[Frontispiece: E. Pauline Johnson]
E. PAULINE JOHNSON
Saturday Sunset Presses
Vancouver, B. C.
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY E. PAULINE JOHNSON
These legends are printed by courtesy of the "Vancouver Daily Province," in which journal they first appeared.
SATURDAY SUNSET PRESSES
Vancouver, B. C.
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 skyscrapers 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 Meredith's writings.
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 Geo. N. 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 readers.
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.
* * * * *
Miss Pauline Johnson died in Vancouver on March 7, 1913. In accordance with her last wish her ashes were buried in Stanley Park within sight and sound of Siwash Rock, where the main driveway round the park, coming from the English Bay entrance, divides east and west—the western branch sloping down towards the rock and the eastern going to the Big Tree. An editorial in the "Vancouver Daily Province" of March 8 said:
"The keynote of her whole disposition was a generous charity towards everything and everybody with whom she came in contact. There was no trouble too great for her to take, no detail too small for her to neglect when it was a matter of giving happiness to others. She was one of those great souls who would starve themselves on the trail, work unwearingly [Transcriber's note: unwearyingly?] for her companions, cheer them ever onwards through good times and bad, and rejoice with them when the goal was achieved. She loved life with a passionate devotion that was almost pathetic in its intensity. In spite of all her travelling, all her experiences, which were by no means easy, Pauline Johnson never lost her capacity for getting the best out of life. She was absolutely natural and simple in her love of happiness. She disliked artificiality of any kind. The seasons as they came and went were in themselves a constant source of pleasure to her. She loved the Pacific coast with its ever-changing colors, the sea and the deeply gashed mountains. The wind in the great firs and the roaring of the mountain torrents were music in her ears. With the passing of winter passed also the soul of Pauline Johnson to the happy hunting grounds, there to find eternal freedom untrammeled by mortality. To all who knew her she was the 'best beloved vagabond.' It was always fine weather and good going on the trail of life when Pauline Johnson blazed the way."
Preface Author's Foreword Biographical Notice The Two Sisters The Siwash Rock The Recluse The Lost Salmon Run The Deep Waters The Sea-Serpent The Lost Island Point Grey The Tulameen Trail The Grey Archway Deadman's Island A Squamish Legend of Napoleon The Lure in Stanley Park Deer Lake A Royal Mohawk Chief
List of Illustrations
The Lions (The Two Sisters)
The Siwash Rock
The Capilano River
Entrance to the Narrows
The Seven Sisters, Stanley Park
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. Often-times, 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 today. 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 someday 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 ollallies.
"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 Indian phrasing).
"'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! our father.'
"'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 daughters.'
"'Will you, for our sakes, invite the great northern hostile tribe—the tribe you war upon—to this, our feast?' they asked fearlessly.
"'To a peaceful feast, a feast in the honor of women?' he exclaimed incredulously.
"'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 another sphere.
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 had 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, enduring, eternal.
"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 lips 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 to come.
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 spotless life."
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 came 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 today, while 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?" I questioned.
He thought awhile, 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 discussed problem.
"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?" I begged.
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 council.
"'Something dire will happen to him, my husband,' wept the afflicted young mother.
"'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 months.
"'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 salmonberries, 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.
"Upstream, 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, 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 solitude.
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, 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 workwoman, 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 upshore, 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 not wait—me. I just come to fetch Maarda; she been city; she come soon—now." But she left her "working" attitude and curled like a schoolgirl 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," I remarked.
"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 it so.
"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 maybe some time mother herself; very grand thing to be mother."
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 run 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 today; 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 Great Tyee?'
"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, replied:
"'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 my 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 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 Deep Waters."
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 the rivers.
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 then men; let the wisest live."
How, then, was the earth re-peopled?
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.
Womanlike, 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 walk.
"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 monosyllables.
"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 tribe, 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 tribe, 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 others 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 re-peopled 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 in this legend 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'" (sea-serpent).
"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, 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 generosity.'
"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 said simply.
"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 oluk.
"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 his head.
"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 grand-sires 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 one 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, oh, 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 circled 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 solitude.
"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 southwest 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 languages."
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 silence.
"'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 Tyee made."
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.