Alaskool -- Online resources about Alaska Native History, Education, Language, and Culture
Tsimshian Texts by Franz Boas, 1902
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The Stars

Told By Moses

There was a town.  One evening a man went out of the house, and his son accompanied him.  They sat down on the beach.  After they had been sitting there for some time, the boy looked up to the sky and said to a star, "Poor fellow!  You little twinkler, indeed, you must feel cold."  Thus spoke the boy to the Star.  The Star heard it, and one evening when the boy went out, the Star came down and took him up to the sky.

When day broke, the people found that the boy was lost.  They looked for him everywhere.  They asked all the tribes, but they could not find him.  Then the people stopped, but his father and his mother longed for him.  They were crying all the time.  They did so many days. 

One day the man was walking about crying.  When he stopped crying, he looked up a mountain, and, behold, smoke came out of it.  He went up, and when he came near, he was a woman.  She asked the man, “Do you know who took your child?”  “No,” said the man.  “The Star took your child.  He tied him onto the edge of his smoke-hole.  The child is crying all the time.  He is almost dead, because the sparks the fire are burning his body.”  Thus she spoke.  Then she said, “Go on.  Make many arrows, that you may have a great many quickly.”  The man went down and came to his town.  There he made four bundles of arrows.  He saw a very long mountain, which he climbed.  He stood on top of it, took his bow, and took an arrow and shot at the sky.  The arrow hit the edge of the hole of the sky, and stuck there.  He shot another arrow, which hit the nock of the first one.  He shot again, and continued to do so for many days.  Then the arrows came down, and reached to him.  The man was carrying tobacco, red paint, and sling-stones.  Then he went up, climbing the arrows.  He reached the sky, and met a person who said, “Your child is about to die.  He is crying all the time because his body is being burned.  Carve a piece of wood so that it will look just like your child.”  He gave to this person tobacco, red paint, and sling-stones in return for his advice.  Then the person was very glad.  The man made a figure of spruce, one of hemlock, one of balsam fir, and one of red cedar, and one of yellow cedar, all as large as his boy.  Then he made a great fire.  He poked the fire, so that the sparks burned the body of the wooden figure.  Then the latter cried aloud, but after a short time it stopped.  Then he took it off, and took another one.  It did the same.  The figure stopped crying after a short time.  He took it down.  Then he tied the red cedar to the tree and poked the fire.  There were very many sparks.  The figure cried for a long time, and then stopped.  He took it down and hung up the yellow cedar.  It did not stop.  Then he took the image of yellow cedar. 

He went on, and came to a place where he heard a man splitting firewood with his wedge and hammer.  His name was G·ix·sats’·´ntx·.  When he came near, he asked him, “Where is the house?”  At the same time he gave him tobacco.  Then G·ix·sats’·´ntx· began to swell when he tasted the tobacco.  (The people of olden times called it “being troubled.”)  He also gave him red paint and sling-stones.  Then G·ix·sats’·´ntx· told him where the child was.  He said, “Wait in the woods until they are all asleep, then go up to the roof of the house.”  The man went, and when he came nearer, he heard the voice of his boy, who was crying; but as soon as the boy stopped, the chief ordered his men to poke the fire until many sparks flew up.  When all the people were asleep, the man went to the roof of the house where the child was.  The child recognized his father and cried; but his father rebuked him, saying, “Don’t cry, don’t cry!  They might hear you in the house.”  The boy stopped and the man took him off.  In his place he tied the wooden image to the smoke hole.  Then he went down.  Early in the morning the chief ordered his people to poke the fire.  Then the wooden image cried while the man and his son were making their escape.  But the wooden image did not cry long.  Then it stopped.  The chief became suspicious, and sent a man to the roof.  He went up, and, behold, there was a stick.  The boy was lost, and the wooden image was on the roof.  The chief said, “Pursue them!”  The people did so.  The man heard them approaching.  When they were close behind him, he threw tobacco, red paint, and sling-stones in their way.  The paint was red; the sling-stones were blue. 

The chief’s people found these and picked them up.  Some persons took the sling-stones, and others took the red paint and put it on their faces (this accounts for the colors of the stars).  While they were doing so, the man and his son continued to run.  Again the man heard the pursuers approaching.  Now he came to G·ix·sats’·´ntx·, who said, “Run quickly, my dear.  They will not catch you.”  The Star had taken the boy, and therefore the Star’s tribe were pursuing them.  The man gave G·ix·sats’·´ntx· tobacco, and then G·ix·sats’·´ntx· swelled very much, so that he obstructed the trail, and therefore the Star tribe could not reach the man.  Now he came near the hole of the sky.  He came to it, and went down the chain of arrows.  As soon as he reached the ground, he pulled the arrows down, and they all dropped to the ground.  He had saved his boy.  Then he went down the mountain and ran home.  He got the boy back, and therefore he and his wife were glad.