.
When the ballot was closed, there was one button in the
Mr. Duncan told them that while one button would not
defeat an election, he wanted to know if there really was
an objection, or whether the button had been dropped by
mistake.   So he said :
" I will pass the hat again. Everybody put his hand
in again. If the one who dropped his button let it fall
by mistake, he can pick it up again when he puts his
hand in."
The hat went around again. The button was still there.
There evidently was no mistake.
Mr. Duncan had never heard aught against the man
nominated, and was anxious to know whether the black
ball was due to spite, so he said :
"I don't want to declare this man elected now. Let
the man who dropped this button come to my office tomorrow some time, and tell me why he did so."
The next morning, very early, before he was out of bed
even, he noticed a man walking back and forth in front
of his office.   He opened the door.
1 Well, what do you want ?" 184
" I am the one who dropped that button."
"Ah—you had good grounds for it, I suppose? "
" I will tell you, and you can judge for yourself. He
and I were at the store together one day. He paid for
some goods. By mistake he got one dollar too much in
change. After a while he showed it to me, and asked me
if he should give it back to the storekeeper, or keep it. I
told him to give it back. And he did. But I thought
that a man, who did not know enough to be honest, was
not fit to be an elder of the church."
That man was not declared elected, though there was
only one button against him.
Later on, this mode of election proved too slow.
Another course was then adopted, by which ten men
could be elected in half an hour.
The electors were stood up, with their faces to the wall,
all round the room, and told not to look around. When
a man had been nominated, any person who was opposed
to him was told to put his closed fist behind his back.
If favourable, the open hand. Sometimes Mr. Duncan,
who of course was the sole judge of the election, saw a
closed fist move very violently behind some back. Ten
or more closed fists defeated the candidate nominated.
At the present time, when all the electors are able to
read and write, the election is by ballot, every New
Year's Day.
It is, perhaps, unnecessary to say, inasmuch as Mr.
Duncan is a confirmed bachelor, that there is no female
suffrage, and never has been any at Metlakahtla.
What is more remarkable, perhaps, is that there are no
suffragettes either. XXIV
THE " Highmas" l of Duncan's time was sick.
His brother, Womakwot, came after Mr. Duncan. This was while he still resided at Fort
Simpson. When he came near the house, he found out
that a medicine-man was in there, working upon him.
The women outside tried to persuade him to go by, and
not enter the house, as he would disturb the work. But
he boldly entered at the front door.
Highmas was wholly naked in a very cold room, and the
medicine-man was rattling away over him for dear life.
When Mr. Duncan came up, the medicine-man "blew
off steam," and quit his work.
Mr. Duncan took the man's pulse, and found him in the
midst of a severe chill. He saw that it was necessary to
restore his circulation, if he should not die then and there,
and ordered him covered up quickly with many blankets,
and placed close by the fire.
He then took the brother along with him to the Fort,
and gave him some medicine for the sick man. Highmas
Two or three years later, Highmas came, with his people, to Metlakahtla, from Victoria. Mr. Duncan heard
that he had whiskey in his canoe, and sent for him. But
as he was not a magistrate at the time, he could only
give him a tongue-lashing. He abused him roundly for
bringing fire-water among his people and corrupting them,
so they would go back to their old savage state.
1 The head chief of the Kitseesh tribe.
185 186
He answered sullenly, that he did not want to be a
white man. He only wanted to be an Indian, and retain
the customs and ways of the Indian.
He was at the time dressed in a pea-jacket.
" If that is so," Mr. Duncan answered him promptly,
"you should be consistent. You should carry the
blanket of an Indian and not go around with a white
man's good coat on your back."
This must have taunted him, for, with a violent movement, he tore off the coat, and threw it at Mr. Duncan's
feet, saying that he wanted nothing belonging to the
white men, and that Mr. Duncan could keep it. With
this, he rushed out of the house.
An hour or so later,.his wife came in, and commenced
to abuse her husband in every way :
" Highmas is such a big fool; he has no sense at all.
He is a very foolish Indian. He don't know what he is
doing. I am very much ashamed of him. You must
forgive him."
| What is it you want ?"
It was the coat she wanted.
Mr. Duncan told her : "Take it—I don't want it. It
still lies where he threw it.   I have not touched it."
She picked it up triumphantly, and went out, evidently very well satisfied with the results of her diplomacy.
One day, while Mr. Duncan was on a visit in Victoria,
an Indian from the reservation near by had shot at a
man standing close by the mast of a schooner, just as it
passed out of the harbour, and, while he missed the man,
the bullet had hit the mast. The next day, the chief of
police met Mr. Duncan on the street, and told him about
the incident, and said that he did not know how to INTERESTING INCIDENTS 187
secure the arrest of the Indian, inasmuch as they did not
even know his name.
As Mr. Duncan told him that he thought he might
help them in the matter, the Governor, later in the day,
sent for him, and asked his advice. He unfolded a plan,
which afterwards was successfully carried out.
The next day, at 1:30 P. M., Mr. Duncan was to go to
the reservation, gather the Tsimsheans together, find out
from them who did the shooting, and try to persuade the
Indians from taking the guilty man's part. This he did,
and found that Cushwaht was the guilty party, and that
he was hidden in a Haida house near by.
The reader will, perhaps, remember Cushwaht as the
Indian who had volunteered to kick Mr. Duncan's head on
the beach the day Legaic was going to make an attack on
him in the schoolhouse; also, as the same man who had
smashed the lock of the schoolhouse door, and who had
threatened to kill Mr. Duncan.
Mr. Duncan told the Indians that Cushwaht had committed an outrage, which the white men could not overlook. But that they only wanted Cushwaht, and would
not harm any other Indians, if they did not interfere in
the matter.
This was so much contrary to their idea of law and
procedure that they seemed unwilling to believe it,
thinking that the government would be sure to take its
vengeance on all of them.
Mr. Duncan, in order to satisfy them that they were
wrong, offered to stay among them, as a pledge of good
faith. In this way he kept them apart, behind a
mound, some distance from the house where Cushwaht
was hidden.
When the smoke from the gunboat appeared, the
Indians made a rush away from him, but he called them
back.   And when the red jackets came marching up, 188 THE APOSTLE OF ALASKA
there was another rush away. But he called them back
again, and succeeded in quieting them.
The Governor then asked him to call on the Haidas to
surrender the man. But they refused. After he had repeated their answer, he, by request, returned to them,
and told them that the Governor gave them just ten
minutes in which to surrender the man. If they did, no
harm would come to any one of them. But, if they did
not, the troops would charge on them, and they would
probably all be killed.   Still no move.
He held his watch in his hand. When there was one
minute left, he told them:
"You had better produce him now. If you don't, I
am afraid you will be sorry."
Just as the time was up, they brought Cushwaht out,
and turned him over to the military.
They were going to take him to jail, when Mr. Duncan
protested to the Governor, and insisted that the man
should be flogged publicly, as the Indians cared nothing
for jail. This was done, and Cushwaht was thereupon
committed to await his trial.
It seems that in those days of primitive justice, even a
governor and a magistrate did not consider it out of the
way to punish a man first, and try him afterwards. It was
perhaps the only safe course to take with the Indians.
Some days afterwards, the jailer came and told Mr.
Duncan that there was an Indian in jail who would like
to see him. He went in, and found that it was Cushwaht.
He sat in his cell, looking very dejected and gloomy.
When he saw Mr. Duncan, he said :
"I was bad to you. You pitied me. You did not
punish me.   Pity me now.   Save me !"
" If I do, will you promise to be a better man ?"
" I will. If you will get me free, you shall never find
any fault with me.   Pity me!" INTERESTING INCIDENTS 189
Mr. Duncan went to the Governor, and pleaded for the
poor fellow. As he had not injured anybody, the
Governor set him free on condition that Mr. Duncan
would vouch for his good behaviour. This he did.
Cushwaht went home right away in his canoe, and when
Mr, Duncan, a short time afterwards, returned to
Metlakahtla in the steamer, Cushwaht at once reported to him, and assured him of his complete allegiance.
After that day he became a good Indian, and was always loyal to Mr. Duncan. Though he never moved
away from Fort Simpson, or became a Christian, he often
attended public worship, and seemed to be a very respectful hearer, if not a doer, of the Word.
There is a sad story connected with the life of Simeon
Johnson, the man on the lower row, farthest to the
reader's right, in the illustration on a near-by page:
"Mr. Duncan's Pioneers."
He was a murderer.
It was discovered in this way:
When Mr. Duncan had been but a few years at
Metlakahtla a man came very late one night to his
house. He asked him what he wanted, as he was a little
suspicious, and never knew what moment some one
might come to kill him.
"I want to talk with you."
"Why do you come so late ?"
" It is about a great secret."
"All right. Come in then," he told the man, still
watching him very closely.
After a while he confessed that he and two other Indians had one day, several moons ago, away south, met a
canoe with two white men, who had been good to them, 190 THE APOSTLE OF ALASKA
and given them biscuits.1 At the command of Sebassah,
a mighty chief of the Kithrathtlas, who was one of the
three, they shot and killed the white men, and took their
One of the Indians had since died, and this one now
feared the same fate. He had heard Mr. Duncan preach,
and knew now that he had done a great wrong, and his
friends, with whom he had talked about it, had advised
him to come to Mr. Duncan and tell him all.
What to do, Mr. Duncan did not know. He advised
the fellow to say nothing to any one about it till he heard
from him.
He then wrote the attorney-general in Victoria, who
advised that the matter be dropped, as they could not
convict, inasmuch as there were no witnesses, etc.
Mr. Duncan thought it was too bad to take this course,
as it certainly would encourage the Indians to kill more
white people.   But he was obliged to let the matter rest.
Some time later, when the Gold-Commissioner for the
Interior, who was a magistrate, came to Metlakahtla for
a visit, Mr. Duncan talked the matter over with him.
They agreed to act together, and arrest the murderous chief.
Mr. Duncan sent his constables after Sebassah. They
performed their duty, and brought him into court. He
was a haughty, self-important fellow, with two slaves
supporting him, one by each arm. Other slaves brought
a feather bed into court for him to sit upon. His wife
also accompanied him into the hall of justice, as did a
number of his retainers.
When the charge was read to him, he said he was not
the only Indian who had killed white men.
"Who are they?"
1 Such action always had a bad influence on the Indians. They saw
in it an evidence of fear, which would naturally give them courage to
attack those who had thus shown the white feather. REV. R. TOMLINSON AND FAMILY
Jip - - ^it?^y*p
S'-''^ *-^Pv- ","-'
He then related how four or five Indians, some years
ago, had killed five white men in a canoe, eighty miles
south of there, and gave their names.
The court was adjourned. Warrants were issued for
the other Indians. They were arrested, and an examination was held over all of them.
They all fully confessed their murderous deeds. Simeon
Johnson was one of the last batch.
The magistrates committed them all for trial, and sent
them down to Victoria.
When the time for the term of court came, Mr. Duncan
was summoned to go down.
The attorney-general told him that he could not prosecute them for murder, as he did not know the names of
the murdered men, and, besides, there was no evidence
except their own confessions, which were not sufficient to
convict upon.
Mr. Duncan said:
" That is too bad. If you let them go, no white man's
life will be safe among the Indians. They must get a
healthy respect for the law, and feel that their evil deeds
will be punished. If you do not prosecute and convict
them, you will have to be responsible for the consequences to all of us white men who live up there."
" I could perhaps change the charge to piracy on the
high seas, with violence."
" All right. I do not care what the charge is, if they
are only punished."
One of the directors of the Hudson's Bay Company,
who was anxious to curry favour with the Indians, told
Mr. Duncan that he would get them to plead not guilty,
and get them a lawyer, and that if he did so they could
not be convicted. Mr. Duncan tried to convince him of
the moral wrong he would be guilty of if he did so, but
all to no purpose.
; : ^——=n
—0 192
Just before court was to open, Mr. Duncan went into
the jail to see the Indians.
"Has any one seen you? "
"One of the Company men."
"What did he say?"
" He said we should say that we did not do it."
" Are you going to do that ? "
"No, we will tell the truth."
"That's right. That's the way to act. You do that
when you get into court, and I will do the best I can for
When called into court, Mr. Duncan interpreted and
explained the charge to them, and asked them :
" Did you do this ? "
They all nodded, hung their heads, and said :
"Yes, we did."
" Enter a plea of guilty," said the judge, Sir Mathew
Bigbee. Whereupon, he delivered a long speech to the
Indians, which was interpreted by Mr. Duncan, and
finally sentenced them to be hanged.
" But," said the judge, " many snows have fallen over
our white brothers' blood, and your friend Mr. Duncan
tells me that you were ignorant, and did not know what
bad things you did, so I will consult with the other white
chiefs, and see if they can make your punishment lighter."
He laid the matter before the Lieutenant-Governor in
Council, with the result that the sentence was commuted
to imprisonment for life, but on the condition that they
should serve their term at Metlakahtla.
They were then, by the court, handed over to Mr.
Duncan, with the understanding that they should live at
Metlakahtla, and have the freedom of the village limits,
as long as they behaved themselves; but when not, to be INTERESTING INCIDENTS 193
turned over by him to the proper authorities for life-
He took them along.
Simeon Johnson, and the man who came to Mr. Duncan
at night, and confessed, became good earnest Christians,
and later on went along with him to new Metlakahtla.
Sebassah, in a way, sought to be a better man; but had
considerable difficulty in conquering his haughty spirit.
When Bishop Ridley tried to get a foothold against
Mr. Duncan, and drive him away from Metlakahtla, this
convicted murderer and ticket-of-leave man was one of
the "chiefs" whom he numbered among his few adherents.
3fe ifc i$C 2$£ 5?C SlC
Sometimes, it might, of course, be desirable to get some
evil-minded, or evil-doing, man out of town. Mr. Duncan
had a way of accomplishing this without violence, which
occasionally might prove dangerous, and cause bloodshed.
In the centre of the village, close to the Mission House,
was, after the first five years at Metlakahtla, located a
bastion, an octagonal building, the lower part whereof
was used for a jail. The upper part formed a balustrade,
and was provided with a tall flagstaff, on which, on festive occasions, the English colours were hoisted.
When a bad man was desired to leave town, Mr. Duncan hoisted on this flagstaff a black flag, showing that
there was a public enemy in camp. The man who was
offensive knew well enough who was meant. Usually,
the people knew it too. If they did not, Mr. Duncan let
a few trusted ones know who it was. That was enough.
In a few moments public opinion was aroused. As soon
as they saw the flag, the tongues commenced to wag. If
any one met the man, he would look at him askance.
Some one might say right to him:
" You better get out of here.   We don't want you," 194
This was sufficient. No one could resist the public
and general scorn and abhorrence which the black flag
In one instance only was the black flag not sufficient to
drive a " devil" out of town.
He was a chief, who had just succeeded to his rank,
upon the death of his old uncle, Neyahshlackahnoosh,
the old head chief of the Kitlahns, and now was anxious
to show what he could do, perhaps in order to do justice
to the old adage, that new brooms sweep clean.
There were forty or fifty of his tribe at Metlakahtla.
He was a surly, disgruntled fellow. One Saturday night
he called a secret meeting of the members of his tribe, at
which he railed about how their old, time-honoured customs were being abolished, their old, proud memories
disgraced, and their warlike and brave family traits
eradicated, and then exhorted them to go back to the
old feasts, joys, and pleasures.
No one said anything. Not a single man expressed
disapproval of what he had said.
Mr. Duncan learned of the meeting Sunday morning.
This looked very much like mutiny. Heroic measures
were evidently required, and that at once. He made up
his mind that he must have that chief out of town before
service, or no one could tell where it might end.
So he hoisted the black flag at once.
Oh, what a talk it started!   " Who can it be?"
He called two constables, and told them to go at once,
and tell the chief to take his canoe and get out of there
before eleven o'clock.
The black flag was not sufficient in this case. It
meant: "There is no one with you. You are our
enemy.   We are all down on you.''
This man had an idea that so long as no disapproval
was voiced at the meeting, he was backed by a certain INTERESTING INCIDENTS 195
element in the town—that public opinion was not against
him. The black flag did not tell the truth as to him.
He, therefore, refused to go.
Mr. Duncan now stepped out in front of his cottage
with his revolver in his hand. He stood where the man
could plainly see him, and told the constables :
" Go over and tell him from me that in ten minutes,
by the watch, his canoe is to be hauled down, and he on
his way out. If not, I will meet him face to face. And
one of us, perhaps both, will die."
Inside of five minutes, the chief's belongings were
brought down to the beach, his canoe pushed off, and he
went his way.
The black flag came down.
Nothing was said by Mr. Duncan about the affair that
day. On Monday, he sent for all the men who had been
present at the chief's meeting, and gave them a straight
" I hear you have been at the meeting of the new chief
of your tribe, and that he talked 'bad,' and that none of
you showed any disapproval of what was said. Now, I
want to know what impression this talk made upon
you. If you want to go, you are at liberty to do so.
You are also welcome to stay. But one thing I want you
to know. I want no one who is dissatisfied here. Therefore, speak out plainly. There will be no ill-feeling
about it.   All I want is a clear understanding."
One of them, an old man, arose and said:
"It is true, we were at the meeting, all of us. We
heard what Neyahshlackahnoosh said. It made no impression on us. He is gone. That is well. We do not
want to go away.   Not one of us."
Several got up and expressed the same sentiments.
That was the end of that meeting, and of the incipient
Neyahshlackahnoosh came back a year later, promised
to behave himself, and was allowed to live at Metlakahtla.
What I am now going to relate happened at a later day.
But it comes properly under " interesting incidents."
The sawmill at old Metlakahtla, being quite a distance
from the store, a telephone line was installed between the
two places. This was many years ago, when telephones
were still in their infancy, and when the same instrument
did service as a receiver and transmitter. One could not
hear and speak at the same time; but had to put the
instrument to the mouth and speak, then lift it to the ear
to catch the answer.
An old Indian thought that Mr. Duncan had made a
mistake in putting up such an arrangement as, in his
opinion, he ought to have had something that could speak
the Tsimshean language.
"It may, perhaps, talk English," he said, "but I am
sure it cannot talk Tsimshean. Just remember how long
it took you to learn our language. You only put that
thing up a few days ago. How can you expect it to have
learned Tsimshean so soon?"
"I want you to try it," said Mr. Duncan, who took
hold of the transmitter, and said to John Tait, who was
at the other end of the line :
'' Leamlahaga! is here. I want you to say something
funny to him over the 'phone."
He then handed the instrument to the Indian, who took
hold of it as if he was afraid of it, but finally managed
to put it to his ear. Then he suddenly dropped the receiver.
"Indeed it can talk Tsimshean, and it can talk nonsense, too," he said, and fled.
1 Walking-on-the-air. *
IN the early days there lived at Karta Bay, in Russian Alaska, a Russian trader, by the name of
Charles V. Baranovitch.
Baranovitch, who was married to a Thlingit Indian
woman, was a sharp, smart, unscrupulous man, and not
at all particular about how he made his dollars, if he only
made them.
It did not bother him in the least if he got the best of
the Indians in a trade for furs, by giving them some firewater, although he of course well knew that it was not
only against the law, but extremely dangerous, especially
to all white men who came in their way while they were
under its influence.
Baranovitch had a fine schooner, and traded all the way
from Victoria to Sitka.
One day, in the early spring of 1863, he came with this
schooner into the, harbour at old Metlakahtla. Mr. Duncan heard a report that he had liquor on board.
He took his canoe, and went aboard the schooner. But
he first posted his Indians on the beach, and told them if
he waved his hand to at once take their canoes, board the
schooner, and put her on the beach.
When on the deck of the schooner, he told Baranovitch
that he had'no objection to his trading with the Indians,
but that he did not allow any liquors at Metlakahtla; that
he had heard he was dealing in them, and had them on
197 198
board, and that before he allowed the Indians to trade
with him, he wanted to search the schooner for liquors.
Baranovitch wanted to know what authority he had for
such a proceeding.   To which Mr. Duncan answered:
"Authority? I have no authority, sir, except the
authority of self-defense. My life is in the hands of these
Indians. They are my friends now. But if you take
away their reason, I will have nothing to defend my life
with. And I am going to prevent your placing my life in
jeopardy if I can."
" Do you see those Indians on the beach? They are
only waiting for a signal from me. The moment they
get it, they will rush aboard this boat, overpower your
crew, beach your schooner, and burn it with all its contents. They will do it at one word from me. They are
obedient to me now. If they get liquor, they will serve
the devil, and not me, and the first thing he will tell them
to do may be to kill me. Will you let me search your
schooner peaceably, or shall I give those men the signal ? "
He consented. Nothing was found. It was probably
hidden away pretty well. In any event, he solemnly
agreed not to sell any liquor, and shortly after he left.
Later on, he went to Victoria, and complained to
Governor Douglas of the high-handed outrage which Mr.
Duncan had subjected him to. Governor Douglas wrote
to Mr. Duncan, and told him that he suspected he had
taken the law into his own hands, but that he did not
censure him for it. And, in order that he might not have
to do it again, but have legal authority to protect himself,
the Governor enclosed to him a commission as justice of
the peace, with jurisdiction over five hundred miles of
the coast line of British Columbia, and over all the islands
of its extended archipelago as well.
It is perhaps the first time in the history of the world *
that a man has been made a judge and a conservator of
the law on account of having broken that law himself.
The Governor certainly knew what he did. The very
life of the Commonwealth depended on the suppression of
the unlawful liquor traffic with the Indians of the coast,
and he well knew that no more fearless man could be
found in the North Country than the little English missionary, and that he would see to it that the accursed
traffic was manacled and stopped.
It did not take many years, after Mr. Duncan had the
Governor's commission as a magistrate in his pocket, before his name became a terror to all evil-doers anywhere
along the coast, as far as his jurisdiction extended.
In less than ten years, the unlawful liquor traffic with
the Indians had practically ceased.
It may be that at times all the forms of law were not
strictly observed in his court; that all the technicalities
were not always given the seat of honour; that sometimes
the evidence did not go in according to all the many hairsplitting rules of lawyers and text-book writers ; that the
information filed against a prisoner might not always, in
every particular, be according to the best established
rules of pleading. But who will have the heart to blame
this rugged magistrate for brushing aside the web of
technicalities and hair-fine distinctions, which perhaps
has been the means of defeating justice oftener than maintaining it ?
He was there to do substantial justice, and he did it as
he saw it.
His aim was: "Let no guilty man escape!" And
none escaped.
If the evidence was sufficient to create a moral conviction of a man's guilt, who will blame him for convicting
the prisoner if it did not always come up to the utmost
requirements of all the technicalities of the law, espe- 200
cially, as his knowledge of these technicalities was very
limited ?
The fact remains, that not a single one of his decisions
was ever reversed on appeal to higher courts.
One charge can certainly not be laid to his court. It
cannot be said that the court played with justice, and let
the offender off with a punishment so light as to make the
proceedings a farce.
I believe it is the proud record of Judge Duncan, that
only in one single case did a convicted liquor-seller get
anything but the very highest punishment which the law
I cannot deny myself the pleasure of devoting a few
pages to showing how justice was dealt out to offenders
in the high court of Metlakahtla, between 1863 and 1885,
when Mr. Duncan presided as its "chief-justice."
But before that is done must be related the circumstances under which Baranovitch and Mr. Duncan met
Several years later, the captain of a South-going steamer
from Sitka came ashore at Metlakahtla, and asked Mr.
Duncan if he had any brandy on hand.
Mr. Duncan informed him that he always kept some
in his dispensary for medicinal purposes.
" Oh, my," said the captain, " I wish you would let me
take some. Baranovitch is on board. He is dying.
The only thing which can keep him alive, till we get to
Victoria, is the administration of stimulants, and I do not
want him to die on the way.   Would you let me have it ?"
Duncan did. What a sight! The great temperance
apostle of the coast, the terror of all whiskey-sellers, furnishing the most notorious illegal liquor-vendor with the
brandy which he needed to keep him alive on his last
journey. For he did really live till he reached Victoria,
but died a few days after arriving. HOW MR. DUNCAN BECAME A JUDGE   201
Last Decoration Day I saw at Metlakahtla Baranovitch' s Indian wife, who was on board the steamer with
him at the time just mentioned.
She came up to Mr. Duncan, and shook his hand as
cordially as if he had been her best friend. I think he
probably was.
I am told that she was overheard, at this time, to say
to Mr. Duncan that her husband always spoke of him as
one of the greatest men he had ever met.
Baranovitch was a discerning man. XXVI
AS to the Indian lawbreakers, Judge Duncan did
not always follow the strict letter of the law of
the land. For some of their offences he made
up his mind as to what punishment would be most likely
to produce the best results, and then inflicted it, regardless of whether he found it on the leaves of the statute
book, or not.
Fortunately, there were no hair-splitting lawyers to
take appeals from his judgment in those cases.
He says himself:
"I sometimes went a little outside the law. I never
have allowed myself to stumble over a law, when something good was to be accomplished."
Thus the sentence, in all cases, when an Indian had
been guilty of an act of violence which might have resulted in death, was invariably a public whipping. The
whole village was then summoned to witness the affair.
The man was bared to the waist, tied to a post, and
whipped with a rope, but not with a cat-o'-nine-tails.
Sometimes the whipping was administered by the judge
himself, but, most generally, by one of the constables.
In one case of improper relations with another's wife,
the injured husband wished to kill the man. But Mr.
Duncan persuaded him that it would be a greater satisfaction to be allowed to whip the seducer in public. I
think it may safely be surmised that he did not simply
pretend to flog his man.
Once the man to be whipped was of a very savage dis-
position, so much so, that the constables said that they
dared not whip him, for fear that he would kill the one
who did it in revenge, as soon as he got free. Now, what
was to be done ? The constables were ordered to blindfold him, so he could not see who flogged him, and were
cautioned not to utter a word, so that he could not recognize the executioner by his voice.
When Duncan arrived at the whipping-post, he merely,
in silence, pointed to the constable, whom he ordered to
do the whipping. He trembled, and commenced to talk,
giving expression to his fears.
" I forbade you to talk, did I not? " said Mr. Duncan.
" Now, that you shall not be in the darkness as to who
whipped you, know that it was myself."
He took the rope, and laid it on pretty heavily.
After the whipping, the man was incarcerated for two
weeks.   That was the legal part of the punishment.
Mr. Duncan had him brought to his room every evening, and gave him a good lecture. He finally succeeded
in making the man see that he had really done him a
good turn, because, by whipping him, he had probably
saved his life, as the man he had attacked was still a
heathen, and would have been likely to take his own
revenge, while now he had declared himself satisfied with
the punishment meted out to his adversary.
The man who Was whipped on this occasion, at a meeting not many years ago, when those present gave their
experiences, stood up and said he was now leading a good
"I suppose you would like to know what saved me
from an evil life," he said. " Know then, that it was
Mr. Duncan's whipping me many years ago."
Such influence had the combination of the Gospel message, and this policy of Mr. Duncan upon getting the best
of the savage disposition of these Indians, that while
there were eleven murders committed among the tribes at
Fort Simpson the first year he was there, now, for forty
years, there has not been a case of bloodshed, or even an
attack with a weapon among the Indians who have come
with him.
Once, when Mr. Duncan was away, some of them quarrelled, and two of them us