Marriage: The Youth Who Joined the Deer

Nlakapamuk, also known as the Thompson River Salish, are a people of the Pacific Northwest who now live in British Columbia; their traditional lands also included part of Washington State. You can read more at Wikipedia. The final story in this unit, The True Bride, is also a Nlakapamuk story.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Native American Marriage Tales unit. Story source: Tales of the North American Indians by Stith Thompson (1929).

The Youth Who Joined the Deer

There was a man who was a great deer-hunter. He was constantly hunting and was very successful. He thought continually of the deer, and dreamed of them. They were as friends to him. Probably they were his manitou. He had two wives, one of whom had borne him no children, while the other one had borne a male child.

One day while hunting, he came on the fresh tracks of a doe and fawn, which he followed. They led to a knoll on which he saw a young woman and child sitting. The tracks led directly to them.

He was surprised, and asked the woman if she had seen any deer pass. She answered, "No."

He walked on, but could not find the tracks. On his return, he said to the woman, "You must have seen the deer; the tracks seem to disappear where you are, and they are very fresh."

The woman laughed, and said, "You need not trouble yourself about the tracks. For a long time I have loved you and longed for you. Now you shall go with me to my house."

They walked on together, and the hunter could not resist the attraction of the woman nor help following her.

As he went along, he thought, "It is not well that I am acting thus. My wives and my child are at home awaiting me."

The woman knew his thoughts at once, and said, "You must not worry or think that you are doing wrong. You shall be my husband, and you will never regret it."

After the two had travelled a long way, they reached a hilly country. Then the man saw an entrance which seemed to lead underground. When they had gone some distance underground, they found themselves in a large house full of people who were just like Indians. They were of both sexes and all ages. They were well dressed in clothes of dressed skin, and wore deer-skin robes. They seemed to be very amiable and happy.

As the travellers entered, some of the people said, "Our daughter has brought her husband."

That night the woman said to the hunter, "You are my husband, and will sleep with me. You may embrace me, but you must not try to have intercourse with me. You must not do so before the rutting-season. Then you may also go with my sisters. Our season comes but once a year, and lasts about a month. During the rest of the year we have no sexual connections." The hunter slept with his new wife.

On the following day the people said, "Let our son-in-law hunt. He is a great hunter. Let him get meat for us. We have no more meat."

The hunter took his bow and arrows and went hunting. Two young deer, his brothers-in-law, ran ahead and stood on a knoll. Presently the hunter saw them, and killed both of them. He cut them up and carried them home, leaving nothing but their manure. The chief had told him in the morning to be careful and not to throw away any part of the game.

Now the people ate and were glad. They saved all the bones and put them away in one place. They said to the hunter, "We always save every bone."

When the deer were eaten, the bones were wrapped in bundles, and the chief sent a man to throw them into the water. He carried the bones of the two deer that the hunter had killed, and of another one that the people were eating when the hunter first arrived. The hunter had missed his two brothers-in-law and thought they were away hunting.

When the man who had carried the bones away returned, the two brothers-in-law and another man were with him. They had all come to life when their bones were thrown into the water. Thus these Deer people lived by hunting and killing each other and then reviving.

The hunter lived with his wife and her people, and hunted whenever meat was required. He never failed to kill deer, for some of the young deer were always anxious to be killed for the benefit of the people.

(700 words)

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