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Takkali

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(More proper Takhehi, plural Takhehlne).

The hybrid name by which the Carrier Indians of the northern interior of British Columbia were originally made known by the fur traders, who sometimes comprised under that denomination the Chilcotin and the Babine tribes as well. The Carriers proper inhabit more or less permanent villages disseminated from the forks of Lake Tatla in the north to Alexandria in the south or from 55°15' to 52°30' N. lat. They are subdivided into a number of septs, based mostly on differences in speech, all of which can be reduced to two main branches: the Lower and the Upper Carriers, the line of demarcation running between Stuart and Fraser Lakes. They number today some 1614 individuals, distributed in twelve villages. We may remark that under the fostering care of the missionaries, the population of some of these villages has of late years been constantly on the increase. This cannot be said of their southern neighbours, the Chilcotins, a rather restless horde now temporarily settled along the Chilcotin valley. As late as 1864 they still numbered fully 1500 souls ; but attacks of smallpox and other causes have reduced their population to some 450. When the Babines in the north were first visited by the whites, those amongst them whom claimed as their home the valley of the lake named after them boasted alone a population of at least 2000. Together with their congeners on the Bulkley River they do not now number more that 430 souls.

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Socially speaking, the Carriers and the Babines follow matriarchy, succession to titles and property among them being along the female line. They are in a way ruled over by a number of hereditary petty chiefs, who alone own the land on which their co-clansmen hunt for the benefit of their respective headsmen. A number of clans divide the tribes, which in the eyes of the natives are the source of a relationship at least as binding as regular consanguinity is with us. Before the advent of the missionaries, the main duty of these chiefs, or noblemen, was the giving of noisy feasts, called "potlatches" on the North Pacific coats, which consisted in the public distribution, to the members of clans different from that of the donors, of eatables, dressed skins, blankets, and other pieces of wearing apparel. These bounties usually celebrated the demise of some individual. They had to be scrupulously reciprocated as soon as some similar occasion presented itself to the recipients of the same. The Chilcotins knew also of these "potlatches", but among them inheritance followed patrilinear principles, and their chiefs had more power because less numerous and unconnected with the clan system. With them the son of a chief succeeded his father, instead of a nephew taking the place of his maternal uncle as among the Carriers and Babines. Likewise, while the two last-named tribes cremated their dead, the Chilcotin buried them, usually on hills or knolls. The members of the three tribes believed in the immortality of the soul, and followed the religious system outlined in the article D ÉNÉS , where the reason for the name Carrier and Babine will also be found.

The first contact of the Carriers with the whites dates from 1793; the Chilcotin first met them in 1808, and the Babines in 1812, while the first notions they obtained of the religion of the newcomers were derived from the Catholic servants of the traders among them. In 1842 the Carriers received their first missionary in the person of Rev. M. Demers, and four years later Father. J. Nobili not only retraced his itinerary but also evangelized the Babines. The good seed distributed by these apostolic men could not, however, come to full germination before the spring of 1873, when a permanent mission was established by Father J.-M. LeJacq, O.M.I., on the banks of Lake Stuart, whence the Carrier and Babine villages were periodically visited. The less sedentary Chilcotins had already received a few visits from this priest since 1867, the date of the foundation of St. Joseph's mission, some distance from their lands. The Carriers, especially, proved easily amenable to the Catholic ways of thinking, and in the course of years all of them were fully converted to the Catholic religion. Such was the state of affairs when A. G. Morice left the north after a residence of nineteen years among the Carriers. Though as religiously inclined, the Babines took more time to fully attain the moral standard presented to their appreciation. To-day all those aborigines are Catholics, and the conduct of most of them is an honour to the Faith they profess.


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