Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors
According to ethnologist Brian Thom, Stó:lo Chief Richard Malloway (Th'eláchiyatel) was considered a direct descent of the four original ancestors of the Chilliwacks; Th'eláchiyatel, Yexwpílem, Siyemchess, and Xwexwayleq. He lived in the Lower Fraser Valley from 1907 to 1987. Fluent in English and Halq’eméylem, Malloway was selected in 1932 by Chief Billy Sepass of Skowkale, Chief Albert Douglas of Tzeachten and Chief Albert Louis of Yakweakwioose to serve as the spokesperson for those three bands. In the early 1940s he became chief of Yakweakwioose.
Malloway was one of the originators of the Cultus Lake Indian Festival at which he served as Master of Ceremonies. Shortly before he died in 1987, Chief Richard Malloway (Th’eláchiyatel) recorded an undated version of the Sxwayxwey story, with the assistance of Norman Todd, a local medical doctor. Malloway’s storytelling has been distributed through the Coqualeetza Cultural Centre as part of Telling Stories: The Life of Chief Richard Malloway (1994), compiled by Thom with stories narrated by Mrs. Edna Malloway, Chief Frank Malloway and Chief Richard Malloway (1994).
Born in Sardis, B.C. on December 15, 1907, Malloway didn’t attend residential school due to illness. As a result he was raised by his parents Julius and Mary Malloway, as well as a shxwlá:m or medicine man named Catholic Tommy, who taught him to be a healer. Malloway was revered among the Stó:lo for his generosity and for maintaining winter spirit dancing during several decades when it was outlawed within the restrictions of the anti-Potlatch legislation.
Along with Charlie Douglas, Albert Nelson, Freddy Cheer, Aggie Victor, and Maggie Penier, Malloway secretly held the winter dances on reserves, including the Sxwayxwey dance that could only be performed by members of the extended family of someone who owned the Sxwayxwey story. Although Malloway had received the story from his mother, he never himself used the Sxwayxwey mask in a dance.
Richard Malloway said, “My mother was born in Chilliwack, on the Skaw reserve in 1876, and this is her story — the Chilliwack story. I know the song of the Sxwayxwey and I recorded it. It says that the brother has a stomach of stone. That means that he is unfriendly and nobody likes him, and he doesn’t like women. We are trying to revive the Sxwayxwey here, and, you know the rules of the Indians are strict. You have to belong to the family which found the mask if you want to use it. This is one of the reasons I want to record this. Since the mask came up here to my family we have the right to use it.”
The story goes that two young girls from Harrison Mills caught the Sxwayxwey when they were fishing near the mouth of the Chehalis and Fraser Rivers. This creature had four spinners that were spinning as they pulled the Sxwayxwey out of the water. The Sxwayxwey escaped back into the water but they were left with the Sxwayxwey mask and spinners.
The spinners were affixed to a band at the top of the mask. They gave the mask to their brother. Once, when he was being pursued by a different tribe, he jumped into the water. The feathered headband he was wearing came off his head and it floated down the river, serving as a decoy. He escaped and his people began to treasure the feathers and use them on their spiritual uniforms.
Mainly girls perform the Sxwayxwey dance because two girls found the Sxwayxwey. Richard Malloway knew them. He claimed one was married in Sumas and the other was married at Musqueam. The latter’s daughter went to live in Duncan; the former’s daughter lived in Chilliwack. In this way the Sxwayxwey story has spread to Vancouver Island and Musqueam.
As a student member of the UBC Ethnographic Field School, Brian Thom conducted research into the life of Richard Malloway in March of 1993. He benefited from interviews that were recorded with Malloway by novelist and legal consultant Gordon Mohs.
Malloway, Richard. The Chilliwack Story of the Sxwayxwey. Recorded and Transcribed by Dr. Norman Todd (Sardis: Coqualeetza Cultural Centre, n.d.)
Malloway, Richard & Brian Thom. Telling Stories: The Life of Chief Richard Malloway (1994), compiled by Thom with stories narrated by Mrs. Edna Malloway, Chief Frank Malloway and Chief Richard Malloway (1994).