Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors
A member of the Wolf Clan from the House of Wii Kaax, M. Jane Smith is a traditional Gitxsan storyteller and Simalgax language teacher who learned her narrative skills as a child while spending summers in a fish camp on the Skeena River. During the day her grandmother would tell her stories about the trickster Raven and the Naxnok bird. In the evenings, when her uncles and grandfather returned home, she would hear more stories. “That is when the confidence was instilled in me,” she says.
Although Smith was initially uncomfortable with the responsibility of recording oral histories, elders encouraged her, explaining the need for the stories to be preserved and treasured like a chief’s regalia. “When you tell a story you credit your sources,” says Smith, “and the listeners realize they are hearing a story that goes all the way into the beginning of time.” Returning the Feathers: Five Gitxsan Stories (2004), reflects her respect for her elders, with the title referring to lost feathers from a chiefs headdress.
“I used to have a scientific mind,” Smith says, “and thought [the stories] could never have happened… but when I took them and believed them and applied them to my life, I knew I was a storyteller. I come from storytellers and I want it said of me, she told a good story.”
Returning the Feathers is illustrated by Gitxsan artist Ken Mowatt, an instructor of silkscreening and carving at the Ksan School in Hazelton. He was also raised in Gitanmaaxs and is a member of the House of Djokaslee.
Returning the Feathers: Five Gitxsan Stories (Creekstone / Sandhill, 2004). 0-9684043-6-7