Creekstone Press Publications
Returning the Feathers: Five Gitxsan Stories
Description: Trade paperback, 8” x 10”, 72 pages, colour illustrations throughout
This book is now out of print. Copies can be found through second hand book sources.
“In the beginning there was only one man on earth. The first Gitxsan was thrust out of the womb of the earth. Naked and hungry, he lived through the first winter by burying himself in dry pine needles. When he felt the heat of the sun in spring, he emerged from his blanket of pine needles to survey the land in which he must learn to survive.”
So begins “The Origin of the Gitxsan,” the first story in this exciting new collection by Gitxsan storyteller, M. Jane Smith. With the cadences of an experienced teller of tales, Smith leads us through Laxs’ struggle to feed and house himself with the help of the first spirit creature, the Naxnox bird.
The indigo Steller’s Jay is found throughout British Columbia, flitting through conifers and squawking and scavenging at campsites and birdfeeders.
K’alidakhl is the Gitxsan word for this bird; it comes from the expression meaning hair tied back. In this tale, Smith depicts its dark beginnings.
“The Long-Nosed Monster Who Walked” is a story of cleverness and trickery as Youngest Son sets out to hunt the monster who is hunting his people. The tables are turned and then turned again as these two opponents face off.
“You think you have killed me, but I will be back. I will haunt the Gitxsan every summer until the end of time.”
Porcupines, the Gitxsan say, are easily irritated – not necessarily a useful personality trait, according to the events related in “Little Porcupine,” the fourth story in Returning the Feathers.
With “Young Egret,” the final story in the collection, we see how legends are born.
One day, late in autumn, Jane Smith was out at her smokehouse in Anlo. There she saw an unusual bird flying by the distant trees. When she returned after a light snowfall, she found the body of the bird, an egret, beside her smokehouse. She wrote Young Egret as a tribute to the visitor – a tribute that becomes a luminous journey of transformation.
“We will help you, Young Egret,” promised the Dreamer.
The dreamer had dreamed of Young Egret’s coming and now his dreams were of Young Egret’s leaving. Young Egret listened as the Dreamer spoke of the ways of the Gitxsan. They, too, had journeyed to distant lands and the sprit, as is the way of the sprit, longs to return home.
With the layered wit, humour, and drama found in all the stories,
M. Jane Smith and Ken N. Mowatt recreate the profound connections between the Gitxsan and their territories, between the people, the plants and animals, and the spirit of the land itself.
With the launch of Returning the Feathers, Creekstone Press is honoured to bring these Gitxsan stories to the wider audience they deserve.