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Native American Legends

Origin of the .Sxo'exo'e mask

An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown

Once there was a man named Xwiämä'ta, who lived at Union Bar. He had a sister called Swalsta't. He was sick with a loathsome disease. His nose and eyes were swollen. He had been sick a long time, and could not be cured. He became very sorrowful, and one day wandered away to a small lake called Qo'eqoea, near the Coquahalla River.

As he went along, he tore up his blanket, and tied the rags to sticks. The people followed his track for some distance, and then gave it up, saying, "There is no use following him. He has no doubt gone very far, and then committed suicide."

He sat by the lake and spat into the water. The saliva descended through the water, entered the lodge of the chief who lived at the bottom of the lake, and fell on the stomach of his daughter, who at once became sick. Xwiämä'ta said to himself, "There is nothing to live for. I cannot get well. I will throw myself into the lake."

He dived, and descended until he saw a ladder standing up, which led into the chief's house. He entered, and found the chief's daughter very sick. The chief told him that she was dying, and asked him to try to cure her. He cured her by scraping off the spittle, and at once she became well. In return the chief cured Xwiämä'ta's sickness.

They were very grateful, and showed him the .sxo'exo'e mask. They said it was of very great value, and told him how to use it. They presented it to him. They promised to send it. Xwiämä'ta returned home, and sent his sister Swalsta't to fish in the lake. While she was fishing, the Water people attached the mask to her hook. She thought she had caught a fish. When she landed it and saw the feathers on it, she ran away in fright. Her brother sent her back. She wrapped it in a blanket, and put it in a large basket and carried it home. Then her brother showed it at dances.

The .sxo'exo'e mask had a feathered head, protruding eyes, feathered hands, and feathered feet and knees. It could only be used by people who inherited it. By intermarriage with people of Hope it was introduced among the people of Hammond. The people on the North Arm (near the mouth of the Fraser River) made war on the Hammond people, and stole their mask. After this they used it, although it did not belong to them; but they did not know the proper song and dance that belonged to the mask, which always was used when it was exhibited.

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