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Tsahlbilt

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Tsahlbilt, the stronghouse keeper, was a respected man-big, strong and wise. All the Indians between Kee-kee-alos (the delta of the Skagit) Chigos (the highlands of Camano), Quadsak (the lowlands around Stanwood), Splaidid (Warm Beach) and the Upper Stoluckquamislr, knew him. He had good medicine to keep raiders away. At the junction of a slough with the river, just east of the present town of Stanwood, was built the stronghouse-big logs for walls and long, thick slabs for roof. Around the house was a deep trench with a lot of sharp pointed stakes in the bottom. Over this trench was laid a network of sticks, on top of the sticks a layer of turf-a fine trap for an attacking enemy, but easy of access for one who knew the right place to step. In this house was kept blankets, fine baskets, hiaqua, etc., and Tsahlbilt was its keeper. It sometimes happened that Sklalams and King George Indians came in big raiding parties to capture slaves and take what they could of valuables. Highly priced were goat hair blankets. Once a party of fine strange men attacked the stronghouse; three fell in the pit and the two others had to retreat, and went wailing down the river in their canoe. The keeper pulled the others out of the trench and threw them into the river. They floated down stream and were never seen again. In those days there was an abundance of fish, fowl and game, and although there were great numbers of Indians it was seldom that anyone went hungry. After Tsahlbilt retired from his job, he built himself a home near a slough at the point of the hill near Spliadid, where he lived to be a very old man. He always wore his hair long; for clothes he used the skins of ducks, sewed together with the down inside, sometimes as a long coat with short sleeves, sometimes as hurt-legged trousers, using a blanket as coat.

For fish he set traps, generally a row of stakes across a slough or stream with pockets out of which the fish could not escape. For ducks he strung strong nets of cedar root twine across the slough below a row of stakes. The ducks would dive and come up under these nets and get caught in the meshes. Muskrats he shot with bow and arrow. With an abundance of berries in the nearby hills, clams in the beach and some edible roots Tsahlbilt lived well.

Then came the white man with his guns and scared the game away with its big noise, also took the land. Tsahlbilt didn’t charge, he was thoroughly Indian.

 

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