The Indian Department at Ottawa estimates the Indian
population at about 25,000. That number is we believe,
rather above than below normal count.
In eighteen.hundred and seventy one, though no accurate
enumeration was made, it was estimated that the Indian
population, represented by existing tribes and a few that
are partially extinct, was in round numbers about 35,000.
In the interval, therefore, there has been a loss of ten
thousand. Even in 50 years that is a large decrease and
from the fact that the Indian population for twenty years
has been, so far as the Departmental returns show, about
stationary would seem to indicate that the original estimate
was too high. It is our opinion, and the opinion also of
those who have made a special study of the Indians and in
particular of'the Coast tribes, that there is a sensible
decrease, and our conclusions are the result of personal
observation. Consumption is making considerable inroads
all the time. The Influenza Epidemic claimed a terrible
death roll. The birth rate is
very low, a .fact to be accounted for, to some extent
by the former prevalence of sexual diseases which are°
productive of sterility in an unusual degree.
The Haider for instance, once a powerful and numerous
nation, have in British Columbia, dwindled down to three
small communities and their home in Queen Charlotte Island
contains many deserted villages which have been long the
prey of curio hunters and collectors. They still'
continued to decrease up to five years ago as do also the
others of the Coast tribes but on the whole, the influences
of civilisation within the past twenty -five or thirty _ years,'although not wholly without evil results, have
tended to arrest decay and some tribes have even been on
the increase. it is perhaps inevitable that the red man
should gradually retire before the white race, but the
abundance and accessibility of food, the mildness of the
Coast Climate, and the protection accorded under a very
beneficent:, form of government, have given them an advantage as to permanency over all other native races.
One thing which has tended largely to their benefit
is their position of independence. With the exception
of their being in a general way under the aegis of the
Indian Department, they receive no special favours such
as are accorded to the Treaty Indians, no annuities or
financial assistance. They are obliged to maintain
themselves by hunting, fishing, trade and labour, the
opportunities for which are always at hand. Game is
abundant, the seas and rivers teem with fish; during-the
canning season they are largely employed at good wages and
earn money lumbering, picking hops and in various ways.
They are, as compared with their Eastern brethren, industrious and are usually well supplied with the ready cash for
all their- necessities. Famine or starvation among our
Indians is extremely rare, if indeed it ever occurs.
Their trade is highly thought of by the traders and is as
a rule a fairly lucrative one. In many places they have
comfortable homes and though not remarkable for their
cleanliness or intelligence, they possess to some degree
the refinements of civilisation.
Gardens often adorn the homes, flowers are cultivated
and vines are used to cover objectionable sights.
Pictures of friends hang upon the wall with bought frames
or such as they might make themselves. Though not so
picturesque as the Plains Indians they are, sociologically
speaking, on a higher plane. Naturally more docile and
less nomadic, it was fortunate that owing to the wise
policy of the Hudson's Bay Company in dealing with them,
when the country came under the organised government, they
were prepared to accept the sovereignty of the white man
with good grace. If we except some trouble in the early
days with the miners on the Fraser River, several murders
by the Prince Rupert and the Cowichan Indians, and the
Chilcotin massacre, which latter was not without provocation, there have been no atrocities like those which
occurred in the United States or on a smaller scale east
of the Rocky Mountains in Canada. In fact British Columbia
has been remarkably free from disorder of any kind.
:hen trouble did occur or threatened to occur it was
repressed in its incipiency with a firm but not a cruel
hand. Respect for the law, early instilled in a judicious
way, was rather by demonstration than by the exercise of
force. The worst Indians inhabited the Coast of
Vancouver Island and adjacent islands and these had ever
in their hearts, the wholesome dread of the Hudson Bay
Company gunboat or a man -of -war. It was rarely necessary
to call either into requisition. In the early part of
last century there were several serious disasters with loss
oÎ life to traders on the Coast, but it was before the
advent of the Hudson Bay Company or rule of any kind.
The tragedies in which the Indians were-concerned, which
are still related most graphically by themselves and of
which accounts are found in every school. history. of
British Columbia, are recorded to have taken place on this
Coast when fur trade was at the height of its prosperity
One was the destruction in 1803 of the American ship
"Boston ", by the natives of Nootka Sound, when almost all
the crew were murdered except Jewett the armourer and a
sailor called :Thompson. They were kept in slavery four
years by the Chief Maquenna of Vancouver Island and Quadra
In 1805 the American-Ship Atahualpa of Rhode Island
was attacked by the savages of Millbank Sound and her
Captain, mate and six seamen were killed after which the
other seamen succeeded in repelling the assailants and
saving the vessel.
In the sane manner the Tonquin of Boston, six years
later in the month of June was attacked by the Eatives
whilst it anchored in Clayoquot Sound and all except one
of the crew murdered.
Probably one reason to account for the Indians of
the Coast being .more warlike than the interior tribes was
that for a century they had been brought into contact with
traders of foreign countries who, in their ships, carried
on a system of barter in which rum was more or less a
factor and honesty or scrupulous methods formed no part of
the consideration. These tribes who traded exclusively
with the Hudson-Bay Company learned to trust white men and
respect a covenant.
Of their Eastern brethren with whom readers outside
the Province are more familiar, it may be said that in
most respects they are very different. The "Plain Indiän"
is tall, lithe and sinewy; has elongated face, aquiline
nose and black piercing eyes.' He is built to run, see,
and smell at a long distance. He is quick, agile, and.
restless. The "Siwash" which is the common way to
designate our Indian, is short, thick -set, and heavy in
the body and small in the legs,' with a long square flat
face or a. head that sits. close to a pair of heavy shoulders
There is usually large chest and arm development. Nature
has built him to suit _.his occupation - namely - to sit in
a canoe and fish. Or it may be perhaps more accurate to
say that his occupation has made him what he is. This
description applies more particularly to -the Coast tribes
but as you go further inland the types more clearly
approach that of the Plain Indian. The resemblance of
the Siwash to the Japanese is striking and dressed alike
it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the nationality.
The Indians however are heavier in build and coarser in
feature than the Japanese who posses a: tightly knit
frame and rounded smooth features.
It must be understood however that different nations
differ in appearance and minor characteristics.