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The sea of mountains; an account of Lord Dufferin's tour through British Columbia in 1876 (Volume 1) online

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on by the Indians with the Indians and
for the Indians. The trade is done on
the co-operative principle, and the Indians
not only sell their own catch, but pur-
chase from other parties who visit the
settlement. In times past they owned a
schooner, but she was lost, and they have
not yet replaced her. Possibly Mr. Dun-
can may think it as well to keep his people
away from the temptations of Victoria,
which is to the Indian a sink of iniquity.
At Metlakahtla one is struck by the order
and system that, in a rough way, prevail,
as much as by the cleanliness and neat-
ness of its inhabitants. Nevertheless the
contrast which they and their houses pre-
sent in the matter of cleanliness and de-
cency is very marked ; and nothing seems
to be wanting to give ordinary complete-
ness to their little village.

These Indians have a very handsome
church, a school-room for males and
another for females, a dispensary, a
trading-store, a lock-up, and a corner of


the green is devoted to a gymnasium for
the boys.

Their church is a marvel of great
results from little means. Outside it is a
handsome building, having more preten-
sions to architecture than one usually
finds in village churches ; inside it is one
hundred and twenty feet long by sixty
feet wide, and eighty-six feet high. It is
built entirely of cedar, and, like all the
other bnildings, erected by the Indians
themselves without other help than the
plans and directing aid of Mr. Duncan.
They have a new saw-mill now, which was
cutting its first log when the Amethyst's
gun was fired, when, of course, all work
stopped as suddenly as does the work in
one of Her Majesty's dockyards when the
first stroke of the clock proclaims the day
to be at an end. With the exception of a
little ornamentation, this new church is
quite finished. It is nnpainted, but very
clean and fresh. The pillars which sup-
port the aisles are to be moulded along the

VOL. i. x


sides, and there are, at regular spaces in
the roof, certain slot-like openings which
are made for the purposes of ventilation,
and which are to be further " fixed."
The church is so large and open that at
first one is apt to consider this pecu-
liar way of ventilation unnecessary, until,
little trifles being explained, one under-
stands that in warm weather a community
of fishing Indians require air.

The Governor-General's visit was un-
expected at Metlakahtla, and a very large
number of Indians were away in the fish-
ing grounds. On these occasions they
lock up their houses and take their families
with them. But word had been sent to
the nearest fishing place, and the men
there engaged had come in, and had at
once set to work in making such prepara-
tions as they could to welcome so great a
chieftain. When Lord Dufferin landed, he
passed before the guard of honour that
the Indians had drawn up to receive him
a guard which, if it fell short a little of


what military men would consider up to
the mark, was loyally intended and was
the best the place afforded and then pro-
ceeded to a small open space that had
been prepared for him. Here a modest
and timid Indian belle came forward and
presented Lady Dufferin with a bouquet of
flowers, in which poppies and sweet
william, being the hardier and more
readily cultivated in these latitudes,
figured most conspicuously. Mr. Collinson,
the associate of Mr. Duncan, was with his
wife introduced to their Excellencies, and
after them a number of the women of the
village, the last presentation being that of
a tiny urchin who could just steady her-
self sufficiently on her legs to walk across
and offer her hand, which she did without
the least trepidation.

The women were all a little scared at
first, but Lady Dufferin has a peculiar way
of setting at their ease the humblest of
those with whom she comes in contact, so
that the first fear very soon merged into

x 2


a feeling of confidence and liking. There
had recently been a marriage in the
village, and on learning of it Lord and
Lady Duflferin at once expressed a wish
that the bride might be brought forward.
Accordingly the name was called out, but
the call had to be repeated several times
before she appeared. At last a short, solid,
Dutch-built young lady, neatly dressed,
and wearing a yellow handkerchief on her
head, came forth from out of the ranks of
the girls not yet having taken her place
among the matrons, grinning all over the
countenance, as if the idea of her marriage
being mentioned was a tremendous lark.
Lady Dufferin made some courteous re-
mark to her, but this only intensified the
lark that she evidently felt was going on,
though after a little she told her husband's
name, and explained that he was away at
the fishing grounds. Lord Dufferin asked
her some question to test her scholastic
abilities ; but this was such a climax to the
lark that she was obliged to turn for sym-


pathy in her merriment to the gentleman
who had introduced her.

Lord Dufferin was very anxious to test
the erudition of the young women, and
tried several of them, dropping upon one
with an inquiry as to her acquaintanceship
with the multiplication table, but they
were all too much out of their usual
groove to display their abilities. One has
heard of young ladies much nearer home
than Metlakahtla to whom the multiplica-
tion table was what Dick Swiveller would
term a staggerer.

When we had parted from the bride and
her young associates, Mr. Duncan took
the Governor-General and all his following
over the village, showing the church, the
schools, the houses, and explaining all the
several histories, purposes, and plans con-
nected with each. The Indians, incited
thereto by Mr. Duncan, have become dis-
contented with their present houses and
locations, and are about to pull down
their old dwellings in order to build new


ones on apian of their teacher's suggestion
and to arrange them in better order of
streets. There is nothing like having
some ambition about your town, even if it
is built on a cleared cedar-swamp. The
great thing abont Metlakahtla is that
everything is done by the Indians them-
selves a marked divergence from the
foolish plan so often adopted in other
places and done of their own good-will
and approval, for Mr. Duncan adopts the
plan of leaving all matters in abeyance
until the Indians come to see things in the
same light as himself. Then he strikes
while the iron is hot. By this means the
Indians themselves become interested in
the work, and do it to please themselves,
not other people.

The want of real success in Indian
establishments on the Eastern side has
been the principal of petting and paying
the Indians to do that which they ought
to desire to do for their own advantage.
If an Indian is asked to do anything, his


first idea is that he should receive some-
thing for doing it. Thus when Mr. Dun-
can first told the Indians at Fort Simpson
that he was opening a school for their
children they asked to be paid for letting
their children go to school. And so in
missions that I know of, the Indians have
been allowed to think that by going to
church and sending their children to
school they deserved well of their mission-
ary and should receive favours from him.
It is seldom sufficiently impressed upon
them that they may go to Jericho if they
insist upon it, but that here is a chance of
doing much better. When they are made
to understand that the favour is conferred
upon them, they are ready enough to
accept it Mr. Duncan's village is a fair
proof of this.

The plan usually pursued at Missions
would not have resulted in the attain-
ments which many of these Metlakahtla In-
dians possess. In the new school-room which
we visited, there was a black board with


an arithemetical question chalked upon it.
This question asked what share a certain
man would have in one hundred and
eighty barrels of apples after he had corn-
plied with some very complicated part-
nership conditions. I read the question
through, and gave it up at once. Hamil-
ton then set himself well before the board
and frowned upon it, but after a short
time turned from it to examine a picture
of Jack the Giant Killer that was near,
and so the whole party, including, I
think, the Governor-General, who had a men-
tal shot at the problem, and then sought
relief from this abstruse study in the con-
templation of the coloured print which
hung adjacent there, and which some one
now says was not Jack the Giant Killer
at all, but David and Goliath. It is clear
that if the Tsimpsean children of Metla-
kahtla can work out arithmetical questions
where many people would take refuge in
algebra, they are considerably more ad-
vanced than the ordinary run of children


at Indian Missions. And their accom-
plishments are varied.

When all the village had been seen,
and all the points of interest explained,
we came to a place that had been set off
in the centre of the village where some
planking had been laid down to form an
impromptu platform. Here a long row
of chairs were set, and the little cloud of
personages scarlet-coated staff-officers,
blue-coated naval officers, plain-coated
correspondents, and others that were
accompanying Lord and Lady Dufferin on
their visit were seated in a line. The
Indians present, then dividing themselves
into lines of men, women, boys, and
girls, sang some catches, hymns, and other
compositions for the edification of their
Excellencies. They sang " Home, Sweet
Home" in Tsimpsean, the " Home" having
direct reference to and being mentioned
as Metlakahtla. Then they sang a catch,
the words of which may be taken as the


motto which has guilded the com-
munity :

" When a weary task you find it,
Persevere and never mind it,

Never mind it, never mind it,
Persevere, and never mind it."

They sang it remarkably well, and it
seemed strange to find the inhabitants of
an Indian village in the remotest corner of
the North-west of British Columbia
possessed of sufficient musical knowledge
to enable them, without accompaniment, to
sing a composition in which the voices
are not in unison, and where the basses
are singing one line while the boys and
women are singing others. The air was
familiar, and the song sounded like a
moral :

" Merrily lasses fill your glasses,
Let the bumper toast go round."

To this air it has haunted us ever since,
and is worse than " Punch in the presence
of the Passenjaire." In our ears still
ringing, our companions singing " Never


mind it, never mind it, Persevere and
never mind it, Let the bumper toast go

Of course they don't sing any thing about
bumpers at Metlakahtla, because liquor is
strictly forbidden within its precincts, and
Mr. Duncan being a J. P. attacks very
fiercely any erratic schooners that bring
whiskey into his neighbourhood. He has
boarded and captured more than one, and
has thus far succeeded in keeping his
people free from the evils of the whiskey.
The singing was not confined to the two
things already mentioned, for we were
all surprised to hear them commence a
familiar " Do, re, mi," harmonised for the
several classes of voices, and which, after
a little attention, we recognised as the
singing lesson from " II Barbiere di
Siviglia." Almaviva and Rosina at Metla-
kahtla !

The Governor-General expressed a great
desire to hear the men sing one of their
national melodies (Heaven save the mark !)


but they begged to be excused on the
ground that they would be ashamed to
sing it before him on shore as they were,
but that they would follow the ship
and sing it in their canoes, which they
did on his return from Fort Simpson. I
don't think Mr. Duncan encourages re-
miniscences of their former life, which
these war songs are, and it struck me that
he threw, and successfully threw, cold
water on the Governor- General's bestowing
any special mark of recognition on the
chief. He has to conduct his operations
in a peculiar way, and it can easily be
understood that much of his advice and
direction would be thrown away, were
there a recognized authority over the
Indians other than himself. He strives
to make industry and merit the standards
by which the men of the village are
measured, and in presenting an address to
the Governor-General, which was done
immediately after the singing was con-
cluded, there was no apparent priority or
distinction amongst them.


If one may associate by simile that which
is excellent and praiseworthy with that
which is in every respect the reverse, one
would be inclined to say that Metlakahtla
suggests itself as a miniature Salt Lake
City, with the repellent doctrines and
practices of that place not confining the
remark merely to polygamy abolished and
replaced by the conduct required by
Christian teaching. As Brigham Young
is prophet, priest, and proprietor of the
theatre, president, policeman, and prin-
cipal dry-goods merchant, and, in short,
everything else that pays, so Mr. Duncan
combines in himself all the professions
necessary for the government of such
a community, and practises all that entails
self-denial and hard work. And the obe-
dience that Brigham Young received from
the fears of men and the infatuation of old
women who want to be sealed for marriage
in Heaven, Mr. Duncan receives from the
respect and esteem of his people. He is a
busy man. In the morning the business


of the place requires his attention, in the
afternoon he teaches, and in the evening
adjudicates, according to the laws of the
Dominion, between Indian and Indian.
Amongst other multifarious duties he was
compelled to learn to play several instru-
ments, in order that he might teach the
Indians music, and organize a band.
When the Governor-General replied to the
address of the Indians, Mr. Duncan took

it down in shorthand and translated it

from his notes.

The address was as follows :

" To His Excellency, the Earl of Dufferin,

Governor-General of the Dominion of

Canada :

" May it please Your Excellency :

" We, the inhabitants of Metlakahtla, of
the Tsimpsean nation of Indians, desire to
express our joy in welcoming Your Excel-
lency and Lady Dufferin to our village.

" Under the teaching of the Gospel we
have learned the Divine command, * Fear


God ; honour the King,' and thus, as
loyal subjects of Her Majesty, Queen Vic-
toria, we rejoice in seeing you visit our
shores. We have learned to respect and
obey the laws of the Queen, and we will
continue to uphold and defend the same in
our community and nation.

" We are still a weak and poor people,
only lately emancipated from the thraldom
of heathenism and savage customs, but
we are struggling to rise and advance to a
Christian life and civilization.

" Trusting that we may enjoy a share
of Your's Excellency's kind and fostering
care, and under your Administration con-
tinue to advance in peace and prosperity,

" We have the honour to subscribe our-
selves Your Excellency's humble and
obedient servants.

" For the Indians of Metlakahtla,


" Secretary to the Native Council."

In reply to this the Governor- General


made an impromptu speech of which the
following is a verbatim report :

" My dear children, I have come a
long distance in order to assure you in the
name of your great mother, the Queen of
England, with what pleasure she has learnt
of your well being, and of the progress you
have made in the arts of peace and the
knowledge of the Christian religion under
the auspices of your kind friend Mr. Dun-
can. You must understand that I have
not come for my own pleasure, but that
the journey has been long and- laborious,
and that I am here from a sense of duty
in order to make you feel by my actual
presence with what solicitude the Queen
and Her Majesty's Government in Canada
watch over your welfare, and how anxious
they are thatyou should persevere in that vir-
tuous and industrious mode of life in which
I find you engaged. I have viewed with
astonishment the church which you have
built entirely by your own industry and
intelligence. That church is in itself a


monument of the way in which you have
profited by the teachings you have re-
ceived. It does you the greatest credit,
and we have every right to hope that
while in its outward aspect it bears testi-
mony to your conformity to the laws of
the Gospel, beneath its sacred roof your
sincere and faithful prayers will be re-
warded by those blessings which are
promised to those who approach the throne
of God in humility and faith. I hope you
will understand that your white mother
and the. Government in Canada are fully
prepared to protect you in the exercise of
your religion, and to extend to you the
benefit of those laws which know no differ-
ence of race or of colour, but under which
justice is impartially administered between
the humblest and the greatest of the land.
The Government of Canada is proud to
think that there are upwards of thirty
thousand Indians in the territory of
British Columbia. She recognises them
as the ancient inhabitants of the country.
VOL. i. Y


The white men have not come amongst
you as conquerors, but as friends. "We
regard you as our fellow-subjects, and as
equal to us in the eye of the law as you
are in the eye of God, and equally entitled
with the rest of the community to the
benefits of good government and the
opportunity of earning an honest livelihood.
I have had very great pleasure in inspect-
ing your school, and I am quite certain
that there are many among the younger
portion of those I am now addressing who
have already begun to feel how much they
are indebted to that institution for the
expansion of their mental faculties, for the
knowledge of what is passing in the outer
world as well as for the insight it affords
them into the laws of nature and into
the arts of civilized life ; and we have the
further satisfaction of remembering that
as year after year flows by, and your po-
pulation increases, all these beneficial
influences will acquire additional strength
and momentum. I hope you are duly


grateful to Him to whom, under Provi-
dence, you are indebted for all these
benefits, and that when you contrast your
own condition, the peace in which you live,
the comforts that surround you, the de-
cency of your habitations, when you see
your wives, your sisters, and your
daughters contributing so materially by
the brightness of their appearance, the
softness of their manners, their house-
wifely qualities, to the pleasantness and
cheerfulness of your domestic lives, con-
trasting as all these do so strikingly with
your former surroundings, you will re-
member that it is to Mr. Duncan you owe
this initiation into your new life. By a
faithful adhernce to his principles and
example you will become useful citizens
and faithful subjects, an honour to those
under whose auspices you will thus have
shown to what the Indian race can attain,
at the same time that you will leave to
your children an ever widening prospect
of increasing happiness and progressive

Y 2


improvement. Before I conclude, I cannot
help expressing to Mr. Duncan and to
those who are associates with him in his
good work, not only in my own
name, not only in the name of the Govern-
ment of Canada, but also in the name of
Her Majesty the Queen, and in the name
of the people of England, who take so
deep an interest in the well-being of all
the native races throughout the Queen's
Dominions, our deep gratitude to him for
having thus devoted the flower of his life,
in spite of innumerable difficulties, dangers,
and discouragements, of which we who
only see the result of his labours can form
only a very inadequate idea, to a work
which has resulted in the beautiful scene
we have witnessed this morning. I only
wish to add that I am very much obliged
to you for the satisfactory and loyal
address with which you have greeted me.
The very fact of your being in a position
to express yourselves with so much pro-
priety is in itself extremely creditable to


you, and although it has been my good
fortune to receive many addresses during
my stay in Canada from various com-
munities of your fellow-subjects, not one
of them will be surrounded by so many
hopeful and pleasant reminiscences as that
which I shall carry away with me from this

Soon after the delivery of this, Lord and
Lady Dufferin shook hands with the princi-
pal people on shore, and then embarked to
proceed in the Douglas to Fort Simpson,
and I think that both were no less sur-
prised than pleased at what they had seen.
It must be said, however, that the starting
of the mission has cost money, and that
the Indians are not yet in a position to
raise a revenue beyond their immediate
wants. Only the hardier vegetables will
grow, so that, having no farming to fall
back upon, they will be slow in reaching
the over-producing point.


London : Printed by A. Schulze, 13, Poland Street.


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Online LibraryMolyneux St. JohnThe sea of mountains; an account of Lord Dufferin's tour through British Columbia in 1876 (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 13)