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Hydah Indian Carvings and Food Supplies

The Hydas are distinguished for their superior skill, above that possessed by any other aboriginal people on the continent, in carving and mechanical arts and contrivances generally. Besides their great columns, from 30 to 75 feet in height, covered with figures from top to bottom, nearly every article used by them is carved to represent either their totem crests, or some animal, bird or fish familiar to their sight. House-posts, canoe-heads, stone axes, mauls and mortars, fish-hooks and floats, seal-killing clubs, boxes of all kinds, cooking and eating utensils, trays, spoons, ladles, medicine charms, masks, rattles, whistles, gambling sticks, towes, and other articles, too numerous to mention, are all carved. Their designs are often grotesque, many evidently purposely so, and their workmanship commonly rude compared with that of our best white carvers; yet their skill in so curiously and accurately shaping some things, considering their few and inferior tools and semi-savage state, is quite remarkable. Desiring to possess some small article of Hyda manufacture, I gave a young Indian jeweler a two-and-a-half dollar gold piece at 9 o'clock in the morning with instructions to make from it an eagle. Before 1 o'clock the same day he brought me the bird so well made that not many jewelers could improve upon it.

Food Supplies

The Hydas live chiefly upon fish, though of late years they consume also considerable quantities of other supplies, especially flour, rice, sugar, coffee, crackers, &c., purchased from the traders. Of fish, halibut and salmon, dried and smoked, are mainly depended on, though many other varieties are eaten in their season--herring, flounder, trout, rock cod, true cod, clams, mussels, &c. Pollock, called by the Hydas skill, are caught off the west coast, principally for their oil, which is extracted by boiling them in large wooden tanks by means of heated stones. Dried herring spawn, salmon roe, sea and birds' eggs, chitons and octopus are favorite articles of diet. Berries and crabapples are gathered in large quantities and eaten both fresh and dried, frequently mixed with oolachan grease, their choicest condiment, obtained from the Nass Indians. Potatoes, generally of an inferior size, are raised, chiefly by the old women. Many wild roots, bulbs and plants are also eaten: the lily, "epilobium:, "heracleum", &c. Bear, wild geese, duck, and grouse also contribute to their food supply, although the present generation of Hydas are not very successful hunters, seldom penetrating far inland in search of game.

Official Report of the Exploration of the Queen Charlotte Islands for the Government Of British Columbia, 1884


Hydah Indians

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