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Hydah Indian Dress and Ornaments

The Hydas have so far adopted the dress of the whites, that with the exception of blankets--still much worn by both sexes at their homes, and dancing suits--their original costumes are now seldom seen. The blanket has been substituted for the sea-otter cloak, trousers and dresses for the breech cloth, and leather undergarments by woven ones. The men wear hats, but the women very rarely; a handkerchief or shawl being their most common head covering. Some of the elderly women, however, wear large hats of the Chinese pattern, braided by them from the roots of the spruce tree. The women are very fond of bright, striking colors; though many exhibit considerable taste by the selection of dark shades, suited to their complexion. The men are quite as much inclined to over-dress as the women, when they have the means. On one of the hottest days of summer, I saw an Indian parading through the village of Skidegate, dressed in a full suit of black, including a _heavy beaver Ulster_. Both men and women generally go with bare feet, except when engaged in some occupation away from home, which exposes them to injury.

Nearly all the adults are tattooed upon the arms and legs, many upon the breasts, and occasionally one upon the face. The designs usually represent tribal and family crests and totem. The practice is being gradually discontinued. The face is generally painted for dances, by the women when mourning, and frequently by both sexes when traveling, to protect it from the effects of the sun and wind, Vermillion, the fungus of trees, burnt and ground, common charcoal, deer tallow, and spruce gum are used for this purpose. Labrets--pieces of wood, bone or shell, from 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length--are worn by a few old females, but this hideous, monstrosity is now never found upon the young women. Many of the middle-aged, however, pierce the centre of the lower lip and insert a small silver tube, which projects about a quarter of an inch. Both sexes perforate the septum of the nose for rings, but I have only seen two worn by the Hydas, and these were silver. The medicine men, while performing their dances, sometimes insert a semi-circular bone from eight to ten inches in length. They are very fond of ornaments, which are used in profusion, especially upon their dance and ceremonial dresses and robes, and by the females upon their persons. I saw a woman at Skidegate with sixteen silver rings upon her hands, and two or three heavy silver bracelets are quite commonly worn. Feathers, mother-of-pearl buttons, puffin bills, abalone, dentalum and other shells, silver pieces, and deer toes, are among their favorite articles of adornment.

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


Hydah Indians

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