It is dusk on the Lost Lagoon,
And we two dreaming the dusk away,
Beneath the drift of a twilight grey
Beneath the drowse of an ending day.
And the curve of a golden moon.
It is dark in the Lost Lagoon.
And gone are the depths of haunting blue,
The grouping gulls, and the old canoe,
The singing firs, and the dusk and you,
And gone is the golden moon.
O! lure of the Lost Lagoon
I dream tonight that my paddle blurs
The purple shade where the seaweed stirs
I hear the call of the singing firs
In the hush of the golden moon.
For many minutes we stood silently,
leaning on the western rail of the bridge as we watched
the sun set across that beautiful little water known
as Coal Harbor. I have always resented that jarring,
unattractive name, for years ago, when I first plied
paddle across the gunwale of a light little canoe,
and idled about its margin, I named the sheltered
little cove the Lost Lagoon. This was just to
please my own fancy, for as that perfect summer month
drifted on, the ever-restless tides left the harbor
devoid of water at my favorite canoeing hour, and
my pet idling place was lost for many days hence
my fancy to call it the Lost Lagoon. But the
chief, Indian-like, immediately adopted the name,
at least when he spoke of the place to me, and as
we watched the sun slip behind the rim of firs, he
expressed the wish that his dugout were here instead
of lying beached at the farther side of the park.
“If canoe was here, you and
I we paddle close to shores all ’round your
Lost Lagoon: we make track just like half moon.
Then we paddle under this bridge, and go channel
between Deadman’s Island and park. Then
’round where cannon speak time at nine o’clock.
Then ’cross Inlet to Indian side of Narrows.”
I turned to look eastward, following
in fancy the course he had sketched; the waters were
still as the footstep of the oncoming twilight, and,
floating in a pool of soft purple, Deadman’s
Island rested like a large circle of candle moss.
“Have you ever been on it?”
he asked as he caught my gaze centering on the irregular
outline of the island pines.
“I have prowled the length and
depth of it,” I told him. “Climbed
over every rock on its shores, crept under every tangled
growth of its interior, explored its overgrown trails,
and more than once nearly got lost in its very heart.”
“Yes,” he half laughed,
“it pretty wild; not much good for anything.”
“People seem to think it valuable,”
I said. “There is a lot of litigation of
fighting going on now about it.”
“Oh! that the way always,”
he said as though speaking of a long accepted fact.
“Always fight over that place. Hundreds
of years ago they fight about it; Indian people; they
say hundreds of years to come everybody will still
fight never be settled what that place is,
who it belong to, who has right to it. No, never
settle. Deadman’s Island always mean fight
“So the Indians fought amongst
themselves about it?” I remarked, seemingly
without guile, although my ears tingled for the legend
I knew was coming.
“Fought like lynx at close quarters,”
he answered. “Fought, killed each other,
until the island ran with blood redder than that sunset,
and the sea water about it was stained flame color it
was then, my people say, that the scarlet fire-flower
was first seen growing along this coast.”
“It is a beautiful color the fire-flower,”
“It should be fine color, for
it was born and grew from the hearts of fine tribes-people very
fine people,” he emphasized.
We crossed to the eastern rail of
the bridge, and stood watching the deep shadows that
gathered slowly and silently about the island; I have
seldom looked upon anything more peaceful.
The chief sighed. “We
have no such men now, no fighters like those men,
no hearts, no courage like theirs. But I tell
you the story; you understand it then. Now all
peace; to-night all good tillicums; even dead man’s
spirit does not fight now, but long time after it happen
those spirits fought.”
“And the legend?” I ventured.
“Oh! yes,” he replied,
as if suddenly returning to the present from out a
far country in the realm of time. “Indian
people, they call it the ‘Legend of the Island
of Dead Men.’
“There was war everywhere.
Fierce tribes from the northern coast, savage tribes
from the south, all met here and battled and raided,
burned and captured, tortured and killed their enemies.
The forests smoked with camp fires, the Narrows were
choked with war canoes, and the Sagalie Tyee He
who is a man of peace turned His face away
from His Indian children. About this island
there was dispute and contention. The medicine
men from the North claimed it as their chanting ground.
The medicine men from the South laid equal claim to
it. Each wanted it as the stronghold of their
witchcraft, their magic. Great bands of these
medicine men met on the small space, using every sorcery
in their power to drive their opponents away.
The witch doctors of the North made their camp on
the northern rim of the island; those from the South
settled along the southern edge, looking towards what
is now the great city of Vancouver. Both factions
danced, chanted, burned their magic powders, built
their magic fires, beat their magic rattles, but neither
would give way, yet neither conquered. About
them, on the waters, on the mainlands, raged the warfare
of their respective tribes the Sagalie
Tyee had forgotten His Indian children.
“After many months, the warriors
on both sides weakened. They said the incantations
of the rival medicine men were bewitching them, were
making their hearts like children’s, and their
arms nerveless as women’s. So friend and
foe arose as one man and drove the medicine men from
the island, hounded them down the Inlet, herded them
through the Narrows and banished them out to sea,
where they took refuge on one of the outer islands
of the gulf. Then the tribes once more fell upon
each other in battle.
“The warrior blood of the North
will always conquer. They are the stronger,
bolder, more alert, more keen. The snows and
the ice of their country make swifter pulse than the
sleepy suns of the South can awake in a man; their
muscles are of sterner stuff, their endurance greater.
Yes, the northern tribes will always be victors.
But the craft and the strategy of the southern tribes
are hard things to battle against. While those
of the North followed the medicine men farther out
to sea to make sure of their banishment, those from
the South returned under cover of night and seized
the women and children and the old, enfeebled men
in their enemy’s camp, transported them all to
the Island of Dead Men, and there held them as captives.
Their war canoes circled the island like a fortification,
through which drifted the sobs of the imprisoned women,
the mutterings of the aged men, the wail of little
“Again and again the men of
the North assailed that circle of canoes, and again
and again were repulsed. The air was thick with
poisoned arrows, the water stained with blood.
But day by day the circle of southern canoes grew
thinner and thinner; the northern arrows were telling,
and truer of aim. Canoes drifted everywhere,
empty, or worse still, manned only by dead men.
The pick of the southern warriors had already fallen,
when their greatest Tyee mounted a large rock on the
eastern shore. Brave and unmindful of a thousand
weapons aimed at his heart, he uplifted his hand,
palm outward the signal for conference.
Instantly every northern arrow was lowered, and every
northern ear listened for his words.
“‘Oh! men of the upper
coast,’ he said, ’you are more numerous
than we are; your tribe is larger; your endurance
greater. We are growing hungry, we are growing
less in numbers. Our captives your
women and children and old men have lessened,
too, our stores of food. If you refuse our terms
we will yet fight to the finish. Tomorrow we
will kill all our captives before your eyes, for we
can feed them no longer, or you can have your wives,
your mothers, your fathers, your children, by giving
us for each and every one of them one of your best
and bravest young warriors, who will consent to suffer
death in their stead. Speak! You have
“In the northern canoes scores
and scores of young warriors leapt to their feet.
The air was filled with glad cries, with exultant
shouts. The whole world seemed to ring with the
voices of those young men who called loudly, with
“‘Take me, but give me back my old father.’
“‘Take me, but spare to my tribe my little
“‘Take me, but release my wife and boy-baby.’
“So the compact was made.
Two hundred heroic, magnificent young men paddled
up to the island, broke through the fortifying circle
of canoes and stepped ashore. They flaunted
their eagle plumes with the spirit and boldness of
young gods. Their shoulders were erect, their
step was firm, their hearts strong. Into their
canoes they crowded the two hundred captives.
Once more their women sobbed, their old men muttered,
their children wailed, but those young copper-colored
gods never flinched, never faltered. Their weak
and their feeble were saved. What mattered to
them such a little thing as death?
“The released captives were
quickly surrounded by their own people, but the flower
of their splendid nation was in the hands of their
enemies, those valorous young men who thought so little
of life that they willingly, gladly laid it down to
serve and to save those they loved and cared for.
Amongst them were war-tried warriors who had fought
fifty battles, and boys not yet full grown, who were
drawing a bow string for the first time, but their
hearts, their courage, their self-sacrifice were as
“Out before a long file of southern
warriors they stood. Their chins uplifted, their
eyes defiant, their breasts bared. Each leaned
forward and laid his weapons at his feet, then stood
erect, with empty hands, and laughed forth their challenge
to death. A thousand arrows ripped the air,
two hundred gallant northern throats flung forth a
death cry exultant, triumphant as conquering kings then
two hundred fearless northern hearts ceased to beat.
“But in the morning the southern
tribes found the spot where they fell peopled with
flaming fire-flowers. Dread terror seized upon
them. They abandoned the island, and when night
again shrouded them they manned their canoes and noiselessly
slipped through the Narrows, turned their bows southward
and this coast line knew them no more.”
“What glorious men,” I
half whispered as the chief concluded the strange
“Yes, men!” he echoed.
“The white people call it Deadman’s Island.
That is their way; but we of the Squamish call it The
Island of Dead Men.”
The clustering pines and the outlines
of the island’s margin were now dusky and indistinct.
Peace, peace lay over the waters, and the purple
of the summer twilight had turned to grey, but I knew
that in the depths of the undergrowth on Deadman’s
Island there blossomed a flower of flaming beauty;
its colors were veiled in the coming nightfall, but
somewhere down in the sanctuary of its petals pulsed
the heart’s blood of many and valiant men.
If ever a Northman lost a throne
Did the conqueror come from the South?
Nay, the North shall ever be free ...