John Muir


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Island there are eight carved posts, bold and intricate in design, and well executed, but not so massive as those of the Stickeens. The bear, porpoise, salmon, crow and eagle are the chief totems. Some have three cavities mortised into the back of the pillars for the reception of bones and ashes and closed tightly by a square plug. I noticed one caulked around the edge with rags. The body of an Indian [Kake] was buried yesterday in front of one of the houses. They were just completing the work when we arrived. I noticed a lot of human bones on the beach, said by one of the Indians here to be those of some Sitkas slain in a fight and turned up by the Kakes in cultivating their potato patch on the bank above them. There is quite a large burying ground here, many dead houses covered like wells and surmounted by fanciful posts. Some have Greek crosses, others the family totem either on the side of the house or over the dead houses. We intended going on to another village situated on Kou Island, but the Indians here were bent on having us stay. They first said we could not possibly reach the other village that night as it was so far they always started about 8 o’clock in the morning and it was now half past 2 P.M. This was not true, as the dist[ance] is only 12 or 14 ms., and with a good wind could easily be run in two hours. Their chief spokesman then told Mr. Young that he had often heard of him and that he expected this visit and that surely since he had anxiously awaited his coming he would not now run away so hastily. Surely he would not use him so ill. He so greatly desired to hear him talk. He wanted a teacher in his village to do them good and make them wise like the Stickines, etc. Consequently Mr. Young was coaxed and flattered into staying.

Concluding to spend this afternoon and the next day Sunday with them, he promising that he would collect all the Indians to hear him preach. These Kakes are a shrewd, industrious, and rather good-looking people. Yana-Taowk would make a good lawyer. He was killed two white men. Some of the Kakes have two or three wives. It was at this village that an American schooner was seized and all the crew save one man murdered. A gunboat was sent here to punish them. This they did by burning the village. It has been rebuilt. The anchor I saw lying in the grass at the side of the potato field, They are not so superstitious in some matters as whites. For example I saw Yana-Taowk kick the bones of the Sitkas on the beach in fun, and they plant their potatoes close about the dead houses, and go for water through their graveyard in the dark. {Drawing – One tree islet in fiord NE side of Wrangel Island} Last evening a wolf was howling on the other side of the Channel a half mile away. Kadachan puzzled Mr. Young by asking him if wolves had souls. The Indian rather thought they had they were so wise. He said they swam out after seals, hiding their heads with a mouthful of grass. They caught salmon, hunted deer in company, brought forth their young always at the same time of year, etc. I asked why the deer were not all killed by them. He said he thought they knew better than do so. He informed us they were very

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Original journal dimensions: 11.5 x 18 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