Monday, February 19, 2018

The Northwest Coast and Californian Indian Tribes


The lofty chains of the Rocky Mountains extend from north to south, leaving a narrow coastline seamed with deep and fertile valleys along the Pacific from Mt. St. Elias to the Gulf of California. In spite of its great extent in latitude—from the 30th to the 60th degree—there is less difference in climate than one would suppose from analogy in any other part of the world. The warm ocean current which bathes the northern coast mitigates the cold of the winter to such an extent that the isothermal lines on the Pacific are fifteen degrees of latitude more northerly than on the Atlantic border of the continent.
A few of the eastern stocks, the Athabascan and the Shoshonian, have sent out colonies who have settled on the banks of the Pacific; but as a rule the tribes of the western coast are not connected with any east of the mountains. What is more singular, although they differ surprisingly among themselves in language, they have marked anthropologic similarities, physical and psychical. Virchow has emphasized the fact that the skulls from the northern point of Vancouver’s Island reveal an unmistakable analog to those from the southern coast of California; and this is to a degree true of many intermediate points. Not that the crania have the same indices. On the contrary, they present great and constant differences within the same tribe; but these differences are analogous one to the other, and on fixed lines.
There are many other physical similarities which mark the Pacific Indians and contrast them with those east of the mountains. The eyes are less oblique, the nose flatter, the lips fuller, the chin more pointed, the face wider. There is more hair on the face and in the axilla, and the difference between the sexes is much more obvious.
The mental character is also in contrast. The Pacific tribes are more quiet, submissive and docile; they have less courage, and less of that untamable independence which is so constant a feature in the history of the Algonkins and Iroquois.
Beginning at the sixtieth degree of north latitude and extending to the fifty-fifth, are the Tlinkit or Kolosch. They dwell on the coast of Alaska and the adjacent islands. Physically they are a strong and often tall people, light in color, with black or slightly reddish hair, eyes horizontal, nose aquiline. The Russians spoke of them as the most intelligent tribe they encountered on the coast. They certainly seem to have developed an uncommon appreciation of
 property, which is supposed to be a sign of a high order of intellect. Thus they have a gentile system with descent in the female line, but their aristocracy and the selection of their chiefs are entirely on a property basis. The richest obtain the highest places.
The Tlinkit villages are permanent, the houses solidly constructed of wood, sometimes with the additional protection of a palisade. The carving and painting upon them are elaborate, the subjects being caricatures of faces, men, and animal forms. The chiefs erect at one side of their doors carved and painted “totem posts,” some of which are nearly fifty feet high. These are also found among the Haidahs and Tshimshians to the south. The arts are correspondingly developed. Seaworthy canoes are hewn from the trunks of the red cedar, hides are dressed and the leather worked into a variety of articles; lamps, mortars and utensils were chipped or ground out of stone, and they are handy in beating out ornaments of silver and copper. The Tlinkits have always been active merchants, and when the first navigators visited their villages in 1741, they were surprised to find them in possession of iron knives and other articles obtained by trade over East Cape or from the south. The usual currency were the dentalium shells found along the coast. One of the staple articles of trade were slaves, a custom not in existence on the Atlantic. They were bought from the neighboring tribes, and treated with great cruelty.

Tlinkit mythology is rich, having a coherent creation and deluge myth, the principal figure in which is Jelchs, the raven. He is the Promethean fire-bringer, and sets free the sun, moon and stars from their prisons. The religious rites are in the hands of priests (shamans), who as usual exert a great and injurious influence.
The Haidahs, who dwell on Queen Charlotte Islands and Prince of Wales Archipelago, are probably a distant branch of the Tlinkit, though the affinity has not been clearly established, so they are officially classed as the Skittagetan stock, from the Skidegate dialect of the coast. In culture and appearance they resemble the Tlinkits, having similar mechanical skill. Their canoes and their intricate carvings, especially totem-posts and pipes of black slate, are celebrated products of the northwest coast.
The above and other tribes of British Columbia and Washington, the Tshimshian, the Kwakiutl, the Nootka, Salish, Chinook, etc., are so much alike physically that Dr. Boas, who has carried out the most recent and thorough examination of them, observes that no physical distinctions can be drawn between them In some the hair is slightly wavy; in others the nose is aquiline or flatter; the heads of several are artificially deformed, etc.; but these differences do not characterize whole stocks. All have a great respect for wealth, and consider its accumulation the chief object of life. Among them
 all, women are honored for their chastity and industry, men for their skill in hunting and fishing, and for their bravery in war. Their character is generally sombre, and vanity and servility are prominent faults. The animal totemic system generally prevails, the child among the Salish and Kwakiutl following the father’s gens. The communities are divided into social strata, as common people, middle class and chiefs. A favorite method to obtain popularity is to give a potlatch—a great feast, at which the host makes expensive presents to the guests, and thus becomes as it were their creditor to the amount of his disbursement.
The Salish, who are distinctively known as Flatheads, though the custom of deforming the cranium is not confined to them, occupied a large tract in northern Washington and British Columbia.
The principal contribution of the Chinooks to modern life has been the “Chinook jargon” which has become the trade language of the coast. It is a curious medley of words, and has been recently made the subject of an interesting study by Mr. Horatio Hale.
The Sahaptins or Nez Percés, with their affiliated tribes, occupied the middle and upper valley of the Columbia and its affluents, and also the passes of the mountains. They were in contiguity with the Shoshonees and the Algonkin Blackfeet, thus holding an important position, intermediate between the eastern and the Pacific tribes. Having the commercial
 instinct of the latter, they made good use of it, and every summer carried the various products of the coast, as shells, carved pipes, hammered copper, etc., far down the Missouri, where they exchanged them for the wares of the tribes there situate.
Of the numerous other linguistic stocks on the coast it will be sufficient for me to append the classification adopted by the Bureau of Ethnology at Washington.
(From north to south.)
  • Tlinkit or Koloschan, in southern Alaska.
  • Haidah or Skittagetan, on Queen Charlotte Islands.
  • Dialects—Masset, Skidegate, etc.
  • Tshimsian or Chimmessyanian, on Nass and Skeena rivers.
  • Dialects—Chimmessyan, Nasqua.
  • Kwakiuootl or Haeltzukian, on Gardiner’s Channel.
  • Dialects—Heiltsuk, Kwakiutl, Quaisla.
  • Nutka or Wakashan, on western coast of Vancouver Island.
  • Dialects—Aht, Nootka, Wakash.
  • Chinook or Chinookan, Columbia river to Dalles; Pacific coast to Shoalwater Bay; south to Tillamuk Head.
  • Salish, Admiralty Inlet to Spokane river.
  • Dialects—Bilcoola, Kawitschin, Lummi, Samie.
  • Chimakuan, Puget Sound, Port Townsend to Port Ludlow.
  • Kutenay or Kitunahan, head-waters of Columbia.
  • Sahaptin or Sahaptanian, middle affluents of Columbia.
  • Dialects—Klikatat, Nez Percé, Sahaptani, Wallawalla, Yakama.
  • Wayilaptu or Waiilaptuan, near mouth of Wallawalla river.
  • Yakonan, coast of Oregon from Yaquina river to Umpqua river.
  • Kalapooian, on the Wilamette river.
  • Kusan, about Coos Bay.
  • Palaihnihan or Achomawi, on Pit river.
  • Takilman, on upper Rogue river.

  • Sastean or Shasta, on upper Klamath river.
  • Lutuamian or Modoc, on Klamath Lake and Sprague river.
  • Quoratean or Ehnek, on lower Klamath river to junction of Trinity river.
  • Yukian, in Round Valley, California.
  • Yanan or Nozi, Lassen Butte and Round Mountain.
  • Pujunan or Maidu, east bank of Sacramento river.
  • Kulanapan or Pomo, Russian river and adjacent coast.
  • Copehan or Wintun, on Trinity river.
  • Weitspekan or Rurok, lower Klamath river from Trinity river down.
  • Chimarikan, on New river and Trinity river.
  • Wishoskan, on Humboldt Bay.
  • Mariposan or Yokuts, on Kings river and Tulare Lake.
  • Moquelumnian or Mutsun, on Tuolumne river.
  • Costanoan, north of San Francisco Bay to Monterey Bay.
  • Esselenian, Monterey Bay to San Lucia Mts.
  • Salinan, about San Antonio and San Miguel missions. Includes the Tatche or Telame.
  • Chumashan, at missions of San Buenaventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Inez, Purissima and San Luis Obispo.