It was bitterly cold. Kalitan Tenas felt it more than he had in the long winter, for then it was still and calm as night, and now the wind was blowing straight in from the sea, and the river was frozen tight. A month before, the ice had begun to break and he had thought the cold was over, and that the all too short Alaskan summer was at hand. Now it was the first of May, and just as he had begun to think of summer pleasures, lo! a storm had come which seemed to freeze the very marrow of his bones. However, our little Alaskan cousin was used to cold and trained to it, and would not dream of fussing over a little snow-storm.
Kalitan started out to fish for his dinner, and though the snow came down heavily and he had to break through the ice to make a fishing-hole, and soon the ice was a wind-swept plain where even his own tracks were covered with a white pall, he fished steadily on. He never dreamed of stopping until he had fish enough for dinner, for, like most of his tribe, he was persevering and industrious.
Kalitan was a Thlinkit, though, if you asked him, he would say he was “Klinkit.” This is a tribe which has puzzled wise people for a long time, for the Thlinkits are not Esquimos, not Indians, not coloured people, nor whites. They are the tribes living in Southeastern Alaska and along the coast. Many think that a long, long time ago, they came from Japan or some far Eastern country, for they look something like the Japanese, and their language has many words similar to Japanese in it.
Perhaps, long years ago, some shipwrecked Japanese were cast upon the coast of Alaska, and, finding their boats destroyed and the land good to live in, settled there, and thus began the Thlinkit tribes.
The Chilcats, Haidahs, and Tsimsheans are all Thlinkits, and are by far the best of the brown people of the Northland. They are honest, simple, and kind, and more intelligent than the Indians living farther north, in the colder regions. The Thlinkit coast is washed by the warm current from the Japan Sea, and it is not much colder than Chicago or Boston, though the winter is a little longer.
Kalitan fished diligently but caught little. He was warmly clad in sealskin; around his neck was a white bearskin ruff, as warm as toast, and very pretty, too, as soft and fluffy as a lady’s boa. On his feet were moccasins of walrus hide. He had been perhaps an hour watching the hole in the ice, and knelt there so still that he looked almost as though he were frozen. Indeed, that was what those thought who saw him there, for suddenly a dog-sledge came round the corner of the hill and a loud halloo greeted his ears.
“Boston men,” he said to himself as he watched them, “lost the trail.”
They had indeed lost the trail, and Ted Strong had begun to think they would never find it again.
Chetwoof, their Indian guide, had not talked very much about it, but lapsed into his favourite “No understan’,” a remark he always made when he did not want to answer what was said to him.