Tribal Stories


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Tribal stories of the area now crossed by SR 520 are rich and varied. In 1922 Anthropologist T.T. Waterman published a list of place names collected from native informants, with many specific geographic features around the Lake Union, Portage Bay and Lake Washington areas being identified with descriptive names and stories that demonstrate the long, ancient connections between the people and this place. In 1929, Arthur C. Ballard published Mythology of Southern Puget Sound containing many tales and variants from his Indian informants. Below is one excerpted story from Snuqualmi Charlie, who was born around 1850 and lived at Tolt (now Carnation). The story demonstrates the centrality of fish to life and mythology, as well as a wry sense of humor.


(related by Snuqualmi Charlie)

Raven and Pheasant were relatives by marriage and lived in neighboring houses. As autumn was merging into winter and the steelhead salmon were running rather plentifully, Raven said, "Let us go out to spear steelheads." So Pheasant made ready the shaft and toggles of his fish-spear and launched his canoe. Then both went up the river, Raven making himself steersman. So they reached the riffles. Raven braced the pole against the rocky bottom and held the boat at rest while he looked about for salmon. Spying a salmon Pheasant cast his spear, threw the fish into the boat and dispatched it with the salmon club. He looked about and saw another in the same riffle. He speared it and killed it. Another he saw and killed, another and still another. Thus he did until the boat was half full of fish, Raven all the while steadying the boat in the rapids with his pole. Then said Pheasant, "We have sufficient fish; let us return home." So they started down the river. Now it is the custom of the people that the members of a fishing party choose one of the older men for leader, to allot the fish in equal numbers to each man. So Pheasant pondered to himself all the way home how the fish should be divided. To himself he thought, "Across the boat shall be the division line. To save counting the fish, those in this end of the boat shall be mine and the others Raven's !" Still pondering, he got out of the boat. Raven said, "Why do you look at those fish? I worked hard to get them. They are mine." Without replying Pheasant took his spear and started up the bank towards his home. He was a little angry but said nothing. Nevertheless he thought, "I wish the salmon would turn to herring." Raven went up to his home. To his wife he said, "You had best go down there and bring up the boat load of salmon." Kokwo'lowitc, the wife of Raven, went down to the canoe and there found naught but herring. Turning, she called to Raven, "There are no salmon here; there are only herring!" "Do you not see the salmon?" shouted Raven. "They are in the canoe there." But the salmon had turned to herring. Then said Raven to himself, "I suppose Pheasant must be angry with me, for he has turned the salmon to herring." So Raven's woman had to take the little herrings home and that was the end of the fishing trip.

Sources: Waterman, T.T., 1922. The Geographical Names Used by the Indians of the Pacific Coast. American Geographical Society 12(2):175-194
Ballard, Arthur C. 1929. Mythology of Southern Puget Sound. University of Washington Publications in Anthropology 3(2):31-150.