BNA: The Coming of the Salmon

You can see a Winwina mask by Nuxalk artist Skip Saunders at the Petroglyph Gallery online.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the British North America unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of British North America by Katharine Berry Judson (1917).

The Coming of the Salmon
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 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 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.




(800 words)





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