John Muir


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In moving to the new village at Fort Wrangell most of the carved family monuments were left in place, and a few of the Tyees had new ones erected. The Shakes family, however, with a civilized eye to economy have moved most of theirs. The Bear is their totem, one 6 feet long, tolerably well carved, is placed on top of a pillar 20 feet high in front of a new house at the South end of the island. Bear tracks are carved on the pillar from the ground to the top with a view to make it appear that the bear at top had climbed to its present position. The effect is quite ornamental. The porpoise is also common, judging from the frequency of its appearance. These totems are not only erected in front of the dwellings, but also over the hut-like dead houses, small hovels 5 or 6 feet square. One of these has a dog or wolf on the roof, with head up and mouth open as if howling for his dead master. When a Stickeen Indian dies the body is burned with feasting and chanting and bestowal of gifts. If these rites are properly celebrated, the soul on reaching the bank of a great river is ferried over, given a body and guided through the woods far inland to a fruitful, gameful country and is happy. But in case the death rites be imperfectly administered he is unable to get over the river and is compelled to wander, an unhappy ghost, in wet dark woods and work mischief to the living like those devil club infested along this coast. { Sketch: Raven 6 feet long. New Stickeen village, Wrangell. }

Date Original



Original journal dimensions: 8.5 x 13.5 cm.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist