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Loucheux

Aggregate of closely related tribes found in Canada and Alaska

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Loucheux, the would-be Kuchin of some ethnologists, and the Tukudh of the Protestant missionaries; Richardson called them Quarrellers. They call themselves generally Dindjye (then) and form an aggregate of closely related tribes, a sort of ethnographic confederation, the most northwestern of all the Den divisions. Their habitat extends from Anderson River in the east to the western extremity of Alaska. East of the Rocky Mountains their southern frontier is today about 67° N. lat., and west of that range their territory reaches somewhat more to the south. Practically the whole interior of Alaska is claimed by them. In the north they have for neighbors the Eskimos. They are, or were originally, divided into fourteen tribes, viz. the 'Kaiyuh-kho-tenne, or People of the Willow River, conterminous with the Eskimos of Norton Sound, an important subdivision of more or less mixed blood more commonly known by its Eskimo name, Ingalete; the Koyu-kukh-o'tenne, or Coyukons, farther up the great Alaskan stream and along the Coyukuk River; the Yuna-kho'-tenne, still higher up on the left bank of the Yukon, as far as

Tanana River; the Tanana, along the river called after them; the Kut'qa-kut'qin, at the confluence of the Porcupine; the Gens du Large, or Natce-kut'qin, from the Porcupine to the Romanoff Mountains; the Voenkut'qin, or People of the Lake; the Tza-'ke-kut'qin, or Cross-Eyed Ones, being the particular tribe, between the headwaters of the Porcupine and Fort McPherson, which gave rise to the French name of Loucheux now applied to all those related Arctic aborigines; the Han-kut'qin, or River People, above the Kotlo River, on both banks of the Yukon; the utsonekut'qin, or Crow People, from the sources of the Porcupine and the Peel to those of the Liard; the Tehanin-kut'qin, from the upper branches of the Yukon almost to the Pacific coast; the Thet'let-kut'qin, on Peel River; the Nakotco-ondjig-kut'cin, or People of the Mackenzie, and the Kwit'ga-kut qin, who inhabit the dreary steppes bordering on the Arctic Ocean, barring a strip of land along the coast between the Mackenzie and the Anderson Rivers. The desinence -kut'qin in these tribal names means inhabitants of (as well as 'tenne in other Deno denominations) and not men, as American ethnologists have freely stated.

The total population of the Loucheux tribes is today about 5500 souls. They are as a rule superior, physically and mentally, to the majority of the northern Donos. Tall and of a rather pleasing appearance, they are more manly than their southern neighbors. Owing to the large extent of their habitat, their manners and customs cannot be represented as uniform. East and west of the Rocky Mountains they were originally remarkable for their fine beaded and befringed leather costume, the most conspicuous part of which was a coat with a peaked appendage in front and behind. Their footgear was made of one piece with the leggings, the counterpart among most American aborigines of the white man's trousers. During the winter they lived in semi-spherical skin lodges, not unlike those of the Tuskis of the eastern Asiatic coast, and in summer they replaced these by shelters usually made of coniferous boughs, generally erected in pairs of face to face dwellings so that a single fire on the outside served for both. Their tribal organization varies according to their environment. While east of the Rocky Mountains they have preserved the original patriarchy of the Donos in all its primitive simplicity, some of the western tribes have adopted a sort of matriarchy, with chiefs, clans, totems and other consequent institutions. Their religion originally consisted in the shamanism common to all the northern Danes, and their traditions clearly point to the west, that is, Asia, as the region whence they migrated. Their wars were, as usual, series of ambuscades and massacres, of which the Eskimos were often the victims. Several of these are on record, as for instance the treacherous slaying of five or six Eskimos on the Lower Mackenzie, in the spring of 1850, and, in October of the same year, the murder by the Coyukons of Lieutenant Barnard with his body servant, and then the destruction by fire and arrows of an almost entire village of the Nulato Indians, on the Yukon. Early the following spring the same party likewise encompassed the death of the Russian commander with one of his men, whereby we see that the assertion of Father Petitot that "the Loucheux never imbrued their hands in the blood of Europeans" (Traditions Indiennes du Canada Nord-Ouest, p. 14) is unreliable.

The Loucheux are of all the northern Done tribes that which has been the least influenced by Catholicism. The Catholic missionaries had secured a firm footing among their neighboring congeners when the Protestant preachers reached the Mackenzie and directed their steps towards the Loucheux, especially those whose habitat lay west of the Rocky Mountains, who had not as yet been visited. There being no priests to oppose them, they practically had the field to themselves. East of that range, the Oblate Fathers Seguin and Petitot, hailing from the Missions of Good Hope and Fort McPherson, long devoted themselves to the salvation of the Loucheux, not without success. But the fanaticism of those who had embraced Protestantism eventually resulted in the Catholic Loucheux having to leave Fort McPherson (where the priest's house was burnt down by their Protestant compatriots) for the environs of the Arctic Red River, where a Catholic mission was built for Loucheux and Eskimos. An Episcopalian clergyman, Rev. W. W. Kirkby, had already crossed the Rockies to proselytize among the western Loucheux. In 1862 and 1870 respectively, Fathers Seguin and Petitot followed him thither, going as far as Fort Yukon, but, without any appreciable results, owing to the calumnies disseminated by the minister, who had preceded them in every village. Two years later, Bishop Clut, O.M.I., accompanied by Father Lecorre, walked in their footsteps and reached the Pacific, meeting along the Yukon with some slight success. Father Lecorre even remained on that stream until 1874, when he learned that Alaska had been entrusted to the Bishop of Vancouver Island. The latter advanced in 1877 as far as Nulato from the coast, but in November, 1886, he was murdered in the course of another apostolic tour in the valley of the Yukon (see Charles Seghers). Nevertheless the efforts of the two bishops had not been in vain. They paved the way for the establishment by the Jesuits of a mission in 1887 among the westernmost Loucheux.' The following year a little band of Sisters of St. Anne arrived there, who immediately opened a school for the Loucheux and Eskimo girls; while lay brothers of the Society of Jesus were doing the same on behalf of the boys of both nations. Most of the eastern Loucheux are now excellent Catholics.

A. G. MORSCE


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