The print is about the Blue Shark, Mamasiyik and Keekyeeksa-a. In this story, which comes from Hee-Koolth, there was a man named Kwatyaht, kind of a superhuman, who went out setting his fishing gear for halibut for many days in a row. He was quite unsuccessful, and was getting to the point where he was becoming very frustrated. He set all his gear out, making sure his sinkers were at the right height from the bottom of the ocean, his hooks were hanging the right way, bait was on right, pull-up lines and floats were okay, and the bobbers were rigged right and bobbing free.He sat and watched his gear instead of going back in after he had set it. He saw a bobber going up and down, and went up to it, in his canoe. Pulling up the bobber, the line, and all of the gear, he found nothing but a halibut head left on the hook. He didn’t know what to think. He did this several times. He’d pull up all his gear and there would be nothing on the hook or just a little bit of head left, or maybe just the bait. The last time he was pulling up his gear for the day he felt a terrific pull on the end of the line. He could feel a real tug. He pulled in the line as quickly as he could; and he was fast enough this time to see, as the halibut came up with the hook, what had been eating the fish off the hooks. It was a great big blue shark. So Kwatyaht went home and he made up his mind to get that shark the next day. So he made a huge harpoon out of one piece of yew wood. The next morning he went out to set his gear again, and the first time that he felt a tug on his line, he pulled up the hook as quickly as he could. As the halibut was surfacing, the big blue shark went by again and when it did he lunged at it with all his might and stuck the harpoon in its back. He watched the harpoon as it ran through the water. Then it disappeared. He waited and waited for it to surface again. He figured that the shark would die and he could get the harpoon back. But it never came up. So he went home and the next morning, considering where he had been fishing, where the tide would set, he knew where the shark should wash up on the beach. So he started walking. He walked and walked, but he never found the harpoon or the shark on the beach. He walked along for days and days and finally he came to a village that seemed to be deserted. There was nothing, no canoes going back and forth and no people walking about. He went closer to the village, and decided to sneak up on it because it was unfamiliar to him. The houses were very small, half the size of the regular houses that he was used to. Finally, in the middle of the village, he saw one house that had smoke coming out of it. He sneaked up to it and peeked through the boards at the side of the house. Inside he saw a woman rolling around on the floor in agony. She was in real sharp pain, twisting, moaning things, and there was a group of men with rattles around her, singing medicine songs and doctoring songs.At the end of their singing he decided to start singing. They heard him outside the house, and sent a messenger around to see if he was a doctor. “Oh yes,” he said, “I am a famous healer.” They brought him into the house and the woman on the floor appeared to be human to him. She had this harpoon sticking out of her back, with blood gushing out of the wound. But the people obviously didn’t see the harpoon there in the shark woman’s back—she was the shark that he had harpooned.He talked to her, and she asked if he could heal her. He replied that he was quite capable of that. She asked what he wanted for payment, offering him every canoe that would be built in her village that year. “No, no, no,” he said, “I don’t need a canoe. I can get about with my canoes that I have at home.”“Well, I will give you every sockeye that comes up our rivers this year,” she offered, but he said that they had good sockeye streams and his people didn’t need any more. In desperation she kept trying to come up with something better and so she said “I have a very beautiful white-haired daughter, I will give her to you for a wife.” But he again refused. Well, she had an identical twin, but with black hair. Again he said no. Finally she offered him both her daughters, and on that he said yes.
He bent over her, and he just yanked the harpoon right out of her. None of the other people were able to see the harpoon in her back. She thought she had a giant worm in her and she described her sickness as being a worm in her back. So he said he would pull that giant worm out of her back and he grabbed hold and started singing a chant. He yanked it out, and her big wound began gushing blood, so he spit on the cut and rubbed it. He spit on it and rubbed it a second time, and the bleeding stopped; and after the fourth time the wound closed up and disappeared. “Four days,” the shark woman said, “in four days if I feel fine and there is no scar, I will go home. Then you can take my two daughters.” So when the four days were up, he went back home to Hee-koolth with these two daughters. The shark girls were half shark and half human, being daughters of the shark woman, so their skin was very rough. He brought them back home, and the people of Hee-koolth were very proud of these two beautiful girls that were brought to their village. They wanted to see children come from them, so Kwatyaht tried to get both of them pregnant. He tried and tried to get them pregnant, but neither of them conceived. In all of this effort to get one of his wives pregnant, his penis began to wear down. One morning he was scrubbing himself, bathing in the early morning sun, when he noticed, looking down, that his penis was worn right down to a little stump. So he took it and broke it off, and threw his penis onto the beach, where it turned to rock. There is a place near Hee-koolth, a finger of rock that sticks up out of the sand along the beach. The translation of the Indian name for it literally means “Penis along the shore”. And that is what the print illustrates, the story of how Keekyeeksa-a got its name.
A carver, graphic artist, and painter residing on the Ahaswinis Reserve where he was born, Ron Hamilton has made a vital contribution to the preservation and the continuation of threatened Nuu-Chah-Nulth art and design. The nephew of George Clutesi, Hamilton apprenticed with renowned carver Henry Hunt. A fisherman by trade, Hamilton works in Campbell River slate, wood, silver, gold, and ivory, employing the sea serpent as a characteristic motif.
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