OPINION: Ch’kay - Mount Garibaldi — a Squamish Nation tale

How much about Mount Garibaldi do you know?

To the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish Nation), Mount Garibaldi is known as Ch’kay-Nch’kay, meaning, “Grimy one,” or to my family, “Dirty snow.”

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Meaning the Squamish River runs muddy and is always dirty looking.

My family is very thankful for Mount. Ch’kay.

It is so sacred that we would not have survived the Great Flood without it. There are stories passed down, orally, from generation to generation within the Squamish Nation. Each story is similar, but is slightly different, depending on the family. Here’s one my family tells:

“Many moons ago, it started to rain. The rain had started and it just kept on raining. The Squamish people noticed the water starting to rise. Howe Sound started to get bigger each day. Each longhouse family left their homes. Some who had never travelled outside their living area, were forced to leave the only home that they knew.

They packed only what they could carry: family members (babies, elders, the injured), food, shelter, and hunting materials. Every household packed their canoe and paddled upstream.

Then they realized that they couldn’t just paddle up the stream, they had to walk up the mountain range to stay above the rising water levels. The families packed up what they could carry on their backs and started walking up the mountain.

Everyone was on the move and every family had the same main goal: stay above the waterline.

Every morning, everyone woke up and it was no surprise the water had risen again, as it was still raining.

Once again, they packed up camp and moved up the mountain range.

Until one day they found themselves all packed up in their canoe, at the tip of Mount Ch’kay, anchored to the top. Nowhere else to hike to, no game in sight. No way of hunting game. They only had taken their fishing supplies because they knew the water would supply enough food for them.

Then one day, the rain stopped. The sun was shining and all you could see was endless water and two peaks, plus  hundreds of canoes tied together.

Sadly one night when everyone had slept, a tie had come undone and part of our family had gotten lost sea. The rest of the family couldn’t look for them then but hoped the lost would return.

When the water level depleted, and life because normal at home again, our ancestors got the news.

Our family members had survived and 12were living in Seattle Washington. When the water levels settled, they settled there, in a town in Seattle called Suquamish.

In their legend, we are the family that got lost at sea. Everyone has a story.

 

Chelachatanat is a Squamish Nation writer and Squamish resident.

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