Music: Riding With Thunder by The Native American Flute Ensemble
Once upon a time there lived a widow of the tribe of the Gispaxla'ts. Many men tried to marry her daughter, but she declined them all. The mother
said, "When a man comes to marry you, feel the palms of his hands. If they are soft, decline him. If they are rough, accept him." She meant that she
wanted to have for a son-in-law a man skillful in building canoes.
Her daughter obeyed her commands and refused the wooing of all young men. One night a youth came to her bed. The palms of his hands were very
rough, and therefore she accepted his suit. Early in the morning, however, he had suddenly disappeared, even before she had seen him.
When her mother arose early in the morning and went out, she found a halibut on the beach in front of the house, although it was midwinter. The
following evening the young man came back, but disappeared again before the dawn of the day. In the morning the widow found a seal in front of
the house. Thus they lived for some time. The young woman never saw the face of her husband; but every morning she found an animal on the
beach, every day a larger one. Thus the widow came to be very rich.
She was anxious to see her son-in-law, and one day she waited until he arrived. Suddenly she saw a red bear emerge from the water. He carried a
whale on each side, and put them down on the beach. As soon as he noticed that he was observed, he was transformed into a rock, which may be seen
up to this day. He was a supernatural being of the sea.
|Bear Who Married a Woman
A Tsimshian Legend
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|Raven Becomes Voracious
A Tsimshian Legend
At one time the whole world was covered with darkness. At the southern point of queen Charlotte Islands there was a town in which the animals
lived. Its name was Kungalas.
A chief and his wife lived there, and with them a boy, their only child, who was loved very much by his parents. Therefore his father tried to keep him
out of danger. He built for his son a bed above his own, in the rear of his large house. He washed him regularly, and the boy grew up to be a youth.
When he was quite large the youth became ill, and, being very sick, it was not long before he died. Therefore the hearts of his parents were very sad.
They cried on account of their beloved child. The chief invited his tribe, and all the (animal) people went to the chief's house and entered. Then the
chief ordered the child's body to be laid out; and he said, "Take out his intestines."
His attendants laid out the body of the chief's child, took out the intestines, burned them at the rear of the chief's house, and placed the body on the bed
which his father had built for his son. The chief and the chieftainess wailed every morning under the corpse of their son, and his tribe cried with them.
They did so every day after the young man's death.
One morning before daylight came, the chieftainess went again to wail. She arose, and looked up to where her son was lying. There she saw a youth,
bright as fire, lying where the body of their son had been. Therefore she called her husband, and said to him, "Our beloved child has come back to life."
Therefore the chief arose and went to the foot of the ladder which reached to the place where the body had been. He went up to his son, and said, "Is it
you, my beloved son? Is it you?" Then the shining youth said, "Yest, it is I." Then suddenly gladness touched the hearts of the parents.
The tribe entered again to console their chief and their chieftainess. When the people entered, they were much surprised to see the shining youth there.
He spoke to them. "Heaven was much annoyed by your constant wailing, so He sent me down to comfort your minds." The great tribe of the chief
were very glad because the prince lived again among them. His parents loved him more than ever.
The shining youth ate very little. He staid there a long time, and he did not eat at all; he only chewed a little fat, but he did not eat any. The chief had
two great slaves-a miserable man and his wife. The great slaves were called Mouth At Each End. Every morning they brought all kinds of food into
the house. One day, when they came in from where they had been, they brought a large cut of whale meat. They threw it on the fire and ate it. They
did this every time they came back from hunting. Then the chieftainess tried to give food to her son who had come back to life, but he declined it and
lived without food.
The chieftainess was very anxious to give her son something to eat. She was afraid that her son would die again. On the following day the shining
youth took a walk to refresh himself. As soon as he had gone out, the chief went up the ladder to where he thought his son had his bed. Behold, there
was the corpse of his own son! Nevertheless he loved his new child.
One day the chief and chieftainess went out to visit the tribe, and the two great slaves entered, carrying a large piece of whale meat. They threw the
whale fat into the fire and ate it. Then the shining youth came toward them and questioned the two great slaves, asking them, "What makes you so
hungry?" The two great slaves replied, "We are hungry because we have eaten scabs from our shin bones." Therefore the shining youth said to them,
"Do you like what you eat?" Then the slave-man said, "Yes, my dear!"
Therefore the prince replied, "I will also try the scabs you speak about." Then the slave-woman said, "No, my dear! Don't desire to be as we are." The
prince repeated, "I will just taste it and spit it out again." The male slave cut off a small piece of whale meat and put it in a small scab. Then the female
slave scolded her husband for what he was doing. "O bad man! What have you been doing to the poor prince?" The shining prince took up the piece
of meat with the scab in it, put it in his mouth, tasted it, and spit it out again.
Then he went back to his bed. When the chief and chieftainess came back from their visit, the prince said to his mother, "Mother, I am very hungry."
The chieftainess said at once, "Oh, dear, is it true, is it true?" She ordered her slaves to feed her beloved son with rich food. The slaves prepared rich
food, and the youth ate it all. Again he was very hungry and ate everything, and the slaves gave him more to eat than before.
He did so for several days, and soon all the provisions in his father's house were at an end. Then the prince went to every house of his father's people
and ate the provisions that were in the houses. This was because he had tasted the scabs of Mouth At Each End. Now the provisions were all used up.
The chief knew that the provisions of his tribe were almost exhausted. Therefore the chief felt sad and ashamed on account of what his son had done,
for he had devoured almost all the provisions of his tribe.
Therefore the chief invited all the people in, and said, "I will send my child away before he eats all our provisions and we lack food." Then all the
people agreed to what the chief had said. As soon as they had all agreed, the chief called his son. He told him to sit down in the rear of the house. As
soon as he had sat down there, the chief spoke to his son, and said, "My dear son, I shall send you away inland to the other side of the ocean."
He gave his son a small round stone and a raven blanket and a dried sea-lion bladder filled with all kinds of berries. The chief said to his son, "When
you fly across the ocean and feel weary, drop this round stone on the sea, and you shall find rest on it; and when you reach the mainland, scatter the
various kinds of fruit all over the land; and also scatter the salmon roe in all the rivers and brooks, and also the trout roe; so that you may not lack
food as long as you live in this world."
Then he started. His father named him Giant.
|The Meeting of the Wild Animals
A Tsimshian Legend
Along time ago, when the Tsimshian lived on the upper Skeena River in Prairie Town, they were the cleverest and the strongest of all humans. They
were good hunters and caught many animals. They went hunting the whole year round, and all the animals feared for their survival.
Grizzly Bear invited all the large animals to his house. "A terrible calamity has come to us with these hunting people, who pursue us even into our
dens," he said. "I suggest we ask Him Who Made Us to give us more cold winter and keep the hunters in their own houses and out of our dens!" All the
large animals agreed, and Wold said, "Let's invite all the small animals -- Porcupine, Beaver, Raccoon, Marten, Mink, and even the really small ones
such as Mouse and the insects -- to join us and increase our strength."
On the following day the large animals assembled on a wide prairie and called together all the small animals, even down to the insects. The multitude
sat down, the small animals on one side of the plain, the large animals on the other. Panther came, and Black Bear, Wolf, Elk, Reindeer, and
Then the chief speaker, Grizzly Bear, rose. "Friends," he said to the small animals and the insects, "you know very well how the people hunt us on
mountains and hills, even pursuing us into our dens. Therefore, my brothers, we large animals have agreed to ask Him Who Made Us to give our
earth cold winters, colder than ever, so that the people who hunt us cannot come into our dens and kill us and you! Large animals, is this so?"
The Panther said, "I fully support this wise counsel," and all the large animals agreed. Grizzly Bear turned to the small animals and said, "We want to
know what you think of this matter." The small animals did not reply at first. After they had been silent for a while, Porcupine rose and said,
"Friends, let me say a word or two in response. Your strategy is very good for you, because you have plenty of warm fur for the most severe cold. But
look at these little insects. They have no fur at all to warm them in winter. Moreover, how can insects and small animals obtain food if the winters
are colder? Therefore I say this: don't ask for more cold." Then he sat down.
Grizzly Bear rose again. "We need not pay attention to what Porcupine says," he told the large animals. "You all agree, don't you, that we should ask
for the severest cold on earth?" The large animals replied, "Yes, we do. We don't care for Porcupine's reasoning."
"Now, listen once more! I will ask you just one question," Porcupine said. "If it's that cold, the roots of all the wild berries will freeze and die, and all
the plants of the prairie will wither away. How will you get food? You large animals roam the mountains wanting something to eat. When your
request brings more winter frost, you will die of starvation in spring or summer. But we will survive, for we live on the bark of trees, the very small
animals eat the gum of trees, and the smallest insects find their food in the earth."
After he had spoken, Porcupine put his thumb into his mouth, bit it off, said, "Confound it!" and threw his thumb out of his mouth to show the large
animals how bold he was. He sat down again, full of rage. Therefore the hand of the porcupine has only four fingers, no thumb.
The large animals were speechless at Porcupine's wisdom. Finally Grizzly Bear admitted, "It's true what you have said." And the large animals chose
Porcupine as their wise man and as the first among the small animals. Together all the animals agreed that the cold in winter should be the way it is
now. And they settled on six months for winter and six months for summer.
Then Porcupine spoke again in his wisdom: "In winter we will have ice and snow. In spring we will have showers, and the plants will become green.
In summer we will have warmer weather, and all the fishes will go up the rivers. In the fall the leaves will drop, it will rain, and the rivers and brooks
will overflow. Then all animals, large and small, and those that creep on the ground, will go into their dens and hide for six months. And after they
had all agreed to what Porcupine had proposed, they happily returned to their homes.
That's why wild animals, large and small, take to their dens in winter. Only Porcupine does not hide, but goes about visiting his neighbors. Porcupine
also went to the animals that had slighted him at the meeting and struck them dead with the quills in his tail. That's why all the animals are afraid of
Porcupine to this day.
|The Princess Who Rejected Her Cousin
A Tsimshian Legend
There was a custom among our people that the nephew of the chief had to marry the chief's daughter, because the tribe of the chief wanted the chief's
nephew to be the heir of his uncle and to inherit his place after his death.
This custom has gone on, generation after generation, all along until now, and the places of the head men have thus been inherited. So it is with this
A very long time ago there was a great village with many people. They had only one chief. There was also his sister. They were the only two chiefs in
the large town. The chief also had a beautiful daughter, and the chief's sister had a fine son. All the people of the village were glad to see the young
prince and the young princess growing up, and they expected that these two would soon marry. Therefore the relatives of the prince went and talked
with the father of the princess, and they also went to the uncles of the princess and talked to them.
Now, the relatives of the girl accepted, but the girl rejected the proposal and said that she would not marry him; but the young prince loved her very
much, and still she refused him. The young man loved her still more, and he was always true to her. Moreover, he was very anxious to speak to her,
but the young woman rejected him.
Now, the princess wanted to make a fool of her cousin. One day she dressed herself up and went to the end of the village to take some fresh air. The
young man saw her pass by his door, and he went after her. Soon he saw her sitting under a large tree, and went up to her, and the girl was very kind
to him. She smiled when she saw him coming. Then the young man sat down by her side under the tree as gently as he could. He asked her if she did
not want to marry him. The girl said, "If you make a deep cut in your cheek, then you may marry me." Therefore the handsome young man took his
knife and cut down his right cheek. The girl laughed at him, and they went home.
When the cheek of the young man was healed, the princess put on her finest dress, passed the door of her cousin, and the young man saw her pass by.
He followed her, and saw her sit at the same place where he had met her before.
He went to her; and she stretched out her hands to greet him, put her arms around him, and kissed him once, since her cousin wanted to marry her.
Then the young man loved her still more because she had kissed him the first time ever since he had loved her; and when the young man was
overflowing with love, she said, "If you love me so much, show your love and make a cut down your left cheek; then I shall know that you really love
me." The young man did not like to do it.
However, he wanted to marry her, and so he took his knife and made a cut down his left cheek. They went home, and the young man was always
thinking of her.
Soon his wounded cheek was healed. He did not mind his foolish acts. On the following day he saw her passing his door. The young man followed
her, and she was sitting under the tree. She smiled at him when he was coming to her, and said, "Do you come to me again, my beloved one?" and he
replied, "Yes, I come to marry you." Then he put his arms around her, and she kissed him again. He asked her, "Do you love me, my dear cousin?" and
she replied, "Yes, you know how much I love you," and the princess asked him, "Do you also love me, cousin?", and he replied, "Indeed, I love you very
Thus said the young man, for he wanted to marry her. Then the princess said to him, "Now, show me your love. Cut off your hair; then you may
marry me." So the young prince took his knife and cut off his beautiful yellow hair. (In those days the young men and the old men wore their hair as
long as women's hair, and it was considered dishonorable to cut a man's hair as we do it now.)
They went home, and on the following day the young man sent some one to her, saying that he wanted to marry her now. Therefore the messenger
went to her and told her what her cousin had said; but the woman replied, "Tell him that I do not want to marry a bad-looking person like him, ugly as
he is"; and she gave him the nickname Mountain With Two Rock Slides, as he had a scar down each cheek. She laughed at him and scorned him,
saying, "I do not want to marry a man who cut his hair like a slave."
The young man's messenger came back to him and told him what she had said. Therefore the youth was very much ashamed. He remembered that he
also was a prince, and he cried because his own cousin had mocked him.
Now, he decided to leave his father's house and his uncle's house, for he was ashamed before his fellows of the scars which he had made on his own
cheeks by order of his beloved one. He went about, not knowing which way to go. Day by day he went, and he came to a narrow trail. He walked
along it, and saw a small hut away off. He went toward it. Before it was evening he reached there; and when he was near, he walked up to it quietly.
He stood outside and looked through a small hole.
Behold!, a woman was sitting there by the side of a fireplace. She said, "Come in, dear prince, if it is you who was rejected by his own cousin!" So the
young man went in, and the woman made him sit down on the other side of the fire. She gave him to eat. When he started from home, four young
men, his own friends, had accompanied him on his way; but three of them had gone back home, and only one, his dearest friend, followed him all
along the way until they came to the little hut.
After the old woman had given them to eat, she said to the young man, "Soon you will arrive at the large house of Chief Pestilence, which is just across
the little brook yonder. Leave your companion at this side of the brook, and you yourself go to the large house. When you get there, push open the
large door, then say this: 'I come to be made beautiful in the house of Pestilence!' Shout this as loud as you can.
Then you will see that the house on both sides is full of maimed persons. They will call you to come to their sides; but do not go there, because they will
make you like one of them. When they stop calling you, then Chief Pestilence will call you to the rear of the house.
Follow his calling. He will make you beautiful." Thus said the old woman to him. On the following day, after they had had their breakfast, they
started. As soon as they crossed the brook, the prince said to his companion, "Stay here, and I will go on alone. Wait until I come back to you!" So the
companion staid there.
Now he went on alone. Soon he saw a large house in the distance, and went as quickly as he could. He pushed open the door, ran in, and shouted at
the top of his voice, "I came to be made beautiful, Chief Pestilence!" Then all the maimed people on both sides of the house beckoned to him and shouted.
Those on one side would say, "Come this way, come this way!" and those on the other side said, "Come, come, come!" The prince remained standing
in the doorway. There were many good-looking women among those maimed persons. They shouted and called him; but he stood still, waiting until
Chief Pestilence should come forth from his room in the rear of the large house.
Soon the noise of the maimed people ceased. Then the door of the chief's room was opened, and behold! Chief Pestilence came forth with his beautiful
daughter. He said, "Dear prince, come this way!" Then the young man went to him and sat down on his right side.
Then Chief Pestilence ordered his attendants to bring his bathtub. They brought him a large tub full of hot water. Then the chief took the young man,
put him into this tub, and, as soon as he was in the tub, the water began to boil and the water boiled over the tub, boiling of its own accord. When the
dross was all off, the chief took the bare bones of the young man, put them on a wide board, joining them together, and after he had done so, he called
to his young daughter, who leaped over the bones. Then the young man was alive again. His features were changed, and his body was as white as
Then the chief said, "Bring me a nice comb!" and his attendants brought him a comb of crystal. The chief took it and combed the prince's hair down to
his loins. His hair was red, like tongues of fire. He was the most beautiful of all.
The chief did not want to let him go at once, but kept him in his house for two days. The young man thought he had been there two days, but in reality
two years had passed. Then the young man remembered his friend whom he had left by the brook before he entered the house of Chief Pestilence.
Now, the prince told the young woman that he loved his friend by the brook; therefore the young woman said, "Let us go to see him!"
They went together, and when they came to the place, they found the man's bare bones heaped up there. Therefore the young prince wept, but the
young woman commanded him to take the bare bones to her father's house. The young man did what the young woman had told him, and took the
bare bones to the chief. The chief ordered his attendants to bring his bathtub.
They brought it to him, and he put the bare bones into the tub. Then the water began to boil, and the dross of the bare bones boiled over the tub. Thus
the young man saw what the Chief Pestilence had done to him.
Then the chief took out the bones and placed them on a wide board and joined them together, and the young woman leaped over them four times, and
the young man was alive again.
Next the chief asked for his own comb. They brought it to him, and the chief asked what color of hair he wanted. The man said, "Dark-yellow hair."
He also asked him how long he wanted it; and the man said, "Right down to the knee." So the chief combed his hair down to his knees; and this man
was a lighter color than the other. Now they started for home. It was not many days before they arrived at their home. The prince looked like a
supernatural being, and his friend too was handsomer than any of the other people. They came and visited them; and all the people talked about these
two men who had just come back from the house of Chief Pestilence, who had transformed them and given them great beauty.
The young people coveted their beauty, and they questioned them on day to know how far the house of Chief Pestilence was from their village. Then
the prince's friend told them that it was not very far away.
Now, let us go back to the princess who years ago had refused to marry her own cousin. She was very anxious to see her cousin who had just come
home from the house of Chief Pestilence. People were talking about it, that he was more beautiful than any other person in the village; and she heard
the people say that he looked like a supernatural being. Therefore the young woman tried hard to see him. One day the chief, the father of the princess,
invited his nephew to his house.
The prince went with some of the chief's head men; and as soon as the prince entered his uncle's house, the young princess looked at him. Oh, how fine
he looked! And more beautiful than any of the people. Then she tried to make her rejected cousin turn and look at her, but the young man took no
notice of her courting. His hair was like fire, and his face shone like the rays of the sun.
Now, the young woman came down from her room, and walked to and fro behind the guests, laughing and talking, trying to make the beautiful
prince look at her; but he took no notice of her. As soon as the feasting was over, he arose and went home, and the young princess felt full of sorrow.
The following day she sent her maid to call on the beautiful prince. When the girl came to him and told him what her mistress had said to the prince, he
did not answer a word, and the maid went back to her mistress and told her that the prince would not answer her a word.
She sent to him again; and when the girl came to him, she told him that her mistress wanted him to come and see her. But he said to the girl, "Go and
tell her that she rejected me then, so I will not go to her now." Then the girl went and told her mistress what the prince had said.
The princess sent her girl again. "Go and tell him that I will do whatever he desires me to do." She went and told him what her mistress had said: "My
mistress says that whatever you desire her to do she will do." Then the prince said to the girl, "Go and tell her that I desire her to cut down her right
cheek, and I will come and be her guest.
Therefore the girl went and told her mistress what the prince had said. So the princess took her knife and cut down her right cheek. She said to her
maid, "Go and tell him that I will do whatever he wants me to do." She went and told the prince what her mistress had done.
Again the beautiful prince said, "Just tell her to cut down her other cheek, and then I will come and see her." So she went and told her mistress, and
thereupon the princess cut her left cheek. Again she sent her maid, who went and told him. This time he said, "Let her cut her hair, then I will go to see
her." She went and told her, and the princess took her knife and shaved off her hair, and she sent her hair to him.
The maid took it to the prince; but when the prince saw the hair, he refused to accept it. "Don't bring it near me! It is too nasty! Take it back to your
mistress and tell her that I don't want to see the ugly scars on her cheeks and her ugly shaved head. It is too nasty for me." Then he left, and laughed
louder and lauder, mocking her; and the girl returned to her mistress very sad.
She came slowly; and her mistress asked her, "My dear, what tidings do you bring?" Then she told her mistress how scornfully he had spoken of the
ugly scars on her cheeks, and of her shaving her head, and that everybody had been laughing at her, and that every one had heard him mocking her.
Then the young princess was very much ashamed. She set out with her maid, and walked along crying.
She wanted to hang herself, but her maid talked to her and comforted her all the way. They went on and on, trying to go to the house of Chief
Pestilence. Her heart took courage, for she hoped to get there and ask Chief Pestilence to make her beautiful. They went on and on, and passed many
mountains and rivers and valleys, and reached the edge of a large plain. There they met a man, who asked them which way they intended to go; and
the princess told him that they intended to go to the house of Chief Pestilence. She passed by him, and did not look at him, for she was ashamed to let
any one look at her.
Soon they saw a large house in the distance. They went toward it; and when they reached the door, they went right in and shouted as they stood in the
doorway. "We come to the house of Chief Pestilence to be made beautiful!" Then all the maimed people on both sides of the house called to them. "Come,
come, come!" and those on the other side shouted, "This way, this way, this way!" and the princess went to those who called her to come; and the other
onbe went to those who shouted "This way!"
Then the maimed people fell on the princess, broke her backbone, and made her lame. They turned her head to one side, and broke one of her arms;
and those on the other side plucked out one of the eyes of her maid, tore up one side of her mouth, and scratched the two women all over their bodies,
and then threw them outside. There they lay wounded, and nobody came to help them. The princess was more severely injured than her maid.
When the maid felt a little better, she saw her mistress lying there with wounds all over her body. She went to her, and saw how she was bruised. They
were both in great distress, and the princess was groaning. So her maid helped her up and led her home. They spent many days coming down, and
finally arrived at their home. Then she lay in bed, and finally died.
|The Theft of Light
A Tsimshian Legend
Giant flew inland (toward the east). He went on for a long time, and finally he was very tired, so he dropped down on the sea the little round stone
which his father had given him. It became a large rock way out at sea.
Giant rested on it and refreshed himself, and took off the raven skin.
At that time there was always darkness. There was no daylight then. Again Giant put on the raven skin and flew toward the east. Now Giant reached
the mainland and arrived at the mouth of Skeena River. There he stopped and scattered the salmon roe and trout roe. He said while he was scattering
them, "Let every river and creek have all kinds of fish!"
Then he took the dried sea-lion bladder and scattered the fruits all over the land, saying, "Let every mountain, hill, valley, plain, the whole land, be full
The whole world was still covered with darkness. When the sky was clear, the people would have a little light from the stars; and when clouds were in
the sky, it was very dark all over the land. The people were distressed by this. Then Giant thought that it would be hard for him to obtain his food if it
was always dark. He remembered that there was light in heaven, whence he had come. Then he made up his mind to bring down the light to our
On the following day Giant put on his raven skin, which his father the chief had given to him, and flew upward. Finally he found the hole in the sky,
and he flew through it. Giant reached the inside of the sky. He took off the raven skin and put it down near the hole of the sky. He went on, and came
to a spring near the house of the chief of heaven. There he sat down and waited.
Then the chief's daughter came out, carrying a small bucket in which she was about to fetch water. She went down to the big spring in front of her
father's house. When Giant saw her coming along, he transformed himself into the leaf of a cedar and floated on the water. The chief's daughter
dipped it up in her bucket and drank it. Then she returned to her father's house and entered.
After a short time she was with child, and not long after she gave birth to a boy. Then the chief and the chieftainess were very glad. They washed the
boy regularly. He began to grow up. Now he was beginning to creep about. They washed him often, and the chief smoothed and cleaned the floor of
the house. Now the child was strong and crept about every day.
He began to cry, "Hama, hama!" He was crying all the time, and the great chief was troubled, and called in some of his slaves to carry about the boy.
The slaves did so, but he would not sleep for several nights. He kept on crying, "Hama, hama!" Therefore the chief invited all his wise men, and said to
them that he did not know what the boy wanted and why he was crying. He wanted the box that was hanging in the chief's house.
This box, in which the daylight was kept, was hanging in one corner of the house. Its name was Maa. Giant had known it before he descended to our
world. The child cried for it. The chief was annoyed, and the wise men listened to what the chief told them. When the wise men heard the child crying
aloud, they did not know what he was saying. He was crying all the time, "Hama, hama, hama!"
One of the wise men, who understood him, said to the chief, "He is crying for the maa." Therefore the chief ordered it to be taken down. The man put it
down. They put it down near the fire, and the boy sat down near it and ceased crying. He stopped crying, for he was glad. Then he rolled the ma
about inside the house. He did so for four days. Sometimes he would carry it to the door. Now the great chief did not think of it.
He had quite forgotten it. Then the boy really took up the ma, put it on his shoulders, and ran out with it. While he was running, some one said, "Giant
is running away with the maa!" he ran away, and the hosts of heaven pursued him. They shouted that Giant was running away with the ma. He
came to the hole of the sky, put on the skin of the raven, and flew down, carrying the maa. Then the hosts of heaven returned to their houses, and he
flew down with it to our world.
At that time the world was still dark. He arrived farther up the river, and went down the river. Giant had come down near the mouth of Nass River.
He went to the mouth of Nass River.l It was always dark, and he carried the ma about with him. He went on, and went up the river in the dark. A
little farther up he heard the noise of the people, who were catching olachen in bag nets in their canoes.
There was much noise out on the river, because they were working hard. Giant, who was sitting on the shore, said, "Throw ashore one of the things
that you are catching, my dear people!" After a while, Giant said again, "Throw ashore one of the things you are catching!" Then those on the water
scolded him. "Where did you come from, great liar, whom they call Txa'msem?" The (animal) people knew that it was Giant.
Therefore they made fun of him. Then Giant said again, "Throw ashore one of the things that you are catching, or I shall break the maa!" and all those
who were on the water answered, "Where did you get what you are talking about, you liar?" Giant said once more, "Throw ashore one of the things
that you are catching, my dear people, or I shall break the maa for you!" One person replied, scolding him.
Giant had repeated his request four times, but those on the water refused what he had asked for. Therefore Giant broke the ma. It broke, and it was
daylight. The north wind began to blow hard; and all the fishermen, the Frogs, were driven away by the north wind. All the Frogs who had made fun
of Giant were driven away down river until they arrived at one of the large mountainous islands.
Here the Frogs tried to climb up the rock; but they stuck to the rock, being frozen by the north wind, and became stone. They are still on the rock. The
fishing frogs named him Txa'msem, and all the world had the daylight.
|Walks All Over The Sky
A Tsimshian Legend
The Tsimshian believe that in the beginning one chief ruled the sky. The chief had two sons and one daughter, and though they lived in peace, there was
no light in the sky, and the people and creatures of the Earth lived beneath a canopy of darkness. The chief's children were strong and brave and
resourceful, and the chief was grateful for this. The eldest child, a son, loved to flex his muscles. The chief's daughter was also proud of her strength
and beauty. The second son was as handsome as his brother and sister, but most of all he loved to use his mind. He often sat quietly, pondering all
there was to know in the world.
As the second son thought about the dark world below, he became sad, for he imagined how lovely it might look in light and how pleased the people of
the Earth would be to see light. He decided he must somehow bring light to the world.
One day he and his brother set off to gather wood in the sky forest. "Look," said the youngest brother as he bent a slender cedar twig into a ring, the
size of a face. As his brother watched, he tied wood all around a twig so that his creation looked like a mask. He placed this mask over his face. "What
are you doing?" his brother asked, but without saying a word, the younger brother, wearing his disguise began to walk east.
At that moment the people of the Earth looked up and saw light rising in the east. They were amazed by the light but they did not know this was the
chief's younger son. He had lighted his mask, and as he moved, the flames burned brighter and brighter. He began to run toward the west, flames
shooting up from his mask, lighting the world below. When the boy saw the people of the Earth celebrated his light, he repeated his journey. Each day
he ran from east to west, wearing his burning mask, shedding light on the people.
Before long, the tribe assembled a council to talk about the light. They called to the chief of the sky. "We are glad your child has brought light to us,"
they told him, "but please ask him to slow his pace. He takes the light away too quickly now." The chief called his youngest son and told him of the
"I must run, father," the boy said. "If I walk too slowly the mask will burn up."
The chief reported back to the people, who were dismayed by this news. "Please, chief, do something. You rule the sky. Surely you can slow your son
The chief's daughter was listening. She admired her younger brother and the gift he had brought to the world. She too hoped to bring a gift to the
people. "Father, I will slow him down," she said.
The next day, as the boy ran to the east to begin his journey, his sister called to him, "Brother, wait for me," and when he was halfway across the sky,
she caught up to him. "Brother," she called as she raced to his side. She reached him and held his arm, stopping him. That is why even today, the sun
stops for awhile in the middle of the sky. It is there brother and sister meet each day.
The chief's eldest son saw his father's joy, and the people's gratitude, and began to wonder what he might give to the world. One night, as his younger
brother, who was called Walks-All-Over-The-Sky,lay down to rest from his long journey, the elder son lay awake. When he knew everyone was fast
asleep, he rubbed his face with charcoal and set off for the east. While the younger brother slept, his masked face shed light from a smoke hole. The
older brother rose into the eastern sky, his charcoal-covered face reflecting the light that came from the smoke hole.
Down on Earth a young child looked up and cried "Look, the sun has risen again!" The people looked up and saw a soft light rising into the sky. They
shouted for joy, for though the eldest brother was not as bright as the sun, he eased the darkness of night. The people called him Walking-About-Early.
Time passed, and the children changed the world in other ways. While Walks-All-Over-The-Sky slept, sparks flew from his mouth, and these became
stars. After the sky was filled with the sun, moon, and stars, the chief's daughter began to wonder what gift she might create. She wandered westward
into the water, where her skirt became soaked as she waded lost in thought. That evening she stood by the fire to warm herself and wrung the hem of
her wet skirt by the fire. As she did, water dripped onto the flames and a great cloud of steam rose up and floated out across the world. She smiled with
happiness, for she now knew she had created fog, which traveled west to east and refreshed the Earth with its cool touch.
"Father, look!" she cried, and the father blessed her. The chief was at peace. Each of his children had offered gifts to the world.
Walks-All-Over-The-Sky walked each day, and with his warmth and light he nourished the world. Walking-About-Early rose and set every 30 days,
and thus he divided the year. The fog the chief's daughter created helped to refresh the Earth when it grew weary. And the people praised the chief and
|Wolf Clan and The Salmon
A Tsimshian Legend
A tribe who lived along the Nass River had a special place near the head of the river where they could find an abundance of salmon and wild berries.
This helped to make their village a wealthy and respected one and it prospered for many generations.
As time went on, some of the younger people began to forget the old traditions. They would show disrespect for their fellow creatures by killing small
animals and leaving their carcasses to the crows and eagles. Once, when the salmon season was at its height, young men from the Wolf Clan caught
several fish, cut slits in their backs, and put in pieces of burning pitch pine. When they were placed back in the river they frantically swam about like
The young men thought this was fun and exciting and did not think about the cruelty and wastefulness they were showing. The elders, knowing this
would anger the Chief in the Sky, protested and tried to talk sense into them but to no avail. The young people took no notice.
When the salmon season came to a close the tribe began preparing for the winter ceremonies. As they worked they heard a strange noise in the
distance as if a giant medicine drum was being beaten. The older folks thought that the thoughtlessness shown by the young men in mistreating the
salmon was bringing trouble on the tribe. The young ones merely scoffed.
During the next few weeks the beating grew louder and louder and even the young warriors became frightened. The elders said it would be their fault if
the tribe perished. Eventually a thunderous noise was heard, the mountains exploded, and fire poured forth until the very rivers were aflame. The
people fled in panic and as the fire worked its way down the river the forest also became an inferno. Only a few survived.
The shamans said that the spirit world was angry because of the torture of the salmon. The powers of nature insist on a proper regard for all their
creatures. That is a principle we should all embrace.