The Story behind our First Song – Chant of Wax̱a̱widi

The Great Copper Named Causing Destitution


After the Great Flood, a Thunderbird named Thunder Maker came down from heaven and landed at Thunderbird Place along the Nimpkish River. He was sent down by the Great Creator to help the Steelhead Man build a house. In time, the two men married women from other surviving tribes and multiplied to become many and are great clans today. The name of Steelhead Man’s clan is The First Ones, for he was the first to return to the land after the flood.


The Thunderbird took his supernatural bird garment and commanded it to return to their home in the sky. Then he just told his children, “My thunderbird clothing will only thunder when one of you is about to die, or when one will be born to take the place of the one that has gone before them”.


Thunder Maker’s son’s name was Host Chief, who was a True Chief. Host Chief’s son was Canoes Come to Him, who paddled up north to marry a woman from the Bella Bella Tribe. From his wife he received as dowry the large copper named Causing Destitution, along with names and dances. The value of Causing Destitution was ten slaves, ten canoes and ten lynx blankets. Canoes Come to Him offered the copper Causing Destitution for sale to the Fort Rupert Tribes. The Fort Rupert Tribes could not afford the great price of Causing Destitution so they planned to kill the owner and take the copper through murder. Canoes Come to Him was chased by the Fort Rupert Tribes and took refuge at Resting Place. He carried his large copper that was said to be a fathom and a half in length. Canoes Come to Him buried his copper in the ground because he did not want the Fort Rupert Tribes to obtain it. When the Fort Rupert Tribes caught Canoes Come to Him, they speared him with a lance and killed him. They also killed his servants and then they left the river. Canoes Come to Him’s tribe then moved to Foundation where they mourned for him for a long time.


Summer came and the late Canoes Come to Him’s tribe was fishing for sockeye salmon. Canoes Come to Him had a son who in time had his own son. The grandson of the first Canoes Come to Him grew up to become a man and received his grandfather’s name. The next Canoes Come to Him while growing up always talked about the great copper Causing Destitution and its whereabouts; the people believed he was reincarnated from his grandfather, as he was the only one who knew where it was buried. Eventually, Canoes Come to Him married a woman who was an aunt to two orphaned brothers; Canoes Come to Him and his family adopted the orphans. Earlier in their lives, the orphan brothers had no canoe and had to walk wherever they went. Canoes Come to Him often lent his canoe to them to use and they were grateful for his kindness. Canoes Come to Him also gave the brothers deer hide blankets to keep them warm when they would go hunting.


One day the brothers were going up river to fish. Canoes Come to Him told them, “Take care”, my late grandfather used to come to me in my dreams and tell me about his copper buried in the ground at Resting Place where you are going”. The brothers then poled up river. When they got to the fishing grounds, they grabbed the ends of their harpoons and used them like walking canes. After they had finished fishing and were returning to their canoe, the oldest brother’s butt end of his harpoon struck something in the ground! The sound was like he had struck something metal. The brothers were surprised and asked each other, “What could it be in the ground?” The oldest brother said, “Let us dig it up and see if it is what our step-father has told us about!” They dug up the ground and when they uncovered it, it was Causing Destitution! They stood it on its edge on the ground and it was big! The copper was too big and heavy for the brothers to carry so they broke cranberry bushes to measure and make a model of it. The brothers really debated with each other and the oldest said, “Where shall the copper go?” The younger brother replied, “Shouldn’t it go to our uncle Light Hair?” The older brother responded, “Why would we give it him? I do not want it to go to him, and how do you feel towards him?” The younger brother replied, “Let it go to Wax̱a̱widi, he is the only one who lends us his canoe, he is the only one who gives us blankets to wear, and our aunt is also the only one who gives us food to eat”. The older brother finished by saying, “Our uncle Ux̱wsa̱m doesn’t treat us good, let’s paddle down river towards home”.


The brothers carried the model of Causing Destitution into Canoes Come to Him’s house. Canoes Come to Him and his wife were the only ones in the house. Canoes Come to Him could sense something different about the brothers, normally they were looking sad and without purpose. The aunt tried to give the boys something to eat after their day of fishing; but they did not want to eat because of their excitement. They called their aunt into the bedroom, “Come Aunty, so we can talk to you about what your husband has told us, we have come from finding it! We don’t want the copper to go to anyone else but your husband Canoes Come to Him because he treats us good”. The aunt said, “Indeed children, what he has told you about, it is there”. The older boy said to his aunt, “Let your husband come in now and hear the good news”. The aunt called to her husband, “Come Canoes Come to Him”, come and listen to our children”.


Canoes Come to Him went into the room and the younger brother quickly got up and showed their model of the large copper. The brothers said to Canoes Come to Him, “The real copper will go to you, by good luck we have found the copper of your late father that you have told us about. This copper will be part of our aunt’s marriage obligations to you and will be part of her dowry settlement. Now she will carry the name “Means of Obtaining Copper Woman”, and her family will carry the name “Taking Care of Coppers”, which became the name of the older brother who had first struck the copper with his harpoon shaft at Resting Place.


Canoes Come to Him went on the roof of his house and sang his sacred song; the people asked each other why he was singing. He was singing his chant to celebrate because his grandfather’s copper had been finally found. Soon, the tribe knew that the orphans had found Causing Destitution. Now Light Hair felt bad because they did not choose him to receive the copper. Canoes Come to Him gave the brothers canoes, lynx blankets, marmot blankets, sewed together blankets, sea otters, and mink blankets that the boys gave to the people and became Chieftains.


Then Light Hair and Canoes Come to Him argued with each other using harsh words on account of the copper. Then it evolved to the two competing for the Head Chief’s Position of their tribe. Canoes Come to Him climbed on the roof of his house and chanted to the trees and plants across the river asking, “Who is truly the Chief of our Chiefs, trees and plants?” And the trees and plants replied, “The one in the house above, that Canoes Come to Him he is meant to be the Chief”…


Then Light Hair was ashamed because he was not a True Chief. Canoes Come to Him sold the copper Causing Destitution which was now given another name “Found”, for the great copper had truly been found. With the great price of property that he was paid for the copper, Canoes Come to Him invited the tribes for a Potlatch and was one of the first Chiefs to do this in ancient times…


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