I arrived at Wrangell in a canoe with a party of Cassiar miners in October while the icy regions to the northward still burned in my mind. I had met several prospectors who had been as far as Chilcat at the head of Lynn Canal, who told wonderful stories about the great glaciers they had seen there. All the high mountains up there, they said, seemed to be made of ice, and if glaciers “are what you are after, that’s the place for you,” and to get there “all you have to do is to hire a good canoe and Indians who know the way.”
But it now seemed too late to set out on so long a voyage. The days were growing short and winter was drawing nigh when all the land would be buried in snow. On the other hand, though this wilderness was new to me, I was familiar with storms and enjoyed them. The main channels extending along the coast remain open all winter, and, their shores being well forested, I knew that it would be easy to keep warm in camp, while abundance of food could be carried. I determined, therefore, to go ahead as far north as possible, to see and learn what I could, especially with reference to future work. When I made known my plans to Mr. Young, he offered to go with me, and, being acquainted with the Indians, procured a good canoe and crew, and with a large stock of provisions and blankets, we left Wrangell October 14, eager to welcome weather of every sort, as long as food lasted.
I was anxious to make an early start, but it was half-past two in the afternoon before I could get my Indians together—Toyatte, a grand old Stickeen nobleman, who was made captain, not only because he owned the canoe, but for his skill in woodcraft and seamanship; Kadachan, the son of a Chilcat chief; John, a Stickeen, who acted as interpreter; and Sitka Charley. Mr. Young, my companion, was an adventurous evangelist, and it was the opportunities the trip might afford to meet the Indians of the different tribes on our route with reference to future missionary work, that induced him to join us.
When at last all were aboard and we were about to cast loose from the wharf, Kadachan’s mother, a woman of great natural dignity and force of character, came down the steps alongside the canoe oppressed with anxious fears for the safety of her son. Standing silent for a few moments, she held the missionary with her dark, bodeful eyes, and with great solemnity of speech and gesture accused him of using undue influence in gaining her son’s consent to go on a dangerous voyage among unfriendly tribes; and like an ancient sibyl foretold a long train of bad luck from storms and enemies, and finished by saying, “If my son comes not back, on you will be his blood, and you shall pay. I say it.”
Mr. Young tried in vain to calm her fears, promising Heaven’s care as well as his own for her precious son, assuring her that he would faithfully share every danger that he encountered, and if need be die in his defense.
“We shall see whether or not you die,” she said, and turned away.
Toyatte also encountered domestic difficulties. When he stepped into the canoe I noticed a cloud of anxiety on his grand old face, as if his doom now drawing near was already beginning to overshadow him. When he took leave of his wife, she refused to shake hands with him, wept bitterly, and said that his enemies, the Chilcat chiefs, would be sure to kill him in case he reached their village. But it was not on this trip that the old hero was to meet his fate, and when we were fairly free in the wilderness and a gentle breeze pressed us joyfully over the shining waters these gloomy forebodings vanished.
We first pursued a westerly course, through Sumner Strait, between Kupreanof and Prince of Wales Islands, then, turning northward, sailed up the Kiku Strait through the midst of innumerable picturesque islets, across Prince Frederick’s Sound, up Chatham Strait, thence northwestward through Icy Strait and around the then uncharted Glacier Bay. Thence returning through Icy Strait, we sailed up the beautiful Lynn Canal to the Davidson Glacier and the lower village of the Chilcat tribe and returned to Wrangell along the coast of the mainland, visiting the icy Sum Dum Bay and the Wrangell Glacier on our route. Thus we made a journey more than eight hundred miles long, and though hardships and perhaps dangers were encountered, the great wonderland made compensation beyond our most extravagant hopes. Neither rain nor snow stopped us, but when the wind was too wild, Kadachan and the old captain stayed on guard in the camp and John and Charley went into the woods deer-hunting, while I examined the adjacent rocks and woods. Most of our camp-grounds were in sheltered nooks where good firewood was abundant, and where the precious canoe could be safely drawn up beyond reach of the waves. After supper we sat long around the fire, listening to the Indian’s stories about the wild animals, their hunting-adventures, wars, traditions, religion, and customs. Every Indian party we met we interviewed, and visited every village we came to.
Our first camp was made at a place called the Island of the Standing Stone, on the shore of a shallow bay. The weather was fine. The mountains of the mainland were unclouded, excepting one, which had a horizontal ruff of dull slate color, but its icy summit covered with fresh snow towered above the cloud, flushed like its neighbors in the alpenglow. All the large islands in sight were densely forested, while many small rock islets in front of our camp were treeless or nearly so. Some of them were distinctly glaciated even belong the tide-line, the effects of wave washing and general weathering being scarce appreciable as yet. Some of the larger islets had a few trees, others only grass. One looked in the distance like a two-masted ship flying before the wind under press of sail.
Next morning the mountains were arrayed in fresh snow that had fallen during the night down to within a hundred feet of the sea-level. We made a grand fire, and after an early breakfast pushed merrily on all day along beautiful forested shores embroidered with autumn-colored bushes. I noticed some pitchy trees that had been deeply hacked for kindling-wood and torches, precious conveniences to belated voyagers on stormy nights. Before sundown we camped in a beautiful nook of Deer Bay, shut in from every wind by gray-bearded trees and fringed with rose bushes, rubus, potentilla, asters, etc. Some of the lichen tresses depending from the branches were six feet in length.
A dozen rods or so from our camp we discovered a family of Kake Indians snugly sheltered in a portable bark hut, a stout middle-aged man with his wife, son, and daughter, and his son’s wife. After our tent was set and fire made, the head of the family paid us a visit and presented us with a fine salmon, a pair of mallard ducks, and a mess of potatoes. We paid a return visit with gifts of rice and tobacco, etc. Mr. Young spoke briefly on mission affairs and inquired whether their tribe would be likely to welcome a teacher or missionary. But they seemed unwilling to offer an opinion on so important a subject. The following words from the head of the family was the only reply:—
“We have not much to say to you fellows. We always do to Boston men as we have done to you, give a little of whatever we have, treat everybody well and never quarrel. This is all we have to say.”
Our Kake neighbors set out for Fort Wrangell next morning, and we pushed gladly on toward Chilcat. We passed an island that had lost all its trees in a storm, but a hopeful crop of young ones was springing up to take their places. I found no trace of fire in these woods. The ground was covered with leaves, branches, and fallen trunks perhaps a dozen generations deep, slowly decaying, forming a grand mossy amass of ruins, kept fresh and beautiful. All that is repulsive about death was here hidden beneath abounding life. Some rocks along the shore were completely covered with crimson-leafed huckleberry bushes; one species still in fruit might well be called the winter he huckleberry. In a short walk I found vetches eight feet thigh leaning on raspberry bushes, and tall ferns and Smilacina unifolia with leaves six inches wide growing on yellow-green moss, producing a beautiful effect.
Our Indians seemed to be enjoying a quick and merry reaction from the doleful domestic dumps in which the voyage was begun. Old and young behaved this afternoon like a lot of truant boys on a lark. When we came to a pond fenced off from the main channel by a moraine dam, John went ashore to seek a shot at ducks. Creeping up behind the dam, he killed a mallard fifty or sixty feet from the shore and attempted to wave it within reach by throwing stones back of it. Charley and Kadachan went to his help, enjoying the sport, especially enjoying their own blunders in throwing in front of it and thus driving the duck farther out. To expedite the business John then tried to throw a rope across it, but failed after repeated trials, and so did each in turn, all laughing merrily at their awkward bungling. Next they tied a stone to the end of the rope to carry it further and with better aim, but the result was no better. Then majestic old Toyatte tried his hand at the game. He tied the rope to one of the canoe-poles, and taking aim threw it, harpoon fashion, beyond the duck, and the general merriment was redoubled when the pole got loose and floated out to the middle of the pond. At length John stripped, swam to the duck, threw it ashore, and brought in the pole in his teeth, his companions meanwhile making merry at his expense by splashing the water in front of him and making the dead duck go through the motions of fighting and biting him in the face as he landed.
The morning after this delightful day was dark and threatening. A high wind was rushing down the strait dead against us, and just as we were about ready to start, determined to fight our way by creeping close inshore, pelting rain began to fly. We concluded therefore to wait for better weather. The hunters went out for deer and I to see the forests. The rain brought out the fragrance of the drenched trees, and the wind made wild melody in their tops, while every brown bole was embroidered by a network of rain rills. Perhaps the most delightful part of my ramble was along a stream that flowed through a leafy arch beneath overleaping trees which met at the top. The water was almost black in the deep pools and fine clear amber in the shallows. It was the pure, rich wine of the woods with a pleasant taste, bringing spicy spruce groves and widespread bog and beaver meadows to mind. On this amber stream I discovered an interesting fall. It is only a few feet high, but remarkably fine in the curve of its brow and blending shades of color, while the mossy, bushy pool into which it plunges is inky black, but wonderfully brightened by foam bells larger than common that drift in clusters on the smooth water around the rim, each of them carrying a picture of the overlooking trees leaning together at the tips like the teeth of moss capsules before they rise.
I found most of the trees here fairly loaded with mosses. Some broadly palmated branches had beds of yellow moss so wide and deep that when wet they must weigh a hundred pounds or even more. Upon these moss-beds ferns and grasses and even good-sized seedling trees grow, making beautiful hanging gardens in which the curious spectacle is presented of old trees holding hundreds of their own children in their arms, nourished by rain and dew and the decaying leaves showered down to them by their parents. The branches upon which these beds of mossy soil rest become flat and irregular like weathered roots or the antlers of deer, and at length die; and when the whole tree has thus been killed it seems to be standing on its head with roots in the air. A striking example of this sort stood near the camp and I called the missionary’s attention to it.
“Come, Mr. Young,” I shouted. “Here’s something wonderful, the most wonderful tree you ever saw; it is standing on its head.” “How in the world,” said he in astonishment, “could that tree have been plucked up by the roots, carried high in the air, and dropped down head foremost into the ground. It must have been the work of a tornado.”
Toward evening the hunters brought in a deer. They had seen four others, and at the camp-fire talk said that deer abounded on all the islands of considerable size and along the shores of the mainland. But few were to be found in the interior on account of wolves that ran them down where they could not readily take refuge in the water. The Indians, they said, hunted them on the islands with trained dogs which went into the woods and drove them out, while the hunters lay in wait in canoes at the points where they were likely to take to the water. Beaver and black bear also abounded on this large island. I saw but few birds there, only ravens, jays, and wrens. Ducks, gulls, bald eagles, and jays are the commonest birds hereabouts. A flock of swans flew past, sounding their startling human-like cry which seemed yet more striking in this lonely wilderness. The Indians said that geese, swans, cranes, etc., making their long journeys in regular order thus called aloud to encourage each other and enable them to keep stroke and time like men in rowing or marching (a sort of “Row, brothers, row,” or “Hip, hip” of marching soldiers).
October 18 was about half sunshine, half rain and wet snow, but we paddled on through the midst of the innumerable islands in more than half comfort, enjoying the changing effects of the weather on the dripping wilderness. Strolling a little way back into the woods when we went ashore for luncheon, I found fine specimens of cedar, and here and there a birch, and small thickets of wild apple. A hemlock, felled by Indians for bread-bark, was only twenty inches thick at the butt, a hundred and twenty feet long, and about five hundred and forty years old at the time it was felled. The first hundred of its rings measured only four inches, showing that for a century it had grown in the shade of taller trees and at the age of one hundred years was yet only a sapling in size. On the mossy trunk of an old prostrate spruce about a hundred feet in length thousands of seedlings were growing. I counted seven hundred on a length of eight feet, so favorable is this climate for the development of tree seeds and so fully do these trees obey the command to multiply and replenish the earth. No wonder these islands are densely clothed with trees. They grow on solid rocks and logs as well as on fertile soil. The surface is first covered with a plush of mosses in which the seeds germinate; then the interlacing roots form a sod, fallen leaves soon cover their feet, and the young trees, closely crowded together, support each other, and the soil becomes deeper and richer from year to year.
I greatly enjoyed the Indian’s camp-fire talk this evening on their ancient customs, how they were taught by their parents ere the whites came among them, their religion, ideas connected with the next world, the stars, plants, the behavior and language of animals under different circumstances, manner of getting a living, etc. When our talk was interrupted by the howling of a wolf on the opposite side of the strait, Kadachan puzzled the minister with the question, “Have wolves souls?” The Indians believe that they have, giving as foundation for their belief that they are wise creatures who know how to catch seals and salmon by swimming slyly upon them with their heads hidden in a mouthful of grass, hunt deer in company, and always bring forth their young at the same and most favorable time of the year. I inquired how it was that with enemies so wise and powerful the deer were not all killed. Kadachan replied that wolves knew better than to kill them all and thus cut off their most important food-supply. He said they were numerous on all the large islands, more so than on the mainland, that Indian hunters were afraid of them and never ventured far into the woods alone, for these large gray and black wolves attacked man whether they were hungry or not. When attacked, the Indian hunter, he said, climbed a tree or stood with his back against a tree or rock as a wolf never attacks face to face. Wolves, and not bears, Indians regard as masters of the woods, for they sometimes attack and kill bears, but the wolverine they never attack, “for,” said John, “wolves and wolverines are companions in sin and equally wicked and cunning.”
On one of the small islands we found a stockade, sixty by thirty-five feet, built, our Indians said, by the Kake tribe during one of their many warlike quarrels. Toyatte and Kadachan said these forts were common throughout the canoe waters, showing that in this foodful, kindly wilderness, as in all the world beside, man may be man’s worst enemy. We discovered small bits of cultivation here and there, patches of potatoes and turnips, planted mostly on the cleared sites of deserted villages. In spring the most industrious families sailed to their little farms of perhaps a quarter of an acre or less, and ten or fifteen miles from their villages. After preparing the ground, and planting it, they visited it again in sum mer to pull the weeds and speculate on the size of the crop they were likely to have to eat with their fat salmon. The Kakes were then busy digging their potatoes, which they complained were this year injured by early frosts.
We arrived at Klugh-Quan, one of the Kupreanof Kake villages, just as a funeral party was breaking up. The body had been burned and gifts were being distributed—bits of calico, handkerchiefs, blankets, etc., according to the rank and wealth of the deceased. The death ceremonies of chiefs and head men, Mr. Young told me, are very weird and imposing, with wild feasting, dancing, and singing. At this little place there are some eight totem poles of bold and intricate design, well executed, but smaller than those of the Stickeens. As elsewhere throughout the archipelago, the bear, raven, eagle, salmon, and porpoise are the chief figures. Some of the poles have square cavities, mortised into the back, which are said to contain the ashes of members of the family. These recesses are closed by a plug. I noticed one that was caulked with a rag where the joint was imperfect.
Strolling about the village, looking at the tangled vegetation, sketching the totems, etc., I found a lot of human bones scattered on the surface of the ground or partly covered. In answer to my inquiries, one of our crew said they probably belonged to Sitka Indians, slain In war. These Kakes are shrewd, industrious, and rather good-looking people. It was at their largest village that an American schooner was seized and all the crew except one man murdered. A gunboat sent to punish them burned the village. I saw the anchor of the ill-fated vessel lying near the shore. Though all the Thlinkit tribes believe in witchcraft, they are less superstitious in some respects than many of the lower classes of whites. Chief Yana Taowk seemed to take pleasure in kicking the Sitka bones that lay in his way, and neither old nor young showed the slightest trace of superstitious fear of the dead at any time.
It was at the northmost of the Kupreanof Kake villages that Mr. Young held his first missionary meeting, singing hymns, praying, and preaching, and trying to learn the number of the inhabitants and their readiness to receive instruction. Neither here nor in any of the other villages of the different tribes that we visited was there anything like a distinct refusal to receive school-teachers or ministers. On the contrary, with but one or two exceptions, all with apparent good faith declared their willingness to receive them, and many seemed heartily delighted at the prospect of gaining light on subjects so important and so dark to them. All had heard ere this of the wonderful work of the Reverend Mr. Duncan at Metlakatla, and even those chiefs who were not at all inclined to anything like piety were yet anxious to procure schools and churches that their people should not miss the temporal advantages of knowledge, which with their natural shrewdness they were not slow to recognize. “We are all children,” they said, “groping in the dark. Give us this light and we will do as you bid us.”
The chief of the first Kupreanof Kake village we came to was a venerable-looking man, perhaps seventy years old, with massive head and strongly marked features, a bold Roman nose, deep, tranquil eyes, shaggy eyebrows, a strong face set in a halo of long gray hair. He seemed delighted at the prospect of receiving a teacher for his people. “This is just what I want,” he said. “I am ready to bid him welcome.”
“This,” said Yana Taowk, chief of the larger north village, “is a good word you bring us. We will be glad to come out of our darkness into your light. You Boston men must be favorites of the Great Father. You know all about God, and ships and guns and the growing of things to eat. We will sit quiet and listen to the words of any teacher you send us.”
While Mr. Young was preaching, some of the congregation smoked, talked to each other, and answered the shouts of their companions outside, greatly to the disgust of Toyatte and Kadachan, who regarded the Kakes as mannerless barbarians. A little girl, frightened at the strange exercises, began to cry and was turned out of doors. She cried in a strange, low, wild tone, quite unlike the screech crying of the children of civilization.
The following morning we crossed Prince Frederick Sound to the west coast of Admiralty Island. Our frail shell of a canoe was tossed like a bubble on the swells coming in from the ocean. Still, I suppose, the danger was not so great as it seemed. In a good canoe, skillfully handled, you may safely sail from Victoria to Chilcat, a thousand-mile voyage frequently made by Indians in their trading operations before the coming of the whites. Our Indians, however, dreaded this crossing so late in the season. They spoke of it repeatedly before we reached it as the one great danger of our voyage.
John said to me just as we left the shore, “You and Mr. Young will be scared to death on this broad water.”
“Never mind us, John,” we merrily replied, “perhaps some of you brave Indian sailors may be the first to show fear.”
Toyatte said he had not slept well a single night thinking of it, and after we rounded Cape Gardner and entered the comparatively smooth Chatham Strait, they all rejoiced, laughing and chatting like frolicsome children.
We arrived at the first of the Hootsenoo villages on Admiralty
Island shortly after noon and were welcomed by everybody. Len,
women, and children made haste to the beach to meet us, the children
as if they had never before seen a Boston man. The
chief, a remarkably good-looking and intelligent fellow,
stepped forward, shook hands with us Boston fashion, and invited
us to his house. Some of the curious children crowded in after
us and stood around the fire staring like half-frightened
wild animals. Two old women drove them out of the house, making
hideous gestures, but taking good care not to hurt them. The merry
throng poured through the round door, laughing and enjoying the
harsh gestures and threats of the women as all a joke, indicating
mild parental government in general. Indeed, in all my travels
I never saw a child, old or young, receive a blow or even a harsh
word. When our cook began to prepare luncheon our host said through
his interpreter that he was sorry we could not eat Indian food,
as he was anxious to entertain us. We thanked him, of course,
and expressed our sense of his kindness. His brother, in the mean
time, brought a dozen turnips, which he peeled and sliced and
served in a clean dish. These we ate raw as dessert, reminding
me of turnip-field feasts when I was a boy in Scotland. Then
a box was brought from some corner and opened. It seemed to be
full of tallow or butter. A sharp stick was thrust into it, and
a lump of something five or six inches long, three or four wide,
and an inch thick was dug up, which proved to be a section of
the back fat of a deer, preserved in fish oil and seasoned with
boiled spruce and other spicy roots. After stripping off the lard-like
oil, it was cut into small pieces and passed round. It seemed
white and wholesome, but I was unable to
taste it even for
manner’s sake. This disgust, how ever, was not noticed, as the
rest of the company did full justice to the precious tallow and
smacked their lips over it as a great delicacy. A lot of potatoes
about the size of walnuts, boiled and peeled and added to a potful
of salmon, made a savory stew that all seemed to relish. An old,
cross-looking, wrinkled crone presided at the steaming chowder-pot,
and as she peeled the potatoes with her fingers she, at short
intervals, quickly thrust one of the best into the mouth of a
little wild-eyed girl that crouched beside her, a spark of
natural love which charmed her withered face and made all the
big gloomy house shine. In honor of our visit, our host put on
a genuine white shirt. His wife also dressed in her best and put
a pair of dainty trousers on her two-year-old boy, who
seemed to be the pet and favorite of the large family and indeed
of the whole village. Toward evening messengers were sent through
the village to call everybody to a meeting. Mr. Young delivered
the usual missionary sermon and I also was called on to say something.
Then the chief arose and made an eloquent reply, thanking us for
our good words and for the hopes we had inspired of obtaining
a teacher for their children. In particular, he said, he wanted
to hear all we could tell him about God.
This village was an offshoot of a larger one, ten miles to the north, called Killisnoo. Under the prevailing patriarchal form of government each tribe is divided into comparatively few families; and because of quarrels, the chief of this branch moved his people to this little bay, where the beach offered a good landing for canoes. A stream which enters it yields abundance of salmon, while in the adjacent woods and mountains berries, deer, and wild goats abound.
“Here,” he said, “we enjoy peace and plenty; all we lack is a church and a school, particularly a school for the children.” His dwelling so much with benevolent aspect on the children of the tribe showed, I think, that he truly loved them and had a right intelligent insight concerning their welfare. We spent the night under his roof, the first we had ever spent with Indians, and I never felt more at home. The loving kindness bestowed on the little ones made the house glow.
Next morning, with the hearty good wishes of our Hootsenoo friends, and encouraged by the gentle weather, we sailed gladly up the coast, hoping soon to see the Chilcat glaciers in their glory. The rock hereabouts is mostly a beautiful blue marble, waveworn into a multitude of small coves and ledges. Fine sections were thus revealed along the shore, which with their colors, brightened with showers and late-blooming leaves and flowers, beguiled the weariness of the way. The shingle in front of these marble cliffs is also mostly marble, well polished and rounded and mixed with a small percentage of glacier-borne slate and granite erratics.
We arrived at the upper village about half-past one o’clock. Here we saw Hootsenoo Indians in a very different light from that which illumined the lower village. While we were yet half a mile or more away, we heard sounds I had never before heard—a storm of strange howls, yells, and screams rising from a base of gasping, bellowing grunts and groans. Had I been alone, I should have fled as from a pack of fiends, but our Indians quietly recognized this awful sound, if such stuff could be called sound, simply as the “whiskey howl” and pushed quietly on. As we approached the landing, the demoniac howling so greatly increased I tried to dissuade Mr. Young from attempting to say a single word in the village, and as for preaching one might as well try to preach in Tophet. The whole village was afire with bad whiskey. This was the first time in my life that I learned the meaning of the phrase “a howling drunk.” Even our Indians hesitated to venture ashore, notwithstanding whiskey storms were far from novel to them. Mr. Young, however, hoped that in this Indian Sodom at least one man might be found so righteous as to be in his right mind and able to give trustworthy information. Therefore I was at length prevailed on to yield consent to land. Our canoe was drawn up on the beach and one of the crew left to guard it. Cautiously we strolled up the hill to the main row of houses, now a chain of alcoholic volcanoes. The largest house, just opposite the landing, was about forty feet square, built of immense planks, each hewn from a whole log, and, as usual, the only opening was a mere hole about two and a half feet in diameter, closed by a massive hinged plug like the breach of a cannon. At the dark door-hole a few black faces appeared and were suddenly withdrawn. Not a single person was to be seen on the street. At length a couple of old, crouching men, hideously blackened, ventured out and stared at us, then, calling to their companions, other black and burning heads appeared, and we began to fear that like the Alloway Kirk witches the whole legion was about to sally forth. But, instead, those outside suddenly crawled and tumbled in again. We were thus allowed to take a general view of the place and return to our canoe unmolested. But ere we could get away, three old women came swaggering and grinning down to the beach, and Toyatte was discovered by a man with whom he had once had a business misunderstanding, who, burning for revenge, was now jumping and howling and threatening as only a drunken Indian may, while our heroic old captain, in severe icy majesty, stood erect and motionless, uttering never a word. Kadachan, on the contrary, was well nigh smothered with the drunken caresses of one of his father’s tillicums (friends), who insisted on his going back with him into the house. But reversing the words of St. Paul in his account of his shipwreck, it came to pass that we all at length got safe to sea and by hard rowing managed to reach a fine harbor before dark, fifteen sweet, serene miles from the howlers.
Our camp this evening was made at the head of a narrow bay bordered by spruce and hemlock woods. We made our beds beneath a grand old Sitka spruce five feet in diameter, whose broad, winglike branches were outspread immediately above our heads. The night picture as I stood back to see it in the firelight was this one great tree, relieved against the gloom of the woods back of it, the light on the low branches revealing the shining needles, the brown, sturdy trunk grasping an outswelling mossy bank, and a fringe of illuminated bushes within a few feet of the tree with the firelight on the tips of the sprays.
Next morning, soon after we left our harbor, we were caught in a violent gust of wind and dragged over the seething water in a passionate hurry, though our sail was close-reefed, flying past the gray headlands in most exhilarating style, until fear of being capsized made us drop our sail and run into the first little nook we came to for shelter. Captain Toyatte remarked that in this kind of wind no Indian would dream of traveling, but since Mr. Young and I were with him he was willing to go on, because he was sure that the Lord loved us and would not allow us to perish.
We were now within a day or two of Chilcat. We had only to hold a direct course up the beautiful Lynn Canal to reach the large Davidson and other glaciers at its head in the cañons of the Chilcat and Chilcoot Rivers. But rumors of trouble among the Indians there now reached us. We found a party taking shelter from the stormy wind in a little cove, who confirmed the bad news that the Chilcats were drinking and fighting, that Kadachan’s father had been shot, and that it would be far from safe to venture among them until blood-money had been paid and the quarrels settled. I decided, therefore, in the mean time, to turn westward and go in search of the wonderful “ice mountains” that Sitka Charley had been telling us about. Charley, the youngest of my crew, noticing my interest in glaciers, said that when he was a boy he had gone with his father to hunt seals in a large bay full of ice, and that though it was long since he had been there, he thought he could find his way to it. Accordingly, we pushed eagerly on across Chatham Strait to the north end of Icy Strait, toward the new and promising ice-field.
On the south side of Icy Strait we ran into a picturesque bay to visit the main village of the Hoona tribe. Rounding a point on the north shore of the bay, the charmingly located village came in sight, with a group of the inhabitants gazing at us as we approached. They evidently recognized us as strangers or visitors from the shape and style of our canoe, and perhaps even determining that white men were aboard, for these Indians have wonderful eyes. While we were yet half a mile off, we saw a flag unfurled on a tall mast in front of the chief’s house. Toyatte hoisted his United States flag in reply, and thus arrayed we made for the landing. Here we were met and received by the chief, Kashoto, who stood close to the water’s edge, barefooted and bareheaded, but wearing so fine a robe and standing so grave, erect, and serene, his dignity was complete. No white man could have maintained sound dignity under circumstances so disadvantageous. After the usual formal salutations, the chief, still standing as erect and motionless as a tree, said that he was not much acquainted with our people and feared that his house was too mean for visitors so distinguished as we were. We hastened of course to assure him that we were not proud of heart, and would be glad to have the honor of his hospitality and friendship. With a smile of relief he then led us into his large fort house to the seat of honor prepared for us. After we had been allowed to rest unnoticed and unquestioned for fifteen minutes or so, in accordance with good Indian manners in case we should be weary or embarrassed, our cook began to prepare luncheon; and the chief expressed great concern at his not being able to entertain us in Boston fashion.
Luncheon over, Mr. Young as usual requested him to call his people to a meeting. Most of them were away at outlying camps gathering winter stores. Some ten or twelve men, however, about the same number of women, and a crowd of wondering boys and girls were gathered in, to whom Mr. Young preached the usual gospel sermon. Toyatte prayed in Thlinkit, and the other members of the crew joined in the hymn-singing. At the close of the mission exercises the chief arose and said that he would now like to hear what the other white chief had to say. I directed John to reply that I was not a missionary, that I came only to pay a friendly visit and see the forests and mountains of their beautiful country. To this he replied, as others had done in the same circumstances, that he would like to hear me on the subject of their country and themselves; so I had to get on my feet and make some sort of a speech, dwelling principally on the brotherhood of all races of people, assuring them that God loved them and that some of their white brethren were beginning to know them and become interested in their welfare; that I seemed this evening to be among old friends with whom I had long been acquainted, though I had never been here before; that I would always remember them and the kind reception they had given us; advised them to heed the instructions of sincere self-denying mission men who wished only to do them good and desired nothing but their friendship and welfare in return. I told them that in some far-off countries, instead of receiving the missionaries with glad and thankful hearts, the Indians killed and ate them; but I hoped, and indeed felt sure, that his people would find a better use for missionaries than putting them, like salmon, in pots for food. They seemed greatly interested, looking into each other’s faces with emphatic nods and a-ahs and smiles.
The chief then slowly arose and, after standing silent a minute or two, told us how glad he was to see us; that he felt as if his heart had enjoyed a good meal; that we were the first to come humbly to his little out-of-the-way village to tell his people about God; that they were all like children groping in darkness, but eager for light; that they would gladly welcome a missionary and teacher and use them well; that he could easily believe that whites and Indians were the children of one Father just as I had told them in my speech; that they differed little and resembled each other a great deal, calling attention to the similarity of hands, eyes, legs, etc., making telling gestures in the most natural style of eloquence and dignified composure. “Oftentimes,” he said, “when I was on the high mountains in the fall, hunting wild sheep for meat, and for wool to make blankets, I have been caught in snowstorms and held in camp until there was nothing to eat, but when I reached my home and got warm, and had a good meal, then my body felt good. For a long time my heart has been hungry and cold, but to-night your words have warmed my heart, and given it a good meal, and now my heart feels good.”
The most striking characteristic of these people is their serene dignity in circumstances that to us would be novel and embarrassing. Even the little children behave with natural dignity, come to the white men when called, and restrain their wonder at the strange prayers, hymn-singing, etc. This evening an old woman fell asleep in the meeting and began to snore; and though both old and young were shaken with suppressed mirth, they evidently took great pains to conceal it. It seems wonderful to me that these so-called savages can make one feel at home in their families. In good breeding, intelligence, and skill in accomplishing whatever they try to do with tools they seem to me to rank above most of our uneducated white laborers. I have never yet seen a child ill-used, even to the extent of an angry word. Scolding, so common a curse in civilization, is not known here at all. On the contrary the young are fondly indulged without being spoiled. Crying is very rarely heard.
In the house of this Hoona chief a pet marmot (Parry’s) was a great favorite with old and young. It was therefore delightfully confiding and playful and human. Cats were petted, and the confidence with which these cautious, thoughtful animals met strangers showed that they were kindly treated.
There were some ten or a dozen houses, all told, in the village. The count made by the chief for Mr. Young showed some seven hundred and twenty-five persons in the tribe.
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