Manataka American Indian Council



Thompson River Indian 

Traditional Stories

Thompson [Nkamtci'nEmux tribe]




Battle of the Birds
Recorded by James Teit



All the birds agreed to help the Hala'u to steal the wife of the Baldheaded Eagle, who was a very good woman, but got treated bad by her husband. The Hala'u said, " We will all go to the underground lodge of our grandfather, the Baldheaded Eagle. I will stay outside whilst all of you go inside, and engage him in a game of lahal, and you will at the same time complain of the cold, and keep putting wood on the fire, until the house gets very hot, then his wife will be sure to come outside to cool herself." Accordingly all the birds entered, and engaged the Baldheaded Eagle in a game. 


They did as directed by the Hala'u, and soon the place was very hot. Before long the wife arose and said, " I am going out to cool myself. I cannot stand the heat." As soon as she got outside, the Hala'u took possession of her, and conducted her to his house. Shortly afterwards the birds ceased playing with the Baldheaded Eagle, and all went home in a body. As the woman did not return, the Baldheaded Eagle knew what had happened, and began to train himself. After training for some time, he donned a collar of several thickness of birch-bark, and repaired to the house of the Hala'u, where all the birds were assembled. 


Here he took up his position on the top of the ladder, and challenged them to battle. Each one of the smaller birds went in succession to the woman to get his hair combed, and straightway to fight the Baldheaded Eagle; but they all fell an easy prey to their warlike and powerful enemy. Then the larger and more powerful birds had their hair combed and went out ; but they also were slain. The Raven had his hair combed by the woman and then went out ; but he, too, soon fell a victim.

Next came the Chicken Hawk ; but he soon shared the same fate. Then the Fish Hawk sailed forth, and there was a stubborn fight ; but eventually the Baldheaded Eagle killed him and cut off his head. After that the Hala'u himself went forth with a bitch-hack collar around his neck, and forthwith ensued a fierce battle. The combatants rose to the clouds, and dropped to the earth, fighting ; but at last the Hala'u was slain and decapitated. The woman then commenced to wail inside the house, for there was only one bird left, viz., the Ha'tabat, who also had his hair combed, and went to give battle to the Baldheaded Eagle. The contest was a very furious one. The combatants flew up to the clouds several times, and back again. 


At last the Baldheaded Eagle was slain, and the Ha'tahat took possession of the woman. Afterwards he went around and healed the wounds of the dead birds, put their heads on their bodies, and they all came to life again, except the Baldheaded Eagle. 

From: Traditions of the Thompson River Indians, Recorded by James Teit
From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories


Beaver and Muskrat

Collected by James Alexander Teit

Formerly the muskrat had a broad tail like that of the beaver at the present day, while the beaver had a narrow tail, like that of the muskrat now. 


One day Beaver asked the loan of Muskrat's tail to try it, and gave his own to Muskrat to try. Beaver found that Muskrat's tail was much better than his own for swimming with, and thereafter kept it. He always avoided Muskrat, who was now unable to catch him. 


When they were transformed, it was ordained that each should keep the tail he had. The Transformer said that Beaver had more need of the large tail than Muskrat.

From: Myths and Tales from Nicola Valley and Fraser River collected by James Alexander Teit, 1911
From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories

Blue Jay and Sweat-House 
Collected by James Alexander Teit


Blue Jay is related to Sweat-house. He was the greatest joker of the ancients, and was always poking fun at the people. If any one made fun of him, or imitated him, his mouth became twisted. He was the originator of the twisted-mouth disease, and introduced it into the world. Before that persons with twisted mouths were unknown. 


Blue Jay and Sweat-house lived among the people, and slept in a corner of the house. Sweat-house took the form of the bent stick of a sweat-house, and slept by day. At night he changed into an old man, and wandered about, while Blue Jay slept in his place. The people did not know that Sweat-house was a man. 


Finally the people became tired of Blue Jay's mockery, and fearful of his magic, and made up their minds to desert him. They kept away for four years, living in a different place each summer and each winter. At the end of that time Blue Jay was still alive, and continued to live in the same place. 


Then they agreed to leave for food, and settled in another country. At last a transformer came along and transformed Blue Jay, saying, "Henceforth you will be a bird, and a chatterer and mocker forever, able to talk incessantly, and to imitate the cries of the eagle and other birds and animals." This is the reason why the blue jay is able, at this present day, to imitate the cries of all kinds of birds and animals. 


Then he transformed Sweat-house, saying, "You, old man, will be the spirit of the sweat-house, and, until the world ends, people, by sweat-bathing, and praying to you, will lose their lice, and become healthy, clean, successful, and rich. You will be very powerful, and able to help the people, and grant their prayers." 


From: Myths and Tales from Nicola Valley and Fraser River collected by James Alexander Teit, 1911
From Blue Panther Keeper of Stories