Music: Shining Mountains by R. Carlos Nakai
Along the river there was a camp where lived many birds. They lived on land and in the trees, and are berries, bugs, and worms. Sometimes they
talked about others who did not live as they did, and said things about them. About Kingfisher they said: "He is a careless bird, flying away from
home all the time. He surely can't take care of his family." One day -- Kingfisher heard this and he stopped and said: "You only feed yourself; see, I
bring home a fish every day for my wife and family, and never have trouble at home. That is my way of living."
|Chef-Eth, The Kingfisher
A Salish Legend
All Rights Reserved
|Coyote and the Buffalo
A Salish Legend
No Buffalo ever lived in the Swah-netk'-qhu country. That was Coyote's fault. If he had not been so foolish and greedy, the people beside the
Swah-netk'-qhu would not have had to cross the Rockies to hunt the quas-peet-za (curled-hairs).
This is the way it happened: Coyote was traveling over the plains beyond the big mountains. He came to a flat. There he found an old Buffalo skull.
It was the skull of Buffalo Bull. Coyote always had been afraid of Buffalo Bull. He remembered the many times Bull Buffalo had scared him, and he
laughed upon seeing the old skull there on the flat.
Now I Will have some fun," Coyote remarked. "I will have revenge for the times Buffalo made me run."
He picked up the skull and threw it into the air; he kicked it and spat on it; he threw dust in the eye-sockets. He did these things many times, until he
grew tired. Then he went his way. Soon he heard a rumbling behind him. He thought it was thunder, and he looked at the sky. The sky was clear.
Thinking he must have imagined the sound, he walked on, singing. He heard the rumbling again, only much closer and louder. Turning around, he
saw Buffalo Bull pounding along after him, chasing him. His old enemy had come to life!
Coyote ran, faster than he thought he could run, but Buffalo gained steadily. Soon Buffalo was right at his heels. Coyote felt his hot breath.
"Oh, Squas-tenk', help me!" Coyote begged, and his power answered by putting three trees in front of him. They were there in the wink of an eye.
Coyote jumped and caught a branch of the first tree and swung out of Buffalo's way. Buffalo rammed the tree hard, and it shook as if in a strong
wind. Then Buffalo chopped at the trunk with his horns, first with one horn and then the other. He chopped fast, and in a little while over went the
tree, and with it went Coyote. But he was up and into the second tree before Buffalo Bull could reach him. Buffalo soon laid that tree low, but was not
quick enough to catch Coyote, who scrambled into the third and last tree.
"Buffalo, my friend, let me talk with you," said Coyote, as his enemy hacked away at the tree's trunk. "Let me smoke my pipe. I like the kinnikinnick.
Let me smoke. Then I can die more content."
"You may have time for one smoke," grunted Bull Buffalo, resting from his chopping.
Coyote spoke to his medicine-power, and a pipe, loaded and lighted, was given to him. He puffed on it once and held out the pipe to Buffalo Bull.
"No, I will not smoke with you," said that one. "You made fun of my bones. I have enough enemies without you. Young Buffalo is one of them. He
killed me and stole all my fine herd."
"My uncle," said Coyote, "you need new horns. Let me make new horns for you. Then you can kill Young Buffalo. Those old horns are dull and
Bull Buffalo was pleased with that talk. He decided he did not want to kill Coyote. He told Coyote to get down out of the tree and make the new
horns. Coyote jumped down and called to his power. It scolded him for getting into trouble, but it gave him a flint knife and a stump of pitchwood.
From this stump Coyote carved a pair of fine heavy horns with sharp points. He gave them to Buffalo Bull. All Buffalo bulls have worn the same kind
of horns since.
Buffalo Bull was very proud of his new horns. He liked their sharpness and weight and their pitch-black color. He tried them out on what was left of
the pitchwood stump. He made one toss and the stump flew high in the air, and he forgave Coyote for his mischief. They became good friends right
there. Coyote said he would go along with Buffalo Bull to find Young Bull.
They soon came upon Young Buffalo and the big herd he had won from Buffalo Bull. Young Buffalo laughed when he saw his old enemy, and he
walked out to meet him. He did not know, of course, about the new horns. It was not much of a fight, that fight between Young Buffalo and Buffalo
Bull. With the fine new horns, Buffalo Bull killed the other easily, and then he took back his herd, all his former wives and their children. He gave
Coyote a young cow, the youngest cow, and he said: "Never kill her, Sin-ka-lip'! Take good care of her and she will supply you with meat forever.
When you get hungry, just slice off some choice fat with a flint knife. Then rub ashes on the wound and the cut will heal at once."
Coyote promised to remember that, and they parted. Coyote started back to his own country, and the cow followed. For a few suns he ate only the
fat when he was hungry. But after awhile he became tired of eating fat, and he began to long for the sweet marrow-bones and the other good parts of
the Buffalo. He smacked his lips at the thought of having some warm liver.
"Buffalo Bull will never know," Coyote told himself, and he took his young cow down beside a creek and killed her. As he peeled off the hide, crows
and magpies came from all directions. They settled on the carcass and picked at the meat. Coyote tried to chase them away, but there were too many
of them. While he was chasing some, others returned and ate the meat. It was not long until they had devoured every bit of the meat.
"Well, I can get some good from the bones and marrow-fat," Coyote remarked, and he built a fire to cook the bones. Then he saw an old woman
walking toward him. She came up to the fire.
"Sin-ka-lip'," she said, "you are a brave warrior, a great chief. Why should you do woman's work! Let me cook the bones while you rest."
Vain Coyote! He was flattered. He believed she spoke her true mind. He stretched out to rest and he fell asleep. In his sleep he had a bad dream. It
awoke him, and he saw the old woman running away with the marrow fat and the boiled grease. He looked into the cooking basket. There was not a
drop of soup left in it. He chased the old woman. He would punish her! But she could run, too, and she easily kept ahead of him. Every once in
awhile she stopped and held up the marrow fat and shouted: "Sin-ka-lip', do you want this!"
Finally Coyote gave up trying to catch her. He went back to get the bones. He thought he would boil them again. He found the bones scattered all
around, so he gathered them up and put them into the cooking basket. Needing some water to boil them in, he went to the creek for it, and when he
got back, there were no bones in the basket! In place of the bones was a little pile of tree limbs.
Coyote thought he might be able to get another cow from Buffalo Bull, so he set out to find him. When he came to the herd, he was astonished to see
the cow he had killed. She was there with the others! She refused to go with Coyote again, and Buffalo Bull would not give him another cow. Coyote
had to return to his own country without a Buffalo.
That is why there never have been any Buffalo along the Swah-netk'-qhu.
|Coyote Quarrels With Mole
A Salish Legend
Coyote and his wife, Mole, and their children were living by themselves, away from the winter encampment of the people. The other people did not
want Coyote around, he was so lazy and tricky. Coyote and his family were poor that winter. They had only a little food, and that was supplied by
the faithful Mole. Each day she would go out and gather herbs and moss and dried and shriveled sko-qeeu (rose hips). She did that to keep the five
children from starving. And she carried all the wood and water, while Coyote loafed and practiced his war songs.
One sun, as Mole was chopping a rotten stump for firewood, a little fawn jumped out of the stump. The deer family had put it there. The deer felt
sorry for Mole. They wanted her to have the fawn for food.
Mole dropped her axe and caught the little deer. She told her oldest boy to run and tell his father to come with a knife and cut the fawn's throat. "Tell
your father to hurry," said Mole, "because I cannot hold this fawn long. My strength will give out."
The boy ran fast to the tepee. He told Coyote what Mole had said. "Go back to your mother and tell her to hold the fawn while I get my bow and
arrows ready," Coyote ordered, and the boy ran back to his mother with the message.
Coyote ran out of the lodge and got a piece of dogwood, from which he made a bow. Then he ran to a service berry bush, where he cut two arrows.
Then he ran back to his lodge to finish making his weapons. Taking feathers from his war bonnet, he feathered the arrows and, as he had no sinew
for a bowstring, he tore the strings off his moccasins and made a string. Then he was ready to shoot the fawn.
All the while Mole was having a hard time holding the fawn. It struggled and kicked and fought to get away, and Mole's strength was leaving her.
Her arms ached. She called to Coyote to hurry. He ran out of the lodge and tramped down the snow so he could kneel and shoot. He told Mole to let
loose of the fawn so he could shoot it. Mole let go and Coyote shot his arrow, but the little fawn fell just then and the arrow missed it. With his second
and last arrow Coyote shot again as the fawn leaped up, and again Coyote missed. The fawn escaped into the woods.
Mole was disgusted and angry. She went back to the tepee. There she discovered that Coyote had eaten all the rose-hips, all the food that was left,
while he was making his weapons. When Coyote came in, Mole spoke to him about that. They quarreled, and Coyote stabbed her with his flint knife.
Mole ran out. Coyote followed. He meant to kill her. Mole changed herself into a real Mole as Coyote stabbed again. He stabbed the earth, and Mole
quickly untied her little pouch of tul-meen (red facial paint) and put some of the paint on the point of the knife. Drawing the knife out of the ground,
Coyote saw the red paint and thought it was blood. He was satisfied that his wife must be dead from that last blow.
Coyote soon found that he could not take care of his children without Mole's help. They could not live as they had before, so Coyote told the four oldest
children to visit their "uncle," Kingfisher-- Z-reece', who was a good hunter and had plenty of food in his lodge. The four boys started for Kingfisher's
home, and Coyote took his youngest and favorite son and went traveling. The youngest boy's name was Top'-kan.
They traveled many suns without getting much to eat. They were hungry when they came to a large prairie, where a woman dressed in red-painted
buckskin was digging spit-lum (bitter root). Seeing her digging reminded Coyote of his wife, and he wished that Mole were alive to dig roots for him
to eat. He took Top'-kan off his back, where the little boy rode much of the time to keep from tiring, and told him to wait. Then Coyote went toward
the strange woman.
"Tell me a story, tell me news, good woman," said Coyote upon getting near to the digger. But the woman did not take any notice of him. She kept on
digging roots and cleaning them as she put them in her basket, which was strapped to her side.
Not so easily discouraged, Coyote walked closer, saying: "Tell me news. I am a traveler from a distant country."
"I will tell you a story," said the woman, and she turned angrily to Coyote. "Coyote deserted his children and killed his wife!"
Then Coyote recognized the woman as his own wife, Mole. She had followed him to watch over little Top'-kan, but Coyote had not known that.
Grabbing his knife, Coyote ran at his wife. He meant to kill her, but she changed into a real mole and went underground and got away.
Coyote returned to Top'-kan. He picked the boy up, put him on his back and resumed his journey. He sought new lands where his tricks and
mischief-making were not known.
|Spirit Chief names the Animal People
A Salish Legend
Hah-ah' eel-me'-whem, the great Spirit Chief, called the Animal People together. They came from all parts of the world. Then the Spirit Chief told
them there was to be a change, that a new kind of people was coming to live on the Earth.
"All of you Chip-chap-tiqulk - Animal People - must have names," the Spirit Chief said. "Some of you have names now, some of you haven't. But
tomorrow all will have names that shall be kept by you and your descendants forever. In the morning, as the first light of day shows in the sky, come
to my lodge and choose your names. The first to come may choose any name that he or she wants. The next person may take any other name. That
is the way it will go until all the names are taken. And to each person I will give work to do."
That talk made the Animal People very excited. Each wanted a proud name and the power to rule some tribe or some part of the world, and everyone
determined to get up early and hurry to the Spirit Chief's lodge.
Sin-ka-lip'- Coyote- boasted that no one would be ahead of him. He walked among the people and told them that, that he would be the first. Coyote
did not like his name; he wanted another. Nobody respected his name, Imitator, but it fitted him. He was called Sin-ka-lip' because he liked to imitate
people. He thought that he could do anything that other persons did, and he pretended to know everything. He would ask a question, and when the
answer was given he would say: "I knew that before. I did not have to be told."
Such smart talk did not make friends for Coyote. Nor did he make friends by the foolish things he did and the rude tricks he played on people.
"I shall my choice of the three biggest names," he boasted. "Those names are: Kee-lau-naw, the Mountain Person - Grizzly Bear, who will rule the
four-footed people; Milka-noups - Eagle - who will rule the birds, and En-tee-tee-ueh, the Good Swimmer - Salmon. Salmon will be the chief of all the
fish that the New People use for food."
Coyote's twin brother, Fox, who at the next sun took the name Why-ay'-looh -Soft Fur, laughed. "Do not be so sure, Sin-ka-lip'," said Fox. "Maybe
you will have to keep the name you have. People despise that name. No one wants it."
"I am tired of that name," Coyote said in an angry voice. "Let someone else carry it. Let some old person take it - someone who cannot win in war. I
am going to be a great warrior. My smart brother, I will make you beg of me when I am called Grizzly Bear, Eagle, or Salmon."
"Your strong words mean nothing," scolded Fox. "Better go to your swool'-hu (tepee) and get some sleep, or you will not wake up in time to choose
Coyote stalked off to his tepee. He told himself that he would not sleep any that night; he would stay wide awake. He entered the lodge, and his three
sons called as if with one voice: "Le-ee'-oo!" ("Father!")
They were hungry, but Coyote had brought them nothing to eat. Their mother, who after the naming day was known as Pul'-laqu-whu - Mole, the
Mound Digger - sat on her foot at one side of the doorway. Mole was a good woman, always loyal to her husband in spite of his mean ways, his
mischief-making, and his foolishness. She never was jealous, never talked back, never replied to his words of abuse. She looked up and said: "Have
you no food for the children? They are starving. I can find no roots to dig."
"Eh-ha" Coyote grunted. "I am no common person to be addressed in that manner. I am going to be a great chief tomorrow. Did you know that? I
will have a new name. I will be Grizzly Bear. Then I can devour my enemies with ease. And I shall need you no longer. You are growing too old and
homely to be the wife of a great warrior and chief."
Mole said nothing. She turned to her corner of the lodge and collected a few old bones, which she put into a klel'-chin (cooking-basket). With two
sticks she lifted hot stones from the fire and dropped them into the basket. Soon the water boiled, and there was weak soup for the hungry children.
"Gather plenty of wood for the fire," Coyote ordered. "I am going to sit up all night." Mole obeyed. Then she and the children went to bed.
Coyote sat watching the fire. Half of the night passed. He got sleepy. His eyes grew heavy. So he picked up two little sticks and braced his eyelids
apart. "Now I can stay awake," he thought, but before long he was fast asleep, although his eyes were wide open. The sun was high in the sky when
Coyote awoke. But for Mole he would not have wakened then. Mole called him. She called him after she returned with her name from the Spirit
Chief's lodge. Mole loved her husband. She did not want him to have a big name and be a powerful chief. For then, she feared, he would leave her.
That was why she did not arouse him at daybreak. Of this she said nothing. Only half awake and thinking it was early morning, Coyote jumped at
the sound of Mole's voice and ran to the lodge of the Spirit Chief. None of the other Chip-chap-tiqulk were there. Coyote laughed. Blinking his sleepy
eyes, he walked into the lodge. "I am going to be Kee-lau-naw," he announced in a strong voice. "That shall be my name."
"The name Grizzly Bear was taken at dawn," the Spirit Chief answered.
"Then I shall be Milka-noups," said Coyote, and his voice was not so loud.
"Eagle flew away at sunrise," the other replied.
"Well, I shall be called En-tee-tee-ueh," Coyote said in a voice that was not loud at all. "The name Salmon also has been taken," explained the Spirit
Chief. "All the names except your own have been taken. No one wished to steal your name."
Poor Coyote's knees grew weak. He sank down beside the fire that blazed in the great tepee, and the heart of Hah-ah' Eel-me'-whem was touched.
"Sin-ka-lip'." said that Person, "you must keep your name. It is a good name for you. You slept long because I wanted you to be the last one here. I
have important work for you, much for you to do before the New People come. You are to be chief of all the tribes.
"Many bad creatures inhabit the Earth. They bother and kill people, and the tribes cannot increase as I wish. These En-alt-na Skil-ten -
People-Devouring Monsters - cannot keep on like that. They must be stopped. It is for you to conquer them. For doing that, for all the good things
you do, you will be honored and praised by the people that are here now and that come afterward. But, for the foolish and mean things you do, you
will be laughed at and despised. That you cannot help. It is your way.
"To make your work easier, I give you squas-tenk'. It is your own special magic power. No one else ever shall have it. When you are in danger,
whenever you need help, call to your power. It will do much for you, and with it you can change yourself into any form, into anything you wish.
"To your twin brother, Why-ay'-looh, and to others I have given shoo'-mesh. It is strong power. With that power Fox can restore your life should
you be killed. Your bones may be scattered but, if there is one hair of your body left, Fox can make you live again. Others of the people can do the
same with their shoo'-mesh. Now, go, Sin-ka-lip'! Do well the work laid for your trail!"
Well, Coyote was a chief after all, and he felt good again. After that day his eyes were different. They grew slant from being propped open that night
while he sat by his fire. The New People, the Indians, got their slightly slant eyes from Coyote.
After Coyote had gone, the Spirit Chief thought it would be nice for the Animal People and the coming New People to have the benefit of the spiritual
sweat-house. But all of the Animal People had names, and there was no one to take the name of Sweat-house - Quil' sten, the Warmer. So the wife of
the Spirit Chief took the name. She wanted the people to have the sweat-house, for she pitied them. She wanted them to have a place to go to purify
themselves, a place where they could pray for strength and good luck and strong medicine-power, and where they could fight sickness and get relief
from their troubles.
The ribs, the frame poles, of the sweat-house represent the wife of Hah-ah' Eel-me'-whem. As she is a spirit, she cannot be seen, but she always is
near. Songs to her are sung by the present generation. She hears them. She hears what her people say, and in her heart there is love and pity.
|The Great Flood
A Salish Legend
Long before missionaries ever arrived in the New World, the Indians had ancient legends of a great flood, similar to that of Noah. This is the one the
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 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 log 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 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
forests 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 how people spread all over the earth.
|The Wolf Dance
by Chief Dan George - Salish
I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the
powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort,
and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over
him, he was overjoyed. In my song, I appealed to the wolf to come and preside over us while I would perform the wolf ceremony so that the bondage
between my grandson and the wolf would be life long. I sang.
In my voice was the hope that clings to every heartbeat. I sang.
In my words were the powers I inherited from my forefathers. I sang.
In my cupped hands lay a spruce see -- the link to creation. I sang.
In my eyes sparkled love. I sang.
And the song floated on the sun's rays from tree to tree.
When I had ended, it was if the whole world listened with us to hear the wolf's reply. We waited a long time but none came. Again I sang, humbly but
as invitingly as I could, until my throat ached and my voice gave out.
All of a sudden I realized why no wolves had heard my sacred song. There were none left! My heart filled with tears. I could no longer give my
grandson faith in the past, our past.
At last I could whisper to him: "It is finished!" "Can I go home now?" He asked, checking his watch to see if he would still be in time to catch his
favorite program on TV. I watched him disappear and wept in silence. All is finished!
|The Woman Who Became A Horse
A Salish Legend
A chief had many horse, and among them a stallion which his wife often rode. The woman and stallion became enamored of each other. The woman
grew careless of her household duties and always wanted to look after the horses.
When the people moved camp, and the horses were brought in, it was noticed that the stallion made right for the woman and sniffed about her as
stallions do with mares. After this she was watched. When her husband learned the truth, he shot the stallion. The woman cried and would not go to
At daybreak she was gone, no one knew where. About a year after this it was discovered that she had gone off with some wild horses. One day when
the people were traveling over a large open place they saw a band of horses, and the woman among them. She had partly changed into a horse. She
also had much hair on her body, and the hair of her head had grown to resemble a horse's mane. Her arms and legs had also changed considerably;
but her face was still human, and bore some resemblance to her original self.
The chief sent some young men to chase her. All the wild horses ran away, but she could not run so fast as they, and was run down and lassoed. She
was brought into her husband's lodge; and the people watched her for some time, trying to tame her, but she continued to act and whinny like a horse.
At last they let her free. The following year they saw her again. She had become almost entirely horse, and had a colt by her side. She had many