The Thunderbird Legend


X̱wax̱wasa and Kwa̱nu’sila

 Origin Story of the Giga̱lg̱a̱m “The First Ones”

‘na̱mima “clan” of the ‘Na̱mg̱is

X̱wax̱wasa was the first ancestor of the Giga̱lg̱a̱m “First Ones” ‘na̱mima “clan”. When the Great Flood came, he transformed into a steelhead salmon and went into the upper part of Nimpkish Lake at the foot of a mountain named Xa’woli. When the deluge subsided, he crawled out of the water at a place called Udzo’las “Flat Place”. Because ‘Na̱mugwadzalas was all alone and believed that he was the only person that survived the flood, he named himself ‘Na̱mugwadzalas “The Only One”.At Udzo’las ‘Na̱mugwadzalas decided that he wanted to build a house for shelter and live there. ‘Na̱mugwadzalas wanted to name his house ‘Na̱msg̱a̱mdzolas “Only House on the Ground”.

‘Na̱mugwadzalas tied his hair up in a knot on the back of his head and began searching for a good stone to make an adze. As he walked along the riverbank, he found some stones that would make good blades. So he made a stone axe and chopped down some red cedar trees. Then he shaped the two larger logs into crossbeams to support the roof of his house. When he had finished the crossbeams, he thought about how he would lift them up on top of the house posts. ‘Na̱mugwadzalas became very sad as he now realized that he was all alone and had no one to help him lift up the beams. So he sat there with a heavy heart and wishing that there were someone that could help him. The Ik̓i Gig̱a̱me’ “Great Creator Above” heard his plea and told the mighty Thunderbird Kwa̱nu’sila “The Thunder Maker” to prepare himself and to fly down to help this man. So Kwa̱nu’sila flew down from his home in the heavens and landed near ‘Na̱mugwadzalas.

Suddenly, ‘Na̱mugwadzalas heard a loud noise behind him that came from a short distance down across the river. He turned around and to his surprise he saw the large Thunderbird. It had landed with each of his feet resting on one of two large boulders that were quite a distance apart. This place is called Kwa̱nwa̱’as “Thunderbird Place”, for this is where the great bird first landed when he came to earth. Then ‘Na̱mugwadzalas thought to himself, “Oh friend! I wish you were a man, so that you might help me with my work.” Then the Thunderbird heard his wishes and transformed into a man by taking off his feather clothing and mask to reveal his human face. Then the Thunderbird Man said to ‘Na̱mugwadzalas, “I will help you.” Then he transformed back into a Thunderbird and flew up and grabbed the large crossbeam in his talons and lifted it up. He laid it on top of the post and did the same with the other beam. Then he landed once more and ‘Na̱mugwadzalas looked towards him and thought, “I wish he would remain a man so that he would become my brother”. The Thunderbird heard his thoughts and answered, “I will remain a man and I shall be your brother”. So he transformed and took off his Thunderbird costume for the last time. He told his supernatural mask and feathered garment to fly upwards and return back to their home in the heavens. He instructed his supernatural clothing as it flew away, “You shall only be heard when one of my descendants is about to die; or someone is going to come that will replace the one that has passed on before them.” Then the Thunderbird clothing flew up into the sky. The Thunderbird man took the name Kwa̱nu’sila and also built a house at Udzo’las.

The Steelhead Man ‘Na̱mugwadzalas is the first ancestor of the Giga̱lg̱a̱m “First Ones” ‘na̱mima. The Thunderbird Man Kwa̱nu’sila is the first ancestor of the Kwa̱nu’silawe’ “Descendants of Kwa̱nu’sila” ‘na̱mima.

In time, these two ancestor’s descendants multiplied and had many children who became great tribes. Today, the two clans are considered one and are now all known as Giga̱lg̱a̱m.


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