“Indestructible monument to Clean Fatherhood”

Siwash Rock, also known as Skalsh or Slah-kay-ulsh (Slhxi'7elsh) – Stanley park, Vancouver
"Indian legend tells us that this 50 foot high pinnacle of rock
stands as an imperishable monument to Skalsh The Unselfish
who was turned into stone by Q`uas The Transformer
as a reward to his unselfishness."

Searching a bit more about the legend I have found the following story written by Emily Pauline Johnson – Tekahionwake in "Legends of Vancouver", somewhere around 1911.

" It was "thousands of years ago" (all Indians legends begin in extremely remote times) that a handsome boy chief journeyed in his canoe to the upper coast for the shy little northern girl whom he brought home as his wife.

Boy though he was, the young chief had proved himself to be an excellent warrior, a fearless hunter, and an upright, courageous man among men. His tribe loved him, and his enemies respected him, and the base and mean and cowardly feared him.

The customs and traditions of his ancestors were a positive religion to him, the saying and the advices of the old people were his creed. He was conservative in every rite and ritual of his race. He fought his tribal enemies like the savage that he was. He sang his war songs, danced his war-dances, slew his foes, but the little girl-wife from the north he treated with the deference that he gave his own mother, for was she not to be the mother of his warrior son?

The year rolled round, weeks merged into months, winter into spring, and one glorious summer at daybreak he wakened to her voice calling him. She stood beside him, smiling.

"It will be to-day," she said proudly.

He sprang from his couch of wolf-skins and looked out upon the coming day: the promise of what it would bring him seemed breathing through all his forest world. He took her very gently by the hand and led her down to the water's edge, where the beauty spot we moderns call Stanley Park bends about Prospect Point. "I must swim," he told her.

"I must swim, too," she smiled, with the perfect understanding of two beings who are mated. For, to them, the old Indian custom was law – the custom that the parents of a coming child must swim until their flesh is so clear and clean that a wild animal cannot scent their proximity. If the wild creatures of the forests have no fear of them, then, and only then, are they fit to become parents, and to scent a human is in itself a fearsome thing to all wild creatures.

So those two plunged into the waters of the Narrows as the grey dawn slipped up the eastern skies and all the forest awoke to the life of a new, glad day. Presently he took her ashore, and smilingly she crept away under the giant trees. "I must be alone," she said, "but come to me at sunrise: you will not find me alone then."

He smiled also, and plunged back into the sea. He must swim, swim, swim through this hour when his fatherhood was coming upon him. It was the law that he must be clean, spotlessly clean, so that when his child looked out upon the world it would have the chance to live its own life clean. If he did not swim hour upon hour his child would come to an unclean father. He must give his child a chance in life; he must not hamper it by his own uncleanliness at its birth. It was the tribal law – the law of vicarious purity.

As he swam joyously to and fro, a canoe bearing four men headed up the Narrows. These men were giants in stature, and the stroke of their paddles made huge eddies that boiled like the seething tides.

"Out from our course!" they cried as his lithe, copper-coloured body arose and fell with his splendid stroke. He laughed at them, giants though they were, and answered that he could not cease his swimming at their demand.

"But you shall cease!" they commanded. "We are the men of the Sagalie Tyee, and we command you ashore out of our way!"

He ceased swimming, and, lifting his head, defied them. "I shall not stop, nor yet go ashore," he declared, striking out once more to the middle of the channel.

"Do you dare disobey us," they cried, "we, the men of the Sagalie Tyee? We can turn you into a fish, or a tree, or a stone for this; do you dare disobey the Great Tyee?"

"I dare anything for the cleanliness and purity of my coming child. I dare even the Sagalie Tyee Himself, but my child must be born to a spotless life."

The four men were astounded. They consulted together, lighted their pipes, and sat in council. Never had they, the men of the Sagalie Tyee, been defied before. Now, for the sake of a little unborn child, they were ignored, disobeyed, almost despised. The lithe young copper-coloured body still disported itself in the cool waters; superstition held that should their canoe, or even their paddle-blades, touch a human being, their marvellous power would be lost. The handsome young chief swam directly in their course. They dared not run him down; if so, they would become as other men.

While they yet counselled what to do, there floated from out of the forest a faint, strange, compelling sound. They listened, and the young chief ceased his stroke as he listened also. The faint sound drifted out across the waters once more. It was the cry of a little, little child. Then one of the four men, he that steered the canoe, the strongest and tallest of them all, arose, and, standing erect, stretched out his arms towards the rising sun and chanted, not a curse on the young chief's disobedience, but a promise of everlasting days and freedom from death.

"Because you have defied all things that come in your path we promise this to you," he chanted. "You have defied what interferes with your child's chance for a clean life, you have defied us when we would have stopped your swimming and hampered your child's future. You have placed that child's future before all things, and for this the Sagalie Tyee commands us to make you for ever a pattern for your tribe. You shall never die, but you shall stand through all the thousands of years to come, where all eyes can see you. You shall live, live, live as an indestructible monument to Clean Fatherhood."

The four men lifted their paddles and the handsome young chief swam inshore; as his feet touched the line where sea and land met he was transformed into stone.

Then the four men said, "His wife and child must ever be near him; they shall not die, but live also." And they, too, were turned into stone. If you penetrate the hollows in the woods near Siwash Rock you will find a large rock and a smaller one beside it. They are the shy little bride-wife from the north, with her hour-old baby beside her.

From the uttermost parts of the world vessels come daily throbbing and sailing up the Narrows. From far trans-Pacific ports, from the frozen North, from the lands of the Southern Gross, they pass and repass the living rock that was there before their hulls were shaped, that will be there when their very names are forgotten, when their crews and their captains have taken their long last voyage, when their merchandise has rotted, and their owners are known no more. But the tall, grey column of stone will still be there – a monument to one man's fidelity to a generation yet unborn – and will endure from everlasting to everlasting."

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii – The Jade Canoe – Vancouver International Airport

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36 Responses to “Indestructible monument to Clean Fatherhood”

  1. edwardpiercy says:

    Well it's probably just as well that his son was turned to stone anyway. He probably would have become a musician. :pGreat tale! Thanks for posting. :up:

  2. Dacotah says:

    Very interesting post Darko. πŸ™‚

  3. Spaggyj says:

    Huh. You know, I'd never really considered that there would be so many stories to such things before, but now that I think about it, there must be millions of objects all over the world with fascinating tales about them. It's amazing what lore are attached to seemingly standard natural features. That's not to say the possibility of this a true story doesn't exist – anything is possible πŸ˜€ A very entertaining read.

  4. raniakasim says:

    is his attempt to insure a clean future for his son requires such punishment ? so cruel they are just like the nature . thanks Darko

  5. Stardancer says:

    What a wonderful story, Darko. Thank you for sharing.:up:

  6. H82typ says:


  7. BabyJay99 says:

    O.O :eyes: Oooo yes your steel boat are mightier than my 'sampan' :up: 😎

  8. edwardpiercy says:

    πŸ˜† Uh…guilty. But then I dropped out of Warrior Chief school a long way back.:D

  9. gdare says:

    Ed, πŸ˜† you are violin player, are you talking from personal experience? πŸ˜› Thanks :cheers:Carol, thank you :)Rania, it seems that in their culture it was not considered as a punishment but a way to avoid mortality as main human disadvantage and make one step fotward to be closer to their gods :)Kimmie, I was interested about it when I saw a plaque near the rock with engraved text from the beginning of this post. I knew there must be something interesting about it :happy:Star, thanks :happy:Dennis, I guess you liked it :happy:Lea, told you so πŸ˜‰

  10. Dacotah says:

    You are welcome Darko. πŸ™‚

  11. BabyJay99 says:

    πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰

  12. gdare says:

    Ed, too many future Warrior Chiefs in that school? :lol:Carol and Lea πŸ™‚

  13. Dacotah says:

    Hi Darko, how's it going? πŸ™‚

  14. edwardpiercy says:

    Originally posted by gdare:

    Ed, too many future Warrior Chiefs in that school?

    It was all men! :p

  15. gdare says:

    Carol, everything`s just fine :happy:Ed, πŸ˜†

  16. rose-marie says:

    I agree with Kimmie – so many folklore tales about things you might not notice around in nature. It gives an interesting insight to old times and the way they were thinking.Thanks for sharing :up:

  17. gdare says:

    In searching for this legend I`ve found a website with legends from Emily Johnson`s book Legends of Vancouver. I will read all of them, I am interested in life and, as you said, way of thinking of BC`s First Nations tribes :up:Thanks for reading :up:

  18. Suntana says:

    I'm finally back from Europe, Darko. I have jet lag. :p When I first read that title, I read it too quickly and for an instant, it looked like it said – Indestructible monument to Clint Eastwood. Darko, I'm gonna have to concur with Rania. Before I even read Rania's comment, "punishment" was the word that came to my mind.In reading – "a promise of everlasting days and freedom from death," my thinking is, "REALLY? You THINK? You freakin' killed an entire family! AND turned them into stone to boot." Those dudes or whatever they were, were lucky :norris: wasn't around. He would have gotten some justice. :lol:I mean, I of course understand the story's angle, but well, my angle, thinking and stand just happen to be the complete opposite.

  19. Mickeyjoe-Irl says:

    West coast native culture is so rich and fascinating. Though I can't help think the moral of the story is

    Be careful what you wish for.

    PS @Kimmie: Ni! :devil:

  20. Suntana says:

    As I was watching that last photo appear little by little from top to bottom, somehow the Scorpion King from the movie The Mummy Returns is what came to mind. :insane: I just saw that movie about 2 weeks ago on VHS tape.

  21. Suntana says:

    And when the dudes of the Sagalie Tyee were all perplexed as to what to do because if their canoe or their paddles touched a human they would lose their powers, I was, "Well, GEEZ! For Pete's Sake, just friggin' steer slightly to the side and away from the boy." I mean, you can't exactly be threatening people if the mere touch of a human by your canoe or paddles will neutralize all your powers.

  22. intothedeep says:

    That's one reward I could do without. Geez, can you imagine being a stone for the rest of your life? :mad:Did you take the top photo? The mountains in the distance are spectacular :up:

  23. gdare says:

    Mick, he didn`t wish to be turned to stone. It just happened that he was in their way and showed persistence and loyalty toward his family. I like that :up:Carlos, this is similar to what I have read about some japanese warriors – their clan would loose a battle, they would be killed but they would be celebrated as the greatest persons ever. Just because they`ve lost – but in a proper way, scarificing themselves for the sake of their clans or family. Try to find Heike Monogatari somewhere on the Internet. Or Genroku Ako Jiken – 47 Ronin Vendetta ;)MagsOriginally posted by intothedeep:

    being a stone for the rest of your life?

    And becoming a bit closer to Gods they worshipped? I can understand that :DI took all the photos. It is on rare occassions that I would use a photo found on line, but on my travells I make my own ones :happy:

  24. Mickeyjoe-Irl says:

    No, he didn't wish to be a stone. And I don't think he wished for his wife and child to be stones. What he wished was to be a perfect, clean father and chief and inspire others to be the same.But the Sagalie Tyee decided the way to grant the chief's wishes WAS to turn him and his family into stones. I can't help thinking he would have been happier if they had just left him alone. πŸ˜‰

  25. raniakasim says:

    in every culture there is always some beliefs which one may find it strange or some times cruel , anyway i am sure that they are completely convinced about it πŸ™„

  26. edwardpiercy says:

    @ Suntana.Well you are correct. But that was the Sillwewabbit tribe of upper B.C.

  27. Suntana says:

    Frankly, I think that legend is NOT correct. I think the real legend probably has something to do with Bugs Bunny. I mean, seriously … that monument looks like a giant stone Carrot stuck in the water. It DOES. Don't deny it.

  28. edwardpiercy says:


  29. Suntana says:

    Then Darko will just have to edit his Post.

  30. thaodp says:

    An interesting story, Darko πŸ™‚

  31. gdare says:

    It is, indeed. Thanks for reading :happy:

  32. iFunnyBunny2010 says:


  33. gdare says:

    Thanks :cheers:

  34. iFunnyBunny2010 says:

    Got anymore story's.

  35. gdare says:

    Well, in time… :cheers:

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