Transcript - Rainbow Pole, Gwin̓ahaa

This pole belongs to Gwaanis and sub chief of W̓ii Seeks. W̓ii Seeks was [part of] a huge Killerwhale tribe in the Nass of Gitwinksilkw. He had Wii Lax̱ha that’s a sub chief and K’amksiiwaa. This pole was carved about 1890’s by G̱adax̱, a wolf prince of the house of Keex̱kw. He was assisted by Leonard Douglas, Nii’slisyaan and another carver. It was carved about early 1890’s. It was set up in Gwin̓ahaa. It was purchased in 1929 by Marius Barbeau for the Bronx museum in New York were it stood up until 1976. It was stored away and purchased about 1978 by the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

The story of this pole is that this one here is Grizzly Bear. There again, it has the old figure in the ears, human face in the paws. This is the grizzly bear that appeared in the lake, and people don’t really cross the lake – they were attacked by this grizzly bear. Huge grizzly bear.

Story goes, they get together and they built a huge raft with a hole in the middle. So when they get this grizzly bear to surface, they had a long pole, sharp pole. When the grizzly bear surfaced right in the middle of the raft, they put the pole through its neck. It was so huge, [but] they managed to kill it.

It was so huge they couldn’t take the whole thing on the raft, so they just cut the head off. When they took it ashore, the fur had human figures on the fur. They collected those. And they go ashore. When they got to shore, the lake started to rise so fast, so they threw the furs back in order to stop the lake from rising. It stopped for awhile and give them chance to advance. They kept on doing it until they got to high ground with the grizzly bear head. So there are more stories to it, [such as] how they took it down river.

The next one is the human figure, a chief. And [he] has a head dress on, and it’s a huge sun. And the face is around the sun, and it’s the story of Sg̱aw̓oo. And on top is the Killerwhale.

A lot of story about the killerwhale. One of the family disowned. One of the young girls [had] been so lazy – not doing anything for the family. The family was embarrassed of her, so they left her on the island. She was sitting on the beach crying and hungry. The killerwhale came ashore and asked her what happened. So the girl [was] named Hlguḵ’alams. They figured the killerwhale told her to climb on his back and hold on to the fin and take her ashore – take her to the mainland. So it did. She was riding on the back of the killerwhale. The killerwhale took her ashore and that’s where it dropped her off on the mainland, Lax̱ Kwalaams. That’s why they named that place Lax̱ Kwalaams.

And the top one is the Sg̱aw̓oo story. It’s a long story were a young girl’s family been raided by warriors, and Sg̱aw̓oo and the grandmother were in the hut by themselves. One of our traditions years ago, when the girl changed – change her life – when she first menstruated, she stayed with the grandmother in the hut, something like a potato cellar. They stayed in for a whole week. For 4 days to a whole week. They call wii bax̱ yas – “House of a virgin”. The virgins of a house were very sacred. Young men were not even allowed to look in there. Nobody else were allowed to go in there.

While they were in there, the enemy raided the whole village. When they finally came out, they found out that the people of the village were all gone. Nobody [was] left. So the old lady, Sg̱aw̓oo’s grandmother, took her and started walking down the river.

There’s a reef [sandbar] above Aiyansh and Gitlaxdamix in the Nass. That’s were they sat and started singing a song, asking if anybody wanted to marry Sg̱aw̓oo. “Hopefully the supernatural will answer my plea because I need revenge on the enemy that raided my village.” So she sang a song that goes,

Nadiminaz hlgu wii Sg̱aw̓oo Nahl adim in aks hlgu wii Sg̱aw̓oo Nahl dim anaks hlgu wii Sg̱aw̓oo ahl wihl hlu no’ol gaii will gatniskw hlgii tsal bii gii nagahl wihl hloo baii in gihl biiskw nii dimm gamoo nii hlaa noo mahl adam naa hlgu wii Sg̱aw̓oo

Meaning, “Who is going to marry my daughter Sg̱aw̓oo?” Then different animals came along. Grizzly bear came. “What can you do?” Then the grizzly bear started growling, pulling branches down. [The grandmother of] Sg̱aw̓oo said, “Not enough, not enough. Go.”

Then the squirrel, salmon , killer whale – all the animals came along who wanted to marry Sg̱aw̓oo. The grandmother kept refusing them.

Then finally a man came along and said, “I will marry Sg̱aw̓oo. I’m the man from the sky, Wii Lax̱ha.” So the grandmother said yes.

He turned into a big eagle. “I’m going to fly all the way up to the sky – don’t look out. Don’t look out, or I’m going to keep on falling.” He put them in his wings and started flying.

The grandmother got curious with all the noise, so the grandmother looked out. He took the grandmother and took a big knot out of a tree, and he put the grandmother in there and put the knot back.

So that’s why they say, when the wind blows and they hear the tree squeaking, they say it’s Sg̱aw̓oo’s grandmother screaming. So that’s where Sg̱aw̓oo’s grandmother is.

The supernatural [man] went up in the sky, and when they came back [years later], the village that raided them was on the opposite side of the river – it was still there.

When they came back, the fog [covered the river]. They [the enemy villagers] heard noise, then there were 3 or 4 longhouses that came down from the sky and situated where the old village was. On the front of one house was a sun, and the other houses a star, a rainbow, and the moon. So they had all those and they used their powers to retaliate to the enemies. So that’s what the story is on the great totem pole of Gwaanis.

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