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Two Whale Stories Written by Mildred Roberts & Don T. Roberts Original Illustrations by Paula Wesley

! ! Two Whale Stories Copyright 2008 Mildred Roberts ! ISBN 978-0-9937877-0-6 ! Published by: Biiłts’ik Colleen Austin ! First Printing 2014 (250 copies) ! ! ! ! ! !

Authors:  Mildred Roberts & Don T. Roberts Illustrator: Paula Wesley Editors: Biiłts’ik Colleen Austin & Anne Hill !! ! The purpose of this project is to foster awareness, pride and respect for Ts’msyen Sm’algyax language and traditional knowledge. !! This publication is primarily intended for language and culture education in Kitsumkalum, and for the benefit of all generations.

Rebecca Bolton (nee Anderson) Born 1883?84 Photo contributed by Charlotte Guno (nee Bolton)

Mark Bolton Born 1879 Photo contributed by Mildred Roberts

This book is dedicated to Mildred’s grandparents,

Rebecca and Mark Bolton

Introduction ! These two true stories are part of the family history of Mildred Roberts, an elder and matriarch from Kitsumkalum. The first  story, The Brother Whale Story, tells of an encounter between  Mildred’s grandparents, Mark and Rebecca Bolton, and a  killerwhale when they were fishing in the early 1900s.  The  second story, The Baby Whale Story, recalls another meeting with a group of whales that Mildred’s son, Don Roberts, had  while commercial fishing in the mid-1990s.

! These events hold special meaning because Mildred, her  grandfather, and her son all belong to the Gisbutwada, or Killerwhale (Blackfish) crest.  Both of the stories demonstrate the spirit connection between human and killerwhale. The  stories teach the importance of łoomsk, or respect/honour,  for all living creatures, and of heeding the ancestors’ and  elders’ stories and teachings.

Mildred Roberts Photo Credit: Biiłts’ik Colleen Austin

Preface by Anne Hill ! When I met Mildred Roberts in June 2006, it was the beginning of a wonderful collaboration and a lasting friendship. I was searching for Ts’msyen material to include in my elementary school music curriculum. Mildred shared a wealth of cultural knowledge with me, including these stories, which first appeared in my MA thesis, Singing to Remember, Singing to Heal. Mildred narrated the text of the first story and I distilled the text of the Baby Whale Story from conversations with her son, Don Roberts. My public school students performed Two Whale Stories several times over two years, most memorably to a standing ovation at a packed feast hall in Kitsumkalum. Later on, as Mildred wrote more material, my students performed additional songs and stories from her childhood. My students and I are deeply indebted to Mildred for the many ways in which she has enriched our lives, and to her son Don for generously sharing his extraordinary story with the world.

! Biiłts’ik Colleen Austin, Principal/Teacher of ‘Na Aksa Gila Kyew Learning Centre in Kitsumkalum, where I now teach, was instrumental in getting this story to print. Colleen simply made it happen, from finding funding and an illustrator, to book layout, editing, publishing, marketing, and the many steps in between. Believing passionately in her students and the importance of their language, songs and stories, she added some basic Ts’msyen Sm’algyax words to this book.


Mildred Roberts & Anne Hill Photo Credit: Biiłts’ik Colleen Austin

We were quite blessed to find Paula Wesley as an illustrator. As a member of the Kitusmkalum community, Paula is connected to these stories in many ways, and that heart connection shines through in her original drawings.

The Brother whale story

Grandfather (Ye’e) and grandmother (nts’iits)  were fishing one day (k’üül sah).  Grandfather  was jigging for halibut (txaw), and grandmother was rowing the boat for him.  It was a good day (ama sah), and they were having a good catch.

Suddenly, a whale (‘neexł) swam up alongside  them and floated there, watching, and wishing for one of the halibut (txaw) to eat.  The grandfather (ye’e) sensed this, and he stood up in his boat. The grandfather saw his brother whale.

Grandmother (Nts’iits) felt scared.  She was worried that the whale would tip them over.  But the grandfather  (Ye’e) knew that he could trust his brother whale.  He  took a halibut (txaw) and threw it to the whale (‘neexł).   As he threw it, he called out to the whale , “I share this  with you, my brother.”

The whale dove down under the water (aks).    When he surfaced, he was holding up the  halibut (txaw) in his mouth.  In this way, he  showed the fisherman that he had received  his gift. He slapped (t’eeyt) his tail to show that he was thankful (t’oyaxs) for it.

The Baby Whale Story

Many years later, their great-grandson, Don,  was commercial fishing when a baby whale  (łguułga ‘neexł) got caught in his net (aat). The  baby had been swimming with its mother and the uncles and aunts from its pod.  

The other killer whales were angry (łuunti) when the baby got caught. They turned back to try and help (łimoom). The baby was frightened and began to cry (‘wiihawtk). The fisherman got another boat to hold the net tight. As he tried to get close to the baby to help it, he could sense the baby’s fear and the mother’s anger. He began to talk to the mother, eye to eye, heart to heart.

Very slowly, the fisherman picked up the net (aat), while holding a pipe pole in his hand (an’on), and still talking to the mother.  He explained to her  that he was going to use the pole to pull the  net (aat) off the baby (łguułk).

Right away, the mother began to understand that her baby was safe. She moved her eye to show the fisherman that she understood. Her eye was big, like a football. The mother  whale gave a peaceful blink. The instant that she blinked,  the baby (łguułk) stopped crying.  And at that moment, the

fisherman knew that he had connected with the whale (‘neexł),  eye to eye, heart to heart.

The fisherman moved to the stern of the boat and carefully began to pull the net (aat) off the baby (łguułk). The mother calmly watched him with trust in her eyes.  The baby whale’s skin felt soft (sm goomt)  and delicate, and smooth like a hard-boiled egg. He pulled and pulled until the baby was free.

As soon as the net (aat) was in the boat,  the mother took the baby (łguułk), and  together they swam up to the stern, where  the fisherman was standing. The two whales  slapped (t’eeyt) their tails, both at the exact  same instant.

The mother and baby (łguułk) dove down under the water (aks) until they were further away, and then  they turned one last time to say goodbye to the fisherman.  They looked at him for a long, long time. Then they slapped (t’eeyt) their tails on the water again and swam away.

The fisherman wondered why the whales had looked at him for so long, and what they were trying to tell him. Later on, he spoke to an elder (‘wiileexs) who knew. The  elder told him that the whales were thanking him, and  looking at him so that they would never forget him.  The  elder told the fisherman that someday he would see the  whales again.

Wayi Wah.

About this Book: This story was told to us by my grandmother, Rebecca Bolton, about the encounter she and my grandfather, Mark Bolton, had with the  killer whale.  Then, years later, my son Don Roberts ran into a killer whale again, and we put the stories together.  Things happen years  ago, then something else happens years later, and somehow there’s a connection, just like how people can connect with ancestors  from years back.  The stories show ways that people can connect with their ancestors - one story was from the recent times,  and the other from years before.  The stories are important because they really happened and were told by the people they happened  to.  Both stories show how killer whales can react to kindness that you show them.  Killerwhale (Blackfish) is our crest, so that makes it  extra important. Mildred Roberts, Author

! About the Authors: Mildred Roberts is a respected Ts’msyen elder from Kitsumkalum. Don T. Roberts is the son of Mildred, of the Gisbutwada (Blackfish) crest and late Don J. Roberts, of the Ganhada (Raven) crest. Don was first elected as Chief Councillor for Kitsumkalum in March 2007. He shares that house (waaps) crest symbols are not mythical, they carry true tellings (adaawx) which really happened.

! About the Community: The Ts’msyen village of Kitsumkalum is located at the confluence of the Kalum and Skeena (K’syen) rivers, at the foot of Sleeping Beauty Mountain, 5 km west of Terrace in Northwestern BC Canada. However, the traditional lands and birthplace of many Kitsumkalum people include the coastal village of Spokechute (Port Essington), at the mouth of the Skeena (K’syen) river.


Link to Kitsumkalum website: Published by: Biiłts’ik Colleen Austin

Authors: Don T. Roberts & Mildred Roberts Photo Credit: Biiłts’ik Colleen Austin

Two Whale Stories  

Two true stories about the interaction of killerwhales with Tsimshian people on the Northwest Coast of BC. This book is beautifully illustr...

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