How The Wolf Ritual Began


- Squamish -

A long time ago, a young woman of the tribe, with three companions, was walking outside the village. They were going to a place called Tomak'cluh to look for ah-et's'l, a small plant whose roots they use for food. During the journey a Wolf went trotting across their path, strong and sleek and scarcely noticing the girls. The young woman said: "How handsome he is! I wish my husband, when I marry, could be as strong and as fearless." At nighttime the women went to sleep, and the Wolf came in. (The Wolves know everything and read the minds of human creatures) The girl did not know that he had come, but the Wolf woke the sleeping girl, and told her he was going to take her with him. Opening her eyes, she saw a fine young man standing before her.....

The young woman went with the Wolf to his home in the mountain, and was there a long time. Two sons were born who grew up to be half Wolf and half man. The old father of the girl, meanwhile, did not know where his daughter had gone, and was greatly troubled. At her home they tried everywhere to find her, looking in vain in all sorts of places, until they grieved for her as dead. In the Wolf country the oldest son, grown to be a man, asked his mother why he looked different from the people around him (the Wolves). The mother had told him that he came from another place, and that there, far from where the Wolves live, dwelt her own father. Then the son asked when she was going home, because he wished very much to see what it was like there. So the woman told her husband that their son would like to see his grandfather. He finally agreed, but before they went, as a gift to his wife, the Wolf began to teach the woman about the Klukwana [the wolf ritual], which they had there. It was the Chief of Wolves that the woman have married and all the wolves came to the Chief's house to have Klukwana.

When she had learned all about it, the Wolves came to take her away to her own village. They brought her to her father's house at night, and waited behind the other houses but did not come near. The woman went in to wake her father, and began talking to him of a daughter he had lost, though she kept hidden who she was. She said she herself had a Wolf husband, and that she had with her two sons....The woman also told her father many things about the Wolves, and that the villagers must not do anything when the Wolves howled, or try to harm them. Instead they must try to learn from them.... The old father had been much grieved because his daughter was dead, but he did not know her because it was nighttime and she was much changed after so many years. But at last had revealed herself to him and told him that now she was going to have a "song" of her own as a sign that the Wolves had brought her back and by which he might know her again. [The father gathered his people and told them of his daughter's return. They heard the wolves outside and began to beat on long boards and sticks. The wolves howled four times and departed.]

Then the woman taught her father all about Klukwana, and the secrets she had learned from the Wolves as to their power and strength. After she had taught him all the songs and all the dances, the father began the Klukwana and later taught the rest of the tribe all that his daughter had learned from the Wolves.

Alice Ernst, The Wolf Ritual of the Northwest Coast

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