BNA: Coyote and the Salmon

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

Coyote and the Salmon

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 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.

(600 words)

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