Native American Legends
Pushing up the sky
A Snohomish Legend
The Creator and Changer first made the world in the East. Then
he slowly came westward, creating as he came. With him he brought
many languages, and he gave each one to each group of people he
When he reached Puget Sound, he liked it so well that he decided
to go no further. But he had many languages left, so he scattered
them all around Puget Sound and to the north. That's why there are
so many different Indian languages spoken there.
These people could not talk together, but it happened that none
of them were pleased with the way the Creator had made the world.
The sky was so low that the tall people bumped their heads against
Sometimes people would do what was forbidden by climbing up high
in the trees and, learning their own words, enter the Sky World.
Finally the wise men of all the different tribes had a meeting
to see what they could do about lifting the sky. They agreed that
the people should get together and try to push it up higher.
"We can do it," a wise man of the council said, "if
we all push at the same time. We will need all the people and all
the animals and all the birds when we push."
"How will we know when to push?" asked another of the
wise men. "Some of us live in this part of the world, some
in another. We don't all talk the same language. How can we get
everyone to push at the same time?"
That puzzled the men of the council, but at last one of them suggested
that they use a signal. "When the time comes for us to push,
when we have everything ready, let someone shout 'Ya-hoh.' That
means 'Lift together!' in all our languages."
So the wise men of the council sent that message to all the people
and animals and birds and told them on what day they were to lift
the sky. Everyone made poles from the giant fir trees to use in
pushing against the sky.
The day for the sky lifting came. All the people raised their poles
and touched the sky with them. Then the wise men shouted, "Ya-
hoh!" Everybody pushed, and the sky moved up a little.
"Ya-hoh," the wise men shouted a second time, and everybody
pushed with all his strength. The sky moved a few inches more. "Ya-hoh,"
all shouted, and pushed as hard as they could push.
They kept on shouting "Ya-hoh" and pushing until the
sky was in the place where it is now. Since then, no one has bumped
his head against it, and no one has been able to climb into the
Now, three hunters had been chasing four elks during all the meetings
and did not know about the plan. Just as the people and animals
and birds were ready to push the sky up, the three hunters and the
four elks came to the place where the earth nearly meets the sky.
The elks jumped into the Sky World, and the hunters ran after them.
When the sky was lifted, elks and hunters were lifted too.
In the Sky World they were changed into stars, and at night even
now you see them. The three hunters form the handle of the Big Dipper.
The middle hunter has his dog with him - now a tiny star. The four
elks make the bowl of the Big Dipper.
Some other people were caught up in the sky in two canoes, three
men in each of them. And a little fish also was on its way up into
the Sky World when the people pushed. So all of them have had to
stay there ever since. The hunters and the little dog, the elk,
the little fish, and the men in the two canoes are stars, even though
they once lived on earth.
We still shout "Ya-hoh!" when doing hard work together
or lifting something heavy like a canoe. When we say "Hoh!"
all of us use all the strength we have. Our voices have a higher
pitch on that part of the word, and we make the 'o' very long -
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