In the beginning, before anything that lives in our world was created, there was only the chief in the sky. The chief had two sons and a daughter, and his people were numerous. But there was no light in the sky -- only emptiness and darkness.
The chief's eldest son was named Walking-About-Early, the second son was called The-One-Who-Walks-All-Over-the-Sky, and the daughter was Support-of-Sun. They were all very strong, but the younger boy was wiser and abler than the elder.
It made the younger son sad to see the sky always so dark, and one day he took his brother and went to cut some good pitch wood. They bent a slender cedar twig into a ring the size of a person's face, then tied the pitch wood all around it so that it looked like a mask. They lit the wood, and The-One-Who-Walks-All-Over-the-Sky put on the mask and went to the east.
Suddenly everyone saw a great light rising. As the people watched and marvelled, the chief's younger son ran from east to west, moving swiftly so that the flaming mask would not burn him.
Every day the second son repeated his race and lit up the sky. Then the whole tribe assembled and sat down to a council. "We're glad your child has given us light," they told the chief. "But he's too quick; he ought to slow down a little so we can enjoy the light longer."
The chief told his son what the people had said, but Walks-All-Over-the-Sky replied that the mask would burn up before he reached the west. He continued to run very fast, and the people continued to wish he would go slower, until the sister said, "I'll try and hold him back a little."
The next time Walks-All-Over-the-Sky rose in the east and started on his journey, Support-of-Sun also started from the south. "Wait for me!" she cried, running as hard as she could. She intercepted her brother in the middle of his race and held him briefly until he could break free. That's why the sun today always stops for a little while in the middle of the sky. The people shouted for joy, and Support-of-Sun's father blessed her.
But the chief was displeased with Walking-About-Early because he was not as smart and capable as his younger brother. The father expressed his disappointment, and Walking-About-Early was so mortified that he flung himself down and cried. Meanwhile his brother, the sun, came back tired from his daily trip and lay down to rest. Later when everybody was asleep, Walking-About-Early rubbed fat and charcoal over his face. He woke his little slave and said, "When you see me rising in the east, jump up and short, 'Hurrah! He has arisen!'"
Then Walking-About-Early left, while Walks-All-Over-the-Sky slept deeply, his face shedding light out of the smoke hole. Suddenly Walking-About-Early rose in the east, and his charcoaled face reflected the smoke hole's luster. The little slave jumped up and shouted, "Hurrah! He has arisen!"
Several people asked him, "Why are you so noisy, bad slave?" The slave jumped up and down, pointing to the east. The people looked up and saw the rising moon, and too shouted, "Hurrah!"
Time passed, and animals were created to live in our world below. At last all the animals assembled to hold a council. They agreed that the sun should run from east to west, that he should be the light of day, and that he should make everything grow. The moon, they decided, should walk at night. Then they had to set the number of days that would be in a month. The dogs were wiser than the other animals and spoke first. "The moon shall rise for forty days," they said.
The animals were silent. The dogs sat together talking secretly among themselves and thinking about what they had said. The wisest dog, their spokesman, was still standing. He was counting up to forty on his fingers, when the porcupine suddenly struck him on the thumb. "Who can live if there are forty days to each month?" The porcupine said. "The year would be far too long. There should be only thirty days in a month."
The rest of the animals agreed with the porcupine. And as a result of this council, each month has thirty days and there are twelve months in a year. By now the animals were disgusted with the dogs and banded together to drive them away. For this reason the dogs hate all the creatures of the woods, and most of all the porcupine, who struck the wise dog's thumb with its spiny tail and humiliated him in the council. And because of the porcupine's blow, a dog's thumb now stands opposite to his other fingers.
Before that long-ago council ended, the animals also named the following months:
Between October and November: Falling-Leaf Month
Between November and December: Taboo Month
Between December and January: The Intervening Month
Between January and February: Spring Salmon Month
Between February and March: Month When Olachen Is Eaten
Between March and April: When Olachen Is Cooked
Between May and June: Egg Month
Between June and July: Salmon Month
Between July and August: Humpback-Salmon Month
Between September and October: Spinning Top Month
In addition, the animals divided the year into four seasons -- spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
New things were also happening in the sky. When Walks-All-Over-the-Sky was asleep, the sparks that flew out of his mouth became the stars. And sometimes when he was glad, he painted his face with his sister's red ochre, and then the people knew what kind of weather was coming. If his red paint coloured the sky in the evening, there would be good weather the next day, but a red sky in the morning meant that storms were coming. And that's still true, people say.
After the sky had been furnished with the sun, moon, and stars, the chief's daughter, Support-of-Sun, was cast down because she had played such a small part in the creation. Sadly she wandered westward into the water, and her clothes became wet. When she returned, she stood near her father's great fire to warm herself. She wrung the water out of her garments and let it drip onto the flames, making a great cloud of steam that floated out of the house. It settled over the land and moderated the hot weather with damp fog. Her father blessed her, for the whole tribe enjoyed it. And to this day, all fog comes from the west.
The chief was glad when he saw that all three of his children were wise. Now it was the duty of the moon, Walking-About-Early, to rise and set every thirty days so that people may know the year. The sun, Walks-All-Over-the-Sky, was charged with creating all good things, such as fruit, and making everything plentiful. And the chief's daughter, Support-of-Sun, served by refreshing the hot earth with cool fog.
*Based on a version recorded by Franz Boas in 1916
Some Northwest tribes did indeed have slaves, as this story suggests; the status could be inherited from one generation to the next, and they were looked upon as their owner's possessions, to be killed if the owner wished. Since the Tsimshians lived in the Northwest, the fog that came from the West refers, naturally, to the weather rolling in from the Pacific Ocean.