Salish Myths and Legends: One People's Stories

Salish Myths and Legends: One People's Stories

Salish Myths and Legends: One People's Stories

Salish Myths and Legends: One People's Stories


The rich storytelling traditions of Salish-speaking peoples in the Pacific Northwest of North America are showcased in this anthology of story, legend, song, and oratory. From the Bitterroot Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, Salish-speaking communities such as the Bella Coola, Shuswap, Tillamook, Quinault, Colville-Okanagan, Coeur d'Alene, and Flathead have always been guided and inspired by the stories of previous generations. Many of the most influential and powerful of those tales appear in this volume. Salish Myths and Legends features an array of Trickster stories centered on Coyote, Mink, and other memorable characters, as well as stories of the frightening Basket Ogress, accounts of otherworldly journeys, classic epic cycles such as South Wind's Journeys and the Bluejay Cycle, tales of such legendary animals as Beaver and Lady Louse from the beginning of time, and stories that explain why things are the way they are. The anthology also includes humorous traditional tales, speeches, and fascinating stories of encounters with whites, including "Circling Raven and the Jesuits." Translated by leading scholars working in close collaboration with Salish storytellers, these stories are certain to entertain and provoke, vividly testifying to the enduring power of storytelling in Native communities.


Salish Myths and Legends: One People's Stories presents selections of literature from a group of culturally diverse people who trace their origins to a common source from long ago—the Proto-Salish of northwest North America. Their narratives reveal recurring motifs and similarities across linguistic and cultural boundaries, which suggest interesting patterns of diffusion through contact and borrowing, or independent retention over millennia. This book draws its subtitle from that common linguistic heritage and those shared elements of oral literature. The twenty-three Salishan languages can be organized as shown in Table 1. This linguistic organization largely reflects the tribal groups' geographical locations, which in turn ultimately reflect history.

Origins and Migrations

The early ancestors of the Salishan people probably settled in a homeland south of the lower part of the Fraser River in southwestern British Columbia, extending southward to the Skagit River and possibly as far south as the Skykomish River, both in northwestern Washington. Pressure from increasing population, favored by a bountiful food supply, probably caused the Salishan ancestors to expand along the Gulf of Georgia (British Columbia) to the north and Puget Sound (Washington) to the south. That early and rapid expansion fostered the development of regional ways of speaking (i.e., early dialects) within a larger language continuum of Central Salish, as contact among the groups lessened due to geographic barriers and as many of the groups encountered peoples speaking various non-Salishan languages.

A large group left the main body of Central Salish and migrated across the Cascade Mountains into the interior plateau. The languages of that group, the original Interior Salish, eventually developed into seven distinct languages, stretching from parts of south-central British Columbia into eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and then farther into western Montana. Interior . . .

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