Alaskool -- Online resources about Alaska Native History, Education, Language, and Culture
Tsimshian Texts by Franz Boas, 1902
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Told By Moses

There were four children who were always shooting squirrels.  They killed them all the time.  Then they dried their skins and put away their meat.  They did so at the foot of a large spruce-they did so for a long time all the year round.  Then they had killed all the squirrels.  Only the chief of the squirrels and his daughter were left.  She was very white.  Now, a boy went out and came to the foot of the spruce tree.  He looked upward, and saw a little white squirrel running round the tree.  When it had gotten to the other side of the tree, behold, he saw that she was a young woman.  The boy saw her.  The woman called him.  Then the boy placed his bow at the foot of the great tree.

The woman entered the house of her father, who was the chief of the squirrels.  He was much troubled, as all his people were dead.  Therefore he had sent his children to call the boy.  The chief questioned his daughter, and she replied, “The boy is standing outside.”  Then the chief said, “Come in, my dear, if it is you who killed my people.”  The prince entered and sat down.  They gave him to eat.  After he had finished, the chief said, “Why did you kill all my people?  The prince replied, “I did not know that they were your people, therefore I did so.”  “Take pity on me,” said the chief to the prince.  “When you return home, burn the meat and the skins of all the squirrels.  I will make you a shaman.”  The chief did so; he made the prince a shaman.  Now he was a great shaman.  “Your name as a shaman shall be Squirrel,” said the chief. 

The prince lay down.  Then the chief rose and put on his dancing apron.  He painted his body red, and put on a crown of bear claws.  From his neck hung the skins of squirrels.  He held a rattle in his hand and sang, "Ia haä, iâ nigua iaha·!  I become accustomed to this side, I become accustomed to the other side.”  Then the prince became a great shaman.  The chief of the squirrels did so a whole year.  Then he sent the prince home.

The chief, who had lost his son, had almost forgotten him.  Then one of his other sons went to shoot squirrels, and came to the place where his brother had been.  He came to the great spruce tree.  He looked up, and, behold, the skeleton of a man was hanging in the branches.  The bones were held together by skin only.  His flesh was all gone. 

The boy returned.  He entered the house and told his father about it.  The father sent the young men, who saw where the body was hanging.  Then one young man climbed the tree, took the body down, and they carried it home.  They entered the house.  Now the chief’s wife took a mat.  She spread it out and laid the body down on it.  She laid it down very nicely.  The young men placed his hands, his feet, and his head in the way they belonged, and laid the head down face upward.  There were only bones.  Then they covered the mat with another mat.  They painted it red and covered it with bird down.  Then they sacrificed.  For four nights and days his father and mother did not stay in the house.  They had gone to another place, to another house.  Only four men, his most intimate friends, watched him.  Then they sang “Äe!”  accompanying their song with batons.  Then they spoke, singing.  Then the body came to life again.  The bones were covered with flesh.  Then he sang.  He invited the tribe of his father in and the people came.  Then the prince said, “Burn the meat of all the squirrels that I shot during the past years, and burn their bones and the skins, which I am keeping in many boxes.”  The people did so.  They burnt it all.

Then the great master of the squirrels was glad, because his tribe had come to life again.  Then the prince sang, “I·h·iaha ä, h·ia haä' ayâ n·gwâ'! I become accustomed to this side; I become accustomed to the other side.”  He stood there, and was a great shaman.  Then he stopped.  His name as a shaman was Squirrel.  That is the end.