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Native American Legends

Tsi - Laan (Deep Water)

A Yakima Legend

Once there was more than enough game, plants, and fish of every kind for the people. to eat. But they took their wealth for granted and were rude to Spilyay (coyote) when he offered them more food. Consequently, they lost almost everything they had. This is the story I will tell you...

There was a time that coyote was going around telling the animal world that there was going to be a change. He told them, "We are going to be reduced in power. There are others coming who are going to be rulers over all of us, and over all this country." Coyote was talking about the new people, the people with two legs - people we now call native Americans.

So he began to prepare. One day, coyote came up the Columbia River to the Chelan River. He looked it over and felt there was something he should do here. He asked his "power" what he should do (the power or counselors were his five sisters which he carried around inside of him). The sisters told him that there were no fish in the Chelan River that he should fix it so the fish could swim up the river. At that time the Chelan River was too swift and the salmon could not go up the river.

Coyote decided to build steps with rocks for the salmon to swim up the river. He widened a narrow gorge for them to swim through. He made a deep pool under the falls so the salmon could rest up before they swam up river.

And that is not all the coyote did! When he came up to Mud Flats, he found that the river was too shallow, so he built a high rocky cliff and a rapids and made another little pool for the fish to rest. Coyote was very busy. He traveled to many places, fixing streams and rivers so that the salmon could come and spawn. He did this for the new people.

But one day while coyote was working on a place called Dry Lake, he left his canoe on the shore. He had seen a pretty girl living with the new people. He told the people, "I want the most beautiful princess you have in your village and I'll fix up a lot of places where you can catch many fish. I'll even make places where you can dry your own fish." But the people told him, "We don't need your fish. We will not give you our prettiest girl. We have enough game here to live on. We have mountain goats, mountain lion, game birds, quail, grouse and turtle doves and we have bear and deer. We don't need your fish."

Coyote (who was known for a having a very bad temper, as well as being a trickster), grew angry. He had worked very hard to make places for the salmon to live so that the new people would have fresh fish to eat. So he started back and began destroying everything that he had created. He destroyed all of the fishing sites, drove out all the fish from the spawning grounds, and he made the water holes dry up. He left his canoe in the Chelan River, but so that no one would get any use out of it, he turned it into stone (there is a cliff there now). He took back everything that was worthwhile.

Now most of the lakes have only small fish. Coyote said, "they can have a few minnows, but there will never be any more big fish". This is why many places in North Central Washington are without Salmon. The only way to get fish in many lakes is by planting them there.

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