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Mackenzie, Alexander |'; 

Descriptive notes on certain 
implements ^ 




Paniph H- 
Soci al ^ 





Assistant Director, Geological Survey of Caiiaila. 


Section II, 1891. [ 45 ] Trans. Roy. Soc. Canada. 

II, — Desfriptive Notes on Ortain Implements, Weapons, etc., from Graham Island, 

Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C. 

By Mr. Alexander Mackenzie, 
With an introductory note by Dr. G. M. Dawson. 

(Read May 27, 1S91.) 

Some years ago a small collection of implements, weapons, etc., from the Queen 
Charlotte Islands was obtained for the mnseum of the Geological Survey from Mr. Mac- 
kenzie. Most of the objects in this collection are either specially fine examples of the arts 
of the Haida, or antiques, the value of which is enhanced by some knowledge of their 
history. The collection had been formed by Mr. Mackenzie under peculiarly advantageous 
circumstances during his residence at Masset, and was accompanied by a manuscript re- 
ferring particularly to the various articles, but which includes besides some miscellaneous 
notes of interest respecting the Haida, their manners, customs and ideas. Mr. Mackenzie 
states that his notes are the result of original enquiries, and that he has purposely 
refrained from quoting information from sources already published. His knowledge 
of the Haida people, together with his habit of close observation, render his notes of 
special vakie. 

It thus appears to be desirable not only to illustrate a few of the more interesting of 
the objects in this collection, but also to make this the occasion of publishing the notes 
referred to, in order that these may be rendered accessible to those interested in the eth- 
nology of the "West Coast. By permission of the Director of the Geological Survey, such 
of the objects as have been chosen for illustration have been drawn for this purpose by 
Mr. L. M. Lambe. In selecting these objects the writer has endeavoured to choose those 
which seem to be the most noteworthy, and particularly to exclude such as resemble 
those which have already appeared in his report on the Queen Charlotte Islands, con- 
tained in the Report of Progress of the Geological Survey for 1878-79. The first detailed 
account of the Haida people was given by the writer in the place just referred to, the 
material for it having been obtained in the course of a summer spent in exploring the 
Queen Charlotte Islands for the Geological Survey. Much additional information has, 
however, since appeared in various piiblications. Reference may be made particularly in 
this connection to an elaborate and copiously illustrated memoir by Mr. A. P. Niblack, 
entitled " The Coast Indians of Southern Alaska and Northern British Columbia," lately 
published in the annual report of the Smithsonian Institution. 

It would appear that the pre-eminent position of the Haida among the various tribes 
of the West Coast has not yet been sufficiently recognized or appreciated by ethnologists. 
Twenty years ago little was known about them ; the Queen Charlotte Islands were but 
rudely sketched on the charts, and the reports current as to the treacherous and warlike 


character of thoir inhal)ilants, with the i\ict that the ishmds lay to the west of the main 
route of commuuicatiou aloug the coast, caused them to be l)Ut seldom visited. This was 
eveu the case iu IStS when the writer undertook his exploration of the islands. Since 
that time the Tliugit peoples of the southern coast-strip of Alaska have been somewhat 
fully reported on by various writers, while considerable attention has also been devoted to 
the littoral of the southern part of British Columbia. As a result of these investigations, 
the arts and knowledge common to the coast peoples generally have been described 
and attached by description to various tribes iu which both were less fully developed 
than they are among the Ilaida. When this difference came to be appreciated, a tendency 
arose to afhrm that the Haida had borrowed and luore fully developed the arts and cus- 
toms of ueighbouring tribes. In some cases this is true, but as a general statement it 
must be accepted with the utmost reserve Articles formed of copper and blankets woven 
of the hair of the mountain goat are known to have been obtained by the Haida from the 
Tliugit to the north ; circumstances explained by the fact that the materials employed in 
both do uot occur in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Some customs and dances are also 
known to have been adopted from the Tshimsian of the adjacent mainland, but further 
than this the proof does not go. 

The fact remains that the arts of the Haida, with those of their neighbours the 
Tshimsian, had reached a stage of development, tending toward au incipient civilization, 
higher than that found in any other people of the west coast of North America. To the 
north, as well as to the south of the Queen Charlotte Islands, and to some extent in cor- 
respondence with the distance from these islands, are found ruder and more barbarous 
people, living in dwellings of inferior construction and surrounded by fewer and less 
artistically fashioned implements. The comparatively isolated position of the Haida and 
the relative immunity which this afforded against attack, may have been important in 
producing this result ; while their occupation of a region upon all sides of which (save 
that of the ocean) different peoples with habits and traditions more or less varied bordered, 
may have rendered the Haida more Catholic in their beliefs. These, however, are but cir- 
cumstances which may explain, while they do not detract from the premier position of this 
tribe ; a position which was largely shared by the Tshimsian, though in consequence of 
the greater accessibility of the Tshimsian country, their primitive condition had suffered 
more change before it began to be intelligently studied. 

Many collections which have been made are now to be found in museums credited 
vaguely to the Northwest Coast, a designation justijfied to a certain extent by the similarity 
of the character of the objects met with on this coast as a whole ; but where the means 
are still available for analysing these miscellaneous collections and assigning them to the 
various tribes, it is found that a great proportion of the best fashioned and most artistic- 
ally finished objects come from the Queen Charlotte Islands. The writer is jjleased to 
note that Mr. Niblack, in the remarks made in his memoir above cited, appears fully to 
appreciate and admit the superior culture and dexterity of the Haida, of which people the 
Kaigani of the southern part of Alaska are but a modern colony. Speaking from his own 
somewhat extended opportunities of knowing the tribes of the Pacific Coast, and referring 
particularly to their mental capacity, the writer has no hesitation in recording his opinion 
that the Haida and Tshimsian are the most intelligent and capable. 


lu revising- Mr. Mackenzie's notes for publication, his original orthography of nearly 

all the native names has been retained unchauged, but in a few places some remarks 

which appear to be unnecessary, because (;overed by what is already published, have been 


G-EORGE M. Dawson. 

Dance Staff (Haida Tusk). — A ceremonial staff of this kind was formerly used at feasts, 
dances and distributions of property. The principal man concerned in the ceremony, by 
forcibly tapping the floor with such a staff or baton, called the attention of the audience 
to the business immediately in hand. At feasts where pro^jerty or blankets were given, 
or paid away, a significant tap of this staff intimated that the transaction was closed, 
resembling much the tap of an auctioneer's hammer on a bargain being concluded. The 
carved defaces of crane, whale, crow, owl, and bear, with which it has been ornamented, 
refer to tribal legends. 

The proprietorship of such a stall' of course shewed that the owner was an Eitlahgeel 
or chief who had made the necessary feasts and distributions of property to entitle him 
to that dignity. The staff was always carefully preserved in a safe place in the owner's 
lodge. [No. 1339.]' Several .somewhat similar staffs are figured by Mr. Niblack (plate 

Woven Hats (Haida IJaht-ul-sung-ah). — These are made of spruce roots, and were both 
plain and painted, the shape being that common along the coast of British Columbia and 
freqviently illustrated. One of these hats [No. 1335] is of more than ordinary dimensions 
[diameter 23 inches], and is of the kind worn only on the occasion of a distribution of 
property, the wearer then having on also a "dance blanket," and holding in the hand a 
staff, of the kind just noted. Such costume was suitable for either male or female. The 
devices painted on these hats seem to have been a matter of fancy, and to have had no 
particular significance. The dog-fish, whale, crow or bear were often represented on 
them. [Nos. 1333 to 1335.] 

Large tuoven and pieced Dance-Blanket (Haida Na-lmng) — This is a specimen of the 
dance-blanket or coA'ering almost universally used at feasts, dances and ceremonials by 
the native tribes of the coast. Such blankets were made only by the Chilkats of the 
Alaskan coast, and although often called Haida blankets, the term is erroneous, as the 
Haida never practised the art of weaving wool or hair. These blankets were, however, 
highly valued by the Haida, and any one aspiring to the position of chief was expected 
to possess one such elaborate covering. Now they are rare, having been eagerly sought 
after by collectors. The devices are similar to those on Haida carvings, indeed the orna- 
mentation of the latter seems by all evidence to have been copied from the tribes of 
Northern Alaska. The material used in making these blankets is mountain goat's wool 
and cedar bark. [No. 13V 4.] 

Dunce Head-dress (Haida 7*7VA') .— Ornamental head-dresses of this kind are used in 
ceremonial dan(;es by the tribes of the Northwest Coast. An excellent illustration in 

1 The numbers thus given throui;hout, are those under whicli the objects specially referred to are cataloiruod 
in the Museum of the Geological Survey. Some of them are figured in tlie accorapauyiug plates. 


colouTs of a ho;vd-dross of this kind is givi'u among those published by tho directors of 
the Ethnologieal Department, Berlin Museum, pkito I. [No. 1817]. 

The upper part fits on the wearer's head like a cap. Above the forehead is a carving 
of some crest or device, beaver, bear, eagle, etc. No rule seems to be followed in selecting 
the device. In this instance the carving represents the beaver ; it being merely a decora- 
tion according to the fancy of the carver. On either side of the carving there is a row of 
feathers of the great wood-pecker. Bound round the circlet of the cap at close intervals, 
are a number of bristles of sea-lion whiskers, while suspended from the back of the 
head-dress is a train of ermine skins. When the dancer was ready to go through his or 
her evolutions, a handful of eagle's down was placed on the top of the cap, being loosely 
held in position by the upstanding bristles. On every contortion of the body and jerk 
of the head the flexible sea-lion whiskers permitted a small quantity of the down td 
escape and float round the dancer's vicinity like snow-flakes. The eftect of this was 
certain to ensure the applause of the spectators, according as the dancer's exertions were 
vigorous or otherwise. 

On occasion of an arrival whom it was desirable to honour, the settlement of an indi- 
vidual quarrel, healing a tribal feud, making a treaty of friendship or peace, or celebrating 
a potlach or " house-warming," an indispensable adjunct to the ceremony was the dance 
with the Tsilk and Na-hung and scattering of eagle down. Sometimes a number of 
persons thus attired performed at once, and the costume was considered quite appropriate 
for either male or female dancers. 

Sea-lion Whiskers (Haida Kish-kom'-eh). Ermine Skin (Haida Klick). — Wooden carved 
device on forehead (Haida Isil-ku-uJl). 

Specimens of Wooden Masks (Haida Neh-/simg).—['Nos. 1305, 1306, 1809 to 1311 and 
1313 to 1315]. These masks, grotesque and otherwise, were used at merrymakings per- 
taining to feasts, house inaugurations and dances. Faces of human or mythological 
beings, of birds or beasts, were represented by such masks, aud no rule seems to have 
been follow^ed in the matter of selection of subjects, that being according to the fancy or 
taste of the carver. Wooden or bone calls were generally used to imitate the cries of the 
animal represented by the mask. 

Dance Head-dress Carving (Haida Tsil-kwuU). — [No. 1312]. This represents a spirit- 
face seen by th.e doctors in their trance or reverie. The inlaid border of mother-of-pearl 
is made from the Abalone shell, brought in early days by trading vessels from California 
and the Sandwich Islands. Probably in still earlier times from the smaller native Haliotis. 

Tvo models of carved Heraldic Columns (Haida Keeang). — One showing the circular 
aperture through its base which is used as the entrance to the house. [Nos. 1316, 1340.] poles vary in height from 40 to 60 feet. The object in erecting these poles was 
to commemorate the event of a chief taking position in the tribe by building a house 
aud making a distribution of all his property, principally blankets, which he had been 
accumulating and hoarding for years with this view. Keeang is the Haida name of such 
poles or columns in general application, but each pole has besides an individual and 
distinguishing name. Thus, for instance, one of the poles at Masset is named Que-iilk- 
kep-tzoo, which means " a watcher for arrivals," or " looking," or " watching for arrivals." 
It was erected by a Haida chief, named Slidtah, on his decision to build a new lodo-e. 
The occasion, as usual, was marked by a large distribution of property, hundreds of 


blankets aud other valuables being given away to all who assisted at the making of the 
pole, or who were invited to the ceremony. Stultah was of the eagle crest, and according 
to custom, the recipients all belonged to other crests, no eagles receiving anything. Not 
long afterwards Stultah died, before his projected lodge was completed. His brother 
succeeded him, and assumed his name. He erected another carved pole in commemoration 
of Stultah's death and his own adoption of his brother's place. This was again accom- 
panied by a feast or distribution of food to the multitude and of blankets to the makers 
of the pole. 

A mortuary pole is called Sath-lmig-hdt, a,nd is altogether different from a pole erected 
on occasion of lodge-building. Keeang, or lodge poles, are hollowed out at the back, 
whilst Sath-litng-hdt, or mortuary poles, are solid, being generally a circular column with 
carving only on base and summit. 

When it was decided to erect a Keeang and build a lodge, invitations were sent to 
the tribes in the vicinity to attend, and on arrival the people were received by dancers in 
costume and hospitably treated aud feasted. When all the Indians from adjacent places 
were assembled, at the appointed time they proceeded to the place selected for the erection 
of the pole. A hole, seven, eight or ten feet deep having been dug, the pole was moved 
on rollers till the butt was in a proper position to slip into the hole. Then the process 
of elevation began. Long ropes were fastened to the pole and gangs of men, women 
and children took hold of the ends at a considerable distance away. The most able-bodied 
men advanced to the pole, standing so close all along on each side that they touched each 
other, and grasping the polei'rom uuderneath they raised it up by sheer strength, by a 
succession of lifts as high as their heads, while, in the meantime, others placed supports 
under it at each successive lift. Stout poles, tied together like shears, were then brought 
into play, while the lifters took sharp-pointed poles, about eight feet long, and standing 
in their former positions, lifted the pole (which was immediately supported by the men 
who shift the shears) by means of these sticks, until it attained an angle of about forty- 
five degrees. The butt was then gradually slipped into its place and the gangs at the 
ropes, who had been inactive all this time, got the signal to haul, when, amidst the most 
indescribable bellowing, holloaing and yelling, the pole was gradually and surely 
elevated to the perpendicular position. G-reat hurrahs, shouting and antics took place as 
the pole was set plumb and the earth filled into the hole. 

The crowd next adjourned to the house of the owner, who feasted the people with 
Indian food, such as grease, berries, sea-weed, etc. This being completed, the man takes 
the place of Eitlahgeet, great chief, and the next thing he does is to distribute his property, 
a task requiring great discrimination. Very often on such occasions he adopts a new 
name, discarding that by which he was hitherto known. When he proclaims to the 
crowd that he is quite impoverished and has distributed all his effects, they appear to be 
delighted, and regard him as indeed a great chief. 

This distribution of property was often the scene of riot and disorder, sometimes 
ending in bloodshed. Some of the recipients would consider that their share of the 
plunder was too small, and that they had been slighted, others who were less deserving- 
having got a larger share. Invariably there was a show of discontent on the part of some 
of the "-uests, and if the donor could not reconcile them by fair words or an additional 
present, a forcible attack was often made on the pile of blankets and goods received by 

Sec. II, 1891. 7. 


those who were cousidored unduly favourod. The body of the lodge was then often the 
arena of serious disturbance, in whieli blankets and clothing were torn to shreds by an 
infuriated mob. Knives were sometimes freely used, and often the ominous report of a 
gun or pistol would be heard in the crowd, which would cause a panic and frantic rush 
to the doors and apertures of the house with what goods could be hastily snatched in 
hand, leaving a small knot of excited men and wailing women surrounding a bleeding 
corpse on the lloor. Such an incident would, of course, lead to another feast and dance 
with payment of property to the relatives of the deceased. To the guests not implicated 
in the affair, a murder only meant more feasts and more fun, and to judge from appear- 
ances, these good old times were not disliked. 

It is worthy of note, as already remarked, that the giver of a feast does not distribute 
presents to those of his own crest, whether such an one be a relative or not ; for instance, 
an eagle making an occasion of raising a pole, would give nothing to the eagles, but the 
bears would be the recipients. 

An invariable concomitant of these feasts after the arrival of the whites on the coast, 
was ardent spirits of a vile nature, supplied by rascally traders in sloops and schooners, 
or a fiery compound distilled by the natives themselves from molasses, svigar, rice, flour, 
or beans. 

As far as the Haida of Masset are concerned, all the above is but a tale of the past, 
as they now neither erect columns, give potlaches, dance, nor distil liquor, having decided 
to follow the advice given them by the government and missionaries to live according 
to law and order. 

Daggers (Haida Kah-oolth). —[Nos. 1300, 1301, 1304, 1330, 1331]. Such daggers are 
for the most part very ancient, and many of them have individual histories and tradi- 
tions appertaining to them. They are formidable weapons in a hand to hand fight, and 
were always carried round the neck to feasts and similar social gatherings. No. 1331 is 
of tempered copper, the mode of its manufacture being said to have been possessed by 
the " ancients," who could hammer out native copper and give it a keen edge. 

A legend is connected with No. 1304, in which it is said to have been carved and 
tempered by a woman who came from northern Alaska. Its history is known for two 
or three generations, it having passed from one chief to another, but its true, origin is lost 
in obscurity. In former times assassination was by no means uncommon, and slaves 
were often commanded to perform the deed, generally with these formidable daggers. 
To the knowledge of several persons still alive, two cowardly murders were perpetrated 
by a slave at his master's instigation, with this particular weapon. 

No. 1300 was procured from a man, now dead, who was for a long time under a 
tribal ban as a murderer, having deliberately stabbed a woman to death in a canoe in 
mid-sea, and thrown her body overboard, for the sake of getting her money. Years after, 
the deed was brought home to him, and he had to pay largely to save his life. 

Stone Tomahawk (Haida Hlth-at-low). — [No. 1329.] This is a formidable weapon of 
offence, and was used by the tribes of the Northwest Coast in their forays and fights. 
Although small and light, one blow from a stout arm, fairly delivered, would pierce the 
strongest cranium. 

Reindeer-antler Tomahawk (Haida Scoots-hlth-ut-low). — [No. 1302.] This very ancient 
and interesting relic is made from one of the antlers of a species of reindeer which 


inhabits the mountainous interior of Graham Island. ' In olden times these reindeer 
were hunted by the Haida and killed with bow and arrow, being highly prized both 
for meat and skin. " This weaj)on was the property of the Masset doctor or medicine 
man, who is still alive but aged. To him it was bequeathed by his predecessor, who 
died many years ago. It was essentially a weapon of offence, a regular skull-cracker, 
similar to the last, and is said to have been used with fatal eflect more than once. It is 
undoubtedly a relic of the times before these natives had intercourse with white men. 

Bone Club (Haida Silz). [No. 1303.] — This club is made from a rib bone of some 
species of whale and was used as a hsh- or seal-killer like the next. 

Carved Wooden Club (Haida SUz). [No. 12*77.] — This is one of the characteristic fish- 
killiug clubs of the Haida used for knocking halibut, seals, etc., on the head after hook- 
ing or spearing them. No doubt it also proved a handy weapon in a personal tussle over 
the spoils of the chase. These carved clubs were invested with supernatural properties. 
Thus the Haida firmly believe, if overtaken by night at sea and reduced to sleep in 
their canoes, that by allowing such a club to float beside the canoe attached to a line, it 
has the property of scaring away whales and other monsters of the deep which might 
otherwise harm them. 

Bone Dagger (Haida Thl-saga-skwoots.) [No. 1298.] —This was used by the medicine 
man in one of his imaginary conflicts with some malicious rival spirit doctor. At other 
times he used it as a skewer or hair-pin to keep up his long hair when rolled in a knot 
at the back of his head. On the handle is carved the representation of a land otter, an 
animal held by medicine men to possess supernatural attributes. 

Tivisted Copper Necklet (Haida HuU-kunlz-tig-ah). [No. 1332.]— This rare and valuable 
relic is the only one of the kind known in the Haida nation. It was prized more highly 
than any ornament or implement in their possession, and of a certainty was made before 
the natives were acquainted with white men. Tradition states it was made from native 
copper brought from Alaska. Capt. Dixon (1Y88) mentions having seen such a necklet 
worn by a chief at North Island, and it is believed by old Haida who have been c[ues- 
tioned on the subject, that this identical necklet was the one that attracted his attention.' 

As a work of art by untutored savages with rude tools it is remarkable. Though it 
has three strands it is all in one piece, twisted most systematically and tapering with 
precision from the centre to each end, all the strands being in perfect uniformity one with 
the other. Its history and former owners are known for two or three generations, but 
its origin is not known. It was worn by chiefs as a mark of their importance and de- 
scended in turn to each successor who was able to make a feast and distribution of pro- 
perty and take the place of the departed. 

Carved Copper Armlet or Bracelet. [No. 1308.] — This is very old, and is the only copper 
armlet known in the Haida nation. It has been preserved in the same family for several 
generations and worn by the chief's wife. Its origin is unknown, but it certainly was 
made before the Haida saw white people. The mother-of-pearl inlaid work was renewed 

' See Trans, Royal Soc. Can., vol. viii, section iv, p. 52. 

' See Marcliand's Voyage, cliap. v, 1791. 

•' Dixon writes : — " We frequently saw large circular wreaths of copper both at Norfolk Sound and Queen Ohar- 
lotte Islands, which did not appear to be of foreign manufacture, but twisted into shape by the natives themselves, 
to wear as an ornament about the neck." " Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America, p. 237." 


latoly, the original pieces having boon lost. Since they have had opportnuity of obtain- 
ing silver from the whites, all bracelets, bangles and such like ornaments are made of that 
metal. Copper is now^ considered too base a metal for such use, although anciently it 
was esteemed of high value, next to iron. 

Ancient " Coppers'' {IhudiiTuoir) . [Nos. 1331, 1338.] — These are the only two antique 
coppers known among the people of Masset, and were made before the natives procured 
sheet copper from the Eussians in Alaska. They have been in the possession of the same 
family through a long line of chiefs who displayed them on festal occasions. A chief 
named Edensaw, now long deceased ', used to wear them bound one to each side of his 
head-dress {Isilk) on occasions of ceremonial dances, etc. 

These coppers were formerly of great value among the coast tribes, ten slaves or one 
thousand blankets being sometimes bartered for one. They were regarded with peculiar 
veneration, and a chief who could afford to purchase one of these costly articles and cut 
it in pieces at a feast of property-distribution was highly honoured. The pieces were 
given away to the principal chiefs who were guests, and were most highly valued by 
them. Sometimes such a copper was nailed to the carved heraldic column or pole which 
was erected at the feast, and it then served as a permanent ostentatious mark of the owner's 
extravagance. Sometimes they were attached to mortuary receptacles in honour of the 

The size of these coppers varied from seven or eight inches to fo^^r feet long. The 
original coppers were brought from the northern portion of Alaska, and the tradition runs 
that they were first made out of Inmps of native copper which were found in the bed of 
a river there, but latterly the Indians bought sheet copper from the Russians at Sitka, 
and also in Victoria, and several natives along the coast commenced manufacturing spuri- 
ous coppers from this material, which ultimately produced a fall in the value of coppers, 
and by glutting the market destroyed the romance of the idea that the copper was one of 
earth's rarest and choicest treasures, fit only to be purchased by great chiefs who desired 
to squander away their property for the sake of gratifying their self esteem. The customs 
appertaining to such coppers were not peculiar to the Haida, but were practiced by all 
the tribes of the Northwest Coast. 

These coppers were not polished, but blackened by a very peculiar process (long kept 
a secret by the makers) which produced a permanent dull black, on which heraldic de- 
vices were scratched or engraved. This blackening eitectually prevented corrosion. 

Each of the genuine old coppers had an individual name such as : — 

Taoiv-ked-oos — " The copper that steals all the people." 
Yen-an-taous — " The copper that is like a cloud." 
Taow-kee-aas — " The copper that stands perpendicular." 
Len-ah-taous — " The copper that must needs be fathomed." ■ 

These names served to perpetuate the identity of the copper when it changed hands, 
and were used in referring to it in the traditions of the people. 

The name of a copper in Haida is Taoiv, Sitka Tinnah, Tshimsean Hy-y-etsk. 

' Edensaw, is a name 8ucce.ssively assumed by each chief of a certain district, by virtue of his office. 
- Referring to its large size. 


Examples of the prices paid for such coppers may be interesting. Thus Taow-ked-oos 
was sold by Edensaw to Legaic, a Tshimsean chief, for ten slaves. Yen-an-taons was sold 
by Edensaw to the same man for ten slaves, two large cedar canoes and one dance head- 
dress. Taoio-kee-ass was purchased by a Tshimsean chief named Nees-thlan-on-oos from a 
Haida chief for eight slaves, one large cedar canoe, one hundred elk skins and eighty 
boxes of grease.' 

The devices graven on the upper part of th(^ copper were according to fancy, and re- 
presented the bear, eagle, crow, whale, etc. A conspicuous mark was always on these, 
the (T) cross, and on the skill with which this was executed depended in a great measure 
the value of the copper. This T or indentation is called in Haida Taou-tsoo'-eh, namely, 
"back-bone of the taow." It was hammered, when fashioned, on a pattern by a peculiar 
process known only to skilful workers, with the result that when the taow was finished 
the indentation of the T was of the same thickness as the rest of the copper plate. If this 
T proved thinner the value was consideiably diminished, in fact thecopper was considered 
not genuine. 

Fantastic carving in red stone rej>resenfi/ig incidents and transformations related in traditions 
of the doings of Ni-Ml-stlass, an evil mischievous spirit, sometimes described as a creator. 
[No. 1296.] — The inherent love of ornamentation and method of i^reserving tradition from 
oblivion by means of imagery in absence of written symbols is well shown by this carving. 

As an illustration, one of the traditions regarding the doings of Ni-kil stlass may be 
hei'e related. 

Ni-kil-stlass, who at this time has assumed the form of Yelth (the raven) wished to 
become possessed of the moon, and so determined to steal it from a great spirit-chief who 
owned it and guarded it with jealous care. In order to gain access to this spirit-chief's 
lodge, the raven decided to change his form. He therefore transferred his spirit to a small 
piece of moss which hung above a clear spring of water. A young woman, a chief 's 
daughter and wife of the son of the above spirit-chief, came to the spring to take a drink 
of water. She iised a small basket or vessel made of woven roots. At that time the 
small piece of moss fell into the spring, and was lifted in this vessel to the lips of the 
woman, who blew it two or three times from her lips, but eventually swallowed it. In 
time she bore a son, a remarkably small child. This child incessantly cried for the moon 
to play with, thus — koong-ah-ah, koong-ah-ah ("The moon, the moon "). The spirit-chief 
in order to quiet the child, after carefully closing all apertures of the house, produced the 
moon and gave it to the child to play with. The child rolled it about for a time, 
but now kept crying ah-ah-kineet, ah-ah-kineet. (" open the smoke-hole "). He also put the 
moon in his mouth, but his mother observing this pulled it from him, but gave it to him 
again to roll about. The smoke-hole had been opened a little. He still kept crying 
ah-ah-kineet, till to quiet him the smoke-hole was opened a little more. Watching his 
opportunity he quickly put the moon in his mouth, assumed the form of a raven and flew 
out. He alighted on the summit of a high tree, where he hid the moon under his wing. 
A number of people then took stone axes and commenced to fell the tree. When the tree 
was nearly falling, the raven would fly to another tree. The people then began to 
fell the second tree, but again the raven would lly to another tree This was repeated 
several times, until the people wept over their failure to recover the moon. A great chief 

' O'olachen fish grease ; esteemed ii delicacy. 


thoii (old tho people to desist Irom their eilbrts, for the probal>ility was that the raven 
was the great spirit himself who made them all. 

With the moon eoiieealed under his wing, the raven flew to the stream where many 
people were engaged in catching the oolachen (candle-lish), which were running into the 
river in great niimbers at that time. It was dark, for there was no sun, moon or stars to 
give light. 

The raven then asked the people for some oolachens, and promised to give them light 
if they would supply Iiim. They answered him "You tell lies." Twice they said so. 
The raven then said, " You do not believe me, but you shall see if I lie." He then pulled 
the moon out a little w^ay from under his wing, and all the people beholding light were 
very glad and hastened to give him plenty of oolachens. The raven was so pleased that 
he took the moon from under his wing, and said, "You shall have abvrndance of light." 
He then broke the moon in two. Taking one half he threw it irp above him, calling out 
to the people, "The name of this is Tsoo-way (the sun) it will give you light in the day." 
He then took the other half and threw it jp above him, and called oat, " The name of this 
is Koong (the moon). Then taking up the fragments which had fallen when he broke 
the moon, he threw ihem up aboA'e him and called out, "The name of these is Kah-i/i-ah 
(stars). The moon and stars shall give you light at night." ' 

Three Jade Adze-t (Haida Qm-hootah). —['Nos. 1291, 12V6, 1293]. The most perfect of 
these was procured from a Haida medicine-man, to whom it was bequeathed by his 

Amongst the Haida such adzes were rare and costly, and only the principal chiefs 
were able to obtain one of them. They were prized for the keen cutting edge which 
could be given them and for their durability. The place from whence they were origin- 
ally obtained is not known, but it is certain that the Haida and coast tribes of British 
Columbia procured some of them from the natives of Alaska. 

With such adzes trees were felled for making large columns or lodge poles. It has 
often been a question in what manner large trees were felled with such a small and 
insignificant implement, but in fact the method was quite simple, and as the w^ork 
was performed by slaves, the owner of the adze did not find it at all arduous. 
First a ring of two or three inches wide and deep was hewn with the adze round 
the butt of the tree, and then about three or four feet higher up another ring of the same 
dimensions was hewn out. Next the wood between these rings was split off by means of 
wedges, driven by heavy stone maiils or hammers. This proceeding was repeated until 
the heart of the tree was reached when it toppled over. 

Pale-green Jade Tomahawk (Haida, HIth-at-loiv). — [No. 1295.] This resembles No. 
1329, but bein-g of jade was much more highly esteemed and of greater value. 

Slate Labret (Haida Skoots-tel-hah). — [No. 1274.] This, the only known specimen of a 
stone labret, was found about two feet below the surface of the ground at Masset. Its 
origin is unknown, but the Haida say that they never before heard of any of 
the ancients using labrets made of stone. Labrets were invariably made of bone, ivory, 
wood or shell. Prior to the finding of this labret, an aged Haida chief related that in 
olden time, when the status of a chieftainess mainly depended on the size of her labret, a 

' Cf. Report of Progress, Geol. Surv. Can., 1878-79, p. 150 B. It will be observed that this version of the story 
differs somewhat from that obtained by me. G. M. D. 


competition used to take place between wives of prominent chiefs as to which should 
have the longest protruding under lip and largest labret. The contest often resulted in 
injury to the lip by forcing into the orifice labrets of undue size. Sometimes the lip split 
from the orifice to the surface, making it then impossible to button in the labret. It seems, 
however, that rather than give up wearing the labret, they tied it to the lip by boring 
a hole in the labret and attaching it to the jagged edges of the wounded lip by threads. 
This stone labret shows evidence of having been used in this way, as one perfect hole 
and portion of the edge of another are distinctly seen. When the narrator of the 
above saw it, he agreed that it had evidently been fastened to the lip in the man- 
ner described. He added that he had never seen a pierced one before, or known per- 
sonally of such a custom, but that any doubt he had entertained as to the truth of the 
legend was now removed by seeing this pierced labret. 

The method of preparing the lip for the reception of these large labrets was as 
follows : — At a very early age, the under lip of the female child was pierced with a tiny 
hole, ' and a small pin of bone or metal with a head on it was inserted in the orifice from 
the inside. As the child increased in years, these pins were gradually exchanged for ones of 
larger size, until on attaining womanhood, the pin was generally discarded and a small 
labret proper was inserted in the hole ; this again being exchanged as years passed on for 
one of a larger size, iintil on middle age being attained, it became possible to insert labrets 
of hiige size. This is a custom which has now fallen into disuse. It will be understood 
from what is above stated, that a young woman could never wear a very large labret. 

Two Small Dolls or Images (Haida Kwah-keel). — [Nos. 1294 and 1289.] These are very 
old and their origin is unknown. Report says they were highly prized by the ancients, 
but they are not known to hav'e been used otherwise than as children's toys. They are 
carved in white marble. One shews a labret, the other a peculiar incision in the lower lip. 

Tico Carved Blount ain- goat Horns (Haida Nee-sang or Nee-sang-ah) . — [Nos. 1286 and 
1287.] These peculiar head ornaments were worn only by the sons of chiefs. A lock of 
hair above each temple was drawn tightly through the hollow of such horns and bound on 
the outside, which gave the horns an erect position. They were worn on festive occasions. 

Tioo Carvel Ivory Mortars (Haida Qua-kuH). — The ivory of which these mortars are 
made is walrus tusk, and came from Northern Alaska. [Nos. 1284 and 1285.] 

In olden times the Haida cultivated a plant which possessed a sedative-narcotic 
principle. This principle was contained in the leaves, which when of mature growth, 
were gathered and dried like tobacco leaves. When wanted for iise some of the leaves 
were pounded in one of the large stone mortars (toiv). Calcined clam shells were pul- 
verized in the small ivory mortar. The pounded leaves were then mixed with a portion 
of the calcined clam shell, and the compound was chewed in the same manner in 
which the betel nut is employed in the east. This plant was called Win-dah, but at the 
present day no trace of it can be discovered. On the introduction of tobacco by white 
people the cultivation of windah was discontinued. The Haida made it an important 
article of barter with the neighbouring tribes. - 

■ Generally in public, at a distri!:iution-of-property feast. 

- Cf. Report of Progress, Geol. Surv. Can., 187S-79, p. 114 B. Mr. R. Cunningham, of Port Essington, informs 
me that the Tshimsean used to obtain this narcotic weed in early days from the Haida, under the name of win-dah 
or wi7i-da'M), which is its Haida appelation. Um-shi-vja' is Tshim.s6an for " a foreigner," as for instance a white mnn, 


Mediciin-mun's Irori/ Charms (llaida Kun-si-lcali). — [Nos. 1278, 1278a.] These were 
worn suspended roimd the neck by the Modiciuc raau during the ceremony of operating 
on a patient. When the conjuring and rattling were concluded, the doctor very often 
detached one of these eharms or amulets and suspended it round the sick person's neck. 
In other instances he sold or lent them as a protection to the wearer against evil 

Medicine-man's Rattle (Ilaida Sissah). — [No. 1328.] This rattle belonged to a medicine- 
man, and was in use for a long time. It was supposed that the sound of the rattle 
assisted the doctor to draw out the sickness from the patient's body, and when exercised 
for a considerable time with an viniuterrupted monotonous sound, produced by a peculiar 
motion of the arm and wrist, it had a soothing effect on the sick person, and often caused 
him to fall into a kind of stupor resembling sleep. 

Two Dance Rallies (Haida Sissah).— [Nos. 1280 and 1283.] These were used only 
as an accompaniment in keeping time to songs and dances, and were invariably made 
after the same pattern, with beak of a raven in front and body ornamented with 
frogs, etc. ' 

Curced Dish of Mountain. Sheep s Horn (Haida Skoois-lcda-th/ah). — [^o. 1307.]" The 
horn of which dishes and spoons of this sort were made was brought from the Upper 
Stikine river. 

Bone Spear-heads (Haida Skoots-kah). — [Nos. 1297 and 1299.] These were made at a 
time when iron was a rarity, and were used for spearing seals and other sea animals. 

Halibut Hook (Haida Khain-low). — [No. 1281 ] This kind of hook was universally 
iised by the coast tribes in catching halibut before they procured iron hooks. It is made 
out of a knot of the spruce tree, cut out of the heart of the log and then steamed into the 
proper shape. ' 

Skyll Hook (Haida Skyll lowl). — [No. 1282.] This hook is also made out of a spruce 
knot steamed into form, and is used for catching the skill or black cod ; a fish which 
inhabits very deep water, being sometimes hooked at the depth of 200 fathoms. When 
the hook is baited, it requires to be set by springing it open and keeping it in that posi- 
tion by means of a small wooden pin about three inches long. When the fish is hooked 
it pushes the pin out, and the strain on the hook being released it closes on the fish's jaw 
and thus effectually prevents its ridding itself of the barb and escaping. 

Whistles and Calls, named in the Haida tongue variously Sah-an and Hut-teet. — [Nos. 
1818 to 1827.] These were used in dances and merrymakings to imitate the voices of the 
birds and animals which were often depicted on the carved wooden masks worn on the 
same occasions. 

and the compound ]\in-dum-slii-vu' or " foreigner's tobacco " is now used to denote ordinary tobacco. It is inter- 
esting to note, further, that the place called Cumsluwa on the Queen Charlotte Islands was one of the chief locali- 
ties of cultivation of the native narcotic plant. This name is, however, nut the Haida name of the actual place, 
but that of its hereditary chief. The connection, if any, of the name with that of the tobacco has not been traced. 
Mr. R. H. Hall states that though the native narcotic weed is not now known, he has found reason to believe that 
it was a yellow-flowered poppy — Papaver nudicaxde f G. M. D. 

> Cf. Report of Progress, Geol. Surv. Can., 1878-79, plate xi, fig. 26. 

'' This resembles that figured in Report of Progress, Geol. Surv. Can., 1878-7y, plate ix, fig. 18. 

•' Cf. Report of Progress, Geol. Surv. Can., 1878-79, plate vii, fig. 10. 


Miscellaneous Notes. 

Tlw Sun. — The aucient Haicla iu a manner worshipped the sun. They considered it 
to be a great spirit, and in times of distress or peril its assistance was invoked. When 
small-pox visited the Queen Charlotte Islands for the first time, presents of blankets, 
clothes, dance-dresses, ornaments, etc., were hung outside the lodge to propitiate the sun, 
while the people cried, " Preserve us sun, do not kill vis," etc. Other spirits besides the 
sun were propitiated or invoked by the Haida. 

Origin of some of the Stars. — When the great flood took place which covered the face 
of the earth, a man had just stretched a sea-otter skin. As the waters rose he took refuge 
with his effects in his canoe. 

The flood rose to the skies, the canoe was swamped and the man was drowned. The 
sea-otter stretcher had been on top of the canoe and floated. When the waters subsided 
the sea-otter stretcher remained iu the skies, where now it is seen as the group of stars 
Koh-eet-ow, which white people call the Grreat Bear. Koh, a sea-otter. Koh-eet-ow, a frame 
for stretching sea-otter skins. 

The water-bailer and triangular foot-board of the canoe also remained on high after 
the waters subsided ; the former is now seen as the Pleiades, and the latter as the Hyades. 
(Hoot-ofi a water-bailer, Pleiades ; TuUh-uk-lhley ox foot-board for a canoe, Hyades). The 
outline of the Pleiades resembles a water-bailer, and the outline of the Hyades that of the 
foot-board of a canoe. 

The ancient Haida are said to have had names for all the constellations, but most of 
these are now forgotten. 

Festivals — Lah-oid festival of the dead. Lug-uii.-iiig festival of the house-building. 

Festivals for the dead were held as soon after the decease as sufficient food could bi' 
amassed and guests collected. Festivals were tribal, and all were guests except those of 
the same crest or totem as the deceased who were non-participants. The ancient Haida 
are said to have always endeavoured to hold their distribution-of-property feasts at the 
full of the moon, but the reason for this is not now known. 

A Visit to Spirit-land. — A certain young man (name unknown) was mourning for his 
eldest brother and his sister's son, who had both been murdei-ed shortly before, and he 
resolved to try and penetrate the mystery of the place where their spirits had gone to iu 
the heavens. 

He went to the top of a mountain with his bow and wood to make arrows. He sat 
down and made fifty arrows, which, one after another he shot up into space, where they 
disappeared. He then made fifty more, which he shot up with the same result. He then 
made a third lot of fifty, which he disposed of in the same manner. Then a fourth lot 
followed, and he noticed that the arrows were now fixed one in another by the point of 
each entering into the notch of the preceding one. 

When he had finished shooting these last fifty arrows they reached nearly to the 
earth. So, to complete the connection, he stuck one end of his bow in the earth and 
leant the other against the string of arrows. Seizing the pillar of arrows he put his foot 
on the bow and commenced to climb aloft. To his surprise he now observed that each 
arrow was transfixed through a humau head, which was strung as it were on this line of 
arrows, crown of head down and ixuder jaw uppermost. This afforded him good foot- 
Sec. II, 1891. 8. 


hold, and each time as he put his foot on a jaw to raise himself up, the jaw closed 
sharply, making a noise as the upper and lower teelh met. 

At length he reached the realms above, where he was hospitably entertained ])y the 
chief of the spirit-land. He saw his eldest brother and his sister's son, who told him not 
to mourn for tliem, for they were very happy and well off where they were. 

When he was ready to descend to earth again, the chief of the spirit-land told him 
that if he now killed a man on earth the spirit of the deceased could easily find its way 
to the spirit-land, as he (the yoxing man) had made a path with steps of human heads to 
reach it. The young man then safely descended to the earth. 

Here the story suddenly ceases. Stories such as this were very popular amongst 
the Haida. They seem to have no moral to inculcate or point to illustrate, but are 
apparently related merely for pastime and are often most inconguous and contra- 

Thunder {Eelung) is said to be caused by a large bird " Eeluug " flapping its wings. 
This bird, of immense dimensions, lives on whales, which it catches in its talons made of 
copper. It flies away with a whale into space, and conceals itself in a dark cloud. Light- 
ning is caused by the ej'es of the bird opening and shutting. Eelung is said to have had 
two helpers, a man and a woman, spirit-people who assisted in whale catching. 

The Greek cross (+ Scalim) was used to mark the skins of animals, such as bear, 
otter, etc., after they were stretched and dried, for the purpose of propitiating the spirit 
of the dead animal. Four crosses were used in a line down the middle of the back 
on the flesh side, and the color of the crosses was invariably red. The custom is still 
practised. This symbol was not used in any other way. 

Certain clouds occasionally seen in the western horizon are termed Qyoiv. It is said 
qyow clouds indicate good weather. These clouds have the form of a T and the base-line 
of the T is supposed to represent the horizon. Spirit-people are said to inhabit the region 
of the qyow. An old medicine-man saw the place in a vision. These spirit-people's 
heads were elongated on each side like the upper end of the T. They were called Qyow 

There were no prescribed stages or degrees in the initiation of a medicine-man. 
(Haida Sah-gah.) The aspirant to that office was instructed by another medicine-man. 
generally his uncle, to whom he succeeded, and on his aptitude to learn the system did 
the length of his probation depend. 

An old doctor says that there are a great many spirit doctors, who assist the medicine- 
man by advice, and whom the medicine-men continually see in visions. There is, 
however, one spirit doctor pre-eminent above all the rest. He is known by two different 
names Kon'-cull-at and Yee-kan-eek. 

I can find no meaning attached to these names. Haida doctors never used the drum 
by way of divination, nor did they employ passes or signs among themselves. Their great 
aim was to avoid meeting, as they professed to be afraid of each other, and the custom 
was for each doctor to magnify himself and traduce his rival. They professed to fight in 
visions. When the doctor exorcised a spirit of divination or conjuration, he uttered words 
and language which neither he himself nor others understood. This unknown speech 
was prompted by the spirit medicine-man who attended on him. 

The Haida never believed in the transmigration of souls, that is to say, the soul of a 


human being taking possession of a beast or bird, but they formerly believed, and to a 
great extent still believe, that the spirit of a human being deceased enters the flesh again 
in the person of a new-born babe, and it vfas the medicine-man's business to reveal 
whose soul it was and the name of the child. They also believed that every living- 
thing, beasts, birds, iishes, reptiles and insects had spirits, which after death returned to 
their spirits abodes. 

G-reat regard was paid by the ancient Haida to the number eight. For instance, eight 
products of the chase, as seals, otters, etc., was a cause of rejoicing. To catch eight halibut 
was a subject for congratulation. Eight times ten was favourably regarded, and eight 
hundred was the ne phis ultra or summit of good fortune. A chief who could give away 
eight hundred pieces of property in a feast was pre-eminent. 

[In a late communication, Mr. Mackenzie states that he has found, on a small island 
named Tee, opposite the mouth of Lignite brook in Naden Harbour, a considerable portion 
of a stone arrow-head. The portion of an arrow-head in question is nearly two inches in 
length, but wants both tip and base. It is formed of streaked red jasper, narrowly 
tapering in form, but rather thick, one side being distinctly more convex than the other. 
It is rather neatly chipped, and a stone identical with it in character is found commonly 
in pebbles at the same place. [No. 2680.] 

Mr. Mackenzie regards this as a A'ery interesting discovery, as it is the only specimen 

of a chipped arrow-head or spear-head which he has ever known to have been found on 

the Queen Charlotte Islands. He further states, that with one exception, the Haida to 

whom he showed it were much surprised, and said that they had never seen or heard of 

such a thing before. The exception was an Indian who hunts a good deal on the west 

coast of the islands, where he stated that he had Ibuud such chipped stones at one place 


G. M. D. 

Trans. R. S. C, li 

Sec. II. Plate VH. 













To illustrate Mr. Mackenzie's Pai)er on Implements from Queen Charlotte Islands 

Trans. R. S. C, 1S91 

Set. 11. Plate VIII. 


To illustrate Mr. Mackenzie's Paper on Implements from Queen Charlotte Islands. 



, I. 


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