Chinookan: Legend of Stikŭa

Blue Jay is a culture hero, while Raven is associated with creation. The fable that follows is one of revenge, and cautionary tale against unreasonable haughtiness as told by Lewis Spence in Myths and Legends of the North American Indians.
— Orly

Many people were living at Nakotat. Now their chief died. He had [left] a son who was almost grown up. It was winter and the people were hungry. They had only mussels and roots to eat. Once upon a time a hunter said: "Make yourselves ready." All the men made themselves ready, and went seaward in two canoes. Then the hunter speared a sea-lion. It jumped and drifted on the water [dead]. They hauled it ashore. Blue Jay said: "Let us boil it here." They made a fire and singed it. They cut it and boiled it. Blue Jay said: "Let us eat it here, let us eat all of it." Then the people ate. Raven tried to hide a piece of meat in his mat, and carried it to the canoe. [But] Blue Jay had already seen it; he ran [after him] took it and threw it into the fire. He burned it. Then they went home. They gathered large and small mussels. In the evening they came home. Then Blue Jay shouted: "Stikŭa, fetch your mussels." Stikŭa was the name of Blue Jay's wife. Then noise of many feet [was heard], and Stikŭa and the other women came running down to the beach. They went to fetch mussels. The women came to the beach and carried the mussels to the house. Raven took care of the chief's son. The boy said: "To-morrow I shall accompany you." Blue Jay said to him: "What do you want to do? The waves will carry you away, you will drift away; even I almost drifted away."

The next morning they made themselves ready. They went into the canoe, and the boy came down to the beach. He wanted to accompany them, and held on to the canoe. "Go to the house, go to the house," said Blue Jay. The boy went up, but he was very sad. Then Blue Jay said: "Let us leave him." The people began to paddle. Then they arrived at the sea-lion island. The hunter went ashore and speared a sea-lion. It jumped and drifted on the water [dead]. They hauled it ashore and pulled it up from the water. Blue Jay said: "Let us eat it here; let us eat all of it, else our chief's son would always want to come here." They singed it, carved it, and boiled it there. When it was done they ate it all. Raven tried to hide a piece in his hair, but Blue Jay took it out immediately and burned it. In the evening they gathered large and small mussels, and then they went home. When they approached the beach Blue Jay shouted: "Stikŭa, fetch your mussels!" Then noise of many feet [was heard]. Stikŭa and her children and all the other women came running down to the beach and carried the mussels up to the house. Blue Jay had told all those people: "Don't tell our chief's son, else he will want to accompany us." In the evening the boy said: "To-morrow I shall accompany you." But Blue Jay said: "What do you want to do? The waves will carry you away." But the boy replied: "I must go."

In the morning they made themselves ready for the third time. The boy went down to the beach and took hold of the canoe. But Blue Jay pushed him aside and said: "What do you want here? Go to the house." The boy cried and went up to the house. [When he turned back] Blue Jay said: "Now paddle away. We will leave him." The people began to paddle, and soon they reached the sea-lion island. The hunter went ashore and speared one large sea-lion. It jumped and drifted on the water [dead]. They hauled it toward the shore, landed, pulled it up and singed it. They finished singeing it. Then they carved it and boiled it, and when it was done they began to eat. Blue Jay said: "Let us eat it all. Nobody must speak about it, else our chief's son will always want to accompany us." A little [meat] was still left when they had eaten enough. Raven tried to take a piece with him. He tied it to his leg and said his leg was broken. Blue Jay burned all that was left over. Then he said to Raven: "Let me see your leg." He jumped at it, untied it, and found the piece of meat at Raven's leg. He took it and burned it. In the evening they gathered large and small mussels. Then they went home. When they were near home Blue Jay shouted: "Stikŭa, fetch your mussels!" Then noise of many feet [was heard], and Stikŭa [her children and the other women] came down to the beach and carried the mussels up to the house. The [women and children] and the chief's son ate the mussels all night. Then that boy said: "To-morrow I shall accompany you." Blue Jay said: "What do you want to do? You will drift away. If I had not taken hold of the canoe I should have drifted away twice."

On the next morning they made themselves ready for the fourth time. The boy rose and made himself ready also. The people hauled their canoes into the water and went aboard. The boy tried to board a canoe also, but Blue Jay took hold of him and threw him into the water. He stood in the water up to his waist. He held the canoe, but Blue Jay struck his hands. There he stood. He cried, and cried, and went up to the house. The people went; they paddled, and soon they reached the sea-lion island. The hunter went ashore and speared a sea-lion. It jumped and drifted on the water [dead]. Again they towed it to the island, and pulled it ashore. They singed it. When they had finished singeing it they carved it and boiled it. When it was done Blue Jay said: "Let us eat it here." They ate half of it and were satiated. They slept because they had eaten too much. Blue Jay awoke first, and burned all that was left. In the evening they gathered large and small mussels and went home. When they were near the shore he shouted: "Stikŭa, fetch your mussels!" Noise of many feet [was heard] and Stikŭa [her children and the other women] came running down to the beach and carried up the mussels. The boy said: "To-morrow I shall accompany you." But Blue Jay said: "What do you want to do? We might capsize and you would be drowned."

Early on the following morning the people made themselves ready. The boy arose and made himself ready also. Blue Jay and the people hauled their canoes down to the water. The boy tried to board, but Blue Jay threw him into the water. He tried to hold the canoe. The water reached up to his armpits. Blue Jay struck his hands [until he let go]. Then the boy cried and cried. Blue Jay and the other people went away.

After some time the boy went up from the beach. He took his arrows and walked round a point of land. There he met a young eagle and shot it. He skinned it and tried to put the skin on. It was too small; it reached scarcely to his knees. Then he took it off, and went on. After a while he met another eagle. He shot it and it fell down. It was a white-headed eagle. He skinned it and tried the skin on, but it was too small; it reached a little below his knees. He took it off, left it, and went on. Soon he met a bald-headed eagle. He shot it twice and it fell down. He skinned it and put the skin on. It was nearly large enough for him, and he tried to fly. He could fly downward only. He did not rise. He turned back, and now he could fly. Now he went round the point seaward from Nakotat. When he had nearly gone round he smelled smoke of burning fat. When he came round the point he saw the people of his town. He alighted on top of a tree and looked down. [He saw that] they had boiled a sea-lion and that they ate it. When they had nearly finished eating he flew up. He thought: "Oh, I wish Blue Jay would see me." Then Blue Jay looked up [and saw] the bird flying about. "Ah, a bird came to get food from us." Five times the eagle circled over the fire; then it descended. Blue Jay took a piece of blubber and said: "I will give you this to eat." The bird came down, grasped the piece of meat, and flew away. "Ha!" said Blue Jay, "that bird has feet like a man." When the people had eaten enough they slept. Raven again hid a piece of meat. Toward evening they awoke and ate again; then Blue Jay burned the rest of their food. In the evening they gathered large and small mussels and went home. When the boy came home he lay down at once. They approached the village, and Blue Jay shouted: "Fetch your mussels, Stikŭa!" Noise of many feet [was heard] and Stikŭa [and the other women] ran down to the beach and carried up the mussels. They tried to rouse the boy, but he did not arise.

The next morning the people made themselves ready and launched their canoe. The chief's son stayed in bed and did not attempt to accompany them. After sunrise he rose and called the women and children and said: "Wash yourselves; be quick." The women obeyed and washed themselves. He continued: "Comb your hair." Then he put down a plank, took a piece of meat out [from under his blanket, showed it to the women, and said]: "Every day your husbands eat this." He put two pieces side by side on the plank, cut them to pieces, and greased the heads of all the women and children. Then he pulled the planks forming the walls of the houses out of the ground. He sharpened them [at one end, and] those which were very wide he split in two. He sharpened all of them. The last house of the village was that of the Raven. He did not pull out its wall-planks. He put the planks on to the backs of the women and children and said: "Go down to the beach. When you go seaward swim five times round that rock. Then go seaward. When you see sea-lions you shall kill them. But you shall not give anything to stingy people. I shall take these children down. They shall live on the sea and be my relatives."

Then he split sinews. The women went into the water and began to jump [out of the water]. They swam five times back and forth in front of the village. Then they went seaward to the place where Blue Jay and the men were boiling. Blue Jay said to the men: "What is that?" The men looked and saw the girls jumping. Five times they swam round Blue Jay's rock. Then they went seaward. After a while birds came flying to the island. Their bills were [as red] as blood. They followed [the fish]. "Ah!" said Blue Jay, "do you notice them? Whence come these numerous birds?" The Raven said: "Ha, squint-eye, they are your children; do you not recognize them?" Five times they went round the rock. Now [the boy] threw the sinews down upon the stones and said: "When Blue Jay comes to gather mussels they shall be fast [to the rocks]." And he said to the women, turning toward the sea: "Whale-Killer will be your name. When you catch a whale you will eat it, but when you catch a sea-lion you will throw it away; but you shall not give anything to stingy people."

Blue Jay and the people were eating. Then that hunter said: "Let us go home. I am afraid we have seen evil spirits; we have never seen anything like that on this rock." Now they gathered mussels and carried along the meat which they had left over. In the evening they came near their home. [Blue Jay shouted:] "Stikŭa, fetch your mussels!" There was no sound of people. Five times he called. Now the people went ashore and [they saw that] the walls of the houses had disappeared. The people cried. Blue Jay cried also, but somebody said to him: "Be quiet. Blue Jay; if you had not been bad our chief's son would not have done so." Now they all made one house. Only Raven had one house [by himself]. He went and searched for food on the beach. He found a sturgeon. He went again to the beach and found a porpoise. Then Blue Jay went to the beach and tried to search for food. [As soon as he went out] it began to hail; the hailstones were so large [indicating]. He tried to gather mussels and wanted to break them off, but they did not come off. He could not break them off. He gave it up. Raven went to search on the beach and found a seal. The others ate roots only. Thus their chief took revenge on them.

 

FINIS

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