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
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
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,
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."
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends