Folk-Lore/Volume 10/Sqaktktquaclt, or the Benign-Faced, the Oannes of the Ntlaka-pamuq

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Folk-Lore. Volume 10
Number 2. (June) Sqaktktquaclt, or the Benign-faced, the Oannes of the Ntlaka-pamuq

"SQAKTKTQUACLT,"[1] OR THE BENIGN-FACED, THE OANNES OF THE NTLAKAPAMUQ, BRITISH COLUMBIA.

(Read at Meeting of 21st June, 1898)

The following story is one of several which the writer recently obtained from Chief Mischelle of Lytton. It is not complete as the old Indians used to relate it; he had forgotten the latter portions of it. It was originally so long that those listening to it invariably went to sleep before it was concluded. Few Indians, I was informed, know so much of it as Mischelle. It is important, therefore, to place on record what I was able to gather from him. To those familiar with Dr. G. M. Dawson's Notes on the Shuswap People of British Columbia[2] it will be seen at once that Sqaktktquaclt of the Ntlakapamuq and Skilap of the Shuswaps are one and the same person, only in the case of the former we have an abundance of detail which is wanting in Dr. Dawson's account of the latter. Mischelle was a good raconteur, and took the liveliest pleasure in relating to me his store of lore. My method of recording was as follows: I made copious notes at the time, and expanded them immediately after. When written out, I read them to him and corrected them where necessary according to his instructions. They are, therefore, in their present form substantially as he gave them.


In the remote past the red-headed woodpecker was a very handsome man who had two wives, a black bear and a grizzly bear. They were not animals[3] then, but women in bear-form. When the woodpecker was a youth he had gone away by himself into a solitary spot, as was the custom of young men, and fasted and practised himself in athletic exercises, asking each morning before sunrise that Kōkpĕ (the chief) would bless him. Kōkpĕ heard his prayer, and as a sign of his favour gave him the beautiful red cap which now distinguishes his avial descendants to this day. When he had thus secured the favour and blessing of Kōkpĕ, he returned from the mountain and married his two wives. He became a great hunter. Six sons were born to him by his wives—three by each. After the children were born, he lost his love for the grizzly and showed a marked preference for the black bear. This made the grizzly bear very angry and jealous; but she hid her feelings and determined upon a revenge which included not only her co-wife and three sons, but also her husband himself. So one day, when the woodpecker w^as away hunting, she called her eldest son to her and gave him the following instructions: "The black bear and I are going out root-digging to-day. When we have gone, I want you to make some berry-soup. You must make it very thin and poor. The black bear's boy will also make some. He will make his very thick and rich. When you have made yours, give it to the black bear's boy, and he will give you his in exchange. Your soup will make their stomachs ache. When you have eaten your soup, ask your half-brothers to go and bathe with you in the river. When you are in the water together, seek an opportunity to drown your half-brothers, the black bear's children, and roast the youngest for me, that I may eat him for my supper when I return to-night." The son promised to do as his mother had bidden him. The black bear in some way got to know what the grizzly had instructed her eldest son to do, and warned her first-born to be on his guard against his half-brother. She further told him to make some soup also, and give it to the grizzlies in return for theirs, but to make his soup rich and thick and tempting, and then they would eat heartily of it and become very full and heavy, so that when they went into the water they would be unable to swim. After each of the mothers had thus instructed her first-born, they set out together to dig roots. The root-ground was some distance from their home, and on reaching it they sat down side by side to rest before beginning the work. Sitting thus, the grizzly bear presently began to admire the black bear's hair. "What lovely hair you have, dear sister!" said she, stroking it as she spoke. "But I see some lice in it; lay your head in my lap, and I will take them out for you." The black bear did as the other suggested, and the grizzly made pretence to crush the lice between her nails. She continued this for a little while, and then complaining that her fingers were sore with killing the vermin, suggested that she should be allowed to kill them with her teeth. The black bear, suspecting nothing, assented to this also, merely admonishing her to be very careful not to bite her. The grizzly promised to use care, but, getting her rival's head in a favourable position, presently caught the black bear by the base of the skull with her sharp and powerful teeth, which, penetrating into the brain, killed her instantly. Leaving the body where it lay, she hastened back towards home again. On coming near home, she stopped at a cross trail to await the woodpecker, who always returned by that trail from his hunting. She presently saw him approaching; and as he drew near, assuming her most pleasing manner, she cried out to him thus: "O dear husband, I am so glad you have come! I was on my way home from the rootdigging, and knowing that you always came by this road, I sat down to wait for you. You look very tired; come and rest with me awhile, and we will go home together. You must be weary after your long hunt; rest your head in my lap, and tell me what game you have brought home." The woodpecker, who was really tired from his hunt, and inclined to rest, did as his grizzly wife suggested, and laid his head on her lap. Presently she asked: "May I smooth your beautiful red cap? You have ruffled it in the forest." The request being granted, after she had smoothed the ruffled cap she began to stroke his hair gently and caressingly. A few moments later she cried out: "O dear husband, you have lice in your hair; let me take the nasty creatures out for you!" The woodpecker, who was a very clean person, was greatly distressed to learn that there were lice in his head, and readily consented to have them taken out, straightway laying his head face downwards in her lap for the purpose. Without loss of a moment the revengeful, jealous wife seized the favourable opportunity and caught her husband by the back of his head with her sharp teeth and made them meet in his skull, killing him instantly. Flinging his body into the bush, she hastened home, anxious to taste the supper she had bidden her son prepare for her. In the meantime events at home had not turned out as she had desired. After the mothers had gone to the root-ground, the two eldest boys made their soup as they had been instructed, and when it was cooked each exchanged soup with the other. When the black-bear-boy shared the soup he had received from the grizzly boy with his own brothers, he bade them eat sparingly of it. When the little grizzly boys tasted the soup they had received, they found it so nice that they ate it all up at once; but the little black-bear-boys complained of theirs, and eat but little, declaring that it had no more flavour than water. When the meal was done, the eldest of the black-bear-boys suggested that they should all go down to the river and bathe, and play in the water. As this suited the plans of the other, it was agreed to, and to the river they went. On reaching the bank, the black bear's eldest son said: "Let our two youngest brothers have a swim together, and see who will beat. The two little ones jumped forthwith into the river, but not being able to swim were both drowned. They were pulled out by the others and laid on the bank. The two middle boys now made an attempt, and were drowned in like manner. "Now let us try," said the grizzly boy to the other, intending to drown him when he got him into the water. The other agreed. They both jumped into the river; but as the grizzly boy had eaten so much soup, he was is no condition for swimming, and in the struggle which followed was himself drowned. The black-bear-boy now returned to shore, pulling his half-brothers after him. When he was out of the water he took his own two brothers and held them head downwards, so that all the water ran out of their lungs, and they presently began to breathe once more, and in a little time were all right and well again. He then built a big fire, and taking the youngest of the grizzly boys he spitted him with a big stick and set him to roast before the fire. The other two he threw into the fire, which soon reduced them to ashes, so that no sign of them remained. When the little grizzly boy was sufficiently roasted he stood him up on his legs by the fire to keep warm for the old grizzly mother's supper. When this was done, he called his two brothers to him, and told them that they would now have to leave their home and run away by themselves. So the second brother, whose name was Clatkeq,[4] which means in English "Funny-man," took his little brother on his shoulders, and they all three thus set off together as fast as they could, and when the grizzly mother got home they were well on their way. The first sight that met her eyes as she entered the house was the roast body of her youngest son, the hot steam from which made her mouth water. "Ah!" said she, "my son is a good boy; he has done what I told him, I see; and now I shall have the pleasure of eating the body of my rival's child. But I wonder where my own children are," she went on, as she looked round the house in search of her sons. "Ah! there they are in bed, I see; they are doubtless tired from their exertion in the water and have fallen asleep. I won't disturb them till I have eaten my supper." And without approaching the bed, whereon lay three small logs, placed there by the eldest of the black-bear-boys for the purpose of misleading her, she fell to, all unconscious of what she was eating, and devoured the carcase of her own child. Now it had happened that her last child was born just about the same time as the black-bear-mother gave birth to her third son, and in order to distinguish hers from the black bear's she had made three incisions on the claws of her son's fore-paws.[5] She had nearly eaten the whole body when the little talker-bird [not identified] alighted on the roof of the house and began to whistle and talk. Said he: "Oh, you shocking, unnatural mother! why are you eating the body of your own child? How can you be so wicked?" "Be off with your babble!" answered the bear, with her mouth full of meat. "What do you know about the matter? You talk too much." But the bird whistled and chattered on, and continued to upbraid her for eating her own child. "It is not my child," said the grizzly. "There are my three children in bed yonder." "Are you sure?" replied the bird; "look at the claws in your hand." The grizzly did so, and perceived in a moment the three familiar marks which she had made on her youngest son's nails. Springing up, she rushed to the bed, and, snatching off the blanket, discovered that what she had taken for the forms of her children were only three rotten logs. Raging with fury, she rushed about in search of the other children, realising that she had been outwitted by the son of the murdered black bear. Presently discovering their trail, she hastened after them, vowing vengeance as she went.

In the meantime, the three boys had been making the best of their way through the forest. Presently the youngest[6] said to his brothers: "The old grizzly will be after us, and must soon overtake us. Now, if you will do as I tell you, all will be well. I want you to be quick and find me some wasps, some ants, and some dry wood-dust." His brothers did as he requested, and had barely accomplished their task when the old grizzly was seen rushing after them. They both became much alarmed, and thought their last hour was come; but their little brother told them they must all climb a tree, and take the wasps and the ants and the wood-dust with them. This they quickly did, managing to get among the branches just as their enemy reached the foot of the tree. Being unable to climb, she had resort to cunning. Dissembling, she began to mildly scold them, telling them their father had sent her after them to bring them home; that they were naughty boys, and that if they didn't come back with her their father would beat her with a big stick and be very angry. The little one whispered to his eldest brother, bidding him tell her to open her eyes and her mouth and her ears as wide as she could, and look upwards. Thinking it best to humour them, she complied. "Now sit down and open your arms wide, and I will drop my brothers down to you," said the eldest again at his little brother's suggestion. Again the grizzly complied; and as she sat thus, with her breast and face all exposed, expecting to receive the brothers as they fell, she received the wasps and ants and dust instead; and what with the stinging of the wasps, and the biting of the ants, and the dust in her eyes and ears and mouth, she was fain to leave the boys and attend to herself. While she was rolling and scratching and tearing herself, in her agony and pain, the boys slipped down from the tree and made off as quickly as they could. It was a long time before the wretched grizzly was able to see again, for, in addition to the dust which had filled her eyes, the wasps had stung her so badly about the face that her swollen cheeks and eyelids quite obstructed her sight. But as soon as she was able to see her way again, she started in pursuit once more, vowing a terrible revenge when she should catch them. As the boys were hurrying along, they came to the dwelling of an old man who went by the name of "Ground-hog." He was sitting in his doorway as they passed, and having knowledge of their distress he accosted them kindly. "Hullo, children!" said he, "keep your spirits up, I'll help you, and hinder the old grizzly when she comes by. You run on to the river, and my brother the ferryman there will put you over the river before the grizzly can overtake you. I have sent word to him by the talking bird that you are coming, and will want to cross in a hurry." The boys thanked the old man and ran on towards the river. By this time, however, the angry grizzly was after them again, and they had not gone far beyond Ground-hog's when she arrived at his house. As she was dashing past, the little old man popped his head out of his door, which was fashioned by two large stones, after the manner of a spring trap, which he could open and shut from within, and called out to the grizzly to stop a moment. She made to rush past him; but he laughed so exasperatingly at her woeful plight, and mocked and abused her so roundly, that he at length provoked her to turn aside for the purpose of punishing him. The little man waited till she was quite close, scoffing at her the while; and when she sought to seize him he suddenly popped down his hole, pulling his door close after him with a sudden click that nearly took the old grizzly's nose off. Seeing that he was safe from her reach, she started off again after the boys, but had not gone a dozen yards when Ground-hog opened his door and popped his head out again, and jeered and taunted and mocked her worse than before. Though loth to delay, so biting and exasperating were the words he flung at her, that she half-turned to make for him once more. "Come on, come on, you old cannibal, you murderess and child-eater, come on! I'm not afraid of you, and I'll tell you what I think of you!" There was no enduring such language as this from a ground-hog; so she turned aside again and rushed at the little old fellow, who waited till she was nearly upon him, and then, with a scoffing laugh, scuttled down his hole, closing his door as before. This delay, which good-natured Ground-hog had caused the grizzly, enabled the boys to get to the river, jump into the waiting boat, and be ferried over before their enemy got to the bank. As the boys jumped out of the boat, the ferryman, who was known by the same name as his brother, told them not to trouble themselves about the grizzly any more, she would never trouble them again; that he was going to punish and make an end of her for her great wickedness. The three boys went on their way much relieved, wondering how the little ferryman was going to outwit and punish the great grizzly-woman. Earlier in the day, before the boys arrived, on learning from the talking-bird what a wicked woman the grizzly was, and that she was pursuing the boys and would desire to cross the river in his boat, he went to his food-cellar, and taking all his store of food, he carried it to the river's bank. Calling all the fish in the river to him, he threw them the food, promising to give them a daily supply ever after, if they would help him that day. They consented to do so, and asked what he wished them to do. He told them that later in the day he would have to ferry the grizzly-woman across, and that he would make her sit in a hole, which he would make for the purpose in the bottom of his canoe, and that as she sat there they were to all come and bite a piece out of her, the little trout first, and then the bigger ones, and then the salmon trout, and then the salmon themselves, and last of all the big sturgeon. They readily promised to do as he wished, the more so as the grizzly's carcase was to be theirs afterwards. The boys had barely landed when the grizzly appeared on the opposite bank, and shouted for the ferryman to come and put her over. He was busily engaged in making the hole in his boat's bottom, and cried out that he could not come over for a little while as he had to mend a hole in his boat that one of the boys he had just landed had made as he was jumping out of it. "Oh! never mind the hole," shouted the impatient grizzly; "I am in a great hurry to cross, I cannot wait." "But I could never bring you over with my boat in this condition," answered Ground-hog, as he knocked the last piece out of the hole; "I must really mend it first." "I cannot be delayed in this manner," called out the grizzly; "my business will not admit of delay. Come across at once; I will risk the passage." The Ground-hog, having made the hole, no longer had any reason for delay; so after making the grizzly promise to do exactly what he told her, he sat in the far end of his canoe so that the fore part which had the hole in it rose completely out of the water, and enabled him to cross without letting the water in. When he reached the other side he pointed out the big hole in the bottom to the grizzly, telling her that it was very risky to attempt the passage with the boat in such a condition, and that the only possible way to cross would be for her to sit down in the hole, and thus prevent the water from entering. This the grizzly consented to do, and straightway sat herself down on the hole, telling Ground-hog to hurry "Now, don't move on any account," said he, as he pushed off, "or we shall both be drowned." The boat had not gone far when the little trout began snapping at that portion of the grizzly's body which protruded through the hole. At the first snap the grizzly gave a start, and half rose from her place, so that the water rushed in. "Sit down, and don't move again, I beseech you," cried Ground-hog, "you'll drown us both if you are not more careful. Is a flea-bite enough to make you risk our lives?" The grizzly had scarcely settled herself in the hole a second time, when the bigger trout made a dash at her, biting big pieces out of her. She cried out and moved again; but seeing the water rush in, and urged by the remonstrance of the ferryman, who pretended to be greatly alarmed for their safety, she was fain to stop the hole with her body once more. The salmon-trout now attacked her, and again the pain made her rise from the hole, only to drop back into it a moment later; for the boat was now more than half full of water, and she believed that they would surely go down, as the gound-hog vehemently pointed out, if she suffered any more water to enter the boat. And thus the wretched grizzly was torn and bitten first by one fish and then by another, rising out of the hole after each bite, and declaring she could stand it no longer, only to drop back again a moment later, as the rising water urged her to stop the leak for her own safety's sake, until the great sturgeon rushing at her tore her entrails out and she dropped dead in the boat. Thus did she miserably perish and suffer for her misdeeds. The boys had waited in hiding on their side of the river; and when they saw the grizzly's end, they thanked Ground-hog for his help and continued their journey with easy minds. When they had gone on their way some little distance further, they began to feel very hungry, having eaten nothing since they left home. Moreover, it was camping time; so a halt was proposed, and while the two elder brothers sat wondering how they should procure food for themselves, the younger one strolled off by himself. He had not gone far when he observed a large elk before him. Straightway transforming himself into a little humming-bird, he flew at the elk, and entering it by the fundament passed clean through and came out of its mouth, thus causing it to fall dead where it stood. Having done this, he assumed his boy's form again and sat on the antlers of the elk to await his brothers, who, having missed him, now came to look for him, and were greatly surprised to find him sitting on the antlers of a recently killed elk. When questioned, he pretended ignorance of its presence there; but the second brother suspected that he knew more than he would tell, and was in no way surprised at events which befel later. Next day as they went on their way, they came to a large beaver pond. Said the eldest brother, as he saw the beavers: "How I would like some beaver-tail for supper to-night; there is nothing so delicious as beaver-tail." The little one said nothing; but presently, when the camp-ground had been chosen for the night, he strolled off by himself along the edge of the lake, and stooping down drank of the water till the lake was quite dry. He then took a stick and killed all the beavers one after another as they ran out of their holes, and piling them one on the top of the other sat down upon the topmost and awaited his brothers' presence. Seeing him seated on what appeared to them a tree stump they called to him to come to camp; but as he took no notice of them, they came to fetch him, and great indeed was their astonishment to see that what they had taken for a tree stump was a pile of freshly-killed beavers. "Now, brother," said he to the eldest, "you will be able to have beaver-tail for supper." The second one was now quite sure in his mind that his little brother possessed great "medicine," or power, and recalled to the elder one's memory the mysterious way their supper of the night before had been provided for them, as he endeavoured to persuade him of the same. But the elder brother laughed at the idea, and would not believe in this suddenly-acquired power of his little brother. The little one himself had offered no explanation of the beavers' presence, only requesting that his brothers should take out all the beavers' eyes for him and thread them on a cord. This they did, and he bound the string of eyes round his head and lay down to sleep. On the following morning the eldest brother arose early and waked the other two, but the little fellow declared that he was not ready to start yet. At this the eldest brother threatened to go on and leave him behind. "All right," replied the little one, "go on if you want to; I shall not come yet." The eldest brother did so, taking with him the second brother, who was very reluctant to leave his little brother, whom he had hitherto carried all the way on his shoulders, thus behind. He tried to persuade the other to wait, but he would not hear of it. After they had started, the second brother kept looking back as they proceeded, hoping to see his little brother coming after them; but he still slept by the fire and made no effort to follow them. And now suddenly there arose a great flood, and the waters spread rapidly over the land. The two brothers made for some rising ground close by, the second one looking anxiously back from time to time in the direction of their late camp. "Our brother will surely be drowned. Let us hasten back and wake him," said he; but as he spoke they both saw from the higher ground that the waters were raging and roaring along the path by which they had just come, and that a return to the camp was now impossible. As they stood watching the rising waters, they were surprised to see the smoke still ascending from the camp fire and the outlines of their brother's form lying peacefully by its side. Wondering how this could be, as the camp lay in the valley by the side of the lake, they perceived that a strange and wonderful thing had happened. They saw that the water, instead of burying the fire and their brother several feet beneath it, surrounded the spot like a circular wall standing straight up over their brother's sleeping form and the fire, and wetting neither. As they watched the strange sight, they saw the waters subside as suddenly as they arose and retire to the lake again. Immediately following this, the little brother awoke, and seeing his brother's trail took it and soon caught them up. From that time onward, the "medicine" of the youngest brother was acknowledged and reverenced by the other two, who ever afterwards did what he bade them and regarded him as their leader.

From this place they travelled on, till they came to a small village, where there lived only one man and his wife. As they neared the place, they observed the man sitting on the roof of his keekwilee house,[7] crying and lamenting as he sharpened a knife which he held in his hand. "Why do you cry so bitterly, old man, and why are you sharpening that knife?" asked the youngest. The man made no reply, only wept and sobbed the more. The boy repeated his question, and then the old man answered: "I am crying because I am so miserable and wretched. Once again a child is about to be born to me at the cost of its mother's life. When my first wife—for I have had many—was about to be delivered, she was unable to bring the child to the birth; and I was forced to deliver her at the cost of her life with this knife I am sharpening. The child was a girl whom, when she had grown to womanhood, I took to wife; and when she bore her first child I had to do the same for her as I had done for her mother. And thus it has been ever since with all my wives; for as soon as my daughters were old enough they became my wives, and thus it is at this present time with my present wife, and I was just preparing myself to do for her as I have had to do for all the others; and my heart aches, and I am sorrowful at the thought of the task before me." "Your case is indeed a sad one," observed the lad; "and I am sorry for you. But don't grieve any more, I will help you, and your wife shall not die this time. Tell me, have you any strong cherry-bark-string in the house?" The old man replied that he had, and gave the lad a piece. The boy immediately entered the house and found the woman in the throes of child-birth. Taking the cherry-bark-string, he threw one end of it between the woman's legs. The string became attached to the child, and he pulled upon the other end. It held for a moment, then broke in his hand before the babe was born. This failure seemed to distress him; and the old man, who had followed him into the house, seeing his ill-success, burst out crying again. "Don't cry, old man," said the lad, "all will be well; only get me a stronger cord. Give me some neck-sinew, if you can find any." The old man brought the lad what he asked for; and he spent a little time in first moistening and stretching and working it, till he got it into the condition he wanted. When it was ready for use, he did with it as he had done with the cherry-bark-string, only this time it bore the strain and did not break; and by its help a moment later the child was born. This time it was a male child. The lad then told the old man that his wife would bear him many more children, and that never again would he need to use his knife. Leaving the old man and his wife rejoicing, the lads went on their way, and after travelling a long way came at length to a house where lived a man called Cayote,[8] who said he was a great medicine-man and could do great things. "What can you do?" said the youngest lad, who knew him to be an idle boaster. "Oh, I am a very great man," said Cayote; "and I eat nothing but the bodies of men. I have just finished eating a man." "If that is so," answered the lad, "you can easily prove it by disgorging your dinner." "Oh! that is quite easy," said Cayote. "Shut your eyes, and I will vomit you up a piece of a man." "But if I shut my eyes, I cannot see you do it," said the boy. "If you are such a great man, surely it will make no difference whether I shut my eyes or not." "Oh, well! I must shut mine if you don't; now, look, I am going to show you," and with that he began to work his stomach violently up and down in his efforts. After a great deal of exertion and fuss, he brought up a little saliva. "Where is your man's flesh?" scornfully asked the boy, as he pointed to the saliva on the ground. Cayote having opened his eyes, was a little abashed at the results of his efforts, but still keeping up the character of a man-eater, replied that he could do nothing because the other kept his eyes open. "Very well,' said the boy, "I will shut my eyes now, and you try again." Cayote consented, and tried once more. Thinking he wanted to trick him, the boy kept the corner of his eye open as the man tried again to produce his dinner of man-flesh. After many violent efforts and contortions, all he was able to disgorge was a little frothy swamp-grass. At the sight of this, the boy called to him to desist from his efforts, saying that he knew him to be only an empty boaster. He then transformed him into the animal which now bears his name, taking his human nature from him as a punishment for his deception and boasting.

Passing on from there, they at length came to the Thompson River, where two old witch-women were spearing salmon. They had made a strong wicker dam across the stream, which, being too high for the salmon to leap, prevented the fish from ascending the river; the consequence of which was that all who lived above got no salmon. The boys stopped awhile to watch the women at work, and after observing their tactics, the youngest, who by this time was known by his name of Sqaktktquaclt or Benign-face, asked the women why they kept all the salmon from going up the river beyond them. "We do not care about the people up the river, we want the salmon for ourselves," said they. "We have 'medicine' here which enables us to keep off all who would interfere with us." "What sort of 'medicine' have you?" asked the second lad. "This," replied the woman, pointing to five boxes which they had with them. "These contain great 'medicine.' In these are wasps and flies and mosquitos, and wind and smoke. We have only to open these boxes to drive off anybody," and as they spoke one of the two opened the wasp box a little, into which Clatkeq, or Funny-boy, the second youth, was peering, and a wasp came out and stung him on the face. "You will let us have a salmon for supper, won't you?" now asked Benign-face. But the witches answered him angrily, and bade them be off. Benign-face took no notice of this, but told his elder brother to take a spear and catch a salmon below the weir or dam. While the brother was doing this, Benign-face took a piece of wood and made a dish from it for the salmon, which they placed upon it when cooked. They ate every morsel of the fish. Then Benign-face took the dish and, transferring some of his own mystic power into it, threw it into the middle of the stream above the barrier which the witches had erected. Immediately the waters began to boil and rage, and the dish was carried down against the barrier, which it struck with such force that it broke a large hole in the middle of it, and the salmon at once began to pass through. The witches now tried to mend the gap and keep the salmon back; but while they were thus employed Funny-boy opened the boxes and let out all their contents. Seeing this, the two women left the dam and tried to imprison their "medicine" again. But it was too late; for the smoke and the wind and the wasps and the flies and the mosquitos were scattered all over the country, and the escaped wind had agitated the river so much that it swept away the remainder of the witches' barrier, and thus they lost both "medicine" and dam. But before they had time to do more than realise that they had been outwitted. Benign-face transformed them into two rocks. The scene of these events was at a spot a few miles above Spence's Bridge; but the two rocks have since been so badly cut away by the action of the water that little if any of them is now to be seen there.

Going on from here, they came some time after to a solitary keekwilee-house, and finding no one to ask them in, they entered and made themselves at home. The remains of a small fire burned in the fire-hole, round which, as the weather was cold, they sat and tried to warm themselves. "I wish there were some wood in the place," said Funny-boy presently, as he looked round for some and found none. "I wonder who lives here and where they are. That's a fine blanket," he added, as his eye fell upon the bed; "I should like a blanket like that." And he moved over to admire it. As he held the blanket up a piece of wood fell from it. It was just an ordinary piece of wood with a hole in it. "I wonder what this is doing in the bed?" he said, as he picked it up. "It can't be of any great value, I'll throw it on the fire; it will keep us warm for a little while." And as he spoke, he threw the piece of wood on the fire. His brother Benign-face chid him for so doing, saying it might have been valued by the people of the house for some reason or other. The wood, being dry, soon burnt itself out, leaving an outline of its original form in the embers. The sound of a man's voice was now heard at the smoke-hole. He seemed to be talking to some one within. "Take care, little wife," he said. "Get back from below there, I am going to throw the fire-wood down; "and a moment later down clattered a pile of fire-wood, which he immediately followed. The boys hid themselves when they saw the man descending. When he got down he called out: "Little wife, where are you hiding? Ah, you want to have a game with me." He threw himself, as he spoke, upon the bed, and began feeling for something under the blanket. Not finding what he sought, he went on: "Oh, you are funny to-day! Now where can you be hiding?" and he felt all over and under the blanket. "I wonder where she is," said he, as he shook the blanket out and found nothing in it. "She must be hiding from me somewhere, and I shall find her presently." And with that he went to put some wood on the fire. As he did so his eye fell upon the charred outlines of the piece of wood which Funny-boy had thrown on to the fire, and whose familiar form in the ashes he recognised at a glance. He no sooner saw it than he cried out in great distress, and seemed overcome with grief. "O dear wife, you are burned to ashes! How could you have fallen into the fire? Oh! what shall I do for a wife now?" And he sobbed aloud in his grief. The boys at once perceived that the piece of wood that they had burned was the man's wife. "Didn't I tell you," whispered Benign-face to his brother, "not to burn that piece of wood? Now see what distress you have caused this poor man. I must go and comfort him." With that he came out from his hiding place and addressed the man. Said he: "Was that block of wood really your wife? You must not cry any more over such a wife as that. You can get a better wife than a block of wood surely. Why don't you take a woman for your wife?" The man stared in amazement at him for a moment, then replied that he knew of no women, had indeed never seen any people in that part of the country. The block of wood was all the wife he had ever had, and now she was burned, and he was all alone; and he began to cry again. "Stop crying," said the boy, "and I will find a wife for you. Have you a stone chisel in the house?" "Yes," replied the man. "Give it to me," said the boy. "Now stay here with my brothers till I return, and I will bring you a better wife than your block of wood." Saying which he climbed the notched pole and passed out through the smoke-hole. When he got outside, he went to the forest and cut down a cotton-wood tree. From this he cut and peeled a log about six feet long, and stepping over it three times said aloud: "One, two, three. Log, get up and be a woman!" And the piece of cotton-wood stood upright and became a beautiful white woman with white hair arid face and body, white as the wood of the cotton-wood tree. Then he cut down an alder-wood tree and did the same as before, and the log of alder-wood became a beautiful red woman with red hair and face and body, red as the wood of the alder-tree when the bark has been stripped from it a little while. Taking these two women with him he returned to the keekwilee-house, and bidding them wait outside till they were called, he climbed down through the smoke-hole again. Returning the man's chisel, he said: "Now I have brought you two proper wives. It is wrong for a man to make a wife of a piece of wood; you must not do so any more." With that he called out to the two women to descend. When they were come down, he took the white woman's hand and put it in the hand of the man and said to the one: "This is your husband," and to the other: "This is your wife." He then did the same with the red woman; and with a parting admonition to the man, he and his brothers climbed through the smoke-hole and left him and his newly-acquired wives to themselves.

Some time after this, as he travelled through the country with his brothers, Benign-face heard of a very powerful one-legged wizard who speared men's shadows as they passed, thus killing and afterwards eating them. "Come brothers," said Benign-face, "I will try my powers against this wicked cannibal. I think I can outwit him, and put an end to his evil practices." After they had travelled some days they came to the place where the cannibal waylaid and pierced the shadows of his victims. It was his custom to stand in the river at a certain place where the road ran close to the water, with a little magic copper-headed spear in his hand, as if he were spearing fish; and when the shadow of the passer-by fell on the water, he would thrust his spear through it, and the person above would immediately fall down dead. He would then take the body home to his wife, who would skin and cook it, and they would afterwards feast together upon it. Thus had they been living for many years, when Benign-face heard of them, and determined to put a stop to their wickedness. Bidding his brothers stay on the top of the hill overlooking the river and await his return, he took a knife and made his way down to the river, a little above where the cannibal-wizard waited for his victims to pass. When he reached the river, he changed himself into a beautifully-marked little trout, and, carrying the knife in his mouth, swam down the stream to where the wizard stood on his one leg in the water. When he came opposite him, he began jumping and frisking about in the water just under his nose. He soon caught the wizard's attention, and induced him, by his beautiful colours and by his movements, to take an interest in him, and presently to spear him. This was the last thing the wizard should have done, for he might not use his magic spear for aught but piercing men's shadows if he would preserve its "medicine" intact. As soon as the spear struck Benign-face he quickly cut the cord that held the spear-head to the shaft, which latter the wizard still retained in his hand by a thong. When the wizard perceived that the magic point was gone, he was greatly agitated, and sought for stones and sticks with which to kill the fish and get back his precious spear-point again. But the more violent his exertions, the muddier the water got, and the less his chance of striking Benign-face, who, taking advantage of the muddy state of the water, hastened back up-stream again to his starting-place. Benign-face now resumed his own form, and, plucking the magic spear-point from his body, threw it far out into the river, so that it might never be found and put to evil purposes again. He then rejoined his brothers and told them what he had done, and that they must now go and visit the wizard's house and complete the punishment he had in store for him. When they came to the bank above the spot where the wizard had lost and was still hunting for his spear-point, Benign-face put his foot on the edge of the bank and sent a mass of gravel and mud down into the river, to force the wizard to give over his search and go home. The latter just leapt up on the opposite bank on his one leg, and presently returned to his search again. Benign-face then caused another large portion of the bank to slide down into the river. This so frightened the wizard this time that he gave over the search and ran home as fast as he could.[9] The boys presently came to the cannibal's keekwilee-house, and, seeing the smoke ascending from the smoke-hole, judged that he was at home, and descended. They found the wizard's wife at work upon a human skin; but the wizard himself was lying on his bed with his blanket drawn over his face, which he did not remove as the boys entered. They sat down round the fire; and presently, as had been agreed upon beforehand. Funny-boy began to talk about the good dinner they had had off a trout they had found in the river that morning. The wizard still kept his head under the blanket, taking no notice of anybody or anything; but when the other brother chimed in and said: "Yes, it was a beautiful fish to look at, but still more beautiful to taste; and the man that speared it and lost that fine copper spear-head must have been very vexed at his ill luck, I should think." The wizard threw the blanket off his head, and said: "What is that I heard you remark about a fish with a copper spear-head in it?" Benign-face now joined in the conversation, and told the wizard that they had found a fine trout that morning floating down the river with a copper spear-head in it. "That was my fish and my spear-head," said the wizard; "I was out spearing this morning and lost it. I set great value on that spearhead, and want it back again." "But," replied Benign-face, "how could this spear belong to you? You do not spear fish, I think. These are not fish bones or fish heads I see around your house; nor is that a fish skin your wife is now at work upon. Tell us now truly, what do you use your copper spear for?" The old wizard, thinking he would get the spear-point back the sooner, told them the true use he put it to, which no sooner had Benign-face heard than he answered: "I knew it all before, and it was I who carried off your spear-point this morning. I was the fish that enticed you to spear it; but now that you have convicted yourself, I will see that you spear and devour no more people." And speaking thus, he took the wizard by the hair on the top of his head and shook him, transforming him at the same time into a blue jay. And because he held the wizard by the hair on the top of his head as he shook him, all blue jays have now in consequence a top-knot or bunch of feathers standing out from their heads. The cannibal's wife he changed into a mountain-grouse, and thus were both punished for their evil deeds.

From this place the brothers went to the Nicola valley, where they heard there dwelt a quarrelsome tribe of people, who were always at war with their neighbours and never gave them any peace. As Benign-face drew near the valley, the people heard of his approach, and fearing that he would work them harm, they one and all left their homes and fled up the mountain side. But they could not escape their punishment thus. When Benign-face saw them running up the mountain side, he straightway turned them all into little rocks, which may be seen from the waggon-road as one passes to-day. Leaving the Nicola, they travelled back towards the Thompson again, and on their way they came to the land of a very strong and powerful people. This tribe was very rich and possessed the best of everything; but they were fierce and cruel, and made slaves of all the people round. When they neared the outskirts of the village, Benign-face bade his brothers cut a bundle of osiers and make a large basket and put him into it, finishing the mouth of it about him in such a way that he could not fall out. While they were doing this, he made some white and red paint, and when he was presently placed in the basket he took some of each kind in either hand. He now told Funny-boy to put the basket on his shoulders and carry him towards the village. As they thus proceeded a large eagle swooped down and caught the basket containing Benign-face in his talons. He had expected this, and told his brother to let go and allow the eagle to carry him off. This eagle was not a mere bird. It possessed the power of foreknowledge to some extent It knew that Benign-face was coming to punish the people of the village, to whom it was in some way related. Benign-face knew also that this eagle was aware of his purpose and would attempt to thwart him: hence his instructions to his brothers and his preparation of the paint, by the aid of which he hoped to outwit the eagle. When Funny-boy felt the strain on the basket he let go, as his brother desired, and the eagle bore Benign-face off in it. When it had ascended a little way, it let the basket drop. It repeated this manœuvre several times, intending thereby to kill Benign-face. The latter, when the eagle had dropped him a time or two, put the red paint in one side of his mouth and the white in the other, and the saliva, mixing with and liquifying it, the paint began to flow from the corners of his mouth. The eagle, perceiving this, thought it to be his blood and brains oozing from his mouth, and thinking that he was killed, straightway carried him off to its nest on the mountain to its two young ones. Leaving him thus in the nest, it flew away again. As soon as it was out of sight, Benign-face cut two holes in the basket for his arms, and putting his hands through, he seized an eaglet by the legs in each, and forced them to fly off with him to where his two brothers were awaiting him. Still holding the birds by their legs, he bade his brothers cut the basket from him; and when he was free, he shook the two eaglets so hard that all their bones fell out, leaving the empty skins in his hands. These he made his brothers put on, telling them they would be quite safe in them. He himself then assumed the form of a dog, only where the tail should have been, he stuck a long and sharp double-bladed jade knife; and in the place of the ears he stuck two similar but smaller knives; and where the dog's fore-claws would be, he stuck other still smaller ones. Being thus prepared for the encounters he knew awaited him, he boldly entered the village. Now the animals of this country were different from those elsewhere; they all partook of the nature of dogs, and were employed as such by the people. There were bear-dogs, grizzly-dogs, wolf-dogs, rattlesnake-dogs, and all other kinds of dogs. As soon as Benign-face in his dog form was perceived, some one cried out: "Here's a strange dog, let us have a dog-fight." One of the smaller dogs was turned loose and set on to worry the stranger. But Benign-face ran at it, and ripped it up with his sharp stone ears in a trice. Then another, and another, sprang at him; but he served them all in the same way, and presently there was only the rattlesnake-dog left. This he had to fight in a different manner. Instead of rushing at it, as he had at all the others, he began dancing round it and pawing the ground, as if in play. These antics put the rattle-snake-dog off his guard; and he did not attempt to strike the intruder at the first approach, but waited for him to come nearer. This was what Benign-face wanted, and, stretching out his forepaws as if in play, he seized his opportunity, and cut the rattle-snake in pieces with his stone claws. When the people saw that the intruder had killed all their dogs, they hastened to fetch their weapons to kill him. But Benign-face rushed at them, and slashed and cut them with his sharp two-bladed tail so swiftly that in a short time not a man, woman, or child of them remained alive. He now resumed his own form, and restored all the animals to life again, but took from them their dog-nature, giving them the natures proper to their kind, and bade them go live in the woods. He next restored the people to life, but, after he had reproached them for their wickedness, transformed them all into ants. The two brothers now joined him, having thrown aside their eaglet-skins; and from this place they travelled down to Harrison Lake. Here they heard of a man who caused windstorms to arise at his wish, so that those who were on the lake were never sure of getting back safe again. He did this to upset their boats, in order that his cannibal brother. Seal-man, might have their bodies for his dinner. Seeking this man out. Benign-face said to him: "I am told you are a very great man, and have 'medicine' to make the wind rise when you wish to. Is the report true?" The shaman, not knowing who his questioner was, and proud of his powers, declared it was quite true. When asked what use he put his powers to, he boldly confessed that he used them to upset and drown people on the lake, that his brother might have their bodies. This made Benign-face very angry, and, calling Seal-man to him, he deprived him of his arms and legs, giving him flippers in their stead, and commanded him to eat no more human flesh, but to feed thereafter on fish. Thus it is that the seal has flippers, and feeds on fish. But the shaman he punished by transforming him into a smooth-faced rock, whereon men might paint; which rock may be seen on the shore of the lake, according to Mischelle, with its painted figures upon it, to this day.

Ascending the Fraser once more, they came to the region of the Lillooet. On Bridge River Benign-face found the people very poor and miserable. They did not know how to catch the salmon which passed up the river. So Benign-face stretched his leg across the river here, and the rocks rose up and became a fall, at the foot of which the salmon now congregated in great numbers. He then taught the people to make and use three different types of salmon spear, which they use to this day in that region. The name of this fall in the native tongue is Neqoi'stem.


At this point in the recital Mischelle's memory gave out. He could only remember beyond this that the hero and his brothers parted later, and that Benign-face travelled all over the world, and that in one place, which the Indians now think must have been the white man's country, he taught the people how to make and use the plough and the waggon. He transformed himself into these two latter objects, that they might have a pattern to work by. For the waggon he made wheels by turning his arms and legs into circles, with his body between them, thus assuming the form of a waggon. He also taught them to make and use gunpowder; only this powder made no noise nor any smoke in going off. The gun was formed out of the stalk of the sugar-corn. It was not aimed at the object, as we aim the gun, but thrust out towards it, though it never left the hand.


This story is the longest in my collection. I have not attempted to curtail it, but have given it in all its detail as Mischelle gave it to me.[10] Others will be found in the Report of the Committee for the Ethnological Survey of Canada, together with other data appertaining to the work of that Committee (Trans. British Association, 1898).

Buckland College,

Vancouver, B.C.

  1. In the spelling of the native words I have followed the phonetics of Dr. Boas as used in his Reports on the N. W. Tribes of Canada.
  2. Trans. Roy. Sac. Canada, 1891, Section ii.
  3. In the mythological stories all animals were originally human. Their present bestial natures were imposed upon them by some hero or other of the old time, for some misdeed or by the enchantment of some wizard. Do we not see in this belief the explanation of their totemic systems and crests?
  4. Mischelle had never heard of a name for the eldest boy.
  5. It is difficult to gather whether the children of the woodpecker by his bear-wives had human or animal forms at this time. Sometimes the recital seems to imply the former, at another time the latter, as here. After the flight there is no doubt that the black bear's sons had human forms.
  6. From this time onwards the youngest, who seems to have been suddenly endowed with supernormal "power," occupies the foremost place in the recital, the elder brother becoming a very subordinate personage.
  7. "Keekwilee" is the Jargon term for the native winter, semi-subterranean dwellings of the interior tribes, full descriptions of which will be found in the 6th Report of Dr. Boas on the North-western Tribes of Canada (Trans. British Association, 1890), or in Notes on the Shuswap People of British Columbia, by Dr. G. M. Dawson, referred to above (p. 195).
  8. Name of a wild half-doglike, half-foxlike animal of North America.
  9. There is a mud-slide on the river, about five or six miles below Spence's Bridge, which the old Indians point out as that caused by Sqaktktquaclt on this occasion.
  10. A variant version, much less full but useful for comparison, has been given by Dr. Boas in his Indianische Sagen von der Nord-Pacifischen Küste Amerikas, p. 16.—Ed.