A CHIEF'S HOUSE (Historic Information)
Congress should tonic to the rescue of these people, and make more public parks where totems could be shown and preserved as at Indian River Park, Sitka, where the only new and perfect totems can now be seen. If Hassan, now rotting in the bushes, was on the banks of the Hudson all the senators of New England and the Atlantic Coast would join in making it a National Park the next session, and save every shack and pole, but for the Pacific not "six bits" could be obtained.
The native had no written language, and no books of record, to hand down to posterity, therefore, Egyptian-like, he painted and carved his family tree, great events, history, etc., in that hieroglyphical totemic sign language nowhere so uniformally used and clearly understood as among the natives between Puget Sound and Yakutat.
But few Indians could tell much about this queer race custom and fewer would if they could. White men have not thoroughly mastered it. The sand-covered ruins of the deserts of Asia and Africa hide no more interesting mysteries than the silts of the Cascades and forest debris of the Alaska Coast.
While a remnant of tottering representatives of the genuine native, his residence, totem, basket and the like remain, the time and cause would be most opportune for exhaustive research.
If some one with the money and philanthropy of a Jessup would come forth, I am sure men well able and qualified would join in the task of thoroughly exhuming and recording the past and present of these people and their ancestors from Dixon Entrance to Pt. Barrow. Certainly one or two of the twenty-five colleges and universities now digging in the sands of the Orient might profitably turn their spades to the newest shore of the newest continent, decipher the totemic language and dig up the numerous evidences of a strange people on the very limit of the Occident.
The transportation companies, towns and people of Alaska will lose a very valuable asset if they allow these old villages and totems to disappear. Many tourists come across the continent and even from Europe to see them, and incidentally become interested in the country. Suppose some native should ask one of us, why we erect monuments and what they indicate, and to explain the W. O. W., the Cross, or one of a thousand other emblems? Would our answer be more intelligent to the Indian than his to us?
I believe the relation of the Yakutat to the interim, natives is the reason why he is not a totem Indian.
Among the Esquimaux, Aleuts, Siberians, Chinese and Japanese may be found carvings in wood, stone, copper, and ivory resembling those of the Si-wash (or Thlinkit). These similarities will assist in tracing the Mongolian from Asia to South America or the reverse, over a pathway along the Pacific Coast. To the writer no connecting link is suggestive between the Mongolian and the "Red Man," the real North American Indian of the interior.
The people, including most students, have always "taken it for granted" that an Indian was an Indian, and all of the same race. This year thousands of tourists will have opportunity to observe the Thlinkit or Siwash as we usually call him, and to even a casual observer the marked difference between him and the real Indian will be apparent.
The totem and tribal badge revealed a volume of information to those familiar with them the tribe, location, marriage, ancestor, ownership, social position, etc.
The height and number of totems could fairly be attributed to the wealth and popularity of the owner of the pole.
The bird or animal supposed to be the ancestor of the tribe usually has the place of honor at the top. and other animals, sacred, or useful, and the influential members and totems of both the husband and wife'e families, make up the other figures of the family totem pole.
Other potlatch poles, grave poles, chief poles and the like make up a hideous wilderness of grotesque face-trees on the waterfront of every old Indian village between the Straits of Fuca and Yakutat Bay.