OPINION SIG

Legends of T’Sou-ke and West Coast First Nations

Elida Peers | Contributed

How great it was, almost half a century ago, to work on a project with the T’Sou-ke and Pacheedaht Nations, enabling the publication in 1978 of a booklet of their legends. The Sooke Region Museum was honoured that the elders of the T’Sou-ke Nation shared their knowledge with the student researchers who put the booklet together with us.

The Elders were Agnes George, Ed George, Josephine Hall, Susan Johnson, Chief Charlie Jones (Queesto) Ida Jones, Ida Planes, Johnny Tuttle. The project’s students were: Sandra (Cooper) Laurie, Darlene George and Francine George. The beautiful illustrations were done by artist Darlene George. Today we share with you the booklet’s first legend “Massacre of the T’Sou-ke People.”

“Years ago the T’Sou-kes numbered about three hundred and lived in the area around the Sooke Harbour. The people had all they needed to live on comfortably, there was year round fishing in the river and clams in the harbour. The area was abundant in food and materials.

“The Clallams were envious and wanted possession of the harbour and land around it. One night, they crossed the strait and practically wiped out the T’Sou-kes, all except three people – a mother, her son and a niece. These managed to escape to the hills.

“The son and mother asked the help of the Great Thunderbird to possess them with great powers, and together they laid their plans of revenge against the Clallams. Meanwhile, most of the Clallams had returned across the strait, but a few remained to gather the spoils and guard the new possessions. They camped on Whiffin Spit.

“The mother would make her way from the hills to the Spit and wait for her son’s signal. The son was to go by way of East Sooke to the point across from the end of the spit. When the son arrived, he gave his mother the signal – he hooted three times like an owl. He then swam across the narrow channel and signaled his readiness with a long hoot. Since this was at night the Clallams took no notice of an owl hooting. Each armed with a club, the mother and son went stealthily from camp to camp and killed or injured every Clallam but one, who escaped in his canoe and brought the tale across the strait to his homeland.

“The T’Sou-kes gained possession of their stolen land, but the numbers that once lived there were never to be again!”

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email historian@sookeregionmuseum.com.

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