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As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder

Mink and Grizzly

So he carries on, goes to look for something else, someone else. And so he came across the Grizzly Bear. The Grizzly Bear was – we all know Grizzly, how big they are. Grizzly Bear had a child, a Little Grizzly. So qɑyχ happens upon the Grizzly’s camp or home. And, “Oh, she’s beautiful! With her beautiful fur. It’s just shining. She’s got beautiful hide, and almost, like, golden brown.” And he’s just fascinated. He says, “Oh! You’re so beautiful. Look at you! Because your fur – look at your hair. You’re just so beautiful.” Grizzly Bear was a very ambitious person who always gathered food, stored food for winter. And this is what she was doing. She had a big smokehouse and she had all this fish, all this salmon smoking and drying in her smokehouse. So, qɑyχ is there, sizing up everything, looking at all the food, and she was pretty stingy. She said, “Just go away! Just go away.” Nope. Oh, he wanted to be with her. Begged her to marry him: “Let me stay with you.” And qɑyχ had a younger brother. He had a little brother that was following him around. “I’ll help you,” qɑyχ says to Grizzly, “I’ll help you. I’ll gather wood for you. I will keep the fire going. I will help you with drying the fish and gathering.” So finally Grizzly agreed to let him move in. So him and his brother moved in.

But pretty soon, he became lazy. He wasn’t holding up his end. He wasn’t helping. He much preferred to just lay around and just not do anything to earn his keep. So Grizzly said, “That’s it! I’m not feeding you. You wanna lay around here and live off me and eat my food? You’re not having any of this food. You’re not going to share any of my food.” And qɑyχ says, “Oh! I’m so hungry. Me and my brother are so hungry.” He’s just beggin’ for some food. “No,” she said. “I’m not going to feed you. You’re lazy.” So he talks to his little brother and he says, “Let’s see what we can do to get a hold of some of that salmon. Let’s think of a way. Let’s devise a plan here.” So they talked. “Let’s go down the beach. Let’s go way down the beach over there and we’ll holler and say there’s a buyer going by that just went by on a canoe. They wanna buy some dried salmon. They wanna trade.” Sure enough, they go down the beach and Grizzly hears qɑyχ hollering out there. And Grizzly got curious and she goes and looks. “What are you hollering about, down there?” “Oh, there was a boat that went by here, that went around the point over there. They’re very interested in buying some dried salmon. And they’re askin’ me to bring some around the point over there.” Grizzly was suspicious, and she had to think for a while about this. Then she decided, might as well. They may have some goods to trade. So, a couple of bundles, she got all this ready and helped him put it on the canoe and off they went.

And they were gone for quite some time – hours. Then she started to worry: “What’s keeping them so long? They’ve been gone for quite a while. Might as well go look for them. See what happened.” So she walks the beach, and she goes around the point and, sure enough, she comes across some bones – fish bones and fish skin. And she’s standing there lookin’ at all this and she says, “Uh-oh, the poor thing must have been very hungry.” And she’s feeling a little sympathetic. And she carried on. So she goes around another area of beach and she finds some more skin, fish skin and bone. And by now she’s getting pretty irate with him. He’s eating all this fish and she’s getting suspicious. She carries on at a faster pace. She starts walking. In the next little bay she comes to, there they were. Both of them sleeping in this canoe. They were just so full and content and having a nap. All this fish skin and fish bone around them. And qɑyχ was sleeping on one end of the boat, and his brother’s on the other end of the boat. So she’s so angry. Grizzly is so angry. She just runs down to the boat, and the first one she got a hold of was qɑyχ’s brother. He was just a young, young man. She grabbed him and she ripped his head off. She was just mad. And qɑyχ woke up, and being the little thing that qɑyχ was, he was able to sneak between the Grizzly’s two legs and get off the boat, and jump off the boat. She was trying to reach him and grab a hold of him. But he slipped out of her grasp, and off he went, running towards the trees, the beach, and the forest. Grizzly was on a chase after him, but she couldn’t catch up to him. He was hiding.

So he finally lost her and went walking some more. He’s crying. He’s so upset. He’s so sad that his brother was killed. And he’s thinking, “Oh, I wanna die too. My brother is dead. I wanna die.” So he’s walking along there and he’s cryin’, he’s moaning, and he comes to this tree – big tree. And he says, “Oh, I wish this tree would just fall on me and kill me. That’ll end my misery. I’m grieving so for my brother,” talking to the tree. Stood there and he’s talking to the tree: “Fall on me, Tree. Fall on me! I wanna die.” And he’s chanting, singing to the tree and he’s going, “Fall, Tree! Fall on me!” Sure enough, the tree falls. Comes falling right over him and he manages to – split-second – jump out of the way. He didn’t want to die after all. So he carries on, he crawls under this big tree and carries on his trip.

He goes into the deep forest, and he walks for quite some time. And he comes across a creek, a small little river stream. And he sees all this trout, little fish in the river. And he thinks, “Well, I guess I’d better settle here. I’ll just stay here.” So for once, he’s independent. Builds himself a home there. Builds himself a smokehouse. He fishes for trout, and he hangs the trout to dry. He’s well established there in his little domain. One day the Little Grizzly comes walking along. And Little Grizzly says, “Oh, qɑyχ! This is where you are.” He says, “My mom’s been lookin’ for you.” “Oh! How is your mom doing, by the way?” he says to Little Grizzly. “Oh! She’s fine.” “Oh. Well, look at all my food! Look at all the dried trout I’ve got up.” And the Little Grizzly was looking, and he was just really impressed. “Why don’t you go and call your mom? Go and invite her. Tell her I am inviting her to come out for a feed of trout.” The Little Grizzly went running, looking for his mom. Got home, told his mother, “qɑyχ’s really got a lot of trout. He’s got a lot of food. It’s got a nice place way up in the forest by a creek up there. Inviting you to come! Come for a feed, come for a feast.” So she grudgingly went. “What is he up to? He must be up to something.” But she was so tempted by all this dried trout.

In the meantime, qɑyχ decides, “How am I going to do this?” He wants revenge. So he gets some bones – fish bones or deer bones – anything that he can sharpen, really fine, like needles. And he stuck them in the trout and he had a big pile there, and stuck the ones at the bottom with all these sharp objects. And he had a heaping pile there. And Grizzly arrives. “Oh, I’m so glad you came,” qɑyχ says. “I’m so glad you came. Look at all this food! It’s all for you. Have some!” And she’s looking at it, and she’s suspicious. What’s wrong with this? It’s not like qɑyχ to feed anyone. And in the back of her mind, she’s really suspicious. He’s up to no good. So she tries. She samples this very cautiously. She’s eating some of this trout. And everything was okay. It was okay. She ate some more. Pretty soon she starts taking big mouthfuls. Next thing you know, she’s got something caught in her throat as she goes [cough] – clearin’ her throat. And qɑyχ says, “Oh, be careful! Be careful. You know, these little fish are bony. Got lots of bones in it. Be careful.” So she’s cautious again. Starts eating a few more pieces. Well, lo and behold, she swallows a piece that’s got a big piece of bone in it. And it gets stuck in her throat. And she’s coughing and she’s trying to cough it out and she couldn’t. Pretty soon there’s blood coming out of her mouth and she knew then that qɑyχ had tricked her and put bones in this food. So she knew, she wanted to get her hands on him. And right away he’s jumping around. He was really pleased with what he’d done. And she reaches for him, and she’s trying to grab him, and he’s jumping here, and he’s jumping there. And she’s thrashing all over the place. And pretty soon she’s bleeding heavily. And she couldn’t get a hold of him. And in the meantime, he’s laughing. He thought that was really quite the thing that he did – got his revenge. And he killed the Grizzly. The Grizzly died. So that was qɑyχ and his revenge. Killed the big Grizzly. So that’s the end of that one.

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