The Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw Tribes


Tsax̱is (Fort Rupert)
Edward Dossetter, 1881, American Museum of Natural History


The Kwaguʼł Chiefs were discussing the creation of their ancestors while waiting for the second course at a feast given by one of the Chiefs at Tsax̱is. At first no one spoke for a while. Then Ma̱lid spoke, saying, "It is the Sun, our Chief, who created our ancestors of all the tribes." And when the others asked him how this was possible, for the Sun never made even one man, the Chief was silent. Others said, "It is Mink, Tłisa̱lagʼlakw, who made our first ancestors. Then spoke the Great-Inviter, saying, "Listen Kwaguʼł and let me speak a really true word. I see it altogether mistaken what the others say, for it was the Seagull who first became man by taking off his mask and turning into a man. This was the beginning of one of the groups of our tribe. And the others were caused when the Sun and Grizzly Bear and Thunderbird also took off their masks. That is the reason that we Kwaguʼł are many groups, for each group had its own original ancestor."

A Chief visiting from the Nawitti disagreed, and the Kwaguʼł of all four groups became angry. For the Nawitti believe that the Transformer (or Creator) went about creating the first ancestors of all the tribes from people who already existed. But the Chiefs of the Kwaguʼł scoffed at this, saying, "Do not say that the Transformer was the Creator of all tribes. Indeed, he just came and did mischief to men, when he made them into raccoon, and land otter, and deer, for he only transformed them into animals. We of the Kwaguʼł know that our ancestors were the Seagull, Sun, Grizzly Bear and Thunderbird."

Adopted from a discussion recorded by George Hunt, 1906


ʼMimkwamlis (Village Island)
George M. Dawson, 1885, National Museum of Man

Mama̱liliḵa̱laThe Creator was going from one place to another changing and transforming the world into the shape we see today. He was at a place called Snake-Receptacle when he saw a man sitting on a rock. That's what the Yuʼtłinux believe; the Mama̱liliḵa̱la say that the man was swimming along Archer Place. The Creator watched this man and realized that he was feeling around as if he were searching for something. He was blind. So, the Creator spoke to him and asked what he was doing. The man replied he was starving and was searching for something to eat.

So the Creator said, "Dive into the deep water and stay under as long as you can." And when the man did this, the Creator chanted," Mali, Mali, Mali." When the man came to the surface, the Creator called out, asking him if he could see. "No," said the man sadly. "Well dive again and stay under just as long as you possibly can!" said the Creator. And when the man dove deeply, the Creator chanted again, "Mali, Mali, Mali." But, the blind man did not really stay under water for very long. And when he came to the surface, he told the Creator that he still couldn't see. But in fact he could see. The Creator's cure had worked, but the Creator did not know this.

"Well, we will have to try it one more time," said the Creator. So the man dove a third time while the Creator chanted, "Mali, Mali, Mali." And the man dove so deep and stayed so long that he could even see the monsters in the darkest depths. And when he came to the surface, the Creator asked if he could see our world. The man replied that he thought he could start to see a little light even though he was able to see very, very well indeed. So the Creator told him to dive one more time, and chanted Mali loudly while the man was submerged. And, as soon as the man came to the surface, Creator called out to him, "Your name will be Mama̱liliḵa̱la."

So, Mama̱liliḵa̱la built a house at the place called Two-Headed. He was the first of the Mama̱liliḵa̱la.

Adapted from Boas and Hunt, Kwakuitl Texts,1905-06


Xwa̱lkw (Cheslakees)
J.Sykes, 1792, Campbell River and District Museum

ʼNa̱mǥisWhen the Transformer (or Creator), Ḵaniḵiʼlakw, travelled around the world, he was eventually returned to the place where Gwaʼnalalis lived. In an earlier encounter, the Transformer had beaten Gwaʼnalalis, who was ready for his return. Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked," Would you like to become a cedar tree?" Gwaʼnalalis replied, "No, cedar trees, when struck by lightning, split and fall. Then they rot away for as long as the days dawn in the world." Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked again, "Would you like to become a mountain?" "No," Gwaʼnalalis answered, "For mountains have slides and crumble away for as long as the days dawn in the world." The Transformer asked a third question. "Would you like to become a large boulder?" Again, Gwaʼnalalis answered, "No. Do not let me become a boulder, for I may crack in half and crumble away as long as the days dawn in the world."

Finally, Ḵaniḵiʼlakw asked," Would you like to become a river?" "Yes, let me become a river that I may flow for as long as the days shall dawn in the world," Gwaʼnalalis replied. Putting his hand on Gwaʼnalalis' forehead and pushing him down prone, Ḵaniḵiʼlakw said, "There, friend, you will be a river and many kinds of salmon will come to you to provide food for your decendants for as long as the days shall dawn in the world. And so the man Gwaʼnalalis became the river, Gwaʼni.

Pa̱lʼnakwa̱laga̱lis Waʼkas (Dan Cranmer) 1930


Ḵaluǥwis ( Turnour Island)
Numas - Tradition of the Nuna̱masax̱alis, a clan of the Lawit̕sis

ŁawitʼsisNumas came down from the sky to Agiwala at Fort Rupert. While he was sitting there, a butterfly as large as an eagle flew about his head, and cried, “Ma, ma, ma!” three times. For this is the reason the people sing this burden. Numas had a large house for his winter dance and he wore a large head ring of red cedar bark. He arranged a place in the rear of the house where time should be beaten on boards and boxes (ḵiḵa̱labił).

When Numas came down to our world, he had a copper. When the people became more numerous, he gave a feast, during which he put his copper under the mountain. For this reason the place in Dzawadi “Knight Inlet” where the feast was given is called T̕łaḵwax̱sta̱lis “Copper Under It”. The chiefs of the Kwagu’ł desired that he should come and make songs for them, because from the beginning he was a Song Leader. They said, “Let our Uncle come here, he is a Song Leader. He shall make songs for us”. Therefore the people now have songs in the winter dance. He made the first songs.

When ‘Max̱wa, ‘Max̱walis, and Yixaga̱me’, chiefs of the Kwagu’ł, were going to marry, they said, “Let our Uncle come! He has a staff with a hand on top of it”. With this he took the princesses of the chiefs of various tribes. He went all over the country to get wives, even as far south as Comox.

T̕sama was the name of his child, he was called T̕łaḵwagilaga̱me’ “Copper-making Face” when he took his father’s place. He had a son named ‘Na̱mugwis, whose descendants were, in order, Wetła̱max̱alas, Awidi, and Kwaxa̱la’nukwa̱me’. This last one died recently.

Kwakiutl Tales recorded by George Hunt for Franz Boas (pgs. 485 – 586).


Dzawadi (Knight Inlet)
R.Maynard, 1890, Ethnology Division, Royal British Columbia Museum

A̱wa̱ʼetła̱laAmong ancestors of the A̱wa̱ʼetła̱la is a woman who was a slave but escaped. She went upriver until she came to a house, and looking inside through a crack in the wall she saw two images of women. One image was made of a pile of mountain goat hair, and the other was heap of spindles. Hearing someone approach, the woman hid. A man entered the house and nodded to the images of women saying, "Please speak to me and start to become real women." Then he divided the mountain-goat meat which he had brought into two pieces and set one piece before each image. The next morning he had left to fish.

The woman entered the house and, although she was hungry, she simply cooked the meat and laid it before the images of women. When the man returned that evening with the fish he was pleased. He said. "Thank you, women, that you are becoming women and starting to work." He placed a fish before each of the women and the next morning he went out again.

The woman entered the house and cut and cooked the fish. Then she spun the wool, and finishing it she laid it on the ground where the images of the women had been (*from original text from Boas). The man returned that evening and was again pleased because the women had begun to work. He spoke to them, saying, "Thank you for beginning to work." And the next morning he went out again.

The woman entered the house and burned the images all except for the feet, which she left laying beside the fire. When the man returned that evening he discovered the feet of those who had been his wives and he cried. He thought that the women had merely been jealous of each other. Then, the woman entered and sat by his side. She told him, "I am the one who was really pictured in your images." And, then he married the woman and it was not long before she had many children. Then the men married the sisters and they became a large tribe. That is the end.

Adapted from Boas and Hunt, Kwakiutl Texts.


Tsadzisʼnukwameʼ (New Vancouver)
C.F. Newcombe, 1900, Ethnology Division, Royal British Columbia Museum

Da̱ʼnaxdaʼx̱wBefore the time of the great flood, the Da̱ʼnaxdaʼx̱w of Dzawadi knew it would happen and began to prepare for it. Some of the people tied four canoes together and put their provisions in these. Dzawadalalis built a home of small poles, which he covered with clay. The others laughed at him, but he knew that he and his four children would survive the flood. When the rains came, the others tied their canoes to an Elderberry tree, while Dzawadalalis began moving his belongings into his clay-covered house. One of the men who had ridiculed him said, "Please let me come with you, but Dzawadalalis refused, saying, "Go to the mountain, for that is what you said you would do. My children and I will be locked inside this house, for we are going underwater." Shutting the door, he began to sing, "Take care of us. I am going where you told me to go."

Those people who had made fun of him floated around in the flood, which had reached the tops of the highest mountains in Dzawadi. For some time, Dzawadalalis and his children lived in the underwater house. Then he sent a small bird out. It returned to their house with a small root in his mouth, and so Dzawadalalis knew that the waters were beginning to subside. He waited for some time, then sent another small bird out. Again, it returned with evidence that the waters were still going down. The third time he sent a bird out, it brought leaves back from a tree. Finally, the fourth small bird was sent out and it brought back blades of grass in its mouth. Dzawadalalis knew then that it was safe to leave his underwater house. He instructed his children to open the door and he thanked the Creator for saving them. They survived because they believed they would be saved.

Watlaxaʼas (Jack Peters) 1980.


Iʼtsika̱n (Estekin)
Ḵulus “Supernatural White Down-Covered Bird”

Maʼa̱mtagilaḴulus is the crest of the ‘Ma’a̱mtagila “Those who come from ‘Matagila”. ‘Matagila “Flyer” the Ancestor of the tribe came down from heaven in the form of a Kulus. In time, ‘Matagila was sent a message that the Great Flood was going to come and cleanse the World. To prepare, ‘Matagila built himself a waterproof house and gathered his family inside to escape the disaster. The terrible flood covered the house completely, but ‘Matagila and his family were spared. After many days, ‘Matagila breaks a hole in the roof of his house and releases one of four birds that he had caught prior to the flood. The first three birds that were set free did not return, but the fourth, returned with a twig of green cedar, signifying that the flood had completely gone down and it was safe to come out. Eventually, ‘Matagila sends his sons to travel about and repopulate the world. When ‘Matagila believed his work was done, he transformed back into a Kulus and returned to his home in the heavens. His constructive, building spirit and helpfulness are respected and honoured in ceremonies practiced by the ‘Ma’a̱mtagila today.


Gwaʼyi (Kincome Inlet)
W. Pike, ca. 1915, Ethnology Division, Royal British Columbia Museum

Dzawada̱ʼenux̱wBefore the Great Deluge happened, there were four wolves in the North. Three of the wolves were male and one was female. When the Deluge of the World came, the wolves climbed to the top of a large mountain called Having-Phosphorescence. The flood waters didn't reach its summit and the four wolves were saved.

As soon as the waters subsided , the wolves came down from the mountain. The eldest of them took off his wolf mask and said, "You also take off your wolf masks, for we must finish being animals and from now on we will remain men. I shall have the name Listened-to, and you (the female) shall be called Healing-Woman, and you younger two brothers shall be Supernatural-One and Slow-in-house."

One day as the wolves-who-had-become-people sat, Listened-to grabbed his brother Supernatural-One by the throat and bit him so the younger man died. Taking a knife, wise Listened-to cut up the body into small pieces and made them into a ball. This ball he threw into the air, saying, "Do not be sorry for what I have done to our brother. It is only because this is the only way in which we can increase our numbers. See!" And, as the ball of Supernatural-one's flesh rose in the air, it became eagle down which was blown all over the world. Then, Listened-to said to the eagle down, "You will be the future men, and you will become many all around our world." So, there were only two great men and a single woman who were the ancestors of all the tribes of the whole world.

In the course of time, Listened-to moved to Kingcome Inlet, Slow-in-House visited him there one day, and said, "Oh, brother, Listened-to, how do the birds of your river here sing?" Listened-to answered him saying, "This is the song of the birds:


He referred to the robin. Then Slow-in-house said, "Thus, your people shall be called Dzawadaʼneux." And when Listened-to asked his brother Slow-in-house what the birds sang near his home at Wakeman Sound, Slow-in-house referred to the lark and whistled, and chirped just like a lark. For that reason the people of Slow-in-house's village came to be called Haxwaʼmis.


G̱waʼyasda̱ms (Gilford Island)
C.F. Newcombe, 1900, Ethnology Division, British Columbia Provincial Museum

Ḵwikwa̱sutinux̱The Thunderbird was living in the Upper World with his wife. The name of the Thunderbird was Too-large. Now, Too-Large was very downcast, and he spoke to his wife, saying, "Let us go to the Lower World, so that I can see it." Then his wife spoke to him, "Husband, do you know about your name, that you have the name Too-Large, for you will be too big a Chief in our Lower World?"

Despite his wife's advice, Thunderbird told her to get ready to go. Then he put on his Thunderbird mask and his wife also put her Thunderbird mask. They came flying through the door of the Upper World. They sat down on the large mountain, Split-in-Two, near Gilford Island, and they saw a river at the bottom of it. Too-large said, "Let's go down and look at the river." So they flew down to sit at the mouth of the river near a man who was working alone on his house. The man was struggling to raise a beam and said to the Thunderbirds, "I wish that you would become men so that you could help me with his house." Too-large lifted up the jaw of his Thunderbird mask and said, "Oh, brother, we are people!"

Then Too-large and his wife took off their Thunderbird masks and ceased being birds forever. The man who had been Thunderbird said, "My name is Too-large in the Upper World, but now my name is Head-winter-dancer in this Lower World, and the name of my wife here is Winter-dance-woman." So, Head-winter-dancer and Winter-dance-woman built a house on a hill and from them came a large tribe and much greatness.

Adapted from Boas and Hunt, Kwakiutl Texts, 1905-6.


Heǥa̱m's (Hopetown)
Wilson Duff, 1955, Ethnology Division, British Columbia Provincial Museum

Gwawaʼenux̱wIn the beginning there was a family of ancestors. The name of one man was First-Beaver, and he had a younger brother named Paddle-to. First-Beaver was very strong and twisted thick yew trees. He rubbed his body with hemlock branches. But Paddle-to was lazy and foolish. The father of First Beaver felt badly because Paddle-to slept all the time. One day, the father kicked Paddle-to and said, "Oh you fool! Don't think too much of always sleeping. Look at your Elder brother. He is always rubbing his body with hemlock branches to make himself attractive to spirit powers."

Disgraced, Paddle-to decided to commit suicide. As soon as night came, he went to the woods and sat beside a lake. The waters of the lake rose and fell and then they were high a small devil-fish (octopus) swam around Paddle-to. The waters then rose so high they came to Paddle-to's neck, and the devil-fish grabbed him and grew large by sucking his blood. Paddle-to was carried off under water by the devil-fish, who took him to the under-water house of the one who is called Wealthy because he controls all of the creatures of the water. Wealthy treated Paddle-to well and taught him secrets of supernatural power. He introduced Paddle-to to all of the creatures of the water by taking him on an underwater trip as far as Bella Coola. Wealthy also made Paddle-to a gift of all the dancing paraphernalia used by his descendants today.

Then, Wealthy sent Paddle-to home, but first said, "You shall no longer be called Paddle-to; from now on you will be called Born-to-be-the-head-of-the-world." Upon finding his family, the one who had been Paddle-to changed into a whale and an eagle came and sat on the fin of the whale. Born-to-be-the-head-of-the-world's father said, "Look, this eagle seated on a whale shall be our crest." Finally, Born-to-be-the-head-of-the-world changed himself into a sea otter and swam into a long bay. His family followed him, and leaving the water he became a man again. Pointing to the shore, which is Heǥa̱m's (Drury Inlet), he said, "I wish this to be a village site." The ancestors of the Gwawaʼenux̱w then went to work.

Adapted from Boas and Hunt, Kwakiutl Texts, 1905-6.


Baʼas (Blunden Harbour)
C.F. Newcombe, 1901, Ethnology Division, British Columbia Provinial Museum

ʼNakʼwaxdaʼx̱wThe first of the Ten-clan-tribe, the ʼNakwaxdaʼxw, lived at the narrow entrance by Baʼas. Their Chief was, Chief-of-the-Ancients, whose younger brothers were Shameless-deer and all of the myth people. Old Chief-of-the-Ancients was always greatly troubled because there was no river near the village. So, one day he called all of his younger brothers and said, "I feel badly because there is no river near where we live. It is a Chief's responsibility to assure the well-being of the community, so I am going to look for a wife who is a twin, for twins are salmon who have assumed the form of men, and on account of my wife the various kinds of salmon will come." Thus he spoke to his younger brothers.

So, first all of them went to one end of Narrow-entrance and dug out a place for the future river. Then, Chief-of-the-Ancients walked to a river some distance away and drank deeply from it, keeping the water in his mouth rather than swallowing. Walking back to the site of their river, he let the water in his mouth out on the plain above the proposed river. There it made a lake and water commenced to flow out of the lake and down the new river. So, what Chief-of-the-Ancients had carried in his mouth became a huge river.

Then Chief-of-the-Ancients went in search of a twin. His aunt, Star-woman, told him to go to the village of the myth people and seek among their graves. So he went and sought among the graves for a twin. He had almost given up when he found one, and taking the bones, he sprinkled them with the water of life...and a very pretty twin woman came to life. "Why do you come and make me alive, Chief-of-the-ancients?" she asked. Her name was Salmon-maker, and she became the wife of the old Chief. And salmon soon came to meet her up the river that the Chief had provided for his people forever.

Adapted from Boas and Hunt, Kwakiutl Texts, 1905-6.


Takʼus (Smiths Inlet)
C.F. Newcombe, Ethnology Division, British Columbia Provincial Museum

Gwaʼsa̱laThe ancestors of the Gwaʼsa̱la came to earth from above. One of them came down as a brilliant event wearing the sun mask, and, taking it off became a man, Tlagalixala. Another of the ancestors landed as a whale. He came from the north end of the world and, building a house, established one of the groups of the tribe.

Adapted from Boas and Hunt, Kwakiutl Tales, 1908.


X̱wa̱tis (Quatsino)
B.Leeson, 1912, Ethnology Division, British Columbia Provincial Museum

G̱usgimukwThe G̱usgimukw first lived at a placed called Guseʼ. The Transformer, Hiłatusa̱la, visited there during his travels around the world. There were only two people in the village, an old woman and a child. When asked why they were alone, the old woman replied, "All of our people have been eaten up by a monster in the river. Whenever someone has gone to get water, the monster has eaten them." Hiłatusa̱la then asked the child to get him some water, for he was thirsty. The child was afraid to go but, Hiłatusa̱la told her she had nothing to fear. As he put his Sisiyutł belt around her. Still afraid, the child took a water bucket and began walking towards the river.

Buried in the sand was the huge tongue of the monster. Without knowing it, the child walked right onto the monster's tongue and was swallowed. Hiłatusa̱la began to sing, which made the monster appear and vomit and immense pile of bones as well as the child it had just swallowed. "Now, we will get to work, so that your tribe will increase in size again," Hiłatusa̱la said to the child. They began putting the bones together in the right way to form bodies. When they were finished, Hiłatusa̱la sprinkled his life-giving water on the assembled bones and the people whose bones had been lain on the beach came to life and stood up. They said to each other, "I must have been sleeping a long time." Hiłatusa̱la told them, "You weren't sleeping! You were dead and I brought back to life. Now I will rid the river of the monster." He shouted at the monster to show himself again. It did so, and taking hold of it, he flung it away, saying, "You will not come again; you will be gone!"

ʼWalas (James Wallas) 1980.


Oyag̱a̱mla (Winter Harbour)





The Deluge:

Every coastal tribe seems to have a story of the Great Flood and each differs a little.

“The Bella Coola Indians say they put all their masks in a box to save them”, said Mr. Wallas. “When the water rose to the top of the mountain, they tied up and put the masks out on top. The masks are still there turned to stone”.

The tribes do not always agree as to which were of the original tribe and which are descendants of people that were in a canoe that broke away. According to Mr. Wallas, Cape Mudge Indians (from Quadra Island near Campbell River) and Neah Bay Indians (at the southeastern-most tip of British Columbia) are among those that say they broke away.

The Gwat̕sinuxw people that lived below the inlet knew the Flood was coming a long time before it happened. In those days they seemed to know some things ahead of time. Some of the people decided to go underground to a place where the water could not reach, but most of the people built strong canoes.

One of these canoes was larger than the others. It was the lead canoe. Using a long cedar withe rope made from twisted cedar bark, they attached a big rock anchor to the lead canoe. All the canoes were lashed together with poles between them. Lots of fresh water in wooden containers, and dried meat and fish, clams, and berries were stored on board.

One day when all the canoes were prepared, it started to rain hard. The people noticed that the water of the sound was rising above the high tide mark. Some families started getting into canoes; others went underground.

“I see a big wave coming”, someone shouted, and they all looked and could see, in the distance, a mountain of water racing toward them. They moved fast then!

The flood hit, and the canoes rose level with the mountaintops across from their village. It was really rough up there. They tried to avoid huge trees that were rooted up. Pieces of their former homes dashed against the sides of their canoes. Some of the canoes broke away and were lost in the raging storm. The canoes that broke away later ended up in other places and started other tribes.

When the water started to recede and the tops of the mountains became dry land, the people would get out, stretch their legs, and have something to eat. Sometimes they would camp there for a few days. That is why fossilized clamshells have been found at the top of some mountains.

Finally the people could see their old village site again. Nothing was left. All their lodges were gone, their totem poles, even all their earth. But the people who had gone under­ground had survived. They came out one by one, happy to see the daylight, happy to breathe fresh air again, “There is a lot of dirt underground”, they told the people. So the Chief instructed them, "Each of you who has a basket, make several trips a day under the ground to bring up earth for our village site”.
They did so, carrying the baskets on their sides. Soon there was more than enough earth on which to build the village, but a lot more had been spread at one end of the site, than at the other. “You are going to have to smooth that out”, the Chief advised the people. They did as best they could, but the ground is still a little slanted there.

Then the Chief announced, “I am going to try to find out if any of our people who broke away during the flood have survived”. He climbed to the top of a hill, faced the north, and sent out his power, calling, “Wuuuuuuu!” The sound echoed over the hills, but there was no answer. If there were any survivors in that direction, his power was not strong enough to reach them.

Then he faced the setting sun and called again “Wuuuuuuuu!” There was no answer from that direction either. When he sent out his power to the south, there was still no answer. He turned toward the mainland and called “Wuuuuuuuu!” Faintly, from a great distance away, was an answering call­ sounding “Wuuuuuuuu!”

“It is from Kingcome Inlet!” shouted the Chief. “It is our brother!” The people whose canoes had come to rest at Kingcome Inlet were happy, too, that their brothers had survived.

“Kwagu’ł Legends” by Chief James Wallas.


Xwa̱mdasbeʼ (Hope Island)
Edward Dossetter, 1891, American Museum of Natural History

Tłatła̱siḵwa̱laAs the Creator was going about changing things into the way they are today, he spent much time making the animals. One of the first animals that he created was the mink. Creator was at a place called South-side-beach when he saw a very small man sharpening a spear with a long handle. The Creator asked, "What are you doing?" And the little man replied that he was sharpening his long spear to fight the Creator with. "Let me see that," the Creator said. And taking the spear, he drove it into the Mink where he sits down, saying, "There. It is better there, and you will wear it as a tail in later generations." He also made raccoon this way, for raccoon was sharpening a striped spear, hoping to fight Creator with it. Thus, raccoon has a striped tail and a mask on his face today. Deer's horns here placed there by Creator, too. Deer was sitting at Shouting-place sharpening up mussel-shell knives when the Creator came by. Deer didn't recognize Creator and confided in this stranger that he was intending to kill the Creator with his sharp knives. Well, Creator stuck the knives on deer's head; and they are still there today as antlers.

The Creator was continually on the move, for the world in those days needed a lot of changing to make the world as we see it today. He created all of the tribes of the world, as well. But, then, one day he was at a place called Clover-roots-at-mouth-of-river and he noticed a woman called Ya̱x̱aga̱ma who was so beautiful that he could not leave her. He was stopped there for some time, and their children became the ancestors of the Naḵa̱mga̱lisala.

Adapted from Boas and Hunt, Kwakiutl Texts,1905-6.


Tʼsa̱kwa̱ʼluta̱n (Cape Mudge)
Trio Crocker Collection, date unknown, Ethnology Division

WeḵaʼyiListen, and I will tell you of the first of the Liǥwildaʼx̱w, who lived in a village at a place called Tilted Ground. There was a great Shaman living there who always cured the sick ones and was paid with slaves, canoes and princesses of the Chiefs. This Shaman had a rival who was very jealous of his power, Young-Shaman. Young-Shaman went everyday to bathe to purify himself. One day as he was seated by the river he heard a noise in the salalberry brush nearby. He threw a piece of bark in the direction of the noise and it ceased, so he went on home.

The next day, Young-shaman and his brother went to their canoe to collect seagull eggs. They saw a large kelp on the water going down to great depths, so Young-shaman told his brother, "I think I will go down and see what the underpart of the sea is really like. Don't be frightened for me, but come looking for me along the beach everyday." Then, Young-shaman crawled down the kelp.

When he had crawled to a great depth, Young-shaman saw a house below. Descending to the roof, he heard someone inside remark that something was rustling the roof-boards. Soon a man came out to investigate and invited Young-shaman to come in. Inside the house there were a great number of shamans trying to heal a heavy Chief, lying on a reed mat on the floor. The Shamans were having no luck. Young-shaman waited until all of the other shamans had given up before going out to examine the Chief who was moaning in pain. Turning the Chief on his side, he noticed the piece of bark which he had thrown in the salalberry brush, sticking into the side of the Chief, but not easily visible because the rolls of fat. So, Young-shaman pretended to suck out the illness of the Chief. Four times he sucked mightily, and only then did he pull out the piece of bark so quickly that no one could see him do it. The ill man became well at once and praised the Young-shaman loudly, saying, "I am Wealthy, Chief of the creatures of the sea, and I give you great supernatural spirit power as a gift. With it you can overpower any other shamans." And with that Young-shaman left to go back home.

His brother found him dead on the beach the next morning, but when Young-shaman felt his brother's touch he came back to life. People in the village were amazed at Young-shaman's new power...except for the older shaman, who thought it was a trick. Pretending to be ill, the older shaman asked Young-shaman to heal him. Young-shaman realized at once that the older man was not ill, and therefore he tore the heart, liver, intestines and lungs out of the treacherous older shaman to bits and drew them out of the man's anus, killing him. Young-shaman continued to be a great healer, taking the name Ḵateʼna̱ts, and becoming the ancestor of many people.

Adapted from Boas and Hunt, Kwakiutl Texts, 1905-6.


Tłaʼmataxw (Campbell River)










Traditions of the Ligwiłda’x̱w
Told by Chief Billy Assu 

The first man came down at T̕a̱ka, Topaz Harbor in the mainland. His name was Weḵa’yi. Lakata̱sa̱n is the name of the mountain there. After some time, a long time, the great flood was to come. So the people made cedar rope from the top of the mountain down to the salt water at the ocean. With this long rope they made an anchor and tied it to the mountain to secure their canoes during the flood. They fastened two canoes together and lots of people came. The flood lasted for a very long time, and it is said the tides were really strong and the weather was very bad. Because of the rough weather the canoes started to bang together and he feared the canoes would split and they would drown. Therefore Weḵa’yi cut off the people in the other canoe and they drifted away and they are the Kitimaat people. Then the great flood went down and he looked around and realized that he was in a different place. He had drifted up into Knight Inlet.

There was a woman named T̕łisda’ḵ and she had wings on her back. Weḵa’yi began to put stakes in the river to build a salmon trap and the woman asked him what he was doing. She told him that this was her river. Weḵa’yi argued and said it was his river and he had been there first. To test Weḵa’yi, the woman asked him, “If it is truly your river, then what type of fish return here?” Weḵa’yi replied and said, “Sockeye salmon, Coho salmon, Pink salmon, Spring salmon, Chum salmon and Steelhead salmon”. The woman told Weḵa’yi that if he really owned the river, then he would have known about the valuable eulachon that comes to this river. The woman and Weḵa’yi continued to argue over the ownership of the river and only in this version did Weḵa’yi win against her. She called them dzaxwa̱n or “candle fish”. She eventually allowed him to build a house there and make t̕łi’na or “eulachon grease” every spring.

After a while, people began to increase in numbers everywhere. Weḵa’yi called the people from all over. He put the grease into kelp bottles. He sold grease for slaves and became a great Chief. He also lived at Xwa̱lkw at Gwa’ni or Nimpkish River where there are logs piled up for foundation for dwellings there. Weḵa’yi’s wife was a woman from Gilford Island named K̕ix̱waḵ̕a̱’nakw. He married her and got a copper named T̕łaḵwola.

There are many tribes and clans amongst the Ligwiłda’x̱w. They are mainly two tribes today, sharing common ancestry, beginning with Weḵa’yi and his family and their survival of the great Flood.

Wiweḵe’ – the descendants of Weḵa’yi who now live at Cape Mudge.

Wiweḵ̕a̱m – the descendants of Weḵa’yi’s sister who now live at Campbell River.

Recorded by Phillip Drucker.