« PreviousContinue »
There lies in one of these ravines Lake into the region of the Selish, and under Angus McDonald, of particular interest the influence of the primeval land and its not only on account of its wild beauty, but people he married an Indian woman, because it perpetuates the memory of one raised a family of robust sons, one of of the strangest and most romantic figures whom, Duncan McDonald, is famous
of the old West. Angus McDonald was a among the Indians today, and himself full-blood Highland Scotchman who came adopted the language, garb and manners to this country in the employ of the Hud- of the tribe. He was a lover of extreme son Bay Company. His work took him
His work took him liberty in living and in thought; therefore
Lake Angus McDonald, Flathead Reservation the unrestrained freedom of existence ald, and if it be that the shade of man with these simple folk appealed to him, returns to visit his mortal abode, surely and their picturesque paganism likewise sometimes in the dark security of night found a responsive chord in his fancy. He a wild, white horse with noiseless tread was, indeed, something of a pagan him- may pass like a fleeting moonlight shape self. He believed in the transmigration and vanish into mist. of the soul, and he was often heard to say that when death closed his mortal St. Mary's Lake, or according to the career, he desired to become a wild, white Indians the "Waters of the Forgiven," is horse with free range
boundless likewise in the fastnesses of the range of plains. Considering the character of the Sin-yal-min. It is even more isolated man, his lionine strength and defiantly than Lake Angus McDonald, and about primitive life, it seems peculiarly fit that it clings a nebulous old tradition of mura lake, remote from the beaten path of der and expatiation which accounts for civilization, presided over by a glacier- the name. The Indians believe that the bearing peak, should do honor to his lake is enchanted, and that deep, down memory, rather than the
conventional below its placid surface water-sirens monument of stone. There, within that dwell, ever watchful for human prey. If, deep-worn cleft in the mountain's heart, perchance, a brave venture out in his hemmed in by luxuriantly green banks, canoe upon those treacherous depths, the the lake lies cold and passionless and clear sirens rise with seductive song and deadly -and there is about it a brooding silence caress, drawing him downward in their as of death, broken only by the desolate strangling embrace. Or if
Indian cry of the loon or the evasive sighing of camp alone upon those shores, the sirens the wind among the pines. On the crags glide forth decked with narcotic, poisonand needle-sharp pinnacles above, moun- sweet water flowers, and leaning over his tain goats and big horn sheep pick their prostrate body, like vampires, drink in his precarious way, and hidden safe from breath until he dies. However simple human sight, the mountain lion crouches these tales may be, there is about the lake in his lair. Such is Lake Angus McDon- an atmosphere of depressing melancholy
which even the most phlegmatic alien pine crest touching pine crest, peak poised must feel, and the charm is none the less against peak. potent because it falls mysteriously as Many islands rise from the lake, the the shadow of an unseen wing, is as form- largest of them, Wild Horse Island, is less as a wraith, as inexplicable as the timbered, mountainous and so big as to phenomena of life and death.
appear like an arm of the mainland. This
island was once the home of a band of The great Flathead Lake flowing for wild horses, hence the name, but in times over forty miles among pleasant hills, ser- more remote, past the memory of the aged pentining around yellow-green peninsulars and even before the traditions of the tribe and timbered promontories, lies to the took shape, it was inhabited by an ancient north of the valley of Sin-yal-min. The race. Upon the lichen-grown cliffs rissharply-spiked mountain range extends ing sheer and smooth in tablets of stone, across the water like the horned spine of crude picture-writings and cabalistic a monster, who slumbers through the signs which baffle the archaeologist, are aeons, oblivious to the passing centuries still to be seen. These writings occur also and the petty doings of man. On a calm on the mainland. There have been many summer day, when the sun's rays are scholastic speculations concerning these softened by gossamer veils of haze, the hieroglyphics, and endless discussions water, the mountain peaks and sky are over their meaning and origin, but the Infaintly traced in shades of grey and faded dians, who are after all the best judges, rose as in mother-of-pearl. And on such avow complete ignorance of the signs, days as this, at rare intervals, a strange saying that they are the riddle of a vanphenomenon occurs—the reflection of a ished race so ancient that not a myth nor reflection. Looking over the rail of a chronicle handed down through the chain steamer, within the semi-circular curve of of generations, sheds the light of knowthe swell at its stern, one may see first ledge upon their mystery. They had the reflection of the shore line, the moun- their day before the Selish came, and now, tains and trees appearing upside down; like those shadowy specters whose record then a second shore line perfectly wrought is merely an untranslatable sign, the Selin the mirroring waters right side up, ish, in turn, are passing while vineyard
and orchard and field of grain obliterate look, and it was therefore ordained that their footsteps and mark the ruse of the the pumpkin should flourish where the conquering race.
Bitter Root had bloomed and the plough
share should supplant the arrow. We have read much of late years con- Before the last traces of the customs of cerning the Hopi, their gentleness and the Selish vanish utterly under the blight peaceable pursuits, but we have heard of artificial conditions, it is well to stop little or nothing of the Selish, living in and look back at their history, first in their valley home, along the Jocko river the light of recorded fact and then in the or among the sheltering foothills beneath diaphanous glow of their quaint the heights of Sin-yal-min. Happily, myths and hero-tales. the home of the Hopi is remote, their When Lewis and Clark penetrated the pueblos lie upon citadels of stone, and unknown in their adventurous journey, the way to them is paved with the burn- they found a particularly gentle and hosing sands of the desert. They possess pitable people who called themselves the nothing that greed can covet, so the Hopi Selish, living in the Bitter Root Valley. are safe enough for a time, at least, until A few of these Indians had seen the Sieur the pressure of civilization sends forth a de la Verendrye and his cavaliers on their tidal wave so sweeping that even the des- futile search for a highway to the Pacific erts shall not be spared. Paradoxical as it sea, but of the entire tribe there was but sounds, the Selish, in being more fortu- a handful of aged hunters who had looked nate, have been proportionately more un- upon the face of a white man. They fortunate. Dwelling in a fertile valley welcomed the strangers, offered them the lush with grain and berry, watered with hospitality of their lodges and manifested streams and lakes, their holdings were to:) a spirit of friendliness which sent the exvaluable an asset for commerce to over- plorers rejoicing on their way. The white
men described them as simple, straight- Bitter Root valley, hunting buffalo and forward people, the women distinguished warring over that noble game with their for their virtue and the men for their enemies, the Blackfeet, without disturbbravery in the battle and the chase. They ance from the outer world, until a party were cleanly in their habits and honorable of Iroquois came amongst them, led by one in their dealings with each other. If a Ignace La Mousse, bringing tidings of man lost his bow or other valuable, the mysterious faith. That was the beginone who found it delivered it to the chief, ning of an impulse to seek the “Medicine”
” the Great Father, and he caused it to be of the white man, and expedition afhung in a place where it might be seen by ter expedition-four in all-were all. Then when the owner came seeking sacrificed to the cause before a mishis goods, the Chief restored it to him. sionary from St. Louis came to teach the They were also charitable. If man Indians the word of God. However sinwere hungry, no one said him nay, and cere of purpose these good fathers werehe was welcome even at the board of the and surely their black-robed figures loom head men, to share the best of their fare. heroically against the background of the In appearance they were of the shade of past—they were the first feeble impulse of the "palest new copper after being freshly that civilization which was to bring derubbed." They were well formed, supple struction to the natives of the wilderness. ”
. and tall, but Lewis and Clark confusing In the footsteps of the fathers followed them with certain of the tribes living the gold-seekers and the settlers, the armed about the mouth of the Columbia River, troops and Governmental grasp, and the called them the Flatheads, though they Indians, struggling with demoniac fury had never practiced the barbarous custom were beaten back and driven from their of flattening the heads of their offspring. In this sweeping survey it must be However, in the early journals they were remembered that the Selish took no part given the misnomer, and it has clung to in the reign of bloodshed and death. them, libelous as it is, through the cen- Peaceably they toiled in their garden plots turies.
after the buffalo were no more, or hunted The Selish remained in their native