Paul Kane: Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America from Canada to Vancounver’s Island and Oregon through Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory and Back Again

On the 17th of September I returned again to Colville. The Indian village is situated about two miles below the fort, on a rocky eminence overlooking the Kettle Falls. These are the highest in the Columbia River. They are about one thousand yards across, and eighteen feet high. The immense body of water tumbling amongst the broken rocks renders them exceedingly picturesque and grand. The Indians have no particular name for them, giving them the general name of Tumtum, which is applied to all falls of water. The voyageurs call them the "Chaudiére," or "Kettle Falls," from the numerous round holes worn in the solid rocks by loose boulders. These boulders, being caught in the inequalities of rocks below the falls, are constantly driven round by the tremendous force of the current, and wear out holes as perfectly round and smooth as in the inner surface of a cast-iron kettle. The village has a population of about five hundred souls, called, in their own language, Chualpays. They differ but little from the Walla-Wallas. The lodges are formed of mats of rushes stretched on poles. A flooring is made of sticks, raised three or four feet from the ground, leaving the space beneath it entirely open, and forming a cool, airy, and shady place, in which to hang their salmon to dry.

[. . . .]

A few days before leaving Colville I was informed that the Chualpays were about to celebrate a scalp dance, and accordingly I took my sketch-book and went down to their encampment, where I learned that a small party had returned from a hunting expedition to the mountains, bringing with them, as a present from a friendly tribe, the scalp of a Blackfoot Indian. This to them was a present of inestimable value, as one of their tribe had been killed by a Blackfoot Indian two or three years before, and they had not been able to obtain any revenge for the injury. This scalp, however, would soothe the sorrows of his widow and friends. Accordingly, it was stretched upon a small hoop, and attached to a stick as a handle, and thus carried by the afflicted woman to a place where a large fire was kindled: here she commenced dancing and singing, swaying the scalp violently about and kicking it, whilst eight women, hideously painted, chanted and danced round her and the fire. The remainder of the tribe stood round in a circle, beating drums, and all singing.

Having witnessed the performance for about four or five hours, seeing no variation in it, nor any likelihood of its termination, I returned, deeply impressed with the sincerity of a grief which could endure such violent monotony for so long a period.

From Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America from Canada to Vancounver’s Island and Oregon through Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory and Back Again. Toronto: The Radisson Society of Canada, Ltd., 1925. [Originally published in 1859]

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Criticism Overview
Title Paul Kane: Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America from Canada to Vancounver’s Island and Oregon through Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory and Back Again Type of Content Contextual Criticism
Criticism Author Paul Kane Criticism Target Sherman Alexie
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 13 Jan 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America from Canada to Vancounver’s Island and Oregon through Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory and Back Again
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