Pacific NW: Chinook Ghosts

This story is part of the Pacific Northwest unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest, especially of Washington and Oregon, by Katharine Berry Judson (1910).

Chinook Ghosts

THE ghosts wanted to buy a wife. They bought Blue Jay's sister, Ioi. They came in the evening and on the next morning Ioi had disappeared.

Now Blue Jay was a wise bird, a foe to magic. After a year Blue Jay said, "I am going to search for Ioi."

Blue Jay asked all the trees, "Where do people go when they die?" They did not answer.

Then Blue Jay asked all the birds, "Where do people go when they die?" They did not answer.

At last Blue Jay said to his wedge, "Where do people go when they die?"

Wedge said, "Pay me and I will tell you."

Blue Jay paid him, and Wedge took him on a journey. They arrived at a large village. The last lodge was very large. Smoke was rising only from this lodge. There Blue Jay found Ioi.

When Ioi saw Blue Jay, she said, "Where did you come from?"

Blue Jay said, "I am not dead. Wedge brought, me here. Are you dead?"

Then Blue Jay opened all the lodges and he saw that they were full of bones. He saw a skull and bones close to Ioi.

He said, "What are you going to do with that skull?"

Ioi said, "That is my husband."

When it grew dark, the bones became alive.

Blue Jay asked, "Where did all these people come from?"

Ioi said, "Do you think they are people? They are ghosts."

After some time, Ioi said to him, "Go with those people fishing with a dip net."

He went with a young boy. The people spoke always in very low tones and he did not understand them. Ioi told him to speak in low tones.

When they were going fishing in their canoe, another canoe came down the river. The people in it were singing. Blue Jay began to sing, too, and at once the boy became a skeleton. Blue Jay stopped singing and the boy became a ghost again. When Blue Jay spoke in loud tones, the boy always became a skeleton.

The ghosts caught leaves and branches in the dip net. These branches and leaves were their trout and salmon. Blue Jay shouted often and all the ghosts became skeletons.

One day when all the ghosts were bones, Blue Jay changed their skulls. He put children's skulls on old people. Therefore the ghosts disliked him. They told Ioi to send him back. But he did not know in what to go. Their canoes were full of holes and covered with moss.

So Ioi sent Blue Jay home, but he did not follow her directions. Therefore he died and became a ghost. He returned to the ghost land and found all the bones were real men. The leaves and branches were real salmon and trout, and all their canoes were new.

(500 words)

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