When the World was first created God had help from Four Carpenters
called the Masmasalanicw. They were like human beings with wings – "Angels." They
carved our First Ancestors. Each family has an Origin Story. Along the walls
of Heaven hung the cloaks of the Grizzly Bear, the Raven, the Eagle, the Killer
Whale – all of God's creations.
Our First Ancestors had a choice of what cloak they would descend
to Earth with. Once they descended to Earth, that animal's cloak went back
Today as a Nuxalkmc we know what our Crests are; whether we come from the Eagle,
Raven or any other of God's creation, this is our direct tie to Manakays – our
When we make our regalia we put the Crest of our First Ancestor on our blankets – acknowledging
to Manakays that we will never forget the gifts he has given us.
Nuxalkmc Elders tell us that in the beginning of time, when the world was covered
in darkness, the very dim light was the colour of copper. The people were in
constant sadness and prayed to the Creator, Alhkw'ntam, to give them light.
Alhkw'ntam held the sun in a box in his long-house in the land above, Nusmata
and let no one see the light.
The Four Carpenters who made the world were sitting around
a fire in Nusmata, when the eldest, Yulm, grabbed a piece of charcoal out of
the fire and shook it in his hands. When he opened his hands it was a bird.
The second Carpenter then made the wings. The third one made its eyes. The
youngest one gave it life. The Carpenters asked the bird to say his name and
the bird flew into the sky and cried out, "qwaxw, qwaxw, qwaxw!" The Carpenters
gave the bird the name, Qwaxw, Raven. The people begged Raven to get the light
He flew to Nusmata and observed Alhkw'ntam's
granddaughter, Skimina. He thought of a way to get the globe of light from
her grandfather. Raven transformed into eagle down first and lay on the
water where she drank every morning; but, she blew him away. Then he became
a hemlock needle; but, she blew him away. Finally, when he muddied the
water, she drank and he was taken in. She became pregnant and Raven was
born to her very fast.
Raven grew up very fast and Alhkw'ntam loved him. When Raven cried for
the box holding the globe, his grandfather refused to give it, until he
could no longer bear the cries. Raven rolled the globe of light back and
forth and finally, broke it against the wall of the longhouse. The light
leaked out into the world, through the smoke vent and became the sun, stars
and moon. The people were no longer sad, because the darkness was gone.
Left: Nuxalk Four Carpenter masks at the American Museum of Natural History
in New York. These masks and many others were "collected" in Bella
Coola by ethnologist Franz Boas in the late 19th century.