Manataka American Indian Council









A Chinook Story 

Part I

There was a town the chief of which had died. His two children were grown up; one was a girl and one a, boy. Early every morning the people went out to hunt sea-otters. The girl was always in the stern of the canoe. At dark they returned home. Five times they had gone hunting, then it grew foggy. Her hair became wet and she swallowed the water which dripped down from her hair. A long time the people remained there. Then she became pregnant. Blue-Jay was the first to observe it. He said: "Don't you notice it? He made his sister pregnant." Robin said: "Be quiet, Blue-Jay, you will make our chief's children ashamed." "Ha, he is the elder of us two and he ought to know better than I." 

After some time she became stouter. "Heh, we will run," said Blue-Jay. "I am ashamed because her brother made her pregnant. We will leave them; we will move!" Then, indeed, the people believed Blue-Jay. Again the brother and sister went hunting sea-otters. In the evening they came home. Now there were no people and no houses. "Lo, they deserted us. Blue-Jay advised them to do so." Then the brother continued: "Tell me who made you pregnant?" She replied, "I do not know. 

Once when we went out hunting sea otters a mist came up and I swallowed the water which made me Qualmish." Then they searched for fire. But the people had poured water into all the fires. The last house was that of their aunt, the Crow. It also was taken away. They walked about and there they heard the crackling of fire. The brother said to his sister: "Do you hear the fire?" After awhile it crackled again. 

They found the place from where the sound appeared to come. They dug into the ground and found a shell. In the shell there was burning coal. "Oh," they said to each other, "our aunt pitied us; she put the fire into the shell for us." Now they started a fire. The next day they built a small house. There they lived for a long time. 

One day a sea breeze arose. Early in the morning the man rose and went down to the beach. There he found ten cedar planks, each ten fathoms long, which had drifted ashore. He went up to the house and said to his sister: "I have found ten planks, each ten fathoms long." They went to the beach, hauled them up to their house, and the brother made a large house. Then the brother said: "What kind of a blanket will you make for your son?" 

In the morning he went down to the beach and there he found two small sea-otters. He said: "Oh, my poor nephew, this will be your blanket." "He took them up to the house and said to his sister: "I found these sea-otters." Then she was very glad. The brother said: "What soup are you going to make for your son?" In the morning he arose and went down to the beach. There he found a sea-lion. He skinned it and cut it, and then they boiled it. 

Every day he went down to the beach, and every time he found two sea-otters. And their house was full of sea-otter skins. One morning he went to the beach; there was a whale. Then he ran back to his sister and cried: "A whale is on the beach!" His sister said in reply: "Every night the people on the other side of the ocean send us food. Those supernatural people love me. My boy's father came. Now cut the whale." Then he skinned it and cut it and they carried up the meat.

Now the Crow made herself ready to look for her nephew and her niece. She launched her canoe and paddled across, wailing all the time. When she had almost crossed the bay she discovered a house and saw smoke rising. She went on. When she was near the shore she saw a chief sitting on the roof of the house. [The latter said to his sister, when he saw the Crow coming:] "Our aunt who pitied us is coming there." 

She arrived and saw the whale on the beach. She [was very hungry,] went to the whale and pulled at the meat. Then her nephew said: "Come up to the house; why do you touch that rotten meat?" She replied: "Oh, I only looked at it," and went up to the house. She entered and saw that it was full of whale meat. She went right up to the child [and wanted to take it in her arms], but the child began to cry. The sister said: "Oh, he is afraid of your tears." They gave her water and she washed her face. 

Then she tried again to take him, but still he cried. The sister said "He, is afraid of your breath." Then she took water, cleaned her mouth and took him again, but still he cried. Then the sister said to her aunt: "Do you think he is a human being? Look here, he is the son of a supernatural being. They gave us that whale to eat." "Oh," said the Crow. They boiled whale meat for her and she ate it. After she had finished eating she went home. They gave her two pieces of blubber which she put into her mat.

The Crow went across the bay; and when she approached the town she cried: "O, my sister's children, my sister's children, birds flew up from you many times; eagles were eating you. O, my sister's children, my sister's children, gulls were eating you. Ravens were eating you, O, my sister's children." Now she came still nearer the town. Blue-Jay was sitting outside and saw her coming. When she had nearly arrived she cried again: "O, my sister's children, my sister's children, birds flew up from you; crows were eating you." 

Then Blue-Jay shouted: "Do you not notice? She names the Crow; she names the Crow." Now she landed and went up to the house. Now all the people came into the Crow's house. They asked her how she had found her sister's children. She replied and told much. "I went across and I found their bodies full of birds which ate them. All kinds of birds ate them." After she had finished, Blue-Jay was the first to leave the house. He went to the rear of the house, where he stayed. 

Now, the Crow was silent. Robin, who was her deceased husband's brother, remained with her. They sat on opposite sides of the fire. She had five children. Then she told him everything in a low voice, and Blue-Jay listened outside. She pulled out the food which she had carried home, cut it to pieces, and gave it to her children and to Robin. Her youngest daughter choked [when eating the blubber]. 

Then Blue-Jay, who had been peeping through the chinks of the wall, entered and slapped her nape. The piece of whale, meat flew out of her month. Blue-Jay took it up, went out, showed it to the people, and said: "Do you see? The Crow fed me." He went to three houses showing it around, then he ate it. After some time it grew dark. The people were very hungry.

Then Blue-Jay said to the chief of the town: "O, chief, the house [of the young man whom we deserted] is full of whale meat. A supernatural being loved his sister. He invites me, and he has invited the Crow and Robin." Late in the evening Blue-Jay came out of the house, took his large blanket [and went to his elder brother, Robin,] saying, "Robin, let us sleep under one blanket; I always get cold." Robin replied: "Ya-a, I always sleep alone, and do not want anyone with me; sleep there at my feet." 

Now Blue-Jay lay down at Robin's feet. Blue-Jay remained awake. When it was nearly morning Blue-Jay fell asleep. Now Robin and Crow made a canoe [ready]. Then Robin and the Crow went to their canoe and carried their property into it. Now Robin took a sharp stick and put it in the ground at Blue-Jay's feet. Then Robin and the Crow went across to the young man and to his sister, and left Blue-Jay alone. Early in the morning when he awoke, he said: "Wake up, Robin," and kicked him; but his feet struck the stick, and he hurt himself. "O, my feet!" he cried. "They left me here alone." Then he went home to his children. Crow and Robin crossed the bay and went up to the house of the young man.

Early next morning Blue-Jay said: "Now, let us all go across." They made themselves ready and went across. When they were in the middle of the bay a heavy gale arose, and the people almost died. They had to turn back. Five days [they tried to cross the bay], but every time they were driven back. Then they got across. Now it began to snow, and the people were covered with snow. They became very cold. 

Thus their chief took revenge upon them. Then Blue-Jay went up to the house. [He found a knothole and called to Robin, who was in the house:] "Robin, open for me, I am cold. Bring me food, Robin, I am starving." Robin did not reply. "Robin, take the tongs and put some food through this hole." Robin was boiling meat. Then he took the tongs and put them into the boiling kettle. He pushed the tongs through the knothole. Blue-Jay [was so hungry that he] licked the fat off from the tongs. 

He said: "Robin, Robin, tell the chief that I will give him my daughter in marriage, but let him open the door." "Ya-a," said Robin; "What shall he do with her? He wants your chief's daughter [not yours]." Then Blue-Jay ran down to the beach and said to his chief: "The young man asks for your daughter and for my daughter." The chief did not reply, and Blue-Jay ran back to the house and said: "Robin, the chief says he will give him his daughter." Five times Blue-Jay ran down to the beach and back to the house. 

Then his chief spoke; he made his daughter ready, and put on her dentalia, and so did Blue-Jay. Once more he ran up to the house and said: "Robin, I have made my daughter ready." "Ya," replied Robin; "She shall look after the chamber." Now they brought the chief's daughter up to the house and they opened the door.

On the following morning the sister had disappeared. Lo! The supernatural beings had taken her and her child away. The people remained in this place and made new houses.

Once upon a time the Crow gathered many potentilla roots [put them into her canoe] and crossed the sea. When she arrived at the country of the supernatural beings they all came down to the beach. They searched among her roots and found one gu'mEsktit and one LE'mksin among them. These they ate, and threw away the Crow's potentilla roots. 

Then she went up to the house and met her niece, who said: "Do you think they are men, that you bring them potentilla, roots? Gather gu'mEsktit and LE'mksin. When you come again bring all kinds of nice smelling roots, and bring one small basket of potentilla roots for me." Then she said to her: "Take this bitch along; it belongs to your grandson. When you come near the shore say: 'Catch a whale, Q!ac'nEmicLX.'" "Yes," said the Crow, and then she went home. When she was in the middle of the ocean she said to the dog: "Catch a whale, Q!ac'nEmicLX. Do you know indeed how to catch whales?" 

Then the bitch who lay in the stern of the boat arose. A whale came up. She bit it. Then the canoe rocked violently. "Hold it fast, Q!ac'nEmicLX." Then the Crow became afraid and said: "Let go, let go, Q!ac'nEmicLX." Then she let go the whale and lay down to sleep. The Crow landed [and when she arrived], she had lost her dog. She ran about and searched for it in. all the houses, but did not find it. Then she [was very sad and] did not eat because she liked her dog.

The Crow stayed here five days, and then again she gathered many roots of plants. She gathered gu'mEsktit and LE'mksin. She gathered all kinds of nice smelling roots. She put potentilla roots in to one small basket. Then she crossed again to the country of the supernatural beings. Then they all came down to the beach. They [took the nice smelling roots and] ate them right there at the beach. She carried the potentilla roots up to her niece. 

Now she saw her dog, which was in the house. [Her niece said:] "Do you think this is a common bitch? She returns. Why did you say in the middle of the ocean: 'Take the whale?' Therefore you became afraid. You must not say so until you are near the shore. Do you think they gave her to you as a present? She always returns. You will take her again when you go home. Do not search for her when you have lost her. She provides you with food when you are going." 

The Crow replied: "Yes." And when she went back she carried that bitch along. "When you approach the land say: 'Catch a whale, Q!ac'nEmicLX.'" Then she went home. The dog lay in the stern of the canoe. When they were near the town the Crow said: "Catch a whale, Q!ac'nEmicLX." She did not move. 

Then the Crow took some water, poured it over her and said: "Catch a whale; are you indeed able to catch a whale? "When they were quite near the shore she said again: "Catch a whale, Q!ac'nEmicLX." Then she arose and caught a whale. 

Again the canoe rocked. She said: "Hold it fast, Q!ac'nEmicLX." Sometimes she did not say it right and cried: "Let go the whale, Q!ac'nEmicLX." Then the whale drifted ashore. The people went down to the beach and cut the whale. They carried the meat up to house.

After some time the chief said: "I desire to go and see my sister." Now the people made themselves ready and started in a large canoe. When they came near the country of the supernatural beings their chief said: "Take care, they will test us." [When they had gone a little farther] the whole sea was covered with ice. He said to his people: "We will land after awhile." 

Now Blue-Jay became very cold, but he said: "I never get cold, I will stay in the canoe." He jumped into the water and sank out of sight at once. Then a person shouted on shore: "Ehehiu, [Blue-Jay] killed himself." Then the chief arose in the canoe; he took the ice and threw it away. Then that person shouted: "Ehehiu, how he threw away the ice of the supernatural beings." "'Ehehiu,' you say, I threw it away; what made me fall down?," [said Blue-Jay]. Then they went up to the house. The chief said: "Do not enter at once. After a while they will open their house." 

Our thanks to Blue Panther Keeper of Stories


Read AnktcX'lEmiX  A Chinook Story - Part II