Four Carpenters & Other Stories

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 to Heaven.

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 Heavenly Father.

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 for them.

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.


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