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Hydah Indian Inhabitants, Physical Characteristics

These islands are inhabited by about 800 Hydah Indians, a very remarkable race of people. The most common type of the adult unmixed Hydah is about five feet, seven inches in height, thick-set, large-boned, with fairly regular broad features, coal-black hair and eyes, and a bronze complexion. They have generally--both men and women--finely developed breasts and fore-arms, caused by their almost daily use of the canoe paddle from infancy. A few have well-formed legs, though the greater number are defective in this respect, resulting from much sitting, or rather squatting in their, canoes, in and around their lodges, with but comparatively little walking. Their feet are so short, broad and thick through the instep, that shoes are made by the manufacturer, expressly for them. Some of the young men wear a moustache, and a scanty beard is occasionally seen upon the face of the old men, though both generally eradicate such hair as it grows. Only the women and medicine men permit the hair of the head to grow long. They walk with a springy light tread and agile step, though I easily outran a young Indian of Massett, who matched himself against me. Some of them are very strong in the arms, an Indian of Skidegate beating me at "tug of war." Many are expert swimmers, sometimes diving from their canoes into the rough sea, and bringing out wounded seal which have sunk to the bottom. One of my men performed such a feat, springing from the top of a great rock, where the ocean was breaking. They are intelligent and quick to learn from observation.

There are, probably, more well formed and featured people among the Hydas than any other aboriginal race, though there are none which can be considered handsome; indeed I have never seen an Indian beauty, nor an adult Indian woman of graceful movement. Black hair and eyes, white teeth and occasionally a rich olive complexion are their chief attractions. The Indian ages rapidly and are shorter lived than the whites. They suffer most from pulmonary and venereal diseases, the faces of many being scarred by the latter in its worst forms. Small pox has also destroyed them by the hundreds.

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


Hydah Indians

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