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The Thunder Bird Tootooch Legends, by W.L. Webber, [1936], at

p. 28

Ho-Xhok, The Crane


Among the Kwakiutl Indians, the Ho-Xhok was recognized as a fabulous bird, and always associated with the Thunder Bird. Ho-Xhok is represented as having a beak similar to that of a crane. This supernatural bird was the size of a man and could change herself into a human being by the power of his will. She is often placed with the Thunder Bird on the Totem Poles. At the Winter ceremonies of the Indian secret societies, this character would be portrayed with the utmost care. A great many rehearsals would be held in order to make the performance as realistic as possible and deceive the audience by sleight of hand.

The mask of the Ho-Xhok used at these winter feasts was made of red cedar, three to four feet in length. From it hung wooden carvings of human skulls on strips of cedar bark. In addition, the wearer would have on a cedar bark neck ring, cedar bark cuffs and leggings, a breach clout and a Chilkat blanket.

A legend of the tribes affiliated with the Kwakiutls gives this version: A number of women went to a nearby island to dig fern roots and the tender sprouts for food. While they were there a small fire was made to warm some dried whale meat. The smell of it and the human odor attracted the attention of Ho-Xhok who was as the top of a tall tree. As he came down he sharpened his beak on the bark of the branches. Upon reaching the ground he covered his beak and assumed the form of a man. When he came to the women they spread a mat for their guest on which was some whale meat. Ho-Xhok became angry and said: I do not eat whale meat, I only eat the brains of man." He then uncovered his beak and broke a woman's skull open and ate her brain.

One of the woman's companions who was hiding, slipped away in a canoe to the tenas town (village) and told the Tyee (Chief) of the tribe what had happened. The tribe held council and resolved to make war on Ho-Xhok. The chief came to the place where the slain woman lay and took her blood and rubbed it on himself. He then took a cedar board and fastened it to the tree, making a trap. Putting some whale meat on the fire he waited for Ho-Xhok to come down the tree again. As Ho-Xhok came down, sharpening his ruddy beak on the bottom of the tree, his beak stuck in the trap. The Chief called upon his Totem Spirit to give him strength and then ran and killed the fabulous bird by breaking off his bill and pushing him into the fire. This act liberated the tribe and gave the Chief and his daughters the right to use Ho-Xhok for their family crest and to pass it on to future generations.

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