Origin Stories

“A long time ago, Cia’tlk’am descended from the sky. He wore the feather garment Qua’eqoe and settled in Nga’icam (Cape Mudge). He became the ancestor of the Catloltq (Comox). With him, his sister Te’sitla arrived. She was so big that she needed two boats to cross the sea. The brother and sister wandered through all countries and visited the Nanaimo, Ni’ciatl (Ni-Such), Tlahu’s (Kahuse) and many other tribes who all became their younger brothers. {Boas 1895:86}

 


A long time ago, two men, Koai’min and He’k’ten descended from the sky. They became the ancestors of the PE’ntlatc (Pentlatch). Once the sea receded far from its shore and the women went out far and filled their baskets with fish. The bottom of the sea remained dry for a long time. But He’k’ten was afraid that the water would rise that much higher later on. Therefore, he made a long rope of cedar branches and toed four boats together. At last the water really flowed back and began to flood the shore. So he tied the rope to a big rock in the mouth of the PE’ntlatc (Pentlatch) River, fastened the other end to the boats and the two chief families floated about on the rafts. The other people begged He’k’ten, “Oh, allow us to tie our boats to your rope. We will give you our daughters as wives.” But He’k’ten didn’t allow it and pushed them awaywith poles. When the water receded again, they alone found their home again, while the others were scattered about the wide world. A whale remained stranded high up on the mountain near PE’ntlatc (Pentlatch) Lake. The water up there froze and it was unable to get away again. It can still be seen there today and that is why the glacier in the PE’ntlatc (Pentlatch) Valley is called K’one-is (Queneesh). 

 

 


 

This next Origin Story comes from a book titled “Two houses, half-buried in sand.” by Beryl Mildred Cryer. It is a book on the Oral Traditions of the local Hul’q’umi’num people on Vancouver Island. This origin story was translated by Mary Rice from an elder from Kuper Island prior to 1932.

 

Origin of the Qhwimux Tribe.

In the beginning, long ago, there were no people living at Punt-Lutz. Then, a long way back in the woods where there was a lake, a man was made.

For a long time he lived there alone eating the roots that he found, and after a time, he woke up, and he saw a woman standing looking at him. She was a fine, tall woman, with long hair that reached right down to her feet; but she had no arms. The man jumped up and ran to catch her. “Ah, I have been waiting so long for you” he said. “Come and be my wife.”

But the woman shook her head. “No, no,” she said. “See I have no arms. What if I were to have children? Perhaps they would have no arms, too. I must always live alone.”

But the man would not let her go. “I will look after you,” he said. “And why should our children only be like you? Why not like me too?”

So the woman listened to him, and lived with him as his wife. Every day the man would go out to hunt, and he would come home with deer and elk, and cook the meat and feed his wife, and do all the work for her.

“Where are you from?” he would ask her. But she would not tell him. “I do not know” she said. “I walked a long way, but I can’t remember.”

Well, after a time, two babies were born to them, two fine, big boys, and both had arms like their father. The man took and washed them and looked after them, for the poor woman could no touch them.

These two children grew up very quickly, as did all the first children long ago; and the man was kept busy looking after them and doing all the work at home, as well as hunting for food, and it was not long before he began to get bad tempered, and quarreled with his wife.

“You are tired of me,” said the woman. “Put the children on my back, and I will go and take them with me. You need never see me again.”

“No, no!” said the man. “I was tired and did not mean what I said.” But every day it was the same; there was always trouble, until one day while he was out hunting, his wife took the children and walked away into the woods.

Bye-and bye she came to a creek, and along this they walked, with her children following behind. When they had gone a long way, they stopped for a rest, and to eat some of the dried meat they had brought with them.

“I must have a drink,” said the woman. She stooped over the creek to drink, and, as she looked into the clear water, she saw her two arms grow from her body. They came down quickly, just as though they had been shut up in her shoulders the whole time.

“Ah, ah! She called to her boys. “Come and see! Come and look at me!” And she sat down at the bank of the creek and began to laugh. Suddenly she sat very still and listened. From up in the air there came a man’s laugh and a voice spoke. “Now you are alright, poor woman,” it said. “Now you are alright, just like the other people.” “Ah yes, she called, “Did you do this? Did you give me my arms?” “Yes,” said the voice, “I gave you your arms. Now you can go back and help your man do the work.”

“I will go now,” she said, and, calling her boys to her, she started back. When she got to their home she saw the man sitting looking into his fire. He had some cooked meat ready, but was not eating. Looking up, he saw her coming, carrying one of her children on her arm, and holding the other by his hand.

Ah, but they were glad to be together once more. And sitting by the fire, the woman told him how the Spirit from the air had given her arms to her. After this they lived very happily for a long time, the woman helping her husband do the work, cleaning and smoking the deer and bear meat that he brought in, and digging for roots and gathering berries to dry for winter. In time, they had a large family, for the children that were born to them were always twins, and grew to be fine, strong children.

Now, the woman loved her two eldest children the best and always helped them to do their work, until their father grew angry and quarreled with his wife, telling her that she made them lazy, that they were of no use to him, and, taking a stick, he whipped the biggest boy until he lay on the ground unable to move.

That night the two boys talked together. “Let us leave,” said the biggest. “We are able to take care of ourselves now. Why should our father treat us as though we were slaves?” So the next morning, while it was still very early, they left their beds and started off through the thick forest.

Bye-and-bye they came to a river and walked beside this, following it down until they came to the sea. Now the water was a long way out, and as they walked over the sand they saw water spurting up all about them. “Look!” said one, “there must e be something down there; we will find out what it is!”

They got sticks and scraped away the sand until they came to a large clam. It may be good to eat, they thought, and breaking it open, they tasted it. Ah, it was good! They both began to dig, and very soon had a large pile of clams. They carried them up to the beach and, getting cedar sticks, made a fire and put the clams beside it to cook.

For many months they lived at that place beside the river, always having plenty to eat, for besides the deer they killed, they could always dig clams when the water went out. One day, when the water was very low, they saw something splashing in the river, and, hurrying to look, found more salmon than they could count, swimming up the river. The water was filled with salmon, and more and more were coming, all pushing and fighting to get far up in the fresh water.

How the boys worked killing those fish—hitting them on the head and throwing them far out on the river bank! That night, when they had finished cleaning and putting the fish to dry, the two sat beside their fire and talked.

“Do you remember?” said one, “how hard our father used to work finding enough to feed us with?” “And do you remember,” said the other, “how our mother has often told us of the time when she had no arms and our father would do all the work, washing and feeding us, after a hard day’s hunting? Let us go back, and tell our people of this place, and bring them all here to make their home with us!”

“A few days later, they took their dried clams and as many salmon as they could carry, and started back to find their people. Now, after they had quarreled with their father, and had left him, their poor mother had cried and cried; and nothing that her husband could do made her feel any better, and the poor man did not know what to do. One day, as she sat beside the lake, thinking of her lost boys, she heard a voice, and saw a lot of people coming through the bushes. This was another tribe of people who had been made, far back in the mountains, and had left their home to look for a better one.

“Stay with us,” said the man, “for my wife has lost her two eldest sons and is lonely and unhappy. Make your home with us, and help to cheer my poor wife.” So the new tribe stayed there, and made their home beside the lake.

It did not take the boys very long to get back to their old home, for they walked night and day, they were in such a hurry to see their family again. One morning the mother woke to see two young men standing in the door of her little house. “We have come back to you mother!” they called. “We have found a place where food is all about us—no need to hunt for hours for a meal. There is food that you have never heard of—more than a large tribe would need. See, we have brought some of the new food for you to eat.”

All the people came to look at the strange new food and to eat pieces of it. “Ah, my sons,” said their father, “I did wrong. I beat you as though you were children that must be taught, and now it you who can teach us.”

“You were right,” the boys told him, “for it was your beating that made us become men.”

For a few weeks the boys stayed at the lake, then the little houses were taken down, the skins and all that the people had were packed, and together they all started down the river to the sea. There, they formed the Punt-Lutz tribe, which grew to be a tribe of many hundreds, and ah! The fights there were between those people and the Cowichans, before the last battle was fought and peace came to all our people.