Living Legends: Sacred Places and Supernatural Beings

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Indigenous culture is bound to the land and oral histories, including stories of creation. Origin stories often feature supernatural beings and places of supernatural power that convey traditional law and explain surrounding landforms.

Each Indigenous culture has its own tales of supernatural beings and places. Ayuukhl Nisga’a is the living record of Nisga’a code, including the origin story, and this knowledge is passed forward by elders. While most stories are private and belong only to a certain wilp (house), some stories belong to the entire Nisga’a Nation.

Sim’oogit Hleek (Dr. Joseph Gosnell), a distinguished Nisga’a leader and fluent language speaker, says:

“Today we have many places that are called, in our language, spanaxnok. Naxnok is a supernatural being, and there are many, many places on our land where these beings lived.”

These sacred places are found amid the sublime beauty of the icefields, winding rivers, lava beds, and hot pools of Nisga’a Territory in Northern British Columbia. The Nisga’a Nation’s self-guided auto-tour, which enters the Nass Valley and then follows the serpentine path laid out by the Nass River, identifies one naxnok.

Hlgu Isgwit Hot Springs (Aiyansh Hot Springs) is the dwelling place of the spirit of Sbi Naxnox, and the odour of sulphur in the air is the scent of this spirit. Visitors are asked to respect the site and leave it clean. The Nisga’a story tells that naxnok are messengers, sent by K’am Ligii Hahlhaahl (Creator), to guide the Nisga’a people and can be either good or bad.

Sim’oogit Hleek describes the Nisga’a view of life’s journey:

“Our story tells us that there is a Great City in the Sky, where people go after life ends here on earth…and there is a pathway leading to this great city that one has to travel to get there.”

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