The Story of a Stump
Found by a miracle, in Google Books. (“Forest and Stream” magazine, December 5, 1903, pages 438-439, by HG Dulog.)
It’s also referenced here.
And here (the December 19, 1903 issue; this is not a .JPG so it might not display for some of you):
This is the first time I’ve ever seen an Indigenous-written ‘Chinuk pipa’ text reproduced in a publication. Here’s the full text of the article:
The Story of a Stump.
I STARTED from a little town on the Fraser River to
look for Indians, pines, cedars, firs, balsams, moun-
tains and, incidentally, for goats and sheep. For the
first time in history the salmon run on the Fraser had
failed. The great Government hatchery, just erected
below the lower Seaton [Seton] Lake, had not been able to
get enough fish at its weir to begin operations. A
few, a very few, sock-eyes were drying on sticks along
the river bank, but the king salmon and the humpies
Major and Aleck, my two Indians, were glad to get
their ponies together for a turn in the hills, and the
first night out we spent at the Short [Seton] Portage.
This was a native settlement of about sixty souls.
The patriarch patted me on the back saying, “Good
man! Shoot mowitch.” The children came out of
their cabins at unusual hours to hammer a church bell
installed on a stump, while awaiting its sacred edifice,
and the population would take to prayer. They are
good Catholics, strenuous and observant, and they do
their full duties, though the times and seasons may be
a little mixed.
Nor do they seem to be inclined to race-suicide.
Major’s wife stood on the bank as we rode by, with a
six-inch smile on her comely face and many infant
Majors by her side. As General Scott said of the
Seventh, “It was a regiment of officers.”
It is easy to understand that, in early days, during
the interchange of barbarities called frontier war, some
currency should be given to the saying that “There is
no good Indian but a dead Indian.” Time has worn
the gloss oft from this epigram. From a byword it has
become a bore.
Three of my associates on the trip I am writing
about, are living refutations of the slanderous proverb.
When we started from upper Seaton Lake, beyond
the Portage, Aleck’s wife was also of the party, under
her husband’s escort, until we reached a spot on Mc-
Gilvray creek, where “many womans” were picking
berries. There she left us. I had asked her name, but
as she only answered by a shy giggle, I called her Car-
rie. A week afterward I found that her name really
was “Keetee [Kitty],” so I hadn’t been so far wrong.
I am told that the Seaton Lake district is an arid
region with an average annual rainfall of twelve inches.
We got about that in September alone. We were in
the very spill-way of the clouds. It rained or snowed
on more than half the days of my expedition, and was
cloudy on some other days. So, when the rain had
turned to snow, on the afternoon of our march from
Seaton Lake, and we were all wet through with ice
water, it was a comfort to find that Major could start
a fire with a branch of dead pine needles in less time
than most people could light a candle, and as soon as
we got the packs off and began thawing, I took a lesson
in Lillooet language and customs.
These Indians are progressive in the sense that they
live in houses, wear modern clothes and work. They
think little of the ways of their ancestors, the “old
people,” but withal, they have retained traits of sim-
plicity and an honesty which is a real delight. You
may leave your furnishings stowed in a tree beside the
trail for safe keeping, and be absent many days, sure
that no human despoiler will have injured or taken
your property. I asked Major whether the Indians of
old had used dogs for packing before the coming of
the horse, and he denied it, but there is a suspicious
feature in their language. The word for dog is
“skákbah [skákhah],” and the name for horse is the same with
a syllable that resembles a grunt prefixed. Among the
Piegans the pony supplanted the dog as a beast of bur-
den, and was called an “elk dog,” or big dog, and it
seems likely that the etymology of the word horse in
Lillooet points to a similar connection of ideas.
When the men chattered away in their native tongue,
the general effect, to a person ignorant of both lan-
guages, was somewhat like South German; but there
were times when a succession of coughs, clicks and
gulps broke in, giving a notion that the speaker’s utter-
ance had become inarticulate through pain.
In the flats near the short Portage and at other
places in the district one finds circular mounds sur-
rounding excavations about thirty feet across. These
are called by the whites “keekoly holes.” The word
keekoly merely means “down” in the Chinook jargon,
but this name is always applied to the hollows that
mark the sites of the old communal houses. There
may be one or two of these houses still left in some
remote spot. Thirty years ago when miners began to
stream into the Caribou these were the ordinary win-
ter domiciles. The method of construction was to dig
down from three to five feet below the surface, and
in this cellar erect a rectangular frame with six stout
posts and connecting beams on top. Then strong
poles were laid radially for the roof so that the outer
ends came to the ground and the inner ends abutted
on a hole in the middle of the roof, which answered
both for door and chimney. The poles were covered
with bark, grass and earth; the excavated dirt was piled
around the outside, a notched log was propped in the
central hole for a ladder, and the mansion was ready.
Of course everyone had to walk over the roof and
climb down through the smoke to enter. The great
virtue of these houses was that they were very warm
in the severest weather, only a little fire of sticks was
made in the center, but often the dwellers would climb
out at nightfall to plunge in the icy lake in order to
get cool enough to sleep. Each of the several families
that lived in the house would have its special division
allotted, and the winter was passed in making soup
in a cooking basket, wherein the water was kept boil-
ing by the addition of hot stones. Salmon dried in the
sun, and shockingly ill-preserved, was the staple, with
steelheads, rainbows and mountain trout fresh from
the water; while camas and kimwood [St’át’imcets (Lillooet) Salish skím’wət / skím’ut ‘tiger lily, Columbia lily’] roots afforded
the vegetables, and dried berries gave the fruit.
Rather a domestic people were the Lillooets. Fight-
ing sometimes, either because they had to or else to
keep in touch with the prevailing fashion, but in the
main seeking a peaceful sustenance, housemakers,
bridge builders and capable of carrying huge burdens
on their backs. Not all of them even were successful
hunters, and some, instead of buckskin garments, had
to weave themselves shirts of the inner bark of the
willow, twisted and pounded to clear the fiber from
Now we started on our trip with the picnic element
definitely eliminated, as I have shown, and packing over
the divide at the head of McGilvray creek, we dropped
down about 2,000 feet into the valley of the Cadwala-
der [Cadwallader], the main tributary of the south fork of Bridge
River, and no mean stream. The bordering mountains
are not very lofty in absolute elevation from the sea
level, but they rise sharply from the low land, and a
hunter may have to climb 3,000 or 4,000 feet through
old burnt lands thick with brush or opener, but still
very steep forested slopes, before he gets to the rocks
of the goats or the snow swept slopes with short, curl-
ing grasses and patches of low moss amid the shingle,
beloved of the herds of the Highland Pan.
The restriction of the game ranges is very marked.
The great belts of the lower timber and slides are
practically untenanted. A few deer haunts known to
the Indians are the only exception to this rule. In
the upper regions goats can often be seen; usually, on
account of their conspicuous coats and exposed sta-
tions, at great distances. A sportsman of repute gave
an account some years ago of hunting goats with
horses and dogs, but as far as my observation goes
their habitat is ill adapted to equitation.
For good climbers, however, the capture of goats
is an easy thing, though the labor of the approach and
of the packing out of the spoils is almost always con-
siderable. But it seemed strange that among hundreds
of high, cool ridges, where the ozone of the summit
fills the air and the crisp, scanty herbage seems made
for sheep, only a few places should harbor the bighorn.
For instance, on the mountains south of Cadwala-
der creek, the bighorn is not found. On the north, but
one mountain side near the glacier that forms the
source of a little stream known as John Bull creek,
has the history of a single band of sheep now seldom
In going up this valley a little incident happened
which seemed to indicate that Major had a feeling for
locality that amounted almost to a special sense. In
the morning we passed a little snake torpid with cold.
Major thought him dead, but by stirring him with a
stick I elicited a faint wiggle, and we passed on. Some
hours afterward, when we had gone, several devious
miles, Major said to me, “Dat snake move.” He had
recognized the spot, to me quite undistinguishable from
the rest of the tangle, and noticed the absence of the
And here I heard of a fact, if fact it was, that had
never been brought to my attention. In the edge of
a lofty snow bank I discovered a labyrinth of tracks.
When we got near they proved to be bear tracks a
day or two old, and the long claw marks showed a
Now Major had killed bears, some of them in con-
tests that may be described as hand to mouth struggles,
and he maintained that it was a custom of these ani-
mals to tramp around in a snow bank after they had
made a kill and gorged themselves on meat, in order
to clean their paws.
As the grizzly is a fast vanishing creature, his habits
are getting to have the interest of an early myth, and
I give this on Major’s authority.
To be sure, the scarcity of bears in the autumn is
hardly an index to their true numbers, for they are then
quite undiscoverable in the brush.
When the snow melts in the spring, say from April
to June, according to the earliness or lateness of the
season, the bears come out on the open slides to dig
for roots to satisfy the hunger that they have earned
by a winter’s fasting. At these times they can be seen
a long way off with a field glass, and the hunters have
little trouble in coming up to leeward and securing
their victim. Aleck alone killed nine bears last spring,
but he might try for ninety autumns without bagging
a single one. And as for the grizzly, it seems as if the
hunters had taken the short census and marked the
favored resort of every survivor of the species.
After a short and rather barren experience near the
John Bull glacier, we moved down the Cadwalader
bottom and camped where a long, steep ravine car-
ried the waters of the higher snow banks to the creek.
It was an inviting spot. We saw a goat miles away
and marked him for the morrow, and Aleck started to
make a supply of his unrivaled bread. It was good,
and as his method differs a little from those I knew, I
will give the details: He first gathered a lot of earth
and gravel around his fire and got this stuff hot and
well mixed with embers. A large tin pan was greased,
the dough was put in, then water was poured around
it to prevent burning. A gold pan, bottom up, was
used as a cover. The whole was buried and covered
with the hot earth and ashes. In a few minutes steam
came puffing out of the pile, and in three-quarters of
an hour the bread was done. It was not boiled, either.
It was baked and well baked, and there was not a fea-
ture of a dumpling about it.
While Aleck was cooking I examined the neighbor-
hood, and found a small stump with one side faced
down [blazed] with the ax for a couple of feet, and on this
tablet there was an inscription in characters strange
to me, which turned out to be Chinook writing. For
it seems that a special syllabary has been invented
to fit the jargon; and, in a way, it does fit it. It looks
quite as the jargon sounds: ridiculous.
Both my men were Chinook scholars, though Aleck
was far the better, and where their translations differed
I took Aleck’s, but I confess that I reflected with a
certain pang on the time wasted over learning this
class of literature when the student might have made
great strides in knowledge by the same application to
the pursuit, say of Latin or even English.
The inscription rendered so as to bring out its true
intent, avoiding the bald vagueness of the jargon with
its “wa-wa” and its “sick tum-tum” ran as follows:
Sept. 13, 1902. Cadwalader Creek.
Well, we had a hard time here.
Here we got low spirited.
It was like that all the time.
There was no good cause for misfortune.
We did nothing for three days.
We lay in bed.
Afterwards we killed lots of game.
We ate lots of game.
We have a camp a little above — about fifty yards from
We are sick camping there.
This is one story if anybody passes on this trail.
We had been traveling in another quarter.
We had two horses.
We were short of water and we looked for a creek.
We reached it and drank, and a little bird came near and
sang, “Well ! well ! well !”
Then he sang “He ! he ! he ! !”
That little bird made us merry. Then we all laughed.
If anybody passes this trail, don’t get low spirited.
If a man gets low spirited he may get sick.
I say that for everybody. Joe.
As a check on the accuracy of the translation, I offer
an exact copy of the original which omits only the fiat
and unprofitable advice at the end. [see the article’s accompanying illustration]
As if we got a sick tum tum on purpose!
Now there is a truthful story of simple men.
I imagine this half dozen of Indian hunters, weary
exceedingly, out of meat and short of water. (I hard-
ly see how they could have missed water far in such
a network of streams, but the stump says “short of
water.”) They reach the creek, drink eagerly and go
to bed for three days with a “sick tum-tum.” This
might have been the result of over-drinking or under-
eating, or the use of roots that give a most unattrac-
tive kind of starch to the Indian diet, or, perhaps, they
were bed-ridden by reason of unseasonable rains or
mere dark depression. On this point the stump is
silent. Then comes the halcyon bird, harbinger of bless-
ings, and he laughs to them, “Well! Well! Well! He,
He, He!” and they all laugh together, and their rifles
bring down game, and they eat abundantly, and dry
their surplus meat (we saw their drying scaffolds), and,
as a guide to the wayfarer, they tell the story of the
stump and draw the moral:
And now we, too, began to gather fruits of the
chase; fool hens that were stoned to death, grouse,
rainbow trout, goats and deer.
The trout were caught in a small lake with bait.
One of them weighed about 2 pounds, others a quar-
ter as much. The salmon colored band on the flank
was bright and their red flesh was firm and good.
The deer, though proclaimed a tremendous fellow by
the Indians, did not rank with mule deer that I have
seen in Wyoming and Idaho. The spread of his horns
was only 19 or 20 inches, and they were neither heavy
nor long. A similarly disappointing smallness was
noticeable in the ram’s horns brought in by three par-
ties out of many that went hunting this autumn. Four-
teen inches around the base and 33 inches on the outer
sweep, were considered large dimensions. This is a
matter of the tape line and cannot be laid to a senti-
mental exaggeration of the glories of vanished
Either the big fellows have learned caution or the
game, harassed by continual pursuit, does not have
time to grow big.
Goats did not entirely satisfy our ambitions, and
we crossed the Bridge River and followed it down
looking for sheep grounds, unoccupied by other hunt-
ers, where we would not be spoiling someone else’s
To one acquainted only with the upper reaches of
the Bridge River, it would seem to have earned its
name from having two rope ferries and numerous fords.
But I am told that there is a fine government structure
at the river’s mouth, which replaced the Indian bridge
that spanned and gave a name to the stream wiien the
miners first poured in.
The Indian bridge was made on a plan, of which
some specimens still remain in other places. Trees
trimmed of their branches were supported and weighted
by stone piles on the opposite side of the river in such
a way that their small ends projected toward one an-
other and left only a moderate gap to span. A long
stick of timber was then lashed to the ends to fill the
gap and then the passer, with one foot on either tim-
ber, just skated or shuffled along the two parallel sticks
as best he might, on so uncertain a footway. [DDR note: there exist a couple of photos of such bridges in BC.]
Horses were always taken across by swimming or
fording in Indian times. And in one unaccustomed to
this kind of engineering I am told that great strength
of will was required to make the crossing, though an
old squaw, or kloochman, as they call her, would trudge
across with a heavy load on her back without a sign
of hesitation. The old timers speak of the plan of the
Indian bridge as the cantilever principle. At all events,
its construction showed mechanical ingenuity and en-
When we had made one or two fruitless halts for
hunting along the Bridge River, my holiday time came
to an end, and I turned from the diapason of the pines
and the song of falling waters to the rattle of ordinary
The chief of the Liilooets agreed to drive me out
to the railroad, and he did it worthily, though much
against his will, for it was raining hard, and he told
me that nothing but his pledged word would have made
him take that uncomfortable drive. The day I spent
with him was full of interest. He was a fine-natured,
broad-minded man. A linguist speaking Shuswap,
Thompson River, English, Lillooet, a little Spanish,
Chinook and I know not what other jargon. In spite
of his accomplishments, he said that there were too
many languages, one ought to suffice, and he con-
sented that English should be that one. His English,
indeed, was fine; not Major’s glorified baby talk, nor
Aleck’s terse mumble, but idiomatic, weighty, reason-
able, and I sat literally at his side, but metaphorically
at his feet, learning some little part of the secret of the
hills. H. G. DULOG.