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Gee`twei·n X'ei·dax
by Frank Williams


1 My friends, (lit., my relatives)
I would like
to give a little talk
this evening,

5 a short story,
as it was told to me,
I’ll put it on tape. (lit., in it)
Please excuse me
if anything is wrong in the way I tell (lit., if I tell anything wrong)

10 what was told to me;
this is an old story.
I am of the Tongass tribe,
a child of the Teikweidi. (i.e., my father’s clan is Teikweidi)
At this time I would like

15 to tell something of my history (lit., about myself)
Another people
moved among us;
however, (as it turned out)

20 we lived among them.
I was born among them,
people from the other side,
from Canada,
called Tsimshians.

25 There I was told a story
by my uncle named Naawushkeitl
he told me this story.
The place where they founded a village
was called Winter Village (Metlakatla)

30 that’s what the ancient village was called.
He told me that there was war there --(lit., trouble)
I’ll try to tell part of the story --
while the people were away from Metlakatla at camp.
The way the Tlingits lived long ago

35 they did not see one another unless they had a serious purpose;
they were potential enemies with (lit., they had something like war)
people they did not know,
the ancient peoples;
that is how they were.

40 Their village, Metlakatla,
the village of the Taant'akwaan --
who are also called the Tongass tribe --
when they were gone from the village
a different tribe came there.

45 They burned it;
no one was there.
Only one young man saw
that they burned the town;
he ran off into the woods.

50 he went across the island
to the seaward side;
the people were staying there.
It was far away
(and) the tide was strong.

55 It was night;
he found a pile of driftlogs. (lit., driftlogs which has floated on top of one another)
To a flat driftlog
he tied himself
with dried kelp.

60 He rode on it,
paddling with just his hands
to the other side,
to the island the people were staying on,
which is called Duke Island.

65 He paddled through the night
with just his hands.
My uncle told me this.
Then he reached shore.
It was a long way to the seaward side;

70 he went along the hillside toward
where the people were staying.
hey were preparing food for themselves.
They were putting up salmon, halibut, and seaweed,
and all their children with them.

75 He came among them there.
He told the women the story,
a different tribe had burned their village;
They had burned Metlakatla.

80 the men (gathered up)
driftlogs, rocks, and whatever else--
there is a fort2 there;
the fort is called Goochlaakanoow; (lit., Wolf’s Mouth Fort)
it is on the seaward side of Duke Island.

85 That island is large
(and) tall;
the tide covers up the isthmus on it.
The young men
the driftwood

90 They brought it up from the isthmus.
On top of it
they formed a palisade;
they made a fort on top of it.
The people did not know (for sure)

95 that the war party was going to come.
Before long,
two days, he told (me)
at night
boats came to the back side of the island.

100 They did not see the boats
or how many boats there were
of the other tribe.
The children were playing;
they were told--

105 the tide was out on the sandbar, the portage--
"Keep your eyes open!
Evil people
are coming to us."
Not even one day (went by)

110 and they saw
a man peering out from the bushes;
his face was painted.
His face was painted for war;
they saw such a man.

115 Quietly
the children ran
up to the fort.
They told
the women who were gathered in the palisade, the driftlog palisade.

120 But the adults
were ready.
They had piled driftlogs at the top of the ravine.
No matter,
they were not concerned;

125 they kept going in and out
of the fort they had built.
At night, when it was dark,
They women quickly sent the children inside.
Taking (the children’s) place

130 the young men got ready;
they hid anywhere (they could).
It was not long,
when it was dark--
the white surface fo the sand was plainly visible –

135 they were going up from the beach,
they were surrounding them,
they were going to kill them,
the other tribe.
They didn’t know who they were.

140 Finally
they heard the sound of them
as they came to the beach below,
(which) was sloping,
"This way, this way,"

145 they spoke quietly.
They got settle --
they heard them
and they saw them.
Then up to the fort

150 through the ravine they started up.
Just when they got close enough
to the top -
(the defenders) had brought driftlogs up there--
their leader’s voice rang out, "Go ahead" -- (lit., thus he was heard)

155 (I don’t know) which one it might have been,
perhaps their leader was one of the nobility.
They pushed the driftlogs down
onto the people who were climbing up,
killing some of them.

160 As they were running ashore (to the main island)
a voice was heard,
the leader of the (attacking) people.
He died;
they knew that he was killed.

165 Apparently he had abalone earrings on his ears;
so he said,
a man of the nobility among them,
"Take his earrings off;
take them off

170 from his ears."
That was their downfall.
There were so many
people hidden in the woods.
The surface of the sand was plainly visible.

175 Then, an old rifle
they packed gunpowder into it;
they kept killing the oncoming men with it,
(so that) they could not get the noble’s earrings.
So finally

180 they didn’t get them,
and no more men came through there.
As many as were still alive
fled back into the woods.
They stayed up all night long

185 but no more people came out through there;
they had fled back into the woods.
Their boats were on the back side (of the island).
the village of the Tongass tribe,

190 they had burned all the houses in it. (lit., off it)
They never came back again;
to this day
they never come here any more.
Ever since the word of God came among us (lit., among people)

195 warfare has ceased.
Now the village of the Tongass tribe
is inhabited by people from the other side,
called Tsimshians.
This is what I know of (lit., thus I know)

200 this short story.
Thank you for listening to me.