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Salish Sea Sentinel | December 19, 2018

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Clam Bed Rock on Saysutshun

Celestine AleckTold by Celestine Aleck (Sahiltiniye) of Snuneymuxw First Nation

Snuneymuxw has always treasured Saysutshun (Newcastle Island).

It has been used for three things: to harvest traditional medicines, for training grounds for canoe pullers where they had run the trails, and as a place of healing.

Since Saysutshun was used all year, there had been a family that had lived on the island to help maintain the trails, ensure the medicines were harvested properly and that the beaches were well cared for. With this family lived a young man who would go out to a point where Stlilnup (Departure Bay) can be seen. The young man would see a young lady across the way and every day they would talk.

Well, one day he had decided he had wanted to finally go and meet her. He jumped into the water and swam across, but as he had gotten halfway, the water started to thlapqwum (boil) and a stleluqum (monster) came up and swallowed the boy. Then the sea monster went back down into the water. The girl on the other side in Stlilnup began to scream, and everyone came down the beach where she was, and the elder of the village had asked what had happened. She said that her friend had tried to swim across but was swallowed by a sea monster.

The elder of the village told the men to go home and get their spears and paddles and come back, and he then told the women to go down to the beach and gather as many clams as they could and put them into canoes. When the men had come back with their spears and paddles, and the women came back from putting the clams in the canoes, the elder of the village had told the men what to do She said that when you go out into the middle where Stleluqum lives and hit the top of the water with paddles, then wait until you see the water thlapqwum (boil) then throw the clams in the water. The stleluqum will eat the clams. Eventually, she said, he will pop his head out of the water and want to be fed more clams. When he does that, you feed him a few times and then spear him in the mouth.

So the men had gone out into the water and done as the elder had told them to. In the end, they speared the stleluqum and dragged him to the beach where the elder was. The elder told the men to gut the stleluqum, and out jumped the young man with no bites or scratches.

That fine day long ago when they had thrown the clams over the canoe, the clams had washed up unto Saysutshun and had turned into a perfect bed of rocks that were shaped as the clams.

Celestine is a published writer/illustrator who considers herself very fortunate to have learned some of the rich stories of Coast Salish territory from her elders. She can be contacted at