John Muir


image preview


When we reached the landing place we were met by a third messenger who demanded whether we would lodge in the house of the elder of the two chiefs, and when we had accepted the invitation a dozen or so of stout bare-footed men carried our luggage, provisions, etc. into the house. When we entered we shook hands with the chief, a pleasant mid[dle] aged man, with heavily marked features, who sat at the side of the fire, bare-footed and bare-legged, dressed in a calico shirt and blanket. A seat of honor had been prepared for us out of two gun-boxes set end to end and covered with a cotton cloth. Besides the members of his family, numbering 15 or 20, a good many visitors came in without ceremony to see us, though there was but little curiosity shown. The boys and girls ran and played on the meadow near the landing-place, chasing each other, running races, shooting arrows, wading in the river without seeming to feel the cold or evincing any knowledge of our presence beyond a careless look now and then. John explained the object of Mr. Young’s visit, to which all listened attentively but without showing ill-bred astonishment or any sort of nonplussed don’t-know-what-to-do-about-it expression. On the contrary the chiefs stated in the most collected and serious manner that they were truly glad that the Whites who knew so much more than they were so greatly interested in them and their welfare as to come so far to see them at so cold and dangerous a time, that they never before had seen white men on these northern waters except in summer, and then only to trade and gain what they could, that they were glad to hear about God, confessed their ignorance as compared with whites’, were glad to hear that a teacher was coming, promised to send all the children to school to learn what they were too old to learn. They were about to set out on an expedition to the Hootsenoos to collect blankets as indemnity or blood-money for the death of a Chilcat woman from drinking whisky furnished by one of the Hootsenoo villages. In case of their refusal to pay there would be fighting, and one of the chiefs begged that we would pray them good luck in the job that so no one would be killed. This he asked as a favor, after begging that we would grant permission to go on this expedition, promising that they would avoid bloodshed if possible. He spoke in a very natural and easy tone and manner, always cool and so much of a polished diplomat that all polish motive was hidden. The younger chief stood while speaking, the elder sat on the floor. None of the congregation had a word to say, though they gave approving nods and shrugs and ughs. The house was packed at every meeting, two a day. Some climbed on the roof to listen at the big smoke opening. Such a crowd of eager intelligent listeners! What a variety of postures and gestures! What curious eyes! Yet how natural and well-behaved. How becoming and fit everything they did or said on the occasion! These people are far ahead of the same class of any people in Europe. I made five speeches, all of which seemed to be gladly heard, particularly what I said on the different kinds of white men and their motives, their own kindness and good manners in making strangers far from home feel at home in their houses – that they all seemed my own people; though I had been with them but a day I seemed to have known them always and that I felt like leaving the whites and living with them to teach them and do them good; the real brotherhood of all people who stood on end, etc. Toyatte seemed particularly pleased, and cheered Boston fashion, “Hi yu mika Tillicum tola.” One little boy who climbed on top of the main building to hear the {sketch: Raven’s head carved on end of pole and thrust over the wall of a fortified dwelling at the S. Hoona village on Cross Sound. Head 5 ft. 1.}

Date Original



Original journal dimensions: 11.5 x 18 cm.

Resource Identifier



Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

Rights Management

To view additional information on copyright and related rights of this item, such as to purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish them, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.


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