Tsonokwa, Dzonokwa, Zuniquwa, the Giantess, The Wild Women Of The Woods, Wealth Giver, she is called many names by the Kwaquitil people of British Columbia. Her story is one of the most interesting among the stories of the Northwest Coast.
Tsonokwa is easily recognized by her distinctive appearance. The lips are always pursed in a pouty expression formed by her characteristic cry of "uh uh". Her bushy unkempt hair and half closed eyes in deep sockets portrays her drowsiness. Predominantly black, the cheeks and foreheads often have concave depressions giving her a skull-like appearance. She has large pendulous breasts that sometimes hang all the way to the ground and she walks with a shuffle, her back hunched over and carrying a basket over her shoulder.
Stories concerning Tsonokwa are plentiful. She is endowed with various attributes and abilities. Often she is portrayed as a narcoleptic creature that stumbles around the fire in the wrong direction only to fall in a heap, asleep on the ground. Others help her to a seat where she promptly falls asleep again. When wakened she does not take part in the ritual dances, but moves in the wrong directions, at odds with the other dancers. Soon she is taken away by attendants.
In some stories Tsonokwa is like a sorceress in possession of great knowledge. She could change her shape and size and possessed a basin that flowed with water that could revive the dead and make the ugly beautiful. As Geekumhl, the keeper of great wealth, she appears in male form at potlatchs where she oversees the giving away of a chief's possessions.
One story tells of a girl that lived in a coastal village on the edge of a great forest. She was small, the runt of the litter so to speak, and she was often teased by the other children. She knew that they shouldn't play in the forest. The elders had told them to beware of the giant women that lived deep in the woods. But children are curious creatures and soon they were further into the forest than they should have been.
From behind a rock, the Wildwomen appeared. Her bushy hair obscured her face and fur covered her body. She moved with a sudden burst of energy, scooping the children into the basket that she carried over her shoulder. Then she turned and began walking in the direction of her cave.
At first the children struggled in the basket, but there was nothing that they could do. The lid of the basket was strong. There was no way out except for a small hole in the bottom where the basket was frayed. The children tried to get through the hole but it was to small. Finally they let the runt try and she easily slipped through the hole and fell to the ground. It was up to the smallest child to save her friends. She ran as fast as she could back to the village where she told the elders what had happened.
The people from the village followed the Tsonokwa up into the mountains to her cave where she was preparing a fire to cook the captive children. The people began to sing a song that quickly put the already tired creature to sleep. She stumbled, knocking over the basket, and fell into the fire where she burned to death. Because Tsonokwa was a flesh eater, the embers that rose from the fire became mosquitoes.
After this the children never questioned the elders and never wandered too far into the forest.