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A Gambling Scene

The Indians are among the most desperate of gamblers.

They not infrequently play themselves out of everything they possess, leaving the game nearly, or quite, naked.

Chief Edensaw told me of an Indian who, having lost his money, canoe, blankets, and all his clothing, gambling at the sea otter hunters' camp on the west coast, then plunged naked into the forest, and succeeded in reaching a village on Virago Sound, the only one, so far as known, who ever crossed that portion of the island. A game of this character was in progress at Gold Harbor. There were no police to interfere or missionaries to discourage, and the players sat down in two rows, facing each other, on the beach, with boards in front. No cards or gambling sticks were used, only the tooth of a whale. This was taken by the challenging party and passed rapidly from one hand to the other, his movements being accompanied by loud singing, the beating of sticks on the boards, violent gesticulations and contortions, in which all joined, the betting being simply in which hand the tooth remained at the close of the manipulations. I reached this interesting scene just as an Indian was taking off his shoes to wager on the game, which he soon threw on to a pile of clothing in the centre of the group, containing coats, vests, pantaloons, suspenders, shirts, etc. A big, one-eyed fellow was fast stripping the party when I left, and if his luck continued, would soon have reduced the Gold Harbor natives to their original state.

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


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