At last it was done, a shapely thing, more beautiful in Ted’s eyes than any launch or yacht he had ever seen at home. His canoe had a carved stern and a sharp prow which came out of the water, and which had carved upon it a fine eagle. Kalakash had not asked Ted what his totem was, but supposing that the American eagle on the buttons of the boy’s coat was his emblem, had carved the rampant bird upon the canoe as the boy’s totem. Ted learned to paddle and to fish, never so well as Kalitan, of course, for he was born to it, but still he did very well, and enjoyed it hugely.
Happily waned the summer days, and then came the time of the berry dance, which Kalitan had spoken of so often that Ted was very anxious to see it.
The salmon-berry was fully ripe, a large and luscious berry, found in two colours, yellow and dark red. Besides these there were other small berries, maruskins, like the New England dewberries, huckleberries, and whortleberries.
“We have five kinds of berries on our island,” said Kalitan. “All good. The birds, flying from the mainland, first brought the seeds, and our berries grow larger than almost any place in Alaska.”
“They’re certainly good,” said Ted, his mouth full as he spoke. “These salmon-berries are a kind of a half-way between our blackberries and strawberries. I never saw anything prettier than the way the red and yellow berries grow so thick on the same bush—”
“There come the canoes!” interrupted Kalitan, and the two boys ran down to the water’s edge, eager to be the first to greet the visitors. Tyee Klake was giving a feast to the people of the neighbouring islands, and a dozen canoes glided over the water from different directions. The canoes were all gaily decorated, and they came swiftly onward to the weird chant of the paddlers, which the breeze wafted to the listeners’ ears in a monotonous melody.
Every one in the village had been astir since daybreak, preparing for the great event. Parallel lines had been strung from the chief’s house to the shore, and from these were hung gay blankets, pieces of bright calico, and festoons of leaves and flowers. As the canoes landed their occupants, the dancers thronged to welcome their guests. The great drum sounded its loud note, and the dancers, arrayed in wonderful blankets woven in all manner of fanciful designs and trimmed with long woollen fringes, swayed back and forth, up and down, to and fro, in a very graceful manner, keeping time to the music.
In the centre of the largest canoe stood the Tyee of a neighbouring island, a tall Indian, dressed in a superb blanket with fringe a foot long, fringed leggins and moccasins of walrus hide, and the chiefs hat to show his rank. It was a peculiar head-dress half a foot high, trimmed in down and feathers.
The Tyee, in perfect time to the music, swayed back and forth, never ceasing for a moment, shaking his head so that the down was wafted in a snowy cloud all over him.