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ALASKA HISTORICAL LIBRARY ARB MUSEUM
Devoted To The Interests Op The Native People Op Alaska Vol.! Sitka, Alaska. April, 1909. No9 A HISTORICAL SKETCH Continued from the March No. We celebrate all the holidays.but Christinas and the Fourth of July are the days Christmas is always a busy time with everyone For many days before there is joyful antici ] ation. The church is always beau tifullydecorated with yellow cedar and flags. In the Christmas music and other exercises, the very small girls are always especially pleasing. The children prefer having their presentson Christmas day. They are given out after breakfast, by the matrons. Some of the great draw baeks to the work are the old customs, feasting for the dead, danc ing and potlatching. Certain phases of these old customs are harmless in themselves.The careless onlooker is apt to encourage their continuance. Bui those customs; rooted in de based and lieatlienisli superstition fostering individual and tubal rivalry, evny, prideand ainbiiiou almost invariably associated with strong drink; seem to almost paralyze the spiritual faculties for a lime. Social standing, positions of honor and influence depend on these customs The lime has not < yet come when any amount of intellect, even or wealth, will gain social prestige equal to that of making a feast and giving away one or two hundred blankets. A miss ionary can not make much head way in a village until he secures the support of some of the high caste, but the high caste are loath to give up feasts for they receive the lion's share of honors and the gifts. Again the feasts and potlatehes are always made for the opposite tribe, and are only made in payment of a social debt. and place the guests under obligatio i to return the favor. 80 ollen we hear we must give this one but it will be t he. very last/' but the last time has i yet to come. The followingdiscrip tion of n feast in Fort Wrangel in 1 I read,hut did not see. Prepar ations of an extravagant nature had been made for the coming of a neigh boring tribe. The Stars and Stripes were waving and hundreds of pounds of powder exploded in small cannons in honor of their coming ! but nothing could he seen of them. The second morning a canoe ' appeared with word that the guests, having passed through a heavy rainstorm were on a mar island drying their clothes. A delegation of home natives in four large canoes went over to see what time they might be ex pected, and upon learning, came back to dress for the reception. All white people were asked to leave for the present. When the white people retired there were probably fifty yards of canvas raised as a shield behind which the main preparation want on. In a short time the strangers ap proached. There were seven large canoes lashed side by side with twenty four in each. In the bow of each stood a chief dressed richly, and while the colors were somewhat extravagant, they were all worn gracefully. Each chief held a beautiful silk flag, not letting it wave, but holding the flag down to the staff. They came on slowly and when near the shore, stopped and all chanted one of their weird songs. At its conclusion the curtain on shore dropped. There was the figure of a huge whale, made of black muslin strectched over a frame, with fins and tail flopping. Around this were several natives with large head dresses, representing por poise, seal and lizards. These all kept moving in a stooping pos ture around the whale. Behind these were about three hundred men and women dressed like the visitors in the canoes. They set up a chant. Those in the canoe answered. This was kept up un til four songs were sung by each I3e!iind his clouds the lord of di.y From height of pillared snow, Once more asserts his ancient sway And bids Old Winter go. Klis golden sceptre he extends ^?To yearning earth again. The sunshine with the rain he sends Among the haunts of men. Vvfhere mountain tops th'horizon bound * * In changeless fixity And with old ocean's waves surround Fair Sitka by the sea. o. c. ?.