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Native American Legends

The coming of the Salmon

A Haida Legend

The little daughter of the chief cried and cried and cried. She cried because no one could give her that for which she cried. Neither her father, who was a powerful chief, nor the wisest men of the tribe could give her the great, shining fish that she desired. Even the oldest of the tribe had never seen such a fish. As the little girl cried day and night and grew sick by crying, the chief ordered a great Council Fire.

All of the tribal medicine men sat around the fire, and the wisest of them rose to speak. "The maiden cries for a thing which she has seen in a dream," he declared. "Many fish have we in our Inlet, big fish, but none are like the one of which the daughter of our chief speaks. Such a fish may prove big medicine for our tribe if we can find it. Let our wise men speak. Maybe one of them may know where such a great, gleaming, leaping fish may be found."

Only one medicine man stood up. After saluting the chief he spoke,"The Raven, who lives among the cedars, is my good friend. He is very wise and knows many things that the wisest among us know not. Let me bring him to this Council Fire, that he may counsel us."

The chief gave his permission, and the old medicine man left the Council Fire and soon returned with the Raven seated on his shoulder. The great bird croaked as he spoke, and only the wisest could follow his talk-trail.

"What the daughter of the chief asks for is a giant fish, known as a Salmon. In this moon, they are to be found far from here at the mouth of a mighty river, which flows into the other side of our Inlet. Because those of your tribe are my friends, I will fly swift and far to bring one of these fish to your village."

Before the chief could thank it, the big bird was high in the air. It flew far, and fast as a harpoon travels, until its keen eyes saw, far beneath, many Salmon swimming together at the mouth of the river. The Raven dived quick as a hawk and, by chance, caught the little son of the Salmon Chief in his talons. Rising high in the air, with the fish held firmly in his claws, the Raven flew toward the distant village of his friends.

Salmon Scouts, leaping high from the water, in great flashing arcs, saw the direction in with the Raven flew. A horde of Salmon, led by their chief, swam rapidly in pursuit. Speedily as the fish swam, the fast-flying bird reached the village far ahead of them.

The Raven placed the great fish before the little daughter of the chief. She smiled, and cried no more. Then the bird told his friend, the old medicine man, that many Salmon would be sure to swim into the river inlet, in pursuit, to try and rescue the young Salmon which he had caught.

The medicine man told the chief what the Raven had said, and the fishermen and women were told to weave a huge net. This they did swiftly, and when the Salmon came, all of the fish were caught in the net. To hold them prisoner, a long, strong leather thong was passed through their gills. One end of the thong was tied to a big rock and the other end was fastened to this great totem pole, which then grew as a tall cedar. Ever since, it has been called the 'Nhe-is-bik', or tethering pole. On this pole - a totem pole - there was carved a mighty Thunderbird, an Indian Chief, a Raven and a Salmon, carved in that order from the top of the great cedar pole. The end of this story tells of great magic. Year after year, from that time, the Salmon passed on that side of the river Inlet, and the people were glad.

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