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Native American Legends

Coyote builds Willamette fails and the Magic Fish Trap

A Chinook Legend

Coyote came to a place near Oregon City and found the people there very hungry. The river was full of salmon, but they had no way to spear them in the deep water. Coyote decided he would build a big waterfall, so that the salmon would come to the surface for spearing. Then he would build a fish trap there too.

First he tried at the mouth of Pudding River, but it was no good, and all he made was a gravel bar there. So he went on down the river to Rock Island, and it was better, but after making the rapids there he gave up again and went farther down still. Where the Willamette Falls are now, he found just the right place, and he made the Falls high and wide. All the Indians came and began to fish.

Now Coyote made his magic fish trap. He made it so it would speak, and say Noseepsk! when it was full. Because he was pretty hungry, Coyote decided to try it first himself. He set the trap by the Falls, and then ran back up the shore to prepare to make a cooking fire. But he had only begun when the trap called out, "Noseepsk!"

He hurried back; indeed the trap was full of salmon. Running back with them, he started his fire again, but again the fish trap cried "Noseepsk! Noseepsk!" He went again and found the trap full of salmon. Again he ran to the shore with them; again he had hardly gotten to his fire when the trap called out, "Noseepsk! Noseepsk!" It happened again, and again; the fifth time Coyote became angry and said to the trap, "What, can't you wait with your fish catching until I've built a fire?" The trap was very offended by Coyote's impatience and stopped working right then. So after that the people had to spear their salmon as best they could.

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