Doug Cranmer Huxwhukw mask
Timeline of the Potlatch Conflict
The Museum Compromise
U'Mista Cultural Society (UCS)-Alert Bay
Timeline of the Potlatch Conflict
Billy Assu and Family (BCPA)
"Many of the Kwagiulth people were arrested for taking part in a big potlatch given by Dan Cranmer on Village Island in 1921," remembers Chief Billy Assu (103). Cranmer recalls the extravagance:
"The second day, a xwe'xwe dance with shells was given to me by the chief of Cape Mudge. I gave him a gas boat and $50 cash. Altogether that was worth $500. I paid him back double. He also gave some names. The same day, I gave Hudson's Bay blankets. I started giving out the property. First the canoes. Two pool tables were given to two chiefs. It hurt them. [because they'd have to pay it back later] They said it was the same as breaking a copper. The pool tables were worth $350 apiece. Then bracelets, gas lights, violins, guitars were given to the more important people. Then 24 canoes, some of them big ones, and four gas boats.
I gave a whole pile to my own people. Return for favours. Dresses to the women, bracelets and shawls. Sweaters and shirts to the young people. To all those who had helped. Boats brought the stuff over from Alert Bay to Village Island by night. (This was to evade the agent.) This included 300 oak trunks, the pool tables and the sewing machines.
Then I gave button blankets, shawls and common blankets. There were 400 of the real old Hudson's Bay blankets. I gave these away with the xwe'xwe dances. I also gave lots of small change with the Hudson's Bay blankets. I threw it away for the kids to get. There were also basins, maybe a thousand of them, glasses, washtubs, teapots and cups given to the women in order of their positions.
The third day I don't remember what happened.
The fourth day I gave furniture: boxes, trunks, sewing machines, gramophones, bedsteads and bureaus.
The fifth day I gave away cash.
The sixth day I gave away about 1000 sacks of flour worth $3 a sack. I also gave sugar.
Everyone admits that it was the biggest yet. I am proud to say our people (Nimpkish) are ahead, although we are the third [ranked among the Kwakwaka'wakw.] … So I am the biggest man in those days. All the chiefs now say in gathering, 'you cannot expect that we can ever get up to you. You are a great mountain.' " (Spindler 97)
Halliday made forty-five arrests for charges such as dancing, distributing gifts, and making speeches. During the trial, the Indians were offered an unusual compromise - suspended sentences if their communities surrendered their potlatching regalia. Many families complied, and those who didn't went to prison.
The U'Mista Cultural Society has many oral histories of those who recall the pain and lack of respect.
James King recalls, "…my uncle took me to the Parish Hall, where the Chiefs were gathered. Odan picked up a rattle and spoke, 'We have come to say goodbye to our life'; then he began to sing his sacred song. All of the Chiefs, standing in a circle around their regalia were weeping, as if someone had died."
Sam Scow remembers, "Pangwidi was from New Vancouver and gave up his copper, so that his people would not go to jail, but they were sent anyway - George and Harry Glendale, Bob Harris. I sent my wife to find out why, Halliday admitted the copper went for nothing, but it was not sent back."
Tommy Hunt says, "Gwusdidzas (Charlie Hunt) refused to give anything up to Halliday. He took his copper and nailed it to the underside of his kitchen table, so that it would not be taken away. When Halliday and Angerman went to Fort Rupert to collect the masks, they took several Hamat'sa masks and placed them on top of the cabin of Halliday's boat, in plain sight. They were not hidden, as they should have been. Alex Currie said to Angerman, 'If I had a gun, I would kill you for what you are doing to us.' "
Halliday cataloged and packed the artifacts, bound for Ottawa, likely to never return.
Top Left: Dan Cranmer (Cole and Chaikin 105)
Bottom 3 images: Halliday photographs (UCS)