Native American Legends
When the animals and birds were created
A Makah Legend
The Indians who live on the farthest point of the northwest corner
of Washington State used to tell stories, not about one Changer,
but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives,
who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
When the world was very young, there were no people on the Earth.
There were no birds or animals, either. There was nothing but grass
and sand and creatures that were neither animals nor people but
had some of the traits of people and some of the traits of animals.
Then the two brothers of the Sun and the Moon came to the Earth.
Their names were Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, which means "The Two-Men-Who-
Changed- Things." They came to make the Earth ready for a new
race of people, the Indians. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called
all the creatures to them. Some they changed to animals and birds.
Some they changed to trees and smaller plants.
Among them was a bad thief. He was always stealing food from creatures
who were fishermen and hunters. The Two-Men-Who- Changed-Things
transformed him into Seal. They shortened his arms and tied his
legs so that only his feet could move. Then they threw Seal into
the Ocean and said to him, "Now you will have to catch your
own fish if you are to have anything to eat."
One of the creatures was a great fisherman. He was always on the
rocks or was wading with his long fishing spear. He kept it ready
to thrust into some fish. He always wore a little cape, round and
white over his shoulders. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed
him into Great Blue Heron. The cape became the white feathers around
the neck of Great Blue Heron. The long fishing spear became his
sharp pointed bill.
Another creature was both a fisherman and a thief. He had stolen
a necklace of shells. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed
him into Kingfisher. The necklace of shells was turned into a ring
of feathers around Kingfisher's neck. He is still a fisherman. He
watches the water, and when he sees a fish, he dives headfirst with
a splash into the water.
Two creatures had huge appetites. They devoured everything they
could find. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed one of them
into Raven. They transformed his wife into Crow. Both Raven and
Crow were given strong beaks so that they could tear their food.
Raven croaks "Cr-r-ruck!" and Crow answers with a loud
The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called Bluejay's son to them and
asked, "Which do you wish to be--a bird or a fish?"
"I don't want to be either," he answered.
"Then we will transform you into Mink. You will live on land.
You will eat the fish you can catch from the water or can pick up
on the shore. "
Then the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things remembered that the new people
would need wood for many things.
They called one of the creatures to them and said "The Indians
will want tough wood to make bows with. They will want tough wood
to make wedges with, so that they can split logs. You are tough
and strong. We will change you into the yew tree."
They called some little creatures to them. "The new people
will need many slender, straight shoots for arrows. You will be
the arrowwood. You will be white with many blossoms in early summer."
They called a big, fat creature to them. "The Indians will
need big trunks with soft wood so that they can make canoes. You
will be the cedar trees. The Indians will make many things from
your bark and from your roots."
The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things knew that the Indians would need
wood for fuel. So they called an old creature to them. "You
are old, and your heart is dry. You will make good kindling, for
your grease has turned hard and will make pitch. You will be the
spruce tree. When you grow old, you will always make dry wood that
will be good for fires."
To another creature they said, "You shall be the hemlock.
Your bark will be good for tanning hides. Your branches will be
used in the sweat lodges."
A creature with a cross temper they changed into a crab apple tree,
saying, "You shall always bear sour fruit."
Another creature they changed into the wild cherry tree, so that
the new people would have fruit and could use the cherry bark for
A thin, tough creature they changed into the alder tree, so that
the new people would have hard wood for their canoe paddles.
Thus the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things got the world ready for the
new people who were to come. They made the world as it was when
the Indians lived in it.
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