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
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
"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
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