Music: Song for Mrs Bear by R. Carlos Nakai
An old woman (Sti'mtima) had warned her children, Chipmunk and Meadow-Lark, not to go too far into the woods, because a hairy monster might
kill them. One day the children disobeyed. The monster shot Chipmunk, and when trying to seize him, scratched his back.
The boy made his escape and hid in his grandmother's tent. She put him first into a basket, hen into a bag, but he would not sit still. Soon the monster
Pcua'nitim arrived and searched for Chipmunk. The old woman denied having seen him. The boy's sister, Meadow-Lark, flew to the pole of the tent,
and sang, "Look in the clam-shell under the blankets in the bosom of grandmother!" Then monster took out the shell and found Chipmunk.
At the same time he saw that the skin of the old woman was very fair. He asked her, "What did you do to make your skin so white?" She replied that
she dropped hot pitch on it. He asked to be treated in the same way. The old woman heated some pitch and held the monster down with two forked
sticks. Then she poured the pitch over him, so that he died.
|Chipmunk and Meadow-Lark
A Sanpoils Legend
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|Coyote Becomes Chief of the Salmon
A Sanpoils Legend
In the beginning Coyote had great power. He said to himself, "Why remain in seclusion when I have so much power?" He became restless and
wanted to travel. He journeyed down the Columbia River, and there he met Sparrow (Chis-ka-ka-nar).
Sparrow was a warrior, dressed in his beautiful beaded war head dress, of which he was very proud. As soon as Coyote saw him, he thought, "I will
kill him and take his head dress."
So he killed Sparrow, and took his quiver of arrows and his beaded head dress. He put them on, and felt very brave and proud. He thought himself
very handsome, --much handsomer than Sparrow ever had been. He stepped about, shaking his head from side to side, and resolved to travel close to
the river, that he might see his reflection.
As he came around a bend of the river, he saw blue smoke in the distance rising from a tent which seemed warm and comfortable. He thought, "I will
call and see if there is a beautiful maiden to admire me." To his disappointment, he saw only twelve children. They all spoke at once in reply to his
questions, and he could not understand them. They were the Willow-Grouse (Sarsarwas) family, who spoke their own language. They were trying
to tell him that their parents were gathering berries. Then Coyote became angry, and thought they were calling him names. He went out, gathered
pitch, and put a piece on the eyes of the children. When their parents returned, they were all blind.
Then the mother determined to have revenge. She suspected who had done it, as they had seen Coyote tracks near by. She said to her husband, "Do
you remember the high cliff by the river? We will hide behind some bushes and scare him as he comes along the edge of the cliff."
As Coyote was going along the trail, he was singing his war-chant. All at once there was a roar that scared him. He gave a jump and fell over the
cliff. He knew that he was in danger of death. Quickly he turned himself into a basket, which floated lightly on the water below. It drifted down with
At that time there were two sisters who lived by the river. Near by was a solid rock dam which they guarded with jealous care. No one was allowed
to come near. Silver-salmon were kept within the dam as their food.
Coyote knew of these salmon, and made up his mind to release them. He waited until morning. The younger sister (Steneechken) went down to get a
salmon for breakfast. She saw the basket-dish floating on the water. She landed it, and took it to her tent. The elder sister (Wiswiskin) said, "No,
sister, do not keep the dish. Throw it into the river. It may bring us misfortune." The younger one would not give it up. She ate out of it. Each day
after her meal she left some salmon in it when she put it away.
Every day at this time of the year they went to pick berries. When they returned, they would find the dish empty. The elder sister became alarmed,
and insisted that the dish be thrown into the fire. When she did so, it made a loud report, and a little boy came out of the fire. The younger sister was
delighted, and kept him, although the elder sister objected. They made a bow and arrows for him, so that he could amuse himself while they were
Each morning after the sisters had left home, the boy worked at the dam with a hard rock instrument he had made. After he had been there one
month, the girls did not find him when they came home in the evening. They ran to the dam, and found that he had taken the form of a man. He was
digging at a hole that he had made in the dam. They tried to crush him, but he had a piece of horn on his head. Just then the water broke through and
separated him from them. He called to the girls, who were weeping on the bank, "Women were never intended to guard salmon."
He started up the stream, and the salmon followed him. As he went away, he turned one sister into a water-snipe, and the other into a kildee. They
always live near water and eat fish.
Coyote traveled up the river with the salmon. Whenever Coyote met people, he made a salmon jump out of the water into his arms. Then he cooked it
and asked the people to eat.
At one place he met a number of girls picking berries. They were very beautiful, and he decided to select one of them for his wife. He winked his eye,
brought salmon from the water, and feasted the girls. They were pleased, and their parents wanted him to take one of the maidens, so that they might
always have salmon to eat. He fell in love with one of the girls, who had a fine voice, and who was in the habit of using it to hear her words repeated
by the echo.
When Coyote asked her to be his wife, she refused him with scorn. He became angry, and started back down the river, taking the salmon with him.
He stopped at the Forks of the Similkameen, about five miles from Okanagan. There he formed falls to keep the salmon from going up. Then he made
falls in the Okanagan, Kettle, and Columbia Rivers, because in all these places the maidens refused him.
A Sanpoils Legend
Long ago on the Sanpoil River that flows southward into the Columbia River, Old Man and Old Woman lived with their tribe, the Sanpoils. They
were so stooped that it appeared they were walking on their knees and their elbows. Their very pretty granddaughter lived with them.
One day Coyote came along and saw the old couple with the beautiful girls. Immediately, he decided that he wanted the girl for his wife. But he knew
better than to ask for her then. He thought he would wait until evening. So during the day he sat around, becoming better acquainted with the family.
The old couple watched him, noting that his long hair was braided neatly and his forelocks were carefully combed back. They noticed too that he was
tall and strong. Old Man and Old Woman talked between themselves about Coyote, wondering if he could be a Chief.
In the late afternoon, Coyote asked Old Man, "What is that thing down in the stream?"
"Why, that is my fish trap," Old Man replied.
"A fish trap? What is that? What do you do with it?" asked Coyote, pretending he did not know.
"Oh, occasionally I catch a few bullheads and sunfish," Old Man said.
"Is that what you eat? I never heard of them. Are they big enough for a meal?" asked Coyote.
"They are not much, but what else can we eat?" replied Old Man.
"I think I will go up the hill and look around," said Coyote. It was then about an hour before sunset.
On top of the hill, Coyote saw some grouse roosting in a tree. He threw some stones at them, killing five. He carried the grouse back to the Old Man
and said, "Let's eat these for supper."
After removing the feathers, Old Man roasted the game over the fire and when they were done, everyone sat down to eat the wonderful meal. To Old
Man and his family, it seemed like a feast.
"Is this the kind of food you eat everyday?" the Old Man asked Coyote.
"Sometimes I eat berries, roots, and I catch some real big fish, as long as your arm," Coyote said.
Later Coyote announced that he would like to stay there if they wanted him, otherwise he would move on.
"What do you mean?" asked Old Man.
"Well, it is like this. I would like to marry your granddaughter," said Coyote.
Old Man and Old Woman looked at each other but said nothing. Coyote went for a little walk to allow the old couple to talk privately.
While Coyote was gone Old Man said to his wife, "What do you think of this fellow? You saw what he did, bringing good food for our supper. If we
let him marry our granddaughter, maybe they will stay here and we will have such good food always. Surely our girl will marry someone soon,
perhaps some man not as good as this young fellow."
"Well, husband, I'll leave it entirely up to you."
Soon Coyote returned. He decided to let Old Man open the conversation. Old Man held his pipe in one hand and said, "How I wish I had a smoke.
My tobacco ran out some time ago."
"Have some of mine," said Coyote, reaching into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a large bunch of tobacco and gave it to Old Man, who filled his pipe,
feeling very much surprised that Coyote would have real tobacco.
After a while Old Man spoke, "My wife and I have talked over your proposal and she left the decision up to me. I have decided to let you marry our
granddaughter and live here. If you go away, we want you to take her with you. How are we to know that you will do this?"
"You need not worry," said Coyote. "I am tired of traveling. I want to settle down here for the rest of my life, if you wish."
Old Man was pleased with Coyote and believed what he said. So Coyote took the pretty granddaughter for his wife.
Early that evening Coyote stayed with his wife and later said, "I am going out for a few minutes and when I return we will go to bed."
"All right," answered his wife.
Coyote went downstream to where Old Man had his fish trap. He changed it into a basket-type trap, piling rows of rocks to guide fish into the basket.
When finished he called out, "Salmon, I want two of you in the basket trap tomorrow morning, one male and one female." Then he returned to his
Next morning Coyote asked Old Man to go to his fish trap early. "I think I heard a noise in the night that sounded like fish caught in a trap," he said.
Old Man went downstream to see his fish trap. Sure enough, he saw two big fish in the trap. Old Man was so excited, he stumbled up the trail toward
"You were right, there are two great fish in the trap bigger than I have ever seen," reported Old Man.
"You must be dreaming," said Coyote.
"Come down with me and see for yourself," Old Man said.
When the two reached the trap, Coyote exclaimed, "You are so right. These are salmon, chief among all fish. Let us take them over to that flat place,
and I will show you what to do with them."
When they reached the open field, Coyote sent Old Man up the hill to gather sunflower stems and leaves.
"Those are salmon plants," coyote explained. "Salmon must always be laid on sunflower stems and leaves."
Old Man spread the sunflower plants upon the ground. Coyote placed the salmon on them, and proceeded to show Old Man how to prepare the
"First, put a stick in the salmon's mouth and bend it back to break off the head. Second, place long sharp poles inside the salmon lengthwise to hold
for roasting over your campfire," said Coyote.
"Now remember this," he continued. "The first week go down to the trap and take out the salmon every day. But when fixing it, never use a knife to
cut it in any way. Always roast the fish over the fire on sticks, the way I have shown you. Never boil salmon the first week. After the salmon is
roasted, open it carefully and take out the backbone without breaking it. Also, save the back part of the head for the sacred bundle-never eat that.
"If you do not do these things as I have told you, either a big storm will come up and you will be drowned, or you will be bitten by a rattlesnake and
you will die.
"After you have taken out the salmon's backbone, wrap it and the back of the head carefully in tules, the marsh grasses, to make a sacred bundle, then
place it somewhere in a tree, where it will not be bothered. If you do as I tell you, you will always have plenty of salmon in your trap.
"I am telling you these sacred things about the salmon because I am going to die sometime. I want you and your tribe to know of the best way to care
for and use your salmon. After this, your men will always place their fish traps up and down the river to catch salmon. The man having the first trap
will be Chief of the Salmon, and the others should always do anything he tells them to do.
"After the first week of the salmon season, you can boil your salmon or cook it any way you wish. But remember to always take care of the bones,
wrapping them in a sacred bundle-never leaving them where they can be stepped upon or stepped over."
For the next few days each time Old Man went down to his fish trap in the morning, he found twice as many salmon as on the day before. Coyote
showed him how to dry fish to prepare them for winter use. Before long they had a large scaffold covered with drying fish.
People of the Sanpoil tribe saw the fish and noticed how well Old Man and Old Woman were doing. They went to their hogans and told others about
the big red fish called salmon, and about the tall young stranger who taught Old Man about caring for the salmon.
Soon thereafter, all the people came to see for themselves. Old Man and Old Woman invited them to feast on their roasted salmon. The old couple
explained how their new grandson-in-law had shown them how to trap the salmon and dry them for winter food.
To this day, the Sanpoils say their tribe harvests the salmon in exactly the way that Coyote taught their ancestors long, long ago.
|How the Cold lost its power
A Sanpoils Legend
Northern-Lights had five sons, - Cold, Colder, Coldest, Extreme Cold, and Most-Extreme Cold. The youngest son acted as scout. He seared the leaves
and grass, and returned to report that he had gone as far as he dared. Then the eldest son would finish the work. The other sons staid in the north
with their parents.
They lived in an ice-lodge, and could not endure heat of any kind. They were jealous of Extreme-Cold and guarded him well. By and by Extreme-Cold
became restless and traveled southward. His mother, Northern-Lights, warned him not to speak to any human being. He would kill every one he
met. The Indians were much troubled by him, as he came at any season, whenever he wished. Therefore the great chief called a council to try and
regulate the season.
The people could not devise anyway of reaching the lodge of Cold. Finally South-Wind (Cha-helt), a shaman of great power, was selected to attack
him. He set out, and saw Extreme-Cold approaching. Everything perished before him. When he met South-Wind, he tried to exercise his power, but it
did not avail him. Nobody had ever been able to withstand him. South-Wind held out his hand and addressed Cold as his nephew. He said that he
lived in the south, and that Northern-Lights was his sister. He asked the way to his sister's house. Cold consented to take him there.
When they reached the ice-lodge; Cold was full of steam. They went in, and South-Wind claimed to be the brother of Northern-Lights. She said she
did not remember him, and her husband declared that they had no relatives. They let him stay all night, and planned to freeze him while he slept.
Then the Cold family went to sleep. South-Wind gathered pitch-wood and set it on fire. It thawed everything around it, and the Cold family perished
in the flames. The shaman broke the power of the cold, and thus the seasons were regulated.
|The Five Wolves
A Sanpoils Legend
An old woman and her grandson lived near a river. The grandson wished to cross the river, and called the Deer to take him across. Finally an old
buck allowed him to mount his back and carried him across. While they were in the water, the boy cut the throat of the buck with a flint knife and
The old woman skinned the buck. Five wolves took the scent of the meat, and came intending to steal it. The old woman dressed a piece of rotten
wood in the skins, and made it look like the boy. Then she wished herself, her grandson, and the meat to be carried to a ledge on the face of a cliff.
This cliff is pointed out close to the Okanagan River, near Oroville, Wash. When the wolves arrived, they attacked the tent, but found that what they
believed was a boy was only rotten wood. They were unable to reach the ledge. They tried to jump up, but soon wearied. Then they begged for some
of the meat. The grandmother told the boy to wrap a hot stone in some suet. He threw it down into the mouth of one of the wolves, and thus killed
him. Thus all were killed except the youngest. When he caught the hot stone, he could not swallow it, and the fat burned the sides of his mouth.
Therefore wolves have dark marks at the side of the mouth.
The grandmother and the boy continued to live on the ledge. Finally the boy had used up all his arrows, and had no feathers to make new ones. In
order to obtain feathers, he caused the golden eagle and the eagle Sinaken to quarrel by telling one that the other one claimed to be swifter and
stronger than he. The two eagles fought, and the boy gathered their feathers. He told his grandmother that he would join the people who were going
to make war on the sky. He was transformed into a chickadee.
|The Origin of Different Languages
A Sanpoils Legend
In a certain place in the winter months, the ducks (lullullo) collected in great numbers. When any one approached them, they would rise and fly away,
making a whistling-noise. One morning two hunters went down to a river to kill some ducks. They had each obtained one, when a dispute arose over
the question whether the whistling-noise was made with the bill or with the wings when they rose to fly. Neither could convince the other, and the
words became bitter. Finally they agreed to take it to the chief, and let him settle the dispute.
The chief heard the story, and looked at the ducks. Both of them were dead and could not make any noise. Therefore he called a council to listen to the
dispute. The people came from all around to deliberate. They spoke one language and had only one chief.
The ducks were brought in, and the chief explained the question. The people said, "We do not wish to be unjust, we will go to the river and hear for
ourselves. These ducks can do us no good." So they went down to the river and frightened the ducks which flew over their heads. Part of the Indians
said the noise was made with the bills; part said it was made with the wings. They could not agree. Therefore the ducks were made to fly once more.
The people began to quarrel violently, and separated in an ugly mood.
All during the winter the feeling grew, until in spring the mutual hatred drove part of the Indians south to hunt for new homes. This was the first
division of the people into tribes. They selected a chief from their own division, and called themselves by another name.
Finding new objects, and having to give such objects names, brought new words into their former language; and thus after many years the language
was changed. Each split in the tribe made a new division and brought a new chief. Each migration brought different words and meanings. Thus the
tribes slowly scattered; and thus the dialects, and even new languages, were formed.
|The Rolling Stone
A Sanpoils Legend
Cricket and Grasshopper were half-brothers. Cricket went to hunt, and found a spot where the grass was nice and green. Through this place ran a
trail which was cut deeply by the tracks of heavy animals. Cricket fell into one of these.
After a while he heard the tramp of a buffalo bull. Just as the bull was about to step on him, he rattled his wings. This frightened the bull so, that re ran
down the road and jumped blindly over the cliff. Thus he was killed. Cricket ran after him, and saw what had happened. He descended, and began to
feast on his horn.
Grasshopper searched for Cricket, and, seeing the fresh buffalo tracks, he thought that his brother must be dead. He cried aloud, and Cricket heard
him. He called to him to come down and eat. They were enjoying their feast, when they heard a whining cry. It was Coyote, who was mourning for
the buffalo. "Oh, my brother is dead!" he wailed. When he looked over the cliff, he spoke to Cricket, and told him that the buffalo was his half brother.
He begged Grasshopper and Cricket to allow him to carry them away. Through his magic power he obtained their consent, and he carried them on his
back to the green meadow. He left them, and returned to the buffalo.
Cricket and Grasshopper were suspicious and flew back. They met Coyote, who was returning to the buffalo. He was displeased to see them, and
compelled them to go back. By his will power he caused them to wish to stay in the meadow. Then he returned to the dead buffalo.
Coyote cut up the meat and built a fire to cook some of it. While he was busy, an old, old woman came along, and told him that he was too great a chief
to prepare his own food. She flattered him, and persuaded him to allow her to work for him. He lay down with one eye open. When all was ready, he
closed both eyes. When he opened his eyes again, he saw the old woman running off with the meat. He changed her into a rolling stone.
Then she took revenge by pursuing him. He ran and ran. She followed. He was tired, and ran into a badger hole. The stone rolled on to the mouth of
the hole and penned him in.
Coyote thought of his magical power. He wished for five things, --a crowd of Indians, about twelve dogs, twelve tents, and a dozen canoes. These
were to be crossing a wide river in the canoes.
The noise of the moving people was audible at the place where the boulder was. Coyote wished for the rock to become a woman again, and she began
to move. Then she arose, and went off to see what caused the noise. She was the grandmother of Cricket and Grasshopper. Coyote came out of the
hole and staggered away.
|The Tick and the Deer
A Sanpoils Legend
Coyote lived in a tent alone. There was no prospect of food: everything was covered with snow. He stirred up his fire and lay down near it. He
wanted to sleep, but was too hungry. He wished for some bones with sinew. Just then he hears a noise. He went to the door and looked out. He found
a bag of bones in front of the tent. He took them in and made some soup. They lasted for several days. Then he was hungry again.
He made another wish. He wanted deer-ham with chunks of meat. He heard another thump. He found another bag of bones. He thought he could
have plenty to eat by making a wish. He wished for a bag of fat, and it came also. He puzzled over it. He thought that some one must bring this food.
Near him lived a queer old wizard, --disfigured, with many arms on his body. He knew of Coyote's wish, and carried the food to him. Coyote decided
to watch and see who came. The next time when he wished, he stood close by the door, looked out, and saw the wizard disappearing from sight. He
followed him to the top of the hill.
There he saw a tent, and around it a platform for drying meat. Coyote went near, and found an old man warming his back by the fire. He offered to
carry water for him if he should be allowed to live there. Although he was not allowed to live with the old man, he was given a tent close by. After three
days he thought that if he should kill the old man, all the provisions would be his. Therefore next morning he followed him to a pile of rocks, and
pounded him flat. He threw the body into sagebrush. Then he went back to the tent. He was astonished to see all the bones jump up and run away.
The old man had revived, and had resuscitated the deer-bones. As the last deer ran away, the old man caught its tail and hung on. Coyote turned him
into a wood-tick, and said that in the spring of the year it would live on deer.