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Native American Legends

Ioi and the Ghost Husband

A Chinook Legend

The ghosts went in search of a wife and one of them fell in love with Blue Jay's sister Ioi. They brought animal teeth as gifts and the night after the wedding feast they disappeared, taking Ioi with them.

Blue Jay did not hear from Ioi for an entire year. He then decided to visit the land of ghosts in order to see her again. He went about the villages and among the animals asking for directions, but none would answer him. Finally, he found someone who would guide him there in return for payment.

In the land of ghosts, he found Ioi standing amid piles of bones that were introduced to him as Ioi's in-laws. At times the bones would leap into normal human form, but they would return to piles of bones when a loud noise was made.

Ioi asked Blue Jay to take her young brother-in-law fishing. The boats of the ghost people looked terrible; they were full of holes and covered with moss. Finding that a shout would turn his fishing companion into a pile of bones, Blue Jay had great fun.

Among his many pranks, Blue Jay took the bones and mixed them up, placing the skull of a child on an adult torso, then laughing when the strange thing came to life.

The next time Blue Jay went fishing with Ioi's young brother-in-law, they kept what they caught, which looked to Blue Jay like branches but which were actually fine salmon in the ghost world.

Another time the ghost people became very excited: A "whale" had been found beached. But to Blue Jay's eyes it did not look like a whale, but rather like a large log. The ghost people began stripping the bark off the log, praising it as the richest whale blubber they had ever had.

Knowing that by shouting he could reduce them all to bones, he did so, and then took the blubber for himself, but in his hands it still looked like tree bark.

The ghost people tired of Blue Jay's pranks at their expense, and Ioi's husband begged her to send the trickster home. So Ioi sent her brother up to the world of the living to put out five prairie fires.

She gave him five pots of water, but-as usual-he ignored his sisters instructions, claiming, "Ioi always tells lies." So he poured the water on the fires without taking care to see how much was needed for the job.

By the time Blue Jay reached the fifth fire, there was no water left. The fire consumed him and he died. But the dead don't know that they are dead right away.

Upon arriving in the land of the dead, Blue Jay did not believe that he was dead. When Ioi sent her canoe to greet him-a canoe that had looked before to Blue Jay as miserable and full of holes.

He said, "What a fine canoe! I have never seen one this fine."

When the people brought him fine salmon, which had seemed before to Blue Jay to be mere tree branches-he said, "What excellent salmon; I have never seen any so fine."

The people in the land of the dead tried to convince Blue Jay that he was actually dead, but he refused to believe it, saying, "Ioi always tells lies."

Remembering his tricks with the ghost people, Blue Jay shouted. However, now the ghosts did not reduce to piles of bones; in fact, nothing happened.

Still not convinced that he was actually dead, Blue Jay went to pester the medicine men in the land of the ghosts. They became annoyed with him and made him insane. When Ioi found him, he was dancing on his head.

Ioi told the people, "My brother is now very dead, he has lost his mind."

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