|A Great Flood
A Cowichan Legend
In ancient times, there were so many people in the land that they lived everywhere. Soon hunting became bad and food scarce, so that the people
quarreled over hunting territories.
Even in those days, the people were skilled in making fine canoes and paddles from cedars, and clothing and baskets from their bark. In dreams their
wise old men could see the future, and there came a time when they all had similar bad dreams that kept coming to them over and over again. The
dreams warned of a great flood. This troubled the wise men who told each other about their dreams. They found that they all had dreamed that rain
fell for such a long time, or that the river rose, causing a great flood so that all of the people were drowned. They were much afraid and called a
council to hear their dreams and decide what should be done. One said that they should build a great raft by tying many canoes together. Some of the
people agreed, but others laughed at the old men and their dreams.
The people who believed in the dreams worked hard building the raft. It took many moons of hard work, lashing huge cedar logs canoes together
with strong ropes of cedar bark. When it was completed, they tied the raft with a great rope of cedar bark to the top of Mount Cowichan by passing
one end of the rope through the center of a huge stone which can still be seen there.
During the time the people were working on the raft, those who did not believe in the dreams were idle and still laughed, but they did admire the fine,
solid raft when it was at last finished and floated in Cowichan Bay.
Soon after the raft was ready, huge raindrops started falling, rivers overflowed, and the valleys were flooded. Although people climbed Mount
Cowichan to avoid the great flood, it too was soon under water. But those who had believed the dreams took food to the raft and they and their
families climbed into it as the waters rose. They lived on the raft many days and could see nothing but water. Even the mountain tops had
disappeared beneath the flood. The people became much afraid when their canoes began to flood and they prayed for help. Nothing happened for a
long time; then the rain stopped.
The waters began to go down after a time, and finally the raft was grounded on top of Mount Cowichan. The huge stone anchor and heavy rope had
held it safe. As the water gradually sank lower and lower, the people could see their lands, but their homes had all been swept away. The valleys and
forest had been destroyed. The people went back to their old land and started to rebuild their homes.
After a long time the number of people increased, until once again the land was filled and the people started to quarrel again. This time they separated
into tribes and clans, all going to different places. The storytellers say this is how pwople spread all over the Earth.
Music: Light from the East by AH-NEE-MAH
|Who Was Given The Fire
A Cowichan Legend
Our fathers tell us that very long ago our people did not know the use of fire. They had no need for fire to warm themselves, because they lived in a
warm country. They ate their meats raw or dried by the sun. But after a while their climate grew colder. They had to build houses for shelter, and
they wished for something to warm their homes.
One time when a number of them were seated eating an animal they had just found in one of their pits, a pretty bird came and fluttered above their
heads. It seemed to be either watching them or looking for a share in the meat. Seeing the bird flying about, some people tried to kill it. Others, more
kind, said, "Little bird, what do you want?"
"I know your needs," the bird replied, "and I have come to you, bringing the blessings of fire."
"What is fire?" asked all of them.
"Do you see that little flame on my tail?" asked the bird.
"Yes," all answered.
"Well, that is fire. Today each of you must gather a small bunch of pitch wood. With it you can get fire from the flame on my tail tomorrow morning.
I will come here early. Every one of you will meet me here, bringing your pitch wood with you."
Early next morning all arrived at the chosen place, where the bird was awaiting their coming.
"Have you brought your pitch wood?" asked the bird.
"Yes," replied all of the people.
"Well, then," said the bird, "I am ready. But before I go, let me tell you the rules. None of you can obtain my fire unless you obey the rules. You must
be persevering, and you must do good deeds. You must strive for the fire, in order that you may think more of it. And none need to expect to get it
who has not done some good deed.
"Whoever comes up with me," continued the bird, "and puts his pitch wood on my tail, he will have the fire. Are you all ready?"
"Yes," replied everyone.
Away flew the bird, followed by all the people, young and old, men and women and children. Helter-skelter they ran, over rocks and fallen timber,
through swamp and stream, over prairies and through forests. Some of them got hurt. Others peeled their shins as they fell off the rocks and
stumbled over the logs. Many people splashed through mud and water. Others were badly scratched and had their clothes torn among the bushes.
Many turned and went home, saying, "Anything so full of danger is not worth trying for." Other people became so weary they gave up. But the bird
At last a man came up to it, saying, "Pretty bird, give me your fire. I have kept up with you, and I have never done anything bad."
"That may be true," replied the bird. "But you cannot have my fire because you are too selfish. You care for nobody as long as you yourself are right."
So away flew the bird.
After a while another man came up, saying, "Pretty bird, give me your fire. I have always been good and kind."
"Perhaps you have been," answered the bird. "But you cannot have my fire because you stole your neighbors' wife."
So the bird flew away again. By this time few people followed it, most of them having given up the chase.
At last the bird came to where a woman was taking care of a poor, sick old man. It flew straight to her and said, "Bring your pitch wood here and get
"Oh, no," said the woman. "I cannot do so because I have done nothing to deserve it. What I am doing is only my duty."
"Take the fire," said the bird. "You are welcome to it. It is yours, for you are always doing good and thinking it only your duty. Take the fire and
share it with the other people."
So the woman put her pitch wood on the bird's tail and got the fire. Then she gave some to all the others, and people have never since been without it.
Fire has cooked their food and warmed their lodges. That is how, in the long, long ago, the Cowichan first got fire.