The Beaver ‘Tsimsyan’

This story was told by Walter Wright to William Beynon in 1926. The story explains why the beaver crest belongs to the Eagle clan of the Gitselasu. This story also explains why the people left the village of Gitaus and moved to Gitlaxdzawk and Gitsaex.

The Beaver 'Tsimsyan'

Long after the Gitrhawn (Gitxan or Salmon-Eater) clan in the Eagle phratry established itself and took the lead at Gitselas (Kitselas), it happened, one morning, that Gwaenrk did not get up as usual. As it seemed strange to his household, someone went to his couch and pulled off his blanket. He was dead and they saw an arrow stuck in his body. They took it out and examined it. It had a bone point and was carved wonderfully.

The nephews of the murdered man gave a feast that day in order to examine everybody and see who was the murderer. The arrow was passed around and examined, but no one could recognize it. Two strangers, big men were seen at the feast. They sat at the door. When the arrow came to them, one said, "Oh! Here it is! It belongs to Pelemgwae." Everybody looked in surprise while the strangers went out, taking the arrow with them. The people followed, giving chase to these men. As they neared the lake, they thought that they surely would overtake them. The fugitives jumped into the lake. When they emerged, the pursuers saw two huge beavers, one with an arrow in its mouth. Then they dove into the waters and disappeared. The people now knew that it was the Beaver who had killed their chief.

After the body of the murdered chief was disposed of and a successor put in his place, the people planned to break the huge beaver dam and destroy the beavers. They prepared hemlock poles with which to dig away the mud and drove stakes into the large dam. They worked many days and finally, when they had driven in all their stakes and they had almost burst the dam, the men appointed to finish the job fasted and prepared for it. As they went to strike away the pegs, Neeshaiwaerhs, Gitrhawn and Qawm stood to spear the monster Beaver when he came up. Opposite the broken beaver dam on the other shore were Neestarhoq and Saedzan. They were to watch for the Beaver. All prepared, the dam was broken. As the beavers came out, the people slaughtered them. The large Beaver with human heads on its back was first speared by the Kanhade Saedzan; then by the Eagle men of Gitrhawn. After struggling a long time, the Raven harpoon came out and the Eagles were then acknowledged the owners of the Beaver. They took it to their side of the creek. Another big beaver, the wife of the monster Beaver, escaped and took refuge in a great whirlpool afterwards known as Kwidawren (two miles above the present Hannel station).

The people there were afraid to live in their village. Those who stayed over on the other side of the river, went up farther to the edge of what was then a lake and they were know as People-on-edge-of-Lake (Gitlarhtsaehltae). This was abbreviated to Gitktsaerhl. they were Gwaenrk (Eagle), Neestarhoq of the house of Neeshaiwaerhs (Gispewudwade) and Saedzan (Raven-Kanhade). The other three, on the opposite shore, built a village on a high hill known as Larh-galwaelp (right above first tunnel). These three were Neeshaiwaerhs (Gispewudwade), Qawm (Raven) and Gitrhawn (Eagle).

In order to understand the history the story must be interpreted. The Village of Gitsaex is referred to as "People-on-edge-of-Lake" and Gitlaxdzawk is the "village on a high hill". This history establishes that the Gitrhawn or Gitxan Eagle clan also known as the Salmon Eater group became a strong house of the Gitselasu. One of their people was killed by an arrow apparently shot by a giant beaver named Pelemgwae. In reality, a beaver did not shoot an arrow and kill a person. However, it is possible that a person was killed by mysterious reasons while hunting beavers. The story then establishes that the people prepared to break the beaver dam and kill Pelemgwae, the giant beaver.