Ruby Peter: How Thunderbird Saved the People

Ruby Peter gives a telling of the classic story of the Sts’inukw’a’, the boy who became became the thunderbird and saved the people from the orca that was eating all the salmon in Cowichan Bay. Transcription and translation by Ruby Peter, with editing by Rae Anne Claxton and Donna Gerdts (this version March 31, 2020).

s-hwuhwa’us ’i’ lhu q’ullhanumutsun
Thunderbird and Orca
by sti’tum’at | Ruby Peter

(1) qw’umi’iqun’ mustimuhw ’i ’u tun’a quw’utsun’, tl’uw’ qux mustimuhw tthu ni’ ’utl’ qw’umi’iqun’ shni’s lhu smeent t’i’wi’ulhew’t-hw.
The Comiaken People were at Cowichan. There were many many people over at Comiaken where the Stone Church is.

(2) ’i’ nilh ’i.i.ilh ’uw’ lelum’s tthu ni’ ’u kwthey’ tsuwmuns lhu smeent [t’i’w’i’ulew’t-hw] sus nem’ ’uw’ tus ’u lhu ti’wi’ulh’ew’t-hw ’i’ nilh ’uw’ qw’umi’iqun’.
Comiaken homeland is from the beach below the Stone Church to St. Ann’s—that’s all Comiaken.

(3) hiiw’a’lum ts’u tthu stl’ul’iqulh, hiiw’a’lum’ ni’ ’u tthu … ’uw’ sq’uq’ip ’i’ ni’ ’u tthu shni’s tthu syalh,
The children were playing with each other, playing where there was a pile of wood,

(4) shni’s kwus they’tum’ [tthu] xpey’ stth’itsum’, qu.u.ux stth’itsum’ tun’ni’ ’u tthu xpey’.
where there were cedar slivers—a lot of slivers from the cedar.

(5) ’i’ hiiw’a’lum tthuw’ne’ullh stl’ul’iqulh—ni’ wulh tth’a’kwus sil’anum te’tsus sil’anum.
And the children were playing there—they were about 7, 8 years old.

(6) wulh kwunutus tthu na’nuts’a’ kwus thaxtul’ tthuw’ne’ullh, thaxtul’ ni.i.i thxutus ’i’ ni’ wutl’uts’.
They were pushing each other around—one would push the other down and then he would get up and push the other down.

(7) hwun’ xut’u ’i’ ni’ wulh kwunutus tthu na’nuts’a’ sus ’uw’ hwpasustus tthu shhw’aqw’a’s ’u tthu ni’ [kwun’etus],
And then one of the boys grabbed ahold of the cedar dust that he threw into his brother’s face

(8) ’i’ stth’itsum’ yuhw ts’u tthu ni’ kwunutus,
and it was slivers from the cedar that he took,

(9) suw’ hwpasustus sus ’uw’ tus ’u thu qulum’s, nuw’ilum.
and put into his brother’s face—it went into his eyes.

(10) ’o-o-o-o! tl’lim’ ts’u hay’ ’ul’ xlhiluws thu qulum’s ni’ hwu sun’iw’ tthu stth’itsum’.
And the boy was really suffering from the splinter in his eye.

(11) ti’ya’xw tthuw’ne’ullh m’i me’shum tth’xwatum ’i’ skw’ey ni’ tl’lim’ ’uw’ kwoons ’u thu qulum’s tthu stth’itsum’.
They rushed to wash the sliver out but they couldn’t because it was really stuck in his eye.

(12) ’aa.a.atum tthu ni’ ’aatum shne’um, tthu thuli’thu, tthu ni’ ’aatum nem’ ts’ewut.
They called the shamans and spiritualists to try to come and help them.

(13) tuyum’tum tth’xwatum—mukw’ stem ni’ sle’tewut kwus ta’thut m’i me’shum tthey’ stth’itsum’ ni’ hwu st’i’am’ ’u thu qulum’s tthu stl’i’tl’qulh.
They plucked and washed, trying everything to remove the sliver that had become stuck in the boy’s eye.

(14) skw’ey, tl’lim’ nuw’ kwoons.
But they couldn’t—it was really stuck.

(15) hwun’ xut’u ’i’ ni’ wulh ’uwu te’ stsle’t-s tl’e’ ’eelhtun.
In the end there was nothing they could do.

(16) ni’ tuw’ hith kwus st’e’ ’u tthey’.
He was like that for quite some time.

(17) ni’ xunuq’t tthuw’nilh stl’itl’qulh ’i’ ni’ wulh wil’ tthu huy’qw.
He opened his eyes and fire would come out.

(18) mukw’ sus xunuq’t ’i’ ni’ tl’e’ wulh yuqw tthu ni’ lemutus ’i’ ni’ yuqw.
Whenever he opened his eyes, anything he looked at would burn.

(19) ni’ wulh suli’si’ tthu tsuli’tsut.
The parents got scared.

(20) mukw’ stem ni’ xunuq’t ’i’ ni’ tl’e wulh yuqw tthu ni’ shnu’asth.
Whatever his eyes opened toward would burn, whatever was in front of him.

(21) ni’ lemutus kwthu lhwet ’i’ ni’ tl’e’ wulh yuqw.
Whoever he looked at also got burned.

(22) wulh suli’si’ tthu tsuli’tsut.
The parents got very afraid.

(23) ’a.a.a, tl’i’ ni’ sht’es, sus ’uw’ kwunutum ’i’ ni’ hwtqetum thu qulum’s.
Oh, they were so afraid that they took him and covered his eyes.

(24) hwu st’i’am’stum tthu ni’ tuyum’tum kws ’uwus xunuq’tus.
They put something over his eyes so he couldn’t open them.

(25) ’uwu te’ ni’ skw’ey kws tl’e’s lemutus kw’ stem, skw’ey kws lemut-s kw’ lhwet.
He couldn’t ever look at anything or anybody.

(26) tl’lim’ nuw’ ’ukw’nuhwus thu qulum’s.
He really lost his eyesight.

(27) ’i’ nilh kwus st’e ’u tthey’ ni’ hwu huy’qw tthuw’ mukw’ stem ’u kwsus lemutus.
So it was like that—whatever he looked at would burn.

(28) lemutus kwthu thqet ’i’ ni’ tl’e’ ’uw’ yuqw ’ul’.
if he looked at a tree it would just burn up.

(29) wulh m’i ts’isum tthuw’nilh stl’itl’qulh ni’ wulh hwu wulh nem’ hwu swiw’lus.
And the child grew up and became a young man.

(30) ’i’ ha’ ni’ snet ’u kws snet-s, ’i’ yelh sus xunuq’t.
And when it was nighttime, he would open his eyes.

(31) ha’ ni’ xunuq’t ’u kwsus snet ’i’ nilh sus ’uw’ wi’wul’ tthu s hwuhwa’us.
When he opened his eyes at night, out came the thunderbolts.

(32) suw’ hwthtiwun tthu shhwuw’welis, “’uy’ kws nem’ tst tuyqt tthu mun’u tst.”
And the parents though, “We’d better move our son to another place.”

(33) qwul’qwul’tul’ ’u tthu sul’si’lus, ’u tthu ts’lhhwulmuhws.
They discussed it with their grandparents and their community.

(34) “’a.a.a, ’uy’ kws nem’ tst tuyqt tthu mun’u tst.”
“We’d better move our son to another place.”

(35) sus ’uw’ thuyuw’t-hwtum ni’ ’utl’ Satellite Island—ni’ tsun mel’qt kwthu s-hwulmuhwa’lh snes—thuytum tthu shni’s, thuyuw’t-hwtum.
So they built him a home over at Satellite Island (I forgot the native name), fixed him a place, made him a home.

(36) sus nem’ ’uw’ hwuni’stum, sus tuyqtum.
They moved him there.

(37) nuw’ tsta’lusstum nuw’ hwu ni’ tthu nuw’ ni’ tthu… ni’ yu sq’uq’a’s, skw’uyuths nem’ yu le’lum’ut.
They found him a wife and companions, and a slave to take care of him.

(38) ha’ kwu’elh ni’ net ’u kwus snet, ’i’ nuw’ shtatul’stum kws nilhs ni’ xuxunuq’t.
And when it was nighttime, everyone knew when he is opening his eyes.

(39) ni’ nem’ ’u tthu ’uyul’shun smeent sus ’uw’ lhaq’uthut, lhaq’uthut ’i’ ni’ xunuq’t.
He would go to a flat boulder and lie down and then open his eyes.

(40) ’i’ nilh ’uw’ yu sht’es, mukw’ sus xunuq’t ’i’ ni.i.i huy’qw.
When he did that, everything he opened his eyes on would be burning.

(41) s-hwuhwa’us ’i’ nuw’ shtatul’st-hwus tthuw’ne’ullh tswe’s tstl’itl’qulh.
There was a thunderbolt, and they knew it belonged to their own child.

(42) “ni’ xunuq’t kwthu mun’u tst, na’ut wulh wil’ tthu s-hwuhwa’us.”
“Our son has opened his eyes, and there comes the thunderbolt.”

(43) hith kwus ’uw’ ni’stum ’ul’ ’u kwthey’ nilh nuw’ shni’s ’ul’.
And he stayed at that place for a long time.

(44) wulh m’i tetsul thu q’ullhanumutsun, m’i tetsul ’utl’ tl’ulpalus.
Then one day an orca came to Cowichan Bay.

(45) ’i’ mukw’ tum’kw’e’lus ’i’ wulh sqw’aqw’ulh tthu mustimuhw ’u tthu stseelhtun
And when the summer was coming, the people would be waiting for the salmon

(46) ’uw’ hay hulitun’s tthu stseelhtun.
because that’s all they lived on.

(47) mu.u.ukw’ tum’kw’e’lus ’i’ wulh sqw’aqw’ulh tthu mustimuhw.
Every summer they would wait for the salmon to arrive.

(48) ’i’ nilh sus ’uw’ shxetl’ saay’stum’ thu shxetl’ nem’ tus ’utl’ quw’utsun’ xatsa’ ni’ ’u tnanulh tsa’luqw.
The got the weirs were ready at different places from Cowichan Bay going up to Lake Cowichan

(49) ni.i.i yu st’ut’in’ thu shxe’lutl’, sht’es kwus kwen’nuhwus tthu hwulmuhw tthu s’ulhtuns.
They lined up the weirs and that’s how the First Nations people got their food.

(50) ’i’ nilh ’uw’ sxuxits ’ul’ tthu m’i kwunutus ’u kwus ni’ ’u tthey’ shxetl’.
And they figured out what they would take with that weir.

(51) ’uwu kwsuw’ ’eey’s ’ul’ tthu hwulmuhw ’u they’ shxetl’.
The First Nations people didn’t continue on with the weirs.

(52) nuw’ sxuxits kwthu ni’ kwe’tum, nem’ ’aantum kws nem’s yul’ew’ ’u thu shxetl’.
They figured out what they which salmon they would let pass through the weir.

(53) nuw’ sxuxits ’ul’ kwthu m’i kwunutum ni’ tse’ sq’i’lu.
They knew what to take for their food for the winter.

(54) niilh ni’ ’ulh sht’es ’u kwun’a wulh hith
That’s the way it was a long time ago

(55) sht’es kwus ’a’untum’ tthu stseelhtun [kws nem’s tuyul].
when the salmon came up the river.

(56) hwun’ st’e ’u ’i’ wulh tetsul tthey’ q’ullhanumutsun m’i ’ewu ’u tu’inulh tl’ulpalus.
Then one day the killer whale came along coming into Cowichan Bay.

(57) ni’ wulh hwenuts tthu hwulmuhw.
The people started starving.

(58) ’uwu te’ stseelhtun m’i tslhaqw, ni’ wulh ’uw’kw’tus ’ul’ lhuyxtus ’ul’ tthu q’ullhanumutsun ’i ’u tu’inulh.
There was no salmon getting through, because the orca was just eating them all up.

(59) ’uwu kwsus m’i tetsulnamut ’u tthu sta’luw’.
And the salmon couldn’t reach the river.

(60) ’a-a-a wulh xullhultslh tthuw’ne’ullh tustussas mustimuhw mukw’ ’u.u.uw’ [t-sastunmut].
And all the people felt bad, they were so sad.

(61) “tstamut tst tse’ kwu’elh? ’uwu te’ s’ulhtun tst! tstamut tst tse’? ni’ tst tse’ hwenuts!”
What are we going to do? We have no food! What are we going to do? We are going to starve!

(62) nilh hay ’ul’ ’uw’ ’uy’ s’ulhtun tst kwthu stseelhtun ’uw’ yath m’i [tutuyul’] hwihwuwul’ ’ul’.”
Salmon is our favorite food and there is nothing coming ashore..

(63) na’ut wulh ’uw’kw’nuhwus thu q’ullhanumutsun tthu stseelhtun, t-sas tst tse’.”
The killer whale has eaten up all our salmon and we are going to be pitiful.”

(64) tl’e’ wulh qwul’qwul’tul’, tl’e’ wulh qwul’qwul’tul’, wulh thut tthu na’nuts’a’, “’uy’ kws nem’ tst tth’ihwuthut ’u kwthu mun’u tst.
They kept discussing and having meetings, and then one of them said, “We had better go and talk to our child.

(65) nem’ tst tth’ihwuthut ’i’ ’uy’ kws m’is hulitalum.
We will go ask him to come and save us.

(66) wuwa’ xwum ’i’ m’i ’ewu ’i’ ts’ewutal’hwus.”
Maybe he can come over and help us.”

(67) sus ’uw’ huliye’ tthu nem’ lemutum kwthu…. ni’ tsun mel’qt kwthu snes kwthey’ swiw’lus…
Someone went over to talk to this young man… I forgot his name…

(68) kwus (m’i) [nem’] ts’iitum, ts’iitum, “xwum ts’twa’ p’e’ ’i’ ’uw’ ni’ kw’un’ sla’thut, si’em’.
pleading to him, “Maybe there is something that you can do, respected one.

(69) hay ’ul’ ’uw’ ’ulh tustusas tthun’ siiye’yu tthun’ shhwuw’weli, ’un’ sul’si’lu, ’un’ shhwum’ne’lukw.
Please, your parents, grandparents, and uncles are very pitiful.

(70) hay ’ul’ qux mustimuhw ni’ wulh hwenuts.
There are many people that are starving.

(71) ’uwu te’ stseelhtun ni’ nem’ tsakwum[namut].
There is no salmon going up the river.

(72) ni’ wulh lhuyxtus lhu q’ullhanumutsun.
That killer whale has eaten it all.

(73) tth’ihwum lhu, tth’ihwum lhu m’i ts’ewutal’hw, m’i hulital’hw!”
Please please come and help us, come save us!”

(74) m’i huliye’ ’eelhtun wulh xtsuthut tthuw’nilh swiw’lus.
And they left. he started thinking about what was happening.

(75) sus ’uw’ ’uya’qthut, ni’ hwu …. tthu sqw’ulesh, ni’ hwu s-hwuhwa’us.
He changed himself into Thunderbird.

(76) si-i-is m’uw’ lhakw’ ’ewu ’utl’ tl’ulpalus.
And he flew to Cowichan Bay.

(77) kwus wulh tetsul ’i’ wulh lumnuhwus thu q’ullhanumutsun kwsus lhey’xtum tthu s’ulhtuns tthu shhwuw’welis, mustimuhws.
When he arrived, he saw the orcas who were eating up all his relatives’ food.

(78) suw’ nilh tthey’ ni’ kwulushtus, sus ’uw’ xwaytus, ni’ kwulushtus suw’ xwaytus tthu q’ullhanumutsun.
And he shot out (thunderbolts) and killed all the orcas.

(79) hulinhwus tthu shhwuw’weli ’i’ tthu mustimuhw ni hulinhwus.
He saved his parents and all the people from starving.

(80) nilh kwu’elh ni’ hulinhw tthu mustimuhw kwthey’ swiw’lus ’i’ ni’ hwu lhalhukw’.
So that young man saved all the people and he became a flying creature.

(81) suw’ hwi’ kwuyxthut tthu, kwus m’i lhalhukw’, kwuyxthut tthu mustimuhw tun’ni’ ’utl’ kw’etqum xinupsum.
And one time he was flying by and the people from Kw’etqum, Xinupsum, were hanging around.

(82) wulh m’i yu lhalhukw’, m’i yu ’e’wunusus tthu shhwuw’welis kwus wulh ’iya’qthut hwu lhalhukw’.
And he came flying by going to his relatives, that one who changing into a flying creature.

(83) tahw m’uw’ yul’ew’ ’utl’ xinupsum.
He was going right past Xinupsum.

(84) ’i’ wulh nele’ tthey’ swaaw’lus suw’ kwulushtum ’u tthu s’unum, ’a’t’, tuxwa’ts, kwulushtum.
And the young men started shooting at him with the spears, slingshots, bow and arrows.

(85) sus ’uw’ ts’uqw’ nilh tthu t’eluw’s nilh ni’ shtus tthu tuxwa’ts.
And he got hit right on his wing with a shot from the bow.

(86) sus m’uw’ yu kw’i.i.ikw’itum’ kwus wulh m’i yu lhalhukw’, yu tsukwul’ul’qum’ tthuw’ne’ullh swaaw’lus.
They missed him as he came flying by, but those young men kept following him.

(87) yu huy’kwul’ushtum’ yu huy’kwul’ushtum’ ’i’ ’uwu kwsus kwunnum.
They were shooting at him, and shooting out him, but they kept missing.

(88) m’i ’ewu ’u tu’inulh kwa’mutsun tetsul ’utl’ kwa’mutsun sis m’i ’uw’ ’ewu ’utl’ yeyum’nuts.
And he made it to Kwa’mutsun, making it to Yeyum’nuts (the stream that flows from Somenoes Lake to the Cowichan River).

(89) nilh kwu’elh ni’ shni’s kws nuqum kwthey’ [s-hwuhwa’us] yu huy’kwul’ushtum’.
And that was where the thunderbird dove into the creek

(90) sis nem’ ’uw’ lhakw’ sis nem’ ’uw’ nuqum ’i’ ’uwu m’iis tl’e’ p’ukw nilh nuw’ sht’es ’ul.
He flew and dove into the creek and he never surfaced again.

(91) ’uwu niis tl’e’ p’ukw kwthey’.
He never surfaced again from there.

(92) sis ’ulh ’uw’ hwu thi-i-i kwthu shqwuqwe ’i ’u tthey’ statluw’.
There used to be a very big hole in that creek.

(93) nilh kwu’elh ’uw’ shni’s kwthey’, ’iilh ’uw’ tl’lim’ ’uw’ sthuthi’s swi’wul’.
And it seemed that the place there was quite nice.

(94) ’i’ ’e’ut wulh hwu quliima’ ’u tun’a qe’is.
Now today it’s just really dirty.

(95) ni’ tun’ni’ ’u thu lagoon sus ’uw’ hwu quliima’.
It’s all dirty from the lagoon.

(96) nilh kwu’elh ’uw’ sht’es kwus ’uw’ yu swi’wul’ tthu [xutsten’s].
And this is thus a landmark.

(97) mukw’ tthu sqwul’qwul’ ’i’ ’uw’ ni’ kwthu ni’ yu swi’wul’ ’i’ kwthey’ sqwuqwe nuw’ ni’ ’u lhey’ statluw’.
All the stories refer to landmarks, and the hole over there at that little creek is one.

(98) ni’ hay nu sxwi’em’. ni’ ’uw’kw’.
That’s the end of the story. There’s no more.