Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 53.djvu/181

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167
CRUISE AMONG HAIDA AND TLINGIT VILLAGES.

tionately short. A single glance at a Haida walking is sufficient to convince one that he is more at home in a canoe than on the land.

Of the ancient houses in Masset not one remains in good condition. But stately even in its ruins still stands the historic house of old Chief Weha. It is composed of massive beams and walls of great, wide, rough-hewn cedar planks. Its entrance is still guarded by the ever-present totem pole, which is one of the best in the village. The interior is even more interesting than the exterior, for it reveals the massiveness of the timbers and the solidarity of these houses. When one looks upon such a structure as this and compares

PSM V53 D181 Tlingit shaman grave on duke island.jpg
A Tlingit Shaman's Grave on Duke Island.

it with the ramshackle cottages of to-day, the feeling forces itself upon one that in this respect as in many others the Haidas have given up the substance for the shadow.

It is sad to relate, but it is true, that the day is not far distant when there will not be a single totem pole in British Columbia. I believe I am safe in saying that another one will never be erected. The old ones do not fall of their own accord as fast as they are cut down; for, strange as it may seem, the natives actually cut down one or more poles every winter for firewood, and in this they are encouraged by the missionaries. The totem pole is a coat of arms, it is an epitome of the owner's mythical ancestry; from its curious conventionalized animals or hieroglyphs we read into the past, of the time of their garden of Eden, and of their struggles and friendships with the monsters of the deep and the creatures of the laud and air.