Chief James Martin Smith was my great grandfather and Chief Louie Gee was my great great grandfather. This is the legend of the “One-Horned Mountain Sheep”, which is a part of the power of the Hereditary Chief.
This leadership was placed on Chief Smith when he married Ethel Gee, the daughter of Chief Louie Gee, who placed him as the head of the Komenook. It was a proper Indian ceremonial wedding — and transfer of all rights and powers were observed.
The Ko ‘mee nook were once a numerous people of a great Indian nation. After many wars, there were only four brothers left in all their families. In order to save their lives from enemy warriors they hid themselves up on the mountain at the south side of Loughborough Inlet. At first they only ventured down to the seashore to get what they needed for sustenance. To avoid detection, fires were built at night or very early in the morning. Even then, the flame was well-hidden, so that it could not be seen at a distance or by the eyes of an enemy who might by chance come by. As time went on, the brothers, still wary of enemies, worked as hunters during the day, roaming the countryside mainly in search of mountain sheep.
One day Maqualahgulees, the eldest (and chief) of the four brothers, journeyed from Hayden Bay on the north side of Loughborough Inlet, to a mountain not too far distant. There, his search as a hunter was rewarded, for he sighted a mountain sheep. It was the most beautiful creature of its kind that Maqualahgulees had ever seen — with a proud majestic bearing. He was amazed when it turned its face toward him for he could see that it had but one great horn — straight in the center of its forehead!
Maquahlahgulees shot with his usual skill, his arrow aimed well. He knew he had struck the beast because blood showed on its side, and it should have fallen immediately, mortally wounded. However, instead it moved off into a mountain cave some distance above from where Maquahlahgulees was standing. Anxious to secure his quarry and to bring the meat home to his family, Maquahlahgulees made it to the opening in the mountain above, although it was a difficult climb. When he reached the cave all he could see in the darkness was what he believed to be an eye, gleaming in the distance. Believing it to be that of the wounded sheep he proceeded in its direction. No sooner had he entered the darkened cavern, however, than he became as hypnotized or under a spell, in that he was compelled to follow after the pin-point of light, which now appeared as daylight far off in the distance. He traveled for a great length of time until at last he stepped out into the what he thought would be daylight — but to his surprise, he found that he was in a home!
A tall man of pleasant countenance but with the royal bearing of a great chief was standing near the door, with both of his arms upraised in the attitude of a chiefly welcome. “Ga’lakesla, Aday” (Welcome honorable sir), he said. “Ga’lakesla” (Greetings to you also), Maquahlahgulees answered, somewhat bewildered. “Gwa’k ead da” (Please be seated and stay for a meal), the noble creature invited, leading the chief and hunter to his place as he spoke.
Maquahlahgulees seated himself, then looked around him. Several very clean, white-coated mountain sheep were lying about on the floor. From the ceiling hung many quarters of dried mountain sheep meat and many strips of dried fat. On the walls were tied bail after bail of wool and skins. Then Maquahlahgulees eyes came to rest on the cloak of the great man who had welcomed him. It was an unusually large and fine sheep skin — but the whiteness was stained by a fleck of blood on the side! The four hooves were left on it intact and the head covering was made from the outside skin of the mountain sheep’s head — with the one great horn curving slightly in the middle! He was in the home of the one-horned mountain sheep — obviously a great and spiritual creature! He knew then that he had been lured to come inside…but for what purpose, good or evil?
“What kind of food do you desire to eat?” his host asked (although being a spiritual being, he would already know the human’s preference). Wisely Maquahlahgulees did not try to deceive him. “The mountain-sheep meat,” he replied. When Maquahlahgulees had finished his meal he very much wanted to go home, but decided (lest some terrible misfortune befall him after being so welcomed by this great spiritual being) to wait until the fourth day (four being the “even” Kwakwaka’wakw number) before he expressed his wish to leave. The hunter-chief was very tired after his strenuous efforts of the day, and the one-horned mountain sheep, noting his fatigue, gave him a comfortable, place to sleep before the fire. He was soon fast asleep.
Now before he had laid himself down, Maquahlahgulees had been very careful to place his bow and arrow beside him on the earthen floor. The bow was of curved yellow cedar, with the bow-string made of stalks of stinging nettle (an’an klum), which he had carefully worked and kneaded to become pliable and had then twisted together. When he awoke next morning, his an’an klum bow-string was green — and growing as if it were spring! Already one leaf bud had appeared. This strange and unusual occurrence the hunter-chief could not understand…it wasn’t spring, he had only been there one day, and a dried bow-string couldn’t grow!
That day he watched the mountain sheep busily hurrying in and out of the cave, as he had seen them do in spring and summer on the mountainsides or when changing from summer to winter grazing grounds. His host placed food before him as he felt that he required it, but Maquahlahgulees had decided not to speak until the fourth day — and his host seemed content with the unspoken decision, perceiving that he was a man who observed fasts for the sake of all goodness. The third day passed much in the manner of the second, but he perceived upon awakening in the morning that his bow-string had grown further and had budded more, as it did again on the fourth day.
His host greeted his awakening on the fourth morning kindly. “When do you plan to leave?” he asked. Maquahlahgulees was not afraid, for there was much in the proper and noble manner of his magnificent host that reassured him, and he had not been harmed, not even while he slept. Nevertheless he was anxious to return to his people. It being the fourth day, he replied that he had planned to go that day.
“Then you shall surely return today,” the one-horned Mountain sheep said. “I have been preparing for you. All these bales and bundles are ready. They are tightly packed — full of wool, skins, dried meat and dried fat. We shall roll them out the mouth of the cave where they will fall down the mountainside. All you will have to do then is call your brothers to help you remove all this wealth back to your homes. When you have stored it in your homes, you will then call tribes and people to a great feast and potlach. The first thing you will do, when all the multitude have been called together in your presence, is that you will sing this chant which I shall teach you. You will dance before them, demonstrating your bow and arrow dance, in commemoration of how I have received and blessed you — while wearing your mountain sheep cloak that I will now place over your shoulders. Your Galgalees (crest) shall be the figure of the one-horned mountain sheep, which you will place on all your totem poles and which shall be known throughout all nations for all time. You will demonstrate the one-horned mountain sheep as a mask. You will observe both in the Say’ka and in the Ba’gwayala (the highest ceremonials, with cedar bark on the head of the people, and other potlatch gatherings). You and your people shall from henceforth be known as the Glu’glagwala (those who were blessed) — and you, the eldest of the four brothers and the head of all your families, shall be known as Glu’gwala (he who was blessed). You shall be restored again and shall again become a great people. In future, you shall call this mountain “Glu’gwalus” (the place where the people were blessed).”
Maquahlahgulees left the cave and was immediately compelled by the spirit power within him to sing the chant which the one-horned mountain sheep had taught him. He walked down the mountainside following a narrow path between the rocks made by the tread by the feet of mountain sheep — and much too steep for the feet of usual man. He went straight to his home on the south side of Loughborough Inlet. His relatives, on seeing him approach, ran to meet him while rejoicing greatly. They had long ago assumed that he was dead…for he had not been away for four days as he had supposed, but had actually been away four years!
He and his three brothers, Za’ga use, Za kul lath’ and Zak ate’, returned with him to the foot of Glu’gwa lus Mountain and transported all their newly bestowed wealth to their homes, where it filled all their houses to overflowing and much more to spare. Maqualahgulees called a great multitude of people from all of the nations nearby to a great potlatch gathering — and did all that the One-Horned Mountain Sheep had bid him.
From then on, the people who had been blessed prospered — and were never again afraid nor in want. Throughout all their generations, the chiefs descended from Maqualahgulees have demonstrated their historical leadership of the One-Horned Mountain Sheep.
Raymond Shaw, 2014
Raymond Shaw was born in 1982 in Campbell River, British Columbia. He is from the Weiwakum band of the Laichwiltach people who are southern Kwak-waka-wakw and inhabited the region between the village of Cape Mudge and Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Raymond started carving at the age of eight and is largely a self-taught artist inspired by museums and books and the many artists before him.
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