Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Shimizu Interview
Narrator: Henry Shimizu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 25 & 26, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-shenry-01-0004

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TI: Now, was it common for there to be a lot of mixing amongst the different groups, or did people tend to stay...

HS: People did tend to stay in their sort of groups. The Indians sort of, you didn't see them very often sort of taking part in affairs that, parties or anything like that that occurred in the town itself. Now, we used to call them Saiwash although they were not Saiwash. They were... I can't remember what the group of Indians they were, but they were, they were a group that were sort of along the coast. They went all the way up to Ketchikan. So Ketchikan is in the, is in the American panhandle, so they were, they were American citizens, whereas Prince Rupert, which was just at the edge of that border, would be Canadian. But the Indians would be all the same, 'cause they, it was like the... it's like the Blackfoot Nation in southern Alberta. They, they're north and south of the border, and they're still one, though, it's the whole thing.

TI: Right, so they didn't really recognize the American-Canadian border.

HS: They never, they didn't recognize the border. They just, that was something that they, it was a foreign concept for them, and they, they just came back and forth, and they would feel that Prince Rupert was just a part of the Ketchikan. All, they were all the same as far as... they were in white man's territory, and they would come. I remember the big chief would come in to have his annual, he'd have an annual party in our restaurant. He would sit out in the lobby part of the restaurant, and they would give him a nice big chair, and then all the Indians would come in bearing gifts to pay homage to the old chief. And he would sort of lay on of hands or whatever you want to call it, inside, they would come in to pay homage to him and he would, he would greet them and they would go through, and it was a big party for them. It was like, they had this sort of thing, potlatch, they talk about potlatch. At one time they did ban it in Canada, and I think it might have been in, the ban might have been still going on in the early part of the period that my father was, restaurant was going.

TI: Now, why would they ban the potlatch?

HS: Well, it was, in a potlatch, the original ones, they, the Indians would give gifts to particular members or particular people, and they would bring very expensive gifts, almost to their own detriment. And it was, but it was an obligation that they felt they had to do, and there was always, always a lot of, in those days, there was a lot of alcohol and stuff like that would go on, too. And the white population or the people in, in the seat of power didn't understand what was going on, and to them, they thought that this, they were somehow being -- this is kind of a, it was a pagan rite, you might say, that was going on. And they, they felt that they should -- no, it was, probably had a lot to do with religion as well as the fact that there was a lot of possessions being given away, and this caused a lot of, created a lot of trouble with some people becoming very destitute. And then there was all those, they become welfare people, of that nature.

<End Segment 4> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.