A chief’s death and burial

The corpse was put in a canoe, and [with] about 90 other canoes in attendance…moved off slowly from the shore…

William Edward Banfield was likely Barkley Sound’s first settler. He arrived on Vancouver Island as a Royal Navy seamancarpenter in 1844 and, upon taking his discharge, he began trading with the tribes inhabiting

the Island’s west coast. In 1855 he was commissioned to take a census of the native population and he wrote a series of articles on his experiences and observations for the Victoria Gazette. Among them is this verbatim account of a chieftain’s funeral…

Whilst living amongst the Clayoquot Indians, I had frequent opportunity of observing even individual customs…one of which I will describe.

On a morning in June 1855, I was awakened by a low wailing in my next neighbour’s lodge, and by listening a few moments soon discovered that something of sad importance had transpired during the night. After a while my Indian boy entered my hut with a very sorrowful face; I immediately inquired the cause of the wailing. After a short pause, he began- "Chechob is going to die; he was taken sick in the night."

"But," I said, "he is an old man." "Ah," said he, "Chechob was a great warrior, and ishshuck Clayoquot clebucktstay urhuck (all the Clayoquot hearts are breaking)."

I said no more. About 10 o’clock the same morning a messenger came to invite me to attend at Chechob’s lodge, (mattie). I did not hesitate, but followed the Indian messenger. On entering the door a glance told me that the major part of the tribe were assembled. I was shown to a seat usually allotted to me, and after a few minutes had elapsed, a near relative of Chechob’s, Clascannel, arose, and in a loud but very grave tone, announced that his relative was breathing his last. He then recapitulated his deeds of daring; the battles he had fought; the wild animals he had subdued; and the number

of heads of enemies he had cut off…and that it was now his last wish to bequeath all his personal effects to his tribe. The distributing then commenced, beginning with Zackwzep, the principal chief, who had a slave man given him, and so on down to the lowest, in proportion to their rank – each getting a trifle. The next morning Chechob died, and an hour after his funeral was announced by special messengers quietly sent around to each lodge. A heavy wailing then commenced, from one end of the village to the other, by the women. The corpse was put in a canoe, and [with] about 90 other canoes in attendance…moved off slowly from the shore, the nearest female relatives wailing frantically outside of the deceased’s lodge. The canoes proceeded to a small island, a Cheemety’s burial ground, and with much ceremony, triced the coffin to the tip of a tall pine tree, and a savage (sic) who had previously ascended by the branches, firmly tied it in that position. Clascannel then pronounced a funeral oration; suggesting that his death must be avenged on a tributary tribe named the Ishquats. A general affirmative Eho! told that a savage (sic) scene of butchery was decided on.

Four days afterwards a small expedition was secretly sent off, and in less than 24 hours, two heads were brought to Opetesep. They were not taken by force, but demanded by the Clayoquots from the Ishquats, to appease Chechob’s friend – this only occurs in case of the death of chief of great note, or that of their children. I have myself more than once trembled at the death of a chief’s child.

The savages (sic) imagine that occasionally the spirit of the dead visits his lodge, and it is quite usual to put a meal by the embers of a dying fire, on a family retiring to rest, to appease the hunger of the dead. A dog will probably eat it before morning, but the survivors’ feelings are gratified by observing the ceremony. -W.E.B.

Just Posted

Old-growth logging protesters block a road on Monday, June 14. This is not the blockade at Honeymoon Bay referred to in the story. (Facebook photo)
Old-growth logging protesters block RCMP access on road near Honeymoon Bay

Police were on their way to enforcement in Fairy Creek area when they were stopped

Cowichan Citizen and Lake Cowichan Gazette announce new publisher

David van Deventer has been with Black Press Media since 2014

Island Health is bringing a vaccination clinic to Lake Cowichan starting June 23. (Submitted)
COVID vaccine clinic coming to Lake Cowichan as area numbers lag

Clinic will operate at arena starting June 23

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New Indigenous treatment centre to be built near Duncan

Centre will help survivors of residential schools

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Two ambulances and a medevac helicopter are on scene at Taylor River Flats rest area on Highway 4 due to a serious motor vehicle incident. (PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE BROWN)
Highway 4 reopens between Port Alberni and Tofino

Multi-vehicle accident temporarily closed highway in both directions

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read