Family Origin Histories
The Whaling Indians, West Coast Legends and Stories
Nuu-chah-nulth family historiesvare actually tribal histories since their idea of family encompasses the tribe. Eighteen such histories are presented here, chronicling the origins and resources of a number of tribal families. In lieu of written records, these oral traditions stood as Nuu-chah-nulth history and were recited formally in public on ceremonial occasions. Several accounts give long lists of foods. Others describe the acquisition of important technological advances, such as a salmon trap. Half of the texts are short, focusing on a particular item like a mask or a house decoration. One text lists hundreds of Nuu-chah-nulth place names given mythically by Swan Women to the Port Alberni region, which was previously Salish in population and language. Generally, these histories explain how the world came to be and set forth family claims to material and spiritual resources. Each account belonged to the family, which had the exclusive right to tell it publicly. Summary outlines are provided in the introduction.
Qwishanishim told of ?he Origin of the Ho?ol?ath?in 1914 at Kildonan by the mouth of Alberni Inlet. He is the outstanding raconteur historian from Ucluelet whose gripping accounts of Nuu-chah-nulth warfare have appeared earlier in Native Accounts of Nootka Ethnography (Sapir and Swadesh 1955: 356-443). Qwishanishim means The One That Smokes, a nickname from his smoking grass to survive the 1862 smallpox epidemic. Referred to as an old man by Alex Thomas in 1914, he may have been born in the 1840s. The precise year of his death is also unknown, but might be around the end of the First World War.