Coyote becomes Chief of the Salmon
A Sanpoils Legend
In the beginning Coyote had great power. He said to himself, "Why remain in seclusion when I have so much power?" He became restless and wanted to travel. He journeyed down the Columbia River, and there he met Sparrow (Chis-ka-ka-nar).
Sparrow was a warrior, dressed in his beautiful beaded war head dress, of which he was very proud. As soon as Coyote saw him, he thought, "I will kill him and take his head dress."
So he killed Sparrow, and took his quiver of arrows and his beaded head dress. He put them on, and felt very brave and proud. He thought himself very handsome, -- much handsomer than Sparrow ever had been. He stepped about, shaking his head from side to side, and resolved to travel close to the river, that he might see his reflection.
As he came around a bend of the river, he saw blue smoke in the distance rising from a tent which seemed warm and comfortable. He thought, "I will call and see if there is a beautiful maiden to admire me." To his disappointment, he saw only twelve children. They all spoke at once in reply to his questions, and he could not understand them. They were the Willow-Grouse (Sarsarwas) family, who spoke their own language. They were trying to tell him that their parents were gathering berries. Then Coyote became angry, and thought they were calling him names. He went out, gathered pitch, and put a piece on the eyes of the children. When their parents returned, they were all blind.
Then the mother determined to have revenge. She suspected who had done it, as they had seen Coyote tracks near by. She said to her husband, "Do you remember the high cliff by the river? We will hide behind some bushes and scare him as he comes along the edge of the cliff."
As Coyote was going along the trail, he was singing his war-chant. All at once there was a roar that scared him. He gave a jump and fell over the cliff. He knew that he was in danger of death. Quickly he turned himself into a basket, which floated lightly on the water below. It drifted down with the current.
At that time there were two sisters who lived by the river. Near by was a solid rock dam which they guarded with jealous care. No one was allowed to come near. Silver-salmon were kept within the dam as their food.
Coyote knew of these salmon, and made up his mind to release them. He waited until morning. The younger sister (Steneechken) went down to get a salmon for breakfast. She saw the basket-dish floating on the water. She landed it, and took it to her tent. The elder sister (Wiswiskin) said, "No, sister, do not keep the dish. Throw it into the river. It may bring us misfortune." The younger one would not give it up. She ate out of it. Each day after her meal she left some salmon in it when she put it away.
Every day at this time of the year they went to pick berries. When they returned, they would find the dish empty. The elder sister became alarmed, and insisted that the dish be thrown into the fire. When she did so, it made a loud report, and a little boy came out of the fire. The younger sister was delighted, and kept him, although the elder sister objected. They made a bow and arrows for him, so that he could amuse himself while they were away.
Each morning after the sisters had left home, the boy worked at the dam with a hard rock instrument he had made. After he had been there one month, the girls did not find him when they came home in the evening. They ran to the dam, and found that he had taken the form of a man. He was digging at a hole that he had made in the dam. They tried to crush him, but he had a piece of horn on his head. Just then the water broke through and separated him from them. He called to the girls, who were weeping on the bank, "Women were never intended to guard salmon."
He started up the stream, and the salmon followed him. As he went away, he turned one sister into a water-snipe, and the other into a kildee. They always live near the water and eat fish.
Coyote traveled up the river with the salmon. Whenever Coyote met people, he made a salmon jump out of the water into his arms. Then he cooked it and asked the people to eat.
At one place he met a number of girls picking berries. They were very beautiful, and he decided to select one of them for his wife. He winked his eye, brought salmon from the water, and feasted the girls. They were pleased, and their parents wanted him to take one of the maidens, so that they might always have salmon to eat. He fell in love with one of the girls, who had a fine voice, and who was in the habit of using it to hear her words repeated by the echo.
When Coyote asked her to be his wife, she refused him with scorn. He became angry, and started back down the river, taking the salmon with him. He stopped at the Forks of the Similkameen, about five miles from the Okanagan. There he formed falls to keep the salmon from going up. Then he made falls in the Okanagan, Kettle, and Columbia Rivers, because in all these places the maidens refused him.
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