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Chief Nin-Ging-Wash

Nin-Ging-Wash, the ranking chief of Skidegate, is about 65 years old, thick-set, broad-faced, with a grave expression, and quiet reserved manner. He was introduced to me as the richest Indian on the island, as having the best houses, finest canoes and youngest wife. A few years ago he gave away his second wife--growing old--and sued for the daughter of Seotsgi, the leading chieftain of the West Coast. Presently she made her appearance, a sprightly young woman about 26, and we all started in their canoe for their home at Skidegate, where I had been invited. En route, while passing a pipe from the chief to his wife, my oar caught in the water, giving the canoe a sudden lurch which would have been quite alarming to most feminine nerves, but not to the Princess for she laughed so heartily over the mishap, that I saw a smile spread over the big face of the old chief. An hour brought us to the broad sandy beach of Skidegate, opposite the chiefs present residence, a plain comfortable frame house in the centre of the village. Two large splendid canoes were carefully housed in front. A small orchard in which a few half-grown apples were seen, next engaged the attention. The chief's wife carried the keys to the house and to the piles of trunks and boxes it contained. Their furniture embraced good modern beds, tables, dressing cases, mirrors, chairs, stove, lamps and other articles too numerous to mention. They opened trunk after trunk and box after box and showed me a very interesting collection of Indian wear; four masquerade head dresses reaching down to the waist covered with ermine skins valued at $30 each; several complete dancing suits including a beautiful one made by the princess; Indian blankets, woven by hand from the wool of the mountain sheep, masks, rattles, etc., and also a good supply of common blankets and other stores which they exhibited with evident pride.

We next ransacked their old house, a large one, still in good repair, which stood a few rods distant. Fourteen copper towes of various sizes, formerly valued at from fifty to five hundred dollars each, leaned against the broad front. The carved pole is so tall that, when erected, Nin-Ging-Wash received his present name, which signifies "the long stick." The house was filled with articles of Indian manufacture, curiously carved cooking and eating utensils, fishing implements, boxes, mats, etc. The chiefs property, real and personal, is worth several thousand dollars. It is reported that he took his young wife to Victoria, and refurnished his establishment from her earnings. She apparently has her own way in everything now, the old chief being quite satisfied to get his rations of muckamuck and tobacco without troubling himself as to how it is provided.

Official Report of the Exploration of the Queen Charlotte Islands for the Government Of British Columbia, 1884

 

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