Virtual Museum of Canada (VMC)

Origins of Sq’éwlets Skyborn and Sturgeon People Sxxwiyám

The Origins of Sq’éwlets Skyborn and Sturgeon People Sxxwiyám

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[Drumming and singing]

[Voice of Albert “Sonny” McHalsie]

[This story uses drawings and imagery to illustrate what is being described.]

From the Sky. The first Sq’éwlets man he was called [sem-kahmeltuk] was Tel Swáyel, Skyborn, who came down from the sky. [A man in a cedar hat is shown descending from the sky, holding a parachute in his hands]. In his arms were two animal-like beings, called [skey-uth] mink and [schwem-utztul], fisher. His wife was [skool-aza-tul]. He also brought down with him a curious kind of magic plaything, or toy, called [siem-uch-tulth], which had the appearance of a feathered ring. When he came down, he held a kind of red parachute over his head which kept him from falling too quickly. He landed on the rocky point, on the West side of the mouth of the Harrison River. Here, he constructed a platform, and tied it to the point by a cedar branch rope, and from the [slack-uhl], [sem-kahmeltuk], the first man, caught salmon, in the [tumas-tuhl], dip net. It was from him that his descendents learned to catch salmon in this way.

The following day, he took the [siem-uch-tulth], his feathered ring, and rolled it down to the water. And the fisher and the mink ran down after it and brought it back in their mouths to him. After this he received the sxwóyxwey, the mystery mask, which he puts on and then performs a dance. When this is over, the mink and fisher are transformed into two children, a boy and girl. Later, these two marry, and from this union spring the [uth-wellmuth] people. At the time of their union, the pair are very poor and destitute. And have no clothes of any kind. The youth learns to make bows and arrows, and goes out to hunt. He kills many animals, and from their skins and furs, his wife makes clothes and blankets. Their names were, respectfully, [hum-sah-la] and [hum-at-seeya].

Skyborn Two. The second of the Sq’éwlets sets was of Skyborn origin. The ancestors of this family came down as a man and woman from the clouds, and likewise had a red parachute when they descended. The names of this pair was respectfully [skwum-ut-luck] and [skwum-at-luck].

St’alheqw: “Head of a Sturgeon Spear” People

A long time ago, three men came into the Harrison River in their canoe. As they rounded a point, they saw some children [stahk-wuth], playing in the water with something that looked like a ball. When the men saw the children they backed their canoe out of the river, and went home and told the people of the village of the strange sight they had seen. A great crowd of them now got into their canoes and came down to the Harrison River, to see the children playing in the water with their strange toy. When they got near the children, one of them paddles forward and seizes the plaything. When he has secured it, he cries out, “I have your toy, my younger brothers!”One of the children now rushed off to tell their parents. The elders come down to the water, to see who has taken the children’s toy. When they see the strangers, the elder man invites them, “Come ashore!”, and promises to show them how the toy works. So the visitors come ashore, and all go up to the house.

When they got inside, the man took the toy and put it on the ground, and behold - It moved and walked of itself. Then he said, “Watch, and see how I do it, and do it in the like manner yourselves”. He then showed them how the toy was worked, and afterwards presented it to them, saying, “Take it, it is yours”.

The strangers stayed with the Sturgeon people some days, and were fed royally on sturgeon meat everyday. Now every morning the visitors saw that the young people of the house went down to the river to bathe, and that one of the number was always missing when they returned. And that immediately, after someone went down to the water and cut up a sturgeon, they wondered where the sturgeon comes from, as nobody goes out fishing. When several days had passed, and they had observed the same thing happen everyday, they began to suspect that there was some connection between the disappearance of the boy, and the presence of the sturgeon.

The more so as they had always been told when eating the sturgeon, to be careful of the bones and set them aside. And someone had afterwards gathered them and thrown them into the river. And one of them decided to find out what this connection was. So the next day when they were eating the sturgeon, he secreted a bone from the head of the fish, And kept it back when the other bones were collected. Soon after, a youth came up from the river, with his face disfigured and bleeding. When the elder man saw him, he enquired of his visitors if any of them had kept back a bone of the sturgeon they had been eating. The man who had hidden the bone now brought it forward. And the elder man took it and cast it into the river.

The young man with the disfigured and bleeding face then went into the water, and presently returned with his face whole, and nothing the matter with him. The Sq’éwlets. Their ancestor was called [tsem’kam’el’tkuk]. His daughter found the sxwóyxwey. He himself was transformed into stone by Xá:ls.

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