If British Columbia’s tourist promoters have a patron saint, he must surely be Captain John Irving, whose CPR coaster Islander carried visitors up the B. C. inlets around the turn of the century.
Captain John, as he was known, prided himself on his story-telling ability, and his best yarn was the one he always told when Islander docked at Port Simpson.
There, several years earlier, a missionary from Ontario named Tom Crosby had persuaded the Indians to become Christians and give up their paint, feathers and heathen charms. The most disturbing sacrifice they made as converts was to do away with the totem poles that had guarded the doors of their huts against evil spirits. Many of the Indians erected substitutes — tombstones, each carved with the owner's name, with blank spaces for the date of death and an epitaph.
One of the converts had been christened Abraham Lincoln. When he died, the inscriptions were completed, and the huge red marble tombstone was moved to a prominent spot on the main street, near the beach.
But Captain John had his own version of the story, and he always told it before letting his American passengers ashore.
“Most of the older natives you'll
see here were once cannibals,” he'd §| say. “But now they're good Canadians, and they love the wonderful United States. Every Indian in this || village knows the story of your great president, Abraham Lincoln. || I’m telling you this so you won't be too surprised at what you'll see || here.” ii
Then he would lead the excited $| Americans down the gangplank and, from a safe distance, show them Abraham Lincoln's name on the tombstone. j|:
To the curious who edged closer, trying to read the rest of the inscription, Captain John would say p
sharply: “Don't go too near the |
monument. The ground in that cni| closure is almost sacred to the natives, and all they ask is that you §i; stand at a respectful distance.”
There is no record that any American tourist ever got close enough to see that the smaller inj;»
CHIEF OF KITSCHEESE TRIBE DIED AT PORT SIMPSON JULY 21, 1890
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