The Origin of the Beaver Crest at Gitselasu

At the Canyon of Skeena River, according to the informant Niis'Hawas (Walter Wright) Gisbutwuda of Gitselasu. Recorded by William Beynon


          Long after the Gitxon (Salmon-Eater) clan in the Eagle phratry established itself and took the lead at Gitselasu, it happened, one morning that Gwznrk 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 the murderer was. 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.” Everyone 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, Niis’hawas, Gitxon, and Ko’om stood to spear the monster Beaver when he came up. Opposite the broken beaver dam on the other shore were Niis’taxook and Sats’aan. 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 Ganhada Sats’aan; then by the Eagle men of Gitxon. 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 known as People-on-edge-of-Lake (Gitlaxsaex). This was abbreviated to Gitsaex. They were Laxskiik (Eagle), Niis’taxook of the house of Niis’hawas (Gisbutwuda), and Sats’aan (Raven-Ganhada). The other three, on the opposite shore, built a village on a high hill known as Laxgalwalp (right above first tunnel). These three were Niis’hawas(Gisbutwuda), Ko’om (Raven), and Gitxon (Eagle).

  After this the people were unable to get salmon at the canyon, so the two villages moved farther down the river to a place called Eendudoon, their village. Here there were many houses and people. When they moved here, the Beaver people followed them and burrowed under the village until there was only a thin crust of earth under them. When the people went out at night they would fall through this crust. The next morning many of the Gitselasu people were missing.

  Again they moved away. The three who had made the village of Gitksa-hl moved on farther up the river to tsim’naxusk ( Present day Usk).  Neeshaiwzrhs, Gitxonn, and Qawm came to a place above the canyon which was known as People-of-the- Falling-Leaves (Gitwelmzrh). Here they caught the salmon and made their home. Sometime after, they decided to move back to the canyon, as it afforded greater protection in event of war. So the people on one side moved to the canyon on what is known as Beaver-Foothill (tsawlem-tawdzep). They were known as People-on-Edge-of-Precipice (Gitlarhdzaw),* and the people on the opposite side moved to where they had originally built their village. They became known as Gitlartsehl. Gitrhawn was afterwards the head of all the Gitselasu houses.