Sacred Texts  Native American  Northwest  Index  Previous  Next 

23. Q!â'g*i?wa (Centre, the Chief of the Ghosts).

Tradition of the Koskimo.

(Recorded by George Hunt.)

The ancestors of the Koskimo were living at Winter-Place, and they had a chief whose name was Centre. He was really treated like a chief by his tribe; for, as soon as the tribe would fish halibut, and (as soon as) two halibut were caught, one was given to the chief; and when the harpooneers went out to hunt sea-otters, when four were caught, they would give two to their chief, Centre. One-half of everything was divided between him and his tribe. Centre had a princess, Woman-receiving-Half; and Woman-receiving-Half named her father Pet; and Woman-receiving-Half had for her husband Born-to-be-Fool, the prince of Copper-Body. Now the chief felt really happy because he was well treated.


One fine day everybody went out to fish halibut; and when evening came, those who had been out fishing

p. 311

halibut came back home. Then one man did not give any halibut to the chief. Then the chief became really angry on account of what (that man) had done. In the morning, when day came, Centre took his stone axe and went down to the beach to the north end of the village, and he broke the [really] beautiful canoes of the ancestors of the Koskimo; and he came along towards the place where the hunting-canoe of Born-to-be-Fool was; and Born-to-be-Fool supposed that the chief would not break it, for the chief was his father-in-law. Born-to-be-Fool was standing all the time in the doorway of his house. Centre came along, and reached (the canoe), and he broke the hunting-canoe. Then Born-to-be-Fool became angry on account of his hunting-canoe.

He spoke to his wife, Woman-receiving-Half, and said, "Oh, my dear! I am angry with your father because he has broken my canoe." Thus he said, took his bone club, and left. He was going to kill him. Centre, who is now dead was sitting in the canoe, and was breaking it with his stone axe; and he had on his head a large chief's hat. Then Born-to-be-Fool went up to the chief from behind. He got up to him, and then Born-to-be-Fool spoke to his father-in-law. He said, "O father-in-law! why do you spoil my hunting-canoe?" Thus he said, while he struck his father-in-law with his bone club. Now that great ugly Centre was dead. Woman-receiving-Half was told that her father had been killed by her husband. Then Woman-receiving-Half went into the woods and wailed for her father. Night came, and Woman-receiving-Half just continued to wail. In the morning, when day came, she never stopped. For four days she kept on wailing. Then she heard her name being called.

p. 313

voice) said, "Woman-receiving-Half, I come to invite you to the Ghosts-showing-Mouth-on-Ground." Immediately Woman-receiving-Half went and followed the inviter. Woman-receiving-Half entered the house. Then one person who was sitting in the house spoke, and said, "Come, grandchild, and eat, for it is evidently a long time since you have [not] eaten." Thus said the man to Woman-receiving-Half. Then a woman was ready. She opened a basket containing dry salmon. When the woman began to roast the dry salmon, a man came into the house and stood in the doorway. He spoke, and said, "Woman-receiving-Half, I invite you for Centre-Dwelling-Place-of-the-Ghosts." Thus said the man before he left.


Then Woman-receiving-Half was sent to follow the man. Woman-receiving-Half arose from the floor of the house and went, following him. However, she had not gone far when she entered a house,--a large, beautiful house. Then an old gray-headed man who was sitting in the house spoke, and said, "Beware of the floor of the house, great-grandchild! Sit down there!" Thus he said, pointing to the rear of the house. Then Woman-receiving-Half sat down in the middle of the rear of the house, and a woman was ready to give something to eat to Woman-receiving-Half. As soon as the woman began to roast dry salmon, again a man came into the house; and he again called Woman-receiving-Half. He said, "I come to invite you, Woman-receiving-Half, to the Charcoal-Ghosts." Thus he said.

Then Woman -receiving-Half was just sent (after him). Woman-receiving-Half again arose from the floor of the house and followed the man. She went to the doorway

p. 315

of her house and entered. Then a handsome middle-aged man spoke, and said, "Come, beware of the floor of the house, uncle!" Thus he said, while he called Woman-receiving-Half to go and sit down at his right-hand side. Then a woman was ready to open a basket of dry salmon; and she was trying to roast the dry salmon when a man came in, and said, "I invite you, Woman-receiving-Half, for, the chief, Making-Satiated-on-the-Other-Side-of-the-World-Ghosts." Thus said a wee little man. Then the owner of the house also spoke, and Woman-receiving-Half was just sent to follow the little man.


Then Woman-receiving-Half again went and followed the little man. They had not gone far when they arrived at a large house. They entered it. As soon as they entered the doorway of the house, she saw her father sitting on a mat. He had a double-headed serpent face back-rest. As soon as Centre saw his princess, he spoke, and said, "Oh, my dear! why did you conic to this lower world? Come, sit down here!" Thus he said, pointing to his right-hand side. Immediately Woman-receiving-Half went to the place referred to by her father, and sat down.


Then Centre spoke again, and said to his wife, "Oh, my dear! go on, and get something to eat for our child, for she is really hungry." Thus said Centre to her. Then the woman took dry salmon and roasted it; she

p. 317

broke it up and placed it on a food-mat. Then she put it in front of the place where Woman-receiving-Half was sitting. For a long time she did not take and eat of the dry salmon. Then Centre spoke, and said, "Go on, my dear! don't hesitate! Go on, and take some and eat, my dear!" Thus said Centre to Woman-receiving-Half. Then Woman-receiving-Half began to eat of the dry salmon; and after she had eaten what she had been given, the woman took also something like fresh kelp-fish. Then she took a cooking-box and poured water into it. Then she took tongs and picked up stones and put them into the cooking-box. Then the water began to boil; and the woman took a basket and put the fresh kelp-fish into it. Then she put the basket into the cooking-box, and it was not long before they were done. Then she took them out of the water, and she took a bone strainer and put it into the eating-dish. Then she went and put it down at the place where Woman-receiving-Half was sitting. Then the woman took a spoon and gave it to Woman-receiving-Half. Then she ate with the spoon.


After she had finished, Centre spoke to his daughter, and said, "Oh, my dear! you shall stay at the place to which I have come to be chief, else there will be nobody who will be treated like a chief by our tribe. I will invite our tribe, to come and try to restore you to life, that you may go home to our house." Thus said Chief Centre to Woman-receiving-Half. Then he sent the little man, that the little one should go and invite the Ghosts. He started; and he had not been away long when all the Ghosts came into the large house. As soon as they were all in, Centre arose in the house, and spoke. He said,

p. 319

[paragraph continues] "O tribe! my daughter here has come, but I don't want her here yet. I Wish your wise men to speak, for I wish her to go back to her house in the upper world." Thus he said to his tribe.


When the great one had finished speaking, an old wise man spoke, and said, "Go on, Ghosts, take the batons and the beating-boards and the chamber-vessels, and sing out loud, Ghosts." Thus he said. Then the batons and the beating-boards and the chamber-vessels were taken. Then the wise man spoke again, said, "Now go and get a mat--a twilled mat--for Woman-receiving-Half to sit on." Thus he said. Then they went after the mat. They brought it, and spread out the mat in the middle of the rear of the house. Then four men went and lifted up Woman-receiving-Half and placed her on the mat. Then the wise men sat down on either side of Woman-receiving-Half. Then the wise men of the Ghosts began to sing. (This has come down to our time, the means of restoring to life the present Koskimo when they are touched by a Ghost and the words of this song are the way of speaking of the Ghosts.)


Then an old man arose and spoke. He said, "O Ghosts! listen to me! It is an important thing, what we are going to do. This is the way you can go back when you come, to the Ghosts-showing-Mouths-on-Ground when a person is dead in the upper world; and again, when you come to our middle dwelling-place of the Ghosts, a dead one who comes from the upper world can go back; and nearer

p. 321

to us is Charcoal-Ghosts, that is the place where the coal of the fires of the houses of our upper world come and stay; and a man who comes to this place also stays." Thus he said. "Now this dear one of our chief came here to our house, which is named Making-Satiated-on-the-Other-Side-of-the-World-Ghosts. That is what I mean, that whoever comes to this our Ghost house can never go back. Now we will try to sing for the dear one of our chief." Thus he said.

Then he took the chamber-vessel and sprinkled the face of Woman-receiving-Half. After he had done so, he told the Ghosts to go ahead and sing. Then the Ghosts beat time, and they began to sing; and this is their song:

"Ya, xa, xa, ma, ma, xa, ma, maê! Ya, xa, xa, ma, ma, xa, ma, maê!
I invite you, the only one, the son of the Ghosts, the son of the Ghosts, the son of the Ghosts.
Don't feel sorry, the only one, the son of the Ghosts, the son of the Ghosts, the son of the Ghosts.
Don't fear to die, the only one, the son of the Ghosts, the son of the Ghosts, the son of the Ghosts.
Behold! you will not die, the only one, the son of the Ghosts, the son of the Ghosts, the son of the Ghosts: you will go and dance in the house of the friend of the begging-dancer."

After the Ghosts had finished singing for Woman-receiving-Half, she was alive, and she was going to be taken back to our world. Then a man spoke, and said, "O chief! now our dear one will change her name, and her name will be World-Maker-Woman.--Come, Ghosts, and let us take our friend to the upper world!" Thus he said. Then they came and showed themselves behind the village, and she was alive. Then her song was taught

p. 323

to her tribe. That is the reason the Koskimo know the ways [words] of the Ghosts. That is the end.

Next: 24. Q!ômg*ustâEls (Wealth-coming-up)