First Peoples > An Aboriginal Presence > Our Origins > Wealth of Stories > The Winter Hunters and the Mosquito (Tsimshian)

An Aboriginal Presence

Our Origins

Wealth of Stories - The Winter Hunters and the Mosquito (Tsimshian)

Ten brothers and their wives who were hunting in the mountains far from their own village decided to spend the night in a village they saw in a valley. They went down the mountain on their snowshoes. In the village, each family invited one of the strangers into their house. The chief of the village invited the youngest brother, his wife and baby to stay with him. They had no idea that all of these people, who looked human, were really mosquitoes.

During supper the baby began to cry. The wife of the chief took him on her lap to comfort him. When he kept crying, the chief's wife put her mouth to his ear and sang a song. The child grew quiet. When the young mother took her child from the chief's wife, she discovered to her horror that he was not asleep, but dead, and blood was coming from his ear.

Quietly wrapping the child in a marten skin blanket, she told her husband that the people of the village were not real. She asked him to warn his brothers that they should all leave during the night.

When all of the villagers were sleeping, the guests slipped out and started up the mountain. Before they reached the top, they looked back and saw the villagers coming after them.

To stop them, the hunters and their wives dislodged snow with their staffs, creating avalanches that swept the villagers away. As more people came up the mountain, they created more avalanches, until finally all of the people were dead except the chief.

Short and stout, with a proboscis of pure crystal, the Mosquito chief ran to each of the hunters and their wives in turn and killed them all. Only the mother of the dead child was left. Luring the Mosquito chief to the edge of a lake, she hid in a tree, and teased him with her reflection. He went into the water searching for her, came out, and went in again. Finally, very cold and moving very slowly, he came out of the water. Caught in a north wind on a clear cold night, he froze to death, and lay with his wings frozen to the ground.

After the woman had poked him with a branch and her foot to see that he was really dead, she took her fish knife made of shell and cut out his heart. The heart had two eyes and a mouth. It was still alive, and looked at her. She was afraid of it, but took the heart to each of her friends who had been killed, and swung it over each of them four times, bringing them back to life.

The next day, the hunting party built a fire to burn the Mosquito chief's body and heart. When only the ashes were left, some of the people blew into the fire scattering the ashes. The ashes flew upward, became small mosquitoes, and spread into the world.

The hunting party then reached home safely.

Condensed from Franz Boas, Tsimshian Mythology

Mosquito Mask
Coast Tsimshian
British Columbia
Before 1925
Wood and paint
Canadian Museum of Civilization, VII-C-1188, CD98-20-015

Mask - VII-C-1188 - CD98-20-015
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