Family Origin Histories: The Whaling Indians: West Coast Legends and Stories — Part 11 of the Sapir-Thomas Nootka Texts
Edited by Eugene Arima, Henry Kammler, Terry Klokeid and Katherine Robinson
April 2009, ISBN 978-0-660-19898-9
Mercury Series, Ethnology 145
400 pp., 62 illustrations, 17 x 24 cm, paperback
Nuu-chah-nulth “family histories” are 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.