Native American Legends
A Haida Legend
Long ago, among the Haida people, there was a boy who showed no
respect for the salmon. Though the salmon meant life for the people,
he was not respectful of the one his people called Swimmer. His
parents told him to show gratitude and behave properly, but he did
not listen. When fishing, he would step on the bodies of the salmon
that were caught and after eating he carelessly threw the bones
of the fish into the bushes. Others warned him that the spirits
of the salmon were not pleased by such bad behavior, but he did
One day, his mother served him a meal of salmon. He looked at it
with disgust. "This is moldy" he said, though the meat
was good. He threw it upon the ground. Then, he went down to the
river to swim with the other children. However, as he was swimming,
a current caught him and pulled him away from the others. It swept
him into the deepest water and he could not swim strongly enough
to escape from it. He sank into the river and drowned.
There, deep in the river, the Salmon People took him with them.
They were returning back to the ocean without using their bodies.
They had left their bodies behind for the humans and the animal
people to use as food. The boy went with them, for now, he belonged
to the salmon.
When they reached their home, in the ocean, they looked just like
human beings. Their village there in the ocean looked much like
his own home and he could hear the sound of children playing in
the stream which flowed behind the village. Now the Salmon People
began to teach the boy. He was hungry and they told him to go to
the stream and catch one their children, who were salmon swimming
in the stream. However, he was told, he must be respectful and after
eating return all of the bones and everything he did not intend
to eat to the water. Then, he was told, the children would be able
to come back to life. But, if he didn't return the bones, to the
water, salmon child would not come back.
He did as he was told, but one day after he had eaten, when it
came time for the children to come up to the village, from the stream,
he heard one of them crying. He went to see what was wrong. The
child was limping because one of its feet was gone. Then, the boy
realized he had not thrown all of the fins back into the stream.
he quickly found the one fin he had missed, and threw it in and
the child was healed.
After he had spent the winter with the Salmon People, it again
was spring and time for them to return to the rivers. The boy swam
with them, for he belonged to the Salmon People now. When they swam
past his old village, his own mother caught him in her net. When
she pulled him from the water, even though he was in the shape of
a salmon, she saw the copper necklace he was wearing. It was the
same necklace she had given her son.
She carried Salmon Boy carefully back home. She spoke to him and
held him and gradually he began to shed his salmon skin; First,
his head emerged. Then, after eight days, he shed all of the skin
and was a human again.
Salmon Boy taught the people all of the things he had learned.
He was a healer now and helped them when they were sick.
"I can't stay with you long," he said, "you must
remember what I teach you."
He remained with the people until the time came when the old salmon
who had gone upstream and not been caught by the humans or the animal
people came drifting back down toward the stream. As Salmon Boy
stood by the water, he saw a huge old salmon floating down toward
him. It was so worn by its journey that he could see through its
sides. He recognized it as his own soul and he thrust his spear
into it. As soon as he did so, he died.
Then the people of the village did as he told them to do. They
placed his body into the river. It circled four times and then sank,
going back to his home in the ocean, back to the Salmon People.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends