Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

ELDER MOMFEATHER SPEAKS

 

 

 

 

Coho Learns To Jump
 

On a cold winter night, a young boy sat in a carving shed watching his Grandfather working on a totem pole. The boy asked, "Grandfather, how did you learn to carve such a big log?"

Grandfather smiled and sat down with his grandson by the warm fire. "Let me tell you the story of Coho salmon. That will help you find the answer to your question.

"Coho was born in the river. When he was very young, just like you, he swam down the river into the ocean. Along his journey he watched others and learned from them. He also learned from his own mistakes and successes. Soon he knew when to use his strength and when to use his knowledge to survive.

"Coho liked to try things, so one day he decided to see what was above the ocean waves. He swam straight up and shot through the surface of the water into the air. Coho felt the warmth of the sun on his scales; he saw the birds in the sky and the animals on the land. But all too soon he fell back into the sea. He did not give up. He practiced his jumps, each one getting higher and longer, until he could jump almost to the sky itself.

When Coho grew old, like me, he returned to the river where he was born, but it had changed. Wind had toppled an old tree across the channel, blocking the way for all the salmon. But Coho knew how to get past. He showed the other salmon how to jump. One by one they swam up the river, leapt into the air and landed on the other side of the log.

When all the fish were past the log, Coho went on to the place of his birth where he helped spawn the next generation of salmon."

Grandfather paused for a moment and picked up a small piece of wood. He smiled and said, "That is why on calm days out on the ocean we see salmon practicing their jumps, so they will not be stopped by any obstacles on their journey."
 
Grandfather handed the boy a chisel and the small piece of wood. "Watch me and learn from what I do. Practice, and learn from your mistakes. Do not give up just because your first try is not successful. That way, you will know what to do when you reach the big log and begin carving it into your own totem pole."
 


Read About Momfeather Erickson 

A champion of Native American ways in Kentucky

 


 

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