Shingle Creek — Penticton, 15 September 1893

As if our memories of the hunting expedition to the Gold Range should be especially imprinted and the departure from the Rocky Mountains made quite difficult, we enjoyed one of rare beautiful days today. A deep blue cloudless sky arched itself above us. The sun sent warming rays and the delightful fresh mountain air was filled with balsamic pine and fir scent. Numerous butterflies were flying around enjoying the last days of their lives. Colorful gleaming bugs were crawling on the bark of the fallen trees.

Until noon we still stayed in camp and took various photographic images. Then we mounted and off we went towards Penticton; it was quite hot, the path sincerely bad and our otherwise wild but no already tired mustangs were only made to go forward by the constant use of spurs and whip.

In the Indian village, I asked Charley to show me one of the houses and soon I was led by him into his own home where I was received by his very corpulent better half who was wearing some sort of negligee and carried a child on her back in a canvas strap. How astonished was I, however, when entering the log house I saw, instead of the expected weapons, hides and scalps of slain enemies, a sewing machine and a coffee mill and the walls plastered with illustrations cut out of newspapers so that my beautiful ideas which I had developed by reading famous stories about the Indian people had led me astray. Charley’s marriage seems to be particularly blessed as children of all age ranges were crying, shouting and running around in the small room while the eldest daughter was using the sewing machine. The good folk did apparently not consider cleanliness highly. That’s way I did not dare to touch the objects that had made me curious and soon left the living room escaping from the sticky air. In front of the house a couple of old wives had assembled in the mean time, true shrews, that showed themselves highly pleased with our visit, pointing at us with their fingers and were vividly talking among themselves in their guttural language.

The catholic missionary of the place, an old Frenchman who has spent the last 25 years in these regions arrived in a hurry on his horse and not only fully praised the parishioners but knew much interesting things to tell about the Indians, adding many remarks about his life and his new homeland. He especially praised the intelligence of the redskins, that I however never doubted without having by the way given a good impression of it even though or because I had been observing them with a scientific mind.

The Indians of North America, the aboriginal people of the land, had been numerous and powerful still during the last century but have seen an unstoppable decline during the present era, as the prospering of the redskins as hunter, fishermen and warrior peoples seemed incompatible with the rapid advance of modern civilization. Forced to put away their weapons and displaced from their hunting grounds once so rich in game to designated places, reservations,  this people is decaying more and more and faster, for whose blossoming apparently freedom is a vital requirement as the evils of civilization have reached it much faster than the blessings of civilization. Illnesses of all kinds, alcoholism and corruption made a quick entrance and gained distribution among the redskins in the modern period of North America. In contrast only in a limited way were efforts successful to civilize the Indians, to convert them to Christianity, to make them sedentary and turn them into efficient tillers.

In Canada, by the way, the situation of the Indians is much more favorable and their progress in civilization much greater than in the United States. This expresses itself not only in the numerical, moral and material relations of the Indians but also through their attitude they display towards the owners of the territories. While insurrections of Indian tribes in Canada, such as that of the „Blackfoot“ in 1886, against the Whites are happening only rarely, the United States has been almost continuously in small wars against the redskins during the last decades. Here too in the North-east and the Rocky Mountains the fire of insurrection is stoked from time to time.

As in the United States, Indians are also restricted to reservations in Canada. Whereas, however, the 423 Canadian reservations represent mostly productive land valued by the Indians, the Indian reservations in the United States are mostly in worthless or still poor and inhospitable lands whose area is furthermore reduced from time to time. In total numbers, as stated before, the Indians in North America are in a constant decline.

It needs to be mentioned that this dwindling is experienced especially by those tribes known to Europeans through history and novels. Who would not think about Huron, Iroquois, Mohawks, Tuscarora etc. if he reads about the English and French wars in North America during the years from 1744 to 1748 and 1754 to1763? The famous „six nations“ have shrunken so much in numbers that in 1892 there were only 13.621 Indians in the United States, an a mere 8508 living in Canada who were descendants of those tribes whose names are familiar to us from the struggles of Chingachgook and Uncas, the last of the Mohicans, as friends or enemies of the immortal Nathanael Bumppo, the pathfinder and leatherstocking.

The steamer „Aberdeen“ arrived towards 5 o’clock at the wooden pier in Penticton and I then immediately went on board and soon afterwards to bed.

Links

  • Location: Penticton, Canada
  • ANNO – on 15.09.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Der Prophet“.

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