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Title: Myths and Legends of British North America
       Selected and Edited

Author: Katharine Berry Judson

Release Date: March 5, 2015 [EBook #48409]

Language: English

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Myths and Legends of British North America, by Katharine B. Judson

Haida Totem Poles
Indian genealogical trees
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”




Publisher’s Logo


Published April, 1917



From the bleak coasts of Labrador and the icy borders of the Frozen Sea, in the east, through the river-threaded steppes and plains of the interior with all their charming lakes, over the tremendous, gleaming white heights of the Canadian Rockies, and onwards by cañon and pass to the more pacific climate of the western coast—it is a far sweep of country, this British North America, and occupied in bygone times by many a tribe of red men.

Yet from eastern coast to western, from the long southern boundary to the Arctic Ocean, one finds everywhere the same questioning among these red men. Who was the Someone who had cut and carved the rivers and plains and great mountain heights? Who was the Someone who gave Squirrel a beautiful bushy tail which swept his back, and gave Rabbit no tail at all? Why did Someone send the icy winds of winter, the storm winds that shriek around the tepee and rattle the flaps, howling through the trees and blowing the snow down the smoke-hole? It seemed impossible that it was the same One who sent the warm breezes in summer, when the lakes were full of fish and the bushes 009 laden with berries, when the forests full of game, and life was easy. Therefore there must be two Powers, one strong and ugly, one beautiful and good, always battling against each other—the universal human belief in both good and evil.

Indian myths and legends are the efforts of the red men to answer these questions, as well as to interest and amuse each other in the long winter evenings when the fires burned brightly in the tepees and the carved plumstone dice were thrown. Men forgot their games and women the beading of the moccasin, while children listened intently, as the story tellers of the camp related, with dramatic gestures, stories of the Days of the Grandfathers, in the beginning of the Newness of Things. Nothing was too large or too small to come within the bounds of their beliefs, or within the play of their fancy.

As in all other volumes of this series, only the quaint, the pure, and the beautiful, has been taken from the tales of the Indians. Any one wishing pure ethnology, good and bad together, would do better to go to ethnological reports.

The Indians omitted many stories we wish they had told. There are few references to the snowy mountains, probably because of their belief that all above the snowline was governed by vague, misty, but powerful 010 spirits who sent down the thundering avalanches in the sunlit valleys when summer had come and all was green and beautiful. There are few references to large lakes or rivers, which is characteristic, for even the Indian names of rivers apply to localities on the river, not to the entire river itself. And in the myths of British North America, especially on the western coast, there are many legends involving cannibalism—an element entirely lacking in the myths of the United States, whether east or west. Even Alaskan myths practically omit that subject, while in the Old South-west—New Mexico and Arizona—one finds myths of rare beauty and charm of imagery. Indeed, climatic conditions played not only a distinct part in the physical life of the Indian, but had a tremendous influence over his thinking.

Only authentic myths and legends have been used in the compilation of this volume. The leading authorities are the publications of the United States Bureau of Ethnology, of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, of the Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, as well as the ethnological publications of the Canadian Bureau of Mines.

K. B. J.

February, 1917.


Beliefs Haida 1
Beliefs Eastern Eskimo 5
Beliefs Bella Coola 7
Creation of the World Wyandot 9
How the Earth was Formed Cree 12
Old One and Creation Thompson River 15
Creation of the Earth Thompson River 16
Raven and Creation Haida 18
Origin of Rivers in Queen Charlotte Islands Haida 20
Origin of Haida Land Haida 22
Raven and Moon-woman Haida 25
Origin of Light Wyandot 28
Origin of Light Thompson River 29
Creation of Light Carrier 31
Coming of Fire Carrier 33
How Grizzly Bear and Coyote made Light and the Seasons Shuswap 35
Origin of Light and Fire Lillooet 38
How Fire was Secured Lillooet 42
How Raven Brought Fire Haida 44
When Mink Carried the Torches Bella Coola 45
Old One Shuswap 50
The Great Fire Lillooet 52
The Burning of the World Cree 54
The House of Sun Bella Coola 57
Why the Sun is Bright Lillooet 60
When Sun was Snared Ojibwa 62
Sun and Moon Thompson River 64
The Man in the Moon Central Eskimo 65
Why the Moon is Pale Wyandot 67
The Woman in the Moon Shuswap 68
Moon Thompson River 69
War with the Sky People Thompson River 70
How Two Sisters got out of Skyland Chilcotin 72
Origin of the Pleiades Wyandot 74
The Star Hunters Chilcotin 77
The Great Bear and the Hunter Chilcotin 79
How the Summer Came Ojibwa 81
The Rainbow Trail Wyandot 83
Origin of the Chinook Wind Shuswap 85
When Glacier Married Chinook’s Daughter Lillooet 89
Mink’s War with the Southeast Wind Kwakiutl 91
When North’s Son Married Southeast’s Daughter Haida 94
Capture of Wind Chilcotin 98
How Wind Became a Slave Haida 99
Thunder, Lightning, and Rain Central Eskimo 100
Thunder Wyandot 101
Turtle and the Thunder Bird Ojibwa 103
Why Lightning Strikes the Trees Thompson River 105
The Making of Lakes and Mountains Haida 106
Origin of Races Cree 109
Origin of Chilcotin Cañon Shuswap 110
Origin of Animals Eastern Eskimo 111
Bird Beginnings Eastern Eskimo 112
Mosquitoes Haida 115
Origin of Death Thompson River 117
Duration of Human Life Haida 118
How Death Came Lillooet 119
Origin of Arrowheads Lillooet 120
Origin of Carved House Posts Haida 121
The Wind-power Carving Thompson River 123
Calendar Thompson River 124
Calendar Cree 125
Calendar Shuswap 126
How the Indians First Obtained Blankets Chilcotin 127
Hunting in the Snow Mountains Chilcotin 129
Coyote’s Gift of the Salmon, and the Cañon of the Fraser River Nicola Valley and Fraser River 132
The Coming of the Salmon Bella Coola 135
Coyote and the Salmon Shuswap 139
Wolverene and the Geese Eastern Eskimo 142
Nanebojo and the Geese Ojibwa 145
Adventures of Nanebojo Ojibwa 149
Wiske-djak and the Geese Algonquin 154
Wiske-djak and the Partridges Algonquin 158
Wiske-djak and Great Beaver Algonquin 161
Nenebuc Ojibwa 163
Nenebuc and Big Bear Ojibwa 166
Coyote and Fox Shuswap 168
The Venturesome Hare Eastern Eskimo 172
Rabbit and Frog Eastern Eskimo 175
Big Turtle Wyandot 177
Wolverene and Rock Eastern Eskimo 180
Raven’s Canoe Men Haida 183
Raven and Pitchman Haida 184
When Raven Married off his Sister Haida 185
Beaver and Porcupine Haida 187
Beaver and Porcupine Shuswap 190
Beaver and Deer Haida 192
Eagle’s Feast Kwakiutl 195
When Chickadee Climbed a Tree Shuswap 196
Redbird and Blackbird Ojibwa 198
Little Gray Woodpecker Wyandot 200
Owl Eastern Eskimo 201
Chipmunk Thompson River 202
Muskrat’s Tail Cree 203
Wolverene and Brant Eastern Eskimo 204
War of the Four Tribes Shuswap 205
Tradition of Iroquois Falls Eastern Cree 206
The Giantess and the Indian Wyandot 207
The Destruction of Monsters Shuswap 209


Haida totem poles Frontispiece
Carved stone dishes 12
Paradise Valley 24
Lakes in the clouds 24
Shuswap beadwork 36
Cathedral Peak 48
Haida blanket border designs 60
Salish basketry designs 72
Canoe and paddles 84
Haida house 96
Moraine Lake 106
Cameron Lake 106
Haida house with totems 122
Carved handles of horn spoons 132
Takakkaw Falls 142
Mount Stephen 142
Indian pipes 156
Shuswap beadwork 170
Sun Dance Cañon 180
Castle Mountain 180
Haida memorial columns 192
Indian defensive armor 202




The Earth World is flat and has a circular out-line, and above it is a solid sky like a great bowl. Upon the top of the sky is the Sky Country. The sky rises and falls regularly, and so the clouds strike against the mountains and make a noise.

The Earth World floats, but it rests upon Sacred-One-standing-and-moving, and he rests upon a copper box. Upon his breast rests a pole which reaches up to the sky. When Sacred-One-standing-and-moving is about to move, a marten runs up the pole making the thundering noise which is always heard just before an earthquake. Because when this Sacred-One moves, it causes an earthquake.

In the Sky Country, the greatest power is held by Power-of-the-Shining-Heavens. He gives power to all things. The clouds are his blankets. Thunderclouds 2 are the “dressing up” of the Thunder Bird. Thunder Bird produces a very loud noise by rustling his feathers.

Southeast Wind lives under the sea. Northeast Wind abides along the northern mountains.

There are many tribes of Ocean People. Now in Haida Land, that is, the Queen Charlotte Islands, the land and sea are entangled in an extraordinary way.

Just so it is with the lands of the Ocean People—the Devilfish People, the Porpoise People, the Killer-Whale People, and the Black-Whale People. Of all the Ocean People the Killer-Whale People are the most powerful. They have towns scattered along the shore beneath the water, just as the Indians have their towns along the shore above the water.

When a man dies in Haida Land, he follows a trail until he reaches the shore of a bay. On the other side of the bay lies the Ghost Land. Then he calls across, and soon a person appears who pushes a raft from the farther side. This raft is made of fine cedar bark, such as is used in the rings of the secret society. Then the raft comes of itself to where the man is standing, and ferries him over.

Now in Ghost Land there are many towns, and many houses in each town. So if a man is looking for his wife there, it may take him a long time. These towns 3 lie in numberless inlets, near the water, just as the Haida towns on earth do.

When food or grease is put into the fire in the family of a man who has just died, it comes to him at once; therefore he is not hungry. And if his family sing songs loudly when he dies, then he enters Ghost Land proudly, with his head up. It gives him a good name in that country. But if they do not, then he enters Ghost Land with his head hanging down, and people do not think so much of him. When a man enters Ghost Land there is always a dance given in his honor.

People who are drowned go to Killer-Whale Country. But first they go to The-One-in-the-Sea who gives them their fins and then they go into the houses of the other Killer Whales. When killer whales gather in front of a town, it is thought they are human beings who have been drowned and take this way of informing the people.

One man who went to the Ghost Land, after he had been there for some time, put all his property in his canoe and went to Xada, which is the second Ghost Land. Then he went on to a third one, and later to a fourth, and then came back to earth as a blue fly. Therefore when a blue fly bumps into a man on earth, he says, “This is my friend, who thus shows me that he recognizes me.”


At a place beyond the Ghost Land, and just visible from it, lives a chief called Great Moving Cloud. He owns all the dog salmon. Once when a gambler died, he went there and gambled with him. The stakes were the dog salmon, and ghosts. When Great Moving Cloud won, many ghosts came into Ghost Land. When the gambler won, there was a great run of salmon.



Eastern Eskimo

No man can ever go into the Sky Land until he is dead; so all the people say. The sky that we see is a hard, blue stone, built up over the earth just as the igloo is built with snow, rounding, over the Eskimo family. But where the land and sea meet are high precipices which slope inward so that no one can climb up in the Sky Land. This blue dome is very cold, and sometimes it is covered with crystals of frost which fall as snow, and then the sky becomes clear.

The clouds are large bags of water, owned by two old women who push them across the sky. The thunder is their voice and the lightning their torch. When water leaks out of the seams of the bags, it rains on earth. If a spark of lightning falls upon anyone, he has to go to the Ghost Land.

At each corner of the Earth World there lives a mighty being, with a very large head. When any one of these breathes, the wind blows. Some breathe violent storms and others summer breezes. Each wind spirit has many powerful servants.


At the edge of the Earth World, and beyond the precipices, is a great abyss. A narrow pathway leads across it to a land of brightness and plenty and abundance and warmth. To this place none but Raven and the dead can go. When spirits wish to speak to people on earth, they make a whistling noise and people answer only in whispers. Auroras are the torches held in the hands of spirits to guide the newly dead over the abyss.



Bella Coola

The Bella Coola believe there are five worlds, one above the other. The middle one is our own world, the earth. Above it are two upper worlds, one the home of Afraid of Nothing, and the one below that is the House of the Sun. Below our earth are two lower worlds. The first is the Ghost Land; the second is the home of those who die a second time.

The upper heaven, which is the home of “Our Woman,” or Afraid of Nothing, as others call her, is a prairie without any trees upon it. In order to reach it, one must pass through the House of the Sun; though some people say that the sky is rent and one must pass through the great hole to reach the upper world.

The house of Afraid of Nothing stands in the far east. A strong wind blows always toward it across the open prairie so that everything rolls to her house; but immediately around the house it is quite calm. In front of the house stands a post in the shape of a large winged monster, and its mouth is the entrance.


Afraid of Nothing created the whole world. A long time ago she also had a great war with the mountains. In the beginning of the world the mountains were of great height. They were human, and they made the world uninhabitable. Afraid of Nothing made war upon them and defeated them. She made them much smaller than they used to be. During this fight she broke off the nose of one mountain, and its face may be recognized even now. It is near the Bella Coola River.

There were two mountains near the headwaters of the Bella Coola River, and one kept always a fire burning in his house. One could see the smoke, and this fire warned its master, the mountain, whenever an enemy appeared. When Afraid of Nothing came down in her canoe, the fire gave warning. When she approached, the mountain broke her canoe and turned it into stone. So she returned to heaven. The canoe is still there at the foot of the mountain.

Afraid of Nothing is a great warrior. She visits the earth now and then; but when she does, her visits cause sickness and death.

Under the world where she lives is the House of the Sun. Our own earth is an island swimming in the ocean.




The people were living beyond the sky. They were Wyandots. One day the shaman told the people to dig around the roots of the wild apple tree standing by the chief’s lodge and Indians at once began to dig. The chief’s daughter was lying near by. As the men dug, a sudden noise startled them. They jumped back. They had broken through the floor of the Sky Land, and the tree and the chief’s daughter fell through.

Now the world beneath was a great sheet of water. There was no land anywhere. Swans swimming about on the water heard a peal of thunder. It was the first peal ever heard in this world. When they looked upward, they saw the tree and the strange woman falling from the Sky Land. One of them said, “What strange thing is falling down?” Then he added, “The water will not hold her up. Let us swim together so she will fall upon our backs.” So the chief’s daughter fell upon their backs, and rested there.


After a while one swan said, “What shall we do with her? We cannot swim about this way very long.” The other said, “Let us ask Big Turtle. He will probably call a council. Then we shall know what to do.”

They swam around to Big Turtle and asked him what to do with the woman on their backs. Big Turtle at once sent a runner with a moccasin to the animals, so they came at once for a great council. The council talked a long while. Then someone stood up and asked about the tree. He said perhaps divers might go down and get just a little earth from its roots, if they knew where it had sunk. Big Turtle said, “Yes. If we can get earth, perhaps we might make an island for this woman.” So the swans took them all to the place where the tree had fallen in the waste of waters.

Big Turtle called for divers. First down went Otter, the best of them all. He sank at once out of sight. He was gone a long, long while. At last he came up, but he gasped and was dead. Then Muskrat was sent down. He also was gone a long, long while. Muskrat also died. Next Beaver was sent down to get earth from the roots of the tree. Beaver also was drowned. Many animals were drowned.

Big Turtle called, “Who will offer to go down for the earth?” No one offered himself, until at last Old Toad said she would try. All the animals laughed. 11 Old Toad was very small and very ugly. Big Turtle looked her over, but he said, “Well, you try then.”

Down went Old Toad. At last they could not see her at all, though she went down slowly. Then they waited for her to come back. They waited, and waited, and waited. They began to say, “She will never come back.” Then they saw a little bubble break on the water. Big Turtle said, “Let us swim there. That is where Old Toad is coming up.” So it was done. Then Old Toad came slowly to the surface, close to Big Turtle. She opened her mouth and spat out a few grains of earth that fell on Big Turtle’s shell. Old Toad was done for, too.

Small Turtle at once began to rub the earth around the edge of Big Turtle’s shell. It began to grow into an island. The animals were looking on as it grew. Then the island became large enough for the woman to live on, so she stepped onto the earth. The island grew larger and larger, until it became as large as the world is today.

When an earthquake occurs, it is because Big Turtle moves his foot. Sometimes he gets tired.




One winter day Wisagatcak was chiseling the ice, trying to catch Big Beaver. At last he caught him by shutting up the creek with stakes, leaving only an opening in the center of the stream. Then Wisagatcak stood there, waiting for Big Beaver to attempt an escape in that way. He stood there a long while. Just as evening came, Wisagatcak saw a beaver coming along, but just as he was about to kill him, Muskrat came up quietly behind him and scratched him. Wisagatcak was so startled he did not catch the beaver.

At last it became dark, so he went ashore and built a fire, but he had nothing to eat. He said to himself, “Tomorrow I will try to break the dam down and dry up the creek.”

Carved Stone Dishes
Showing the Indian love of the grotesque
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”


Early next morning Wisagatcak made a pointed stick from juniper wood. Then he broke the dam down, but yet the creek did not dry up. The water rose, and rose, and rose, until Wisagatcak no longer stood on dry ground. So he at once made a raft and got on that. He took on the raft with him two of every kind of animal, and stayed there with them for two weeks. So they drifted about because there was no chance to land anywhere. And while he drifted, Big Beaver was making medicine against him for breaking the dam.

Now after two weeks, Wisagatcak wished to know the depth of water under the raft. He tied a long string to the feet of Muskrat and asked him to dive down and bring up some mud.

Muskrat went down, down, down! He could not even reach the bottom, and drowned before Wisagatcak could bring him up. Then he waited three days and told Crow to go and see if he could find any moss. Crow came back without anything in his bill. When Crow came back without any moss, Wisagatcak was frightened. He had a little moss on his raft, so he took that and began to make medicine. The next day he asked Wolf to take the moss in his mouth and run around the raft with it. Wolf did so, and as he ran around, earth began to appear and grow on the raft.

Wolf ran around the raft for a week, and the land grew larger and larger. It continued to grow for two weeks. By that time the earth had grown so large that Wolf never came back.

This is how the earth came to be built over water. And this is why there are springs in the earth.


When Wolf had been gone for a week, Wisagatcak said to the other animals, “I guess now the land must be large enough for us all to live on.”

Beaver asked, “How are we going to live? We are eating willows and poplars here, but there are no trees on earth yet.”

Wisagatcak said, “Um-m-m-m! Yes, you will need a little creek to live in also.”

Beaver said, “Why, yes, of course.”

Wisagatcak said, “I’ll do something tonight.”

That night Wisagatcak made magic again. He tried to dig down through the earth to his raft, to get a log from it; but the earth was so thick, and the pressure of it so great, he could not even find a trace of a log. When he failed to get even a stick, he said to Beaver, “I’ll make a creek for you, and you will have to live on grass roots until trees grow up.”

That is why, even today, Beaver eats certain white roots as well as bark.

When Wisagatcak came back, he found that Beaver had dug ditches in every direction in his search for roots.



Thompson River

Before the days of the grandfathers, all was water. Old One lived then in the Sky Land.

He still lives in the Sky Land, just where it is reached by the snow-capped mountains. But in the days before the grandfathers, Old One became tired of looking down at the waste of waters beneath him. There was no earth at all. Old One thought, “I will make an island in the middle of that great lake, which will be pleasant to look at.”

He took some soil from the Sky Land, and made a large hollow ball of it. Then he threw it down on the water. The lower side of the ball spread flat, and all the upper part caved in and spread out into a very large island. The earth even now lies on the water just as it was when Old One threw down the ball. It is all broken up into flats and hollows, hills and islets, just as it spread out from the hollowed ball.

But even then the bare earth was not pleasant to Old One, so he himself came down afterward and made the grass and trees and flowers to grow.

That is why the earth is surrounded by water.



Thompson River

Long, long ago, everything was a blank. There was nothing at all, anywhere, except a number of people who lived together in a camp. They were Sun and his wife Earth. There were also Moon and Stars living there in that camp.

Now Earth scolded Sun all the time. She kept saying, “Oh, you’re so hot! Go out of doors; you make the house too hot!” She kept telling Sun how cross he was. Then Sun got tired of it. He moved away, and as Stars and Moon were his relatives, they went with him. So Earth Woman was left all alone in the camp. Then Earth Woman wept because she was alone.

Old Man came around just then, and he asked what was the matter. He asked all about it and Earth Woman told him everything. Then he went to Sun’s camp. He talked to Sun.

Then Old Man said, “This will never do. There’ll be people after a while. Something has to be done for them.” So Old Man sent Sun, Moon, and the Stars 17 up into the sky. He made them just what they are now. He said to them, “Henceforth you shall not desert people nor hide yourselves; you shall remain where everybody can see you, either by day or by night.”

Then Old One changed Earth Woman into the earth upon which we live. Her hair became flowers and grass. Her bones are the rocks. Earth is never alone now, because she can always see Sun.

When people came, Old Man taught them how to spear fish and shoot deer with bows and arrows, how to cook the meat and dress the skins. Old Man taught people all they know.




Not long ago, there was no land to be seen.

Then there was a little thing in the ocean.

This was all open sea, and Raven sat upon this. He said, “Become dust!” It became earth. Then it increased and he divided it, and he put this earth into the water on each side of him. One earth he made small, but he made the one on the other side larger. Because he made one earth small, this island is small. So he finished this country. White men call it the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Again Raven started off. He came to where Eagle lived. And Eagle owned the fresh water. Before that there was none to be seen. Raven wanted to drink the water, but Eagle did not want to give it to him. A long time Raven wanted to drink this water. Then he drank it secretly, unseen by Eagle. Then he made off with it.

Then Raven spit it out. He spit out water upon all lands. He spit out Quilan first, therefore that is the elder brother of all the streams on Masset Inlet. 19 When the water was almost gone from his mouth he came back to Masset. That is why the water here at Masset is red.

This is the way the story was told in the days of the grandfathers. But some of the story-tellers say that when Raven had taken all the fresh water from the Owner-of-the-Water, he carried it in his bill. He let a drop fall and it became the Chilcat River. When he spit it out, all the water flowed away and the ground became dry. Then he spit out more, and the ground also dried up after the water flowed away. Raven saw that. Then he let still more drop, and as soon as he let it drop he bent it together. He made a circle out of it; then it stopped running off. Because Raven bent the water together, all the streams keep on running, although they run every day.




Beaver lived in a beautiful house on the shore of a large lake. In the lake were salmon and on the shores were berries of all kinds.

One day Raven disguised himself as a poor, hungry person. He went to Beaver’s house. Beaver was just coming home with a fish and berries. Beaver said, “What are you doing here?”

Raven said, “My father has just died. We have the same ancestors. He told me to visit you and ask for food.”

Beaver believed Raven and pitied him. He told Raven to stay at home, promising to give him much food. There were always fish in the lake and ripe berries on the shores.

The next day Raven went to the lake. He rolled up the water like a blanket. He took it in his beak and flew away. He alighted on the top of a large cedar tree.


When Beaver went out to fish, he found his lake was gone. Then Beaver called all the Beavers to help him, all the Wolves and Bears. He called also a monster Talat-adega, which has a long body, a long tail, and many legs. He asked them to throw the tree down.

The Wolves dug up the roots of the tree, Beavers gnawed the trunk of the tree. All the animals worked until the tree fell; then Raven flew to another tree.

All the animals of the forest worked hard. They tried to throw this tree down. But when it fell down, Raven flew to another tree.

After they had felled four trees, the animals said, “Please give us our chief’s water. Don’t make us unhappy.”

But Raven only flew away. He spilled some of the water on the ground as he flew along. Thus originated all the rivers on Queen Charlotte Islands. Raven also made the Skeena and Stikine rivers.

There was a man named Kilkun at Skidegate. Kilkun said to Raven, “Give me some water!” Raven gave him only a few drops. Then Kilkun became angry and fell dead. He forms the long point of land at Skidegate.




Before the days of the grandfathers there was nothing but water. All was water, except a single reef. Here lived the supernatural beings. They were much crowded. They all lay heaped together. Then Raven flew all about trying to get a footing, but he could alight nowhere.

Then Raven looked at the sky. It was solid. It was very beautiful and Raven was fascinated by it. He said, “I’ll go up there,” so he ran his beak into the sky and climbed up.

Now in the Sky Land was a large town. The chief lived there and in the chief’s house was a baby. When night came, Raven took the baby by the heel and shook all his bones out. Then he crept into the skin and pretended to be the baby. But at night he stole out of the baby’s skin and became Raven. He flew into all the houses and made much mischief. Then at last a woman saw him and told all the people.

Then the chief called all the people together and they sang a song for Raven. It was a magic song, and 23 in the midst of it the one holding Raven let him fall, and he dropped down out of the Sky Country until he fell upon the great waters.

Now the cradle drifted about on the water for a long time. Raven cried; then he cried himself to sleep; but as Raven slept, something said, “Your powerful grandfather invites you in.” Raven sat up quickly. He looked toward the sound, but there was nothing there. Soon the voice said the same words.

Raven looked through the hole in his marten’s-skin blanket. Presently up through the water came a grebe saying, “Your powerful grandfather invites you in.”

Then Raven stood up. His cradle was floating against a kelp with two heads. He stepped upon it, and behold! it was really a two-headed house pole made of stone. When Raven climbed down, he found he could breathe as easily as in the air above.

Beneath the house pole was a house. Someone said, “Come inside, my son, I hear that you come to borrow something from me.” Raven entered. In the back part of the house sat old Sea-Gull Man. The old man sent him for a box which hung in the corner. There were four others inside of this. Raven pulled them all apart and took out two long pieces of something. One was black and the other was covered with shining points.


Sea-Gull Man took the two pieces and showed them to Raven. He said, “Lay this speckled stone in the water first, and this black one last. Then bite off a piece of each, and spit it out and the pieces will reunite;” so he said.

When Raven went out, he put the black piece into the water first. When he had bitten off part of the rock with shining points and laid it in the water, the points rebounded. He had not done as he had been told. Now he went back to the black one, and bit off part of it, and spit it out again. Then the pieces stuck. These were going to become land. He put this into the water, and it stretched itself out and became the Haida Country. Of the other piece he made the Seaward Country—the mainland.

Paradise Valley[1]
Laggan, Alberta, Canada
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.

Lakes in the Clouds
Laggan, Alberta, Canada
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.




Raven became the son of Moon Woman. He cried a great deal. When he cried, he said, “Boo-hoo, moon!” Then his mother said, “He talks about a thing beyond his reach, which the supernatural beings own.” So Raven began to cry again, “Boo-hoo, moon!”

Then, when Moon Woman’s mind was tired out with his noise, she stopped up all the holes in the house. She stopped up the smoke hole, and all the small holes as well.[2] Then she untied the strings of the box. Although they were very strong, she untied them. She did this because the moon was inside the box. Then she took the moon out and let Raven play with it. She did not give it to him; she only let him play with it to quiet him.

After his mother had gone out, Raven took up the moon in his beak. He turned himself into a raven and 26 flew about the house with it. He made himself small. Just before his mother returned, he made himself a child again. Then he again played with the moon.

Then Raven again began crying loudly, when his mother returned. He cried, “Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, smoke hole!” So he cried, “Boo-hoo, boo-hoo, smoke hole!” He cried this way for a long time. Then he tired his mother’s mind with his crying, and she opened the smoke hole a little. Raven cried, “Boo-hoo, more! Boo-hoo, more!” for a long time. Then she made the opening in the smoke hole larger, and he kept crying, “Boo-hoo, more!” until she had made it quite large.

Then again Raven played with the moon. Raven cried because he wanted the moon, and his mother did not want to give it to him. When he cried very much, she gave it to him and made that large opening in the smoke hole.

Now at that time it was always dark. Raven did not like darkness.

Now after she had made the smoke hole larger, his mother again went out, and Raven was playing with the moon. Then he put the moon in his beak and flew through the smoke hole with it. Immediately he put the moon under his wing. He perched up on top of the house with the moon under his arm and called like a raven.


Then Raven flew to the bank of the Nass River, where they were taking olachen. And it was dark. Raven called, “If you will bring me your spruce needles, I will make it light for you.” He called the olachen spruce needles. He said that same thing again.

The fishermen replied, “One who always talks is talking about something which the supernatural beings own, and which is beyond his reach.”

Thus they made him angry, and he let them see a little of the moon. It became light. Then they all went to him and gave him a great many olachen.

Raven again put the moon under his arm. Flying up with it, he sat on the top of a high mountain. He took the moon out, and threw it down so it broke. He took half of it and threw it up into the sky, and said, “You shall be the moon and shall give light in the middle of the night.” He then threw the other half upward and said, “You shall shine in the middle of the day.” Then he threw upward the small fragments, and said, “You shall be the stars; when it is clear, they shall see you all during the night.”




After the earth was formed on Big Turtle’s shell, there was not enough light, so the animals said. Big Turtle called a council. When the council met, Big Turtle said that because the island had been made for the woman, there should be more light. Someone said that a light hung in the sky would be well. Then Small Turtle at once answered, “If I could climb into the sky, I could gather together some of the lightning, and make a ball of it.” Big Turtle said, “Oh, yes. Try to climb up. You have great power.”

At once Small Turtle made medicine, and soon there was a great storm. A cloud full of lightning rolled down towards the council, with a great noise. There were broken rocks and trees in the cloud. It came so near that Small Turtle climbed into the cloud, and went upward with it.

When she reached the Sky Land, Small Turtle gathered much lightning together. She made a ball out of it, and hung it in the sky. After that there was light on the island because the sun shone. Small Turtle also made moon.



Thompson River

A large dead tree stood near Spence’s Bridge. It was full of magic and possessed the power of giving light. At that time the world was always dark. Now Chipmunk did not like the continual darkness, and his friends did not like it, but some of the animals did. And some of the other animals were undecided.

Chipmunk knew that if he set fire to the magic tree near Spence’s Bridge, the world would become light again, so he set fire to the roots, and kept poking the ashes away with a stick that the wind might fan the flames. When the tree fell, the earth became light.

Now Grizzly Bear and his friends wanted continual darkness. When that tree fell, Grizzly appeared in a great rage and began to put out the fire by throwing earth on the log and on Chipmunk.

Grizzly Bear cried,

Le pa, Le pa! Dimness, dimness!


Chipmunk would poke the fire and brush the earth and ashes away and sing,

Tse ka, tse ka! Light, light, light!

And immediately the fire would flame up and light would come; but when Grizzly Bear threw on more earth it became dark again.

Now both Grizzly and Chipmunk sang as loud and as hard as they could, and sometimes it was light and sometimes it was dark. After a while they both grew tired. Then they agreed that it should be dark part of the time, and light part of the time.

But Grizzly Bear was angry at Chipmunk and chased him into a hole. As Chipmunk scampered into the hole, Grizzly scratched his back. That is the reason Chipmunk has stripes on his back.




In the days of the animal people, there was darkness everywhere except in the tepee of an old chief. He owned all the light, fire, and water; therefore men were very miserable and sighed always. Men pleaded with the old chief for light, but he would give them none. Therefore they tried to get it by craft.

Now all the animals put on their masks and their dancing aprons and went to the old chief’s lodge for a dance. He did not invite them. They went. They were going to get light by craft.

Now each one sang his own song. Fox kept singing,

Khain, khain, khain,

because he thought in that way he would gain light. Therefore the animals call him Khain, which means, “He cries for daylight.”

Now the old chief steadily refused to give them light. Yet the animal people were each singing his own song, and each singing,

Light, light, light, light!


Thus they sang. And they sang so loudly and so steadily that light began to steal up into the sky, like a faint dawn. The old chief saw it. At once he shouted,

Let there not be——!

Let there not be——!

Had he said “light” as the last word, light would have come. But at once the light disappeared below the edge of the sky.

Now young Fox kept on conjuring and crying,

Khain, khain, khain, khain!

and the animals kept on dancing and singing for light, because they wanted to tire the old chief. And again light began to steal into the sky. Then the old chief saw it and he became much excited. The noise confused him and he shouted,

Let there be—light!

And immediately the light came up into the sky. Ever since then men have had light. But the old chief did not mean to say that.




Now after the animal people had won light by shouting “Khain,” and “light,” and had confused the old chief, they were very happy for a time. But they had no fire. The same old chief owned all the fire in the world. He kept it in his lodge, carefully guarded. Therefore the people resolved to steal it, because he would not give it to them.

Now the people laid their plans. They said Young Caribou and Muskrat must help. Then they put on their dancing aprons and their dancing masks, and went to the lodge of the old chief. Young Caribou had a fine headdress of pine shavings fastened to his horns. Young Muskrat had a dancing apron made of a marmot skin.

Now they all entered the old chief’s lodge. They began singing, and Young Caribou and Muskrat began their dancing. Each took a place at one side of the fire, where the old chief kept close watch. Muskrat sang,

Oh, shelte! Oh, shelte!


which are magic words. Therefore Indians say, “Oh, shelte,” even today, when they hunt muskrats.

Young Caribou, as he danced, jerked his head from side to side until the shavings caught fire. At once the old chief put them out with his hands. Everybody began to dance then, and Young Caribou let the shavings catch fire. And again the old chief put them out, though they were quite a blaze.

Now, while the old chief was busy watching Caribou, Muskrat had been busy. He had burrowed a tunnel through the earth. Then he quickly stole a piece of fire and slipped into his hole with it. The old chief was busy putting out the fire in the shavings on Caribou’s horns. Everybody went on dancing.

Suddenly a person said, “Oh, look!” He pointed to a great mountain far away, near the edge of the sky. A great column of smoke rose from it. Then soon flames burst from the mountain top.

At once everybody knew that Muskrat had stolen the old chief’s fire, and had given it to men and animals.




One day Grizzly Bear met Coyote and said to him, “I am great in magic, greater than all of the people. When I wish a thing to be so, it has to be so. Now, I do not like having it dark so short a time. I intended to make it dark all the time.”

Coyote said, “Oh, no! That would inconvenience the people too much.”

Grizzly Bear said, “I intend to have it my way.”

Coyote said, “No, you can’t!”

At once Grizzly Bear began to dance, singing,

Darkness! darkness! darkness! Let it always be dark!

That was his song.

Coyote also danced and sang,

Light! light! light! light! Let it always be light!

Thus Coyote sang.

They danced and sang a long, long time. Sometimes it was dark, when Grizzly sang loudest, and sometimes 36 it was light when Coyote sang loudest. But neither won.

At last Grizzly Bear became tired. He said, “Let’s have it dark half the time, and light half the time.” Coyote agreed. He said, “Hereafter it shall be light from the time that the sun prepares to follow the trail through the Sky Land until he reaches the edge of the Darkening Land. The rest of the time shall be night. Thus every day shall Sun travel. When he leaves the Earth Plain, the darkness shall follow him.”

After a while, Grizzly Bear said, “I do not like the length of the year. Winter is far too short. Let winter be as many moons long as there are feathers in the tail of Blue Grouse.” So they counted and found twenty-two feathers in the tail of Blue Grouse. Grizzly Bear wanted winter to be twenty-two moons long!

Coyote said at once, “Oh, no! The people would die. Let winter be half that number.” Grizzly Bear objected. Then Coyote said, “Let there be as many moons in the year as there are feathers in Flicker’s tail.” Grizzly Bear agreed, because he thought there were many feathers in Flicker’s tail.

Shuswap Beadwork
Tobacco pouch designs of great beauty. From the region of the Canadian Rockies
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”


Now, when they counted, there were only twelve feathers in Flicker’s tail. But it was too late to make any change. So Coyote said, “Hereafter in a year there shall be six months of warm weather and six months in which it may snow and be cold.”

Thus Coyote saved the people from living in darkness, and from very long, cold winters.




Raven and Sea Gull were friends. Their houses were close together in the Lillooet country. It was dark all over the world at this time, because Sea Gull owned the daylight, which he kept in a box. He never let any of it out except for his own use.

Raven said, “It isn’t fair that Sea Gull should have all the daylight. People should have some of it.” Therefore Raven planned to get the daylight.

One night he placed thorn branches on the trail between Sea Gull’s house and the place where his canoe was fastened. Then he ran to Sea Gull, shouting, “Your canoe has gone adrift! Your canoe has gone adrift!” Sea Gull heard Raven and rushed out of the house in haste. He did not even put on his moccasins; he ran in his bare feet and stepped on the thorns. Then Sea Gull screamed, “Ah-ah!” just as sea gulls do now. He shouted to Raven, “Get my canoe! Save my canoe!” Then he went back to his house. He was much excited.


Raven pulled up the canoe and went to the house. Gull spoke of those thorns in his feet. Raven said, “Oh, I can pull them out, if you will let a little daylight out of your box.” So Gull sat down beside the box and opened it a little with one hand. Raven began to pull out the thorns with an awl. Soon he said, “I can’t see well. Give me more light.” Gull opened the box a little more.

Raven pulled out all the thorns but one. He said, “This last one is hard to get out. I shall need more light.” When Gull opened the box a little more, Raven gave his arm a push. Thus he knocked down the box and broke it. Then all the daylight rolled out and spread all over the world. Sea Gull was unable to collect it again.

Raven took out the last thorn and went home chuckling.

Now Raven could see very well indeed, and one day he cleaned himself nicely. He combed and oiled his hair, and put on his best robe, and painted his face black. Then he sat on the top of his underground house and looked all over the world. He saw nothing. The third day he changed the paint on his face. That evening he saw signs of smoke. The fourth day Raven changed his face paint again. Now he located the 40 smoke. It was far away to the south, on the shore of the sea.

Raven had four servants. They all at once entered a small canoe, but it was swamped. Then he tried another. Then he said to his wife, “Go to Sea Gull’s house and tell him I need to borrow his canoe.” So he started off in Sea Gull’s canoe.

Now they paddled downstream until they were close to the house of the people who owned the fire. They planned very quietly. That night they bored a hole under where the baby board hung and stole the baby. Then they ran away.

Now early in the morning the people missed the baby. They knew what had happened. But Raven was too far ahead. They sent out men. Sturgeon, Whale, and Seal searched for Raven’s boat, but they could not find him. Other men searched, but only one small fish found Raven’s canoe. He tried to stop the runaways by sticking to the paddle, but after a while he got tired and went home. Now Raven reached his own country.

Then the Fire People visited Raven with presents. Four times they came; Raven refused all their gifts. Then they said, “What do you wish?” Raven said, “Fire.” Then they said, “Well, why didn’t you say that before?” And they were glad, because they had 41 plenty of fire and thought little of its value. So they brought Raven fire, and he gave them back their baby. These Fire People showed Raven how to make fire with dry cottonwood roots.

Raven said to Sea Gull, “If I had not got the light from you, I could not have seen where the fire was kept.”




Beaver and Eagle lived with their sister in the Lillooet country. They had no fire at all, so they ate all their food raw. The sister cried and complained constantly because she had no fire at which to roast her dried salmon skins. At last the brothers said, “Don’t cry any more. We will get fire for you. First we will need to train ourselves for a long time; but if you cry while we are training, we shall fail.”

Beaver and Eagle went into the mountains and trained for four years. Then they knew where fire was, and they returned home and told their sister that they knew how to find it.

Now they started off. They traveled five days to the house of the people who owned the fire. Eagle drew over himself an eagle’s body; and Beaver drew over himself a beaver’s body.

Beaver at once went to work. He dammed the creek nearby and that night made a hole under that house. The next morning Beaver swam around in the pond of water made by the dam. An old man saw him and 43 shot him. He took Beaver into the house and laid him beside the fire. He told the people to skin him. While they were skinning Beaver, they found a clam shell under his arm, which he had hidden there.

Just then the people saw a large eagle perched in a tree nearby. Quickly they wished for his feathers. At once they all ran out and began to shoot at him, but no one could hit him. And while they were shooting, Beaver was left alone.

Then Beaver rose quickly and put fire in his clam shell. He dug into the hole he had made beneath the house, and raced away to the water. He swam away with the fire.

As soon as Eagle saw that Beaver was safe, he flew away. Then they returned home. They gave fire to their sister.




At that time there was no fire to be seen. They did not even know of it. Raven went northward on the surface of the sea. Far out at sea a big kelp was growing out of the water, but the kelp head was gone, and many sparks came out of it. This was the first time that Raven had ever seen fire.

Then Raven went along to it on the bottom of the sea. Then the big fishes—the Black Whales, and the Dolphins, and others—wanted to kill him as he went along. Owner-of-the-Fire was the one to whom he went.

When Raven entered his house, Owner-of-the-Fire said to him, “Come and sit here, chief.” Raven said, to him, “Will the chief give me fire?”

Owner-of-the-Fire gave fire to Raven, as he had been desired, and when he gave it to him, he put it in a stone tray. A cover was over it.

Raven went away with it. After he had gone up to the shore, Raven put a fragment of live coal into a cedar standing there. Because he put fire into the cedar, when people want to start a fire they use a drill of cedar, because fire comes from it.



Bella Coola

Mink’s father was “Walking-through-the-Heavens.” He was Sun, but no one knew it, and one day when Mink was playing with the children of his village, they laughed at him saying that he had no father. Mink began to cry and went home to his mother.

Mink’s mother said, “Why, your father is Walking-through-the-Heavens.” Then Mink demanded bows and arrows, and his mother gave them to him.

Mink went outside the lodge and began to shoot his arrows into the sky. The first arrow struck the sky and stuck there. The second arrow hit the notch of the first, and held there; and the third arrow stuck in the notch of the second. So with four arrows Mink made an arrow chain which became a rope. He called to his mother and said, “Hold the rope so it will not shake,” and she did so.

Then Mink began to climb up into the Sky Land, while his mother held the rope. After a long time he reached the door to the upper world. Then he 46 climbed in and looked around him. He began to walk toward a bright house in the distance. It was Sun’s house. As he came near it, a woman came out to pick up wood. When she saw Mink, she said, “Oh, little one! Where do you come from, sonny?” The woman went at once back into the house and told Sun.

Now Walking-through-the-Heavens was tired that day. He did not climb the trail through the sky, but left it covered with clouds. Therefore it was gray and cloudy in the Earth Land. When there are clouds in the sky, that is the time that Walking-through-the-Heavens rests.

Mink told his father that the boys in the village teased him. He begged to be allowed to carry Sun’s torches. Then Sun said, “Oh, you can’t do it. I carry many torches. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon I burn small torches; but at noon I burn the larger ones.”

Mink teased and teased. He said he wanted to carry the torches just once. Therefore one day Sun said, “I think I’ll rest today. You may carry the torches.”

So Walking-through-the-Heavens gave him the torches. He said, “Oh, child, take care! Walk in the morning, but don’t walk too fast. Do not sweep your aunts, the clouds, away too quickly, or it will go hard with the people in the Earth World.” Then he said 47 again, as Mink started off, “Don’t be too fast when you walk or sweep.”

So Mink started off, carrying the torches. At first he lighted only small ones, and he walked slowly, and swept away the clouds not too rapidly. He did it very well indeed. But at noon Mink became tired. He swept away the clouds very rapidly, and he walked very fast. Then he also lighted many of the large torches at once.

At once it grew very hot. Great cracks came into the mountains and they began to split. All the rocks in the world were burned so that they are bare, even today. The trees began to burn and many animals jumped into the water. But the water began to boil. Mink’s mother covered all the people with her blanket, so they were saved. All the people in the world hid under her blanket. The animals tried to hide under the rocks and in caves. Ermine crept into a hole which was not quite large enough, so the end of his tail stuck out. It was burned black. That is why Ermine is white with a black tip to his tail. Mountain Goat hid in a cave, so he is perfectly white. All the animals which did not hide were scorched and therefore they have dark fur on the upper side of their bodies, but the under side is lighter.

Now when Sun saw what was happening to the 48 people of the Earth World, he rushed up the trail, and said, “Why do you do so? Do you think it is good that there should be no people on the Earth World?”

Sun took the half-burned torches and put them out. Then he pushed Mink right out of the Sky Land, saying, “Go right down to the Earth World again. You shall be mink and men shall hunt you.”

Now four women had gone out digging clams. Then they saw something floating around among the drifting seaweed. They went towards it. It was Mink. When they touched him, he rubbed his eyes and said, “I have been sleeping on the water for a long time.” Then he went up the beach and went home to his mother.

Now the world was hot, and the trees were burning, so that Sun caused the waters to rise until they covered the whole country except for a few mountains on Bella Coola River which rose above the waters. The Bella Bella and the Bella Coola tribes fastened their canoes to the tops of these mountains, and for this reason they were not lost. Other tribes tied their canoes to other mountains, but some of the canoe ropes broke and the people drifted away to different countries. The flood went as far north as the Skeena River, and people drifted even from up there. One canoe drifted over in the lands of the white people. Then at last Sun made the waters to sink.

Cathedral Peak
Field, British Columbia
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.


Crow was sitting on the top of a tree when Mink made the Earth World to burn. The smoke was so black that it made Crow black all over. Before that Crow had been white; so the Indians say.




In the days of the grandfathers men did not know anything at all about the other worlds. They knew very little even about the Earth Land.

Now in the Sky Land lived an old chief who was very wise and very kind, and with great magic. The son of the old chief died and he did not know where he had gone. Therefore Old One was very sorrowful. He wailed, “Where is my son gone? He cannot be dead. He has only gone away. But where has he gone?” In those days death did not happen often.

Therefore Old One began to travel. He went everywhere. He came down to the Earth World and went into the Shuswap country. Here he found the people very ignorant. He taught them how to fell trees and make twine, how to sew clothes and make needles and awls. He also taught them how to hunt game, how to trap, and dig roots, and gather berries so they would have food enough. So the people were much happier. There were no salmon there in those days; it was long afterward that Coyote brought the salmon up the river.


After traveling all through the Shuswap country, Old One went on. It became known afterward that he traveled through the country of six different tribes, teaching all the people how to live, and looking always for his son.

When he lived at home in the Sky Land, Old One had two servants and several companions. His two servants were Beavers, and one slept at the head of his bed and one at the door of his house. Because they were nearer to him, Old One made them the most valuable of animals. That is why beaver fur is always so much sought after.




When Tsuntia and the four Black Bear brothers had traveled over the earth and put things to rights, they met one another at the edge of the earth. Black Bear brothers said, “There is yet one country where the people are bad. They were too strong for us. You go to that country and stop the sun so they will all be burned up.” Thus they spoke to Tsuntia.

Tsuntia said, “If I go there and stop the sun, all the people in the world will be burned up and everything on earth besides.”

The brothers would not believe this, so Tsuntia commanded the sun to stand still. Then the earth became so hot it was scorched. The tops of the trees began to smoke. The Black Bear brothers were overcome with the heat, and they began to be afraid. They said, “We see that you know and speak the truth. Now let the sun move on.”

Tsuntia said to them, “Whistle at the sun, and he will go on.” They said, “Oh, no. You do it.” So 53 Tsuntia whistled and pointed his finger at the sun. The sun followed his finger as he moved it toward the west. He moved his finger down over the mountains and the sun set rapidly.

Then a breeze sprang up and soon cooled the earth and the people. The bad people of that country were never punished. They are there yet, near the edge of the earth.




Once all the world was burned. Only a man and his mother and his sister were saved. Before the fire there were many people on earth. Then the young man fell out with his father, and they became enemies. The young man had heard that all the world was to be burned, but his father did not believe it.

Now the young man made a bow and arrows. He shot one arrow to the west, and one to the east, and one to the north, and one to the south. The places where the arrows fell were the four corners of a bit of ground which would not burn. The young man told everybody who wanted to be saved from the fire to come onto that square of land. Many did not believe the world would be burned, so they would not come.

After a while the fire came. They could hear it. They were encamped by the side of a big lake. By and by all the birds and animals came running to that bit of ground marked out by the arrows. The old man had quarreled with his son, so he would not come. The 55 fire was very hot. All the water boiled because it was so hot.

After a while the fire was put out, and the water had settled down. Everything had to be started over again.

Now there were many animals on this patch of ground, and the man named some of them and told them what to do.

He put Beaver in the water, but Rabbit wanted to live in the water. The man said, “No.” Then Rabbit jumped into the water and the man had to pull him out. He said to Rabbit, “Your legs are too long. Even if you do eat willow like Beaver, you don’t go about in the water properly.”

Squirrel wanted to be Bear. He did all he could to be Bear. He argued and chattered a great deal about it. The man said, “Oh, you’re too noisy. You wouldn’t be a good Bear.” He said also, “If you are Bear, you are so noisy that when people come again, they will kill too many of you. A bear must keep quiet. He has many enemies.” Then Squirrel began to weep. He wept until his eyes were white. Even today Squirrel has eyes bright and swollen from weeping.

The man made Bear then, because he was nice and wise and quiet.

Somebody wanted to be Caribou—nobody remembers 56 just who wanted that. Then Deer was made, and made so swift that he could outrun all pursuers.

After the man had finished making all the animals, he put a mark on them, so people would know what they were.

Then the man had to give all the people new names. His mother he called Robin, because she was friendly. His sister he called Golden-winged Woodpecker, because she was beautiful. He called himself Blackbird because he would only come every spring.



Bella Coola

The House of Sun stands in the center of the lower heaven. It has other names. Sometimes it is called “Where man was created,” sometimes “House from which people come down,” and sometimes “House to which people go.”

In front of the house stands a great pole, painted with birds of every kind, with the white crane sitting on top of the post. The master of the house is Sun. He is also called “Our Father,” and sometimes the “Sacred One.” The Bella Coola pray to Sun. When they go hunting they say, “Look on us, where we are going, Father.” Or they say, “Take care of us, Father.” After long rain, they pray, “Wipe your face, Father, that it may be fair weather.” The hunter who has shot deer, or the woman who has found many berries, prays, “Father, you make me happy; you give me what I desire; thus I find what I wished for!”

The Bella Coola also make offerings to the Sun. Hunters throw four small slices of seal meat, or of mountain-goat tallow, into the fire, as an offering to Sun, to obtain success in hunting.


There are other gods living in the House of the Sun. Two of them wake man after sleep; without their help nobody could awaken from sleep. One of them is the guardian of the Moon. Every month she restores the Moon to her full size; and she cleans the face of the Moon after an eclipse. Because when the Moon performs religious ceremonies, she paints her face black.

The Mother of Flowers lives also in the House of Sun. Every spring she sends all the new young flowers down to the earth.

There are four brothers who live in the House of Sun. They are always busy in carving and painting. They taught men to make boxes, to build houses, to carve wood, and to paint. They also taught him to hunt, and they made fish for him to catch.

The Daughter of Sun invented the art of working cedar bark. She has a song which she sings when the bark is brought to her and she breaks it over the edge of a stick, so that it may be woven into mats and clothing. First she sings, “Bring me the board on which to break the bark,” and then when she begins to work, she sings another song. Part of it is, “Behold me, ye who are not initiated. I am the Cedar-bark Breaker, the Daughter of Sun.”

Many other people live in the House of Sun. One of them visits houses and steals provisions.


The path of Sun is well guarded. Bear guards the sunrise. He is a very fierce warrior who protects Sun against warlike enemies, and Bear is also the cause of the warlike spirit of man. His hair is tied up in a knot on top of his head.

At the sunset stands an enormous post which supports the sky and prevents Sun from falling down into the lower world. The trail of Sun is a wide bridge. It is as broad as the distance between the summer solstice and the winter solstice. Sun always walks with his face to the west. In summer he walks on the right-hand side of the bridge, and in winter at the left-hand side. The extreme right-and left-hand sides of the bridge are called “Place where the Sun sits down.” If Sun tarries too long on the left-hand side of the bridge, people say, “Salmon will be dried late this year.” But if he stays a long while on the right-hand side, they say, “There will be plenty of salmon this year.”




Once a whole village moved away. They were angry with a boy, so they left him behind with his grandmother. Now it looked as though they would starve. Grandmother said, “Snare small animals. Shoot the birds.” So the boy snared rabbits and squirrels and many small animals. He shot many birds with bright plumage. Grandmother cooked the animals and birds, but she made him a robe from the skins of the birds. The robe was very large and bright. The boy wore it when he went to spear fish.

Now Sun, when he followed the trail in the Sky Land, saw the robe when the boy was spearing fish. He saw that robe many times. One day Sun left the trail and came to visit the boy. Sun always dressed in a goatskin robe, with long fringe.

Sun said to the boy, “I will exchange blankets with you.” The boy looked at the goatskin robe, and said, “Oh, no!”

Haida Blanket Border Designs
Symbolical of the raven and the killer whale
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”


Sun said, “You do not know the value of my robe. It can catch more fish than you can spear.” Sun placed the fringe of his blanket in the water, and at once a fish caught on each tip of the fringe. When the boy saw that, he exchanged blankets at once.

Before Sun traded for the boy’s robe of birds’ plumage, he was pale, and his light was like the light of the moon. Therefore people could look at him. Now he became bright and dazzling as he is today, because of his bright robe. People can no longer look at him.




Once there was a poor boy who lived with his grandmother. He set snares for birds and rabbits because they were very poor. Now one day this boy set his snares, and then went home to his grandmother. But he had set his snare on Sun’s trail.

The next day when Sun came up over the edge of the earth and started off on his trail, he was caught in the snare. He could not go on. There was only a little light and Sun did not rise all day. People began to be anxious at the gloom. They said, “What has happened?”

Then someone asked the boy, “Where did you set your snare?” and the boy told him. They went to look, and there was Sun caught fast in it. People said again, “What shall we do?” because Sun was so hot no one could go anywhere near him. Someone said, “We shall have to gnaw through the cords of the snare,” and somebody else asked, “Well, who will do that?”

At last a number of the animals tried to gnaw the string. They were all burned. They said, “Let 63 Beaver-Mouse try it. He has such sharp teeth.” So Beaver-Mouse tried it, and he gnawed the string so Sun could rise and follow his trail. But Beaver-Mouse’s teeth were so burned that they are brown even to this day.



Thompson River

Sun and Moon were both chiefs who looked after the people. One day they were quarreling, and began to say unpleasant things to each other.

Sun said to Moon, “You give too faint a light. The people cannot see properly. Besides you do not warm them.”

Moon answered, “People turn aside their faces when they look at you. You blind them; and you are so hot you make them very uncomfortable. I don’t burn people as you do. Besides, I am prettier than you are.”

Thus they disputed.

At last they agreed to this: Sun should shine by day and Moon by night. And they did so. They do so even to this day. They used both to shine at the same time; so the Indians say.



Central Eskimo

Once an Eskimo visited the Moon. He put out all the lamps in his house, and sat down with his back to them, and at once his guardian spirit carried him through the air.

Moon’s house was not very large. It is white because it is covered with white deerskins, which Moon always has drying there. On each side of the entrance is the upper half of a walrus’s body, with very long teeth. It is very dangerous to pass here, because the teeth try to bite you. Moon’s dog is dappled red and white. He lives in the passage, and is the only dog in the moon.

Moon always sits in the outer room, but in an inside room, the Eskimo saw Sun. She is Moon’s wife. The moment she saw the Eskimo, she brightened her fire and got behind the glow of it, therefore the Eskimo could not look at her for the brightness. Moon had great piles of deer meat lying about, and piled up; yet he did not offer any to the Eskimo until he and Sun had danced a very strange dance.

There are great plains in Moon Land, and large herds of deer roaming over them. Moon allowed the 66 Eskimo to choose one animal, which at once fell through a hole in Moon Land to the earth below. In a large house were many seals swimming. The Eskimo chose one seal and it at once fell to the earth and into the ocean.

That is why the Eskimo have deer and seals. If this Eskimo had not visited Moon, they would not have them.




Now Small Turtle made Sun out of lightning when she climbed up into the sky. She also made Moon for his wife. Moon was smaller than Sun, but she was very bright. Then the animals bored a hole through the edge of the earth so that Sun and Moon could pass through at night, and begin their trail again at the east.

Small Turtle never meant Sun and Moon to travel together. But one day Moon ran into the hole at the edge of the earth much too soon. She also ran in ahead of her husband, Sun. Sun was very angry. Moon stayed under the earth for a long while. Small Turtle went after her one day to see what was the matter. She found Moon small and pale because of Sun’s anger. Then Small Turtle tried to make her large again. Moon would grow larger for a while, and then remember Sun’s anger, and fade away again, until she was only a strip. She does so even today. That is why Moon is so pale, and why she keeps changing as she does.




Moon was a very handsome man. During the winter he traveled constantly, camping every night in a different place. He had a wife called Wala and many children. When they were traveling, Moon always went ahead and prepared a house for his wife and children. White men call his house a halo.

Wala was always loaded down. She carried large birch-bark baskets on her back, and a birch-bark snow shovel in her hands. Wala used the shovel to fill the baskets with snow, for melted snow was all the water they could get in winter time.

One morning Wala said to Moon, “Where are you going to camp tonight?” Moon did not answer. Wala said, “Where will you pitch camp tonight?” Still Moon did not answer. Thus Wala kept asking, “Where are you going to camp tonight?” until Moon said crossly, “Oh, camp on my face!”

And Wala did that. She jumped right on his face and stuck there. We know this is true because Wala may still be seen on Moon’s face, holding her birch-bark baskets and her snow shovel.



Thompson River

Moon used to be an Indian. He would be as bright as Sun if his sister Frog did not sit upon him. At one time when Moon had invited the Stars to his house, it was so crowded there was no room for his sister Frog to sit down. She jumped on his face and stuck there.

Whenever it threatens to snow or rain, Moon builds a house and enters it. White men call it a halo. The cirrus clouds are the smoke of his pipe, and he always holds his pipe in his hand. You can see it in the moon today, and the basket which he uses as a hat. Moon seems to change from night to night, sometimes being larger and sometimes smaller, but that is all because of Frog’s shadow.



Thompson River

The people of Sky Land stole Swan’s wife. Swan at once called all the Earth People to a great council. They agreed to make war on the Sky People.

Now they gathered their bows and arrows. Swan was their chief. Each man began to fire his arrows at the sky. Every one came down. Every man tried to shoot an arrow into the Sky Land, until at last only Wren was left.

Then Wren shot an arrow. The people watched, but it did not come back to earth. They watched a long time. It had stuck in the sky. Wren fired another arrow. That did not come down. It had stuck in the notch of the first one. Wren fired many arrows. Not one came back, though all the birds and animals were watching carefully. They at last could see the chain of arrows, and Wren shot more arrows until the chain reached the earth.

Now all the Bird People and the Animal People climbed over the arrow chain and went up into Sky 71 Land and fought the Sky People. Grizzlies lived there, and Black Bear and Elk. And the Sky People won the fight. The Earth People began to retreat in great haste. They came down over the arrow chain, but when about half the people had reached the ground, the chain broke. Those who could not get down had to go back to Sky Land. Some of them were made prisoners and some were killed.

There used to be many more birds and animals than there are now; so the Indians say. There are fewer now because of this war.




Once there were two sisters who were not happy, and they ran away from home. They ran until they came to Sky Land, where they lost their way. At last they came to the house of an old woman. She asked, “Where are you going?”

“We don’t know,” said the sisters. “We are lost.” Then the old woman told them they could not get back to the earth again, so they stayed with her.

One day the old woman went out to get some berry vines. She told the sisters not to open a basket which stood just there. After she had gone, the younger sister opened the basket, and at once thousands and thousands of rabbits jumped out and ran all about the house. When the old woman came back, she was very angry, but she caught the rabbits, every one, and put them all back into the basket.

The next day the old woman went out again. She told the sisters not to touch a certain box that stood there. As soon as she was gone, the younger sister opened it and looked in. Then she was frightened, for she could see clear down to the earth below.

Salish Basketry Designs
Made by the Lower Thompson River and Lillooet tribes
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”


When the old woman came back, she made a rope of the berry vines and fastened a basket to one end. Then she said to the younger sister, “Get in, and I will let you go down to the earth. You must keep your eyes shut. If the basket stops, you must give it a little shake. Perhaps it is stuck in a cloud. But do not open your eyes.” Thus she said.

So the sister started. She shut her eyes tight, and soon she felt the basket stick in something. She shook it a little and then it went on. It had stuck in the cloud. After a while the basket stopped. She shook it once, and it did not move. Then she shook it hard. It remained still. Then the sister put out her hands and felt grass. At once she opened her eyes and stepped out of the basket.

The old woman called down to her to cut the grass and put it in the basket. So she did so. Then the old woman pulled the basket up to the Sky Land again.

Now the young woman sat down and waited many days, looking into the sky all the time. At last she saw a speck far up. Then she knew it was her sister in the basket. When it came near enough, she reached up and helped her sister out. They both went back to their mother.




A young man was out fasting. His fasting lodge stood at the end of a lake, where no one ever came. There was a broad bench on both sides.

Now, one evening he heard something. Sounds of songs, faint and distant, came to his ear. He did not know what it was. He looked everywhere. There was no one to be seen. Then the sounds were clearer. They came from the sky over the lake. The young man listened. Now he thought the voices came from the beach near by.

He crept slowly down to the lake, through the reeds and grasses. The singing grew more distant. Then through the reeds he saw seven maidens, dancing about in the light of the stars.

Then a pebble slipped under his foot. The maidens sprang into a large basket, and vanished into the sky.

Now the young man went back to his fasting lodge. The next evening he listened. The air was very still. The water was very quiet. The stars were shining. 75 Then he heard again the sound of far-away voices. He heard distant songs. So he crept to the edge of the lake, through the reeds and grasses. He saw a great basket come down with the seven maidens. They danced together, under the light of the stars. The air was very quiet as they sang. Then they danced along, each dancing in turn. And one maiden was more beautiful than her sisters. Then the young man forgot; he made a sound with his voice and the maidens vanished into the sky.

Now every evening the maidens came down to dance on the beach. It was a broad beach. No one ever came to that end of the lake. They danced under the stars, when the air was still, and they sang their songs. So the young man watched them.

Now they came again, and the young man rushed among them; rushed among them as they danced when the air was quiet, and seized the most beautiful sister. Then the maidens sprang into the basket, and the young man caught the maiden, and held the basket edge with one hand. Then they fell to the earth together, and the maiden was grieved.

The maiden said, “We are seven sisters. We live in the Sky Land. Often you see us when you look into the sky. But at this season, when the air is still and the lake is quiet, we come here to dance in the starlight.” She 76 said also, “I cannot marry you until you come and live with me in the Sky Land.”

So the young man went into the Sky Land with her. Everything there happened just as one wished it.

We know this is true, because even today the seven sisters are in the sky. Six are clearly seen, but the seventh sits back in the shadow with her husband.




There were once three young men who spent most of their time with their two dogs in hunting. They lived with their grandmother. When they came in from hunting, they gave meat to her.

One day the hunters were gone all day without finding anything. In the evening, for a joke, one of them gave grandmother a piece of punk, saying, “Here is some caribou liver for you,” but when she put it into her mouth, lo, it was punk wood! She was angry.

Now the next day, when the young men were out hunting, grandmother heated a bear’s foot in the fire, and danced about the camp and sang her song. So she turned them by this magic into stars, and they lived up in Sky Land.

One day the young men were hunting in Sky Land, and they found the tracks of a great moose. They followed him for several days. Then as they were tracking the moose, they looked down and saw the Earth Land far below them. The eldest brother said, “I am going to try to get down to the earth again.”


Now this brother told the other two to cover themselves with their blankets, and not to look down. Then he started down to the earth, but he was only halfway down when the youngest brother looked through a hole in his blanket. At once the eldest brother stopped. He could go no further. So the three brothers have all lived in the Sky Land among the stars. They live there with the great moose and their dog. The Indians can see them even to this day. The morning star is the old grandmother, with a torch, looking for the young men.




Once a man went out with his two dogs to hunt. It was in the autumn and there was a little snow on the ground. At night he camped.

As he lay on the ground under the trees, Great Bear appeared in the sky. Then the hunter started on, because he knew it was nearly morning. When he had gone but a little way, however, his dogs started a bear.

The bear ran fast and the dogs followed. The man followed both as rapidly as he could, and soon he came to a man sitting on a log. At once the hunter knew this was the bear. The man wore a blanket made of many different kinds of skins.

When the hunter came up, Bear said, “You thought last night I was slow in coming up, but my trail in the Sky Land is very hard and rough. Sun has the same trouble. He travels rapidly at first when the trail is smooth, but in the middle of the day the trail is rough and he travels more slowly. Then his trail grows easier again, and he travels more rapidly to the going-down place at the edge of the earth.”


Great Bear then told the young man to pull out from the blanket which he wore the skins of whatever animals he wished most to kill. The man took the skins of marten and fisher. Great Bear told him whenever he went out to hunt, to put the skin of whatever animal he wished to kill in his pouch, and then he would easily kill as many as he wished.

Then Great Bear went back into the Sky Land.




Fisher used to live somewhere in this world, but nobody knows where. This was in the days when there was no summer at all. It was always snow and cold and ice all the time. People knew that there was a Summer Land where the Summer Birds lived, but they were not sure where it was.

Now it was always winter because in the days of the grandfathers a man had captured all the Summer Birds and had taken them away with him. Thus it was always cold. The people talked about it in their tepees when North Wind rattled the flaps and shouted to them.

At last Fisher said he would find those Summer Birds so that summer would come again. Fisher did not know where the Summer Land was, but he traveled for a long, long while until he came to it in the Sky Land. Then he reached the tepee where the man lived. All the Summer Birds were there, all tied together.

Now Fresh-water Herring lived there also with this man. Fisher at once put some pitch in Herring’s mouth, so that he could not cry out. Then he took the 82 birds up, and tried to break the cords which bound them together; but he could not do it. Fisher then used his teeth, and the cords gave way, and behold! the Summer Birds flew about everywhere.

Then Herring got the pitch out of his mouth. He began to shout, “Fisher breaks the bundle! Fisher breaks the bundle! The Summer Birds!” Several times he called out until the man came rushing in, but by that time Fisher and the Summer Birds were a long way off. The Summer Birds dropped right down to the earth through a hole in the Sky Land, but the man closed the hole before they all got through. That is why it is not summer all the time. If all the Summer Birds had come to earth, it would always be summer.

Fisher did not have time to jump back to earth, so he rushed up among the stars. The man followed close after him, trying to shoot him with his bow and arrows. But Fisher got safely into Star Land. Only the man shot him once and hit him in the tail. That is why Fisher’s tail is broken. You can see it today—so the Indians say.




Big Turtle had sent Small Turtle into Sky Land to make a light for the Earth Plain. So Little Turtle became the Keeper of the Sky. She lived in the sky. Whenever she was needed at a council, she was called by Deer, the herald whose voice “goes a long ways.” At once she came down on a cloud.

After a while Deer wanted to go into Sky Land. He went to ask Rainbow to help him. Rainbow said, “Oh, no!” and Deer had to go away. But Deer kept thinking about the Sky Land. Then he went again to Rainbow. Deer said, “Please take me up into the Sky Land,” so Rainbow spread wide the broad trail and Deer leaped up until he reached the top of it. Thus Deer went into Sky Land.

Now Big Turtle called a council of all the animals. All came except Deer and Little Turtle. Big Turtle asked, “Where is Deer?” but no one answered. Yet some of the animals knew. Big Turtle said to the runners, “Go find Deer.” The runners came back after a long time. They said, “People say Deer has gone into 84 Sky Land.” Hawk also said that. Then Big Turtle was angry. He said, “Sky Land is Little Turtle’s country. And where is Little Turtle?”

Deer was the only one whose voice “goes a long ways.” He should have called Little Turtle out of Sky Land. But he was up in Sky Land and no one could make her hear. But at last they shouted until Little Turtle heard and came down. But no council could be held without Deer.

The animals said, “Oh, what shall we do?” Little Turtle said, “Deer is now up in the sky. He has been there for some time, running around everywhere.”

Little Turtle said, “Rainbow has a beautiful trail. Deer went up that way.” Then she said, “I will show you the Rainbow trail.” So all the animals followed her. Then Big Turtle spoke. He said, “Since Deer has gone to Sky Land, we will all follow him there!” So Rainbow took them all up on the trail of many colors. The animals are up there also; so they say.

Canoe and Paddles
All Indian designs are symbolical. Those on the canoe and paddles represent the eye of the raven and the whale
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”




Fox and Hare were brothers. They lived together with many other people. This was in the days of the grandfathers when there was no fire and the earth was very cold. The Cold People of the north delighted in making icy winds sweep down over the Indian country. The people shivered, shivered always.

One morning Fox smoked his pipe and muttered, “Last night I dreamed. I gained much knowledge.” When Fox had finished smoking, he said to the people, “The People of the Cold have had power over us for a long time. Do you like the cold?”

The Indians at once said, “No. We hate the cold; but we do not know what to do.”

After a while Fox said to Hare, “Come with me. We will find warm weather.”

Now Fox and Hare were great warriors. They took their bows and arrows and traveled south many days. They reached the mouths of the large rivers where dwelt the People of the Heat. They owned all the 86 heat; and they were enemy to the Cold People. Their chief was Sun, and they lived always in warm weather, sunshine, and mild winds.

Fox knew just what to do because his dream had told him.

When Fox and Hare entered the House of Sunshine, they saw a large round bag hanging on a post. It contained the chinook wind. Fox at once ran and struck the bag with his fist, trying to burst it. At once the Heat People jumped up to stop him, but Hare held his bow with arrow drawn on them so that they were afraid.

Again Fox ran at the bag and struck it. The fourth time he tried, the bag burst and the chinook wind rushed out. Then Fox and Hare ran along with the wind, and the Heat People made the weather exceedingly hot, so as to overcome them.

At last the heat became so intense that the country took fire, and the Heat People made the fire run with the wind so as to overtake Fox and Hare. But Fox and Hare were great warriors. They were very swift-footed, so they kept ahead. Thus the earth burned up for a long distance north and many trees and people were destroyed. Hare kept just far enough ahead of the fire to have time, every now and then, to sit down and smoke his pipe. Hare was a great smoker. When Fox told Hare to hurry, Hare would sit right down and 87 smoke his pipe. Fox was much annoyed with Hare. So Fox went on alone and soon left Hare and the fire far behind. He was also swifter than the wind, but wind kept right after him. So when Fox reached his own people, he said, “I bring the warm chinook wind. You will be cold no longer.”

At first his people did not believe him. But soon the chinook wind began to blow. The ice and snow melted. The people felt the cold no more. Then Fox said, “Henceforth the chinook wind shall no longer belong only to the Heat People of the south. Warm winds shall blow over the north and the rest of the world. They shall melt the snow and dry the earth. Only sometimes may they be followed by fire. Henceforth the Cold People shall not always rule the weather and plague the Indians with their icy winds.”

Now the wind had left the fire far behind, and without wind the fire soon died out.

A long time afterward Hare arrived home and met Fox. Fox was smoking a fine stone pipe, all carved with many strange figures. Hare’s pipe was only of wood.

Fox said to Hare, “You and I are the greatest smokers of all the people. Let us run a race. The one who wins shall have both pipes; and the one who 88 loses shall smoke no more at all.” Hare agreed to that.

Then Fox said, “We will run on flat, open ground!” Hare said, “Oh, no! I like to run where there are fallen logs and much brush.”

Well, Fox assented to that, so they began to run through a brushy piece of country, full of fallen logs. Fox had to jump over the logs, while Hare always ran underneath them and so easily kept ahead. Then Fox got angry. He gave a great spring, and seized Hare as he came out from underneath a log, and said,

“Hereafter you shall be only an ordinary hare. As you like to run in the brush, you shall always live in that kind of a country. You shall no longer be the greatest smoker of all the people.”

Then Fox took Hare’s pipe and went home.




Now Glacier lived near the end of Lillooet Lake. This was a long while ago. Then he decided to marry. Glacier traveled southward until he reached the sea, and then he followed southward along the shore until he reached the house of Chinook Wind. Chinook Wind said, “Yes!” He allowed his daughter to marry Glacier. So Glacier took her home.

Glacier’s wife was not comfortable. Soon she complained because it was so cold. She lighted a fire; but Glacier began to melt, so he put out the fire and threw the wood away. He said to his servants, “When my wife desires wood for a fire, always give her wet wood, and never dry.” Chinook’s daughter tried to burn the wet, green wood, but it gave out no heat. It smoked, also, so that she could not see.

After a long while Chinook’s daughter had a chance to send word to her relatives. Her brother and many friends came at once to her in a canoe. When they 90 neared Glacier’s house, they changed to snowflakes and danced around and above it. Chinook’s daughter saw them. She said, “The weather is milder. It is snowing. My brother has arrived.”

Then Glacier made it colder. Much frost was on the trees and Chinook Wind was driven away. But he came back soon with more friends. They changed themselves to soft snowflakes and sleet. They danced around the house. Again Glacier made it colder, so that ice formed on the trees; but Chinook Wind came back as rain. He began to melt Glacier. Glacier could only fight him with hail. Then Chinook Wind came back again, warm and steady and strong. Glacier retreated up the mountain side, leaving his wife behind.

Chinook’s daughter at once stepped into the canoe with her brother and his friends, and they paddled again down to Lillooet Lake. Then her brother turned around and said:

“Henceforth, in this country, it shall be cold and icy only for a few months each year. Then Chinook Wind will come and drive away the cold and melt the ice as we have done. The journey we have made this year shall be made every year.”

And it became so. Then they went home.




Mink called all his friends together—Deer, Raccoon, Young Raccoon, and Canoe-Calking, the Raven. The four friends went in at once to the council.

Mink said, “Oh, friends, my reason for calling you is that I wish to make war on Southeast Wind.” Thus he said. Deer thanked Mink for what he said. They said they would ask Halibut, Sea Bear, Devilfish, and Merman to go along. Mink and all these people lived at Crooked Beach. Southeast Wind was blowing hard all the time, and therefore these people had no way of getting anything to eat.

Therefore they all went to the house of Devilfish[4] and Halibut, for these two lived together. They asked them to join in war on Southeast Wind. They agreed at once. Sea Bear and Merman also agreed.

In the morning, when daylight came, they started in their canoe. In one day they expected to reach Southeast 92 Wind’s house. They went southward from Crooked Beach. They were already sailing close to the southeast wind. The wind blew hard. It did not detain them. When evening came, they discovered the house of Southeast Wind. Then Mink said, “Let us stop at this cove and consider how we may conquer him.” Then they held a council.

Now Mink said, “Oh, friend Halibut! Lie down flat outside of the door of Southeast Wind. When he comes out of his door, he will step on you, and slip on you, and come stumbling down into our canoe, where we will hold him.” Then Deer said the wrong thing. He said they should go to Southeast Wind’s house while it was not yet dark. They indeed tried to, but they could not, because of the strong wind. When night came, it was calmer. So they started at once, and stopped on the beach right in front of the house. Halibut at once went and lay down flat just outside of the door. Soon Southeast Wind came to the door and stepped upon Halibut. At once he slipped; he could not stand up. He slipped right down into Mink’s canoe. Then Devilfish caught hold of him, and Sea Bear and Merman. Now they held Southeast Wind.

Then Southeast Wind said, “Oh, Born-to-be-the-Sun, tell me what you intend to do with me!” He said that to Mink. He saw that Mink was a great warrior.


Mink answered, “I am doing this because you do not let our world be calm.” Southeast Wind answered quickly, “Oh, Chief, now your world shall always be calm, and your sea shall always be smooth.” So he spoke to Mink.

Mink said, “Don’t give us too much. I do not say that it is good when our world is always calm.” Thus he spoke.

Then Southeast Wind said, “It shall not blow in your world for four days.” Thus he said. Then those who held him let him go at once, because Southeast Wind was very much afraid of Born-to-be-the-Sun.

Therefore the southeast wind does not blow all the time, on account of what Mink did. This is the end.




When North’s son wanted to marry Southeast’s daughter, there was no wind. He spoke to his mother. He spoke also to his father: “I want to marry Southeast’s daughter.” North said to his son, “What will you wear when the weather is bad?” Southeast was such a dreary, rainy wind that North did not want his son to marry the daughter. The son said, “Oh, that’s all right. Give me something to wear when it rains.” North said, “I have nothing for it. But marry her.”

When his son started off, North gave him some directions: “When you get near Southeast, look at him from a distance. If his face is good, go to him. But if his face is red, and under it black, do not go. Go to him from Point Gafixet [Cape St. James].”

North’s son started. He went from Cape St. James. At that time Southeast’s face was not bad. It was clean. 95 Then the son came to a big cloud rising out of the ocean. That was Southeast’s house.

When North’s son reached there, Southeast’s daughter was sitting in front of the house. North’s son sat down beside her.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“I have come to marry you,” he replied.

“I will tell my mother,” she said.

Now Southeast and his wife were much pleased with them both. By and by North’s son told his wife he wanted to go away. “You must go also,” said Southeast to his daughter.

When they were about to leave, Southeast gave his daughter some directions. “When North speaks, and you are cold, call to me,” he said.

Now they came to North’s house. When he saw them he took them into the house. After a while, North said, “What does your wife eat?”

“She eats nothing but limpets,” said the son.

Now North’s house was floored with ice, but it was warm. In front of his house it was sandy, and there were broad ebb-tide flats. After Southeast’s daughter had been there a while, she went out of the house for a short walk. As she went, she pulled off an icicle hanging from the wall of the house. Then North groaned. When she went in, she ate it. After a while she went 96 out again, and pulled off another icicle. North groaned again.

North’s son said, “Stop doing that. Those are my father’s fingers.” She was eating North’s fingers.

When the tide was out, North’s son said, “Let us go down now and get limpets.” While they were there, a noise was heard from North’s house. He was angry because his daughter-in-law had pulled off some of his fingers.

So North began to blow. North’s son called at once to his wife, but she said, “Wait!” Even while she said so, the place where she stood became icy. Then the tide began to come in. When it reached her knees, the snow fell. Then North’s son left her. The ice formed all around her. Where North’s house stood the snow fell so thickly that it looked like smoke.

Then the woman cried to her father. She was not disturbed because she thought her father would save her. She sang, “Father, I am cold! Father, I am cold! I want to go to my father!”

Even at once came the Southeast wind, “Hi-hi-hi-hi-hi-hi,” making it rough right up to the shore. She began to sing another song. “The wind blew upon me! The wind blew upon me! The wind blew upon me from Cape St. James!”

Haida House
The design, which covers the end of the house, shows the thunder bird and the killer whale
From “Report of U. S. National Museum,” 1895


Now she had waited two days. Then she felt of the water. It was slightly warm. Her father had heard her voice. He had dressed himself up and set out to see her. His daughter was still singing. While she sang, North stopped blowing.

Then it blew from the Southeast. Clouds became black and rains fell. The icicles began to melt and fall. Then North groaned. Southeast also broke up the floor of North’s house. He came upon him from below.

Then all of the ice melted and the woman went to her father. She is the Oyster Catcher. Since its bill was made red with the cold, it is red today. Because its legs were frozen, they are now white.

Now Southeast was a very powerful chief. He had ten servants. One was Mist, another was named He-that-takes-away-the-Surface-of-the-Sea, and another was called Canoe Breaker. Still another was Cutter-off-of-Tree-Tops.




A long time ago there was a chief who had many sons. In those days Wind used to blow furiously all the time, and the chief told one of his sons to capture Wind. The son made a snare and placed it in a tree. Then next morning, when he went to that tree, he found in the snare a small boy with a fat body and streaming hair. Now that boy was Wind. The chief’s son kept him for some time, then he let him go free when Wind promised he would not blow so hard. Only once in a while could he blow hard, said the chief’s son, and Wind agreed. So now he is free, and he does not blow nearly so hard as he used to.




Raven wanted to go to a rock from which Wind was always blowing. He intended to kill Xeio, Wind. Raven tried to make canoes of hemlock, of spruce, of fir, but they would not carry him to the rock. Then Raven called upon the birds to carry him there. He called upon Bluejay, upon Robin, upon Woodpecker, and upon all the birds. But they could not carry Raven to the rock. Then Raven took wood of a maple tree and made a canoe. The maple-wood canoe carried him to the rock. Then Raven fought Wind and conquered him. Thus Wind became his slave.



Central Eskimo

Three sisters make the light, thunder, and rain. They live in a large house, the walls of which are supported by whale ribs. It stands in the far west, at a great distance from the sea.

Ingnirtung strikes the fire. She strikes two red flint stones together. Kadla makes thunder by rubbing sealskins together and singing. The third sister makes the rain. They procure food by striking the reindeer. This roasts the flesh.

If an Eskimo should happen to enter their house, he must run away immediately, or Ingnirtung will strike him. Even the stones are so afraid of her that they jump down the hills whenever they see lightning or hear thunder.

The faces of the three sisters are black.




Henq was one of seven brothers. They all played together—oh, a long time ago—but Henq always made the others sorrowful. He was very strong. He smashed everything. If he laid his hand on a pole of the lodge, the lodge would fall to the ground.

At last his brothers said, “Henq is too strong. We are not safe.” So they made a plan.

One day the brothers said, “We will go hunting.” So they started off in their canoes to an island far away. They began to hunt. Henq and one of his brothers went up into the island. Then the others jumped into their canoes and paddled away. The brother said to Henq, “Go up farther into the woods and wait for me.” And Henq did so. Then that brother got into his canoe and paddled away.

Henq waited a long while. He heard no one. Then he came down to the shore and saw his brothers far away in their canoes. He lifted his great voice and called to them. His voice was so strong and so loud it 102 made the air shake. He said, “Will you take me back?” They said, “No.”

So Henq stayed on the island. Sometimes he raises his voice to call to his brothers, and ask them how they are getting along. He always makes the air shake. Henq roams around the island, in the spring and summer; but in the winter he sleeps. When there is thunder in winter, the Wyandots say, “Henq is turning over. Something has broken into his sleep.”




Once Turtle was living all alone in a lake. Several times he was hit by something. When he came out to see what it was, he could see nothing at all. One day he was struck again. He thought he would ask someone to help him. When he came out of the water, he went into the woods. He cried, “Who will help me? Who will help me?”

Deer ran out from among the shrubs and said, “I will help you.”

“Come on,” said Turtle, “let me see how you can fight.” Deer started to fight a tree and broke his horns.

Turtle said, “Oh, you will not last long enough.” He left Deer and again called out, “Who will help me?”

Bear came out and said, “I will help you.”

Turtle said, “Let me see how you can fight.”

Bear started to fight a tree, but he was so clumsy jumping around, that Turtle said, “Oh, you won’t last long if you have to fight the giant I am after.”

Turtle again began to call, “Who will help me?” 104 He called this as he came to a little swamp, and he heard small voices saying, “We will.”

“Come out and show me how you can fight,” said Turtle. And behold! a crowd of little Turtles came out and began to fight him. Soon Turtle cried, “You’re the very people I am looking for.” So he led them to the lake where he lived and left them just outside. Then he went home. Soon a big stone fell down upon the little turtles and killed them all. When Turtle ran out to see what had happened, he saw a big bird overhead.

Turtle ran to his neighbor who had ducked into the water. He asked, “What bird was that?”

Muskrat answered, “That is the Thunder Bird and I am very much afraid of him.”

Ever since that day Turtle has stayed in the water when there was a thunderstorm.



Thompson River

Thunder Bird was angry with people and tried to drown the whole world, but he could not make the water rise high enough, so some of the people escaped. Then Thunder Bird shot arrows at them. He really did hurt many, but all the people ran away and hid in a cave.

Then Turtle came out. He shouted out to Thunder Bird, “You cannot kill people. Your arrows fly wild. Shoot at the trees and rocks; perhaps you can hit them.” Turtle mocked Thunder.

Thunder said, “Oh, yes, I do strike people. I have killed many of them!”

Turtle said at once, “Well, then, prove it by killing me.” So he drew his shell down tight and moved about very carelessly, not hiding at all, while Thunder shot many arrows at him. They only glanced off his thick shell.

Then Thunder Bird believed that he really could not hit people, so now he shoots his arrows at trees and rocks. But if people stand under a tree in a storm, it is likely that Thunder will hit them.




Once the Bears stole a woman. Now she wanted to escape, and she remembered to do as she was told. When she combed her hair, she gathered the combings together. She prepared some hair oil and she made ready also a whetstone and some red ochre.

Then the woman went out to get wood. Bear was watching her. He went with her. So she piled much wood upon him and tied the bundle. Now she took a little wood herself and ran to the house with it. She threw it down outside. Then she took the things she had made ready and ran away.

After the woman had gone on awhile, the one who watched her came and called out. After she had run awhile longer, she heard them making a great noise in pursuit. When they got very close to her, she poured out some of the hair oil. It became a big lake. And after she had run on awhile longer, she broke off a piece of the whetstone. It became a mountain. Now after she had run on again, snowbirds almost surrounded her. Then she poured out some red ochre and the birds all went back to it and painted their faces with it.

Moraine Lake
Laggan, Alberta, Canada
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.

Cameron Lake
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.


Now she ran on again, and after a while when they had almost overtaken her, she threw down the hair combings. They at once became a mass of fallen trees. And while the Bears struggled through these, she went on a long distance.

When she was almost overtaken again, she broke off part of the whetstone and put it in the ground. It became a great mountain. Then as she ran on, she threw down her hair combings and again they became great masses of fallen trees.

Now as she ran on, she saw they had almost overtaken her. She stuck the whole comb into the ground. “Become a mountain!” she said. It became a great mass of mountains which they could not cross. They had to go around. Then again the snowbirds almost came up with her. She poured out all her red ochre and they began again to paint their faces. When again she heard the noise of pursuit, she stuck the remainder of the whetstone in the ground. It became a great mountain. And as the birds pursued her, she poured out all the hair oil, and put combings around it, and it became a large lake with masses of fallen trees about it. She ran on.


Then she ran to the shore of the great sea. A man in a canoe paddled near her. She cried, “Let me go with you!” At first he paid no attention to her, then he said, “Get in.” He let her get into his canoe.

Just at that moment, in a great crowd, the Bears came after her. They crowded about the shore and then began to swim out to her. The man put a carved club into the water, and this club of itself killed all the Bears. The man said to her, “Look out here,” and the woman saw the Bears were all dead.




When Great One made mankind, he first made an earth oven. Then he modeled a man of clay and put him in to bake. He was not baked enough and came out white. Great One tried again, but this time he baked the man too long. He came out black. The third time Great One baked the man just the correct time, and he came out red. That is why different races have different colors.




A very long time ago, when the earth was new, Coyote traveled about a great deal, looking after things and helping the Indians. Now Coyote found that the salmon went to the upper Chilcotin River. He did not like that at all, for he was a friend of the Shuswaps on the lower Chilcotin River, and did not like the tribes on the upper river. Therefore Coyote made a rocky dam across the stream, very high, so that the salmon could not leap over it. Thus the Shuswaps had all the salmon and the Chilcotins had none. But the pounding of the waters wore away Coyote’s dam, and now the salmon go far up the river. This is how the Chilcotin Cañon was formed.



Eastern Eskimo

Wolves.—Once a poor woman lived in an Indian camp with many children. Her husband was dead, and she had so many children she could not find enough for them to eat. Always they were hungry; always they were gaunt and lean. Therefore they were changed into wolves. Even yet they are always hungry and wander over the land, roaming about, lean and gaunt, seeking for food.

Hares.—Once a child in an Indian camp had such long ears that everyone laughed at him. At last he went off into the brush and lived by himself. Therefore he was changed into a hare. When Hare sees anyone near, he lays his ears down flat, for if he hears a person shout he thinks he is laughing at his long ears. He does this even yet. Hare has no tail now because he formerly did not have one.



Eastern Eskimo

Ravens.—Raven used to be a man. Now in those days, people moved about a great deal, hunting and fishing. One day a whole village was preparing to move. They were collecting their blankets and cooking boxes. Raven kept calling to someone that he had forgotten his kak—forgotten the lower blanket of deerskin used for a bed. Raven kept calling “Kak, kak, kak!” People said, “Get the kak yourself. Go back for it yourself.” So Raven did, but he hurried so that he was changed into a bird.

Raven still follows the camps. Even to this day when a camp is being moved, Raven flies over it and shouts, “Kak, kak, kak!” because he is afraid they will forget the blankets.

Gulls.—Some people in a boat wanted to go around a long point of land. Now the water was always rough at the point, and some of the women were told to get out and cross the neck of land. One woman got out with her children in order to lighten the load, but when she got on shore, the noise of the water prevented her from 113 hearing what the boat people said. She wandered around the cliffs with her children, crying over and over, the last word she heard, “Go over, goover, over, ove, oh—”

Hawks.—Once there was a woman whose neck was very, very short. All the people in her village laughed at her. One day the woman went to a very high place up on the rocks, and in the mountains. Then she began to go there very often because she did not like people, so she was changed into a hawk. Now, when she sees any one, she cries, “Kea, kea, kea—who, who was it said ‘short neck’?”

Swallows.—Once there were some small children, who were very wise. They played a great deal on the edge of a high cliff near their village, and their play was always building toy houses on the cliff. One day when they were playing, they were changed into swallows. Even to this day they come to the cliff near the Indian village and build their houses in the side of the cliffs. They are very wise. Even the raven does not molest them, and the Eskimo children like much to watch these little swallows.

Loons.—Once a man had two children, Raven and Loon. He wanted to paint them so that they would look just alike, and he began with Loon. First he painted Loon’s breast white, and then he painted square spots on 114 his back. When Raven saw how comical Loon looked, he laughed so much that Loon became ashamed and ran away to a near-by pond. Loon always faces a person so as to show his white breast and hide the spots on his back. Raven refused to be painted in that way. He ran away.

Guillemots.—Some Eskimo children were very fond of playing on the level top of a high cliff near their village, while the larger ones watched them. Now this cliff overhung the sea and the sea was still covered with ice. There was an icy strip near the shore, so that even the seals could not approach. The wind was cold and the children played hard to keep warm, shouting and calling to each other. Just then the strip of ice along the shore broke away, and the water was filled with seals. The men saw them, and ran for their kayaks, and put them into the water to pursue the seals. The children saw all this, and they shouted all the louder. The seals were so frightened that they plunged into the water and were out of sight.

The men were so angry that almost at once the cliff toppled over, and the children slipped down with the fragments to the bottom. When they reached the bottom, they had become sea pigeons with red feet. They still live among the fragments of rock and earth at the foot of the cliff.




Sun was fond of gambling. After he had gambled at one place and another on Toets Island he launched his canoe. He wore a ragged marten-skin blanket.

When Sun reached that place where he was going, he went up into the woods. When he got far into the woods, something before him made a noise, but the noise was not like that of a bird. Following it, he came to a narrow trail. Sun went along this and came to a pond. When he reached it, a log was there, with the top cut off, and a nest made of moss at the end of it. This was a quiet place. And there were nests near one another in the moss near the lake.

While Sun was looking at the moss hanging from the branches of the trees above him, a long, thin bird flew out. It flew straight towards him. It made a noise like M-mmmmmmm. It had a long bill. And it sat on the moss nest at the end of the log. This was the place where it sat. It was its nest. The bird was Mosquito. The inside of its nest was green.


Then Sun went to look for a stick and he broke off a stick with his feet. The bird’s nest was upon the moss. Then Sun walked to it upon the log. He walked slowly to it. He held the stick in his hand. When he got near, he struck it. Then Sun saw it was dead, and he took it up, but it was very light.

Just as Sun turned, a humming sound arose on the other side—Hm-hm-mmmmmmmm, it sounded. Mosquitoes came out from inside the moss. These were small ones, like ashes. What Sun had come to was a Mosquito town.

Then they bit that man. He ran very fast, but he kept his large Mosquito. When he got far from the lake, he knew they were following him for that. Then he tore it in pieces and threw it about. He said, “You will bite even the last generation of people.”

Because Sun tore it in pieces, the big mosquitoes came to be in the world.

Then he escaped to his canoe.



Thompson River

Ant and Spider were very wise. They were arguing one day about death. Spider said to Ant, “You are cutting yourself in two with that tight belt. Soon you will die.”

Ant said, “Well, if I do, I shall come to life again in a few hours.”

Spider said, “I think it would be better if people died properly, else the world will soon become overcrowded. If so many people come to earth and none die, soon people will starve.”

Thus they argued.

Now Fly joined Spider, so it was two to one. They said death must happen.

Soon after that Spider’s child died. Spider came weeping to Ant, and said, “Let us put things right by declaring people cannot die.”

Ant said, “But it is too late now. Death has already happened.”




At one time Raven said to stones scattered about, “Get up and help me. I am tired;” so he said. The stones got up, but they were unable to stand erect. Then Raven said, “Remain stones forever!” so they did.

Now the grass on the landward side of the stones was thick, and the salmon-berry bushes were very thick indeed. Then Raven said to the salmon-berry bushes and the grass, “Get up! Get up and help me. I am tired!” Then the grass and the salmon-berry bushes both arose. They turned into human beings, and they helped Raven.

So we are salmon-berry bushes and grass. Therefore we die in a short time, because grass and salmon-berry bushes are weak. Therefore people die in just the same way the leaves fall.




Raven was once a chief of great power and very wise. At that time people did not die. One day a man came to Raven and said, “I am not happy as things go now. Let people die so that we may weep, and then we will be happy.”

Raven said, “Very well. If people wish to die, it shall be so.”

The man went away and soon after his child died. He was sorry. He wept; but instead of being happy when he wept, he was very miserable. He went to Raven and asked him to stop people from dying.

Raven said, “It is too late for that now. I made it as you asked it. I cannot change things now. Henceforth people shall continue to die.”

That is the reason people die. Afterward Raven was changed into a mere bird, because he let death happen. Through him it came into the world.




It was after Raven let death happen. His own child died, and Raven was very sorrowful. He took an arrow stone and cut himself with it. He was surprised that it cut his flesh. Thus Raven first discovered arrow stone and found that it could kill. After that the people learned to make it into arrow points and knives. Raven put arrow stone into the end of a stick; thus he made the first spear.




Many people lived upon the north shore of Masset Island. The east wind blew so strongly that they did not care to live there. Therefore they came to Delkatla, a few miles above Masset.

There was no salt water there. It was all covered with grass. Then they dug the town-chief’s house hole. They finished his first. But afterward they built houses on either side of him. Then they began to live in their own.

One autumn after that they went to Rose Spit in two big canoes. Very many people went. They went for berries.

Then one woman who was not paddling looked into the water. It was very calm, and it was bright sunshine. Then the one who looked into the sea saw something carved at the bottom. It was carved with figures of human beings. The lower part was carved with a killer whale, and the human being stood upon the whale.


They remained a long time above this thing, and they memorized it. Then they went away. Then afterward they described it. They said, “We will make the chief such house posts.” But some of them were afraid.

After they had finished picking berries, they went home. They told about the carving to those who had stayed home. They made two posts for the chief’s house like the one they had seen. Still some were afraid.

At this time the land moved. The Ocean People were angry on account of it. Then a flood came. And after the people had fastened the canoes together, they put the posts upon them. They liked them too much to leave them. When the waters got far up on the side of a small mountain, they put one post upon that. And they put one in the sea. They wept bitterly. They sang a song: “The supernatural beings were the ones who made the flood come—made the flood come.” They sang that.

At this time the sea began to move. The canoes began to sink, and when the canoes had sunk, the people floated upon the ocean. Now the people became birds. The Ocean People were the ones who caused it all. Then the tide began to fall. And now the people are birds.

Haida House with Totems
Entrance to the house is through the open mouth
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”



Thompson River

Now many of the people had carvings. They had house posts and door posts, and they carved their totems on the posts, and they made carvings of their guardian spirit.

Once there was a girl who was not happy in the village. She wandered away and went to a lake in the mountains, where she saw many fish swimming in the water. She sat down to watch them. Then the fish changed themselves to small children with very long hair. They watched her and smiled at her. The girl thought, “I should like to live with them, they seem so happy.” So she jumped into the water.

As the girl fell into the lake, a violent wind blew all over the country. It even blew down her parents’ house. When the girl found she could not sink, she came out of the water and at once it became calm. In the lake were neither fish nor children to be seen.

In this way this girl obtained possession of the power and knowledge of wind. Only her descendants who live near Yale, in the mountains, can use the wind-power carving on their grave boxes and in their dancing masks and in the house.



Thompson River

First month.—People-hunt-deer moon.
Second month.—“Going-in” moon. People go into their winter houses.
Third month.—Last “going-in” moon. Last of the people go into winter houses.
Fourth month.—“Little-coming-out” moon. Alternate cold and rain. Some people camp in lodges for a time.
Fifth month.—“Going-in-again” moon. Last cold when people go into winter houses again.
Sixth month.—“Coming-out” moon. Winter houses left for good. People catch fish in bag nets.
Seventh month.—People-go-on-short-hunts moon.
Eighth month.—People-pick-berries moon.
Ninth month.—People-begin-to-fish-for-salmon moon.
Tenth month.—People-fish-for-and-cure-salmon moon.
Eleventh month.—“To boil food a little.” So called because people prepare fish oil.
Autumn.—People hunt large game and go trapping.



May.—Frog moon.
June.—Moon in which birds begin to lay eggs.
July.—Moon in which birds cast their feathers.
August.—Moon when the young birds fly.
September.—Moon when the deer cast their horns.
October.—Rutting moon.
November.—Hoar-frost moon.
December.—Ice moon.
January.—Whirlwind moon; or, extremely cold moon.
February.—Big moon.
March.—Eagle moon.
April.—Goose moon.



Beginning with March:

Second.—Grass month.
Third.—Root-digging month.
Fourth.—Strawberry month.
Fifth.—Berry month.
Sixth.—Salmon month.
Seventh.—Month when salmon get bad.
Eighth.—Month when the deer travel.
Ninth.—Month in which they return from hunting.
Tenth.—Remaining-at-home month.
Eleventh.—Midwinter month.
Twelfth.—Pil-tshik-in-tin (translation unknown).



Once a Being with great power sat on a stone in the middle of a river, and as he sat there, he wailed. So people were afraid to pass up and down in their canoes. But one day a man came poling upstream, and when he heard the wailing, he got out of his canoe and wailed with the stranger. Yet he was a little afraid and kept one foot in the canoe, ready to shove off.

The stranger said his son had been hunting in the snow mountains and had been buried by a snowslide. As the man wailed with him, Esterreqot was pleased. He took a sheet of metal on which he had been sitting and gave it to his visitor. He told him to come to his house in the mountains, but to come at night so no one would know it. Thus he did.

When the man came to the house of Esterreqot, he was given two boxes, one full of food and one full of blankets. The man took them back to his tribe and invited the people to a feast. When they came, they 128 saw nothing for a feast. Then the man opened the boxes and took out food enough and blankets enough to fill the whole house, and there was a great potlatch.

That is how the Indians first secured blankets.




Once there was a boy who was very bad. He had sung a shaman’s song, and the shaman had scolded him.

Now late in the autumn he went out hunting alone. He went up the Chilcotin River, to a place near Siwash Bridge. Here he found three beavers, so he killed them. He skinned them and hid the meat, and went on up into the snow mountains. He came to a great gulch in the mountains, and looking down he saw all kinds of animals—deer, caribou, mountain sheep, and mountain goats. And as he looked down upon them from the top, he wished his brother were there to help him, there were so many. Then he went to a small cañon at the head of the gulch and waited.

Soon the boy heard someone calling, away down the valley, and the caribou started to run up through the cañon. As they crowded in, the young man shot all the big ones, until they lay in heaps all around him. So he made his camp there and started to cut up the meat.


Then the boy saw three men coming up the valley. As they came near, they asked, “Did you kill all these caribou?” He answered, “Yes, I did.”

Now these three men were Nun, or wolves. The Nun told the boy they had found his beaver meat in the valley below, and had eaten it. So they had helped him in his hunt. They had called away down in the valley and frightened the caribou.

Now the young man stayed at that place and hunted caribou and dried the meat until it made a huge pile. Then he danced and sang around the pile of meat, until it shrank into two large packs. So he started home. He carried one pack one day, and then went back and brought up the other pack. But he became tired. That was slow work. Therefore he danced and sang around these two packs until they became one small pack. Then he continued home. At last he reached the place where he had killed the beaver. He took the skins.

Then he came to the top of a hill near his village. He dropped the small pack of meat and it became at once a huge pile, just as it was before he danced and sang around it. Now he came into the village and heard wailing. The people thought he was lost. They were wailing for him.

The next morning the boy told the men to go to the top of the hill and bring in the meat he had left there. 131 Two men started, but he told more to go. Then he ordered others to go, until all the men in the village had gone. When they brought the meat in, the young man gave a great meat potlatch.

So the boy became a shaman. The wolves were his helpers.



Nicola Valley and Fraser River

Coyote was powerful in magic, and therefore he was sent into the world by Old One. He spent much time traveling in the Shuswap and Okanogan countries. It is said that he lived with Old One before coming to earth, and that after he finished his work—as some say—he went back to Old One. But others say that Old One built him a house of transparent ice and put inside of it a log of wood which burns forever. The aurora is the light of Coyote’s fire, shining through the ice, or the reflection of it cast up by the ice. Coyote can hear when people speak his name. When he rolls over in his sleep, it creates the sharp wind which makes the earth so cold.

Coyote lived for many years in Nicola Valley. He hunted elk and deer in the winter time, and in the early fall he fished for salmon about six miles above Spence’s Bridge where he had a weir across the Thompson River. Even yet it is called “Coyote’s Weir.”

Carved Handles of Horn Spoons
Beautiful examples of early Indian art
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”


Now when Coyote was traveling about on earth, he gave names to all parts of the country. He changed many things. He made hills and plains wherever he saw fit. He placed bushes and trees here and there, and narrowed or widened the river, and made cañons and waterfalls and rapids just as he pleased.

Coyote even made the various tribes to speak different languages.

Formerly there were no salmon in the interior of the country because the coast people kept them all. There was a dam across both the Fraser and the Columbia rivers. When Coyote had traveled through the Shuswap country, he went down the Fraser and changed himself into a piece of wood in the cañon and floated downstream until stopped by the fish dam. Then he broke down the dam of the four skookums who prevented the salmon from coming up the river. Then he went ashore.

Now Coyote led the salmon up the main waters of the Fraser and through the tributary streams. He traveled along the river banks and they followed him. He went up the Thompson River and the North Thompson.

Then Coyote went down to the mouth of the Columbia River where four skookums had dammed the river. He changed himself to a piece of wood, as he had at the Fraser River, and floated down against the dam. They picked it up, saying, “This will make a fine dish.” They shaped it into a salmon dish. Then they put 134 salmon on it. But all the salmon they put on it disappeared. The skookums became afraid of the dish, and they threw it into the fire.

Suddenly, in just a moment, the skookums heard a baby’s wail from the fire. There it was. They picked up the little thing hastily. They said, “How did it get there?” yet they were all skookums.

Now Coyote grew very rapidly. Soon he was running about. The skookums told him not to touch four baskets which stood there. But Coyote grew very rapidly indeed, and one day when they went out to get firewood, he opened them all. Out of the four baskets came flies, wasps, wind, and smoke. That is why flies and wasps always appear during the salmon season, and why the winds at that season always blow up river.

When Coyote had opened the baskets, he went out to the fish dam. He said, “Henceforth, there shall be no dam here, and the salmon shall ascend the river!”

Coyote led the salmon up the Columbia. Hair Seal went almost as far as the Falls of the Columbia with him. The Coyote pushed him in the water and told him that sometimes he could come up as far as that point.

Then Coyote sent the salmon into all the tributaries of the Columbia.

The broken dam at the mouth of the Fraser River now forms the cañon.



Bella Coola

A long time ago, a man named Winwina lived on the Bella Coola River, and he often sat in front of his house looking at the river. One day he thought, “I wish fish would ascend this river.” At that time not a single salmon visited the Bella Coola River. He thought much about it.

One night Winwina had a dream. He dreamed that with the help of all the animals he had made war upon the Salmon People and had defeated them.

At once Winwina invited all the animals to his house, and told them his dream. When they came, he said, “I wish something. You shall help me obtain what I desire.”

Mink said, “What are we to do?” Mink always talked a great deal.

Winwina said, “I want to go to Mialtoa. There is not a single salmon in this river. Let us make war upon the Salmon People. I shall certainly take some slaves and we will place them in this river.”

Mink sputtered. He said, “I’m glad you’re speaking in regard to this matter. I asked my father, Sun, to 136 give us salmon and I think he gave you the dream you have just told us.”

But all the tribes agreed. The animals all wanted to start at once.

Winwina asked a person to make a canoe for them. He at once made a self-moving canoe. In the third moon after the winter solstice the canoe was completed.

At once Winwina started. With him went the clouds, the birds, and all the animals. When they passed the village of Bella Bella, Cormorant was sitting on the beach. He asked to be taken along as passenger. So they followed the trail of Sun for a long time.

At last they reached the country of the Salmon People. The country was a great plain, and there were no trees at all. A large sun was shining in the sky. Soon the warriors saw the Salmon village and they sent Raven out to spy. Raven was not gone very long. When he returned, he said, “The Salmon People play on the beach every evening.” Mink at once said, “That would be a good time to carry them off.”

Crane said, “I will carry away Sockeye Salmon.”

Winwina said, “I will carry off the Humpback Salmon.”

Kingfisher said, “And I will look after the Dog Salmon.”


Raven said, “You can depend upon me for the Silver Salmon.”

Fish Hawk said, “I will capture the Salmon Trout and Olachen.” Fish Hawk was undertaking a good deal, but the olachen and salmon trout were not so large, nor so warlike as the Salmon People.

Cloud said, “I will capture the Spring Salmon.”

But Cormorant said, after everyone else had spoken, “Well, I’m only a passenger. I’ll take whatever I can get.”

Mink answered, “I won’t tell what I am going to take! Now start! The Salmon People cannot see you, just as we cannot see ghosts.”

At once they went on the warpath. They each seized a boy and a girl of the various Salmon tribes, and the Salmon People could not see them at all. They only saw that their children were fainting, as though their ghosts had gone away.

Then the bird and animal warriors went back to the canoe with their slaves. They were about to start home, when someone said, “Let us go and see what is beyond this country of the Salmon People.”

The canoe at once went on, and they came to the Berry Country. One of the birds went ashore and picked up a great many of the Berry People and put them in the canoe. Then they returned home. For 138 seven moons they had remained in the Land of the Salmon People.

When they passed Bella Bella, Cormorant said, “This is my town. I will go ashore here.”

The birds and animals traveled on, and came to the mouth of the Bella Coola River. There they threw all their Salmon slaves into the water. The Salmon people jumped and began to ascend the river. Then Winwina arose in his canoe and told each one—the silver salmon, the hump-back salmon—told each one at what season he was to arrive. Ever since that time there have been salmon in the Bella Coola River.

Winwina also scattered the Berry People all over the mountains, and through the valleys, and told each one at what season it was to ripen.

After all this was done, Winwina invited everyone to his house. He gave them a great feast.




Once Coyote said, “I have never yet given a feast! Why should not I feast the people?”

Coyote at once caught great numbers of sockeye and king salmon. He made much salmon oil, and buried much roe. He filled all the skins with grease. Then he sent messengers to invite all the people. Coyote said to himself, “I will sing a great song, and dance for all the people when they come. They shall think me a great man.”

Now when the people came they began to dance. And as Coyote danced, one salmon which hung from the ridge pole kept striking his head and catching in his hair until he was angry. Yet again it caught in Coyote’s long hair, and he pulled and he pulled to get free, but he only pulled his own hair. He became very angry. He pulled the whole fish down and threw it in the river.

Immediately all the salmon came to life. They jumped off the poles and ran to the river and leaped in. Coyote tried to catch some of them, but into the river 140 they jumped, every one of them. As he was trying to catch the last one, he saw that all the oil had come to life. It was running to the river. He tried to stop the oil, but it was too late. And then all the salmon roe he had buried suddenly jumped into the river.

Then all the people went home.

Soon after there was a great snowstorm. Coyote was snowed in and without food for so long he nearly starved. The snow was nearly as high as the trees all around Coyote’s house. Coyote thought, “This is a very hard winter. The deer will all die.”

Now Coyote’s stock of dried fish and his roots had become exhausted. He wondered what he should do. He said, “This is a very long winter.”

Coyote went to the top of the ladder and looked around. The heat and smoke had kept a little opening. The snow nearly hid the trees around his house.

Now the very next day a snowbird came and perched above the smoke hole. He gave Coyote a ripe berry, saying, “Why are you living here? It is summertime.”

Coyote laughed and said, “Oh, but it is the middle of winter. See the snow all around.”

Then again a snowbird came and gave him a ripe berry, saying, “See! The berries are ripe, but you are still in your winter house.”


Coyote answered, “How can the berries be ripe and snow be still almost to the tree tops?”

Four times the snowbirds brought him berries, and then Coyote thought something must be wrong. He put on his snowshoes and blanket, and climbed over the snowdrifts. Behold! As he came down on the other side of the drifts, just a few feet from his house, it was bare ground! Then he went on and came in just a little while to a place where the trees were budding and a little farther they were in full leaf. He passed down the North Thompson Valley and saw service berries in blossom, and then came to bushes full of ripe fruit. Then Coyote came to a large berry patch, and heard two Indian women singing.

The summer time had come. That was the way in which the salmon took their revenge upon Coyote.



Eastern Eskimo

Wolverene was running along the seashore, when he saw many geese, brant, ducks, and loons, playing in the water not far off.

Wolverene called to them, “Come here, brothers, I have found a pretty bees’ nest! I will give it to you if you will come on shore and have a dance!”

All the birds went on land. Wolverene said, “Now let us have a dance and I will sing. But shut your eyes and do not open them until we have finished dancing.” Wolverene began to sing,



So he sang. He sang that last word hum very loud and very often. And every time he sang hum he snipped off the head of a duck. Now Loon thought it very strange he sang hum so often. He opened his eyes and looked.

Then Loon ran to the water shouting, “Our brother is killing us.” Wolverene ran after him, but Loon dived and came up a long way off, shouting very loudly:

Takakkaw Falls
Field, British Columbia
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.

Mount Stephen
Field, British Columbia
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.



He sang that many times.

“Be quiet,” shouted Wolverene, “you shall be red-eyed!” And so Loon is even today. Then Wolverene returned to the birds and pulled their feathers off and cleaned them. He put them in a pot to boil.

Then Wolverene saw Jay flying about in the woods. Now the Canadian Jay is a great talker. Wolverene threw a firebrand at Jay, shouting, “You’ll be telling on me, you long-tongued bird.”

And Jay did so. He flew away to some Indians. He said to them, “Wolverene has killed a lot of birds and is cooking them.” Then he added, “I think he is sleeping. I’ll show you where he is.”

The Indians said at once, “We are hungry. We will go.” And they went. Now Wolverene was asleep beside the pot. Then the Indians pulled out all the birds and ate them all. Only the bones they put back in the pot.

After a long time, Wolverene awakened. He said, “Now I shall have my dinner.” He poured it all out into his eating dish. Behold! There were only the bones of the birds, and the broth. Wolverene said, “I must have been asleep a long while. The meat is all boiled away.”


Now Jay was flying about in the woods. He said, “The Indians ate it all up. I told them where it was.”

Wolverene said, “You stupid bird! I was keeping a big piece for you!”

But he wasn’t. This is the end.




Nanebojo lived with his grandmother. His parents had been killed by a war party. Now Nanebojo resolved to leave that place with his grandmother. He told the Indians that a stranger was coming who would harm all of them.

Then Nanebojo climbed to the top of a maple tree. He poured water into it; therefore the sap in the maple is now watery and thin. It has to be boiled before it becomes sugar. Nanebojo also went through the cornfields and pulled off all the ears of corn except one or two. Therefore now cornstalks have but one or two ears. They used to have ten or twelve.

Then Nanebojo went away.

Nanebojo and his grandmother traveled until they reached Lake Erie. Then they journeyed to Lake St. Clair. Grandmother went on ahead.

Nanebojo saw ducks in Lake St. Clair, but he could not think how to capture them. At last he remembered. He went to his grandmother and told her to make him a sack.


“What for?” asked grandmother.

“Never mind what for,” answered her grandson. So Grandmother made the sack.

Nanebojo took the sack and went along the lake shore to where there was a hill, with a short stretch of flat land between the hill and the water. He climbed to the top of the hill, got into the sack, closed the neck, and rolled down the hill. Then he got out and walked up again, laughing heartily all the time. Again he rolled down the hill, shouting loudly.

Now the ducks heard him. They came out of the water and waddled around him. They came closer and closer. After a while, one duck grew bold. He said, “Let us roll downhill just once.”

Nanebojo said, “Oh, no indeed, you go away! Every time I do anything you come around and bother me!” Then he went up the hill again with his sack on his back, and rolled himself downhill, laughing loudly.

Again the ducks said, “Let us roll downhill just once.”

Nanebojo said, “Very well. You may roll downhill just once,” and he told them to get into the bag. Just then some geese flew by overhead. They stopped to watch. Nanebojo also saw them.

Nanebojo carried the ducks to the top of the hill, laid down the bag, filled it with ducks, tied the neck, and 147 started it to rolling down the hill. He ran beside it, laughing very loudly, while the ducks quacked. They all made much noise. When the bag of ducks reached the bottom of the hill, Nanebojo emptied out the bag, and told them to go away. Then he went up the hill with the sack on his shoulder, and again he rolled down-hill, laughing loudly, but always keeping one eye on the ducks and one on the geese. “If I lose one, I may get the other,” he said. Every time he rolled down, the geese came nearer. Nanebojo pretended not to see them. At last they came very near indeed and asked him if they might roll down. “Let us roll down just once,” they said.

Nanebojo said, “No!” and kept right on rolling downhill. The geese were about to fly away when Nanebojo said, “Oh, well. If you want to, you may roll down once.”

The geese were very glad to get into the sack. Nanebojo squeezed them in together very tightly, saying, “If you are close together, you will have more fun.” Then he shouldered the sack and started up the hill.

Nanebojo walked a long, long time. He walked up to the top of the hill and then he walked down on the other side. The geese after a while thought he had walked too long a time. They called out, “Where are you going?” but he made no answer and walked straight on.


When Nanebojo reached his grandmother, he said, as he laid down the sack, “You heat some water while I go and get more from the spring.” Then he went out after he had said, “Do not untie the sack.” When he had left the lodge, Grandmother untied the sack, wondering what was in it. At once the geese flew out and got away. Not one was left.




Nanebojo and his grandmother journeyed about for a long time. At last they came again to Lake St. Clair. In the lake were many geese. Nanebojo thought, “How am I going to get some of those ducks?” He thought for a long while. Then he remembered.

Nanebojo took a birch-bark pail, and began to drum on it and to sing. He sang,

I am bringing new songs,

I am bringing new songs.

When the geese heard that, they drew near to him. At once he said to his grandmother, “Go farther on, and build a lodge where we may live.” And at once she did so. Then he went down to the water where the geese were floating around. He pulled out his sack, got into it, and dived into the water. The ducks and geese were quite surprised to see what a good diver he was. They came closer and closer.

Nanebojo said, “I can dive better than you can.” The geese said, “Oh, no!” Then they all began diving, 150 and Nanebojo did beat them. So he spent a long time diving and floating about in the water. Suddenly he dived, came up softly among the geese, caught the feet of many, and tied them together with a string of basswood bark. At once the geese started to fly. They rose very slowly at first, because Nanebojo was pulling back, but at last they rose high in the air, carrying with them Nanebojo, who held on to the basswood string. Higher and higher they rose, until the earth was far beneath them. Then the string broke, and Nanebojo fell to the earth. He fell into a tall hollow tree.

Nanebojo spent a long while in that hollow tree. At last he heard the sound of chopping wood. Then he called for help, and the Indian women let him out of the tree. At once he went in search of his grandmother.

Grandmother asked, “Why didn’t you get the geese?”

“You know you never eat goose, even when you do get it,” answered Nanebojo.

Nanebojo killed a deer. He at once skinned and dressed it, and then he lighted a fire and roasted it. When he sat down to eat, the branch of a tree near by began to screech. Two branches were rubbing together. Nanebojo did not like that. He said to the tree, “Don’t bother me just now when I want to eat, I am hungry!” 151 But every time he took a bite the branch began to screech.

Nanebojo climbed into the tree, broke off a branch, and just then caught his hand between two branches as they rubbed together. He could not free himself.

Just then a pack of wolves came running along the river. Nanebojo heard them at a distance. He called to them, “Run right along. Don’t look this way.” The wolves said among themselves, “He must have something to eat over there, else he wouldn’t tell us to run straight ahead.” So they went right under his tree. They ate that entire deer.

When they had finished, Nanebojo said, “Now go straight ahead and don’t look at that tree near-by.” In the tree he had hung the deer’s head for his grandmother. So the wolves looked at the tree and at once ate the head. Then they went on.

At once the tree released Nanebojo’s arm, and he climbed down. He could only pick the bare bones of the deer. He went to the head. He turned it round and round. It was entirely bare. He went on and joined his grandmother.

One day when Nanebojo went for a drink, he saw some whitefish in the river. He said to them, “Can’t I go along with you?”


“Oh, no,” said the whitefish. “You wouldn’t last long if you did.”

“Why not?” asked Nanebojo.

“Because the Indians are always looking for us. You would be the first one caught,” they answered.

“I am very timid,” said Nanebojo. “If I go with you, I shall never be caught.” So he turned himself into a whitefish.

Soon after some Indians came along fishing. Nanebojo said, “Now I am going over there to tease them. You all stay here and I will go over there alone. Just before they try to spear me, I will dive to the bottom of the river and rise again a long way off.”

So Nanebojo began teasing the Indians. He kept it up for some time until one of the Indians speared him. The Indian kept his spear in the water until he got to the shore, and then dragged Nanebojo out. The other whitefish remarked, “That is just what he said—that after he dived he would not come up for a long time, and then at some distance.”

The Indians took Nanebojo home with them. He was a very large fish. After a while he began to jump about a little, so the Indians were afraid. They did not cook him at once.

Just about dawn the next morning, Nanebojo came to life again and remembered he was a fish and that the 153 Indians had speared him. So he got up and found everyone sleeping.

“If they wanted to eat me, they should have done so while they had a chance,” he said as he walked away. He was going back to his grandmother.




Wiske-djak was always hungry. One time, in the autumn of the year, he stood on the shores of a lake, when clouds of ducks were flying by overhead. Wiske-djak wanted some of those ducks. He thought for a long time. Then he made a small clearing right there on the lake shore, and built quite a large tepee, with a fire in the center. The grassy floor of the tepee was very smooth, so one could dance well there. Wiske-djak made a birch-bark door, with a long center stick to keep the bark spread, and to prevent the door from opening inward. Now everything was ready.

Wiske-djak went out walking and soon met Duck. “I suppose you will soon be going south,” he said. “Yes,” said Duck, “and we’ll be gone all winter. It’s a bit cold up here for us.”

“It would be pleasant,” said Wiske-djak, “if we all had a dance before you went. Invite your friends, all 155 of them, and Geese and any of the others who go south for the winter. We’ll have a dance in my tepee.” Duck thought that would be very pleasant.

Wiske-djak went back to his tepee, and sat down in the sunshine outside. He got his drum and rattle and began to sing a song of invitation. He sang:

You will all be gone for a long time.

You will all be gone until it is warm again.

Let us have a dance before you go.

Thus he sang.

Soon ducks and geese came flying by overhead, and they heard his singing. They alighted on the ground very near the tepee.

Wiske-djak called, “Let us go inside and have a good dance,” and he opened the door. In went all the ducks. Wiske-djak mended the fire so it would give very little light.

“Now,” he said, when he had finished that, “you must all follow the rules of the dance. You must do whatever I call out.” So they all began to dance. Geese were there and ducks and a few loons, and Cyngabis was there also. They danced hard, around and around the tepee.

Then Wiske-djak said, “Now close your eyes. Don’t open them until I give the order. That is one of the rules of the dance.”


The birds all closed their eyes tightly, and as they danced and sang, they made a great deal of noise. Anyone who has seen Indians dance knows that they make much noise. So Wiske-djak caught one fat bird after another, and wrung his neck as he passed him in the dance. No one heard anything at all because of the noise of the dancing.

But after a while Cyngabis thought Wiske-djak was moving around in the dance, so he slipped into a dark corner and opened one eye just a little. At once he saw that Wiske-djak was wringing the neck of the dancers. He called out, “Wiske-djak is killing you! Fly!”

At once the birds all opened their eyes and took wing. They flew very rapidly indeed. But Cyngabis was way over in one corner and he was the very last man to get out. Wiske-djak tried to catch him, but he got away.

Now Wiske-djak began to cook the birds for a feast. He built the fire outside the tepee, after poking the earth loose with a stick. Then he buried his birds in the hot earth, with the hot coals above them. Then he went to sleep.

Now some Indians came around the point in a canoe. They saw the smoke of the fire, and they saw something strange lying beside the fire. Therefore they went nearer.

Indian Pipes
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”


One Indian said, “Look out, it might be Wiske-djak up to more of his mischief!” But another Indian went ashore, saying, “I’ll see who it is and what he is doing.” When he came close to the fire, there lay Wiske-djak, sure enough, and sound asleep. But the Indian couldn’t see why he should have a big fire on a warm day until he saw ducks’ legs sticking out of the earth under the hot coals. At once he went back to his friends and told them all about it.

The Indians all jumped out of the canoe. They said, “Ha! We will take Wiske-djak’s ducks and geese and eat them ourselves.” With their paddles they dug up all the birds, twisted the legs off, and put the leg bones back in the earth. They looked just as Wiske-djak had placed them. Then the Indians paddled off.

Soon Wiske-djak waked up. He got up and looked all around. No one was there. Everything looked just as it had when he went to sleep. He looked at the dying coals, and said, “I guess those birds are pretty well cooked by this time.” He went all around the coals, pulling out the ducks’ legs. They came out very easily. He was surprised. “They must be very tender,” he thought. He dug around in the earth, but not one thing did he find. Wiske-djak was disgusted.




Wiske-djak wandered over the swamps and mountains feeling all out of sorts with himself. It was just after the Indians had stolen all his ducks and geese as they cooked in the coals. All at once he came upon a little flock of partridges, just newly hatched. Their mother was away.

Kwe!” said Wiske-djak. “What are you doing here?”

“Nothing,” said the partridges. “Just staying here.”

“Where is your mother?” asked Wiske-djak.

“She’s away hunting,” they said.

“What’s your name?” he asked one of them. And then each little partridge had to tell him his name until he came to the very last. “What’s your name?” he demanded.

“Suddenly Frightened,” answered little partridge.

“Oh, you!” said Wiske-djak, “what can you frighten?” And he picked up a big lump of soft mud and threw it all over the clean little partridges. “What can you frighten now?” he said. Then he walked off. 159 He walked for a long time until he came to a high mountain. When he had climbed to the very top he found a nice breeze blowing across it.

“This feels good,” said Wiske-djak. “I think I’ll stay here,” and he searched around until he came to a place clear of trees just on the edge of a great chasm. The rock broke straight away for hundreds of feet, and over the edge of the cliff came a delightful breeze. Wiske-djak lay right down there and went to sleep at once.

By this time Old Partridge had got home, and found them all covered over with mud.

“What has happened to you? Where did you go?” she asked.

“Nowhere,” said the little partridges.

“Who did this?” asked Old Partridge.

“Wiske-djak came along,” said the littlest one. “He asked us a lot of questions, and then he asked us our names. When I told him my name, he said, ‘Well, what could you frighten?’ and threw mud all over us.”

Old Partridge was angry. She cleaned up the children, and washed them and dried them, and gave them their supper. Then she asked them which way Wiske-djak had gone, and she went straight on his trail.

Old Partridge tracked Wiske-djak to the high mountain. Then she kept right on until she reached the high, 160 rocky cliff. There lay Wiske-djak, fast asleep. Old Partridge went close to him, on the upper side of the rock. She spread her wings, went close to his ears, and flapped her wings and gave her warwhoop. Wiske-djak waked up so suddenly he could only see that something terrible was whooping right above him. He moved backward and fell right over the edge of the cliff.

“Well,” said Old Partridge, “now you know what ‘suddenly frightened’ means.”




Wiske-djak was traveling about, looking for adventures. He never succeeded in anything he tried to do, and he was always hungry. In his travels he came to Turn-back Lake. White men call it Dumoine Lake. He had no canoe, but he was a good swimmer, yet when he came to Turn-back Lake, he found it too broad to swim. Therefore he started to walk around it.

Wiske-djak wanted to hunt beaver. On one side of the lake he came to a high mountain, very round, which looked just like a beaver lodge. And a little way offshore, in the lake, was a small island, with many grasses. “Hm-m-m!” said Wiske-djak, “This must be the home of Big Beaver.” And so it looked, with the great, round lodge and the island of grasses.

Wiske-djak tried to think how to catch Big Beaver. At last he went to the lower end of the lake and broke down the dam, so the water would run off. He lingered there while the lake drained. He even took a nap. When it was low enough for him to get at Big Beaver, 162 he found that Beaver was gone. But as he looked about, he saw Big Beaver just going over the dam. So he began to chase him.

Wiske-djak followed Big Beaver past Coulonge River and the Pembroke Lakes. But when Big Beaver reached the Calumet Chutes, he was afraid to go through and took to the portage. When Wiske-djak got to the lower end of the portage, however, he had lost sight of Big Beaver and started back up the Ottawa River. When he got to the upper end, he saw fresh tracks.

“Somebody has been here,” he said very quickly. “I wonder if I might be able to trail him? I might get something to eat.”

Wiske-djak followed the tracks to the lower end of the portage, and found they turned toward the upper end, so he raced back there. He did not see any beaver, however, so he turned back again to follow other fresh tracks to the lower end of the portage. Then he saw he had been following his own trail.

Even today one can see Wiske-djak’s footprints in the stone on the Calumet portage.




Once a girl told her father to put his wooden dish before the fire upside down and look under it every morning for five mornings. Then she went to live in the sun.

The father did as he was told. On the first morning he looked under the upturned dish, and there sat Nenebuc. The next morning he looked under again, and there sat Nenebuc’s brother with him. So he did for the five days. Nenebuc and his four brothers had all come to earth to live. Then the old man picked up the dish and put it away.

Now one brother had horns on his head. Grandfather said to him, “You can’t stay here; you go west!” and he sent him out to the edge of the Darkening Land. Then he sent another brother to the east and one to the 164 north and one to the south. Nenebuc stayed with his grandfather.

Now one summer Nenebuc could not fish during the whole summer because of the high winds. The people almost starved and Nenebuc became very angry. His anger was against West Wind for blowing so much. West Wind blew all the time—blew hard.

Nenebuc said to his grandfather, “I am going west. I’ll make West Wind cease blowing in this way.”

Grandfather said, “But don’t kill him. Tell him to let the wind blow awhile, and then stop. Then everything will be all right.”

“I’ll be back soon,” said Nenebuc. “And I’ll end this constant wind.”

So Nenebuc went away. He went toward the Darkening Land, and there he found his brother. Now this was the brother with the two horns, and he was not friendly toward Nenebuc. He refused to stop the blowing of West Wind, and at last they fought about it. Nenebuc hammered his brother hard with a club and at last broke one of his horns. Then he said, “Don’t blow so hard any more. Grandfather and all the people will starve if the wind always blows so hard.” Then he went home.

So things went much better. Nenebuc went fishing and found it was very calm, with only a little puff 165 of wind now and then. All the winds stopped blowing, because West Wind had warned the other brothers that Nenebuc would come and fight with them if they did not.

After a while things went badly again. There was no wind at all and the water became ill-smelling, and bad-tasting. People could not drink it. Fish could not live in it. Grandfather said, “We must have some wind or the people will die. Did you kill West Wind?”

“Oh, no,” said Nenebuc. “But I’ll have to go and see him again.” So he went again toward that Darkening Land where West Wind dwelt.

“I came to tell you,” he said to his brother, “that we must have some wind once in a while. It must not be a dead calm like this, but we don’t want too much wind. It spoils the fishing.”

So now the winds blow as they should, because West Wind told the other three brothers. Sometimes it is calm, and people go fishing; and sometimes it is windy.




Once when Nenebuc was traveling, he met Big Bear. Now Big Bear ate people, and he had eaten many Indians. They were all very much afraid of him. Nenebuc went to Bear and said, “If you eat so many Indians, they will soon all be gone. I shall make you very small and harmless.”

Then Nenebuc turned Bear into Squirrel and Squirrel into Bear. Squirrel did not care at all, because he was fond of eating berries and roots anyway. He did not care to eat Indians.

But Big Bear felt very badly. He wept so much at being Squirrel that his eyebrows turned gray, and his eyes are all white and shiny. Nenebuc said to Bear, “Now what are you going to eat?” and Bear said, “I shall go right on eating people.” But he was so small, now that he was Squirrel, he couldn’t eat them at all.

Nenebuc said, “You are too small to eat people. Run up that black spruce there, and taste the seeds 167 in the cones. Then see whether you want to eat Indians any more.”

And Squirrel did that. He tasted the sweet seeds in the spruce cones and was so well pleased he said he really did not want to eat Indians any more.




Coyote, while traveling about, came to an underground house in which lived very small, short people. They were the Rock Rabbit People. Coyote said, “They are far too short for people. I will just eat them up.” He killed every one of the Rabbit people, tied them all on a string, and carried them off on his shoulder.

Now the weather was clear and hot, so Coyote carried them to the shade of a large yellow-pine tree. He made a big fire, and heated stones red hot; then he dug a hole in the earth and put in the hot stones. Then he put in the rock rabbits and covered them with leaves and then with earth. Then Coyote went to sleep in the shade of the big yellow pine.

Now along came Fox, and seeing Coyote asleep, he spied the earth oven. Then he at once began to dig out the rabbits and eat them. He had eaten half of them when Coyote awoke. Coyote was very lazy and sleepy. He said to Fox, “Spare me ten.” Fox kept right on eating. Then Coyote said, “Well, spare me 169 nine.” Fox still went on eating. Coyote was very lazy. He saw Fox eating the rabbits, and he kept talking about them. He kept asking Fox to spare some for him. At last he said, “Spare me half a rabbit, anyway.” But Fox ate every scrap.

Fox could hardly move when he had eaten all those rabbits. Coyote was very hungry, and he suddenly became very wide awake. Coyote said, “I will settle with that fellow,” and he followed Fox’s trail. Soon he came upon Fox sleeping in the shade of a thick fir tree. Coyote, by his magic, made that tree fall on Fox. “Now I guess we are square,” said Coyote.

But the tree was so branchy that the trunk never came anywhere near Fox. He crawled out from among the branches and walked away. Coyote followed close after him.

Soon Fox reached a place where the rye grass, or wild redtop, was very thick and tall. He crept into the middle of it and went to sleep. Coyote set fire to the grass, but Fox waked up and set back fires, so Coyote’s fire did not reach him.

Then Fox went on again until he came to a reedy place, where hares were many. Coyote set fire to the reeds, saying, “Fox will burst in the fire.” But when the fire spread, the hares ran out and Coyote was so busy clubbing some of them that Fox ran out also, 170 and Coyote never saw him until he was far off. Then he called, “Fox, you may go.”

Now Coyote traveled on until he came to a place where magpies were many. He set snares and caught many, and then made a robe for himself of the skins. He put on his robe and was well pleased. He kept singing,

What a beautiful robe I have!

How the feathers shine!

He sang that over and over.

Soon afterward Coyote met Fox who was wearing a robe of silver-fox skins, gleaming in the sun, and thickly covered with tail feathers of the golden eagle. Coyote said, “His robe looks better than mine, and is much more valuable.” So he offered to exchange robes.

Fox said, “How can you expect me to exchange my fine robe with eagle feathers for your robe of magpie skins?” So Coyote made believe to turn away; but the moment they separated, he seized Fox’s robe and made off with it.

Coyote ran on until he came to a lake. He took off his robe of magpie skins and tore it to bits. Then he threw the pieces into the water. Coyote then put on the eagle-feather robe and strutted about in it, admiring himself. He kept saying, “If only a wind would come, then I could see and admire these feathers as they fluttered.”

Shuswap Beadwork
Leggins and garters. Region of the Canadian Rockies
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”


Now Fox had watched Coyote until he was out of sight. Fox was thinking. Then by his magic he made a great wind to blow. The wind blew the robe off Coyote’s back and carried it back to Fox.

Now Coyote went back to the lake, to see if he could find his old magpie robe. The wind had scattered all the pieces and the feathers. Only here and there on the lake could a feather be seen.

Fox was wearing that robe afterward, when he became just an ordinary fox. Therefore he still wears silver-fox skins, the most valuable of all furs.



Eastern Eskimo

A long time ago, Hare lived with his grandmother. They were poor, and Hare was hungry. One day he said, “Grandmother, I shall set a trap and catch fish.” The old woman laughed. She said, “If you can! Go set the net, grandson. But even if you should catch one, we have no fire.”

“I’ll see to that,” said Hare.

Off went Hare with the net, and he set it. The next morning in every mesh of the net was a fish, caught by its fins. Hare said, “Oh, my!” He could not even pull up the net, so he shook out some of the fish and pulled the rest in. Many of these he buried. The rest he took home, and dropped them outside the lodge while he went in.

“Grandmother,” said Hare, “Here are the fish. You clean them. The Indians across the river have fire, and I shall go over and steal some.”

Grandmother was frightened. She said, “Oh, no!” But Hare had now dried his net, so he folded it up and put it under his arm.


Then Hare went to the river, but the river was wide. Hare could not possibly jump across, so he sat down and thought. Then he called to the whales to help him. Many whales at once came up the river, and side by side they lay across the river. Hare jumped from one to the other. Thus he crossed. Then Hare jumped into the water to wet his fur.

Now Hare laid himself down in the sand along the shore, for he had seen some Indian children. Then the children came to where Hare lay. They saw him there. At once a boy picked him up and carried him home. Someone said, “Well, put him in the pot.” And a pot stood ready there, near a bright, crackling fire. So the boy put down Hare. An old man said, “You must kill him first.”

Hare was greatly frightened. He opened one eye just a little to see if there was any way of escape beside the door. In the top of the tepee was a large round smoke hole. Hare said, “I wish a spark of fire would fall on my net.” Instantly the brands burned through and rolled apart and a great spark fell on the net and began to burn it.

Hare, in a flash, sprang out of the smoke hole—sprang out through the top of the tepee. The Indians saw him leap, and they ran after Hare shouting. Now when Hare came to the river bank he had not time to 174 call his friends, the whales, to help him. Hare was running very fast, and he gave one great leap across the river and landed on the other side.

“Did I not tell you, Grandmother, that I would get fire?” said Hare when he reached home.

“How did you get across the river, Grandson?” asked Grandmother.

“Oh, I just jumped across,” said Hare indifferently.



Eastern Eskimo

One day Rabbit wandered over the hillside, and came near an Indian wigwam. Now Rabbit was very timid. He crept close to the lodge and peered through a small hole. There was Frog, sitting near the fire.

“Brother,” said Rabbit, “what are you doing?”

“I am playing with the ashes,” said Frog.

“Come live with me,” said Rabbit.

Frog said, “I have a lame leg. That is why I am sitting here while my brothers are out hunting.”

Rabbit went into the lodge and tossed Frog on his back. “This is the way I will carry you,” he said.

When Rabbit reached home, he went out to hunt for food. Suddenly he spied smoke curling up from among the willows along the river bank. Rabbit became frightened, and started home, exclaiming, “I have forgotten my crooked knife! I must go quickly and get it.” Rabbit rushed home and dashed excitedly into his lodge. He exclaimed, “I have forgotten my crooked knife! I came home to get it.”


Frog said calmly, “Brother, why are you frightened?”

Rabbit said, “I saw a large smoke.”

“Where was it?” asked Frog.

“Among the willows by the river,” said Rabbit.

“Pooh!” said Frog. “The smoke came from Beaver’s lodge. He lives down there. You’re very brave to be so afraid of Beaver! I can hunt him.”

Rabbit felt better. He said, “I’ll carry you to Beaver’s lodge. We’ll break it in and catch him.” So he carried Frog to Beaver’s lodge down among the willows by the river.

Rabbit built a dam of stakes across the stream, and told Frog to watch, while he broke in the top of Beaver’s lodge. While Rabbit was doing this, Frog pulled up some stakes, and therefore Beaver escaped. When Rabbit saw this, he shook Frog roughly and pushed him into the water under the ice.

And this was just what Frog wanted.




An old man lived with his nephew. Every day the nephew went somewhere. Every day the uncle asked, “Well, where have you been today? What did you see today?”

One day the nephew said, “I have pulled off Eagle’s feather.” And in truth he had Eagle’s tail feather. His uncle at once exclaimed, “Danger! We are in danger!”

Then he hung the eagle feather in the smoke hole of his house. Soon Eagle came and stood for a while over the smoke hole. The uncle exclaimed, “Danger! We are in danger! We must have a council at once!”

So they called a council of all the animals. The young man sent around saying, “Come, for there is danger!” They all came at once. The old man stood at the door of his house. Some of the animals he would not allow to enter. He said to Deer, to Bear, and to Wolf, “I do not want you at this council. You can run too fast.” Only the animals that could not run fast were allowed to form a council. Turtle came, and Otter and Skunk and Porcupine and others.


Then they held their council. Each said what he would do in case of danger. Porcupine said, “I will shoot my quills through them when they come near me.” They all said things like that.

Then the people from the council all ran away to where a big tree stood, for fear Eagle would come. For safety they all climbed the tree. Then Eagle came and stood over the smoke hole for the second time, but the feather was not there. Turtle had carried it away.

Now the tree that all the people had climbed was very rotten. A strong wind came and blew it down, so the animal people were scattered all about. Porcupine had been covered with bits of rotten wood. Therefore Porcupine climbed up on Turtle’s back, to hide him, and they went away. Turtle carried the Eagle’s feather. Now all along the way Porcupine kept scattering ashes on Turtle’s trail so Eagle would not see him. But Eagle followed the trail of ashes. Then, just as he got to the bank of the river, Eagle’s friends caught Turtle.

They said, “We will throw Turtle into the fire.” Turtle pretended to enjoy it very much. Then they struck him, but they hit Turtle on his shell. They could not see that he minded it. Then someone said, “Let us drown Turtle.” Turtle began to cry, “Oh, no! I am afraid of the water!” Then they dragged 179 him toward the water. Turtle pushed back—he pushed back, and he cried. That is why someone said, “Let us drop him to the bottom of the water. That is the place for him.” So it was done. They threw him in. They could see Turtle lying on his back on the bottom of the water. Then they left him.

At once Turtle turned over and swam to a log near the opposite shore. Turtle climbed on that log, and waved Eagle’s feather high in the air. He shouted, “Ki-he.” Truly, that is the cry of one who has overpowered his enemy.

Now Eagle’s friends heard it. They gathered on the shore. They said, “Who will bring back Eagle’s feather?” They held a council. One said, “No, I cannot go there.” Another said, “No, I would be drowned if I went there.” At last Otter said, “I will try it.” So he did.

Now Turtle sat on that log waving the feather. Otter darted across the river and reached that log where Turtle was sitting. Turtle dropped off the back side into the water. Soon Otter began to yell, “Oh-oh! He is hurting me so badly!” Turtle was pinching him all over. Otter yelled, “Oh, he is pinching me all over!”

Therefore Turtle kept that feather of Eagle’s. Turtle cannot be overpowered by anyone—so the Wyandots say.



Eastern Eskimo

Wolverene was out walking one day, out on a hillside, when he came to a large rock. Wolverene asked, “Was it you who was out walking just now?”

“No,” said Rock, “I cannot walk.”

“Well, I’ve seen you walking,” said Wolverene sharply.

“That isn’t true,” said Rock. But Wolverene insisted that it was. He said, “You are the very Rock I have seen out walking.”

Wolverene then ran off a little way and jeered at Rock. He shouted, “Catch me if you can!” Then Wolverene went close to Rock and hit him with his paw. He shouted, “See if you can catch me.”

“I can’t walk, but I can roll,” said Rock, who was very indignant.

“That’s just what I wanted,” said Wolverene, and he began to run.

Sun Dance Cañon
Near Banff, Alberta, Canada
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.

Castle Mountain
Banff, Alberta, Canada
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific Ry.


But Rock began to roll. Wolverene raced away and Rock tore after him, close to his heels, all down that hillside. Then Wolverene began to jump and leap and Rock rolled faster and faster, touching his heels. Then Wolverene tripped over a stick and fell. Rock rolled right on top of him and stopped there. He stopped rolling.

Wolverene yelled, “Get off of me. You are breaking my bones!” Rock stayed right there. Then Wolverene yelled to the Wolves and Foxes to come and save him. They all gathered around Rock and Wolverene.

“How did you get under Rock?” they asked. Wolverene was not a favorite. Wolverene said, “I dared Rock to run after me, and he rolled.” Then they all said, “It served you right.”

But yet they tried to push Rock away. Rock stayed right there. The animals pushed and pushed. Rock did not roll.

Then Wolverene began to shout to his other brother, Thunder and Lightning. In a few minutes a dark cloud rushed up from the southwest. It made so much noise and was so black that all the Wolves and Foxes ran away. Lightning suddenly drew back and then rushed forward and hit Rock, while Thunder crashed. Lightning knocked Rock into tiny small pieces, but he also tore Wolverene’s coat all to pieces.

Wolverene picked himself up and saw that he had 182 no fur at all. He could find only a few bits of his coat so he said sharply to Lightning, “You needn’t have torn my coat all to pieces when I only asked you to strike Rock!”




Crow made a great feast. He invited all the people, and he invited Raven. But Raven refused. Raven wanted all the feast of hemlock-bark cakes and cranberries.

Before they began eating, Raven ran into the woods. He made rotten trees into ten canoes. Then he put in spruce cones, standing them up along the middle of the canoes. Raven put grass tops into their hands for spears. Raven walked near them, with his blanket wrapped tightly around him. The canoes came around the point, terrible to behold! Men were standing in lines along the middle of the canoes. The people fled at once. They left their feast. Then Raven went into the house and ate the cakes of hemlock bark and cranberries. He ate and he ate! When the canoes landed they were washed about by the waves.




Raven came to a town. Now the Pitch People lived at that town. Therefore Raven said to Pitchman, “Let us go fishing.” While it was dark, they went fishing. Then only Pitchman killed halibut; Raven could not kill any. Pitchman wanted to go home before the sun rose because he was afraid of being melted.

Then they went fishing again in the morning. And again only Pitchman killed halibut, and Raven caught nothing at all; and again Pitchman wanted to go home early before the sun rose. But Raven did not want to go home. He said, “Oh, no.”

When the sun rose, Pitchman wanted to go home very much. Raven said, “Wait until I kill a halibut.” Then the sun got higher. Pitchman began to say “A-a-a-a-a,” rather weakly, because he was getting warm. Pitchman wanted to go home very much.

“Put the blanket over you,” said Raven to Pitchman. When the sun got too hot, Pitchman said, “Ummmm!” He kept saying it. Then Pitchman began to melt. At last he melted completely.




Raven wanted to find a good husband for his sister. He went out one day and cried, “Who will marry my sister?”

“I,” “I,” “I,” “I,” said all the animals. So Raven began to question them.

“What can you do?” he asked Grizzly Bear.

“When I see people, I will roar,” said Grizzly.

“You are too bad-tempered,” said Raven. He refused him.

Wolf offered. “What can you do?” asked Raven.

“I snap at people if I am alone. When the pack is with me, I devour them,” said Wolf.

“You are too bad-tempered,” said Raven.

Then Elk offered. “I can crash through the forests,” said Elk. Raven refused him.

“What can you do?” asked Raven of Deer and Porpoise. They were cousins.

“I can pull out any skunk cabbage with my teeth,” said Deer. Porpoise said, “I will always eat clean 186 things. I always eat herring.” That is why, when Deer swims to an island, Porpoise always swims with him.

So Raven consented. He let Porpoise marry his sister.




Beaver’s store of food was plentiful. While he was away hunting one day, Porcupine stole that food. Then he remained sitting there. When Beaver returned he asked, “Did you eat my food?”

Porcupine said, “No, indeed. How can the food of supernatural beings be taken? You have supernatural power and I have supernatural power.”

Then they started to fight. Beaver tried to seize Porcupine with his teeth, but when he threw himself at his face, the sharp spines struck him. After they had fought for a while, Beaver went to the place where his parents lived. He was all covered with spines.

Then his father called the people together, and the Beaver people came in a crowd. They all went along to fight Porcupine. Porcupine used angry words to them. Then they pushed down his house upon him. They seized him. They took him to an island lying out at sea, upon which two trees stood.

When Porcupine was almost starved, he called upon the animals of his clan. He called upon his father. 188 He called upon all of his friends. They did not answer him.

By and by Something said to him, “Call upon Cold-weather, call upon North wind.” Porcupine did not understand. Then the Voice said, “Sing North songs. Then you will be saved.”

So Porcupine began singing,

Xune qa-sa zune,

Let the sky clear altogether;

Hu-n, hu-n, hun, hun.

After that he sat on a rock and sang,


Let it be cold weather;


Let it be smooth on the water.

Then North sent cold weather. The wind became strong. Then Porcupine began to sing for smooth water. When it became smooth, the surface of the sea froze. When the ice became thick, his friends came and got Porcupine; but he was not able to walk.

Now after Porcupine reached his father’s house, his father called all the Forest People. He gave them all food. Then they asked Porcupine why the Beaver people did this to him. He said it was because he had eaten Beaver’s food.


Then the Porcupine people went to war with the Beaver people. But they did not defeat the Beaver people. After they had fought for a while, they stopped.

After that, when they were gathering food, they seized Beaver. The Porcupines did this. They were always plotting against Beaver. They took Beaver up a tall tree. After he had been there awhile, he began eating the tree from the top. He finally got down and went away. Beavers cannot climb trees.




Beaver and Porcupine lived together. They used to eat together, but their food was different and Porcupine was always eating Beaver’s food. He would leave his own food and eat Beaver’s.

One day Beaver said, “Hereafter we shall eat apart.” So he took his own food and went some distance away, leaving Porcupine to eat his own. But even so, Porcupine left his own food, and came around to Beaver, and ate his.

One day Beaver said to Porcupine, “Tomorrow we will travel into the mountains where there is much food.” They packed their blankets and boxes and all their things and traveled into the mountains, where they camped. The next morning Beaver said, “There is much food here in the mountains. I am going hunting.”

When Beaver had gone some distance, he stopped and called to Porcupine far, far away:

“Hereafter you shall be a common porcupine. You shall always live in the mountains. You shall never 191 again live with Beaver nor eat his food. Neither shall you ever live in a good country.”

That is why porcupines live in the mountains, while beavers live in low, flat lands, where there is plenty of water. Because when Beaver left Porcupine, he traveled on to a flat country, with many lakes and streams.




Deer lived near Taku. The skunk cabbage he ate was like a garden. Beaver came also to this place and he gnawed down the forest trees growing around there. So there came to be many trees on top of the garden. Then Beaver went away.

Deer went to see his property. Then he saw that trees were piled upon it and he knew that Beaver had done this.

Now Beaver lived under an island in a lake in the woods. One morning he felt the water was going down. Beaver went out. Deer was standing there, and Deer had dug a trench from the lake. But Deer could not get at Beaver.

Therefore Deer called to Beaver, “Come, go with me.” So Beaver went with him. Then they came to the shore of the sea. Beaver had never been in the sea, but Deer said, “Let us swim out to that island.”

“I have never been in the sea,” said Beaver.

Haida Memorial Columns
Erected in honor of chiefs of the tribe
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”


“You shall sit on my back,” said Deer. “There are many things to eat over there.” So Beaver got on Deer’s back, and they went there. When he got off, Deer went with him up to the woods. Then they came up under the trees.

Deer said, “Go up, and I will sit down here and wait for you.” So Beaver went up into the woods. When Beaver was a long way off, Deer ran away quickly and swam off.

Beaver came back quickly, but Deer was nowhere to be seen. Beaver sat down on the beach. He could see no way to get off the island, because he was not used to swimming in the ocean. After he had sat there awhile, evening came upon him. Then, in the middle of the night, he called to the different animals.

First he called to Black Bear, then he called to Wolf. “Save me!” he called. Then he called to Grizzly Bear, and he called to all the smaller animals. None of them heard him. Beaver had been upon the island ten nights. He called every day, wailing. When he was unsuccessful, his heart was tired. So he sat still.

After a while, Beaver began to call to North: “North, save me! North, save me! North, save me!” And as he sang this every day, he continued to wail.

After ten days had passed, a black wind came toward him along the surface of the sea, as he sat near the shore. North had heard his voice. The wind blew 194 hard from the north. At midnight Beaver felt of the sea. After he had sat awhile longer, he felt of it again. After he had done so for a while, he felt that it was frozen over. He sat still. Then he perceived it was strong enough.

Then Beaver stepped upon it. And he went ashore upon it. He escaped to land. Then he went to his home. He stopped up that trench. After he finished stopping it up, he went into his house. This is the end.




Eagle gave a feast. He invited all of the myth people. Eagle told his servants to get the four cooking boxes and to put stones into the fire and to get the tongs. When this was done, Eagle put on his eagle mask and seated himself on the seashore.

As soon as Eagle was seated, he saw a porpoise coming up. Eagle flew down and grasped it and brought it to the beach. When he had been sitting there a long time, he saw another porpoise come up. Eagle grasped it at once and carried it up to the beach. Thus he did four times. Then as soon as he had caught four porpoises, he took off his eagle mask and hung it up. Then he cut up the porpoises. When they were cut up, water was poured into the cooking boxes. Then Eagle put the porpoises in, and put red hot stones into the boxes also. Soon they were cooked. Then they were taken out. Eagle had invited all his friends for a feast, so they ate all the porpoises. Then they went out.




Once Grizzly Bear told her grandson that if ever any of his arrows should catch in a tree, and beyond his reach, not to climb the tree. At first the boy did just as Grandmother said; but he lost many arrows. Now one day he shot his best arrow at a bird that was sitting in a tree. The bird flew away and the arrow stuck in a branch just beyond his reach. It was his very best arrow.

Then the boy forgot and climbed that tree to get the arrow. Just as he came near it, the tree suddenly grew and the arrow was far out of his reach. The boy climbed again, but just as he reached out his hand to take it, the tree shot up and again it was far out of his reach. This happened many times. So the boy kept on climbing.

Now as the boy looked down, he saw that the earth was far below him, and there were no branches at all on the tree trunk. He could not climb down, so he began to climb from branch to branch after his arrow, and the tree grew higher and higher until it broke 197 through the floor of the Sky Land. Its lower branches were just level with the floor. And only then was the boy able to reach his arrow. Then he pulled it out, and climbed off the branch into the Sky Country.

Now the Sky Country was a great plain, covered lightly with snow. There were no signs of people. He said to himself, “There is no use in wandering aimlessly around in this way. I will set my arrow on end, and follow whichever way it falls.”

Then he did so. He traveled the way the arrow fell and came to some chips which showed him that some people had been there felling a tree. Then he came to some fresher chips. Then he traveled on until he came to a lodge, with a mat door.

Then someone opened the door and he went in. Afterward he became the chickadee.




Once there were two men named Redbird and Blackbird. They had a house on the shore of the lake, and they lived on wild potatoes. They spent all their time digging for wild potatoes, and that was all the food they ever had.

One day Blackbird said to Redbird, “There are great fields of wild rice across the lake. We ought to go and gather it.” So the very next day they crossed the lake and found themselves among large fields of wild rice. They began gathering the rice, then they saw people near by. They went to the people and said, “How do you do?”

The people said, “We have never seen you before.” Blackbird said, “No. We live on the other side of the lake. We live on the wild potatoes we find there.” The people said, “Well, you did right in coming over here. You ought to have good food.”

Then Blackbird and Redbird shook hands all around and went home.

Now these people talked about the wild potatoes. Just about that time, Redbird said to Blackbird, “Those 199 people are planning to attack us, for our wild potatoes. What shall you do?” Blackbird said at once what he would do. Then Redbird said what he would do. The very next day those people came. Redbird heard their voices. At once he began to grow smaller and smaller until he was only a single feather lying on the ground. When Blackbird heard their voices, he hit himself against the house, and soon there was only an awl standing there.

The people came and searched everywhere. They said, “No, we can’t find those men,” so they went home.

Blackbird and Redbird were a little afraid they would come back. So they changed themselves into birds. Redbird flew to the woods, but Blackbird went over the lake to live.




Once a beautiful Indian maiden used to go often to dances. When she was dressing for the dance, Gray Woodpecker would come to help her. He helped her put the many colors on her face.

Now Little Gray Woodpecker was gray all over. He had only a few small white spots. Now one day the maiden left some red paint on the bit of wood she used for a brush. Woodpecker saw this, and he said, “I will make myself beautiful with this.” So Gray Woodpecker took the brush and rubbed it just over his ears, on each side of his head. He did this many times. That is why he has two tiny red stripes on the sides of his head.



Eastern Eskimo

Sometimes Owl greatly disturbs a camp of Indians. Short-eared Owl will come to a camp just at the dimming of the twilight, and when the Indians hear his quiet flitting through the trees they are on the alert. Immediately they hang up some robe or leggings which they have not worn, which is just a silent way of saying, “We are not so poor as you think.” Owl annoys only poor people.

Owl also likes the lower levels, so the Indians camp often on the higher lands where he does not come.



Thompson River

One day, as Grizzly Bear came along the trail, Chipmunk called her names and mocked her. Grizzly Bear rushed at Chipmunk. Chipmunk ran under a log. Grizzly Bear rushed at her again. Chipmunk did the same thing. Grizzly Bear shouted, “I’ll get you!” and the fourth time almost caught her. Her claws scratched Chipmunk’s back. Therefore the chipmunk has stripes on his back even today, because Grizzly scratched her in that way.

Later, Marmot met Grizzly Bear. He teased her in the same way that Chipmunk had, and the very fourth time that Grizzly rushed at him, she almost caught him, and scratched him, too. So Marmot also has stripes, even today.

Indian Defensive Armor
The first two designs are body armor, the third a shield
From “Memoirs, American Museum of Natural History”




Once Wisagatcak killed a bear; then he skinned it, and cut it in pieces, and cooked all of them. While he was cooking, he looked up and saw Muskrat in the river. Now the bear’s grease would not harden, so Wisagatcak told Muskrat to swim through the water with it. Muskrat did so, and when he returned Wisagatcak made his tail much thinner and smaller. Muskrat formerly had a broad, fleshy tail like Beaver’s, and it was a great annoyance to him.

“Now see how fast you can go,” said Wisagatcak. Muskrat jumped into the river and swam so rapidly that he broke the grease bladder which he still carried. All the grease and oil came out. That is why Muskrat leaves such a smooth, oily wake when he swims.



Eastern Eskimo

Wolverene once called all the birds together. He said, “Do you not know that I am your brother? Come to me and I will dress you in feathers.” So he dressed them all up in feathers, and made wings for himself. He said, “Now, brothers, let us fly.”

Brant said to Wolverene, “You must not look below when we are flying over a point of land, when you hear a noise below. Take a turn when we take a turn.”

The first time they took a turn, Wolverene did not look below, though he heard a noise. At the second turn, when the birds came over a point of land, he heard the shouting of Indians below. At once he looked down. And down he came like a bundle of rags!

All the Indians ran up to him, shouting, “A brant has fallen down.” They found nothing but an old dead wolverene.




Once in the ancient time, so the old men say, the Crees from the east, the Thompson River Indians from the south, and the Lillooet Indians from the west, made up their minds to attack the Shuswap of the north. They sent messengers with the war moccasin to each other, and then they met on the east bank of the Fraser River and there joined forces. There were several hundred men in all. Then they went forward to attack the Shuswaps.

Now when they were nearly opposite the mouth of Lone Cabin Creek, and still some distance from Canoe Creek, they were met by Coyote, who changed them all into pillars of clay. You may see them there today. The tall Crees are on the right, the shorter Thompsons in the center, and the short Lillooets on the left.



Eastern Cree

At Iroquois Falls, a war party of Iroquois attacked and killed a Cree party. They took the plunder of the camp, and saved one woman alive for a guide. They asked her if she could run a rapid, and she said, “Yes.”

Now when the party came to a point above the Iroquois Falls, the woman guide told them it was possible to shoot the rapids there if the women and goods were taken out of the canoes to lighten them. The Iroquois let her out, as well, and she went by the portage. When the Iroquois saw her there, they put out from shore, though the waters were very swift. As they neared the falls, they saw how high they were. Then the Cree woman saw them try to escape, but they could not. The current of the water was too swift. So they headed their canoes for the falls and sang their war song. All went crashing over the falls and were drowned.




Once there were three men along a river making a canoe. As they had just finished the canoe, they heard a Stredu approaching. She was a giantess. Two of the men fled at once, without warning their friend, who sat with his back to them in the canoe.

The Stredu said to the man in the canoe, “Now I have got you!” He swiftly launched his canoe, and paddled across the river, saying unconcernedly, “Now I will see how good it is.”

The Stredu said, as if speaking to herself, “Try your canoe if you wish to, but there is more than one way of crossing a river.” She at once started across, walking on the river bottom. The water was far over her head, and the Indian could see her on the bottom. He was now returning in his canoe.

When the Stredu reached the other side, she was surprised still to see the Indian on the other side. But she thought, “This will not prevent me from walking back. But perhaps he has supernatural power.” So she started back, walking on the bottom of the river 208 bed. The Indian at once started to recross. He said, unconcernedly, “My canoe is not quite water-tight. I will now patch it.” But he forgot and left his stone ax on the shore when he began to cross this time.

When the Stredu had recrossed, she again saw that Indian on the other side. Then she saw the stone ax. She said, “He has forgotten his weapon,” for she did not know what it was. She said, “I will smash it against that rock.” Then she hit the rock with the ax and the rock was shattered into bits. The ax was not broken. Then the Stredu became afraid. She ran away.




There were many monsters in the Fraser River and the North Thompson River. Tlecsa was the eldest of four brothers who lived near Kamloops, and there were many evil beings in that country who killed all the Indians, so the four brothers decided to destroy them. There were the four Grizzly Bear sisters, and the huge elk which stood in the Thompson River just where it flows out of Kamloops Lake and swallowed all who came down the river, even a canoe with people. There was the great ram of the mountain sheep who lived on a cliff in Bonaparte Valley and killed people by blowing his breath upon them. Every one of these was killed by Tlecsa and his magic.

Then the brothers followed up the Bonaparte River until they came to a chasm which is now near the old fifty-nine-mile post, on the old Caribou road. Here lived Great Beaver and his friends. They were not cannibals, but the Indians feared their magic. The Indians did not know how to catch or kill them, but Tlecsa said, “I will eat beaver flesh,” so he started after 210 him. But first he made a beaver spear, and tied a piece of white bark around each wrist so his brothers could see him, if he were dragged under water.

Tlecsa went up to Great Beaver and harpooned him. Beaver at once dragged him into the creek. His brothers watched him for a while and then lost sight of him, and at once began to search for him in all the near-by creeks. They even dug ditches in many places. At last they dug a deep ditch along the largest creek, and then they found him. When they dug near him, he said, “Be careful not to hurt me. I am here.” Great Beaver had dragged him into his own house in the bank, but there Tlecsa had killed Great Beaver. At once the brothers killed many beavers and took their skins. They also ate Big Beaver. Tlecsa said, “Hereafter beaver shall be speared by mankind. The Indians shall use their flesh and skins. Beavers shall no longer have magic power;” and it was so.

Now Tlecsa and his brothers wandered around through the mountains and through Bonaparte Valley, and after a while they went up the Marble Cañon. On a high cliff lived Great Eagle, who swooped down on the Indians in the valley. He would catch an Indian and dash him against the rocks and bring him to the young eaglets in his nest. Tlecsa said, “I shall ornament myself with eagle feathers.”


Now when his brothers were not looking, Tlecsa put some white paint in one side of his mouth, and some red paint in the other side. Soon Great Eagle saw him. Swooping down, he clutched him, and then, flying high on the cliffs, dashed him against the rocks. Tlecsa warded off the blow with his flaker, and let the red paint flow out of his mouth upon the rocks. His brothers below, watching, said, “He is dead. See his blood.”

Again Great Eagle dashed Tlecsa against the rocks, and the white paint flowed from his mouth over the rocks. His brothers below, watching, said, “He is dead. See his brains.”

Now Great Eagle also thought he was dead, so he laid him on a ledge of rocks near the nest. At once Tlecsa killed Great Eagle and pulled out his tail feathers. Then he tied an eaglet to each wrist and commanded them to fly down with him. When they reached the valley far below, Tlecsa pulled the large feathers out of the eaglets’ wings and tails, and gave them to his brothers. He said to the eaglets, “Hereafter you shall be ordinary eagles. You shall have no power to kill people, and Indians shall ornament their heads and weapons with your feathers;” and it was so.


[1]The scenic pictures in this volume were selected to show the magnificence and beauty of the home of many of these myths.
[2]These Indian houses were made with rough, loose boards on the sides and top, which were shifted to let the smoke out, and in summer to let the breeze in. The fire was always in the center of such one-room houses, and the usual smoke hole was immediately above it.
[3]The warm wind of the North Pacific Coast is called a chinook.
[4]Devilfish was the usual bait in halibut fishing.
[5]This myth is said to give an excellent idea of climatic conditions along part of the Northwest Coast—largely a struggle between the rainy southeast wind and the cold north wind.
[6]Told by all Cree Indians, but of course influenced by contact with the white race.
[7]Popularly called Whiskey Jack, though the word is Indian. It means “meat bird,” as this Canadian jay is fond of meat and therefore is a great torment around camps.
[8]The name appears under various spellings—Manibozho, Nanebojo, etc. Nenebuc appears among many tribes centering around the Great Lakes, though the myth is essentially Ojibwa. Other versions of it, received from the American Ojibwas, will be found in the author’s Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes.
[9]The chief interest of this tale is that it is a correct description of Indian cooking and feasting.
[10]There seem to be innumerable waterfalls in North America concerning which there is such a tradition as this one. Without question many of them are imaginary. This story of the Crees and Iroquois is told by many tribes, though the location of the falls differs in every version of the story.


EARLY DAYS IN OLD OREGON. Illustrated. 12 mo. $1.00


MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF THE GREAT PLAINS. Illustrated. Small 4to. $1.50

MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF ALASKA. Illustrated. Small 4to. $1.50





Transcriber’s Notes

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