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Tahltan Indians of Canada

Tahltan. Properly, according to Morice (1904 b), "Thalhthan, a contraction of Tha-sælhthan," from tha or thu, "water," and saelhthan, a verb that refers to some heavy object lying thereon, which seems to be confirmed by a myth reported to Emmons (1911), though some of the older people told the latter it was from a foreign tongue; some, however, derived it from "thalla-a, point, the first living place on the rocky tongue of land between Stikine and Tahltan Rivers; and still others claim that it originated from the exhibition or giving away of a piece of steel, thal, by a chief at a great feast given at this point in early days, in celebration of the bringing out of his daughter."

Connections. The Tahltan belong to the Athapascan linguistic family, and have usually been classed with the Nahane, but we follow Jenness (1932) in treating them separately.

Location. In the drainage basin of Stikine River down to the mouth of Iskut River, Dease Lake, and Dease River halfway to McDane Creek (though anciently the head of Dease Lake was not in their territory), the northern sources of the Nass and some of the southern branches of the Taku in Alaska and British Columbia.

Villages

Gikahnegah, a fishing village on the south bank of the Stikine opposite Nine Mile flat.
Lakneip, a subdivision or village on the upper course of Nasa River.
Tahltan, called by themselves Goontdarshage, the modern village, 1½ miles northwest of the mouth of Tahltan River.
Teetch-aranee, on the south bank of the Tahltan near its mouth.
Thludlin, on Tahltan River some 12 miles above its mouth.
Tratuckka, a fishing village at Nine Mile flat on the Stikine River.
Tsaqudartsee, several miles beyond Teetch-aranee on the rock ledge separating the Stikine and Tahltan Rivers.
There were some others of which the names have not survived.

History. The Tahltan claim descent from people from several different directions--the head of the Nass, Tagish Lake, the headwaters of the Taku, the Liard (or Peace) River, and also from the coast. Intimate contact with the Whites was delayed until placer gold was discovered in the river bottom below Glenora in 1861 when some desultory prospecting began, but constant contact only followed on the Cassiar gold excitement of 1874. They suffered in many ways from White contact, particularly during the smallpox epidemics of 1864 and 1868.

Population. Mooney (1928) placed the entire Nahane population including this tribe at 2,000 in 1780. In 1909 there were 229 Tahltan.

Connection in which they have become noted. The Tahltan are noted as a tribe whose organization has been made over by contact with coastal people.

The Indian Tribes of North of America, by John Swanton, 1953

Canadian Indians


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