BNA: Coyote's Gifts

The word "Skookum" is a word of Chinook jargon language (more about that at Wikipedia) which refers to a monster, something like Sasquatch, a.k.a. Bigfoot.

You can learn more about the Nicola people and the Stolo people (Fraser River) at Wikipedia.

[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).

Coyote's Gifts
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."

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 canons 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 canon 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 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?"

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 canyon.

(700 words)

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