CARMICHAEL, Alfred




Author Tags: First Nations

While a resident of the Port Alberni area in the late 1800s, Alfred Carmichael attended potlatches and witnessed various dances of the Seshahts, including what he called the Lokwana dance, or wolf ritual. "Generally we were welcome at the festivals," he recalled, "provided we did not laugh or show sign of any feeling save that of grave interest." He gathered 16 Nuu-chah-nulth stories, chiefly from an informant named Mr. Bill (or Ka-coop-et), for a slim collection called Indian Legends of Vancouver Island (Toronto: The Musson Book Company, 1922) that was published when Carmichael had moved to Victoria. "The unsophisticated aboriginal of British Columbia is almost a memory of the past," Carmichael begins. His condescension continues when he notes, "In a few instances, due to a lack of refinement of thought in the original stories, I have taken some license in their transcription." Nonetheless this is an important early collection that credits sources. For a story entitled The Finding of the Tsomass, Carmichael combines the version recalled by Gilbert Sproat around 1862, with a version that Alberni Indian Agent Charles A. Cox received from an Aboriginal named Ka-kay-un in 1921, along with his own version that he received from Ka-coop-et. Another informant was the West Coast missionary Reverend Melvin Swartout who drowned crossing between Barkley Sound and Ucluelet during a storm. (Swartout and Carmichael once visited Village Island together and both wrote accounts; oddly Swartout adopted the pseudonym Charles Haicks for his version.)

Carmichael's collection benefits from relatively precise drawings by J. Semeyn of Victoria.

BOOKS:

Carmichael, Alfred. Indian Legends of Vancouver Island (Toronto: The Musson Book Company, 1922). Illustrated by J. Semeyn.

ALSO:

To Village Island and Back (Victoria: BC Provincial Archives. MS- 2305 n.d.

[BCBW 2004] "First Nations" "Folklore"