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Legend of Princess Tsawwassa

The legend tells us about the first people who lived in Tsawwassen, and how Princess Tsawwassa became their Chief.
Chief Laura Cassidy and TFN Member and artist Karl Morgan in front of the new house post at the TFN Sports Field. Kaitlin Williams/Tsawwassen First Nation Photo

The legend tells us about the first people who lived in Tsawwassen, and how Princess Tsawwassa became their Chief.

In the mountains where our people used to live, the winters were very cold and hard.

Chief Tsaatzen decided that the tribe should move to a better place.

In the spring, they travelled down the Fraser River, and settled. They called their new home Tsawwassen, which means, “Land Facing the Sea.”

Soon after their arrival, a daughter was born to Chief Tsaatzen. Her name was Tsawwassa. She grew up to be very wise and beautiful. Tsawwassa was not only very good at her chores, but she also played in the war-games and went hunting with the young men of the tribe.

All the young men wanted to marry Tsawwassa. They would fast outside her father’s longhouse for days to win her heart. Still, Tsawwassa did not take a husband. She did not want to become a homemaker, she wanted to wander in the deep forest and on the beach. Some days she would go swimming far out in the ocean.

Tsawwassa was so wise that Tsaatzen wanted her to be Chief after his death. Tsawwassa did not want to upset her brothers, so she said that they should have a contest. They would set out in different directions and look for food. The one who brought back the most kinds of food for the tribe would be the new Chief.

After a few days, Tsaatzen’s sons came back with meat from deer, bear, and panther, as well as birds, salmon, and berries. They counted the food and began to cook it. Soon, Tsawwassa returned. She had everything her brothers had brought and more. Tsawwassa knew more about the sea than her brothers, she had caught salmon, as well as trout, and shellfish, which she laid at her father’s feet.

Chief Tsaatzen was very impressed with his daughter, but not just for the meat and fish that she brought home, Tsawwassa had also found wild onions. When she added her onions to the cooking pot, the smell made everyone very hungry and very happy. It was then that everyone knew that Tsawwassa should be the new Chief.

Every Spring, even to this day, you can smell the wild onions in the air at Tsawwassen Beach. Many people walk right past them, without noticing. The same way our people did before Chief Tsawwassa.