hunting, as it were. And we didn't find anything; not one thing. When more of
the unseasonable rain blew in from the exaggerated sky, we sat, fly rods in
hand, like drowned rats. I began to take an interest in the details of the
Some time later,
when it had cleared a little, we headed down the lake to an Indian village that
is inhabited by a branch of the Carrier tribe—so named because the widows of
the tribe once carried the charred bones of their husbands around on their
backs. The village is prettily sited on a high series of hills and looks out on
the lake and river where the two are joined. There are a couple of dozen
buildings along a wooden walk and a small Hudson's Bay store.
When we passed
the upper part of the town, an Indian girl in an aniline-blue miniskirt was
pulling sockeye salmon from a net. Nearby, a man worked on his outboard; ravens
and gulls screamed and circled overhead, waiting for a chance at the offal from
the gutted salmon. There were 100,000 or more sockeyes in the river now. Many
of them came up out of the wilderness with bear claw marks on them.
We docked at the
lower end of the village, hurried up the hill and got under the eaves of the
wooden school-house as the rain started in hard. There was a notice in the
TO WHOM IT MAY
absence of the schoolteacher, this school building must be closed. It therefore
cannot be used for dances, bingo games or any other social gatherings. Anyone
asking permission to use the school will be refused.
R. M. McIntyre
Burns Lake Indian Agency
In two or three
places on the walls of this wilderness school were dabbed the letters LSD,
which did not stand for League of Spiritual Discovery. The letters were
doubtlessly put there by someone who spoke English as a second language. The
times they are a-changing.
When the weather
relented a little, we hiked up the hill to the old cemetery, mostly overgrown.
The epitaphs intrigued us: "To the sacred memory of our brother killed by a
gunshot wound." I found two old headmen's graves. "Chief William"
and "Chief Agusa." The titles were purely titular; the Carriers gave
their chiefs little power. The cultural overlay seemed rather bald on the last
stone I looked at. Beneath a conventional crucifix it read, "In memory of
Ah Whagus. Died 1906. Age 86."
We walked around
the village. The shy people smiled at the ground or stayed inside when we
passed. On the boardwalk someone had written, "Big Fat Sally Do Your
Stuff." Beyond the LSD graffiti and the noise of a transistor radio playing
Dolly Parton as she sang "I'm a lady mule skinner from down ol' Tennessee
way," black-shawled Indian women were taking the salmon down the river to a
lower island and smoking them against a winter that was probably more imminent
to them than to us. The older people were locked in some intense dejection, but
the children played with familiar, maniacal energy in the deep wet grass with
their salmon-fattened dogs.