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side, and in spring-time the valley was brilliant with flowers. This was the possession and home of the Indians, whose ancestors had lived and hunted, without patent or title obtained from deeds, long before the first sailor planted his flag on the sea-coast, and claimed the country by right of discovery. It could not be expected that the Indian would see his trees cut down and game destroyed, and the clean rivers turned into muddy streams, without regret.”
CAN THESE PEOPLE BE CivilisED ? Before bidding farewell to these (in many respects) interesting and primitive tribes of North-west America, let us glance very briefly at the important question which heads this
section. Are there any prospects of the savages of the wide region becoming civilised; of the benign influences of religion exercising any influence on them? Among the Indians in the United States possessions, there are various teachers who instruct them in the arts of civilisation and in religion, but with a result for which the system is as much to blame as the teachers themselves. This we shall speak of by-and-by. In the British possessions there are several missionaries at work among the Indians, but (with one exception) with only indifferent results.
The earliest missionaries were French Canadian priests, and many of them still labour in the country. No one cognisant of their self-denying character would for one moment desire to speak of these clergymen with any other feeling than the most profound respect; but, so far as I have seen, their influence upon the savages consists more of mere forms, and an cutward superstitious reverence for the person of the missionary, than in any real change, especially after the priest has gone. Still, wherever I went in British Columbia, the message
passed from tribe to tribe, by my attendant Indians, that I was a friend of the priest, was the best introduction I could have among these wild men. An old Indian, who used to accompany me, would stoop down on the trail morning and evening, and go through the forms of devotion taught him by le plete, as, in corrupted French, he styled his spiritual father. The morality and trustworthiness of the Catholic Indians were also most remarkable, and the power of their priests over them was equally surprising. If a missionary in travelling amongst them had not time to visit a particular village, he would send his shovel hat, which would be treated with all the respect accorded to its owner, and possibly would not be inferior in restraining influence on the morals of the recipients. The Protestant missions are confined to the Church
of England and to the Wesleyan body from Canada. Among all these missions I can only single out one which has, in my opinion, accomplished any great work, though many of them have been of use in improving the character of the natives, though not to that extent their well-wishers could desire-perhaps from causes not altogether within the control of the missionaries themselves. This exception is the mission among the Tsimpsheans, established by a layman, Mr. William Duncan, in 1858, and now stationed at Metlakatlah, near Fort Simpson, of the Hudson Bay Company, on the northern coast of British Columbia, having been forced to remove from the vicinity of the fort on account of the demoralising influence of the traders on the natives. In another place* I have stated my opinion of this mission, and the description I there gave of it I may transfer to this place. After removing the natives to
* Papers by the Rev. J. H. Halcombe, and the author, in Mission Life, 1870, et seq.
Metlakatlah, Mr. Duncan commenced instructing them in the arts of peace and civilisation, as well as indoctrinating them with the higher virtues, without which all else would have been in vain. Instead of the collection of filthy huts, he laid out regular streets, and established statute labour for the making of proper roads. Gardens were marked off, and Indians who used to peer into the flower-plots with wistful eyes, while on a visit to Victoria, now began to cultivate vegetables and flowers for themselves. When a savage takes to gardening there is some hope for him. Searching out the men with peculiar capabilities and tastes, he set them up in trades, instead of allowing them to follow the old savage plan of no division of labour. Accordingly, if you pass into Metlakatlah, you may see old Legech, the former chief, busily working under a signboard which informs passers-by that he is a carpenter and cabinet-maker. The Tsimpsbeans are a very artistic people, and carve beautiful work in ivory, wood, or stone; they even make jewellery out of gold and silver coin ; so that Mr. Duncan had little difficulty in setting them to work at various crafts of that nature. A police and a gaol were likewise provided, as well as a public market, a court-house, and a lodging-house for strangers who might come to the settlement. These aboriginal ladies and gentlemen, being the reverse of cleanly, the house had to be carefully cleansed soon after their departure; but the pleasant, clean houses of the inhabitants would thus remain undisturbed and undefiled, without laying his protégés open to the charge of want of hospitality. On the contrary, strangers were invited to visit the settlement, to witness the prosperity which civilisation could bring; and many other Indians, convinced by these cogent proofs, left savagedom and joined their brethren at Metlakatlah.
The Governor having conferred the commission of justice of the peace on Mr. Duncan, he was thereby enabled to clear his settlement of any of the rascally whisky-traders whom he found prowling about his village for their vile ends. This was not always done without peril, for these scoundrels are desperate characters, and on one occasion an unfortunate conflict occurred, in which several Indians were killed or wounded.
To those who know the Indian character, nothing was more astonishing than to see how readily they allowed themselves to be assessed for “government works” and improvements, each family contributing according to its relative status or wealth. Finding that it was not only inconvenient to the Indians but prejudicial to their morals to pay visits for trading purposes to Fort Simpson, Mr. Duncan opened a store in the village, in which they could supply every want, at a more moderate cost than at the Hudson Bay or other establishments. This arrangement did not, of course, increase the popularity of the Metlakatlah Mission among the people interested in the Indian trade, and much covert malice was set in work against it on that ground alone.
Feeling convinced that one of the surest ways to the civilisation of the Indians was through commerce, he proposed the plan of the Indians providing a schooner of their own, in shares. The money was soon subscribed, and their vessel made her trips regularly to Victoria, manned by Indians, though commanded by a white man. The reason of this was, not that the Indians were incapable of navigating the vessel alone, but because the Government thought it likely that they would smuggle. This obstacle was ultimately overcome; and for some time, until the death of the Indian captain in the conflict referred to, the schooner was wholly manned and officered by Indians. I do not remember ever seeing a more interesting sight than its intelligent, well-dressed commander, who, a few years before, was a mere savage in a blanket, going to the harbour-master's office in Victoria to clear his vessel and start off again, after having complied with the requirements of the port. On one of these trips the profits amounted to several hundred pounds, which were, of course, distributed among the shareholders.
The religious state of the mission is now most satisfactory, many converts continually joining, and very few relapses occurring. Every professor of religion is put upon a severe probation, and, contrary to what I have seen in some missions, his profession is not taken for granted, but carefully judged by his life and conversation. Immorality of the women was notoriously the bane in these northern tribes. Now all is changed. Though many Indian women still come to Victoria for immoral purposes, yet these are entirely confined to the uncivilised tribes, and rarely include a single member of Mr. Duncan's flock. I know no higher compliment to that devoted man's labours than the fact that, by his exertions on behalf of the morality of the natives he has incurred the malice and hatred of the rascals whose evil passions he has thwarted.
I have given this rather lengthy account of Mr. Duncan's labours because his mission is what in my opinion) a mission ought to be, but what, in reality, in few parts of the world it is. Whether this state of Utopia will continue is doubtful, but as civilisation (or at least what is so called) approaches, corruption of all sorts, and the “accursed love of gold,” too often dissipate to the wind the work of the missionary, and in the meantime the natives die off. A missionary has much to contend with on that coast. A savage is always suspicious, and cannot believe that any one would labour for his welfare without some sinister motive. It is a common thing for them to ask the missionary how much he is going to give them for coming to church. Again, the abolition of polygamy is a great stumbling-block in the teacher's way, for these marriages have often been made by chiefs to strengthen their influence, or that of their tribe, and the severance of these ties—if for no more humane motive—is not to be lightly aceomplished. The zealous young missionary who needlessly abolishes old-established feasts and ceremonies, is by no means performing a work which will much assist him in his labours, or is at all necessary, while the prevailing sins of laziness, drunkenness, as well as mutual jealousy, stand as stumbling-blocks in his way. Often the missionary has himself to blame. He is either in education or ability unfitted for his task, or of a physique which cannot endure hardship, or command the respect of a savage people, with whom bodily strength is held in high esteem. There is a painful system of competition going on on the north-west coast, and the same fact is true of missions in many portions of the world. No sooner does a Roman Catholic missionary establish himself, than so does a Wesleyan or an Episcopalian one, or all three together. Each is on bad terms with the other; and this the Indian notes to the disadvantage of true religion. The result is that many Indians are mere infidels, neither believing their own faith nor the exotic one introduced amongst them, and ridicule on all occasions the missionaries and their teaching. For this the teachers have themselves greatly to blame. The missionary's wife is too often an encumbrance instead of a help, wearying for “society” and home, and with no interest in her husband's labours. The Roman Catholic missionaries go away among the Indians, in places where they are as yet in their primitive condition, and, encumbered with no ties, live as the Indians do, and suffer the same hardships.
I shall notice one other obstacle in the missionary's way, which he could himself overcome
~that is, the multiplicity of Indian languages on the Pacific slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Very few tribes speak the same language, and some villages even a different dialect of one language. The traders and others speak a corrupt, bald jargon, called the Chinook, founded on the language of the Chinook Indians, as once spoken near the mouth of the Columbia River, mixed with corrupted words from other native languages, as well as from French and English. It may be said to be “the court language," as it is spoken by all the traders, and is the general medium between the whites and the Indians, some of whom in almost every tribe can generally speak it. It is, however, insufficient to convey to the native mind anything but the barest ideas. The missionary is too apt to remain satisfied with this easily-acquired dialect; but this falls short of his necessities. He must acquire some native language, and speak it fluently. Nothing
excites such ridicule, in a rude, uneducated person like an Indian, as the ludicrous spectacle of any one attempting to express himself in a language he only imperfectly understands. Even if inclined to listen to the missionary's teaching, the manner in which it is conveyed may neutralise every good effect.
I have, however, little faith in the ultimate civilisation of these Indians. They are dying off much more rapidly than the teachings of the missionary can reach them, and in another fifty years, I suspect, an Indian will be as rare a spectacle in the streets of Victoria and Portland as he is now in Boston or New York. How this is, I shall have occasion to inquire before we close this volume, but in the meantime the reader at this early point must be made aware that it is so. The Indian still dries his salmon on the banks of the silvery stream that glides by his lodge, still digs his roots from the prairie which Nature planted ages ago, and still resorts to the buffalo-chase in quest of the bison that roam as yet in millions over the western plains, and when his toils are ended and his wants supplied he throws himself down to rest in his