Pacific NW: Coyote and the Salmon, Coyote and the Fire

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).


Coyote and the Salmon
Klamath River

THEN Coyote went to Klamath River. He found the people very poor. They had no food. The river was full of salmon but the people could not get any. Three Skookums had built a dam to prevent the salmon from coming up the river. So the Skookums had all the fish, but the people had none.

Coyote was very angry. Coyote said, "Before many suns, fish shall come up the river. The people shall have all the salmon they need."

Then Coyote went to the mouth of the river. The Skookums saw him. They thought he was only a skulking coyote. Coyote whined for some of their fish. Skookum would not give him any. Coyote came close to their camp. The Skookums drove him away. But Coyote saw where the Skookums kept the key of the dam. That was what he had wanted when he whined for fish.

Next morning, one Skookum started down to open the trap and let in a fish for herself. Coyote ran out of the tepee, jumped between Skookum's feet and tripped her up. Skookum fell and the key fell out of her hand. Then Coyote picked up the key, and went to the dam. Coyote opened the dam and let the fish through.

The salmon went upstream into the country of the Cahrocs. Then the people had food to eat. Afterwards Coyote broke down the dam. Ever since then salmon go every year up that river.


How Coyote Stole Fire
Klamath River

LONG ago men were hungry and unhappy. They were cold. The only fire in the world was on a mountain top, watched by three Skookums. They guarded the fire carefully. Men might steal it and become as strong as they.

Coyote wanted men to be warm and happy. One day he crept to the mountain top and watched the Skookums. He watched all day and all night. They thought he was only a skulking coyote. Coyote saw that one Skookum sat always by the fire. When one went into the tepee, another came out and sat by the fire. Only when the dawn wind arose was there a chance to steal fire. Then Skookum, shivering, hurried into the tepee. She called: "Sister, sister, get up and watch the fire." But the sister was slow.

Coyote went down the mountainside and called a great council of the animals. He knew if he stole fire, the Skookums would chase him. Coyote said the other animals must help him. Again Coyote skulked to the mountain top. The Skookums saw only a coyote shivering in the bushes.

When the dawn wind rose, the Skookum on guard called: "Sister, sister, get up and watch the fire." But the sister was slow. Then Coyote seized the fire and jumped down the mountain side. Quickly Skookum followed him. She caught the tip of his tail in her hand; therefore it is white, even to this day.

But Coyote reached Wolf. Wolf seized the fire and leaped down the mountain. Skookum chased Wolf.

But Wolf reached Squirrel. Squirrel seized the fire and leaped from branch to branch down the mountain. The fire was so hot it burned the back of his neck. You can see the black spot there, even to this day. The fire was so hot it made Squirrel's tail curl up over his back. Skookum chased Squirrel.

But Squirrel reached Frog. Frog took the coals of fire in his mouth and hopped away. Skookum chased Frog. She caught his tail in her hand. Frog jumped away but Skookum kept the tail. That is why frogs have no tail, even to this day. Soon Skookum caught up with Frog again. To save the fire, Frog spit it out on Wood. Wood swallowed it.

Skookum did not know how to get the fire out of Wood. But Coyote did. Coyote showed the Indians how to get fire out of Wood by rubbing two dry sticks together, as they do even to this day.



(700 words)

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