HARRIS, Kenneth B. (Hagbegwatku)




Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors

In 1948 Arthur McDames was persuaded by his nephew Kenneth B. Harris to tape record Gitksan myths in his Tsomalia language. Harris provided translations of his uncle’s stories into English via his mother Irene Harris, a woman in her eighties. These versions, in turn, were edited by Frances Robinson of the UBC Department of Fine Arts for Visitors Who Never Left: The Origin of the People of Damelahamid (1974). In addition to tracing the ancient history of the people who live between the Skeena and Nass rivers, Harris’ account recalls the origins of the Killer Whale and Thunderbird Twtjea-adku, as well as the revenge of Medeek, the bear who arose from a lake to punish people for their misdeeds, a fundamental Gitksan story. According to Robinson, the stories “have not been tampered with in any way and are given exactly as translated by Ken Harris, using his own divisions and order. These are his stories, presented exactly as he understands them.” Arguably these stories can be credited as much to Arthur McDames. Harris also inherited McDames’ title Hagbegwatku, meaning “first-born of the nation.”

Contents: Story One: In the Beginning; The Two Villages; The Two Survivors and the Search for a Husband; The Happenings in Heaven; The Gambling Game; The Birth of Damelahamid. Story Two: People of Damelahamid; The Fatal Game; The First Punishment of Damelahamid; Meeting the Spirits; The Journey Home. Story Three: People of Damelahamid; Strange Feasts; The Flood; The Medeek. Story Four: Move to Kitsekucla; The Big Snowfall; Adventures of Two Sisters; Moving of Many People; Lo-tres-ku's Story. Story Five: The Origin of the Thunderbird, Twe Tjea-Adku. Story Six: The Origin of the Killer Whale; Gudeloch and the Princess; Gooch nach no emgit Finds a Bride; The Kidnapping. Story Seven: The Origin of Weeget and Quisken; Strange Journeys; Weeget and the Water. Story Eight: How the People of Damelahamid First Brought Their Form of Civilization to the Queen Charlotte Islands; The Strange Pregnancy; Return to Damelahamid.

Co-author of:

Harris, Kenneth (& Arthur McDames). Visitors Who Never Left: The Origin of the People of Damelahamid (UBC Press, 1974). Translated and arranged with Frances M.P. Robinson.

[BCBW 2004]