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Indian Legends of Vancouver Island   By: (1874-1963)

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[Illustration: THE LONE INDIAN]





The unsophisticated aboriginal of British Columbia is almost a memory of the past. He leaves no permanent monument, no ruins of former greatness. His original habitation has long given place to the frame house of sawn timber, and with the exception of the carvings in black slate made by the Hydah Indians of the Queen Charlotte Islands, and the stone hammers, spear and arrow points, fashioned in the days before the coming of the white man, the mementos of his sojourn in British Columbia are only relics in wood, bark or reeds.

In the Alberni District of Vancouver Island there are two tribes of Indians, the Seshaht and the Opitchesaht. During the winter season the Seshahts live in a village which occupies a beautiful and commanding site on the west bank of the Somass River.

Some thirty years ago when I first knew the Seshahts, they still celebrated the great Lokwana dance or wolf ritual on the occasion of an important potlatch, and I remember well the din made by the blowing of horns, the shaking of rattles, and the beating of sticks on the roof boards of Big Tom's great potlatch house, when the Indians sighted the suppositional wolves on the river bank opposite the Village.

In those days we were permitted to attend the potlatches and witness the animal and other dances, among which were the "Panther," "Red Headed Woodpecker," "Wild Swan" and the "Sawbill Duck." Generally we were welcome at the festivals, provided we did not laugh or show sign of any feeling save that of grave interest. Among my Indian acquaintances of those days was Ka coop et, better known in the district as Mr. Bill. Bill is a fine type of Seshaht, quite intelligent and with a fund of humour. Having made friends, he told me in a mixture of broken English and Chinook some of the old folk lore of his tribe. Of these stories I have selected for publication "How Shewish Became a Great Whale Hunter" and "The Finding of the Tsomass." This latter story as I present it, is a composite of three versions of the same tale, as received, by Gilbert Malcolm Sproat about the year 1862; by myself from "Bill" in 1896, and by Charles A. Cox, Indian Agent, resident at Alberni, from an old Indian called Ka kay un, in September 1921. Ka kay un credits his great great grandfather with being the father of the two young Indians who with the slave See na ulth discovered the valley now known as Alberni, while "Bill" gave the credit to the sons of "Wick in in ish."

The framework for "The Legend of Eut le ten," was related to me by Rev. M. Swartout in the year 1897. Mr. Swartout was a missionary to the West Coast Indian tribes. He spoke the language of the natives fluently, and took great pains to get the story with as much accuracy as possible. A few years later, Mr. Swartout was drowned during a heavy storm while crossing in an open boat from the islands in Barkley Sound to Ucluelet.

In the making of the stories into English, I have worked in what knowledge I have of the customs and habits of the West Coast Indians of Vancouver Island. In a few instances, due to a lack of refinement of thought in the original stories, I have taken some license in their transcription. The legends indicate the poetry that lies hidden in the folk lore of the British Columbia Coast Indian tribes. For place names and other valuable information I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Cox. The illustrations are original and are the work of Mr. J. Semeyn of Victoria.



By Way of Introduction A Pen Picture of Barkley Sound The Summer Home of the Seshahts The Legend of the Thunder Birds How Shewish Became a Great Whale Hunter The Finding of the Tsomass The Legend of Eut le ten in the following parts: The Witch E ish so oolth The Birth of Eut le ten The Quest The Death of E ish so oolth The Ogre The Destruction of the Ogre The Release of the Children Further Adventures of Eut le ten including: The Arrow Chain to Heaven The Two Blind Squaws The Four Terrors Guarding the House of Nas nas shup The Trial by Fire Astronomy According to Eut el ten


The Lone Indian On Jutting Rocks the Black Klap Poose, the Shag in Silence Sits A West Coast Indian Wearing the Kut sack A Pictographic Painting The Coat of Arms of Shewish, Seshaht Chief The Bark Gives Way and Comes in Strips from off the Trees We Dance Round our Fires and Sing Again Next Day E're Mid day Came They Had Set Sail Brushing the Hemlock Boughs, he Walked Stealthily Ka koop et Stone Hammer Used by the Indians of Barkley Sound He Shot an Arrow Straight Above his Head Then Eut le ten Stood Within the Fire



To the lone Indian, who slowly paddles his canoe upon the waters of this western sound, each tree of different kind by shade of green and shape of crown is known; the Toh a mupt or Sitca spruce with scaley bark and prickly spine; the feathery foliage of the Quilth kla mupt, the western hemlock, relieved in spring by the light green of tender shoots... Continue reading book >>

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