Native American Legends
An Okanagon Legend
The people of a certain region were living together in a very large
camp. Their chief had two beautiful daughters of marriageable age.
Many young men had proposed to them, but all had been refused.
The chief said, "Whom do my daughters wish to marry? They
have refused all the men." Sun and Star, who were brother and
sister, lived in the sky, and had seen all that had happened. Sun
said to his sister, "The chief's daughters have rejected the
suits of all our friends. Let us go down and arrange this matter!
Let us try these girls!" They made clothes, and at night they
descended to Earth.
During the darkness they erected a lodge on the outskirts of the
camp. It had the appearance of being very old, and of belonging
to poor people. The poles were old and badly selected. The covering
was tattered and patched, and made of tule mats. The floor was strewn
with old dried brush and grass, and the beds were of the same material.
Their blankets consisted of old mats and pieces of old robes; and
their kettles and cups were of bark, poorly made. Star had assumed
the form of a decrepit old woman dressed in rags; and Sun, that
of a dirty boy with sore eyes.
On the following morning the women of the camp saw the lodge, and
peered in. When they returned, they reported, "Some very poor
people arrived during the night, and are camped in an old mat lodge.
We saw two persons inside,-- a dirty, sore-eyed boy; and his grandmother,
a very old woman in ragged clothes."
Now, the chief resolved to find husbands for his daughters. He
sent out his speaker to announce that in four days there would be
a shooting-contest open to all the men, and the best marksman would
get his daughters for wives. The young men could not sleep for eagerness.
On the third day the chief's speaker announced, "Tomorrow morning
every one shall shoot.
Each one will have two shots. An eagle will perch on the tall tree
yonder; and whoever kills it shall have the chief's daughters."
Coyote was there and felt happy. He thought he would win the prize.
On the following morning an eagle was seen soaring in the air, and
there was much excitement as it began to descend. It alighted on
a tree which grew near one end of the camp.
Then the young men tried to shoot it. Each man had two arrows.
The previous evening Sun had said to Star, "Grandmother, make
a bow and arrows for me." She said, "What is the use?
You cannot shoot. You never used bow and arrows." He replied,
"I am going to try. I shall take part in the contest tomorrow.
I heard what the chief said." She took pity on him, and went
to a red willow-bush, cut a branch for a bow, and some twigs for
arrows. She strung the bow with a poor string, and did not feather
Coyote, who was afraid some one else might hit the bird, shouted,
"I will shoot first. Watch me hit the eagle." His arrow
struck the lowest branch of the tree and fell down, and the people
laughed. He said, "I made a mistake. That was a bad arrow.
This one will kill the eagle." He shot, and the arrow fell
short of the first one. He became angry, and pulled other arrows
from his quiver. He wanted to shoot them all. The people seized
him, and took away his arrows, saying, "You are allowed to
shoot twice only." All the people shot and missed. When the
last one had shot, Sun said, "Grandmother, lift the door of
the lodge a little, so that I can shoot." She said,
"First get out of bed." She pulled the lodge mat aside
a little, and he shot. The arrow hit the tail of the eagle. The
people saw and heard the arrow coming from Dirty-Boy's lodge, but
saw no one shooting it. They wondered. He shot the second arrow,
which pierced the eagle's heart.
Now, Wolf and others were standing near Dirty-Boy's lodge, and
Wolf desired much to claim the prize. He shouted, "I shot the
bird from the lodge-door!" and ran to pick it up; but the old
woman Star ran faster than he, picked up the bird, and carried it
to the chief.
She claimed his daughters for her grandson. All the people gathered
around, and made fun of Dirty-Boy. They said, "He is bedridden.
He is lousy, sore- eyed, and scabby-faced." The chief was loath
to give his daughters to such a person. He knew that Dirty-Boy could
not walk. Therefore he said , "Tomorrow there shall be another
contest. This will be the last one, I cannot break my word. Whoever
wins this time shall have my daughters."
He announced that tomorrow each man should set two traps for fishers
an animal very scarce at the place where the camp was located. If
any one should catch a fisher one night, then he was to stay in
the mountains another day to catch a second one. After that he had
to come back. Those who caught nothing the first night had to come
home at once.
Only two traps were allowed to each man; and two fishers had to
be caught,-- one a light one, and one a dark one,--and both prime
skins. When all the men had gone to the mountains, Sun said to his
sister, "Grandmother, make two traps for me." She answered,
"First get out of bed!" However, she had pity on him,
and made two deadfall's of willow sticks. She asked him where she
should set them; and he said, "One on each side of the lodge-door."
On the following morning all the men returned by noon; not one
of them had caught a fisher. When Star went out, she found two fine
fishers in the traps. Now the chief assembled the men to see if
any one had caught the fishers. He was glad, because he knew that
Dirty-Boy could not walk; and unless he went to the mountains, he
had no chance to kill fishers. Just then the old grandmother appeared,
dragging the fishers. She said, "I hear you asked for two fishers;
here are two that my grandson caught." She handed them over
to him, and then left.
Coyote had boasted that he would certainly catch the fishers. When
he went up the mountain, he carried ten traps instead of two. He
said, "Whoever heard of setting only two traps? I shall set
ten." He set them all, remained out two nights, but got nothing.
The chief said to his daughters, "You must become the wives
of Dirty-Boy. I tried to save you by having two contests; but since
I am a great chief, I cannot break my word. Go now, and take up
your abode with your husband." They put on their best clothes
and went. On the way they had to pass Raven's house, and heard the
Ravens laughing inside, be cause the girls had to marry Dirty-Boy.
The elder sister said, "Let us go in and-see what they are
laughing about!" The younger one said, "No, our father
told us to go straight to our husband."
The elder one went in, and sat down beside Raven's eldest son.
She became his wife. Like all the other Ravens, he was ugly, and
had a big head; but she thought it better to marry him than to become
the wife of a dirty, sickly boy.
The younger one went on, entered Dirty-Boy's lodge, and sat down
by his side. The old woman asked her who she was, and why she had
come. When the old woman had been told, she said, "Your husband
is sick, and soon he will die. He stinks too much. You must not
sleep with him. Go back to your father's lodge every evening; but
come here in the daytime, and watch him and attend him."
Now, the Raven family that lived close by laughed much at the younger
daughter of the chief. They were angry because she had not entered
their house and married there, as her elder sister had done. To
hurt her feelings, they dressed their new daughter-in-law in the
finest clothes they had. Her dress was covered with beads, shells,
elk's teeth, and quill-work.
They gave her necklaces, and her mother-in-law gave her a finely
polished celt of green stone (jade) to hang at her belt. The younger
sister paid no attention to this, but returned every morning to
help her grandmother-in-law to gather fire-wood, and to attend to
her sick husband.
For three days matters remained this way. In the evening of the
third day Sun said to his sister, "We will resume our true
forms tonight, so that people may see us tomorrow." That night
they transformed themselves." The old mat lodge became a fine
new skin lodge, surpassing those of the Blackfeet and other tribes,
richly decorated with ornaments, and with streamers tied to the
top and painted. The old bark kettle became a bright copper kettle;
and new pretty woven baskets, and embroidered and painted bags,
were in the house.
The old woman became a fine-looking person of tall figure, with
clothes covered with shining stars. Dirty-Boy became a young, handsome
man of light complexion. His clothes were covered with shining copper.
His hair reached to the ground and shone like the rays of the sun.
In the morning the people saw the new lodge, and said, "Some
rich chief has arrived, and has camped where the poor people were.
He has thrown them out."
When the girl arrived, she was much surprised to see the transformation.
She saw a woman in the door, wearing a long skin dress covered with
star pendants, with bright stars in her hair. She addressed her
in a familiar voice, saying, "Come in and sit with your husband!"
The girl then knew who she was. When she entered, she saw a handsome
man reclining, with his head on a beautiful parfleche. His garments
and hair were decorated with bright suns. The girl did not recognize
him, and looked around. The woman said, "That is your husband;
go and sit beside him." Then she was glad.
Sun took his wife to the copper kettle which stood at the door.
It contained a shining liquid. He pushed her head into it, and when
the liquid ran down over her hair and body, lines of sparkling small
stars formed on her. He told her to empty the kettle. When she did
so, the liquid ran to the chief's lodge, forming a path, as of gold-dust.
He said, "This will be your trail when you go to see your father."
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