FOLKS WHO TALK LIKE BIRDS.

Discovery of a nearly Extinct Race Near the Boundary Between Alaska and British Columbia.
Only a Dozen of Them Survive.
Their Bird-like Speech.

[Extracted from Courier-Journal, 29 March 1896, Page 25.
Note: The more correct rendering of the tribe's name is Ts'ets'āút or Tsetsaut. The tribe is now extinct.]


(Correspondence of the Courier-Journal.)
Washington. March 27.

People who talk like birds! How strange the Idea: Folks who whistle and chirrup in their speech, with notes varying from those of the wren to the harsh guttural of the cockatoo! A tribe of such people has been discovered by Dr. Franz Boaz. He was the first white man to come across these chirruping savages, near the boundary between Alaska and British Columbia, though many travelers have heard them spoken of by other Indians. Once a tribe of some importance, only about twelve individuals now survive, and they are perpetual fugitives hunted like wild beasts. In fact, and possessing no permanent home. For ever so long it has been a practice among the coast Indians of Alaska when a chief died to go and kill a few of the Tsutsowt, as the people who talk like birds are called, the objects being that the chief might have servants to wait on him while on his way to the aboriginal Paradise. In the course of time the pursuit of this good old custom greatly reduced the number of the Tsutsowt, and the latter during the last fifty years, being too few to fight, have been kept continually on the jump. The last of them would have been killed some time ago but for the fact that they have retreated to the highest mountains, where they live chiefly by hunting marmots. These little animals dwell among the rocks, and may often be seen sitting erect at the mouths of their holes, whistling shrilly. The Tsutsowt capture them by means of "deadfall" traps set at the hole-mouth. Few savages in the world have such primitive habits of living as the Tsutsowt. Villages they have none, and their huts, erected for merely temporary purposes, are composed of a few boughs put together for a shelter. But, of course, the climate of the lofty mountain tops in Alaska is extremely severe. Dr. Boas had much trouble in finding these people, owing to their modes of life. At length he came upon a Tsutsowt boy, and, obtaining his confidence, was introduced to the other members of the tribe. The bird-like language of which he had heard so much appeared to owe its peculiarity to an extraordinary richness in sibilant and guttural sounds. When spoken it had actually a remarkable likeness to the chirruping of birds. Though Dr. Boas is accustomed to the acquisition of strange languages, this one proved the most difficult that he had ever tried to learn. Furthermore, the Tsutsowt could not imagine why he should wish to make a dictionary of their speech. When he asked one man what was his term for a bear's den the reply was: "It is useless to tell you. No white man could ever find one." When he asked the man to translate the words: "I shoot the bird while it is flying." He answered: "I am not such a fool. I wait till it sits down."

The Tsutsowt tribe formerly consisted of two clans, and among them the common aboriginal law against marriage within the clan was rigidly enforced. That is to say, no maiden could take a husband from her own clan, nor vice versa. But now one of the clans has been wholly wiped out, not a single member surviving, and on that account the men have taken wives within the past few years from the Nass River Indians Northern British Columbia. Once a year they come down from the mountains and spend a fortnight with the Nass River people. In order to see their wives' folks. It is an odd fact that the Tsutsowt are hunters exclusively, whereas all other tribes in their region are fishermen.

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Human BirdsA Singular Race

[Extracted from Mount Ida Chronicle, Volume 30, Issue 9165, 19 May 1899, Page 3.]


People who talk like birds. who whistle and chirrup in their speech, with notes varying from those of the wren to the harsh guttural of the cockatoo—a tribe of such people has actually been discovered by Dr. Franz Boaz. He was the first white man to locate these chirruping savages, which he did near the boundary between Alaska and British Columbia, though many travellers have heard them spoken of by other Indians. Once a tribe of some importance, only about twelve individuals now survive, and they are perpetual fugitives—hunted like wild beasts, in fact, and possessing no permanent home. It has long been a practice among the coast Indians of Alaska, when a chief died, to go and kill a few of the Tsutsowt—as the people who talk like birds are called—the object being that the chief might have servants to wait on him while on his way to the aboriginal Paradise. In the course of time the pursuit of this old custom greatly reduced the number of the Tsutsowt, and the latter during the last fifty years, being too few to fight have been kept continually on the run. The last of them would have been killed some time ago but for the fact that they have retreated to the highest mountains, where they live chiefly by hunting. Few savages in the world have such primitive habits of living as the Tsutsowt. Villages they have none, and their huts, erected for temporary purposes, are composed of a few boughs put together for a shelter. Yet the climate of the lofty mountain tops in Alaska is extremely severe. Dr. Boaz had much trouble in finding these people owing to their mode of life. At length he came upon a Tsutsowt boy, and, curtaining his confidence, was introduced to other members of the tribe. The bird-like language of which he had heard so much appeared to owe its peculiarity to an extraordinary richness in sibilant and guttural sounds. When spoken, it had actually a remarkable likeness to the chirruping of birds. The Tsutsowt tribe formerly consisted of two clans, and among them the common aboriginal law against marriage within the clan was rigidly enforced. That is to say, no maiden could take a husband from her own clan, or vice versa. But now one of the clans has been wholly wiped out, not a single member surviving, and on this account the men have taken wives within the last few years from the Nass River Indians of Northern British Columbia. Once a year they come down from the mountains and spend a fortnight with the Nass River people, in order to see their wives' folks. It is an odd fact that the Tsutsowt are hunters exclusively, whereas all other tribes in the region are fishermen.

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PECULIAR INDIANS.

ALASKA TRIBE THAT CAN TALK LIKE BIRDS.

[Extracted from The Haskell Free Press, Saturday, June 6, 1896.]

A TRIBE of people who talk like birds has been discovered by Dr. Franz Boaz, relates the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. He was the first white man to come across these chirruping savages, near the boundary between Alaska and British Columbia, though many trailers have heard them spoken of by other Indians. Once a tribe of some importance, only about 12 individual now survive, and they are perpetual fugitiveshunted like wild beasts, in fact, and possessing no permanent homes.

For ever so long it has been a practice among the coast Indians of Alaska, when a chief died, to go and kill a few of the Tsutsowtas the people who talk like birds are calledthe object being that the chief might have servants to wait on him while on his way to the aboriginal paradise. In the course of time, the pursuit of this good old custom greatly reduced the number of the Tsutsowt, and the latter, during the last 50 years, being too few to fight, have been kept continually on the jump.

The last of them would have been killed some time ago but for the fact that they have retreated to the highest mountains, where they live chiefly by hunting marmots. These little animals dwell among the rocks, and may often be seen sitting erect at the mouths of their holes, whistling shrilly. The Tsutsowt capture them by means of "deadfall" traps set at the hole-mouth.

Few savages in the world have such primitive habits of living as the Tsutsowt. Villages they have none, and their huts, erected for merely temporary purposes, are composed of a few boughs put together for a shelter. Yet, of course, the climate of the lofty mountain tops in Alaska is extremely severe.

Dr. Boaz had much trouble in finding these people, owing to their mode of life. At length he came upon a Tsutsowt boy and, obtaining his confidence, was introduced a other members of the tribe. The birdlike language of which he had heard so much appeared to owe its peculiarity to an extraordinary richness in sibilant and guttural sounds. When spoken it had actually a remarkable likeness to the chirruping of birds.

The Tsutsowt tribe formerly consisted of two clans, and among them the common aboriginal law against marriage within the clan was rigidly enforced. That is to say, no maiden could take a husband from her own clan, nor vice versa.

But now one of the clans has been wholly wiped out, not a single member surviving, and on this account the men have taken wives within the last few years from the Nasa river Indians of northern British Columbia. Once a year they come down from the mountains and spend a fortnight with the Nass river people, in order to see their wives' folks. It is an sad fact that the Tsutsowt are hunters exclusively, whereas all other tribes in their region are fishermen.

Dr. Boaz has devoted most of his life to the study of the savages of the northwest coast, and he knows more about them than any other living man. That is almost the only region in the world, he says, where the practice of deforming the human head survives. The deformation is accomplished during infancy, by several different methods. Along the Columbia river the fashion is to flatten the head by tying a hard cushion upon the forehead and another on the occiput, the result being an extraordinary broadening of the skull. In the southern part of Vancouver's Island the cushion applied to the forehead is so arranged that the skull eventually assumes a triangular shape, with a huge prominence on each side of the forehead and a depression in the middle. Further to the northward one cushion is used on the front of the head, one on each side, and one on the back, making the head narrow, with a peak at the top.

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Human Birds of Alaska
Strange Race Who Chatter and ChirrupAn Almost Extinct Tribe

[Extracted from Reading Eagle, May 3, 1896, p. 10.]


People who talk like birds, who whistle and chirrup in their speech, with notes varying from those of the wren to the harah guttural of the cockatooa tribe of such people has actually
been discovered by Dr. Franz Boaz.

He was the first white man to locate these chirruping savages, which he did near the boundary between Alaska and British Columbia, though many travellers have heard them spoken of by other Indians. Once a tribe of some importance, only about 12 individuals now survive, and they are perpetual fugitiveshunted like wild beats, in fact, and possessing no permanent.

It has long been the practice among the coast Indians of Alaska, when a chief decided, to go and kill a few of the Tsutsowtas the people who talk like birds are calledthe object being that the chief might have servants to wait on him while on his way to the aboriginal Paradise. In the course of time the pursuit of this good old custom greatly reduced the number of the Tsutsowt, and the latter during the last 50 years, being too few to fight, have been kept continually on the jump. The last of them would have been killed some time ago, but for the fact that they have retreated to the highest mountains, where they live chiefly by hunting marmots. These little animals dwell among the rocks, and may often be seen sitting erect at the mouths of their holes, whistling shrilly. The Tsutsowt capture them by means of "deadfall" traps set at the mouth of the hole.

Few savages in the world have such primitive habits of living as the Tsutsowt. Villages they have none, and their huts, erected for temporary purposes, are composed of a few boughs put together for a shelter. Yet the climate of the lofty mountain tops in Alaska is extremely severe.

Dr. Boaz had much trouble in finding these people owing to their mode of life. At length he came upon a Tsutsowt boy, and obtaining his confidence, was introduced to other members of the tribe. The bird-like language of which he had heard so much appeared to owe its peculiarity to an extraordinary richness in sibilant and guttural sounds. When spoken it had actually a remarkable likeness to the chirruping of birds.

Though Dr. Boaz is accustomed to the acquisition of strange languages, this one proved to be the most difficult that he had ever tried to learn. Furthermore, the Tsutsowt could not imagine why he should wish to make a dictionary of their speech. When Dr. Boaz asked one man what was his term for a bear's den the reply was: "It is useless to tell you. No white man could ever find one." When he asked the man to translate the words: "I shoot the bird while it is flying." He answered: "I am not such a fool. I wait till it sits down."

The Tsutsowt tribe formerly consisted of two clans, and among them the common aboriginal law against marriage within the clan was rigidly enforced. That is to say, no maiden could take a husband from her own clan, nor vice versa. But now one of the clans has been wholly wiped out, not a single member surviving, and on that account the men have taken wives within the past few years from the Nass River Indians Northern British Columbia. Once a year they come down from the mountains and spend a fortnight with the Nass River people. In order to see their wives' folks. It is an odd fact that the Tsutsowt are hunters exclusively, whereas all other tribes in their region are fishermen.