Legends of Vancouver
E. Pauline Johnson
Part 1 out of 2
Produced by Judy Boss and Andrew Sly
LEGENDS OF VANCOUVER
By E. Pauline Johnson
I have been asked to write a preface to these Legends of Vancouver,
which, in conjunction with the members of the Publication
Sub-committee--Mrs. Lefevre, Mr. L. W. Makovski and Mr. R. W.
Douglas--I have helped to put through the press. But scarcely any
prefatory remarks are necessary. This book may well stand on its
own merits. Still, it may be permissible to record one's glad
satisfaction that a poet has arisen to cast over the shoulders of
our grey mountains, our trail-threaded forests, our tide-swept
waters, and the streets and sky-scrapers of our hurrying city, a
gracious mantle of romance. Pauline Johnson has linked the vivid
present with the immemorial past. Vancouver takes on a new aspect
as we view it through her eyes. In the imaginative power that she
has brought to these semi-historical sagas, and in the liquid flow
of her rhythmical prose, she has shown herself to be a literary
worker of whom we may well be proud: she has made a most estimable
contribution to purely Canadian literature.
These legends (with two or three exceptions) were told to me
personally by my honored friend, the late Chief Joe Capilano, of
Vancouver, whom I had the privilege of first meeting in London in
1906, when he visited England and was received at Buckingham Palace
by their Majesties King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.
To the fact that I was able to greet Chief Capilano in the Chinook
tongue, while we were both many thousands of miles from home, I
owe the friendship and the confidence which he so freely gave me
when I came to reside on the Pacific coast. These legends he
told me from time to time, just as the mood possessed him, and he
frequently remarked that they had never been revealed to any other
English-speaking person save myself.
E. PAULINE JOHNSON (Tekahionwake)
E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) is the youngest child of a family
of four born to the late G. H. M. Johnson (Onwanonsyshon), Head
Chief of the Six Nations Indians, and his wife Emily S. Howells.
The latter was of English parentage, her birthplace being Bristol,
but the land of her adoption Canada.
Chief Johnson was of the renowned Mohawk tribe, being a scion of
one of the fifty noble families which composed the historical
confederation founded by Hiawatha upwards of four hundred years ago,
and known at that period as the Brotherhood of the Five Nations,
but which was afterwards named the Iroquois by the early French
missionaries and explorers. For their loyalty to the British Crown
they were granted the magnificent lands bordering the Grand River,
in the County of Brant, Ontario, on which the tribes still live.
It was upon this Reserve, on her father's estate, "Chiefswood," that
Pauline Johnson was born. The loyalty of her ancestors breathes in
her prose, as well as in her poetic writings.
Her education was neither extensive nor elaborate. It embraced
neither high school nor college. A nursery governess for two years
at home, three years at an Indian day school half a mile from her
home, and two years in the Central School of the city of Brantford,
was the extent of her educational training. But, besides this, she
acquired a wide general knowledge, having been through childhood and
early girlhood a great reader, especially of poetry. Before she was
twelve years old she had read Scott, Longfellow, Byron, Shakespeare,
and such books as Addison's "Spectator," Foster's Essays and Owen
The first periodicals to accept her poems and place them before the
public were "Gems of Poetry," a small magazine published in New
York, and "The Week," established by the late Prof. Goldwin Smith,
of Toronto, the New York "Independent" and Toronto "Saturday Night."
Since then she has contributed to most of the high-grade magazines,
both on this continent and England.
Her writings having brought her into notice, the next step in Miss
Johnson's career was her appearance on the public platform as a
reciter of her own poems. For this she had natural talent, and in
the exercise of it she soon developed a marked ability, joined with
a personal magnetism, that was destined to make her a favorite with
audiences from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Her friend, Mr. Frank
Yeigh, of Toronto, provided for a series of recitals having that
scope, with the object of enabling her to go to England to arrange
for the publication of her poems. Within two years this aim was
accomplished, her book of poems, "The White Wampum," being published
by John Lane, of the Bodley Head. She took with her numerous
letters of introduction, including one from the Governor-General,
the Earl of Aberdeen, and she soon gained both social and literary
standing. Her book was received with much favor, both by reviewers
and the public. After giving many recitals in fashionable
drawing-rooms, she returned to Canada, and made her first tour to
the Pacific Coast, giving recitals at all the cities and towns en
route. Since then she has crossed the Rocky Mountains no fewer
than nineteen times.
Miss Johnson's pen had not been idle, and in 1903 the George
Morang Co., of Toronto, published her second book of poems,
entitled "Canadian Born," which was also well received.
After a number of recitals, which included Newfoundland and the
Maritime Provinces, she went to England again in 1906 and made her
first appearance in Steinway Hall, under the distinguished patronage
of Lord and Lady Strathcona. In the following year she again
visited London, returning by way of the United States, where she
gave many recitals. After another tour of Canada she decided to
give up public work, to make Vancouver, B. C., her home, and to
devote herself to literary work.
Only a woman of remarkable powers of endurance could have borne up
under the hardships necessarily encountered in travelling through
North-western Canada in pioneer days as Miss Johnson did; and
shortly after settling down in Vancouver the exposure and hardship
she had endured began to tell on her, and her health completely
broke down. For almost a year she has been an invalid, and as she
is unable to attend to the business herself, a trust has been formed
by some of the leading citizens of her adopted city for the purpose
of collecting and publishing for her benefit her later works. Among
these are the beautiful Indian Legends contained in this volume,
which she has been at great pains to collect, and a series of boys'
stories, which have been exceedingly well received by magazine
During the sixteen years Miss Johnson was travelling, she had
many varied and interesting experiences. She travelled the old
Battleford trail before the railroad went through, and across the
Boundary country in British Columbia in the romantic days of the
early pioneers. Once she took an eight hundred and fifty mile
drive up the Cariboo trail to the gold fields. She has always been
an ardent canoeist, and has run many strange rivers, crossed many
a lonely lake, and camped in many an unfrequented place. These
venturesome trips she made more from her inherent love of Nature
and adventure than from any necessity of her profession.
The Two Sisters
The Siwash Rock
The Lost Salmon-run
The Deep Waters
The Lost Island
The Tulameen Trail
The Grey Archway
A Squamish Legend of Napoleon
The Lure in Stanley Park
A Royal Mohawk Chief
THE TWO SISTERS
You can see them as you look towards the north and the west, where
the dream-hills swim into the sky amid their ever-drifting clouds
of pearl and grey. They catch the earliest hint of sunrise, they
hold the last color of sunset. Twin mountains they are, lifting
their twin peaks above the fairest city in all Canada, and known
throughout the British Empire as "The Lions of Vancouver."
Sometimes the smoke of forest fires blurs them until they gleam like
opals in a purple atmosphere, too beautiful for words to paint.
Sometimes the slanting rains festoon scarfs of mist about their
crests, and the peaks fade into shadowy outlines, melting, melting,
forever melting into the distances. But for most days in the year
the sun circles the twin glories with a sweep of gold. The moon
washes them with a torrent of silver. Oftentimes, when the city is
shrouded in rain, the sun yellows their snows to a deep orange; but
through sun and shadow they stand immovable, smiling westward above
the waters of the restless Pacific, eastward above the superb beauty
of the Capilano Canyon. But the Indian tribes do not know these
peaks as "The Lions." Even the chief, whose feet have so recently
wandered to the Happy Hunting Grounds, never heard the name given
them until I mentioned it to him one dreamy August day, as together
we followed the trail leading to the canyon. He seemed so surprised
at the name that I mentioned the reason it had been applied to them,
asking him if he recalled the Landseer Lions in Trafalgar Square.
Yes, he remembered those splendid sculptures, and his quick eye saw
the resemblance instantly. It appeared to please him, and his fine
face expressed the haunting memories of the far-away roar of Old
London. But the "call of the blood" was stronger, and presently he
referred to the Indian legend of those peaks--a legend that I have
reason to believe is absolutely unknown to thousands of Palefaces
who look upon "The Lions" daily, without the love for them that is
in the Indian heart, without knowledge of the secret of "The Two
Sisters." The legend was intensely fascinating as it left his lips
in the quaint broken English that is never so dulcet as when it
slips from an Indian tongue. His inimitable gestures, strong,
graceful, comprehensive, were like a perfectly chosen frame
embracing a delicate painting, and his brooding eyes were as the
light in which the picture hung. "Many thousands of years ago,"
he began, "there were no twin peaks like sentinels guarding the
outposts of this sunset coast. They were placed there long after
the first creation, when the Sagalie Tyee moulded the mountains,
and patterned the mighty rivers where the salmon run, because
of His love for His Indian children, and His wisdom for their
necessities. In those times there were many and mighty Indian
tribes along the Pacific--in the mountain ranges, at the shores
and sources of the great Fraser River. Indian law ruled the land.
Indian customs prevailed. Indian beliefs were regarded. Those
were the legend-making ages when great things occurred to make the
traditions we repeat to our children to-day. Perhaps the greatest
of these traditions is the story of 'The Two Sisters,' for they
are known to us as 'The Chief's Daughters,' and to them we owe the
Great Peace in which we live, and have lived for many countless
moons. There is an ancient custom amongst the coast tribes that,
when our daughters step from childhood into the great world of
womanhood, the occasion must be made one of extreme rejoicing.
The being who possesses the possibility of some day mothering a
man-child, a warrior, a brave, receives much consideration in most
nations; but to us, the Sunset tribes, she is honored above all
people. The parents usually give a great potlatch, and a feast
that lasts many days. The entire tribe and the surrounding tribes
are bidden to this festival. More than that, sometimes when a
great Tyee celebrates for his daughter, the tribes from far up the
coast, from the distant north, from inland, from the island, from
the Cariboo country, are gathered as guests to the feast. During
these days of rejoicing the girl is placed in a high seat, an
exalted position, for is she not marriageable? And does not
marriage mean motherhood? And does not motherhood mean a vaster
nation of brave sons and of gentle daughters, who, in their turn,
will give us sons and daughters of their own?
"But it was many thousands of years ago that a great Tyee had two
daughters that grew to womanhood at the same springtime, when the
first great run of salmon thronged the rivers, and the ollallie
bushes were heavy with blossoms. These two daughters were young,
lovable, and oh! very beautiful. Their father, the great Tyee,
prepared to make a feast such as the Coast had never seen. There
were to be days and days of rejoicing, the people were to come for
many leagues, were to bring gifts to the girls and to receive gifts
of great value from the chief, and hospitality was to reign as long
as pleasuring feet could dance, and enjoying lips could laugh, and
mouths partake of the excellence of the chief's fish, game, and
"The only shadow on the joy of it all was war, for the tribe of the
great Tyee was at war with the Upper Coast Indians, those who lived
north, near what is named by the Paleface as the port of Prince
Rupert. Giant war-canoes slipped along the entire coast, war
parties paddled up and down, war-songs broke the silences of the
nights, hatred, vengeance, strife, horror festered everywhere like
sores on the surface of the earth. But the great Tyee, after
warring for weeks, turned and laughed at the battle and the
bloodshed, for he had been victor in every encounter, and he could
well afford to leave the strife for a brief week and feast in his
daughters' honor, nor permit any mere enemy to come between him and
the traditions of his race and household. So he turned insultingly
deaf ears to their war-cries; he ignored with arrogant indifference
their paddle-dips that encroached within his own coast waters, and
he prepared, as a great Tyee should, to royally entertain his
tribesmen in honor of his daughters.
"But seven suns before the great feast these two maidens came before
him, hand clasped in hand.
"'Oh! our father,' they said, 'may we speak?'
"'Speak, my daughters, my girls with the eyes of April, the hearts
of June'" (early spring and early summer would be the more accurate
"'Some day, oh! our father, we may mother a man-child, who may grow
to be just such a powerful Tyee as you are, and for this honor that
may some day be ours we have come to crave a favor of you--you, Oh!
"'It is your privilege at this celebration to receive any favor your
hearts may wish,' he replied graciously, placing his fingers beneath
their girlish chins. 'The favor is yours before you ask it, my
"'Will you, for our sakes, invite the great northern hostile
tribe--the tribe you war upon--to this, our feast?' they asked
"'To a peaceful feast, a feast in the honor of women?' he exclaimed
"'So we would desire it,' they answered.
"'And so shall it be,' he declared. 'I can deny you nothing this
day, and some time you may bear sons to bless this peace you have
asked, and to bless their mother's sire for granting it.' Then he
turned to all the young men of the tribe and commanded: 'Build fires
at sunset on all the coast headlands--fires of welcome. Man your
canoes and face the north, greet the enemy, and tell them that I,
the Tyee of the Capilanos, ask--no, command--that they join me for a
great feast in honor of my two daughters.' And when the northern
tribes got this invitation they flocked down the coast to this feast
of a Great Peace. They brought their women and their children;
they brought game and fish, gold and white stone beads, baskets and
carven ladles, and wonderful woven blankets to lay at the feet of
their now acknowledged ruler, the great Tyee. And he, in turn, gave
such a potlatch that nothing but tradition can vie with it. There
were long, glad days of joyousness, long, pleasurable nights of
dancing and camp-fires, and vast quantities of food. The war-canoes
were emptied of their deadly weapons and filled with the daily catch
of salmon. The hostile war-songs ceased, and in their place were
heard the soft shuffle of dancing feet, the singing voices of women,
the play-games of the children of two powerful tribes which had been
until now ancient enemies, for a great and lasting brotherhood was
sealed between them--their war-songs were ended forever.
"Then the Sagalie Tyee smiled on His Indian children: 'I will
make these young-eyed maidens immortal,' He said. In the cup of
His hands He lifted the chief's two daughters and set them forever
in a high place, for they had borne two offspring--Peace and
Brotherhood--each of which is now a great Tyee ruling this land.
"And on the mountain crest the chief's daughters can be seen wrapped
in the suns, the snows, the stars of all seasons, for they have
stood in this high place for thousands of years, and will stand for
thousands of years to come, guarding the peace of the Pacific Coast
and the quiet of the Capilano Canyon."
* * * * *
This is the Indian legend of "The Lions of Vancouver" as I had it
from one who will tell me no more the traditions of his people.
THE SIWASH ROCK
Unique, and so distinct from its surroundings as to suggest rather
the handicraft of man than a whim of Nature, it looms up at the
entrance to the Narrows, a symmetrical column of solid grey stone.
There are no similar formations within the range of vision, or
indeed within many a day's paddle up and down the coast. Amongst
all the wonders, the natural beauties that encircle Vancouver,
the marvels of mountains, shaped into crouching lions and brooding
beavers, the yawning canyons, the stupendous forest firs and cedars,
Siwash Rock stands as distinct, as individual, as if dropped from
I saw it first in the slanting light of a redly setting August sun;
the little tuft of green shrubbery that crests its summit was black
against the crimson of sea and sky, and its colossal base of grey
stone gleamed like flaming polished granite.
My old tillicum lifted his paddle-blade to point towards it. "You
know the story?" he asked. I shook my head (experience has taught
me his love of silent replies, his moods of legend-telling). For a
time we paddled slowly; the rock detached itself from its background
of forest and shore, and it stood forth like a sentinel--erect,
"Do you think it stands straight--like a man?" he asked.
"Yes, like some noble-spirited, upright warrior," I replied.
"It is a man," he said, "and a warrior man, too; a man who fought
for everything that was noble and upright."
"What do you regard as everything that is noble and upright, Chief?"
I asked, curious as to his ideas. I shall not forget the reply; it
was but two words--astounding, amazing words. He said simply:
Through my mind raced tumultuous recollections of numberless
articles in yet numberless magazines, all dealing with the recent
"fad" of motherhood, but I had to hear from the lip of a Squamish
Indian chief the only treatise on the nobility of "clean fatherhood"
that I have yet unearthed. And this treatise has been an Indian
legend for centuries; and, lest they forget how all-important those
two little words must ever be, Siwash Rock stands to remind them,
set there by the Deity as a monument to one who kept his own life
clean, that cleanliness might be the heritage of the generations
It was "thousands of years ago" (all Indian legends begin in
extremely remote times) that a handsome boy chief journeyed in his
canoe to the upper coast for the shy little northern girl whom he
brought home as his wife. Boy though he was, the young chief had
proved himself to be an excellent warrior, a fearless hunter, and an
upright, courageous man among men. His tribe loved him, his enemies
respected him, and the base and mean and cowardly feared him.
The customs and traditions of his ancestors were a positive religion
to him, the sayings and the advices of the old people were his
creed. He was conservative in every rite and ritual of his race.
He fought his tribal enemies like the savage that he was. He sang
his war-songs, danced his war-dances, slew his foes, but the little
girl-wife from the north he treated with the deference that he gave
his own mother, for was she not to be the mother of his warrior son?
The year rolled round, weeks merged into months, winter into spring,
and one glorious summer at daybreak he wakened to her voice calling
him. She stood beside him, smiling.
"It will be to-day," she said proudly.
He sprang from his couch of wolf-skins and looked out upon the
coming day: the promise of what it would bring him seemed breathing
through all his forest world. He took her very gently by the hand
and led her through the tangle of wilderness down to the water's
edge, where the beauty spot we moderns call Stanley Park bends
about Prospect Point. "I must swim," he told her.
"I must swim, too," she smiled, with the perfect understanding of
two beings who are mated. For, to them, the old Indian custom was
law--the custom that the parents of a coming child must swim until
their flesh is so clear and clean that a wild animal cannot scent
their proximity. If the wild creatures of the forests have no fear
of them, then, and only then, are they fit to become parents, and
to scent a human is in itself a fearsome thing to all wild creatures.
So those two plunged into the waters of the Narrows as the grey dawn
slipped up the eastern skies and all the forest awoke to the life of
a new, glad day. Presently he took her ashore, and smilingly she
crept away under the giant trees. "I must be alone," she said, "but
come to me at sunrise: you will not find me alone then." He smiled
also, and plunged back into the sea. He must swim, swim, swim
through this hour when his fatherhood was coming upon him. It was
the law that he must be clean, spotlessly clean, so that when his
child looked out upon the world it would have the chance to live its
own life clean. If he did not swim hour upon hour his child would
come to an unclean father. He must give his child a chance in life;
he must not hamper it by his own uncleanliness at its birth. It was
the tribal law--the law of vicarious purity.
As he swam joyously to and fro, a canoe bearing four men headed up
the Narrows. These men were giants in stature, and the stroke of
their paddles made huge eddies that boiled like the seething tides.
"Out from our course!" they cried as his lithe, copper-colored body
arose and fell with his splendid stroke. He laughed at them, giants
though they were, and answered that he could not cease his swimming
at their demand.
"But you shall cease!" they commanded. "We are the men [agents] of
the Sagalie Tyee [God], and we command you ashore out of our way!"
(I find in all these Coast Indian legends that the Deity is
represented by four men, usually paddling an immense canoe.)
He ceased swimming, and, lifting his head, defied them. "I shall
not stop, nor yet go ashore," he declared, striking out once more
to the middle of the channel.
"Do you dare disobey us," they cried--"we, the men of the Sagalie
Tyee? We can turn you into a fish, or a tree, or a stone for this;
do you dare disobey the Great Tyee?"
"I dare anything for the cleanliness and purity of my coming child.
I dare even the Sagalie Tyee Himself, but my child must be born to a
The four men were astounded. They consulted together, lighted their
pipes, and sat in council. Never had they, the men of the Sagalie
Tyee, been defied before. Now, for the sake of a little unborn
child, they were ignored, disobeyed, almost despised. The lithe
young copper-colored body still disported itself in the cool
waters; superstition held that should their canoe, or even their
paddle-blades, touch a human being, their marvellous power would be
lost. The handsome young chief swam directly in their course. They
dared not run him down; if so, they would become as other men.
While they yet counselled what to do, there floated from out the
forest a faint, strange, compelling sound. They listened, and
the young chief ceased his stroke as he listened also. The faint
sound drifted out across the waters once more. It was the cry of
a little, little child. Then one of the four men, he that steered
the canoe, the strongest and tallest of them all, arose, and,
standing erect, stretched out his arms towards the rising sun
and chanted, not a curse on the young chief's disobedience, but
a promise of everlasting days and freedom from death.
"Because you have defied all things that come in your path we
promise this to you," he chanted; "you have defied what interferes
with your child's chance for a clean life, you have lived as you
wish your son to live, you have defied us when we would have stopped
your swimming and hampered your child's future. You have placed
that child's future before all things, and for this the Sagalie Tyee
commands us to make you forever a pattern for your tribe. You shall
never die, but you shall stand through all the thousands of years to
come, where all eyes can see you. You shall live, live, live as an
indestructible monument to Clean Fatherhood."
The four men lifted their paddles and the handsome young chief
swam inshore; as his feet touched the line where sea and land met
he was transformed into stone.
Then the four men said, "His wife and child must ever be near him;
they shall not die, but live also." And they, too, were turned into
stone. If you penetrate the hollows in the woods near Siwash Rock
you will find a large rock and a smaller one beside it. They are
the shy little bride-wife from the north, with her hour-old baby
beside her. And from the uttermost parts of the world vessels come
daily throbbing and sailing up the Narrows. From far trans-Pacific
ports, from the frozen North, from the lands of the Southern Cross,
they pass and repass the living rock that was there before their
hulls were shaped, that will be there when their very names are
forgotten, when their crews and their captains have taken their
long last voyage, when their merchandise has rotted, and their
owners are known no more. But the tall, grey column of stone will
still be there--a monument to one man's fidelity to a generation yet
unborn--and will endure from everlasting to everlasting.
Journeying toward the upper course of the Capilano River, about
a mile citywards from the dam, you will pass a disused logger's
shack. Leave the trail at this point and strike through the
undergrowth for a few hundred yards to the left and you will be
on the rocky borders of that purest, most restless river in all
Canada. The stream is haunted with tradition, teeming with a score
of romances that vie with its grandeur and loveliness, and of which
its waters are perpetually whispering. But I learned this legend
from one whose voice was as dulcet as the swirling rapids; but,
unlike them, that voice is hushed to-day, while the river, the
river still sings on--sings on.
It was singing in very melodious tones through the long August
afternoon two summers ago, while we, the chief, his happy-hearted
wife, and bright young daughter, all lounged amongst the boulders
and watched the lazy clouds drift from peak to peak far above us.
It was one of his inspired days; legends crowded to his lips as a
whistle teases the mouth of a happy boy; his heart was brimming
with tales of the bygones, his eyes were dark with dreams and that
strange mournfulness that always haunted them when he spoke of
long-ago romances. There was not a tree, a boulder, a dash of rapid
upon which his glance fell which he could not link with some ancient
poetic superstition. Then abruptly, in the very midst of his verbal
reveries, he turned and asked me if I were superstitious. Of course
I replied that I was.
"Do you think some happenings will bring trouble later on--will
foretell evil?" he asked.
I made some evasive answer, which, however, seemed to satisfy him,
for he plunged into the strange tale of the recluse of the canyon
with more vigor than dreaminess; but first he asked me the question:
"What do your own tribes, those east of the great mountains, think
of twin children?"
I shook my head.
"That is enough," he said before I could reply. "I see, your
people do not like them."
"Twin children are almost unknown with us," I hastened. "They are
rare, very rare; but it is true we do not welcome them."
"Why?" he asked abruptly.
I was a little uncertain about telling him. If I said the wrong
thing, the coming tale might die on his lips before it was born
to speech, but we understood each other so well that I finally
ventured the truth:
"We Iroquois say that twin children are as rabbits," I explained.
"The nation always nicknames the parents. 'Tow-wan-da-na-ga.'
That is the Mohawk for rabbit."
"Is that all?" he asked curiously.
"That is all. Is it not enough to render twin children unwelcome?"
He thought a while, then, with evident desire to learn how all races
regarded this occurrence, he said, "You have been much among the
Palefaces, what do they say of twins?"
"Oh! the Palefaces like them. They are--they are--oh! well, they
say they are very proud of having twins," I stammered. Once again I
was hardly sure of my ground. He looked most incredulous, and I was
led to enquire what his own people of the Squamish thought of this
"It is no pride to us," he said decidedly, "nor yet is it disgrace
of rabbits; but it is a fearsome thing--a sign of coming evil to the
father, and, worse than that, of coming disaster to the tribe."
Then I knew he held in his heart some strange incident that
gave substance to the superstition. "Won't you tell it to me?"
He leaned a little backward against a giant boulder, clasping his
thin, brown hands about his knees; his eyes roved up the galloping
river, then swept down the singing waters to where they crowded past
the sudden bend, and during the entire recital of the strange legend
his eyes never left that spot where the stream disappeared in its
hurrying journey to the sea. Without preamble he began:
"It was a grey morning when they told him of this disaster that had
befallen him. He was a great chief, and he ruled many tribes on the
North Pacific Coast; but what was his greatness now? His young wife
had borne him twins, and was sobbing out her anguish in the little
fir-bark lodge near the tidewater.
"Beyond the doorway gathered many old men and women--old in years,
old in wisdom, old in the lore and learning of their nations. Some
of them wept, some chanted solemnly the dirge of their lost hopes
and happiness, which would never return because of this calamity;
others discussed in hushed voices this awesome thing, and for hours
their grave council was broken only by the infant cries of the two
boy-babies in the bark lodge, the hopeless sobs of the young mother,
the agonized moans of the stricken chief--their father.
"'Something dire will happen to the tribe,' said the old men in
"'Something dire will happen to him, my husband,' wept the young
"'Something dire will happen to us all,' echoed the unhappy father.
"Then an ancient medicine-man arose, lifting his arms, outstretching
his palms to hush the lamenting throng. His voice shook with the
weight of many winters, but his eyes were yet keen and mirrored the
clear thought and brain behind them, as the still trout-pools in
the Capilano mirror the mountain tops. His words were masterful,
his gestures commanding, his shoulders erect and kindly. His was
a personality and an inspiration that no one dared dispute, and
his judgment was accepted as the words fell slowly, like a doom.
"'It is the olden law of the Squamish that, lest evil befall the
tribe, the sire of twin children must go afar and alone, into the
mountain fastnesses, there by his isolation and his loneliness to
prove himself stronger than the threatened evil, and thus to beat
back the shadow that would otherwise follow him and all his people.
I, therefore, name for him the length of days that he must spend
alone fighting his invisible enemy. He will know by some great sign
in Nature the hour that the evil is conquered, the hour that his
race is saved. He must leave before this sun sets, taking with him
only his strongest bow, his fleetest arrows, and, going up into the
mountain wilderness, remain there ten days--alone, alone.'
"The masterful voice ceased, the tribe wailed their assent, the
father arose speechless, his drawn face revealing great agony over
this seemingly brief banishment. He took leave of his sobbing wife,
of the two tiny souls that were his sons, grasped his favorite bow
and arrows, and faced the forest like a warrior. But at the end
of the ten days he did not return, nor yet ten weeks, nor yet ten
"'He is dead,' wept the mother into the baby ears of her two boys.
'He could not battle against the evil that threatened; it was
stronger than he--he, so strong, so proud, so brave.'
"'He is dead,' echoed the tribesmen and the tribeswomen. 'Our
strong, brave chief, he is dead.' So they mourned the long year
through, but their chants and their tears but renewed their grief;
he did not return to them.
"Meanwhile, far up the Capilano the banished chief had built his
solitary home; for who can tell what fatal trick of sound, what
current of air, what faltering note in the voice of the medicine-man
had deceived his alert Indian ears? But some unhappy fate had led
him to understand that his solitude must be of ten years' duration,
not ten days, and he had accepted the mandate with the heroism of a
stoic. For if he had refused to do so his belief was that, although
the threatened disaster would be spared him, the evil would fall
upon his tribe. Thus was one more added to the long list of
self-forgetting souls whose creed has been, 'It is fitting that
one should suffer for the people.' It was the world-old heroism
of vicarious sacrifice.
"With his hunting-knife the banished Squamish chief stripped the
bark from the firs and cedars, building for himself a lodge beside
the Capilano River, where leaping trout and salmon could be speared
by arrow-heads fastened to deftly shaped, long handles. All through
the salmon-run he smoked and dried the fish with the care of a
housewife. The mountain sheep and goats, and even huge black and
cinnamon bears, fell before his unerring arrows; the fleet-footed
deer never returned to their haunts from their evening drinking at
the edge of the stream--their wild hearts, their agile bodies were
stilled when he took aim. Smoked hams and saddles hung in rows from
the cross-poles of his bark lodge, and the magnificent pelts of
animals carpeted his floors, padded his couch, and clothed his body.
He tanned the soft doe-hides, making leggings, moccasins and shirts,
stitching them together with deer sinew as he had seen his mother do
in the long-ago. He gathered the juicy salmon-berries, their acid
a sylvan, healthful change from meat and fish. Month by month
and year by year he sat beside his lonely camp-fire, waiting for
his long term of solitude to end. One comfort alone was his--he
was enduring the disaster, fighting the evil, that his tribe might
go unscathed, that his people be saved from calamity. Slowly,
laboriously the tenth year dawned; day by day it dragged its long
weeks across his waiting heart, for Nature had not yet given the
sign that his long probation was over.
"Then, one hot summer day, the Thunder-bird came crashing through the
mountains about him. Up from the arms of the Pacific rolled the
storm-cloud, and the Thunder-bird, with its eyes of flashing light,
beat its huge vibrating wings on crag and canyon.
"Up-stream, a tall shaft of granite rears its needle-like length. It
is named 'Thunder Rock,' and wise men of the Paleface people say it
is rich in ore--copper, silver, and gold. At the base of this shaft
the Squamish chief crouched when the storm-cloud broke and bellowed
through the ranges, and on its summit the Thunder-bird perched, its
gigantic wings threshing the air into booming sounds, into splitting
terrors, like the crash of a giant cedar hurtling down the mountain-side.
"But when the beating of those black pinions ceased and the echo of
their thunder-waves died down the depths of the canyon, the Squamish
chief arose as a new man. The shadow on his soul had lifted, the
fears of evil were cowed and conquered. In his brain, his blood,
his veins, his sinews, he felt that the poison of melancholy dwelt
no more. He had redeemed his fault of fathering twin children; he
had fulfilled the demands of the law of his tribe.
"As he heard the last beat of the Thunder-bird's wings dying slowly,
faintly, faintly, among the crags, he knew that the bird,
too, was dying, for its soul was leaving its monster black body, and
presently that soul appeared in the sky. He could see it arching
overhead, before it took its long journey to the Happy Hunting
Grounds, for the soul of the Thunder-bird was a radiant half-circle
of glorious color spanning from peak to peak. He lifted his head
then, for he knew it was the sign the ancient medicine-man had told
him to wait for--the sign that his long banishment was ended.
"And all these years, down in the tidewater country, the little
brown-faced twins were asking childwise, 'Where is our father?
Why have we no father, like other boys?' To be met only with the
oft-repeated reply, 'Your father is no more. Your father, the
great chief, is dead.'
"But some strange filial intuition told the boys that their sire
would some day return. Often they voiced this feeling to their
mother, but she would only weep and say that not even the witchcraft
of the great medicine-man could bring him to them. But when they
were ten years old the two children came to their mother, hand
within hand. They were armed with their little hunting-knives,
their salmon-spears, their tiny bows and arrows.
"'We go to find our father,' they said.
"'Oh! useless quest,' wailed the mother.
"'Oh! useless quest,' echoed the tribes-people.
"But the great medicine-man said, 'The heart of a child has
invisible eyes; perhaps the child-eyes see him. The heart of a
child has invisible ears; perhaps the child-ears hear him call.
Let them go.' So the little children went forth into the forest;
their young feet flew as though shod with wings, their young hearts
pointed to the north as does the white man's compass. Day after day
they journeyed up-stream, until, rounding a sudden bend, they beheld
a bark lodge with a thin blue curl of smoke drifting from its roof.
"'It is our father's lodge,' they told each other, for their
childish hearts were unerring in response to the call of kinship.
Hand in hand they approached, and entering the lodge, said the
one word, 'Come.'
"The great Squamish chief outstretched his arms towards them, then
towards the laughing river, then towards the mountains.
"'Welcome, my sons!' he said. 'And good-bye, my mountains, my
brothers, my crags, and my canyons!' And with a child clinging to
each hand he faced once more the country of the tidewater."
* * * * *
The legend was ended.
For a long time he sat in silence. He had removed his gaze from the
bend in the river, around which the two children had come and where
the eyes of the recluse had first rested on them after ten years of
The chief spoke again: "It was here, on this spot we are sitting,
that he built his lodge: here he dwelt those ten years alone,
I nodded silently. The legend was too beautiful to mar with
comments, and, as the twilight fell, we threaded our way through
the underbrush, past the disused logger's camp, and into the trail
that leads citywards.
THE LOST SALMON-RUN
Great had been the "run," and the sockeye season was almost over.
For that reason I wondered many times why my old friend, the
klootchman, had failed to make one of the fishing fleet. She was an
indefatigable work-woman, rivalling her husband as an expert catcher,
and all the year through she talked of little else but the coming
run. But this especial season she had not appeared amongst her
fellow-kind. The fleet and the canneries knew nothing of her, and
when I enquired of her tribes-people they would reply without
explanation, "She not here this year."
But one russet September afternoon I found her. I had idled down
the trail from the swans' basin in Stanley Park to the rim that
skirts the Narrows, and I saw her graceful, high-bowed canoe heading
for the beach that is the favorite landing-place of the "tillicums"
from the Mission. Her canoe looked like a dream-craft, for the
water was very still, and everywhere a blue film hung like a fragrant
veil, for the peat on Lulu Island had been smoldering for days and
its pungent odors and blue-grey haze made a dream-world of sea and
shore and sky.
I hurried up-shore, hailing her in the Chinook, and as she caught my
voice she lifted her paddle directly above her head in the Indian
signal of greeting.
As she beached, I greeted her with extended eager hands to assist
her ashore, for the klootchman is getting to be an old woman; albeit
she paddles against tidewater like a boy in his teens.
"No," she said, as I begged her to come ashore. "I will wait--me.
I just come to fetch Maarda; she been city; she soon come--now."
But she left her "working" attitude and curled like a school-girl in
the bow of the canoe, her elbows resting on her paddle which she
had flung across the gunwales.
"I have missed you, klootchman; you have not been to see me for
three moons, and you have not fished or been at the canneries,"
"No," she said. "I stay home this year." Then, leaning towards me
with grave import in her manner, her eyes, her voice, she added,
"I have a grandchild, born first week July, so--I stay."
So this explained her absence. I, of course, offered
congratulations and enquired all about the great event, for this
was her first grandchild, and the little person was of importance.
"And are you going to make a fisherman of him?" I asked.
"No, no, not boy-child, it is girl-child," she answered with some
indescribable trick of expression that led me to know she preferred
"You are pleased it is a girl?" I questioned in surprise.
"Very pleased," she replied emphatically. "Very good luck to have
girl for first grandchild. Our tribe not like yours; we want girl
children first; we not always wish boy-child born just for fight.
Your people, they care only for war-path; our tribe more peaceful.
Very good sign first grandchild to be girl. I tell you why:
girl-child may be some time mother herself; very grand thing to be
I felt I had caught the secret of her meaning. She was rejoicing
that this little one should some time become one of the mothers
of her race. We chatted over it a little longer and she gave me
several playful "digs" about my own tribe thinking so much less of
motherhood than hers, and so much more of battle and bloodshed.
Then we drifted into talk of the sockeye and of the hyiu chickimin
the Indians would get.
"Yes, hyiu chickimin," she repeated with a sigh of satisfaction.
"Always; and hyiu muck-a-muck when big salmon run. No more ever
come that bad year when not any fish."
"When was that?" I asked.
"Before you born, or I, or"--pointing across the park to the distant
city of Vancouver that breathed its wealth and beauty across the
September afternoon--"before that place born, before white man came
here--oh! long before."
Dear old klootchman! I knew by the dusk in her eyes that she was
back in her Land of Legends, and that soon I would be the richer in
my hoard of Indian lore. She sat, still leaning on her paddle; her
eyes, half-closed, rested on the distant outline of the blurred
heights across the Inlet. I shall not further attempt her broken
English, for this is but the shadow of her story, and without her
unique personality the legend is as a flower that lacks both color
and fragrance. She called it "The Lost Salmon-run."
"The wife of the Great Tyee was but a wisp of a girl, but all the world
was young in those days; even the Fraser River was young and small, not
the mighty water it is now; but the pink salmon crowded its throat just
as they do now, and the tillicums caught and salted and smoked the fish
just as they have done this year, just as they will always do. But it
was yet winter, and the rains were slanting and the fogs drifting,
when the wife of the Great Tyee stood before him and said:
"'Before the salmon-run I shall give to you a great gift. Will you
honor me most if it is the gift of a boy-child or a girl-child?'
The Great Tyee loved the woman. He was stern with his people, hard
with his tribe; he ruled his council-fires with a will of stone.
His medicine-men said he had no human heart in his body; his
warriors said he had no human blood in his veins. But he clasped
this woman's hands, and his eyes, his lips, his voice, were gentle
as her own, as he replied:
"'Give to me a girl-child--a little girl-child--that she may grow
to be like you, and, in her turn, give to her husband children.'
"But when the tribes-people heard of his choice they arose in great
anger. They surrounded him in a deep, indignant circle. 'You are
a slave to the woman,' they declared, 'and now you desire to make
yourself a slave to a woman-baby. We want an heir--a man-child to
be our Great Tyee in years to come. When you are old and weary of
tribal affairs, when you sit wrapped in your blanket in the hot
summer sunshine, because your blood is old and thin, what can a
girl-child do to help either you or us? Who, then, will be our
"He stood in the centre of the menacing circle, his arms folded,
his chin raised, his eyes hard as flint. His voice, cold as stone,
"'Perhaps she will give you such a man-child, and, if so, the child
is yours; he will belong to you, not to me; he will become the
possession of the people. But if the child is a girl she will
belong to me--she will be mine. You cannot take her from me as you
took me from my mother's side and forced me to forget my aged father
in my service to the tribe; she will belong to me, will be the mother
of my grandchildren, and her husband will be my son.'
"'You do not care for the good of your tribe. You care only for
your own wishes and desires,' they rebelled. 'Suppose the salmon-run
is small, we will have no food; suppose there is no man-child,
we will have no Great Tyee to show us how to get food from other
tribes, and we shall starve.'
"'Your hearts are black and bloodless,' thundered the Great Tyee,
turning upon them fiercely, 'and your eyes are blinded. Do you wish
the tribe to forget how great is the importance of a child that
will some day be a mother herself, and give to your children and
grandchildren a Great Tyee? Are the people to live, to thrive,
to increase, to become more powerful with no mother-women to bear
future sons and daughters? Your minds are dead, your brains are
chilled. Still, even in your ignorance, you are my people: you
and your wishes must be considered. I call together the great
medicine-men, the men of witchcraft, the men of magic. They shall
decide the laws which will follow the bearing of either boy or
girl-child. What say you, oh! mighty men?'
"Messengers were then sent up and down the coast, sent far up the
Fraser River, and to the valley lands inland for many leagues,
gathering as they journeyed all the men of magic that could be
found. Never were so many medicine-men in council before. They
built fires and danced and chanted for many days. They spoke with
the gods of the mountains, with the gods of the sea; then 'the
power' of decision came to them. They were inspired with a choice
to lay before the tribes-people, and the most ancient medicine-man
in all the coast region arose and spoke their resolution:
"'The people of the tribe cannot be allowed to have all things.
They want a boy-child and they want a great salmon-run also. They
cannot have both. The Sagalie Tyee has revealed to us, the great
men of magic, that both these things will make the people arrogant
and selfish. They must choose between the two.'
"'Choose, oh! you ignorant tribes-people,' commanded the Great
Tyee. 'The wise men of our coast have said that the girl-child who
will some day bear children of her own will also bring abundance of
salmon at her birth; but the boy-child brings to you but himself.'
"'Let the salmon go,' shouted the people, 'but give us a future
Great Tyee. Give us the boy-child.'
"And when the child was born it was a boy.
"'Evil will fall upon you,' wailed the Great Tyee. 'You have
despised a mother-woman. You will suffer evil and starvation and
hunger and poverty, oh! foolish tribes-people. Did you not know
how great a girl-child is?'
"That spring, people from a score of tribes came up to the Fraser
for the salmon-run. They came great distances--from the mountains,
the lakes, the far-off dry lands, but not one fish entered the vast
rivers of the Pacific Coast. The people had made their choice.
They had forgotten the honor that a mother-child would have brought
them. They were bereft of their food. They were stricken with
poverty. Through the long winter that followed they endured
hunger and starvation. Since then our tribe has always welcomed
girl-children--we want no more lost runs."
The klootchman lifted her arms from her paddle as she concluded;
her eyes left the irregular outline of the violet mountains. She
had come back to this year of grace--her Legend Land had vanished.
"So," she added, "you see now, maybe, why I am glad my grandchild is
girl; it means big salmon-run next year."
"It is a beautiful story, klootchman," I said, "and I feel a
cruel delight that your men of magic punished the people for
their ill choice."
"That because you girl-child yourself," she laughed.
There was the slightest whisper of a step behind me. I turned to
find Maarda almost at my elbow. The rising tide was unbeaching the
canoe, and as Maarda stepped in and the klootchman slipped astern,
it drifted afloat.
"Kla-how-ya," nodded the klootchman as she dipped her paddle-blade
in exquisite silence.
"Kla-how-ya," smiled Maarda.
"Kla-how-ya, tillicums," I replied, and watched for many moments as
they slipped away into the blurred distance, until the canoe merged
into the violet and grey of the farther shore.
THE DEEP WATERS
Far over your left shoulder as your boat leaves the Narrows to
thread the beautiful waterways that lead to Vancouver Island,
you will see the summit of Mount Baker robed in its everlasting
whiteness and always reflecting some wonderful glory from the rising
sun, the golden noontide, or the violet and amber sunset. This is
the Mount Ararat of the Pacific Coast peoples; for those readers who
are familiar with the ways and beliefs and faiths of primitive races
will agree that it is difficult to discover anywhere in the world
a race that has not some story of the Deluge, which they have
chronicled and localized to fit the understanding and the conditions
of the nation that composes their own immediate world.
Amongst the red nations of America I doubt if any two tribes have
the same ideas regarding the Flood. Some of the traditions
concerning this vast whim of Nature are grotesque in the extreme;
some are impressive; some even profound; but of all the stories of
the Deluge that I have been able to collect I know of not a single
one that can even begin to equal in beauty of conception, let alone
rival in possible reality and truth, the Squamish legend of "The
I here quote the legend of "mine own people," the Iroquois tribes
of Ontario, regarding the Deluge. I do this to paint the color of
contrast in richer shades, for I am bound to admit that we who
pride ourselves on ancient intellectuality have but a childish tale
of the Flood when compared with the jealously preserved annals of
the Squamish, which savour more of history than tradition. With
"mine own people," animals always play a much more important part,
and are endowed with a finer intelligence, than humans. I do not
find amid my notes a single tradition of the Iroquois wherein
animals do not figure, and our story of the Deluge rests entirely
with the intelligence of sea-going and river-going creatures. With
us, animals in olden times were greater than man; but it is not so
with the Coast Indians, except in rare instances.
When a Coast Indian consents to tell you a legend he will, without
variation, begin it with, "It was before the white people came."
The natural thing for you, then, to ask is, "But who were here then?"
He will reply, "Indians, and just the trees, and animals, and
fishes, and a few birds."
So you are prepared to accept the animal world as intelligent
co-habitants of the Pacific slope; but he will not lead you to think
he regards them as equals, much less superiors. But to revert to
"mine own people": they hold the intelligence of wild animals far
above that of man, for perhaps the one reason that when an animal
is sick it effects its own cure; it knows what grasses and herbs to
eat, what to avoid, while the sick human calls the medicine-man,
whose wisdom is not only the result of years of study, but also
heredity; consequently any great natural event, such as the Deluge,
has much to do with the wisdom of the creatures of the forests and
Iroquois tradition tells us that once this earth was entirely
submerged in water, and during this period for many days a busy
little muskrat swam about vainly looking for a foothold of earth
wherein to build his house. In his search he encountered a turtle
also leisurely swimming; so they had speech together, and the
muskrat complained of weariness; he could find no foothold; he
was tired of incessant swimming, and longed for land such as his
ancestors enjoyed. The turtle suggested that the muskrat should
dive and endeavor to find earth at the bottom of the sea. Acting on
this advice, the muskrat plunged down, then arose with his two little
forepaws grasping some earth he had found beneath the waters.
"Place it on my shell and dive again for more," directed the
turtle. The muskrat did so; but when he returned with his paws
filled with earth he discovered the small quantity he had first
deposited on the turtle's shell had doubled in size. The return
from the third trip found the turtle's load again doubled. So the
building went on at double compound increase, and the world grew
its continents and its islands with great rapidity, and now rests
on the shell of a turtle.
If you ask an Iroquois, "And did no men survive this flood?" he
will reply, "Why should men survive? The animals are wiser than
men; let the wisest live."
How, then, was the earth repeopled?
The Iroquois will tell you that the otter was a medicine-man; that,
in swimming and diving about, he found corpses of men and women;
he sang his medicine-songs and they came to life, and the otter
brought them fish for food until they were strong enough to provide
for themselves. Then the Iroquois will conclude his tale with,
"You know well that the otter has greater wisdom than a man."
So much for "mine own people" and our profound respect for the
superior intelligence of our little brothers of the animal world.
But the Squamish tribe hold other ideas. It was on a February
day that I first listened to this beautiful, humane story of the
Deluge. My royal old tillicum had come to see me through the rains
and mists of late winter days. The gateways of my wigwam always
stood open--very widely open--for his feet to enter, and this
especial day he came with the worst downpour of the season.
Woman-like, I protested with a thousand contradictions in my voice,
that he should venture out to see me on such a day. It was "Oh!
Chief, I am so glad to see you!" and it was "Oh! Chief, why didn't
you stay at home on such a wet day--your poor throat will suffer."
But I soon had quantities of hot tea for him, and the huge cup my
own father always used was his--as long as the Sagalie Tyee allowed
his dear feet to wander my way. The immense cup stands idle and
empty now for the second time.
Helping him off with his great-coat, I chatted on about the deluge
of rain, and he remarked it was not so very bad, as one could yet
"Fortunately, yes, for I cannot swim," I told him.
He laughed, replying, "Well, it is not so bad as when the Great Deep
Waters covered the world."
Immediately I foresaw the coming legend, so crept into the shell of
"No?" I questioned.
"No," he replied. "For, one time, there was no land here at all;
everywhere there was just water."
"I can quite believe it," I remarked caustically.
He laughed--that irresistible, though silent, David Warfield laugh
of his that always brought a responsive smile from his listeners.
Then he plunged directly into the tradition, with no preface save a
comprehensive sweep of his wonderful hands towards my wide window,
against which the rains were beating.
"It was after a long, long time of this--this rain. The mountain
streams were swollen, the rivers choked, the sea began to rise--and
yet it rained; for weeks and weeks it rained." He ceased speaking,
while the shadows of centuries gone crept into his eyes. Tales of
the misty past always inspired him.
"Yes," he continued. "It rained for weeks and weeks, while the
mountain torrents roared thunderingly down, and the sea crept
silently up. The level lands were first to float in sea-water, then
to disappear. The slopes were next to slip into the sea. The world
was slowly being flooded. Hurriedly the Indian tribes gathered in
one spot, a place of safety far above the reach of the on-creeping
sea. The spot was the circling shore of Lake Beautiful, up the
North Arm. They held a Great Council and decided at once upon a
plan of action. A giant canoe should be built, and some means
contrived to anchor it in case the waters mounted to the heights.
The men undertook the canoe, the women the anchorage.
"A giant tree was felled, and day and night the men toiled over
its construction into the most stupendous canoe the world has ever
known. Not an hour, not a moment, but many worked, while the
toil-wearied ones slept, only to awake to renewed toil. Meanwhile,
the women also worked at a cable--the largest, the longest, the
strongest that Indian hands and teeth had ever made. Scores of
them gathered and prepared the cedar-fibre; scores of them plaited,
rolled, and seasoned it; scores of them chewed upon it inch by inch
to make it pliable; scores of them oiled and worked, oiled and
worked, oiled and worked it into a sea-resisting fabric. And still
the sea crept up, and up, and up. It was the last day; hope of life
for the tribes, of land for the world, was doomed. Strong hands,
self-sacrificing hands, fastened the cable the women had made--one
end to the giant canoe, the other about an enormous boulder, a vast
immovable rock as firm as the foundations of the world--for might
not the canoe, with its priceless freight drift out, far out, to sea,
and when the water subsided might not this ship of safety be leagues
and leagues beyond the sight of land on the storm-driven Pacific?
"Then, with the bravest hearts that ever beat, noble hands lifted
every child of the tribe into this vast canoe; not one single baby
was overlooked. The canoe was stocked with food and fresh water,
and lastly, the ancient men and women of the race selected as
guardians to these children the bravest, most stalwart, handsomest
young man of the tribes, and the mother of the youngest baby in the
camp--she was but a girl of sixteen, her child but two weeks old;
but she, too, was brave and very beautiful. These two were placed,
she at the bow of the canoe to watch, he at the stern to guide,
and all the little children crowded between.
"And still the sea crept up, and up, and up. At the crest of the
bluffs about Lake Beautiful the doomed tribes crowded. Not a single
person attempted to enter the canoe. There was no wailing, no
crying out for safety. 'Let the little children, the young mother,
and the bravest and best of our young men live,' was all the
farewell those in the canoe heard as the waters reached the summit,
and--the canoe floated. Last of all to be seen was the top of the
tallest tree, then--all was a world of water.
"For days and days there was no land--just the rush of swirling,
snarling sea; but the canoe rode safely at anchor, the cable those
scores of dead, faithful women had made held true as the hearts
that beat behind the toil and labor of it all.
"But one morning at sunrise, far to the south, a speck floated on the
breast of the waters; at midday it was larger; at evening it was yet
larger. The moon arose, and in its magic light the man at the stern
saw it was a patch of land. All night he watched it grow, and at
daybreak looked with glad eyes upon the summit of Mount Baker. He
cut the cable, grasped his paddle in his strong, young hands, and
steered for the south. When they landed, the waters were sunken
half down the mountain-side. The children were lifted out; the
beautiful young mother, the stalwart young brave, turned to each
other, clasped hands, looked into each other's eyes--and smiled.
"And down in the vast country that lies between Mount Baker and
the Fraser River they made a new camp, built new lodges, where the
little children grew and thrived, and lived and loved, and the
earth was repeopled by them.
"The Squamish say that in a gigantic crevice half-way to the crest
of Mount Baker may yet be seen the outlines of an enormous canoe,
but I have never seen it myself."
He ceased speaking with that far-off cadence in his voice with which
he always ended a legend, and for a long time we both sat in silence
listening to the rains that were still beating against the window.
There is one vice that is absolutely unknown to the red man; he
was born without it, and amongst all the deplorable things he
has learned from the white races, this, at least, he has never
acquired. That is the vice of avarice. That the Indian looks
upon greed of gain, miserliness, avariciousness, and wealth
accumulated above the head of his poorer neighbor as one of the
lowest degradations he can fall to is perhaps more aptly illustrated
than anything I could quote to demonstrate his horror of what
he calls "the white man's unkindness." In a very wide and
varied experience with many tribes, I have yet to find even one
instance of avarice, and I have encountered but one single case of a
"stingy Indian," and this man was so marked amongst his fellows that
at mention of his name his tribes-people jeered and would remark
contemptuously that he was like a white man--hated to share his
money and his possessions. All red races are born Socialists,
and most tribes carry out their communistic ideas to the letter.
Amongst the Iroquois it is considered disgraceful to have food if
your neighbor has none. To be a creditable member of the nation
you must divide your possessions with your less fortunate fellows.
I find it much the same amongst the Coast Indians, though they are
less bitter in their hatred of the extremes of wealth and poverty
than are the Eastern tribes. Still, the very fact that they have
preserved this legend, in which they liken avarice to a slimy
sea-serpent, shows the trend of their ideas; shows, too, that an
Indian is an Indian, no matter what his tribe; shows that he cannot,
or will not, hoard money; shows that his native morals demand that
the spirit of greed must be strangled at all cost.
The chief and I had sat long over our luncheon. He had been talking
of his trip to England and of the many curious things he had seen.
At last, in an outburst of enthusiasm, he said: "I saw everything
in the world--everything but a sea-serpent!"
"But there is no such thing as a sea-serpent," I laughed, "so you
must have really seen everything in the world."
His face clouded; for a moment he sat in silence; then, looking
directly at me, said, "Maybe none now, but long ago there was one
here--in the Inlet."
"How long ago?" I asked.
"When first the white gold-hunters came," he replied. "Came with
greedy, clutching fingers, greedy eyes, greedy hearts. The white
men fought, murdered, starved, went mad with love of that gold far
up the Fraser River. Tillicums were tillicums no more, brothers
were foes, fathers and sons were enemies. Their love of the gold
was a curse."
"Was it then the sea-serpent was seen?" I asked, perplexed with the
problem of trying to connect the gold-seekers with such a monster.
"Yes, it was then, but----" he hesitated, then plunged into the
assertion, "but you will not believe the story if you think there
is no such thing as a sea-serpent."
"I shall believe whatever you tell me, Chief," I answered. "I am
only too ready to believe. You know I come of a superstitious race,
and all my association with the Palefaces has never yet robbed me
of my birthright to believe strange traditions."
"You always understand," he said after a pause.
"It's my heart that understands," I remarked quietly.
He glanced up quickly, and with one of his all too few radiant
smiles, he laughed.
"Yes, skookum tum-tum." Then without further hesitation he told
the tradition, which, although not of ancient happening, is held in
great reverence by his tribe. During its recital he sat with folded
arms, leaning on the table, his head and shoulders bending eagerly
towards me as I sat at the opposite side. It was the only time he
ever talked to me when he did not use emphasising gesticulations,
but his hands never once lifted: his wonderful eyes alone gave
expression to what he called "The Legend of the 'Salt-chuck Oluk'"
"Yes, it was during the first gold craze, and many of our young men
went as guides to the whites far up the Fraser. When they returned
they brought these tales of greed and murder back with them, and
our old people and our women shook their heads and said evil would
come of it. But all our young men, except one, returned as they
went--kind to the poor, kind to those who were foodless, sharing
whatever they had with their tillicums. But one, by name Shak-shak
(The Hawk), came back with hoards of gold nuggets, chickimin
(money), everything; he was rich like the white men, and, like them,
he kept it. He would count his chickimin, count his nuggets, gloat
over them, toss them in his palms. He rested his head on them as
he slept, he packed them about with him through the day. He loved
them better than food, better than his tillicums, better than his
life. The entire tribe arose. They said Shak-shak had the disease
of greed; that to cure it he must give a great potlatch, divide his
riches with the poorer ones, share them with the old, the sick, the
foodless. But he jeered and laughed and told them No, and went on
loving and gloating over his gold.
"Then the Sagalie Tyee spoke out of the sky and said, 'Shak-shak,
you have made of yourself a loathsome thing; you will not listen to
the cry of the hungry, to the call of the old and sick; you will not
share your possessions; you have made of yourself an outcast from
your tribe and disobeyed the ancient laws of your people. Now I
will make of you a thing loathed and hated by all men, both white
and red. You will have two heads, for your greed has two mouths to
bite. One bites the poor, and one bites your own evil heart; and
the fangs in these mouths are poison--poison that kills the hungry,
and poison that kills your own manhood. Your evil heart will
beat in the very centre of your foul body, and he that pierces it
will kill the disease of greed forever from amongst his people.'
And when the sun arose above the North Arm the next morning the
tribes-people saw a gigantic sea-serpent stretched across the
surface of the waters. One hideous head rested on the bluffs at
Brockton Point, the other rested on a group of rocks just below
Mission, at the western edge of North Vancouver. If you care to go
there some day I will show you the hollow in one great stone where
that head lay. The tribes-people were stunned with horror. They
loathed the creature, they hated it, they feared it. Day after day
it lay there, its monstrous heads lifted out of the waters, its
mile-long body blocking all entrance from the Narrows, all outlet
from the North Arm. The chiefs made council, the medicine-men
danced and chanted, but the salt-chuck oluk never moved. It could
not move, for it was the hated totem of what now rules the white
man's world--greed and love of chickimin. No one can ever move the
love of chickimin from the white man's heart, no one can ever make
him divide all with the poor. But after the chiefs and medicine-men
had done all in their power, and still the salt-chuck oluk lay
across the waters, a handsome boy of sixteen approached them and
reminded them of the words of the Sagalie Tyee, 'that he that
pierced the monster's heart would kill the disease of greed forever
amongst his people.'
"'Let me try to find this evil heart, oh! great men of my tribe,' he
cried. 'Let me war upon this creature; let me try to rid my people
of this pestilence.'
"The boy was brave and very beautiful. His tribes-people called him
the Tenas Tyee (Little Chief) and they loved him. Of all his wealth
of fish and furs, of game and hykwa (large shell-money) he gave to
the boys who had none; he hunted food for the old people; he tanned
skins and furs for those whose feet were feeble, whose eyes were
fading, whose blood ran thin with age.
"'Let him go!' cried the tribes-people. 'This unclean monster can
only be overcome by cleanliness, this creature of greed can only
be overthrown by generosity. Let him go!' The chiefs and the
medicine-men listened, then consented. 'Go,' they commanded, 'and
fight this thing with your strongest weapons--cleanliness and
"The Tenas Tyee turned to his mother. 'I shall be gone four days,'
he told her, 'and I shall swim all that time. I have tried all my
life to be generous, but the people say I must be clean also to
fight this unclean thing. While I am gone put fresh furs on my bed
every day, even if I am not here to lie on them; if I know my bed,
my body and my heart are all clean I can overcome this serpent.'
"'Your bed shall have fresh furs every morning,' his mother
"The Tenas Tyee then stripped himself, and, with no clothing save a
buckskin belt into which he thrust his hunting-knife, he flung his
lithe young body into the sea. But at the end of four days he did
not return. Sometimes his people could see him swimming far out in
mid-channel, endeavoring to find the exact centre of the serpent,
where lay its evil, selfish heart; but on the fifth morning they saw
him rise out of the sea, climb to the summit of Brockton Point, and
greet the rising sun with outstretched arms. Weeks and months went
by, still the Tenas Tyee would swim daily searching for that heart
of greed; and each morning the sunrise glinted on his slender young
copper-colored body as he stood with outstretched arms at the tip
of Brockton Point, greeting the coming day and then plunging from
the summit into the sea.
"And at his home on the north shore his mother dressed his bed with
fresh furs each morning. The seasons drifted by; winter followed
summer, summer followed winter. But it was four years before the
Tenas Tyee found the centre of the great salt-chuck oluk and plunged
his hunting-knife into its evil heart. In its death-agony it
writhed through the Narrows, leaving a trail of blackness on the
waters. Its huge body began to shrink, to shrivel; it became
dwarfed and withered, until nothing but the bones of its back
remained, and they, sea-bleached and lifeless, soon sank to the bed
of the ocean leagues off from the rim of land. But as the Tenas
Tyee swam homeward and his clean, young body crossed through the
black stain left by the serpent, the waters became clear and blue
and sparkling. He had overcome even the trail of the salt-chuck
"When at last he stood in the doorway of his home he said, 'My
mother, I could not have killed the monster of greed amongst my
people had you not helped me by keeping one place for me at home
fresh and clean for my return.'
"She looked at him as only mothers look. 'Each day, these four
years, fresh furs have I laid for your bed. Sleep now, and rest,
oh! my Tenas Tyee,' she said."
* * * * *
The chief unfolded his arms, and his voice took another tone as he
said, "What do you call that story--a legend?"
"The white people would call it an allegory," I answered. He shook
"No savvy," he smiled.
I explained as simply as possible, and with his customary alertness
he immediately understood. "That's right," he said. "That's what
we say it means, we Squamish, that greed is evil and not clean,
like the salt-chuck oluk. That it must be stamped out amongst our
people, killed by cleanliness and generosity. The boy that overcame
the serpent was both these things."
"What became of this splendid boy?" I asked.
"The Tenas Tyee? Oh! some of our old, old people say they
sometimes see him now, standing on Brockton Point, his bare young
arms outstretched to the rising sun," he replied.
"Have you ever seen him, Chief?" I questioned.
"No," he answered simply. But I have never heard such poignant
regret as his wonderful voice crowded into that single word.
THE LOST ISLAND
"Yes," said my old tillicum, "we Indians have lost many things.
We have lost our lands, our forests, our game, our fish; we have
lost our ancient religion, our ancient dress; some of the younger
people have even lost their fathers' language and the legends and
traditions of their ancestors. We cannot call those old things back
to us; they will never come again. We may travel many days up the
mountain-trails, and look in the silent places for them. They are
not there. We may paddle many moons on the sea, but our canoes will
never enter the channel that leads to the yesterdays of the Indian
people. These things are lost, just like 'The Island of the North
Arm.' They may be somewhere nearby, but no one can ever find them."
"But there are many islands up the North Arm," I asserted.
"Not the island we Indian people have sought for many tens of
summers," he replied sorrowfully.
"Was it ever there?" I questioned.
"Yes, it was there," he said. "My grandsires and my
great-grandsires saw it; but that was long ago. My father never
saw it, though he spent many days in many years searching, always
searching for it. I am an old man myself, and I have never seen
it, though from my youth, I, too, have searched. Sometimes in the
stillness of the nights I have paddled up in my canoe." Then,
lowering his voice: "Twice I have seen its shadow: high rocky
shores, reaching as high as the tree-tops on the mainland, then tall
pines and firs on its summit like a king's crown. As I paddled up
the Arm one summer night, long ago, the shadow of these rocks and
firs fell across my canoe, across my face, and across the waters
beyond. I turned rapidly to look. There was no island there,
nothing but a wide stretch of waters on both sides of me, and the
moon almost directly overhead. Don't say it was the shore that
shadowed me," he hastened, catching my thought. "The moon was above
me; my canoe scarce made a shadow on the still waters. No, it was
not the shore."
"Why do you search for it?" I lamented, thinking of the old dreams
in my own life whose realization I have never attained.
"There is something on that island that I want. I shall look for
it until I die, for it is there," he affirmed.
There was a long silence between us after that. I had learned to
love silences when with my old tillicum, for they always led to a
legend. After a time he began voluntarily:
"It was more than one hundred years ago. This great city of
Vancouver was but the dream of the Sagalie Tyee [God] at that time.
The dream had not yet come to the white man; only one great Indian
medicine-man knew that some day a great camp for Palefaces would lie
between False Creek and the Inlet. This dream haunted him; it came
to him night and day--when he was amid his people laughing and
feasting, or when he was alone in the forest chanting his strange
songs, beating his hollow drum, or shaking his wooden witch-rattle
to gain more power to cure the sick and the dying of his tribe. For
years this dream followed him. He grew to be an old, old man, yet
always he could hear voices, strong and loud, as when they first
spoke to him in his youth, and they would say: 'Between the two
narrow strips of salt water the white men will camp, many hundreds
of them, many thousands of them. The Indians will learn their ways,
will live as they do, will become as they are. There will be no
more great war-dances, no more fights with other powerful tribes;
it will be as if the Indians had lost all bravery, all courage, all
confidence.' He hated the voices, he hated the dream; but all his
power, all his big medicine, could not drive them away. He was the
strongest man on all the North Pacific Coast. He was mighty and
very tall, and his muscles were as those of Leloo, the timber-wolf,
when he is strongest to kill his prey. He could go for many days
without food; he could fight the largest mountain-lion; he could
overthrow the fiercest grizzly bear; he could paddle against the
wildest winds and ride the highest waves. He could meet his enemies
and kill whole tribes single-handed. His strength, his courage, his
power, his bravery, were those of a giant. He knew no fear; nothing
in the sea, or in the forest, nothing in the earth or the sky, could
conquer him. He was fearless, fearless. Only this haunting dream
of the coming white man's camp he could not drive away; it was the
only thing in life he had tried to kill and failed. It drove him
from the feasting, drove him from the pleasant lodges, the fires,
the dancing, the story-telling of his people in their camp by the
water's edge, where the salmon thronged and the deer came down to
drink of the mountain-streams. He left the Indian village, chanting
his wild songs as he went. Up through the mighty forests he
climbed, through the trailless deep mosses and matted vines, up to
the summit of what the white men call Grouse Mountain. For many
days he camped there. He ate no food, he drank no water, but sat
and sang his medicine-songs through the dark hours and through the
day. Before him--far beneath his feet--lay the narrow strip of land
between the two salt waters. Then the Sagalie Tyee gave him the
power to see far into the future. He looked across a hundred years,
just as he looked across what you call the Inlet, and he saw mighty
lodges built close together, hundreds and thousands of them--lodges
of stone and wood, and long straight trails to divide them. He saw
these trails thronging with Palefaces; he heard the sound of the
white man's paddle-dip on the waters, for it is not silent like the
Indian's; he saw the white man's trading posts, saw the fishing-nets,
heard his speech. Then the vision faded as gradually as it
came. The narrow strip of land was his own forest once more.
"'I am old,' he called, in his sorrow and his trouble for his
people. 'I am old, O Sagalie Tyee! Soon I shall die and go to
the Happy Hunting Grounds of my fathers. Let not my strength die
with me. Keep living for all time my courage, my bravery, my
fearlessness. Keep them for my people that they may be strong
enough to endure the white man's rule. Keep my strength living
for them; hide it so that the Paleface may never find or see it.'
"Then he came down from the summit of Grouse Mountain. Still
chanting his medicine-songs, he entered his canoe and paddled
through the colors of the setting sun far up the North Arm. When
night fell he came to an island with misty shores of great grey
rock; on its summit tall pines and firs encircled like a king's
crown. As he neared it he felt all his strength, his courage, his
fearlessness, leaving him; he could see these things drift from
him on to the island. They were as the clouds that rest on the
mountains, grey-white and half transparent. Weak as a woman, he
paddled back to the Indian village; he told them to go and search
for 'The Island,' where they would find all his courage, his
fearlessness and his strength, living, living forever. He slept
then, but--in the morning he did not awake. Since then our young
men and our old have searched for 'The Island.' It is there
somewhere, up some lost channel, but we cannot find it. When we
do, we will get back all the courage and bravery we had before the
white man came, for the great medicine-man said those things never
die--they live for one's children and grandchildren."
His voice ceased. My whole heart went out to him in his longing
for the lost island. I thought of all the splendid courage I knew
him to possess, so made answer: "But you say that the shadow of
this island has fallen upon you; is it not so, tillicum?"
"Yes," he said half mournfully. "But only the shadow."
"Have you ever sailed around Point Grey?" asked a young Squamish
tillicum of mine who often comes to see me, to share a cup of
tea and a taste of muck-a-muck that otherwise I should eat in
"No," I admitted, I had not had that pleasure, for I did not know
the uncertain waters of English Bay sufficiently well to venture
about its headlands in my frail canoe.
"Some day, perhaps next summer, I'll take you there in a sail-boat,
and show you the big rock at the south-west of the Point. It is a
strange rock; we Indian people call it Homolsom."
"What an odd name!" I commented. "Is it a Squamish word?--it does
not sound to me like one."
"It is not altogether Squamish, but half Fraser River language. The
Point was the dividing-line between the grounds and waters of the
two tribes; so they agreed to make the name 'Homolsom' from the two
I suggested more tea, and, as he sipped it, he told me the legend
that few of the younger Indians know. That he believes the story
himself is beyond question, for many times he admitted having tested
the virtues of this rock, and it had never once failed him. All
people that have to do with water-craft are superstitious about
some things, and I freely acknowledge that times innumerable I
have "whistled up" a wind when dead calm threatened, or stuck
a jack-knife in the mast, and afterwards watched with great
contentment the idle sail fill, and the canoe pull out to a light
breeze. So, perhaps, I am prejudiced in favor of this legend of
Homolsom Rock, for it strikes a very responsive chord in that
portion of my heart that has always throbbed for the sea.
"You know," began my young tillicum, "that only waters unspoiled
by human hands can be of any benefit. One gains no strength by
swimming in any waters heated or boiled by fires that men build.
To grow strong and wise one must swim in the natural rivers, the
mountain torrents, the sea, just as the Sagalie Tyee made them.
Their virtues die when human beings try to improve them by heating
or distilling, or placing even tea in them, and so--what makes
Homolsom Rock so full of 'good medicine' is that the waters that
wash up about it are straight from the sea, made by the hand of
the Great Tyee, and unspoiled by the hand of man.
"It was not always there, that great rock, drawing its strength and
its wonderful power from the seas, for it, too, was once a Great
Tyee, who ruled a mighty tract of waters. He was god of all the
waters that wash the coast, of the Gulf of Georgia, of Puget Sound,
of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, of the waters that beat against even
the west coast of Vancouver Island, and of all the channels that cut
between the Charlotte Islands. He was Tyee of the West Wind, and
his storms and tempests were so mighty that the Sagalie Tyee Himself
could not control the havoc that he created. He warred upon all
fishing craft, he demolished canoes, and sent men to graves in the
sea. He uprooted forests and drove the surf on shore heavy with
wreckage of despoiled trees and with beaten and bruised fish. He
did all this to reveal his powers, for he was cruel and hard of
heart, and he would laugh and defy the Sagalie Tyee, and, looking up
to the sky, he would call, 'See how powerful I am, how mighty, how
strong; I am as great as you.'
"It was at this time that the Sagalie Tyee in the persons of the
Four Men came in the great canoe up over the rim of the Pacific,
in that age thousands of years ago when they turned the evil into
stone, and the kindly into trees.
"'Now,' said the god of the West Wind, 'I can show how great I am.
I shall blow a tempest that these men may not land on my coast.
They shall not ride my seas and sounds and channels in safety. I
shall wreck them and send their bodies into the great deeps, and I
shall be Sagalie Tyee in their place and ruler of all the world.'
So the god of the West Wind blew forth his tempests. The waves
arose mountain high, the seas lashed and thundered along the shores.
The roar of his mighty breath could be heard wrenching giant limbs
from the forest trees, whistling down the canyons and dealing death
and destruction for leagues and leagues along the coast. But the
canoe containing the Four Men rode upright through all the heights
and hollows of the seething ocean. No curling crest or sullen depth
could wreck that magic craft, for the hearts it bore were filled
with kindness for the human race, and kindness cannot die.
"It was all rock and dense forest, and unpeopled; only wild animals
and sea-birds sought the shelter it provided from the terrors of the
West Wind; but he drove them out in sullen anger, and made on this
strip of land his last stand against the Four Men. The Paleface
calls the place Point Grey, but the Indians yet speak of it as
'The Battle Ground of the West Wind.' All his mighty forces he
now brought to bear against the oncoming canoe; he swept great
hurricanes about the stony ledges; he caused the sea to beat and
swirl in tempestuous fury along its narrow fastnesses; but the canoe
came nearer and nearer, invincible as those shores, and stronger
than death itself. As the bow touched the land the Four Men arose
and commanded the West Wind to cease his war-cry, and, mighty though
he had been, his voice trembled and sobbed itself into a gentle
breeze, then fell to a whispering note, then faded into exquisite
"'Oh, you evil one with the unkind heart,' cried the Four Men, 'you
have been too great a god for even the Sagalie Tyee to obliterate
you forever, but you shall live on, live now to serve, not to hinder
mankind. You shall turn into stone where you now stand, and you
shall rise only as men wish you to. Your life from this day shall
be for the good of man, for when the fisherman's sails are idle and
his lodge is leagues away you shall fill those sails and blow his
craft free, in whatever direction he desires. You shall stand where
you are through all the thousands upon thousands of years to come,
and he who touches you with his paddle-blade shall have his desire
of a breeze to carry him home.'"
My young tillicum had finished his tradition, and his great, solemn
eyes regarded me half-wistfully.
"I wish you could see Homolsom Rock," he said. "For that is he who
was once the Tyee of the West Wind."
"Were you ever becalmed around Point Grey?" I asked irrelevantly.
"Often," he replied. "But I paddle up to the rock and touch it with
the tip of my paddle-blade, and, no matter which way I want to go, the
wind will blow free for me, if I wait a little while."
"I suppose your people all do this?" I replied.
"Yes, all of them," he answered. "They have done it for hundreds of
years. You see the power in it is just as great now as at first,
for the rock feeds every day on the unspoiled sea that the Sagalie
THE TULAMEEN TRAIL
Did you ever "holiday" through the valley lands of the Dry Belt?
Ever spend days and days in a swinging, swaying coach, behind a
four-in-hand, when "Curly" or "Nicola Ned" held the ribbons, and
tooled his knowing little leaders and wheelers down those horrifying
mountain-trails that wind like russet skeins of cobweb through the
heights and depths of the Okanagan, the Nicola, and the Similkameen
countries? If so, you have listened to the call of the Skookum
Chuck, as the Chinook speakers call the rollicking, tumbling streams
that sing their way through the canyons with a music so dulcet,
so insistent, that for many moons the echo of it lingers in your
listening ears, and you will, through all the years to come, hear
the voices of those mountain-rivers calling you to return.
But the most haunting of all the melodies is the warbling laughter
of the Tulameen; its delicate note is far more powerful, more
far-reaching than the throaty thunders of Niagara. That is why the
Indians of the Nicola country still cling to their old-time story
that the Tulameen carries the spirit of a young girl enmeshed in the
wonders of its winding course; a spirit that can never free itself
from the canyons, to rise above the heights and follow its fellows
to the Happy Hunting Grounds, but which is contented to entwine its
laughter, its sobs, its lonely whispers, its still lonelier call for
companionship, with the wild music of the waters that sing forever
beneath the western stars.
As your horses plod up and up the almost perpendicular trail that
leads out of the Nicola Valley to the summit, a paradise of beauty
outspreads at your feet; the color is indescribable in words, the
atmosphere thrills you. Youth and the pulse of rioting blood are
yours again, until, as you near the heights, you become strangely
calmed by the voiceless silence of it all--a silence so holy that
it seems the whole world about you is swinging its censer before
an altar in some dim remote cathedral! The choir-voices of the
Tulameen are yet very far away across the summit, but the heights of
the Nicola are the silent prayer that holds the human soul before
the first great chords swell down from the organ-loft. In this
first long climb up miles and miles of trail, even the staccato of
the drivers' long black-snake whip is hushed. He lets his animals
pick their own sure-footed way, but once across the summit he
gathers the reins in his steely fingers, gives a low, quick whistle,
the whiplash curls about the ears of the leaders and the plunge down
the dip of the mountain begins. Every foot of the way is done at
a gallop. The coach rocks and swings as it dashes through a trail
rough-hewn from the heart of the forest; at times the angles are so
abrupt that you cannot see the heads of the leaders as they swing
around the grey crags that almost scrape the tires on the left,
while within a foot of the rim of the trail the right wheels whirl
along the edge of a yawning canyon. The rhythm of the hoof-beats,
the recurrent low whistle and crack of the whiplash, the occasional
rattle of pebbles showering down to the depths, loosened by rioting
wheels, have broken the sacred silence. Yet, above all those nearby
sounds, there seems to be an indistinct murmur, which grows sweeter,
more musical, as you gain the base of the mountains, where it rises
above all harsher notes. It is the voice of the restless Tulameen
as it dances and laughs through the rocky throat of the canyon,
three hundred feet below. Then, following the song, comes a glimpse
of the river itself--white-garmented in the film of its countless
rapids, its showers of waterfalls. It is as beautiful to look at as
to listen to, and it is here, where the trail winds about and above
it for leagues, that the Indians say it caught the spirit of the
maiden that is still interlaced in its loveliness.
It was in one of the terrible battles that raged between the valley
tribes before the white man's footprints were seen along these
trails. None can now tell the cause of this warfare, but the
supposition is that it was merely for tribal supremacy--that
primeval instinct that assails the savage in both man and beast,
that drives the hill-men to bloodshed and the leaders of buffalo
herds to conflict. It is the greed to rule; the one barbarous
instinct that civilization has never yet been able to eradicate from
armed nations. This war of the tribes of the valley lands was of
years in duration; men fought, and women mourned, and children wept,
as all have done since time began. It seemed an unequal battle,
for the old, experienced, war-tried chief and his two astute sons
were pitted against a single young Tulameen brave. Both factors
had their loyal followers, both were indomitable as to courage and
bravery, both were determined and ambitious, both were skilled
But on the older man's side were experience and two other wary,
strategic brains to help him, while on the younger was but the
advantage of splendid youth and unconquerable persistence. But at
every pitched battle, at every skirmish, at every single-handed
conflict the younger man gained little by little, the older man lost
step by step. The experience of age was gradually but inevitably
giving way to the strength and enthusiasm of youth. Then, one day,
they met face to face and alone--the old, war-scarred chief, the
young battle-inspired brave. It was an unequal combat, and at the
close of a brief but violent struggle the younger had brought the
older to his knees. Standing over him with up-poised knife the
Tulameen brave laughed sneeringly, and said:
"Would you, my enemy, have this victory as your own? If so, I give
it to you; but in return for my submission I demand of you--your
For an instant the old chief looked in wonderment at his conqueror;
he thought of his daughter only as a child who played about the
forest-trails or sat obediently beside her mother in the lodge,
stitching her little moccasins or weaving her little baskets.
"My daughter!" he answered sternly. "My daughter--who is barely
out of her own cradle-basket--give her to you, whose hands are
blood-dyed with the killing of a score of my tribe? You ask for
"I do not ask it," replied the young brave. "I demand it; I have
seen the girl and I shall have her."
The old chief sprang to his feet and spat out his refusal. "Keep
your victory, and I keep my girl-child," though he knew he was not
only defying his enemy, but defying death as well.
The Tulameen laughed lightly, easily. "I shall not kill the sire
of my wife," he taunted. "One more battle must we have, but your
girl-child will come to me."
Then he took his victorious way up the trail, while the old chief
walked with slow and springless step down into the canyon.
The next morning the chief's daughter was loitering along the
heights, listening to the singing river, and sometimes leaning over
the precipice to watch its curling eddies and dancing waterfalls.
Suddenly she heard a slight rustle, as though some passing bird's
wing had clipt the air. Then at her feet there fell a slender,
delicately shaped arrow. It fell with spent force, and her Indian
woodcraft told her it had been shot to her, not at her. She started
like a wild animal. Then her quick eye caught the outline of a
handsome, erect figure that stood on the heights across the river.
She did not know him as her father's enemy. She only saw him to be
young, stalwart, and of extraordinary manly beauty. The spirit of
youth and of a certain savage coquetry awoke within her. Quickly
she fitted one of her own dainty arrows to the bow-string and sent
it winging across the narrow canyon; it fell, spent, at his feet,
and he knew she had shot it to him, not at him.
Next morning, woman-like, she crept noiselessly to the brink of the
heights. Would she see him again--that handsome brave? Would he
speed another arrow to her? She had not yet emerged from the tangle
of forest before it fell, its faint-winged flight heralding its
coming. Near the feathered end was tied a tassel of beautiful
ermine-tails. She took from her wrist a string of shell beads,
fastened it to one of her little arrows, and winged it across the
canyon, as yesterday.
The following morning, before leaving the lodge, she fastened the
tassel of ermine-tails in her straight black hair. Would he see
them? But no arrow fell at her feet that day, but a dearer message
was there on the brink of the precipice. He himself awaited her
coming--he who had never left her thoughts since that first arrow
came to her from his bow-string. His eyes burned with warm fires,
as she approached, but his lips said simply: "I have crossed the
Tulameen River." Together they stood, side by side, and looked down
at the depths before them, watching in silence the little torrent
rollicking and roystering over its boulders and crags.
"That is my country," he said, looking across the river. "This
is the country of your father, and of your brothers; they are my
enemies. I return to my own shore to-night. Will you come with me?"
She looked up into his handsome young face. So this was her
father's foe--the dreaded Tulameen!
"Will you come?" he repeated.
"I will come," she whispered.
It was in the dark of the moon and through the kindly night he led
her far up the rocky shores to the narrow belt of quiet waters,
where they crossed in silence into his own country. A week, a
month, a long golden summer, slipped by, but the insulted old
chief and his enraged sons failed to find her.
Then, one morning, as the lovers walked together on the heights above
the far upper reaches of the river, even the ever-watchful eyes
of the Tulameen failed to detect the lurking enemy. Across the
narrow canyon crouched and crept the two outwitted brothers of the
girl-wife at his side; their arrows were on their bow-strings, their
hearts on fire with hatred and vengeance. Like two evil-winged
birds of prey those arrows sped across the laughing river, but
before they found their mark in the breast of the victorious
Tulameen the girl had unconsciously stepped before him. With a
little sigh, she slipped into his arms, her brothers' arrows
buried into her soft, brown flesh.
It was many a moon before his avenging hand succeeded in slaying
the old chief and those two hated sons of his. But when this was
finally done the handsome young Tulameen left his people, his tribe,
his country, and went into the far north. "For," he said, as he
sang his farewell war-song, "my heart lies dead in the Tulameen
* * * * *
But the spirit of his girl-wife still sings through the canyon, its
song blending with the music of that sweetest-voiced river in all
the great valleys of the Dry Belt. That is why this laughter, the
sobbing murmur of the beautiful Tulameen, will haunt for evermore
the ear that has once listened to its song.
THE GREY ARCHWAY
Back to Full Books