Sxxwiyám are the stories about a long time ago when the Elders explained that the world wasn't quite right. It was a time when animals and people could talk to each other and could transform from one to the other. Through sxxwiyám we are all connected.
Xexá:ls (the Transformers) were given the responsibility to walk through S'ólh Téméxw and make things right. In walking through S'ólh Téméxw they were confronted a number of times by people and different situations that were going against the laws of the land and the rules received from the Creator. Xexá:ls were given the task of making those things right, turning those people into stone.

If, as Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandments written by God on a stone tablet, he had instead been given one commandment and himself turned into stone or the mountain itself as the inscription of that law on the land, that would then parallel the actions of Xexá:ls and transformations of S'ólh Téméxw.


The Birth of T'xwelátse—Ancestor of the Ts'elxwéyeqw


In Th'ewá:lí, on the lower Chilliwack River, there lived a chief who had a very beautiful daughter. K·ā'iq [Mink] wished to have her for himself. So he assumed the form of a handsome young man and walked upriver on the shore opposite the village. He carried a harpoon in his hand and fish on his back so that it appeared as if he had just caught them. At just this moment an old man had sent all the young girls to bathe, among them the chief's daughter. The girls saw the young man, who kept calling "Ps! Ps!" and when they noticed the fish that he was carrying, they asked him to throw one over to them. He fulfilled their wish; the fish fell into the water, swam into the chief's daughter and made her ill. Her father searched for a shaman to heal her. So Mink assumed the shape of a shaman. In the evening he went to the village and when he was seen by an old woman, she said, "Surely he will be able to heal the girl." They called him into the house and he promised to heal her. First, he sent all the people out of the house, leaving only an old woman sitting outside the door to accompany his song with the rhythmic beats of the dancing stick. To begin with, he sang, but then he slept with the girl and she gave birth to a child right away. So Mink leaped at once out of the house. The old woman heard the child's crying and called the people back. They became very angry, took the child and threw him out of the house. But Mink was standing outside with his mountain goat cape spread wide; he caught the child in it and went away with him. After a while the girl's father became sad that he lost his grandson. So he went to K·ā'iq and begged him to send him back. Mink granted his wish and sent the boy back. He was named T'xwelátse (from the lower reaches of the river). He became the ancestor of the Ts'elxwéyeqw.

—As told by George Chehalis, 1890

T'xwelátse's Transformation


T'xwelátse and his wife were on the riverbank arguing when Xá:ls happened upon them. Xá:ls, the great Transformer being given the responsibility by Chíchelh Siy:ám for making things right as he travelled through our lands, asked this man and woman if they would consider not arguing and that there were better ways of resolving conflict and resolving problems. As a result of his intervention Xá:ls and T'xwelátse, who was a shaman, decided to have a contest. They tried to transform each other into various things—a salmon, a mink, a twig. Finally, Xá:ls was successful in transforming T'xwelátse into stone. Xá:ls then gave the responsibility of caring for Stone T'xwelátse to T'xwelátse's wife. Stone T'xwelátse was to be brought home and placed in front of their house as a reminder to all of the family that we have to learn to live together in a good way. And the family's responsibility from that point in time was caring for Stone T'xwelátse—given to one of the women of our family. They were to be the caretaker of Stone T'xwelátse throughout their lifetime and would pass it on to one of their daughters or granddaughters, who would then be responsible for caring for Stone T'xwelátse for that generation.

—As told by T'xwelátse (Herb Joe), 2003