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Hydah Indian Religion and Morals

The Hydas, with the exception of those who have embraced the Christian faith, have no forms of religious worship, and I am informed by Rev. Mr Harrison, missionary at Massett, and probably the best authority upon the subject, that there is no word in their language which signifies the praise or adoration of a Supreme Being. They believe in a Great Spirit, a future life, and in the transmigration of souls. Their God, (Sha-nung-et-lag-e-das), possesses chiefly the attributes of power, and is invoked to help them attain their desires. Their Devil, (Het-gwa-lan-a), corresponds with the devil of common belief, a demon who in various forms brings upon them evil and destruction.


The moral degradation of these people is so great that they seem to be nearly destitute of any sense of wrong-doing, while committing the grossest social sins imaginable. There is every reason to believe that before they came in contact with the whites, that they were much given to licentious practices. Many of their legends and traditions are filled with vulgarities too great for translation. But with the opportunities afforded after the influx of whites into their country for obtaining money by the prostitution of their females, this practice has prevailed until many of the present generation of young Indian women seem to regard this mode of serving their kindred as their legitimate end. Almost incredible as it may appear, fathers and mothers become procurers for their own daughters, brothers for sisters, and, in some instances, husbands for their wives. Soon after my arrival at Skidegate, a Hyda young man called at my cabin to see if I would not take a rather comely Indian girl, about twenty years of age, who accompanied him, to live with me, and neither seemed in the slightest degree embarrassed, either in making the proposition or when it was declined. Immodesty of speech or action in public places, however, is rare, even among those women who change their "man" so often as it suits their caprice or convenience. Both the married and unmarried have apparently not neglected their opportunities to improve upon the native stock by the introduction of foreign blood. There are Russian, English, Canadian, American, Chinese and Negro Hydas; Hydas with fiery red hair, tow heads, blue eyes, and all complexions from black to pale white. Many of these homeless half-breeds are farmed out with relatives, by their mothers, when single, thus leaving them free to go and come without encumbrance. Barrenness, disease and early death are the fruits of such promiscuous intercourse, to such an extent that their utter extinction from these causes is inevitable, unless they are speedily removed. Their only hope of long surviving lies in the careful training of the young children by the missionaries. The habits and associations of the adults are too strong to be much affected by their labors.

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


Hydah Indians

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