From the John Swanton paper, Haida Texts & Myths, Skidegate Dialect, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin #29, 1905.

Story of the Shaman, G.A'ndox's-Father

.[Told by Abraham of Those-born-at-Q!a'dAsgo]
If you don't want to read this whole article, you may want to skip ahead to the section which describes Christian/native spiritual visions.

John Swanton's editorial comments: This story is of exceptional interest, both from the insight it gives into native beliefs generally and for the picture presented of the influences exerted on those beliefs and over the external life of the people also by the coming of white men. G.A'ndox was evidently the shaman's daughter, and the name appears to be Tsimshian. After he became a shaman, however, he was known, as was customary, by the name of the spirit who was speaking through him at the time. He belonged, like two of the shamans in the preceding story, to the Town-of Dji'gua-People of old Kloo.

I was fortunate in having obtained information regarding this shaman from one who knew him intimately, and to whom, it appears, he confided some of his spiritual experiences. The shaman is well known to all Skidegate Haida, and many other stories are told regarding his predictions. For some of these see Memoirs of the Jesup North Pacifica Expedition, volume V, part 1, page 39.

G.A'ndox's-Father was making a canoe inland from one end of Sea-Grass Town.1 One evening, when he came home, he dropped dead2 on the sand at the end of the town. Then they ran to him, and carried him over to his house.

Qoldia'yek3 spoke through him first. Whenever his uncles became shamans, he always made a hole in their minds first. He did not tell his name. Instead he turned about around the house. After they had taken him in and came to know that it was Qoldai'yek, they began to sing a song for him. After they had carried him around the fire four times he began to turn around.

Afterward Hu'dAgiag.An also spoke through him. He acted like the former one. When he had ceased to act SAqaiyul4 spoke through him. When they sand for him he walked about entirely on the ends of his toes.

After he had spoken through him for a while, a certain person fell sick. When he was almost dead they got him. Then he fasted four nights. At the end of that time, just before daybreak, he went out to look for his soul. Two other persons went with him. He went round the town on both sides of the houses. By and by he seized his soul. He made a noise like that of a young sea otter.

At once his companions seized him and carried him toward the house. When they carried them (shamans) so, they were very careful, because the shaman had the soul between his hands.

While they were carrying him along the trail, a Smaller-part-of-village's-stomach5 came out of the ground. Then SAquiyul said to him: "Get it, master. Throw the man's soul away." "No, I am afraid they would laugh at me. I am also afraid of being put to shame." Then SAquiyul said to him: "You will not sit among the chiefs in the rear of the house. You will sit among the slaves near the door."

All that time they were singing for him in the house he had left. Presently, after they had carried him into the house, they put a mat over him and the sick man. There he put his soul into his mouth. Immediately he was saved.

Pestilence6 married one of the daughters7 of the Moon. When he heard the news about his sister in some way, Wu'ltc!ixaiya8 went to get his sister. He put on a steel coat and launched his canoe. His canoe was covered with boards. Then he knocked down the rock front of the house of Pestilence with a bone club. Afterward he went in and got his sister. For that reason there was much sickness.

Then Wu'ltc!ixaiya had mercy on Sea-grass town and went down there along with DilAgia'.9 When many people were dying he (DilAgia') went in to dance before Pestilence. He held a long cane the surface of which was painted red. He stuck it up slant wise, stood upon it and danced. Then he made him feel good, and the sickness ceased. He spoke through GA'ndox's-Father. Then he told him these things. SAqaiyul stopped speaking through him.

After he had spoken through him for a while, he wanted some turnips, and all in the town gave him some. Through these he became more of a chief in the country of the supernatural beings. When his (DilAgia's) voice first struck him, he sang in all the houses of the town for himself. After that he went into his own house. He was also always dancing there. "Ya a a ya a'aiya nagun da a hai i ya DilAgia ahai i ya"10 This is what they sang when he danced. It is a spirit song.

After that one of the Pebble-town people11 came to invite them. Then one through whom property-woman12 spoke came by himself in a canoe. At that time DilAgia' told him he had stretched some bad thing (or spirit) over the town. Then he danced before him.13 And he made him feel good,

G.A'ndox's-Father Christian/native spritual visions.

Some time after this, after they had gone to the mainland, a different one spoke through him. His name was BAle'la14. Then they returned to Sea-grass town with him. Then they sang for GAndox's-Father in the canoe. He danced as they came. And when they landed he asked for a plank in the Tsimshian language. Then they had one rest on the edge of the canoe. He came down upon it to the shore.15

And, when he got into the house, the house cover only was open (i.e. it was crowded with people). He danced the way Wu'ltc!ixaiya used to. When he began to dance he was proud, and he had himself pulled upright. After that was done he began to dance.

After he had danced for a while he would say: "Stop and throw away the cedar-bark roofing. Destroy also the indoor latrine. Use cedar planks for your houses. When you go to bed leave you smoke holes open. Boxes of property will soon fall upon you. Iron people16 will come amount you." He said that. He said there would be plenty of property for them.

Then all in the town danced very much again. The Kitkatla people also brought over Bi'ni's14 songs to Skedans. They sang his also very much as they danced. At this time a schooner was wrecked [in Cumshewa inlet]. Then blankets were gradually distributed in quantities. This went on for a long time. Then, according to his word, they used cedar planks for house roofs. They also stopped using indoor latrines. Then he wanted fire drills. Now all the down people gave fire drills to him. When they came in with them he let them all drill together. Then he looked on. After all had done the same thing they put them into the fire. That was why he had them give them to himself.

When they stopped dancing, they waved their hats. He sand a song. When all stopped he whistled. Then they sopped singing his [song, which sounded like this] Teo'loho'ldidolgits.17

Afterward SAqaiyul again spoke through him. And, after the dancing had gone on awhile longer, he wanted to sleep. At that time the Sea-grass town chiefs would not let him. By and by, since they feared the supernatural beings might say something different from what they wanted if they refused, they let him sleep.

When they agreed they made a sail house.18 for him in the corner. And just at evening he went in and lay down. Next day, very early, before the raven cried he awoke (lit. departed). After that they again came in dancing. When they stopped dancing he had me sit near him. Then he began to tell me quietly [what had happened].

At that time he (SAqaiyul) stood on top of the mountain on Q!Anga with him. Then he took a handkerchief19 out of his pocket, put it over his face, and wept. His clothes were all white. But he had no coat. Something with wheels20 stood hear him, and presently he put into his pocket on the right side. Then he got into this, and he struck it. It went right along. After the had gone along slowly he came to a city with him and took him out of his pocket. And he stood up.

A big being with a black skin stood there. He also had a big gun. He stood pointing it downward at the earth. SAqaiyu'l handed something to him out of his pocket. After a while he took it without looking at him and put it into his mouth. He did not know what it was. He thought it was Indian tobacco.

Then the SAqaiyu'l said to him: "Do not be afraid, master. Even the supernatural beings die. I died three times, but my body never dies."

When he went thither with him, he saw a large kettle boiling out of doors. He said he did not see what made it boil. Near it was a long thing, the lower end of which was square, on which the Kwakiutl who had killed a certain one along with a Haida were nailed.21 They had put them into the kettle. There they remained.

There he saw his uncle. Then his uncle asked him: "Did you see the one standing there with the black skin? He shoots down on those people below who treat each other badly. Then the land below is full of smoke, and there is sickness everywhere.

Then his uncle22 spoke to him through the doorway. "Why are you here?" "SAquiyu'l brought me around in that thing." "Be watchful. If one always watches, he, too, will live here. The black man always keeps watch on those who are foolish."

At that time his uncle said to him: "Some time ago one came down through me. And he lived in this town. Now he lives far inland. They fear to mention his name." His uncle talked with him for a while. Again he said to him: "Do not let his name be mentioned again below. You can not mention his name [for it is too great.] If a child mentions his name, tell him to stop."23

Then he went down again with him in the thing with wheels. At that time he awoke in the sail house. Not a long time afterward he died.

This is the end of it.


1. Haida, T!anu'; but known to the Whites as Old Kloo. The "old" is used to distinguish it from a place in Cumshewa Inlet, where the Kloo people settled for a while moving on to Skidegate.

2. Really, he only fell in a faint or a fit.

3. A shaman among the Land-otter people. The word is evidently Tlingit.

4. See story of the Raven traveling.

5. La'nas = "Town" or "village": k!isq!e-u = "upper or smaller part of stomach" This is one of the creatures that were supposed to bring wealth to the one who possessed himself of them.

6. See the story of Big-Tail.

7. The word used is one applied to descendants generally.

8. See the story of Cloud-watcher.

9. A good dancer, whose name is probably compounded from di'lA, the word for Sand-hill crane; see the story of He-who-was-born-from-his-mother's-side.

10. This is an attempt to reproduce the sounds used in this song which is very likely Tsimshian.

11. The ruling family at Te!a'al.

12. See the story of A-slender-one-who-was-given-away.

13. That is, before the spirit over the town.

14. It would be interesting if we could trace the word BAle'la to its origin, for it was certainly connected in some way with the first appearance of white people in the northern British Columbia and with the first efforts of Christian missionaries. Bi'ni evidently = Peni, from ni "mind" a Carrier Indian, who, immediately after the appearance of the first Catholic missionaries, claimed remarkable supernatural powers and started a kind of sporadic cult which spread throughout much of the northern part of British Columbia. (See Morice, Hist. of N. Interior of Brit. Col., p 235.) At Masset I discovered that certain songs there had been obtained, or were supposed to have been obtained, from a Jesuit missionary on the Skeena. The Christian influences apparent in this story evidently emanated from the same source, as BAle'la and Bi'ni's songs are all said to have been revealed at a place up the Skeena river at the same time and to have spread from there.

See also, Robin Fishers account of Indian Prophets.

15. Evidently BAle'la is landing like a white man.

16. Haida name for white people.

17. Supposed to resemble the songs or cries of white people. When they sang the shaman made a motion as if waving his hat, and all followed suit. This has very much then appearance of an imitation of a hearty Yankee or British cheer. The Haida themselves assert that it happened before any whites were seen.

18. A little lodge or tent of canoe sails.

19. He is now dressed like a white man.

20. The story teller said, "like a bicycle".

21. This sentence is obscure, referring to an adventure of which I have no clue.

22. One of the shamans spoken of in the last story.

23. Wu'lte!xaiya, the moon's son, thus seems to have been identified with a Christian deity.

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