Contests of the Healing Shamans
Contests of the Healing Shamans was transcribed by the Kitselas Treaty Office. Recorded in 1948-49 by William Beynon. Infromant : Da'gee (Harriet Hudson)
Among the Kitselas people, there was a great shaman who was known as Witaltal and he was always in contest with shamans from other places. Especially was he always competing with Nisatneats of the Ginaxangik. He would meditate in his house at Kitselas during the winter saying, “Oh! I wish my brother Nisatneats would think of me and send me some cockles.” Now these two people were very far apart. Nisatneats lived at the Ginaxangik village of Laxspaoesus at Metlakatla.not long afterwards, Nisatneats also sitting by his fire in his Metlakatla house, felt that someone was whispering into his ear. At once he recognized the voice of Wildaldal at Kitselas asking for cockles. This was how these two shamans made their thoughts known to each other. One day Wildaldal said to attendants, “Make ready, as my brother on the saltwater is sending me some cockles.” He had no sooner spoken, when down through the smoke hole of his house came down a huge quantity of cockles. These were at once gathered up and fed to all the people who marveled at this. Another time Nisatneats was sitting by his fire at Metlakatla and the snow was on the ground. He spoke more to himself saying, “I wish my brother would send me some fresh tamit.” At the same time Wildadal, sitting by his fire, felt that someone was communicating with him and he recognized the wish of his brother on the sea coast. He said to his aides, “Gather some fresh tamit, I want to send it to my brother at Ginaxangik.” Nisatneats was sitting by the fire, when he suddenly said, “Get ready, my brother at Kitselas is sending me some tamit.” He had scarcely spoken when a great box of tamit came down through the smoke hole. These he fed to the people in his house. They marveled at what these great shamans had done. Nisatneats began to go down to the waters edge every day and one day he came up saying, “We are going to be invaded and they will arrive here tonight. You shall all prepare yourselves and take them by surprise.” That night, the people of Ginaxangik were ready. In their houses there were sounds as if from dancing and singing. These were the women and children, the warriors had hidden outside to meet the expected invaders. When it was dark, the Ginaxangik’s saw many strange canoes approaching and as they ran to attack the Ginaxangik houses where the sounds of singing and dancing were coming from. Just as they did the Ginaxanik warriors met these attackers and completely surprised them, putting them to flight. Many of them were taken captive and others managed to make escape to their canoes. The next day the returned to their own villages being outdone by the shamanic powers of Nisatneats. These two great shamans would always try to outdo each other and one day Wildaldal built a bridge over the huge canyon at the Kitselas fishing village at Witsamhitsax. It was at a time when the Skeena River flowed more in the direction of the Kitimat, and the village of the people were on each side of the canyon. It was a great difficulty for those in one village to go to the other side. So Wildaldal said, “Come, there are several long trees on one side of canyon. We will cut these down and put them across the canyon. When this is finished there shall be one restriction. No woman in her monthly menses shall cross on it, as it is a part of me, it will be the cause of my death, should any woman who is in this unclean state, cross this bridge.” The bridge when finished was a wonderful thing and the people were very strict in observing the taboo, that no woman while in her monthly menstrual period was to go on this bridge. One day a young girl who was very obstinate and knew of the decree of the bridge, disregarded it. When she was half way over she stood still for a very short while, hesitant as to whether to return or to cross over. While she was debating with herself whether to return or to complete the trip, her period started. Just then Wildaldal, who was sitting in his house, stood up and a huge quantity of blood came from his throat and he called out, “Some careless woman has disregarded my taboo. While in her menses, she has crossed over my bridge. This is my death now.” When he had finished speaking he fell dead. The reason given that the bridge was part of him, and when his taboo was broken it would have been as just the cause
as if the woman had walked over his body itself. Thus the great shaman Wildaldal died.