While we are inthe midst of the coast, or Siwash, Indians, we will refer to them in a general way, to which we are limited in this short work.

Very little that is reliable can be learned of their past from their own statements; their homes, implements, etc., are not enduring. The Russians looked only for fur, likewise the Hudson Bay Company. 1 he white man left them to the last for research. The exhaustive research commenced a few years ago by the Jessup Expedition among the Kwakiutls should be extended along the entire Pacific and Arctic coasts.

Evidences, dimmed by the erosion of years, on the rock; charred and mummified remains in antiquated caves and vaults; implements of ivory, stone, copper, iron, bone, resisting decay or turned up by falling trees hundreds of years old, and shells, bone and debris from the campfire many feet beneath the mould, abundantly prove the habitation of a primitive race here.

Anthropologists and archaeologists have usually said that prehistoric man kept away from the coasts. That may be somewhat true. I would rather believe, however, that the present coast lines were many fathoms under the sea when the roofs of the continents were first inhabited by man. Nevertheless it has been unquestionably proven that people lived here during an extremely early period.

To use the common terms, the natives of Alaska have been usually divided in four distinct families, the Esquimaux, Aleut, Athabascan and Siwash; but when they are classed according to their blood they will be divided in two classes:

First The Athabascan is the typical native red man, or Indian, of America and inhabits the interior of Alaska, but breaks across the mountains, coming to the coast at Cook's Inlet and vicinity, where his blood and language shows in the Yakutats.

Second- The Coast Indian, from the Columbia River northward, is one of a distinct race. His flat nose, squinty, oblique eyes, high cheek bones, short bow legs and broad chest plainly disclose the Mongolian and Esquimaux blood (of which I will speak later). The Coast Indian, with his soft, yellow complexion, is not a red man or North American Indian at all, and is no farther removed from the Aleut than the latter is from the Esquimaux. The Esquimaux.

Aleut and Siwash should he classed as different families of the same parent stock, springing up originally in Asia, or mingling with people of Japanese or Chinese ancestry in America.

Courageous chieftains for centuries no doubt led their clans or "kwans" in chase, in war and in peace, but until the advent of the "paleface" no history recorded their deeds of valor or just government, except as were carved on totems or painted on rocks or handed down "by word of mouth."

From the days of Baranoff and Vancouver many daring Siwash, Tecumseh-like, attacked the explorers, settlers, forts, traders and missionaries, resisting the encroachments and religion single handed or with such forces as he could assemble. These have become well known, including the following chiefs in particular: Seattle, the friend of the whites on Puget Sound; Annahootz and Katlean, whose tribes burned Sitka and murdered the Russians; Legaic, who resisted the efforts of Duncan among the Indians south of Dixon's Entrance; Skowl, on Prince of Wales Island, whose people were the last to fight Christianity: Shaaks, the renowned chief of Wrangell, and Kohkluk, of the Chilkahts.

For twenty-five or more years there have been no wars to fight. 1 he old chiefs have died. The missionaries, Bible and God have overcome the most barbaric of the customs, and the government of the whites has taken the place of the chief, so that the occasion for a great man has not arisen, and never will in the old way. We have some half-bloods on the coast abundantly able to practice law anywhere, or fill the executive chair of a state. But the end of the race is inevitable.

The Indians on this coast are included in the general term "Siwash." On Vancouver Island and near it live the Kwakiutl tribes. In passing I quote from "Ethnology of the Coast Indian Tribes of Alaska," by Ensign A. P. Niblack, U. S. N.:

"The strip of Coast territory extending from Puget Sound to Cape Saint Elias, and bordered on the east by the Cascade range of mountains, known in general as the Northwest Coast, is a continuous archipelago about 1 .000 miles long and 150 miles broad. Through its narrow channels winds the steamer route to Sitka, and dotted along its shores are the picturesque winter villages of the Coast Indian tribes, an ethnic group, corresponding to one of Bastian's geographical areas, materially differing not only from the hunting Indians of the interior, but in themselves presenting some of the most interesting problems in anthropology. The northern Indians of this region, comprising the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian, may be called the wood-carving group; and the southern Indians, the Kwakiutl, Wakashan and Coast Salish, the cedar-bark group, such designations being based on the peculiarities of each in the use of wood and cedar bark, respectively, for industrial, ceremonial and other purposes.

"There have been three semi-official estimates of the Tlingit tribes of Alaska. The earliest is that in the archives of the Hudson Bay Company under Sir James Douglas (1839), made by Mr. John Work, a factor of the company. The total as given, including the Kaigani tribes of the Haidan stock, and adding on the Sitka and Hoonyah, which were omitted, is 8,975. In 1861 Lieutenant Wehrman, of the Russian Navy, in the employ of the Russian-American Company, compiled a census of Tlingit and Kaigani. giving the total population of free and slaves as 8,597. The third estimate appears in the Census Report of 1880. and places the Tlingit and Kaigani population at 7.225. That the enumeration is faulty goes without saving, when no real attempt was made to actually count them. What is needed is a census taken in the winter when the Indians are gathered in the villages, and it should include the enumeration of the different sub-totems and totems composing the great phratries of these tribes. This should be supplemented by an accurate plotting of the Indian hunting and fishing grounds which have been held in the different families and handed down for generations. A collection of the various myths and traditions, with all the local variations, and a study of the significance of the carved wooden columns in the villages is also needed to throw light upon their intricate lotemic system. The semi-religious sects and the elaborate ceremonials and dances would in themselves constitute a special branch of study. In the United States National Museum is a magnificent collection of ethnological material from this region. What is needed is a systematic governmental supervision of the collection of anthropological data, and a comparison of results with those obtained in the southern portion of this region."

Franz Boas has written about 400 pages for the Smithsonian Institute concerning the Indians in this vicinity, to which any reader may refer for an exhaustive account. The extensive research was made possible by the liberal contribution of Morris K. Jessup, the philanthropist, and the thorough knowledge of Mr. George Hunt, of Fort Rupert.

I quote the following from Dr. Boas, which will apply quite well to the coast as far as Cooks Inlet:


"The Pacific Coast of America between Juan de Fuca Strait and Yakutat Bay is inhabited by a great many Indian tribes distinct in physical characteristics and distinct in languages, but one in culture. Their arts and industries, their customs and beliefs, differ so much from those of all other Indians that they form one of the best defined cultural groups of our continent.

"Extending our view a little beyond the territory defined above, the passes along which the streams of culture flowed most easily were the Columbia River in the south and the pass leading along Salmon and Bella Coola rivers to Dean Inlet and Bentinck Arm. Of less importance are Chilcat Pass, Stikine River, Nass and Skeena rivers and Eraser River. Thus it will be seen that there are only two important and four less important passes, over which the people of the coast came into contact with those of the interior. They have occupied a rather isolated positon and have been able to develop a peculiar culture without suffering important invasions from other parts of America.

"As the precipitation all along the coast is very great, its lower parts arc covered with dense forests which furnish wood for building houses, canoes, implements and utensils. Among them the red cedar (Thuya giganlea) is the most prominent, as it furnishes the natives with material for most manufactures. Its wood serves for building and carving; its bark is used for making clothing and ropes. The yellow cedar, pine, fir, hemlock, spruce, yew tree, maple, alder, are also of importance to the Indians. The woods abound with numerous kinds of berries, which are eagerly sought for. The kelp and seaweeds which grow abundantly all along the shore are also utilized.

"In the woods the deer, the elk, the black and grizzly bear, the wolf and many other animals are found. The mountain goat lives on the higher ranges of the mainland. The beaver, the otter, marten, mink and fur seal furnish valuable skins, which were formerly used for blankets. The Indians keep in their villages dogs which assist the hunters.

"The staple fod of the Indians is, however, furnished by the sea. Seals, lions and whales are found in considerable numbers; but the people depend almost entirely upon various species of salmon, the halibut and the oulachon or candlefish (Thaleichthys pacifiens, Girard), which are caught in enormous quantities. Various specimens of cod and other sea fish also furnish food. Herrings visit the coast early in the spring. In short, there is such an abundance of animal life in the sea that the Indians live almost solely upon it. Besides fish, they gather various kinds of shellfish, sea urchins and cuttlefish.

"The people are, therefore, essentially fishermen, all other pursuits being of secondary importance. Whales are pursued only by the tribes of the west coast of Vancouver Island. Other tribes are satisfied with the dead carcasses of whales which drift ashore. Sea lions and seals are harpooned, the barbed harpoon point being either attached to a bladder or tied to the stern of the canoe. I he harpoon lines arc made of cedar bark and sinews. 1 he meat of these sea animals is eaten, while their intestines are used for the manufacture of bowstrings and bags. Codfish and halibut are caught by means of hooks. These are attached to fish lines made of kelp. The hook is provided with a sinker, while the upper part is kept afloat by a bladder or a wooden buoy. Cuttlefish are used for bait. The fish are either roasted over or near the fire or boiled in wooden kettles by means of red-hot stones. Those intended for use in winter are split in strips and dried in the sun or over the fire. Salmon are caught in weirs and fish traps when ascending the rivers, or by means of nets dragged between two canoes. Later in the season salmon are harpooned. For fishing in deeper water, a very long double-pointed harpoon is used. Herring and oulachon are caught by means of a long rake. The oulachon are tried in canoes or kettles filled with water, which is heated by means of red-hot stones. The oil is kept in bottles made of dried kelp. In winter, dried halibut and salmon dipped in oil is one of the principal dishes of the tribes living on the outer coast. Clams and mussels are collected by the women; they are eaten fresh, or strung on sticks or strips of cedar bark and dried for winter use. Cuttlefish are caught by means of long sticks; sea eggs are obtained by means of round bag nets. Fish roe, particularly that of herring, is collected in great quantities, dried and eaten with oil.

"Sea grass, berries and roots are gathered by the women. The sea grass is cut, formed into square cakes and dried for winter use. The same is done with several kinds of berries, which when used are dissolved in water and eaten mixed with fish oil. Crabapples are boiled and kept in their juice until late in the winter. They are also eaten with fish oil. The food is kept in large boxes which are bent of cedar wood, the bottom being sewed to the sides.

"In winter deer are hunted. Formerly bows and arrows were used in their pursuit, but these have now been replaced by guns. The bow was made of yew wood or of maple. The arrows had stone, bone and copper points. Bows and arrows were carried in wooden quivers. Deer are also captured by being driven into large nets made of cedar bark, deer sinews or nettles. Elks are hunted in the same way. For smaller animals traps are used. Deer and bears are also caught in large traps. Birds were shot with arrows provided with a thick, blunt point. Deer skins are worked into leather and used for various purposes, principally for ropes and formerly for clothing.

"The natives of this region go barelegged. The principal part of their clothing is the blanket, and this was made of tanned skins or woven of mountain goat wool, dog's hair, feathers or a mixture of both. The thread is spun on the bare leg and by means of a spindle. Another kind of blanket is made of soft cedar bark, the warp being tied across the weft. These blankets are trimmed with fur. At the present lime woolen blankets are most extensively used. At festive occasions "button blankets" are worn. Most of these are light blue blankets with a red border set with mother-of-pearl buttons. Many are also adorned with the crest of the owner, which is cut out in red cloth and sewed on to the blanket. Men wear a shirt under the blanket, while women wear a petticoat in addition. Before the introduction of woolen blankets, women used to wear an apron made of cedar bark and a belt made of the same material. When canoein or working on the beach, the women wear large water-tight hats made of basketry. In rainy weather a water-tight cape or poncho made of cedar bark is used.

"The women dress their hair in two plaits, while the men wear it comparatively short. The latter keep it back from the face by means of a strap of fur or cloth tied around the head. Ear and nose ornaments are used extensively. They are made of bone and abalone shell. The women of the most northern tribes (from about Skeena River northward) wear labrets.

"A great variety of baskets are used large wicker baskets for carrying fish and clams, cedar-bark baskets for purposes of storage. Mats made ol cedar bark, and in the south such made of rushes, are used for bedding, packing, seats, dishes, covers of boxes and similar purposes.

"In olden times work in wood was done by means of stone and bone implements. Trees were felled with stone axes and split by means of wooden or bone wedges. Boards were split out of cedar trees by means of these wedges. After the rough cutting was finished, the surface of the wood was planed with adzes, a considerable number of which were made of jade and serpentine boulders, which materials are found in several rivers. Carvings were executed with stone and shell knives. Stone mortars and pestles were used for mashing berries. Paint pots of stone, brushes and stencils made of cedar bark, formed the outfit of the Indian painter. Pipes were made of slate, of bone or of wood.

"Canoes are made of cedar wood. The types of canoes vary somewhat among the different tribes of the coast, depending also largely upon whether the canoe is to be used for hunting, traveling or fishing. The canoe is propelled and steered by means of paddles.

"The houses are made of wood and attain considerable dimensions. 1 he details of construction vary considerably among the various tribes, but the general appearance is much alike from Comox to Alaska, while farther south the square northern house gives way to the long house of the Coast Salish."

The native population is not now, nor never was, reliably counted on the coast or in Alaska.

The Indian with his family migrates from herring to salmon, salmon to seal, seal to deer, deer to berries, etc. His life is one of existence only. The simplest foods, raw at that, and a blanket are enough to make him perfectly content. The spreading branches of a tree, the canopy of heaven, a spruce bough or bark hut, a shack, a skin teepee or most any convenient pretense for shelter is his home as he roams in search of food. If his stomach is full, the house, whatever it may be, is a mansion and the country a most desirable one. These habitations are everywhere, but not one in ten are occupied, which fact should be taken into consideration when estimating the people. The statistics should be taken at a time when the Indians are all in the villages, and they should be numbered and scheduled in the family or tribe to which they belong. To use their tribe totem, or badge, would be very pleasing to them and more readily understood.

The Indians are changing their manner of living. Many of them go with the whaling or cod boats to the Arctic waters, others to the canneries along the coast, others to the interior, some to the mills, some to the garbage dumps of the towns and cities and some to the hop fields. One year one place, the next another; sometimes alone, at others with a large family or many families. 1 heir old customs have little or no binding force now. They marry on short acquaintance into any tribe, and separate at pleasure.

All but the oldest can speak English, and they speak their own dialect, or "Chinook." Chinook is a trade jargon. Mr. Hale early prepared a list of Chinook words. It was found to consist of the following: From Nootka, 18; English, 41; French, 34; Chinook Indian, 111. I find no trouble in understanding them or in making them understand me (when they wish to do so) anywhere on the coast.

General Halleck in his official report gave the following population of Siwash on the Alaskan Coast:

Hydas, Prince of Wales Island


Hennagas. Cape Pole


Chatsinas, Northern Islands of Alexander Archipelago


Tongas, Tonga Island, etc


Stikeens, on Stikeen River and coast


Kakes, on Kupreanoff Island


Kluius, Frederick Sound


Kootz-noos, Admiralty Island


Awks, Tahkoo River


Tahkoos and Sundowns, on coast near Tahkoo River


Chilkahts, Linn Canal


Hood-su-noo-hoos, Chatham Straits


Hunnahs (Hoo-noos), Linn Canal and Cape Spencer


Sitkas, Baranoff Island


Copper River


Kenai, north of Copper River


Total Siwash (1869)


Elliott, Dall, Jackson and others in those days more qualified to numerate the natives than persons unfamiliar with them, usually reported the natives to be fewer in number than above given.

At the present time no tribe or "kwan" is larger than it was then. Some have entirely disappeared, and others nearly so. My own opinion is that the whole Indian population on the Pacific Coast, from Dixon Entrance to Cooks Inlet (excepting the Yakutats) will not exceed 10,000 population. The Russian estimate for 1838 in whole of Alaska was 40,000; south of Yakutat, 10,000.

Back to Table of Contents